“Autonomy becomes a principle that undermines every authority and all law.”
— Herman Bavinck —
Solomon teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun. The sins and struggles of one generation morph and change in the next, but because the root cause of sin and struggle remains the same, human misery is never novel. Indeed, as Ecclesiastes 7:29 tells us, “God made man upright, but he has sought many schemes.” Yet, such schemes are only variations on a handful of themes.
For this reason, God’s completed canon (the Bible) is more than sufficient to supply us with wisdom for today. And often, Christian sages from other centuries—those saturated by God’s Word—are better able to address modern maladies than contemporary writers. An example of this is Herman Bavinck, a Dutch pastor, theologian, and ethicist. In his recently translated book, Christian Worldview, Bavinck addresses some of the most difficult issues confronting us today.
In three chapters on epistemology, ontology, and ethics, Bavinck confronts the materialism of his day. In response, he provides a thorough-going Reformed view of the world. As anyone familiar with his Reformed Dogmatics knows, his argument style rarely devolves into mere proof-texting. Rather, he shows vast knowledge of philosophy and science and argues his points by dismantling the incoherence of their views. Indeed, by focusing on the philosophers of his day, Bavinck provides an enduring argument against all who deny the wisdom and authority of God. And we do well to learn from him. Continue reading
This week’s sermon on Psalm 98 continues our series in the Psalms which looks at the theme of God’s justice. Last week, we learned that God is the source and standard of justice. His kingdom is the place where his justice comes from heaven to earth.
This week, we see how God brings justice to the earth through the just justification of the unjust. This truth is most clearly articulated in places like Romans and Galatians, but we also find it in places like the Psalms. And this week I show from Psalm 98 how we can better understand God’s justifying justice. You can listen to the sermon or watch the video below.
In his commentary on the Psalms, Konrad Schaefer shows a “pattern of sevens” that permeates Psalms 96–99. In a section of the Psalter that already demonstrates remarkable structure, these “septets” (a group of seven) add to the unity and message of Book IV in the Psalms.
Let’s hear what Schaefer says about these septets, and then consider the merit of his observations. Why should we care about these groups of seven? (Hint: It may have something to do with the number of perfection).
Last Sunday, I suggested the source and substance of true justice comes down from Yahweh, the God of heaven and king over all creation. As he brings his rule from heaven to earth—the enthronement described in Psalm 93–100—he establishes his kingdom in righteousness and justice (Psalm 97:2).
In the fulness of time, this kingdom came in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And now, with the full disclosure of God in his inspired Word, we have all that we need for life and godliness, righteousness and justice—i.e., all that we need, until the God of justice returns and makes all things right on the last day.
You can watch the sermon from last week to a get sense of the message of Psalm 97, but today, I want to consider what God’s kingdom justice means for us living in a time between Christ’s two advents. What follows are three points of application from Psalm 97. These will also prepare the way for our consideration of Psalm 98.
Beginning with Psalm 93, we enter a new phase in Book IV. Namely, we find selection of seven psalms (93–99) that herald the enthronement of Yahweh as king (Yahweh Melek) and one psalm (100) that brings us back to courts of the temple, where worship is renewed. Significantly, these psalms move from Israel’s exile to the hill of the Lord, and more decisively, these psalms show God himself returning to Zion and bringing his people with him.
If the arrangement of the psalms is to be taken into account, worship culminates when the people of God are brought into God’s temple, as he sits enthroned on his holy mountain. This second temple location—a point I suggested earlier this week—is seen in Psalm 100:4, as it states, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” Gates and courts imply Israel’s return to the temple. Yet, even more explicitly, Psalm 99:9 reads, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain . . .” In this final verse of Psalm 99, we find the set up for Psalm 100.
In fact, as we can see in the graph below, every psalm in this section (Psalms 93–100) is “set up” by the last verse of the preceding verse. Such connections reinforce our confidence that these Psalms present a redemptive-historical narrative, and one that leads from Israel’s Babylonian Captivity (Ps. 89) to the restoration of worship in God’s temple (Ps. 100–106). Indeed, the Psalms display an incredible (chrono)logical ordering, and when we look at Psalms 93–100, we see this in the way each psalm prepares the way for the next, until the whole section tells how God is enthroned in Zion.
[The following is a biblical meditation for young men considering engagement and marriage. You can find a PDF of the questions here.]
In Proverbs 31, we find a beautiful, twenty-two verse acrostic poem describing an excellent wife. While these verses focus on the character of a godly wife, they are written for a young man to discern and desire these characteristics in a future wife. For men seeking marriage, these verses can provide a fruitful place to prayerfully consider the kind of woman he should marry. With that in mind I’ve drawn a few questions from each verse, attempting to make contemporary wisdom that addressed an agrarian world.
For practical purposes, these questions do not all need to be answered in the affirmative to proceed towards marriage. No one marries a perfect spouse, but these questions can be asked to clarify the enigmatic question: Is this the one? More specifically, when answers arrive as weaknesses or negatives, godly men should ask: Can I embrace that weakness? Or better, is God calling me to lead, love, and lay down my life to bolster this woman and to cultivate weaknesses towards greater strength.
These questions should be asked with significant soul-searching and self-examination; they should not be used to judge another or to point out faults. They are for clarity, not condemnation. That said, many marriages stumble because biblical wisdom has not been applied from the start. These questions, therefore, are meant to stir up wisdom and to press young men to consider from Scripture the kind of characteristics that should be present in a godly wife. In so doing, the man should also grow in wisdom.
10An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
An excellent wife is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14), not from man. So in what ways can you see that God has brought the two of you together?
Does this marriage have the mark of God’s handiwork, or yours?
Do you treasure her? Why? What would you lose without her? Continue reading
It is unmistakable that Psalms 96, 105, and 106 find their genesis in 1 Chronicles 16. Just read them together, and you will see how the psalms take up different parts of 1 Chronicles. With this background, it begins to help us see how to understand the message of Book IV in the Psalter, as well as the timing of Book IV.
In the original setting (in 1 Chronicles 16), David writes a psalm to celebrate the ark of the covenant coming to Jerusalem. After the ark, the symbol of God’s ruling presence, had been lost in battle to the Philistines and displaced from God’s people, David took pains to bring the ark to its proper place—the tabernacle set up in Jerusalem.
From another angle, this return of the ark can be described as the Lord’s enthronement. In David’s lifetime, we find the first enthronement of God in his holy city. What was promised by God, going back to Exodus 15:17–18 . . .
(You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”)
. . . came to fruition under David’s rule.
Yet, when we read the Psalms in chronological order, we find that Psalms 90–106 do not match up with the Lord’s enthronement in David’s day. Rather, placed after David died (see Psalm 71) and after David’s sons had lost the throne (Psalm 89), Book IV describes a new enthronement, or what David Mitchell (The Message of the Psalter) calls a “return from exile.” Clearly, Book IV is using the event of the Lord’s enthronement in David’s day as “type” that can be applied in a new setting. But what is that setting? And when? Continue reading
No Justice, No Peace.
These words have been chanted, preached, and tweeted innumerable times in the last few months. And like so many slogans, they grip the heart because of the way they resonate with God’s truth (read Isa. 9:6–7; Rom. 14:17) and humanity’s need. Yet, as is often the case, such slogans fail to define their terms.
As a result, the meaning of justice and peace is left undefiled and liable for misuse.
Thankfully, as disciples of Christ, we don’t need to wonder what justice is, where peace comes from, or how God intends for his people to do justice and seek righteousness. However, it is possible in the cacophony of contemporary voices to forget that God’s eternal Word is sufficient for all of life and godliness.
Serendipitously (which means under God’s sovereignty), Psalms 97–101 provide some of the most helpful discussion of justice in the Bible. Starting this week, as we continue to study the Steadfast Psalms of Book IV, we begin a mini-series on justice.
While paying attention to their original context, we can learn much about God’s righteousness and justice in Psalms 97–101. To that end, you listen to this week’s sermon or watch it below. Additionally, I have included a couple other videos that begin to help us think biblically about the justice of God.
Know Justice, Know Peace — Baltimore Bible Church
Last Sunday marked our fourth Sunday back after the COVID-induced hiatus of three months. And for the fourth week in a row, we took the Lord’s Supper and remembered the death and resurrection of Christ with elements resembling his body and blood.
In preparation for the Lord’s Table, two of my sons asked at different times, “Why are we taking the Lord’s Supper again.” To be clear, they have never taken the Lord’s Supper, because as unbaptized members of our family, they have not yet identified themselves through baptism with God’s household of faith. That said, their question arose from a personal knowledge of what we do at church and when we do it.
For all of their young lives, they have followed us to church. And since they began joining us in the gathered assembly of worship, they have always and only seen communion taken on the first Sunday of every month. This has been our practice at OBC and at our last church too. Indeed, it is a practice that is commonplace among many Bible-believing churches.
So why the change to communion every Sunday? Let me give four reasons, as we prepare for the Lord’s Table again this Sunday. Continue reading
Yesterday, I gave seven pastoral cautions for bringing biblical theology to the church. And as advertised, here is the rest of the story: seven pastoral practices for bringing biblical theology to church.
This is list primarily for pastors and the role their preaching can play in helping their congregation value a unified reading Scripture that leads to Christ—for this is what the best biblical theology does. However, these encouragements may also serve any member of the church, as healthy congregational have more than biblical pulpits. They must also have members who long for and pray for the Word of God to grow in their midst.