Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 9: Wednesday
Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 24–26. These psalms repeat some of David’s recurring themes in his relationship with God: praise, integrity, protection and deliverance, pardon, and trust in God’s compassion and lovingkindness.
I have a wonderful book I bought over ten years ago, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, that contains excerpts from John Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms. Calvin called the Psalms “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul,” and wrote:
…it appeared to me to be requisite to show in passing, that this book makes known to us this privilege, which is desirable above all others—that not only is there opened up to us familiar access to God, but also that we have permission and freedom granted to us to lay open before him our infirmities, which we would be ashamed to confess before men.1
With that as background, here are some of Calvin’s comments on Psalm 25:8:
“..God is good and upright, he stretches forth his hand to sinners to bring them back again into the way. To attribute to God an uprightness which he may exercise only towards the worthy and the meritorious, is a cold view of his character, and of little advantage to sinners, and yet the world commonly apprehends that God is good in no other sense. How comes it to pass that scarcely one in a hundred applies to himself the mercy of God, if it is not because men limit it to those who are worthy of it?
“ow, on the contrary, it is here said, that God gives proof of his uprightness when he shows to transgressors the way…2
I love that insight from Calvin and the way he takes the psalms and corrects our view of God. When you read the psalms learn from David’s example as he honestly lays open before God his infirmities, and as you read also ask God to take away misunderstandings about Him and to enable you to know and to see Him as He is.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Wenceslas Hollar – The Psalms, 1668: Public Domain.
1, 2John Calvin, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, pp. x–xi, 90.
In his foreword to John Calvin, Heart Aflame, on pages vi–vii, Sinclair Ferguson writes (his emphasis):
“…Calvin’s own exposition of the Psalms is remarkable in the way in which he follows the flow of the text, seems to catch the developments in it, and leads us with deceptive simplicity from statement to statement. He does not leap from the text into a story or an illustration, rather, he takes a deep breath and holds it until the truth of a passage, and its application, have been grasped…
“…Calvin knew what he was talking about. In much that is written today by Christian scholars—valuable in the contribution it makes—one gets all too little a sense that they know what the psalmist actually experienced. Literary genres, brilliance of linguistic use, weaving in of earlier biblical material, tracing of patterns—these elements of literary analysis in which contemporary commentators shine fascinate and engage the intellect. But Calvin offers us much more. He spoke of substance more than form or style, for he had sat where David sat, and had experienced hurt where David had hurt.
“There is something more striking about Calvin’s exposition. Modern scholars and preachers endeavor to expound the message of the Bible, and preach on or about the Bible. But Calvin seems to come to us from within the Bible, from inside the reality described in the text. He had learned the meaning of the command to love God “with all your mind.” [I would add heart and soul as I think that is evident from what he is saying about Calvin’s exposition]. The result was that God’s Word had begun to dwell in him richly (Col. 3:16), and he learned to live his life from within it.
“…Calvin’s way of reading the Bible was deeply influenced by Luke’s marvelous account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He was gripped by the idea that the whole Bible was somehow related to Christ (“Christ is the scope of all the Scriptures” was how he expressed it). He had meditated long and hard on this, and the fruit of it shows in the natural way in which he brings us to see Christ in all the Scriptures, including the Psalms (cf. Luke 24:44-45).”1
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter