2 Samuel 19
Joab Rebukes David2 Samuel 19 1 It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. 4 The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, 6 because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. 7 Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” 8 Then the king arose and took his seat in the gate. And the people were all told, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate.” And all the people came before the king.
David Returns to JerusalemNow Israel had fled every man to his own home. 9 And all the people were arguing throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. 10 But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”
11 And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king? 12 You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’” 14 And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” 15 So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan.
David Pardons His Enemies16 And Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king, 18 and they crossed the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, 19 and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. 20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.” 21 Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” 22 But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” 23 And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
24 And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. 25 And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?” 26 He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame. 27 He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. 28 For all my father’s house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?” 29 And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.” 30 And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”
31 Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim, and he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan. 32 Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. 33 And the king said to Barzillai, “Come over with me, and I will provide for you with me in Jerusalem.” 34 But Barzillai said to the king, “How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35 I am this day eighty years old. Can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king repay me with such a reward? 37 Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham. Let him go over with my lord the king, and do for him whatever seems good to you.” 38 And the king answered, “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you, and all that you desire of me I will do for you.” 39 Then all the people went over the Jordan, and the king went over. And the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home. 40 The king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him. All the people of Judah, and also half the people of Israel, brought the king on his way.
41 Then all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, “Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?” 42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” 43 And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?” But the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
2 Samuel 20
The Rebellion of Sheba2 Samuel 20 1 Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. And he blew the trumpet and said,
“We have no portion in David,
and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
every man to his tents, O Israel!”
3 And David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten concubines whom he had left to care for the house and put them in a house under guard and provided for them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as if in widowhood.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 So Amasa went to summon Judah, but he delayed beyond the set time that had been appointed him. 6 And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us.” 7 And there went out after him Joab’s men and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men. They went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. 8 When they were at the great stone that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing a soldier’s garment, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened on his thigh, and as he went forward it fell out. 9 And Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died.
Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri. 11 And one of Joab’s young men took his stand by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.” 12 And Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the highway. And anyone who came by, seeing him, stopped. And when the man saw that all the people stopped, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field and threw a garment over him. 13 When he was taken out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.
14 And Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth-maacah, and all the Bichrites assembled and followed him in. 15 And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah. They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.’” 17 And he came near her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your servant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she said, “They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?” 20 Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.
23 Now Joab was in command of all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethites and the Pelethites; 24 and Adoram was in charge of the forced labor; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; 25 and Sheva was secretary; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was also David’s priest.
2 Samuel 21
David Avenges the Gibeonites2 Samuel 21 1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” 2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. 3 And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?” 4 The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” 5 They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, 6 let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.”
7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, because of the oath of the LORD that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 8 The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.
10 Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. 11 When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, 12 David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. 13 And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan; and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged. 14 And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.
War with the Philistines15 There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. 16 And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
18 After this there was again war with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was one of the descendants of the giants. 19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. 21 And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, struck him down. 22 These four were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
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Don’t Look Back
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/1/2004
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’ll admit I got taken in the first time. As a grade school child my conception of cool included too tight silk shirts and blue jeans with more flair than Liberace. I even had my own polyester jumpsuit. I looked like a cross between Howdy Doody and Elvis, in his latter years. The current fashion craze of recreating the nightmare of the seventies hasn’t filled my heart with a warm dose of nostalgia. Instead it makes me embarrassed for what I used to wear. I’ve learned my lesson well. I won’t get fooled again.
It reminds me, however, of the power of nostalgia, even its most affected and insincere manifestations. Postmodernism, because it is parasitic and destructive, cannot build a culture. It can only reconstitute old ones. Because it is cynical and knowing, it goes out of its way to reconstitute that which is garish, immature, and kitschy. We dress like goofballs to demonstrate our knowing superiority over the narrative that is clothing. Because it denies that nothing lasts, it demands that everything be new. The danger is the speed at which our cultural spin-masters are spinning the old cultures. It won’t be long before we are encouraged to practice a faux nostalgia for last week.
Real nostalgia, true longing for days gone by is fed by a different kind of folly. It seems that hindsight can only be had through rose-colored glasses. And they never go out of style. We want things not as they used to be, but as we remember that they used to be. Which is why the author of Hebrews went to such trouble, argued with such passion, warned with such fervor in his epistle. Nostalgia can do worse things than make you dress funny.
Living in a comparatively free country, one where pluralism rules the day, it is difficult to understand what it would have taken for a first-century Jew to embrace the claims of Jesus Christ. More than likely, such would destroy a whole host of family relationships. Friendships would be sundered as well. Those, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, indeed, like the apostle Paul, who once were honored and respected men of the community, would now become social pariahs, unable to get a place at the table. And a swift and painful death by martyrdom, with each passing day, became more and more likely.
Like their forefathers before them, we can have sympathy when some begin to talk about how they once had leeks and garlic back in Egypt, that though they were slaves, their pots were filled. Present suffering deepens the rosy hue as we look back at past suffering. And so many believing Hebrews struggled mightily with fits of nostalgia. Many were sorely tempted to throw off the dead-weight of this Jesus, that happy days might be here again. Cast off that cross, they reasoned, and they could stand upright in the halls of men again. Many, in short, were tempted to neglect so great a salvation.
Ironically, one could argue that their problem wasn’t that they were looking backward. The old saying, “you can’t go back again,” wouldn’t help. One might say their failure was that they weren’t looking far enough back. A love of the past may be a good thing, as long as what we love is a good thing. They were called not to look back to their recent Judaism. Neither were they to look longingly at the apex of their nation, to the days of David and Samuel. They should not look back to Egypt, nor even to the days of the great patriarchs. Rather, they should have longed to get back to the garden.
The right thing to long for is a world without sin. Our hearts should ache to be once again at peace with God, to walk with Him in the cool of the evening, to see the lion lay down with the lamb. This is godly nostalgia, as long as it moves us to godly obedience. While we ought to long for such things, we ought not to do so forlornly, knowing that you can’t go back again. Rather we do so joyfully, knowing that we, with every forward step, move back to the garden. That is, the path to the garden is through the consummation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. To go home again, we must seek first the kingdom of God.
These things, however, are written for us as well. While our status as outcasts and victims in our own culture cannot compare with the Hebrews in the first century, we are headed in that direction. Like Augustine before us, we are called to witness the destruction of the culture around us. And, like the Hebrews, we are tempted toward nostalgia. We long for those halcyon days of the 1950’s, when the Hayes Office kept our movies clean, and the daily news wasn’t filled with liberal prelates gayly shouting the “love” that once didn’t dare speak it’s name. And like the Hebrews, we are looking in the wrong place.
As Christians, our longing is not that we might have a cleaner pop culture. The church does not place its hope in military/industrial/cultural American hegemony across the globe. Rather, we long for the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The church longs for the day when we will be dressed not in the gaudiness and flash of a decadent culture, but will be dressed in the radiant robe provided by our Husband and Lord.
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A.W. Pink from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
The thief’s "repentance toward God" was accompanied with "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ". In contemplating his faith we may notice first that it was an intelligent head faith. In the earlier paragraphs of this chapter we have called attention to the sovereignty of God and his irresistible and. victorious grace which were exhibited in the conversion of this thief. Now we turn to another side of the truth, equally necessary to press, a side which is not contradictory to what we have said previously, but rather, complementary and supplementary. Scripture does NOT teach that if God has elected a certain soul to be saved that that person will be saved whether they believe or not. That is a false conclusion drawn by those who reject the truth. No, scripture teaches that the same God who predestined the end also predestined the means. The God who decreed the salvation of the dying thief fulfilled his decree by giving him a faith with which to believe. This is the plain teaching of 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (and other scriptures): "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth".
This is just what we see here in connection with this robber. He "believed the truth." His faith took hold of the word of God. Over the cross was the superscription, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews". Pilate had placed it there in derision. But it was the truth nevertheless, and after he had written it, God would not allow him to alter it. The board bearing this superscription had been carried in front of Christ through the streets of Jerusalem and out to the place of crucifixion, and the thief had read it, and divine grace and power had opened the eyes of his understanding to see it was the truth. His faith grasped the kingship of Christ, hence his mention of "when thou comest into thy kingdom". Faith always rests on the written word of God.
Before a man will believe that Jesus is the Christ he must have the testimony before him that he is the Christ. Distinction is often made between head faith and heart faith, and properly so, for the distinction is real, and vital. Sometimes head faith is decried as valueless, but this is foolish. There must be head faith before there can be heart faith. We must believe intellectually before we can believe savingly in the Lord Jesus. Proof of this is seen in connection with the heathen: they have no head faith and therefore they have no heart faith. We readily grant that head faith will not save unless it be accompanied by heart faith, but we insist that there is no heart faith unless there has first been head faith. How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? True, one may believe about him without believing in him, but one cannot believe in him without first believing about him. So it was with the dying thief. In all probability he had never seen Christ before this day of his death, but he had seen the written superscription testifying to his kingship and the Holy Spirit used this as the basis of his faith. We say then that his was an intelligent faith: first, an intellectual faith, the believing the written testimony submitted to him; second, a heart faith, the resting in confidence on Christ himself as the Saviour of sinners.
Yes, this dying robber exercised a heart faith which rested savingly on Christ. We shall try to be very simple here. A man may have head faith in the Lord Jesus and be lost. A man may believe about the historic Christ and be no better for it, just as he is no better for believing about the historic Napoleon. Reader, you may believe all about the Saviour - his perfect life, his sacrificial death, his victorious resurrection, his glorious ascension, his promised return - but you must do more than this. Gospel faith is a confiding faith. Saving faith is more than a correct opinion or a train of reasoning. Saving faith transcends all reason. Look at this dying thief! Was it reasonable that Christ should notice him? A crucified robber, a self-confessed criminal, one who a few minutes ago had been reviling him! Was it reasonable that the Saviour should take any notice of him? Was it reasonable to expect that he should be transported from the very brink of the pit into Paradise? Ah, my reader, the head reasons, but the heart does not. And this man’s petition came from his heart. He had not the use of his hands and feet (and they are not needed for salvation: they rather impede) but he had the use of his heart and tongue. They were free to believe and confess - "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10).
We may also notice his was a humble faith. He prayed with becoming modesty. It was not "Lord, honour me", or "Lord, exalt me", but Lord, if thou wilt but think of me! If thou wilt only look on me - "Lord, remember me". And yet that word "remember" was wonderfully full and appropriate. He might have said, Pardon me, Save me, Bless me; but "remember" included them all. An interest in Christ’s heart will include an interest in all his benefits! Moreover this word was well suited to the condition of the one who uttered it. He was an outcast from society - who would remember him! The public would think no more of him. His friends would be glad to forget him as having disgraced his family. But there is one with whom he ventures to lodge this petition - "Lord, remember me".
Finally, we may notice that his was a courageous faith. Perhaps this is not apparent at first sight, but a little consideration will make it plain. He who hung on the central cross was the one on whom all eyes were turned and toward whom all the vile mockery of a vulgar mob was directed. Every faction of that crowd joined in jeering at the Saviour. Matthew tells us that "they that passed by reviled him", that "likewise also the chief priests mocked, with the elders and scribes". While Luke informs us "the soldiers also mocked him" (23:36). It is therefore easy to understand why the thieves should also take up the taunting cry. No doubt the priests and scribes smiled benignly upon them as they did so. But suddenly there was a change. The repenting thief instead of continuing to sneer and jibe at Christ, turns to his companion and openly rebukes him in the hearing of the spectators gathered around the crosses, crying, "This man hath done nothing amiss." Thus he condemned the whole Jewish nation! But more; not only does he bear testimony to Christ’s innocency, but he also confessed his kingship. And thus by a single stroke he cuts himself off from the favour of his companion and of the crowd as well! We talk today of the courage which is needed to openly witness for Christ, but such courage in these days pales into utter insignificance before the courage displayed that day by the dying thief.
The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
I Need a Priest!
By Tabletalk Magazine 1/1/2004
We are attacked from every side. We have been besieged by sin and driven to desperation. We recognize our need and cry out for a priest — we don’t want someone who will tell us what to do, we don’t want a mere prophet. We want a priest. We want someone who will pour soothing oil on our wounds, someone who will give absolution, someone who will earnestly pray for us before the throne of God. We want someone we can tell our deepest secrets to — someone we can count on to the very end. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He — Lord Sabaoth is His name. From age to age He is the same, and He will win the battle. Jesus Christ is our Mighty Fortress who never fails — our great High Priest.
The book of Hebrews reveals the High Priest of our confession. Hebrews establishes Christ’s unqualified supremacy over all things. For He is the Son of God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Yet, for our sake, our great High Priest was made lower than the angels. He is the appointed Heir of all things, the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact imprint of His nature. On our behalf He entered the Holy of Holies and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, securing our eternal redemption. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are — yet without sin.
The book of Hebrews is a treasury for our souls. With all of its complexity and grandeur, Hebrews ignites our hearts with praise to Jesus Christ. For He is our Prophet, Priest, and King who offered Himself as our sacrifice. He has healed our wounds and has forgiven our sins. He intercedes for us before the throne of God, and it is because of Him we live coram Deo, before the face of God. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive His mercy and grace.
The Blueprint of Redemption
By R.C. Sproul 2/1/2004
A persistent tradition claims that upon being mocked by a skeptic with regard to his doctrine of creation, Saint Augustine was cynically asked, “What was God doing before He created the world? Augustine’s alleged reply was: “Creating hell for curious souls.”
The reply was, of course, tongue-in-cheek. The Bible doesn’t speak of such a special work of divine creation before creation itself. But Augustine’s bon mot had a serious point that warned against idle speculation of God’s activity in eternity.
However, quite apart from speculation, the Bible has much to say about God’s activity “before” the world was made. The Bible speaks often of God’s eternal counsel, of His plan of salvation and the like. It is a matter of theological urgency that Christians not think of God as a ruler who ad libs His dominion of the universe. God does not “make it up as He goes along.” Nor must He be viewed as a bumbling administrator who is so inept in His planning that His blueprint for redemption must be endlessly subject to revision according to the actions of men. The God of Scripture has no “plan b” or “plan c.” His “plan a” is from everlasting to everlasting. It is both perfect and unchangeable as it rests on God’s eternal character, which is among other things, holy, omniscient, and immutable. God’s eternal plan is not revised because of moral imperfections within it that must be purified. His plan was not corrected or amended because He gained new knowledge that He lacked at the beginning. God’s plan never changes because He never changes and because perfection admits to no degrees and cannot be improved upon.
The covenant of redemption is intimately concerned with God’s eternal plan. It is called a “covenant” inasmuch as the plan involves two or more parties. This is not a covenant between God and humans. It is a covenant among the persons of the Godhead, specifically between the Father and the Son. God did not become triune at creation or at the Incarnation. His triunity is as eternal as His being. He is one in essence and three in person from all eternity.
The covenant of redemption is a corollary to the doctrine of the Trinity. Like the word trinity, the Bible nowhere explicitly mentions it. The word trinity does not appear in the Bible, but the concept of the Trinity is affirmed throughout Scripture. Likewise, the phrase “covenant of redemption” does not occur explicitly in Scripture but the concept is heralded throughout.
Central to the message of Jesus is the declaration that He was sent into the world by the Father. His mission was not given to Him at His baptism or in the manger. He had it before His incarnation.
In the great “Kenotic Hymn” of Philippians 2, we get a glimpse of this: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 5–11 NKJV).
This passage reveals many things. It speaks of the willingness of the Son to undertake a mission of redemption at the behest of the Father. That Jesus was about doing the will of the Father is testified throughout His life. As a young boy in the temple He reminded His earthly parents that He must be about His Father’s business. His meat and drink was to do the will of His Father. It was zeal for His Father’s house that consumed Him. Repeatedly He declared that He spoke not on His own authority but on the authority of the One who sent Him.
Jesus is the primary missionary. As the word suggests, a missionary is one who is “sent.” The eternal Word did not decide on His own to come to this planet for its redemption. He was sent here. In the plan of salvation the Son comes to do the Father’s bidding.
The point of the covenant of redemption is that the Son comes willingly. He is not coerced by the Father to relinquish His glory and be subjected to humiliation. Rather, He willingly “made Himself of no reputation.” The Father did not strip the Son of His eternal glory but the Son agreed to lay it aside temporarily for the sake of our salvation.
Listen to Jesus as He prays to the Father at the end of His ministry: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You… And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:1–5 NKJV). The covenant of redemption was a transaction that involved both obligation and reward. The Son entered into a sacred agreement with the Father. He submitted Himself to the obligations of that covenantal agreement. An obligation was likewise assumed by the Father — to give His Son a reward for doing the work of redemption.
In his Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge lists eight promises the Father gave to the Son in this pact made in eternity. Briefly they are: that God would form a purified Church for His Son; that the Son would receive the Spirit without measure; that He would be ever-present to support Him; that He would deliver Him from death and exalt Him to His right hand; that He would have the Holy Spirit to send to whom He willed; that all the Father gave to Him would come to Him and none of these be lost; that multitudes would partake of His redemption and His messianic kingdom; that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Because God honored the eternal covenant of redemption, Christ became the heir of His Father’s promises. Because this covenant was never violated, we reap its benefits as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Goal of Redemption
By Mike Chastain 2/1/2004
Not long ago, as I was watching the movie Apollo 13, I was really impressed with the nail-biting scene where the damaged capsule approached the earth’s atmosphere and the astronauts had to recalculate their trajectory of reentry. Slide rules shifted, and they anxiously sought to determine the exact angle at which they must strike the atmosphere. The price of inaccuracy was high. One degree too steep and they would burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. One degree too shallow and they would not enter it, but skip off into space, irretrievably lost .With some things in this life, however, we do not need to be so exacting. In fact, we sometimes need to be a little loose and flexible. But when it comes to proclaiming the church’s view of the covenant of redemption, it is not the time to be loose, it is time to be exacting. As with the astronauts, the price for error is very high.
A church’s view of the covenant of redemption is usually demonstrated in its purpose statement, which presents, if you will, its “angle” on the world from its high position. Many churches state as their purpose, “We exist to fulfill the Great Commission.” They see the primary reason for their existence as bringing salvation to lost sinners, and this is borne out in the way the Sunday liturgy is designed, the way the pastor preaches, and the angles of the various evangelistic ministries. This is far off the mark, though, and a course correction is much-needed. As important as salvation is, it is not the only purpose of the church. The covenant of redemption was entered into by the persons of the Trinity for the same reason God does all that He does — to glorify Himself. Man’s chief end is the same as God’s chief end — to glorify God.
The covenant of redemption, as a pact among the members of the Godhead, features, as one of its many elements, the restoration of the elect. Sinners fall short of the glory of God, and in their redemption they are able to bring God the glory He deserves, desires, and demands. The degree of accuracy regarding the covenant of redemption determines whether the church is man-focused or God-focused. The question is whether man’s salvation is held up as the great goal of the covenant of redemption, or whether God’s glorification is the primary goal of the covenant of redemption. If the benefit of man were allowed to become the ultimate purpose of the church, it would actually be a failure. Man was created to have a higher purpose than himself. If the blessing of man becomes man’s ultimate motivation, then he is living far below and for far less than that for which God created him. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is carefully phrased: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” There is an order here. Man’s enjoyment of God is not first or foremost. It is an outcome of accomplishing that for which he was created — to bring glory to God.
God is great, and worship is our response to His greatness! The church’s primary purpose is to insure that God receives the glory He desires and deserves. That is why the saints gather publicly to corporately rehearse the greatness of God through worship. The focus of the church should be the worth-ship of God. Evangelism’s main goal is first and foremost to recruit worshippers for God. When Christ is embraced as offered in the Gospel, the believer is brought into a personal worshiping relationship with God the Father.
God’s Word clearly expresses this view. While an essential component of the covenant of redemption is the redemption of man, its purpose is the glory of God. As redemption is described in Psalm 111:9–10, do we see the focus on those who are the objects of redemption? No; rather, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!” While we rejoice in the happiness and safety this affords to His people, the point of the covenant of redemption is His glory, and the result is that I adore my covenant God and cry out in praise of HIS name. Thus I go out and proclaim to all that they are to bow before Him in worship.
Preachers need to be proclaiming the Gospel of God — that every creature should appear before His throne and offer themselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto Him. The apostle Paul writes, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33–36). From Himself, through Himself, and to Himself is the perspective of God about Himself. And how important it is that we have His perspective!
The church needs to guard this view of the covenant of redemption with an exactness that will keep us on the right trajectory. God will not share His glory. The church must give God that which He seeks — true worship. Since we have been shown mercy, we must show mercy to others. Our reason? To let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Since the outgrowth of true worship is true love, we should be molded into a serving community of believers in order that all glory will be given to the only deserving One, our triune God.
Thus, the covenant of redemption establishes the proper trajectory for the church. May preachers proclaim the Gospel with this in mind and thus guide the church to fulfill its true purpose.
What We Really Know About the Origin of Life
By Tom Gilson 6/3/2017
I was just watching a National Geographic channel show about astrobiology (or exobiology) — the science of looking for life outside of the Earth. I didn’t get to see the whole program, but what I did see featured some amazing facts about where life can thrive on earth — and maybe elsewhere?
The operative word there, of course, is maybe.
Amazing Life on Earth | There are microorganisms in boiling pools at Yellowstone, where the pH is 1 (about the same as battery acid), and you or I would quickly dissolve if we fell in.
There are tall tube worms at the dark bottom of the ocean, living without no access to the solar energy the rest of earth’s life depends on. They get their energy and nutrients from searingly hot (600° — they didn’t say whether Fahrenheit or Celsius) mineral plumes issuing from deeper in earth’s crust.
Life Elsewhere? | If life could thrive there, who knows where else it might exist? There are ice crystals just inches below the surface of Martian soil. Maybe deeper down, there’s enough pressure to liquefy that ice into water. There could be life there.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor of The Stream, author of the new 2016 parent-friendly guide to keeping kids in the faith, titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, the chief editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, and Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician: A Preliminary Response To "A Manual For Creating Atheists" the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog.
He lives in southwest Ohio with Sara, his wife, and their two 20-something children. He has received a B.Mus. in Music Education with a specialty in performance from Michigan State University and an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. When he’s not writing he loves drinking coffee, canoeing, walking in the woods, and playing his trombones.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 37He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.
34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THE PROMISES OF THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL RECONCILED.
In the following chapter, the arguments of Sophists, who would destroy or impair the doctrine of Justification by Faith, are reduced to two classes. The former is general, the latter special, and contains some arguments peculiar to itself. I. The first class, which is general, and in a manner contains the foundation of all the arguments, draws an argument from the promises of the law. This is considered from sec. 1-3. II. The second class following from the former, and containing special proofs. An argument drawn from the history of Cornelius explained, sec. 4, 5. III. A full exposition of those passages of Scripture which represent God as showing mercy and favor to the cultivators of righteousness, sec. 6. IV. A third argument from the passages which distinguish good works by the name of righteousness, and declare that men are justified by them, sec. 7, 8. V. The adversaries of justification by faith placed in a dilemma. Their partial righteousness refuted, sec. 9, 10. VI. A fourth argument, setting the Apostle James in opposition to Paul, considered, sec. 11, 12. VII. Answer to a fifth argument, that, according to Paul, not the hearers but the doors of the law are justified, sec. 13. VIII. Consideration of a sixth argument, drawn from those passages in which believers boldly submit their righteousness to the judgment of God, and ask him to decide according to it, sec. 14. IX. Examination of the last argument, drawn from passages which ascribe righteousness and life to the ways of believers, sec. 15.
1. Brief summary of Chapters 15 and 16. Why justification is denied to works. Argument of opponents founded on the promises of the law. The substance of this argument. Answer. Those who would be justified before God must be exempted from the power of the law. How this is done.
2. Confirmation of the answer ab impossibili, and from the testimony of an Apostle and of David.
3. Answer to the objection, by showing why these promises were given. Refutation of the sophistical distinction between the intrinsic value of works, and their value er parts.
4. Argument from the history of Cornelius. Answer, by distinguishing between two kinds of acceptance. Former kind. Sophistical objection refuted.
5. Latter kind. Plain from this distinction that Cornelius was accepted freely before his good works could be accepted. Similar explanations to be given of the passage in which God is represented as merciful and propitious to the cultivators of righteousness.
6. Exposition of these passages. Necessary to observe whether the promise is legal or evangelical. The legal promise always made under the condition that we "do," the evangelical under the condition that we "believe."
7. Argument from the passages which distinguish good works by the name of righteousness, and declare that man is justified by them. Answer to the former part of the argument respecting the name. Why the works of the saints called works of righteousness. Distinction to be observed.
8. Answer to the second part of the argument--viz. that man is justified by works. Works of no avail by themselves; we are justified by faith only. This kind of righteousness defined. Whence the value set on good works.
9. Answer confirmed and fortified by a dilemma.
10. In what sense the partial imperfect righteousness of believers accepted. Conclusion of the refutation.
11. Argument founded on the Epistle of James. First answer. One Apostle cannot be opposed to another. Second answer. Third answer, from the scope of James. A double paralogism in the term Faith. In James the faith said not to justify is a mere empty opinion; in Paul it is the instrument by which we apprehend Christ our righteousness.
12. Another paralogism on the word justify. Paul speaks of the cause, James of the effects, of justification. Sum of the discussion.
13. Argument founded on Rom. 2:13. Answer, explaining the Apostles meaning. Another argument, containing a reduction ad impossibili. Why Paul used the argument.
14. An argument founded on the passages in which believers confidently appeal to their righteousness. Answer, founded on a consideration of two circumstances. 1. They refer only to a special cause. 2. They claim righteousness in comparison with the wicked.
15. Last argument from those passages which ascribe righteousness and life to the ways of believers. Answer. This proceeds from the paternal kindness of God. What meant by the perfection of saints.
1. Let us now consider the other arguments which Satan by his satellites invents to destroy or impair the doctrine of Justification by Faith. I think we have already put it out of the power of our calumniators to treat us as if we were the enemies of good works--justification being denied to works not in order that no good works may be done or that those which are done may be denied to be good; but only that we may not trust or glory in them, or ascribe salvation to them. Our only confidence and boasting, our only anchor of salvation is, that Christ the Son of God is ours, and that we are in him sons of God and heirs of the heavenly kingdom, being called, not by our worth, but the kindness of God, to the hope of eternal blessedness. But since, as has been said, they assail us with other engines, let us now proceed to demolish them also. First, they recur to the legal promises which the Lord proclaimed to the observers of the law, and they ask us whether we hold them to be null or effectual. Since it were absurd and ridiculous to say they are null, they take it for granted that they have some efficacy. Hence they infer that we are not justified by faith only. For the Lord thus speaks: "Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers; and he will love thee, and bless thee and multiply thee," (Deut. 7:12, 13). Again, "If ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever," (Jer. 7:5-7). It were to no purpose to quote a thousand similar passages, which, as they are not different in meaning, are to be explained on the same principle. In substance, Moses declares that in the law is set down "a blessing and a curse," life and death (Deut. 11:26); and hence they argue, either that that blessing is become inactive and unfruitful, or that justification is not by faith only. We have already shown,  that if we cleave to the law we are devoid of every blessing, and have nothing but the curse denounced on all transgressors. The Lord does not promise any thing except to the perfect observers of the law; and none such are any where to be found. The results therefore is that the whole human race is convicted by the law, and exposed to the wrath and curse of God: to be saved from this they must escape from the power of the law, and be as it were brought out of bondage into freedom,--not that carnal freedom which indisposes us for the observance of the law, tends to licentiousness, and allows our passions to wanton unrestrained with loosened reins; but that spiritual freedom which consoles and raises up the alarmed and smitten conscience, proclaiming its freedom from the curse and condemnation under which it was formerly held bound. This freedom from subjection to the law, this manumission, if I may so express it, we obtain when by faith we apprehend the mercy of God in Christ, and are thereby assured of the pardon of sins, with a consciousness of which the law stung and tortured us.
2. For this reason, the promises offered in the law would all be null and ineffectual, did not God in his goodness send the gospel to our aid, since the condition on which they depend, and under which only they are to be performed--viz. the fulfillment of the law, will never be accomplished. Still, however the aid which the Lord gives consists not in leaving part of justification to be obtained by works, and in supplying part out of his indulgence, but in giving us Christ as in himself alone the fulfillment of righteousness. For the Apostle, after premising that he and the other Jews, aware that "a man is not justified by the works of the law," had "believed in Jesus Christ," adds as the reason, not that they might be assisted to make up the sum of righteousness by faith in Christ, but that they "might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law," (Gal. 2:16). If believers withdraw from the law to faith, that in the latter they may find the justification which they see is not in the former, they certainly disclaim justification by the law. Therefore, whose will, let him amplify the rewards which are said to await the observer of the law, provided he at the same time understand, that owing to our depravity, we derive no benefit from them until we have obtained another righteousness by faith. Thus David after making mention of the reward which the Lord has prepared for his servants (Ps. 25 almost throughout), immediately descends to an acknowledgment of sins, by which the reward is made void. In Psalm 19, also, he loudly extols the benefits of the law; but immediately exclaims, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults," (Ps. 19:12). This passage perfectly accords with the former, when, after saying, "the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies," he adds, "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity: for it is great," (Ps. 25:10, 11). Thus, too, we ought to acknowledge that the favor of God is offered to us in the law, provided by our works we can deserve it; but that it never actually reaches us through any such desert.
3. What then? Were the promises given that they might vanish away without fruit? I lately declared that this is not my opinion. I say, indeed, that their efficacy does not extend to us so long as they have respect to the merit of works, and, therefore, that, considered in themselves, they are in some sense abolished. Hence the Apostle shows, that the celebrated promise, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them," (Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:10), will, if we stop at it, be of no avail, and will profit us not a whit more than if it were not given, being inaccessible even to the holiest servants of God, who are all far from fulfilling the law, being encompassed with many infirmities. But when the gospel promises are substituted, promises which announce the free pardon of sins, the result is not only that our persons are accepted of God, but his favor also is shown to our works, and that not only in respect that the Lord is pleased with them, but also because he visits them with the blessings which were due by agreement to the observance of his law. I admit, therefore, that the works of the faithful are rewarded with the promises which God gave in his law to the cultivators of righteousness and holiness; but in this reward we should always attend to the cause which procures favor to works. This cause, then, appears to be threefold. First, God turning his eye away from the works of his servants which merit reproach more than praise, embraces them in Christ, and by the intervention of faith alone reconciles them to himself without the aid of works. Secondly the works not being estimated by their own worth, he, by his fatherly kindness and indulgence, honors so far as to give them some degree of value. Thirdly, he extends his pardon to them, not imputing the imperfection by which they are all polluted, and would deserve to be regarded as vices rather than virtues. Hence it appears how much Sophists  were deluded in thinking they admirably escaped all absurdities when they said, that works are able to merit salvation, not from their intrinsic worth, but according to agreement, the Lord having, in his liberality, set this high value upon them. But, meanwhile, they observed not how far the works which they insisted on regarding as meritorious must be from fulfilling the condition of the promises, were they not preceded by a justification founded on faith alone, and on forgiveness of sins--a forgiveness necessary to cleanse even good works from their stains. Accordingly, of the three causes of divine liberality to which it is owing that good works are accepted, they attended only to one: the other two, though the principal causes, they suppressed.
4. They quote the saying of Peter as given by Luke in the Acts, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35). And hence they infer, as a thing which seems to them beyond a doubt, that if man by right conduct procures the favor of God, his obtaining salvation is not entirely the gift of God. Nay, that when God in his mercy assists the sinner, he is inclined to mercy by works. There is no way of reconciling the passages of Scripture, unless you observe that man's acceptance with God is twofold. As man is by nature, God finds nothing in him which can incline him to mercy, except merely big wretchedness. If it is clear then that man, when God first interposes for him, is naked and destitute of all good, and, on the other hand, loaded and filled with all kinds of evil,--for what quality, pray, shall we say that he is worthy of the heavenly kingdom? Where God thus clearly displays free mercy, have done with that empty imagination of merit. Another passage in the same book--viz. where Cornelius hears from the lips of an angel, "Thy prayer and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God," (Acts 10:4), is miserably wrested to prove that man is prepared by the study of good works to receive the favor of God. Cornelius being endued with true wisdom, in other words, with the fear of God, must have been enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom, and being an observer of righteousness, must have been sanctified by the same Spirit; righteousness being, as the Apostle testifies, one of the most certain fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:5). Therefore, all those qualities by which he is said to have pleased God he owed to divine grace: so far was he from preparing himself by his own strength to receive it. Indeed, not a syllable of Scripture can be produced which does not accord with the doctrine, that the only reason why God receives man into his favor is, because he sees that he is in every respect lost when left to himself; lost, if he does not display his mercy in delivering him. We now see that in thus accepting, God looks not to the righteousness of the individual, but merely manifests the divine goodness towards miserable sinners, who are altogether undeserving of this great mercy.
5. But after the Lord has withdrawn the sinner from the abyss of perdition, and set him apart for himself by means of adoption, having begotten him again and formed him to newness of life, he embraces him as a new creature, and bestows the gifts of his Spirit. This is the acceptance to which Peter refers, and by which believers after their calling are approved by God even in respect of works; for the Lord cannot but love and delight in the good qualities which he produces in them by means of his Spirit. But we must always bear in mind, that the only way in which men are accepted of God in respect of works is, that whatever good works he has conferred upon those whom he admits to favor, he by an increase of liberality honors with his acceptance. For whence their good works, but just that the Lord having chosen them as vessels of honor, is pleased to adorn them with true purity? And how are their actions deemed good as if there was no deficiency in them, but just that their merciful Father indulgently pardons the spots and blemishes which adhere to them? In one word, the only meaning of acceptance in this passage is, that God accepts and takes pleasure in his children, in whom he sees the traces and lineaments of his own countenance. We have else here said, that regeneration is a renewal of the divine image in us. Since God, therefore, whenever he beholds his own face, justly loves it and holds it in honor, the life of believers, when formed to holiness and justice, is said, not without cause, to be pleasing to him. But because believers, while encompassed with mortal flesh, are still sinners, and their good works only begun savor of the corruption of the flesh, God cannot be propitious either to their persons or their works, unless he embraces them more in Christ than in themselves. In this way are we to understand the passages in which God declares that he is clement and merciful to the cultivators of righteousness. Moses said to the Israelites, "Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." These words afterwards became a common form of expression among the people. Thus Solomon in his prayer at the dedication says, "Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart," (1 Kings 8:23). The same words are repeated by Nehemiah (Neh. 1:5). As the Lord in all covenants of mercy stipulates on his part for integrity and holiness of life in his servants (Deut. 29:18), lest his goodness might be held in derision, or any one, puffed up with exultation in it, might speak flatteringly to his soul while walking in the depravity of his heart, so he is pleased that in this way those whom he admits to communion in the covenant should be kept to their duty. Still, however, the covenant was gratuitous at first, and such it ever remains. Accordingly, while David declares, "according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me," yet does he not omit the fountain to which I have referred; "he delivered me, because he delighted in me," (2 Sam. 22:20, 21). In commending the goodness of his cause, he derogates in no respect from the free mercy which takes precedence of all the gifts of which it is the origin.
6. Here, by the way, it is of importance to observe how those forms of expression differ from legal promises. By legal promises, I mean not those which lie scattered in the books of Moses (for there many Evangelical promises occur), but those which properly belong to the legal dispensation. All such promises, by whatever name they may be called, are made under the condition that the reward is to be paid on the things commanded being done. But when it is said that the Lord keeps a covenant of mercy with those who love him, the words rather demonstrate what kind of servants those are who have sincerely entered into the covenant, than express the reason why the Lord blesses them. The nature of the demonstration is this: As the end for which God bestows upon us the gift of eternal life is, that he may be loved, feared, and worshipped by us, so the end of all the promises of mercy contained in Scripture justly is that we may reverence and serve their author. Therefore, whenever we hear that he does good to those that observe his law, let us remember that the sons of God are designated by the duty which they ought perpetually to observe, that his reason for adopting us is, that we may reverence him as a father. Hence, if we would not deprive ourselves of the privilege of adoption, we must always strive in the direction of our calling. On the other hand, however, let us remember, that the completion of the Divine mercy depends not on the works of believers, but that God himself fulfill the promise of salvation to those who by right conduct correspond to their calling, because he recognizes the true badges of sons in those only who are directed to good by his Spirit. To this we may refer what is said of the members of the Church, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart," &c. (Ps. 15:1, 2). Again, in Isaiah, "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously," &c. (Isa. 33:14, 15). For the thing described is not the strength with which believers can stand before the Lord, but the manner in which our most merciful Father introduces them into his fellowship, and defends and confirms them therein. For as he detests sin and loves righteousness, so those whom he unites to himself he purifies by his Spirit, that he may render them conformable to himself and to his kingdom. Therefore, if it be asked, What is the first cause which gives the saints free access to the kingdom of God, and a firm and permanent footing in it? the answer is easy. The Lord in his mercy once adopted and ever defends them. But if the question relates to the manner, we must descend to regeneration, and the fruits of it, as enumerated in the fifteenth Psalm.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Dance of Life
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2004
The fall of Adam and Eve is one of the stickiest theological wickets we encounter in the Bible. How could both of them, whom God had declared good, do bad? But there is a stickier wicket still, perhaps made so by the fact that it’s not in the Bible. For an event of such cosmic proportions, the Bible is surprisingly silent. How did Lucifer, the angel of light, come to be the Serpent, the father of lies? Some suggest that it was pride that got in his way, that he aspired to the very throne of God, and when he could not have it, he was cast down. Along a similar note, some suggest that it was his pride, but that it was a being lower on the chain that tripped him up. That is, it wasn’t that he wanted to be God, but that he refused to serve man. Some suggest that he balked when God revealed His plan, including the call of the angels to serve man. Man, after all, was made lower than the angels. Why should the greater serve the lesser? It seems it was the devil himself who first determined it’s better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
If the latter theory is the right one, we know who was the first to confuse ontology and economy, being and doing. But he was by no means the last. There is something in all of us that makes it seem somehow not right for the greater to serve the lesser. That something is pride.
The modern feminist movement, whether secular or “evangelical” suffers from the same sort of pride. The rejection of the plainly biblical affirmation that wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22) is driven by this objection — “how can I be equal to my husband, when I am called to submit to my husband?” Equals do not submit to one another, the reasoning goes, they are equal.
Sadly, too often husbands reason the same way. They also see the plain teaching of Ephesians, and they conclude that since their wives are called to submit to them, that they as husbands are the superior being, that they are imbued with greater dignity and worth. That foolishness also feeds the foolishness of the feminist movement.
Egalitarianism in all its forms flows out of the same notion. We are a culture that is fast losing any sense of manners, indeed, any sense of honor. We seem to believe that showing respect to another is a denial of the equality of men. Worse still, we seem to go out of our way to show disrespect, that we might prove our own equality. Or we go out of our way to push away the respect directed toward us. While I am busy trying to teach my children to address adults as “Sir” and “Ma’am”, too many sirs and ma’ams are teaching them not to, asking my children, “Oh, please don’t call me that. It makes me feel so old.” I suppose if growing older doesn’t bring with it a greater level of respect, that I can understand why so few people want to grow old.
Of course some older folks are foolish. On their merits, respect is the last thing they would deserve. In like manner, some husbands are buffoons. But without exception every older person is an older person, and every husband is a husband. Role relationships do not exist in a way that perfectly mirrors objective qualities. The race doesn’t always go to the swift. Every soldier knows that not every superior officer is actually superior. But every soldier is taught to “salute the uniform.” Honor is due to the office, even when not due to the man in the office.
If we would dispel the destruction of honor in our day, we would do well to start by dispelling the myth that to serve is to be less, and to be served is to be greater. And there is no greater argument against such folly than God. One of the benefits of a careful study of the covenant of redemption is that it makes this very point. God the Father not only does the work of electing a bride for the Son, but He does the job of making the assignments. With respect to the persons of the Trinity, He is in charge. The Son, we confess, proceeds from the Father. The Spirit, we confess, proceeds from the Father and the Son. But we also confess this, “That these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory” (Westminster Shorter Catechism with Proof Texts (ESV): An aid for study of the Holy Bible, question 6).
The Son does not proceed from the Father because the Father is smarter than the Son. They, along with the Spirit, know all things. They are all equally omniscient. Neither is it because the Father is stronger than the Son. Each of the members of the Trinity are equally omnipotent. With respect to their ontology, or their being, each member is the equal of the others. But with respect to their work, there is genuine submission. If the feminists are correct in saying that submission means inequality of being, then the Unitarians are also right. There can be no Trinity.
If then, these roles are not determined by ability, by what are they determined? Both the covenant of redemption and the covenant family operate the way they do because such is what manifests the glory of God. For the dance to proceed, one must lead, and others must follow. Anything else may seem more “fair,” but it won’t seem like a dance. And that, more than anything else, was what enraged the devil.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
“I Believe in the Life Everlasting”
By R.C. Sproul 3/1/2004
His name is “Beechie.” Recently he surprised us with a serendipitous visit. He called to say he was in Orlando with part of his family and asked if he could make an impromptu visit to our home. We responded with unreserved delight at the prospect of seeing a friend from the past. As I relate this yarn, I am looking at an elementary school class picture from 1946–47 (grade 3). There, sitting Indian style in the center front is Bob Beech, wearing knickers and adorned with his ubiquitous smile. Next to him is Johnny, from my novel Johnny come home : a novel. Almost directly behind Beechie is Vesta, who was Beechie’s girlfriend before she was mine.
During our visit, Beechie opened a package that contained pictures and other relics from our past, many stretching over a half century into yesteryear. The visit stimulated a flood of memories — memories of people and of events. We spoke of the kids we grew up with — of Jarl “Gus” Gustafson, Don Whirlow, Bobby Ewalt, Bill Heidish, Rodney Wise (Rodney — where are you? I think of you often.), and a host of others.
Beechie and I shared so many memories, especially of sports. We played football, basketball, and baseball together. I remember him going over the middle to catch my passes — of playing the backcourt together on the hardwood and hundreds and hundreds of practice moves for the double–play, as he was 4 (second base) to my 6 (shortstop).
Memories were dredged up from the past that had lain fallow over decades, consigned, as it were, to the sea of forgetfulness (to mix my metaphors). Memories were forgotten … but only temporarily. Like Plato’s sparking the recollection of the slaveboy in the Meno dialogue, so Beechie awakened a storehouse of images and names from my past.
I doubt if many people call Robert Beech “Beechie” today — probably about as many as still call me “Sonny.” Few make the connection. But there is an indissoluble link between the “Beechie” of 1947 and the Robert Beech of today and the “Sonny” of the same era and the “R.C.” of the present.
Everyone of us has a past. We are not only the people we are today, but we remain the people we were yesterday and the days before that. My memory contains a record of my personal history — which is an integral dimension of my identity. Memory links my consciousness of my past existence with my consciousness of the present.
We have seen dramas on television and in the movies where the protagonist suffers a virulent attack of amnesia, leaving him in a state of desperation, afflicted by a dreadful loss of personal identity.
Is death a final and permanent form of amnesia? Does it spell the abrupt halt of personal consciousness? The materialist answers with an emphatic “yes” — assuming that once the matter of the brain dissolves, consciousness, or mental function, dissolves with it. That is, without the physical brain, non-physical thought is impossible.
This raises the perennial philosophical question about the nature of the mind (or soul) and its relationship to matter. John Gerstner once mused: “What is mind?” — He replied, “No matter.” — “What is matter?”…“Never mind.”
The Christian affirmation of life after death asserts the notion of the continued conscious existence of the soul after the dissolution of the body (as articulated by Charles Hodge). This continuity of personal, conscious existence is the very essence of life after death. If we “continue” in an impersonal manner (lost in the oneness of the “all” of the universe), or in an unconscious state (soul-sleep), then our “continuation” is not what the Scriptures teach about life after death.
The folly of reincarnation is that it assumes on-going life without continuity of consciousness. It is the eternal recurrence of the amnesiac. Oh, one can claim “memories” of former lives ala Bridey Murphy and Shirley MacLaine stimulated by deep hypnosis or other esoteric methods, but for the average person there is zero recall of former existences. For practical purposes — if there is no conscious memory linking discreet “lives,” then there is no essential difference between re-incarnation and death as the absolute end of a life.
The key to on-going life is the essential element of the continuity of personal consciousness. It is really arrogant to assume that a physical brain or body is necessary for consciousness. In our present state, mind may be linked to brain — but that does not indicate a necessary permanent dependence. We see the analogy in nature of inestimable diversity of both body and consciousness. Biblically we encounter angelic spirits who can think and reason without the benefit of physical, human brains. The ultimate proof is seen in the nature of God Himself, who, while lacking a body, exhibits the highest possible level of consciousness.
Lesser arguments may be seen in the rising tide of testimonies of uncanny experiences of those who have been revived from a flat line state only to recall observations of things that occurred after they were declared dead — in many cases observing things that took place outside the rooms where they “died.” To be sure the jury is still out on this phenomena, but the reports pose interesting grist for the life-after-death mill.
If I may indulge in a bit of cynicism, I can’t resist noting that we’ve all experienced people who have brains but can’t think, and people who think who seem to lack brains. But that would involve an exercise not only of cynicism but of equivocation.
The Bible affirms that life is good, even with the afflictions we must endure. This side of heaven, we resemble Hamlet in his judgment that we would rather “bear those ills we have, than fly to others we know not of .…” This fear is that what comes after our eyelids close in death may be worse than what we now endure. But this is not the biblical hope for the Christian. Paul writes: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:21–24 NKJV).
Here Paul expresses apostolic ambivalence. He sees the good of his present life, yet yearns for his departure because of his assurance that it will mean gain. He uses the comparative form of the good by choosing the term “better” to describe what follows this life. Indeed the comparative is further modified by the word “far.” Thus Paul avers that the state that follows death is “far better” than that which we presently enjoy.
This comparative state is called “the intermediate state.” It is intermediate because it stands between our present state and our final state. It is the state of bodiless souls that precedes our final state of resurrection when our souls will be reunited with our glorified bodies to live in the superlative state of human life (the best) forever.
My memories of “Beechie” and my childhood friends will not cease at death. Indeed they will be enhanced as the muddled memories of this present body will give way to unconfused recollections of the past that I will be able to cherish forever. Beechie — that means that we will never forget our friendship together.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 14 The Patmos VisionsNarrowness of interpretation is the bane of apocalyptic study. "The words of this prophecy," "Things which must shortly come to pass'" such is the Divine description of the Book of the Revelation and of its contents. No one, therefore, is justified in denying to any portion of it a future application. The Book in its entirety is prophetic. Even the seven epistles, though they were undoubtedly addressed to Churches then existing, and though their intermediate reference to the history of Christendom is also clear, may well have a special voice in days to come for those who are to enter the fierce trials that shall precede the end. 
 The Bible is not intended for the present dispensation only, but for the people of God in every age; and it is incredible that they who are to be so severely tried shall fail to find in it words specially fitted and intended to counsel and comfort them in view of what they are to endure. "This prophecy" is the Divine description of the Apocalypse as a whole (Revelation 1:3). Compare the "must shortly come to pass" of Revelation 1:1 with the "must shortly be done" of 22:6. The salutation (1:4-5) seems to fix the dispensational place of the Book as future. It is not the Father, but Jehovah; not the Lord Jesus Christ, but "Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the Prince of the kings of the earth;" and the Book speaks from a time when the Holy Spirit, as a person, will again be in heaven, to join in the salutation, which He never does in the Epistles of the New Testament. Revelation 1:19 is frequently quoted to prove that the Book is divided, and that the latter part only is prophetic. In refutation of this, I appeal to the most candid of apocalyptic commentators, Dean Alford, who thus translates the verse: "Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and what things they signify, and the things which are about to happen after these." He explains "the things which thou sawest" to be "the vision which was but now vouchsafed thee," and the closing words as "the things which shall succeed these, i. e., a future vision" (Greek Test., in loco).In the fourth chapter the throne is set in heaven. Judgment now waits on grace; but when the day of grace is past, judgment must intervene ere the promises and covenants, with all their rich store of blessings, can be fulfilled. But who can unfold that scroll that lies on the open hand of Him who sits upon the throne? (Revelation 5:2) No creature in the universe  may dare to look on it, and God Himself will not break a single seal of it, for the Father has ceded the prerogative of judgment. The ministry of grace may be shared by all whom grace has blessed, but the Son of man is the only Being in the universe who can take the initiative in judgment; (John 5:22-27) and amid the anthems of the heavenly beings round the throne, and the swelling chorus of myriads of myriads of angels, echoed back by the whole creation of God, the Crucified of Calvary, "a Lamb, as it had been slain," takes up the book and prepares to break the seals. (Revelation 5:5-14)
In ch. 4:1, Alford inclines to give to the second meta tauta the general meaning of "hereafter." But the presumption is; that the words are used at the end of the verse in the same sense as at the beginning, i. e., "after these things." The words imply that the fulfillment of the subsequent visions should be future, relatively to the fulfillment of the preceding vision, and not relatively merely to the time when the vision was given, which was a matter of course.
 Revelation 3. It is not, as in English Version, "no man," but oudeis. The Revised Version properly reads "no one."It is at the fifth seal that the vision crosses the lines of the chronology of prophecy.  Of the earlier seals, therefore, it is unnecessary to speak in detail. They are evidently descriptive of the events to which the Lord referred in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, as preceding the great final persecution; — wars and unceasing threats of war, kingdoms in arms rushing on one another to destruction; and then famine, to be followed again by pestilence, hunger and the sword still claiming their victims, and others being seized by strange and nameless deaths in the ever-gathering horrors of these cumulative woes. (Revelation 6:2-8)
 Because the fifth seal relates to the great persecution of the future, which, as already noticed, is within the seventieth week. The first four seals relate to the events preceding in time the fulfillment of the fifteenth verse of the twenty-fourth of Matthew. Compare the sixth and seventh verses of that chapter with Revelation 6:1-8.According to the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, the tribulation is to be followed immediately by the signs and portents which the old prophets have declared will herald "the great and terrible day of the Lord." So in the Apocalypse the martyrs of the tribulation are seen in the fifth seal, (Revelation 9) and in the sixth, the advent of the great day of wrath is proclaimed, the precise events being named which the Lord had spoken of on the Mount of Olives, and Joel and Isaiah had foretold long centuries before. 
 "The day of the Lord cometh…The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:1-31). "The day of the Lord cometh… The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine" (Isaiah 13:9-10). "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven" (Matthew 24:29). "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" (Luke 21:25). "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood" (compare Joel 2:31), "and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth" (Revelation 6:12-13).Like the dull, oppressive calm which precedes the fiercest storms, there is silence in heaven when the last seal is broken, (Revelation 8:1) for the day of vengeance has dawned. The events of the earlier seals were Divine judgments, doubtless, but of a providential character, and such as men can account for by secondary causes. But God has at length declared Himself, and as it has been in the past, so now, the occasion is an outrage committed on His people. The cry of martyrs is come up in remembrance before God, (Revelation 3) and it is the signal for the trumpet blasts which herald the outpouring of the long-pent-up wrath. (Revelation 6)
I entirely agree with the following note of Dean Alford's (Greek Test., Matthew 24:29): "Such prophecies are to be understood literally, and indeed, without such understanding would lose their truth and significance. The physical signs shall happen as accompaniments and intensification's of the awful state of things which the description typifies." Not of course that the moon will really become blood, any more than that the stars will fall. The words describe phenomena which men will witness, and which will strike terror into their hearts.
To write a commentary on the Apocalypse within the limits of a chapter would be impossible, and the attempt would involve a departure from the special purpose and subject of these pages. But it is essential to notice and keep in view the character and method of the Apocalyptic visions. The seer, be it remembered, was not privileged to read a single line of what was written "within and on the back side" of the sealed scroll of the fifth chapter; but as each seal was broken, some prominent characteristic of a portion of its contents was communicated to him in a vision. The main series of the visions, therefore, represent events in their chronological sequence. But their course is occasionally interrupted by parenthetical or episodical visions; sometimes, as between the sixth and seventh seals, reaching on to the time of the end, and more frequently, as between the sixth and seventh trumpets, representing details chronologically within the earlier visions. The first and most important step, therefore, towards a right understanding of the Apocalypse is to distinguish between the serial and the episodical visions of the Book, and the following analysis is offered to promote and assist inquiry upon the subject.  —
 The passages containing the parenthetical visions are marked in square brackets.Chap. 6. — The visions of the first six seals; representing events in their chronological order.
[Chap. 7. — Parenthetical; the first vision relating either to the faithful remnant of the fifth seal, or to an election in view of the judgments of the seventh seal; the second, reaching on to the final deliverance.]
Chaps. 8, 9. — The opening of the seventh seal. The visions of the first six trumpets; consecutive judgments, in their chronological order.
[Chaps. 10. -11. 13. — Parenthetical, containing the hidden mystery of the seven thunders (10:3-4) and the testimony of the witnesses (the latter being probably within the era of the fifth seal.)]
Chap. 11:15-19. — The seventh trumpet; the third and last woe (comp. 8:13; 9:12; 11:14), preceding the establishment of the kingdom (comp. 10:7; 11:15).
[Chaps. 12. -18. — Parenthetical]
Chap. 13. — The rise and career of the two great blasphemers and persecutors of the last days.
Chap. 14. — The remnant of chap. 7. seen in blessedness. The everlasting Gospel (vers. 6, 7). The fall of Babylon (ver. 8). The doom of the worshippers of the Beast (vers. 9-11). The revelation of Christ, and final judgments, (vers. 14-20).
Chap. 15. — A vision of events chronologically within chapter 8., the opening the seventh seal. (This appears from the fact that the faithful of the fifth seal are here represented as praising God in view of the judgments impending, — see vers. 2-4; which judgments are within the seventh seal.)
Chap. 16. — The seven vials; a second series of visions of the events of the seven trumpets. This appears —
First, because the seventh trumpet and the seventh vial both relate to the final catastrophe. Under the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God is finished (10:7), and the temple of God is opened, and there are lightnings, voices, thunders, and an earthquake (11:19). Under the seventh vial, "It is done!" is heard from the temple, and there are voices, thunders, lightnings, and an earthquake (16:17-18).
Second, because the sphere of the judgments is the same in the correlative visions of both series:
1, The earth.
2, The sea.
3, The rivers.
4, The sun.
5, The pit, the seat of the beast.
7, Heaven, the air.
[Chaps. 17., 18. — Detailed visions of the development and doom of Babylon, "the harlot," whose fall has been within the seventh trumpet and seventh vial; the last series of judgments of the seventh seal (11:18; 16:19).]
Chap. 19: The doom of the harlot being accomplished (ver. 2), the glory of the bride follows (ver. 7); the glorious revelation of Christ, and the destruction consequent thereon of the beast and false prophet (ver. 20).
Chap. 20. — Satan is bound. The millennial reign of the saints (vers. 1-4). After the millennial reign, Satan is loosed, and once more deceives the nations. Satan is cast into the lake of fire. The judgment of the Great White Throne.
Chaps. 21., 22:1-5. — The new heaven and new earth
Chap. 22:6-21. — Conclusion. 
I purposely pass over chap. 12, because of the exceptional difficulties which attend the interpretation of it. "Anything within reasonable regard for the analogies and symbolism of the text seems better that the now too commonly received historical interpretation, with its wild fancies and arbitrary assignments of words and figures" (Alford, Greek Test., Revelation 12:15-16). The only reasonable interpretation I have seen is that which regards the "man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron," and who "was caught up to God and His throne," as being the Lord Jesus Christ, and the woman as representing that people of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came" (Romans 9:5). But the objections to this are considerable. First, past historical facts are thus introduced into a vision relating to the future. I am not aware of any other instance of this in Scripture. Secondly, the main features of the vision after ver. 5 are not accounted for by the facts.The Coming Prince
The following remarks are offered merely to assist inquiry and not at all as expressing a formed opinion on the matter. The 1, 260 days during which the woman is persecuted is precisely the period of "the great tribulation." Ver. 7 declares that during the woman's flight, Michael the Archangel fought on her behalf. Daniel 12:1, referring to the time of Antichrist's power, states that "at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of the people; and there shall be a time of trouble," etc., describing "the great tribulation" which is to continue 1, 260 days.
Again, the Old Scriptures clearly point to the career of a future David, a deliverer of the Jews, who will become their earthly leader at that time, and reign over them in Jerusalem afterwards. See, e. g., Ezekiel 22-25, about David the Prince, who is certainly not Christ, seeing he is to have a palace in Jerusalem and a definite inheritance in the land, and who, moreover, is to offer burnt-offerings, etc. (Ezekiel 45:17). I suppose this is the great military conqueror of Isaiah 43:1-3. May not the Revelation 12 refer to this personage, who is to be Christ's vicegerent on earth, and who will, in fact, rule over all nations.
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
2/1/2008 Telling the Truth
Nearly forty years ago, in his book The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Francis A. Schaeffer penned the following: “Does the church have a future in our generation? …I believe the church is in real danger. It is in for a rough day. We are facing present pressures and a present and future manipulation which will be so overwhelming in the days to come that they will make the battles of the last forty years look like child’s play.” During the past forty years, the church has seen many rough days, and I would venture to say that the signs of the times certainly seem to indicate that we are in for many more rough days during the next forty years.
Schaeffer was not a prophet, nor am I a prophet or the son of a prophet, and as Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass — one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.” It is true that we do not know all the truth about the future, but we do know the truth. It is the truth that abides within us, the truth that sanctifies us, the truth that makes us free, the truth that ensures our future. And although we don’t know the future, we know the One who sovereignly holds the future.
The Old Testament prophets were men who were called to stand between God and man. Even when nobody wanted to hear their God-ordained, Spirit-empowered message, they preached the truth. They were God’s ambassadors on earth who were commissioned by God to foretell the future and forthtell the hard truth of God’s eternal truth to His people. As such, they were men whom God made completely dependent upon Himself, so that in the midst of rough days they might live coram Deo, before His face, abiding in His truth and proclaiming His truth to the appointed generations of God’s people. And just as the young prophet Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the delicacies of the governing king of Babylon, so we must resolve in our hearts to proclaim the whole counsel of God’s truth, in season and out of season, being confident that no matter what comes our way in this world, Jesus Christ, the true prophet, has gained the victory, and we are more than conquerors in Him.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Millions of people in 91 countries are helped by The Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, who was born this day, April 10, 1829. He began by ministering to the poor, drunk and outcast and fought to end teenage prostitution in England. Awarded an honorary degree from Oxford, he traveled the U.S., met with President Theodore Roosevelt and gave the opening prayer at a session of the U.S. Senate. Booth wrote: “While there is a drunkard left, while there is a lost girl upon the streets, where there remains one dark soul without the light of God - I’ll fight! I’ll fight to the very end.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Just as torches burn most brightly when swung to and fro; just as the juniper plant smells sweetest when flung into the flames; so the richest qualities of a Christian often come out under the north wind of adversity and suffering. Bruised hearts often emit the fragrance God loves to smell.
Contemporary Classic/Streams in the Desert
God is doing a greater work in us, and that can only come as we learn to trust him no matter how dark the days and sleepless the nights. And it is only as we have been through the darkness with him that what we know with our heads slides down into our hearts, and our hearts no longer demand answers. The Why? becomes unimportant when we believe that God can and will redeem the pain for our good and his glory.... When I put the sovereignty of God beside his unfailing love, my heart can rest.
--- Verdell Davis
Let Me Grieve, But Not Forever
Bear with the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours.
--- Phillips Brooks
Sermons Preached in English Churches
Men of genius are admired. Men of wealth are envied. Men of power are feared. But only men of character are trusted.
--- Arthur Friedman
The Power of Kindness: Learning to Heal Ourselves and Our World
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Twenty-eighth of fifth month. -- Wet weather of late and small winds, inclining to calms. Our seamen cast a lead, I suppose about one hundred fathoms, but found no bottom.
Foggy weather this morning. Through the kindness of the great Preserver of men my mind remains quiet; and a degree of exercise from day to day attends me, that the pure peaceable government of Christ may spread and prevail among mankind.
The leading of a young generation in that pure way in which the wisdom of this world hath no place, where parents and tutors, humbly waiting for the heavenly Counsellor, may example them in the truth as it is in Jesus, hath for several days been the exercise of my mind. O, how safe, how quiet, is that state where the soul stands in pure obedience to the voice of Christ and a watchful care is maintained not to follow the voice of the stranger! Here Christ is felt to be our Shepherd, and under his leading people are brought to a stability; and where he doth not lead forward, we are bound in the bonds of pure love to stand still and wait upon him.
In the love of money and in the wisdom of this world, business is proposed, then the urgency of affairs push forward, and the mind cannot in this state discern the good and perfect will of God concerning us. The love of God is manifested in graciously calling us to come out of that which stands in confusion; but if we bow not in the name of Jesus, if we give not up those prospects of gain which in the wisdom of this world are open before us, but say in our hearts, "I must needs go on; and in going on I hope to keep as near the purity of truth as the business before me will admit of," the mind remains entangled and the shining of the light of life into the soul is obstructed.
Surely the Lord calls to mourning and deep humiliation that in his fear we may he instructed and led safely through the great difficulties and perplexities in this present age. In an entire subjection of our wills the Lord graciously opens a way for his people, where all their wants are bounded by his wisdom; and here we experience the substance of what Moses the prophet figured out in the water of separation as a purification from sin.
Esau is mentioned as a child red all over like a hairy garment. In Esau is represented the natural will of man. In preparing the water of separation a red heifer without blemish, on which there had been no yoke, was to be slain and her blood sprinkled by the priest seven times towards the tabernacle of the congregation; then her skin, her flesh, and all pertaining to her, was to be burnt without the camp, and of her ashes the water was prepared. Thus, the crucifying of the old man, or natural will, is represented; and hence comes a separation from that carnal mind which is death. "He who toucheth the dead body of a man and purifieth not himself with the water of separation, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; he is unclean." (Num. xix. 13)
If any through the love of gain engage in business wherein they dwell as among the tombs and touch the bodies of those who are dead should through the infinite love of God feel the power of the cross of Christ to crucify them to the world, and therein learn humbly to follow the divine Leader, here is the judgment of this world, here the prince of this world is cast out. The water of separation is felt; and though we have been among the slain, and through the desire of gain have touched the dead body of a man, yet in the purifying love of Christ we are washed in the water of separation; we are brought off from that business, from that gain and from that fellowship which is not agreeable to his holy will. I have felt a renewed confirmation in the time of this voyage, that the Lord, in his infinite love, is calling to his visited children, so to give up all outward possessions and means of getting treasures, that his Holy Spirit may have free course in their hearts and direct them in all their proceedings. To feel the substance pointed at in this figure man must know death as to his own will.
"No man can see God and live." This was spoken by the Almighty to Moses the prophet and opened by our blessed Redeemer. As death comes on our own wills, and a new life is formed in us, the heart is purified and prepared to understand clearly, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In purity of heart the mind is divinely opened to behold the nature of universal righteousness, or the righteousness of the kingdom of God. "No man hath seen the Father save he that is of God, he hath seen the Father."
The natural mind is active about the things of this life, and in this natural activity business is proposed and a will is formed in us to go forward in it. And so long as this natural will remains unsubjected, so long there remains an obstruction to the clearness of Divine light operating in us; but when we love God with all our heart and with all our strength, in this love we love our neighbor as ourselves; and a tenderness of heart is felt towards all people for whom Christ died, even those who, as to outward circumstances, may be to us as the Jews were to the Samaritans. "Who is my neighbor?" See this question answered by our Saviour, Luke x. 30. In this love we can say that Jesus is the Lord; and in this reformation in our souls, manifested in a full reformation of our lives, wherein all things are new, and all things are of God (2 Cor. v. 18), the desire of gain is subjected.
When employment is honestly followed in the light of truth, and people become diligent in business, "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Rom. xii. 11), the meaning of the name is opened to us: "This is the name by which he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jer. xxiii. 6.) O, how precious is this name! It is like ointment poured out. The chaste virgins are in love with the Redeemer; and for promoting his peaceable kingdom in the world are content to endure hardness like good soldiers; and are so separated in spirit from the desire of riches, that in their employments they become extensively careful to give no offence, either to Jew or Heathen, or to the church of Christ.
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Thirty-Second Chapter / Self-Denial And The Renunciation Of Evil Appetites
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, you can never be perfectly free unless you completely renounce self, for all who seek their own interest and who love themselves are bound in fetters. They are unsettled by covetousness and curiosity, always searching for ease and not for the things of Christ, often devising and framing that which will not last, for anything that is not of God will fail completely.
Hold to this short and perfect advice, therefore: give up your desires and you will find rest. Think upon it in your heart, and when you have put it into practice you will understand all things.
But this, Lord, is not the work of one day, nor is it mere child’s play; indeed, in this brief sentence is included all the perfection of holy persons.
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
My child, you should not turn away or be downcast when you hear the way of the perfect. Rather you ought to be spurred on the more toward their sublime heights, or at least be moved to seek perfection. I would this were the case with you—that you had progressed to the point where you no longer loved self but simply awaited My bidding and his whom I have placed as father over you. Then you would please Me very much, and your whole life would pass in peace and joy. But you have yet many things which you must give up, and unless you resign them entirely to Me you will not obtain that which you ask.
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold, fire-tried, that thou mayest be made rich”—rich in heavenly wisdom which treads underfoot all that is low. Put aside earthly wisdom, all human self-complacency.
I have said: exchange what is precious and valued among men for that which is considered contemptible. For true heavenly wisdom—not to think highly of self and not to seek glory on earth—does indeed seem mean and small and is well-nigh forgotten, as many men praise it with their mouths but shy far away from it in their lives. Yet this heavenly wisdom is a pearl of great price, which is hidden from many.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
"And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61, 62).
That was the turning-point in the history of Peter. Christ had said to him: "Thou canst not follow me now" (John 13:36). Peter was not in a fit state to follow Christ, because he had not been brought to an end of himself; he did not know himself, and he therefore could not follow Christ. But when he went out and wept bitterly, then came the great change. Christ previously said to him: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Here is the point where Peter was converted from self to Christ.
I thank God for the story of Peter. I do not know a man in the Bible who gives us greater comfort. When we look at his character, so full of failures, and at what Christ made him by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is hope for every one of us. But remember, before Christ could fill Peter with the Holy Spirit and make a new man of him, he had to go out and weep bitterly; he had to be humbled. If we want to understand this, I think there are four points that we must look at. First, let us look at Peter the devoted disciple of Jesus; next, at Peter as he lived the life of self; then at Peter in his repentance; and last, at what Christ made of Peter by the Holy Spirit.
Peter the Devoted Disciple of Christ
Christ called Peter to forsake his nets, and follow Him. Peter did it at once, and he afterward could say rightly to the Lord:
"We have forsaken all and followed thee" (Matt. 19:27).
Peter was a man of absolute surrender; he gave up all to follow Jesus. Peter was also a man of ready obedience. You remember Christ said to him, "Launch out into the deep, and let down the net." Peter the fisherman knew there were no fish there, for they had been toiling all night and had caught nothing; but he said: "At thy word I will let down the net" (Luke 5:4, 5). He submitted to the word of Jesus. Further, he was a man of great faith. When he saw Christ walking on the sea, he said: "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee" (Matt. 14:28); and at the voice of Christ he stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water.
And Peter was a man of spiritual insight. When Christ asked the disciples: "Whom do ye say that I am?" Peter was able to answer: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Christ said: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." And Christ spoke of him as the rock man, and of his having the keys of the kingdom. Peter was a splendid man, a devoted disciple of Jesus, and if he were living nowadays, everyone would say that he was an advanced Christian. And yet how much there was wanting in Peter!
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but the rich have many friends.
21 He who despises his fellow sins,
but he who shows compassion to the humble is happy.
‘Why did you bring me away, Sir?’ said I when we had passed out of earshot of this unhappy Ghost.
‘It might take a long while, that conversation,’ said my Teacher. ‘And ye have heard enough to see what the choice is.’
‘Is there any hope for her, Sir?’
‘Aye, there’s some. What she calls her love for her son has turned into a poor, prickly, astringent sort of thing. But there’s still a wee spark of something that’s not just herself in it. That might be blown into a flame.’
‘Then some natural feelings are really better than others—I mean, are a better starting-point for the real thing?’
‘Better and worse. There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is. And if it finally refuses conversion its corruption will be worse than the corruption of what ye call the lower passions. It is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.’
‘I don’t know that I dare repeat this on Earth, Sir,’ said I. ‘They’d say I was inhuman: they’d say I believed in total depravity: they’d say I was attacking the best and the holiest things. They’d call me …’
‘It might do you no harm if they did,’ said he with (I really thought) a twinkle in his eye.
‘But could one dare—could one have the face—to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery—when one’s not bereaved oneself?…’
‘No, no, Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it will be time for you to think of talking. But someone must say in general what’s been unsaid among you this many a year: that love, as mortals understand the word, isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.’
‘The saying is almost too hard for us.’
‘Ah, but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.’
‘Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.’
‘I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion. But look!’
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.
‘Off so soon?’ said a voice.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Moral decision about sin
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. --- Romans 6:6.
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same, other things do not appeal as they used to do:
Co-Crucifixion. Have I made this decision about sin—that it must be killed right out in me? It takes a long time to come to a moral decision about sin, but it is the great moment in my life when I do decide that just as Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world, so sin must die out in me, not be curbed or suppressed or counteracted, but crucified. No one can bring any one else to this decision. We may be earnestly convinced, and religiously convinced, but what we need to do is to come to the decision which Paul forces here.
Haul yourself up, take a time alone with God, make the moral decision and say—‘Lord, identify me with Thy death until I know that sin is dead in me.’ Make the moral decision that sin in you must be put to death.
It was not a divine anticipation on the part of Paul, but a very radical and definite experience. Am I prepared to let the Spirit of God search me until I know what the disposition of sin is—the thing that lusts against the Spirit of God in me? Then if so, will I agree with God’s verdict on that disposition of sin—that it should be identified with the death of Jesus? I cannot reckon myself “dead indeed unto sin” unless I have been through this radical issue of will before God.
Have I entered into the glorious privilege of being crucified with Christ until all that is left is the life of Christ in my flesh and blood? “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
We give God priority (Deuteronomy6:1–9)
The reality of God’s love can only be communicated by those who give Him priority. The central command here is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart”
(Deuteronomy 6:5). All flows from this, for such a love leads to a unique lifestyle.
This passage is a crucial one:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. --- Deuteronomy 6:5–8
First, the lover of God responds to Him. This means that we take the words He speaks to us in our today, and write them “on our hearts.” Memorization isn’t in view here. Instead the verse calls on us to make God’s words a part of our lives: to let His teachings reshape our values and our attitudes and our ways.
Second, we share that which has taken root in our lives with persons we are close to. You shall teach them
(God’s words) diligently to your children.
This speaks not only of a parent’s responsibility in nurture, but of the nature of the relationship in which God’s reality can be shared. It is in a you/your relationship—a very personal relationship between human beings—that the personal nature of God comes through.
Third, the context in which the reality of God is shared is that of daily life and activity. God’s words are the touchstone which guide us in life, and we refer to them to explain our actions, our attitudes, and all our ways.
(2) We assume God’s presence (Deuteronomy 6:10–19). Here we read of promises and instructions which are to comfort and reassure Israel in the land. The whole tone is one of expectation. God will be with them, even though the miracles have ceased. In this context verse 16 is especially significant: “Do not test the Lord your God, as you did at Massah.”
In that incident, recorded in Exodus, the people had rejected the many signs of God’s presence and had challenged, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”
The instruction is clear. Believers may not see supernatural evidence of God’s presence. But He truly is here. We are to assume His presence, knowing that He has promised never to leave or forsake us.
Sometimes you and I must take God’s love on faith. When others see us rejoicing in God’s love in spite of circumstances, they too will perceive that He is real.
(3) We rely on God’s provision (Deuteronomy 6:20–25). In such a relationship with the Lord, there can be only one answer when “in time to come” sons ask their fathers, “What is the meaning?…” (Deuteronomy 6:20) Then the parents are to remind the children of God’s action in delivering Israel from Egypt. God is to be glorified as the One who not only provided the land of promise, but who, in that land continues to provide Israel with all she needs.
In the context, then, of a personal relationship with God, adults who have themselves given God priority, trusted Him to be present, and experienced His provision, can communicate the reality of God’s love to others.
Ultimately, this is the only way. We can tell others about God; We can even lead them to agree with God’s Word. But to bring them to know the Lord as a God who loves and who will welcome them into a personal relationship too, we need more. We need the foundation of our own personal relationship with God. And on that foundation we need to identify ourselves with others and to love them as God Himself loves them.
How thrilling to know that we are loved by God.
How thrilling to be freed by His love to love others. Our heritage is love.
God’s Love: Deuteronomy 7–11 / Reading through these next chapters is an enriching and freeing experience, for God continually affirms His love for us. There is no better way to sense the affection God pours out than to let His Word speak for itself.
Deuteronomy 7. Once in the land, Israel was to destroy the pagans and their images, lest they draw God’s people away from Him. Every alternative to a life of godliness was to be rejected. Why?
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers.… Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. --- Deuteronomy 7:6–9
Deuteronomy 8. Here God reviewed His discipline of the unresponsive generation. What a purpose that discipline had—and how accompanied it was by love! Why did God discipline? “That He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these 40 years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you” (Deuteronomy 8:3-5). Every stroke of suffering was administered in love.
Deuteronomy 9–10. Israel was again promised full possession of the land. But with the promise came a warning: “Do not say in your heart, when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’ ” (Deuteronomy 9:4, NASB).
Israel was then reminded of its history of unresponsiveness, and warned. Then, in touching words, God again showed how deeply He loved this people, even though they had been rebellious. In an extended and touching section, the place of love in God’s actions, and the role love is to play in Israel’s lifestyle under Law, is reaffirmed.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt 70 persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. --- Deuteronomy 10:12–22, NSSB
Chapter 11 states the conclusion: “You shall therefore love the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 11:1, NASB).
Love, because you are loved.
Respond, because God has acted for you.
Lay up God’s words in your heart—because God has laid you on His heart.
Believers are loved, and are to be loving.
This too is part of the redemption message to humankind. Out of slavery into freedom. Growing through discipline to finally understand. God loves us. God accepts us. God has chosen us as His own. You and I stand secure, surrounded by the love of God.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Gemara itself already saw that Rabbi Yitzḥak’s words are, to a large degree, an overgeneralization, perhaps even a bit naive. Work pays off—usually. There is a certain amount of what we would call luck, or what the Rabbis of the Talmud would call “divine help,” in most spheres of life. We might even add: It is true in the study of Jewish texts as well. We may slave over a chapter, a source or a book, only to find it beyond our comprehension.
The Gemara’s limitation of Rabbi Yitzḥak’s words is a good reminder that in commerce, as much as hard work and perseverance count, a great deal also depends upon luck and timing. A person may slave, year after year, on an invention that will revolutionize life, only to find the country not ready for this gadget. Yet another inventor, with only a fraction of the effort, will earn millions of dollars and become an overnight sensation for a device that is only half as innovative and hardly as functional or worthwhile.
In the education sphere, however, Rabbi Yitzḥak’s general principle is a sound one. Few learning endeavors produce results effortlessly. One who desires to study a text or learn a skill will likely have to invest a great deal of effort in order to be intellectually satisfied and rewarded with competence. Rabbi Yitzḥak’s principle is no less true in Jewish education. Various organizations offer “crash courses” in Jewish studies. These may help overcome fears and stimulate interest. They can produce a fundamental knowledge base and increased interest in study. Nonetheless, knowledge of and intimacy with Jewish life and practice are the product of ongoing, concerted effort, years and even decades of training, repetitive endeavors, and hard work.
Some, especially those who have not been fortunate in business, may be angry or disappointed with this reality. After all, in business, it is possible to “strike it rich.” Furthermore, those who study are sometimes disappointed with their learning. One may labor and still feel uneducated or frustrated. On the whole, though, Rabbi Yitzḥak’s dictum is a sound one for much of life, especially Jewish living. Without the effort, we are unlikely to see the rewards.
A word costs a sela, silence goes for two.
Text / If one hundred and twenty elders—and among them several prophets—already established the Prayer [Amidah] in its proper order, what was it that Shimon ha-Pakuli did? They [the blessings] had been forgotten, and he came back and set them in their order. From that point on, it was forbidden to [further] tell the praises of the Holy One, blessed be He, for Rabbi Elazar said: “What is the meaning of the verse: ‘Who can tell the mighty acts of the Lord, proclaim all His praises?’ [Psalms 106:2]. Who is worthy of telling the mighty acts of the Lord? One who is able to proclaim all of His praises.”
Rabbah bar bar Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: “One who speaks too much in praising the Holy One, blessed be He, is uprooted from the world, as it says: ‘Is anything conveyed to Him when I speak? Should a man wish to be swallowed up?’ [Job 37:20, author’s translation].” Rabbi Yehudah of K’far Giboriya, and some say of K’far Gibor Ḥayil, preached: “What is the meaning of the verse: ‘To You, silence is praise’ [Psalms 65:2, author’s translation]? The best medicine is silence.” When Rav Dimi came he said: “In the West, they say: ‘A word costs a sela, silence goes for two.’ ”
Context / The Prayer, ha-Tefillah in Hebrew, refers to the Amidah, the “standing” prayer, which is also known as the Shemoneh Esrei, the “eighteen,” because there were originally eighteen sections and concluding blessings in the prayer. It is the central unit of the standard worship service. There are at least two traditions concerning its origin:
The Amidah: Where is it from? As it has been taught: Shimon ha-Pakuli arranged the eighteen blessings in order before Rabban Gamliel in Yavneh. Rabbi Yoḥanan said (and others say it was taught in a baraita): “One hundred and twenty elders—and among them several prophets—established the eighteen blessings in their proper order.” (Megillah 17b)
The Gemara first attempts to reconcile two different traditions concerning the origin of the Amidah, “the Prayer.” The point is then made that once the text had been established and fixed, it was no longer possible to add extemporaneous praises of God. (Apparently, at one point in the development of the Amidah, new words were added quite often to the prayer; each leader or worshiper was expected to express the fixed themes of the prayer in a personal way.) One reason for this change is that the Rabbis felt that, ironically, by saying more and more about God, we were, in effect, diminishing God’s greatness. God is so great that any new attempt to praise God by specific adjectives only serves to define, and thus confine, the divine.
Rabbi Elazar’s clever twist on the verse from the Psalms makes the point that only someone capable of proclaiming all of God’s praises is allowed to add to the fixed prayers. Of course, no such human being exists; Rabbah bar bar Ḥana’s interpretation of the quote from Job shows what will happen to a person who tries. Rabbi Yehudah offers the wisdom that sometimes saying nothing is better than saying too much. Silence shows our inability to respond to a power so much greater than ourselves. Rav Dimi’s folk saying from the West (Israel) makes the same point. A sela was a common coin. Thus, the price of silence is twice that of words.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration
Why was this a crucial period? Because, as already mentioned, these interpreters established the general way in which the Bible was to be approached for the next two millennia—indeed, to a certain extent, their approach is still with us to this day. Their way of reading and explaining texts was anything but straightforward—it was a highly ideological (and idealistic) form of exegesis, one that relied on a somewhat idiosyncratic combination of very close reading and great exegetical freedom. The interpretations these ancient sages came up with soon acquired the mantle of authority; they were memorized and passed on from generation to generation, sometimes modified in one or more detail, but basically maintained as what the Bible really means for hundreds and hundreds of years.
As best we can tell, the ancient interpreters were a highly varied lot. Some lived in the land of Judea and were steeped in the Hebrew language and traditional Jewish learning. A few others, however, seem to have lived elsewhere and had a thoroughly Hellenistic education and orientation—for example, the author of the Wisdom of Solomon or Philo of Alexandria, both of whom wrote in Greek, alluded to Greek philosophical ideas, and generally cited Scripture in its Septuagint translation. (Some contemporary scholars doubt that Philo was even competent to read the Hebrew Bible in the original.) And even among those interpreters who inhabited Judea there was great variety: the author of Jubilees was a would-be religious innovator and a bit of a rebel; his contemporary, Ben Sira, was quite the opposite, a creature of the establishment who would probably have refused to sit at the same table with Jubilees’ author. Pharisees battled with Sadducees over matters of interpretation, and the proprietors of the Dead Sea Scrolls (most likely to be identified with a third group, the Essenes) disagreed with both these other groups; some of them, having withdrawn to the desert, vowed to keep their own interpretations of Scripture hidden from all but the members of their own community, meanwhile waiting for the “day of vengeance” when God would strike down the other groups for their false teachings and errant practices.
And yet, for all their diversity, all these ancient interpreters went about the business of interpreting in strikingly similar fashion. It seems as if they all had, as it were, the same general set of marching orders; or, to put it differently, they all shared the same basic assumptions about how Scripture is to be interpreted and what its message ought to be. This is most surprising. It would appear likely that if they all shared the same basic approach—one which, as we will see, was very much influenced by the ancient Near Eastern concept of “wisdom”—this was because they were all descended, directly or otherwise, from a “wisdom”-influenced way of thinking about Scripture that existed even before these various groups of interpreters developed.
However these groups of ancient interpreters came to exist, modern scholars can, in examining their writings, deduce the basic assumptions underlying their way of explaining biblical texts. These assumptions may be broken down into four fundamental postulates:
1. All ancient interpreters assumed that scriptural texts were basically cryptic; that is, while the text may say A, often what it really means is B.
2. They also assumed that, although most of Scripture had been written hundreds of years earlier and seemed to be addressed to people back then, its words nevertheless were altogether relevant to people in the interpreters’ own day—its stories contained timeless messages about proper conduct; its prophecies really referred to events happening now, or in the near future; its ancient laws were to be scrupulously observed today, even if they seemed to refer to situations or practices that no longer existed; and so forth. In a word, the basic purpose of Scripture was to guide people nowadays; although it talked about the past, it was really aimed at the present.
3. On the face of it, Scripture included texts written by different prophets and sages, people who lived hundreds of years apart from one another and who came from different strata of society. Nevertheless, these diverse writings were assumed to contain a single, unitary message. That is to say, Scripture’s different parts could never contradict one another or disagree on any matter of fact or doctrine; indeed, what Scripture taught would always be perfectly consistent with the interpreters’ own beliefs and practices, whatever they might be (Greek philosophical doctrines; common historical or geographical lore; the halakic teachings of later postbiblical teachers). In short, Scripture was altogether harmonious in all its details and altogether true; carried to its extreme, this approach postulated that there was not a single redundancy, unnecessary detail, or scribal error in the text: everything was perfect.
4. Some parts of Scripture directly cite words spoken by God, “And the LORD said to Moses …” and so forth. Other parts, however, are not identified as divine speech—the whole court history of King David and King Solomon, for example, or the book of Psalms, whose words are addressed to God. Nevertheless, ancient interpreters came to assume that all of Scripture was of divine origin, that God had caused ancient sages or historians or psalmists to write what they wrote, or that their writings had somehow been divinely guided or inspired. In short, all of Scripture came from God and all of it was sacred.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
--- Proverbs 18:14.
How are we to avoid a crushed spirit so far as it is evil? (Twelve sermons for the troubled and tried: Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle )
First, if you are happy in the Lord and full of joy and confidence, avoid a crushed spirit by never offending your conscience. Labor with all your might to be true to the light that God has given you, to be true to your understanding of God’s Word, and to follow the Lord with all your heart. Nothing will come to you in a time of sorrow, pain, and brokenness of spirit so sharply as a sense of sins of omission or sins of commission. When the light of God’s presence is gone from you, you will begin sadly to say, “Why did I do this? Why didn’t I do that?” Therefore, dear friends, endeavor to live in the time of your joy so that, if there ever should come times of depression, you may not have to remember neglected duties or willful wickedness.
[Second], if you would avoid a crushed spirit, get a clear view of the gospel. Spell [that glorious word grace] in your own soul—free, rich, sovereign grace—and know that you, a guilty, lost sinner, are saved as a sinner, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, that he died for the ungodly, and that your standing is not in yourself or in your own attainments but wholly and entirely in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
[Third], you will avoid a crushed spirit by living very near to God. The sheep that gets bitten by the wolf is the one that does not keep near the shepherd. It has often happened that, when I have been preaching, there has been somebody dreadfully hurt. Yes, even the Good Shepherd’s dog bites sometimes. But if you had kept near the Shepherd, his dog would not have bitten you, for neither the dog nor the wolf will bite those who are near him. But if you get away from holy living and close communion with God, you may expect to get a crushed spirit.
So much, then, for the prevention, which is better than a cure. God help us all to make good use of it.
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Christmas in April April 10
On December 25, 1766 a son was born to an impoverished Welsh shoemaker and his wife. They considered naming him Vasover, but chose instead to name him for the day of his birth. When Christmas Evans was nine his father died in his cobbler stall, awl in hand. His mother farmed out the children, and Christmas went to live with an alcoholic uncle. The boy ran with rough gangs, fighting and drinking and endangering his life. He was unable to read a word.
But then Christmas heard the Welsh evangelist David Davies. He soon gave his life to Christ, and Davies began teaching him by candlelight in a barn at Penyralltfawr. Within a month Christmas was able to read from his Bible, and he expressed a desire to preach. His old gang, however, was annoyed. One night they attacked him on a mountain road, beating him and gouging out his right eye.
The young man resolved nonetheless to preach, and preach he did. Wherever he went—churches, coal mines, open fields—crowds gathered and a spirit of revival swept over the listeners. Unable to afford a horse, he started across Wales by foot, preaching in towns and villages with great effect.
But Christmas Evans eventually lost the joy of ministry. His health broke, and he seemed to have used up his spiritual zeal. On April 10, 1802 he climbed into the Welsh mountains, determined to wrestle with God until his passion returned. The struggle lasted for hours, but finally tears began to flow, and Christmas felt the joy of his salvation returning. He made a covenant with God that day, writing down 13 items, initialing each one. The fourth said, “Grant that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither. … ” And the eighth said, “Grant that I may experience the power of thy word before I deliver it.”
The burly, one-eyed preacher left the mountaintop that day with a power that shook Wales and the neighboring island of Anglesea until his death 36 years later. He is called the “Bunyan of Wales.”
Create pure thoughts in me
And make me faithful again.
Make me as happy as you did when you saved me.
Then I will shout and sing about your power to save.
--- Psalm 51:10,12a,14b.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 10
"The place which is called Calvary."
--- Luke 23:33.
The hill of comfort is the hill of Calvary; the house of consolation is built with the wood of the cross; the temple of heavenly blessing is founded upon the riven rock—riven by the spear which pierced his side. No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like Calvary’s tragedy.
“Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth,
Should touch the heart with softer power,
For comfort, than an angel’s mirth?
That to the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn,
Sooner than where the stars of Bethlehem burn?”
Light springs from the midday-midnight of Golgotha, and every herb of the field blooms sweetly beneath the shadow of the once accursed tree. In that place of thirst, grace hath dug a fountain which ever gusheth with waters pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes of mankind. You who have had your seasons of conflict, will confess that it was not at Olivet that you ever found comfort, not on the hill of Sinai, nor on Tabor; but Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha have been a means of comfort to you. The bitter herbs of Gethsemane have often taken away the bitters of your life; the scourge of Gabbatha has often scourged away your cares, and the groans of Calvary yields us comfort rare and rich. We never should have known Christ’s love in all its heights and depths if he had not died; nor could we guess the Father’s deep affection if he had not given his Son to die. The common mercies we enjoy all sing of love, just as the sea-shell, when we put it to our ears, whispers of the deep sea whence it came; but if we desire to hear the ocean itself, we must not look at every-day blessings, but at the transactions of the crucifixion. He who would know love, let him retire to Calvary and see the Man of sorrows die.
Evening - April 10
"For there stood by me this night the angel of God." Acts 27:23.
Tempest and long darkness, coupled with imminent risk of shipwreck, had brought the crew of the vessel into a sad case; one man alone among them remained perfectly calm, and by his word the rest were reassured. Paul was the only man who had heart enough to say, “Sirs, be of good cheer.” There were veteran Roman legionaries on board, and brave old mariners, and yet their poor Jewish prisoner had more spirit than they all. He had a secret Friend who kept his courage up. The Lord Jesus despatched a heavenly messenger to whisper words of consolation in the ear of his faithful servant, therefore he wore a shining countenance and spake like a man at ease.
If we fear the Lord, we may look for timely interpositions when our case is at its worst. Angels are not kept from us by storms, or hindered by darkness. Seraphs think it no humiliation to visit the poorest of the heavenly family. If angel’s visits are few and far between at ordinary times, they shall be frequent in our nights of tempest and tossing. Friends may drop from us when we are under pressure, but our intercourse with the inhabitants of the angelic world shall be more abundant; and in the strength of love-words, brought to us from the throne by the way of Jacob’s ladder, we shall be strong to do exploits. Dear reader, is this an hour of distress with you? then ask for peculiar help. Jesus is the angel of the covenant, and if his presence be now earnestly sought, it will not be denied. What that presence brings in heart-cheer those remember who, like Paul, have had the angel of God standing by them in a night of storm, when anchors would no longer hold, and rocks were nigh.
“O angel of my God, be near,
Amid the darkness hush my fear;
Loud roars the wild tempestuous sea,
Thy presence, Lord, shall comfort me.”
Morning and Evening
O SACRED HEAD, NOW WOUNDED
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091–1153
Translated into German by Paul Gerhardt, 1607–1676
Translated into English by James W. Alexander, 1804–1859
And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. (Matthew 27:29, 30 KJV)
It is difficult to join our fellow believers each Lenten season in the singing of this passion hymn without being moved almost to tears. For more than 800 years these worshipful lines from the heart of a devoted medieval monk have portrayed for parishioners a memorable view of the suffering Savior.
This remarkable text has been generally attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, the very admirable abbot of a monastery in France. Forsaking the wealth and ease of a noble family for a life of simplicity, holiness, prayer, and ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of others, Bernard was one of the most influential church leaders of his day. Martin Luther wrote of him, “He was the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together.”
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” was part of the final portion of a lengthy poem that addressed the various parts of Christ’s body as He suffered on the cross. The seven sections of the poem considered His feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. The stanzas of the hymn were translated into German in the 17th century and from German into English in the 19th century. God has preserved this exceptional hymn, which has led Christians through the centuries to more ardent worship of His Son.
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded with thorns Thy only crown;
how art Thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
look on me with Thy favor; vouch-safe to me Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever! And, should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee!
For Today: Isaiah 53; Matthew 27:39–43; Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 3:18.
Ponder anew your suffering Savior; then commit your life more fully to Him. Allow these musical truths to help you in your meditation---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Though Peace Begins with Justification, It Is Maintained by Our Obedience
Peace is one of the principal fruits of the Gospel as it is received into a believing heart, being that tranquility of mind that arises from the sense of our acceptance with God. It is not an objective but a subjective peace that is here in view. “Peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) is fundamentally judicial, being what Christ made for His people (Col. 1:20). Yet faith conveys a response to the conscience concerning our amity with God. In the proportion that our faith rests upon the peace made with God by the blood of Christ, and of our acceptance in Him, will be our inward peace. In and through Christ, God is at peace with believers, and the happy effect of this in our hearts is a felt “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). But we are not in a capacity to receive and enjoy those blessings until we have surrendered to Christ's Lordship and taken His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:29, 30). It is appropriate, therefore, for Paul to say, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). This is the kind of peace that the apostles prayed for on behalf of their brethren. This peace is the fruit of a Scriptural assurance of God's favor, which, in turn, comes from the maintenance of communion with Him by an obedient walk. It is also peace with ourselves. We are at peace with ourselves when conscience ceases to accuse us, and when our affections and wills submit themselves to an enlightened mind. Furthermore, it includes concord and amity with our fellow Christians (Rom. 5:5, 6). What an excellent example was left us by the church in Jerusalem: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32).
The Measure of Bestowal Desired: A Multiplication of Grace and Peace
Grace and peace are the present heritage of God's people, and of them Peter desired that they should enjoy much, much more than a mere sip or taste. As 1 Peter 3:18 intimates, he longed that they should “grow in grace,” and that they might be filled with peace (cf. Rom 15:13); he thus made request accordingly. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you.” By these words Peter calls upon God to visit them with still larger and more lavish displays of His goodness. He prays not only that God might grant to them greater and greater manifestations of His grace and peace, but also that their feeble capacities to apprehend what God had done for their souls might be greatly enlarged. He prays that an abundant supply of grace and peace should be conferred upon them. They were already the favored partakers of those Divine benefits, but request was made for a plentiful increase of them. Spiritual things (unlike material) do not cloy in the enjoyment of them, and therefore we cannot have too much of them. The words “peace be multiplied” intimate that there are degrees of assurance concerning our standing with God, and that we never cease to be dependent upon free grace. The dimensions of this request teach us that it is our privilege to ask God not only for more grace and peace, but for an amplitude thereof God is most honored when we make the largest demands upon His bounty. If our spirits are straitened in their enjoyment of God's grace and peace, it is due to the paltriness of our prayers and never to any niggardliness in Him.
The Medium by Which Grace and Peace Are Conveyed
“Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” The careful reader, who is not too dilatory in comparing Scripture with Scripture, will have observed a variation from the salutation used by Peter in his first Epistle (1 Peter 1:2). There he prayed, “Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” The addition (“through the knowledge of God,” etc.) made here is a significant one, in keeping with Peter's altered design and appropriate to his present aim. The student may also have noted that knowledge is one of the prominent words of this Epistle (see 2 Peter 1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8; 2:20; 3:18). We should also consider how frequently the Christ is designated “our Lord” or “our Saviour” (2 Peter 1:1, 2, 8, 11, 14, 16; 3:15, 18), by which Peter draws a sharp contrast between true disciples and those false professors of Christianity who will not submit to Christ's scepter. That “knowledge of God” alluded to here is not a natural but a spiritual knowledge, not speculative, but experiential. Nor is it merely a knowledge of the God of creation and providence, but of a God who is in covenant with men through Jesus the Christ. This is evident from its being mentioned in connection with the words “and of Jesus our Lord.” It is therefore an evangelical knowledge of God that is here in view. He cannot be savingly known except in and through Christ even as Christ Himself declared: “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
Inasmuch as this prayer was for grace and peace to be “multiplied” to the saints “through [or in]the knowledge of God,” there was a tacit intimation that they would both abide and advance in that knowledge. Calvin comments as follows:
“Through the knowledge, literally, in the knowledge; but the preposition en [no. 1722 in Strong and Thayer] often means “through” or “with”: yet both senses may suit the context. I am, however, more disposed to adopt the former. For the more any one advances in the knowledge of God, every kind of blessing increases also equally with the sense of Divine love.”
A spiritual and experiential knowledge of God is the grand means by which all the influences of grace and peace are conveyed to us. God works upon us as rational creatures in a way that is agreeable to our intellectual and moral nature, with knowledge preceding all else. As there is no real peace apart from grace, so there is no grace or peace without a saving knowledge of God; and no such knowledge of Him is possible but in and through “Jesus our Lord,” for Christ is the channel by which every blessing is transmitted to the members of His mystical Body. As the more windows a house has the more sunlight enters it, so the greater our knowledge of God the greater our measure of grace and peace. But the evangelical knowledge of the most mature saint is only fragmentary and feeble, and thus requires continual augmentation by the Divine blessing upon those means that have been appointed for its perfecting and strengthening.
The Divine Accomplishment that Moved Peter to Prayer
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (v. 3). Therein the apostle found his motive for making the above request. It was because God had already wrought so wondrously on behalf of these saints that he was moved to ask Him to continue dealing lavishly with them. We may also regard this third verse as being brought in to encourage the faith of these Christians: that, since God had done such great things for them, they should expect further liberal supplies from Him. Notice that the inspiring motive was a purely evangelical one, and not legal or mercenary. God had bestowed upon them everything needful for the production and preservation of spirituality in their souls, and the apostle longed to see them maintained in a healthy and vigorous condition. Divine power is the foundation of spiritual life, grace is what supports it, and peace is the atmosphere in which it thrives. The words “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” may also be understood as referring ultimately to eternal life in glory: a right to it, a fitness for it, and an earnest of it had already been bestowed upon them.
Finally, it is essential to our Christian growth to realize that the contents of verse 3 are to be regarded as the ground of the exhortation in verses 5 through 7. Thus the supply asked for in verse 2 is to be regarded as the necessary equipment for all spiritual fruit bearing and good works. Let us then exercise the greater diligence to abide in Christ (John 15:1-5) both in our prayers and in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.
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