Thursday, November 30, 2006

Based on Hab 3:17-19

Even though the bushes are barren of flowers
And trees of fruit
Even though there is no results with all the effort put into work
And whatever I do fails
Even though what I have achieved has been taken away
And I have nothing to show
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
I will take joy in the God of my salvation
God, the Lord is my strength
He makes me walk and jump in ease
He restores me to His hills of rejoicing

Picture by Nevit Dilmen

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Courage to Doubt

I am back into reading Terrien yesterday and completed the Introduction. I also read up his commentary on Psalm 26 and 27. I have posted before on Psalm 27, so it was a revision, albeit a needed one.

Terrien provided in his footnote a book reference with the title: The Courage to Doubt. Such a clever title! In a conversation with a friend recently, this exact topic came up. It certainly takes courage to doubt God and to doubt the faith, and done properly could bring about growth in faith and belief, but not without its risks.

What do you think?

Picture by Thomas Egger

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Psalm 27

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes, i
t is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!

You have said, "Seek my face."
My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek."

Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon
the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!

Wait for the LORD; be strong,
and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!


Monday, November 27, 2006

Everlasting Light

We are all working very hard in preparation of the Christmas Musical to be put up on 15 and 16 next month. I have never sang so much in my life. Ever since we started having more frequent practices this month, I have been singing for almost 4 hours on end from 7 to 11 pm on Mondays and Fridays. We had another marathon today, practising and brushing up all the pieces.

It was indeed fun. It is amazing how 40 over voices can become one to proclaim one message of our Saviour, Immanuel. It is not easy but it can be done.

However, someone commented to me that all this singing and choir is superficial. He felt that it is a waste of time and that if we want to spread the gospel, it has to be done directly, on a one-to-one basis.

I was very disappointed to hear that, for I felt that music is one of the best ways to spread the good news to the others while at the same time as an offering of praise and worship to God. The pastor will be ministering with a message and we are going to have counsellors in place to lead and guide those who may be interested to take hold of a life in Christ.

Picture by Stephen Hyun

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Talk to me

While chatting with Noel two days ago, I revealed that I talk to myself, vocally, aloud. He did a phew! and exclaimed, "Thank goodness, I thought I was the only one."

Do you talk to yourself?

Picture by Benjamin Earwicker

Friday, November 24, 2006

A few good books

I went out for lunch with Noel today and whenever that happens, the subject of Sufes, our favourite Christian bookstore would come up and beckon us for a visit.

Again, we fell for it.

I came out of the store with 4 books while Noel after much, much thinking walked out with one – thus not breaking the record of not walking out of Sufes with nothing.

He got a really interesting book: Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry Into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation by James D.G. Dunn. A perfect read for the Christmas season.

And I got these:

It’s Still Greek to Me
An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek

by David Alan Black

This is the first book I picked up. I am glad I finally got a copy of it – I have been checking the linguistic section for quite awhile now and to my delight, there it was today.

Darrell L. Bock
David Black's It's Still Greek to Me takes the mystery out of the syntax of the Greek New Testament. It is clearly written and cleanly presented including helpful discussion of the basics of English grammar which often get in the way of learning NT Greek. For those seeking to learn Greek or teaching it at a basic level. I can guarantee that Greek won't still be Greek to you after using this book!?

Book Description
An easy-to-understand and humorous guide to Greek grammar by a topflight scholar. Designed for students in their second year of Greek study.

About the Author
David Alan Black (D. Theol., University of Basel,Switzerland) is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Testament editor of the International Standard Version of the Bible. He has authored or edited twelve books.

The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts
Then and Now

by Max Turner

I am glad I found this book because it is in the recommended reading list for my Acts paper, which I should be working on already.

Book Description
What do the writers of the New Testament say about the work of the Holy Spirit? How can we understand spiritual gifts for today?

Questions regarding the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts in the life of the believer and the church today continue to be asked, and remain a source of controversy.

In this updated edition of his widely acclaimed book, Professor Max Turner offers a clear scholarly consideration of the Holy Spirit that is rooted in Scripture and relates to aspects of contemporary theology. He carefully explores how three major New Testament writers – Luke, John and Paul – took over and developed Old Testament and intertestamental notions of the Holy Spirit before sensitively comparing their teaching to the powerful experiences of today’s churches.

The Progress of Redemption
From Creation to the New Jerusalem

by Willem Vangemeren

I usually keep a look out for these gems in affordable paperback. This one only cost RM20 (USD5). It is not so much the price but the book which I believe is valuable. One reviewer in commented: Vangemeren accomplishes the gargantuan task of explaining God's plan of salvation or redemption in simple terms. Through his breakdown of the "progression" of the plan into smaller parts, the many charts and diagrams, and in "the tracing of the scarlet thread of Jesus Christ throughout the Bible," (obviously in the New Testament, and especially in the Old Testament,) the painting of the "big picture" is thorough. This book is awesome, on target, and recommended to all!

Witchcraft Goes Mainstream
Uncovering its Alarming Impact on You and Your Family

by Brooks Alexander

I must confess that I am quite a fan of the Harry Potter books and I am getting quite worried! So when I saw this on my way out of Sufes, I thought it would be a good read – at least to keep me in check. I will give a review when I get the chance.

About the book
Motivated by his personal experience in the drug and occult culture of the 60's and his radical conversion to Christ, Brooks Alexander uses his background in law and journalism to authoritatively and clearly demonstrate the true nature of neopaganism. He brings readers up-to-date with his lucid and enlightening descriptions of witchcraft today and our culture's acceptance of it. He concludes by helping Christians formulate a reasonable response and by providing practice suggestions for presenting the gospel to people who are engaged in neopagan practices.

Picture by Brendan Gogarty

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Psalm 26

1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,
.... and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
.... test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
.... and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood,
.... nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
.... and I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence
.... and go around your altar, O LORD,
7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
.... and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
.... and the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
.... nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices,
.... and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
.... redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
.... in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.

Picture by Lennard Ewenson

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mere Christianity

I was re-reading CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity on my way back home today. I can say it again: this is my all-time favourite book. Lewis’ observation and thoughts are just priceless.

To quote him would just mean that I would have to post his entire book. But I can’t and won’t do that of course.

    Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. (p.41)

    Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other. (p.76)

    The Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning … The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become – and so on in a vicious circle for ever. Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. (p.109)
I must make a note here that I successfully got Killinger's book returned! I got it exchanged for Three Views of the Rapture, Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? I wonder when will I have the moxie to handle it. Anytime over Killinger's though – I tried, I can't even get past the first few pages without cringing.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Being alone needs practice!

I used to enjoy being alone but now here in Bangkok, in my hotel room, it is difficult being alone. I did spend time reading, contemplating, journaling (on paper!) and praying during the free time available but doing it alone and faraway from family and friends is hard. I figured I am not used to being alone anymore after being a wife for 12 years and a mom for almost 9.

The silence is deafening;
the solitude is disturbing.

But I stuck on and kept at keeping a time to reflect. It did not really amount to much though, I’d say, so far.

No moments of profundity or enlightenment …

I started to read Ecclesiastes. I chose this book because it simply fitted my mood – vanity, vanity, all is vanity. But I only managed about several verses of chapter 1 before I decided I better stop before I go further downhill in form.

But not giving up though, I turned to the last chapter of the same book.

My summary of Ecclesiastes 12:1-14:

Remember God
…. whatever life brings
…….. for we will still go to the eternal home

Remember God
…. before the cord is loosed
…. before the bowl is broken
…. before the pitcher is shattered
…. before the wheel is broken
…….. the spirit will return to Him who first gave it.

All is vanity.

…. it is still important to ponder
…. And be admonished
…. by the words of truth
…….. that is wise like goads
…….. that is like well-driven nails
…….. that is given by one Shepherd

In conclusion
…. Fear God
…. and keep His commandments
…….. for this is man’s all

What a great lesson: in conclusion to all that we will ever think or do, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.

Picture by J. Dietle

Monday, November 20, 2006

I did have wings

When I posted yesterday about having wings and having rest, I was really being dim-witted (which seems to happen quite often lately!). It did not dawn on me that I am really flying after all, away to Bangkok.

Away from responsibilities: those I wouldn’t mind leaving behind and those I'd rather not leave behind: away to get some retreat and rest.

Looks like perfect timing, the blog and the flying I mean.

Picture by Pavel Jedlicka

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Oh, that I had wings ...

And I say,
"Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
Psalm 55:6-7

These has always been my favourite verses, since school days. I still remember those late nights studying and being so tired. I would recite these verses and feel at peace with God knowing that His grace is sufficient for me.

I still love these words - they bring me peace to know that I can be alone with God and be safe.

I am off again to Bangkok later today. It is amazing that for someone who seldom travels, I am now going to Bangkok for the third time in 6 months.

I will be back on Wednesday.

Picture by Marlon Gengler

Friday, November 17, 2006


Looks like I made a mistake in buying the book on Harry Potter. Found this write-up in about the author: How to Abandon Historic Christianity in Ten Easy Lessons.

I should have stuck to my guidelines in buying books: reputed author or publisher.

Picture by Heather Foley

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I was looking for a picture that depicts how I feel today and I found the perfect one! Her expression is absolutely priceless.

I just felt blue today and thought I would remedy it with a visit to the bookstore. Watch this space for an update.

Picture by Richard S


It was Noel who lured me to visit the bookstore because of a 25% off for selected books. The selection isn't too bad but also on the higher end in price.

And these are what I ended up buying.

1. Darrell Bock's Jesus According to Scripture
2. John Killinger's God, the Devil and Harry Potter, which I couldn't resist!
3. Norman Geisler's Christian Apologetics

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Disconnected yet Connected

Being still being disconnected from the internet, it is both a good thing and a not so good thing: I have already mentioned the frustration but what is good is also obvious. I get to spend more time reading and simply chatting with the family.

Picture by Kevin Rohr

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Theology: objective or subjective?

I read this about theology in Terrien under the topic of “The Theology of the Psalms” (The Psalms, p.45):
    The word “theology” is of Greek origin and does not correspond exactly to the Hebraic expression “the knowledge of God.” For Plato and Aristotle the word “theological” designated the objective science of “divine things”, such as cultic rites of adoration, propitiation, expiation and divination. Quite different is the semantic implication of the Hebrew sentence, which indicates a process of subjectivity as well as objectivity in the intimate rapport of humankind with God.
Looking at it from the Greek perspective, is the knowledge of God limited to the objective? It goes without saying that there is more that we don’t know than that we know about God. Is that what the Hebrew view of theology is trying to capture? In that what we cannot understand objectively about God calls for the subjective?

And what would be a subjective rendering of the knowledge of God? Would the doctrine of the Trinitarian God be theology in the objective or subjective view?

I do realise I have a lot of questions lately.

Picture by Neil Gould

Monday, November 13, 2006

Our unworthiness

I was meditating today on our unworthiness in the midst of God’s mercy and grace. I happened upon this quotation by Blaise Pascal, which I find quite profound. I have never come across him only to find out that he is the person of which not only the SI unit of pressure bears his name, but also a programming language, the Pascal’s law of hydrostatics, the Pascal’s triangle and the Pascal’s wager.

    God wanted to redeem men and open the way of salvation to those who seek Him. But men make themselves so unworthy of it that it is only just that God should refuse to some because of the hardness of heart what He gives to others from a compassion that they do not deserve. If He had wanted to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by revealing Himself to them so obviously that they could not have doubted the truth of His Being—just as He will appear at the last day with such a clap of thunder and such an upheaval of nature that the dead will revive and the blindest will see. It is not in this way, however, that He willed to appear at His gentle coming: because so many men had made themselves unworthy of His mercy, He willed to leave them deprived of the good which they did not desire. And so it would not have been fair for Him to have appeared in an obviously divine manner, absolutely capable of convincing all men. But also it would not have been fair for Him to appear in a manner so hidden that even those who were sincerely seeking Him should not be able to recognize Him... So He has tempered His knowledge, by giving marks of Himself which were visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not.
    ~ Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées [1660]
I am still thinking on whether I would agree with him fully, but I like his words – “He willed to leave them deprived of the good which they did not desire … so He has tempered His knowledge … visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not.

Picture by Kathie Mullen

Samuel Terrien, The Psalm, (Grand Rapids: Eerdsman, 2003): 41

Sunday, November 12, 2006

O Lord Most Holy

I got to present the anthem for the second service in church today and I did Cesar Franck’s Panis Anglicus, the English version, or as I have found out, one of the English versions.
    O Lord most holy, O Lord most holy,
    O Loving Father would we be praising all way
    Help us to know Thee, know Thee and love Thee
    Father, Father, grant us Thy truth and grace
    Father, Father, guide and defend us

    Rule Thou our willful hearts,
    Keep Thee our wandering thoughts,
    In all our sorrows let us find our rest in Thee
    And in temptation hour, save through Thy mighty power
    Thine aid, O send us, hear us in mercy
    Show us thy favour, so shall we live and sing praise to Thee
It is good to sing to him. We need to cry out to him as much as we are undeserving of his love.

Picture by Alexander Shelgunov

Saturday, November 11, 2006


We have been having problems with our internet connections and as a result it has been really frustrating. It is frustrating because I could not know what I want to know when I want to know. It shows just how much we are dependant on the internet lately – information on demand.

Picture by Mario A. Magallanes Trejo

Friday, November 10, 2006

Metaphors in the Psalms

I continued studying Terrien’s Introduction in his commentary to the Psalm – on Stropic Structure and Style. This stands out for me:
    The vitality of the Psalms depends not only on the sincerity with which the poets poured out their faith but also in the seduction, sometimes bizarre for us in its archaism, but always compelling, for their metaphors and stylistic movements. These metaphors and their anthropomorphism seem to be obsolete in many ways. Thus the sun is a bridegroom who steps out as a hero from the nuptial chamber (Ps. 19:5). River strike their hands in applause (Ps. 98:8); the Lord plays his toy, Leviathan (Ps. 104:26); he sees with eyes and hears with ears (Ps. 34:16); and he preserves in a wineskin the tears of those who suffer (Ps. 56:9). Moab is God’s wash basin, and Edom is hit with God’s sandal as a vindictive challenge (Ps. 108:10). Strophes bring a certain discipline over the multiplicity of metaphors.
Picture by Rick Jernberg

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Introspection

I did not add this quote yesterday because I thought it deserves its own post.

Introspection is never far from a revelation that pierces inward. Man talks with his God in response to his God's impulsion. The sight of the face – a spiritual phenomenon – creates a search that oscillates in the equilibrium between gift received and gift granted.

~ Samuel Terrien, The Psalm, p. 269

What is God's impulsion in our lives?
What do we "see" in the face of God?
What are the gifts received and granted?
What is the difference between gifts received and gifts granted?

Picture by Benjamin Earwicker

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Psalm 27 My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

1The Lord is my light and my salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?

2When scoundrels come upon me
To devour my flesh,
They will stumble and fall,
Those adversaries and foes.

3Though a host should encamp against me,
My heart shall not quiver;
Even if a war should rise against me,
I still shall be full of confidence.

4One thing only shall I desire from the Lord,
That I would seek after:
May I dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in his temple.

5For he will hide me in his booth
On the day of trouble;
He will conceal me inside his tent;
He will lift me up, high on a rock.
6And then my heart will rise
Above the foes who surround me.
I will offer in his tent
Sacrifices of joyful shouts.

I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7Listen, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
Be gracious unto me, and answer me!
8Thou hast said, Seek ye my face!
My heart says to thee,
Thy face, O Lord, do I seek.
9Hide not thy face from me!

Thou hast been my help; do not cast me off!
And forsake me not, God of my salvation.
10My father and mother might forsake me,
But then the Lord would take me in.
11Teach me thy way, O Lord!
And lead me to a smooth path,
Because of mine enemies.

12Do not abandon me to the will of my foes!
Because false witnesses have risen against me,
And they breathe out violence.

13I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness
In the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord! Be strong! And let thy heart take courage!
Wait for the Lord!

I don’t know why, I just love chiasms. And apparently there is one here in Psalms 27 as proposed by Terrien:

I. The Light of My Life (v. 1)
II. The Enemies (v. 2)
…… III. My Confidence (v. 3)
……… IV. The Temple (v. 4)
………… V. The Presence (vv. 5-6d)
……… IV’. The Face of God (vv. 6e-9a)
…… III’. My Confidence (vv. 9b-11)
II’. The Enemies (v. 12)
I’. The Goodness of Yahweh (vv. 13-14)

Strophe I: The Light of My Life
Verse 1 is a very comforting affirmation of faith. The light of Yahweh, which the great prophets and other psalmists associate with the salvation of Israel, is celebrated as the forerunning sign of “seeing the face of the Lord” in vv. 7-8.
    Isa 2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
    Mic 7:8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.
Terrien asks if the expression “face of Yahweh” a metaphor, drawn from the human sense of sight, or is it a real symbol of his Presence?
    Psa 4:6 There are many who say, "Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!"
    Psa 89:15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face.
I have time and again uttered this line of Psalm 27 – the Lord is my Light and Salvation, of whom shall I be afraid, and it always reassures me of the sovereignty and the faithfulness of God, no matter what.

Strophe II: The Enemies
The imagery of one’s flesh being devoured is very strong. The very existence of the person is in danger and requires prompt and efficient help.
    Psa 7:2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
    Psa 17:12 He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.
I have not been in such situation of mortal peril, pray that I will not, but it is bad enough to have experience the soul being torn apart (Ps 7:2). Yet he is my Light and my Salvation, of whom or what shall I be afraid.

Strophe III: My Confidence
No matter what happens, my heart shall not quiver, I still shall be full of confidence. Many a times I have to say that aloud to myself and affirm the presence of God in my life.

Strophe IV: The Temple
What is beautiful about this line is the psalmist saying that there is only one thing he desires: that is to dwell in the house of the Lord. I need to always remind myself of that one before I clamour to get more and more things and stuff in my life. O how wonderful it will to always be in the Lord’s house, all our days to worship him – to behold the beauty of the Lord – and to learn of him – to inquire in his temple. What bliss!

Strophe V: The Presence
This is one of the reasons why I like chiasms: it leads me to the apex of the writing. Here it points to the very presence of God – the ultimate and the most desired. Verse 5 speaks of the refuge in God’s presence and verse 6 the joyful celebration of praise in his presence.

Strophe IV’: The Face of God
From the depth of his yearning, the psalmist begs, boldly but humbly, for the vision of the divine face of God. At times, I do feel that God is so far away. But here the psalmist seeks him – in songs and in melody, in cries and in yearning: God is here, Immanuel is his name.

Strophe III’: My Confidence
God is my help. God is my salvation. God is my father. God is my mother. God is my refuge. God is my teacher. God is my guide.

Strophe II’: The Enemies
The psalmist again speaks of the enemies, his troubles, his problems: for they will never go away as long as live sustains here on earth. We all seek for perfection everywhere, in everyone and in everything and more often than not, we will be disappointed. There is only one who is perfect: our Lord Jesus Christ.

Strophe I’: The Goodness of Yahweh
There will always be uncertainties in life. But the Lord’s goodness is surely here for he has revealed himself to us. Meanwhile, we call to each other to wait, to wait, and to wait on him. Help will surely arrive.

Picture by Rayko Swensson

Samuel Terrien, The Psalm, (Grand Rapids: Eerdsman, 2003): 263-9

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The wordliness of life

I spent my morning devotion reading Psalm 1 and Terrien's commentary of it. As much as I have mentioned that it is a joy reading Terrien with his excellent writing and usage of language, it proved to be a challenge too. What with the usage of words like transhumance, sapiential and stichoi. Looks like I need a dictionary to carry along with the heavy tome of a commentary.
    The verbs "walk," "stand," and "sit" (Ps 1:1) suggest nomadic transhumance with its necessary choice between two tracks in the sand.

    transhumance - the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains.

    The initial word, "blessed" or "happy" attempts to translate the Hebrew 'ashre, an exclamation, probably of sapiential origin, which hails and greets someone with a wish for success and the plenitude of existence.

    sapiential - that is wise or intelligent
    ~ Pocket Oxford English Dictionary

    Unlike most other psalms, which usually comprise strophes of double or triple stichoi, each strophe contains only a single triad preceded and followed by an opening and closing element.
    stichoi - stichometry is a term applied to the measurement (μετρον) of ancient texts by στιχοι (lit. "rows") or verses of a fixed standard length.
Picture by Steve Woods

Samuel Terrien, The Psalm, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003): 70-1

Monday, November 06, 2006

What is: The Masoretic Text

I am still reading the Introduction section of Terrien’s commentary on the Psalms. I realized that there are many terms that I have very limited knowledge on and I thought I'd start a series of “What is” beginning with the Masoretic Text. I do not want to venture in too deep though – just enough to have a good understanding of what I am dealing with.

The Masoretic Text (MT) is the Hebrew text of the Tanakh and it is the approved text for general use in Judaism. The TaNaKh is an acronym that identifies the Hebrew Bible. The acronym is based on the first Hebrew letters of each of the three parts of the Hebrew Bible: The Torah (Instructions), The Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).

Its name comes from the Hebrew word masorah which means tradition.

It is also widely used in translation of the Old Testament. The MT was primarily compiled, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th century AD. The Masoretes were groups of scribes based primarily in Tiberias, Jerusalem and Babylonia.

The text of the Tanakh originally consisted only of consonants and even though it had applied some use of vowels, in was inconsistent. The Masoretes as a result codified the oral tradition for the reading the Tanakh and compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides. The Ben Asher family of masoretes was largely responsible for the preservation and production of the MT.

Compared to the Septuagint, which is used in translations of the Old Testament, the MT has numerous differences of both little and great significance.

The Hebrew word mesorah refers to the transmission of a tradition. While in a broad sense it refers to the entire chain of the Jewish oral law, in reference to the MT, it has a very specific meaning: it has to do with the diacritic markings of the Hebrew Bible text and concise marginal notes in manuscripts which note textual details, usually about the precise spelling of words. A diacritical mark or diacritic, sometimes called an accent mark, is a mark added to a letter to alter a word's pronunciation (i.e., vowel marks) or to distinguish between similar words.

The history of the MT may be divided into three periods:
(1) creative period, from its beginning to the introduction of vowel-signs;
(2) reproductive period, from the introduction of vowel-signs to the printing of the text (1525 AD); and
(3) critical period, from 1525 to the present time.

Picture: The Nash Papyrus (2nd century BC),
which contains a portion of the Masoretic Text,
specifically the Ten Commandments and the Shema Yisrael prayer.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

The longsuffering love of God

I taught the parable of the Prodigal Son in Sunday School this morning, drawing attention to the longsuffering love of our Lord: in that no matter what we have done, He will still forgive and receive us if we repent and return to Him.

However, I did try to qualify the lesson by stressing the fact that wouldn’t it be better had we not disobeyed or turned away from Him. Isn't it much better if we had not been lost and stranded like the Lost Sheep, lost and forsaken like the Lost Coin or lost and suffering like the Prodigal Son? But even if we did, He will still receive us if we return to Him and seek for forgiveness, and seek we must.

The memory verse is taken from Psalm 86:5, "For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you."

“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive.” Good at giving and forgiving; supplying us with his good, and removing our evil. Here was the great reason why the Psalmist looked to the Lord alone for his joy, because every joy-creating attribute is to be found in perfection in Jehovah alone. Some men who would be considered good are so self-exaltingly indignant at the injuries done them by others, that they cannot forgive; but we may rest assured that the better a being is, the more willing he is to forgive, and the best and highest of all is ever ready to blot out the transgressions of his creatures. “And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” God does not dispense his mercy from a slender store which perchance may be so impoverished as to give out altogether, but out of a cornucopia he pours forth the infinite riches of his mercy: his goodness flows forth in abounding streams towards those who pray and in adoring worship make mention of his name. David seems to have stood in the cleft of the rock with Moses, and to have heard the name of the Lord proclaimed even as the great lawgiver did, for in two places in this Psalm he almost quotes verbatim the passage in Exodus 34:6 – “ The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

Picture by Ali Taylor

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A great day out

We had a great day out today in a theme park. The sun was cheerfully out in spite of the current monsoon season. We spent the morning in the water and the afternoon in the dry park. I was being silly when I did not bring an extra pair of pants and got it wet during a "river" rapids ride.

It was tiring but the kids had the most fun.


Friday, November 03, 2006

A marathon week

This is a really busy week for me: Choral rehearsal on Monday, thankfully we had the Romans class cancelled on Tuesday, Worship Workshop on Wednesday, a crucially important meeting today, a Family Day organised by my firm tomorrow and Sunday School on Sunday. I know I did mention that I wanted to remove myself from the Sunday School ministry but I just didn't have the heart to do it.

And there was a lot of running around today too. I only got to sit down now and rest a bit and later I am off again for choir practice for the coming Christmas Musical, which at least I am looking forward to. We will be putting up a Christmas Musical this 15th and 16th December, a beautiful piece call Everlasting Light by Claire Cloninger and Mark Hayes.

Having not done any devotion today, I spend what time I have today meditating this glorious psalm.

Psalm 99
1 The LORD reigns;
... let the peoples tremble!
... He sits enthroned upon the cherubim;
... let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
... he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
... Holy is he!
4 The King in his might loves justice.
... You have established equity;
... you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool!
... Holy is he!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
... Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
... They called to the LORD,
... and he answered them.
7 In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
... they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.
8 O LORD our God, you answered them;
... you were a forgiving God to them,
... but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Exalt the LORD our God,
... and worship at his holy mountain;
... for the LORD our God is holy!

Picture by Carl Dwyer

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The beautiful poems of God*

With my love for the Book of Psalm, I thought I’d carry along with me Terrien’s The Psalms, Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary wherever I go; I hope I can manage its weight, figuratively and literally.

I started reading its Preface and Introduction this morning, which I am sure will take me several more days if not weeks, with its Introduction taking almost 70 pages of the book. Here are some stuff that made an impression on me.

The other thing that is striking which I must mention is Terrien’s writing and language – it is such a joy to read him.

From the Preface,

    The Psalter was the main hymnal of the church. Whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, the early Christians recognized the accent of Jesus in some of its hymns, prayers, and meditation.

    The first task of the exegete of the Psalms is to clarify the obscurities and elucidate the theological significance of these poems. The second task is to analyze their strophic structure. The third, and perhaps most difficult, may be to discover a link between their archaic language and the intellectual demands of modern thinking and spirituality.
Terrien concludes his preface with a phrase both in Latin and French:

    Laurus honore caret, caruit si pugna peric’lo
    (À vaincre san peril, on triomphe sans gloire)
The Latin original is attributed to Lucian and French translation to Pierre Corneille. I googled for an English translation and was wowed by these words.

    Without danger one has to overcome triumphs without glory.
What I can say is this: one would certainly not appreciate what he has until he experienced what he has not.

From the Introduction, Longevity and Ecumenity of the Psalms (p.1-5),

    The Psalter is unique in the history of Jewish and Christian spirituality. For twenty-five centuries it has been sang, chanted, recited, read, translated, and annotated by adherents of Judaism, and for two millennia by the disciples of Jesus Christ, more often and with more alacrity than any other collection of sacred canticles.

    In spite of the archaism of their style and certain limitations in their ethical and theological horizon, they respond to the deepest need of the human spirit. They offer access, familiar, bold and almost arrogant, and nevertheless sober, to the presence of a God beyond popular godliness, when this presence eludes the most perverse forms of any mercantile religion.

    In order to penetrate, even a little, to the heart of the complex theology that emerges from the Psalter, it is necessary to consider its origin, its literary genres, its ancient functions within the frame of its historical development, which lasted a thousand years, the transmission of its text, and its ancient versions, as well as the fluctuations of its exegesis in modern and postmodern times.
Terrien gave a very remarkable list of the early Church Fathers whose “literature swarms with allusions to the Psalms,” not forgetting the masters of Christian catechesis of the early church who commented on the Psalms in learned ways resulting in their now famous homilies.

  • Clement of Rome (ca. 96) – cites it more than a hundred times, especially Psalms 2 and 110, in order to establish his messianic interpretation of the Old Testament
  • The Didache (ca. 117-50) and the writings of Justin Martyr – finds in the Psalms numerous predictions of Jesus the “Lord”
  • The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 130) – discovers in Ps 1:1 a threefold sentence for the mention of three kinds of meat condemned by Moses
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 160-90)– reads in Psalm 82 the announcement of the resurrection of Christ
  • Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-254) – revealed himself as one of the first critics of the Hebrew text and the Greek version of the Septuagint; he wrote one of the earliest commentaries on the Psalm, influenced by Platonic philosphy
  • Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 296-373) – finds in the praises and complaints of the Psalter a description of the calamities endured by the persecuted Christians as well as the foundation of the baptismal and Eucharistic sacraments
  • Ambrose of Milan (339-97) and Augustine of Hippo (354-430) – say that the validity of the baptismal and Eucharistic rites is equality reinforced by the Psalms and used the Psalms to develop a theology of the liturgical calendar, from the Nativity to Whitsunday and the balance of the year
  • Jerome (ca. 342-420) – his work on the Psalms became the official text in the Roman Catholic Church even until the late years of the twentieth century
  • Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350-428) – reacted against the subjectivism of allegorical interpretations; he gave special attention to philological and literary analysis
  • John Chrysostom (344-407) – explained with eloquence the power of the Psalter and the splendor of its style
  • Eucherius of Lyons (ca. 449) – formulated exegetical principles aiming at restricting the fantasies of allegorists, while maintaining that the typology could elucidate the secret meaning of the text
And here I can henceforth state with more conviction this, which Terrien attributes to Melancthon: “Scripture may not be comprehended theologically unless it is first understood grammatically.”

What a wonderful gift that God has given to us, His own breathed-out Word, which should accompany us, fill us and engulf us at all times, in all places and in all ways.

Glory to God in the highest!


* The title looks quite a misnomer since the Psalms are poems for God but yet they are the inspired Word of God. Such a marvel and yet a mystery, our God.