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Making It Look So Natural

January 12, 2011

Dale Ralph Davis has written a delightful little book on interpreting the stories of the OT entitled, “The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach From Old Testament Narrative Texts.” In the second chapter entitled “Quirks” his insights into the OT are abundant and faith-building. Take this one example from the book of Esther as he speaks about “tension” as a literary device in OT stories:

What is important to see, however, is that at the end of Esther 5 Mordecai is a dead duck. Esther (ratcheting up the suspense?) has delayed her request for the rescue of the Jews until her second dinner party (5:8). But after Haman’s conference with his ‘kitchen cabinet’ (5:14), he plans to liquidate Mordecai the next day, in plenty of time to go to Esther’s banquet completely on top of the world (which means a world minus Mordecai).

Esther’s orchestrated scheme and surprise revelation may save the Jews but can do nothing for Mordecai. If Mordecai is to be saved, deliverance will have to come from ‘another quarter’ (cf. 4:14). The new wrinkle in human wickedness will have to be met with a fresh twist of divine providence. ‘On that night the king could not sleep’ (6:1)—unseen divine fingers quietly propped open royal eyelids. Naturally, there is theology in such tension:  God frequently uses human servants who risk everything as his instruments of deliverance; but sometimes no human means can help and he delights to bring deliverance by his own unaided, secretly working hand. Insomnia and salvation. Sometimes God insists on bringing deliverance all by himself—and yet he makes it look so natural.

The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach From Old Testament Narrative Texts,” 27.

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