Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Psalm for Sunday – Psalm 1

Read Psalm 1.tree-river_500561

In a popularity contest amongst all the psalms, I imagine Psalm 23 wins hands down. But it was this psalm which was chosen to begin the whole book. While certainly not as familiar or popular as Psalm 23, this psalm is still well known, perhaps because of its place at the head of the Psalter, or maybe because of its encouraging depiction of life before God.

The basic message of the psalm is quite simple: there are two ways of life, and only two: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (v. 6).

The way of the righteous is portrayed in verses 1-3, with the blessing pictured in verse 3 being the result of the lived commitments of verses one and two. This person delights in God’s Torah (law) – his instruction and guidance through the Scriptures – so much so that they meditate in the Scriptures day and night. To meditate is simply to reflect on, think about, discuss the truth of God as made known in his Word.

Their steadfast orientation toward God results, according to the psalm, in a life of substance, stability, fruitfulness and endurance (verse 3; cf. Joshua 1:8; Jeremiah 17:5-8). This is in marked contrast to the “wicked” who are portrayed in verse four as chaff – the weightless husk of the grain in contrast to the enduring majesty of the tree. Derek Kidner notes that the destiny of the wicked is “collapse” and “expulsion”: they will not stand in the judgement, nor in the assembly of the righteous (verse 5; see Kidner, Psalms 1-72 Tyndale OT Commentary, 49).

When I read this psalm, I can’t help but think of the wonderful Karri forest in southwest Western Australia. Mature karri rise 80 metres out of the ground, and may live for up to 400 years. These majestic, beautiful trees withstand fire, drought, disease and storm. They endure, and in their endurance, are beautiful. They picture the resolute endurance and beauty, substance and stability which characterises the way of the righteous.

At the very start of the psalms, then, the question is put: what way will you choose?
Where does your fundamental allegiance lie?

On the Authority of Scripture

“Assuming the authority of Scripture is in many ways a greater act of submission to God than seeking to demonstrate the Bible’s uniqueness and accuracy. To some degree, trying to convince others that the Bible is reliable represents an effort to get people to trust us, to believe that we have sufficient arguments in our arsenal toBible - Gen 1 prove that they should take the Bible seriously. … Much modern theology argues that we should trust the Bible because we can demonstrate that it is reliable. In contrast, the [early church] Fathers assumed that the Bible is trustworthy because it came from God, and they assumed this so implicitly and wholeheartedly that they rarely even mentioned the Bible’s uniqueness directly. They simply acted on the uniqueness of Scripture by memorizing it, studying it, citing it, using it” (Donald Fairbairn, Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers, 2).

What’s Fairbairn suggesting here? That we should not have arguments for biblical authority? No. But if our commitment to the authority of Scripture extends only to a rational justification of its authority, we are not actually committed to it. The authority of Scripture is demonstrated in the actual authority it exercises in and over our lives.

Why do you “believe in the Bible”?
How does its authority show up in your life?

Beginning with God

In the Beginning“In the beginning God…”

I wanted these words, the first words in the Bible, to be the first words of this blog. The Bible simply assumes the existence and reality of God.
God is.

God is front and centre, the foremost reality and the ground of all reality. God, according to Scripture, is the beginning and the end, our origin and our goal. Our entire existence occurs within the sphere of God’s life, activity and presence. We come from God and are moving toward God. Our lives are God-created and God-drenched – “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are never out of God’s presence or beyond the scope of his love – no matter who we are.

Who is this God? What is God like? Twentieth-century theologian Karl Barth writes:

“God is he who in his Son Jesus Christ loves all his children, in his children all people, and in all people his whole creation. God’s being is his loving. He is all that he is as the One who loves. All his perfections are the perfections of his love. … In the Gospel of Israel’s Messiah and his fulfilment of the Law, of the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us, of Him who died for our sins and rose again for our justification – in this Gospel the love of God is the first word. If then, as is proper, we are to be told by the Gospel who and what God is, we must allow this primary word to be spoken to us – that God is love.”
(Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1: 351).

Welcome to this blog – I hope you enjoy what you find here, and will join the conversation.