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The God-Happy Way of Life

Initial sermon draft for this Sunday (I’ll be preaching in Jonesboro, Arkansas) is now complete.

Sermon text: Psalm 1.

Title: “The God-Happy Way of Life.”

Kidner suggests that the term usually translated “blessed” is better translated “happy”—there is, after all, another Hebrew term for “blessed.” Beyond that, “blessed” is a very mushy term in our Christian culture. (Especially down here in the South, but it’s a general affliction, I think.) Kidner suggests that “happy” is a better translation.

At the same time, we need to be clear that the Psalm is not just talking about any happiness. The “happy” in verse 1 is looking forward to the rest of the Psalm. Not least: “Yahweh knows the way of the righteous.”

There is nothing wrong with desiring to be happy. But we must define happiness, and we also must orient ourselves toward the proper sort of happiness. When our delight is in the Word of the Lord, it is the Lord who determines and defines the nature of happiness.

Thus, the Psalm is not merely about “how to be happy” in some generic sense. It is the portrait of the God-happy way of life.

Two Assemblies of Psalm 1

It’s sometimes overlooked due to the ambiguity of English renderings such as “the wicked” and “the righteous” (translations of words which in fact are plural in the Hebrew), but Psalm 1 is a thoroughly communal statement regarding competing assemblies. Yes, it is talking about “the man” who is blessed, and indeed some of his activity is the sort of thing that would mark his life in private (e.g. his day and night “meditating” upon Yahweh’s Torah).

Nonetheless, the focus of the Psalm as a whole is communal. It is the counsel of wicked men which he does not walk in, and he does not sit in the seat of the scorners. That last clause could just as suitably be rendered he does not dwell in the assembly of the scorners, and this assembly is then ultimately contrasted to the congregation of the righteous men in verse 5.

Thus, while Psalm 1 is (legitimately) lent to the idea of something like private devotions, it is ultimately a statement about community. The righteous meditator is not one whose meditation is that of hermit, but rather is one whose meditation takes place within the congregation of the righteous. His righteousness is as public as the unrighteousness of the sinners in whose way and counsel he refuses to walk and stand.

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Mutter Your Way to Life or Death

Psalm 1:2 tells us to meditate upon the law (Word) of God day and night. The Hebrew word translated “meditate” literally could be rendered “mutter.” What is in view is ruminating upon the Word of God in such a way that it is internalized and transforms our thinking.

Now consider what happens if we meditate upon the perceived slights against us and our hardships and difficulties. We all know the type of person who, when facing difficulty, starts muttering “under his breath.” This is a form of meditation, but now it is meditation upon the discontentment within our hearts rather than upon the Word of God. (more…)

Philippians 2–3 in a Nutshell

A great deal of Philippians 2–3 in a nutshell:

Just as the Messiah shared the form of our humiliation, we will share the form of His glory.

Summorphos (sharing in form) in suffering, summorphos in resurrection.

Found Schematics in Philippians

Jesus was “found in schemati (fashion, likeness) as a man” (Philippians 2:7); Paul looks to be “found in Him” (3:9), who will “re-schematize” (metaschematizo) our body to be like His own (3:21). Jesus was found to be in the schema of man; Paul wants to be found in the schema of the New Man.

The exaltation of the resurrected Messiah is to the glory (doxa) of God the Father (2:11). When we are re-schematized to share in the Messiah’s body of glory (doxa), it is the glory of the Father.

Morphology in Philippians

Philippians 3:21’smorphology” theme relates directly to 2:6, 7. The Messiah, though in the form (morphe) of God, emptied Himself and came in the form of a servant, and God exalted Him (explicitly: with an exalted name; implicitly, with a glorified morphe, as per 3:21). So likewise, the body of our humiliation will be reordered, transformed to the morphe of the glorified Messiah (summorphos, 3:21). Even as the Messiah took the morphe of a servant (2:7), Paul by example teaches us to lay hold on the morphe of glory. (See 3:21 in the full context of 3:12ff’s language of apprehension and pursuit.)

Body of Humiliation

The “body of our humiliation” in Philippians 3:21 is similar to what Paul writes elsewhere about “our mortal bodies” (Rom 6:12; cf “the body of this death,” Rom 7:24). It corresponds to Jesus humbling Himself to the point of death (Phi 2:8), and contrasts to His present “body of glory” (3:21).

There is a connection between humility and humiliation; the former is commanded and commended in Phi 2:3: we are to put away rivalry and conceit in favour of in humility counting others of greater significance than ourselves. Interestingly, glory fundamentally has the idea of weight, thus positing an interesting juxtaposition of counting others to be greater than ourselves with the weight of glory. Humility means making light of ourselves (which is not the same thing as self-denigration; Jesus is our pattern) and giving glory to others. This is the way of the cross.

Thus, within the context of the broken form of the present world, this humility involves humiliation—giving ourselves up in obedience to death, as the Messiah Himself did (Phi 3:8). It is precisely in view of this that God has highly exalted Him as Lord (3:9); and so too as we follow this pathway of the cross, we are assured that He will employ His Lordship to exalt us, to change our bodies to share in the same glory as His resurrected body. We will be given a weight that will overcome death itself.

The Lord of the Body

Our citizenship is registered in heaven, from which we await a Saviour—the Lord, Jesus the Messiah—who will reorder the body of our humiliation, in correspondence to the body of His glory, according to the working of His power by which He is able to subject all things to Himself.” [Phi 3:20–21]

The power that transforms the body of our humiliation is the same power by which Jesus subjects all things to Himself. Put another way: the resurrection is a function of the Lordship of the Messiah. He is “Lord of the body” not only in the sense of a mastery that has authority over our sexual behaviour for instance (cf 1 Cor 6:13), but in the sense that He has mastery over the body’s very constitution, and can and will change it to correspond to His own resurrection glory.

Seen in this light, denial of the bodily resurrection is a denial of the Lordship of Jesus.