Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, and the Bioethics of Mercy Killing

Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, SingaporeBeng Hiang at Chinese New Year

Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street
Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy StreetBeng Hiang on a normal weeknight, and even then, there was occasion for a blast of their classic “Happy Birthday” recording

Whenever I returned to Singapore from a long stint abroad, we would always head straight to Beng Hiang Restaurant (currently at 112-116 Amoy Street, but moving to 135 Jurong Gateway Road in June 2015. facebook) from Changi Airport, to inhale some of that absolutely delicious fish maw soup, hei zhou and ngoh hiang, dark hokkien noodles, and tender kong ba bao.

Our family, having eaten there for at least 30 years since they were at Murray Street Terrace, were on nodding terms with the Boss With The Tie, who was always polite enough for a smile and some small talk, even if neither party knew the other’s name.

fish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore
fish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singaporefish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹)

I was last there a fortnight ago, stuffing some Londoners with the delights of Hokkien cuisine. Later that night, all that good stodgy stuff fuelled a night working on the bioethics of family-assisted suicide (FAS) or physician-assisted suicide (PAS).

Thanks to NC, access to Ronald Dworkin’s Life’s Dominion was a useful starting point. Too often, people are more than eager to shop for a side to take in such a debate, to carry a political part badge, without being about to articulate clearly what their position is, or to engage meaningfully with other parties without a lot of name-calling.

What is necessary for this hot potato as for any other topic is to first identify the issues, to listen carefully to each party’s stance and understand each party’s rationale for arriving at their respective conclusions, before either agreeing, refuting, or rebutting each point in a constructive manner.

五香虾枣 ngor hiang and hei zhou. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singaporengor hiang and hei zhou (五香虾枣)

Dworkin attempts to reconcile the different vocal (American) camps by saying that actually, everyone believes that human life is sacred and wants to preserve the sanctity of such a life.

The difficulty comes in teasing out the different rationale behind this idea that life is valuable. Dworkin proposes categorising the bases for the inherent inviolability of life in terms of the following:

  • critical interests – what makes a life successful rather than unsuccessful – when someone has made something of his life, not just wasted it (p201); a steady, self-defining commitment to a vision of character or achievement that the life as a whole, seen as an integral creative narrative, illustrates and expresses (p205). None of us wants to end our lives out of character (p213). So Dworkin would have approved the integrity of Sandy Bem, the Cornell psychology professor, who chose to die when she found out she had Alzhimer’s, since that was repulsive to her vision of herself as an astute and original thinker (The Last Day of Her Life, New York Times).
  • experiential interests – what makes life pleasant or enjoyable minute by minute, day by day (p201).
  • dignity – decisions about life and death are the most important, the most crucial for forming and expressing personality, says Dworkin. Therefore, to be denied the freedom to choose how to die is an affront to the self-respect and dignity owed to that person by others.

kong ba bao (stewed pork belly with soft buns), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore
close-up of a kong ba bao. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Streetkong ba bao (stewed pork belly with soft buns)

I could be mistaken about Dworkin, but he appears to conflate “value of life” with “the good life” (in all its philosophical glory). Related to this is the fact that although he raises the “religious” argument of inherent value of life, he doesn’t quite seem to understand how all-encompassing the right of the divine is on our lives.

The Christian believes that:

  • contra Dworkin’s self-determined dignity: God gave all life; he knit us in our mother’s wombs; he chose us before the beginning of time! (Ephesians 1:4); he redeemed us with the blood of his Son (Ephesians 1:5), and not only that, made us alive in him, raised and seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms! (Ephesians 2). Therefore we do not choose to dispose of our lives in a manner and time fitting to us, because it is not our right to do so;
  • contra Dworkin’s human-determined critical interests: his/her critical interests are tied up with God’s purpose for him/her (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10));
  • as Dworkin mentions, experiential interests in pleasure may be outweighed at times by critical interests. But more than that, awkward as it sounds, there is purpose to suffering. For “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4-5)

sweet dessert soup. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore

Cheng Mun Chee Kee Pig Organ Soup, Foch Road

Cheng Mun Chee Kee Pig Organ Soup, Foch Road

Having never, in my entire time in Singapore, partaken of the organs of a pig, I did not see the attraction of Cheng Mun Chee Kee. And surely if these organs have filtered a lifetime of waste…

But rather enjoyed the vinegared pig’s trotters and the antics of my dinner companions, whom, it seemed, were the evening’s entertainment for the rest of the coffeeshop.

It was amusing to think how the specialty coffee industry is a sort of half-way house of the undecided modern; a holding place until one’s life’s path appears a little clearer. What opportunities to minister and serve those tarrying at the crossroads!

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, the Book of Esther, and the Feast of Purim

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeMet the usual gang at Keng Eng Kee Seafood (124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, facebook) for an early birthday dinner. E had successfully booked us a table despite her terrible Chinese, and even managed (accidentally) to pre-order two crabs (having cluelessly said “yes” to something one of the staff had offered over the ‘phone).

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeThe homemade tofu, coffee pork ribs, deep-fried goby fish (laden with lard) were delicious on white rice: Homemade tofu, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore Coffee pork ribs, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore Deep-fried Goby fish, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore

The salted egg prawns were good, but just not as outstanding as the other dishes: Salted egg prawns, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeThere was a lot of loud cackling with this gang, even more so when we repaired to Salute Coffeeshop for Brothers ciders and draught wheat beer.

Those who were in study groups in Adam Road Presbyterian Centre mentioned that they were going through the Book of Esther.

Esther’s a really short read and, intriguingly, takes place during the reign of the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. There is no mention of God in the book, but his handiwork is everywhere.

Esther 1 sets the context of the story: the court of an internationally powerful king who, powerful and prosperous as he is, can’t get his wife, Vashti, to do his bidding.

Esther 2 seems to be the usual rags to riches story for Esther, except for the repeated idea that any suggestion that Esther was a Jew(ess) would have jeopardised the whole thing. She keeps silent on the strict advice of Mordecai, her uncle.

In Esther 3, narrative tension escalates dramatically with a plot on the lives of all Jews by Haman the agitated Agagite. “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13).

There seems little hope that even Esther can do anything about this. But Mordecai now says that this is not the time for silence. Further, “14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Meanwhile, it seems quite certain to Haman and his friends and wife in Esther 5 that Haman’s star is on the up, and he can do to Mordecai whatever he wants.

creating head in wheat beer, Salute Coffee Shop, Bukit Merah

But a great and wonderful reversal takes place. A series of fortunate events or really, the divine hand at work? And again we see the regrettable impotence of the king, who, having first been unable to distinguish his friends from self-interested courtiers, was later unable to undo his own edict. Still the Jews are saved, and we can be certain from whom their rescue issued – the biblical phrase “and the fear of the Jews fell upon” (or variations thereon) is reminiscent of God’s protection of Israel in the Exodus as they passed through various lands belonging to hostile people.

And Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew (how the writer of Esther emphasises this!) institute the Feast of Purim to celebrate the event as “22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 8:22).

According to some reports, Christians are the most persecuted people on the earth now. And while Christian Concern and Open Doors quite rightly highlight and agitate for protection of the rights of Christians, the assurance is that there is a God who will be seen, in the great sweep of human history, to have preserved his people for eternity.

Salute (not Salut) Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Alexandra Village, Singapore

Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1

We were at Salute Coffeeshop in Bukit Merah for Immanuel French Kitchen (facebook), headed by Immanuel Tee.

foie gras, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The pan-fried foie gras (“coated with black miso and served with dashi broth and daikon noodles”) was a promising concept, but lacked the crisp exterior that should have come from being in a pan, and would have helped with jer lat blandness of the liver.

French duck confit, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Duck confit is difficult to get just right. Cooking it is easy enough – just fish out from its rendered duck fat bath, pat dry, and put on the pan. But to get the contrast of textures – the crackle of skin and the tender flavourful flesh, takes experience. One of Immanuel’s assistants cooked this dry duck leg – a pity. Also there was a lack of cohesion to the dish – you took a bite of the duck, and one of the mash, but there was nothing to bridge the distance.

pork belly cooked in kakuni style, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Pork belly cooked in kakuni style (“served with mushrooms, onsen egg, potato foam”). I guess none of this is a reflection on Immanuel’s ability as a chef, but he might want to train his assistants better.

Two Wings (facebook) was another stall within the coffeeshop: Two Wings, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The wings are allegedly made according to the Carona Chicken recipe from yesteryear. As fried chicken wings went, they were alright, said H, but probably not worth S$12.50 for 6 pieces. I just remember the chilli sauce being the highlight of Carona, not the chicken.

Representing the Germans was Stew Küche (facebook): stew and pretzel, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The stew in a claypot accompanied by a pretzel, wasn’t anything to write home about, said B. And the pretzel was more hard than chewy.

avocado shake! Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Dismissive of the beer and the exorbitant prices of other drinks, B brought over some avocado shakes from the Alexandra Village hawker centre.

A coffeeshop filled with un-coffeeshop-like food isn’t new but is something fun that we’d like to see more of. While Singaporeans love to flock to the newest eating place, quality and value-for-money are what will continue to draw returning customers once the shine (and instagram-worthiness) was worn off.

Where to find good reasonably-priced French food in Singapore?

Before I left Singapore, there was a good and cheap French stall in a kopitiam at 269 Queen Street called “Le Cuisson”. Sadly for fans of French food in coffeeshops, they are now “La Cuisson” at Prinsep Street – proper French grammar, proper restaurant space, and proper bistro prices.

And there was the reasonably-priced Le Bistro at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – that’s closed shop as well.

Le sigh.

Bible Overview – God Dealing with the Cause and Effects of the Fall, and Butter Coffee and Kaya Toast at Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop

Dr. Michael You’s talk to the St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Student RML Leaders is a masterful overview of the Bible. An incredibly exciting and rewarding 3.5 hours, some part of which might have been spent drinking butter coffee and nibbling on kaya toast at Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop (10 North Bridge Road).

Why a Bible Overview is Necessary

The Bible is one story, but even though it has a plot, it doesn’t go linearly from the beginning to the end. There is also a development through the Bible, but not always – some things get superseded and some don’t. Unless you see the plot, it’s hard to work out what has changed and what has not. You need to see the plot to be faithful to what God is saying.

So the point is not to jump forward to Jesus. It might have something about Jesus but that might not be the point of the story, and you miss what God is saying.

This really revolutionises how we understand God and what he plans to do with the world:

  • If the Fall is in Genesis 3, why didn’t God send Jesus in Genesis 4? Because until we understand sin and God, we won’t properly understand Jesus. We know that Jesus is the answer but we are normally confused about the problem – is it poverty? ill-health? Then you get social justice, liberation theology, health-and-wealth gospel.
  • You need to understand what is big in the Bible and what is not. Alot of confusion comes about because of a failure of this. And heresies come about not just because of adding to the Bible or subtracting to it, but also by distorting things in the Bible.
  • Good for the biggest theological challenges of our time. (See end of talk.)

This is not just an academic exercise: understand what God/Jesus is actually doing all the way through the Bible.

Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

In Short, the Story of the Bible and the World

In Genesis 1-2, God creates the world effortlessly. Everything is very very good. Humans are the pinnacle of his creation – he relates to Adam and Eve in a special way. He loves them, cares for them, gives them responsibility for ruling the world. In Genesis 3, it goes horribly wrong. Adam and Eve rebel against God and throw his love back in his face, the relationship is broken. Instead of blessing them, God punishes them and sends them away from the Garden of Eden.

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;     

in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife     

and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,     

‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you;     

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;    

 and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face     

you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,     

for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,     

and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:16-19)

Whereas in Genesis 2, God is for humankind, now God is against them. Thorns on the ground, childbirth will be painful, they will die.

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,     

cursed are you above all livestock     

and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go,     

and dust you shall eat     

all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:14)

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife     

and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,     

‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you;     

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (Genesis 3:17)

Creation is clearly cursed, MY argues that humans are effectively cursed as well, even though the word “curse” isn’t used. If all this isn’t curse, what is curse? Instead of living forever, humans now die and have no access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:19,24).

4 categories where things go horribly wrong because Adam and Eve rebel against God:

  1. relationship with God – ruined, broken
  2. land – Eden – lost
  3. curse
  4. death

It’s worth holding in your mind that there is a problem, and there are 2 sides to the problem:

  • our sin
  • God’s response to our sin – seen in the 4 categories of how the world is wrecked because of our sin

Then we go to the Revelation 21-22, and we see that all the things that went wrong in the Fall have been put right in the new creation.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

And God has given them a wonderful new home to live in, a new heaven and new earth, a second Garden, but it is better. And there is a difference – it is a city:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.We see that God is once again for his people. (Revelation 21:1-2)

There will be blessing not curse:

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (Revelation 22:3)

And there will be no death. Where at first they were precluded from access to Tree of Life, now tree is slapbang in middle of the city, where they will have access to it at all times:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

And there is nothing sinful in the city.The cause of the Fall has been dealt with:

27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

Here we have explicit opposites at the end of the story. That’s where it’s heading. (There are other things that happen as well – but in the overview, lots of things will be left out.)

So we read the Bible with two questions:

  1. how does God put everything right? and
  2. how does Jesus end up slapbang in the middle of new creation?

It is a story of victory, the ultimate happy ending, the true happy ending.

Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

The Pentateuch

But it takes the whole Bible to get there. Let’s go back to beginning, lots of twists and turns and unhappiness. In Genesis 4-11, sin is universal. God’s verdict is that people are evil all the time. And they are all the way through the Bible, and in the world today.

In Genesis 6, God responds by punishing the whole world, and starts again with Noah. Noah is popular in Sunday school with the animals going into the ark two-by-two. But we should ask how this functions in the plot rather than on its own. Here there is a change of society, change of environment, social engineering, so things will be better. It is the ultimate act of social engineering. God gets rid of everyone but most righteous man in the world. It is a washed world, with no bad influences. But it doesn’t work.

Abrahamic Covenant

In Genesis 12, God chooses one man and gives promises to him. Before, with Noah, there was no chance of improvement; it was just about survival. What is promised to Abraham and how does it compare with what went wrong before?

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1-7)

And also:

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring for ever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

and

Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:3-8)

There will be restoration of relationship with God, land as everlasting possession, blessing…and there will still be death but people will live on in their descendants. This is the first sign that things might get better. But Canaan is a scrubby bit of land, nothing compared to Eden. And there is no sign of what to do with sin. So this is a partial restoration, but the beginning of solution.

We are left asking: how will promise of partial restoration turn to full restoration? How will gap between promise and experience be bridged? How will sin be dealt with? Who will benefit from all this? Everyone was affected by the Fall, but it seems Abraham’s family will benefit primarily, though blessing will go to the nations indirectly through them.

Mosaic Covenant

For the next 400 years, nothing much happens, then things get worse: they are slaves in Egypt, leading miserable lives, no land, not much relationship with God (Book of Exodus). What they do have is a lot of descendants. God intervenes again at beginning of Exodus – just a promise but he is beginning to act. (We need to keep the two – promise and act, separate.) He rescues them through Moses and leads them to Mount Sinai, where he gives them the Mosaic covenant – how they can inherit the Abrahamic covenant.

God is rescuing them from something, to something – the fulfilment of promises. Quite different from Noah, who was merely rescued. So even now, we are rescued from sin and judgement – rescued for eternal life, new creation, everything put right. God re-promises all the categories:

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (Leviticus 26:3-13)

and

The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 28:8 – 11)

This is not just a re-promise, but extends the Abrahamic promises; it spells out and extends the promises – especially, the promise of a relationship with God is made much more clearly (Lev 26:11-12). He will walk with them like in Eden.

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, 14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deuteronomy 28:13-14)

However, conditions now attached. They will need to obey all God’s commandments to receive the blessings.

58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. 60 And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61 Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. 62 Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God. 63 And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 28:58-63)

If they disobey, no only will God not give any more blessing, but even what God has given them he will take away. This would be how much the relationship with God would have broken down. This is shocking. If they disobey, he will make them worship other gods, and send back to Egypt. This will be even worse than the first time, because now, no one will want them. Right at the bottom.

In the Abrahamic covenant, sin wasn’t a big deal; now it is. so not curse but blessing. It’s not that God left it out the first time, but that he hadn’t got there yet. Now he is saying that the cause of the Fall (sin) must be dealt with, not just the effects of the Fall (curses).

Here in the Mosaic covenant, it is 50:50 responsibility – man’s responsibility to sort out the cause, and God will do something about the effect. The sacrificial system will deal somewhat with sin, but not all the way.

The Mosaic covenant was not a mistake – it was just not the way God will use to reverse the Fall; it will not work. And God knew this:

16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. (Deuteronomy 31:14-18)

God is using this to teach us. The whole of the Old Testament is to teach. So that when Jesus comes, we will understand. The Old Testament doesn’t achieve anything – it explains and teaches:

  1. cause of the Fall must be dealt with if God will fulfil promises;
  2. Israel is incapable of dealing with sin herself since the golden calf incident – God must do something;
  3. sacrifice goes some way in dealing with God’s wrath;
  4. about God himself – powerful god, etc.

The Mosaic covenant doesn’t contradict the Abrahamic covenant. If Israel did obey, they would get the promises; if they didn’t obey, they won’t, but the Abrahamic covenant still stands. butter coffee (kopi), Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore A lot of the rest of the Bible is about first 250 years of the Mosaic covenant.

Because of Israel’s sin, they end up wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Joshua then leads Israel into Canaan. Things look pretty good, but Israel keeps sinning, so this doesn’t last, and they don’t inherit the promises. There is no peace, and God is hostile towards them. It looks like curses are kicking in.

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. (Judges 2:10-15)

The big problem is sin: not obeying the terms of the Mosaic covenant. Until sin is dealt with, they won’t inherit all the promises.

Looking for a leader

What we learn here is that a good leader can help. How did they get out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Moses, Joshua. And in the first 200 years, whenever Israel repents, God’s solution is to raise a leader. The leader helps, the judges help people keep the law, but they always die.

What’s the answer to a leader dying? In a monarchy, the line doesn’t die. Judges implies the need for a king:

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

A king not to fight for them but to get them to obey God’s laws. Saul was not much use. David gets the land and peace with neighbours. Under Solomon, life is good:

20 Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21  Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. (1 Kings 4:20-21)

25 And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25)

10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Yet, David sins with Bathsheba, and Solomon sins even more by marrying non-Israelite women who lead him to worship other gods.

Davidic Covenant

But a king seems the way forward – God makes a third big covenant: David’s descendant will inherit all that God promised Abraham.

10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (2 Samuel 7:10-13)

David’s descendant will build God a house which will enable God to dwell with Israel. There will be peace, a home, a kingdom. This implies land and lots of descendants, blessing. And the descendant will reign forever, so all that has been promised will be Israel’s permanently. There are no conditions attached – this is important. Even if king fails, God won’t take his love away.

Israel is now under 3 covenants – they are not terminated or superseded.

The sin of the kings

The Davidic covenant is a promise for the future. The experience under her kings is far from this. And David and Solomon’s successors sin even more. In 1-2 Kings, Israel and Judah’s kings keep sinning. We are constantly disappointed.

The effects of sin

Because of Israel’s sin, God punishes Israel. Over the next 350 years, there are 3 great disasters: after the sin of Solomon, the kingdom splits – Judah and Israel.

922 B.C. –  because of sin, the southern kingdom (Israel) gets exiled

200 years

722 B.C. – 150 years exile of Judah

597/587 B.C. – two waves bring Judah and Israel to an end. By the exile, the temple had been destroyed, the land taken away, they were no more a people, they ceased to be a nation. The curse of Mosaic covenant had come into play.

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls round Jerusalem. 11 And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. (2 Kings 25:8-11)

David, Solomon could have been the ones through whom fulfilment would have come, but they didn’t obey. This reinforced that sin is the big problem. Israel split because of sin; the exile happened because of sin. When you teach sin as doctrine, it doesn’t seem so bad. Read the story and understand that sin is really a bad problem.

The Prophets and the Promise of Full Restoration

But nothing has gone awry from God’s perspective. He has made unconditional promises and he will fulfil them. God speaks through prophets and reveals that he will make a new prophet. The exile and what God is saying through exile is important – God’s revelation in and around time of exile in the second half of the Old Testament.

25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all round my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 34:25-30)

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever, and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst for evermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst for evermore.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28)

What has been promised compared to the Abraham/Moses categories is the restoration of God’s relationship with the people (Ezekiel 37:27). And the land will be a good land – many problems of land won’t be there.

The land will be a new creation:

17 “For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
    and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17-25)

The people will be blessed – this takes the form of peace (Ezekiel 34:26) and prosperity (Moses) death.

  the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. (Isaiah 35:7-8)

He will take away death; they will actually be resurrected. He promises of full restoration of everything that went wrong. The first mention of new creation is Isaiah 65. Before Abraham, at best, nothing will get worse. This is the first inkling of full reversal of everything that has gone wrong.

Promise to Deal with Sin

How can this happen? Why unconditional? Because sin is the cause of the problem and man cannot deal with it, God has committed himself to dealing with problem of sin.

35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.

37 “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. (Ezekiel 36:35-37)

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

God describes what he will do in different ways. But God will do it all. In Ezekiel, God will wash away all our sins and put a new heart in us to change us, and give us the spirit. In Isaiah, he will provide a sacrifice that will actually work. Dealing with sin is a big deal.

These different ways are complementary, not mutually exclusive. And they will have the everlasting Davidic king:

25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever, and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.  (Ezekiel 37:25)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 A king who is going to be God himself.

Summary of the Old Testament

Let’s summarise what God has promised.

In the first half the Old Testament God promises that everything that went wrong will be put right. There are 3 great promises. God promises a full reversal of the effects of the Fall. This is the first time this has happened – massive step forward. God will deal with cause as well as results; not 50:50 mosaic covenant. God will deal with both halves. He will deal with sin and effects. They will definitely get it, and their king will be God himself.

This is an astonishing statement in the middle of the Old Testament. A human being in line of David will be almighty God, everlasting Father. Which is why in Revelation 21, the Lamb is sitting on throne. That is why the New Testament is so adamant that Jesus is god. Only because Jesus is God that he can do it all.

By end of exile to end of bible, no new promises are made. In exile, they have been promised everything but have gotten nothing.

This is why if you don’t read the Old Testament, then won’t understand the New Testament. Israel is a complete deadend. It achieved as little as the flood.

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:3-8)

When they return from exile, do they get what they were promised? They returned in 540 B.C. under the Persians. But still remain part of the Persian empire. They were under rule. They had no king of any sort, far less Davidic king. Israel still sins.

23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them swear in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:23-27)

This is the very last reference to Israel. They are still sinning. Nehemiah comes 100 years after the end of the exile. A century after, they are still in this position. How little has actually happened.

Nehemiah 1:3 – Jerusalem is still a ruined wreck. 4:2-3 – not a great wall, absolutely not glorious return. 5:1-5 – back in land, but famines, slavery, in debt – not prosperity, peace, happiness. They are sinful people still.

We are waiting for God to rescue his people as he has promised. Old Testament – massive revelation, no fulfilment. Wisdom literature – even when you get what this world offers, doesn’t satisfy. This world doesn’t work. Don’t think you can get fulfilment in this world. Prophets – God will solve it. There is a shift from this creation to the new creation.

And Isaiah 66:22-end: a book of new creation and resurrection, ends on note of hell.scraping off burnt bits of toast with cover of condensed milk tin. Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore

The New Testament and Fulfilment of the Promises of Dealing with Sin and with Restoration

The New Testament opens by saying that Jesus is coming to fulfil the Old Testament testaments.

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

God is now coming to fulfil the promises. Notice references to the promises to Abraham, David, prophets, not Moses. There are no conditions, all the blessings instead.

In what way does Jesus fulfil all that God has promised? We all still sin, we are not in new creation. Jesus’ fulfilment is two stage affair:

1. first coming – 4 key promises fulfilled:

(i) Davidic king who is God himself. when the king comes, that’s when God will bring about all that he has promised.

(ii) sacrifice that fully cleanses us from sin:

26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26b-28)

Jesus’ blood dealt with sin.

(iii) inaugurates the promised new covenant:

20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:20)

The Old Testament prophets don’t actually make a new covenant. There is promise of new covenant rather than a new covenant actually made. The new covenant was actually made at cross.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’,
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13)

The new covenant replaces the covenant made when Israel was brought out of Egypt, the one that depended on Israel obeying. This depends on God doing it.

Our enjoyment of it will only be at the second coming. Jesus will judge the whole world and punish God’s enemies. Will not tolerate rebellion forever.

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

Sin and salvation have been dealt with.

In second coming, the results of the Fall will be dealt with. The cause-effect penalty has been dealt with, the real me has been transformed.

just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)

The Bible gives us pictures of what the new creation will look like with Jesus as king, shepherd, priest. We don’t compare him with the Queen of England – the Bible tells you what king really is.

butter kopi and kaya toast, Heap Seng Leong, 10 North Bridge Road, Singapore Applying the Overview

We are not David, Moses, and not even Israel. They needed to keep sacrifice, not work on sabbath. Many things no longer apply to us. This is revolutionary and transforming.

The Overview applies on most fundamental level – it challenges what the world is about and where it is going. If i tell you that you need a QT every day, it’s a discipline. If you realise what a privilege it is to have a relationship with God, and really begin to get that, QT is not a hardship, but a joy. We’re looking at the heart level. See world differently, see world that God sees.

Right from Two Ways to Live, people think that we rule the world, the crown on my head is the big thing that non-Christians are focused on – my comfort, my prosperity, contentment, security, peace. Or our comfort, prosperity, contentment, security, peace. Everyone is concerned about this world.

The Bible tells us that God is not concerned about this world but concerned about the new creation. This is the most fundamental change. All the stuff that you are living for – exam results, careers, fun, popularity, are irrelevant in eternity. That matters infinitely more than anything, everything in this world.

Leaders don’t have to tell members that you have to give up things for the gospel – they will. What happens here doesn’t work. Relationship with God from fall onwards is a big deal. If people realise how relationship with God is a privilege, not ought to do but want to do. The puritans call this the changing of affections, changing what you want. This should happen in all bible studies.

Theological Challenges

What big theological challenges are there? Postmodernism is opposed to one plan for the whole of history. God has a plan for the whole world, he made it, he will judge it, he will rescue it. The world hates the idea that the world is not the centre of everything. God’s focus is not on this world but the next. Not on this world whether health and wealth, charismatic, social justice. This world vs new creation.

The first 500 years since Christ have been about the nature of god – is Jesus truly God? The next 400 years were about how am i saved? Faith not works. The 300 years since enlightenment – where is truth? Postmodernism is part of that. The last 50 years have been about this world vs the next – materialism.

World Street Food Congress 2015

The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, SingaporeWe were quite excited about the World Street Food Congress that had set up shop on that grass patch along Tan Quee Lan Street, across from Parco Bugis Junction.

The site map, that actually gave the location of all stalls, was a little more useful than the pamphlets that were handed out: Site Map, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

Indonesian gudeg yu nap, a Bandung breakfast dish – young jackfruit stewed with pork, a braised chicken wing and half a boiled eggs in soya sauce, soft tempeh, and blubbery cow skin on white rice (S$10): Gudep yu nap stall, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Gudeg yu nap, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

East Side King food truck with Filipino-inspired American food: kinilaw (S$9. “Otherwise known as the Filipino Ceviche, it is made with sweet and succulent snake-head fish, red onion, coconut vinegar, fragrant Japanese Yuzu and Thai chilies. This delicious combination is Chef Paul’s signature raw seafood starter”) and chicken inasal taco with fried chicken skin (S$9):

East Side King food truck, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: kinilaw and chicken insala with chicken skin in a taco. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: kinilaw. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore East Side King: chicken inasal with fried chicken skin in tacos. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Pepita’s Kitchen – lechon (roast suckling pig) on white truffle oil paella (S$13+): Pepita's Kitchen: lechon (roast suckling pig) on white truffle oil paella. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore BánhCăn 38’s banh can: Bahn Can from BánhCăn 38: The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Bon Chovie (facebook) from Brooklyn – deep fried shishamo (“anchovies”)(S$10): Bon Chovie from Brooklyn. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore fried shishamo: The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore Bon Chovie from Brooklyn - deep fried shishamo, The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

Enjoyed the atmosphere and the idea of the event. But, speaking with neighbours on the communal table, the general consensus was that the food was far too expensive and the portions too small. The dishes on offer weren’t distinctive (or “exotic” as some would say) enough to warrant this.

After trying our best to get full, we decided to head down to Geylang and get a proper feeding.

PS: recipes from various cooks for sum lo hor fun and bak kut teh porridge, session hosted by Seetoh of makansutra:
Seetho. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore
Receipe for Sum Lo Hor Fun by Chun Kee. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore
Recipe for Bak Kut Teh porridge. The World Street Food Congress 2015, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bugis, Singapore

The Pragmatism of John Dewey in “Experience and Education”

Late brunch at Yakun this morning with a visiting friend who’d just met with a group of Ministry of Education scholars now serving their bonds as teachers in various schools in Singapore. Said friend was aghast at their expressions of anti-government sentiment and their reluctance to teach anything about Lee Kuan Yew because it was “just government propaganda”.

Yakun Coffeeshop - kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, coffee and teaSince I do not know these people personally, it would be hard to sieve through their muddled thinking to understand what exactly they disagree with and why – and perhaps, if they were heavy-users of clumpy thinking, they may not have the self-awareness to explain themselves either. The issue is not whether anyone is for or against Lee Kuan Yew; the issue is the failure to think critically and carefully, and avoid the trap of false dichotomies (you must either be for or against a person or an idea).

How to train people so that they don’t grow up like this? I suspect it’s not too different from what I’ve been thinking about sporadically over the last few months – the best pedagogical methods to use for teaching others to read the Bible for themselves. Possibly, common grace means it will be a mash-up of many existing education theories and learning and instructional hypotheses that are yet to exist.

The important skill, it seems (not just in properly exercising our democratic right as voters in any upcoming elections, or to read the Bible for ourselves but also in a global world with many competing voices), is the ability to make proper judgements, personally and collectively, having continuously learned and thought in a variety of situations, workplaces, platforms (virtual or physical), and having found and selected the right knowledge.

Yakun Coffeeshop - kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, coffee and teaToday, I looked at the pragmatism of John Dewey in his seminal Experience and Education and the social learning theory of Albert Bandura.

Every learning theory and pedagogical method is based on certain ontological and epistemological presuppositions. Foundational to Dewey and Bandura’s theories seems to be the ontology of materialism and naturalism as expressed in pragmatism, and the epistemology of radical empiricism.

If the definition of pragmatism is that something is true only if it works, this assumes firstly that what “works” can be measured or observed, and secondly that the result can be viewed in the lifetime of the researcher.

Regardless, useful takeaways are:

  • the idea that learning takes place among and through other people and artifacts as relational activity;
  • experience must always have a context if learning is to take place and be transmuted to the cognitive and communicative sphere;
  • learning can occur by observing a behaviour  and the consequences of the behaviour (vicarious reinforcement);
  • in the symbolic model of observational learning, it seems that people’s constructions of reality depend heavily on what they see, hear, read, rather than what they personally experience;
  • (couple this with reciprocal determinism and you get a theory of why extremism in all sorts of thinking is on the rise in the internet generation).

Instructional theory-wise, progressive education and David Kolb’s experiential learning are key methods.

I have already started trialling a very similar method in training Bible study leaders, outcome akan datang.

“…it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions. To prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities; that his eye and ear and hand may be tools ready to command, that his judgment may be capable of grasping the conditions under which it has to work, and the executive forces be trained to act economically and efficiently” (John Dewey)

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the 4th day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, after MRT and LRT trains and some buses ran all night, the crowds cleared a little. We got to City Hall MRT, took Exit B to emerge outside St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There, those for the priority queue (frail, elderly, special needs) turned left and headed to the steps of the old City Hall, while the rest of us turned right and skirted the other side of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Water was handed out and there were clean portaloos. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

There was a last chance to get to the priority queue.”Oh! Me, me!” yelled the white-haired man in front of me as he sprinted forward with remarkable agility, to the amusement of the crowd. No one begrudged him his technical right. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

From there, there were snaking queues on the Padang, where the hardworking army boys had set up tents. The queues were efficiently run, though of course, people weren’t always around to stop queue jumpers.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Then across to the Cenotaph at Esplanade Park, along the leafy Connaught Drive where we had a good view of the new Downtown Core and magnificent Marina Bay Sands. More water was available, as were clean portaloos.

“Please take water and drink. Take care of yourself. Very hot, don’t dehydrate.” Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

We shook hands with (and here I had to check against the composite photos of MPs, ignoramus that I am) Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shamugaratnam and Halimah Yacob, who thanked us for our patience and for coming. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Past Victoria Memorial Hall (or Victoria Concert Hall), we hanged a left on Fullerton Road, down the underpass to the other side, past the Asian Civilisation Museum, kept along the Singapore River, where there was more water available and some cold yoghurt drinks and juice. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

You could tell some people were a little worried. It was a typical Singaporean worry:

“Eh, where is the dustbin?”

Fortunately, they were in plentiful reassuring-green supply. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Under the white tentage, there were powerful fans, and pens and cards for condolences messages, and the opportunity to read some condolence boards until we got to the security scanners.

“No point spreading out, please keep to one line.”

“Tell your friends to keep all their metal objects in one bag.”

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

Then into the Parliament House compound, where there was speculation amongst the crowd whom each SD car belonged to. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

No photos inside, but not many were obeying the SILENCE sign. Suddenly, and very matter-of-factly, there was the casket drapped with the Singapore flag, and the vigil guard.

“Don’t stop, keep moving.”

Several people choked up. Many bowed as they wiped their tears (and sweat).

Then we were out, blinking in the sunshine. The priority queue was heading in as we exited.

Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeAs one of my queue neighbours said, waiting in line was almost like a tour of what LKY had achieved for Singapore* – look at the greenery; look at the well-paved roads; look at the efficiency of the army and police; look at the cleanliness of the place – no globs of spit everywhere like in Beijing, no smell of urine or vomit like in London; look at the polite but again efficient security clearance; look at the buildings all around – office buildings full of workers driving the financial sector, shopping centers where a wide selection of goods are available to most of the population.

As George Yeo is reported to have said, quoting the epitaph of Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral,”If you seek his memorial – look around you.”

*no he didn’t physically do the work, but as the leader, he set the vision, recruited the right people, drove them towards the goal. In the world, the leader is the one who is responsible for the group, the company, the country he leads. When Churchill led Britain to victory, Churchill wasn’t in a uniform with a gun, but the world credits the victory to him. In the same way, when a bank does dodgy deals, it is not usually the managing director who authorised or even had knowledge of the deals – but the world also holds him to account for them.

Good places to eat after the long queue to Parliament House (and talk more about LKY’s legacy and toast to his memory):

food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre

places to eat after Parliament House: food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore places to eat after Parliament House: food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Mourners queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parlia or just a few bus-stops down along Keong Saik Road:

big prawn hor fun at Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) big prawn hor fun, Kok Sen Restaurant (50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) steamed kaya bread, crispy kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, good strong tea at Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore) good strong tea, soft-boiled eggs, steamed kaya bread, crispy kaya toast, Tong Ah Eating House (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore)

Laksa Cookies and Living Water

In a move inspired by financial repackagings, experimented with more leftover-stuff-in-cookies. Following the popularity of the bak kwa cookies, this installment we have: laksa cookies – lemak spicy savoury shortbread.

Laksa Cookies topped with Laksa LeafBrought them with me to the evening’s Bible study on John 7, where, ugly as they were, the cookies were given the thumbs up.

John 7 stands as testament against anyone who says, “If only God revealed himself to me clearly, I would believe in him.” If anything is clear, it is that when God reveals himself clear, the best and most learned of us reject him even more violently.

It’s significant that John 7 takes place during the Feast of Booths or Feast of the Tabernacles. This festival was instituted even before Israel got into the Promised Land! It was another of those amazing signs that the eventuality of their entry was so certain, because God had promised it, that all that remained was to be instructed what to do in it, and what festivals to celebrate.

At the Festival of Booths, they were to bring in the bountiful produce of the land (another wonderful assumption) and camp out, to remind themselves that they were dependent on God for rescue and salvation (Leviticus 23:42b-43, Deuteronomy 16:13-15). And for any Jew, the words “bread” (or manna) and “water” conjure up memories of how God provided for them in the wilderness after they were rescued from Egypt (see Exodus). This led to a Pharasaic (as opposed to Sadducee) tradition of water libation each morning of the Feast, with water drawn from the Pool of Siloam. One rabbinic authority based this on the promise of Isaiah 12:3:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

A few centuries later, Nehemiah, inspired by God, said that it was the Spirit who had instructed the people in their wanderings and it was the Spirit through the prophets who had warned the people as they stopped acknowledging God after they were settled in his promised land (Nehemiah 9:20,30).

And Zechariah, also inspired by God, prophesised that there would come a day, the eschatological end-time, when all the nations (not just Israel) would keep the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14). This assumes a second rescue, another exodus, and this time, for all the peoples of the world.

So by the time of Jesus, when the Jews celebrated the Feast of the Booths, it wasn’t just commemorating a past rescue (the Exodus from Egypt), but looking forward to a future salvation, aided by the Spirit.

Laksa Cookies topped with Laksa Leaf

Can you imagine the great claim that Jesus was making then, when, perhaps in the middle of the water-drawing ceremony,

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-38)

Now at the point, the Pharisees and the crowd had three choices: Jesus was either (i) a liar, (ii) a lunatic, or (iii) holy guacamole! Lord!

It would have been a fair fight between the choices if not for all the miracles (signs) he had already performed – turning water to wine, remote healing the official’s son, healing a long-term crippled man, feeding 5000, walking on water in a storm (see John 2-6). So much so that people believed him saying that the Christ would not have done more signs than Jesus (John 7:31).

They marvelled too at his authoritative teaching even though he never studied (John 7:15) and the officers sent to arrest him returned empty-handed because “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:48). This wasn’t the gift of the gab, this was authoritative revelation from the one who sent Jesus – God himself (John 7:16-18)

Well, we don’t really need Dr. Who to give us a ride to the first century to see Jesus in the flesh. The evidence is recorded in the Gospels, and witnessing all Jesus’ works and signs in person did the Pharisees (minus Nicodemus) no good.

The chapter ends with those Jewish leaders plotting to kill the very one the Feast of Booths was looking forward to – the one who would give them living water of salvation and the Spirit…

Laksa Cookie Recipe
70g butter
50g dark brown sugar or caster sugar (or icing sugar if using top flour)

50g coconut oil
2 – 3 tbsp laksa paste

200g all-purpose flour (or top flour)

laksa leaves

Nostalgic for the 1980s? Cakes, Snacks, Titbits, Childhood Games, and the Dangers of Nostalgia

Because I run with the older crowd, there have been quite a few 40++ (“the new 30s”) birthday celebrations since the start of 2015. At that age, it’s not that much of a treat getting stuff since they have the financial means to buy whatever they want. So rather than going with the cake-fad-of-the-month, we’ve had fun searching out retro cakes and snacks for the occasion. You’re never too young to get all nostalgic.

nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore cakes nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore cakesSponge cake slices with buttercream frosting held up amazingly in our hot and humid Singapore weather. They were from Nice Bakery in Ang Mo Kio (S$1 per slice). A few streets away, Pine Garden sells similar cakes for S$1.50.

Biscuit King, 130 Casuarina Road, Singapore. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro Singapore snacksBiscuit King (130 Casuarina Road, Thomson) is almost a one-stop shop for the snacks and toys and games that kids in the 1980s would have counted out pockey-money for at corner mamak shops and the drinks stall in the school canteen:

individually-wrapped hard-boiled sweets like Hacks, Mentos, and that fizzly orange sweet. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro Singapore snacksindividually-wrapped hard-boiled sweets like Hacks, Mentos, Haw Flakes, barley mints, Hudson wild cherry, Sarsi, White Rabbit, and that fizzly orange sweet,

preserved fruits, nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snackspreserved dried fruits (kana?) – grandmothers’ favourite afternoon chew. I only ate these to assuage sore throats,

biscuit tins. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snackstins of biscuits (usually from Khong Guan) – you pointed to what you wanted and the shopkeeper would then weigh your selection. I liked the ice gems (and debating the best way of eating it – icing first? biscuit base first? indulgently, both at one go?), pineapple jam in a flower-shaped biscuit, cashewnut cookies topped with one half of a cashewnut, salty sticks, butterfly crackers, peppery roll crackers.

nostalgic for the 1980s in Singapore? Mamee Monster
nostalgic for the 1980s in Singapore? Mamee MonsterMamee Monster (S$1.50 for a bag containing little packs from discount shops around Singapore) – seasoned instant noodles (in chicken or BBQ flavours) that you crushed in the packet, added even more seasoning to, then shook about to distribute evenly amongst the dried noodle fragments. I’m surprised they haven’t made a molecular gastronomy equivalent of this yet.

Bee-Bee Snack. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacks Bee-Bee Snack. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksBee-Bee Snack (S$3 for a bagful). The sort of fried flour stuff you ate after swimming class or while waiting for the school bus, after you’ve had your deep-fried chicken wings of course.

nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksLigo California Golden Seedless Raisins – supposedly the healthier snack. But with that amount of sugar… Sometimes the raisins were too dry and you needed to work them in your mouth so your saliva plumped up the wrinkles.

Hiro choc cake. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksKinos Hiro choc cake (S$0.40, Biscuit King). Some sort of sponge with a chocolate coating, tasting of nothing in particular. You needed several to fill you up.

Ding Dang. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacks Kinos Tora. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksDing Dang (S$0.60, Biscuit King) and Tora (S$1.00, Biscuit King) also from Kinos used mean wafer balls covered with chocolate. They’ve now been replaced by some cereal bar nonsense and the packaging art has been changed to reflect the lack of chocolate balls. Toys still included.

Apollo Milk Chocolate Wafer Cream. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksApollo Milk Chocolate Wafer Cream (S$0.80, Sheng Siong Supermarket).

Polo peppermint. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksPolo peppermint sweets (S$0.40, Biscuit King) – we offered them to friends, sucked them so that the circle remained intact, then tried to whistle through them.

Chupa Chups. nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksChupa Chups. Didn’t know they were a brand of Spanish lollies and that their logo was designed by Salvador Dali! Obscure flavours were the most sought-after. When you were done, you tried to whistle through the empty stick, or chewed on them like you didn’t know about the dangers of BPA, or flicked them onto unsuspecting classmates.

(See also Teck Leong Lee Kee for wholesale prices.)

nostalgic for the 1980s? retro "old school" Singapore snacksAh, and what about those childhood games before everyone sat in the canteen and stared at their smartphones? Goli (marbles), national flag erasers, hopscotch, zero point (jump-the-rope with a rope of rubber-bands), snakes-and-ladders, aeroplane chess, pick-up-sticks, Chinese checkers, kuti-kuti (small colourful plastic tokens),

retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s Singapore Bestman Balloons. retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s SingaporeBestman Balloon (S$1.20, from the man outside Sheng Shiong Bedok). A whole box just feels like an indulgence. I think we used to get just one or two tubes each, and had to make it last.

Snap card game. retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s Singapore Happy Family card game. retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s Singapore Donkey card game. retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s Singapore Old Maid card game. retro nostalgic old school childhood games, 1980s SingaporeSnap, Happy Families, Donkey, Old Maid card games (S$2.50 for 4 packs from the man outside Sheng Shiong Bedok, S$0.60 each from Party Mama Shop) – these cards aren’t as good quality as they used to be.

On the bus today, an old man in front of me was commenting to his wife as we passed the graves opposite MacRitchie Reservoir:

“See, look all the graves. There are all these young people, keep getting angry that the graves are taken away. For what? All these dead already. And they think they live so nicely in their houses, go to their schools, drive on all the roads, don’t need to knock down old things? Always complain traffic jam, complain too expensive, complain everything. Ask them to take care of a family, a big family, they can anot? They can fit into one house meh? Cannot, then complain. Why not throw away all the old things, then can fit. We all did it before, why they cannot? Stupid nonsense, think they’re so smart!”

Nostalgia is nice and neutral, but we never stop there do we? We rose-tint the past, we talk about the “good old days” when things were better and easier, when people were honest and caring, things were just more authentic. And we know about the inauthenticity of authenticity.

Mired in self-deception:

  • we become needlessly negative about our present;
  • we fail to learn from history, and in our blind nostalgia deliberately repeat the mistakes of the past (eg. the nostalgic theme parks of Eastern Europe longing for their fascist past);
  • we reject the good that has been achieved by the progress of the intervening years;
  • we are unable to properly solve present problems guided by a clear view of past mistakes and present successes.

iced gem biscuits with a cup of milky teathe aforementioned iced gem biscuits