Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 128

Psalm128Hearing the Triune God’s call to assemble with our fellow saints in worship of Him, we ready ourselves physically by rising and refreshing ourselves, but also spiritually by rising and refreshing our souls through the Word of God and prayer. As we do so, we may well consider the Scripture in Psalm 128, the next “song of ascent” (or degrees) which we study together. Here is the Word of God in that place:

 Psalm 128

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.

2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall bewell with thee.

3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.

4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.

5 The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.

6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.

You will notice that this is another “family psalm”, closely tied to the previous one, which we considered last time (see my Feb.2, 2014 post). I encourage you to go back and read my introductory comments on Psalm 127 about how the focus on the covenant family applies to the worship of the church in the OT as well as in the NT, since those same thoughts apply to Psalm 128.

With Psalm 128 before us, we should also picture the pilgrim people of God singing these words as they make their journey to Jerusalem (“going up”) for public worship. And as the body of Christ goes together, single believers but also godly husbands with wives at their sides and children in tow, they are deeply conscious of God’s covenant blessings. Together they make up God’s covenant community, with God as their Father, Jesus Christ as their elder Brother, and with one another as spiritual brothers and sisters.

Yet the church is also made up of so many individual covenant homes, led by God-fearing husbands and fathers, who take seriously the worship of the Lord. Because they fear Jehovah, the unchanging God of the covenant, and walk in His ways (v.1), they practice private, family worship in their home. These godly men lead their wives and children in reading and learning God’s Word and in prayer. They teach their families the fear of the Lord and call them too to walk in His ways. And in this way too they prepare their families for public worship. And when the sabbath comes, these God-fearing men make sure their wives and children are present at and participate in the public worship of Jehovah.

In other words, the worship of covenant families is indispensable for the worship of the covenant church! It is important for us to remember this vital connection. Do we expect our wife and children to worship on the Lords Day if we do not worship with them during the week? Do we expect them to desire the presence of the Lord and to participate in worship if there is no desire for Him and no worship of Him during the week? Do we think they will want to grow in the knowledge and fear of the Lord on Sunday through public worship if we are not leading them in these matters in family worship during the week?

My fellow husbands and fathers, let us heed the import of this psalm according to its context! The public worship of Jehovah begins in our own hearts and in our own homes, as we fear God and lead our families day by day in worship of the Lord. Are we diligent and faithful in this? Are we daily reading God’s Word and praying together? This is the man that is blessed according to Psalm 128. And this is the man whose godly family impacts the church for great good. Read those last two verses again and see the close tie between the godliness of our marriages and homes and the blessing of the “good of Jerusalem”, even “peace upon Israel”!

May we remember, repent of our own sin and weakness in this, and return to the godly way of worshiping as families – for the great blessing of our homes. And that will lead to godly worship on Sunday – for the great blessing of the church of Christ.

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on Psalm 128 through the music of the Psalter, I direct you to this versification. At that page you will also find piano accompaniment. Here are the lyrics to Ps.#360:

1. Blest the man that fears Jehovah,
Walking ever in His ways;
By thy toil thou shalt be prospered
And be happy all thy days.

2. In thy wife thou shalt have gladness,
She shall fill thy home with good,
Happy in her loving service
And the joys of motherhood.

3. Joyful children, sons and daughters,
Shall about thy table meet,
Olive plants, in strength and beauty,
Full of hope and promise sweet.

4. Lo, on him that fears Jehovah
Shall this blessedness attend,
For Jehovah out of Zion
Shall to thee His blessing send.

5.Thou shalt see God’s kingdom prosper
All thy days, till life shall cease,
Thou shalt see thy children’s children;
On Thy people, Lord, be peace.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 127

Psalm127For our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we turn together to our next “song of ascent”, Psalm 127. This one is attributed to Solomon, the wise king of Israel, and along with Psalm 128 contains wise counsel for godly families in the midst of the church.

We are accustomed to treating these psalms simply as God’s Word on the covenant family, and they certainly do have much to say about the look and life of a believing home. Yet we must not isolate these psalms from their context or from their original purpose, which was that they be sung as the pilgrim people of God made their way to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Keeping this in mind, we will see that at the heart of the church is the covenant family, God-fearing parents with their covenant children. And so, when the covenant community of the church comes together to worship, at the heart of that community are the communities of worshiping families.

Which is why we do not believe that the children of the church ought to be taken out of the worship service, no matter how young and small. They must be kept with their families and preserved within the broader fellowship of the church. They must worship and serve the Lord with all the other covenant church members, for they belong to God’s church and covenant by His covenant grace.

Now, picturing the covenant families of the OT travelling together to go up to Jerusalem for worship, hear them singing this song of ascent together:

Psalm 127

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

When covenant families are preparing for worship in the Lord’s house, it is good for them to remember the vanity and futility of building their home without the Lord. If we believe that God is our sovereign Savior and Lord, that He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God (the great, unchanging “I am” – Jehovah – notice the name used here.) , that our children are His gift and blessing, then it is vain to construct our homes spiritually without Him. Yes, the Lord is pleased to use us as parents to build a covenant home. Yes, we are laborers together with the Lord. Yes, we must be faithful and diligent builders of a godly home and trainers of our covenant children. But HE builds it; He blesses it; He makes our efforts useful and profitable. Without Him and without dependence on Him our work is all for naught.

And to remind ourselves of this we ought to sing Psalm 127, even as we are going up to the Lord’s house! For we are going to stand in His presence and worship Him, and shall we boast of our labors, of the work of our hearts and hands, of our successes with our covenant homes? Or shall we say, “Unless the Lord is building my house, we labor in vain”?! “These children whom we have taken with us for worship are the Lord’s heritage and His reward. We will bless the Lord alone together! We will teach them to praise God alone for all our covenant blessings!”

And we can extend that principle to the building and defense of the church too. It is the Lord and the Lord alone Who builds His church (Matt.16:18; 1 Cor.3:5-11). Not pastors, not elders, not deacons, not covenant families or individual church members. God lays her foundation (Jesus Christ! Eph.2:20-22); God makes the stones and set them where He wills (1 Pet.2:5-6); God establishes and constructs His Zion and His Jerusalem! She is His building, His house, His temple.

And He alone guards and defends her too! Note how v.1 speaks to this too. Yes, the city of God has watchmen, and they must maintain their post and guard the Lord’s citizens against spiritual harm. Especially pastors, professors of theology, elders, and deacons are given this charge. But if they are trying to do this without the Lord of the city and without dependence on the great Gate-Keeper, they are watching and guarding in vain!

Which means that they must be godly men of prayer. But also, that we who are being protected by the Lord through them must pray for them, in humble dependence on the Lord of the church. Are we? Already this morning? Shall we do that right now as we prepare?

If you wish to reflect on Psalm 127 through the music of our Psalter, we point you to this special versification of it. The lyrics are also posted here, but you will find the piano accompaniment (media file) at the link provided.

1. Unless the Lord the house shall build,
The weary builders toil in vain;
Unless the Lord the city shield,
The guards a useless watch maintain.

2. In vain you rise ere morning break,
And late your nightly vigils keep,
And of the bread of toil partake;
God gives to His beloved sleep.

3. Lo, children are a great reward,
A gift from God in very truth;
With arrows is his quiver stored
Who joys in children of his youth.

4. And blest the man whose age is cheered
By stalwart sons and daughters fair;
No enemies by him are feared,
No lack of love, no want of care.

An Old Book of My Grandpa Terpstra

I&Children-WMasselink-1931cover_Page_1One of the things I would like to feature on “archive Thursday” besides old pictures is some old books. Some of these will be from the Seminary library, while others will be from my own personal library.

Today’s featured old book is from my own library, and is a very special one to me. I came into possession of it just last year, as my father gave it to me through my uncle Larry Terpstra.

It is a book from my Grandpa John Terpstra and is the book he received, I believe, at the time he made public profession of his faith in Jesus Christ and became a member in full communion of the Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed Church on the near north side of Grand Rapids, MI. That is also the congregation in which my father, Gordon, was baptized and received his spiritual training.

At the time of my grandpa’s profession of faith Rev.William Masselink was the pastor (from 1928-1942), and he is the one who signed the book given to him. As you will see, it is signed March 13, 1932.

But you will also notice that the book is authored by pastor Masselink. Its title is I and the Children Thou Hast Given Me or Our Covenant Youth and Worldy Amusements (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1931). The book is composed of two parts. In part one, Rev.Masselink treats “The Covenant of Grace” (which as also published separately) and in part two he deals with “Worldly Amusements”.

NoteinsideI&Children-WMasselink-1932Now, this book is significant for other reasons beside the fact that it belonged to my grandpa Terpstra. For one thing, his doctrine of the covenant is one with which we in the PRCA sharply differ. Masselink (following L.Berkhof, by his own admission) taught that the covenant was an agreement between God and sinners and that it was conditioned by the sinner’s faith. And he was also a common grace defender, as we would expect. But it is significant that he wrote this book on worldly amusements so soon after the CRC had adopted the three points of common grace in 1924. Yet, he was simply “toeing the line” in the CRC.

You may remember that the CRC also issued a strong warning about worldly amusements immediately after adopting the doctrine of common grace, because, as they stated, they did not want the doctrine to be abused. Now, if a doctrine is adopted by a Reformed church and is said to be on solid, Biblical ground, should you have to issue a warning about it?! But, we can save that for another time.

My purpose is simply to highlight this old book and its value to my library. In spite of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. No, because of its weaknesses, it is a treasure to me. For this too belongs to my personal past through my father. I am thankful for his Christian upbringing in the CRC, but also for the fact that he joined the PRC when he married my mother, Eileen (Engelsma). And I am grateful that I have had the privilege of being spiritually trained in the environment of the twins truths of God’s sovereign, particular grace and unconditional covenant. Soli Deo Gloria!

One other tidbit of this history comes to mind. My dad told us that Rev.Masselink had the nickname of “Weeping Willie” because of his emotional style of preaching. I wish I could have heard him :).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 126

Psalm126As we enter the Lord’s gates of righteousness and joy today (Ps.118:19), we consider together Psalm 126, the seventh of the songs of ascent sung by God’s OT pilgrim people as they journeyed to Jerusalem for worship. Here is the Word of God in this song:

Psalm 126

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.

5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

We can see immediately that the setting of this psalm is a late event in the history of Israel – the return from captivity in Babylon after 70 years (see also Psalm 137). And we also catch the note of joy and gladness – this is a celebratory psalm! The OT church is celebrating the joyful event of the return to Israel and Jerusalem with laughter and singing because it was the work of their sovereign God and Savior, v.2-3. Though it was the Persian king Cyrus who granted them release from Babylon, it was the Lord of Persia and Cyrus Who “turned again the captivity of Zion”, v.1 (Read the history of this again, especially in Isaiah, to see the Lord’s sovereignty over all the details of this event. You will recall that Cyrus is even called the Lord’s anointed servant, Is.45:1.)

In fact, it was the “LORD” – Jehovah, the faithful God of the covenant, the One Who remembered His promise to His own and Who never forgets or forsakes His people, no matter how much time goes by or how many events take place. The Lord of salvation set His people free from Babylon and restored them to the land of promise. And He did that in His love, mercy and grace for His elect remnant, because Christ was in them and they were in Him.

No wonder then that their mouths were filled with laughter and their tongues with singing! No wonder they sang praise to God and attributed this saving event to Jehovah! “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad”, v.3. As in the time of harvest, God had turned their weeping into joy, vss.5-6. Sowing in tears, they now reaped with rejoicing, because the Lord had turned all things – even the troubles and temptations of the captivity in Babylon – for their good.

This glad song is also ours today. And even more so. For we know about a greater return from captivity. We know the reality to which the return from Babylon pointed and still points: to our release from the bondage of sin and the return to the joyful freedom  of serving God! To the perfect work of God’s highest Servant, Jesus Christ, Who for us miserable sinners went to Calvary to pay the full price of our release and return, even the wrath of God and the sufferings of hell. But Who also rose again from the dead for us and went to heaven for us and is coming again for us, so that someday we may fully leave the Babylon of this world and enter the joy of our Lord!

O, what great things the Lord has done for us! And for this we are glad, so glad! O, how our weeping has been turned into joy! So we laugh and we sing, and we worship and shout our praises to the God of our salvation! Today, on the Lord’s Day, the day of our risen, victorious Savior! And every day! For we have begun to live the endless life of our return to God, and the full day of rest is not far off. God’s Servant, our Savior, is soon coming to set us fully free and bring us home!

And so,  we, like the OT church, still pray, “Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south” (v.4). Even as we celebrate God’s work of turning again the captivity of Zion, we long for the full and perfect day. For we are still sit in the Babylon of this world. We still suffer from the remnants of our bondage to sin. Satan can still hinder us and hurt us. But our Lord is coming! The day of our full return is seen on the horizon! “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” May that be our prayer as we laugh and sing and celebrate God’s work for us today.

If you wish to meditate on Psalm 126 through the music of the Psalter, we post this versification of it and link you to the page where you may also find piano accompaniment.

1. When Zion in her low estate
Was brought from bondage by the Lord,
In ecstasy we sang for joy,
By grace and wondrous love restored.

2. The Lord in greatly blessing us
Before the world His power displays;
Yea, great things God has done for us,
And filled our hearts with joy and praise.

3. O Lord, refresh us by Thy grace,
Revive and quicken all our powers,
As failing streams are made to flow,
Replenished by abundant showers.

4. The sower bearing precious seed
May weep as in his toil he grieves,
But he shall come again with joy
In harvest time with golden sheaves.

New Reformed Education Blog

RefdEduc-DJEAs a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s post about the book on Christian school Board leadership, I want to make you aware of a new blogging venture on Reformed education. Rick Mingerink, administrator at Adams Christian School, has started a blog on this subject with the sub-title “Thinking about the Calvinist day-school”. This is how Rick introduces his blog in his first post:

In 2009, I started a running commentary on various matters and issues that pertain to Reformed education.  For two and a half years, I filled the back of Adams’ Monday Note with my thoughts, concerns and ideas in regards to education in the Calvinist day-school.

I’m looking forward to using a new format for my thoughts.  The blog is ideal for an activity such as this.  Among other conveniences, it also allows others to respond.  For me, that is important.  Whether you challenge my thoughts or you encourage them, I would be appreciative if you contributed your own thinking.

One of the biggest threats to Reformed education is not thinking about it.

His most recent posts concern the educational views of Rev.Herman Hoeksema in a sermon he preached in 1916 on Deut.6:7, when he was still a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (later published in The Standard Bearer, 1927). I encourage you to check out Rick’s blog, support and encourage him by subscribing to it, and begin following these interesting and informative posts on Reformed education.

We must think about it! And talk about! Thanks, Rick, for continuing the conversation in this powerful way!

P.S. Thanks to those who responded to my post on Christian school Boards yesterday too. If you haven’t checked out  the comments yet, do so. Three people – all involved in Christian education at different levels and ways – left helpful notes that are of benefit to all of us.

Serving God on the Christian School Board – R.W.Lowrie

I am in my final year (six months actually) of serving on the Board of Heritage Christian School, where some of our children attended and where we now have four grandchildren. It has been a privilege and joy (and learning experience!) to serve with other Christ-devoted, covenant-committed men the last two and a half years.

When it comes to Board work, it seems to be “learn on the job” training. Our Christian school administrators and teachers receive plenty of training for their positions, but Board members do not. Except of course, the life-training of being parents, business men, church leaders, etc. And I do not minimize this “training”. In many ways it is the best training.

At the same time, I wish there could be more training materials for Board members. In the PRC we have plenty of helps and on-going training for our teachers, but we have none for Board members. We have a great publication on Reformed education, but nothing specifically for Board members, as far as I know. We ought to develop some good, foundational resources that would serve Board members.

ServingGodChrSchoolBoard-LowrieI did not know there was anything “out there” on serving on the Christian school Board until I found a book by this very title in a Thrift store a few weeks ago. The book was originally penned by Dr.Roy W. Lowrie, who served as headmaster of Delaware County Christian School for twenty-six years and then as first president of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). He also taught in the graduate program for Christian school administration at Grace College and Seminary and Columbia International University. His son, Roy, Jr. has kept this work alive with revisions to the second and third editions to Serving God on the Christian School Board.

Even though this book is not written from a Reformed and covenantal perspective (more broadly evangelical and even fundamentalistic), it is still helpful, containing many good thoughts. I take a few of these from the introduction today and will perhaps follow up sometime with some additional material. This is written by john Schimmer, Jr. and includes a quote from Roy W.Lowrie.

Serving on a Christian school board is a holy calling, a ministry unto the Lord that deserves our best-informed effort. It behooves us to stury board literature and to receive training so that we can carry out our responsibilities with knowledge and wisdom. We must serve in a way that honor our Lord.

While the criteria for serving on a Christian school board are quite similar to those of other private schools and nonprofit baords, the essential distinctive for Christian schools is that every trustee must be a mature Christian leader who is committed to thinking Christianly and modeling the teachings of Scripture in the boardroom, the school, and the community. Dr.Roy W.Lowrie, Jr., wrote, ‘Board members should be thinking Christianly when they come to the decisions that they have to make. Their decisions need to be as biblical as [their expectations of] the decisions of teachers and of administrators. This is why it is critical to have spiritually qualified board members…. It is better to have a smaller board of qualified people than to have a larger board with some being unqualified spiritually’ (Administration of the Christian School).

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 125

Psalm125To help guide our minds and hearts as we prepare for our worship in the Lord’s house of prayer this day, we turn to the sixth of the “songs of Ascent”, Psalm 125. As we read this portion of God’s Word, we can hear the men, women and children singing this song as Mt.Zion, the mountain of God, and Jerusalem, the city of God, come into view and the pilgrims begin making the climb to their destination. Listen to them:

Psalm 125

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.

2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

4 Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

5 As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

Jerusalem-Ancient imageCan we picture it? With the help of a picture of Jerusalem built on Mt.Zion, one of the seven peaks in that area, we can. And then we can understand why this metaphor entered the psalmist’s mind and became the inspiration for writing this psalm, under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ.

The people would have come a long way by the time they reached the holy city, and they would have come through many dangers. The site of the mountains around Jerusalem pointed the saints to their temporal and eternal security in the Lord their God. Jehovah, their mighty Savior and strong Defender, surrounded them in His grace and love. In Him they were safe in the face of all natural dangers and spiritual evils. Their arrival at the gates of Jerusalem proved that to them.

And seeing the mighty hills of God around Jerusalem and seeing the temple on Mt.Zion taught them to place all their trust in this God alone, v.1. They must live by faith and not by sight. That faith would be rewarded in their worship, as they would receive from the Lord God the assurance of their salvation from and security in Him.

It is no different for the NT church and people of God. Though we no longer go up to the physical city of Jerusalem when we worship, we do go up to the spiritual mountain of God’s presence and we do enter the spiritual city of God’s sovereign rule and protection in Jesus Christ. Wherever God’s church gathers, even if it is only two or three saints and in a flimsy shelter or open field, God surrounds her and is in the midst of her; she cannot be moved (Ps.46:5). Yes, wherever we meet today today, our King is with us and around us, and we are safe and secure by sovereign grace and the Spirit of our Lord! Nothing and no one can take us away from our God or remove us from His saving presence! The gates of hell cannot prevail against Christ’s church (Matt.16:18)! Are we conscious of this today as we go up to the hill of our God?

But then we too must trust in Him, v.1! Not the safety any building affords us or the security any earthly ruler may grant us must give us our confidence. Our hope and trust must be in the Lord alone! Our faith must be in the One Who surrounds us in Christ! We must look up, not to any physical mountains, but to the Lord and His sovereign presence with us! Are we doing that, even now as we prepare for worship?

Then we too will not want the rod of the wicked to rest on us, v.3. We will not seek the rule of evil in our midst, lest we join the wicked around us and stretch out our hands to iniquity. Many churches and people have done exactly that, as they have fallen into unbelief and departed from the good ways of God’s Word and covenant. Israel of old did too and was severely chastised. And we are certainly capable of that sin of apostasy. Let us learn and be warned! Let us seek only the Lord and His ways of truth and righteousness! Let us continue in the ways of His covenant, walking in the friendship and fellowship of our God!

And so, let us pray, as the saints did in this song, v.4: “Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” “Good” by grace alone, of course. For we know well the curse of the Lord that comes on those who turn aside and walk crookedly, v.5. We want the peace of God on Israel. And that can be only when God is good to us in Christ, pardoning our sins, making us holy so as to delight in His ways, and preserving us unto our eternal home. For that we must pray. Daily. On the Lord’s Day too. Shall we?

May you and I, in the way of trusting in this mighty God of grace, experience this peace and security today.

If you wish to meditate on this psalm through the music of the Psalter, we give you this versification of Psalm 125 and point you to this page where you may also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along.

1. Like Zion’s steadfast mount are they
Who in the Lord confide;
Secure, immovable they stand,
Forever to abide.

2. As round about Jerusalem
The mountains give defense,
Jehovah is His people’s guard,
Their lasting confidence.

3. No tyrant’s scepter o’er the good
Shall undisturbed abide,
Lest righteous men, oppressed by wrong,
To evil turn aside.

4. O Thou Jehovah, to the good
Thy goodness now impart,
Thy lovingkindness show to them
That upright are in heart.

5. All those that turn from righteousness
With wayward, wandering feet,
With sinners God will lead them forth,
The sinner’s doom to meet.

6. O Thou Who are Thy people’s shield,
Their helper and their guide,
Upon them let Thy grace and peace
Forevermore abide.

Encouraging the Next Generation to Read (2) – Rev.B.Huizinga

Part of my Sunday reading again yesterday was the December 15, 2013 issue of the Standard Bearer (as well as the Jan.1, 2014 issue which also arrived in the mail this weekend!) and an excellent article on reading by Rev.Brian Huizinga. This article belongs to the second installment of the text of a speech he gave at the annual meeting of the Reformed Free Publishing Association back in September of this year. At that meeting Rev.Huizinga gave a stirring speech on “Encouraging the Next Generation to Read”, something I highlighted in a post at the time of the speech (and a link to where you can find the audio).

RFPA2013Annual-AdPic

Last Monday I called attention to another part of this published speech, and today I do so again. This part continues where we left off there, as Rev.Huizinga continues to give reasons why we should read – especially the next generation! Here’s what he had to say next:

Finally, the Bible.  The aforementioned passages are all secondary (See my previous post -cjt).  The primary proof that reading has a significant place in God’s covenant is the Bible itself.  In His inscrutable wisdom God determined from all eternity that He would be revealed to His people through the Bible, His written revelation, the entirety of which we new dispensation believers now have in our hands.  And the Bible as a written revelation must be read.  God could have revealed Himself savingly in Jesus Christ through some other means, but He determined that He would be revealed through a written revelation that must be read.  That the revelation of God comes to us in a book with words that are written and must be read is the proof that reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.  And whom does this written revelation reveal but Him who is called the Word, and the Alpha and Omega (Greek letters)?  The necessity and urgency of reading in the covenant is indisputable and could not be emphasized too strongly.  To deny the significance of reading in the covenant is to deny Scripture as such, and thus the Word Himself!  The church will let reading vanish to her peril and destruction.  The divine form of revelation—which demands reading—is the incontrovertible proof that the reading of the Bible and all spiritually-edifying literature is necessary.  No matter what technological developments and transformations take place in the modern world, reading among the covenant people must not be allowed to disappear.  Reading cannot disappear so long as Christ tarries.

Why is reading so significant in the covenant?  It is an instrument of God for fulfilling His promises.  The covenant of grace is the relationship of friendship between the triune God and His elect people in their generations through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ.  In that covenant, God makes promises to us and our children—chiefly that He will be our God and reveal Himself to us, and that He will shower saving blessings upon us now and everlastingly in Jesus Christ.  That particular promise God will sovereignly realize by His own power and grace.  However, He is pleased to fulfill it by using various instruments, the chief of which is the gospel of the Scriptures preached, but another is the Scriptures and then, by extension, all spiritually edifying literature read.  The purpose of reading therefore is to know Jehovah and His saving works and ways.  The more we know Him the more we will love Him and trust Him and hope in Him and will grow in our relationship with Him.  That is our salvation!  That is the fulfillment of His promise in Christ!  If we love God we will not be able to keep from reading any more than the new bride can keep from reading the letters her husband sends to her from the battlefield across the sea.  I must read to know my beloved!  Through reading we come to know and love our faithful God as He has promised.  Reading has a significant place in the covenant of grace as an instrument of God for the fulfilling of His promises.  We must read!  Our young people must read!

December 15, 2013 “SB”: Encouraging the Next Generation to Read”

RFPA2013Annual-AdPicPart of my Sunday reading yesterday was the the new Standard Bearer and an excellent article on reading by Rev.Brian Huizinga. This article is actually the second installment of the text of a speech he gave at the annual meeting of the Reformed Free Publishing Association back in September of this year. Rev.Huizinga gave a stirring speech on “Encouraging the Next Generation to Read”, something I highlighted in a post at the time of the speech (and a link to where you can find the audio).

Now that the “SB” is putting this speech in print, it is worth highlighting again. Though the full text is not yet online (I do plan to start putting it on the PRCA website soon and the RFPA will do it on the “SB” site in time also.), I can give you a small part of it here. And perhaps in the next week we can highlight some other parts of it. In the section below Rev.Huizinga is calling attention to the great need to read as members of God’s covenant. I hope this kindles within you a greater desire to read for your spiritual growth.

The next generation must be encouraged to read.  The necessity, even urgency, of doing so is twofold.  First, reading has a significant place in the covenant of grace as an instrument of God for the fulfilling of His promises.  That reading has a significant place in God’s covenant can be demonstrated from Scripture.

First of all, Exodus 24:7 (and all similar Old Testament passages):  “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people:  and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.”  Throughout Israel’s history as a constituted nation, the book of the covenant, which contained God’s laws and promises for Israel, was read.  The book of the covenant was not read by every individual but it was read to the people by Moses and the leaders after him, over and over again.  Apostasy in Israel was always characterized by the neglect of reading the book of the covenant, either because it had been lost or because it was deliberately ignored.  One of the greatest reformations that ever occurred among God’s covenant people, although sadly it did not last very long, took place during the reign of good king Josiah.  The book of the covenant was found after having been lost, “and the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great [they had little children there, of course]:  and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” (II Kings 23:2).  The book of the covenant was read.  When it was read Israel usually prospered.  When it was neglected, invariably apostasy occurred.  Clearly, reading had a significant place in God’s covenant already in the Old Testament.

Second, I Timothy 4:13:  “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  To the young pastor Timothy and to every pastor comes the command, “Read.  Give attendance to reading.”  Read publicly in the worship of the church and in teaching catechism.  Read privately so that you may know how to exhort and may grow in and teach doctrine.  But is the inspired apostle’s command to read to be understood as a command only to pastors like Timothy, or is it a command principally and primarily to pastors, but also to every child of God?  Because not only the minister, but everyone, must know doctrine, so all ought to give attendance to reading.  Read!  Give attendance to reading!  Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.

Third, II Timothy 4:13:  “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”  When an older, experienced minister has been thrown into prison in Rome, and has been sentenced to death and is simply awaiting the time of his departure when the Roman soldiers will take him to the execution block, he has one last request:  “Timothy, when you come [and hasten lest I die before you arrive] bring me the books, especially the parchments.”  Bring me books!  Bring me good literature to read, for I have read often and it edifies my soul as little else can.  Is this the desire only of Paul and those in similar circumstances, or is this the desire of all of God’s children?  In God’s covenant, God’s people say, “Bring me books.  My soul needs books!”  Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.

Fourth, Revelation 1:3:  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein:  for the time is at hand.”  Blessed is he that readeth the book of Revelation publicly in worship and they who hear it.  Blessed is he that readeth the book of Revelation privately.  However, because Scripture is one united whole, and the book of Revelation is part of the whole, “Blessed is he that readeth” means “Blessed is he that readeth the whole Bible.”  By lawful extension, then, blessed is he that readeth a faithful exposition of this book to help him understand it, such as Behold He Cometh by Rev. Hoeksema.  Blessed is he that readeth any such literature that helps him understand God’s revelation.  Blessed, happy, privileged is he that readeth!  To be pitied is he who rejects or minimizes reading!  Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant. (to be continued -cjt)

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 122

Psalm122Once more on the first day of the week, the day of our risen Savior Jesus Christ, we devote ourselves to the worship of our Triune God and Father.

This we do because this God sent His Son into the world to take on our flesh and blood and give His life on Calvary for our deliverance from sin and unto life everlasting with Him. And now that Christ is risen from the dead and ascended to His Father’s right hand, He has given us His Spirit through Whom we have all grace (salvation) poured out on us, so that we can and want to worship Him as God alone.

Gladly and gratefully then we come with our fellow saved saints to give our God praise and thanks. Which is why Psalm 122, one of the songs of ascents used by the OT pilgrim people of God as they went up to Jerusalem for worship, is so fitting for us today and every Lord’s Day. Listen carefully to the words of this song penned by the inspired David (according to the heading), and sing it in your own heart as you prepare to go up to worship the Lord seated on His glorious throne in the midst of the church:

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.

2 Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:

4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.

5 For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

9 Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.

Are you able to say that opening line this morning? Are you and am I glad we are called to worship today? Does gladness in and gratitude toward the Lord of our salvation drive us to the house of our God? Do we rejoice in our freedom to do so (If, indeed, you have that freedom!)? Do we have overwhelming joy that when we arrive at our place of worship the God of heaven and earth will receive us and fellowship with us? What a wonder! What reason for gladness!

Picture the pilgrims of Israel starting to gather from various parts of the land to go up to Jerusalem for a major feast. Hear them talking about the joy of joining their fellow believers for this journey and the joy of being in God’s house in Jerusalem again. Hear the psalmist start a song of praise as they trek together on the dusty roads leading to the great city of God. Of what does he speak first of all? What shall he say from his own heart and for the benefit of his fellow pilgrims? This, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” What a precious opening word! Shall we start our day in harmony with these saints of old?

And do we hear what else these pilgrims are singing on their way to worship? Hear them speak of their resolve to stand within the gates of God’s church, v.2. Not just sit there and then get up and walk away; but stand there. As the servants of God, ready to do His will. Standing as in ready to participate; active and engaged in worship of God. Not sitting and sleeping, but standing to give glory to God. Is that what we will do this day? Are we going to stand or sit?

Notice how these pilgrims speak highly of Jerusalem, God’s church. She is the house of their faithful covenant Lord, vss.1,9. In the midst of the church God is pleased to dwell with His covenant children whom He has redeemed and renewed. At the heart of our worship is not what we do, but what God does: as our covenant Father and Friend He calls us to Himself, and then when we come, He dwells with us! He fellowships with sinners saved by grace! He talks with us out of His Word! He comforts our hearts, calms our fears, instructs our minds, and establishes our feet in His ways! Because He loves us! In Christ, the Son of His love! What a thing is “going to church”! Do we realize it? Are we glad for it? Will we give thanks for it (v.4)?

And then too, hear this theme of peace in the hearts and mouths of the pilgrims going to Jerusalem, vss.6-9. O, yes, God’s church is built as a city that is compact together, v.3. She is a beautifully united place. Because God is there, the unifying principle of the church’s life and peace. Because Christ’s throne is there, v.5. Our crucified, risen, and ascended King is the foundation for Zion’s peace. Because of these truths the peace of the church is sure and steadfast. Nothing and no one can rupture her peace and ruin her safety.

But we who dwell in Jerusalem and who worship there together are sinners, sinners with enmity and war still in our hearts and souls. Enmity and war against God! And enmity and war against our neighbor, even these precious fellow pilgrims! And from that point of view, I – and you with me – can disrupt the peace of God’s church. I can ruin a beautiful worship service with my hate-filled war-mongering against the Lord and His people. Just watch me come with bitterness in my heart toward God for some ill-advised providence of His (I proudly think!) or toward that brother or sister who said this to me or did that to me (at least, that is what I heard!)!

Yes, peace in the church is a fragile thing from our perspective. And so, even as we are coming together with our fellow sinners to worship, we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. For our own sakes but also for their sakes, v.8. And above all, for God’s sake – for the glory of His name and for the good (prosperity) of His house. Will we do that now? Do we love God’s church, v.6? Do we seek her good, v.9? Are you glad for your place in her, v.1? Then let us do that now! Before we worship – and while we worship!

If you wish to meditate on Psalm 122 through the music of our Psalter, I direct you to this versification. Once at this link, you will find a piano recording to accompany you.

1. With joy I heard my friends exclaim,
Come, let us in God’s temple meet;
Within thy gates, O Zion blest,
Shall ever stand our willing feet.

2. How beautiful doth Zion stand,
A city built compact and fair;
The people of the Lord unite
With joy and praise to worship there.

3. They come to learn the will of God,
To pay their vows, His grace to own,
For there is judgment’s royal seat,
Messiah’s sure and lasting throne.

4. For Zion’s peace let prayer be made;
May all that love thee prosper well;
Within thy walls let peace abide,
And gladness with thy children dwell.

5. For sake of friends and kindred dear,
My heart’s desire is Zion’s peace,
And for the house of God, the Lord,
My loving care shall never cease.

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