Wednesday, December 13, 2017

One of those Christmas letters

We are pleased to say that 2017 has seen no great occurrences in the lives of the Lloyds. Please feel free to skip to the final paragraph if you would like to miss out the boastful padding in which I (Marc) largely go on about myself.

I had a 3-month sabbatical. The diocese currently allows these for 10 years of good behaviour, so I have started being good again and counting the days! It made me look forward to retirement – though I may well have to go on until I’m dribbling into the chalice. Although I worked pretty hard for most of it, it really was wonderful to please myself and not the have the weekly treadmill of preparation. I didn’t look at a single agenda or revise any minutes, though I did (perhaps foolishly) keep half an eye on my emails. I spent 10 days speaking on an Oak Hall trip to Israel (my first time) which I would highly recommend as the most economical way to see Biblical sites in around Jerusalem and Galilee, and with an evangelical set up. The parishioners are demanding slide shows! Unfortunately, I, and many on the trip, were afflicted with E-Coli. I will need to go back again to explore The Mount of Olives which I missed for the sake of close fellowship with the loo! It was a tremendous relief to get off the plane without accident. As well as a bit of praying and reflecting and that sort of thing, I also spent 3 weeks at London Seminary and have 90% written two potential journal articles about the doctrine of Scripture. I now need to fuss around in the footnotes with the Chicago Manual of Style, so they will probably never see the light of day. I have not done a stroke on them since returning to work in July.

Parish ministry continues to proceed happily enough. For the first time in living memory every post in the Deanery is filled so I don’t have to worry too much about interregna for the time being. Mrs Lloyd’s toddler group continues to be beating people off with a stick and we are rejoicing that 7 mums and 2 leaders have been studying the Bible together at the Rectory. This feels like a dramatic breakthrough for us!

The nappy years are drawing to an end and Mrs Lloyd (age undisclosed) has been having high powered singing lessons, has joined 2 choirs and been involved in a number of concerts, recently enjoying singing in the Messiah. Scripture is being hummed around the house. Oh, and we have splashed out on a baby grand piano. We are pretentiously calling The Old Study, The Music Room!

Jono (10) is often beating me at chess now. He continues to disappoint me by having an inordinate knowledge of the round-ball Premiership and so on. Our Saturdays are often spent transporting him to some cold and rainy part of Kent or Sussex so that he can chase around in the mud.

Abi (7) continues to Irish dance and won a trophy at her first competition (an extraordinary occasion to be seen to be believed) and has joined Warbleton Brass Band which is virtually free and provides instruments. We were getting Reveille at 5am on the cornet at one stage, but thankfully that has diminished. We now need to find a happy medium between over-eagerness and little or no practice.

After much lamenting of “I’m rubbish and I can’t do it” middle-child syndrome Matthew (5) is now reading confidently and enjoying taking his spellings to bed with him. Meal times are perhaps too dominated by maths quizzes, when anyone can get a word in edge ways.   

Thomas (3) is as lively as ever. He has just starred in his nursery nativity play as the star and made the most of his line (“I am the star!”) by shouting it repeatedly.

Caleb the dog is showing signs of age as he approaches 10. He was a 30th birthday present for me so I am also wondering whether I should have some kind of midlife crisis and invest in a red sports car.

A very Merry Christmas to you! Marc, Yvonne, Jono, Abigail, Matt Matt, Tommy and Caleb the dog. Oh, and Esther the cat, who is also flourishing, recently obtained a distinction in Grade 8 Oboe and has applied to read medicine at Oxford.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

An advent sermon introduction (notes)

I know it’s a boring cliché for the Vicar to complain about the fact that Christmas now follows hot on the heals of Halloween.

But its true, isn’t it?

The supermarkets have been piled high with mince pies since 1st November.

And now we are very much into maximum tinsel and fairy lights.

And, without being too much of a misery-guts party-pooper, there are some losses to it, I think.

One of the negative consequences of that is that we tend to miss out on the 12 days of Christmas.

Did you know that traditionally Christmas is a long old feast?

But we have a 2 month build up to one morning followed by dreadful anti-climax.

The columnist Peter Hitchens has complained, lamenting:

"what actually lies beyond Christmas Day is flat disappointment, every sense stirred and tuned to expect something marvellous, and then just a lot to eat and drink, a few presents and a long, numb celebration of the miraculous birth of TV."

That’s made us all feel jolly, hasn’t it?!

I hope your Christmas will be more than the celebration of the birth of TV, or even of Santa!

But the greater problem is front-loaded, I think.

The Christmas build up has almost totally eclipsed Advent.

It just so happens that this is the only time this year I’ll preach a proper Advent Sermon to you, so here we go:

Traditionally you would save Christmas till Christmas Eve.

Now, we can’t hold back the tide.

And as I say it would be rather unattractive for church people to pour a bucket of cold water on pagan festivity.

 But traditionally Advent would be a stripped back, spare time of waiting, of anticipation, of preparation – and it can be something of that for us still.

Now, you wont find the seasons of the church’s year as such explicitly in the Bible.

But you’ve got to divide up and count and label time somehow.

So the life of Jesus seems a good way to organise the calendar.

And Advent seems an important part of that.

We think, you’ll recall, about Jesus’ coming.

“Coming” or “arrival” is what advent means.

There should be bonus points for those who manage to slip the word “advent” into conversation over coffee.

We anticipate the celebration of Christ’ first advent at Christmas, and traditionally especially his second Advent when he shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Here is the time of the year to focus at least in part on that.

Traditionally Advent focused on what are called the Four Last Things:



Heaven and Hell.

They are not exactly Santa and sleigh-bells, are they?

Very different from the extended season of school nativities and pre-Christmas office parties.

All these have their place, of course.

I can see that Advent as traditionally conceived might not make you feel very warm and fuzzy, but would it not do us good?

Are these four things not grand and momentous, serious, life-changing?

They really matter to us all, don’t they?

At least sometimes, is it not right to recall the death to which we are all inexorably and certainly moving?

Momento mori.

Slave who supposedly whispered in the Roman Emperor’s ear – remember your mortality, glory fades

Victorians – facts of life and fact of death.

Our death will certainly come and it could come at any time.

Far more important to be ready for that than to be ready for the last posting day before Christmas – which actually is Fri 22nd in the UK if you send it Special Delivery Guaranteed for Saturday.

That probably costs your entire life savings.

More important to pre-order your place in heaven than your free-range-organic-corn-fed turkey for 12.

It is appointed to human beings to die and then the judgement.

It is not necessarily an easy or a happy thing to think about.

It is very tempting for the vicar to just tell a few jokes and anecdotes.

Keep it light and uplifting.

But these 4 last things surely matter.

I don’t recommend this, but often medieval churches would have a fresco of the last judgement, or the doom, as it was sometimes called, on the West Wall over there so that as you went out of church it was the last thing you would see.

It’s saying: live in the light of eternity.

Live as those who have an everlasting soul, as those who will stand before the judgement seat of Christ.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Advent: Watching for the imminent return of Christ

We are sometimes told that we should live in the imminent expectation of Christ’s return.

Jesus is coming back!

And he could come at any moment!


Keep alert!

Be ready!

Is that what the Bible teaches?

Well, maybe.

Sort of.


You see, the thing is, if you lived in the imminent expectation of Christ’s return, you would have been wrong so far, by definition!

Could Jesus come again today?

Well, yes, certainly, if he wanted to.

Will he?

More than likely not.

Indeed, I’d bet you £1000 he doesn’t.

Probably doesn’t matter if you lose, does it?!

Many Christians throughout church history have expected the imminent return of Christ, and so far at least they have been wrong.

Eventually they will be right, of course, but maybe not in your lifetime or mine.

Maybe not for many generations.

Martin Luther allegedly once said, even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree.
(Apparently its almost certain that Luther never said that, but he should have done!)

We need to both live as if Christ could come today and as if he might not come for 10 000 years.

We need to teach our children.

We need to build institutions.

It is no good failing to prepare your sermon because Jesus might come again on Saturday night.

We must have both a short term and a long term approach.

That is, I will be faithful now and I will do what I can to increase the amount of faithfulness around when I am long gone.

Imagine two scenarios.

A teacher leaves the classroom.

I’ll be back, she says, until then read the text book and answer the questions.

One group lives in the imminent expectation of the teacher’s return.

They post two look outs and they live it up.

The cards and the fags are broken out.

The paper aeroplanes fly.

The text books are neglected.

But they are alert and watchful.

In a way they are always ready:

When the teacher hoves into view they can be sat at their desks quietly, but the room will stink of tobacco and the questions will be unanswered.

Another group gets on with the questions from the textbook.

Are they always ready for the return of the teacher at any moment?

Yes, because they are being faithful.

Are they obsessed with when the return will be?


That is not a matter for them.

They are absorbed in the text on page 39, as the teacher said they should be.

They are not always expecting the imminent return of the teacher – she could even slip back into the room suddenly unnoticed - but they are always ready because they are faithful.

Will the Son of Man find faithfulness in our classroom when he comes?

(PS. nothing original here. I think I got that analogy from one of my theological college teachers)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Vicar Writes To His Parishioners

From The Rectory

It is with some trepidation that I pen this letter to parishioners. On 4th December, The Daily Telegraph reported that The Revd Andy Thewlis had written a strongly worded letter to the members of his church. He told them off amongst other things for arrogance, gossip, disunity, lack of warmth and welcome and for being unco-operative. He thought their worship and church-life had suffered and he said he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his health and his family’s well-being by putting up with it all. The hapless cleric has since had an urgent meeting with his Bishop, has written a letter of apology, is taking a sabbatical and looking for another job! Much as I enjoyed my recent sabbatical, I hope this parish magazine item wont lead to the Bishop telling me to clear off for another three months!

Now, of course, we don’t know the ins and outs of The Revd Mr Thewlis’ situation. We haven’t even seen the full text of the letter. No doubt there are rights and wrongs on both sides. And the Vicar has obviously conceded, albeit perhaps under a degree of pressure, that there were things for which he ought to apologise. But I’d like to bet many members of the clergy will have been tempted to give their congregations a few aptly worded home truths. And I know for certain that many ministers have been blessed with communications from parishioners telling them how to sort out their lives, or families, or their gardens even (“The state of your lawn brings the gospel into disrepute, Vicar!”), and how to do their job rather better. Some clergy even say they receive what they can only call hate-mail. There is a lot to be said for restraint before hitting “Send” or especially “Reply All” on both “sides”.

My purpose here is not to whine about the lot of a Vicar. Obviously a doubling of stipend would be welcome. The role certainly has its challenges but it also has many blessings. The complaints of some clergy can sound like first world problems. In many ways there are lots of harder jobs and many would say that being a vicar is the best job in the world – a huge privilege at least. There might be emotional and spiritual demands to clerical life, but I regularly give thanks for my twenty-second commute, as well as for more exalted spiritual aspects of the vocation!

But maybe I might presume to make two points both for clergy and people.

The first is about criticism and encouragement. It can be easy to find fault. And often this will be legitimate. Sometimes it might even be helpful. But we ought to remember the words of someone rather important about specks and logs. We hear helpful suggestions much better in a context of respect and appreciation. We ought to say “thank you!” often. When I worked for the Christian Union movement we had a mantra of “encourage the good wherever you find it”. I used to quip that sometimes I was reduced to saying to students, “Oh, I like your shirt”, but it is a good principle.  

The second is about allowing God to criticise us. Although the Apostle Paul sometimes did so, it is probably unwise for Vicars to write to all their parishioners naming names of the most unhelpful people in their living. As I’ve said, criticism can very easily be overdone. And of course we should not equate the Vicar’s voice with the voice of God. But is anyone able to challenge or correct us? Do we admit that we are sinners who actually sin and who have real stuff we ought to repent of? When was the last time you said sorry to anyone? God’s Word the Bible is given in part for correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. We should pray for the Spirit’s work to actually show us our moral faults and to transform us. Church life can be too cosy and comfortable for some and there is wisdom in the old adage that the preacher should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Well, I hope this letter was helpful. I heard recently of a Vicar who used to post any critical correspondence he received on the church notice board. It is perhaps a 20th century version of re-tweeting and so exposing abusive messages. I probably won’t be doing that, but we should always remember that things spoken in a corner will be proclaimed from the rooftops and that there is one to whom we will give an account for every careless word.

The Revd Marc Lloyd


To my mind, "Scholasticism" should not be a theological dirty word. The attempt to distinguish and speak precisely is an important part of the theologian's tool-kit. However, it is not the only nor necessarily the best apparatus he has at his disposal. Ideally the theologian will be both scholastic and poet. He will teach and pray and sing.

The would-be scholastic must remember the primacy of the Bible. The Bible remains normative and it is the best form of speech for the purposes for which God gave it. Sometimes it is more scholastic, sometimes less so, but on the whole it is a book of stories and songs and prayers and letters and proverbs and laws and visions and so on, not a Systematic Theology text book - and we must say that it is all the better for that. God could have inspired a 10 volume Dogmatics had he wished. He did not.

Secondly, we should remember that it is both true to say that God does not change and that God repented, although in different ways. Language is never absolutely univocal and language about God is always especially analogical. This is true even of the most precise statements of the scholastics.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Andrew Wilson, Unbreakable: What The Son of God Said About The Word of God

Some very brief study questions / notes / passages to discuss for our book group:

What’s the basic idea of the book? Where does it start?

Do you find that a convincing approach? Why?

Did anything strike you about the summary of the Bible’s story pp11-14?

How would you sum up Jesus’ attitude to the Bible?

Could you go into any detail or give any examples?

Temptation narrative – Jesus uses the bible as the final, authoritative court of appeal – Mt 4:4, 7, 10 p17

God’s word enough, coherent, authoritative

David speaking by the Holy Spirit – Mt 22:41-46 – v43; Mk 12:35-37 – inspiration

Human writers like different musical instruments

2 Pt 1:21

2 Tim 3:16

John 10:22-39 – you are gods – Scripture cannot be broken

Matthew 5:17-19

How should we react when the bible seems broken? p25

The coherence of Scripture - Marriage at the resurrection - Mk 12:18-27 quoting Ex 3

Prov 26:4-5 – answering a fool according to his folly

What is the central message of the Scriptures? Lk 24:13-35

Jesus the new Adam, Eve etc. p32ff – the deep coherent artistry of Scripture a strong case for its inspiration

Canon – how do we know what books ought to be in the Bible? Ch 6 – p35ff

See p37 and fn 21 p73, Jesus gave his own teaching an authority equal to Scripture

The New Testament as from the Apostolic circle

Is the Bible clear? Ch 8 p44ff

The sufficiency of scripture – Lk 16:19-31, parable of Lazarus and the rich man

2 Tim 3:16f

The point of the Scriptures – Jn 5:39-40

Do you find the 5 principles of interpretation given in the epilogue helpful? p63f

Friday, November 03, 2017

Psalm 10 - an outline

Psalm 10: A poem

Not rhyme but parallelism

And a broken acrostic with Psalm 9

A poetic description not a systematic theology text book

A Problem: why is God far off in times of trouble? (v1)

A Picture of a bad person getting away with it (vv2-11)

A Prayer that God would act (vv12-18)

Promises that God sees and will act, judging and saving (v14, vv16-17)

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Samey Psalms

There has been much discussion in recent years over the grouping of the Psalms. Presumably the editors of the Psalter did not merely throw them up in the air and see where they landed. And they are not obviously grouped according to form (for example, its not shortest to longest). So it seems fair to assume that there might be some kind of thematic grouping. And indeed that often seems to be the case.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge to the preacher:

It is helpful to read the Psalm in conjunction with the surrounding Psalms. They can amplify or balance what an individual Psalm has to say.

But the preacher has to work especially hard to see the distinctive contribution of this Psalm. If preaching through the Psalter (which may or may not be the best approach) he can't say, well, Psalm 9, I repeat the sermon I gave on Psalm 7 and then shut up. Or at least he shouldn't. And, of course, this is especially so if he thinks the situation or feeling of his people is not immediately similar to the particular psalms he has before him.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

gods, garbage, good gifts

Mrs Lloyd has been reading an extract about caffeine from The Revd Steve Hoppe's new book, Sipping Salt Water, on the Good Book Company blog. Hoppe says we can treat created things as gods, garbage or good gifts, and the schema seemed worth stealing to me. As we know, things make good servants and bad masters. They should be neither worshipped nor despised but received from God's hands as good gifts with gratitude and used for his glory and the good of ourselves and others.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Poetry not Systematic Theology

The Bible is not a Systematic Theology text book. Arguably, at least, the books of Proverbs and Psalms are particularly far from being so.

So for example, when Psalm 10:1 asks, "Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" we have a cry from the Psalmist's heart arising from his experience, although ultimately intended to be of benefit to believers in general.

We should not expect the rest of the Psalm to be a sustained, exhaustive, scientific account of all the possible reasons why God may be or seem aloof from any believer in any circumstances. The Psalms express a truth or truths but not necessarily the whole truth, and they express themselves in a poetic manner. As inspired Scripture, what the Psalm says is true but it might be true of some people in some circumstances from a certain point of view in a sense or manner of speaking and there might be many other things to say.

This is particularly obvious and important when it comes to reading the Psalms and the Proverbs, but actually, it is worth keeping in mind when reading the Epistles, which seem to be the Bible at its most doctrinal. God in his wisdom has given the catholic church occasional letters to specific churches which are meant to be significant for us all, though not necessarily quite in the same way that they applied to the 1st Century Corinthian church. Yes, go back to  Corinth but come back with rightly understood and applied goodies.

A poem what I wrote about English and Hebrew poems

I am currently preaching a little sermon series off and on in the Psalms and I am thinking of using the following at a forthcoming family service to illustrate a difference between English and Biblical Hebrew poetry and hopefully in the process to help people to read the Psalms. Probably there are rather better examples out there doing the same thing. Improvements or alternatives are of course welcome.

Update: over lunch today the kids revealed that the Reader had suggested to them another technique which began with a c or possibly a kicking k, which turned out to be a chiasm. So the very cleverest readers might be able to spot one of them too, though maybe sometimes they are imagined and made up!

A Poem what I wrote about English and Biblical Poems

Rhyme is a technique English poems often use.

It is a sign of our versing muse.

But Biblical Psalms often use parallelism.

They might repeat ideas.

They might say the same thing twice.

Or something similar - maybe adding something.

Or not - it might be a contrast.


Biblical poetry

Can be acrostic.

Do you see?

Scholars love to spot chiasms in the Bible.

Here one element matches another later on.

The middle term might be stressed.

And something corresponds to something earlier.

Some experts identify these chiasms often in Scripture.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Luther's self-image

He was not keen that people should call themselves Lutherans rather than Christians. He said, how should I, poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am, have anyone called after my name? Quoted in Ryrie, Protestants, p32.

Funeral Planning

Ryrie tells us that the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had been dying for years. From 1514 till his death in 1519, he took a coffin with him wherever he travelled. Protestants, p25.

Luther's other theses

I don't know what they were but Ryrie tells us that Luther himself had "published" theses many times before on different subjects before his famous 95. Protestants, p23.

Reformation Pamphlets

Were a new form which "cost roughly the same as a hen in sixteenth-century Germany and could offer more lasting and spicier nourishment."

Ryrie, Protestants p22

The church at the time of the Reformation

Rightly or wrongly, one proverb claimed that once the church had golden priests who served from wooden chalices whereas now wooden priests served from golden chalices.

Quoted in Ryrie, Protestants p17


Thus far I have read only a fraction of Alec Ryrie's Protestants: The Radicals who made the modern world (London: William Collins, 2017). I have found it enjoyable and informative.

Ryrie is an eminent historian. An expert on the British Reformation in particular. And a Reader in the dear old C of E. And he can write.

He chooses a genealogical definition of Protestantism (the descendants of Luther) rather than a theological one (say, adherence to the Trinity as a necessary condition). But he is also willing to say that some such as the Mormons are so distantly related to Luther that they no longer bear the family likeness. If Protestant means influenced by Luther than the whole world, not least the Catholic church, is Protestant!

Ryrie sees Protestants as both lovers and fighters who are defined by a direct encounter with God and his grace through the Bible. The fire has burnt in different ways, sometimes raging, sometimes smouldering, and has spread far and wide but Luther and the God he rediscovered in Scripture were the spark of it all.

Ryrie's ambitious account takes in The Third Reich, apartheid South Africa, Korea and China and even attempts to look into the future of Protestantism, which he suspects will be largely Pentecostal but continually adapted to its cultures.

His focus is especially on the protestants as people and their political impact (not, for example, especially on their ideas or their artistic or economic achievements). Bach, he tells us, deserves a chapter of a similar book but only gets a sentence.

Ryrie traces our world's free inquiry, democracy and apoliticism to Protestantism. He finds in the movement a generic restlessness, an itchy instability.

MacCulloch has called the book a treat. I suspect there will be much delight and fascinate here - as well as perhaps not a few frustrations.

Jokes in Luther?

In his biography of Martin Luther, Peter Stanford explains that at a literary festival historian Prof Peter Hennessy delighted the audience by challenging Stanford to find a single joke that Luther ever told (p4).

Now, this tells us something about the popular image of Luther, maybe, but it is surely very wide of the mark. For Calvin, perhaps it would be more understandable, but surely not for Luther. He could be beer-swilling, gregarious and crowd-pleasing.

Luther was a professor and a pastor not a stand up comedian.

And even an acknowledged 16th Century wit may not have left many one-liners to history.

But much of Luther's extraordinarily voluminous output was popular. And his Table Talk records a version of his conversation.

How laugh out loud funny you find Luther will depend on how amused you are by poo.

Much of Luther's prose is larger than life. Erasmus called him doctor hyperbolicus, the doctor of overstatement (Alec Ryrie, Protestants, p21). His writing is often satirical and funny, sometimes no doubt intentionally so.

I shall from now on be on the look out for the best gags in Luther. It is shame that Stanford has not so far listed any.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Basil on Song


“The Holy Spirit sees how much difficulty mankind has in loving virtue, and how we prefer the lure of pleasure to the straight and narrow path. What does he do? He adds the grace of music to the truth of doctrine. Charmed by what we hear, we pluck the fruit of the words without realizing it.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

A prayer towards the end of a clergy sabbatical

I wrote this prayer towards the beginning of my sabbatical.

Here's something of what I've been praying this final week of my sabbatical:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this sabbatical:

For the financial assistance I’ve received;

For time and space and freedom;

For the privilege of worshiping with your people in a variety of different places without being responsible for leading.

Thank you for all who have ministered to me and who have helped me;

For those who have given of their time and expertise;

For those I’ve met who have been a blessing to me;

For all that I’ve been able to do and to think about;

For the rest, refreshment and challenges;

For the opportunity to experience new places and different things.

Thank you for every encouragement.

Thank you for the ways in which I’ve been stretched and stimulated.

And for the ways I’ve been able to minister and study.

Thank you for all that has been achieved.

Thank you for those who have looked after my responsibilities in my absence.

Help me not to be preoccupied by what has not been done.

I continue to pray that the study I have done might bear fruit for me and for the church.

Help me as I consider my return to my normal ministries.

Help me to listen as I seek to discover what has happened in my absence and how things have been.

Give me grace where I might have done things differently.

Help me particularly as I return to the busyness of perhaps a number of things that are over-due my attention.

Give me wisdom as I consider priorities for the immediate and longer-term future.

Help me to say “no” to things appropriately where that’s the right thing to do.

In particular, help me to give myself to prayer the ministry of the Word.

Help me to be a faithful pastor to those you’ve entrusted to my care and to do the work of an evangelist.

Make me willing to serve whole-heartedly and self-sacrificially in all the roles to which you’ve called me.

Again, I pray that you would help me to have in place patterns that will help to sustain a healthy long-term ministry.

Bless and guard our family-life.   

Give me those who will partner with me faithfully in prayer and ministry and help me to be a good friend and fellow-worker to others.

Help me as I share ideas for future ministry with others.

Give me grace to encourage others.

Give us grace to consider what we should pursue and what good things we should leave undone.

Forgive my sins and failures.

Grant me your grace and empower me with your Spirit.
In your mercy, may I play my part in your purposes faithfully and to your glory. Amen

Some notes on Psalms 6-13

In case these are of any use to others:

Psalm 13 jottings

Psalm 13 notes


When prayer seems unanswered / God seems far away or absent or appears to hide / when feeling forgotten (by God) / when wrestling with thoughts / sorrowful / defeated / enemies triumph / when feeling near death

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Waiting for God’s Salvation

Expression of despair: how long? (vv1-2)

Expression of prayer: give me light! (vv3-4)

Expression of hope and trust: let me sing! (vv5-6)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

How long, how long, how long, how long?

Wilcock, BST:

1. Distinctive pattern, distinctive prayer

2. Looking backward, looking forward

Kidner, Tyndale:

Desolation into delight

Vv1-2, desolation

Vv3-4, supplication

Vv5-6, certainty

Motyer, Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation

Still waiting, still trusting

A. The fourfold ‘How long’: protracted anxiety

B. The threefold ‘in case’: urgent threats

C. The twofold rejoicing: the fruit of trust

Wilson, NIV Application Commentary

Questioning God (vv1-2)

Plea for deliverance from approaching death (vv3-4)

Trust and confidence (vv5-6)




The Psalm suggests “the state in which hope despairs, and yet despair hopes” so Luther according to James L. Mays, cited in Goldingay, p208.

Kidner: “The three pairs of verses climb up from the depths to a fine vantage-point of confidence and hope. If the path is prayer (v3f), the sustaining energy is the faith expressed in verse 5. The prospect from the summit (v5) is exhilarating, and the retrospect (v6) overwhelming.” (p77)

The sections of the Psalm become steadily shorter

Pain, prayer & praise (Wilcock, p50)

“in each stanza the psalmist is concerned with God, with himself, and with his circumstances, in that order.” (Wilcock, p50)

Almost a howl (Keller) – a deep sense of abandonment (Goldingay)

A dose of realism – not pious pretence

A Psalm that gives us permission to be honest with God about how we really feel, to repeatedly question him, to come to him with our doubts / worries / challenges / “issues” . struggles / agony

A personal 1st person Psalm but also for the music director – how does this affect the reading of the Psalm?

The Psalm considered as the words of Christ – a Psalm Jesus could have prayed on the cross when forsaken by his Father – suffering then vindication pattern

Is God’s absence real or felt / perceived only?

The Psalmist’s problem(s): how he feels (vv1-2)

Vv1-2, Goldingay, aggressive, confrontational – a uniquely impertinent 4-fold question

How long? - Ps 62:3; Hab 1:2; Ps 74:10; 80:4; 94:3; Ex 16:28; Num 14:11, 27 – rhetorical, not a request for information – implication, this is intolerable and needs to stop now – Jer 47:6

Zech 7:13

Vv1-2 – Kidner: the distress analysed in relation to God, to the Psalmist himself and to his enemy.

Motyer, “In turn, divine remoteness, personal indecision / uncertainty, human enmity. The causes of potential breakdown are supernatural, personal, circumstantial. What a recipe!” (p35)

Yahweh, why are you ignoring / neglecting me? Why don’t you act?

The act of praying presupposes that God hears / might hear – he keeps praying! Pray even if it seems God is not listening or responding

Even great King David had his share of sufferings and distress

Cf. Ex 2:24f

V1b, cf. David’s longing to behold God’s face – 11:7; 17:15; cf. 27:4, 8; 34:5 – a clouded friendship Job 29:1ff; 30:20ff; Ps 22:1ff

The Psalmist is not experiencing the blessing of God’s face - Num 6:24-26

David’s plight seems interminable to him – 2 Pt 3:8

How long? echoed in Rev 6:10

V2, “How long will I place plans before my soul?” – plans a plural of amplitude, set plan after plan before – turmoil of thought cf. 77:3-6

Cf. Prov 26:24

V2 – before myself, before my soul (nepes, spirit, self), lit. in / within – to myself – protracted anxiety, different ideas about how to deal with the situation – what am I to do? What can I do? Should I try this or that or the other? Agonising ? about causes, causes of action etc.

V2 – enemy – cf. ? 1 Sam 27:1, with its counsel of despair

What he prays for (vv3-4)

Vv3-4 – God and David’s enemy as two poles of his life

V3 – Take note (notice), answer – two verbs without conjunction – cf. 10:10 – answer lookingly – a look is enough, reassuring David of favour, lifting the trouble, sending the enemy packing (Motyer)

V3 – My God – personal faith under trial – cf. Mk 15:34 – Yahweh is still the Psalmist’s God even though Yahweh seems hidden / absent

V3 – enlighten my eyes – cf. 1 Sam 14:27, countenance, eyes of renewed vitality, resilience – suggests encouragement – Ps 19:8; 118:27; Ezra 9:8

V3b – cf. Mk 14:33f

V3b – illness involved as cause or effect?

V4 – “in case my enemy say: “I have proved able for him”” – i.e. I have prevailed over him (Motyer), I was more than a match for him

V4 – ‘emmot, I am shaken, fall down – and don’t get up again – dead?!

The Psalmist’s resolve and his reasons (vv5-6)

Reasons for trust / rejoicing / singing (in the midst of / despite the realities of the Ps?)

V5 – And / but – And might be a way of suggesting this was his experience throughout

V5 – the I is emphatic, but for my part I…

V5 – committed love – 5:7

V6 – 13 words of one syllable

V6 – “because he is sure to deal fully with me” – treating the verb as a perfect of certainty (Motyer), “Trust brings delight even when nothing has actually yet changed.” – cf. 1 Sam 1:18

Gamal, “he has acted fully for me”, has done all that should be done, all that is necessary

“good” – cf. Eph 3:20

Vv5-6 – a prophetic perfect expressing certainty of future deliverance as a past even?

Phil 1:6 – God’s goodness to us in the past assures us he will bring his work in us to completion

Rom 8:28

Eugene Peterson suggests our real need is not more information / answers to our questions / insight into God’s plans and the future but God’s presence and love, God himself to be an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Psalm 7 jottings

It looks like I may have neglected to post these notes when I made them so just in case they are of any interest:

Psalm 7 notes


A prayer of trust in Yahweh for vindication, for justice and for deliverance from enemies.


When persecuted or opposed unjustly

To focus on God’s character in difficult circumstances

Praising God’s righteousness and judgement

Giving thanks for deliverance or in the confidence of future deliverance


Lord, you search me and you know me.

I confess that I am a sinner, entirely dependent on your grace.

Make me a person of righteousness and integrity, I pray.

May I be faithful and consistent, as you are, keeping my word, honouring my friends and partners, always dealing fairly with others and fulfilling my responsibilities.

May I never give others cause to hate me or to hate you.

Lord, I pray for justice for myself and for the world.

Vindicate me, and all who are wronged.

Deliver your faithful people who are persecuted without cause.

I look to you as my refuge and shield, my only confidence in this world and in the next.

Arise and fight for your people, I pray.

Yours, Lord, is the battle and the victory.

May your kingdom come and your will be done.

May your just rule be seen upon the earth.

Thank you, Lord, for your righteousness, that I can have complete confidence that the judge of all the world will do right.

Thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ: the only perfectly innocent one who suffered unjustly for me and whom you delivered from death and hell, triumphing over all his enemies.

Thank you for the vindication of his resurrection and ascension and that all evil will be undone.  

All praise to your high and holy name.


Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

The righteous God loves the righteous

(1)  A - Prayer for refuge (vv1-2)

(2) B - Oath of innocence (vv3-5)

(3) C - God’s righteous judgement (vv6-13)

(4) B’ - Judgement of the guilty (vv14-16)

(5) A’ - Praise of God’s righteousness (v17)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

On trial, in battle, hunted

Wilcock, BST:

(1) Concerning Cush: a lion (vv1-5)

(2) Concerning God: a courtroom (vv6-9)

(3) Concerning God: an armoury (vv10-13)

(4) Concerning Cush: a pregnancy and a pit (vv14-17)

Kidner, Tyndale:

A cry for justice

Vv1-2, The hunted man

Vv3-5, The oath of innocence

Vv6-11, The righteous judge

Vv12-16, “Sin, when it is finished…”

V17, Thankful praise

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Just Justice

Take care with your prayer (vv1-5)

Find hope in God’s anger (vv6-11)

Watch Judgement take place (vv12-16)

Remember praise is due (v17)



Goldingay calls a siggayon a lament on the basis of the Akkadian sigu

Shiggaion – Wilcock guesses it could be related to the verb to wander and therefore wild, rhapsodic music


Sang to the LORD

Davis has “on account of the words of Cush”

Cush – Sudan (Goldingay) – the area south of Egypt not Ethiopia

2 Sam 18:20-32 the Sudanese – Shimei and or Sheba both styled Benjaminites (Goldingay) – see Goldingay p144 for verbal links between this story and the Psalm

Cf. 1 Sam 24

Concerning Cush, a Benjamite – not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible

When David was pursued by Saul the Benjaminite?

Or during Absalom’s rebellion the latent hostilities of the Benjaminites resurged – 2 Sam 16:5-14; 20:1-22

How is God pictured and described in this Psalm?

Movement from lament to thanksgiving

A broadening out to God’s eschatological rule over the nations? – then God’s people will no longer be troubled

2 Thess 1:5-10 – the coming judgement

Themes / genres: individual lament (vv1-2), oath (vv3-5), kingship psalm (vv6-12), thanksgiving hymn (v17)

Justice and salvation go together here

From intensely personal to global (v7-8)

Cf. Naboth

Num 5:11-28; Dt 8:7-20; 1 Kings 8:31-32

Vivid pictures of David’s opponents: a lion, a pregnant man (!), and a digger of holes

Of God: judge and warrior (Wilcock, p35)

Wilcock: 4 chiastic stanzas: Cush / God / God / Cush (p35)

David lays out before the Lord his position (v1a), his danger (vv1b-2) and his conscience (vv3-5) (Davis, p86)

V1 – Yahweh, My God (repeated in v3) – an initial note of confidence

V1 – I take refuge in you – loyalty, trust

Cf. other supposed refuges… “Other refuge have I none” (Charles Wesley, Jesus Lover of My Soul)

Kidner says the tense shows that “while David’s preservation and deliverance were still matters for prayer (v1b), his unseen refuge was already a fact”

Vv1 & 2 – repetition of save

V2 – lion imagery

V2 – God his only hope – an argument for God to act

Vv3-4 – If, ‘im, 3x in MT

V3 – “this” – whatever his enemy is accusing him of

Dt 25:16

V3 – awel – guilt (NIV) is meanness, deception, hostility, unfaithfulness

Cf. Is 1:15; 59:3, 6

Vv3-5 – an appeal to God’s justice – of course the Psalmist cannot claim sinless perfection but he knows himself to be in the right with respect to his enemies. They are baddies and he is a goody. Their opposition is undeserved.

Cf. Job’s claim to righteousness – 1 Cor 4

Is the Psalmist at all confused about this / really questioning it or is this rhetorical?

He who is at peace with me equivalent to a close friend Ps 41:9; Jer 38:22 – cf. Judas?! – an ally?

2 Kings 7:17

Perhaps david feels slandered, misunderstood, falsely accused of bribes, treachery etc. – cf. Absalom’s smear campaign – 2 Sam 15:1-6

Cf. God’s knowledge and an illustration from the art of spying – CIA photos from 1973 in which one can make out the time on the soldiers watches (Davis, p86f)

V4 – David’s supposed betrayal of Saul?

Vv4-5 suggest a war context

V4 – solem - friend, strictly, ally – someone in a committed salom relationship

Ex 23:4f; lev 19:17f; 1 Sam 24:10f; Prov 25:21

V4b – Goldingay, “but released my watchful foe without cause” – says halas never elsewhere means to plunder – a former ally who has become a foe?

Unprincipled leniency to foes? – cf. Saul to Agag 1 Sam 15

V5 – kebodi, kabod, my glory – personal worth? – can sometimes refer to the liver or inner being, heart – cf. 4:2 / honour – 3:3

Cf. Job 31

V5 – evil as an army

V5 – Selah – Goldingay translates this “(Rise)” – Willock: an interlude for music or meditation? – a pause to read related Scriptures? (Goulder)

Vv6-11 – Kidner: breadth of vision here; concern for universal justice

V6 – God’s anger

V6 – An appeal to God’s anger against the anger of the enemies – God’s anger is the Psalmist’s hope; the attackers’ anger is the Psalmist’s threat (Goldingay)

Cf. Heb 4:13 – God as all-knowing judge – There’s no fooling him!

Cf. 5:5; 6:1

V6 – appeal to God to arise and awake – God does not sleep of course, but it can seem like he does!

V6 – God, you must have ordered a decision

God is more powerful than any enemies and he cares

Cf. Acts 17:31

V6 – repetition: arise, rise up, awake

Cf. Num 10:35-36 and Ps 3:7

V7 – MT suba, return, not seba, rule – return on high, LORD

Return to your judgement seat throne / sit as judge

Vv7-8 – an appeal to God to exercise his rule and judge, to God’s righteousness and integrity / character

A prayer for vindication, declare me in the right – judge my case and find for me, Lord

Cf. 2:8-9

V9 the hinge of the Psalm – movement from prayer to expressions of confidence and praise

V9 – The righteous God searches minds and hearts – both David and his enemies are open books to the LORD

God not grandfatherly and mildly indulgent! (Wilcock)

A court with teeth! (Wilcock)

Vv9-11: 6 descriptive phrases of God: righteous God, tester (one who searches my heart, v9), my shield, saviour, righteous judge, God who expresses his wrath

The ungodly will experience God’s sword; the repentant will benefit from his shield. It is precisely by dealing with the wicked that God delivers the innocent. We ought to be grateful for the fierceness of the Biblical God because it guarantees that eventually all will be as it ought to be (Wilcock, p37)


A Tester

B Righteous

C Shield

C’ Saviour

B’ Righteous judge

A’ Indignant

(Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p132)

The confidence of a believer before God

Heb 10:19-23; 2 Tim 8:8

V9 – mind and heart, lit. hearts and kidneys, inmost being, the deepest part of a person, innards, Ps 26:5; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 20:12 – God knows the heart Jer 17:9

V10 – God as shield – cf. 3:3; 18:35 – Heb. Lit, my shield is on God

The Lord as righteous judge with the nations gathered around him a familiar image in the kingship of Yahweh Pss 95-99

V12 – God’s delay has given an opportunity for repentance

V12 – God as warrior – cf. Ps 98 – he will fight his peoples’ battles on their behalf

V12 – darak, maybe lit. he treads his bow, pulling the string with his foot

V13 - God’s lightnings like flaming arrows – Ps 18:14

Judgement inescapable and deadly. David’s predicament will be reversed.

Vv14-16 cf. Prov 26:27; 28:10

V14 – pregnancy and birth metaphor

Wickedness may be allowed a gestation period

V14 – The first verb in the verse, habal, elsewhere describes the pain and anxiety of actually giving birth. There are several roots: a common one denotes “act corruptly” or “destroy” (Goldingay).

Cf. begetting and digging – Is 51:1-2 – pregnancy and digging (hara and kara) sound like one another

Evil is fertile but futile (after Kidner)

V14 – NIV disillusionment = saqer, lie, falsehood

Cf. James 1:14f

V15 – word play in the Hebrew – wayyippol, falls, yipal, made

Falls back, yasub, the same as turns (v12)

The lion of v2 falls into the pit of v15

V15-16 – they provoke their own downfall – their plots rebound on themselves – they fall into the pit they have dug – no doubt they think themselves so very clever and well prepared – perhaps they gloat over how they will ruin their enemies, not knowing that a great downfall awaits them

Sin comes home to roost

Wrongdoing is a boomerang – Prov 26:27; Mt 26:52

God stands behind all things – no such thing as merely natural consequences but the way God has established and governs the universe

Davis p90 – an Eskimo technique of getting a wolf to lick itself to death on a knife covered in frozen blood

Cf. the cross – the innocent unjustly suffering one delivered, the evil of his persecutors will rebound on them

V16 – the abcc’b’a’ structure of the verse mirrors the reversal it describes (Goldingay)

V17 – Application: resolve to thank and praise God

Mk 7:37

V17 – the exact expression Yahweh Most High only elsewhere in 47:2

V17 – The name of the LORD most high – note in Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the Name of Yahweh (p135) – The Creator-Redeemer-King God who has revealed himself, the God of the covenant – reliable, promise-keeping, God’s people who call on him can expect his blessing and protection – God’s name recalls his perfections and mighty acts and will be praised – list of other Psalms which use The name of the Yahweh on p136

Name / character

Hope in God’s faithfulness and power

Trial / war / hunt imagery often used together (Goldingay, p152)

Isaac Watts: O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let his mercies lie / forgotten in unthankfullness, and without praises die.

Troubles à prayer à deliverance à praise

Whether in trouble or in thankfulness, pray!