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Leviticus 18     Psalm 22     Ecclesiastes 1     1 Timothy 3


Leviticus 18

Unlawful Sexual Relations

Leviticus 18:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”


Psalm 22

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Psalm 22 To The Choirmaster: According To The Doe Of The dawn. A Psalm Of David.

1  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

3  Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4  In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5  To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6  But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7  All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8  “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

9  Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10  On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11  Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

12  Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13  they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14  I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15  my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16  For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17  I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18  they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

19  But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20  Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21  Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22  I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23  You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24  For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

25  From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26  The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

27  All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28  For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

29  All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30  Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31  they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.


Ecclesiastes 1

All Is Vanity

Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3  What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4  A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5  The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6  The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7  All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8  All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9  What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10  Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11  There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.


The Vanity of Wisdom

12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

15  What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

18  For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.


1 Timothy 3

Qualifications for Overseers

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Qualifications for Deacons

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The Mystery of Godliness

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

ESV Study Bible



What I'm Reading

RE: Psalm 22

     Ps. 22   This psalm is well known for its many citations and allusions in the New Testament (Matt. 27:35, 39, 43, 46; John 19:23, 24, 28; Heb. 2:12). The psalm, like Ps. 69, expresses the suffering of Christ, the Son of David, dying at the hands of wicked men.

     22:1   why have You forsaken Me. The psalmist cries in anguish the “why?” of the righteous sufferer. Where is the presence God has promised (Josh. 1:5)? The cry is taken up by Jesus, who knew the reality of a total abandonment that was only partial with David. In the place of David and all the people of God, Jesus bore the dreadful curse that sin deserves.

     22:3   Enthroned in the praises. God’s kingship exists before any human acclamation, but His reign becomes manifest to worshipers through their praises.

     22:4, 5   Our fathers. David could think of the time that Abraham was delivered from the five kings (Gen. 14), Joseph from the Egyptian prison (Gen. 41), and most of all Moses and Israel from the land of Egypt (Ex. 1–15).

     22:7   ridicule. His enemies ridicule his trust in God. This experience is alluded to in Matt. 27:41–44, as Christ had to endure the ridicule of hypocritical priests and criminals.

     22:9   out of the womb. He affirms a long-standing trust in God’s ability to save him. He has had confidence in God as far back as he can remember.

     22:12   bulls of Bashan. These bulls were noted for their power and size (Amos 4:1).

     22:13   roaring lion. Often representing power, ferocity, and ruthlessness in the Bible and the ancient Near East (Nah. 2:14; Zeph. 3:3).

     22:14   My bones … My heart. Outward attack is matched by inward agony. The figures, as used by David, reflect the inward turmoil induced by the encircling threat of his enemies. As fulfilled in Christ, the prophetic words describe the agony of the crucified One.

     22:16   pierced. The traditional Hebrew reading may reflect a copyist’s error, for it reads (lit.) “like a lion.” The Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) suggests that the correct reading is “pierced.”

     22:19–21   After the laments and confessions of trust comes the climax, an appeal to the Lord. Notice that the enemies are named in reverse: humans, dogs, lions, and oxen.

     22:21   You have answered. The assurance of being heard is also present in other psalms of lament (3:4; 28:6; cf. 27:13; 34:4, 6; 38:15; 118:5, 21).

     22:22   I will declare. The thankful praise of the psalmist will be offered as the payment of his vows (v. 25). In Heb. 2:12 this verse is applied to Christ, who leads the praise of the great congregation.

     22:24   Nor has He hidden His face. Christ’s enemies despised Him, but God did not.

     22:25   My praise shall be of You. Lit. “My praise comes from You.”

     pay My vows. Mention of vows is common in psalms of lament (13:6; 27:6; 35:18; 54:6; 69:30, 31; cf. 51:16; 116:13, 14). The sufferer promises to bring a thanksgiving when his prayer is answered (Lev. 7:16; 22:23; Deut. 12:6, 7).

     22:26   shall eat and be satisfied. Perhaps a reference to the sacrificial meal of the Old Testament peace offering, when the vow is paid and the worshipers are included.

     22:27   All the ends of the world. The scope of praise expands, showing the prophetic reference to Christ and the New Testament church.

     22:31   That He has done this. The final victory of salvation is accomplished by Christ (John 19:30).

ESV Reformation Study Bible

Contra Mundum

By Ken Jones 8/1/2004

     As illustrated in other articles in this issue, the fourth century was a very interesting time in the history of the church. Having undergone a great deal of persecution as a despised religion in the eyes of Rome, the conversion of Constantine and the Edict of Milan in 313 brought about a policy of toleration for Christianity. The external threats to the church having somewhat subsided, internal threats once again began to mount. Heresy was not new to the church. The apostle Paul took on the challenge of the Judaizers in the first century, and, among others, Irenaus refuted the Gnostics and Marcionites of the second century. In the fourth century, the number one heresy was the teaching of a presbyter in Alexandria named Arius, concerning the person of Christ. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, refuted the teaching of Arius and his followers and this eventually led the emperor Constantine to call the first ecumenical council in Nicaea during the winter of 324–325.

     Controversy is never a pleasant thing, but in the life of the church some of the most bitter controversies have yielded the sweetest and most enduring fruit. The Arian controversy produced not only the Nicene Creed of 325 (which is still recited in many churches today) but it also brought to the fore a truly heroic figure of the faith, namely, Athanasius of Alexandria. Born around 296, Athanasius was somewhat of a theological prodigy and was brought up from an early age in the home and under the tutelage of Bishop Alexander. At the time of the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius was a deacon and attended the council as a secretary for Alexander. Even in the role of secretary, Athanasius was a significant contributor to the wording of the creed. But it was in the aftermath of the council that Athanasius’ legacy was forged as he ascended to the office of bishop in 328 upon the death of Alexander. There are three things concerning this champion of orthodoxy that I would like to commend to the contemporary church for consideration.

     First of all, Athanasius was driven in his rebuttal of Arianism by its practical implication. In other words, in this finely nuanced theological debate he was concerned about the implications of this heresy on salvation. Two of Athanasius’ writings reflect his practical and pastoral concerns. On the Incarnation outlines the fact that in the incarnation, God the Word, Jesus Christ, became human to renew what was human, to sanctify what had become corrupt in Adam. And in Against the Arians, he asserts that God alone initiates and accomplishes salvation, and he argues that it was necessary for our Savior to be both fully human (to renew humanity) and fully divine (to accomplish reconciliation).

     Evangelical Christians have a tendency to stand back from theological controversies assuming that it’s just a matter of theologians flexing their intellectual muscles in speculative debates that have no bearing on personal faith. While there may be instances where this is true, many of the current controversies, such as the “Lordship debates,” “E.C.T.” (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), and the “New Perspective” controversies are very practical. And, like Athanasius, we must understand their implications in relation to the “faith once delivered.”

     A second thing we can learn from Athanasius is that unity should not be sought apart from, or at the expense of, truth. The Council of Nicaea produced the creed that established the orthodox formula of the nature of Christ. All those who did not conform to this creed were deemed to be heretics, and this resulted in the exile of Arius and those who sided with him. Ten years later, key leaders of the church prevailed upon the Emperor Constantine to restore Arius. Constantine in turn wrote a letter to Athanasius (who had become a bishop by this time) urging him to receive Arius “whose opinions had been misrepresented.” Athanasius refused to re-admit Arius and his followers on the grounds that “there could be no fellowship between the church and the one who denied the divinity of Christ.” Seeing that the Emperor and many of his fellow officers were pushing for restoration, concession would have been easy if not understandable for Athanasius, but he would not budge. The lesson for us is obvious: when those with whom we have fellowship depart from the fundamentals of the faith, it is nothing less than a breach of that fellowship. This is the clear teaching of Scripture: Galatians 1:6–9; 2 John 7–11; Jude 3–4. Separation is painful, but sometimes it is necessary. The eventual restoration of Arius and his followers eventually led to Arianism becoming dominant in the Eastern provinces of the church.

     A third thing we can learn from Athanasius is bold tenacity for truth. The restoration of Arius and his followers eventually led to Athanasius’ expulsion in 335. Although he was restored shortly before the death of Constantine in 337, this was only the beginning; in all, Athanasius was exiled five times. Two things can be gleamed from Athanasius’ expulsions. First, he did not allow the experiences to make him bitter or wallow in pity. Like Paul during his various imprisonments, Athanasius was quite productive while in exile. Second, exile did not cause this saint to cave in and compromise. Our adversary seeks to wear us down in his assaults, and if the first attack doesn’t do the trick maybe the third or fourth will. Athanasius was just as bold for truth after his fifth and final exile as he was after the first. What can we learn from this courageous man of faith? We can learn that the Gospel is defended or denied in the doctrines we hold and that Christian fellowship is first a matter of doctrinal unity. Finally, we must firmly hold to the Gospel in spite the consequences.

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     Rev. Ken Jones is pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, and co-host of The White Horse Inn. He is also a contributor to Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church.

“Who do you say that I am?”

By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2004

     “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

     The introductory segment of the prologue of the gospel of John was the most carefully examined text of the New Testament for the first three centuries of Christian history. Of all the theological issues and questions facing the early church, none was more acute than the church’s understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.

     The New Testament devotes plentiful attention to the person and work of Jesus — what He said, what He did, where He came from, and where He went. But nothing captivated the minds of the intellectual leaders of the early church as much as the question, “Who was He?”

     The question “Who was Jesus?” forced attention on the Johannine concept of the logos. This Greek term, simply translated “word,” was the deepest idea about Jesus introduced in the New Testament.

     We note the distinction John makes when he writes: “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” At worst, John falls into a ghastly contradiction between two assertions made about the Logos with barely a breath taken between them. When we say someone or something is with another that normally indicates a distinction between them. We note an obvious difference between distinction and identity. When we assert that two things are identical we usually mean there is no difference or distinction between them. Yet, here John does two things: On the one hand he distinguishes between the Logos and God, while on the other hand he identifies the Logos with God.

     Contradiction? Not necessarily, though we live in an era in which theologians, both liberal and conservative, are not only content with, but take delight in contradictions. However, if we are to retain theological sanity, we must reject the idea that these assertions are in fact contradictory. Nor do we wish to succumb to the popular but deadly notion now popular in formerly Reformed circles, that real contradictions can be resolved in the mind of God. This new irrationalism gives us an irrational God with an irrational Bible and an irrational theology; all defended by an irrational apologetics. This movement rests on the false premise that the only alternative to irrationalism is rationalism. But one need not be a rationalist in order to be rational. Flights into the absurd may delight existential philosophers, but they slander the Holy Spirit of truth.

     Nor can we solve the tension in John by appealing to the absence of the definite article (as do the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) and render the text: “And the Word was a God.” This feeble attempt at resolution yields only polytheism.

     It was this type of question that impelled the church to examine and test Christological formulations for three centuries. The watershed confession of the fourth-century Nicene Creed did not leap suddenly on the scene like Athena out of the head of Zeus. The formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity was codified in the fourth century but was by no means born at that time. Tri-unity in the Godhead had its roots in the fertile soil of the first-century biblical text.

     At issue from the beginning was the question of monotheism. It was discussed in terms of the idea of monarchianism. We are familiar with the words monarch or monarchy in normal conversation, as we use them with respect to butterflies and rulers. In Greek, the term has a prefix and a root.

     Ironically, the root of monarch — “arch” — appears in John 1. The apostle writes, “In the beginning …,” and the word translated “beginning” is archè. This word also means “chief” or “ruler.” In English we speak of archangels, arch-enemies, architects (chief builders), arch-bishops, etc. In all of these words, archè means “chief” or “ruler.” Thus, when we add the prefix “mono” to the root archè, we get the idea of “one ruler.” A monarch, then, is a single ruler over any given realm (usually a king or a queen).

     In the early centuries, the church had to maintain the clearly taught notion of monotheism, with the equally clear affirmation of the deity of Christ. How monotheism could be maintained while affirming the deity of Christ reached crisis proportions in the third century and on into the fourth.

     The third century witnessed the strong assault against Christianity by various forms of Gnosticism, which bred a kind of Monarchianism called “Modalistic Monarchianism.” To understand this we must grasp something of the meaning of the term “mode.” A mode was a particular “level” or “manifestation” of a given reality. The popular idea among Gnostics was that God is the ultimate reality. His Being radiates, or emanates, from the core of His Being. Each radiation or emanation represents a tier or level of His being. The further that emanation, or tier, is from the core of the divine Being, the less “pure” is its divine Being.

     The heretic Sabellius taught such a concept. He compared the relationship of the Logos to God as being analogous, as a sunbeam is to the sun. The sunbeam is of the same essence or being of the sun, yet can be distinguished from the sun. In modern terms we say that the sun is ninety-three million miles away from us, yet we are warmed by its rays that are near at hand. Sabellius argued that Jesus was of the “same essence” (Greek, homo-ousios) as God but was less than God. Sabellius and his Modalistic Monarchianism was condemned as heresy in Antioch in 267, and the church used the expression “like essence” (homoi-ousios) to refer to the Logos. Here the idea was that the Logos, though distinguished from the Father, shared fully “in like manner” with the Father in His divine Being.

     Soon after the defeat of Sabellius and Modalistic Monarchianism, a new and more virulent form of monarchianism arose. Ironically its cradle was Antioch, the very place where Sabellius was condemned. The new heresy has been called “Dynamic Monarchianism,” and sometimes, “Adoptionism.” The Antioch school of Lucien, Paul of Samosata, and others produced their most formidable representative — Arius. It was the teaching of Arius and his followers that provoked the critical Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed in 325.

     Since this will be discussed further in this issue of Tabletalk, I will restrict my comments here to indicate that Arius clearly denied the eternal deity of the Logos. He defended himself, ironically, by appealing to the orthodox phrase “like essence” (homoi-ousios). The Logos is only “like” God; He is not God Himself. Most heretics like Arius tried to mask their heresy by using orthodox language to convey it. The Arian threat was so great that the church reversed her choice of terms for defining the relationship of the Logos to the Father. The term the church had previously rejected in the third-century dispute with Sabellius, homoousios (“same essence”) was elevated to orthodoxy. Now the term, of course, was not used to revert to Sabellius’ modalism; rather, it was used to assert that the Logos is of the same divine essence as God — co-eternal, co-essential, not created.

     The importance of this word choice underlines in red how seriously the church took the threat of Arianism and how resolute the church was to maintain her confession of the full deity of Christ. This was the defining moment of fourth-century Christianity.

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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 Fruit of Patience

By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2004

     The prophet Habakkuk was sorely distressed. His misery was provoked by the spectacle of the threat of the pagan nation of Babylon against Judah. To this prophet it was unthinkable that God would use an evil nation against His own people; after all, Habakkuk mused, “God is too holy even to look upon evil.” So the prophet protested by mounting his watchtower and demanding an answer from God: “And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:2–4).

     The final words of this utterance, “the righteous shall live by faith,” are cited three times in the New Testament by the familiar words, “the just shall live by faith.” In this phrase, “faith” refers to “trust in God.” It involves trusting in the future promises of God and waiting for their fulfillment. The promise to Habakkuk is one of just thousands given by God in Scripture to His people. Such promises characteristically come with the admonition that though they tarry, we must wait for them.

     Waiting for God is at the heart of living by faith. The Christian does not share the cynical skepticism dramatized by the theatrical production Waiting for Godot. The end of Christian hope is never shame or embarrassment, because we have a hope that is a sure anchor for our souls. It is this hope in the trustworthy promises of God that is the ground of the Christian’s virtue of patience.

     We are told that we live in a culture that is consumed by consumerism. Madison Avenue daily feeds our instant gratification, which is not merely a weakness; it is an addiction in our time. The epidemic of credit-card indebtedness bears witness to this malady. We want our luxuries, our pleasures, and our niceties, and we want them now. The antiquated virtue by which stewardship capitalism had its impetus was the principle of “delayed gratification.” One postponed immediate consumption in favor of investing for future growth. By that principle, many prospered — but not without the necessary exercise of patience.

     When the Bible speaks of patience, particularly as one of the fruits of the Spirit, and as one of the characteristics of love, it speaks of it as a virtue that goes far beyond the mere ability to await some future gain. It involves more than the rest or peace of the soul that trusts in God’s perfect timing. The patience that is in view here focuses more on interpersonal relationships with other people. It is the patience of longsuffering and of forbearing in the midst of personal injury. This is the most difficult patience of all. When we are injured by others, we long for vindication, a vindication that is speedy. We fear that the axiom “justice delayed is justice denied” will work its havoc in our souls. The parable of the unjust judge speaks eloquently to this human struggle, when our Lord asks rhetorically: “Will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night?” (Luke 18:7) The parable that calls us not to faint in times of trial ends with the haunting question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) The parable ties together patience and faith. If we look at the triad of virtues underscored in the New Testament — faith, hope, and love — we see that each one of these virtues contains within it the necessary ingredient of patience. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love suffers long. This longsuffering, forbearing patience is to be the Christian’s reflection of the character of God. It is part of God’s character to be slow to anger and quick to be merciful. Part of the incomprehensibility of God in terms of my own relationship with Him is this: I cannot fathom how a holy God has been able to put up with me marring His creation to the degree I have for three score and five years. For me to live another day requires a continuation of God’s gracious patience with my sin. The bare and simple question is this, “How can He put up with me?” The mystery is compounded when we add to the patience of God not only His patience with me but His patience with you, and you, and you, and you — multiplied exponentially throughout the whole world. It becomes even more difficult to fathom when we see a sinless Being being more patient with sinful beings than sinful beings are with each other.

     God’s patience is long but not infinite. He warns that there is a border to His longsuffering, which He will not extend. Indeed, He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world, and that day will mark the endpoint of God’s striving with us. It will also mark the day of vindication for His longsuffering saints.

     To be sure, a longsuffering patience is one of the most difficult exercises we can achieve. It is subjected to trial everyday. Such trials can eat away at our love, our hope, and our faith. This erosion can leave us broken and embittered. In this regard, we must tie ourselves to the mast and look to the manifold witnesses that Scripture provides of the people of God who endured such trials and tribulations. We look to Job, the classic paragon of patience who cried from the dung-heap: “Though he slay me, I will trust in him.” The patience of Job was merely an outward display of the faith of Job, the hope of Job, and the love of Job.

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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:

Patience in Suffering

By Michael Beates 9/1/2004

     I hate pain. I try to avoid suffering, and I don’t go out of my way to look for affliction. But pain, suffering, and affliction find me. They find all of us. If you are free of these things, brace yourself and be patient. All you have to do is live long enough. Suffering and affliction are human conditions. And when suffering and affliction come, be patient, remembering that God is sovereign.

     And thank God that He is sovereign over suffering, using affliction first for His glory and secondarily for our good. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it, nor is patience easy in the face of suffering and pain.

     But, remember, the important things in life are generally formed over time. The strongest tools are forged by the hottest fires. The most beautiful artistic expressions take the most energy and care to create. So it is with the beautiful thing called “holiness.” It is not achieved quickly, or without effort, or in the absence of pain. In our instant society, much to our disappointment, there is no such thing as “microwave holiness.” Metaphors abound.

     God is described by Jeremiah as a potter, and we are described as clay (Jer. 18). The most pliable clay is that which has been most thoroughly mixed, beaten, rolled, and, finally, pushed and pulled on the wheel. Only then the potter, with care and patience, begins to pull and shape the clay into something beautiful. But it is painful to be pulled and drawn into a new shape. Do you feel pulled in every direction, drawn thin and fragile, left out to dry, placed in a fire of unimaginable heat? The Potter is having His way with the clay, and the vessel He makes will be beautiful in His hands.

     God may be seen as a weaver, creating in us individually and corporately a breathtaking tapestry of His glory. But the design only begins to take shape after the threads have been spun, wound, spooled, and drawn through the warp. Only then is the thread thrown through the woof and beaten by the bar into a tightly knit design. Do you feel like life spins around you, like you are being thrown and beaten? The Weaver has His way with the cloth, but the resulting fabric promises to be a stunning display of glory.

     In John’s gospel, God is portrayed as a vinedresser, cultivating His vineyard to maximize His harvest (John 15). But the cultivation of grapes requires pruning the vines, pulling the dead brush away to be burned, tying the branches up to allow growth and nurture. Only after this grueling process may the vine achieve its potential of rich and satisfying fruit. Do you feel like parts of your life are being cut off, pulled away, burned up? Do you feel like God’s hand is personally tying you to a wire? The Vinedresser will have His way with His field and the harvest will be succulent and rich. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).

     Joni Eareckson Tada writes of God as a painter, a master artist. She says that, along with the bright colors, “God brings the cool, dark contrast of suffering into your life. That contrast, laid up against the golden character of Christ within you, will draw attention … to Him. Light against darkness. Beauty against affliction. Joy against sorrow” (Glorious Intruder: God's Presence in Life's Chaos, p. 158). Is God bringing dark shades into the portrait of your life? The light of Christ in His children is made more manifest to the world through the dark colors of suffering, borne through patient endurance.

     James tells us that trials and testing develop perseverance resulting in maturity and wisdom: “You know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:3–5). In J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive legend The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition, made popular again by the recent films, we see a subtle example of this hard truth. In The Silmarillion, the story before the story, Tolkien speaks of the creator of Middle Earth, Iluvatar, and the process of creation. Of the race of Elves, we read: “Though the beauty of the Quendi was beyond all other beauty that Iluvatar has caused to be … sorrow and wisdom have enriched it.” Do you see it? The Elves in Tolkien’s legend are portrayed as most beautiful. But these qualities are magnified and enriched by sorrow.

     Affliction and suffering have been appointed by God as instruments He uses to make us more holy, to make us more like Jesus. They remind us that we are weak and we must rely not on ourselves, but on Jesus. They remind us that this world is not our home but that we are only passing through toward our real home in heaven with our Father, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

     The Scriptures say that we are the height of God’s creation, made in His image (Gen. 1:26–27). Affliction and sorrow — almost never brief, almost always difficult — are necessary elements in our Creator’s hand to bring His people, over time, to a place of wisdom, joy, and holiness. Though we are often impatient to get to the destination, the deeper the affliction and sorrow, the greater the wisdom, joy, and holiness at journey’s end.

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Dr. Michael S. Beates, a former associate editor of Tabletalk, has taught at Reformed Theological Seminary, Florida Southern, and Belhaven College.

Leviticus 18; Psalm 22; Ecclesiastes 1; 1 Timothy 3

By Don Carson 4/13/2018

     The beginning of the so-called "Holiness Code" (Lev. 18) is full of interest. We should take note of at least four things:

     (1) Just because this is the first time that some prohibitions have been articulated in the Bible does not necessarily mean that this is the first time anyone thought of them, or condemned the practices in question. Before murder is actually prohibited as such, Cain commits it, is condemned for it, and is punished. The same is true for many actions treated in the Law of Moses. Much of the Law of God is written on the human conscience, so that societies without Scripture erect moral structures which, however different from the values of Scripture, overlap with Scripture in important and revealing ways. Similarly, many of the prohibitions of sexual alignments listed here were doubtless already frowned upon; now their prohibition is codified.

     (2) As usual, the commandments in this chapter are tied to the person and character of God (18:2-4, 21, 30), the Exodus (18:3), and the sanctions of the covenant (18:29).

     (3) Many prohibitions in this chapter establish barriers in sexual relations: a man is not to have sexual relations with his mother or stepmother, sister or half-sister, granddaughter, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and so forth. Homosexuality is “detestable” (18:22); bestiality is “a perversion” (18:23). Tied to this list is the prohibition against sacrificing any of your children to the horrible god Molech, who demanded that some be burned in sacrifice (18:21); perhaps the common point is family integrity. Another striking element in this chapter is the fact that the perversions are prohibited in Israel so that this fledgling nation does not become as debauched as those they are about to displace — lest they head in that same direction and are vomited out of the land (18:24-30). The shadow of the exile hangs over the horizon before the people even enter the land.

     (4) Intriguingly, Leviticus 18:5 is cited in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:10. The general point in both passages is the same. The “Law,” i.e., the law-covenant, is grounded in demand: keep God’s decrees and laws, and live. This is not to say that faith isn’t required, still less that the Old Testament covenant is not characterized by grace (not least in the sacrificial system, such that those who breached the covenant had a recourse to find a way back.” But its heartbeat is demand. By contrast, the heartbeat of the new covenant, like the covenant with Abraham, is above all characterized by faith (whatever its demands). Whatever the overlap, the distinctive heartbeat of the two covenants must not be confused.

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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.

17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.

21 Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 19.

OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY.

The three divisions of this chapter are,--I. Necessity of the doctrine of Christian Liberty, sec. 1. The principal parts of this liberty explained, sec. 2-8. II. The nature and efficacy of this liberty against the Epicureans and others who take no account whatever of the weak, sec. 9 and 10. III. Of offense given and received. A lengthened and not unnecessary discussion of this subject, sec. 11-16.

Sections.

1. Connection of this chapter with the previous one on Justification. A true knowledge of Christian liberty useful and necessary. 1. It purifies the conscience. 2. It checks licentiousness. 3. It maintains the merits of Christ, the truth of the Gospel, and the peace of the soul.

2. This liberty consists of three parts. First, Believers renouncing the righteousness of the law, look only to Christ. Objection. Answer, distinguishing between Legal and Evangelical righteousness.

3. This first part clearly established by the whole Epistle to the Galatians.

4. The second part of Christian liberty--viz. that the conscience, freed from the yoke of the law, voluntarily obeys the will of God. This cannot be done so long as we are under the law. Reason.

5. When freed from the rigorous exactions of the law, we can cheerfully and with much alacrity answer the call of God.

6. Proof of this second part from an Apostle. The end of this liberty.

7. Third part of liberty--viz. the free rise of things indifferent. The knowledge of this part necessary to remove despair and superstition. Superstition described.

8. Proof of this third part from the Epistle to the Romans. Those who observe it not only use evasion. 1. Despisers of God. 2. The desperate. 3. The ungrateful. The end and scope of this third part.

9. Second part of the chapter, showing the nature and efficacy of Christian liberty, in opposition to the Epicureans. Their character described. Pretext and allegation. Use of things indifferent. Abuse detected. Mode of correcting it.

10. This liberty maintained in opposition to those who pay no regard to the weak. Error of this class of men refuted. A most pernicious error. Objection. Reply.

11. Application of the doctrine of Christian liberty to the subject of offenses. These of two kinds. Offense given. Offense received. Of offense given, a subject comprehended by few. Of Pharisaical offense, or offense received.

12. Who are to be regarded as weak and Pharisaical. Proved by examples and the doctrine of Paul. The just moderation of Christian liberty. necessity of vindicating it. No regard to be paid to hypocrites. Duty of edifying our weak neighbors.

13. Application of the doctrine to things indifferent. Things necessary not to be omitted from any fear of offense.

14. Refutation of errors in regard to Christian liberty. The consciences of the godly not to be fettered by human traditions in matters of indifference.

15. Distinction to be made between Spiritual and Civil government. These must not be confounded. How far conscience can be bound by human constitutions. Definition of conscience. Definition explained by passages from the Apostolic writings.

16. The relation which conscience bears to external obedience; first, in things good and evil; secondly, in things indifferent.

1. We are now to treat of Christian Liberty, the explanation of which certainly ought not to be omitted by any one proposing to give a compendious summary of Gospel doctrine. For it is a matter of primary necessity, one without the knowledge of which the conscience can scarcely attempt any thing without hesitation, in many must demur and fluctuate, and in all proceed with fickleness and trepidation. In particular, it forms a proper appendix to Justification, and is of no little service in understanding its force. Nay, those who seriously fear God will hence perceive the incomparable advantages of a doctrine which wicked scoffers are constantly assailing with their jibes; the intoxication of mind under which they labour leaving their petulance without restraint. This, therefore, seems the proper place for considering the subject. Moreover, though it has already been occasionally adverted to, there was an advantage in deferring the fuller consideration of it till now, for the moment any mention is made of Christian liberty lust begins to boil, or insane commotions arise, if a speedy restraint is not laid on those licentious spirits by whom the best things are perverted into the worst. For they either, under pretext of this liberty, shake off all obedience to God, and break out into unbridled licentiousness, or they feel indignant, thinking that all choice, order, and restraint, are abolished. What can we do when thus encompassed with straits? Are we to bid adieu to Christian liberty, in order that we may cut off all opportunity for such perilous consequences? But, as we have said, if the subject be not understood, neither Christ, nor the truth of the Gospel, nor the inward peace of the soul, is properly known. Our endeavor must rather be, while not suppressing this very necessary part of doctrine, to obviate the absurd objections to which it usually gives rise.

2. Christian liberty seems to me to consist of three parts. First, the consciences of believers, while seeking the assurance of their justification before God, must rise above the law, and think no more of obtaining justification by it. For while the law, as has already been demonstrated (supra, chap. 17, sec. 1), leaves not one man righteous, we are either excluded from all hope of justification, or we must be loosed from the law, and so loosed as that no account at all shall be taken of works. For he who imagines that in order to obtain justification he must bring any degree of works whatever, cannot fix any mode or limit, but makes himself debtor to the whole law. Therefore, laying aside all mention of the law, and all idea of works, we must in the matter of justification have recourse to the mercy of God only; turning away our regard from ourselves, we must look only to Christ. For the question is, not how we may be righteous, but how, though unworthy and unrighteous, we may be regarded as righteous. If consciences would obtain any assurance of this, they must give no place to the law. Still it cannot be rightly inferred from this that believers have no need of the law. It ceases not to teach, exhort, and urge them to good, although it is not recognized by their consciences before the judgment-seat of God. The two things are very different, and should be well and carefully distinguished. The whole lives of Christians ought to be a kind of aspiration after piety, seeing they are called unto holiness (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 4:5). The office of the law is to excite them to the study of purity and holiness, by reminding them of their duty. For when the conscience feels anxious as to how it may have the favor of God, as to the answer it could give, and the confidence it would feel, if brought to his judgment-seat, in such a case the requirements of the law are not to be brought forward, but Christ, who surpasses all the perfection of the law, is alone to be held forth for righteousness.

3. On this almost the whole subject of the Epistle to the Galatians hinges; for it can be proved from express passages that those are absurd interpreters who teach that Paul there contends only for freedom from ceremonies. Of such passages are the following: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace," (Gal. 3:13; 5:1-4). These words certainly refer to something of a higher order than freedom from ceremonies. I confess, indeed, that Paul there treats of ceremonies, because he was contending with false apostles, who were plotting, to bring back into the Christian Church those ancient shadows of the law which were abolished by the advent of Christ. But, in discussing this question, it was necessary to introduce higher matters, on which the whole controversy turns. First, because the brightness of the Gospel was obscured by those Jewish shadows, he shows that in Christ we have a full manifestation of all those things which were typified by Mosaic ceremonies. Secondly, as those impostors instilled into the people the most pernicious opinion, that this obedience was sufficient to merit the grace of God, he insists very strongly that believers shall not imagine that they can obtain justification before God by any works, far less by those paltry observances. At the same time, he shows that by the cross of Christ they are free from the condemnation of the law, to which otherwise all men are exposed, so that in Christ alone they can rest in full security. This argument is pertinent to the present subject (Gal. 4:5, 21, &c). Lastly, he asserts the right of believers to liberty of conscience, a liberty which may not be restrained without necessity.

4. Another point which depends on the former is, that consciences obey the law, not as if compelled by legal necessity; but being free from the yoke of the law itself, voluntarily obey the will of God. Being constantly in terror so long as they are under the dominion of the law, they are never disposed promptly to obey God, unless they have previously obtained this liberty. Our meaning shall be explained more briefly and clearly by an example. The command of the law is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might," (Deut. 6:5). To accomplish this, the soul must previously be divested of every other thought and feeling, the heart purified from all its desires, all its powers collected and united on this one object. Those who, in comparison of others, have made much progress in the way of the Lord, are still very far from this goal. For although they love God in their mind, and with a sincere affection of heart, yet both are still in a great measure occupied with the lusts of the flesh, by which they are retarded and prevented from proceeding with quickened pace towards God. They indeed make many efforts, but the flesh partly enfeebles their strength, and partly binds them to itself. What can they do while they thus feel that there is nothing of which they are less capable than to fulfill the law? They wish, aspire, endeavor; but do nothing with the requisite perfection. If they look to the law, they see that every work which they attempt or design is accursed. Nor can any one deceive himself by inferring that the work is not altogether bad, merely because it is imperfect, and, therefore, that any good which is in it is still accepted of God. For the law demanding perfect love condemns all imperfection, unless its rigor is mitigated. Let any man therefore consider his work which he wishes to be thought partly good, and he will find that it is a transgression of the law by the very circumstance of its being imperfect.

5. See how our works lie under the curse of the law if they are tested by the standard of the law. But how can unhappy souls set themselves with alacrity to a work from which they cannot hope to gain any thing in return but cursing? On the other hand, if freed from this severe exaction, or rather from the whole rigor of the law, they hear themselves invited by God with paternal levity, they will cheerfully and alertly obey the call, and follow his guidance. In one word, those who are bound by the yoke of the law are like servants who have certain tasks daily assigned them by their masters. Such servants think that nought has been done; and they dare not come into the presence of their masters until the exact amount of labour has been performed. But sons who are treated in a more candid and liberal manner by their parents, hesitate not to offer them works that are only begun or half finished, or even with something faulty in them, trusting that their obedience and readiness of mind will be accepted, although the performance be less exact than was wished. Such should be our feelings, as we certainly trust that our most indulgent Parent will approve our services, however small they may be, and however rude and imperfect. Thus He declares to us by the prophet, "I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him," (Mal. 3:17); where the word spare evidently means indulgence, or connivance at faults, while at the same time service is remembered. This confidence is necessary in no slight degree, since without it every thing should be attempted in vain; for God does not regard any sock of ours as done to himself, unless truly done from a desire to serve him. But how can this be amidst these terrors, while we doubt whether God is offended or served by our work?

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



  • John MacArthur
  • W. Robert Godfrey
  • Q&A 2017 Reg Conference

#1 The Lord Is My Salvation | Ligonier

 

#2 Learning to Love the Psalms | Ligonier

 

#3 Godfrey, Kim, Nichols, MacArthur | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2008    War and Peace

     We all certainly agree that all virtues are heavenly and that all sins are deadly. Nevertheless, certain virtues are more heavenly than others, and certain sins lead to death more quickly than other sins. While some sins are private and some sins public, the wages of every sin is death (Rom. 6:23). As Christians we understand that God hates sin and loves virtue. However, our problem is that we don’t hate sin enough and that we don’t love virtue enough. Consequently, we soft-peddle the deadliness of sin and we offer nice platitudes about the virtues of living a holy life. As such, many professing Christians have swapped their faith for a bumper-sticker and have chosen to live as Christians of the world but just barely in the world, mimicking the world in nearly every way, and, in some cases, leading the way. And because we desire the vain virtues the world has to offer, we have come to terms on how to play the world’s game according to the world’s rules. To our shame, the Enemy has fooled us into thinking that we can actually win the battle by impressing the world with our seeming successfulness. All of this is on account of the fact that the virtues of the world have become more churchy and the respectable vices of the church have become more worldly.

     While the waves of compromise and the tide of worldly vice seem overwhelming to those of us standing on the shores of Christian virtue, we cannot stand as idle spectators of the raging battle; we must board our battleships and fight. This is our supreme commission as warriors of Christ-, namely, to conquer all the tempting vices of the flesh, coming to the end of ourselves, laying down our arms, our gods, and all our besetting sins. We must put to death “what is earthly” and take up arms against all the deadly sins within our own hearts (Col. 3:5), for it is only then that we will be able to destroy the strongholds of the world, the flesh, and the Devil (2 Cor. 10:4). Herein is our heavenly virtue, that the Prince of Peace has put death to death in His death on the cross, nailing our deadly sins to the tree on which He was put to death so that we might be seated with Him in the heavenly places, coram Deo, before His face, forevermore in peaceful triumph (Col. 2:13–15).

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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

     Noah Webster published the first edition of his Dictionary on this day, April 14, 1828. This 26-year project standardized the spelling of the English language. With 30,000 new definitions, it gave American English in first identity. Proving unprofitable, though, the rights to reprint were purchased after his death by George and Charles Merriam. In the preface, Webster wrote: “To that great and benevolent Being, who, during the preparation of this work… has borne me and my manuscripts in safety across the Atlantic, and given me strength… to bring the work to a close, I… present… my most grateful acknowledgments.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Should pain and suffering, sorrow, and grief, rise up like clouds and overshadow for a time the Sun of Righteousness and hide Him from your view, do not be dismayed, for in the end this cloud of woe will descend in showers of blessing on your head, and the Sun of Righteousness rise upon you to set no more for ever.
--- Sadhu Sundar Singh
At the Master's Feet: Including The Visions of Sadhu Sundar Singh

During an earthquake it sometimes happens that fresh springs break out in dry places which water and quicken the land so that plants can grow. In the same way the shattering experiences of suffering can cause the living water to well up in a human heart.
--- Sadhu Sundar Singh
At the Master's Feet: Including The Visions of Sadhu Sundar Singh

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.
--- G. K. Chesterton
If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times

That is why St. John of the Cross calls faith a night. With those who have received a Christian education, the lower parts of the soul become attached to these mysteries when they have no right at all to do so. That is why such people need a purification of which St. John of the Cross describes the stages. Atheism and incredulity constitute an equivalent of such a purification. --- Simone Weil
Simone Weil Reader

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 4/14
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Twenty-third of eighth month. -- I was this day at Preston Patrick, and had a comfortable meeting. I have several times been entertained at the houses of Friends, who had sundry things about them that had the appearance of outward greatness, and as I have kept inward, way hath opened for conversation with such in private, in which Divine goodness hath favored us together with heart-tendering times.

     Twenty-sixth of eighth month. -- Being now at George Crosfield's, in the county of Westmoreland, I feel a concern to commit to writing the following uncommon circumstance.

     In a time of sickness, a little more than two years and a half ago, I was brought so near the gates of death that I forgot my name. Being then desirous to know who I was, I saw a mass of matter of a dull gloomy color between the south and the east, and was informed that this mass was human beings in as great misery as they could be, and live, and that I was mixed with them, and that henceforth I might not consider myself as a distinct or separate being. In this state I remained several hours. I then heard a soft melodious voice, more pure and harmonious than any I had heard with my ears before; I believed it was the voice of an angel who spake to the other angels; the words were, "John Woolman is dead." I soon remembered that I was once John Woolman, and being assured that I was alive in the body, I greatly wondered what that heavenly voice could mean. I believed beyond doubting that it was the voice of an holy angel, but as yet it was a mystery to me.

     I was then carried in spirit to the mines where poor oppressed people were digging rich treasures for those called Christians, and heard them blaspheme the name of Christ, at which I was grieved, for his name to me was precious. I was then informed that these heathens were told that those who oppressed them were the followers of Christ, and they said among themselves, "If Christ directed them to use us in this sort, then Christ is a cruel tyrant."

     All this time the song of the angel remained a mystery; and in the morning, my dear wife and some others coming to my bedside, I asked them if they knew who I was, and they telling me I was John Woolman, thought I was light-headed, for I told them not what the angel said, nor was I disposed to talk much to anyone, but was very desirous to get so deep that I might understand this mystery.

     My tongue was often so dry that I could not speak till I had moved it about and gathered some moisture, and as I lay still for a time I at length felt a Divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and I then said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Then the mystery was opened and I perceived there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented, and that the language "John Woolman is dead," meant no more than the death of my own will.

     My natural understanding now returned as before, and I saw that people setting off their tables with silver vessels at entertainments was often stained with worldly glory, and that in the present state of things I should take heed how I fed myself out of such vessels.

     Going to our Monthly Meeting soon after my recovery, I dined at a Friend's house where drink was brought in silver vessels, and not in any other. Wanting something to drink, I told him my case with weeping, and he ordered some drink for me in another vessel. I afterwards went through the same exercise in several Friends' houses in America, as well as in England, and I have cause to acknowledge with humble reverence the loving-kindness of my Heavenly Father, who hath preserved me in such a tender frame of mind, that none, I believe, have ever been offended at what I have said on that subject.

     After this sickness I spake not in public meetings for worship for nearly one year, but my mind was very often in company with the oppressed slaves as I sat in meetings; and though under his dispensation I was shut up from speaking, yet the spring of the gospel ministry was many times livingly opened in me, and the Divine gift operated by abundance of weeping, in feeling the oppression of this people. It being so long since I passed through this dispensation, and the matter remaining fresh and lively in my mind, I believe it safest for me to commit it to writing.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Thirty-Sixth Chapter / The Vain Judgments Of Men

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, trust firmly in the Lord, and do not fear the judgment of men when conscience tells you that you are upright and innocent. For it is good and blessed to suffer such things, and they will not weigh heavily on the humble heart that trusts in God rather than in itself. Many men say many things, and therefore little faith is to be put in them.

     Likewise, it is impossible to satisfy all men. Although Paul tried to please all in the Lord, and became all things to all men, yet he made little of their opinions. He labored abundantly for the edification and salvation of others, as much as lay in him and as much as he could, but he could not escape being sometimes judged and despised by others. Therefore, he committed all to God Who knows all things, and defended himself by his patience and humility against the tongues of those who spoke unjustly or thought foolish things and lies, or made accusations against him. Sometimes, indeed, he did answer them, but only lest his silence scandalize the weak.

     Who are you, then, that you should be afraid of mortal man? Today he is here, tomorrow he is not seen. Fear God and you will not be afraid of the terrors of men. What can anyone do to you by word or injury? He hurts himself rather than you, and no matter who he may be he cannot escape the judgment of God. Keep God before your eyes, therefore, and do not quarrel with peevish words.

     If it seems, then, that you are worsted and that you suffer undeserved shame, do not repine over it and do not lessen your crown by impatience. Look instead to heaven, to Me, Who have power to deliver you from all disgrace and injury, and to render to everyone according to his works.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     IMPOSSIBLE WITH MAN, POSSIBLE WITH GOD

     "And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).

     Christ had said to the rich young ruler, "Sell all that thou hast . . . and come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then turned to the disciples, and said: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, we read, were greatly astonished, and answered: "If it is so difficult to enter the kingdom, who, then, can be saved?" And Christ gave this blessed answer:

     "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

     The text contains two thoughts--that in religion, in the question of salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossible for man to do it. And then alongside that is the thought--What is impossible with man is possible with God.

     The two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in the religious life. It often takes a long time to learn the first lesson, that in religion man can do nothing, that salvation is impossible to man. And often a man learns that, and yet he does not learn the second lesson--what has been impossible to him is possible with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of them marks stages in the Christian's life.

     Man Cannot

     The one stage is when a man is trying to do his utmost and fails, when a man tries to do better and fails again, when a man tries much more and always fails. And yet very often he does not even then learn the lesson: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent three years in Christ's school, and he never learned that, It is impossible, until he had denied his Lord and went out and wept bitterly. Then he learned it.

     Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first he fights against it; then he submits to it, but reluctantly and in despair; at last he accepts it willingly and rejoices in it. At the beginning of the Christian life the young convert has no conception of this truth. He has been converted, he has the joy of the Lord in his heart, he begins to run the race and fight the battle; he is sure he can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet, somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and sin gets the better of him. He is disappointed; but he thinks: "I was not watchful enough, I did not make my resolutions strong enough." And again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thought: "Am I not a regenerate man? Have I not the life of God within me?" And he thinks again: "Yes, and I have Christ to help me, I can live the holy life."

     At a later period he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see such a life is impossible, but he does not accept it. There are multitudes of Christians who come to this point: "I cannot"; and then think God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell them that God does expect it, it appears to them a mystery. A good many Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and of sin, instead of rest and victory, because they began to see: "I cannot, it is impossible." And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under the impression, I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their best, but they never expect to get on very far.

     But God leads His children on to a third stage, when a man comes to take that, It is impossible, in its full truth, and yet at the same time says: "I must do it, and I will do it--it is impossible for man, and yet I must do it"; when the renewed will begins to exercise its whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to God: "Lord, what is the meaning of this?--how am I to be freed from the power of sin?"

     It is the state of the regenerate man in Romans 7. There you will find the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God's law has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of the desires of the heart, and the man can dare to say:

     "I delight in the law of God after the inward man. To will what is good is present with me. My heart loves the law of God, and my will has chosen that law."

     Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God's law and with his will determined to do what is right? Yes. That is what Romans 7 teaches us. There is something more needed. Not only must I delight in the law of God after the inward man, and will what God wills, but I need a divine omnipotence to work it in me. And that is what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13:

     "It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do."

     Note the contrast. In Romans 7, the regenerate man says: "To will is present with me, but to do--I find I cannot do. I will, but I cannot perform." But in Philippians 2, you have a man who has been led on farther, a man who understands that when God has worked the renewed will, God will give the power to accomplish what that will desires. Let us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life: "It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless."

     Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless!

     When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to an end of yourself, and to feel that you could see how you actually could live as a man absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the day--at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you felt you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God: "My heart's desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform it. It is impossible for me to live that life. It is beyond me." Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:30-31
     by D.H. Stern

30     A tranquil mind gives health to the body,
but envy rots the bones.

31     The oppressor of the poor insults his maker,
but he who is kind to the needy honors him.


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

          12

     The reason why I asked if there were another river was this. All down one long aisle of the forest the undersides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light; and on Earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realised my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.

     First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers—soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

     I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her innermost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer’s features as a lip or an eye.

     But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

     ‘Is it?… is it?’ I whispered to my guide.

     ‘Not at all,’ said he. ‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on Earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’

     ‘She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?’

     ‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.’

     ‘And who are these gigantic people … look! They’re like emeralds … who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?’

     ‘Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her.’

     ‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’

     ‘They are her sons and daughters.’

     ‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.’

     ‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.’

     ‘Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?’

     ‘No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.’

     ‘And how … but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat—two cats—dozens of cats. And all these dogs … why, I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.’

     ‘They are her beasts.’

     ‘Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.’

     ‘Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.’

     I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Inspired invincibility

     Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.
--- Matthew 11:29.

     “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” How petty our complaining is! Our Lord begins to bring us into the place where we can have communion with Him, and we groan and say—‘Oh Lord, let me be like other people!’ Jesus is asking us to take one end of the yoke—‘My yoke is easy, get alongside Me and we will pull together.’ Are you identified with the Lord Jesus like that? If so, you will thank God for the pressure of His hand.

     “To them that have no might He increaseth strength.” God comes and takes us out of our sentimentality, and our complaining turns into a psalm of praise. The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us and learn of Him.

     “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Where do the saints get their joy from? If we did not know some saints, we would say—‘Oh, he, or she, has nothing to bear.’ Lift the veil. The fact that the peace and the light and the joy of God are there is proof that the burden is there too. The burden God places squeezes the grapes and out comes the wine; most of us see the wine only. No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God in a human spirit, it is an inner unconquerableness.

     If you have the whine in you, kick it out ruthlessly. It is a positive crime to be weak in God’s strength.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Peasant
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           A Peasant

Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind—
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the
fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of
his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind's attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed, even in death's confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of
wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Compassion – Justice for all - War

     Strikingly, the laws of interpersonal relationship that are emphasized in the Book of Deuteronomy are uniquely compassionate. They stress the care of the poor (15:1–11) and of servants (vv. 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” (
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” (v.
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”
(vv.
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” (v.
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” (25:6).

     Instructions concerning cities of refuge are included here too (see the discussion on Num. 35).

     Important justice principles are repeated in this chapter. First, in criminal cases, testimony of at least two witnesses is required (
Deut. 19:15). Second, in criminal cases a person who brings false charges against another is to be himself punished with whatever penalty is prescribed for the crime (vv. 16–19).

     How fascinating if this were applied to civil suits in our own day. A person who filed a false or malicious suit would be liable to pay the person charged the amount he tried to gain.

     It’s particularly difficult for us to place war in the context of worship. Yet even this feature of Israel’s experience was governed by God’s loving laws. War is always tragic. Yet in this world, wars come. How good to see that even in the conduct of war God teaches His people to act in a responsible and compassionate way.

     What are the unique features of war as it was to be conducted by God’s people?

     First, when war began a priest was to encourage God’s people not to fear: “The Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (
20:4). Israel was to rely not on military superiority or advanced weaponry, but on God.

     Second, after the exhortation, army officers were to excuse persons who had just married, or built a new home, or planted a new vineyard. In addition “any man afraid or fainthearted” was also excused. Only those with a strong trust in God were invited to battle. The fearful were to go home “so that his brothers will not become disheartened too” (v.
8).

     Third, when the army marched to an enemy city, the army was to “make its people an offer of peace” (v.
10). The people of a city that surrendered were not to be harmed, but would become subject to Israel. If the city resisted, the men were to be killed but the women and children spared.

     Fourth, when a city was under siege the Israelites were told, “Do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?” (vv.
19–20) The land and its productivity were not to be destroyed in battle rage.

     • “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).

     Finally, one regulation here has troubled many who find it hard to reconcile with their understanding of God. That is the regulation which says,

     However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. ---
Deuteronomy 20:16–17

     But God went on to explain. These nations so corrupted by paganism and immorality were deserving of divine punishment, even as Sodom and Gomorrah had been. But now God would use Israel as His instrument, not fire that falls from heaven.

     Also, complete destruction was a necessity. As the text explains, these peoples must be totally wiped out, “otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God” (v. 18).

     The centuries that followed demonstrated the wisdom of the Lord. Israel did not completely destroy the inhabitants of Canaan. And generation after generation was led into idolatry and away from God by the peoples whom Israel allowed to survive.

     At heart, worship is not just what happens on a Sunday morning. Worship is that heart reverence for God that finds expression in every aspect of our lives. We do worship God by coming together as His people. But we also worship by turning to Him for guidance rather than to any other source. We worship Him with our possessions. We worship in the compassionate love we show others, and in the totally honest way we deal with disputes. We can even worship in the way we conduct war, showing trust and fearlessness, seeking to save the lives of our enemies, and being careful not to destroy the land from which they must derive a living.


The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Moed Katan 28a

     D’RASH

     We have all been to a wedding, concert, or play that we just did not want to end. We have all said to ourselves, at one time or another: “That celebration was so joyous, I wish it could have gone on forever.” (Or, as they sang in My Fair Lady, “I could have danced all night!”) We have been to a concert where the music was so inspiring and lively that it reverberated in our heads for hours. We may have seen a play in which the acting was so moving and the plot so thought-provoking that we kept it in mind for days afterwards. These feelings are common and expected, and these occasions are times to stretch, to add, and to increase, as we attempt to prolong these happy occasions, to extend them as much as possible, as well we should.

     However, we know that life gives us sad times as well. As Longfellow wrote:

     Into each life some rain must fall,

     Some days must be dark and dreary.

     At one time or another, each of us will have reason to grieve and mourn. The Jewish tradition, in the principle “part of a day is like a whole day,” is trying to remind us not to extend mourning or overdo sadness.

     When a president of the United States dies (especially when one dies in office), there are many ceremonies to mark the passing of a great leader. Offices are closed; flags remain at half staff for an extended period. Then the country must move on. Many Americans will think of the President and will privately mourn as they conduct their everyday affairs. Even if we inwardly feel sad and grieve, outwardly we must return to our daily routine, ever aware of the precarious nature of life and the memories of those who are no longer among the living.

     Similarly, Jewish tradition requires us to mourn the death of certain relatives. We must set aside time, a week known as shivah, for this most intense period of grieving. Even then, the law is that seven full days may be too much. Thus, no shivah is really seven complete days. The first day (the day of the burial) and the last day are always partial days, perhaps a reminder that we must face bereavement with the right attitude. Just as there is a time for mourning, there is a time to end our mourning. Shivah traditionally concludes with a walk around the block, symbolic of a return to society and to everyday living, despite our personal loss.

     The Talmud is teaching us that if we can curtail our mourning a bit by observing only part of a day as a whole day for sad times, then well and good. Happiness should be prolonged; sadness can be cut short.

     Life, children, and food are matters that depend not on merit, but on luck.

     Text / Rava said: “Life, children, and food are matters that depend not on merit, but on luck, for Rabbah and Rav Ḥisda were both righteous rabbis. One would pray and rain would fall, and the other would pray and rain would fall. Rav Ḥisda lived ninety-two years; Rabbah lived forty. In the house of Rav Ḥisda there were sixty weddings; in the house of Rabbah, sixty funerals. In the house of Rav Ḥisda, there was bread of the finest flour for the dogs, and it was not wanted; in the house of Rabbah, there was only barley bread for the people, and it was in short supply.”

     Context / Rav Ḥisda was sitting in the school of Rav, and the Angel of Death could not come close to him, for his mouth did not cease repeating Torah. He sat upon a cedar bench in Rav’s school. The cedar cracked, Rav Ḥisda stopped talking, and the angel overpowered him. (Makkot 10a)

     Rabbah bar Naḥmani died because of the religious persecutions. Someone informed on him to the king. They said: “There is a man among the Jews who removes 12,000 Jewish men from the royal tax rolls one month every summer and one month every winter. [Rashi explains these months to be Nisan, when they would come in to hear his lectures about Pesaḥ, and Tishrei, when they assembled for his teachings about the festivals. When the tax collectors came, they did not find these people at home and could not collect the monies due the king.] The king’s troops were sent after him … The Angel of Death could not come close to him for his mouth did not cease repeating the Torah. In the meantime, a wind blew and rustled the reeds. He thought it was a band of horsemen. He said: “Let me die at the hands of the Angel of Death and not be given over to the King.” (Bava Metzia 86a)

     In the section immediately preceding ours, a discussion is found that attempts to understand the meaning of premature death. Some Rabbis believed that if a person died at an early age, it was a sign of God’s disfavor with them. One viewpoint held that if a person died before reaching fifty, it meant that the punishment of karet, “being cut off,” had been visited upon that person; if one died at sixty, it was another category of punishment, “death at the hands of Heaven.”

     Rava comes to dispute this. His position is that the length of a person’s life is not determined by righteousness or piety. It is, in the end, a matter of luck. As proof, he brings the case of the two well-known Rabbis, Rav Ḥisda (Rava’s own teacher) and Rabbah. Both men were known for their righteousness. During a drought, either man was able to pray for rain, and God would immediately answer their prayers, ending the drought and sending the rain. Yet one lived a life of tragedy, the other of blessing. Rava can explain the differences only as a matter of luck.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Deut 24:1-5
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–5.—Permissive legislation. No treatment of this passage can be appropriate which does not set it in the light thrown upon it by Matt. 19:1–12. The heading we have given to this outline indicates a point on which special stress should be laid whenever an expositor has occasion to refer to it. In the course of time, men had come to regard this passage in the light of a command. Hence the wording of the question in Matt. 19:7. But our Lord informs us that it was simply permissive. Divorce, under the circumstances here named, was tolerated a while by Moses owing to “the hardness of men’s hearts,” but that the original Divine arrangement contemplated the indissolubility of marriage. The entire principle of the Mosaic Law was that of educating the people out of a semi-degraded state into something higher. Its method of doing this was by giving the people the best legislation they could bear; tolerating some ill for a while rather than forcing on the people revolutionary methods. The more gentle and gracious, though the slower process, was to sow the seed of higher good, and to let it have time to grow. The following Divine teaching on marriage may well be brought forward with this passage as a basis.

     I. That the marriage bond is holy in the eye of God, and ought ever to be recognized as very sacred by man.

     II. That by God’s own declared appointment this most sacred of all nature’s ties is indissoluble.

     III. That however, owing to the degeneracy of national habit and thought, civil legislation may suffer the legal cessation of the marriage bond, yet it can in no case be severed, save by death, without heinous sin on one side or on both.

     IV. That the claims of married life are such that, with them, not even the exigencies of military service are unduly to interfere (ver.
5).

     V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a παιδαγωγός εἰς Χριστὸν (see 1 Cor. 7:39).

     V. That the highest and purest enjoyments of wedded life come to perfection only when it is entered on and spent in the Lord Jesus Christ. The law was but a παιδαγωγός εἰς Χριστὸν (see
1 Cor. 7:39).

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     CHRIS SEEMAN / From Alexander to Pompey

     The conquests of Alexander the Great had far-reaching consequences for the Jews. In the course of a single decade (334–324 B.C.E.), Jewish communities everywhere found themselves subjects of a new world empire ruled by Macedonians and connected with Greek culture. Macedonian monarchs would continue to dominate the Near East for the next three centuries, while Hellenism itself would cast a still longer shadow over the region and its peoples.

     These new realities carried with them both peril and prospect for the Jews of Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Iran. The inability of Alexander’s successors to hold together his far-flung dominions condemned those lands to chronic interstate warfare and incessant dynastic instability. Physical displacement, economic hardship, political factionalism, enslavement, and other woes are prominent themes of this era. But Jews could also benefit from the opportunities created by so volatile an environment. Some found ready employment in the military and bureaucratic sectors of the Hellenistic states. Others engaged in interregional trade networks and participated in the cosmopolitan life of Greek cities. By the second half of the first century B.C.E., the Hasmoneans were able to forge a sovereign, Jewish state in Palestine—the first in almost 500 years. The Hellenistic age brought Jews into contact with a wider world; it also brought them to the notice of that world. When the Roman general Pompey set foot in Palestine in 63 B.C.E., the Jews had become a people to be reckoned with.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 14

     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.

     [This doctrine of the permanent value of suffering] touches all the variations of Christian feeling. ( Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) In almost every Christian’s experience come times of despondency and gloom, when there seems to be a depletion of the spiritual life, when the fountains that used to burst with water are grown dry; when love is loveless, hope hopeless, and enthusiasm so dead that it is hard to believe that it ever lived. At such times, there is nothing for us to do but hold to the bare, rocky truths of our religion, as shipwrecked people hang to a ragged cliff when the waves and eddies try to sweep them back into the deep. The rough rock tears their hands, but still they cling.

     And so the bare truths of God and Christ, of responsibility and eternity are stripped for the time of all dearness. Then when the tide returns, and we can [again] hold ourselves lightly, when faith grows easy and God and Christ and responsibility and eternity are once more glory and delight, then certainly there is something new in them, a new color, a new warmth. The soul has caught a new idea of God’s love when it has not only been fed but rescued by him. The sheep has a new conception of its shepherd’s care when it has not merely been made to lie down in green pastures but also hears the voice of him who had left the ninety-nine in the wilderness and gone after that which had wandered astray.

     The same applies to doubt and belief. “Why do things seem so hard to me?” you say. There is a willful and an unwilling unbelief. If it is willful unbelief, the fault is yours. You must not complain that the sun does not shine because you shut your eyes. But if it is unwilling unbelief—if you really want the truth, if you are not afraid to submit to it as soon as you see it, and something in your constitution or circumstances or in the aspect of Christian truth that has been held out to you makes it difficult for you to grasp—you are not to be pitied. To climb the mountain on its hardest side, where its granite ribs press out most ruggedly to make your climbing difficult, where you must skirt chasms and clamber down and up ravines, all this has its compensation. You know the mountain better when you reach its top. It’s a nobler and so a dearer thing.
--- Phillips Brooks


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

On This Day
     Old Wrapping Paper  April 14

     Ancient Israel comprised 12 tribes camping around the tabernacle. In the same way, Christianity has always contained various camps, tribes, and denominations, often closely related and working together for the kingdom. One of the fastest-growing in early America was the Freewill Baptists of New England, started when New Hampshire’s Benjamin Randall was converted in 1770. Freewill Baptists aggressively pursued evangelism and education in Northeast America and were among the loudest voices against slavery.

     The extension of the movement overseas was ignited by a handful of old wrapping paper.

     The General Baptists of England had sent Amos Sutton to India in 1830 as a missionary doctor. The load was too great, and his American wife, worried about his health, suggested he write to Freewill Baptists, appealing for help. Sutton immediately penned a long letter ending with, “Come, then, my American brethren, come over and help us.”

     Unfortunately, Sutton had no address for the Freewill Baptists, so his letter rested in his desk many months. One day he received a package and, opening it, saw a fragile item wrapped in discarded newspaper. The paper proved more valuable than the gift, for it was the Morningstar, publication of the Freewill Baptists. Dr. Sutton immediately posted his letter to the listed address. The Freewill Baptist Foreign Mission Society was soon established, and Sutton made a dramatic visit to New Hampshire. Pale and emaciated, he told 3,000 assembled Christians, “As I arise to speak, I seem to see the millions in India with bended knees and tearful eyes, saying, ‘Sir, plead our cause—plead it effectually!’ ” He did, returning to India with 21 workers. Many of them died, others suffered greatly, but still more followed. And on April 14, 1839 the first small Freewill Baptist chapel in India was dedicated to Christ to accommodate the new converts.

     “Could the friends of missions have witnessed our little assembly quietly seated on their mats, listening to the Word of eternal life with serious attention,” wrote a missionary, “they would have rejoiced with us, and would have praised the name of that God who had here made room for us.”

  Tell everyone of every nation,
  “Praise the glorious power of the LORD.
  He is wonderful! Praise him
  And bring an offering into his temple.
  Everyone on earth, now tremble
  And worship the LORD, majestic and holy.”
  --- Psalm 96:7-9.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 14

     "All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head."
--- Psalm 22:7.

     Mockery was a great ingredient in our Lord’s woe. Judas mocked him in the garden; the chief priests and scribes laughed him to scorn; Herod set him at nought; the servants and the soldiers jeered at him, and brutally insulted him; Pilate and his guards ridiculed his royalty; and on the tree all sorts of horrid jests and hideous taunts were hurled at him. Ridicule is always hard to bear, but when we are in intense pain it is so heartless, so cruel, that it cuts us to the quick. Imagine the Saviour crucified, racked with anguish far beyond all mortal guess, and then picture that motley multitude, all wagging their heads or thrusting out the lip in bitterest contempt of one poor suffering victim! Surely there must have been something more in the crucified One than they could see, or else such a great and mingled crowd would not unanimously have honoured him with such contempt. Was it not evil confessing, in the very moment of its greatest apparent triumph, that after all it could do no more than mock at that victorious goodness which was then reigning on the cross? O Jesus, “despised and rejected of men,” how couldst thou die for men who treated thee so ill? Herein is love amazing, love divine, yea, love beyond degree. We, too, have despised thee in the days of our unregeneracy, and even since our new birth we have set the world on high in our hearts, and yet thou bleedest to heal our wounds, and diest to give us life. O that we could set thee on a glorious high throne in all men’s hearts! We would ring out thy praises over land and sea till men should as universally adore as once they did unanimously reject.

     “Thy creatures wrong thee, O thou sovereign Good!
     Thou art not loved, because not understood:
     This grieves me most, that vain pursuits beguile
     Ungrateful men, regardless of thy smile.”

          Evening - April 14

     "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him." Isaiah 3:10.

     It is well with the righteous ALWAYS. If it had said, “Say ye to the righteous, that it is well with him in his prosperity,” we must have been thankful for so great a boon, for prosperity is an hour of peril, and it is a gift from heaven to be secured from its snares: or if it had been written, “It is well with him when under persecution,” we must have been thankful for so sustaining an assurance, for persecution is hard to bear; but when no time is mentioned, all time is included. God’s “shalls” must be understood always in their largest sense. From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the first gathering of evening shadows until the day-star shines, in all conditions and under all circumstances, it shall be well with the righteous. It is so well with him that we could not imagine it to be better, for he is well fed, he feeds upon the flesh and blood of Jesus; he is well clothed, he wears the imputed righteousness of Christ; he is well housed, he dwells in God; he is well married, his soul is knit in bonds of marriage union to Christ; he is well provided for, for the Lord is his Shepherd; he is well endowed, for heaven is his inheritance. It is well with the righteous—well upon divine authority; the mouth of God speaks the comforting assurance. O beloved, if God declares that all is well, ten thousand devils may declare it to be ill, but we laugh them all to scorn. Blessed be God for a faith which enables us to believe God when the creatures contradict him. It is, says the Word, at all times well with thee, thou righteous one; then, beloved, if thou canst not see it, let God’s word stand thee in stead of sight; yea, believe it on divine authority more confidently than if thine eyes and thy feelings told it to thee. Whom God blesses is blest indeed, and what his lip declares is truth most sure and steadfast.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 14

          THERE IS A GREEN HILL FAR AWAY

     Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, 1823–1895

     Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:16)

     The full understanding of the depth of suffering that our Savior endured at Calvary for our redemption is difficult to grasp. When Mrs. Cecil Alexander, one of England’s finest hymn writers, was attempting to explain to her Sunday school class the meaning of the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,” she felt inadequate. She had always believed that one of the most effective ways to teach sound spiritual truths to children is through the use of appropriate hymns. She decided, therefore, to put the details of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross into a simply worded but appealing song that could be easily understood by the children in her class. Although the hymn with its direct style of wording and clearly expressed thoughts was originally intended for youth, it had an immediate appeal to adults as well. After the lilting melody was composed for the text in 1878 by George C. Stebbins, the hymn became widely used in the Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns, as it has been in church services since then.

     Friends of Mrs. Alexander said that her life was even more beautiful than her writing. After her marriage to William Alexander, archbishop and primate of the Anglican church for all of Ireland, she engaged herself in parish duties and charity work. Her husband said of her, “From one poor home to another she went. Christ was ever with her, and all felt her influence.” Mrs. Alexander had been active before her marriage in the Sunday school movement, and her love of children and interest in their spiritual instruction never diminished. Almost all of the 400 poems and hymns that she wrote were prompted by this concern.

     Adults as well as children have loved this particular hymn, written by a devoted woman who had a sincere desire to help others to truly appreciate the extent of Christ’s agony on the cross and the magnitude of His love.

     There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall,
     where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.
     We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains He had to bear;
     but we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.
     He died that we might be forgiv’n. He died to make us good,
     that we might go at last to heav’n, saved by His precious blood.
     There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin;
     He only could unlock the gate of heav’n and let us in.
     Chorus: O dearly, dearly has He loved! And we must love Him too,
     and trust in His redeeming blood, and try His works to do.


     For Today: John 19; Romans 5:6–11; Ephesians 1:7, 8; Titus 2:13, 14.

     Express your gratitude for Christ’s “redeeming blood.” Let the truth of His great love motivate you to “try His works to do.”

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          A Doxology of Grand Ascription Directed to a Divine Person of Infinite Perfections

     Jude 1:25 “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” We come to a consideration of the nature and Object of this prayer. It is a doxology, an expression of praise; and though it is brief, the Divine verities upon which it focuses are immense. Seeing that the Lord is arrayed with glory and beauty (Job 40:10), we should continually ascribe these excellencies to Him (Ex. 15:11; 1 Chron. 29:11). The saints are to publish and proclaim the perfections of their God: “Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2). This is what the apostles did, and we should emulate them. Here He is adored for His wisdom. There is something here that may present a difficulty to young theologians who have learned to distinguish between the incommunicable attributes of God, such as His infinitude and immutability, and His communicable attributes, such as mercy, wisdom, and so forth. Seeing that God has endowed some of His creatures with wisdom, how can He be said to be “only wise”? First, He is superlatively wise. His wisdom is so vastly superior to that of men and angels that their creaturely wisdom is foolishness by comparison. Secondly, He is essentially wise. God's wisdom is not a quality separate from Himself as ours is. There are many men who are far from being wise men; but God would not be God if He were not omniscient, being naturally endowed with all knowledge and Himself the very Fountainhead of all wisdom. Thirdly, He is originally wise, Without derivation. All wisdom is from God, because He possesses all wisdom in Himself. All the true wisdom of creatures is but a ray from His light.

     The glorious Object of this doxology is none other than the Mediator of the covenant of grace. The reasons for so honoring Him are the omnipotence and omniscience that He possesses, which are gloriously displayed in His saving of the Church. In view of what is predicated of Him in verse 24, there should not be the slightest doubt in our minds that “the only wise God” of verse 25 is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is His particular province as the Shepherd to preserve His Church from destruction and to present it in glory to the Father. Furthermore, the added epithet, “God our Saviour,” confirms the matter. Here absolute Deity is ascribed to Him: “the only wise God,”as it also is in Titus 2:13 (where the Greek text would more accurately and literally be rendered, “the great God and Saviour of us, Jesus Christ”), 2 Peter 1:1 (where the Greek should be translated, “of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ,”), and many other places. Christ the Son is “the only wise God,” though not to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit. Probably He is here designated as such in designed contrast with the false and foolish “gods” of the heretical corruptors mentioned in the context. I might add that by comparison to the sovereign triune God of Holy Writ, who is most gloriously represented in the God-man Jesus the Christ (who now reigns as the absolute Lord of the universe), the fictitious God of the Unitarians, of twentieth-century Modernists, and of most Arminians is also foolish and puerile.

          Christ's Unique Fitness for the Work Assigned to Him

     It is the strength and sufficiency of Christ for all the concerns of His redemptive mediation that is here magnified. He is adored as the One who will triumphantly complete the work given Him to do, a work that no mere creature, no, not even an archangel, could accomplish. None but One who is both God and man could act as Mediator. None but a Divine Person could offer an adequate satisfaction to Divine justice. None but one possessed of infinite merit could provide a sacrifice of infinite value. None but God could preserve sheep in the midst of wolves. In Proverbs 8, especially verses 12, 13, 31, and 32, Christ is denominated “wisdom,” and is heard speaking as a distinct Person. He was heralded as the “Wonderful Counsellor” (Isa. 9:6). He designated Himself “wisdom” in Luke 7:35. He is expressly called “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). His wisdom appears in His creating all things (John 1:3), in His governing and maintaining all things (Heb. 1:3), and in that the Father “hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).

     The consummate wisdom of Christ was manifested during the days of His flesh. He opened to men the secrets of God (Matthew 13:11), He declared, “The Son can do nothing of himself [which in the light of the context following means that He does nothing independently of the Father's will], but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19, 30 brackets mine). Christ thereby affirmed an equality of competency between Himself and His Father. He “needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). Those who heard Him teach “were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?” (Matthew 13:54). Christ's unique wisdom appeared in answering and silencing His enemies. “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46), testified those sent to arrest Him. He so confounded His critics that at the end Matthew testified, “neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (Matthew 22:46). Since, therefore, He is endowed with omniscience, let us find no fault with any of His dealings with us. Let us rather take to Him all our problems; let us confide absolutely in Him, putting ourselves and all our affairs into His hands.

          The Highest Praise Is Due the Lord Christ

     Since He is “the only wise God our Saviour”—the sole, sufficient, and successful Savior—let us laud Him as such. As those in heaven cast their crowns before the Lamb and extol His peerless perfections, so should we who are still upon earth. Since Christ subjected Himself to such unspeakable dishonor and abasement for our sakes, yea, enduring suffering to death itself, and that the death of the cross, how readily and heartily should we honor and magnify Him, crying with the apostle, “Unto him be glory and majesty, dominion and power”! Glory is the displaying of excellence in such a way that gains approbation from all who behold it. Here the word signifies the high honor and esteem that is due to Christ because of His perfections, whereby He infinitely surpasses all creatures and things. Majesty refers to His exalted dignity and Divine greatness that make Him to be honored and preferred beyond all His creatures, having received a name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9). Dominion is that absolute rule or ownership that is gained by conquest and maintained by strength or might superior to that of all rivals. This the God-man exercises in such a way that “none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:35). He has already crushed the head of Satan, His most powerful enemy (Gen. 3:15), and thrown his evil kingdom into chaos. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them” in His death on the cross (Col. 2:15). Power here means that authority to rule which is derived from legal right. Because Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8, 9), God the Father has exalted Him to the place of universal authority and rule (Matthew 28:18) where He now reigns as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). This universal rule Christ earned as a legal right by His perfect obedience as the second Adam (Gen. 1:26-28). As the God-man, Christ not only merits authority and dominion over the earth with all of its creatures but also over the entire universe that He Himself created.

          King Jesus Reigns Both Now and Forever

     “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Note well the two words set in italics. Radically different was the inspired concept of Jude from that of so many “students of prophecy” who postpone Christ's reign to some future “millennial” era. It is both the present and the endless dignities of the Mediator that are here in view. He has already been “crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). Majesty is His today, for He is exalted “Far above all principality, and power,” for God “hath [not “will”!] put all things under his feet” (Eph. 1:2 1, 22, brackets mine). Dominion is also exercised by Him now, and in the strength by which He obtained dominion He is presently “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Even now the Lord Jesus is seated upon the throne of David (Acts 2:29-35), “angels and authorities and powers being made [having been] made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:22). So shall He reign, not merely for a thousand years, but forever. Amen. Thus does Jude conclude the most solemn of all Epistles with this paean of holy exultation over the present and eternal glory of the Lamb.


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


None Other

John MacArthur | Ligonier





A God Merciful and Gracious

W. Robert Godfrey | Ligonier






Holy, Holy, Holy

Stephen Nichols | Ligonier





Questions & Answers

2017 Regional Conference | Ligonier






Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Wartburg

Albert Mohler | Ligonier





Luther on the Psalms

W. Robert Godfrey | Ligonier






The Authority of Scripture

Matthias Lohmann | Ligonier





Standing for the Truth

Steven Lawson | Ligonier






The First and Second Theses Luke 18:9-14

Stephen Nichols | Ligonier





Convictions and Cultural Change 8/2015

John MacArthur | Ligonier






The Word Made Flesh

Ligonier Statement on Christology | Stephen Nichols





A Hard Life

Stephen Nichols | Ligonier






A Glorious Future

W. Robert Godfrey | Ligonier





Sovereign Over All

Julius Kim | Ligonier






Seeing Christ in All the Scriptures

Julius Kim | Ligonier