Inescapable Imprecation

The message today is on Psalm 35, one of the psalms of imprecation. These psalms have given many Christians many difficulties, and we don’t quite know what to do with them.

Let us grant at the outset that they can be abused by people who pretend to embrace them. We can want to “destroy the Amalekite” in the wrong way, and not know what spirit we are of. We can confuse God’s honor with our own. We can try to settle personal scores when God has told us to forgive. We can seek to “hew Agag to pieces before the Lord” and discover on the day of judgment that we only “hewed Agag to pieces.”

But as C.S. Lewis remarked somewhere, we love to prepare to resist temptations that we are most unlikely to encounter. Confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers. It is this way with us, and the psalms of imprecation.

We live in complacent times. We live in a time when the hearts of many believers have grown cold. We do not refrain from imprecatory prayers because, in our saintliness, we have risen above the fray, but rather because we are apathetic about spiritual things. It is not that imprecation might interfere with our burning love for the lost, but rather that imprecation might get us in trouble and lose us a few clients. We are afraid that imprecation might offend the great god Mammon.

So I want to give this exhortation before we consider the words of Psalm 35. Imprecation is another one of those inescapable issues. Either you will model your prayers after the prayers in the Bible, including this one, or you will come to the point where you are uttering imprecations against those who do You will speak this way—the question is whether you will speak this way against righteousness or against unrighteousness.

There are many “all you need is love” Christians, who refuse to have anything to do with these prayers against the unrighteous. At the end of the day, they carp against the righteous. So prepare your hearts to receive the word.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

And This is Odd Too

One of the central things we learn as we come to this Table is the nature of our triune God, and consequently the nature of the world He created. Many of the disputes between Christians about what happens at this Table is the result of their secret agreement about the rest of the world. The world around us is a humdrum sort of affair, and we then debate whether that changes or not when we come to the Table. Is this a mere memorial, like a post-it note on the fridge, or is it a grand exception to that world of post-it notes?

The whole world is remarkable. Said with appropriate qualifications, the universe is a miracle. This is not because the universe is a violation of natural law (how could that be?) but rather because the whole universe is nothing but sheer, unadulterated gift or grace. God overflows, and He overflows infinitely into the created order. There is no such thing as the mundane.

So this Table is not a spiritual exception to the mundane, and it is not a mundane continuation of the mundane. Rather, this Table instructs us how God is all the time. What is God like in everything?

Everything is remarkable, for those who have eyes to see. And this Table, these means of grace, this bread and wine, is one of God’s appointed means for giving us eyes to see. This bread strengthens your soul to resist temptation. This is odd, but no more odd than how peanut butter helps you get through your morning’s work. This wine, taken in faith, knits you together with Christ, and this is odd too. But no more odd than water falling out of the sky so that your breakfast might grow in a field somewhere.

The universe is always and everywhere a personal place. It is in God that we live and move and have our being. He is a covenant-keeping God, and this aspect of His nature is reflected in everything that He does—and He does everything.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Where You Been?

Ed Iverson is one of NSA’s faculty members and serves as the librarian of our Tyndale Library. In addition to these duties, as well as being a gracious Christian gentleman, he also writes a periodic column for the Moscow/Pullman Daily News. But the ongoing reaction to his column by our local lefties resembles a series of bottle rockets more than anything else. Today there was a letter to the editor demanding an end to his dissenting voice. Last night there was a letter lamenting the fact that Ed’s column ran on a weekend when many out-of-towners were visiting, the effect of which was to recklessly expose them to another point of view entirely. They might start thinking that some red state gunk is seeping into our little blue town. And then some of them might move here, bringing more gunk with them.

But the thing that is really fascinating about the ongoing objections to Ed’s column (not to mention objections to other stuff we are doing and saying), is the regular assertion that his column espouses “hate.”

And so it does, but you have to be really creative to get to that conclusion. If hatred is defined as disagreement with secularist fundamentals, and if Ed is guilty of that (which he is, routinely), then of course he is guilty of “hate.” And liberals do define hatred this way. Liberals are so commited to the unity of their god Demos that any disagreement on their fundamentals is not just “disagreement,” it is an attempt to divide the godhead. It is therefore hatred, blasphemy.

But one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is that the human race is divided into two categories — the saved and the lost. This means that the Christian claim is that humanity is divided — but if humanity is the god, and it is blasphemy to divide the god this way, then the historic Christian faith is a hate crime by definition.

Of course this sets up a troublesome problem. If Christians see the world as divided between the sheep and the goats, the humanists see the world as divided between those who know the world is not divided and and those who erroneously think that it is divided. Now wait a minute . . . There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

This inconsistency is why liberals are so shrill when it comes to the presence of actual disagreement. They have to get the inconsistency out of sight pronto. Express disagreement at any kind of basic level, and off they go, like the aforementioned bottle rockets. But they cannot afford a reasoned discussion of about whether the humanist god is divisible; the claim has to be treated as outrageous on the face of it. To treat it as a reasonable question would be to allow pollution in their sanctuary, which they cannot do. So the person who blasphemes in this way must be shouted down and frogmarched off the stage. There is a mob of liberals gathered in the hall, standing on their seats, shouting their indignation, and pumping the air with their fists. If the hapless offender is not careful he will find himself in a Reeducation Center for the Tolerance Impaired. Who do the leftists want send there? Who must learn that differences must be accepted and embraced? Why those who are different, of course, Where you been?

Yay. More Troops.

I just finished looking over the premier issue of Salvo, and I commend it to you. A quarterly dedicated to a thoughtful engagement with the cultural follies that surround us on every side, this magazine is a welcome battalion of reinforcements in the culture wars. Check it out.

A Sacrificial Meal

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrificial meal, which is not the same thing as a sacrifice. The Lord Jesus offered Himself on the cross two thousand years ago, and when He ascended into heaven some weeks afterward, at that time He presented His sacrifice in the heavenly places, in the ultimate Holy of Holies. His sacrifice was a once for all atonement. But in the Bible, sacrifices have blessings that flow from them—which are distinct from the sacrifice, but not separable from it.

Because this is a sacrificial meal, it has to be understood as something God is giving to us. If we do not understand it this way, then we will of necessity turn it into something that we are rendering to God. Of course, the Roman church thinks of this table as an altar, and the bread and wine and a sacrifice proper. But most of the modern evangelical world thinks of it in the same way. The offering of man to God in this case is a testimony, or a dedication, or a confession, or something offered up to Him. The thing they share in common is the view that man is somehow a priest in this, and offers a sacrifice of some sort to God.

But this is a sacrificial meal, not a sacrifice, and this means that the initiative is the other way. God feeds us, God nourishes us, God welcomes us, God sheds His love abroad in our hearts. We do not offer this meal; He offers this meal.

Our response to this may be described as a sacrifice—but it is a sacrifice of response, specifically the response of praise and thanksgiving. This keeps the order as it ought to be. The Table is God’s gift to humanity as He makes us into His new humanity, built up into Jesus Christ, the perfect man. At this Table, we submit to His grace, and are most thankful.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Holy Hands

We assemble as God’s holy ones, as those who are called to be saints. We do not gather on one day simply to think certain thoughts about God, and that is the end of it. We come to present our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. This means that we cannot detach what our bodies have been doing this last week from what we are about to do in worship, here and now.

Suppose you have sinned last Tuesday, to take a day at random. If you have confessed it to God already, well and good. If you have not, then you must confess it at the beginning of worship just a moment from now. Otherwise, you are trying to include that sin in your worship. You must either repudiate it in confession, or you are offering it up to God as Cain did with his vegetables.

At the conclusion of the service, you lift up your hands to God in the Gloria Patri. But what have those hands done? Whatever it is, it will be presented to God in worship – either in the guilt offering of confession, or in an impudent attempt to pass it off in the consecration offering. But one way or another, it comes up before God.

So what have those hands done? Have you used them to put on an immodest blouse or T-shirt – despite the careful teaching you have received at just this point? Have you used those hands to put your thumb on the scales in sharp business dealing? Have you used those hands to spank your children in an unjust anger? Have you used those hands to type an address of a web site where you had no business going?

I do not say these things to try to make sinners stay away from the worship of God. If you baptized, you must come. I say these things so that you would not be caught in the folly of offering Him yours sins in a way that pretends they are not sins.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Allah and YHWH

One of my Greyfriars students has written helpfully to me, pointing out yet another implication of the Federal Vision trajectory, to wit, my agreement with Pope Benedict on the fact that YHWH and Allah cannot both be the one true God.

He said this because this last Wednesday evening I did a presentation for Collegiate Reformed Fellowship at the University of Idaho, arguing that Allah (who has no Son by definition) and YHWH (who does by definition) cannot be the same. This was a “worldview forum,” designed to reach out to non-Christians, and there were a number of Muslims there. During the Q & A, I was accused of fomenting “hatred” because I was insisting that the true God is triune, and that unless we come to the Father through the Son, we cannot come at all. To the charge of “hatred,” I responded by saying a belief can be mistaken, and yet not be motivated by hatred. If I believed someone’s house to be on fire (mistakenly), and was pounding on their door to wake them up in time to escape, this error may be many things, but it is not hateful. The central theme of my talk was that, despite certain similarities (monotheism, people of a book, etc.), Muslims and Christians worship different gods.

Well, then along comes the pope (this was coordinated by some Jesuit moles, deep within the PCA) and says something very similar. He argued that the idea of jihad is fundamentally messed up, and that to the extent this idea is grounded in the conception that Muslims have of Allah (and it is), this means that Allah and YHWH are not the same. Of course, in response to the criticism that Muslims have a distorted view of violence as a problem-solving technique, the reaction has been to burn the pope in effigy. Teach him to be hateful. This is yet another walking incarnation of “not getting it.”

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Giants in the Land

We have now come to the place in the historical prologue where Moses points to the success of Israel’s cousins—Edom, Moab and Ammon—in fighting and displacing giants (2:1-23). This is given as a very kind encouragement. “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days . . .” (Dt. 2:1-23).

We have to deal in the first place with the fact that there are different kinds of giants. Ambrose Bierce once gave a wonderful defintion of mythology which many moderns need to take to heart. He said that mythology was the “body of a primitive people’s beliefs concerning its origins, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.” With this firmly in mind, the following terms are translated as gigantes in the Septuagint (and occasionally as titanes). And of course we need to know that anybody who doesn’t believe all this probably doesn’t believe in dragons either.

First, there were the Nephilim. The Nephilim proper were the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men (Gen. 6:1-4). The second category were the Rephaim; these were among the original inhabitants of Canaan (Gen. 15:20). They were likely descendants of a certain Repha (1 Chron. 20:4-8). Third were the Anakim. The Anakim are said to have their descent from the Nephilim (Num. 13:33). This means either that they were named after them because they were like them (most likely), or that one of Noah’s sons married one of them (unlikely), or that the flood didn’t kill everybody (not possible). Last are the gibborim: this can be rendered as “mighty men,” among whom Nimrod was numbered. Remember also that the Amorites were also giants (Amos 2:9-10). All these terms are used commonly together. In short, Canaan was a land full of giants.

The cousins of Israel had done well against the giants. Edom was the land given to Esau. The Lord commanded them to head north from Mt. Seir to the land of Edom (vv. 1-3). God said not to meddle with them at all (vv. 4-5). God had given that land to them (v. 5). This means two things—first, that God can do the same for Israel, giants or no giants, and secondly, that God is no tribal deity; He not the “god of the hills.” He is the God of the nations. They were to buy their food and drink from Edom, not take it (v. 6). God would supply as He had thus far (v. 7).

Moab was the land set aside for the sons of Lot. They came to the regions of Moab (v. 8), where the same restrictions applied (v. 9). The Moabites had whipped the Emmim—who related to the Anakim because both were Rephaim (vv. 10-11). The Horim were probably giants too, and yet God had given this land to Moab (v. 12).

The brook Zered was the place where Israel was poised on the brink of invasion, thirty-eight years after the provocation (vv. 13-14). The time elapsed was necessary for all the warriors of the previous generation to be consumed and die (v. 14-16), just as the Lord had sworn.

The Ammonites were also for Lot. When Israel passed by Moab (vv. 17-18), they came to the children of Ammon, and the same conditions applied here (v. 19). The Ammonites had defeated the Zamzummim, also among the Rephaim (v. 20). They also were big, but the Ammonites took them (v. 21). And of course, there were other miscellaneous giants—Edom fought Horim too (v. 22), along with the Avim and Caphtorim (v. 23). The Caphtorim are probably Philistines from Crete. The implication in all this is “go thou and do likewise.” If the Moabites, and Edomites, and Ammonites can all take on the giants, then Israel, adopted by the Lord God, could certainly take on the giants.

We have to recognize the importance of fighting giants. It is truly odd that pictures of this (in Bible story books, and so on) do not record the fact that Joshua led Israel into the land of giants, in order to displace those giants. This is a motif throughout Scripture. In addition to the battles we are considering here, we should note how the war against giants continues through to the end of the Bible. We all know the particular story of David and Goliath, but it must also be seen as part of a larger, ongoing war on giants (2 Sam. 21: 19-22). David was privileged to take out one of the last of these adversaries.

Christ bound the strong man: what we find in the life and death of Jesus Christ is not an example of a godly giant fighting a puny devil. Rather, Christ became one of us, and, as a son of David, He bound and defeated the Goliaths of that age (Luke 11:21-22). Christ takes all the strong man’s armor (panoply), and divides the spoil.

And here is the point of the metaphor for us. Who is it that overcomes? Is it not the one who has faith? If this is the case, and it is, then what are the giants in your life? What are you called to do about it? The Great Commission says what it says very plainly. The Christian faith is a religion of world conquest through evangelization. Are the giants here big enough to qualify as giants? There are two approaches to take with giants — the first is that of unbelief and the second is one of faith. Unbelief says that the giants are too big to defeat. Faith says that giants are too big to miss.

Category: Expository | Tags: