Jared Smith's Bible Reading

32 Bible Reading – A Devotional Review

Starting today, I am pleased to resume our session of studies on Signposts For Your Journey Through The Bible. From this point forward, I will be teaching three studies in rotation—one week I will bring a study on the books of the Bible, the next week it will be a study on Bible doctrine, the week after will be a study in Paul’s letter to the Romans—every three weeks these studies will rotate.  

For this study, I would like to review what I have covered thus far for Bible Reading. 

If you turn to the table of contents in the front of your Bible, you will discover the books have been arranged in a sort of topical order. However, in my view, this is not the best way to read the books if our goal is to read the scriptures from beginning to end. The better approach is to arrange the books in chronological order. In this way, we are able to follow the biblical narrative as it unfolds throughout the course of history. To this end, I have put together this chronological chart of Bible books.

I have indicated for each book the time period in which the narrative occurs, the number of years covered by the book, the number of chapters in the book and the length of time required to read it. If another book of the Bible occurs within that same time period, this too is indicated on the chart. Thus far, I have given an overview for the first twelve books—Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and Psalms. We are now ready to resume our studies with the book of 1 Kings, which I hope to do next week.

Now, in addition to this chronological chart of Bible books, I have also prepared a diagram called the Framework of Sovereign Grace.

The purpose of this diagram is to highlight the masterplan of God for the ages. On the one side are the elect—those persons God has set apart as objects of special love, making them vessels unto honor by electing love, vessels of mercy by redeeming grace and vessels of gold and silver by sanctifying power. God’s masterplan for the elect is the administration of His grace unto salvation, bestowing upon them all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, preparing them unto glory. On the other side are the non-elect—those persons set aside as objects of less love, God making them vessels unto dishonor, leaving them in their sins, making them vessels of wrath and vessels of wood and earth. God’s masterplan for the non-elect is the administration of His grace unto creation, bestowing on them all the physical and material blessings of this world, but fitting them to destruction. For each book of the Bible, it has been my purpose to show you where the men and women recorded in that book fit within this Framework of Sovereign Grace. Sometimes the scriptures are quite clear to indicate whether a person is set apart as a vessel of mercy, and whether they are set aside as a vessel of wrath. Other times the scriptures are not so clear, in which cases I place those people into the “unsure” category. And, what is true of the human race is true also for the angelic hosts, for there are some angels who have been set apart by the electing love of God, while others have been set aside as objects of wrath and condemnation. 

This, in a nutshell, is my review of our previous studies in our series on Bible Reading. And as I have said, if the Lord wills it, then we will look at the book of 1 Kings next week. For the remainder of this study, I would like to share a little exposition of the first Psalm. Please turn to Psalm 1, if you have your Bible available. While preparing this short review for the Bible Books, it was this Psalm which stood foremost in my mind, and I have been meditating upon it throughout the week. 

If you have followed the order of service prepared for The Baptist Particular, then you will have sung William Tucker’s hymn, “Fixed Was The Eternal State Of Man”. The words of that hymn embody the Framework of Sovereign Grace, and they epitomize the teachings of Psalm 1.

1 Fixed was the eternal state of man,

Ere time its rapid course began;

Appointed, by God’s firm decree,

To endless joy or misery.

2 Fixed was the vast eternal deep,

Between the goats and chosen sheep;

Nor can a union e’er take place,

’Twixt heirs of wrath and heirs of grace.

3 All glory to the great I AM,

Who chose me in the blessed Lamb;

Whilst millions of the human race,

Will never know or taste His grace;

4 And blessings on atoning blood,

By which I’m reconciled to God;

And praise be to the Spirit given,

Who frees from sin and leads to heaven.

And so, I emphasize again, according to God’s masterplan for the ages, the human race is divided into two distinct groups—those set apart as objects of special love, and those set aside as objects of less love; those whom the Father has chosen to make vessels unto honor, and those whom the Father has chosen to make vessels unto dishonor; those who saved by the redeeming grace of Christ and made vessels of mercy, and those who are left in their sins and made vessels of wrath; those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God and made the vessels of gold and silver, and those who are left in their sins and made the vessels of wood and earth; those who are prepared unto glory, and those who are fitted to destruction. Or, as Tucker expresses it in the hymn, those who are sheep, heirs of grace and appointed to endless joy, and those who are goats, heirs of wrath and appointed to endless misery.

Now, as you will discover from Psalm 1, it was David’s purpose to make this same distinction:

Psalm 1:1-3: “1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” 

Two groups are distinguished here—the elect and the non-elect. 

First, let me say something about the non-elect. They are given three labels. 

First, they are designated the “ungodly”. This appears four times in the Psalm—in verse 1, it is “the counsel of the ungodly”; in verse 4, the ungodly are described as “the chaff which the wind drives away”; in verse 5, “the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment”; and in verse 6, “the way of the ungodly shall perish”. They are ungodly because they are at enmity with God; they are not His friends. They do not honour Him as their Maker; they do not obey Him as their Lawgiver; they do not trust Him as their Governor. They live as if God does not exist—they do for themselves, and to others, whatever seems right in their own eyes, rather than what God instructs them to do according to the law inscribed upon their hearts. Ultimately, they are ungodly because the fear of the Lord is not in their hearts. They do not reverence Him, they do not love Him, they do not worship Him. They are ungodly. 

Second, the non-elect are designated “sinners”. This appears twice in the Psalm—in verse 1, it is “the way of sinners”; and in verse 5, “sinners shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous.” Sin is the transgression of God’s law, and so a sinner is a transgressor of the law God has inscribed upon his/her heart. By default, every person with a biological father comes into this world conceived in sin, shaped in iniquity and therefore spiritual dead in sin. We sometimes call this a sinful nature, and a sinful nature it is, for out of it proceeds all of our personal transgressions against God’s law—transgressions of the mind, of the mouth and of the act—all of it springs from the sinful nature of the soul. The WAY of a sinner is the way of the transgressor; and transgressors will be judged by our holy and righteous God. It is for this reason sinners CANNOT STAND in the congregation of the righteous. 

So long as the soul remains in this sinful condition, he/she is spiritually dead—the soul is not in union with God, and therefore the life of God does not flow into the soul. The soul is cut off from the Lord. Yes, the sinner sustains a relationship TO God, under the authority of the covenant of works and therefore responsible to perfectly obey the law inscribed upon the heart, but the sinner in this condition is not in relationship WITH God, for unless he/she is born again, the sinner is a stranger to the grace of God in Christ, and the soul remains cut off from the Lord. 

Third, the non-elect are designated “scorners”. This appears once in the Psalm—in verse 1, it is “the seat of the scornful”. This word scornful means “to talk arrogantly; to boast; to be inflated; to scoff, to make a mockery at something.” The Hebrew term appears twenty-seven times in the Old Testament, and has been translated “mock” in Proverbs 14:9: “Fools make a mock at sin.” And that is what the ungodly are doing in Psalm 1—the seat of the scornful represents those who make a mockery of God, by treading under their feet His righteous law. So corrupted are their hearts, that they not only transgress God’s law, but they take pleasure in doing so, mocking God and His righteousness in the process. They likewise have nothing but scorn for the gospel of Christ and they frequently mock those who have been redeemed by Christ. The grace of God in Christ is antagonistic to their sinful hearts—they want nothing of it. Now, there may be some very religious people—they may use the name of Christ; they may profess to know Christ; but their religion is only a form of godliness. The gospel to which they subscribe is not the gospel of Christ—it is a gospel of their own making. They are certainly happy to embrace a gospel of their own making, but put before them the gospel revealed in the holy scriptures, and they will reject it; they will scorn it; they will puff up their hearts and inflate their heads and snuff at it. Ungodly sinners despise the glorious gospel of the blessed God. They do not want Christ who is the way, the truth and the life—they want their own way, they want their own truth and they want their own life; they do not want the counsel of the scriptures as it reveals the glory of God in Christ—they take counsel among themselves, encouraging each other in their sins; all-in-all, they are quite satisfied with themselves, which is why David describes them as sitting in the seat of the scornful. 

This is the first group of people referred to by David—the non-elect. As for the other group, they are “the elect of God, holy and beloved.” Now, let it be clear, all that we have gathered about the non-elect—they come into this world conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity; they are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins; they are at enmity with God and strangers to the grace of God—all of this is true also of the elect when they come into the world. We are all by nature the children of wrath, under the headship of our first parent, Adam. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

You may then ask, what is the difference between the elect and the non-elect? Well, the difference between them is the grace of God unto salvation, bestowed upon the one, but withheld from the other. And that is what David is referring to when he identifies the elect as “righteous”. This term is used twice by David when speaking of the elect: in verse 5, it is “the congregation of the righteous”—they are congregated, assembled, together, gathered, like sheep belonging to one fold; and in verse 6, “the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous”—meaning there is only one WAY for a sinner to be reconciled to God, and that is through the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father but through Christ. 

Jehovah knows the way of the righteous. He knows the way of salvation for the righteous, because He has before the foundation of the world chosen them in Christ; before the foundation of the world, God the Father gave His elect people to the Son, appointing Him to serve as their Redeemer; before the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son gave their elect and redeemed people to the Holy Spirit, appointing Him to serve as their Regenerator and Sanctifier. And this is the reason the elect are called the righteous—it is not a righteousness of their own. It is the righteousness of God in Christ, given to them by the Father in justification, and by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. First, there is a judicial righteousness imputed to them by the Father, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; Second, there it is a spiritual righteousness imparted to them by the effectual power of the Holy Spirit, through the regenerating grace of the new birth. The justifying act of God the Father is an eternal judgment settled in the high court of heaven before the foundation of the world—it is based on the pledge made by the Son to the Father, that He would in the fulness of time redeem those given to Him by the Father. The Father accepted this pledge by the Son, thereby freely justifying the elect from eternity. The regenerating work of God the Spirit is an experiential operation performed in the soul of the sinner at the appointed time in the life of each elect person—it is based on the effectual power of the Spirit, uniting the soul with the Lord Jesus Christ, thereby experientially applying the redeeming grace of Christ to the soul. Properly speaking, we do not experience the act of justification, but we do experience the work of regeneration, after which we are brought to a realization through saving faith that God has freely justified us by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 

My dear brethren, there are two beautiful emblems which illustrate the righteousness of Christ as it is given to the sinner by eternal justification and experiential regeneration. 

The first emblem is that of a righteous robe, illustrating the sinner’s justification before a righteous God—it is recorded in Isaiah 61:10: ”I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” To be clothed with the robe of righteousness is to be freely justified by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. In the act of justification, the righteousness of Christ is put on us, it is not put in us; it is put to our account, it is not applied to our hearts, as such. This is why it is depicted as a robe that covers us. On the one hand, our sins have been put on Christ, or to Christ’s account, wherein He suffered, bled and died as a substitute for us—this is why He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, because He has cleansed us from all unrighteousness—by His sacrificial and atoning death, our sins have been carried away, the justice of God has been satisfied and His wrath appeased. On the other hand, the righteousness of Christ, which He earned by His perfect obedience to the heart law during His earthly pilgrimage, is put on us, or to our account, wherein we stand before God completely righteous, there being no condemnation to those who are covered by this robe of righteousness. You see, my dear friends, this righteous robe, the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming work, is the garment of our salvation, or the covering of our justification.  

The second emblem is that of a righteous vine, illustrating the sinner’s regeneration by a spiritual union with Christ—it is recorded in John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (See also Isaiah 61:3, “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.”) Prior to the new birth, the sinner is like a branch cut off from the vine—the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, having no spiritual union with God, and therefore no divine life flowing into the soul. After the new birth, the sinner is like a branch that has been engrafted to the vine—the Spirit of God unites the soul with the Lord Jesus Christ, by virtue of which the life of Christ flows into the soul, making him/her alive unto God through Him, and the graces of Christ flow into the soul, among which is spiritual faith, enabling him/her to believe on Christ to the saving of the soul. This spiritual union between Christ and the soul is often depicted in scripture as a new nature, and as Paul writes in Ephesians 4, it is created in righteousness and true holiness. Do you see, my dear friends, this righteous vine, the Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming work, is the root and fruit of our salvation. Having been created in Christ Jesus by virtue of our spiritual union with Him, this union, or new nature, is an entirely righteous and holy nature. It is in this way the Spirit of God applies the redeeming work of Christ to our souls, imparting to us the righteousness of Christ spiritually and experientially. 

And so, we have the emblem of a righteous robe, illustrating the sinner’s justification; and we have the emblem of a righteous vine, illustrating the sinner’s regeneration; both of which highlight the saving grace of God unto salvation. First, the Father justifies His elect people from eternity, by the surety of Christ’s redeeming work; Second, the Holy Spirit regenerates the elect in time, by the application of Christ’s redeeming work to the soul. Righteousness is imputed to us by justification, while it is imparted to us in regeneration. And this, I say, is the meaning of the term used by David in Psalm 1. It is noticeable that he didn’t describe the elect as the “godly”, though he could have easily done so and it would be perfectly true. He describes the non-elect as the ungodly, and we might expect him therefore to show the contrast between the non-elect and the elect by designating the elect “godly”. But you see, he chooses a different word to identify the elect—a better word. The elect are the “righteous”—they wear the righteous robe of justifying grace, and they are united to the righteous vine of regenerating power. 

Alright, well, David goes on to described the effect of this saving grace and saving power upon the soul. He tells us those who wear this righteous robe and are united to this righteous vine are blessed—they are blessed to walk away from the counsel of the ungodly; they are blessed to stand apart from the way of sinners; they are blessed to sit outside the seat of the scorners. 

But not only are they blessed, they are also full of delight—they take much delight in reading the Word of God, and meditating on the gospel of Christ. Their delight is in the Word of God, and in His Word, that is, in the gospel of Christ which is recorded in the His Word, they meditate day and night. Yes, day and night! You see, by wearing this robe of righteousness and being united to this vine of righteousness, their thoughts, their words and their deeds are filled with Christ. He is always before their minds; He is always in their hearts; He is the object of their highest affections and the source of their deepest satisfaction. And you see, the more they read the Word of God, and meditate on the Lord Jesus Christ, the more they grow in grace, for the only food that refreshes and nourishes the soul is Christ Himself—He is their robe and He is the vine. Christ alone answers the regenerate sinner’s every need. It isn’t to be found in the heart law under the covenant of works, nor is it to be found in the ten commandments under the Mosaic Covenant—it is found only in the gospel law, which is none other that Christ Himself and His righteousness imputed and imparted to us. 

Alright, well David doesn’t end it here, for he goes on to illustrate how the gospel law works itself out in the life of a believer. He compares the regenerate sinner to a tree planted by the rivers of water—Christ is that river! He says the believer will bring forth his fruit in due season—that is, throughout the course of our pilgrimage in this world, the believer will bear the fruit of his/her new nature in Christ; by virtue of the soul’s union with Christ, as a branch is engrafted to the vine, so all the virtues of Christ flow into the soul, among which are love, joy, peace, gentleness, faith, a thirst and hunger for righteousness—the Spirt of God working these virtues in the believer, thereby enabling the believer to work out his/her own salvation with fear and trembling. David then says, the believer’s leaf will not wither, and whatsoever he does will prosper—my dear brethren, the believer’s leaf will not wither because the soul is inseparably united to Christ; the believer may be confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in him/her will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. And finally, David says that whatever the believer does will prosper—and how could it be otherwise, for if God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all thing? Are we not more than conquerors through Him that loves us? Who shall lay anything to our charge? It is God the Father that justified us through the redemption in Christ. Who is he that condemns us? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Let me ask you, my friends, do you have this experience? Are you clothed with this robe of righteousness? Do you know your sins forgiven? Do you have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you experienced what Jesus described as a new birth? Does the life and virtues of Christ flow into your soul? 

If these things are true for you, then reading the Word of God will be the joy and the rejoicing of your heart. It is something you want to do, and that my dear brethren is driving force behind this series of studies on the Bible books. I want to help you on your journey through the Word of God. Let us all rejoice this day if we can say with David, My delight is in the law of the Lord—the gospel law, and in His gospel law do I meditate day and night!