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:

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 141

Psalm 141To guide us in our worship readiness this Lord’s Day we turn to Psalm 141, another “psalm of David” according to the heading.  The entire psalm is a prayer, and so is fitting for us as we enter the Lord’s house of prayer and supplication, to bring our needs to the high King of heaven, Who hears His children’s praise and pleas and answers them according to His abundant mercy and grace in Jesus Christ.

Here is the prayer(s) David uttered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

 Psalm 141

Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.

But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.

Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.

10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.

As you read through this psalm and meditate on it, you will notice that David brings a varied prayer before his heavenly Father. Standing in God’s presence he is confident to bring several different petitions to Him. This is the prayer of faith too, that the child of God is not afraid to bring his many needs to the throne of grace. And from this varied prayer of David we too may learn how to pray and what to pray for when we come to our Father in heaven with our needs.

Notice at the outset that David expresses the need and urgency of his prayer to God (v.1). He not only asks to be heard but he asks that God “make haste” to hear him. It may seem to us to be presumptuous and even irreverent for David to tell God to hurry to hear him, but this too arises out of true faith. The child of God prays out of the sense of deep need and at the same time realizes that only God can hear and help him. So at times he will make this known to God too: “Lord, my need is great and urgent. Give me Your ear and haste to do this!”

Do you ever ask God to do this for you? I have to admit I don’t think I ever have. But maybe that is because I don’t realize sufficiently what a beggar I am and how eager my Father is to hear me and help me. Let us learn from the example of David.

Further, you will see that David views his prayer as worship and wants it to be acknowledged as such by the Lord. In v.2 he uses the language of the tabernacle (temple) – prayer as incense and the evening sacrifice. He wants God to receive his prayer as an offering, a sacrifice of praise and thanks that is sweet-smelling to God, and that will therefore be received by Him (cf. Luke 1:8-10; Rev.8:3)).

Do we think of our prayers this way? We ought to, for this is what they are and must be. But how shall our prayers ever rise as a sweet incense to the God of holy nostrils? Only on the basis of the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through His High-priestly work in heaven on our behalf. This too belongs to the prayer of faith, that we come only and ever in Jesus’ name, no matter the need and circumstances. Prayer time is worship time. May we ask that it be as incense and as a sacrifice pleasing to our God.

Now pay attention to David’s petitions here. What does he ask for? In v.3 that God set a watch before his mouth to guard what he says in His presence. In v.4 that his heart not be led into any evil so that he not work wicked works with wicked men. In v.5 that he be open to the smitings and reprovings of his fellow saints, which are good for him. And conscious of the enemies about him and his weak standing (v.7) he states that God is all his trust, asking that God not leave him alone but keep him from the sinful traps of the wicked (vss.8-9). And in fact, he prays that God let the wicked fall into their own traps while he escapes (v.10).

What are these requests but those of a needy, dependent child of God who realizes that he can bring anything to the Lord! And who realizes that the sovereign God is able to help him in every situation and give grace sufficient for any need! David’s heart and mouth are open to his God as he prays. While he prays carefully and reverently, he also prays with confidence that he can tell the Lord everything with regard to his needs.

God is honored and praised when we too pray in this confidence. Is our heart and mouth so open to our heavenly Father? Do we truly realize our need before Him and do we truly believe He that open to us, that we can ask Him anything?

Let us remember that we pray in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us know that for His sake our Father will never turn us away or ever reject a petition prayed according to His will. And let us remember to praise and thank Him for this glorious blessing of our salvation!

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 141 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. O Lord, make haste to hear my cry,
To Thee I call, on Thee rely;
Incline to me a gracious ear,
And, when I call, in mercy hear.

2. When in the morning unto Thee
I lift my voice and bring my plea,
Then let my prayer as incense rise
To God enthroned above the skies.

3. When unto Thee I look and pray
With lifted hands at close of day,
Then as the evening sacrifice
Let my request accepted rise.

4. Guard Thou my thoughts, I Thee implore,
And of my lips keep Thou the door;
Nor leave my sinful heart to stray
Where evil footsteps lead the way.

5. O righteous God, Thy chastisement,
Though sent through foes, in love is sent;
Though grievous, it will profit me,
A healing ointment it shall be.

6. While wickedness my foes devise,
To Thee my constant prayer shall rise;
When their injustice is o’erthrown
My gentleness shall still be shown.

7. Brought nigh to death and sore distressed,
O Lord, my God, in Thee I rest;
Forsake me not, I look to Thee,
Let me Thy great salvation see.

8. Themselves entangled in their snare,
Their own defeat my foes prepare;
O keep me, Lord, nor let me fall,
Protect and lead me safe through all.

The PR Psalm-Singing Choir also has a video of its performance of this number:

 

J.Calvin on Psalm 140: “He comes forth, not as a raw and undisciplined recruit, but as a soldier well tried….”

JCalvin1As we reflect on the urgent prayer of David in Psalm 140 today, we also consider these thoughts of John Calvin on v.6. Here is speaks of the nature of true prayer, as David takes himself to God out of the principle of faith. May we too learn from these words to pray true prayer in real faith in the God of our salvation.

6. I said to Jehovah.

In these words he shows that his prayers were not merely those of the lips, as hypocrites will make loud appeals to God for mere appearance sake, but that he prayed with earnestness, and from a hidden principle of faith. Till we have a persuasion of being saved through the grace of God there can be no sincere prayer.

We have here an excellent illustration of the nature of faith, in the Psalmist’s turning himself away from man’s view, that he may address God apart, hypocrisy being excluded in this internal exercise of the heart. This is true prayer — not the mere idle lifting up of the voice, but the presentation of our petitions from an inward principle of faith. To beget in himself a persuasion of his obtaining his present requests from God, he recalls to his mind what deliverance’s God had already extended to him. He speaks of his having been to him as a shield in every time of danger.

Some read the words in the future tense — “Thou wilt cover my head in the day of battle.” But it is evident David speaks of protection formerly experienced from the hand of God, and from this derives comfort to his faith. He comes forth, not as a raw and undisciplined recruit, but as a soldier well tried in previous engagements. The strength of salvation is equivalent to salvation displayed with no ordinary power.

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.

J.Calvin on Psalm 139: “…There is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker.”

JCalvinPic1For our further meditation on Psalm 139 today, we also post these thoughts of John Calvin on verses 17 and 23. May they also serve to cause us to glory in our great and gracious God in Jesus Christ.

17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me

…We are thus put in possession of the true meaning of David, to the effect that God’s providential government of the world is such that nothing can escape him, not even the profoundest thoughts. And although many precipitate themselves in an infatuated manner into all excess of crime, under the idea that God will never discover them, it is in vain that they resort to hiding-places, from which, however reluctantly, they must be dragged to light.

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that he who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

23. Search me, O God! 

He insists upon this as being the only cause why he opposed the despisers of God, that he himself was a genuine worshipper of God, and desired others to possess the same character. It indicates no common confidence that he should submit, himself so boldly to the judgment of God. But being fully conscious of sincerity in his religion, it was not without due consideration that he placed himself so confidently before God’s bar; neither must we think that he claims to be free from all sin, for he groaned under the felt burden of his transgressions.

The saints in all that they say of their integrity still depend only upon free grace. Yet persuaded as they are that their godliness is approved before God, notwithstanding their falls and infirmities, we need not wonder that they feel themselves at freedom to draw a distinction between themselves and the wicked.

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.

When Is It Right to Separate from People in the Church? – Sinclair Ferguson

Guidelines for Separation by Sinclair Ferguson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT June2014As we continue to review the June Tabletalk, we come to the next main feature article on the theme of separating from other Christians and churches (“Guilt by Association”). Dr.Sinclair Ferguson penned the next article titled “Guidelines for Separation”, and it too is very helpful in drawing some important lines (principles) for going about such a painful process.

For our purposes today we will quote the part of Ferguson’s article where he treats separation within the church (He also addresses our spiritual separation from the world – the antithesis just prior to this.). I encourage you to follow the Ligonier link to read all of his worthwhile article.

Second, there is a separation out of the church of false teachers, denying them spheres of influence. Second John 7-11 counsels believers to beware of anyone who teaches a false view of Christ. We are to separate them from any assistance and support. John has in view itinerant teachers who by definition needed welcome and hospitality to further their “ministry.” Notice, again, that this is balanced intriguingly by John’s warning against the false separation exercised by Diotrephes, who “refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 9-10). Separation here involves the preservation of the church, but not our separation from it or our domination over it.

Third, there is a separation from the church of those who pollute or threaten to destroy it. Evident sin in the believer must be met by ongoing efforts to effect repentance (Matt. 18:15-18). Personal admonition is first; if that fails, admonition in the presence of one or two others; if that fails, admonition by the church. And only when there is obstinate resistance throughout these three stages is a member to be regarded as “a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Only where there is flagrant, public sin that brings public shame on the congregation are these steps collapsed into one (as apparently in 1 Cor. 5:1-5). Even then, the goal of the actions is always restoration (1 Cor. 5:5Gal. 6:1). The purpose of surgical amputation is to save, not to destroy. Again, we find a complex statement: when major spiritual surgery is necessary, the patient must be protected from the infection of despair (2 Cor. 2:5-11). When tough action is required, it is to be done by men who are Jesus-like, characterized by meekness and gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1Gal. 6:1).

In addition, I also read “When God Goes Missing” – a fine article about what can often be absent when today’s church worships – and in our own worship! Read it and be challenged to make sure God is present in your heart and mind when you stand in His presence!

Here’s just a little snapshot:

When I discover that my approach to God in the assembling of His people is “casual,” I cannot blame it on an effort to be authentic or on my informal surroundings. If I am honest with myself, I must confess that I have forgotten the primary purpose of my attendance. I have forgotten His presence and His true identity. Sometimes, the blindness and deafness that once kept me from seeing and hearing Him partially returns and prevents me from perceiving His nearness and His character.

Rev. John P. Sartelle is assistant minister at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oakland, Tennessee.

J.Calvin on Psalm 138: “…Nothing has a more sensible influence in stimulating us to thanksgiving than his free mercy.”

As we meditate on Psalm 138 this Sunday, we may also benefit from the thoughts of faithful Bible expositor, John Calvin. Here are his comments on v.2. May they also feed our souls this day and direct us to the true worship of our true and faithful God.

JCalvinPic2. I will worship towards the temple of thy holiness.

He intimates that he would show more than private gratitude, and, in order to set an example before others, come in compliance with the precept of the law into the sanctuary. He worshipped God spiritually, and yet would lift his eyes to those outward symbols which were the means then appointed for drawing the minds of God’s people upwards.

He singles out the divine mercy and truth as the subject of his praise, for while the power and greatness of God are equally worthy of commendation, nothing has a more sensible influence in stimulating us to thanksgiving than his free mercy; and in communicating to us of his goodness he opens our mouth to sing his praises.

As we cannot taste, or at least have any lively apprehensions in our souls of the divine mercy otherwise than through the word, mention is made of his faithfulness or truth. This coupling of mercy with truth is to be particularly taken notice of, as I have frequently observed, for however much the goodness of God may appear to us in its effects, such is our insensibility that it will never penetrate our minds, unless the word have come to us in the first place.

Goodness is first mentioned, because the only ground upon which God shows himself to us as true is his having bound himself by his free promise. And it is in this that his unspeakable mercy shows itself — that he prevents those with it who were at a distance from him, and invites them to draw near to him by condescending to address them in a familiar manner.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 138

Psalm 138To guide us in our preparation for worship of the one, true and living God this Lord’s Day, we turn to our next Psalm, Psalm 138, which carries the heading “A Psalm of David.”

While the entire book of psalms is appropriate for worship (speaking for us and to us in all our needs and directing us to the God Who answers to all those needs), we learn that some psalms are more directly related to our worship. This is also true of Psalm 138, as the opening verses indicate.

So let’s begin by putting this Word of God through the “sweet psalmist of Israel” before us, and meditating on it, making it our own song today, especially verses 1-2:

Psalm 138

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me withstrength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the words of thy mouth.

Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.

Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lordendureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

As the psalm opens, we see that David is clearly filled with the desire to worship his God. He will praise the Lord with song (see the end of this post for music for this too.) and worship Him toward His holy temple (in Jerusalem), extolling Him especially for His lovingkindness (steadfast love, unfailing mercy) and truth. Evidently, these two virtues of God he had especially experienced at this time, and so he singles these out. God is to be praised for His faithful, covenant love and for being true to him!

Can we also identify with David in praise of these wonderful perfections of our God? Has He been steadfast in His love to you and me this week past? Then let us praise Him! Has He been true to us in all His works and words, never failing us, never lying to us or deceiving us (the very thought is blasphemous!)? Then let us worship Him in His holy temple!

And then note that David makes an amazing statement as the ground for this desire. God has magnified His word above all His name! Imagine that. God’s name is all that He is; it is the revelation of all His glories, all His great Being and attributes, all His glorious works and ways.  And David says that God is worthy to be praised because He has magnified His word above that great and glorious name! God has put His Word above Himself?! How can that be?

David is simply trying to emphasize the greatness and power of God’s Word. Why? Because that Word God has spoken (and written) to His people is the purest and clearest and highest way of knowing Him and the only way of knowing Him in Christ in His lovingkindness and truth. It is the promise of the gospel of our salvation, being the only revelation of God’s grace to sinners in Jesus Christ. That Word is the truth that God is for us in His Son and works all things for our good (Romans 8:28ff.).

That is what David heard and gloried in as he went through life. Through this part of his life, when he was clearly in the “midst of trouble” once again (v.7). The Word of God had become magnified in his own heart and soul. God’s promises to him were made sure and sealed on his heart. No matter what he went through, no matter where he was (and he was obviously away from Jerusalem and the temple), God was for him as his sovereign Savior and with him as his faithful Friend. Yes, how precious to him was the Word of God and His sure promises in Christ! God had indeed magnified His Word above His name! And for that He would praise and worship Him.

Will we too today? How precious is God’s Word to you and to me? Do you magnify God’s gospel promises in Christ? Have they been the source of your comfort and hope this week? Have they led you through dark and difficult days, giving you the light of peace and joy? Have they shown us the good news of our forgiveness in the cross of our Lord? Then let us magnify the God of that Word in our worship today! Let us praise Him for His steadfast love and truth in Jesus!

O, there are other reasons to praise our God according to this psalm! David also points to answered prayer (v.3), universal praise from the kings of the earth (v.4 – notice, when they hear the words – the gospel! – of God’s mouth!), God’s respect for the lowly (v.6), His saving help in the midst of trouble (v.7), and the certainty of God finishing His work with us, so that we are fully glorified and brought home to the everlasting temple (v.8).

Dwell on each of these reasons today too. Note how these have been true in your own life. And let these things be the reason why you also join in praise of our amazing God.  Yes, “great is the glory of the LORD”! And great should be our praise of Him.

 

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 138 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. With grateful heart my thanks I bring,
Before the great Thy praise I sing;
I worship in Thy holy place
And praise Thee for Thy truth and grace;
For truth and grace together shine
In Thy most holy word divine.

2. I cried to Thee and Thou didst save,
Thy word of grace new courage gave;
The kings of earth shall thank Thee, Lord,
For they have heard Thy wondrous word;
Yea, they shall come with songs of praise,
For great and glorious are Thy ways.

3. O Lord, enthroned in glory bright,
Thou reignest in the heavenly height;
The proud in vain Thy favor seek,
But Thou hast mercy for the meek;
Through trouble though my pathway be,
Thou wilt revive and strengthen me.

4. Thou wilt stretch forth Thy mighty arm
To save me when my foes alarm;
The work Thou hast for me begun
Shall by Thy grace be fully done;
Forever mercy dwells with Thee;
O Lord, my Maker, think on me.

Good Psalm Music for Pentecost

Book of PsalmsWe may not think that the Psalms reveal much about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but this is a mistake. The book of Psalms frequently refer to the Holy Spirit and His wonderful operations in creation, providence and redemption. I give you just a few examples in this post, so that you may have some good Psalm music to listen to on this Pentecost Sunday.

1. In Psalm 51 David prays specifically that God will not cast him away from His presence by taking His Holy Spirit from him (v.11), expressed in this versification from the Psalter used in worship by the PRC (Ps.#141). You will find the full arrangement with piano accompaniment here.

1. Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true;
Cast me not away from Thee,
Let Thy Spirit dwell in me;
Thy salvation’s joy impart,
Steadfast make my willing heart.

2. In Psalm 104:30 the work of the Spirit in creation and providence is noted, and in Psalter #287 it is put into these words in the opening stanza (follow the link to listen to this versification):

1. Thy Spirit, O Lord, makes life to abound;
The earth is renewed and fruitful the ground;
To God ascribe glory and wisdom and might,
Let God in His creatures forever delight.

3. The young women of the Chamber Choir of Covenant Christian High (2013) sing a versification of Psalm 143 from the 1912 Psalter (#391). Note especially the third stanza (at the link provided here).

 

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