Categories
Theology

Covenant: A Strategy for Singing the Psalms

Part 2 in a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

In order to properly understand the Psalms and sing them with saints of old, we must employ the right strategy. In other words, we need to have a proper biblical and theological hermeneutic (i.e. interpretive grid). As I mentioned in the last post, I propose that the Davidic covenant (see 2 Sam. 7:12-16) is the lens through which the entire book of Psalms should be read. For the most part, the Psalms are a collection of royal prayers and petitions.[1] Because covenants in the OT are based on the vassal treaty model, it makes sense for “kingship” to be a major theme in the Psalter.[2]  Indeed, “David and the Davidic kings were…the vehicles through which [Yahweh] would bless Israel and the nations.”[3]

The primary reason to use the Davidic covenant as the framework for the whole book is due to the fact that the Davidic covenant is a partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.[4] Yahweh’s original commitment to creation was first articulated in covenant form to Abraham (see Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-5). Through Abraham’s line, Yahweh would bless all the families of the earth. Later, as a nation, Israel’s duty was to be an overflowing reservoir of blessing to all people. This would come to fruition through Israel’s kingly line, for the king is ultimately the one upon whom this responsibility falls. The focus of Yahweh’s covenants with Abraham and David is not with the men themselves, but a yet-to-be-born son (cf. Gen. 15:4; 2 Sam. 7:12).[5] In his covenant with David, Yahweh confirms his promises of “seed” and “land” to Abraham, but he goes beyond a mere confirmation. Yahweh partially fulfills his promises to Abraham when he promises to give David a great name and give Israel a secure land.[6] Moreover, the Davidic covenant supplements the Abrahamic covenant in that the promise of David’s dynasty mediates the kings whom Yahweh promised through Abraham’s seed.[7] What we are seeing, then, is that Yahweh will fulfill his promise to Abraham through David’s royal line!

Additionally, it is helpful to note that the Davidic covenant as unifying thread is aided by the structure of Psalms. The five books within the Psalms were organized “in such a way as to focus on the king.”[8] We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming posts. This gives us a solid framework for how to understand Israel’s theology of kingship in the Psalms. Namely, it begins with the Davidic king.


[1] Bruce K. Waltke, with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 692.
[2] Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 230. The vassal treaty was a political relationship between a powerful king of a superior state and a less powerful king of an inferior state who subordinated himself to the more powerful king.
[3] David M. Howard, Jr., “A Case for Kingship in the Old Testament Narratives and the Psalms,” Trinity Journal 9, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 35.
[4] Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 700.
[5] Ibid., 692, notes, “It is important to remember that the covenants are unconditional, yet the blessings of the covenant are conditioned on obedience to the Mosaic covenant. Their descendants will inherit the enjoyment of these rewards only to the extent that they are loyal to I AM and obey the stipulations and commandments of the Mosaic covenant.”
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 693.
[8] Ibid., 884.

Categories
Life

Why should judgment cause rejoicing?

The fact that God will judge the world should cause his people to rejoice. Why? God’s judgment proves that he is a God who cares about justice, righteousness, and holiness. Psalm 98:4, 8-9 reminds of of this:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

…Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Going beyond this precious fact, what truly grips my heart and causes it to rejoice even more is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the One who will be judging the world.  In John’s gospel, Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (5:24-29).

Categories
Life

One Reason We Sing

I think a huge reason for my spiritual ups and downs is the fact that I tend to look at my subjective feelings more often than I look at God’s proven faithfulness and goodness.  As I spent time reading the Bible earlier in Psalm 13, my heart rejoiced with David’s words:

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me (v. 6).

David didn’t say that he wanted to sing because he had a great quiet time that morning.  He didn’t say he would sing because things were going perfectly (actually, they were going quite poorly if you read the whole chapter).  David did not look to his feelings when searching for motivation to sing praise to God.

No, David went right to the core.  His motivation was the rock-solid foundation that God has dealt bountifully with him.  That is, God has been overly gracious to him.  When I am in the dumps — for any number of reasons (mostly stupid ones) — I need to remember that God has dealt, and is dealing, bountifully with me.  He is being more gracious and kind to me than I could have ever hoped to deserve.  And that is more than enough reason to sing in joy to him.

Categories
Life

God’s Party and Our Praise

God is going to start a party with the best food and finest wine.  Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine.” I imagine that there will be some decent music at this party as well (because every good party has good music).

One of the songs that will be sung is in verse 9.  God’s people will sing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

This verse reveals 4 things about God and his people:

  1. God comes to us. We wait on him; we do not go to him.
  2. God saves people; we do not save ourselves.
  3. Salvation results in our gladness and joy.
  4. Our salvation is a reconciling of our relationship with God — not “getting into heaven.”

Let’s think about the fourth one for a moment.  Whenever Scripture mentions “the salvation of the Lord,” it is God bringing us to himself. God’s people are not simply rejoicing in the fact that God allows us to live in heaven and receive good things from him.  That is certainly part of it.  But it is not it. The redeemed are rejoicing because God has brought them from and oppressive enemy and destruction (which in the larger context of Scripture is sin, Satan, and death) to himself.    This is why they are singing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him.”

Those who are truly redeemed wait for Jesus.  John Piper wrote, “Those who would be happy in heaven if Jesus wasn’t there, won’t be there.”  Is your rejoicing in God or in his gifts?  Is your gladness in the fact that God has brought you into relationship with himself or the fact that you get a lot of benefits from knowing him?  We need to examine ourselves daily and seek to make him our complete satisfaction.  Otherwise, we are making God out to be a divine genie and not the supreme treasure of the universe.

Categories
Theology

The Lord Will Provide

By John Newton and William Cowper

Though troubles assail,
And dangers affright;
Though friends should all fail,
And foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us,
Whatever betide:
The Scripture assures us,
“The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without barn
Or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread;
His saints what is fitting
Shall ne’er be denied,
So long as ’tis written,
“The Lord will provide.”

His call we obey,
Like Abram of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold;
For though we are strangers,
We have a good Guide;
And trust in all dangers:
“The Lord will provide.”

When Satan appears
To stop up our path,
And fills us with fears,
We triumph by faith;
He cannot take from us,
Though oft he has tried,
The heart-cheering promise,
“The Lord will provide.”

He tells us we’re weak,
Our hope is in vain;
The good that we seek
We ne’er shall obtain;
But when such suggestions
Our faith thus have tried,
This answers all questions,
“The Lord will provide.”

No strength of our own,
Nor goodness we claim;
Our trust is all thrown
On Jesus’ dear name.
In this our strong tower
For safety we hide;
The Lord is our power,
“The Lord will provide.”

When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
The word of His grace
Shall comfort us through;
Not fearing or doubting,
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting,
“The Lord will provide.”