This sermon was preached at Community Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
This sermon was preached at Community Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.
Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.
Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.
O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the
earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of
infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your
adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your
heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have
ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You
care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him
with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You
have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of
the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes
through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in
all the earth! — Psalm 8
One of the pleasures and responsibilities of being a parent is the power given to us to name your children. My wife and I have spent hours in the past 6 months pilfering the baby name books, family trees, various web sites and other materials seeking for that perfect name for our unborn child. We have a special situation in our house since I am the last male left in the Glaser line however, because if our child is a boy we have to find a name that will not show preference to any side of the family. It must be a name in which all can find solace and none can find prejudice. You see names still mean something in my family and I am quite sure that is true for many of you. Not only can it can go a long way in endearing yourself to a rich uncle or an overbearing Grandmother, if you see it possible to slip in a Margaret or a Michael, but it can have lifelong effects on the child, you try not to give your child a name that can lead to easy teasing or can hinder their progress later in life. How many of you when you meet a Doctor for the first time and he has the name of let say Billy Bob wince a little? Names can mean quite a bit. The question before us today is if the mere naming of a child can be taken with such care and significance, how much more so should it matter how we address our God, our Creator?
We can without even thinking too hard name any number of instances where we see God’s name in our society being used superficially and with great offense. Whether it be politicians or music stars or athletes or ourselves it is not uncommon to hear the name of God nearly constantly being used in a derogatory and mocking manner. We live in an age today where we have become flippant about how we use God’s name and have placed humanity’s will and comfort above what God has commanded and demonstrated for us in his Word concerning his Holy name.
David in the Psalm we read this afternoon begins and ends his Psalm by using the proper name of God, the Trinitarian head of our Faith in a way that only someone who truly knows God can speak. It is vital we understand why it is that David does this and why it is important that we treasure the ability given to us by being children of God to use the name given by God to his people and do so with reverence and with awe. David writes in verse 1, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth…” We can hear David’s love and relationship in that one sentence, David is not saying, “Hey that God? Great Guy.” No David is confessing the splendor and the immeasurable greatness of our God. He goes on in Psalm 8 to lay out all the things that make our God not only the God of creation but the God who cares for the all that he has fashioned and seeks to empower the glory of his creation, humanity, though smaller and seemingly insignificant in its stature to the great universe above, though now fallen because of the sin of Adam, yet is still pre-eminent in the eyes of God so much so that David here speaks forth to the son of man, who is Jesus Christ, that will come and bring the glory and power of God to all the world. In knowing all this how do we ever come to the point where we take God’s name not only for granted but in vain?
The Third Commandment forbids us from taking the name of our Lord God in vain. Deuteronomy 5:11 says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave them unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Moses here uses the same word that David uses in Psalm 8. The unspeakable name of God that the scribes were so afraid of using that they substituted the word adonai or Lord for it. I cannot press enough the point that the Jewish scribes and priests were rightly so afraid of misusing God’s name in vain that they would not even write it down in the Hebrew, instead using another word to signify its presence for the reader. We can recall in Judges 11: 31 the story of the General named Jephthah and his vow to the Lord that if he came back victorious from the battle he was waging that he would sacrifice the first thing which came running out of his house. And if you remember that story the first thing that came out of his house to greet him was, his daughter. Jephthah remembering his vow to God fell down in pain and anguish knowing what he had promised the Lord and did as he had promised because of the fear of breaking God’s Law. Yet we have become so careless with the way we come to God in prayer, in worship, and in our daily life. God has become just another epithet, meaning nothing more than any other word that we cry out so as to fit in with a Godless culture. Not only that but we have completely dismissed the last part of the Third commandment, do any of us really believe anymore that God punishes anyone? Have we become so blasé about God that we doubt his power and his right to do that which he has promised to do? Or do we go as far as to say that well since we are in a New Testament period that must mean that we no longer have to worry about all those outdated and silly claims made by the Mosaic Law that they no longer apply to us? Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18 that, “I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Why do we then think we have a special dispensation to do otherwise? Why do we continue to take the Lord’s name in vain at nearly every opportunity? There is a great power to this name as David shows us in Psalm 8. We would be wise to use it as God has commanded us to.
Jesus gets himself in great trouble whenever he claims for himself the proper name of God to describe himself, and rightly so. If Jesus was not who he claimed to be then he was committing blasphemy by using the Lord’s name in vain, violating the very commandment that we have read today. For if Jesus is not God, if Jesus is not the Second person of the Trinity than he has committed a grievous sin and his death is pointless. We must recognize even this that Christ gave great care and trouble to making sure that the people of Palestine knew who he was and that he was God and is God incarnate and he did so by invoking the very name that David has given us in our Scripture lesson for this morning. As Jesus tells the elders, scribes, and Pharisees in Mark 14:62, “I am He.”
In closing, given these examples and God’s command to his people in His Word how should we come before our Holy and Almighty God but with reverence and awe with the power and the authority and the responsibility of using God’s proper name with care and foresight in our lives? The Scriptures give us stark examples of what happens to those who forsake and abandon the accountability they have been given as children of God. We would be wise today to remember the words of David.