Archive for July, 2010

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Two Years, Four Thousand views…

July 29, 2010

theurbanwitness.wordpress.com turns 2 years old this week. Over 4000+ views, some of them are even from people other than myself. Certainly not setting the world on fire, but hopefully someone has gathered some encouragement from meditating on the Word and focussing on God’s gracious revelation of Himself through the tender pages of this most vital of books.

Read the brief explanation behind the blog’s title

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Have you not heard? Isaiah 40 Speaks Comfort…

July 25, 2010

ISAIAH 40

It is difficult for me to overstate how much this chapter means to me and my family.  It lies midway through the book of Isaiah, a turning point in spirit and tone; and it is planted firmly in my memory as a milestone and testament of God’s abundant power.  God stands in these 31 verses as an unmovable, impenetrable, frightening force, sovereign and saving.  He lays mountains low (vs 4), measures the seas with His hand (vs12), balances ranges as vast as the Himalayas, weighing them and finding them wanting. (12)  He lays Princes down and raises them up to lead nations as significant as dirt.  The greatest rulers and kings, conquerors and realms wither in His light and scatter like dust in the wind of His nostrils. We are insects to be flicked by fingers who stretch the heavens out like a curtain.  What part do we have in all this?  None.  Are we to give Him, the one who sits above the circle of the earth, counsel?  What good is it for us to strive to rule, reign and run when we will be mere dust in the in the tempest of history’s storm?  These truths could make one despondent even depressed, but that is not their purpose.

From the first verse the grand purpose of this tome of God is revealed.  Comfort.  “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…”(vs1)  Comfort comes from the fact that our warring is done for the Lord of Hosts who commands creation and contrives kings will do our battle for us.  He, unlike men, does not grow weary or faint, for in Him is the power to raise up, lay down and pardon the iniquity of those who sin.  Man may convict, and man may judge by the wisdom of his own counsel, but He who takes no counsel shall judge with wisdom and understanding that is unsearchable.

This is whom we trust, in whom we rest.  When will realize that our King endures forever; and our peace lies in waiting on Him?  The lives of those who wait on the Lord are marked with a silent comfort that rages in the face of injustice and rests in arms of the Judge.

I have seen the face of those who passed from this sphere into the next, clutching in their hands the hope of strength.   Earthly legs as limp as dirt but a heart running to Jesus, eyes closed and cold yet fixed like an eagles on the King.  One day our bodies will become weary and faint into permanent peace; but He who spoke into the tomb shall increase strength and we shall mount up to eternal Glory, our joy to be found in waiting on the Lord forever.  Find peace and wait on Him now, rest knowing that we will rise never to be weary or faint again.  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God.  The creator of heavens and earth. (vs28)  Who could not rest in knowing that?

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Join in the the Everlasting Song…

July 24, 2010

PSALM 145

When we consider all that we speak about in our lives, we soon come to the realization that so little of what we say actually matters.  That is the words we profess, what we extol, what we encourage and obsess about soon passes into memory and we along with them.  There is one form of speech however, that never lacks potency and when spoken in sincerity lasts long after we’re gone, resonating through the generations and echoing to the heavens.  These are the praises offered up to our Maker, Redeemer and Lord.  Psalm 145 lifts up the virtues of such praise and emphasizes the generational importance of speaking of God.

Those who would be content to live out their lives in quiet testimony of observation and action, run the real risk of muting a necessary God-ordained form of communication.  Speech, both written and spoken, is indispensable in transmitting the axioms and remembrances of God to future generations.  The psalmist, in this case David, repeatedly focuses on action matched up with word.  Our chief aim is that we might extol (vs1), bless (vs2), and praise (vs3) by declaring (vs4), speaking (vs6) and calling (18), for the purposes of displaying God’s works to; one another (vs4), to the children of men (vs12), enduring for future generations (vs13).  The very pages in front of me on which this psalm is written stand as a not-so-silent testimony to the endurance of the written and spoken words “speaking of the might of [His] awesome deeds.”

From David’s generation to mine these words bear witness to the eternal everlasting kingdom and His steadfast love.  This psalm is both prophetic and proven to encourage.  It prophesied that His goodness will be proclaimed and it has.  It encourages in that very God who; upholds the fallen and raises the bowed (vs14), opens His hand and satisfies desire (vs16), and comes near to all who call (vs18) is the same God who lives on in His word and in our hearts.

As He has preserved this word to us He promises to preserve “all who love Him.”  That He grants us the privilege in participating in this preservation in writing, speaking and song, is a testament to the depth of His grace and love.  How can we not speak His praise, and what joy we face in knowing that we will bless His holy name forever and ever. (vs27)  By God’s grace may it be so.

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The Wicked, Not very Musical…

July 21, 2010

A CHRISTIAN’S COMFORT IN THE PSALMS PART 4:

“רשע” IN THE PSALMS

The common foes for the righteous in the Psalter are the wicked.  “When evil enters peoples hearts it leads not only to wicked deeds but also to disastrous consequences for the people themselves.”[1] It is the certainty of these consequences that God, via the psalmist, warns His children against.  The word most commonly translated in the psalms as wicked or ungodly is “Ra’sha.”  In its verbal form it means to “act wickedly, be guilty, or accounted guilty.”  As an adjective it is used to describe “the wicked, guilty, wrongdoer and guilty one.”[2] It occurs 82 times in 80 distinct verses in 42 psalms.[3] Four of those occurrences are found in Psalm 1 and a further twelve are concentrated in Psalm 37; for this reason both merit brief examination.

It is significant that the psalm chosen to act as a prelude and introduction to the entire Psalter should deal so specifically with the wicked and their role in opposition to God and His people.  The themes seen earlier in Psalm 34 are pertinent here as well.[4] By its nature Psalm 1 is prescriptive in regards to behavior and illustrative of the eternal benefits of acting righteously.  Psalm 1 is in large part definitive as to who the wicked are; and could be read like an entry in a dictionary.  The wicked: counsel in a manner contrary to God’s design to the detriment of the blessed man (vs.1); they prosper only briefly and then they are blown away like chaff (vs.4); they will suffer judgment and fail to withstand its verdict (vs.5); and they will ultimately perish by following their own self destructive way (vs.6).  If Psalm 1 defines the wicked, then Psalm 37 displays the grand drama in which they scheme to subdue God’s children at every turn.

The word “Ra’sha” is used 12 times within Psalm 37.[5] Played out in its verses is the ongoing struggle incurred by the righteous as the wicked continually plot against them.  A certain symmetry is seen between the descriptive methods of promise, prescription, prophecy and acknowledgement.  In sequence the methods are arranged in the following way:

-Prophecy the demise of the wicked (vs.10);

-Acknowledgement of the plots of the wicked (vs. 12,14);

-Prescription for righteous (vs.16)/prophecy of destruction (vs.17);

-Prophecy of destruction (vs.20)/acknowledgement of wicked nature (vs.21);

-Prophecy (vs.28);

-Acknowledgement (vs.32);

-Prescription for righteous (vs.34)/acknowledgement (vs.35);

-Prophecy (vs.38);

-Promise (vs.40)

This back and forth is emblematic of the struggle seen throughout the Psalms.  At the heels of the saints the wicked persistently nip.  In the face of certain prophesied destruction and judgment, the wicked deny God and act as fools for they lack understanding and knowledge.[6]

Evil as described by “RA” and the wicked denoted by “Ra’sha” appear in 139 distinct verses within the Psalter and are addressed in 82 separate psalms.  In other words, 52% of the psalms of the Old Testament mention or address in some context evil and those who act according to an evil mind.  Due to the poetic structure and the frequent use of parallelism in the psalms, evil and the wicked are never addressed in a vacuum.  Acknowledging evil’s presence in the world is merely one step toward finding comfort in the face of evil’s effects of suffering, separation and death.  The psalmists use context to frame comfort, and evil is always seen in a context of a faithful sovereign God who is mighty to save.  How that contextualization occurs and provides comfort shall be our focus in the next post.

Click here for Part 3 of a Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms…


[1] Ibid. 91.

[2] Clines, 432.

[3] These calculations are based on my own personal count.

[4] Ps. 1:1 equals prescription; 1:4 acknowledgement; 1:5 prophecy “the wicked will not stand in judgment”; 1:6 promise of deliverance.

[5] Psalm 37 is an acrostic psalm and ‘Ra’sha is found 12 times within its verses.  The ESV translates it exclusively as “ the wicked” in the following verses: 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 28, 32, 34, 35, 38, and 40.

[6] Psalm 14:1-7

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Malicious Melodies, ‘Evil’ in the Psalms…

July 21, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms pt. 3

רע” IN THE PSALMS

“The reader of the psalms of the Old Testament is quickly struck by the fact that most of the Psalms deal with some sort of trouble or adversity; the psalmist experiences of enmity, oppression and wickedness.”[1] This oppression, evil, and adversity is often expressed with the word “RA.”  The Hebrew word “RA” is used primarily as an adjective and has a variety of meanings within the Psalter.  Commonly it is translated as “bad, evil, displeasing…(ethically) evil… and distressing.”  When used as a noun in both masculine and feminine forms it refers to: “evil one, wicked one, one who is evil…evil i.e. greedy, evil i.e. harmful, severe, grievous.”[2] “RA”s prolific presence is seen throughout the Psalms; it occurs 64 times in 45 separate psalms.  Put another way, 30% of the 150 psalms address evil (via RA) explicitly.  There are 5 occurrences in Psalm 34 alone, a fact which makes this psalm significant and its use of “RA” merits our attention.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic psalm of praise and deliverance.[3] The psalmist extols the Lord for His goodness, and trumpets the virtue of seeking after God and His benefits of protection and mercy.  This psalm also puts forth several common methods for addressing the progression of evil (RA).  There is: a prescription for the children of God to avoid evil, a promise of God’s judgment, an acknowledgement that evil persists, and finally a prophecy of evils coming condemnation.[4] These methods of prescription, promise, acknowledgement and prophecy are common within the structure of many psalms especially in their treatment of evil.

Evil, when manifested within individuals “produces an evil disposition, an attitude of inclination, and it is this that leads them to wicked behavior.”[5] These individuals are termed the “ungodly or wicked” (Ra’sha) by the psalmists and it is this word we will examine in the next post in the series.

Read Part 2 of A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms here…


[1] Patrick D. Miller. Interpreting the Psalms. (Philadelphia, PA. Fortress Press, 1986.) 48.

[2] David J.A. Clines ed. The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. (Sheffield, UK. Sheffield Phoenix press. 2009) 424. Entry on “RA”.  Its verbal root “RA’A” translates as “to be bad…do evil” and is seen used as a noun in Ps. 22:17 as Evildoer. 427.  “RA’A” occurs 15 times within the Psalter in 12 chapters.

[3] A.F. Kirkpatrick. The Book of Psalms. (Cambridge, UK. Cambridge Univ. Press. 1951) 169-170.

[4] Psalm 34:13-14 prescription; 34:16 promise; 34:19 acknowledgement; and 34:21 Prophecy of evil’s ultimate slaying and condemnation.

[5] Alexander Ryrie. Deliver Us from Evil: reading the psalms as poetry. (London, UK. Darton, Longman and Todd ltd. 2004) 91.

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For Growth, Reflection, Study and Salvation…

July 20, 2010

Oh that we would become men and women of the Bible.  By this living and abiding, eternal, enduring Word we are all born anew to our abundant future, for the Glory of God.  Biblos.com contains a plethora of useful tools for word study, various translations, various languages, Hebrew and Greek resources and reference material; all of which can enable further in-depth exploration of this infinite resource. There mission is stated as follows:

1) Increase the visibility and accessibility of the Scriptures online.

2) Provide free access to Bible study tools in many languages.

3) Promote the Gospel of Christ through the learning, study and application of God’s word.

We should all long for the Scriptures like new born infants long for pure spiritual milk, “that we may grow up into salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” I Peter 2:1

Visit them if you get the chance or have the need.

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A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms pt. II

July 19, 2010

ACKNOWLEDGING EVIL

For the Psalmist, evil is ever-present in the world.  Recognizing evil’s presence is key to fighting against its effects and coping with the suffering it engenders.  Much of the Psalm’s express purpose in prescribing action and proclaiming the rightness of Yahweh’s Law is to bless and protect Israel from evil and evil’s being in suffering.[1]

As one reads the Psalms one sees that evil takes different forms.  There is represented within the Psalter the objective conceptual idea of evil; the way in which the righteous should not walk, a place occupied by the wicked, the sinners and the scoffers.  There is also, and more commonly represented, the idea of evil as subjective oppression and suffering.  This subjective suffering, often at the hands of “the ungodly” seems to occur when God is has apparently withdrawn from the situation.[2] The lack of God’s presence, or the lack of His perceived interest, is almost always met with lamentation and cries of distress.  As alluded to earlier, in Psalm 13 David confesses that his enemies are exalted and he is in distress; therefore, David pleads with God to rectify the situation by remembering him and cries out to God to reveal His hidden face.

The acknowledged presence of evil, both objectively and subjectively, stands in stark contrast to the way things should be in light of God’s meticulous creation.  “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”[3] This handiwork is seen in the purposeful formation of the heavens, the seas and trees, all of which He spoke into being[4].  While He displays creation on a cosmic scale, He likewise forms and knits every human being together within their mother’s womb.[5] He formed each eye and each ear; there is no part of creation that does not have the print of His divine design.  He created and called a people; “established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel…”[6] “Christian theology has always regarded God’s creation of the world as an act of love.”[7] Yet despite this act of love there are apparent aberrations present throughout the land; forces which plot and rage in vain against this creator God and His creation.  Evil forces composed of the “ungodly” are pervasive in the Psalter.  Just how pervasive can be displayed by examining two words used throughout the Psalms to describe evil and its ungodly perpetrators.  In the next post of this series we shall examine the first of those words, its use and implications for viewing and using the Psalms.

Click here for Part I of A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms…


[1]  Evil, for our purposes shall be defined as the malevolent fallen existence which finds its source in the rejection of the creator; its function in opposition through sin; its being in pain and suffering; and its certain dissolution at the hand of Almighty God to and for His glory.

[2] Goldingay, 341.

[3] Psalm 19:1

[4] Psalm 90:2 God formed the earth and the world, and brought forth the mountains. Psalm 95:5, “ The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”

[5] Psalm 139:13, 16. Respectively “you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were write every one of them the days that were formed for me when as yet there was none of them.”

[6] Psalm 78:5

[7] William A. Dembski. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. (Nashville, TN B&H Publishing. 2009.) 25.