Friday, February 29, 2008

Introduction to Hermeneutics, Part 1 of 4: Reasons


The following material is adapted from what I am teaching in the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply ministry.
 

WHY WE SHOULD LEARN HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE

 

The Nature of the Bible

 

God has revealed Himself in creation (general revelation) and in the Bible (special revelation).  The Bible is needed to understand the revelation of God in creation and to understand His character, our identity as people made in His image yet who are sinners deserving eternal punishment, the redemption accomplished by Christ, the duty to repent and believe the Gospel, and how to live as children of God.  God has spoken, and has given us a Book.

 

The Bible is God's Word and it – not man's changing opinion – gives life (1 Pet. 1:23) and gives people the knowledge needed for salvation in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15).

 

Observe what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) teaches about the Bible:

 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable

            For       teaching,

For       reproof,

For       correction, and

For       training in righteousness

so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

The Bible does not need to be "made" relevant – it is already relevant, and we need to know it. 

 

The Bible contains no errors (Matt. 22:29).  It is trustworthy and reliable.

 

As God's Word, the Bible comes with the authority of God.  What it teaches us to believe, we must believe.  What it teaches us to do, we must obey.  Therefore, we ought to know what it teaches us to believe and do if our faith and practice are to be in submission to the authority of God.

 

The Command of God

 

God commands preachers to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2), not their opinions or ideas.

 

God calls us to be experts in this Book.  You don't have to be an expert in culture, sports, psychology, or economics – but a preacher is called to know the Bible well so that he can rightly handle God's Word (2 Tim. 2:15).

 

The Need of Preachers and People

 

We need God's Word for our own souls and so that we can share it faithfully and fruitfully with those to whom we minister (1 Tim. 4:16).  Our preaching only has God's authority if it is grounded in a faithful presentation of God's message in the Bible.  Otherwise, we become the authority.  Sound hermeneutics is the foundation for sound preaching.  Like it or not, you are an example to others.  Our sermons and lessons need to model sound hermeneutics for others to learn from and learn by, because they will learn their hermeneutics from the preachers they listen to.

 

Upcoming posts:

PART 2 - Prerequisites for Bible Study

PART 3 - Tools for Bible Study

PART 4 - Approaches to Bible Study

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review - The Literary Study Bible

(I considered reviewing this resource, but why re-invent the wheel when someone else has already said well what you would have said? Jason Button recently reviewed the Literary Study Bible at SharperIron and on his blog and he gave me permission to post his review here. I heartily agree with his assessment and highly recommend this resource for all students of God's Word. - DS)

---

The Literary Study Bible. Edited by Leland Ryken & Philip Graham Ryken. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Jacketed Hardcover, 1,913 pages. $49.99.

reviewed by Jason Button

(Review copy courtesy of Crossway Books.)

Purchase: Crossway Books | CBD | WTS | Amazon

ISBNs: 1581348088 / 9781581348088

Download a 16-page brochure (1.3MB PDF) with sample pages and a longer explanation of features. Browse the notes and learn more at the official website.

The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible is being adopted by much of Evangelicalism, and some fundamentalists are beginning to use it, too. I have used this text for about five years now and have come to prefer it for a number of reasons. I realize that the issue of translations is important, and I must admit that the ESV is not a perfect translation. As all translations have their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, even so the ESV has its strengths and weaknesses. All in all, the ESV is a very readable translation. In my opinion, it is an improvement over the NASB when it comes to memorization. However, it is beyond the scope of this review to present a thorough evaluation of the translation philosophy of the ESV. Rather, I would like to focus on the structure and content of the ESV Literary Study Bible edition.

Personally, I’m not much of a fan of study Bibles. I have hundreds of commentaries in my study to help me with interpretational issues, and I’d rather they be separate from my Bible. My preferred Bible is one that has plenty of margin space and cross-references. However, I realize that most people are not like me and that study Bibles are very useful to the general populace of Christians.

As useful as study Bibles are, there are a few things that concern me. First, they tend to be bulky and heavy. Second, many are extremely cluttered—some being “overcooked” with graphics and pictures. Third, the notes, as good as they may be, tend to distract the reader from the text.

The publishers of the Literary Study Bible have had to address these issues and others, and it is worth discussing the direction they have decided to take.

Content

The text of this study Bible is a combination of the English Standard Version (Crossway Bibles, 2001, ESV Text Edition: 2007) of the Bible and selected content from Ryken’s Bible Handbook (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005). These two have been edited together by the father-and-son team of Leland and Philip Graham Ryken.

Notable Features

At the outset, the reader will notice that the text block is not the “standard” double columns, but a single column. This was a challenge to get used to, at first, but I was more than willing to work with it for the simple fact that this is ideal when you come to poetical passages. I’ve been studying the book of Psalms and have been overjoyed to have a full view of each Psalm in poetic structure with room enough for full lines.

One feature I missed, at first, was the lack of cross-references. To me, I expected this to be a staple feature for a study Bible. However, without the cross-references, the reader eyes are kept on the text block which is a major goal of this study Bible.

The back of the Bible lacks a concordance, index, and maps. Rather, there is an extensive glossary of literary terms and genres, a list of weights and measures, and daily reading plan charts.

To these features (or lack thereof), one will notice a lengthy introduction to each book of the Bible. Each introduction begins with “The book at a glance.” This is an overview, which gives a number of chapters and verses, summarizes the genre, purpose, and theme(s) of the book. Following this initial paragraph are a handful of sections that deal with topics such as “Genres,” a chart indicating the major divisions in the book, “Inferred Literary Intentions,” and “Theological Themes.” The introduction always concludes with a discussion of the book’s position in “the master story of the Bible.”

As you begin to read, you’ll find a shaded box of notes to introduce the section to follow. The notes include a simple title to the section, simple explanation of the storyline and/or the progression of the argument. Subsections are identified, and varying genres and literary devices are noted so that the reader is made ready to read with alertness and anticipation. It must be noted that these notes, at times, will advance a particular interpretation. This cannot be avoided, even when trying to identify genres and explain figures of speech. However, the notes are minimal and, just as you should consider the notes in a typical study Bible, these should be taken for what they are in contrast to the authoritative Word of God. They are merely men’s thoughts. Most of the notes are very helpful; few may have to be excused or amended.

Purpose

So, why these features and not others? What’s the purpose of yet another study Bible? I’m tempted to say that the plan for this edition is ingenious. It is, and then again it isn’t. Either way the purpose is RIGHT ON! The major purpose of this study Bible is to encourage people to read the Bible. Yes, TO READ THE BIBLE. Now you see why I think this purpose is ingenious or clever. Who would have thought of producing a study Bible that emphasizes the text rather than the notes? Well, that’s what I’ve found this study Bible to be.

From the introductory notes to the sectional notes; to the single column text; to the color of the paper; to the font size; to the lack of cross-references, concordance, indices, and maps; to the inclusion of a Bible reading plan—the reader is encouraged and helped in the task of reading the Bible. Really, this is what many of us struggle with and what many of us need help doing.

A new year has come, and this is the time when many Christians make a new resolution to do more Bible reading. One-year Bibles are nice, but limited in their usefulness. Here’s a better solution! Begin the New Year with The Literary Study Bible. It has rejuvenated my interest in reading the Bible like I had not imagined. The ESV text alone rejuvenated my interest years ago. Now I have a copy that is attractive, well-planned, and well-laid out. It also includes plenty of space to jot notes and cross-references.

The literary notes are extremely helpful in breaking open difficult passages. The more you read and the more you pick up on the literary elements of each passage, the better a reader you will become and the more you will enjoy what you are reading. What better Masterpiece of literature to enjoy than the eternal Word of God!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don’t Ignore the Context: Paul's Instructions for Women Teaching

I have been ransacking hermeneutics books for the last several months for classes I have taken and some lessons I am teaching. I often find a mixed bag. One of the standard works on genres that I have found helpful is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. It has many helpful guidelines and points for looking at the different types of writings in the Bible. But it has its flaws as well - some of them serious. The recommended commentary section fails to warn readers of that some writers on their lists have a liberal bias (a necessary warning when marketing to a wide audience, as is the case with this book).

Another red flag occurs in an instance where the writers illustrate a guideline that is generally helpful (cultural differences between our time and the first century, some of which are not always obvious), but unhelpfully ignore the particulars of the immediate context of the text under consideration. Fee and Stuart write:

For example, to determine the role of women in the twenty-first-century church, one should take into account that there were few educational opportunities for women in the first century, whereas such education is the expected norm in our society. This may affect our understanding of such texts as 1 Timothy 2:9-15. (Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002], 84.)

This sounds plausible on the surface, but notice the text (bold emphasis added by me):

1 Timothy 2 (ESV)

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

The “for” in verse 13 indicates that Paul is about to give the reason for the command he just gave. Paul grounds his instruction in the order of creation – something that transcends culture, education, and the time period we live in. He is basically saying, “I don’t let a woman teach men because Adam was made first and he was not deceived, but Eve was deceived.” Nothing here about educational opportunities. Just a statement of what happened in Genesis and a doctrine and practical application from it. As counter-cultural is this is for us today, this is God's Word and God's teaching, not just some crazy idea Paul had. The Spirit of God inspired him to write this. There are examples of things that will look different today because of the cultural context (greeting one another with a holy kiss, for example). But something tied so closely to the order of creation is not one of them. The roles of men and women are clearly connected to the creation. Direct implications for the local church still exist. It amazes me that the authors did not even bring the content of verse 13 and 14 into the discussion. Bad example.

So, beware of hermeneutical fallacies everywhere, even in hermeneutics textbooks. Culture is important. But don’t read too much into cultural differences, especially to the point that it makes you blind to the immediate literary context (the words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. surrounding the passage under study) of the text itself, which couldn’t be clearer in this case.

--

Note: I hope to review several hermeneutics books in the future, hopefully in some sort of comparative format. At this point, the best single introduction to hermeneutics that I have found is Dan Doriani’s Getting the Message (P&R, 1996).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Review - Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

Goldsworthy, Graeme. Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007. Jacketed Hardcover, 341 pp. (Review copy courtesy of InterVarsity Press.) Table of Contents Excerpts: PDF Introduction: Can hermeneutics be saved? PDF 1. The necessity for hermeneutics Graeme Goldsworthy (Th.M. & Ph.D., UTS Virginia) is a retired lecturer at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. His other books include Prayer and the Knowledge of God (IVP, 2005), According to Plan (IVP, 1991; 2002), Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Eerdmans, 2000), Gospel & Kingdom, The Gospel in Revelation, and The Gospel and Wisdom. These last three titles have been reprinted as The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Paternoster, 2001) Is there a key to interpreting the Bible? What should our basic presuppositions for hermeneutics be? What do we need to take into consideration when we approach the exegesis and interpretation of the Bible?

Description

Graeme Goldsworthy argues that the gospel is the hermeneutical key to the Scriptures and reality. In this book, he considers the basic foundations of proper biblical interpretation. His book is divided into three major sections. He lays some ground rules, shows faulty structures that deserve to be torn down, and suggests how we should rebuild in their place.

Section one, “Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics” (chapters 1-4), looks at the foundations of hermeneutics, particularly the basic presuppositions that support a proper approach. In this section, the author stresses the importance of the doctrines of grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, faith alone, and the Trinity. He also deals with the effect of the fall upon the human mind and the significance of the role of the risen Christ as mediator.

The second section, “Challenges to Evangelical Hermeneutics” (chapters 5-12), surveys the history of interpretation and the problems of faulty presuppositions and approaches. The author admits that he relied on secondary sources for this section, in order “to show some of the reactions and evaluations occurring in recent scholarly comment, particularly by evangelicals” so that we can “see how the various trends in hermeneutical theory have troubled and exercised the critical judgment of evangelicals” (p. 87). From allegorical interpretation in the early church to Enlightenment rationalism, postmodern “reader-response” approaches, and even evangelical pragmatism, the author relentlessly sifts through approaches that have eclipsed the gospel. He shows that liberals do not have a monopoly on the eclipse of the gospel, but many approaches adopted in conservative quarters have also obscured its clarity, including literalist and subjective approaches. He argues that a “proper grammatico-historical exegesis stems from the fact of the incarnation” (p. 99).

The final section, “Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics” (chapters 13-19), gives Goldsworthy’s prescription for a hermeneutical approach that is faithful to the Bible and therefore centered upon the gospel. Goldsworthy advocates “typology as a method of relating the Testaments” that underlines “the perspective of both their unity and diversity” (p. 238) by asking every text “how it testifies to Jesus” (p. 252). An extensive chart demonstrates how a macrotypology of the Bible works (pp. 253-256). He deals with the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of gospel-centered interpretation and takes a look at the concept of contextualization, including considerations relevant for Bible translation. He includes practical suggestions for Bible study (such as reading plans, taking notes, and prayer) and lists resources for teaching sound hermeneutics to children.

Evaluation

I found this book to be stimulating and fascinating. At least three strong points distinguish this book. The book is stellar in focusing on Christ as the hermeneutic of Scripture and reality, whereas many standard (even “evangelical”) hermeneutics texts neglect the scriptural idea that Christ is the hermeneutical key (Luke 24:27, 44). It seems so obvious, but it has been so obviously forgotten: “the principles of hermeneutics are to be found within the Scriptures themselves” (p. 22). Goldsworthy also persuasively argues that our hermeneutical approach is part of our sanctification, the renewing of our minds, made possible by the gospel. The fall affected our minds and ability for correct interpretation, but Christ even died for this—to justify and sanctify us from our faulty hermeneutics. Finally, the author’s analysis of how the gospel has been eclipsed by flawed hermeneutical approaches is no pedantic exercise but a helpful warning of how quickly we can move from the approach to the Bible advocated by Christ Himself and that displays His gospel in all its clarity. Neither historical proximity to the time of the apostles nor an accumulation of centuries of knowledge are fail-safe measures to ensure proper interpretation; only a renewed mind submitted to the Scriptures will protect Bible-believing Christians from alien influences that undermine the gospel in their hermeneutics.

Goldsworthy addresses several practical concerns with helpful warnings. He warns that separating biblical theology from systematic theology puts one “on the road to liberalism” (p. 271). He warns that the more dynamic Bible translations tend to iron out its metaphors, obscuring the way the text was originally communicated (pp. 290, 293). He writes that “recourse to commentaries and other helps is best left until later rather than sooner in the process of dealing with a text” (p. 313).

Despite the strengths of the book, one should use this book with much discrimination.

First, this book is not a handbook on hermeneutics for the average person.

Its best use would be at the seminary and graduate level. Even then, it may not be a good choice for an introductory hermeneutics class. Its lengthy treatment of matters related to hermeneutical theory is helpful. The author gives some advice about putting theory to work, but the book lacks a comprehensive method for hermeneutics. I point this out, not to denigrate the book, but to help people like me who might assume by its title that it would contain a comprehensive method for its approach. I recommend reading it in thinking through hermeneutical theory, but if you must choose one book to help you interpret the Bible, this is not the one. To see a work designed more for the purpose of equipping one to practice the gospel-centered interpretation the author advocates, see his introduction to biblical theology titled According to Plan: the Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (IVP, 2002) or the shorter summary by Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (IVP, 2002 -- see my review here). (He does provide a brief overview the role of biblical theology in chapter 4 of this book.) The purpose of these works is to help one interpret the parts of the Bible in light of its big picture (something often neglected in hermeneutics texts), but are insufficient to equip one to deal with the various literary genres of Scripture.

Second, the reader should be aware of the author’s view on “literal” interpretation.

Goldsworthy classifies literalism as one of the culprits for the eclipse of the gospel in evangelicalism (p. 169ff.). While conceding that the incarnation required some literal fulfillment, he argues that the New Testament does not support a literal interpretation of Old Testament promises for the restoration of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple (p. 170). He asserts that the “one great hermeneutic divide that separated Jesus from the unbelieving Jews concerned this very issue of prophetic fulfillment . . . That the Old Testament Scriptures are, as he says, about him (John 5:39-47; 8:39-47, 56-58) must seriously qualify literalism, since Jesus (as Jesus) is not literally in the Old Testament” and adds that “the hermeneutical principle of the Old Testament could only be understood Christologically” (p. 170). As convincing as his arguments appear, some may counter that New Testament events do not decisively rule out a future literal fulfillment, particularly since the prophets often saw events of Christ’s first and second coming together, like peaks of a mountain range that look side by side from afar.

Related to these views on literal interpretation is Goldsworthy’s amillennial eschatology. “Instead of the expected glorious reign of the Christ in a renewed Jerusalem, we learn that the scepter of the risen Christ is the preached word that will be the focus of the worldwide missionary endeavor of the church . . . Pentecost is the demonstration that the millennium has begun, Satan is bound, and Christ reigns through his gospel” (pp. 224-225, cf. p. 82).

Third, the author should probably give more caution in his advice about utilizing critical scholarship.

He suggests that Fundamentalism desires a return to pre-critical exegetical methods (p. 138, cf. pp. 181-182), although he may be painting with a bit of a broad brush, as some fundamentalist seminaries do engage critical works and even recommend critical commentaries as resources. While Goldsworthy recognizes the problem “of the extent to which we can plunder the Egyptians without returning to the leeks and the garlic” (p. 138), it seems that a further caveat should be given. There is a time and place to engage such scholarship, but it is probably best done—with much caution—by the trained scholar or pastor.

Conclusion

In this book, Goldsworthy addresses key issues in regard to hermeneutics. It is a challenging and worthwhile read for the serious student (although a subject index could have increased its usefulness), but may not be the best choice for a stand-alone guide to hermeneutics.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

This review is revised from its original appearance at www.sharperiron.org.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Find a Library Book Near You

I recently stumbled across WorldCat.org. This is an excellent resource. Put in a title, subject, or author, and it shows what libraries the books appear in - in proximity to your location. They also have a way to add the search feature to the sidebar of your website or blog, which I have done. I think this will be an indispensable resource for research!

Mohler and Union

Please pray for Dr. Albert Mohler in light of his upcoming surgery (more details here). Also remember Union University in light of their recent devastation (updates here).

Better Than "Chicken Soup for the Seminarian's Soul"

I had planned to post links to articles helpful to seminarians/pastors/other students of God's Word, but I see that Justin Taylor ("Thinking About Seminary?") has already done so! He actually included all the links I had planned to, in addition to a couple of others (thanks, Justin!). So, I will quote from him below. These readings are helpful not just if you are thinking about seminary, but while you are in seminary. Having almost finished one year of seminary studies, I found it quite helpful to go back through some of the Warfield and Frame stuff.
B. B. Warfield: "Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. 'What!' is the appropriate response, 'than ten hours over your books, on your knees?'

John Frame: "Your very immersion in the Word of God can be a blessing, or it can be a curse. If you hear the Word in unbelief or indifference, and respond to it that way over and over again over several years, you will be much worse off spiritually as a result.

These are good reminders that theology should lead to doxology and godly living, and that we are not studying for our own sake but for the glory of God and the good of others. Take heed!

Here's Justin Taylor's post:

If you've thought about attending seminary, here are a few resources I've come across that you may want to consider. First, Owen Strachan--a former intern under Mark Dever and an assistant under Al Mohler--recently completed his MDiv at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is now a PhD student a Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the managing editor of the Henry Institute. He has written a helpful three-part series on the Seasons of a Seminarian (Beginning, Middle, End). Not everyone's experience will match Owen's, of course, but this is a helpful overview of the sort of things many experience in seminary. (There's also a helpful podcast interview with Owen related to this topic.)

In addition, I've found the following articles particularly helpful in the past for thinking about seminary and how to prepare for it:

B. B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological Students (1911).

John Frame, Learning at Jesus’ Feet: A Case for Seminary Training

John Frame, Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus

Reformed Theological Seminary’s pre-seminary reading list (short version and extended version)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Two Infallible Proofs that God Is Sovereign and Man Is Responsible

Some wrongly place the doctrine of an absolutely sovereign God in opposition to the idea that we are responsible for our actions. The Bible teaches us to believe both.

Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph was treated unjustly by his brothers – they sold him as a slave and deceived their father, Jacob, into thinking he was dead. He found himself as the chief servant of Potiphar, but then was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife (who had tried to seduce him) and landed in prison. In prison, Joseph met two of Pharoah’s servants, interpreted their dreams – one would die and one would be restored. The promise was made to remember Joseph before Pharoah, but forgotten for two years. Yet through all this, the Bible reminds us that the LORD was with Joseph (Gen. 39:2-3, 21, 23).

Finally, Pharoah dreamed two troubling dreams. Then the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. God enabled Joseph to interpret Pharoah’s dreams, which told of a coming famine. Pharoah promoted Joseph to second-in-command and God used him to preserve Egypt through the famine. But God also used Joseph to keep His promise to Abraham to make his descendents like the number of the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea.

But what does this portion of the Bible teach about divine sovereignty and human responsibility? It is encapsulated in Joseph’s observation to his brothers:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20 ESV)

Joseph’s brothers did wrong. They sinned. They meant evil. But God did not merely “allow” them to do this. It was part of His plan. They unknowingly were advancing the means of their own preservation. God “meant it for good.”

But the ultimate proof of the fact that God is sovereign and man is responsible is seen in the cross.

Notice the words of Peter:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know--this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)

Also, notice the prayer offered two chapters later:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:24-28 ESV)

The Scriptures are clear. God is sovereign and man is responsible. God predestined Jesus' death and yet it was wicked that He was crucified. How should we respond to these truths?

  1. Have faith in God. This God is sovereign and He is good. And He always wins. Our opposition is futile, and God is always faithful. We must trust Him.
  2. Take sin seriously. God’s sovereignty doesn’t negate the reality of sin. When we do wrong, it is still wrong, and we have this sovereign God to reckon with.
  3. Hope in God. These passages about Joseph and Jesus teach that those who suffer for righteousness do so according to the plan of God. Evildoers unwittingly accomplish God’s sovereign purpose.
  4. Marvel at the mystery of these two truths and praise God that He can take the wicked things we do and have had done to us and bring good out of them. The cross was the worst crime ever committed, from the standpoint of human responsibility. It was utterly reprehensible to treat the innocent Jesus in such a way. Yet it was God’s plan and out of the worst evil, He has brought the greatest good of glory for Himself and salvation for all who trust Him. Who else but God could do such a thing?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Announcements and a Recommendation

1. Due to some new ministry opportunities and responsibilities (teaching hermeneutics in the CAPS program; see here for more info.) and the fact that I am finite, I will probably be posting less frequently on this blog. I will try to post monthly at the least and probably more often, but not quite weekly. From time to time I will share or link to some of the material that I am teaching.

2. Ben Wright announces the opening of registration for the May Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I attended in September 2006, and this is still the single best pastoral ministry conference I know anything about - a refreshing, challenging, and instructive experience. I'm sure they have made it even better since I attended. I can't recommend it enough (for a summary of my experience, see here; for "live-blogging" covereage of a Weekender, see here)! Here's Ben's announcement and links to sign up:

So I'm looking forward to seeing a number of friends and meeting friends of friends at the March Weekender at CHBC. I think some of them registered after I posted this link back in January.

Registration for the May Weekender just opened about 43 minutes ago, and it's already filling up. Hope to see you then. Here's a link directly to the registration form.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prayer, Praise, and Piety in the Psalms

I would like to thank my friend Jason Button for his hard work in providing an excellent intro to the Psalms this month as a guest blogger. He has provided some very helpful resources. Here are links to all his posts in that series:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Praise in the Psalter

What is the chief end of the Psalter? We have considered the blessed life and have traveled a bit through the depths of lament, crying out to God for help, and have now reached the heights of gratitude and praise to God. As Arthur Jenks worded it, we have come from Beatitude to Allelujah!

In answering this question, lets consider the first catechism question "What is the chief end of man?" The Westminster Catechism answers, The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy God for ever.

This is what the Psalter teaches us! In the end our lives is to be a reflection of God’s glory. He has revealed himself to us in word and in deed—he has proclaimed who and what he is beginning with his name, YHWH, the eternal, self-existing One. From this we have seen his words to Moses.
Exodus 34:6-7 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Throughout the rest of Scripture we see the outworking of this creed along with his many mighty and gracious deeds. Just as the psalmists base their prayers on this creed and his various deeds, they also are moved to express praise and thanksgiving to God on the same basis.

You will notice this clearly in the concluding five psalms of the Psalter. Psalms 148-150 are a subset within this final set of Hallelujah Psalms. These are called Praise Ye Him psalms. This is the case because of the frequent repetition of this phrase.

What I would like to consider, as we conclude this short series on the Psalter, is the following question: What do the Psalms teach us about praise?

Psalm 148

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,

praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,

and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!

For he commanded and they were created.

6 And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,

you great sea creatures and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and mist,

stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Beasts and all livestock,

creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and maidens together,

old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,

praise for all his saints,

for the people of Israel who are near to him.

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Drawing from the final three psalms we can conclude the following:
  1. We are commanded to praise.
  2. We are commanded to praise the LORD (Him, His name).
    • The active verb occurs 75 times in the Psalms and its object is always God.
  3. The command to praise is universal.
    • From highest heaven to lowest earth.
    • From inanimate objects to animate objects
    • From highest ranking humans to the lowest classes of men
    • From the oldest to the youngest
      • See also Revelation 5:13 and 7:9f for more descriptions of universal worship.
  4. Praise is essentially vocal.
    • Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 cautions against hastiness in speaking before God. However, praise is unrestrained here in the Psalter.
    • Notice the synonymous terms for praise in Psalm 149:
      • Praise (1)
      • Sing (1)
      • Be glad (2)
      • Rejoice (2)
      • Praise...with dancing (3)
      • Make melody (3)
      • Let the high praises...be in their throats (6)
Psalm 149

1 Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise in the assembly of the godly!

2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;

let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

3 Let them praise his name with dancing,

making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;

he adorns the humble with salvation.

5 Let the godly exult in glory;

let them sing for joy on their beds.

6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats

and two-edged swords in their hands,

7 to execute vengeance on the nations

and punishments on the peoples,

8 to bind their kings with chains

and their nobles with fetters of iron,

9 to execute on them the judgment written!

This is honor for all his godly ones.

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Psalm 150 is the Grand Finale of the Psalter. As a magnificent fireworks display concludes with an abundance of lights, colors, and sounds determined to overwhelm the senses with awe, so this final psalm unfolds. You get a sense of this from the rapid repetition of praise in each line; Praise the LORD...Praise God...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...praise the LORD...Praise the LORD!

Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty heavens!

2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his excellent greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe!

5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Who? You! (1) & everything that has breath (6)

What should you do? Praise the LORD! (1)

Where should you praise him?

  • In the sanctuary (1)
  • In the mighty heavens (1)

Why should you praise him? Because of who he is and what he does. (2)

How should you praise him? (3-6)

  • With various instruments
  • Loudly (not timidly)
  • As though you want the whole world to hear you!
Let us be about the business of living the blessed life, praying and praising our God and Savior deliberately and without restraint! May the LORD help us!

Prayer in the Psalter

"Lord, teach us to pray..." (Luke 11:1)

In answer to this request Jesus gave a model and then a philosophy of prayer (11:4-13). I find it interesting that many commentators insist that the disciple was not asking how to pray, but when they get into expositing the prayer they show that it does, in fact, teach us how to pray. Really, I think that there is a bit of both aspects involved here. Prayer was not a foreign practice to the disciples, but who can boast of understanding all of the

mystery bound up in prayer? Even the most seasoned prayer-warrior senses his inadequacy for the task. Along with that, it is true that the greatest trouble is more often motivation than it is know-how. Whatever it was exactly that this disciple had in mind when he made the request to Jesus, I find it fascinating that Jesus decided to answer his request by providing a short, model prayer.

I was taught this prayer as a child and it proved helpful to me as I learned how to speak with God. I remember being taught that it was merely a model and that I should learn to construct my prayers in a similar fashion. In the end, I was taught to pray using my own words. In the tradition in which I was reared we never used a prayer book or any other source of prescribed prayers. When men in the church prayed, their prayers were always impromptu, and often very simple and repetitive.

I've since had the privilege of visiting other churches and participating in worship services with a more obvious and intentional liturgy. I remember sitting in a conference at a Presbyterian seminary and wondering in amazement at the majesty and grandeur of the prayers prayed by the ministers. They were more deliberate, premeditated, and Scripture-saturated than I had ever heard before. I recently became aware of The Valley of Vision: a collection of puritan prayers and found this little book to be very helpful not only in my own prayer life, but also as I began to look into the Psalter to consider the model prayers it supplies. I've come to realize how beneficial a model prayer can be, and that impromptu praying can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. All in all, I believe that Jesus' answer to this disciple began by showing him that prayer ought to be deliberate, not haphazard and sloppy. Prayer is a great privilege and addressed to the God of the universe, the Savior of our souls. Our God is ready and willing to listen to our cry at any time, in any situation, and by means of a very liberal range of words, but as you will see as you look into the prayers contained in the Psalter, even the most immediate and hasty prayers where based upon a very deliberate structure.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the major genres of psalms is that of lament. A lament is a form of speech that is full of mourning, grief, and sorrow. It is the speech of one who is in trouble or great distress. As the psalmists found themselves in great distress they presented their situations to God, asked for relief, and stated their confidence that he was able to do for them what they could not do for themselves. This is a form of prayer, but this is not the only form of prayer. There are also prayers of intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.

In the Psalter all of these types of prayers can be found, and there is a basic structure that underlies them all. Granted, the structure is flexible in that the elements may not always appear in the same order, and sometimes elements may not appear in a prayer at all. Some psalms combine aspects of laments and praise which make it difficult to label the psalm as one or the other. Most commentators just call them mixed psalms.

Beyond these characteristics, the reader ought to recognize when a prayer is given as that of an individual or of the community. Prayers of the individual employ the first person singular (I, me, my) style of direct address to God. Prayers of the community (I call them corporate prayers) employ the first person plural (we, us, our) style of address to God.

Basic Elements of Prayer Psalms -

So, what are the basic elements of Prayer Psalms? The following is a simplified list.

  1. Invocation – Prayer psalms frequently open with the vocative “O Lord”.
  2. Description of Trouble – Trouble in terms of a relation to God, to others, or to self.
  3. Petition – The basic component of prayer psalms is a request to be heard and/or helped.
  4. Motivation – Here the psalmist offers reasons why the petition should be heard. You will notice that the psalmists appeal to the character of God, the petitioners relation to God, and the dimensions and implications of the petitioner’s predicament.
  5. Statement of Confidence (Assurance) – The psalmists frequently confess their complete trust in the LORD.
  6. Vow to Praise - If the psalmist doesn't conclude with words of praise, he often concludes with a vow to praise. This often refers to the psalmists desire to tell others of what God has done, either in the sanctuary or among the nations.

(NOTE: I would highly recommend the ESV Literary Study Bible to you for many reasons and here specifically. Before each psalm is an introductory paragraph in which the editors identify the genre of the psalm and outline the basic elements that appear in it. This is and INVALUABLE resource which is especially helpful when studying the Book of Psalms!)

Prayer Psalms -

The following is a list of the Prayer psalms.

  • Individual Lament – 3-7, 13, 17, 22, 25, 26, 28, 35, 38, 43, 51, 52, 54-57, 59, 61, 62, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 88, 89, 102, 109, 120:2, 123, 126, 130, 139-144
  • Individual or Communal Lament – 10, 12
  • Communal Lament – 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90
  • Penitential Psalms – 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143 (see also 39)
  • Simple Prayer - 131
  • Prayer of Praise – 16, 21, 63, 67, 89
  • Prayer Psalms that feature extensive confidence – 4, 16, 23, 27, 56, 62
  • Intercessory Prayers – 20, 61, 72, 84:8-9
  • Significant mix of Lament and Praise – 25, 31, 36, 40, 71, 77, 89, 126
  • Imprecatory Psalms – 35, 58, 69, 104:35, 109, 137, 139:19-22

Problems of Interpretation -

Noting the pronouns is crucial to identifying whether or not the psalm is constructed from the vantage point of the individual or the community. That's obvious. But it is also important to note the pronouns in order to properly understand how to interpret the various elements (listed above).

  • Who is the "I" in the psalms?
    • The psalmists do not identify themselves. However, the superscriptions and the descriptions of trouble provide clues to the psalmists identity.
    • We don't normally pray in third person, so we shouldn't expect a name to be stated.
    • The anonymity of the speakers allow these prayers to be more accessible adaptable to successive generations of worshipers.
      • While you not the first person singular "I", notice also the corresponding pronouns, me, my, and mine.
      • Notice also the nouns and adjectives used to describe the "I", such as your servant.
      • Notice also the groups with which the "I" identifies, such as the righteous, the faithful, the lowly, and the poor and needy.
  • Who is the "You" in the psalms?
    • This is the One to whom the psalmists cry.
    • This is the One in whom they take refuge.
    • This is the One whom they long to see.
    • This is the One whom they love.
    • This is Yahweh, the self-existent, eternal God, full of mercy, grace, longsuffering, loyal love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
  • Who is the "They" in the psalms?
    • Similarly to the "I", the "they" is normally described, but unnamed.
    • "They" are the adversaries of the LORD and his servants.
    • "They" are the ones who oppress the poor and lowly, who mock the righteous, who slander the truthful, who plot against the faithful, who seek to destroy the godly.
    • Although the identity of the adversary remains ambiguous, the identity of our Helper is clearly proclaimed. The LORD is able to deliver his saints from every form of evil.

In summary, the identity of the psalmist is assumed by the one who prays the prayer, the source of trouble is a common foe come in various forms, and the Deliverer remains to same yesterday, today, and forever!

The Language of the Petitions -

One final issue that must be considered is the language of the petitions. The psalmists form their petitions and the statements of motivation in light of The LORD's self-revelation. How has the LORD revealed himself to mankind. In many ways, but propositionally in the Law, and then in a very intimate way to his servant Moses. To Moses the LORD proclaimed who he is and what he delights to do and this is recorded for us in Exodus 34:6-7.

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (ESV)

If you will keep this self-revelation, this primitive creed, in mind as you read and study the prayer psalms you will notice that the petitions and motivations for God to hear and act are based explicitly upon this proclamation. Jesus gave to his disciples a fresh model of prayer fashioned according to the who God is and what he delights in. This is exactly what the psalmists provide for us; prayers constructed and offered up according to the character and desires of the one to whom they are addressed. (See an excellent example in the short Psalm 117.)

In closing, let's look at a couple of psalm and identify some of their basic elements. First, consider Psalm 13. This psalm contains all of the basic elements.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? [VOCATIVE & PETITION TO HEAR]

How long will you hide your face from me? [DESCRIPTION OF TROUBLE]

2 How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; [PETITION TO ACT]

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” [STATEMENT OF MOTIVATION]

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; [STATEMENT OF CONFIDENCE (Notice the reference to the character of God.)]

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord, [VOW TO PRAISE]

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Finally, consider Psalm 61. This is a petitionary psalm which includes intercession for the king.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God, [VOCATIVE & PETITION TO HEAR]

listen to my prayer;

2 from the end of the earth I call to you [DESCRIPTION OF TROUBLE]

when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock [PETITION TO ACT]

that is higher than I,

3 for you have been my refuge, [MOTIVATION/STATEMENT OF CONFIDENCE]

a strong tower against the enemy.

4 Let me dwell in your tent forever! [PETITION TO ACT]

Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah [PETITION]

5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; [MOTIVATION]

you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Prolong the life of the king; [INTERCESSION]

may his years endure to all generations!

7 May he be enthroned forever before God;

appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! [Notice the attributes of God. The same is desired or the king.]

8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, [VOW TO PRAISE]

as I perform my vows day after day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Piety in the Psalter

“The Psalter begins with a Beatitude and ends with an Alleluia.”

Arthur Jenk's short work has been the only printed study on the beatitudes of the Psalter that I have been able to find, so far. He wrote from a distinctly Anglican perspective which limits some of the usefulness of his applications. Nevertheless, I found it to be interesting as I prepared to teach through this material in our adult Sunday School class.

Two other commentaries that provided a bit of help were James L. Mays' Psalms in the Interpretation series and Gerald Wilson's Psalms: Volume 1 in the NIV Application Commentary series. It was reading May's comments on the first two Psalms that caused me to take note of the various beatitudes scattered throughout the Psalter. In fact, I learned from Mays that Psalm 1 is integrally linked with Psalm 2 by the use of beatitudes (1:1 & 2:12). Together these two psalms form an introduction to the Psalter and the beatitudes used in them express the fruit of piety: Blessed is the man...[whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night* (1:1, 2) & Blessed are all who take refuge in him (2:12).

What Does "Blessed" Mean?

Blessed is the traditional translation of the saying’s formulaic word; contemporary translations prefer ‘happy’ in order to distinguish these sayings from pronouncements of blessing that invoke the beneficent work of God on persons and groups. In blessings, the formulaic Hebrew term is baruk; in beatitudes, ’ashre. The primary difference is that the blessing invokes God’s beneficent support of life, while the beatitude points to and commands the conduct and character that enjoy it.
(James L. Mays, Psalms, Interpretation, p. 41)

James Murphy in his classic commentary on the Psalms translates ashre/makarios as "happy". He defines it this way: “Happiness is here not an occasional outward condition, but an inward perpetuity of bliss, involving peace with my God, my neighbor, and myself.”

Peter Craigie clarifies that “their happy estate is not something given automatically by God, but is a direct result of their activity.” (Psalms 1-50, volume 1, WBC. p. 60)

Psalms 1, 32, 41, 92, and 128 all begin with this epithet (similar to the Sermon on the Mount).

'ashre occurs 26 times in the Psalter. Gerald Wilson has listed all of the occurences of ’ashre both outside and within the Psalms.

  • Outside the Psalms: Deut. 33:29; 1 Kings 10:8; 2 Chron. 9:7; Job 5:17; Prov. 3:13; 8:32, 34; 14:21; 16:20; 20:7; 28:14; 29:18; Eccl. 10:17; Isa. 30:18; 32:20; 56:2; Dan. 12:12.
  • Within the Psalms: Pss. 1:1; 2:12; 32:1, 2; 33:12; 34:8; 40:4; 41:1; 65:4; 84:4, 5, 16; 89:15; 94:12; 106:3; 112:1; 119:1, 2; 127:5; 128:1, 2; 137:8, 9; 144:15; 146:5.
So, according to the Psalter, what makes for a happy man? With the space remaining I will outline for you some of the categories used to describe the truly happy man.

1. The Happiness of Delighting in the Law of the LORD

Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
  • What he does not do (v. 1)
  • What he does do (v. 2)
Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law,
  • "But here it is the pupil speaking, not the teacher, and the words are a triumph of faith: a positive reaction to present trouble (1-7), and a personal reception of a general truth which would be easier to apply to 'the nations' than to oneself." (Kidner, vol 2, p. 342)
Psalm 112:1 Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!
  • "...this person is a man of character, not merely of property...his godliness shows itself as an enthusiasm rather than a burden."
  • "To this man God's word is as fascinating as are His works to the naturalist..."
  • "What grips him is God's will and call." (Kidner, vol 2, p. 399)
Psalm 119:1-2 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,

Psalm 128:1-2 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

  • The ingredients of happiness:
    • Reverence - a right relationship with God
    • Obedience - the habits learned from Him.
2. The Happiness of Trusting in God
Psalm 2:12 Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
  • Four interchangeable terms: trust, confidence, hope, and refuge
  • See also: confide, seek shelter
  • “What fear and pride interpret as bondage (3) is in fact security and bliss. And there is no refuge from him; only in him." (Kidner, vol 1, p. 53)
Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
  • The Hebrew word for "man" here is different from the one used in Psalm 1. Here, the gloss indicates a young man full of strength. Psalm 1 used the more common term for man which speaks of his status.
  • Heb. 6:5 & 1 Peter 2:3 quote this text as the first venture into faith.
    • “Tasting should be more than casual sampling.” (Kidner, vol 1, p. 140)
  • The exhortation continues with “Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” (v.9).
  • Then, v. 11, "Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” See vv. 12-22.
  • Verse 22 ends with “none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” I hope that you see the Messianic reference in v. 20. What is the greatest display of God’s trustworthiness?
    • His Son trusted in Him and was not left desolate. See Psalm 16:8-11.
Psalm 40:4 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
Psalm 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
  • Essential to trust, hope and confidence is recognizing the source of our strength. When exiled from the place of routine happiness, there is still strength and happiness to be found in God. Our happiness is not bound to certain places, as wonderful as some places are. The source of our happiness is found in God.
Psalm 84:12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
  • Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29)
Psalm 144:15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord. See the context…deliverance from strange children (v. 7)
Psalm 146:5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
  • We worked on memorizing this Psalm and found it to be a wonderful summary of many of the major themes we found in the Psalter.

3. The Happiness of Forgiveness

In Psalm 32 we find not only another Beatitude, but we find, as Calvin commented, “the gate of eternal salvation.”

Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
  • “[This psalm] was a favorite with St Augustine, who ‘often read this Psalm with weeping heart and eyes, and before his death had it written upon the wall which was over against his sick-bed, that he might be exercised and comforted by it in his sickness.’ His words ‘intelligentia prima est ut te noris peccatorem’—the beginning of knowledge is to know thyself to be a sinner—might be prefixed to it as a motto.” (Kirkpatrick, Psalms, pp. 161-162).
  • This is the second of the seven, so called, Penitential Prayers (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).
  • In the NT, we find that Paul quotes this text in order to verify his argument that righteousness comes not by works but by faith in God (Romans 4:6-8).
Here is the full definition of the righteousness of faith: transgressions forgiven, sins covered, iniquity not imputed. The full dimension of human evil.
  • Transgression – acts reflecting rebellion against God
  • Sin – (the most general term) an offense, or turning away from the true path
  • Iniquity – indicating distortion, criminality, or the absence of respect for the divine will
NOTE: These terms are used in the midst of synonymous parallelism and should not be dissected too much. The completeness of the Divine deliverance.
  • Forgiven – the lifting, or removing of a burden
  • Covered – concealed from sight, so that the foulness of sin no longer meets the eye of the judge and calls for punishment (Kirkpatrick)
  • Counts no – the canceling of a debt, which is no longer reckoned against the offender

Altogether we see the JOY OF PARDON.

THE MISERY OF CONVICTION. (vv 3-4)

THE RELIEF BROUGHT BY CONFESSION. (v 5)

COMMENDATION OF REPENTANCE TO ALL. (vv 6-7)

DIVINE INSTRUCTION. (vv 7-11)

4. The Happiness of Being Chosen by the LORD

Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
  1. The Key to national success: that nation whose God is the LORD
    1. not its own policies and plans (human aspirations)
    2. but lives according to the sovereign plan of the LORD
      1. This was not a role Israel chose
      2. This was a role inherited via their election by God (VOCATION)
Psalm 144:15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
God is not only the God of nations, but also of individual.
Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
Just as ancient Israel realized her vocation in the LORD, so you are made to realize your own vocation according to His policies and plans (His aspirations).

Psalm 4:3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

1 Cor. 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

1 Peter 2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Ephes. 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Elect of God, what history are you writing? Is it according to your own policies and plans, or are you submitted to His sovereign plan?

5. The Happiness of Considering those Less Fortunate

Psalm 41:1-2 Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; The Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
  • "Blessed are the merciful." (Matt. 5:7)
  • Questions for consideration:
    • Who are the poor and needy?
    • How am I to consider them?
    • How must I deal with them?
  • Carefully work through Psalms 9 and 10 and note the following:
    • Note the two different groups by making a list of words and phrases used to describe each
      • Note how each group acts toward God
      • Note how each group acts toward the other
    • Note all of the references to God's posture toward the wicked
    • Note all of the references to God's posture toward the poor
  • Now, go back and reconsider the "questions for consideration"
6. The Happiness of Abiding in the Presence of the LORD

Psalm 84:4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!

Psalm 89:15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Who may dwell in the presence of the LORD?
  • Psalm 15 speaks of the moral requirements of worshipers

Should there be a difference between the expression of your faith in private and in public?

Is there a place where the LORD uniquely dwells?

I'll leave those questions for you to consider. Also, consider this. True worship is the engagement of the whole person "all that I am to all that God is" (Grogan, Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy)

Psalm 42:1-2, Psalm 43:3-4, Psalm 122:1-4, Psalm 137:5-6

Conclusion

There are a few other categories which would require more space for an adequate presentation. However, I trust that this will suffice to give you, at least, a glimpse at the portrait painted by the psalmists of the truly happy man.

____________________

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.