Friday, October 22, 2010

Walkabout with Jeremiah: The Expositor's Bible Commentary - Jeremiah

we have the ultimate paradox: It is a human being who must deliver the word of God. He share's God's outrage; he shares his people's pain. Divine passion and human compassion vie for his soul and threaten to tear him apart. (Brown, 75)

As my walkabout within the book of Jeremiah continues I've moved into the addition of more study aids, which has both advantages and dangers. As I add outside sources to my Bible study, I want to be careful to purpose in my heart to allow those sources to provide an informational context out of which inspiration can come. My desire to learn from scripture directly as illuminated by our teacher the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27, John 14:26, John 16:13) remains in the forefront as I open myself to the voice of of the Spirit in the context of biblical scholarship and pursue inspiration from the hearts and minds of men moved by the Spirit of God. I may be summarizing some of the points I wrote about in Small Beginnings, but as an academically minded student of the Word I have to be careful to maintain a spiritual perspective based on faith in God's revelation rather than in man's scholarship. On the other hand, I must remain humble and seek the wisdom of others as I seek to understand an Old Testament text which has produced countless scholarship as well as countless inspiration. These principles are vital as I go one large, academic step further into the world of biblical resources by adding The Expositor's Bible Commentary to my studies.

 The Revised Edition of The Expositor's Bible Commentary Volume 7 was released this year with a brand new commentary on Jeremiah by Dr. Michael Brown (whose ministry credentials are some of the most interesting I've seen) a revivalist first and a renowned theologian and Bible scholar second.

The volume itself is remarkably handsome and elegant, a vast improvement over the aesthetics of the previous edition of The Expositor's Bible Commentary. This edition will add an atmosphere of nobility to any bookshelf. The size of the volume is fairly large, but well-proportioned for a reference volume. My own intentions, however are not to use it as a reference volume, but to progress through its information slowly and to let the commentary's division of the book into small portions create moments of both study and meditation.

The introduction of the commentary itself is a lengthy essay overviewing the heart of the book and of the man Jeremiah, while also introducing several of the scholarly and theological topics.

The layout of the volume features a portion of scriptures, usually about five verses, in a gray box under a subtitle which introduces the action and/or theme of the passage. Occasionally the scripture is preceded by an overview of a prevalent theme which the passage introduces or preparation for certain difficult interpretative issues. The passage is followed by verse by verse commentary on the thematic, practical and literary interpretation of each verse or thought. The commentary is then followed by detailed notes which delve deeper into interpretation and language issues and suggest sources for further study. Occasionally the notes are preceded by a section of reflection in which the commentator connects the heart of the passage with the heart of practical ministry or with larger theological concerns. The layout itself is well organized and creates a progress of study and understanding, opening the passage for inductive study and then providing a lens with Dr. Brown's comments, which engages the reader to reexamine the text.

The nature of Dr. Brown's commentary partakes of rare excellence. At the forefront is rich, passionate spiritual insight, which is grounded in a context of deep, holistic scholarship. This combination of spiritual and scholarly wisdom creates a matrix of information and inspiration, which leads to reflection and prayer. Dr. Brown's writing engages the heart and the mind as he bravely ventures into the connection between the word of God, the heart of God and the anguished prophet.

Brown writes of Jeremiah 4:19-20:
 For Jeremiah the pain is unbearable. Long before the judgment comes, he already experiences its reality in prophetic vision. Long before Nebuchadnezzar's armies march from Babylon, he has heard the battle cry, watched the troops advancing, seen the terror of his people, and stood among the dead and dying [...] Jeremiah vividly sees everything caving in, one disaster on top of another (seber upon seber), as judgment upon judgment comes crashing down. But the prophet not only identifies deeply with his people; we also see in these verses the total identification of the prophet with the Lord and his word. (p. 130)

Though the passion of Dr. Brown's writing style creates many pithy and pointed phrases, my goal is to take notes from the meditation his commentary inspires, as I endeavor to let his zeal for God's word and the character of Jeremiah inspire my own. Rather than copying down his commentary I try to add notes to my margins based on what strikes my own heart and my own perception of the prophet. At times I feel Dr. Brown views Jeremiah's compassion as too intrinsic; in my own understanding that compassion is a product of the intercessory role within the prophetic role. Jeremiah's compassion is not his own, yet we see his jealousy for God's glory as also not his own, but conflicting with the compassion for the people. Two aspects of God's heart war within Jeremiah's heart, leaving the man himself overwhelmed in the agony of a divine struggle that goes beyond the simple declaration of God's word and empathizes with the heart of the word.

While this post is not intended to simply review the commentary, I cannot help but reccomend it, as it stands out as a stirring resource that goes beyond scholarship. Even in the excellence of Dr. Brown's writing I must be careful to allow the scripture dominate and let his commentary illuminate as I take the understanding I gain to the throne of grace.

A review copy of this book was provided by Zondervan. I was not required to give a positive review, only an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment