Living in Light of Two Ages
A Sermon on Psalm 46
Most people cannot recite Psalm 46 from memory. But many are so familiar with the words to Martin Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” that they can sing it without looking at the bulletin. “Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott” is actually Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 46. This Psalm has several very familiar lines, has been cited by American presidents (most recently by Barak Obama), and portions of it appear in well-known Jewish prayers. Found in Book Two of the Psalter and attributed to the Sons of Korah, it is classified as a “Psalm of Zion” and contains loud echoes from Psalm 2, where that divine protection promised to the king, is extended to include his capital city (Jerusalem). Charles Spurgeon aptly speaks of the 46th Psalm as “the song of faith in troubled times.” Martin Luther thought this Psalm of such comfort, he put it to verse.
As we continue with our series on select Psalms, I thought it appropriate to turn our attention to Psalm 46, because we sing this particular Psalm as often as any other–often in the form of Luther’s famous paraphrase. Before we turn to the text of the Psalm itself–where we will find much deep and rich biblical theology–I think it appropriate to consider Luther’s use of this Psalm, then debunk one of the persistent myths surrounding the version of the Psalm which appears in the KJV, and then look at the context in which the Psalm was originally composed. Then, we will look at the text of the Psalm while making various points of application as we go.
As for Luther and “A Mighty Fortress,” although there are many theories about when it was written and for what occasion, Luther’s hymn first appears in a 1531 hymnal which would indicate that Luther wrote it several years earlier, likely in 1527-29. This was ten years or so after his 95 theses were circulated throughout Europe, igniting the theological fire which became the Protestant Reformation. The black plague was especially virulent throughout much of Europe in the winter of 1527, nearly killing Luther’s son. Luther was also a physical wreck during this time (from exhaustion). He began spending much time reading and reflecting upon Psalm 46, especially its promise that God is the bulwark (fortress) who never fails. From Luther’s reflection on that word of comfort, the famous hymn was born.
According to one church historian, “many times during this dark and tumultuous period, when terribly discouraged, [Luther] would turn to his co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, and say, ‘Come, Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm.’” Luther said of this particular Psalm, “we sing this psalm to the praise of God, because He is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends His church and His word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.” Because our fathers in the faith were sustained throughout their trials by their knowledge and love of the psalter, we would be foolish to ignore their wise counsel, and the faithful example they have set before us.
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This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 8-14) -- Back to Our Regular Schedule and a Special Guest
Sunday Morning (September 14): As we continue our series on 1 Peter, we are now in chapter 2 and considering the church as the new Israel (vv. 1-12). Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Afternoon: We are continuing with our study of the Canons of Dort. We are currently in the 3rd/4th head of Doctrine, and will be considering the implications of regeneration as an act of God (articles 12-13). The catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday Night Bible Study (September 10): Bible study resumes this week with the closing chapter of Revelation, before we take up a study of the Book of Romans.
Friday Night Academy (September 12): The Academy resumes with a four-week reading/discussion format centering on Dr. Robert Godfrey's book, John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor (Crossway, 2009) and Mike Horton's book, Calvin on the Christian Life, (Crossway, 2014).
Note: on Friday evening September 19, Dr. W Robert Godfrey, Professor of Church History and President of Westminster Seminary California, will be our special guest, discussing his book John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor .
For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website: Christ Reformed Church
The hosts begin a new series exploring the feasting themes from Genesis to Revelation. After eating the forbidden fruit, humanity was cast into sin and death. As Scripture unfolds, we discover God’s gracious plan of redemption which culminates in the great feast at the end of the ages. We who were strangers and enemies of God are welcomed to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Join the hosts as they begin this new series on Divine Hospitality. Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger will be joined in discussion with special guests Justin Holcomb and Steve Parks.
He's back! And he's watching TV commercials for Antichrist numerology.
I always thought the Antichrist would drive a Fiat--the symbol of a revived Roman Empire.
Americans often overlook World War One and its significance in forming the modern world. The reason why is obvious. World War Two is much more recent, many of our fathers participated in it, and the militaristic fascism of Germany, Italy, and Japan was a serious threat to the very survival of the western democracies.
As the one hundredth anniversary of World War One is upon us (July, 1914), there is much discussion among historians that World War Two was, in many ways, World War One part two. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. It is hard to understand why the nations of Europe, so torn apart by the Great War, would do it all over again just twenty-one years later, unless you understand why World War One was fought, and that the way in which the war came to an end (sheer exhaustion) left the key causes of the war unresolved.
The impact of World War One is huge. A few examples suffice to prove the point:
1). The map of much of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East was redrawn after the war, setting the stage for World War Two, the Cold War, and the current ethnic hostilities throughout the Balkans and Middle East
2). Submarines, machine guns, tanks, and airplanes were used for the first time
3). Both sides used WMDs--poison gas
4). Civilian populations were indiscriminately bombed (i.e., the Zeppelin and Gotha bomber raids on the UK), and neutral shipping (including passenger ships) were attacked by German submarines
5). Many of the historic royal families of Europe were removed from power: the Hapsburgs, the Romanovs, the Hohenzollerns, among others
6). The number of dead is absolutely staggering--37 million killed, wounded, or missing. Battles such as the Marne, the Somme, Verdun, and others, extended for weeks and months with causalities numbering into the hundreds of thousands (on both sides)
7). Many of the key figures in World War Two, fought in World War One--Hitler, De Gaulle, Churchill, Patton, MacArthur, Truman, Khruschev, Zuchov, Mussolini, Rommel
8). Ethnic minorities were "cleansed" from many nations in which they resided for millennia (i.e., the Armenians)
9). The Treaty of Versailles (which ended the war) was so harsh and unfair that it sowed the seeds for National Socialism in Germany, as well as varieties of fascism in both Italy and Japan
I could go on, and on . . .
If you wish to learn more about the Great War, there are a number of helpful resources (some of which are listed below)
There are a number of photo essays on-line such as this one: Photos from the Western Front
There is the excellent DVD series, The First World War
The recent French-produced series, Apocalypse World War One, which ran on the American Heroes Channel (formerly the Military Channel) is outstanding. Highly recommended.
Two other volumes of interest to readers of the Riddleblog are: Richard Gamble's The War for Righteousness, which documents how progressives in America came to see the war as a messianic cause, in which America fulfilled its role in God's providence by making the world "safe for democracy"; and Philip Jenkins' The Great and Holy War which wrestles with the irony of self-professed Christian nations waging such savage war upon one another.
That should get you started!
Rev. Danny Hyde's excellent "welcome" guide for those new to Reformed and Presbyterian churches is available as a free eBook download. Here: Welcome to a Reformed Church--Ligonier, or here: Welcome to a Reformed Church --Amazon
Rev. Hyde's very helpful and informative book is required reading for new members classes at Christ Reformed Church, and I highly recommend it.
John Hendrix at Mongerism.com is offering 7 free eBooks from B. B. Warfield. Seven Free Warfield eBooks
Modern Reformation Magazine is looking to interview folks who were once on staff at Evangelical megachurches. "Have you made the switch from a broadly evangelical megachurch to a church in one of the Reformation traditions that does ministry…shall we say, slightly differently?" Go here to email, or add your comment. Modern Reformation--Making the Switch Survey
Finally, has the devil got you down? There's an app for that (h. t. Larry Johnson)! Shut Up, Devil! App
A Sermon on Psalm 40
One of the best-known Psalms among our contemporaries is Psalm 40. No doubt, this is because the Irish band U2 closed out their concerts for many years with a very moving rendition of it, in which huge audiences sang along with the band. As written, Psalm 40 reflects the author’s (David) thanksgiving for deliverance from urgent danger. In light of this sense of immediate need for deliverance of which David is speaking, John Calvin–who was very reticent to speak about himself–describes his conversion as being pulled from the mire of his addiction to the papacy, a direct reference to verse 2 of this particular Psalm. Calvin goes on to say, “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life.” In light of this Psalm’s historic importance, and current familiarity, I thought Psalm 40 would be a good place to begin as we spend the next few weeks surveying select Psalms.
The Book of Psalms was the hymnal of ancient Israel. The Psalter is also one of the most beloved portions of God’s word, provides Christ’s church with much of its song, and also serves as the foundation for the devotional life of God’s people. My goal in preaching on the Psalms is to direct our attention to them so as to stir in our hearts a desire to read, study, reflect upon, and sing this wonderful portion of God’s word. The more we know about the Book of Psalms, the greater our desire to read and sing them as God’s people have done throughout the ages.
The Psalter is composed of 150 songs which reflect the entire range of human emotion–from despair to jubilation. Although the Psalter was written by different authors over the course of much of Israel’s history, most Psalms are closely tied to the life and times of David (Israel’s most prominent king). Many of the Psalms reflect Israel’s worship of YHWH during this turbulent period in the nation’s history. There are a number of different types and genres of Psalms. There are Psalms of praise, Psalms of lament (sixty-seven of them), there are imprecatory Psalms (which invoke God’s judgment on his enemies), there are messianic Psalms (which prefigure the coming of Christ), there are “enthronement” Psalms (which speak of God as king and ruler of all), there are wisdom Psalms (which reveal to us wisdom from God), and there are Psalms of trust, (which express confidence in God’s power, and in God’s faithfulness in keeping his covenant promises). And then, there is the famous “shepherd Psalm,” the twenty-third Psalm.
There are also a number of names attached to the 150 Psalms (i.e., David, Solomon, Moses, Asaph, the Sons of Korah). 73 of the Psalms are ascribed to David (king of Israel). Twelve Psalms are ascribed to Asaph (who was one of David’s three temple musicians, along with Heman and Jeduthun). Eleven Psalms are ascribed to the Sons of Korah (who were a guild of temple singers), three are ascribed to Jeduthun (a Levite), two are connected to Solomon, as well as one each to Moses, Heman (a grandson of Samuel), and Ethan (a symbol player in David’s court and thought by some to be another name for Jeduthun). The remainder of the Psalms are unattributed. With the exception Moses, the others to whom various Psalms are ascribed are mentioned throughout the two books of Chronicles, so we know certain details about them and their service of YHWH. Even through not all of the Psalms were written by David, it is reasonable to speak, as many do, of the “Psalms of David” since the vast majority of them are ascribed to David or his known associates.
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