Posts Tagged 'Eschatology'

The “Not Yet” of the Psalms

The concluding verses of Psalm 72, sung to the rousing African tune SIYAHAMBA, are a favorite doxology in the congregation I attend at college. This royal psalm describes the blessings all the nations will enjoy as a result of the Messiah’s kingship:

May he live, and gold from Sheba’s realm
Then be given as a gift to him.
May the people always pray for him,
May they bless his name throughout the day.
In all regions—and upon the hilltops—
O may there be abundant crops of grain!
Being fruitful—Lebanon with cedars—
O may the city thrive like grassy fields!

The Book of Psalms for Worship, selection 72E

As joyous as it is to sing about the bounteous results of Christ’s reign, Psalm 72 often leaves me confused. I understand that its original context is probably a prayer of David or Solomon for Solomon’s kingship, as evidenced by the inscription and v. 20. But many of the blessings invoked in Psalm 72 clearly transcend an individual or even a national focus: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” “May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (vv. 8, 17 ESV). Such prayers seem to look forward to the coming of a Messiah whose worldwide reign will bring ultimate peace and prosperity. We Christians confess that the Messiah has come and has begun his reign—and yet the blessings of Psalm 72 seem to remain unfulfilled.

Will there come a day on this earth when all nations acknowledge Christ as King? Will we see a time when “the righteous flourish, and peace abound[s], till the moon be no more” (v. 7)? If so, why do the circumstances of the world seem to be growing worse rather than better?

Jesus on Every Page by David MurrayLately I’ve been reading David Murray’s recent book Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. His chapter on the Psalms and the Song of Solomon, entitled “Christ’s Poets,” held a groundbreaking insight for my understanding of such passages.

Dr. Murray asks some questions that cut to the heart of our understanding of the psalms: “[D]id the original composers and singers understand what we can with the benefit of New Testament hindsight? Did they see the Messiah in the Psalms to the extent that the New Testament writers did?” He answers that while Old Testament believers could not enjoy the “extraordinary light” we have been granted as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they did trust in a future Messiah, and they knew his message of salvation would be much clearer to future generations. Yes, Dr. Murray would say, Psalm 72 was written with the person and work of Jesus Christ as its preeminent focus.

But what Dr. Murray said next instantly clarified my confusion concerning Psalm 72:

In some ways, we are in a similar position to these first psalm singers when we think ahead to the second coming of Jesus. Many passages in the Old and New Testaments—including the Psalms—predict Jesus’ coming again in great glory to end this world and create a new environment for a renewed people. But while we get the overall outline of what lies ahead, only when these events unfold in detail will we fully understand these scriptures. In the meantime, we look ahead with optimistic faith and sing psalms such as Psalm 72 and 98 with the same inquiring faith that the Old Testament prophets also experienced with reference to the first coming of Jesus [I Peter 1:10-12].

In other words, we may not fully understand all the promises of Psalm 72 and other forward-looking scriptures. But that’s okay. Although Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and ascension perfectly fulfilled the messianic promises of the Old Testament, the final consummation of his kingdom according to the Bible’s prophecies is yet to come. The author of Hebrews explains this distinction wonderfully in reference to Psalm 8: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

So it’s okay for the promises of Psalm 72 to puzzle us. It’s all right to wonder how God will bring about the consummation of the Messiah’s kingdom. As humble, awed worshippers, we need not doubt; rather, we can look forward to the certain fulfillment of this and every other unclear passage. And when we sing, “May his name endure forevermore; may it grow as under shining sun,” we can do so not only in praise but also in anticipatory excitement. Nothing can stop the fact that Jesus is coming again!

–MRK

–quotes from Jesus on Every Page are from pp. 190, 191

Featured Recording: By the Sea of Crystal

By the sea of crystal
Saints in glory stand,
Myriads in number,
Drawn from every land;
Robed in white apparel,
Washed in Jesus’ blood,
They now reign in heaven
With the Lamb of God.

Featured Recording

Blue Psalter Hymnal number 469, “By the Sea of Crystal,” is a hymn that’s brought comfort and peace to many a troubled heart over the years.  On countless occasions, especially in our Reformed churches, it has served as a response of praise, a triumphant doxology, or a song of quiet assurance at a believer’s funeral.  Its text is an adaptation of the glorious vision of the great multitude in Revelation 7:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

‘Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

–Revelation 7:9-17 (ESV)

Along with today’s Featured Recording, I’d like to share with you the fascinating history of the hymn “By the Sea of Crystal,” as recorded for us in the Psalter Hymnal Handbook:

Once, after hearing Edward Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ march, William Kuipers decided to write a new hymn text that could be sung to it.  At the time the march was associated with the patriotic hymn ‘Land of Hope and Glory.’  Kuipers wrote this text late in 1932 while he was pastor of the Summer Street Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Passaic, New Jersey.  He submitted it to Henry J. Kuiper, editor of the Christian Reformed Church weekly, The Banner, and a member of the committee preparing the 1934 Psalter Hymnal, which was the first denominational collection including hymns (the CRC had previously sung only psalms in worship).

Because Elgar’s music was under copyright, The Banner held a contest to find a new tune for Kuipers’s text.  The magazine received 150 tune entries and recognized first, second, and third places, as well as six honorable mentions.  First prize of $10 was awarded to Siebolt H. Frieswyk of Whitinsville, Massachusetts, and his tune was published with Kuipers’s text in The Banner, May 5, 1933.  However, an honorable-mention winner by John Vanderhoven was chosen as the setting for this text when the new Psalter Hymnal was printed in 1934.  That association of text and tune has been continued in each of the following editions of the Psalter Hymnal.  Because it was used as a theme song for The Back to God Hour broadcasts, this hymn became well known to a whole generation of radio listeners in the 1950s and 60s.

And thus, this beloved hymn is in some sense “our own” here in the Dutch Reformed tradition.  As I researched this history, I was thrilled to find a digitized version of a single video episode of the CRC’s “Back to God Hour” from 1953, with Rev. Peter Eldersveld.  In the opening of the film you can hear the Calvin Radio Choir singing the third stanza of “By the Sea of Crystal.”  The format of the video prevents me from embedding it on the blog, but you can click here to access it.

However, today’s Featured Recording is not from sixty years ago, but from six weeks ago.  “By the Sea of Crystal” is still a beloved hymn nearly everywhere in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and this recording is particularly rousing.  Here is Grace Reformed Church of Dunnville, Ontario, singing it with all their hearts.

‘Unto God Almighty,
Sitting on the throne,
and the Lamb, victorious,
Be the praise alone.
God has wrought salvation,
He did wondrous things;
Who shall not extol Thee,
Holy King of kings?’

–MRK

(Click here for last week’s Featured Recording)

Lord’s Day 19: This Glory of Christ Our Head

Catechism and Psalter

To me, eschatology (the study of the end times) is probably one of the most confusing doctrinal battlegrounds in all of the Christian faith.  Theologians have presented a dazzling array of perspectives and opinions from every angle imaginable.  For instance, did you know that Israel’s modern status as a leading agricultural producer fulfills the end-time prophecy of Isaiah 27:6?  Or that President Obama’s visit to Israel this March, which supposedly corresponded to the day Christ made his entry into Jerusalem, fulfilled Daniel 9:27 and ushered in the Final Seven Years of World History?  Neither did I.

Compared to the complicated hypotheses of dispensationalism and equally popular evangelical views, the Reformed doctrine of the end times is refreshingly simple.  As we prepare to celebrate Ascension Day tomorrow, we continue our series on the Heidelberg Catechism by considering the comforting words of Lord’s Day 19.

50 Q.  Why the next words: ‘And sitteth at the right hand of God’?

A.  Christ ascended to heaven,
there to show that he is head of his church,
and that the Father rules all things through him.

51 Q.  How does this glory of Christ our Head benefit us?

A.  First, through his Holy Spirit
he pours out his gifts from heaven
upon us his members.

Second, by his power
he defends us and keeps us safe
from all enemies.

52 Q.  How does Christ’s return ‘to judge the living and the dead’ comfort you?

A.  In all my distress and persecution
I turn my eyes to the heavens
and confidently await as judge the very One
who has already stood trial in my place before God
and so has removed the whole curse from me.
All his enemies and mine
he will condemn to everlasting punishment:
but me and all his chosen ones
he will take along with him
into the joy and the glory of heaven.

Suggested Songs

In Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm-Singing for the Twenty-First Century, Anthony Selvaggio refers us to an article by the Reformed theologian Geerhardus Vos entitled “Eschatology of the Psalter.”  In that work, Vos explains that the Psalter tempers the church’s perspective on eschatology and focuses it on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  (For more on this fascinating essay, you may be interested in a URC Psalmody discussion on chapter 9 of Sing a New Song Jim Oord and I wrote last fall.)  Indeed, the psalms have much to say about the confident hope believers can possess for this life and the life in the world to come.

89, “Within Thy Temple, Lord”

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and at the 2012 Reformed Youth Services convention)

“Christ ascended to heaven, there to show that he is head of his church.”  Psalm 48 portrays Mount Zion (the church) as a primary testimony to the greatness of our God, as well as the primary place in which we praise him.  This relationship between the Lord and his church is illustrated in the first stanza of this Psalter Hymnal versification:

Within Thy temple, Lord,
In that most holy place,
We on Thy loving-kindness dwell,
The wonders of Thy grace.
Men sing Thy praise, O God,
Where’er Thy Name is known;
By every deed Thy hand has wrought
Thy righteousness is shown.

Furthermore, Psalm 48 ends with an eye to the future.  The psalmist commands his hearers to “walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.  He will guide us forever” (vv. 12-14, ESV).  The Psalter Hymnal provides this beautiful versification in the final stanza of number 89:

For God as our own God
Forever will abide,
And till life’s journey close in death
Will be our faithful Guide.

307, “Ye Who His Temple Throng” (Psalm 149)

(Sung by West Sayville URC on Long Island, New York)

“Through his Holy Spirit he pours out his gifts from heaven upon us his members.”  Whereas Psalm 48 focuses on the church’s relationship to Christ, Psalm 149 exhorts believers to praise God for the manifold blessings he showers upon its members.  Although Psalter Hymnal number 307 is more of a paraphrase than a literal psalm setting, its message is more than worthwhile:

Ye who His temple throng,
Jehovah’s praise prolong,
New anthems sing;
Ye saints, with joy declare
Your Maker’s loving care,
And let the children there
Joy in their King.

O let His Name employ
Your every note of joy,
His praises speak;
He looks with loving face
Upon His chosen race,
And will with every grace
Adorn the meek.

Ye saints, your joy proclaim
And glory in the Name
Of God above;
And when the daylight dies,
Ere sleep shall close your eyes,
Let praise to God arise
For all His love.

189, “Jehovah Reigns; Let Earth Be Glad” (Psalm 97)

“By his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.”  Turning our gaze from the beauties of the church to the surpassing glories of the One who sits on the throne of heaven, we sing with the author of Psalm 97:

Jehovah reigns; let earth be glad,
And all the isles their joy make known;
With clouds and darkness He is clad,
On truth and justice rests His throne.

Consuming fire destroys His foes,
Around the world His lightnings blaze;
The trembling earth His presence knows,
The mountains melt before His gaze.

Thy Church rejoices to behold
Thy judgments in the earth, O Lord;
Thy glory to the world unfold,
Supreme o’er all be Thou adored.

129, “Thy Lovingkindness, Lord, is Good and Free” (Psalm 69)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me.”  Question and Answer 52 of the Catechism, with its straightforward expressions of faith and hope, is one of my personal favorites out of the entire confession.  And this paraphrase from the messianic words of Psalm 69 complements the comfort of this question and answer perfectly:

Thy loving-kindness, Lord, is good and free,
In tender mercy turn Thou unto me;
Hide not Thy face from me in my distress,
In mercy hear my prayer, Thy servant bless.

With joy the meek shall see my soul restored;
Your heart shall live, ye saints that seek the Lord;
He helps the needy and regards their cries,
Those in distress the Lord will not despise.

Let heaven above His grace and glory tell,
Let earth and sea and all that in them dwell;
Salvation to His people God will give,
And they that love His Name with Him shall live.

151, “In Thy Heritage the Heathen” (Psalm 79)

There’s no question that Psalm 79 applies to the New Testament church just as much as it did to Old Testament Israel, and more so with every passing day.  But while the saints of old would have sung this lament with longing for the coming of their Redeemer, for us Psalm 79 is a bold statement of the Lord’s coming judgment on the wicked, and the indescribable future he has prepared for his redeemed people.  Below I’ve offset the two remaining portions of Q&A 52 with the matching stanzas from the Psalter Hymnal:

“All his enemies and mine he will condemn to everlasting punishment.”

In Thy heritage the heathen
Now, O God, triumphant stand;
They defile Thy holy temple,
They destroy Thy chosen land;
Ruthless, they have slain Thy servants,
They have caused Thy saints to mourn;
In the sight of all about us
We endure reproach and scorn.

O how long against Thy people
Shall Thine anger burn, O Lord?
On Thine enemies, the heathen,
Be Thine indignation poured;
Smite the kingdoms that defy Thee,
Calling not upon Thy Name;
They have long devoured Thy people
And have swept Thy land with flame.

“But me and all his chosen ones he will take along with him into the joy and the glory of heaven.”

O remember not against us
Evil by our fathers wrought;
Haste to help us in Thy mercy,
Near to ruin we are brought;
Help us, God of our salvation,
For the glory of Thy Name;
For Thy Name’s sake come and save us,
Take away our sin and shame.

Let Thy foes no longer scorn Thee,
Now avenge Thy servants slain;
Loose the prisoner, save the dying,
All Thine enemies restrain;
Then Thy flock, Thy chosen people,
Unto Thee their thanks shall raise,
And to every generation
We will sing Thy glorious praise.

–MRK

Sing a New Song, Chapter 9: Redemptive-Historical Psalm-Singing

Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) is a well-revered name in Reformed biblical theology.  His greatest contribution was the redemptive-historical concept of studying the Scriptures, tracing the growth, development, and unity of the plan of salvation throughout history.  His teaching thus does much to show how the entire Bible is not a disparate collection of stories, but one unified tale of the salvation of God’s people, centered on Christ.  In Chapter 9 of Sing a New Song, entitled “Psalm Singing and Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics,” Anthony Selvaggio looks at one of Vos’s lesser-known articles, “Eschatology of the Psalter.”  We’ll be evaluating Selvaggio’s chapter as part of our ongoing series on Sing a New Song.

At the very beginning, Selvaggio acknowledges that psalm-singing and the redemptive-historical approach might seem to be mutually exclusive.  Not so! he claims. In simpler terms, Selvaggio’s point is to show that psalm-singing wasn’t just for the Old Testament people of Israel—it’s equally applicable for the Christian church today.  After summarizing and unpacking Vos’s essay, Selvaggio argues that the singing of psalms is a remarkably redemptive-historic and Christ-centered enterprise.

As we begin discussing this chapter, Selvaggio’s theological language may seem a bit daunting.  But it’s important to realize that tough words like “eschatology” and “soteriology” have quite simple definitions.  Eschatology is the study of the last things (the second coming of Christ, the end of the world, &c.), covering not just Revelation but the teachings of the entire Bible.  Soteriology is the study of salvation, from justification to sanctification to glorification, and so forth.

MRK: Vos’s article referenced by Selvaggio begins with a comment about the practice of printing New Testaments with the book of Psalms at the end.  Vos’s point isn’t to comment on the ordering of the canon of scripture; he merely wishes to point out “that the book of Revelation and the Psalms have much more in common than we might at first think,” as Selvaggio says (p. 150).

Vos was concerned about the low view of the psalms as mere devotional material prevalent in his day; his thoughts still ring true these many decades years later.  In powerful language, he writes that he desires to “shake us out of this habit and force us to take a look at the Psalter’s second face.”  Hence his thesis, as summarized by Selvaggio: “that the theology of the Psalter is predominantly eschatological [pertaining to the end times] in nature.”  This focus shapes the rest of Vos’s article on psalmody, which is divided into six main points.

JDO: Vos’s first point concerns what Selvaggio calls the “Subjective/Objective Dynamic.”  The Psalms are a heartfelt, personal way for God’s people to react to the facts of his work in history.  And just as God’s purpose is expanded and clarified as time goes by, the psalms themselves develop and become more specific and pointed.  The common thread in all the psalms is a looking forward to the future coming of Christ.

MRK: Vos also points to the “dynamic/static” pattern within the psalms.  God’s mighty acts of redemption, condemnation, and consummation are “intrusive, violent, and disruptive” events in history, while the eternal state of the Christian is peaceful rest in God’s presence.  Both concepts are thoroughly present in the Psalter, because the dynamic break-ins of God allow for the static peace of his people.

JDO: The Psalms also serve as a teaching tool for God’s people, according to Vos.  The psalms teach us how to live appropriately in light of the future (eschatology).  The psalms give us confidence, not fear; expectation, not ignorance; and a model for living godly in this age, not focusing too heavily on merely the present or the future.  In short, the psalms balance and temper our view of eschatology.

MRK: As someone who’s beheld both short-sighted worldliness and what Selvaggio calls “end-times silliness” in various churches, I can especially relate to the importance of the Psalter as a tempering tool.

Vos’s fourth point is also particularly relevant to our discussions here on URC Psalmody: the Psalter powerfully attests to our fundamental unity with the nation of Israel, the church of the Old Testament. Whereas Biblical prophecy states this connection objectively, the psalms allow us to realize it subjectively.  As Selvaggio summarizes it, “Because of the Psalter’s eschatological limberness, it transcends the limitations of the old covenant” (p. 153).

JDO: Fifth is another point we often discuss: the Messianic element in the psalms.  “The Psalter forces the saints of both [testaments] to recognize their mutual dependence on the redemptive work of the Messiah” (p. 154).

MRK: Vos’s sixth point is kind of a “three-in-one” deal: he mentions the Psalter’s use of history as a basis for its view of the end-times, its central focus on God, and its emphasis on the coming kingdom.  All three of these elements testify to the Psalter’s appropriateness for God’s people in every age.

JDO:  After summarizing Vos’s main ideas, Selvaggio goes on to discuss how they affect our singing of the Psalter.  As we just mentioned above, he wants to make it abundantly clear that singing the psalms does not make us out-of-touch with our present, post-Christ place in redemptive history.  The Psalms are not locked into their Old Testament setting; rather, they are able to bring us “an actual redemptive-historical advantage” (p. 155).  Selvaggio lists four specific ways this advantage plays out:

1.  Singing the psalms keeps our focus on the mighty acts of God.

MRK: The subjective experience of our faith only has its proper place as a result (a derivative, Selvaggio calls it) of the objective truth of God’s work of salvation.  And, consequently, “the Psalms remind us that our faith is about God, not about us” (p. 156).

Advocates of traditional hymnody often complain about the frequent use of first-person pronouns (I, me, my) in looser hymns and contemporary Christian music.  While this is often true, I’d like to clarify that this shouldn’t be our measuring line for a hymn’s quality.  After all, Selvaggio admits that the Psalter itself is “rife” with references to the singer.  We would do better to evaluate such songs in light of the overall themes of the psalms.  Do the words focus on the mighty acts of God, or merely the subjective reaction of the singer?  Are they sung for the glory of God or for self-encouragement?

JDO:  Yes.  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the things God has done for you personally, even within corporate worship.  However, there is something wrong with doing it in a way that makes the song self-centered.  The psalms provide a model of songs perfectly balanced between subjectivity and objectivity.  So we ought to sing the psalms, and also use them as a template by which to ensure that our hymns are properly God-focused even when personally specific.

MRK:  Oddly enough, out-of-context passages from the psalms are often used as the basis for this kind of man-centered singing.  One might think of the popular chorus that goes like this:

I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart,
I will enter his courts with praise;
I will say, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made,’
I will rejoice and be exceeding glad.

Yes, this is a passage from Psalm 118, and yes, it contains plenteous personal pronouns.  But without providing a context for these words, this song becomes focused on self rather than God.  The solution here is simple—don’t take random snippets from the psalms!  After all, Psalm 118 begins and ends with the command to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

As Selvaggio summarizes, “the difference in the Psalms is that the subjective experience and response of the believer is always inextricably connected to, and subordinated to, the objective actions of God.  Psalm singers are equipped to be better able to maintain their theological equilibrium in this regard.  The psalm singer is compelled to keep the proper balance between God’s mighty acts and our worshipful response.”

2.  Singing the psalms saturates us with biblical eschatology.

JDO: As we mentioned above, “the psalms serve as a helpful corrective to [a] skewed mentality regarding the role of eschatology in our lives.”  Eschatology is all about looking ahead to the continuing work of God in this world.  “The Psalms hold before our eyes the reality that God has intruded, and will intrude, into history in cataclysmic ways, ultimately yielding everlasting peace and rest for His people” (p. 157).  Psalm-singing attunes us to these events in the past and excites us for the continuing works to come.

MRK: It’s interesting to note that few hymns treat Christ’s second coming in much meaningful depth.  Often they stop at the mere declaration that he is coming again—as if that were all we need to know.  That’s not to say we can’t sing such hymns; but we should recognize that the psalms go dramatically further and deeper into the plans that God has made for those that love him.  We need only read Psalm 16 or 17 to see that.

JDO:  Vos’s comments on the oft-referenced “new song” passages are also interesting.  He writes that the “new songs” commanded to be sung in the psalms are new not in content but in context: our songs are in response to new acts of salvation.  We sing the same psalms and hymns in fresh new ways in response to fresh new works that God is carrying out in our hearts.

3.  Singing the psalms reminds us of the unity of God’s people and plan.

MRK: I appreciated this point so much, I’ll just quote Selvaggio.  “The Old Testament is not about a different God who made different promises.  The Old Testament is also not about an entirely different church with entirely different salvific hopes and expectations.  Simply put, the old covenant saints are not so different from us.  Their hopes are our hopes.  Their longings are our longings” (p. 158).  Viewing the Bible from this perspective gives us a balanced and complete view of salvation history, and singing the Psalms enables us to realize that connection more fully.

4.  Singing the psalms enables us to see the glory of Christ in new ways.

JDO: Fourthly, finally, and most importantly, Selvaggio draws our attention to something we’ve stressed several times: singing the psalms grants us a special glimpse into the mind of Christ, our Messiah (as G. I. Williamson preached in a memorable sermon).  This is not limited to the messianic psalms like 2 or 110.  The entire book of psalms allows us to “grasp the innermost thoughts of the Messiah” (p. 159).  Vos wrote, “Our Lord Himself found His inner life portrayed in the Psalter.”

MRK:  In conclusion, Selvaggio returns to his opening challenge: Are the psalms compatible with a redemptive-historical view of the Scriptures?  His answer: Absolutely!  The Bible itself attests to this truth over and over.  As a single example, “Christ’s use of the Psalms at the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper demonstrates that the Psalter was constructed to be enduring and relevant.…This means the church can continue to sing them in a redemptive-historical manner in our own age” (pp. 160, 161.)

JDO:  The psalms are just as relevant to us today as they were to David when he wrote them, and as they were to the Old Testament church when they sang them.  What more could we desire in a songbook?  Vos writes,

Hence the Psalter has been at all times that part of Scripture to which believers have most readily turned and upon which they have chiefly depended for the nourishment of the inner religious life of the heart…[T]here is nothing in Holy Writ which in our most spiritual moments—when we feel ourselves nearest to God—so faithfully and naturally expresses what we think and feel in our hearts as these songs of the pious Israelites (p. 161).

Next time: Chapter 10, “Psalm Singing and Pastoral Theology,” by Derek W. H. Thomas.

Until then,

–JDO/MRK


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