Song Notes: February 1st, 2015

Brothers and Sisters, here are the four songs we will be singing in worship on Sunday, along with a brief note about each one.

Entrance Hymn: Psalm 29, p. 52-53
God’s word is powerful. When we hear this we think of God’s written word, which is all we have access to. But this Psalm celebrates God’s spoken word.  In the version we use stanzas, 2, 3, 4, and 5 all begin with “the voice of Jehovah” or the “voice of the Lord.” In addition to this God’s voice is mentioned in last line of the 2nd stanza and the 3rd line of the 4th stanza. Lining all these up gives quite an impression:

-The voice of Jehovah resounds on the waters
-The Lord’s voice in splendor the Lord’s voice in might
-The voice of Jehovah is breaking the cedars
-The voice of Jehovah divides flames of lightning
-The voice of the Lord makes the wilderness tremble
-The voice of the Lord makes the deer twist in labor

The overall impression is an OT precursor to Hebrews 1:3 where we are told that Jesus upholds all things by the word of power. The universe runs on the Word of God. He tells all things when to be born, what to do, where to go, and when to die. He tells the seas when to overflow their banks and when they have gone too far. He tells the animals to give birth. He tears down. He builds up. The Psalm emphasizes God’s power over the world and all the natural forces in it. King David ends by reminding us that God sat on his throne even during the Flood. Psalm 29:10 is only use of this word outside of Genesis 6-11.

So what should be our response to God’s voice governing all things, even something as mighty and terrible as the Flood? We are to give him glory. In verses 1-2 the “mighty ones” are called upon to give God glory. In verse 9, all who are in temple declare “glory.” And so too must we. As we consider God’s greatness and power we are to offer him praise and glory.

Hymn of Thanksgiving: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, p. 267
This is one of classic hymns from the pen of Isaac Watts. For over 300 years men have sung it. The truths it contains are just as glorious as they were in 1707.  There are two key themes in this hymn.

First, when we survey, that is look at, the cross we are humbled. The longer we stare at Christ, the deeper we look into his work on the cross, the more we consider how unworthy we are of his sacrifice, the more we ponder how little we have to offer, the more humble become. We stop boasting in ourselves and we start boasting in Christ. We “pour contempt” on all our pride.

Second, because of God’s great love for us seen in the cross, we abandon all to follow Christ. Watts casts aside “all the vain things” to follow Christ. He ends the hymn by saying that Christ’s great sacrifice “demands my soul, my life, my all.”  When we look at Christ and His work we do not become lazy in our spiritual walk. The cross is the fire which keeps us pushing forward. If you find that your walk with Christ is lacking zeal maybe you need to go back to the basics. Read something or better yet sing something about Christ’s amazing love.

Worship Song #1: Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word, p. 368
Unlike our previous song, most Christians have never heard of this hymn by Martin Luther. That is a shame. It is a rich prayer offered to Father, Son, and Spirit to defend and keep the Church.

Typical of Luther it is a battle hymn. In the first verse he says that forces of darkness want to destroy us by “craft and sword,” “wrest the kingdom” from Christ, and “set at naught all he has done.” Luther understood the forces that are arrayed against the Church. He knew there were spiritual forces working through physical forces to undermine, deceive, sidetrack, and ultimately destroy God’s people. What was his answer to all this? Prayer and the word. He prays that God would help us stay tethered to God’s Word.  He prays that Christ would make his power known. He prays that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would send peace and unity and give us strength as we prepare to die. We are no different from Luther. We are beset on every side by principalities and powers. There are men who want to tear the Church down stone by stone. When we take this prayer of Luther upon our lips we asking Christ to keep His Word, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against us.

Worship Song #2: Psalm 1-Bless Now the Man Who Does Not Walk, p. 2
Our final song is one that we know and love. Psalm 1 stands like a gatekeeper as we prepare to enter the sacred ground of the Psalter. It is a wisdom Psalm that explains the path of blessing and the path of destruction.

According to Psalm 1, there are two things the man who wants to be blessed will do. First, he will avoid entering into fellowship with wicked men. He does not listen their counsel. He does not walk in their ways. He does not spend hours in their company. Second, instead of drinking from the well of wicked men, he drinks from the well of God’s law. God’s law brings him joy and delight. He thinks about God’s Word constantly. He considers how his life should change based on God’s Word. He does not listen to the world and its counsel. But instead he patiently and thoughtfully allows God’s Word to shape his thoughts, words, and deeds. A man who does this will be well-watered. His tree will be strong and mighty. He will bear fruit in God’s time. He is blessed by the Lord in all that he does.

The question this Psalm puts before us is, “Who is influencing us more: the men of this world or Word of God?” Do we want God’s blessing, but do not want to cut off love of the world? Do we try to live with one foot in the world and one foot in the Word?

Unequal Yokes in Calvin’s Geneva

I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. At the bottom of this post you can find the other articles.

In chapter 10, the authors examine Geneva’s approach to mixed religious marriages. Should a Christian marry a non-Christian? Should a Protestant marry a Catholic? Could a recent convert to the Protestant faith leave their Catholic spouse? Here is their summary of Calvin’s teaching:

First, Protestants should not marry Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, or unbelievers. Those who sought to enter into such mixed marriages should be strongly dissuaded, though they could not ultimately be prevented from marriage.  Second, parties who were already in mixed marriages, or whose spouse lapsed from the faith after the wedding, should remain together. Those who sought to escape such mixed marriages should be strongly dissuaded, though they could not ultimately be prevented from separating from a spouses whose abuse imperiled the body and soul of the believer. Though none of this teaching on interreligious  marriage found its way into Genevan statutes, the Consistory applied this law consistently throughout Calvin’s lifetime.

The authors note that Calvin was asked whether it was okay for a Protestant to marry a Catholic. Calvin said it was a sin, but such marriages were not absolutely forbidden. He preferred to deal with questions like this on a case by case basis. How strong was the Catholic? Were they drifting towards Protestantism? Would they castigate the Protestant spouse for refusing to take Mass? He did not lay down many hard and fast rules on this issue because there were so many variables.

Perhaps the greatest deterrent to mixed marriages was how hard it was to get out of them. Divorce was not acceptable. Using I Corinthians 7:12-16 as the key passage, Calvin taught that even if one of the spouses was not a believer, the home was still sanctified through the believing spouse. Therefore, there was no need to divorce. Unless a person’s life was threatened or the spouse refused to live with them if they did not convert, there was no reason for divorce.

A couple of mixed religious convictions could get married. Their marriage was legitimate. There was no annulment based on religious preferences. Nor could religious differences be an impediment to marriage. However, if a couple married against the wishes of the Consistory they could be banned from the Lord’s Supper. Their marriage was a real marriage, but it might not be a Christian marriage.

This teaching in Geneva was in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic teaching of the time, which stated that, since marriage was a sacrament, it was only valid between two baptized believers.

Of all the teaching at Geneva that I have read about this is the hardest to sort out. But I understand why. Marriage is not just for Christians. It is for all men. Two Muslims can marry. Two atheists can marry. A Christian and a Muslim can marry. But marriage to a non-Christian or even a Christian with very different views is difficult and hard.  Geneva tried to strike a balance between declaring mixed marriage not marriages at all and sanctioning mixed marriages.

Previous Posts
General Overview of the Book
An Overview of Marriage Prior to Calvin
Calvin’s Attack on Marriage as a Sacrament
Consent to Marriage in Geneva
The Desire for Reconciliation Instead of Divorce
The Power of the Consistory in Geneva
Courtship in Geneva
Coercion to and Conditions of Marriage in Geneva
Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva
Impediments to Marriage in Geneva