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6. Covenant Phases in the Bible

Thus far we have spoken of only three phases in the history of the one covenant. We must now divide the third phase into two parts. We can begin by looking at human life. Human beings do not die and become fully mature in glory while they are in their prime as adults. Rather, at some point human beings begin to lose their strength; they begin to die in preparation for their final death and transformation into glory. Sometimes this death begins with some kind of mid-life crisis. With women it is associated with menopause. When men it is associated with the loss of power and the realization that they will not accomplish everything they had hoped to accomplish when they were young.

This is when human beings start to become elders. Their kingly wisdom matures into prophecy, the ability to speak life-changing words. Their hair turns white, and white hair is glory (Revelation 1:14). Thus, at the very time human beings begin to lose their kingly power and ability to act, they increase in their God-like glory and power to speak.

We can see this in Israel’s history. When we look at the Kingdom period, we see that it started in kingly glory. Then it split, and then each kingdom became weaker and weaker as well as more and more sinful. It is as the kingly power of Israel diminishes that the prophets emerge in the Remnant period. There is still a kingly aspect, but the more mature prophetic phase of the covenant is becoming more and more important. The kingdom of God is maturing into eldership. Then comes the death of Israel, in the exile. After this, the Jews are no longer kings. They no longer have a nation of their own. They can no longer act. They are spread out into the nations as prophets. The Oikumenical age is an age exclusively of prophecy.
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5. Priest, King, and Prophet

We can begin with the phrase “prophet, priest, and king.” This is the order normally heard from preachers and theologians. But it is not really the Biblical order. The age of priests ran from Moses to Saul, the age of kings from Saul to the end of the Kingdom, and the age of prophets from Elijah to Jesus. If we believe in any kind of development and maturation of the kingdom of God in history, we shall have to admit that king is more than priest, and prophet more than king. Since, however, the prophetic function is associated with predicting the future, it has often been abstracted from its historical context and placed at the beginning. At the same time, as we shall see below, the prophet does come at the beginning as well as at the end, to close one period and begin a new one, so that usual ordering of these terms is not so much erroneous as incomplete.

The Larger Catechism produced by the Westminster Assembly in England in the 1640s, and used by Presbyterian churches and some others, follows the order “prophet, priest, king.” Let us look at what it says about them.

Q. 43: How does Christ execute the office of a prophet? Christ executes the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and word, in diverse ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.

Now, as a matter of fact, these things are not unique to prophecy at all. According to Malachi 2:7, “The lips of a priest should preserve knowledge; And they should seek the teaching from his mouth; For he is the messenger of Yahweh of armies.”
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This is a fine hymn by John Mason Neale, based on an ancient Greek church hymn. The opening question is particularly powerful: “Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground, how the powers of darkness compass thee around?” Yes, the devil strikes in the very church and her worship as much as he can, just as he struck in the holy garden in the beginning.

Good words, but too often cheesy goofy music by John Bacchus Dykes. You may know the tune:

Spooky, spooky, spooky; spooky, spooky, spoooooook.

Spooky, spooky, spoooookeeeey; spooky, spooky, spoooook.

Happyhappyjoyjoy, happyhappyjoy!

Happyhappyjooooyjooooy, happyhappyjoy!
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This syrupy piece of marijuana-haze hymnody is found in the hymnals of churches that have substituted sentiment for orthodoxy and worship. Hence you don’t find it in older Presbyterian hymnals, but in the Trinity Hymnal. Nor do you find it in Episcopal and Lutheran hymnals until very recently in some Lutheran books.

The song would be much improved if the spacy refrain were omitted. I don’t know if Horatio Spafford actually wrote this refrain in his original poem or if it were added by Philip Bliss in his gooey music, but I do know that if I smoked marijuana I’d love it. It drifts along in a haze that is so far unlike anything God enjoys, as seen in the book of psalms, that is might as well be Hindu.

Happily, two of Spafford’s stanzas are usually omitted:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
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4. The Three Basic Phases of the Covenant

We have introduced the three phases of the covenant, from childhood to adulthood to full maturity. Let us look more fully at each of these three phases.

The Bible speaks of the Church as Daughter in this Old Creation phase: Daughter Zion, Daughter Jerusalem, and for converted nations, Daughter Tyre, etc. This is a time of childhood, of immaturity. We think of immaturity as something bad, but it is not. It is a gift of God appropriate for our first phase of life. We have said that the Son has eternally “become” mature, but this also means that the Son is also eternally moving from being immature. There is nothing wrong with such immaturity. It is what being a son means: to look up to one’s father. The Son is eternally immature, being a Son to his Father. He is eternally becoming mature through the Spirit. And he has eternally become mature, so that he is fully like his Father.

We need to remember the difference between created time and the Divine eternity. In time and history, maturation is a process, while in eternity it is a condition.

Thus, in the Old Creation we are like the Son in his Divine immaturity. We are under the Father, who has sent the Son to us as his Angel (messenger) to teach us the rules we are to obey during our childhood: the Law. The Father has sent his Spirit to cause us to grow up into adulthood. He wants us to become fully mature, just as his Son is eternally mature.
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The Glory of Kings

HOT OFF THE PRESSES!

Peter J. Leithart & John Barach, eds., The Glory of Kings: A Festschrift in Honor of James B. Jordan (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

Foreword — R. R. Reno

Introduction — Peter J. Leithart

PART ONE: BIBLICAL STUDIES

1. The Glory of the Son of Man: An Exposition of Psalm 8 — John Barach

2. Judah’s Life from the Dead: The Gospel of Romans 11 — Tim Gallant

3. The Knotted Thread of Time: The Missing Daughter in Leviticus 18 — Peter J. Leithart

4. Holy War Fulfilled and Transformed: A Look at Some Important New Testament Texts — Rich Lusk

5. The Royal Priesthood in Exodus 19:6 — Ralph Allan Smith

6. Father Storm: A Theology of Sons in the Book of Job — Toby J. Sumpter

PART TWO: LITURGICAL THEOLOGY

7. On Earth as It Is in Heaven: The Pastoral Typology of James B. Jordan — Bill DeJong

8. Why Don’t We Sing the Songs Jesus Sang? The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of English Psalm Singing — Duane Garner

9. Psalm 46 — William Jordan

PART 3: THEOLOGY

10. A Pedagogical Paradigm for Understanding Reformed Eschatology with Special Emphasis on Basic Characteristics of Christ’s Person — C. Kee Hwang

11. Light and Shadow: Confessing the Doctrine of Election in the Sixteenth Century — Jeffrey J. Meyers

PART FOUR: CULTURE

12. James Jordan, Rosenstock-Huessy, and Beyond — Richard Bledsoe

13. Theology of Beauty in Evdokimov — Bogumil Jarmulak

14. Empire, Sports, and War — Douglas Wilson

Afterword — John M. Frame

The Writings of James B. Jordan, 1975–2011 — John Barach

3. Covenant Maturation

Let us now turn to the application of this One Eternal Covenant into history. We have been looking at Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology has to do with the persons of God and their relationships, with God’s relationships with humanity, and with our maturation toward being junior partners in the Divine community. Thus, the large focus in Covenant Theology is on persons, and we can link this with the Father-aspect of reality. Literary Theology studies how the Word is organized, and thus engages the Son-aspect of reality. When we move to Typology and Ritual, we are moving into the area of artistic imagery and of time sequences, the Spirit-aspect of reality.

These are the three large zones of Biblical Theology. Obviously, since God is One and “all of God does all that God does,” these three aspects of Biblical Theology cannot be separated fully from one another. What we begin to do in this essay is consider how the Spirit applies the one Covenant in history. We shall see that He does so by carrying humanity through ever-widening and ever-deepening spirals of maturation. These spirals or cycles correspond to one another, and thus are typologically related to one another. Thus, in this essay and those that follow, we are beginning to put Covenant and Typological Theology together.
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Hymn Bark is a series designed to purify our good hymns from errors, and purge some bad ones. Here is chapter 2:

Not really much wrong with this hymn, though I wish musicians would teach the congregation how to sing it. Routinely the note at the end of line 3 is changed, which hurts the musical diversity and melodic intensity of the hymn.

The only problem is “all the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.” This is based on a misinterpretation of Revelation 4-5. The Elders in that passage are not saints, for Jesus has not ascended and there are no saints in heaven. They are angels, specifically the 24 Archangels that correspond in heaven to the 24 courses of Temple priests and the 24 courses of Temple musicians. We could change to “angels all adore Thee,” but I recommend just sticking with Biblical language and changing to “elders all adore Thee.”

So, get out those pencils.

When I wrote my commentary on Ecclesiastes A Table in the Mist I took Eccl. 11:1-2 as a reference to the risk of international trade. It sure did seem to me like a reference to Solomon’s risky trade with other nations. Israel exported grain (bread) and Solomon’s ships returned to him with rich cargoes (1 Kings 5:1-12). This seems to fit with the theme of chapter 11. Solomon is issuing a call to be boldly generous and lavishly good to our neighbors.

But now I wonder if there’s another way to understand these verses.

Cast your bread into the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen in the land.

Michael Homan believes that Solomon is advocating the brewing and serving of beer (“Beer Production by Throwing Bread into Water: A New Interpretation of Qoh IX.1-2,” Vestus Testamentum 52:2 [2002]: 275-278).

This looks really promising. First, there are all the references in Ecclesiastes to wine. Solomon advises godly folk to “drink wine” and enjoy life (9:7) with one’s spouse. And this exhortation to make beer and share it with others fits with the idea that the troubles of this life are best alleviated with a joyful reception of food and drink with others (2:24, 25; 3:13; 5:11, 18; 8:15; 9:7).

Secondly, beer is just liquid bread. Or perhaps we should say, as James Jordan puts it, beer is glorified liquid bread. So casting your bread (grain) in the water and waiting many days to find it is about the process of fermentation, especially the anticipation of a glorious final brew.

Third, it needs to be stressed that in the Bible beer and wine are gifts of God given to gladden the hearts of the faithful, especially in times of trouble and distress. Proverbs 31:6 says, “Give beer to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress.” This fits with the last line of 11:2, “for you know not what disaster may happen on the earth.”

Fourth, the social context of this drinking is stressed in 11:2a, “Give a serving to seven, or even to eight.” As Homan notes, “The inclusion of “seven” or “eight” people in Qoh. xi 2 fits with the context of beer drinking as a social event.11 And finally, the term plq, “serving”, is also used for distribution of food to Levites (Deut, xviii 8) and at a festival com- memorating the ark’s entry into Jerusalem, when David distributes victuals to the people (2 Sam. vi 19).”

All of this fits in quite well with Solomon’s conclusion to the book. It highlights the fact that the way to cope with the vaporous quality of human life is to enjoy food and drink, especially wine and beer with others in the Lord’s presence.

I begin here a series of criticisms of hymns commonly sung in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. I begin with the hymn “I bind myself,” commonly called “The Lorica.

There is only one textual problem with the usual sung version of this, and that is the phrase “eternal rocks.” Obviously that phrase is heretical, and all Patrick wrote was “firmness of rock.” We should cross it out in our hymnals and substitute “enduring rocks.”

Musically, the tune used is St. Patrick (Stanford), also called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The melody exists in two slightly different forms. The version originally published in Hymns Ancient and Modern is superior to the version in The English Hymnal, though unfortunately it is the latter that was used in the Cantus Christi hymnal. I suggest musicians obtain the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal (available from amazon.com) and play the version found there. It is only the opening line that is different, but the older version is much richer. Continue Reading »