Come, thou Redeemer of the earth

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin birth:
let every age adoring fall;
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
but of the Spirit, thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
with virgin honor all unstained;
the banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
that royal home of purity,
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
to God the Father back he speeds;
his course he runs to death and hell,
returning on God’s throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light,
where endless faith shall shine serene,
and twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the Holy Paraclete.

-Ambrose of Milan (340-397); trans. John Mason Neale, 1862

Creator of the stars of night,

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

-Anon, 7th Cen­tu­ry (Con­di­tor al­me si­de­rum); Trans. by John M. Neale in the Hymnal Noted, 1852

Why Did Methuselah Live the Longest?

A Short Reflection on the Man Who Lived the Longest

Anyone who’s ever played Bible trivia knows that Methuselah lived longer than anyone else. He died at the ripe old age of 969. But have you ever wondered why?

Putting aside all of the environmental factors of a pre-Flood world (where lifetimes lasted a lot longer than they do today), I’m convinced the answer has more to do with the character of God than the physical constitution or health consciousness of Methuselah.

When Methuselah was born, the text of Genesis 5 indicates that his father Enoch began to walk with God in earnest (Gen. 5:21–22). Many commentators believe that it was during the time of Methuselah’s birth that God revealed to Enoch the reality of the coming Flood—which is why Enoch spent the next three centuries warning the world around him of God’s impending retribution (Jude 14-15).

Methuselah’s name can be translated as either “man of the javelin” or “man of the sending forth.” It is likely, especially given the context of Genesis 5–6, that his name referred to the reality of God’s coming judgment—a global Flood that would be sent forth with sudden force and destruction. The further implication is that divine wrath would not fall until after Methuselah died. (Some scholars even render the meaning of his name as “his death shall bring forth.” )

Methuselah lived 969 years. If you add up the length of time between Methuselah’s birth and Noah entering the ark (187+182+600), it is also 969 years. That means, in the very year Methuselah died, the Flood was sent forth like a javelin on the earth.

So why did God allow Methuselah to live for so many years—longer than anyone else in human history?

I believe it was as an illustration of His incredible patience. The fact that Methuselah lived almost 1,000 years demonstrates the longsuffering nature of God. From the time God revealed the reality of that judgment to Enoch, it was almost a millennium before raindrops of wrath started to fall in the days of Noah.

Methuselah’s long lifetime fits with Peter’s depiction of God’s patience in 2 Peter 3. After discussing the Flood (in vv. 5-6), the apostle writes in verses 8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

So, next time someone asks you, What’s the name of the oldest man in the Bible? Don’t just answer “Methuselah” as if his age were merely some trivial factoid. Instead, consider the fact that 969 years is a really long time—not just for any one man to live, but for a holy God to be patient with a rebellious planet.

-Nathan Busenitz, http://thecripplegate.com/why-did-methuselah-live-the-longest/

My Eternal King

My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for Heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for man
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning Heaven,
Nor of escaping hell.

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O everlasting Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

-17th century Latin text, Attributed to Fran­cis Xavier, Translated by Edward Caswall 

My God, I love Thee;

David a model of restoration?

Does David’s life teach us that God can restore an adulterer to ministry? After all, David was a murderer and an adulterer, as well as a liar and poor father. Polygamy aside, his family life was a catastrophic train crash matched only by the debacle in 2 Samuel 11.

Yet God did not remove him from the throne, and allowed his reign to directly last 40 years, and indirectly forever. Why? What is the lesson there?

The wrong lesson is this: God does not take sin seriously. I have heard people who commit immorality point at David and say, “See! God let him be king, so he can return me to ministry despite my unbiblical divorce and/or adultery.”

Let me be clear about two things. First, God does use sinners (those are the only kind of people there are!). At the same time, there are some sins that in the church disqualify someone from being an elder or church leader. Second, it is possible for people who have committed certain disqualifying sins to eventually be restored to pastoral ministry after an extended time away. An excellent book on that topic is The Stain that Stays, as it provides principles to apply in  those situations. This post does not want to go down the road of looking at those principles.

But I have heard Christian leaders who have committed disqualifying sexual sins point to David as justification for thier refusal to take time away from ministry. The goal of this post is to explain why David’s life does not function as an example of God blessing the ministry of a disqualified leader.

If you are familiar with David’s life, you know that after his affair with Bathsheba his reign was marked by one tragedy after another. Four of his sons died, all as a direct result of his sin with Uriah’s wife. Because David abdicated his war-time leadership to Joab, he effectively lost control of his army and his kingdom. One of his sons raped his wives on top of a platform built specifically for the purpose of showing off their violation.

David and Uriah

Because of his sin with Uriah’s wife, Absalom revolted, and David was exiled from Jerusalem. As he was fleeing his capital city, he was showered with rocks and insults. And in a sign of how far David had fallen, he could not even tell his soldiers to shield him from the attacks. Instead, perhaps thinking of Uriah’s murder, David surmised that the attacks may have been because “Yahweh has said to him, ‘Curse David” (2 Samuel 16:10). David’s life had become so broken and desperate that attacks and coups may very well signs of the Lord’s displeasure with his sin.

David is simply the wrong person to look at for comfort that saints can sin and still be used by God. Even after Joab put an end the insurrection and summarily executed the pretend king (followed by a rebuke to David for not getting the basics of being king), David’s kingdom did not end well. Years of drought, followed by the public execution of Saul’s grand-sons and a humiliating vigil by a mourning mother, David sinned again by conducting an unauthorized census. That sin directly led to the deaths of 70,000 Israelites.

David’s reign is a trail of tears, in large part brought on by his own sin. In reality, most of our OT heroes are closer to David than to Enoch. Noah was a drunkard, Abraham and adulterer, and Moses was a murderer. You have to admit that the portion of Scripture which describes the days before the Spirit of God indwelt believers does not generally contain happy stories.

Nevertheless, David was a man after God’s own heart. While Saul had the kingdom ripped from him, David’s son inherited the throne. Why? Does that say something about God not hating David’s sin?

There are two answers to that question. First, way before Uriah was murdered; God had promised David that his kingdom would endure forever. This was an unconditional covenant, and not dependent upon anything David would or would not do. It would survive even Manasseh. So David’s endurance speaks to the promise of the Messiah, not to God’s restoration of adulterers.

The second reason David is a man after God’s own heart is because he repented of his sin. When confronted by Nathan, David broke. He gave up pretense and pompousness. He did not dwell on the laziness or lusting, nor did he mention the murder or the molesting. Instead, he simply said “I have sinned against Yahweh” (2 Samuel 12:13). He repented, and threw himself at the feet of Yahweh by submitting himself to the word of God’s prophet.

The consequences of David’s sin remain—four of his sons died, his wives were raped, and his crown was stolen from him, all because of this sin. But the eternal consequence was removed (the exact phrase Nathan used was “Yahweh has put away your sin, you shall not die”). Is this because God thinks little of adultery?

The opposite is actually true. David’s sin is removed because David’s son was killed for it. Not Ammon, not Absalom, not Adonijah, and not the newborn. Because Uriah was killed and his wife was taken, Jesus was crucified. His death becomes a demonstration that God hates sin, and it simultaneously opens up a way for sinners to have forgiveness.

David’s life shows the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of some sin. It shows the hatred God has for that sin. But it also shows the power of God’s promise to bring about a king better than David, and it shows the freedom and power of forgiveness that comes through repentance, based on faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

David stayed king not because of God’s pattern of restoring sinners to ministry, but rather because of the strength of God’s Messianic promises, as well as the sufficiency of the Messiah’s death.

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/adultery-restoration-to-ministry-and-david/

May Jesus Christ Be Praised

When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Whene’er the sweet church bell peals over hill and dell,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
O hark to what it sings, as joyously it rings,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To God, the Word, on high, the host of angels cry,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals, too, upraise their voice in hymns of praise,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this at meals your grace, in every time and place;
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this, when day is past, of all your thoughts the last
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When mirth for music longs, this is my song of songs:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When sleep her balm denies, my silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest, with this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

No lovelier antiphon in all high Heav’n is known
Than, Jesus Christ be praised!
There to the eternal Word the eternal psalm is heard:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Let all the earth around ring joyous with the sound:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
In Heaven’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face,
Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore
Shall Jesus Christ be praised!

In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

-18th Century German, Translated by Edward Caswall

Do All Those Who Die in the Womb Go to Heaven?

I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do. It is also possible that they don’t. It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not. Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him. While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin. Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin. The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers. The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect. Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions. In the end I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. Thus my bold response- I don’t know. What I am persuaded of is this. All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God. Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them. That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe? Not by themselves, just like you and me. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen? II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might. I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might. Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb. It could include none of them. Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue. It is not, in my own life, merely abstract. My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14 year old with the capacities of a one year old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith. Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone. We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ. But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

-R.C. Sproul Jr., http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-all-those-who-die-womb-go-heaven/

The Benefit of Storms

Your trials may be many and great. Your cross may be very heavy. But the business of your soul is all conducted according to an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. All things are working together for your good. Your sorrows are only purifying your soul for glory; your bereavements are only fashioning you as a polished stone for the temple above, made without hands. From whatever quarter the storms blow, they only drive you nearer to heaven! Whatever weather you may go through it is only ripening you for the garner of God. Your best things are quite safe.

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Never Perish
http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/11/21/the-benefit-of-storms/

Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours to-day.

O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in his grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given,
The son, and him who reigns,
With them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.

-Martin Rinkart, 1663

As the Sun Doth Daily Rise

As the sun doth daily rise,
Brightening all the morning skies,
So to Thee with one accord
Lift we up our hearts, O Lord.

Day by day provide us food,
For from Thee come all things good;
Strength unto our souls afford
From Thy living bread, O Lord.

Be our guard in sin and strife;
Be the leader of our life;
Lest from Thee we stray abroad,
Stay our wayward feet, O Lord.

Quickened by the Spirit’s grace
All Thy holy will to trace
While we daily search Thy Word,
Wisdom true impart, O Lord.

Praise we, with the heavenly host,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost;
Thee would we with one accord
Praise and magnify, O Lord.

-Anon.