Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It All Points to Him

Psalm 19 is divided into three main sections, each describing an aspect of the divine law being proclaimed.  The psalm can be outlined this way:

Law of Creation (1-6) The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Law of Moses (7-11) The law of the Lᴏʀᴅ is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lᴏʀᴅ is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lᴏʀᴅ are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lᴏʀᴅ is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lᴏʀᴅ are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
Law of Grace (12-14) Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lᴏʀᴅ, my rock and my redeemer.

David gives a three-step description of how he knows who and what God is and what that means for the life of faith.  Theodoret of Cyrus comments on this psalm:
Blessed David in this psalm teaches men the harmony between these [divine laws]: firstly, the one the creator preaches in creation; then the one given through Moses, instilling a greater knowledge of the creator to those willing to attend; after that, the law of grace, perfectly purifying souls and freeing them from the present destruction.
Commentary on the Psalms, 19.1

These sections build from one to another.  As we take in the functioning of creation in its precision and recognizes there is someone or something keeping order.  From there, God’s law revealed through Moses and the prophets supplies details of that someone: there is a Creator, and He wants us to know of Him.  Though the revelation is marvelous to mankind, even this is not sufficient for David.  Beyond all that the Scriptures had within them—those things in which we could delight—still there was an understanding that more must be coming.  The Law is good, but David recognized his own shortcomings.  There was a universal need yet to be met, one which the psalmist longed to have applied to himself and, by extension, all who love the Lord.  We who love the Law know that it only reminds us that we are sinners.  We desire a permanent atoning sacrifice and a firm declaration of God that the guilt and condemnation is removed.

You may be thinking, “That sounds like an outline of Romans,” and you would be correct. Paul uses similar logic:

Law of Creation For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Rom 1:19-20)
Law of Moses Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  (Rom 3:19-20)
Law of Grace There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  (Rom 8:1-2)

All that God has made and revealed declares who and what He is and where we stand in relation to Him.  A sufficient guilt-bearer and intermediary were required to reconcile God and man, and only Jesus, incarnate God, could provide a full satisfaction.  There is nothing more than to believe on that saving work and heap adoration on the source of salvation, as Paul put it:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
    For who has known the mind of the Lord,
        or who has been his counselor?
    Or who has given a gift to him
        that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen.  (Rom 11:33-36)

I end with Theodoret’s closing comments on Psalm 19:
[David is saying,] “I long to enjoy … presenting my soul to you completely free from blame.  On receipt of pardon from you for my past failings, may I offer to you everlasting hymn singing, giving my unwavering attention to your sayings.”… By way of supplying a finale to the psalm, he called him Lord insofar as he is maker and creator, and redeemer insofar as he frees us by the regeneration of holy baptism* from our former perdition, redeems us from enslavement to the demons, and bestows on us incorruptibility and immortality.  The psalm includes both former and latter subjects: it instructs us firstly on creation and providence; in the middle on the Law; and finally on grace.  Now, the New Testament provides these goods.
Commentary on the Psalms, 19.13-14

* Theodoret was a firm adherent of baptism as a means of grace.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Hymn on the Incarnation

As much as I rail against Contemporary Christian Music in worship, the responsible thing is to offer viable alternatives.  To that end I offer you—ta da!—hymns written recently.  Actually, hymn-writing never has gone out of practice, just out of vogue.  The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada was established to promote and assist in the effort of writing new hymns.  As part of membership, they publish a quarterly journal entitled The Hymn.  I joined the society for a year or two, and though their effort is laudable, the theological and doctrinal content of the published writings primarily contained themes of inclusiveness and a generic love of God and man.

All is not lost, however.  For instance, Mark Preus, a pastor in Wyoming, actively puts pen to paper (or keystrokes to digital device).  Just recently on his blog, he offered a hymn on the incarnation in Long Metre.  I pass it along here for your edification:

1  Let praise spring from our hearts today;
Our God has put His wrath away –
The fullness of the deity
Now dwells in Jesus bodily.

2  If God had hatred in His heart,
Why would He then Himself impart?
If God did not desire our good,
Why does He now wear flesh and blood?

 3  Though I of glory fall too short,
Yet here God’s glory shows his heart,
Since how can heaven’s mercy cease
While heaven sings to earth of peace?

4  If God were now my enemy,
Why does He condescend to me?
For us and our salvation Christ
Comes down here to be sacrificed.

5  Can my Creator not love me,
When He a creature deigns to be?
The Lord of Glory enters in
Beneath the Law to bear our sin.

6  Here Mary finds her Savior born,
And man from his despair is torn,
As God unites with man’s distress
Beneath the curse the cursed to bless.

7  What is there in your heart so grey,
That Jesus doesn’t take away
By joining all He is to you,
And making his creation new?

8  Humanity now enters God,
As God now tents in flesh and blood,
And our poor nature Jesus lifts
Above the heavens with his gifts.

9  Come, feast today on God made flesh!
This food shall cleanse you pure and fresh,
And keep you steadfast till the day
When all your sins are purged away.

10  For this our hearts their praise will voice,
And in our Lord and God rejoice,
And join the angel choir to sing
Sweet Alleluias to our King!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Only the Blameless May

O Lᴏʀᴅ, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lᴏʀᴅ;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.  (Ps 15:1-5)

King David begins this psalm with sobering questions: Who can abide with the Lord in His presence?  This can not be seen as a question of introspection.  David is not comparing himself with all those around and deduce that he is the only acceptable answer.  No, rather the question
is as though addressing an earnest inquiry to God…so that after the deliberate effort at inquiring, he may elicit a verdict from God in reply, and with its great authority he may prompt the Jews to a desire for virtue and maintenance of upright living.*
The answer given is both simple and profound being summarized in verse three: the one uncontaminated in character, deed, and speech.  Notice the characteristics of the blameless person: not a slanderer, reviler, or otherwise harmful to another; acts faithfully in every situation, condemns evil, honors the Lord’s people, suffers loss rather than harm another, steadfast, and more interested in doing right than in gaining wealth.  This list is formidable.  We ask, “who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor 2:16)  In one sense, nobody is able to maintain the pious life being described, yet this is not the only passage that sets such a high standard (see 1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9).

The truth is that we are not sufficient—not at all.  The overwhelming shortcoming on our part must be met by Another.  The Law was in place to show us our sin and need for forgiveness and redemption.  By faith the Israelite would offer the atoning sacrifice, trusting the Lord’s promise to cover the sin.  Yet this was not enough; the sin could never be removed entirely.

David, at one point in his life, would come to fully understand the sin lurking in our members.  He would grasp the depravity within his own heart.  Rather than making excuses, negotiating, or seeking the absolution that was not available, he confessed and threw himself on the mercy of the Lord—the place to which he had previously gone for repose as the victim of wrong was now the One wronged and David’s only hope.  And God was faithful.  Only the Lord is able to place us in proper standing and relationship with Himself.  To accomplish this, Jesus, the only begotten God and Son of the Father, made full atonement for our sin, so that we might no longer fear sin’s guilt and punishment.  It is through Jesus and His atoning work that we are made sufficient to dwell before the living God.  We stand blameless in Christ.  What long-suffering mercy and grace!

To the blameless, God gives David this promise: he shall not be moved.  And it is not as if the believer goes on through his own strength and determination, rather the source of strength is from above.
And now instead of closing in conformity with the description of character already given: such a man shall dwell, etc., the concluding sentence takes a different form, molded in accordance with the spiritual meaning of the opening question: he who does these things shall never be moved…, he stands fast, being upheld by YHWH, hidden in His fellowship; nothing from without, no misfortune, can cause his overthrow.†

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  (Rom 8:31-32)

*  Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Psalms 1-81
†  C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Unto You Is Born This Day a Savior

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts will do this.  Isaiah 9:6-7

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-12

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Great Reversal

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.  (Luke 1:32-33)

God often does things in a way that is completely opposite to human expectations.  We sometimes call this the Great Reversal.  Evident too in the individual lament psalms is the Gospel theme of the Great Reversal.  Psalms 22, 31, and 69 are all psalms of David, and the life of David offers many examples of reversal: the eighth and last don of Jesse became his foremost son; the shepherd boy was anointed by Samuel to shepherd Israel; the lightly armed youth slew the fearsome giant; the young man unjustly hunted by King Saul succeeded him as king; and while King David wanted to build a house for God, instead God established David's house (dynasty) to endure forever through the Son of David who would rule on the throne of David for eternity (Luke 1:32-33; 2 Samuel 7).

Arthur A. Just, Heaven on Earth, 121

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Trust Me, I'm a Liar!

Image from The Peanut Gallery
Save, O Lᴏʀᴅ, for the godly one is gone;
    for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lᴏʀᴅ cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lᴏʀᴅ are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lᴏʀᴅ, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.  (Psalm 12)

Men and women are forgetful.  They forget needful tasks, important dates, and where keys or glasses are laid; but most of all, they forget their God—forgetfulness from neglect.  In this psalm, King David lamented the widespread ruin in society.  Godly character was nonexistent.  People lied to one another regularly, even boasting of their own greatness, simultaneously deceiving and being deceived, and with inconsistency and instability holding opposing feelings towards the same object.  So degraded was the condition that
two people when talking to each other have exactly the same intention of deceiving the other.  In fact, both strive to get the better of the other by smooth and duplicitous speech: it is not that one tells lies and the other speaks in a trustworthy manner, nor that one party only is involved in deception—rather, the business of deceit is found equally in both.*
The people proudly declared themselves free from any authority that might be placed on them to curb their libertine use of language for self-interests.

Does this condition sound familiar?  We consider this conduct typical among political rivals.  Whether a congressional bill, a contract, or an international treaty or trade agreement, negotiators hammer out details to the advantage of the principal party represented.  However, the situation described in the psalm is much worse: it was occurring among God’s elect.  Those who knew the Law would have understood the Lawgiver’s standard of uprightness to be practiced among His people, yet here we have described what would apparently by those in authority performing the opposite.  David calls out to the Lord to cut off the language and the prideful condition behind it, and He responds.  In contradistinction to the false words of the haughty, the words of the Righteous One are pure and true.  Those abused and bereft because of the crafty, deceptive vocabulary are reassured by sure promises and faithful sayings: comfort and safety are found in them.  The haughty found strength in their own words; the humble found strength in God’s words, because they are founded in the Eternal One.

Evil men continue to decline as they follow after their own plans and pursuits.  Rather than running to the fount of forgiveness, they choose to pursue their own path and revel in their sin while maintaining a veneer of “religiousness.”†  The wicked seek to silence the righteous either by annihilation or assimilation into a man-made unity.  The Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, entered this world by taking on human flesh.  The living, active Word walked among us for a time and allowed sinful men to kill Him, so that He might redeem the world.  The One, whom a few attempted to expunge, became the very message proclaimed to the world: He died for your sin; believe it.  The world tried to eradicate righteousness personified and continue in its sin, but by the cross Jesus reconciled the world to God and God to the world.  They forgot the Word, but He did not forget them.  What men did from wicked motives, God worked for their salvation.

*  Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Psalms 1-81
†  Read the book of Malachi to see how this happened in Judah.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Significance of the Psalms

If we keep vigil in the Church, David comes first, last, and midst.  If early in the morning, we seek for the melody of hymns, first, last, and midst is David again.  If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of the departed, if virgins sit at home and spin, David is first, last, and midst.  O marvelous wonder!  Many who have made but little progress in literature, nay, who have scarcely mastered its first principles, have the Psalter by heart.  Nor is it in cities and churches alone that, at all times, through every age, David is illustrious; in the midst of the forum, in the wilderness, and uninhabitable land, he excites the praises of God.  In monasteries, amongst those holy choirs of angelic armies, David is first, midst, and last.  In the convents of virgins, where are the bands of them that imitate Mary; in the deserts, where are men crucified to this world, and having their conversation with God, first, midst, and last is he.  All other men are at night overpowered by natural sleep: David alone is active; and, congregating the servants of God into seraphic bands, turns earth into heaven, and converts men into angels.

John Chrysostom

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Hate Christmas

Okay, I really do not hate Christmas.  I hate what commercialization and cultural expectation has done to the season that begins in late November after both the turkey and the Detroit Lions have been devoured, and then ends a month later when everyone goes home after exchanging gifts, food, and fun.  Stores begin stocking seasonal items immediately following Halloween.  From Black Friday (which now begins Thursday evening) through December 24, we are inundated and overloaded with donation requests, party invitations, and church activities.  December has become the month to do everything for everyone to promote good will amongst others.  Throw in the endless advertising jingles, shopping traffic, and corporate year-end needs for your employer, and we have the makings of a complete meltdown.  We build up this gigantic pre-Christmas time to a huge climax with the idea that the new year can start fresh.

There is a temptation to retrograde into nostalgia of how simple and enjoyable childhood memories are.  That is a foolhardy endeavor, or to cite someone who knew better:
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.  (Eccl 7:10)
My childhood Christmases were simple and enjoyable.  I shall treasure them.  (Except maybe for the one time I had a chance to stand in line to see Santa but wouldn’t.  I was terrified of him.)  I remember waiting anxiously in eager anticipation as the days following Thanksgiving went by so slowly, longing for the day.  And therein lies the problem—not the anticipation, mind you, but its object.  What are we waiting for?  Or what should we be waiting for?

Lectionaries have always been designed to follow the life of Jesus through the entire year.  The earliest of these began the Church Year on Christmas with the birth of the Lord Jesus and followed different stages of His life.  At the end of the calendar the focus changes, because we change from Jesus’ life to His coming—His Advent.  You remember Advent, don’t you?  Maybe not.  This time begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas* and ends on Christmas Eve.  This time originally looked forward to Jesus’ promised return when He will judge the living and the dead.  It was a time to remember that we are to be living in light of the final day.  If we had gotten off track, this was a chance to consider once again that the King of kings was coming as He promised.  We once freshly examine the question, “Am I living in the light of His return?”  A tension arose between the Lord coming again and the first coming remembered at Christmas.  By holding that tension in place, we remember the humiliation our Lord took on by coming into this world as a baby, but He will come again arrayed in glory and splendor to rule and reign.  We remember that what was true in history will certainly come to pass as promised.  And while the Church Year was changed to begin with Advent, the focus has not changed: our Lord comes.

Somehow, I do not believe that there is much reflection of Jesus’ return in the checkout lines at the big-box store with the gifts purchased for Christmas morning.  Unbelievers will not; believers may not either.  I realize there is no way to reverse the trend, but we Christians should understand that our Lord returns, as the hymn puts it:
O blessèd hope!  O blissful promise!
Filling our hearts with rapture divine;
O day of days!  Hail Thy appearing!
Thy transcendent glory forever shall shine.

He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
With power and great glory, He is coming again!†

*  Technically, Advent begins on the Sunday before St. Andrew’s day, which in the U.S.A. is the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day.
†  Accessed at

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dealing with Trolls

Photo courtesy of Wikia
Trolls.  Those who have been been on the internet long enough have witnessed their carnage.  Lurking silently, these denizens of the internet lay waste comment sections in forums, blogs, and Facebook groups expressing opinions, not because they are correct, but because they can.  Inflicting bitterness, emotional pain, and any form of instability, the only plan is to enter the conversation and spew contrary, hopefully stinging, remarks to decimate conversations and otherwise undermine any attempt at meaningful interaction.  Ogres, goblins, and orcs have more sophistication than this type.  Meet a troll on the street or in an elevator, and you might never take notice that something is different, but in private they reveal their true selves—something more akin to this cheerful fellow on the right.

Trolls feed on the chaos and confusion wrought through dissemination of hyperbole and misinformation.  Once the feeding frenzy begins, much damage is left behind with gaping wounds needing healed.  The way to stop a troll is to starve it.  This is difficult because the troll often aims for your weak spot in order to engender a response.  Wise counselors are useful for knowing how to do battle.  To this end I offer the following note from Albert Einstein to Marie Curie:
Prague, 23 November 1911

Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,
    Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say.  But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling.  However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism!  I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels.  Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact.  If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.
It is difficult to imagine that a noted scientist should need to be concerned with these “reptiles,” but Einstein is correct in his advice: Don’t feed the trolls; ignore them.  King Solomon took the response one step further.
Answer not a fool according to his folly,
    lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    lest he be wise in his own eyes.  (Prov 26:4-5)
Engage the troll, but not in the same snarky way, but as is warranted and in a godly way with wisdom.  Let the Lord do the work by correctly using His word.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whose Robes Are They?

My morning Bible reading in Isaiah 59 was behind a previous post drawing attention to the armor of God in Ephesians 6 being the same that Jesus wears.  Continuing on through chapter 62 (or more precisely 63:6), I noted that the section details God’s eschatological plan and how it is based solely on His promises according to His character: the Lord acts because of who He is, not because of who we are.

In the middle of the exhortation, there is an apparent break in thought:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lᴏʀᴅ;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord Gᴏᴅ will cause righteousness and praise
    to sprout up before all the nations.  (Isa 61:10-11)
These verses describe a response to God’s grace—righteousness and salvation growing within and adorning, but after my current reading of these chapters, I asked the same question as the Ethiopian eunuch:
About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?  (Acts 8:34)
In like manner as the armor mentioned previously, is this actually God the Son speaking to the Father?  Except for a point of view in the text that turns from direct address to a response (and afterward returns to direct address), there are no clear markers.  Should we not rather consider this primarily to be a glimpse of the inner communication within the Godhead?  This approach would maintain the continuity of the passage as coming from God alone.  Tertullian takes up the same theme as he describes Christ as a bridegroom:
I hold also that it is my Christ who is meant by the bridegroom, of whom the psalm says: “He is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His return is back to the end of it again” [Psa 19:5-6].  By the mouth of Isaiah He also says exultingly of the Father: “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord; for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation and with the tunic of joy, as a bridegroom. He has put a miter round about my head, as a bride” [Isa 61:10].
Against Marcion, IV.11

Guercino - Return of the Prodigal
The passage can secondarily apply to us as those to whom benefits fall as sons and heirs.  Firstly, in the parable of the marriage feast (Matt 22:1-14), Jesus mentions the freely-provided wedding garments.  Those who accepted the garment were welcome to participate in the kingdom of heaven, while the one entering without the garment was cast out.  Secondly, we are given a picture of the Church as the Bride of the Lamb:
“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
(Rev 19:7-8)
The Bride is clothed with the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Rom 3:21-22; Phil 3:9) and is of the same “stuff” as that borne by the Lord Jesus (2 Pet 1:1).  It is His righteousness that is displayed before the nations in worship, disciple-making, and occupying oneself in good works.  He who is our righteous (1 Cor 1:30) clothes us in a way that displays the glory of Almighty God inspiring praise worthy of the Lord of all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Does Creation Worship?

Photo courtesy of Stephen Pohl
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,

    stormy wind fulfilling his word!  (Psa 148:7-8)

Louis McBride at Baker Book House has opportunity to read many of the works that are published by Baker and shares book nuggets.  Recently, he mentioned A New Heaven and a New Earth by J. Richard Middleton, which addresses biblical eschatology.  As part of the discussion, Middleton looks at Psalm 148 and posits that we improperly define worship.  I will quote what Louis McBride observed in his blog post:
“First of all, we should not reduce human worship of God to verbal, emotionally charged expressions of praise (which is what we usually mean by the term).  Rather, our worship consists in all that we do.” (p. 40)  Looking at Psalm 148 he notes that all sorts of things from creation are called on to “praise” God.  “In fact, humans are mentioned in only two of the eleven verses (vv. 1-4, 6-12) that call on God’s heavenly and earthly creatures to worship him.” (p. 40)  According to this Psalm “mountains and stars worship God just as much as humans do. . .  But how do mountains and stars worship God?  Certainly not verbally or with emotions.  Rather, mountains worship God simply by being mountains, covered with vegetation or with steep crags or glaciers, depending on their elevation.  And stars worship God by beings stars, burning with nuclear energy according to their sizes and their life cycles, ranging from those like our own sun to the red giants, white dwarfs, pulsars, and black holes.  If mountains worship God by being mountains and stars worship God by being stars, how do humans worship God?  By being human, in the full glory of what that means.” (pp. 40-41)
Photo courtesy of Stephen Pohl

Mountains and all hills,
     fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
    creeping things and flying birds!

(Psa 148:9-10)

Middleton goes on to make what I consider to be an invalid conclusion, but I was struck by the argument thus far: a created thing properly worships when it does what it was created to do.  (So much for glitz, sparkle, and showmanship on Sunday mornings.)  But therein lies the rub.  Adam disobeyed, and as a result, all creation groans because of sin.  Only in the Lord Jesus can you and I worship rightly.

In one sense, Psalm 148 is a grand picture of all creation praising the person and work of God, yet on the other hand, it is not realized, because creation still suffers from the Fall.  In that regard, the psalm looks forward to the consummation of all things in Christ.

I doubt that the book will be on my Wish List, but this particular subject needs a second look.