What We Believe

A Window of Hope in Hosea

When we think of the prophet Hosea, the first thing that comes to mind is his wife Gomer and their children. The Lord used them as a living metaphor for Israel's relationship to God, and so ours. But this is not all we should think of, for the last verse of Hosea calls us to understand and walk in the ways of the Lord, which lead to life. This gives us a beautifully unified message for our faith. First of all, the prophet makes clear that Israel must keep the Lord's covenant law to have a blessed life in the Promised Land. God says in 6:6 that he desires loyal love from his people more than burnt offerings, showing the need for their obedience to the Decalogue and the whole Mosaic law. Israel was well prepared to obey. The Lord had redeemed them from Egypt and had continued to care for them. Ephraim was a trained calf, which the Lord had taught and made ready to sow righteousness and reap the fruit of steadfast love (10:11–12). Indeed, Israel was the Lord's son (11:1). The Lord, as their loving and ... Read more

The Exodus Motif in Isaiah

"The interpretation of the Bible begins in the Bible itself," asserts Benjamin D. Sommer in a recent article. [1] Such an idea is not new to readers of this magazine (see WCF, 1.9), but Sommer's point reflects a growing trend in the academic community: to see the biblical authors picking up themes from their predecessors and developing them in what may be called a kind of rereading. The technical term for this is intertextuality , which is "how the Bible relates to itself in its own system of cross-reference ... it has to do with the way in which parts of the Bible and finally the two Testaments themselves relate to one another." [2] In other words, later biblical authors build upon, allude to, cite from, and revise earlier portions of Scripture. Since this issue of New Horizons is devoted to the Prophets, we will give our particular attention to what Isaiah does with the Exodus motif. Introduction A motif, in the words of Leland Ryken, is "a discernible pattern composed of individual ... Read more

God's Glorious Presence in Ezekiel

Martin Luther said, "[The prophets] have a queer way of talking, like people who, instead of proceeding in an orderly manner, ramble off from one thing to the next, so that you cannot make head or tail of them or see what they are getting at." For many people, the prophet Ezekiel matches Luther's description perfectly. Ezekiel has his own way of doing things. He uses symbolic imagery. He does things unexpectedly—like cooking over dung or lying on his side for months. In reading him, you might be tempted just to throw up your hands, but do not give up on Ezekiel, for he will drive you to Christ. Ezekiel will imprint upon your soul the horrible judgment due to sinners for transgressing the law of God. But, he doesn't leave things with judgment. He moves on to the good news of the hope of dwelling with God in a new temple brought about by the work of the Messiah. The Opening of the Book The book opens with Ezekiel writing in the first person. These autobiographical prophecies are not going to ... Read more

Helps for Worship #25: Hymn of Preparation

Come, Holy Spirit, come; Let thy bright beams arise; Dispel the darkness from our minds, And open all our eyes. (Original Trinity Hymnal , #254 ) The purpose of the hymn before the sermon is not to give the congregation an opportunity to stand up before sitting for the sermon! At least that's not the primary purpose of the hymn. The hymn before the sermon is called a "hymn of preparation"—more particularly, a "hymn of preparation for the Word of God preached." There is no biblical mandate to sing a hymn before a sermon. (There may be one in the morning service, but not in the evening service.) The biblical mandate is that we sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). The number of them and the location of them in a given worship service is governed by the general principles that everything done in worship is to be done (1) "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40), and (2) "for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). At least in the morning service, it is "for edification" that ... Read more

Appreciating Your Heritage

Dear James, It probably goes without saying how good it was to see you over the Christmas break. Marie and I were delighted that you were free to join us for a meal on the Sunday after Christmas. Ben still talks about how he enjoyed playing baseball with you during the summer. I know he was tickled to see you. Thanks for looking out for our son. You asked a good question at dinner that day, and I am still rolling it over in my mind. Why do we at Grace OPC sing the Gloria Patri after reading from the Psalter? Of course, the church near you at college puts the song after the Apostles' Creed. I was struck by that also when I went off to college, though my awareness stemmed from the novelty of singing the Gloria Patri at all. It was not in our Baptist hymnal at home. I do wish the congregations in our denomination followed the same order of service. As you know, we do use the same creedal standards and follow the same rules for governing our churches in the OPC. But American Presbyterians have ... Read more


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