A Psalm of Praise – a class construction project

thumbsupAfter our study of psalms of lament and praise, we constructed our own Psalm of Praise.  The main section grew out of our own experiences of the Lord’s answer to our prayers in various times of need – community and individual.

A Psalm of Praise

God is good, all the time.

All the time, God is good.

You have granted us help

In our time of need.

You miraculously provided the funds

For our church improvement projects.

You provided the funds

When we thought there were none

You gave the light

To make the parking lot bright.

You supplied the flooring in the annex

By your servants Tom and Alex

Out of the pit you brought paving

It leaves all of us raving.

What looked like a dead end

You turned into a curve.

Though we don’t deserve it

You have  strengthened our spirit.

You God have lifted me up and

 Given me joy at the birth of a new grandson

A buyer came at our depth of discouragement

The movers and all the helpers were like angels

On that very hot day

We still pause to reflect

On all that has happened for us.

 Obedience is the motivation for God’s blessing.

If you watch, observe, they become obvious.

After Alice’s fall, you sent help

You sold her house,

You placed her with other Christians

At the Jefferson.

Good health and a new job were miracles indeed.

God’s love goes on forever.

We are not blue

For your promises are true

My heart greatly rejoices,

And I will sing your songs forever.

The Class – November 24, 2013

Law or Legalism?

scribe.2There is some question of how the Biblical texts on redemption of property and levirate marriage fits the situation with Ruth – it is Naomi’s property to be restored and her family line to be perpetuated, but that goes through Ruth.

Here is a background quote that gives perspective.

“…one must recall the nature of biblical legal materials. Against popular impression, they do not offer a comprehensive instruction which covers every imaginable case. Rather, they constitute instructions about sample or crucial topics from which inferences about all other cases are to be drawn.  Their goal s is more to inculcate Israel’s fundamental value system in its people than to provide handy legal references for judicial bodies.  Thus, attempts to align the customs in Ruth precisely with the details of three frequently cited texts (Gen 38; Lev 25:25-34; Dt. 25:5-10) are unnecessary and ill-advised.  On the contrary the value of such texts exceeds their simple, procedural details; rather, they are mirrors of Israel’s treasured values.  With reference to Ruth, they reflect how strongly Israel valued the survival of families through descendants and family ownership of ancestral property.”

Robert L Hubbard, Jr, The Book of Ruth (NICOT), Eerdmans, 1988

I was recently part of a discussion on divorce and remarriage.  A very strict legal reading of the NT texts might suggest prohibiting any remarriage and limiting divorce to only infidelity and abandonment.  but are the NT “laws” to be read in that way, or are they case-law and expressions of values by which we should decide in particular cases what is to be done.  In ministry one encounters many situations what require wisdom beyond a close reading of the rules.

A theme in Ruth is “hesed” a Hebrew word that means faith, often in the sense of faithfulness. God’s faithfulness to his people whom he has chosen.  Boaz’s and Ruth’s faithfulness expressed in their actions and commitments.

Constructing a Psalm of Praise

Westerman(This assignment was developed from “The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message”, Claus Westermann, Augsburg, 1980.  Last week we look a the psalms of individual lament, here we consider psalms of praise.  Our goal is to construct our own just in time for Thanksgiving.)  Download here – Psalm of Praise

The Individual song of Lament (we studied last week) usually ends with a promise to praise the Lord.  E.g.  Psalm 13:6

“I will sing the Lord’s praise,

For he has been good to me.”

            Psalms of Praise by individuals are common in the Psalms.  They tend to take up where the lament left off.  The Sadness is turned to Gladness.


I. Introduction:  e.g. Psalm 30:1

“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths..”

II. A summary of what has happened: e.g. Psalm 31:2-3

“…You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead…”

III. A testimony to God’s action: the trouble faced and the answer given. There is a sense of joy and peace because of God’s action. e.g Psalm 30:4-11

“Sing praises to the Lord, you his faithful people….”

IV.  A promise to praise  e.g. Ps 30:12

“Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

 Assignment: Construct a Psalm of Thanksgiving (I, II and IV can be one sentence)


God is Good, all the Time.

All the Time, God is Good.







Why so Sad? Lamentation in Scripture

sacklothThis is a worksheet i am presenting to the Adult class on Sunday, November 17, 2013.

Click this: The Lament for the document or read the cut and paste version below.

The response of Mordecai to the decree against his people is found in Esther 4:1


“When Mordecai heard the news,

he tore his clothes into shreds,

wrapped himself in coarse burlap,

covered himself with ashes

and walked into the middle of the city,

wailing loudly and bitterly.”

             The response of Nehemiah to the news of the sad state of the remnant in Jerusalem is found in Nehemiah 1:4


“When I heard these things,

I sat down and wept.

For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed

before the God of heaven.”


These represent two categories of “Lament” found in the bible, especially the Psalms.  Biblical scholars are able to identify a particular order that these Psalms take.

There are a number of passages that contain the laments of communities: Psalm 44, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89; Lamentations 1,2,4,5; Jeremiah 14; Isaiah 63:7-64; Habakkuk 1.  When the whole community faced a crisis a time of fasting was called and prayers in the form of laments were heard.

There are also laments of individuals. There are about 50 in the Psalms (3-7, 10-14, 16-17, 22-23, 25-28, 31, 35-43, 51-59, 61-64, 69, 71, 73, 86,102, 109, 130; Lamentations 3, Jeremiah 11, 15, 17, 18, 20; parts of Job.

Jesus said,

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mt 5:4  

            Question: Why do you think there is so much lamentation in the Bible?


Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David. 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

This is a typical outline of an individual Psalm of Lament:  where do you find them is Psalm 13?  (Trick, psalms are not mechanical, they do not always contain all the parts.)

1. An Address to God and initial Petition

2. The Lament: often contains a statement about the prayer (“I”) about God (“you”) and an enemy (“they”).

3. A Confession of trust

4. A Petition, for God’s favor, his intervention and/or  a reason for God to act.

5. A Promise to God

6.  Thanksgiving in anticipation.

Key (don’t look here if you want to find your own answers first)


Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.


How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

1. An Address to God and initial Petition

  • v. 1a “Lord”

2. The Lament: often contains a statement about the prayer (“I”) about God (“you”) and an enemy (“they”).

How Long (4x)

  • I – v. 2a
  • You – v. 1 a,b
  • Enemy – v. 2b

3. A Confession of trust

  • V. 5a

4. A Petition, for God’s favor, his intervention and/or  a reason for God to act.

  • Favor v. 3a
  • Intervention  v. 3b
  • Reason   v. 4a

5. A Promise to God

  • V. 6a

6.  Thanksgiving in anticipation.

  • V. 6b

Genealogy and Mission in Matthew

logo.1This pertains to the four Gentile women [Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “wife of Uriah”] found in Jesus’ genealogy found in Matthew.

“When Matthew cites these four women, he is probably reminding his readers that three ancestors of King David and the mother of King Solomon were Gentiles.  The Bible that accepted David’s mixed race also implied it for the messianic King; Matthew thus declares that the Gentiles were never an afterthought in God’s plan, but had been part of his work in history from the beginning.  One who traces Matthew’s treatment of Gentiles through the Gospel, from the Magi who sought Jesus in Chapter 2 through the concluding commission to disciple the nations in 28:19, will understand Matthew’s point in emphasizing this.  Matthew exhorts his readers that as much as Jesus is connected with the heritage of Israel, he is for all people as well, and his disciples have a responsibility to tell everyone know about him.”

Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 80

Matthew and Gentiles

logo.1Matthew has a twin theme of fulfill and extend.  The fulfillment accounts for the Jewish character of this gospel, but it is not sufficient to call this a gospel to or for the Jewish people.  There is a strong theme of extension of the message to the gentiles. The great commission (Gen 28:18-20) is not slapped on the end, but is part of a theme.

Below is a page by page listing of references to Gentiles.   One can also notice when reading the idea of rejection (by the religious leaders of the time) and extension (to gentiles, tax collectors, sinners and others.)

  • 1:1           Son of Abraham (Gen 12, “all the nations will be blessed…”)
  • 1:5           Rahab, Ruth
  • 1:6          Wife of Uriah (the Hittite)
  • 1:11-17   Deportation to Babylon
  • 2:1          Herod – a Jew of Idumean descient appointed by the Romans
  • 2:1-12    Magi from the East
  • 2:13        Flight to Egypt
  • 2:15        Out of Egypt (Hos 11:1)
  • 3:9          John: “from these stones God can raise sons of Abraham”
  • 4:8-0      3rd Temptation – “Nations fo the world”
  • 4:15            “Galilee of the Gentiles  (2:22)
  • 4:24        Fame spread to Syria
  • 4:25        Decapolis (mixed area)
  • 5:14            Light of the World
  • 6:7                Praying like the Gentiles
  • 6:32              Gentiles seek these things
  • 8:5-12       Faith of a Centurion
  • 8:28-33     Gerasenes; herd of pigs
  • 9:9-13         Matthew as Tax collector (agent of Rome); Tax collectors and Sinners
  • 10:4            “go nowhere among the gentiles.” (Israel first)
  • 10:8              you will testify before governors and Kings. (Gentile mission)
  • 11                   Judgment on Israel (replacement theme)
  • 11:21-23     Tyre and Sidon
  • 12:17           “Justice to the Gentiles” – [Isaiah 42:1-3]
  • 12:37           Jonah (missionary to Assyria)
  • 12:42           Queen of the South
  • 13:32            Birds in the branches?
  • 15:21           Withdrew to Tyre and Sidon
  • 15:22-28     Canaanite woman – crumbs
  • 16:13           Caesarea-Phillipi (Roman/Greek name)
  • 17:33f         Taxes; kings of the Earth
  • 18:17            Be to you as a gentile and a tax collector
  • 20:19            Christ delivered to the Gentiles
  • 20:25           Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; be servants
  • 21:13             Temple as “House of Prayer” (no mention of ‘for the nations’?)
  • 21:43            Kingdom taken away and given to others (replacement)
  • 22:15-21      Herodians; Taxes to Caesar
  • 24:9              Hatred by the nations
  • 24:14            This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole                                                 worl  …                           testimony to the nations
  • 24:15             Abomination of Desolation
  • 24:38             Noah (pre-Abraham)
  • 25:32            Gathered from all nations; sorted by acts (faith)
  • 26:13            “Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world…”
  • 27:2ff           Pilate (Roman)
  • 27:65              Guards/Tomb
  • 28:7, 10          Galilee (see 4:15)
  • 28:19-20        “…make disciples of all nations…”


logo.1I have been thinking over Matthew as I had opportunity to teach an introduction class at the Christian Life College of Madison, and as I prepare for a preaching series.

Matthew is often called the “Jewish Gospel” because of all the fulfillment formulas.  However, I think that is a rather static view of the book.  The book ends with the Great Commission, which is to extend the gospel to all the nations.  If Matthew is only a “Jewish Gospel” then the great commission must be a bit of a misfit.

However, I think that Matthew has as it’s purpose to present Christ for the nations.  Consider that the Genealogy includes gentiles and is wrapped around the Babylonian exile, that the Magi from the east (Babylon?) somehow invade the Christmas story in Matthew 2.  The disciples are called, instructed, trained, rejected and finally sent into the world.  So I think it is fair to say that Matthew has two movements.

First, it is about Jesus fulfilling the role of Messiah

Second, it is about being the Messiah for the nations.

My tentative sermon series title then is:  Matthew – Fulfill and Fill Full

Review: Wisdom & Wonder by Abraham Kuyper

wisdom & wonder_frontWisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, Abraham Kuyper, Edited by Jordan J Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill, Translated by Neslson D. Kloosterman; Christians Library Press, Grand Rapids, 2011

Wisdom & Wonder contains a new translation of chapters written originally under the title “Common Grace in Science and Art.”

Common Grace refers to God’s preservation and self-revelation within the created order, which is imperfectly but universally available.  It is revelation by the creation as well as an invitation to study, understand and enjoy the creation.  It is “common” because it is not limited to Christian believers.

I’d like to give a brief account of Kuyper’s perspective on Science and Art – though he discusses a number of other topics.   Kuyper states that art and science were given their start and patronized by the church and the state.  One sees this in any survey of Art History: the earlier the art, the more likely it was part of worship.   Art and Science, though birthed by church and state, possess legitimate and independent domains.

“First, then, let us emphasize the independent character of science.  Before everything else it must be understood that science is a matter that stands on its own and my not be encumbered with any external chains.”  (p. 33)

Science had its origin in the church as it grew out of the universities, which had their birth in the church.

“Science has not demanded such independence in overconfidence, but possesses this independence by diving design, so much so that science neglects its divine calling if it permits itself again to become a servant of the state or church.  Science is not a branch growing from the trunk of government service, and even less a branch that grows from the root of the church.  Science possesses its own root…” (p.34)

            If, therefore, God’s thinking is primary, and if all of creation is to be understood simply as the outflow of that thinking of God, such that all things have come into existence and continue to exist through the Logos, that is through divine reason, or more particularly, through the Word, then it must be the case that the divine thinking must be embedded in all created things. Thus there can be nothing in the universe that fails to express, to incarnate, the revelation of the thought of God.”  (p. 39)

            “In this way, then, we obtain three truths that fit together. First, the full and rich clarity of God’s thoughts existed in God from eternity.  Second, in the creation God has revealed, embedded and embodied a rich fullness of his thoughts.  And third, God created in human beings, as his image-bearers, the capacity to understand, to grasp, to reflect, and to arrange within a totality these thoughts expressed in the creation.”  (p. 41-42)

Art had a similar origin and division from the church.  Art does not need to return to the patronage of the church.  The Reformation, according to Kuyper, with its restrictions on art in worship, brought about an abrupt separation in Western Europe, especially where the Reformed Churches predominated.  This is a good thing. Yet a true artistic vision will be incomplete without the corrective influence of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.  Art is independent, but needs guidance to find integration

           “The inspiration for art never belonged to particular grace, but always proceeded from common grace.  It is exactly everyday human living that constitutes the broad arena where common grace shines, and simultaneously the arena where art constructs its own temple as well.”  (p. 118)

The separation between church and art, therefore, does not at all bear the character of a complete separation between art and religion. Instead, the bond between both is guaranteed in the ideal character of both, so that if people refuse to permit the refined religious impulse to affect art, that defect belongs not to art as such but to the impiety of those advocates.” (p. 118-119)

By way of evaluation, I have several comments.

One has to read the Kuyper with grace.  He made assumptions about non-European cultures and non-Christian religions that could offend our sensibilities.  We are all marked by the prejudices and judgments of our town times. Try not get impaled on these thorns.

The independence of Art and Science as domains intended by the Creator and built into the world is a scriptural idea.  Kuyper cites passages such as Genesis 1 where God created by the Word.  Wisdom Literature sees wisdom imbedded in all things (e.g. Proverbs 3:19-20; Proverbs 8).  The wise even seemed to gather wisdom from other places (see Proverbs 22:27ff and the 30 Sayings of the Wise).

One does not need to do Christian science or Christian art to be a faithful Christian in those domains.  One needs to do good science or good art.  Yet, science and art are powerful tools that come without a clear moral compass or centering integration.  A believer ought to do art or science in a way that is truly integrated by means of Special Grace.

            “Sin’s darkening lies in this, that we lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, the systematic integration of all things.  Now we view everything only externally, not in its core and essence, each thing individually, but not in their mutual connection and in their origin from God. That connection, that coherence of things in their original connection with God, can be sensed only in our spirit.”  (p. 55)

What I’d like to do is gather a few bible students, some artists and scientists from any field and read and discuss this work together.