Posts Tagged 'CanRC'

Psalm 132: A Lamp for My Anointed

christmassidebarThe following is a guest post from Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer of the Spring Creek Canadian Reformed Church in Tintern, Ontario. Rev. Holtvlüwer graciously offered to share this meditation on “Christmas in the Psalms,” which originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Clarion magazine and is reprinted with permission. Enjoy!

A Lamp for My Anointed

(Christmas in the Psalms)

Did you know that we can sing about Christmas from the Psalms? Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth and we usually turn to the Gospels to read about it. But the Savior’s birth was something the saints of the Old Testament eagerly waited for. The inspired writers anticipated it, hoped for it and often wrote of it. In the Psalms they sang of it too. Their words help to fill in the picture of who the Christ child is and what he came for. Take a stroll with me through Psalm 132 and see for yourself!

A Prayer for the Anointed

A look at the whole shows that the psalm has two basic parts: a prayer to the Lord (vv. 1-10) and the Lord’s response (vv. 11-18).  The unknown author is deeply concerned about the king of Israel as he starts out in v. 1, “Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured.” Why is he so concerned for the king? As an Israelite, he knew that his personal fortunes and that of the nation were tied up in the success of the king. If the king was blessed and thrived, the people would be blessed and thrive.

Clearly, something is amiss with the king and that has the psalmist worried. The prayer for God to “remember” means much more than “bring to mind.” It’s a call for the Lord to intervene, to act on the king’s behalf. The king needs help. That comes out again in v. 10, “For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.”

All kings in Israel were anointed with God’s holy oil into their office. It was God’s way of signaling to everyone that this particular man was chosen by the Lord to rule over his covenant people. The anointed one would rule, judge and protect the Lord’s people in the Lord’s Name, seeking to do them good. Only now it seems as if the Lord is no longer paying attention to the anointed one. The anointed king is struggling, and the nation struggles with him. It may even be that the anointed is under threat, and the people are alarmed.

The Anointed’s Determination

Whatever the specific crisis, the poet urges the Lord to remember what David had done in his service and make a move now to rescue the kingship. What could touch God’s heart more than David’s zealous oath to build, “a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 5)? We know from other Scriptures that this desire pleased the Lord (II Chronicles 6:8). David, the first anointed one who truly was “after God’s own heart,” greatly desired that God would have a permanent home among his people and was moved when the ark was “rediscovered” in the “fields of Jaar” (v. 6). He even leapt and danced with joy when the Lord allowed him to bring the ark of his presence into Zion (II Samuel 6). The author recalls the pious determination of David to ask that the Lord give help to the current anointed king, one of David’s sons.

King & Temple

The twin concerns of the inspired poet are the anointed one and the Lord’s dwelling place, the king and the temple. The king is in trouble which means the temple is under threat too. If the anointed one cannot defend Zion, there is no security for the temple. Destroy the anointed and you’ve destroyed God’s dwelling place. But protect the anointed, and you protect the Lord’s home among His people. At stake here is the heart and soul of life in the covenant: in the temple is where God met with His people and through the sacrifices on the altar offered them the forgiveness of their sins, peace and fellowship with Himself!

The Anointed of Christmas

It’s in the Lord’s answer that we start to see the connection to Christmas. The first thing the Lord does in v.11 is to remind the poet of his own oath to David. David had sworn an oath to Yahweh (v. 2), but Yahweh had sworn a better and grander oath, “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.” The Lord reassures his people that he had in no way forgotten his promise, much less abandoned his people.

But why, then, was the king in trouble? Why the great concern for the future of the king, temple and Israel? Because those sons of David had not kept the Lord’s testimonies! The whole history of David’s line shows anointed one after anointed one going astray from the covenant, chasing other gods and often ruling harshly over God’s people. According to the terms of the covenant, the Lord warned and punished these kings and the nation which followed their lead, but still no son of David could be found to be that faithful anointed one!

None, that is, until the special Anointed whom the Lord sent at what we call “Christmas!” David’s line showed itself incapable of faithfulness, which God knew would happen, and so in v. 17 he promised to do it himself, “There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.” This is the announcement of the birth of Christ! In fact, the very word “anointed” is identical in Greek to the word “Christ” – Jesus, son of Joseph, son of David, is the Anointed of the Lord promised in Psalm 132!

Jesus the “Horn to Sprout”

The angel Gabriel announces Jesus’ connection to David and the kingship when he says to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). Just like the Lord promised in Psalm 132:12, there will no end to this Anointed’s kingdom for he will not fail to obey all the terms of God’s covenant!

He will be a “horn to sprout for David” says v. 17. That’s a metaphor for royal power. Bulls were common animals in Israel – big, powerful beasts. And the strength of the bull was seen in his horn(s). Even today, a charging bull is a hundred times more feared if he has horns than if he has none. So the horn came to symbolize power, strength, ability to overcome enemies – all things the king of God’s people needed! And on Christmas, the long-awaited horn sprouted and today he reigns with all the power of Almighty God from heaven, gathering and protecting his people and subduing his enemies under his feet! (I Corinthians 15:24-25). This horn lives to guard and guide also your life!

Jesus the “Lamp” to Shine

The Holy Spirit uses another metaphor to describe the coming one: he will be a “lamp for my anointed” (v. 17). Since this is in parallel with “a horn to sprout for David,” the Lord is promising to provide for David not only a “horn” but also a “lamp.” David himself was called the “lamp of Israel” (2 Sam 22:29) and years after his death, in the time of unfaithful anointed ones, we read “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem” (1 Kings 15:4).

The king of God’s people was described as a lamp for David, meaning two things: he would continue the dynasty of David (its light would not flicker out) and at the same time he would be a light for the people. A king who ruled well, who obeyed God’s law and led the people in faithfulness was like a brightly lit lamp, leading the way, showing people the pathway of peace and prosperity. For many centuries, though, the lamp of David’s line was very dim or even not shining at all – until Jesus was born! What does John say of him in the opening of his Gospel? “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” (John 1:4-5).

Jesus himself later declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). This lamp shines with the good news that all who believe in him will be forgiven their sins. As king, Jesus shines forth the clear teaching of His Father that there is forgiveness and life for all who put their trust in him! He is the Word and as he explains and imprints his Word on our hearts by his Spirit, our way is lighted up before us! In his light, we see how we should walk and serve in gratitude for the Father’s salvation. All this began with the birth of Christ, the lamp of David!

Yahweh’s Dwelling Place

There’s one more Christmas truth embedded in Psalm 132. The kingship of David’s line is forever fixed in the person of Jesus but so is the very dwelling place or temple of the Lord! Verse 13 says, “For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place; ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.’” God had chosen to dwell in Zion’s temple, behind the curtain, with the sacrifices bridging the gap between the holy God and his sinful people. But that temple was destroyed. True, it was rebuilt, but no longer was the ark inside of it. And the people were not free to go behind the curtain. It was an imperfect symbol of God’s presence among His people.

This, too, radically changed at the birth of Jesus! Do you remember what the angel said of his name? “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means: God with us)” (Matt 1:23) God with us! In the very person of Jesus is not merely a man to sit on David’s throne but he is God Himself! The very name Jesus means, “Yahweh saves.” Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh and with his birth he has made his permanent dwelling place in the human race, among the people he loves! His disciples could go right up to him in person to listen, to converse, to worship and fellowship – and one day we will do the same!

King Immanuel

At Christmas, the Lord fulfills the promises and expectations of Psalm 132. David’s desire to have God dwell among his people is realized in the child called “God with us.” And the people’s desire to have the anointed one protected and equipped by the Lord to forever rule them as loving king is also achieved in the Christ child. Who would have thought that the Anointed One would also be the very temple of God? Who could have predicted that the everlasting king of God’s people would be none other than Yahweh in the flesh?

Jesus Christ is the powerful horn against whom no enemy can stand and under whom we are invincibly protected. He is also the bright lamp who shows us the way of life by his Word and Spirit. Son of David, Son of God. He is your God and your King – rejoice in Him! A blessed Christmas to you from Psalm 132!

–Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer

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Resource: The New Genevan Psalter

The New Genevan Psalter

Fans of the 450-year-old Genevan Psalter had good reason to get excited last year when the Canadian Reformed Churches released a new edition of their Book of Praise with updated settings of all 150 Genevan psalm tunes. For all of this songbook’s great features, however, many of its elements—such as the hymns, doctrinal standards, liturgical forms and prayers, church order, and subscription forms—are only useful in a Canadian Reformed context. Individuals and churches from other denominations or traditions would have little use for this extra material.

Just this week, however, I got word that the Book of Praise’s publishers have released a New Genevan Psalter containing all the updated Genevan psalm texts and tunes without CanRC-specific material! This psalter is intended for use by psalm-singing individuals or congregations from any tradition. For United Reformed congregations, it could serve as a solid Genevan supplement to the current Psalter Hymnal. As its website says, “A congregation that sings the Psalms is rooted in the church of all ages, and a congregation that sings the Psalms set to the Genevan tunes is embedded in the church of the Reformation.”

Rev. George van Popta explains more about the New Genevan Psalter’s purpose in its Preface:

In response to the ever-increasing interest in and appreciation for this precious legacy of John Calvin [the Genevan Psalter], it was thought good to publish a new English Psalter without the specifically Canadian Reformed elements that are included in the Book of Praise. With gratitude to our God we present the New Genevan Psalter to the English-speaking church. May our God be ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ (Psalm 22:3) through the use of this book. To him alone be the glory, now, and forever!

For more information, to look inside, or to order, you can visit the New Genevan Psalter’s website: http://newgenevanpsalter.wordpress.com/.

–MRK

Growing Up into Christ: Synod 2014

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On the evening of Sunday, June 1, I was landing in San Francisco on the way home from a three-week choir tour in southeast Asia.  Less than a day later and only a few hundred miles away, pastors and elders from each congregation in the United Reformed Churches in North America would be gathering at Trinity URC in Visalia, CA, for the federation’s ninth synod meeting.

If it weren’t for the jetlag and the pressing need to spend some quality time with my family after a year away at college, I would have loved to hitch a ride down to Visalia and be a fly on the wall at the meeting.  Although Synod 2014 adjourned a day ahead of schedule, it included many significant—even historic—decisions by our federation of churches.  Under the adage “Better late than never,” I’ll attempt to summarize here some of the synod’s most important decisions.

Our first Director of Missions

The URCNA entered a new stage in its growth with the hiring of Rev. Richard Bout as the federation’s Director of Missions on June 5.  Not only is this a huge step in solidifying our mission efforts, but Rev. Bout will be the first full-time employee of our federation.  A former missionary to Mexico, Rev. Bout will probably carry out his new job from his home in southern Ontario.

Looking ahead to retirement

Synod 2014 moved forward in ensuring that retiring ministers are adequately provided for by the churches that hold their credentials.  Action was taken to remind the congregations of the URCNA of their duty to provide for the needs of retired pastors who have spent a lifetime in Christ’s service.  This, too, shows that the URCNA’s long-term outlook is broadening.

Careful steps toward unity

Talks about the United Reformed Churches in North America merging with the Canadian and American Reformed Churches (CanRC) have been going on since 2001, and although prospects still remain promising, Synod 2014 tabled (postponed indefinitely) a motion for the merger process to begin in 2016.  Most URCNA members seem to favor taking at least a little more time to work out remaining kinks in doctrine and practice between the two groups of churches.

On another front, the URCNA’s fellowship with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is growing ever closer.  The OPC is one of only five denominations with which the URCNA maintains “Phase Two” ecumenical relations, signifying that we consider them a true and faithful branch of Christ’s church and desire to pursue further unity with them.  In fact, Synod 2014 extended an invitation to the OPC to hold our next synod in 2016 concurrently with their General Assembly.  This serves many purposes, but one of the main reasons for a joint ecclesiastical assembly brings us to the topic most closely connected to this blog . . .

The new Psalter Hymnal

At Synod 2014 the URCNA unanimously (and the OPC later overwhelmingly) approved the psalm section of the proposed Psalter Hymnal on which our two denominations are collaborating.  The vote to move forward shows a recognition of the quantity and the quality of the work that has already been done on the new Psalter Hymnal, and perhaps too a realization that the time has come to finish this project.  The committees report that they expect to have a new and revised Hymn Proposal ready for the churches’ review in the spring of 2015, and that the finished collection will be presented to the joint Synod and General Assembly in 2016.  Lord willing, the new Psalter Hymnal of the URCNA and OPC could be in our hands by as early as 2017!

Another remarkable feature of Synod 2014: The devotions at the beginning of each session included singing from the Psalm Proposal by all the delegates.  Here is a video taken by Rev. Zac Wyse of Westside Reformed Church in Cincinnati of the delegates singing Psalm 1 as it appears in the proposal:

[youtube http://youtu.be/EpzJRj7HWHk]

More resources for news and information on Synod 2014:

  • Press releases summarizing each day’s decisions and deliberations (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) are available at URCNA.org.
  • Christian Renewal’s June 25 issue contains a wealth of reports and commentary on this synod meeting.  Their Facebook page also includes some pictures of the gathering.
  • The collection of songs approved to form the URCNA/OPC Psalm Proposal is available at PsalterHymnal.org.

May God continue to bless the United Reformed Churches in North America as we “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 ESV).

–MRK

Featured Recording: An Introduction to the CanRC

In Wednesday’s post on Lord’s Day 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism, I pointed you to a video recording of the Genevan setting of Psalm 138 as sung by a Canadian Reformed Church in Langley, BC.  This song is nearly identical to Psalter Hymnal number 287, “With All My Heart Will I Record.”  For today’s Featured Recording, I’d like to call your attention back to this video and examine it in a bit more detail.

The organist is Frank Ezinga, who has a YouTube channel, a personal website, and a website on Reformed church music from the Canadian Reformed perspective.  First of all, I give anyone credit who can prepare their registrations and open their songbook while simultaneously playing a well-crafted introduction to a psalm.  After this rousing opening, the congregation begins to sing in unison.  Ezinga’s accompaniment throughout the psalm is rhythmically steady, harmonically interesting, and melodically supportive.  In the second stanza he uses a reed solo stop which, although it may sound strange at first, blends perfectly with the voices of the congregation.  The third and fourth verses contain a gradual building-up of sound, until he wraps up with a brilliant concluding cadence at the end of the versification.  If you’re unfamiliar with the worship style of our brothers and sisters in the Canadian Reformed Churches, this video serves as a perfect introduction.

All in all, I greatly admire Ezinga’s accompaniment style, and I’d encourage you to check out his other videos and his websites for more insights into the world of Reformed music.

–MRK

(Click here for last week’s Featured Recording)


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