The 10 Commandments (book review)

The 10 Commandments: what they mean, why they matter, and why we should obey them
Kevin DeYoung
Crossway, 2018


A month or so ago I told my congregation that anything Kevin DeYoung has written is worth reading. Having read his latest book, I wouldn’t say anything different, but I would add an asterisk.
This book is pretty good on nine of the commandments. The application is good, and he gets to Jesus.
The chapter on the fourth commandment is a real let down though. It’s particularly disappointing as he was brought up by parents who had a strict view of the Sabbath, which he’s grateful for, but says that in light of Romans 14 and Colossians 2 he can’t justify that approach exegetically.

Discussing the phrase ‘festivals, new moons and Sabbaths’, he says ‘I don’t know how to make sense of the three items if “Sabbaths” means something other than the seventh day of the weekly Sabbath’. However, as Philip Ross points out in From the Finger of God, ‘on the six other occasions where feasts, new moons, and sabbaths are grouped together in the Old Testament they are always bound up with offerings, suggesting that the term is concerned more with the sacrificial activity of those occasions than with the days themselves’, so they ‘serve as shorthand for the offerings and rituals common to those occasions…all these things were the shadow of which Christ himself was the substance’.

There is also no recognition of the fact that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, though he does make the strange statement that ‘the fourth commandment is the only one of the ten which the Lord clearly gave to the nation of Israel before they reached Mount Sinai (see Exodus 16)’. Did the nation of Israel look back and think it was ok for Cain to murder Abel, for Ham to dishonour his father, for Abraham to lie and for Potiphar’s wife to try and seduce Joseph? These things were in place since the creation of the world, so such a distinction is unhelpful. In fact, one of the most significant things about Exodus 16 is that Moses didn’t need to explain the concept of or rationale for the Sabbath.

As a result, whereas DeYoung says ‘Strip away the cultural context and the case law, and the main takeaway from the Mosaic Sabbath is that we must rest from our labors and trust in God’, the Puritans would have said ‘Strip away the cultural context and case law and you’re back to the Sabbath there was from the day God rested until the day he gave all that case law – just on a different day now Jesus has risen’. The Sabbath existed before sin and therefore can’t be ceremonial. Strip off the ceremonial aspects, and the moral law remains.

DeYoung also tries to play the Westminster and Continental views of the Sabbath off against each other, stating ‘Even within the Reformed tradition there are different understandings of what it means to observe the Sabbath’, before quoting from both standpoints. However as Richard Gaffin has cautioned, ‘the difference between the Puritan Sabbath and Continental Sunday should not be exaggerated, especially so far as the actual practices of churches in the Reformed tradition are in view…following the Synod of Dort, British-American Presbyterianism and Continental Calvinism became of one mind on what Sunday observance should look like…We may speak here of a Reformed consensus’.

DeYoung here departs from that consensus. He may be thankful that he grew up with his parents’ unswerving commitment to morning and evening worship, but what he says in this chapter will further militate against the same commitment in this generation. For example, he calls his own decision not to do homework on Sundays ‘a bold decision’, rather than obedience to a commandment of God which is binding on all.

American Christianity has taken away the practice of the Sabbath, and then revised their theology accordingly. DeYoung may want to keep the practice, but once the theological backbone is removed, the practice will soon disappear.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

RP resources on the Song of Solomon

I’ve just come across a brief, forgotten commentary on the Song of Solomon by J. G. Vos. It’s contained in The Biblical Expositor: the living theme of the great book (Vol. II), edited by Carl F. Henry and published in 1960 (second edition). Other notable authors in this volume include R. Laird Harris (Psalms), Gleason Archer (Isaiah), E. J. Young (Zephaniah), G. W. Bromiley (Haggai) and Marten Woudstra (Zechariah).

Vos takes the view that: ‘The Song is not an allegory nor a type, though it has often been treated as one or the other. Rather, it is a parable of the divine love which is the background and source of all true human love…It is a remarkable fact that the Sonf of Solomon is nowhere quoted in the New Testament, though it was undoubtedly regarded as inspired, canonical Scripture in the time of Christ. The lack of reference to it in the New Testament is an objection to allegorical interpretations which find many details of Christian doctrine and experience in the Song. While interpreting it literally, we must certainly regard it as also a parable of the divine love which provides salvation for sinners and makes them the bride of Christ. In addition to leading us to a higher view of the beauty, purity and power of the love between man and woman in the sacred bond of marriage, it should stir us up to a higher appreciation of the divine love, and a deeper response of love on our part to the Lord Who first loved us’.

Another 20th century RP resource, this time from Ireland, is Hugh J. Blair’s ‘Preaching from the Song of Solomon’ in Reformed Theological Journal, iii (1987), pp 47-58.
He quotes John Murray as saying: ‘I cannot endorse the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon. I think the vagaries of interpretation given in terms of the allegorical principle indicate that there are no well defined hermeneutical canons to guide us in determining the precise meaning and application if we adopt the allegorical view…However, I also think that in terms of biblical analogy the Song can be used to illustrate the relation of Christ to His church’.
Blair concludes: ‘The conclusion reached by our study is that preaching from the Song of Solomon will apply its message to the relationship of love between a man and a woman, and will go on from that to see that love as an analogy of the love of Christ for His people and theirs for Him’.

Back across the pond again, a 21st century assessment comes in Anthony Selvaggio’s – ‘Listening to the Song of Songs: a survey of the major interpretive issues’ in Reformed Theological Journal, xxiii (2007), pp 56-69. Selvaggio has also written What the Bible teaches about marriage, which is based on the Song.

6 ways the Old Testament speaks today

6 ways the Old Testament speaks today: an interactive guide
Alec Motyer
Crossway, 2018

6 ways the OT speaks today

A new book by Alec Motyer is always an exciting event, especially coming two years after he was promoted to glory. In actual fact, this is the North American title for the second edition of his Scenic Route through the Old Testament.
As the subtitle suggests, this isn’t really a book to be read straight through. It has six chapters, each introducing a different Old Testament genre, and then a week’s worth of Bible readings, with comments (and an additional month of readings and comments in the appendix).
Being Motyer, there are plenty of gems scattered throughout. I particularly liked his comment on p. 42: ‘pagan religions those who penetrated into the innermost sanctuary came face-to-face with some idol, but in the tabernacle they came face-to-face with the moral law’. He also uses the phrase ‘social righteousness’, which seems preferably to ‘social justice’. Nor does he shy away from the less popular parts of the Old Testament, commenting helpfully on the imprecatory psalms. Elsewhere he asks the question ‘Do the Psalms point to the Lord Jesus Christ’, and part of his answer (about how they reflect the hope of a perfect king) is worth quoting in full:

“The Psalms reflect it as they sing of a king who faces world opposition (2:1–3; 110:1–2) but is victorious (45:3–5; 89:22–23). By the Lord’s help (18:46–50; 21:1–13) he establishes world rule (2:8–12; 45:17; 72:8–11; 110:5–6), which is based at Zion (2:6) and marked by righteousness (45:4, 6–7; 72:2–3; 101:1–8). His rule is everlasting (21:4; 45:6; 72:5), peaceful (72:7), prosperous (72:16), and devoted (72:5). The king is preeminent among people (45:2, 7), friend of the poor, and enemy of the oppressor (72:2–4, 12–14). He owns an everlasting name (72:17) and enjoys ever- lasting blessing (45:2). He is heir to David’s covenant (89:28–37; 132:11–12) and to Melchizedek’s priesthood (110:4). He belongs to the Lord (89:18), is his Son (2:7; 89:27), sits at his right hand (110:1), and is himself divine (45:6). It is very likely that these psalms were used as coronation an- thems, sung before the new king as he took his throne, in order to “hold him to the highest.” But the reality was always more than any mere son of David could be. It awaited the unique Son of David who is also the Son of God (Luke 1:32).”

I think that’s a yes.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Ian Hamilton on why covenant children rebel

“I’ve been a minister for 36 years and I can only think of one situation where I’ve seen children rebel and it’s not because the parents have failed lamentably in the covenant upbringing of their children.”

“The reason why I put such great stress myself on how parents raise their children is because as I’ve looked at family life, it’s the tragedy of seeing fine Christians fail to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of Christ, allowing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to permeate and penetrate every area of life”.

He also gives the example of a very fine Christian couple in his congregation who had 3 boys, who were a disaster. “He came to me one day and said I don’t know what’s wrong. Every day I read with them. Every day I pray with them. I bring them to church, morning and evening. And to my eternal shame I didn’t have the courage to say to him what I instinctively wanted to say: You’ve not loved them. There wasn’t the soil, out of which God’s word and prayer grew. There wasn’t an atmosphere of grace in the family. There was not a delighting in God. There were all the Reformed doctrines in a row confessed, but…”

He concludes: “If people could see Reformed families raising their children, with all our weaknesses, in an atmosphere of ‘let these words be upon your hearts’ before you impress them on your children, I think that the way the world and our baptist brothers and sisters would look at us would be dramatically different”.

Taken from the Q&A session following David Gibson’s talk at the Cambridge Theology Conference in 2015: The Five Points of Baptism.

Garry Williams takes on ‘Reformed’ Two Kingdoms Theology (R2K)

It’s amazing how quickly so-called Reformed Two Kingdoms theology seems to have taken root in the States. For example, it’s a staple presupposition of podcasts like Mortification of Spin. While it admirably aims to protect the centrality of the Word and Sacraments, it raises major issues for those who hold to the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ and the original Westminster Confession of Faith.

In two excellent talks on ‘Noah and the Covenant of grace’ (must listens for anyone preaching on Noah), Garry Williams destroys its exegetical foundation. The talks are part of the 2015 Cambridge Theology Conference, and available on the IPC website.