Book Review: Desiring God (Revised Edition)

If you are going to read anything by John Piper then the place to start is Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. This book, which began as a teaching series at Piper’s church, became the catalyst for Piper’s ministry—both at the local as well as the global level.  In fact, an examination of almost any of Piper’s “post-Desiring God” books will reveal the influence that this work had on Piper.

Most people are familiar with the content of Desiring God either by reading the original edition, or through hearing Piper speak. But just in case, Desiring God is an apologetic for what Piper calls “Christian Hedonism.”  In other words, Piper argues that all Christians should be living for their own greatest joy. This sounds strange until one realizes that our greatest joy is achieved by loving God and others (i.e. the greatest commandment).  Throughout the book Piper works to show how “Christian Hedonism” can and should affect every area of a Christians life.   The list of subjects covered by Piper includes:

  1. An explanation and defense of Christian Hedonism
  2. Worship
  3. Love
  4. Scripture
  5. Prayer
  6. Money
  7. Marriage
  8. Missions
  9. Suffering

 

In each of these areas Piper labors to show how Christians, just like Christ, should be laboring for the joy that has been set before us.

The importance of the Desiring God in  the world of evangelicalism cannot be overstated.  This book, along with Piper’s ministry, was part of the leading edge of the Reformed resurgence in evangelicalism.  Desiring God has helped this movement avoid the extremes of “dry theology” and has preserved the revivalist spirit of men like Jonathan Edwards (For those familiar with Edwards, Piper has depended greatly on Religious Affections to shape his thinking on Christian Hedonism).

Not only is Desiring God a valuable read, but getting your hands on the new edition will prove valuable as well.  There is a great deal of new and updated content in the New edition.  In fact, one of the most enjoyable parts of reading the new edition was comparing the new edition with the original.  There are a great deal of updates, new footnotes, and additional content that has been added to make this edition a wise purchase even if you have the old edition (Plus, there is a study guide provided in the back in case you are using this as a bible study resource).

Piper pushes the envelope in places, and intentionally uses language that can be challenging to our conceptions of Christianity.  You might not agree with everything, but I think you will agree with me that the message of this book is valuable.

Advertisements

Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 4)

VII. Historical Significance

The Valley of Jezreel was an important region for many reasons which have already been described.  Its location, and fertile soil made it key historical location.  Some of the most significant events in the history of Palestine occurred, and will occur, in the Valley of Jezreel.  The following is a list of some of the most significant events of the valley.

a. Pre-Israelite

1. In 2350 B.C. Pepi I fought against rebel forces in the Valley of Jezreel.[1]

2. In 1468 B.C. Pharaoh Thutmose III conquers Megiddo.

b. Old Testament History

1. Israel is unable to control the valley after the conquest of Joshua.

2. Deborah and Barak defeat Sisera and gain further control of the valley (Judges 4-5).

3. Gideon defeats Midian with his 300 men (Judges 7).

4. Saul is defeated and killed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).

5. Solomon fortifies Meggido (1 Kings 9:15-19).

6. Ahaziah, King of Judah, was wounded in Ibleam and died in Megiddo (2 Kings 14-29).

7. Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo by Necho II and his forces. (2 Kings 23:28-31)

c. New Testament Events

1. Jesus frequently used the Valley of Jezreel when traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem.

2. Jesus heals ten lepers while passing “between Samaria and Galilee.” (Luke 17:11-19)

3. “In the Roman period a large village called Ezdraela flourished [in Jezreel], with a road-station nearby.”[2]

d. Eschatological Events

1.      Revelation 16:16 predicts that the final battle between God and the rebellion will be fought at Megiddo, which of course, is in the Jezreel valley.


[1] Eric H. Cline, The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2000.), 3.

[2]Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed.. 173.

Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 3)

V. Roads & Entrances

a. The International Coastal Highway

The International Coastal Highway, also known as the Via Maris, was a major trunk route connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia.[1] A major stop along the International Costal Highway was at Aphek.[2] “Near Aphek, conditions forced the route further inland, skirting the Sharon Plain, to enter the Jezreel Valley through a vital pass (the Aruna Pass) controlled by Meggido.”[3] Because of the presence of the highway, all commerce and military movement had to go through the Valley of Jezreel.   This made the various entrances into the valley very important.

b. Southern Entrances

In the south there were four entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  To the southeast was the Dothan pass, which was near Ibleam.  West of the Dothan Pass was the Taanach approach. West of the Taanach approach was the most important entrance into the valley, the Aruna Pass which went through the city of Megiddo.  This pass was a significant part of the International Coastal Highway.  In fact, “Of all the sections of the road, the one that has always attracted special attention is the ‘Aruna pass — modern day Wadi ‘Ara. This is largely due to the annals of Pharaoh Thutmose III, which describe the ‘Aruna Pass and the two alternative roads to the north, that enter the Jezreel Valley at Taanach and Yokneam.”[4] The westernmost entrance into the valley was the Jokneam approach.

c. Northern Entrances

From the north there were only two entrances into the valley.  The first was the Shimron Pass (Joshua 19:15) which linked the Valley of Jezreel with lower Galilee, and would become know in the New Testament as the city of Sepphoris.  The second northern entrance into the valley was the Plain of Tabor at the base of Mt. Tabor.  This is most likely the route that Jesus used on several occasions to travel south (i.e. Luke 7:11-17).

d. Western Entrance

In the west, the only major entrance into the Valley of Jezreel was along the banks of the Kishon River.  This route linked the Plain of Acco on the sea coast with the Valley of Jezreel.

e. Eastern Entrance

In the east, the only major entrance into the Valley of Jezreel was along the Harod River.  This route, which passed through Beth-shean, connected the Valley of Jezreel with the Harod Valley and consequently the Jordan Valley.

 

VI. Key Cities

a. Megiddo

The most important city in the Valley of Jezreel was Megiddo.  This city, which was about 30 acres in size,[5] was the front door to the valley.  As was mentioned above Megiddo was located in the strategic Aruna Pass.  Because of this strategic location “Megiddo has a history going back to 3500 B.C.”[6] In fact, as Kathleen Kenyon points out, “Excavation… has shown that the first occupation of the site dates back to well before the Egyptian Empire began to be interested in foreign contacts.”[7] Once Egypt did become interested in foreign contacts Megiddo became an important city to control.  In 1468 B.C. Pharaoh Thutmose III captured Megiddo.  This victory was celebrated by Egypt for as James Baikie records, “it is the capture of a thousand cities, this capture of Megiddo.”[8]

During the conquest of the land by the people of Israel the Canaanites retained control of this key city.  However, the destruction of Sisera’s army, recorded in Judges 4, gave Israel control of Megiddo and the Valley of Jezreel.  From this time on Megiddo became a key city for the Kings of Israel.  In fact, because Megiddo was such an important city Solomon built a chariot installation there.  As Alfred Hoerth points out, “When the site of Megiddo was excavated in the 1930s, archaeologists found structures that they identified as stables built to house some of Solomon’s chariot force.”[9] Later in Israel’s history King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:28-31).

All throughout history Megiddo has been a place of battle.  Even Napoleon campaigned at Megiddo in 1799.  Therefore it is no surprise that in Revelation 16:16 the apostle John recorded that the “hill of Megiddo” would be the rallying point for the final revolt against Christ.  Here at Megiddo, or Armageddon, God will strike down this rebellion.

b. Jezreel

The city of Jezreel is where the Valley of Jezreel received its name.  The city sits on the eastern end of the valley, and guards an entrance into the valley.  It was in the territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:18) at the foot of Mt. Gilboa.  Jezreel became an important city in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when King Ahab built a place there. “It was finally destroyed by the Assyrians. In the Roman period a large village called Ezdraela flourished there, with a road-station nearby.”[10]

c. Jokneam

Jokneam guards one of the southern entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  In Joshua 12:22 the king of Jokneam was defeated by Joshua.  Later the city, with its pasture lands, became one of the Levitical cities of the family of Merari (Joshua 21:34).  During the Roman period the city was known as Kammona.

d. Beth-shean

Beth-shean was an ancient fortress city located where the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan Valley meet.  The city is most famous for being the place where King Saul died (1 Samuel 31).  It was there that “battle was fought between Israel and the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa.  Saul and 3 of his sons… were killed.  Saul’s body was fastened to the wall of the Canaanite fortress city of Beth-shan, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.”[11]

e. Taanach

Taanach was a fortified Canaanite city guarding one of the southern entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  Joshua 17:11-12 reveals that Taanach was not conquered by the Israelites during the conquest.  In fact, Taanach was able to avoid total conquest until the time of Deborah (Judges 5:19).


[1] Keith N. Schoville, Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978.), 385.

[2] Howard F. Vos, Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Hendricksen, 2003.), 206.

[3] Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas, 16.

[4] Quoted from the Tel Aviv University Meggido Expedition Website:  http://megiddo.tau.ac.il/projects_wadi_ara.html, viewed on 5/2/09.

[5]  Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas, 146.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Kathleen Mary Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (New York: Praeger, 1970.), 93.

[8] James Baikie, The Story of the Pharaohs (London: A. and C. Black, 1908.), 126.

 

[9] Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.), 285.

[10]Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1996, c1990), 173.

[11] Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas, 128.

Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 2)

II. Boundaries

The Valley of Jezreel is nestled in between mountain ridges, the Jordan Rift, and the Coastal plain.  It extends “about 20 miles in a northwest to southeast direction, and fourteen miles northeast to southwest.”[1]

a. Northern Boundary

Lower Galilee, specifically the Nazareth Ridge, makes up the northern boundary of The Valley of Jezreel.  This ridge overlooks the valley which drops sharply in elevation

b. Southern Boundary

The southern border of the Valley of Jezreel is marked out on the western side of the valley by the Mt. Carmel range.  The southern border of the Valley of Jezreel on the eastern side of the valley, which is much narrower, is marked out by Mt. Gilboa.

c. Eastern Boundary

On the eastern border of the Valley of Jezreel Mt. Tabor, Mt. Moreh, and Mt. Gilboa all intrude upon the valley as it empties into the Jordan rift.

d. Western Boundary

“The western Jezreel is a broad triangle of land tucked between Mt. Carmel on the south and lower Galilee to the north.”[2] As it runs toward the west the Valley of Jezreel empties into the Plain of Acco on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

III. Topography

a. Elevation

Technically the Valley of Jezreel is not a valley.  It is a down faulted basin that ranges from any where from 60 to 106 feet above sea level.  This level region formed a natural division between the Mt. Carmel Range to the south and the Hills of Galilee in the North.

b. Geological Make-up

The Valley of Jezreel, which is covered with alluvial soil, is a productive agricultural region.  Edward Robinson described his first hand impression of the land in his journal of travels in the land in 1838:

Only portions of the plain were under tillage; and these were covered with the richest crops of wheat and barley.  The rest of was mainly left to run to waste producing for the most part only rank weeds; which die and decay, and thus keep up the fertility of the soil.  In some places there was white clover nearly or quite two feet high.[3]

 

As was mentioned above, some of the most noticeable features of the Valley of Jezreel were the mountains that formed it borders.

c. Water Supplies

One of the most significant reasons for the Valley of Jezreel’s agricultural productivity is its abundant supply of water.  The valley receives quite a bit of water partly because it is nestled between the Mt. Carmel range and the Hills of Galilee.  This causes precipitation from these higher elevations to drain into the valley.  Additionally, a number of springs helped to supply water to the valley.  In times of heavy rain the valley would become so saturated that its streams would overflow and flood portions of the valley.  In fact, for most of its history the valley was made up primarily of marshes and bogs.  In the west this water from the valley was drained in the Mediterranean Sea by the Kishon River.  In the East the water was drained into the Jordan River by the Harod River.

 

IV. Tribal Distinctions

When the people of Israel came into the land and divided it among the tribes, portions of the Valley of Jezreel were given to three of the tribes.  The tribe of Issachar received a portion of the eastern part of the valley (Joshua 19:17-23).  However, “Israelite occupation of Issachar was largely limited to the mountain district until the time of David.”[4] The tribe of Zebulun received an allotment of land in southwest Lower Galilee that extended into northern portions of the Valley of Jezreel (Joshua 19:10-16).  Finally, the half tribe of Manasseh received an allotment of land that included the southern and western portions of the Valley of Jezreel (Joshua 17:1-3).  However, as was the case with Issachar, Manasseh was unable to dislodge the Canaanites from many of the key cities of the valley.  J.A. Thompson explains what the archaeological evidence indicates, “Important towns like Beth-shean, Taanach, Meggido, Gezer, Bethshemesh, and several others are listed as not having been occupied by the Israelites.  These were, in fact, the old Canaanite towns, and some of these like Meggido and Bethshean showed continuous occupation well into Iron I period without any sign of severe destruction.”[5]


[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1961), 26.

[2] Thomas V. Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas (Holman reference. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998), 16.

 

[3] Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, 1838-5 (Gardners Books, 2007), 115-116.

[4] Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas, 26.

[5] J.A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.), 81.

Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 1)

Most of us have bibles with a map or two in the back, or a study bible with quite a few maps.  But, is it really important to understand bible geography?  Let’s put it this way, it was important to the people who were living in the biblical geography. Most of us, when we set out to study a book of the bible, make sure that we know who wrote the book and to whom it was written.  This helps us understand the content.  In a similar way bible geography helps us, especially in the Old Testament.  Over the next few days I want to look at the geography of a specific location, the Jezreel Valley, to demonstrate how helpful bible geography can be.

 

I. Introduction

The Valley of Jezreel is one of the most famous valleys in the entire bible.  Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Valley of Jezreel serves as a dividing line for Galilee in the North and Samaria in the South.  It is only mentioned by its full name, “Valley of Jezreel,” three times in the Old Testament.  This may be due to the fact that this important valley was not always known as the Jezreel Valley.  As Richard Cleave explains,

The biblical ‘valley of Jezreel’ is thought by some to have been the eastern section of the valley only, which ran between the cities of Jezreel and Beth-shan.  West of the city of Jezreel was the great inland plain, or ‘valley of Megiddo,’ which separated Mt. Ephraim (Samaria) from Lower Galilee.  In time the name Jezreel was applied to the whole valley.  Esdraelon is the Geek form of the Hebrew Jezreel, and is another name for the valley.[1]

The name Jezreel, which means “God Sows,” actually originated from the city of Jezreel.  During the reign of Ahab this city became prominent when a residence was built there for the King.

The Valley of Jezreel is an area of Palestine that possesses an almost unrivaled historical, military, and economic significance.  Fertile soil and abundant water made the Jezreel Valley a productive agricultural region.  Additionally, because of its flat terrain it became a crucial passageway for travelers, occupants, and invaders.  The valley became an important junction in the trade routes between Damascus and Egypt.  Thus, control of the valley has always been important.  For these reasons, the Valley of Jezreel has always been a hotly contested region.  In fact, more battles are fought in this valley than any other region recorded in the Bible.

Given the important role that the Valley of Jezreel played in Ancient Near East, as well as the prominent place it occupies in the bible, it is important for any student of the bible to study the Valley of Jezreel.  If one does not understand some basic facts about this valley then they will be not be able to fully understand several important passages in the Bible.  For instance, in Hosea 2:21-22 the Lord makes this promise to Israel:

And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ [2]

How can someone understand this promise unless they first learn about the Valley of Jezreel?


[1] Richard Cleave, The Holy Land Satellite Atlas, vol. 2 (Nicosia, Cyprus: Rohr Productions, 2000), 63.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible: ESV, English Standard Version.  Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2002.

Worship: How do we do it?

Expressions of Worship

A. Expressions of Idolatry

Because man was created to worship God, at its root idolatry is rebellion.  Thus, all forms of idolatry—no matter how subtle—are inherently sinful and only serve to produce more sin.  Furthermore, idolatry will always express itself through sinful thoughts, motivations, and behavior.

B. Expressions of True Worship

God not only created man for the purpose of worshipping Him, but He also revealed how man was to properly express this worship.  This revelation is found in the bible.  It is helpful to group the bible’s teaching on how to express worship into three broad categories:

1) Whole Life Conduct

God intends for worship to be expressed to Him in every area of life.  Worship goes well beyond the cultic/religious setting.  The bible makes it clear that first and foremost worship is expressed through one’s conduct in every area of life.  This is seen most clearly (but not solely) in Romans 12:1-2.

2) Corporate Worship

God intends for worship to be expressed to Him by the corporate gathering (1 Cor 11:18; Heb 10:25) of the church (Eph 5:14). The corporate worship of God’s people on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10) represents a special worship that cannot be duplicated in an individual context.  This is true because 1) corporate worship results in the mutual edification of believers (Heb 10:24-25, 13:1ff); 2) corporate worship reflects the worship of heaven (Rev 19:1-6); and 3) corporate worship proclaims the excellencies of God to the world in a special way. (Heb 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:4-10)

God’s word regulates the specific elements of corporate worship to: preaching; scripture reading; prayer; singing; giving; mutual service; communion; and baptism.  Each element must be done in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)  Among these elements the preaching of God’s word is to be central (2 Tim 4:2).

3) External Praise

Praise is the outward expression of inward worship through singing or declaration.  This expression of worship is commanded (Ps 117), and it is intended to be a vital part of the worship of God’s people (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).  This expression of worship is most commonly used in the context of corporate worship, however it is not limited this context.  As with all other forms of worship, external praise is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Praise through music is particularly important, and is intended by God to enhance one’s expression of worship (Ps 147:1).  This is particularly true in the context of corporate worship where music is intended not only to enhance worship but also to edify the body of believers.   Additionally, as is the case with every aspect of corporate worship, music is to be done skillfully (Ps 33:3) and humbly (James 4:6) so that it will not distract God’s people from genuine expressions of worship.   Any external praise (through declaration or singing) not conforming to these principles in the context of corporate worship is not a legitimate expression of true worship.