Trail Runs, Targums, and Total Depravity

Anytime I start something new in life, at least important and large new ventures, there is a level of anxiety that seems to come with it.  Can I complete this new task?  Am I good enough?  Is this what God has really called me to?  Will this thing be worth of my time, energy, and money?  I have been asking myself these questions over and over again as I have recently started to pursue a PhD in Old Testament from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, soon to be Gateway Seminary. 

I love the Old Testament, its mystery, its power, and the foundation it lays for the Gospel as well as the previews of the same that it gives throughout.  Many evangelicals find no value in the Old Testament, seeing it as being superseded by the New Testament. Or they find it so hard to understand that they go back to reading their favorite epistle of Paul.  The Old Testament is still in need of great study.  The more we can learn about how God has revealed Himself in the Old Testament and how it informs our understanding of the New Testament, the better we will understand the fruition of the Gospel in Christ. 

Long ago Rabbi’s would offer Targums or expansions and instruction on the Old Testament in the common language of the people.  Think about Targums as being similar to commentaries and yet with aspects of instruction one would find in a sermon and definitely more authoritative.  It is my hope that through my study of the Old Testament over the next several years that by God’s grace I might just be able to add a few drops in the bucket of our understanding.  That I might be able to help a few see the Glory of God and His plan of salvation as it is slowly revealed in the Old Testament.  That once again many of us would give the Old Testament a second look and find the Glory of God that has been revealed there for centuries.  It is important that our generation continue scholarship on the very beginning of God’s revelation to us in the Old Testament.  I hope that I, by God’s Grace, can continue to expand the majesty of the Old Testament for believers today.

Yet, as I have said, starting a PhD program is a daunting task; one that I do not feel adequate for.  I believe God is leading me in this direction but everyday I see my inadequacies.  Lingering sin patterns, an aging body and mind, the pressures of providing for my family and serving my congregation well.  It is when we look up the hill of a noble task that many times we see our total depravity.  Our desperate need for God to produce anything good in us since we are nothing in and of ourselves but depraved.  It is my hope that God, as He has faithfully done for many years, will in this new season of my life produce in me what He always desires, more of the image of His Son.  Christ in Me; my only hope for righteousness.  And I hope that He would keep my from the many pitfalls of believing that I am good enough, smart enough, to do this in my own strength.  I hope that my studies will be a new experience of His redeeming Grace.

During the first seminar week of my program I got a few moments away and I went running on some of the beautiful trails that surround the San Francisco Bay area.  Sometimes running is the best medicine for a cluttered mind and heart.  It is always a great time for me to relax and listen to God.  I like to sort through the day and process many things.  But most of all I think God consistently uses my time on the trail to reinforce a grand image; and image of perseverance.  Starting new things is easy but they quickly get hard.  Starting a new trail in the mountains is always fun, but a mile into your first climb you are wondering why you thought this was a good idea.  Then the perseverance begins, God reminds you that He is with you all the way, not in a trite Philippians 4:13 poster kind of way, but that literal He is always with you.  I persevere because God is with me; I keep my eyes on Him.

As I run I begin to have a conversation with Him that takes my mind off the pain and I begin to persevere.  Just as in life, in the midst of my circumstances if I can just keep my eyes on Him, I can begin to persevere.  Every time I run I am also reminded that the way that leads to life is narrow and broad is the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).  And so I run my small path, mostly uphill, and I trust God to be with me.  Sometimes I get to run with good Christian friends and here again God teaches me to persevere with His people and the blessing it can be to have good friends in tough times.  But soon enough the run is over, we reminisce about the scenery we took in, the hard climbs, the fun and quick downhill sections, the mutual conversation in the presence of God, and we rejoice in life.  Then we find ourselves at a new trailhead.

I have started running down a new trail; one that I think I am called to and one that is imperative to the continued expansion of the scriptures for believers today.  I know I am not adequate for the task, but who is?  I will persevere trusting that God will give strength where I am at a loss and He will create in me the image of His Son.

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