What Should We Think About the Imprecatory Psalms?

imprecatoyHow should we make sense of the Imprecatory Psalms?

Imprecatory psalms (e.g., Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140) are those psalms which call upon God to destroy the wicked, and they include some of the most shocking words in the Bible. Take just a few examples.

Psalm 35 provides one of the most acceptable imprecatory Psalms. Verses 4–6 read,

Let them be put to shame and dishonor
     who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
     who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
     with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
     with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
(Psalm 35:4-6)

In Psalm 109, the language gets more severe as David calls for the personal ruination of the wicked.

Appoint a wicked man against him;
     let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
     let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few;
     may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless
     and his wife a widow!
May his children wander about and beg,
     seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has;
     may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
     nor any to pity his fatherless children!
May his posterity be cut off;
     may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
     and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
Let them be before the LORD continually,
     that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
(Psalm 109:6-15)

Finally, in Psalm 137 David pronounces a benediction on those who destroy the children of the wicked:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
     the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
     down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
     blessed shall he be who repays you
     with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
     and dashes them against the rock!
(Psalm 137:7-9)

Due to their graphic violence and divine approval—they are in the Bible, after all—many Protestant liberals have charged the God of Israel with violence unbecoming a deity. Other modern readers have written off Christianity entirely because of the imprecatory Psalms and Israel’s violent history. Even for evangelicals, who love the Bible, the cries for vengeance in these Psalms make us feel uncomfortable, because they don’t immediately fit our normal grid for a God who is love. What, therefore, should we think about the imprecatory Psalms?

A few years ago, Dr. Stephen Wellum gave a Sunday School lesson on these psalms, and what follows is an amplified outline of his lesson. Continue reading

How do you recognize a biblical type?  

seekfindIf we agree that typology unites the Bible, identifies who Jesus is, and reveals God’s progressive revelation (which I argued here), then it is vital to know how to recognize a type. Indeed, one of the of the reasons people doubt the validity of a given type (e.g., Joseph as type of Christ, or Noah’s ark as a type of salvation) is that they fear reading too much into the Old Testament. Perhaps, they have seen typology gone wild and have concluded that such interpretations are fanciful and forced. Indeed, while there are many poor examples of misinterpretation, typology remains a vital reality in the Bible. And it behooves us to ask again: “How do you recognize a true biblical type?”

In what follows, I’ve given 5 ways to help you do that. This list isn’t exhaustive and it (over)simplifies some very technical discussions, but for those just beginning to consider or reconsider typology, may it serve as a starting point for recognizing types in Scripture. (For a more comprehensive approach to detecting types, allusions, and patterns in Scripture, see G. K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretationesp. chapters 3 and 4). Continue reading

My Twelfth ‘Old Book’

My son, beware of anything beyond these.
Of making many books there is no end,
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
– Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV –

On Monday I listed eleven old books that every Christian should read. I asked you what the twelfth book should be. Here are the books suggested.books

  1. The Scandal of the Incarnation selections from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (Jason Miller)
  2. The Bondage of the Will (John T. Jeffery) 
  3. On the Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther (Jeffery Hutchison)
  4. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade**
  5. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Ben . . . )
  6. The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Ben . . . )
  7. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards (Josh Philpot)
  8. Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella Stuart (Jerod Harper)
  9. Holiness by J. C. Ryle (Cade Campbell)
  10. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Terry Braswell)
  11. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (Terry Braswell)
  12. The Cross of Christ by John Stott (Tony . . .)

From the responses, it looks like we have our next twelve. I would heartily commend ten of them, with caveats about a few. Continue reading

What Good is the Book of Numbers?

serpentFew books in the Bible hide their riches better than the book of Numbers. Concealed by an accountant’s title (‘Numbers’) and begun with a lengthy census (ch. 1), the casual reader of Numbers may come to the honest, but mistaken, notion that this book is a boring, impractical book.

However, Paul has the exact opposite feeling. In 1 Corinthians 10, he says that the events of Numbers (along with everything in the five books of Moses) “were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (v. 11). Specifically, Paul lists Israel’s sexual immorality at Baal-Peor in Numbers 25 (vv. 7–8), the incursion of serpents in Numbers 21 (v. 9), and the grumbling of Israel which occurred throughout the exodus journey (v. 10).

In truth, Paul reminds us that these ancient words are ever true and that in God’s wisdom they were written down for me and you. To put it more generally, the book of Numbers is not simply a book of Jewish history, a record of priestly duties, and medicinal wound care for scabs and leprosy victims. Oh no. It is more. It is a book of Christian Scripture that points us to Christ. Continue reading

Is Capital Punishment Biblical?

deathIs Capital Punishment Biblical?

By now, you’ve probably heard the news about the ‘botched’ execution of an Oklahoma inmate. On Tuesday of this week, two days after I referenced Genesis 9:6 as a proof-text for capital punishment, Clayton Lockett, a man convicted of rape and murder died 43 minutes after his lethal injection failed to produce the effect of a sedated death. This kind of gruesome execution leads ethicists, politicians, humanitarians, indeed all of us to question the use of capital punishment.

As Christians, such incidents should grieve us, but as always we must turn to Scripture to find God’s perspective. And on this issue, like so many, God is not silent.

What Does the Bible Say?

Throughout the Bible, God is presented as sovereign over life: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god besides me; I kill and make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none who can deliver out of my hand” (Deut 32:39). “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam 2:6).

As the Sovereign Creator and Just Potter, he has the right to give life and take it away. In Adam, we deserve death, not life (Rom 5:18-19), but such a sentence of death does not permit man to take the life of another. Just the reverse, only God has that right.

Still while God alone has authority over life, there are two primary texts that describe God giving humanity a right to execute a murderer: Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4. In other words, while men in and of themselves have no right to take life, God has ordered a world that endows states the right to take the life of renegade life-takers. Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (part 1)

pulpit_paigeI recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on exposition in recent history is part one of four.

Paige Patterson has said, “There is no genuinely good preaching except exposition.” Such serious words require us to consider what expositional preaching is and why it is so important that preachers only preach expositional sermons. Continue reading

What’s Going on in Genesis 1–11?

genesisSince Julius Wellhausen suggested that the first five books were not written by Moses, there has been an endless discussion between biblical scholars about the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Some have suggested that it is a compilation document written over time from the various viewpoints of various redactors. For others, its poetic form proves that it is mythological account of creation, on par with other pagan etiologies. However, following the likes of G. K. Beale, it seems best to see any interaction between Moses and other ancient Near Eastern religions (and there certainly was familiarity and interaction) as polemical attempts to esteem Yahweh-Elohim as the sovereign creator of all things.

There are many reasons for affirming the historical nature of Genesis 1-11 and the singular authorship of Moses, but perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring is the literary arrangement of Genesis 1–11. Borrowing from the observations of others, let me suggest two suggestive patterns in Genesis 1-11 that show how carefully Moses, schooled in Egypt and inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a record of Creation, Fall, Judgment, Salvation, and New Creation. Continue reading

It’s About Scriptural Authority, not Sexual Liberty

bibleA few weeks ago, I responded to an article in our local newspaper that suggested that the loving thing to do is to embrace others who choose to pursue same-sex marriage. I thought it was going to be kept behind a pay-wall, but apparently, it is available online now. It’s entitled “Current debate not about sex, but following Scripture.” Here’s how it begins:

I don’t consider myself a person of faith. Maybe you can relate.

I grew up in the 1980s in a fairly typical home. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t read much of the Bible to me. And when they occasionally went to church, I slept in.

As I grew older, I thought my parents’ views on sex rather prudish: “Waiting to have sex until marriage. Ha! That was good for them, but not for me.”

As a teenager, I thought that a “committed relationship” was enough to rent a room on prom night. By high school, pornography had inflamed my lust.

As for homosexuality, I was too intoxicated with my own lusts to really care about that topic. In the mid-’90s, the mantra was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I was happy to ignore the whole thing because I was living for me.

I didn’t care about politics—or preachers. I just wanted what I wanted, and cared little what people of faith had to say about sex.

Strangely enough, that all changed when Jesus Christ saved me from my empty hedonism.

You can read the rest of it at the Columbus Republic. And yes, I do explain my first line by the end.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Power of the Preached Word: Kevin DeYoung, Hughes Oliphint Old, John MacArthur, and You

old1001At Together for the Gospel this week, Kevin DeYoung preached a powerful message on the unity, authority, and power of the preached word. The title was “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” (it will be up online soon).

In his closing remarks, Kevin quoted a section of Hughes Oliphant Old’s comprehensive The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Church (the section can be found on the Pyromaniacs blog). Writing about the powerful ministry of John MacArthur, Old observed that MacArthur’s effectiveness in the pulpit has little to do with oratory skill (although, Old does admit that MacArthur has some effective means of keeping his audience attention). Instead, and to the credit of MacArthur’s view of Scripture, Old writes “Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text.” Continue reading

Pastors, Teach Your People About Suffering

crossYesterday, I preached on the theme of suffering from Matthew 5:10-12, something that I had a chance to consider in the most recent Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. In that journal, I was asked to answer the question: How can a pastor prepare his people for suffering? My answer lists five things that pastors can do.

Below is an abbreviated response to that question.

First, pastors must highlight the theme of suffering in the Bible. Outside Eden depravity, disease, and death are normal. So, pastors must routinely address the origin of suffering, God’s solution, and the means of grace available to pilgrim saints. . . .

Second, pastors must give their people a theology as big as God himself. In other words, for people to suffer well, they must stand on sound doctrine. In particular, pastors must gird their people with a theology that strengthens faith in God’s sovereignty and hope in Christ’s victorious return. While the particulars of suffering are a human mystery, it is vital to reassure believers that their plight has purpose. . . .

Third, pastors must tie all suffering to Christ’s death and resurrection. To every form of suffering, the cross is the answer. On the cross, Jesus bore God’s wrath for our sins and he identified with humanities deepest pain—death. In this act of love, God dealt with the ultimate source of suffering and its deadly effect. For Christians, then, personal suffering is not God’s testimony against us, as it was perceived to be under the old covenant. Rather, in Christ, suffering indicates our fellowship with our Lord (Phil 3:9-10) and God’s fatherly love (Heb 12:3-11). Pastors must remind their people of this regularly. . . .

Fourth, pastors must inform their people about church history. The church victorious stands in heaven awaiting Christ’s return. The church on earth suffers and bleeds. In our Western context, Christians need to hear the stories of faithful saints. Names like Ridley, Latimer, Elliot, and Saint should be as familiar as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. . . .

Fifth, pastors must call attention to the persecuted church. In obedience to God’s word (Heb 13:3), pastors must lead the charge in praying for and supplying aid for persecuted Christians. Yet, the ministry of the persecuted church is not a one-way street. We must also champion the persecuted church because we need to see what it means to treasure Christ above life itself. . . .

For more on the subject of suffering, take a look at the new journal. For the rest of my answer, you can find it at the end of the SBJT Forum.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss