Grant Van Leuven

Psalm 133: Behold our Blessed Brotherhood

Every Christian Sabbath, don’t miss it.  Admire, adore, and appreciate one another and our eternal union in Christ.  And then sing Psalm 122 while you to come to church glad to worship God together united in Christ and unified with the mind of Christ, praying for the peace, happiness, and prosperity of Jerusalem. 

Psalm 133:1 extols, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It teaches us to appreciate how God’s good blessings are especially experienced in the worshipful union and communion of His saints.
This pleasantness is something Christians enjoy in local congregations as well as in the broader fellowship of Presbytery, General Assembly, or Synod gatherings.
See that God bestows His blessings on and through His Church united in worship.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes how the Church is Christ’s body united together, and how it is as one that the members survive and thrive.  They walk with God there.
Psalm 133 is labeled in its title as a song of ascents, part of a themed “mini-series” within Psalms 120-134 believed to be sung by Israelites as they ascended the road to Jerusalem where the Temple was to unite in offering sacrifices and worship.  Verse 1 teaches that such is a great blessing, and verse 3 notes that God commands his blessing there forever.  As well, verse 2 recognizes it  “ran down” from God, or in verse 3, it “descended.”
Blessings flow down from God and gather where He determines.  Thus, assembling together for Christian worship each Lord’s Day and at His table is special fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:16).  And God provides two illustrations of this blessed encounter as His gathered, communing people.
First, see that God sends blessings within His Church through Christ’s priestly propitiation.
Oil brings vigor and vitality back to our skin, with a shine and glow.  It was used to anoint kings, prophets, and priests from and for the Church.
In verse 2, the oil dripping down Aaron’s beard represents his anointing as high priest ministering in the Tabernacle (and Temple), where God brought atonement of sins, forgiveness, restoration of fellowship with God, and union with His saints.

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Psalm 128: The Lord Blesses Those Who Fear Him

“Those whose blessed state we are here assured of are such as fear the Lord and walk in his ways, such as have a deep reverence of God upon their spirits and evidence it by a regular and constant conformity to his will…God blesses them, and his pronouncing them blessed makes them so.”

As my wife and I anticipate our seventh covenant child (and third daughter) joining us early next year, I told our other children that it is their fault that we’re having another baby!  Because they are all so amazing—so wonderful and so precious, and so we wanted to love another of them in our family and church to impact this world for Christ!  Yes, it is a lot of work to care for them, as the world wants us to worry about in fear, but they are also a great blessing from the Lord to we who fear Him.
In fact, God best blesses those who respect Him with many children to build their families and His Church.[1]  So God promised Abraham more children than stars in the sky and sand on the seashore as reflected in his new name, “father of many nations.”  And God gave the Israelites easy births of an enormous amount of babies to outgrow their Egyptian persecutors (and also blessed their faithful midwives).
The Scriptures can hardly imagine anything as a greater temporal blessing than being bestowed with more children.  Thus Psalm 128 expresses this in verses 3 and 6; yet having many children is an illustration of what the Psalm focuses on—people whom God blesses and makes happy:
Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee…Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD. The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life (vs. 1-2, 4-5).
Imagine having the most powerful soldier personally standing guard around you and your family always.  Psalm 34:7 says, The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.  Those that fear Jesus (who trust in and serve Him) enjoy His happy, blessed protection and provision.
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God Personally Cares for Children in the Womb and Prescribes Punishment for Aborting Them, Rewards for Protecting Them

May we beware of such an abhorrent affront to God’s own personal handiwork upon each child in vivo by our nation (too often amidst a complacent and thus compliant church) and pray not only for no federal mandate of its toleration, but even more, for a national law enforced against it and upon every state of the union.

Commenting on Exodus 21 and capital offenses, Umberto Cassuto notes that “The Torah wishes to affirm and establish the principle, in the name of Divine law, that human life is sacred, and whoever assails this sanctity forfeits his own life – measure for measure.”[1]
The civil right of human liberty was emphasized first in this chapter, and is followed by upholding the value of human life.  We must respect and protect all lives;[2] and according to Exodus 21:22-23, this includes the defenseless infant maturing in mother’s womb.
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
Those who wrongly induced risky premature labor were to cover the consequential costs—what’s more, perpetrators who caused a miscarriage had to be executed![3]  This should not surprise us, for God Himself is mysteriously there in utero, personally forming the baby from his or her earliest existence.
Psalm 139:14 reads: I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.[4]  Verse 13 qualifies this making as God’s intimate molding, For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  And verses 15-16 elaborate: My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
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Denial of Sex Distinctions is a Symptom of Evolution

A source of the modern sexual identity crisis explosion is the touting of the theory of evolution, which undermines God’s creative plan and lets “survival of the fittest” function as we see fit.  If we evolved into men and women, we can continue changing.

God reveals Himself not as “Mother,” but “Father,” and so fatherhood is foundational[1] as is maintaining Biblical gender designs during the annual Gay Pride Month this June.
While prototypical man and woman were in many ways the same, they also were given sex distinctions so that they could fit together and function as one amazing whole.
Mark 10:6 reads: But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  Here, Jesus instructs that correct marital (and thus sexual identity) roles are determined by referring back to God’s pre-fall creation design of mankind as unalterably male and female.
We are wise to go back to Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 21-23; 5:2 to appreciate received gender designations.  Notice, “helpmeet” for woman means “counterpart”.
Indeed, woman has a God-given way about her that is self-evident.  Her gender’s distinctions, with myriad superior subtleties, are of no little significance.
Females are unmistakably and wonderfully not masculine. They exude more feeling in a manner that feels like more.  They smell different.  They sound different. They move differently.  They look unique and look at things uniquely.  Their ears and hearts have nuanced sensitivities that round out their coarser counterparts.  They touch us, both men and fellow-women, with a distinctive instinct that is meaningfully softer and smoother.
Only woman can be mother.  Only female can be wife.  Her nature is so naturally hers that both the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible for “wife” are interchangeably “woman” and only discernible by context.
It is abnormal for men, as effeminate as many are today, to actually be feminine, and frankly, impossible.  What woman has inside her can only be cheaply imitated by a man to another man.  She alone can shine as female from within.  Only Hannah can cry and sing over motherhood.  Only Abigail can slow down David and make him marvel at her delicate influence.
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Denial of Sex Distinctions is a Symptom of Evolution

Culture tries to forcefully reconstruct what cannot be of maleness and femaleness and humaneness.  Let us recognize a dangerous modern source of monstrous gender mimicking, manipulation, mutilation, and malfunction—the theory of evolution.  And that Denial of Sex Distinctions is Devolution.[5]

God reveals Himself not as “Mother,” but “Father,” and so fatherhood is foundational[1] as is maintaining Biblical gender designs during the annual Gay Pride Month this June.
While prototypical man and woman were in many ways the same, they also were given sex distinctions so that they could fit together and function as one amazing whole.
Mark 10:6 reads: But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  Here, Jesus instructs that correct marital (and thus sexual identity) roles are determined by referring back to God’s pre-fall creation design of mankind as unalterably male and female.
We are wise to go back to Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 21-23; 5:2 to appreciate received gender designations.  Notice, “helpmeet” for woman means “counterpart”.
Indeed, woman has a God-given way about her that is self-evident.  Her gender’s distinctions, with myriad superior subtleties, are of no little significance.
Females are unmistakably and wonderfully not masculine. They exude more feeling in a manner that feels like more.  They smell different.  They sound different. They move differently.  They look unique and look at things uniquely.  Their ears and hearts have nuanced sensitivities that round out their coarser counterparts.  They touch us, both men and fellow-women, with a distinctive instinct that is meaningfully softer and smoother.
Only woman can be mother.  Only female can be wife.  Her nature is so naturally hers that both the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible for “wife” are interchangeably “woman” and only discernible by context.
It is abnormal for men, as effeminate as many are today, to actually be feminine, and frankly, impossible.  What woman has inside her can only be cheaply imitated by a man to another man.  She alone can shine as female from within.  Only Hannah can cry and sing over motherhood.

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Christians Must Protest Pride Parades and Their Violent, Sodom-like, Riotous Stonewall Origin

As God’s chosen, Christians must carefully choose how to live where they live.  You are not to be anything like those living around you.  Especially if it is a place like Sodom.

During this month, as the LGBTQ+ community annually parades its banner colors they blasphemously hijack from God’s noahic covenant,[1] Christians will benefit revisiting Genesis 19:1-25[2] (as Carl Trueman has recently called for such posts in this World Magazine article).  Here, God visited Sodom and destroyed the sexually wicked majority while mercifully rescuing the righteous remnant within it.
Look to Lot as your example of righteous living amidst wickedness.
Lot responded to the angels’ presence exactly like his uncle Abraham, with reverence, deference, supplication, faith, and obedience.  While in the midst of a diseased orchard of wickedness, yet Lot grew and produced different fruit while righteously grieving over the filthy debauchery of his neighbors (2 Peter 2:7-8).
As God’s chosen, Christians must carefully choose how to live where they live.  You are not to be anything like those living around you.  Especially if it is a place like Sodom.
See how Sodom is a warning for you to be in the world but not of it.
As Genesis 13:13 forecasted, …the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly, so in Genesis 18:20-21, God revealed to Abraham that there were not even 10 righteous left to justify sparing the city.
The angels sent by God found the Sodomites to be inflamed with unnatural sexual relations warned about as a final judgment upon a people gone wild in Romans 1:24-28.[3]  All the men, young and old, tried to force themselves inside Lot’s house to sodomize his visitors!  They despised his appeals, pushed in further, and threatened worse evil upon him!  The angels pulled Lot in, barricaded the door, and blinded the aggressors.
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Psalm 56:3: When You’re Afraid Trust in God

Fear is your situation.  Faith is your solution.  That is, trusting or believing God.  This is a volitional act. So David proclaims to himself before God, “I will”.  Faith relies on the Lord by choosing to pray, sing, and study instead of worrying, fretting, and fleeing. Notice especially how much God’s Word is spoken of frequently in this Psalm to conquer fear and foes. 

About one year ago while lying in bed I whispered to God in desperation: “I am so afraid.”  It was the most heightened sense of dread I had ever experienced (and I and my household had already made it through some pretty horrific times over the last half decade).
Then the voices of children from a Psalm CD we often listen to came to me: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you God.”  Singing these words lifted me out of bed to do what had to be done.
So may you in any trial recite Psalm 56:3 for your resolve: What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.  It teaches us that when Christians are scared of what people will do to them they must strengthen themselves in God.
There are times when you will feel terrified by what’s happening to you.  What should you do?  When You’re Afraid Trust in God.[1]
There are many times you will be very afraid of people and problems pressing in on you.
Imagine that everyone around you is coming to kill you.  You would not likely sleep soundly unless you know your rescue is raising dust smoke on the horizon.
David’s situation in this Psalm is imminently dangerous and terrifying.  The Geneva Bible Study Notes of Reformation times explain, He shows that if God will help him, it must be now or never for all the world is against him and ready to devour him.[2]  This context is clear from the title: … Michtam of David, when the Philistines took him in Gath.[3]  Thus he cries out in verses 1-2 and 5-6 for God’s speedy deliverance because his daily experience is being surrounded by enemies gathering together to “swallow him up” in a fight.
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Let’s Study the Beatitudes! Part 8, Blessed Peacemakers

Real, Christian peace only comes through Jesus (Col. 1:20; Eph. 2:14-15). True peace-making declares repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ in how we handle our other relations (Rom 10:15).  For the fruit of the Spirit is peace (Gal. 5:22) which grows with the mind of God for making more (2 Cor. 13:11) and an endeavor for its unified bonding (Eph. 4:3).

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus preached, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God, proclaiming that God’s children are shown to be His by extending their Father’s peace to others as something they enjoy, often by exertion.
Peacemaking is not keeping the peace at all costs, which really just leads to war.
When England and France signed the Munich Agreement to appease Hitler’s deceptive, insatiable aggression, it inevitably led to the Second World War.
Sometimes, the only way to make peace is war, as Paul recognizes in Rom. 16:20 that peace on earth only comes by putting down the Deceiver.  Thomas Watson warns, “One bad member in a parish endangers the whole … There are many [who] would have peace with the destroying of truth … This is a peace of the devil’s making.”[1]
The Greek for “peacemakers” means not “peace-keepers” but “peace-doers.”  A.W. Pink qualifies, it is “not a peace at any price … that is a false peace, unworthy to be called peace at all,”[2] of which Jer. 6:14, 8:11 and Ezek. 13:10, 16 bemoan.[3]
Jesus later explained, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt. 10:34)  We may not sheathe Christ’s Word (Heb. 4:12).  Peacekeepers do not avoid conflict but confront and resolve it.
Peacemaking actively reconciles at great risk and personal cost, which alone creates real peace.
Mike Wallace reported this remarkable peace seeking in the Middle East:
On November 9, 1977 … the president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, dropped a diplomatic bombshell.  In a speech before the Egyptian parliament, he said that his desire for a permanent peace in the Middle East was so strong that he “would go even to the home of the Israelis, to the Kneset, to discuss peace with them.”

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The Covenant of Grace

R.C. Sproul writes, “The covenant of grace, rather than annihilating the covenant of works, makes provision for someone else to fulfill the covenant of works for us…We are still justified by works—the works of Jesus, not our own.”

Previously, we saw the importance of understanding a covenant as an agreement in Scripture, and that the Covenant of Works existed with Adam before the Fall with the promise of life for obedience (which we qualified typologically as temporal, not eternal—earthy, not heavenly). All these details were to fully appreciate God’s plan for Jesus Christ to fulfill the Covenant of Works as eternal God and earn Christians eternal life. Now the Confession transitions into the Covenant of Grace stressing that the only possibility for anyone’s everlasting security is Solus Christus (in Christ Alone).
WCF 7.3:  Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,(e) commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him that they may be saved,(f) and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.(g)[1]
After the Fall, the Covenant of Works is still binding on all Adam’s posterity, but it only condemns. Adam became “incapable of [maintaining] life.” E. Clark Copeland explains, “… that the covenant of grace brings to consummation the covenant of life and confirms its principle of perfect obedience to the Lord God is confirmed through the Scripture in the command to be perfect as He is perfect, and in man’s accountability at the judgment …”[2] The Covenant of Grace is gracious in terms of what it bestows to us, but it is a reward for perfect obedience in relation to Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Still, the Confession teaches that this salvation does have a condition: the requirement of faith (see WLC 32).[3] Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and thus to be saved. Copeland writes, “The gospel offer is made in covenant terms.”[4] Wayne Spear instructs, “In one sense, then, the Covenant of Grace may be said to be conditional. Its command is to believe, and the promised salvation is given only to those who believe … those whom God has chosen from eternity are enabled to fulfill the condition of the Covenant of Grace.”[5] Indeed, faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God ordains our salvation, and He meets His condition by making us “willing and able to believe”—so it is all His sovereign grace.[6]   Still, as Watson emphasizes, “Faith is the condition of the covenant of grace; without faith, without covenant; and without covenant, without hope.”[7]
Some add a distinction of the “Covenant of Redemption” as the Trinity’s eternal commitment to the Covenant of Grace for the redeemed realized in time.  However, A.A. Hodge instructs that our standards
“…say nothing of two covenants…but assume that there is but one covenant contracted by Christ in behalf of the elect with God in eternity, and administered by him to the elect in the offers and ordinances of the gospel and in the gracious influences of his Spirit…The Confession of Faith in these sections teaches how that same covenant is administered by Christ to his people.”[8]
So the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 31 reads, “The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.”[9]
WCF 7.4: This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.(h)[10]
The Greek word for “testament” is usually translated as “covenant” in Scripture, but it is appropriately rendered by the Confession here reflecting Hebrews 9:15 with Christ passing on our inheritance to us through His “last will and testament” enacted by the cross.[11] O. Palmer Robertson points out that “the theme of Hebrews 9:15ff is covenant inauguration,”[12] and explains that the idea of “testament” here relates to Christ agreeing to take on the death penalty of the Covenant of Works and so put it and its curse to death, thus bequeathing us His righteous life in the Covenant of Grace (see Rev. 21:7).
WCF 7.5: This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel:(i) under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come:(k) which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,(l) by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called, the Old Testament.(m)[13]
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Working through the Covenant of Works

Those who object to Adam meriting in Eden seem to neglect the distinction of his living continually before the Fall as righteous and good and thus enjoying further living communion with God.

In the first article of this series on covenant theology, we saw that “covenant” is, exegetically, essentially an “agreement.” Isaiah 28:15, 18 practically demonstrates this by twice using the words interchangeably as poetic synonyms. We also noted that some take strong exception to such an understanding of “covenant.” Much of the impetus of that concern seems to be what receives even more angst: the concept of the “Covenant of Works” and Adam meriting life with God in the Garden, of which the Confession next speaks.[1]
WCF 7:2: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,(b) wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity,(c) upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.(d)[2]
The Threat of Death Implied the Promise of Life in Eden
Again, some particularly express disdain for this section of the WCF because they think it makes man an equal partner with God,[3] and they especially reject the idea that man could have ever merited anything from the Lord based upon his behavior. But we do see the elements of a covenant of works in the Garden with righteous Adam before the Fall: parties, stipulations, wages of reward for obedience (continuing in life as they knew it) or disobedience (death, see Romans 6:23). In pre-Fall Paradise, God imposes the covenant and is the sovereign party to it, and He justly chooses to reward obedience with life.[4] Spear affirms life’s conditions in the Garden: “The Covenant of Works expresses the terms upon which God established a relationship with Adam immediately after his creation.”[5] The fact that there is only an explicit prohibition with the promise of punishment does not negate the implied opposite of the reward of life for obedience.
The guidance of the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) Q&A 99:4 on interpreting the 10 Commandments is helpful to remember in this discussion: “ … where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included” (emphasis added). J. Gresham Machen explains:

“It is true, the Bible does not describe the covenant in just exactly that way. It does not describe it in positive terms but only in negative terms, and it does not describe it in general terms but only by the presentation of a concrete example of the kind of conduct on the part of man that would deprive man of the benefits of the covenant … But although the covenant is directly put only in a negative form, the positive implications are perfectly clear. When God established death as the penalty of disobedience, that plainly meant that if man did not disobey he would have life. Underlying the establishment of the penalty there is clearly a promise … The Bible seems rather clearly to teach that death, even physical death, was the penalty of sin, and that life, even physical life, would have been the result of obedience.”[6]

Adam agreed as a willing party of the covenant by virtue of his obedience; otherwise, it makes no sense to say he disobeyed and fell from life and original righteousness. Adam was obedient to God’s terms of life in Paradise, a covenant. One is faithful to a relationship by virtue of its mutual terms of agreement (written or oral, explicit or understood). Adam’s reward was promised life “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience”, says the Confession. He had to obey and thus maintain his original righteousness (given to him no doubt) to stay in the garden.
Adam Was a Good, Moral Being Living God’s Law Righteously Before the Fall
Those who object to Adam meriting in Eden seem to neglect the distinction of his living continually before the Fall as righteous and good and thus enjoying further living communion with God. Machen points out:
“Man as created … was like God not only in that he was a person but also in that he was good … How utterly the plainly intended parallel between the new creation and the first creation [in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24 with Gen. 1:27] would break down if the image of God were to be interpreted in entirely different senses in the two cases—as involving righteousness and holiness in the case of the new creation and as involving the mere gift of personal freedom without moral quality in the case of the first creation! … So moral likeness is certainly not excluded when the first book of the Bible tells us that God created man in His own image … Man was created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.”[7]
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