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Leviticus 20     Psalm 25     Ecclesiastes 3     1 Timothy 5


Leviticus 20

Punishment for Child Sacrifice

Leviticus 20:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.

6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

Punishments for Sexual Immorality

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to make naked one’s relative; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

You Shall Be Holy

22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

27 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”


Psalm 25

Teach Me Your Paths

Psalm 25 Of David.

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2  O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4  Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5  Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

6  Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

8  Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9  He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10  All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

11  For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12  Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13  His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14  The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15  My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

16  Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18  Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.

19  Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20  Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21  May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.

22  Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.


Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2  a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3  a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6  a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7  a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8  a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


The God-Given Task

9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

From Dust to Dust

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?


1 Timothy 5

Instructions for the Church

1 Timothy 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

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Amazing Grace

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2004

     Perhaps the most subtle verbal sleights of hand are acts of equivocation. Equivocation is when we use one word, but with two different meanings. The change happens so fast we miss the palmed meaning, and are made fools. The classic illustration is in this syllogism — God is love. Love is blind. Ray Charles is blind. Therefore Ray Charles is God. Something isn’t right there, and what it is, is shifting meanings.

     It is when dealing with pronouns that we face the toughest temptation. Antecedents get lost in a sea of pronouns, and soon enough we not only don’t know what he said but don’t know who he is. And where confusion abounds, there you will find the devil. It is one of his favorite weapons.

     Consider for a moment the wisdom in the Bible about loving one another. Love is indeed a dominant theme in the Bible. The Bible is so full of injunctions to love that we in turn have great difficulty reconciling that teaching with this: “Oh Lord, dash their heads against the rocks.” The Bible, in addition to sundry summons to love, includes what we call imprecatory psalms, wherein the psalmist calls down God’s judgment on His enemies. Read through Moses’ celebration of the deliverance of the people and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, and you probably won’t feel the love. How do these things cohere? Lest you think the solution is a division between the old and new covenants, give a read to Paul in thundering against the Judaizers in Galatians.

     While it is true that there is a kind of love we are called to toward those outside the kingdom, (that is, we are called to love our enemy), that in turn matches a kind of love God Himself has for His enemies (the love of benevolence). By the same token, we are called to love discriminatingly. We have different kinds of loves for different kinds of people. I love my wife one way, and I love my neighbor an entirely different way. We have missed this, because our enemy has confused us on the pronouns. The Bible’s call that “we” love “one another” isn’t ultimately about man’s call to love man. The “we” isn’t human beings, but the redeemed.

     Those wolves in the church, liberal clerics and theologians, began this sleight of hand when they first spoke of the “universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.” The idea, as with so many from this particular pit of hell, became eventually accepted wisdom in the evangelical church. It operates under the assumption that God has a duty to treat all people exactly the same way, an assumption that the Bible explicitly denies: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9:15). There is no getting around the fact that God did not treat Esau as He treated Jacob, and this before either had been born. And He does not treat the seed of the serpent the same way He treats us, the seed of the woman.

     Why not? What accounts for the difference? The answer is simple enough — our union with Christ. Pardon the confusing pronouns, but while we love Him because He first loved us, He first loved us because He first loved Him.

     We are in ourselves, just like the seed of the serpent, merely dust and rebellion. But in Christ we are altogether lovely. It is not for mere pity that He loves us, but for His Son.

     But what of His love for the lost? If they are not in union with Christ, why would they be loved at all? What would account for what the theologians call this “love of benevolence”? What accounts for this love, and the kindness that flows from it, bringing the rains upon the fields of the unjust, isn’t union with Christ, but is the image of God. There is, in short, something lovely about the lost, the very remnants of the image of pure loveliness. What God loves in the reprobate isn’t the reprobate, isn’t the Son, but is Himself, something indeed worthy of His love.

     And we who are in union with Christ not only bear that same image, but are called to polish it, to improve upon it, to labor with the Holy Spirit that we might more and more reflect His glory. Which in turn means that we too ought to love the lost, for the very same reason. We love one another with a holy love, because we are together in union with Christ. But we love outside the circle of the kingdom because they yet maintain the fragments of the image of God. In their depravity, they do everything they can to smash that mirror to ever tinier pieces. Indeed their degeneration is nothing more than leaving that image behind until finally, at their death, they reach the mirror-image of glorification and reach utter horror. They become nothing but dust and rebellion, enveloped in eternal flame.

     But not here and not now. Ironically, it is for His love for us that He shows them kindness. If He released the restraints, we would find ourselves living in a living hell. But by His grace toward us, He restrains them, and He kindly showers them with His beneficent love. In His grace toward us, He teaches us our pronouns, so that like Him we too would love His sheep as His sheep, and love the goats for the image of the shepherd.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Uncommon Justice

By Tabletalk Magazine 11/1/2004

     Wherever I go, I am on the lookout for freshly brewed coffee. Early one morning, I spotted a small coffee shop that appeared to be closed. I decided to take a closer look, and as I approached the entrance of the shop the aroma of freshly brewed coffee captured me. I opened the door and strolled up to the counter. It was clear that the woman working behind the counter was not nearly as excited to be there as I was. Nevertheless, as she poured my coffee, I attempted to cheer her up a bit.

     After some lively, early-morning discussion about brewing methods and man’s fundamental need for coffee, I discovered she was a graduate student of philosophy. And before the conversation could change to another subject, I interjected: “Who is your favorite philosopher?” Without a pause, she replied, “Nietzsche.”

     She did not hesitate to inform me that she was an atheist, and she boldly affirmed Nietzsche’s arrogant statement: “God is dead.” At that point, I could have thanked her for the coffee and the lesson in theology and been on my way. Instead, I confronted her with the most basic apologetic for the existence of God. I asked her how she could affirm atheism considering that her very existence, her finite understanding, and her reliance upon the sustaining power of a higher being demonstrably proves the existence of God. I was shocked by her response. She explained that she was a former Christian and that she had been the president of her Christian club in high school.

     Knowing her past, and witnessing her hostility to the faith and her brazen attitude toward God, I was saddened. For I realized that she will be held accountable by God for suppressing the truth. Having been brought up a Christian, she possessed knowledge about God. The abundant provisions God supplied, even the very coffee she poured, demonstrated that she was a recipient of God’s common grace.

     Nevertheless, as a recipient of such gracious provisions from the hand of a benevolent God, in suppressing the truth about God impenitently, she will incur the wrath of a just God. Without a doubt, common grace that is mocked will result in uncommon judgment. Everyone, from the woman at the coffee shop to Friedrich Nietzsche, is without excuse. For we live coram Deo, before the face of a gracious and just God who provides sunshine and rain for both the good and the evil and who has provided an uncommon sacrifice for us, His people.

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     Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier.org

Uncommon Belief

By John Hutchinson 11/1/2004

     “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Book VII

     Through our study of Scripture, we have been able to observe how common bushes are set aflame, and we have considered the means by which God shines His mercy “over all that He has made” (Ps. 145:9). Let us now explore three crucial areas of application of the doctrine of common grace.

Common Grace is Uncommon

     Jesus teaches that belief in common grace is in reality a most uncommon thing.

     One might think that common grace would be a commonly believed doctrine, but Jesus declares, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14). To live alert and alive, believing in God’s blazing grace, is the narrow and hard way. In order to believe, we must return to the beginning of the hard path, to the doctrine of original sin.

     The Bible teaches that death is spread to us all, because in Adam all sinned (Rom. 5). So we are entitled to nothing, to no grace at all. Pascal explains, “Certainly nothing jolts us more rudely than this doctrine, and yet, but for this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we remain incomprehensible to ourselves.”

     This is the reason why so few believe in common grace, because the human heart will not admit that a world without common grace is what we deserve. Believers sometimes consider the horrible conditions that, apart from God’s saving grace, would await us in the next life. But how often do we consider the conditions that, apart from God’s common grace, would prevail in this life?

     What would it be like to wake up tomorrow to a world not just partially but completely overtaken by curses (Deut. 28:15)? What if there were no prosperity or peace to be found in any corner of the world, but if every nation were at war and every people continually robbed, oppressed, and enslaved (Deut. 28:16–36)? But the world you live in is not like this! How good God is! Do you see that earth is crammed with heaven and that the world is ablaze with grace? Do you believe this, or are you a grumbler?


Thankfulness without Grumbling

     The one who believes the doctrine of common grace lives without grumbling, but with thankfulness in the heart to God (Col. 3:15–17).

     The church is called to minister saving grace to the world by being a people who believe in common grace! When we live without grumbling and complaining in a grumbling and complaining culture, we shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:14–15). But tragically, public opinion polls show that most Americans think of evangelicals as complainers and whiners. This is not all misperception, either.

     God calls us to put our complaining to death, and to put on gratitude and thanksgiving as our garment and cologne. Martin Luther shows us the way: “The method of the Spirit of God is to think less about evil things and more about good things: to think that if a cross comes, it is but a little one, but that if a mercy comes, it is a great one.”

Hunger for Righteousness

     At the same time, the one who believes the doctrine of common grace will hunger and thirst for righteousness, and work for cultural reformation (Matt. 5:6, 16).

     Those who believe in God’s common grace want its warmth spread everywhere! Whenever evil is operative, whether in boardrooms or on battlefields, in classrooms or courtrooms, God’s grace needs to blaze.

     But, called to be His pyrotechnists, how prone we are to dangerous mistakes! J. I. Packer’s classic work, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, guarded the church against mishandling the fire of saving grace. His words are helpful as we consider how God would have us minister His common grace.

     First, we must remember that it is silly to think that any cultural reform technique, however skillful or widespread, could of itself guarantee reformation. God is sovereign, and He alone chooses whether a culture will reform or deform. Second, because “madness is in men’s hearts while they live” (Eccl. 9:3), we must not be surprised if at any time our efforts at cultural reform fail to bear fruit.

     Third, we must remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not successful. Failure is not ipso facto proof of unfaithfulness. Think of how heretical a charge that would be with regard to evangelism, and yet we hear it all the time with regard to cultural reform, as if the presence of evil in a culture (abortion, for example) is definitive proof of the church’s unfaithfulness. Yet, Christ commends His people in Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev. 2–3) — small and impoverished churches having no discernable success in terms of cultural reform.

     Finally, we must learn to rest all our hopes for cultural reform upon the omnipotent grace of God, who “is in the heavens and does all that He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). With humbled and thankful and repenting hearts, let us dare to believe the doctrine of common grace, and let us minister it everywhere, trusting God alone for the results.

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     Dr. John R. Hutchinson is senior minister of McLean Presbyterian Church inside the Capital Beltway in McLean, Virginia.

More Than Conquerors

By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2004

     “If you have it, you never lose it; if you lose it, you never had it.” This pithy adage gives expression to the doctrine in the church that some call the doctrine of eternal security, while others refer to it as the “perseverance of the saints.” Among the latter group, the perseverance of the saints makes up the fifth point of the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” that are encapsulated in the acronym TULIP — the “P,” the final point, standing for “perseverance of the saints.” Another way of expressing the doctrine in pithy categories is by the phrase, “once in grace, always in grace.”

     The idea of the perseverance of the saints is distinguished from the doctrine of the assurance of salvation, though it can never by separated from it. There are those Christians in church history who have affirmed that a Christian can have assurance of his salvation, but that his assurance is only for the moment. One can know that he is in a state of grace today, but with that knowledge, or assurance, there is no further guarantee that he will remain in that state of grace tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, or unto death. On the other hand, those who believe in the perseverance of the saints believe also that one can have the assurance of salvation, not only for today, but forever. So again, we see that perseverance is distinguished from assurance but can never be divorced from it.

     Now we face the question, why is it that reformed people, classically and historically, have hung so tenaciously to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints? What are the reasons given for holding this particular doctrine?

     The first reason that is given is based on reason itself. That is, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints may be seen as the logical conclusion to, or as a rational inference from, the doctrine of predestination. At this point, many theologians demur saying that we should not construct our theology on the basis of logical inferences drawn from other doctrinal premises. However, if such inferences are not only possible inferences but necessary inferences, then I think it’s legitimate to draw such inferences. However, such inferences ought to be drawn from the truth of the Bible, as our doctrine consists not only of what is explicitly set forth in Scripture but what, by good and necessary consequence, is deduced from the premises of Scripture. Perhaps the danger of drawing the doctrine of perseverance simply as a logical inference from predestination is that the vital, visceral significance of the doctrine could get lost in theological abstraction. But despite that danger, we must see that if we have a full understanding of the biblical doctrines of predestination and election, we would understand that the whole purpose of God’s divine decree of election is not to make salvation a temporary possession of the elect but to make that salvation a permanent reality for those whom He predestines unto salvation. Again, predestination is not unto part-time, or temporary, faith but unto full-time and permanent faith.

     The second basis for our holding the doctrine of perseverance is the actual and explicit promises of Scripture. The Scriptures teach us that what God begins in us, He will complete. Peter tells us that we are to praise God who, according to His great mercy, regenerated us for a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible, unspotted and unfading inheritance that has been kept in the heavens for you, who are guarded by God’s power, through faith for salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3–5). The promises of God, as Peter indicates here, are unspotted, and they are incapable of fading away. The inheritance that we have is secure.

     When we look at the work of Christ on our behalf, we not only see His atonement, which has secured the payment for our sins, we see the ascension of Christ and His ministry at the right hand of the Father as our great High Priest. Here we see in the ministry of Jesus an intercession for those whom the Father has given Him, and a taste of that type of intercession is given to us in the High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, where Jesus prays that none whom the Father has given to Him would ever be lost.

     Despite the promises of the New Testament, the intercession of Christ on our behalf, and the doctrine of election that point to the certainty of perseverance, we still must take seriously the warnings of apostasy that frequently occur in the New Testament. Paul himself talks about how he has to pummel his body to subdue it, lest he, in the final analysis, becomes a castaway. He speaks of those who have departed from the faith.

     At the end of Paul’s ministry, in his final letter to Timothy, he decried the departure of Demas, who had forsaken Paul, because Demas, a previous co-worker alongside the apostle, loved this present world. And so the assumption is that Demas, as well as others who started out with a vital profession of faith, ended in the destruction and the abyss of apostasy. How else do we understand the urgent warnings given in the 6th chapter of Hebrews? Here we have to say, without straining the text, that the New Testament, despite these warnings of apostasy, makes it clear that those who commit such acts of full and final apostasy were never really believers in the first place. John writes in his epistle: “Those who went out from us were never really among us” (1 John 2:19).

     We read in chapter 6 of Hebrews, at the end of the most chilling warning against apostasy: “But we are persuaded of better things from you, things that accompany salvation” (v. 9b). People within the visible church, as was the case in Old Testament Israel, certainly do fall away from the profession of faith that they have made and end in destruction. The same is true in the New Testament community. People can join themselves to the visible church, profess faith in Christ but under duress fall away — in some cases fully and finally. We must conclude from the teaching of Scripture that such cases of apostasy are wrought by people who made a profession of faith, and whose profession was not authentic.

     Finally, our basis for confidence in perseverance is really not so much in our ability to persevere as it is in God’s power and grace to preserve us. If we were left to ourselves, in our human weakness, not only could we fall away, we most certainly would fall away. However, the reason we do not fall away, the reason we do endure to the end is because of the grace of our heavenly Father, who by grace called us in the first place. He sustains us by preserving us, even unto our glorification.

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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:

High Fidelity

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/1/2004

     “And to forsake all others, till death do us part.” One would think, that with the decades-old trend in the broader culture of “personal marriage vows,” wherein husband and wife fill in the blanks and speak their own words, that the above would be the first to be ditched. It’s not so much the language as the sentiment that is archaic. Competing mathematical theories, combined with actual divorces tell us that between one third and one half of all marriages end in divorce. Strangely enough, most couples still triumphantly march away from the altar having vowed life-long fidelity. It seems even the most coarsened consciences still so long for happily ever after that, while they can actually live without the fidelity, they can’t live without the illusion. No one dresses up and hires a photographer when they decide to move in together.

     That illusion is so powerful, however, that in the face of the statistics, it might better be called a delusion. The sad truth is that whatever is the true number, the divorce rate among professing evangelical Christians is virtually identical to the world around us. We pledge our undying love, only to have the pledge die. Which may explain why we have such a hard time understanding the perseverance of the saints. I have heard it said that the proclamation of the glory of the Father won’t carry a great deal of evangelistic freight in many inner-city neighborhoods. When we present God as our father, too many assume that this means that He is irresponsible, that He is absent, that He cannot be counted on. While I think avoiding biblical truths because of cultural sins is folly, I understand the sentiment. How are we to understand Christ as our Bridegroom, in a world where nearly half of all bridegrooms, just like inner-city fathers, skip town when convenient?

     The answer within the church is simple enough. Our culture has changed. We are now those of whom Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2: 9–10). Our standards for understanding the relationship between a man and a wife come not from the world around us, but from the Word beneath us, the very Word that upholds and sustains us. We are the bride of Christ. And rather than having our vision of our Bridegroom besmirched by adulterous brigands, we ought instead to have our own vision of our calling as husbands be transformed by the image of the faithfulness of Christ. We don’t change Him; we don’t change our language. No, we change our behavior.

     Once we grasp that we are His bride and that He will never let us go, we begin to loosen our grip on that cultural picture of perseverance, a white knuckled grip. That is, the perseverance of the saints isn’t ultimately about our tenacious clinging to the Gospel as much as it is the sovereign clinging of the Gospel to us. I will persevere not because of me, but because of Him, not because I am a faithful bride, but because He is a faithful Husband. Perseverance isn’t about bootstrap effort; it’s about cross-bearing effort, which means it’s not about our effort now, but His effort then.

     We do not have then merely a handsome groom dressed up for the crowd. The tears shed by our Husband are not simply for the moment of the ceremony, but are for all our lives. When I struggle with the ugliness of my sin, when I grow impatient with the slow process of my sanctification, I like to remind myself of this sound biblical truth — God loves me today as much as He ever will. I am not part way in, laboring to get all the way in. I am in. As comforting as this is now, however, how much more comforting is it forever? That is, not only does God love me now as He will forever, but He will love me forever as He does now.

     Let us never forget either that it is love. When we translate biblical truth into formulae, something is always lost in the translation. It is good and proper that we should affirm with all conviction the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. It is good likewise to suggest in turn that preservation might be the better term, as it is what God does for us, not what we do for Him. But such can make the whole process sound, well, like a process. We tend to turn the ordo salutis, the order of salvation, into a kind of production line. We who are Reformed rightly defend this doctrine in terms of His sovereignty. Nothing, the Bible tells us, can take us from His hand. But what drives God isn’t simply the hope of a perfect record. It isn’t merely a display of power. The promise is that He will sanctify His bride, that He will remove every blot and blemish. Perseverance is a love story beginning and ending in the marriage of power and beauty, as our strong groom finishes the work He has begun in us, beautifying us, precisely because He is faithful and true.

     His obedience shows forth our wickedness. We in turn, turn from our wickedness, to embrace His obedience. And then He holds onto us into eternity. This is not just good news now, but good news forever. For this is the one story that rightly ends … “and they lived happily ever after.” Cue music.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5

By Don Carson 4/16/2018

     One of the startling features of Psalm 25 is the diversity of needs David asks the Lord to address.

     David is in danger of being overwhelmed by enemies and thereby put to shame (Ps. 25:2). He wishes to learn the ways and paths of God, to be taught God’s truth (25:4-5). He begs that God will forget the sins of his rebellious youth (25:7); moreover, he recognizes that there are times when his iniquity is great, and needs to be forgiven (25:11). David confesses that he is lonely and afflicted, full of anguish (25:16-17). He speaks afresh of his affliction and distress, alludes once again to his sins, and feels threatened by the increase of the enemies who hate him (25:18-19). Moreover, judging by the last verse (25:22), it is quite possible that David recognized that his own crises and failures had a bearing on the well-being of the people he served as king; so his prayer embraces them as well.

     It is of course important to reflect on how the Lord God graciously helps his covenant people in an extraordinary diversity of ways. Yet here I wish to point out something a little different, viz. how so many of the ills and crises that afflict us are bound up with each other. The various things that David mentions are not discreet items on a list. They are tied together in various ways.

     For example, when David prays that his enemies will not put him to shame, he recognizes that God alone is the final arbiter, so that in the end all will be put to shame who are “treacherous without excuse” (25:3). But that means that David himself must learn God’s ways and God’s truth; he needs his own sins forgiven. He must in humility keep the covenant (25:9-10), properly fearing the Lord (25:12, 14). Because of the trouble he is suffering, he is not only afflicted but lonely (25:16) — anguish in one arena so often breeds a sense of desperate isolation, even alienation. Yet the final petitions of the psalm do not descend into a wallowing self-pity, but sum up the connections already made: David needs release from his enemies, forgiveness for his sins, relief from his affliction, and personal integrity and uprightness, all bound up with the protection of the Lord God himself.

     Here is a wholesome self-awareness. Sometimes our prayers for relief from loneliness are steeped in self-love; sometimes our requests for justice fail to recognize how endemic sin really is, so that we remain unconcerned about our own iniquity. Yet here is a man who not only knew God and how to pray, but knew himself.

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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 39

What is the measure of my days?
39 To The Choirmaster - To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

4 “O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     12. The matter still remains uncertain, unless we understand who are the weak and who the Pharisees: for if this distinction is destroyed, I see not how, in regard to offenses, any liberty at all would remain without being constantly in the greatest danger. But Paul seems to me to have marked out most clearly, as well by example as by doctrine, how far our liberty, in the case of offense, is to be modified or maintained. When he adopts Timothy as his companion, he circumcises him: nothing can induce him to circumcise Titus (Acts 16:3; Gal. 2:3). The acts are different, but there is no difference in the purpose or intention; in circumcising Timothy, as he was free from all men, he made himself the servant of all: "Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:20-22). We have here the proper modification of liberty, when in things indifferent it can be restrained with some advantage. What he had in view in firmly resisting the circumcision of Titus, he himself testifies when he thus writes: "But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you," (Gal. 2:3-5). We here see the necessity of vindicating our liberty when, by the unjust exactions of false apostles, it is brought into danger with weak consciences. In all cases we must study charity, and look to the edification of our neighbor. "All things are lawful for me," says he, "but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth," (1 Cor. 10:23, 24). There is nothing plainer than this rule, that we are to use our liberty if it tends to the edification of our neighbor, but if inexpedient for our neighbor, we are to abstain from it. There are some who pretend to imitate this prudence of Paul by abstinence from liberty, while there is nothing for which they less employ it than for purposes of charity. Consulting their own ease, they would have all mention of liberty buried, though it is not less for the interest of our neighbor to use liberty for their good and edification, than to modify it occasionally for their advantage. It is the part of a pious man to think, that the free power conceded to him in external things is to make him the readier in all offices of charity.

13. Whatever I have said about avoiding offenses, I wish to be referred to things indifferent. [460] Things which are necessary to be done cannot be omitted from any fear of offense. For as our liberty is to be made subservient to charity, so charity must in its turn be subordinate to purity of faith. Here, too, regard must be had to charity, but it must go as far as the altar; that is, we must not offend God for the sake of our neighbor. We approve not of the intemperance of those who do every thing tumultuously, and would rather burst through every restraint at once than proceed step by step. But neither are those to be listened to who, while they take the lead in a thousand forms of impiety, pretend that they act thus to avoid giving offense to their neighbor, as if in the meantime they did not train the consciences of their neighbors to evil, especially when they always stick in the same mire without any hope of escape. When a neighbor is to be instructed, whether by doctrine or by example, then smooth-tongued men say that he is to be fed with milk, while they are instilling into him the worst and most pernicious opinions. Paul says to the Corinthians, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat," (1 Cor. 3:2); but had there then been a Popish mass among them, would he have sacrificed as one of the modes of giving them milk? By no means: milk is not poison. It is false then to say they nourish those whom, under a semblance of soothing they cruelly murder. But granting that such dissimulation may be used for a time, how long are they to make their pupils drink that kind of milk? If they never grow up so as to be able to bear at least some gentle food, it is certain that they have never been reared on milk. [461] Two reasons prevent me from now entering farther into contest with these people, first, their follies are scarcely worthy of refutation, seeing all men of sense must nauseate them; and, secondly, having already amply refuted them in special treatises, I am unwilling to do it over again. [462] Let my readers only bear in mind, first, that whatever be the offenses by which Satan and the world attempt to lead us away from the law of God, we must, nevertheless, strenuously proceed in the course which he prescribes; and, secondly, that whatever dangers impend, we are not at liberty to deviate one nail's breadth from the command of God, that on no pretext is it lawful to attempt any thing but what he permits.

14. Since by means of this privilege of liberty which we have described, believers have derived authority from Christ not to entangle themselves by the observance of things in which he wished them to be free, we conclude that their consciences are exempted from all human authority. For it were unbecoming that the gratitude due to Christ for his liberal gift should perish or that the consciences of believers should derive no benefit from it. We must not regard it as a trivial matter when we see how much it cost our Savior, being purchased not with silver or gold, but with his own blood (1 Pet. 1:18, 19); so that Paul hesitates not to say that Christ has died in vain, if we place our souls under subjection to men (Gal. 5:1, 4; 1 Cor. 7:23). Several chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians are wholly occupied with showing that Christ is obscured, or rather extinguished to us, unless our consciences maintain their liberty; from which they have certainly fallen, if they can be bound with the chains of laws and constitutions at the pleasure of men. But as the knowledge of this subject is of the greatest importance, so it demands a longer and clearer exposition. For the moment the abolition of human constitutions is mentioned, the greatest disturbances are excited, partly by the seditious, and partly by calumniators, as if obedience of every kind were at the same time abolished and overthrown.

15. Therefore, lest this prove a stumbling-block to any, let us observe that in man government is twofold: the one spiritual, by which the conscience is trained to piety and divine worship; the other civil, by which the individual is instructed in those duties which, as men and citizens, we are bold to performs (see Book 4, chap. 10, sec. 3-6). To these two forms are commonly given the not inappropriate names of spiritual and temporal jurisdiction, intimating that the former species has reference to the life of the soul, while the latter relates to matters of the present life, not only to food and clothing, but to the enacting of laws which require a man to live among his fellows purely honorably, and modestly. The former has its seat within the soul, the latter only regulates the external conduct. We may call the one the spiritual, the other the civil kingdom. Now, these two, as we have divided them, are always to be viewed apart from each other. When the one is considered, we should call off our minds, and not allow them to think of the other. For there exists in man a kind of two worlds, over which different kings and different laws can preside. By attending to this distinction, we will not erroneously transfer the doctrine of the gospel concerning spiritual liberty to civil order, as if in regard to external government Christians were less subject to human laws, because their consciences are unbound before God, as if they were exempted from all carnal service, because in regard to the Spirit they are free. Again because even in those constitutions which seem to relate to the spiritual kingdom, there may be some delusion, it is necessary to distinguish between those which are to be held legitimate as being agreeable to the Word of God, and those, on the other hand, which ought to have no place among the pious. We shall elsewhere have an opportunity of speaking of civil government (see Book 4, chap. 20). For the present, also, I defer speaking of ecclesiastical laws, because that subject will be more fully discussed in the Fourth Book when we come to treat of the Power of the Church. We would thus conclude the present discussion. The question, as I have said, though not very obscure, or perplexing in itself, occasions difficulty to many, because they do not distinguish with sufficient accuracy between what is called the external forum, and the forum of conscience. What increases the difficulty is, that Paul commands us to obey the magistrate, "not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake," (Rom. 13:1, 5). Whence it follows that civil laws also bind the conscience. Were this so, then what we said a little ago, and are still to say of spiritual governments would fall. To solve this difficulty, the first thing of importance is to understand what is meant by conscience. The definition must be sought in the etymology of the word. For as men, when they apprehend the knowledge of things by the mind and intellects are said to know, and hence arises the term knowledge or science, so when they have a sense of the divine justice added as a witness which allows them not to conceal their sins, but drags them forward as culprits to the bar of God, that sense is called conscience. For it stands as it were between God and man, not suffering man to suppress what he knows in himself; but following him on even to conviction. It is this that Paul means when he says, "Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another," (Rom. 2:15). Simple knowledge may exist in man, as it were shut up; therefore this sense, which sists man before the bar of God, is set over him as a kind of sentinel to observe and spy out all his secrets, that nothing may remain buried in darkness. Hence the ancient proverb, Conscience is a thousand witnesses. For the same reason Peter also employs the expression, "the answer of a good conscience," (1 Pet. 3:21), for tranquillity of mind; when persuaded of the grace of Christ, we boldly present ourselves before God. And the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, that we have "no more conscience of sins," (Heb. 10:2), that we are held as freed or acquitted, so that sin no longer accuses us.

16. Wherefore, as works have respect to men, so conscience bears reference to God, a good conscience being nothing else than inward integrity of heart. In this sense Paul says that "the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good consciences and of faith unfeigned" (1 Tim. 1:5). He afterwards, in the same chapter, shows how much it differs from intellect when he speaks of "holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away, have made shipwreck," (1 Tim. 1:19). For by these words he intimates, that it is a lively inclination to serve God, a sincere desire to live in piety and holiness. Sometimes, indeed, it is even extended to men, as when Paul testifies, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men," (Acts 24:16). He speaks thus, because the fruits of a good conscience go forth and reach even to men. But, as I have said, properly speaking, it refers to God only. Hence a law is said to bind the conscience, because it simply binds the individual, without looking at men, or taking any account of them. For example, God not only commands us to keep our mind chaste and pure from lust, but prohibits all external lasciviousness or obscenity of language. My conscience is subjected to the observance of this law, though there were not another man in the world, and he who violates it sins not only by setting a bad example to his brethren, but stands convicted in his conscience before God. The same rule does not hold in things indifferent. We ought to abstain from every thing that produces offense, but with a free conscience. Thus Paul, speaking of meat consecrated to idols, says, "If any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake:" "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other," (1 Cor. 10:28, 29). A believer, after being previously admonished, would sin were he still to eat meat so offered. But though abstinence, on his part, is necessary, in respect of a brother, as it is prescribed by God, still he ceases not to retain liberty of conscience. We see how the law, while binding the external act, leaves the conscience unbound.

__________________________________________________________________

[458] French, "Mais quelcun dira"--But some one will say.

[459] Rom. 14:1, 13; 16:1; 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:25, 29, 32; Gal. 5:13.

[460] The French adds, "Lesquelles ne sont de soy ne bonnes ne mauvais;"--which in themselves are neither good nor bad.

[461] French, "de bon laict;"--good milk.

[462] See Epist. de Fugiendis Impiorum Illicitis Sacris. Also Epist. de Abjiciendis vel Administrandis Sacerdotiis Also the short treatise, De Vitandis Superstitionibus.

__________________________________________________________________

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



  • Derek Thomas
  • Mohler, Nichols, Parsons, Thomas
  • Miguel Núñez

#1 Born of the Spirit | Ligonier

 

#2 Q&A 2018 National Conference | Ligonier

 

#3 To the Ends of the Earth | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     8/1/2008    New Dog, Old Tricks

     Since hearing about the supposedly “new” atheism I have been trying to figure out what’s so new about it. Its proponents are not saying anything different than their atheist ancestors have said throughout history. In truth, they are simply using the same old spin on a new generation of skeptics. Take, for instance, new atheism proponent Richard Dawkins’ assertions. In his article “On Debating Religion,” he writes, “The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything” and “faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” In his book The Selfish Gene, he writes, “Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings.” None of this seems all that different from the old atheism of Karl Marx, who in 1844 wrote in his introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

     The trouble with this new atheism is that it is not new at all but is the same old humanistic sermon that has been proclaimed on the soap box of cynicism throughout the ages. Nevertheless, perhaps what’s most troubling is that these new atheists employ popular-level arguments in order to give them the broadest appeal.

     What is even more troubling is that many Christians have shut their mouths and closed their eyes, pretending that this humanistic, atheistic nonsense will all just go away without affecting our churches or our children. Make no mistake about it, the Lord God Almighty reigns, and because His kingdom shall overcome, we shall overcome by His grace and before His face, coram Deo. And although these new atheists might call us deluded Christians, they are most certainly not deluded in their mission to convert the undiscerning world to the god of atheism — they know full well for whom they’re working as they seek new ways to suppress the eternal truth of God in their unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     In 1859, on this day, April 16, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville died. For nine months he had traveled the U.S. to observe its institutions, writing the work Democracy in America, which has been described as “the most comprehensive… analysis of… character and society in America… ever… written.” In it, de Tocqueville wrote: “Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention…. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee.

The highest and most profitable lesson is the true knowledge and lowly esteem of ourselves. --- Thomas A Kempis
The Imitation Of Christ

Be not troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of humans cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God's help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and free them from all distress.
--- Thomas a Kempis
The Imitation Of Christ

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.
--- Phillips Brooks
ISBN-13: 978-0892216222

"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."
--- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
ISBN-13: 978-1598530988
... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 4/16
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     I rested a few days in body and mind with our friend, Jane Crosfield, who was once in America. On the sixth day of the week I was at Kendal, in Westmoreland, and at Greyrig Meeting the 30th day of the month, and first of the week. I have known poverty of late, and have been graciously supported to keep in the patience, and am thankful under a sense of the goodness of the Lord towards those who are of a contrite spirit.

     Sixth of ninth month and first of the week. -- I was this day at Counterside, a large meeting-house, and very full. Through the opening of pure love, it was a strengthening time to me, and I believe to many more.

     Thirteenth of ninth month. -- This day I was at Leyburn, a small meeting; but, the towns-people coming in, the house was crowded. It was a time of heavy labor, and I believe was a profitable meeting. At this place I heard that my kinsman, William Hunt, from North Carolina, who was on a religious visit to Friends in England, departed this life on the 9th of this month, of the small-pox, at Newcastle. He appeared in the ministry when a youth, and his labors therein were of good savor. He travelled much in that work in America. I once heard him say in public testimony, that his concern in that visit was to be devoted to the service of Christ so fully that he might not spend one minute in pleasing himself, which words, joined with his example, was a means of stirring up the pure mind in me.

     Having of late often travelled in wet weather through narrow streets in towns and villages, where dirtiness under foot and the scent arising from that filth which more or less infects the air of all thickly settled towns were disagreeable; and, being but weakly, I have felt distress both in body and mind with that which is impure. In these journeys I have been where much cloth hath been dyed, and have, at sundry times, walked over ground where much of their dye-stuffs has drained away. This hath produced a longing in my mind that people might come into cleanness of spirit, cleanness of person, and cleanness about their houses and garments.

     Some of the great carry delicacy to a great height themselves, and yet real cleanliness is not generally promoted. Dyes being invented partly to please the eye and partly to hide dirt, I have felt in this weak state, when travelling in dirtiness, and affected with unwholesome scents, a strong desire that the nature of dyeing cloth to hide dirt may be more fully considered.

     Washing our garments to keep them sweet is cleanly, but it is the opposite to real cleanliness to hide dirt in them. Through giving way to hiding dirt in our garments a spirit which would conceal that which is disagreeable is strengthened. Real cleanliness becometh a holy people; but hiding that which is not clean by coloring our garments seems contrary to the sweetness of sincerity. Through some sorts of dyes cloth is rendered less useful. And if the value of dye-stuffs, and expense of dyeing, and the damage done to cloth, were all added together, and that cost applied to keeping all sweet and clean, how much more would real cleanliness prevail.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Thirty-Eighth Chapter / The Right Ordering Of External Affairs; Recourse To God In Dangers

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, you must strive diligently to be inwardly free, to have mastery over yourself everywhere, in every external act and occupation, that all things be subject to you and not you to them, that you be the master and director of your actions, not a slave or a mere hired servant. You should be rather a free man and a true Hebrew, arising to the status and freedom of the children of God who stand above present things to contemplate those which are eternal; who look upon passing affairs with the left eye and upon those of heaven with the right; whom temporal things do not so attract that they cling to them, but who rather put these things to such proper service as is ordained and instituted by God, the great Workmaster, Who leaves nothing unordered in His creation.

     If, likewise, in every happening you are not content simply with outward appearances, if you do not regard with carnal eyes things which you see and hear, but whatever be the affair, enter with Moses into the tabernacle to ask advice of the Lord, you will sometimes hear the divine answer and return instructed in many things present and to come. For Moses always had recourse to the tabernacle for the solution of doubts and questions, and fled to prayer for support in dangers and the evil deeds of men. So you also should take refuge in the secret chamber of your heart, begging earnestly for divine aid.

     For this reason, as we read, Joshua and the children of Israel were deceived by the Gibeonites because they did not first seek counsel of the Lord, but trusted too much in fair words and hence were deceived by false piety.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Look at Abraham. When God called him to be the father of that people out of which Christ was to be born, God said to him: "I am God Almighty, walk before me and be thou perfect." And God trained Abraham to trust Him as the omnipotent One; and whether it was his going out to a land that he knew not, or his faith as a pilgrim midst the thousands of Canaanites--his faith said: This is my land--or whether it was his faith in waiting twenty-five years for a son in his old age, against all hope, or whether it was the raising up of Isaac from the dead on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice him--Abraham believed God. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, because he accounted Him who had promised able to perform.

     The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God. I could go through Scripture and prove to you how Moses, when he led Israel out of Egypt; how Joshua, when he brought them into the land of Canaan; how all God's servants in the Old Testament counted upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: "I can do nothing. God must and will do all." Have you said: "In worship, in work, in sanctification, in obedience to God, I can do nothing of myself, and so my place is to worship the omnipotent God, and to believe that He will work in me every moment"? Oh, may God teach us this! Oh, that God would by His grace show you what a God you have, and to what a God you have entrusted yourself--an omnipotent God, willing with His whole omnipotence to place Himself at the disposal of every child of His! Shall we not take the lesson of the Lord Jesus and say: "Amen; the things which are impossible with men are possible with God"?

     Remember what we have said about Peter, his self-confidence, self-power, self-will, and how he came to deny his Lord. You feel, "Ah! there is the self-life, there is the flesh-life that rules in me!" And now, have you believed that there is deliverance from that? Have you believed that Almighty God is able so to reveal Christ in your heart, so to let the Holy Spirit rule in you, that the self-life shall not have power or dominion over you? Have you coupled the two together, and with tears of penitence and with deep humiliation and feebleness, cried out: "O God, it is impossible to me; man cannot do it, but, glory to Thy name, it is possible with God"? Have you claimed deliverance? Do it now. Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into the hands of a God of infinite love; and as infinite as His love is His power to do it.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:34-35
     by D.H. Stern

34     Righteousness makes a nation great,
but sin degrades any people.

35     A king shows favor to a servant with good sense,
but his wrath strikes one who shames [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

     ‘Love!’ said the Tragedian striking his forehead with his hand: then, a few notes deeper, ‘Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?’

     ‘How should I not?’ said the Lady. ‘I am in love. In love, do you understand? Yes, now I love truly.’

     ‘You mean,’ said the Tragedian, ‘you mean—you did not love me truly in the old days.’

     ‘Only in a poor sort of way,’ she answered. ‘I have asked you to forgive me. There was a little real love in it. But what we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main I loved you for my own sake: because I needed you.’

     ‘And now!’ said the Tragedian with a hackneyed gesture of despair. ‘Now, you need me no more?’

     ‘But of course not!’ said the Lady; and her smile made me wonder how both the phantoms could refrain from crying out with joy.

     ‘What needs could I have,’ she said, ‘now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak. You shall be the same. Come and see. We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly.’

     But the Tragedian was still striking attitudes. ‘She needs me no more—no more. No more,’ he said in a choking voice to no one in particular. ‘Would to God,’ he continued, but he was now pronouncing it Gud—‘would to Gud I had seen her lying dead at my feet before I heard those words. Lying dead at my feet. Lying dead at my feet.’

     I do not know how long the creature intended to go on repeating the phrase, for the Lady put an end to that. ‘Frank! Frank!’ she cried in a voice that made the whole wood ring. ‘Look at me. Look at me. What are you doing with that great, ugly doll? Let go of the chain. Send it away. It is you I want. Don’t you see what nonsense it’s talking.’ Merriment danced in her eyes. She was sharing a joke with the Dwarf, right over the head of the Tragedian. Something not at all unlike a smile struggled to appear on the Dwarf’s face. For he was looking at her now. Her laughter was past his first defences. He was struggling hard to keep it out, but already with imperfect success. Against his will, he was even growing a little bigger. ‘Oh, you great goose,’ said she. ‘What is the good of talking like that here? You know as well as I do that you did see me lying dead years and years ago. Not “at your feet”, of course, but on a bed in a nursing home. A very good nursing home it was too. Matron would never have dreamed of leaving bodies lying about the floor! It’s ridiculous for that doll to try to be impressive about death here. It just won’t work.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Can you come down?

     
While ye have light, believe in the light. --- John 12:36.

     We all have moments when we feel better than our best, and we say—‘I feel fit for anything; if only I could be like this always!’ We are not meant to be. Those moments are moments of insight which we have to live up to when we do not feel like it. Many of us are no good for this workaday world when there is no high hour. We must bring our commonplace life up to the standard revealed in the high hour.

     Never allow a feeling which was stirred in you in the high hour to evaporate. Don’t put your mental feet on the mantelpiece and say—‘What a marvellous state of mind to be in!’ Act immediately, do something, if only because you would rather not do it. If in a prayer meeting God has shown you something to do, don’t say—‘I’ll do it’; do it! Take yourself by the scruff of the neck and shake off your incarnate laziness. Laziness is always seen in cravings for the high hour; we talk about working up to a time on the mount. We have to learn to live in the grey day according to what we saw on the mount.

     Don’t cave in because you have been baffled once, get at it again. Burn your bridges behind you, and stand committed to God by your own act. Never revise your decisions, but see that you make your decisions in the light of the high hour.


My Utmost for His Highest

Chapel Deacon
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Chapel Deacon

Who put that crease in your soul,
Davies, ready this fine morning
For the staid chapel, where the Book's frown
Sobers the sunlight? Who taught you to pray
And scheme at once, your eyes turning
Skyward, while your swift mind weighs
Your heifer's chances in the next town's
Fair on Thursday? Are your heart's coals
Kindled for God, or is the burning
Of your lean cheeks because you sit
Too near that girl's smouldering gaze?
Tell me, Davies, for the faint breeze
From heaven freshens and I roll in it,
Who taught you your deft poise?

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Only Believe / Luke 17 ...

     Some object to the Gospel’s offer of forgiveness on the grounds that it is too easy. “Only believe?” a Navy buddy once objected. “Why, then you could go out and rob or rape or do anything you wanted to do!”

     I tried to explain that a person who trusts Jesus as Saviour doesn’t “want to” sin. That faith makes us different inside, and love for God, not fear of Him, motivates holiness. But somehow he just couldn’t see it.

     We Christians sometimes have just as much trouble seeing that “faith” as belief is not enough. Those who truly believe are called on to put faith into practice, and obey the One they have acknowledged as Lord.

     In the words and incidents that Luke reports in these crucial chapters of his book, we Christians are helped to see discipleship’s link between true faith, and necessary obedience.

     Faith and Works. Christians have often debated the relationship. But we can agree on certain basic statements. Salvation comes through faith and faith alone, for the death of Jesus purchased our forgiveness and new life. When a person has new life from God, that life will be expressed. Just as a living infant cries and moves, so a person with new life from Christ will express that life—in works. It is not that works bring life, but that those who are alive in Christ will work.

     We’ve all seen a child seated in complete concentration, taking apart a new toy. Somehow it seems so important to find out just how something new works.

     We may feel the same way about “faith.” What does it mean to “believe”? Does it mean sitting back and waiting for God to do something? Or does it mean acting? And how can I tell if my actions are just selfeffort, that activism which is to have no role in discipleship?

     Questions like these plague many Christians, and many who set out to be disciples hesitate at times, uncertain how to proceed.

     Jesus’ first disciples were uncertain too. Then the Lord taught them the functions of faith. Just as God teaches us the functions of faith through these vital chapters of Luke’s Gospel.

     Discipleship and Obedience: Luke 17:1–10 / One day the question of faith crept unexpectedly into a conversation between Jesus and the Twelve. Christ was speaking a word of woe about those who put temptation to sin in another’s way, to cause him to stumble (Luke 17:1-2). This was not a word for outsiders only: it was a word needed by disciples. Too often our ways of living with others harm rather than help!

     Jesus then became very specific. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). This is doubly hard. It’s much easier to keep still when someone sins against us, and to try to hide the pain. We sometimes even think we’re being “spiritual” by trying to ignore the wrong. But failure to be honest, trying to give the “outward show” of nothing wrong when there is something wrong, isn’t God’s way. “[Speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Real love speaks out to remove the barrier that even inadvertent sins erect.

     The loving thing to do is to rebuke the person who sins against you, for he needs the cleansing that forgiveness can bring as much as you need the barrier of hurt removed. So Jesus said, “Rebuke him.”

     And if he repents? Forgive! And this is difficult too. For our old self dwells on slights and hurts and takes a perverse pleasure in self-pity and in “righteous indignation.”

     But then Jesus made it even more difficult. “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The disciples were upset at this. “Lord,” they cried, “increase our faith!”
(Luke 17:5)

     I can understand their feelings. When we were first married my wife and I lived in a house trailer 35¬ by 8¬. Our living room was only about 6 feet wide. And I had a problem. Ever since my teen years, I’ve been driven up the wall by mouth noises—especially gum, chewed with open-mouthed vigor. And my wife was a gum chewer! As I’d sit at the table, way across our 6-foot living room, I’d become aware of a growing, echoing sound: ker-chump, ker-chump, KER-chump, KER-CHUMP!

     Finally, in desperation, I’d mention the gum noise, and be given a quick, fullhearted apology. And there’d be silence, as gum and mouth were clamped carefully shut. For a while. But soon, engrossed in reading, she’d forget. And then the sound would reach me again. And grow. Until I just couldn’t stand it any longer, and in desperation would speak again. She was always quick to say, “I’m sorry.” But after several recurrences, I’d begin to wonder, and to feel upset. “She couldn’t care! Not and do it again!”

     No wonder the disciples cried out to Jesus. “Help! If we have to live like that with people, then, Lord, increase our faith!”

     But how can we understand Jesus’ answer? He hardly seemed to sympathize. Instead of promising needed faith, He seems to dismiss their concern. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you”

(Luke 17:6). Now, the important thing to note here is that Jesus was not speaking to Pharisees, who had no faith. He was speaking to the Twelve, who did believe in Him, and who did have faith!


The Teacher's Commentary

Teacher's Commentary
     Destiny - Deuteronomy 27–34

     Thirty years ago a traveler taking a train across dry and dusty Palestine remarked, “And the Bible calls this a land of milk and honey!”

     A man overheard, tapped him on the shoulder, and showed him these words:

     Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord hath afflicted it.

     The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger.

     All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce burning anger?” --- Deuteronomy 29:22–24

     God had spelled out the principle of love which underlay the Law, and had detailed the specific stipulations of the contract He made with each generation of Israelites. Now the new generation ratified that covenant (Deuteronomy 27), and God spelled out the blessings of obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1–14). But God also spelled out the tragedies which would surely come if Israel went back on her commitment (Deuteronomy 28:15–68). The treaty was then summarized (Deuteronomy 29–30), and this great Old Testament book concludes with the personal words, and the story of the death of Moses. The message? It is one of commitment. Commitment determines destiny.

     Commitment / Earlier, when Israel stood poised at Paran and sent spies to examine Canaan, the people reached a time of decision. God spoke and told them, “Go.” And they refused.

     On this decision the destiny of that entire generation hinged. Because of their lack of trust in God, their decision was to disobey.

     We know how that single act of disobedience—though representative of a basic attitude and lifestyle—forced that generation away from the Promised Land out into the wilderness to die.

     But now we’re dealing with a new generation, a generation that did “hold fast” to the Lord. This generation was ready and eager to respond to the command to cross the Jordan and to battle for their heritage, Palestine. This new generation had a different heart attitude toward God, and was marked by a different lifestyle. They were a people who trusted God and who were willing to obey. But they too faced an important decision. This decision would express itself not in a single act of obedience or disobedience, but in a continuing pattern of life.

     The decision now facing Israel had to do with commitment.

     New Testament parallel. We can find a similar point of decision reflected in the Gospels. Jesus had spent a long time with His disciples, and a similar length of time in ministry to the crowds. Then one day He asked the Twelve, “Who do people say the Son of man is?”

     He received many apparently flattering answers. John the Baptist. Elijah. Another of the ancient prophets.

     Then our Lord asked the Twelve, “Who do you say I am?”

     And He received the right, the only adequate, response. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

     The disciples knew who Jesus is, and trusted themselves to Him. They had made that initial, critical decision to respond to God’s Word about His Son, even as this new, believing Israel was ready to respond to God’s Word and to go up into Canaan. But that initial decision, vital as it is, had to be followed up. Jesus said to His disciples:

     If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? --- Luke 9:23–24.

     In these words, Jesus sets before believers the second choice: the choice of commitment.

     Jesus was spelling out the ultimate impact of that choice on the human personality. If we choose to follow Jesus in daily commitment, we will “save” our lives. We will become the self we potentially are through the presence of God within us.

     Or we can make the wrong choice. We can live for ourselves rather than in commitment to Christ. An inevitable result of that choice will be that we lose ourselves. The person we might have been because of intimate relationship with God—our “very self”—will be forfeited.

     Commitment determines the destiny ahead in this world for each one of us.

     For Israel too. As we trace the culminating events in Deuteronomy, we see over and over again how the commitment decision determines the experience of Israel. Ultimately the promised Messiah will come, and all of God’s promises to Abraham will be fulfilled. But until then, each generation’s choice will determine its own destiny.

     Blessing or Curse: Deuteronomy 27–29 / Covenant entered (Deuteronomy 27). It seems strange to read words like these in this section of Deuteronomy: “You have now become the people of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 27:9).

     Weren’t these descendants of Abraham automatically the people of the Lord?

     Yes, in one sense.

     But in another sense the Hebrews, as a people and as individuals, chose to enter into the relationship with God that was defined by Law. The promise made to Abraham held firm, no matter what a given generation did. But each generation’s own experience of God’s blessing, and its own relationship with the Lord, was defined by the Mosaic Law Covenant, and that covenant was entered into by personal choice and commitment. Thus the Deuteronomy passage we’re studying picks up this critical point, and explains for living Israel for all time the meaning of this commitment decision.

     “All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God.… In order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath” (Deuteronomy 29:10, 12).

     The Lord is “the Lord your God.” But only by entering voluntarily into the covenant of Law would an individual or given generation experience the blessings of being “His people.”

     To mark off this day as special, an appropriate ceremony was determined. Israel was told to act out her commitment in an unmistakable way. When she was over Jordan, the commandments were to be written plainly on large, whitewashed stones. Half the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal, and shout out “Amen” to the curses pronounced by the Levites for disobedience (Deuteronomy 27:15–26). The other half of the tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless. And an altar was to be built—on the mount of cursing.

     Thus commitment was to be marked formally. It was to be a distinct experience, this entering of the covenant, and was to be remembered by the Israelites.

     Definition and outcome of commitment (Deuteronomy 28). The definition of commitment given here is extremely simple.

     Daily obedience.

     We see it over and over. “If you fully obey the Lord your God, and carefully follow all His commands I give you today” (Deuteronomy 28:1).

     It is just as simple to define lack of commitment, or uncommitment.

     Daily disobedience.

     “If you do not carefully follow all the words of this Law, which are written in this Book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name” (Deuteronomy 28:58).

     The decision the believer makes is to live out his commitment to God as daily obedience—or not to do so.


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

Deuteronomy 29
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–6.—Witnessing without seeing. There is an instruction note on this passage in Dr. Jameson’s ‘Commentary.’ For nearly forty years the people had been witnesses of the extraordinary care of God in watching over them, in supplying their wants, and in conducting them through the wilderness; and yet the constant succession of mercies had had no proper effect on them. They did not read the loving-kindness of God in all as they should have done. Having eyes, they saw not; having ears, they heard not. The form, however, in which Moses here throws this is remarkable. If his words are not understood, he may seem even to cast a reflection on God, for having given them such great mercies, while at the same time he withheld the one mercy which would make blessings of all the rest. Yet we cannot for a moment think that Moses intended anything of the kind. He evidently reproaches the people for their dulness. If there had been an earnest desire to understand the deep meaning of God’s dealings with them, certainly the needful light and wisdom would not have been withheld. Our subject of thought arising hence is—Spiritual stolidity; or, witnessing without seeing. The following passages of Scripture should be studied in regard to this theme:—
Isa. 6:9, 10; 63:9, 10, 17; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2; 14
Matt. 11:25; 12:24; 13:14, 15; 15:16; 16:9; 21:27; Mark 3:5 (Greek); 5:23; 6:52; 8:10–13, 21; Luke 7:29–35; 12:56, 57; 19:42; John 4:33; 7:17; 8:31, 32, 47; 9:39–41; 14:9, 22; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:14, 15; Ps. 25:14
. Observe—

     I. THERE IS A MEANING, RICH AND FULL, IN THE INCIDENTS OF LIFE. Each one’s life is full of incident, from morning till evening, from the beginning of the year unto the end of it. There may not have been the succession of what is startling and striking, as there was in the case of Israel, but simply common mercies coming speedily and without pause, just as they were needed; the mercies one by one, fitting exactly into place, as if a gracious care had provided all. As if—do we say? That is it. A gracious care has provided all. That is precisely our present postulate. We should as soon think that the letters in a printing office would spontaneously arrange themselves into order for a printed book, as that the constant succession of our comforts in life should come as they do without any prearrangement. 1. Life’s comforts and supplies are a constant disclosure of Divine loving-kindness. They reveal God (
Ps. 107:43). 2. They are intended to help on the culture and growth of character. Even supplies which come in the physical region, when granted to moral beings, have a moral significance in them. 3. By winning us to God, his mercies are intended to lead us to repentance, and thus to open up to us a glorious goal in character and destiny.

     II. THIS DIVINE MEANING IN THE MERCIES OF LIFE IS OFTEN MISSED BY THOSE ON WHOM THOSE MERCIES ARE BESTOWED. Of how many it may still be said, “Having eyes, they see not; and having ears, they hear not”! This may arise from one or more of several causes. 1. There may be some preconceived assumption or foregone conclusion which, if indulged in, will shut out all acceptance of any thought of God’s loving-kindness in common life, or anywhere else. Some “high thought” may exalt itself against the knowledge of God. 2. There may be the lack of a spirit of loyalty, so that the individual is indisposed to read aright the messages of his Father’s goodness. 3. There may be a misuse or non-use of the organs and faculties by which spiritual knowledge may be acquired. See ‘A Candid Examination of Theism ,’ by Physicus, which is a striking example of total failure in this respect. 4. There may be distractions of heart and soul by the whirl and rush of life, so that the spirit has not leisure there from to learn of God in “secret silence of the mind.” 5. There may be entire indifference concerning the higher meaning of common things. Any one of these five causes will amply account for a man failing to learn of God through the experiences of life.

     III. THERE IS NO ADEQUATE REASON WHICH CAN JUSTIFY SUCH A FAILURE TO LEARN LIFE’S LESSONS. For: 1. We have a revelation of God given to as in the Book, whereby we may come at the true interpretation of life. Israel had their Law, by which they might read their life. We have both the Law and the gospel. And the preciousness of human life in the eye of God is taught us in
Luke 15, and in the light of such a chapter should the mystery of human life and Divine care be studied. 2. We have a distinct disclosure to us of the one condition on which religious knowledge and certitude can be acquired (John 7:17; Ps. 25:8, 9, 14). 3. There is a direct and clear promise of wisdom to those who lack it and seek it (Jas. 1:5–7). The promises given by our Lord are also abundant. 4. There is the testimony of the experience of such as are taught of God. They can tell of his mercies, and sing aloud of his righteousness (Ps. 34:6; 66:16). And such experience is or should be an invaluable help to those who have yet to learn “the secret of the Lord.” Now, with this fourfold clue, it is altogether needless for any to misunderstand life’s mystery and meaning. So that it follows—

     IV. THAT TO BE AND TO REMAIN WITHOUT SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION IS MATTER FOR SERIOUS REPROACH AND REBUKE. It is not against God that the words of ver.
4 are spoken. He would have given them eyes to see, had they desired and sought that blessing. And so he will now. Hence there is a fivefold injustice done by us if we remain without the true knowledge of the rich meaning in our mercies. 1. There is injustice to the Word of God. 2. There is injustice to the God of the Word. 3. There is injustice to ourselves. 4. There is injustice to the mystery of life. 5. There is injury to our future and eternal destiny.

     Well may we adopt for ourselves, on our own behalf, as well as on that of others, the prayers of the apostle for spiritual enlightenment (
Phil. 1:9–11; Col. 1:9, 10; Eph. 1:15–18). For as we understand the mystery of God in Christ will all minor ones have the light of heaven poured upon them.

     Vers.
10–21.—Apostacy in heart a root of bitterness. In the midst of this paragraph there is an expression of which the writer to the Hebrews makes use as a warning. It is found in the eighteenth verse: “Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:10, the sacred writer says, “Looking dligently … lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” The root bearing gall and wormwood which Moses deprecates is, Apostacy from God who has revealed his will through him. That which the New Testament writer dreads, and to ward off which his whole Epistle was written is, Apostacy from God who has revealed his will through his only begotten Son. The parallels between the two possibilities would furnish a most instructive theme for the preacher; so likewise would the contrasts. We propose now to suggest a line of thought which may “open up” and impress on the heart and conscience the truth that heart-apostacy is a root bearing gall and wormwood.

     I. THE CHRISTIAN, LIKE ISRAEL OF OLD, IS SURROUNDED WITH INFLUENCES THAT ARE UNFAVOURABLE TO FIDELITY TO ALL THAT HE BELIEVES AND HOPES. Israel was in the midst of other nations, who had a greatness and pomp with which they could not vie, who had a religious worship other than theirs, and a literature and learning which were greater than theirs; and it was not at all unnatural that now and then, at any rate, they should cast a longing look at them, and cherish a wish to rival them. And as their acquaintance with other nations increased in the course of the ages, it cannot be wondered at if they were tempted to depart from the simplicity of their monotheistic faith and worship. And now, the parallel between them and us is closer than even it has been. Increasing research has brought to light much religious literature in the world, which pertains to varied religions, in which even fifty years ago our fathers thought there was nothing good. The great religions of the world—Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohammedanism—were looked on by some as almost totally bad. And now, some are so elated by the features of excellence that may be traced in one and another, and so started by some parallels between the Christian religion and others, that they are tempted to indulge the thought that our faith is but one among many—the best, perhaps, of all the varied religions in the world, but yet differing from others rather in its superior measure of excellence, than in any features altogether and absolutely unique and incomparable. Hence—

     II. THERE IS A DANGER OF APOSTACY OF HEART FROM THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, ANALOGOUS TO THE PERIL WHICH BESET ISRAEL OF OLD. The peril to which Christians are now exposed is not merely the ordinary one arising from the fickleness of the human heart, and from the subtle temptations and fiery darts of the wicked one. With the larger knowledge just referred to of whatever excellence other religions may have, a new temptation is presented to the understanding, no longer to regard our Saviour as the one and only Redeemer, but as simply the Highest and Best of the Religious Teachers of the world. And so far as this temptation is yielded to, there may come a defection from the faith on any one or more—or all—of the five following points:—1. Christ may cease to be regarded as the only begotten Son of the Father. 2. His Godhead, and therefore his incarnation, may come to be denied, or at least may cease to be held as a part of the “faith once [for all] delivered to the saints.” 3. His redemption, as at once furnishing us with a gospel of deliverance and a gospel of power, may be lost sight of as the distinctive feature of his work, to which no religion in the world can furnish a parallel or point of comparison. We have many religions in the world; there is but one gospel. 4. His example may come to be regarded as simply one that towers above that of other men, and as unattended with any power of lifting the world up to his own level. 5. And with all this, the dread and august majesty with which he, as the Mediator of our race, exercises all power in heaven and on earth, may be thrown into the background, and may thus cease to sway the heart and life. No one who understands the times can fail to see the reality of these dangers, and the serious proportions they are assuming. That amid the storm, the kingdom of Christ will be shaken, we have no fear whatever, but many may depart from the faith meanwhile.

     III. SUCH APOSTACY WOULD BE A ROOT OF BITTERNESS. This of itself would require an entire homily to do it justice. We can but hint in outline. 1. If thus the heart loses its hold of Christ as a Redeemer, the attainment of salvation will henceforth become impossible. 2. If once the power of Christ ceases to renew, the old self will reign, and evil passions be under no adequate control. Inferior power may curb the manifestation of passion, but only Divine power can tear up its roots. 3. Such defection from the faith will “defile” many. The evil will not stop with one. It will be infectious. 4. Such dishonour done to the Son of God will bring upon those who are guilty thereof the Divine displeasure. 5. The sure effect will be the breaking up and disbanding of the Churches which are poisoned thereby. There will be no reason why Churches should hold together, if their Divine Christ is gone, and there will be no power that can keep them together, if his Spirit is grieved and departs.

     IV. HENCE AGAINST SUCH A GRIEVOUS RESULT CHURCH MEMBERS SHOULD CAREFULLY GUARD. “Looking diligently lest,” etc. 1. They should watch the signs of the times, in order that, as far as in them lies, they may guard the Church to which they belong from the dangers with which the changeful currents of human thought may threaten them. 2. They should seek so to quicken the zeal and inflame the fervour of piety around them, that temptations to apostatize may have no power. 3. They should cherish a loving solicitude, and fervently pray, for each other, that mutual care and prayer may be an effectual guard against the approach of disloyalty in faith or even in thought. 4. Each one should be very jealous over his own heart. In others we can discern only fruit; in ourselves we can detect the root, of evil. Hence this watchfulness over our own spirits is doubly important, since it may be doubly effective. Even in others we may perhaps lop off the evil fruit, but in ourselves we can see that even the root is plucked up. For this, the only radical, certain, and absolute preventive of apostacy, the Spirit of God can effect, and he will, if we resign ourselves to his almighty hands. He can so renew and sanctify the heart that no “root of bitterness” can find any hold. He can make the soil so receptive of truth that any living seed of righteousness will at once germinate, and yet withal so destructive of error that any seed of evil casually dropping in will perish in its fall. Happy man, whose heart is in the effectual keeping of the Holy Ghost, and who is so sanctified that no germ of ill can find even a momentary home!

     Vers.
22–28.—Historical witnesses to the wrath of God. The chapter preceding this is shaded, yea, dark indeed. Nevertheless, it is an exact forecast of the state of Israel at this very day. In fact, the comparison between the state of the land of Palestine and the words of the Book, suggests two lines of instructive thought.

     I. HOW MANIFESTLY, IN THE DESOLATION OF THE HOLY LAND, IS SEEN THE EFFECT OF THE WRATH OF GOD! To this even Volney bears witness. He asks, “From whence proceed such melancholy revolutions? For what cause is the fortune of these countries so strikingly changed? Why are so many cities destroyed? Why is not that ancient population reproduced and perpetuated? A mysterious God exercises his incomprehensible judgments. He has doubtless pronounced a secret curse against the land. He has struck with a curse the present race of men in revenge of past generations” (quoted by Jameson).

     II. HOW IS THE ACCURACY OF THIS PART OF THE OLD BOOK THEREBY CONFIRMED! It is now a favourite cannon of scientific men, that whatever cannot be verified must be relegated to the past and forgotten. To this there can be no objection, if those who insist on this negative will insist equally on the reciprocal positive, and say that whatever can be verified must be accepted. For it would be simply a proof, either of discreditable ignorance or of perversity, if men were to deny or to spurn the repeated verifications of the words of Moses in the subsequent course of history. And it is of no use for men to declaim against the possibility of miracles, when there is the standing miracle before our eye, of some superhuman knowledge having forecast, three thousand years ago, precisely the line along which Hebrew history would move, down till the present day. While there is also this difference between miracle in mighty works, and miracle in prophetic words: The proof of the works is most clear to those who see them at the time; it may possibly diminish with the lapse of years. That of a prophetic word is nil at the time: it awaits confirmation from the lapse of years. And as long as our present historical records stand, so long will there remain the confirmation of the precision with which Israel’s lawgiver, speaking in the name of Jehovah, laid down beforehand the lines along which the Jewish nation should move for thousands of years. When we put together the land and the Book, the work and the word, and see the correspondence between them, we cannot but say, “This is the finger of God!”

     Ver.
29.—Secret things. “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” So says the great lawgiver. On a not dissimilar topic, Bishop Butler says, “We do not know the whole of anything.” Is it not so? Who can tell all about a stone or about a blade of grass? Who can aver that the furthest star has been yet discovered, or tell us what lies beyond it? There are secrets among the minute; there are secrets among the vast.

     I. LET US MAKE A DISTINCTION AS TO THE MANNER, KIND, OR DEGREE OF SECRECY. 1. Some things are secret, awaiting fuller discovery to reveal them. 2. Some things are secret, but await the unfolding of events in God’s providence. 3. Some things are secret in one sense, but not in another. We often know manifestations, but not essences; phenomena, but not noumena; facts, but not modes or reasons. 4. There are some secret things which are altogether unknowable, and must long remain so; e.g. Who can give an account of the reason why sin was permitted to enter? Who can tell whether it will always exist? Who can explain the doctrine of the Trinity? Who can descry the reason why this man had such and such suffering? etc., etc. How soon, when we come to ask questions like these, are we in “a boundless deep, where all our thoughts are drowned”!

     II. LET US INQUIRE, IN WHAT RESPECT DO SECRET THINGS BELONG UNTO GOD? They belong unto him: 1. To conceive them. 2. To will them. 3. To originate them. 4. To comprehend them. 5. To overrule them. 6. To conduct them to their final issue.

     III. LET US ASK, WHAT EFFECT SHOULD THE FACT THAT SECRET THINGS BELONG UNTO GOD HAVE UPON US? 1. It should humble us to find out how incompetent we are to scan the Divine works and ways. 2. It is obvious that we must leave secret things with him to whom alone they belong. 3. It is manifestly right to leave them with him. 4. It should give us no uneasiness to leave them there. 5. We should be fully content to leave them there. For we have (1) a revealed will of love; (2) plain and straightforward duty to discharge; (3) a full gospel of redeeming mercy; and (4) a good hope through grace. What more can we want? 6. We should be adoringly thankful that God keeps in his own hands what we could not understand, and entrusts us only with what we can. 7. Thankfully leaving in God’s hands what belongs to him, let us lovingly attend to that which belongs to us.

     Ver.
29.—Revealed things. This verse is so full of meaning that it is not easy to do even approximate justice to it in one discourse. Hence we have reserved the latter part thereof for a suggested outline of a distinct homily: “Those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this Law.” The statement here made concerning the Law of God in particular, is true of the entire Word of God as the regulator of faith and life. Three lines of thought here naturally follow on each other.

     I. WITHIN THE WORD OF GOD WE HAVE THE REVEALED MIND AND WILL OF GOD. He made known his ways unto Moses, etc. And now he hath spoken to us in his Son. The sum and substance of the Divine message is, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

     II. THE MANIFEST OBJECT OF THIS REVELATION OF AND FROM GOD IS THAT WE MAY THEREBY HAVE AN ADEQUATE GUIDE FOR FAITH AND LIFE. “That we may do all the words of this Law” is the Old Testament form of setting this. The New Testament form is, “Preaching … repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.”

     III. IN THIS RESPECT THE WORD OF GOD IS, EMPHATICALLY, “OURS.” “Those things which are revealed belong unto us,” etc. 1. They belong to us—our treasury of wealth. 2. They belong to us—our measure of responsibility. 3. They belong to us—our rule by which we shall be finally tried (
Rom. 2:1–16).

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     Alexander and the Diadochoi

     The principal Greek and Roman historians who chronicled the campaigns of Alexander make no mention of the Jews, who appear to have played little or no active role in the titanic clashes of that decisive decade. The first-century-B.C.E. Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, conjures up a very different picture. In his account, Alexander visited Jerusalem after his capture of Gaza in 332, attributed his victories to the favor of the Jewish god, guaranteed all Jews the right to live by their ancestral laws, and invited any who wished to join the Macedonians in their war against Persia (Ant. 11.325–39). Hecataeus of Abdera (or, more likely, a Jewish pseudepigrapher writing in his name) preserves episodes involving Jewish soldiers in Alexander’s forces (apud Josephus, Ag. Ap. 1.192, 200–204). Although judged to be fictional by most scholars, these and other imaginative reconstructions reflect the fact that Jews did serve in the armies of the Hellenistic monarchies.

     Alexander died in 323 without a viable heir and apparently without any clear instructions for choosing one. The result was a series of ultimately unsuccessful attempts by his former companions to prevent the fragmentation of Alexander’s realm. The rival maneuverings of these generals, collectively dubbed the Diadochoi (“Successors”) by later historians, turned the lands of the Near East into an incessant battleground. The loss of Alexander’s natural kin to attrition removed the Macedonian royal house as a putative object of common allegiance, impelling each of the Diadochoi in turn to proclaim himself king. The failure of the strongest of these to achieve ascendancy over his rivals at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C.E. precipitated a division of territory that would eventually harden into three relatively stable monarchies: Antigonid Greece, Seleucid Asia, and Ptolemaic Egypt.

     References to Jewish fortunes during the early wars of the Diadochoi are sparse. The Alexandrian historian Agatharchides of Cnidus relates that Ptolemy I captured Jerusalem, probably in 312 B.C.E. (apud Josephus, Ag. Ap. 1.209–11; cf. Ant. 12.6). The Letter of Aristeas states that Ptolemy enslaved some of its inhabitants and relocated others to Egypt, absorbing roughly a third of the latter into his defense forces. Aristeas’ numbers (100,000 deportees) are clearly exaggerated; but even if the story oversimplifies a more complicated series of population transfers, it surely reflects at least one source of Egypt’s Jewish population during the early Hellenistic period. Josephus also claims Jews served in the armies of Seleucus I (ruled 305–281) and were rewarded with citizenship in the cities he founded (Ant. 12.119). As with the Ptolemaic tales, this tradition smacks of retrospection by later Jewish inhabitants of these cities—especially those of the Seleucid capital at Antioch (Ant. 12.120–24). A precise chronology of early Jewish settlement within the Ptolemaic and Seleucid realms is not recoverable.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 16

     There will be no more… pain. --- Revelation 21:4.

     Now to show you the place that pain has in our beings, there are some facts I want to bring before you. ( Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) And the first is that our capacity for pain is greater than our capacity for joy. You experience, for instance, a great joy. Does that prolong its sway through the long months? Don’t you know how it exhausts itself and dies, as Shakespeare says, in its own too much? But now you experience great pain, and I never heard that that must exhaust itself—it may continue with someone for years. That means that our capacity for pain is deeper than our capacity for joy. It means that we are so fashioned by the Infinite that the undertone of life is one of sorrow. And I mention that to show you how human nature, when you come to understand it in the deeps, is in unison with the message of the Cross.

     Another fact is that pain is at the root of life and growth. It is not through its pleasures but through its pains that the world is carried to the higher levels.

     It is through suffering that we are born, and it is through suffering that we are fed. It is through agony that we have won our property; it is through blood that we have reached our freedom. It is through pain—pain infinite and unutterable, the pain that was endured by Christ on Calvary—that you and I are ransomed and redeemed. Now that is a fact, explain it how you will. I do not deny that pain may be a curse; remember that it is also a power. We owe our laws to it, and all our art. We owe to it our immortal books and our salvation. We owe to it the fact that we are here and able to look the problem in the face.

     The third fact I note is that in every country and in every age people have looked on suffering and pain as something that was acceptable to God. It hints at something mysterious in pain. People feel instinctively that in the bearing of it there is some hope of fellowship with heaven. An instinct that is universal is something you do well not to despise.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     Even There …  April 16

     Amonument in Westminster Abbey honors a man, born on April 16, 1786, whose grave has never been found. He was an Englishman who shipped to sea at age 15 with Admiral Nelson. He survived the Battle of Copenhagen then returned to England only to leave again, this time on a voyage to chart Australia. He next joined the Battle of Trafalgar, then the attack on New Orleans repulsed by General Andrew Jackson.

     His name was John Franklin, and six years after the attack on New Orleans he joined an expedition trying to cross the Polar Sea. He fell in love with Arctic exploration, and when the ships were forced to return to England, he joined another expedition to chart the northern coasts of Canada.

     John was blessed with optimism and never allowed himself to sink into depression or loneliness. Everyone he met became his friend. His secret, he said, was Christ. “If a man should inquire ‘How can I be saved?’ ” he wrote his sister from an ice-bound camp, “would it not be joy for him to find that the gospel points the way? Christ who died for the salvation of sinners is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

     One of his crew wrote, “He is quite a bishop! We have church morning and evening on Sunday. The men say they would rather have him than half the parsons of England.”

     On May 19, 1845 he sailed from England to look for the Northwest Passage and to explore the Arctic. Two cheering letters came from him, then news ceased. Years passed, and the fate of John Franklin was unknown to family or country. His wife spent a fortune searching for him. Finally a boat was found frozen in the north. In it were two skeletons and Sir John Franklin’s Bible. Psalm 139:9,10 was underlined: If I … dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (KJV).

     John Franklin has since been credited with discovering the Northwest Passage, and his Arctic explorations resulted in his being knighted and given an honorary degree from Oxford.

     You notice everything I do and everywhere I go. Suppose I had wings like the dawning day And flew across the ocean. Even then your powerful arm Would guide and protect me.
--- Psalm 139:3,9,10.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 16

     "The precious blood of Christ."
--- 1 Peter 1:19.

     Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands, and feet, and side, all distilling crimson streams of precious blood. It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it the sins of Christ’s people are atoned for; they are redeemed from under the law; they are reconciled to God, made one with him. Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it “cleanseth from all sin.” “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer, no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood, which makes us clean, removing the stains of abundant iniquity, and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved, notwithstanding the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God. The blood of Christ is likewise “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember it is God’s seeing the blood which is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same. The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood which justifies by taking away sin, does in its after-action, quicken the new nature and lead it onward to subdue sin and to follow out the commands of God. There is no motive for holiness so great as that which streams from the veins of Jesus. And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood, because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “They overcame through the blood of the Lamb.” How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus, fights with a weapon which cannot know defeat. The blood of Jesus! sin dies at its presence, death ceases to be death: heaven’s gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! we shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!


          Evening - April 16

     "And his hands were steady until the going down of the sun." Exodus 17:12.

     So mighty was the prayer of Moses, that all depended upon it. The petitions of Moses discomfited the enemy more than the fighting of Joshua. Yet both were needed. No, in the soul’s conflict, force and fervour, decision and devotion, valour and vehemence, must join their forces, and all will be well. You must wrestle with your sin, but the major part of the wrestling must be done alone in private with God. Prayer, like Moses’, holds up the token of the covenant before the Lord. The rod was the emblem of God’s working with Moses, the symbol of God’s government in Israel. Learn, O pleading saint, to hold up the promise and the oath of God before him. The Lord cannot deny his own declarations. Hold up the rod of promise, and have what you will.

     Moses grew weary, and then his friends assisted him. When at any time your prayer flags, let faith support one hand, and let holy hope uplift the other, and prayer seating itself upon the stone of Israel, the rock of our salvation, will persevere and prevail. Beware of faintness in devotion; if Moses felt it, who can escape? It is far easier to fight with sin in public, than to pray against it in private. It is remarked that Joshua never grew weary in the fighting, but Moses did grow weary in the praying; the more spiritual an exercise, the more difficult it is for flesh and blood to maintain it. Let us cry, then, for special strength, and may the Spirit of God, who helpeth our infirmities, as he allowed help to Moses, enable us like him to continue with our hands steady “until the going down of the sun;” till the evening of life is over; till we shall come to the rising of a better sun in the land where prayer is swallowed up in praise.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 16

          BENEATH THE CROSS OF JESUS

     Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1830–1869

     For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV)

     There is no neutral ground when we face the cross: Either we accept its atoning work and become a new person, or we reject it and remain in our sinful self-centered state. When we take our stand with Christ and His redemption accomplished at Calvary, we are compelled to make two profound confessions: “The wonders of His glorious love and my own worthlessness.”

     This hymn of commitment was written by a frail Scottish Presbyterian woman of the past century, Elizabeth Clephane, who, despite her physical limitations, was known throughout her charming community of Melrose, Scotland, for her helpful, cheery nature. Among the sick and dying in her area she won the name of “Sunbeam.” “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” was written by Miss Clephane in 1868, one year before her early death at the age of 39. She wrote eight hymns, all published posthumously. Besides this hymn, only one other has endured—“The Ninety and Nine,” made popular by the tune composed for it by Ira D. Sankey.

     It is obvious that Elizabeth, like most Scottish Presbyterians of her day, was an ardent Bible student, for her hymn is replete with biblical symbolism and imagery. For example:

     “the mighty Rock” is a reference from Isaiah 32:2

     “the weary land” is a reference from Psalm 63:1

     “home within the wilderness” is a reference from Jeremiah 9:2

     “rest upon the way” is a reference from Isaiah 28:12

     “noontide heat” is a reference from Isaiah 4:6

     “burden of the day” is a reference from Matthew 11:30

     Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
     the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
     a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way
     from the burning of the noon day heat
          and the burden of the day.

     Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
     the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
     and from my smitten heart with tears two wonders
          I confess—
     the wonders of His glorious love and my own
          worthlessness.

     I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place—
     I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
     content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
     my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.


     For Today: Psalm 22:7; Matthew 27:33, 37; Luke 9:23; Galatians 6:14.

     “My glory all the cross.” Determine to live the truth of this phrase. Reflect on these musical expressions ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          Christ's Love Addressed Itself to Our Greatest Need: The Purging of Our Sins

     The manifestations of Christ's love correspond to our woe and want, its operations being suited to the condition and circumstances of its objects. Our direst need was the putting away of our sins, and that need has been fully met by Him. His love alone could not remove our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.” The claims of God had to be met; the penalty of the Law had to be endured. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22), and Christ so loved the Church as to shed His precious blood for her. Hence the Apostle John is here heard exclaiming, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in [or “by”] his own blood.” This is the second inspiring reason or motive behind this benediction. This reference to the blood of Christ necessarily underscores His Deity as well as His humanity. None but a creature can shed blood and die, but none but God can forgive sins. It is likewise a witness to the vicarious or substitutionary nature and efficacy of His sacrifice. How otherwise could it wash us from our sins? Moreover, it celebrates the supreme proof of His care for His people. “Love is strong as death; . . . Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the flood drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7) demonstrated at the cross, where all the waves and billows of God's wrath (Ps. 42:7) went over the Sinbearer.

     The surpassing love of Christ was evidenced by His espousing the persons of God's elect, undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, obeying and suffering in their room and stead. The Apostle Paul brought this blessed truth home with application to believers when he said, Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour (Eph. 5:1, 2).

     The Lord Jesus knew what was necessary for our deliverance, and His love prompted Him to the accomplishment of the same. And the apostles Paul and John understood and taught concerning the heavy debt of love and gratitude that is laid upon all the happy beneficiaries of Christ's saving work. To “wash us from our sins” was of the very essence of those things that are necessary for our salvation, and for that His blood must be shed. What stupendous proof was that of His love! Herein is love, that the Just should voluntarily and gladly suffer for the unjust, “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Amazing tidings, that Christ Jesus made full atonement for those who were at that very moment His enemies (Rom. 5:10)! He chose to lay down His life for those who were by nature and by practice rebels against God, rather than that they should be a sacrifice to the wrath of God forever. The guilty transgress, but the innocent One is condemned. The ungodly offend, but the Holy One endures the penalty. The servant commits the crime, but the Lord of glory blots it out. What reason have we to adore Him!

          Christ's Love Is Infinite and Immutable

     How can Christ ever manifest His love for His people in a way that exceeds that which He has already done? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Yet this was the God-man, and by so doing He showed that His love was infinite and eternal — incapable of amplification! He shone forth in the full meridian power and splendor of His love in Gethsemane and on Calvary. There he sustained in His soul the whole of the awful curse that was due and payable to the sins of His people. Then it was that it pleased the Father to bruise Him and put His soul to grief (Isa. 53:10). His anguish was inconceivable. He cried out under it, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” It was thus that He loved us, and it was thereby that He provided the fountain to cleanse us from our iniquities. Through the shedding of His precious blood He has purged His people entirely from the guilt and defilement of sin. Let us join in the exultant praise of S. E. Pierce:

     “Blessings, eternal blessings on the Lamb who bore our sins and carried our sorrows! His bloody sweat is our everlasting health and cure. His soul-travail is our everlasting deliverance from the curse of the Law and the wrath to come. His bearing our sins in His own body on the Tree is our everlasting discharge from them. His most precious bloodshedding is our everlasting purification.”

     “And washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Sin alike stains our record before God, pollutes the soul, and defiles the conscience; and naught can remove it but the atoning and cleansing blood of Christ. Sin is the only thing that the Lord Jesus hates. It is essential to His holiness that He should do so. He hates it immutably, and can as soon cease to love God as love it. Nevertheless His love to His people is even greater than His hatred of sin. Through their fall in Adam they are sinners; their fallen natures are totally depraved. By thought, word, and deed they are sinners. They are guilty of literally countless transgressions, for their sins are more in number than the hairs of their heads (Ps. 40:12). Yet Christ loved them! He did so before they sinned in Adam, and His forethoughts of them in their fallen estate produced no change in His love for them; rather, they afforded greater opportunity for Him to display that love. Therefore He became incarnate, that He might blot out their sins. Nothing was more loathsome to the Holy One of God. Yet He was willing to be an alien to His mother's children, despised and rejected of men, mocked and scourged by them, yea, abandoned by God for a season, that His people might be cleansed.

     Psalm 40:12  For evils have encompassed me
          beyond number;
     my iniquities have overtaken me,
          and I cannot see;
     they are more than the hairs of my head;
          my heart fails me.


          Christ's Once-for-All Washing of His People

     I fully agree with John Gill's comments on the words “washed us from our sins”:

     “This is not to be understood of the sanctification of their natures, which is the work of the Spirit, but of atonement for their sins and justification from them.”

     In other words, it is the purchase of redemption, and not its application, that is here in view. The latter, of course, follows at regeneration, for all whom He washed judicially from the guilt and penalty of sin (once for all at Golgotha) are in due time cleansed and released from the love and dominion of sin. That which is signified in the clause before us is guilt cancelled, condemnation removed, the curse of the Law taken away, and the sentence of acquittal pronounced. This is the portion of all believers: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We must distinguish between the justification of our persons once for all (Acts 13:39) and the pardon of those sins that we commit as Christians (1 John 1:9). The latter must be penitentially confessed, and then we are forgiven and cleansed on the ground of Christ's blood. It is the former that is in view in Revelation 1:5, where the Apostle John is rejoicing in the love of Him whose blood has once and for all washed the persons of the saints. The ongoing cleansing from sin that is needed day by day is acknowledged in Revelation 7:13, 14, where we behold the saints in brilliant white robes, previously travel-stained garments that they had cleansed day by day (cf. John 13:3-17).

A Guide to Fervent Prayer


Forget Myself

James Houston - Bruce Hindmarsh
Biola University





3,000 miles wide 1 inch deep Faith

James Houston - Bruce Hindmarsh
Biola University






A Conversation

James Houston - Bruce Hindmarsh
Biola University





Leviticus 20:13

The Homosexual Question | Brett Meador






Leviticus 20

Through the Bible | Brett Meador





Conflict Resolution | Rex Johnson

Biola University






Grief | Norman Wright

Biola University





Refined by Fire: Awakening & Suffering
Joni Eareckson Tada | Ligonier






Q&A 2018 National Conference
DeYoung, Ferguson, Godfrey, Lawson: | Ligonier





The Power of God’s Word
Awakening through God’s Word | Stephen Nichols






The Surprising Work of God
Awakening in History | Kevin DeYoung





Teaching Fellows Roundtable
2018 National Conference | Ligonier