Psalm 119: Wide Places

I started following along with Christ Church Ladies’ Fellowship’s Bible Reading Challenge.

Today’s reading was from Psalm 119.

Two themes stood out to me:

  1. Shame – Since I’m currently working my way through Edward T. Welch’s Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest in attempts to deal with my own fear and worry, this word stuck out to me immediately while reading Psalm 119.

    Psalm 119:5-6 (ESV)

    Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
    Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

    Psalm 119:80 (ESV)

    May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
    that I may not be put to shame!

    And in other verses as well. Shame comes from breaking God’s commandments. There is no reason that we should feel shame when we are living within His law. Embarrassment at miscommunications or incidents, sure. But not shame.

  2. Wide places – Okay, so that phrase only appears once. But the theme of walking and God’s path is throughout the Psalm.

    Psalm 119:44-45 (ESV)

    I will keep your law continually,
    forever and ever,
    and I shall walk in a wide place,
    for I have sought your precepts.

    In this verse I imagine walking in God’s law as being a place of great freedom. There’s no shame there, there’s no fear. It’s not a constrictive thing; it doesn’t bend you into a lifeless, soulless thing. It’s the only freedom there is. There we walk in the path of what we should truly be (God’s image); there we draw life directly from the Life-Giver.

Psalm 109: Before the Lord

I began reading Psalm 109 aloud, as I occasionally do when reading Scripture. Once I hit verse 6, that became uncomfortable:

Appoint a wicked man against him;

let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;

let his prayer be counted as sin!

May his days be few;

may another take his office!

May his children be fatherless

and his wife a widow!

10  May his children wander about and beg,

seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!

11  May the creditor seize all that he has;

may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!

12  Let there be none to extend kindness to him,

nor any to pity his fatherless children!

13  May his posterity be cut off;

may his name be blotted out in the second generation!

14  May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,

and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!

15  Let them be before the LORD continually,

that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!

Setting aside the question for now of how we should use the imprecatory psalms, I wanted to look at what verse 15 indicates. David summarizes his prayers against his enemy with the phrase “Let them be before the LORD.”

Do a word search for “before the Lord” and look at all of the entries – it’s overwhelming. Being “before the Lord” is not always a bad thing, but it is a very serious thing. Abraham is described as being before the Lord while he intercedes for Sodom (Gen. 18:22). Everything that takes place in the tabernacle is before the Lord (Exodus). The sacrifices and offerings are done before the Lord (Leviticus).

When you are before the Lord, you want to be clean (Lev. 16:30), because judgment occurs before the Lord.


New City Catechism – Week #7

I was out of town last weekend, so there is no post about last week’s study on Question #11 (What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?) and Question #12 (What does God require in the ninth and tenth commandments?).

13. Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?

I’m most convicted of this truth – that no, we can’t keep God’s law perfectly – when I examine my attitudes about things. I may say or do the right thing in lots of situations, but it usually is more from habit, pride, or fear than from righteousness. Without the Spirit, anything good things I do “are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV).

14. Did God create us unable to keep his law?

Without Christ, our inheritance is that of sin. Our father Adam, the originally perfect representative for us all, chose with Eve to transgress God’s law. Ever since then, we have been enslaved to a corrupt nature that desires transgression. Christ, our new, eternally perfect representative, through His perfect obedience and sacrifice has bought for us a new inheritance – that of life in the Spirit. Our new inheritance is righteousness and peace. Only when we live by the new inheritance of the Spirit rather than by the old inheritance of sin can we fulfill God’s law.


New City Catechism – Week #5

9. What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?

God introduces the ten commandments by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2, ESV) God has set the Israelites free from the Egyptians and now He is teaching them how to live as free people. He has released them from physical bondage, but will they live that way or will they remain as slaves to the gods, traditions and passions of Egypt? Likewise, Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. We can know we are truly set free because we live as free people, in accordance with His Word and His Spirit.

10. What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?

Hebrews 4 speaks of a Sabbath rest that we have entered, to use a common phrase, “already but not yet.” This Sabbath rest, which we experience now as the people of God and which we will experience fully at the restoration of all things, is a rest from work, but what work? I think it could be referring to two kinds of work, which go on simultaneously:

  1. The work of striving against sin, being sanctified, obeying God’s law. One day we shall be fully sanctified and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in recreating His people.
  2. The work of the original dominion mandate that man was given (Genesis 1:28), the work that Christ is completing through His Church. In six days God created the earth and filled it. Christ is now recreating the world and filling it with the glory of God. One day this task will be complete and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in redeeming the world.

So, perhaps, these two sorts of work are not that different. They appear to be our work, but they are ultimately Christ’s work through us.

Now, we celebrate the Sabbath day by remembering God’s work (in the past at creation and in the resurrection, in the future at the fulfillment of all things) and enjoying its fruits at the table of the Lord’s Supper. One day, we shall celebrate the eternal Sabbath by seeing all of God’s work in its fullness and enjoying the wedding feast of the Lamb. Every Sabbath is “already but not yet.”


New City Catechism – Week #4

7. What does the law of God require?

The Law of God is similar to wedding vows in that there are expectations built into the covenant relationship. We often think of expectations as bad things, as unjust constrictions or demands. But every agreement comes with them – you do this and I will do that. When you wed, you vow to love and honor in any situation. If you don’t, you have broken your vow and the covenant relationship is hurt. When God desired to establish covenant relationship with the Israelites, the Law served as the vows. He vowed to redeem and bless them and they vowed to obey His commands.

8. What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments?

Two questions came to my mind while looking at this question in the Catechism. I’ll link below what I find to be very helpful answers.

  1. What is the difference between the first and second commandments? See New City Catechism Question and Answer #9. (Sometimes it’s beneficial to look ahead.) Summary: The first command is to recognize God as the one true God. The second command is to worship Him properly. Many other cultures would create idols of their gods to worship. Sometimes the things that we do or make to aid us in our worship are false images of God and break His commands.
  2. Is it lawful for us to call Sunday the Sabbath? See Douglas Wilson, “Sabbath Rest.” I find his list of six evidences very helpful.

New City Catechism – Week #3

Missed a post? Catch up here and here.

5. What else did God create?

My two favorite parts of the answer to this question are:

  • by his powerful Word” – God created through the word and the Word, through speech and through Christ. Hebrews says that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. Christ actively sustains, upholds, undergirds, and preserves all things. Every molecule, every cell, every creature, every breath, every star, all exist because He wants them to.
  • everything flourished under his loving rule” – “Flourish” is such a beautiful, majestic word. It brings to mind the blooming of a flower or the elegance of a brushstroke. Under God’s rule, all things find their telos (their end or ultimate purpose). God’s rule does not bind us or constrict us, it makes us come alive. Only under His authority and in His presence can we thrive.

6. How can we glorify God?

In Question #4, we saw that “it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.” Here in Question #6, we find how we are to do so. I don’t have much to comment on this question except to say that glorifying God is an individual and corporate activity. We glorify Him in our unity, in our covenants, and in our community. We also glorify Him in our callings, our passions, our faith and our righteousness.


New City Catechism – Week #2

We’re going through the New City Catechism. Check it out:

3. How many persons are there in God?

My thoughts during our discussion quickly turned to the Athanasian creed. The section on the Trinity goes like this:

…[W]e worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

That may seem really belabored. It’s not belabored though, it’s an attempt at being comprehensive. The trinitarian nature of God is an incredible mystery. Yet, God still desires for us to know Him and reveals Himself in His trinitarian nature. Though it’s a mystery, we are called to live in faith of it and to understand it in as much as He has revealed it to us. Our minds can’t fully comprehend everything that the Trinity means, but through the Scriptures we can do what the Athanasian creed does – repeat over and over again what the Trinity is and repeat over and over again what it is not.

The repetition and re-search of the Trinity is not a trivial activity. Many teachers will remind us how important it is to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. Since we are finite and still prone to sin, we forget so easily the wondrous work that God has done, is doing and will do. The Trinity is inherent to the Gospel. God together wanted a people for the Father, a bride for the Son, a temple for the Holy Spirit. Preaching the Gospel to ourselves necessitates preaching the doctrine of the Trinity to ourselves. Over and over again. God is like this, God is not like that. We will never come to the end of knowing Him, but let us draw as close as we can.

4. How and why did God create us?

Imago Dei. The image of God. We are told in the Law not to form idols in the image of any created thing. It is impossible for us to create an image of anything except created things. Only God can create something in His own image. And He has.

“And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.” Why is it right? Because it is our purpose. The image of a thing brings the thing glory. The statue of a person commemorates or glorifies the person represented. In the same way, as His image we are made to glorify Him – He who is “eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth.”


New City Catechism – Week #1

This summer, our women’s bible study is going through the New City Catechism. I’m not sure when I first learned what “catechism” is. It definitely was not a feature of the church I grew up in, but I think I must have been introduced to the term at some time in high school or college, probably in reference to the Westminster Catechism or Roman Catholic catechism.

Catechism is like an introductory crash course in systematic theology. Here you find all the key doctrines that the Bible teaches are necessary for the Christian faith. What an immensely valuable tool. Would our evangelism be more effective if it involved training such as this? I think so.

We began this week with the first two questions. I encourage you to take a look:

1. What is our only hope in life and death?

So often the gospel message is presented as hope for death – believe in Christ because then you’ll be saved from death. But what about life? How can Christianity possibly catch our attention if it doesn’t also provide hope for the living?

2. What is God?

One of the ladies brought up the question, “Why isn’t the question ‘Who is God’ instead of ‘What is God’?” Great question! It is really odd to our Christianized ears to hear God termed a “what” and that’s because we already know Him to be personal and knowable – someone we can love and have a relationship with. But all people don’t know that. They aren’t even sure a god exists, let alone what god is. What good news to hear that He is infinite and yet also immanent (in our midst, approachable).