This is part 3 of a series. Here are parts 1 and 2. [2:1] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:1-6 ESV)
So far John has told us that the life of God was manifested in the incarnation of the Son - the one whom the apostles saw and heard and touched. It is this life-giving Son of God with whom John invites his readers to have fellowship (and thereby have fellowship also with the Father and the apostles themselves), and the message that this same Son of God and font of life proclaims through his apostles is the message that God is light. Fellowship with God through the life giving Son brings a life lived in the light, no longer hiding in the shadows, no longer needing to pretend at sinless perfection. Life in the light through fellowship with the Son (which is nothing less than participation in the very life of the Triune God) frees us up to confess our own sins with the assurance that the the Son will cleanse us with the fiery light of his presence.
But John has more to say. He is no encourager of sin. While it is true that to deny our sins is to deceive ourselves and to make God a liar, nevertheless, John has written in order that those who here his message may not sin. St. John’s writings thrive on these tensions.
Here at the beginning of chapter 2 the apostle tells us that his goal in speaking about the light and life and fellowship and forgiveness that has appeared in the manifestation, the incarnation, of the Son of God has been to keep us from sin. But ever mindful of his goal of encouragement he tells us almost in the same breath that if we do sin not only are we forgiven, but we are forgiven because Jesus Christ the righteous, the bringer of life, is our advocate. He stands in heaven not to plead with a harsh and uncompromising Father, but as the bridge between fallen humanity and divinity, the divine-human Son of God who in his death for sins by which he became a propitiation (that is one who bears wrath in our stead) has brought our human lives into the fellowship of the Godhead. And as if that weren’t enough, John then tells us that Jesus propitiatory death was no mere parochialism, it wasn’t the death of one man for a few friends, or a tribal God for a tribal people, but it was the world shaking death of the Son of God which is able to accomplish redemption for the whole world.
And how will we know that we stand covered under such a propitiation? (For we know that while Christ died as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, there are those in the world who will reject such benevolence and refuse the fellowship offered.) We will know it by our actions. Now at this point we may start to get a little queasy; at times calvinistic Christians can seem almost allergic to talk about good works, righteous actions, or commandment keeping. Unfortunately this makes us allergic to parts of the Bible. While it is absolutely true that we can never put God in our debt by anything we do or don’t do, it is equally true that God cares deeply about our behavior and our behavior manifests the kind of relationship we have with God.
And so John says that we can know that we know this life giving Son, this God of light, this one who has become a propitiation for our sins by noting that we keep his commandments. This means no worm theology. This means it will not do to adopt the modern reformed asceticism that wallows in the mire of total depravity and radical grace, never recognizing that the life of one who has been put into the light is a life transformed and characterized by obedience, which is the harbinger of confidence that we do in fact know God. Knowing God manifests itself in a growing family resemblance. God made us in his image, and as we come to know him and to have fellowship with him that image, which has been marred by sin, begins to shine through brighter and brighter.
But John’s language gets even starker. He says that just as one who denies sin and the need for forgiveness, the need for a propitiation, deceives himself and calls God a liar, so the one who claims to know God but does not keep his commandments is himself a liar. For to know God is to be in the light because God himself is light, and no one who is in the light can continue to walk in darkness. Again, as we’ve said before this is not a call to doubt our standing with God any time we disobey. John has covered that. We have an advocate. Rather, John’s point is that my confidence in that propitiation, and my confidence that it covers my
sins is to be found in my obedience to his command, which is the evidence that I am in the light.
Again, the images swirl back on themselves. If I have life it is because I have heard the proclamation that God is light and been brought into the light and if I am in the light I will not walk as one in the darkness but according to light, just as He who is light walked among us (v.6), and thus I will keep his commandments. It’s a package deal: life, light, forgiveness and obedience. You can’t have any without having all.
In 1 Samuel 20 and following it seems clear that David is beginning to set up a Kingdom in earnest, and a rival kingdom to that of Saul. Although he's been anointed some time before (ch. 16), it's in chapter 20 that we really see his alternative, messianic kingdom begin to take shape, and it is from here that we see it grow. While David refuses to seize power from God's anointed, his kingdom begins to take shape even as Saul's is collapsing.
In chapter 20 David flees Saul, and apparently only has a handful of close followers with him; for he only requires five loaves (the Bread of the Presence which he receives from the high priest at Nob). True, this is all there was, but one does not get the impression that it was vastly insufficient.
However, two chapters later, when David is encamped at the Cave of Adullam, the text tells us that he had with him about 400 men. Furthermore, when we consider the kind of men that David had accrued to his party, the typological ties with Jesus are striking. They are said to be: his brothers and his father's house (i.e. the disciples), everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul (or discontented). This motley crue sounds significantly like those who became part of Jesus' retinue.
Then, by chapter 27, when David approaches Nabal, we find that he has 600 men, half again as many as just previously. He leaves 200 to guard the supplies, and arms 400 to take vengeance on foolish Nabal. Furthermore, Abigail, when she learns of it and sets out to quell David's wrath, brings 200 loaves, 2 skins of wine, 5 sheep, 35 quarts of parched grain, a hundred clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs. Now granted, this was intended to be a lavish gift, not a morsel for subsistence, nevertheless the contrast with the five loaves needed for David and his disciples in chapter 20 is striking.
Add to this that in the midst of all this action an evil king over Israel, Saul, comes and wipes out an entire town, and the parallels to the life of Jesus are rather striking. Clearly David is beginning even here to take up the messianic role as a shepherd to the lost sheep of Israel.
I Samuel chapters 1 and 2 are incredibly rich. The most notable factor is probably the correspondence between Hannah's song and that of the Mother of our Lord. The Magnificat is certainly drawn from this ancient matriarchal ode. One interesting facet then would be to trace out the imprecatory elements (quite clearly aimed, at least at one level, at Hannah's "rival," Elkanah's second wife Peninnah) and how they carry over in Mary's song.
However, another point is of interest. Many would deny that very young children, especially infants or toddlers, can have faith. However, I Samuel teaches otherwise. The story starts out with a barren Hannah who prays to the Lord and promises that she will dedicate her child to his service should the Lord provide her with one. After a mix-up over drunkenness (foreshadowing Pentecost) Eli, the high priest realizes she is praying and blesses her, and lo and behold she conceives. But here is where things get interesting for the paedofaith argument.
The next year Hannah declined to go with her husband and household to the annual sacrifice saying, , “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.”(1 Samuel 1:22 ESV). Now given different cultural practices weaning could be something that didn't occur until a child was four, five or even six years old. However, the text, by making such a point of it, gives the impression that Hannah only missed one of the anual sacrifices. Furthermore, it goes out of its way to tell us "the child was young" (v. 24b). This means that when she brought him up to be "lent to the LORD" he was probably less than two years old.
Yet the final sentence of chapter 1 verse 28 tells us "he worshipped the LORD." That is significant. This infant is credited with having "worshipped the LORD." Of course we shouldn't be surprised given what Jesus tells us, but it is something to ponder given our modern assumptions.
However, that is not all. Following this we have Hannah's magisterial song, glorifying God for his faithfulness and righteousness, and then immediately we find out that Elkanah (her husband, and by extension her and the family) went home "and the boy [Samuel] was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli the priest. I don't claim to know what this means precisely. But what it certainly does mean is that this small child (remember he had just been weaned) is described as having ministered to YAHWEH before the chief priest.
But to take things a step further, after finding out about the sins of Eli's sons (thus foreshadowing Samuel's adoptive place) we find out that Samuel was "ministering before the LORD clothed with a linen ephod," (the dress of a priest) and that "his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year..."
Taken together, what we have here is nothing less than a picture of infant faith growing an beginning to mature. The just weaned Samuel began, even then, to worship and minister to the Lord, and his faith and faithfulness grew throughout a lifetime.
Below is a rather woodenly literal translation of Psalm 1 I came up with a couple of years ago; and beneath that is a file containing the annotated version which explains the reasoning for various grammatical and lexical choices.
Additionally, for anyone wishing to become better acquainted with the Psalter ('God's hymnbook') I would recommend this
little volume published by Concordia Publishing House
. This book has a number of features to commend it: the translation is ESV
which will be familiar and/or preferred by a growing number in Reformed and Lutheran circles; each Psalm is preceded by a short reflection from Luther's Summaries of the Psalms, 1531
and followed by a prayer; appendices include a division of the Psalms by category, a two week schedule for reading/singing the Psalms following the Daily Office
, and another (four week during Ordinary Time) schedule for reading/singing the Psalms in conjunction with the Morning and Evening Prayer
; but perhaps the most singularly commendable feature of this book is that the texts are pointed for singing/chanting and eight tunes (five major and three minor key) are provided at the front, any one of which may be used with any Psalm. While there are quibbles to be had with the pointing, most notably that divisions are done by verse rather than by line meaning that occasionally you get an unnaturally long note which is hard to sing vigorously, overall it is still a great resource for those wishing to get in the habit of singing the Psalter. It combines the resources needed to sing the Psalms (which they were intended to be) in a good translation with some really great brief devotional material in a slim, well bound volume that is easy to toss in a book bag, stick in the glove box, etc. And while singing/chanting may seem unnatural and difficult at first it really is worth the time and energy investment. It's the best way to learn the Psalms, and it is much closer to how they were meant to be experienced than simply reading them.
"The Psalter ought to be a dear and beloved book, if only because it promises Christ's death and resurrection so clearly and so depicts his kingdom and the condition of all Christendom that we may call it a little Bible. Most beautifully and briefly it embraces everything in the entire Bible; it is made into a fine enchiridion, or handbook. Therefore it seems to me that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble of compiling a short Bible and a book of examples of all Christendom or of all saints, with the purpose in mind that whoever could not read the whole Bible would here have practically an entire summary of it, comprised in one booklet...
The Psalter is the book of all saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake..."
--Martin Luther (Reading the Psalms with Luther
, pg. 7)
(1) O how happy is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked
and in the way of sinners does not stand
and in the seat of scorners does not sit.
(2) But rather in the teaching of Yahweh is his delight
and in his teaching he murmurs, day and night.
(3) He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
which its fruit it gives in its time
and its leaf does not wither.
And all that he does prospers.
(4) Not so the wicked
but rather (they are) like chaff that the wind drives away.
(5) Just so the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
and sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
(6) Because Yahweh knows the way of the of the righteous,
and the way of the wicked will perish.
| Psalm 1 Translation.doc|
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