First Sunday of Epiphany — Baptism of Christ (Kingdom of God is @ hand)
Second & Third Sunday of Epiphany — Christ Shares in God’s Omniscience
Fourth Sunday of Epiphany — Christ Cast Out Demoniac
Fifth Sunday of Epiphany — Christ Brings Healing to the sick and diseased
Last Sunday of Epiphany — Transfiguration
All of this is communicating that the long anticipated Messiah that the covenant Fathers spoke of has arrived. The age to come is Present in the person of the Lord Christ. In the words of both John the Baptist and the Lord Christ the Kingdom of God is at hand.
All of this is what is called Redemptive History. It is real History but it is the History of God’s redemptive work.
Why is a sermon series like this important for your faith?
1.) It requires you to see that the Kingdom of God is present.
— Remember the “Now — Not Yet” Hermeneutic that we emphasize here. What we’ve been looking at the past few weeks is the Now-ness of the Kingdom. This is important to realize because the majority of the Christians you meet have imbibed (often quite without know it) that the Kingdom of God is only Future. They look forward to some future day when Jesus returns and sets up His rule and Kingdom in Jerusalem. The Kingdom of God is totally future to them. In this series we’ve been trying to teach, consistent with the Scripture accounts, that the Kingdom of God has arrived.
2.) It allows you to focus on Christ who is the Kingdom as opposed to focus on Israel today as somehow being wrapped up with Kingdom events as if Israel is more important than the King.
3.) It aids you in reading the Scripture in terms of the Scripture and not in terms of the Newspaper. I hope we have demonstrated here that when we read the Scripture we ask ourselves how does a knowledge of the unfolding and organic growth of the rest of the Scripture impact upon the blooming of the Kingdom in the Gospel Accounts. The Gospels are much like the point in the novel that is the crescendo to all that has been developed to date.
4.) Along the way we’ve tried to include the idea that as a people who have been swept up into this Kingdom of God we have the privilege and responsibility to live in terms of the present-ness of the Kingdom. For example, having been made citizens in the Kingdom of a King who is merciful and gentle we seek to demonstrate those virtues in our own lives. Being citizens in the Kingdom of God we resist evil because evil is inconsistent with this already present Kingdom.
Kingdom and Church debate
It is interesting where the Transfiguration is placed in Mark’s Gospel. Before the exaltation of the Transfiguration is the prediction of Jesus death and resurrection. Just after the Transfiguration Jesus again predicts His death and resurrection. It is almost as if Mark is trying to squeeze in the idea that there is a realm into which the Lord Christ can be resurrected. Certainly resurrection can be easier to comprehend if there is a comprehension that there is another living realm beyond life. Inherent in the story of the Transfiguration is the promise of a kind of life beyond what is apparent to earthly eyes most of the time. Hebrews 12 speaks of this other realm when it talks about being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. The Transfiguration reminds us again that there is a realm … a life beyond this life. Unlike the Academic Atheist who I once encountered in conversation, the Transfiguration reminds the Modern that it is not the case that when one dies there is just unconsciousness.
If nothing else, (and there is much more) the Transfiguration reminds that “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow w die” is not a true synopsis of life.
Let’s examine some of the symbolism and motifs (themes) that are attached to this passage and see what we can draw out from these as we read the rest of Scripture. In terms of the 6 days in Mark 9:2 (Now after six days) we find a consistency with another Mountain top in the Old Testament,
Exodus 24:15 Then Moses went up to the mount, and the cloud covered the mountain,16 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered [o]it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
It seems that the six day preparation period is connected to witnessing a vision of Divine glory. There is likely a connection here then between the Mosaic witnessing of the glory of God and the disciples witnessing the brightness of God’s glory here in Christ. If that is the case then this is one of those testimonies of Scripture where another Divine character quality of the Father is seen in the Son so that what is being subtly communicated is the Divine Nature of the Lord Christ.
That the disciples are witnessing the Glorified and Divine Christ, in a kind of “time before the time manifestation”, is confirmed by John’s record in his Apocalypse (Revelation) where John describes the ascended Christ.
Revelation 1:14 His head and hairs were white as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire,
Compare that with what is recorded here
Mark 9:3 And his raiment did [c]shine, and was very white as snow, so white as no fuller can make upon the earth.
The Whiteness here communicates the intense glory radiating from the Son. Snow was as close as they could come to this intense spectacle of God’s person. That the divinity of Christ is being pressed here is underscored by Daniel’s description of the “Ancient of Days in Daniel 7
Daniel 7:9 I beheld till the [r]thrones were set up, and the [s]Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels, as burning fire.
So, on the Mount of Transfiguration the post-Ascension divinity of Christ is put on display and what is communicated for those playing close attention when we read both what leads up to this event, where Christ predicts His death, and what follows this event where Christ predicts His death, is that He who is God glorified is going to lay down His life for His people.
The paradox of the Kingdom is that it comes in with both glory and humility at the same time. During Epiphany we find the Lord Christ everywhere assaulting the Kingdom of Satan. We even see the proclamation here of His divinity and yet all this is wrapped in the enigma of His coming Humiliation — His death and burial.
This serves as analogy for the “Now … Not Yet” of the Kingdom. It has arrived in glory and yet it, more often than not, comes to us wrapped in humility. Paul was the great champion of the Kingdom … a champion given a thorn in the flesh. Peter does many great miracles in the context of Kingdom work and yet Stephen and James are recorded as martyred in the Scripture. We share in the glory of Christ and yet we do so around the Word broken and the humble elements of Bread and wine and Water. The Kingdom is present … the Mt. of Transfiguration tells us that. The Kingdom is yet to come … the fact that we are not yet transfigured tells us that.
Do not miss the significance that this is all taking place on a Mountain,
As we have seen before Mountatins are often associated with the place where concourse with God is held.
The entry for “Mountain” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery reads:
“Almost from the beginning of the Bible, mountains are sites of transcendent spiritual experiences, encounters with God or appearances by God. Ezekiel 28:13-15 places the *Garden of Eden on a mountain. *Abraham shows his willingness to sacrifice Isaac and then encounters God on a mountain (Gen 22:1-14). God appears to Moses and speaks from the *burning bush on “Horeb the mountain of God” (Ex 3:1-2 NRSV), and he encounters Elijah on the same site (1 Kings 19:8-18). Most impressive of all is the experience of the Israelites at Mt. *Sinai (Ex 19), which *Moses ascends in a *cloud to meet God.
A similar picture emerges from the NT, where Jesus is associated with mountains. Jesus resorted to mountains to be alone (Jn 6:15), to *pray (Mt 14:23; Lk 6:12) and to teach his listeners (Mt 5:1; Mk 3:13). It was on a mountain that Jesus refuted Satan’s temptation (Mt 4:8; Lk 4:5). He was also transfigured on a mountain (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36), and he ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:10-12).
Jesus also designated a mountain in Galilee from which he gave the Great Commission to the eleven (Matthew 28:16). Jesus is both the tabernacle of God among men (John 1:14) and a temple (John 2:19-22) who builds the new temple (Ephesians 2:19-22 [his body, the church]). Hebrews 12:18-24 contrasts Mount Sinai and Mount Zion in the context of the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. God’s people have gone from one mountain to another. Surely these mountains are symbols of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and have their foundation in the first mountain-temple, the Garden of Eden.”
We could do much the same with the Biblical Motif of Clouds
Exodus 40:34-38 — Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. 35 So Moses could not enter into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. 36 Now when the cloud ascended up from the Tabernacle, the children of Israel went forward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud ascended not, then they journeyed not till the day that it ascended. 38 For [a]the cloud of the Lord was upon the Tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Staying with the Cloud motif
After the exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years, their journey is marked by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21, 22; 14:19, 20, 24, see later reflections in Neh 9:12, 19; Ps 78:14; 99:7; 105:39; and 1 Cor 10:1–2). Exodus 16:10 associates the cloud in the wilderness with the “ glory of the Lord.” The cloud and the fire represents God’ s presence with them
See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them. (Isaiah 19:1-2)
Jesus, like God in the OT , rides on a cloud (Acts 1:9). One of the most pervasive images of Christ’ s return is as one who rides his cloud chariot into battle (Mt 24:30; Mk 13:26; 14:62; Lk 21:27; Rev 1:7; cf. [cf. cf.. compare] Dan 7:13).
That takes care of some of the Imagery here. Now let’s turn our attention to the persons present.
Both Moses and Elijah, two figures whose passing’s were mysterious, were believed by many Jews to be God’s precursors of the end times. That this is at least some of the point in the text is seen in vs. 11-12
The reason for this end time expectation of these two was the mysterious end of each
Elijah — Chariot into Heaven (II Kings. 2:9-12)
Moses — Buried by God Himself (Ex. 34:4-7)
As such these two men were thought to be available for God to send back to prepare for the end. Their presence here reminds us that the Messianic end times was nigh. They also represent the idea of “the law and the prophets.” In Moses and Elijah God’s covenant people are present. Luke’s account tells us that they speak of Christ’s Exodus … meaning his Death. This would have been a matter close to the interests of the OT Saints. The Messiah is their Champion as well as ours. His Exodus is there Exodus as well.
God Speaks — Tracks with Isaanic Servant passages
Messianic Sonship OT
1 Behold, [a]my servant: [b]I will stay upon him: mine elect, in whom my soul[c]delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth [d]judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not [e]cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A [f]bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking [g]flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment in [h]truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have [i]set judgment in the earth: and the [j]isles shall wait for his Law.
Christ is the Isaanic Servant in whom God delight and in delighting in Him He God’s beloved Son.
Peter — James — John
That Peter at least notes that the end is at hand he blurts out this bit about building Tabernacles or booths. We think Peter odd for saying that but Peter, though fearful (wouldn’t you be afraid if you were on the cusp of the end of the world?) connects some OT dots.
Zechariah 4:16 But it shall come to pass that everyone that is left of all the nations, which came against Jerusalem, shall go up from year to year to worship the King the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of Tabernacles.
So, this God-commanded festival kept by Jews for centuries, was considered a possible time for God’s taking control of God’s creation and beginning the age of shalom. Peter’s comments then were not “off the wall” but consistent with Jewish understanding.
Perhaps we would be well reminded that the Mt. of Transfiguration becomes an objective marker of the Truth of God’s Salvation narrative. Our belief in the presence of the Kingdom is not pinned upon our own personal experience, nor upon how we are feeling at any given moment, nor upon our sense of utter dependence. Those are all subjective markers. Our belief in the presence of God’s Kingdom is based upon these Objective realities. It was for Peter.
16 [t]For we followed not deceivable fables, when we opened unto you the power, and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but with our eyes we saw his majesty: 17 For he received of God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from that excellent Glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice we heard when it came from heaven being with him in the holy mount.
Second we can be reminded that God’s glory comes in God’s time and according to God’s movement. There is nothing so foolish as to think that we can seize God’s glory somehow. God’s glory comes to us in God’s time and if Scripture is any indication the glory of God is never far removed, in this life, with a theology of the Cross. Everyone wants the glory … nobody wants the humiliation. Everyone wants to go to heaven. Nobody wants to die.
Third, we are reminded of how the presence of the Kingdom is wrapped up in the death of Christ. Our hope for the Kingdom is anchored in the fact that we are united to Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension. The victory of Christ is our victory. But this victory is not only a spiritual victory (though it is that) without any corporeal repercussions. The Kingdom has come. Christ has conquered and so we move in that victory understanding that the Gates of Hell can not resist the assault of the Church upon the defense mechanisms of Satan.
Appendix — After thought
J. R. R. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic Christian. One wonders if some of his understanding in his majestic work was somewhat based upon what he learned of the Transfiguration. Tolkien speaks of the Elvin Lords “who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm and who live at once in both worlds. Of them Tolkien says that “against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.”
Tolkien’s lesser story steals from the Greater story. In the Transfiguration the Lord Christ is manifested as one who walks between two worlds. Further, the Gospel record clearly demonstrates that Christ has great power against both the seen and unseen. After the Transfiguration the Lord Christ descends to do battle against the Kingdom that opposes Him (Mark 9:25f).
As we consider Psalm 139 we come upon one of the better known Psalms. In this Church we confess responsively parts of this Psalm at the end of every communion service. It is a Psalm that the same time comforting to God’s people and terrifying to the wicked. It is comforting to God’s people because it speaks of the expansiveness of God’s watchful presence. It is terrifying to the wicked because it reminds them of how God’s justice will win out.
I.) The Omniscience of God (1-6)
A.) Consistent Testimony of Scripture
The Scriptures teach everywhere the omniscience of God.
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Here in Psalm 139 the Psalmist articulates that he knows that God knows him.
B.) The way God knows
As we consider God’s omniscience as it regards God we speak briefly to this matter of “God knowing us because He has searched us.” We insist here that this “searching of us” is an eternal searching and not a temporal searching. All of God’s knowledge is instant to Him. God does not learn discursively as we do. When we learn about something it takes time and effort. But God does not learn as we do. All is before Him and has been from eternity.
Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
So, when the Psalmist here says that “God has searched him” we must be mindful that this is a matter of speech but the heart of the matter remains true. God knows us thoroughly.
C.) God knowledge as a personal truth
Alexander MaClaren could wonder at this God knowing him. MacLaren wrote,
“The Psalmist God was a God who came into close touch with him, and the Psalmist’s religion translated the powerless generality of an attribute referring to the Divine relation to the universe into a continually exercised power having reference to himself.”
We do not have here then a abstract doctrine that “God knows everything.” Instead what we find is the Psalmist applying that personally to himself. It is, of course true, that “God knows everything,” but for the Psalmist here it is the fact that God knows him personally that is being communicated.
Note the totality and comprehensiveness that the Psalmist speaks of in terms of God’s knowing.
sitting down … rising up
understanding thoughts from afar
walking and lying down
In our thoughts, actions, and speech God knows us.
And do not miss the comfort that the Psalmist finds in all this (vs. 6).
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
The Psalmist plays in this knowledge of God’s knowing him.
We ought not to miss the subjectivity here. It could well be possible to get lost in an abstract doctrine like “God’s intimate knowledge of everything,” but far easier is it to laud the doctrine of God’s omniscience when it is personal to us.
D.) Further, the Psalmist teaches us here, by way of slight abstraction, that if we would know ourselves aright we must know God who knows us better and more thoroughly than we know ourselves. The knowledge of self then lies in the knowledge of God who alone can teach us ourselves.
This is an important insight for moderns who go crazy trying to understand themselves. The modern asks of Himself “Who am I,” and will seek to try and know himself apart from God’s knowledge of the modern.
There are dozens of different personality testing systems. There are stand-alone models or theories which seek to explain personality, motivation, behaviour, learning styles and thinking styles (such as Benziger, Transactional Analysis, Maslow, McGregor, Adams,VAK, Kolb, and others). All of these in pursuit of knowing ourselves apart from knowing the God who alone knows us.
There is no true knowledge of the self apart from knowing the one who knows us exhaustively. Knowledge of self lies then in knowing God who knows us perfectly.
John Calvin underscored the absolute necessity of accurate self-knowledge to knowing God in the opening pages of his monumental work, Institutes of the Christian Religion. He wrote:
Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves (Institutes, 1.1.1).
Calvin argued that one could not truly know God without knowing oneself and that one couldn’t truly know oneself without knowing God. Calvin acknowledged the obvious dilemma in saying, “which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern” (Institutes, 1.1.1).
E.) We can take comfort from this doctrine when
— We are confused. We may not know our own thoughts but God knows and the God who knows our own thoughts before we do can clarify matters for us and dispel our confusion.
— We are discouraged by who we see ourselves to be. We see our sin … we see our mortality. We may not like what we see at times. But, my friends … God knows us. He created us. And in that knowing of us He has claimed us for Himself in Christ Jesus. If God knows us and accepts in Christ then we can know ourselves and accept ourselves as w are in Christ Jesus.
— There is in all of us a desire to be perfectly and thoroughly known. Only God knows us like this and when we seek to be known like this by anyone else but God we run the danger of making for ourselves an idol of they who we would have know us like this.
Of course this overturns all other teaching that suggests that God does not know the future, or that God and man are co-operating in order to create a uncertain future. This is, of course, a non-Christian position. A non all knowing God is no God at all. A god from whom we can hide from in any sense is a limited god and so no God.
Ominscience as an inescapable concept for deity
Inescapable concept — Bugs Bunny and Lumps on the head
When we deny omniscience to God, omniscience does not go away, but instead it seeks to find itself seized by whatever immanent god seeks to be god. Of course when we deny omniscience to god it finds itself being located in man somewhere.
We are hearing of the attempt to seize temporal omniscience all the time today. We are seeing reports about Government agencies — seeking to collect all kinds of information and data on Americans.
A Congresswoman (Maxine Waters) recently noted that,
“The President has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life,” Representative Maxine Waters told Roland Martin on Monday.
“That’s going to be very, very powerful,” Waters said. “That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that…. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.”
What else can this be but an attempt for man to claim God’s prerogative?
Rushdoony noted here,
“When the State claims sovereignty, the logic of its position requires that a like total knowledge be acquired concerning all men and things, and the result is the inquisitive and prying state which aims at knowing all in order to govern all.”
So, by this doctrine we can also identify entities that are seeking to arise to God’s position of Omniscience. Any entity that seeks to know everything about us there is to know so that nothing is kept hidden from them is an institution that is seeking to aspire to Godhood with all its omniscience. And of course to willingly yield to that desire of omniscience of the State is to participate in idolatry — to instate another God above God.
It is not hard to think of the entity or institution in our daily lives that insists that nothing be kept private from them. Any institution that would demand all our records and would even spy on us to gain what it wants to know is an institution or entity seeking to be God.
For God to know all communicates absolute control. The Psalmist understands that. But God being God he is the only one who is to have the privilege of omniscience. The Psalmist finds comfort in this (vs. 5-6)
God’s omniscience for the believer is a like a child’s security blanket.
II.) The Omnipresence of God (7-12)
Remember here that one indication of man as sinner is his desire to escape God. When Adam sinned he sought to hide from God.
Isaiah 29:15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
It is the fallen man’s nature to hide from God but here in Psalm 139 the Psalmist readily confesses that he can not hide from God and there is the clear sense that he is delighted with that.
And so should we be. All men may forget us or our cause. All men may despise us and wish we would hide ourselves from them. Yet, despite the wish of men that we might disappear God is with us. He has promised he will never leave us nor forsake us.
Another help that this passage is to us is that in being ever in God’s presence we must be mindful that there is no such things as secret sins. Whenever we sin, we blow a trumpet in the face of the ever present God and rebel boldly in His presence. Perhaps the thought of God being ever present could be a hedge against what we think is private sinning?
And what comfort God’s presence is to His saints. This comfort has even been put into poetry and hymn,
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,— Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
So, the omnipresence of God is stressed in a very personal and particular way. We are not permitted to think of God deistically, as a remote, determinism and a far out power.
God is taught here as being omnipresent, everywhere at every moment. A true God cannot be God if He is not totally present. If he is not totally present at all times to all man’s doing then there are places that men can go to escape God’s presence and judgments. Omnipresence, total presence, is therefore, necessary and the concomitant to total government, to effective government. We believe, as Christians, that God is everywhere present. It could not be otherwise, because if God is not everywhere present, He is not God. If we can escape Him and say, “Over there belongs to God but over here I can escape God then we have limited God and En-Goded ourselves. We have therefore defeated God and become God wherever God is not present. Therefore, basic to scripture is the doctrine that God is every-where present, and basic to every theology that has ever been developed, every doctrine of God, is this same concept of the omnipresence of God, the everywhere presence of God.
Just as No God can be truly God if He does not know all there is to know about man so no God can be truly God if He is not everywhere present to man. Accordingly, the State not only seeks to be all knowing but also all present so as to have total control.
Now we must say a word as to why we can find this omniscience and omnipresence comforting. It is for the same reason that the Psalmist can find it comforting. We find that which is a terror to those who hate God to be a comfort because we are covenant men. Being covenant men we belong to Christ. Belonging to Christ we know we have favor with God. If God’s omniscience and omnipresence be for us, who can be against us.
Review from last week
We spoke about the omniscience and omnipresence of God but we did so as the Psalmist does so in personal and concrete ways. The Psalmist here does give us these high doctrines of the character of God — His Omniscience (all-knowing-ness) and omnipresence (all present-ness) but he does so in a way that these high and potentially abstract doctrines become very tender and cherished doctrines — doctrines that we can not navigate without.
The Psalmist tells us that in a impersonal world God is personal. God is not a deistic God who has wandered away but He knows each of His people individually and thoroughly. Unlike the State, which has aspirations to be God, God knows us not abstractly by our social security number but intimately. The Pslamist tells us that God has made a personal search, that He is interested in the most mundane details such as your lying down and rising up. This knowing of God is extended even being familiar with our speech patterns before we have crafted that speech.
We spoke that this knowledge that God has of us must be the fulcrum by which we know ourselves. There is no knowing of our selves apart from knowing the God who knows us. We noted that no psychological test can tell us about what we want to know about ourselves in comparison to what we learn about ourselves by knowing the God who knows us. Our knowledge of self is the ectype of God’s archetypical knowledge of us. God’s knowledge of us is original and our knowledge of ourselves is derivative of God’s knowledge of us.
We spoke then briefly about those pretenders to Christianity that deny this doctrine of Omniscience and we considered then the State which seeks to take on the mantle of God and so replace God as the all knower and the all knowing.
Then we spoke about God’s Omnipresence which the Psalmist brings out next in Psalm 139. The Psalmist notes that fact that God is a inescapable presence. We spoke of what a comfort that doctrine should be to God’s people. We reminded ourselves that the certainty of God’s presence means we can withstand the hostility of God’s enemies and the loneliness that often creates. Though all would flee from us God is present and God is enough company and in that we find comfort.
We noted briefly that God’s Omnipresence can be a means by which we flee sin. We noted that all sin — even that sin we think done in secret — is sin that is committed on center stage spotlight in the full presence of God. The thought of that might slow down our mad rush into what we think are private sins.
Finally, on this score we noted again the attempt of the State to overthrow God and en-god itself and we noted that on way we see that is the States desire to take up the prerogative of all-presence-ness. State agents, state camera’s and state satellites are ubiquitous. The capacity to eavesdrop on almost any conversation. All this is suggestive of how the State has morphed into this entity that desires to be all present.
And finally we noted that the reason we find all this comforting is that we belong to the Lord Christ. Christ has atoned for our sins and made such an introduction of us to the Father that we find comfort in God inescapable knowing and presence. Because of Christ God is for us. To the contrary, those outside of Christ find this everywhere knowing and presence of God to be a threat and so they seek to escape God by conjuring up other deities that they think will be more kindly to their sins in those deities omnipresence and omniscience.
That was last week in reduced to the nub. Now we consider the third and fourth strophe of Psalm 139
III.) The Creative work of God As The Foundation Upon Which His Intimate Knowing and Presence Is Constructed
The inspired Psalmist has been accentuating the character of God. He professes God’s knowing of Him and God’s constant companionship and it is as if he says now in Psalm 139:13-18 that these attributes of God are only to be expected in the one who created him. We should not be surprised that He who is the very creator of us is a God who then goes on to know our sitting and rising and a God from whom we cannot escape.
Here we see God as the great creator King who is set forth as the one one who brings us into being. Cast into the background are the indirect means of human sexuality and / or human artifice that God uses to create each individual. Instead what we are focused on here is the direct agency of God in creation.
The Psalmist isn’t interested in the “science or biology of it all.” What he is focusing on is the agency of God in man’s creation. And so he uses poetic (lowest parts of the earth) language to describe what happens in conception and in man’s development in the womb.
The Psalmist can say here,
For thou hast formed my inward parts.
The “reins” in the Hebrew thinking referred to the kidneys. In the Hebrew mindset the Kidneys (reins) was used to signify a man’s desires or longings. In this Psalm what is being communicated is that God was the one shaping our whole physical being including the core of our being. As the one who has formed us and woven us God is the one who has absolute right of ownership.
So, like the previous words of the Psalmist which spoke of the intimacy of God, inasmuch as God knows all there is to know about the Psalmist, and inasmuch as God is everywhere present to the Psalmist so here the intimacy of God to the Psalmist is declared in its most intense expression … “God is the one who knitted me.”
It is a reversed lesser to greater argument.
“Of course God knows me … of course God is everywhere present to me … After all, God is the one who created me before I was even cognizant to talk about a “me.”
What a deliciously Biblical (Reformed) way to speak. God is always prior. In our being God is prior to our self consciousness. In our thinking God must be our beginning assumption. God, as the objective reality, precedes and gives definition to all our subjective encounters with His reality. From beginning to ending we begin and end with God.
Do not miss this high view of God. This high view of God is exactly the tonic that the Church needs to return to in order to be faithful once again. The Psalmist here is intoxicated with the character and glory of God. It is his main reality in which he comprehends all other reality. When he finds any value in himself it is only because He understands the creative work of God in creating his self.
Note again here God’s personal involvement in the affairs of His people. His not a bloodless God so to speak. He is not removed us as some kind of passionless God. From our conception to the end of our days God is present as our Creator… as our High King … as our companion. Christianity is not the faith of the stoic who endures for the sake of some absent God. God is near and present. God sees … God cares … God loves.
As moderns we tend to be amazed with our technology. We stand amazed at in vitro fertilization. We stand amazed at stem cell research. We stand amazed the prospects of cloning. But we have largely lost the ability to stand amazed at the God who stands over and above all this technology like a great Architect stands over his child’s first Lego house.
The Psalmist presses on. Not only does he speak of God’s work in his creation but he speaks also of God’s intimate knowledge of his own end. (Psalm 139:16).
It is not only that the Psalmist is fashioned for God it is also that the days of the Psalmist are fashioned by God. Here is the strong Biblical (Reformed) doctrine of Predestination. Before conception God has numbered our days. This ought to give us great confidence. Nobody can take a day from our life nor can we add a day to those days that God has ordained for us. Let the wicked breathe out threats against us. They are no threat to the one who holds are days in the palm of His hand.
1.) If we honestly believe Psalm 139 we will be slower to cavil against God when He forms and weaves some children different from others. God forms and weaves the Down’s syndrome child, the cystic fibrosis child, the cerebral palsy child. Why?
On this side of eternity who of us could ever begin to say, but confidence in the God who forms and weaves all requires us to rest in His character and wisdom, as difficult as that often times is.
2.) Of course it is fitting in our looking at this only a few days after the commemoration of those who were tortured and murdered while still in the womb. To date this is how we have treated some 57 million fellow image bearers.
Would any Christian, no matter how well intentioned, take up for Abortion if Psalm 139 and the Character of God it portrays was lodged deep within their souls? Would any of us dare to interrupt God’s work of forming and weaving a child thus communicating that we know His business better than he does?
In light of this weeks commemoration of 42 years of legalized slaughter, ponder the connection between the slaughter of innocent children, the rise of government brutality in the streets and courts of our land, and our own culpability as citizens. Here we turn to Kuyper,
“If the institution of government is an act of God’s grace and an important part of his common grace, then it is obvious that a people is punished with a bad government, and blessed with a good one. As the people is, as a rule so will its government be as well. If, as is the case among many African tribes [replace this with: ‘many Western nations’], there is no respect for human life among the people themselves, even to the extent of still being sunk into cannibalism, and if they murder recklessly among themselves and among other tribes, then it is quite understandable that their heads and rulers also do not show any respect for the life of their subjects. If, conversely, respect for human life has already entered the consciousness of all the people, so that murder is considered an abomination, then it is equally understandable that the government itself does not commit murder either, and to the contrary, tries to oppose all murder. Thus Holy Scripture teaches us that a good king must be honored as a blessing of God, and conversely, a people that itself sinks into sin is punished with bad rulers.”
From *Common Grace*, by Abraham Kuyper, vol. 3, p. 55 (1904 ed.)
IV.) Prayer that God would oppose those who hate His majesty
Of course when we turn away from God our hatred lands upon the judicially innocent. We hate God we do all we can to strike out at Him. This is seen, in part, by our slaughter of the innocent. Surely no one can deny that the torture and elimination of the unborn is anything but hatred no matter how nicely we dress that hatred up with hand wringing and talk about “every child being a wanted child.”
But the Psalmist introduces us to a different kind of hatred here. It is a righteous hatred … a hatred of all that finds God to be vulgar and desultory. Thus we are taught that “hatred” is an inescapable category. Either we will hate those who hate God or we will hate those who God loves.
The Psalmist bellows hot with his claim of hatred. Something we find shocking. Keep in mind though that the Psalmist has been caught up in the vision of the glorious God he serves which has elicited strong affections of love to God. What else might we expect then but a corresponding loathing for those who are opposed to what the Psalmist deeply loves?
“Sin is the antithesis of virtue. That moral principle is the reason which makes us desire the reward of righteousness is one and the same with that which makes us crave the due punishment of wickedness; moral approval of virtue and moral indignation against evil are not effluences of two principles in the reason, but of one only. They are differentiated solely by the opposition of the two contrasted objects. The sincere approbation of the good necessitates moral indignation against the evil, because the objects of the two sentiments are opposites. Everybody thinks thus. Nobody would believe that man to be capable of sincere moral admiration for good actions who should declare himself incapable of moral resentment towards vile conduct.”
Christ Our Penal Substitute, pp. 48-49
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
“They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.”
― Edmund Burke
The Psalmist ends with the same theme he began with
The Psalmist invites his covenant Lord to continue to probe his inmost thoughts and feelings. He longs for the wicked way to be exposed and removed. He desires to walk in God’s law way.
1.) The Doctrine of Justification by Faith — John Owen
2.) The Doctrine of Justification — James Buchanan
3.) Justification — Francis Turretin (Author), Jr. James T. Dennison (Editor), George Musgrave Giger (Translator)
Assignment — Read the main texts. Write a 25 page paper explaining and defending the Biblical Doctrine of Justification by faith alone.
1.) Romans: Atonement and Justification: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20 – 4:25 — Martyn Lloyd Jones
2.) Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification — R. C. Sproul
3.) Justification by Faith Alone — Jonathan Edwards
5.) The Current Justification Controversy — O. Palmer Robertson
6.) By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification — Guy Waters (Editor)
7.) Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking A Pauline Theme — Stephen Westerholm
1.) Go online and find a rabid Roman Catholic and get into a debate on Justification
2.) Go online and find a rabid Federal Vision proponent and get into a debate on Justification
3.) Write a 10 page paper on the Controversies surrounding Justification (Books 5-7)
1.) What Still Divides Us?
A Protestant & Roman Catholic Debate : Are the Scriptures Sufficient? Are We Justified By Faith Alone?
Assignment — Listen to the debate section on Justification
1.) The Federal Vision — Steve Wilkins (Editor) — pages 151-262
2.) Council of Trent — Look up Cannon’s 9, 12, 14, 23, 24, 30, 33
1.) 4 page paper on each of the three Chapters in the Wilkins book refuting Federal Vision errant versions of Justification
2.) Refute the Council of Trent Canons
3.) 5 page paper locating the harmonies you see between Trent and Federal Vision
The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Staten Island Cops is a good example of somebody not knowing when it is right to disobey orders. The Cops were ordered by their superiors (who were ordered by their superiors) to do something about Garner and his selling of individual cigarettes. As that order ran downhill people at several levels missed the opportunity to tell their superior giving that ridiculous order that the superior could go “beggar themselves,” because they were not going to obey a illegitimate order to arrest a guy simply because he was horning in on the Mafia State’s piece of the action. The State, via that illegitimate and confiscatory Tax law, was running a protection racket and Eric Garner got in the way of their profits and so like all protection racket “businesses” the Cop thugs, following the orders of the Statist Mafia Dons, took Garner down.
One thing one learns when working for Corporate America is that “you don’t touch the money.” Eric Garner was touching the money of the State by selling individual cigarettes (Loosies) and so the Statist Government Mafia, “made an example of him.” Think about it … how many people do you suppose will be selling Loosies in light of what happened to Garner? Everyone knows now that in NYC you can kill your unborn babies, you can purchase your high brow hookers, you can libel in the News Studios that dot New York, all with relative safety, but don’t you dare get caught selling Loosies or it could be your life.
Every legislator in the State of New York who voted to put an confiscatory sin tax on cigarettes in the State of New York, by all that is just, ought also to be charged with involuntary Manslaughter in the death of Eric Garner. Why only see the Cops fingerprints on this? Why not hold accountable the Statist Politicians and bureaucrats who pass and enforce the kind of dumb-ass laws that eventually find Cops choking to death people for selling single cigarettes? Eric Garner was murdered by Statists. The Cops were merely the executioners employed to that end.
Somebody along the chain of command should have stood up and said to whatever link in the chain that was passing on the order, “This is a illegitimate order and I’m not enforcing it.”
Disobedience to Tyrants is obedience to God.