Category Archives: Old Testament

Pondering Proverbs as a Parent – 10 Years Later

This Sunday, we begin a new series at Rolleston Baptist Church through Proverbs.

Proverbs Series

I love the book of Proverbs.

Nearly 10 years ago, I spent a month blogging through the book of Proverbs, one chapter per day. I called my simple blog series, “Pondering Proverbs as a Parent“.We were still living in the States at the time. My children were 1, 2, & 4!

Our lives have changed dramatically in the years since. Yet the timeless truths of God’s Word never change.

These blog posts are rough & unedited. I share them here as they may still prove helpful to some family.

You can download a PDF of the whole series – Chapters 1-30, Diagram for Chapter 31, Chapter 31.


Jephthah’s Vow was Rash, but not a Burnt Offering

Earlier this morning I saw a link to this blog post by David Murray: Jephthah’s Perfect Vow

I very quickly posted the following on Twitter:

“This has been my understanding & what I’ve taught for years –…. Glad to see others discussing this view.”

This is a perfect example of doing too many things at once, not reading carefully, and tweeting too quickly!

I do agree with Murray, Jephthah probably did not offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but rather dedicated her to a life of perpetual virginity as a temple servant. However, I disagree with some of Murray’s reasons along with whether Jephthah’s vow was rash or not.

So, I do believe his vow was rash, yet I do not believe the daughter was offered as a burnt sacrifice. Here are the reasons I have given for this interpretation for nearly 10 years as I have taught OT Survey, Conquest & Settlement, and preached from Judges.


The word Jephthah uses in 11:31 that is generally translated “burnt offering” literally means simply, “wholly dedicated”. A form of the same word is used in the Sampson account (chapter 13) to describe Sampson being “dedicated to the Lord” – clearly Sampson was not offered as a burnt sacrifice. Context must determine if the word means wholly dedicated in the form of a burnt offering or wholly dedicated in some other way.

— A Friend pointed out a problem with the above —

It is the noun form which is used in 11:31 and in fact this form is not used in chapter 13 referring to Sampson. Moreover it is only used one other time in Judges (6:26) where it clearly refers to a burnt offering.

Even more, the noun form, according to HALOT (the generally accepted comprehensive Hebrew Lexicon) attributes the noun form to only those uses meaning burnt offering.

— Therefore linguistically the weight is in favor of “burnt offering”. I am still in favor of my conclusion for the following reasons. However, I am thankful for this correction.


Clearly in the passage the emphasis is on the daughter’s virginity and lack of marriage, not on her death. Within the flow of the text one is left to understand the terrible thing this girl is experiencing is the lack of opportunity to marry and have children. This would be an odd thing to mourn over year after year (vs. 40) if this girl was burned alive.


Verse 34 seems to go out of the way to emphasis this was Jephthah’s only child! To have her killed or to dedicate her to perpetual virginity in the temple would be genealogical suicide. Jephthah would have no descendants to carry on his name, no one to receive his portion of the land inheritance (and yes, God had provided a way to daughters to receive the land inheritance from their father when there were no sons). As a result Jephthah’s vow was terminating his family from the genealogical records of Israel! Regardless of how the vow was carried out this was rash indeed.


The books of Judges is structured in such a way that the character and actions of the judges go from bad to worse. Jephthah is no hero himself to be sure, but Sampson is coming and he is far worse. The book ends with a depiction of the Levites doing things that are almost unmentionable (except they are in the Bible). So structurally the books isn’t yet to a level of depravity where one would would expect to find something so horrific as a child sacrifice. (BTW: I would suggest we don’t see child sacrifices in Israel until much later in their history as this is something God so seriously hates – Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:31; Ez. 16)

I’ll also say here, this is why I don’t find Murray’s “filled with the Holy Spirit” argument helpful. Even Sampson was filled with the Holy Spirit on occasion. It seems clear that, in Judges, the Holy Spirit “came upon” (probably a better translation here than “filled”) for occasions of power and authority and then departed. This is why we see people who have the Spirit on one occasion doing magnificent things, and then the same person later doing horrific things.


God provided a payment to redeem oneself from a vow of this type – Lev. 27:1-8; 28-29.

Many have observed God’s silence in the rest of chapter 11 regarding the outcome of this event. Based on God’s very loud and powerful statements regarding his hatred for human (and child in particular) sacrifice elsewhere, it is difficult for me conclude that He would be silent if that is what is going on here. I certainly cannot see how one can conclude that God would have “accepted” a human sacrifice here as fulfillment of this vow. From my reading of the passage it seems like God does indeed accept Jephthah’s payment – his daughter’s whole dedication unto the Lord in temple service resulting in her perpetual virginity and the end of Jephthah’s family line.

A couple of years ago I was at a conference where someone was preaching from Judges. He happened to preach the Jephthah narrative. In his sermon is essentially said, “Oh, yeah there are some who think maybe Jephthah didn’t offer his daughter as a burnt offering, but that’s nonsense and silly, they just have weak stomachs.”

Not only in that attitude uncharitable and unhelpful. It also shows an ignorance of the arguments others have put forward for this interpretation, at best, and, at worst, an arrogance in one’s own view.

It is far better when teaching/preaching a passage like this to give the arguments on both sides clearly & helpfully, then conclude with which view you hold and why. As a result people are not just taught to think what you tell them, but they are taught how to think and how to think carefully from the text.


Qumran Caves/Dead Sea Scrolls

In the past couple of weeks, my children have been learning about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here are a few websites which are very informative and which others may find interesting/helpful.

Qumran Caves (

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

‏Qumran Caves (The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library)


Minor Prophets Series – Our God Reigns, The Shadow of the Cross in the Midst of Judgement

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Tonight I completed something I have never tried before. I preached a 12 part series through the Minor Prophets (1 sermon for each book).

You can download all the notes and MP3’s of the sermons on my “Minor Prophets” page.

I pray others may find these books challenging and refreshing.


Video – Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church – My Presentation – Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

The video is now online (09 Nov. 2013):


Vimeo Link to Presentations

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Vimeo Link to Q&A

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener – Questions and Responses</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Our God Reigns: The Shadow of the Cross in the Midst of Judgement

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On 8 September I will begin a new series on Sunday evenings (6pm at Howick Baptist Church), “Our God Reigns: The Shadow of the Cross in the Midst of Judgement” – one sermon for each of the Minor Prophets.

Through the voice of the prophets, God declares His sovereignty over all the nations of the Earth declaring judgement and discipline. Yet all the while pointing His remnant to a coming Messiah, Who is their ultimate hope and redemption.


I’m a Christian & I Live in the Real World, Thinking Through Ethics – The Historicity of Adam

This was part #7 (and the final) to a series on ethics given during the Sunday PM services at Howick Baptist Church. A full PDF along with related links and an MP3 download of the talk can be found here.

Were Adam & Eve Real People & Why it Matters

When one approaches the subject of science and the Bible, one is opening a Pandora’s Box to be sure. Even when simply looking at the first three chapters of Genesis there are more issues to investigate than one initially imagines. We could ask: What type of literature is Genesis 1? Is there a gap between chapter 1 verse 1 and 2 or maybe verse 3? How long are the days in Genesis 1? What type of literature is Genesis 2? What does it mean when it states “everything was very good”? What is the purpose of Genesis 1 – 3? Are they recording history, science, theology, something else or is more than one possible at the same time?

All of those questions are important and carry with them implications on how one approaches Genesis 1 – 3 (or even Genesis 1 – 11 and the rest of Scripture). However, this article is going to focus on one issue that arises from a study of Genesis 1 – 3. What is the origin of man and what are the implications to one’s claim regarding this origin?

What Does the Bible Say About the Origin of Man

  1. Genesis states God created man unique from all of the other parts of creation – including animals. Genesis 1:27 states man was created in the image of God. Genesis 2:7 states God formed man from the “dust of the ground.” The text gives no hint that man evolved from a previous life form.[1]
  2. Genesis 3:20 states Adam gave the first woman her name, “Eve” because “she was the mother of all living.” Paul states in Acts 17:26 “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”
  3. Genesis 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 11:8 state God created woman from man. Eve did not have biological parents any more than Adam did. Both the original man and woman where specially created by God.
  4. Two key genealogies given in Scripture identify Adam as the first man with Luke calling Adam the “son of God.” (1 Chronicles 1-9; Luke 3:38)
  5. Paul draws from Genesis 2:7 in 1 Corinthians 15:45 when he identifies Adam as the first man.
  6. Christ Himself identifies Adam and Eve from Genesis 2 as being the first people created as male and female “in the beginning.” (Mathew 19:4-6)
  7. Paul states that since the creation of the world God’s “invisible attributes” have been clearly perceived by man. (Romans 1:19,20) Man has been here since the beginning and capable of observing God’s invisible attributes from creation.
  8. The New Testament clearly understands Adam and Eve to be historical figures (Luke 3:38; Acts 17:26; 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13-14) along with their sons, Cain (Heb. 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11) and Able (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51; Heb. 11:4; 12:24).

What Does the Bible Say About the Death of Man

If Adam was not the first human uniquely created by God, but simply evolved from other life forms (which we see above is in direct contradiction to Scripture) what happened to these pre-human life forms? They died obviously!


  1. Romans 5:12-15 states that death entered the world through sin. That sin being the sin of the first man Adam. Death did not reign on the Earth killing off countless pre-human organisms until finally man evolved.
  2. God’s stated consequence for Adam’s sin would have been pointless if death was already a mass occurrence. (Genesis 2:17)
  3. Paul states that all of creation now groans and suffers since the first sin. (Romans 8:19-22) It is not just human death that resulted from the Fall, but death, suffering, and futility itself in all creation.


What are the Theological Implications to Accepting an Evolutionary View of the Creation of Man?


It is undeniable that you can find examples of evangelical theologians holding a variety of views on many of the questions listed that the beginning of this article. However, it is not at all insignificant that when it comes to the origin of man and the historicity of Genesis 2 and 3 we find significant consensus among theologians and exegetes of Scripture. Even when they admit they are unsure how to reconcile the apparent age of the Earth with the six day creation story, the following theologians do not in any way hold to a view where Adam is claimed to have evolved from another life form: Robert Reymond, Robert Duncan Culver, John Frame, Norman Geisler, RC Sproul, Charles Hodge, John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Wayne Grudem, Louis Berkhof, and Millard Erickson.


Why? Why is there such a consensus on the origin of man when there is still wide divergence on some of the other questions regarding Genesis 1 – 2? I would suggest the following reasons:


  1. “Christians differ on the extent to which evolutionary developments may have occurred after creation, perhaps (according to some) leading to the development of more and more complex organisms. While there are sincerely held differences on that question among some Christians with respect to the plant and animal kingdoms, these texts [Gen. 2:7, 21-23] are so explicit that it would be very difficult for someone to hold to the complete truthfulness of Scripture and still hold that human begins are the result of a long evolutionary process. This is because when Scripture says that the Lord “formed man of the dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:7), it does not seem possible to understand that to mean that he did it over a process that took millions of year and employed the random development of thousands of increasingly complex organisms. Even more impossible to reconcile with an evolutionary view is the fact that this narrative clearly portrays Eve as having no female parent: she was created directly from Adam’s rib while Adam slept (Gen. 2:21). But on a purely evolutionary view, this would not be possible, for even the first female “human being” would have descended from some nearly human creature that was still an animal.”[2] The trustworthiness of Scripture is at stake when one questions to historicity of Scripture’s account of the origin of man.
  2. “Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair, whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and had broken it. Paul was, we may be sure, aware of what we would call mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story, but he would not have regarded these as throwing doubt on the existence, and primal sin, of the first historical pair.”[3]
  3. “If Adam was not a historical figure and the Fall is not historical, then the typology of Christ as the last Adam (Rom 5:12–14; 1 Cor 15:22, 45–49) becomes meaningless, as do the doctrines of redemption, atonement, and justification. Furthermore Paul specifically related the historicity of Adam to the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, thereby laying a basis for the believer’s hope in the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:12–23). The lynchpin of the gospel (Christ’s resurrection) is anchored in the historicity of Adam and the Fall.”[4]
  4. “It is a fundamental presupposition of our evangelical understanding of the atonement, such that if the sin-death causality be undermined the efficacy and indeed the rationale of blood atonement is destroyed. The idea in Genesis is clearly that, as created, as perfect, man was not liable to death. He was made, potentially, immortal…. It is also doubtless that the “death” with which he was threatened and finally cursed, should be understood to mean more than simply “physical” death. But it is impossible that it should mean anything less than physical death, on simply exegetical grounds; for example God’s concern lest Adam “take also of the tree of life and live forever” (Gen 3:22).”[5]
  5. “The integrity of our Lord’s own teaching is at stake, for in Matthew 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-8 he refers to the creation of man in such a way that it is beyond question (1) that he had Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in mind, and (2) that he viewed these so-called two diverse accounts of creation as a trustworthy record of what took place at the beginning of human history. He also refers to the “blood of Able” (Matt. 23:35), and to the Genesis flood (Matt. 24:37-39). To question the basic historical authenticity and integrity of Genesis 1-11 is to assault the integrity of Christ’s own teaching.”[6]



Is the theory proposed by Neo-Darwinian Evolution, the concept that man evolved over an incredibly long period of time in an unguided fashion through a process of natural selection, compatible with the Bible’s teaching on the origin of man? It seems not.

Again there may be a number of questions which we can discuss, debate, and even agree to disagree on, but we cannot ignore the implications to our view. An evolutionary view of the origin of man (even a theistic evolutionary view – i.e. evolution which is guided by God) has significant implications to one’s view of Scripture, the nature of sin, the effects of the Fall, the need and purpose for the death of Christ, and our hope of a final resurrected stated where we will live for eternity with Christ in human bodily form – like Him.

To deny the historicity of the Genesis account of Adam, the uniqueness of his creation, the historical account of the Fall, the theological implications of the penalty of death as a result of sin is to deny the teachings of Jesus, the purpose of His life, the necessity of His death and the hope of His resurrection.


May God strengthen us according to His Word.


Ethical Implications:


  1. The reliability, trustworthiness, and authority of Scripture. If the Scripture’s unified claims in an historical Adam are incorrect, how can we trust other claims (i.e. basis for morality, accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, & resurrection, etc.)
  2. The uniqueness of mankind’s creation in God’s image forms the basis for our ethical commitment to the sanctity of human life.
    1. Murder
    2. Abortion
    3. Euthanasia
    4. Care for the mentally/physically disabled
    5. The biblical account of man’s creation as uniquely male/female and their union in marriage forms the basis for our ethical commitment to marriage as defined by God and human sexuality as an expression of the marriage covenant.

[1] See Center for Science and Culture/Discovery Institute, “Summary: The Scientific Controversy Over Whether Microevolution Can Account for Macroevolution,” (16 September 2008), Center for Science and Culture/Discovery Institute, “The Scientific Controversy Over the Cambrian Explosion,” (16 September 2008), and Center for Science and Culture/Discovery Institute, “Survival of the Fakest,” (16 September 2008).

[2] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press and Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 265.

[3] Wright, N.T. Romans, The New Interpreter’s Bible, 10:526.

[4] Lane, David. “Theological Problems with Theistic Evolution” BSac 151:602 (Apr 94): 162.

[5] Cameron Cameron, Nigel M. de S. Evolution and the Authority of the Bible. (Exeter [Devon]: Paternoster Press, 1983), 52.

[6] Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 2001), 118.


Upcoming Event: Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener


Laidlaw College invites you to an evening of dialogue between Old Testament scholar Dr John Walton, of Wheaton College and Associate Pastor Joe Fleener, of Howick Baptist Church, on how to understand Genesis 1-3. Both speakers will have 60 minutes to present their reading of the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 and will then take questions from the audience. A light supper will be served at the end of the evening.

If you wish to better understand this foundational part of the Old Testament please join us as we tackle this challenging topic together.

We look forward to seeing you!


Date: Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Time: 7:15 – 10:00 pm
Place: Laidlaw College Auckland campus, 80 Central Park Drive, Henderson
Cost: Attendance is free
RSVP: Please register by Monday 15 July to or 09 836 7815.


Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday marks 50 days since Easter Sunday. Historically this Sunday has been remembered as “Pentecost Sunday”. Pentecost being the festival and time recorded in Acts 2, after the Ascension of Christ, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit and preached Christ crucified for sinners to those gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world. Miraculously, each person heard the Gospel proclaimed in their own language. In recognition of this and a testimony to the faithfulness of God Who has ensured that His Word would reach all nations we will hear Psalm 130 (the text for today’s sermon) read in four languages. These have been chosen purposefully as they represent the primary 1st languages of those members of our HBC family:

ESV  Psalm 130:1 A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Mandarin/Chinese  Psalm 130:1 耶和華啊!我從深處向你呼求。 2 主啊!求你聽我的聲音,求你留心聽我懇求的聲音。 3 耶和華啊!如果你究察罪孽,主啊!誰能站立得住呢? 4 但你有赦免之恩,為要使人敬畏你。 5 我等候耶和華,我的心等候他,我仰望他的話。 6 我的心等候主,比守夜的等候天亮還迫切,比守夜的等候天亮還迫切。 7 以色列啊!你要仰望耶和華,因為耶和華有慈愛,也有豐盛的救恩。 8 他必救贖以色列,脫離一切罪孽。

Afrikaans  Psalm 130:1 Uit die dieptes roep ek na U, Here, 2 luister tog na my, Here, hoor tog my hulpgeroep. 3 As U ons sondes in aanmerking sou neem, Here, wie sou dan nog bestaan? 4 Maar by U ís daar vergifnis: daarom word U steeds gedien. 5 Ek stel my vertroue in die Here, ek vertrou op Hom, ek wag op die vervulling van sy woord. 6 Ek wag op die Here meer as wat die wagte op die môre wag, wagte op die môre. 7 Wag op die Here, Israel, want by die Here is daar troue liefde, by Hom is die verlossing seker. 8 Hy alleen sal Israel verlos van al sy sondes. ‘n Pelgrimslied. Van Dawid.

Maori Bible (MAORI) Psalm 130 He waiata; he pikitanga. I karanga ahau ki a koe, e Ihowa, i roto i nga hohonu. E te Ariki, whakarongo mai ki toku reo: kia anga mai ou taringa ki toku reo inoi. Me i maharatia e koe nga kino, e Ihowa, ko wai, e te Ariki, e tu? Otira he muru hara tau, e wehingia ai koe. E tatari ana ahau ki a Ihowa; e tatari ana toku wairua: e tumanako ana hoki ahau ki tana kupu. Ko te taringa o toku wairua i te Ariki nui atu i to te hunga e whanga ana ki te ata; ae, i to te hunga e whanga ana ki te ata. E Iharaira, kia tumanako ki a Ihowa, kei a Ihowa hoki te mahi tohu, a kei a ia te hokonga nui. A mana a Iharaira e hoko i roto i ona he katoa.

Here is Psalm 130 in Hebrew & Greek (the Greek is from the LXX, the Psalm numbers do not match the Hebrew, so Psalm 129 in the LXX is Psalm 130 in the Hebrew Text):

   WTT Psalm 130:1 שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲל֑וֹת מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ יְהוָֽה׃ 2 אֲדֹנָי֮ שִׁמְעָ֪ה בְק֫וֹלִ֥י תִּהְיֶ֣ינָה אָ֭זְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁב֑וֹת לְ֜ק֗וֹל תַּחֲנוּנָֽי׃ 3 אִם־עֲוֹנ֥וֹת תִּשְׁמָר־יָ֑הּ אֲ֜דֹנָ֗י מִ֣י יַעֲמֹֽד׃ 4 כִּֽי־עִמְּךָ֥ הַסְּלִיחָ֑ה לְ֜מַ֗עַן תִּוָּרֵֽא׃ 5 קִוִּ֣יתִי יְ֭הוָה קִוְּתָ֣ה נַפְשִׁ֑י וְֽלִדְבָר֥וֹ הוֹחָֽלְתִּי׃ 6 נַפְשִׁ֥י לַֽאדֹנָ֑י מִשֹּׁמְרִ֥ים לַ֜בֹּ֗קֶר שֹׁמְרִ֥ים לַבֹּֽקֶר׃ 7 יַחֵ֥ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֶל־יְה֫וָה כִּֽי־עִם־יְהוָ֥ה הַחֶ֑סֶד וְהַרְבֵּ֖ה עִמּ֣וֹ פְדֽוּת׃ 8 וְ֭הוּא יִפְדֶּ֣ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל מִ֜כֹּ֗ל עֲוֹנֹתָֽיו׃

Psalm 129:1 ᾠδὴ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν ἐκ βαθέων ἐκέκραξά σε κύριε 2  κύριε εἰσάκουσον τῆς φωνῆς μου γενηθήτω τὰ ὦτά σου προσέχοντα εἰς τὴν φωνὴν τῆς δεήσεώς μου 3  ἐὰν ἀνομίας παρατηρήσῃ κύριε κύριε τίς ὑποστήσεται 4  ὅτι παρὰ σοὶ ὁ ἱλασμός ἐστιν 5  ἕνεκεν τοῦ νόμου σου ὑπέμεινά σε κύριε ὑπέμεινεν ἡ ψυχή μου εἰς τὸν λόγον σου 6  ἤλπισεν ἡ ψυχή μου ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον ἀπὸ φυλακῆς πρωίας μέχρι νυκτός ἀπὸ φυλακῆς πρωίας ἐλπισάτω Ισραηλ ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον 7  ὅτι παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ τὸ ἔλεος καὶ πολλὴ παρ᾽ αὐτῷ λύτρωσις 8  καὶ αὐτὸς λυτρώσεται τὸν Ισραηλ ἐκ πασῶν τῶν ἀνομιῶν αὐτοῦ


Quotes for the Soul on Psalm 130

Quotes for the Soul on Psalm 130[1]

The Psalm is the eleventh in the order of the gradual Psalms, and treats of the eleventh step in the spiritual ascent, viz., penitential prayer.—H. T. Armfield.

The passionate earnestness of the Psalm is enhanced by the repetition eight times in it of the Divine Name.—The Speaker’s Commentary, 1873.

This Psalm, perhaps more than any other, is marked by its mountings: depth; prayer; conviction; light; hope; waiting; watching: longing; confidence; assurance; universal happiness and joy.… Just as the barometer marks the rising of the weather, so does this Psalm, sentence by sentence, record the progress of the soul. —James Vaughan, in “Steps to Heaven,” 1878.

I myself preached Christ,” he continued, “some years, when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance with access to God through Christ; until the Lord was pleased to visit me with sore affliction, whereby I was brought to the mouth of the grave, and under which my soul was oppressed with horror and darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit by a powerful application of Psalm 130:4, ‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,’ from whence I received special instruction, peace and comfort, in drawing near to God through the Mediator, and preached thereupon immediately after my recovery.”—William H. Goold, editor of Owen’s Collected Works, 1851.

Verse 1: (A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!)

It would be dreadful to look back on trouble and feel forced to own that we did not cry unto the Lord in it; but it is most comforting to know that whatever we did not do, or could not do, yet we did pray, even in our worst times. He that prays in the depth will not sink out of his depth. He that cries out of the depths shall soon sing in the heights.

And surely God’s children are often cast into very desperate cases, and plunged into deep miseries, to the end that they may send out of a contrite and feeling heart such prayers as may mount aloft and pierce the heavens… When, therefore, we are troubled by heavy sickness, or poverty, or oppressed by the tyranny of men, let us make profit and use thereof, considering that God hath cast his best children into such dangers for their profit; and that it is better to be in deep dangers praying, than on high mountains of vanity playing.—Archibald Symson, in “A Sacred Septenarie.” 1638.

There are depths after depths of mental darkness, when the soul becomes more and more sorrowful, down to that very depth which is just this side of despair. Earth hollow, heaven empty, the air heavy, every form a deformity, all sounds discord, the past a gloom, the present a puzzle, the future a horror. One more step down, and the man will stand in the chamber of despair, the floor of which is blisteringly hot, while the air is biting cold as the polar atmosphere. To what depths the spirit of a man may fall!… But the most horrible depth into which a man’s soul can descend is sin. Sometimes we begin on gradual slopes, and slide so swiftly that we soon reach great depths; depths in which there are horrors that are neither in poverty, nor sorrow, nor mental depression. It is sin, it is an outrage against God and ourselves. We feel that there is no bottom. Each opening depth reveals a greater deep. This is really the bottomless pit, with everlasting accumulations of speed, and perpetual lacerations as we descend. Oh, depths below depths! Oh, falls from light to gloom, from gloom to darkness! Oh, the hell of sin! – From “The Study and the Pulpit,” 1877.

I often prayed before; but never—-till I was carried down very deep—did I cry. James Vaughan.

Verse 2: (O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!)

When we have already prayed over our troubles it is well to pray over our prayers.

for well he knew that the Lord’s keeping his promise depends upon his own character and not upon that of his erring creatures.

Never think little of that part of your prayer: never omit, never hurry over the opening address. Do not go into his presence without a pause, or some devout ascription. —James Vaughan.

Verse 3: (If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?)

If men were to be judged upon no system but that of works, who among us could answer for himself at the Lord’s bar, and hope to stand clear and accepted?

Were it not for the Lord Jesus, could we hope to stand?

’Tis true, the Lord marks all iniquity to know it, but he doth not mark any iniquity in his children to condemn them for it: so the meaning of the Psalm is, that if the Lord should mark sin with a strict and severe eye, as a judge, to charge it upon the person sinning, no man could bear it… —Joseph Caryl.

Therefore, mark not anything in me, O God, that I have done, but mark that only in me which thou hast done thyself. Mark in me thine own image – Sir Richard Baker.

although he be Adonai, yet if he be not also Jah we are undone.—Archibald Symson.

If God should determine to deal with them according to justice, and call them to his tribunal, not one would be able to stand; but would be compelled to fly for refuge to the mercy of God. – —D. H. Mollerus.

Verse 4: (But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.)

Blessed but.

Because his nature is mercy, and because he has provided a sacrifice for sin, therefore forgiveness is with him for all that come to him confessing their sins.

None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love.

it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.

These two verses contain the sum of all the Scriptures. In the third is the form of repentance, and in the fourth the mercies of the Lord. —Archibald Symson.

One would think that punishment should procure fear, and forgiveness love; but nemo majus diligit, quam qui maxime veretur offendere—no man more truly loves God than he that is most fearful to offend him… Lord, who can know thee and not love thee, know thee and not fear thee? We fear thee for thy justice, and love thee for thy mercy; yea, fear thee for thy mercy, and love thee for thy justice; for thou art infinitely good in both.—Thomas Adams.

There is a common error in the world, to think we may be the bolder to sin because God is merciful; but, O my soul, take heed of this error, for God’s mercy is to no such purpose; it is not to make us bold, but to make us fear: the greater his mercy is, the greater ought our fear to be, for there is mercy with him that he may be feared… Oh, therefore, most gracious God, make me to fear thee; for as thou wilt not be merciful to me unless I fear thee, so I cannot fear thee unless thou first be merciful unto me.—Sir Richard Baker.

Even so it is with the sinner; it is not terrors and threatenings that chiefly will move him to come to God, but the consideration of his manifold and great mercies.—Robert Rollock.

But.” How significant is that word “but!” As if you heard justice clamouring, “Let the sinner die,” and the fiends in hell howling, “Cast, him down into the fires,” and conscience shrieking, “Let him perish,” and nature itself groaning beneath his weight, the earth weary with carrying him, and the sun tired with shining upon the traitor, the very air sick with finding breath for one who only spends it in disobedience to God. The man is about to be destroyed, to be swallowed up quick, when suddenly there comes this thrice-blessed “but,” which stops the reckless course of ruin, puts forth its strong arm bearing a golden shield between the sinner and destruction, and pronounces these words, “But there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared.”—C. H. S.

Verse 5: (I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;)

Expecting him to come to me in love, I quietly wait for his appearing; I wait upon him in service, and for him in faith.

If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes.

Those who do not hope cannot wail; but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. God’s word is a true word, but at times it tarries; if ours is true faith it will wait the Lord’s time.

Waiting, we study the word, believe the word, hope in the word, and live on the word

We pronounce this a most blessed posture of the believer. It runs counter to everything that is natural, and, therefore, it is all the more a supernatural grace of the gracious soul. In the first place it is the posture of faith. Here is the gracious soul hanging in faith upon God in Christ Jesus; upon the veracity of God to fulfil his promise, upon the power of God to help him in difficulty, upon the wisdom of God to counsel him in perplexity, upon the omniscience of God to guide him with his eye, and upon the omnipresence of God to cheer him with his presence, at all times and in all places, his sun and shield. Oh, have faith in God. –  from “Soul-Depths and soul-heights,” by Octavius Winslow, 1874.

Waiting has four purposes. It practises the patience of faith. It gives time for preparation for the coming gift. It makes the blessing the sweeter when it arrives. And it shows the sovereignty of God,—to give just when and just as he pleases. —James Vaughan.

No man will wait at all for that which he hath no hope of, and he who hath hope will wait always. He gives not over waiting, till be gives over hoping. —Joseph Caryl.

That is the ultimate object of faith, wherein the essence of our happiness consists, and that is God. God himself is the true and full portion of the soul.—Stephen Charnock, 1628–1680.

Verse 6: (my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.)

Men who guard a city, and women who wait by the sick, long for daylight.

He was not afraid of the great Adonai before whom none can stand in their own righteousness, for he had put on the righteousness of faith, and therefore longed for gracious audience with the Holy One. God was no more dreaded by him than light is dreaded by those engaged in a lawful calling. He pined and yearned after his God.

They that watch for the morning wait but for the rising of the sun to free them from darkness, that hinders their sight; but I wait for the rising of the Sun of righteousness to dispel the horrors of darkness that affright my soul. —Sir Richard Baker

In the year 1830, on the night preceding the 1st of August, the day the slaves in our West Indian Colonies were to come into possession of the freedom promised them, many of them, we are told, never went to bed at all. Thousands, and tens of thousands of them, assembled in their places of worship, engaging in devotional duties, and singing praises to God, waiting for the first streak of the light of the morning of that day on which they were to be made free. Some of their number were sent to the hills, from which they might obtain the first view of the coming day, and, by a signal, intimate to their brethren down in the valley the dawn of the day that was to make them men, and no longer, as they had hitherto been, mere goods and chattels,—men with souls that God had created to live for ever. How eagerly must these men have watched for the morning.—T. W. Aveling, in “The Biblical Museum,” 1872.

Verse 7: (O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.)

That man has a just right to exhort others who is himself setting the example.

God has great things in store for his people; they ought to have large expectations.

Is it not better to be in the deeps with David, hoping in God’s mercy, than up on the mountain-tops, boasting in our own fancied righteousness?

Whereas, in all preceding verses of the Psalm, the thoughts, the sorrows, the prayer, the penitence, the awe, the waiting, the watching, were all personal and confined to himself; here a great change has taken place, and it is no longer “I,” but “Israel”; all Israel. —James Vaughan

Here is mercy that receives sinners, mercy that restores backsliders, mercy that keeps believers. Here is the mercy that pardons sin, that introduces to the enjoyment of all gospel privileges, and that blesses the praying soul far beyond its expectations. With the Lord there is mercy, and he loves to display it, he is ready to impart it, he has determined to exalt and glorify it. – —James Smith.

Verse 8: (And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.)

Our iniquities are our worst dangers: if saved from these, we are saved altogether; but there is no salvation from them except by redemption.

Truly, our Psalm has ascended to a great height in this verse: this is no cry out of the depths, but a chorale in the heights.

The redemption includes the forgiveness of sins, the breaking of the power and dominion of sin, and the setting free from all the consequences of sin.—J. J. Stewart Perowne.

What a graceful and appropriate conclusion of this comprehensive and instructive Psalm! Like the sun, it dawns veiled in cloud, it sets bathed in splendour; it opens with soul-depth, it closes with soul-height. Redemption from all iniquity! It baffles the most descriptive language, and distances the highest measurement. The most vivid imagination faints in conceiving it, the most glowing image fails in portraying it, and faith droops her wing in the bold attempt to scale its summit. “He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” The verse is a word-painting of man restored, and of Paradise regained.—Octavius Winslow.

[1] All quotes from: C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 6: Psalms 120-150 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

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