Guests: Brant Berglin and Dave Thomas
Relevant Verses: Nehemiah 9
Leading question: What can we learn from a lesson entitled “Our Forgiving God,” but which includes the call to separate from foreigners?
If one attempts to reconstruct a history of the post-exilic period from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, one would face a number of challenges, not least of which is the “feel” that the books including the following somewhat pasted together from miscellaneous fragments.
Question: If it seems clear that a particular book of the Bible is a compilation, does that diminish its value in comparison with a book that might be constructed in a more “normal” way? The book of Proverbs, for example is clearly a compilation of compilations. Does simply recognizing the possibility of “compilation” reduce the “aura” that more typically accompanies the idea of sacred text.
Note from the author of the study guide. In the teaching of “inspiration,” I well remember the comment of a student who initially had been very excited about being able to ask his questions. But several weeks into the class he sounded the alarm: “It feels like the Bible was like a giant blow-up figure from which all of the air has been drained out, leaving only a piece of shriveled-up plastic on the ground.”
A similar sense of near disillusionment was expressed by a student who said on the one hand, that she liked the emphasis on “common sense” which George Knight was proposing in the reading of Ellen White. But somehow the use of “common sense” seemed to make “inspired writings feel more ordinary rather than more special.”
Comment: The inclusion of a “signed covenant” which is added to the prayer of Nehemiah 9, “feels” like a mismatched addition. Or should one consider such a covenant to be essential to the practical value of the prayer?
Question: How far should one press the value of a particular style of prayer, or a particular outline of “required” parts to a prayer. Or should prayer simply be the outpouring of a person’s soul, and outpouring that could take a wide variety of forms?
Sample Prayers. The prayer in Nehemiah 9 includes a mix of history, confession of sin, and expressed confidence in God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Here are some additional prayers from Scripture that follow a similar pattern. How are they the same? How do they differ?
Daniel 9:4-19. Daniel appears to be much more humble in admitting his sin, at least in comparison to Nehemiah, e.g. “Remember me O my God for good” (Neh. 13:14, 22, 31).
Psalm 105. This narrative prayer is placed in the context of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt. And in this psalm judgment falls largely on Egypt, not on Israel.
Psalm 106. This narrative prayer focuses on the Exodus experience with full documentation of all Israel’s sins. Yet the conclusion remembers God’s mercy and appeals to God to remember his people again.
Psalm 107. This psalm includes a number of confessional vignettes, while the psalm is not explicit in its setting in Israel’s history, it seems to be shadowed by the memory of Israel’s failures that were followed by the memory of God’s gracious intervention on Israel’s behalf.
Question: What does all the variety in the prayers of Scripture suggest for our use of prayer among believers today?