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4/11/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Leviticus 15     Psalm 18     Proverbs 29     2 Thessalonians 3


Leviticus 15

Laws About Bodily Discharges

Leviticus 15:1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. 3 And this is the law of his uncleanness for a discharge: whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is blocked up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness. 4 Every bed on which the one with the discharge lies shall be unclean, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. 5 And anyone who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 6 And whoever sits on anything on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 7 And whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 8 And if the one with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 9 And any saddle on which the one with the discharge rides shall be unclean. 10 And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries such things shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 11 Anyone whom the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 12 And an earthenware vessel that the one with the discharge touches shall be broken, and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.

13 “And when the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes. And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean. 14 And on the eighth day he shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and come before the LORD to the entrance of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest. 15 And the priest shall use them, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD for his discharge.

16 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. 18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.

19 “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. 24 And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29 And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall use one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for her unclean discharge.

31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

32 This is the law for him who has a discharge and for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby; 33 also for her who is unwell with her menstrual impurity, that is, for anyone, male or female, who has a discharge, and for the man who lies with a woman who is unclean.

     This chapter deals with the uncleanness caused by discharges from the sexual organs: (a) long-term male discharge (e.g., gonorrhea; vv. 2–15); (b) short-term male discharges (vv. 16–18); (c) short-term female discharge (menstruation, vv. 19–24); and (d) long-term female discharges (vv. 25–30). That perfectly natural processes like sexual intercourse (v. 18) or menstruation should make someone unclean (i.e., unfit to worship) is surprising. But all these cases involve the loss of bodily fluids (blood or semen), and any loss of a “life fluid” suggested death and was incompatible with the presence of God, who is perfect life.

     The New Testament shows God, the giver of perfect life, incarnate in Jesus Christ, healing those who suffered exclusion from His presence under these Old Testament rules (Matt. 9:20–22). The divine program of redemption was historically progressive. The old covenant arrangements that seem so strange to us were early object lessons, a “tutor” pointing forward to the full redemption accomplished in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:24, 25).
  ESV Reformation Study Bible


Psalm 18

The LORD Is My Rock and My Fortress

Psalm 18:1 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:

1  I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2  The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

4  The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5  the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

6  In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7  Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8  Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9  He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10  He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12  Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13  The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14  And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15  Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16  He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17  He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18  They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
19  He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

20  The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21  For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22  For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23  I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24  So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

25  With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26  with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27  For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28  For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29  For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30  This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31  For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32  the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33  He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34  He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35  You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36  You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37  I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38  I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39  For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40  You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41  They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
42  I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

43  You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44  As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45  Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.

46  The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47  the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48  who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.

49  For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50  Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.


Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29:1 He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
2  When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
but when the wicked rule, the people groan.
3  He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
4  By justice a king builds up the land,
but he who exacts gifts tears it down.
5  A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet.
6  An evil man is ensnared in his transgression,
but a righteous man sings and rejoices.
7  A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
8  Scoffers set a city aflame,
but the wise turn away wrath.
9  If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
10  Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
and seek the life of the upright.
11  A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
12  If a ruler listens to falsehood,
all his officials will be wicked.
13  The poor man and the oppressor meet together;
the LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
14  If a king faithfully judges the poor,
his throne will be established forever.
15  The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
16  When the wicked increase, transgression increases,
but the righteous will look upon their downfall.
17  Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
he will give delight to your heart.
18  Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law.
19  By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
for though he understands, he will not respond.
20  Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
21  Whoever pampers his servant from childhood
will in the end find him his heir.
22  A man of wrath stirs up strife,
and one given to anger causes much transgression.
23  One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
24  The partner of a thief hates his own life;
he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.
25  The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
26  Many seek the face of a ruler,
but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.
27  An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,
but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.


2 Thessalonians 3

Pray for Us

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Warning Against Idleness

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Benediction

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

ESV Study Bible



What I'm Reading

7 Reasons You’ll Be Glad You Saw The Case for Christ

By Tom Gilson 4/7/2017

     The Pure Flix film The Case for Christ opens nationwide tonight. I saw it last night in an advance screening. My word to you: Go see it! You’ll be glad you did.

     Directed by Jon Gunn, this movie tells the true story of Lee Strobel, legal editor at the Chicago Tribune in the late 1970s and early 80s. His marriage fell into crisis after his wife, Leslie, chose a path in life totally unlike his own.

     She knew their marriage was in trouble, but she wasn’t about to give up the new life she had found.

     Moved by the apparent coincidence of a Christian nurse being nearby to save their daughter from choking to death, she began inquiring into the woman’s faith. Before long she chose to follow Christ herself.

     Lee would have none of it. His desk was in a newsroom with the sign plastered on the wall, “If your mom says she loves you, check it out.” He was sure that the story of Christ wouldn’t check out. He was just as certain that with the right facts in hand, he could save Leslie from her new delusion.

     So he went looking for those facts — without telling her where he was all those hours and days. All she knew was that their marriage was in trouble. But she wasn’t about to give up the new life she had found.

My bride and I really enjoyed this movie.

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     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.

50 Agreements Among The Resurrection Accounts

By Triablogue 3/24/2017

     One of the most common objections to the New Testament's resurrection accounts is that there are too many differences among them. There are a lot of ways to respond to that objection. For example, I wrote a series of posts earlier this year that's partly about how the gospels' differences are often similar to what we see in other ancient literature, including other ancient biographies. On some of the principles involved in harmonizing the resurrection accounts, see Steve Hays' posts here and here. And we've offered some potential harmonizations of the resurrection accounts, like here. But what I want to focus on in this post is how much the resurrection accounts have in common.

     What I'll be citing is agreement between two or more resurrection accounts in a way that's consistent with the others. Since some of the accounts, like the closing of Mark's gospel and Paul's material on the resurrection at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, are so brief, there's a lot they don't address. If two or more other accounts agree with each other on a point, but that point isn't discussed in Mark or 1 Corinthians 15, the agreement among those other accounts is significant anyway.

     There are good reasons to accept material that's only found in one resurrection account. For example, when Matthew (28:9-10) and John (20:14-7) narrate resurrection appearances to one or more of Jesus' female followers before any appearances to his male disciples, that prominence given to female disciples in such a male-dominated society provides us with some good evidence for those accounts. Likewise, the earliness of the material Paul cites referring to an appearance to more than five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:6) and Paul's knowledge of the ongoing status of those witnesses give us good reason to accept the historicity of that resurrection appearance. There's good evidence for the appearances in Matthew 28:9-10, John 20:14-7, and 1 Corinthians 15:6, even if each appearance is only mentioned in one source. But my focus in this post will be on material found in multiple resurrection accounts.

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     Jason Engwer

How Do You Become Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History? Author Interview.

By Sean McDowell 4/2/2017

     Thaddeus Williams was a dorm mate of mine as an undergrad at Biola, and now we are both on faculty for our alma mater. Dr. Williams is also an author and frequent speaker at churches and conferences.

     He gave me the chance to endorse his most recent book REFLECT: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History, and I found it both insightful and enjoyable. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy this interview and think about getting a copy of his excellent book.

     SEAN MCDOWELL: What, in particular, inspired you to write REFLECT?

     THADDEUS WILLIAMS: The more I study the Bible, along with different philosophies and worldviews, the more I am utterly inspired by the person of Jesus. Having taught theology, comparative religions, and the history of ideas for over a decade, it is clear that Jesus simply has no rival. REFLECT’s subtitle calls Him “the Greatest Person in History.” And I don’t mean that Jesus is just the nicest guy ever. He isn’t just a nice guy; He is an intellectual powerhouse, an artistic genius with a staggering E.Q. (emotional intelligence quotient), the most radical embodiment of true love, true power, and grace, and so much more.

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Books By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter

Paradise Restored

By Keith Mathison 3/1/2004

     Where do believers go when they die? If you ask any Christian this question, the response will likely be: “Why, they go to heaven of course.” But if you then ask them, “Where do believers go after they go to heaven?” there is a strong probability that your question will be answered with a quizzical expression of surprise. “What do you mean, where do believers go after they go to heaven? They just go to heaven, right?” Well, actually no, not according to Scripture.

     According to Scripture, the soul of a believer does go to be present with the Lord in heaven when he or she dies. But this is only an intermediate state, and the intermediate state is just that — intermediate, or “in-between.” It is not the final state or the ultimate future of believers. The ultimate future of the believer is the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15). On that glorious Day, the soul and the raised and transformed body of the believer will be one again as God originally created them to be. Not only will our bodies and souls be freed from the remnants of sin, the heavens and earth will be renewed and freed from the curse of sin as well (Rom. 8:18–25). This new earth, in which righteousness dwells, will be our home.

     Modern Christian pop-eschatology has largely obscured this blessed hope by positing a rather Platonic view of the afterlife in which the souls of believers exist in an eternal state of disembodied bliss, floating among the clouds and playing harps. This has occurred because the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is central to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, and the corresponding doctrine of the new heavens and earth have not received the same attention in our preaching as they did in the preaching of the apostles.

     As Paul explains so eloquently in Romans 8, our eager desire for the redemption of our bodies is intimately connected with our hope for the redemption of the entire creation from the ravages of sin. The doctrine of the new heavens and earth, then, is not a peripheral doctrine or a side-issue. It is a key element in the redemptive work of God. It defines the eternal state in which we shall live with Christ forever.

     End-times doctrines are often surrounded by controversy and confusion. This should not cause believers to throw their hands up in despair. It is the hope of the editors of Tabletalk that this issue will help to rekindle the biblical hope in the hearts and minds of God’s people who live coram Deo, before the face of God.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Last Things First

By Anthony Carter 3/1/2004

     It is a commonly held notion among Christians today that if you want to avoid an argument in polite Christian company, don’t talk about eschatology. Well, the sentiment to avoid arguing with a Christian brother or sister may be commendable, however, the reality is if you desire to speak about the redemptive work of God in any meaningful way, you will inevitably speak about eschatology.The Scriptures are eschatological. That is, from the first things, the Scriptures are concerned with last things. The first promise God gave to sinful humanity was an eschatological promise; it was a promise of rebuke to the Enemy and a promise of hope to God’s people. Following the Fall, in Genesis 3:15, God says to the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” These are the first words spoken about the last things. These words form the substance of our eschatology; they are the foundation of our hope, the ground of our worship. In rebuking the Serpent, God also reminds Adam and Eve that their past sin will result in a present war that will have a victorious future. Subsequently, today this truth should drive our lives and worship to reflect all that God has done, is doing, and has promised to bring to pass. Our worship must maintain an eschatological bent to it. That is, it must seek to reach into the past, understand its place in what God is doing in the present, but always keep an eye toward the future.

     Eschatology Past | Eschatology is most frequently spoken about in terms of what will take place. There is a preoccupation with future events and apocalyptic understandings of Scripture. While there is a necessary emphasis upon things to come in the study of end times, eschatology is also and equally about those things that have already occurred. To understand biblical last things, we must understand biblical first things. And to properly worship the God who is the Ancient of Days, we must make sure we understand the days from which we have come. A worship that is void of remembrance is worship worth forgetting. But the people of God who appreciate their Sovereign are those who sing and pray of a past deliverance from sin and death wrought only by the hand of the Almighty. In other words, worship that glorifies God and enjoys Him is worship where the worshipers know that who they were always empowers who they are.

     Eschatology Present | Not only is eschatology about what has happened, but it is also about what now is happening. Everyday, God is writing chapters in the grand drama of redemptive history. Providence works in the world now just as it did in the time of Abraham and Joseph. As the remarkable Puritan pastor Lemuel Haynes once said, “He who observes providence has providence to observe.” Rather than being preoccupied with political campaigns and staying up late wondering if your favorite candidate is winning or losing, be so diligent in watching eschatology unfold all around us as daily the Lord of the Harvest is plucking brands from the fire and gathering them into His storehouse awaiting that last great harvest morning. Everyday, our worship should say that God is alive, and that He is bringing about redemptive glory in, around, and through us. In other words, worship that glorifies God and enjoys Him is worship where the worshipers see God today doing as He always has done.

     Eschatology Future | If there is anything that marks out the Christian in this world, it is this simple four-letter word, hope. Hope is like faith, it is only as strong and sure as the object in which it is placed. A world without Christ is hopeless, not because it does not hope but because it hopes in temporal, flimsy, impotent things. Yet the Christian has a hope assured because like Adam and Eve, God’s eschatological Word is ultimately a Word of certain hope. No matter how dark the hour or grim the prospects, the first thing we should remember is that the last thing will be our victory. The first thing we should remember is that Satan is going to bruise the heel of the Anointed One and, as a consequence, will win some battles temporarily. But the last thing we must not forget is that our Anointed Savior and King is going to crush Satan’s cranium, using our feet to do so (Rom. 16:20) and ultimately gain an unparalleled total victory. If that is not worth a shout, I don’t know what is! In other words, those who glorify God and enjoy Him are those who worship Him in assured confidence that the present battles have a God-glorifying victorious outcome.

     From the beginning, we are promised a glorious end. Indeed the end shall surpass the beginning. Adam and Eve’s communion with God was broken. Our communion with God shall be unbreakable. Adam and Eve’s worship was interrupted. Our worship shall be uninterrupted. This should be the thread that moves throughout our lives and worship today. Is there anything more noble, more lovely, more virtuous, of a better report, and more worthy of our praise than the glorious thought that the end for which we have been created shall be greater than the beginning in which we were created? The next time you have opportunity to have direct input in the worship of the saints today meditate upon this, “Last things First.”

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     Per Amazon, A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and Point University of East Point, GA, Tony is lead pastor of East Point Church, East Point, GA. Pastor Tony live in East Point GA with his wife and five children.

Anthony Carter Books:

Faith Works

By Ligon Duncan 4/1/2004

     So, if Christ is my righteousness, if I am accepted by God because of Him, if I am saved by grace alone, and justified because of Christ alone, and declared righteous by faith alone, where do good works fit in my Christian experience? Why should I pursue holiness? Why is personal righteousness important? Are good works necessary? If so, how do they fit? What is the place of good works in the Christian life in light of the completely sufficient righteousness of Christ imput- ed to us? Fortunately, the Bible has a clear answer for us.

     Paul emphasizes in various places that our works, our obedience to the Law, our personal righteousness cannot make us right with God. For instance, in Romans 3:27–28 Paul writes, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” In other words, our works contribute absolutely nothing to our justification (which means being definitively pardoned of sin and accepted as righteous, through God’s free grace, on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness alone). Paul’s point is that God’s gracious acceptance and pardon of us is not based on anything in us. By faith, looking away from ourselves and our works, we receive a totally undeserved declaration of forgiveness, based on something outside of ourselves — the perfect righteousness of Christ, credited to our account by faith alone.

     But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, for instance, in Ephesians 2:8–10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before- hand, that we should walk in them.” In other words, though our works do not save us, we have been saved to do good works. As Paul puts it here, we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” So Paul’s formula is that works contribute nothing to our justification (the whole of our salvation, including our faith, he says is a gift of God), but that new life in Christ always results in living a life of faithful obedience to God’s Word. Indeed, he emphasizes here the necessity of good works in the Christian life in two ways. First, he points out that our obedience is part of the eternal plan of God for our lives as Christians (“we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand” — language very similar to his strong predestinarian statements in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8). We were created anew in Christ, according to God’s eternal decree, to live in righteousness and do good works. Second, he expresses the unqualified expectation that Christians will live in holiness (“that we should walk in them”).

     Legalism says we are redeemed by obeying. Paul, in contrast, says we are redeemed to be freed to obey (Gal. 5:1). The difference is colossal. In legalism, our actions function to condition God’s favor. Our righteousness, to some degree or another, is mistakenly thought to prompt his actions of favor toward us. Paul says that’s dead wrong. Instead Paul teaches that we do not condition, prompt, or contribute to the grounds of God’s acceptance of us. The reason God accepts us is not located in ourselves or our works, but rather in God Himself and His provision of Christ. As John Piper so beautifully puts it “What God requires, Christ provides.” But that is not the whole story. Paul goes on to say that grace reigns in righteousness (Rom. 5:21). In other words, the triumph of grace in the heart of the believer manifests itself not only in faith but also in a transformed life. In other words, Paul teaches that God’s gracious redemptive purposes have in view not only a new status (justification) but also a moral transformation (sanctification). Sometimes he talks about this by saying that we have died to sin (Rom. 6:1–11); sometimes he says we walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), but his point is the same: God’s grace, received by faith, is productive of new life — new life in which obedience, good works, and righteousness are featured. Never do these become grounds, or even instruments, of God’s acceptance of us, but they are the invariable accompaniment of true saving faith.

     What do these good works do? What is their purpose? No better, more concise answer can be given than that of the Westminster Assembly: “Good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life” (Westminster Confession of Faith 16.2).

     How do we do these good works? Ah well, we’re back to Christ and His righteousness again. In being united to Him, the righteous Savior, Paul says, we have been freed from the dominion of sin and initiated into sanctification (Rom. 6:22), and by the Spirit of Christ we are enabled to live more and more to Christ and to die more and more to sin because “it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

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     Dr. J. Ligon Duncan is the chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. He has authored, coauthored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books.

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Leviticus 15; Psalm 18; Proverbs 29; 2 Thess. 3

By Don Carson 4/11/2018

     David wrote Psalm 18 after the Lord had delivered him from the hand of Saul and all his enemies. It is a joyous, grateful psalm. Some of the same themes we found in Psalms 16 and 17 are repeated here. But among the new elements in this psalm are the following.

     First, the language of this psalm abounds in colorful nature metaphors (especially in vv. 7-15) — a fairly common feature of Hebrew poetry. When God answered, “the earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook”; “smoke rose from his nostrils,” and fire from his mouth. “He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet”: (18:7-9); alternatively, “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind” (18:10). “The LORD thundered from heaven,” his voice resounded; “he shot his arrows … great bolts of lightning.” The “valleys of the sea were exposed” at the blast from the Lord’s nostrils (18:13-14).

     This is marvelous. Just because these are not the metaphors we commonly use today does not mean we cannot appreciate them, or grasp what the psalmist is telling us. God’s power is ineffable; he controls even nature itself, which simply does his bidding; the most terrifying displays of power in nature are nothing more than the results of his commands. The metaphorical language can extend to how the Lord rescued David: “he drew me out of deep waters” (18:16) — though of course David was not in danger of literal drowning. But it must have felt like it more than once, when Saul and the army were hot on his trail.

     Second, while many lines in this psalm describe in wonderful, sometimes metaphorical language how God has helped David, others picture God strengthening David to enable him to do what he had to do. “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (18:29). “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great” (18:32-35).

     Perhaps God does not strengthen us to make war. But in a theistic universe, we confess God gives us strength to write computer programs, to sort out administrative problems, to change yet another diaper, to study the Greek text of the New Testament, to bear up under insult.

     “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” (18:46).

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 38

Do Not Forsake Me, O LORD
38 A Psalm Of David, for the Memorial Offering.

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     7. There seems much more difficulty in those passages which distinguish good works by the name of righteousness, and declare that man is justified by them. The passages of the former class are very numerous, as when the observance of the commandments is termed justification or righteousness. Of the other classes we have a description in the words of Moses, "It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments," (Deut. 6:25). But if you object, that it is a legal promise, which, having an impossible condition annexed to it, proves nothing, there are other passages to which the same answer cannot be made; for instance, "If the man be poor," "thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun goes down:" "and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the Lord thy God," (Deut. 24:13). Likewise the words of the prophet, "Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore," (Psal. 106:30, 31). Accordingly the Pharisees of our day think they have here full scope for exultation. [443] For, as we say, that when justification by faith is established, justification by works falls; they argue on the same principle, If there is a justification by works, it is false to say that we are justified by faith only. When I grant that the precepts of the law are termed righteousness, I do nothing strange: for they are so in reality. I must, however, inform the reader, that the Hebrew word !yqj

has been rendered by the Septuagint, not very appropriately, dikaio'mata, justifications, instead of edicts. [444] But I readily give up any dispute as to the word. Nor do I deny that the Law of God contains a perfect righteousness. For although we are debtors to do all the things which it enjoins, and, therefore, even after a full obedience, are unprofitable servants; yet, as the Lord has deigned to give it the name of righteousness, it is not ours to take from it what he has given. We readily admit, therefore, that the perfect obedience of the law is righteousness, and the observance of any precept a part of righteousness, the whole substance of righteousness being contained in the remaining parts. But we deny that any such righteousness ever exists. Hence we discard the righteousness of the law, not as being in itself maimed and defective, but because of the weakness of our flesh it nowhere appears. But then Scripture does not merely call the precepts of the law righteousness, it also gives this name to the works of the saints: as when it states that Zacharias and his wife "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," (Luke 1:6). Surely when it thus speaks, it estimates works more according to the nature of the law than their own proper character. And here, again, I must repeat the observation which I lately made, that the law is not to be ascertained from a careless translation of the Greek interpreter. Still, as Luke chose not to make any change on the received version, I will not contend for this. The things contained in the law God enjoined upon man for righteousness but that righteousness we attain not unless by observing the whole law: every transgression whatever destroys it. While, therefore, the law commands nothing but righteousness, if we look to itself, every one of its precepts is righteousness: if we look to the men by whom they are performed, being transgressors in many things, they by no means merit the praise of righteousness for one work, and that a work which, through the imperfection adhering to it, is always in some respect vicious. [445]

8. I come to the second class (sec. 1, 7, ad init.), in which the chief difficulty lies. Paul finds nothing stronger to prove justification by faith than that which is written of Abraham, he "believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness," (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). Therefore, when it is said that the achievement of Phinehas "was counted unto him for righteousness," (Psal. 106:30, 31), we may argue that what Paul contends for respecting faith applies also to works. Our opponents, accordingly, as if the point were proved, set it down that though we are not justified without faith, it is not by faith only; that our justification is completed by works. Here I beseech believers, as they know that the true standard of righteousness must be derived from Scripture alone, to consider with me seriously and religiously, how Scripture can be fairly reconciled with that view. Paul, knowing that justification by faith was the refuge of those who wanted righteousness of their own, confidently infers, that all who are justified by faith are excluded from the righteousness of works. But as it is clear that this justification is common to all believers, he with equal confidence infers that no man is justified by works; nay, more, that justification is without any help from works. But it is one thing to determine what power works have in themselves, and another to determine what place they are to hold after justification by faith has been established. If a price is to be put upon works according to their own worth, we hold that they are unfit to appear in the presence of God: that man, accordingly, has no works in which he can glory before God, and that hence, deprived of all aid from works, he is justified by faith alone. Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness.

9. Now, should any one state this to me as an objection to justification by faith, I would first ask him, Whether a man is deemed righteous for one holy work or two, while in all the other acts of his life lie is a transgressor of the law? This were, indeed, more than absurd. I would next ask, Whether he is deemed righteous on account of many good works if he is guilty of transgression in some one part? Even this he will not venture to maintain in opposition to the authority of the law, which pronounces, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them," (Deut. 27:26). I would go still farther and ask, Whether there be any work which may not justly be convicted of impurity or imperfection? How, then, will it appear to that eye before which even the heavens are not clean, and angels are chargeable with folly? (Job 4:18). Thus he will be forced to confess that no good work exists that is not defiled, both by contrary transgression and also by its own corruption, so that it cannot be honored as righteousness. But if it is certainly owing to justification by faith that works, otherwise impure, unclean, defective, unworthy of the sight, not to say of the love of God, are imputed for righteousness, why do they by boasting of this imputation aim at the destruction of that justification, but for which the boast were vain? Are they desirous of having a viper's birth? [446] To this their ungodly language tends. They cannot deny that justification by faith is the beginning, the foundation, the cause, the subject, the substance, of works of righteousness, and yet they conclude that justification is not by faith, because good works are counted for righteousness. Let us have done then with this frivolity, and confess the fact as it stands; if any righteousness which works are supposed to possess depends on justification by faith, this doctrine is not only not impaired, but on the contrary confirmed, its power being thereby more brightly displayed. Nor let us suppose, that after free justification works are commended, as if they afterwards succeeded to the office of justifying, or shared the office with faith. For did not justification by faith always remain entire, the impurity of works would be disclosed. There is nothing absurd in the doctrine, that though man is justified by faith, he is himself not only not righteous, but the righteousness attributed to his works is beyond their own deserts.

10. In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works (as our adversaries maintain), but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when ingrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed. Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone. Now, if that righteousness of works, whatever it be, depends on faith and free justification, and is produced by it, it ought to be included under it and, so to speak, made subordinate to it, as the effect to its cause; so far is it from being entitled to be set up to impair or destroy the doctrine of justification. [447] Thus Paul, to prove that our blessedness depends not on our works, but on the mercy of God, makes special use of the words of David, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered;" "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Should any one here obtrude the numberless passages in which blessedness seems to be attributed to works, as, "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord;" "He that has mercy on the poor, happy is he;" "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly," and "that endureth temptation;" "Blessed are they that keep judgment," that are "pure in heart," "meek," "merciful," &c., [448] they cannot make out that Paul's doctrine is not true. For seeing that the qualities thus extolled never all so exist in man as to obtain for him the approbation of God, it follows, that man is always miserable until he is exempted from misery by the pardon of his sins. Since, then, all the kinds of blessedness extolled in the Scripture are vain so that man derives no benefit from them until he obtains blessedness by the forgiveness of sins, a forgiveness which makes way for them, it follows that this is not only the chief and highest, but the only blessedness, unless you are prepared to maintain that it is impaired by things which owe their entire existence to it. There is much less to trouble us in the name of righteous which is usually given to believers. I admit that they are so called from the holiness of their lives, but as they rather exert themselves in the study of righteousness than fulfill righteousness itself, any degree of it which they possess must yield to justification by faith, to which it is owing that it is what it is.

11. But they say that we have a still more serious business with James, who in express terms opposes us. For he asks, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" and adds "You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," (James 2:21, 24). What then? Will they engage Paul in a quarrel with James? If they hold James to be a servant of Christ, his sentiments must be understood as not dissenting from Christ speaking by the mouth of Paul. By the mouth of Paul the Spirit declares that Abraham obtained justification by faith, not by works; we also teach that all are justified by faith without the works of the law. By James the same Spirit declares that both Abraham's justification and ours consists of works, and not of faith only. It is certain that the Spirit cannot be at variance with himself. Where, then, will be the agreement? It is enough for our opponents, provided they can tear up that justification by faith which we regard as fixed by the deepest roots: [449] to restore peace to the conscience is to them a matter of no great concern. Hence you may see, that though they indeed carp at the doctrine of justification by faith, they meanwhile point out no goal of righteousness at which the conscience may rest. Let them triumph then as they will, so long as the only victory they can boast of is, that they have deprived righteousness of all its certainty. This miserable victory they will indeed obtain when the light of truth is extinguished, and the Lord permits them to darken it with their lies. But wherever the truth of God stands they cannot prevail. I deny, then, that the passage of James which they are constantly holding up before us as if it were the shield of Achilles, gives them the slightest countenance. To make this plain, let us first attend to the scope of the Apostle, and then show wherein their hallucination consists. As at that time (and the evil has existed in the Church ever since) there were many who, while they gave manifest proof of their infidelity, by neglecting and omitting all the works peculiar to believers, ceased not falsely to glory in the name of faith, James here dissipates their vain confidence. His intention therefore is, not to derogate in any degree from the power of true faith, but to show how absurdly these triflers laid claim only to the empty name, and resting satisfied with it, felt secure in unrestrained indulgence in vice. This state of matters being understood, it will be easy to see where the error of our opponents lies. They fall into a double paralogism, the one in the term faith, the other in the term justifying. The Apostle, in giving the name of faith to an empty opinion altogether differing from true faith, makes a concession which derogates in no respect from his case. This he demonstrates at the outset by the words, "What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works?" (James 2:14). He says not, "If a man have faith without works," but "if he say that he has." This becomes still clearer when a little after he derides this faith as worse than that of devils, and at last when he calls it "dead." You may easily ascertain his meaning by the explanation, "Thou believest that there is one God." Surely if all which is contained in that faith is a belief in the existence of God, there is no wonder that it does not justify. The denial of such a power to it cannot be supposed to derogate in any degree from Christian faith, which is of a very different description. For how does true faith justify unless by uniting us to Christ, so that being made one with him, we may be admitted to a participation in his righteousness? It does not justify because it forms an idea of the divine existence, but because it reclines with confidence on the divine mercy.

12. We have not made good our point until we dispose of the other paralogism: since James places a part of justification in works. If you would make James consistent with the other Scriptures and with himself, you must give the word justify, as used by him, a different meaning from what it has with Paul. In the sense of Paul we are said to be justified when the remembrance of our unrighteousness is obliterated and we are counted righteous. Had James had the same meaning it would have been absurd for him to quote the words of Moses, "Abraham believed God," &c. The context runs thus: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." If it is absurd to say that the effect was prior to its cause, either Moses falsely declares in that passage that Abraham's faith was imputed for righteousness or Abraham, by his obedience in offering up Isaac, did not merit righteousness. Before the existence of Ishmael, who was a grown youth at the birth of Isaac, Abraham was justified by his faith. How thee can we say that he obtained justification by an obedience which followed long after? Wherefore, either James erroneously inverts the proper order (this it were impious to suppose), or he meant not to say that he was justified, as if he deserved to be deemed just. What then? It appears certain that he is speaking of the manifestation, not of the imputation of righteousness, as if he had said, Those who are justified by true faith prove their justification by obedience and good works, not by a bare and imaginary semblance of faith. In one word, he is not discussing the mode of justification, but requiring that the justification of believers shall be operative. And as Paul contends that men are justified without the aid of works, so James will not allow any to be regarded as justified who are destitute of good works. Due attention to the scope will thus disentangle every doubt; for the error of our opponents lies chiefly in this, that they think James is defining the mode of justification, whereas his only object is to destroy the depraved security of those who vainly pretended faith as an excuse for their contempt of good works. Therefore, let them twist the words of James as they may, they will never extract out of them more than the two propositions: That an empty phantom of faith does not justify, and that the believer, not contented with such an imagination, manifests his justification by good works.

13. They gain nothing by quoting from Paul to the same effect, that "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified," (Rom. 2:13). I am unwilling to evade the difficulty by the solution of Ambrose, that Paul spoke thus because faith in Christ is the fulfillment of the law. This I regard as a mere subterfuge, and one too for which there is no occasion, as the explanation is perfectly obvious. The Apostle's object is to suppress the absurd confidence of the Jews who gave out that they alone had a knowledge of the law, though at the very time they where its greatest despisers. That they might not plume themselves so much on a bare acquaintance with the law, he reminds them that when justification is sought by the law, the thing required is not the knowledge but the observance of it. We certainly mean not to dispute that the righteousness of the law consists in works, and not only so, but that justification consists in the dignity and merits of works. But this proves not that we are justified by works unless they can produce some one who has fulfilled the law. That Paul had no other meaning is abundantly obvious from the context. After charging Jews and Gentiles in common with unrighteousness, he descends to particulars and says, that "as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law," referring to the Gentiles, and that "as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law," referring to the Jews. Moreover, as they, winking at their transgressions, boasted merely of the law, he adds most appropriately, that the law was passed with the view of justifying not those who only heard it, but those only who obeyed it; as if he had said, Do you seek righteousness in the law? do not bring forward the mere hearing of it, which is in itself of little weight, but bring works by which you may show that the law has not been given to you in vain. Since in these they were all deficient, it followed that they had no ground of boasting in the law. Paul's meaning, therefore, rather leads to an opposite argument. The righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works; but no man can boast of fulfilling the law by works, and, therefore, there is no righteousness by the law.

14. They now betake themselves to those passages in which believers boldly submit their righteousness to the judgment of God, and wish to be judged accordingly; as in the following passages: "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." Again, "Hear the right, O Lord;" "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing." Again "The Lord regarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God." "I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity." Again, "Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity;" "I have not sat with vain persons; neither will I go in with dissemblers;" "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men; in whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity." [450] I have already spoken of the confidence which the saints seem to derive simply from works. The passages now quoted will not occasion much difficulty, if we attend to their peri'stasis, their connection, or (as it is commonly called) special circumstances. These are of two kinds; for those who use them have no wish that their whole life should be brought to trial, so that they may be acquitted or condemned according to its tenor; all they wish is, that a decision should be given on the particular case; and even here the righteousness which they claim is not with reference to the divine perfection, but only by comparison with the wicked and profane. When the question relates to justification, the thing required is not that the individual have a good ground of acquittal in regard to some particular matter, but that his whole life be in accordance with righteousness. But when the saints implore the divine justice in vindication of their innocence, they do not present themselves as free from fault, and in every respect blameless but while placing their confidence of salvation in the divine goodness only, and trusting that he will vindicate his poor when they are afflicted contrary to justice and equity, they truly commit to him the cause in which the innocent are oppressed. And when they sist themselves with their adversaries at the tribunal of God, they pretend not to an innocence corresponding to the divine purity were inquiry strictly made, but knowing that in comparison of the malice, dishonesty, craft, and iniquity of their enemies, their sincerity justice, simplicity, and purity, are ascertained and approved by God, they dread not to call upon him to judge between them. Thus when David said to Saul, "The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness," (1 Sam. 26:23), he meant not that the Lord should examine and reward every one according to his deserts, but he took the Lord to witness how great his innocence was in comparison of Saul's injustice. Paul, too, when he indulges in the boast, "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward," (2 Cor. 1:12), means not to call for the scrutiny of God, but compelled by the calumnies of the wicked he appeals, in contradiction of all their slanders, to his faith and probity, which he knew that God had indulgently accepted. For we see how he elsewhere says, "I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified," (1 Cor. 4:4); in other words, he was aware that the divine judgment far transcended the blind estimate of man. Therefore, however believers may, in defending their integrity against the hypocrisy of the ungodly, appeal to God as their witness and judge, still when the question is with God alone, they all with one mouth exclaim, "If thou, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Again, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." Distrusting their own words, they gladly exclaim, "Thy loving-kindness is better than life," (Ps. 130:3; 143:2; 63:3).

15. There are other passages not unlike those quoted above, at which some may still demur. Solomon says, "The just man walketh in his integrity," (Prov. 20:7). Again, "In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death," (Prov. 12:28). For this reason Ezekiel says, He that "has walked in my statutes, and has kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live," (Ezek. 18:9, 21; 23:15). None of these declarations do we deny or obscure. But let one of the sons of Adam come forward with such integrity. If there is none, they must perish from the presence of God, or retake themselves to the asylum of mercy. Still we deny not that the integrity of believers, though partial and imperfect, is a step to immortality. How so, but just that the works of those whom the Lord has assumed into the covenant of grace, he tries not by their merit, but embraces with paternal indulgence. By this we understand not with the Schoolmen, that works derive their value from accepting grace. For their meaning is, that works otherwise unfit to obtain salvation in terms of law, are made fit for such a purpose by the divine acceptance. On the other hand, I maintain that these works being sullied both by other transgressions and by their own deficiencies, have no other value than this, that the Lord indulgently pardons them; in other words, that the righteousness which he bestows on man is gratuitous. Here they unseasonably obtrude those passages in which the Apostle prays for all perfection to believers, "To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father," (1 Thess. 3:13, and elsewhere). These words were strongly urged by the Celestines of old, in maintaining the perfection of holiness in the present life. To this we deem it sufficient briefly to reply with Augustine, that the goal to which all the pious ought to aspire is, to appear in the presence of God without spot and blemish; but as the course of the present life is at best nothing more than progress, we shall never reach the goal until we have laid aside the body of sin, and been completely united to the Lord. If any one choose to give the name of perfection to the saints, I shall not obstinately quarrel with him, provided he defines this perfection in the words of Augustine, "When we speak of the perfect virtue of the saints, part of this perfection consists in the recognition of our imperfection both in truth and in humility," (August. ad Bonif. lib. 3, c. 7).

__________________________________________________________________

[441] See Book 2 chap. 7: sec. 2-8, 15; chap. 8 sec 3; chap 11 sec. 8; Book 3 chap 19. sec 2.

[442] French, "Les Sophistes de Sorbonne;"--the Sophists of Sorbonne.

[443] French, "de crier contre nous en cest endroit;"--here to raise an outcry against us.

[444] French, "Edits ou Statuts;"--Edicts or Statutes.

[445] The French here adds the two following sentences:--"Nostre response done est, merites: mais entant qu'elles tendent à la justice que Dieu nous a commandee, laquelle est nulle, si elle n'est parfaite. Or elle ne se trouve parfaite en nul homme de monde; pourtant faut conclure, q'une bonne oeuvre de soy ne merite pas le nom de justice."--Our reply then is, that when the works of the saints are called righteousness, it is not owing to their merits, but is in so far as they tend to the righteousness which God has commanded, and which is null if it be not perfect. Now it is not found perfect in any man in the world. Hence we must conclude, that no good work merits in itself the name of righteousness.

[446] French "Voudrions nous faire une lignee serpentine, que les enfans meutrissent leur mere?"--Would we have a viperish progeny, where the children murder the parent?

[447] The whole sentence in French stnads thus:--"Or si cette justice des oevres telle quelle procede de la foy et de la justification gratuite, il ne faut pas qu'on la prenne pour destruire ou obscurcir la grace dont elle depend; mais plustost doit estre enclose en icelle, comme le fruict à arbre."--Now, if this righteousness of works, such as it is, proceeds from faith and free justification, it must not be employed to destroy or obscure the grace on which it depends, but should rather be included in it, like the fruit in the tree.

[448] Rom. 4:7; Ps 32:1, 2; 112:1; Prov. 14:21; Ps. 1:1; 106:3; 119:11; Mt. 5:3.

[449] French, "Il suffit à nos adversaires s'ils peuvent deraciner la justice de foy, laquelle nous voulons estre plantee au profond du coeur."--It is enough for our opponents if they can root up justification by faith, which we desire to be planted at the bottom of the heart.

[450] Ps. 7:9; 17:1; 18:20; 26:1, 9, 10. Farther on , see Chap 14 s18; Chap. 20 s10.

__________________________________________________________________


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion



  • Tim Challies
  • Nathan W. Bingham
  • Tim Challies

#1 Productivity in a Digital World | Ligonier

 

#2 Speech in a Digital World | Ligonier

 

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     1/1/1989    What Is the Gospel?

     The nineteenth-century Princeton theologian Charles Hodge said, “The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.” The gospel is absolutely fundamental to everything we believe, and it is at the very core of who we are as Christians. However, many professing Christians struggle to answer the simple question: What is the gospel? When I teach, I am astounded by how many of my students are unable to provide a biblically accurate explanation of what the gospel is, and, what’s more, what the gospel is not. If we don’t know what the gospel is, we are of all people the most to be pitied. For, if we can’t explain the gospel, then we can’t proclaim the gospel in evangelism so that sinners might be saved, and we in fact may not be saved ourselves. In our day, there are countless counterfeit gospels, both inside and outside the church. Much of what is on Christian television and on the shelves of Christian bookstores completely obscures the gospel, thereby making it another gospel, which is no gospel at all. Since Satan cannot destroy the gospel, as J.C. Ryle wrote, “he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution.” It is vital we understand that just because a preacher talks about Jesus, the cross, and heaven, that does not mean he is preaching the gospel. And just because there is a church building on every corner does not mean the gospel is preached on every corner.

     Fundamentally, the gospel is news. It’s good news—the good news about what our triune God has graciously accomplished for His people: The Father’s sending the Son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, to live perfectly, fulfill the law, and die sacrificially, atoning for our sins, satisfying God’s wrath against us that we might not face an eternal hell, and raising Him from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the victorious announcement that God saves sinners. And even though the call of Jesus to “take up your cross and follow me,” “repent and believe,” “deny yourself,” and “keep my commandments” are necessary commands that directly follow the proclamation of the gospel, they are not in themselves the good news of what Jesus has accomplished. The gospel is not a summons to work harder to reach God— it’s the grand message of how God worked all things together for good to reach us. The gospel is good news, not good advice, just as J. Gresham Machen wrote: “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you.”

     click here for article source

     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)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “Houston, we’ve had a problem” were the fateful word received from Apollo 13, which was launched for the moon this day, April 11, 1970. Mission control identified that an oxygen tank had exploded, irreparably damaging the craft. The New York Times reported special prayer services, prayers were said at the Chicago Board of Trade, at St. Peter’s Basilica by the Pope, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Even the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution urging prayer. In sub-zero temperature, the crew ingeniously pieced together an oxygen filter, jump-charged the command module batteries, and manually steered the ship to land successfully near a raging hurricane.

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


The Bible is God's chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars.
--- Henry Ward Beecher
Living God's Way inspirational insights for the the path ahead

Even if we may not always understand why God allows certain things to happen to us, we can know He is able to bring good out of evil, and triumph out of suffering.
--- Billy Graham
Rebound Strong: Hope and Strength for Life's Toughest Challenges

Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.
--- G. K. Chesterton
Heretics: Centennial Edition

Have you ever found in history, one single example of a Nation thoroughly corrupted that was afterwards restored to virtue?… And without virtue, there can be no political liberty…. Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly?… I believe no effort in favour of virtue is lost.
--- John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson
Letters of Thomas Jefferson Concerning Philology and the Classics

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 4/11
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Thirty-first of fifth month and first of the week. -- We had a meeting in the cabin, with nearly all the ship's company, the whole being near thirty. In this meeting the Lord in mercy favored us with the extending of his love.

     Second of sixth month. -- Last evening the seamen found bottom at about seventy fathoms. This morning, a fair wind and pleasant. I sat on deck; my heart was overcome with the love of Christ, and melted into contrition before him. In this state the prospect of that work to which I found my mind drawn when in my native land being, in some degree, opened before me, I felt like a little child; and my cries were put up to my Heavenly Father for preservation that in an humble dependence on him my soul might be strengthened in his love and kept inwardly waiting for his counsel. This afternoon we saw that part of England called the Lizard.

     Some fowls yet remained of those the passengers took for their sea-store. 1 believe about fourteen perished in the storms at sea, by the waves breaking over the quarter-deck, and a considerable number with sickness at different times. I observed the cocks crew as we came down the Delaware, and while we were near the land, but afterwards I think I did not hear one of them crow till we came near the English coast, when they again crowed a few times. In observing their dull appearance at sea, and the pining sickness of some of them, I often remembered the Fountain of goodness, who gave being to all creatures, and whose love extends to caring for the sparrows. I believe where the love of God is verily perfected, and the true spirit of government watchfully attended to, a tenderness towards all creatures made subject to us will be experienced, and a care felt in us that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the great Creator intends for them under our government.

     Fourth of sixth month. -- Wet weather, high winds, and so dark that we could see but a little way. I perceived our seamen were apprehensive of the danger of missing the channel, which I understood was narrow. In a while it grew lighter, and they saw the land and knew where we were. Thus the Father of Mercies was pleased to try us with the sight of dangers, and then graciously, from time to time, deliver us from them; thus sparing our lives, that in humility and reverence we might walk before him and put our trust in him. About noon a pilot came off from Dover, where my beloved friend Samuel Emlen went on shore and thence to London, about seventy-two miles by land; but I felt easy in staying in the ship.

     Seventh of sixth month and first of the week. -- A clear morning; we lay at anchor for the tide, and had a parting meeting with the ship's company, in which my heart was enlarged in a fervent concern for them, that they may come to experience salvation through Christ. Had a head- wind up the Thames; lay sometimes at anchor; saw many ships passing, and some at anchor near; and I had large opportunity of fueling the spirit in which the poor bewildered sailors too generally live. That lamentable degeneracy which so much prevails in the people employed on the seas so affected my heart that I cannot easily convey the feeling I had to another.

     The present state of the seafaring life in general appears so opposite to that of a pious education, so full of corruption and extreme alienation from God, so full of the most dangerous examples to young people that in looking towards a young generation I feel a care for them, that they may have an education different from the present one of lads at sea, and that all of us who are acquainted with the pure gospel spirit may lay this case to heart, may remember the lamentable corruptions which attend the conveyance of merchandise across the seas, and so abide in the love of Christ that, being delivered from the entangling expenses of a curious, delicate, and luxurious life, we may learn contentment with a little, and promote the seafaring life no further than that spirit which leads into all truth attends us in our proceedings.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Thirty-Third Chapter / Restlessness Of Soul--Directing Our Final Intention Toward God

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, do not trust in your present feeling, for it will soon give way to another. As long as you live you will be subject to changeableness in spite of yourself. You will become merry at one time and sad at another, now peaceful but again disturbed, at one moment devout and the next indevout, sometimes diligent while at other times lazy, now grave and again flippant.

     But the man who is wise and whose spirit is well instructed stands superior to these changes. He pays no attention to what he feels in himself or from what quarter the wind of fickleness blows, so long as the whole intention of his mind is conducive to his proper and desired end. For thus he can stand undivided, unchanged, and unshaken, with the singleness of his intention directed unwaveringly toward Me, even in the midst of so many changing events. And the purer this singleness of intention is, with so much the more constancy does he pass through many storms.

     But in many ways the eye of pure intention grows dim, because it is attracted to any delightful thing that it meets. Indeed, it is rare to find one who is entirely free from all taint of self-seeking. The Jews of old, for example, came to Bethany to Martha and Mary, not for Jesus’ sake alone, but in order to see Lazarus.

     The eye of your intention, therefore, must be cleansed so that it is single and right. It must be directed toward Me, despite all the objects which may interfere.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Peter Living the Life of Self

     You recollect that just after Christ had said to him: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven," Christ began to speak about His sufferings, and Peter dared to say: "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." Then Christ had to say:

     "Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. 16:22-23).

     There was Peter in his self-will, trusting his own wisdom, and actually forbidding Christ to go and die. Whence did that come? Peter trusted in himself and his own thoughts about divine things. We see later on, more than once, that among the disciples there was a questioning who should be the greatest, and Peter was one of them, and he thought he had a right to the very first place. He sought his own honor even above the others. It was the life of self strong in Peter. He had left his boats and his nets, but not his old self.

     When Christ had spoken to him about His sufferings, and said: "Get thee behind me, Satan," He followed it up by saying: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). No man can follow Him unless he do that. Self must be utterly denied. What does that mean? When Peter denied Christ, we read that he said three times: "I do not know the man"; in other words: "I have nothing to do with Him; He and I are no friends; I deny having any connection with Him." Christ told Peter that he must deny self. Self must be ignored, and its every claim rejected. That is the root of true discipleship; but Peter did not understand it, and could not obey it. And what happened? When the last night came, Christ said to him:

     "Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice."

     But with what self-confidence Peter said: "Though all should forsake thee, yet will not I. I am ready to go with thee, to prison and to death" (Mark 14:29; Luke 22:33).

     Peter meant it honestly, and Peter really intended to do it; but Peter did not know himself. He did not believe he was as bad as Jesus said he was.

     We perhaps think of individual sins that come between us and God, but what are we to do with that self-life which is all unclean--our very nature? What are we to do with that flesh that is entirely under the power of sin? Deliverance from that is what we need. Peter knew it not, and therefore it was that in his self-confidence he went forth and denied his Lord.

     Notice how Christ uses that word deny twice. He said to Peter the first time, "Deny self"; He said to Peter the second time, "Thou wilt deny me." It is either of the two. There is no choice for us; we must either deny self or deny Christ. There are two great powers fighting each other--the self-nature in the power of sin, and Christ in the power of God. Either of these must rule within us.

     It was self that made the Devil. He was an angel of God, but he wanted to exalt self. He became a Devil in hell. Self was the cause of the fall of man. Eve wanted something for herself, and so our first parents fell into all the wretchedness of sin. We their children have inherited an awful nature of sin.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:22-24
     by D.H. Stern

22     Won’t those who plot evil go astray?
But grace and truth are for those who plan good.

23     In all work there is profit,
but mere talk produces only poverty.
24     The crown of the wise is their riches,
but the folly of fools is just that—folly.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          11

     The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

     ‘Yes. I’m off,’ said the Ghost. ‘Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came—which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.’

     ‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood.

     ‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost.

     ‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward.

     ‘Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating.

     ‘Don’t you want him killed?’

     ‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’

     ‘It’s the only way,’ said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’

     ‘Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here—well, it’s so damned embarrassing.’

     ‘May I kill it?’

     ‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’

     ‘There is no time. May I kill it?’

     ‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—really—don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.’

     ‘May I kill it?’

     ‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’

     ‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’

     ‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.’

     ‘There is no other day. All days are present now.’

     ‘Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.’

     ‘It is not so.’

     ‘Why, you’re hurting me now.’

     ‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.’

     ‘Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by to-night’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Moral divinity

     For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. ---
Romans 6:5.

     Co-Resurrection. The proof that I have been through crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a decided likeness to Him. The incoming of the Spirit of Jesus into me readjusts my personal life to God. The resurrection of Jesus has given Him authority to impart the life of God to me, and my experimental life must be constructed on the basis of His life. I can have the resurrection life of Jesus now, and it will show itself in holiness.

     The idea all through the Apostle Paul’s writings is that after the moral decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus invades every bit of my human nature. It takes omnipotence to live the life of the Son of God in mortal flesh. The Holy Spirit cannot be located as a Guest in a house, He invades everything. When once I decide that my “old man” (i.e., the heredity of sin) should be identified with the death of Jesus, then the Holy Spirit invades me. He takes charge of everything, my part is to walk in the light and to obey all that He reveals. When I have made the moral decision about sin, it is easy to reckon actually that I am dead unto sin, because I find the life of Jesus there all the time. Just as there is only one stamp of humanity, so there is only one stamp of holiness, the holiness of Jesus, and it is His holiness that is gifted to me. God puts the holiness of His Son into me, and I belong to a new order spiritually.


My Utmost for His Highest

Poetry For Supper
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Poetry For Supper

Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower of immortal beauty.'

'Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
That goes like blood to the poem's making?
Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life's iron crust. Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build
Your verse a ladder.'
'You speak as though
No sunlight ever surprised the mind
Groping on its cloudy path.'

'Sunlight's a thing that needs a window
Before it enter a dark room.
Windows don't happen.'
So two old poets,
Hunched at their beer in the low haze
Of an inn parlour, while the talk ran
Noisily by them, glib with prose.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Life’s Illusions

     Some of the most familiar of Jesus’ stories are found in these chapters of Luke. Among them are:

  •  the Parable of the Rich Fool.
  •  exhortation not to worry, but to remember
          the lilies of the field.
  •  the illustration of the narrow door.
  •  the Parable of the Great Banquet.
  •  the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
  •  the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
  •  the Parable of the Shrewd Manager.
  •  the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

     Many of the stories involve money, and illustrate the tension that comes as we live in two worlds—the physical and spiritual. Jesus teaches us how to resolve that tension by giving priority to the spiritual, confident that our Heavenly Father will meet our needs.

     But the stories also have another theme: they expose the games played by people who want to appear spiritual, but who have not really made God’s priorities their own.

     ...there is profit too in seeing how these stories and events fit together, and apply to the issues that we face today while seeking to live as Jesus’ disciples in the world of here and now.

     Commentary / It is easy for us to fall victim to illusions. Part of the reason is that a disciple does live in two worlds: the material-social world around him, and the invisible, spiritual world operating within and through the visible. Conflicts between these two worlds often occur. A choice that seems wise according to appearances is often not wise at all.

     So we seem caught between what we see around us and something that God says is far more real. Standing between the two, the disciple needs to come to the place where he commits himself to one world only. He needs to recognize appearances as mere illusion, and grasp the tremendous fact that what is not apparent to us is far more real.

     Carol’s mother insisted she work toward a teaching certificate in college, rather than take the training Carol felt she wanted for missions. Carol’s mother was moved by a concern for her daughter’s security; certainly education was the safest course. So it might appear! But appearances can be misleading.

     Between Two Worlds: / Misleading (Luke 12:4–12). Jesus began to teach that appearances are misleading with a simple warning. He told His disciples not to fear (that is, stand in awe of) powers that can kill the physical body. Instead, stand in awe of God, who can give life to or can destroy the living personality (Luke 12:45).

     This instruction might well frighten us were it not for Jesus’ next words. Not a sparrow falls, or a hair of our head is lost, but that God knows. So, Jesus said,
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” God’s power is used for us, not against us. We stand in awe of God not because He will destroy us, but because He who has all power cares! We are important to Him!

     How important is this realization? Jesus went on to show that when a person acknowledges Christ, that person is acknowledged by Christ in the presence of the angels.

     What happens on earth is important in heaven! The two worlds which seem so separated are actually linked … and God is in control of both! How wonderful to realize that God, who does control, values us and will use His power on our behalf.

     The rich fool (Luke 12:13–21). It is so easy to think of what is happening here on earth as the important thing. But what a spiritual disaster that is. One man who heard Jesus speak of God’s control over the material shouted out, asking Christ to make his brother divide an inheritance. This man had completely misunderstood Jesus’ teaching. This world is not the important one! So Jesus warned,
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

     How easily we come to think of this world as the important one, and imagine that life is summed up in what we possess. Jesus told of a “rich fool” who finally felt that he had more than plenty.

     He had so much that he tore down his barns to build larger ones. He was comforted to think that he had all he would ever need, and told himself, “You have plenty”
(Luke 12:19).

     Older versions translate this, “Soul, you have.” In the original, the word so translated means the man himself: his living personality. What this man had done was to confuse his life in this world, his bodily needs, with himself.

     But a human being is more than an animal. He is more than a body and bodily awareness. A human being, formed in the image of God by God’s own hand, is a deathless being who will exist in selfconscious awareness throughout eternity—either with God, or separated from Him.

     The rich man thought that this world was all; that life consisted of luxury and plenty. How blind! What a tragic mistake! That very night, Jesus said, the man’s personality was separated from his body, to leave this world and to answer to God. And all his things were left behind.

     When we see reality clearly, we come to realize both that the physical universe is under God’s control, and that the material is ultimately irrelevant to the real meaning of human life.


The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Megillah 31a

     D’RASH

     A friend has just sustained a terrible personal loss. At the funeral, there were so many people, we barely had a chance to say more than “I’m so sorry.” A day or two have passed, and we need to go make a condolence call, but we are very anxious about the visit. It is extremely uncomfortable to have to deal with death. We don’t know which words we should use to express our feelings, and we are at a total loss in terms of what to say to the mourner to try and heal her pain and bring her comfort.

     There are certain standard phrases that are suggested by social custom: “I was so sorry to hear about your loss.” “If there is anything that we can do for you, please let us know.” Jewish tradition offers its own formula: “May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

     But sometimes, we find that the more we say, the less helpful we are. Some people offer platitudes or clichés (“Don’t worry, time heals all wounds”). Others focus inappropriately on themselves (“After my husband died, I was a basket case for the longest time”). Still others say the most insensitive things (“You’re still young, you can have another child”).

     Tradition—social or religious—may be very wise in providing us with short, standard phrases. Our attempts to improve on them, or add to them, may turn out to actually diminish the good we are trying to do. Our kind intentions do not count for much when we end up hurting people already in great pain.

     It may very well be that the words we say are not as important as we might think. It often turns out, in fact, that our presence is much more significant than any utterances that we might make. One of the best things that we can do is ask about the person who has died, and then sit back and listen attentively. Some mourners need to talk much more than they need to hear someone else’s wisdom. At other times, we may sense that our friend is not up to listening or to talking, but they desperately need someone to be with. Holding a hand, giving a hug, or lending a shoulder to cry on may be all that is needed.

     Knowing just what to say, or what not to say, in a given situation is a sign of wisdom. Knowing that a word costs a sela, but that silence is worth twice as much, is a sign of even greater understanding.

     Wherever you find the strength of the Holy One, praised be He, you find His humility.

     Text / On Yom Kippur, we read “After the death”
[Leviticus 16] and we conclude with “For thus said He who high aloft forever dwells” [Isaiah 57:15]. At Minḥah, we read about forbidden relations [Leviticus 18] and we conclude with Jonah. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “Wherever you find the strength of the Holy One, praised be He, you find His humility.” This is written in the Torah, repeated in the Prophets, and reiterated in the Writings. It is written in the Torah: “For the Lord your God is God supreme and Lord supreme” [Deuteronomy 10:17] and it says right after that “but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow.” It is repeated in the Prophets: “For thus said He who high aloft forever dwells, whose name is holy” [Isaiah 57:15] and it says right after “yet with the contrite and lowly in spirit.” It is reiterated in the Writings, as it says: “Extol Him who rides the clouds; the Lord is His name” [Psalms 68:5] and it says right after that “the father of orphans, the champion of widows.”

     Context / The Tractate Megillah discusses not only the reading of the Megillah, that is, the scroll of
Esther on Purim, but also many of the laws of reading from the Torah (Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses) and haftarah (readings from the Prophets on Shabbat and holidays). The Mishnah preceding this section of Gemara outlines the Torah readings for holidays like Pesaḥ and Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara expands upon the theme, giving not only the Yom Kippur morning Torah reading (from Leviticus 16) but also the haftarah (from Isaiah 57). The expression “we conclude with,” maftirin, is from the same Hebrew root as haftarah. After the Torah is read, the haftarah, a concluding section of Bible from the Prophets, is chanted.

     In a discussion on which Torah reading is read and which haftarah is chanted on certain holidays, Rabbi Yoḥanan notes that each mention of God (“the Holy One, praised be He”) extols not only God’s strength but also God’s humility and compassion for humanity. Thus, the mention of the haftarah for Yom Kippur morning, taken from
Isaiah and referring to God as the high and mighty King, reminds Rabbi Yoḥanan of this rule: God’s strength and humility are always intertwined in the biblical text. Rabbi Yoḥanan, being a master teacher and scholar, easily finds three verses where both God’s strength and concern for people go hand-in-hand.

     According to Rabbi Yoḥanan’s Midrash, God is supreme in power and might, riding the clouds, yet also humble —down to earth and caring for those human beings who need a champion for their cause. God’s strength and concomitant kindness are written in Torah, repeated in the Prophets, and reiterated in the Writings, proof positive that wherever we find the strength of the Holy One, we also find God’s humility.

     The Hebrew words for “written,” “repeated” and “reiterated” are interesting terms. “Written” is katuv, a fairly common Hebrew word. “Repeated” is shanui, from the same root as the Hebrew number two (and the word mishnah, a teaching that is “repeated”). What we translate as “reiterated” (meshulash) is from the Hebrew root for “three.” Thus, God’s strength and humility are written, repeated, and reiterated throughout the three parts of the Bible—Torah, Prophets, and Writings.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Luke 14 The Great Supper
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–24.—The great supper. The feast of which Christ was partaking had been carefully prepared, and was an event of some consequence in the town. This may be inferred not only from the tone of the Lord’s remarks, but also from the intimations of the evangelists. Thus from ver. 12 it appears that the Pharisee had gathered together the élite of the place, along with his more intimate friends and his kinsmen. From ver. 7 we learn that there had been an eager scramble on the part of the guests for the chief places, the precedencies, and dignities. It was the observation of this which called forth the saying (ver. 11), “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Notice, too, as proving the care which had been bestowed on the entertainment, that there was an understanding among the more prominent guests that the movements and words of the invited Prophet should be closely watched. In fact, the supper was a trap laid. To complete the scheme, a man was introduced (ver. 2) who laboured under a severe illness—dropsy; a man whose presence might be a temptation to the loving-hearted Healer to violate the sacredness of the sabbath. Jesus, we are told (ver. 3), “answering,” i.e. knowing the intention of the lawyers and Pharisees, put a question to them which revealed the thoughts of the heart, whilst it so vindicated his work of mercy that it reduced his hypocritical friends to silence: “they could not answer him again to these things” (ver. 6). This great supper is the text of one of the most beautiful of our Lord’s parables. The introduction of the parable is very simple. He had taught his host a lesson of charity (vers. 12–14), when one of the company, catching at the last clause, “recompensed at the resurrection of the just,” and giving this the accepted Pharisee-meaning—a banquet at which the elect of the nation would sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (presuming, of course, that he would have a place at that banquet.)—exclaims, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (ver. 15). “Yes,” virtually replies the Prophet, “only recollect that this kingdom of God is not the blessedness which you imagine; nay, since the call to it has been rejected by those who were bidden—i.e. the covenant-people—that call will be extended, in the fulness of its glory, to the publicans and sinners whom you reject—the people of the streets and lanes; it will be extended further still, even to the ignorant heathen—the people of the highways and hedges. For (representing in these words the giver of the festival) “None of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper” (ver. 24). Such was the primary application of the parable. In its details it is entirely within the circle of prophetic ideas. The supper is an Old Testament symbol of the day of Christ, the Messiah (see Isa. 25:6). The “many bidden” were those who, having Moses and the prophets, were possessors both of the Word heard outwardly with the ear, and of the grace through which it is grafted inwardly in the heart. The servant at the supper-time denotes that preaching of the kingdom which began with John the Baptist, and was carried on by our Lord and those whom “he sent before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” The excuses intimate the pleas on which the invited, with one consent, turned away from the call. And the further missions of the servant, first keeping within the city, to the streets and lanes, and, secondly, quitting the precincts of the city, to the highways and hedges, denote, as has been said, the inclusion of the excluded classes of the Jews, along with the Samaritans, and the bidding of the Gentiles to the light of the gospel. “I said,” thus ancient prophecy expressed it (Isa. 65:1), “Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my Name.” Passing from the first relations of the parable to those which more directly concern us, every part of it is suggestive of some aspect of Christian truth or life. Notice three points—

     I. THE HOSPITALITY OF GOD. God is the Presence shadowed forth in the “man who makes the great supper.” In the notion of such a supper we see the Divine hospitality. A supper carries with it the thought of an abundant provision, of satisfaction for all want, of an infinite and various fulness. And is not this associated in the Scriptures with the very name of God? Take, e.g., one of the most beautiful utterances of the Psalter,
Ps. 36:5–9. Indeed, the manifold revelation of God in nature, providence, grace, in the firmament above us, the earth around us, the great and wide sea, our own consciousness, the Word who in the beginning was with God and was God—God himself in every form of his communication, is the exceeding joy of the pure in heart. His greatness is so hospitable. It makes room for all our littleness and weakness “in its lap to lie.” As Faber, in serses of sweetest music, has sung—

  “Thus doth thy grandeur make us grand ourselves;
    ’Tis goodness makes us fear;
  Thy greatness makes us brave, as children are
    When those they love are near.

  “Great God! our lowliness takes heart to play
    Beneath the shadow of thy state;
  The only comfort of our littleness
    Is that thou art so great.

  “Then on thy grandeur I will lay me down;
    Already life is heaven for me;
  No cradled child more softly lies than I:
    ‘Come soon, Eternity.’ ”

     It is this hospitality that is declared in the Son of the Eternal Love. Christ is the Great Supper. In him God has “abounded towards us in wisdom and prudence.” St. Paul speaks of “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” of Christ “the All in all;” and, more particularly defining the supper-making, he says, “Christ, of God made to us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption.” All that we need as men, all that is salvation for sinners, is ours in him. And how is it ours?
“If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

     II. THE CHURLISHNESS OF MEN. This is God, with the door thrown wide open, the table prepared, the life eternal given, the grand, ever-urgent
“Come!” Ho, every one that thirsteth, … and he that hath no money, come!” But what is the reception? Strange, wonderful, but still to true, “They all with one consent began to make excuse” (ver. 18). Look at the excuses. They are pictures of states of mind, of attitudes of thought, as real now as at any time. Three such pictures are sketched. The first (ver. 18), a mind which rejoices in a good realized. The man has the desire of his heart. He is the lord of broad acres. “Soul, take thine ease; what need for thee of the supper?” The second (ver. 19), a mind still immersed in business, with its cares and anxieties. The man has just concluded an important purchase; before all else he must prove it. The third (ver. 20), a mind absorbed in earthly delights and social relationships—he “cannot come.” We can trace, in the three pictures, a climax like that of the parable reported in Matt. 22, which closely resembles this. There is an ascending scale in the rejection. The first is covetous to a degree; he would go with all his heart—only that little estate; he must needs “pray let me be excused.” The second is polite, but more abrupt; there is a graceful wave of the hand, a gentlemanly “Pray let me be excused;” but there is no “I must needs.” The third is rude and flat in his denial; there is a quick “No, I cannot.” Is it not the climax of worldliness in every period? And what is worldliness? The celebrated Robert Hall one day wrote the word “God” on a slip of paper. “You can read that?” he said, as he passed the slip to a friend. “Yes.” He covered the name on the slip with a sovereign. “Can you read it now?” The sovereign was above, was nearer the gaze than God. That is worldliness. It is not the having, not the purchasing, of the ground or the oxen. It is the having the earthly thing in the first place, the setting of the “must needs” over against it. And it is the mind which does this, to which the heavenly kingdom is second to the earthly good, which is fruitful of excuses. Oh, how often it puts off! how often there comes even the rude “I cannot”! Has the Giver of the supper found such a mind in any of us?

     III. THE COMMISSION OF THE SERVANT. It is to bear the Master’s call, to declare that “all things are ready;” that salvation is full and is present; life now, life for ever, given with God’s “yea” and “amen” to even the chief of sinners. The word of the reconciliation is “Come!” the ministry of reconciliation implies, “Go, ever out and out.” The house of the Lord must be filled; he is bent on the winning of souls. A supper, and none to eat; a great supper, and only a few guests!

  “Salvation! O salvation!
  The joyful sound proclaims,
  Till earth’s remotest nation
  Has learnt Messiah’s Name.”

     “Compel them” is the voice of the Everlasting Love. Use, i.e., all means of moral suasion; circle around their wills; plead, beseech, entreat, persuade, “instant in season and out of season;” draw them, watch over them; establish such links between the messenger and them that they shall feel that they must come with you, since God is with you of a truth. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”


The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

How Interpretation Worked
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration

     To see how these assumptions combined to shape the way in which interpreters interpreted, it might be appropriate to consider an actual text from the Bible, the biblical account of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac:

     And it came to pass, after these things, that God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Then sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.” So Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering and then set out for the place that God had told him about. On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place from afar. Abraham told his servants, “You stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there, so that we can worship and then come back to you.”

     Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac; then he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked together. But Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father?” and he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked together.

     When they came to the place that God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He then tied up his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son. But an angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not harm the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. (
Gen. 22:1–13)

     Ancient interpreters were no doubt troubled by a number of elements in this story. Did not the very fact of divine omniscience seem to make this divine “test” of Abraham unnecessary? Surely God knew how it would turn out before it took place—He knew, as the angel says at the end of the story, that Abraham was one who “fears God.” So why put Abraham through this awful test? Equally disturbing was Abraham’s apparent conduct vis-à-vis his son. He never tells Isaac what God has told him to do; in fact, when Isaac asks his father the obvious question—“I see fire and the wood for the sacrifice, but where is the sacrificial animal?”—Abraham gives him an evasive answer: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” This actually turns out to be true; God does provide a ram at the last minute—but Abraham had no way of knowing this at the time. Along with this is Abraham’s problematic coldness. God orders him to sacrifice his son, who, God reminds him, is “your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love,” and Abraham does not utter a word of protest; in fact,
the text says explicitly that Abraham “got up early in the morning,” as if eager to carry out the deed.

     Such problems were clearly on the minds of ancient interpreters when they commented on this story, and they did their best to find a solution to them. It is important to stress that ancient interpreters generally were not out to arrive at a modern-style critical or objective reading of Scripture’s words. In keeping with Assumption 2, they began with the belief that Scripture had some important lesson to teach them, and in the case of this story, it had to be a positive lesson about all concerned—not only Abraham and Isaac, but about God as well. If that lesson was not immediately apparent, then it had to be searched for through a careful weighing of every word, since, in keeping with Assumption 1, the meaning of any biblical text could be hidden: it might say A when it really meant B.

     With regard to the first question mentioned above—why should God need to test anyone if He is omniscient?—interpreters set their eye on an apparently insignificant detail, the opening clause of the passage: “And it came to pass, after these things.…” Such phrases are often used in the Bible to mark a transition; they generally signal a break: “The previous story is over, and now we are going on to something new.” But the word “things” in Hebrew (dĕbārîm) also means “words.” So the transitional phrase here could equally well be understood as asserting that some words had been spoken, and that “it came to pass, after these words, that God tested Abraham.” What words? The Bible did not say, but if some words had indeed been spoken, then interpreters felt free to try to figure out what the words in question might have been.

     At some point, an ancient interpreter—no one knows exactly who or when—thought of another part of the Bible quite unrelated to Abraham, the book of Job. That book begins by reporting that Satan once challenged God to test His servant
Job (1:6–12; 2:1–6). Since the story of Abraham and Isaac is also described as a divine test, this interpreter theorized that the “words” mentioned in the opening sentence of the passage (“And it came to pass, after these words, that God tested Abraham …”) might have been, as in the book of Job, words connected to the hypothetical challenge spoken by Satan to God: “Put Abraham to the test and see whether He is indeed obedient enough even to sacrifice his own son.” If one reads the opening sentence with this in mind, then the problem of why God should have tested Abraham disappears. Of course God knew that Abraham would pass the test—but if He nevertheless went on to test Abraham, it was because some words had been spoken leading God to take up a challenge and prove to Satan Abraham’s worthiness. One ancient interpreter who adopted this solution was the anonymous author of the book of Jubilees. Here is how his retelling of the story begins:

     There were words in heaven regarding Abraham, that he was faithful in everything that He told him, [and that] the Lord loved him, and in every difficulty he was faithful. Then the angel Mastema [i.e., Satan] came and said before the Lord, “Behold, Abraham loves his son Isaac and he delights in him above all else. Tell him to offer him as a sacrifice on the altar. Then you will see if he carries out this command, and You will know if he is faithful in everything through which you test him.” Now the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in every difficulty which he had told him.… Jub. 17:15–16

     Here, the “words” referred to in
Gen. 22:1 are words of praise uttered by the other angels. “And it came to pass, after these words” were uttered, that Satan felt moved to challenge God concerning his faithful servant. God takes up the challenge, but the author of Jubilees goes to the trouble to assure his readers that there was really no need for the God to test Abraham, since “the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in every difficulty which he had told him” and would certainly pass this test as well.

     As noted, this revised version of the biblical story contains a lesson for today (Assumption 2): Abraham was faithful to God, even when put to a very difficult test; you should be too, and you will be rewarded as Abraham was. It also illustrates Assumption 3, the idea that the Bible is not only internally consistent, but that it agrees with the interpreter’s own beliefs and practices—in this case, the belief that an all-knowing God would have no need to put Abraham to the test. (As a matter of fact, however, the idea of divine omniscience is never stated outright in the Hebrew Bible—apparently, this notion did not come into existence until later on.) Finally, it is thanks to Assumption 1, that the Bible speaks cryptically, that this interpretation was possible: When the Bible said “after these things,” although this looked at first glance like a common transitional phrase, what it really meant was “after these words,” and it thereby intended readers to think of the book of Job and the divine test with which that book begins.

     All this was well and good, but interpreters still had not completely resolved the matter of what God knew beforehand. They were still troubled by the way the test ended:

     The angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not put your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (
Gen. 22:12)

     “Now I know” certainly seems to imply “I did not know before.” Why should God say such a thing if He was really omniscient? To this problem, too, the book of Jubilees had an answer:

     Then I [the angel who narrates the book of Jubilees] stood in front of him [Abraham] and in front of Mastema [Satan]. The Lord said: “Tell him not to let his hand go down on the child and not to do anything to him, because I know that he is one who fears the Lord.” So I called to him from heaven and said to him: Abraham, Abraham!” He was startled and said, “Yes?” I said to him, “Do not lay your hands on the child and do not do anything to him, because now I know that you are one who fears the Lord. You have not refused me your firstborn son.” (Jub. 18:9–11)

     This passage is basically a rewording of the biblical verse cited above,
Gen. 22:12, but the author of Jubilees has done something that the biblical text did not: he has supplied the actual instructions that God gave His angel before the angel cried out to Abraham. God instructs the angel, “Tell him not to let his hand go down on the child and not to do anything to him, because I know that he is one who fears the Lord.”

     The author of Jubilees loved little subtleties. God’s instructions to the angel are identical to what the angel says in
Genesis—except for one word. God does not say “now I know”; He simply says, “I know.” For the author of Jubilees, such a scenario explained everything. The angel may not have known how the test would turn out, but God certainly did. “I know that he is one who fears the Lord,” He tells the angel in Jubilees—in fact, I’ve known it along! Thus, the words that appear in Genesis, according to Jubilees, do not exactly represent God’s command, but the angel’s rewording of it. It is the angel who only now found out what God had known all along.

     As for Abraham’s hiding his intentions from Isaac—once again it all depends on how you read the text. Ancient interpreters noticed that the passage contains a slight repetition:

     Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac; then he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked together. But Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father?” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked together. (
Gen. 22:6–8)

     Repetition is not necessarily a bad thing, but ancient interpreters generally felt (in keeping with Assumption 3) that the Bible would not repeat itself without purpose. Between the two occurrences of the clause “and the two of them walked together” is the brief exchange in which Abraham apparently hides his true intentions from Isaac. Here Abraham’s words were, at least potentially, ambiguous. Since biblical Hebrew was originally written without punctuation marks or even capital letters marking the beginnings of sentences, Abraham’s answer to Isaac could actually be read as two sentences: “God Himself will provide. The lamb for the burnt offering [is] my son.” (Note that Hebrew has no verb “to be” in the present tense; thus, this last sentence would be the same whether or not the word “is” is supplied in translation.) Read in this way, Abraham’s answer to Isaac was not an evasion but the brutal truth: “You’re the sacrifice, Isaac.” If, following that, the text adds, “And the two of them walked together,” this would not be a needless repetition at all: Abraham told his son that he was to be the sacrifice, and Isaac agreed; then the two of them “walked together” in the sense that they were now of one mind to carry out God’s fearsome command. Thus, in keeping with Assumptions 1 and 3, the apparent repetition was no repetition at all, and Abraham’s apparent evasion was actually an announcement to Isaac of the plain truth. The conduct of both Abraham and Isaac was now above reproach: Abraham did not seek to deceive his son, and Isaac, far from a mere victim, actively sought to do God’s will no less than his father did. Indeed, their conduct might thus serve as an example to be imitated by later readers (Assumption 2): even when God’s decrees seem to be difficult, the righteous must follow them—and sometimes they turn out merely to be a test.

     But did interpreters actually believe their interpretations? Didn’t they know they were distorting the text’s real meaning? This is always a difficult question. It seems likely that, at least at first, ancient interpreters were sometimes quite well aware that they were departing from the straightforward meaning of the text. But with time, that awareness began to dim. Biblical interpretation soon became an institution in ancient Israel; one generation’s interpretations were passed on to the next, and eventually they acquired the authority that time and tradition always grant. Midrash, as this body of interpretation came to be called, simply became what the text had always been intended to communicate. Along with the interpretations themselves, the interpreters’ very modus operandi acquired its own authority: this was how the Bible was to be interpreted, period. Moreover, since the midrashic method of searching the text carefully for hidden implications seemed to solve so many problems in the Bible that otherwise had no solution, this indicated that the interpreters were going about things correctly. As time went on, new interpretations were created on the model of older ones, until soon every chapter of the Bible came accompanied by a host of clever explanations that accounted for any perceived difficulty in its words.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 11

     By his wounds we are healed. --- Isaiah 53:5.

     There is only One who can heal a crushed spirit. (Twelve sermons for the troubled and tried: Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle ) If you would be healed of the bleeding wounds of your heart, flee to Christ. You did so once; do it again. Go to Christ now, though you may have gone to him a hundred times before.

     One thing, however, I would say to one who has a really crushed heart. Remember Christ’s sympathy with you. O you who are tossed with tempest and not comforted, your Lord’s vessel is in the storm with you. Yes, he is in the vessel with you. There is not a pang that rends the believer’s heart but he has felt it first. He drinks out of the cup with you. Is it very bitter? He had a cup full of it for every drop that you taste. This ought to comfort you. I know of no better remedy for the heart’s trouble in a Christian than to feel, My Master himself takes no better portion than that which he gives to me.

     Also let me recommend, as a choice remedy for a crushed spirit, an enlarged view of the love of God. I wish that some of you who have a crushed spirit would give God credit for being as kind as you are yourself. You would not permit your child to endure a needless pain if you could remove it; neither does God willingly bring affliction or grief to his children. He would not allow you to be cast down but would cheer and comfort you, if it was good for you. His delight is that you should be happy and joyful. Take the comfort that he has set before you in his Word; he has put it there on purpose for you. Dare to take it, and think well of God, and it will be well with your soul.

     If this does not cure the evil, remember the great brevity of all your afflictions, after all. What if you are a child of God who even has to go to bed in the dark? You will wake up in the eternal daylight. What if, for the time being, you are in grief? You have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, and you will come out of it. You are not the first child of God who has been depressed or troubled. Yes, among the noblest men and women who ever lived there has been much of this kind of thing. Do not, therefore, think that you are quite alone in your sorrow. Bow your head and bear it, if it cannot be removed, for only a little while, and every cloud will be swept away, and you, in the cloudless sunlight, will behold your God. Meanwhile, his strength is sufficient for you. The Lord grant his comforts to you, for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake!
--- C. H. Spurgeon


Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Fifty Thousand Answers to Prayer  April 11

     George Mueller, born into a German tax collector’s family, was often in trouble. He learned early to steal and gamble and drink. As a teenager he learned how to stay in expensive hotels, then sneak out without paying the bill. But at length he was caught and jailed. Prison did him little good, for upon release he continued his crime spree until, on a Saturday night in 1825, he met Jesus Christ.

     Mueller married and settled down in Bristol, England, growing daily in faith and developing a burden for the homeless children running wild and ragged through the streets. At a public meeting in Bristol on December 9, 1835, he presented a plan for an orphanage. Several contributions came in. Mueller rented Number 6 Wilson Street, and on April 11, 1836 the doors of the orphanage opened. Twenty-six children were immediately taken in. A second house soon opened, then a third.

     From the beginning Mueller refused to ask for funds or even to speak of the ministry’s financial needs. He believed in praying earnestly and trusting the Lord to provide. And the Lord did provide, though sometimes at the last moment. The best-known story involves a morning when the plates and bowls and cups were set on the tables, but there was no food or milk. The children sat waiting for breakfast while Mueller led in prayer for their daily bread. A knock sounded at the door. It was the baker. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 A.M. and baked some fresh bread.” A second knock sounded. The milkman had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he wanted to give the children his milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.

     Such stories became the norm for Mueller’s work. During the course of his 93 years, Mueller housed more than 10,000 orphans, “prayed in” millions of dollars, traveled to scores of countries preaching the gospel, and recorded 50,000 answers to prayer.

  Don’t worship foreign gods
Or bow down to gods you know nothing about.
  I am the LORD your God.
I rescued you from Egypt.
  Just ask,
and I will give you whatever you need.
   --- Psalm 81:9,10.


On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 11

     "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint."
--- Psalm 22:14.

     Did earth or heaven ever behold a sadder spectacle of woe! In soul and body, our Lord felt himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground. The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve, and more or less dislocated all his bones. Burdened with his own weight, the august sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours. His sense of faintness and general weakness were overpowering; while to his own consciousness he became nothing but a mass of misery and swooning sickness. When Daniel saw the great vision, he thus describes his sensations, “There remained no strength in me, for my vigour was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength:” how much more faint must have been our greater Prophet when he saw the dread vision of the wrath of God, and felt it in his own soul! To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in his case, he was wounded, and felt the sword; he drained the cup and tasted every drop.

     “O King of Grief! (a title strange, yet true
     To thee of all kings only due)
     O King of Wounds! how shall I grieve for thee,
     Who in all grief preventest me!”


     As we kneel before our now ascended Saviour’s throne, let us remember well the way by which he prepared it as a throne of grace for us; let us in spirit drink of his cup, that we may be strengthened for our hour of heaviness whenever it may come. In his natural body every member suffered, and so must it be in the spiritual; but as out of all his griefs and woes his body came forth uninjured to glory and power, even so shall his mystical body come through the furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon it.


          Evening - April 11

     "Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins." Psalm 25:18.

     It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God’s hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place. It was to God that David carried his sorrow: it was to God that David confessed his sin. Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God. Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God, for he counteth the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to him, for he holdeth the ocean in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you. But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.

     The special lesson of the text is this:—that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit. Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain;” but the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided, plain—“Forgive all my sins.” Many sufferers would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.” But David does not say so; he cries, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to thy wisdom. Lord, look at them, I will leave them to thee, I should be glad to have my pain removed, but do as thou wilt; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them; I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment.” A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles should continue, but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 11

          ROCK OF AGES

     Augustus M. Toplady, 1740–1778

     For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea … they all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1, 3, 4)

     This fervent plea for Christ our eternal rock to grant salvation through His sacrifice and to be a place of refuge for the believer is one of the most popular hymns ever written. With strong emotional impact, it proclaims Christ’s atonement on the cross to be the only means of salvation, making man’s tears and efforts to justify himself of no avail. Also it urges us to find consolation and security in Christ our rock—even at the time of death.

     Augustus Toplady’s strong and passionate lines were actually written to refute some of the teachings of John and Charles Wesley during a bitter controversy with them concerning Arminianism (which stresses man’s free will) versus John Calvin’s doctrine of election. “Rock of Ages” was the climax to an article that Toplady wrote in The Gospel Magazine in 1776, in which he supported the doctrine of election by arguing that just as England could never pay her national debt, so man through his own efforts could never satisfy the eternal justice of a holy God. Despite the belligerent intent of this text, God has preserved this hymn for more than 200 years to bring blessing to both Arminian and Calvinistic believers around the world.

     At the age of 16, as he sat in a barn and listened to the preaching of an uneducated man, Toplady was dramatically converted. Later, he became a powerful and respected minister of the Anglican church. While he was the busy pastor of several churches in England, Augustus Toplady wrote many hymn texts, but few have survived. “Rock of Ages” is the one for which he is known today.

     Rock of ages, cleft for me,
     let me hide myself in Thee;
     let the water and the blood,
     from Thy wounded side which flowed,
     be of sin the double cure,
     save from wrath and make me pure.
     Could my tears forever flow,
     could my zeal no languor know,
     these for sin could not atone—
     Thou must save and Thou alone:
     In my hand no price I bring;
     simply to Thy cross I cling.
     While I draw this fleeting breath,
     when my eyes shall close in death,
     when I rise to worlds unknown
     and behold Thee on Thy throne,
     Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
     let me hide myself in Thee.


     For Today: Exodus 17:1–6; 33:17–23; Psalm 78:35; Acts 4:12.

     Give sincere praise to Christ our “Rock of Ages” for His great gift of salvation and for His provision of a place of refuge for us, even unto death.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)


          Chapter 11 Jude 24, 25 – Part 1

     The prayer that is now to engage our attention is a particularly arresting one, but its beauty and blessedness appear even more conspicuously when it is examined in connection with its somber background. It concludes the most solemn Epistle in the New Testament, one that is to be read with fear and trembling, but that is to be put down with thanksgiving and praise. It contains a most awful description of graceless professors of Christianity, of those trees who appeared to give much promise of fruit to God's glory but whose leaves soon dropped off and who quickly withered away. Its theme is apostasy, or, more specifically, the corrupting of much of the visible Church and the resulting ongoing corruption of an apostate Christendom. It presents a picture that all too tragically depicts things as they now are in the religious realm, in the majority of so-called “churches” at large. It informs us as to how the process of declension begins in reprobate professors of religion and how it works itself out until they are completely corrupted. It delineates the characters of those who lead others astray in this vile work. It makes known the sure doom awaiting both leaders and those who are led into apostasy. It closes with a glorious contrast.

          Many Pervert the Gospel of Free Grace into a License to Sin

     The Lord Jesus gave warning that the sowing of the good seed by Himself and His apostles would be followed with the sowing of tares in the same field by Satan and his agents. Paul also announced that, notwithstanding the widespread successes of the Gospel during his lifetime, there would be “a falling away” before the man of sin should be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). That “falling away,” or the apostasy of the visible Church corporately considered, is depicted by the Spirit in some detail through the pen of Jude. As Christ Himself had intimated, the initial work of corruption would be done stealthily, “while men slept” (Matthew 13:25), and Jude represents the evildoers as having “crept in unawares” (v. 4), that is, having slipped in secretly or surreptitiously. They are spoken of as men who were “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is to say, while pretending to magnify free grace they perverted it, failing to enforce the balancing truth of holiness; and while professing to believe in Christ as a Savior they refused to surrender to His Lordship. Thus they were lustful and lawless. In view of this horrible menace, the saints were exhorted to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (v. 3). In this context, faith signifies nothing less than the whole counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27-3).

     That exhortation is enforced by a reminder to three fearful and solemn examples of the punishment visited by God upon those who had apostatized. The first is that of the children of Israel whom the Lord saved out of Egypt, but who still lusted after its fleshpots; and because of their unbelief at Kadesh-Barnea a whole generation of them were destroyed in the wilderness (v. 5; cf. Num. 13;l4:1-39, especially vv. 26-37). The second is the case of those angels who had apostatized from their privileged position, and are now “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (v. 6). The third is Sodom and Gomorrah, which, because of their common indulgence in the grossest form of lasciviousness, were destroyed by fire from heaven (v.7; cf. Gen. 19:1-25). To which the apostle adds that the corruptors of the visible Church “defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities,” being less respectful to their superiors than Michael the archangel was to his inferior (vv. 8, 9). He solemnly pronounces the Divine sentence: “Woe unto them!” (v. 11). Without the slightest hesitation, he likens them and their works to three characters of evil notoriety: by “the way of Cain” we are to understand a flesh-gratifying, natural religion that is acceptable to the unregenerate; by “the error of Balaam for reward” a mercenary ministry that will pervert the pure “doctrine of true religion for the sake of filthy lucre” (Calvin); and by “the gainsaying of Korah” a despising of authority and discipline, an effort to obliterate the distinctions that God has made for His own glory and for our good (Num. 16:1-3).

          Jude Gives Clear Indication that These Falsifiers Are Within the Churches

     Other characteristics of these religious evildoers are given in figurative terms in verses 12 and 13. It should be particularly noted that they are said to “feast with you” (the saints), which supplies further evidence that such hypocrites, deceivers and self-deceived, are inside the churches. In the second half of verse 13 through verse 15 their doom is pronounced. For backsliders there is a way of recovery; but for apostates there is none. In verse 16 Jude details other characteristics of false brethren, which traits are sadly conspicuous in many professing Christians of our own day. Then Jude bids God's people to remember that the apostles of Christ had predicted there should be “mockers [or “scoffers,” no. 1703 in Strong and Thayer (2 Peter 3:3)] in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts” (vv. 17, 18). By “the last time” is meant this Christian or final dispensation (see 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:18), with a possible reference to the climactic culmination of evil at its end. Next, Jude appeals to those to whom he is writing, addressing to them a number of needful and salutary exhortations (vv. 21-23). He ends with the prayer that we are now to ponder, concluding the most solemn of all the Epistles with a more glorious outburst of praise than is elsewhere to be found in them.

          Jude's Concluding Paean to the Triumphant Grace of God

     “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24, 25). Let us consider four things in our study of this prayer: (1) its general background; (2) its more immediate connection; (3) the reasons that moved Jude to pray thus; and (4) the nature and Object of this prayer.

     First, let me add something more to what has already been said, in a general way, upon the background of this prayer. It seems to me that, in view of what had been engaging the mind of the apostle in the previous verses, he could not restrain himself from giving vent to this paean of praise. After viewing the solemn case of a whole generation of Israel perishing in the wilderness because of their unbelief, he was moved to cry out in gladness, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling.” As he contemplated the experience of the sinless angels who fell from their first estate, he could not but tremble; but when he thought of the Savior and Protector of His Church, he burst forth into a strain of adoration. Jude found great comfort and assurance in the blessed fact that the One who begins a work of grace within those given to Him by the Father will never cease from it until He has perfected it (Phil. 1:6). He knew that were it not for everlasting love and infinite power, our case would yet be the same as that of the angels who fell, that but for an almighty Redeemer we too must enter everlasting darkness and endure the suffering of eternal fire. Realizing that, Jude could not but bless the One whose protecting hand covers each of those purchased by His blood.

          Jude Balances a Fearful Consideration of Apostasies with Confident Praise to a Preserving God

     After making mention of those fearful examples of falling, it is highly probable that the thoughts of the penman of this Epistle turned to another one much more recent, and which had come beneath his own immediate notice. It is quite possible that, when our Lord sent forth the twelve, “Judas [Jude] the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot” were paired together (Luke 6:16, brackets mine; 9:1-6) — the great apostate “son of perdition” (John 17:12) and the one who was to write at length upon the great apostasy! It scarcely admits of doubt that as Jude's mind reverted to the traitor it made him exclaim with added emphasis, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, be glory, both now and ever.” He had probably respected Judas Iscariot as his fellow apostles had, and perhaps had heard him ask along with the others, “Lord, is it I?” in response to Christ's statement that one of their number was about to betray Him. And no doubt he was shocked when Judas Iscariot began to openly reveal his true character. For immediately after receiving the sop that Jesus had dipped in the dish for him and hearing a woe pronounced upon himself, Judas hypocritically repeated the question, “Master, is it I?” then went forth to do that most despicable deed for which he had been appointed (John 6:70; Matthew 26:20-25; John 13:21-30; Ps. 41:9; John 17:12). He could not but be aware that in remorse the traitor had hanged himself: and I believe that the shadow of his awful doom fell upon Jude as he penned this Epistle.

     But Jude did not suffer these sad contemplations to sink him into a state of dejection. He knew that his omniscient Master had foretold that a rising tide of evil would spread through the visible Church, and that however mysterious such a phenomenon might be there was a wise reason for it in the Divine economy. He knew that however fiercely the storm might rage there was no occasion to fear, for Christ Himself was in the ship who had declared, “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world [or “age”]” (Matthew 28:20, brackets mine). He knew that the gates of hell could not and would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). Therefore he lifted up his eyes above this present evil age and gazed by faith upon the enthroned Head and Preserver of the Church, rendering worship to Him. That is the all-important lesson to be drawn from the background of this prayer, and why I have dwelt so long upon it. Fellow Christians, let us duly heed it. Instead of being so much occupied with conditions in the world, with the menace of the atomic bomb, with the deepening apostasy, let our hearts be increasingly engaged with our beloved Lord; let us find our peace and joy in Him.

          God's Promise to Keep Us from Falling Is Connected to Our Duty to Keep Ourselves

     Let us now consider the more immediate connection of this prayer. On former occasions we have seen how helpful it was to attend closely to the context. It is necessary to do so here if the balance of truth is to be maintained and a proneness to antinomianism is to be checked. It is not honest to lay hold of the promise implied in this prayer, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,” unless we have first given heed to the commandment of verse 21: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” The precepts and promises may be distinguished, yet they are not to be separated. The former make known our duty, while the latter are for our encouragement as long as we genuinely and earnestly seek to perform the same. But one who neglects his duty is entitled to no comfort. After describing at length the beginning, the course, and the end of the apostasy of the visible Church, the apostle adds seven brief exhortations to the saints in verses 20-23. These call for the exercise of faith, prayer, love, hope, compassion, fear, and godly hatred. These exhortations are means to preserve us from apostasy. Calvin began his comments on these exhortations by saying this:

     “He shows the manner in which they could overcome all the devices of Satan, that is, by having love connected with faith, and by standing on their guard as it were in their watch-tower, until the coming of Christ.”


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


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