A Shield Against Doubt

I am preaching on Psalm 12 this week. Here is a quote from John Calvin on why we need to be reminded that God’s Words are true and that he “promises nothing in vain.” He is commenting on Psalm 12:7, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

There is no man, it is true, who will not frankly confess that he entertains the same conviction which David records here, that the words of  Jehovah are pure; but those who while lying in the shade and living at their ease liberally extol by their praises the truth of God’s word, when they come to struggle with adversity in good earnest, although they may not venture openly to pour forth blasphemies against God, often charge him with not keeping his word. Whenever he delays his assistance, we call in question his fidelity to his promises and murmur just as if he had deceived us. There is no truth that is more generally received among men than that God is true; but there are few who frankly give him credit for this when they are in adversity. It is, therefore, highly necessary for us to cut off the occasion of our distrust; and whenever any doubt respecting the faithfulness of God’s promises steals in upon us, we ought immediately to lift up against it this shield, that the words of the Lord are pure.

 

Psalm 119-Longing for that Marvelous Word

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My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20)

I got engaged in college. For Christmas break my wife-to-be went to her home in Oregon and I went to my home in Mississippi. Our wedding was scheduled for March. I planned on going out to Oregon closer to wedding. One day in late December my father approached me and said something like this, “Son you are useless here. Why don’t you drive out to Oregon and spend the months leading up to the wedding near your bride to be.” That was wise counsel. My body was in Mississippi, but my heart and mind were in Oregon. At different times in life we all long for things. Often the deepest longing comes when we meet the person we are going to marry. I longed to be with Julie. There are other longings, such as a desire for particular job, a deep desire for rest and peace, or even a longing for wealth. But for the psalmist there is something else he longs for. There is something else that fills his vision; God’s Word.

In Psalm 119:20 the writer expresses a longing for God’s Word. The ESV translates it as “consumed,” the NKJV translates it as “breaks.” The word means to be crushed by something. What is the psalmist crushed by? A longing for God’s Word. The psalmist has a deep desire to see the judgments of God come forth. There is no moderation here. This is not a mild desire to occasionally read the Word. It is a desire that consumes all other desires. The psalmist hungers and thirsts for the Scriptures.

But why? Why are the Scriptures what he pursues? In them he finds God. In them he finds salvation. In them he finds answers to the most important of questions. In them a thirsty man finds water. In them a hungry man finds bread. In them the sinner finds forgiveness. In them he finds the path to holiness. In them he finds Christ. Anything of consequence is found in the Word of God. The better question is why anyone would not be consumed with longing for the Word of God?

For the psalmist this is not a passing concern for God’s judgments. His longing for God’s Word is not like the dew which is here at 9 and gone by 10. He longs for God’s judgments “at all times.” We all hunger for God’s Word at certain times in our lives. If we are sick or lose our job or there are difficulties in our marriage or with our children we might long for God’s Word. If we have a secret sin that has been discovered we might run to God’s Word. That is good and we should let circumstances drive us back to God’s Word. But that is not our goal. Our goal is a constant hunger for the living bread of God’s Word. Our aim should be a life of persevering faith that is characterized by a love for God’s Word. Admittedly we all grow slack in this area at times. Our love for the Word God goes up and down. Yet we must strive to be a people who break with longing for God’s Word at all times.

What are some practical ways to learn to long for God’s Word?

  • Ask the Lord to give you a hunger for His Word. A good way to do this is pray through a section of Psalm 119 each day. Why would the Lord not answer this prayer?
  • Listen carefully to the preaching of God’s Word. Often pastors will open up the Word for us in ways we cannot ourselves.
  • Hang around people who love God’s Word, read it regularly, and are showing signs of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is infectious.
  • Read God’s Word. There are many ways to do this. Some read through the Bible in a year. I have done that. Currently I am reading a couple of Psalms, one Proverb and a portion of an OT book and NT book each day. But I read the same book all month. This month I have read through Micah 3 times and will probably get one more reading in before I am done. The NT book is II Corinthians. I have read that twice. Vary up your Bible reading, especially if it gets stale.
  • Persevere in faith as you read and hear God’s Word. In this life, there will always be times where we are dull to God’s Word, where we don’t want to read it, or hear it preached. We must believe that even in those times the Spirit is working through the Word. Even if it is hard, we must keep ourselves planted in the Word. In the long run, the Lord will reward this often with a renewed joy for Scripture.

I want to end with Westminster Larger Catechism Question 155:

Q 155: How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A 155: The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners;  of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Why would those of us who have been saved by God’s grace, love Jesus, and want to be conformed to His image not long for more of this marvelous book?

With These We Shall Be Content

Peasant Family 1What does it look like when a man is blessed by God? When someone says, “That man has been blessed by God” what picture pops in your head?  Do you see a rich man in a business suit who employs dozens of workers? Do you see a martyr who is being burned at the stake? Do you see a man with a huge national following and who is a best selling author? What does a man blessed by God look like? Or we could rephrase it, when God blesses a man what is the content of those blessings?

In our world, blessings or happiness are often associated with material wealth or power. Who do most young children want to be like? The rich, famous, and powerful. As Christians we “sanctify” this secular vision.  Who are the truly blessed Christians? Those who have done great things for God or are wealthy or sell a lot of books and speak at conferences. Therefore most of us view God’s blessing as out of our reach. How many of will ever be truly wealthy? How many of us will ever get the opportunity to die at the stake or write a book that sells a million copies? Most of us will lead normal lives and the pass out of this world a hero to a few, but unknown to most. We are of course blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), which is not small thing. But what does a blessed life on earth look like?

Psalm 128 gives a surprising answer to this question.  Continue reading

Jesus and Sanctification in Psalm 112

 

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Paul says in Ephesians 5:1 that we are to be imitators of God as dear children. Psalm 111 and 112 give us a beautiful picture of how this works.

These two psalms are tied together in three ways.

First, they are both acrostics. That means the lines in the psalms begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (line 1 begins A, line 2 begins with B, etc.)

Second, Psalm 112 begins where Psalm 111 ends. Psalm 111 ends with “the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and a great understanding have all those who do his commandments.” Psalm 112 picks up on this theme stating that the “man who fears Yahweh will be blessed, who delights greatly in His commandments.”

Third, there numerous phrases repeated in both psalms. Here is a list with the same Hebrew words being underlined.

Psalm 111:2: The works of the Yahweh are…studied by all who take pleasure in them.
Psalm 112:1: Who [the righteous man] delights greatly in His commandments

Psalm 111:3 His (Yahweh) righteousness stand forever
Psalm 112:3 & 9: His [the righteous man] righteousness stands forever

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)
Psalm 112:4: [The righteous man] is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh has made wonderful works to be remembered
Psalm 112:6: The righteous will be an everlasting remembrance

Psalm 111:5: Yahweh has given food to those who fear Him
Psalm 112:9: He [the righteous man] has given to the poor

Psalm 111:5,9: Yahweh will be forever mindful of his covenant/He has commanded his covenant forever.
Psalm 112:6: Surely he [the righteous man] will never be shaken (Literally, “forever, not be shaken/moved)

Psalm 111:7: The works of Yahweh’s hands are verity and justice
Psalm 112:5: He [the righteous man] will guide his affairs with justice

Psalm 111:8: They [God’s works and precepts] stand forever and ever.
Psalm 112:8: His [the righteous man] heart is established

Continue reading

The Devil Doesn’t Want You to Sing Psalms

Here is a quote from James Jordan:

The other thing the devil does not want is congregations singing the Psalms because the Psalms are full of holy war stuff. If you start singing the psalms, you start getting iron in your bones.

You know that Psalm 68, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered,” was the marching song of the French Reformation. They would sing it as they went into battle. The Huguenots in France would sing it all the time. Of course, they didn’t have air conditioning then, so the windows were open and all the Catholics heard it, and it made all the Catholics so afraid that eventually the king outlawed singing Psalm 68 in public. So they’d go around whistling. And they had to outlaw whistling that melody.

Now, people are not afraid when they hear us sing “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” They are not worried about you.

HT: John Barach