Genesis 2-3, Adam and Eve, and John H. Walton: An Explosive New Book

So they are back in the news (yet again): Adam and Eve and all that — GetReligion.

One of the most heated and significant debates taking place in the church at present is that centering on the historicity and authority of Genesis 1-3 in the light of the ever-dogmatic claims of evolutionary science and the unceasing pressures of its professing Christian adherents. That debate includes, of course, the reality and accuracy of the account of the creation and of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

One professing Christian professor/teacher after another continues to fall for these evolutionary claims and to cave in to these pressures, which means that they tinker and tamper with the sacred Scriptures in its early chapters. And this is happening at even the most historically conservative Evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries.

Lost World of Genesis 1 - JWaltonMore recently John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL (and formerly of Moody Bible Institute), has “progressed” from a traditional Christian understanding of Gen.1-3 to a view that makes room for an evolutionary understanding of the origins of the world and man.

Richard Ostling carried this report of a new book by Walton set to be released by InterVarsity Press this month which, in his words, has the nature of “an incendiary device about to explode.” This will be a book to watch, as well as to read and critique carefully, from the Bible and the historic creeds of the church. I plan to ask for a review copy, so if any of you are interested, let me know.

Here is the opening paragraph’s of Ostling’s story; to read the rest, visit the link above.

On the religion beat, the news often consists of new books about old texts with old stories, and the oldest old story of them all is the Genesis portrayal of Adam and Eve. Their status as the first humans and parents of the entire human race is a big biblical deal, especially for evangelical Protestants.

Since no evangelical school outranks Wheaton College (Illinois) in prestige and influence, journalists should get ready for an incendiary device about to explode in March.

A book by Wheaton Old Testament Professor John H. Walton will upend many traditional – or certainly “evangelical” – ideas about Adam and Eve. Moreover, “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate” comes from the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press. Click here for the online press kit (.pdf).

The author’s views have been evolving (so to speak) since 1998, when he decided Genesis, like other ancient writings, offers a “functional” rather than biological depiction of God’s creation process. He explained this in “The Lost World of Genesis One” (2009, also from InterVarsity), and a more scholarly version, “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology” (2011, Eisenbrauns). He then depicted an historical but “archetypal” Adam in “Four Views on the Historical Adam” (2013, Zondervan).

Carefulness in Prayer – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoIn the chapter following that on prayer and chastisement in his book When You Pray (RFPA, 2006), Prof. (emeritus, PRC Seminary) Herman Hanko has a chapter on “Carefulness In Prayer”, where he gives instruction on yet another important aspect of our prayer life.

I quote today from the opening part of this chapter where Hanko is explaining why carefulness is important:

…Although we must always be careful in our prayers to pray according to the will of God, carefulness is especially necessary when the Lord chastises us. It is possible, when chastised, to be resentful and rebellious, unwilling to submit to God’s will, determined to escape his chastening hand in whatever way we are able. At least our first reaction to chastisement is almost always such rebellion. And it is a temptation against which we fight as long as God is not pleased to remove his chastening hand.

There are other reasons as well why we ought to be careful in our prayers. It is entirely possible that we ask the Lord for the wrong things. We may do this because we think that somehow God is making a mistake in his dealings with us. Or perhaps we are of the opinion that we ought to have something that he has not been pleased to give. And so we are insistent on our desires, and we clamor incessantly for what we want, much as a child continues to beg and cajole a reluctant parent for something he really ought not to have. We are even able to persuade ourselves, by some specious argumentation, that for God to give us what we seek from him would enable us to serve him better, to make great contributions to the cause of his kingdom, and to be more effective in the calling to witness to Christ in word and deed (93).

After showing the spiritual danger of praying for the satisfaction of such lusts from the biblical example of the Israelites in the wilderness (cf. Numbers 11 with Psalm 106:14-15), Hanko makes this application:

We have to be careful when we want something so very badly that we clamor almost without interruption for our desire to be satisfied. Be careful! It may very well be that God, in anger and disgust, finally says, ‘All right, I will give you what you want. But you will soon learn that what you want is not good for you and does harm to your spiritual life. What you want brings more troubles and sorrows than you can possibly imagine’ (94).

Good food for thought as often as we pray privately and publicly.

Advent: The Faith-Visit of the Magi

Last week we took for part of our Sunday meditation in this Christmas season a word feature on the word “star” in the Bible. Today we will continue with that theme as we post part of an exposition of Matthew 2:1-2 Rev.George Lubbers did for The Standard Bearer (Jan.1, 1963).

magi visitLed outwardly in their journey by Christ’s star in the East and illuminated in their hearts by the Spirit of Christ through His prophetic Word, the wise men came to Bethlehem to worship the One “born King of the Jews.”

Here is a portion of Rev.Lubbers beautiful explanation of this wonder, revealing the “Star power” of Christ, the Savior of mankind. To read the full article, follow the link above.

For notice that these were men who had faith—saving faith, justifying faith; they had a faith that worked by love which was shed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and which is worked by God through the preaching of the Gospel. Their faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For, mark you well, their faith was such that it combined spiritual things with spiritual, it combined the sign of the “star” with the fulfillment of the word of promise concerning the Messiah which was to come. For do these men not appear in Jerusalem with the certain confidence that the King of the Jews “is born,” and that He is born with the intent of becoming the renowned King, promised in the prophetic word? They say to Herod: Where is He that is born King of the Jews; for we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him! They are as certain of the fulfillment of prophecy as were the shepherds “that this thing had come to pass,” told them by the angels.

Besides, these Magi believe that this King of the Jews is worthy of worship. He is God. He is the mighty God; He is the true God and eternal life. Furthermore, there is not any doubt in their mind that Jerusalem ought to know about the birth of this long foretold King; that His birth has the birth of this long foretold King; that His birth has peculiar and unique meaning for this city of the great King.

And thus in faith these Magi are earnest seekers.

Small wonder that Matthew writes about the appearance of these men on the streets of Jerusalem, at such a time as Jesus’ birth. “Behold, there appear wise men from the East!” This was truly a unique phenomenon. It was the fulfillment of Scripture itself. For these do not come as captives of war behind the triumphal wagon in the procession of some worldly monarch and conqueror, but they come drawn by the inner compulsion of the love of God and faith wrought by the Holy Spirit. And they ask: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? They seek the Savior. This is not merely an intellectual quest, for they do not rest until they have seen the Lord’s Christ! They came toworship Him. What a longing, a hunger and a holy thirst of the soul. Is not this Christ the hope of Israel and the light of the nations?! All else has failed to satisfy the longing of their heart, the need of their souls. The secrets of heathen cults do not show them God; but here is the Mystery of God, hid in God before endless ages, but now manifest in the fullness of time! He is not a great teacher amongst other teachers; here lies in Bethlehem, in the arms of the blessed among women, the Redeemer, the God of Israel and of the Nations, who Abraham saw from afar, and of whom Baalam prophesied saying: I see Him but not now, behold! a star shall rise in Jacob. Here is the day-spring from on high!

Their hope is not put to shame.

100 Bible Knowledge Questions – Pastor K.De Young

100 Bible Knowledge Questions | TGC.

Feeling full of sound doctrine and confident about your Bible knowledge this Monday morning after spending Sunday in the Word (read and preached)? Then you are challenged to take this Bible knowledge test pastor Kevin De Young’s church (University Reformed Church, Lansing, MI) gives to prospective officebearers.

Below is De Young’s explanation of the test and the first section from it. Visit the link above to see and take the other nine parts of the test. I plan to take it too. Perhaps we can compare “notes”.

Several years ago our church started offering a leadership training course once or twice a year. The class began as a training seminary for those who had been nominated for elders or deacons. Now the course must be completed before a man can be considered for the office of elder or deacon.

At the end of the 12-week class there is a test. The exam contains a couple longer essays, short answers, and a series of questions testing basic Bible knowledge. We are careful to say  that you don’t have to be a brilliant student to serve at University Reformed Church. There is much more to effective ministry than passing a written test. Much more.  And yet, we do not want our staff, teachers, and officers to be biblically illiterate. Granted, people aren’t usually too excited about taking a test, but they are almost always glad to have taken the class. And more often than not, the test proves to be an edifying experience.

For fun, and for your own evaluation and learning, I thought I’d post the questions that comprised the knowledge portion of the exam. We have changed the exam in recent years, so these are not the exact questions we currently use. (I’m not going to show everyone the test ahead of time!) But this will give you an idea of the sort of Bible knowledge we want our lay leaders to have. No one gets every question right, but most people get most of them right, and a few erudite members have nearly aced the thing. I have not provided below the answers to test, because, well, it’s a test.

A.    Who did the following?
1.    Wrote the book of Acts?
2.    Appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
3.    Directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem?
4.    Killed a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone?
5.    Led the Israelites into the promised land?
6.    Was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation?
7.    Was going to curse Israel, but had to bless them?
8.    Became the first King of the 10 tribes that broke away?
9.    Rescued David from her foolish husband Nabal?
10.    Was rebuked by Paul for refusing to eat with Gentiles?

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 137

Psalm137On this first Sunday of June we continue our study of the Psalms as an aid for preparing for our worship on Sunday. Today we look at Psalm 137, an “impassioned imprecatory” psalm (Nelson Study Bible), set in the context of the captivity of Babylon (586 B.C.). Here we find the inspired Word of God through the psalmist:

 Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raseit, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

As you can see, this psalm relates the deep emotional and spiritual feelings of the people of God as they sit in captivity in the heathen country of Babylon, far from Jerusalem, the city of God. There they weep and pray over the taunts of the enemy and their own significant losses. Which, we may remark, is a good sign, because it reveals that the church was repentant. She had been removed from the land of promise and Jerusalem and brought to Babylon because of her sins against her covenant Lord. The Lord was chastising them in His love and grace, seeking to correct His own and restore them spiritually before He returned them to the land. And His grace bears fruit – as it always does – such that the people of God are weeping and crying out to the Lord.

And we may say by way of application for us today, that this is always the sign of God’s grace working in our hearts and lives, that we too repent of our sins daily and cry out to the Lord of mercy. This spiritual trait must be in us today as we prepare for worship, for the high and lofty One looks for and dwells with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit (Is.57:15). Our covenant Lord is always chastening us too for our sins,a nd so we too ought to show that His discipline is good by daily turning from our sins and taking refuge in Christ. Are we repentant sinners this day as we prepare for worship?

Another thing worthy of note in this psalm is the deep love the children of God have for God and His church. That comes out in vss.1-4 where they express the fact that they cannot sing  or even play the songs of Zion while in captivity. Their hearts are heavy for her woes; mindful of the way they treated Zion, they mourn deeply now that they are removed from her.

Especially in vss.5-6 do the people reveal their strong love for God’s church. With repentant hearts they pronounce curses on themselves if they forget Jerusalem and do not remember her, or if she is not their chief joy. Why is that? Why such powerful devotion to Zion? Not because of attachment to a mere place, a physical city on a real mountain in Palestine. But because Jerusalem was the city of God, the place where He especially revealed His covenant presence and saving fellowship with His people for Christ’s sake – through the blood of the covenant! This was the one place in all the world where the throne of God was on public display, where the temple of His glory was set, and where the public worship of Him took place.

Zion was the heart and the heartbeat of the life of God’s church! O, how the true people of God loved her! Because God loved her, even from eternity! And now that they are taken away from her and her life in her, concretely and practically, and have to live in a pagan land devoted to idols, their souls are pained beyond measure! No wonder they cry out “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…!”

What about us? Is our love for God’s church that strong and that deep? Would we too cry out as we dwell in the Babylon of this world, “Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy”? Is the church for which Christ shed His blood the heart and heartbeat of our lives? Or have other things taken over? Perhaps the pleasures Babylon can afford us? Her “joys”, her toys, her songs? If so, then let these words of God’s repentant people rebuke us and restore us to pure love for God and His bride.

Finally, the love God’s people have for God and His church is manifested in the prayers expressed in vss.7-9. These are imprecations, i.e., a call for curses to be brought on the enemies of the church, something which many in the church today are uncomfortable with and even deny the NT church should make. And it is true that we must love our enemies, pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, and bless those who curse us (Matt.5:43ff.).

But we may confidently say too, that such imprecatory psalms are not out of spirit or order for the church today. They are prayed in the deep consciousness of what the church’s enemies do to God and His cause (see Ps. 139:19-22). Such prayers are made in the awareness that the Lord of mercy is also the Lord of judgment, and that He alone has the right to dispense these as He sees fit. In making these prayers, the church commits her way to the sovereign Lord, Who always does what is right.

And so we too may pray for judgment on our foes and on the enemies of God’s church wherever they show themselves and trouble the people of God. Also in our public prayers in worship on the Lord’s Day. For the vindication of the cause of Christ and for the honor of God’s name. And in the spirit of humility, of course, because we realize we have our own sin which makes us also deserving of such divine wrath and cursing.

Again we may ask: Do we love God’s church? Then let us show that this day as we worship!

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 137 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. By Babel’s riverside we sat in tears,
Remembering Zion’s pride in former years,
While on the weeping willows there were hung
The harps our grief had silenced and unstrung.

2. For they who led us there a captive throng
Required that we prepare for them a song;
Yea, there our captors asked for mirth and praise,
Required a song of Zion’s happy days.

3. O how shall we thus sing at their command
Songs of the Lord, our King, in this strange land?
O Zion, if I e’er forget thy woe,
Let my right hand its skill no longer know.

4. Yea, let my tongue, I pray, all silent be,
If I do not alway remember thee;
If I prefer not thee, though in thy grief,
Above all other joys my very chief.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 136

Psalm 136As we get ready to enter the Lord’s courts of praise and prayer this Lord’s Day, we give our attention to the next Psalm, Psalm 136. Even as the previous psalm was a song of praise to God for His mighty works in creation, history and redemption, so too is this psalm. Psalm 136 is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord “who alone doeth wonders.” And once again the psalmist leads the people of God in reciting those wonderful works of God in creation and in salvation, as well as in calling for their response of praise and thanksgiving.

But you will also notice that this psalm is unique in its presentation of  these things. There are two distinct yet related lines in each verse or stanza, the first being a description of God and His works, and the second being the repeated refrain, “for His mercy endures forever.” The New Geneva Study Bible calls it “an antiphonal liturgy” (calling for chanting/singing in alternation). The Nelson Study Bible explains this further: “Psalm 136 is the quintessential psalm of descriptive praise. The worship leader, perhaps a priest, would read the first part of each verse. The people would then respond with their praise centering on the mercy of God: ‘For His mercy endures forever.’ This psalm, known as the ‘Great Hallel,’ was often recited in the temple as the Passover lambs were being slain.”

So, as you read and meditate on this psalm today, think about the unfailing mercy of God to His church and people throughout the ages – to His remembering and redeeming us through the blood of The Lamb (vss.23-24), and then thank Jehovah, the God of gods and Lord of lords, for His creative and salvific deeds! For the One who alone does great wonders is also alone worthy of our great praise!

 Psalm 136

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 136 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. Give thanks to God, for good is He,
His grace abideth ever;
To Him all praise and glory be,
His mercy faileth never.
His wondrous works with praise record,
His grace abideth ever;
The only God, the sovereign Lord,
Whose mercy faileth never.

2. His wisdom made the heavens to be,
His grace abideth ever;
He spread the earth above the sea,
Praise Him Whose sun doth bring the day,
His grace abideth ever;
The moon and stars His might display,
Whose mercy faileth never.

3. He helped us in our deepest woes,
His grace abideth ever;
He ransomed us from all our foes,
His mercy faileth never.
Each creature’s need doth He supply,
His grace abideth ever;
Give thanks to God, enthroned on high,
Whose mercy faileth never.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

The Dead Sea Scrolls.

DeadSeaScrollPicDid you know that the Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online through the Israel Antiquities Authority (Go here to see an earlier post I did on this.)? The “Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library” may be found at the website link above. This digital library is a fascinating look at this diverse collection of ancient manuscripts, which include almost all of the Hebrew Bible (Esther is missing).

Click on the link above to visit this significant collection. Below is part of the introduction to this digital library.

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls in a remote Judean Desert cave in 1947 is widely considered the greatest archaeological event of the twentieth century. Bedouin treasure hunters and archaeologists ultimately found the remains of hundreds of ancient scrolls. These fragile pieces of parchment and papyrus, including the oldest existing copies of the Hebrew Bible, were preserved for two thousand years by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves where they were placed. The scrolls provide an unprecedented picture of the diverse religious beliefs of ancient Judaism, and of daily life during the turbulent Second Temple period when Jesus lived and preached.

The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church (1) – Rev.B.Huizinga

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1As I noted here previously, the April 1 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the subject of psalm-singing. Included in this issue are two articles on the history of psalm-singing in the church – one more general (Rev.B.Huizinga’s on the history in the church generally) and one more specific (Rev.K.Koole’s on the history in the PRC).

It is the former one by Rev.Brian Huizinga (pastor of Hope PRC, Redlands, CA) that I would like to start referencing today. “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise”: The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church” was part of my Sunday reading yesterday, and I found his article to be not only informative but also inspiring. And I hope by quoting from it, it will also be the same for you.

Today I quote from the opening paragraphs, which set the stage for what is to follow.

What among men has endured as many ages under the sun as the psalms…the psalms sung…the psalms sung in corporate worship?  Precious little.  Psalmody has seen Solomon’s temple used and burned, doleful children of the covenant marched to Babylon and jubilantly returning, the Son of God incarnate humiliated and exalted, Rome risen and fallen, the mighty wave of the gospel of salvation sweeping through the Mediterranean world, into Europe, over the seas to America, and now to the ends of the earth, always with the bitter death of apostasy following in its wake.  Over the past three thousand years much has come and much has gone.  Psalmody has seen it all.  Psalmody remains.  Psalmody is rare.  Psalmody is not popular.  But psalmody remains.  Because Jesus Christ defends and preserves His church to the end, psalmody will certainly remain to the end.  None may doubt that psalmody will see the antichristian world-kingdom and then Christ Himself—the one of whom the psalms spoke, and that by His own testimony (Luke 24:44)—appear in splendid majesty arrayed more glorious than the sun.  Through endless ages the church sounds Jehovah’s praise—with psalms.


The Old Testament Age

The Old Testament church sang the psalms, one of them perhaps already in the wilderness on the way to Canaan (Psalm 90, written by Moses), most in Solomon’s temple (those written mostly by David), and others thereafter.  So much was psalm-singing a part of Israel’s life and worship that when the Jews were deported by Nebuchadnezzar as captives into Babylon in 586 B.C., they were identified as psalm-singers.  As they sat weeping by the river, their proud captors taunted:  “Come sing us one of Zion’s songs.”  Even the ungodly knew what took place in Zion.  Israel sang the psalms.  Would to God Babylon of today would have reason to know and say the same.

If you would like to receive this issue, or become a regular subscriber to this fine Reformed magazine, contact the RFPA at the link given above.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (3)

As we noted here the last two Sundays, for the Lord’s Days  leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we plan to do a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. For my own devotional reading during this special season of reflection I purchased 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).

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieToday we begin quoting from chapter six of this book, which contains a sermon by Dr.J. Ligon Duncan III, titled “Betrayed, Denied, Deserted”. It is based on Matthew 26:47-56, the account of Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Listen to how Duncan emphasizes the sovereignty of God in this part of our Lord’s suffering:

But again I must stress that his actions (Peter’s, in drawing his sword to defend Jesus against the mob led by Judas -cjt) were completely ignorant and uncomprehending. Jesus will say twice in this passage that he had to be arrested in order that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. Jesus was conscious that God’s plan was being worked out and nobody, not Peter, not Judas, not the mob, nor anyone else was going to keep that plan from being fulfilled.

…In this statement (about Jesus being able to ask the Father for twelve legions of angels to defend him, if he needed to be delivered – cjt), Jesus is stressing that he is not going to the cross because God lacks the power to stop it. Not does Jesus lack the ability to ask of God to spare him. Instead, Jesus is going to the cross because he has chosen to go to the cross. He is not a passive victim. He is the prime actor and has chosen to go to the cross. Jesus goes to the cross because of his desire to fulfill the word of God.

J.C.Ryle explains this beautifully, ‘We see in these words (about the Scripture being fulfilled -cjt) the secret of His voluntary submission to His foes. He came on purpose to fulfill the types and promises of the Old Testament Scriptures, and by fulfilling them to provide salvation for the world. He came intentionally to be the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb. He came to be the Scape-goat on whom the iniquities of the people were to be laid. His heart was set on accomplishing this great work. It could not be done without the “hiding of his power” for a time. To do it he became a willing sufferer. He was taken, tried, condemned, and crucified entirely of His own free will.’

…Notice too that Jesus does not just acquiesce to God’s sovereignty. He doesn’t just shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Well, I guess God has allowed this terrible thing to happen.’ We do that sometimes, but not Jesus. Jesus said, ‘God has caused and decreed this to happen. This is in accordance with his holy will, which he has established before the foundation of the world. I embrace it, because it is the will of my heavenly Father, and it is good. It may be horrendous for me, but I willingly embrace it, because it is good for his people, and I love his people. …Jesus reveled in the sovereignty of God, and he proclaims it even to the multitude of captors.

For this submission to the sovereign will of God on the part of our suffering Savior we must also give thanks. For by His godly will we are saved, even as we fell into sin and death of our own free will in the first garden (Eden, through Adam). And being saved by the gracious will of our mighty Savior, we are also given grace to submit to God’s will when we are called to suffer. May we have the humble spirit of our Lord and reveal His saving grace in our own afflictions, trusting in the same heavenly Father to deliver us.

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.