This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sermon Preparation on a Thursday afternoon

I am so excited to study God's Word!  Its clarity and depth are incredible.  I just spent the last hour or so tracking down the use of the Hebrew word, "hinneh" in Esther.  The use of the word in Esther 6:5 ("behold Haman"), 7:9 ("behold the gallows"), and 8:7 ("behold the house of Haman") as structural markers to the Haman narrative could easily be a thesis topic.  The author is using this little Hebrew word as a subtle way to mark God's sovereign design in the collapse of Haman and his schemes.  It "just so happened" that Haman was in the courtyard when the king was just figuring out that he wanted to honor Mordecai, and so the king's young men say, "Behold Haman." (6:5)  It "just so happened" that the eunuch Harbona speaks up to the king (who is furious--and who wants to say anything to a furious king??) to say, "Behold, the gallows that Haman built for Mordecai." (7:9)  It "just so happened" that the king takes on the urgency of saving the whole of the Jewish people by beginning his statement, "behold, the house of Haman." (8:7)  What a beautiful way to tie these three sections together (and as nearly as I can tell, "hinneh" is not used anywhere else in Esther).

I have not encountered an English translation which preserves this structural marker precisely.  For that matter, it is debatable if structural markers should be preserved, if one desires a good English translation.  The structural markers of the original languages are not necessarily good structural markers in English, and, frequently, the markers are so subtle that I am guessing that the translators often miss them inadvertently.  The KJV and NASB come close to preserving them and come close in this instance.  It is interesting that the ESV does not. Even though I use the ESV, both in my main reading of the Bible and in preaching, I find that it does not preserve structural markers very well, particularly in the Old Testament.

Still, structural markers are important to bring clarity and color to the text of scripture.  The author of Esther clearly intended the reader to note this marker.  This is yet another reason why pastors should be proficient in the original languages of the Bible.  If we believe in the verbal inspiration of scripture, that is, that the very words of the Bible are God-breathed, we who preach must know both the words and how they are put together if we are to preach authoritatively.  The longer that I study the Bible, the more that I discover the beauty of the Word of God and the incredible brilliance of the human authors.  Indeed it draws me into worship of the ineffable divine Author.

I am so grateful to the Lord that He provided me the experiences and teachers that enable me to work through Esther in Hebrew.  It is actually a worship experience here in my study!!  Thank you, Lord, for showing me this little, subtle marker to point to your work "behind the scenes" in the downfall of Haman. 

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