Once again, regrettably, Prof. Dykstra and I disagree on the interpretation, inaccuracies, and shortcomings that he perceives in our beloved 1912 Psalter.
In the July 2019 issue of the SB, Prof. Dykstra continues to point out in his summary of recent synodical decisions the failing of our current Psalter, particularly verse 4 of Psalter number 255. He regards this verse as a “blatant well-meant offer,” that is, heresy. I love this song; we lustily sang all four verses of number 255 in the classroom; nor do I consider myself a heretic. Prof. Dykstra should not allow theological thieves to hijack good Reformed language.
“Proffer” is a fitting old word that means “to present.” Isn’t that what Jehovah does to and for us? He presents to us peace and pardon, and by faith through election in Jesus Christ we receive and take hold of these two inestimable gifts. Certainly, we don’t see God as gripping “peace and pardon” tightly in His fists behind His back, and we poor sinners by our own will, strength, and determination must wrest peace and pardon out of His almighty hands. No, that would be a ludicrous impossibility! He graciously gives us peace and pardon.
Proffer is not an offer. It is a gift.
The key word, it seems to me, in this disputed phrase is the little word “us.” “While He proffers peace and pardon let us hear His voice today.” Only us. Only, and particularly, us. Only to God’s elect, redeemed people does He present peace and pardon. And we, and only we, hear His voice to receive this gift. Let’s be very clear about that! And ever so thankful!
There is no reason not to retain this lovely sentence. It has the same idea as many other Scripture passages. John 3:16 comes to mind as does “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). See also Joshua 24:15 and Revelation 22:17 for similar passages.
For almost 100 years, verse 4 of Psalter number 255 has not caused too big a disturbance in our midst; either choose to sing it, or choose not to sing it. But, if there are those who genuinely stumble over this line, well, then, rather than turning the entire Psalter upside down and inside out, wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler—and much, much cheaper—to take an inky black pen and delete this singular “troublesome” phrase?
Holding dear the 1912 Psalter,
Mary Beth Lubbers
Dear Mrs. Lubbers,
While I do thank you for taking the time to write in response to the summary of Synod 2019, I cannot agree with your point.
I am saddened that you perceive my synodical report as taking the opportunity “to point out…the failing of our current Psalter.” I take no delight in criticizing the Psalter that I have sung from my youth, and still love. Rather, I was taking the opportunity to show that the settled and binding decision of the synod of the PRC was bearing positive fruit, namely, making changes in the versifications that made one particular song more faithful to the Psalms and to the theology of the whole Bible.
The particular phrase in Psalter 255, “While He proffers peace and pardon.” has been interpreted in various ways, and some have interpreted it as Mrs. Lubbers does, namely that the word “proffers” is “to present.” If the word in Psalter 255 were the old English word “profer” (accent on the second syllable), it would certainly mean “to present, to utter.” However, “proffer” is a synonym of “offer” and the usual meaning is “to tender what may be accepted or rejected at the option of the other party.” It is certainly true that “offer” can mean “to present.” For example, the Canons speak of “the gospel, [and] of Christ, offered therein,” which (we contend) is the preaching of the gospel and a presentation of Christ, an accepted meaning of the Latin offero in the 1600s. Sadly, most today use the word offer in the sense of a well-meant offer of the gospel, teaching that God sincerely desires the salvation of all men head for head and offers it for the hearer to accept or reject.
So how is Psalter 255 using it? Let’s go to the Psalm and find out. Therein lies a problem. Stanza 4 is not a versification of the words of Psalm 95. The closest one can come to that stanza are the words “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Ps. 95:7, 8). What did the men who put together the Psalter in 1912 intend stanza 4 to convey—“to present”? Or, “to tender what may be accepted or rejected…”? Well, that becomes very speculative. But one thing we know, the CRC, which participated in the formation of the Psalter, officially adopted the well-meant offer in 1924.
It is my judgment that the Psalter revision committee’s recommendation on Psalm 95 removes the ambiguity, is more faithful to the Psalm (as interpreted by Hebrews 3 and 4), and is in harmony with the theology of Scripture. And that was my point.
Prof. R. Dykstra