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.

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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.

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 7: The Equality and Inequality of the Father and Son & Prayer

Sermon 7 marks a transition to a new area of debate: “whether the Son and the Father have the same power and might, whether they are of the same essence” (7).[1] As mentioned previously, the Anomoeans were Arians so they denied that the Father and Son were consubstantial.[2] Chrysostom has already been laying groundwork for his arguments in previous sermons, but now this subject gets his full attention.

The arguments of Chrysostom are pretty straight-forward; it is the same line of reasoning used by many today. Jesus has the same nature as the Father because he is begotten of the Father (8-10). Things begotten have the same nature as their begetter. Trees beget trees. Dogs beget dogs. Man begets man. God begets God. While Chrysostom will address objections of the Anomoeans, he does not address the problems inherent in our conception of begetting: namely, that something begotten must have a beginning.

The preacher does recognize a somewhat related argument however: Jesus is a son and so are we so there must not be any difference between us. Chrysostom responds that even though we are called sons of God, he is the only begotten Son. We are adopted, but he is begotten (11-12). Because Jesus is the only begotten, he shares in the glory and substance of the Father so Jesus says things like:

  • Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9
  • I and the Father are one. John 10:30
  • For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. John 5:21
  • that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
  • My Father is working until now, and I am working. John 5:17

Chrysostom anticipates the Scriptural objection his foes will raise: there are multiple passages that demonstrate the Son is lower than the Father. For example, the fact that the Son prays to the Father shows he does not have the same power (14-15). Chrysostom gives four main reasons for this phenomenon of Scripture.

First, the incarnation (16-17). Jesus had to demonstrate that he was true man. As a man Jesus was completely dependent upon the Father. If Christ did not demonstrate that he was true man, what hope could man have for his salvation?

Second, the inability of his hearers to comprehend the truth (18-26). This idea of Jesus’ condescension to his hearers is a destructive weapon in the hands of liberal critics of the Scripture, but Chrysostom handles it well. Over and over again, the foes and disciples of Jesus responded with wonder, anger, disgust, and revulsion to Jesus’ “more sublime words” (18). Had Christ simply appeared on the scene teaching and only taught the deeper spiritual truths about his identity, he would have quickly lost all hearers.

Third, to teach humility (27). As the preacher states,

If someone is teaching humility of heart, he does this not only by what he says but by what he does. He is moderate in both word and deed. Christ said: “Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart.”

Fourth, to make clear that God is not a monad (28). The truth of the Trinity is multifaceted and incomprehensible. As has been said, try to understand it and you will lose your mind; deny it and you will lose your soul. Had Jesus only taught his unity with the Father, it would have been even easier to fall into the belief that there is only one person in God. Even with the mixed testimony of Scripture, Sabellius found enough to teach that the Father and Son are not two distinct persons. Without the teaching about Christ’s humility, it would be even easier to fall into this heresy.

The remainder of the sermon is devoted to a fuller explanation of how the incarnation “lowered” the Son to a place of prayer (34-54). For this, Chrysostom devotes his attention to the apostle John’s account of the last supper and Jesus’ prayer in the garden.

The sermon is concluded with another exhortation on prayer (55-64).

Surely, prayer is a harbor for those caught in a storm; it is an anchor for those tossed by the waves; it is a staff for those who stumble. Prayer is a treasure for the poor, security for the rich, a cure for the sick, a safeguard for those in good health. It keeps our blessing inviolable and quickly changes our ills to good. If temptation comes, it is easily repelled. If loss of possessions or any of the other things which cause grief to our souls befall us, prayer is quick to drive them all away. Prayer is a refuge from every sorrow, a basis for cheerfulness, a means for continual pleasure, a mother for our philosophy and way of life. (61)


[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] See post on sermon 4

Job 17:3: An Advent Prayer?

My scheduled Bible reading took me through Job 17 today.  I am using the NIV for my “read-through” this year and was struck by verse 3:

Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?

Given the time of year, I immediately was impressed that Job had offered a succinct Advent prayer.  Here, the man of faith buffeted by an unleashed Satan pleads for the only help he knows is worth having: God Himself.

Already in Job it is apparent that he and his “friends” were quite familiar with the idea of total depravity:

Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?  (4:17)

Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? (9:2)

Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.  (14:1-4)

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!  (15:14-16)

How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure?
Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes;
how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm! (24:5-6)

A theology of sin in Job must center on these teachings: no man is pure, right, or able to stand before God.  Instead, man is unclean, abominable, corrupt, a maggot and a worm.  If God is incomparably righteous and man is incurably wicked, the only hope for man is one which God Himself must provide.  If man is to meet the righteous demand of God, God Himself must somehow provide the pledge He demands.  Hence Job’s prayer for the provision of Christ: the surety of a better covenant.

But is this what Job is really praying for?