Worship Notes- O God Your Judgments Give the King

1 O God, your judgments give the King,
his son your righteousness;
with right he shall your people judge,
your poor with uprightness.
And then the mountains shall bring forth
to all the people peace;
the hills because of righteousness
their blessing shall increase.

2 The people’s poor ones he shall judge,
the needy’s children bless;
and he will break in pieces those
who would the poor oppress.
The just shall flourish in his days,
and prosper in his reign;
and while the moon endures he shall
abundant peace maintain.

3 His large and great dominion shall
from sea to sea extend;
it from the River shall reach forth
to earth’s remotest end.
Yea, kings shall all before him bow,
all nations shall obey;
he’ll save the needy when they cry,
the poor who have no stay.

4 Now blessed be the Lord our God,
the God of Israel,
for he alone does wondrous works
in glory that excel.
And blessed be his glorious name
to all eternity.
The whole earth let his glory fill;
amen, so let it be.

O God Your Judgments Give the King

Our final hymn this week comes from Psalm 72. Its inscription says, “Of Solomon.” It is a prayer for the king, and the last verse identifies it as a prayer of David the son of Jesse, so that the inscription means that Solomon is the subject of the Psalm, not the author. It may be that Solomon versified the prayer that David prayed for him, or it may be that David himself wrote the psalm. Either way, David should be regarded as the author, and Solomon the intermediate subject. But Solomon did not fulfill the prayer of David except partially; his rule did not lead to everlasting righteousness and justice. Zacharias’ prayer at the birth of his son John identifies the events of his lifetime as being the fulfilment of these and many similar prophecies; it is Christ the Son of David who is ultimately the king spoken of here, and the glory of His reign which is promised, from Old Testament eyes.

The first verse shows that it is only with the power of God that a king can accomplish these great things, and especially that the righteousness of God is worked in the king. The wickedness and incompetence of their kings was the continual plague of the nation of Israel, and their rare righteous king could do little to reverse the tide. But God had promised David that one of his seed would come and be endowed by God in a special way, and that His kingdom would reign forever. The Babylonian Captivity definitively proved that none of the line of David up to that point was that king, and none from the line of David ever sat on the throne in Jerusalem since then. But God sent His Son, to be born the Son of David after the flesh, and anointed Him with power and glory to fulfill the ancient promise.

This king will provide justice and righteousness for the people. No longer will the strong oppress the weak, and the rich exploit the poor, which is the normal course of the world. People will live in peaceful community with one another, no longer fearing invaders, robbers or evil oppressors. It will be a time of great material abundance, as even the tops of the mountains will be fertile and productive.

Verse 3 shows that this dominion of the king would extend from sea to sea, and all the nations of the earth will be subject to it. The glory of the Lord will be known throughout the world, and the kingdom of this king will rule over all, bringing peace and justice not just to Israel but to all the world.

The Psalm therefore presents to us a time on earth when all the nations are ruled in common by one king, that all oppression and injustice ends, that is characterized by tremendous material abundance, peace, security and knowledge. All of this comes as a result, we see in verse 4, of the wondrous work of God, who “alone does wondrous works” for His glorious and blessed name.

There has always been a great deal of debate about how this state will come about. I believe it makes the most sense to understand this as the eternal state seen somewhat dimly from Old Testament eyes, a time when all of God’s people from every nation live in fellowship and harmony together, praising God and enjoying His good creation without any oppression, fraud or violence, for all eternity. It happens when Christ comes again and destroys all the evildoers and oppressors and wasters, all those who have not bent the knee to Jesus’ kingship and accepted the forgiveness of their sins.

That debate will no doubt continue to rage until the actual state of affairs is fully achieved and all the questions are answered. Until then, however, we clearly can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is certainly bringing about this state of affairs even now according to His secret plan. We also can have wisdom to know that since God has endowed Jesus Christ with this power and righteousness, we should certainly expect no other ruler or great man to bring us security, prosperity and justice, except by God’s grace only very partially, as Solomon did. Christ is the hope of this sad world, and there is no other. So blessed be the glorious name of God, and of His Son, Jesus the Messiah, for the day will infallibly come when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Worship Notes: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

1 Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of heav’n, to earth come down:

fix in us thy humble dwelling,

all thy faithful mercies crown:

Jesus, thou art all compassion,

pure, unbounded love thou art;

visit us with thy salvation,

enter ev’ry trembling heart.


2 Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit

into ev’ry troubled breast;

let us all in thee inherit,

let us find the promised rest:

take away the love of sinning;

Alpha and Omega be;

End of faith, as its Beginning,

set our hearts at liberty.


3 Come, Almighty to deliver,

let us all thy life receive;

suddenly return, and never,

nevermore thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing,

serve thee as thy hosts above,

pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,

glory in thy perfect love.


4 Finish, then, thy new creation;

pure and spotless let us be:

let us see thy great salvation

perfectly restored in thee;

changed from glory into glory,

till in heav’n we take our place,

till we cast our crowns before thee,

lost in wonder, love, and praise.

This is a song about sanctification.  The writer (Charles Wesley) fixes the nature and source of our sanctification from the very beginning in the love of Christ, a love greater than any love; and vital to success in sanctification.  As long as we think of repentance and good works merely as a duty or as a way to earn God’s favor or avoid His wrath, we will never truly progress.  On the one hand, we will look to our own strength for the source of our labors, which is woefully insufficient.  On the other our motivation will be fundamentally selfish, and how can we progress in righteousness motivated by sinful motives?  But when we recognize that the love of Christ toward us is the source of all progress in truth, and the motivation for all our efforts in repentance and sanctification, then our efforts are on the proper footing.

Wesley demonstrates a rich understanding of the Scriptures throughout.  Much of the thinking here is drawn from John 14-16, though there are references to many other Scriptures as well.  The lyrics are a progression of thought through the Biblical doctrine of salvation, starting with the love of Christ, through the work of the Spirit, reuniting us to the Father, and ending with our eternal glorification.  This follows well the process of salvation as we experience it subjectively in our own lives.  We become aware of the love of Christ for us in what He did for us in His death.  That love works more and more in us through the power of the Spirit, making us know and understand God better over time, leading more and more to despise the false ambitions, threats, and seductions of this world.

Wesley prays for the divine love to come and make a home in our hearts (verse 1), as Jesus promised to do.  He does this via the work of the Holy Spirit (verse 2), and this is very helpful to know, for it helps us understand the way that our salvation is accomplished.  The salvation of Christ is at work in us through the ministry of the Spirit of God.  Jesus said He would send His Spirit to His apostles, and this resulted in the inspired Scriptures being sent.  The Spirit comes to us as well, not that we might write new Scriptures, but that we might understand the Scriptures already written.  Understanding the role of the Spirit in our salvation helps us give full glory to the Trinity for our salvation, but also to understand the means by which that salvation occurs so that we can be obedient to lay hold of the means of grace as we are instructed.

The Spirit of love is also the Spirit of adoption, and verse 2 recognizes this with a prayer that in the Spirit we might inherit the promise.  The land of Canaan was a type of the promise we have in Christ, a figure to which Wesley refers in verse 2, “let us find the promised rest.”

Verse 2 also gives us a profound bit of psychological understanding.  “Take away the love of sinning.”  This is the great problem of sanctification, of course.  We can develop disciplines, techniques, and habits, and these are all well and good, but in the moment of temptation, the problem is that we don’t want to follow those things.  We want to sin.  And ultimately we’re going to do what we want to do.  Sanctification therefore requires a change in our desires, and this is work that only the divine power of God can accomplish.  He’s promised to work through means, so we’re not passive, but we have to understand that this is not anything we can ever do in our own strength.  Thus Wesley’s prayer, “take away the love of sinning.”  The last part of that verse recognizes that God is therefore not just the One who starts us in the faith, but the one who preserves and finishes us in that faith as well—“Alpha and Omega be, end of faith as its beginning.”  And the result of this is freedom—freedom from the greatest slavery mankind knows, the slavery to sin.

Verse 3 again calls on Old Testament imagery of the temple of God in Jerusalem, in which the presence of God dwelt.  When that temple was corrupted by idolatry, the glory of God departed (Ezekiel 8-10).  The prophets all promised a return to His Temple though, when the Messiah came and poured out His Spirit.  The people of God are that temple (1 Peter 2:1-9), consecrated by the shed blood of Christ and indwelt forever by God.  The consecration of Christ’s blood is so much better than that of bulls and goats (Hebrews 9:13-14), and this new temple to God will never be defiled.  Thus, God will never again leave His new temple.  Verse 3 goes on to reflect on the eternal fellowship of love and worship that the people of God will enjoy forever in this new temple.

So the final verse calls on God to complete the work that He has begun.  The Christian earnestly desires to be free of sin completely.  We do not desire to be merely forgiven sinners, but perfected saints.  Forgiveness is only the beginning.  When we are complete in our salvation, restored to the image of God, recognizing finally and fully that the love of God is greater than any other love, then we will finally be able to come before God and see Him face to face with no impediment, and return to Him all the glory and worship that He deserves.


Worship Notes: Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation

1 Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the church in one;
holy Zion’s help forever
and her confidence alone.

2 All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

3 To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of hosts today:
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy people as they pray;
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

4 Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain,
what they gain from thee forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

5 Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory,
while unending ages run.

This hymn is a song about Zion.  “Zion” is a rich and complex set of metaphors in Scripture, starting from the fact that Zion is the name of the hill on which Solomon built the temple, and was the center of God’s presence in Israel for many centuries.  It is the place where God and His people would meet.  As such, it becomes a figure for the people of Israel as a whole, or in the New Testament, the New Israel, the Church.

Our hymn uses a bold and confident tune, celebrating the joy and assurance that the people of God can have, knowing that He is in our midst.  In Isaiah’s day, Jerusalem was left alone and preserved from the attack of the Assyrians which engulfed the rest of Judah and, indeed, the whole region, which demonstrated God’s ability to care for and protect His people.  Unfortunately, the people of Israel misunderstood this event, believing that Jerusalem could never be taken by foreign conquest.  Jeremiah warned them against this error. The people of Israel had abandoned God, neglected His worship, and chased after foreign gods.  Therefore they were not the people of God anymore.  “Zion” being under God’s protection was never about a place, but about a people, the people who trusted and relied on God, who met with Him and worshiped Him.  Those people are certainly under God’s protection and can trust Him in all events of life.

The hymn starts with a celebration of the establishment of Christ as the foundation of the Church, the new temple, the new spiritual Israel which God had always foretold, which sprouted from the cut-down stump of the old (to mix the metaphors).  The true Church of Jesus Christ must always be united—perhaps not in outward organization but in true spiritual essence.  Jesus “bind[s] all the church in one (verse 1).”  He told His disciples that He would be with them until the end of the age, and He is even now at the right hand of the Father mediating for us.  That is a source of great confidence for the believer.

The second verse celebrates the church as a place of praise for the Triune God, praise which will last forever.  It is the great joy of the Christian to have the opportunity to praise and worship the glorious God, and praise is at its best when it is shared.  When one has a great experience of some kind—a great meal, a particularly enjoyable movie, or anything like that—one wants to share it with others.  This fact demonstrates the truth that people are fundamentally communal, made to be a people, not just persons.  The church is a body of people, gathered together to share that greatest experience of all, the experience of knowing God.

The third verse calls on God to receive the worship of His people, to come to His temple to hear His people worship.  God is gracious and merciful, and receives our worship with “lovingkindness” even though our worship falls so far short of His true merits.  The writer also prays for the “benediction,” meaning literally a “good word,” a blessing from God.  With the blessing of God on His people, we know that nothing can harm us, and even the suffering we experience in this life is part of God’s perfect purpose.  The benediction pronounced at the end of each service is not well-wishes on the part of the pastor, but rather is the promise of God Himself to all those who put their trust in Him.

Verse four asks God to “vouchsafe” to His people the promised blessings.  This is a call to God to work assurance of faith in us, the sure confidence that the promised blessings will come to pass.  This assurance is so important, for it is our only true protection from the snares of the world.  The lures, seductions, and threats of the world will have no power over us when we know that far greater things are secured for us in the eternal Kingdom than anything the world can offer or take away.  We will be kings and priests of a glorified creation, enjoying all God’s good promises, and the greatest joy of all, God Himself, forever.  The assurance of God’s promises, as verse four recognizes, is God’s gift to us and not something we can work up on our own.

The final verse, as early Christian hymns often do, praises the Triune God in each Divine Person, Father, Son, and Spirit.  Many of the early Church fathers recognized the importance of hymns as pedagogy, and knew that the doctrine that people sung would become deeply embedded in their hearts.  Paul calls on us to teach and admonish one another in the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16).  With the Arian heresy, which denied the Trinity, still running rampant when this hymn was originally written in the seventh century AD, it therefore serves a wonderful teaching purpose, as well as a doxological purpose, to end the hymn with a praise to God as Three in One, distinct as Persons, but One in power and glory, forever.


Alas and Did My Savior Bleed- Worship Notes

Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed

1 Alas! and did my Savior bleed,

and did my Sovereign die!

Would he devote that sacred head

for such a worm as I!


2 Was it for crimes that I had done

he groaned upon the tree!

Amazing pity! Grace unknown!

And love beyond degree!


3 Well might the sun in darkness hide,

and shut his glories in,

when Christ, the mighty Maker, died

for man the creature’s sin.


4 Thus might I hide my blushing face

while his dear cross appears;

dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

and melt mine eyes in tears.


5 But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe;

here, Lord, I give myself away,

’tis all that I can do.

Isaac Watt’s moving hymn well reflects on the awe that every Christian must feel at the thought of what Christ has done for us.  Our faith is founded above all else on the truth that Jesus Christ died for us, in an act of completely unmerited grace.  The writer stands amazed at the fact that glorious God, the creator of all things, became a servant, humbled Himself and died, for our sake.   The tune is one that fits well the subject, evoking sadness, thankfulness and hope.

Verse one expresses this incredulity, and even sorrow, at the tragic sight of the cross, for that is how the truth of the cross first impresses us- “alas!”  It is such a tragedy that the glorious and righteous Messiah, so good and so innocent, should be treated in such a fashion.  Why would He do such a thing for a worthless being, “a worm, such as I?”  Though it is contemplated as a tragedy, even from the beginning the writer expresses his awareness that Jesus’ act was not something done to Him as a helpless victim, but something He chose voluntarily.

The only possible motivation for such an act is love and pity (verse 2).  If it is true that I am a “worm” as the writer says, then I certainly have nothing to offer Him in return, no way to pay Him back for such a sacrifice.  So it is only “love beyond degree” that could motivate such an act.  No matter how long we have been Christians, how many times we have heard the story of the cross, or how much progress we have made in our Christian lives, we should never trifle with the cross, never lose our awe and gratitude, our sheer amazement that Jesus did what He did on our behalf.

The book of Matthew relates three hours of darkness in the middle of the day during the crucifixion of Christ.  The death of Christ was not primarily intended as a display of some truth to man, though it does that, but rather as an act of propitiation aimed at the Father.  So the sun even hides its face for a time at the sight.  True love of a degree nowhere else seen is displayed in His sacrifice for those so much lower than He: He who is the maker of all things, who was there at the foundation of all things, the Wisdom by which the Father put the very stars in their courses, entered into the suffering and death to which we, His own creation, were subject because of our own sin.

So the writer says that if the sun itself would hide its face from the sight, he certainly might “hide [his] blushing face” as well.  One proper response to the cross is for us to abhor ourselves for our sinfulness which made such a thing necessary (Ezekiel 36:31).  If we come away from the cross with a great sense of self-esteem and appreciation for our own specialness, then we are not seeing the truth.  We are beloved of God, but not for what we are.  The only thing worthy about us is what God will do in us by His grace.  We bring nothing to the table but our own shame and worthiness for destruction.  Worms, indeed.

So the writer concludes that the only worthy response to the cross of Christ is commitment to Christ.  The believer can never do enough to repay, but the one who is truly thankful for the salvation of Christ will commit himself to giving everything.  The Christian faith simply cannot stop at the contemplation of the cross, but must proceed from there to our proper response to that great gift.  My great comfort is that I am not my own, but belong to my Savior Jesus Christ, and the Christian life, the life of the one who truly possesses faith in that salvation, will more and more reflect that gratitude by living a life true to His word and worthy of His grace, giving all glory to Him since any good thing in me is only the result of His gracious gift.

Jesus the Splendor of God’s Glory- Worship Notes

1 O Splendor of God’s glory bright,
from light eternal bringing light,
O Light of light, light’s living Spring,
true Day, all days illumining:

2 Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
in lasting radiance from above,
and pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
on all we think or do today.

3 And now to thee our pray’rs ascend,
O Father, glorious without end;
we plead with Sovereign Grace for pow’r
to conquer in temptation’s hour.

4 Confirm our will to do the right,
and keep our hearts from envy’s blight;
let faith her eager fires renew,
and hate the false, and love the true.

5 O joyful be the passing day
with thoughts as pure as morning’s ray,
with faith like noontide shining bright,
our souls unshadowed by the night.

6 Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies,
let him, our perfect Morn, arise,
the Word in God the Father one,
the Father imaged in the Son.

Jesus, the Splendor of God’s Glory
There is a good chance that you learned the alphabet through a song– “A B C D E F G” sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Music has always been used to teach, and was especially valuable when literacy was comparatively rare. It is a great way to transmit knowledge in a fixed and memorable form.

The Church early on recognized the value of good hymns for teaching sound doctrine. Paul calls us to be “teaching and admonishing one another in the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:15). Our hymn of the month, “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright,” does just that, teaching the doctrine of the divinity of Christ in beautiful poetry. It is also a prayer, calling for aid in our walk with God throughout the day. It was written in the fourth century by the very influential pastor Ambrose of Milan, who is credited with, among other things, being instrumental in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians God ever gave the Church.

The first verse captures well the idea of Jesus being the express image of God. “God of God, Light of Light”, the Nicene Creed says, capturing the paradox of the Eternal Generation well—Jesus is fully God of Himself, but in His Person comes from the First Person eternally, so that He is God from God, Light from Light. Jesus comes to earth, God Himself and sent by God, to shine the light of God’s eternal glory on this sad, cursed world.

Jesus said as a result of His ascension that He would send the Holy Spirit to His people, and that promise is called upon in verse two, that Jesus would indeed pour the Holy Spirit out on us. Jesus’ glorification means that the power of His revelation of truth to the world is not limited to His thirty-three or so years on earth, but continues afresh today. So the writer prays for the power of the Spirit in an imminent sense—that He might be with us, and communicate to us the light of Christ even now. Likewise in verse three, the writer pleads for grace in the matter of battling the temptation to sin. This hymn is a prayer, as many are, and should be sung as a prayer, directed toward God.

Envy gets mentioned specifically in verse four. The writer recognizes the great power of envy, as any experienced pastor knows. The power of envy is mighty to cause all kinds of other sins, but envy often disguises itself as righteous anger or a justified resentment over some kind of fault that others may have done to us. The power of the Spirit is necessary to reveal the hidden motives of our hearts, very often hidden even from ourselves. Faith, trust in God, is the antidote to all forms of envy and resentment, and so the writer asks for a renewal of trust in God to steer our minds right in the second half of verse four.

Verse five calls on God’s assistance in strengthening faith throughout the day. The writer uses the light of the day as a metaphor for knowledge, joy, and faith, so that all day we have the joy of the sunrise, the clarity of the noontime, but none of the gloom or fear of the night.

Jesus is called the Bright and Morning Star in the book of Revelation, and is frequently described by the prophets as the dawning of a great light on the earth. So the writer calls Him our “perfect Morn.” He is truly the Light of the World, and whatever understanding or truth that any person has is because of Him. Through greater faith in Him and careful study of His words and those of His authorized interpreters, the apostles and prophets, we can see that glory and that truth even more clearly, and come more fully to understand the Father Himself. And that is the only way we can do so, for no man comes to the Father but through Him. So the last lines of the hymn form a beautiful inclusio with the first—Jesus is the Word of the Father, the perfect communication of the Father’s truth and power, and in Jesus, and only in Jesus, the Father is perfectly displayed in His glory to the world.

John Calvin on Forgiveness

“Lastly, it is to be observed that the condition of being forgiven as we forgive our debtors, is not added because by forgiving others we deserve forgiveness, as if the cause of forgiveness were expressed; but by the use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to solace the weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us that our sins are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly conscious of having forgiven others, when our mind is completely purged from all envy, hatred, and malice; and partly using as a badge by which he excludes from the number of his children all who, prone to revenge and reluctant to forgive, obstinately keep up their enmity, cherishing against others that indignation which they deprecate from themselves; so that they should not venture to invoke him as a Father. In the Gospel of Luke, we have this distinctly stated in the words of Christ.”

John Calvin, Institutes, III.XX.45

Calvin on the definition of faith

“Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

John Calvin, Institutes, III.II.7

“Thus we shall behold the person of a sinner and evildoer represented in Christ, yet from his shining innocence it will at the same time be obvious that he was burdened with another’s sin rather than his own. He therefore suffered under Pontius Pilate, and by the governor’s official sentence was reckoned among criminals. Yet not so– for he was declared righteous by his judge at the same time, when Pilate affirmed that he “found no cause for complaint in him.” This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God. We must, above all, remember this substitution, lest we tremble and remain anxious throughout life– as if God’s righteous vengeance, which the Son of God has taken upon himself, still hung over us.”

–John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.5

“The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man was the idea that somehow he could make himself good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy God.”

—Martin Luther