Prayer and the New Creation: An Eschatological Event

For those who were not able to attend the prayer service last night, I am including the homily I gave on prayer and the breakdown of the service itself. The homily is based on Psalm 104 and Colossians 3.1-4; 4.2.

In his primer on prayer titled A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry states that, “Prayer is a principal branch of religious worship, which we are moved to by the very light of nature, and obliged to by some of its fundamental laws,” (p. 11). By this, Henry means that by the very fact of our being created by God, there is a natural obligation for mankind to acknowledge the creator. For when we do not, we live as though God is not real. Since we have been created, we are the lesser creature, and therefore, we should acknowledge the one who is greater than we. Prayer, then, would seem to have its starting point grounded upon creation—God as the creator and man as the creature.

Although Henry refers to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras for this understanding of prayer, it is certainly true that the Bible teaches it as well. Continue reading

>“An Unfinished Advent: Praying for the Completion of Christmas” Psalm 72 & Matthew 2:7-11

>Yesterday, for the third time in three months, I had the privilege of filling the pulpit for Covenant OPC in New Bern, NC. As in the other times, it was a blessed time of worship and fellowship. It is always such a joy to worship with and preach for a congregation that hungers for the word of God.

Given that it was the Lord’s Day after Christmas and the fact that I didn’t get to preach last Lord’s Day, I took the opportunity in the morning service to preach about Christmas, sharing my thoughts that I had during this season. The main observation I had this year is that there seems to be a general misunderstanding of Christmas. Many Christians seem to have a limited perspective when it comes to reflecting on the birth of Christ. The limited perspective that I am referring to is not so much about a proper theological understanding of the virgin birth or even the right understanding about God taking on to himself flesh.

So, what limited perspective am I talking about? Well, you can listen to it here to find out.

>Jonathan Edwards Saw It Without Reading Vos

>In the introduction to his sermon on Psalm 72.6 “Like Rain upon Mown Grass,” Jonathan Edwards makes this observation about reading the psalm christocentrically:

It is observable that the Holy Spirit, in some of the Psalms, has a twofold aim
and intendment, the one more immediate and the other more ultimate. They
have respect more immediately to some person that is an eminent type of
Christ. But their principle and more ultimate respect is to Christ
himself. So many of the Psalms have a more immediate respect to David; but
the main respect is to Christ, the son of David. So some of the Psalms
have a more immediate respect to Solomon, but ultimately respect Christ,
(Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742, available
online
).

The importance of recognizing this christocentric principle is in understanding the main thrust of the Holy Spirit is to communicate truths about Christ, his reign and his kingdom, and not necessarily about Solomon’s kingdom. By reading the Psalm christocentrically, Edwards understands that the blessings of the psalm are eschatologically focused.

Jesus comes down from heaven like rain from the sky. Jesus’s heavenly person and benefits become the priority of the psalm. Just as the grass is nourished and quenched by rain from the sky, so believers are nourished and refreshed by his heavenly presence and work. This presence is twofold: first, in the incarnation of the first advent and second, in his coming in the second advent on the great day of judgment. The result in one of his applications is to encourage believers, because they have experienced the blessing of Christ come down from heaven, to forsake worldliness and renounce the vanity of exaltation in this life. Life in Christ is a life of humbly looking to Christ and not the world or the self for one’s blessings and for righteousness. Look to Christ who alone can revive the soul and be refreshed!

Edwards christocentric reading naturally leads to the eschatological unfolding of the Psalm. Now, if only Edwards would have applied this to every psalm! If only he could have read Vos.

>Some Helpful Resources on the Psalms

>For the past couple of months, we have been attending Immanuel Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Norfolk, Va while waiting for a call. In the morning, the senior pastor is preaching through the Psalms. From listening to the sermons, I have been reminded of the deep riches that can be mined from the Psalms, as well as the importance and necessity of reading and applying them Christocentrically. So I recently decided to do my own study of the Psalms, including some work on the use of the Psalter in Reformed worship. Here are some resources I have found helpful so far.

First, a classic place to begin for any reader, but especially the Reformed reader is the “The Author’s Preface” in John Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms. This can be found in volume four of the Baker edition on pages xxxv-xlix.

Second, for any proper Christ-centered, redemptive-historical reading of the Psalms, one needs to begin with Geerharudus Vos, “Eschatology of the Psalter.” This article first appeared in the Princeton Theological Review back in 1920, but has also been republished as an appendix in The Pauline Eschatology. Now, this article is not for the faint of heart–it is challenging, but well worth great effort. When one comes to understand Vos, one will find that every Psalm, not just some of the Psalms, are “messianic.”

Third, for an updated case arguing for a Christ-centered, redemptive-historical reading of the Psalms in which all Psalms are understood to be “messianic,” I am reading Richard P. Belcher, Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms.


Fourth, for a handbook that is geared towards teaching the exegetical method for approaching a Psalm, I am reading Mark Futato, Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook. This book does a great job of starting with the most basic elements of Hebrew poetry and then moves you through the exegetical process, including understanding the Psalms redemptive-historically and theologically, including how to identify the type of Psalm, and how to teach or preach the Psalm. The book is equally practical and theological. The book may appear technical to those who have not had Hebrew, but lack of training in Hebrew will not cause anyone to miss anything.

Fifth, for an introduction and suggested guide for using the Psalms in worship, I have been reading John D. Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship. Although this book is not as Reformed as I was expecting (the author is the director for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship), it still has much to offer concerning the historic use of the Psalms and current ways to use them in worship and prayer.

Last, a book that I am not yet reading but plan to is Bruce Waltke and James Houston, The Psalms as Christian Worship. This book combines exegetical insights from Waltke (who also believes that every psalm is messianic) with historical insights on how the Psalms have been interpreted and used throughout the history of the church. The only reason I’m not reading it yet is because it has not yet been released! But I will begin it as soon as I get it.

The plan is to provide more in-depth reviews of these resources as I am able, so check back for more info. But for now, pick one or two and get reading!

>Cassiodorus on the Psalms

>From The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship:

The psalms make our vigils pleasant when in the silence of night the choirs hymn their praise. the human voice bursts into melody, and with words skilfully set to music it leads us back to Him from whom divine eloquence has come for the salvation of the human race. . . . From Him we have both obtained our saving religion and have come to know the revealed mysteries of the holy Trinity. So the psalms rightly unite the undivided glory of Father, son, and Holy Spirit, so that their praise is proved to be perfect.

Truly they are vessels of truth, for they contain so many virtues, they are suffused with so many odours of heaven, and they are thronged with so many celestial treasures. They are the water-jugs containing the heavenly wine and keeping it ever fresh and undiluted. Their marvelous sweetness does not grow bitter with worldly corruptions, but retains its worth and is continually enhanced with the grace of the purest sweetness. They are a most abundant store, the fecundity of which cannot be exhausted, although so many peoples of the earth drink of it.

What a wondrous sweetness flows from them when sung! . . . But we are not to sing like parrots and larks which seek to imitate men’s words but are known to be utterly unaware of what they sing. True, a charming song delights our minds, but does not impel them to fruitful tears; it soothes the ears but does not direct its hearers to heavenly things. But we are pricked at heart if we can heed what our lips can say.

>Sermon on Psalm 24

>In an earlier post, I made an exegetical paper on Psalm 24 available, since there seems to be a lot of interest on that psalm. Well, I seem to get a lot of traffic on that particular post, but often from persons looking for a sermon on Psalm 24. So, I have edited an old sermon that I did that was based on the exegetical work found in the paper.

So if you are interested, you can read my sermon on Psalm 24, Jesus Christ the King of Glory.

For those who are extra ambitious, you can listen to a sermon on Psalm 24 by Charlie Dennison (whom though I never met has shaped my preaching very much) who takes the psalm a little differently than I do. Read mine, listen to his and compare!

Psalm 24 Jesus Christ the King of Glory Exegesis

Ever since I posted the sermon on Psalm 24, I have noticed several hits to that post because of persons doing Google searches on Jesus Christ and Psalm 24. So, since there seems to be a lot of interest on the topic and for those looking for more of an exegetical study of the Psalm, here is an exegetical paper I wrote on it while in seminary.

For those who have not had Greek or Hebrew, just skip the more technical parts. The paper begins with my translation of the Psalm and my defense of my translation (pp. 1-5). Following that opening section is the main body of the study (pp. 5-37). The paper concludes with some technical appendices covering issues such as the Hebrew verse structure of Psalm 24, a couple of text-critical issues and a couple of word studies (pp.38-55).

Let me know what you think and if you agree or disagree.

Read it here.

"Jesus Christ: The King of Glory," Psalm 24

Historically, Christians have utilized the Psalms as the language describing their communion with God. In a sense, they have understood them as the poetry of the believer’s soul in response to the redemptive work of God. As such, persons often find themselves praying and singing the Psalms in the first person as a means for expressing themselves to God, so that the words of the Psalmist become the words of the worshiper.

Let me go on record in saying that this is a good thing, I highly recommend it, and I do it myself. Yet, when we read the Psalms this way, we must be careful not to fall into the error of reading them first and foremost “me-centrically” or “egocentrically,” for they are not primarily about “me.”

The Psalms are first and foremost about Christ. As Geerhardus Vos has aptly stated, “The content of the Psalter is eschatological and messianic.” Every Psalm either expresses the words of Christ or words about Christ. To read the Psalms correctly, then, we must first read them to hear Christ and to see Christ. But reading the Psalms “Christocentrically” does not mean that you cannot also read them as your own words; rather, reading the Psalms Christocentrically is the means by which the words of the Psalms become your words. In fact, I would assert that reading the Psalms Christocentrically necessitates that the words become your words.

The gospel itself teaches us that when the Spirit gives us faith, he uses that faith to unite us to Christ. The answer to question 30 of the WSC states, “The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling,” (emphasis mine). The apostle Paul teaches us that this union with Christ means that we have been “crucified with Christ. It is no longer [we] who live, but Christ who lives in [us]. And the life [we] now live in the flesh [we] live by faith in the Son of God, (Gal 2.20).

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Having put forward my understanding of the Psalms, here is a recent sermon on Psalm 24. You can listen to it here. (Audio cut off the end)