Thursday, March 22, 2012

What the Doctor Ordered (Proverbs 17:22)

Complete: “A cheerful heart is a good ________.” Medicine (Proverbs 17:22)

Proverbs asserts that one’s attitude has an effect on their physical well-being.

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 NASB)
A joyful heart is said to be good gehah. This term is used only here in the Old Testament. Most translations render the word “medicine” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV). Michael V. Fox (b. 1940) translates the word “body” but admits, “The meaning of this noun (used only here) is uncertain. Other possibilities are “face” and “health.” (Fox, Proverbs 10-31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Bible), 635).”

Kathleen A. Farmer (b. 1943) identifies the connection between disposition and health as a major theme of the book of Proverbs, summarizing, “Others observe and comment upon the relationship between happiness and health: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). (Farmer, Who Knows What is Good?: A Commentary on the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (International Theological Commentary), 99).”

Tremper Longman III (b. 1952) determines:

The purpose of these observations [Proverbs 17:22, 18:14] is both to help the sages understand themselves and other people as well as to encourage them toward attitudes and behaviors that would make them feel better. According to Proverbs 3:7-8, it is especially fear of Yahweh that will lead to good health. (Longman, Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), 559)
Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) sees a connection between this proverb and its predecessor (Proverbs 17:21), concluding:
The verse asserts the psychosomatic effects of Proverbs 17:21 (cf. Proverbs 14:30, 15:13, 30, 16:24, 18:14). Besides this notional connection, the proverbial pair is also lexically connected chiastically in its inner core by the catchword “rejoice”/“joyful” (śmh, Proverbs 17:21b, 22a) and its outer frame by the co-referential terms “grief” and “broken spirit” (Proverbs 17:21a, 22b). Grief and joy are matters of death and life. Whereas Proverbs 17:21 connected heart and tongue, this one connects heart and spirit (see Proverbs 15:13; cf. Proverbs 12:25, 13:12, 14:30). On its own the proverb admonishes the disciple to live in such a way that he experiences joy that revives and not depression that kills. (Waltke, Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (NICOT), 60)
Kenneth T. Aitken (b. 1947) differentiates:
Israel’s sages might not have used the term ‘psychosomatic’, but the idea was familiar enough to them. The contrast drawn here is not between the joy and sorrow which we all feel at certain times, but between set dispositions towards life. The person with a “glad heart” is that remarkably cheerful individual who has a positive and optimistic outlook on life, who always seem to find something to be happy about, and whose smile is infectious. Such a disposition pays dividends in a healthy body and a healthy complexion (cf. Proverbs 3:8, 14:30). At the other extreme, the person with a “sorrowful heart” is that morose or anxiety-laden individual who is always down in the dumps, who always finds something to complain or fret about, and who dampens the atmosphere around him like the proverbial wet blanket. This disposition pays its dividend in bad health. It debilitates the body, clouds the eyes and leaves its etchings on the face. (Aitken, Proverbs (Daily Study Bible Series), 240-241)
Modern psychologists would reject the term “psychosomatic” in favor of “psychophysiological” but the effect is the same: a positive outlook on life directly effects a person’s physical well-being.

While a cheerful disposition certainly cannot hurt one’s health, do you believe that one’s attitude effects their body? Have you ever felt that someone’s cheerful disposition helped them recover from an illness? Who do you know that fits the description “cheerful heart”? Do you have such a disposition?

Modern psychology has shown that health and emotions are linked. The proverb is seen as a precursor to the field of health psychology. In their introductory textbook on the subject, Howard S. Friedman (b. 1950) and Roxane Cohen Silver (b. 1966) acknowledge:

Health psychology, the most modern major domain of psychology, flows from ancient intellectual wellsprings. From the biblical proverb which taught that “A merry heart does good like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) to the definitional “heart-ache” of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (act 3, scene 1), the psyche and the soma have long been sensed to be linked. (Friedman and Silver, Foundations of Health Psychology, 3)
Rod A. Martin (b. 1951) adds:
Since the time of Aristotle, a number of physicians and philosophers have suggested that laughter has important health benefits, such as improving blood circulation, aiding digestion, restoring energy, counteracting depression, and enhancing the functioning of various organs of the body...This idea has become increasingly popular in recent years, as modern medical discoveries like endorphins, cytokines, natural killer cells, and immunoglobulins have been added to the list of bodily substances that are thought to beneficially affected by humor and laughter. (Martin, The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach, 309)
Interest in the connection between disposition and physical health was rekindled when Norman Cousins (1915-1990) chronicled his battle with a serious collagen illness in his 1980 autobiographical memoir, Human Options: An Autobiographical Notebook. Cousins intentionally combated his illness by taking massive doses of Vitamin C and by training himself to laugh. Since Cousins published his personal findings, research has validated the relationship between attitude and health.

This leaves the striking question of how one obtains a cheerful heart. Joyce Meyer (b. 1943) suggests:

One way we can keep a merry heart is by listening to music. When we listen to it, we tend to find ourselves humming or singing along, even when we are not aware of it. When we have a merry heart, we can have joy in our heart even while going about our work...We can also have more energy and vitality because the Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength...We have a choice. We can grumble our way through our troubles, or we can sing our way through our troubles. Either way, we have to go through troubles, so we may as well go through them happily...I believe that we can understand from Proverbs 17:22...that if we were happier, we would probably be healthier. (Meyer, A Leader in the Making: Essentials to Being a Leader After God’s Own Heart)
How would you go about acquiring a cheerful disposition? What does joy produce in your body and your life?

“Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.” - Henry Ward Beecher (1883-1887), Royal Truths, p. 241

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)

Which famous set of clothing contains the helmet of salvation? The whole armor of God

The Epistle to the Ephesians’ last teaching section (before the closing greetings) invokes military imagery. The believer is advised to don the whole armor of God, an analogy by which tenets of Christianity correspond to pieces of armor (Ephesians 6:11-17). Six elements of the well-armed soldier are listed. The fifth item mentioned is the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17).

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 NASB)
Helmets were not merely a defensive armament but rather a necessity, literally a matter of life and death to the soldier. Charles H. Talbert (b. 1934) relays, “These were the last two items to be put on before battle. God’s own helmet and sword have been offered to the saints. The saints are now to receive them (Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament), 166).”

Matthew N.O. Sadiku (b. 1955) adds, “A soldier puts on the helmet only when he faces impending danger. (Sadiku, Ephesians: A Pentecostal Commentary, 143).”

Helmet (perikephalaia) is used only twice in the New Testament, here and in I Thessalonians 5:8. In both instances it is connected to salvation. CWO-4 Ray R. Fairman (b. 1945) quips:

Helmets really shouldn’t need much explanation, should they? It matters not if it is a soldier’s helmet, a motorcyclist’s, a bicyclist’s, a hockey player’s, or a pilot’s, you know what a helmet is designed to do. Its purpose is to protect your head and everything it contains! (Fairman, Ephesians: God’s Battle Plan for Spiritual Warfare: A Combat Veteran’s View, 136)
Peter T. O’Brien (b. 1935) notes, “The helmet used by the Roman soldier was made of bronze and had cheek pieces so as to give protection to the head (O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary), 480-481).”

Bruce B. Barton (b. 1943) adds, “Helmets were made of leather and brass, or sometimes bronze and iron—no sword could pierce a good helmet (Barton, Ephesians (Life Application Bible Commentary), 134).”

Harold W. Hoehner (1935-2009) expounds:

The word περικφαλια means “head covering” but in military context it refers to the “helmet”. The word occurs ten times in the LXX (nine times in the canonical books) and it is always used of a helmet (e.g. I Samuel 17:5, 38; II Chronicles 26:14; Ezekiel 27:10, 38:4-5). In the New Testament it is used only twice (Ephesians 6:17; I Thessalonians 5:8) and continues to have the military sense. Twice in the LXX the metal of the helmet is depicted as bronze (I Samuel 17:38; I Maccabees 6:35). In Roman times it had various shapes at different times and places, but it generally was made of bronze fitted over an iron skull cap lined with leather or cloth. During Claudius’ reign (A.D. 37-41) the helmet was revised so that it covered the back of the neck, fitting slightly over the shoulder, a brow-ridge fitted above the face to protect the nose and eyes, and hinged cheek pieces were fastened by a chin-band to protect the face. (Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, 850)
The connection between a helmet and salvation originated with Isaiah 59:17. F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) informs:
The “helmet of salvation” is taken from Isaiah 59:17, where Yahweh wears it. In such a context it might well be the helmet of victory...for the God of Israel does not receive salvation; he bestows it. Here too “the helmet of salvation” recommended to the believer might be called the helmet of victory, for God’s victory is his people’s salvation...In this letter...salvation is viewed as already accomplished — “it is by grace that you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5)—so “the helmet of salvation” is available for the protection of believers. (Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 409)
Ernest Best (1917-2004) compares:
In Isaiah 59:17 God as victorious warrior wears the helmet of salvation; now he gives it to believers for their protection...Previously he had used a sequence of participles to itemise the equipment; now he introduces a new finite verb, receive. The soldier, already partially equipped, receives from his armour bearer his helmet and sword; the Christian receives from his God salvation and the word of God; this is not to suggest he collected the other items of equipment for himself; all his military hardware comes from God. (Best, Ephesians: A Shorter Commentary, 324)
As noted, in the whole armor of God, the helmet is connected with salvation. John Muddiman (b. 1947) speculates:
The last two images, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit...may refer to the final goal of the Christian life...While the separate elements in this allegory may be arbitrary (faith could just as well be the belt or the breastplate as the shield, for example),yet as a set in this particular sequence, the correspondences are not arbitrary. (Muddiman, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Black’s New Testament Commentary), 286)
Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) connects:
The helmet is immediately interpreted metaphorically as ‘salvation’ or ‘deliverance’, in connection with Isaiah 59:17...As the breastplate covers the chest, so the helmet surrounds the head...God himself is salvation and deliverance for all those under attack (cf. Psalms 3:3ff, 18:3, 46, 35:3, 37:39ff, 65:5 et al.; Isaiah 33:3; Jeremiah 3:23). In I Thessalonians 5:8 the helmet is interpreted as the hope of salvation, in the context of a decidedly eschatological perspective. In this the author of Ephesians diverges from Paul; for him it is a matter of God’s protection and deliverance in the present battle against evil. (Schnackenburg, The Epistle to the Ephesians: A Commentary, 279)
Ernest Best (1917-2004) adds:
The helmet is depicted as salvation; salvation is rare in the New Testament appearing only in Luke 2:30, 3:6; Acts 28:28, all passages heavily dependent on the Old Testament, it is found more frequently in the LXX, and is used in Isaiah 59:17. However, when Paul used Isaiah 59:17 in I Thessalonians 5:8 he substituted for it another noun, the normal New Testament noun for salvation; the author of Ephesians’ retention of the LXX word confirms his dependence here on Isaiah 59:17. Paul had also varied the LXX in another way by speaking of the helmet as the hope of salvation, thus imparting an eschatalogical flavour. The author of Ephesians’ stress here on the present nature of salvation is in line with his normal understanding of it. (Best, Ephesians: A Shorter Commentary, 324)
The verb’s middle voice attests that believers are responsible for taking the helmet and sword. The Christian does not automatically inherit these items as evidenced by the fact that Ephesians is addressed to Christians who were already saved but still needed the instruction to put on the helmet (Ephesians 6:11).

Ben Witherington III (b. 1951) explains:

The believer is equipped for the spiritual battle by being given the very armor of God himself. It is interesting how some of the verbs refer to something simply given to the believer (the helmet, the sword) and some refer to the action that the believer himself must take once these gifts are in place — standing, praying, resisting, speaking, and the like. Salvation and faith are gifts, but they are gifts that do not work automatically. They are gifts that must be embraced, used, and expressed. (Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, 360)
Have you ever worn a helmet? Have you donned the helmet of salvation? Do you see yourself as being at war? Why is the helmet connected with salvation? What is the purpose of the helmet of salvation?

The helmet of salvation, like any other helmet, protects the head’s contents. Greg Laurie (b. 1952) writes:

As believers, we need to put on the “helmet of salvation” because our minds, our thoughts, and our imaginations must be protected. It’s here that most temptations start. Satan recognizes the value of first getting a foothold in the realm of the thoughts and imaginations, because this will prepare the way for those thoughts to translate into action. As the saying goes, “Sow a thought; reap an act. Sow an act; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character; reap a destiny.” It starts with a thought. (Laurie, Because..., 56)
Derek Prince (1915-2003) adds:
Just as the breastplate protects our hearts, so the helmet protects our minds—our thought lives. The mind is the area in which Christians are most regularly attacked. Inside our minds there is often a continuing war. Satan seeks to insinuate thoughts that will disturb us or distract us or in some other way make us ineffective in our war against him. (Prince, Rules of Engagement: Preparing for Your Role in the Spiritual Battle, 160)
Witness Lee (1905-1997) summarizes, “Satan injects into our minds threats, worries, anxieties, and other weakening thoughts. God’s salvation is the covering we take up against all these (Lee, The Conclusion of the New Testament: Messages 50-62, 584).”

Would you add any items to the whole armor of God? Are you protecting your thoughts?

“After victory, tighten your helmet chord.” - Japanese Proverb

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Psalm 100, Worship 101

Complete: “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence ____________!” With singing

Situated in Book IV of the Psalter, Psalm 100 is one of the Bible’s most beloved hymns. The short composition is comprised of only five verses (Psalm 100:1-5). The psalm offers both an invitation (Psalm 100:1) and a reason to worship: God is worthy (Psalm 100:5).

The hymn, tailor made for a call to worship, is still in use. The standard hymn tune “Old 100th” is associated with this psalm due to a famous paraphrase by William Kethe (d. 1594) entitled “All People that on Earth do Dwell”. J. Clinton McCann, Jr. (b. 1951) calls this metrical version “the banner hymn of the Reformed tradition” (McCann, New Interpreter’s Bible: 1 & 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms (Volume 4), 1079).

Beth LaNeel Tanner (b. 1959) lauds:

Psalm 100 is the best known psalm in the Christian church, especially in the form with words by Thomas Ken in the Doxology. While beautiful in its own way, the words of the song do not have the same powerful imagery of movement and praise as the psalm. (Tanner, The Psalms for Today, 83)
Psalm 100 is the first of a series of four psalms with a superscription and the only psalm whose heading identifies it with the word “thanksgiving”. It famously begins by echoing Psalm 98:4’s universal summons to all the earth.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 NASB)
Unlike many psalms, there is no shift in mood. The hymn opens in jubilation and maintains its exultant tone throughout.

The short poem has two movements, featuring two calls to worship (Psalm 100:1-2, 4). John Eaton (b. 1927) explains:

As regards structure, the pattern is the same as that of Psalm 95:1-7: call to praise (Psalm 100:1-2) and reason (Psalm 100:3); further call to praise (Psalm 100:4) and reason (Psalm 100:5)...Our psalm will thus have belonged to the same context in the autumn festival as its immediate predecessors. (Eaton, Psalms: A Historical and Spiritual Commentary with an Introduction and New Translation (Continuum Biblical Studies), 349)
Herbert W. Bateman IV (b. 1955) and D. Brent Sandy (b. 1947) concur:
The psalmist begins with a call to universal praise (Psalm 100:1-2), reasoning that God’s power alone has created the covenant community (Psalm 100:3). Second, he calls his readers to praise again (Psalm 100:4), reasoning that God’s covenant faithfulness is unending (Psalm 100:5). (Bateman and Sandy, Interpreting the Psalms for Teaching & Preaching, 41)
Many have speculated that the song was originally used in a temple procession with some theorizing that the two calls to worship corresponded to two movements in the march. Samuel L. Terrien (1911-2002) posits:
The singing of praise and thanksgiving is to be intoned in the presence of the Lord, after the portals of the temple are opened. Presumably, the congregation is still marching up toward the sacred hill. (Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Eerdmans Critical Commentary), 690)
Though short, the song is replete with instruction concerning the nature of worship. James Luther Mays (b. 1921) informs:
Psalm 100 is an introductory hymn in two ways, liturgical and theological. Its liturgical subject is the movement into the presence of God, the first and fundamental human act that constitutes worship. Its theological purpose is to incorporate into a hymn to accompany that movement that the first and fundamental characteristics of the worship of the LORD. Psalm 100 initiates worship and sets forth a theology of worship. (Mays, Psalms (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 317)
Beth LaNeel Tanner (b. 1959) consents:
The psalm is dominated by the seven imperative verbs that call the congregation to shout, serve, come before, know, enter, give thanks, and bless. There are movement and voice and expression and learning, demonstrating how one can praise God will all one’s might. (Tanner, The Psalms for Today, 83-84)
Psalm 100:2 instructs its audience to gladly serve/worship and to come into God’s presence in song.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing. (Psalm 100:2 NASB)
The use of the Hebrew ‘abad is instructive. The word is translated as either “serve” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RSV) or “worship” (CEV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). It occurs only twice in the Psalter and it is fitting that it is embedded here, immediately following Psalms 93-99, a unit which proclaims God’s kingship.

J. Clinton McCann, Jr. (b. 1951) explains:

Because both “worship” and “serve” are appropriate translations of the Hebrew that begins Psalm 100:2, it is fitting that many Protestants ordinarily designate an occasion for worship as a “worship service.” Strictly speaking, the phrase may be redundant; but it has the advantage of communicating the reality that worship is essentially a public profession of submission to God and God’s purposes for our lives and the life of the world. (Carol M. Bechtel [b. 1959], Touching the Altar: The Old Testament for Christian Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies), 166)
John Goldingay (b. 1942) concurs:
In English, talk about church services is a dead metaphor, and that is partly so when the Old Testament uses ‘ābad...Yet the verb does point to the fact that worshiping Yhwh involves a serious submission of the whole self. It involves the words of the mouth (Psalm 100:1a) and the feelings of the heart (“with joy”; it is a strange kind of servitude that is offered with joy). But it is not confined to words and feelings. The verb implies that worship is done for God’s sake and not for ours; servants serve their master; not themselves. And the fact that serving God mostly takes place outside worship also hints that there needs to be some coherence between what happens in worship and what happens outside. (Goldingay, Psalms (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), 135)
Richard J. Foster (b. 1942) concludes, “As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship (Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 173).”

The song next advocates entering God’s presence with singing. The Message paraphrases Psalm 100:2b, “Sing yourselves into his presence”. Worship leader Bob Kauflin (b. 1955) affirms, “The psalmists model numerous ways we can express our affections toward God to magnify his greatness, all of which can be reflected in our songs (Kauflin, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, 65).”

Robert Alter (b. 1935) specifies, “The Hebrew preposition...has the sense of “His presence.” The spatial reference is to the temple, where God’s presence is conceived to dwell, an idea that will be developed in Psalm 100:4 (Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, 348).”

Walter D. Zorn (b. 1943) adds:

This is the first use of the word for “come” (Psalm 100:2b) or “enter (Psalm 100:4a) – same word in Hebrew...The language is taken from how people were given an audience with human kings (cf. I Samuel 10:24; II Samuel 14:3, 15, 15:2; Esther 4:11-16, 8:1). (Zorn, Psalms Volume 2 (The College Press NIV Commentary: Old Testament Series), 237)
We are too approach God with at least the same reverence one would a human authority figure.

How do you approach God? Do you enter God’s presence with singing? Does your Sunday worship extend throughout the week? How should worship begin? What role does music play in worship? Is it a necessary component? With what attitude do you worship?

Artur Weiser (1893-1978) reminds:

The call to Psalm 100:2 is addressed to the congregation assembled in the Temple. It expresses the motive and the aim and at the same time the spirit of the ‘service’ rendered to God in worship, that is, enthusiastic joy in the presence of God. The note of a joy that is utterly devoted to God and leaves behind it every earthly sorrow that may burn the heart is not only reflected in the opening verses but resounds through the whole psalm. (Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library), 646)
Hans-Joachim Kraus (1918-2000) adds:
The worship of God at the festival began with the call, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2). Thus worship in Israel was characterized by joy. To serve God means in cultic terms to come before his face, to praise him, laud him, and honor him. (Kraus, Theology of the Psalms (Continental Commentaries), 91)
Rick Warren (b. 1954) advises:
Because God wants our worship to be a celebration, we cultivate an atmosphere of gladness and joy. Too many church services resemble a funeral more than a festival...Worship is a delight, not a duty. (Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission, 271)
What can you glean about worship from Psalm 100? Do you worship God joyfully? Do you joyfully serve the Lord?

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” - C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), Reflections on the Psalms, p. 45