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Steadfast Love and Truth/Faithfulness – Meditation from Spurgeon

October 23, 2020 Leave a comment

I often find that my weekly reads of Charles Spurgeon sermons are a great treat, for the richness of thought, and a great benefit to the Lord’s Day experience.  Some of his sermons have more meaning and impact than others, and often some of his examples and historical references are dated, and require additional online search regarding some terms and historical references.  One sermon I read this summer, for instance, included several descriptions of a then-current events that reminded me of a piece of “encyclopedia” trivia I’d come across in the past, that Charles Dickens had died in 1870 — and a google search indeed confirmed what I’d suspected; Spurgeon’s sermon had been delivered on the very day that a prominent speaker had especially honored the late Charles Dickens, June 19, 1870.   A recent sermon I’ve read, sermon 956, from October 1870 mentioned a Saxon king who refused baptism to go the way of his pagan ancestors, and “impudent as to foretell the future with all the brass of a Sidrophel, a Lilly, or a Dr. Dec.,” all references and terms that were presumbly understood by his audience, but not commonly known to us today except by online search of the terms Sidrophel and Lilly.

Yet the main points, aside from these dated references, are timeless truths of Scripture and the reality of God, His works and attributes and person.  Sermon #956, “Think Well and Do Well,” is an exposition of Psalm 26:3 — “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” — and a great example of Christian meditation, to consider God’s steadfast love and faithfulness/ truth.  As usual, Spurgeon brings out many different aspects of the text, in the two parts, a simple outline:  the mind occupied with a fruitful subject; secondly, the life ordered by a right rule; and thirdly, the link which connects the two.  Interestingly, this also ties in with a current local church teaching on the Christian mindset, which has also referenced these two points, as the root of the Christian life:  hesed (Hebrew for Steadfast Love) and emet (Hebrew for faithfulness/truth).  As pointed out in that series, the terms are found together in the Old Testament quite frequently, and so Psalm 26:3 is one of many such examples.   

Spurgeon starts with the mind, which should be occupied with spiritual nutriment — otherwise, like the body, the mind will feed upon itself:

Observe that when the mind does not receive holy matters to feed upon, as a rule it preys upon itself. Like certain of our bodily organs which if not supplied with nutritive matter, will soon begin to devour their own tissues, and then all sorts of aches, pains, and ultimately diseases will set in — the mind, when it eats into itself, forms doubts, fears, suspicions, complaints; and nine out of 10 of the doubts and fears of God’s people come from two things—walking at a distance from God, and lack of spiritual nutriment for the soul. … 

If you, believer, do not meditate upon some scriptural subject, your minds will probably turn to vanity or to some evil within yourselves, and you will not long think of the corruption within without becoming the subjects of a despondency which will turn you into Mistress Despondencies or Mr. Feebleminds; whereas by musing on the promises of the Holy Spirit you would grow into good soldiers and happy pilgrims. 

Continuing in this meditation, Spurgeon also considered duty, in connection with thinking upon God’s loving-kindness, the past and future blessings of God’s loving-kindness (back to eternity past and eternity future), and the “wondrous library” we can combine — from the book of revelation (God’s word in scripture), the ‘book of providence,’ and ‘the book of your inward experience.’  God’s loving-kindness is indeed the root and core of our life, both in the inward meditation and outward walking in truth.  Another great quote here links God’s love to doctrinal knowledge and what motivates us (in truth) to further doctrinal study:

Everlasting love, love without beginning towards unworthy worms! Well now, what comes of it? Why, naturally, the moment the heart gets into the enjoyment of it, it cries, “I will walk in God’s truth! This great doctrine leads me to receive other great doctrines. I am not afraid, now, of doctrinal knowledge; if it is so that God has loved me before the world began, and has blessed me with all spiritual blessings accordingly as He chose me in Christ Jesus, then I am not afraid to consider the doctrine of the covenant of grace, the doctrine of His foreknowledge, and of His predestination, and all the other doctrines that spring therefrom! The brightness of this one gem has attracted me to enter into the mines of divine thought, and I will seek from now on to be conversant with the deep things of God.” Many would be much sounder in doctrine if they meditated more upon the eternity of divine loving-kindness.

After considering these and so many other aspects of God’s loving-kindness and faithfulness, Spurgeon brings it back to the daily experience — the remedy for times when we feel dull and weary.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is the quickener, who first gives life and continues that life, but Spurgeon well summarizes the means for us to use:

Brothers and sisters, depend upon it that you shall find each of you when you get dull and flagging in the practical part of your religion, that the proper way to revive it is to think more than you have done upon the loving-kindness of God.  …

What is the best way to quicken one’s self when you have got to be just a mere inanimate mass, and cannot awaken yourself into life? Of course, the Holy Spirit is the quickener, but what means shall we use? “Why,” says one, “turn over your sins and begin to think of them.” Well, I have known some become more dead than they were before through that, and the little life they had seemed to go out of them as they saw their transgressions! I believe there is no reflection that has as much, under God the Holy Spirit, of quickening power in it as a remembrance of the loving-kindness of the Lord!

and this final quote:

I have said unto my soul, “You are dull and heavy today, my soul, but Jesus did not love you because of your brightness and liveliness; you have, at any rate, a desire not to be so dull. Who gave you that? Was not it His grace that made you hate yourself for being so dull and stupid? And He loves you just the same.”

Praying the Psalms and Talking with God

December 6, 2017 1 comment

Continuing on the topic of the Psalms, I have found a few more helpful resources.

David Murray’s HeadHeartHand blog features Reformed-background biblical counseling authors including Bob Kellemen, a starting point that led to Kellemen’s website RPM Ministries, which has many resources including the ‘How to Have an Honest Conversation with God’ PDF.

Kellemen’s sermon series is easy to read, with hard-hitting (personal heart) content about how to relate to the Psalmist, as we learn from the Psalms how to relate to God, how to take our problems and many life difficulties to God.  The Christian life is not one of false joy, a stoic view that puts on a happy face and never complains to God about how hard life is.  The Psalmists are open and honest with God, and the point to learn is that we may not be happy with our circumstances, but to take our honest feelings to God – Ask, Beg, and then Thank God – and be happy in our circumstances.  I especially appreciate the references to Michael Card’s two songs (see previous post about Michael Card and the Psalms) from the Psalms (Psalm 13, ‘How Long?’, and Psalm 23, ‘My Shepherd’), as well as scripture references to other OT books such as Jeremiah and Lamentations.  Kellemen points out that the Psalms in fact contain more Lament type Psalms than any other type:

In Psalm 13, David begins his prayer life with the A of Asking God “Why?” and “How Long?” Now, immediately, some of us might respond, “No! You can’t ask God ‘Why?’ or ‘How long?’ That would be disrespectful.” That’s a fair question, so let’s ponder it biblically. Students of the Bible call Psalm 13 a psalm of lament or complaint. … there are more psalms of lament and complaint than psalms of praise and thanks. The first person I ever heard that from was the Christian songwriter, Michael Card. I love his music, but I had my doubts that he was right. I was sure there were more psalms of praise and thanks than psalms of lament.

… Here’s what Dr. Longman says. “Our spiritual songbook of Psalms does not contain 150 hymns of joy. As a matter of fact, a close look shows that the psalms of complaint and songs of accusation—the music of confusion, doubt, and heartache—significantly outnumber the hymns of joy. We may seek to flee from the feelings inside of us, but a look at the Psalms exposes them to our gaze.”

I still wasn’t convinced. So, I read and categorized every psalms. You know what I found? There are more psalms of lament, complaint, and asking God “Why?” than there are psalms of praise and thanks. I’d encourage you to do the same and see what you discover.

Sure enough, a googling of articles about the different types of Psalms (with some overlap) shows 67 of the lament type, compared to 52 psalms of the ‘praise’ (19) and ‘thanksgiving’ (33) categories, followed by other Psalm types: liturgical (35) and wisdom (11).

The variety within the Psalms itself indicates the variety and balance we need to keep — not completely focused on Lament, but not 100% focus on the joyful psalms to the exclusion of the other.  Kellemen’s series also reflects this, with consideration of the non-Lament psalms.  A podcast from Mortification of Spin also considers the Lament psalms within the broader context; churches that practice the singing of Psalms will, by the fact of using the Psalms, include both Lament and Praise within the corporate worship.  Churches that do not sing the Psalms, favoring non-Psalm hymns and contemporary songs, may neglect the Lament psalms with too much emphasis on the happy, joyful side — and should consider including Lament psalms, for a more biblically-balanced approach to corporate worship.

Psalm 119, the Reformation Anniversary, and Apologetics

November 3, 2017 5 comments

Psalm 119 Thoughts

As I near the end of the Psalm 119 series, here is an interesting point brought out regarding verse 162:  I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.

Here we consider the treasure, the plunder – and the idea also involves the delight and joy of the victory itself, the victory which brought the ‘great spoil.’  Old Testament Israel could certainly relate to and remember the many great deliverances in battle, brought about by their God.  From my own recent reading in Ezekiel, here I also relate this to any victory in battle and the spoil or plunder, not limited to Israel’s warfare; Nebuchadnezzar had worked hard to conquer Tyre, but with no reward – therefore God gave Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar’s army, for their payment (Ezekiel 29:18-20).

Psalm 119 and the other psalms so often express this truth so well – how wonderful God’s word is, our love for God’s word — with many analogies and metaphors.  The same truths have their New Testament “equivalents” such as 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 2:2 (the comparison to milk) and Ephesians 6:17 (which also uses the imagery of war and battle).

This psalm also especially shows us the law of God, that which we love (reference also the New Testament, Romans 7:12, 16, and 22), which reveals God’s attributes to us.

The Reformation Anniversary

The last few weeks have brought many interesting “Reformation theme” articles, free and discount sale offers, and conferences.  One item of interest here:  Reformed Resources is providing its large collection (over 3000 lessons) of MP3 download lessons, all free (normally $1 per download), until November 15 – with the coupon code ‘celebrate’.  Among the interesting collections here, are ‘The Bible Study Hour’ with lessons on many of the Psalms and other Bible books, and a series on ‘The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century’.  I’ve already ordered many of these, for future listening.

Many churches have hosted weekend conferences on “the Five Solas” or other variations, bringing to attention key ideas from the Protestant Reformation.  Desiring God’s brief biography podcast “Here We Stand” gives a few minutes each day to some well known or perhaps lesser known person who played a part in the 16th century Reformation.

The Reformation and Apologetics

A conference I have found especially interesting is Reformed Forum’s 2017 Theology Conference, relating the Reformation to Reformed / Presuppositional Apologetics, a six part series available here.  I’m still listening to these messages on my podcast player, and find these very helpful, to build on my recent reading of Van Til’s A Defense of the Faith.  The speakers reference Van Til, but especially point out that presuppositional apologetics existed long before Van Til, in the teaching of John Calvin and others during the Reformation.  Especially of note, one of the speakers references and responds to the errors and inconsistencies in the well-known book Classical Apologetics (which advocates “classic” as in Thomas Aquinas, evidentialist apologetics, though authored by Reformed theologians who are inconsistent and ought to know better).

Random Thoughts: Michael Card, and Studying the Psalms

October 18, 2017 1 comment

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been listening a lot to Christian music artist Michael Card, years after my first acquaintance with his songs in the early 1990s.  The September 2006 Tabletalk issue (recently read from back-copies) included an article by Michael Card, and he has published book commentaries in addition to many songs.  Through youtube I have discovered many “new” songs (to me), from later years, including these songs now among my favorites:  Poem of your life, The Book, To the Overcomers, Starkindler, Morning Has Broken (Card’s recording in a Celtic music style, on the same album with Starkindler), The Promise, and The Edge.

Along with reading a Psalms commentary (“Be” series, Psalms 1-89), I am enjoying this sermon series done in 2016 (from Fred Pugh at Grace Covenant Church), which looks at Psalm 119 in some detail.  The 22 lessons include an introduction plus separate lessons on each of the 21 stanzas.  Particular themes and “key” verses stick out within each stanza, as with these:

  • verse 18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things from Your law”
  • verse 25, “My soul cleaves to the dust” … verse 31, “I cling to Your testimonies” – how we are so drawn to the world and the things of this world, and the need to look up and above this world
  • verse 57, “The Lord is my portion”

Psalm 119 includes many themes addressed throughout the Psalms, such as trusting in God, delighting in God, and proper response to affliction.  Pugh often references previous commentaries including quotes from Charles Spurgeon, and mention of Martyn Lloyd Jones’ “Spiritual Depression” (see this previous post).

Michael Card’s song “The Edge” also relates to the topic of Lloyd Jones’ work, with a verse that describes one type of depression – the Elijah experience:

I’ve found that as I’ve traveled
through the inscape of my land,
That mountaintops make valleys in-between.
And when that nameless sadness
Like a cloud comes over me
I look back on all the brightness I have seen.

Both the Psalm 119 study (this lesson, on verses 65-72; “before I was afflicted, I went astray”) and a Spurgeon sermon from my recent reading, reinforce another common theme: affliction and its role in the believer’s life, and as contrasted with the effect of affliction on unbelievers.  Spurgeon’s sermon #774 (now 150 years ago, October of 1867) well states that:

It is generally thought that our trials and troubles purge us: I am not sure of that; they certainly are lost upon some. Our Lord tells us what it is that prunes us. It is the word that prunes the Christian; it is the truth that purges him; the Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit, which effectually cleanses the Christian. “What then does affliction do?” you ask. Well, if I may say so, affliction is the handle of the knife; affliction is the grindstone that sharpens up the word; affliction is the dresser which removes our soft garments, and lays bare the diseased flesh, so that the surgeon’s lancet may get at it; affliction makes us ready to feel the word, but the true pruner is the word in the hand of the Great Husbandman. … you think more upon the word than you did before. In the next place, you see more the applicability of that word to yourself. In the third place, the Holy Spirit makes you feel more, the force of the word than you did before. Ask that affliction may be sanctified, Beloved, but always remember there is no more tendency in affliction in itself to sanctify us than there is in prosperity; in fact, the natural tendency of affliction is to make us rebel against God, which is quite opposite to sanctification. It is the word coming to us while in affliction that purges us.

Here again, as happens so often, the various materials I read or listen to often overlap in content, addressing similar scriptural themes.  Yet that is how real learning occurs: repeated exposure to the same biblical truths, presented in different ways, whether recent audio sermons, printed sermons or books.

Studying the Psalms: Bible Commentary, and Challies’ Reading Challenge

September 28, 2017 3 comments

As part of doing the 2017 Challies Reading Challenge, I have acquired several books as Kindle deals on special Amazon sale.  Books can be purchased quicker than they can be read, but even so the reading continues, and currently I’m reading one of the “Be” commentary series from Warren Wiersbe —  Be Worshipful: Glorifying God for Who He Is (Psalms 1-89).  In other Kindle deals of free or near-free books, my collection now also includes the “Be” commentaries for Exodus and Ezekiel, for future commentary reading.

This Psalms commentary is a good general, easy reading and non-technical commentary.  Various truths are brought out, though in a straightforward and concise way, as the many themes are considered in each of the Psalms. It provides more detail at a basic text level than Andrew Bonar’s Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms, which I read a few years ago, and from the human author’s (usually David’s) point of view; Bonar’s work was a good devotional, but, for some of the psalms at least, the idea that Christ Himself would have written/prayed particular texts, seemed more forced to fit that theme.  This “Be Worshipful” commentary considers each of the types of psalms – laments, messianic, praise and thanksgiving, royal psalms, wisdom psalms, psalms of affirmation and trust, penitential, and imprecatory psalms – along with basic structure of the thought in each psalm.  Along the way several interesting points are brought out, such as the grouping of certain Psalms together: 22, 23, and 24 form a trilogy on Christ the Shepherd.  In 22, the Good Shepherd dies for the sheep (John 10:1-18); in 23, the Great Shepherd lives for the sheep and cares for them (Heb. 13:20-21); and in 24, the Chief Shepherd returns in glory to reward His sheep for their service (1 Peter 5:4).  Psalm 27 includes the “first mention” of light as a metaphor for God, and addresses three types of fear:  fear of circumstances, fear of failure, and fear of the future.

For overall study on the Psalms (and my first such study), I find this commentary very helpful, with many encouraging observations. It also ties in well with other readings about the usefulness of studying the Psalms for dealing with personal life issues.  Many articles talk about the value of the psalms for dealing with personal life struggles, and to study the Psalms was one part of the valuable advice given to the young, pre-Reformation Martin Luther.  David Murray’s blog has many helpful articles about the Psalms, including this Top 70 Online Resources on the Psalms.  This article from Crossway by author Lydia Brownback, describes a helpful approach to studying and applying the Psalms, of personal reading and journaling through various Psalms, with Psalm 3 as an example.  The “Be Worshipful” commentary helps identify the context of David’s life pertaining to a particular Psalm, along with main points about the Psalm.

Some highlights from my reading so far:

  • Psalm 13:  We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well, and there is no sin in asking, “How long?” But at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our feelings are and that God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20) and can lift us above the emotional storms of life. David eventually learned to replace the question “How long, O Lord?” with the affirmation “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15)
  • Psalm 23, so oft-quoted at funerals, is really about the life experience of the mature Christian.  “While people of all ages love and quote this psalm, its message is for mature Christians who have fought battles and carried burdens.”
  • Psalm 24:  As children of God, we belong to three worlds: the world of creation around us, the world of the new creation within us (2 Cor. 5:17), and “the world to come” of the wonderful final creation that will be our home for eternity (Rev. 21-22)
  • Psalm 30:  God doesn’t replace sorrow with joy; He transforms sorrow into joy (John 16:20-22)

Martyn Lloyd Jones’ “Spiritual Depression” Book and Series

August 16, 2016 2 comments

I have often heard Martyn Lloyd Jones recommended, though in my studies so far had not yet read anything from him.  Recently I revisited a link to the MP3 collection of his “Spiritual Depression” series.  As noted at the beginning of the first message, the audio quality is not that great, restored as best as possible from old recordings – and so I’m reading the Kindle book version instead.

Dan Phillips provided a helpful review of this work a few years ago, and the ‘chronological qualifier’ comment is spot on, in reference to Lloyd Jones for the 20th century and Spurgeon from the 19th century.  I too have found Spurgeon helpful in this area, one he was so well acquainted with.  The foreward included in the edition that Phillips reviewed, can also be read here (Banner of Truth article).

The introductory chapter, General Consideration, is quite helpful.  As MLJ pointed out (and no real surprise here), some of us have the personality-temperament (of introverts) that is naturally more pre-disposed to depression.  He observed that sometimes depression has a physical cause—and attributed the well-known case of Spurgeon’s frequent depression to his physical problem of gout.  A closer look at Spurgeon’s life, though (see this article), tells us that Spurgeon’s experiences with depression began several years before the gout.  It is generally recognized today that Spurgeon’s depression came from a combination of factors, not just the  gout.  Another cause of depression is the “reaction” that comes after an especially intense moment: the familiar story of Elijah victorious over the priests of Baal, and then downcast and running away to hide is a classic example of this.  (I can also relate to this situation at various times in my life.)

From the biblical material, as well as Lloyd Jones’ experience as a pastor, the problem of spiritual depression is fairly common.  Psalm 42 is a guide to the experience, and provides the key to the cure.  When feeling down, I often sing the familiar scripture words to a well-known praise song, “Why so downcast, oh my soul?  / Put your hope in God.”    Going beyond just a simple song tune, though, the real point here is that “we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us.”

This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?  Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning.  You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.  Somebody is talking.  Who is talking to you?  Your self is talking to you.  Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks.  His soul had been depressing him, crushing him.  So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a  moment.  I will speak to you.’

The following chapters (different sermons) consider many different types of people that experience spiritual depression, relating each to a passage of scripture.  For some, the problem is due to an incomplete knowledge of the doctrines of God, or imbalance in the doctrines, and along the way Lloyd Jones makes strong statements regarding the sufficiency of scripture and the Christian faith, such as the following samples:

The gospel is not something partial or piecemeal: it takes in the whole life, the whole of history, the whole world.  It tells us about the creation and the final judgment and everything in between.

and

It is doctrine first, it is the standard of teaching first, it is the message of the gospel first.  We are not concerned simply to attract people emotionally or in the realm of the will, we are concerned to ‘preach the Word’. …. Truth comes to the mind and to the understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  Then having seen the truth, the Christian loves it.  It moves his heart.  He sees what he was, he sees the life he was living, and he hates it.  If you see the truth about yourself as a slave of sin you will hate yourself.  Then as you see the glorious truth about the love of Christ you will want it, you will desire it.  So the heart is engaged.  Truly to see the truth means that you are moved by it and that you love it.  You cannot help it.

This work is well worth reading, for all Christians, as a great book about Christian living and appreciating the truth and greatness of the Christian life.

Andrew Bonar’s Commentary on the Psalms

August 10, 2015 4 comments

In my continuing study of the covenantal premillennial writers, comes Andrew Bonar’s “Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms,” (available in electronic format, PDF and through Google Play) which includes interesting, concise commentary on each Psalm.  I have found it works best to read through this commentary as I read along in my daily Psalm reading (part of my ongoing genre reading plan which includes two Psalms per set, and a full genre set every day or every other day), now up through Psalm 64.

The content for each Psalm includes the KJV text followed by Bonar’s comments that are part technical – with actual Hebrew words and meaning, along with reference to the views of various scholars of the day (such as Hengstenberg) and footnotes – along with some good devotional thoughts.  Throughout, Bonar relates each Psalm to how our Lord Himself could pray and “use” the particular words in His own experience as man during His First Coming, the One who was truly dependent on His father.  This style or emphasis takes some getting used to, but Bonar addresses texts that specifically mention the writer’s sins and need of forgiveness, by referencing Christ having sin imputed to Him, as well as noting the contrast in Psalm 51 (the occasion of David’s sin with Bathsheba) with the 50 psalms before it.  I also see this emphasis of Christ’s experiences as a man, relating to what I have been studying in the 1689 Exposition series, which in the study of chapter 8 of the confession, brought out this point about Christ’s two natures, the union of these natures and the human experience of Christ in full dependence on the Father, in the Spirit given to Him without measure — and what a great example this is to us in our Christian walk (though in our imperfect way) and dependence upon the Father through the Spirit indwelling us.

Each Psalm commentary also relates the text to all believers, how all believers can pray and relate to the Psalm — the “and His church” part of the title.  The devotional thoughts include the idea of meditating upon certain ideas, considering the “Selah” of some Psalms, and remembering God’s promises.  To end each commentary is a brief summary statement describing the Psalm, such as “Our Joseph and his seed foreseeing the doom of the archers that have shot at them,” for Psalm 64, or, for Psalm 61, “The Righteous One, when an outcast, looking for the day of his Restoration.”

Finally, here are a few good excerpts from Bonar’s commentary:

Psalm 61:  In this life, every member of the Church has a varied lot—now at rest, then troubled; now hopeful, then fearful; now a conqueror, then a combatant. Seated as he is on the Rock of Ages, immovably seated, he sees at one time a fair sky and a bright sun; then, the thick cloud spreads gloom over nature; soon, the beam struggles through again, but soon all is mist once more. Such being the sure complexion of our sojourning here, we rejoice to find sympathy therewith evinced by our God who knows our frame, and evinced by the fact that He so often turns in the Songs of Zion from one state of mind to another, and from one aspect of our case to another.”

Psalm 53: The state of earth ought to be deeply felt by us. The world lying in wickedness should occupy much of our thoughts. The enormous guilt, the inconceivable pollution, the ineffably provoking atheism of this fallen province of God’s dominion, might be a theme for our ceaseless meditation and mourning. To impress it the more on us, therefore, this Psalm repeats what has been already sung in Psalm xiv. It is the same Psalm, with only a few words varied; it is “line upon line, precept upon precept;” the harp’s most melancholy, most dismal notes again sounded in our ear. Not that the Lord would detain us always or disproportionably long amid scenes of sadness, for elsewhere he repeats in like manner that most triumphant melody; but it is good to return now and then to the open field on which we all were found, cast out in loathsome degradation.

Psalm 37: Instead of complaining of our burdens, and anxieties, and cares, and fears, and instead of throwing them off in stoical indifference, let us “roll them on the Lord” (as ver. 5), and then “Wait—be silent”—standing still at the Red Sea, till God opens the way. “The meek” are they who bow to God’s will; they shall as surely “inherit the earth,” as ever Israel entered into possession of Canaan. This is a promise repeated in verses 11, 22, 29, 34, as if to reiterate, “that though you have little of earth and earth’s good things now, all shall yet be yours, and the ungodly be gone for ever.”

Psalm 32: Forgiveness is so great a blessing that all else may follow. If the Lord forgive our sin, what next may we not ask? On this account, then, His people pray. Our Head intercedes, because His offering of Himself was accepted; we pray, because through Him we have already got pardon, and may get any other real blessing. Yes, we may get such blessing, that “at the time of *the floods of great waters,” whensoever that be —whether calamities personal and national, or the waves of the fiery flood, parallel to that of Noah, that shall yet sweep away the ungodly,—even then we shall be altogether safe. The forgiven man is hidden, instructed, taught, guided by God’s tender care.

The Millennial Psalms (Andrew Bonar)

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment

At a local church doing a series through the Psalms, for Psalm 150 the preacher casually remarked that this psalm has association with postmillennialism — though without further explanation.

It is true that quite a few psalms – and the 150th could be included as well – describe the millennial age, a time of nations rejoicing and praising the Lord and the Lord reigning (and a reign that is more than the present age “universal kingdom” overall sovereignty). Yet the descriptions of the millennial age say nothing regarding the “timing” of this millennial age related to Christ’s return – other than against the a-millennial idea which denies any millennial age other than our current age. Therefore such psalms could be understood as describing a future kingdom / millennial age – an idea that fits with both premillennialism and postmillennialism, since both views at least recognize a future state unlike the present one.

A book on my list to read is classic premillennialist Andrew Bonar’s “Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms” (available here), a much more thorough look at each of the Psalms.  I have heard good things about Andrew Bonar’s work, as well as Charles Spurgeon’s much lengthier “Treasury of David,” and look forward to reading through Bonar’s book.  Meanwhile, searching through the Google play edition reveals the following interesting commentary on several of the Psalms, concerning the future millennial age:

Psalm 22

The essence of the feast is indicated at verse 28, as consisting in knowing and feeding upon Him who is our Paschal Lamb ; even as in Isaiah xxv. 8, the feast of fat things is Christ Himself, seen and known, eye to eye. The people of that millennial time are ” the seed” of ver. 30. If men do not at present serve Him, yet their seed shall- — there is a generation to rise who shall so do.”

 

Psalm 45

This tells of the Glorified Church, the Lamb’s Wife; ruling over a subdued world, in the millennial days. “Tyre” is taken as a sample of Gentile nations, and is elsewhere referred to as acting a part in these happy times. … The Glorified Church, reigning with Christ, is to see her prayers answered and her labours crowned, in the blessings which shall be poured on Earth in those glad millennial days.

 

Psalm 85

The time of millennial blessedness has come. The time for displaying grace to the full has come. Jew and Gentile shall meet, like David and Araunah, at the altar on Moriah.

 

Psalm 102

For now his saints enter on the possession of Earth, and the millennial race of Israelites inherit their Land, reigned over by the Lord and his glorified saints. And thus we understand this Psalm, beginning in woe, ending in gladness.

 

Psalm 144

he does not fail also to lead him forward to a future day, when earth shall witness its millennial scenes, among which not the least wonderful and refreshing shall be Israel in all the restored plenty of his last times, with the favour of Jehovah over all. In all this, David was the type of Christ.

The Center of Biblical Theology: Including the Wisdom Books

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Going through James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, the central theme is obvious enough within the Law and Prophets: the Pentateuch, then Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings, and the major and minor prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, plus the twelve minor). As Hamilton observes, though, previous attempts to describe a central theme of biblical theology did not include the wisdom books.

So here, after considering the previous scholarship regarding a biblical center of theology and the commentators who could not “fit” a central theme throughout scripture that works with the wisdom books (especially Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment includes a good theme-study through the book of Psalms, along with interesting details concerning how we approach reading the wisdom books in their context within the Old Testament canon of the law and prophets.

The fear of God so prominent in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is informed by the holiness of Yahweh that breaks out against transgressors such as Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). The voice of wisdom that cries out from these books is not spouting philosophical speculation on right and wrong; it is the song of a holy siren, wooing readers to return to the Law (Torah) and the Prophets. For instance, Proverbs 29:18 proclaims, ‘Where there is no vision the people are let loose, but as for the one who keeps the law, blessed is he.’ The word rendered ‘vision’ is a term often used to describe the visions of the prophets…. Disregarding the visions of the prophets is like walking blindly toward a precipice, but the danger is not an abstract fall from an impersonal height. Rather, the danger lies in defiling the holy God by transgressing his boundaries. Yahweh is a God of justice, and “the ways of a man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and all his paths he observes” (Prov. 5:21). The fear of judgment leads to salvation.7

Hamilton includes many details concerning specific psalms within each section, within this overall summary approach to the Psalms and its five “books” (sections).

Psalm 1 and 2 set forth the two main points which are followed throughout the rest of book 1: emphasis on the Torah and the inward life (Psalm 1), along with focus on the Messiah King and the external threats and enemies to defeat (Psalm 2). The rest of book 1 (Psalms 1-41) centers on these points, highlighting the afflictions faced by the Messiah (in type: David), which are the sufferings through which he will enter his glory.

Book 2:  Psalms 42-72. Salvation comes through judgment to God’s glory, through the agency of the Messiah, son of David, king in Jerusalem.  This section occurs during the time period of 2 Samuel 7-10, the time of David’s power growing, through his conquering and expanding. Then comes David’s sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51) followed by more affliction and opposition.

Book 3:  Psalms 73-89.  These psalms concern the era of Solomon and the subsequent kings in the Davidic line. Here we have expressions of the hope of the world, intermingled with anticipations of judgment day. At the close of this section, judgment has fallen — but hope has not died.

Book 4:  Psalms 90-106. Here are expressions of faith while in exile.  This section has a “Moses dimension,” with Moses named 7 times in book 4; Moses is only mentioned once outside of this section. Hope grows stronger, and the future hope is built on the foundation of what God has done in history: from creation (Psalm 104), through the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph, then Moses and Exodus. (Psalms 105-106). The future hope is placed on Yahweh’s history of glorifying himself in salvation through judgment.

Book 5: Psalms 107-150. These psalms begin with the return from exile as already accomplished. This section especially features the eschatological triumph of Yahweh through the conquering Davidic king. The new exodus and return from exile begin through the agency of the Messiah.

 

 

Israel in the Plan of God: Joseph as a Type of Christ

February 20, 2014 8 comments

Recently I’ve been enjoying David Baron’s Israel in the Plan of God, his exposition and commentary on several Old Testament passages (Deuteronomy 32, Psalms 105 and 106, and Isaiah 51) which relate to God and His dealings with the nation Israel.  I had read a few of Baron’s writings online, especially his work addressing the Ten Lost Tribes error.  In my current reading, I appreciate even more his writing style: easy and straightforward exposition of biblical passages, with so many interesting observations.  I highly recommend his writing, and now especially look forward to reading his lengthier commentary on the book of Zechariah after I complete this shorter collection (about 300 pages total, with commentary on four chapters from different books).

Psalm 105 and 106 are an interesting set of Psalms, as I have noticed in my regular re-readings through the Psalms:  both describe the early history of the nation, the first Psalm from the perspective of what God did for Israel, then the contrast in the next Psalm of the many ways in which Israel went astray and rejected their God.  Expositing Psalm 105 involves analysis of the lives of the patriarchs, including a close look at seven ways in which Joseph’s life parallels that of our Lord. In going through S. Lewis Johnson’s Genesis series several years ago (see this post from 2009).  I learned of several such correspondences between the two, some of which are again presented here, along with more detail from David Baron’s exposition:

1)      Joseph as the specially-beloved son of his father.  Christ:  This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

2)      Joseph, because he was beloved of Jacob (his father), was hated by his brethren.  And it was the unique and peculiar relation of our Lord Jesus also to His heavenly Father, and the fact that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity …  the chief reasons why He was hated of those who were “His own” brethren, but who, as the result of a long process of self-hardening, were estranged in their hearts from God, who they also claimed as their Father.

3)      They hated Joseph yet more because of his dreams and his words – dreams which we realize were divinely sent prophecy from God:  prophetic revelations of his future exaltation.  The parallel in Christ: one chief cause of the ever-growing opposition and hatred on the part of the Scribes and Pharisees to our Lord Jesus was His clear, full, conscious testimony concerning Himself.

4)      Joseph was not only hated by his brethren, but ill-treated and abused, sold into slavery.  Reference “Christ the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief,” who was sold for 30 shekels of silver, sold into abuse, ill-treatment and the ultimate shame of crucifixion.

5)      For many long years, after they handed him over into the hands of the Midianites, Joseph’s brethren—indeed, Jacob’s whole family—thought and spoke of him as dead. … And even so do the Jews think of Jesus. According to them He is dead.

6)      But while his brethren thought and spoke of Joseph as no more, he was not only alive, but greatly exalted among the Gentiles, as the “Support of Life,” or “Deliverer of the World” before whom all had to “bow the knee” in humble allegiance.  Baron notes also a few possible meanings of Joseph’s Egyptian name “Zaphenath-paneah”: “the support of life,” “deliverer of the world,” or even “the revealer of secrets.” Any of these possible meanings are significant for the role that Joseph played and his similarity to Christ.   Even so is it with our Lord Jesus. Despised and rejected and counted as dead among “His own” people, He is not only alive for evermore, but exalted and extolled, having a Name which is above every name—before whom hundreds of millions in the Gentile world “bow the knee” in humble worship, because He is indeed the true “Support of Life,” being Himself the “Living Bread” which came down from heaven, of which if any man eat he shall live for ever.

7)      The separation and estrangement between Joseph and his brethren did not last forever. In the extremity of their need they were again brought face to face with him, and though at first, while yet unknown to them, he spake and dealt “roughly” with them, so as to awaken their conscience and bring home to them the sense of guilt, his heart was all the time full of yearning love and compassion for them.   Here is a great foreshadowing of what is yet to take place between Christ and the nation Israel.  In the extremity of their need, in “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the Jewish people will yet be brought face to face with their long-rejected Messiah, and brokenheartedly confess “We are verily guilty concerning our brother”—Jesus—whom we handed over to the Romans to be crucified… And then Jesus will make Himself known to His brethren, and comfort them in their great sorrow, saying: I am Jesus, your Brother, whom you handed over to be crucified, and for so long thought to be dead; and now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, … for God sent Me before you to preserve life.”