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Leviticus 5     Psalm 3-4     Proverbs 20     Colossians 3

Leviticus 5

Leviticus 5:1 “If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity; 2 or if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; 3 or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt; 4 or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; 5 when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, 6 he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

7 “But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 8 He shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer first the one for the sin offering. He shall wring its head from its neck but shall not sever it completely, 9 and he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar; it is a sin offering. 10 Then he shall offer the second for a burnt offering according to the rule. And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.

11 “But if he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for the sin that he has committed a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it and shall put no frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. 12 And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take a handful of it as its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, on the LORD’s food offerings; it is a sin offering. 13 Thus the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed in any one of these things, and he shall be forgiven. And the remainder shall be for the priest, as in the grain offering.”

Laws for Guilt Offerings

14 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 15 “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16 He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

17 “If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. 18 He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. 19 It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the LORD.”

Psalm 3

Save Me, O My God


1  O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2  many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

3  But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4  I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5  I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6  I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7  Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8  Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

Psalm 4

The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed

Psalm 4  Answer Me When I Call

1  Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2  O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3  But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.

4  Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5  Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.

6  There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
7  You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8  In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Proverbs 20

Proverbs 20:1

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
2  The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
3  It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
4  The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
5  The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
6  Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
7  The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!
8  A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes.
9  Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin”?
10  Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
11  Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
12  The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the LORD has made them both.
13  Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
14  “Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
15  There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
16  Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.
17  Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
18  Plans are established by counsel;
by wise guidance wage war.
19  Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
20  If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
21  An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
22  Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
23  Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD,
and false scales are not good.
24  A man’s steps are from the LORD;
how then can man understand his way?
25  It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,”
and to reflect only after making vows.
26  A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.
27  The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,
searching all his innermost parts.
28  Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
29  The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
30  Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.

Colossians 3

Put On the New Self

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Birth Pains of the North American Church

By Mandy Smith 3/30/2017

     It’s a painful time to be an evangelical Christian in North America.

     Sometimes it might feel like it would be easier to just leave the Church, the faith or the country. For years I’ve felt the pain but I’m beginning to see it with new eyes.

     I watched the healing begin as I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s distinction between pain and suffering. She says that, while Job has the pain of his actual situation, what was worse was the suffering of feeling forsaken. Our interpretation of pain as forsakenness is often worse than the actual situation that causes the pain.

     Originally from Australia, Mandy Smith is lead pastor of University Christian Church, a campus and neighborhood congregation with its own fair-trade café in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal and the author of Making a Mess and Meeting God: Unruly Ideas and Everyday Experiments for Worship. Her latest book is The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry. Mandy and her husband Jamie, a New Testament professor at Cincinnati Christian University, live with their two kids in a little house where the teapot is always warm.

Should Women Become Pastors?

By John Piper 2/29/2008

     The Bible draws a connection between the home and the church. Just as there is a role distinction at home—where the husband is called to lead the family—there is also one at church.

     At home men are proving their fitness to be elders (pastors), and at church they are the ones who are given that role. Paul says explicitly, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" (1 Timothy 2:12). And those two functions—teaching and exercising authority—are the functions of the elder.

     It's not a problem for a woman to minister in hundreds of ways in the church, but the office of leadership and teaching of men is preserved for spiritual and godly men.

Click here to go to source

Who is John Piper?   Click here

Why Not to Have a Woman Preach

By Thomas Schreiner 5/7/2015

     Piper argues that women should not preach in the local church, even under the authority of the elders, nor should they regularly teach Sunday School to a mixed audience. I will argue here, over against Wilson, that Piper is right, and his answer is well stated.

     Let me say up front that I rejoice that Wilson believes, as Scripture makes plain, that women should not serve as pastors, and I have often profited from Wilson’s writings in other areas. He is a friend and colleague in the greatest cause. Still, on this matter, I think he missteps, as I will explain below.

     Wilson gives three arguments to support the notion that women may preach under the authority and permission of the elders. By the way, this is not a new view or a novel third way being disseminated. Such a view was certainly around when I was a seminary student in the 1970s and the 1980s. We are reminded that there is nothing new under the sun.

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     Thomas Schreiner Tom Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he also serves as Associate Dean of the School of Theology. He is the author or editor of several books and commentaries.

     Books by Thomas R. Schreiner

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism

Interpreting the Pauline Epistles

The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments

Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology)

Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary, 37)

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry (9Marks)

The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology)

The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance

New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ

Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology

40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law (40 Questions & Answers Series)

Women Teaching Men — How Far Is Too Far?

By Mary A. Kassian 5/21/2016

     Where is the line when it comes to women teaching men? May women preach on Sunday mornings? Teach a Sunday school class? Lead a small group? Instruct a seminary course? Speak at a conference? At a couples retreat? Or on the radio?

     May women ever teach from Scripture when men are in the audience? Should men even be reading this article? How far is too far?

     It’s a question being asked by scores of women who want to be faithful to the Bible and want to exercise their spiritual gift of teaching in a way that honors God’s pattern of male headship in the church.

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     Mary A. Kassian is an author, speaker, and professor of women’s studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is author of several books, Bible studies, and videos, including Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture, Conversation Peace (Revised Edition): The Power of Transformed Speech, Knowing God by Name: A Personal Encounter (Bible Study Book), True Woman 101: Divine Design: An Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood (True Woman), In My Father's House: Finding Your Heart's True Home and Biblical Womanhood in the Home (Foundations for the Family Series).

The Power of a Praying Mother (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

By Tim Challies 4/01/2017

     For the past several months, I have been searching through the long and storied history of the church to find examples of Christian men who had godly moms. More specifically, I have been searching for notable Christian men whose most important spiritual influence was their mother. I have discovered many of them and have been deeply encouraged by their stories.

     In the first article, we examined the life of John Newton, whose mother proved that spiritual strength can exist even where there is physical frailty. This time, I want to look at a great missionary who impacted an entire nation and the very course of Christian missions. To tell his story properly, we must begin with the deep spiritual crisis he endured in his teenage years, when he found himself unexpectedly torn between God and the world, drawn to the allure of wealth. It was in this moment of excruciating crisis that Hudson Taylor came to learn the power of a praying mother.

     Hudson Taylor was born on May 21, 1832, in Barnsley, England, the firstborn child of James and Amelia. James was a chemist. He had desired to be a doctor but, as the family was unable to pay for medical school, had settled for pharmacology. Raised in a believing home, he became a committed Christian at a young age and developed a deep love for Scripture and theology. When he was still a child, his parents moved to a home close to Wesleyan minister Benjamin Hudson. James quickly befriended the minister’s daughter, Amelia, despite being six years her senior.

Click here to go to source

Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and have written five books:

I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

Confronting the Lies when Suffering Leaves You Lonely

By Sarah Walton 3/27/2017

     Many roads of suffering are incredibly lonely ones.

     I remember when we began realizing that my eldest son struggled in ways that other children seemed not to. From a young age, he began displaying behavior that was defiant and destructive, and has caused a decade of confusion and chaos in our home. Countless doctors, tests, and evaluations seemed to leave doctors shaking their heads.

     As the struggles turned into life-altering challenges, I left social events, stores, and church feeling increasingly lonely. I was on a scary journey that it seemed no one else could relate to. I found myself pulling away from those I cared about, staying home, and pushing down the stress and emotional turmoil building within me. No one could truly enter into the pain, heartache, and loneliness growing in my home and within my heart.

     But—and I still find this surprising, and wonderful—over these lonely years I have discovered within me a thankfulness for the lonely road I have been given to travel. Walking it has brought me a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to know him not only as my Savior, but my comfort, sustainer, hope, and strength. That’s what drove me, together with my friend Kristen Wetherell, to write Hope When it Hurts - Biblical reflections to help you grasp God's purpose in your suffering (Cloth over Board)—I wanted to encourage other hurting women to fix their eyes on the Lord Jesus.

Click here to go to source

     Sarah is a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids under the age of 9. When she isn't wearing her mommy hat, her passion is writing and speaking on what the Lord is teaching her through His word and through the suffering that He has allowed in her life. She writes at Setapart.net and has been writing for Unlocking the Bible’s blog (Pastor Colin Smith’s teaching ministry) on a monthly basis. She has also been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Revive Our Hearts, Crosswalk, and Challies.com.

     Sarah and her husband have been given a unique call to raise a son with a neurological/behavioral disorder, which they now have good reason to believe has been the devastating effect of Lyme’s Disease. After Sarah was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease after battling long-term struggles with chronic health problems, it was also discovered that the increasing health problems growing in all 4 of her children was the result of Lyme Disease being passed to each one of them. This awful disease has ravaged their family, physically, emotionally, and financially, and has left them fighting, sometimes clinging, for hope, joy, and strength with every breath they take. This has been a painful, heartbreaking, and even scary journey at times. Many days, survival is the only reasonable goal. It’s been an exhausting, wearing, confusing journey for them, which at times has even felt hopeless. While it has been a lonely road to travel, Sarah is confident that everyone knows pain, in one form or another. Therefore, Sarah's writing and speaking is rooted in the hope that God will use her current pain and heartache to encourage and lift another’s spirit and point them to hope, joy, and contentment in Christ. Her greatest desire is that Christ will speak through her to those who need to be reminded that there is a greater hope than anything this world can offer.

     "My hope and prayer is that many will join me on this narrow road to find the treasures of the gospel in the brokenness of our lives, 'these jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us' (2 Cor.4:7)." ~ Sarah

Leviticus 5; Psalms 3-4; Proverbs 20; Colossians 3

By Don Carson 4/2/2018

     Imagine a complex, well-ordered society such that in every area of life there are actions that make a person dirty and further prescribed actions that make that person clean. When you get up in the morning, you wear clothes of certain kinds of fabric, but not others. There are clean foods and unclean foods. If a spot of mold appears on the wall of your house, there are procedures for treating it. Men must adopt a certain course after a wet dream, women in connection with their periods. Some unclean things must not even be touched. In addition there is a complex religious and sacrificial system each person is supposed to observe, and failure to observe it at any point brings its own uncleanness. And all of this fits into a still broader set of constraints that include what we normally call moral categories: how we speak, truth-telling, how we treat others, questions of property, sexual integrity, neighborly actions, judicial impartiality, and so forth. Understand, too, that in this society the rules have been laid down by God himself. They are not the results of some elected Congress or Parliament, easily overturned by a fickle or frustrated public eager for something else. To ignore or defy these rules is to defy the living God. What kinds of lessons would be learned in such a society?

     Welcome to the world of Leviticus. This, too, is part of the heritage from Mount Sinai, part of the Mosaic Covenant. Here the people of God are to learn that God prescribes what is right and wrong, and that he has a right to do so; that holiness embraces all of life; that there is a distinction between the conduct of the people of God and the conduct of the surrounding pagans, not merely a difference in abstract beliefs. Here the Lord himself prescribes what sacrifices are necessary, along with confession of sin (Lev. 5:5), when a person falls into uncleanness; and even that the system itself is no final answer, since one is constantly falling under another taboo and returning to offer sacrifices one has offered before. One begins to wonder if there will ever be one final sacrifice for sins.

     But that is down the road. Here in Leviticus 5, Christian readers delight to observe that while God trains up his covenant people in elementary religious thought, he provides means such that even the poorest in society may regain cleanness. The person who cannot afford a sacrificial lamb may bring a pair of doves or a pair of pigeons; the person who cannot afford these may bring a small amount of flour. The lessons continue; always there is hope and a way of escape from the punishment that rebellion attracts.

Click here to go to source

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 35

Great Is the LORD

26 Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!

27 Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the LORD,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     3. If we now inquire in what way the conscience can be quieted as in the view of God, we shall find that the only way is by having righteousness bestowed upon us freely by the gift of God. Let us always remember the words of Solomon, "Who can say I have made my heart clean, I am free from my sin?" (Prov. 20:9). Undoubtedly there is not one man who is not covered with infinite pollutions. Let the most perfect man descend into his own conscience, and bring his actions to account, and what will the result be? Will he feel calm and quiescent, as if all matters were well arranged between himself and God; or will he not rather be stung with dire torment, when he sees that the ground of condemnation is within him if he be estimated by his works? Conscience, when it beholds God, must either have sure peace with his justice, or be beset by the terrors of hell. We gain nothing, therefore, by discoursing of righteousness, unless we hold it to be a righteousness stable enough to support our souls before the tribunal of God. When the soul is able to appear intrepidly in the presence of God, and receive his sentence without dismay, then only let us know that we have found a righteousness that is not fictitious. It is not, therefore, without cause, that the Apostle insists on this matter. I prefer giving it in his words rather than my own: "If they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of no effect," (Rom. 4:14). He first infers that faith is made void if the promise of righteousness has respect to the merit of our works, or depends on the observance of the law. Never could any one rest securely in it, for never could he feel fully assured that he had fully satisfied the law; and it is certain that no man ever fully satisfied it by works. Not to go far for proof of this, every one who will use his eyes aright may be his own witness. Hence it appears how deep and dark the abyss is into which hypocrisy plunges the minds of men, when they indulge so securely as, without hesitations to oppose their flattery to the judgment of God, as if they were relieving him from his office as judge. Very different is the anxiety which fills the breasts of believers, who sincerely examine themselves. [421] Every mind, therefore, would first begin to hesitate, and at length to despair, while each determined for itself with how great a load of debt it was still oppressed, and how far it was from coming up to the enjoined condition. Thus, then, faith would be oppressed and extinguished. To have faith is not to fluctuate, to vary, to be carried up and down, to hesitate, remain in suspense, vacillate, in fine, to despair; it is to possess sure certainty and complete security of mind, to have whereon to rest and fix your foot.

4. Paul, moreover, adds, that the promise itself would be rendered null and void. For if its fulfillment depends on our merits when pray, will we be able to come the length of meriting the favor of God? Nay, the second clause is a consequence of the former, since the promise will not be fulfilled unless to those who put faith in it. Faith therefore failing, no power will remain in the promise. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed," (Rom. 4:16). It was abundantly confirmed when made to rest on the mercy of God alone, for mercy and truth are united by an indissoluble tie; that is, whatever God has mercifully promised he faithfully performs. Thus David, before he asks salvation according to the word of God, first places the source of it in his mercy. "Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant," (Ps. 119:76). And justly, for nothing but mere mercy induces God to promise. Here, then, we must place, and, as it were, firmly fix our whole hope, paying no respect to our works, and asking no assistance from them. And lest you should suppose that there is any thing novel in what I say, Augustine also enjoins us so to act. "Christ," says he, "will reign forever among his servants. This God has promised, God has spoken; if this is not enough, God has sworn. Therefore, as the promise stands firm, not in respect of our merits, but in respect of his mercy, no one ought to tremble in announcing that of which he cannot doubt," (August. in Ps. 88, Tract. 50). Thus Bernard also, "Who can be saved? ask the disciples of Christ. He replies, With men it is impossible, but not with God. This is our whole confidence, this our only consolation; this the whole ground of our hope: but being assured of the possibility, what are we to say as to his willingness? Who knows whether he is deserving of love or hatred? (Eccles. 9:1). Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' (1 Cor. 2:16). Here it is plain, faith must come to our aid: here we must have the assistance of truth, in order that the secret purpose of the Father respecting us may be revealed by the Spirit, and the Spirit testifying may persuade our hearts that we are the sons of God. But let him persuade by calling and justifying freely by faith: in these there is a kind of transition from eternal predestination to future glory," (Bert. in Dedica. Templi, Serm. 5). Let us thus briefly conclude: Scripture indicates that the promises of God are not surer unless they are apprehended with full assurance of conscience; it declares that wherever there is doubt or uncertainty, the promises are made void; on the other hand, that they can only waver and fluctuate if they depend on our works. Therefore, either our righteousness must perish, or without any consideration of our works, place must be given to faith alone, whose nature it is to prick up the ear, and shut the eye; that is, to be intent on the promise only, to give up all idea of any dignity or merit in man. Thus is fulfilled the celebrated prophecy of Zechariah: "I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine, and under the fig-tree," (Zech. 3:9, 10). Here the prophet intimates that the only way in which believers can enjoy true peace, is by obtaining the remission of their sins. For we must attend to this peculiarity in the prophets, that when they discourse of the kingdom of Christ, they set forth the external mercies of God as types of spiritual blessings. Hence Christ is called the Prince of Peace, and our peace, Isaiah 9:6; Eph. 2:14), because he calms all the agitations of conscience. If the method is asked, we must come to the sacrifice by which God was appeased, for no man will ever cease to tremble, until he hold that God is propitiated solely by that expiation in which Christ endured his anger. In short, peace must be sought nowhere but in the agonies of Christ our Redeemer.

5. But why employ a more obscure testimony? Paul uniformly declares that the conscience can have no peace or quiet joy until it is held for certain that we are justified by faith. And he at the same time declares whence this certainty is derived--viz. when "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," (Rom. 5:5); as if he had said that our Souls cannot have peace until we are fully assured that we are pleasing to God. Hence he elsewhere exclaims in the person of believers in general, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35). Until we have reached that haven, the slightest breeze will make us tremble, but so long as the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall walk without fear in the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23). Thus those who pretend that justification by faith consists in being regenerated and made just, by living spiritually, have never tasted the sweetness of grace in trusting that God will be propitious. Hence also, they know no more of praying aright than do the Turks or any other heathen people. For, as Paul declares, faith is not true, unless it suggest and dictate the delightful name of Father; nay, unless it open our mouths and enable us freely to cry, Abba, Father. This he expresses more clearly in another passage, "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him," (Eph. 3:12). This, certainly, is not obtained by the gift of regeneration, which, as it is always defective in the present state, contains within it many grounds of doubt. Wherefore, we must have recourse to this remedy; we must hold that the only hope which believers have of the heavenly inheritance is, that being in grafted into the body of Christ, they are justified freely. For, in regard to justification, faith is merely passives bringing nothing of our own to procure the favor of God, but receiving from Christ every thing that we want.


[421] The two previous sentences are ommited in the French.


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

  • Sinclair Ferguson
  • Ligon Duncan
  • John MacArthur

#1 The Last Things | Ligonier


#2 The Church and Sacraments | Ligonier


#3 Becoming a Better You | Ligonier


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2007    Kingdom Prayer

     I have a good friend who is about twice my age. Over the past few years we have hunted together, fished together, and prayed together. He refers to himself as a recovering Pharisee who is learning how to quit praying for his own personal kingdom and how to pray for the kingdom of God. I have learned more about prayer from him than anyone. I have learned that faithfulness in the kingdom of God is more important than successfulness in the kingdom of man. I have learned that the power of God is not made perfect in our strength but in our weakness, and I have learned that kingdom prayer is not merely asking God for what we want in the temporal but what He wants in the eternal.

     When the Lord taught His disciples to pray, he didn’t simply tell them what to do, He showed them what to do. Even as the Son of God, He demonstrated His humility and prayed to the Father that His kingdom would come and that His will would be done, and He knew exactly what He was asking for. For even when He prayed in the garden, He humbled Himself before the Father and fell down on His face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). On every occasion, our Lord prayed with an uninterrupted focus on the will of the Father. It would seem appropriate that if the Lord Jesus Christ prayed in such a manner, then so should we. When we come to God in prayer, we must empty ourselves of all arrogance and self-reliance; we must come to the end of ourselves so that our hearts can be lifted up to heaven, and we must focus our minds not on the goods and kindred of this earth but on the precious treasures that await us in our heavenly home.

     In his booklet on prayer, entitled Of Of Prayer: A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It., John Calvin provides several rules for prayer. He writes, “The third rule to be added is: that he who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self-confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating anything, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face.” In so doing, we shall conquer the kingdoms of men, tear down the strongholds of this world, and manifest what it means to live a humble existence coram Deo, before the face of God.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The world of communication was revolutionized by a man who died this day, April 2, 1872. His name: Samuel Morse. He invented the telegraph and the Morse Code. An outstanding portrait artist in his own right, founding the National Academy of Design, Morse erected the first telegraph lines between Baltimore and the U.S. Supreme Court chamber in Washington, D.C. in 1844. The first message he sent over this new communication system was only four words, a verse from the Bible, Numbers 23:23: “What hath God Wrought! ”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

A fault, opportunely rebuked, is like a cure timely taken.
--- Arthur Capel  The Gospel Of St. Mark, Illustrated From Ancient And Modern Authors...

As our Lord asked the sick man whether he wished to be healed, so, without our consent, He will not save us; and sinners are without excuse for not consenting to the will of the Lord and their own salvation.
--- Cardinal Bonaventura  The Gospel according to S. John : illustrated (chiefly in the doctrinal and moral sense) from ancient and modern authors ..

The cross is a one time, visual representation of God's grief over sin.
--- Dean H. Harvey  The Cross: God's Way of Salvation

Peace is the deliberate adjustment of my life to the will of God.
--- Anonymous  Enriching Christian Doctrine and Character

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 4/2
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Ninth of tenth month. -- My heart hath often been deeply afflicted under a feeling that the standard of pure righteousness is not lifted up to the people by us, as a society, in that clearness which it might have been, had we been as faithful as we ought to be to the teachings of Christ. And as my mind hath been inward to the Lord, the purity of Christ's government hath been made clear to my understanding, and I have believed, in the opening of universal love, that where a people who are convinced of the truth of the inward teachings of Christ are active in putting laws in execution which are not consistent with pure wisdom, it hath a necessary tendency to bring dimness over their minds. My heart having been thus exercised for several years with a tender sympathy towards my fellow-members, I have within a few months past expressed my concern on this subject in several meetings for discipline.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-Fourth Chapter / Avoiding Curious Inquiry About The Lives Of Others


     MY CHILD, do not be curious. Do not trouble yourself with idle cares. What matters this or that to you? Follow Me. What is it to you if a man is such and such, if another does or says this or that? You will not have to answer for others, but you will have to give an account of yourself. Why, then, do you meddle in their affairs?

     Behold, I know all men. I see everything that is done under the sun, and I know how matters stand with each—what is in his mind and what in his heart and the end to which his intention is directed. Commit all things to Me, therefore, and keep yourself in good peace. Let him who is disturbed be as restless as he will. Whatever he has said or done will fall upon himself, for he cannot deceive Me.

     Do not be anxious for the shadow of a great name, for the close friendship of many, or for the particular affection of men. These things cause distraction and cast great darkness about the heart. I would willingly speak My word and reveal My secrets to you, if you would watch diligently for My coming and open your heart to Me. Be prudent, then. Watch in prayer, and in all things humble yourself.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     "The fruit of the Spirit is love."


     "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen . . . and Saul.

     "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

     "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed unto Seleucia" (Acts 13:1-4).

     In the story of our text we shall find some precious thoughts to guide us as to what God would have of us, and what God would do for us. The great lesson of the verses quoted is this: The Holy Spirit is the director of the work of God upon the earth. And what we should do if we are to work rightly for God, and if God is to bless our work, is to see that we stand in a right relation to the Holy Spirit, that we give Him every day the place of honor that belongs to Him, and that in all our work and (what is more) in all our private inner life, the Holy Spirit shall always have the first place. Let me point out to you some of the precious thoughts our passage suggests.

     First of all, we see that God has His own plans with regard to His kingdom.

     His church at Antioch had been established. God had certain plans and intentions with regard to Asia, and with regard to Europe. He had conceived them; they were His, and He made them known to His servants.

     Our great Commander organizes every campaign, and His generals and officers do not always know the great plans. They often receive sealed orders, and they have to wait on Him for what He gives them as orders. God in Heaven has wishes, and a will, in regard to any work that ought to be done, and to the way in which it has to be done. Blessed is the man who gets into God's secrets and works under God.

     Some years ago, at Wellington, South Africa, where I live, we opened a Mission Institute--what is counted there a fine large building. At our opening services the principal said something that I have never forgotten. He remarked:

     "Last year we gathered here to lay the foundation-stone, and what was there then to be seen? Nothing but rubbish, and stones, and bricks, and ruins of an old building that had been pulled down. There we laid the foundation-stone, and very few knew what the building was that was to rise. No one knew it perfectly in every detail except one man, the architect. In his mind it was all clear, and as the contractor and the mason and the carpenter came to their work they took their orders from him, and the humblest laborer had to be obedient to orders, and the structure rose, and this beautiful building has been completed. And just so," he added, "this building that we open today is but laying the foundation of a work of which only God knows what is to become."

     But God has His workers and His plans clearly mapped out, and our position is to wait, that God should communicate to us as much of His will as each time is needful.

     We have simply to be faithful in obedience, carrying out His orders. God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to go unless God goes before us. God has planned for the work and the extension of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit has had that work given in charge to Him. "The work whereunto I have called them." May God, therefore, help us all to be afraid of touching "the ark of God" except as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:3-4
     by D.H. Stern

3     From the mouth of a fool sprouts pride,
but the lips of the wise protect them.

4     Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean;
but much is produced by the strength of an ox.

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


     ‘Whisht, now!’ said my Teacher suddenly. We were standing close to some bushes and beyond them I saw one of the Solid People and a Ghost who had apparently just that moment met. The outlines of the Ghost looked vaguely familiar, but I soon realized that what I had seen on Earth was not the man himself but photographs of him in the papers. He had been a famous artist.

     ‘God’ said the Ghost, glancing round the landscape.

     ‘God what?’ asked the Spirit.

     ‘What do you mean, “God what”?’ asked the Ghost.

     ‘In our grammar God is a noun.’

     ‘Oh—I see. I only meant “By Gum” or something of the sort. I meant … well, all this. It’s … it’s … I should like to paint this.’

     ‘I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you.’

     ‘Look here; isn’t one going to be allowed to go on painting?’

     ‘Looking comes first.’

     ‘But I’ve had my look. I’ve seen just what I want to do. God!—I wish I’d thought of bringing my things with me!’

     The Spirit shook his head, scattering light from his hair as he did so. ‘That sort of thing’s no good here,’ he said.

     ‘What do you mean?’ said the Ghost.

     ‘When you painted on earth—at least in your earlier days—it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. There is no good telling us about this country, for we see it already. In fact we see it better than you do.’

     ‘Then there’s never going to be any point in painting here?’

     ‘I don’t say that. When you’ve grown into a Person (it’s all right, we all had to do it) there’ll be some things which you’ll see better than anyone else. One of the things you’ll want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The glory that excels

     The Lord … hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight. ---
Acts 9:17.

     When Paul received his sight he received spiritually an insight into the Person of Jesus Christ, and the whole of his subsequent life and preaching was nothing but Jesus Christ—“I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” No attraction was ever allowed to hold the mind and soul of Paul save the face of Jesus Christ.

     We have to learn to maintain an unimpaired state of character up to the last notch revealed in the vision of Jesus Christ.

     The abiding characteristic of a spiritual man is the interpretation of the Lord Jesus Christ to himself, and the interpretation to others of the purposes of God. The one concentrated passion of the life is Jesus Christ. Whenever you meet this note in a man, you feel he is a man after God’s own heart.

     Never allow anything to deflect you from insight into Jesus Christ. It is the test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you.

  ‘Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus,
  I’ve lost sight of all beside,
  So enchanted my spirit’s vision,
  Gazing on the Crucified.’

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Golden Wedding
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Golden Wedding

Cold hands meeting,
the eyes aside -
so vows are contracted
in the tongue's absence.

over fifty long years
of held breath
the heart has become warm

Thomas, R. S.

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Betzah 30a


     It is policy in a suburban synagogue to celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvahs only during regular Shabbat services. Each youngster chants a haftarah, reads from the Torah, and leads parts of the service. One year, a family comes before the ritual committee with a special request: They would like their son to be allowed to have his service on the Thursday morning of Thanksgiving. They explain that this date is more convenient for members of the family who are flying in for the holiday but who are unable to remain over the weekend when the Bar Mitzvah was originally scheduled. They point out that the Torah is also read on Monday and Thursday morning, and their child will still be able to lead the service and read from the Five Books of Moses.

     The cantor notes that the Torah reading on Thursday is much shorter than the one on Shabbat, that the tunes for the weekday service differ significantly from those on Saturday (which the students have learned), and that there is no haftarah chanted on weekday mornings. The ritual committee, weighing the family’s request against the synagogue’s policies, votes not to make an exception. The Bar Mitzvah must take place on Saturday.

     The family is very upset and goes to the next board meeting to complain. In addition to the arguments presented before the ritual committee, they add one more point: The synagogue is being unfair because it allowed other families in the past to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah on a day other than Saturday. They believe that precedent has been set for a weekday Bar Mitzvah and, therefore, the synagogue is morally bound to allow them to depart from the norm as well.

     The rabbi answers that it is true that there was an exception made several years before, but the circumstances were unique. The child was severely developmentally handicapped. He had worked very hard to learn the blessings for an aliyah, which was all that he was able to do. But the young boy had a fear of appearing in the synagogue before the large crowd of Shabbat worshipers. The family felt that the only way their son would be able to celebrate becoming a Bar Mitzvah was at a low-keyed service, attended only by the immediate family and a few close friends. The ritual committee at that time, knowing the difficulties this family had in raising their son, and sensing how important this Bar Mitzvah would be to both the parents and the child, allowed an exception to the rules and set the service for a Monday morning. In his answer to the current request, the rabbi concluded that the former instance was so exceptional that it should not serve as a precedent for any other cases.

     The family appearing before the ritual committee, like Rabbi Yehudah, believed very strongly in the power of precedent. If something was allowed before, it should be allowed again. Once an exception has been made, once a precedent has been established, you cannot deny others the same opportunity.

     The Rabbis in our Gemara and the rabbi of the synagogue strongly disagree. They fear that following Rabbi Yehudah’s principle, almost all standards would fall away and practically anything could be allowed. The Rabbis believe that the law serves to provide parameters and limits of what is acceptable and what is not. They know that the law must be flexible to allow for special cases and unusual circumstances, but exceptions for extraordinary circumstances do not set precedents for ordinary occasions. Knowing when and where to allow for exceptions is one of the great burdens of leadership.

     Better that they be uninformed transgressors than deliberate transgressors.

     Text / Rava bar Rabbi Ḥanin said to Abaye: “It is taught: ‘One does not clap hands, slap sides or dance’ yet today people do this and we say nothing to them about it!” He said to him: “According to your reasoning, that which Rabbah said, that a man should not sit right near a stick-marker, lest an object roll away and he will carry it four cubits in a public place, but these women carry their jugs to the entrance of an alley and we say nothing to them about it!” Let Israel be: Better that they be uninformed transgressors than deliberate transgressors. Here, too, let Israel be: Better that they be uninformed transgressors than deliberate transgressors.

     Context / Today, people clap their hands and dance on Shabbat, “and we say nothing to them about it!” There are three interesting historical notes about this law. First, while we think of clapping hands and dancing as part of festivities, hand-clapping was also used in the ancient world as part of mourning rituals. Second, Jewish law largely ignored this rule or legislated it out of existence. Authors of legal codes wrote that Jews by and large no longer fix musical instruments regularly, as they once did. This protection for the law is unnecessary. Third, and perhaps most important, is the fact that hand-clapping became a part of recognized, acceptable Jewish practice on Shabbat and holidays. In certain communities, there is a custom (based on Maimonides’ reading of this law) to clap hands with a variation, for example, the back of one hand into the palm of another rather than palms together. This would remind the person that it is Shabbat or a holiday. Thus, the people’s practice determines, to a large degree, what the law is and how (or even if!) it will be enforced.

     This section deals with the laws of the festivals and Shabbat, specifically which objects may be carried on a holiday. Rava says: There is a specific prohibition against certain other activities on Shabbat and Festivals—hand-clapping and dancing, for example—yet people ignore this law and the Rabbis, in turn, ignore their transgression. There is disagreement among the commentators as to why these activities are prohibited, but it appears that they are preventive measures. This was done so that one will not engage in an activity (like fixing a musical instrument) that is fully prohibited on Shabbat and holidays.

     The “stick-marker” that a person sits near delineates where one domain ends and another begins. Thus, carrying from the private domain, on this side of the marker, to the public domain, on the other side, is prohibited. Why is it, Abaye asks Rava, that we are concerned with a man sitting in one spot, troubled that he may transgress, but we do not care about women carrying their water jugs to the alley’s entrance on Shabbat? In other words, why are we scrupulous in one case, observing not only the law but also a preventive measure to avert accidental transgression, but in the other case, we see a potential problem and totally ignore it?

     The answer is simple: “Let Israel be” means roughly “Leave the Jews alone.” If the Jews—in this case, the women with water jugs on Shabbat—are going to carry in any case, even if we tell them that it is prohibited, then it is preferable that they do it ignorant of the law than in intentional and flagrant violation of the law. The Rabbis were concerned with law, yet the interest here is less for this specific law than for the entire legal system. The only way the system works is if people follow rabbinic enactments. If people disobey the law and flaunt this fact, then the entire institution of law suffers. Soon, people will begin to ignore more laws, and the totality of Jewish law suffers. The Rabbis wanted Jews to keep the laws, the specific and proper observances of Jewish life. More important, though, they wanted Jews to observe the law, the entire system. When it became clear that a law would not be followed, the Rabbis might, in some cases, simply come to the conclusion that it is better not to tell the people that they were in violation. Better that they be uninformed transgressors than deliberate transgressors.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Numbers 35
     Word Biblical Commentary

     This section tells of the provision of cities for the Levites, and the guarantee of grazing rights to them in the surrounding pasture land. The section speaks not of Levitical rights of ownership, inheritance, or possession, but of the right to live in the cities and to pasture livestock there (contrast Lev 25:32–34). Measurements controlling the amount of land available for such purposes are given. There are forty-eight cities in all, and these are named in Joshua 21. They include the six cities of refuge and are to be given to the Levites on the basis of the strengths of the various tribes, the larger providing more such cities than the smaller.

     That the priestly author should turn to this question at this point is entirely appropriate. He has just dealt with the arrangements for the division of the land among the various tribes in Num 34. Now is the moment to introduce his arrangements for the Levites. There is every likelihood that in including this material he is incorporating Levitical tradition. There was of course another Levitical tradition, preserved and adapted in Num 3–4, 18, which stressed that the Levites have no inheritance among the tribes. This tradition was strongly supported in
Deuteronomy, and the author of Numbers was able to work it into his conception of the clerical hierarchy. What we have here is a subsequent provision, a later piece of Levitical tradition. Deuteronomy commended Levites to the care of the community, and the provision of cities to live in and land for their livestock is a natural solution. This latter Levitical tradition may have been a response to the problems posed by dispossessed Levites when the cult was centralized by Josiah. The possibility that Solomon was the first to initiate a policy of Levitical settlements cannot be precluded, but Deuteronomy itself remains silent on the subject, and it is only in the work of the exilic deuteronomists (Joshua 21) that the city list actually appears.

     For the priestly author of
Numbers the deuteronomic list in its original form in Josh 21 was the basis for his contribution here in Num 35:1–8. It gave him opportunity to fulfill two of his interests—the incorporation and adaptation of Levitical tradition, and the reinterpretation of deuteronomic material. The assigning of cities in Joshua’s lifetime is shown to be the product of a specific revelation to Moses. Moreover this traditional list of Levitical cities must be worked into his clerical hierarchy—with some cities granted to the sons of Aaron, and others to the three Levitical families which he has identified as the essential components of Levitical genealogy. The bulk of this reinterpretation comes in Josh 21 itself; here in Num 35:1–8 the author is content to suggest, in an idealized, way, the extent of the pasture land and above all to make it clear that the essential arrangements were fixed within the lifetime of Moses.

     In the circumstances of his own time it was useful to the author to establish the principle of a significant Levitical presence in the provinces. This would have assisted their developing role as teachers in the post-exilic period (cf. 2 Chr 17:9). In general terms the section also helps to support a point made previously—that the clergy in general and the Levites in particular have a right to community support and to resources.

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 5, Numbers (budd), 446pp

Numbers 35
     Pulpit Commentary

     In the regulations made for the habitation of the Levites and their cattle we have some sort of precedent for religious endowments; but this precedent loses all value in argument when we consider that the old dispensation was essentially temporal, which ours is not; moreover, the Levites do not correspond to the clergy, but rather to the inner circle of the faithful, who are more emphatically the “salt of the earth.” Consider, therefore, as to the habitation of the Levites—1. That it was the will of God to disperse them as widely as possible throughout Israel—a thing which might have been looked upon as a punishment to them (Gen. 49:7), but was really for the common good. Even so it is his will that his own, who are more especially his own, should be scattered far and wide among the mass of imperfect or nominal Christians; not gathered together in one corner of Christendom, but everywhere found as the few among the many. And note that this is the very law of “salt,” which must be scattered and diffused to exercise its antiseptic functions. 2. That the Levites, although dispersed, yet lived in communities, and this no doubt that they might set forth the life of holiness according to the law. Even so there is, beside the law of dispersion, a counter-law of aggregation for “the spiritual,” which makes mightily for holiness. For Christianity is a life, and life is complex, and therefore can only be lived by many who agree. There should be centres of high religious influence everywhere, but those centres should be strong. 3. That the allotments of the Levites, though sufficient, were far from being extensive, on any understanding of the text. Even so, for those who would be an example to Christ’s flock, sufficiency is the rule, and nothing more (1 Tim. 6:8). God does not design poverty for his own (Luke 12:31), unless voluntarily embraced (ibid. ver. 33), but assuredly not wealth (ibid. 6:24). 4. That the object aimed at in the allotment of their cities was to give each tribe, and even each tribesman, a personal and local interest in the Levites. Even so it is the will of God that those who specially follow after him should be identified as strongly as possible with those around them, in order that these may love and reverence them. Every Christian land has its “saints,” by whom it is the more edified in that it feels them to be specially its own.

     Consider also, mystically—1. That the Levitical cities numbered forty-eight, i. e. 12 × 4—the first being the symbol of the universal (apostolic—see
Rev. 21:14) Church, the second of the whole earth (Matt. 8:11; Rev. 21:13), the whole signifying diffusion throughout the world. Even so the religious life is universal in all parts of the Church of God, even in those which seem to us most remote. 2. That the enclosures round the Levitical cities measured the same every way—lay foursquare as far as possible. Even so it is the ideal of the religious life that it be not one-sided, or unequal, but attain its full development in all directions; if not it must be starved to some extent.

The Pulpit Commentary-Book of Numbers (Old Testament)

Cities Of Refuge
     New American Commentary

     Six of the Levitical cities, three on each side of the Jordan River, were to be designated as cities of refuge whereby a person who had committed manslaughter or caused some other form of unintentional death to an individual would be afforded asylum and protection from potential avenging by a member of the slain person’s family. As both Israel and God’s inheritance, the Levites resided in cities established throughout the land among each of the twelve tribes as living symbols of faithfulness and holiness to God. The entire land belonged to God, and he had granted it as an inheritance to his people. But although promise and inheritance were gracious gifts to the nation, possession and prosperity were conditional based upon the faithfulness of the people to the covenant stipulations that defined the relationship between God and humanity. Transgression of the stipulations of the covenant could lead to Israel’s being dispossessed or driven out from their inheritance because their rebellion and rejection of God’s sovereignty could bring defilement to the land. Legislation in chap. 35 was designed to preserve the wholeness, holiness, and purity of the Promised Land and is thus an extension of the Holiness Code of Leviticus. (Note that the parallel passage in Deut 19:1–13 emphasizes the division of the Cisjordan territory into three parts with each having a refuge city. It also further defines the premeditated aspect that precipitated the murderous act, as well as several cases of accidental death.) These cities would be designated after the conquest of the land west of the Jordan and the apportioning of the land among the tribes (Josh 20:1–9).

Numbers: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)

Take Heart
     April 2

     See how the lilies of the field grow. --- Matthew 6:28.

     Open your Old Testament and tell me the aspect of nature you most often find there. ( Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) It is not the world of sunshine and of flower. It is the world of vast and mighty things. We read of the waves that lift themselves to heaven and of the deep places of the unfathomed sea. The stormy wind is the chariot of God. Did thunder reverberate among the mountains? Did the earth reel and tremble in the earthquake? The Jew was awestruck, and worshipped and adored and said it was the voice of the Almighty.

     Now turn to the teaching of the Man of Nazareth—
“See how the lilies of the field grow.” The kingdom of heaven is like the crash of thunder? Not so; the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. It is no longer the things that tower aloft, it is no longer the things that shock or startle—it is not these that to the Man of Nazareth are richest in divine significance. It is the vineyard on the sunny hill; it is the lily waving in the field. It is things common and usual and silent that no one had had eyes to see before.

     Now do you see the meaning of that change? It lies not in an altered thought of beauty but in an altered thought of the character of God. Tell me that God is the almighty King, and I look for his power in the war of elements. Tell me that his voice is that of Sinai, and it takes the grandest music of the hills to echo it. But tell me that God in heaven is my Father—that I am his child, and that he loves me dearly—and from that moment I look with other eyes on the sunshine and the streamlet and the flower. It is not in terrible or startling things that love delights to body itself forth. Never is love richer in revelation than when it consecrates all that is quiet and lowly. And it was because God was love to Jesus Christ that, when he went abroad into the world of nature, he saw God and his kingdom in the birds and in the thousand lilies of the field. The kind of God you really believe in determines mightily your thought of heaven. And the kind of God you really believe in determines mightily your thought of earth. And this is the gladness of the knowledge of God that has been given us by Christ our Savior, that it sets every common bush afire with him and finds him in every lily of the field.
--- George H. Morrison

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

On This Day
     His Ideal Idelette  April 2

     Churchmen had been celibate for centuries, and John Calvin wondered if he, a first-generation Protestant, should break tradition. “I am not yet married,” he wrote. “Whether I shall ever marry I do not know. In any case, if I take a wife it will be that, freed from cares, I can consecrate myself to the Lord.”

     He fell in love at age 30, but the marriage was called off. His friend William Farel suggested another woman, but Calvin was unimpressed. A third prospect looked promising, but Calvin was cautious. “I will look very foolish if my hope again falls through.”

     It did. “I have not found a wife,” he lamented, “and frequently hesitate as to whether I ought any more to seek one.” Suddenly he noticed a widow in his congregation, Idelette de Bure, who had been converted through his preaching. He made frequent pastoral visits to her, and was smitten. They quickly married.

     Idelette proved an ideal pastor’s wife. She visited the sick, poor, and distressed. She entertained visitors who came consulting her famous husband. She furnished her table with vegetables from her own garden. She bore patiently the loss of the couple’s three infants. She softened Calvin’s hard edge and provided him joy.

     When Idelette fell ill, Calvin anguished. As the hour of death drew near, they talked about “the grace of Christ, the hope of everlasting life, our marriage, and her approaching departure.” Then he turned aside to pray. Idelette suddenly cried, “O glorious resurrection! O God of Abraham and of all our fathers, the believers of all the ages have trusted on Thee and none has hoped in vain. And now I fix my hope on Thee.” Having thus spoken, she died. Calvin wrote to Farel on April 2, 1549, “Intelligence of my wife’s death has perhaps reached you. I do what I can to keep myself from being overwhelmed with grief. My friends also leave nothing undone that may administer relief to my mental suffering.”

     John and Idelette enjoyed nine years together. Never again did John Calvin seek a wife, for no one could replace his ideal Idelette.

  There are three or four things I cannot understand:   How eagles fly so high or snakes crawl on rocks,   How ships sail the ocean or people fall in love.   --- Proverbs 30:18,19.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 2

     "He answered him to never a word." --- Matthew 27:14.

     He had never been slow of speech when he could bless the sons of men, but he would not say a single word for himself. “Never man spake like this man,” and never man was silent like him. Was this singular silence the index of his perfect self- sacrifice? Did it show that he would not utter a word to stay the slaughter of his sacred person, which he had dedicated as an offering for us? Had he so entirely surrendered himself that he would not interfere in his own behalf, even in the minutest degree, but be bound and slain an unstruggling, uncomplaining victim? Was this silence a type of the defencelessness of sin? Nothing can be said in palliation or excuse of human guilt; and, therefore, he who bore its whole weight stood speechless before his judge. Is not patient silence the best reply to a gainsaying world? Calm endurance answers some questions infinitely more conclusively than the loftiest eloquence. The best apologists for Christianity in the early days were its martyrs. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows. Did not the silent Lamb of God furnish us with a grand example of wisdom? Where every word was occasion for new blasphemy, it was the line of duty to afford no fuel for the flame of sin. The ambiguous and the false, the unworthy and mean, will ere long overthrow and confute themselves, and therefore the true can afford to be quiet, and finds silence to be its wisdom. Evidently our Lord, by his silence, furnished a remarkable fulfilment of prophecy. A long defence of himself would have been contrary to Isaiah’s prediction. “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” By his quiet he conclusively proved himself to be the true Lamb of God. As such we salute him this morning. Be with us, Jesus, and in the silence of our heart, let us hear the voice of thy love.

          Evening - April 2

     "He shall see his seed; he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."Isaiah 53:10.

     Plead for the speedy fulfilment of this promise, all ye who love the Lord. It is easy work to pray when we are grounded and bottomed, as to our desires, upon God’s own promise. How can he that gave the word refuse to keep it? Immutable veracity cannot demean itself by a lie, and eternal faithfulness cannot degrade itself by neglect. God must bless his Son, his covenant binds him to it. That which the Spirit prompts us to ask for Jesus, is that which God decrees to give him. Whenever you are praying for the kingdom of Christ, let your eyes behold the dawning of the blessed day which draweth near, when the Crucified shall receive his coronation in the place where men rejected him. Courage, you that prayerfully work and toil for Christ with success of the very smallest kind, it shall not be so always; better times are before you. Your eyes cannot see the blissful future: borrow the telescope of faith; wipe the misty breath of your doubts from the glass; look through it and behold the coming glory. Reader, let us ask, do you make this your constant prayer? Remember that the same Christ who tells us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” had first given us this petition, “Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, your own trials, but let them climb the starry ladder, and get up to Christ himself, and then, as you draw nigh to the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, offer this prayer continually, “Lord, extend the kingdom of thy dear Son.” Such a petition, fervently presented, will elevate the spirit of all your devotions. Mind that you prove the sincerity of your prayer by labouring to promote the Lord’s glory.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 2


     James Montgomery, 1771–1854

     No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up to it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13)

     Crisis situations are often the important pivotal points in our lives. Our response to these traumatic times—the loss of a loved one, a change in employment, a mistreatment by a trusted friend—will be the foundation stones upon which our lives are built. Maintaining the glow of our first love for God despite all the stresses of life is a major concern. The third stanza of this hymn teaches so well what our attitude should be when difficulties come our way: A desire to know what God is saying through the experience and a willingness to cast our cares on Him.

     This beloved hymn was written by one of England’s foremost hymn writers, James Montgomery. It was first published in 1853 with the title “Prayers on a Pilgrimage.” The text is based on the incident of Peter’s denial of his Lord in the courtyard of the high priest (Mark 14:54, 66–72).

     “In the Hour of Trial” also teaches that believers, like Peter, are capable of rebelling and straying from the fellowship of their Lord. The Bible gives this warning: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The antidote to sin’s allurements is the ability to keep our minds centered on Christ and His redemptive work for us. And like Peter, we can have our fellowship with God restored when we return to Him in brokenness and true humility. Peter’s remorse was the start of his spiritual greatness. Like Peter, we must let our pride and self-sufficiency become our Christ confidence if our lives are to count for the Lord.

     In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me; lest by base denial I depart from Thee: When Thou seest me waver, with a look recall, nor for fear or favor suffer me to fall.
     With forbidden pleasures would this vain world charm, or its sordid treasures spread to work me harm; bring to my remembrance sad Gethsemane, or, in darker semblance, cross-crown’d Calvary.
     Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil, and woe, or should pain attend me on my path below, grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see; grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee.

     For Today: Mark 14:54, 66–72; John 16:33; 17:15; Galatians 6:14.

     Be sensitive to the possibility of denying your Lord even in some small word or deed. Share with another believer who has strayed from God the truth of a new beginning with Christ.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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

          The Excellence of Our Inheritance

     The excellence of this inheritance or everlasting portion of the redeemed is described by four expressions. First, it is incorruptible, and thus it is like its Author “the uncorruptible God” (Rom. 1:23). All corruption is a change from better to worse, but heaven is without change or end. Hence the word incorruptible has the force of enduring, imperishable. Nor will it corrupt its heirs, as many a worldly inheritance has done. Secondly, it is undefiled, and thus like its Purchaser, who passed through this depraved world as uncontaminated as a sunbeam is unsullied though it shines on a filthy object (Heb. 7:26). All defilement is by sin, but no germ of it can ever enter heaven. Hence undefiled has the force of beneficent, incapable of injuring its possessors. Thirdly, it is unfading, and thus it is like the One who conducts us thither, “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14), the Holy Spirit, “a pure river of water of life” (Rev. 22:1). The word undefiled tells of this River's perennial and perpetual freshness; its splendor will never be marred nor its beauty diminished. Fourthly, the phrase reserved in heaven speaks of the location and security of our inheritance (see Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:18).

     As we consider the four descriptive expressions in verse 4, several characteristics of our inheritance come into view. To begin with, our inheritance is indestructible. Its substance is wholly unlike that of earthly kingdoms, the grandeur of which wears away. The mightiest empires of earth eventually dissipate by reason of inherent corruption. Consider the purity of our portion. No serpent shall ever enter this Paradise to defile it. Behold its changeless beauty. Neither rust shall tarnish nor moth mar it, nor shall endless ages produce a wrinkle on the countenance of any of its inhabitants. Ponder its security. It is guarded by Christ for His redeemed; no thief shall ever break into it.

     It seems to me that these four expressions are designed to cause us to make a series of contrasts with the glorious inheritance that awaits us. First, consider the inheritance of Adam. How soon was Eden corrupted! Secondly, think of the inheritance that “the most High divided to the nations” (Deut. 32:8) and how they have defiled it by greed and bloodshed. Thirdly, contemplate the inheritance of Israel. How sadly the land flowing with milk and honey wilted under the droughts and famines that the Lord sent in order to chasten the nation for their sins. Fourthly, let us reflect on the glorious habitation that was forfeited by the fallen angels, who “kept not their first estate” (Jude 6). These woeful, benighted spirits have no gracious High Priest to intercede for them, but are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Knowing our own remaining corruption, well might we shudder and ask with pious self-distrust (see Matthew 26:20-22), “What will keep us from such a doom?”

          The Guarantee that We Will Receive Our Inheritance

     We come, finally, to reflect upon the infallible guaranty of this doxology, which graciously answers the question of trembling saints just posited: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time.” Here is the cordial for the fainting Christian! Not only is the inestimably glorious and precious inheritance secure, “reserved in heaven” for us, but we also are secure, “kept by the power of God.” Here the Apostle Peter's doctrine perfectly coincides with that of the Lord Jesus and of the other apostles. Our Lord taught that those who are born or begotten of God believe on His Son (John 1:11-13; 3:3-5), and that those who believe have eternal life (John 3:15, 16). “He that believeth on the Son hath [presently and continually possesses] everlasting life” (John 3:36). He further taught that those who believe not do not believe because they are not His sheep (John 10:26). But then He goes on:

     “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

     The Apostle Paul also declares the fact that none of Christ's brethren shall ever perish.

     “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39).

     Yet the question remains to be answered, “What is the principal means that the power of God exercises in preserving us, in order that we might enter upon and enjoy our inheritance?”

          Faith Is the Means of Our Preservation

     “Who are kept by the power of God through faith.” John Brown's insights are of great value on this point:

     “They are ‘kept’—preserved safe—amid the many dangers to which they are exposed, ‘by the power of God.’ The expression, ‘power of God,’ may here refer to the Divine power both as exercised in reference to the enemies of the Christian, controlling their malignant purposes, and as exercised in the form of spiritual influence on the mind of the Christian himself, keeping him in the faith of the truth ‘in the love of God, and in the patient waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ’ [2 Thess. 3:5; cf. 2 Tim. 1:13, 14]. It is probably to the last that the apostle principally alludes, for he adds ‘by faith.’ It is through the persevering faith of the truth that the Christian is by Divine influence preserved from falling, and kept in possession both of that state and character which are absolutely necessary to the enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.

     “The perseverance thus secured to the true Christian is perseverance in faith and holiness; and nothing can be more grossly absurd than for a person living in unbelief and sin to suppose that he can be in the way of obtaining celestial blessedness.”

          Though God Keeps Us, We Must Believe

     By the almighty power of the Triune God, we are kept “unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” But the same gracious Spirit who keeps us also inspired Jude to write, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). By Him also the Apostle Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armour of God, . . . Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:11, 16). Therefore ought we frequently to cry to the Lord with the apostles, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). If our cry is genuine, then we may be certain that Jesus, who is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) will hear and answer in a way best suited to our need, though perhaps by means of adversity.

     The apostle's reference to the heavenly heritage of believers was a most appropriate one. He was writing to those who were, both naturally and spiritually, away from their homeland, aliens in a strange country. Many of them were converted Jews, and, as such, fiercely opposed and most cruelly treated. When a Jew became a Christian he forfeited much: he was excommunicated from the synagogue, becoming an outcast from among his own people. Nevertheless, there was rich compensation for him. He had been Divinely begotten to an inheritance infinitely superior, both in quality and duration, to the land of Palestine. Thus his gains far more than made up for his losses (see Matthew 19:23-29, especially v. 29). The Holy Spirit, then, from the outset of the Epistle, drew out the hearts of those suffering saints to God by setting before them His abundant mercy and the exceeding riches of His grace. The more they were occupied with the same the more their minds would be lifted above this scene and their hearts filled with praise to God. While few of us are experiencing any trials comparable to theirs, yet our lot is cast in a very dark day, and it behooves us to look away from the things that are seen and more and more to fix our attention upon the blissful future awaiting us. Since God has designed such for us, how we should glorify Him in heartfelt worship and by adhering to His promises by “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26) to the end!

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

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