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Leviticus 23     Psalm 30     Ecclesiastes 6     2 Timothy 2

Leviticus 23

Feasts of the LORD

Leviticus 23:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

The Sabbath

3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.

The Passover

4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

The Feast of Firstfruits

9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. 14 And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

The Feast of Weeks

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. 22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

The Feast of Trumpets

23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”

The Day of Atonement

26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

The Feast of Booths

33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36 For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work. 37 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, 38 besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.

39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” 44 Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

Psalm 30

Joy Comes with the Morning


1  I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2  O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3  O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

4  Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5  For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6  As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7  By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

8  To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9  “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10  Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”

11  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12  that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Ecclesiastes 6

Ecclesiastes 6:1 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

2 Timothy 2

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12  if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13  if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

A Worker Approved by God

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

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Cultural Revolution

By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2005

     In the early years of the 1950s the phenomenon of broadcast television was beginning to sweep America. In these early days, however, it was still a small minority of American households that proudly owned a television set. At this time, a ban was executed by the networks prohibiting the use of the word “virgin” in television broadcasts. The censorship of this word was explained in light of the term’s close connection to matters of sexuality. So sensitive were the original producers of television towards offending the ethics and mores of the American public that words as seemingly harmless as the word “virgin” were banished from the airwaves in order to keep at arm’s length all possible sexual innuendos.

     Obviously, we have come a long way from the days of Ozzie and Harriet and the dawn of television broadcasting. However, since that time, the American culture has gone through its most radical cultural revolution in its history. The cultural revolution of the decade of the sixties contained within it a major cultural upheaval with respect to sexual mores. The old taboos against premarital and extramarital sexual relationships were destroyed by the new sex ethic. The new sex ethic was heralded by social scientists such as Alfred Kinsey and later by the Chapman Report and other chroniclers. What society now accepted in practice and in the arts showed a dramatic shift from an earlier time when chastity was regarded as a virtue. Every aspect of the media, in terms of cultural expression, made massive use of the new morality. Today one can hardly read a novel, watch a television program, see a movie in the theater, or even look at the advertisements in magazines and in stores without being acutely aware of this radical shift. Sex is the number-one seller for every conceivable sort of consumer product from razor blades to automobiles. If it’s sexy, it sells.

     The cultural revolution brought in its wake a completely different climate with respect to casual sex, extramarital sex, and, in more recent times, homosexual practices. This new climate has produced a level of erotic stimulation that no generation in human history has had to deal with in the past.

     Because of this shift in cultural acceptability, young people particularly are bombarded every single day of their lives with every conceivable sort of erotic stimulation. Of course, as long as there have been men and women, there have been biological urges and sexual appetites to deal with in terms of seeking to live chaste and virtuous lives. There is a sense in which fallen humanity has always had to struggle with the erotic impulses of the human heart, but at the same time there has been a massive escalation of temptation brought in the wake of the explosion of erotic stimulation in our day.

     The advent of the computer and the use of the Internet has rapidly increased this escalation. Though I am technologically challenged — I do not know how to go online, have never written an email message, much less have an email address — I am still aware that pornography on the Internet is a multibillion dollar industry in our country. My limited use of the Internet boils down to this, each day one of my associates graciously and professionally downloads for me the latest information coming out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the developments of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team — one of my passions. What strikes me in reading the print on these articles is that frequently in the margins of these major articles there are seductive pictures of scantily clad young beauties that beckon for further investigation. It’s clear that pornography, even in a sports article, is but a click or two away.

     Given the bombardment of the external stimulation that the young person today receives, it is well advised for the church, even though we are called to maintain the call to holiness and virtue that is ours from Scripture, to have at the same time compassion for people who are overwhelmed by temptation. It would be good for us to remember the encounter of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, who while treating her with His loving kindness and tender mercy and forgiving her for her sin, nevertheless commanded her to cease from that behavior henceforth, saying, “Go and sin no more.”

     If we examine the biblical ethic with respect to sexual behavior, we see that from the Old Testament through the New Testament, the ethic is virtually monolithic. Take, for example, the technical study of the word pornea as it is used in the Scriptures. In Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, we read, “The New Testament is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extramarital and unnatural intercourse” (p. 590). He recognizes that if anything is part of the original message of the New Testament it is this unequivocal judgment with respect to sexual purity and immorality.

     In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul expresses the corruption of our humanity that flows out of our base idolatry, and the subsequent judgment of God upon that. We read in Romans 1:24–32: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” In this the apostle Paul sees that sexual immorality, particularly with respect to its expression in homosexual activity, represents the extreme degree to which human moral corruption sinks. He sees these practices as being the result of a debased mind, a mind that is filled with unrighteousness, and that the people who do these things in defiance to God, at the same time encourage others to do it as well.

     When society gives its approval to forms of illicit sexual behavior, that becomes the strongest temptation of all to people who are susceptible to doing what everybody else is doing. That’s why it is the task of the Christian in the twenty-first century to underscore the unique call that God gives to us to be people who are non-conformists to a fallen and pagan culture. We are to seek to live transformed lives and to have our minds informed not by what other people are doing in the secular culture, not by what is deemed acceptable in television episodes or movie scenes of extramarital sex or by homosexual relationships, but we are to have our minds informed by the Word of God. I know of no other antidote for us to heal our sick souls in the midst of this crisis.

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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:

Restoring Love

By Duncan Rankin 6/1/2005

     God takes sexual sin seriously. So must we.

     The depth of His resolve on this issue can only be plumbed on Calvary. In the agony of His Son, the full measure of His devotion to opposing our perversions becomes clear. He is serious, deadly serious, about how we live and love together.

     But why? Why should it matter so much to Him and, therefore, to the Christian and the church?

     The nature of God’s resolve on this very personal issue is grounded not so much in our behavior, not in our doing right or wrong. Rather, His determination is fundamentally grounded in Himself — in what He is like, and therefore what we ought to be like, as creatures made imago Dei (in the image of God).

     For this reason, there’s more at stake in sex than the freedom and pleasure of two isolated individuals. The imaging of God hangs in the balance!

     Will the utter holiness of Christ’s passion for His Church be portrayed in the way that is most becoming to both Bride and Groom (Eph. 5:32; see also Ps. 45; Song 4, 7)? Or will their union be taken lightly and made sport of in the bodies and souls of those He came to save?

     As Christians, living in a wicked and perverse generation, we must wake up and see this pet sin of our generation for what it really is. Confusion about sexual evils and the cherishing of them in our hearts, minds, and lives must not be tolerated. Christian duty calls us to strain every nerve and to nip it in the bud, crying out to our heavenly Father and His incarnate Son to provide the ongoing work of the great Holy Spirit to mortify sexual sin in us and vivify us to clean Christian living.

     But that does not mean that we are intolerant of forgiveness! Jesus died to pay for sins just like these in the lives of sinners like us (1 Tim. 1:8–17; 1 Peter 3:18). His death demands that we take these sins seriously and that we take their forgiveness with utter seriousness as well.

     Have you broken fellowship with the triune God? Have you danced to the tune of your culture and your hormones, perverting the picture of God you were meant to draw with your life? Then flee to the cross and trust in the Savior! The death of Jesus is sufficient to cover even these sins, these secret, horrible sins of the heart and the mind, the bed and the browser.

     Perhaps your neighbor has done the breaking. Perhaps he has twisted and bent the goodness of God into an idol of despair. Such worship of body and life repulses you, incarnating all the decadence of post-Christian culture that so deeply offends you. Do not despair! You are not alone: the Lord God Almighty is offended too! He knows more about the details than you ever will, and the affront is more directly against Him than it will ever be against you.

     Christians must forgive and restore repentant sinners, not because we deny or ignore the reality of their guilt and sin, but precisely because we take them and their Savior so seriously. It is God’s good pleasure by His Word and Spirit to unite contemptible creatures like us to His holy Son. We should not be so surprised when He does the same for others!

     Those so impacted by God’s regenerating Spirit cannot be turned away. They are wed to Christ by the Word and by the Spirit (Rom. 7:4). How could we ever lock them out of His house? He has bought them with a price, redeemed them from the pit — the same price and the same pit as in our pathetic cases. These sins of the flesh are dark and dank, but they are not the unforgivable sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit! Thanks be to God, for there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents, and there should be joy on earth and in the church as well.

     Repentance demands restoration (Luke 15:7). We must follow God’s lead, and if He has made peace with the penitent sinner by the blood of the Lamb, then so must we. But that does not mean that we make peace with the sin.

     God’s habit and economy does not always conform to the patterns of our thinking. We would not bother with repulsive sinners; we would be satisfied with saving more respectable ones! But His love is such that it reaches out and transforms deep darkness into light, rather than just chasing away the shadows (Luke 5:27–32; 8:26–39). He has forgiven, so we must too.

     Such ruthless dealing with sin is scarcely common in evangelicalism today. Gallop and Pew polls tell us the church looks so very much like the world — in attitude, behavior, and sins (Jude 5–16). All too often, the church would be doing well to live up to the standards of the world, so far short do we fall of our Lord’s commands and expectations (1 Cor. 5:1).

     However, our Lord calls us out of the world; while living in it, we are not to be stained by it (James 1:27). We are to be in it but not to love it, particularly with regard to sexual sins, which so easily can entangle us (1 John 2:15–17; 5:21).

     The bride of Christ has a wedding for which to prepare! We need to be dressed in an embroidered gown of good works woven in our lives to His glory (Ps. 45:13–15; Rev. 19:7–8). And we need to keep that dress spotless and clean, especially from sins like these, until the great day of His arrival!

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     Dr. W. Duncan Rankin has served as pastor of Presbyterian congregations in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The War to End All Wars

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2005

     It has long been my habit, which is fitting for the abiding theme of my column here, whenever I speak somewhere, to remind those to whom I am speaking of our historical context. Context is everything. My goal isn’t to place us in the declining years of the west — though that is where we are. Nor is it important to me to note that we have entered the third millennium. Rather, I want people to understand that the context of our lives is the same as the context for everyone’s life, from the first advent of the first Adam to the second advent of the second Adam. All of our lives take place in the context of the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. God declares in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her seed and your seed. You will bruise His heel, and He will crush your head” (niv). The God who creates the world in Genesis 1 and 2, who divided day and night, sky, land and sea, in turn divides the world in Genesis 3. There is no neutral ground. History, not church history, but history, is the story of the work of Christ in crushing the serpent, and bringing all His enemies into subjection.

     It is only recently, however, that I have realized another important truth, or rather a pair of important truths. This one war that is the context of our lives, isn’t the only war in our lives. Years ago we published an issue of Tabletalk with an unusual cover. We showed a boxer, shadow boxing. The title of the issue was “The Fight Of Our Lives.” Inside we looked at the lifelong battle every Christian must wage, the battle against our old nature, that dead old man that just keeps fighting to the death. Sanctification is the process by which we, by and through the power and grace of God, win that battle. Over time, as we grow in grace, our fallen nature begins to fall away, and we become more and more what we were in the garden. As we grow in grace, we better and better reflect the image of our Savior, who is the express image of the Father.

     But there is a third war as well, besides the war between us and them, and the war between us and us. It is the war between them and them. That is, just as our old and new natures vie for survival in us, so too in those outside the kingdom there is a battle between the image of God and their fallen nature. But history is moving as inexorably here as it is in our own lives. Just as we become more and more what we were created to be, so those outside the redeeming grace of God become less and less what they were created to be. To put it another way, there are not only three wars going on, but three great siftings. First, the sheep and goats are separated. Second, that which is goat-like is separated from the sheep. And third, that which is sheep-like is separated from the goats. In eternity that which is white will be all white, that which is black will be all black. Grey will simply fade away.

     The culture wars are fought in this context. As the culture seeks to live in greater and greater rebellion, we who are citizens of heaven grow more slowly. And as we become salt and light, they, servants of the serpent, decay more slowly. All sinners, those inside and outside the kingdom, want convenience. But all sinners in turn tend to love their own children, a reflection of the One whose image we all bear. A culture is in decline, however, when the love of convenience trumps the love of children, as it has in these United States now for more than thirty years. Forty million image bearers never became warriors in the great battle precisely because the image of God is eclipsed, not principally in how we see them, but in what we are in ourselves. That is, it is the destruction of the image of God in mothers that has led to the denial of the image of God in babies, and through that brought their wanton destruction.

     That the evangelical church has barely uttered the least objection is condemning proof that we are not only not fighting well the culture war, but are not fighting well the war within ourselves. Our indifference is a shameful portent of the remaining power of sin in our lives.

     It is because our enemies in this great battle yet bear the image of our God that we can and must love them. We love them, however, not by laying down our arms, but by taking them up. We love them not by trying to become like them, but by being the ekklesia, the called-out ones, set apart, separate, holy. We love them by being salt and light. When we seek to protect the unborn because they bear God’s image, we are in turn seeking to protect the already born, because they bear His image.

     Though the war is all too real, the weapons with which we fight are not carnal. No gunship will vanquish the serpent. No smart bomb will annihilate the old nature within us. No howitzer will strengthen the image of God in the lost. Rather, the battle cry, indeed the great weapon in all three battles is one, this confession — Jesus Christ is Lord. The more we believe it, the more we will be Him. The more we will be Him, the more they will see Him. And the more they see Him, the more the world will change.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Second Great Commandment

By Phil Johnson 7/1/2005

     When some Pharisees put Jesus to the test concerning the greatest of all God’s commandments, He answered with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

     “This is the first and great commandment,” He told them. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:38–39).

     What did He mean when He said the two commandments are alike? Well, obviously, they both deal with love. The first calls for wholehearted love toward God, a love that consumes every human faculty. The second calls for charitable love toward one’s neighbor — a humble, sacrificial, serving love. Jesus said all the Law and the prophets hang on those two commandments, so the entire Law is summed up in the principle of love. “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Both commandments make that point.

     But there’s another sense in which the second great commandment is just like the first. Loving one’s neighbor is simply the natural and necessary extension of true, wholehearted love for God, because your neighbor is made in the image of God.

     God’s image in every person is the moral and ethical foundation for every commandment that governs how we ought to treat our fellow humans. Scripture repeatedly makes this clear. Why is murder deemed such an especially heinous sin? Because killing a fellow human being is the ultimate desecration of God’s image (Gen. 9:6).

     In the New Testament, James points to the image of God in men and women as an argument for allowing even our speech to be seasoned with grace and kindness. It is utterly irrational, he says, to bless God while cursing people who are made in God’s own likeness (James 3:9–12).

     That same principle is an effective argument against every kind of disrespect or unkindness one person might show to another. For example, to ignore the needs of suffering people is to treat the image of God in them with outright contempt. Proverbs 17:5 says, “He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker.” Neglecting the needs of a person who is “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” is tantamount to scorning the Lord Himself. That’s exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 25:44–45: “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

     Who is our neighbor? That’s the question a lawyer asked Jesus when He affirmed the priority of the first and second commandments (Luke 10:29). In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, poignantly making the point that anyone and everyone who crosses our path is our neighbor — and truly loving them as ourselves means seeking to meet whatever needs they might have.

     One of Jesus’ main points in that parable was this: we’re not to love our own brethren and fellow believers to the exclusion of strangers and unbelievers. God’s image was placed in humanity at creation, not at redemption. Although the image of God was seriously marred by Adam’s fall, it was not utterly obliterated. The divine likeness is still part of fallen humanity; in fact, it is essential to the very definition of humanity. Therefore every human being, whether a derelict in the gutter or a deacon in the church, ought to be treated with dignity and compassionate love, out of respect for the image of God in him.

     The restoration of God’s image in fallen humanity is one of the ultimate goals of redemption, of course. God’s paramount purpose for every Christian involves perfect Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2). That will consummate the complete restoration and utter perfection of God’s image in all believers, because Christ himself is the supreme flesh-and-blood image of God (Col. 1:15).

     But if you’re a believer, your conformation to Christ’s likeness is gradually being accomplished even now by the process of your sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18). In the meantime, Jesus taught that one of the best ways to be like God is to love even your enemies. Not only do they bear God’s image, but (more to Jesus’ point) loving them is the best way for us to be like God, because God Himself loves even those who hate Him.

     Of course, the prevailing rabbinical tradition in Jesus’ day claimed that “enemies” are not really “neighbors.” In effect, that nullified the second great commandment. It was like saying you don’t really have to love anyone whom you hate. All kinds of disrespect and unkindness became impervious to the Law’s correction.

     Jesus confronted the error head on: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:43–45).

     Your enemy is made in God’s image and is therefore deserving of your respect and kindness. More important, Jesus said, if you want to be more like God — if you want the image of God to shine more visibly in your life and behavior — here’s the way to do it: love even your enemies.

     Remember, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Such love, expressed even toward our enemies, is the mark of the true Christian, because it is the most vivid expression of God’s image in His own people. “As He is, so are we in this world” (v. 17).

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     Phil Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of John's major books. But he may be best known for several popular Web sites he maintains, including The Spurgeon Archive and The Hall of Church History.

     Phil has a bachelor's degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute (class of 1975) and was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group. Phil and his wife, Darlene, have three adult sons, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, and Jonathan.

Radical Corruption

By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2005

     In God’s work of creation, the crowning act, the pinnacle of that divine work, was the creation of human beings. It was to humans that God assigned and stamped His divine image. That we are created in the image of God gives to us the highest place among earthly beings. That image provides human beings with a unique ability to mirror and reflect the very character of God.

     However, since the tragic fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, that image has been subject to serious change and corruption. As a result, we speak of the “shattering of the image.” The term shatter may go too far, however, because it could suggest the idea that the image is now destroyed and that no vestige of it is left in our humanity. Such is not the case. Though the image has been radically blurred and corrupted, there remains some aspect of that image left in our humanity, which remaining vestige is the basis for human dignity. Human dignity is not inherent, it is derived. It is not intrinsic, it is extrinsic. Human beings have dignity because God, who has dignity inherently and intrinsically, has assigned such dignity to us.

     When we speak of the fall and of original sin, we are not speaking of the first sin committed by Adam and Eve, we are speaking of the radical consequences of that sin, which followed to all future generations of mankind. In Reformed circles, the doctrine of original sin has often been described by the phrase “total depravity.” That it’s called “total depravity” is explained in one sense because the letter “T” fits so neatly into the historic acrostic TULIP, which defines the so-called “five points of Calvinism.”

     Nevertheless, the word total with respect to our depravity may seriously mislead. It could suggest that our fallen natures are as corrupt and depraved as possible. But that would be a state of utter depravity. I prefer to use the phrase “radical corruption,” perhaps because the first initial of each word suits my own name and nature, R.C., but more so because it avoids the misunderstanding that results from the phrase “total depravity.” Radical corruption means that the fall from our original state has affected us not simply at the periphery of our existence. It is not something that merely taints an otherwise good personality; rather, it is that the corruption goes to the radix, to the root or core of our humanity, and it affects every part of our character and being. The effect of this corruption reaches our minds, our hearts, our souls, our bodies — indeed, the whole person. This is what lies behind the word total in “total depravity.”

     What is most significant about the consequences of the fall is what it has done to our ability to obey God. The issue of our moral capability after the fall is one of the most persistently debated issues within the Christian community. Virtually every branch of Christendom has articulated some doctrine of original sin because the Bible is absolutely clear that we are fallen from our created condition.

     However, the degree of that fall and corruption remains hotly disputed among Christians. Historically, that dispute was given fuel by the debate between the British monk Pelagius and the greatest theologian of the first millennium, Saint Augustine of Hippo. In defining the state of corruption into which mankind has fallen, Augustine set up some parallels and contrasts between man’s estate before the fall and his condition after the fall. Before the fall, Augustine said that man was posse peccare and posse non peccare, that is, man had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. Not sinning was a possibility that Adam had in the Garden.

     In addition to this, Augustine distinguished between our original estate, which involved both the posse mori and the posse non mori. This distinction refers to our mortality. Adam was made in such a way that it was possible for him to die. At the same time, he had the possibility before him of living forever had he not fallen into sin. So both the possibility of sinning and not sinning and the possibility of dying or not dying existed as options for Adam before the fall, according to Augustine.

     He further argued that the consequence of the fall upon the human race can be defined this way: since the fall, man no longer has the posse non peccare or the posse non mori. All human beings now have lost the natural ability to keep from sinning and thus to keep from dying. We are all born in the state of sin and as mortal creatures, destined to death. After the fall, Augustine defines our condition as having the posse peccare. We retain the ability to sin, but now we have the dreadful condition of the non posse non peccare. This double negative means that we no longer have the ability to not sin. Likewise, we have now the non posse non mori. It is not possible for us not to die. It is appointed to all of us once to die and then the judgment. The only exceptions to this would be those who remain alive at the coming of Christ.

     When we get to heaven, things will change again. There we will no longer have the posse peccare and the non posse non peccare. There we will only have non posse peccare. We will no longer be able to sin or to die. It all comes down to this, to the issue of moral ability. Augustine was saying that apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that God performs in the souls of the elect, no person in His own power is able to choose godliness, to choose Christ, or to choose the things of God. That ability to come to Christ, as our Lord Himself declared in John chapter 6, is an ability that can only be the result of the regenerating power of God the Holy Spirit. That position spelled out by Augustine remains the orthodox position of historic Reformed theology.

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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:

Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Eccl. 6; 2 Timothy 2

By Don Carson 4/19/2018

     Leviticus 23 provides a description of the principal “appointed feasts” (23:2). These include the Sabbath, which of course could not be observed by taking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The remaining feasts mentioned, however, are bound up with the temple in Jerusalem. There are three such feasts, along with the related celebrations tied to the principal three. (In later times Jews added a fourth feast.)

     Apart from the Sabbath itself, the first “appointed feast” (or pair of appointed feasts) was the Passover coupled with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The “Lord’s Passover” began at dusk on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month (Nisan), when the Passover meal was actually eaten, and the people gathered to remember the Lord’s spectacular rescue of them from Egypt. The next day began the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread, a reminder not only of the rapid flight from Egypt, but of the Lord’s injunction to put aside all yeast for that period of time — a symbol of putting aside all evil. The first and seventh days were to be free from work and solemnized by sacred assemblies.

     The First-fruits festival (23:9-14), followed by the Feast of Weeks (23:15-22) — the seven weeks immediately after First-fruits, culminating on the fiftieth day by a sacred assembly — was a powerful way, especially in a highly agrarian society, to remember that God alone provides us with all we need to live. It was a way of publicly bearing witness to our dependence on God, of expressing our individual and corporate thanksgiving to our Maker and Sustainer. There are slight analogues in countries like England and Canada in “Harvest Sunday” festivals and Canadian Thanksgiving. (The American Thanksgiving is partly a harvest festival, but is freighted with substantial symbolism to do with finding freedom in a new land.) But no festival of thanksgiving can be more valuable than the quality and extent of the thankfulness of the people who participate.

     On the first day of the seventh Jewish month, another sacred assembly, the Feast of Trumpets, commemorated with trumpet blasts (23:23-25), anticipated Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement (23:26-33) — which fell on the tenth day of the seventh month. This was the day the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, with the prescribed blood, to cover both his own sins and the sins of the people (cf. comments on April 12). The fifteenth day of that month began the eight-day Feast of Booths (23:33-36), when the people were to live in “booths” or “tabernacles,” huts and tents, to remind themselves of the pilgrimage years before they entered into the Promised Land.

     How should the people of the new covenant remember and commemorate the provisions of our great covenantal God?

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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 40

My Help and My Deliverer
40 To The Choirmaster - A Psalm of David.

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     1. From the previous part of the work we clearly see how completely destitute man is of all good, how devoid of every means of procuring his own salvation. Hence, if he would obtain succour in his necessity, he must go beyond himself, and procure it in some other quarter. It has farther been shown that the Lord kindly and spontaneously manifests himself in Christ, in whom he offers all happiness for our misery, all abundance for our want, opening up the treasures of heaven to us, so that we may turn with full faith to his beloved Son, depend upon him with full expectation, rest in him, and cleave to him with full hope. This, indeed, is that secret and hidden philosophy which cannot be learned by syllogisms: a philosophy thoroughly understood by those whose eyes God has so opened as to see light in his light (Ps. 36:9). But after we have learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary for us or defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, that we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it remains for us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have learned to be in him. To know God as the sovereign disposer of all good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of him, were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground. Hence the Apostle, to show that a faith unaccompanied with prayer to God cannot be genuine, states this to be the order: As faith springs from the Gospel, so by faith our hearts are framed to call upon the name of God (Rom. 10:14). And this is the very thing which he had expressed some time before--viz. that the Spirit of adoption, which seals the testimony of the Gospel on our hearts, gives us courage to make our requests known unto God, calls forth groanings which cannot be uttered, and enables us to cry, Abba, Father (Rom. 8:26). This last point, as we have hitherto only touched upon it slightly in passing, must now be treated more fully.

2. To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.

3. But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our voice? [463] Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging that all which men desire or feel to be useful, and pray to obtain, is derived from him. But even the benefit of the homage which we thus pay him redounds to ourselves. Hence the holy patriarchs, the more confidently they proclaimed the mercies of God to themselves and others felt the stronger incitement to prayer. It will be sufficient to refer to the example of Elijah, who being assured of the purpose of God had good ground for the promise of rain which he gives to Ahab, and yet prays anxiously upon his knees, and sends his servant seven times to inquire (1 Kings 18:42); not that he discredits the oracle, but because he knows it to be his duty to lay his desires before God, lest his faith should become drowsy or torpid. Wherefore, although it is true that while we are listless or insensible to our wretchedness, he wakes and watches for use and sometimes even assists us unasked; it is very much for our interest to be constantly supplicating him; first, that our heart may always be inflamed with a serious and ardent desire of seeking, loving and serving him, while we accustom ourselves to have recourse to him as a sacred anchor in every necessity; secondly, that no desires, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to make him the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place all our wishes in his sight, and thus pour out our heart before him; and, lastly, that we may be prepared to receive all his benefits with true gratitude and thanksgiving, while our prayers remind us that they proceed from his hand. Moreover, having obtained what we asked, being persuaded that he has answered our prayers, we are led to long more earnestly for his favour, and at the same time have greater pleasure in welcoming the blessings which we perceive to have been obtained by our prayers. Lastly, use and experience confirm the thought of his providence in our minds in a manner adapted to our weakness, when we understand that he not only promises that he will never fail us, and spontaneously gives us access to approach him in every time of need, but has his hand always stretched out to assist his people, not amusing them with words, but proving himself to be a present aid. For these reasons, though our most merciful Father never slumbers nor sleeps, he very often seems to do so, that thus he may exercise us, when we might otherwise be listless and slothful, in asking, entreating, and earnestly beseeching him to our great good. It is very absurd, therefore, to dissuade men from prayer, by pretending that Divine Providence, which is always watching over the government of the universes is in vain importuned by our supplications, when, on the contrary, the Lord himself declares, that he is "nigh unto all that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Ps. 145:18). No better is the frivolous allegation of others, that it is superfluous to pray for things which the Lord is ready of his own accord to bestow; since it is his pleasure that those very things which flow from his spontaneous liberality should be acknowledged as conceded to our prayers. This is testified by that memorable sentence in the psalms to which many others corresponds: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry," (Ps. 34:15). This passage, while extolling the care which Divine Providence spontaneously exercises over the safety of believers, omits not the exercise of faith by which the mind is aroused from sloth. The eyes of God are awake to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is likewise pleased to listen to our groans, that he may give us the better proof of his love. And thus both things are true, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," (Ps. 121:4); and yet whenever he sees us dumb and torpid, he withdraws as if he had forgotten us.

4. Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervor of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept groveling on the earth. When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.

5. Both things are specially worthy of notice. First, let every one in professing to pray turn thither all his thoughts and feelings, and be not (as is usual) distracted by wandering thoughts; because nothing is more contrary to the reverence due to God than that levity which bespeaks a mind too much given to license and devoid of fear. In this matter we ought to labour the more earnestly the more difficult we experience it to be; for no man is so intent on prayer as not to feel many thoughts creeping in, and either breaking off the tenor of his prayer, or retarding it by some turning or digression. Here let us consider how unbecoming it is when God admits us to familiar intercourse to abuse his great condescension by mingling things sacred and profane, reverence for him not keeping our minds under restraint; but just as if in prayer we were conversing with one like ourselves forgetting him, and allowing our thoughts to run to and fro. Let us know, then, that none duly prepare themselves for prayer but those who are so impressed with the majesty of God that they engage in it free from all earthly cares and affections. The ceremony of lifting up our hands in prayer is designed to remind us that we are far removed from God, unless our thoughts rise upward: as it is said in the psalm, "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul," (Psalm 25:1). And Scripture repeatedly uses the expression to raise our prayer, meaning that those who would be heard by God must not grovel in the mire. The sum is, that the more liberally God deals with us, condescendingly inviting us to disburden our cares into his bosom, the less excusable we are if this admirable and incomparable blessing does not in our estimation outweigh all other things, and win our affection, that prayer may seriously engage our every thought and feeling. This cannot be unless our mind, strenuously exerting itself against all impediments, rise upward. Our second proposition was, that we are to ask only in so far as God permits. For though he bids us pour out our hearts (Ps. 62:8) he does not indiscriminately give loose reins to foolish and depraved affections; and when he promises that he will grant believers their wish, his indulgence does not proceed so far as to submit to their caprice. In both matters grievous delinquencies are everywhere committed. For not only do many without modesty, without reverence, presume to invoke God concerning their frivolities, but impudently bring forward their dreams, whatever they may be, before the tribunal of God. Such is the folly or stupidity under which they labour, that they have the hardihood to obtrude upon God desires so vile, that they would blush exceedingly to impart them to their fellow men. Profane writers have derided and even expressed their detestation of this presumption, and yet the vice has always prevailed. Hence, as the ambitious adopted Jupiter as their patron; the avaricious, Mercury; the literary aspirants, Apollo and Minerva; the warlike, Mars; the licentious, Venus: so in the present day, as I lately observed, men in prayer give greater license to their unlawful desires than if they were telling jocular tales among their equals. God does not suffer his condescension to be thus mocked, but vindicating his own light, places our wishes under the restraint of his authority. We must, therefore, attend to the observation of John, "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us," (1 John 5:14). But as our faculties are far from being able to attain to such high perfection, we must seek for some means to assist them. As the eye of our mind should be intent upon God, so the affection of our heart ought to follow in the same course. But both fall far beneath this, or rather, they faint and fail, and are carried in a contrary direction. To assist this weakness, God gives us the guidance of the Spirit in our prayers to dictate what is right, and regulate our affections. For seeing "we know not what we should pray for as we ought," "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," (Rom. 8:26) not that he actually prays or groans, but he excites in us sighs, and wishes, and confidence, which our natural powers are not at all able to conceive. Nor is it without cause Paul gives the name of groanings which cannot be uttered to the prayers which believers send forth under the guidance of the Spirit. For those who are truly exercised in prayer are not unaware that blind anxieties so restrain and perplex them, that they can scarcely find what it becomes them to utter; nay, in attempting to lisp they halt and hesitate. Hence it appears that to pray aright is a special gift. We do not speak thus in indulgence to our sloth, as if we were to leave the office of prayer to the Holy Spirit, and give way to that carelessness to which we are too prone. Thus we sometimes hear the impious expression, that we are to wait in suspense until he take possession of our minds while otherwise occupied. Our meaning is, that, weary of our own heartlessness and sloth, we are to long for the aid of the Spirit. Nor, indeed, does Paul, when he enjoins us to pray in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:15), cease to exhort us to vigilance, intimating, that while the inspiration of the Spirit is effectual to the formation of prayer, it by no means impedes or retards our own endeavours; since in this matter God is pleased to try how efficiently faith influences our hearts.

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

  • John Piper
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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2004    The Redemption of Man

     Throughout history we have wrestled with questions about salvation. In our quest to know the truth about salvation, we have searched everywhere possible. In our search, we have constructed entire philosophies in order to find the answers we want. Religions have been created, codes and rules have been formulated, entire governments have been established, self-serving gods have been manufactured, and men have worshiped themselves. Indeed, this is the greatest atrocity of all.

     This atrocity, however, does not reveal itself in such obvious ways. It is not as if people erect golden statues of themselves in their front yards and bow down to them asking for bigger cars, bigger houses, and smaller waistlines. Rather, our worship of ourselves has been revealed when we have looked to ourselves for the answers to life’s ultimate questions. When we felt we needed to know as God knows, we deceived ourselves and ate from the forbidden tree. When we felt we needed a god we could control, we deceived ourselves and created a golden calf. When we felt our race was inherently superior, we deceived ourselves and slaughtered the masses to gain a “pure” nation. When we felt we didn’t want to be inconvenienced, we deceived ourselves and began to slaughter children not yet born. When we felt we didn’t like the idea that God is the only source of salvation, we deceived ourselves and decided to create our own religion which holds that salvation is ultimately the decision of man, not the decision of God. In so doing, we have directly declared ourselves to be sovereign. Not only have we erected statues of ourselves, but we have praised and comforted ourselves. Indeed this is the greatest atrocity of all time, yet it is repeated in every generation of those who deceive themselves and covenant with themselves in order to save themselves.

     The answers to life’s ultimate questions are not found in the mind of man. Rather, they are found in the eternal Word of God — and, according to the Word of God, salvation is not accomplished by those who seek it. From beginning to end, the covenant of redemption is central to our salvation. In His eternal plan, God established a covenant, not with man, but with Himself in order to redeem His people from their self-deceiving destruction. Therefore we live coram Deo, before the face of God. For it is God who has covenanted with Himself and has given His only Son for us. It is He who comforts us, and it is He whom we praise.

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur retired on this day, April 19, 1951. He was Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific, receiving Japan’s surrender. He served in France during World War I, was superintendent of West Point, and the youngest man to be Army Chief of Staff. He commanded the UN forces during the Korean War, but was dismissed by President Truman for not fighting a “limited war.” Douglas MacArthur remarked: “Like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who has tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering.... The love of God did not protect His own Son.... He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son., A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.
--- Elisabeth Elliot
Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ's Control

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith,
and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
--- George Mueller
Streams in the Desert®

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks year book : selections from the writings of Phillips Brooks

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
--- Oscar Wilde
The Unknown God: Searching for Spiritual Fulfilment

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 4/19
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     JOHN WOOLMAN died at York, England, October 7, 1772. His last days are memorialized in the following extract from "The testimony of Friends in Yorkshire at their Quarterly Meeting, held at York the 24th and 25th of the third month, 1773, concerning John Woolman, of Mount Holly, in the Province of New Jersey, North America, who departed this life at the house of our Friend Thomas Priestman, in the suburbs of this city, the 7th of the tenth month, 1772, and was interred in the burial-ground of Friends the 9th of the same, aged about fifty-two years:

     "This our valuable friend having been under a religious engagement for some time to visit Friends in this nation, and more especially us in the northern parts, undertook the same in full concurrence and near sympathy with his friends and brethren at home, as appeared by certificates from the Monthly and Quarterly Meetings to which he belonged, and from the Spring Meeting of ministers and elders held at Philadelphia for Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

     "He arrived in the city of London the beginning of the last Yearly Meeting, and, after attending that meeting, traveled northward, visiting the Quarterly Meetings of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, and Worcestershire, and divers particular meetings in his way.

     "He visited many meetings on the west side of this country, also some in Lancashire and Westmoreland, from whence he came to our Quarterly Meeting in the last ninth month, and though much out of health, yet was enabled to attend all the sittings of that meeting except the last.

     "His disorder, which proved the small-pox, increased speedily upon him, and was very afflicting, under which he was supported in much meekness, patience, and Christian fortitude. To those who attended him in his illness, his mind appeared to be centred in Divine love, under the precious influence whereof we believe he finished his course, and entered into the mansions of everlasting rest.

     "In the early part of his illness he requested a Friend to write, and he broke forth thus:

     "'O Lord my God! the amazing horrors of darkness were gathered around me and covered me all over, and I saw no way to go forth; I felt the misery of my fellow-creatures separated from the Divine harmony, and it was heavier than I could bear, and I was crushed down under it; I lifted up my hand and stretched out my arm, but there was none to help me; I looked round about and was amazed. In the depth of misery, O Lord! I remembered that thou art omnipotent, that I had called thee Father, and I felt that I loved thee, and I was made quiet in thy will, and I waited for deliverance from thee; thou hadst pity upon me when no man could help me; I saw that meekness under suffering was showed to us in the most affecting example of thy Son, and thou taught me to follow him, and I said, Thy will, O Father, be done.'

     "Many more of his weighty expressions might have been inserted here, but it was deemed unnecessary, they being already published in print."

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-First Chapter / Contempt For All Earthly Honor


     MY CHILD, do not take it to heart if you see others honored and advanced, while you yourself are despised and humbled. Lift up your heart to Me in heaven and the contempt of men on earth will not grieve you.

     The Disciple

     Lord, we are blinded and quickly misled by vanity. If I examine myself rightly, no injury has ever been done me by any creature; hence I have nothing for which to make just complaint to You. But I have sinned often and gravely against You; therefore is every creature in arms against me. Confusion and contempt should in justice come upon me, but to You due praise, honor, and glory. And unless I prepare myself to be willingly despised and forsaken by every creature, to be considered absolutely nothing, I cannot have interior peace and strength, nor can I be enlightened spiritually or completely united with You.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     The Impotent Man

     Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people: they think that when there is a renewed will, it is enough; but that is not the case. This regenerate man tells us: "I will to do what is good, but the power to perform I find not." How often people tell us that if you set yourself determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man was as determined as any man can be, and yet he made the confession: "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not" (Rom. 7:18).

     But, you ask: "How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a confession, with a right will, with a heart that longs to do good, and longs to do its very utmost to love God?"

     Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had the angels who fell, in their own will, the strength to stand? Surely not. The will of the creature is nothing but an empty vessel in which the power of God is to be made manifest. The creature must seek in God all that it is to be. You have it in the second chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, and you have it here also, that God's work is to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here is a man who appears to say: "God has not worked to do in me." But we are taught that God works both to will and to do. How is the apparent contradiction to be reconciled?

     You will find that in this passage (Rom. 7:6-25) the name of the Holy Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man is wrestling and struggling to fulfill God's law. Instead of the Holy Spirit and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times. In this chapter, it shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God with his regenerate will. Not only this; but you will find the little words, I, me, my, occur more than forty times. It is the regenerate I in its impotence seeking to obey the law without being filled with the Spirit. This is the experience of almost every saint. After conversion a man begins to do his best, and he fails; but if we are brought into the full light, we need fail no longer. Nor need we fail at all if we have received the Spirit in His fullness at conversion.

     God allows that failure that the regenerate man should be taught his own utter impotence. It is in the course of this struggle that there comes to us this sense of our utter sinfulness. It is God's way of dealing with us. He allows that man to strive to fulfill the law that, as he strives and wrestles, he may be brought to this: "I am a regenerate child of God, but I am utterly helpless to obey His law." See what strong words are used all through the chapter to describe this condition: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14); "I see another law in my members bringing me into captivity" (Rom. 7:23); and last of all, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). This believer who bows here in deep contrition is utterly unable to obey the law of God.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:5-7
     by D.H. Stern

5     A fool despises his father’s discipline,
but he who heeds warnings is prudent.

6     The home of the righteous is a storehouse of treasure,
but the earnings of the wicked bring trouble.

7     The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.

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


     ‘Ye see it does not.’

     ‘I feel in a way that it ought to.’

     ‘That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it.’


     ‘The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.’

     ‘I don’t know what I want, Sir.’

     ‘Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye’ll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye’ll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.’

     ‘But dare one say—it is horrible to say—that Pity must ever die?’

     ‘Ye must distinguish. The action of Pity will live for ever: but the passion of Pity will not. The passion of Pity, the Pity we merely suffer, the ache that draws men to concede what should not be conceded and to flatter when they should speak truth, the pity that has cheated many a woman out of her virginity and many a statesman out of his honesty—that will die. It was used as a weapon by bad men against good ones: their weapon will be broken.’

     ‘And what is the other kind—the action?’

     ‘It’s a weapon on the other side. It leaps quicker than light from the highest place to the lowest to bring healing and joy, whatever the cost to itself. It changes darkness into light and evil into good. But it will not, at the cunning tears of Hell, impose on good the tyranny of evil. Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden of the world’s garden for the sake of some who cannot abide the smell of roses.’

     ‘You say it will go down to the lowest, Sir. But she didn’t go down with him to Hell. She didn’t even see him off by the bus.’

     ‘Where would ye have had her go?’

     ‘Why, where we all came from by that bus. The big gulf, beyond the edge of the cliff. Over there. You can’t see it from here, but you must know the place I mean.’

     My Teacher gave a curious smile. ‘Look,’ he said, and with the word he went down on his hands and knees. I did the same (how it hurt my knees!) and presently saw that he had plucked a blade of grass. Using its thin end as a pointer, he made me see, after I had looked very closely, a crack in the soil so small that I could not have identified it without this aid.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Is it not in the least likely

     For Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. --- 1 Kings 2:28.

     Joab stood the big test, he remained absolutely loyal and true to David and did not turn after the fascinating and ambitious Absalom, but yet towards the end of his life he turned after the craven Adonijah. Always remain alert to the fact that where one man has gone back is exactly where any one may go back (see
1 Cor. 10:13). You have gone through the big crisis, now be alert over the least things; take into calculation the ‘retired sphere of the leasts.’

     We are apt to say—‘It is not in the least likely that having been through the supreme crisis, I shall turn now to the things of the world.’ Do not forecast where the temptation will come; it is the least likely thing that is the peril. In the aftermath of a great spiritual transaction the ‘retired sphere of the leasts’ begins to tell; it is not dominant, but remember it is there, and if you are not warned, it will trip you up. You have remained true to God under great and intense trials, now beware of the undercurrent. Do not be morbidly introspective, looking forward with dread, but keep alert; keep your memory bright before God. Unguarded strength is double weakness, because that is where the ‘retired sphere of the leasts’ saps. The Bible characters fell on their strong points, never on their weak ones.

     “Kept by the power of God”—that is the only safety.

My Utmost for His Highest

A Labourer
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           A Labourer

Who can tell his years, for the winds have
So tight the skin on the bare racks of bone
That his face is smooth, inscrutable as stone?
And when he wades in the brown bilge of earth
Hour by hour, or stoops to pull
the reluctant swedes, who can read the look
In the colourless eyes, as his back comes
Like an old tree lightened of the snow's weight?
Is there love there, or hope, or any thought
For the frail form broken beneath his tread,
And the sweet pregnancy that yields his bread?

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     John 10-12 The Choice

     In these central chapters of John’s Gospel we find clear evidence of the decisive rejection of Jesus by His people.

     Christ presented Himself as the Good Shepherd who would die for His sheep (John 10:1–21). “The Jews”
(John’s term for the religious authorities) realized Jesus was claiming to be God, and tried to seize Him
(John 10:22–42).

     Christ demonstrated His power over death by raising Lazarus, who had been dead for four days (John 11:1–44). The Jews did not respond to the miracle, but were afraid their people would believe in Jesus and “take away both our place and our nation.” They determined that Jesus must die (John 11:45–57).

     Christ, acclaimed by the people on Palm Sunday, predicted His death (John 12:1–36), but the Jews continued in their fixed unbelief (John 12:37).

     Each of these chapters follows the same pattern. There is a clear presentation by Jesus of His claims, followed by a decisive rejection by the authorities, and a growing determination to kill Jesus to get Him out of the way.

     Even so, Jesus did not condemn. But He did warn.
“There is a Judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48).

     Commentary / Unlike the other Gospels, which trace the development of Jesus’ ministry over three years, the Gospel of John focuses on the final months of Christ’s life, when the issues had been clearly drawn.

     Jesus, the Son of God, revealed over and over again the truth about life and light, and confronted His listeners with the necessity of choice.

     John 10 through 12 depicts events that lead up to the Upper Room Discourse. In these chapters we see the final confrontation, and catch a glimpse of the ultimate evidence that will soon be offered to prove Jesus’ claims.

     The Shepherd and His Sheep: John 10.

     In the Old Testament, the picture of a shepherd and his sheep was often used to illustrate the relationship between God and His people. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” one psalmist said. Another added, “We are the sheep of His pasture.”

     Shepherd was also a term applied to spiritual leaders in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah chose harsh words to describe leaders who perverted their spiritual role: “ ‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1). The prophet declared that God would set His own Shepherd over His sheep when the promised Son of David (Jesus) reigns.

     The people would have had these symbolic pictures of divine leadership in mind when Jesus announced,
“I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

     Jesus then developed a contrast between Himself and the religious authorities of His day. Jesus was concerned for God’s people, and exemplified the morality of grace. The Jewish rulers, on the other hand, ignored the welfare of their people. They, therefore, were false shepherds.

     By this time, the leaders of Israel were firmly committed not only to rejecting Jesus’ claim to divine authority but to destroying Him as well. So in this message Jesus did not speak to the rulers; He appealed directly to the individuals who made up the nation.

     True Shepherd recognized (John 10:1–6).

     In Israel sheep were not herded with dogs or by men who walked behind them. The shepherd of the Middle East led his sheep. He knew each one by name, and the sheep recognized his voice. At night several herds of sheep might sleep in the same fold. In the morning, when the one door was unbarred, each shepherd could unerringly pick out his own flock. And each member of that flock would be able to distinguish his shepherd from the others because the sheep would know the shepherd’s voice, just as God’s people would recognize Jesus as the living Word of God.

     The Pharisees who claimed to speak for Moses would be followed, but not by those who belonged to God. The true sheep would hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

     Good Shepherd identified (John 10:7–17). Now Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel, saying,
“All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers.” Such men care “nothing for the sheep.” Jesus, on the other hand, is the Good Shepherd. The Palestinian shepherd commonly slept in the single opening to the fold through which wild animals might attack. As “the door” Jesus protects His own, by placing His body between the sheep and their enemies. The Good Shepherd guides His sheep to pasture, concerned not only that they have life, but that they “have it to the full.” How deep is the commitment of the Good Shepherd to His sheep?“The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

     How clearly this must have spoken to the men and women of Israel. Their rulers, like religious leaders of many times and many faiths, were quick to demand respect and obedience. They were quick to lord it over others; quick to judge, advise, condemn. But no one in Israel would imagine for a moment that one of the authorities would lay down his life for one of the common people. Those leaders might lay down their lives for truth. More than once the men of Israel had refused to fight on the Sabbath, and had been killed easily by pagans. More than one Israelite had offered his body to Roman swords rather than permit a statue of Caesar, or even the Legion Eagles, to enter Jerusalem. To die for a conviction was not that uncommon. But to die for love of the sheep? Never! Truth was important to the authorities; people were not.

     But to Jesus, the sheep—sinners not worth the contempt of the righteous—were worth dying for!

     One with the Father (John 10:18–30). Jesus could die for the sheep because He had the authority from God to lay down His life, and “authority to take it up again. This command,” Jesus continued, “I received from My Father” (John 10:18).

     These words sent the Jews back to the old debate. “He is demon-possessed and raving mad,” some said. But others answered, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

     Again the Jews asked the central question: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).

     Once again Jesus explained that His sheep hear and respond to His voice. To such He gives eternal life. He can bestow this gift because, “I and the Father are One”
(John 10:30).

The Teacher's Commentary

Luke 17:11 - 37
     Pulpit Commentary

     Ver. 11.—And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem. Just a note of time and place inserted by St. Luke to remind the reader that all these incidents took place, this important teaching and the momentous revelations concerning man’s present and future were spoken, during those last few months preceding the Crucifixion, and generally in that long, slow progress from the north of Palestine through Galilee and Samaria to the holy city.

12, 13.—And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. These met him somewhere outside the village, separated, by the fact of their unhappy malady, leprosy, from their fellows, in accordance with the old Mosaic Law of Lev. 13:46, “He is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” These had no doubt heard of the many lepers who had been healed by the Galilæan Teacher who was then drawing nigh the village. They did not venture to approach him, but they attracted his attention with their hoarse, sad cry. The legal distance which these unfortunates were compelled to keep from passers-by was a hundred paces. He does not seem to have touched them, or talked with them, but with an impressive majesty bids them go and return thanks for their cure, which his will had already accomplished. They evidently believed implicitly in his healing power, for without further question they went on their way as he had commanded, and as they went the poor sufferers felt a new and, to them, a quite strange thrill of health course through their veins; they felt their prayer was granted, and that the fell disease had left them. They were not sent to the capital city; any priest in any town was qualified to pronounce on the completeness of a cure in this malady (Lev. 14:2–32).

16.—And he was a Samaritan. Apparently nine of these lepers were Jews, and only one a Samaritan. This man would not have been allowed to associate with Jews but for the miserable disease with which he was afflicted, and which obliterated all distinction of race and caste. It is the same now at Jerusalem; in the leper-houses, termed “Abodes of the Unfortunate,” Jews and Mohammedans will live together. Under no other circumstances will these hostile peoples do this.

17.—Where are the nine? It has been suggested that the priests, in their hostility to Jesus, hindered the return of the nine. The one who was a Samaritan would naturally pay little heed to a remonstrance from such a quarter. From the terms of the narrative it is, however, more likely that the strange Samaritan, as soon as he felt he was really cured, moved by intense, adoring gratitude, at once turned back to offer his humble, heartfelt thanks to his Deliverer. The others, now they had got what they so earnestly required, forgot to be grateful, and hurried off to the priests to procure their certificate of health, that they might plunge at once again into the varied distractions of everyday life—into business, pleasure, and the like. The Master appears especially moved by this display. He seems to see in the thanklessness of the nine, contrasted with the conduct of the one, the ingratitude of men as a whole, “as a prophetic type of what will also ever take place” (Stier).

19.—Thy faith hath made thee whole. This was something more than the first noble gift, which he, in common with his trine fellow-sufferers, had received. A new power was his from that day forth. Closely united to his Master, we may think of the poor unknown Samaritan for ever among the friends of Jesus here and in the world to come. There are degrees in grace here. The nine had faith enough to believe implicitly in the Master’s power, and in consequence they received his glorious gift of health and strength; but they cared to go no further. The one, on the other hand, struck with the majesty and the love of Jesus, determined to learn more of his Benefactor. From henceforth we may consider the Samaritan was one of “his own.” Luke and Paul gladly recorded this “memory,” and no doubt not once or twice in the eventful story of their future lives used the incident as a text for their teaching when they spoke to the stranger Gentiles in far cities. Being a hated Samaritan, they would say, argued no hardness of heart, nor was it any bar to the bestowal of Jesus’ most splendid gifts, first of life here, and then of life glorious and full in the world to come.

20.—And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come. The following discourse of the Lord in reply to the Pharisee, question, ‘When cometh the kingdom?” was delivered, clearly, in the closing days of the ministry, probably just before the Passover Feast, and in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The query was certainly not put in a friendly spirit. The questioners had evidently caught the drift of much of our Lord’s late teaching, and had seen how plainly he was alluding to himself as Messiah. This seems to have been the starting-point of their bitter, impatient inquiry. We must remember that the great rabbinic schools in which these Pharisees had received their training connected the coming of Messiah with a grand revival of Jewish power. If in reality this Galilæan Rabbi, with his strange powers, his new doctrines, his scathing words of reproach which he was ever presuming to address to the leaders in Israel,—if in reality he were Messiah, when was that golden age, which the long looked-for Hope of Israel was to introduce, to commence? But the words, we can well conceive, were spoken with the bitterest irony. With what scorn those proud, rich men from Jerusalem looked on the friendless Teacher of Galilee, we know. We seem to hear the muttering which accompanied the question: “Thou our King Messiah!” The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. This answer of our Lord’s may be paraphrased: “The kingdom of God cometh not in conjunction with such observation and watching for external glorious things as now exist among you here. Lo, it will burst upon you suddenly, unawares.” The English word “observation”answers to the signification of the Greek as meaning a singularly anxious watching.

21.—Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. That kingdom will be marked out on no map, for, lo, it is even now in your midst. It may be asked—How “in your midst”? Scarcely not as Godet and Olshausen, following Chrysostom, think, in your hearts. The kingdom of God could not be said to be in the hearts of those Pharisees to whom the Master was especially directing his words of reply here. It should be rather understood in the midst of your ranks; so Meyer and Farrar and others interpret it.

22.—And he said unto the disciples. The Master now turns to the disciples, and, basing his words still upon the question of the Pharisees, he proceeds to deliver a weighty discourse upon the coming of the kingdom which will be manifest indeed, and externally, as well as internally, exceeding glorious, and for which this kingdom, now at its first beginning, will be for long ages merely a concealed preparation. Some of the imagery and figures used in this discourse reappear in the great prophecy in Matt. 24 (a shorter report of which St. Luke gives, ch. 21:8–36). Here, however, the teaching has no reference to the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish polity, but only to “the times of the end.” The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. In the first place, our Lord addressed these words to the disciples, who, in the long weary years of toil and bitter opposition which lay before them, would often long to be back again among the days of the old Galilæan life, when they could take their doubts and fears to their Master, when they could listen without stint to his teaching, to the words which belonged to the higher wisdom. Oh, could they have him only for one day in their midst again! But they have a broader and more far-reaching reference; they speak also to all his servants in the long Christian ages, who will be often weary and dispirited at the seemingly hopeless nature of the conflict they are waging. Then will these indeed long with an intense longing for their Lord, who for so many centuries keeps silence. These will often sigh for just one day of that presence so little valued and thought of when on earth.

23.—And they shall say to you, See here; or, See there: go not after them, nor follow them. Again addressed to the disciples in the first instance, but with a far more extended reference. In the early days of Christianity such false reports were exceedingly frequent; false Messiahs, too, from time to time sprang up; unhealthy visions of an immediate return disturbed the peace and broke into the quiet, steady work of the Church. Nor have these disturbing visions been unknown in later ages of Christianity. Dean Alford has a curious comment here. He sees in the words of this verse a warning to all so-called expositors and followers of expositors of prophecy who cry, “See here! or, See there!” every time that war breaks out or revolutions occur.

24.—For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. “Yes,” went on the Master, “let not delusive expectations interrupt you or turn you aside out of the narrow way of patient faith, for my coming will, like the lightning, be sudden, and will gleam forth on every side. There will be no possibility of mistake then.”

25.—But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. But, and here again he repeats “as a solemn refrain to all his teaching,” the warning to his own of the, fearful end fast coming on him. If he is to come again with glory, he must first go away with shame, persecuted, forsaken, by the generation then living. The suffering Messiah must precede the glorified Messiah. After this rejection and suffering would begin the period alluded to above (ver. 22) as the time when men should long to have him only for one day in their midst. During this period Messiah should continue invisible to mortal eye. How long this state was to continue, one century or—(eighteen have already passed), Jesus himself, in his humiliation, knew not; but he announced (vers. 26–30) that a gloomy state of things on earth would be, brought to a close by his reappearance. Ah! “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

26–28.—As it was in the days of Noe (Noah) … as it was in the days of Lot. The prominent sin of the antediluvian, he reminds them, was sensuality in its varied forms. The torch of religious feeling will have waned in that unknown and possibly distant future when Messiah shall reappear, and will be burning with a pale, faint light. The bulk of mankind will be given up to a sensuality which the higher culture then generally reached will have been utterly dowerless to check or even to modify. Men, just as in the days when the ark was building and Noah was preaching, as in the days when the dark cloud was gathering over the doomed cities of the plain and Abraham was praying, will be entirely given up to their pursuits, their pleasures, and their sins. They will argue that the sun rose yesterday and on many yesterdays; of course it will rise to-morrow. Perfect security will have taken possession of the whole race, just as, on a smaller scale, was the case in the days of Noah and of Lot, when the floods came and the fire, and did their stern, pitiless work; so will that day of the second coming of Messiah, with its bloody and fiery dawn, assuredly come on man when he is utterly unprepared.

30.—Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. “Is revealed,” that is to say, he has been present all along, through those long ages of waiting; only an impenetrable veil has hid him from mortal eyes. In that day will the veil be lifted, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10).

31, 32.—In that day, he which shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. The Lord, with this striking imagery, describes, not the attitude which men who would be saved must assume when he appears with power and great glory—there will be no time then to shape any new way of life—but it pictures the attitude they must always maintain, if they would be his servants, towards the things of this world. His servants must be ready to abandon all earthly blessings at a moment’s notice; none but those who have been sitting loosely to these will be able, when the sudden cry comes, at once to toss away all, and so to meet the long-tarrying Bridegroom. The reminder of Lot’s wife—a very familiar story to Jews—warned all would-be disciples of the danger of the double service, God and the world, and how likely the one who attempted it would be to perish miserably.

33.—Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Very deep must have been the impression which this saying made upon the early Church. So literally did many interpret it, that the wiser and more thoughtful men in the congregations during the days of persecution had often to prevent persons of both sexes recklessly throwing away their lives in the conflict with the Roman authorities. Very many in the first three centuries positively courted martyrdom.

34, 35.—I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, the other left. How taken? Not, as some scholars have supposed, taken only to perish, but taken away by the Lord in the way described by St. Paul in 1 Thess. 4:17, where he paints how the faithful servant who is living when the Lord returns in glory, will be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. The other will be left. Thus, as it has been strikingly observed, “the beings who have been most closely connected here below shall, in the twinkling of an eye, be parted for ever.”

36 is wanting in nearly all the oldest authorities. It was subsequently inserted in this place by copyists from Matt. 24:40—a passage in which much of the imagery here used was repeated by the Master. In one important feature this discourse differs from that delivered at Jerusalem a little later, and reported at length by St. Matthew in his twenty-fourth chapter. There is no reference here
St. Luke) to the siege of Jerusalem; the whole teaching is purely teleological, and deals exclusively with what will take place at the close of this age.

37.—And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? The disciples were still unable to grasp the full meaning of their Master’s words when he spoke of his second advent being visible in all parts of the world, comparing it to a flash of lightning which gleams at the same instant in every point of the horizon. “Where, Lord, will all this take place which thou hast been telling us about?” And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. The imagery is taken from Job 39:30, “Where the slain are, there is she” (the eagle); the bird intended being most probably the great vulture, well known in Syria. It is seen, for instance travellers tell us, in hundreds on the Plain of Gennesaret; it is a hideous-looking bird, equal to the eagle in size and strength, and acts as a scavenger to purify the earth from the putrid carcases with which it would otherwise be encumbered. “Do you ask where all this will take place? As the curtain of the future rolls up before my inward eye, I see the vultures of Divine vengeance flying in flocks athwart the whole area of the earth; the sky is darkened with their numbers; far as my eye can reach, I still see them. Alas! for the habitable earth, my Father’s goodly world … it is rank everywhere with corruption … wheresoever the carcase is, there the vultures will gather together” (Dr. Morrison). The Lord’s answer to the question—“Where?” was that his words applied to the whole earth. The terrible and awful scenes he had pictured would take place everywhere. The carcase, as Godet phrases it, is “humanity, entirely secular and destitute of the life of God … The eagles (vultures) represent punishment alighting on such a society.” There is another interpretation of these words, which, although many great expositors favour it, must be rejected as improbable, being so alien to the context of the whole passage.” The dead body (the carcase), according to these interpreters, is the body of Christ, and the eagles are his saints, who flock to his presence, and who feed upon him, especially in the act of Holy Communion.

The pulpit commentary: edited by the Very Rev. H. D. M. Spence ... and by the Rev. Joseph S. Exell [v.17 ][189-? ]

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Yevamot 96b–97a


     During “Drug Awareness Week,” a high school schedules a guest speaker to address the students. He is a drug addict who has been in and out of rehabilitation programs for ten years. The speaker describes his background, which is remarkably similar to that of many of the students. He recounts how he first began to experiment with drugs in high school and how he later became hooked. Then he tells the harrowing story of his descent into the hell that drugs made of his life. He honestly explains to the audience that he cannot really say he has kicked the habit completely; every so often, he is drawn back to the world of the “quick high.” He ends his talk by making a very strong appeal to the teenagers: “Stay away from drugs. If you haven’t tried them, don’t. If you have, don’t go back. And if you’re hooked, then go and get help. But stay away from drugs!”

     The principal opens the session up to questions. There is silence for a few moments. Then one student raises his hand and, with some indignation, attacks the speaker: “Who are you to come and tell us to stay off drugs? By your own admission, you still do drugs now and then! As far as I’m concerned, you lost your credibility. Man, if you can’t practice what you preach, then you have no business telling us what to do!”

     The student’s attitude represents a common viewpoint today: One who does not practice what he preaches is a hypocrite, and a hypocrite has absolutely no moral authority to tell anyone else what to do.

     Shimon Ben Azzai would have us take a position that is a little more tolerant and understanding of the frailties of human nature. There are very few people who are completely consistent in what they do and what they say. Truth can come from many places and many sources. We should not be so quick to turn off the messages of “hypocrites.” They, too, might have a great deal to teach us if we are willing to listen. We assume Ben Azzai was unwilling to have children; it is also possible that he was a man unable to have children. Perhaps he spoke out of anguish and pain. He would tell us: Even if I don’t practice, I still have the right to preach; I still have something of value to share.

     The addict was not put off by the student’s attack. He simply sat back and smiled. “Hey, you can listen to me, or not. It’s no skin off my nose. But if you look at me and what I’ve been through, and if you take my message to heart, you can save yourself a lot of grief. Nobody is more of an expert than I am on the hell that drugs can put you through. But hey, listen to me, or not: It’s up to you.”

     His lips whisper from the grave.

     Text / Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: “Why is it written: ‘O that I might dwell in Your tent forever [le-olamim]’ [Psalms 61:5]? Is it possible for a man to dwell in two worlds? Rather, David said before the Holy One: ‘Lord of the World! May it be Your will that they say what they heard from me in this world,’ as Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: ‘Every scholar who is quoted in this world, his lips whisper from the grave.’ ”

     Context / In the Bible, there are few, if any, clear references to the afterlife. However, by the rabbinic period there was a strong belief in an existence beyond this world. Though there is much discussion of the afterlife in the Talmud and Midrash, the topic is not given uniform and deliberate treatment in rabbinic literature. On the contrary: There are many divergent and often contradictory views of the afterlife. This is similar to rabbinic discussions on many other controversial topics.

     Some Rabbis believed strongly in the physical resurrection of the dead. In an intriguing passage in Berakhot 18b, there are various graveyard stories which attempt to show that the souls of the dead, while in the next world, have knowledge of this world. Elsewhere in the Talmud, various Rabbis describe in detail what heaven will be like and who will receive the various rewards there. Rabbah says that “Jerusalem of the world to come” will be unlike Jerusalem of this world, where any who want can enter. In the next world, only those who are invited or called will be allowed in. Just as there are talmudic stories about heaven and the many boons that the righteous will find there, so too there are views of hell and the punishment of the wicked.

     Many of these stories and beliefs attempt to deal, in one way or another, with the theological problems of good and evil. Why do the righteous suffer? Why do many wicked prosper? Though the Bible does not deal with these problems directly, it does suggest answers, explanations which themselves lead to more philosophical problems. The Rabbis often found their own answers, as well as their comfort, in concepts like the World-to-Come and the Resurrection of the Dead. The rewards in the next world are reserved for those who had suffered in this world. To find prooftexts for this thinking, they sometimes interpreted verses in ways that were clearly not the original intent.

     Rav Yehudah’s interpretation makes little sense without a pun which occurs in the Hebrew. “Forever” is le-olamim, which is taken from the word olam, meaning “world.” The meaning of le-olamim, literally “for worlds,” is perhaps best captured in the English phrase “for eternities,” each eternity being a world. The Hebrew plural is interpreted by the Rabbis to mean “this world and the next world.” Since Psalm 61 is ascribed to King David, its explanation in the Gemara is put into David’s mouth. The king pleads with God to let him live in two worlds. However, this is not simply an appeal for resurrection. King David—according to the Gemara—is referring to the concept that whenever a scholar is quoted in this world, the lips of the original teacher move in the next world. Thus, David asks that after his own death, his words from the Psalms be quoted in this world so that he will receive the benefit in the next world.

     Rabbinic Judaism has a strong belief in the afterlife. Nonetheless, the major emphasis of this story, like that of Jewish life since the Talmud, is this-worldly. Even if King David’s lips will move in the next world, the major impact will still be on the students here on earth.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     Antiochus IV

     Upon the death of Seleucus IV, his younger brother Antiochus IV seized power. Our principal source for Jewish history during the early years of the new Antiochus’ reign is 2 Maccabees, which focuses on events in Palestine. Central to this narrative is the Seleucid-backed acquisition of the high priesthood by two successive candidates, and the civil strife ensuing from their rivalry. The first of these, Jason, secured not only the high priesthood but also the king’s permission “to establish, through his authority, a gymnasium and an ephebeion, and to enroll the Antiochenes in Jerusalem” (2 Macc. 4:9). Having been granted these requests in exchange for a hefty donation to the royal coffers, Jason proceeded to promote a Greek way of life in Jerusalem among “the noblest of the young men” and among his fellow priests (2 Macc. 4:11–15).

     No scholarly consensus exists as to the meaning of the petition concerning “the Antiochenes in Jerusalem.” This group is mentioned on only one other occasion, in the context of a delegation sent by Jason to an athletic competition held in the Phoenician city of Tyre
(2 Macc. 4:19). The dominant view is that Jason was requesting a Greek city to be founded within Jerusalem (“Antioch in Jerusalem”), and that the ephebic institutions he established were intended for the training of a citizen body for the new polis. This interpretation trades on Antiochus’ attested reputation elsewhere in the empire as a ktistēs (city-founder). However, given its unusual wording, other readings of this line are possible. Whatever the nature of Jason’s actions as high priest, the key historical issue is whether these actions contributed to the political strife that erupted a decade later.

     It is not at all obvious that they did. When Jason’s high-priestly tenure was terminated three years later by the bribe of one Menelaus, the author of 2 Maccabees attributes this to the latter’s corruption, not to any dissatisfaction with Jason’s policies (4:23–25). Having lost royal support, Jason took refuge in Transjordan, leaving Menelaus in possession of the high priesthood. For his part, Menelaus, finding himself unable to pay off his royal patron by legitimate means, consolidated his position (so the hostile narrative claims) by doling out Temple vessels as gifts to Seleucid officials and neighboring cities, and by engineering the murder of Onias when the ex-high priest threatened to expose his sacrilege (2 Macc. 4:32–34). Nefariousness, not Hellenism, appears to have motivated Menelaus’ behavior.

     During the winter of 170/169, Antiochus invaded Egypt, preemptively halting Ptolemaic designs to recapture his Levantine possessions. By the following summer, the king controlled most of Lower Egypt and had installed a pliant youth on the throne. But this détente swiftly deteriorated, prompting a second Seleucid invasion in 168. Though victorious in battle, Antiochus was compelled to call off the campaign under threat of Roman intervention.

     In the course of his contest with Egypt, Antiochus paid two visits to Jerusalem that seriously tried the allegiance of his Jewish subjects. The first involved a fleecing of the Temple’s adornments, probably with a view to replenishing the king’s war chest in the wake of his Egyptian expedition. The second visitation came in response to a violent upheaval among the Jews themselves. While the king was occupied with Egypt, the ex-high priest, Jason, marched against Jerusalem at the head of an army, intent on deposing Menelaus and his supporters (an objective he failed to achieve). Antiochus, unable or unwilling to discriminate aggressors from defenders, brought down bloody slaughter upon Jerusalem. Not long after this debacle, the king dispatched a sizeable force to garrison Jerusalem indefinitely, an event (according to our hostile sources) accompanied by gratuitous violence and brutality. Menelaus remained in power, guarded by the Seleucid garrison (the “Akra”), which also came to serve as a place of refuge for Jewish loyalists of Antiochus’ regime.

     Some scholars are skeptical of the Maccabean narrative, contending that the king’s repressive measures are unintelligible, unless the Jerusalemites as a whole had in fact attempted to cast off Seleucid rule. The absence of direct testimony for such a revolt necessarily renders any speculation moot. Yet even if the revolt hypothesis were substantiated, it would not account for Antiochus’ actions following his installation of the Akra: the suppression of Judaism itself. A litany of horrors describing this unparalleled persecution are paraded in both Maccabean accounts: the Temple and its worship were profaned in every conceivable way, its altar rededicated to Olympian Zeus; other altars were erected throughout Judea and cultic celebrations prescribed in honor of Dionysus and the king’s birthday; Torah scrolls were burned, and anyone found in possession of one or abiding by its laws was put to death
(1 Macc. 1:41–61; 2 Macc. 6:1–11). According to
2 Maccabees, similar resolutions were adopted by the neighboring coastal town of Ptolemais (2 Macc. 6:8–9).

     The Maccabean tradition offers no credible explanation for this unprecedented revolution in Seleucid policy. Second Maccabees simply casts Antiochus into the biblical mold of the arrogant tyrant who unwittingly executes God’s judgment upon rebellious Israel. First Maccabees alleges a royal decree, addressed to all Seleucid subjects, demanding “that all become one people, and that each abandon his [own] customs” (1 Macc. 1:41–42). If Antiochus ever issued such a decree, its implementation is nowhere in evidence (except, of course, in Judea itself). In fact, nowhere in either account is there any insinuation that the king’s suppression of Judaism extended to Jews living elsewhere in the Seleucid realm. Whatever the motivation for the Antiochene persecution, Palestine was its sole focus.

     The persecution itself lasted approximately three years. Jewish responses ranged from outright collaboration with (or acquiescence in) the king’s policies, to passive noncooperation, to willing martyrdom or militant resistance. The last of these take center stage in the Maccabean accounts, making it difficult to analyze the others. In particular, the tradition downplays the role of Menelaus and his supporters in bringing the persecution to an end through negotiation, a development attested in a dossier of letters preserved in 2 Maccabees. The Maccabean narrative focuses instead upon the purification and rededication of the Temple half a year later and continued Jewish
(i.e., Maccabean) dissatisfaction with the Seleucid-backed high priesthood.

     Antiochus himself did not personally preside over the Judean theater for long. Financial pressures and the imperative to reassert Seleucid sovereignty over the eastern satrapies drew him away in 165; he named his under-aged son, Antiochus V, coruler under the supervision of a guardian, Lysias. Cuneiform sources confirm that Antiochus IV died on campaign in the east near the end of the following year. News of the king’s death precipitated the first of many succession struggles that would influence Judean affairs for the next half century.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 19

     Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. --- Isaiah 50:10.

     Why do the friends of God pass down the vale of suffering, darkness, and tears? ( A Quest For Souls ) There are some partial answers to which our attention may be called. I say, partial answers. They must be partial. The full-orbed and complete answer we must wait for, until we read it yonder in the golden glow of the land and life above.

     For one thing, trouble, if rightly used, enables us to honor God. Trouble, then, is a trust, and we are thus to receive it. We understand about other things being trusts. If you have an education, you must answer for those superior attainments. There is the one who can sing so the hearts are enchanted by the music; that singer must answer for that gift. If you are rich, you must answer for it. Those who make money must answer for that capacity. Whatever our gifts or capacities, all of them are to be received as trusts from God, to be used in his name to help humanity. Now, along with other trusts comes trouble. Trouble is to be received, however it comes, as a trust, and we are to bear it, we are to meet it, we are to go through it, we are to face it like we ought, as a trust from God, to be used for the glory of his great name.

     There was a time in my life when, for days and days, the only book I wanted to read was the book of Job. I read it through and through and through—that book of Job, that tells how the human heart is swept in its deepest depths of suffering and darkness, and yet how God blesses it, brings it up and out, and sets the soul again in the high place of safety and peace. Trouble rightly borne honors God. Be careful, when trouble comes, how you behave. No matter what the trouble is, no matter how it came about, God is dishonored if a Christian does not bear the fiery trial like he or she ought to bear it. You are being tested for God, and you will dishonor him outrageously or you will honor him gloriously, according to your behavior when trouble is on. Remember that.

     If you carp, quibble, criticize, murmur, and are evil in your speech, oh, how you will dishonor God! Trouble rightly borne will surely honor God.
--- George W. Truett

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

On This Day
     Archbishop Alphege  April 19

     Alphege, an Englishman born in 954, entered a monastery in Gloucestershire as a young man and quickly fell in love with Jesus Christ. Some years later he became a church leader in Bath, and when he was 30 he was chosen by St. Dustin to become bishop of the city of Winchester. At first Alphege refused the bishopric, considering himself too young for such responsibility. But he was keen, saintly, and well liked, and Dustin persuaded him to serve.

     Burdened for Winchester’s poor, Alphege soon began organizing ministries of food and provision. Presently no beggars were reported anywhere in his diocese. In the process, however, Alphege nearly starved himself to death, becoming so thin that worshipers declared they could see through his hands when he uplifted them at Mass. They loved him all the more, and Alphege served as their pastor for 22 years.

     When Aelfric, archbishop of Canterbury, died, Pope John XVIII chose Alphege as his successor. England was, at the time, in the throes of an invasion by the warring Danes, and shortly after Alphege became archbishop, Danish forces, assisted by the rebel earl, Edric, marched into Kent and attacked Canterbury. The city was trapped, and its leaders begged Alphege to escape for the good of England. The archbishop chose to remain with his encircled people.

     The Danes breached the walls, burst upon the populace, and began plowing down young and old. Alphege rushed to the center of the carnage. Confronting the Danish commander, he demanded the massacre cease. Instead, he was seized, roughly handled, and thrown into a dungeon.

     The Danes demanded a ransom from England for his release, but Alphege refused to be freed, declaring that his country was too poor to pay such a sum. He was taken to Greenwich where the invaders again sought a ransom. Alphege, again adamantly refusing, was murdered by the Danes during a drunken feast in 1012.

     His body was later recovered and buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, then moved to Canterbury in 1023. Every year England remembers its faithful Christian martyr on April 19, feast day of St. Alphege, archbishop of Canterbury.

     I know that my Savior lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God. Yes, I will see him for myself, and I long for that moment.
--- Job 19:25-27.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 19

     "Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." --- Matthew 27:51.

     No mean miracle was wrought in the rending of so strong and thick a veil; but it was not intended merely as a display of power—many lessons were herein taught us. The old law of ordinances was put away, and like a worn-out vesture, rent and laid aside. When Jesus died, the sacrifices were all finished, because all fulfilled in him, and therefore the place of their presentation was marked with an evident token of decay. That rent also revealed all the hidden things of the old dispensation: the mercy-seat could now be seen, and the glory of God gleamed forth above it. By the death of our Lord Jesus we have a clear revelation of God, for he was “not as Moses, who put a veil over his face.” Life and immortality are now brought to light, and things which have been hidden since the foundation of the world are manifest in him. The annual ceremony of atonement was thus abolished. The atoning blood which was once every year sprinkled within the veil, was now offered once for all by the great High Priest, and therefore the place of the symbolical rite was broken up. No blood of bullocks or of lambs is needed now, for Jesus has entered within the veil with his own blood. Hence access to God is now permitted, and is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus. There is no small space laid open through which we may peer at the mercy-seat, but the rent reaches from the top to the bottom. We may come with boldness to the throne of the heavenly grace. Shall we err if we say that the opening of the Holy of Holies in this marvellous manner by our Lord’s expiring cry was the type of the opening of the gates of paradise to all the saints by virtue of the Passion? Our bleeding Lord hath the key of heaven; he openeth and no man shutteth; let us enter in with him into the heavenly places, and sit with him there till our common enemies shall be made his footstool.

          Evening - April 19

     "The Amen." Revelation 3:14.

     The word AMEN solemnly confirms that which went before; and Jesus is the great Confirmer; immutable, for ever is “the Amen” in all his promises. Sinner, I would comfort thee with this reflection. Jesus Christ said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If you come to him, he will say “Amen” in your soul; his promise shall be true to you. He said in the days of his flesh, “The bruised reed I will not break.” O thou poor, broken, bruised heart, if thou comest to him, he will say “Amen” to thee, and that shall be true in thy soul as in hundreds of cases in bygone years. Christian, is not this very comforting to thee also, that there is not a word which has gone out of the Saviour’s lips which he has ever retracted? The words of Jesus shall stand when heaven and earth shall pass away. If thou gettest a hold of but half a promise, thou shalt find it true. Beware of him who is called “Clip-promise,” who will destroy much of the comfort of God’s word.

     Jesus is Yea and Amen in all his offices. He was a Priest to pardon and cleanse once, he is Amen as Priest still. He was a King to rule and reign for his people, and to defend them with his mighty arm, he is an Amen King, the same still. He was a Prophet of old, to foretell good things to come, his lips are most sweet, and drop with honey still—he is an Amen Prophet. He is Amen as to the merit of his blood; he is Amen as to his righteousness. That sacred robe shall remain most fair and glorious when nature shall decay. He is Amen in every single title which he bears; your Husband, never seeking a divorce; your Friend, sticking closer than a brother; your Shepherd, with you in death’s dark vale; your Help and your Deliverer; your Castle and your High Tower; the Horn of your strength, your confidence, your joy, your all in all, and your Yea and Amen in all.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 19


     Jennette Threlfall, 1821–1880

     Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest. (Matthew 21:9)

     The week preceding Easter Sunday is known as Holy or Passion Week. These seven days have been described as the most intense and important week of history. The dramatic events that occurred during Christ’s final days on earth are recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12).

     Palm Sunday: John 12:12–15— The only day of triumph known by Christ in His earthly ministry. A fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9).

     The Lord’s Holy Anger: 1. At a fig tree that bore no fruit (Matthew 21:18–19). 2. At the moneychangers who were misusing the temple (Matthew 21:12, 13).

     The Last Supper: Matthew 26:26–28— Observed on Maundy Thursday.

     The Foot Washing: John 13:1–10— An object lesson taught by Christ regarding the basic qualities of true discipleship: humility, purity, and servanthood.

     The Song of Victory: Matthew 26:30— This last song was likely one of the imminent Hallel Psalms, Nos. 115-118.

     Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36–46— Three times Jesus prayed, while His disciples slept, “O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt!”

     The Kiss of Betrayal: Mark 14:44; Luke 22:48— “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

     The Perverted Trial: Matthew 27:11–26— Christ charged with blasphemy and sentenced to die as a criminal against Rome.

     The Crucifixion: Matthew 27:33–38— Most Christians believe He was crucified on what is now known as Good Friday. The church color for this day is black.

     “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” was written by Jennette Threlfall, an invalid English woman who was known for her cheery disposition as well as her many published poems. This text first appeared in the author’s volume Sunshine and Shadow, in 1873.

     Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang; thru pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang; to Jesus, who had blessed them close folded to His breast, the children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

     From Olivet they followed ’mid an exultant crowd, the victor palm branch waving, and chanting clear and loud; the Lord of men and angels rode on in lowly state, nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait.

     “Hosanna in the highest!” That ancient song we sing, for Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heav’n our King; O may we ever praise Him with heart and life and voice, and in His blissful presence eternally rejoice!

     For Today: Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:9, 10; John 12,13.

     Sing this Palm Sunday hymn with your family ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     In the September of 1524, Erasmus of Rotterdam, a prominent Catholic scholar of the Reformation Era, published his first attack on Martin Luther's theology. While Erasmus argued for the free will of human beings, Luther argued that humans' sinful nature rendered them slaves to wickedness, free only to sin unless by the intervention of God's sovereign grace.

     This treatise, which contains Luther's reply to Erasmus, constitutes one side of one of the first and most important debates that emerged during the Reformation, namely, that concerning free will and predestination. Later in his life, Luther would regard De Servo Arbitrio as one of his best works; by contrast, he was loath to recognize some of his other early works as belonging to him at all. | Kathleen O'Bannon | Christian Classics Ethereal Library Staff

          Preface by Henry Atherton

     This excellent work of that eminent servant of God, Martin Luther — one of the noble Reformers is acknowledged to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest of Luther’s productions. Luther himself considered it his best publication. I had purposed writing a short account of each of the Opponents — Erasmus and Luther — who come before us in the book, and of the controversy, but from lack of time owing to many calls, and wishing to get the volume into the hands of lovers of Luther as soon as possible, I had to forego this privilege.

     I believe I have succeeded in producing the best English edition of this Masterpiece of Luther that has been published. Cole’s translation has been used with slight alterations from Vaughan. My task has been a difficult one, especially as I am ignorant of the German Language. Luther’s Scriptural quotations are of course in the German Tongue, and as he often seemed to quote them from memory and as no references to verses, and sometimes none to chapters are given, and sometimes the wrong name of the Book is given, English Concordances have been of very little help to me, and often no use at all; yet I trust this edition will prove a success in spite of my handicaps.

     Although Luther used certain words that I should not employ, yet I have adhered faithfully to his own phraseology as translated by Cole. Luther speaks for himself. This book is most needful at the present day. The teachings of many so-called Protestants are more in accordance with the Dogmas of the Papists, or the ideas of Erasmus, than with the Principles of the Reformers; they are more in harmony with the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent than with any Protestant or Reformed Confessions of Faith.

     If the Lord should be pleased to open the eyes and understanding of some of these so-called Protestants to whom I have referred — through the perusal of this work of the great Reformer — Luther — enabling them to see that they are at present believing and teaching awful delusions contrary to the Word of God, and the Protestant Reformed Religion, and causing them to return to The Old Paths, the labours of “THE SOVEREIGN GRACE UNION” will not have been in vain.

     The labour involved in the preparation of this work for publication in its present form has been enjoyable, although it has often been carried out in much pain, and sometimes during sleepless nights. I rejoice in being able to issue it, and do earnestly pray that the Lord will bless it to the Ingathering of His Elect, and to the maintenance of His Cause and Truth in the days in which our lot has been cast. | Grove Chapel Parsonage, Camberwell Grove, S.E.S. June, 1931.


     The Translator has long had it in meditation, to present the British Church with an English version of a choice Selection from the Works of that great Reformer, Martin Luther: and in November last, he issued Proposals for such a publication. He considers it however necessary to state, that this Treatise on the Bondage of the Will, formed no part of his design when those Proposals were sent forth. But receiving, subsequently, an application from several Friends to undertake the present Translation, he was induced not only to accede to their request, but also to acquiesce in the propriety of their suggestion, that this work should precede those mentioned in the Proposals.

     The unqualified encomium bestowed upon it by a Divine so eminent as the late Reverend AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, who considered it a masterpiece of polemical composition, had justly impressed the minds of those friends with a correct idea of the value of the Treatise; and it was their earnest desire that the plain sentiments and forcible arguments of Luther upon the important subject which it contained, should be presented to the Church, unembellished by any superfluous ornament, and unaltered from the original, except as to their appearance in an English version. In short, they wished to see a correct and faithful Translation of Luther on the Bondage of the Will — without note or comment! In this wish, the Translator fully concurred: and having received and accepted the application, he sat down to the work immediately: which was, on Monday, December 23rd, 1822.

     As it respects the character of the version itself — the Translator, after much consideration of the eminence of his Author as a standard authority in the Church of God, and the importance of deviating from the original text in any shape whatever, at last decided upon translating according to the following principle; to which, it is his design strictly to adhere in every future translation with which he may present the public — to deliver FAITHFULLY the MIND of LUTHER; retaining LITERALLY, as much of his own WORDING, PHRASEOLOGY, and EXPRESSION, as could be admitted into the English version. — With what degree of fidelity he has adhered to this principle in the present work, the public are left to decide.

     The addition of the following few remarks shall suffice for observation.

     1. The Work is translated from Melancthon’s Edition, which he published immediately after Luther’s death.

     2. The division-heads of the Treatise, which are not distinctively expressed in the original, are so expressed in the Translation, to facilitate the Reader’s view of the whole work and all its parts. The Heads are these — Introduction, Preface, Exordium, Discussion part the First, part the Second, part the Third, and Conclusion.

     3. The subdividing Sections of the matter, which, in the original, are distinguished by a very large capital at the commencement, are, in the Translation, for typographical reasons, distinguished by Sections I, II, III, IV,

     4. The Quotations from the Diatribe, are, in the Translation, preceded and followed by a dash and inverted commas: but with this distinction — where Erasmus’own words are quoted in the original the commas are double; but single, where the substance of his sentiments only is quoted. The reader will observe, however, that this distinction was not adopted till after the first three sheets were printed: which will account for all the quotations, in those sheets, being preceded and followed by double commas. Though it is presumed, there will be no difficulty in discovering which are Erasmus’ own words, and which are his sentiments in substance only.

     5. The portions of Scripture adduced by Luther, are, in some instances, translated from his own words, and not given according to our English version. This particular was attended to, in those few places where Luther’s reading varies a little from our version, as being more consistent with a correct Translation of the author, but not with any view to favour the introduction of innovated and diverse readings of the Word of God.

     With these few and brief preliminary observations, the Translator presents this profound Treatise of the immortal Luther on the Bondage of the Will to the Public. And he trusts he has a sincere desire, that his own labour may prove to be, in every respect, a faithful Translation: and that the work itself may be found, under the Divine blessing, to be — an invaluable acquisition to the Church — “a sharp threshing instrument having teeth” for the exposure of subtlety and error — a banner in defence of the truth — and a means of edification and establishment to all those, who are willing to come to the light to have their deeds made manifest, and to be taught according to the oracles of God! | HENRY COLE. London, March, 1823.

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