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Covenant Reformed News - July 2020

Covenant Reformed News


July 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 3



Justification and the Five Solas

Romans 4:1-3 teaches all of the five Reformation solas or alones or onlys. Justification is by faith alone (sola fide). It is not by works: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). Justification is only by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3).

Justification is through grace alone (sola gratia), since it is not by works in any shape or form (2).

Justification by faith alone and through grace alone is taught in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura): “For what saith the scripture [not fallen man or the wicked world or the false church or even the true church]? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3). Here we have New Testament Scripture quoting Old Testament Scripture (Gen. 15:6). Clearly, Old Testament justification and New Testament justification are the same, though the latter part of God’s Word reveals this truth more fully.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone is to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). When Romans 4:2 says, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God,” it presupposes that the sinner’s justification is designed to bring glory not to man but to the blessed Trinity.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone and to the glory of God alone is in Christ alone (solus Christus). Justification is not by Abraham’s (or any man’s) works (2) and so it must be on the basis of someone else’s righteousness. The threefold promise to Abraham embraced the blessing, the seed and the land, all of which are only in Christ: blessing (Gal. 3:13-14), seed (16, 29) and land (Rom. 4:13; Eph. 1:10). That our justification is in Christ alone is clearly taught in chapters 3, 5 and 10 of Romans, as well as many other places (e.g., Jer. 23:5-6; I Cor. 1:30; 6:11; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; II Pet. 1:1).

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (Rom. 4:1). The issue here is not merely what the Bible says about Abraham but also what he personally found, discovered, learned, experienced or came to know. Abraham grasped that if he “were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). The patriarch understood that he had nothing in which he could boast. He had been an idolater in Ur (Josh. 24:2), and knew that all his works were sinful and could never withstand God’s intense and holy scrutiny.

Positively, Abraham found and discovered, by God’s grace, that justification is by faith alone: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). He knew that he was righteous before God with a perfect imputed righteousness that would stand at the final judgment: the righteousness of God in the coming Messiah. No wonder Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56)!

Have you found what Abraham found: Christ’s righteousness reckoned to your account by believing the gospel? Let us continually learn the riches and depths of this truth in all its glory and comfort! Rev. Stewart

 

The Well-Meant Offer and Organic Unity (2)

1) Another question of a reader is in response to the charge we make against the gracious and well-meant offer, that it teaches that God changes from loving all men to casting them into hell—surely a revelation of divine hatred. But God is immutable, that is, He does not and cannot change. Yet the reader claims that He does change.

“Was there not a moment in eternity when God did not create? Followed by a moment when He was creating all things and then followed by another moment when He stopped or was no longer creating? Isn’t that God changing? God can do whatever He wants, wishes, desires, etc., to do. Therefore, He can choose to ‘love’ an individual for a time, for whatever reason or purpose He deems proper, and then choose to ‘hate’ that same individual, as He pleases.”

The reader has made some serious mistakes in his question. One error is that he speaks of time in God’s counsel: “a moment in eternity.” The fact is that time itself is a creation of God (II Tim. 1:9). God is eternal and He determined that time would be made at the creation of the earth. It is a denial of God’s attribute of eternity to say time is in His decree (or in Him) and it would also mean that God changes, a denial of His immutability.

The second problem with the question is its insistence that God can do what He pleases (irrespective of His Being or nature). This sounds very much like the arguments of the Roman Catholic scholastics who discussed questions such as these: “Since God is omnipotent, can He create two mountains without a valley between or a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it? Since God is omnipotent, can He sin?” The answer to all these frivolous questions is: God can and does only that which is in harmony with His own divine Being or nature, and so also with truth or the law of non-contradiction.

The answer to the reader’s question itself is clear: “I am the Lord; I change not” (Mal. 3:6; cf. Num. 23:19; Heb. 1:10-12). That means exactly what it says. God’s counsel, therefore, is as eternal as He is. History is God working out His eternal counsel, part of which is the creature we call “time.”

The relation between eternity and time is a profound mystery. I have often pondered it and even discussed it with one of my colleagues. But we know that God’s ways are inscrutable and we are mere specks of dust with only a little understanding of His mighty works.

2) The more we come into contact with the gospel, the greater is our knowledge of the way of salvation and the greater is the divine requirement of us. In this sense, the saying of our Saviour in Luke 12:47 holds true: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” This statement is applied especially to those who labour in the vineyard of the Lord, yet the principle is of far broader extent.

The men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will rise up in judgment against the generation of the Jews of Jesus’ day, and condemn them (Matt. 12:41-42), for they, though less privileged, gave more honour to the Word of the Lord. Sodom, Tyre and Sidon will find it more tolerable in the day of judgment than the cities of Galilee where Jesus laboured most (11:20-24), for they never heard the New Testament gospel, which the Jews received in richer measure. Does not this greater responsibility find its explanation in the fact that the preaching of the gospel is, indeed, a wonderful thing?

Generally speaking, the questioner is stating a clear and true principle of one’s relation to the gospel: the closer one stands to the pure preaching of the gospel, the greater is his responsibility. Luke 12:47, referred to by the questioner, clearly states this.

It is well that the implication of this is impressed upon us. We in Reformed and Presbyterian churches have a long and noble tradition to hold, brought to us by the gospel. But what has happened in America and Europe? These same churches have become unfaithful for the most part. Many have fallen away into materialism and worldliness. Many, rejecting the gospel, have joined sects or have abandoned Scripture altogether. Many have corrupted the truth with the heresy of Arminianism. The true church is a hut “in a garden of cucumbers,” a “besieged city,” a “very small remnant” (Isa. 1:8, 9). Think of the judgment that shall come on those who have departed into apostasy in comparison with heathen in the Orient who worship idols of silver and stone. The awful responsibility that is implied in the question makes one get on his knees and beg for mercy.

However, it is not at all the case that Luke 12:47 speaks of the gracious and well-meant gospel offer. There is nothing in the passage referring to God’s blessing upon, or love for, absolutely all who hear the preaching. There is only a warning that their judgment is greater because in unbelief they reject the fuller revelation of the gospel.

When we consider the Scriptures’ teaching, we learn something very different from the Arminian theory. The preaching of the gospel to many who reject it is indeed good. It is like the rain and sunshine that come upon the fields of all farmers. That is not common grace: that is common rain and sunshine. But is not every gift of God good? Does he ever give bad gifts? He sends terrible judgments upon the wicked, but His gifts are wonderful and always good.

If what God does for anyone in giving him his daily bread is good, is the coronavirus bad? Does God suddenly decide to give bad things to man when He usually gives good gifts? What constitutes good gifts? And what constitutes bad gifts? What we like is good? What we dislike is a bad gift? Is good and bad determined by how we feel about what God sends into our life?

I do not understand this type of reasoning. The fact is that God’s gifts in themselves are good. God never gives bad gifts. But is rain grace? Ought the farmer consider the drought that destroyed his crops a bad gift from God? There are a lot of people who, when faced with this dilemma, say, “No, the devil sends bad things; God sends only good things.” When four preachers from four different denominations were quizzed on TV about the terrorists’ destruction of the World Trade Center (11 September, 2001), they were asked by the host, “Did God send this disaster? Or even have anything to do with it?” None would answer in the affirmative. The host was so incensed that, though not a Christian himself, he walked away.

Though all God’s gifts are good, those who use them to sin suffer greater punishment for misusing them. If the prodigal son in Luke 15 was one who misused his portion of the inheritance in riotous living, does that make the father’s gift to him bad? It was good, was it not, regardless of how the wayward son used it? Scripture teaches that all things are good for His people, even calamities (Rom. 8:28), but all things are curses upon the wicked. Read Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33.

But we are talking about the preaching of the gospel. Scripture looks at this from God’s side. In Isaiah 55:8-11, we are told that God’s Word never returns to Him void. He does not bring the gospel to all men in grace and then find that men foiled His plans. The gospel is like the rain that God sends. It surely makes the crops grow but it also makes the thorns grow. That is, it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) to the elect but it is also the means He uses to harden sinners who reject the gospel. This same figure is found in Hebrews 6:7-8 in connection with the unpardonable sin.

I appeal, finally, to II Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul recognizes that there are many who have heard his ministry but rejected the command that comes to them to believe in Christ. But, he says, in any case, faithful preachers are pleasing to God whether the gospel is believed or rejected, for the gospel always accomplishes His purpose. In some, it continues to bring life, over and over, until it finally brings everlasting life in heaven; but for others, who are spiritually dead, it works death that becomes worse and worse until it ends in hell. But, says Paul, God always makes the preaching of the gospel triumph, for it always accomplishes the purpose He intends.

No wonder the apostle says, “who is sufficient for these things?” (16). It is a difficult thing for a minister of the gospel to see the Word of God rejected, especially in his own congregation but also on the mission field. But, Paul goes on to say, “Because of our pain in seeing the gospel rejected, we do not make the gospel more palatable by corrupting it with preaching so that the minister says to the sinner, ‘God loves you and wants to save you’” (cf. 17).

God’s sovereign purpose is always accomplished, not because men reject His love but because He is sovereign in all He does. Let us bow in humility before a sovereign God who does all His good pleasure and worship Him as God alone! Prof. Hanko
 


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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The Benefit of the Communion of Saints

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Benefit of the Communion of Saints

Meditation on Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

What an ascent from the first Song of Ascent and this fourteenth Song. In Psalm 120, the psalmist wrote, “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” David knew by experience the bitterness occasioned by divisions in families and members of his kingdom. From war and lament, we now have a song of peace and pleasantness. How good and how pleasant and how profitable is the blessing of love and unity. May we learn from this psalm. Two pictures are given to us: the perfume poured out upon Aaron’s head and the dew of Hermon that descends to the mountains of Zion. “Behold!” We are to pause and gaze upon how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity. God looks on with approval.

How good it is. How much better was the love between David and Jonathan than the envy in Jacob’s house, the hatred of the brothers against Joseph. What comfort when there is no strife. Yet we see all too often strife in families and in the church. This is not good nor pleasant. In the church there should be the communion of saints in fellowship and love. Unity reigns because of our oneness of life, oneness in Christ, and oneness of faith. Christian unity is good for ourselves and is good for our brethren. What a testimony it is for those outside that we are striving to bring in. It is hard to invite someone to our churches if we are busy beating each other up in the church. How pleasant when loving hearts can freely associate with others of like nature.

What is this love and unity like? The first picture is of oil poured out on Aaron the high priest’s head. It is a sweet perfume. It is the Spirit that came down upon our Lord Jesus. And that oil flows down to all of Christ’s body, the church. Its blessedness and pleasure is enjoyed by every member of his body. Love flows from the head and falls to the feet.

The second picture is of the dew that fell upon the higher mountain of Hermon. The moisture wafted down to the lesser hills, Zion. How refreshing and enlivening it was in its course. It gave life and growth for all the plants of grace. How copious and far reaching this dew is. It is God’s love to us in Christ Jesus. It enables us to love Him and love one another. How pleasant when God’s saints are one in opinion and judgment. They commune together and join together in duty, serving and glorifying God.

How profitable when God’s saints are bound together in love, instead of making war through strife and bitterness. We read, “for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." God commands His blessing where peace is cultivated. The blessing of blessings is “life evermore.” Do we desire the Lord’s blessing?

The Apostle Paul by the Spirit enjoins us, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace: and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (II Cor. 13:11).

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An Habitation for the Mighty God of Jacob

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

An Habitation for the Mighty God of Jacob

Meditation on Psalm 132: 4,5 13,14     

I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob...For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.

What a beautiful psalm this was for God’s people as they travelled up to the temple to worship. May it be so also for us. The Israelites knew that David desired to build the temple. He desired to build the house for God to dwell in. God came to Nathan the prophet, saying that David was not to build that house. God said that He Himself will build a house for David!

The desire of David was a good desire. God had given David rest from his enemies, and David was now living in a beautiful palace. But the ark of God had no abiding place. It was resting in a tent that David had put up for it in Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant had been in Philistia. When the wicked sons of Eli had tried to force God to go out in battle for them, the Philistines had captured the ark and put it in the houses of their gods. Do you remember how the idol god, Dagon fell down into pieces before the ark? The Philistines endured various plagues, and were only too eager to get rid of the ark. They put the ark on a cart with milk cows and sent it back to Israel. There it rested in Kirjah-jearim (the city of the woods). David finally was successful in bringing the ark to Jerusalem, placed in a tent. But the glory of the Lord never settled upon that tent. The Shekinah of glory had come upon Moses’ tent, the Tabernacle. Later the glory of God came upon Solomon’s temple. But there was no heavenly glory on David’s tent.

David desired a glorious house to be built for Israel’s glorious God. But he was a man of war, his hands full of  blood. God would build the house. He would use David’s seed. Solomon, David’s son will build the temple. But Solomon could only put up a physical building. It was a beautiful building, but a building that could be torn down, as it was later by the Babylonians. God’s people needed to look for the Son of David who would build a temple not made with hands. The temple destroyed  would in three days be raised up. This was the temple of His body. The house of David would come to a dismal stump, the stump of Jesse. But from a lowly maiden, Mary, came ‘The Seed of David’. The Lord Jesus, the ‘Son of God’ and the ‘Son of Man’ would raise up the house of David. This is the church of the Lord Jesus.

This house that God builds is a spiritual dwelling place in the hearts of God’s people. The temple that Solomon built was a type of the church. What does the psalmist say about it? He says, “For the Lord hath chosen Zion.” That, my friend, is sovereign election! He has chosen for himself a people. What music in the ears of afflicted David! Zion is chosen by God, and therefore God desired it for His habitation. This is his rest for ever. Here God is pleased to dwell for He says, I have desired it. Does God dwell in your heart?

David’s resolution to establish a place for God’s holy presence teaches us that the one great purpose of God’s King is to build God’s temple. Nothing is more important to the kingdom of God than the worship of God. God’s presence with His people is their joy and God’s glory.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephratah (the field of woods). He would have no house to call His own. He would create it. By His atonement, suffering, death, and resurrection, the temple destroyed is the temple raised up in three days. Jesus declared, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus gathers and builds His church by His Spirit and Word. What a house for God!

As we go up to God’s house this coming Sunday, may we rejoice!  The Lord hath chosen Zion. We are His church by sovereign election and grace. The Lord Jesus desires His church for His habitation. He is pleased to dwell in our hearts and be worshipped by us. Jesus Christ rested from His work, having defeated sin, Satan, and death. He arose from the dead.

May we enjoy our Sabbath; we rest from our labors. We rest  in the accomplished work of our Savior. God’s worshippers no longer gather around one physical location. We worship Christ in the Holy Spirit regardless where they meet for public worship, for we are the temple of God.  That is wonderful to hear in this time with government restrictions because of Covid-19. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus if the correct place of worship was in Samaria or Jerusalem? Jesus answered, that yes, it was Jerusalem. But the day was coming when that no longer mattered. What mattered was that one worship in Spirit and in truth.

Christ dwells in the hearts and lives of His people! Let us pray on this coming Lord’s Day, “Thy kingdom come.” May it be that Christ’s kingdom comes more and more in my own heart. May it be that Christ’s kingdom comes as Christ continues to gather more and more of His people.

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Portrait of a Weaned Child

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Portrait of a Weaned Child

Meditation on Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

Travelers going up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem came in contentment and trust. What beautiful words, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” In this psalm, David paints the picture of a little child. This is not a fussy or crying infant needing or rooting to suckle, hungry or perhaps wet and uncomfortable. No, this little child has been weaned, no longer being suckled at his mother’s breast. Here is a child of two or three years of age that is resting on mothers lap with his head upon her breast. He is just happy and content as a clam to be near his mother, to be held by her, enjoying her love.

This portrait shows the child of God, simply trusting in the Lord, no matter the noise or troubles, calamities or circumstances around him. This was David’s situation. Oh, the calm times when David contemplated and sang songs to his God while he cared for his sheep. When a bear or lion came to snatch up one of his little lambs, or as he stood before the giant Goliath, he had a perfect trust in his God. What a nice picture of the full blown believer in the face of painful and trying circumstances. Does this picture tug at your heart? Do you say, “This is how I want to live and die?” Or do you find yourself often fretful moody, upset, frustrated, or even grumpy too often? May God give us grace that we may be able to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” May you have a calm, resigned, peaceful frame of mind, walking in faith and trust in Jehovah’s safe-keeping.

Oh, the weaning process for David was not easy. He was hunted by Saul who wanted to kill him. He had to hide all alone in the wilderness. He even resorted to living among the his enemies, the Philistines. He had multiple troubles with his children, even having to flee for his life from Absalom., The weaning of the little child is a process. The little child does not know why he cannot suckle anymore. He might even be upset that mother is not doing that anymore. Things have changed. The weaning was not to hurt the child, but to help him on life’s journey. So also peace and calm of the soul does not just happen. There is a process to go through in order to sit and be content in our Father’s arms.

Pride must be subdued and driven away. David writes, “My heart is not haughty.” We are all proud by nature. But we have nothing to be proud of before God. The proud heart gives way to lofty eyes. We look down at others in a condescending way. We think ourselves so much better. We think that we do not deserve God’s chastening hand or the trials that He gives to us. David confessed that he, by God’s grace, has given up his proud heart and lofty eyes. He will not depend upon himself anymore in his difficulties and sin. He will give himself to trust in his Lord and in the Lord’s mercy and love.

We too must confess our sin and wretchedness. We need to humble ourselves before God. We are so undeserving of all that He gives. We must look to our covenant God for our salvation and trust Him in His leading us in our life. We do not need to understand everything that happens in our lives. We want to shout at times, “Why Lord? Why are these things happening to me? We are tempted to question His providence in our lives and in the world around us. David confesses, “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” If David has learned this living in the Old Testament, how much more should this be true of you and me who live in the New Dispensation. We have God’s Word. We know God’s great love in the giving of His only begotten Son for our salvation. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). How beautifully it is put in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” I need this in the trying times and circumstances in my life, when I am tempted to fuss, grumble, be fretful, or grumpy. Instead of being angry and asking, “Why LORD?” I will contently state that my Father in heaven knows best. Do I trust Him? This is the way of rest and peace. This is the way to live and die. “My soul is even as a weaned child…Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” Am I a portrait of the weaned child to those who know and see me?

Be still my soul – the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide –In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul -- thy best, thy heavenly Friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.  ~ Jean Sibelius 1865-1957

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The Penitential Psalm

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Penitential Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 130: 3,4

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

This is the eleventh psalm of the Songs of Ascent. As we go up to the Lord’s house to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, immediately there is, should be, the sense of our unworthiness because of our sin. The psalmist begins this psalm with the acknowledgment of depths. This could be the depths of the ocean or sea. It could be the depths of a dungeon or an empty cistern , (like the ones in which Joseph and Jeremiah were thrown by those who hated them. The depths is a position of helplessness and great need. Think of Jonah when he was in the belly of the great fish. The psalmist, aware of the depths of his sin and perversity cried “Out of the depths!”. His iniquities were against God! Surely, he has earned punishment; he is in these depths justly. The depths refer to guilt, the objective result of sin that brings a person under God’s condemnation. He deserves and experiences a sense of God’s wrath.

Affliction and guilt can bring a person very low. But in these depths, one must not give into despair or hopelessness. We must pray with great earnestness to the One who alone can rescue us. Notice, the psalmist cried unto the LORD. God gave him awareness of his sin. Faith makes us aware that we have earned what we received. Our sins bring God’s wrath! Faith cries; it does not whisper. Oh, the loud penetrating voice arises out of the depths. We have no right to be heard. Why should we be brought out? We cry out and supplicate Jehovah, our covenant God to look down in His mercy and hear our cry. Who can stand before the holy God who cannot endure iniquity? But if we do not want God to “mark our iniquities”, what do we wish for Him to do? Do we wish for Him to wink at our sin or pretend it is not there? To mark is literally to “watch over, tally up and keep a record of.” How awful and how long would be such a list! One sin against the holy God would damn us to hell, let alone the pile of sins heaped up. Who will be able to stand up and defend himself? No sinner can be justified before God by his own efforts. It is a cry of supplication, pleading for grace and favor. The guilty must pray for salvation.

Verse four begins with a significant “but”. Faith sees that with God there is forgiveness. This means that God lifts off from us the responsibility to pay for our sins. God also restores to us the right to live before Him. God alone can pardon the guilt of sin. What is the basis of this forgiveness? How can a holy God forgive? The answer is found in verses seven and eight. “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

There is forgiveness by the redemption that God gives. Mercy is God reaching down to us, in our helplessness, and helping. He delivers us from the depths. With God is plenteous redemption. A redeemer was a near kinsman who was willing and able to pay the debts of a person or family, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is with God. It is never something that we have earned or merited. God pays the debt that we have accrued. The cost of our redemption was the blood and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the wrath that each and every sin of ours deserves. No, God does not wink at our sin or ignore it. He is holy and just. God provided for our redemption. In I Cor. 1: 30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” We must acknowledge that we cannot stand before God on our own merits. We in faith look to God as the God who forgives sin through Christ. How gracious is that forgiveness! It is not deserved by us. It is graciously given. Faith focuses its hope and desire upon Jesus Christ. He gave Himself as “a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6). Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If so, then how has your faith evidenced itself in a childlike fear of the Lord?

God forgives us by redeeming us. The purpose is that you and I may always stand in awe of Him and His grace. Oh, the wonder that God loved me! Have you stood in wonder at your redemption? Aware of the great punishment that your sins deserve, are you made speechless that God forgave you? Instead of standing in the rags of your sin, you have been cleansed and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. O, the wonder of it all! God’s salvation is abundant. Do you rest your hope entirely in Him?

My sin -- O the bliss of this glorious thought! -- My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. It is well…with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul.” Philip Bliss 1876

 

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The Farmer's Psalm

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Farmer's Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 129: 3

The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

The psalmist is making a picture of the afflictions that come to God’s people. The picture is that of a field which the famer is plowing in springtime. He is making the field ready for planting and of course, a field prepared for harvest. Today  there is a lot of no-till farming. But as a boy, our Case tractor could only pull a four-bottom plow through the heavy clay. In the psalmist’s day, the plowman had oxen pulling a single blade plow through the soil of Israel.  Maybe you remember Elisha, who was plowing his field with twelve yoke of oxen. When the call came to follow Elijah, Elisha took a yoke of oxen and killed them and boiled the flesh with fire made from the plow. Elisha fed the people and went after Elijah and ministered unto him.

In this psalm, the furrows plowed in the field are  a picture of the afflictions brought upon God’s people, Zion. The entire history of God’s people is one of suffering . The song sung was “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth.” Their youth was their early days in Egypt when they were made slaves for Pharaoh. Heavy tasks were thrown upon them, with taskmasters taking their whips upon their backs. Furrows were dug into their back by bits of bone or metal on the ends of the whips. The little male babies were to be thrown into the Nile River. Coming into Canaan, Israel was surrounded with wicked neighbors. Israel brought trouble against themselves with their idol worship. The remnant of true worshippers suffered also.

We should not be surprised when we too, for the sake of the gospel,  suffer, hated and persecution.  Here in the States, it is mainly ridicule. In many other countries, it is prison or death.  The entire history of the church is that of martyrs for the faith. The apostle Paul tells young Timothy about the persecutions and afflictions which had come upon himself. He writes, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). Do you remember to pray for the martyred church today in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East? Do you have scars for serving Christ? Maybe it is family that reject you or co-workers that mock you for your faith.

Did you notice how personal this psalm is? “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth… the plowers have plowed upon my back.” This singular pronoun is used collectively for the church.  But the psalm is not ultimately about Israel. It is the voice of Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, the true Israel.  He suffered for us. He came down from heaven, born in a cattle stall, suffered from His youth, yea, His whole life. He had to flee with His parents from Herod. “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (see Isa. 50:5,6  52:13,14  53: 3). Do you see the whip upon His back tearing furrows into it and the blood flowing? Do you see the crown of thorns upon His brow? Do you see Him hanging upon the cross, and the spear that is thrust into His side? Why did He suffer so? He suffered not  merely  at the hands of wicked men, He suffered the wrath of God in our place. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him: he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…” (Isa. 53:4,5,10). But God raised Him from the dead. “The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129:4)

What is the result of this plowing of the field?  The wicked grow up like grass on a rooftop, which amounts to nothing when the hot sun of summer beats upon it. Those who belong to Jesus Christ are like the  luxurious  wheat  fields being harvested this week. “By his stripes we are healed…He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 51: 5,11).

The furrows upon the back of Jesus bear rich fruit. It is a field white unto harvest. Sinners such as you and I are by faith alone made righteous by the blood of Jesus. What about the afflictions that we as God’s people are made to suffer? Oh, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. God turns for good what is meant for evil. Think of Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him, selling him. God used it for the preservation of  His people during the great famine.  Though the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers  put Jesus to death, God saved us through that death.  So let us say with the psalmist, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me” (Ps. 129:2). Let us learn the lesson of the plowed field!

Affliction has been for my profit, that I to thy statutes might hold;
Thy law to my soul is more precious than thousands of silver and gold.
(Charles H. Gabriel)

Sure as thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be given the brightest glories earth can Yield, and brighter bliss of heaven. Amen  (Aaron Williams  1731-1776)

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