Archive for March, 2008

Accurate Diagnosis; Appropriate Treatment

March 29, 2008

My wife (now 29 weeks pregnant) and I spent this past Friday and Saturday in the Lamaze birthing classes at Harris Methodist Hospital. We considered the information taught a blessing from the Lord as we continue seeking His wisdom in making decisions concerning the birth of our first child. In this class, the instructor mentioned that her personal goal as a nurse was an “accurate diagnosis” of her patients’ problems and an “appropriate treatment” of those problems. Though she was not intending anything Christian, I thought to myself: “What fitting words for the Gospel, revealed to us in the Scripture.” The Scriptures give us an accurate, the most accurate, diagnosis of humanity’s problem: sin and rebellion against God; physical and spiritual death; slavery to the devil and the kingdom of darkness. At the same time, the Gospel, clearly proclaimed in all Scripture, gives us an appropriate, the only appropriate, treatment of this problem: Jesus Christ came into the world to die for sinners; he was raised from the dead for their justification; he now sits at the right hand of God interceding for his own; he sent his Spirit into the world to convict people of sin and righteousness and cause them to be born again unto a new life, so that they might be transferred into the kingdom of light, embrace the Gospel, turn from wickedness, and worship the one, true, living God; further, he will come again in glory to finally save his own, judge the wicked, and establish his kingdom, the kingdom of peace, forever. Read the word of God. Let it (Him) inform you of who you truly are and what (Who) you desparately need.

“…but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). 

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George Bush on Joshua 2:11 & 13

March 26, 2008

There is an Old Testament scholar by the name of George Bush, whom I stumbled upon one day when I was reading through John Piper’s book The Justification of God. Thus, I too made reference to his commentary on Exodus (1852) in a paper I wrote. Over the past couple of days I have been browsing his commentary on Joshua (1852), which even bears a title including the aim of his scholarship, an aim which is missing from many works in the Christian academy: Notes, critical and practical, on the Book of Joshua: Designed as a General Help to Biblical Reading and Instruction. I find his work very insightful and nourishing. Here is a flavor of his comments on Joshua 2:11 and 13 after explaining Rahab’s confession and her demand for the Israelites to swear an oath with her even for the sake of her family:

“…It was at once an acknowledgement of the true God, and a condemnation of the false gods and idolatrous worship of her countrymen, and showed a supernatural influence of God upon her soul. He can cause the rays of truth to penetrate the thickest shades of that moral midnight which broods over the minds of the unenlightened heathen, though we have no evidence that he ever does this, except in connexion (sic) with some kind of external instrumentality” (37)

“…But a practical remark of more importance suggests itself in this connexion (sic). The same feelings which warn us to flee the coming wrath and make our own peace with God, will also incite us to do all in our power to promote the salvation of our families and kindred, by bringing them also within the bonds of the covenant. We shall feel that our work is but half done when our own souls are safe” (38).

With What Kind of Kiss?

March 8, 2008

In the previous post on Psalms 1 and 2, I concluded that, when read together, both emphasize the Lord will judge the wicked, but those who “kiss” (“pay homage to,” NASB) the Son will be blessed. Having meditated more on the idea of “kissing” the Son, I would like to point out two ways in which one may kiss the Son of God. This occurred to me over dinner as my wife and I were reading through Luke’s account of Jesus’ betrayal.

You can either kiss the Son like Judas:

“While he [Jesus] was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?'” (Luke 22:47-48).  

OR, you can kiss the Son like the woman of the city:

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he [Jesus] was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” [Answer: THE SON, in whom we may take refuge!!] And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:37-50).

With what kind of kiss, therefore, do you come to the Son: a kiss of betrayal; or a kiss which pays homage to the Judge of the universe, who alone aquits the sinner?

Psalm 1, Psalm 2, or both?

March 7, 2008

Many times over we read the Psalms, each of them, one at a time. Perhaps, we have a favorite Psalm we run to in times of trouble or fear, and there we find great confidence in a great God who is our strong tower and our place of refuge and strength. At other times, maybe we recite them in the assembly together, or put music to one in particular that we might sing them to and over one another. Without question, these are excellent ways to read the Psalms; indeed, reading them period is a wonderful blessing!

Yet, have we ever considered reading them in a different manner, perhaps as a whole corpus with each contributing to a larger picture? Sure, they find themselves in a different genre of literature in comparison to an Old Testament narrative; but does this mean we must read each, one at a time, only, without at the same time meditating on how they may all function together? Is there a reason, a purpose, behind the order in which we, the covenant community, the true Israel, read them? What may their unified message be to us?

These questions I ask, because over the past two weeks I have been reading and re-reading Psalms 1 and 2 from the Hebrew text, and I cannot get over how many verbal and thematic links there are between the two. It is a bit harder to see them in some English translations, but this does not mean you can’t see them at all. Hopefully they will become even more obvious to you shortly and as you continue to read them for yourselves. I will only point out a few links here in an attempt to encourage you to read the Psalms not only individually (as sweet as this is), but also as a whole book.

Notice that Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 both lack a superscription (i.e. the small letters telling us of the historical situation to which the particular Psalm is related), something that is rather common to the numerous others following them. Could it be that they do not contain such superscriptions because the reader is to read them together? In other words, are we as readers not to immediately connect Psalm 2 with anything else except what was just mentioned in Psalm 1? I think the remainder of our observations say, “Yes, read them together.”

Notice that Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man…”, and Psalm 2 ends with “Blessed are all…”. This two phrase form what is often called an inclusio. That is, there is a repetition of a unique feature that frames, or brackets, a portion of Scripture so helping us to zero in on the overarching picture. In this case, the righteous man “does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers” (Ps 1:1). What does he do? He takes refuge in the Son (Ps 2:12).

Notice that the destruction of the wicked are highlighted in Psalms 1 and 2, but from different angles. In Psalm 1, we see that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” (1:5a) and that “the way of the wicked will perish” (1:6b). Thus, by the end of Psalm 1 we understand there to be a divine resolve to finally and justly punish the wicked. It is no wonder, then, why such a question is raised at the beginning of Psalm 2: “Why are the nations restless, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed!” (2:1-2). If God promises to punish the wicked, then why are the nations permitted to come against him and his annointed? And, we would be right to ask the question based on Psalm 1.

Notice, however, that Psalm 2 deals with the wicked in congruity with Psalm 1. It agrees with the resolve of Psalm 1 in that the Lord laughs and scoffs at those who attempt to come against him (2:4). What is more, the king, God’s Son, which he installed on Zion will shatter them to pieces with a rod of iron. Thus, one must serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, and kiss the Son; otherwise, he will be angry and that person will perish in the wayboth words used in 1:6b.

Notice that Psalm 1 reveals the characteristics of the ideal king to which Deuteronomy 17 refers. He does not participate in wickedness, but delights in and meditates on the Law of the Lord. Because the Law of the Lord gives him counsel and directs his ways, such a righteous king does not sit in the seat of scoffers (2:1). Where then does he sit? Psalm 2 resounds: “he who sits in heaven laughs” (2:4). The righteous king of Psalm 1 sits in heaven, rightly judging the nations from his majestic throne.

Notice: If Psalm 1 refers to a righteous king, who appropriately exercises the kingship laid out in Deuteronomy 17, and who abides in close relationship with the Lord by following his Law and being known by him, could it be that Psalm 2 tells us, even identifies who this mighty king might be? Surely it does: this king is the Lord’s annointed, the one installed on Zion, the one of whom he is pleased to say, “This is my Son, today I have begotten you!” The New Testament writers pick this up and without blinking identify such a king with Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

Now, the aim of these few observations among MANY others in the first two Psalms, I pray, at least motivates you to read your Bible. And, in doing so, I pray they stimulate you in thinking of the Psalms not merely on an individual basis, but also in relationship with one another. Just think, these first two Psalms serve as the introduction; there is a great deal more the remaining 148 show us concerning this King. But know this, two truths have already been made clear: (1) the Lord and his anointed will judge the wicked; and (2) those who kiss the Son, who take refuge in him, they will be blessed.