Archive for August, 2010

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Word for Word, God-Given…

August 27, 2010

This week I have attempted to draw some focus on the importance of biblical interpretation and how we should utilize the physical Bible we hold in our hands.  It is a joy to meditate on its precepts and an eternal encouragement to delve into its truths; however before one dives in deep its helpful to know how to swim.  The church-at-large is so blessed by God to have men and women who have devoted years to plumb the depths of Scripture and develop the skills to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’

One such giant of evangelicalism is J.I. Packer.  If you have not yet read any of his works such as, Knowing God, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, or his Concise Theology then I would recommend that you do.  There is a glorious simplicity in the way in which Packer tackles the most delicate and immense theological truths.  He handles the text of Scripture with a deft ability, and he is often concise and more often profound.

Below I have posted a link  to a chapter he wrote in 1958 for a book entitled “Fundamentalism and the Word of God.” The chapter is simply entitled The Interpretation of Scripture.  Here is an excerpt from his conclusion:

“We have now presented in positive outline the biblical approach to Scripture. Its text is word for word God-given; its message is an organic unity, the infallible Word of an infallible God, a web of revealed truth centered upon Christ; it must be interpreted in its natural sense, on the assumption of its inner harmony; and its meaning can be grasped only by those who humbly seek and gladly receive the help of the Holy Spirit.”

This brief chapter is informative, accurate and classic Packer.  Its worth your time to read and worth printing and keeping in your library.

Click Here to read The Interpretation of Scripture **

**(This link is from a website called bible-researcher.com an excellent resource for “students who are looking for detailed information on the history of the canon, texts, and versions of Scripture.”)

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Lost in Translations…

August 26, 2010

When it comes to Bible translations, does it matter which translation you use?

Finding agreement among Christians on just about anything is difficult, often impossible. On the issue of Bible translation there is no exception. There are numerous choices presented to the Christian seeking to read and take comfort from the Holy Scriptures.

If you had a friend who recently came to Christ and they asked “what Bible should I read?” What would you tell them. Though the question might sound harmless it is not. For within the many treatments of the text there are variations; some are common and mundane others are radical and message altering.

What is the difference between the: ESV, NIV, KJV,NKJV, HCSB, RSV, NRSV, NASB, ASV, CEV, LB, NLT, MSG, TNIV, D-R, NJB? To name just a few. Each of the above translations can be found in the hands of earnest Christians and apostate heretics across the globe. So which one is the right one? And is there a right one translation?

That we have such a variety and such access to the Word is a true testament of the grace and mercy of God. But, in a post Gen 3 world, access and familiarity can often breed contempt and disregard.

What is called for in this task is discernment. We must avoid the all too common American tendencies toward consumerism and social sensitivity. We must strive to find and promote translations of the Word that strive to be true and faithful to the authors’ intended meaning and the original text, rather than our contemporary needs/wants. We must carefully work out our salvation in the word with fear and trembling.

Men throughout the centuries have risked much to provide translations of scripture that are accurate and have the strictest measure of fidelity to the meaning of the original texts. Their success in doing so often came at the cost of their positions, their pulpits and even their lives.

There is an immense and costly importance to the accuracy and right interpretation of Scripture. Failure to translate rightly the word of truth can cause disunity and dysfunction within the body of believers; and ultimately hinder the delivery of the accurate gospel to the lost.

Throughout the ages God has been faithful and steadfast in preserving His Word and promulgating His message to those called by His name. The ancient autographs and original penmanship of the biblical authors may have faded into the obscure haze of history; but what has been preserved and translated has been passed down according to His sovereign will. The scripture, rightly translated, remains to this day “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17 (ESV)

Man, in an attempt to be “relevant,” can do damage to what God has breathed out. So investigate and be discerning, test and see if your translation remains faithful to His text and His message and if not then find one that does and enjoy.

To that end I recommend this online resource: evangelicalbible.com is an interesting website providing both retail services for Bibles in multiple translations and a brief history of Bible translation and defense of the English Standard Version or ESV.

Also I have included a link to albertmohler.com, Dr. Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and has written several informative articles and provides audio commentary on the subject of Bible Translation

See the links below.

Bibles for purchase

Why the ESV?

Mohler on Bible Translation

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The New Testament, Old Tools…

August 23, 2010

As we strive to study and understand the Bible we have been given, it can often seem difficult to know where to turn for resources. ntgateway.com is an excellent website for introductory/advanced New Testament study.  The site’s description is as follows: ” The New Testament Gateway, the award winning web directory of internet resources on the New Testament. Browse or search annotated links on everything connected with the academic study of the New Testament and Christian Origins.”

ntgateway is a product of the Department of Religion at Duke University under the auspices of Associate Professor of Religion Dr. Mark Goodacre.  It contains various commentary resources, greek lexical aids, scholarly articles and catagorized resources on canonical, apocryphal, and historical resources concerning the New Testament.

Important to note is that this site is not explicitly or implicitly evangelical, but attempts to provide an academic resource for those who wish to study the New Testament and its history.  It is also important to remember that while there are some articles and points of view on this site that may make conservative minds a little wary, scholarship regardless of its source or bent can be useful for instruction.  As in all things exercise discernment and first and foremost cling to the Word, the measure of all arguments.

The NTGateway.com

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The Whole Series…

August 20, 2010

Engulfed by God: A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms

Below are links to all 8 parts of the series.

Part 1: A Christian’s comfort in the Psalms

Part 2: Acknowledging Evil in the Psalms

Part 3: Malicious Melodies, Evil in the Psalms

Part 4: The Wicked, Not Very Musical

Part 5: Walking in the Light, The Context of Evil

Part 6: The Promise to Come, The End of Evil in Psalm 2

Part 7: The Dwelling

Part 8: Engulfed by God

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Engulfed by God…

August 18, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 8

The psalmists were confronted with evil and suffering everyday; likewise are we.  Having been blessed with the revelation of their God and His covenantal promises they approached suffering with candid understanding and appropriate sorrow.  That understanding was born from acknowledging evil’s existence, placing it within the context of a world created by their faithful God, and resting on a hope that one day evil and suffering would end with the inauguration of a kingdom of peace which would have no end.  We have had disclosed to us the fulfillment of these promises in the revelation of Jesus Christ; His life, death, and resurrection.

Suffering takes on a new light when seen in the shadow of the cross. Patrick J. Miller in his book Interpreting the Psalms describes it this way:

“The resurrection is God’s response to the cry of the sufferer, the vindication of life over death, the demonstration of God’s presence in suffering and power over it.  It is not an end to suffering, the continuing existence of which plagues and perturbs us.  It does tell us that God is at cross-purposes with suffering, fully present in it, and at work to overcome it.  The resurrecting work of God is more difficult to see.  It did not begin in Jesus Christ nor end there.  But its final victory is clarified and sealed in him.”[1]

Comfort comes from the Psalms not in poetry but truth through poetry.  We see that there is never a time when we are out of God’s presence.  Laments are softened in that while God is perceived as absent the psalmist acknowledges, “your steadfast love endures forever.”

When we are in deep, calling amidst the deep, deafened by the roar of His waterfalls we know that, “by day the Lord commands his steadfast love and at night his song is with” us.[2] When tears are our food day and night and we are besieged by wave after wave of hardship; we recognize that the waves and breakers under which we strive are in fact His waves and His breakers engulfing us for His purpose, that we may hope in Him our God and our Salvation.

Click here for a Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 7


[1] Miller, Interpreting, 110.

[2] Psalm 42:7

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The Dwelling…

August 17, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 7

THE WORD OF COMFORT

The words of the Psalms are made flesh in the New Testament.  In the prime example of God’s steadfast love, a king from David is proclaimed, a Son is sent, a servant suffers and we begin to see the nations cry out in His praise.[1] Out of the “approximately 360 citations of the Hebrew Bible in the New testament, nearly one-third (112) are from the Psalms.”[2] Many of these passages are used in an indispensable way in the gospels: to amplify, explain, and magnify Jesus and His ministry.  The Psalms are evoked throughout the gospels to:

-Trumpet His birth (Luke 2:14[Ps.148:1])

-Laud His baptism (Mark 1:11[Ps. 2:7])

-Describe the power passed to the disciples (Luke 10:17[Ps. 91:13])

-Inform the disciples of eternal security (Luke 10:20[Ps. 69:28])

-Rebuke the thunder and waves (Mark 4:39[Ps. 104:7])

-Herald His arrival in Jerusalem (Mark 11:9[Ps. 118:26])[3]

While Jesus is recorded as speaking from the Psalms only a couple of times it is made clear in scripture that His knowledge of the word was unparalleled. Jesus as a devout Jew, born under the law, would have prayed through the Psalter and relied on it to inform the law laid down by His Father, not the law of men.[4] Jesus spoke “as one having authority,” and from a young age displayed fruits of knowledge from what was ultimately His “word.”[5] The Psalter was His Psalter, it spoke of Him and proclaimed His kingdom, of which “there shall be no end.”[6] Of the mentions of the Psalms in the gospels two instances merit our attention.  As evil began its assault and the hour of evil men approached Jesus invoked the Psalms to solicit comfort and express lament.

While on the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed in a garden.  The time is described as one of intense agony and temptation.  Jesus approaches His disciples and confesses that His soul “is very sorrowful, even unto death.”[7] Most agree that Psalm 42:5 is in view here.  The great lament of Psalm 42 is, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me.”  As Jesus charges His disciples to pray and thereby fight temptation; He retreats and pleads that God would remove the cup placed before Him; ultimately He submits to God’s will.  This pattern is mirrored in Psalm 42.  The psalmist acknowledges that God has placed this difficult time before him, and yet closes the psalm with, “hope in God for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”

The Spirit of God breathed out the Psalms as scripture long before Jesus on earth uttered them; and yet He would invoke them with an authority far exceeding any other man. He could adore and “praise God fully, while by comparison we adore and praise God faintly. He can lament sin in the world which he took upon himself in ways we cannot begin to imagine.”[8] Such a lament would be evoked throughout the greatest display of God’s steadfast love, the moment of Christ’s Passion and evil’s defeat.

We find Mark’s passion account particularly helpful.  “In keeping with the rest of the New Testament, Mark’s interest in the Psalms is second only to Isaiah.”[9] Psalm 22 punctuates Mark’s recitation of Jesus’ crucifixion.[10] Arguably the most striking use of a psalm in the New Testament is in Jesus’ cry of abandonment quoting Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[11] Jesus here uses a personal lament psalm the way it is meant to be used and the way it always had been used, to lament the perceived absence of God in the experience of suffering and evil.  “Where in the Old Testament the human situation of degradation and desolation – a sense of abandonment by God, of being mocked and scorned by everyone – is most strongly attested, the New Testament explicitly identifies the experience as Jesus’.”[12]

Like all laments, Psalm 22 is peppered with acknowledgements of God’s sovereignty in the light of this suffering and notes of hope yet to come.  We should view Jesus’ invocation of the psalm’s opening line as representative of the entire message of the psalm; especially in light of the details on display throughout the text.  Christians should be able to see past the lament and seek comfort in the promises contained both in the psalm and in the testimony of scripture that His death, while the act of evil men, was according to “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”[13] Jesus could rest in His duty to God’s will on the cross precisely because, as is listed in the Psalms, amidst fear there is hope and through suffering there is promise for those called to suffer by God.[14]

In the next and final post in this series we shall look at how the entire psalter informs our pain and our joy by testifying of God’s sovereignty in the face of evil.

Click here to read A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms part 6.


[1] Psalm 72:11,17.

[2]  Ronald B. Allen. Lord of Song: the Messiah revealed in the Psalms. (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985.) 38.

[3] This list is by no means exhaustive but merely meant to serve as an sample.

[4] William L. Holladay. The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of witnesses. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.) 347.

[5] Matthew concludes the account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by saying, “And when Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching.  For he was teaching them as one having authority, not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29 Luke records Jesus at the temple at age twelve asking the teachings questions and listening and they, “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Luke 2:47.

[6] Matt 89:4, specifically detailed fulfillment in Luke 1:32-33, “ …and the Lord our God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  This pronouncement by the angel is likely meant to recall Psalm 89:4.  Also Luke 24:44 which states, “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

[7] Mark 14:34, Matthew 26:36-46.

[8] Holladay, 348.

[9] Rick Watts. The Psalms in Marks Gospel. ct. in The Psalms in the New Testament. Steve Moyise and Maarten J.J. Menken ed. (London, T&T Clark Int’l. 2004) 25.

[10] “22:19 cited at the division of Jesus’ garments (15:24), v. 2 at Jesus’ cry of dereliction (15:34), and v. 8 alluded to in the mockery of the passing crowds.” (Watts, 25)

[11] Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34.

[12] Patrick D. Miller. Interpreting the Psalms. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1986.) 109.

[13] Acts 2:23

[14] See psalm 22:27-31.  Following the depictions of agony and affliction there is painted a vision of praise and hope that through this suffering all the families of the nations shall worship the Lord, and the ends of the earth shall remember.  And a generation yet unborn shall proclaim God’s righteousness for He has done it.  It is finished.

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The Promise to Come…

August 16, 2010

A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms Part 6

THE END OF EVIL in PSALM 2

The paradigmatic struggle between good and evil in Psalm 1 is immediately continued and expanded in Psalm 2.  Psalm 1 provides a definition of the wicked; Psalm 2 prophecy’s their demise; this correlation is not incidental.[1] Whereas Psalm 1 serves as a preface underlining the sections of the Psalter concerning the Law; Psalm 2 likewise serves as a theological foundation for the psalms to follow, informing every lament and praise.  While God views the plots of the wicked as laughable, He has wrath in mind for the plotters.

In Psalm 2 we begin to see evidences of the way in which God will go about “breaking” these raging nations.  God will install His King on Zion’s Hill; this King will be His begotten son; God will give the raging nations into his hand; and the Son-King will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.”[2] The utter futility of those who plot against the One “who sits in the heavens…” is an anchor of the psalmist’s comfort.[3] “God is committed to destroying all that is evil and establishing his kingdom of righteousness and truth.”[4]

This theme of victorious, eternal, God-ordained kingship is continued at the conclusion of Book Three of the Psalter in Psalm 89.  David is seen as the progenitor of an anointed king to come.  God established His covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7; and arguably His promise focused less on David than it did on David’s offspring.  Speaking to David, through the prophet Nathan, God said, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up our offspring after you.”[5] God then defines who this raised one will be: he will be from David’s line (7:12), God will establish his kingdom, (as opposed to earthly installment) (13), He will be like a father to the king and the king like a son to God (14), the stripes of the sons of men shall fall upon him (14)[6], this kingdom shall last forever (13, 16).  The legitimacy of these promises is amplified in Psalm 89.

Five times throughout the Psalm God provides assurance that the King he will raise from David’s line shall be established, kept and shall endure forever.  Despite the fact that this promise had yet to be realized by the time Psalm 89 was penned, God pledged that “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips…” and “ by my holiness; I will not lie to David.”[7] This promise is nestled in a Psalm saturated with proclamations of God’s love.[8] It soon becomes clear that the inauguration of God’s coming kingdom will bear witness to not only His judgment of the wicked, but to the consummation of His steadfast love for His people.  The two goals will finish at one end and God shall vanquish evil through an act of love.  That love and judgment would soon be given a name, a face and an act in one Christ, Jesus.

The realization and implication of God’s plan of salvation, through an eternal son-king seen in the Psalms are interpreted, both in word and deed, by Jesus in the New Testament.  We will next turn our attention to Christ’s use of the Psalter and the violent act of love which muted evil’s rage and established God’s eternal Kingdom.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5 OF A CHRISTIAN’S COMFORT IN THE PSALMS


[1] “One Jewish tradition treated Pss. 1 and 2 as one psalm, and this reflects a number of points of connection between the two”  John Goldingay. Psalms: Vol.1 Psalms 1-41. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.) 94.  See his further treatment on pg.95. Also see Miller, Interpretation 87-88.

[2] Psalm 2:6-9

[3] Psalm 2:4; An early testimony of this Psalm’s power to comfort is seen in its invocation by the Apostles in Acts 4:25.  “For the Apostles… in their first trial or affliction they seize upon it, pray it and in this way both console and fortify themselves against all the power of their enemies.”  Martin Luther. Luther’s Works: Selections from the Psalms. (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing, 1955.) 5.

[4]  Peter Hicks. The Message of Evil and Suffering. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006.) 50.

[5] 2 Samuel 7:12.

[6] One can not help but see prefigured here the suffering servant later described in Psalm 22:16 whose hands and feet are pierced and Isa 53:5 who bore the stripes of others, and through that brought healing.  Through great pain and suffering God’s plan unfolds and His hand is made visible.

[7] Psalm 89:34-35

[8] This Psalm’s over arching theme seems to be “loving-kindness and faithfulness, each of which occurs seven times (vv. 1, 2, 5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49).” Kirkpatrick, Psalms. 531.