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4/6/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Leviticus 9     Psalm 10     Proverbs 24     1 Thessalonians 3


Leviticus 9

The LORD Accepts Aaron’s Offering

Leviticus 9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, 2 and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, 4 and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’ ” 5 And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. 6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.”

8 So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.

12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.

18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded. 22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.


Psalm 10

Why Do You Hide Yourself?

Psalm 10:1 

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2  In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3  For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
4  In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5  His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
6  He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
7  His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
8  He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9  he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10  The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11  He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12  Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13  Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14  But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15  Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16  The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17  O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18  to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.


Proverbs 24

Proverbs 24:1

Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
2  for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.

3  By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
4  by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
5  A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
6  for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
7  Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.

8  Whoever plans to do evil
will be called a schemer.
9  The devising of folly is sin,
and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.

10  If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength is small.
11  Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12  If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?

13  My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14  Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.

15  Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous;
do no violence to his home;
16  for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

17  Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
18  lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.

19  Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
20  for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

21  My son, fear the LORD and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22  for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

More Sayings of the Wise

23 These also are sayings of the wise.

Partiality in judging is not good.
24  Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
25  but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
and a good blessing will come upon them.
26  Whoever gives an honest answer
kisses the lips.

27  Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house.

28  Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,
and do not deceive with your lips.
29  Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

30  I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31  and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32  Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33  A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34  and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.


1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 1:3 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

ESV Study Bible



What I'm Reading

Best Question to Ask When Starting a Conversation About God

By J. Warner Wallace 4/4/2017

     Ever found yourself looking for a way to initiate a conversation about God, but not sure exactly how to start? I’ve been in similar situations with people I don’t know (i.e. on airplanes, while waiting for a seat in a restaurant, or while watching a soccer game), and I’ve tried a number of approaches. I continue to return to one simple, effective question, however, to start the most important of all conversations. I’ve come to believe this is the most essential evangelistic question we can ask: “What do you think happens when we die?”

     This question can take a variety of forms (like, “Do you believe in life after death?” or, “What do you think about the afterlife?”), and it invariably leads to deeper conversations about the meaning of life, the existence of God and plight of humans. James Boccardo has done an excellent service to the Kingdom by writing about this approach extensively in a book called Unsilenced. I met James several years ago while speaking at a conference in North Carolina and I highly recommend his book. He provides a strategy for using this question and considers a number of possible objections you might hear from people with whom you are sharing. In my own experience with this simple approach, I’ve learned the value of, “What do you think happens after we die?”

     It’s Diagnostic | This one question will immediately help you understand the worldview of the person with whom you are talking. It’s helpful to know where people are coming from, and every worldview has a distinctive answer to this question. When you ask it, you’ll almost immediately diagnose the worldview you are about to engage, without having to ask any overt questions about God’s existence.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Mike Pence, "Truth's Table" and Fencing the Law

By Richard D. Phillips

     The last week provided more disturbing information on the collapse of civilization and reason in secular America. Vice President Mike Pence revealed that he follows the "Billy Graham Rule," refraining from private meals with women other than his wife in order to protect his marriage from adultery. The secular media responded with hysteria, describing Pence's policy as "rape culture" (National Post), "sexist" (LA Times), "perpetuating patriarchy" (TIME), and "prophylactic gender separatism" (New Yorker).

     Apparently, the leftist media has not noticed how sexual sin has destroyed the American family, wreaking untold ruin to marriages and causing heartbreak to children whose homes are broken. The same media that savaged President Trump (rightly) for his sexual offenses cannot stomach Mike Pence taking prudent steps to avoid the same. Not only is Vice President Pence seeking to ensure that he remains faithful to his wife but also for her to be free from anxiety over the kinds of marital threats that are rife in the workplace. Years ago, I also began practicing the "Billy Graham Rule," as I think all pastors are wise to do. (It's actually not that hard and it doesn't exclude women, since meals can easily be arranged to include more than two.) While the media savages Pence for having so little sexual self-control that he will not eat privately with a woman, the reality is exactly the opposite. Self-control is best manifested not in the face of temptation but in the avoidance of it. Leftist American culture simply does not understand fallen human nature: it is not perverse to think that close working relationships between the sexes are likely to lead to marital infidelity, but rather wisdom.

     While the mocking of godly wisdom among pagan media elites is troubling, it is not surprising. But it is noteworthy to find similar reasoning coming from fellow Reformed Christians. At the same time that the liberal media was going apoplectic over Pence's Christian prudence, a group of Reformed women on the Truth's Table podcast took aim at "Gender Apartheid" in complementarian Christian circles. Interaction over this podcast has been fairly heated and I have been advised by friends to avoid raising concerns, lest I be charged with racism. However, I believe it is a sign of respect to interact with the views that are publicly stated and I also believe the issues at hand are of significance. I agree with the women of Truth's Table that men should be listening to the concerns of women. Yet affirming and respecting women also includes being willing to challenge and interact with their statements. I hope that I will be able to do so both courteously and fairly.

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7 Unbiased Facts about Jesus’ Death

By Timothy W. Massaro 4/5/2017

     Before asking whether Christianity is true, whether the resurrection happened—or even could— it is helpful to clear away the hype and rhetoric and look at the unbiased facts concerning the death of Jesus. Today, even liberal scholars agree about some very basic data. Moving on in the debate requires coming to an agreement concerning these seven things:

     1. Jesus was a real person. | Before discussing the death of Jesus, we should recognize that most scholars agree Jesus was a real person who lived and died in first century Palestine. This fact is even held by hostile sources outside the Christian sources.

     2. Jesus was condemned to die by the Romans. | According to multiple sources, Jesus was condemned to die for specific reasons. He attempted to lead Israel away from God through miraculous deeds. His enemies attributed his works to the devil as acts of sorcery. He was then condemned to die for blasphemy for claiming to be God. Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate by the Jewish religious leaders in Palestine. (Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth [New York: Bloch, 1989], 18–46; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin Tractate, 43a; Shabbat 11.15; b. Shabbat 104b; Toledot Yeshu).

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The Story of Reality: An Interview with Gregory Koukl

By Jonathan Petersen 3/1/2017

     Is biblical Christianity more than merely another private religious view? Is it more than a personal relationship with God or a source of moral teaching? Consider Christianity to be reality itself.

     Bible Gateway interviewed Gregory Koukl (@gregkoukl) about his book, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything in Between (Zondervan, 2017).

     Why is your book titled The Story of Reality? | Gregory Koukl: First, I wanted to offer a kind of primer on Christianity’s basics—the essential elements—but I didn’t want to write a theological textbook. Rather, I wanted to show how the important pieces fit together in a fascinating drama—a story, of sorts. I also wanted the reader to enjoy the journey, so I adopted a storytelling “voice” for the narrative. I wanted anyone who picked up the book to feel I was talking directly with them; that I was personally walking them through the account of how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.

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21. Is faith in God an excuse to avoid thinking deeply?

By

     A skeptic asks, “If God created everything, then who created God?”

     And Christians answer, “God, by definition, is ‘an Uncreated Creator.’ By His nature, He is infinite. So the answer to the question is within the question, in the very definition of the Being you’re asking about.”

     An atheist retorts, “But if the universe requires someone to create it, why does God not? Sounds like special pleading.”

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RE: Deut 7:1-2 The Holiness of God

By R.C. Sproul

     Why did God issue such a command? How could He have ordered the slaughter of women and children? Again we find modern attempts to soften the event. A curriculum for high school students prepared by a major church denomination in the United States explained that in light of the New Testament revelation of God’s love we know that God did not ever issue such a belligerent command. The Old Testament is merely the record of a primitive warlike group of Hebrews who tried to justify ruthless policies by attributing them to a divine sanction.

     The writers of the curriculum did not believe that God ever issued such a command. It was to be a case of intrusion of mythology into the biblical record. Such interpretations overlook some vital aspects of the matter. First, there is an historical precedent that is far more severe than the conquest of Canaan—the Flood. In the Flood God destroyed the entire population of the world except for Noah and his family. The Flood was a “conquest of Canaan” on a grand scale. More important is the failure to understand the nature of sin. The assumption of the commentators is that God wiped out innocent people in Canaan. In fact there were no innocent women or children in Canaan. There were multitudes of women living there and multitudes of children. But there was none who was innocent. The conquest of Canaan was an explicit expression of God’s righteous judgment on a wicked nation. He made that point clear to Israel. He also made it clear to Israel that she was also not innocent. It was not as if God destroyed a wicked people for the sake of a righteous people. To the Canaanites God poured out justice. To the Jews God poured out mercy. He was quick to remind the Jews of that:

     (Dt 9:4–6) 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

     6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.


     Three times in this passage God reminds Israel that it is not because of their righteousness that He will defeat the Canaanites. He wanted to make that point clear. Israel might have been tempted to jump to the conclusion that God was “on their side” because they were better than pagan nations. God’s announcement made that inference impossible.

     The holiness of God is at the heart of the issue of the conquest of Canaan. It was because of His holiness that the act was ordained. On the one hand He moved to punish the insult to His holiness that was daily perpetrated by the Canaanites. On the other hand He was preparing a land and a nation for a holy purpose. God commanded that no mercy be shown toward the inhabitants of the land. He explained why in Deuteronomy 7:3-6 above in today's reading.

     God did not choose Israel because Israel was already holy. He chose them to make them holy. Israel was called to be holy in two senses of the word. She was called to be different; to be set apart as a vehicle of God’s plan of redemption. She was also called to be holy in the sense of being purified. Pagan practices were to be absent from her midst. She was to be sanctified by drawing near to God. Salvation for the nations was to come out of Israel. The Promised Land was to be the breeding ground for the coming Messiah. There was no room for pagan shrines and pagan rites. God ordained a scorched-earth policy to purge the land for future salvation.

     We have labored the problems of the acts of divine justice found in the Old Testament. We have tried to show that God’s justice was neither whimsical nor unwarranted. We must add that there is no real conflict between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. It was the Old Testament God whom Christ called “Father.” It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to redeem it. It was this God whose meat and drink it was for Jesus to do His will. It was zeal for the God who slew Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah that consumed Christ. It was the God who destroyed the world by a flood who pours the waters of His grace out to us.

     The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.

     The cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history. God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken upon Himself the sins of the world. Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us. This “for us” aspect of the cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy. It is too astonishing to fathom.

     We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual. As Küng observed, His usual course of action is one of grace. Grace no longer amazes us. We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.

     Perhaps the best illustration of this may be found in the teaching of Jesus:

     (Lk 13:1–5) There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”.

     This is one of the most difficult of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. The question is raised, “What about the people Pilate slaughtered, or the innocent people killed by the falling of the tower? Where was God in these events?” The question under discussion was: “How could God allow these things to happen?” The question is actually a thinly veiled accusation. The issue was, as always, how can God allow innocent people to suffer?

     We can hear the implied protest in the question. The eighteen innocent people were walking down the street minding their own business. They were not engaged in playing “sidewalk superintendent.” They were not heckling the construction workers. They were not running away after robbing a bank. They just were “there,” at the wrong time and in the wrong place. They suffered the consequences of a fatal accident.

     We might have expected Jesus to explain it like this: “I am very sorry to hear about this tragedy. These things happen and there is not much we can do about it. It was fate. An accident. As good Christians you have to learn to accept the bad with the good. Keep a stiff upper lip. Be good Stoics! I know I taught you that the One who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. But that was a poetic statement, a bit of hyperbole. Do you realize what a difficult task it is for My Father to run the universe? It gets tiring. Every now and then He must take a nap. On the afternoon in question He was very weary and grabbed forty winks. While He was nodding the tower fell. I am sorry about that and I will report your grievance to Him. I will ask Him to be a bit more careful in the future.”

     Jesus might have said: “I know I told you that My Father notices the landing of every sparrow and that He numbers the hairs on your head. Do you realize how many sparrows there are flying around? And the hairs on the heads! The afternoon the tower fell my Father was busy counting the hairs on the head of a particularly bushy-haired fellow. He was concentrating so hard on the fellow’s head that He overlooked the falling tower. I will suggest that He get His priorities in order and not spend so much time with sparrows and hair.”

     That is not what Jesus said. What He said was, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on my head?’ ” Jesus rebuked the people for putting their amazement in the wrong place. In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I just can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me?”

     We are not really surprised that God has redeemed us. Somewhere deep inside, in the secret chambers of our hearts, we harbor the notion that God owes us His mercy. Heaven would not be quite the same if we were excluded from it. We know that we are sinners, but we are surely not as bad as we could be. There are enough redeeming features to our personalities that if God is really just He will include us in salvation. What amazes us is justice, not grace.

     Our tendency to take grace for granted was driven home to me while teaching college students. I had the assignment of teaching a freshman Old Testament course to 250 students at a Christian college. On the first day of class I went over the course assignments carefully. My experience taught me that the assignment of term papers required a special degree of explanation. This course required three short papers. I explained to the students that the first paper was due on my desk by noon the last day of September. No extensions were to be given except for students who were physically confined to the infirmary or who had deaths in the immediate family. If the paper was not turned in on time, the student would receive an F for the assignment. The students acknowledged that they understood the requirements.

     On the last day of September, 225 students dutifully handed in their term papers. Twenty-five students stood quaking in terror, full of remorse. They cried out, “Oh, Professor Sproul. We are so sorry. We didn’t budget our time properly. We didn’t make the proper adjustment from high school to college. Please don’t give us an F. Please, oh, please give us an extension.”

     I bowed to their pleas for mercy. “All right,” I said. “I’ll give you a break this time. But, remember, the next assignment is due the last day of October.”

     The students were profuse in their gratitude and filled the air with solemn promises of being on time for the next assignment. Then came the last day of October. Two hundred students came with their papers. Fifty students came empty-handed. They were nervous, but not in panic. When I asked for their papers, again they were contrite. “Oh, Professor. It was Homecoming Week. Besides it is midterm and all of our assignments are due in other classes. Please give us one more chance. We promise it will never happen again.”

     Once more I relented. I said, “OK, but this is the last time. If you are late for the next paper, it will be an F. No excuses, no whining. F. Is that clear?” “Oh, yes, Professor. You are terrific.” Spontaneously the class began to sing, “We love you Prof Sproul. Oh, yes we do.” I was Mr. Popularity.

     Can you guess what happened on the last day of November? Right. One hundred and fifty students came with their term papers. The other hundred strolled into the lecture hall utterly unconcerned. “Where are your term papers?” I asked. One student replied, “Oh, don’t worry, Prof, we’re working on them. We’ll have them for you in a couple of days, no sweat.”

     I picked up my lethal black grade book and began taking down names. “Johnson! Do you have your paper?” “No sir,” came the reply. “F,” I said as I wrote the grade in the book. “Muldaney! Do you have your paper?” Again, “No, sir,” was the reply. I marked another F in the book. The students reacted with unmitigated fury. They howled in protest, screaming, “That’s not fair!”

     I looked at one of the howling students, “Lavery! You think it’s not fair?”

     “No,” he growled in response.

     “I see. It’s justice you want? I seem to recall that you were late with your paper the last time. If you insist upon justice you will certainly get it. I’ll not only give you an F for this assignment, but I’ll change your last grade to the F you so richly deserved.”

     The student was stunned. He had no more arguments to make. He apologized for being so hasty and was suddenly happy to settle for one F instead of two.

     The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted. They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were outraged. This, after only two doses of mercy in the space of two months.

     The normal activity of God involves far more mercy than I showed those students with their term papers. Old Testament history covers hundreds of years. In that time God was repeatedly merciful. When His divine judgment fell on Nadab or Uzzah, the response was shock and outrage. We have come to expect God to be merciful. From there the next step is easy: We demand it. When it is not forthcoming, our first response is anger against God, coupled with the protest: “It isn’t fair.” We soon forget that with our first sin we have forfeited all rights to the gift of life. That I am drawing breath this morning is an act of divine mercy. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything. If He allows a tower to fall on my head this afternoon I cannot claim injustice.

     One of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. We live in a world where injustices happen. They happen among people. Every one of us at some time has been a victim of injustice at the hands of another person. Everyone of us at some time has committed an injustice against another person. People treat each other unfairly. One thing is certain: No matter how much injustice I have suffered from the hands of men, I have never suffered the slightest injustice from the hand of God.

     Suppose a person falsely accuses me of stealing money. Charges are brought against me and I am arrested and sent to prison. Touching my relationship to men, I have been a victim of gross injustice. I have every right to cry out to God and plead for vindication in this world. I can complain about being falsely persecuted. God is angry with men for unjustly putting me in prison. God promises to vindicate me from this injustice some day. Injustice is real and it happens every day in this world.

     The injustices we suffer are all of a horizontal sort. They happen between actors in this world. Yet standing over and above this world is the Great Judge of all. My relationship to Him is vertical. In terms of that vertical relationship I never suffer an injustice. Though men may mistreat me, God never does. That God allows a human being to treat me unjustly is just of God. While I may complain to God about the human, horizontal injustice I have suffered, I cannot rise up and accuse God of committing a vertical injustice by allowing the human injustice to befall me. God would be perfectly just to allow me to be thrown in prison for life for a crime I didn’t commit. I may be innocent before men, but I am guilty before God.

     We often blame God for the injustices done to us and harbor in our souls the bitter feeling that God has not been fair toward us. Even if we recognize that He is gracious we think that He has not been gracious enough. We deserve more grace.

     Please read that last sentence again: We deserve more grace. What is wrong with that sentence? Grammatically it is fine. It has a subject, a verb, and a direct object. There is no need for the editor’s red pencil in that regard. But there is something seriously wrong with the content, with the meaning of the sentence.

     It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. As soon as we talk about deserving something, we are no longer talking about grace; we are talking about justice. Only justice can be deserved. God is never obligated to be merciful. Mercy and grace must be voluntary or they are no longer mercy and grace. God never “owes” grace. He reminds us more than once. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This is the divine prerogative. God reserves for Himself the supreme right of executive clemency.

     Suppose ten people sin and sin equally. Suppose God punishes five of them and is merciful to the other five. Is this injustice? No! In this situation five people get justice and five get mercy. No one gets injustice. What we tend to assume is this: If God is merciful to five He must be equally merciful to the other five. Why? He is never obligated to be merciful. If He is merciful to nine of the ten, the tenth cannot complain that he is a victim of injustice. God never owes mercy. God is not obliged to treat all men equally. Maybe I’d better say that again. God is never obliged to treat all men equally. If He were ever unjust to us, we would have reason to complain. But simply because He grants mercy to my neighbor gives me no claim on His mercy. Again we must remember that mercy is always voluntary. “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.”

     There are only two things I ever receive from God—justice or mercy. I never receive injustice from His hand. We may request that God help us get justice at the hands of men, but we would be utterly foolish to ever ask Him for justice from Himself. I warn my students: “Don’t ever ask God for justice—you might get it.”

     It is the confusion between justice and mercy that makes us shrink in horror when we read the stories of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah. When God’s justice falls, we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy. We must not take His grace for granted. We must never lose our capacity to be amazed by grace. We sing the song, “Amazing Justice.” Our lyrics tend to go like this:

Amazing Justice, cruel and sharp
That wounds a saint like me:
I’m so darn good it makes no sense—
The tower fell on me!

     I remember preaching a “practice sermon” in preaching class in seminary. In my sermon I was extolling the marvels of God’s grace. Like the hymn says, I spoke of “God’s grace, infinite grace.…”

     At the end of my sermon the professor had a question for me. “Mr. Sproul,” he said, “where did you ever get the idea that God’s grace is infinite? Is there absolutely no limit to His grace?” As soon as he asked that question I knew I was in trouble. I could quote him chapter and verse of the hymn that taught me that, but somehow I couldn’t come up with a single word from Holy Scripture that taught God’s grace is infinite.

     The reason I couldn’t find any Scripture to support it is because there is none. God’s grace is not infinite. God is infinite and God is gracious. We experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace is not infinite. God sets limits to His patience and forbearance. He warns us over and over again that someday the ax will fall and His judgment will be poured out.

     Since it is our tendency to take grace for granted, my guess is that God found it necessary from time to time to remind Israel that grace must never be assumed. On rare but dramatic occasions He showed the dreadful power of His justice. He killed Nadab and Abihu. He killed Uzzah. He commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites. It is like He was saying, “Be careful. While you enjoy the benefits of my grace, don’t forget my justice. Don’t forget the gravity of sin. Remember that I am holy.”

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Leviticus 9; Psalm 10; Proverbs 24; 1 Thess. 3

By Don Carson 4/6/2018

     Psalm 10 continues the theme of the justice and judgment of God, now slanted away from the more immediate and personal issue of justice for David when he feels betrayed by his enemies and toward a more general treatment. Where is God when evil people triumph? “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1).

     In Psalm 10:2-11, the wicked man is described in a composite picture. He arrogantly preys on weaker people (10:2). Far from showing any self-restraint, he boasts of his appetites “and reviles the Lord” (10:3). The sad fact of the matter is that “in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (10:4). Yet it is not difficult to find wicked people who are extraordinarily prosperous, even while they defy all the laws of God (10:5). The wicked man’s explosive arrogance seems to put him above lesser mortals, and he is touted in the papers as the one who gleefully pronounces to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble” (10:6). Nevertheless he curses his opponents, and spreads lies and malice with his tongue (10:8). In the worst cases he stoops to murder, whether directly as in gang warfare, mob violence, and terrorist attack, or indirectly through ruthless schemes that crush the helpless (10:9-10). And what does he think of God? “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees” (10:11).

     The psalmist now addresses God directly (10:12-15): “Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless” (10:11). He reminds himself that God does see all the trouble and grief that befall this broken race; he does consider it; in his own time, he does take it in hand (10:14). That is why the victim and the orphan wisely commit themselves “to you” (10:14). So much evil is done in secret and will not be exposed by the ordinary judicial process. The psalmist therefore calls to God for justice: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out” (10:15).

     The closing verses (10:16-18) find the psalmist reminding himself that God’s scale of timing is less urgent than ours: “The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land” (10:16). The scale that anticipates the dissolution of nations is not meant to dispel confidence that God also concerns himself with the minuscule scale of individual calamity. Rather, it is another way of saying that “the wheels of God’s justice grind exceeding slow, but they grind exceeding fine.”

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 37

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.

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

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

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

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

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     18. When the saints repeatedly confirm and console themselves with the remembrance of their innocence and integrity, and sometimes even abstain not from proclaiming them, it is done in two ways: either because by comparing their good cause with the bad cause of the ungodly, they thence feel secure of victory, not so much from commendation of their own righteousness, as from the just and merited condemnation of their adversaries; or because, reviewing themselves before God, even without any comparison with others the purity of their conscience gives them some comfort and security. The former reason will afterwards be considered (chap. 17, sec. 14, and chap. 20, sec. 10); let us now briefly show, in regard to the latter, how it accords with what we have above said, that we can have no confidence in works before the bar of God, that we cannot glory in any opinion of their worth. The accordance lies here, that when the point considered is the constitution and foundation of salvation, believers, without paying any respect to works, direct their eyes to the goodness of God alone. Nor do they turn to it only in the first instance, as to the commencement of blessedness, but rest in it as the completion. Conscience being thus founded, built up, and established is farther established by the consideration of works, inasmuch as they are proofs of God dwelling and reigning in us. Since, then, this confidence in works has no place unless you have previously fixed your whole confidence on the mercy of God, it should not seem contrary to that on which it depends. Wherefore, when we exclude confidence in works, we merely mean, that the Christian mind must not turn back to the merit of works as an aid to salvation, but must dwell entirely on the free promise of justification. But we forbid no believer to confirm and support this faith by the signs of the divine favor towards him. For if when we call to mind the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they are like rays of the divine countenance, by which we are enabled to behold the highest light of his goodness; much more is this the case with the gift of good works, which shows that we have received the Spirit of adoption.

19. When believers therefore feel their faith strengthened by a consciousness of integrity, and entertain sentiments of exultation, it is just because the fruits of their calling convince them that the Lord has admitted them to a place among his children. Accordingly, when Solomon says, "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence," (Prov. 14:26), and when the saints sometimes beseech the Lord to hear them, because they walked before his face in simplicity and integrity (Gen. 24:10; 2 Kings 20:3), these expressions apply not to laying the foundation of a firm conscience, but are of force only when taken a posteriori. [428] For there is no where such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh. But as the fruits of regeneration furnish them with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter of so much moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for his assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of the promise. Should they begin to estimate it by their good works, nothing will be weaker or more uncertain; works, when estimated by themselves, no less proving the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than his good-will by their incipient purity. In short, while proclaiming the mercies of the Lord, they never lose sight of his free favor, with all its "breadth and length, and depth and height," testified by Paul (Eph. 3:18); as if he had said, Whithersoever the believer turns, however loftily he climbs, however far and wide his thoughts extend, he must not go farther than the love of Christ, but must be wholly occupied in meditating upon it, as including in itself all dimensions. Accordingly, he declares that it "passeth knowledge," that "to know the love of Christ" is to "be filled with all the fulness of God," (Eph. 3:19). In another passage, where he glories that believers are victorious in every contest, he adds the reason, "through him that loved us," (Rom. 8:37).

20. We now see that believers have no such confidence in works as to attribute any merit to them (since they regard them only as divine gifts, in which they recognize his goodness, and signs of calling, in which they discern their election); nor such confidence as to derogate in any respect from the free righteousness of Christ; since on this it depends, and without this cannot subsist. The same thing is briefly but elegantly expressed by Augustine when he says, "I do not say to the Lord, Despise not the works of my hands; I have sought the Lord with my hands, and have not been deceived. But I commend not the works of my hands, for I fear that when thou examinest them thou wilt find more faults than merits. This only I say, this asks this desire, Despise not the works of thy hands. See in me thy work, not mine. If thou sees mine, thou condemnest; if thou sees thine own, thou crownest. Whatever good works I have are of thee," (August. in Ps. 137). He gives two reasons for not venturing to boast of his works before God: first, that if he has any good works, he does not see in them any thing of his own; and, secondly, that these works are overwhelmed by a multitude of sins. Whence it is, that the conscience derives from them more fear and alarm than security. Therefore, the only way in which he desires God to look at any work which he may have done aright is, that he may therein see the grace of his calling, and perfect the work which he has begun.

21. Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said--viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness. In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes. But how so? In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows. For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows. But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God; "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life," (Rom. 6:23). Why, as he contrasts life with death, does he not also contrast righteousness with sin? Why, when setting down sin as the cause of death, does he not also set down righteousness as the cause of life? The antithesis which would otherwise be complete is somewhat marred by this variation; but the Apostle employed the comparison to express the fact, that death is due to the deserts of men, but that life was treasured up solely in the mercy of God. In short, by these expressions, the order rather than the cause is noted. [429] The Lord adding grace to grace, takes occasion from a former to add a subsequent, so that he may omit no means of enriching his servants. Still, in following out his liberality, he would have us always look to free election as its source and beginning. For although he loves the gifts which he daily bestows upon us, inasmuch as they proceed from that fountain, still our duty is to hold fast by that gratuitous acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to connect the gifts of the Spirit, which he afterwards bestows, with their primary cause, as in no degree to detract from it.

__________________________________________________________________

[422] Jer. 17:9; Gen. 7:21; Ps. 94:11; 36:2; 14:2, 3; Gen. 6:3; Gal. 5:19

[423] Latin, "in incredulis." French, "en la vie des infideles et idolatres;"--in the life of infidels and idolaters.

[424] Latin, "omnes Fabricios, Scipiones, Catones." French, "tous ceux qui ont esté prisez entre les Pagans;"--all those who have been prized among the Heathen.

[425] See August. Lib. de Poenit., and Gregory, whose words are quoted, Sent. Lib. 3 Quæst. 7.

[426] The following sentence is added in the French:--"Il est bien vray que le poure monde a esté seduit jusques la, de penser que l'homme se preparast de soy-mesme pour estre justifié de Dieu: et que ce blaspheme a regné communement tant en predications qu'aux escoles; comme encore aujourdhui il est soustenue de ceux qui veulent maintenir toutes les abominations de la Papauté."--It is very true that the poor world has been seduced hitherto, to think that man could of himself perpare to be justified by God, and that this blasphemy has commonly reigned both in sermons and schools, as it is still in the present day asserted by those who would maintain all the abominations of the Papacy.

[427] French, "Tout ce qu'ils auront determiné ne profitera gueres, ains s'evanouisra comme fumee;"--All their decisions will scarcely avail them, but will vanish like the smoke.

[428] Latin, "a posteriori;" French, "comme enseigne de la vocation de Dieu;"--as a sign of the calling of God.

[429] French, "Brief, en toutes ces facons de parler, ou il est fait mention de bonnes oeuvres, il n'est pas question de la cause pourquoy Dieu fait bien aux siens, mais seulement de l'ordre qu'il y tient;"--In short, in all those forms of expression in which mention is made of good works, there is no question as to the cause why God does good to his people, but only to the order which he observes in it.

__________________________________________________________________

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



  • Steven Lawson
  • John Piper
  • R.C. Sproul

#1 Worshiping the Triune God | Ligonier

 

#2 Don't Waste Your Life | Ligonier

 

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2007    Staging a Reformation

     Having served R.C. Sproul during the past several years, I have enjoyed the great privilege of answering to many of his humorous nicknames by which he addresses me. Over the past few years he has adopted one in particular that has seemed to catch on with many in our congregation - “Parson Parsons.” While I certainly appreciate the appropriate nature of the nickname as it pertains to my calling as a pastor, or “parson,” it has little to do with the ancestral derivation of my name, a fact that Dr. Sproul is well aware of; still, I have grown somewhat fond of it over the years. Nevertheless, the surname “Parsons” simply conveys that I am a son of Parr and not necessarily from a line of church parsons. Parr is an English name, and whether it’s for better or worse, my ancestry is entirely British. I am a son of Featherstone, Babcock, Oliver, and Parr - probably of the same ancestral lineage as Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal (1483–1517) who was the father of Henry VIII’s sixth, and last, wife, Catherine Parr (1512–1548).

     Catherine was born just five years before her father’s death, which, incidentally, occurred only days after Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses, igniting the flame that would eventually reach England. And considering Catherine’s impressive ability to outmaneuver Henry’s beloved employment of ecclesiastical annulment and Dr. Joseph Guillotine’s infamous mistress, Catherine should rightly be heralded as the last of Henry’s queen consorts on the soap-opera stage of the English Reformation. For it was a soap opera indeed, enshrouded by a cloud of reformers, romanists, and rogues. And although Henry VIII was certainly no church parson, he appointed himself “the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.”

     Henry’s self-performed, deformed, and uninformed reformation was a reformation from the top down. Yet, there is some consolation. By His sovereign hand, the only supreme Lord God Almighty brought His sacred Word to His people, and He set the entire British empire aflame with a small spark in Wittenberg, which, in turn, led to a human bonfire in Oxford in 1555 when the condemned Latimer turned his flame-singed face toward Ridley and said, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

     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

     Today, April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany. Within the next two years, America enlisted four million soldiers and spent 35 billion dollars, resulting in an Allied victory. In a National Day of Prayer Proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson stated: “In view of the entrance of our nation into the vast and awful war which now afflicts the greater part of the world… [I] set apart… a day upon which our people should… offer concerted prayer to Almighty God for His divine aid in the success of our arms.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.
--- Robert Moffat  What's Wrong With The World

The bird on the branch, the lily in the meadow, the stag in the forest, the fish in the sea, and countless joyful people sing: God is love! But under all these sopranos, as it were a sustained bass part, sounds the de profundis of the sacrificed: God is love.
--- Søren Kierkegaard  The Word of God and the Word of Man (Harper Torchbooks: The Cloister Library)

Grace, like water, always flows downward, to the lowest place. I know no one who embodies this principle better than John Newton . . .
--- Philip Yancey  Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim

We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.
--- Sam Keen  Mondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before Us

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 4/6
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Seventh of fifth month. -- We have had rough weather mostly since I came on board, and the passengers, James Reynolds, John Till Adams, Sarah Logan and her hired maid, and John Bispham, all sea-sick at times; from which sickness, through the tender mercies of my Heavenly Father, I have been preserved, my afflictions now being of another kind. There appeared an openness in the minds of the master of the ship and in the cabin passengers towards me. We are often together on the deck, and sometimes in the cabin. My mind, through the merciful help of the Lord, hath been preserved in a good degree watchful and quiet, for which I have great cause to be thankful.

     As my lodging in the steerage, now near a week, hath afforded me sundry opportunities of seeing, hearing, and feeling with respect to the life and spirit of many poor sailors, an exercise of soul hath attended me in regard to placing our children and youth where they may be likely to be exampled and instructed in the pure fear of the Lord.

     Being much among the seamen I have, from a motion of love, taken sundry opportunities with one of them at a time, and have in free conversation labored to turn their minds toward the fear of the Lord. This day we had a meeting in the cabin, where my heart was contrite under a feeling of Divine love.

     I believe a communication with different parts of the world by sea is at times consistent with the will of our Heavenly Father, and to educate some youth in the practice of sailing, I believe may be right; but how lamentable is the present corruption of the world! How impure are the channels through which trade is conducted! How great is the danger to which poor lads are exposed when placed on shipboard to learn the art of sailing! Five lads training up for the seas were on board this ship. Two of them were brought up in our Society, and the other, by name James Naylor, is a member, to whose father James Naylor, mentioned in Sewel's history, appears to have been uncle. I often feel a tenderness of heart towards these poor lads, and at times look at them as though they were my children according to the flesh.

     O that all may take heed and beware of covetousness! O that all may learn of Christ, who was meek and lowly of heart. Then in faithfully following him he will teach us to be content with food and raiment without respect to the customs or honors of this world. Men thus redeemed will feel a tender concern for their fellow-creatures, and a desire that those in the lowest stations may be assisted and encouraged, and where owners of ships attain to the perfect law of liberty and are doers of the Word, these will be blessed in their deeds.

     A ship at sea commonly sails all night, and the seamen take their watches four hours at a time. Rising to work in the night, it is not commonly pleasant in any case, but in dark rainy nights it is very disagreeable, even though each man were furnished with all conveniences. If, after having been on deck several hours in the night, they come down into the steerage soaking wet, and are so closely stowed that proper convenience for change of garments is not easily come at, but for want of proper room their wet garments are thrown in heaps, and sometimes, through much crowding, are trodden under foot in going to their lodgings and getting out of them, and it is difficult at times for each to find his own. Here are trials for the poor sailors.

     Now, as I have been with them in my lodge, my heart hath often yearned for them, and tender desires have been raised in me that all owners and masters of vessels may dwell in the love of God and therein act uprightly, and by seeking less for gain and looking carefully to their ways they may earnestly labor to remove all cause of provocation from the poor seamen, so that they may neither fret nor use excess of strong drink; for, indeed, the poor creatures, in the wet and cold, seem to apply at times to strong drink to supply the want of other convenience. Great reformation is wanting in the world, and the necessity of it among those who do business on great waters hath at this time been abundantly opened before me.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-Eighth Chapter / Strength Against Slander

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, do not take it to heart if some people think badly of you and say unpleasant things about you. You ought to think worse things of yourself and to believe that no one is weaker than yourself. Moreover, if you walk in the spirit you will pay little heed to fleeting words. It is no small prudence to remain silent in evil times, to turn inwardly to Me, and not to be disturbed by human opinions. Do not let your peace depend on the words of men. Their thinking well or badly of you does not make you different from what you are. Where are true peace and glory? Are they not in Me? He who neither cares to please men nor fears to displease them will enjoy great peace, for all unrest and distraction of the senses arise out of disorderly love and vain fear.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     The fourth thought--What is now the will of God as the Holy Spirit reveals it? It is contained in one phrase: Separation unto the Holy Spirit. That is the keynote of the message from Heaven.

     "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. The work is mine, and I care for it, and I have chosen these men and called them, and I want you who represent the Church of Christ upon earth to set them apart unto me."

     Look at this heavenly message in its twofold aspect. The men were to be set apart to the Holy Spirit, and the Church was to do this separating work. The Holy Spirit could trust these men to do it in a right spirit. There they were abiding in fellowship with the heavenly, and the Holy Spirit could say to them, "Do the work of separating these men." And these were the men the Holy Spirit had prepared, and He could say of them, "Let them be separated unto me."

     Here we come to the very root, to the very life of the need of Christian workers. The question is: What is needed that the power of God should rest upon us more mightily, that the blessing of God should be poured out more abundantly among those poor, wretched people and perishing sinners among whom we labor? And the answer from Heaven is:

     "I want men separated unto the Holy Spirit."


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:12-13
     by D.H. Stern

12     There can be a way which seems right to a person,
but at its end are the ways of death.

13     Even in laughter the heart can be sad,
and joy may end in sorrow.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          10

     ‘I did my duty to the very end. I forced him to take exercise—that was really my chief reason for keeping a great Dane. I kept on giving parties. I took him for the most wonderful holidays. I saw that he didn’t drink too much. Even, when things became desperate, I encouraged him to take up his writing again. It couldn’t do any harm by then. How could I help it if he did have a nervous breakdown in the end? My conscience is clear. I’ve done my duty by him, if ever a woman has. So you see why it would be impossible to …

     ‘And yet … I don’t know. I believe I have changed my mind. I’ll make them a fair offer, Hilda. I will not meet him, if it means just meeting him and no more. But if I’m given a free hand I’ll take charge of him again. I will take up my burden once more. But I must have a free hand. With all the time one would have here, I believe I could still make something of him. Somewhere quiet to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a good plan? He’s not fit to be on his own. Put me in charge of him. He wants firm handling. I know him better than you do. What’s that? No, give him to me, do you hear? Don’t consult him: just give him to me. I’m his wife, aren’t I? I was only beginning. There’s lots, lots, lots of things I still want to do with him. No, listen, Hilda. Please, please! I’m so miserable. I must have someone to—to do things to. It’s simply frightful down there. No one minds about me at all. I can’t alter them. It’s dreadful to see them all sitting about and not be able to do anything with them. Give him back to me. Why should he have everything his own way? It’s not good for him. It isn’t right, it’s not fair. I want Robert. What right have you to keep him from me? I hate you. How can I pay him out if you won’t let me have him?’

     ‘And yet … I don’t know. I believe I have changed my mind. I’ll make them a fair offer, Hilda. I will not meet him, if it means just meeting him and no more. But if I’m given a free hand I’ll take charge of him again. I will take up my burden once more. But I must have a free hand. With all the time one would have here, I believe I could still make something of him. Somewhere quiet to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a good plan? He’s not fit to be on his own. Put me in charge of him. He wants firm handling. I know him better than you do. What’s that? No, give him to me, do you hear? Don’t consult him: just give him to me. I’m his wife, aren’t I? I was only beginning. There’s lots, lots, lots of things I still want to do with him. No, listen, Hilda. Please, please! I’m so miserable. I must have someone to—to do things to. It’s simply frightful down there. No one minds about me at all. I can’t alter them. It’s dreadful to see them all sitting about and not be able to do anything with them. Give him back to me. Why should he have everything his own way? It’s not good for him. It isn’t right, it’s not fair. I want Robert. What right have you to keep him from me? I hate you. How can I pay him out if you won’t let me have him?’

     The Ghost which had towered up like a dying candle-flame snapped suddenly. A sour, dry smell lingered in the air for a moment and then there was no Ghost to be seen.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The collision of God and sin

     Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. ---
1 Peter 2:24.

     The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

     The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross. Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin. The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.

     The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

     The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.

My Utmost for His Highest

Ap Huw's Testament
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Ap Huw's Testament

There are four verses to put down
For the four people in my life,
Father, mother, wife

And the one child. Let me begin
With her of the immaculate brow
My wife; she loves me. I know how.

My mother gave me the breast's milk
Generously, but grew mean after,
Envying me my detached laughter.

My father was a passionate man,
Wrecked after leaving the sea
In her love's shallows. He grieves in me.

What shall I say of my boy,
Tall, fair? He is young yet;
Keep his feet free of the world's net.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Ta’anit 14a–b

     D’RASH

     A parent is videotaping her daughter’s activities. She thinks: “I am so blessed to have such a wonderful child! By capturing her on film, I am recording how intelligent, beautiful, and cute she is. I have a permanent record of my blessings.” Perhaps, but Rabbi Yitzḥak would doubt it, for he has a different definition of blessing. Only that which we cannot see with the eye—or the videocamera—is our blessing. There is no real way to count, enumerate, or reckon our blessings.

     Imagine that this same parent suddenly sees something in her child that overwhelms her, so much so that she puts down the camera while her jaw drops open in awe and she utters: “Wow! That’s unbelievable!” This moment, to Rabbi Yitzḥak, is when she really finds blessing. Rabbi Yitzḥak holds that we cannot catalog and record blessings; we can only experience them as sudden bursts of realization and awe. Thus, we feel blessed not when we are videotaping the child, but when we are suddenly so overwhelmed by what we see in that child.

     Rabbi Yitzḥak’s notion presages the thinking of Abraham Joshua Heschel who spoke of “wonder” and “radical amazement.” Dr. Heschel posited that religious doubt ends where wonder and amazement begin. We are amazed at “the unexpectedness of being,” that we and the world and everything in it exist at all! Despite our ability to rationalize and despite our deep knowledge, there comes a point where intellect ends and experience begins. This is when we truly feel blessed. Most of us learn through our minds. We are intelligent, thinking, savvy human beings, as our Jewish tradition wants us to be. Nonetheless, our blessings are seen not with our minds—or our eyes, our intellects or videocameras—but with our hearts.

     When we think that the blessings we have can be counted and catalogued, we are often missing the mark. Our blessings are not so neatly packaged and enumerated. We have to train ourselves to see the wonder and beauty in the world, to experience life rather than record it. When we think that we know how many blessings we have, we are—in the eyes of Rabbi Yitzḥak—often deceiving ourselves. The greatest sources of blessing are hidden from our eyes, in serendipitous moments of radical amazement.

     We do not overburden the community.

     Text / In the time of Rabbi Yehudah Nesiah there was trouble. He enacted thirteen fasts but was not answered. He thought of enacting more. Rabbi Ammi said to him: “Has it not been taught that we do not overburden the community?” Rabbi Abba son of Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said: “What Rabbi Ammi did, he did for himself.” This is what Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: “This was taught only for rain, but for other disasters, they continue fasting until they are answered from Heaven!” It has been taught in support of this: “When they said three and seven, this was only for rain, but for other disasters, they continue fasting until they are answered.” But this contradicts Rabbi Ammi! Rabbi Ammi could say to you: “We do not enact more than thirteen fasts on the community, because we do not overburden the community, this according to Rabbi.” Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says: “This is not the reason, rather that the time of rain has passed.”

     Context / The best known fast days are Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av (the ninth of Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem). However, there are other fast days commemorating disastrous events in Jewish history. In addition, there seem to have been many other fast days, both personal and communal, in early talmudic times. This trend led the Rabbis to try to limit the number of fasts. Shmuel goes so far as to say: “Whoever fasts is called a sinner” (Ta’anit 11a). While Shmuel’s statement is an exaggeration of sorts, it does reflect the rabbinic tendency to restrict fasting.

     The Tractate Ta’anit, from which this text is taken, teaches about fast days and the prayers associated with them. The Mishnah just prior to this section of Gemara teaches us that if, during a time of drought, individual fasting and petition were not effective, then the community would impose a fast upon itself. A community fast was more severe and restrictive, and thus seen as potentially more effective than a personal one, though a community fast was still only a sunrise to sunset fast (as opposed to Yom Kippur which is sunset to sunset).

     The “three” and “seven” of the Gemara (“When they said three and seven …”) refers to the number of days of fasting. Three and seven, plus the original three, would bring the community to the maximum of thirteen (nonconsecutive) days of fasting. In the case of the last seven days, shops would be closed as well. If no rain fell as a result of this period of self-deprivation, then other measures were instituted, including restricting construction, planting, and weddings. Any additional fasting would not only be ineffective—for thirteen fast days had gone unanswered—but would also be a burden on the community.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Lessons in Relationship: Deut. 1:6–4:40 pt 2
     Teacher's Commentary

     God shares our wildernesses (Deut. 2:1–13). When the people of Israel had rebelled and refused to enter the Promised Land, God turned them toward the wilderness. There they would wander until the entire generation of rebels died.

     But looking back on those wilderness years Moses said, “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These 40 years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (v.
7). Later Moses would add, “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these 40 years” (8:4).

     There is no question that the years in the wilderness were harsh and painful. They were years of discipline, marked by daily deaths of those who had rebelled against God.

     How stunning to realize that God “watched over [their] journey” and that in all those 40 years “the Lord [their] God [had] been with [them].”

     God doesn’t abandon us even when He is angry with us and forced to discipline. Even in the darkest of times there is evidence of His continuing love.

     The evidence in Israel was in the smaller things. Their feet did not swell. Their clothing, which could not have been replaced in the desert’s hot, empty lands, did not wear out. It was in such little things, as well as in the manna God supplied daily and in the presence of the cloudy-fiery pillar over the tabernacle, that God showed His presence and His love.

     Remembering victories (
Deut. 2:14–3:20). In this review of history Moses honestly examined Israel’s failures and time of discipline. But there are more verses given to the recall of victories than to defeats. It was in the victories that the clearest evidence of God’s love and presence are found.

     He is present at all times. But how we enjoy Him when the good days come!

     Moses’ sin (
Deut. 3:21–29). In most of this passage Moses speaks of “you,” setting himself apart from the people that he led.

     But Moses too had failed. The incident is reported in
Numbers 20. The company came to a waterless area, and again murmured and quarreled with Moses. God told Moses to gather the people, and to speak to a great rock there, and “it [would] pour out its water.”

     But Moses instead shouted out, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses struck the rock with his staff, twice.

     The waters came. But God rebuked Moses. “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (
Num. 20:12).

     Many have debated the cause of God’s displeasure. Some suggest that the explanation is found in the fact that the rock was a type of Christ (cf.
1 Cor. 10:4). Moses had struck a rock once before (cf. Ex. 17). This seems to them to represent Christ being stricken on the cross for our sins. To strike the rock twice violated the type, for Jesus’ one sacrifice was sufficient. On the basis of that one sacrifice, healing waters flow whenever we call on Him in faith.

     Others see the cause of God’s anger with Moses in his words, “We bring you water.” Moses here seems to take the credit for the miracle for himself and Aaron, and not give the credit to God.

     Whatever the explanation, God was angered. Moses had been told to speak, and Moses disobeyed. He struck it rather than spoke to it.

     A person who expects to lead others to trust God enough to obey Him must himself trust enough to obey—completely.

     
Deuteronomy 3 tells us how much the punishment hurt Moses. He pleaded with God. “O Sovereign Lord, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand.… Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan” (3:24–25). Moses yearned to see all that God would do for His people.

     But it was not to be.

     Moses was allowed to climb a height across the Jordan River and look out on the land. But God told him, “You are not going to cross this Jordan.”

     Moses finally accepted what must be. And he had one of his greatest fears relieved. God would appoint another leader who would lead the people across the river, and cause them to inherit the land (v.
28).

     How good to know that you and I are not the only ones who can carry out what God intends for His people, or even for our own families. God is able to work with us as long as we trust Him. But even if we are set aside, as Moses was, God’s work will not be hindered or destroyed.

     Continue to obey (
Deut. 4:1–14). As Moses concluded his review of the past, he looked ahead to the future. The men and women who heard Moses speaking that day were those who “held fast to the Lord [their] God.” They were alive; the generation that turned its hold on God loose and surrendered to fear had rebelled, and their bodies all lay in the wilderness.

     Moses was about to teach again the laws and decrees of God. If the new generation would follow the laws and decrees, they would continue to be blessed with success.

     The passage points out two purposes which God had in giving Israel His Law. First, obedience would bring the people blessing. But second, an obedient Israel was intended to be a witness to the world.

     If Israel observed the laws of God carefully, Moses declared, “This will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (
4:6–8)

     As long as Israel did not let God’s Law slip from their hearts, but obeyed it, they would be a beacon to a lost humanity. In Israel God intended to display His beauty to the entire world.

     But Israel would never respond fully to God. There might be flashing moments of greatness—in this second Exodus generation, in David and his kingdom—but history records a great darkness as the people of God again and again turned away from God’s Word.

     Their witness was not only lost, but their misunderstanding of the meaning of God’s call and His Law became so great that Paul was forced to say, as had the earlier prophets, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (
Rom. 2:24; cf. also Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:22).

The Teacher's Commentary

Divine Law based on a divinely revealed relationship
     Pulpit Commentary

     Ver. Deut 5:6.— “I am the Lord thy God,” etc. This little word thy, in this connection, gives us the basis on which the Law was set. Of the event called “the giving of the Law,” we feel the thrill even now. That Law has in it four features, corresponding to one or other of the aspects in which the people to whom it was first given may be regarded. They were (1) members of the great human family, moral, responsible beings, amenable to the government of God. They were (2) a Church in the wilderness, with their own institutions, which embodied the worship appropriate to the religion enjoined upon them. They were (3) a people rescued from bondage, about to have a commonwealth of their own, for which sundry civil and political regulations had to be provided. They were (4) a nation which for years was to be in a wandering state, yet destined in the long run to find a home in Palestine. Adapted to them in this last-named aspect, they had sanitary laws; for them in the third aspect there were civil and political laws; for them in the second aspect there were religious institutions; and for them in the first aspect there was the great moral law. The set of rules having reference to health would be binding only so far as the laws of climate and modes of life necessitated their continued observance. The civil law would be but temporary so far as it received its complexion from the idolatrous surroundings of the people. The ceremonial law would pass away in form, but the underlying principles of it are permanent. The moral law is unchanging as man’s nature, and enduring as his relation to God. It is given in the ten commandments, of which the first enjoins supreme love to the Divine Being: the second, recognition of the spirituality of the Divine nature: the third, reverence for the Divine Name: the fourth, care for Divine worship: the fifth inculcates religion in the home: the sixth, the religion of the temper: the seventh, the religion of the body: the eighth, the religion of the hand: the ninth, the religion of the tongue: the tenth, the religion of the heart. But antecedently to the Law in any of its aspects, there is a question of deep interest and importance, viz. From whom came it? The reasons for obedience to it come very largely out of the answer to be given to that question. Now, the words in ch. 5:6, which precede the Law itself, are not merely a preface to it, they are at once the basis of it and the reason for obedience to it. And these words should be opened up clearly in every case where the Decalogue is about to be expounded. The Law is not set on law, but on grace! For observe—

     I. HERE IS A SPECIAL VIEW OF GOD PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE TO DRAW FORTH THEIR ATTENTION AND WIN THEIR ALLEGIANCE. “Thy God.” The Hebrews were never expected to believe in, obey, or love an absolutely unrelated Being. THERE IS NO SUCH BEING! God is related to all the creatures he has made. Hence our knowledge of him is not unreal, because it is relative; but real, because in knowing God’s relations to us, we, so far, know him as he is. God was Israel’s Redeemer. He had redeemed them that they might be his. He would have the entire life of his redeemed ones spent in covenant relationship with him. Hence he sets his own Law on the basis of those relations. And so it is now. We are not expected to love a Being whose relations to us are doubtful or obscure, or whose mind and will towards us are unknown. We love because he first loved us.

     II. THE VARIED ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH ARE SET UPON A LIKE BASIS, AND HAVE IN IT THEIR REASON AND POWER. The following suggestions may be developed largely with great advantage. 1. The conception of law is materially changed when we know that it comes from One who loves us infinitely, and cares for us with a tender care. This gives sweetness to the command. We are “under law to Christ.” 2. “The Lord thy God;” that gives the worship of God its charm. 3. This is the truth which is objectively disclosed by the Incarnation. 4. It is the truth which the Holy Ghost graves on the hearts of the saints (
Rom. 8:15). 5. This truth shows us that real religion is love responding to love (1 John 4:19). 6. It gives a manifest ground for trust. We know whom we have believed. 7. It gives a charm to every precept. 8. It gives meaning to every trial (ch. 8:5). 9. It is in the light of this truth that prayer becomes possible, and is seen to be reasonable. 10. This gives a solemn aspect to our responsibility (Ps. 81:10; Amos 4:12; Heb. 4:13). 11. The fuller understanding of the words, “My God,” will be the result of ripeness in grace (Zech. 13:9; Isa. 41:10–20). 12. This is pre-eminently the truth which gives its certainty and its glow to the hope of future glory (Mark 12:26; Heb. 11:16; Rev. 21:3, 7).

     III. SEEING THE WIDE BEARING AND VAST IMPORTANCE OF THE TRUTH IN THE TEXT, WHAT SHOULD BE WITH US ITS PRACTICAL OUTCOME? 1. Seeing the fearful havoc agnosticism would make, if it should ever come to govern human thinking,9 let us show men: (1) That a God out of relation to us does not exist. (2) That the one God is related to us as Creator, etc. (3) That his varied relations are explicitly revealed, specially through the Son and through the Holy Ghost. (4) That these relations are to be apprehended by our moral and spiritual nature, and not by the intellect alone. It should never make us stagger that, after getting to the very outer rim of natural knowledge, men should look out on an awful blank, and call it “the great unknown.” It shows us only that they cannot find God in that way—not that there is no way of finding God, still less that God cannot find us or make his communications intelligible to us. Do not let us suffer men to think that God cannot be found because no one can find him out to perfection! He is our God. 2. Since God is our God, let us cultivate fellowship with him. It is for this purpose he hath revealed himself, that we may come to him (1 John 1:1–3; Heb. 10:19–22). 3. Let us seek to realize the blessedness of a known and happy relationship to God, enjoyed through Christ, by the Spirit, in a life of penitence, faith, devotion, and love (Isa. 61:10; 1 Chron. 12:18; Ps. 68:28; 46:1; 18:29; 146:5). 4. Let faith in the love of our God fill up our duties with glorious meaning, and make the discharge of them a delight (ch. 6:5; 28:58; Lev. 25:38; 11:45; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 3:13; Micah 6:8; Rom. 12:1). 5. Let the fact that God is our God create, confirm, and perpetuate our assurance of immortal blessedness. See the wonderful words in Matt. 22:31, 32; Heb. 11:16. As if God would be ashamed to be called our God, if he did not mean to do something worthy of the name! Wondrous grace! How perfect the reconciliation effected by Christ, to bring together the holy God and sinful men in blest accord and union for ever!

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

The Laws of the Pentateuch
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration

     Of all the writings that made up Israel’s Scripture, it was probably the laws of the Pentateuch that played the most important role in restored Judea. These laws covered all manner of different things: civil and criminal law, Temple procedure, ethical behavior, ritual purity and impurity, proper diet, and so forth. Nowadays, a country’s laws do not play a very active part in most people’s lives—certainly not in their religious lives. Someone who breaks the law may have to pay a fine or even go to prison, but this in itself has no particular spiritual dimension. Likewise, someone who upholds the law may be proud to be a good citizen, but nothing more. In restored Judea, by contrast, the laws of the Pentateuch were held to come from God, and this automatically gave them a wholly new significance. To break a law ordained by God was not merely to commit a crime; it was to commit a sin. Likewise, observing the laws and doing what they said was not merely good citizenship but a form of divine service, a way of actively seeking to do God’s will. This view of things may have existed in preexilic times, but it became particularly prominent after the return from exile.

     Perhaps it was the very course of recent events that made Second Temple Jews so concerned with biblical law. Many of them must have asked themselves why their homeland had been conquered by the Babylonians, and why the Babylonian Empire had in turn collapsed shortly thereafter. Some, no doubt, gave to these questions a purely practical answer: the Babylonian army was simply stronger than that of little Judah, so it won; similarly, once the Medes and the Persians had combined forces, they easily overcame the Babylonians and took over their whole empire. But the Bible contains a different, more theological explanation: God allowed His people to be conquered as a punishment for their failure to keep His laws, the great covenant He had concluded with their ancestors. “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD” (
2 Kings 24:3). By the same token, lest anyone think it was by any merit of the Babylonians that Judah had been overcome, He subsequently dispatched the Persian army to reduce them to ruin. So now, returned to their ancient homeland, the Judeans (or at least some of them) set out to draw the obvious theological conclusion and avoid repeating their ancestors’ mistake. This time they would scrupulously obey all of God’s commandments; this time, everyone would be an expert in the application of divine law, so that there would be no mistakes (Jer. 31:31–34).

     There was probably another, more practical side to the importance attributed to these ancient laws. The Bible reports that the Persian administration actually adopted them as part of the Israelite legal system to be instituted in their new colony. The Persian king Artaxerxes I is thus reported to have written a letter to Ezra, a Jewish priest and sage who took over as a leader of the reestablished community:

     “And you, Ezra, according to the God-given wisdom you possess, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province [of Judah] who know the laws of your God; and you shall teach those who do not know them. All who will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on them.” (Ezra 7:25–26)

     It may always be, of course, that one or another element in the Bible is the result of exaggeration or wishful thinking on the part of the biblical historian, but skepticism in this case is probably unwarranted. Other, extrabiblical sources have shown the Persians to have generally been enlightened rulers who sought to accommodate their subject peoples by, among other things, maintaining the local legal system; it would simply have been good sense to adopt such an approach with the Judeans as well.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 6

     Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
---
2 Corinthians 8:9.

     Note how clearly these opening words point to the magnificent riches of Jesus Christ: “though he was rich.” ( Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) If we could take the sum total of all the wealth people have ever known and multiply it a thousandfold, all this would be a mere bagatelle compared with the depth of the riches over which our Lord, as the eternal God, held sway. He was rich in the resources of the entire universe, rich in the exercise of all power in heaven and in earth, in the control of constellations; rich in the directing of the tides, in the shaping of human affairs into history. He was rich in the adoration of the heavenly legions; rich in the glory and purity of his divine sinlessness; rich in truth, in wisdom, and in justice. But—praise his name!—he was rich in love, in mercy, in grace toward a corroding and decaying world that had spurned the guidance of God. So rich that, unfathomable as it may be, he showed compassion for human souls by the magnificence of the sacrifice of which our text speaks: “yet for your sakes he became poor.”

     We have made the cross the greatest of all human symbols. Yet how little we sometimes comprehend of the love of him who so impoverished himself and died on the accursed tree!

     And what a death it was! No matter under what circumstances the Grim Reaper may come, there is always anguish when our loved ones are called home by God. But how more intense was our Savior’s crucifixion!—one of the most excruciating tortures ever known.

     On the cross, deserted by God and by humanity, is one who in his tortured body bears the crushing weight of all the sins that have ever been committed throughout history. Here, in the poverty of Christ, is the greatest spectacle of love that the human race has ever seen or ever will see. Here, with his divine arms outstretched as though he would embrace sinful humanity in its totality, is God’s answer to the plea for the forgiveness of sins, for the power to counteract evil, for the ability to rise up over death. Here, in the abysmal poverty of Christ, is the magnificence of grace—pure, saving, sanctifying grace.

     No one is excluded from this all-embracing “for your sakes.” Here are the riches of Christ’s invitation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
--- Walter A. Maier

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

On This Day
     The Flying Scotsman  April 6

     Eric Liddell was a missionary kid born in China. At age seven his parents enrolled him in a boarding school in Britain, and he spent most of his childhood separated from them. But school officials encouraged him to devote himself to sports, and young Eric soon developed an athlete’s physique. He also began flexing his spiritual muscles, rising early each day to meet the Lord in prayer and Bible study.

     When Eric entered the university he broke one record after another in sporting events. His sister wrote their parents in China, saying, “Every week he brings home prizes. We’ve nowhere to put them all.” As his fame grew an innovative Scottish evangelist named D. P. Thomson eyed him as an intriguing prospect for the ministry. He invited Eric to share his testimony with a group of men in Armadale, and on April 6, 1923 Liddell made his debut in public evangelism. By the time he arrived at the Paris Olympics that summer, Eric was known worldwide as a powerful athlete and as an outspoken Christian who, despite refusing to race on Sundays, could win the gold.

     But fame didn’t stop him from following his parents to China. He arrived there as a missionary in 1925. When the Japanese invaded in 1937, he remained; and in 1943 he found himself interned in a camp outside Peking. Conditions were horrible. Eric ministered day-by-day, praying with the sick, coaching the children, witnessing to the lost. At times, though, his head throbbed. He began visibly weakening. On February 21, 1945, he died. An autopsy revealed a massive brain tumor.

     A camp survivor was asked the reason for Liddell’s influence at the camp. She replied that every morning at 6 A.M. he would rise and light the peanut-oil lantern on the little dormitory table just enough to illumine his Bible and notebook. There he would silently meet God at the start of each new day. It was the Flying Scotsman’s lifelong habit, she said, and the secret of his power.

     I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. … I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven.
--- Philippians 3:12-14a.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 6

     "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp." --- Hebrews 13:13.

     Jesus, bearing his cross, went forth to suffer without the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be singular, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master. Christ was “not of the world:” his life and his testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world. Never was such overflowing affection for men as you find in him; but still he was separate from sinners. In like manner Christ’s people must “go forth unto him.” They must take their position “without the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to tread the straight and narrow path. They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and his truth next, and Christ and his truth beyond all the world. Jesus would have his people “go forth without the camp” for their own sanctification. You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world. The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may cost you many pangs, and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all. No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ: Jesus reveals himself so graciously, and gives such sweet refreshment, that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest. The highway of holiness is the highway of communion. It is thus we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “without the camp.” The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation. A moment’s shame will be well recompensed by eternal honour; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are “for ever with the Lord.”


          Evening - April 6

     "In the name of the Lord I will destroy them."Psalm 118:12.

     Our Lord Jesus, by his death, did not purchase a right to a part of us only, but to the entire man. He contemplated in his passion the sanctification of us wholly, spirit, soul, and body; that in this triple kingdom he himself might reign supreme without a rival. It is the business of the newborn nature which God has given to the regenerate to assert the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ. My soul, so far as thou art a child of God, thou must conquer all the rest of thyself which yet remains unblest; thou must subdue all thy powers and passions to the silver sceptre of Jesus’ gracious reign, and thou must never be satisfied till he who is King by purchase becomes also King by gracious coronation, and reigns in thee supreme. Seeing, then, that sin has no right to any part of us, we go about a good and lawful warfare when we seek, in the name of God, to drive it out. O my body, thou art a member of Christ: shall I tolerate thy subjection to the prince of darkness? O my soul, Christ has suffered for thy sins, and redeemed thee with his most precious blood: shall I suffer thy memory to become a storehouse of evil, or thy passions to be firebrands of iniquity? Shall I surrender my judgment to be perverted by error, or my will to be led in fetters of iniquity? No, my soul, thou art Christ’s, and sin hath no right to thee.

     Be courageous concerning this, O Christian! be not dispirited, as though your spiritual enemies could never be destroyed. You are able to overcome them—not in your own strength—the weakest of them would be too much for you in that; but you can and shall overcome them through the blood of the Lamb. Do not ask, “How shall I dispossess them, for they are greater and mightier than I?” but go to the strong for strength, wait humbly upon God, and the mighty God of Jacob will surely come to the rescue, and you shall sing of victory through his grace.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 6

          NEAR THE CROSS

     Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915

     For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19, 20)

     The cross was a superb triumph over Satan, death, and hell. Never was Christ more a king than when He shouted from the cross—“It is finished.” Out of the hideous suffering of Calvary He has carved His victory and His kingdom. The victory of the cross assures us that we no longer need to be kept separate from God—either in this life or for eternity. Even now we can enter into His presence “with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And the best is yet to come—“the golden strand just beyond the river.”

     As God’s people, we should live daily with a sensitive awareness of Christ’s cross. We should review its scenes of suffering as well as revel in its triumph. “Near the Cross,” this simply stated hymn by Fanny Crosby, has been widely used by God to teach people this truth since its first publication in 1869.

     As she did with many of her 8,000 hymn texts, Fanny Crosby wrote this poem to fit an existing tune that had been composed by William H. Doane. Although she worked with a number of other gospel musicians, William Doane was Fanny Crosby’s principal collaborator. Doane was a very successful business man in Cincinnati, as well as a composer and publisher of numerous gospel songs. He was a very wealthy man when he died and he left much of his fortune to philanthropic causes, including the construction of the Doane Memorial Music Building at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

     Jesus, keep me near the cross—there a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
     Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the Bright and Morning Star sheds its beams around me.
     Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; help me walk from day to day with its shadows o’er me.
     Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever, till I reach the golden strand just beyond the river.      Chorus: In the cross, in the cross be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest, beyond the river.


     For Today: John 6:47-51; 19:17, 18; Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:13.

     Determine that especially during this Lenten season you are going to review and revel more often in the cross of Christ and all that it means. Sing this musical prayer to help you remember ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          Nothing Transitory About the Glory to Which We Are Called

     God has not called us to an evanescent but to an eternal glory, giving us title to it at the new birth. At that time a spiritual life was communicated to the soul, a life that is indestructible, incorruptible, and therefore everlasting. Moreover, we then received “the spirit of glory” (1 Peter 4:14) as “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14). Further, the image of Christ is being progressively wrought in our hearts during this life, which the Apostle Paul calls being “changed. from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Not only are we thereby made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12), but we are then given an eternal right of glory. For by regeneration or effectual calling God begets us to the inheritance (1 Peter 1:3, 4); a title thereto is given us at that moment that holds good forever. That title is ours both by the covenant stipulation of God and by the testamentary bequest of the Mediator (Heb. 9:15). “If children, then heirs; heirs of God,” says Paul (Rom. 8:17). Thomas Goodwin sums it up this way:

     “Put these three things together: first, that that glory we are called unto is in itself eternal; second, that that person who is called hath a degree of that glory begun in him that shall never die or perish; third, that he hath a right unto the eternity of it, and that from the time of his calling, and the argument is complete.”

     That “eternal glory” is “the exceeding riches of his grace” that He will lavish upon His people in the endless ages to come (Eph. 2:4-7), and as those verses tell us, even now we—legally and federally—“sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

(Eph 2:4–7) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.    ESV

     “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory.” God has not only called us into a state of grace—“this grace wherein we stand”—but to a state of glory, eternal glory, His eternal glory, so that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). These two things are inseparably connected: “the LORD will give grace and glory” (Ps. 84:11). Although we are the persons to be glorified by it, it is His glory that is put upon us. Obviously so, for we are wholly poor, empty creatures whom God will fill with the riches of His glory. Truly it is “the God of all grace” who does this for us. Neither creation nor providence, nor even His dealings with the elect in this life, fully displays the abundance of His grace. Only in heaven will its utmost height be seen and enjoyed. It is there that the ultimate manifestation of God's glory will be made, namely, the very honor and ineffable splendor with which Deity invests Himself. Not only shall we behold that glory forever, but it is to be communicated to us. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). The glory of God will so completely fill and irradiate our souls that it will break forth from our bodies. Then will the eternal purpose of God be fully accomplished. Then will all our fondest hopes be perfectly realized. Then will God be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

          Eternal Glory Is Ours by Our Union with Christ

     “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” The last part of this clause would perhaps better be translated “in Christ Jesus,” signifying that our being called to bask in the eternal glory of God is by virtue of our union with Christ Jesus. The glory pertains to Him who is our Head, and it is communicated to us only because we are His members. Christ is the first and grand Proprietor of it, and He shares it with those whom the Father gave to Him (John 17:5, 22, 24). Christ Jesus is the Center of all the eternal counsels of God, which “he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). All the promises of God “in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20, brackets mine). God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We are heirs of God because we are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As all the Divine purposes of grace were formed in Christ, so they are effectually performed and established by Him. For Zecharias, while blessing God for having “raised up an horn of salvation,” added, “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:68-72). We are “preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). Since God has “called [us] unto the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor. 1:9, brackets mine), that is, to be partakers (in due proportion) of all that He is partaker of Himself, Christ our Joint-heir and Representative has entered into possession of that glorious inheritance and in our names is keeping it for us (Heb. 6:20).

          All Our Hope Is Bound Up in Christ Alone

     Does it seem too good to be true that “the God of all grace” is your God? Are there times when you doubt whether He has personally called you? Does it surpass your faith, Christian reader, that God has actually cabled you to His eternal glory? Then let me leave this closing thought with you. All this is by and in Christ Jesus! His grace is stored up in Christ (John 1:14-18), the effectual call comes by Christ (Rom. 1:6), and the eternal glory is reached through Him. Was not His blood sufficient to purchase everlasting blessings for hell-deserving sinners? Then book not at your unworthiness, but at the infinite worthiness and merits of Him who is the Friend of publicans and sinners. Whether our faith takes it in or not, infallibly certain it is this prayer of His will be answered: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). That beholding will not be a transient one, such as the apostles enjoyed on the mount of transfiguration, but for evermore. As it has often been pointed out, when the queen of Sheba contrasted her brief visit to Solomon's court with the privilege of those who resided there, she exclaimed, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee” (1 Kings 10:8). Such will be our blissful lot throughout the endless ages.

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