Music Meditation: “He Was Despised” – Handel’s “Messiah”

In connection with our previous post on the aspect of our Lord’s suffering that involved being spit on, we also post this video of the solo pieces (alto) “He was Despised” and “He Gave His Back to the Smiters” from G.F.Handel’s “Messiah”.

You will notice that also this aspect of Christ’s suffering was prophesied of, in Isaiah 50:6. Every detail of his passion was purposed and providentially carried out by His sovereign Father. And to it all Jesus willingly gave Himself. Notice what that text says: He gave his back to the smiters and He hid not his face from the shame and spitting. He suffered not as a helpless victim but as God’s willing, submissive Servant. So that His whole life as well as His death could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He bore our shame and was spit on, so that we might have the smile of God’s face now and to all eternity.

May our music meditation on Christ’s suffering of “shame and spitting” also serve to humble us and drive us to the cross.

Here is the information that goes with the video:

Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759)

air for alto: “He was despised and rejected of men” (Oratorio Messiah)

Grace Hoffman, mezzo-soprano

The Philharmonia orchestra and chorus,
Conductor: Otto Klemperer.
London, September 1964

He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
He gave his back to the smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked off
the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (4)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieOver the past few Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we are doing a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. During this special season of reflection on the passion and victory of our Savior we are using as our source the little book  Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

Chapter seven (7) of this work contains a precious sermon of Charles H. Spurgeon, “Then Did They Spit in His Face”, based on Matthew 26:67. This verse reads (in the KJV): “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.” This refers, of course, to that part of Jesus’ suffering when he was being tried by Caiaphas and the leaders of the Jews.

I have to remark here that I don’t believe I have ever heard (or read) a sermon specifically on this passage or on this part of our Lord’s suffering. Spurgeon’s treatment of this verse is powerful, pointing us both to the wickedness of man and the mercy of the Savior. I can only quote a portion of his sermon, but I choose that part where Spurgeon calls attention to the power of sin as it lies in our hearts and works in our own lives.

There are two or three thoughts that come to mind when I think that these wicked men did actually spit in Christ’s face – in that face which is the light of heaven, the joy of angels, the bliss of saints, and the very brightness of the Father’s glory. This spitting shows us, first, how far sin will go. If we want proof of the depravity of the heart of man, I will not point you to the stews of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor will I take you to the places where blood is shed in streams by wretches like to Herod and men of that sort.

No, the clearest proof that man is utterly fallen, and that the natural heart is enmity against God, is seen in the fact that they did spit in Christ’s face, did falsely accuse him, and condemn him, and lead him out as a malefactor, and hang him up as a felon that he might die upon the cross. Why, what evil had he done? What was there in his whole life that should give them occasion to spit in his face? Even at that moment, did his face flash with indignation against them? Did he look with contempt upon them?

Not he; for he was all gentleness and tenderness even toward these his enemies, and their hearts must have been hard and brutal indeed that ‘then did they spit in his face.’ He had healed their sick, he had fed their hungry, he had been among them a very fountain of blessing up and down Judaea and Samaria; and yet, ‘then did they spit in his face.’ Humanity stands condemned of the blackest iniquity now that it has gone as far as to spit in Christ’s face.

O my brothers, let us hate sin; O my sisters, let us loathe sin, not only because it pierced those blessed hands and feet of our dear Redeemer, but because it dared even to spit in his face! No one can ever know all the shame the Lord of glory suffered when they did spit in his face. These words glide over my tongue all too smoothly; perhaps even I do not feel them as they ought to be felt, though I would do so if I could.

But could I feel as I ought to feel in sympathy with the terrible shame of Christ, and then could I interpret those feelings by any language known to mortal man, surely you would bow your heads and blush, and you would feel rising within your spirits a burning indignation against the sin that dared to put the Christ of God to such shame as this. I want to kiss his feet when I think that they did spit in his face (pp.44-46).

May these thoughts humble us to the dust and lead us to godly repentance for our own spitting on Jesus’ face in so many ways (as Spurgeon also points out in the sermon). And may it drive us to the merciful Savior Who shed His blood for such sin-spitting sinners.

Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance.

Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance..

MoxFirefoxpicThis is another of those stories that will make you realize how intolerant and antagonistic our society has become toward those who support traditional marriage (Biblical, i.e., God-ordained and defined). This news item broke this week and it is just one more indicator of the fact that the pro-homosexual, anti-Christian crowd, for all its talk of tolerance and freedom, really only wants this for itself, not for those who stand for and support traditional values.

The fact that this man’s contribution “got out” because of an IRS leak only makes one more upset. With the continued slide into moral decay on the part of our country goes loss of freedom and privacy. We may expect more of this in the future. Signs of the times, these things are. Signs of Christ’s return – for judgment (on the impenitent) and salvation (for penitent believers). May our hope be fixed on that great day.

Here’s the story as posted April 3, 2014 at “The Foundry” (Heritage Foundation) – read the rest at the link above:

Mozilla Corp. co-founder Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO after a week of public pressure stemming from a campaign contribution he made six years ago. Eich supported the wrong cause; he supported California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

For some who favor the redefinition of marriage, tolerance appears to have been a useful rhetorical device along the way to eliminating dissent.

Eich, on the other hand, seems to have been quite tolerant. As Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, commenting on the development, said of  Eich’s 15 years at Mozilla:

I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness.”

 

The outrageous treatment of Eich  is the result of one private, personal campaign contribution to support marriage as a male-female union, a view affirmed at the time by President Barack Obama, then-Sen.  Hillary Clinton, and countless other prominent officials. After all, Prop 8 passed with the support of 7 million California voters.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 129

Psalm129-2Our psalm for consideration today as we prepare to worship at our sovereign God’s footstool is Psalm 129. This is the tenth of the “song of degrees” or “ascent”, sung by the Israelite pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the solemn seasons of worship according to the law of the Lord. As they made their way to the city of God, they were conscious of many things, including their enemies, as we have seen previously (see especially Psalms 120, 124).

According to Psalm 129 the people of God were conscious of these foes of the Lord and themselves again and sang this song along the way:

Psalm 129

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

4 The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.

6 Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:

7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.

8 Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.

 

Why sing of such haters of Zion? Why sing/pray for the ruin of these enemies of the church? Because Israel realized how important her cause and calling was. The worship of the one, true and living God was the highest activity in which Israel could be engaged. It is the chief purpose of the church to praise and glorify the God of the whole earth, the God Who is her Lord by creation and redemption in Jesus Christ. God must be exalted – in the church and among the nations. He must be shown to be God alone and all idols shown to be nothing.

And therefore, the worship of this one, true God was Israel’s holiest activity and her highest witness to the wicked world around her. And as the NT church, we must know that our worship of the Lord still is this.

Which is why this worship is so hated, so despised, and so opposed. This is why Zion, God’s true, worshiping church in the world is so afflicted, even from his youth (vss.1-2). Because the wicked and unbelieving cannot stand to see the one, true God exalted and praised and their own idols and worship condemned and put down. Their carnal enmity against God is roused when they see Zion marching to worship Him, and so they attack God’s people and try to prevent them from worshiping (v.3). They would never give their blessing and encouragement to the church in her journey to Jerusalem (v.8).No, they hate Zion and curse her (Remember Balak?!).

And again, as God’s NT church, we must know it is still the same. We may not experience that hatred and opposition so directly in this country (Though it is increasing all the time!), but in many parts of the world believers in the true God and Father of Jesus Christ do. The persecution of God’s true worshipers continues to this day.

And so the church then and now may and must sing the words of Psalm 129. Such words may be viewed as “intolerant” in our day; they may be viewed as “hate speech” on the part of the church. But these inspired words of God are also put into her mouth: “Let them be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.” For, yes, our God is righteous (v.4)! He is the just Judge of all men, including the wicked Who hate Zion.

In praying for the overthrow of her enemeies the church is not acting out of personal spite or revenge. She is commiting her way to the Judge of heaven and earth. She is seeking the revelation of the perfect justice of the righteous God, Who blesses and rewards good-doers and Who curses and punishes evil-doers. This God is the great Savior and Defender of His church (v.4). He protects His true worshipers so that the wicked do not prevail against them (v.2b). And therefore to this God Zion prays.

And so, as Israel sang this as she went up to Jerusalem, so do we who go up to the spiritual city of God. Conscious of our foes, as the OT church was, we sing with her, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth….” May our sovereign Savior and faithful Father hear our prayer and answer us in mercy. For Christ’s sake, because as sinners, we too are by nature the enemies of God. But now, for Jesus’ sake, we are covenant friends. Let us draw near and worship!

Psalter1912If you should desire to reflect on Psalm 129 through the music of the Psalter, I point you to this special versification of it found in the songbook the PRC uses in public worship. Below are the lyrics; at the link provided here you will also find piano accompaniment.

1. Through all the years, may Israel say,
My bitter foes have oft assailed,
Have sought my hurt in fierce array,
Yet over me have not prevailed.

2. Though scars of conflict and distress
Remain to tell of trials past,
Jehovah in His righteousness
Has safely brought us through at last.

3. The foes of Zion shall be brought
To hopeless flight and put to shame;
Their wicked plans shall come to nought
And all mankind forget their name.

4. To them no kindly friend shall say,
God bless you now and speed you well;
No grateful heart for them shall pray,
May God’s rich blessing on you dwell.

 

43 Books About War Every Man Should Read | The Art of Manliness

43 Books About War Every Man Should Read | The Art of Manliness.

WarBooksThough this guest article was posted a month ago on the AOM blog (Dec.3, 2013), it is still worth noting here. Yes, it is especially for you men, who need to be encouraged to read anyway and who ought to find the subject of war interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is to learn about manliness (in both its corrupt and sanctified forms).

But of course, as believers we also look at war through the lens of Scripture, remembering that it is our sovereign God Who controls the running of the red horse throughout history – all for the sake of the gathering of His elect church through Jesus Christ (Rev.6:2,4). That too ought to be incentive to read about war – to learn how God has used this means to save and preserve His church in every land and place.

There are a variety of books on war here, covering every major period of history. Plus, Mr.Holiday provides a brief synopsis of each title he recommends. Thus you men ought to find something to add to your reading list for 2014 here. What period of war history would you like to know about?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ryan Holiday.

War is unquestionably mankind at his worst. Yet, paradoxically, it is in war that men — individual men — often show the very best of themselves. War is often the result of greed, stupidity, or depravity. But in it, men are often brave, loyal, and selfless.

I am not a soldier. I have no plans to become one. But I’ve studied war for a long time. I am not alone in this.

The greats have been writing and reading about war — its causes, its effects, its heroes, its victims — since the beginning of written text. Some of our most powerful literature is either overtly about war or profoundly influenced by it. Homer’s epic poems are about war — first, ten years of battle against Troy and then ten years of battle against nature and the gods. Thucydides, our first great historian, wrote about the Peloponnesian War — the great war between Sparta and Athens. Rome was built by war and literature, and the world has been influenced by that ever since. The American Empire is no different — our men came home and wrote about the Civil War, about the Spanish-American War, about WWI, about WWII. A new generation has come home and has written (and is still writing) powerful books about the counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The study of war is the study of life, because war is life in the rawest sense. It is death, fear, power, love, adrenaline, sacrifice, glory, and the will to survive.

Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year: “Selfie”

Selfie is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year | Books | The Guardian.

Narcissism-1Before we get to our regular “Word Wednesday” feature, I thought I would post this word item that was part of my Library Journal readings yesterday. Every year the Oxford Dictionary editors select a new “word of the year” – a word that enters our vocabulary and appears to be one to stay. This  year they chose the word “selfie”, and if you are at all in touch with modern culture and social media (especially Instagram), you know what this word means.

Yes, unfortunately, this new word does relate rather directly to our culture’s fascination with itself. I would classify “selfie” as a sub-category of narcissism, which my dictionary defines as “self-love; interest, often excessive interest, in one’s own appearance, comfort, importance, abilities, etc.” You get the point.

In spite of the self-ish nature of this word, if you want to know its origin, read the story linked above, the beginning of which I quote below. In perfect harmony with the character of this new word is its purported origin. Such is the culture of fallen man – self-consuming behavior leads to self-promoting language.

Selfie – “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website” – has been named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries editors, after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000% over the past 12 months.

Editorial director Judy Pearsall said: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, which collects around 150m words of current English in use each month, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection.”

“Talking to God” and “Disabilities and the Gospel” – July “Tabletalk”

Talking to God by Iain Campbell | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TTJuly2013On this Monday we take a moment to reference an article (or two!) I read yesterday in this month’s Tabletalk. You will recall that this month’s issue is on the Christian’s use of the tongue and the power of words (“Out of the Abundance of the Heart” is the theme.). In that connection Dr. Iain D.Campbell, a Free Church of Scotland minister, wrote a fine piece on prayer under the above title, “Talking to God”. Demonstrating one proper use of our tongues (prayer), he uses the book of Psalms to teach us how to pray the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

I believe you too will profit from this article linked above. Here is an excerpt from it to get you started:

Both praise and prayer are appropriate and necessary responses to God’s revelation of himself to us. He has spoken to us, and we, in turn, speak to Him. That such communication is possible is due to the fact that the divine Word became flesh for us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Now, as a consequence, human words may enter into God’s presence through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The book of Psalms is a book of praises. God’s people were to enter His presence with praise (Pss. 92:1100:4), and with psalms (47:7). But the psalms were more than praise, or, perhaps we should say, that which praises God is not merely a description of His greatness. The fact that some psalms are actually prayers is a reminder to us that God is glorified by us when we express our dependence on Him. Prayer is the language of the child who comes as a dependent to his father.

Indeed, one of the most helpful keys to the canonical prayers of the book of Psalms is to see how they breathe the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, we long to see God’s name glorified and magnified. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” says David in Psalm 8. “O God, save me by your name,” he prays in Ps. 54:1, on an occasion of great trial. The prayers of God’s people extol God’s name and take refuge in it.

…When Jesus taught us to pray following the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, He was summarizing the great themes of the prayers of the Word of God. All of these encourage us to come before God in the confidence that all our longings are before Him, and our sighing is not hidden from Him (Ps. 38:9). It truly is good to draw near to God (Ps. 73:28).

Another fine article in this issue is the interview feature, which this month is with Dr. Michael Beates (see the “bio” below). In this interview titled “Disabilities and the Gospel”, “TT” asks Dr.Beates about his involvement with and instruction in the area of disabilities, since he and his wife have had to care for a disabled daughter for over 30 years.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from this article as well. Find all of it at the link provided here.

TT: What have been the greatest blessings and challenges in raising children with disabilities?

MB: The greatest blessing: seeing the power of God made manifest and exalted in the brokenness of people who live with disability—which, of course, is all of us as God gives us eyes to see ourselves as we really are. The greatest challenge: we live in a culture that values productivity, efficiency, external appearance, and control. Too often, the church adopts these values and thus does not value those whose lives demand so much from us. The church desperately needs people with disabilities in its midst to be reminded that God hardly ever does things the way we expect. He uses the least expected people (the broken, rejected, and marginalized) to achieve His ends, precisely to turn the wisdom of the world upside down.

TT: How should we address questions that may arise about the goodness of God in the face of disabilities?

MB: A well-known saying is: “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” In John 9, Jesus corrects a common mistake people make. If someone lives with a tragic disabling condition, it must be the result, so we think, of someone’s sin—either that person, or perhaps that person’s parents. But Jesus offers a tertium quid, a third way: some people live with disabilities so that the glory of God might be displayed in and through them. I have called this “the Mephibosheth Principle.” In 2 Samuel 9, David, serving here as a type of Christ to come, brings Mephibosheth to the king’s table, even though Mephibosheth remained lame in both feet. What a picture this is of the goodness of God for us. We, though we remain broken and sinful, are invited to the King’s table. We are given a status and honor beyond what we deserve or merit, just as with Mephibosheth. As we grasp this truth, and as those who live with radical brokenness are brought into fellowship with God and His people, the goodness of God is made manifest before the watching world.

Dr. Michael S. Beates, a former associate editor ofTabletalk, has taught at Reformed Theological Seminary, Florida Southern, and Belhaven College.

“Untouched” (a poem based on Q&A 1 of the HC) – Sue Looyenga

HC-Q&A 1-GermanTime it is to feature another poem based on the Heidelberg Catechism, especially Q&A 1. The one I post today is extra special, because it was penned by my sister Sue, a wonderful poet in her own right. She has penned beautiful poems for all kinds of occasions. I am not sure what the occasion was for this poem (I suppose I could ask her!), but I found it, I believe, in The Standard Bearer. It is an older one, dated 1979, but its message is as timely now as it was 24 years ago. In the two stanzas she contrasts the “comforts” of the world with the one, true comfort of the Christian. May her words, based on the Word, speak peace to your hearts today.

“Untouched”

by Sue Looyenga (1979)

The nations tremble and are shaken

As rulers overthrow and then are overthrown.

And lust runs rampant through the streets; no shame

Does halt the sin to which man’s evil heart is prone.

The rich man hoards his gold; the poor cry out for bread,

And hearts are turned to stone. None cares to part

With bread lest he be found without tomorrow.

They speak of death and dread disease with terror in their heart,

And live for pleasures’ sake, lest on the morrow they be taken.

They grasp for comforts, but in vain; they all have slipped away

To leave them with empty, wringing hands.

There is no peace, no comfort for them in this evil day.

*******************************************************

O blessed comfort, only comfort! I belong to Him

Who fully satisfied for all my sins at Calvary.

Though all the world be shaken, I have His promise sure,

All things now and to come shall work for good to me

And nothing that befalls can sever me from Him.

He turns all things to work for my salvation,

Assures me of eternal life forevermore.

He is my only Hope and Strength and Consolation!

I need not take a thought about tomorrow,

For by His grace His Own shall persevere.

Though times may change and change again, He is the same

Each day, each month and every passing year.

Disabled newborns are being killed LEGALLY in The Netherlands – LifeSiteNews.com

Disabled newborns are being killed LEGALLY in The Netherlands: here’s the proof | LifeSiteNews.com.

This chilling but not surprising news item was sent to me this week (dated May 14, 2013). In it Peter Saunders reports on the rise of the murder of babies with disabilities in both Belgium and the Netherlands since the Netherlands passed its euthanasia laws. This is indeed another example of the “slippery slope”, since any departure from God’s clear commandments sends one rushing downward into greater darkness and depravity. May God yet turn our “motherland” back to His Word and ways. Otherwise she will receive the just reward for her deeds.

Here is the fiurst part of the report; read the rest at the LifeSiteNews link above.

In an interview this morning on BBC Five Live on the Paul Lamb case I was asked by the presenter Nicky Campbell about evidence for a slippery slope following the legalisation of euthanasia in other jurisdictions.

In my answer I mentioned the steady escalation in numbers of cases in Belgium and the Netherlands (see here and here) and said that one third of nurses had carried out euthanasia illegally in Belgium and that one third of cases in some parts of Belgium had been involuntary, although the law did not allow this.

I also mentioned the ‘Groningen Protocol’ under which disabled babies had been given lethal injections in the Netherlands.

Campbell appeared not to know about this and asked me on air to email him information about it to which I agreed. Another BBC journalist phoned me after the interview to check my sources.

I sent her a link to the original paper on the ‘Groningen Protocol’ from the New England Medical Journal in 2005.

The full reference is ‘Verhagen E, Sauer P. “The Groningen Protocol—Euthenasia in Severely Ill Newborns.” New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352(10):959-62’

It says that ‘Twenty-two cases of euthanasia in newborns have been reported to district attorneys’ offices in the Netherlands during the past seven years’ but also highlights underreporting:

‘Given that the national survey indicated that such procedures are performed in 15 to 20 newborns per year, the fact that an average of three cases were reported annually suggests that most cases are simply not being reported.’

Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders is the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.

Philadelphia abortion clinic horror – K.Powers

Philadelphia abortion clinic horror: Column.

Kermit GosnellThe MSM (main stream media) has largely and significantly (though not surpisingly) been silent on this story of the trial of Philadephia murderer-abortionist Kermit Gosnell. But Kirsten Powers, a Fox News political analyst, writing in USA Today (April 11, 2013), calls her fellow journalists to task and expresses outrage over this silence and over the murderous actions of this doctor of death. Here is a portion of what she wrote:

Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations?

It’s not your fault. Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. The revolting revelations of Gosnell’s former staff, who have been testifying to what they witnessed and did during late-term abortions, should shock anyone with a heart.

NBC-10 Philadelphia reported that, Stephen Massof, a former Gosnell worker, “described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, ‘literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.” One former worker, Adrienne Moton, testified that Gosnell taught her his “snipping” technique to use on infants born alive.

The actions of this doctor are revolting to the mind, heart and stomach. I cannot begin to imagine how this man could do such things to tiny infants and function in other areas of life. I cannot imagine the horrors of working in such an environment of killing.

And yet Dr.Gosnell’s actions are the logical working out of the principles to which those in the abortion industry and those who support it are committed. If unborn babies are not real persons in their estimation, then what difference does it make if you kill them before or after they are born? In fact, what difference does it make if you kill a person in his/her 40′s or 80′s by euthanasia (so-called “mercy killing) or if you take his/her life at birth?

It doesn’t, because principles always work through. This is what we are seeing in our day. Horrifying? Indeed! Logical? Yes, given the rejection of God’s principles for life and loving Him and the neighbor. And maybe that’s why the MSM ignores this story. Because it isn’t really gruesome news to them anyway. It’s all quite normal.

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