I Wrote a Commentary on the Book of Daniel

During the fall of 2018, a new commentary series from Crossway will launch. The ESV Expository Commentary series will be a 12-volume set on the whole Bible, and I was honored to write the commentary on the Book of Daniel (available for pre-order now and soon to be released on September 30, 2018). This volume–number 7–contains Daniel and the Minor Prophets.

A Timeline of the Project

I was approached about this project in 2014. An email dated March 18, 2014 got the ball rolling, and on May 27, 2014 I signed a contract. But my personal relationship with the Book of Daniel began much earlier. From April 15, 2012 to August 26, 2012, I preached through Daniel at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where I serve as the Preaching Pastor. I was also pursuing a PhD in Biblical Studies at Southern Seminary, zeroing in (slowly) on a topic. In 2013, I completed a dissertation entitled “Resurrection Hope in Daniel 12:2: An Exercise in Biblical Theology.” After graduating in December 2013, I hoped my work in the Book of Daniel could continue, somehow.

Then in March 2014, the opportunity arose to write a commentary on the book. The writing commenced! My friend Andrew Lindsey offered valuable feedback along the way as he carefully read through the manuscript. I completed the first draft in December 2014 and emailed it to the editors of the series. At 80,000 words, the commentary now needed the editing phase, revisions which happened at different junctures in 2015. In October 2015, I emailed my last revisions on the manuscript, which now stood at a trimmer 74,000 words. Hopefully all heresy and nonsense hit the cutting room floor.

My Hope for the Commentary

The pastoral aim and design of the ESV Expository Commentary series will be a great blessing to preachers, teachers, and students of Scripture. And I hope you will want to study and preach the Book of Daniel!

Writing on the Book of Daniel was both exciting and daunting. The book contains some beloved stories in the Old Testament, it is quoted or alluded to in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, and it contains complex visions and tremendous hopes which find fulfillment and significance in the Messiah Jesus. Exciting!

But there are visions and prophecies in the book which are disputed and debated among scholars–matters like possible christophanies, the identification of the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the descriptions about a fourth beast and a little horn in one of Daniel’s visions, the angelic announcement about seventy sevens, the anointed one who is cut off and makes a covenant, and the historical correspondences to the warring rulers in the book’s final vision. I waded into these waters anyway–and why not!

Maybe you–the Bible reader–find the Book of Daniel both exciting and daunting too. Would you join me on the journey as I explore twelve God-breathed chapters of God’s Word? The Book of Daniel has everything–captivity, warfare, intrigue, conspiracy, deliverance, visions, insanity, faithfulness, judgment, prayers, prophecies, and hope. With genres that span narrative and apocalyptic, the book invites the reader into an ancient world of harrowing history.

Advertisements

35 Truths That Have Changed My Life

I turn 35 today. And these years have been filled with incalculable blessings and mercy. I especially feel gratitude for the preachers, authors, professors, and friends who have influenced me over the years. Would you mind if I share some of their wisdom with you? Some of the sources will be obvious, and other statements are paraphrases of things I can’t remember verbatim. Nevertheless, here are 35 truths that have impacted me. I believe these things to my bones, and I hope you do too.

  1. Everything and everyone exists for the glory of God.
  2. God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.
  3. We should read the Old Testament by imitating the interpretive moves of the New Testament authors.
  4. The Bible is one unfolding Story about Jesus.
  5. Your sin will find you out.
  6. The most important ministry for the minister is his family.
  7. Preach the gospel to yourself everyday. The gospel is for Christians too.
  8. Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
  9. God calls me to holiness because He is more committed to my happiness than I am.
  10. Do now what you will wish you would have done.
  11. Christian maturity and responsibility involves doing what you should do when should do it, regardless of how you feel.
  12. Your idols will not die for your sins; they will leave you to do that.
  13. Satan tempts us all the time with the same temptation from Eden: to doubt the wisdom and goodness of God’s word for us.
  14. Heaven is not our ultimate home, for the saints will be raised bodily and will dwell forever with their Redeemer in a new creation.
  15. I cannot follow Jesus faithfully without loving His bride, the Church.
  16. Real Christians can have real doubts and questions.
  17. The prosperity health-and-wealth “gospel” is from hell.
  18. God’s commands are wise, good, and beautiful.
  19. If you want God to speak, read the Bible, because God speaks in His Word.
  20. I don’t have to understand why things happen in life the way they do, and I’m not meant to either.
  21. Life is full of wonder and beauty but also full of heartache and sorrow–both things are true in a Genesis 3 world.
  22. God is gloriously, meticulously, comprehensively sovereign.
  23. We must combat the deceiving promises of sin with the superior promises of God’s Word.
  24. From the greatest evil (the rejection and murder of the Son of God), God worked the greatest good (salvation for sinners to the glory of His name).
  25. Preach Christ in every sermon–the Old Testament points to Him, and the New Testament proclaims Him.
  26. No matter what your vocation in life, be a student of God’s Word, always studying and learning and growing.
  27. A strong marriage is worth pursuing and preserving, whatever it takes.
  28. Your children will only be young once, so don’t waste those years–be present, all in, for the long haul.
  29. You need mentors, and you need to be mentoring.
  30. Prioritize–and don’t compromise–the worship of Christ with your family on the Lord’s Day, lest half-hearted obedience in one generation lead to full-on rebellion in the next.
  31. When I don’t feel like going to church, I need to go to church.
  32. Parenting is part of the sanctification process…for the parent.
  33. Nothing is needful that He withholds.
  34. Get friends who make sin look bad and God look big.
  35. The greatest hindrance in your discipleship is not a parent or a spouse or a coworker or a neighbor–it is yourself. Jesus said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”

 

My Top 10 Reads in 2017

stackofbooks2017In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite books that I read this year. I commend them to you for 2018! Tolle lege.

  1. Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, by Andy Crouch
  2. Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World, by Mike Cosper
  3. Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, by Larry Hurtado
  4. Faith.Hope.Love: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace, by Mark Jones
  5. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together, by Jared Wilson
  6. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, by Henry Scougal
  7. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture, by John Piper
  8. The Duties of Parents, by J.C. Ryle
  9. How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, by Alan Jacobs
  10. The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

 

 

 

“See This Child”–An Advent Poem for 2016

“See This Child”
December 6, 2016

See this child for whom all things
Are made and by whom held.
This mighty one, begotten Son,
Has come with men to dwell.

See this child with undefiled
Nature now asleep.
This righteous one, beloved Son,
Will scorn and murder reap.

See this child with tiny hands,
Who cries and must be fed.
This lowly one, a virgin’s Son,
Is everlasting bread.

See this child with infant smile
Whom heavenly host proclaim.
This worthy one, the royal Son,
Shall be for sinners slain.

See this child in swaddling cloths
And in a manger laid.
This gentle one, the promised Son,
Has come to kill the grave.

A Cluster of Christological Affirmations in 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Written sometime around A.D. 50 or 51, 1 Thessalonians may be the earliest of Paul’s letters (with the possible exception of Galatians), and it’s always interesting to see what someone’s theology (or, in this case, christology) consists of early on.

Paul writes, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).

My interest is specifically verse 10, which is in bold. What kind of truths are present there, either explicitly or implicitly, about Jesus?

  1. Jesus died (“from the dead”). The very word “dead” is present.
  2. Jesus rose (“whom he raised from the dead”). Bodily resurrection ended his death.
  3. Jesus ascended (“from heaven”). At some point between his bodily resurrection and his current location in heaven, there was an ascension to get him there.
  4. Jesus remains in heaven (“from heaven”). After his ascension, Jesus has not dwelt elsewhere. The God-Man remains in heaven.
  5. Jesus will return (“to wait for his Son from heaven”). He will return from where he presently dwells. This refers to his Second Coming, which is the bodily return of the bodily risen and bodily ascended Jesus.

#’s 1, 2, and 5 are explicit in the verse, and #’s 3 and 4 are implicit. Paul affirms–all in one verse–the death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Singing in “The Hobbit” and With the Saints

hobbit pic of gandalf and bilboI just finished reading The Hobbit for the first time, and I was surprised at all the singing. Surprised–and delighted! In the first and final chapters and in many of those between them, there was a preponderance of songs.

One especially meaningful song appears in Chapter 10 (“A Warm Welcome”). Bilbo had recently rescued the dwarves from imprisonment (in Chapter 9), and now he and the gang were approaching The Lonely Mountain. Along the way, when they came to Lake-town (or Esgaroth), people began to sing “old songs concerning the return of the King under the Mountain.”

The lyrics were:

The King beneath the mountains,
The King of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains
Shall come into his own!

His crown shall be upholden,
His harp shall be restrung,
His halls shall echo golden
To songs of yore re-sung.

The woods shall wave on mountains
And grass beneath the sun;
His wealth shall flow in fountains
And the rivers golden run.

The streams shall run in gladness,
The lakes shall shine and burn,
All sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-king’s return!

This is prophecy-in-song. The mountain was currently occupied by the despicable dragon Smaug, and people longed for–and sang for–the day when the true Mountain-king would come.

The first verse declares that the king would come. In the second verse, royal music would once again fill the halls. In the third verse, creation would respond as woods and grass wave. In the fourth verse, sorrow and sadness would be no more.

This prophetic song, along with other songs old and new, strengthened the characters. Over the days of such celebration and singing, the dwarves recovered and anticipated the remaining miles of their journey to The Lonely Mountain. Within a week, “Thorin looked and walked as if his kingdom was already regained and Smaug chopped up into little pieces.”

As I read the lyrics of the songs in The Hobbit, I was struck afresh with how important singing is for the saints. We sing not only because of what God has done in Christ but also in view of what he will do. We sing to remember, and we sing for hope. And as was the case with characters in the book, songs strengthen us in the face of fear, trial, and battle. And we mustn’t minimize the power of singing together. The characters joined in song with others. By singing together they grew stronger together.

One final observation about singing in The Hobbit. Even the bad guys, like the goblins, had songs. In Chapter 6 (“Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire”), the goblins celebrated their wicked plans with singing. Those songs may be poetic, but ultimately the lines lack the power of the noble songs which come from the souls of the brave and hopeful hobbits, dwarves, and elves. Songs are better which reflect on what is true, beautiful, and worthy.

As I finished the last of the songs in the final chapter of The Hobbit, I found myself looking forward to singing with the saints on the Lord’s Day. I’m ready to remember with them and hope with them. And I’m confident that in singing together we will be stronger together, for what we reflect on is the Lord Jesus Christ, the one most true, beautiful, and worthy.

It’s Good to be Alive!

sun shining behind treesDid you wake up this morning? If you’re reading this, then the answer is obvious. But for many people around the world, yesterday was their last day. Because of death, their eyes no longer see the sun.

The author of Ecclesiastes says, “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun” (Eccl. 11:7).

The second part of the verse expands the first. The light in the first part is the sun in the second. In Ecclesiastes those on earth live “under the sun” and thus under its light. For their “eyes to see the sun” means that they are alive. The author tells us what this experience is like: seeing this light is “sweet.”

Light can be many things: bright, illuminating, far-reaching, fast, blinding. But “sweet”? We normally associate that word with food. However, maybe “sweet” is the perfect description of this non-food image of light. This author shows that being alive is sweet! Life tastes good! Opening your eyes to another day is a pleasant thing.

If you read through the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ll note that the author is under no delusion that life is easy and carefree. In the book he is astonishingly, even uncomfortably, candid about life’s vexations and frustrations. So he’s not ignoring the suffering and injustice in the world when he says that “light is sweet.” But suffering and injustice do not make up all the happenings on earth. The author knows life can be hard, but that’s not all it is. We should be willing to say everything that’s true about life.

For each of us under the sun, there is a time to be born and a time to die (Eccl. 3:2), and these times are set by God alone (see 8:15). If you have seen the sun today, then the latter “time” still lies before you. This day, like yesterday, is a gift from God to us. Here is another day to seek him, know him, praise him, fear him, obey him. Here is another day for his glory. It’s good to be alive!