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Intended Allegory in the Song of Songs?

For a number of years now learned interpreters of Scripture have been telling us that the Song of Songs is (primarily) about human love. I put the word primarily in parentheses in that last sentence for a reason. I had grown so accustomed to the emphasis on human love in the Song that I had begun to assume that’s all modern commentators said about it. As I was recently pondering this, I went back and looked at what they actually say. They typically add a word like “primarily” or “mainly,” leaving the door open to a spiritual meaning of the Song. But then when they get into it, all they talk about is human love.

In this post I want to pose a question: is it possible that Solomon intended the Song to have an allegorical layer of meaning?

Usually when you suggest that the Song is about something more than human love, people roll their eyes and write you off as a prude.

I’m not a prude, okay?

I do think the Song is about human love, and I think human love is great. Really great! I love my wife, and I can’t get over God giving us something so surprising, so pleasing, so good as marriage. Everything that happens within the context of this comprehensive interpersonal union of one man and one woman being one flesh is better than any of the perversions people use to ruin it. So I’m on board with human love in the Song.

My question, though, is whether there’s more to the Song than merely human love, more that Solomon, whom I take to have written the Song (cf. Song 1:1), intended his audience to get from this piece of poetry. I’m not out to defend the history of interpretation by asking this question, but it is worth observing that the idea that the Song has a spiritual meaning has been, well, dominant across the ages. Is there exegetical evidence for it, though?

Let me note that by allegory I don’t mean something terribly complicated. Let’s stick with a simple definition from dictionary.com: “a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another.” This seems to work for the way Paul uses allegory in Galatians 4:24.

So here’s the simple proposal this post is inviting you to consider: is it possible that Solomon intended to represent the spiritual relationship between God and his people through a poetic depiction of the human relationship between the King and the Bride in the Song of Songs?

What could have prompted Solomon to think of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel as being analogous to human marriage?

Well, in Exodus 34:14–16 Israel is already being warned not to “whore after their gods.” By describing idolatry with the language of prostitution and sexual immorality, Moses is talking about the covenant between Yahweh and Israel as though it is a marriage. So this way of thinking about God’s relationship with his people is well established prior to the time of Solomon, and it continues after Solomon, not least with Hosea, where when Hosea marries Gomer, Hosea plays the part of Yahweh, Gomer the part of Israel.

So I think we can be confident that biblical authors prior to and after Solomon were thinking about a spiritual meaning of marriage, recognizing an analogy between human marriage and God’s covenant with Israel. Is there more specific evidence?

Psalm 45 is perhaps the closest analogy to the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, being a wedding song for Israel’s king. The Psalm begins with a celebration of the king in Psalm 45:1–9, then concludes with an address to the princess marrying the king in 45:10–17. As the psalmist extols the greatness of the king, he says in Psalm 45:6, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,” showing—at least—a very tight connection between Yahweh and the king who represents him. With a statement like this in Psalm 45, and with other texts in the OT communicating a very close connection between Israel’s God and Israel’s king (e.g., Num 23:21; Isa 9:6; Jer 23:6; Hos 3:5; Mic 2:13; 5:4; Zech 12:8; 13:7) it would seem natural—not forced or fanciful—to see an analogy between the King and his Bride and Yahweh and Israel in the Song of Songs.

What about evidence that later OT authors might have read the Song this way? Is there anything that points in that direction? The King in the Song is regularly called the Bride’s “beloved.” This particular Hebrew word means different things in different contexts. In some contexts it means “uncle.” It is not often used outside the Song of Songs the way Solomon uses it in the Song. In fact, the only place outside the Song of Songs where the word is used with the same meaning it has in the Song is Isaiah 5:1, where Isaiah writes, “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard.” What follows in Isaiah 5 makes it clear that Isaiah is referring to Yahweh as his beloved. Given the fact that the only Scripture in which the word is used this way prior to Isaiah is the Song of Songs, it would seem at least possible that Isaiah’s thinking about the Lord has been influenced by the Song, with the result that Isaiah refers to the Lord the way the King is referenced in the Song. A related form, though not exactly the same Hebrew word, is used in a similar way, with reference to the relationship between Yahweh and Israel, in Jeremiah 11:15, Ezekiel 16:8, Psalm 60:5 (MT 60:7)/108:6 (MT 108:7), and 127:2.

There is more that could be said. For instance, the king’s procession to the wedding in Song 3:6–11 seems to have been crafted to recall Israel being led out to Sinai for the wedding between herself and Yahweh, who would dwell with her in the tabernacle and lead her by the pillar of fire and cloud. But the strongest argument for this way of thinking about the Song, it seems to me, comes from Paul telling the Ephesians what marriage is ultimately about in Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Yahweh married Israel at Sinai. When she broke the covenant by whoring after other gods, she was eventually exiled, with the prophets promising a renewal of the broken marriage (see esp. Hos 2:14–23), a new covenant (Jer 31:31–34). Jesus came calling himself the Bridegroom (Matt 9:15), being recognized as such by the Baptist (John 3:29), and laying down his life for his bride (Eph 5:25) that she might be clothed in white linen for the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7–8).

The Song of Songs is a poetic summary and interpretation of the Bible’s big story: the descendant of David—king of Israel about whom the promises of 2 Samuel 7 were made (promises resonant with the blessing of Abraham from Genesis 12:1–3, promises that will be realized through the one whose descent can be traced all the way back to Adam, who can thus be identified as the promised seed of the woman from Genesis 3:15)—renews an eden-like intimacy between himself and his Bride, reversing the affects of the fall (cf. Gen 3:16 and Song 7:10). All this is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, son of David, Yahweh incarnate, the one greater than Solomon (Matt 12:42), who initiated the new covenant between himself and his bride, the church, and who will return for the grand consummation when the Bride herself, the new Jerusalem, will descend from heaven having the glory of God (Rev 21:9–11).

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This post originally appeared at Christianity.com.

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The Best Sermon I’ve Ever Heard on Marriage

Denny Burk preached the best sermon I’ve ever heard on marriage at Kenwood Baptist Church this morning. It was prophetic, powerful, piercing, and poetic.

Denny’s introduction was prophetic:

We all found out last month what the President of the United States thinks about marriage. He sat down for an interview with ABC News and announced to the world [in his own words],

“I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married…”

He went on,

“[Michelle and I] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated…”

My reaction to what the President said probably wasn’t that different from yours. I thought that what he said was outrageous. I thought that citing Jesus as if He were in support of sexual immorality was blasphemous. But I also thought, there’s really nothing new here.

The president is a sign of our times not the cause of our times. If you think that the President has caused the massive revolution in our culture on marriage, you are just wrong. The changes have accelerated in the last few years, but the seeds were sown many decades before.

Our culture long ago embraced…

-The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s …

-The idolatry of sex and the diminishing of marriage…

-The ubiquity of the birth control pill and the severing of human sexuality from its connection to children and family.

-No-fault divorce and the idea that we can change spouses like we change sox.

-That there’s no difference between men and women, gender is just a social construct that we learn from culture, not something given to us by God at creation.

-And closely related to this, the idea that gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to human sexuality. And so we have a whole generation of young people who see nothing at all wrong with homosexuality.

No, our culture’s devolution didn’t begin last month with an announcement from the President. This slide has been a long time coming.

Denny’s exposition of Ephesians 5:21–33 that followed this introduction was powerful and piercing, and funny too–you’ll probably hear me belly laughing when you listen to this.

And Denny’s conclusion was poetic. He had me and many others in tears with these words:

I wrote a poem for Susan on our third anniversary that was a bit of a vision of how I was hoping and praying we might end up. It’s a story that ends with a short prayer.

The old man took her tired hand
to hold for one last time.
The years had fin’lly pressed her to
her final breaths of life.

Their wrinkled hands in warm embrace
brought back the long-gone years,
The memories of their happy times,
and those dissolved in tears.

The old man saw in her ill frame
the girl that stole his heart.
He saw in her that gracious gaze
that filled their home with warmth.

His mind turned back to lighter days
when she did make her mark,
The children her love reared for them,
Her single heart for God.

He also felt the weight of grace
that marked her many years,
How she had borne him patiently
when he did cause the tears.

The old man said, “My love, the time
was cruelly short to me.
I cannot say goodbye to you
and let your passing be.”

“How can I ever say farewell
or ever let you part?
You are my only precious thing,
the joy of my old heart.”

And as his eyes began to well,
she reached to touch his face.
And then her quivering voice began
to give one final grace.

“This is the day the Lord has made,
The one He’s brought to pass.
This day was written in His book
before my first was past.”

“The Lord has granted us to spend
together all these years.
He’s also granted all the joy
and even all our tears.”

“And though this is a bitter day,
we owe Him so much thanks.
Dear, we made it! By Him we did!
Yes, we made it! By grace!”

________________________

Oh Father, grant that we may see
our days as at their end.
Oh let us know the weight of grace
in every year we spend.

We make this prayer unto You,
for there is no one higher.
This testimony of Your grace
we desperately desire!

This sermon is not to be missed. Listen here: Denny Burk, Ephesians 5:21–33, Husbands, Wives, and the Glory of God

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A Biblical Theology of Gender in Chicago

If you’re in the Chicago-land area I’d love to see you on February 25, 2012 at the Iron Sharpens Iron conference.

Kenny Luck and Voddie Baucham are the keynote speakers, and I’ll be doing a seminar on “A Biblical Theology of Gender.”

Details on this page.

May God help us to man-up and be Christlike.

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What Higher Priv’lege Could I Have?

What higher priv’lege could I have,
Than loving you as Christ the church?
A nobler charge I could not ask,
So far beyond my just deserts.

Is there a greater task than this:
To nourish you as one with me?
No tale in life more epic is,
No song more challenging to sing.

How could a truth be more profound,
Than this we live in mystery?
That two in one the gospel sound,
The church in you, the Christ in me.

So may our one flesh union be
True gospel light, that all may see.

Friday, December 9, 2011
Composed Overseas, having been away from my sweet wife for a week, praising God for her.

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She Wields Her Weapons Too

I got to see the battle-front,
She stayed to fight at home.
The enemy I saw at work,
She didn’t get to roam.

I smelt the smoke and saw the flames,
She took care of our kids.
The fray I joined with the s-word of God,
Some more homeschool she did.

I got to see the fighters,
On the spiritu’l front lines,
Inspired by their hope and faith,
And how their courage shines.

She got to do the laundry,
And put the kids in bed,
She made their meals and got them dressed,
And held fast in her stead.

Without her, be here I could not,
She fights this fight with me.
I wish that she could see the front,
And feel the urgency,

For though she may not see it,
She wields her weapons too,
And holds the line and joins the charge,
In our cause most good and true.

Sunday, December 9, 2011

Composed overseas in honor of my sweet wife, who championed the cause of the gospel on the home-front, mothering our four children, while I was teaching the Bible to people training for ministry on the other side of the world.

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Jeremiah 2:1–3:5, Will You Drink Sludge or Living Water?

Imagine a wedding, with the bride standing at the doors in the back about to enter the worship hall for the ceremony. She’s dressed in her gown, and her friend Jerry is standing by one of the doors, ready to fling it open when the moment comes.

Just at that moment a well dressed older man pulls up in a limousine. He goes straight to the bride and begins to speak to her in smooth, lyrical, poetic words. She is mesmerized. Jerry is horrified. He can see her subtly moving closer to the man, as if she will leave with him. He realizes the man is trying to lure her away.

The man offers her a gold ring. Jerry protests that she’s about to receive a wedding ring from the groom she’s about to marry.

When she looks at Jerry, her beautiful face is twisted into a snarl as she declares: this man promises me provision and protection; he promises me intimacy and affection.

When Jerry looks at the man he realizes what the man is. A pimp.

Jerry takes the bride by the shoulders and looks her full in the face: in place of a husband this man will give you customers; in place of a home this man will give you a prison; in place of freedom this man will make you a slave; in place of honor, shame; in place of hope, despair; in place of purity, defilement.

She slaps him in the face. Puts her hand in the pimp’s. And leaves in the limousine that will take her to the brothel instead of the one that would take her to the honeymoon.

In Jeremiah 2:1–3:5, Jeremiah proclaims that the devoted bride has become a harlot and faces the consequences.

Israel has forsaken Yahweh, the fountain of living waters, and gone to broken cisterns that hold no water (Jer 2:13). They have chosen to drink sludge instead of living water.

Just as Yahweh’s covenant with Israel is treated as a marriage, so the new covenant relationship between Christ and the church is what marriages illustrate.

This is meant to make us feel the cosmic theological woe of sin.

When we sin against Christ the bridegroom, we are committing spiritual adultery. When we look to other lovers to do for us what only Christ can do for us, we are like a wife who sells herself into prostitution.

Trusting money instead of trusting God in Christ is like trusting the money earned from turning tricks instead of believing that the bridegroom will meet the needs of his bride.

Seeking pleasure by breaking God’s commandments is like leaving the sacred marriage bed, or refusing to wait until the bridegroom takes you there, for a cheap thrill on a stained mattress in a dirty motel.

Not believing the Bible is like believing the pimp’s lies instead of the solemn oaths of the bridegroom.

Will you choose shame or honor?
Will you live in pain or comfort?
Will you sell what should not be sold or be the exclusive bride of your husband?
Will you be filthy or pure?
Will you be defiled or clean?
Will you be slave or free?
Will you be sold or redeemed?
Will you be used or loved?
Will Satan be your hard master or Christ your loving Lord?
Will you have remorse or joy?
Will you be a whore or a bride?

The world’s true story is a thrilling romance. The bride was lured away. She became defiled. She believed the pimp. She lived in filth and stench and stain. But the bridegroom came for her. He left safety and security, risked everything in a daring attempt to rescue his beloved, and he was killed in the effort.

Death, however, could not hold our hero. Jesus rose from the dead. His death cleanses his bride of all her sin and stain. He has now gone to prepare a place for us, and he will come for us.

When he comes, the bride will have made herself ready, clothing herself with fine linen, bright and pure, which is the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev 19:7–8).

–From the sermon it was my privilege to preach at Kenwood on Sunday, September 18, 2011:

Jeremiah 2:1–3:5, “Will You Drink Sludge or Living Water?”

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Revelation 19:1–10, The Harlot and the Bride

It was my privilege to preach about the downfall of the harlot Babylon and the readiness of the bride for which Christ died, the bride invited to the wedding feast like no other, on June 19, 2011 at Randolph Street Baptist Church in Charleston, WV:

Revelation 19:1–10, The Harlot and the Bride

This sermon has also been added to the page where my other sermons on Revelation are gathered.

I would invite you to consider the glories of the wedding feast of the Lamb, a love story better than that between Natasha and Prince Andrei in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. You can hear it in the mp3 linked above or read it in my forthcoming Preaching the Word volume on Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches.

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“The Mystery of Marriage” from For the Fame of God’s Name

Praise God for marriage! What gift can be compared to this one? Who but God could have come up with something so good?

Crossway has kindly granted permission for me to post my essay from the Piper Festschrift:

James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Mystery of Marriage,” pages 253-71 in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Taken from For the Fame of God’s Name edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor, ©2010.  Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Here is the opening paragraph of “The Mystery of Marriage”:

Marriage holds a unique place in all the Bible: what else joins two image-bearers together as one, serves as a key concept for understanding the relationship between Yahweh and Israel then Christ and the church, and consequently affords to every married couple the opportunity to live out the gospel? God sets himself on display in marriage, which means that God shows his glory in marriage. Thus, the thesis of this essay is that marriage exists as a unique display of God’s glory.[1] In order to establish and exposit this thesis we will look first at the way that marriage joins two persons in the likeness of God as one. From there the second section explores the way that Yahweh’s relationship to Israel is treated as a marriage, and the third section of this essay will examine the way that marriage exists to portray the relationship between Christ and the church. The final section will look at marriages as mini-dramas of the gospel.[2]


[1] I am humbled to have this opportunity to honor John Piper. The Lord has used him mightily in my life, mainly as I have listened to recorded sermons and addresses across the years. In this preaching, the Lord has used John Piper to herald again and again the infinite glory of God in Christ. I cannot adequately thank him for showing me such glory, but I can join him in praising this glorious God, this worthy Savior, and this powerful Spirit, three persons, ever one God, worthy of all praise. And praise be to God for John Piper! I am also grateful to write on the topic of marriage in honor of Piper, since his chapter on marriage in Desiring God provided a key insight I have pursued in my own marriage and announced at every wedding at which it has been my privilege to speak: love seeks its joy in the joy of the beloved. “The reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses” (John Piper, Desiring God [Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996], 175–76). See also John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).

[2] For a wider discussion of marriage in the Old Testament, see Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 466–69. For a broader discussion of marriage that takes up the issues of divorce, qualifications for elders, and children, see Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 776–86.

From there the outline of the essay is as follows:

Adam and Eve: Two Become One

Yahweh and Israel: Covenant Broken and Kept

Hosea 1: Hosea and Gomer
Hosea 2: Israel’s History and Future
Hosea 3: Hosea and Israel’s Future

Jesus and the Church: Marriage and the Gospel

The Fulfillment of Old Testament Expectation
The Deep Waters of the Meaning of Marriage

The Gospel and Marriage

Conclusion

The essay’s end is punctuated by an attempt at poetry:

Marriage

Like land and sea and stars above
And all else he has made,
This too is for the glory of
The one who has displayed

A love not based on beauty’s shades
Nor driven by some debt,
A love before there were yet days
Like none else ever met.

The archetype for man and wife
Is Christ’s love for his bride.
To Christ her Lord the church submits,
And for her life he died.

And for this reason, man should leave
His parents and his kin,
And to his wife then he shall cleave
Never to leave again.

Please do read the whole thing. This essay was written for a volume honoring John Piper, and my prayer is also that it will serve to strengthen the marriages of those who read it.

May your understanding of the gospel be deepened, and may it be displayed in the way you love your spouse and hold marriage in honor (Heb 13:5, even if you aren’t married).

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About This Time Thirteen Years Ago

It is 11am, September 17, 2010. About this time thirteen years ago, September 17, 1997, I was sitting in the dining hall on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary, having lunch with my good friend Denny Burk. Up walked a young lady who began to converse with Denny, and my life was changed forever for the better.

I was soon–and remain–head over heels in love with that young lady, Jillian Ashley Harding. Just ten months later, July 25, 1998, her name would change (praise God!) to Jillian Ashley Hamilton. I am more privileged than I can feel or capture in words to have written the preceding sentences, to have them be true. I can only bless God for his mercy.

These Thirteen Years

These thirteen years I’ve known you now,
Have been my best by far.
I wish my words could show you how,
But O how weak words are.

Like roots in soil as days go by,
Our love has deeper grown.
To wake with you here at my side–
More joy I’ve never known.

Your smile, your laugh, your fiery zest,
So splendid in your ways,
That you are mine so swells my chest,
And I can only praise

The one from whom all blessings flow,
Giver of all good gifts,
Whose love our own does seek to show–
Your giving his praise lifts.

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Happy Birthday, Sweet Wife!

God’s best gift to me (excepting salvation) was born on this day. What a gift! Mere words could never communicate my gratitude and joy at being married to this woman. Thanks be to God, and thanks be to Jillian Ashley Hamilton for marrying me.

Hallelujah!

On this day I think of the little book put together by Michael A. G. Haykin withVictoria J. Haykin, The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers. When Dr. Haykin so kindly gave me a copy of this book, I was surprised by what I found. I expected the kind of romantic expressions one finds in poems like Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” or in the culture at large–glorifying the beauty of the beloved or professing (idolatrous?) devotion to another human . . . To my surprise, this book is full of Christian lovers praising God and spurring one another on to love and good deeds. In The Christian Lover one sees that human love is most fitly expressed by those devoted to Christ and his kingdom.

I commend this book to you, and in its spirit I attempt a literary tribute to my sweet wife. This effort seeks to turn Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” from a focus on superficial beauty to that which is true and lasting.

This adaptation of “She Walks in Beauty” is for my sweet Jill on her birthday.

She walks in beauty, like the Christ
Of servant love and laid down life;
And all her own is sacrificed
For those she loves, O noble wife!
With others’ joy she is sufficed
And so with peace and hope is rife.
The children know her love for them,
And deep is their security;
Her husband knows her love for him
How blessed am I, that I am he!
In season she does bear and blossom,
By water streams, a God-planted tree.

Thus wizened by the Lord’s own ways,
The shallows she does all deny,
And I will sing for all my days,
And glory, laud, and honor cry –
To God I give my thanks and praise,
For she is mine and hers am I.

June 16, 2010
Happy Birthday, sweet Jill

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The Latest Issue of JBMW

The latest issue of JBMW has appeared.

Tom Schreiner has an important review of Philip Barton Payne’s new book, and a sermon that I preached a few years ago at Northwestern College (Minneapolis, MN) in their Chapel has been published. Every item in the table of the contents looks like an interesting read:

Denny Burk Editorial

JBMW Odds & Ends

R. Albert Mohler Jr. Boys Wearing Skirts to School? What’s Going On?

Jason Hall and Peter R. Schemm Jr. Marriage as It Was Meant to Be Seen: Headship, Submission, and the Gospel

Rob Lister “Husbands, Love Your Wives . . .” A Practical Suggestion and Tool for Husbands to Use in Leading their Marriages for the Glory of God

Owen Strachan Whither Men? A Response to a Recent Barna Study on the Increase of Female Pastors in Protestant Churches

Wayne Walden Galatians 3:28: Grammar, Text, Context, and Translation

James M. Hamilton Jr. Godliness and Gender: Relating Appropriately to All (1 Timothy 2:9–12)

Thomas R. Schreiner Philip Payne on Familiar Ground

Ben Reaoch Two Egalitarian Paths toward the Same Destination

Heath Lambert A Lack of Balance

Owen Strachan Insightful but Flawed Look at Gospel Women

Phillip R. Bethancourt Fatherhood Is No Accident


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Denny’s Prayer for Us

Today my sweet Jill and I celebrate our tenth anniversary. These have undoubtedly been the best ten years of my life. Folded up in my wallet, I carry around with me the little piece of paper on which my dear friend Denny Burk had written out the prayer he prayed for us during our wedding. I have received favor from the Lord, I have found what is good (Prov 18:22), and I feel so deeply the words that were bouncing around in my brain all through our wedding ceremony:

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me” (Psalm 16:6).

Thinking on my sweet wife makes me want to weep with joy, to praise God for his mercy, to go to her and recite every poem I’ve ever known . . . and none of it would be enough.

I don’t deserve my wife, and I don’t deserve to have a friend like Denny. His prayer brought tears to my eyes on July 25, 1998, and it does the same to this day. Here it is, and may God continue to answer all his petitions:

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Thy name give glory Because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth” (Psalm 115:1).

Lord, may Jim and Jill, above all else, earnestly desire to see Your name, Your glory, and Your renown made great in all the earth. May they honor You for who You are in all of life. Capture their hearts by Your grace so that they might persevere in faith and love for Your sake. And make their union a picture of Christ’s love for His bride.

Lord Jesus, grant Jim grace that he might follow hard after You for all of his life. Make him a godly man who treasures You above all else. Make him a graceful and worthy head for his wife in this marriage. Stir up in Jim a perpetual love and affection for Jill that he might love her with the same extravagancy with which You love your church. May he love self-sacrificially all of his life. Help him to listen to Jill with great sensitivity and seriousness. And when the euphoria of the honeymoon wears off, and the mundane sets in, make his heart swell all the more with great love for his bride. May he love and honor you by the way that he faithfully loves and honors Jill all of his life.

Lord Jesus, likewise grant Jill the grace that she might follow hard after You all of her life. Make her a godly woman who treasures You above all else. In loving submission, may she faithfully and singlemindedly honor Jim for Your glory. May she show her love and devotion to You by the way that she loves Jim.

Lord, give Jim and Jill hearts that long for Your appearing.

“Whom have we in heaven but You? And besides You, we desire nothing on earth. Our flesh and our hearts may fail, But God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26).

God, so bless this union for Your glory. Amen.

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Denton Bible Holding the Line

I am glad to see that Denton Bible Church is standing strong on the complementarian point of view by hosting an important series of messages on Women in Ministry.

If you’re in the Dallas area, I would encourage you to attend the events described below in the letter from Tom Nelson of Denton Bible. May the word of the Lord prosper!

———————–

June 4, 2008

Dear Pastor,

I’ve pastored for 31 years in Denton and have never had a reason to contact other pastors with what Denton Bible was doing—until now.

We are doing a 3-week series at DBC on the egalitarian issue, “Can a woman be in authority over a man in the local church?”“Can they serve as pastors, elders or deacons over a man?”

The teaching of the Bible is “no” (I Tim. 2:9-15; 1 Cor. 14:34);

The example of the Bible is that men lead;

The historic position of the church is that men lead;

Because of these, this has been our position at DBC.

In the last 20 years this has been challenged. Even within my own seminary—Dallas Theological Seminary—this has been challenged. But it is not primarily being challenged because of a difference in the interpretation of a particular verse (lower criticism) but rather a difference of hermeneutic (higher criticism); meaning that the Bible was true then for that time, but not for ours. The hole in the theological dike here is obvious: At what point do we say what is now “outdated”? Something is ended only if Scripture says it is ended.

With this in mind, DBC is doing a 3-week Sunday sermon series on the egalitarian issue from June 15 to June 29. In these three weeks, I and two other men who are tops in their field will address this issue.

On June 15 I will bring the message in the 2 morning services (9:00 and 11:00 AM). Our College Pastor will bring the message in the evening service (5:00 PM).

On June 22 we have invited Dr. Bruce Ware to speak at all three Sunday services (9:00 and 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM). Dr. Ware is Professor of Theology at Southern Baptist Seminary having previously taught at several seminaries most recently at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a highly esteemed theologian, popular speaker and prolific author. He has spoken and written frequently on a wide variety of gender role issues.

On June 29 Dr. Russell Moore will be speaking at all three Sunday services. Dr. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President of Academic Administration at Southern Seminary. He is also the Executive Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement and Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine: A Journal of Mere Christianity. He too is a frequent speaker and writer on gender issues and matters affecting popular culture.

On June 22 and 29 our 5:00 PM evening service will have the same men preaching to those (the younger crowd) of that service. It is not often that this issue is addressed. If we can be of any service to you men who support this tradition in your churches or to your churches, DBC would simply offer its services.

May God equip you in every good thing to do His will,

Tom Nelson

Senior Pastor

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