Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us: A Biblical Theme That Comforts Scared Sheep

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Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;
In thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

Dorothy Thrupp’s “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us” is a powerful hymn that drinks deeply from the biblical imagery of God as Shepherd. While many are familiar with the Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23) or Jesus’ identification as the Good Shepherd (John 10), the theme actually extends the length of the whole Bible. To help see that, let me share a brief roadmap that traces this soul-comforting, biblical-theological theme.

Genesis 48:15–16; 49:24

In Genesis flocks go back as far as Genesis 4:4. And throughout the book of beginnings, God’s people are often seen around and among sheep. Accordingly, God’s people were very familiar with the mannerisms of sheep and what it would take to be a shepherd. It’s not surprising then, the imagery of God as a shepherd began from the beginning. (For a full treatment of this shepherd theme with application to pastoral ministry, see Timothy Laniak’s Shepherds After My Own Heart). Continue reading

“Give Me Life . . . According to Your Word”: How God’s Law Leads to Gospel Life

ben-white-131241There is a way of thinking today that says life and liberty are found by rejecting or rewriting the law. Personal expression is all that matters: “Just be yourself . . . Be authentically you!” And if any rules or laws—be they religious or otherwise—get in the way, just reject or rewrite those restrictions.

Importantly, Scripture is not silent on this matter. And it teaches the opposite. Instead of rejecting the law as a place of life and freedom, it actually says that life is found in keeping the law. Or to be more specific, life is enjoyed as one seeks to obey the law. Yes, Paul says that the law does not have power to make alive (Romans 8:3), but that is not all he says about the law (see Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:13–14).

Moreover, Psalm 119 demonstrates what a heart cries, when it has been circumcised by the law. In other words, whereas mere obedience cannot earn life; those who have been made alive by God will hunger and thirst for life in the law. Obedience to the law is not antithetical to life; it is the very essence of life under the Lord.

So let us consider how Psalm 119 cries out for life in the Word of God. Continue reading

Resources for Reading the Psalms Canonically

libraryOver the summer, I preached a series of messages on the Psalms. I argued that they are one unified book telling the story of salvation. In their midst the reader finds a movement from lament to praise and a series of peaks and valleys that follow the course of redemptive history from David (in Books 1 and 2) to the exile of David and Israel (in Book 3) to the establishment of Yahweh’s kingdom (in Book 4) to the coming kingdom of a New David (in Book 5).

As I preached this series, I was greatly helped by a number of resources. I’ve included many of them below. If you are interested in understanding the Psalms as one, unified and intentionally-arranged book, these articles, chapters, and books are a great start. If you have other key resources not listed here, please share them in the comments. I’d love to see how others are understanding the Psalms and their glorious message of grace.

In what follows you will find:

  1. Sermons
  2. Articles
  3. Academic Articles
  4. Book Chapters (with annotated notes)
  5. Books (with annotated notes)
  6. Commentaries (with annotated notes)
  7. Videos and Infographics

I pray these resources are helpful and that they increase your passion for the Psalms.  Continue reading

Reading the Psalms from the Beginning: How Reading the Psalms Canonically Is More Ancient Than Modern

focusIs a canonical approach to the Psalms a new creation, or the invention of modern scholars? Or do we do we find anything like it in church history?

This important question was raised recently and I didn’t have a one-stop, go-to resource to provide an answer in the affirmative. Indeed, most studies advocating the canonical reading do not spend great time on interpretive strategies in early church. Rather, most focus on, in the words of Hans Frei, the “Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative,” and the biblical-theological need and warrant to read the Psalms as a literary whole.

Still the question lingers. Is a canonical approach merely a recent invention. Providentially, my reading on the Psalms took me to David Mitchell’s work , The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalmswhere he spends fifty pages tracing the history of psalm interpretation. In his first chapter, he give a resounding ‘yes’ to the question, order and arrangement have always been taken into consideration until the modern period of hermeneutics. Only since the Enlightenment, with its skepticism towards the supernatural inspiration of the Bible, has an atomized approach to the Psalms been the norm.

In what follows I summarize his research and outline why we can have great confidence that a canonical approach to the Psalms is not just a modern invention, it is a recovery and an amplification of the Christian practice of reading the Bible as God’s inspired word. Continue reading

From Exaltation to Exile: The Tragic Fall of David’s House (Psalms 73–89)

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From Exaltation to Exile: The Tragic Fall of David’s House

In his chapter on the Psalms, Paul House writes of Book 3, Psalms 73–89:

Subtle shifts in tone, superscriptions and content leading up to historical summaries in Psalms 78 and 89 indicate that part three [Psalms 73–89] reflects Israel’s decline into sin and exile. This national demise occurs in about 930–587 B.C. and has been described previously in 1 Kings 12–1 Kings 25 as well as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Twelve. The view of history found here matches that in the Prophets: Israel’s covenant breaking led God to rebuke, and then reject, the chosen people and to expel them from the promised land. These Psalms portray this rebuke and rejection against a background of the remnants faith struggles and the Lord’s patience. (Old Testament Theology, 413–14)

In Sunday’s message I attempted to show some of the history of Judah that stands behind the events of Book 3. I argued that by learning the history of David’s sons and listening to the priestly heralds of Book 3 we come to learn about Israel’s hope and our own hope. Whereas the sins of David’s sons led to the demise of their throne, God would ultimately remain faithful, as it evidenced throughout Book 3 and even more in Books 4 and 5.

While fulling getting our hands on the history and poetry of Israel challenges us—we are, after all, removed from Israel’s history by over 3,000 years and differing languages—it is evident that devastating fall afflicts David’s house and the house of the Lord between the end of Book 2 and the end of Book 3. Psalm 72 shows the exalted throne of David, now given to Solomon; Psalm 89 shows the crown of David thrown into the dust.

In the infographic, I try to show some of the probable connections that make up the details of Book 3, as it gives the soundtrack of David’s falling house. Discussion questions below focus on Psalm 89. And sermon audio and sermon notes are also available. (You can find a list of observations related to Psalm 74 and 2 Chronicles 10–12 here). Continue reading

The Soundtrack of Salvation (pt. 2): The Family Tree of David in Psalms 42–72

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How do you know who you are?

For all of us stories, especially family stories, define who we are. While the world tells us we can define ourselves however we want, the truth is we need an overarching story to set the context for our lives. Apart from Christ, we seek to write a story with our lives that satisfies our cravings and bolsters our self-confidence.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, however, we not only receive the Lord’s righteousness and life, we also receive his name, his family, and his history. Importantly, Jesus’ family history does not begin in a Bethlehem stable, it goes back to Ruth and Boaz—another family in Bethlehem. And in the birth of their great-grandson David, we find the foundational patriarch who defines the royal family of King Jesus and all of human history. In the Psalms David is the central figure. In Book 1 he is the author and centerpiece of (almost) every psalm. And now in Book 2, he continues to have the leading role.

This week, building on the message from last week, we consider how the sons of Korah, Asaph, and Solomon all factor into David’s later life. As I argue in the sermon, Book 2 begins with the highpoint of David’s life in Psalms 45–46; it then plummets into the conflicts that arise following David’s sin with Bathsheba in Psalms 51–71; it concludes with God intervening to save David and establish David’s son Solomon on the throne in Psalm 72. In this story we find the family story of David, of Jesus, and of every child of God who has entered into David’s story by way of trust in David’s Son.

You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. But perhaps most helpful are two infographics that display the story of Psalms 1–72. Here are the infographics, also in PDF (Book 1 and Book 2). Below are discussion questions and resources for further study.

Continue reading

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: Reading Each Evangelist on Their Own Terms and Seeing How Each Reads the Old Testament

arc.jpegAny alert reader of Matthew’s Gospel will notice the tax collector-turned-evangelist is regularly quoting from the Old Testament. To him, the events of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection “fulfill” the prophecies of the Old Testament. What may be less evident is that the other Gospel writers who are less explicit in their citations are equally informed and shaped by the Old Testament.

In a previous post, I suggested interpreters of the Bible should keep in mind that the authors of Scripture demonstrated various approaches to reading the Old Testament. Today, I want to catalog a few of those approaches, drawing again from the exegetical insights of Richard Hays’ and his careful study of the four Gospels, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. (A larger study of approaches would include Paul and Peter’s use of the Old Testament. We must save that for another day).

Reading the Gospels on Their Own Termsgospels

In the introduction to Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, Richard Hays rightly observes:

Jesus and his followers were Jews whose symbolic world was shaped by Israel’s Scripture: their ways of interpreting the world and their hopes for God’s saving action were fundamentally conditioned by the biblical stories of God’s dealings with the people Israel. Therefore, it is not surprising that as the earliest Christian communities began to tell and retell stories about Jesus, they interpreted his life, death, and resurrection in relation to those biblical stories (i.e., the texts that Christians later came to call the Old Testament). (5)

Contesting the “unconscious Marcionite bias” of many modern readers, Hays writes his book to “offer an account of the narrative representation [read: re-presentation] of Israel, Jesus, and the church in the canonical Gospels, with particular attention to the ways in which the four Evangelists reread Israel’s Scriptures—as well as the ways in which Israel’s Scriptures prefigures and illuminates the central character in the Gospel stories” (7).

I believe he hits his mark, helps students better see what each biblical author is doing with the Old Testament, and proves why it is necessary for us to understand intertextuality, in general, and how each author employs various methods of intertextuality to show how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament storyline of Israel and thus sheds light backwards on the Hebrew Scriptures and forward to Christians who worship to God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.

What follows, then, is a brief—well, it’s not as long as Hays volume—summary of points concerning each Gospel writer. Continue reading

Our Long-Awaited Hope: Seeing God’s *Son* Through the Scriptures

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From where does hope come? And why does it take so long to get here? 

In our microwave age of instant information and Siri solutions, we don’t wait well. Yet, Christianity is a religion of patient endurance, long-suffering, and waiting—pure and simple waiting. Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God are told to wait. After the Exodus, Israel is forced to wait forty years because of their sinful unbelief, and at the other end of the Old Testament, Israel is left waiting for their messiah to bring a new exodus. Just the same in the New Testament, Hebrews 6:12 instructs, be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

We should probably take it as axiomatic, then, that God wants his people to wait. Anyone who has ever prayed knows that the waiting is where God does his working. Saints are not matured in a day; they are formed in periods of years, decades, and generations. Hence, in this season of Christmas when we reenact Israel’s waiting of the Christ’s birth, we do well to think about the way that God promised his Son, so that in our waiting, hope would flourish.

From Genesis 3:15 to Jesus (to Revelation 12 too), the promise of a child-savior runs through the Bible. During Advent, we remember most explicitly the details related to the Angelic host, the Magi, and the Bethlehem Star, but God’s inspired apostles also send us back into the Old Testament to remember all that led up to Christ’s birth. Thus, in keeping with the pattern of waiting and watching in Scripture, it is worth observing just how and how often and how long God prepared the way for Jesus to come through a myriad of promises and prototypes leading up to the birth of Immanuel, God with us. (Fittingly, what follows is not short. But how could it be? The arrival of Christ’s birth took millennia.)

What follows is a thread of verses that trace how God prepared the way for Jesus. It begins with God’s promise of son in Genesis 3:15 and continues to see how this theme is expanded and developed through the history of Israel. It’s not a short journey, but neither was the voyage the Magi took to worship Jesus (approx. 500 miles in around two months time). In this age of fast-paced consumerism, may God give us grace to look long and longingly at the Messiah whose arrival took millennia to achieve, and may God produce fresh hope in us for the second advent of God’s Son. Continue reading

Gospel-Motivated Giving

givingThe Lord said to Moses,  “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.
— Exodus 25:1–2 —

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
— 1 Chronicles 29:14 —

Old Covenant Giving: A Legal Requirement in the Land

From the opening pages of Scripture God has called his saints to give. Providing the first sacrifice when he made skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), God modeled for his children the kind of animal sacrifice that would please him. Abel followed in faith (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4), as did Noah (Genesis 8:20–22), Abraham (22:16–18), Moses (24:4–5; 40:29), and the priests of Levi (when they kept the Law). Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were called to give.

Echoed in every other world religion, giving is a necessary part of worship. In Israel, tithes, offerings, and sacrifices—atoning and festive—were a normal part of worship. Likewise, the Old Testament testifies that every demon-inspired deity demanded gifts and every culture offered sacrifices—sometimes even giving up their children to the flames of Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). In short, from a cursory reading of Scripture or a survey of the world, mankind is people who worship, and giving is a necessary part of that worship. Still, in that worship there are right and wrong ways to worship, which means there are right ways and wrong ways to give.

Continue reading

Books on Biblical Theology: A Brief Annotated Bibliography

biblical theologyYesterday evening I taught on ‘Seeing Christ in All the Scripture‘ in our Sunday evening service. As we emphasize the discipline of biblical theology this summer at our church, I put together a handout showing how the New Testament teaches us to read the Old Testament and how the Old Testament demonstrates a series of pattern which culminate in Christ. You can see the front of that handout here. Below is the back side, which lists and introduces books on biblical theology for children, beginners, and beyond.

Children

  1. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm – Perfect for ages 3–103, David Helm traces the idea of God’s People in God’s Place under God’s Rule. He teaches young children how to read the Bible with Christ at the center.
  2. Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – Suitable for ages 5–105, Martyn Lloyd-Jones daughter goes into greater depths than Helm. She too shows how the types, shadows, and patterns in the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ. At points, her story Bible is quite funny as it considers the stories of Scripture.
  3. The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski – Ideal for ages 7–107, Machowski’s book takes the story of Christ even further. It includes a couple questions about the story on each page, as well.

Together, each of these illustrated children’s Bibles contain slightly more content as they teach young ones (and older ones) how Christ is the pinnacle and linchpin of the whole Bible.

Beginner

  1. According to Plan: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy – In my estimation, this is the introduction to biblical theology. It gives a short ‘how-to’ and a readable overview of the whole Bible through the gospel of the kingdom. He has also written a more comprehensive biblical thelogy: Christ-centered Biblical Theology that gives even more explanation of his method and approach.
  2. God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts – A short, eight-fold explanation of redemptive history centered on the kingdom of God.
  3. Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael William – It gives a short, Christ-centered interpretation of every book in the Bible. Any teacher doing a BT overview should have this book.
  4. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Storyline by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen – Speaks of the Bible as a five act drama, where the analogy of drama is effectively used to explain redemptive history.
  5. The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney – Any student of Biblical Theology should know Clowney, and this worship-inducing book is the best introduction. Preachers should also commit to reading his short book Preaching and Biblical Theology.

Intermediate

  1. The Goldsworthy Trilogy by Graeme Goldsworthy – Three-Books-in-One: Goldsworthy applies his ‘gospel-centered’ approach to the whole Bible, Wisdom literature, and the book of Revelation. For those tired of reading Revelation in light of shifting current events, Goldsworthy shows how Revelation is a book about Jesus.
  2. Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster – Picking up the royal themes of people and place, Dempster beautifully shows the unity of the Old Testament.
  3. Magnifying God in Christ: A Summary of New Testament Theology by Thomas Schreiner – This abbreviation of his outstanding New Testament Theology gives a rich overview of NT Theology. He also has a large, but very readable Biblical Theology, The King in his Beauty.
  4. From Eden to the New Jerusalem by T. D. Alexander – Tracing six crucial themes (e.g., temple, sacrifice, sovereignty, etc.), this book shows how to move from Genesis to Revelation.
  5. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Although large, this is the one-stop shop for biblical theology. In three sections, a bevy of evangelical scholars (1) give instruction on how to approach biblical theology, (2) introduce every book of the Bible, and (3) summarize many important Biblical Theological themes. Every serious Bible teacher should have this reference work.

Advanced

  1. Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos – The classic work on Biblical Theology. This book is hard-going at times, because it contains a great deal of interaction with higher-criticism (the academic viewpoint that takes the Bible as as compilation of man-made books, not a unified revelation, inspired by God). However, if you can wade through the chaff, you’ll benefit immensely from this Princeton Giant—not to mention, you will gain an appreciation for what it took for the modern genesis of evangelical biblical theology to emerge.
  2. God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants by Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry – Contrasting Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, these two Baptist scholars argue for a series of covenants (progressive covenantalism) as the “backbone” of the Bible. This book abbreviates and gives some response to objection to their earlier book, Kingdom through Covenant.
  3. Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock – A well-researched and irenic book which updates older models of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalist and non-dispensationalists alike would benefit from this well-argued book.
  4. The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale – Long, but worth the read. If you ever want to see how exegesis flows into Biblical Theology for the sake of the church, this is your book. At the same time, this book makes a whole-Bible argument for why Christians should not expect a future reconstruction of the temple.
  5. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Jim Hamilton – Hamilton shows how salvation and judgment redound the praise of God in every book of the Bible. Hamilton’s forte is showing the literary structure of each book and how each book contributes to theme of God’s glory.

There are countless other books that could be added to this list, and thankfully more continue to be published each year. If there are others that should be mentioned, feel free to suggest them in the comments. For now, I will commend these books to you, with one additional series: New Studies in Biblical Theology. Recognizable by its silver covers, this series edited by D.A. Carson holds nearly 40 individual studies on Biblical Theology from a wide array of evangelical scholars. These studies are fantastic for tracing themes throughout both testaments. (And to make these books even more accessible for pastors and teachers, Andy Naselli has served the church well by writing up a Scripture index for these volumes).

In sum, few areas of study have been more encouraging to my soul than biblical theology. Gaining an understanding of the Bible as a whole is something Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 24:27, 44–49) and it is something we should give great attention.

May the Spirit of truth illumine our eyes to behold Christ in all of Scripture, and may these resources serve in that study.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds