Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chiasm Hint #5 - Look for Meaningful Center Points

I have a friend, a wonderful pastor who is sometimes impatient, that seems focused on quickly finding the center points. As he reads and meditates on God's Word, he of course finds parallel thoughts – they are all over the place in the Bible. Once he discovers a parallelism, he immediately looks for an emphatic word from God that is potentially half-way between the first and last portions of his discovered parallel thoughts. If he finds that emphasis, he meditates on that application for a while; if he does not find it, he continues reading.

I like this pastor's approach to finding the heart of God's Word for him today, but I do wish he would slow down to ensure that it is really a chiasm.

Going back to the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 from the previous lesson, it seems to makes sense that Nathan's prophetic word to David would be the emphatic portion of that story. In that prophetic word, Nathan states, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: 'I have anointed you … '" (2 Samuel 12:7). When we think back on that story, we may remember David's sin with Bathsheba, his manipulation that led to Uriah's death, or David's mourning over the newly born son. But God's directive based on David's failures are contained in Nathan's words for David.

There certainly are passages in the Bible that are arranged in a chiastic form that do not have a strong emphasis in the middle. For example,

A    A good man obtains favor from the Lord,  (v2a)
B    but a man of evil devices he condemns.  (v2b)
B′ No one is established by wickedness,  (v3a)
A′ but the root of the righteous will never be moved.  (v3b)
(Proverbs 12:2-3 ESV)

These two verses are a contrast between good (righteous) and evil (wicked) people. They are chiastic (A-B-B′-A′) but the impact does not seem to come from its structure; rather it is the distinction between these two opposing approaches that moves the reader. Here is a similar structure:

A    The wicked earns deceptive wages,  (v18a)
B    but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.  (v18b)
B′ Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,  (v19a)
A′ but he who pursues evil will die.  (v19b)
(Proverbs 11:18-19 ESV)

Again in these two verses, there is a contrast between the wicked and the righteous. It is chiastic because wickedness pairs with pursuing evil in the first part (A and A′), and righteousness in B is repeated in B′. While there is an urgent call in the Bible to pursue righteousness, I suggest that the power in two verses comes from the contrast between wickedness and righteousness, not its chiastic structure. Most of the book of Proverbs is a contrast between two opposites – contrasts are another form of emphasis in the Bible.