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ROMAN CATHOLIC BAPTISM, IS IT CHRISTIAN BAPTISM?

What does a Presbyterian church, that desires to obey the Scriptures, do, when a person, who professes faith in Christ, wants to become a member of the congregation?  The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 28, Sect. 1 gives the manner of admittance into the church.  Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament ordained by Jesus Christ…for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church.  What if the person has previously been baptized by another “church?”  Should that “baptism” be received?   Should the baptism of the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Mormon church be accepted?  What about that of the Seventh Day Adventist Church?  What about the baptism of the Roman Catholic Church? Or what about the baptism of a liberal Protestant church?  This is a sticky question depending on which religious organization baptized the person.  Some evangelical churches have not even thought of this question and gladly receive a person into membership upon a profession of faith in Christ Jesus.  Others, who are more thoughtful, wrestle with the circumstances of the person’s baptism and then decide whether or not the baptism was Biblical.  What are the Biblical principles which should be considered to determine the question?

The Apostle Paul, we know, was set for the defence of the Gospel.  He contended against Judaizers, who considered circumcision to be necessary before one could be saved and justified in the sight of God.  In Antioch these Judaizers taught that except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, Acts 15:1They desired to mix ceremonies with the Gospel, consequently corrupting it.  Paul writes of them in Gal 1:8,9, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  In Phil 1:27-30 Paul exhorts the church to be united with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel against their adversaries, whoever they may be, whether pagans or Judaizers.

The adversaries mentioned in Phil 3 were Judaizers.  Paul warned the Philippians in verses 2 and 3 beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision, for we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  Paul ridicules these false teachers and issues a very stern warning, using very harsh language, as he did in Gal 1:8,9, but this warning was evidently very necessary!  This passage throws much light on the subject at hand.

The Greek verb, used three times, is an imperative of derision.  In warning the Philippians he holds the Judaizers up in ridicule.  The Greek word, translated beware, means to see, to look to.  It might be translated “Behold the dogs, behold the evil workers, behold the concision.”  Paul warned the Roman church, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, 16:17,18. Satan and his cohorts appear as angels of light; they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  It is the duty of the Christian Church to distinguish between evil workers and good ones.  They are to recognize those who are teaching another gospel, and know that they are accursed of God. In order to do this they must, themselves, know the true doctrine!   In the Greek the article (the) appears before each noun and is used to point out a well known class of false teachers.

The first title that he gives them is dogs.  In Bible times dogs were not household pets, as they are today.  They were not “man’s best friend,” but wild and ownerless animals.  They were scavengers, prowling the streets, sometimes in packs and would attack and bite the weak and small and, sometimes, even the strong.  In the Hebrew the word translated dog is “celev.”  It described the vilest and most impure sinners.  Moses declares, There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.  Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God for any vow, Deut 23:17,18The Sodomite, the homosexual, was termed a dog, to show God’s utter contempt for his wickedness.  These dogs shall be utterly banished from the heavenly city, Rev 22:15.  They shall suffer eternal damnation!  It is interesting to note the word the Lord Jesus used, when he answered the Syrophenician woman’s request.  He calls her a dog, a Gentile, for that was what the Jews called Gentiles, but He calls her a little dog.  She took the insult the Lord Jesus hurled at her with humility, and answered accordingly, and she received her request.  The word the Lord used was the diminutive of dog – a little dog, a puppy.  We might think of a tiger cub, a cute, playful little creature.  But that cub will grow up to be a dangerous, predatory animal.  The faith of this woman showed her to be a child of God, just as Rahab and Ruth before her!

The second title the Apostle gives these Judaizers is that of evil workers.  Like their father, the devil, they walk about, as a roaring lion, seeking whom they may devour, 1 Pet 5:8.  They labor diligently, but it is for evil, not for good.  They did not merely put forth an opinion, but they labored diligently to propagate and implement their errors.  They were like the Pharisees, who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, they make him twofold more the child of hell than they, Matt 23:15.

Those, who preach a “works salvation,” as the Judiazes did, are to be “marked and avoided.”  This is important.  We, as Paul was, are to be set for the defence of the Gospel.  We are to take heed of those who would pervert it!  The Roman Catholic church in the Council of Trent in opposition to the Biblical doctrine of justification said, “If anyone saith that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ’s sake alone; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema,” (Sess. VI, Can. 12).  So the Roman Catholic Church anathematizes the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone without the works of the law!  In this they curse those who preach the true Gospel.  Paul, after demonstrating that both the Gentiles and the Jews were sinners and did not keep God’s law, concluded, therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,(Rom 3:20).  He then teaches the true method of justification in verses 21-27, and concludes therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law in verse 28.  Now this is the Gospel and Paul says that anyone preaching contrary to this is anathema!   Who will you believe the Bible or the Council of Trent?

Thirdly, he refers to them as the concision.  This word is not in use today.  The Greek word means to cut upon.  This is a play upon the Greek word translated circumcision.  The root of both words is to cut.  The prefix of the latter means “around.”  This word “to cut around” referred to the sacrament given to Abraham.  Paul, using this play on words, was saying that the Judaizers were just cutting up or mutilating the flesh.  It had no true religious significance in God’s eyes and should not, therefore, in the church’s eyes.  Solomon wrote that the prayers, the sacrifices, and the way of the wicked or unbelievers, even their thoughts, are an abomination in the eyes of God,  Prov 28:9; 15:8,9,26.

Circumcision (Peritome) had been ordained in the Law of Moses and did convey a spiritual significance, distinguishing God’s people Israel in the OT from the pagans. When this spiritual meaning is forgotten, circumcision becomes concision (katatome), a mutilation, a butchering up, a mere cutting away flesh, conveying no spiritual significance or value in itself. Paul says keep watching out for these “butchers”. They taught that outward circumcision of the flesh was necessary to salvation. Tragically these deceivers were themselves deceived

Paul, then, contrasts these false teachers to those teaching the truth.  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Phil 3:3.  We are those who have faith in God, like Abraham, which is a result of being circumcised in the heart.  Moses noted this in Deut 30:6, And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.  Being born again, of course, is the N.T. terminology.  You will note that, as far as what is done to the flesh, there is no difference between the act done by the true and the false teachers, but there is a difference between what they believe, and this does make a difference!  As Paul wrote to the Romans, For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not of the letter; whose praise is not on men, but of God, Rom 2:28,29.  Those who were cutting up the flesh were not true Jews.  They did not have the faith of father Abraham, therefore, their cutting up the flesh was invalid.  It was not circumcism.

Baptism is the New Covenant sign and seal replacing circumcision.  Baptism is pleasing in the eyes of God, when it is done by His faithful Church according to His word.  When present day dogs and evil workers and flesh washers perform the act, it cannot and should not be called Baptism.  God does not accept it!  It is an abomination in His sight!  They are just washing the flesh.

Who are these present day religionists?    Of course none who do not profess the Christian faith can in God’s sight administer Christian baptism.  Christ said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, Jn 14:6.  So no non-Christian imitation of Christian baptism should be accepted.  Secondly, the “baptism” of those who profess to be Christian, but do not confess that the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament are the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, cannot be considered true baptism.  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Is 8:20.  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar, Prov 30:5,6; see also Deut 4:2, 12:32, Rev 22:18.  Many of the cults fall into this category, who add to God’s word.  Thirdly, the “baptism” of those, who do not believe in the true and living, triune God cannot be considered Christian baptism.  The Lord Jesus, after His resurrection, exhorted the Apostles, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Matt 28:19.  Therefore, non Trinitarians, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarians, World Wide Church of God, etc. are merely washing the flesh!

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God(Rom 1:1) wrote I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome (Rom 1:16).  The theme of this epistle is the just shall live by faith,1:17.  One thing that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion or philosophy is that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law, Rom 3:28.  In every other religion a man is justified by how he lives, that is, by works.  In chapter 4 of Romans Paul shows that Abraham was justified by faith.  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, verse 3.  This came to pass before he was circumcised, verse 10.  Therefore, no good religious act or good work of any kind enters into the justification of a sinner.  In verses 11 and 12 Paul wrote: And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised, 4:11,12.  When certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, Paul and Barnabus appealed to the Council at Jerusalem.  The Council concluded with Peter against the Judaizers that it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they, Acts 15:1,2,11.

The doctrine of justification by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone is unique among the religions of the world, and is the only true method of justification before an Holy God.  Job asks a question that is timeless.  How should man be just with God, 9:2?  Paul answers the question, now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, Rom 4:4,5.

Now a church that does not believe this doctrine is preaching another gospel!  The Seventh Day Adventist church, for example, teaches the doctrine of “investigative judgment,” where Christ will enter into the heavenly temple to determine “who is worthy” to enter.  This is a works religion!  The Roman Catholic church, which teaches that a person is saved by faith plus works, is teaching “another gospel.”  Their “baptism,” therefore, is a false baptism, and, in reality, no baptism at all.  It is merely washing the flesh.  Jehovah Witnesses, Shepherdites, Federal Visionists, New Perspectives of Paul, Liberal Protestant Churches, etc. are merely washing the flesh!

In Galatians 5:12 Paul again does not spare words writing…Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate (emasculate) themselves (or cut themselves off as when one was made a eunuch)!  Christian churches, take note!

SECOND COMING AND PRETERISM

INTRODUCTION                      

The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth, shunning profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.  He, then tells him that their word will eat as doth a canker (or gangrene): of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some,  2 Tim 2:15-18. These two heretics were preterists. They taught that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. Notice that in doing this they overthrew the faith of some and their babblings will increase unto more ungodliness.   Paul warns Timothy that this error, this preterits heresy, would eat “as doth a canker” (v. 17).  Gangrene is the decaying of the flesh, and, if left, it will lead to death.  The only remedy is the surgeon’s scalpel. So it is with preterism.

Preterism is the heresy which teaches that all eschatological events prophesied in Scripture have been fulfilled in the siege and sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.   They maintain that all of Scripture, including the Book of Revelation, was written prior to that date.  Now, if John wrote Revelation after 70 A.D. and the fall of Jerusalem, Preterism falls apart, is totally refuted, and absolutely found to be false.

THE DATE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION 

Now we know that Revelation was written while John was a prisoner of Rome, exiled to the prison island of Patmos.  Rev 1:9, I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

There were only two Roman emperors who persecuted Christians on a large scale in the first century, Nero and Domitian. The other Emperors did not consider Christianity a serious threat to Rome. The first Roman persecution under Nero took place in the A.D. 60s.  Nero was responsible for the deaths of both Peter and Paul in Rome in A.D. 67, Peter by crucifixion, and Paul by being beheaded.

There is no record of Nero’s banishing Christians to Patmos.  It was Nero who threw Christians to the lions for the entertainment of the crowds, and who burned many at the stake along the road leading to the Coliseum merely to light the entrance.

After Nero’s death, Christians were not persecuted until the rise of Domitian to power in A. D. 81. Domitian had some Christians killed, the property of others confiscated, Scriptures and other Christian books burned, and many banished to the island of Patmos.

All early sources, both Christian and secular, place the banishment of John to Patmos during the reign of Domitian. Not one single early source places John’s banishment under the reign of Nero, as preterits claim. All modern attempts to date Revelation during Nero’s reign rely exclusively on alleged internal evidence, and ignore or seek to undermine the external evidence and testimony of writers, who lived about that time, some of whom had connections to John.

Eusebius, the Christian historian, who lived only two hundred years after Domitian’s reign, gathered evidence from both Christian and secular sources still extant at the time.  All of the sources at Eusebius’ disposal placed the date of John’s Patmos exile during the reign of Domitian. Eusebius’ earliest source was Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John.  But he also used other unnamed sources both Christian and secular to place the date of John’s exile during Domitian’s reign (AD 81-96). “It is said that in this persecution, that is under Domitian, the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word.  Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: ‘If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the Revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.’  To such a degree, indeed, did the teaching of our faith flourish at that time that even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms which took place during it.   And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time.  For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian, Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ.  But when this same Domitian had commanded that the descendants of David should be slain, an ancient tradition says that some of the heretics brought accusation against the descendants of Jude (said to have been a brother of the Saviour according to the flesh), on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself,” Eusebius, Church History, 3:18-19.

While Eusebius quoted Irenaeus’ statement, notice that he also indicated that other secular histories at his disposal mentioned the banishment of Christians to Patmos during Domitian’s reign.

Eusebius continues: “Tertullian also has mentioned Domitian in the following words: ‘Domitian also, who possessed a share of Nero’s cruelty, attempted once to do the same thing that the latter did. But because he had, I suppose, some intelligence, he very soon ceased, and even recalled those whom he had banished.’ But after Domitian had reigned fifteen years, and Nerva had succeeded to the empire, the Roman Senate, according to the writers that record the history of those days, voted that Domitian’s horrors should be cancelled, and that those who had been unjustly banished should return to their homes and have their property restored to them. It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition, “Eusebius, 3:20.

Here again Eusebius mentioned an ancient Christian tradition, but did not quote his sources, that placed John’s return from exile on Patmos after Domitian’s fifteen year reign, and Nerva’s rise to power (A. D. 96).

Victorinus, bishop of Pettaw (Italy), gives the same time frame, but apparently did not rely on Irenaeus for his information, as some details in his account are not mentioned by Irenaeus. “He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God,” Victorinus, Commentary On The Apocalypse Of The Blessed John, 10:11.  Victorinus again made the same claim. The time must be understood in which the written Apocalypse was published, since then reigned Caesar Domitian; but before him had been Titus his brother, and Vespasian, Otho, Vitellius, and Galba,” Chapter 17.

 It is clear to the unbiased reader that Revelation was written under the reign of Domitian. No evidence exists, from the first three centuries of Christian tradition, which places the writing of Revelation during the reign of Nero.  Therefore, from the perspective of the evidence of the early church and early secular writers, the teaching of all forms of preterism is false.  If preterism is false, then the interpretations of various verses used to prove the preterist doctrine would most likely be false.

CONDEMNATION OF FULL PRETERISM BY PARTIAL PRETERISTS.

Our friend Brian Schewertly has a sermon on Sermon Audio denouncing the full preterist position.  Dr. Kenneth Gentry wrote an article (A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism) in which he calls full or hyper-preterism heresy.  Here are some of his arguments: 

          “First, hyper-preterism is heterodox. It is outside the creedal orthodoxy of Christianity. No creed allows any Second Advent in A. D. 70. No creed allows any other type of resurrection than a bodily one. Historic creeds speak of the universal, personal judgment of all men, not of a representative judgment in A. D. 70. It would be most remarkable if the entire church that came through A. D. 70 missed the proper understanding of the eschaton and did not realize its members had been resurrected! And that the next generations had no inkling of the great transformation that took place! Has the entire Christian church missed the basic contours of Christian eschatology for its first 1900 years?

     Second, hyper-preterism has serious implications for the perspicuity of Scripture. This viewpoint not only has implications for the later creeds, but for the instructional abilities of the apostles: no one in church history knew the major issues of which they spoke — until very recently! Are the Scriptures that impenetrable on an issue of that significance? Clement of Rome lived through A. D. 70 and had no idea he was resurrected! He continued to look for a physical resurrection (Clement 50:3).

     Third, the hyper-preterist system leaves the New Covenant Christian (in our post-A. D. 70 era) without a canon. If all prophecy was fulfilled prior to A. D. 70 and if the entire New Testament spoke to issues in the pre-A. D. 70 time frame, we do not have any directly relevant passages for us. The entire New Testament must be transposed before we can use it.

     Fourth, hyper-preterism suffers from serious errors in its hermeneutical methodology. When a contextually defined passage applies to the A. D. 70 event, the hyper-preterist will take all passages with similar language and apply them to A.D. 70, as well. But similarity does not imply identity; Christ cleansed the temple twice and in virtually identical ways; but the two events are not the same. Furthermore, we must distinguish sense and referent; there are several types of “resurrection” in Scripture: the dry bones of Ez. 37; spiritual redemption in John 5:24; physical redemption at the grave in John 5:28; Israel’s renewal in Christ in Rom. 11:15; and of the Beast in Rev. 13:3. I hold that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as “this generation,” “shortly,” “at hand,” “near,” and similar wording) are to be applied to A. D. 70, but similar-sounding passages may or may not be so applied.

     Ninth, Acts 1 clearly defines Christ’s second Advent in terms of his ascension, which was physical and visible. For example, in Acts 1:8-11 Luke is careful to say the disciples were “beholding” him as he ascended; he was received “from the eyes of them” (v. 9b); they were “gazing” as he was “going” ( v. 10); they were “looking” ( v. 11); they “beheld” ( v. 11). Clearly his ascension was a visible and glorious phenomenon involving his tangible resurrected body. And there was an actual visible cloud associated with it ( v. 10). The angelic messengers resolutely declare “this same Jesus” (i.e., the Jesus they knew for over three years, who is now in a tangible resurrected body) will “so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven” ( v. 11). The Greek on tropon literally means “what manner.” The Greek phrase “never indicates mere certainty or vague resemblance; but wherever it occurs in the New Testament, denotes identity of mode or manner” (A. Alexander, Acts, ad loc.). Consequently, we have express Biblical warrant to expect a visible, bodily, glorious return of Christ paralleling in kind the ascension. The hyper-preterist position goes contrary to this clear teaching of Scripture.

     Tenth, if A. D. 70 ends the Messianic reign of Christ (cf. the hyper-preterist view of 1 Cor. 15:24, 28), then the glorious Messianic era prophesied throughout the Old Testament is reduced to a forty-year interregnum, whereas by all accounts it is a lengthy, glorious era. A problem with premillennialism is that it reduces Christ’s reign to 1000 literal years; hyper-preterism reduces it further to forty years! The prophetical expressions of the kingdom tend to speak of an enormous period of time, even employing terms that are frequently used of eternity. Does Christ’s kingdom parallel David’s so that it only lasts for the same time frame?”

Notice again that Paul said in so doing this they (the hyper preterists) overthrew the faith of some and their babblings will increase unto more ungodliness.    

PARTIAL – PRETERIST “PROOF TEXTS”

Here we will deal with the partial preterism, from this point on designated just preterism.  They teach a so-called Eschatology of Victory, an optimistic eschatology, who see a “Golden Age” in which the world is Christianised.  The apostasy of the church, the rise of Antichrist, the regathering of Israel, and the future tribulation period are all relegated to the past.  Preterists teach that the New Testament terms “the last days,” “the end of the age” and other Biblical concepts refer to the age of the Jews before A.D. 70. These events were all fulfilled, according to preterists in A.D. 70.

This putrefication comes to light first in their exegesis of Matthew 24.  David Chilton writes regarding Matt 24:3, “The end of the age is not the end of the world, but rather the end of the age, the end of the Temple, the sacrificial system, the covenant nation of Israel, and the last remnants of the pre-Christian era, Everything Jesus spoke in this passage, at least up to verse 34, took place before the generation then living passed away. ‘Wait a minute,’ you say.  ‘Everything?  The witnessing to all nations, the Tribulation, the coming of Christ on the clouds, the stars falling … everything?’ Yes.”  Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion, pg 89.       

      Regarding the Book of Revelation, Chilton writes, “The Book of Revelation is not about the Second Coming. It is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over Rome. In fact, the word coming as used in the book of Revelation never refers to the Second Coming. Revelation prophesies the judgment of God on the two ancient enemies of the Church; and while it goes on to describe briefly certain end-time events, that description is merely a ‘wrap-up,’ to show that the ungodly will never prevail against Christ’s Kingdom. But the main focus of Revelation is upon events which were soon to take place.” Chilton, Paradise Restored, p. 166.

THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS, TILL ALL THESE THINGS BE FULFILLED

Matt 24:34 is one of the preterist’s proof texts.  Most eschatologies, including the preterist one, overlook and misinterpret the times of the Gentiles, the intervening time between the first and second advent, sometimes referred to by the “postponement of the Kingdom of God,” that is, the Kingdom would not immediately appear, Lk 19:11-27.  The Lord, because the disciples thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear, taught them that He must go away “to receive for himself a kingdom and return.”  The nobleman, in the Parable of the Pounds, is the Lord Jesus going to the right hand of the Father (Ps 110:1, Acts 1: 11; 3:19-21).  In the meantime His disciples should tend to His business.  The Lord Jesus in Luke 21:12-24 says that in the intervening time the disciples shall be persecuted (12-19), Jerusalem shall be destroyed (20-23), and trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (24).  At that time the Lord would return, (Same references). 

Paul in Romans 11 reveals that during this time the Gentiles will be grafted into the church. The church at this time is made up mostly of Gentiles.  When the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, National Israel, who are now enemies of the Gospel, will be delivered and grafted back into the church!  Charles Hodge in his commentary on Romans outlines this chapter, I believe, correctly. 

     “The rejection of the Jews is not total, as is sufficiently manifest from the example of the apostle himself, to say nothing of others, ver. 1.  God had reserved a remnant faithful to himself as was the case in the times of Elijah, vers. 2-4.  That this remnant is saved, is a matter entirely of grace, vers. 5,6.  The real truth of the case is, that Israel, as a nation, is excluded from the kingdom of Christ, but the chosen ones are admitted to its blessings, ver. 7.  This rejection of the greater part of the Jews, their own Scriptures had predicted, vers. 8-10.  Charles Hodge, Romans 11, pg 353.

     Hodge continues on page 360, “As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final.  They have not so fallen as to be hopelessly prostrated.  First, God did not design to cast away his people entirely, but, by their rejection, in the first place, to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles, and ultimately to make the conversion of the Gentiles the means of converting the Jews, ver. 11.  The latter event is in itself desirable and probable.  1. Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more will their restoration be the means of good, vers. 12, 15.  (The verses 13, 14, are a passing remark on the motive which influenced the apostle in preaching to the Gentiles.)  2. Because it was included and contemplated in the original election of the Jewish nation.  If the root be holy, so are the branches, ver. 16.

     “The breaking off and rejection of some of the original branches, and the introduction of others of a different origin, is not inconsistent with this doctrine; and should lead the Gentiles to exercise humility and fear, and not boasting or exaltation, vers. 17-22.  As the rejection of the Jews was a punishment of their unbelief, and not the expression of God’s ultimate purpose respecting them, it is, as intimated in ver. 16, more probable should God restore the Jews, than that he should call the Gentiles, vers. 23, 24. 

    “This event, thus desirable and probable, God has determined to accomplish, vers. 25, 26.  The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God’s people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them, vers. 26,27.  Though now, therefore, they are treated as enemies, they shall hereafter be treated as friends.  For the purposes of God do not alter; as his covenant contemplated the restoration of his ancient people, that event cannot fail to come to pass, ver. 29.  The plan of God, therefore, contemplated the calling of the Gentiles, the temporary rejection and final restoration of the Jews, vers. 30-32. 

     “How adorable the wisdom of God manifested in the plan and conduct of the work of redemption!  Of him, through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever.  Amen.  vers. 33-36.  Charles Hodge, Romans, pg 360.

Charles Hodge expounds Romans 11 as teaching that the intervening period between the first and second coming as the times of the Gentiles.  After this God will graft in the natural branches, national Israel and break off the wild branches, the Gentiles.

The Lord Jesus instituted the New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, Jer 31:31ff, Matt 26:28, Heb 8:6-13.  This New Covenant was made with the house of Israel, which is made up of the believing Jewish remnant and the believing gentiles, who are grafted into it. The house of Judah (national Israel) was cut off, when they rejected the Lord Jesus, and are enemies of the Gospel until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, Luke 21:24, Rom 11Zechariah 11:10-14 refers to this in the Beauty and Bands staffs.  And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.  And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.  And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forebear.  So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.  And the LORD said to me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them.  And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.  Them I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel, Zech 11:10-14.    The Beauty staff, which is broken, is the Old Covenant.  The Bands staff, which is cut asunder, is the breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel, national unbelieving Israel and the believing remnant.  The believing Gentiles are being grafted in by faith in Christ Jesus along with the believing remnant of Israel to form the New Covenant division of the church, the Israel of God, Rom 11, Gal 3:27-29, 6:16.

THEY SHALL LOOK UPOM HIM WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED, REV 1:7

The O.T. often runs references to the first and second coming together.  Zechariah merges the events of the first coming of Christ with those of the second coming.  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.  And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace to the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth, Zech 9:9,10.  Verse 9 obviously refers to the first coming of the Lord Jesus, Matt 21:4-9.  Verse 10 looks forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus.  The Lord will only reign from sea to sea when he smites the nations who gather together to make war with him, Rev 19:15,19. 

Chilton interprets the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), which occurs after the destruction of Babylon the Great, the great whore, Rev 17-19:3, as the Eucharist.  “The Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship; the Eucharist is what we are commanded to do when we come together. Everything else is secondary,” Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, pg 476.  This non-Reformed statement, demonstrates how preterist gangrene has eaten into his understanding of the Word of God regarding sacraments and public worship.  See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 27, Section 3.

The last 3 verses of Zechariah 11 looks ahead to the idol shepherd, who will ultimately be defeated.  The Good Shepherd, referred to in the first part of the chapter, is the Messiah.  The idol shepherd in verse 17 upon whom a woe is pronounced is the personal Antichrist.  This false shepherd leaves the flock, (the poor of the flock, the remnant believers).  This believing flock is contrasted with the flock of slaughter, which is national Israel, vs. 7.  Chapters 12-14 look to the siege of Jerusalem, the tribulation, and the reclaiming and restoration of national Israel to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom.  In these chapters the LORD goes to battle in behalf of a repentant Israel against the nations that come up to fight it.  Notice the continuity of the last 5 verses of chapter 12 and the first 6 verses of chapter 13.  “In that day” – the great day of Israel’s national atonement – is used 17 times in the last three chapters, and refers to the time when the LORD “will remove the iniquity of the land in one day,” Zech 3:9.  It is then that there “shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness,” 13:1.  It is a day, when the LORD “will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” 12:10. 

This proclamation by the LORD is quoted in Rev 1:7.  Preterist, Dr. Gentry, interprets this verse as referring to the events of 70 A. D., but the quote of Zechariah by John disproves this interpretation.  It is a day when the day of the LORD cometh, Zech 14:1, the second time without sin unto salvation, Heb 9:28.  It is plain that this is referring to the second coming of Christ, not 70 A. D., as the preterists hold!  Notice chapter 14.  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh…For I will gather all nations (not just Rome) against Jerusalem to battle…Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem…and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee…and the LORD shall be King over all the earth, 14:1,2-4,5,9.  Remember the words of the angels to the Apostles – This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.  Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, Acts 1:11,12Matt 24:30, Revelation 1:7, and Acts 1:10-12 refer to the second coming of the king over all the earth to possess His promised Theocratic Kingdom! 14:9.  In this Kingdom He shall reign with His saints from sea unto sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth, Zech 9:10, Ps 72:8.  Once the Lord returns and his feet stand on the Mount of Olives, there is no evidence that he ever leaves.  His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 2 Sam 7:11-16, Dan 11:27.

We cannot interpret these chapters of the taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B. C. or by the Romans in 70 A. D.  In these calamitous events God did not in the person of the Messiah visibly appear (Matt 24:30 see the Son of man) on the Mount of Olives with His angelic hosts as the Deliverer of His people and the destroyer of many nations which were gathered against them; nor was the spirit of grace and supplication then or ever yet poured out upon the Jewish nation, so that they might look upon and recognize Him whom they have pierced; nor has the Lord, as the son of David, from any of those past events onward, become King over the whole earth; not to mention many other great and solemn events which are predicted in these chapters.  The former had no beginning; the latter has.  These events cannot be allegorized or explained away.

It should be noted here that the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, as the Son of God, and the kingship of Christ, as the Son of Man, are to be distinguished.  Although Christ now rules over the universe as the Son of God, He shall execute the office of a king, as the Son of David, the Christ, when He comes to establish His Theocratic Kingdom.  At present Christ rules, as Head, over His people, the Church, the elect citizens of the Kingdom, which is the earnest of His inheritance as King of kings and Lord of lords, APC shorter catechism # 26.  The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, forever, S. C. 21.  Christ, in his work of mediation, acts according to both natures; by each nature doing what is proper to itself, WCF CH 8:7.  As He was truly man, He thirsted, He did not know when He, the Son of Man, would return to earth, for the Scriptures did not reveal that fact, He died, etc.  However, as God, He knew what was in the heart of man, He raised the dead, He knew when He would return to earth, etc.  The WCF CH 8:7 continues yet, by reason of the unity of the person, what is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.  Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  Christ had blood and could die, only as a man, yet, as His person had two natures, the human and the divine, in that regard it is said that God had blood and could die, Acts 20:28.  As a babe in the manger, needing to be fed at his mother’s breast, He, as God, was controlling the stars above!  Christ, as the Son of God, is sovereign over all.  Christ, as the Son of Man, the Son of David, waits until all His enemies are made his footstool.  Christ is waiting until his second coming.  I believe a consideration of these facts helps to clear up much confusion regarding Christ’s second coming.         

Notice in Matt 24 that it is after the tribulation that they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds.  This does not fit the preterist’s contention that the Son of man comes in the clouds to judgment or tribulation of Israel.

  We have seen how far the preterist gangrene has spread. Very little teaching on the second coming remains after preterism has consumed most of the New Testament prophecies. Many preterists such as Gentry, DeMar, and Sproul, are not yet full preterists.  Not yet.  One full-blown preterist was J. Stuart Russell, who taught that the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ have all been fulfilled in the past. All was fulfilled in A.D. 70, J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming, with an introduction by R. C. Sproul.  Russell’s heretical hyperpreterist gangrene is deadly.  Like Hymenaeus and Philetus, Russell, who lived in the 19th century, was guilty of profane and vain babblings and has increased unto more ungodliness, (II Tim. 2:16-18).  Like Hymenaeus and Philetus, Russell’s word eats like gangrene. In spite of Russell’s heresy even partial preterists praise his writings.  Although Gentry refers to Russell as an advocate of “radical preterism,” he still praises The Parousia as “masterfully written,” even though Paul calls his doctrine heresy!  Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, a Post-millennial Eschatology, pg 270-271. 

As a minister of Christ, I must write what I believe to be true with regard to this subject.  I do so, but with no joy in my heart, because I know that I am criticizing many that I love in the Lord.  Yet, I feel it is my duty to call attention to what I believe to be error in the teaching of the partial preterism.   

Kenneth Gentry admits that “it is true that [Christ] will come at the end of history, bringing about the resurrection and the judgment (Acts 1:11, I Thess. 4:13ff., I Cor. 15:20-26),” Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, pg 25.  Chilton condemns a denial of any future bodily resurrection or judgment as “a heretical form of preterism,” Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, pg 531.  The question is, will the preterist gangrene end here or will it develop into full preterism?  Let us beware that the preterist gangrene does not overthrow the faith and the hope of the Church.  

That hope is the Second Coming of the Jesus Christ.  Why is eschatology important?  It is important because it influences the interpretation of so many passages of Scripture.  About 30 per cent of Scripture is prophecy.  It is also important because the church is in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s coming again.  The Lord exhorts us to watch.  In the parable of the ten virgins all ten, representing the visible church, slumbered and slept.  During the interval between the first and second coming of Christ the whole church will be in danger of ignoring to a great extent Christ’s personal return to earth.   His Apostles likewise exhorts awake thou that sleepest, Eph 5:14.  The preterists do not look for Christ’s second advent any time soon.  Chilton thinks it may be 1000’s of years away.  Are not he and his fellow preterist’s slumbering and sleeping?  Do they have their lamps trimmed?

Zachariah, John the Baptists father, Lk 1:70-74, was looking for what the Lord would do when He comes the second time, not as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, but, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to put his enemies under his feet.  After the Lord arose from the dead, the Apostles were in error when they thought that the Kingdom would immediately appear, Lk 19:11-13.  The Jewish believers were in error in looking past the first coming of Christ to the second.  J. C. Ryle writes in the sermon Occupy till I come “If the Jew thought too exclusively of Christ reigning, has not the Gentile thought too exclusively of Christ suffering?  If the Jew could see nothing in Old Testament prophecy but Christ’s exaltation and final power, has not the Gentile often seen nothing but Christ’s humiliation and the preaching of the Gospel?  If the Jew dwelt too much on Christ’s second advent, has not the Gentile dwelt too exclusively on the first?  If the Jew ignored the cross, has not the Gentile ignored the crown?  I believe that we have cherished an arbitrary, reckless habit of interpreting first advent texts literally, and the second advent texts spiritually.  I believe we have not rightly understood ‘all that the prophets have spoken’ about the second advent of Christ, any more than the Jews did about the first.  And because we have done this, I say that we should speak of such mistakes as that referred to in our text (Lk 19:11-13) with much tenderness and compassion.”

Many times the first and second comings run together in the O. T.  Justin Martyr writing around 150 A.D. points this out very clearly in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew.  Trypho states, “These and such Scriptures, sir, compel us to wait for Him who, as Son of man, receives from the Ancient of days the everlasting kingdom, Daniel 7:9-28.  But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonorable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified.”  To this objection Justin remarks, “Of these and such like words written by the prophets, O Trypho, some have reference to the first advent of Christ, in which He is preached as inglorious, obscure, and of mortal appearance; but others had reference to His second advent, when He shall appear in glory and above the clouds; and your nation shall see and know Him whom they have pierced, as Hosea, one of the twelve prophets, and Daniel, foretold.”     

Our Confession ends with these solemn, yet hopeful words, As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to defer all men from sin and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity, so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security and be always watchful because they know not at what hour the Lord will come and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Amen, WCF Chapter 33, Section 3.  The Westminster divines did not believe the come quickly and other time references in the book of Revelation referred to 70 A.D., but to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ! The Preterists to be honest should change the W.C.F. to correspond to their eschatology!  

Finally, we do not know when the Son of Man will return.  He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting til His enemies be made His footstool, Heb 10:12,13.  And we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.  For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? Rom 8:22-24.  Let us be found looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Titus 2:13   Amen!       

 

 

 

 

PREFACE TO THE CIVIL LAWS OF MOSES by Moses Lowman

The Civil Laws of Moses was published in 1740, some 47 years before the Constitution of the USA.  The sections of the USA Constitution shows a remarkable resemblance to the Table of Contents of Lowman’s book and shows that our forefathers were Bible students, well aware of these principles.  These principles of government were the topics of conversations between John Adams and John Quincy Adams (see their biographies and letters).  In fact John Adams wrote a three-volume work, following the republics of the world back to the Hebrew Republic.  It was John Adams who formulated the first Constitution of Massachusetts, which the Constitution of the United States of America closely resembles.

First of all, the government of the Hebrews was a Theocracy; Jehovah was not only their God, but also their King.  The rulers, under God, could appeal to God on difficult questions by the Urim and Thummim through the High Priest, Num 27:21, Ex 28:30 (see Ch 11, The Oracle).  In the time of Samuel all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations, 1 Sam 8:4,5.  God in His providence brought this rebellion forth (1 Sam 8:7) to prepare for the Messiah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, prophesied to David, (see 2 Sam 7:11-17), who shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth, when he returns the second time, see also Zech 9:10, Ps 2:8, acts 3:19-21.  God, to this present time, has not ruled over any other nation in this same capacity, although He is the moral Governor over all nations.  There was, also, a republican aspect, however, of the Theocracy.

Notice second of all, there was a Constitution of the nation of Israel.  The basis of this Constitution was the law, judgments, statutes, etc.  The core of this was the Ten Commandments.  The true sense then of this solemn transaction, between God and the Hebrew nation, which may be called the original contract of the Hebrew Government, is to this purpose: if the Hebrews would voluntarily consent to receive Jehovah their Lord and King, to keep his covenant and laws, to honor and worship him as the one true God, in opposition to all idolatry. Then, though God as Sovereign of the world rules over all the nations of the earth, and all nations are under the general care of his providence, he would govern the Hebrew nation by peculiar laws of his particular appointment, and bless it with a more immediate and particular protection.  He would secure to them the invaluable privileges of the true religion, together with liberty, peace, and prosperity, as a favored people above all other nations.  It is for very wise reasons you may observe, that temporal blessings and evils are made so much use of in this Constitution, for these were the common and prevailing inticements to idolatry; but by thus taking them into the Hebrew Constitution, as rewards to obedience and punishments of disobedience, they became motives to true religion, instead of encouragements to idolatry, (Ch 1 The Chief Design of the Hebrew Government).

Thirdly, the Hebrew government was a federal union of twelve sovereign tribes; see Ch 7, The Union of the Tribes.  Each Tribe had their own government with their own rulers.  The States of the United States of America are patterned after the twelve tribes of Israel.

Fourth, There was an executive branch of the Hebrew nation.  The first chief magistrate was Moses, then following him were the Judges, and then the Kings.  Notice Chapter 10, Of the Judge.  The authority then of the judge was very great.  As a general in war, he had the chief command of the army: as the chief civil magistrate, he summoned the senate, and the congregation of the people, proposed the public affairs unto them, as a first senatorian magistrate; and acted in all things as viceroy, or stadtholder of Jehovah the king of Israel.  He had that authority in war, as general, and in public affairs of state, presiding in their councils, and executing their resolutions, that the executive power of the government was principally lodged in his hands.

Fifth, the Congregation of all Israel is discussed in Chapter 8.  This Congregation of all Israel is the pattern for the House of Representatives of the USA.  In the third month…the LORD called unto Moses out of the mountain and directed him what he should say unto the children of Israel.  And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words, which the LORD commanded him.  And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do, Ex 19:1-8.  Notice here that the elders of the people spoke for and represented all the people.  Again in Josh 23:1,2 that when Joshua called for all Israel, he was calling for their representatives.  Notice that the word and is in italics in verse two and is not in the original text.  In Chapter 5 Lowman shows that each level of government, that is, each tribe, each city, etc. had the same form as the National Government.  In other words there was in each level an executive branch, a congressional branch, made up of two houses, and a judicial branch.

Sixth, The Senate of all Israel is examined in Chapter 9.  When the children of Israel left Egypt, they left as an organized host.  There were already leaders of the people.  In the second year after they left Egypt, the LORD told Moses to make two trumpets of silver…for the calling of the assembly…and when they shall blow with them, that is both trumpets, all the assembly, that is both houses of Israel’s government, shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, that is the Senate, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee, Num 10:1-4.  In Numbers 11 when the people murmured because they only had manna to eat, the LORD and Moses were angry and displeased.  Moses became distraught and complained that he was not able to bear all this people alone, because it was too heavy for him,…And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people…and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.  Even when two of the seventy did not appear with the others to be anointed, they were anointed by the LORD.  The reason was that they were written, that is, they were already elected elders of Israel, Num 11:1-26.

Seventh, There was a Judicial branch of the government.  When Moses could not settle all the grievances of the people, his father-in-law advised him to provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons, Ex 18:21,22.  This was a graded judiciary, which was followed in the USA with the various levels of courts.

Eighth, Notice Chapter 13 summery of contents.  “That the balance of the Hebrew Government was so well fixed, that no one part had power, by overbearing the rest, to overturn it; in particular, the Constitution had taken effectual care it could not be in the power of the Levites.  Care and provision in the Hebrew Government to prevent factions, (notice James Madison’s discussion of factions in the Federalist Papers).  Attempts of ambition and faction were made very difficult, almost impracticable by the Constitution.”

You can see that our forefathers knew the Bible well.  If you were living in their day, could you have formulated the Constitution of the USA?  Do you know your Bible as well as they did?

 

Charles James Butler, Ph.D.

Teaching Elder, American Presbyterian Church

 

 

The Problem

John 13:18 records our Savior’s citation of Psalm 41:9 when He revealed at the Last Supper that He knew He would be betrayed by an intimate friend “that the scripture may be fulfilled.”  Through the ages, believing commentators and preachers have been hard put to see how the whole psalm is applied to Christ.  Verse 4, beginning the first person prayer from which our Lord’s citation in John is taken, is especially difficult: “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”  Charles Spurgeon is most candid:    

The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation: and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal rather than imputed sin.[1]

 

Beside the problem of sin, there are also questions of ascribing sickness (v. 3) or revenge (v. 10) to Christ, if this psalm is a prophecy of Him as Psalm 16 is (Acts 2:25-32). 

            It is certainly accurate and faithful to Christianity to say

                        Psalm 41: is it what would happen to Jesus?

Yes, because Jesus says it is (John 13:18).  Not that David was aware of this, nor that everything he said here could have been said by Jesus; verse 4 obviously could not.  But the general drift of the psalm, and verse 9 in particular, makes it a messianic prophecy….Such was the view of the apostolic church, based upon the teaching of Christ Himself.[2]

 

While such statements are true, this understanding has led to Christian commentaries that consist of miscellaneous useful platitudes and principles while missing the main thrust and background of David in Psalm 41 and our Lord’s basis for His own trial through Judas foretold in it.  In other words, it is good to proclaim Christ’s application of the Psalm, but it would be more helpful to explain how He could so understand the psalm.  This would help us in knowing how also to understand and apply this psalm—and others—to our faith and lives.

 

The Solution

 

            The solution to the problem of interpreting Psalm 41 correctly and understanding our Lord’s application of it is to understand its background in the Davidic Covenant.  While I have not read every commentary on Psalm 41, I have not found any that prominently recognize its Davidic Covenant background.  Calvin is the closest in his comment on v. 13 (“Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, for ever and ever.”).  He writes,

By calling God expressly the God of Israel, he testifies that he cherished in his heart a deep and thorough impression of the covenant which God had made with the Fathers; because it was the source from which his deliverance proceeded.[3]

 

Calvin’s excellent observation has been beset by two problems.  First, most Christian commentators sever v. 13 from Psalm 41 to make it a benediction ending the so-called Book I of the Psalter, as Calvin’s translator, James Anderson, explains in a large note.[4]

Consequently, the verse with Calvin’s insight carries no bearing on the direct interpretation of the psalm.  Second, the insight of the unity and intertwining of all the covenants, so clear in Calvin, has been so fixed in Reformed thought through Dudley Fenner’s two covenant view adopted in our Westminster Confession of Faith that the distinct features of individual covenants—in this case, the Davidic—are often lost to commentators who so clearly see the whole development.  It is the purpose of this paper to reemphasize the importance of the Davidic Covenant in David and Christ’s thought.

 

The Davidic Covenant in Theological Perspective

 

            At the very end our course on the Old Testament in the New, Dr. Prutow presented Paul’s application of II Samuel 7:14 (“I will be his father, and he shall be my son”), the Davidic promise, to the Corinthian separatists in II Corinthians 6:18 (“‘And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,’ saith the Lord Almighty”).   How striking!  Paul applies the Davidic covenant to Christian believers!

This is indeed very instructive, and we shall need to know how he does this as it has a bearing on why Psalm 41 is intended to be sung by all believers, if it is indeed based on David’s experience of the Davidic Covenant.

            Among confessional statements, two stand out.  The Introduction to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America’s Testimony explains the position of the Davidic Covenant in perspective:

  1. The remainder of Scripture is the gradual unfolding of the Covenant of Grace through a series of covenants, each developing a particular element of the one preceding it and preparing for a more complete accomplishment.  The call of the elect people, ultimately to include all nations, to live by faith in obedience was set forth in successive covenants made with Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David.[5]

 

 

And the Confession of Faith of the American Presbyterian Church, which

specifies the purposes of the individual covenant expansions in its seventh chapter Of God’s Covenants, explains

SECTION VIII: In partial fulfillment of the terms of the Abrahamic covenant God established an everlasting covenant with David, the king, to provide out of his seed a theocratic king, the Christ, who would sit on David’s throne and rule over the elect nation forever in a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.[6]

 

            The importance of this covenant is correctly recognized by Robert Gordon who writes,

In response to David’s modest proposal to build a permanent ‘house’ for the ark of the covenant, Yahweh announces his startlingly generous intention of building a dynastic ‘house’ for David….As our chapter heading suggests, it is the so-called ‘dynastic oracle’ (vv.8-16) that takes pride of place, and such is its importance that 2 Samuel 7 is rightly regarded as an ‘ideological summit’, not only in the ‘Deuteronomistic History’ but also in the Old Testament as a whole.[7]  

 

Because of the overwhelming important of this covenant in the Old Testament and as a background of Psalm 41, a brief consideration of the covenant promises and related events in David’s life recorded in II Samuel must be reviewed.

 

 

 

 

Important Background Considerations of Psalm 41 in II Samuel 7-20

The Davidic Covenant (II Samuel 7)

            After the Lord established David in peace as king so that he sat comfortably in his own house, he had to learn again the regulative principle of worship.  He wanted to replace God’s tabernacle with a glorious Temple of cedar.  Even the prophet Nathan approved and encouraged him; but while, as Calvin observed,

                        We have here an act of David which was highly praise-worthy, …yet

it was utterly condemned by God…(so) we are…admonished always to carry out our devotion according to the rule which he has given us.  For while we should be aflame with an ardent zeal to dedicate ourselves to God, we must also be prudent enough to find out the right way to do it, so that we will do everything that comes into our head, like men who give themselves liberty to do what they have dreamed up, claiming that ‘their intentions are good’![8]

 

God must always take the initiative in worship, not pious men, even when their ideas can gain the approval of other highly-placed and pious men.  In this case, catering to David’s short sight would have slowed an even greater vision, for God used this occasion to grant David the marvelous Davidic Covenant, the crowning glory of the Biblical covenants and “the matrix of biblical messianism.”[9]

            In the first promise of the covenant, God, Who has always guarded David in his rise from shepherd to king and cut off all his enemies, reveals that He “will make (not “have made” AV) your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth” (II Sam. 7:9).  His name will be on a covenant par with Abraham’s (Gen. 12:2), even as this covenant will always be linked to the Abrahamic and only understood in connection with it (Matthew 1:1).  To perpetuate that name and the rest for Israel to be associated with it, The LORD “will make thee an house” (7: 11).[10]  “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (v. 16)  Now the significance of this promise for understanding Psalm 41 is that there David’s enemies long to know and purpose to hasten the day when God’s Covenant is defeated: “When shall he die, and his name perish?” (Ps. 41:5) 

            The second feature of the covenant that bears noting is the promise of a “seed” (offspring) to David: “…I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom” (7:12).  Our understanding of “seed,” like David’s understanding, must be informed by the use of that same word in the Edenic (Gen. 3:15) and Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7) covenants.  Like his honored forebearers, David would have to wait through death for the resurrection and salvation through his Son (v. 7).  As to Psalm 41, we shall need to understand the Davidic seed concept to see how the psalm applies to Christ our Savior individually and to us corporately in Him. 

            A third concept of great importance in this covenant is its prominent fatherly chastisement provision: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.  If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men” (v. 14).  It is strangely interesting how many like Augustine find this applicable to Christ (using Acts 9:4 “Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” as a proof).[11]

We shall have to understand how it is tied to the covenant’s eternal mercy and how David perceived it as particularly applicable to himself in Psalm 41 (II Sam. 12:10-13: “…because thou hast despised me…I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house….The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”).

            The last item to note—though far from the least—is the promise of mercy associated with the covenant:

But My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. (vs. 15-16)

 

The reason David’s house and kingdom “shall be established” (“made sure”) is God’s never failing, ever faithful mercy.  Gordon contends that “make sure (ne’man, 16) is arguably the keynote verb as far as the Davidic dynasty is concerned,” and he cites Abigail’s amazing early insight (I Sam. 25:28).[12]  Even more important is the gospel call of Isaiah: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:3).  The “sure mercies of David” or the “faithful lovingkindness” of this covenant is the rock-sure basis of salvation to all.  After the Davidic promise and Isaiah’s powerful invitation, we all (every accepter) live in covenant relation with God on the foundation and surrounded by “the sure mercies of David.”  Will this not explain the oft-noted strange plea of Psalm 41: 4 (“I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”)?

 

 

 

 

 

David’s Prayer Response

 

 

            Gordon Keddie has an absolutely important insight everyone should memorize and  apply: “True prayer is always based on the covenant.”[13]  David’s prayer certainly was.  II Samuel 7:18-29 is filled with humbled awe of God’s covenanted mercy to himself, his house, and Abraham’s Israel (“For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee forever: and thou, LORD, art become their God” [v.24, compare Gen. 17:7-8]).  His exalted praise and focus on the covenant’s mercifully sure eternity is also crystal clear in Psalm 41 (not to mention Ethan’s Psalm 89).  David never forgot this covenant in his prayers.  David’s going in to “sit before the LORD” (v. 18) not only contrasts with his thoughts when he “sat in his house” (v. 1) but reminds us of his Lord—and ours—Who also sat down to pray (Psalm 110).  By His prayer, we obtain “the sure mercies of David” in “the everlasting covenant” (Isa.55:3); and only in His prayers are ours acceptable.  His purpose is to make us “as David” (Zech. 12:8), whose prayer psalms our God has given us to sing so that “the word of Christ” may “dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).

David’s Just Rule

            It is important to emphasize God’s summary evaluation of David’s kingship over Israel in II Sam. 8:15: “And David reigned over all Israel: and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.”  This report of the pre-exilic writer of II Samuel (Jeremiah, by Rabbinic judgment) was reinforced by repetition in I Chron. 18:14 by the Chronicler (Ezra, by Rabbinic judgment [Baba Bathra, 15:a[14]]).  This puts the lie to Absolom’s slander (II Sam. 15:3-4) and supports the foundation premise of Psalm 41 that David did “consider the poor” and structured his government to grant them justice. 

David’s Sons as “Priestly” Judges

            In the administrative structure of David’s reign, his sons served as “chief rulers” (AV, cohenim, “priests,” II Sam 8:18).  Since the days of Jethro’s advice to Moses, Israel was judged by a system of graded judges who administered justice to all under Moses (Ex. 18:24-26).  Under David, this role was filled by his sons, especially those eldest sons who were in the line of succession for the throne (II Sam. 3:1-5).  The use of the term “priests” in this connection must not throw us into thinking of his sons exercising some function in the religious ritual of Israel.  The civil meaning intended is made clear by the Chroniclers “since they substitute here (I Chron. xviii.17) ‘chief about (literally, at the hand of ) the king.”[15]  My suggestion is that the key to understanding the civil function of David’s sons is to note the function of the priests Malachi emphasizes: “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth…” (Mal. 2:7).  The purpose was to “turn many away from iniquity” (Mal. 2:6).  So also David’s sons functioned civilly as “priests” at the judicial gate of Jerusalem under him (II Sam. 15:2).  They lived in intimate fellowship with their father, eating at the royal table (II Sam. 9:11, “he (Mephibosheth) shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons”).  They could there gain his mind and direction in their work as trusted advisors and surrogates.  [Note the connection to Psalm 41 where it is “mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (v. 9).]  Because she is looking too closely for some kingly cultic function for the son-priests, the usually excellent commentator, Joyce Baldwin, will later find it “inconceivable that David did not know what Absalom was doing” when he won the hearts of the people by lying to them saying “there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee” (II Sam. 15:3).[16]  His lying whisper campaign was plausible and his activity plausibly covered from suspicion because he WAS David’s deputed surrogate, the very man who as eldest son and heir apparent to the throne was certainly the one to be looked to for justice.

The Covenant Applied in David’s Sin

            David’s sin is very well known.  His private lust for and adultery with Bathsheba has become an extremely effective classic example for all of the effects of sin and mercy in the Covenant.  After Nathan’s carefully constructed parabolic story of the rich shepherd’s rapacious usurpation and festive consumption of the poverty-stricken father’s dearly bought and deeply cherished life-giving little ewe, David’s angry death sentence is turned on himself: “Thou art the man” (II Sam. 12:7). He is himself worthy of death for arranging Uriah’s murder, secretly committing adultery with his wife, and giving great occasion to the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme His name.  For the first two crimes, the significant sentence is

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because

thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be

thy wife.  Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee

out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and

give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight

of this sun.  For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all

Israel, and before the sun. (II Sam. 12:10-12)

 

This sentence of judgment is extremely significant when viewed in connection with the Lord’s covenant with David.  The covenant had promised that “if he (David’s seed) commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men” (II Sam. 7:14).  Now, David was finding that, although the covenant had been made with him, he was not the lord of it.  He was in it in the same capacity as his seed.  In other words, like Adam and Abraham before him, David would have to look forward in the Covenant to his Seed for salvation (Gen. 3:15; Gen. 17:7).  David would come to see that he had a Lord in His Seed: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1).  This is the covenantal answer to our Lord’s masterful question, “If David then called him Lord; how is he his son?” (Mt. 22:41-45). 

            Significantly, David now learned the enormous consequences of this his personal sin.  His whole life, spared in mercy, would be colored by this judgment.  Whenever he saw the rod of enemies applied to him, especially out of his house, he would know that it stemmed directly from this judgment.  So, in our Psalm 41, seeing his busy, outwardly solicitous, but secretively subversive enemies, he immediately cries,  “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.” (Ps. 41: 4)  If Luther’s first thesis reminds us that the Christian life is one of continual repentance; David’s life can be viewed as one of continual repentance for this one sin.  No wonder the commentators find themselves tracking so many of his Psalms back to the consequences of this one great sin.

            How high and vast is the spread of his troubles with the sword in his “house,” among those most closely related to him, those he trusted and confided in most, those with whom he regularly shared his table.  As Psalm 41 put it, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (v. 9).  These included the king’s sons, just as he said of Mephibosheth, “he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons” (II Sam. 9:11).  Chapter 13 will immediately show the relentless plodding plotting iniquities of those expecting to succeed David on the throne.  The incestuous Amnon, “his firstborn” (II Sam. 3:1), and the revengeful Absalom, his next in line[17], are both significantly introduced as “the son of David” (II Sam. 13:1)—obviously part of his house.  And should we not include the notoriously legendary wise man, Ahithophel, “the king’s counselor” (I Chron. 27:33), who joined the conspiracy of Absalom (II Sam 15:12 and 31) and is usually identified as the trusted traitor of Psalm 41:9?  Ahithophel is thought to be Bathsheba’s grandfather on the basis of the shared name, Eliam, of his son and her father (II Samuel 23:34 and 11:3).

If God considered David’s sin of humiliating Bathsheba as an act that “despised Me” (II Sam. 12:10), would not her grandfather also feel despised by and alienated in heart from David without the covenanted mercies of the Divine to counter those feelings in his heart?  Did not both sides of the family that should have been united by the marriage contribute to the sword “because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (II Sam. 12:10)?

            Still, the “sure mercies of David,” “an everlasting covenant” (Isa. 55:3), is immediately there for David.  No sooner than Nathan had explained the lasting judgment than David said, “I have sinned against the LORD” and Nathan replied, “the LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (II Sam. 12:13).  God’s covenant makes such mercy possible and certain (II Sam. 7:15).  David may expect it and plead for it as certain whenever he finds he has sinned.  Hence, what some consider the strange logic of Psalm 41:4: “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against you.”

The middle proposition, “for Christ’s sake,” is missing because the covenant is already secure in His sacrifice (Psalm 22) so that mercy is “sure” and the covenant “everlasting.”

He knew there was no Levitical sacrifice for murder or adultery (“Thou desireth not sacrifice, else would I give it.”  Ps. 51:16).  Still he expected to be purged with hyssop and washed whiter than snow (Ps. 51:7), and he was. 

            Indeed, the gracious mercy of the covenant is “everlasting” and never to be given up on, even in the face of God’s clear and specific declarations of judgment.  When Nathan declared that the child from his adultery with Bathsheba would die, David nonetheless besought the Lord to spare his life with fasting and tears up until he perceived that the child was dead.  Even then he rightly expected the mercy of God in the next world: “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Sam. 12:23).  Covenant mercy is everlasting.

Absalom: the Sword Judgment and Covenant Mercy

            The judgment from the family intrigues pronounced through Nathan begin when Amnon, the heir apparent to the Davidic throne, is encouraged by his paternal cousin, Jonadab, to manipulate David into innocently arranging the incestuous rape of his daughter, Absalom’s sister Tamar.  David hears of it and is “very wroth” (II Sam. 13:21), but he does nothing to the heir-apparent.  He is usually thought to be paralyzed by the guilty example of his own lustful sin.  Perhaps, he also acted out of a sense of misplaced mercy, remembering God’s own mercy to himself and the covenant promise of mercy to the seed.  Absalom bides his time and then takes revenge by his servants’ swords and flees.  By eliminating Amnon, he had also positioned himself as the new heir apparent to the throne, and David’s merciful heart longs after his exiled son, his heir apparent to the covenanted throne . (II Sam. 13:38).  Helped by another politically astute cousin, the trusted military commander Joab, who played on David’s heightened sense of justice,  Absalom regains his status in David’s love and favor in Jerusalem (II Sam. 14:33). 

            Now he hatches the conspiracy to which Psalm 41 refers, an attempt to attain the throne for himself.  BUT, if he should succeed, he would frustrate God’s covenant with David; and all he could accomplish would be to glorify himself for a time, not God.  No wonder Scripture records the horrendous grief of David and his servants when the mistaken report came that “Absalom hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left” (II Sam. 13:30-31).  Slaying every possible royal rival was not an uncommon practice to establish a new regime in the Middle East.  Also, Absalom himself, despite having had three sons (II Sam. 14:27), could not carry on the Messianic seed, even if he so desired for

            Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is

            in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance:

            and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day,

            Absalom’s place. (II Sam. 18:18) 

 

Evidently, all his sons had died; and, as John the Baptist later asserted, “[Only] God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:9).  In Psalm 41, David will lay the attempt to end his seed as a covenant consideration before the Lord, saying, “Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?” (Ps. 41:5), that is, his line of succession end.  Absalom’s conspiracy, if successful under Satan, would have destroyed God’s Covenant with David.  It was very serious, on a level with Herod’s later attempt to destroy our Lord while helpless at the time of His birth (Matt. 2:16).

            Absalom, having received his father’s public kiss of acceptance (II Sam. 14:33), began to exalt himself and advance the public acceptance of his status as heir apparent by organizing a grandeous entourage of horse-drawn chariots and 50 running guards.  Although not an accomplished warrior like his father, he sought to imply as much to the public mind in violation of Moses clear command in Deuteronomy 17:16.  This was in the same spirit as that in which he later complied with Ahithophel’s counsel to lie publicly with David’s concubines (II Sam. 16:20-23).  That action simultaneously fulfilled God’s pronounced judgment on David (II Sam. 12:11-12) and flaunted Moses prohibition (Duet. 17:17).  He was all for splendid public show, but he lacked the heart substance of his father.

            He also slandered his father with a private whisper campaign of lies as Ps. 41 clearly says.  Although we have seen God’s evaluation that “David executed judgment and justice unto all his people” (II Sam. 8:15) and have also seen his spirited, passionate sessions of public judgment turned against him by Nathan (II Sam. 12:1-7) and Joab (II Sam. 14:1-23—for Absalom’s benefit!), Absalom boldly affirms that his father has made no provision for any Israelite to receive justice when he wished to appeal to the king (II Sam. 15:3).  But the truth was that he himself, as the heir apparent, was the chief of David’s sons commissioned as “priests” to assist in granting such judgment and justice (II Sam. 8: 18)!  “And on this [despicable] manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (II Sam. 15:6).   

            Having won a base in the affections of many in Israel, Absalom engineered his usurpation from Hebron, his own home town and the seat of David’s Judean rule.  He deceived 200 men out of Jerusalem into appearing to support him.  Then he called for Ahithophel, “David’s counselor” (II Sam. 15:12), the very best, to join him.  “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom” (II Sam. 16:23).  So intense and focused was Ahithophel’s hatred for David, the death deserving violator of his granddaughter Bathsheba and murderer of her husband, that he eagerly advised Absalom step by wicked step.  He even advised and personally volunteered to lead twelve thousand soldiers on a forced night’s march [like Judas later seeking Christ] to achieve just one objective: “I will smite the king only” (II Sam. 17:2).  Behind him was the same devil “having great wrath” that will again spew out water from his mouth to flood the fleeing woman of Revelation 12.  No wonder a shocked and fearful David complained to God, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9).  Only the mercy of God is greater than such wisdom and single-minded, dogged determination (Ps. 41:10). 

Background Summary

            It is very clear that the promised kingdom and everlasting mercy of the Davidic Covenant and the history of the judgment on David’s sin with Bathsheba, particularly as seen in Absalom’s rebellion, so fully detailed in II Samuel, form the historical background against which Psalm 41 is to be understood.

 

PSALM 41

The Unity of the Psalm

            To deal adequately with Psalm 41, it seems necessary to me to establish the integrity of the Psalm by rejecting the very much ingrained idea of book divisions in the Psalter, at least the Book II designation which affects this Psalm.  The 5 book view of the Psalter leads most commentators to simply rip verse 13 from the Psalm by calling it a doxology added to end the first book of the Psalter.  I will later argue how well it fits the character of David’s lifelong response to the Covenant (II Sam. 7) and caps the Davidic Covenant approach to this psalm that I am advocating.  Here I wish to offer

structural considerations based on the study of Dr. J. W. Thirtle[18] and my son, Dr. Calel Butler.[19] 

            Much of significance regarding the superscripts and subscripts of the Psalms was lost during the long years of the Babylonian Captivity while the inspired Temple liturgy was not conducted.  Uninspired Rabbinic scholars and other commentators have tried to recreate or preserve word meanings and structural ideas for the people of God.  Some are clearly wrong, such as the division Psalm 42-43 into two Psalms in our immediate context.[20]  Of the five book view, Sarna has suggested from the Midrash:

            ‘Moses gave Israel five books of the Torah, and David gave Israel five books

            of the Psalms.’  This parallel between the literary legacies of Moses and David

            is implicit in the Book of Chronicles, which correlates Moses’ institution of the

            sacrificial system with David’s inauguration of the Temple liturgy.  It is quite

            possible, therefore, that the fivefold division of the Psalter was intentionally

            created with that parallel in mind.[21]

 

The insertion of that theory into the text of the Psalter has led in Psalm 41 to the dislocation of the subscript, “To the chief Musician,” from the Psalm.  It is attached it erroneously to the title of Psalm 42-43.  A like pattern is then applied throughout the Psalter.  On the other hand, Thirtle’s observation of the structure of the independent psalm in Habakkuk 3 found certain elements that constituted superscript psalm titles[22] and others, musical commitments like “To the chief Musician,” that constituted subscripts. Applying this pattern from Habakkuk to Psalm 41 reveals that the designation “Book II” is inserted into the text ripping off the subscript and making it part of the superscript of the next Psalm.  This is clearly a mistake, and the consequence is that all those scholars are wrong who make Psalm 41:13 an end of book doxology rather than interpreting it as part of the Psalm.

            A second consideration is found by those seeing a chiastic structure in the Psalm.

            The benediction at the end of Psalm 41 also must be part of the psalm.  The

            “blessed” in the benediction is opposite to the “blessed” of verse 1 in the

            chiastic structure of the psalm.  Verse 13 was therefore written by the author

            as part of the psalm itself, not added later to end Book I.[23]

 

This can be seen, for example in Bullinger’s chiastic outline:

            MESSIAH’S PRAYER AND PRAISE IN VIEW OF FUTURE BLESSING

                                    (Introversion and Extended Alternation)

 

            Q / 1-3             Jehovah’s favour to Messiah

                R / 4                 Prayer

                    S / c / 5 —        Enemies.  What they do.

                            d / –5            Enemies.  What they say.

                                e / 6              The Traitor.

                    S / c / 7            Enemies.  What they do.

                             d / 8              Enemies. What they say.

                                e / 9          The Traitor 

                 R / 10            Prayer

            Q / 11, 12     Jehovah’s favour to Messiah[24]

 

            Without accepting more than Bullinger’s structuring of the Psalm, I would also like to argue that, once the Davidic Covenant basis of the Psalm is accepted, the end verses and benediction fit perfectly David’s response to that covenant mercy and hope.

The Superscription Title

            The superscription, “A Psalm by David,” clearly identifies this as a separate psalm, a work sung to musical accompaniment.  It is therefore to be interpreted within itself and, as much as possible—and in this case much is possible—in the light of King David’s life and circumstances.[25] 

The Davidic Understanding of Psalm 41

The Royal Beatitude

(verses 1-3)

 

                        The Psalm begins with a recognized beatitude: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.”  It is usually explained and expounded as a general truth, applicable to all men, probably being the scriptural background for our Lord’s beatitude in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).  It is usually then applied to our Lord as Savior.  So Charles Spurgeon writes,

            First and foremost, yea far above all others put together in tender compassion for

            the needy is our Lord Jesus, who so remembered our low estate, that though he

            was rich, for our sakes he became poor.  All his attributes are charged with the

            task of our uplifting…[26]

 

Augustine and John Gill[27] cleverly turn the tables to make our Lord the poor One to be contemplated for our blessing in salvation, transforming the Psalm with an evangelical application., and Hengstenberg finds an ideal, exemplary man (“the righteous as suffering”[28]), not a real individual; but few will follow them. 

            I want to assert that this beatitude has not only a general reference to all, but a special reference to kings and to David.  In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel records the words of the wisdom prophecy his mother taught him.  Among them he records,

            Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to

            destruction.   Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor

            and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)

 

Kings especially must be the administrators and enforcers of justice for the weak and afflicted, for everyone under them who has seen justice perverted.  This is the essence of kingship; and hence, it is the essence of what is required of kings in the Davidic Covenant.  Now we have seen that “David reigned over all Israel: and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people” (II Sam. 8:15).  He also made his sons “priests” or “chief rulers” (II Sam. 8:18) to extend his own judicial capacity as Moses had done at Jethro’s suggestion (Ex. 18).  His own emotion-infused compassion is seen in what Hengstenberg regards as the “fundamental passage”[29] for this psalm:

            But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my

            soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.  I behaved

            myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as

            one that mourneth for his mother. (Ps. 35: 13-14)  

 

It is also seen in his whole-hearted administration of judicial justice, upon which Nathan and Joab depended.  It is also this very point upon which Absalom personally depended and yet slanderously denied in his whisper campaign against David.

            In this psalm, David, under the Spirit of God, wants to establish the principle that, whatever men rationalize or devise, God will, under His covenant, greatly honor the king that conscientiously shows compassion.  Or, to put it in our Lord’s more covenantal terms, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7).  The word David uses for “blessed” is found often in wisdom literature as a motivational word.  It focuses on the joyful happiness that comes when a man does something God directs.  My old Hebrew professor in seminary taught us to translate it “Oh, the happiness of.”  It fits with our catechism view that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” 

Davidic kings desire happiness.  They may attain it under God by considering the poor, that is, anyone in a physically ill, afflicted or depressed condition.[30]  David knew this because God’s covenanted mercy had been extend to him and had deliver him “in a time of trouble” raised by Absalom.  “The LORD [did] preserve him and [kept] him alive, and he [was] blessed upon earth: and thou [did] not deliver him unto the will of his enemies” (Ps. 41:2).  Indeed, he was “blessed with abundant, enviable happiness” upon earth.  All his seed should be so blessed.

            In verse three, David extends his assurance of the Lord’s preservation, based on the royal covenanted “sure” mercy and the everlasting certainty that his promised house would reign forever, to the special case of  the helplessly, hopelessly sick.  “The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness” (v. 3).  Many commentators posit that this was David’s experience during Absalom’s rebellion.  They feel that this debilitating illness, unmentioned in II Samuel, explains Absalom’s selection of a time to rebel in his father’s weakness and possible death. As well, it is used to explain David’s choosing to flee instead of mounting a defense in Jerusalem.  This may all be correct.  If so, David is still holding up his own experience to encourage his descendants.  If, instead, it is, as other think, just a figure drawn of the Lord’s nursing care, then it certainly encouraged his son Hezekiah when he was “sick unto death” and told by Isaiah to set his house in order.  He besought the LORD with serious weeping and pleas for life based on his upright walk before the Lord Who “in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou has cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isaiah 38:17).  Preserved from the pit of corruption (compare, Ps. 16:10), he also composed a hymn of praise in thanksgiving.  If David did not personally experience such nursing care, certainly his covenant seed did.

David’s Testimony

David’s Personal Experience of Mercy

(Ps. 41:4-12)

 

            In the Hebrew construction of verse 4 (Heb. v. 5), David adds a pronoun “I” to the verb that also carries the first person singular ending.  This construction makes it absolutely clear that David is speaking of his own experience, prayer and answer in these verses: “As for me, I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”  These are the words that trip up many commentators who want to apply this psalm to Christ.  C. H. Spurgeon, for example, says,

            The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless

            there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation;

            and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal

            rather than imputed sin.[31]

 

But the words need not and should not be applied to the Savior, for David made clear that they are his words, not another’s.  In his case, he knew, when he heard of the sword of Absalom, that this was the judgment sword that would never depart from his house in his lifetime because of his sin with Bathsheba (II Sam. 12:10).  He looked at the punishment, immediately again confessed his sin and sought the covenant’s everlasting mercy in the face of just judgment.  This is David’s life-long struggle: hiding from the consequences of his sin under covenant mercy.  As Spurgeon says, “Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but “I have sinned.[32]  David knew that the Covenant’s mercy ( II Sam. 7:15) would always be available to his sons (Is. 38:17) and placed his own example before them to be taught in psalm and followed in life.

            As Hezekiah after him (Is. 38), David felt the need to detail the “trouble” into which he had fallen.  In verse 5 (“Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?”), he clearly ties all their hatred to his sin and their opposition to the covenant.  While Ahithophel probably was motivated by seeking revenge for the shame of David’s sin against his granddaughter (“I will smite the king only,” II Sam. 17:2), Absalom wanted the end of the covenanted seed (“his name perish,” Ps. 41:5).  Although he was the heir-apparent, restored for the purpose of preserving the “inheritance of God” (II Sam. 14:16),  like Esau, he despised the covenant and wanted to take the kingdom on his own terms and for his own merely temporal ends.  He was a dead end for the covenant seed (“I have no son to keep my name in remembrance,” II Sam. 18:18) with only a memorial rock pillar to preserve his own name in Israel.  He wanted his father in the same covenant-ending fate.  Covenantally, David would die, but his covenanted house, his seed, God’s “son” could not left to erode away as a pillar of stone (II Sam. 7:12-13).  So David reminds God of his enemies’ malicious purpose. 

            Verse 6 turns from the general  anti-covenant intention of the group to focus on the deceitful activity of the ringleader, Absalom.  “And whenever (NIV) he came to see me his heart was speaking falsely.  His heart was gathering slander to itself.  Then when  he would go away, he would continue speaking about it.” (verse 6)  This was his regular mode of operation.  As one of the king’s sons and especially as the heir-apparent, he had a regular seat and standing invitation to eat at the king’s table (II Sam. 9:11).  From that high and honored place, he regularly flattered and pretended deference to his father, bowing himself “on his face to the ground before the king” and accepting his father’s kiss of welcome and intimate favor (II Sam. 14:33).  In all the familiar banter and pleasant conversation, his heart was gathering tidbits of slander, items that he could twist in his private conversations outside to his own patricidal purpose as he for years “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (II Sam. 15:6).

            The plurals in verses 7 and 8 return to show the general agreement of the many rebellious leaders, the many elders of Israel, before verse 9 again highlights the deceitfulness of the major architect of the strategy of David’s destruction, Ahithophel.

            The seventh and eighth verses seem to hone in on the deadly counsel David knew that Ahithophel, whose counsel rivaled that of an “Oracle of God” (II Sam. 16:23), would certainly supply and for which purpose he had urged Hushai to remain behind and counter.  Hence, to properly interpret the verses, it is necessary to read them along with II Samuel 17:1-4.

            “All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt” (verse 7).  This refers to the private, nighttime (“this night,” II Sam. 17:1) counsel of war in which Ahithophel and Absalom were the main participants; but in which all the main conspiratorial leaders were present since Scripture records that Ahithophel’s “saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel” (II Sam. 17:4). 

            Unfortunately, the nature of the counsel is obscured by many translators who use the translation “an evil disease” as David’s dire trouble since they have imagined that he was beset by a deadly disease that threatened to take his life.[33]  There seems little to concretely support this hypothesis of a natural deadly disease.  Instead, a clearer alternative should be sought based on the historic night war council recorded in II Samuel.  The Hebrew term is literally “a thing of Belial.”  This is a general term for something extremely bad.  I would translate it “A terribly bad situation has gripped him: and now that he is decked by it he shall not rise again” (verse 8).  This bad situation is what Ahithophel refers to in the council.  David, with a sizeable entourage of unorganized friends, family and soldiers had fled in haste at the report of Absalom’s strength, like Israel had fled from Egypt, but with far less warning or preparation.  The flight left David “weary and weak of hand” (II Sam. 17:2).  As the night engulfed him, he would have fallen down exhausted and too weary to mount any kind of a spirited defense.  Ahithophel suggested that an organized mass of 12,000 chosen, well-armed and disciplined troops would cause the rag-tag, worn-out people with him to flee in fear and panic leaving the overspent David to face the army alone (II Sam. 17:2).  He would never be able to resist “and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more” (verse 8).  It was a perfect read.  David was in a “situation of Belial” whose grip he could not escape.  Ahithophel’s analysis and counsel was brilliant.  David lay exhausted in an easily identifiable place.  He could be easily dispatched.  The confident Ahithophel himself would lead the troops.  David was a goner.

            Now David zooms in on this notorious traitor. While the whole body of conspiratorial leaders approved the plan (Ps. 41:7; II Sam. 17:3), one man stood out, and the gam, at the beginning of verse 9 expresses David’s painful stress on the presence of this conspirator.[34]  He had been “the man of my peace (shalom, welfare).”  The best note on the meaning is probably the old Dutch Calvinist Herman Venema’s: “he who, on visiting me, continually saluted me with the kiss of love and veneration, and the usual address: peace be to thee.”  And Hengstenberg, who quote Venema adds “The expression, ‘he said, Hail Rabbi, and kissed him,’ Matt. xxvi. 49, may fitly be compared here.”[35]  Ahithophel was that man to whose advice David committed his life and welfare with as much confident trust (“in whom I trusted—in him”) as he placed in the Urim and Thummim or the prophets of God (II Sam. 16:23).  He was also a constantly welcome and admitted guest at David’s table (“an eater of my food”) along with his sons.  No doubt David wished that they would look to him and imbibe his wisdom for use in their office as “priests” judging the people and preparing for future leadership of God’s people.  Absalom, for one, was certainly so impressed. 

            One might have thought that the marriage tie between them through his granddaughter Bathsheba would have sealed the relationship forever, but the prophesied sword arising from David’s house seemed to have extended to the wronged and unforgiving grandfather.  “He lifted against me his heel.”  It seems to me that the best understanding of this sentence harkens back to the picture of the bitter conflict of Genesis 3:15 where Christ, the woman’s seed is seen crushing with His heel the serpent’s head while it attempts to fatally crush His heel.  Ahithophel was looking with singularly focused vision for one fatal blow to crush and grind out David’s life completely.  God had in mercy spared David; but Ahithophel would treat him, lying exhausted from his flight, as a snake in the grass.

            But God’s covenant mercy, David knows, is everlasting: “but My mercy shall not depart away from him” (II Sam. 7:15).  So, he asks for it: “But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them” (v. 10).  His enemies think he will never rise again (v.8), but he here asks God to raise him up.  And this he asks expectantly, knowing the past favor of God Who has always been with him and has “cut off all his enemies in the past (II Sam. 7:9).  So this will be another demonstration of God’s favor (v. 11).

            Many commentators, taking this psalm as just a generalized wisdom psalm have felt that David’s stated purpose for asking to be raised up—to be able to requite his enemies—is contrary to the New Testament ethic expressed by Paul: “dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves…” (Rom. 12:19).  It may even be seen as contrary to David’s personal demonstrations of mercy (to Shimei [II Sam. 16:5-13] and even Absalom [II Sam. 18:5, 32].  Most conservative commentators correctly resolve the contradiction by recalling David’s kingly office with its charge to maintain justice for the nation.  This should be all the more clearly seen as the correct interpretation by those who view the psalm within the context of the Davidic Covenant.

            “And as for me, Thou upholdest me in mine integrity” (v. 13).  In the deliverance of His servant and in the judgment on Absalom, the Lord vindicated David from the vile, seductive lies of Absalom.  David had not failed to make provision for justice to all Israel.  He had done so, and God demonstrated His approval of David’s performance by not letting His people fall under the self-aggrandizing, immoral, cut throat “justice” that Absalom would certainly have continued long after he made reality of the flattering advice Hushai used to deceived him: “and of [David] and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one” (II Sam. 17:12).    

            David also had covenanted confidence in the Lord that “Thou setteth me before thy face forever” (v. 13).  Note how David in his prayer response to the original covenant announcement cannot get away from using this very word: “forever” (II Sam. 7: 24-29).  Israel has been chosen, and the Lord will be their God “forever.”  Of God’s word concerning David and his house he confidently asks “establish it forever, and do as thou hast said.”  This will “let Thy name be magnified forever….”  “And with Thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever.”  In Psalm 41:13, David seems to even look far past the present covenanted deliverance, past the time “when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (II Sam. 7:12) to an eternity with his Lord (Ps. 110:1) amidst the “fullness of joy” that is “in Thy presence” “for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).

            David then concludes his psalm with “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen” (v.13).  We have before argued that this is not an end of book I doxology but rather the proper end of Psalm 41.  Indeed, it may be added here that this is characteristically Davidic.  It is the same ending David gave to the first psalm he delivered to Asaph and his brethren (I Chron. 16:7): “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel forever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD” (v.36).  David never tired of blessing the covenant-giving God of Israel.  The word used here, baruk, is not the same word for blessing used in verse 1.  This blessing of God is the highest act a creature can perform.  It is more than any of us can imagine or merit doing, since “without contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (Heb. 7:7).  I can add just a few thoughts from Thomas Goodwin on the subject:

            Hence if we would speak strictly, blessing God is appropriated properly to the

            saints, with a difference from praising God; Ps. cxlv. 10, ‘All thy works shall

            praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee.’  The saints alone, they bless

            him, and why?  Because they alone bear good will to him.  And they bless the

            Lord with their whole souls, and all that is within them, Ps. ciii. 1 and this God

            respects more than your ‘giving him glory.’ …

            It is an infinite favour we are admitted to…indeed the highest, not only to pray to

            God to obtain all blessings, and to give thanks to him when we have them; and

            further to glorify him for the glory that is in him; but beyond all this, to bless

            Him for all the blessedness that is in him, and for him to take in our Amen, our

            Euge, to his own blessedness….[36] 

 

This is the same word rejoicing in God’s blessing of his house that David uses repeatedly in his covenant prayer response in II Sam. 7:29.  Here he adds a double Amen for he wishes to assert the covenant’s absolute certainty, just as our Lord does when He wants it abundantly clear that He is speaking absolute truth (John 3:3).

            With this background interpretation of Psalm 41, we are ready to consider its application to our Lord and His Church.

How the Messiah Read Psalm 41

            Our Lord Jesus clearly knew that He was the “Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1).  The entire gospel of Matthew establishes this.  As such, He thought more deeply about the Davidic Covenant and its meaning for interpreting the Psalms He sang than any other man.  His interchanges at Jerusalem during the last Passover establish this. 

What think ye of Christ?  Whose son is he?  They say unto him, The son of

David.  He saith unto them, How then doth David in Spirit call him Lord, saying,

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine

enemies Thy footstool?  If David then call him Lord; how is he his son? (Mt. 22:41-46)[37]

 

He understood the psalms covenantally. So, our first point in understanding His understanding of Psalm 41 is that He would interpret it and apply it to himself as a son of David, indeed “The Seed of David,” in light of the Davidic Covenant.  He lived out the conscientious kingly care for the poor and afflicted advocated in the opening beatitude throughout His entire life and ministry.  He showed Himself kinder and more considerate than has ever been found in His most dedicated disciples (Mt. 14:15-21).  He would expect and experience all the happiness promised (“I that speak unto thee am He” and “I have meat to eat that ye know not of,” John 4:26 and 32).  As the Davidic “Son” of God (II Sam. 7:14), He would expect and experience the preserving and keeping promised (Ps. 41:2): “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Lk. 23:46).  Everything expressed through and modeled by his father David in this psalm He followed and perfected.

            Second, He knew Himself and understood that there were parts of David’s personal experience He would not experience.  Most notably, to borrow Hebrews’ phrasing, “we have not [a Davidic King] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Since He had no sin—and had not committed the adultery that lay behind all David’s temporal sufferings—it is clear that David’s personal confession in verse 4 (so clearly applied by David to himself: “I said”) could not  in any sense be applied by Him to Himself.  The “if” of the covenant (“If he commit iniquity,” II Sam. 7:14) always remained an “if” for Him.  It never became a “when.”  So, when He sang this psalm, He was “touched with the feeling of [David’s] infirmities” but never a participant in them.  

            It is on this unavoidable stumbling rock of sin that I think the constructed concept of men’s lives being types of Christ breaks down.  It is better to leave the idea of theological types to the objects, rituals and Levitical offices of scripture and adopt the covenantal view in applying teachings about men’s lives.  They should be seen as “ensamples” (I Cor. 10:11), not types.

            Third, our Lord knew that He would suffer and die for David’s great sin.  David certainly suffered the judgment Psalm 41 recalls for his sin, but he knew that “the LORD hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (II Sam. 12:13).  Instead, the real suffering and death of his sin would be Christ’s.  He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).  “The LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6).

He knew that

God hath set [Him] forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare

His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).

 

Thus, without personal sin, He knew that He would to atone for David’s sin.  The unjustified conspiracy of the leaders of Israel against His Davidic kingship would therefore be expected on the basis of a parallel experience to David’s in this psalm.

He would rightly expect that some close friend of His extended family would betray Him as part of the substitute judgment He would bear for His human father and servant, David.  Just how close a relative Judas was, I do not know.  Scripture identifies the traitor into whom Satan entered[38] as “Iscariot” and “one of the twelve.”  Iscariot means ‘man of Kerioth,” a city of Judah.  Hence he may well have been of the same tribe as our Lord and possibly a relative like His cousins John and James.  He was certainly one of the disciples whom Jesus identified as “My brethren” (Mt. 12:49).  He would also qualify as “a man of my peace (or, welfare)” (Ps. 41:9), not only because he regularly greeted our Lord with a kiss and the customary “Peace be unto you,” as Venema and Hengstenberg  have noted, but he also held the bag as treasurer for the Lord and His band of disciples (Jn. 13:29).  He regularly bought their daily provisions and seems to have been entrusted with carrying out the charitable giving of the group after consultation with our Lord.  This surely qualified him as a man of whom the Lord could think “in whom I trusted” (v. 9).  Contrary to the many commentators who, like Kostenberger,[39] believe that John wants to protect Jesus’ omniscience from any suggestion that He “was taken by surprise by Judas’ betrayal” and so omits Ps. 41:9’s “even my close friend in whom I trusted,”  I think John simply uses economy of wordiness in omitting the words.  Judas certainly was in a position of trust in regard to Jesus.  Although he was later recognized by John as a thief (John 12:6) and Jesus surely by the time of the Last Supper had perceived his uncleanness (Jn. 13:10) and betrayal (Jn. 13:21), still a sin-prone nature would have beset any man placed in that position of trust.  It would only be by Christ’s prayer that Judas, like Peter (Lk. 22:31), could escape being sifted like wheat by Satan.  Judas was trusted.  He betrayed that trust. 

            As to the rest of verse 9, John records that our Lord at supper said, “…but that the scripture may be fulfilled, HE THAT EATETH BREAD WITH ME HATH LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME” (Jn. 13:18).  Judas regular presence at His table, like Ahithophel’s at David’s table, put him in close personal fellowship with Jesus and gave him a seat in the most privileged training sessions in righteousness ever conducted for the benefit of human beings.  It also gave him a forum to express his opinion and advice on every matter that came before Jesus and His closest disciples (Jn. 12: 4-8).  Even in that privileged capacity he raised hypocritical criticisms as a supper guest that questioned Jesus’ care of the poor.  He spoke in seemingly pious, but hypocritical, terms that  sounded just like Absalom’s whispered self-serving criticisms of David designed to steal the affections of God’s people for himself.  Satan may have entered Judas as the defining final force causing his determined move to betrayal, but Judas own lust for a little graft prepared him to betray “innocent blood” (Mt. 27:3-4) and bring judgment on all Israel and the end of the beneficial Davidic rule (Deut. 19: 10-13; Jer. 22:3-4, 16-19; 26:15).

            John 13:18’s observation regarding Ps. 41:9 “that the scripture may be fulfilled” must be seen to mean that the existence of David’s suffering an unjust betrayal by his alienated but highly trusted and deeply loved close advisor—a situation theologically justified as a temporal, but not eternal, judgment for his lifelong, overshadowing great sin with Bathsheba—required a parallel, but personally unprovoked, suffering of judgment by David’s perfectly perpetually personally pure and innocent Lord and Savior, his son and God’s, Jesus Christ.  It in no way means that Ps. 41 is a direct prophecy of the words of Jesus.  It is a stated, covenantal fulfillment necessitated by Christ’s substitutionary atonement for David that is in view, not some situation-based, typological theory of similarity. 

            Fourth, our Lord knew that He would share the benefits of the covenant with His father-servant, David.  As He sang David’s psalm, He too knew that the Lord would “raise me up” (v. 10).  In His case this would be His resurrection.  He would know thereby “that Thou favourest Me because mine enemy doth not triumph over me” (v. 11).  He too would be upheld in His integrity and set before God’s face forever because (1) the beatitude promised preservation and keeping (v. 2) and “because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth” (Is. 53:9); (2) He too would “see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hands” (Is. 53:10).  Thus the Lord would also “set [Him] before [His] face forever” (Ps. 41:12).  He will say “Thou wilt shew Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).  

            And finally, He would know that His fulfillment of all the work His Father had given Him to do would result in the greatest blessing of the LORD God of Israel (v. 13), not by a lesser creature but this time by at least an Equal.  Amen and Amen.

The Christian’s Interpretation/Application of Psalm 41

            David sent this psalm for Davidic kings “to the chief Musician,” thus placing it in the domain of the public worship to be used to glorify God by all Israel.  It is most fitting as an encouraging instructional psalm for all Christians because it so clearly for Davidic kings, who are established as such by the Davidic Covenant.  Being in Christ, Christians are also covenanted sons of David as surely as being in Christ has made them covenanted sons of Abraham and heirs of that covenant (Gal. 3:29).  So Paul applies all the blessings of the Davidic Covenant to them picturing God as saying, “I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:17-18; II Sam. 7:14).  “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world” (I Cor. 6:2) as Davidic kings in Christ?  In such a position, Psalm 41 offers Christians all the instruction and comfort David intended for all his other seed that God chose to reign forever as his house.

Conclusion

            When understood and interpreted in its natural meaning as a composition of David based upon the Davidic Covenant of II Samuel 7 and his experience and hope under it, Psalm 41 is seen to have been properly understood and applied by our Lord in John 13:8.  Commentators should abandon their doubts and imagined problems and contradictions and, instead, develop a greater regard for the covenants of scripture God gave to regulate His relationships to His saints and His world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

           

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1970). vol. I, p. 286.
[2] Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove, Ill.), p. 150.
[3] John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. By James Anderson (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), vol. II, p. 127.
[4] Ibid., p. 126.
[5] The Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, The Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2004) Introduction, p. A-2.
[6] The Confession of Faith of the American Presbyterian Church, on line at American Presbyterian Church.org, Chapter 7, Section 8.
[7] Robert P. Gordon, I&II Samuel, A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1988), p. 235.
[8] John Calvin, Sermons on 2 Samuel, trans. By Douglas Kelly ( London: Banner of Truth, 1992), pp 295, 297.
[9] Gordon, ibid., p. 236.
[10] The double meaning of “house” (building and/or dynastic heritage is often played on by our Lord.  In the last days of His Flesh on earth, He told the scribes and Pharisees “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23:38)  Did He mean Herod’s imposing Temple or the more devastating loss of the Davidic King, Who would have gathered the chicks of Jerusalem to safety and rest, but their rulers would not allow it?  The same double play on the meaning of “house” is possible in “He shall build an house for my name” (v. 13) so that Solomon may be in view as a constructor of the Temple, but Christ in view as the constructor of the spiritual dynasty in His house, His Church.
[11] Cited by George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of our LORD JESUS, THE CHRIST, as covenanted in THE OLD TESTAMENT and presented in THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications,, 1957), vol. I, p. 313.  “Those who refer it to Christ directly (as Tertullian, Lactantius, Beza, Calov, Pfieffer, Buddeus, Patrick, etc.) or indirectly (as Hengstenberg and others), or in part to Him and in part to Solomon (as Breuz, Sack, etc.), or literally to Solomon and mystically to Christ (as Glass, etc.) –all find that in Jesus we must find the preeminent fulfillment.”
[12] Gordon, ibid., p. 240.
[13] Gordon J. Keddie, Triumph of the King (Durham: Evangelical Press, 1990), p. 64.
[14] Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles, The Old Testament Library (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p.23.
[15] F. Gardiner, II Samuel in Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), vol. II, p. 467.  Gardiner says, “So these words are rendered in all the ancient versions except the Vulg….”
[16] Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 & 2 Samuel, in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: Intervarsity  Press, 1988), pp. 225-6, 258.
[17] Most feel Abigail’s son Chileab died early since there is no record of his actively seeking the throne as the more prominently mentioned other 3 of David’s first four sons surely did. 
[18] J. W. Thirtle, The Titles of the Psalms: Their Nature and Meaning Explained (London: Henry Frowde, 1904).  Thirtle’s work is summarized in Appendix 64 of J. W. Bullinger’s The Companion Bible and applied in his text and notes, although Bullinger does also accept the 5 books of Psalms hypothesis.
[19] Calel James Butler, The Five Books of the Psalter (unpublished study supplied to the author of material left out of his doctoral dissertation on the integrity of the Psalm titles).
[20] Another example is dividing Moses’ Psalm 90-91 into two psalms.
[21] Sarna, On the Book of Psalms, p. 17 (cited by Calel Butler, op. cit., p. 4).  I might also note when one examines the Leningrad manuscript, for example, all divisional material like Psalm breaks and versification is clearly placed in the margin, not in the streaming text itself.
[22] Another superscript title example is Isaiah 38:9-20.
[23] Calel Butler, op. cit., p. 2.
[24] The Companion Bible, p. 758.
[25] It is disappointing to find fine commentators like Gerald H. Wilson waffling on the inspired Psalm titles for no apparent reason.  He writes, “Whether or not David actually wrote this piece, it serves appropriately to mirror his experience…” (The New Application Commentary: Psalms Volume 1, p.650)  I would commend my son’s, Dr. Calel Butler’s, unpublished doctoral dissertation “An Historical, Textual, and Biblical Defense of the Inspiration and Ancient Origin of the Psalm Titles found in the Massoretic Text” (Pensacola Christian College, Graduate School, 2005) to those interested in the topic of the titles embedded in the Hebrew texts that have come down to us.
[26] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Byron Center, MI: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1970), vol. II in vol. I, p. 284.
[27] See both on Psalm 41 in their respective works on Psalms.
[28] E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalms (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, orig. 1864), II, p. 78.
[29] Hengstenberg, ibid.
[30] “ld signifies properly, thin, lean, slender, and then designates him, who finds himself in a depressed situation, with whom matters go ill and hard.” (Hengstenberg, II, p. 79).
[31] Spurgeon, op. cit., II, p. 286.
[32] Ibid.
[33] To be fair, they are working from the context of the Psalm in verse 3 (“The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.”). This is possible, but the lack of a historical reference to such in II Samuel and the availability of the other historically based possibility suggested in this paper make “an evil disease” too pointed a translation for language that is generally admitted to be an obscure reference. 
[34] See James E. Smith’s article on gam, suggested usage 5 in R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Terstament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), vol. 1, p.167.
[35] Herman Venema (probably from Commentarius ad Palmos [1762-1767], cited in Hengstenberg, ibid., p. 81.
[36] Thomas Goodwin,  An Exposition of the First Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians in The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Eureka, CA: Tanski Publications, 1996) vol. I, p. 28.
[37] Matthew 21:42 also shows this superior studiousness. “Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” (Ps. 118:22-23)  Of course these “chief priests and elders of the people” had “read” this scripture.  It was the preparation for Passover when they knew they would be singing this as the climatic Hallel psalm of the season.  How could they have missed its meaning?  How could He have known it so thoroughly?
[38] “We see that this is not a case of common demoniacal possession.  Satan himself makes Judas his tool by filling his mind with traitorous thoughts and moving his will to act on them.  This mental possession, giving Satan control of mind, heart, and will.  “Satan entered into Judas” by no compulsion but as a welcome master who is received by a willing slave.”  (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel [Columbus, OH: The Wartburg Press, 1946], p.1034.
[39] Andreas J. Kostenberger, “John” in G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, editors, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: B, Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 486-7

Reverend Louis F. DeBoer passed from this life into the everlasting arms of his God and Savior on November 23, 2007.  Found on the funeral service program were these words, “What meant the most to Lolle (Louis in Dutch) was that the Gospel of Christ would be proclaimed and His Name magnified at this funeral service.  Lolle had entrusted his soul to that ‘glorious gospel of Christ’ and the redemption purchased by our Lord’s death on the Cross.  He is now ‘absent from the body, and present with the Lord,’ where there shall be ‘no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’”  This was typical of Rev. DeBoer.  He always sought the glory of God first in his life.

Reverend DeBoer imbibed the spirit of Martin Luther, who proclaimed, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every part of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all battlefields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”  He “earnestly contended for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” and was always “set for the defence of the gospel.”  His preaching was clear, not fearing the face of man.  He taught constantly the supremacy and sufficiency of the Holy Scripture, that it is the only rule of our faith and practice, that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin, and that Christ’s righteousness imputed to us is the only righteousness accepted by God for our justification.     

As a result Reverend DeBoer wrote many polemic books, manuscripts, and articles.  In the early 1970’s Reverend DeBoer published a monthly theological newsletter entitled, “The Pilgrim.” It was devoted to dealing with issues of the day from a Biblical and theological perspective. The series ran for two years and thus totaled 24 issues. Twelve of these dealt with miscellaneous issues facing American culture and society. The other twelve issues constituted the “Resistance Series,” which dealt with a complete theological, and historical overview of the question of Christian resistance to tyranny. Since they deal with the Scriptural principles that underlie all these issues, they are in that sense somewhat timeless and therefore, are being offered at this time in an electronic version. (Note: The writings of Robert Lewis Dabney and John R. Rushdoony provided both the model and the inspiration for these articles. The latter strongly endorsed them and ordered multiple copies of the bound volumes to distribute to his associates.)  Concerning these, Reverend DeBoer stated, “I have to admit that I wrote these with all the zeal and enthusiasm of youth (I was in my late twenties) and therefore they will probably appear somewhat polemical and intemperate in the sentiments expressed. If you can charitably overlook any faults in that regard and concentrate on the truths expressed I pray that these articles can continue to be a blessing to many today as they have been in the past.”

This was just the beginning of Reverend DeBoer’s publishing accomplishments.  He wrote and published:

The Fruit of the Vine   A thorough scriptural defense of the principle of temperance, abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

Lord of the Conscience A scriptural defense of the principles of religious liberty.

The Divine Covenants  A scriptural exposition of all the divine covenants in the Bible.

The New Phariseeism    A scriptural refutation of the cult of British-Israelism.

Hymns, Heretics, and History   This study documents the commitment of the early Christian Church to psalmody, the erosion of that commitment over the centuries, and the introduction of hymns in the church by early heretical cults such as the Gnostics and the Arians. It then traces the development of hymnody through to the present, documenting the continuing problems with any uninspired hymnody, and showing the ill effects of this in the churches.

God’s Way of Salvation   A fresh approach to an old debate. A thorough, logical, and Biblical defense of Calvinist soteriology, of how God brings his people to a state of salvation. It exposes the unbiblical nature of Arminian errors and demonstrates the logical and bitter fruit these errors have borne in the churches.

For Such a Time as This   A  commentary on the Book of Esther, an unpublished manuscript, which will be published by late 2012.

Reverend DeBoer also republished several books, including:

The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. by Charles Hodge.  This is a lengthy 2 volume work. There is an extensive section dealing with the Great Awakening and the Schism of 1741 between the “Old Side” and the “New Side.” The issues confronting the Presbyterian Church in this conflict have never really gone away and are critical to an understanding of more recent church history. The mythology that has taken over perceptions of the Great Awakening have obscured these issues. Hodge deals with them head on.

The Life of Melville by Thomas M’Crie.  The exciting biography of a major, but neglected reformer and the true father of Scotch Presbyterianism.

The Hebrew Republic by E. C. Wines.  A fascinating treatise in political science showing that the ideological origins of the American Republic lie in the ancient Hebrew Republic, in the institutions that God gave Moses at Mount Sinai.

Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense by Brian Schwertley.  Along with his previous books Sola Scriptura (A defense of the Regulative Principle of Worship), and Musical Instruments in the Worship of God, it makes a complete exposition of the Biblical Doctrine of Worship and a thorough defense of our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage of worship. Letters On Baptism by Edmund B. Fairfield.  A refutation of the doctrine of baptism by immersion.

Immersion And Immersionists by W. A. Mackay.  A thorough scriptural defense of Christian baptism of believers and their children by sprinkling or pouring.

Reverend DeBoer also developed the web sites for the church, americanpresbyterianchurch.org and press, amprpress.com.  On these web sites there is a wealth of Presbyterian and Reformed historical and theological books, sermons and articles.  He was always set for the defence and confirmation of the gospel, earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, and always ready to give an answer of the hope that was in him.  In his battle with cancer he sought the prayers of Christians, knowing that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, and through it all he trusted in the wisdom and providence of his Lord.

Reverend DeBoer left the love of his life, his wife, Faith, and his children, Louis, Rachel, Vincent, and Renee.  In our conversations over the 37 years of friendship it was very evident that they were always in his thoughts and prayers.     

His contribution to the American Presbyterian Church was immense and he is sorely missed.

Allan V. Wagner

The Burning Bush

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You will notice the burning bush in the header.  Below is an informative and blessed exposition of the burning bush by Alexander Maclaren. 

 


THE BOOK OF EXODUS THE BUSH THAT BURNED, AND DID NOT BURN OUT

‘And, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.’ Exodus 3:1It was a very sharp descent from Pharaoh’s palace to the wilderness, and forty years of a shepherd’s life were a strange contrast to the brilliant future that once seemed likely for Moses. But God tests His weapons before He uses them, and great men are generally prepared for great deeds by great sorrows. Solitude is ‘the mother- country of the strong,’ and the wilderness, with its savage crags, its awful silence, and the unbroken round of its blue heaven, was a better place to meet God than in the heavy air of a palace, or the profitless splendours of a court.So as this lonely shepherd is passing slowly in front of his flock, he sees a strange light that asserted itself, even in the brightness of the desert sunshine. ‘The bush’ does not mean one single shrub. Rather, it implies some little group, or cluster, or copse, of the dry thorny acacias, which are characteristic of the country, and over which any ordinary fire would have passed like a flash, leaving them all in grey ashes. But this steady light persists long enough to draw the attention of the shepherd, and to admit of his travelling some distance to reach it. And then—and then—the Lord speaks. The significance of this bush, burning but not consumed, is my main subject now, for I think it carries great and blessed lessons for us. Now, first, I do not think that the bush burning but not consumed, stands as it is ordinarily understood to stand, for the symbolical representation of the preservation of Israel, even in the midst of the fiery furnace of persecution and sorrow. Beautiful as that idea is, I do not think it is the true explanation; because if so, this symbol is altogether out of keeping with the law that applies to all the rest of the symbolical accompaniments of divine appearances, all of which, without exception, set forth in symbol some truth about God, and not about His Church; and all of which, without exception, are a representation in visible and symbolical form of the same truth which was proclaimed in articulate words along with them. The symbol and the accompanying voice of God in all other cases have one and the same meaning. That, I think, is the case here also; and we learn from the Bush, not something about God’s Church, however precious that may be, but what is a great deal more important, something about God Himself; namely, the same thing that immediately afterwards was spoken in articulate words. In the next place, let me observe that the fire is distinctly a divine symbol, a symbol of God not of affliction, as the ordinary explanation implies. I need not do more than remind you of the stream of emblem which runs all through Scripture, as confirming this point. There are the smoking lamp and the blazing furnace in the early vision granted to Abraham. There is the pillar of fire by night, that lay over the desert camp of the wandering Israelites. There is Isaiah’s word, ‘The light of Israel shall be a flaming fire.’ There is the whole of the New Testament teaching, turning on the manifestation of God through His Spirit. There are John the Baptist’s words, ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ There is the day of Pentecost, when the ‘tongues of fire sat upon each of them.’ And what is meant by the great word of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ‘Our God is a consuming fire’? Not Israel only, but many other lands—it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say, all other lands—have used the same emblem with the same meaning. In almost every religion on the face of the earth, you will find a sacred significance attached to fire. That significance is not primarily destruction, as we sometimes suppose, an error which has led to ghastly misunderstandings of some Scriptures, and of the God whom they reveal. When, for instance, Isaiah (xxxiii.14) asks, ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ he has been supposed to be asking what human soul is there that can endure the terrors of God’s consuming and unending wrath. But a little attention to the words would have shown that ‘the devouring fire’ and the ‘everlasting burnings’ mean God and not hell, and that the divine nature is by them not represented as too fierce to be approached, but as the true dwelling-place of men, which indeed only the holy can inhabit, but which for them is life. Precisely parallel is the Psalmist’s question, ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His holy place?’ Fire is the source of warmth, and so, in a sense, of life. It is full of quick energy, it transmutes all kinds of dead matter into its own ruddy likeness, sending up the fat of the sacrifices in wreathes of smoke that aspire heavenward; and changing all the gross, heavy, earthly dullness into flame, more akin to the heaven into which it rises. Therefore, as cleansing, as the source of life, light, warmth, change, as glorifying, transmuting, purifying, refining, fire is the fitting symbol of the mightiest of all creative energy. And the Bible has consecrated the symbolism, and bade us think of the Lord Himself as the central fiery Spirit of the whole universe, a spark from whom irradiates and vitalises everything that lives. Nor should we forget, on the other side, that the very felicity of this emblem is, that along with all these blessed thoughts of life- giving and purifying, there does come likewise the more solemn teaching of God’s destructive power. ‘What maketh heaven, that maketh hell’; and the same God is the fire to quicken, to sanctify, to bless; and resisted, rejected, neglected, is the fire that consumes; the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death. And then, still further, notice that this flame is undying—steady, unflickering. What does that mean? Adopting the principle which I have already taken as our guide, that the symbol and the following oral revelation teach the same truth, there can be no question as to that answer. ‘I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ That is to say, the fire that burns and does not burn out, which has no tendency to destruction in its very energy, and is not consumed by its own activity, is surely a symbol of the one Being whose being derives its law and its source from Himself, who only can say—’I AM THAT I AM’—the law of His nature, the foundation of His being, the only conditions of His existence being, as it were, enclosed within the limits of His own nature. You and I have to say, ‘I am that which I have become,’ or ‘I am that which I was born,’ or ‘I am that which circumstances have made me.’ He says, ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ All other creatures are links; this is the staple from which they all hang. All other being is derived, and therefore limited and changeful; this Being is underived, absolute, self-dependent, and therefore unalterable for evermore. Because we live we die. In living the process is going on of which death is the end. But God lives for evermore, a flame that does not burn out; therefore His resources are inexhaustible, His power unwearied. He needs no rest for recuperation of wasted energy. His gifts diminish not the store which He has to bestow. He gives, and is none the poorer; He works, and is never weary; He operates unspent; He loves, and He loves for ever; and through the ages the fire burns on, unconsumed and undecayed. O brethren! is not that a revelation—familiar as it sounds to our ears now, blessed be God!—is not that a revelation of which, when we apprehend the depth and the preciousness, we may well fix an unalterable faith upon it, and feel that for us, in our fleeting days and shadowy moments, the one means to secure blessedness, rest, strength, life, is to grasp and knit ourselves to Him who lives for ever, and whose love is lasting as His life? ‘The eternal God, the Lord … fainteth not, neither is weary. They that wait upon Him shall renew their strength.’ The last thought suggested to me by this symbol is this. Regarding the lowly thorn-bush as an emblem of Israel—which unquestionably it is, though the fire be the symbol of God—in the fact that the symbolical manifestation of the divine energy lived in so lowly a shrine, and flamed in it, and preserved it by its burning, there is a great and blessed truth. It is the same truth which Jesus Christ, with a depth of interpretation that put to shame the cavilling listeners, found in the words that accompanied this vision: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He said to the sneering Sadducees, who, like all other sneerers, saw only the surface of what they were sarcastic about, ‘Did not Moses teach you,’ in the section about the bush, ‘that the dead rise, when he said: I AM the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ A man, about whom it can once be said that God is his God, cannot die. Such a bond can never be broken. The communion of earth, imperfect as it is, is the prophecy of Heaven and the pledge of immortality. And so from that relationship which subsisted between the fathers and God, Christ infers the certainty of their resurrection. It seems a great leap, but there are intervening steps not stated by our Lord, which securely bridge the gulf between the premises and the conclusion. Such communion is, in its very nature, unaffected by the accident of death, for it cannot be supposed that a man who can say that God is His God can be reduced to nothingness, and such a bond be snapped by such a cause. Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living, ‘for all’ those whom we call dead, as well as those whom we call living, ‘live unto Him,’ and though so many centuries have passed, God still is, not was, their God. The relation between them is eternal and guarantees their immortal life. But immortality without corporeity is not conceivable as the perfect state, and if the dead live still, there must come a time when the whole man shall partake of redemption; and in body, soul, and spirit the glorified and risen saints shall be ‘for ever with the Lord.’ That is but the fuller working out of the same truth that is taught us in the symbol ‘the bush burned and was not consumed.’ God dwelt in it, therefore it flamed; God dwelt in it, therefore though it flamed it never flamed out. Or in other words, the Church, the individual in whom He dwells, partakes of the immortality of the indwelling God. ‘Every one shall be salted with fire,’ which shall be preservative and not destructive; or, as Christ has said, ‘Because I live ye shall live also.’ Humble as was the little, ragged, sapless thorn-bush, springing up and living its solitary life amidst the sands of the desert, it was not too humble to hold God; it was not too gross to burst into flame when He came; it was not too fragile to be gifted with undying being; like His that abode in it. And for us each the emblem may be true. If He dwell in us we shall live as long as He lives, and the fire that He puts in our heart shall be a fountain of fire springing up into life everlasting

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