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Leviticus 17     Psalm 20-21     Proverbs 31     1 Timothy 2


Leviticus 17

The Place of Sacrifice

Leviticus 17:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

8 “And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from his people.

Laws Against Eating Blood

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”


Psalm 20

Trust in the Name of the LORD Our God

Psalm 20 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

1  May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2  May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3  May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

4  May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5  May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

6  Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8  They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

9  O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.


Psalm 21

The King Rejoices in the LORD’s Strength

Psalm 21 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

1  O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2  You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3  For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4  He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5  His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6  For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7  For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

8  Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9  You will make them as a blazing oven
when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10  You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
11  Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12  For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13  Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.


Proverbs 31

The Words of King Lemuel

Proverbs 31:1 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:

2  What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
What are you doing, son of my vows?
3  Do not give your strength to women,
your ways to those who destroy kings.
4  It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
5  lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
6  Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
7  let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8  Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9  Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

The Woman Who Fears the LORD

10  An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11  The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12  She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13  She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14  She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15  She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16  She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17  She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18  She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19  She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20  She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21  She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22  She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23  Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24  She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25  Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26  She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27  She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28  Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29  “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31  Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.


1 Timothy 2

Pray for All People

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

ESV Study Bible



What I'm Reading

Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

By Keith Mathison 6/1/2004

     When I was a child, there was a popular game show on television called “To Tell the Truth.” In the game, three contestants would claim to be the same person — Bill Smith, for example. Four celebrities would question the contestants in an attempt to determine who was telling the truth. Finally the host would ask the big question, “Will the real Bill Smith please stand up?” I do not remember how the game was actually won or lost, but I do think about the host’s final question sometimes when I think about the church.

     We confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” So where is it? Where is this church? If you ask three Christians that question, it is not unlikely that you will receive four answers. There is a great deal of confusion regarding the nature of the church. Is the church an institution? Is it purely a spiritual entity? Is it some combination of the two? These and a host of other questions arise whenever we consider the church.

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.

     And what about our common Christian creed? When we confess that we believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” are we referring to an ideal, or are we referring to something that actually exists in some sense right here and right now? What does it mean to make this confession in the face of homosexual bishops, pedophile pastors, widespread rejection and/or ignorance of essential biblical doctrines, and worship services that feature the talents of juggling clowns on unicycles? Is this the church? If not, will the real church please stand up?

     If we were to look only at the surface, we could become tempted to hopelessness and despair. Thankfully, however, God reveals in Scripture the true meaning of our common confession — the true nature of the church. And despite the present imperfections that we see all around us and to which we contribute regularly, there is coming a day when God will tell the real church to please stand up. At that time the sheep will be separated from the goats, the wolves will be removed from the midst of the flock, and all pretense will fail. At that time we, the church, will be presented to our Lord Jesus Christ as a Bride without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. And we will cast our crowns at his feet, fall down coram Deo before the throne and declare: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

     This is the real church.

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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:

Our Comforter in Life and Death

By Larry Edison 7/1/2004

     In one form or another, I have heard cries of the heart many times over the years. People hurt deeply. We live in a world where, for believer and unbeliever alike, there is pain, heartache, and the experience of tragedy. It is all so very confusing for us as Christians.

     “Where is God when I hurt so bad?” “I feel so alone — ultimately I am the only one who can face this illness. Sure, I am glad that my husband and children are close, but I am the one who is sick, and I know I will have to go through this alone.”

     I wish God were right here with me. It hurts so bad. How can He make me feel better if He is so distant and far away; “out there?”

     The pain causes us to struggle and doubt the promise that Jesus is with us and even in us. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

     At first glance, it appears that He is elsewhere. Our theology even teaches that Christ is gone. Our Creeds affirm the biblical truth of the ascension; that Christ “sits at the right hand of the God the Father.”

     So where is He when we need Him? Where is He when we feel alone? Is it realistic to think that God wraps us in His arms to keep and encourage even as a parent would for their hurting child? If we are His children, and God is truly our Father, can’t we properly expect God to provide comfort and consolation even as our parents would (especially since parental love is but a taste or reflection of the love of our heavenly Father)?

     This last Christmas we celebrated the gift of Emmanuel — “God with us.” Would God come to be with us only such a short time, and then leave us alone and stranded?

     Like a “scene 2,” a further unfolding of the promise of Emmanuel is found in words given to Jesus’ disciples: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16).

     He warned His confused, and later, frightened disciples, that physically, He would leave. He would ascend from the earth into the heavens. Yet, He would not leave them alone. He would not leave them “God-less.” Even more, this would be a good thing; though, at the time, they could not imagine so. While with us, Christ faced barriers or limits. He could not be everywhere at the same time in his human nature. So, how much greater is it that, once ascended and crowned as King, He sent His Spirit who knows no such boundaries or limitations? He came as “another” of the same (this is the idea behind the wording). He came as another Helper or Counselor. He came as another Emmanuel to be with us and in us forever — so we would not have to be alone.

     Notice the words of the Apostle Paul as he reminded the Galatian Christians of what and who we have as a result of God’s Spirit living with us, and more, living in us: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).

     The Holy Spirit is actually the Spirit of Christ Himself. When Christ gave us His Spirit, He was giving Himself. The Spirit is not given as a second round as if this were a tag-team wrestling match and Christ needed a break. The Spirit has come to share with us all the benefits that Christ earned for us. The Son and the Spirit are so closely identified that the Spirit Himself can be called the Spirit of the Son and the “Spirit of Christ”(see Phil. 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11).

(Php 1:19) 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,   ESV

(1 Pe 1:11) 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.   ESV

     We are not left alone. He is a promise that makes a world of difference — God is not just with us, but in us. And even more, He is in us and has wrapped His arms around us in such a way that we can cry with relief, “Daddy, Daddy” (Abba). I can rest knowing I am in the arms of the Spirit of God Himself.

     There have been times I simply have not known how to pray. As a pastor, I can feel weak and confused when I am called on to pray for someone who feels desperate. I remember when I was hospitalized for a week going through test after test for my own heart problems. Every day it seemed that the doctor found something else wrong. I remember one nurse coming in saying, “I am sorry, I am so sorry,” as she learned of my unusual heart disease. In the forefront of my own thinking was the death of my Father whose heart failed when he was just 29 years old. By the time I went in for my pacemaker-defibrillator implant, I was not sure how to pray. I found great comfort knowing God’s Spirit who was in me and very much with me, was also interceding for me in ways I could not grasp.

     “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

     God’s Spirit in and with us means we are not alone, and whether on the mountain tops or in the valley of the shadow of death, He is there to sustain us and plead our case. We can rest knowing that truth.

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     Per Amazon, Lawrence Edison is a graduate of Covenant College (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Covenant Theological Seminary (D.Min.). Larry and his wife, Jeanne (Reitsma), have two children, Lorin and Nathaniel. They reside in Sarasota, Florida, where Larry is the senior pastor of Covenant Life Presbyterian Church. He wrote Discover Jesus in Genesis: An Illustrated Biblical Theology for All Ages.

“Can These Bones Live?”

By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2004

     It was the early spring of 1958. I had spent the entire morning hours, till noon, on my knees beside my bed. It was the most passionate prayer experience of my young Christian life. I had been converted in September of 1957 and was now facing the deepest crisis of my nascent spiritual pilgrimage.

     At issue was this: my girlfriend was coming to campus. She was the girl I loved and desired to marry. My resolve toward matrimony with her was kindled when I was in the eighth grade, five years earlier.

     The previous months were difficult for her. She received a letter I wrote to her the night I became a Christian. She read it with zero comprehension of what I was talking about. At first she was puzzled by my new religious fervor. Her bewilderment turned to grave concern as our mutual friends warned her that I had gone off the deep-end and morphed into a religious fanatic. Then concern gave way to hostility knowing she could not spend her life with a religious nutcase.

     Each day she fielded my letters that were laced with quotations from the Bible and testimonies of each new experience I had with Christ. Soon we both understood that our relationship was headed for a train wreck, one not unlike the one she and I experienced in Alabama in 1983 — hence my prayer vigil. This was not mere intercession. It was importunity, spiritual begging with a vengeance. I knew that unless she became a Christian, there was no way we could ever marry.

     I picked her up at the bus station, and she checked-in at the girls dorm on campus. After dinner I took her to our weekly Bible study in the parlor of the church across the street from “Old Main.” There in the course of the opening of the Word, her heart was opened as well, and she made the transition from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. She met the Master, and He redeemed her.

     That night her sleep came in fits and starts. She kept pinching herself asking silently, “Do I still have it?” Satisfied that indeed she still had it, she drifted off to sleep.

     First thing the next morning I picked her up at the dorm to begin our journey home for the weekend. On the way down Route 19 toward Pittsburgh, she looked at me with a radiant smile and said, “Now I know who the Holy Spirit is.”

     She had grown up in church. She sang in the choir. She heard the words of Scripture, but they bounced off her recalcitrant heart. She had no ears to hear, no eyes to behold the excellency of Jesus. Until that night in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, the Holy Spirit was a mere abstraction, a third of the ritual of the weekly benediction. But now she knew Him as the third person of the Trinity.

     Less than twenty-four hours as a Christian, and she had no training in theology. She was illiterate with respect to the content of the Bible. But she was, by intuition, already a Calvinist. She understood that her conversion was not caused by my prayers or by my oratory. She knew the cause did not reside in the inclinations of her own flesh. She knew her faith was not self-created. No, she clearly knew that what was wrought in her soul was wrought by the immediate, supernatural, and efficacious work of God the Holy Spirit.

     The accomplishment of all that was needed objectively for her redemption had been achieved by Christ centuries earlier. But the personal application to her soul, the subjective appropriation of the objective work of Christ, was done by the Holy Spirit.

     It was John Calvin who was known as the “theologian of the Holy Spirit.” He was dubbed this not because he manifested the gifts of tongues or became so preoccupied with the Spirit as to lean toward a unitarianism of the third person of the Trinity. He was called the theologian of the Holy Spirit because of his biblical emphasis upon the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in our redemption. He understood that just as the Bible sets forth the divine work of Creation as a triune activity involving the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so, in a similar fashion, Scripture reveals the work of redemption as the threefold activity of the Godhead. In our redemption, it is the Father who designs and plans our redemption. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world and, together with the Son, sends the Holy Spirit.

     In the administration of redemption, though all three persons of the Godhead are co-equal in being, glory, and eternality, there is nevertheless an economic subordination that takes place. The Son comes to do the will of the Father. His task is to satisfy the demands of God’s justice and righteousness. His meat and His drink is to do the will of the Father. He speaks with authority, but it is an authority not His own. Rather, it is an authority delegated to Him by the Father.

     His perfect obedience is both active and passive. Actively, He kept every jot and tittle of the Law. In that endeavor, He was perfectly successful. He is more than sinless. To be sinless is to be free from all fault, taint, or blemish. It is to be innocent of guilt. But the Son is more than innocent. He is righteous. He achieves perfect merit. He fulfills the details of the covenant by which God promised the reward of blessing to those who achieved obedience. It is the fruit of Christ’s active obedience that is the ground of our justification and the righteousness that is imputed to us by faith.

     In His passive obedience, like the silent lamb at the slaughter, the Son acquiesces to the dreadful punishment of the curse of God. He drinks the cup of the bitterness of God’s wrath to its dregs.

     In His active and passive obedience, the Son accomplishes our redemption objectively. Yet, for that redemption to avail for us, it must be appropriated subjectively. Faith is required as the necessary instrument for us to receive the benefits of Christ’s accomplished work of redemption.

     The subjective appropriation of the work of the Son is accomplished by the application of that redemption by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who regenerates us. In that regeneration, He generates the faith in us that is necessary for our appropriation of the work of Christ.

     That application via regeneration and faith is not a joint venture between the sinner and the Spirit. The Spirit does not regenerate those who believe. No, He regenerates the unbelieving sinner unto faith. He quickens to spiritual life those who are dead in sin. He changes the recalcitrant heart of the sinner, making the unwilling willing to come to Christ. He makes the indisposed disposed to Him, the disinclined fully inclined. Our salvation is entirely of God — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God alone)

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Spirit of Rebellion

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2004

     Though I haven’t the infernal wisdom that C.S. Lewis demonstrated in his classic work The Screwtape Letters, I think I know something about at least some of the devil’s stratagems. The Screwtape Letters, you remember, purported to be a series of letters written from senior demon Screwtape to junior demon Wormwood, explaining how best to assault his “patient,” the young man under his charge. Lewis’ insights were eerily uncanny, as if he really had been spying on the devil and his minions. I have no secret wiretap, I’m merely guessing.

     First, the devil is, I’m sure, rather proud of his work in the culture at large as we ditch that old devil modernism for the devil in the new dress, postmodernism. How we Christians bravely fought to tear down the smug certainty of the scientific worldview, to drive the enlightenment into the shadows. We have destroyed Frankenstein’s monster. There are precious few people left who are convinced that the scientific method is the only pathway to truth. The devil’s success, however, is that there are likewise precious few people who are convinced that there is a pathway to truth. We no longer need to bow down to the mighty scientist as the grand arbiter of truth. Now we bow to the man in the mirror, as each of us has his own truth.

     It cost the devil nothing to get us to buy this latest lie. He promised that if we would but embrace relativism, we would enjoy peace. No longer would my understanding of truth war against yours, because even when they contradict, we can both be right. Now we can all get along. Except for this. If, in your reality, you have the right, and in my reality I have the right-of-way, all our smiling confidence that we can both be right won’t keep our fenders from trading paint. To Saddam, he had done nothing wrong. To Bush he had. And now 50,000 men, women, and children are dead. But we should have known. The devil never gives what he promises when he makes us a deal.

     This success, however, is really small potatoes. The devil may take a sadistic joy in muddying up the world around us. But it is not the strategic ground he so desperately seeks. Victory for him isn’t confusing the world, it’s seducing the church. I believe that, like any good strategist, he is thinking several moves ahead. Relativism exists, in the devil’s game plan, not for the folly of the world, but as a tool to assault the church.

     But how, we ought to ask, could relativism make any headway into the church of Christ? We are the people of the book. We are defined by creeds, affirmations of objective truths, that are true for everyone. Surely we must be immune from the folly of relativism. Sadly, we are not only not immune, but are not, in truth, people of the Word. The thin spiritual veneer that the devil drapes over his poison is simple enough — it is the Holy Spirit. The only thing that can trump God’s Word, is God Himself. It is ordinary and pedestrian to take our cues from the Bible. It’s so much more exciting and pious to hear direct from the author. Thus relativism gallops into the church.

     This problem is by no means restricted to the more flamboyant pentecostals. Otherwise austere Presbyterians have been known to baptize their sin with this bilge. Adultery may be wrong for you, some have reasoned, but to me it’s okay, because the Holy Spirit has granted me peace about the matter. The command to obey may be okay for you, but the Holy Spirit has given me a spirit of freedom. We enlist the Spirit to justify not our souls, but our sins.

     This is the spirit of our age. The driving force behind the culture’s embrace of relativism is the intense desire to justify away our own sins. Remove the objective standard of the law, and you remove the accountability that comes with it. It works the same with the Holy Spirit. Remove the objective standard of the Word, and you remove the accountability that comes with it. The devil likewise delights that we in the church are faithfully about the business of trying to remove the speck in the world’s eye, while blissfully ignoring the mote in our own. The foolishness of relativism is indeed laughable. But it is also understandable. They are, after all, fools. Folly is what they do. But we have been given a spirit of wisdom, and we still succumb to the folly. We must never forget that for all our worldliness, the world follows the church. They do the silly things they do because we do the silly things that we do. Which means, in turn, that the fastest way to rid the world of its folly is to remove it from the church. Do we want courts that treat the Constitution as the law of the land, rather than a quaint relic? More important than letter-writing campaigns, or rallies around the flag, is for us to begin treating the Bible as our law.

     The spirit of wisdom is the Spirit of Wisdom. He is indeed speaking to us, telling all of us that there is but one truth. He is speaking to us, telling us to feed upon the Word of God, for therein is life, and life abundant. He is calling us to submit to Him, by submitting to His Word, the very words of life. If He whispers anything, it is only to go to where He speaks with clarity to all of us. May He grant us the ears to hear Him where He speaks.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Moral of the Story

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 8/1/2004

     Everybody loves Jesus. Marxists love Jesus, because He was such a radical revolutionary. Unitarians love Jesus, because He befriended the social outcasts. Liberals love Jesus because, well, because He was liberal. Even some conservatives love Jesus, because He was so conservative. It was Mark Twain who quipped that God made man in His own image, and ever since man has been returning the favor. The same is true with respect to God the Son. We make Him out to be just like us, only, nearly everyone will concede, slightly better. Jesus, in short, is universally loved because He, just like us, is deemed to be such an upstanding man.

     Which is true enough. Jesus was in fact an upstanding man. His moral character was impeccable. He was, as it is still safe to say, a great moral teacher. This even garners Him some minimal level of authority. Quoting Jesus will score you at least as many points as quoting Confucius, at least if you choose the right quotes. There is, however, a profound chasm that separates a “great moral teacher” from a perfectly obedient man. It is one thing to believe Jesus was better than we are, another to affirm that He kept the law of God perfectly. The cultural restraint that keeps those friends of Jesus from making such a claim for Jesus, however, isn’t that they don’t want to praise Jesus too much, that they harbor some internal fear that somewhere along the line He might not have measured up, but that they don’t want to recognize a law, any law. To the Greeks the cross was foolishness. To the Jews it was a stumbling block. To the post-modern, however, the problem isn’t the cross, but what preceded it, the obedient life.

     Theological liberalism, which is short-hand for worldly thinking about God and other stuff the Bible sometimes talks about, can handle the cross. The purpose of the cross, according to those who think Jesus stayed dead, was simply to set an example for us, to show us how far we ought to go to love our neighbor. There is, in this thinking, no atonement. There is no atonement, however, not because such would be too much for Jesus, but because it would mean we have sins that need to be covered. It would mean that outside of Christ, we are under the wrath of God. To think in terms of atonement, we would have to think about the unthinkable.

     The righteousness of Christ, however, is a little more difficult for the world to squeeze into its self-righteous wineskins. You can’t easily turn that into something sweet, sticky, and easy to swallow. It burns as it goes down. Which is why the world speaks not of the life of Christ, but of His teachings. His teachings can be made abstract, amorphous enough that with just a pinch of intellectual dishonesty, and a smidgen of deconstructionism, we can turn them into our own teachings. But we cannot turn His absolute obedience to the law of God into our own, at least, without conceding that God has a law, conceding that we don’t keep it, and, well, without trusting in His complete work and actually becoming a Christian.

     This is, however, the dilemma of the postmoderns. Without a standard, how can one distinguish between a great moral teacher and a reprehensible moral cretin? Without a moral measuring stick, Jesus and Osama Bin Laden are not only on the same moral plane, but they are on the same moral plane with all of us, because there is only one plane. If there is no target, no one is closer to it than anyone else.

     Therein is the offence of the Gospel in our age. Postmodernism’s very reason for existence is to escape a transcendent moral law. It is a philosophy that was created not to remove the guilt of sin, to remove the stigma of sin. We who profess Christ are wrong, because we profess that there is a right, even as we confess that only one Man ever attained it.

     What separates our peculiar age from that which Paul faced isn’t, however, the different offenses that the world takes to the gospel message. Rather it is the response of the church. It was the Cross that offended the Greeks and scandalized the Jews. But it was the Cross that Paul preached. In our day the obedience of Christ offends, and so we never speak of it. The church in our day seeks to hide the offense, and in so doing, puts its light under a bushel. Jesus the hero upon the cross is just fine. Jesus the obedient Son must never see the light of day.

     The Scripture calls us the first born of many brethren. In a show of the depth of the grace of God, we are told that Jesus is not only the husband of the church, but our elder brother as well. If, in fact, we belong to Him, we must profess Him. We must declare not only the glory of the cross, but the glory that led to the cross. We must profess His obedience, His righteousness that by faith is ours. We must remember that He was not crucified because He was a great moral teacher. Rather, He was crucified because He obeyed His heavenly Father. They hung Him because they could convict Him of nothing. And because He is the firstborn of many brethren, we must in turn see the cross not only as the only atonement for our sins, but also as our example.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Leviticus 17; Psalms 20-21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

By Don Carson 4/13/2018

     Two specifications in Leviticus 17 constrained the ancient Israelite who wished to remain faithful to the covenant.

     The first (17:1-9) limited sacrifices to what the Mosaic Covenant mandates and sanctions. Apparently some Israelites were offering sacrifices in the open fields, wherever they happened to be (17:5). Doubtless some of these were genuinely offered up to the Lord; others easily slid into syncretistic offerings devoted to local pagan deities (17:7). To bring sacrificial practice under the discipline of the tabernacle (and later the temple) was designed simultaneously to eliminate syncretism and to train up the people in the theological structures inherent in the Mosaic Covenant. Out there in the field it was all too easy to assume that these religious observances would win the favor of God (or the gods!), thereby securing good crops and nice kids. The tabernacle/temple system ideally brought the people under the tutelage of the Levites, teaching the people a better way. God himself had mandated this system. Only prescribed mediators and sacrifices were acceptable. The entire structure was designed to enhance the transcendence of God, to establish and clarify the sheer ugliness and vileness of sin, to demonstrate that a person could be accepted by God only if that sin were atoned for. Moreover, the system had two further advantages. It brought the people together for the thrice-annual festivals in Jerusalem, securing the cohesion of the covenant people; and it prepared the way for the supreme sacrifice in annual sacrifices that trained generations of believers that sin must be paid for in the way God himself prescribes, or there is no hope for any of us.

     The second constraint imposed by this chapter (17:10-16) is the prohibition against eating blood. The reason given is specific: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (17:11). The passage does not ascribe magical powers to blood. After all, the life is not in the blood apart from the rest of the body, and the strong prohibition against eating blood could never be perfectly carried out (since no matter how carefully you drain the blood from an animal there is always a little left). The point is that there is no life in the body where there is no blood; it is the obvious physical element for symbolizing the life itself. To teach the people how only the sacrifice of life could atone for sin — since the punishment of sin is death — it is difficult to imagine a more effective prohibition. We recall its significance every time we participate in the Lord’s Table.

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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.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     6. In a sense similar to the above passages our opponents quote the following: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations," (Luke 16:9). "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy: that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life," (1 Tim. 6:17-19). For the good works which we enjoy in eternal blessedness are compared to riches. I answer, that we shall never attain to the true knowledge of these passages unless we attend to the scope of the Spirit in uttering them. If it is true, as Christ says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Mt. 6:21), then, as the children of the world are intent on providing those things which form the delight of the present life, so it is the duty of believers, after they have learned that this life will shortly pass away like a dream, to take care that those things which they would truly enjoy be transmitted thither where their entire life is to be spent. We must, therefore, do like those who begin to remove to any place where they mean to fix their abode. As they send forward their effects, and grudge not to want them for a season, because they think the more they have in their future residence, the happier they are; so, if we think that heaven is our country, we should send our wealth thither rather than retain it here, where on our sudden departure it will be lost to us. But how shall we transmit it? By contributing to the necessities of the poor, the Lord imputing to himself whatever is given to them. Hence that excellent promise, "He that has pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord," (Prov. 19:17; Mt. 25:40); and again, "He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully," (2 Cor. 9:6). What we give to our brethren in the exercise of charity is a deposit with the Lord, who, as a faithful depositary, will ultimately restore it with abundant interest. Are our duties, then, of such value with God that they are as a kind of treasure placed in his hand? Who can hesitate to say so when Scripture so often and so plainly attests it? But if any one would leap from the mere kindness of God to the merit of works, [455] his error will receive no support from these passages. For all you can properly infer from them is the inclination on the part of God to treat us with indulgence. For, in order to animate us in well-doing, he allows no act of obedience, however unworthy of his eye, to pass unrewarded.

7. But they insist more strongly on the words of the apostle when, in consoling the Thessalonians under their tribulations, he tells them that these were sent, "that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer; seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels," (2 Thess. 1:6-7). The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister," (Heb. 6:10). To the former passage I answer, that the worthiness spoken of is not that of merit, but as God the Father would have those whom he has chosen for sons to be conformed to Christ the first born, and as it behaved him first to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, so we also, through much tribulation, enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, while we suffer tribulation for the name of Christ, we in a manner receive the marks with which God is wont to stamp the sheep of his flock (Gal. 6:17). Hence we are counted worthy of the kingdom of God, because we bear in our body the marks of our Lord and Master, these being the insignia of the children of God. In this sense are we to understand the passages: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body," (2 Cor. 4:10). "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death," (Phil. 3:10). The reason which is subjoined is intended not to prove any merit, but to confirm our hope of the kingdom of God; as if he had said, As it is befitting the just judgment of God to take vengeance on your enemies for the tribulation which they have brought upon you, so it is also befitting to give you release and rest from these tribulations. The other passage, which speaks as if it were becoming the justice of God not to overlook the services of his people, and almost insinuates that it were unjust to forget them, is to be thus explained: God, to arouse us from sloth, assures us that every labour which we undertake for the glory of his name shall not be in vain. Let us always remember that this promise, like all other promises, will be of no avail unless it is preceded by the free covenant of mercy, on which the whole certainty of our salvation depends. Trusting to it, however, we ought to feel secure that however unworthy our services, the liberality of God will not allow them to pass unrewarded. To confirm us in this expectation, the Apostle declares that God is not unrighteous; but will act consistently with the promise once given. Righteousness, therefore, refers rather to the truth of the divine promise than to the equity of paying what is due. In this sense there is a celebrated saying of Augustine, which, as containing a memorable sentiment, that holy man declined not repeatedly to employ, and which I think not unworthy of being constantly remembered: "Faithful is the Lord, who has made himself our debtor, not by receiving any thing from us, but by promising us all things," (August. in Ps. 32, 109, et alibi).

8. Our opponents also adduce the following passages from Paul: "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing," (1 Cor. 13:2). Again, "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity," (1 Cor. 13:13). "Above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness," (Col. 3:14). From the two first passages our Pharisees [456] contend that we are justified by charity rather than by faith, charity being, as they say, the better virtue. This mode of arguing is easily disposed of I have elsewhere shown that what is said in the first passage refers not to true faith. In the second passage we admit that charity is said to be greater than true faith, but not because charity is more meritorious, but because it is more fruitful, because it is of wider extent, of more general service, and always flourishes, whereas the use of faith is only for a time. If we look to excellence, the love of God undoubtedly holds the first place. Of it, however, Paul does not here speak; for the only thing he insists on is, that we should by mutual charity edify one another in the Lord. But let us suppose that charity is in every respect superior to faith, what man of sound judgment, nay, what man with any soundness in his brain, would argue that it therefore does more to justify? The power of justifying which belongs to faith consists not in its worth as a work. Our justification depends entirely on the mercy of God and the merits of Christ: when faith apprehends these, it is said to justify. Now, if you ask our opponents in what sense they ascribe justification to charity, they will answer, Being a duty acceptable to God, righteousness is in respect of its merit imputed to us by the acceptance of the divine goodness. Here you see how beautifully the argument proceeds. We say that faith justifies not because it merits justification for us by its own worth, but because it is an instrument by which we freely obtain the righteousness of Christ. They overlooking the mercy of God, and passing by Christ, the sum of righteousness, maintain that we are justified by charity as being superior to faith; just as if one were to maintain that a king is fitter to make a shoe than a shoemaker, because the king is infinitely the superior of the two. This one syllogism is ample proof that all the schools of Sorbonne have never had the slightest apprehension of what is meant by justification by faith. Should any disputant here interpose, and ask why we give different meanings to the term faith as used by Paul in passages so near each other, I can easily show that I have not slight grounds for so doing. For while those gifts which Paul enumerates are in some degree subordinate to faith and hope, because they relate to the knowledge of God, he by way of summary comprehends them all under the name of faith and hope; as if he had said, Prophecy and tongues, and the gift of interpreting, and knowledge, are all designed to lead us to the knowledge of God. But in this life it is only by faith and hope that we acknowledge God. Therefore, when I name faith and hope, I at the same time comprehend the whole. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;" that is, how great soever the number of the gifts, they are all to be referred to them; but "the greatest of these is charity." From the third passage they infer, If charity is the bond of perfection, it must be the bond of righteousness, which is nothing else than perfection. First, without objecting that the name of perfection is here given by Paul to proper union among the members of a rightly constituted church, and admitting that by charity we are perfected before God, what new result do they gain by it? I will always object in reply, that we never attain to that perfection unless we fulfill all the parts of charity; and will thence infer, that as all are most remote from such fulfillment, the hope of perfection is excluded.

9. I am unwilling to discuss all the things which the foolish Sorbonnists have rashly laid hold of in Scripture as it chanced to come in their way, and throw out against us. Some of them are so ridiculous, that I cannot mention them without laying myself open to a charge of trifling. I will, therefore, conclude with an exposition of one of our Savior's expressions with which they are wondrously pleased. When the lawyer asked him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" he answers, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," (Mt. 19:16, 17). What more (they ask) would we have, when the very author of grace bids us acquire the kingdom of heaven by the observance of the commandments? As if it were not plain that Christ adapted his answers to the characters of those whom he addressed. Here he is questioned by a Doctor of the Law as to the means of obtaining eternal life; and the question is not put simply, but is, What can men do to attain it? Both the character of the speaker and his question induced our Lord to give this answer. Imbued with a persuasion of legal righteousness, the lawyer had a blind confidence in works. Then all he asked was, what are the works of righteousness by which salvation is obtained? Justly, therefore, is he referred to the law, in which there is a perfect mirror of righteousness. We also distinctly declare, that if life is sought in works, the commandments are to be observed. And the knowledge of this doctrine is necessary to Christians; for how should they retake themselves to Christ, unless they perceived that they had fallen from the path of life over the precipice of death? Or how could they understand how far they have wandered from the way of life unless they previously understand what that way is? Then only do they feel that the asylum of safety is in Christ when they see how much their conduct is at variance with the divine righteousness, which consists in the observance of the law. The sum of the whole is this, If salvation is sought in works, we must keep the commandments, by which we are instructed in perfect righteousness. But we cannot remain here unless we would stop short in the middle of our course; for none of us is able to keep the commandments. Being thus excluded from the righteousness of the law, we must retake ourselves to another remedy--viz. to the faith of Christ. Wherefore, as a teacher of the law, whom our Lord knew to be puffed up with a vain confidence in works, was here directed by him to the law, that he might learn he was a sinner exposed to the fearful sentence of eternal death; so others, who were already humbled with this knowledge, he elsewhere solaces with the promise of grace, without making any mention of the law. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls," (Mt. 11:28, 29).

10. At length, after they have wearied themselves with perverting Scripture, they have recourse to subtleties and sophisms. One cavil is, that faith is somewhere called a work (John 6:29); hence they infer that we are in error in opposing faith to works; as if faith, regarded as obedience to the divine will, could by its own merit procure our justification, and did not rather, by embracing the mercy of God, thereby seal upon our hearts the righteousness of Christ, which is offered to us in the preaching of the gospel. My readers will pardon me if I stay not to dispose of such absurdities; their own weakness, without external assault, is sufficient to destroy them. One objection, however, which has some semblance of reason, it will be proper to dispose of in passing, lest it give any trouble to those less experienced. As common sense dictates that contraries must be tried by the same rule, and as each sin is charged against us as unrighteousness, so it is right (say our opponents) that each good work should receive the praise of righteousness. The answer which some give, that the condemnation of men proceeds on unbelief alone, and not on particular sins does not satisfy me. I agree with them, indeed, that infidelity is the fountain and root of all evil; for it is the first act of revolt from God, and is afterwards followed by particular transgressions of the law. But as they seem to hold, that in estimating righteousness and unrighteousness, the same rule is to be applied to good and bad works, in this I dissent from them. [457] The righteousness of works consists in perfect obedience to the law. Hence you cannot be justified by works unless you follow this straight line (if I may so call it) during the whole course of your life. The moment you decline from it you have fallen into unrighteousness. Hence it appears, that righteousness is not obtained by a few works, but by an indefatigable and inflexible observance of the divine will. But the rule with regard to unrighteousness is very different. The adulterer or the thief is by one act guilty of death, because he offends against the majesty of God. The blunder of these arguers of ours lies here: they attend not to the words of James, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill," &c. (James 2:10, 11). Therefore, it should not seem absurd when we say that death is the just recompense of every sin, because each sin merits the just indignation and vengeance of God. But you reason absurdly if you infer the converse, that one good work will reconcile a man to God notwithstanding of his meriting wrath by many sins.

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[451] Mt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6; John 5:29; Mt. 25:34; Prov. 12:14; 13:13; Mt. 5:12; Luke 6:23; 1 Cor. 3:8.

[452] French, "mais seulement emporte zele et estude;"--but only imports zeal and study.

[453] French, "Pource que c'est un Docteur ancien, j'aime mieux user de ses paroles que des miennes;"--Because he is an ancient Doctor, I prefer making use of his words rather than my own.

[454] The French adds, "C'est à dire, en misericorde, et non pas en jugement;"--that is to say, in mercy, and not in judement.

[455] French, "Mais si quelcun pour obscurcir la benignité de Dieu veut establir la dignité des oeuvres;"--but if any one to obscure the benignity of God would establish the dignity of works.

[456] See Calvin's Answer to Sadolet, who had said that chairty is the first and principal cause of our salvation.

[457] French, "Mais touchant ce qu'ils semblent advis contrepoiser en une mesme balance les bonnes oeuvres et les mauvaises, pour estimer la justice ou l'injustice de l'homme, en cela je suis contreint de leur repugner."--But as they seem disposed to put good and bad works into the opposite scales of the same balance, in order to estimate the righteousness or unrighteousness of man, in this I am forced to dissent from them.

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



  • Derek Thomas
  • W. Robert Godfrey
  • Godfrey, Nichols, Thomas

#1 A Living Hope | Ligonier

 

#2 A Reasonable Faith | Ligonier

 

#3 Questions & Answers | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2008    Confessionally Challenged

     One dutchman, a theologian. Two dutchmen, a church. Three dutchmen, a schism — or so the saying goes. Though such a saying could rightly include Englishmen or Frenchmen, historically the Dutch have demonstrated their fervent tenacity for defining the truth, defending the truth, and, when necessary, dividing over the truth. Nevertheless, for the past four centuries, Dutch reformed churches, and for that matter all continental reformed churches have remained committed to three forms of confessional unity.

     While some of our readers have perhaps heard of the Three Forms of Unity, it is likely that very few could explain that the three forms consist of three historic documents in the continental Reformed tradition: The Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt. Although each document addresses different aspects of biblical doctrine, there exists a magnificent harmony among the three documents, providing all confessing Christians with thorough and concise affirmations of what we believe and why we believe it.

     Unfortunately, however, many Christians in many evangelical churches these days are confessionally challenged in that they are either cynical, critical, or altogether skeptical of all things confessional — confessional documents, confessional churches, and confessional Christians. We might hear confessionally challenged Christians say things, such as “My only creed is Christ” or “I don’t need theology, just give me Jesus” or “Confessions divide, Christ unites.” Such Christians are actually under the impression that their churches don’t have confessions, when in truth every church has a confession, though it may not be written down and though it may constantly change according to the whims and fancies of the pastor. They have been somehow deceived into thinking that all of the various historic Reformed confessions only serve to divide the church of its unity and disarm the Bible of its authority. Nothing could be further from the truth, for what is so amazing about Reformed confessions in general is not how different they are from one another but how similar they are- — how they each use biblical language in affirming the faith once delivered to the saints so that we might live coram Deo, before the face of God, confessing Christ and contending for the faith.

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     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, April 13, 1743, the 3rd U.S. President was born. He approved the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore it. Best known for drafting the Declaration of Independence, he was also Governor of Virginia. His name, Thomas Jefferson. Inscribed on the Memorial in Washington, D.C., is Jefferson’s statement: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction… that these liberties are of the Gift of God?… not to be violated but with His wrath?… I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Do not desire crosses, unless you have borne well those laid on you; it is an abuse to long after martyrdom while unable to bear an insult patiently.
--- Francis de Sales
Finding God's Will for You

Thou, O Lord, canst transform my thorn into a flower. And I want my thorn transformed into a flower. Job got the sunshine after the rain, but has the rain been all waste? Job wants to know, I want to know, if the shower had nothing to do with the shining. And Thou canst tell me - Thy Cross can tell me. Thou hast crowned Thy sorrow. Be this my crown, O Lord. I only triumph in Thee when I have learned the radiance of the rain.
--- George Matheson
Thoughts for Lifes Journey (Classic Reprint)

Sad will be the day for any man when he becomes contented with the thoughts he is thinking and the deeds he is doing - where there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger; which he knows he was meant and made to do.
--- Phillips Brooks
Big Hearted People: Make a Difference by Living Simply, Giving Freely and Loving Deeply

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.
--- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A Guide for Grown-ups: Essential Wisdom from the Collected Works of Antoine de Saint-Exupry

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 4/13
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     On inquiry in many places I find the price of rye about five shillings; wheat, eight shillings per bushel; oatmeal, twelve shillings for a hundred and twenty pounds; mutton from threepence to fivepence per pound; bacon from sevenpence to ninepence; cheese from fourpence to sixpence; butter from eightpence to tenpence; house-rent for a poor man from twenty-five shillings to forty shillings per year, to be paid weekly; wood for fire very scarce and dear; coal in some places two shillings and sixpence per hundredweight; but near the pits not a quarter so much. O, may the wealthy consider the poor!

     The wages of laboring men in several counties toward London at tenpence per day in common business, the employer finds small beer and the laborer finds his own food; but in harvest and hay time wages are about one shilling per day, and the laborer hath all his diet. In some parts of the north of England poor laboring men have their food where they work, and appear in common to do rather better than nearer London. Industrious women who spin in the factories get some fourpence, some fivepence, and so on to six, seven, eight, nine, or ten pence per day, and find their own house-room and diet. Great numbers of poor people live chiefly on bread and water in the southern parts of England, as well as in the northern parts; and there are many poor children not even taught to read. May those who have abundance lay these things to heart!

     Stage-coaches frequently go upwards of one hundred miles in twenty-four hours; and I have heard Friends say in several places that it is common for horses to be killed with hard driving, and that many others are driven till they grow blind. Post-boys pursue their business, each one to his stage, all night through the winter. Some boys who ride long stages suffer greatly in winter nights, and at several places I have heard of their being frozen to death. So great is the hurry in the spirit of this world, that in aiming to do business quickly and to gain wealth the creation at this day doth loudly groan.

     As my journey hath been without a horse, I have had several offers of being assisted on my way in these stagecoaches, but have not been in them; nor have I had freedom to send letters by these posts in the present way of riding, the stages being so fixed, and one boy dependent on another as to time, and going at great speed, that in long cold winter nights the poor boys suffer much. I heard in America of the way of these posts, and cautioned Friends in the General Meeting of ministers and elders at Philadelphia, and in the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders in London, not to send letters to me on any common occasion by post. And though on this account I may be likely not to hear so often from my family left behind, yet for righteousness' sake I am, through Divine favor, made content.

     I have felt great distress of mind since I came on this island, on account of the members of our Society being mixed with the world in various sorts of traffic, carried on in impure channels. Great is the trade to Africa for slaves; and for the loading of these ships a great number of people are employed in their factories, among whom are many of our Society. Friends in early times refused on a religious principle to make or trade in superfluities, of which we have many testimonies on record; but for want of faithfulness, some, whose examples were of note in our Society, gave way, from which others took more liberty.

     Members of our Society worked in superfluities, and bought and sold them, and thus dimness of sight came over many; at length Friends got into the use of some superfluities in dress and in the furniture of their houses, which hath spread from less to more, till superfluity of some kinds is common among us.

     In this declining state many look at the example of others and too much neglect the pure feeling of truth. Of late years a deep exercise hath attended my mind, that Friends may dig deep, may carefully cast forth the loose matter and get down to the rock, the sure foundation, and there hearken to that Divine voice which gives a clear and certain sound; and I have felt in that which doth not receive, that if Friends who have known the truth keep in that tenderness of heart where all views of outward gain are given up, and their trust is only in the Lord, he will graciously lead some to be patterns of deep self-denial in things relating to trade and handicraft labor; and others who have plenty of the treasures of this world will be examples of a plain frugal life, and pay wages to such as they may hire more liberally than is now customary in some places.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Thirty-Fifth Chapter / There Is No security From Temptation In This Life

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, in this life you are never safe, and as long as you live the weapons of the spirit will ever be necessary to you. You dwell among enemies. You are subject to attack from the right and the left. If, therefore, you do not guard yourself from every quarter with the shield of patience, you will not remain long unscathed.

     Moreover, if you do not steadily set your heart on Me, with a firm will to suffer everything for My sake, you will not be able to bear the heat of this battle or to win the crown of the blessed. You ought, therefore, to pass through all these things bravely and to oppose a strong hand to whatever stands in your way. For to him who triumphs heavenly bread is given, while for him who is too lazy to fight there remains much misery.

     If you look for rest in this life, how will you attain to everlasting rest? Dispose yourself, then, not for much rest but for great patience. Seek true peace, not on earth but in heaven; not in men or in other creatures but in God alone. For love of God you should undergo all things cheerfully, all labors and sorrows, temptations and trials, anxieties, weaknesses, necessities, injuries, slanders, rebukes, humiliations, confusions, corrections, and contempt. For these are helps to virtue. These are the trials of Christ’s recruit. These form the heavenly crown. For a little brief labor I will give an everlasting crown, and for passing confusion, glory that is eternal.

     Do you think that you will always have spiritual consolations as you desire? My saints did not always have them. Instead, they had many afflictions, temptations of various kinds, and great desolation. Yet they bore them all patiently. They placed their confidence in God rather than in themselves, knowing that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come. And you—do you wish to have at once that which others have scarcely obtained after many tears and great labors?

     Wait for the Lord, act bravely, and have courage. Do not lose trust. Do not turn back but devote your body and soul constantly to God’s glory. I will reward you most plentifully. I will be with you in every tribulation.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Peter Transformed

     Now Peter was prepared for deliverance from self, and that is my last thought. You know Christ took him with others to the footstool of the throne, and bade them wait there; and then on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came, and Peter was a changed man. I do not want you to think only of the change in Peter, in that boldness, and that power, and that insight into the Scriptures, and that blessing with which he preached that day. Thank God for that. But there was something for Peter deeper and better. Peter's whole nature was changed. The work that Christ began in Peter when He looked upon him, was perfected when he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

     If you want to see that, read the First Epistle of Peter. You know wherein Peter's failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect: "Thou never canst suffer; it cannot be"--it showed he had not a conception of what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said: "Deny thyself," and in spite of that he denied his Lord. When Christ warned him: "Thou shalt deny me," and he insisted that he never would, Peter showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I read his epistle and hear him say: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of God and of glory resteth upon you" (1 Pet. 4:14), then I say that it is not the old Peter, but that is the very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.

     I read again how he says: "Hereunto ye are called, to suffer, even as Christ suffered" (1 Pet. 2:21). I understand what a change had come over Peter. Instead of denying Christ, he found joy and pleasure in having self denied and crucified and given up to the death. And therefore it is in the Acts we read that, when he was called before the Council, he could boldly say: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), and that he could return with the other disciples and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's name.

     You remember his self-exaltation; but now he has found out that "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price." Again he tells us to be "subject one to another, and be clothed with humility" (1 Pet. 5:5).

     Dear friend, I beseech you, look at Peter utterly changed—the self-pleasing, the self-trusting, the self-seeking Peter, full of sin, continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, but now filled with the Spirit and the life of Jesus. Christ had done it for him by the Holy Spirit.

     And now, what is my object in having thus very briefly pointed to the story of Peter? That story must be the history of every believer who is really to be made a blessing by God. That story is a prophecy of what everyone can receive from God in Heaven.

     Now let us just glance hurriedly at what these lessons teach us.

     The first lesson is this--You may be a very earnest, godly, devoted believer, in whom the power of the flesh is yet very strong.

     That is a very solemn truth. Peter, before he denied Christ, had cast out devils and had healed the sick; and yet the flesh had power, and the flesh had room in him. Oh, beloved, we have to realize that it is just because there is so much of that self-life in us that the power of God cannot work in us as mightily as God is willing that it should work. Do you realize that the great God is longing to double His blessing, to give tenfold blessing through us? But there is something hindering Him, and that something is a proof of nothing but the self-life. We talk about the pride of Peter, and the impetuosity of Peter, and the self-confidence of Peter. It all rooted in that one word, self. Christ had said, "Deny self," and Peter had never understood, and never obeyed; and every failing came out of that.

     What a solemn thought, and what an urgent plea for us to cry: O God, do reveal this to us, that none of us may be living the self-life! It has happened to many a one who had been a Christian for years, who had perhaps occupied a prominent position, that God found him out and taught him to find himself out, and he became utterly ashamed, falling down broken before God. Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow and pain and agony that came to him, until at last he found that there was deliverance! Peter went out and wept bitterly, and there may be many a godly one in whom the power of the flesh still rules.

     And then my second lesson is--It is the work of our blessed Lord Jesus to reveal the power of self.

     How was it that Peter, the carnal Peter, self-willed Peter, Peter with the strong self-love, ever became a man of Pentecost and the writer of his epistles? It was because Christ had him in charge, and Christ watched over him, and Christ taught and blessed him. The warnings that Christ had given him were part of the training; and last of all there came that look of love. In His suffering Christ did not forget him, but turned round and looked upon him, and "Peter went out and wept bitterly." And the Christ who led Peter to Pentecost is waiting today to take charge of every heart that is willing to surrender itself to Him.

     Are there not some saying: "Ah! that is the mischief with me; it is always the self-life, and self-comfort, and self-consciousness, and self-pleasing, and self-will; how am I to get rid of it?"

     My answer is: It is Christ Jesus who can rid you of it; none else but Christ Jesus can give deliverance from the power of self. And what does He ask you to do? He asks that you should humble yourself before Him.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:28-29
     by D.H. Stern

28     A king’s glory lies in having many subjects;
if the prince’s people are few, it is his ruin.


29     Being slow to anger goes with great understanding,
being quick-tempered makes folly still worse.


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 Master says to our master, Come up. Share my rest and splendour till all natures that were your enemies become slaves to dance before you and backs for you to ride, and firmness for your feet to rest on.

     ‘From beyond all place and time, out of the very Place, authority will be given you: the strengths that once opposed your will shall be obedient fire in your blood and heavenly thunder in your voice.

     ‘Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.

     ‘Master, your Master has appointed you forever: to be our King of Justice and our high Priest.’

     ‘Do ye understand all this, my Son?’ said the Teacher.

     ‘I don’t know about all, Sir,’ said I. ‘Am I right in thinking the Lizard really turned into the Horse?’

     ‘Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?’

     ‘I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything—everything—that is in us can go on to the Mountains?’

     ‘Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.’

     ‘But am I to tell them at home that this man’s sensuality proved less of an obstacle than that poor woman’s love for her son? For that was, at any rate, an excess of love.’

     ‘Ye’ll tell them no such thing,’ he replied sternly. ‘Excess of love, did ye say? There was no excess, there was defect. She loved her son too little, not too much. If she had loved him more there’d be no difficulty. I do not know how her affair will end. But it may well be that at this moment she’s demanding to have him down with her in Hell. That kind is sometimes perfectly ready to plunge the soul they say they love in endless misery if only they can still in some fashion possess it. No, no. Ye must draw another lesson. Ye must ask, if the risen body even of appetite is as grand a horse as ye saw, what would the risen body of maternal love or friendship be?’

     But once more my attention was diverted. ‘Is there another river, Sir?’ I asked.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                What to do under the conditions

     Cast thy burden upon the Lord. --- Psalm 55:22.

     We must distinguish between the burden-bearing that is right and the burden-bearing that is wrong. We ought never to bear the burden of sin or of doubt, but there are burdens placed on us by God which He does not intend to lift off, He wants us to roll them back on Him. “Cast that He hath given thee upon the Lord.” (R.V. marg.) If we undertake work for God and get out of touch with Him, the sense of responsibility will be overwhelmingly crushing; but if we roll back on God that which He has put upon us, He takes away the sense of responsibility by bringing in the realization of Himself.

     Many workers have gone out with high courage and fine impulses, but with no intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ, and before long they are crushed. They do not know what to do with the burden, it produces weariness, and people say—‘What an embittered end to such a beginning!’

     “Roll thy burden upon the Lord”—you have been bearing it all; deliberately put one end on the shoulders of God. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Commit to God “that He hath given thee”; not fling it off, but put it over on to Him and yourself with it, and the burden is lightened by the sense of companionship. Never dissociate yourself from the burden.


My Utmost for His Highest

The Woman
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Woman

So beautiful--God himself quailed
at her approach: the long body curved
like the horizon. Why had he made
her so? How would it be, she said,
leaning towards him, if instead of
quarreling over it, we divided it
between us? You can have all the credit
for its invention, if you will leave the ordering
of it to me. He looked into her
eyes and saw far down the bones
of the generations that would navigate
by those great stars, but the pull of it
was too much. Yes, he thought, give me their
minds'
tribute, and what they do with their bodies
is not my concern. He put his hand in his side
and drew out the thorn for the letting
of the ordained blood and touched her with
it. Go, he said. They shall come to you for ever
with their desire, and you shall bleed for them in
return.

R.S. Thomas

Teacher's Commentary
     Tithes: Deuteronomy 12; 14

     The Old Testament speaks of tithes and freewill offerings in its discussion of how God’s people can worship the Lord with their possessions. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words summarizes the teaching of this and other Old Testament passages as follows:

     At first glance, the concept of tithing seems simple. Leviticus 27:30–33 says: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution.” Ten percent of everything the land produced was to be set aside, to be used as God commanded.

     Other passages expand our knowledge of Old Testament tithing. Numbers 18:21–32 instructs that tithes were to be used to maintain the Levites. That tribe was set apart to serve God, and its members were not given a district when Israel possessed the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 12:5–14 and Deuteronomy 14:22–29 introduce another tithe, to be collected every third year for local distribution to the needy. Some argue for as many as three separate tithes designated in these passages. It is likely that there were at least two: the annual 10 percent taken for the support of those who served the Lord, and the third-year tithe taken to sustain the widow and orphan.

     These tithes were not to be viewed as a burden. They were to express both love and trust for God, as the Lord promised to bless the works of His people’s hands (Deuteronomy 14:29). Giving was thus no threat to security. In fact, it showed confidence that God would make the land produce. As Malachi announced later to a then struggling generation that withheld the payment of the tithe. “ ‘Test Me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’ ”
(Malachi 3:10).

     The Old Testament reports giving that goes beyond the tithe. This is most clearly expressed in the nedabah, or voluntary contribution. The emphasis here is on a giving that flows spontaneously, expressing devotion to the Lord. It is not a gift given out of a sense of duty, nor to win promised blessings. The voluntary contributions are most often associated with the construction of the tabernacle (
Ex. 36) or the temple (1 Chron. 29; Ezra 1:4). Psalm 119:108 speaks of prayer as a voluntary offering, and God is praised for His own generous voluntary offerings to man (Psalm 68:9), even when His people had not been faithful to their covenant commitments (Hosea 14:4).

     The Lord has always been concerned with the heart attitude of worshipers. The grateful believer who did not find the required tithes enough to express his or her devotion was invited to bring freewill offerings as well.

     Giving in the Old Testament then was an expression of trust and reliance on the Lord as well as a loving response to Him. The funds collected were used to support Israel’s worship, and particularly the priests and Levites who served the temple, and also as a “safety net” for care of the widowed and the poor.

     Clean and Unclean: Deuteronomy 14; 23 / The concept of “clean” and “unclean” in these early books of the Old Testament is primarily ritual in nature. That is, ceremonial uncleanness is in mind, which is a state or condition that has an impact on one’s relationship with God.

     A person who was ceremonially unclean could not take part in the worship ceremonies of Israel.

     Later the prophets pick up the concept of uncleanness and apply it to Israel’s moral condition (Nehemiah 7:64; Isaiah 59:3; 63:3; Lamentations 4:14; Daniel 1:8;
Zephaniah 3:1; Malachi 1:7, 12
). Sin, not ritual, is the thing which ultimately separates human beings from God.

     Why was this ritual aspect of cleanness and uncleanness built into the worship of Israel? In part as a teaching aid, to indicate that no one can approach God presumptuously. And in part as another element in a system of laws that was designed to make Israel different from all other nations. Only a people who are separated to God from every competing influence can live out the commitment that covenant life requires.

     Compassion: Deuteronomy 15; 24–25

     Strikingly, the laws of interpersonal relationship that are emphasized in the Book of Deuteronomy are uniquely compassionate. They stress the care of the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1–11) and of servants
(Deuteronomy 15:12–18).

     Just a few samples demonstrate the great sensitivity expressed in these statutes, which help us see that our respect for the Lord is to find expression in our loving care of others.

     • “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married” (Deuteronomy 24:5).

     • “Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the upper one—as security for a debt, because that would be taking a man’s livelihood as security” (Deuteronomy 24:6).

     • “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it” (Deuteronomy 24: 14–15).

     • “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19).

     Chapter 25 introduces the practice of “levirate marriage.” A near relative of a man who died childless was to take his widow as a secondary wife. The first child of that union “shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel”
(Deuteronomy 25:6).


The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Moed Katan 20a–b

     D’RASH

     According to a Yiddish proverb, “You can’t dance at two weddings.” The problem is not only a physical one—being in two places at one time—it is also a psychological one. Human beings are generally able to focus on only one thing at a time. If we attempt to do two things at once, one of the two will ultimately give way to the other. When both are of critical importance, something of great value will be lost.

     Rabbah bar Rav Huna saw this principle at work in the conflicts that Jews faced in their public and private lives. The festivals of the Jewish calendar punctuated the seasons and gave character to the months of the year. They also served to unite the entire Jewish nation by enabling Jews to recall and relive their mutual history. The folkways, traditions, customs, and laws gave the nation a common practice and a shared set of values. No matter where Jews lived throughout the world, the festivals enabled them to dwell together in the dimension of time.

     Whereas a holiday was observed by all, a wedding was seen by most people as a private celebration of two individuals and their immediate circle of family and friends. Holidays came year in and year out; miss a holiday this year and you can always celebrate it again next year. Weddings, on the other hand, were hopefully once-in-a-lifetime events. Everything else was to be put aside to celebrate this most joyous simḥah.

     Imagine a wedding scheduled during Passover. There are so many preparations necessary to celebrate both events. Trying to do both would become a logistical nightmare. The individuals involved would in no way be able to enjoy either occasion. The other possibility, of course, is that the family would choose to concentrate on one and thus neglect the other. In such a conflict, most people would choose the private and personal over the public; weddings would take place at the detriment of the festival. Holidays would no longer be universally observed, and the community would be split apart and divided, each family going its own way, doing “its own thing.”

     As many Jewish couples have found out, there are many days during the year when weddings cannot be held. In addition to the festivals, marriages traditionally do not take place during all or part of the sefirah period in the spring (between Pesaḥ and Shavuot) and during “the Three Weeks” in the summer (between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av). All these restrictions are hard to comply with and sometimes difficult to understand. What the Rabbis had in mind, among other things, was simply to protect the integrity of the sacred days of the Jewish year and to preserve the unity and integrity of the Jewish people. In doing so, they were also conveying another critical message: The welfare of the community, of the group, of the nation takes precedence over the interests of the individual. There is one corollary to this approach: We are taught that true happiness is to be found not alone, by ourselves, but with others.

     Part of a day is like a whole day.

     Text / When Rav, the son of the brother of Rabbi Ḥiyya, who was also the son of the sister of Rabbi Ḥiyya, went there, he said to him: “Is father alive?” He said to him: “Mother is alive.” He said to him: “Is mother alive?” He said to him: “Father is alive.” He [Rabbi Ḥiyya] said to his attendant: “Take off my shoes and follow me to the bathhouse.” From this we learn three things: A mourner is forbidden to wear shoes; [mourning upon hearing] delayed news is practiced for only one day; and part of a day is like a whole day.

     Context / These three mourning practices are still in effect today. A mourner does not wear leather shoes, which are considered a luxury; a mourner does not bathe; and we count part of a day as a whole day. In fact, in all cases of mourning, whether for timely news or for delayed news, part of a day is like a whole day. Thus, we count the first day of shivah (the seven-day mourning period) which is the day of the burial, as a whole day even though mourning rituals were observed for only part of that day (from after the burial until sunset). Similarly, the last day of shivah is always a shortened day. After the Shaḥarit service on the morning of the seventh day, the shivah mourning period ends.

     This section of Gemara deals with laws of mourning, specifically sh’muah r’ḥokah, “delayed news,” news of the death of a close relative that is received more than thirty days after the fact. In such a case, the thirty-day mourning period would have been over. The Gemara attempts to teach us a lesson about delayed news from the actions of Rabbi Ḥiyya. In the conversation above, Rabbi Ḥiyya has returned “there,” to Israel. (It is “there” to the compilers of the Talmud Bavli or Babylonian Talmud.) Rabbi Ḥiyya seeks to find out about his parents while his nephew Rav—in attempting to be gentle and not tell his uncle sad news—answers about his own parents, also relatives of Rabbi Ḥiyya. Through a series of marriages, Rabbi Ḥiyya was doubly related to his nephew Rav: He was both his paternal uncle and his maternal uncle. There are several possible interpretations of the dialogue; for our purposes, we will assume that the following is what Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rav are saying to each other (with our interpretation added in parentheses):

     Rabbi Ḥiyya: “Is (my) father (Aḥa) alive?”

     Rav: “(My own) mother is alive.”

     Rabbi Ḥiyya: “Is (my) mother (who is also your grandmother) alive?”

     Rav: “(My) father (Aybu, your half-brother) is alive.”

     Rabbi Ḥiyya correctly interprets his nephew’s intent to break the news of the death of Rabbi Ḥiyya’s mother, Aḥa’s wife, kindly and gently. Rabbi Ḥiyya immediately begins the period of mourning. But he has been away from Israel for quite some time, and this subtle announcement that Rabbi Ḥiyya’s mother has died is “delayed news.” Rabbi Ḥiyya’s words to his attendant (perhaps the student attending to his needs, rather than a porter or slave)—“Take off my shoes and follow me to the bathhouse”—teach us three things:

     1) A mourner is not allowed to wear leather shoes, a practice still followed today. Even in the case of “delayed news,” wearing of shoes is prohibited.

     2) Bathing is also not allowed to a mourner. Since Rabbi Ḥiyya tells the attendant to meet him at the bathhouse, it is clear that Rabbi Ḥiyya’s mourning period will end shortly, because “delayed news” requires only one day of mourning. And,

     3) Since he will go directly to the bathhouse, it is clear that, where mourning is involved, “part of a day is like a whole day.” Once Rabbi Ḥiyya has mourned for a token amount of time on that one day, his entire mourning period—one day because of the “delayed news”—has been completed.

     Nowadays, because communications are so superior to those in second-century Israel and Babylonia, delayed news of a death is less common. Nonetheless, there are still cases where one does not find out about a death until much later. If the delay is less than a month, it is considered “timely news,” and all of the mourning rites are observed. If, however, one finds out about a death more than a month afterwards, the case is sh’muah r’ḥokah, “delayed news.” The mourner is required to observe only one hour, a token amount or “part of a day” of mourning, during which time he or she sits on a low stool and, as a symbol of bereavement, removes leather shoes.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Deut 21
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–9.—The preciousness of one human life in the sight of God. The value of this paragraph can be duly appreciated only as the indifference with which pagan nations of old regarded human life is studied and understood. As a piece of civil legislation, it is far superior to anything in the code of the nations around at that time. Dr. Jameson remarks that in it we have undoubtedly the origin or the germ of modern coroners’ inquests. The following points in it are worthy of note. 1. It is a rule to be observed when they should be settled in the land of Canaan. 2. It indicates that from the first, each human life should be regarded as an object of common interest to the whole people, and that it was to be one of their prime points of honour, that no human life could be tampered with without arousing national indignation and concern. 3. God would teach them, that if it should be found that any one’s life had been trified with, it was a sin against Heaven as well as a crime against earth. 4. That this sin would be laid at the door of all the people if they were indifferent to the fact of its commission, and if they did not make full inquiry respecting it, and solemnly put it away from among them. At the back of this piece of civil legislation, yea, as the fount from which it sprang, we get this beautiful, sublime, and comforting truth—“Each human life an object of Divine concern.”

     I. IN WHAT WAY HAS GOD MANIFESTED HIS CARE FOR THE INDIVIDUAL? 1. This passage is pregnant with blessed teaching thereon. We have: (1) The fact of man’s ill-treatment of men recognized. (2) Rebuked. (3) Marked out as a brand of shame on any community which tolerates it. (4) In demanding an account thereof, God foreshadows his own coming judgment. 2. The Lord Jesus Christ taught it in terms more beautiful, more clear (
Luke 12; Matt. 18;
Luke 15
). How often does Christ lay stress on “one”! 3. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ for every man, is a standing proof of every man’s worth before God; so the apostle argues (2 Cor. 5:16). 4. The Spirit of God stirreth in every man to move his sluggish nature that it may rise toward heaven. Materialism merges the man in his accidents. Pantheism drowns him in the All. Deism hides him in vastness. Ultramontanism smothers him in the Church. Cæsarism makes the State all, the individual nothing. Christ rescues the one from being lost in the many, and cries aloud, “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

     II. WHAT SHOULD BE THE EFFECT ON US OF GOD’S CARE FOR THE INDIVIDUAL? 1. It should fill us with intense thankfulness that we are not lost in the crowd (see
Isa. 40:27). We are so apt to say, “God has too much to do to think of us,” that we need to meditate often on the words, “He careth for you.” 2. It should impress us with the dignity of man. When God fences every man round with such a guard against ill treatment from others, it may well lead us to “honour all men.” 3. It should teach us the solidarity of the race. The weal of one is a concern to all. 4. It should teach us to cultivate the spirit of a universal brotherhood. “Have we not all one Father?” 5. It should lead us to aim at saving man. If God cares for all, well may we. 6. It should make us very indignant at any doctrines concerning the constitution and destiny of man, that would put him, or even seem to put him, on a level with the brute creation. 7. We should take every opportunity of warning men that, if ever they trifle with the interests and destinies of their brother man, God will call them to account at his bar. The voice of Abel’s blood cried unto God from the ground. If a neglected, mutilated, slain body of any one, however obscure, was found in Israel’s fields, they were responsible to the God of nations for inquiry and for expiation. No one is at liberty to cry, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” When he maketh inquisition for blood, he forgetteth not the cry of the humble (see Ps. 94). And terrible beyond all power of expression, will be the shame and dismay, at the bar of God, of those who have trifled with human interests, and who go into eternity laden with the guilt of their brothers’ blood!

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

The Wisdom Connection
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration

     It was suggested above that the common ancestor of all the diverse biblical interpreters of ancient Judaism and Christianity was the ancient Near Eastern sage, who pursued what the Bible calls “wisdom.” Wisdom was an international pursuit, and a very old one; some of the earliest texts that we possess from ancient Sumer and Babylon and Egypt are collections of proverbs, the favorite medium for transmitting wisdom. What wisdom was is not given to easy summary, but its basic premise was that there exists an underlying set of rules (including, but not limited to, what we would call “laws of nature”) that governs all of reality. The sage, by studying the written words of earlier sages as well as through his own, careful contemplation of the world, hoped to come to a fuller understanding of these rules and, hence, come to know how the world works. His wise counsel was therefore sought by kings and princes, and he was often a teacher who trained the next generation of sages.

     At a certain point in Second Temple times, the job description of the Jewish sage was changed. Now, instead of contemplating the proverbs of previous generations, it was the Torah that occupied the sage’s attention: he became a biblical interpreter. In a sense, this transformation takes place before our eyes, in books like the Wisdom of Ben Sira (or: Sirach). The second-century-B.C.E. author is, in many ways, a traditional sage: his book is full of clever, pithy proverbs, many of them his own rewording of the insights from earlier generations and centuries. But along with this traditional sort of wisdom writing, Ben Sira also explains laws and stories from the Bible; indeed, his book concludes with a six-chapter review of biblical heroes and the lessons their stories are designed to impart. This is because, for him, it is the Torah that is the great repository of wisdom. Indeed, he says as much in an extended paean to wisdom in the middle of his book, in which Wisdom (here personified as a woman) tells of her own existence.

     “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss.” (Sir. 24:3–5)

     But God then orders Wisdom to transfer her headquarters out of heaven and take up residence on earth:

     He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.…” [So] I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, His heritage. (Sir. 24:8, 12)

     In recounting this, Ben Sira is not merely being a proud Jew who asserts that wisdom is the peculiar possession of his own people. Rather, he has something more specific in mind:

     All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the Torah that Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the congregations of Jacob. (Sir. 24:23)

     In other words, Wisdom is the Pentateuch, “the book of the covenant of the Most High God.” Thus, if you wish really to know how the world works, to know about the underlying set of rules that God established for it, then the Pentateuch is your basic resource.

     The wisdom connection apparent in Ben Sira explains much about the character of ancient biblical interpretation—not only for him, but for his contemporaries and predecessors as well. For when these sages-turned-exegetes approached the Pentateuch, they brought to their reading of it many of the same expectations and interpretive techniques that they had used in reading collections of proverbs and other wisdom compositions. Thus, the full meaning of a proverb was not immediately apparent; its words had to be studied and sifted carefully before they would yield their full significance. So too did all of Scripture have to be scrutinized, since the meaning of a particular word or phrase or prophecy or story might similarly be hidden from view. And just as proverbs were full of lessons for today, so biblical texts, even though they seemed to talk about the past, were likewise understood to have a message for the present; indeed, those two favorite opposites of ancient wisdom, the “righteous” and the “wicked,” might turn out to be embodied in a biblical narrative about the (altogether righteous) Abraham or Jacob, and such (altogether wicked) figures as Lot or Esau. The insights of wise proverbs were part of a single weave of divine wisdom, the great pattern underlying all of reality; even when one proverb seemed to contradict another (see
Prov. 26:4–5), there really was no contradiction. Similarly, the Bible, the great compendium of divine wisdom, could contain no real contradiction; careful contemplation of its words would always show that they agree. Finally wisdom, although it was transmitted by different sages in different periods, truly had no human author; these tradents were merely reporting bits and pieces of the great pattern that had been created by God. Similarly, the books of Scripture may be attributed to different authors, but all of them, since they are full of divine wisdom, truly have only one source, God, who guided the human beings responsible for Scripture’s various parts. The various characteristics mentioned here are, it will be noticed, none other than the Four Assumptions shared by all ancient interpreters. It seems likely, therefore, that these common elements all derive from the wisdom heritage of the earliest interpreters, going back at least to the time of Ezra, “a sage skilled in the law of Moses”
(
Ezra 7:6). Although Scripture’s interpreters included people from many different orientations and walks of life, wild-eyed visionaries, priests and temple officials, experts in law and jurisprudence, and so forth—all appear to have been touched by this crucial consilience of scriptural interpretation and ancient Near Eastern wisdom.

     Such was biblical interpretation in early Judaism. To modern eyes, some of it may not appear to be interpretation at all; certainly some of the claims made about the meaning of this or that verse or passage seem to us highly fanciful, if not patently apologetic or forced, though in fairness one ought to note that modern biblical commentaries are themselves not entirely free of such traits, even if they are usually more subtle about their intentions. But whatever one’s judgment of the work of these interpreters, their importance can scarcely be gainsaid. It is not just that, as mentioned earlier, they determined the basic way that the Bible would be approached for the next two millennia. Their Four Assumptions continued to be assumed by all interpreters until well after the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century; indeed, they are, to a great extent, still with us today. But still more important was the effect that these ancient interpreters had on their own contemporaries. Had they not succeeded in persuading their listeners that biblical texts did indeed have a message vital to people in their own day; and that the biblical corpus was perfectly consistent and harmonious, free of any error or defect; indeed, that these texts had been given by God for the purpose of guiding humans on their path, if only they were clever enough to understand the hidden meaning of many of its verses—had they not succeeded in getting these basic ideas and this basic approach across through myriad examples of actual interpretations, it seems quite unlikely that the writings of ancient Israel would ever have become what they did, the centerpiece of two great biblical religions, Judaism and Christianity.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 13

     And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast. --- Revelation 15:2

     However much we recognize the value of trial, the variations in the effect of trial on character will perplex us. ( Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) We meet with so many people whose characters seem not to be elevated or fired but depressed and smothered by suffering. They come out of adversity with a loss of what was noblest and most attractive in them before. Some who were smooth and gracious in health become rough and peevish in sickness. Some who were cordial and liberal in wealth turn reserved and tight as poverty overtakes them. If trial kindles and stirs up some sluggish natures, on the other hand it quenches and subdues many vigorous and ardent hearts and sends them crushed to their graves. It seems as if trouble, trial, and suffering were in the world like the fabled river in Epirus, of which the legend ran that its waters kindled every unlighted torch that was dipped into them and quenched every torch that was lighted.

     But however much difficulty this may give us in single cases, it fits in well with our general doctrine. For it makes trial a necessary element in all perfected character. If so much character goes to pieces at its first contact with suffering and struggle, then all the more we see the need of keeping struggle and suffering as tests of character.

     In sickrooms, in prisons, in dreary unsympathetic homes, in stores where failure brooded like the first haze of coming eastern storms, everywhere people have suffered, to some among the sufferers this truth has come. They lifted up their heads and were strong. Life was a new thing to them. They were no longer the victims of a mistaking chance or of a malignant devil but the subjects of an educating God. They no longer just waited doggedly for the trouble to pass away. They did not know that it would ever pass away. If it ever did, it must go despoiled of its power. Whether it passed or stayed, that was not the point, but that the strength that was in it should pass into the sufferer who wrestled with it, that the fire should not only make the glass and then go out, leaving it cold and hard and brittle. The fire must abide in that glass that it has made, giving it forever its own warmth and life and elastic toughness. This is the great revelation of the permanent value of suffering.
--- Phillips Brooks


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

On This Day
     The Edict of Nantes  April 13

     In 1516 Pope Leo X gave Francis I, king of France, the privilege of appointing church leaders in his own country. This agreement, the Concordant of Bologna, turned the French church into a political circus, and succeeding French kings feared the Reformation for they were unwilling to lose control over the church as granted by the concordant..

     Geneva, however, was on the French border, and Geneva was a strong center of Reformation energy. Many French university students, lawyers, and professionals were attracted to its teaching. French Protestants, called Huguenots, grew in number and influence, and during the time of King Henry II (1547–1559), they mushroomed from 400,000 to 2,000,000. When the French crown sought to suppress the Huguenots, a series of eight wars between Protestant and Catholic forces ravaged France. The climax of these conflicts occurred on August 24, 1572, St. Bartholomew’s Day, when some 20,000 Protestants were massacred.

     Following the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, Henry of Navarre, who could switch from Protestantism to Catholicism and back at will depending on his political needs, reconverted back to Catholicism. This allowed him to claim the throne. “Paris is well worth a Mass,” his advisers said. Henry was denounced on all sides as a hypocrite, but he remained sympathetic to the Huguenots and he badly wanted to heal his war-torn nation. After being crowned Henry IV, he signed an edict in the French city of Nantes, granting toleration to the Huguenots. It allowed them the right to worship, to publish literature, to hold public office, and to educate their children as they wished. The Edict of Nantes, signed on April 13, 1598, was the first document in any nation that attempted to provide a degree of religious toleration.

     Not everyone was pleased. Pope Clement VIII condemned it as “the most accursed that can be imagined, whereby liberty of conscience is granted to everybody, which is the worst thing in the world.” But the Edict of Nantes provided protection and toleration for Huguenots for nearly a century, until it was revoked in 1685 by King Louis XIV.

  God is always honest and fair,
  And his laws can be trusted.
  They are true and right and will stand forever.
  God rescued his people,
  And he will never break his agreement with them.
  He is fearsome and holy.
  --- Psalm 111:7-9.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 13

     "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me."
--- Song of Solomon 1:13.

     Myrrh may well be chosen as the type of Jesus on account of its preciousness, its perfume, its pleasantness, its healing, preserving, disinfecting qualities, and its connection with sacrifice. But why is he compared to “a bundle of myrrh”? First, for plenty. He is not a drop of it, he is a casket full. He is not a sprig or flower of it, but a whole bundle. There is enough in Christ for all my necessities; let me not be slow to avail myself of him. Our well-beloved is compared to a “bundle” again, for variety: for there is in Christ not only the one thing needful, but in “him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” everything needful is in him. Take Jesus in his different characters, and you will see a marvellous variety—Prophet, Priest, King, Husband, Friend, Shepherd. Consider him in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, second advent; view him in his virtue, gentleness, courage, self-denial, love, faithfulness, truth, righteousness—everywhere he is a bundle of preciousness. He is a “bundle of myrrh” for preservation—not loose myrrh to be dropped on the floor or trodden on, but myrrh tied up, myrrh to be stored in a casket. We must value him as our best treasure; we must prize his words and his ordinances; and we must keep our thoughts of him and knowledge of him as under lock and key, lest the devil should steal anything from us. Moreover, Jesus is a “bundle of myrrh” for speciality. The emblem suggests the idea of distinguishing, discriminating grace. From before the foundation of the world, he was set apart for his people; and he gives forth his perfume only to those who understand how to enter into communion with him, to have close dealings with him. Oh! blessed people whom the Lord hath admitted into his secrets, and for whom he sets himself apart. Oh! choice and happy who are thus made to say, “A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me.”


          Evening - April 13

     "And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt- offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him." Leviticus 1:4.

     Our Lord’s being made “sin for us” is set forth here by the very significant transfer of sin to the bullock, which was made by the elders of the people. The laying of the hand was not a mere touch of contact, for in some other places of Scripture the original word has the meaning of leaning heavily, as in the expression, “thy wrath lieth hard upon me” (Psalm 88:7). Surely this is the very essence and nature of faith, which doth not only bring us into contact with the great Substitute, but teaches us to lean upon him with all the burden of our guilt. Jehovah made to meet upon the head of the Substitute all the offences of his covenant people, but each one of the chosen is brought personally to ratify this solemn covenant act, when by grace he is enabled by faith to lay his hand upon the head of the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” Believer, do you remember that rapturous day when you first realized pardon through Jesus the sin-bearer? Can you not make glad confession, and join with the writer in saying, “My soul recalls her day of deliverance with delight. Laden with guilt and full of fears, I saw my Saviour as my Substitute, and I laid my hand upon him; oh! how timidly at first, but courage grew and confidence was confirmed until I leaned my soul entirely upon him; and now it is my unceasing joy to know that my sins are no longer imputed to me, but laid on him, and like the debts of the wounded traveller, Jesus, like the good Samaritan, has said of all my future sinfulness, ‘Set that to my account.’ ” Blessed discovery! Eternal solace of a grateful heart!

     “My numerous sins transferr’d to him,
     Shall never more be found,
     Lost in his blood’s atoning stream,
     Where every crime is drown’d!”


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 13

          IN THE GARDEN

     C. Austin Miles, 1868–1945

     Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her. (John 20:18)

     It was in 1912 that music publisher Dr. Adam Geibel asked author and composer C. Austin Miles to write a hymn text that would be “sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows to dying beds.” Mr. Miles has left the following account of the writing of this hymn:

     One day in April, 1912, I was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20—whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm.
     As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, “Rabboni!”
     My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.
     John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John.
     As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni!” I awakened in sun light, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.


     * * * * *

     I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
     He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing; and the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing.
     I’d stay in the garden with Him tho the night around me be falling; but He bids me go—thru the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.

     Refrain: And He walks with me,
     and He talks with me,
     and He tells me I am His own,
     and the joy we share
     as we tarry there,
     none other has ever known.


     For Today: Matthew 20:28; Matthew 28:5–9; John 20; Romans 5:6, 10, 11.

     Let your mind join Mary and the disciples in the garden when Christ first appeared to them following His resurrection. Respond as did Mary—“Rabboni!” (my Master). Carry this musical truth throughout the day ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          Chapter 12 Jude 24, 25 – Part 2

     “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling.” In further consideration of the connection of this prayer, the following question is crucial: who are the ones that the Lord Jesus thus preserves? Not everyone who professes to believe and to be a follower of His, as is clear from the case of Judas Iscariot, is preserved by God from apostasy. Then whom does He preserve? Without doubt God preserves those who make a genuine effort to obey the exhortations found in verses 20-23, which were discussed at the end of the preceding chapter. These true believers, so far from being content with their present knowledge and spiritual attainments, sincerely endeavor to continue building up themselves on their most holy faith. These true lovers of God, so far from being indifferent to the state of their hearts, jealously watch their affections, in order that their love toward God might be preserved in a pure, healthy, and vigorous condition by regular exercise in acts of devotion and obedience. These true saints, so far from taking pleasure in flirting with the world and indulging their carnal lusts, have their hearts engaged in “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” These true disciples pray fervently for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the performance of all their duties, and are deeply solicitous about the welfare of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Such are the ones who will, despite all their weakness and frailties, be preserved by the power and grace of God from apostasy.

          Two Principles of Interpretation Necessary for Understanding This Prayer

     It is of vital importance to a sound knowledge of Scripture that we observe the order in which truth is therein set forth. For example, we find David saying, “Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.” This he said before praying the following prayer: “Uphold me according unto Thy word” (Ps. 119:115, 116). There would have been no sincerity in praying for God to support him unless he had already resolved to obey the Divine precepts. It is horrible mockery for anyone to ask God to sustain him in a course of self-will. First must come a holy purposing and resolution on our part, and then the seeking of enabling grace. It is of equal importance to a right understanding of Scripture that we take special care not to separate what God has joined together by detaching a sentence from its qualifying context. We often read the quotation, “My sheep shall never perish.” While that is substantially correct, those are not the precise words Christ used. This is what He actually said: “My sheep hear [heed!] my voice, and I know [approve] them, and they follow Me [contrary to their natural inclinations]: And I give unto them eternal life; and they [the heedful and obedient ones] shall never perish” (John 10:27, 28, brackets mine).

          Faith Is the Instrumental Means of Our Preservation

     “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling.” In these words we discover the first great reason behind the Apostle Jude's prayer, namely, the Divine ability to preserve the saints from apostasy. The discerning reader will perceive in the above remarks that the question of how Christ preserves His people has been anticipated and answered. He does so in a manner very different from that in which He keeps the planets in their courses, which He does by physical energy. Christ preserves His own by spiritual power, by the effectual operations of His grace within their souls. Christ preserves His people not in a course of reckless self-pleasing, but in one of self-denial. He preserves them by moving them to heed His warnings, to practice His precepts, and to follow the example that He has left them. He preserves them by enabling them to persevere in faith and holiness. We who are His are “kept by the power of God through faith (1 Peter 1:5), and faith has respect to His commandments (Ps. 119:66; Heb. 11:8) as well as to His promises. Christ indeed is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), yet we are the ones who must exercise that faith and not He. Yet, by the Holy Spirit, He is working in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Just as faith is the instrumental means by which we are justified before God, our perseverance in faith is the instrumental means by which Christ preserves us until His coming (1 Thess. 5:23; Jude 1).

     After exhorting the saints as to their duties (vv. 20-23), Jude then intimates to whom they must look for their enablement and for blessing upon their endeavors: “unto him that is able to keep you from falling.” His readers must place the whole of their dependence for preservation on the Lord Jesus. He does not say this in order to check their industry, but rather to encourage their hope of success. It is a great relief to faith to know that “God is able to make him [us] stand” (Rom. 14:4). John Gill begins his comments on Jude 24 by saying, “The people of God are liable to fall into temptation, into sin, into errors, and even into final and total apostasy, were it not for Divine power.” Yea, they are painfully sensible both of their evil proclivities and their frailty, and therefore do they frequently cry to the Lord, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually” (Ps. 119:117). As they read of Adam in a state of innocency being unable to keep himself from falling, and likewise the angels in heaven, they know full well that imperfect and sinful creatures such as they are cannot keep themselves. The way to heaven is a narrow one, and there are precipices on either side. There are foes within and without seeking my destruction, and I have no more strength of my own than poor Peter had when he was put to the test by a maid.

          Metaphors Describing the Inherent Weakness of Christians Are Meant to Direct Our Faith to God

     Almost every figure used in the Bible to describe a child of God emphasizes his weakness and helplessness: a sheep, a branch of the vine, a bruised reed, smoking flax. It is only as we experientially discover our weakness that we learn to prize more highly the One who is able to keep us from falling. Is one of my readers tremblingly saying, “I fear that I too may perish in the wilderness”? Not so, if your prayer be sincere when you cry, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not” (Ps. 17:5). Christ is able to protect you, because His power is limitless and His grace boundless. What strength this should give the wearied warrior! David comforted himself therewith when he declared, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Ps. 23:4). There is a twofold safeguarding of the elect spoken of in this Epistle: the one before regeneration, and the other after. In the opening verse of Jude they are spoken of as “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” They were set apart to salvation by the Father in His eternal decree (2 Thess. 2:13), and “preserved” before they were effectually called. A wonderful and blessed fact is that! Even while wandering from the fold, yea, even while they were despising the Shepherd of their souls, His love watched over them (Jer. 31:3) and His power delivered them from an untimely grave. Death cannot seize an elect sinner until he has been born again!

          Christ Does Not Raise Our Hopes Merely to Dash Them

     What has just been pointed out should make it very evident that there is no question whatever about the Lord's willingness to preserve His people. If He has kept them from natural death while in a state of unregeneracy, much more will He deliver them from spiritual death now that He has made them new creatures (cf. Rom. 5:9, 10). if Christ were not willing to “make all grace abound” toward His people (2 Cor. 9:8), to “keep that which I [they] have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12, brackets mine), to “succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18), and to “save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Heb. 7:25), He most certainly would not tantalize them by affirming in each passage that He is able to do these things. When Christ asked the two blind men, who besought Him to have mercy upon them, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” (Matt. 9:28), He was not raising a doubt in their minds as to His readiness to give them sight; but He was evoking their faith, as the next verse makes evident. The words “unto him that is able to keep you from falling” is a general expression including not only His might and willingness, but His goodness and munificence, which He has already brought, and shall continue to bring, to bear for the preservation of His people.

          Christ Is Bound by Covenant Obligation to Preserve His People from Total, Final Apostasy

     It is indeed true that the power of Christ is far greater than what He actually exercises, for His power is infinite. Were He so disposed, He could keep His people altogether from sin; but for wise and holy reasons He does not. As His forerunner John the Baptist declared to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9), so Christ could have commanded a legion of angels to deliver Him from His enemies (Matthew 26:53), but He would not. The exercise of His power was and is regulated by God's eternal purpose; He puts it forth only so far as He has stipulated to do so by covenant engagement. Thus the words “unto him that is able to keep you from falling” have reference not to every kind of falling, but from falling prey to the fatal errors of those “ungodly men” mentioned in verse 4, from being led astray by the sophistries and examples of heretical teachers. As the Shepherd of God's sheep, Christ has received a charge to preserve them: not from straying, but from destruction. It is the gross sins spoken of in the context, when joined with obstinacy and impenitence, from which Christ delivers His people. These are “presumptuous sins” (Ps. 19:13), which, if one continues in impenitent, are unpardonable sins (just like suicide). In other words, it is from total and final apostasy that Christ keeps all His own.

     As an almighty Savior, Christ has been charged with the work of preserving His people. They were given to Him by the Father with that end in view. He is in every way qualified for the task considering both His Deity and His humanity (Heb. 2:18). All authority has been given to Him in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). He is as willing as He is competent, for it is the Father's will that He should lose none of His people (John 6:39), and therein He delights. He has a personal interest in them, for He has bought them for Himself. He is accountable for their custody. He therefore preserves them from being devoured by sin. No feeble Savior is ours, but rather One that is clothed with omnipotence. That was made manifest even during the days of His humiliation, when He cast out demons, healed the sick, and stilled the tempest by His authoritative fiat. It was evidenced when by a single utterance He caused those who came to arrest Him to fall backward to the ground (John 18:6). It was supremely demonstrated in His personal victory over death and the grave. That same almighty power is exercised in ordering all the affairs of His people, and in continually directing their wills and actions throughout the whole of their earthly pilgrimage. Of His vineyard He declares, “I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day (Isa. 27:3).

          The Glorious Reception with Which Christ Receives and Presents the Redeemed

     “And to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Here is the second reason that prompted this outburst of adoration. Christ not only protects His people here, but has provided for their felicity hereafter. Such is His grace and power that He makes good to them all that God has purposed and promised. The presentation of His people to Himself is both individual and corporate. The former is at death, when He takes the believer to Himself. Inexpressibly blessed is this: upon its dismissal from the body the spirit of the believer is conducted into the immediate presence of God, and the Savior Himself admits it into heaven and presents it before the throne. The disembodied spirit, rid of all corruption and defilement, is received by Christ to the glory of God. He will set that redeemed spirit of a justified sinner made perfect (Heb. 12:23) before Himself with great complacence of heart, so that it will reflect His own perfections. He will advance it to the highest honor, fill it with glory, express to it the uttermost of His love, and behold it with delight. Christ receives each blood-washed spirit at death to His everlasting embraces, and presents it before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

     Our present passage also looks forward to the time when Christ will publicly present His people corporately to Himself, when the Head and Savior who “loved the church, and gave himself for it” will “present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25, 27). This shall be the certain and triumphant result of His love, as it shall be the consummation of our redemption. The Greek word for present (No. 2476 in Strong and Thayer; cf. present, 3936, in Eph. 5:27) can be used in the sense to set alongside of. Having cleansed the Church from all her natural pollution and prepared and adorned her for her destined place as the companion of His glory, He will, formally, and officially, take her to Himself. This jubilant declaration shall go forth: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him [God]: for the marriage of the Lamb is come” (Rev. 19:7, brackets mine). Christ will have made the Church comely with His own perfections, and she will be full of beauty and splendor, like a bride adorned for her husband. He will then say, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (Song of Solomon 4:7). She shall be “all glorious within: her clothing is [shall be] of wrought gold.” Of her it is said, “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty” (Ps. 45:11, 13, brackets mine), and He shall be forever the satisfying Portion of her joy.

     The Scriptures also indicate that on the resurrection morn Christ shall also present the Church to His Father (2 Cor. 4:14), and shall say exultantly, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Heb. 2:13; cf. Gen. 33:5; Isa. 8:18). Not one shall be lost (John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; 17:12, 24)! And all shall be perfectly conformed to His holy image (Rom. 8:29). He will present us before God for His inspection, acceptance, and approbation. Says Albert Barnes,

     “He will present us in the court of heaven, before the throne of the eternal Father, as His ransomed people, as recovered from the ruins of the fall, as saved by the merits of His blood. They shall not only be raised from the dead by Him, but publicly and solemnly presented to God as His, as recovered to His service and as having a title in the covenant of grace to the blessedness of heaven.”

     It is Christ taking His place before God as the triumphant Mediator, owning the “children” as God's gift to Him, confessing His oneness with them, and delighting in the fruits of His work. He presents them “faultless”: justified, sanctified, glorified. The manner in which He does so will be “with exceeding joy,” for He shall then “see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). In Jude 15 we learn of the doom awaiting the apostates; here we behold the bliss appointed to the redeemed. They shall forever shine in Christ's righteousness, and He shall find His complacency in the Church as the partner of His blessedness.


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