Christ Our Sacrifice

MelodiesOfHeavenThree

Psalm 40.4
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! 

John Calvin was among the first theologians to rewrite psalms for communal singing. When Isaac Watts joined the tradition nearly two centuries later the culture in the church was more hostile to mixing the arts and spiritual disciplines.

The Poetry Foundation, which in its own words is “committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture,” reports on Watts work to unite the church and arts for spiritual formation. “Watts’s short critical essay introducing Horae Lyricae claims poetry for the cause of religion and virtue, rejecting the common secular debasement of the heavenly genre.”

“Watts wonders at the potential poetic impact of the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ and the evangelical power of Christian poetry to transform readers’ lives. This line of argument at once recalls the criticism of John Dennis and anticipates the achievements in Christian musical drama of George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach.”

Thankfully Watts pressed on in his work.  

We enjoy him today not only for the beauty of his craft, but for the theological clarity he brings through all of his work.

This week we are looking at five works from Isaac Watts’ book, The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. Today, Psalm 40:

The wonders, Lord, thy love has wrought,
Exceed our praise, surmount our thought;
Should I attempt the long detail,
My speech would faint, my numbers fail,

No blood of beasts on altars spilt
Can cleanse the souls of men from guilt;
But thou hast set before our eyes
An all-sufficient sacrifice.

Lo! thine eternal Son appears,
To thy designs he bows his ears,
Assumes a body well prepared,
And well performs a work so hard.

“Behold, I come,” the Savior cries,
With love and duty in his eyes,
“I come to bear the heavy load
Of sins, and do thy will, my God.

“’Tis written in thy great decree,
’Tis in thy book foretold of me,
I must fulfill the Savior’s part;
And lo! thy law is in my heart!

“I’ll magnify thy holy law,
And rebels to obedience draw,
When on my cross I’m lifted high,
Or to my crown above the sky.

“The Spirit shall descend and show
What thou hast done, and what I do
The wond’ring world shall learn thy grace,
Thy wisdom, and thy righteousness.”

Today’s Readings
Numbers 6 (Listen – 4:04)
Psalms 40-41 (Listen – 3:57)

Melodies of Heaven
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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The Vanity of Man as Mortal

MelodiesOfHeavenTwo

Psalm 39.4, 7
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

As an infant Isaac Watts “nursed on the steps of the Southampton jail where his father was imprisoned as a Dissenter,” says his biography at the Poetry Foundation. Upon his release the elder Watts, also named Isaac, began teaching Latin to his four year old son. In primary school the boy learned Greek, French, and Hebrew.

While Watts is remembered for his poetry and hymns, like Joy to the World and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, he was successful across multiple disciplines. The Poetry Foundation notes that after his formal education concluded, “Watts was to become a prominent educator whose textbooks and educational theory were republished in Britain and America for more than a century.” He also published four volumes of poetry, 750 hymns, hundreds of sermons, and seven books that span a number of fields.

In all this success Watts grounded himself in the scriptures and prayer. His book, The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, provides a glimpse into this world. This week we’re looking at five works where Watts rewords the Psalms to make overt what the psalmists allude — Christ is at the center of every longing, joy, and cry.

Today, we look at Isaac Watts’ words, inspired by Psalm 39:

Teach me the measure of my days,
  Thou Maker of my frame;
I would survey life’s narrow space,
  And learn how frail I am.

A span is all that we can boast,
  An inch or two of time;
Man is but vanity and dust
  In all his flower and prime.

See the vain race of mortals move
  Like shadows o’er the plain;
They rage and strive, desire and love,
  But all the noise is vain.

Some walk in honor’s gaudy show,
  Some dig for golden ore;
They toil for heirs, they know not who,
  And straight are seen no more.

What should I wish or wait for, then,
  From creatures earth and dust?
They make our expectations vain,
  And disappoint our trust.

Now I forbid my carnal hope,
  My fond desires recall;
I give my mortal interest up,
  And make my God my all.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 5 (Listen – 4:39)
Psalm 39 (Listen – 1:49)

Melodies of Heaven
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Guilt Of Conscience And Relief

MelodiesOfHeavenOne

Psalm 38.1, 22
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! 

The psalms anticipate Christ with brilliant clarity and longing. Because of this Isaac Watts, the 18th century theologian, hymnodist, poet, and preacher, drew from them at length in his works. One of Watts’ most famous songs, Joy to the World, recasts Psalm 98 in common measure.

In his book Sacred Song in America, Stephen Marini notes that one of the reasons Watts’ works are so enduring is that they balance emotional subjectivity and doctrinal objectivity. “Watts’ voice broke down the distance between poet and singer and invested the text with personal spirituality.”

Watts’ work from the Psalms brings insight while making overt what the psalmists allude — Christ at the center of every longing, joy, and cry.

This week we’ll look at five works from Isaac Watts’ book, The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. Today, Psalm 38:

Amidst thy wrath remember love,
  Restore thy servant, Lord;
Nor let a Father’s chast’ning prove
  Like an avenger’s sword.

Thine arrows stick within my heart,
  My flesh is sorely pressed;
Between the sorrow and the smart,
  My spirit finds no rest.

My sins a heavy load appear,
  And o’er my head are gone;
Too heavy they for me to bear,
  Too hard for me t’ atone.

My thoughts are like a troubled sea,
My head still bending down;
And I go mourning all the day,
Beneath my Father’s frown.

Lord, I am weak and broken sore,
  None of my powers are whole:
The inward anguish makes me roar,
  The anguish of my soul.

All my desire to thee is known,
  Thine eye counts every tear;
And every sigh, and every groan,
  Is noticed by thine ear.

Thou art my God, my only hope;
  My God will hear my cry;
My God will bear my spirit up,
  When Satan bids me die.

My foot is ever apt to slide,
  My foes rejoice to see ’t;
They raise their pleasure and their pride
  When they supplant my feet.

But I’ll confess my guilt to thee,
  And grieve for all my sin;
I’ll mourn how weak my graces be,
  And beg support divine.

My God, forgive my follies past,
  And be for ever nigh;
O Lord of my salvation, haste,
  Before thy servant die.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 4 (Listen – 6:11)
Psalm 38 (Listen – 2:14)

Melodies of Heaven
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Crying at the United Nations

Psalm 35.1
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! 

  • March 2013 — Sarin gas attack on the city of Aleppo. 19 dead.
  • August 2013 — Sarin gas attacks on two suburbs outside Damascus. Over 200 dead.
  • April/May 2014 — Chlorine attacks on three villages in Idlib. 13 dead.
  • March 2015 — Chlorine attacks on four villages in Idlib. 6 dead.

These are the documented chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian people by their president, Bashar al-Assad.
After delegates from the U.N. viewed video from the most recent chlorine bombing Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., told reporters “if there was a dry eye in the room I didn’t see it.”

The President of the Syrian American Medical Society, Zaher Sahloul, added, “Clearly they were affected by what they have seen in the videos and what they have heard, many of them spoke outside the diplomatic language and many of them have said that this is outrageous and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

If modernism were capable of bringing peace to the earth we would have seen it by now.

If secularism were capable of bringing peace we would look to Europe, who would be well on the way.

If man’s religious longings were capable of bringing peace we wouldn’t be in this predicament in modern culture anyway.

In a world reeling from — and trapped in — the pain and brokenness of sin, God must fight for us. David, the psalmist, sees this and cries out in Psalm 31. Injustice has gained the upper hand and only the transcendent justice of the world’s creator is sufficient to restore peace.

Because of our place in history we can see what David could not. “A great spectacle is it, to see God armed for thee,“ Augustine remarks in his book, Expositions on the Book of Psalms. God has heard our groaning under the weight of sin, and he has not left us alone. He sent his son to step in harm’s way on our behalf — to die, that we might live.

Prayer
Father, our hearts cry out like David’s — not only at the grotesque injustices that plague our world, but at the daily injustices which cost each of us so greatly. Only you can bring an end to our pain. Only you can dry the tears of our eyes with the hope that what is lost will be restored. Draw us to Jesus, the first fruit of the resurrection.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 1 (Listen – 6:21)
Psalm 35(Listen – 3:21)

Resting in Faith
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

This Weekend’s Readings
Saturday: Numbers 2 (Listen – 3:47); Psalm 36 (Listen – 1:29)
Sunday: Numbers 3 (Listen – 6:01); Psalm 37 (Listen – 4:21)

TBT: The Good Which an Attack of Temptation Brings About

RestingInFaithFour

Psalm 34.8
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

TBT: The Good Which an Attack of Temptation Brings About | by John Cassian (360-435)

And so by the struggle with temptation the kindly grace of the Savior bestows on us larger rewards of praise than if it had taken away from us all need of conflict. 

For it is a mark of a loftier and grander virtue to remain ever unmoved when hemmed in by persecutions and trials, and to stand faithfully and courageously at the ramparts of God, and in the attacks of men, girt as it were with the arms of unconquered virtue, to triumph gloriously over impatience and somehow to gain strength out of weakness, for “strength is made perfect in weakness.” 

For to them at once “the crooked shall become straight and the rough ways plain;” and they shall “taste and see that the Lord is gracious,” and when they hear Christ proclaiming in the gospel: “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you,” they will lay aside the burden of their sins, and realize what follows: “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” The way of the Lord then has refreshment if it is kept to according to His law. 

But it is we who by troublesome distractions bring sorrows and troubles upon ourselves, while we try even With the utmost exertion and difficulty to follow the crooked and perverse ways of this world. 

In this way we have made the Lord’s yoke heavy and hard to us, and we complain in a blasphemous spirit of the hardness and roughness of the yoke itself or of Christ who lays it upon us, in accordance with this passage: “The folly of man corrupts his ways, but he blames God in his heart.”

Indeed if you will compare the sweet scented flower of virginity, and tender purity of chastity to the foul and fetid sloughs of lust, the calm and security of monks to the dangers and losses in which the men of this world are involved, the peace of our poverty to the gnawing vexations and anxious cares of riches, in which they are night and day consumed not without the utmost peril to life, then you will prove that the yoke of Christ is most easy and His burden most light.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 27 (Listen – 4:45)
Psalm 34 (Listen – 2:14)

Resting in Faith
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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