Saturday, December 10, 2005

Murray: "Redemption has a past, present, and future"

John Murray: On the Sabbath

Even though I don't subscribe to all of the baggage that comes with John Murray's "Lord's Day as Christian Sabbath" confessional notion, he does have some great redemptive-historical thoughts about the grounds of our sabbath rest in Christ being in the Sabbath of creation and its correlating commandment:

"It is clear that the rest of Canaan and the rest that remains for the people of God are redemptive in character. Since they are patterned after God's rest in creation, this means that the redemptive takes on the character of that rest of God upon which the sabbath institution for man originally rested and from which it derived its sanction. We cannot but discover in this again the close relation between the creative and the redemptive in the sabbath ordinance and the coherence of Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. We are reminded again that likeness to God governs man's obligation and is brought to its realization in the provisions of redemption. In the consummation of redemption the sabbath rest of God's people achieves conformity to the fullest extent. "For he who has entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his" (cf. Rev. 14:13). The sabbath institution in all its aspects and applications has this prospective reference; the whole movement of redemption will find its finale in the sabbath rest that remains. The weekly Sabbath is the promise, token, and foretaste of the consummated rest; it is also the earnest. The biblical philosophy of the Sabbath is such that to deny its perpetuity is to deprive the movement of redemption of one of its most precious strands.

Redemption has a past, a present, and a future. In the Sabbath as "the Lord's day" all three are focused. In retrospect it is the memorial of our Lord's resurrection. In the present with resurrection joy it fulfils its beneficent design by the lordship of the Son of man. As prospect it is the promise of the inheritance of the saints." -- John Murray

Owen: preach with the heart "engaged"

"No man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart. He who doth not feed on, and digest, and thrive by, what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison, as far as he knows; for, unless he finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others.

It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach is but to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering of them, that we may have benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men.

A man may preach every day in the week, and not have his heart engaged once. This hath lost us powerful preaching in the world, and set up, instead of it, quaint orations; for such men never seek after experience in their own hearts: and so it is come to pass, that some men’s preaching, and some men’s not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry; that though there be twenty or thirty thousand in orders, yet the nation perishes for want of knowledge, and is overwhelmed in all manner of sins, and not delivered from them unto this day." -- John Owen, ordination sermon, September 8, 1682

Wisdom's authority

Proverbs 3:1-2 says: "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you."

Wisdom has an inherent authority that demands acceptance. In this first section of chapter 3, Solomon again references Deuteronomy 6. He has just finished telling his son that the wise will inhabit the land. Now he says “let your heart keep my commandments.” When the wise inherent the land they are to obey God’s commandments.

While it is true that a life lived wisely will generally lead to a longer life (i.e. hard living leads to early dying), this is not primarily what Solomon has in view here (which is the take on this by many commentators, including Goldsworthy and Waltke). Again, Solomon is not only writing to his son, but he is writing to his "son" Israel and giving wisdom in covenantal language.

Contrary to those commentators who claim this word “command” has nothing to do with the Mosaic law, in Proverbs 3:1 Solomon is aligning himself with Moses. Deuteronomy 6:1 says, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you…” Like the law which demands obedience, Solomon’s wisdom is *not* given with a take-it-or-leave-it option. His wisdom is given within the authority of the law.

The interesting point of Solomon’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 6 in Proverbs 3 is that he places obedience within the realm of the heart. We should learn from Solomon: it is a mistake to think that the Old Testament and its commandments keeping had nothing to say about the heart. The heart was always in view as far as the law was concerned.

When we hear Solomon's wisdom say "let your heart keep my commandments", we who live in the New Covenant must hear Christ, the true Wisdom of God, telling his disciples "if you love me, keep my commandments". Keeping Christ's commandments flows from a new heart (Jeremiah 31:33) in which love for Christ is the motivation for obedience to Him.

Then in Proverbs 3:2, Solomon gives his son the consequence of keeping the commandments: length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Again, Deuteronomy 6:2 is important: keep all of his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” Life and peace is promised in return for obedience when Israel inhabits the land.

This is another instance of Solomon recasting the Mosaic Covenant and its Law as Wisdom. The “keep my commandments”/"length of life” is for Solomon what “do this and live” is for Moses (Leviticus 18:5). This long life in the Old Testament, not only is the consequence for obeying the covenant of works in the law, it points forward to the resurrection and the new creation of the New Testament in which the longevity of life extends into forever.