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A Note of Introduction Hello! I’m thrilled that you’re interested in studying God’s Word with me! Before you jump into this study, allow me to introduce myself and explain what this study is about. I am a full time wife and mom who loves to teach God’s Word through our local church and through blogging. These studies spring from my training in the Bible department at Cedarville University, alongside my own study of the Scriptures and time teaching Bible studies based on the Old Testament books. What you will find in this e-book is a continued “big picture” overview of God’s unfolding story of redemption. I trust that what I have written here will be useful and helpful for you, but in no way is this intended to be read in lieu of your own Bible study. In fact, as you progress through these studies I assume that you are reading and studying on your own as we go. These are my words, not God’s. While I strive to be accurate in my explanations and applications, and while I have found these things to be true in my study of the Scriptures, nothing can take the place of your own time reading the Bible itself. I pray that as you open your Bible that God will challenge and excite you through the study of His Word. I also pray that through looking at the “big picture” of what God is doing in history that you will gain a deeper understanding of your own need for Jesus Christ and grow in your daily walk with Him. May God bless you! -
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Dr. Seuss and Bible trivia - an introduction to the Psalms
Image from wikipedia Now that we have finished 1st and 2nd Samuel, we're going to take some time in Psalms and the Wisdom Literature. [Once again, let me state that I am not an expert or a theologian. I am simply passing on to you what I have been taught! If you have questions, ask, and we'll find out together!] :) I love the Psalms - most people who have spent any time reading the Bible, whether they are a believer in Christ or not, enjoy reading through the Psalms. They are emotive, sincere, honest. I'm sure we all have a psalm that God used to minister to us during times of struggle, questioning, and difficulty. So, it behooves us to spend some time looking at how to read this great book. First of all, we need to have a basic understanding of Hebrew poetry. Unlike what we commonly consider to be poetry ("This one, I think, is called a Yink. He likes to wink, he likes to drink..." sorry for the Dr. Seuss allusion there), Hebrew poetry only rarely follows a consistent rhythm of syllables or has rhyming sounds. Rather, Hebrew poetry "rhymes" in meaning. There are different ways which the Psalms and other Biblical poetry "rhyme" in their meaning. One line can restate the idea of the preceding line in a similar way, and build a fuller understanding of what is being said. For example, consider Psalm 1:1 "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers..." Do you see how the bold, italic, and underlined words "rhyme" with one another? The lines of this verse "rhyme" in meaning and develop the idea as they go - there is a progression of involvement with the wicked, who are also described as sinners and mockers. First one might walk by and take notice of what the wicked say. Then, one might associate with them more deliberately. Then, this might move to actually sitting down with them in more intimate contact. By developing the poetry this way, it brings more fullness to the idea and emphasizes it more than just saying, "don't associate with wicked people." Page 2
Another way that Hebrew poetry can rhyme is by stating the opposite of the first line. Notice verse six of Psalm 1 "For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." The righteous and wicked, as well as the eventual outcomes of their chosen ways of life "rhyme" by being opposites. Another form of Hebrew poetry is the acrostic form, where each line of poetry begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It carries the idea of totality, ie: "As we have exhausted the alphabet, so we have exhausted the subject." A great example of this form of poetry is Psalm 119. Most people familiar with Bible trivia can tell you that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Well, isn't that great - a life-changing tidbit if I ever heard one. [Sarcasm! oh, I hate Bible trivia for the sake of knowing trivia! POINTLESS!] Anyway... do you know why it is the longest chapter in the Bible? If you look at the text of Psalm 119, you will find that there are 22 sections of 8 verses each. The verses of each section begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is indicated before each stanza. So what? Psalm 119 is all about the Word of God. You might know verse 11 by heart - "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." The reason the Psalmist put this song into an acrostic form is important - remember, acrostic poetry symbolizes totality, or exhaustion of a subject. Psalm 119, both by content and by poetic form, strongly emphasizes the centrality of the Word of God. We should long for it, read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, because it is central to everything! It is the focal point of a life lived in pursuit of God! Tomorrow we'll look into more of the technical aspects of reading and understanding the Psalms. I encourage you to ponder today the centrality of the Word of God. Oh, that God might give us a yearning for Truth in the innermost parts! How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
http://www.krististehpens.com I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:9-16
How big are God's hands?: Understanding figurative language
I am currently reading Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff. I won't go into it much today, but the focus of the book deals with "Faith theology," a horribly twisted and perverted understanding of God and His Word that is being promoted by many recognizable preachers/teachers in our day and age. One of the more ridiculous errors being promoted by teachers such as Kenneth Copeland and Jerry Savelle is based on a misunderstanding of the use of figurative language in the Bible. Allow me to quote a few paragraphs from Hanegraaff's book: "Kenneth Copeland claims that 'God is not some creature that stands twenty-eight feet tall, and He's got hands, you know, as big as basketballs. That's not the kind of creature He is.' Rather, according to Copeland, God is 'a being that is very uncanny, the way He's very much like you and me... a Being that stands somewhere around six-two to six-three, that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred pounds, little better, [and] has a [hand] span of nine inches across.' Where in the world does Copeland derive this monstrosity from? The answer is that he tortures the words of the prophet Isaiah. When Isaiah, using a common figure of speech, says that God marked off the heavens with His span (40:12), Copeland takes out a ruler, measures the span of his hand, finds it to be eight and three-quarter inches, and speculates that God's hand must be about a quarter of an inch larger than his! Copeland should know that Isaiah 40:12 cannot be interpreted literally. If it were, Isaiah's words would reduce to absurdity: God would not only have body parts, but He would be holding a basket full of dust and would be weighing mountains on a gigantic set of scales." (144) Misunderstanding the use of figurative language in the Bible creates all kinds of confusion and even pure heresy. Add to that the tendency to explain away hard to understand things (which are stated literally) as figures of speech, and we have a big mess. This is a very important aspect of Biblical interpretation to grasp! Figures of speech are used often in poetry, Hebrew poetry included. Although language is figurative, that does not mean that it is not true! For example, let's consider the Seed promise which we have referred to frequently during our Old Testament studies. [God speaking to the serpent] "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:15 (notice that in your Bible the type in Genesis 3:14-19 is center-justified; that is a nice signal that the editors have given you that we're reading poetry at this point!) In this verse, God states that the serpent's head would be crushed by the promised Seed, and that the serpent would strike the Seed's heel. This is a true statement given in
http://www.krististehpens.com figurative language. The serpent (Satan) would have a crushed head (fatal blow), while he would strike the heel (wound, but not fatal) of the Seed (Jesus.) In the end, Jesus will have full victory - Satan will be defeated! As we discussed in "The Power of His Word," Adam understood that this was a true statement, and his faith in that promised victorious Seed was the basis of his salvation.
Image from wikipedia In order to discuss figurative language in poetry more clearly, take a look at Exodus 1415. As stated above, Bible editors have done us a favor and highlighted poetry to us by using center-justified text. Looking at Exodus 14-15, you'll notice that chapter 14 is leftjustified, signaling prose, while chapter 15 is center-justified, signaling poetry. These two chapters cover the same event, the crossing of the Red Sea. Chapter 15 is still completely true, but it is a more figurative description of the same event. Chapter 15:1 says, "The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea." Did God literally "hurl them into the sea?" Well, technically, they were already in there and God just hurled the water on top of them! We understand that this is a figurative description.
For another example, take a look at Judges chapters 4 and 5. Again, chapter 4 is leftjustified (prose) and chapter 5 is center-justified (poetry); this is a description of Jael's brutal assassination of Sisera (remember "Women and their deadly nails"?). Chapter 5 contains a soothing, poetic description of this event, "At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell-dead."
I'm sorry. That always makes me laugh! Anyway, my inappropriate laughter aside, did Sisera technically "sink to her feet" and die? No! He laid down and she drove a tent peg through his head while he slept! Ick! Does that mean that the Bible is somehow contradicting itself? Of course not! We understand that this is a poetic description of what is stated in the prose account. To test your interpretive skills, take a look at Joshua 10:12-14, the account of the sun standing still while Joshua fought against the Amorites. [Make sure you either click on the link and read that, or look it up in your own Bible!] Did you read it? :) Now, can you argue that the sun standing still was figurative speech? We’ll answer that tomorrow.
Understanding figurative language, part 2
To test your interpretive skills, take a look at Joshua 10:12-14, the account of the sun standing still while Joshua fought against the Amorites. Now, can you argue that the sun standing still was figurative speech? Why or why not? Verses 12 and 13 of this passage are in poetic form (note the center justification again.) So, can you argue that this is an example of poetic figurative language and that the sun did not literally stand still? No! Why not? Notice that 13b-14 are not poetry, they are written in prose! "The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!" When the Bible states something like that in prose form, it is a literal account of an actual event. It doesn't matter if you think this story sounds crazy - God made the sun, made the earth, caused the earth to rotate and be the right distance from the sun, etc! The thought of Him being able to make the sun "stand still" for a day should not be that hard to believe! So now, back to the example I quoted from Hanegraaff's book. Are we on solid ground to cry "heresy!" when Copeland and other faith teachers claim that God is "a being that is very uncanny, the way He's very much like you and me... a Being that stands somewhere around six-two to six-three, that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred pounds, little better, [and] has a [hand] span of nine inches across"? YES. Isaiah 40:12 is a poetic description of God's presence and majesty. It doesn't take a seminary degree to realize that this passage is, as we have discussed before, a true description of God given in figurative language. Oddly enough, Isaiah's main point in this passage is how utterly unlike man God is! To use this passage to say that God looks like us is ridiculous! Read for yourself: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
http://www.krististehpens.com Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:12-15, 18, 22, 25-26 In addition to just logically reading this, the true meaning of poetic descriptions will always line up with the rest of Scripture. Jesus Himself stated that "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24 Scripture is clear that God the Father is Spirit - He is not a physical being like you and me. To claim that Isaiah 40 teaches otherwise is not only illogical, it is unbiblical. Hopefully this brief discussion clarified things rather than muddying the water for you! Basically, if the Bible describes something as a literal event (including supernatural occurrences that we cannot fathom such as Creation in 6 days, a worldwide flood, Jesus' miracles, Jesus' resurrection, etc.) it actually happened. To argue that these things are figurative is to negate the authority and accuracy of Scripture. When the Bible describes something figuratively in poetic language, the meaning will always, always be consistent with the rest of Scripture. Keep it in context with the passage, the book, and the Bible as a whole! May God richly bless you as you seek to know Him and understand His Word! Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation;
http://www.krististehpens.com For You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4-5 (NASB)
"I love to play Mikhtams on my Gittith."
I am ITCHING to dive into Psalm one, but first I wanted to post a brief definition list for some of the strange words that you might run across in the Psalms.
Image from wikipedia The first thing we need to understand is that the book of Psalms was really Israel's songbook. The Hebrew title for this book means "Praises," while the Greek title means "Songs." Literally, these are Praise Songs. We are reading the text of Israel's "Billboard: top 150" list! Just like you would see technical musical terms if you opened a modern songbook, we run across the same thing in the book of Psalms. For instance: Some of the technical words describe the content of the Psalm. *A Maskil teaches how to be skilful at living *A Mikhtam seems to be a witty, ingenious poem Some of the technical words describe the time of singing, just like we would have "prelude" or "walking music" in a modern hymnbook. *Some say "to the choir director," which indicates that they were to be used for public worship and sung by the Brooklyn Tab, I mean, the temple choir. *Some say "song of ascents" - these were songs which were sung on the way up to Jerusalem when the people would journey there for the feasts. Others are terms referring to specific melodies or instruments: *A "gittith" was a stringed instrument *If you look at Psalms 45, 69, and 80, they all indicate that they are to be sung to the melody "Shoshannim." This was a commonly known melody, just like we sing "The A,B,C Song," "Baa, baa, black sheep," and "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" to the same melody. (did you know that? I just realized that a while ago and was quite stunned!) :) Page 11
http://www.krististehpens.com *"Al-tashheth" is another melody indicated in psalms 57, 58, and 75. Another common term in the Psalms that most people are more familiar with is "Selah." Most likely Selah was an instruction to pause and think about the psalm being sung, or a musical interlude. There are other terms such as Mahalath and Leannoth that are obscure - we just don't know what they mean! One last technical note about this amazing book. You will notice as you read through the psalms that they are divided into 5 books. Book one contains chapters 1-41, book two contains 42-72, book three contains 73-89, book four contains 90-106, and book five contains 107-150. People have tried to come up with themes to these psalms or an understanding of why they are grouped like this, but most likely it is simply the chronology of how they were collected - NOT the chronology in which they were written. Psalm 72:20 says, "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." However, we still find psalms written by David throughout the rest of the book! (Psalm 101, 103, 108, etc.) The Psalms were written over a huge span of time - Moses wrote one of the Psalms, most are written by David, and there are some that were written during the exile and return to the land. It appears that these 5 books were probably 5 stages of collection - as they went along, they might go back and include some of the older psalms that had been written but overlooked or not included for some reason in the earlier "edition." Well, hopefully this post was not too nerdy and boring - you there, wake up! We're done! Now you can go dust off your gittith and play some mikhtams to the tune of Shoshannim.
Firmly planted, fruitful, and flourishing
Today we will be looking at Psalm chapter one! Now that we have covered the background information, we're on to the thesis statement! I'm not just trying to give you a flashback to 5 paragraph essays and term papers from your school days - Psalm one really operates as the thesis statement and the introduction to the entire book of Psalms. So, let's study it together, shall we? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Psalm 1:1 As discussed before, verse one is an example of Hebrew poetry where every line "rhymes" not in sound but in meaning. In this verse, not only does each line approximate the meanings of the others, but they also build on one another. First off, who are the "wicked," "sinners," and "mockers?" The word for "wicked" in the Hebrew is used in parallel in the Old Testament with almost any description of sin and evil. The "wicked" are people who are described throughout the Bible as those who oppress, exploit, and murder others. The wicked are dishonest, violent, pervert justice, and hate the Lord and His people; they have done wrong, are still living in their sin, and intend to continue in it. The word for "sinners" carries the idea of one who sins habitually. "Mockers" is self-explanatory - one who mocks, scoffs, scorns. That idea of habitual sin and intent to continue in sin is really important. We dealt with this back in our look at David's sin with Uriah and Bathsheba in the post "A broken and
http://www.krististehpens.com contrite heart." As fallen human beings, we will always deal with sin until the very end of our lives. The critical aspect that separates the sin of the "wicked" from the "righteous" is how it is dealt with - true repentance and a turning away from sin in humility before God, or delight in sin, a desire to keep engaging in it, and mockery of what is good! This verse describes increasing involvement with this kind of brazenly sinful person first one might walk by and take notice of them, then stand and have a casual conversation, moving to the place where the person is sitting in their company in close association. Those who are "blessed" (John MacArthur defines "blessed" as having a "deep-seated joy and contentment in God") will not delight in their sin or closely associate with those who do. Rather, ...his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2 The word for "delight" means pleasure, desire, wish, or pursuit. In my words, I would describe this as the focus of your life that influences everything else. What is the "blessed" person delighting in? The law of the Lord! He delights in knowing the Word of God in order to know God! This idea of meditating on it day and night is so beautiful. The Hebrew word for "meditate" literally means to murmur, to mutter, to whisper. The Key Word Study Bible notes that "it is possible that the Scriptures were read somewhat audibly during the process of meditation." In the ancient world, people would memorize and meditate on Scripture by murmuring it to themselves under their breath. This blessed person is repeating Scripture to himself constantly, filling his mind with the Truths of God's Word. Knowing God and His Word is the singular pursuit and passion of his life. [We discussed the difference between Biblical meditation and meditation in Eastern religions in The Renewing of Your Mind.] What is this person in constant pursuit of Truth like? He is like a tree planted by streams of water, [the NASB says "firmly planted"] which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3 This is a life full of real life! A life that will bear spiritual fruit and will not wither. The New Testament reveals this same idea of the righteous bearing fruit and being firmly rooted. Matthew 7 talks about true followers of Jesus Christ being recognizable by their fruit. I really don't know much of anything about tree identification - If you took me in the middle of winter to see an unidentified fruit tree, I wouldn't be able to tell an apple tree from an orange tree. But when those trees bear fruit, anyone can tell them apart -
http://www.krististehpens.com apple trees grow apples, orange trees grow oranges! If we really know Jesus Christ, if knowing Him and His Word is the delight of our lives, we will bear obvious fruit. What kind of fruit are you bearing? If you took me to an orange grove in the off-season and tried to fool me by sticking some apples in the branches, I just might fall for it. But come harvest time, those oranges hanging bright and heavy on the branches tell the truth. You might know all the right words, gone to church your whole life, and maybe have done such a long list of "good things" that it would impress the Pope, but true followers of Jesus will bear recognizable fruit. Galatians 5:19-23a contrasts the "fruit" that the Holy Spirit produces in a person's heart and life with the "fruit" of the sinful nature: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol." There is also the possibility that you truly know Christ, but your life is producing little to no fruit to speak of. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Lack of fruit is a serious symptom that you are not firmly rooted in Him, soaking up His presence. Perhaps the delight of your life is in the wrong place. Perhaps you have sat down with the wicked and allowed sin into your life. If you're in that place, getting back to delighting in God and abiding in Him is hard to imagine. The first thing we have to do is to truly repent of our sin - to agree with God that what we have done, the priorities of our life, the thoughts in our heads, the desires in our hearts are wrong and violate His nature. After doing this, true repentance involves turning away from our sin - purposely removing it from our lives - and returning to God as our Sovereign and holy Lord. We discussed this idea more fully in A Broken and Contrite Heart. What next? We have to fill our minds with Truth! Soak up the Word of God! Just as Psalm 1:2 describes a true pursuit of and delight in God's Word producing a life of joy and contentment in God which will bear good fruit, Colossians 2:6-8 puts side-by-side the idea of living in Christ and being firmly rooted and built up in Him with the importance of guarding what fills your mind. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with
http://www.krististehpens.com thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Fill your mind with God's Word. Meditate on it - chew on it constantly! This isn't a oncea-week thing, or even 15 minutes a day. Psalm 1:2 says that this firmly rooted person delights in God's law and meditates day and night. The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to teach us, correct us, and train us to think and act in accordance with His nature. As we will discuss more in the next Psalms post, these people who are "like a tree firmly planted" in contrast with the wicked give us an introduction for the rest of the Psalms. Want to be a "tree" kind of Christian? Delight in God and His Word. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32
Blown like chaff
In "Firmly planted, fruitful, and flourishing" we looked at the righteous man who is blessed; he does not embrace his sin or those who do so, rather he delights in God and His Word. The result? He is like a tree firmly planting, yielding fruit, and flourishing as He abides in Christ. Today we're looking at the other side of the coin.
Image from wikipedia Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. Psalm 1:4-5 I love this contrasting picture: the thriving tree rooted firmly on the bank of the stream versus dry chaff being blown in the wind. The idea of the wicked being blown away like chaff is seen in many places in the Old Testament. Notice Isaiah 40:23-24 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. One theme that occurs in the Psalms is that though the wicked appear to be prospering for a time, their end is clear - they are like chaff before the Lord, and they will not stand in the end. Verse 6 of Psalm 1 says, "For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."
The Hebrew word for "perish" carries the idea of a fading away of strength, hope, wisdom, knowledge, and wealth. It also can imply aimless wandering without orientation, or being lost either literally or morally. In a world where right is seen as wrong and wrong as right, isn't it comforting to know that our God has never lost control? I'm sure that we have all personally interacted with wicked people who appear to be flourishing in contrast with our own lives; add in what we see on the news and from a distance in our culture, and it can be downright discouraging! Our God is just, and one day everything will be set right. The real treasure is not temporal "success" or comfort - the real treasure is knowing the God of the universe, the Savior of our souls! We will look at this treasure of knowing God more in the next post on the Psalms. However, before we move on I want to come back to the idea of the definition of the "wicked" and the "sinners" one more time. Quoting from the last post: The "wicked" are people who are described throughout the Bible as those who oppress, exploit, and murder others. The wicked are dishonest, violent, pervert justice, and hate the Lord and His people; they have done wrong, are still living in their sin, and intend to continue in it. The word for "sinners" carries the idea of one who sins habitually. The Bible is clear that we are either wicked or redeemed! All of us are sinners (Romans 3:23), and because of that, what each and every one of us has earned on our own is death and eternal separation from God. (Romans 6:23) No matter how good you may think you are, in comparison with God's holiness, our best attempts just don't cut it! (Isaiah 64:6) Our sin broke our relationship with God - we could not work our way back to Him; He is holy, and the smallest speck of sin in our lives bars us from His presence. The solution to that problem was Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, taking the punishment for our sin upon Himself and dying in our place upon the cross. He was the only perfect sacrifice that could pay our penalty in full. When we place our trust in Him as our only hope of salvation (John 3:16-18), we are saved from our sin and justified - God looks at me "just as if I'd" never sinned! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. On our own, we are all wicked. We are lost in our sin and deserve only death and hell and punishment. But through Jesus Christ, we can be washed free of our sin, sanctified and
http://www.krististehpens.com set apart for God, and considered holy through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf! And as we studied in the last Psalms post, people who truly know Jesus Christ and are being sanctified will bear fruit. So, where are you today? Are you trying to be good on your own, or have you trusted in Jesus Christ as the only way to be declared righteous in God's sight? It is my prayer that God would use His Word to reveal to you the condition of your heart; may you be firmly planted in Him, and not blown like chaff! And for those of you who know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I end with the words of PaulSo then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
What's steeping in your soul?
Image from wikipedia We've already spent time in recent posts looking at Psalm chapter 1, and today I'd like to build on that some more. Remember Psalm 1:1-2? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 We discussed that this person delights in knowing God and His Word and meditates on it day and night. Now keeping this in mind, consider Psalm 89:15-17 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Now in addition to meditating on God's Truth and delighting in His presence, we can add to our mental portrait of this blessed and firmly planted person that they rejoice in Him all day long. Notice the following passages from the Psalms that echo this idea My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. Psalm 35:28
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Psalm 71:8, 15-16 Praising Him all day long! What a challenge this is! If you were to record all of your words you speak every day, what would they mainly consist of? In The Cancer of Complaint we discussed how complaining, even about mundane little things, reveals a spirit of rebellion in our hearts. What is coming out of our mouths is an undeniable symptom of the condition of our "inner man." Notice what Jesus said in Luke 6:44-45 (we dealt with this passage in Firmly Planted, Fruitful and Flourishing, also): Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:44-45 Words do not stand alone - they mean something, they come from somewhere. If I have all the symptoms of a severe cold, no matter how staunchly I believe that I am healthy, the fact remains that I am not! I am ill, and my body is giving clear signs to support that fact. No matter how staunchly we believe that we are "good," or maybe even that we love God, if our words are not praising Him all day long, something is wrong. Notice what Jesus says in the very next verse of Luke 6 - Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Ouch! True belief, true relationship will change our hearts; it is obviously a process of being conformed to His likeness - it doesn't happen overnight! But your life should show a pattern of increasingly right behavior and right words, for these are symptoms of a heart right with God. The more we delight in God, the more we meditate on His Word (day and night!), the more we will praise Him. It will be a natural outgrowth, not a forced show! This is true praise, thanksgiving, and testimony that comes from a life firmly planted in Him, abiding in His presence. We will bear good fruit. In "Continuing the Legacy", one of 5 stories growing from the 5 Aspects of Woman study, the mental picture God gave me as I tried to firm up the idea of Biblical wisdom in my mind was that of steeping tea. The more we soak up God's Word and sit at the feet of Jesus, the more we resemble Him! Quoting from that story, "You will have something to say as you let the King’s words steep in your soul. The more time spent with Him and His words, the more you ‘taste’ like Him as you pour yourself into others."
So, what do we "taste" like? What do those around us hear? Complaining? Profanity and course speech? (To be profane is to treat what is holy as mundane and ordinary.) Slander and gossip? Idle talk? Or are we praising our Savior and rejoicing in Him all day long? May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Image from wikipedia As I mentioned in Lent, Fasting, and Other Outlandish Ideas, I am new to the world of fasting and incorporating this spiritual discipline into my walk with the Lord. I said in that aforementioned post that Richard Foster points out that fasting reveals what controls us. I must attest that this is true! I was thinking this morning that it is strange that the days that I fast are often the roughest with my children. They're irritable, I'm irritable, it's often not a pretty sight. It's hard not to get short with them when they're following me around wining that they want a snack (after eating a whole bowl of something or another); I either catch myself eating a handful of something with them without thinking about it (Arg!) or somehow begrudge them that graham cracker as I hand it over! I know that food is more than a survival necessity for me (unlike my husband, who doesn't really care about eating. Seriously!) I eat when I'm bored, I eat when I'm frustrated, I eat when I'm lonely or sad... somehow we seem to use food to stuff down emotion. I often remark when we watch Biggest Loser that the trainers have to also be half-therapists for the amount of counselling they end up doing at the gym! Take away our comfort food and push us outside of what we feel capable of, and we lose it - all those emotions that we've expertly stuffed for so long are raw and exposed! I'm realizing that, in a less dramatic way, fasting does this for me. When I get frustrated with the kids or start feeling trapped in the house, what do I do? Grab a snack. If I'm concerned about something or upset, what do I do? Grab a snack! Take away my snacks, and I get irritable! Not only am I hungry, but now I'm just stuck with my irritation and upsetting emotion with nothing to stuff it down with! Page 23
I had already been thinking about this today and then came across one of my favorite Psalms during my devotional time; this has always been a special passage to me, but it means even more with this framework of where my satisfaction and comfort is coming from. O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:1-5 How often do I come to a place of realizing that I am empty and incapable, and instead of realizing that the hunger in my soul is for God, I stuff a cracker in my mouth? When I am emptied of myself, do I long for His the comfort of His presence, or for an oreo as my comfort food? Obviously physically our bodies need food and water to survive. But are we eating to satisfy legitimate physical hunger, or are we masking the symptoms of spiritual longings for His presence? Only God can satisfy our soul "as with the richest of foods." How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. Psalm 65:4 (NASB)
Firmly planted in an unstable world
Remembering back to our initial discussion of Psalm 1, we said that the first Psalm really gives a preview of the whole book. We spent some time looking at the characteristics of this "firmly planted" and "blessed" follower of GodBut his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:2-3 Knowing and meditating on the word of God is central to being a person who is "firmly planted." Today I was reading Psalm 119 - allow me to quote a section of "Dr. Seuss and Bible Trivia"Another form of Hebrew poetry is the acrostic form, where each line of poetry begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It carries the idea of totality, ie: "As we have exhausted the alphabet, so we have exhausted the subject." A great example of this form of poetry is Psalm 119. Most people familiar with Bible trivia can tell you that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Well, isn't that great - a life-changing tidbit if I ever heard one. [Sarcasm! oh, I hate Bible trivia for the sake of knowing trivia! POINTLESS!] Anyway... do you know why it is the longest chapter in the Bible?
If you look at the text of Psalm 119, you will find that there are 22 sections of 8 verses each. The verses of each section begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is indicated before each stanza. So what? Psalm 119 is all about the Word of God. You might know verse 11 by heart - "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." The reason the Psalmist put this song into an acrostic form is important - remember, acrostic poetry symbolizes totality, or exhaustion of a subject. Psalm 119, both by content and by poetic form, strongly emphasizes the centrality of the Word of God. We should long for it, read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, because it is central to everything! It is the focal point of a life lived in pursuit of God! In this Psalm, the psalmist frequently describes the wicked and arrogant as those who do not know and live according to the law of God - see 119:85, 118, 126, 136, 139, 150, 158. In contrast, check out the psalmist's descriptions of the righteous and blessed: • Walks in the law of the Lord (1) • Seeks Him with all their heart (2) • Meditates on His precepts (15, 97) • Delights in His statutes (16) • Asks God to make him understand His precepts (26-27, 33-24) • Teaches them to others unashamedly (46) • Is a companion of those who fear God (63) • Asks for good discernment and knowledge (66) • Treasures the law above gold and silver (72) • Has wisdom, insight, and understanding because he has meditated on and followed God's Word(98-100) I could go on, but that's enough to make the point! God's Word is knowable - the more we study it, meditate on it, and ask God to allow us to understand it, the more it will transform our thinking. Is the Bible easy to understand at every point? No! Has the Church always interpreted the meanings and applications of Scripture correctly? No! Does that mean God's Word is unknowable and that one interpretation might be as valid as another? No! God has revealed Himself to us. Clearly. We don't have to speculate or guess about who He is and what He requires - knowing His Word is the foundation of knowing Him! Obviously there will always be areas of debate within Christianity where the Bible's meaning is not crystal clear, but that is the exception, not the rule! As we study and meditate on Scripture, and ask God to make His Word understandable to us, His Word will become our delight (119:174), what we rejoice in (162), what revives us (159), what gives us light (130). How much confusion about Truth is proliferated because we are too ignorant of the Word of God and too lazy to truly study it, know it, meditate on it? True humility is not just
http://www.krististehpens.com saying, "Well, you might be right, I might be right - we'll just never know." True humility is recognizing that there is One Supreme Lord of the universe who has, in His grace and love, revealed Himself to His rebellious creatures. I am the created, not the Creator; His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. What a privilege, what a treasure to know Him and make Him known! The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. Psalm 119:160
At rest in His arms
Today we’re looking at Psalm 131 - a beautiful little psalm that speaks to my mother's heart: O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever. Verse 1 is interesting to me. The word "difficult" is the same Hebrew word that is translated "wonderful" in Job 42:3 "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." How often in our pride do we declare things that are too wonderful, too difficult for us to understand? Job, although righteous of the great sin his friends assumed was behind his suffering, did start to question God's goodness and challenge His judgment. (We'll talk
http://www.krististehpens.com about that more when we get to Job.) There are many things about God and His ways that we will never fully grasp - it takes genuine humility before Him to be at rest with that, even when we don't understand the difficulties and suffering in our lives. How picturesque that the psalmist ties this rest in trusting God with what we cannot understand to the picture of a weaned child, content in his mother's arms. I was one of those "rare cases" of women who just could not nurse my children, so I can't fully identify with the picture of a weaned child. It does remind me of LB, though! My little LB is a bruiser - he was a small-ish baby, but caught up fast and has been a BIG fan of eating ever since! Many days I think that LB views me as some sort of human snack-dispenser. The moment his feet hit the ground in the morning, he starts signing "more" with great vigor and will follow me around whining and signing until he gets something to eat. This scene is repeated mid-morning, before lunch, after naptime, and the entire time while I make dinner. It's rather maddening! LB is also a great cuddler. AG was never terribly content to just rest in our arms - she liked to be near us, but snuggling was something she learned to appreciate with age. :) I'm always amazed at LB because of that - as manic and crazy as he can be, he loves to give hugs and kisses and just be held (most of the time). If you have a book in your hands, even better - you become the most attractive seat in the house. Those rare moments when he stops demanding food and just rests against me, totally relaxed, are such precious times. He doesn't want a graham cracker, he just wants me. Mommy's presence satisfies him and gives him comfort. How much joy and peace do we rob ourselves of when we see God only as our "divine dispenser" of desired things? We follow Him around demanding that He make us comfortable, take away our suffering and the discord around us, satisfy our carnal cravings, explain Himself to us. If we would just be still, just rest in His arms, just allow His presence to comfort and satisfy us in a way that those other things cannot... if only we would be humble and dependent like a child. Lord, I am not proud and haughty. I don't think myself better than others. I don't pretend to "know it all." I am quiet now before the Lord, just as a child who is weaned from the breast. Yes, my begging has been stilled. O Israel, you too should quietly trust in the Lord - now, and always. Psalm 131 (TLB)
How good and pleasant it is...
Image from wikipedia Every once in a while, a golden moment happens at our house. The children play together peacefully! AG helps her brother find toys and doesn't tattle on him or get annoyed with him or take everything away from him. LB doesn't smack his sister on the head, or hit her arms, or knock her down. No one is screaming or smacking or stealing toys or whining. Right now, AG is sitting on the floor reading a book. LB is peacefully playing with a bucket of toys a few feet away. If only I could somehow capture this peace and make it last... :) These moments are not common, although thankfully they have been more frequent in the past few days than they have been for a while! As a mother, they make my heart sing - I see my kids loving each other and enjoying one another, and it thrills me. It always brings to mind for me Psalm 133, a very short (only 3 verses long!) but sweet psalm about unity: How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. As the anointing of Aaron provided a rich spiritual blessing for the nation, and the water flowing down Mt. Hermon filled the Jordan river and provided a rich physical blessing, unity is good and pleasant blessing. Sadly, Christians far too often act like my small children. We get possessive of "our"
http://www.krististehpens.com ministries or "our" posessions. We tattle on one another rather than seeking a solution for another's good. We whine and cry and throw a fit (sometimes figuratively, sometimes not) when we don't like the music choice at church or we feel like our "needs" and wants are being overlooked. How this must grieve the heart of the Father. And how it must please Him when we work together as we should - the body of Christ working for His glory, not our own. How good and pleasant it is.
In order to provide a "book end" to what we began looking at in Psalm one (which gives a preview for the rest of the book), I thought it might be interesting to look at the characteristics of those who are "blessed." This Hebrew word for "blessed" in Psalm 1:1 appears throughout the Psalms - the vast majority of its usages in the Old Testament are found in Psalms. So, here we go! Want to be blessed? Check out other usages of this word in Psalms: • How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:12) • How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! • How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2) • How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8) • How blessed is he who considers the helpless (Psalm 41:1) • How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. (Psalm 65:4) • How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. (Psalm 84:4) • How blessed is the man whose strength is in You (Psalm 84:5) • How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalm 84:12) • How blessed... O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance. (Psalm 89:15) • Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O LORD, And whom You teach out of Your law (Psalm 94:12) • How blessed are those who keep justice • Who practice righteousness at all times! (Psalm 106:3) • How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, • Who greatly delights in His commandments. (Psalm 112:1) • How blessed are those whose way is blameless, • Who walk in the law of the LORD. (Psalm 119:1) • How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, • Who seek Him with all their heart. (Psalm 119:2) • How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, • Who walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1) • How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, • Whose hope is in the LORD his God (Psalm 146:5) Sound familiar? The entire book of Psalms echoes with these truths, and their echo is heard once again in Matthew 5 in the great teachings of the Master • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. • Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
http://www.krististehpens.com • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:3-9) True blessing begins in a right relationship with God as our only Savior and Lord, continues as we deal rightly with our sin and thirst for His righteousness, deepens as the Word sinks into our hearts and lives, and pours out of us in genuine love for those around us. Are you truly blessed? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
The blessed ones
Lately I've been pulled to the Gospels, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. I keep reading Matthew 5 over and over again, turning some things over in my mind. As I mentioned before, that term "blessed" shows up time and time again in the Psalms, and the beattitudes line right up with those beautiful Old Testament chapters. After some time in Matthew 5, I flipped to Revelation 1. I've also felt compelled to really study Revelation, and have started reading through it along with John MacArthur's 2 volume commentary. Yesterday as I read Revelation 1:3 ("Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near"), I noted that that word "blessed" is the same greek word used in Matthew 5. Interesting. Well, today John MacArthur was talking to me about that :), noting that the book of Revelation is bracketed by promises of blessing - first in 1:3, and echoed in 22:7 ("Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.") In addition, he listed five other promises of blessing in Revelation. •14:13 - blessed are those who die in the Lord •16:15 - blessed is the one who stays awake (because He will come like a thief) •19:9 - blessed are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb •20:6 - blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection •22:14 - blessed are those who wash their robes so they may have the right to the tree of life and enter by the gates into the city I had to come inside from my outdoor quiet retreat with my coffee to consult with an online concordance... so far Psalms, The Sermon on the Mount, and Revelation were all echoing one another. Anything else? WOW! ♪♪♪Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me!!♪♪♪ Ok, how long was it going to take me to think back to the Abrahamic covenant, the Land Nation and Leader promises that we've discussed... I don't know, 100 times? ...all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Through the promised Seed, through Jesus, all peoples on earth would be 'blessed.' Why wouldn't Jacob let Jesus go after wrestling with Him? He wanted His blessing. The Psalms echo with the idea of those who are blessed, and after comparing those passages with Matthew 5 we summarized: True blessing begins in a right relationship with God as our only Savior and Lord, continues as we deal rightly with our sin and thirst for His righteousness, deepens as the Word sinks into our hearts and lives, and pours out of us in genuine love for those around us.
The rest of the New Testament has plenty to say about those who are blessed, as well (this is just a smattering of the many references): •Matthew 11:6 - "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." •Matthew 25:34 - "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. •Luke 11:28 - But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." •John 13:17 -"If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. •John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." •Galatians 3:9 - The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, " ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU." So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. •James 1:25 - But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. •1 Peter 4:14 - If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. From Genesis through Revelation, the Scriptures echo with the blessing of God poured out on mankind through an opportunity to know Him, walk with Him, hear from Him, live like Him. An invitation to be one of the blessed ones. God's Word is rich. His grace is deep. The blessing is amazing - and undeserved. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
Everything that has breath
Well, I have arrived at the end of the Psalms in my personal study. I'd like to spend a few days looking at some overall takeaway lessons from the Psalms. Last week we looked at the theme of those who are truly blessed. Today, let's take some time to start looking at true praise. In his message "The Evangelical Crisis," Alistair Begg discussed the difference between entertainment and worship. "...the underlying issue is the failure to begin with God and His glory, and instead we begin with man and his need. So our considerations become aesthetic. We start by asking what people would find nice, what they would find enjoyable, what they would find soothing. And as we endeavor to do this, we lose sight of certain basic foundational issues. Namely, that Christ Himself is the sanctuary of his New Covenant people... that the true aesthetic beauty is the holiness of the Lord, and that Christ alone is the only ordained worship leader of His people... so that many of our preoccupations, which have to do with the packaging, are nothing more than a capitulation to the spirit of the age..." Begg goes on to look at Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in John 4; our worship must be full of truth and full of enthusiasm! One without the other is no good, and in my opinion, the majority of churches I have been in fall on one end of the spectrum or the other. We either sing hymns that are brimming with truth in such a way that makes you want to lay down and sleep on the pew, or we sing songs full of meaningless words with a fervor that makes tears come to people's eyes or perhaps makes them jump up and down as though they are at a rock concert! Both are appalling! I like the way Begg (who never minces words!) describes both ends of the spectrum - on the one hand, "We dare not baptize our cliche-ridden phraseology and our hackneyed hymnody into orthodoxy." Just because it's one of the "old hymns" doesn't make it orthodox. Have you ever heard one of those Christian radio stations that will only play recordings so old that you can hear the record crackling on the turntable? Just because it's old doesn't mean it's more true! Page 37
To the other end of the spectrum, Begg says, "A praise song... is one word, two notes, and three hours." This is hilarious to me because it is so true! On the other end of the "praise spectrum," some more modern songs seem content to pick a nice, appealing phrase and sing it over and over and over again. Tearing up as you repeat a stirring phrase like a mantra does not equal worship, either! It's often simply an artificially induced emotional response. And you know what? I personally don't like to jump up and down and "clap to God." I find it irreverent, it's not how I respond to God, and to create and environment that presses people to do so against their natural bent creates an artificial and fake "worship experience." I don't have a single thing against others raising their hands, but don't make it a requirement, either. If you'd like to hear a little more of my soapbox opinions about praise, I have big issues with how we teach children to sing to the Lord. Pick up most children's "praise" cd's, and you'll find a whole bunch of nonsense songs. Ie: "father Abraham," "arky arky," "deep and wide," "kum-ba-ya," etc. Someone please tell me what theological value these songs have? I have absolutely no problem with singing silly songs (I sing "big booty/ tiny heiny" and the SNL "sloppy joes" song to my children quite often) - but please do not somehow make these ridiculous songs "spiritual." We're ingraining in our kids that a fun, exciting song sung in church = praise, even if it has absolutely no truth in it whatsoever. I've also heard far too many church kids' songs that teach them to yell out the names of our God in such an irreverent way that it makes me cringe - basically, we're just all swearing in unison! Do we understand that? We're taking God's name in vain when we use His holy name in such a flippant manner! I will step off of the soapbox now. Considering that the entire book of Psalms is a book of praise songs, what do the Psalms teach us about true praise? Well, I'm going to keep you hanging because this post would be too long. You'll have to wait until tomorrow. :) In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you... what's on your mind? p.s. After a comment I received on facebook about this post ("...who are we to dictate what is pleasing to God?"), I thought I would add this additional note. WE do not dictate what is pleasing to God, but His Word has a lot to say about what correct worship is. Evaluating worship according to the Word is not judgmental, it is necessary. John 4:24 tells us to worship in Spirit and in Truth! The Psalms are an entire book of inspired praise songs. We're not just taking a stab in the dark about what is pleasing to the Lord - we need to know Him and His Word well enough to know that we are not only worshipping the correct God, but that we are worshipping the correct God correctly! Evaluating worship in the light of the Word does not in any way limit God - He always acts in accordance with His nature, and His nature is most accurately expressed to us
http://www.krististehpens.com through His Word. I addresed this topic more in light of the story of Jephthah in the book of Judges.
Everything that has breath - Part 2
Yesterday, we started thinking about true praise. I know some people were standing up on my soapbox with me, agreeing wholeheartedly, and some... not so much! That is just fine with me - I don't expect everyone to agree with my ramblings about matters of personal opinion, but I do want to get us thinking. The Bible has a lot to say about praise and worship, so let's keep looking at it, shall we? As we have already established, the psalms are an entire book of praise and worship. We're looking into the only inspired hymnbook, so what the psalms contain is central to any discussion of praise and worship! In Wilkinson and Boa's book Talk Thru the Bible, this is how they describe the theme and purpose of the book of Psalms: "There are several kinds of psalms, and they express different feelings and circumstances. But the common theme is worship - God is worthy of all praise because of who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. His goodness extends through all time and eternity. The psalms present a very personal response to the person and work of God as they reflect on His program for His people. There is a keen desire to see His program fulfilled and His name extolled. Many of the psalms survey the Word of God and the attributes of God, especially during difficult times. This kind of faith produces confidence in His power in spite of circumstances." (153) The Psalms are intensely personal. I think that is most likely why they appeal to almost anyone who reads through the Scriptures. David and the other psalmists wrestle very openly with injustice, persecution, the prosperity of the wicked, the afflictions Israel faced corporately, etc. However, they always come back to a point of recognition of God's person and work, and His sovereignty over all. Yesterday I quoted Alistair Begg's reflections on worship vs. entertainment in Evangelical circles. One of the things he said was, "the underlying issue is the failure to begin with God and His glory, and instead we begin with man and his need." If you begin to listen to many modern praise and worship songs from this perspective, you'll notice that we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about ourselves and how we feel - we often camp on these points much more than emphasizing who God is and what He has done. Let's pause here for a bit and think about what we actually mean when we toss around the terms "praise" and "worship." The word "praise" shows up 147 times in the Psalms! Several different Hebrew words are translated into our English word "praise." • "Halal" is by far the most frequently used term. It means to praise, celebrate, glorify, to cause to shine, to make bright, to give light. The basic idea is that of radiance, from
http://www.krististehpens.com which came the idea of enthusiastic expression of rejoicing and praising God. (From "halal" comes the term "hallelujah!") • "Thillah" is the second most used term, and it's root is also traceable to "Halal." It means laudation, a hymn, praise, a song which exults God. • "Yadah" is an interesting term - it means to speak out, to confess, to praise, to sing, to give thanks; essentially, it is the acknowledgment of sin, man's character, or the nature and work of God. In Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, there is a very lengthy discussion of praise, but it can be mostly boiled down to the idea of calling attention to God's glory. Through song, through confession and the resulting thanksgiving for God's forgiveness, through publicly recognizing who God is and what He has done - we bring Him glory. We shine a light on who our God is and say, "Look at our God - there is no one like Him!" "Worship" is used 13 times in the Psalms. • "Sachah" is used 12 of the 13 times - it means 'to prostrate oneself (in homage to royalty or to God), to bow oneself down as an act of respect before a superior being. It meant to honor God with prayers, even without prostration of the body. However, those who used this mode of salutation often fell upon their knees and touched the ground with their foreheads. In short, it was a way of showing submission.' • "Abad" is used once, and carries the idea of serving a master. Again from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Worship is described as "both an attitude and an act." Referring to the passage we mentioned yesterday in John 4, it goes on to say, All true worshipers must worship God in "spirit and in truth." That is, true worship takes place on the inside, in the heart or spirit of the worshiper (cf. Psalm 45:1; 103:1-2). Worship pleasing to God must be unfeigned and transparent, offered with a humble and pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4; Isa 66:2). But this is not enough. Worship "in truth" connects the heart or spirit of worship with the truth about God and his work of redemption as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. David understood the importance of worshiping in truth and the necessary linkage between "truth" and the Word of God when he wrote, "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear [i.e., worship] your name" (Psalm 86:11; cf. Psalm 145:18). Here both the Old and New Covenants agree! The true worship of God is essentially internal, a matter of the heart and spirit rooted in the knowledge of and obedience to the revealed Word of God. [In my words, I like to define worship as recognizing and responding to Who God really is.]
http://www.krististehpens.com Both praise and worship are intimately connected with knowing God and His Word how can I praise, or shine a light on, a God that I do not really know? How can I accurately highlight His ways and His works if I do not know what those things are? As I bow myself in submission and worship before my God, I cannot worship with sincerity and in truth if I do not know the Truth! You see, when we define "praise and worship" as an experience that we have, it's all based on us! A good praise service is judged by how I go away feeling about it. Did the music feel right to me, did the lighting and stage decoration create a good experience, did I like the style of music, did the artists give a good show? But Biblically, "praise and worship" is all about God! Shining a light on Who He is and what He has done! Lifting Him up and saying, "Look at my God! There is no god as great as our God!" Bowing down before Him, recognizing His supremacy, His holiness, His sovereignty, His love, His forgiveness, His grace. Does it involve human emotion? It better! I can recite truths about God all day long, but if I am not sincerely responding to that Truth, it is not true worship. Sometimes I am astonished to look around and see people singing amazing, eternity altering truths with as much enthusiasm as if they were reading a math textbook aloud! Just as an emotional experience devoid of truth is not true worship, truth devoid of emotion shows that we have failed to personally respond to that truth, and that is not worship, either.
Everything Everything that has breath - Part 3
Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 Yesterday as we continued our discussion of true praise and worship, I gave a quote from Talk Thru the Bible about the book of Psalms. Remember this part? God is worthy of all praise because of who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. Yesterday we defined "praise" and "worship" more fully. Now let's see some true praise in action in Psalm 33:1-11. First, this Psalm starts out with a call for praise in various expressions: Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
http://www.krististehpens.com Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. We've got shouting, singing, playing instruments - this is quite a party! Now, I do want to pause here and point out that singing and playing instruments are what usually come to mind in praise, but the Psalms include all kinds of different forms of praise including (but not limited to): • Telling of His wonders, praises, salvation • Giving thanks to Him publicly • Declaring His righteousness to the younger generations • Shouting for joy • Confession of sin and thanking Him for His forgiveness Now, back to Psalm 33 - what are we praising Him for? For the word of the LORD is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. Why praise Him? • He is holy • He is faithful • He is righteous • He is just • He shows His grace and lovingkindness to all creation • He made everything with a word! • He is sovereign over all the affairs of men • His nature and Word remain forever, even as man comes and goes You could make quite a lengthy list if you read through the Psalms and record all the things for which God is praised.
Remember, true praise is not centered on us and how we feel - true praise springs from knowing who God is and lifting Him up, shining a light on Him, exclaiming publicly, "How great is our God!" I hope it jumped out to you in yesterday's post that there is a close tie between fearing God and worshipping Him. True worship comes from seeing who our God really is and bowing before Him, submitting ourselves to Him, showing Him the reverence He is due. Does that seem out of sorts with shouting, dancing, and singing His praise? It's not! Psalm 2:11 is an interesting verse Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Even in our rejoicing, we should be trembling before Him! True praise and worship must be rooted in Truth, and to behold God for Who He is must compel us to fear Him, even as we praise Him with all that we are. Consider the scene of the worship in heaven in Revelation 15:3-4 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED." This verse is so powerful. Who will not fear you, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy! If we caught just a glimpse of the fullness of who God is, the only response is to fear Him and simultaneously praise Him for His works, for His ways, for the glory of His name. Tomorrow we'll spend some time looking at Psalm 50, which is a sobering reminder that we can do all the right things in our quest to praise and worship God, and fall into a ritual rather than offering a true sacrifice of thanksgiving. On the flip side, we can become hardened and rebellious against God and glibly repeat truth with hearts full of evil, leading us to an assumption that God is just like us. Oh, Lord, show us your glory! Cause us to fear you and give you the true praise and worship that you alone deserve! "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might
http://www.krististehpens.com and honor and glory and blessing." And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen " And the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelations 5:12-14
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