Surveying the Text: Psalms

Introduction:

It would be difficult to overstate the impact and influence of the Book of Psalms on the history of Israel, and on the subsequent history of the Christian church. As Luther once said, the Psalms are a “Bible in miniature,” and the way the Psalms are given to us, they are as constructive as they are retrospective. But more on that shortly.

The Text:

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Ps. 45:6–7).

Summary of the Text:

Psalm 45 is a triumphal wedding day psalm, celebrating the marriage of the king. The author of Hebrews picks up on a phrase from the psalm, telling us that it represents God speaking to His Son, the Messiah. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8). Note that the Son is the bridegroom in the psalm, and that God the Father addresses Him as God. We will come back to the importance of this kind of thing shortly.

The Politics of Sodomy II: Not Whether, But Which

Introduction:

In many respects, we are like a man who lives in a house that is increasingly cluttered and trashed. When the day finally arrives when it becomes obvious that he must do something, it is equally obvious at the same time, that he has no idea what to do, or where to start. He is overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem. It is the same with us as we consider the politics of sodomy. We want to put things right. Where do we go to begin? Do we go back to the sixties? The New Deal? The War Between the States? The Enlightenment? And the answer is yes.

The Text:

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matt. 12:25-30).

Background:

Jesus is speaking in the first place about the kingdoms of God and Satan respectively. He had been accused of fighting Satan even though His accusers said He was really on Satan’s side. Jesus responds by saying that a house divided cannot stand, and so Satan would not be so foolish as to do that (vv.25-26). Jesus goes on to say if His power over Beelzebub was a demonic power, then what power was being used by His adversaries’ children (v. 27)? But if Jesus was empowered by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God really had come to them (v. 28). And, continuing the argument, if the kingdom of God has come, why should anyone be surprised that the strong man’s house was being pillaged? The strong man was bound, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says what we all need to hear—one who is not with Christ is against Christ. One who does not gather with Christ is attempting to scatter (v. 30).

Eating and Drinking Their Forgiveness

One of our great responsibilities in the Lord’s Supper is to look around. By this I mean looking around metaphorically and looking around actually. We would encourage you not to stare at the bread and the wine, and we would encourage you not to curl up into a little ball of pious thoughts. Look around.

Look around the world. All over this globe, the saints of God are worshiping Him, ascending into the heavenly places in the power of the Holy Spirit. A swath of worship is sweeping around the globe at a steady rate, just like sunrise and sunset do. You are together with all of them. See that by faith, and make sure you look around.

Look around your town. There are many believing churches on the Palouse, and these saints are your brothers and sisters. You don’t worship together with them, but you work together with many of them in the course of the week—sometimes in ministry and sometimes in your regular jobs—and so you know them, and love them. And even though you don’t worship together with them, if you look around, you will see that you do worship together with them.

Look around this room. These are the saints that are together with you in one congregation. You all live together, worship together, educate your kids together, car pool together, and work together. What this means that you have, with regard to those closest to you, the most opportunities for both gratitude and complaining. Isn’t it odd that in the place where God has given us the most, and so we should be most thankful, we tend in that place to do most of our complaining? So as you look around the room, think of the offenses against you. Then look on the bread and wine, and realize that you are privileged to eat and drink their forgiveness.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

Fundraising and Faith

Another aspect of funding a church building is the important element of faith. We often feel like we are supposed to trust God for “spiritual” things, like our salvation, but that when it comes to finances we have to learn how to be “realistic.” Unfortunately, being realistic often means adopting worldly techniques that could just as easily be used in building a civic auditorium.

But God’s people need to do everything differently. And even when we do something externally similar to what unbelievers might do, the insides of the thing have to be totally differently. Jesus says this about how God cares for us.

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Luke 12:27–28).

The admonition at the tail end of this says it all. “O ye of little faith” means that we need to learn how to trust the Lord who loves to adorn things. This is a “how much more’ argument, and Jesus says that we are to look at the flowers of the field and reason from that to what God has prepared for your wardrobe. And we are therefore invited to reason from both the flowers of the field and your wardrobe to the way our sanctuary will look and feel when we are done.

Men without faith build things too, and the results of their work are either sterile or excessively gaudy. This is another way of saying that a true and living faith has a lively aesthetic sense.

This means that we must take care to make sure that faith is our motivation in every aspect of this, from the fund-raising to the placement of the cross on the steeple.

So let the stones cry out.

Broadus

A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1979)

Very fine book. I didn’t read this edition, but rather a very old version published in 1882. I am assuming the one I read was unabridged. A standard work that preachers ought to be familiar with. You need to make adjustments for time and place, but there is a lot of horse sense here.

What a Herald Does

“Without hearing that Word, preaching has nothing to say. Otherwise preaching is but a blasphemous attempt to speak in the place of God rather than to speak for God” (Willimon, Proclamation and Theology, p. 21).