Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs

December 4, 2022 in Advent, Bible - NT - Colossians, Meditations, Singing, Singing Psalms

Colossians 3:16 

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 

For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing our tradition of preaching through the psalms. So let us review once again why this is a fitting tradition. Why should we devote considerable time and attention to the psalms? In our day, various ideologies have divorced Christians from the OT. Consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation Paul lays in our text today.

First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the various types of songs found in the book of psalms. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the book of Psalms. It contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in and through the voices of our brethren.

Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. By nature, we are all sinners; we have hearts of stone, hearts that love neither God nor neighbor rightly. When God delivers us from our depravity by His grace, He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; He makes us true worshipers. By His grace, He transforms our loves and enables us to sing truly. While any sinner can sing the psalms with his lips; only a true worshiper, by grace, can join heart and lips together in song.

Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.

So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness.

Joseph’s Prudence

November 27, 2022 in Advent, Bible - NT - Matthew, Meditations

Matthew 1:18–21 

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue the world from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who have trusted in Him. Our passage today begins describing the fulfillment of God’s promise to our fathers – the birth of the Christ.

I direct us to this passage to illustrate a principle that we explored a couple weeks ago from Proverbs 12. We read in Proverbs 12:16, “A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.” We noted that while a fool compounds shame by adding his own shameful anger and frustration to a challenging situation, a prudent man exercises self-control and strives to cover shame in so far as he is able. So notice the way that Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord, embodies this verse.

First, note that Joseph finds himself in an embarrassing and shameful situation. His betrothed is found to be with child and he knows that she is not with child by him. Nevertheless, tongues will wag and he will be accused either of being an immoral man himself or of being cuckoled by some other man. Neither was true, of course, but truth rarely slows the gossip train. Joseph is in a shameful situation.

Second, the text emphasizes Joseph’s prudence. “Joseph, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” Joseph was a righteous man. He knew that great as his embarrassment was, he had no real shame for he had done nothing wrong. But Mary, he assumed, had done something wrong, something shameful. He knew that he had not had sex with her and so he deduced, wrongly, that she was with child by another man. But though Joseph believed that Mary had wronged him, though he believed that she had committed a shameful action, Joseph was determined to cover her shame and to put her away privately.

Third, Joseph did not respond hastily. “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying…” Joseph exercised self-control and was thinking carefully how he ought to respond to this situation. This self-control paved the way for God to intervene, to reveal what had really happened, and to correct Joseph’s misunderstanding of the situation. Joseph’s self-control in turn, therefore, paved the way for the salvation of the nations. No wonder then Proverbs instructs us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32). 

So, again, what of you? As we enter upon this Christmas season, consider that Joseph’s self-control, his determination to cover Mary’s shame, paved the way for the birth of the Christ. And as you meditate on this, consider how you can exercise self-control this holiday season, cover the shame of family and friends, and be a light for Christ in a dark and broken world.

Reminded that we often respond hastily to real or perceived shame, let us confess our sin to the Lord and pray that we, like Joseph, would think carefully before we act. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel together. We will have a time of individual, silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.