Choir of Creation – Ps 148

We are nearing the end of our study of the Psalms. Just two more to go! Tonight’s offering was Ps 148, a beautifully crafted psalm, full of powerful thoughts concerning God and his relationship to his people. As I presented the material, I felt a little ‘flat’, not as engaged as I had anticipated in the study. As I was thinking the process over, I thought that this was one psalm that could have used some visual aids and perhaps a bit different style. I alternate between a preaching style and a ‘Question/Answer’ style for the Psalms. (The Q & A style is also known as “read my mind”, since I seem to come up with incredibly obscure questions. I need to learn how to write leading questions!)

Psalm 148 is called the Choir of Creation by Derek Kidner, one of the supreme commentators on the Psalms. His little work is just outstanding and has taught me an incredible amount about Hebrew poetry and how to pick out the features of the psalms, not to mention keen insights into each individual psalm.

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what we should ask of the Spirit

On Sundays we have condensed our service times so that we are finished with all three services by about 2:15 pm. Occasionally we take the opportunity to drive up-island to Courtenay BC where my brother pastors Grace Baptist Church of the Comox Valley and take in his service at 6:30 pm. It makes it a long day, but that way my wife and kids (and me) get to hear some good preaching for a change!

This last Sunday night was one of those occasions. (I was also heading up to pick up my beloved pickup truck which had been repaired by a man up there. A perfect Father’s Day, getting one’s truck back!) My brother preached a fine sermon from Daniel 9 (but ran out of time to finish everything – rats!)

The service included a number of favorites requested by the people. One of them especially ministered to my heart, a hymn we don’t have in our hymnal, but one well worth our consideration. To me, it encapsulates everything a believer should ask of the Holy Spirit, and one people so often miss in this age.

Note especially the second stanza: we aren’t asking for an experience, a vision, a sign, but rather that we might see and know our God better. And also note the line about unanswered prayer. Even in that there is a spiritual blessing we need from the Holy Spirit.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

As you think on this hymn, I hope it might minister to your heart as well. You can hear the tune here at the cyberhymnal.


a man of the book

I’d like to recommend an excellent article by one of my old professors, Dr. Stewart Custer. In “Biblical Balance," he writes advocating that we become less shallow in our Scriptural understanding and really get to know our Bibles. I am afraid that most of us are ‘sound bite’ Christians. We treat the Bible like the media treats newsmakers – we take a slice of words that we think represents all of truth on a subject and think we know what the Author meant.

Dr. Custer starts his article this way:

Many people use Scripture for their own purposes. I am referring to sincere Christians who use the Scriptures to reinforce their own private interpretations of the Bible and of life. Many of these people are very godly individuals. I know of preachers whose personal dedication to the Lord is unquestioned, but who have certain doctrines for which they are notorious. They plug these things as though they were the great truths of revelation, when they happen to be of private interpretation.

Most fundamentalists would say they have a handle on the idea of holiness. Dr. Custer points out there are approximately 600 references to the word ‘holiness’ in the Bible (leaving aside passages that don’t specifically use that word). How many of those passages would you say you have thoroughly studied? What kind of grasp do you have on holiness, according to the Scriptures?

Our culture is filled with media, as Dr. Custer points out. All kinds of noise blares at us, demanding our attention. We live fast paced lives. We are ‘Martha’ Christians. We need to learn to be ‘Mary’ Christians, and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Turn off our televisions and our computers. Turn off our ipods and iphones. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Mt 11.29)

I can tell you that I was mightily convicted by this little article this evening


lessons from leviticus

My commentary on Leviticus by G. J. Wenham has this interesting quote at the beginning of chapter 8:

It comes as a surprise to find the laws in Leviticus suddenly interrupted by a long narrative describing the ordination of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. We tend to think of Leviticus as a law book, not as a history book. But the reverse is really the truth. Leviticus and the other books of the Pentateuch are basically concerned with the history of God’s people. They deal with the way God brought them out of Egypt, what happened in the wilderness, how God made a covenant with them, how divine worship was established, and the like. The history provides a setting for the laws, not vice versa.

It is not just that the narrative explains when and why certain laws were given. It does that. But the events are often as important as the laws. God’s saving action is just as significant as his word. Biblical revelation is more than the bare communication of truths about God and his will. The Bible affirms that God directed the course of history in order to create a holy people who knew and did his will. [Wenham, Leviticus, p. 129, underlining mine.]

I am currently preaching in chapter 8 for our communion services (first Sunday of the month). It is rather striking to look at Leviticus from this perspective.

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some sympathy for the sheep

… from an under-shepherd.

The last two weeks have been overtime weeks for me. Our men and I decided to renovate our fellowship room – to improve insulation and keep our heating costs somewhat in control next winter.

Of necessity, I became the designated painter for the project. [Note: this is not due to skill but due to availability.] Two days of painting last week, and two days of painting this week added hours to my responsibilities.

This is not a complaint, but an observation. In the midst of all this, I managed to listen to a Minnick message from his Whetstone Conference last summer on the value of personal devotional time for ministers. Yes! It is valuable. But…

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a little something on the Psalms

Do you study the Psalms? There is rich treasure here to lift your spirit in worship to God. We are studying the Psalms in our Wednesday evening service. We started this a couple of months ago. Each Sunday, I read the upcoming Psalm as our scripture reading in the AM service. I encourage our people to read ahead and think of the theme and the divisions (or outline) of the Psalm before they get there on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday’s, we begin with 15 minutes of favourites, then we launch into a guided discussion. I come away from these sessions extremely uplifted. Our people are showing good insight and I am deepening my understanding of ‘David’s hymn book’.

Tonight’s Psalm is Psalm 8.

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on a significant biblical revival

The Jewish nation cycled back and forth from apostasy and revival several times in its long history. One of the most significant revivals is that under King Hezekiah.

A couple of years ago, I led our church through a chronological study of the Bible. In the study, I was so busy preparing study guides and sermons that I think I missed some of the really significant insights my study was supposed to uncover! This year, we are reading the Bible through on the same chronological schedule. For me, it is the first time reading the schedule devotionally rather than academically.

I was singularly impressed this time with Hezekiah. It is noteworthy that the Lord led the writers of Scripture to record Hezekiah’s revival in three different books of the Bible, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. The repetition heightens the significance. The Lord wants us to learn something here.

The ‘Hezekiahan’ revival involved a deep purging of idolatry led by the king, then faced a traumatic challenge to faith by the Assyrian invasion of Judah by Sennacherib. Hezekiah’s prayer, spreading the blasphemous letter of Sennacherib before the Lord, is an example to us of what real revival faith and Spirit-filled praying is all about.

In particular, the book of Isaiah plays a prominent role in the revival. If you consider the chapters prior to the record of Hezekiah’s stand against Sennacherib (36-39), you will find Isaiah’s oracles against the nations and against the people of God. I presume most of this preaching occurred in Ahaz’ reign. Ahaz is Hezekiah’s father and was a wicked apostate king. It is remarkable that Hezekiah became the man that he was, given the father that he had. Following the record of Hezekiah’s life, Isaiah’s message becomes much more uplifting and hopeful. There are still some oracles of denunciation, but there are also all the Servant songs and other passages of hope and revival. They look well beyond Hezekiah’s day to the final, glorious, permanent revival that is to come when the King reigns. [I think the contrast between Isaiah’s ministry under Ahaz and under Hezekiah explain the differences between the first and second parts of the book far better than the unbelieving theories of intellectuals who propose “Isaiah” and “Deutero-Isaiah”.]

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Hezekiah was influenced to be faithful to the Lord. I suspect that Hezekiah was converted to faith by the ministry of Isaiah. Isaiah certainly figures prominently in the life of Hezekiah as a trusted spiritual advisor.

The record of this revival gives encouragement to me. Faithful preaching of a negative word like Isa 1-35 can bear fruit that deserves the postive word like Isa 40-66.

Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3