Daily Psalms – Psalm 82

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 81-85

Psalm 82 is a short psalm, but one that is debated as to its exact meaning. I’ll provide two summary explanations, the first as we traditionally view this psalm, and the second how the original readers would have likely understood this psalm. I intend later to do a more in depth analysis of this psalm and its implications on how we read the Bible, but today will serve simply to get us thinking.

The traditional reading of Psalm 82 goes something like this:

  • V. 1 states that God is present when his people gather together (“divine assembly”), and that he passes judgement upon false gods or idols (v. 1).
  • Vv. 2-4 scold the assembly for not pursuing justice in the world.
  • Verse 5 talks about the foolishness of idolatry…afterall, didn’t Paul tell us that idols aren’t anything anyway, sort of like what we read here?
  • V. 6-7 show that humans and false gods, or those who claim to be divine, will die like anyone else.
  • V. 8 calls for God to bring his judgement and acknowledges that God is over all nations, not idols.

There are variations to this view of Psalm 82, but this pretty much gives the gist of what is going on with this view. And I will say that nothing stated above is Scripturally inaccurate. God is the God of all…no idols or false gods compare. Our God will judge all. Israel failed time and again to bring about justice in the ways they dealt with others. Nothing said above is Scripturally inaccurate. What may be inaccurate is what we are missing by reading this psalm out of context with the worldview of ancient Israel, and the rest of Scripture.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the “Divine Council,” then this next section may really stretch your wineskins. I’m going to recommend a book up front, Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser, and you would also benefit from listening to a series of podcasts by The Bible Project called the God Series. There’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 hours worth of audio study and reflection on this concept. Again much more could, should, and has been said about this psalm in light of the Divine Council view. For now, I’m just cracking the door to a whole other way of seeing the Scriptures through the eyes of the ancients.

We need to lay a bit of understanding about this passage first. The Hebrew word elohim is a class of spiritual being. When you see “God” or “gods” in the text, it’s the same Hebrew word. This is a view of one elohim passing judgement upon other elohim. “God” is not a name, it’s a class of spiritual being. We tend to capitalize the “g” in God when we are referring to the God of the Bible, Yahweh (often notated in your bible as LORD).

The Divine Council helped Yahweh rule the nations. Yahweh is the God of Israel, but there was also a god of Babylon, a god of Canaan, etc. In other words, the nations and ruling bodies on earth have a spiritual elohim behind them. Read Genesis 6 with these eyes and see what you think. Again, this deserves much more than I am going to give here, but here is a brief summary of the Divine Council view of Psalm 82.

  • V. 1 shows our God (the divine name appears nowhere in this psalm), the supreme God among all gods (heavenly beings who have authority to rule portions of the earth). He pronounces judgement against their actions.
  • Vv. 2-4 recounts all of the failings that these governing gods have done. They haven’t promoted what the supreme God has commanded. The very things that Yahweh stands for in the Scriptures are being opposed by these gods.
  • V. 5 shows those who are oppressed and neglected by the gods have no direction…nobody to care for them. This lack of divine leadership has shaken the very foundations of the earth.
  • Vv. 6-7 show the Most High’s sentence against these guilty gods. They are all offspring of the Most High (Jesus being the only unique (begotten) Son – Jn. 3:16), yet they will die just like any other ruler. The same consequences for the rebellion of mankind now will fall upon the rebellion of the guilty in the Divine Council.
  • V. 8 is a call for our God, the supreme God, to bring this jugement to pass and rule over all nations.

The first response to the Divine Council reading of Scripture seems to be confusion about our God. “I thought there was only one God?” And Scripture contains verses like this:

Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:2 CSB

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—AS THERE ARE MANY “GODS” and many “lords”— YET FOR US THERE IS ONE GOD, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 CSB – emphasis added

Even Scripture acknowledges there are other elohim/gods. But to us, there is only one God…or in other words, we only follow one elohim. The Elohim of elohim. We follow Yahweh alone.

So if you’ve stuck with me this far, I want to hear your take on this. Are you familiar with the concept of the Divine Council? Have you read Heiser’s book? What do you think of this understanding of Psalm 82, as well as Genesis 6? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

But whatever your take is, I hope this will at least get you to spend some time in God’s WOrd. Blessings to you today!

The Elephant In The Room

There’s an old story of three blind men who are led to different parts of an elephant. One feels the tail and thinks it’s a paint brush. One feels the leg and thinks it’s a tree. One feels the ear and thinks it is a large leaf. By the information that each person had they made their best judgement. But when they got together and compared information they realized that none of them had the full picture. Then they worked together to find the head which clearly revealed that there was an elephant in the room.

This Sunday we will be exploring 4 difficult texts that address women serving in the church (1 Corinthians 11 & 14, 1 Timothy 2 & 5). Much confusion and hurt has come from attempts to apply these texts in the history of the church. What is ok to do? What is not ok to do? And often we judge people who come to a different understanding that we do. Many times I’ve heard disagreements over Scripture summarized by someone saying, “They just don’t follow the plain reading of Scripture.” But do any of us really do that?

I think the bigger issue is not the texts themselves, but how we read those texts. All of us come to Scripture with existing biases. I read Scripture through the eyes of a white, middle class, married father of three, living in rural West Texas. That is my perspective. Someone who is middle eastern, impoverished, single, living in Europe will naturally see things differently than I do simply because of their background and surroundings. They view the world differently than I do, and that’s a good thing!

Proverbs reminds us that there is wisdom in having “many advisors” when seeking to make decisions. If I am looking at something alone, I only see things from my point of view. But if I talk about it with others who have differing views I can begin to see more of the picture.

Some have suggested that addressing controversial texts does no good. “It means what it says and says what it means, and that settles it!” But it doesn’t settle things, does it? The greatest clarity of Scripture I have ever found has come when discussing the text with people who have differing views. Though I may not agree with everything they see, I always walk away with a greater understanding of their view, my view, and most importantly the text. Just this week a new detail stood out to me in 1 Timothy 2 because I was talking with someone about the text. I’ve been reading 1 Timothy several times a week for nearly a year, and I noticed something I had never considered before because I was willing to sit down and discuss the text with someone.

I have no doubt that Sunday morning God is going to do powerful things for us, and through us as we study his word together. I also believe that all of us will see things that we haven’t seen in these texts before. My prayer is that we all listen to the voices of “many advisors,” reexamine our view in light of others, but most importantly we consider what the Scripture actually says, and grow in the grace and wisdom of the Lord. And when we do this cooperatively in community, maybe then we will better identify the elephant in the room.

See you Sunday!

What is the Best Way to Read the Bible?

Last week we looked at examples from the New Testament of people coming together in community to study the Scriptures. We also looked at the first few centuries after the New Testament to see the council at Nicea surrounding the deity of Christ. Christians came together around the Scriptures in order to clarify beliefs and put an end to false teaching. This council resulted in what we commonly call The Nicene Creed.

This community study of the Scriptures happened on many other occasions as well. As the years passed, again the Church saw need of solidifying doctrine amongst all believers. The decision was made to collect the writings held highly by the community and combine them into an authoritative collection. There was some debate concerning some of the writings we have today in our New Testament, and some differences still exist today (does your Bible contain the Apocrypha?) But when the Church came together in community, the most trusted writings were compiled to solidify the documents of our faith – the New Testament.

We are so used to having our sacred writings in one book. Can you imagine going through life and having to search from city to city to find a copy of John’s Gospel? The fact that you own a Bible, or have access to a Bible online, or in app form is because 1600 years ago the Church, the Body of Christ, came together in community in order to compile (not create) the writings we know and love.

Today, we must take the same approach toward interpreting Scripture. Renowned theologian, seminary professor, and author Scot McKnight has a suggestion for how we are to read and interpret Scripture today in his book, The Blue Parakeet. In this quote, he speaks of the “Great Tradition,” that is the understanding of the historical Christian community.

“I suggest we learn to read the Bible with the Great Tradition. We dare not ignore what God has said to the church through the ages (as the return and retrieval folks often do), nor dare we fossilize past interpretations into traditionalism. Instead, we need to go back to the Bible so we can move forward through the church and speak God’s Word in our days in our ways. We need to go back without getting stuck (the return problem), and we need to move forward without fossilizing our ideas (traditionalism). We want to walk between these two approaches. It’s not easy, but I contend that the best of the evangelical approaches to the Bible and the best way of living the Bible today is to walk between these approaches.”

Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet

The history of the church shows that Scripture has been best interpreted in community. When believers come together and wrestle with the Scriptures to find truth, error is avoided, God is honored, and Scripture is upheld and interpreted in a relevant way. As history and the New Testament has shown us, it is the best way.

2 Rules for Reading Scripture

Last week we looked at the human component in Scripture. All Scripture is from God, but it comes through the mind and hand of humans, sometimes humans writing in community as we noted last week in many of Paul’s writings. This makes the Bible more special in my eyes, that God was willing to partner with humans in getting his word to the world, just as he partners with us today in doing the same thing (See Matthew 28:19). Today we’ll unpack the last part of Bobby Valentine’s quote: “God’s word addressed them in that situation and may not be God’s directive for all time and all places.”

There are two rules for reading Scripture: Context, and Context. Because of the historical nature of revelation we must pay close attention to the historical occasion of the text.  Why was it said or written in the first place? For instance, Ezekiel records many times of coming calamities upon Israel and Jerusalem “from the north.” This does not mean that Americans should be arming our border with Canada and preparing for war. This is a ridiculous example, I admit, but there are some who take equally specific texts meant for a specific people group in a specific time and place and try to apply it to everyone today. We must honor the context of the statements in order to accurately derive their meaning.

Let’s take a look for a moment and look at another example.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NKJV

I’ve seen this verse applied to people trying to make a difficult decision, athletes wanting to win a game, couch potatoes that want to work up to running a marathon, churches hoping to begin a new ministry, people hoping to buy a new car or find a new house, and the list goes on and on. This verse is poorly translated in the KJV/NKJV (the word “Christ” doesn’t even appear in the Greek text), and its meaning is poorly applied to our lives because we don’t understand the context of Paul’s statement.

Paul has been arrested for preaching about Christ, but he doesn’t view this as a bad thing. In fact, Paul believes this is good because believers now see their faith in Christ is worth even going to prison over, and therefore they are spreading the Gospel message more intensely (Phil. 1:12-18). Fast forward a few chapters. Paul exhorts the church to rejoice always, no matter your circumstances…even if you are in chains for the Gospel (4:4). They should focus on Godly ways rather than worrying about the things of this world (4:5-9). Paul acknowledges that for a while the church was unable to support him, or provide for his needs (after all, he is in prison so he doesn’t have much – 4:10) Then Paul writes:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Paul is saying he doesn’t need money or possessions in order to preach the Gospel. God gives him strength, and that is enough. Want to apply this to your life? You should go preach the Gospel and God will give you the ability in whatever situation you find yourself to do just that. And no, that doesn’t include winning your softball game.

The Human Component of Scripture

Last week we began to look at the “inspiration” of Scripture (see 2 Tim. 3:16). I mentioned the biggest problem we face when trying to understand God’s inspiration of Scripture is we try to remove the human element from Scripture. We forget that the people writing these texts had a hand in their creation as well. They were not strictly taking dictation.

Bobby Valentine puts it this way:

“The Bible is inspired of God’s Holy Spirit through the words of human beings in specific historical circumstances. Thus it is literally the word of God and the word of humans. Thus the text was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and not Spanish, English or Southern. God’s word addressed them in that situation and may not be God’s directive for all time and all places.”

I left you with three examples of differences between Scriptures that refer to the same events. All of these are narrative events (meaning a story is being told). Did you look them up? If not do so now:

Did you notice the differences? They are all human elements that have been changed. Let’s look at the first. The writings of Samuel and Kings cover the exact same time frame as Chronicles, but their intent is different. The writing of Samuel is more of a prophetic warning, or explanation of why the people wound up in exile. Chronicles attempts to reestablish the image of Israel after the exile. Two different purposes, and the writers included two different sets of details. All true, but different purposes.

Both Luke and John tell us about Peter going to the empty tomb. John includes this “other disciple” beating Peter to the tomb. That’s the way John refers to himself throughout his Gospel. Why did John include this and Luke didn’t? Because it was John himself who beat Peter in a footrace to the tomb!

Mark and Luke tell us of the bleeding condition of the woman healed by touching Jesus’ robe. Mark tells us that she had suffered greatly at the hands of physicians. Luke, who was himself a physician, apparently didn’t feel we needed that bit of the story.

Can you see the human element of these texts? Can you see how God gave latitude to the authors? This makes the Bible more special in my eyes, that God was willing to partner with humans in getting his word to the world, just as he partners with us today in doing the same thing (See Matthew 28:19).

In the meantime, look at how Paul did not write his letters alone, but in partnering with others: Rom. 16:22, 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor. 1:1, Gal. 1:1-2, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:1, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1, etc.

Next week we’ll unpack the last part of Bobby’s quote, specifically how God’s word may apply to specific times and places, verses all times and all places.

Common Myths Surrounding the Inspiration of Scripture

In these articles we have been discussing the ways many read the Bible incorrectly. I’m not talking about doctrinal interpretation, I’m talking about the very way we approach the book. I would encourage you to look at these past articles if you haven’t already:

Today, we are looking at the “inspiration” of Scripture. Paul wrote a letter to one of his coworkers named Timothy in which he gives this charge:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God  may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 NIV

What exactly did Paul mean by “God-breathed?” I grew up thinking that this process was much like the way we use voice-to-text with our cell phones today. Ask Siri to send a text message, you speak, and the person on the other end gets your words. Siri doesn’t shape your words, Siri doesn’t give the gist of your words, it is every word exactly as you speak it. This is how I viewed the process of the Holy Spirit inspiring the words of Scripture. The Spirit whispered in the ear of Paul, Peter, Luke, Matthew, and the others, and they wrote down every word in the exact order the Spirit spoke them. I guess you could summarize this process as “strict dictation.”

If this is so, why does Paul write differently than Peter? Why does Matthew write differently than John? Why does Luke include a story that Mark does not? Isn’t the same Holy Spirit behind the writing? Isn’t the same Holy Spirit dictating word for word to each writer? Why then are they different?

And therein lies the problem. We often try to remove the human element from Scripture, forgetting that the people writing these texts had a hand in their creation as well. They were not strictly taking dictation.

Bobby Valentine puts it this way:

“The Bible is inspired of God’s Holy Spirit through the words of human beings in specific historical circumstances. Thus it is literally the word of God and the word of humans. Thus the text was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and not Spanish, English or Southern. God’s word addressed them in that situation and may not be God’s directive for all time and all places.”

Bobby Valentine

We’ll unpack the last part of Bobby’s quote next week, and explore the context of these inspired writings next week. But if you want to see examples of this, look at the following passages…all true, but you can see the human element of the author at play:

Ask yourself: What are the differences in these passages, and why?

How To Know You’re Interpreting The Bible Correctly.

For the last five weeks we’ve been discussing reading the Bible as story. We’ve discussed Scot McKnight’s description of Scripture where he suggests that there are three “chapters,” or clearly defined sections to the Bible’s overarching story: theocracy (Gen. 1-1 Sam. 8), monarchy (1 Sam. 8 – Mal. 4), and Christocracy (Matthew 1-Rev. 20). It’s important to realize that God’s ultimate goal is to return us back to a theocracy through the redemptive work of Christ, and the final judgement of all people. Seriously, go read the last two chapters of Revelation and you’ll see an image of how God intended our existence to be in the beginning in the Garden.

Today we talk about the concept of Biblical interpretation. In my church heritage there has been a very big emphasis placed on the “plain reading of the Bible.” In other words, “…we don’t interpret the Bible, we simply do what it plainly says.” Lovely idea, but terribly inaccurate. Whether you like it or not, and whether you realize it or not, the Bible is interpreted by everyone.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time your church put an adulterer to death? (Lev. 20:10) Is your clothing made out of a blend of different materials? (Lev. 19:19) Did you greet everyone at worship with a holy kiss? (commanded 4 times in the NT, Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Thess. 5:26) Did all the men in your assembly lift their hands during every prayer? (1 Tim. 2:8)

If you didn’t do these things, even though a “plain reading” of Scripture clearly shows you should, then you are interpreting Scripture. And you should interpret Scripture! The only question is, “Am I interpreting Scripture properly?”

Bobby Valentine gives us the following suggestions for doing just that:

“Christian hermeneutics will always begin as a response to the God of all grace who has done great things. Christian interpretation will be rooted in the soul that is seeking to reflect God’s glorious image back into the created world around us. Christian biblical interpretation will begin in prayer and will be understood as ‘an act of worship.’ Thus, interpretation that does not begin in prayer and worship and result in the Spirit flowing through us to a vandalized world means we have a right to question if it is a valid hermeneutic or Christian interpretation. Prayer, Worship and reflecting God’s image: these are the beginning points and the ends/goals of interpretation.”

Bobby Valentine

Again the question isn’t if we interpret the Bible. The question is how we interpret. McKnight put sit this way:

“God speaks to us for a reason – I call this ‘missional’ listening. In brief, God tells his story so we can enter into a relationship with him, listen to him, and live out his Word in our day and in our way.”

Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, 2nd Ed., pg. 113

If our interpretation of Scripture doesn’t affect our daily lives, it’s worthless. If our interpretation brings us into a place where we better reflect the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29 – remember we’re living in a Christocracy), then we can be confident in our approach to the Scriptures.

So, how is your interpretation of Scripture reflecting the image of Christ to others in your life?

You’re Probably Reading the Bible the Wrong Way (Part 5)

For the last four weeks we’ve been discussing reading the Bible as story. 70% of the Bible’s text is narrative (story) and the other 30% is communication between the characters in that story. We looked at Scot McKnight’s description of Scripture where he suggests that there are three “chapters,” or clearly defined sections to the Bible’s overarching story. Week have explored theocracy, which is found from Genesis 1 through 1 Samuel 8, and last week we looked at the monarchy, Israel’s rule by earthly kings. This section begins in 1 Samuel 8 and continues through the end of the Old Testament. Simply put, rejecting God never turns out well.

We ended with the question: How have I rejected God as my King, and how has it affected my life? Keep that question in mind as we discuss the final of McKnight’s “chapters”, Christocracy. If you try to look that word up in a standard dictionary you probably won’t have much luck. By Christocracy we mean a body of believers governed directly by the living, resurrected Jesus, the Christ! In the New Testament Jesus said, “…I will build my church…” (Mt. 16:18). The word we have translated as “church” in your Bible is the Greek word ekklesia, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a building. The word simply means assembly, or gathering. What Jesus intends to do is gather and create a people group who are called out of the world’s systems and governments to follow and obey a new King above all, the risen Jesus.

Following King Jesus is a difficult task that must be considered carefully. Consider the following:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Luke 14:25-33 NIV (emphasis added)

Following King Jesus as part of his ekklesia means allegiance to him above all else. This isn’t a half hearted, fill the pew an hour a week type of relationship! Nothing else in this life matters apart from following his will. He is our King, and we die to ourselves, our desires, our choices when we decide to follow him. It’s a radical kingdom!

We see from theocracy that the people rejected God as their king. We see from monarchy that the people rejected God even with an earthly king.  And sadly in our Christocracy that we call the church, many will still reject Christ as their king. But Christocracy is designed to return us to a Theocracy once again at the end of time (read Revelation 21 & 22 for what this looks like).

But now back to our original question: How have I rejected God as my King, and how has it affected my life? If Jesus isn’t Lord of your life you are rejecting him. You are rejecting God’s will on your life. And the scary thing is he will let you do this. But as Scripture makes clear, no good comes from rejecting King Jesus!

You’re Probably Reading the Bible the Wrong Way (Part 4)

For the last three weeks we’ve been discussing reading the Bible as story. 70% of the Bible’s text is narrative (story) and the other 30% is communication between the characters in that story. We looked at Scot McKnight’s description of Scripture:

“There is not just one and only one story in the Bible. But there are two nonnegotiables (sic) in the Bible’s Story. First, there is a general plot from the creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1-2 to the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 20-22. Second, there are redemptive benefits for those who participate in that ‘general plot’ by declaring allegiance to the God of that plot.”

The Blue Parakeet, 2nd Ed., pg 68

McKnight goes further to suggest that there are three “chapters,” or clearly defined sections to the Bible’s overarching story. Last week we explored theocracy, which is found from Genesis 1 through 1 Samuel 8. Today we look at the next section of the Bible, monarchy.

Most people are familiar with the term monarchy. It’s a form of government where one person, usually a king or queen, rules over a people.  Here’s how the text sets this up in 1 Samuel 8:

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

1 Samuel 8:6-9 NIV

God gave the people what they wanted, even though it meant rejecting him. There were good times under some of the kings, but when you have a human running things there will always be failures. Israel’s history under the kings is full of failures. And a parallel can be extended to our lives as well. When we reject God’s lead in our lives we too will fail. Perhaps not every moment of every day will be a failure, but we will suffer the effects of rejecting God.

Just browse through your Old Testament from 1 Samuel 8 to the end of Malachi. What do you see? What do the title headings (added by editors of your translation as aides for understanding) show you about the narrative of the story? I just did a quick flip through and came across the following on each page I turned to: Judgement on Jerusalem and Judah, The Covenant is Broken, The Fall of Jerusalem, Idolatry in the Temple, Judgement on the Idolaters, Israel to be Destroyed. These are the kinds of things the rejection of God brings upon people. But this is not the end of the story.

You will also find headings such as A Promised Messiah from Bethlehem, Israel will Rise, Restoration of Israel’s Remnant. Even through the people’s rejection of God as their King, he was preparing to send another King that would undo that rejection. That section begins in Matthew 1. But for now, answer this question:

How have I rejected God as my King, and how has it affected my life?

You’re Probably Reading the Bible the Wrong Way (Part 3)

For the last two weeks we’ve been discussing reading the Bible as story. 70% of the Bible’s text is narrative (story) and the other 30% is communication between the characters in that story. We looked at Scot McKnight’s description of Scripture:

“There is not just one and only one story in the Bible. But there are two nonnegotiables (sic) in the Bible’s Story. First, there is a general plot from the creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1-2 to the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 20-22. Second, there are redemptive benefits for those who participate in that ‘general plot’ by declaring allegiance to the God of that plot.”

McKnight goes further to suggest that there are three “chapters,” or clearly defined sections to the Bible’s overarching story. We’ll look at each of these “chapters” individually over the next few articles. The first of these is theocracy.

According to the dictionary, theocracy is a political system governed by a deity (or by officials thought to be divinely guided). In other words, when the Bible begins we see the center of everything is God Yahweh. From Genesis 1 until 1 Samuel 8, it is God and only God who has the authority to rule. God makes everything, therefore everything is under his authority, and from the beginning he yields some of that authority to other beings, including humans (we’ll talk more about the other beings later). We see this clearly in Genesis 1:28-31. God expected humans to have authority over the created earth while remaining subject to him.

During this time there is no earthly king, no earthly political leader. God is the center of everything. Yet we see a common problem throughout this time as well: humans constantly go against the will of God. From Adam and Eve in the garden story to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, all of these episodes show that Israel is truly an appropriate name for God’s people (Israel means “struggles with God”)

Theocracy was the ideal in the Garden. God giving a direct set of limited rules to the people (in this case Adam and Eve) by which to live, but ultimately God himself led them. The problem? The people rebelled. Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden and so there’s distance between God and man, but God himself is still the direct leader of the people. The problem? The people rebelled (just read Genesis 6!) God ultimately deals with unbridled violence through rescuing Noah and his family through the flood. The problem? The people rebelled again (Gen. 11). God now begins to speak to some individuals directly, and relays his message through some of these  human beings. These people are variously referred to as prophets, or judges, and some have no special title at all. All the way through this section of Scripture, God is the one who directly deals with the people, and the people continually rebel. Story after story in this section fits into this narrative style.

So where does the story of the Bible go after theocracy? We’ll look at that next time, but if you want to get a head start in thinking about the next section of Scripture, look at 1 Samuel 8. In the meantime, ask yourself this question:

Have I fully submitted my life to God and his will, or do I “Israel,” that is struggle and rebel against God’s will for me?