Thoughts on Psalm 32

Last week’s prayer meeting was an exercise in praying through Psalm 32. Psalm 32 begins with a statement of fact: true blessing is found in a relationship with the Lord unhindered by sin. Psalm 32 ends with the worshiper’s personal enjoyment of that fact.

Some things that stuck out to me:

To enjoy fellowship with the Lord you must have your sins covered (1). But to have your sins covered, you must uncover them before the Lord (5). God does not put away what you do not give to Him.

When you uncover your sins before the Lord only to have Him cover them again (through the forgiveness in His Son), you enjoy the freedom to hide in Him (7).

What a tender thought: the Lord plays hide and seek.

Every day you have a choice: “Where will I find my security?” Every day you can wrap yourself up in the clutches of sin: seeking to shield yourself from God, others, and even yourself. Living life hidden behind a fig leaf.

Or you can tell God what he already knows anyway (5). You can uncover yourself before Him and be clothed in the righteousness of His Lamb. You can seek; and find; and hide (6-7).

Stop hiding from God.

Hide in Him.

Beginning Anew

Last night we held our first prayer meeting at the church I pastor. Not Bible Study and Prayer. Not even Prayer and Bible Study. Just prayer.

But we are not exactly flying blind. Before praying we took turns reading Psalm 32 aloud. For the prayer time I would again read 1-2 verses of the Psalm and then we would pray as those verses led us to. (See Learning to Pray through the Psalms.)

We still have mid-week Bible Study. This is just for prayer.

So what will happen because of this? What will be the result? I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Which is pretty much what has been going on the past four years.

But I’m praying the Lord make me a praying pastor. And that He makes our church a praying church. If that happens, we will at least have Him: which is the most we could look forward to.

Psalm 97 Some Thoughts on Structure

Psalm 97 is in the midst of the Enthronement Psalms (93-99). At the beginning (93:1) middle (96:10; 97:1) and end (99:1) of the unit is the declaration, “The Lord reigns.” His throne is an eternal throne (93:2). He is the judge of the earth (94:2). He is the great King above all gods (95:3; 97:9) who is greatly to be praised (96:4). His sanctuary is one of splendor and majesty (96:6) where he is worshipped as King with trumpets and horns (98:6).

The simplest way to divide Psalm 97 is right in half.[1] Artur Weiser sees verses 1-6 describing the theophany of the Lord while verses 7-12 describe the results of that theophany. Such a division is true to the text and I would only make the very modest revision of identifying verses 1 and 12 as prescript and postscript enjoining praise to the appearing Lord.

More commentators see three divisions in the text. W. Stewart McCollough and James L. Mays identify 1-5; 6-9; 10-12 as sections while Mitchell Dahood follows the same but includes verse 6 with the first instead of second section.

Willem VanGemeren goes a step further and sees a four-part chiastic structure of:

A: The revelation of YHWH’s glory (1-6)

B: Exhortation to worship (7)

B’: Zion’s Worship (8-9)

A’: The effects of  YHWH’s glorious rule (10-12)

As far as the over-all structure I think Weiser’s fits best with what is going on the text. Yet seeing the evident symmetry of verses 1 and 12 I pursued the possibility of a more developed chiastic structure and arrived at the following:

1  The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

2  Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3  Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.

4  His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
5  The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.

6  The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.

7  All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

8  Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice,  because of your judgments, O LORD.

9  For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10  O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints;
he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11  Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

12  Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Some brief notes concerning the pairings:

Verses 1+12 A call to rejoice in the Lord

Verses 2+11 Contrast of light and darkness; righteousness is foundation of Lord’s throne and light and joy are given to the righteous

Verses 3+10 The Lord destroys his adversaries and protects his saints

Verses 4,5+9 All the earth trembles before the Lord who is exalted over all the earth

Verses 6+8 Heaven proclaims and the righteous hear

Verse 7 Worship the true Lord

 Some issues with this structure:

The pairing of verses 4 and 5. I kept these two verses together because of the shared themes of “the world,” “the earth,” “all the earth;” and the similar ideas of “trembling” and “melt like wax.”

It is very tempting to make verses 7 and 8 as the joint-center since they contrast the response of the wicked and the righteous to the appearing of the Lord.


[1] Marvin Tate also sees two divisions, but identifies them as 1-9 and 10-12.

Who is God? An Outline of the Theology of Psalm 71

God is:

My Rock (71:3)
My Fortress (71:3)
My God (71:4, 12, 22)
My Hope (71:5)
My Trust (71:5)
My Strong Refuge (71:7)

 

In righteousness:

The LORD delivers and rescues (71:2)
Acts (71:15)
Helps (71:24)

 

The LORD’s righteousness:

Is his alone (71:16)
Reaches to the heavens (71:19)

 

The LORD’s deeds:

Are righteous acts of salvation (71:15)
Are mighty (71:16)
Are wondrous (71:17)

 

The LORD will:

Revive me (71:20)
Comfort me (71:21)

 

So I will:

Hope continuously (71:14)
Praise increasingly (71:14)
Tell of his righteous acts and salvation (71:15)
Tell of his righteousness (71:16)
Praise him with harp (71:22)
Sing praise with the lyre (71:22)
Shout for joy (71:23)
Talk of his righteous help (71:24)

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
Psalm 71:19

Psalm 21: A song of Praise to the Father for raising His Son

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief,
they will not succeed.
For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.

In keeping with the previous post, and in an attempt to see everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, I read Psalm 21 as fitting words of praise offered to God on the occasion of the resurrection of Christ.

What was Jesus doing on Saturday after the Crucifixion?

I am thankful for my Dispensational upbringing. I am thankful that I went to a Bible college and seminary where my professors believed the word of God and encouraged their students to pay attention to the text and go where the text leads.

And I believe those very reasons contributed to why I no longer consider myself a dispensationalist. As I have studied, I just have not seen Scripture interpreting itself with all the quirks, limitations, and idiosyncrasies of dispensationalism. Jesus is the point of Scripture: not dispensations, not the church, not Israel. Seeing Jesus as the point of Scripture has been for me like being one of those two on the road to Emmaus. My heart is set aflame as the Scriptures are opened.

I encourage you to seek to make Jesus the point of Scripture. What might that look like?

Psalm 142 begins with the inscription “A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.” We know that Jesus is the Son of David in whom all the promises of God are yes. Taking the apostolic example of taking David’s words and applying them to Jesus (Acts 2:29-31), let us consider reading Psalm 142 as a prayer of David’s great Son from the cave of his tomb. Read these words as the voice of Jesus on Saturday of Holy Week:

A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me;
No refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Praise be to God that he heard the prayer of his Son.

Bavinck on the Omnipresence of God and if God is always present why is he sometimes far away?

He is not “somewhere,” yet he fills heaven and earth. He is not spread throughout space, like light and air, but is present with his whole being in all places. . . . There is no place or space that contains him; hence, instead of saying that he is in all things, it would be better to say that all things are in him. Yet this is not to be understood to mean that he is the space in which all things are located, for he is not a place. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, II.4)

In his discussion about the omnipresence of God, Bavinck offers a good reminder: a caution to help guide out thinking. God’s omnipresence is not just a function of his bigness. God is not everywhere simply because he is bigger than all things.

For a good portion of the day the sun shines on both Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon. Yet while the sun is shining in both places at the same time, it is never present equally and simultaneously in both places. God’s presence is not like this. God is everywhere, and he is wholly everywhere.

But Bavinck is honest with the evidence and with our own experience. While God is present everywhere, his presence is multi-form and variously manifested. Was God not in the wilderness before he indwelt the tabernacle? Had he been absent from Jerusalem before Solomon’s dedicatory prayer of the temple? Did Ezekiel really see God leave Jerusalem and leave it void of his presence until an itinerant teacher from Galilee entered its courts to cleanse it? So Bavinck is right to go on to say, “…in another sense God is present in his creatures in different ways. There is a difference between his physical and his ethical immanence. To suggest an analogy: people too, may be physically very close to each other, yet miles apart in spirit and outlook.”

So what explains this experience? If God is present everywhere, why are there times he seems close and others when he seems far? The second century Greek apologist Theophilus provides an answer:

All men have eyes, but some have eyes which are hooded by cataracts and do not see the the light of the sun. Just because the blind do not see, however, the light of the sun does not fail to shine; the blind must blame themselves and their eyes. So you also, O man, have cataracts over the eyes of your soul because of your sins and wicked deeds.

Just as a man must keep a mirror polished, so he must keep his soul pure. When there is rust on a mirror, a man’s face cannot be seen in it; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot see God. So show yourself to me. Are you not an adulterer? a fornicator? a thief? a swindler? a robber? a [sodomite]? insolent? a reviler? quick-tempered? envious? a braggart? disdainful? a bully? avaricious? disobedient to parents? one who sells his children? God does not become visible to those who do such things unless they first cleanse themselves from all defilement.

All this brings darkness upon you, just as when a flux of matter comes over the eyes and they cannot see the light of the sun. So also, O man, your ungodliness brings darkness upon you and you cannot see God. (Ad Autolycum, I.2, Trans. Robert M. Grant)

A fitting commentary on Isaiah’s declaration in Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” God is everywhere, but he does not dwell with sinners. Light has no communion with darkness. Therefore James counsels, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8-10).

When you want to do something bad, you withdraw from the public and hide in your house where no enemy may see you; from those parts of the house that are open and visible you remove yourself to go into your own private room. But even here in your private chamber you fear guilt from some other direction, so you withdraw into your heart and there you meditate. But he is even more deeply inward than your heart. Hence, no matter where you flee, he is there. You would flee from yourself, would you? Will you not follow yourself wherever you flee? But since there is One even more deeply inward than yourself, there is no place where you may flee from an angered God except a God who is pacified. There is absolutely no place for you to flee to. Do you want to flee from him? Rather flee to him. (Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms)

“There is no place where you may flee from an angered God except a God who is pacified.” Ponder this simply amazing truth. The only refuge you have from the fierce wrath of God against you and your sin is the fierce justice of God offered to you in Christ and his righteousness. Do not flee God. Do not push him away. He is the only one that can save you from his consuming anger. The mercy that is in Christ is greater than the sin that is in you.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?