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Translating Psalm 16

Translating Psalm 16

mikhtam.a
By David.

Keep me safe, God,
Because I take refuge in you!

You have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord.
There is nothing good for me apart from you.”
As for the holy ones who are in the land,
“They are also majestic. All my delight is in them.”

Those who set a bride-price with another (god) have their sorrows multiplied.
I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood
And will not take their names upon my lips.

Yahweh is my chosen portion and my cup;
You yourself will hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, my inheritance is pleasing to me.

I will bless Yahweh who has counseled me;
Yes, by night my heart instructs me.
I have set Yahweh before me continually;
Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices;
Yes, my flesh will dwell in security,
Because you will not abandon my soul to Sheol
Nor will you make your holy one to see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
Fullness of joys are with your face;
Pleasures are in your right hand forever.

Notes:

I took advantage of John Barach’s excellent translation of Psalm 16. I concur with John when he writes that “the word mohar likely refers to a bride-price, money negotiated with a woman’s father but given to the woman.” In other words, those who make bargains with false gods end up with great sorrow. Further, verse 11 generally has “presence” for paniym. I find the translation of “face” to be more faithful to the Hebrew. The benediction of Aaron implies this translation. I prefer the consistency throughout. “His face shine upon you,” rather than “his presence shine upon you.” The idea is that God is turning his sight toward our afflictions and needs and blessing us. I also continue the translation of “Yahweh” for “LORD” which gives us God’s covenantal name. I was pleased to see John Goldingay’s translation of the Old Testament follow this pattern throughout.

  1. Classically this refers to a liturgical setting; certainly a musical reference  (back)
Bread in the Bible

Bread in the Bible

The Bible has a fairly developed view of bread. Bread appears as a gift, such as in Melchizedek’s gift to Abram; it shows up when Jacob deceived Esau and gave him some bread with the lentil stew; bread is also a protagonist in the Passover Feast; it’s what fed the Israelites in the wilderness; in fact, sharing bread in the Psalms is an expression for close friendships; in the Book of Ruth, dipping bread in the vinegar is given as a ritual that brings Boaz and Ruth together. There is so much more.

If you were to put all that data together, you would see that the purpose of bread—whether literal or figurative– is central to the relational life of the church. In I Corinthians Paul says that we are one loaf, which is to say we are bound together as one. And finally, in John 6, Jesus is referred to as the true bread from heaven.

At the Lord’s Supper, we eat from one bread as a fulfillment of this beautiful typology. God uses this theme to invite us to his Son, the bread of life. We come together today as one loaf offered to God. May God hear us and accept our offering.

 

Elder Jonathan Sutton’s Paper Against James B. Jordan on Halloween

Elder Jonathan Sutton’s Paper Against James B. Jordan on Halloween

While I do not agree with the conclusion of this article, at the request of Rev. Mickey Schneider and his bride Judy, I wanted to honor the late Jonathan Sutton who wrote this short paper against James Jordan’s position. Elder Sutton served as elder of Trinity Presbyterian and James B. Jordan was a resident scholar and musician who also served Trinity Presbyterian for many years. Both were good friends and Jim Jordan had much respect for Elder Sutton. I had the distinct priviliege of knowing Elder Sutton. He was one of the men who laid hands on me at my ordination.

What Are We To Do with Halloween?

Trinity Presbyterian Church

Pastoral Paper — April 2008

Jonathon Sutton

Halloween has long been a problem for Christians. It appears the most pagan of all celebrations, accompanied by an onslaught of horror films and stories of hauntings. Consequently, many will not let their children go “Trick or Treating,” thinking it better to “come out from among them, and be … separate.” Many, however, do let their children participate, seeing it as a harmless bit of costumed fun, with no more occult significance than the tooth fairy. But incidents (or rumors) of candy tampering, along with a continuing nagging discomfort with the imagery involved, have led more and more Christian parents to seek an alternative celebration for their children. They want their children to have joyful, festive lives, and are not willing to sit at home while the neighborhood children go merrily from door to door. What are we Christians to do with Halloween? If we give some thought to the original intent of this ancient holiday, we might celebrate the saints who have gone before us and purpose to reform our ways to better bring glory to our Lord.

What we know as Halloween is a far remove from the origins of All Saints’ Day. From early in the history of the Church, Christians have celebrated, on the day, the memory of the saints who have died and gone to be with the Lord. Costumes were later added as a dramatic element of the celebration. We still have the costumes, but the main purpose of the day has been all but forgotten, and we are left only with a play with a meaningless script.

Jim Jordan has commented on this old Christian custom of celebrating the victory of Christ over Satan on All Saints’ Eve and All Saints’ Day.[1] As he recounts, All Hallow’s Eve (Hallowe’en) observances once portrayed a triumphal mockery of Satan and his minions in celebration of his defeat at the hand of Jesus. Christians began dressing their children as grinning red Satans, complete with pitchfork, or as ugly old witches with pointed black hats, crooked noses, and flying brooms. By doing this, they were using mockery to proclaim Christ’s victory over Satan, pointedly allying themselves with God in holy derision.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2:4)

The culture of those days was one of general acceptance of the spiritual realm of angels and demons. In that day, Satan and witches were acknowledged powers to be dealt with. When confronted with these ludicrous images of the principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world, the people would understood that much spiritual wrestling remained to be done before the enemy was run from the land. To such a people, the message of a Christ who had achieved victory over these wicked powers was a welcome one.

Ridicule may be an appropriate weapon for the Christian in any age. There is a case for ridicule, a time when one must confront spiritual poseurs by, as Charles Spurgeon said — “cheerfully bear(ing) the criticism of my more somber brethren. I am deeply in earnest, however playful my remarks may seem to be. These follies may be best shot at by the light arrows of ridicule, and therefore I employ them, not being of the same mind as those ‘who think all virtue lies in gravity/And smiles are symptoms of depravity.’”[2] When the ridiculous is accepted as received wisdom, this calls for a grand puncturing. But dressing up in Halloween costumes no longer affronts the ridiculous. In our culture, it buttresses it.

The times have changed. Today, many people scorn any mention of spiritual wickedness, thinking it rank superstition. Others entertain thoughts of the demons and dark powers because of the thrill of fear that they bring, without seriously anticipating any danger to themselves. Almost no one would view the appearance of children at the door, dressed as caricatures of Satan and other dark powers, as holy mockery of the defeated foes of Christ. They would instead think a) “Look at the cute little devil!”, b) “This one makes thirty — If this doesn’t stop soon, I’ll miss (name of favorite television program)”, or c) “Aren’t those the Smiths? I thought they were Christians.” A message of holy derision would be utterly lost in our culture.

For a message to be conveyed, it takes more than a speaker; it also takes a hearer. Biblical mockery leaves no doubt who is being mocked. The priests of Baal knew that Elijah was mocking them as he said “Cry aloud…peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked”(1 Kings 18:27). The modern parallel would be to “call the witches out.” But that is not what the Treat-or-Treaters are doing. Few now living would be able to decode this message of triumphant mockery. If there was an evident, Satan-worshipping element in our community that was seeking to present Satan as glorious and praiseworthy, we could target their message with pointed mockery — telling the community that, despite what they have heard, Satan has no power over God’s people. There is no blatant cult of Satan worship in our society. It is all masked as personal freedom.

Indeed, when we dress up our children as ghouls and goblins, the message our neighbors hear is that all this Satan stuff is no big deal; that the demonic realm is nothing but an uncomfortable joke with an exciting frisson of horror. But the swarm of horror movies and haunted house stories that come out every Halloween tells them a different story. This story says “There is a real demonic realm out there. Strange, unexplained things that you had better hope you don’t get mixed up with.” Many are hearing this story, and taking from it a message of fear. What was at one time mockery of Satan has gradually become mere ghoulish silliness and dabbling with fear. How can we show them that God is greater than Satan? By ridicule and mockery? Jesus ridiculed the Pharisees, calling them whited sepulchers, and revealing their efforts at appearing holy to sewing new patches onto old wineskins. Would he have approved of his disciples caricaturing and lampooning the Pharisees? God does not call us to mock Satan. There is a better way to celebrate Jesus’ triumph. How can we best counter the fear-orgy that is Halloween? How are we to confront the dark powers?

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9

We are called to be sober, vigilant, and steadfast in resistance, not triumphant and exultantly brash. Martin Luther did this on All Saints’ Day in 1517, by nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He saw the error that had crept into the Church, and revealed the error before the people, reproving the works of darkness (Eph 5:11). In so doing, he sought the purity of the faith for which so many had died. Luther made his stand in accordance with Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6:12-20:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:12-20

Do we apply this passage about the Christian’s conflict with Satan to Halloween? Should this read “Wherefore take upon you masks and horns, noses and brooms, and mock the rulers of the darkness of this world”? No. We are to stand in faith and truth, and to pray, and to speak boldly, as Luther did.

One way we can do this is to honor those who have lived godly lives. Our American culture knows little of honor. Historical figures are shown to be flawed, present day leaders are all suspect, and there is little hope for the future. But we Christians live a different life. We can show honor to the past, take joy in the present, and have hope for the future. Our tradition can provide a different and better message for our neighbors — one of reflection and thankfulness for God’s continuing care for His people, instead of fear and cynicism. We can craft local celebrations that give honor to our fathers and mothers in the faith by both remembering what they have done and by giving them honor, in joyful obedience to the fifth commandment.

For Reformation Day to be seen by the community as something other than Christian “me-too-ism” — mimicking the world in a dorky fashion, without its native coolness — it must be characterized by distinctively Christian joy and power. Instead of mockery, there should be honor; instead of fear, faith. If we spend the evening at home and have young trick-or-treaters come to our door, we should treat them with loving compassion, not with cold disdain. If we celebrate the holiday together, we should do so with our might and main, planning costumery, games, music, food and whatever else to the glory of our Lord. A different era of Christendom might be celebrated each year, with children and adults dressed somewhat in the dress of the era, and food and games and music chosen to reflect the time. Activities could highlight the accomplishments of Christ in His Church during that era. All Saint’s Day could become for us a holiday of joyful celebration and of renewing our relation to the Church triumphant.

Halloween has lost its way, and is in need of reformation. Satan has indeed made inroads in our church, our families, ourselves. Rather than just saying that Satan has no power, we must take back ground that we have ceded to him by our neglect, rebellion, and lust. Call upon God to deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Bring His light into the dark and spooky corners of your heart and the lives of those around you. Instead of being uncomfortable with the traditions of the world, we should forge our own. Let’s use the day to celebrate the work of God’s Holy Spirit in His people in every land, in every age.

[1] James B. Jordan, Open Book Newsletter Concerning Halloween, OPEN BOOK, Views and Reviews, No. 28, Biblical Horizons 1996.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 1875, pp. 289-290

James B. Jordan on Halloween

James B. Jordan on Halloween

Jim Jordan is a true genius. May God grant him a recovery of mind because I would love to watch him write and think again. It would be a miracle, but God works wonders like this all the time. If you have not read his masterpice on Halloween it’s worth 10 minutes. This is what he writes in his Halloween piece:

The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

 

The Blood of Martyrs as Seeds

The Blood of Martyrs as Seeds

God is harvesting his saints in death. He plants seeds, waters them and harvests them. Leithart adds that the blood of the martyrs is not simply the seed of the church, “it is also the founding blood of a new world.” God sprinkles his seeds and collects them at the harvest as a fruitful and plentiful innumerable number.

Musical Instruments and Lordship

Musical Instruments and Lordship

Peter Leithart adds that “musical instruments and a sung liturgy are a musical confession that the Lamb is on the throne…unmusical worship is a confession that “Jesus is not Lord” (335).

Revelation 7:13-17: My Translation

Revelation 7:13-17: My Translation

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying: “These dressed in white robes—who are they and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” For this reason, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the the throne will be a shelter over them. No longer will they go hungry, neither will they thirst again; the sun will not beat down upon them, nor any (scorching) heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them and guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

A couple of quick notes:

a) There is a strong liturgical element in this text beginning earlier in verse 7. The vestments of this martyred group is liturgical in nature. The word for robes is stolē in the Greek. The color “white” also becomes a liturgical color.

b) “Springs of water” in verse 17 appears later in chapter 14 when speaking of God’s control of all creation. The springs is a source of life for sojourners.

c) This post tribulation scenario involves the Lamb providing shepherding for his people. Hence, the heavenly realm still is incomplete until the parousia.

Conversing with a Jehovah’s Witness

Jehovah’s Witness: Have you ever read the Bible?
Me: I enjoy reading it.
JW: Well, Hurricane Michael destroyed so much. We live in a chaotic world, don’t we?
Me: Yes, we do. And my only hope in this chaotic world is that God is sovereign over Hurricane Michael and all evil. Don’t you agree?
JW: Well, I believe he is very powerful but that Hurricane Michael was outside his control.
Me: Did Hurricane Michael catch God by surprise?
JW: Of course, it did. Think about Adam. Do you believe God thought Adam was going to be deceived?
Me: I actually fully believe God knew all things from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 which means every part of history is carefully orchestrated to give God the greatest amount of glory in heaven above and earth below. Even Adam’s fall was not a cosmic oops to God, but occurred exactly as he planned.
JW: But don’t you believe that Adam was a free agent?
Me: Yes, I do.
JW: So, we are all free agents.
Me: No. Our ability to choose divine things ended in Genesis 3.
JW: Well, that can’t be because in Matthew 4 Jesus chose to reject the devil’s offer and he used his free will to do so.
Me: Precisely, Jesus is the greater Adam who conquered freely what Adam failed to conquer.
JW: OK. Thanks for chatting.
Me: I actually appreciated how your tone

This is a pretty accurate summary of my 10 minute conversation with a JW this morning. It’s not very coherent (it jumped to other related topics without resolving the previous one) and I am sure I could have done a better job communicating my thoughts. Still, these conversations help chrystallize the Christian message. We all need our cozy convictions challenged.

The Kingdom of Sacramentia: A Tale

The Kingdom of Sacramentia: A Tale

Long ago in the kingdom of Sacramentia lived a righteous king. He loved his people and gave them the best of the land. The people served the king with great joy. Their feasts abounded with the best wine and meat. The people lived a happy life. One day a messenger from the kingdom of Adam came to the gates. The people had heard of the Adamites; they were known to be cruel and deceitful. The officer at the gate lifted his sword and asked: “Adamite, what brings you to Sacramentia?” The messenger said: “I have a message to proclaim!” “Very well,” said the guard. The messenger said: “Thus saith Adam, the great and mighty king: “Bow down to me and I will give you all of the world, including its riches and glory. All you must do is leave the kingdom of Sacramentia and follow me back to my land.”

Surprisingly, several members from various families followed the messenger. The seduction of riches and glory were sufficient to lead them away from their beloved kingdom even though their king was gracious and loved them. The citizens began to leave one by one. Those who stayed cried as they saw friends and family leave them. When the last citizen left, the king of Sacramentia rose from his throne and ordered the guards to shut the gates. As the departing men and women looked back, they were startled by the loud sounds of the gates shutting behind them. They could no longer see their homes and relatives. The greeness of the grass was replaced by a desert filled with uncertainty. “Surely soon we will have everything we once had and much, much more,” one young man said. When the messenger sent from Adam heard it he laughed and said with a loud voice: “This king whom you served could only give you his riches and glory, but my king will give you the world.” When those who departed heard those words, they remembered a saying in Sacramentia: “Those who offer you the world will also destroy your soul.”

The Gospel of Judgment

The Gospel of Judgment

Leirthart translates Revelation 14:6 & 7b as: “And I saw another angel flying in mid-sky heaven, having an eternal gospel to gospelize those who dwell on the land…because the hour of judgment has come.” The words “Gospel” and Preach” have the same root. a This premise entails that the gospel is meant as a public means of execution to the nations since Revelation is addressing a time of judgment. The Gospel gospelizes not only for the sake of saving sinners but also to bring judgment upon those who trample on the Son of Man. The Gospel is apocalyptic in nature.

  1. Leithart, Revelation Commentary, 91  (back)