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Numbers 3     Psalm 37     Song Of Songs 1     Hebrews 1


Numbers 3

The Sons of Aaron

Numbers 3:1 These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 2 These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. 4 But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father.

Duties of the Levites

5 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. 7 They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. 8 They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD.”

14 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 “List the sons of Levi, by fathers’ houses and by clans; every male from a month old and upward you shall list.” 16 So Moses listed them according to the word of the LORD, as he was commanded. 17 And these were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. 18 And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their clans: Libni and Shimei. 19 And the sons of Kohath by their clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20 And the sons of Merari by their clans: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers’ houses.

21 To Gershon belonged the clan of the Libnites and the clan of the Shimeites; these were the clans of the Gershonites. 22 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 7,500. 23 The clans of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, 24 with Eliasaph, the son of Lael as chief of the fathers’ house of the Gershonites. 25 And the guard duty of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting, 26 the hangings of the court, the screen for the door of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords—all the service connected with these.

27 To Kohath belonged the clan of the Amramites and the clan of the Izharites and the clan of the Hebronites and the clan of the Uzzielites; these are the clans of the Kohathites. 28 According to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, there were 8,600, keeping guard over the sanctuary. 29 The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, 30 with Elizaphan the son of Uzziel as chief of the fathers’ house of the clans of the Kohathites. 31 And their guard duty involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service connected with these. 32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary.

33 To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. 34 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. 35 And the chief of the fathers’ house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 And the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; 37 also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords.

38 Those who were to camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, guarding the sanctuary itself, to protect the people of Israel. And any outsider who came near was to be put to death. 39 All those listed among the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron listed at the commandment of the LORD, by clans, all the males from a month old and upward, were 22,000.

Redemption of the Firstborn

40 And the LORD said to Moses, “List all the firstborn males of the people of Israel, from a month old and upward, taking the number of their names. 41 And you shall take the Levites for me—I am the LORD—instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the people of Israel.” 42 So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the LORD commanded him. 43 And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.

44 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the LORD. 46 And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels per head; you shall take them according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel of twenty gerahs), 48 and give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for those who are over.” 49 So Moses took the redemption money from those who were over and above those redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the people of Israel he took the money, 1,365 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary. 51 And Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.


Psalm 37

He Will Not Forsake His Saints

Psalm 37:1 Of David.

1  Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2  For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3  Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4  Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5  Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9  For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

10  In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11  But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12  The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13  but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14  The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15  their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16  Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17  For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

18  The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19  they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20  But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21  The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22  for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23  The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24  though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.

25  I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26  He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27  Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28  For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29  The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31  The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32  The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33  The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34  Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35  I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36  But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37  Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38  But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39  The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40  The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.


Song Of Songs

Song Of Songs 1:1  The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

The Bride Confesses Her Love

SHE

2  Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
3  your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
4  Draw me after you; let us run.
The king has brought me into his chambers.

OTHERS

We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine;
rightly do they love you.

SHE

5  I am very dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
6  Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept!
7  Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who veils herself
beside the flocks of your companions?

Solomon and His Bride Delight in Each Other

HE

8  If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds’ tents.

9  I compare you, my love,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10  Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.

OTHERS

11  We will make for you ornaments of gold,
studded with silver.

SHE

12  While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13  My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
that lies between my breasts.
14  My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.

HE

15  Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.

SHE

16  Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.
Our couch is green;
17  the beams of our house are cedar;
our rafters are pine.


Hebrews

The Supremacy of God’s Son

Hebrews Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7 Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11  they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12  like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Trinitarian Worship

By Allen Vander Pol 4/1/2006

     When someone mentions Trinitarian worship, we may immediately think of the times when we make specific reference to the Trinity in our worship services. For example, we may think of some of the classic hymns of the church that mention the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The great hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” praises “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!” Or we may remember the progression of thought, from stanza to stanza, in “Come, Thou Almighty King.” After a stanza is devoted to each person of the Trinity, the hymn offers praises “to the great One in Three.” Frequently we sing the so-called “Doxology,” which concludes with, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Besides the hymns we sing, many churches recite one of the ecumenical creeds each Sunday. These statements of faith are structured around the Trinity. Certainly the doctrine of the Trinity receives continual attention in classic Protestant worship.

     But worship that is in spirit and truth is Trinitarian also when the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly mentioned. In worship, the congregation lifts its collective heart to God to declare His worth. As the flow of worship progresses and God is praised, the congregation’s approach to God is always Trinitarian.

     Paul taught this when he wrote Ephesians. In Ephesians 2:18 he wrote, “For through him Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This announcement belongs to a paragraph that presents several reasons why Christ’s church is one. Paul explained that all Christians today, whether Jews or Gentiles, enjoy the same peace with God and stand on the same foundation where Christ is the cornerstone. Though, in the past, there was deep hostility between Jew and Gentile due to God’s sovereign dealings with mankind, the dividing wall of hostility was destroyed when Christ atoned for our sins. Now all who trust in Christ for divine forgiveness share one approach to God: through Christ, in one Spirit, to the Father. This universal — or catholic — approach to God is always Trinitarian.

     The reason true worship is Trinitarian is that God’s revelation of Himself to us, especially His saving revelation, is Trinitarian. When the Father sent the Son, the Son came in the power of the Spirit. Since the Father saved us through the Son by the power of the Spirit, we approach Him using the same pathway: through Christ we all have access in one Spirit to the Father. It becomes clear that our worship is our response to the Gospel of Christ. Our way of approaching God reflects the way He has approached us.

     Trinitarian worship is experienced in all the parts of a Christian worship service. When the early church assembled together, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Many Protestant reformers saw in this verse the content of the worship services that were under the authority of the apostles. The early church assembled to sit under the teaching of God’s Word and to engage in “fellowship,” or sharing, which included sharing financially with the needy. Through God’s means of grace, they received assurance of faith through the sacramental signs, and they prayed together. In these various acts of worship the church either received grace from God or offered itself to God’s service. In each part of their corporate worship they engaged in worship that was Trinitarian.

     The church receives grace when it prays, receives God’s Word, and receives the sacraments. These are means appointed by God for the Holy Spirit to impart or strengthen our Christian faith. Receiving grace through the use of these means is a Trinitarian experience because they are appointed by God to offer grace, they direct our faith to the Son of God, and they are powerless unless the Spirit is present to apply grace to our hearts. As the congregation lifts its heart to receive, the triune God condescends to give.

     The church also lifts its united heart to God when it offers itself to God’s service. Our prayer and gifts are offered “in the Spirit” to Christ, the Father’s gift to us (Eph. 6:18). The congregation’s psalms, hymns, and spirituals songs constitute some of its prayers to God. Such songs are addressed to God in Jesus’ name and are enabled by the presence of the Spirit. Singing that properly belongs to Christian worship offers to the triune God our words of praise, confession, and thanksgiving. Through these acts of worship, including prayer and gifts both offered to God, the church approaches God, depending on Christ’s merits to be received and on His Spirit’s presence to be sanctified.

     Such worship is both simple and profound. It is simple because God’s grace directs our faith to Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man. In Christ we meet the face of the Father and the power of the Spirit. In Christ we entrust ourselves to the gift of the Father and the testimony of the Spirit. In Christ we become children of God and the temple of the Spirit. By worshiping in the name of one person, our Lord Jesus Christ, we engage in Trinitarian worship.

     True worship is also profound because we never exhaust all that there is to know, do, or feel in God’s presence. Certainly the reality of God’s transcendence, mercy, and presence will always humble us, move us, baffle us, and excite us. Through faith in Christ we enter heaven, the home of God, and God enters us, making us His temple. In Christ we begin to experience the privilege for which we were first created: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Therefore we sing: “For His favor, praise forever unto God the Father sing; praise the Savior, praise Him ever, Son of God, our Lord and King. Praise the Spirit; through Christ’s merit, He doth us salvation bring” (from the Trinity Hymnal #243, “Praise the Savior Now and Ever”).

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     Rev. Allen Vander Pol East Asia Coordinator

Allen Vander Pol Books:

Theology Has Consequences

By Tabletalk 4/1/2006

     Richard Weaver first made a name for himself when he published his seminal work, Ideas Have Consequences: Expanded Edition. It is a brief work with ideas that are still reaping consequences. He was to the secular academic world something of a Francis Schaeffer, introducing thousands to the concept of worldview, arguing that what we think about little things, more often than not, is determined by what we think about big things. Weaver demonstrated how a modernist worldview was not something academia simply studied, but it was instead something that shaped academia. Indeed, modernism is academia’s mother. You wouldn’t have the latter if you did not first have the former. Schaeffer named many of the strongholds we are called to tear down, the sundry “isms” that we in the evangelical world carefully study, the same ones we once studiously ignored.

     While I don’t deny the importance of the study of worldviews, I’m afraid there just might be something modernist about our modern fascination with “isms,” whether we’re fighting or promoting them. The Bible does argue that we fight against every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, but on the other hand, it spends far more time worrying about sins on a grand scale. The children of Israel, for instance, are never sent a prophet who thunders against them because they have embraced behaviorism. He never destroys a city with fire and brimstone because the citizens there believed in utilitarianism. No, the problem doesn’t have much academic allure. The problem was always idolatry. Nations rise and fall, cultures ebb and flow, based on this simple question: do they worship the true and living God? Worldviews may shape how we see the world, but theology shapes our worldviews.

     We are a schizophrenic people. We have a love/hate relationship with our own nation/history/culture. We, at least within the church, prefer to define ourselves in light of the heroes of our past. We are the heirs of the Puritans and the Pilgrims, faithful men and women. We are the children of Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, George Washington. We were, and there is the heartache, were, a great people. Today we are a nation of looters and rapists. We are child predators and baby killers. Today, third world nations, with pity in their hearts, send missionaries here, for the sake of our souls. And so we want to know where it all went wrong. When did our city on a hill become Sodom and Gomorrah?

     Of course, since the fall of Adam, wherever we were, there we would find the seed of our own destruction. But such doesn’t mean we can’t look for particular forces that toppled us in a particular direction. Some, for instance, see the war between the States as the great moment of national apostasy. Others look to the Scopes “Monkey” Trial as a watershed moment when we turned our backs on the God who had so blessed us. Still others think it all went wrong when prayer was removed from the state’s schools. A few might argue that it was January, 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade.

     I’d like to posit a different theory. The handwriting was already on the wall, we had already been tried in the balance and found wanting, when our New England forbears jettisoned not just the rugged Calvinism that had sustained them in times of hardship, but when they began to embrace Unitarianism. Here the problem isn’t simply the playing fast and loose with the Bible. The problem wasn’t merely the Pelagian revival, the notion that culturally speaking, we could create the New Man, and usher in paradise on earth. The problem wasn’t the smug pride that drove the rejection not only of the Bible, but of the wisdom of our fathers in church history. The problem was this, we stopped worshiping the true and living God. The evil of Unitarianism is that it isn’t Trinitarianism.

     So now what do we do? We do not simply change our worldview. We do not simply elect better politicians. We do not merely refute Darwin or Skinner or Derrida. All of this is lopping the tops off of dandelions, bandaging cancer cells. No. There is but one way for us as individuals, as families, as churches, as a culture, to become once more pleasing in God’s sight. We must worship God in spirit and in truth, which means we worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We repent for our idolatry, and we turn away from it.

     The historians will argue for centuries over what brought about the downfall of this once great land. Dissertations will be written, and tenures will be denied. Great schools of thought will do battle with competing schools. Arguments as elaborate and as rickety as the tower of Babel will rise and fall, like rising and falling empires. But there is only one thing that exalts a nation, one way for a nation to enjoy blessing from the true and living God, and that is our worship of Him and Him alone. We will only enjoy His blessing when we pray, “And may the blessing of God Almighty — Father, Son and, Holy Spirit, abide with you now and always.” So let it be done, for the sake of our fathers, for the sake of our children, and for the glory of our triune God.

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     Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier.org

Triune Monarchy

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2006

     The most basic affirmation the Scriptures make regarding the nature of God is that He is one. The shema of Deuteronomy 6 reads as follows: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v. 4). These words that preface the great commandment are axiomatic to the biblical understanding of the nature of God. Old and New Testaments together bear witness to the eternal truth that there exists one God — monotheism. Another term for monotheism is the word monarchianism, meaning that the God of the Bible is a monarch. Monarch comes from a Greek word that has a prefix and a root. The prefix mono means “one” or “single.” The root word archē means “beginning, chief, or ruler.” We hear of archbishops, archenemies, archangels, all of which employ the root term archē.

     A monarchy is a form of government in which the rule is restricted to one person, a king or a queen, as distinguished from the rule of the few (oligarchy) or the rule of many (plutarchy). The doctrine of the Trinity, central to Christian confession, is not the result of abstract speculation. Rather, it is the result of the church’s reflection on the teaching of the Bible. With respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, or what I call “triune monarchy,” the church was faced with two distinct issues. The first was the responsibility to exercise fidelity to the Bible. The second was to be clear in its rejection of heretical doctrine.

     Two virulent monarchian heresies emerged in the first three hundred years of the Christian church. The first was called Modalistic Monarchianism, as expressed in the heretical views of Sabellius. This form of monarchianism will be treated in another article in this issue of Tabletalk. Suffice to say, it was condemned at Antioch in 267 ad. Perhaps even more serious was the “Dynamic Monarchianism” of Arius, which threatened Christian orthodoxy in the beginning of the fourth century. It resulted in the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. The theological struggles of the first three centuries were based upon the church’s desire to be faithful to biblical monotheism (monarchianism) and at the same time to be faithful to the attribute of deity for each of the three persons in the Godhead.

     The church looked at the role of Jesus in creation and in redemption as the only begotten Son of the Father who wrought for us our redemption. There are multiple manifestations of biblical claims for Jesus as God, as seen, for example, in the kenotic hymn of Philippians 2:6–11, in the high Christology of the book of Hebrews, in the “I AM” sayings found in the gospel of John, in the worship that is given to Jesus without rebuke (Matt. 14:33), such as in the case of Thomas at Christ’s resurrection appearance (John 20:24–29). But there is no passage of Scripture that more occupied the attention of the theologians of the early church than that found in the prologue to the gospel of John (1:1–18). In this prologue, Jesus is identified as the incarnate Logos, the Word who became flesh. This concept is so profound in the opening verses of John’s gospel that it preoccupied the finest minds of the church for the first three hundred years of the church’s existence.

     What is so striking about John’s prologue is found in its opening words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:1–4). These few verses are staggering in their affirmation. On the one hand, the Logos is distinguished from God, inasmuch as John writes that in the beginning the Word was with God. By using the term with, the Logos is distinguished from God, even though He was with Him from the beginning. But then the profundity intensifies in the very next clause where the affirmation is made that the Word was God. On the one hand, the Word is distinguished from God. On the other hand, the Word is identified with God. A Christology that honors these two affirmations of the prologue of John must include an identification of the second person of the Trinity with God, while at the same time having some distinction in it that would distinguish the Father from the Son and, subsequently, from the Holy Spirit.

     So in the formula of the Trinity, the church bows to sacred Scripture, honoring both the unity of God and the distinctions among the persons of the Godhead. The formula made use of terms such as person, subsistence, hypostasis, in an attempt to get at the unity and the distinction within God Himself. In addition to affirming the deity of Jesus, without which deity it would be blasphemous for Him to be an object of worship in the church, the Holy Spirit is also described in the Scriptures in terms of divine attributes. He is omnipotent. He is omniscient. He is infinite. He is eternal. He is actively involved in the divine work of creation, and in conjunction with His being the author of life and human intelligence, He is active in empowering the work of Christ in redemption. We see in the Bible that the work of creation involves the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the work of redemption includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three are testified to uniformly by the Scriptures as being divine. They are not three gods, because the unity of God remains axiomatic in the monarchianism of sacred Scripture. The church still declares that the Lord our God is one. He is one being, though we must distinguish within that one being the subsistences of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

     Therefore, the church distinguishes among the three persons but sees these distinctions as not essential in character. They are essential in the sense of being absolutely vital and important for a true understanding of God, but they are not essential insofar as the distinctions among the three persons of the Godhead are not distinctions of essence, substance, or being, for God is one.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Trinity and Culture

By Gene Edward Veith 4/1/2006

     The doctrine of the Trinity is not only essential for good theology. Getting the Trinity right is also essential for love, politics, and art. God is an absolute union of three distinct persons. Thus, Scripture teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Not just that He is loving, but that He is, literally, love. That is, a union of distinct persons.

     Since God is love, His triune nature can teach us about what real love has to involve. According to the Athanasian Creed, we can err in regards to the Trinity either by “confounding the persons” (that is, smushing them all together into one) or by “dividing the substance” (that is, separating the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into three deities).

     There can be heretics in love, as well as in theology. Some relations make the mistake of “confounding the persons.” A husband wants his wife to be exactly like he is. He wants her to conform exactly to his will. He does not allow her to be a separate person. He says he loves her, but in expecting her to conform to what he is, he is really only loving himself. This is no more love than Unitarianism is Christianity.

     Or consider a family, in which the father, mother, and children each exist in their own self-contained worlds and have nothing to do with each other. They don’t have meals together, they don’t communicate with each other, they are content to just be themselves. They are “dividing the substance” of the family. The family members are separate persons, to be sure — and some families fall into the Unitarian heresy — but they lack unity. They think they love each other in their toleration, niceness, and acceptance of the others’ differences. But this is no more love than polytheism is Christianity.

     True love — whether for and from a man and a woman, family members, friends, neighbors, or God Himself — affirms the “otherness” of the beloved. And, at the same time, is “one” with the beloved. The two have their own identities, and they also identify with each other, so as to form a unity beyond themselves. This is love by Trinitarian standards.

     We can extend this to society as a whole. God Himself is a sort of community, three distinct persons in one essence. That we human beings were created in His image must account for our social nature. It is not good for us to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So He has placed us in families, communities, and nations, making us dependent on others for our very survival. In a Trinitarian society, each member is a separate, individual person who — out of love for his neighbor — joins with the other members into a corporate unity. Families, churches, companies, governments are all societies in which we have both individual and corporate identities.

     In this sinful world, of course, such societies often turn heretical. The high school social scene that demands absolute conformity — this would be an example of “confounding the persons,” suppressing the unique individuality of the persons who constitute the group. Another would be a dictatorship that controls its citizens by stamping out liberties.

     The opposite heresy would be an assemblage of people in which there is no unity, no admission of common bonds or obligations, in which everyone lives completely for himself. This would be “dividing the persons.”

     We can also apply the Trinity to the creation He has made. God made a “universe” of an astounding variety of different things, which cohere into elements, species, and ecosystems. As the Psalmist put it, “O Lord, how manifold are your works!” (Ps. 104:24). Cells, each with their own individuality, come together to form a single organism.

     “The body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,” says the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 12:12). He uses biological facts about eyes, ears, and feet as an image of theological and moral truth about the organism of the church. These utterly different organs come together — in a Trinitarian way — to form one unified body. Similarly, the utterly diverse Christians — with their different personalities, backgrounds, and gifts — who together constitute nothing less than the body of Christ on earth, should treat each other in a Trinitarian way: honoring each other’s differences, while being completely united in Christ (see vv. 13–25). In the physical body, as in the communion of the saints, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v. 26).

     The unity of variety is also a principle of aesthetics. Some works of art have unity — consider the black canvas of the modern art gallery — but no variety. Others have variety — consider the spattered canvas of the paint-flinging abstract expressionist — but no unity. But the greatest works of art, whether painting or music or literature, have “a lot to them,” filled with details and an abundance of elements interesting in their own terms. And yet — as in the multiple melodies of a Bach fugue or the innumerable characters and subplots of a Shakespeare play — they also all come together into a larger whole.

     This fallen world is a realm of heresies, but looming behind all that is true and good and satisfying is the triune God.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Confusing Truth and Fiction

By Gene Edward Veith 5/1/2006

     If you do much witnessing to people these days, you have probably run into this phenomenon: You tell them about Jesus, and they say something like, “Well, the church has twisted around what Jesus really said.” You press them on what they mean and what makes them think so, and they start telling you about a really good book they read that opened their eyes about Christianity, namely, The Da Vinci Code.

     The book is a novel, you might point out, topping the charts for best-selling fiction. That means, by its own admission, the book is not true. And yet, that probably will not faze the person who just knows that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that His message of free love and tolerance for all was distorted by an oppressive, male-dominated, puritanical institution that made up the Bible to fit their plan to take over the world. And that person knows it because he read it in a really exciting novel.

     That novel does make historical claims. Historians and other scholars have examined them and have shot down each and every one. Even otherwise liberal scholars admit that the claims of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown are balderdash. He can get away with them by claiming that, hey, this is just a work of fiction. It doesn’t have to be historically correct. It’s made-up. Though Mr. Brown still, on his website, insists that what he says in his novel is historical, he has that cover, should he ever need it. But for that deluded soul you are witnessing to, pointing out the historical whoppers in the book may do no good at all in changing his mind.

     In our postmodern climate, people confuse truth and fiction. They think all truth is fiction. So they “choose” their beliefs according to the particular fiction they “like.”

     Modernists and pre-modernists alike assumed that truth is something we can “discover.” Truth is “out there” apart from ourselves, an objective reality. We may know truth either completely or, more often, in a partial way, or we may remain ignorant of it. Some truths we can know through reason. Others through experience. Christians have always insisted that some truths we can know only through revelation. But “truth is truth,” whether we like it or not.

     Postmodernists, though, reject the objectivity of truth. They see truth not as a discovery but as a “construction.” The culture “constructs” particular views of reality. Different cultures therefore have different truths.

     That is to say, whoever has “power” in the culture constructs a truth to keep the people out of power (women, minorities, those with different sexual preferences) in line. All truth-claims, therefore, are essentially oppressive. But what can be constructed can be deconstructed.

     Individuals who wake up to the controlling paradigms can be liberated from the oppressive power structure. They can “construct” their own truths. Or, better yet, the oppressed minorities can get together and construct competing paradigms that tell their stories in an “empowering way.”

     So the academic world today is awash in “alternate histories.” The official histories, we are told, are also fictitious in their own ways, leaving out certain people and playing down certain events. So there is nothing wrong with “marginalized” people playing the same game in the same way to advance their power interests for a change.

     This equivalence of truth and fiction is taught in our major universities, and — however esoteric it may seem — has metastasized throughout the culture. Our information media are major carriers. We have new genre-blending art forms such as non-fiction novels and docu-dramas, plus Hollywood’s need to spin facts to make them more entertaining.

     A network news show did a consumer report on safety problems in an automobile. But the collisions they engineered did not always cause a good, photogenic explosion. So the network used explosives to blow up the car. Viewers, believing what they saw on the screen, watched the car explode and assumed this was evidence for a really bad safety problem, but it was all fiction. The filmmaker Oliver Stone did a movie, JFK, on the Kennedy assassination, mixing factual footage with a lurid thriller plot, in which the CIA and the military-industrial complex conspired to murder the president. Polls show that a substantial number of Americans believe that the movie version is what actually happened.

     The Da Vinci Code dramatizes all the postmodernist clichés: The white males who constructed Christianity are really just concerned about getting power so they can oppress women and free spirits. But here is an alternative narrative that is much more liberating. And because this newly constructed fiction is cool, fun to imagine, and allows sin, people buy into it as their truth. Christians once had to persuade non-believers that there is a God. Now Christians have to persuade non-believers that there is a truth.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Numbers 3; Psalm 37; Song of Songs 1; Hebrews 1

By Don Carson 4/26/2018

     From Sinai on, the Levites are treated differently from the other tribes: they alone handle the tabernacle and its accoutrements, from them come the priests, they are not given a separate allotment of land but are dispersed throughout the nation, and so forth. But here in Numbers 3, one of the most startling distinctives is portrayed.

     All the males one month of age and up from the tribe of Levi were counted. Their total was 22,000 (3:39). Then all the firstborn males one month of age and up from the rest of the Israelites were counted. Their total was 22,273 (3:43): the differential between the two figures is 273. God declares that because he spared all the Israelite firstborn at the first Passover in Egypt, the firstborn are peculiarly his (3:13). The assumption, of course, is that at one level they too should have died: they were not intrinsically better than the Egyptians who did. They had been protected by the blood of the Passover lamb God had prescribed. Clearly God was not now going to demand the life of all the Israelite firstborn. Instead, he insists that they are all his in a peculiar way — but that he will accept, instead of all the firstborn males of all Israel, all the males of the tribe of Levi. Since the two totals do not exactly coincide, the 273 extra firstborn males from Israel must be redeemed some other way, and so a redemption tax is applied (3:46-48).

     There are some lessons to be learned. One of them is intrinsic to the narrative and already noted: the Israelites were not intrinsically superior to the Egyptians, not intrinsically exempt from the wrath of the destroying angel. More importantly, those saved by the blood belong to the Lord in some peculiar way. If God has accepted the blood that was shed in their place, he does not demand that they die: he demands that they live for him and his service. Owing to the covenantal requirements of the Sinai code, a substitution is accepted: the Levites substitute for all the Israelites who should have come under the sweep of the Passover requirement.

     The fulfillment of these patterns under the terms of the new covenant is not hard to find. We are saved from death by the death of the supreme Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Those saved by his blood belong to the Lord in a peculiar way, i.e., not only by virtue of creation but by virtue of redemption (1 Cor. 6:20). He demands that we live for him and his service, and in this we constitute a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:5-6; Rev. 1:6).

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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 42

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
42 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     32. It is certain that the use of singing in churches (which I may mention in passing) is not only very ancient, but was also used by the Apostles, as we may gather from the words of Paul, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also," (1 Cor. 14:15). In like manner he says to the Colossians, "Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord," (Col. 3:16). In the former passage, he enjoins us to sing with the voice and the heart; in the latter, he commends spiritual Songs, by which the pious mutually edify each other. That it was not an universal practice, however, is attested by Augustine (Confess. Lib. 9 cap. 7), who states that the church of Milan first began to use singing in the time of Ambrose, when the orthodox faith being persecuted by Justina, the mother of Valentinian, the vigils of the people were more frequent than usual; [482] and that the practice was afterwards followed by the other Western churches. He had said a little before that the custom came from the East. [483] He also intimates (Retract. Lib. 2) that it was received in Africa in his own time. His words are, "Hilarius, a man of tribunitial rank, assailed with the bitterest invectives he could use the custom which then began to exist at Carthage, of singing hymns from the book of Psalms at the altar, either before the oblation, or when it was distributed to the people; I answered him, at the request of my brethren." [484] And certainly if singing is tempered to a gravity befitting the presence of God and angels, it both gives dignity and grace to sacred actions, and has a very powerful tendency to stir up the mind to true zeal and ardor in prayer. We must, however, carefully beware, lest our ears be more intent on the music than our minds on the spiritual meaning of the words. Augustine confesses (Confess. Lib. 10 cap. 33) that the fear of this danger sometimes made him wish for the introduction of a practice observed by Athanasius, who ordered the reader to use only a gentle inflection of the voice, more akin to recitation than singing. But on again considering how many advantages were derived from singing, he inclined to the other side. [485] If this moderation is used, there cannot be a doubt that the practice is most sacred and salutary. On the other hand, songs composed merely to tickle and delight the ear are unbecoming the majesty of the Church, and cannot but be most displeasing to God.

33. It is also plain that the public prayers are not to be couched in Greek among the Latins, nor in Latin among the French or English (as hitherto has been every where practised), but in the vulgar tongue, so that all present may understand them, since they ought to be used for the edification of the whole Church, which cannot be in the least degree benefited by a sound not understood. Those who are not moved by any reason of humanity or charity, ought at least to be somewhat moved by the authority of Paul, whose words are by no means ambiguous: "When thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say, Amen, at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks, but the other is not edified," (1 Cor. 14:16, 17). How then can one sufficiently admire the unbridled license of the Papists, who, while the Apostle publicly protests against it, hesitate not to bawl out the most verbose prayers in a foreign tongue, prayers of which they themselves sometimes do not understand one syllable, and which they have no wish that others should understand? [486] Different is the course which Paul prescribes, "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also:" meaning by the spirit the special gift of tongues, which some who had received it abused when they dissevered it from the mind, that is, the understanding. The principle we must always hold is, that in all prayer, public and private, the tongue without the mind must be displeasing to God. Moreover, the mind must be so incited, as in ardor of thought far to surpass what the tongue is able to express. Lastly, the tongue is not even necessary to private prayer, unless in so far as the internal feeling is insufficient for incitement, or the vehemence of the incitement carries the utterance of the tongue along with it. For although the best prayers are sometimes without utterance, yet when the feeling of the mind is overpowering, the tongue spontaneously breaks forth into utterance, and our other members into gesture. Hence that dubious muttering of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:13), something similar to which is experienced by all the saints when concise and abrupt expressions escape from them. The bodily gestures usually observed in prayer, such as kneeling and uncovering of the head (Calv. in Acts 20:36), are exercises by which we attempt to rise to higher veneration of God.

34. We must now attend not only to a surer method, but also form of prayer, that, namely, which our heavenly Father has delivered to us by his beloved Son, and in which we may recognize his boundless goodness and condescension (Mt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). Besides admonishing and exhorting us to seek him in our every necessity (as children are wont to betake themselves to the protection of their parents when oppressed with any anxiety), seeing that we were not fully aware how great our poverty was, or what was right or for our interest to ask, he has provided for this ignorance; that wherein our capacity failed he has sufficiently supplied. For he has given us a form in which is set before us as in a picture every thing which it is lawful to wish, every thing which is conducive to our interest, every thing which it is necessary to demand. From his goodness in this respect we derive the great comfort of knowing, that as we ask almost in his words, we ask nothing that is absurd, or foreign, or unseasonable; nothing, in short, that is not agreeable to him. Plato, seeing the ignorance of men in presenting their desires to God, desires which if granted would often be most injurious to them, declares the best form of prayer to be that which an ancient poet has furnished: "O king Jupiter, give what is best, whether we wish it or wish it not; but avert from us what is evil even though we ask it," (Plato, Alcibiad. 2) This heathen shows his wisdom in discerning how dangerous it is to ask of God what our own passion dictates; while, at the same time, he reminds us of our unhappy condition in not being able to open our lips before God without dangers unless his Spirit instruct us how to pray aright (Rom. 8:26). The higher value, therefore, ought we to set on the privilege, when the only begotten Son of God puts words into our lips, and thus relieves our minds of all hesitation.

35. This form or rule of prayer is composed of six petitions. For I am prevented from agreeing with those who divide it into seven by the adversative mode of diction used by the Evangelist, who appears to have intended to unite the two members together; as if he had said, Do not allow us to be overcome by temptation, but rather bring assistance to our frailty, and deliver us that we may not fall. Ancient writers [487] also agree with us, that what is added by Matthew as a seventh head is to be considered as explanatory of the sixth petition. [488] But though in every part of the prayer the first place is assigned to the glory of God, still this is more especially the object of the three first petitions, in which we are to look to the glory of God alone, without any reference to what is called our own advantage. The three remaining petitions are devoted to our interest, and properly relate to things which it is useful for us to ask. When we ask that the name of God may be hallowed, as God wishes to prove whether we love and serve him freely, or from the hope of reward, we are not to think at all of our own interest; we must set his glory before our eyes, and keep them intent upon it alone. In the other similar petitions, this is the only manner in which we ought to be affected. It is true, that in this way our own interest is greatly promoted, because, when the name of God is hallowed in the way we ask, our own sanctification also is thereby promoted. But in regard to this advantage, we must, as I have said, shut our eyes, and be in a manner blind, so as not even to see it; and hence were all hope of our private advantage cut off, we still should never cease to wish and pray for this hallowing, and every thing else which pertains to the glory of God. We have examples in Moses and Paul, who did not count it grievous to turn away their eyes and minds from themselves, and with intense and fervent zeal long for death, if by their loss the kingdom and glory of God might be promoted (Exod. 32:32; Rom. 9:3). On the other hand, when we ask for daily bread, although we desire what is advantageous for ourselves, we ought also especially to seek the glory of God, so much so that we would not ask at all unless it were to turn to his glory. Let us now proceed to an exposition of the Prayer.

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


  • A Movement
  • Serving the City
  • Faith and Work

#1 Timothy Keller   T. Keller

 

#2 Timothy Keller   T. Keller

 

#3 Timothy Keller   T. Keller

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     2/1/2005    Liberty vs. Law?

     I have often heard people define liberty as the ability to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Although such a definition may sound good on the surface, it more accurately defines anarchy than it does liberty. While many in our society cry for “liberty,” they are actually advocating a form of social anarchy. By demanding their “liberty” to have the right to choose the life or death of an unborn child, they are demanding the right to murder merely for the sake of personal convenience. By fighting for the “liberty” to define marriage as a union between two men or two women, they are in essence fighting for the toleration of sexual flagrancy.

     We live in an increasingly lawless society in which law has become an adversary and liberty has become a god. For many people, the two are opposites, and by defining liberty as the ability to do whatever you want to do, and by defining law as the limitation to do whatever you want to do, many in our society have pledged allegiance to themselves vowing to uphold their own ever-changing versions of self-made law. However, those who persistently cry for liberty at the expense of law have set up a false dichotomy based upon inaccurate definitions of liberty and law.

     The two are not at odds with one other; rather, they complement one another. True liberty only comes as a result of established law, and the only established law that exists is the law established by the one and only Law-giver. There is no opposition to His law, and His law cannot be amended. The law of God is perfect, and from it flows true liberty that is defined as the ability to do what you ought to do. And in order to do what we ought to do, we must be firmly established in God’s law. For only when we have immersed ourselves in God’s law are we able to know the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

     God established His law in the first five books of Scripture. However, God did not give us a list of dos and don’ts merely for His own pleasure. By His grace, He provided the Law so that we may obey Him, love Him, and thereby glorify and enjoy Him. Therefore, we turn to God’s unchanging law and the story of our Christian heritage from the fall of Adam to the entrance of the Promised Land. In so doing, we live coram Deo according to the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). For we will not be numbered among those to whom Christ will say: “I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”

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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

     The first English settlers landed in America on this day, April 26, 1607, at the site of Cape Henry, named for Prince Henry of Wales. Their first act was to erect a wooden cross and commence a prayer meeting. They ascended the James River, named for King James, and settled Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America. Virginia, so named for the "Virgin Queen" Elizabeth, stated in its Charter: "For the Furtherance of so noble a Work… in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


What we are is God's gift to us.
What we become is our gift to God.
--- Eleanor Powell

A man with God
is always in the majority.
--- John Knox
The works of John Knox

If God has given you but a small portion of the world, yet if you are godly He has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Providence has ordered that condition for you which is really best for your eternal good. If you had more of the world than you have, your heads and hearts might not be able to manage it to your advantage.
--- John Flavel
Select British Divines, Ed. by C. Bradley

Love is eternal. The aspect of it may change, but the essence remains the same.
--- Vincent van Gogh
The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Penguin Classics)

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-Seventh Chapter / Every Trial Must Be Borne For The Sake Of Eternal Life

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, do not let the labors which you have taken up for My sake break you, and do not let troubles, from whatever source, cast you down; but in everything let My promise strengthen and console you. I am able to reward you beyond all means and measure.

     You will not labor here long, nor will you always be oppressed by sorrows. Wait a little while and you will see a speedy end of evils. The hour will come when all labor and trouble shall be no more. All that passes away with time is trivial.

     What you do, do well. Work faithfully in My vineyard. I will be your reward. Write, read, sing, mourn, keep silence, pray, and bear hardships like a man. Eternal life is worth all these and greater battles. Peace will come on a day which is known to the Lord, and then there shall be no day or night as at present but perpetual light, infinite brightness, lasting peace, and safe repose. Then you will not say: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” nor will you cry: “Woe is me, because my sojourn is prolonged.” For then death will be banished, and there will be health unfailing. There will be no anxiety then, but blessed joy and sweet, noble companionship.

     If you could see the everlasting crowns of the saints in heaven, and the great glory wherein they now rejoice—they who were once considered contemptible in this world and, as it were, unworthy of life itself—you would certainly humble yourself at once to the very earth, and seek to be subject to all rather than to command even one. Nor would you desire the pleasant days of this life, but rather be glad to suffer for God, considering it your greatest gain to be counted as nothing among men.

     Oh, if these things appealed to you and penetrated deeply into your heart, how could you dare to complain even once? Ought not all trials be borne for the sake of everlasting life? In truth, the loss or gain of God’s kingdom is no small matter.

     Lift up your countenance to heaven, then. Behold Me, and with Me all My saints. They had great trials in this life, but now they rejoice. They are consoled. Now they are safe and at rest. And they shall abide with Me for all eternity in the kingdom of My Father.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to this thought: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be very active in religion, and after being converted, and after receiving the Holy Spirit, I may begin in my own strength to try to serve God.

     I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it is more the work of human flesh than of God's Spirit. What a solemn thought, that man can, without noticing it, be shunted off from the line of the Holy Spirit on to the line of the flesh; that he can be most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may tell of him that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is a want about it. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom no one would ever think of saying: "What a spiritual man he is!" Ah! there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one word--flesh.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:20-21
     by D.H. Stern

20     A wise son is a joy to his father,
and only a fool despises his mother.

21     Folly appeals to one who lacks sense,
but a person of discernment goes straight ahead.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The supreme climb

     Take now thy son, … and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
--- Genesis 22:2.

     Character determines how a man interprets God’s will (cf.
Psalm 18:25–26 ). Abraham interpreted God’s command to mean that he had to kill his son, and he could only leave this tradition behind by the pain of a tremendous ordeal. God could purify his faith in no other way. If we obey what God says according to our sincere belief, God will break us from those traditions that misrepresent Him. There are many such beliefs to be got rid of, e.g., that God removes a child because the mother loves him too much—a devil’s lie! and a travesty of the true nature of God. If the devil can hinder us from taking the supreme climb and getting rid of wrong traditions about God, he will do so; but if we keep true to God, God will take us through an ordeal which will bring us out into a better knowledge of Himself.

     The great point of Abraham’s faith in God was that he was prepared to do anything for God. He was there to obey God, no matter to what belief he went contrary. Abraham was not a devotee of his convictions, or he would have slain Isaac and said that the voice of the angel was the voice of the devil. That is the attitude of a fanatic. If you will remain true to God, God will lead you straight through every barrier into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself; but there is always this point of giving up convictions and traditional beliefs. Don’t ask God to test you. Never declare as Peter did—‘I will do anything, I will go to death with Thee.’ Abraham did not make any such declaration, he remained true to God, and God purified his faith.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Welshman to any Tourist
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           A Welshman to any Tourist

We've nothing vast to offer you, no deserts
  Except the waste of thought
  Forming from mind erosion;
  No canyons where the pterodactyl's wing
  Casts a cold shadow.
  The hills are fine, of course,
  Bearded with water to suggest age
  And pocked with caverns,
  One being Arthur's dormitory;
  He and his knights are the bright ore
  That seams our history,
  But shame has kept them late in bed.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Ekron
     Ekron in two places?

     I was asked why the Bible mentions Ekron being in two places. See the following: EKRON One of the lordships of the Philistines (Josh. 13:3), listed in one place as within the lot of Judah (Josh. 15:11, 45–6) but in another as within that of Dan (Josh. 19:43). Despite the reference in
Judges
( 1:18–19) it seems that the Israelites did not take Ekron in the early stages of the conquest. According to the Bible it was held by the Israelites in the time of Samuel
(
1 Sam. 7:14), but after the defeat of Goliath the Philistines fled to the gates of Ekron (1 Sam. 17:52). According to
2 Kings (1:2) there was a temple there, dedicated to Baal-Zebub. In 712 bc Ekron was captured by Shalmaneser V of Assyria and in 701 bc by Sennacherib. It is not mentioned again until the Hellenistic period, when Alexander Balas granted Ekron and the villages around it to Jonathan the Hasmonean. From that time onwards it was in the Judean kingdom. It continued to be mentioned in sources of the late Roman period. Eusebius (Onom. 22:9) called Akaron 'a very large Jewish village', east of the road from Ashdod to Jabneh. The biblical and post-biblical towns are also portrayed on the Medaba map.

          Ekron has been identified with several sites. Despite the similarity of its name to that of the Arab village of Agir, this identification has definitely been ruled out. Today it is identified with Tel Miqneh (Khirbet el-Muqanna), northeast of Ashdod.

     Excavations carried out since 1981 at Tel Miqneh on behalf of the Albright Institute, the Hebrew University and Brandeis University, under the direction of T. Dothan and S. Gittin. In the excavations 13 occupation levels were distinguished. The four earliest levels (
13–10) are represented by flint tools and pottery of the Chalcolithic period, Early Bronze Age I-II, Middle Bronze Age IIA-B, and Late Bronze Age I-II. Level 9, of the Iron Age I (12th century bc), contained a 13 feet wide city wall with a stone base, supported by bricks on the outside. The pottery of this level is Mycenaean and Philistine. The following Levels 8 (12th-11th century bc) and 7 (11th century bc) are represented by brick walls and pottery similar to that of Level 9. In Level 6 (end of 11th century bc) a two-room structure built of brick and paved with pebbles was discovered. Another structure probably had a cultic function. The site was abandoned and resettled in the 10th-9th centuries bc (Levels 5–3). The main feature of this period is a stone city wall and a gate with two rooms on each side, built in the 8th century bc. Its foundations penetrate down to the earlier Iron Age II occupation level. Inside the city were numerous oil presses, attesting that Iron Age Ekron was a major olive oil producing center. The last two levels contain burials of a late period. The destruction of Ekron is attributed to Sennacherib in 701 bc.

Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land

Teacher's Commentary
     Rest's Lifestyle: Joshua 20–21

     These chapters tell of the establishment of cities of refuge and of cities for the Levites within the allotments of the other tribes. These provisions remind us that the people of Israel were now to begin a lifestyle which was carefully planned and revealed by God long before the Conquest.

     If you've studied the earlier books of the Old Testament, you're familiar with God's careful definition of His people's lifestyle. This definition included not only moral and religious injunctions; it also carefully structured every aspect of the new society.

     The case law chapters (Exodus 20–24) spelled out a number of specific implications that the Ten Commandments had for life in the land. Commitment to love of God and to love of neighbor was to mark God's people as His own distinctive possession. As the people of Israel followed God's laws for holy living, then poverty, injustice, and all the social ills which warp human society could be dealt with compassionately.

     In the lifestyle sketched by divine revelation there was no central government or administrative bodies. Obedience was to God. Elders had responsibilities in local communities. As Wood notes (A Survey of Israel's History), they "served as judges of persons who had killed someone (Deuteronomy 19:12), conducted inquests
(Deuteronomy 21:2–8), heard family problems (Deuteronomy 21:18–21), settled matrimonial disputes (Deuteronomy 22:13–30; 25:7), and settled cases of controversy at the gate of the city (Ruth 4:2)."

     Local courts shared cases with the elders, and when a case could not be settled, it was sent to the central sanctuary at Shiloh. There, before the tabernacle of the Lord, a court of priests and lay judges made a final and binding determination.

     The tabernacle, which had been built to God's specifications and remained the symbol of God's presence with Israel, was now the great unifying center of Israel's life. Here the sacrifices commanded by God were made, and no sacrifices were to be made at any other location. Three times a year every healthy male citizen was to gather here for the feasts around which the worship and religious life of Israel centered.

     The first of these feasts was the Passover
(Exodus 12:1–13; Deuteronomy 16:1–8), which began the religious year and commemorated God's deliverance of His people from Egypt. For seven days the people gathered (in April) to renew and reaffirm their commitment to the God of the Exodus.

     At the close of the wheat harvest some 50 days later, a 1-day observation (called the Feast of Weeks, see
Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:15–22; Numbers 28:26–31; Deuteronomy 16:9–12
) was held.

     The third feast was a week-long commemoration in September-October of Israel's life in the wilderness. Families lived in tents or booths outside, and the occasion was called the Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:34–43; Deuteronomy 16:13–15).

     These three feasts were not, however, the only way in which the unity of the 12 tribes was maintained. There were other feasts they had in common, and all the tribes kept the Sabbath as a day of rest. Common customs and common laws, with a common language and history, bound Israel together as a larger family of God.

     The common custom is well illustrated by the cities of refuge established by Joshua in obedience to God's earlier command through Moses. In Israel, a murderer was to be put to death. This sentence—already placed by God on one who killed another—was to be executed by a relative of the murdered man, "the avenger of blood" (Joshua 20:5).

     But the Old Testament recognized an important distinction between premeditated murder and accidental death. The murderer was to be executed without fail. But one guilty of manslaughter was permitted to flee to a city of refuge. There he lived until the death of the high priest, after which he could return to his home without fear of retribution. There were six such cities scattered throughout the territories of the 12 tribes. These cities were the common possession of the whole people.

     The common law is represented by the establishment of levitical cities through the land. When God established the tabernacle worship system, He set aside the family of Levi to serve Him. The descendants of Aaron served as priests; descendants of the other family members were singers, caretakers, and teachers. The role of teacher is particularly significant when we see the levitical cities placed in the allotments of the other tribes. Only the tribe of Levi did not receive its own territory. God was its portion. But they did live among the others, with men from the levitical cities taking their turn at serving in the central sanctuary. Taught themselves there, these men returned to serve as teachers of the Law throughout the land.

     The tribes of Israel did retain their separate identities, and were directly responsible to God rather than to a central human authority. But the lifestyle God established for them constantly reaffirmed their unity as the special people of God, and provided for continuous instruction in His ways.

     The structure of early Israel, so briefly described here, was a theocracy—a government in which God is the Head of state. The tragedy of Israel is that she did not continue in an obedient relationship with God. Soon Israel abandoned rest's lifestyle. The society broke down. Social injustice, poverty, unrest, conflict, fear, and pain all followed.

     In God's church today, as in early Israel, our rest and peace depend on committing ourselves to trust in God—and to obedience.


The Teacher's Commentary

Joshua 19:1-51
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–51.—The completion of the work. The reflections suggested by this chapter are identical with those which have already occurred to us. They are, perhaps, emphasised by ver. 51, in which the solemn public division of the land is once more, and yet more plainly, declared to have taken place with the assent of the heads of Church and State, and to have been attended with a religious ceremony. Without pretending to say whose fault it is, or how such a desirable state of things may be once more attained, we may be allowed to lament that what was the rule with our forefathers before the Norman conquest is impossible now. No doubt the separation of ecclesiastical from civil jurisdiction which the Conqueror effected has been to a great extent the cause of this, as that measure was also the cause of an assumption of authority by ecclesiastics which was afterwards found to be intolerable. There should be no separation between the religious and civil interests of the community. Every man in the kingdom is, or ought to be, interested in its ecclesiastical arrangements. No single act of the State ought to be considered as outside the sphere of religious influence. At the same time we must remember that the present state of things is the natural result of religious freedom, a freedom which Christ Himself proclaimed (John 18:36), but which was unknown to His Church for many centuries, as also to the Jews before He came (Gen. 17:14; Exod. 12:15; 30:33, 38; 31:14; Levit. 7:20, 27, &c.). As has been already intimated, an example which cannot be fulfilled in the letter may be fulfilled in the spirit. We may strive to hallow great national events with one heart and soul, though with different forms, waiting for the day when “our unhappy divisions” have ceased. We may, however, add one consideration derived from this chapter alone.

     SELFISH AIMS OUGHT NOT TO INTRUDE INTO A GREAT CAUSE. This principle is illustrated (1) by the conduct of Judah, (2) by the conduct of Joshua. The rule of the world is (1) to covet power and possessions, and (2) that the successful conqueror has a right to be first considered in the division of the spoil. Observe how completely the narrative of this chapter implicitly rebukes a view of things which is assumed as a matter of course in the ordinary concerns of the world. In past history we read of the greed of individuals and nations for the annexation of territory, and of the wars and bloodshed thus caused. It has been a maxim that any ruler or any nation may, and ought to, add to its territories if it can, without much regard to the principles of justice or the general good. A man, it is still believed, may heap to himself possessions in land or money as much as he chooses, and would be a fool if he did not. The first of these doctrines has only lately begun to be questioned among us. The second is still an established principle of action. Yet Judah voluntarily surrendered its territory to Simeon for the national welfare. And Joshua takes care that every one is served before himself. It is this marvellous self-abnegation on the part of the leader of a military expedition, unparalleled until Christianity came into the world, that is the best proof of the claim of the Mosaic dispensation to have been Divine. Cases like those of Cincinnatus cannot be adduced in refutation of this argument. His position is in no way parallel to that of the leader of an expedition like Joshua’s. Such utter self-abandonment as was displayed by Moses and Joshua marks them out as men fifteen or twenty—we might perhaps say thirty—centuries before their age. The invasion of Canaan has been declaimed against as cruel; but its cruelty was at least the fruit of a moral idea, a righteous indignation against an obscene and ferocious religion, which was itself the cause of infinite misery to mankind; while Joshua’s cruelty was kindness itself compared to the revolting atrocities recorded at their own instance by the Eastern conquerors of old, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Moabite. We hear ad nauseam of the impossibility of God’s ordering the slaughter of the unoffending Canaanites. We hear nothing of the high morality, the sublime disinterestedness, the devotion to a grand and sublime ideal which characterised the giver of the Law and the conqueror of Canaan. Such characters have been rare since Christ came into the world. Save the two great men whom we have just known, they were unknown before it.


The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Ketubbot 105b

     D’RASH

     "Everything is according to local custom" sounds very much like "When in Rome do like the Romans." The difference, of course, is that the talmudic dictum speaks not only to the practices of Rome but of each and every community, not only to the money of the bride and groom but to many other everyday Jewish practices and habits as well. There are laws which are constants, transcending time and space. (Thus, the word "everything" is an exaggeration.) Yet, there are also customs which depend upon the will and practices of the people in the local community.

     The way Jews dress for the synagogue is, to a large degree, a matter of local custom. In Israel, people tend to be much less formal even on Shabbat, often wearing sandals and (for the men) open-collar shirts to services. In America, the local custom is more formal, especially for the men. At times, we see shock on the face of an American tourist, on a first trip to Israel. Unaware of the local customs, he enters an Israeli synagogue, appropriately dressed for Shabbat in the United States: a suit and tie. How out of place he probably feels! Yet, we also see many an Israeli man attending Shabbat services for the first time in an American synagogue, dressed as if he were back in Israel: slacks, short-sleeve white shirt, collar open, sandals on his feet. He feels equally uncomfortable. Perhaps the most uncomfortable should be the American man who, after a stay in Israel, walks into an American synagogue in slacks and sandals—while everyone else is dressed in suits—and announces: "This is how they dress in Israel!" We can easily answer him: "Yes, in Israel, that would be proper Shabbat synagogue dress. But you're not in Israel any more. You're back in America. So come to the synagogue properly dressed for this country."

     Thus, the appropriate way to dress for Shabbat services depends less on formal regulations or our personal preferences and more on where we are. In Israel, it is one way, while in America, it is often quite different. And there are even regional differences throughout America, between one community and the next, between one area and another. In some places, it is considered proper, even fashionable, for women to attend services in slacks. In other communities, it would be highly inappropriate to enter a synagogue in even the most fashionable pants outfit. What we like to wear and what we feel like doing are less relevant than the practices customary in that area. After all, "everything is according to local custom."

     A loved one—one does not see his faults; a hated one—one does not see his merits.

     Text / Rava said: "What is the reason for [the prohibition against a judge receiving] a gift? Once he receives a gift from him, his opinion draws closer to his, and he becomes like him, and a man cannot see guilt in himself. What is 'shoḥad [a gift]?' 'Sheh-hu ḥad'—'he is one [with the gift giver].' " Rav Papa said: "A person should not judge a case of someone he loves, nor of someone he hates, for a loved one—one does not see his faults; a hated one—one does not see his merits."

     Context / You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. (Deuteronomy 16:19).

     Moses Maimonides codifies the law: "It is forbidden for a judge to try a case of a person he holds dear—even if it is not a best friend or someone who is a very close friend, nor should he try a case of someone he hates—even if is not an enemy or someone who seeks to do him evil, but rather it must be that the two litigants are equal in the eyes and hearts of the judges. And if he did not know either one of them nor knew of their deeds, there is not a judge of righteousness better than this." (Mishneh Torah, Sefer Shoftim, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 23:6)

     Rava and Rav Papa teach about judicial impartiality. Rava bases himself on the verse in Deuteronomy that prohibits a judge from receiving a gift from the people who will come before him. He uses a word play to emphasize his point: The word for a gift or a bribe is shoḥad. He breaks the word up into two words that sound similar to the original. This well-known rabbinic methodology is called notarikon, from the Greek word that refers to a stenographer's method of shorthand.

     The Talmud goes on to show the lengths to which some judges went in order to remain impartial. Shmuel was once crossing a river on a ferry. As he went to step onto land, a man approached and offered Shmuel his hand to assist him. Shmuel asked: "Who are you?" The man replied: "I have a case in court before you." Shmuel then disqualified himself from acting as judge in the case. "Gifts" was understood not only as bribes but also as any act or words that might cause the judge to show one party any preferential treatment.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     Herod’s Sons and Successors

     After Herod’s death, there was a struggle among his sons over who was going to succeed him, and the rival delegations traveled to Rome to solicit the princeps’ opinion. In the end, Augustus chose to honor Herod’s last will and divide the kingdom among the three named sons. Archelaus received Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, but only the title of ethnarch instead of king. Herod Philip, who became a tetrarch, received Batanea, Trachonitis, Auranitis, and other nearby territories. Finally, Galilee and Perea went to Herod Antipas, who received the title of tetrarch (J.W. 1.14–15, 20–38, 80–100; Ant. 17.219–49, 299–320). These three brothers ruled Herod’s territory with varied success for the next thirty years.

     Archelaus’ short reign was a disaster from the beginning. His cruelty and oppressive measures enraged his subjects, and in 6 C.E. Augustus banished him to Vienne in Gaul. Judea then became a province governed by a procurator (J.W. 1.39–79, 111–17; Ant. 17.250–98, 339–54). His half-brother Herod Philip, on the other hand, ruled in relative peace for approximately thirty-eight years, and although little is known of his reign, it seems to have been successful and benign. Jews were a minority in his kingdom, and most of the inhabitants were of Syrian or Arab descent. During his reign, he rebuilt the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea Philippi in honor of himself and Augustus. He also expanded and embellished Bethsaida, renaming it Julias, in honor of Augustus’ daughter Julia (J.W. 1.168; Ant. 18.28). When Philip died childless in 34 C.E., the emperor Tiberius attached his realm to the province of Syria (Ant. 18.106–8).

     Of the three successors to Herod the Great, Herod Antipas is the one about whom we know the most. He reigned for more than forty years, longer than either of his brothers, and throughout his reign he was a valuable ally and client king to Rome. He rebuilt Sepphoris in Galilee and Betharamphtha in Perea, renaming them Autocratoris and Livias, respectively (J.W. 1.168; Ant. 18.27). His most expansive urban project, however, was the construction of a new capital city, Tiberias, in honor of the emperor Tiberius. According to coin evidence, this city was dedicated in the twenty-fourth year of Antipas’ reign (19/20 C.E.). Although pious Jews initially refused to live in the city because of its construction atop a graveyard, eventually it became a center of Jewish learning and study (J.W. 1.168; Ant. 18.36–38).

     As with his father, Antipas’ personal life was less stable than his political rule. After several years of marriage, he abandoned his first wife Phasaelis, the eldest daughter of King Aretas IV and married his niece, Herodias, who had also been married to two of Antipas’ half-brothers, Herod Philip and Herod son of Mariamne, the daughter of Simon Boethus. As a result, he incurred the wrath of both his former father-in-law and the charismatic preacher John the Baptist (
Mark 6:14–29; Matt. 14:1–12; Luke 3:19–20; Ant. 18.116–19). Antipas’ defeat in battle against Aretas and his army was seen by his subjects as just punishment from God for the execution of John (Ant. 18.113–16).

     Despite his defeat by the Nabatean army, Antipas’ positive relationship with Tiberius enabled him to survive on his throne. However, upon the death of Tiberius in 37 C.E. and the accession of Gaius Caligula, Antipas’ status severely declined. One of Gaius’ early acts was to appoint Antipas’ nephew Herod Agrippa, who was also Herodias’ brother, king in the territory of Herod Philip. Herodias, who was supposedly jealous of her brother’s rise in power, believed that her husband also should receive the royal title. She therefore urged him to go to Rome and petition the new emperor. However, because of the machinations of Herod Agrippa, who disliked and distrusted his uncle, Gaius decided that Antipas was a traitor and exiled him to Lugdunum in Gaul (present-day Lyon). Because of her status as Agrippa’s sister, Gaius was willing to permit Herodias to retain her property and not go into exile with her husband. Nevertheless, she voluntarily chose to share Antipas’ fate (J.W. 1.181–83; Ant. 18.237–54).


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 26

     When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas. --- 2 Timothy 4:13.

     How utterly forsaken the apostle was by his friends! (Spurgeon's Sermons on New Testament Men, Book 2 ) If he had no cloak of his own, couldn’t someone lend him one? Ten years before, the apostle was brought in chains along the Appian Way to Rome. Fifty miles before he reached Rome, members of the church came to meet him. When he came within twenty miles of the city, a still larger posse of the disciples came to escort him, so that the chained prisoner Paul went into Rome attended by all the believers in that city. But, ten years later, nobody comes to visit him. He is confined in prison, and they do not even know where he is, so Onesiphorus, when he comes to Rome, has to seek him out. People have so forgotten him and the church has so despised him that he is friendless. The Philippian church, ten years before, had made a collection for him when he was in prison. Now he is old, and no church remembers him. Poor soul, he served his God and worked himself down to poverty for the church’s sake, yet the church has forsaken him! Oh! how great must have been the anguish of the loving heart of Paul at such ingratitude.

     What patience does this teach to those similarly situated! Has it fallen to your lot to be forsaken by friends? Were there other times when your name was the symbol of popularity? And has it come to this now, that you are forgotten as dead, out of mind? In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once loved and respected you fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue? What are you to do now? You are to remember this case of the apostle. It is put here for your comfort. He had to pass through as deep waters as any that your are called to ford, yet remember he says, “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (
2 Tim. 4:17). So now, when people desert you, God will be your friend. This God is our God forever and ever—not in sunshiny weather only, but forever and ever. This God is your God in dark nights as well as in bright days. Go to him, spread your complaint before him. Murmur not. If Paul had to suffer desertion, you must not expect better usage. This is common to the saints. David had his Ahithophel, Christ his Judas, Paul his Demas, and can you expect to fare better than they? As you look at that old cloak, as it speaks of human ingratitude, be of good courage and wait on the Lord, for he will strengthen your heart.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     Mass Murder  April 26

     Under Pope Sixtus IV, builder of the Sistine Chapel, the nepotism of the Renaissance papacy reached its worst. The Vatican bustled with his 16 nephews, two brothers, and three sisters who continually injected themselves into Italian and church affairs. They became the leading figures of Rome. They traveled with vast retinues, feasted at banquets, dressed in pearl-embroidered clothes, and slept with endless partners in luxuriant beds.

     But they soon clashed with their rivals in pleasure and power, the Medici family, based in Florence. The Medici banking firm had been the traditional Vatican bankers. But when conflicts arose, Sixtus transferred the vast papal fortunes to another family of bankers, the Pazzi. The Medici counterattacked, tempers flared, and in 1478, with the pope’s knowledge, his nephews and bankers hatched a plan to murder Lorenzo and Julian Medici.

     On Sunday, April 26, 1478, the two Medici brothers entered the cathedral in Florence for Easter Mass. They were, according to their custom, unarmed and unguarded. The service began. Suddenly, as the priest lifted the bread of the Eucharist into the air, Julian felt a stabbing pain pierce his chest. The dagger was withdrawn, then thrust again and again. He died quickly. Lorenzo was attacked at the same instant. He instinctively flung his cape around his arm, forming a shield, and fought off his attackers.

     His rage was unquenchable. He tracked down the conspirators and had them hung or thrown from palace windows. Their ears and noses were cut off, and they were hacked to pieces, dragged through the streets, and thrown into the Arno.

     Sixtus retaliated by excommunicating Lorenzo, suspending all religious services in Florence, and launching a futile two-year war against the city. The two men remained enemies till 1484 when Sixtus died. Lorenzo the Magnificent, as he was called, lived eight years longer, then died at age 43 after drinking a mixture of jewels prescribed by physicians for his stomach pains.

     We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other.
--- 1 John 3.16.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 26

     “This do in remembrance of me.”
--- 1 Corinthians 11:24.

     It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ! There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget him who never forgot us! Forget him who poured his blood forth for our sins! Forget him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer him to be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night. He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein. The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness. Does not your conscience say that this is true? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ. While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffereth the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to him.


          Evening - April 26

     “Blessed is he that watcheth."
Revelation 16:15.

     “We die daily,” said the apostle. This was the life of the early Christians; they went everywhere with their lives in their hands. We are not in this day called to pass through the same fearful persecutions: if we were, the Lord would give us grace to bear the test; but the tests of Christian life, at the present moment, though outwardly not so terrible, are yet more likely to overcome us than even those of the fiery age. We have to bear the sneer of the world—that is little; its blandishments, its soft words, its oily speeches, its fawning, its hypocrisy, are far worse. Our danger is lest we grow rich and become proud, lest we give ourselves up to the fashions of this present evil world, and lose our faith. Or if wealth be not the trial, worldly care is quite as mischievous. If we cannot be torn in pieces by the roaring lion, if we may be hugged to death by the bear, the devil little cares which it is, so long as he destroys our love to Christ, and our confidence in him. I fear me that the Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame. Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true-born children of the living God. Christian, do not think that these are times in which you can dispense with watchfulness or with holy ardour; you need these things more than ever, and may God the eternal Spirit display his omnipotence in you, that you may be able to say, in all these softer things, as well as in the rougher, “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 26

          BECAUSE HE LIVES

     Gloria Gaither, 1942–
     William J. Gaither, 1936–

     Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)

     Christ’s resurrection is our guarantee of at least two basic truths: First, He has the power to give His life to us and to bring us ultimately to glory to reign with Him forever. And second, His resurrection makes it possible for Him to live in our hearts and to be an integral part of our daily living.

     For the past two decades the music of Gloria and Bill Gaither has greatly enriched evangelical hymnody. But the song that has especially highlighted the Gaither’s ministry is one that reflects their own philosophy—the resurrection principle in the daily routines of life—“Because He Lives.” Bill Gaither recalls the circumstances that prompted the writing of this favorite:

     We wrote “Because He Lives” after a period of time when we had had a kind of dry spell and hadn’t written any songs for a while … Also at the end of the l960’s, our country was going through some great turmoil with the height of the drug culture, and the whole “God is Dead” theory was running wild in our country. Also it was the peak of the Vietnam war. During that time our little son was born— at least Gloria was expecting him. I can remember at the time we thought, “Brother, this is really a poor time to bring a child into the world.” At times we were even quite discouraged by the whole thing. And then Benjy did come. We had two little girls whom we love very much, but this was our first son, and so that lyric came to us, “How sweet to hold our new-born baby and feel the pride and joy he gives, but better still the calm assurance that this child can face uncertain days because Christ lives.” And it gave us the courage to say, “Because Christ lives we can face tomorrow” and keep our heads high.

     * * * * *

     God sent His son—they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon; an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
How sweet to hold a new-born baby and feel the pride and joy he gives;
but greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because Christ lives.
And then one day I’ll cross the river; I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
and then, as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory—and I’ll know He lives.
Chorus: Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
because He lives all fear is gone;
because I know He holds the future
and life is worth the living—just because He lives.


     For Today: John 6:40; Colossians 3:3, 4; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 John 5:11.

     Live in the joyous confidence that the living, victorious Christ is guiding your life. Carry this musical truth with you as you go ---

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)


     Sect. VI. — THE “Form” of Christianity set forth by you, among other things, has this — “That we should strive with all our powers, have recourse to the remedy of repentance, and in all ways try to gain the mercy of God; without which, neither human will, nor endeavour, is effectual.” Also, “that no one should despair of pardon from a God by nature most merciful.” —

     These statements of yours are without Christ, without the Spirit, and more cold than ice: so that, the beauty of your eloquence is really deformed by them. Perhaps a fear of the Popes and those tyrants, extorted them from you their miserable vassal, lest you should appear to them a perfect atheist. But what they assert is this — That there is ability in us; that there is a striving with all our powers; that there is mercy in God; that there are ways of gaining that mercy; that there is a God, by nature just, and most merciful, &c. — But if a man does not know what these powers are; what they can do, or in what they are to be passive; what their efficacy, or what their inefficacy is; what can such an one do? What will you set him about doing?

     “It is irreligious, curious, and superfluous, (you say) to wish to know, whether our own will does any thing in those things which pertain unto eternal salvation, or whether it is wholly passive under the work of grace.” — But here, you say the contrary: that it is Christian piety to “strive with all the powers;” and that, “without the mercy of God the will is ineffective.”

     Here you plainly assert, that the will does something in those things which pertain unto eternal salvation, when you speak of it as striving: and again, you assert that it is passive, when you say, that without the mercy of God it is ineffective. Though, at the same time, you do not define how far that doing, and being passive, is to be understood: thus, designedly keeping us in ignorance how far the mercy of God extends, and how far our own will extends; what our own will is to do, in that which you enjoin, and what the mercy of God is to do. Thus, that prudence of yours, carries you along; by which, you are resolved to hold with neither side, and to escape safely through Scylla and Charybdis; in order that, when you come into the open sea, and find yourself overwhelmed and confounded by the waves, you may have it in your power, to assert all that you now deny, and deny all that you now assert.


The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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