My 2013 Highlights

The last day of 2013 has arrived. As I think back over this year, many highlights stand out. And many of them are school-related because, well, school consumed a lot of time this year!

January: Stacie was in her third trimester, and lots of baby-prep was underway–doctor appointments, baby showers, stuff like that. In some spare time, I wrote an article called “God’s Judgment on His Blessing” for the spring edition of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

February: On the 8th, I left my 20’s behind with the 3-0 milemarker. But the big news this month was the birth of Boy #3, Owen Warren Chase, on February 12. My parents flew in for the birth and stayed more than a week for our sanity’s sake. When they left, they took our oldest, Jensen, back with them for a couple weeks. That helped our adjustment a lot!

March: Preparation time for Comprehensive Exams finally came to an end. At Southern Seminary, I took three major exams which were the final doorway to go through before dissertation writing formally began (which means I had some pages written already, just informally). In the final weeks of study, the cries of a newborn often served as background music. On the morning of the final test, which was the third and hardest one, I was late because of rainy weather.

April: At the beginning of the month, I turned in my prospectus for my dissertation to the faculty for approval. Writing was now in full swing. With a detailed outline and a mountain of research under me, I knew what I wanted to say and needed to set aside the time to say it. On April 18, I marked fourteen years of preaching God’s Word. What a privilege and joy to study and herald it.

May: We started the month with a family trip to Texas, which was the first time Stacie and I flew on a plane with three kids (all under five years old, one a nursing infant). After that nightmare flight, the stay with family was great, and I got to officiate my sister’s wedding. I preached at my home church, always an honor. The day after we returned to Louisville, Jensen broke his right arm by falling off monkey bars in our backyard, so off to the emergency room we went. Our niece Sadie came to see us, and she’s the coolest college girl we know.

June: Writing, writing, and more writing. Stephen Dempster agreed to serve as the External Reader for my dissertation. Little Logan, the middle boy, turned 2, and something promptly instructed his personality to act accordingly. At the end of the month was Vacation Bible School, so it was good to spend the final week of June telling kids the Good News about Jesus.

July: The first week of July was spent in Oklahoma visiting family. What a relief to have some vacation time! Later that month, my sister flew to visit us for a few days, and at the end of the month Stacie and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. In important church news, my friend Tim Scott became our Associate Pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where he serves faithfully and zealously and wears multiple hats.

August: On the 2nd, our family marked three years since we arrived in Louisville pulling a U-Haul from Texas. Lots of chapter revisions this month. I completed the near-final draft of the dissertation. I officiated the funeral of a beloved man in our church named Sid.

September: School started for Jensen, a wonderful program called Classical Conversations. We love it, and he loves it. My parents visited for a week, as I studiously worked to finish the Defense Draft of the dissertation. I realized I had a glaring spelling error in my title on the first page, of all places! I fixed that and turned in copies for my Doctoral Committee at 4 pm on Friday September 20. At home that evening, the family exhaled a huge sigh of relief with me.

October: We scheduled meals with friends. Toward the end of the month, our church had the annual men’s retreat, and Matt Damico did an outstanding job serving as our speaker. Halloween was fun as the kids dressed up and (after they went to sleep) we rummaged through their candy.

November: My dissertation defense was scheduled for Monday, the 3rd, at 3 pm. I made final changes to the manuscript and turned in the final (and I do mean final) version on November 18. Later that week I flew to Baltimore to attend the annual Institute for Biblical Research conference, where I had the opportunity to present a paper titled “The Genesis of Resurrection Hope.” Jensen turned 5 years old on the 22nd. Thanksgiving was a blast, and there was a ton to be thankful for. We spent it in Louisville with family and friends.

December: Graduation at Southern Seminary was held on Friday the 13th. No superstition though! Just amazing grace and gracious providence. My parents flew in for a two-night stint, just to see the graduation live. Then they came again two weeks later for Christmas in Louisville, staying more than a week and a half. Totaling up their days, they spent half of December with us in Louisville! (They must love those grandkids.) This month I worked on winding down and relaxing a lot, even reading some fiction. Owen took his first steps.

2013 was full of challenges, especially regarding parenting and schooling. 2013 also had its important transitions, which will make our 2014 look very different from this year.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

“Came the Magi”: A Poem on the Magi’s Visit to Jesus

“Came the Magi
December 28, 2013

Came the Magi to the village
Bearing treasures three:
Gold and frankincense and myrrh were
Gifts fit for a king.

Walking far, the wondrous star did
Guide them to the place,
And in that home they all beheld the
Son’s incarnate face.

With exceeding joy, they opened
Gifts, and all bowed down
To worship Jesus, born the King in
David’s little town.

Joseph and Herod’s “Secret” Plans

In the infancy narratives of Matthew’s Gospel, the narrator invites the reader to compare the different plans that Joseph and Herod make. Only twice in the Gospel of Matthew does the term lathra (“secretly”) occur (1:19; 2:7), and in juxtaposed stories as well: 1:18-25 and 2:1-12.

Joseph plans to divorce Mary “secretly” (or “quietly”) in Matthew 1:19, because he is a righteous man. But Herod summons the Magi “secretly” in 2:7 in order to find out when the star appeared, because he is an evil man. Furthermore, as the story unfolds in Matthew 2, Herod’s actions aim to murder Jesus while Joseph’s actions aim to protect him.

Both Joseph and Herod have secret plans, but one is righteous and the other wicked.

Logical Importance of the Virginal Conception of Jesus

Al Mohler has a great article reflecting on A. T. Robertson’s arguments for the virginal conception of Jesus. According to Robertson, “The virgin birth is the only intelligible explanation of the Incarnation ever offered.”

This last Sunday morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, I preached from Matthew 1:18-25, and I opened the message with a string of seven points that show the logic of the virginal conception. In a series of “if” statements, we can see how the virginal conception is not expendable. It is connected to the primary doctrines of christology and soteriology.

  1. If Jesus had a human biological father in addition to his human mother, then Jesus would be merely human.
  2. If Jesus was merely human, then there was no deity joined to humanity and thus no incarnation.
  3. If Jesus was the product of two humans, then he had a sin nature because his biological parents would be sinners.
  4. If Jesus was a mere human with a sin nature, he could not bear the sins of others on the cross as their Savior–he himself would need a Savior!
  5. If Jesus was not an effective substitute for sinners, then there is no forgiveness granted when people believe in him.
  6. If there is no forgiveness for sinners when they bank their hope on Jesus, then the “Gospel about Jesus” is not Gospel at all, because Gospel means “good news,” and there would be no good news to share.
  7. If the essence of Christianity is the Gospel, then the insistence that Jesus had two biological parents guts the Christian faith.

Do you see the importance of the virginal conception? If there was no virginal conception, then there was no incarnation. And if you lose the incarnation, you lose it all.

My 2013 List of 10 Favorite Books

End-of-year lists are as expected as holiday leftovers, so I’m entering the fray with one too. Below are books in my Top 10 this year, though they weren’t necessarily published in 2013, nor are they in a particular order. If you click on the book’s title, you’ll be taken to its Amazon page.

(1) Jesus On Every Page by David Murray. We should read the Old Testament in light of the Person and Work of Jesus, and Murray is a helpful guide in this task. He unpacks ten ways to see Jesus in the Old Testament. I loved this book and reviewed it here.

(2) What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton. This is an introduction to a crucial subject, and Hamilton compellingly and clearly provides the answer to the title. Bible-readers should aim to understand (and, yes, imitate) the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. I reviewed his book here.

(3) Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer. If I taught a class on preaching, this would be required reading. It is packed full of biblical insight, and in half of the book Meyer traces the stewardship of the word through the Old and New Testaments in a riveting way. Pastors, in particular, should get it for their 2014 reading.

(4) Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler. When I read this book back in January, I knew immediately it would be on my end-of-year list. Concise, powerful, and memorable, Mohler’s book on leadership is my number one recommendation on the subject. I reviewed it here.

(5) Father Hunger by Doug Wilson. As a dad, I find books on fatherhood to be a helpful and necessary addition to an annual reading regimen. Because of what I’ve read before from Wilson, I had high expectations for this book and was not disappointed. His substance and style is tremendous, refreshing, and a word for our times. Fathers, take up and read.

(6) Kingdom Come by Samuel Storms. For many years now I’ve loved reading books on eschatology, and I looked forward to the release of this one. As with any book on end-times issues, I don’t agree with every conclusion therein, but I enjoyed the journey through the subjects he evokes.

(7) The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson. In this important book for pastors, Jared Wilson (a pastor himself) talks about ministry in light of the Gospel. In a meaningful and carefully crafted exposition of 1 Peter 5 and the Five Solas of the Reformation, Wilson shows that the Good News is for ministers.

(8) Death By Living by N. D. Wilson. Like others who enjoyed Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, I wondered if I’d enjoy Wilson’s newest non-fiction book even more. And I did. His writing is a delight to read. It’s the kind of prose you swim in and climb out revived.

(9) When Shall These Things Be? edited by Keith Mathison. This book is a critique of an eschatological view called Hyper-Preterism. The line-up of authors consists of Doug Wilson, Ken Gentry, Keith Mathison, Charles Hill, Richard Pratt, Simon Kistemaker, and Robert Strimple. Again, I don’t affirm every sentence they write, but the book is a thoughtful and fascinating read (and, I hasten to add, a devastating and successful critique) of a very problematic eschatological perspective.

(10) Finally Free by Heath Lambert. Jesus promised that the pure in heart shall see God, and Lambert is honest with his readers that purity is warfare. Many snares await disciples, hoping to seize them and enslave them with images and habits that deaden their love for God and neighbor. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful, and it’s the only power that can set the captive free. Lambert’s book is full of Gospel-saturated wisdom and strength.

Observations about this list: There are (1) two books on reading the Bible, (2) three books by guys with the last name Wilson, (3) two books on end-times stuff, (4) three authors associated with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, (5) two books especially helpful to pastors, and (6) two books whose titles ask a question.

Have you read any of these books? Would they make your end-of-year list?

Why “Fourteen Generations” in the Genealogy of Matthew 1?

The genealogy in Matthew 1 consists of seventeen carefully crafted verses. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • (1) Matthew 1:1 is the headline that introduces the genealogy.
  • (2) Matthew 1:2-16 is the genealogy proper, falling into three sections (1:2-6a, 6b-11, 12-16).
  • (3) Matthew 1:17 an exercise in counting, where Matthew points to each section and says, “This one is fourteen generations, and this one, and this one too.”

Fourteen may seem like an unexpected number, given the prevalence of others in the Bible like seven or twelve or three. So why fourteen?

The most commonly argued suggestions among scholars are these:

  • (1) Since fourteen is seven doubled, to have three fourteens is to have six sevens. And since the sixth seven (or third fourteen) ends with Jesus, perhaps he launches the seventh seven, or time of perfect fulfillment. Hagner likes this option, and even France prefers it over the next possibility.
  • (2) The fourteen is an example of gematria, a practice that assigns numbers to Hebrew letters. The Hebrew letters for David’s name add up to fourteen, so perhaps that explains Matthew’s interest in the number. Osborne and Nolland favor this view, as do Davies and Allison.

The second view seems more likely for the following reasons:

  • (1) Jewish readers would be aware of the practice of gematria, so although Matthew’s words were written in Greek, it would not have prevented access to awareness they had about David’s name and the sum of his letters. The strange use of fourteen might in fact invite deeper reflection that would put gematria on the table as an interpretive option.
  • (2) The genealogy has an unmistakable Davidic emphasis. David heads the middle section of the genealogy, he is mentioned in the genealogy’s headline (Matt 1:1), and he is the only king given the title “the king” in the genealogy. The first section ends with the arrival of David (1:2-6a), the second section ends with the end of the Davidic throne by exile (1:6b-11), and the third section ends with the arrival of the Son of David, the true king who establishes an eternal rule (1:12-16).
  • (3) Matthew uses 1 Chronicles 2–3 as a source for names, and the first section of the genealogy (Matt 1:2-6a) imitates the descent found in 1 Chronicles without omitting a generation from Abraham to David. The count is fourteen names of descent, including both Abraham and David. The number fourteen, then, is not only the count from Abraham to David but is also the sum of David’s name in Hebrew. The other two sections of Matthew’s genealogy are then conformed to a fourteen pattern. Matthew 1:6b-11 and 1:12-16 are incomplete lists not because Matthew is ignorant but because he sees a theological purpose in using a pattern of fourteen. The fourteen maintains the Davidic emphasis he wants to display.
  • (4) If Matthew wanted to draw attention to sevens instead of fourteens (as Hagner and France deem likely), then he could have done so by using the number seven explicitly. But Matthew didn’t. He drew attention to three fourteens, and I think we may unintentionally downplay the Davidic emphasis (or at least not fully appreciate Matthew’s design) by halving the three fourteens into six sevens simply because the number seven is used symbolically elsewhere. If Matthew mentioned “fourteen” three times (Matt 1:17), then we should ponder that number. And if we do, then we should see how (through his dependence on 1 Chron 2 and the use of gematria), Matthew is highlighting David. Why is David so important in this scheme of things? Because in 2 Samuel 7, God made a covenant with David, and Jesus is the Son of David who has come to bring fulfillment to those promises.
  • (5) If the fourteens should be understood as six sevens that leave the reader longing for fulfillment that only Jesus can bring, then it is important to observe that Jesus’ name doesn’t actually begin a seventh seven, and I think this fact is a weakness of Option 1. Jesus’ name ends the third section of fourteen generations, and thus the seventh seven is not begun by a name Matthew lists. So though it’s commonly asserted that Jesus’ name suggests fulfillment in the genealogy because of a seventh seven Matthew sets up, I’d find the argument more compelling if Jesus’ name actually began a seventh seven. Again, though, his name is the last of the sixth seven. If the third section ended with Joseph’s name, and if Jesus’ name began a seventh seven, I think Option 1 would have more to commend it.

Do you find this argument convincing for why Matthew used “fourteen” to divide his genealogy into three sections? Or is there another view that seems more compelling? Maybe the two common views aren’t mutually exclusive?

N. T. Wright on the Ancient Modern Secular Worldview

How “modern” is our modern and prevalent secular worldview? In The Case for the Psalms, N. T. Wright says it’s not very modern at all:

The main difference between the worldview of the first Christians and the worldview of most modern Western persons has nothing to do with “ancient” and “modern.” It has almost nothing to do, except at a tangent, with the development of modern science. The main difference is that the first Christians, being first-century Jews who believed that Israel’s God had fulfilled his ancient promises in Jesus of Nazareth, were what I and others call “creational monotheists”….The ancient Jews who shaped this belief in creational monotheism, and the early Christians who developed it in this startling new way, were doing so in a world of many philosophies and worldviews (17).

What kinds of ancient worldviews is Wright referring to? Ones like Epicureanism. The philosophy…proposed that the world was not created by a god or the gods and that if such beings existed, they were remote from the world of humans. Our world and our own lives were simply part of an ongoing self-developing cosmos in which change, development, decay, and death itself operated entirely under their own steam. At a stroke, this philosophy offered liberation from any fear of the gods or of what terrors might be in store for people after their deaths. But by the same stroke, it cut off any long-term or ultimate hope. At a popular level, the message was this: shrug your shoulders and enjoy life as best you can. Sounds familiar? This is the philosophy that our modern Western world has largely adopted as the norm (17-18).

The problem with twenty-first century secularists, then, is not their rejection of the Bible’s ancient worldview for an embrace of a new and fresh and enlightened way of seeing reality. Epicureanism is an ancient worldview as well, but it has been retrieved in Western modernity as though it were a new thing (19).

There’s nothing new under the sun.

The important news in all this? Creational and covenantal monotheism is likewise both ancient and modern, rooted in God’s covenant with Abraham as described in the book of Genesis, elaborated in the great covenantal writings of the first five books of the Bible, developed in the traditions we find throughout the Old Testament, and still thriving where the followers of Jesus learn to pray and live his Psalm-soaked gospel….The biblical worldview, I will suggest, is both far more ancient than Epicureanism and also far more up-to-date (19-20).

From Jechoniah to Jesus in Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew’s genealogy has three parts (1:2-6a, 6b-11, 12-16). The third part is the most obscure because of the names after Zerubbabel. While the characters of Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel are in the Old Testament, the next nine names (Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, and Jacob) are from sources unknown to us.

Important to observe is that Matthew doesn’t draw a straight line from Joseph to Jesus (the 13th and 14th in this section of the record, cf. 1:17) but moves sideways to Mary first: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:16). The “whom” is a feminine relative pronoun here and can only refer to Mary. The implication? Mary is Jesus’ mother, but Joseph is not his father. So how did Jesus end up in Mary’s womb? That’s what the next section, Matthew 1:18-25, will narrate.

The third section of the genealogy covers key events like “the deportation to Babylon” (1:12), the end of the exile and the return to Jerusalem for the temple’s reconstruction (see the Old Testament accounts involving “Zerubbabel”), and then approximately five hundred years (from “Abiud to Jacob,” 1:13-15). Much happens during those five centuries, such as the Babylonians being conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans. To put it another way, the third section of Matthew’s genealogy takes you through the time period represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (in Dan 2).