Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for June 2010

Old Testament Readings, Anonymous Elders, and Jim Hamilton

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At Kenwood we have three scripture readings during our main worship service: a Call to Worship, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading. This past Sunday (6/27) we had a hiccup in the service. One of our elders (who will remain anonymous) didn’t realize that he was scheduled for the Old Testament reading. So, when we finished singing “A Mighty Fortress,” and I noticed that this anonymous elder was not walking to pulpit, I began to get a little nervous. But you must understand why I’m nervous at this point: I’m the one responsible for the worship service. If someone is not walking to the pulpit it’s really my fault! So I scramble through hymnals and papers around the piano looking for a Bible, somehow hopeful that I can get to the pulpit and do the reading myself without making it look like I’m unorganized (pet peeve, by the way). I look over at Jim Hamilton seated in the second row, and he’s looking conspicuously around the room for that same anonymous elder who should be at the pulpit reading the Bible by now. He strikes back an inquisitive but partly accusing look in my direction, as if to say, “Haven’t you organized the worship service?” I send back a shrugged shoulder, hoping that he gets the message that the anonymous elder is supposed to be reading. Jim gets my drift, and true to his character (he’s great at spontaneity), he marches quickly up to the pulpit, ready for the task. And this was the result:

Isaiah 44:24-45:7

We  have all been in worship services where our concentration is broken by some distraction. It’s either a high screeching microphone, a baby crying during a prayer, or an anonymous elder forgetting that he’s scheduled to read and pray during the service. We know this well and its amusing to some degree. But each week I try to organize a worship service that might limit our distractions and instead cause all of our efforts to focus on the greatness of God in Christ. Indeed, the whole elder team labors to do this, not simply because we think it’s the right “mood” for worship, but because we want to worship God rightly; that is, in a way that would bring him the most glory. Limiting distractions, I think, is helpful to meeting this goal.

So Jim marched to the pulpit without having read Isaiah 44:24-45:7 and without having prepared a prayer. But afterward, instead of being distracted and instead of feeling some disconnect, Jim helped draw our attention to the greatness of God by reading the Bible with emotion, vigor, sincerity and enthusiasm. And I think his response helped everyone in the congregation, not least myself. In the end, our minds and hearts were once more focused on magnificence of God, and on the awesome privilege we have of worshiping him freely.

I think that Jim should consider a Bible audio book, no?

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Written by Josh Philpot

June 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Old Testament

Son of Hamas

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As a graduate of Liberty University I’ve been ashamed to watch the rise and fall of Ergun Caner, who recently lost his position as dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Caner received heavy scrutiny over the past year for fabrications he made about his life as an American Muslim and his conversion to Christianity, seemingly for personal gain. I will not rehash the details here, so if you want an overview of the situation you can get a good summary at this site.

In the midst of such lies and half-truths it is refreshing to hear about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the author of the NY Times bestseller, “Son of Hamas.” Yousef is the eldest son of a founding member of the terrorist organization Hamas, and even participated in acts of terrorism and torture in his young adulthood. He eventually became a Christian and as a result had to seek political asylum in the US. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have it on my Amazon wish list and look forward to picking it up some day (Tim Challies reviewed the book here). Phil Sumpter linked the following videos on his blog recently, which I found fascinating. Although I have no doubt that Ergun Caner was raised in an Islamic home and converted to Christianity, the embellishments in his own story for self aggrandizement are disappointing to say the least. Yousef’s story, however, is of a different kind. His is a true story of a true terrorists and a loss he suffered for embracing the gospel. The videos below provide a glimpse into his life as a Muslim, struggling to understanding the love of God and how to communicate that to his family.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

Posted in Culture, Gospel

Hymns on Piano

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Here are twelve hymns I recorded on piano for my wife as a birthday gift in April (she really liked it!). I thought some of you may enjoy them. Many thanks to Andrew Case for the mix, and to Clifton Baptist Church for letting me use their piano!

I Will Glory in My Redeemer

In Christ Alone

Amazing Grace

Before the Throne of God Above

Come Thou Fount

Holy, Holy, Holy

How Sweet and Aweful is the Place

Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners

My Jesus, I Love Thee

The Power of the Cross

Trust and Obey

I Surrender All

I had to minimize the files, so unfortunately the quality is not the best. Also, most of these were recorded on the first take so you may hear mistakes here or there (i.e. copyist errors…).

Written by Josh Philpot

June 28, 2010 at 1:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Pun from Judges 16

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The Old Testament is full of literary and rhetorical devices, most of which are only obvious if you know Hebrew. I’m still working on Hebrew so I don’t always notice these things when I’m reading through a text. But one such literary device that is usually recognizable is the “pun,” which in some cases adds tremendous interpretive weight to a passage. A pun is a play on words which at times yields funny results.

Consider the following passage from Judges 16 that Charles Halton pointed out in a recent article in JBL (“Samson’s Last Laugh” in JBL 128.1 [2009]: 61-64 ). This is, of course, the famous story of Samson and the Philistines. After being deceived by the promiscuous Delilah, Samson is tortured by the hands of his captors and forced to do hard labor. In 16:25-27 the Philistines desire to get one last laugh over  Samson, and it is here that we see the pun: “And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, that he may entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars . . . Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained” [ESV].

Halton shows that the majority of English translations miss the significance of the pun. The verb “to entertain” can also be rendered “to crush,” since the only difference in the Hebrew root is a sin (which would mean, “to entertain”) and a shin (which would mean, “to crush”). These two letters are indistinguishable in an unpointed text, so Halton suggests that the author of Judges makes a play on words; that is, the italicized text above means both “entertain” and “crush” to communicate two different things. And, of course, we all know how the story ends. Halton concludes,

“The author of this pericope used the ambiguity of the verb in Judg 16:25, 27 to articulate two points of view. The masoretic tradents follow the perspective of the festive Philistines as they vocalized shq to convey the notion that Samson’s captors brought him into the temple in order to entertain them. The second point of view is that of the narrator. The narrator injects an element of dark comedy into this account stating that the Philistines summoned Samson in order to crush themselves. Like other figures in the Bible, Samson destroyed a pagan sanctuary and crushed the cultic idols to bits. This time, however, the crushed cultic objects were the Philistine men and women.”

Fun stuff! In a sick sort of way…

Written by Josh Philpot

June 26, 2010 at 1:47 am