20 — 26 Aug 2007
Issue No. 31
Biblical GRADUATE school of theology
BGST This Week
(Dr Aquila Lee delivered this message at Chapel on 15 August 2007.)
Psalm 118 has blessed me much in recent months. It is a royal as well as a liturgical psalm used in Israel’s worship. In its historical context, this psalm was probably part of an actual ceremony and different parts of the psalm were sung by different groups of people. OT scholars believe that vv.1-19 took place outside the temple gate and vv.20-29 inside, in the temple court. Leslie Allen suggests the structure of this psalm as follows:
vv.1-4 A call for communal praise
vv.5-13 The king’s testimony
vv.14-19 Renewed king’s testimony
vv.20-28 A liturgy of thanksgiving
v.29 A final call for communal praise
In the opening call for communal praise the confession “his love endures forever” is repeated four times. The NIV translation “love” for the Hebrew word hesed does not seem to be good enough. I prefer “his [steadfast] love endures forever,” for it gives a fuller sense of a love that is steadfast and faithful. And then we have from v.5 onwards the king’s testimony before the congregation to God’s help in a time of military crisis.
I began to cherish this psalm because I was able to identify myself with the main character in this psalm - the king. “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.” Here also I prefer a more literal translation, “From my narrow straits I called to the LORD and the LORD answered me (and set me) in a broad place.” The NIV translation here is not wrong at all, but the three dimensional pictures the king uses to describe most vividly his life-and-death situation in the past are somewhat lost along the tunnel of translation from Hebrew to English. Such an experience of God’s help and answer to his prayer leads him to deliver a string of unshakable confessional statements that follow from vv.6-9.
We see this alternation between descriptions of his experience and confessional statements in the following verses, but this time switching to different metaphors (e.g., “All the nations surrounded me . . . they swarmed around me like bees . . . I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me” (vv.10-13). Then the king again makes known his faith in Yahweh with great confidence: “The LORD is my strength and my song . . . the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things . . . I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done” (vv.14-17). These confessions are the result of his experience of God and the lessons learned from it.
In v.18 the king acknowledges that his past experience of going through a death-threatening situation has served God’s purpose: to discipline him and teach him. “The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” He is obviously very thankful that God has not given him up and has given him a new lease of life, but from that painful experience he also learns very precious lessons. I don’t have a philosophical answer to the question of the existence of suffering in our lives, but what I can say from my own experience is that the sufferings we go through in our lives are in fact blessings in disguise. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we should, therefore, be looking or waiting for suffering in our lives.
I’m grateful to God for my liver transplant, and I must confess that I’m even proud of it (though it may sound ironical!) because for me it was a great blessing and because I experienced his steadfast love, his hesed. He touched my heart. He healed not only my physical illness, but he healed my soul. I’m grateful not only because I regained my health but because He showed his hesed to me. As I was having dinner with Prof. James Houston a few months ago when he was here in Singapore, he shared with me the story of a lady lawyer who had a great passion for missions. When he asked her what made her so passionate about missions, her answer was simple: “It is because He broke my heart!”
One of the precious lessons I learned from my own experience is that “above all men there is a God who is in charge of everything.” This lesson may seem very simple and nothing extraordinary, but in the midst of my financial difficulties as a PhD student in Aberdeen I was not able to see that right above the very person who seemed to make our life miserable with the control of our finances there was God himself. I now know as clearly as ever that God was even in control of him and was using him in order to discipline us and strengthen our faith. Now I have learned to trust in Him in whatever circumstances I might be and such total trust in Him is the result of going through my sufferings and experiencing his hesed in my life (see Job 23:10; 42:5).
Exactly one year ago on 15 August 2006 at 1:00pm I was led into the operation theatre far away from home with no one around me except my beloved wife. But, I know that God also suffered for me as a father does for his own child. He was with me, even on the brink of death and will be with me every moment of my life.
[Editor’s note: Due to space constraints Aquila’s exposition on vv.19-29 is held over. He invites you to view a slideshow of his recent life journey on his blog at http://blog.daum.net/aquilalee/12595661.]
Psalm 118: An Experiential Reading
A Practical Course
in Phonetics &
Here’s a great way to spend your lunch-time. Our course last year in English pronunciation was so well-received, we’re running another one.
This time it is based on John Trim’s book which promises to be loads of fun with its wonderful illustrations. Designed as a stand-alone it is suitable for anyone, whether or not you had attended the previous course.
This course is just the thing for those who wish to improve their spoken English for better clarity and correction of “Singlish” habits.
Best of all you learn to improve your pronunciation skills through mastering the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). This will enable you to independently check the correct pronunciation of any English word in the dictionary. There is no better way to self-improvement than through acquiring the skills with which to do it.
Our very own lecturer, Ng Seng Chuan, a professional speech trainer with some 35 years of public speaking practice and numerous speech diplomas to his credit will take you through 10 weeks of pronunciation fun.
Alas, the class is limited to only 20. So hurry and register!
These are the course details:
· Commencing Friday, 7 Sept 07 for 10 weeks
· 12.45 to 1.45 pm, BGST @ Tanjong Pagar Road
· Course fee at $150.00. Early bird special at $120.00 for paid registration by 24 Aug 07.
· Text book at $23.60 is available at the library.
· Registration ends on 31 August 07 so make haste!
Required Courses for M.Div students:
· The Christian Spirit (TS251, 3 credits, video class), starting Sep 12 (Wed, new date), 7.30-9.30pm. Lecturer: Prof. James Houston/Tutor: Mr John Chong Ser Choon
· Introduction to Evangelism & World Mission (ME101, 3 credits, video class), starting Sep 14 (Fri), 7.15-9.15pm. Lecturer: Mr Martin Goldsmith/Tutor: Miss Irene Tay
The July “New Books” list is now ready. These books are on display and students are welcome to browse and borrow.
Our chapel speaker this week is Sokreaksa Himm. Apologies are in order. Andrew Lee will speak next week.
What worship is for …
To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God;
To feed the mind with the truth of God;
To purge the imagination with the beauty of God;
To devote the will to the purpose of God. (William Temple, 1944)
A word of explanation …
By now you would have noticed that we’ve been trying to get you to pay attention to a certain date. First it was August 25th, and now we’re going … Oct 20th, Oct 20th, Oct 20th!
Pardon us if we’re being presumptuous. You might not have noticed at all! Still, if you have been diligently reading BTW, we are humbly honoured. So, dear readers, watch out for more information about what’s brewing on …
31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454 Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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