Recommendation: Is Genesis History?

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Film Recommendation:  Is Genesis History?

Is Genesis History? is two hours well-spent.  It is an exploration of a clear question through dialogue with credentialed experts, presented in a beautifully shot and edited film.

The Exploration of the Film

Is Genesis History? is indeed the question the film sets out to explore.  To explore this question requires investigation into several more specific questions, primarily focusing on events and figures in Genesis chapters 1-11, a portion explained by some as figurative and by others as false.  To answer whether Genesis is history requires answering more focused questions such as the following:  Does Genesis present Adam and Eve as historical figures and the originators of the human race?  Was there a historical entrance of human rebellion against the Creator God?  Does Genesis present a worldwide, catastrophic Flood as a historical event?  Does the Tower of Babel account preserve trustworthy history?

The Experts of the Film

To investigate these specific questions, the filmmakers pursued the twin areas of the intended meaning and the accuracy of the text through interviews with experts.  Del Tackett leads the viewer through the movie with a series of monologues and dialogues with a variety of credentialed authorities, each, including Tackett, holding at least one terminal degree.

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Boyd demonstrates the repetition of the Hebrew word “kol” to highlight the universal, global nature of the catastrophic Flood in the historical narrative of Genesis 6-8.

A study of the biblical languages, literature, and theology are essential to discovering and confirming whether Genesis purports to be history.  Hebraist Steven Boyd brings out clues from the text of Genesis, in contrast to the contemporary literature, to demonstrate its genre and intended meaning, while George Grant, pastor, discusses the interpretation of Genesis as history by the other biblical authors.  He also breaks down the influences and implications of theological approaches that seek to deny the historicity of Genesis and its importance as a foundation for accurately understanding for all other disciplines.

Genesis presents itself as history, but does modern science disprove that claim?  Can it be accurate?  Tackett interviews a swath of other thinkers and scientists, from philosophy of science (Paul Nelson) to biology (Kevin Anderson, Paul Nelson, Robert Carter, Todd Wood), geology (Steve Austin, Andrew Snelling), astronomy (Danny Faulkner), archaeology (Douglas Petrovich), and paleontology (Marcus Ross, Kurt Wise).  These experts point to evidence that fits well with the record of Genesis, and interact with alternative interpretations of the common data in each of these disciplines.  For example, Faulkner discusses the problem posed by the distance of starlight.  Carter distinguishes minor adaptations and changes in living things with one kind becoming a different kind over massive amounts of time, arguing that the complexity of life supports the historical narrative of Genesis.  Austin and Ross show that phenomena like the Grand Canyon and the fossil record can be understood in the paradigm of the historical account of Genesis, particularly in light of the Flood.  Petrovich argues for a likely site for the Tower of Babel, in the same geographical area and consistent with the biblical description.

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Tackett interviews Petrovich about the likely location of the historic Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).

The Excellence of the Film

The film’s presentation and pacing make it a delight to watch.  The production quality of the audio and video is excellent.  Some of the scenes feature breathtaking drone footage of gorgeous landscapes, while others reveal close-ups of life forms small.  Spectacular time-lapses fascinate.  Professional graphics and transitions break up the segments and help explain concepts.  The interviews are substantive enough to inform but succinct enough to avoid tedium while inviting further exploration.

 

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Tackett speaking with Steve Austin at the Grand Canyon.

 

The Extras of the Film

Since the film is now available on physical and digital media, one can obtain an edition with the extras, which I recommend.  These include further Ph.D. testimony from scientists, such as mechanical engineer Stuart Burgess and atmospheric physicist Larry Vardiman, and theologian Douglas Kelly, who traces the history of the interpretation of Genesis in the church, revealing that the overwhelming view until the mid-eighteenth century was that Genesis presents actual history.

An Evaluation of the Film

Is Genesis History? is suitable for any teen or adult, and would be great for classroom and church settings as well, especially if done in tandem with discussion, a research assignment, or further reading.  I found the film to be useful as an introduction to the issues, providing challenges for those who deny the historicity of the book and encouragement for those who defend it.  Both types of viewers should be stimulated to further study of God’s Word and God’s world.

The film is available in DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital streaming/download.  Church and group showing licenses are also available.  To purchase or for additional resources, visit isgenesishistory.com and click on the resource tab, which includes

  • Film guide (downloadable PDF), pictured.
  • Scientist takeaways
  • Video Devotional Bible Study
  • Church and family resources

 Check out the trailer here:

UPDATE: THANK YOU TO THE FILM PRODUCERS AND LEV3L FOR SPONSORING A DVD GIVEAWAY, AND THANK YOU FOR THE ENTRIES.  CONGRATULATIONS TO DAVE MITCHELL FOR WINNING!

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Book Review/Recommendation: Reviving New England

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Reviving New England

Book Review: Reviving New England by Nate Pickowicz; foreword by Steven J. Lawson

Paperback
Kindle

Nate Pickowicz’s call for Reviving New England may surprise you, and in a good way.  When I contacted Pastor Pickowicz to request a review copy, I expected to read lots of practical tips, hopefully derived from sound theology, but like a how-to manual, complete with a schematic for a detailed program to accomplish the goal.  Although the book does not lack practical application, Reviving New England is not ultimately about what any of us can do to ensure revival in a land no longer known for the love of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and holy living.  Instead, the book defines revival as something that is an extraordinary and “surprising work of the Spirit of God” (112).  This work produces an increased number of conversions, a regathering and strengthening of backslidden believers, and a deepening devotion in faithful believers (16-17) and is to be distinguished from revivalism, which reduces revival to a mechanical consequence of human manipulation.

Summary

The Northeastern United States were once alive with a vibrant Christian witness, which liberalism, rationalism, and Unitarianism significantly eroded.  Pickowicz chronicles the birth and decline of Christian influence in New England and gives a prescription that may seem overly simplistic to some:  expository preaching.  It is the primary task of a faithful preacher to “stand before the people of God to faithfully discharge his ministry of reading, teaching, and exhorting with the Scriptures” (33).  Churches need pastors who will passionately and clearly proclaim the gospel of Christ as they continually expound the message of the text of the Bible.  New England needs individuals and churches to hate sin and vigorously pursue holy living.  They must have an accurate view of God, which entails a healthy understanding of and opposition to sin.  “If God were to fail to oppose and punish sin, He would be guilty of aiding and abetting sin, which would impugn His righteous character” (42).  Rather than a common cultural independence and extreme self-reliance, New England needs churches that understand the glory and beauty of unity in a local body that seeks to enjoy fellowship, service, intergenerational discipleship (cf. Titus 2), biblical counsel, and church discipline.

Churches must understand that revival is not about preserving tradition or historic buildings, but about the glory of God.  God is glorified as Christ is preached, sinners are converted, and believers grow.  The church must proclaim the gospel, make disciples by teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20), and bear witness for Him as living displays of His ongoing work.  “Our testimonies give powerful evidence that God is still intimately involved with this world to the praise of His own glorious grace” (82).  Personal rededication, church revitalization, and church planting are needed in New England, solidly based on the foundation of God’s Word, seeking to conform ourselves to His character and our local expressions of His body to the pattern laid out in His Word, including attention to standards for church leadership and membership.  The book ends with a call to pray for the Lord of harvest to send laborers who will work side by side, focusing on their area and then helping others, to be a faithful gospel witness who look for God’s gracious blessing.

Evaluation

Reviving New England lays a robust foundation of history and sound, Christ-centered theology for its practical application.  At 140 pages, the book is concise, but meaty enough for a good discussion group or church class to study.  The author selectively and intentionally sprinkles helpful quotes and explains theological language.  His calls for expository preaching, discipleship, and prayer are firmly grounded in biblical mandates and an awareness of the present need.  These features make the book both clear and convicting.  I came away spiritually enriched and encouraged by it.

The bulk of Reviving New England focuses on true revival and what a genuine work of the Spirit produces in people and churches.  The book is certainly flavored by its overview of Christianity in the region and the historical and cultural comments presented throughout the book.  If I could make a suggestion for revision, I would love to see some stories of what God has done in particular individuals and churches.  Whether intermingled in the chapters or added as an additional appendix, such testimony could further illustrate some of the points in the book and witness to God’s continuing work in New England and the potential for what may be yet to come.  

The message of Reviving New England is applicable to any individual, any church, and any place in need of revival, and that was a good surprise.  The need for good theology, a clear presentation of the gospel, repentance, faithful Christian living, biblical ecclesiology, and a reliance on God in prayer are clear and are desperately needed in New England and throughout the world in every place and every generation.   I highly recommend this book for all who long for the Spirit’s surprising work to send forth a mighty renewal in the land.
PERSONAL NOTE: My connections to New England prompted much of my interest in the book.  I greatly desire to see revival there.  I am from rural Appalachia (Northeast Tennessee), but my wife is from Massachusetts, so we travel there regularly.  I spent three months as an intern with the New England Center for Expository Preaching in 2008, meeting many New England pastors and church members at various church meetings, conferences, and tours of historic sites, and had the privilege of preaching each week in a different pulpit throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  I hope to be of encouragement to those who are continuing to labor for the gospel there, encourage others to consider going there, and, if the Lord so directs, join them myself one day.  Let us pray for the Lord to bring revival to New England and raise up laborers for the fields that are ready for harvest.

DEAL ALERT: Logos Bible Software $25 Code

Logos Bible Software has a free $25 code (no strings attached).

You don’t even have to have a paid version of Logos (they have a free version).
One very worthwhile option would be to get Steve Runge’s High Definition Animated Commentary on Philippians (https://www.logos.com/product/50323/animated-high-definition-commentary-philippians) — this is a Logos exclusive and consists of very helpful videos.  But make sure you do your study of the text before jumping to any commentary!

10 Questions to Consider for Accountability Groups, Accountability Partners, and Self-Examination

Exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13 NKJV

Many Christians have benefited greatly from accountability partnerships. These partnerships often involve asking pointed, specific questions to one another about areas of sin that are common and serious pitfalls.  However, if we are not careful, we can become deceived by our sin to such a degree that we may unconsciously begin thinking of sin in terms of those pointed, specific questions.  It’s the checklist mentality, and we must avoid it!

While we should certainly zero in on problem areas, we should be sure our strategy doesn’t allow “respectable sins” to loiter without notice.  To help us get at the root of sin in our lives, sometimes we need to dig a little deeper. Here are ten questions to help us do just that. As we ask these questions, let us remember that God calls to confess sin, forsake sin, and embrace and enjoy the forgiveness of sin offered to us in the gospel by our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Have I been seeking to live for God’s glory or my own?

2. How does my life (thoughts, desires, and outward actions) measure up to the 10 Commandments and the 2 Great Commands to love God with all my being and my neighbor as myself?

3. What have I set my affections on, worshiping in the place of God?

4. What sin has been crouching at my door — a sin that I think I can tame?

5. Have I harbored bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart?

6. Have I been living my life in a manner worthy of the gospel?

7. Have I allowed myself to become complacent and careless in my relationship with the Lord and in seeking to please Him?

8. Have I sought to live independently of God in some way, failing to properly fear and acknowledge Him?

9. How have I sinned this day/week, both in commission and omission?

10. Have I consciously sought to rejoice in the Lord or has my attitude been colored by sinful desires and circumstances?

These questions are not mutually exclusive, as some certainly overlap.  Certainly, others could be formulated as well.  Nonetheless, I hope they are helpful to spur us on to forsake sin and pursue our joy in Christ and live worthy of His good news, as we find our joy in Him.

Jesus’ Humble Service in John 13 & Philippians 2

Two of the most beautiful passages in the Bible share this theme of Jesus as an example of humble service.  John narrates the details of a key episode of Jesus’ ministry, when He performed an act to give an example, and Paul points to Jesus as the supreme pattern to imitate for unity through humility that springs from Christian love.

John 13

Philippians 2

v. 1: Jesus’ actions sprang from faithful love  vv.1-4: Our actions should spring from Christian love
v. 3: Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hand, that He had come from God and was going back to God v. 6: Jesus is God, and He knew so, but would not use this to His own advantage
vv. 4-5: Jesus laid aside His outer garments, girded Himself with a towel and performed a lowly slave-duty of washing feet.  This was about a day before He would go to the cross (ch 18-19). vv. 7-8 Jesus gave up privileges and humbled Himself as a slave.  He became a man and was obedient even to the horribly shameful death of the cross.
vv. 13-14, 16: Jesus is rightly acknowledged as Master and Lord, and those who serve Him and are sent by Him are under Him.  vv. 9-11: Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
vv. 15, 17: Our Lord set an example for His disciple-servants to follow.  “ For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” v. 5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

 

Add in the quarreling disciples about who was greatest (Luke 22:24 records an instance that is likely very close on the heels of the events in John 13) and Euodia and Syntyche’s prominent disagreement (Phil. 4:2-9), and we see the absolute need for following Jesus’ example of humble service, if we are to show true Christian love and unity.

New CAPS Class in Bristol, Tennessee at Liberty Baptist Church

The Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply is partnering with Liberty Baptist Church to offer a 12 session, monthly course in studying and preaching the Bible. The first meeting is from 6:30-10pm on Thursday, Feb 2 at 112 Walnut Hill Road, Bristol, TN 37620. CAPS director Doug Smith will teach the Bible study component and Associate Pastor Roger Daugherty will teach preaching. Pastor Stan Anderson will also assist with the class. The cost for each student is $50 and includes all textbooks (Doriani, Getting the Message & MacArthur, ed., Preaching) and notebook materials. For more information or to sign up, click here to contact us.  For more information about CAPS, visit capsministry.com.

Until I Came into the Sanctuary of God – a Meditation on Psalm 73

God is good… all the time.  And all the time… God is good.  Many say these things, but how many believe these things?  When we look at evil and injustice in the world, when we see oppressors triumph, when we see wicked people apparently flourish, that seems topsy-turvy compared to how things ought to be.  When we struggle with these things, we are not alone and we are not the first.  This Psalm of Asaph details a major crisis of faith and its resolution.

We may struggle in our faith.  (Verses 1-15)

The psalmist affirmed that the pure in heart know the goodness of God. But this is no glib statement but is the conclusion following a severe struggle in which the footing for his faith came close to slipping away.  When he got his eyes on the prosperous wicked, he became envious.  He longed for the prosperity, pride, and popularity they possessed.  He began to reconsider the value of living life for God.  As Spurgeon put it, “he questions the value of holiness when its wages are paid in the coin of affliction.”  If godly living is this tough, and wicked living results in ease and wealth, what is the point in pursuing a purity of heart?

We too may struggle in our faith.  Perhaps in the midst of a personal difficulty, we see wrongdoers apparently prospering, climbing the career ladder, and amassing a following.  If we focus on them and go down this road, we will tread ground like that of Asaph.  The psalmist knew the anguished experience of traveling a dark path.  However, he realizes something is wrong in his thinking.  It is not until he comes to God’s sanctuary that the light brightens and redirects his way.

We must strengthen in our faith.  (Verses 18-26)

Asaph would not wrap his mind around this theodicy, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (v. 17).  When Asaph returned to worship God, his dissonant perceptions of the wicked were resolved.  He need not slip up in envy because he realized that they would fall to destruction from their slippery places.  Perhaps he meditated on the sacrifices, those innocent victims who symbolized God’s punishment for sin by destroying a substitute.  Those not relying on this God and His provision for their sin to be forgiven must themselves be destroyed.  Likewise, we must look to the fulfillment and the ultimate sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we worship Him and meet with His people to hear the good news of His coming, death, and resurrection, a weak faith will be fed and strengthen and we will understand that the prosperity of the wicked is but temporary, while the worst is yet to come for them.

The Psalmist repents of his former questioning of God’s goodness, comparing such thoughts to those of a senseless beast, and so must we.  The pathway out of darkness leads us to forsake incorrect assessments and to positively acknowledge the presence, protection, and guidance of the God who afterward will receive us to glory, where the best is yet to come. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).  What an encouragement for the believer!  Should we not rather pity than envy the wicked?

We must stand in our faith.  (Verses 27-28)

The Psalmist sums up the conclusion of his conflict: those far from God will perish, but he knows the goodness of drawing near to God.  His faith has struggled, but it has been strengthened.  He nearly slipped, but now he is standing firm and declaring it to others.

So must we.  Believers in Jesus Christ going through a “dark night of the soul” need to strength their faith, feeding it through worship.  They need to repent of their former envy and short-sighted fascination with the prosperous wicked.  They need to embrace God as their all-in-all, draw near to Him, and share the testimony of a faith that struggled, was strengthened, and now stands.

Truly, God is good… all the time.  And all the time… God is good.

10 Tips for Learning the Biblical Languages

I recently shared “10 Reasons I’m Glad Hebrew and Greek Were Required in Seminary.”  I want to encourage the study of the original languages, and there are more tools than ever to help in this noble endeavor!  Here are the top ten things that helped me renew and persevere in the languages and complete first year Hebrew and Greek this past year.

1. Ask the Lord for help to appreciate and use the languages. The importance of a student’s attitude cannot be overstated. If you hate what you’re doing, if you think it’s unnecessary, and if you are just jumping through a hoop for a degree requirement, you are going to be miserable. On the other hand, if you’re excited and grateful to learn the original languages of the Bible, you may just have one of the most enjoyable parts of your training just around the corner. Yes, studying Hebrew and Greek takes a lot of sweat, but yes, it’s worth it, and it should be integrated with a heart of worship to God and service to those who will benefit from your teaching and ministry.

2. Take the languages for a test drive.  I recommend going immediately to the Daily Dose site for the language you’re looking to start.  Click on “Learn” at www.dailydoseofhebrew.com or www.dailydoseofgreek.com to watch the free grammar lessons.  (You can also open them on their Vimeo pages and download them for offline use.)  Futato and Plummer are master teachers (and authors) and they communicate in a clear, enjoyable, and memorable style.

In addition to Daily Dose, there are other sites with free courses.  I found it helpful to work through material on sites for these before taking a for-credit course, and it only made my learning easier in the long run. Some other free courses worth a look are: Chris Engelsma’s Hebrew and Greek classes, Dr. Barrick’s Hebrew classes, Dr. Murray’s Hebrew class,  Charles Grebe’s Hebrew class, Dr. Mounce’s Greek class.

Zondervan also sells online, independent Hebrew and Greek courses (each are two-part courses, $199 for each part, and 1 year of access to lessons).

Test-driving the languages may help some students find out if they will be able to sink or swim, but, for many, I think it will help them find that it is possible to learn Hebrew and Greek, and that they can gain a good foundation for future learning in the process.

3. Learn your alphabet. Seriously. Snails are going to outrun you if you don’t make the alphabet your best friend. For many of us, learning the languages is like being in kindergarten again, and it’s fun.  So learn an alphabet song. Sing it every day, multiple times a day, until you know it.  I’ve found that both alphabets can be sung to the tune of “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortening Bread” (Thanks, Dr. Mounce).  The Greek letters go straight through, while I tag “that’s the Hebrew ALEPH-BETH” onto the Hebrew version. When you start using a lexicon, you’ll be glad you took this advice.

4. Figure out your game plan.  If you’re studying the languages on your own, you’ve got maximum flexibility, but for those taking them at accredited colleges or seminaries, you’ll need to either take them at your school or take them from another school which will be accepted for transfer credit. You can always check with your registrar. I obtained approval to take and transfer six hours of Greek from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (they even have a 30-day free trial period) and this enabled me to take the classes in a summer and graduate sooner.

You need to consider the approach the class will use to help you learn the language. Depending on your long-term goals, you may want to investigate whether the class will give you a working knowledge of the language or whether it will be designed to prepare you for in-depth scholarly mastery of it. You may want the latter if you plan to continue with advanced courses in the languages, and the former if you only desire an introduction. I had one of each and one nearly drove me to give up on the languages. Ask around: talk to fellow students who have had a given professor, talk to professors, and get an idea of what you’re getting into before you sign up.

You also need to think about the delivery format and timeframe. Some students really need face to face instruction and the encouragement of classmates. Independent learners may do fine with an online class. Some online classes allow generous completion times. Some have strict deadlines and others are generally self-paced. If you go for the latter, don’t be a procrastinator. Set a schedule and try to stick to it. Carve out some time and dig in!

5. Brush up on your English grammar (or whatever your native language is or the language your teacher will use to instruct). Check out Chris Engelsma’s free course, and use books like English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew (AmazonWTS) and English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek (AmazonWTS) to make connections that will help you understand the grammatical concepts in the languages you’re learning.

If you don’t have a decent grasp of English grammar, you’re going to struggle. Plus, you may have to diagram sentences again (Warriner’s 5th course on English Grammar will help). Time spent shoring up your skills in these areas will reap dividends.

6. Get familiar with your syllabus and textbook ASAP. This should go without saying, but when you get the information about how your professor will teach your class, start planning around it. Mark all your deadlines, note what will be required for assignments and assessments, and obtain your textbook(s). If you have multiple professors teaching a language at your school, you might procure a syllabus from each to compare (their textbook choices and teaching strategies or other factors might make one a better choice than another). My classes used Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek (Amazon – WTS) and Morphology of Biblical Greek (Amazon), Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Amazon – WTS), and Futato’s Beginning Biblical Hebrew (AmazonLogos Bible Software – WTS).

The syllabus may also give you a heads up on the proper use of the text. Some professors will extensively utilize the books, while others will basically make them a heavily-used reference work.

7. Memorize early and often. Procrastination and laziness are your enemies, and they will swiftly kill your ability to learn a language in a given time frame. Pay close attention when your memory work is assigned. Not all professors will mandate the same requirements, but every language class will have some memory work. Expect vocabulary, noun declensions, verb conjugations, and definite article patterns. Get familiar with your memory assignments quickly and review daily. Like the alphabet, you’ll be glad you spent time memorizing when you get an assignment and realize you are actually reading a sentence and can translate it without having to refer to your books. It amazed me how much mileage I got out of memorizing the patterns for the Hebrew perfect and imperfect!

8. Pack a toolbox with flashcards, mnemonics, and software. For vocabulary, flashcards help many people. Whether you make your own, order pre-made flash cards, such as Zondervan’s Hebrew and Greek (Amazon – WTS) sets, or use the free Quizlet app, to make your memory work efficient and enjoyable! I personally found Quizlet to be the best option because I could sync it across devices, enabling me to study on a mobile device (even offline) or the computer (online), and it has built-in games and tests. I took these before taking the real quizzes and it helped me greatly. One word of caution here: if you make your own flashcards or use Quizlet to find sets other users have made, doublecheck every entry to make sure it’s correct (user error happens).

Along with flashcards, finding, creating, and using mnemonic devices such as rhymes and word associations will help you learn and remember new words. Dr. David Murray’s free Hebrew flashcard PDFs and Blair Kasfeldt’s Biblical Greek: Vocabulary Made Easy ($3.99) are two great examples.

You’ll need to master certain noun declensions and verb conjugations.  Memorize the charts or patterns your professor requires and repeat them regularly. One helpful way to solidify this is to use Paradigms Master Pro (for Windows and Mac computers). It’s a well-done, inexpensive program (their Twitter page occasionally announces sales on it as well). The best deal is to buy Hebrew and Greek together unless you have a mastery of one already or are sure you will only be learning one.  There is a free trial so you can see if it’s something that you want.

9. Get a good basic lexicon. You probably won’t learn every word you need to translate, and if you want to keep going in the languages after you finish the classes, you’re going to need a dictionary. Your professor might have a required or suggested one. If not, consider Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon and Gingrich’s Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. (HALOT and BDAG are probably overkill for most first year students, but should be on the radar for those wishing to continue and deepen.) I also got Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains (AmazonLogos) electronically and found it helpful on the go. There are other choices for lexicons, especially some free older ones that are a bit dated, but what I’ve suggested should be sufficiently up to date options if you need to buy one.

10. Get an analytical lexicon but try not to use it too much. This is a controversial suggestion. Some believe it is the worst possible idea for a beginning student to use an analytical lexicon. The danger is that one can look up every single word and skip fundamentals such as the memorization of basic paradigms, irregular forms, and rules for vowel lengthening, which would be self-defeating when trying to learn a language. However, I found an analytical lexicon handy for certain translation assignments and for occasionally checking my work. If you get one of these, it is best to 1) make sure your professor allows its use, and 2) use it as a last resort. Try to figure out the word using what you already know (or after reviewing what you already should know) and then look at it if you’re stumped. If you’re not disciplined enough to do refrain from using it when you shouldn’t, then don’t buy it. I used Mounce’s Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Amazon – WTS). I’ve not used one for Hebrew/Aramaic, but Davidson’s has good reviews.

For some, utilizing the interlinear, text analysis, and lexicon tools on sites like Biblehub.comBlue Letter Bible, and gntreader.com may render owning an analytical lexicon unnecessary.

What Do You Suggest?

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve found some helpful suggestions. Take what you can use, and use it to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word. I’d be glad to hear suggestions from others, and possibly edit this article in light of them. What would you recommend for those who wish to prepare for and profit from Hebrew and Greek?

Lord, Teach Us to Number Our Days: a Meditation on Psalm 90

For full sermon audio, click here (MP3).

So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

A new year, a new day planner. If the Lord permits me to live through them all, I see three hundred and sixty-five days simmering with possibilities. There are possibilities for work, ministry, play, and of course, all those unexpected things I can’t control. I can schedule some of these things. Some will get canceled or rescheduled. Some will get done. Some may get forgotten or neglected.  Some things I might want to avoid will have to be faced.  I have no idea how all my planning will turn out, but one thing is for sure: I need the wisdom of God to count and spend my remaining time well because my days are numbered.

Moses knew well that man’s days are numbered. He had been miraculously spared from infant death, providentially preserved and reared in the courts of Pharaoh, called and used of God to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness wanderings. During those forty years, Moses saw his rebellious brethren fall like flies, and outlived the great majority of them. In Psalm 90, this man of God gives reflections of his experience as he instructs us to look to the Lord so we can number our days and spend them well.

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is the eternal Creator. (verses 1-2)

Moses points us first to the Lord, who is the refuge and dwelling place of His people in all generations, including those who had to keep relocating camp in the desert. This is the eternal God. Moses had the same God that the patriarchs had, and that Noah and Adam had before them. This God witnessed and caused the birth of the mountains and the earth. He is God from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning and without ending, and is therefore not bound by time in the way His creation is.

By contrast, we are not eternal but have a beginning. We depend on Him, but He was doing just fine before we or any of His creation was made. Who better to teach us how to number our days and use our time well than the One who made us, the One Who predates and outlasts everything?

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because we are troubled transients. (verses 3-11)

Moses quickly turns from the God who is eternal, to created man, who is bound by time. Our days not only have a beginning, but they are numbered, seemingly insignificant, and full of trouble.

God sends man back to the dust from which he was made. Even if we lived a thousand years, as some of the patriarchs nearly did, it’s like yesterday to God, like a brief portion of the night. Carried away like a flood, mowed down like grass, burned up by God’s curse on sin, our lives seem like a disposable short story, quickly told and quickly forgotten. We may typically live seventy years, or eighty if our health is good, but the longer we live, the more sorrow we must endure.

We must acknowledge the role of sin in man’s troubled existence. God created man, and man could have lived forever had he kept God’s commands. But Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the whole human race into sin. We inherit a sin nature that includes us toward a rebellious independence, which we personally carry out as soon as we are able. Some of the difficulties we face are because of others’ sins, but some are self-inflicted. God is a holy and righteous God and sin bears consequences proportionate to the devotion God deserves.

Life is hard and even if we become octogenarians or go beyond, our days are numbered. But that shouldn’t drive us away from God. Rather, it should make us run to our eternal Creator, begging for His wisdom, and that’s what Moses models.

We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is a compassionate Redeemer. (verses 12-17)

Moses’ reflections on the everlasting Creator and the troubles of transient man lead him immediately to cry to the Lord for help. At the heart of this plea is the confidence that He will have compassion and will help.

We too need to ask the Lord for help. We can grow discontent, bruised, and beaten, and need to be satisfied with His compassion and mercy so we can find our joy and gladness in Him. We can lose sight of what He has done, so we must ask Him to show His work to us, and His glory to our children. We can start to think that what we do has no meaning or legacy, so we must ask Him to favor us and direct and bless the work of our hands.

God ultimately shows us favor through His Son. In Jesus, we see the eternal God who became flesh and dwelt among us. He walked through this fallen world, suffering alongside His fellow humans and having compassion on them. The incarnate God-man spent His days in perfect wisdom. We see God’s glorious work of redemption in the appointed hour of Christ’s death on the cross and in His resurrection. We see the fruit of His labors in lives forever changed by His glorious gospel. In Him, we see death defeated, the curse reversed, and work made meaningful. He who loved us and gave Himself for us is He who redeems our days.

Our days are numbered, but if we are children of God through faith in Christ, their end will be a glorious transition into the fullness of the salvation Jesus has purchased for us. Until that day, let us look to Him so we do not waste our days, but make them count.  As I reach for my day planner, and as I live each day, I want this to be my prayer: Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

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Check out this musical rendition of Psalm 90 from Judy Rogers and Becky Morecraft: “Everlasting.”