Man is a Worshiping Soldier

As we move, within our model, from the center to the 3 secondary roles, you’ll notice a few things.  First, we will discuss how each of these 3 secondary roles relate to the core role of worshipper.  That’s important because if any of these become unmoored from the center, then not only is our understanding of manhood going to be warped, but we are also going to increasingly injure ourselves and others around us.

Second, I will highlight a key characteristic of each secondary role.  Could more characteristics be added? Sure, but my hope is to identify the characteristic at the heart of that role and focus there for simplicity.

Third, I obviously want to show that these are, indeed, roles assigned to men in the Scriptures, so we will explore that in a variety of ways, perhaps through the exposition of a passage and/or perhaps through observing the example of one or more persons in the Bible.

So, then, that brings us to the first of our secondary roles.  I don’t want the order in which we proceed to seem to suggest a priority here, but one of them has to be first, so we’ll start with Soldier.

Men are meant to be Worshipping Soldiers.  What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that we are men of violence.  I don’t use the word Soldier to in any way refer to actual fighting, so please don’t go out and take up boxing because of me.  Our struggle, our mission, our battle is not against flesh and blood.  So, don’t picture the Crusades here with “christian” knights going out to conquer the invading armies of the Saracens. Then, what do I mean?

A soldier is someone under orders.  A committed soldier follows those orders.  Even in some cases, whether because of devotion to cause, country, or commander, we read of soldiers with such undying commitment that they follow those orders with great joy and wouldn’t choose any other path.  The man of God is like that latter example. Because he delights in God, he is happy to follow God’s lead. He’s not obeying to earn anything or avoid anything. He obeys for joy! If you’re looking for a short book to stir your joy in the Lord, I’d recommend Mike Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity.  I’ve also had Sam Storms’ The Singing God highly recommended to me.

The danger of being a soldier without being a worshiper should be clear.  It would mean having our own mission instead of the mission of the God we so adore.  It would mean using our courage and strength for unholy purposes.  It would mean trudging through life somehow thinking that our efforts earn us something, be it praise, adoration, acceptance, forgiveness, money, or love.  We call that kind of soldier a mercenary.  He’ll fight anyone if the pay is good.

Not for the Christian the man!  No, we love Jesus.  He is the chief of ten thousand in our eyes.  He’s lovely and more to be desired than all this world.  So, it is with JOY that we say, “Jesus, you are Lord.  You are in charge.  I joyfully embrace your call on my life.  I gladly follow you wherever you go and whatever you are doing.”  Read the Gospel of John, notice how joyfully Jesus goes about the Father’s mission.  That is our example, and that is what we’ll look at in the next post.

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The Image of God and Real Masculinity

In the last post, we saw three things that help us understand masculinity: that God is real, that He created out of love and not out of need, and that He is intentional.  We saw that those things shape what a real man is and does.  Let’s dig into three others now.

God remains involved in the world He made

In Christ, Paul says, “we live and move and have our being (Act 17.28).”  And in Colossians 1, “For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  He didn’t make us then abandon us.  No, we exist “in Him,” meaning that our existence is sustained by His power.  And that’s the clear declaration from Colossians 1.17: in him, all things hold together.

He hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves.  He hasn’t left creation to crumble around us.  He is here. He is sustaining all things. We see this in a really intimate way in Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  You wouldn’t even wake up in the morning if the Lord wasn’t actively involved in keeping you alive.

And so, real men have staying power.  That doesn’t just mean that they don’t abandon their families, though that’s certainly true, but they also bring a sustenance to those around them.  They aren’t just present, but they are involved in such a way that life flourishes around them. They hold things together. They are a safe place in which others can live and move and have their being.

God takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be

Lamentations 3.37-38 asks, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”  Talk about responsibility. Good and bad…that covers everything. The Most High is in control. He is actively involved, and he doesn’t shirk His responsibility. And when mankind questions His intentions or His righteousness in what He does, He doesn’t run away, but He answers them.

He comes to Job in a whirlwind to show how good and right He has been in everything that occurred in Job’s difficult circumstances.  He comes to Habbakuk when that prophet questioned whether God knew what He was doing. After hearing from the Lord, all Habakkuk could say as he watched devastation surrounding God’s people was,

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

We look at the world and think, “man, this place is a mess.”  But because He’s fully sovereign, we can declare, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28).”

Therefore, real men take responsibility.  And if you’re married, you take double responsibility.  Jesus took upon himself responsibility for all the sins of His bride, the Church.  And so men, even when it’s the fault of your wife, it’s still your responsibility.  You own it, you address it the way Jesus did, by giving all of Himself.  We’ll talk more of this in a later chapter.

I’m made in God’s image

You are made in the image of God.  That could actually be translated “as the image of God.”  You are meant to image forth God in the world. People should look at your life and know something true about God.  Perhaps they see your kindness, your self-sacrifice, your tenderness, or your bravery. And even if they don’t recognize it, they’ve seen a reflection of the attributes of God.

Genesis 1.26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So, one point about the image of God is that it plays out in how humanity leads creation.  It is representational.  You are the image of God, therefore, have dominion.

Of course, God’s dominion is a loving, self-giving rule, not a dominating, smash-and-grab sort of rule.  So, the image of God isn’t just about our representation of God in our actions, but it also includes the idea of relationship.  He made man in His image – MALE AND FEMALE.  It wasn’t good for Adam/Man to be alone.  Why?  Because a single, solitary individual couldn’t reflect a God that is 3 persons united in love.  So, when man and woman (two people) become one flesh, they image the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit (three persons) who are one God!

So, those made in the image of God rule, but they do it in a fruitful way.  They are meant to bear fruit. Why? Because that’s what God is like. He gives life.  He overflows. He is a bright, shining Sun who warms the world. He’s a fountain that can’t stop spilling over. So, being made in the image of God requires multiplication.  That’s why it took male and female to really pull it off.

So, men ought to have dominion – a self-sacrificing, servant-hearted rule.  A my-life-for-yours reign. And it should be fruitful and life-giving. What would our relationships look like if men lived out the reality that they are made in/as the image of God?

So, at the heart of every real man is a delight, a relishing, in the God – the Triune, true, and living God – of the Bible, who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.  He is the foundation of what men were always meant to be.  So, again, our the core component of masculinity, then, is authentic, happy worship of the God of the Bible.

Manhood in light of a real, intentional, and loving God

I ended the last post with this statement, attempting to clarify what the God of the Bible is like in contrast to the gods of this world, highlighting 6 things about the Triune God.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real (a). He created with intentionality (2). He created not out of need but out of love (3). He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world (4).  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be (5). And if I’ve been made in His image (6) – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.

Now, I want to take a few minutes to unpack that.  Today’s post will cover 3, then the next post will cover 3.

He is real

I love what Glen Scrivener says about this.  There are 4 answers to the question, “What was there before the beginning?”  Scrivener argues that every worldview can be classified into 4 categories based on how they answer that question.  First, some answer the question with “nothing.”

If that’s true, then what is the consequence for humanity.  We’re an accident. We’re alone in the universe, just happy that some random molecules came together to form our little planet and our little lives.  We came from nothing and are returning to nothing, so what’s the point of manhood? Nothing.

The second answer is, “Chaos.”  Like Buddhists or Gnostists, something bad happened (we’re often not sure what) in the “cosmos,” and we’re the result.  We’re not just “nothing,” we’re the excrement of the Universe. It burped us out. So, men, life is chaos, and nothing really matters.  Do whatever you can to escape chaos, even if that means infidelity or abandoning your family.

The third answer is, “Power.”  Either power itself (big-bang) or an all powerful, solitary deity (the god of Islam or the Titans) caused us.  So, what’s the point of life? Power! Gaining power. Survival of the fittest. Creating a following of slaves and servants.  So, men, feel free to conquer and oppress because that’s what life is all about.

But, the Christian answer is different from every other answer.  Before creation, Christians argue, there was love. There was a Father loving His Son, in fellowship with the Spirit.  We take a sneak peek into Heaven in John 17. We hear God the Son, that’s Jesus, speaking to God the Father. Listen to what they were doing before creation:

17.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

17.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Triune God, the Christian God, Father, Son, and Spirit were sharing glory with one another before creation.  They were loving one another before the foundation of the world. The were giving to and receiving from each other.  They were enjoying each other. Isn’t that beautiful?! What does that mean for life? That it is the outflow of love, which we’ll look at in a moment.  And for men, it means that whatever characteristics we have, if we don’t have love, then we are not like God, and we are failing at the entire purpose of life.

He created with intentionality

Creation wasn’t a surprise.  It also wasn’t just thrown together like a kindergarten art project.  No, the all-wise God – Father, Son, and Spirit – working in tandem, together created the world and said afterwards, “It is very good.”  The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. The beauty of creation show his power and wisdom. He is intentional, and mankind is meant to live with intentionality within His creation and purposes.

He created out of love, not out of need

God wasn’t lonely before creation.  We’ve already seen that. He also didn’t need people to serve him, to meet his needs.  No, He was just fine without humanity, without creation. So, why did He create? The great theologians of the Church over the centuries all agree, Father, Son, and Spirit created as an overflow of the love they already experienced together.  They had so much love, that they wanted to create a people to whom they could further give their love. A people to fellowship in loving communion with, just like what they already had.

Here’s how Jonathan Edwards put it:  The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife (the Church) is the reason for which all of the universe was made…God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.

Isn’t that awesome!  And so, if that’s the purpose for God’s work, for God’s activity, for God’s leadership over the new world he has made, then that means we men already know the purpose for our own work, activity, and leadership.  Not to be served, but to serve. Not to have our needs met, but to meet the needs of others. Not to acquire and hoard, but to give and pour out.

Come back for the next post when we’ll cover the other 3 points!

The Core Characteristic of Manhood

Welcome back to this series on Manhood.  Today we’re looking at the CORE CHARACTERISTIC of Manhood.  This is central.  Everything else flows from it.  Before we dig in, I wanted to let you know (if you didn’t) about David Murray’s Christian Man Academy.  David blogs over at Head Heart Hand, and this new undertaking, I’m sure, will be the go-to place for Biblical input/resources on Christian masculinity.  So, now, back to the task at hand.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. But, I have to clarify that statement in two ways.  First, what do I mean by “worship” and, second, what do I mean by “God.”

What comes to mind when you think of worship?  When I ask this, time and again the answer is almost always something that I do.  I bow down. I sing a song. I clap my hands. I give money.  And those things are certainly an outworking of worship.  But, we want to beware of worshiping like those Jesus (quoting Isaiah) rebuked: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”  Going to church, sharing your faith, preaching, praising, and even our day to day work CAN be worship, but only if it flows from a heart of worship, of delight and love for God.

I’m not talking about ecstatic experiences or goose bump praise.  I’m not asking if you enjoy worship, singing, etc. I’m asking if you ENJOY GOD!  Look at these few samples from the Psalms. How did David and others feel about God?

PSALM 73.25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

PSALM 27.4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
 that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
 all the days of my life,
 to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
 and to inquire[a] in his temple.

PSALM 42.1-2 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
 so pants my soul for you, O God.
  My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God.
 When shall I come and appear before God?

This is the language of a lover.  Imagine if I called my wife and said: “Whom have I but you?  Who else could I ever want? I want to gaze upon you. I want to be with you.  When can I see you?” Whew! That’s passionate, deep affection.

I love to read the Puritans.  Men like Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes, and Thomas Goodwin.  The way the talk about Jesus makes me say, “Really? Is Jesus really that good!?!?!”  But, he is.  And friends, these are men speaking of their unashamed affection for Christ.  Do you get carried away as you think about and talk about the beauty of Jesus? Due to cultural shifts, it’s now considered unmanly to speak affectionately about another man, even Jesus, our God and Savior.  And it’s to our shame and our loss.

If Jesus weren’t in heaven, would you want to go?  I hope not. While this series doesn’t have the time or space to unpack the depths of our salvation, let’s see quickly what Jesus says in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  Do you see it? Eternal life is KNOWING God.

The Christian doesn’t just want forgiveness or righteousness.  No! We want God. We delight in God. We never want to be parted from God.  He is our beloved, the lover of our souls! Heaven, whatever treats it may hold, without Jesus, would be no paradise at all.  Worship of God means nothing less than a heart level love of God.  A warm affection for God.

And that has everything to do with the answer to the second clarification. When I say men should, at their core, be worshippers of God, who do I have in mind when I say “God.”  What God am I talking about.

Now, you may think, “Schell, I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure I know who God is.”  But, do you?  Let’s be clear because what we have said and will say about manhood means that not just any god will do.  Because we will become like what we worship. Take these gods for example:

  • So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me.
  • If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam for example), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me.
  • If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way.
  • Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer.  I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

Does that sound silly?  Think about the cultures that have grown up around those belief systems.  What kind of men did it produce? Were the Spartans known for their Christ-like, self-sacrificing, benevolence?  Does Islam seem to produce a society that is a paragon of love and mutual service between genders? I may be generalizing, but they are true generalities.  So, when a man worships his work or accomplishments, money, sex, or any other heart-idol, we shouldn’t be surprised when he become a detached man, a selfish man, a boy in a man’s body, or a devil.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real. He created with intentionality. He created not out of need but out of love. He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world.  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be. And if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.  AND, get this, when I see Him as He is, He is so delightful, so attractive, so breath-taking that I want to be a worshiper of THAT God!

In the next post I’ll unpack that last paragraph, but I’d love to hear your thoughts so far!

What is Holiness?

I think the puritans do such a better job of answering this question: What is holiness?  Their answer may surprise you.  We often think of the Puritans as stuffy, no-fun-allowed sort of folk.  That’s unfortunate.  Surely some of them were that way, just like some of us are, but the best Puritans actually made pleasure and joy central to our faith.  How they answer a question like “What is Holiness?” shows us a little of this.

Before I give you Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Goodwin’s answers, I want to ask how many people today would answer it.  What is holiness?  Is it primarily about whether and how much we sin?  Is it about ticking all the “thou shalt not” boxes?  What about God…what does it mean that He is holy?  Does it, primarily, mean that he can’t allow those who haven’t checked all those boxes in His presence?  I’ve said elsewhere that I often hear people say things like, “God is loving, but he’s also holy,” as if those things are opposites or mutually exclusive.  And that’s part of what’s wrong with our understanding of holiness.  So, let’s look at a couple of Puritans.

First, Jonathan Edwards. I’m going to invite Mike Reeves to share this as he’s who I first heart it from.  Go read his whole article at Desiring God, but here he is on Edwards and God’s holiness.

For the reality is that I am the cold, selfish, vicious one, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy — “set apart” from me — precisely in that he is not like that. He is not set apart from us in priggishness, but by the fact that there are no such ugly traits in him as there are in us.

“God is God,” wrote Edwards, “and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty” (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see verses like Psalm 96:9).2

God’s holiness, according to Edwards is primarily in His beauty, in His spreading and never changing goodness!  He’s not like us in our meanness, in all our ugly thoughts, words, and actions.  All the ways we hurt and hate others.  Isn’t that so much grander than “not sinning?”  Isn’t holiness as beauty just so much more, well, beautiful!!!

Now, Thomas Goodwin answers this question of God’s holiness as well (Vol 7, Book 1, Chapter 3).  Here’s what he says:

Matthew 19.17: “There is none good but God,” so therefore holy.  He is separate and alone in his holiness in the manner that he is alone in his (good) being.  And if he is the only one who is good, then much more is he the only holy one, for holiness is the height and perfection of goodness; it is so for man, and so in God.*

What does that mean?  It means that, at His core (in his being), God is good.  This is seen before creation ever existed as the Father, Son, and Spirit were in loving communion with one another, John 17 says, sharing glory and loving one another.  Before there were laws to give or keep, God was loving and sharing.  He was GOOD!  His holiness, then, can only be what is core to God.  What sets him apart?  His being, his nature, which we’ve just seen is loving, beautiful, and good.  And that is what sets him apart.  As you may know, holy means “set apart.”  His spreading goodness is what sets him apart, what differentiates God from us.

Holiness, then, according to these two puritans is beautiful goodness.  He’s not hot and cold towards us, he is consistently kind and good.  He’s holy.  In any day, I’m likely to despise and want ill for those that I should most love (sorry wifey and dear kiddos!), not to mention the random celebrity or Facebook stranger with whom I disagree.  Not so with God.  He’s holy.  He’s good.  He’s beautiful.

So, then, the invitation to be holy as God is holy becomes something amazing.  It’s now an invitation to share in the very goodness and beauty of God.  “Come, child, let me share my love and glory with you.  Let’s us experience unbroken, perfect love and fellowship.  Come, enjoy all this…that is, be holy like me.”

*I updated the language for clarity.  Italics are mine.

The Love of God and our Feelings

Here we are at the end of our blog series on Psalm 45.  I hope it’s blessed you.  If you haven’t, be sure to read those because they’ve been leading us to this point.  We just found out that because of the love of King Jesus for us, His Bride, we are adorned.  We are completely majestic.

Do you believe that?  I struggle to sometimes.  Many times, I feel like I’m being tolerated by Jesus instead of being his beautiful Bride that causes His pupils to dilate.  But, friend, THAT IS THE TRUTH!  He’s not just putting up with us.  He’s enamored with us!

You may not feel completely majestic.  Sometimes is so hard just to lift you eyes off of your own SHAME, SCARS, WHAT YOU’VE DONE, WHAT’S BEEN DONE TO YOU to see the love in the eyes of your King.  He’s taken all of that on himself. See what the King says about you in Song of Songs. Listen, Christ says this about YOU:

SoS 4.7, 9

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

The King doesn’t rescue the street girl so that she can just have a clean, well-provided room in his castle.  NO. He rescues her so that he may never be parted from her again. He desires you. He longs to have you with him.

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14     In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
 with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

And she doesn’t just want his stuff, remember, she wants HIM!  The Christian doesn’t just want forgiveness or righteousness or to get out of Hell free.  NO NO NO!  WE WANT GOD.  WE DELIGHT IN GOD. WE NEVER WANT TO BE PARTED FROM GOD. HE IS OUR BELOVED, THE LOVER OF OUR SOULS.  HEAVEN, WHATEVER BLESSINGS IT MIGHT HOLD, WITHOUT JESUS, WOULD BE NO PARADISE AT ALL.

He wants us, His Bride, and we want Him!  And because of this marriage, the Sons of Korah, our authors, now speak to the King again:

16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
    you will make them princes in all the earth.

What are they saying?  Basically: You and your bride will bear fruit together.  Friends, you were meant to be united with Christ so that HE MIGHT MAKE YOU FRUITFUL.  In fact, this is why creation exists. Jonathan Edwards put it this way:

“The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife…is that for which all of the universe was made.” and “God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.”

Do you believe that?!?!?!  That Jesus might enjoy you!  That the Father might call you to be the Bride who will be joy to His Son!  THAT is the purpose for which the world was created.  Oh, how weak is our faith.  Oh, how hard it can be to believe, and therefore feel this passion of Jesus.

And the Sons of Korah, these men delivered from death, out of the very pit of the earth…men who love the King, who BOIL OVER with affection for Christ, end their song this way:

17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

This love they feel for the King will fill the earth!  They will declare this love for ALL who will come to the King, for all the people that God will bring to be a part of the Bride of Christ, His Church!  And that’s evangelism.  Not a grit your teeth and just share.  Not a fearful thing.  But a joyous recounting of how your King found you in the gutter and now calls you magnificent!  It’s not a chore or a duty, but a delight to speak of your lover, your treasure!  I pray that you would believe it and that you’d feel it, because Jesus does.  He’s overwhelmed with affection for His Bride – and that’s you.

Church, get ready to blush…

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.
  4. That King Jesus astonishes us with His, beauty, grace, and power.

Now, the Sons of Korah are about to change the subject…but not really.  This still has everything to do with the goodness of the King, but now we get to see what His goodness is after – what his beauty and grace are seeking to accomplish.

This King that smells like salvation, who loves righteousness and hates evil, and lays his life down…He’s done it all to win a people, more specifically, to win a Bride.  THE KING IS GETTING MARRIED

8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
 From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; 
 at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

Who is the bride of King Jesus.  It’s the people of God. It’s the Church…it’s us.  This is consistent throughout the entire Bible. Here are a couple of examples.

JEREMIAH 31.31-32

31 “Behold, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

ISAIAH 54.5

For your Maker is your husband,
 the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
 the God of the whole earth he is called.

ISAIAH 62.5

5 As a young man marries a young woman,
 so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
 so will your God rejoice over you.

EPHESIANS 5.32

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Back here in Psalm 45, in verse 10, speaking to the Queen to be, the Sons of Korah say this:

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
 forget your people and your father’s house,

God first called his people to himself in GENESIS 12.1.  He calls Abraham and his descendants, Israel, to be his people.  What’s he say there? Leave your country, your people, and your father’s house.  When he calls a people, he calls them away from who they were and what they were IN ORDER TO be with him.  Now, notice this summons:

HEAR, CONSIDER, INCLINE

Notice the repetition.  Hear, Consider, Incline your ear. The Sons of Korah are trying to get her attention – YOUR attention.

Let me ask you: have you left your life without God in order to do life with God?  Have you given up control of your life so that you might have Jesus as King? Or are you clinging to your control, your pretend gods, your sin?  Hear, Consider, Listen. Leave that life and believe in Jesus. Take him as your own.

Now, look at VERSE 11: FOR ME, THIS IS THE CLIMAX!  Why would you ever want to leave your old life?

11     and the king will desire your beauty.

HE DESIRES YOU…LITERALLY this phrase means he “GREATLY DESIRES/YEARNS FOR/CRAVES YOUR BEAUTY”

WOW!  He desires to be with you.  Not like, for instance Zeus or Allah or Shivah – these gods all need something from you.  It was thought that if all of Greece stopped believing in the gods of Greece, that would cease to exist.  The Greek gods desired their people, in a way, and that is NOT at all how Jesus desires you.

In his book, The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther compares salvation, the Christian teaching of justification by grace through faith, to a marriage between a great King and His bride, a woman of ill repute, a harlot.  For the rest of this post, I’m really going to be leaning on Luther as well as Michael Reeves.

The Great King doesn’t need this woman, but his massive heart is turned to her, he has compassion on her, and his chooses her to be with him as his very bride.

Now, if that’s happened, what does she want of him?  He’s been the first man to ever really love her.  The first man that was safe for her.  To see her and love her for her own sake.  He’s rescued her.  He’s provided for her – safety, sustenance, and affection. What do you think she wants from him?  Gold? A Palace? or…Him? That’s exactly right, her response to his unbelievable love is that she adores him.

11     and the king will desire your beauty.
 Since he is your lord, bow to him.

The word for BOW there is actually the word for Worship.  Jesus loves you, desires you, has set his affection on you, and in response, you worship him.  You adore him. This is exactly what happens in the Song of Songs…the bride of the King says:

SONG OF SONGS 5.16

   he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend,

You see, he moved first…he came to her and set his delight on her…that’s grace.  She couldn’t make herself a queen. Acting more queenly wouldn’t do it. Sipping tea with the pinky out.  That doesn’t make you a queen. She could dress up in a queen’s dress, but she still wouldn’t be one. What’s the only way to become a queen?

Only by His word, only when he looks at her and makes his vows.  “I take you as my bride.”

And in THAT MOMENT, she is queen.  And when she speaks un-queenly, that won’t change the fact that she is the queen.  When she stumbles over her new queenly robes, that doesn’t change the fact that she is queen.  By His Word, because of His great love, she has BEEN MADE queen. But that’s not all…

He also clothes her, or said another way, He makes her beautiful!

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king,



“All glorious,” it could also be translated Completely Majestic.  He clothes her with beauty. Specifically, with his very own goodness, his very own righteousness.

We call this the Great Exchange.  When he says, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give to you.”  All my love, my blessing, my righteousness. They are yours.

And she says to him, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give you.”  All my brokenness, shame, sin, regrets, and debt.

And he took all of that from her and paid it in full on the Cross, dying the death she should have died so that he might be with her forever.  And he clothes her with his righteousness.

ISAIAH 61.10

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Now, you may not feel beautiful, and adorned.  I get that.  So please be sure to come back for the next, and final, post in this series on Psalm 45!

Marvelous Grace & Beautiful Wrath

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.

Now we want to look more deeply at WHY the Sons of Korah are so crazy about Jesus.  Let’s start back in Verse 2.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.

That first line is striking.  Dudes don’t describe other dudes that way any more.  Is that manhood?  YES, this is absolutely the MOST MASCULINE inclination you could ever have.  This is no mere mancrush! The SoK aren’t just praising him for a great fastball, big biceps, or an impressive intellect.

Friends, this is serious.  Right now, how do you feel about Jesus.  When Bible translators throughout the centuries have tried to capture this in English language, they’ve really struggled!  Our language can’t capture the height of beauty that is being communicated.

  • KJV – Thou art fairer than the children of men
  • Chaldee – Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is above that of the sons of men
  • Mudge – Thou art wonderfully fair beyond the sons of men
  • Alexander – Beautiful, beautiful art thou above the sons of men
  • ESV – You are the most handsome of the sons of men
  • NASB – You are fairer than the sons of men

Those last two, newer translations really seem to fall flat, don’t that.  Now, when William Plummer, 19th century scholar, tried to capture the point of this passage, listen to what he said:

In true religion, everything turns on our views of Christ, v.2.  What do we think of him?  Is he in our opinion and thinking incomparable?  Do we regard him as “fairer than the children of men?”  Is he, or is he not the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely?  If you don’t love him, if you don’t admire him, if you wouldn’t, in a fair trial, die for him, you are not his. Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33.

So again: How do you feel about Jesus?  Don’t tell me you’re just not an emotional person.  I use to say that…I invented that. Let’s not fool ourselves.  How we feel about Jesus is a striking indicator of the reality and quality of our faith.

So, what was it about Jesus that the SoK wanted to highlight?

GRACE

Grace was on his lips!  Grace! He came to us with grace.  We are so broken, but he has healing.  We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender.  We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient.  Notice what the Gospels say:

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.  LUKE 4.22

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17

He wasn’t just being nice…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us.  He was the very embodiment of the grace of God.  The kindness and tender compassion of God.

Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him.  They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God?  How can I know peace?  How can I have God as my very own?

But, it gets better There’s more good news.  He brings grace, but he also came with a Sword…wait, what?!

3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, 
in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

So, they also praise the King because he comes with a sword.  Does that seem shocking to you? I think part of the reason we find that shocking is because we continue to say things like: “God is loving, but he’s also just.”  As if those things are opposed to each other. Or “God is merciful, but he’s also holy.” Statements like that show how far from the Bible we’ve strayed.

God’s love is not opposed to his holiness, justice, or wrath.  No, God IS LOVE. This is 1 John 4.16. This is what he is like at his core.  In fact, John says if you don’t love, it’s certain that you don’t even know God because to know Him changes you and makes you loving.  God is love, at his core, and so EVERYTHING he does flows out of that, even wrath

God’s wrath isn’t opposed to his love.  No, Michael Reeves says it this way: wrath is what happens when a loving God encounters evil.  Wrath is the loving response to evil.  And we actually know this instinctively…

Imagine going outside in a few minutes and as you step out the door you see a man abusing a little child.   How would you respond?  How OUGHT you respond. What would loving behavior look like?  If you see it and turn a blind eye to it – you are not loving.  If you see it and say, “well, we all have our struggles” then you are not loving. Love would do everything it could to bring an end to evil.  It will judge it. And it will bring holy consequences against it. The King has a sword…hallelujah.

Let’s look a little more closely at this loving war that the King is waging:

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!



What would you ride in the Ancient Near East?  A motorcycle? A segway? No, a chariot, and this king rides to victory on a chariot of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  He goes to war against evil by means of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  This is a different sort of King altogether.  He’s not a dictator simply hellbent on maintaining control.  He’s not Allah simply looking to make the world submit.

This King is the truth.

He is meek.

He is our righteousness.

What does he smell like? He smells like salvation for sinners!

The Psalm is about to change gears.  We’re about to find out something exciting:  The King is getting married!

The King Smells like a Corpse

Well, we’re back in Psalm 45.  In previous 2 posts, we discovered that the Sons of Korah, these dead men walking, are writing this Psalm as a love song to the King.  Today, I want to look a little closer and try to figure out who this King is.  Verse 2-5 says this:

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.
 3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
 in your splendor and majesty!

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

Before digging into the details we need to ask, “who is this?”  If you’re not familiar with the Bible, you’re gonna miss this, I think.  Elsewhere in scripture, who would ever be talked about this way?  “Oh mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!  Ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness.”  It’s never a human talked about like this.  It’s always God.   And in case that wasn’t clear here, let’s look at the next couple of verses.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
 The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.




According to verse 6, the King is God.  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever!” But in verse 7, we also see that the King is someone anointed by God.  “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
 with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”

HOW DOES THAT WORK?  

Well, Hebrews 1.8-9 makes this clear.  The writer there tells us that this is God the Father speaking to God the Son.  This is the Father speaking to Jesus.

But of the Son he (the Father) says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
 the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
 therefore God, your God, has anointed you
 with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

So, who is the King in Psalm 45?  Jesus!  Now, BACK TO PSALM 45.  Let’s learn just a little more about this king.  What’s he like. In fact, what does he smell like? Look at verses 7 and 8:

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.

That’s his fragrance.  Now, you should know…This is NOT Old Spice.  This is NOT typical kingly after shave. OK.  What are these spices and oils used for?

Well, MYRRH AND CASSIA are both used to create a special incense…an incense that can only be used in the Temple of God.  It is only made and used by the priests of God. It’s used to anoint everything in the temple, including the alter for sacrifices, and to sanctify everything…that is, to make it holy.  So this King, he smells like…the TEMPLE, he smells like a priest, he smells like an altar.  That’s Myrrh and Cassia.

To bring in aloes, let’s look at John 19.  We’re going to see there another use for Myrrh as well as Aloes.

38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

Oh, great KING – YOU SMELL LIKE A CORPSE and LIKE INCENSE TO GOD, sort of like an offering on an altar, like something that has died in the place of someone else.  Like a DEAD AND BURIED HIGH PRIEST KING?

Which is exactly how JESUS is described in the book of Hebrews!!!

So, we know who this is.  This is Jesus!  Now, we must ask, “why?”  Why are the Sons of Korah so excited to praise Jesus?  For the answer, in our next post on Psalm 45, we will rewind for a moment to Verse 2.

Psalm 45 – A Love Song Written by Dead Men

Friends, I hope you’re 2019 is off to a grand start.  And what better way to start the blog year than discussing a Royal Psalm.  Of course, this isn’t just any Royal Psalm.  Yes, the King is front and center like the other Royal Psalms, but Psalm 45 differs markedly in terms of author, tone, content, and heart.  It’s a beautiful Psalm, though can give us trouble if we don’t know what’s going on, so let’s dig in.  Today, I just want to introduce the Royal Psalms, Psalm 45 in particular, and the author(s).

Royal Psalms

On the one hand, Royal Psalms seem to be directed to earthly rulers, instructing them in how to rule with truth, mercy, justice, and equality.  On the other hand, it becomes clear in these Psalms that God’s plan, ultimately, IS NOT to have merely good human rule – that we’d have simply good people leading us – but that God Himself would come and be our King.  That God himself would come and put an end to injustice, to suffering, to kings, prime ministers, emperors and presidents, and be our GOOD King. And Psalm 45 really is focused on that second piece.  It’s not going to pretend that any government of this world can give us what we need, but that Jesus, himself, is our King and His reign is, indeed, good.

PSALM 45 INTRODUCTION

So, let’s look at Psalm 45.  Before we get into the words of the Psalm, let’s look at the the title and author information.  Now, I’m looking at the ESV and the first line up there reads, “Your Throne, O God, Is Forever.”  Does yours say that? Ignore that…OK. That’s just added by some wonderful Crossway staff person as an attempt to describe the topic or a key verse in the Psalm.  It’s not actually part of the Psalm itself, in the Hebrew.  But, the rest is a part of the actual Psalm. It is an English translation of the Hebrew text, and so I want to look at a couple of things with you there.

SONS OF KORAH

First, I want to call your attention to the authors of this Psalm.  It is written by the Sons of Korah. There are several Psalms written by them, but who are they?  Who are these Sons of Korah? Well, in the book of Exodus (the second book of the Bible), we meet a man named Korah…he was a cousin of Moses.  And in the 4th book of the Bible, Numbers, in chapter 16, we find out that Korah didn’t like that God has appointed Moses to be his spokesman to all of Israel and had appointed Aaron as the high priest of Israel.  So, Korah, along with a couple of buddies, mobilized a group of about 250 people to institute a revolution, a coup. God chose Moses and Aaron, Korah said, “no thanks…God must have gotten it wrong.”

They were going to take control, by force.  So the Lord told the rest of the Israelites to separate from Korah and his goons, including their relatives who had all banded together against the Lord.  So, we read in verse 32: “And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.”  Whoa!

But, get this, in Numbers 26:11, we get a summary of this story and it ends with this line: “But the sons of Korah did not die.”

And that’s it.  It doesn’t explain it.  It doesn’t elaborate. And if we don’t reflect on it, it’s just an 8-word sentence that flies in one ear and out the other, but in reality, it’s HUGE!  They were spared.  They didn’t die.  If you were in their family, that would be your favorite verse of all time.  Not John 3.16, but Numbers 26.11!!!!  So, here we are in Psalm 45, and we encounter a group of men who, for all intents and purposes, should be dead.  Men, who therefore understand what it means to encounter the mercy of God. These are dead men walking.  And let’s look at what they choose to write…what’s that say there in the header? What sort of song are they writing?  A love song.

Interesting!  This is a love song.  Men who should be dead…who have been graciously spared by God are writing a love song.  And it’s the content of that song that we’ll start to explore in the next post.