J.Calvin on Psalm 146: “…So many reasons why we should hope in him.”

JCalvinPic1For our further meditation on Psalm 146 today, we include this commentary of John Calvin on vss.7ff., where he remarks on the character and works of God that call us to hope in Him and to praise Him. May His words encourage us to see God for Who He is and to fall down before Him in perfect (complete) trust and adoration.

7. Rendering right, etc.

He instances other kinds both of the power and goodness of God, which are just so many reasons why we should hope in him. All of them bear upon the point, that the help of God will be ready and forthcoming to those who are in the lowest circumstances, that accordingly our miseries will be no barrier in the way of his helping us; nay, that such is his nature, that he is disposed to assist all in proportion to their necessity.

He says first, that God renders justice to the oppressed, to remind us that although in the judgment of sense God connives at the injuries done to us, he will not neglect the duty which properly belongs to him of forcing the wicked to give an account of their violence. As God, in short, would have the patience of his people tried, he here expressly calls upon the afflicted not to faint under their troubles, but composedly wait for deliverance from one who is slow in interposing, only that he may appear eventually as the righteous judge of the world.

It follows, that he gives bread to the hungry. We learn from this that he is not always so indulgent to his own as to load them with abundance, but occasionally withdraws his blessing, that he may succor them when reduced to hunger. Had the Psalmist said that God fed his people with abundance, and pampered them, would not any of those under want or in famine have immediately desponded? The goodness of God is therefore properly extended farther to the feeding of the hungry.

What is added is to the same purpose — that he looses them that are bound, and enlightens the blind. As it is the fate of his people to be straitened by anxiety, or pressed down by human tyranny, or reduced to extremity, in a manner equivalent to being shut up in the worst of dungeons, it was necessary to announce, by way of comfort, that God can easily find an outgate for us when brought into such straits.

To enlighten the blind is the same with giving light in the midst of darkness. When at any time we know not what to do — are in perplexity, and lie confounded and dismayed, as if the darkness of death had fallen upon us — let us learn to ascribe this title to God, that he may dissipate the gloom and open our eyes. So when he is said to raise up the bowed down, we are taught to take courage when weary and groaning under any burden.

Nor is it merely that God would here have his praises celebrated; he in a manner stretches out his hand to the blind, the captives, and the afflicted, that they may cast their grief’s and cares upon him. There is a reason for repeating the name Jehovah three times. In this way he stimulates and excites men to seek him who will often rather chafe and pine away in their miseries, than betake themselves to this sure asylum.

What is added in the close of the verse — that Jehovah loves the righteous, would seem to be a qualification of what was formerly said. There are evidently many who, though they are grievously afflicted, and groan with anxiety, and lie in darkness, experience no comfort from God; and this because in such circumstances they provoke God more by their contumacy, and by failing for the most part to seek his mercy, reap the just reward of their unthankfulness.

The Psalmist therefore very properly restricts what he had said in general terms of God’s helping the afflicted, to the righteous — that those who wish to experience his deliverance, may address themselves to him in the sincere exercise of godliness.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 146

Psalm 146For this new Sunday, as we awaken to new mercies and fresh revelations of God’s faithfulness (Lam. 3:22,23), we turn to the Word of God in Psalm 146.

As we continue to make our way through this OT Psalter, using it especially to prepare ourselves for the worship of the Lord in His house of prayer, we note that these last five psalms all begin and end on the note of “Praise ye the LORD” (or simply, “Hallelujah”). As such, these closing songs of the OT church’s songbook are most fitting for our worship – public and private – for the theme of our worship as well as of our daily walk must be the praise and adoration of our sovereign God and King.

And as we look at Psalm 146, we see that this is the psalmist’s resolve and testimony too. He will not praise the Lord occasionally or sporadically, but as long as he lives and as long as he has being (v.2). This is the way we must tell our own souls to praise God (v.1).

And the psalm writer also gives himself and us good reason to praise the Lord. The God of Jacob (which is another way to say that He is the God of the covenant and church) is the God of boundless power and saving help for His people. Read carefully the things he mentions here in describing the Lord and His power and works. And note too how broad and deep these works and ways of the Lord are, from creating the heaven and earth out of nothing to relieving the fatherless and widow. O, yes, this God reigns – forever! And He is “Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations” (v.10).

How foolish then to put our trust in anyone else but this sovereign Lord! The psalmist calls the people of God not to place their trust in princes or in the son of man (v.3). For obvious reasons (vss.3b,4). Rather he points us to the incredible happiness – and blessedness! – of having the one, true God for our help and hope (v.5). Is He such to us? Have we placed and do we place our trust in Him alone? Is He our only hope, in life and in death, in good times and in bad times, in prosperity and in adversity?

As we come into His presence today, may we find Him to be all that He is revealed to be here – the God of amazing creation, of faithful providence, and of gracious salvation. In Jesus Christ, the Son of Man Whom He made strong to save us and help us in all of life and in all of life’s circumstances. And finding Him so, may we place all our hope (trust) in Him alone. So that with solid hope in our souls, we may say with the psalmist, “Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”

Psalm 146

146 Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. TheLord looseth the prisoners:

The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10 The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 146 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Trust and Praise” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.

2. Put no confidence in princes,
Nor for help on man depend;
He shall die, to dust returning,
And his purposes shall end.

3. Happy is the man that chooses
Israel’s God to be his aid;
He is blest whose hope of blessing
On the Lord his God is stayed.

4. Heaven and earth the Lord created,
Seas and all that they contain;
He delivers from oppression,
Righteousness He will maintain.

5. Food He daily gives the hungry,
Sets the mourning prisoner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish,
Makes the sightless eyes to see.

6. Well Jehovah loves the righteous,
And the stranger He befriends,
Helps the fatherless and widow,
Judgment on the wicked sends.

7. Over all God reigns forever,
Through all ages He is King;
Unto Him, thy God, O Zion,
Joyful hallelujahs sing.

J.Calvin on Psalm 142: David “made known his griefs with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.”

JCalvinPic1For our continued reflection on Psalm 142 today, we also post these thoughts on John Calvin, taken from his commentary on the Psalms. Here Calvin comments on the opening words and setting of this psalm, pointing us to David’s godly example of prayer. May his thoughts also encourage us to bring all our burdens and cares to the Lord in prayer.

1. I cried to Jehovahetc.

It showed singular presence of mind in David that he was not paralyzed with fear, or that he did not in a paroxysm of fury take vengeance upon his enemy, as he easily might have done; and that he was not actuated by despair to take away his life, but composedly addressed himself to the exercise of prayer. There was good reason why the title should have been affixed to the Psalm to note this circumstance, and David had good grounds for mentioning how he commended himself to God.

Surrounded by the army of Saul, and hemmed in by destruction on every side, how was it possible for him to have spared so implacable an enemy, had he not been fortified against the strongest temptations by prayer? The repetition he makes use of indicates his having prayed with earnestness, so as to be impervious to every assault of temptation.

He tells us still more clearly in the next verse that he disburdened his ears unto God. To pour out one’s thoughts and tell over his afflictions implies the reverse of those perplexing anxieties which men brood over inwardly to their own distress, and by which they torture themselves, and are chafed by their afflictions rather than led to God; or it implies the reverse of those frantic exclamations to which others give utterance who find no comfort in the superintending providence and care of God.

In short, we are left to infer that while he did not give way before men to loud and senseless lamentations, neither did he suffer himself to be tormented with inward and suppressed cares, but made known his grief’s with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 142

Psalm 142To guide us in preparing for our worship of Jehovah through Jesus our Savior this Lord’s Day we consider the Word of God through David in Psalm 142. The title of this psalm refers to it as a “maschil” of David, which it to say it is a contemplation or meditation of the psalmist. Being so, it also calls for our careful meditation.

The heading also points to the psalm’s historical setting; “when he was in the cave”, that is, when David was fleeing from Saul and hid himself in a cave (There were at least two such incidents.). Most commentators believe this is a reference to the second cave hiding of David (cave of Adullam), recorded in I Sam.22:1-5, an incident which also provides the background for Psalm 57.

We see, then, that the setting of this psalm is again that of suffering, specifically, the suffering of persecution. And even more specifically, persecution at the hands of those who were in the church. David was being pursued by wicked king Saul, who belonged outwardly to the kingdom of God and professed His name.

And as we see from these words, David was in a bad way. His “spirit was overwhelmed within” him (v.3), because he was “brought very low” (v.6). His persecutors (Saul and his band) were stronger than he (v.6b) and had set snares for him (v.3b). David’s life was on the line and he could see no way out.

Besides, David felt all alone. According to v.4, he had no one at his right hand; refuge failed and no one cared for his soul. It is one thing to be in trouble; it is quite another to stand alone, feeling that all have forsaken you. No wonder David considered his soul to be “prison” (v.7).

And yet, as we see from the rest of this psalm, David was not alone. Jehovah God was with him! With him as his refuge and portion (v.5). With him as the One Who is all knowing: “then thou knewest my path”. With him as the One Who sovereign over this situation and stronger than Saul and his mighty men. Yes, his God cared for his soul!

And therefore to Him David cried and made supplication (brought his needs – v.1), pouring out his complaint (musing, meditation) and showing his trouble (v.2). Trusting in his God, he asked for deliverance (vss.6,7). And confident of the Lord’s blessing, he promised to praise His name (v.7).

From this psalm we learn again how to behave when we are persecuted and in trouble; how to handle trials and temptation; how to hang on to the God Who hangs on to us and Who will never leave us or forsake us.

But above all, we learn to look at Christ, our suffering Savior, Who endured such persecution and the ultimate forsaking for our sakes. In this psalm hear His cry for help as He faced Calvary for us, to deliver us from the greatest prison – sin! And hear God hear His Son and see Him through His trouble, so that He and we triumph over sin and Satan and death and hell.

Read David’s meditation with your eye on Jesus. And your soul will sing with sweet comfort and hope, no matter what your sin is or what your situation may be.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

PsalterAppIf you desire to meditate on Psalm 142 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. To God my earnest voice I raise,
To God my voice imploring prays;
Before His face my grief I show
And tell my trouble and my woe.

2. When gloom and sorrow compass me,
The path I take is known to Thee,
And all the toils that foes do lay
To snare Thy servant in his way.

3. All unprotected, lo, I stand,
No friendly guardian at my hand,
No place of flight or refuge near,
And none to whom my soul is dear.

4. O Lord, my Saviour, now to Thee,
Without a hope besides, I flee,
To Thee, my shelter from the strife,
My portion in the land of life.

5. Be Thou my help when troubles throng,
For I am weak and foes are strong;
My captive soul from prison bring,
And thankful praises I will sing.

6. The righteous then shall gather round
To share the blessing I have found,
Their hearts made glad because they see
How richly God has dealt with me.

And here is the PR Psalm-singing Choir with a performance of this Ps.# from their 2012 concert:

New and Notable Books July | T.Challies

New & Notable Books July | Challies Dot Com.

Christian pastor/author/blogger Tim Challies has posted his latest set of new books for this month of July. He has highlighted a variety of profitable titles again.

Below are a few of them, along with Challies’ description; find the rest at the link above.

Lifelines-MFaberezLifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez. Here is how the publisher describes this one: “When tough times hit, we often find ourselves vulnerable—to doubt, fear, worry, even depression. We ask, ‘Does God care? Has He forgotten me?’ So why does God allow suffering? Author Mike Fabarez—who is well acquainted with deep pain himself as the father of a special-needs child and as a pastor who has counseled many through life’s hurts—looks to the truths of Scripture for answers. Along the way, he shares how complete trust in God alone can restore your confidence and hope; the power of focusing on God’s eternal goals for you in life’s temporary setbacks; God’s promises to love and protect you no matter what happens. This book will not only help you understand why God allows suffering—it will provide you with the resources to stand strong, rest in God’s care, and endure!” It comes with endorsements from John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jay Adams, and others. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

60 People-CH-Gansky60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. “The Church exists today in its current form because of the people who have come before us. From a consummate storyteller comes this collection of inspiring biographical sketches of people who played pivotal roles in advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. In rich prose and spanning twenty centuries of church history, these engaging narratives range from the well-known to the obscure, highlighting personalities such as Josephus, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, and many others. Readers will feel the past come alive and mingle in their minds with the present state of the Church, encouraging and galvanizing them to live their own faith courageously in our time—and shape the Church of the future.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 140

Psalm 140As we get ready to meet the Lord in His holy house this day of rest and worship, we consider the Word of God in Psalm 140. This prayer-song is attributed to David and my study Bible adds the heading, “David prays to be delivered from Saul and Doeg.” It may be that this psalm was written during that period in David’s life, but we do not know for sure.

What is certain is that David was in the midst of severe persecution, suffering the violence of wicked people who sought his destruction. Through both words and actions these proud and wicked men were trying to overthrow him. In the midst of these circumstances David cast himself upon his God in prayer.

Psalm 140

Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;

Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.

They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah.

Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.

The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.

I said unto the Lord, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord.

O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.

Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lestthey exalt themselves. Selah.

As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.

10 Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.

11 Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.

13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

Psalm 140 is a faithful reminder to us as believers and as the church of Jesus Christ that this present life is one of spiritual battle and suffering for the cause of Christ. We have heard this message in many other previous psalms, but here once again we are given notice that we can expect to suffer persecution in this world. Those who trust in Christ are marked people, and the wicked who surround us hate our Lord and therefore hate us who follow Him.

The wicked devices which these hateful and proud sinners use are no different from the time of David. Still today violent men imagine mischiefs in their heart and gather together for war against God’s people (v.2). Still today they sharpen their tongues like serpents, slandering the saints at every opportunity (v.3). Still today they purpose to overthrow the church and lay traps to bring her to ruin (vss.4-5).

Do we recognize these actions of the wicked? Or have we forgotten the battle we are in and laid down our weapons? Have we become too friendly with the ungodly so that they count us as one of their own and leave us alone? Let David’s potent words remind us of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged! Let us take the shield of faith into the battle, showing plainly on Whose side we are aligned and in Whose name we fight the good fight (Eph.6:10ff.)!

But again we also note that when God’s people are surrounded by wicked enemies and abused in their proud hatred, they present themselves to the Lord and cry out to Him in their need. Thus did David here, at the outset: “Deliver me, O LORD…; preserve me….” That he did only because he believed that God was sovereign over these wicked men and over all their evil. If he did not hold to that firmly, he never would have taken this burden of persecution to the Lord. But he knew that these enemies of the church were also in the Lord’s hands, not being able to move or speak without the Lord’s will.

And, you will notice, he also knew that this God was his God, the strength of His salvation, His Shield and Defender (vss.6-7). God had saved him from his sin in His mercy and grace in Christ and brought him to His side – in covenant fellowship and for battle! David was confident that this “for-him” and “with-him” God would maintain this afflicted man’s cause and this poor man’s right (v.12).

And so he brought his supplications to the feet of the throne of sovereignty and sovereign grace, the throne of his heavenly Father. And, yes, he besought the Lord for deliverance and preservation (vss.1-4), as we must too. Of course! While we know we will suffer for the cause of God in this world, we do not want to be overcome. We do not want the wicked to triumph and boast against the Lord of their victories. We do not want to give in to their evil devices and hurt the cause of our Lord. And so we pray earnestly for conquest and keeping.

Yet note that David also prays for more in the face of these foes. He also asks that God will turn the evil of the wicked on their own head, that they will be judged by God and thrown into hell (vss.9-11)! This is considered harsh and un-Christian in our day. Such imprecations (calls for cursing) are said to be part of OT times but not befitting the NT age of the church. But this is wrong. Did not our Lord teach us a parable about seeking the heavenly Judge for vindication (Luke 18:1-8)? And does not the fifth seal of Rev.6 reveal the rightness of such prayers for divine vengeance (vss.9-10)?

Yes, of course, we pray these petitions carefully, not flippantly, and with the proper attitude (see Ps.139:19-22).  But we may and must pray them. And as the end gets nearer and persecution increases, such supplications will also more and more be part of our prayers to the Lord.

Finally, let us notice that David also ends on the theme of thanksgiving to and certain hope in the God of his salvation, v.13. He had no doubt about the outcome of his battles and the great war of the ages. God was and is the Victor. And we may know that even more certainly, as we stand in the victories of our triumphant Savior, Jesus Christ. Through our crucified, risen, ascended, seated and soon-coming Lord we are more than conquerors over all evil and evil men. So we too in the absolute certainty of being in our Savior’s presence someday give thanks to His Name.  Is that not also why we worship Him this day?

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 140 through music, I encourage you to listen to some versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Deliver me from evil,
Preserve me, Lord, from wrong;
Against the foes that gather
Be Thou my helper strong.
From those who plot to hurt me
And spread their treacherous snare
Preserve me, Lord, and keep me
Safeguarded in Thy care.

2. O Lord, I have confessed Thee
To be my God alone;
O hear my supplication
And be Thy mercy shown;
O God the Lord, my Saviour,
My shield amid the strife,
Let not the wicked triumph
Who plot against my life.

3. Let evil smite the evil
And cause their overthrow;
The needy and afflicted
The Lord will help, I know;
Thy saints, redeemed from evil,
Their thanks to Thee shall give;
The righteous and the upright
Shall in Thy presence live.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 139

Psalm 139Today we are once again privileged and called to worship our Triune God in Jesus Christ and by His Spirit. As we prepare to do so, our psalm for consideration this Lord’s Day is Psalm 139.

Also this psalm is familiar to and precious to God’s people, as the psalmist David describes from his personal perspective and experience the wonder of God’s omniscience (all-knowing-ness) and omnipresence (everywhere-present-ness). Let’s read and meditate on this wonder through the words of its verses. As you do so, think about how God has searched and known you and how He has displayed His presence with you at all times and in all places throughout your life.

Psalm 139

Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thouart there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there wasnone of them.

17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

When we first read about the reality of God’s omniscience and omnipresence with regard to us in this psalm, we can be frightened out of our minds. God searches and knows everything about me?! my every act?! (vss.2-3) my every thought (v.2)?! my every word (v.4)?! That means the sovereign Lord also sees all my sinful acts, thoughts, desires, and words!  How terrifying!

The omnipresent Lord of heaven and earth is with me and goes with me wherever I go (v.7)?! up in heaven?! down to the grave (v.8)?! across the sea (vss.9-10)?! in the darkness of night (vss.11-12)?! when I awake (v.18)?! Where can I go that He is not?! No where. Where can I hide? I cannot. He is everywhere. With me. With His all-seeing eye.

David knew this to be true and we know it too , because God is the Lord of our conception and birth (vss.13-16). He knew us and was with us in our mother’s womb. He had us all thought out in His perfect plan and formed us exactly so. My feet, my hands, my face, my mind, my heart. O, He knows me! and is with me! Not one speck of me, nor of my time here on earth is without His knowledge and presence!

Again, how terrifying for us as sinners, for this means God also goes with me when I go into sin. He is with me in the dark recesses of my depraved heart and in the dark paths that I sometimes walk in, whether in the quiet of my home or in the depraved places of this wicked world. When I weigh these things, I am so ashamed and so afraid!

And apart from Christ, we ought to be terrified!

But David didn’t write this apart from his Savior, and we don’t read it apart from Him. David in fact wrote Psalm 139 as a type of Christ and penned it under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ. We may even say that these are Christ’s words before they are David’s words. Jesus our Mediator lived His entire life – from womb to tomb! – under the omniscience and omnipresence of God. He did so as our perfect Savior, bearing all our sins, all our shame, and all the terrifying judgment we deserve. And He took those terrible sins to the cross, where He paid for each and every one, so that we can now live our lives under and with the all-searching, all-knowing, everywhere-present God without terror, in peace of conscience, calmness of heart, and rest of soul.

Terrified by God’s omniscience and omnipresence? No! In Christ we stand in awe of Him and count these wonders precious (v.17)! My Lord searches and knows me and everything about me! My Lord is with me at all times and in all places! What an overwhelming blessing! I cannot measure the sum of these things, but when I awake in the morning, I am still with my God (vss.17-18)! Do you also count it so, fellow believer?

And because this is so, we can even pray for God to search us, as David did (v.23). I would never dare to ask this of this fearful God did not my Savior pray this with me on His heart. But standing by faith in Christ crucified – for me! – I am bold to ask the all-knowing God to look into my heart (not just my outward life, but my spiritual core!) and to try me (put me to the test according to His holy and righteous standard!).

But what about all the wicked ways He will find there? My all-sufficient and everywhere present Savior is there too. In Him I am forgiven and justified! In Him I am free of sin and perfectly holy! In Him I am delivered from hell and heaven-bound! Yes, He is leading me in the way everlasting! Lead on, O King eternal!

Is this not reason to worship this day?! Let us say and sing it with David: “I will praise thee” (v.14).

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 139 through music, I encourage you to listen to some versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. All that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me;
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.

2. Ere into being I was brought,
Thy eye did see, and in Thy thought
My life in all its perfect plan
Was ordered ere my days began.

3. Thy thoughts, O God, how manifold,
More precious unto me than gold!
I muse on their infinity,
Awaking I am still with Thee.

4. The wicked Thou wilt surely slay,
From me let sinners turn away;
They speak against the Name divine,
I count God’s enemies as mine.

5. Search me, O God, my heart discern,
Try me, my inmost thought to learn;
And lead me, if in sin I stray,
To choose the everlasting way.

Pentecost 2014 – The Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Father and the Son

Pentecost-John14-16On this Pentecost Sunday we depart from our meditations on the Psalms and focus on our Lord’s promises concerning His gift of the Holy Spirit as recorded in John 14. Here is the pertinent section:

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

With these sure words of our Lord, fulfilled on the great day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, we include these comments of John Calvin:

16.And I will pray to the Father.

This was given as a remedy for soothing the grief which they might feel on account of Christ’s absence; but at the same time, Christ promises that he will give them strength to keep his commandments; For otherwise the exhortation would have had little effect. He therefore loses no time in informing them that, though he be absent from them in body, yet he will never allow them to remain destitute of assistance; for he will be present with them by his Spirit.

Here he calls the Spirit the gift of the Father, but a gift which he will obtain by his prayers; in another passage he promises that he will give the Spirit. If I depart, says he, I will send, Him to you, (John 16:7.) Both statements are true and correct; for in so far as Christ is our Mediator and Intercessor, he obtains from the Father the grace of the Spirit, but in so far as he is God, he bestows that grace from himself. The meaning of this passage therefore is: “I was given to you by the Father to be a Comforter, but only for a time; now, having discharged my office, I will pray to him to give another Comforter, who will not be for a short time, but will remain always with you.”

And he will, give you another Comforter. The word Comforter is here applied both to Christ and to the Spirit, and justly; for it is an office which belongs equally to both of them, to comfort and exhort us, and to guard us by their protection. Christ was the Protector of his disciples, so long as he dwelt in the world: and afterwards he committed them to the protection and guardianship of the Spirit. It may be asked, are we not still under the protection of Christ? The answer is easy. Christ is a continual Protector, but not in a visible way. So long as he dwelt in the world, he openly manifested himself as their Protector; but now he guards us by his Spirit.

He calls the Spirit another Comforter, on account of the difference between the blessings which we obtain from both. The peculiar office of Christ was, to appease the wrath of God by atoning for the sins of the world, to redeem men from death, to procure righteousness and life; and the peculiar office of the Spirit is, to make us partakers not only of Christ himself, but of all his blessings. And yet there would be no impropriety in inferring from this passage a distinction of Persons; for there must be some peculiarity in which the Spirit differs from the Son so as to be another than the Son.

If you would like some additional reading on the gospel of Pentecost, you are encouraged to visit the featured resources on the PRCA website. There you will find both articles and pamphlets on the subject of the Holy Spirit.

Seminary Prison Ministry

Perhaps the above title is a little misleading, since the PRC Seminary does not have a formal ministry to those in prison. And yet it is true that we do carry out a sort of ministry (Christian service) to prisoners. Let me explain.

Prison ministryOne of the duties of being registrar is going through mail that pertains to the Seminary in a general way. Of course, there are specific pieces of mail that we look for each week and which are directly related to my work (insurance items, utility bills, course information, building maintenance matters, etc.). But there are also mail items from people that ask general questions, whether that be for providing services the Seminary could use or requesting help in certain areas. I discovered fairly soon that the latter type includes prisoners.

Yes, we actually receive a fair amount of mail from men who are in prison throughout  the country (at least no women so far in my limited experience with this). Don Doezema, now retired registrar but ever helpful assistant, helps me with this yet, because it can take time answering letters and filling requests. And sometimes it requires due diligence and discernment to make sure we are not being taken advantage of. It is good, then, to have two heads and hands in the work.

In any case, in the last year we have received many requests from prisoners in two units especially, one in Texas and one in California. It seems there is a sound body of Christian men who are interested in – even hungry for – the Reformed faith. Some of the letters are beautifully written and reveal a good knowledge of Calvinism and a desire to grow in the Reformed faith. Some of these men lead Bible studies and other doctrinal studies, and so request materials for study. Some express frustration with the Arminian and charismatic materials found in the prison library and want to see sound Reformed and Biblical resources placed there. Some also want to be placed on our mailing list to receive our theological Journal.

When the request appears genuine, we are quick and eager to send pamphlets, study materials, our “Three Forms of Unity” booklet (quite popular!), and in some cases, books (RFPA and other Reformed titles, usually used). And with this shipment goes a personal letter back to the prisoner. Over time one develops a long-distance friendship with some of these men, and they open up more about their unique struggles and sufferings, even for their Reformed and Christian faith. Many express deep appreciation for the contact, for the PRCA, and for the rich, doctrinal materials they receive. One even sent us a wonderful Christmas card with an encouraging note last December :)

Today I would like to give you a sample from two recent letters we received and to which I responded. They will give you a sense of what these prisoners are about and about how important it is that we do minister to them in their needs. It is a unique opportunity. I might add as a side note, that we also try to refer these men to one of our churches and evangelism committees so that they may have personal contact with them too. But it also crossed my mind that perhaps one of you reading this would like to befriend such a prisoner, so that you could correspond regularly with him, and help fulfill his needs. If interested, let me know.

Now from the letters of two prisoners:

I am reading at the moment the PRTJ (Seminary Journal -cjt) of April this year. I started to ask for it in November of 2012.

I am so thankful to God for the Journal and truly believe (it) is an excellent teaching tool for God’s people, and would like to ask you if its not too much bother to send me the back issues, as far back as possible (a couple at a time) [which I started to do this week -cjt] so the brothers here and all those who attend chapel may have solid, sound, and good doctrine drop on them.

…We are students of God’s Word and the PRTJ will be of great benefit to us all. Thank you for your time and labor of love and please pray for us, that our Lord will grant us to walk as becomes the gospel by his love and grace which work mightily in us!

And the other:

Greetings in the Lord. …I also attend Seminary here (There are some Seminaries that hold classes in prisons. -cjt). They bring in professors throughout the week to lecture us. It is a great blessing. However, most of our professors are Arminian. This does not cause me any problems, even though I’m Reformed.

However, …due to horrendous church service on the weekends (the chaplain here is a female, charismatic) the general population is starved from lack of sound doctrine. Thus, by God’s grace, some Reformed guys in here have together begun a catechism lesson. We have decided upon the Heidelberg due to its ‘comfort’ motif. If any place on earth, or America at least, the Texas prison system certainly has need of its truth, namely God’s truth, plainly laid out. I do not have much money, but I would like to request 20 copies of your ‘Three Forms of Unity’ (which we did send, somewhat ironically, in care of a Baptist Seminary contact he gave us -cjt).

Amazing, isn’t it?! But that’s the nature of God’s grace. The same grace by which you and I are saved, having been rescued from our own spiritual prison. As you can tell, these do make for wonderful opportunities. Won’t you join us in praying for these men and for the spread of the true gospel in these places?

Powerful Testimony in the Face of a Powerful Tornado

The Hodgepodge Darling.

Isaiah 55-8-9In the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the southern Midwest part of the U.S. this past week, one Christian family is grieving the loss of two sons taken away by the wind of God. For those of us who are parents and grandparents, we can only imagine the heartache. And yet, many Christian parents do know this pain, no matter how their son or daughter was taken away.

A fellow Christian friend of these people (Daniel and April Smith are the parents who lost their sons, Tyler and Cameron) wrote of her own reaction and that of her friends. It is a peek into the soul of every believer who wrestles with painful loss and with the sovereign hand of God in such tragedies. But in the end, every believer comes back to rest in the very God Who gives and takes away. This is the testimony of this blog.

Here is a portion of her post; read all of it at the link above or here.

And my beautiful friend, my cheerleader, laid in the hospital bed with her broken legs and battered, beautiful face and held my hands and told me not to be angry because her God is good. She knew that her sons had fulfilled their purpose in life and that they were with the father now. Tyler has always talked about heaven. About how he can’t wait to get there. She said she thought it was because he heard them saying how wonderful it would be…some day. But he looked at her Sunday afternoon, before the storm, and told her he was ready to go to heaven. “Will you miss me?” he asked her. “Well yes,” she said, “but let’s not talk like that now.” “How long will you miss me?” he persisted. And she just smiled and said, “I guess until I see you again.”
“I have peace,” she told me last night through her tears, “I know I have more pain to go through that I probably can understand. But I have supernatural peace. I don’t know what God has for me and my husband that our boys couldn’t be here for, but I do know that He is good. His plan is good.”
And this is how she ends:
When I left the hospital last night, I just cried and thought “She is so strong. She is so faithful. She is so selfless. She is so beautiful”. And it hit me. April is all of these things because she allows herself, even in the midst of this tragedy, to be a reflection of our strong, faithful, selfless, beautiful Savior.
They are greatly broken. But they will mend. They haven’t fulfilled what God has for them yet. But they will. Because while she could be angry, and she may be at some point, she is holding tight to the only thing she has left:
The truth that GOD IS GOOD. ALL THE TIME.

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