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Numbers 7     Psalm 42-43     Song Of Songs 5     Hebrews 5


Offerings at the Tabernacle’s Consecration

Numbers 7:1 On the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils, 2 the chiefs of Israel, heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the chiefs of the tribes, who were over those who were listed, approached 3 and brought their offerings before the LORD, six wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for every two of the chiefs, and for each one an ox. They brought them before the tabernacle. 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, 5 “Accept these from them, that they may be used in the service of the tent of meeting, and give them to the Levites, to each man according to his service.” 6 So Moses took the wagons and the oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 Two wagons and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service. 8 And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9 But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.  "But to the Kohathites he gave none, because they were charged with the care of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulders." I find this distinction marvelous. Gifts for those who had worked hard, but not for the Kohathites. Can there be any question they had a higher calling? "... they were charged with the care of the holy things." Is there any message here for modern church leaders? What about you and I? Do we read these words, shrug our shoulders and go on?  10 And the chiefs offered offerings for the dedication of the altar on the day it was anointed; and the chiefs offered their offering before the altar. 11 And the LORD said to Moses, “They shall offer their offerings, one chief each day, for the dedication of the altar.”  Also note the leaders are the ones doing the giving. Today the poor give more than the wealthy. It seems the more we get the harder it is to give.

12 He who offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah. 13 And his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 14 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 15 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a sin offering; 17 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab.

18 On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, the chief of Issachar, made an offering. 19 He offered for his offering one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 20 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 21 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 22 one male goat for a sin offering; 23 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Nethanel the son of Zuar.

24 On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, the chief of the people of Zebulun: 25 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 26 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 27 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 28 one male goat for a sin offering; 29 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Eliab the son of Helon.

30 On the fourth day Elizur the son of Shedeur, the chief of the people of Reuben: 31 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 32 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 33 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 34 one male goat for a sin offering; 35 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Elizur the son of Shedeur.

36 On the fifth day Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, the chief of the people of Simeon: 37 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 38 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 39 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 40 one male goat for a sin offering; 41 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.

42 On the sixth day Eliasaph the son of Deuel, the chief of the people of Gad: 43 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 44 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 45 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 46 one male goat for a sin offering; 47 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Eliasaph the son of Deuel.

48 On the seventh day Elishama the son of Ammihud, the chief of the people of Ephraim: 49 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 50 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 51 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 52 one male goat for a sin offering; 53 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Elishama the son of Ammihud.

54 On the eighth day Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, the chief of the people of Manasseh: 55 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 56 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 57 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 58 one male goat for a sin offering; 59 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.

60 On the ninth day Abidan the son of Gideoni, the chief of the people of Benjamin: 61 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 62 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 63 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 64 one male goat for a sin offering; 65 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Abidan the son of Gideoni.

66 On the tenth day Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, the chief of the people of Dan: 67 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 68 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 69 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 70 one male goat for a sin offering; 71 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.

72 On the eleventh day Pagiel the son of Ochran, the chief of the people of Asher: 73 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 74 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 75 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 76 one male goat for a sin offering; 77 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Pagiel the son of Ochran.

78 On the twelfth day Ahira the son of Enan, the chief of the people of Naphtali: 79 his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 80 one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; 81 one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 82 one male goat for a sin offering; 83 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of Ahira the son of Enan.

84 This was the dedication offering for the altar on the day when it was anointed, from the chiefs of Israel: twelve silver plates, twelve silver basins, twelve golden dishes, 85 each silver plate weighing 130 shekels and each basin 70, all the silver of the vessels 2,400 shekels according to the shekel of the sanctuary, 86 the twelve golden dishes, full of incense, weighing 10 shekels apiece according to the shekel of the sanctuary, all the gold of the dishes being 120 shekels; 87 all the cattle for the burnt offering twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve male lambs a year old, with their grain offering; and twelve male goats for a sin offering; 88 and all the cattle for the sacrifice of peace offerings twenty-four bulls, the rams sixty, the male goats sixty, the male lambs a year old sixty. This was the dedication offering for the altar after it was anointed.

89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.


Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

Psalm 42 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

1  As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2  My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3  My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4  These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

5  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 6 and my God.

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.


Psalm 43 Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
2  For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?

3  Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4  Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

5  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.




Song of Songs 5

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gathered my myrrh with my spice,

I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
I drank my wine with my milk.
OTHERS

Eat, friends, drink,
and be drunk with love!

The Bride Searches for Her Beloved

SHE

2  I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the drops of the night.”
3  I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them?
4  My beloved put his hand to the latch,
and my heart was thrilled within me.
5  I arose to open to my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
6  I opened to my beloved,
but my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
7  The watchmen found me
as they went about in the city;
they beat me, they bruised me,
they took away my veil,
those watchmen of the walls.
8  I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
that you tell him
I am sick with love.

OTHERS

9  What is your beloved more than another beloved,
O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
that you thus adjure us?

The Bride Praises Her Beloved

SHE

10  My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
distinguished among ten thousand.
11  His head is the finest gold;
his locks are wavy,
black as a raven.
12  His eyes are like doves
beside streams of water,
bathed in milk,
sitting beside a full pool.
13  His cheeks are like beds of spices,
mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.
His lips are lilies,
dripping liquid myrrh.
14  His arms are rods of gold,
set with jewels.
His body is polished ivory,
bedecked with sapphires.
15  His legs are alabaster columns,
set on bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as the cedars.
16  His mouth is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.



Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

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

6 as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Warning Against Apostasy

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The Reformation Study Bible


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A World of Tomorrows

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2006

     Like the March hare, I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. My column for this issue of Tabletalk was due yesterday. This morning I received from my friends at Ligonier a polite email reminding me of that truth. I’m embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed. I don’t believe, however, that I am sufficiently embarrassed, disappointed, and ashamed. I’m only mildly so, which is more a reflection of the culture in me than it is the grace in my friends at Tabletalk. That is, my relative peace about my tardiness isn’t because the email I received was so polite, but because we live in a world where work gets done tomorrow. All deadlines must be flexible, negotiable in our day, lest we have no deadlines at all.

     There are two raging rivers, culturally speaking, that converge from the lazy river of mediocrity. First, we do not know the excellent. Goodness, truth, and beauty, as the great triad of virtues, are so much more demanding, not simply to create, but to even enjoy, than okay-ness, funny-ness and pretty-ness. Entering into that towering poem The Wasteland by T.S. Elliot requires of us a higher aesthetic than we have obtained. It requires a greater familiarity with that which was great in the past than we are willing to acquire. It requires training and work. To enter the more familiar wasteland of our culture all you need is a remote control. To put it another way, one of our great problems as we receive culture is that we are too easily satisfied, too easily entertained. We get mediocrity in large part because that is what we ask for. Ninety-eight percent of us in the past year consumed a “meal” at McDonalds, not because we were reaching higher, but because it would do.

     The second great river at the source of mediocrity is one that precedes our particular culture. It is a problem, a weakness, a sin that has been with us since Adam first led Eve east of Eden. The problem is sloth. The medieval theologians, when compiling the list of what would come to be known as “The Seven Deadly Sins” included in their list things we might expect, like lust, or even gluttony. But sloth? Where did that come from? How did it make the list? The list had two fundamental criteria. First, the list would include those sins that are most apt to beset most of us. It is almost certainly a sin to smash your car up with a sledge hammer. Not many of us, however, fight desperately against that temptation. Lust, gluttony, and sloth, however, have wide appeal. The second criteria, however, is that these sins were believed to be root sins, sins that were apt to sprout still more sins. It may be that sloth is what gives rise, for instance, to theft.

     That list, we must remember, was concocted during the Middle Ages. Things moved pretty slowly then. Surely the same warning wouldn’t apply to us. We live in America, home of the Puritan work ethic. We have cell phones and laptop computers so that we can carry our work around with us wherever we go. We put in long hours so that we might climb the corporate ladder. We burn the midnight oil and the candle at both ends. How can sloth get a toe-hold on us? Because there is a great chasm that separates feeling busy with being busy, and an even greater chasm between being busy and working hard.

     We feel busy because we schedule too much stuff. If I can’t miss my weekly golf game, my monthly poker night, my five favorite television programs, the Braves game, and a little “me time” here or there, I will surely feel busy. The trouble is, I feel busy because work creeps into my insatiable demand for play time. But even if that doesn’t describe me, if I am busy checking for emails, looking up the stock indexes, going to meetings and writing things down in my daytimer, I still haven’t actually produced anything. Work means getting real things done that actually help people. And that is a far greater challenge than being busy.

     It has been said that any given job can be done with two of three qualities. It can be done quickly and cheaply, but not well. It can be done quickly and well, but not cheaply. It can be done cheaply and well, but not quickly. We have, as a culture, chosen quickly and cheaply. And having chosen thus, we find ourselves diminished, for we find that we like it that way. We find that we are not merely willing to accept mediocrity, but that we crave it.

     The Bible offers a different call. We are to do our work “as unto the Lord.” We should be known by the world around us as the most diligent of laborers and craftsmen. We ought also, however, be known as those with the most discriminating tastes. For we are to seek out those things that reflect the Lord, that show forth His glory. We are to surround ourselves with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). May our work and our play be suffused with excellence, that our Maker’s name might be praised.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Radically Contagious

By John Sartelle 9/1/2006

     When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

     I have always been leery of vaccinations. The idea that bits of a serious disease are put into my body is disconcerting. The doctor may use medical terms like pathogen or antigen. He may say that it is only being scratched on the surface of the skin. The fact still remains that I am purposely being exposed by direct contact to bacteria or a virus from a dangerous disease. The medical explanation is that I am being exposed to weak or dead elements of the disease so that my body will build antibodies to combat the sickness. The vaccination makes me immune to the real disease.

     That is what has happened with many Christians and churches. They have been vaccinated with dead or weak forms of Christianity. Thus, they have built up antibodies that combat the powerful, radical contagion of authentic Christianity. They are going through the motions of being Christian, but their lives show none of the severe symptoms of true Christianity.

     Make no mistake, the real disease of Christ is a virulent, extreme, revolutionary strain that kills the old way we live and gives birth to a new life that is a carrier of the infection. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was not talking about trailing Him to a Sunday school class. When He said, “Follow Me,” He was saying, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Forgive the people who are driving the nails into your hands. If your eye leads you to sin, pluck it out. Love Me more than you love your children or parents. Rejoice even in suffering. Real strength lies in weakness, serving, fear, and forgiveness. Thieves and prostitutes are closer to the kingdom of God than the moralist. Don’t hide behind social propriety, confess your sin openly one to another. The morally pretentious must rely upon the grace of God just as much as a murderer.”

     Following the gigantic Christ that made such statements is not easy. However, anything less is not following Him. If we abbreviate these drastic precepts, we no longer have authentic Christianity.

     Many churches today are no more than inoculation clinics run by the world and Satan. People go there to receive weekly vaccinations, so they won’t come down with the real thing.

     However, this extreme life called “Christian” not only flows from following Jesus, this life is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us.

     May I ask you a logical question? If you are following Jesus and indwelled by the third person of the Trinity, how can your life not be radical? Paul said that the life anointed by the Holy Spirit would be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now immediately we recognize that many of those characteristics can be seen in the pagan. So how are love and joy different in the Christian than in the world? This love and joy are supernatural. This is love and joy taken to another level — a level that is alien to the world — a level that is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The same power that created the universe is empowering our hearts to love. The world has a right to ask us: “If the demands of Jesus are so extraordinary, and if you have God inside of you, how come you live such ordinary lives?”

     Late in the nineteenth century, two men living in London went to a meeting of their geographical society to hear one of their members speak of his recent trip to China. During his report the man spoke of being in a village and inquiring if any Christians lived there. The leader told him there was one Christian living in a village about fifteen miles away. One of the two men leaned over to his friend and said, “Ah, there was only one Christian and he was fifteen miles away. But they knew exactly where he lived!” Does the world know where we live because of the radical nature of our lives?

     When someone is sick with the real form of a powerful disease, we stay away from him. That person is very contagious, and we don’t want what he has. However, I have never stayed away from someone who has simply been vaccinated. That person is not contagious. Just so, the world will never be infected by those who have a vaccination of Christianity. They can live next to them for years without any fear of catching the virulent strain of the true Christ.

     Perfection in sanctification is impossible this side of glory. However, continual growth in Christ is attainable. Failure will happen. That is certain. Peter and John failed too. However, failure is an opportunity for repentance, and authentic repentance is an essential part of sanctification for the sinner. Don’t give up. Remember this is the Gospel of grace. You are a work in progress.

     Today, this week, once again read the Gospels. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Observe the way He lived. We cannot explain the lives of those first disciples apart from their association with Christ: “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Today, this week, go to the Father in prayer and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit. Pray and pray again to be filled. Those are dangerous steps to take. You may contract a “disease” from which you will never recover.

     Some believe that had Adam not fallen into sin, he would have entered an even greater rest than the one enjoyed in Eden. While we cannot be sure of this, we do know that we will enjoy an even greater rest than Eden’s because sin makes us able to know God as the Redeemer. Praise God for the greater rest that is to come.

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     Rev. John P. Sartelle Sr. is senior minister of Christ Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Tenn.

Exceptional Mediocrity

By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2006

     In my book The hunger for significance I explored the desire commonly found among us to find some basis for dignity, for value, for worth in our lives. I wrote at that time: “Modern man has an aching void. The emptiness we feel cannot be relieved by a new car, a better job, a bigger house. It can only be filled by understanding that each human life is significant. Our lives cannot be reduced to meaninglessness.”

     The modern quest for significance and human dignity is often prompted by the overwhelming aura of despair that penetrates the cultural worldview in which we live. We are repeatedly told that we are cosmic accidents who have oozed fortuitously from the slime. Our origins are meaningless and our destiny is annihilation. Yet in the midst of those two poles of despair, the search for significance and dignity is one that is often attended by a sense of urgency.

     In this issue of Tabletalk, we’re exploring the quest for excellence, which in many cases is inseparably related to our fundamental aspiration for significance. There can be different and at times conflicting motives for the search for excellence. That search can be based simply upon a desire to excel at something in which we are engaged. On the one hand, the motive for this kind of excelling can be one of competitive dominance. Historically, we’ve defined our humanness via the term Homo sapiens. Friedrich Nietzsche, the nihilistic philosopher of the nineteenth century argued that what most defines human existence is not our wisdom (sapiens), but our will to power, our will to conquer. The lust for power that drives tyrants and dictators is something that we characteristically see as evil, but Nietzsche regarded it as virtue. For him, the super-man (übermensch) is one who above all else is a conqueror. He is the one who allows his inherent will to power to go not only unchecked but to be fed lustfully by every means available. In the world in which we live, the will to power is often seen as a desire to climb the corporate ladder, to reach the peak of authority and power, so that we can dominate other people. In this regard, the competitive desire for domination by which we can exercise sovereignty over weaker people is a manifestation, not of inherent humanness, but of inherent human fallenness. It is a manifestation of the depths of corruption that lurks in the heart of each one of us.

     On the other hand, a strong desire to excel may be motivated by an attempt to reach goals of achievement. The aspiration to significance that is inherent in every human being is, in and of itself, not a sinful appetite. The aspiration to significance is given to us, I believe, by our Creator. As His creatures, made in His image, we know that the dignity we possess is not intrinsic but extrinsic. That is, it is a dignity assigned to us by God. We have value and worth, because God declares us valuable. It is God who calls us to labor to the highest level of excellence and achievement of which we are capable. It is by His hand that we receive gifts to use in this world. The faithful exercise of those gifts is what should drive our desire to excel. In and of itself, aspiration to significance is not a bad thing, but, indeed, such worthy desires that beat in the human heart can run amuck. The aspiration to significance, if not checked by godly ethics, can easily transform itself into the Nietzschian will to power.

     The legitimate motive for excellence is to seek achievement for the end to glorify God. That is the chief purpose for which we are created, to bear witness to His glory. One thing that does not bear witness to the glory of God is a human addiction to mediocrity, a smug satisfaction with the status quo. Rather, the Scriptures call us to seek a high calling — the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus. Such a high calling cannot be achieved when we wallow in sloth. Slothfulness and laziness are twin vices that are roundly and soundly condemned by sacred Scripture. The biggest reason we fail to achieve excellence is that we are unwilling to work to such an extent that excellence can be achieved. No one achieves excellence in any worthy enterprise without diligent and disciplined labor. The enemy of achievement in this sense is sloth. On the other hand, even with the most sanctified human heart, the quest for excellence will always be tainted with a corrupt sense of pride. If we were to achieve the highest goals possible in this world, to scale the heights of human achievement in unprecedented manners, we would still be at best, unprofitable servants who have no right to boast in anything but in the glory of God and the precious redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus.

     Let us therefore seek to excel, let us push ourselves to the highest limits of endurance to achieve the highest possible level of excellence in all that we do, while at the same time watching ever vigilantly for the evil impulse of pride to vitiate any value to our labor. Let us work hard, let us excel to God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.

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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.

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The Protestant Work Ethic

By Gene Edward Veith 9/1/2006

     The Protestant work ethic promotes excellence. But what is the connection between Protestantism, work, and excellence? The pioneering sociologist Max Weber was the first to draw attention to the Protestant work ethic. In his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in 1904, Weber studied the phenomenal economic growth, social mobility, and cultural change that accompanied the Reformation. He went so far as to credit the Reformation for the rise of capitalism.

     Usually, he said, religion is otherworldly. But the Reformation doctrine of vocation taught that religion is to be lived out in this world. Weber did not completely understand the doctrine of vocation. He had the idea that the early Protestants worked so hard so as to build up evidence for their salvation. But the early Protestants knew better than anyone that their salvation had nothing to do with their works or their work, trusting in the grace of God through Christ alone.

     Weber also assumed the early Protestants were ascetics. While their hard work inevitably made them lots of money, he said, their moral scruples prevented them from spending it, at least on worldly pleasures. So instead, they saved their money, put it in banks, and invested it. That is, they transformed their money into capital, thus creating capitalism. There may be something to this, but modern research has shown that the early reformers — despite the stereotype of “Puritans” — were not particularly ascetic, a quality that better describes the medieval Catholics they were reacting against.

     But Weber is right to see the transforming power of the doctrine of vocation. Medieval Catholicism taught that spiritual perfection is to be found in celibacy, poverty, and the monastic withdrawal from the world, where higher spiritual life is found. But the reformers emphasized the spiritual dimension of family life, productive labor, and cultural engagement. “Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” According to Luther, God calls each of us to various tasks and relationships. We have vocations in the family (marriage, parenthood), in the workplace (as master, servant, exercising our different talents in the way we make a living), and in the culture (as rulers, subjects, and citizens). We also have a vocation in the church (pastors, elders, organists, congregants), but the spiritual life is not to be lived out mainly in church and in church activities. Rather, when we come to church, we find the preaching of forgiveness for the sins we have committed in our vocations. Then, through Word and sacrament, our faith is strengthened. Our faith then bears fruit when we are sent back to our vocations in our families, our work, and our culture.

     Luther stressed that vocation is not first about what we do. Rather, it is about what God does through us. God gives us this day our daily bread through the vocation of farmers, millers, bakers, and — we would add — the factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and the hands that prepared our meal. God creates and cares for new life by means of the vocations of mother and father, husband and wife. He protects us by means of police officers, judges, the military, and other Romans 13 vocations of those who “bear the sword.” God brings healing not primarily through miracles but through the vocation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the other medical vocations. God teaches through teachers, conveys His Word through preachers, gives the blessings of technology through engineers, and creates beauty through artists. God works through all the people who do things for us, day by day. And He also works through us, in whatever tasks, offices, and relationships He has called us to do.

     The doctrine of vocation charges our everyday lives and our mundane activities with spiritual significance, and it is indeed a powerful motivator to perform them with excellence. But there is another dimension to vocation, one that is often left out. Yes, we fulfill our callings to the glory of God. But how, exactly, do we glorify God? That is to say, how does God command us to glorify Him?

     The medieval Catholics also spoke much of glorifying God. The Jesuits had as their motto: “to the greater glory of God.” The Inquisition burned Protestants at the stake for God’s glory.

     Luther stressed that our vocations are not works that we perform “for” God. The monastics talked that way, as if the Lord of the universe needed or was impressed by our actions. “God does not need our good works,” Luther said. “But our neighbor does.” The monks insisted they were saved by their good works, but Luther denied that their self-chosen mystical exercises, performed in isolation from other people, could even be called good works. “Who are you helping?” he asked. Good works are those that help our neighbor. They are performed primarily in our callings.

     Our relationship to God is based wholly on His works, not our own; on His grace; on our redemption in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He, in turn, calls us to love and serve our neighbors. And yet, we learn from Christ that “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). So it turns out that when we love and serve our neighbor, we are serving Christ after all.

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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.

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Covenant Community

By David McKay 9/1/2006

     When a pastor looks at his assembled congregation, what does he see? If he accepts a biblical covenant theology, he knows that he is not looking at a collection of randomly gathered individuals, or even families, but at a part of the covenant people of God. That perspective, when grasped by a congregation, ought to make a great impact on how these people view their life together.

     Covenant theology reminds the people of God that they are to think covenantally rather than individualistically. Such a mindset is the very opposite of that which shapes much of current Western thinking. The church of Jesus Christ is a community of redeemed sinners bound to their Lord and to one another in the bond of love known as the covenant of grace. God gives Himself to them to be their God and takes them as His people (the covenant promise, which is spelled out, for example, in Lev. 26:12). Christians belong to their covenant Lord: “None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself…whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7–8). This also means that Christians are bound to one another and must think of themselves as part of a community. Paul expresses this truth using the language of the body in Ephesians 4:25: “We are members of one another.” We are therefore to take our covenant brothers and sisters into account in all aspects of our Christian living. The covenant community is no place for rugged individualists. We must constantly be asking, “How will this affect other believers?”

     If we love our covenant brothers and sisters, we will seek what is best for them, especially their growth in grace. This can be done in a positive way by exhortation and mutual encouragement. The writer to the Hebrews, after speaking of the blessings of the new covenant that are provided by the blood of Jesus, has this stirring call for God’s people: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). The covenant community is the place where we are spurred on by fellow believers to make use of the means of grace, including the gatherings of the church for worship, which will shape us more in the likeness of the Mediator of the covenant. This is not something that happens automatically — we must consciously “consider” how to do it most effectively. A consistent example, a word of encouragement, an offer of help when a brother appears to be struggling — all these, and more, have their place. Here is a ministry in which every Christian can, and should, be engaged. Whilst elders have a special responsibility for the oversight of the community, there is opportunity for all to be involved.

     A particularly important element in the life of the covenant community is the bearing of one another’s burdens. This is Paul’s command in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Our brothers and sisters are called by the Lord to bear all kinds of burdens (as are we ourselves), but they are not called to bear them alone. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells them, there is the ministry of those who are united to the same Savior in the bonds of the covenant. Indeed, this is often how the Spirit provides His help. When a brother or sister struggles with discouragement, failure, worry, bereavement, aging, sickness, the prospect of death, or any other problem, the burden is made heavier if others who could help stand idly by, showing no concern, apparently wrapped up in their own affairs. It can be costly to bear someone else’s burden — costly in time, costly in physical and emotional energy — and there is sadly no guarantee that the effort will be appreciated. If we take seriously our covenant solidarity, however, we will make the effort and take the risk. In our own times of trial, we also need to be willing to accept ministry. It is easier to be the strong one giving help than it is to admit weakness and accept help, yet that too is part of being members of the one body.

     Sin is a reality in the covenant community. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In love, believers can hold each other accountable for their behavior, and so deal with sin before it grows and causes even greater problems. Sin can devastate fellowship, and thus it must not be ignored in the futile hope that it will just go away. Whilst elders have a particular responsibility to exercise loving discipline, if all believers were faithful in ministering to one another, far fewer issues would require attention in formal discipline. We must not forget that receiving discipline is part of our covenant responsibility, and never easy.

     A covenant community that is functioning according to God’s pattern is a healthy environment for the raising of covenant children. As they grow up, they will be surrounded by examples of what it means to be a godly man or woman. We will not be afraid to have them copy what they see. Words of instruction will be supported by actions. Here the challenges and opportunities of covenant solidarity come to their sharpest focus.

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     David McKay | ??

Numbers 7; Psalm 42; Psalm 43; Song of Songs 5; Hebrews 5

By Don Carson 4/30/2018

     Millions of Christians have sung the words as a chorus. Millions more have meditated on them in their own quiet reading of Scripture: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).

     It is a haunting image. One pictures the buck or the doe, descending through the forest’s perimeter in the half-light of dusk, to slake the thirst of a hot day in the cool waters of a crystal stream. When Christians have applied the image to themselves, they have conjured up a plethora of diverse personal circumstances: semi-mystical longings for a feeling of the transcendent, courageous God centeredness that flies in the face of cultural opposition, a lonely longing for a sense of God’s presence when the heavens seem as bronze, a placid contentment with our own religious experience, and more.

     But whatever the possible applications of this haunting image, the situation of the deer—and of the psalmist, too, as we shall see—is full of enormous stress. The deer is not sidling up to the stream for the regular supply of refreshment; it is panting for water. The metrical psalter adds the words, “when heated by the chase”; but there is no hint of that here, and the application the psalmist makes would fit less well than another possibility. The psalmist is thinking of a deer panting for refreshing streams of water during a season of drought and famine (as in Joel 1:20). In the same way, he is hungry for the Lord, famished for the presence of God, and in particular hungry to be back in Jerusalem enjoying temple worship, “leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (42:4). Instead, he finds himself “downcast” (42:5) because he is way up the Jordan Valley, somewhere near the heights of Hermon, in the far north of the country.

     Here the psalmist must contend with foes who taunt him, not least regarding his faith. They sneer all day long, “Where is your God?” (42:10). The only thing that will satisfy the psalmist is not, finally, Jerusalem and the temple, but God himself. Wherever he finds himself, the psalmist can still declare, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). So he encourages himself with these reflections: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:11).

     Sing the chorus, repeat the ancient lines. And draw comfort when you are fighting the bleak bog of despair, and God seems far away.

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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).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 44

44 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     2. "We have come into the way of faith," says Augustine: "let us constantly adhere to it. It leads to the chambers of the king, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For our Lord Jesus Christ did not speak invidiously to his great and most select disciples when he said, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,' (John 16:12). We must walk, advance, increase, that our hearts may be able to comprehend those things which they cannot now comprehend. But if the last day shall find us making progress, we shall there learn what here we could not," (August. Hom. in Joann). If we give due weight to the consideration, that the word of the Lord is the only way which can conduct us to the investigation of whatever it is lawful for us to hold with regard to him--is the only light which can enable us to discern what we ought to see with regard to him, it will curb and restrain all presumption. For it will show us that the moment we go beyond the bounds of the word we are out of the course, in darkness, and must every now and then stumble, go astray, and fall. Let it, therefore, be our first principle that to desire any other knowledge of predestination than that which is expounded by the word of God, is no less infatuated than to walk where there is no path, or to seek light in darkness. Let us not be ashamed to be ignorant in a matter in which ignorance is learning. Rather let us willingly abstain from the search after knowledge, to which it is both foolish as well as perilous, and even fatal to aspire. If an unrestrained imagination urges us, our proper course is to oppose it with these words, "It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory," (Prov. 25:27). There is good reason to dread a presumption which can only plunge us headlong into ruin.

3. There are others who, when they would cure this disease, recommend that the subject of predestination should scarcely if ever be mentioned, and tell us to shun every question concerning it as we would a rock. Although their moderation is justly commendable in thinking that such mysteries should be treated with moderation, yet because they keep too far within the proper measure, they have little influence over the human mind, which does not readily allow itself to be curbed. Therefore, in order to keep the legitimate course in this matter, we must return to the word of God, in which we are furnished with the right rule of understanding. For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which as nothing useful and necessary to be known has been omitted, so nothing is taught but what it is of importance to know. Every thing, therefore delivered in Scripture on the subject of predestination, we must beware of keeping from the faithful, lest we seem either maliciously to deprive them of the blessing of God, or to accuse and scoff at the Spirit, as having divulged what ought on any account to be suppressed. Let us, I say, allow the Christian to unlock his mind and ears to all the words of God which are addressed to him, provided he do it with this moderation--viz. that whenever the Lord shuts his sacred mouth, he also desists from inquiry. The best rule of sobriety is, not only in learning to follow wherever God leads, but also when he makes an end of teaching, to cease also from wishing to be wise. The danger which they dread is not so great that we ought on account of it to turn away our minds from the oracles of God. There is a celebrated saying of Solomon, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing," (Prov. 25:2). But since both piety and common sense dictate that this is not to be understood of every thing, we must look for a distinction, lest under the pretence of modesty and sobriety we be satisfied with a brutish ignorance. This is clearly expressed by Moses in a few words, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever," (Deut. 29:29). We see how he exhorts the people to study the doctrine of the law in accordance with a heavenly decree, because God has been pleased to promulgate it, while he at the same time confines them within these boundaries, for the simple reason that it is not lawful for men to pry into the secret things of God.

4. I admit that profane men lay hold of the subject of predestination to carp, or cavil, or snarl, or scoff. But if their petulance frightens us, it will be necessary to conceal all the principal articles of faith, because they and their fellows leave scarcely one of them unassailed with blasphemy. A rebellious spirit will display itself no less insolently when it hears that there are three persons in the divine essence, than when it hears that God when he created man foresaw every thing that was to happen to him. Nor will they abstain from their jeers when told that little more than five thousand years have elapsed since the creation of the world. For they will ask, Why did the power of God slumber so long in idleness? In short, nothing can be stated that they will not assail with derision. To quell their blasphemies, must we say nothing concerning the divinity of the Son and Spirit? Must the creation of the world be passed over in silence? No! The truth of God is too powerful, both here and everywhere, to dread the slanders of the ungodly, as Augustine powerfully maintains in his treatise, De Bono Perseverantiae (cap. 14-20). For we see that the false apostles were unable, by defaming and accusing the true doctrine of Paul, to make him ashamed of it. There is nothing in the allegation that the whole subject is fraught with danger to pious minds, as tending to destroy exhortation, shake faith, disturb and dispirit the heart. Augustine disguises not that on these grounds he was often charged with preaching the doctrine of predestination too freely, but, as it was easy for him to do, he abundantly refutes the charge. As a great variety of absurd objections are here stated, we have thought it best to dispose of each of them in its proper place (see chap. 23). Only I wish it to be received as a general rule, that the secret things of God are not to be scrutinized, and that those which he has revealed are not to be overlooked, lest we may, on the one hand, be chargeable with curiosity, and, on the other, with ingratitude. For it has been shrewdly observed by Augustine (de Genesi ad Literam, Lib. 5), that we can safely follow Scripture, which walks softly, as with a mother's step, in accommodation to our weakness. Those, however, who are so cautious and timid, that they would bury all mention of predestination in order that it may not trouble weak minds, with what color, pray, will they cloak their arrogance, when they indirectly charge God with a want of due consideration, in not having foreseen a danger for which they imagine that they prudently provide? Whoever, therefore, throws obloquy on the doctrine of predestination, openly brings a charge against God, as having inconsiderately allowed something to escape from him which is injurious to the Church.

5. The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause. We, indeed, ascribe both prescience and predestination to God; but we say, that it is absurd to make the latter subordinate to the former (see chap. 22 sec. 1). When we attribute prescience to God, we mean that all things always were, and ever continue, under his eye; that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present, and indeed so present, that it is not merely the idea of them that is before him (as those objects are which we retain in our memory), but that he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection. This prescience extends to the whole circuit of the world, and to all creatures. By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death. This God has testified, not only in the case of single individuals; he has also given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, to make it plain that the future condition of each nation lives entirely at his disposal: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance," (Deut. 32:8, 9). The separation is before the eyes of all; in the person of Abraham, as in a withered stock, one people is specially chosen, while the others are rejected; but the cause does not appear, except that Moses, to deprive posterity of any handle for glorying, tells them that their superiority was owing entirely to the free love of God. The cause which he assigns for their deliverance is, "Because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them," (Deut. 4:37); or more explicitly in another chapter, "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you," (Deut. 7:7, 8). He repeatedly makes the same intimations, "Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them," (Deut. 10:14, 15). Again, in another passage, holiness is enjoined upon them, because they have been chosen to be a peculiar people; while in another, love is declared to be the cause of their protection (Deut. 23:5). This, too, believers with one voice proclaim, "He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom he loved," (Ps. 47:4). The endowments with which God had adorned them, they all ascribe to gratuitous love, not only because they knew that they had not obtained them by any merit, but that not even was the holy patriarch endued with a virtue that could procure such distinguished honor for himself and his posterity. And the more completely to crush all pride, he upbraids them with having merited nothing of the kind, seeing they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people (Deut. 9:6). Often, also, do the prophets remind the Jews of this election by way of disparagement and opprobrium, because they had shamefully revolted from it. Be this as it may, let those who would ascribe the election of God to human worth or merit come forward. When they see that one nation is preferred to all others, when they hear that it was no feeling of respect that induced God to show more favor to a small and ignoble body, nay, even to the wicked and rebellious, will they plead against him for having chosen to give such a manifestation of mercy? But neither will their obstreperous words hinder his work, nor will their invectives, like stones thrown against heaven, strike or hurt his righteousness; nay, rather they will fall back on their own heads. To this principle of a free covenant, moreover, the Israelites are recalled whenever thanks are to be returned to God, or their hopes of the future to be animated. "The Lord he is God," says the Psalmist; "it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture," (Ps. 100:3; 95:7). The negation which is added, "not we ourselves," is not superfluous, to teach us that God is not only the author of all the good qualities in which men excel, but that they originate in himself, there being nothing in them worthy of so much honor. In the following words also they are enjoined to rest satisfied with the mere good pleasure of God: "O ye seed of Abraham, his servant; ye children of Jacob, his chosen," (Ps. 105:6). And after an enumeration of the continual mercies of God as fruits of election, the conclusion is, that he acted thus kindly because he remembered his covenant. With this doctrine accords the song of the whole Church, "They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them," (Ps. 44:3). It is to be observed, that when the land is mentioned, it is a visible symbol of the secret election in which adoption is comprehended. To like gratitude David elsewhere exhorts the people, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance," (Ps. 33:12). Samuel thus animates their hopes, "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people," (1 Sam. 12:22). And when David's faith is assailed, how does he arm himself for the battle? "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causes to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts," (Ps. 65:4). But as the hidden election of God was confirmed both by a first and second election, and by other intermediate mercies, Isaiah thus applies the terms "The Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel," (Isa. 14:1). Referring to a future period, the gathering together of the dispersion, who seemed to have been abandoned, he says, that it will be a sign of a firm and stable election, notwithstanding of the apparent abandonment. When it is elsewhere said, "I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away," (Isa. 41:9), the continual course of his great liberality is ascribed to paternal kindness. This is stated more explicitly in Zechariah by the angel, the Lord "shall choose Jerusalem again," as if the severity of his chastisements had amounted to reprobation, or the captivity had been an interruption of election, which, however, remains inviolable, though the signs of it do not always appear.

6. We must add a second step of a more limited nature, or one in which the grace of God was displayed in a more special form, when of the same family of Abraham God rejected some, and by keeping others within his Church showed that he retained them among his sons. At first Ishmael had obtained the same rank with his brother Isaac, because the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision. He is first cut off, then Esau, at last an innumerable multitude, almost the whole of Israel. In Isaac was the seed called. The same calling held good in the case of Jacob. God gave a similar example in the rejection of Saul. This is also celebrated in the psalm, "Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah," (Ps. 78:67, 68). This the sacred history sometimes repeats that the secret grace of God may be more admirably displayed in that change. I admit that it was by their own fault Ishmael, Esau, and others, fell from their adoption; for the condition annexed was, that they should faithfully keep the covenant of God, whereas they perfidiously violated it. The singular kindness of God consisted in this, that he had been pleased to prefer them to other nations; as it is said in the psalm, "He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them," (Ps. 147:20). But I had good reason for saying that two steps are here to be observed; for in the election of the whole nation, God had already shown that in the exercise of his mere liberality he was under no law but was free, so that he was by no means to be restricted to an equal division of grace, its very inequality proving it to be gratuitous. Accordingly, Malachi enlarges on the ingratitude of Israel, in that being not only selected from the whole human race, but set peculiarly apart from a sacred household; they perfidiously and impiously spurn God their beneficent parent. "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau," (Mal. 1:2, 3). For God takes it for granted, that as both were the sons of a holy father, and successors of the covenant, in short, branches from a sacred root, the sons of Jacob were under no ordinary obligation for having been admitted to that dignity; but when by the rejection of Esau the first born, their progenitor though inferior in birth was made heir, he charges them with double ingratitude, in not being restrained by a double tie.

7. Although it is now sufficiently plain that God by his secret counsel chooses whom he will while he rejects others, his gratuitous election has only been partially explained until we come to the case of single individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but so assigns it, that the certainty of the result remains not dubious or suspended. [495] These are considered as belonging to that one seed of which Paul makes mention (Rom. 9:8; Gal. 3:16, &c). For although adoption was deposited in the hand of Abraham, yet as many of his posterity were cut off as rotten members, in order that election may stand and be effectual, it is necessary to ascend to the head in whom the heavenly Father has connected his elect with each other, and bound them to himself by an indissoluble tie. Thus in the adoption of the family of Abraham, God gave them a liberal display of favor which he has denied to others; but in the members of Christ there is a far more excellent display of grace, because those ingrafted into him as their head never fail to obtain salvation. Hence Paul skillfully argues from the passage of Malachi which I quoted (Rom. 9:13; Mal. 1:2), that when God, after making a covenant of eternal life, invites any people to himself, a special mode of election is in part understood, so that he does not with promiscuous grace effectually elect all of them. The words, "Jacob have I loved," refer to the whole progeny of the patriarch, which the prophet there opposes to the posterity of Esau. But there is nothing in this repugnant to the fact, that in the person of one man is set before us a specimen of election, which cannot fail of accomplishing its object. It is not without cause Paul observes, that these are called a remnant (Rom. 9:27; 11:5); because experience shows that of the general body many fall away and are lost, so that often a small portion only remains. The reason why the general election of the people is not always firmly ratified, readily presents itself--viz. that on those with whom God makes the covenant, he does not immediately bestow the Spirit of regeneration, by whose power they persevere in the covenant even to the end. The external invitation, without the internal efficacy of grace which would have the effect of retaining them, holds a kind of middle place between the rejection of the human race and the election of a small number of believers. The whole people of Israel are called the Lord's inheritance, and yet there were many foreigners among them. Still, because the covenant which God had made to be their Father and Redeemer was not altogether null, he has respect to that free favor rather than to the perfidious defection of many; even by them his truth was not abolished, since by preserving some residue to himself, it appeared that his calling was without repentance. When God ever and anon gathered his Church from among the sons of Abraham rather than from profane nations, he had respect to his covenant, which, when violated by the great body, he restricted to a few, that it might not entirely fail. In short, that common adoption of the seed of Abraham was a kind of visible image of a greater benefit which God deigned to bestow on some out of many. This is the reason why Paul so carefully distinguishes between the sons of Abraham according to the flesh and the spiritual sons who are called after the example of Isaac. Not that simply to be a son of Abraham was a vain or useless privilege (this could not be said without insult to the covenant), but that the immutable counsel of God, by which he predestinated to himself whomsoever he would, was alone effectual for their salvation. But until the proper view is made clear by the production of passages of Scripture, I advise my readers not to prejudge the question. We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory. But as the Lord seals his elect by calling and justification, so by excluding the reprobate either from the knowledge of his name or the sanctification of his Spirit, he by these marks in a manner discloses the judgment which awaits them. I will here omit many of the fictions which foolish men have devised to overthrow predestination. There is no need of refuting objections which the moment they are produced abundantly betray their hollowness. I will dwell only on those points which either form the subject of dispute among the learned, or may occasion any difficulty to the simple, or may be employed by impiety as specious pretexts for assailing the justice of God.

__________________________________________________________________

[494] Thus Eck boasts that he had written of predestination to exercise his youthful spirits.

[495] On predestination, see the pious and very learned obsesrvations of Luther, tom. 1 p. 86, fin., and p. 87, fin. Tom. 3 ad Psal. 22:8. Tom. 5 in Joann. 117. Also his Prefatio in Epist. ad Rom. and Adv. Erasmum de Servo Arbitrio, p. 429, sqq. 452, 463. Also in Psal. 139.

__________________________________________________________________

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



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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2005    Grand Delusions

     A couple of years ago I met the pastor of an “evangelical“ church in our area. As he told me about the church where he served, he became overwhelmingly excited when he explained that, as a matter of principle, his church did not discriminate against anyone. He went on to explain what steps he was taking to ensure that the members of the church were following the church’s nondiscriminatory principle. At that point in our conversation, I was in complete agreement with him, but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for what he said next. With great enthusiasm, he let me in on a little secret. Without informing the congregation or the other staff members of the church, he invited a practicing lesbian to greet Sunday morning worshipers and hand out service bulletins.

     As far as he was concerned, inviting a homosexual to greet his congregation was the supreme example of nondiscrimination. And while it was his desire to help the church become more tolerant of the culture, the church, indeed, was seduced by the culture. For instead of teaching his congregation not to discriminate, he taught them not to discern.

     In our culture, we are bombarded on every side. The cultural war is raging against the church, and at times it seems that we are losing. The homosexual army is marching down main street U. S. A., and instead of standing our ground and defending the church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many have allowed that army to break down the walls of the church and set up camp. Churches that once preached boldly the sacred Word of God now preach boldly the quaint meditations of their homosexual ministers. On another front, that same army is trying to convince us that we should be more open-minded about the definition of marriage between man and woman.

     The sexual revolution of the twentieth century has not only affected what we are able to observe in the open, it has infected the hearts and minds of men throughout the world who have been seduced in the darkness of their dens by the voiceless images on their personal computers. It is a cultural wave of seduction that has swept the world and will continue to destroy everyone in its path unless the people of God take their stand and live coram Deo, before the face of God. For we can be sure that by God’s grace we will overcome the world, and for His glory we will transform the world as the Gospel of Christ is lived out in us.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The size of the U.S. doubled this day, April 30, 1803, with the Louisiana Purchase. Nearly a million acres, at less than three cents an acre, it was the greatest land bargain in history. How did it happen? Napoleon Bonaparte needed money quickly for his military campaigns, therefore he sold all the land west of the Mississippi for just fifteen million dollars. Napoleon, who fought in Europe, Egypt and Russia, once stated: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires… upon force! But Jesus Christ founded His upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


The soul can split the sky in two
and let the face of God shine through.
--- Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems: (American Poets Project 1)

Costly grace is the Gospel
which must be sought again and again and again,
the gift which must be asked for,
the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin,
and grace because it justifies the sinner.

Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
'Ye were bought at a price',
and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.

Above all, it is grace
because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price
to pay for our life,
but delivered him up for us.

Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
--- Martin Luther King Jr.
Strength to Love

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
--- Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics)
... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifty-First Chapter / When We Cannot Attain To The Highest, We Must practice The Humble Works

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, you cannot always continue in the more fervent desire of virtue, or remain in the higher stage of contemplation, but because of humanity’s sin you must sometimes descend to lower things and bear the burden of this corruptible life, albeit unwillingly and wearily. As long as you wear a mortal body you will suffer weariness and heaviness of heart. You ought, therefore, to bewail in the flesh the burden of the flesh which keeps you from giving yourself unceasingly to spiritual exercises and divine contemplation.

     In such condition, it is well for you to apply yourself to humble, outward works and to refresh yourself in good deeds, to await with unshaken confidence My heavenly visitation, patiently to bear your exile and dryness of mind until you are again visited by Me and freed of all anxieties. For I will cause you to forget your labors and to enjoy inward quiet. I will spread before you the open fields of the Scriptures, so that with an open heart you may begin to advance in the way of My commandments. And you will say: the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed to us.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD

     The words from which I speak, you will find in 1 Peter 1:5. The third, fourth and fifth verses are: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which . . . hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." The words of my text are: "Kept by the power of God through faith."

     There we have two wonderful, blessed truths about the keeping by which a believer is kept unto salvation. One truth is, Kept by the power of God; and the other truth is, Kept through faith. We should look at the two sides--at God's side and His almighty power, offered to us to be our Keeper every moment of the day; and at the human side, we having nothing to do but in faith to let God do His keeping work. We are begotten again to an inheritance kept in Heaven for us; and we are kept here on earth by the power of God. We see there is a double keeping--the inheritance kept for me in Heaven, and I on earth kept for the inheritance there.

     Now, as to the first part of this keeping, there is no doubt and no question. God keeps the inheritance in Heaven very wonderfully and perfectly, and it is waiting there safely. And the same God keeps me for the inheritance. That is what I want to understand.

     You know it is very foolish of a father to take great trouble to have an inheritance for his children, and to keep it for them, if he does not keep them for it. What would you think of a man spending his whole time and making every sacrifice to amass money, and as he gets his tens of thousands, you ask him why it is that he sacrifices himself so, and his answer is: "I want to leave my children a large inheritance, and I am keeping it for them"--if you were then to hear that that man takes no trouble to educate his children, that he allows them to run upon the street wild, and to go on in paths of sin and ignorance and folly, what would you think of him? Would not you say: "Poor man! he is keeping an inheritance for his children, but he is not keeping or preparing his children for the inheritance"! And there are so many Christians who think: "My God is keeping the inheritance for me"; but they cannot believe: "My God is keeping me for that inheritance." The same power, the same love, the same God doing the double work.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:31-33
     by D.H. Stern

31     He who heeds life-giving correction
will be at home in the company of the wise.
32     He who spurns discipline detests himself,
but he who listens to correction grows in understanding.
33     The discipline of wisdom is fear of ADONAI,
so before being honored, a person must be humble.


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 spontaneity of love

     Love suffereth long, and is kind … ---
1 Cor. 13:4–8.

     Love is not premeditated, it is spontaneous, that is, it bursts up in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of mathematical certainty in Paul’s category of love. We cannot say—‘Now I am going to think no evil; I am going to believe all things.’ The characteristic of love is spontaneity. We do not settle statements of Jesus in front of us as a standard; but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without knowing it, and on looking back we are amazed at the disinterestedness of a particular emotion, which is the evidence that the spontaneity of real love was there. In everything to do with the life of God in us, its nature is only discerned when it is past.

     The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally, it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

     If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, it comes naturally. In looking back we cannot tell why we did certain things, we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God manifests itself in this spontaneous way because the springs of love are in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.)


My Utmost for His Highest

Saunders Lewis
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

Saunders Lewis

And he dared them;
  Dared them to grow old and bitter
  As he. He kept his pen clean
  By burying it in their fat
  Flesh. He was ascetic and Wales
  His diet. He lived off the harsh fare
  Of her troubles, worn yet heady
  At moments with the poets' wine.
  A recluse, then; himself
  His hermitage? Unhabited
  He moved among us; would have led
  To rebellion. Small as he was
  He towered, the trigger of his mind
  Cocked, ready to let fly with his scorn.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Nazir 23b

     D’RASH

     Many people think that youth is synonymous with energy and growth and is entirely positive, while age implies weakness and decay and is to be shunned or avoided. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar tells us not to be so quick in our judgements. Youth can bring with it immaturity and impatience; unbridled energy acting on momentary whims can lead to terrible and costly mistakes. On the other hand, age often has the benefit of wisdom that is born of experience and reflection.

     There is another assumption that Rabbi Shimon is challenging: Building is always good, while tearing down must, by definition, always be bad. Architects and city-planners understand that too much building can create overcrowding. Building in the wrong place can leave people without access to shopping, work, or recreation. Shoddy building can be a major safety hazard. Building without concern for esthetics can have a major negative impact on how people see their environment and how they feel about themselves. Building more is not always better.

     What is true of the physical realm is often true in the social sphere as well. Involvement with people and causes is a good thing, but many of us make the mistake of assuming that more is always better. There are many individuals who are so active in work or organizations that they are busy to the point of dysfunction. Spreading themselves too thin by their relationships, involvements, or obligations, they have no time left for the things that truly matter.

     On the other hand, destruction can sometimes lead to unexpected, but very constructive, consequences. Destruction is often the first step in the process of change, renovation, and revitalization. Tearing down makes for breathing room and allows for new growth. Scientists have observed that a fire in a forest, while being very destructive, actually lays the foundation for more fertile soil and eventual rebirth of an ecosystem that is stronger and healthier than it was before. In the eighteenth century, medicine took a giant leap forward by suggesting that inoculating people with a disease could prevent a more severe case of that disease in the future. Imagine the initial response of most people to the suggestion that smallpox could be eliminated if you first gave a patient a mild dose of the plague. It must have seemed madness! Yet sometimes, what seems like destruction can actually lead to something very positive.

     A good football coach knows that punting on fourth down is not always a sign of failure. It can be a part of a larger strategy to give the other team the ball with very poor field position. It is a way of building up an eventual score, even though at the moment it looks destructive to the goal of putting points on the board.

     Rabbi Shimon would counsel us: Don't be so quick to judge things by who is doing them or by how they appear at first glance. What seems vibrant and constructive may not be. What seems destructive and old may actually lead to something good and lasting.

     A sin done for the right reason is better than a mitzvah done for the wrong reason.

     Text / Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: "A sin done for the right reason is better than a mitzvah done for the wrong reason." But did not Rav Yehudah say in the name of Rav: "A person should always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot even if they are done for the wrong reason, for by doing them even for the wrong reason he will eventually come to do them for the right reason"? Therefore, say: [A sin done for the right reason is] like a mitzvah done for the wrong reason, as it is written: "Most blessed of women be Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of women in tents [Judges 5:24]." Who are the women in tents? Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.

     Context / He asked for water, she offered milk;
     In a princely bowl she brought him curds.
     Her [left] hand reached for the tent pin,
     Her right hand for the workmen's hammer.
     She struck Sisera, crushed his head,
     Smashed and pierced his temple.
     At her feet he sank, lay outstretched,
     At her feet he sank, lay still;
     Where he sank, there he lay—destroyed.
--- (Judges 5:25–27).
     Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maid servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Look, the Lord has kept me from bearing. Consort with my maid; perhaps I shall have a son through her."
--- (Genesis 16:1–2).

     When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister; and Rachel said to Jacob … "Here is my maid Bilhah. Consort with her, that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have children."
--- (Genesis 30:1, 3).

     When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as concubine.
--- (Genesis 30:9).

     The sin done for the right reason is Jael's killing of the Canaanite general, Sisera. After suffering a terrible defeat on the battlefield at the hands of the Israelites, Sisera fled and sought refuge with Jael. According to the biblical story, she offered him a place to hide, but after he fell asleep, she killed him, destroying an enemy of the Israelites and bringing about a period of peace and security. According to the Midrash, Jael not only gave him a place to sleep, she had sex with him in order to make him go to sleep, so that she could kill him.

     The mitzvah done for the wrong reason was when each of the Matriarchs presented her husband with a handmaiden who was to become his concubine. Ostensibly, this was done because the matriarch was barren and wanted to make certain that her husband would have a child, so the family would increase and multiply. But according to the Rabbis, the Matriarchs had ulterior motives. They were really interested in engendering jealousy among their rivals. The gift was not about survival of the family; it was motivated by ego and selfishness.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Structure of Judges
     Teacher's Commentary

     Commentary / The Book of Judges begins with an overview and ends with a summary. The first chapters of this book provide a brief analysis of why Israel's great promise was never realized. The middle section (Judges 3:7–16:31) traces chronologically the history of the Judges and the conditions of their times. The final section summarizes and, through two case histories, vividly demonstrates the results of Israel's choice to abandon God's ways.

     The key to understanding the decline recorded here is found in Judges 2:10: "Another generation [after Joshua] grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel." Israel's rest and blessing were dependent on obedience to God. But obedience in turn hinged on knowing the Lord—well.

     The New Testament picks up this same theme. "Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me" (John 14:21). Obedience to God will result from relationship, and will depend on love. We do not coolly choose to obey in order to gain God's affection. It is only when we know that we are loved by God, and when we love Him in return, that love and trust awaken in us the capacity to obey.

     The new generation, in drifting away from a personal relationship with God, inevitably lost the capacity to trust Him and to obey. Rest and blessing, contingent on living out the Law's lifestyle, were inevitably lost as well. These early chapters of Judges trace Israel's breakdown and record a revealing progression.

     Incomplete obedience. Joshua had broken the ability of the Canaanites to organize resistance against Israel. Then the land had been divided among the tribes, and each tribe commanded to clear its own territory of enemies.

     Archeological evidence combined with the biblical record indicates that Israel was successful in the hills of Palestine, but not in the low-lying areas. The power of the remaining peoples was concentrated in the lowlands, and the Canaanites had adopted chariot warfare. Unable to cope with these chariots of iron, the tribes involved failed to drive the inhabitants out (Judges 1:31, 34). Even more serious, when Israel was victorious they chose not to drive them out. "When Israel became strong," the author of Judges notes, "they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor, but never drove them out completely" (v. 28; see also vv. 30, 33, 35). The people of Israel valued slaves more than their covenant promise to the Lord!

     God warned against this alarming tendency. Judges 2:1–4 tells of God's Angel speaking to all the people of Israel. He reminded them that the Lord had made a firm covenant with Israel and had kept His word in bringing them to the Promised Land. Then came the rebuke: "I said.… 'You shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed Me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out from before you; but they will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare unto you."


The Teacher's Commentary

Preview: Judges 3:7–16:31
     Teacher's Commentary

     Apostasy. The wisdom of God in demanding that the Canaanites be driven out was demonstrated in what happened then. Influenced by the nature and fertility gods of the surrounding peoples, which appealed to the materialistic and sensual in their nature, the Israelites "followed … various gods … and bowed themselves unto them … they forsook [the Lord], and served Baal and the Ashtareths" (Judges 2:12–13).

     Intermarriage. A third aspect of Israel's departure from God is seen in intermarriage (Judges 3:5–6). In this they not only denied their identity as a distinct and peculiar people of God, but also were further motivated to serve pagan gods. The distinctive lifestyle defined in the Law, which was intended to reveal the moral character of God and to set Israel apart from all other peoples, was abandoned in favor of the immoral lifestyle of the peoples of the land.

     Israel denied her heritage, her identity, and her God.

     In these chapters the Book of Judges gives a chronological survey of events during the centuries of darkness which followed for Israel. God's Word had been abandoned and He Himself forsaken. The lesson that earlier generations had learned at Jericho and Ai forgotten, the people of Israel now had to be taught again and again and again. This time, instead of involving a single family (Achan's), the pattern of sin and subsequent judgment swept over the nation as a whole.

     And there was a pattern. Seven repeated cycles of events are reported. The first scriptural account reports that Israel fell into sin. As a result of sin, God brought judgment through the nearby nations, and God's people were forced into servitude. When the pressure became unbearable, Israel turned from her sin and cried out to God for deliverance. God heard Israel's prayers and a charismatic leader emerged to lead Israel—first to victory over the enemy, and then morally and spiritually as a judge. During this leader's life the people typically knew quiet and freedom from oppression. But all too soon, they slipped back into the sinful ways of the pagans around them. With that fall into sin, the cycle began all over again.

     To understand this Bible book it is important to see that with each cycle, Israel appears to have become worse. And each subsequent judge had less spiritual impact, until Samson found himself unable to bring rest to the people, even though he was the most powerful of them all!

     The chronology. The length of time the Judges are said to have ruled adds up to 410 years. The actual period was probably about 335 years, since the time from Joshua's generation to the fourth year of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1) is itself about 410 years. The reason for the discrepancy between the actual and the apparent time span is that the ministry of the Judges overlapped to some extent (see Judges 3:30–4:1 and 10:7–9). The various oppressors were not the world powers of the day, but the neighbors Israel had failed to drive out. One judge might have been occupied with a people to the east, while another was occupied with the peoples to the west. Thus we can't tell from internal chronology alone just how long the Judges served.

     The judges. Twelve names are generally associated with the ministry of the Judges. For most of them the calling was both military and civil. A judge emerged (was "raised up" by God, Judges 3:9, 15, etc.) in time of need, led Israel in throwing off an enemy yoke, and then usually continued as a supervisor of God's people. The judges, in most cases, were apparently successful in keeping their people from idolatry.


The Teacher's Commentary

Domestic Consequences
of Israel’s Performance (3:1–6)
     The New American Commentary

     Because of the complex nature of this segment, scholars have developed elaborate, if speculative, reconstructions of the history / evolution of the text. In the process the relationship of this passage to the preceding is often missed. (So also Sweeney, “Davidic Polemics in the Book of Judges,” 522–24.) Structurally the text is dominated by two circumstantial clauses, vv. 1–3 and 5–6, which frame the purpose statement in v. 4. Because of the length and weight of the frame statements, the significance of v. 4 may be overlooked. Beginning with the waw-consecutive imperfect verb plus purpose infinitive construct (wayyihyû lĕnassôt … lādaʿat …, lit., “and they became tests … to know …”), this verse indicates that this paragraph is intended as an exposition of 2:23. The verse may at one point have followed immediately after 2:23, but it has been separated from that context and wrapped with two circumstantial clauses that transform and expand its significance. (3:4 is to 2:23 as fulfillment is to promise. Similar patterns are evident in 2:14a (Yahweh gave them over to plunderers; so they plundered them), 2:14b (He sold them to their enemies; so they could not stand), and 2:23 (He gave the nations rest; so he did not give them over to Joshua).)

     Thematically this paragraph ties together a series of ends that have been raised in the preceding chapters: (1) the notion of testing (nāsâ, vv.
1, 4) picks up an element from 2:22); (2) with the exception of the Hivites, the list of Canaanite nations in v. 5 echoes nations named in chap. 1; (3) the reference to Israel “living among” (yāšab bĕqereb) the Canaanites (v. 5) recalls 1:32, 33; (4) the reference to “obeying” (šāmaʿ) the commands of Yahweh recall the accusations of 2:3b, 17); (5) the mention of the commandments of Yahweh (miṣwōt yhwh) in v. 4 links with 2:17b; (6) the reference to commandments given by Yahweh to the fathers (ʾābôt) in v. 4 recalls “the covenant which I commanded the fathers” in 2:20b, as well as the promise sworn to the fathers in 2:1, and the notice of the fathers’ fidelity in 2:22; (7) the charge of “serving their gods” in v. 6 offers an abbreviated version of 2:11–13. Despite these connections, however, the addition of new ideas and the structure of this paragraph have resulted in a distinctive literary piece.

     Obviously the principal function of this paragraph is to elaborate on the test announced in
2:22. In describing the test and announcing Israel’s dismal failure the narrator explores the depth of Israelite depravity. The consequences of their failure to pursue the holy war have extended into the very homes and the faith of the people. In making this statement the narrator reiterates the justice of God in sending in enemy nations against the Israelites, and sets a backdrop for his gracious acts of deliverance from the enemies as described in succeeding chapters.

Judges, Ruth: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     The First Jewish Revolt

     Revolution broke out in Judea in the early summer of 66 C.E. Some Jewish young men had parodied the greed and stinginess of the procurator Florus. In response, he marched to Jerusalem and demanded that the elders of the city hand over the youths for punishment. The local authorities refused to comply, and Florus let loose his soldiers upon the city. According to Josephus, he even crucified some Jewish equites (J.W. 2.294–308). Some members of the Jerusalem ruling elite attempted to defuse the situation, but this proved impossible. Florus made the situation more volatile by demanding a public display of submission and ordering the Jewish populace to greet the two cohorts he had sent to Jerusalem as reinforcement of the city garrison. However, the soldiers of these cohorts behaved so arrogantly toward the populace that more riots broke out, forcing Florus to withdraw to Caesarea. Meanwhile, Herod Agrippa II and his sister Berenice, who had heard about the disturbances in the city, tried to appeal for calm. Nonetheless, their efforts ultimately failed, and they were expelled from the city (J.W. 2.309–14, 334–35, 343–406). In May/June 66 C.E., some of the young priests, incited and led by the captain of the Temple, Eleazer ben Ananias, terminated the sacrifices offered daily at the Temple on behalf of the emperor. In essence, this served as an open proclamation of revolution and war.

     Fighting broke out between various factions over both control of the city and the resumption of the daily sacrifices. This internecine fighting became even more violent when sicarii led by a certain Menahem ben Judah entered the city and joined with Eleazer. Eleazer’s father and uncle, who were the leaders of the faction trying to avoid war with Rome, were murdered by Menahem and his men, and the soldiers sent into the city by Agrippa II to restore order either joined the rebels or were driven out of the city. A small contingent of Roman auxiliaries, who found themselves trapped inside the city, tried to escape, but were killed by Eleazer’s men. The rebellion thus quickly became unavoidable and irrevocable.

     Given this situation, Jews from all over Judea took the opportunity to rise up against their non-Jewish neighbors and vice versa. Seeing that the situation had gotten out of control, the governor of Syria, Cestius Gallus, collected a large army including the Twelfth Legion and some auxiliaries supplied by Agrippa and began marching south to Judea. Gallus reached Ptolemais in September and secured Galilee with little opposition. However, in October, his forces met Jewish resistance, which plundered his baggage train before he had even reached Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Gallus marched his army to Jerusalem and seized the northern suburbs, especially the district of Bezetha, with little difficulty. Despite this success, Gallus quickly determined that he could not take the city that year, so he ordered a retreat to the coast, but this withdrawal was completely disorderly, and the Jewish army took the opportunity to inflict heavy casualties on the retreating Roman forces.

     At this point, the Jewish rebels now began to organize themselves as a revolutionary government. Joseph ben Gurion and Ananus ben Ananus became joint leaders of the provisional government, and they appointed generals to conduct the war. Josephus himself was selected to be the general of the forces in Galilee. In Rome, Nero dispatched Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who had distinguished himself in the invasion of Britain during the reign of Claudius. By June 67 C.E., Vespasian reached Galilee with his army, which had secured the region through brutal tactics. Josephus, who lacked proper troops and armaments, was reduced to protecting little more than small hilltop fortresses and was finally captured at the siege of Jotapata. He managed to ingratiate himself with Vespasian by hailing him as the next emperor of Rome. The other Jewish resistance fighter in the region, John of Gischala, attempted to continue the war against Vespasian, but he was forced to flee to Jerusalem in late summer 67.

     Back in Jerusalem, the situation was becoming increasingly unstable. The population was dissatisfied with the provisional government because of its inability to hold Galilee. Dissatisfaction only increased in the spring of 68 when Vespasian began to march toward and encircle Jerusalem. Opposition to Ananus was bolstered partially by rural peasants, who had fled into the city because their homes and farms had been captured or threatened by the Roman army. In this hotbed of factionalism rose a new group of elite priests, who described themselves as Zealots because of their zeal for the Temple and its cult. These Zealots accused the provisional government of not prosecuting the war with enough enthusiasm. Such a charge may have been unfair, but it was strengthened by the reality that many original members of Ananus’ faction, including Josephus, had by this time defected to the Roman side. Regardless, the Zealots ultimately barricaded themselves within the Temple, where they were soon joined by John of Gischala and his men as well as a large force of Idumeans who had come to Jerusalem to defend the city. This new faction was able to overthrow the provisional government and execute Ananus and his closest supporters, including Josephus’ friend and patron Joshua ben Gamala. Now firmly in power, John and the Zealots began a bloody purge of their enemies within the city.

     Meanwhile, back in Rome Nero committed suicide, and with his death ended Vespasian’s mandate as imperial legate. Because of this development, Vespasian suspended his campaign and waited to see what would happen. His campaign resumed in May/June of 69, and by the time that he was proclaimed emperor in July, his army had recovered the land previously conquered and just finished encircling Jerusalem again. For a second time, the Roman campaign against Jerusalem was suspended as Vespasian turned to securing control of the empire.

     While the Romans were engaged in a civil war known as the “Year of the Four Emperors,” the Jews in Jerusalem were involved in their own civil war. In the year 68 some of the factional leaders, whom John and the Zealots had ousted from power, left the city and joined the army of Simon bar Gioras, a commander in the battle against Cestius Gallus who had been sidelined by Ananus’ government. With Ananus now dead, Simon entered the fray, again capturing Hebron in spring 69 and then camping outside of Jerusalem. With the help of the Idumeans, who had become disenchanted with the Zealots and John, Simon was able to seize control of all of Jerusalem except the Temple itself. John eventually split from the Zealots and occupied the outer precincts of the Temple, while the Zealots holed up in the inner Temple. This tripartite division of the city lasted until Vespasian’s son Titus and his army arrived before the walls of Jerusalem in March 70 and began to besiege the city. With the arrival of the Roman army, the three factions set aside their differences and began coordinating their defenses.

     Titus could have tried to starve the city into submission, but the new Flavian regime needed a magnificent victory, and so he determined to take the city by force. By May 70, the Romans had captured the third wall. The Antonia fortress fell in June, and by August the Romans had captured and burned the Temple itself. As autumn began, the Roman army focused its attention on crushing any pockets of resistance that remained in the Upper City. It then turned its attention to the handful of Herodian fortresses occupied by Jewish resistance. The most famous of these, Masada, was not taken until 73/74, after its defenders committed mass suicide.

     Judea was placed under the control of a praetorian legate, and a legion was permanently stationed in Jerusalem. Vespasian also established a veteran colony at Emmaus to keep the peace (J.W. 7.217). The Temple was not rebuilt, and its plundered riches were transported to Rome, where they played a central role in the Flavian triumph. Simon Bar Gioras, who had been captured in the siege, was also taken to Rome, forced to march in the triumph, and then ritually executed (J.W. 7.153–55). The Jewish political state ceased to exist. With the loss of the Temple, the people of Judea were forced to survive in radically different circumstances.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 30

     You have been faithful with a few things; I will put youin charge of many things. Come and share yourmaster’s happiness!
--- Matthew 25:21.

     It was very like our Lord to make fidelity the test of life. ( Highways of the Heart (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) Just as he took obscure and lowly people when he wanted to build a kingdom, so he took obscure and lowly virtues when he wanted to build character—not merely because they were obscure but because they were within the range of all, and his was to be a universal Gospel. There is nothing dazzling in fidelity. It has no power to arrest the eye or to get chronicled in newspapers.

     It is like him, too, to recognize that fidelity demands courage. In [this] parable, one man was not faithful. He buried his talent. And when the reckoning was taken, that man said I was afraid. His infidelity was fear. There is a courage of the battlefield, which is often a splendid thing. There is a courage needed for every adventure, whether in Africa or on Everest. But perhaps the finest courage is the quiet and steady courage of fidelity. To do things when you don’t feel like doing them, to keep on keeping on, to get to duty through headache and through heartache. That is not a thing of the rare moment—it is carrying victory into the common day. And life is never victorious unless our common days are full of victories of which no one hears anything.

     This was the courage of our Lord himself. Sometimes we forget how brave he was. We dwell on his tenderness, and in a world like this we can never dwell on his tenderness too much. But if we ignore his courage, we lose one of the appeals of Christ to youth, and to do that is pitiful. Did it take no courage to come down from heaven and become the tenant of a cottage? Did it take no courage to resist the Devil offering him the kingdoms of the world? To scorn delights and live laborious days, to take the long trail to Calvary, to set out for Jerusalem, where the cross was waiting and the crown of thorns—never was finer courage in the world. When we feel that we are missing things, when we are tempted to rebel at drudgery, we must remember him who took up his cross, daily, to the end.

     Our Lord associates fidelity with joy: “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21 KJV). Only be faithful, and when the task is over and the Morning breaks on the farther shore, you will enter into the joy of your Lord.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     The Tempest  April 30

     During its first three centuries, the Church met persecution in sporadic intervals around the empire. But nothing compared with the tempest that befell it during the days of Roman emperor Diocletian. Diocletian, seizing power in a coup, appointed fellow-soldier Maximian as co-emperor and two other men as assistants, Constantius and Galerius. The four ruled the empire, east and west, conservatively and with a philosophy of “traditional values.”

     “Traditional values” for ancient Rome excluded Christianity. Though Diocletian himself seemed tolerant at first of Christians (his wife and daughter were believers), Galerius was strongly anti-Christian. His military prowess and battlefield victories gave him increasing influence. Slowly and methodically he painted Christians as enemies. He pushed through a series of persecutions against Christians, beginning with the destruction of a church in Nicomedia on February 23, 303. In rapid fire, several edicts were issued against the Church, the last and worst being published on April 30, 304.

     No one can describe the carnage. Christians were dismissed from their positions, their civil rights suspended. Church buildings were set afire. Copies of the Scriptures were burned in the marketplaces. Pastors and church leaders were caught and executed, many by lions in the coliseums. In Phrygia one whole community was wiped out. Other Christians were thrown into squalid prisons or sent to dreaded mines. All former persecutions were forgotten in the horror of this last and greatest storm.

     But the empire gradually grew sick of the killing. Executioners were exhausted, and even the lions, it is said, grew tired of Christian flesh. Galerius, meanwhile, found he was dying of a disease commonly known as “being eaten with worms.” On April 30, 311, anniversary of the earlier edict, he issued another in which he suspended persecution against Christians if they would pray for his recovery. From a thousand prisons, mines, and labor camps, the scarred warriors of Christ streamed home.

     Many of them no doubt prayed for Galerius, but he didn’t recover. Some five days after he signed the edict the worms finished their work.

     Herod … sat down on his throne and made a speech. The people shouted, “You speak more like a god than a man!” At once an angel from the Lord struck him down because he took the honor that belonged to God. Later, Herod was eaten by worms and died. God’s message kept spreading.
--- Acts 12:21b-24.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 30

     “And all the children of Israel murmured.”
--- Numbers 14:2.

     There are murmurers amongst Christians now, as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when the rod falls, cry out against the afflictive dispensation. They ask, “Why am I thus afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?” A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmur against the dispensations of thy heavenly Father? Can he treat thee more hardly than thou deservest? Consider what a rebel thou wast once, but he has pardoned thee! Surely, if he in his wisdom sees fit now to chasten thee, thou shouldst not complain. After all, art thou smitten as hardly as thy sins deserve? Consider the corruption which is in thy breast, and then wilt thou wonder that there needs so much of the rod to fetch it out? Weigh thyself, and discern how much dross is mingled with thy gold; and dost thou think the fire too hot to purge away so much dross as thou hast? Does not that proud rebellious spirit of thine prove that thy heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Are not those murmuring words contrary to the holy submissive nature of God’s children? Is not the correction needed? But if thou wilt murmur against the chastening, take heed, for it will go hard with murmurers. God always chastises his children twice, if they do not bear the first stroke patiently. But know one thing—“He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” All his corrections are sent in love, to purify thee, and to draw thee nearer to himself. Surely it must help thee to bear the chastening with resignation if thou art able to recognize thy Father’s hand. For “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” “Murmur not as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer.”


          Evening - April 30

     “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God."
Psalm 139:17.

     Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside his mind from us, has us always before his eyes; and this is precisely as we would have it, for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment beyond the observation of our heavenly Father. His thoughts are always tender, loving, wise, prudent, far-reaching, and they bring to us countless benefits: hence it is a choice delight to remember them. The Lord always did think upon his people: hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured; he always will think upon them: hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest. In all our wanderings the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us—we never roam beyond the Shepherd’s eye. In our sorrows he observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes him; in our toils he marks all our weariness, and writes in his book all the struggles of his faithful ones. These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the great God.

     Dear reader, is this precious to you? then hold to it. Never be led astray by those philosophic fools who preach up an impersonal God, and talk of self-existent, self-governing matter. The Lord liveth and thinketh upon us, this is a truth far too precious for us to be lightly robbed of it. The notice of a nobleman is valued so highly that he who has it counts his fortune made; but what is it to be thought of by the King of kings! If the Lord thinketh upon us, all is well, and we may rejoice evermore.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 30

          ACCORDING TO THY GRACIOUS WORD

     James Montgomery, 1771–1854

     For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

     Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
     here would I touch and handle things unseen,
     here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
     and all my weariness upon Thee lean.
     Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
     here drink with Thee the royal wine of heav’n.
     Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
     here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiv’n.
--- Horatius Bonar


     In His sovereign wisdom our Lord knew that His followers through the centuries would need a continual reminder of the essential truths of their faith—the sacrificial death, the triumphant resurrection, and the victorious return of Christ. For His disciples, Christ shared the Last Supper and introduced the signs of the new covenant—His broken body and shed blood—symbolized by the bread and the cup. With this supper as the model, He then gave instructions that this feast of remembrance should occur regularly in our worship of Him until He comes. After that, it will culminate in heaven with the saints of the ages in the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7, 9). Not only should the communion service serve as a backward and forward reminder of what Christ has and will do for us, but it should also cause us to look within ourselves —“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).

     “According to Thy Gracious Word” by James Montgomery recounts vividly the sacrificial atonement of Christ and the believer’s response to Christ’s command in Luke 22:19—“This do in remembrance of Me.”

     According to Thy gracious word, in meek humility, this will I do, my dying Lord: I will remember Thee.
     Thy body, broken for my sake, my bread from heav’n shall be; Thy testamental cup I take, and thus remember Thee.
     When to the cross I turn mine eyes and rest on Calvary, O Lamb of God, my sacrifice, I must remember Thee—
     Remember Thee and all Thy pains and all Thy love to me; yea, while a breath, a pulse remains will I remember Thee.
     And when these failing lips grow dumb and mind and mem’ry flee, when you shalt in Thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me!


     For Today: Matthew 26:26–29; 1 Corinthians 10:16–21; 11:23–28.

     Reflect on this: Am I truly willing to take the backward, forward, and inward looks as I anticipate the next Communion Service? Use this musical reminder to help ---

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. X. — I COULD wish, indeed, that we were furnished with some better term for this discussion, than this commonly used term, necessity, which cannot rightly be used, either with reference to the human will, or the divine. It is of a signification too harsh and ill-suited for this subject, forcing upon the mind an idea of compulsion, and that which is altogether contrary to will; whereas, the subject which we are discussing, does not require such an idea: for Will, whether divine or human, does what it does, be it good or evil, not by any compulsion but by mere willingness or desire, as it were, totally free. The will of God, nevertheless, which rules over our mutable will, is immutable and infallible; as Boëtius sings, “Immovable Thyself, Thou movement giv’st to all.” And our own will, especially our corrupt will, cannot of itself do good; therefore, where the term fails to express the idea required, the understanding of the reader must make up the deficiency, knowing what is wished to be expressed — the immutable will of God, and the impotency of our depraved will; or, as some have expressed it, the necessity of immutability, though neither is that sufficiently grammatical, or sufficiently theological.

     Upon this point, the Sophists have now laboured hard for many years, and being at last conquered, have been compelled to retreat. All things take place from the necessity of the consequence, (say they) but not from the necessity of the thing consequent. What nothingness this amounts to, I will not take the trouble to show. By the necessity of the consequence, (to give a general idea of it) they mean this — If God wills any thing, that same thing must, of necessity be done; but it is not necessary that the thing done should be necessary: for God alone is necessary; all other things cannot be so, if it is God that wills. Therefore, (say they) the action of God is necessary, where He wills, but the act itself is not necessary; that is, (they mean) it has not essential necessity. But what do they effect by this playing upon words? Only this, that the act itself is not necessary, that is, it has not essential necessity. This is no more than saying, the act is not God Himself. This, nevertheless, remains certain, that if the action of God is necessary, or if there is a necessity of the consequence, every thing takes place of necessity, how much soever the act be not necessary; that is, be not God Himself, or have not essential necessity. For, if I be not made of necessity, it is of little moment with me, whether my existence and being be mutable or not, if, nevertheless, I, that contingent and mutable being, who am not the necessary God, am made.

     Wherefore, their ridiculous play upon words, that all things take place from the necessity of the consequence, but not from the necessity of the thing consequent, amounts to nothing more than this — all things take place of necessity, but all the things that do take place are not God Himself. But what need was there to tell us this? As though there were any fear of our asserting, that the things done were God Himself, or possessed divine or necessary nature. This asserted truth, therefore, stands and remains invincible — that all things take place according to the immutable will of God! which they call the necessity of the consequence. Nor is there here any obscurity or ambiguity. In Isaiah he saith, “My counsel shall stand, and My will shall be done.” (Isa. xlvi. 10.) And what schoolboy does not understand the meaning of these expressions, “Counsel,” “will,” “shall be done,” “shall stand?”


The Bondage of the Will  or  Christian Classics Ethereal Library



Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper




Ask Pastor John | John Piper





Ask Pastor John | John Piper




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Ask Pastor John | John Piper