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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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.

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?

Bavinck on Believing what Special Revelation Teaches about General Revelation. Or, why I believe God created all things in six days.

Bavinck begins his discussion of revelation with the accurate observation that all religion is built upon revelation. There is no religion without revelation. Biblical religion is built upon two forms of revelation, generally identified as general and special revelation. General revelation is what is “clearly seen” by all men—God’s eternal power and divine nature demonstrated in creation and history (Rom. 1:20). Nature tells us that God is God. It does not, however, tell us how we are to be reconciled to God. For that man is in need of God’s special revelation. Special revelation “is that conscious act of God, by which he, in the way of a historical complex of special means (theophany, prophecy, and miracle) that are concentrated in the person of Christ, makes himself known” (p. 350). This special revelation continues today through Scripture.

What I particularly enjoyed about Bavinck’s treatment of general and special revelation was the connection he drew between the two. For the past century biblical Christianity has been under rather constant pressure to abandon belief in a 6-day creation by the word God. While mainline denominations quickly acquiesced, conservative Christians sought more creative ways to incorporate Darwin into Genesis. Prominent among these innovations was the gap theory popularized by the Scofield reference Bible. Other popular alternatives to the traditional interpretation of Genesis are the day-age theory and the literary framework theory.

Bavinck does an excellent job of addressing the importance of accepting the biblical account of creation:

The work of God outward began with the creation. The creation is the first revelation of God, the beginning and foundation off all subsequent revelation. The biblical concept of revelation is rooted in that of creation. God first appeared outwardly before his creatures in the creation and revealed himself to them. In creating the world by his word and making it come alive by his Spirit, God already delineated the basic contours of all subsequent revelation. But immediately linking up with the event of creation is the action of providence. This, too, is an omnipotent and everywhere-present power and act of God. All that happens is, in a real sense, a work of God and to the devout a revelation of his attributes and perfections.

Any plain reading of Scripture gives the clear impression that God creates the universe and all that is in it instantly by his powerful word (Gen. 1:1-2:1; Ps. 33:6, 9; 148:1-5; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5, that he did so in six days (Gen 1:1-2:1; Ex. 20:11; 31:17; Heb. 4:3-4), and that it was not millions of years ago. In his treatment of creation and our understanding of it, Bavinck is doing the same thing the author of Hebrews does in chapter 11 of his work.

Hebrews 11, of course, is the great chapter of faith: the word is used 26 times in 40 verses. What should not be missed in Hebrews 11 is the organic nature of faith. The faith that draws near to God is the same faith that believes he made everything by his word is the same faith that invigorates obedience is the same faith that leads to inheritance of eternal reward. Faith does these things and it does all these things.

So what fossil that you see is so stunning that it that is causes you to question a conviction of things not seen?

What theory or argument or explanation is so persuasive that it causes you to lose the assurance of things hoped for?

What does Scripture teach about God that causes you to believe he could not have created all things instantly by his word 6-10 thousand years ago? Is he not powerful enough? Not wise enough? Not good enough? “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17). Is it just too hard to believe that God could have done what the Bible appears to teach he did and what the church for centuries taught that he did? Is this too hard for God?

Indeed, creation is “the beginning and foundation of all subsequent revelation.” So when you deny that Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, and Hebrews mean what they say, do not be surprised when your children deny that the Gospels and Romans mean what they say. Do not be surprised when your grandchildren deny any meaning to Scripture. By faith the people of old received their commendation (Heb. 11:2). By lack of faith people of today receive their condemnation.

On Singing Psalms

A few weeks ago I happened across an online conversation about music and “blended” worship. It was a somewhat typical litany of misinformation and pronounced individual autonomy, accompanied by a complete failure to grasp or articulate the real issues at hand. As is often the case, Scripture took the most abuse. Trying to rise above the fray, one man wrote that fundamentalists had to decide if the Bible really was sufficient and that people add too many restrictions to music that the Bible does not make explicit. In other words, if you cannot show me a Bible verse don’t bother me with your opinion.

Such sentiment sounds quite noble, especially to Baptists who claim the Bible alone is the sole authority for their life and practice. Unfortunately, it is completely meaningless coming from most contemporary Christians, including many fundamentalists and evangelicals.

The evangelical church in America cares very little for what the Bible says about music and this is demonstrated every week in the songs they sing and, more importantly, the songs they do not sing.

The Bible is a wonderfully diverse work. Sparkling as a multi-faceted diamond, Scripture has history, narrative, proverbs, prophecy, and poetry. Yet the largest book of all is its book of songs: Psalms. So important is song to Scripture, that not even the Psalter is enough to contain the praise. We find songs throughout the Bible, interestingly enough the song of Moses is both the first and last song found in Scripture (Ex 15:1; Rev. 15:3). Since Jews formed the early majority of the church it is not surprising that the Psalms and other Scriptures were the main source of song in early worship. As the church spread east and west, north and south, that godly tradition continued across land, time, and language. In fact, the very first book published on this continent was the Bay Psalter: Psalms for singing in the worship services of the pilgrims and puritans. But somewhere in the foggy, not too distant past, our fathers decided that God’s Word was not fit for singing.

I have spent 30 years in Bible-believing churches. I spent 4 years at a fundamental Bible college, and three years at a fundamental seminary. In all that time I do not recall ever singing a Psalm. How is it that the church can throw off thousands of years of worship history, completely ignore the repeated command of Paul to sing Psalms, and then have the audacity to claim to care what the Bible says about music and worship?

When will we find the answers to all our questions about music and worship? The answers must begin with an acknowledgment of the true problem: apostasy. The fundamental/evangelical church is a product of believers who abandoned loyalties and affections held for centuries by the body of Christ. To not sing the Scriptures in public worship of God is a sin. When we are broken over this sin– the sin of completely ignoring God’s Word at the very time it is needed most– when the gravity of it begins to break our spirits, then perhaps God will be gracious enough to pour out the health of His Spirit and bind our wounds. Until then, let us stop pretending we care what the Bible says about music.