What Should We Think About the Imprecatory Psalms?

angel-clouds-weather-vera-161199Imprecatory psalms (e.g., Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140) are those psalms which call upon God to destroy the enemies of God. They come from the anguished hearts of persecuted Israelites, and they include some of the most shocking words in the Bible. Take just a few examples.

Psalm 35 provides one of the most acceptable imprecatory Psalms. Verses 4–6 read,

Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
(Psalm 35:4–6)

In Psalm 109, the language gets more severe as David calls for the personal ruination of the wicked.

Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few;
may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
(Psalm 109:6–15)

Finally, in Psalm 137 David pronounces a benediction on those who destroy the children of the wicked:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
(Psalm 137:7–9)

Due to their graphic violence and divine approval—they are in the Bible, after all—many Protestant liberals have charged the God of Israel with violence unbecoming a deity. Other modern readers have written off Christianity entirely because of the imprecatory Psalms and Israel’s violent history. Even for gospel-loving, grace-proclaiming Christians, the inspired cries for vengeance make us feel uncomfortable. They don’t immediately fit our normal grid for a God who is love. What, therefore, should we think about the imprecatory Psalms?

A few years ago, my PhD Supervisor and good fried, Stephen Wellum, gave a Sunday School lesson on these psalms, and what follows is an amplified outline of his lesson. Continue reading

Four Exegetical Commitments to Doing Biblical Ethics

ethicsIn his chapter ethics in Progressive Covenantalism, Stephen Wellum lists four commitments necessary for doing biblical ethics. These principles for doing ethics take into account the progressive revelation of Scripture, the progression of biblical covenants, and the unity and diversity of ethical commands in the Bible. In short, they are commitments we should make whenever we seek to be ‘biblical’ in our ethical formulations.

This approach to ethics fits with a larger vision of how to put the Bible together and provides a helpful, “thick” reading of Scripture with regards to Christians ethics. Below are the four commitments drawn from his chapter. I commend them to you and further consideration on how every topic of ethics requires a whole-Bible approach to the subject.

(For two examples of how this approach might be worked out, you can see how I sought to handle racial reconciliation and transgenderism in two recent sermons). Continue reading

Grasping the ‘Already’ and the ‘Not Yet’: Four Quotes on Inaugurated Eschatology

kingA few weeks ago I mentioned inaugurated eschatology in a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. While this “three dollar word” can at first seem confusing or unnecessary—“let’s just stick with the simple gospel,” I can hear someone say—the concept of Already and Not Yet is so important for understanding New Testament eschatology, I couldn’t pass it by.

So in the sermon I used the term, defined it, describe it, and employed the obligatory D-Day / V-Day illustration. Today, I want to point out four quotes that further explain the place and importance of this concept. In short, inaugurated eschatology is a concept that relates to way God’s kingdom has come to earth and yet awaits its final consummation. As I understand it, this concept is most clearly seen in regards to Christ’s resurrection (the topic of 1 Corinthians 15), the Holy Spirit, and the kingdom of God.

Indeed, it is safe to say any theology of the Spirit, the kingdom, or the resurrection that does not take into consideration the already and not yet mismanages God’s economy and distorts the way God is working and will work in the world. Therefore, this idea is of the greatest importance for reading the Bible and doing theology. So, take time to consider these quotes. They will help solidify the concept which covers nearly every page of the New Testament. Continue reading

Kingdom and Covenant: The Main Entrance to the Cathedral of Scripture

In recent years, Kingdom and Covenant have received ample attention in the field of biblical theology. This is due in large part to a book co-written by two professors at Southern Seminary, Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum. Most recently, the latter articulated their position at the Regional ETS meeting held on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you haven’t seen the video (above), I would encourage you to take an hour an listen.

This post is not about that presentation or that book, however. Instead it concerns another book with a similar theme, The Drama of Scripture. While many covenant and dispensational theologians have pushed back against Kingdom through Covenant, there are others who have found the twin themes of kingdom and covenant as persuasive and most basic for putting the Bible together. One example of this is Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen.

Writing independent from (and prior to) Gentry and Wellum, they produce a strikingly similar  conclusion about the place of kingdom and covenant in Scripture. Using a cathedral as an illustration for reading the Bible, the argue for covenant and kingdom as the “main entrance” into the Bible. They write,

In our opinion, ‘covenant’ (in the Old Testament) and ‘the kingdom of God’  (in the New Testament) present a strong claim to be the main door through which we can being to enter the Bible and to see it as one whole and vast structure. Continue reading

Noonday Light: Biblical Theology

biblical theology

In the years before seminary, when God was awakening a hunger in my heart for the bible and theology, I was introduced to the subject of ‘biblical theology.’ Now that makes sense right? Biblical theology is the mashup of ‘bible’ and ‘theology.’ Only it is more specific than that.

As my doctoral supervisor, Stephen Wellum, recently defined it: Biblical theology is the “hermeneutical discipline,” that

Seeks to unpack God’s unfolding redemptive plan, doing justice to the diversity of it, while always remembering that despite the diversity it is one plan which reaches its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is concerned to discover how the parts of Scripture fit in terms of the whole, according to God’s intention and purposes, not our own imaginative constructions. Biblical theology is utterly essential to rightly interpreting and ‘putting together’ the whole counsel of God and thus learning to ‘think God’s thoughts after him.’

In truth, everyone has a biblical theology. But not everyone has a good biblical theology. Since living the Christian life depends wholly on knowing God, his gospel, and how God’s word relates to our lives today, biblical theology is crucial matter of consideration for pastors and those in the pew. In other words, its not an optional class some Christians might enjoy. It is central to our Christian walk.

In that vein, for those who are interested in learning how to think God’s thoughts after him according to the way that God has revealed himself over time in the Scriptures, let me suggest a few quick resources.

What the Big Idea Story? Why Biblical Theology Should Matter to Every Bible-Believing Christian. Credo Magazine has come out with their latest edition on the subject of biblical theology. It’s an up-to-date introduction on the subject. (Credo Magazine)

Biblical Theology by Gerard Von Groningen. Covenant Seminary (St. Louis, MO) offers a whole seminary class on biblical theology taught by the insightful OT scholar Gerard Von Groningen. You have to sign up for the class, but the cost is free. (Covenant Seminary)

What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Stories, Symbols, and Patterns. Jim Hamilton has come out with a short introduction to the subject that helps students consider the literary structures and symbols of the Bible. These things are essential for any good biblical theology.

What’s in the Bible? Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggies Tales, has come up with a new and improved series that teaches biblical theology to young children. You can read about it here or watch a preview below. (The Gospel Coalition)

Via Emmaus. It is my meager attempt to provide on this blog a collection of biblical, theological, and biblical-theological fodder for your edification, so that you might read the Bible better.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (7.27.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.

BIBLE & THEOLOGY

Kingdom Through Covenant.  Justin Taylor, Vice President of Editorial at Crossway and blogger extraordinaire, has posted the first two chapters of the new book,  Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants.  This book is a landmark work on the covenants of the Bible (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant).  Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum are the authors of this book, and they have wed their systematic and exegetical expertise to provide a comprehensive reading of the whole Bible.

I encourage you to take the time to pick up this big book and test their proposal.  I think they are right on as they put the Bible together, and that this book has the potential to provide a more exegetical, biblical-theological reading of Scripture than either Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology.

Physical Theology: The Bible in its Land, Time and Culture.  Dr. John Monson, who grew up in Israel, is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS).  Earlier this year, he gave a compelling lecture on the space and time found in the Bible.  His academic and personal experience in Israel, give him a strong understanding of the land in Israel and how it relates to our understanding of God’s plan of redemption.  By the way, to add credibility to his qualifications, he also dated a girl from Bethlehem named Mary.

For more on a theological understanding of the land in the Bible, see O. Palmer Robertson, Understanding the Land of the Bible.

FAMILY, CHURCH, & MINISTRY

Gay Is Not The New Black.  Voddie Baucham writes persuasively why making homosexuality normative in American life and politics is not the next step in the Civil Rights movement.  Categorically, definitionally, historically, and legally, Baucham shows why arguments for gay ‘rights’ do not parallel the rights once restricted to blacks.  He concludes,

It is very important for those of us who oppose the idea of same-sex “marriage” to do so not because we wish to preserve our version of the American Dream, but because we view marriage as a living, breathing picture of the relationship between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22ff), and because we know that God has designed the family in a particular way. While the design of the family promotes human thriving (Gen 1:27-28), the testimony points people to their only hope in this life and the next. As a result, silence on this issue is not an option.

Unfortunately (and quite ironically), many Christians have been bullied into silence by the mere threat of censure from the homosexual lobby. “Oppose us and you’re no better than Gov. Wallace, Hitler, and those homophobes who killed Matthew Shepard!” is their not-so-subtle refrain. Consequently, we spend so much time trying to prove we’re not hate-filled murderers that we fail to recognize that the Emperor has no clothes. There is no legal, logical, moral, biblical, or historical reason to support same-sex “marriage.” In fact, there are myriad reasons not to support it. I’ve only provided a few.

Baucham’s article is an important and well-informed read.  One that you need to read to equip yourself against the ascending onslaught for ‘gay marriage’ and against biblical Christianity.

Culture Wars.  While you are at it, you should also read Owen Strachan’s article on why the ‘gay marriage’ issue is so radically different than the abortion issue and why Christians cannot ‘opt out’ of taking a biblical stand.

How to Comfort Bereaved Parents.  Jill Sullivan, a 40-something mother in Arkansas, who lost her daughter in 2009, has written a helpful and compassionate article on how to minister to families in the church who have lost children.  I have a feeling that her words while particularly applicable to the grief that accompanies the untimely death of a child, but her wise words of comfort are also applicable at any time that someone is experiencing the loss of a loved one.  Take time to read it, and to pray for those who you know who have lost parents, siblings, or children in this year.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.  On the same blog that published Jill Sullivan’s piece, Trevin Wax also posted one of my blogs, “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.”  Taken from a sermon I preached last year on Revelation 19, I explore the beauty of heaven and how every love story on earth is but a lesser version of the greatest love story of Jesus Christ dying for his bride and defeating his enemies.  Check it out.

For Your Edification, dss

An Appreciation for the Erudition and Evangelism of Stephen Wellum

Today, the CredoMag blog posted a link to the faculty address given by my friend and mentor, scholastic supervisor and former Sunday School teacher, Stephen Wellum.  The faculty address concerns the biblical-theological implications of Christ’s priesthood and New Covenant mediation on the extent of the atonement and Baptist ecclesiology.  This is an extrapolation of his larger biblical-theological work with Peter Gentry, Kingdom Through Covenantthat Justin Taylor linked to yesterday: Covenants in Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Let me encourage you to check out his lecture and to read the appreciation that Matt Barrett and I wrote up for one of many gifted professors at Southern Seminary.

You can read the whole thing here.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

To What End Is The History of Israel?

John Bright, a noted Old Testament scholar who influenced the likes of Graeme Goldsworthy, concludes his massive book, The History of Israel, with these insights about the history of Israel:

The history of Israel would continue in the history of the Jewish people, a people claimed by the God of Israel to live under his law to the last generation of mankind.  To the Jew, therefore, Old Testament theology finds its fruition in the Talmud.  The hope of the Old Testament is to him a thing yet unfulfilled, indefinitely deferred, to be eagerly awated by some, given up by others (for Jews are probably no more of one mind where eschatology is concerned than are Christians), secularized and attenuated by others.  Thus the Jewish answer to the question: Whither Israel’s history?  It is a legitimate answer and, from a historical point of view, a correct one–for Israel’s history does continue in Judaism.

But there is another answer, the one the Christian gives, and must give.  It is likewise historically legitimate, for Christianity did spring from the loins of Judaism.  That answer is that the destination of Old Testament history and theology is Christ and his gospel.  It declares that Christ is the awaited and decisive intrusion of God’s redemptive power into human history and the turning point of the ages, and that in him there is given both the righteousness that fulfils the law and the sufficient fulfillment of Israel’s hope in all its variegated forms.  It affirms, in short, that he is the theological terminus of the history of Israel.  It is on this question, fundamentally, that the Christian and its Jewish friend divide. . . . History really allows no third answer: Israel’s history leads straight on to the Talmud—or the gospel.  It has in fact led in no other direction (John Bright, The History of Israel2nd Ed., 467)

Whether one is inclined to affirm Covenant Theology or some form of Dispensationalism, three things stand out in this quote and are worth noting about the relationship between Israel and the Church.

Continue reading