God and Man: the Whole Christian Account from Four of the Psalms

In the long weekend of Memorial Day 2016, it was so exciting to have Dr. Todd Beall to be the speaker of the retreat of Chinese Bible Church of College Park (CBCCP). It was held in Messiah College. He gave four sermons and two workshops. Dr. Beall graduated from Princeton University with a B. A. in English Literature, a Th.M. in Old Testament from Capital Bible Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from The Catholic University of America.

In his four sermons, Dr. Beall gave a whole Christian account on the relationship between God and man. The first sermon was on Psalm 8, talking about God’s design on man. The created Universe is magnificent and great, (Ps. 8:3-4), but man, as a bearer of God’s image, (Gen. 1:26-27)  is the crown of creation, who is given the dominion over the Universe. (Ps. 8:5-8, Gen 1:28). Dr. Beall pointed out that while the Fall distorted our image of God, but it was not totally lost, and we still have the dominion over it, although the task is much more difficult. (Heb. 2:6-8, 1 Cor. 15:25, 27) Of course, the majesty of God is presented at the beginning and the end of this psalm, as in inclusio.

His second sermon was on Psalm 19. This sermon is basically the doctrine of Scripture, or bibliology. The poet praised about the general revelation, i.e., His revelation in the Universe that demonstrates His glory to everyone. (Ps. 19:1-6) The God here is El, the transcendent God. Then it comes with the special revelation, which is His revelation in His Word that demands our joyful obedience. (Ps. 19:7-11) The God here is YHWH, the tetragrammaton, the covenantal God who relates personally with man. Dr. Beall spent a lot of time talking about the pattern in verses 7-9: a noun clause, an adjective, and a verb in the three patterns. Finally, His Word demands our contrition, and our obedience. (Ps. 19:12-14) It is the application. The most important thing in this psalm is that he delighted in God’s Word. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:12-14)

The transcendence and immanence of God implies a lot about the relationship between God and man. In his third sermon on Psalm 139, Dr. Beall elaborated about His omniscience, particular that He knows everything about us; (Ps. 139:1-6) and about His omnipresence, particularly that He can find us everywhere.  (c.f. Jonah) With these incommunicable attributes, the poet said that God made us wondrously for His purpose. (Ps. 139:13-18) Dr. Beall further elaborated it, by arguing that this is the basis for pro-life, no-suicide, no-euthanasia, and the meaning of life. The last section of this Psalm, (Ps. 139:19-24) as Dr. Beall pointed out, has been mistreated and neglected by commentators and theologians. The poet’s hatred against his enemies did not make him urging God to destroy them, but asking God to search his heart, and to deal with his enemies in God’s way. Dr. Beall summarized this as “God will be with me when I align myself with His purpose and submit to His will.”

Man ought to have a complete and simple trust on God given His attributes and His relationship with us. The fourth sermon is on Psalm 131, one of the psalms of ascents. (Pss. 120-134) As a psalm of only three verses, its message is rich in about our having lasting peace. First, we must not be prideful. (Ps. 131:1a) The poet, King David, was great, but he was humble as he realized he was sinful. Pride seeds from our heart, but flows external in appearance. That is why church elders cannot be recent converts. (1 Tim. 3:6) People of this age, including the members of CBCCP, are so educated that they tend to value intellect. Some people worship human intellect. However, it must be noted that intellect is part of the image of God, but the brightest minds in our world who taught in top-tier universities possess a wrong presupposition. Job, after hopelessly discussing with his friends, was questioned by God about God’s incomprehensibility. (Job 42:3) Second, we must not be presumptuous. (Ps. 131:1b) Third, we must simply trust in the God, (Ps. 131:2) by reading His Word, talking to God in prayers, obeying it, and urging everyone to do the same. Finally, we must put the hope in the Lord. (Ps. 131:3)

Dr. Beall gave two workshops as well. The first was titled “Principles from Proverbs on the Tongue.” He pointed out proverbs are of the genre of poetry, and a book with general truths, and a topical approach to study it will be helpful. The second workshop was titled “What the Bible Says about Creation.” From a school of classical dispensationalism, he supported the view of creation in Genesis 1-2 to be read in a literal way, in contrast to other ways such as day-age theory, gap theory, or the currently dominant framework view. (c.f. PCA Creation Study Report)

  • Tremper Longman, Proverbs (Baker Academic, 2006). [Amazon]
  • Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation (Hendrickson, 2013), edited byJ. Daryl Charles. [Amazon]
  • Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (New Leaf, 2008), edited by Terry Mortenson, Thane H. Ury. [Amazon]
  • Kwan-yuet Ho, “Knowing the Law and the Lawgiver: John Lennox speaking on ‘Science and God'”, WordPress (2016). [WordPress]
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