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Ezra the Reformer

While James takes a look back at some of the gentle reformers of church history, like J.G. Vos, I thought I would reach back a bit further and look at some Old Testament examples of reform and reformers.  There are many such examples from which we can find great encouragement and instruction.  Today, we’ll take a brief look at Ezra and the heart of his ministry.

A Time for Every Purpose

On Monday I spoke at my grandmother’s funeral, which was more difficult than I ever anticipated.  She was 94 and had been declining in her health for some time, so her passing was not unexpected.  Still, no amount of expectation truly prepares you for the sadness of losing a loved one, in this case, a woman who had been a major part of my entire life and most of my memories.  When she died I immediately thought of Ecclesiastes 3 and chose that text to read and expound a bit at her funeral.

Musings on Gentleness

Jared’s confession about his journey to gentleness got me thinking, but before I follow that path let me just say:  the Jared I know is a big softie and wouldn’t be harsh to a flea♥  And this: I’m delighted to be a part of this blog and share some space with guys who I think truly live up to the title of gentle reformers.

Why?

Psalm 74 is much like the book of Lamentations; it is a mournful prayer for relief that is set against the background of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. And like the book of Lamentations, there is a point at which tears give way to praise, and the merciful nature of God, once remembered and proclaimed, gives much needed hope in the midst of an otherwise bleak landscape. But the first verse meets us like a hammer blow: “O God, why have You cast us off forever?”

The opening verses portray what must have been unthinkable to the ancient saints – the enemies of God celebrating among the temple ruins. The psalmist repeatedly asks God why He would allow this (vss. 1, 10, 11) although it was known through the prophets that the sin of Judah was what led to its downfall. The psalmist’s question is like Moses’ question to God after the golden calf incident: “Why does your wrath burn hot against your people?” (Ex. 32:11). It is obvious why God is angry. The question limits itself to the perspective of God’s stake in the covenant relationship, which He has established and maintained for the sake of His […]

Life and Language in the Old Testament

I’m currently reading a little treasure of a book entitled “Life and Language in the Old Testament” by Mary Ellen Chase. I happened upon this book by chance in a used book store on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Having no first-hand knowledge of this author I was skeptical at first, but I took it to be a low stakes gamble with a price tag of 8$. I’m always eager to read something different in the realm of Old Testament studies, and this book did not disappoint.

Chase is no theologian, and when her comments do broach the realm of theology there is the slight hint of higher-critical leanings. However, her great strengths are her appreciation for the literary uniqueness of the Old Testament and her grasp of Hebrew thought patterns. She writes like a novelist, with vivid, descriptive language, and has an unmistakable love for the rich literary features of the Hebrew Bible. The categories and tendencies of Hebrew thought and language, so different from out own, are masterfully described with enthusiasm that is contagious to the reader.

Chase’s approach is an important one. In the Reformed tradition we tend to see any given Hebrew text as a theological nut to […]

Life and Death in the Psalms

There are several curious verses in the Psalms that seem to hold out no prospect of eternal life or any kind of afterlife.  For example:

 Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee?Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction?  Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12)

 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? (Psalm 6:5)

 Similarly, Hezekiah said, “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.” (Isa. 38:18).

 Some commentators will say that these verses exhibit an “undeveloped view of the afterlife” in the Old Testament, and that believers in that age had no clear knowledge of, or hope in, the promise of eternal life.  I don’t believe this is the case.  The Old Testament, and the Psalms in particular, contain many beautiful and memorable expressions of the believer’s hope in eternal life.  Who can deny that David expected to be in the presence of God forever when he said, “In Your presence there is fullness […]

The Scales of Justice (Psalm 69)

When I open the Scriptures with no other agenda than to enjoy and meditate on them, I often find myself in the Psalms.  Every facet of the life of faith is captured here and expressed in words that we can make our own.  I have done much preaching and teaching from the Psalms, but I find there is always a discovery to make in the Book of Praises.  Psalm 69 is my meditation today.  This melancholy cry for justice contains some of the most clear messianic images in all the Psalter, and ultimately gives us a prophetic glimpse of the justice of the Son of God.

 The themes of suffering and persecution form a strain of messianic imagery in the Psalms, reflected particularly in David’s experience. This Psalm , a Psalm of David, takes up these themes again in descriptive detail and provides some of the clearest prophecies of the passion of Christ in the Old Testament. Second only to Psalm 22 in the number of times it is quoted in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul all draw on this Psalm to shed light on the work of Christ. We can hardly read verse 9, “Zeal for […]

Cast Your Burden on the Lord (Psalm 55)

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

     Psalm 55 is among many Davidic Psalms set in the context of conflict, but this time his adversaries are in his hometown (vs. 9-11) and among his friends (vs. 12-14). David had seen opposition from many quarters, but betrayal from within added a bitter dimension to his trials. His restlessness, hurt, and fear are on full display as the psalm opens (vs. 1-5), and the urge to escape overwhelms him (vs. 6-8). There are times in life when we can identify with David’s desperation and the urge to escape from life’s trials, but the psalm concludes with a better, more sure course of action: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (vs. 22).

     This verse is the focal point and crescendo of the psalm. David’s restless fear and the bitter opposition of his betrayers lead him to this conclusion, which is the only admonition of the psalm. Throughout, David is addressing God (vs. 1, 9, 23), but it is as though he pauses in his prayer to glance our way and offer this life-changing lesson […]

Webinar on Covenant Baptism

Hi folks.  Lately I’ve been working on notes for a “webinar” I’m doing on the subject of Covenant Baptism in the context of the Great Commission.  I thought I’d post some details here in case anyone is interested in the topic.  I’ll be talking a little about the Great Commission in general, but then focus on the command to baptize and how that relates back to circumcision in the Old Testament, specifically to children.  If you want to view the webinar, which will be on April 27 at 3pm, you can get more details here.  Below is a rough draft of some of the points I’ll be discussing, just FYI.

The Great Commission and Covenant Baptism

     The “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20) contains a wealth of explicit and implicit connections to the Old Testament.  This missionary charter for the church is founded upon ancient principles and best understood as the culmination and extension of the rich evangelistic theology of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Our focus today will be on infant baptism and its covenantal connections to the Old Testament, but we will begin with a few preliminary points that come from the preamble to the Great Commission.

A.  Christ’s Authority.

            1.  The Great Commission […]