Wednesday, December 7, 2022

God’s Wonderful Works (Psalm 139)

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14a).

Today we continue our study of Psalm 139 and its praise of God’s all-knowing character. In the first part of the Psalm, David gives examples of how God executes his omniscience in the life of His creation. In this second part, David expounds on why we should not be surprised that God knows everything about us—He created us, fashioning our very being in our mother’s womb and knowing everything about us before we breathed our first breath. Calvin wrote, “It ought to be no ground of wonder that all the windings and recesses of our hearts are known to Him who, when we were enclosed in our mother’s womb, saw us as clearly and perfectly as if we had stood before Him in the light of mid-day.… We need not then wonder if God, who formed man so perfectly in the womb, should have an exact knowledge of him after he is ushered into the world.”

This part of Psalm 139 is designed not to give praise to man for his wonderful construction, but instead to honor the Creator. Whenever we contemplate the glorious work of God in creation, our thoughts should not remain on creation, but should extend to the glory and majesty of God. David describes the glorious process of man’s creation for the purpose of extolling God, of seeing His creation for the glory that it is in order to give God even greater praise.

David says that man was fearfully and wonderfully made. On this thought Calvin footnotes Warner’s comments on this passage, which capture the glorious meaning of these words: “Never was so terse and expressive a description of the physical conformation of man given by any human being. So fearfully are we made, that there is not an action or gesture of our bodies, which does not, apparently, endanger some muscle, vein, or sinew, the rupture of which would destroy either life or health. We are so wonderfully made, that our organization infinitely surpasses, in skill, contrivance, design, and adaptation of means to ends, the most curious and complicated piece of mechanism, not only ever executed ‘by art and man’s device,’ but ever conceived by the human imagination.”

Praise God for the awesome gift of life He has given you, for fashioning you according to His wisdom, and for knowing you intimately before you were even born.

How should Psalm 139 affect your understanding of human life? Do you give others the respect they deserve because they are fashioned by God? How does Psalm 139 undermine the pro-abortion argument? As God gives you opportunities use Psalm 139 to defend the dignity of human life at all stages of development.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Our Omniscient Lord (Psalm 139)

"For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether" (Ps. 139:4).

Psalm 139 stands second only to Psalm 104 for its majestic sentiments, eloquent style, and beauty of expression in describing the awesome character of God. While some commentators maintain that Psalm 139 extols both God’s omniscience and His omnipresence, Calvin argues that the psalmist’s main design is to elevate before the assembly God’s all-knowing character. The praise and recognition of God’s omniscience, being the main intention of the psalmist, weave through every strain and verse of this beautiful psalm.

David first admits God’s all-encompassing knowledge regarding his own life: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.… For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether” (vv. 1–4). From this testimony, we learn that God knows all our thoughts before we speak them. He knows everything we do throughout the day and night. What folly then that you should try to get away with sins, no matter how secret they may seem.

You cannot escape God’s all-knowing presence—no matter how hard you try. David tried but found God in every corner: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into the heaven You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (vv. 7–10). There exists a close relationship between God’s infinity or omnipresence and His omniscience. Not only is God everywhere, but He knows all things absolutely and completely. Many people may think they have escaped God’s judgment because they have fooled men, but God’s eyes never close and even the darkness is as light to the Lord.

Because God knows all things, confess to Him your innermost thoughts, the sins you have kept in secret. He knows them anyway. Go to Him, and do not hesitate because of your shame. He knows what you have done, and He waits for you to come and open your soul to Him—only then will you find peace and tranquility in the arms of your all-knowing Lord.

Examine your life for unconfessed sins. Consider why you have not confessed these sins to God. Are you afraid? Are you ashamed? Do you just want to pretend they never happened? Remember God’s omniscience, that He knows all things. God commands you to confess your sins and find forgiveness in Him. Do so today.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

On the Benefits of Systematic Theology

"Systematic theology is beneficial as an extension of the teaching function of the churches, for the orderly and integrated formulation of biblical truths, for the undergirding of the preaching of preachers and lay Christians, for the defense of gospel truth against error that has invaded the church, for the legitimation of the gospel before philosophy and culture, as the foundation for Christian personal and social ethics, and for more effective universal propagation of the gospel and interaction with adherents of non-Christian religions."

—James Leo Garrett Jr., “Why Systematic Theology?,” CTR 3, no. 2 (1989): 281.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

What Are the Major Motifs of Scripture?

The following is from John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, eds., Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 45–47.

The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books inspired by God. These documents are gathered into two Testaments, the Old (thirty-nine) and the New (twenty-seven). Prophets, priests, kings, and leaders from the nation of Israel wrote the Old Testament books in Hebrew (with some passages in Aramaic). The apostles and their associates wrote the New Testament books in Greek.

The Old Testament record starts with the creation of the universe and closes about four hundred years before the first coming of Jesus Christ. The flow of history through the Old Testament moves along the following lines:

  1. Creation of the universe
  2. Fall of man
  3. Judgment flood over the earth
  4. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel)—fathers of the chosen nation
  5. The history of Israel
    1. Exile in Egypt (430 years)
    2. Exodus and wilderness wanderings (40 years)
    3. Conquest of Canaan (7 years)
    4. Era of the judges (350 years)
    5. United kingdom—Saul, David, Solomon (110 years)
    6. Divided kingdom—Judah and Israel (350 years)
    7. Exile in Babylon (70 years)
    8. Return and rebuilding of the land (140 years)

The details of this history are explained in the thirty-nine books, which can be divided into five categories:

  1. The Law—5 (Genesis–Deuteronomy)
  2. History—12 (Joshua–Esther)
  3. Wisdom—5 (Job–Song of Solomon)
  4. Major Prophets—5 (Isaiah–Daniel)
  5. Minor Prophets—12 (Hosea–Malachi)

The completion of the Old Testament was followed by four hundred years of silence, during which time God did not speak through prophets or inspire any Scripture. That silence was broken by the arrival of John the Baptist announcing that the promised Savior had come. The New Testament records the rest of the story, from the birth of Christ to the culmination of all history and the final eternal state. So the two Testaments go from creation to consummation, eternity past to eternity future.

While the thirty-nine Old Testament books major on the history of Israel and the promise of the coming Savior, the twenty-seven New Testament books major on the person of Christ and the establishment of the church. The four Gospels give the record of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Each of the four writers views the greatest and most important event of history, the coming of the God-man, Jesus Christ, from a different perspective. Matthew looks at him through the perspective of his kingdom, Mark through the perspective of his servanthood, Luke through the perspective of his humanness, and John through the perspective of his deity.

The book of Acts tells the story of the impact of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord Savior—from his ascension, the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the church through the early years of gospel preaching by the apostles and their associates. Acts records the establishment of the church in Judea, in Samaria, and into the Roman Empire.

The twenty-one Epistles were written to churches and individuals to explain the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ, with its implications for life and witness until he returns.

The New Testament closes with Revelation, which starts by picturing the current church age and culminates with Christ’s return to establish his earthly kingdom, bringing judgment on the ungodly and glory and blessing for believers. Following the millennial reign of the Lord Savior will be the last judgment, leading to the eternal state. All believers of all history enter the ultimate eternal glory prepared for them, and all the ungodly are consigned to hell to be punished forever.

To understand the Bible, it is essential to grasp the sweep of that history from creation to consummation. It is also crucial to keep in focus the unifying theme of Scripture. The one constant theme unfolding throughout the whole Bible is this: God for his own glory has chosen to create and gather to himself a group of people to be the subjects of his eternal kingdom, who will praise, honor, and serve him forever and through whom he will display his wisdom, power, mercy, grace, and glory. To gather his chosen ones, God must redeem them from sin. The Bible reveals God’s plan for this redemption from its inception in eternity past to its completion in eternity future. Covenants, promises, and epochs are all secondary to the one continuous plan of redemption.

There is one God. The Bible has one divine Source. Scripture is one book. It has one plan of grace, recorded from initiation through execution to consummation. From predestination to glorification, the Bible is the story of God redeeming his chosen people for the praise of his glory.

As God’s redemptive purposes and plan unfold in Scripture, five recurring motifs are constantly emphasized. Everything revealed on the pages of both the Old Testament and the New is associated with these five categories. Scripture is always teaching or illustrating (1) the character and attributes of God; (2) the tragedy of sin and disobedience to God’s holy standard; (3) the blessedness of faith and obedience to God’s standard; (4) the need for a Savior by whose righteousness and substitution sinners can be forgiven, declared just, and transformed to obey God’s standard; and (5) the coming glorious end of redemptive history in the Lord Savior’s earthly kingdom and the subsequent eternal reign and glory of God and Christ. While reading through the Bible, one should be able to relate each portion of Scripture to these dominant topics, recognizing that what is introduced in the Old Testament is also made clearer in the New Testament. 

Friday, December 2, 2022

Heavenly Worship (Psalm 138)

"I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You" (Ps. 138:1).

In Psalm 138 David describes what it means to worship the Lord. He speaks of having a sincere heart, worshiping in holiness, directing his worship toward the holy temple. Just as the Old Testament believers looked to the temple, Christians today look to Christ. Acceptable worship only comes through the mediation of Christ, and in true worship Christ is praised and exalted above every other name.

In the midst of this declaration of praise and worship to the Lord, David mentions something of significant interest concerning worship. He says, “Before the gods I will sing praises to You” (v. 1). What could David mean by gods? Some commentators suggest that David is talking about rulers and kings, those in high standing. They maintain that David is expressing his boldness to worship freely before those who reign with earthly power and influence. Calvin, however, argues that the context requires gods to be interpreted as angels. He correlates this passage with 1 Corinthians 11:10 where Paul exhorts believers to worship properly because they are worshiping God in the presence of the angels. Some people think Paul is speaking of the everyday Christian life, but the reference to the presence of angels in worship signifies public worship, not private.

What is significant both in 1 Corinthians 11 and Psalm 138 about the angels? Both these passages remind us that worship of the Lord is spiritual in nature and that all of God’s creation, both in the earthly realm and heavenly, worship Him and give Him praise. When we gather for public worship, the visible church not only gathers together, but the church that is unseen and all the heavenly host lift up continuous praise to the King of heaven. When you gather with others to sing praises to the Lord and declare His Word in the assembly, you are part of an even greater assembly that worships before His heavenly throne. The angels are spiritual creatures, and so are you; when you gather for public worship, you worship in the spirit. Too often, we keep our heads and hearts buried in the earthly realm when we worship in public. We do not consider the heavenly nature of our praise. David and Paul, however, understood the significance of worshiping God, that it takes place not only before men, but before the entire heavenly host that extols His holiness forever.

Read 1 Corinthians 11:1–16. Who has ultimate authority in worship? What is the relationship between God’s glory and proper worship? How aware are you of the spiritual nature of worship? As you prepare for worship keep these thoughts in mind, and ask God to make you aware of the vast company with whom you worship.