Results tagged “David Murray” from Reformation21 Blog

In case you missed it last week, contributor David Murray gives us 5 Reasons to Study Old Testament History. 

by David Murray

Shakespeare wrote that each person's history is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The Christian view of personal and world history is quite a contrast; we believe God ordained it, organizes it, and moves it towards a meaningful, definite, and certain purpose.

Many Christians, however, entertain a negative view of Old Testament History; of its usefulness and even of its accuracy. It is often regarded as "far away" and "distant" chronologically, geographically, socially, and theologically. "What can it do for me?" and "Why study it?" are common questions. Here are five reasons to study it and benefit from it:

1. OT History is True History
Israel's neighbors expressed their beliefs through fantastic, elaborate, "out-of-this-world" myths. In contrast, Old Testament narratives about Israel describe real events in real time involving real people and a real God. The reality of Israel's faith rested on the reality of Israel's history.
Similarly, if we lose or give up the truthfulness of the Biblical record, we lose and give up the Truth. We also lose our Christian faith because it is founded not on detached philosophical speculations but on God's acts in human history.

Approaching Old Testament narratives with unshakeable confidence in their accuracy and truthfulness will build up unshakeable faith.

2. OT History is Selective History
No matter how much they deny it, every historian has an agenda. Though often unspoken, that agenda can often be deduced by analyzing his selection, arrangement, and editing of events. Old Testament writers also had an agenda that guided the selection, arrangement, and editing of their accounts. The only difference, and it's a major difference, is that their selectivity was divinely inspired and, therefore, in no ways diminishes their truthfulness.

Therefore, when reading Old Testament history, ask yourself why the author selected these events and that particular angle on them. It will get you much closer to the message he intended to convey to his original audience.

3. OT History is Relevant History
Old Testament preaching often faces the charge of seeming irrelevance. There are vast differences between the world of the Old Testament and the modern world. However, this "relevance gap" cannot be bridged by forgetting Old Testament history. Attempting this may make the sermon relevant but it makes the Scriptures irrelevant.

Rather, a right understanding of Old Testament history enables us to understand the original message to the original audience at the original time and place; and that having done this, the bridge to the present message is far easier and safer to construct.

4. OT History is Purposeful History
Many history books simply relate the what, when, where, and how of each event. Not many attempt to answer the "Why?" question, and those that do usually prove laughably unreliable.
In contrast, biblical history has a clear purpose: it is a progressive revelation of the mind and heart of God for the benefit of needy sinners. God is the subject and the hero of the Bible. Therefore, when we read an Old Testament narrative, we ask three questions:
What does this story reveal about God?
How is this intended to help needy sinners?
What role does this story play in the larger and longer biblical story?

The last question will help prevent us reading the chapters as disconnected dots and unrelated atoms.

5. OT History is Redemptive History
The Old Testament is redemptive history. God actively directs human history for the purpose of redeeming sinners to Himself. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record what would graciously reveal that redemptive purpose, and even the Redeemer Himself (Luke 24:27). The Biblical history, then, is not just facts to teach us theology. These historical facts serve to bring in God's elect. What greater motive do we need to study it than that these Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).

Text Link:

​"​Jesus is still on His throne. Jesus still hears the earnest prayers of His church. Whether in death or deliverance. Jesus will be glorified as sovereign King of a people who gladly put His worth on display through suffering for the sake of His name. Indeed, we have a King like no other...​" The Christward Collecttive contributor, Tim Brister, covers the sovereignty of Christ. He sits on the thrones, He hears us, and He answers us.

Also new from

The Hardest Week - Nick Batzig​ ​talks about Christ's hardest week and how He pressed through it for our redemption.​

The Second Commandment, Westminster and Images of Jesus - Brian Cosby​ covers the controversial issue of images of Jesus​.

Every Pastor Needs a Theology Coach - Joe Thorn​ ​shares how every pastor still needs "coaching."

And recent winners of Alliance drawings include:

William H, Ft Worth TX
Eric C, Bloomington IN
Claudie S, El Paso TX
Tianna M, Oostburg WI
Carolyn T, Richfield MN
Joy J, Evansville IN
Cindy C, Leawood KS

Jeff C, Blaine WA
Charles B, Baltimore MD
Bob P, Stowe PA
George W, Greenwood MS
Robert P, Norwood MA

​Text Links:​

Joy Beyond Agony -

Happy Christian -
The idea of Christian unity has been so perverted over the years by liberal Christianity that there is considerable confusion about what it means, both inside and outside the church.

Another sad consequence is that those who are orthodox have overreacted to these abuses by rarely speaking about it, except to criticize it, and we even more rarely work for it. However, we must not let the precious vocabulary and principals of Christian unity fall into neglect or be stolen from us by those who have deliberately twisted and misused them.

A bright light in the midst of this confusion is the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals that runs this "ecumenical" blog, The Christward Collective, and strives to build wider Christian unity on a biblical basis.

I want to encourage more of this biblical ecumenicity; but to do so, we must first of all distinguish six different types of Christian unity. Continue reading on

Concerning mere happiness

You will probably have seen the latest clip of Osteenian wisdom circulating on the interweb. A gleaming Victoria, cheered by the crowd and with husband Joel oozing agreement in the background, announces the following:
I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God - I mean, that's one way to look at it. We're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy . . . that's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning.

So, I want you to know this morning: just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy. Amen? Let's open our hearts to him today . . .
Maybe we will pass on that amen, at least as Mrs Osteen fishes for it. Frankly, this is of a piece with the kind of tosh that we have come to expect from the Osteen stable. Responding, Al Mohler swung into action with a penetrating piece in which he concluded the following:
Mere happiness cannot bear the weight of the Gospel. The message of the real Gospel is found in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That is a message that can be preached with a straight face, a courageous spirit, and an urgent heart in Munich, in Miami, or in Mosul.
This troubled my friend David Murray, who replied with the following:
Whenever serious error arises, like the Osteens' Prosperity Gospel message, we're always at risk of framing our theology in opposition to the error rather than by taking it straight from the Bible. Reformed Theology re-forms the biblical message from the Bible; Reactionary Theology forms theology in opposition to an error. In doing so - whether it's in reaction to secular psychology, moralistic preaching, legalism, antinomianism, or the prosperity gospel - we run the real risk of going too far the other way and losing biblical vocabulary and concepts.

I don't want the Osteens' happiness. But neither do I want to lose true biblical happiness. I steadfastly refuse to let the Osteens' steal this beautiful biblical word from me or the Church. Instead, let's reclaim it and fill it with biblical ballast. By doing so we can surely out-happify the Osteens. And yes, that kind of happiness will pass the Mosul test.
David's first paragraph above is great. It is annoying, because he has said in a single paragraph what I had intended to develop into a blog post, but it is spot on. But what of this pursuit of a happiness that passes the Munich/Miami/Mosul test?

Perhaps the particular challenge lies in our definition of the word happiness, and it is a challenge which I think David begins trying to address in his post. As with so many of the problems with beset us, a large part of the difficulty has to do with the fact that we often use the same language, but we may be using it to communicate different things.

The word 'happiness' presents this problem in spades. I imagine that, when Dr Mohler employed it in his article critical of the Osteens, he was using it primarily to refer to crass, carnal happiness of the kind celebrated by La Osteen in her little outtake. It is clear that when Dr Murray employs it, he is wrestling to define the word biblically and so reclaim it for proper use. To do so, he freights it with an entirely different sense, what the Puritans and those in their stream might have called gospel happiness or blessedness, with its primary sphere of reference in a gracious God and his good gifts to the undeserving and ill-deserving creatures upon whom he has sovereignly smiled.

It is a problem that every preacher struggles with. When I speak, for example, of the blessed man of Psalm 1, I speak of one who is "truly and lastingly happy." Even then, I still need to define what is true and lasting happiness, and to do so with biblical notions and often with explicitly biblical language.

If you will forgive what is probably considered by many to be an arch-heresy, it is one of the enduring problems with the classic formula for Christian hedonism, the notion that God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in him. Despite all warnings and definitions, this formulation carries the constant danger of locating the glory of God in human satisfaction. One of the reasons why it does so is because - again, in the face of all attempts to prevent it - most us of wrestle with a selfish and shallow and deceptive heart that constantly defines satisfaction in terms of our own human appetites and desires. As has been noted before, in the wrong hands this formula, with the recasting of the first question and answer of the Shorter Catechism, becomes an excuse to focus on self-satisfaction rather than God-glorification. At a popular level, it is sometimes understood to suggest that it is not possible that God should be glorified unless I am also being immediately satisfied, that if I am not being satisfied then God cannot be glorified. This has become, for some, a test of action, and it is not one that makes the glory of God the chief end of man, but swings the focus to where it does not belong--on the desires and appetites of the creature. While I do not wish again to enter the debate as to whether or not this formulation is inherently slanted toward the creature rather than the Creator, it does underline the need for definition, and to take such language in the sense in which it is intended. In fact, I was amused to read the tweet of one well-known chap who wanted a certain lady to know the following: "Victoria Osteen: God's glory and your joy are at odds." Well, they may be, but that is certainly a strange declaration to come from the Desiring God stable! The whole issue lies in the name that is attached to the front of the tweet, and the presumed sense which she attaches to the concepts of divine glory and human joy.

So, as the whole Osteen circus makes plain, the first problem to address lies in that presumed intended sense. It seems very clear from the context that we are here in the realm of that "mere" crass, carnal happiness which cannot, as Dr Mohler points out, bear the weight of the gospel. In exposing such nonsense for what it is, we must not only critique the sense (or lack of it), but - if we are to reclaim the word - we must do so by constant and careful definition. To deal with this matter properly, we must bring it into the realm of true and lasting happiness, the sphere of divine blessedness, that stable and abounding joy that is yoked to God's inherent excellences. Only this happiness passes the proposed tests. This is where Dr Murray has his work cut out for him. In defining happiness, joy and blessing biblically, we are again fighting an age-old battle. We must put and keep something - something that we constantly and instinctively wish to identify in our own terms - in the words and sense of the Lord Almighty, the great Creator and glorious Redeemer. We are reaching for notions that God has defined, notions which we are tempted to wreathe in the thoughts of the fallen creature but which we must recover as the battling redeemed.

More Resources on Depression

As a follow up to Todd's post on resources on depression, I wanted to share a few items that the Alliance keeps around on the topic. These and more can be found at And as a reminder, if you are a Friend of the Alliance, your shipping is free; if you are part of our President's Circle, we would be happy to give you these resources for free!

Audio: (available as both CD and MP3)
Alliance collection - "My Portion Forever, Finding God's Joy in our Pain" -
James Boice - "Hearing God When You Hurt" -
Donald Barnhouse - "Sickness and Suffering" -

Dr. Boice & Dr. Barnhouse - "Anxiety and Depression" -
Donald Barnhouse - "Emotions, Nerves and Christianity" -
Classic Spurgeon - "Christ the Cure for Troubled Hearts" -

David Murray - "Christians Get Depressed Too" -
Ligon Duncan - "Does Grace Grow Best in Winter" -
James Boice - "Hearing God When You Hurt" -

Christ in all the Scriptures and Jesus on every page

I was grateful to be offered an early glimpse of David Murray's latest book, Jesus On Every Page (Thomas Nelson, 2013) (see below for a giveaway and special launch offer). It did not disappoint.

Imagine, if you will, an art gallery devoted to portraits of one particular person by one particular artist. A significant part of it is well-illuminated, clearly open to the public, and the beauty of its displays is fairly readily evident. However, there are substantial portions of the gallery which, though belonging to the whole, showing works by the same artist and portraits of the same subject, and contributing to the whole effect, are being overlooked. Over time, it has been suggested that the early works of the artist are perhaps not his best efforts, and do not show his subject to best effect, if indeed that subject is properly discernible. Such discouragements led to visitors being steered away from that part. Experts, some of them well-meaning, set up barriers to keep the plebs away. When the bulbs went out, no-one bothered replacing them; when rooms fell into disrepair, no one worked to restore them. Over time more than half of the gallery, with the exception of a few well-maintained and often-visited spots here and there, became shrouded in dust and cobwebs, entered only by an intrepid few, peering through the gloom at dimly-seen and barely-appreciated works of art.

Such is the Old Testament to many readers of the Bible, even those who are persuaded in principle that the whole of the book and all its books declare the Lord Christ in some way. I remember hearing of a Westminster Seminary professor who would examine the Bibles of his students, assessing the wear of the gold leaf on the edges of the pages to see if they had been neglecting to read and to study their Old Testaments, and who was often moved to deliver something of a reproof to his acolytes.

But what if some determined soul made it his project to expose the grandeur of that overlooked portion of the gallery, persuaded that the artist was no less skilful in his early phase than in his latter, but rather had deliberately developed a technique over time, making plain his intentions by degrees, and that the subject of his works was of such excellence and beauty that the merest glimpses of his person were worthy of attention? That determined soul begins to move aside the barriers, sweep away the cobwebs, clean the windows, relay the wiring, replace the bulbs, and so brings the neglected rooms and their works back into public view. In certain rooms, in order to emphasize the necessity and profit of his work and to reinforce its value, he sets up special displays to bring into particular prominence certain aspects of the artist's work in highlighting his subject.

That is David Murray's intention in this book. He leaves all the apparatus of his restoration work well out of sight, allowing us simply to enjoy its fruits. After a brief survey of the problem and how it is addressed by our Lord himself and three of the most significant New Testament authors, he sets out to give us "spiritual heartburn" by reviewing (in the style to which he has made us accustomed) Christ's planet, people, presence, precepts, past, prophets, pictures, promises, proverbs and poets, well realising his aim to give us a properly popular and accessible introduction to the topic. Indeed, as the reader works through the book, there will be moments in which you particularly appreciate the precise way in which he has angled the lighting, even as you gape in delight at the portraits which, so lit, reveal something of the beauty and majesty of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps best of all, preachers will, I hope, see a range of exciting possibilities open up at the prospect of giving their own guided tours of the Old Testament.

To be sure, some will have their own particular works that they might like to have seen featured, and different approaches or nuances in the matter of covenant theology in particular might move some to suggest a different arrangement of that particular display, but the point of the whole is to re-introduce us to the riches of the Old Testament and to begin equipping us to delve beyond the masterpieces that the author has brought to immediate prominence. It is appetite-whetting stuff.

So may I encourage you to take David Murray's Emmaus Tour of the Old Testament? I am sure it will richly repay your investment, pointing you in the right direction to begin exploring the Redeemer's person and work as you discover Christ in all the Scriptures and Jesus On Every Page.

* * * * * * *

You can order David's book through the usual sources (for example, / or direct from the publisher. The book has its own website (, and there is also a very generous launch offer of $100 worth of Old Testament resources.

In addition, I have two copies of the book to give away, but - naturally - not without a little effort. So, the first two people to track me down on Twitter @peregrinus75 and tell me (#EveryPage, if possible) which Old Testament portrait of Christ they most appreciate and - if there is space - why, will get a free copy. Others will earn gratitude and appreciation.