Posts Tagged ‘Mercy’

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A Word from Hitchens, on the Word…

April 11, 2011

When one takes a look at the state of modern cultural criticism, few voices and pens are as prominent or prolific as that of Christopher Hitchens. Knowing his predisposition against all things religious, especially Christian, one might wonder why he and his ilk might find space on this blog devoted to the Word which he so anxiously wishes wasn’t there. The answer comes from his current article in Vanity Fair entitled, “When the King Saved God.”

Hitchens is brilliant. There is no getting around that, he is eloquent, winsome, and biting. He is also battling esophageal cancer. Even while fighting the disease he has found time to bring his considerable lexical acumen to bear against the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. The event he admits was truly paradigmatic. (that word was for him)

Now, Hitchens is not discussing scriptural inerrancy, nor is he focussed on the power scripture has as the repository of God’s precepts and Gospel of life. Rather this is a literary musing, a discourse on the considerable literary contribution the KJV has had on the language Hitchens loves and wields so well. He States:

“The Tyndale/King James translation, even if all its copies were to be burned, would still live on in our language through its transmission by way of Shakespeare and Milton and Bunyan and Coleridge, and also by way of beloved popular idioms such as “fatted calf” and “pearls before swine.” It turned out to be rather more than the sum of its ancient predecessors, as well as a repository and edifice of language which towers above its successors.”

Much has been written about the impact of the KJV on society and literature.

Adam Potkay, professor of Humanities at William and Mary College has written and taught for over twenty years on the pervasive presence of the KJV in our literary and cultural history. Download his chapter from “The King James Bible after 400 Years” entitled “Romantic Transformations of the King James Bible” here.

Leland Ryken, the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College, has written extensively on the literary influence and literary nature of the Bible. (You can read my review of Ryken’s “How to read the Bible as Literature” here.) Out this year is his latest contribution, “The Legacy of the King James Bible” (Crossway). He describes the publication of the KJV as a “landmark event in the english speaking world.”

It is both encouraging and discouraging to watch Hitchens handle so important a text. He uses his considerable God-given skill to weigh God’s given text, and while he misses the texts true impact, he stumbles on some undeniable truths concerning its form. Regardless of his discussion, the KJV’s impact is felt mostly in its ubiquity over the last 400 years; 350 of which it was by far the most commonly used english translation. Hitchens defends the beauty on its pages in a modern world more accustomed to tweets than tried texts. The greatest evangelist in the twentieth century (at least in regards to numbers reached) lifted truth from the KJV’s pages and hurled it forth to over 200 million people; who despite disparate backgrounds could still decipher the Gospel in its stilted and aged prose.

Of course it is my prayer and the prayer of many, that while Hitchens lauds the literary rarity of the KJV, he will not look past the central contribution of the Bible to mankind. The story beneath the prose of a God, His creation, His Justice, and His redemption, available to any who call upon His name.

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What Can Flesh do to us?…

April 8, 2011

Psalm 56:3-4, 13

The Psalms enrich the life of the believer in a multitude of ways.  But they can pose difficulties.  For instance, how can I pray a psalm that focusses on relief from human oppression?  I am rarely if ever being pursued, apprehended, or foiled by others.  My enemies are typically spiritual and/or personal.

Three verses in this psalm transcend any difficulty that I might have, verses 3,4, and 13:   “when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not be afraid, what can flesh do to me.”  You can almost hear David building up the argument within his own mind, preaching to his soul, building the case for courage in the face of oppression and despair.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I do not know oppression.  But I do know fear.  The gift of this Psalm is the perspective that it offers.  What are we to fear?  Christ instructs us that we are not to fear the one who can destroy our body, but rather we are to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.  Fear rightly expressed toward God dispels all other fears and eliminates the very source of worry.  What can flesh do to me when I have verse 13; ” For you have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God, in the light of life.”

Once God has saved my soul from the eternal death that awaits it apart from His grace, what could possibly arise against me to inspire fear.  What darkness could encompass me when I walk in the Light of life.  A light, that John tells us, has not been overcome by darkness, but rather has overcome the darkness with light.  What can man do to me?  What can I do to myself?  O God rise up and save me from my enemies.  Save me from myself, I believe God, help my unbelief.

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The True Sinners Prayer…

March 13, 2009

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Psalm 51

          

When reading these weighty psalms written by David, full of truth and wisdom concerning God and his power, it is so easy to forget that this pillar of our faith was all too human. 

        Psalm 51 serves as a wake up call.  A wake up call to David and the extent of his sin and need for God’s mercy.  A wake up call to us, that even the most profound and inspiring and gifted individuals are flawed and sinful like the rest of us.  What a gift we are given to see how a truly good man “after God’s own heart” approaches God in the waste and wake of sin.  I have been there many times.  And often for lack of any better or more original phrase call out to Almighty God, the God of my salvation, “have mercy on me.”  My mind like David often can not get past the thought of my sin, “it is ever before me” as it was David.  This psalm is a primer on sin and its consequences and on God and His power. 

Sin is ever-present, as are its effects (v3), and no matter who or whom we sin against all sin is against He who is without sin. (v4)  But this holy God is merciful (v1), and creates in us a pure heart and cleanses us (vv7-10) and restores us and delivers us (vv12,14).  He does these not because we work at it or because we strive to be good, but if our heart is truly broken and contrite.  I wonder if David thought back to Saul and how he was told that to obey is far better than sacrifice, it is the heart’s condition that concerns God.  If I had my way I would make this the “Sinners Prayer” for it was only when I came to realize that I had sin before me, a merciful God above me, and a broken heart within me that I came to the knowledge of a personal God who cleanses, delivers and restores my soul.  With this experience I too wanted to “sing aloud of His righteousness…” “and my mouth show forth His praise.”  That is the result of a true repentant, Sinners Prayer.