2 Samuel 13
Amnon and Tamar2 Samuel 13 1 Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. 2 And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. 4 And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” 5 Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ ” 6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”
7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. 9 And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11 But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. 13 As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
15 Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” 16 But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. 17 He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” 18 Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. 19 And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.
20 And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. 22 But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.
Absalom Murders Amnon23 After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. 24 And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. 26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. 28 Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.
30 While they were on the way, news came to David, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the earth. And all his servants who were standing by tore their garments. 32 But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. 33 Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king’s sons are dead, for Amnon alone is dead.”
Absalom Flees to Geshur34 But Absalom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. 35 And Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” 36 And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came and lifted up their voice and wept. And the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.
37 But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. 38 So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.
2 Samuel 14
Absalom Returns to Jerusalem2 Samuel 14 1 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart went out to Absalom. 2 And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3 Go to the king and speak thus to him.” So Joab put the words in her mouth.
4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and paid homage and said, “Save me, O king.” 5 And the king said to her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 And your servant had two sons, and they quarreled with one another in the field. There was no one to separate them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7 And now the whole clan has risen against your servant, and they say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed.’ And so they would destroy the heir also. Thus they would quench my coal that is left and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9 And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10 The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11 Then she said, “Please let the king invoke the LORD your God, that the avenger of blood kill no more, and my son be not destroyed.” He said, “As the LORD lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
12 Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13 And the woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. 15 Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid, and your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16 For the king will hear and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the heritage of God.’ 17 And your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,’ for my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The LORD your God be with you!”
18 Then the king answered the woman, “Do not hide from me anything I ask you.” And the woman said, “Let my lord the king speak.” 19 The king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” The woman answered and said, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn to the right hand or to the left from anything that my lord the king has said. It was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your servant. 20 In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”
21 Then the king said to Joab, “Behold now, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 And Joab fell on his face to the ground and paid homage and blessed the king. And Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 And the king said, “Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence.
25 Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. 27 There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman.
28 So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but Joab would not come to him. And he sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent word to you, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.’ ” 33 Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.
2 Samuel 15
Absalom’s Conspiracy2 Samuel 15 1 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” 4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5 And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the LORD, in Hebron. 8 For your servant vowed a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the LORD will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to the LORD.’ ” 9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, ‘Absalom is king at Hebron!’ ” 11 With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited guests, and they went in their innocence and knew nothing. 12 And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing. Any idea why Ahithophel, ( 2 Samuel 23:34 ) David's counselor, would abandon David? Pastor Brett suggests it may have something to do with the fact that Ahithophel was Bathsheba's grandfather. Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam ( 2 Samuel 11:3 ), who was Ahithophel's son. So when David murdered Uriah he was actually murdering Ahithophel's son in law.
David Flees Jerusalem13 And a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom.” 14 Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” 15 And the king’s servants said to the king, “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides.” 16 So the king went out, and all his household after him. And the king left ten concubines to keep the house. 17 And the king went out, and all the people after him. And they halted at the last house. 18 And all his servants passed by him, and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king. 19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 22 And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him. 23 And all the land wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness. 24 And Abiathar came up, and behold, Zadok came also with all the Levites, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God until the people had all passed out of the city. 25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. 26 But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” 27 The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are you not a seer? Go back to the city in peace, with your two sons, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 See, I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem, and they remained there.
30 But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. 31 And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”
32 While David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel. 35 Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, and by them you shall send to me everything you hear.” 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
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With Heart and Mind
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2002
Reformed folk have not earned a reputation for hearts overflowing with love. We tend to be the cerebral ones, very careful to dot our theological I’s and cross our philosophical T’s. Given our peculiar gift, it is no small wonder that we react to the charge of having cold hearts with carefully reasoned arguments. Sometimes we stack syllogism upon syllogism to prove our warmth; other times we stack syllogism upon syllogism to prove that warm hearts are a bad thing to begin with. But all too often, the charges against us are true. Instead of constructing another argument, the proper thing is to repent and beseech God to inflame our hearts.
Our brothers in the charismatic movement have different problems and strengths, but they are not often accused of being cold. Perhaps, then, we Reformed might learn something from them.
As we compare our strengths, we need to see that they are but strengths. Charismatics are not ignoramuses with hearts bursting with love. Reformed folk are not eggheads with hearts made of ice. But such doesn’t mean that these tendencies don’t exist. And that they exist is not an excuse for a happy relativism. The answer to having half an equation cannot be found by affirming that both answers are half right. In short, all Christians need to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths.
Sound theology doesn’t deaden the heart. Neither does great zeal fuzzy up the mind. This is not a zero-sum game we are playing. We study carefully the things of God so that we might better love Him with reckless abandon. And our love for Him should drive us to precision in our study of Him. The mind ought not to say to the heart, “What need have I of thee?” and the heart should not speak such to the mind.
It is our contention that when it comes to the sign gifts, our charismatic brothers have not been sufficiently careful in their thinking. But we want also to give credit where it is due. We do have much to learn from our friends. Together we live coram Deo, before the face of God. Such a truth ought to melt our hearts of ice. Such a truth ought to drive us to praise. But it also ought to drive us to care in handling His Word. May we all be whole Christians, giving Him all that we are, in grateful adoration.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Holy Spirit
By Patrick Lennox 4/1/2002
Are you Spirit-filled? Have you received the “second blessing”? Are you seeking it? For many, these questions have become the litmus test for the true Christian experience. Sadly, questions such as these leave many confused and disheartened as they await their “personal” Pentecost. Even worse, they lead to complacency about pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit.
Ironically, in a time when the Holy Spirit’s popularity is at an all-time high, “communion with Him in a developing knowledge of Him is much less frequently explored.” So writes Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson in The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology), a volume of the Contours of Christian Theology series. The book offers refreshment to those pursuing “intimate communion with Him by whom we are brought to worship, glorify and obey the Father and the Son.”
Ferguson, a former professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and now minister of St. George’s-Tron Parish Church in Glasgow, Scotland, traces the person and work of the Spirit theologically, redemptive-historically, and devotionally, leaving the reader Biblically reacquainted with the third person of the Trinity. We are introduced to the Spirit during His work at creation. We meet Him again later as the “executive of Exodus,” and again in Isaiah 63:10 as the One who was grieved. We receive comfort from the Paraclete, “[who] comes as the Spirit of Christ in such a way that to possess Him is to possess Christ Himself.”
This book also provides a sober assessment of contemporary issues, such as tongues and prophecy, in light of Scripture. Special attention is given to the modern continuationist/cessationist debate.
The book’s readability is characteristic of the Contours series. The language is a masterful blend of precision and eloquence. The usage of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin is insightful without being overly “technical.” Another feature is a six-page reading list for further study.
The Holy Spirit, published by InterVarsity Press, is recommended to laity and clergy alike.
The Puritans: Jeremiah Burroughs
By Tim Challies 7/21/2013
Jeremiah Burroughs was a man of conviction and a faithful pastor. Born in 1600, he was tutored by Thomas Hooker and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree in 1624 he went into ministry in England, serving first as a pastoral assistant in Suffolk and then as a rector in Norfolk. Burroughs lost his job in Norfolk because, for reasons of conscience, he could not obey several dictates from the bishop, including the requirement that he read King James’ The Book of Sports in church, which declared dancing, archery and other recreations permissible on the Lord’s Day.
From 1638-1640 Burroughs lived in Rotterdam, Netherlands, serving as teacher in a congregation of English Independents who had relocated there.
Then, from 1640 until his death in 1646, Burroughs was back in England, serving as pastor of two of the largest congregations in London. It was at this time that he became recognized as a great preacher and leading Puritan. Thomas Brooks called him “a prince of preachers,” and the House of Commons and House of Lords invited him to preach before them several times.
In 1646 Burroughs died from complications resulting from a fall from his horse.
Unique Contribution | Burroughs was an Independent–an Anglican who believed church and state should be separate and local congregations should be autonomous. This set him at odds with Presbyterians on how churches should be governed. This was a contentious issue in England in his day and led to much strife and division personally, politically, and ecclesiastically.
Burroughs, however, was a stabilizing force who acted in moderation in his support of Independency. On his study door was the motto, in Latin and Greek, “Opinionum varietas et opinantium unitas non sunt hasustata…” which translates to “Variety of opinion and unity of opinion are not incompatible.” This was Burroughs’ way of affirming the authenticity of faith in other denominations, as well as the unity of the global church, while at the same time freeing him to advocate for beliefs that were not yet held by all.
Richard Baxter wrote, “If all the Episcopalians had been like Archbishop Ussher, all the Presbyterians like Stephen Marshall, and all the Independents like Jeremiah Burroughs, the breaches of the church would soon have been healed.”
If You Read Just One | If you are going to read just one work by Jeremiah Burroughs, make it The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment. This, of all his works, has stood the test of time as a truly unique work. It is among the very first Puritan works I read and one that made a deep impact in my life.
Follow the link below to read the rest of the article. R.C. Sproul recommends Gospel Worship: The Right Way of Drawing Near to God.
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I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
The Gift of the Spirit
By Jim Fitzgerald 4/1/2002
Callers to a psychiatric hotline heard the following message:
“If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone else to press 2. If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want—just stay on the line so we can trace the call. If you are an evangelical, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Many in the church today seem to rely more on a little voice than on the Bible as their rule of faith and life. However, as our little anecdote above suggests, this is not so much error as it is madness. Indeed, John Calvin made just this assertion, saying: “Those who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter” (Institutes of the Christian Religion).
The seriousness of this madness is little understood. The Scriptures say that when God spoke to Moses, the people saw thunder and lightning, heard the trumpet, and beheld the mountain in smoke, and so they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “ ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ ” (Ex. 20:18–19). As John Frame has correctly said, “People who want God to speak directly to them without mediation don’t know what they are asking for.”
More than that, they don’t know what they are missing. Scripture is an incomparable gift from God. As B.B. Warfield has said, “The fundamental fact in all revelation is that it is from God”—He is the “Divine Giver.” However, those who emphasize spiritual gifts often overlook the more important and enduring gift of God’s Word. In the Scriptures, God has bestowed a wonderful treasure on the church, a gift of immeasurable worth. It would be hard to overestimate the value of this gift since the Scriptures say that God has exalted His Word above His name (Ps. 138:2). Thus, those who exult in private, subjective, and individualized revelation not only denigrate the Scriptures, they dishonor God’s name.
Scripture is also inseparably linked to the Spirit. The apostle Peter says that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21). The concept of Word apart from the Spirit is foreign in the Scriptures; it is always Word and Spirit (Spiritus cum verbo). This is an unbreakable bond. So those who most value the work of the Spirit are the same as those who most appreciate the Scriptures. Likewise, those who insist that the Spirit speaks apart from the Scriptures end up denying what they wish to affirm.
The Westminster divines avoided this trap when they wrote that, “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (Westminster Confession of Faith, I, 10). As John Murray has rightly said, the expression “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” is to remind us that Scripture is not a dead letter but the living and abiding language of the Holy Spirit. Far from a dead letter, “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). So those who want to honor the Spirit will not revel in private, subjective, and individualized revelation. Rather, they will rejoice in the inseparable link between Word and Spirit.
Finally, Scripture is supernatural. Anyone who really esteems the supernatural must hold Scripture in the highest regard. Scripture is supernatural in both its source and mode. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). This means that Scripture is supernatural in its source. In times past, God spoke in various ways or modes, each of which was supernatural—He revealed Himself in theophanies, dreams, and visions. He put His Word in the mouths of the prophets and in Balaam’s beast alike. The inert stones were prepared to cry out should these other means hold their silence. Each of these modes is absolutely supernatural. And the written Word is no less supernatural. Again, those who wish to argue for the continuation of supernatural revelation today need to consider the supernatural nature of the finality of Scripture.
In the final analysis, the church is richer, not poorer, for having the completed canon of Scripture instead of continuing private, subjective, individualized revelation. In the finality of Scripture there are inexhaustible treasures given to the church by God, inseparably linked to the Holy Spirit, and supernatural in source and mode. Let all those who seek a deeper appreciation of the gifts, the Spirit, and the supernatural find these blessings in the finality of the Scriptures.
Rev. Jim Fitzgerald served as the senior pastor of Covenant Prestyerian Church in Winter Park, FL.
Zeal Without Knowledge
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2002
Many people are surprised, and some are shocked, when they hear of my involvement in the charismatic movement years
It began in 1965, shortly after I returned from graduate study in Holland to teach philosophy and theology at my alma mater. Some of my senior students who were preparing for ministry kept talking to me excitedly about their experiences with the Holy Spirit and about receiving the gift of tongues. My first response was profound skepticism, because my only previous experience had been with hardcore Pentecostals whose views of sanctification I deemed aberrant. Soon, however, the sheer number of my students involved in this phenomenon, coupled with their high level of competence as students, provoked me to give them the “philosophy of the second glance.” I also saw reports that tongues-speaking was breaking out in mainline denominations such as the Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches. Reports of outbreaks at Notre Dame and at Duquesne University also piqued my curiosity.
I began meeting with my students to discuss the matter at my home. These meetings became regular times of prayer that lasted several hours or, on at least one occasion, all night. Because of the marvelous ardor for prayer these students displayed, I began to wonder whether I was missing something in my own spiritual life.
My attention then turned to the New Testament, particularly to Paul’s teaching on tongues in 1 Corinthians. In chapters 12–14, Paul deals with abuses of tongues in the Corinthian church and rebukes those who had elevated their gifts over those of others. It was clear that Paul did not put tongues, or glossolalia, at the apex of gifts and did not teach tongues as an indispensable sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives detailed instructions about the use of tongues. Though he warns sharply against many abuses of tongues, he does not outlaw their use. Indeed, he explicitly says, “do not forbid to speak with tongues” (v. 39b). Paul also writes: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied” (vv. 4– 5a). Paul clearly is teaching the comparative superiority of prophecy over tongues. But he is comparing the good and the better, not the good and the bad.
Two things struck me in this passage. The first is that Paul says tongues are edifying for the individual. As a Christian, I certainly wanted everything the Holy Spirit had available to me. Second, the apostle says he wishes all the Corinthian Christians speak with tongues. Even though he also expresses his preference for prophecy, he still asserts his desire that all speak in tongues. Finally, in verse 18, Paul says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.”
Since Paul was a tongues-speaker and expressed his desire for all to speak in tongues, I took this to mean that I should pursue this spiritual gift.
The major obstacle I still faced was the question of whether what was happening in the contemporary charismatic movement was indeed a revival of the New Testament gifts. That is, was the modern outbreak of glossolalia the same thing that was practiced in the apostolic church? I found this to be an extremely difficult question to answer given the paucity of references to the phenomenon throughout church history, save for its dawn among deeply heretical groups such as the Montanists.
In any case, I sought the gift and soon was able to join my friends in praying in tongues. But I found no great edification from it and still preferred to pray with understanding.
In the meantime, I continued to investigate the question of whether this was the New Testament phenomenon. As the movement expanded, reports began to come in of people in non-Christian religions practicing “tongues.” There were also reports that tongues had been identified as known foreign languages, but none of these reports was verified.
As time passed, several things became clear. First, a neo-Pentecostal theology was becoming popular. Though not monolithic among charismatics, it stressed tongues-speaking as a necessary and indispensable sign of the Biblical concept of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It also was marked by fantastic claims of miracles and supernatural prophecies with new revelation. The more interpretations of tongues-speaking and prophecies I heard, the more false doctrine and false prophecy I heard. Several people spoke “prophecies” to me about specific things that would occur within a specific time period. Every single prophecy of that sort failed to materialize. I heard manifestly false doctrine, doctrine in clear antithesis to Scripture, being urged upon people via tongues interpretations. Extravagant claims of miracles that I was able to investigate proved to be unfounded. Something obviously was deeply wrong with the picture. In short, the charismatic movement was not delivering the goods.
More and more people were seeking to live the Christian life on the basis of subjective feelings rather than on the Word. I saw a strong revival of “Deeper Life” type views of sanctification that promised Christians a special second work of grace by which they could live the “victorious” Christian life through being “filled with the Spirit.”
The church now had two classes of Christians—those who were baptized in the Spirit and those who were not; those who were “spirit-filled” and those who were not. This dichotomy, I became convinced, not only was not taught in the New Testament but was contrary to what is taught there. I came to realize that the charismatic view of the Day of Pentecost represented a distortion of its Biblical significance. The charismatic view of Pentecost was a low one, not a high one.
I began to see that anyone who is uninhibited enough can utter unintelligible sounds while in a posture of prayer. I don’t doubt anyone’s experience of praying in such a fashion, but I am concerned it is not a supernatural event and is not the same as what was experienced in the early church.
My final departure from the movement came when I realized that I must live by the Word, as the Spirit never works against the Word but always with it and through it.
I still enjoy fellowship with my charismatic friends and delight in their love for prayer. I am grateful for the real revival in interest in the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church that this movement has spawned. However, I am very concerned about the false doctrine it has brought in its wake.
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 | Go to Books Page
Providence, Providence and More Providence
By Ben Davis 2/3/2017
A review essay of Bruce Reichenbach, Divine Providence
Too often, when a discussion of God’s providence is brought to the table, it is framed in such a way that only trained philosophers or theologians can fully understand it. Thus large, awkward words eclipse simple, useable ones, and impenetrable logical syllogisms clash like warring armies in the night. In the end no one is served because overly-wrought, abstract ideas inveigh the steady practice of commonsense reasoning. What is supposed to be a pastorally-informed doctrine, then, – the foresight by which God lovingly provides and cares for his creation – is turned into a philosophical category seemingly divorced from the daily concerns of the church.
What’s more, philosophical analysis of divine providence is often a Procrustean bed fit snuggly over a small handful of isolated verses in Scripture. Instead of being the definitive guide for understanding providence, Scripture is merely an ancillary tool used to support sexier, metaphysically muscular philosophical definitions. Philosophy is an important tool for theology and exegesis, to be sure. But it cannot be the controlling paradigm by which to think about a topic that finds its locus explicitly in the biblical narrative. For in Scripture God’s providence is manifest in the daily lives of the people of Israel or the nascent churches in Acts or Corinth. This is not the God of the philosophers, in others words. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: a personal God who is intimately invested in the lives of his people.
Therefore, Bruce Reichenbach can open his book on divine providence by stating simply: “Scripture repeatedly recounts the intentional actions of the providential God.” A philosopher of great distinction, Reichenbach seeks to have his view of divine providence be formed – and informed – by the biblical text first. Accordingly, his opening pages survey the expansive landscape of Scripture, from Abraham’s binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) to God’s new covenant “established by the death and resurrection of Jesus” (Heb. 7:22; 8:13). From his point of view, the biblical writers “see divine providence spreading a wide umbrella over both natural and human events.” Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/02/03/providence-providence-providence-2/#RksKl3MbyBfPd8Od.99
The late theologian and ecumenical statesman Thomas Oden suggested that the root meaning for the term providence is to foresee or provide. Taken from the Latin, pro-videre, which meant to see ahead or anticipate, providence is primarily about God’s ability to provide for his people as he is able to see down the road, as it were, and plan according to future events. Although not stated explicitly, Reichenbach seems to share Oden’s view as he says that, “God provides for nature and through nature for humans” (looking to Job 5:10; Isa 43:20; Matt 5:45). And again, “God provides for all nations and peoples,” bringing, “food in abundance” (Job 36:31). Furthermore, God “provides a Passover lamb as protection from the deathly plague” (Exod 12), “gushes water from the rocks where there seems to be none” (Exod 17:5-6), and “brings decisive victory on the battlefield” (Deut 7:17-24). Looking to the incorporeal elements of divine provision, Reichenbach underscores the fact that humans receive God’s “offering of redemption” (Ps 111:9), “adoption into God’s family” (Eph 1:5), “the Spirit to guide us into truth (Jn 16:13), and “the Scriptures for our teaching, training, and correction” (2 Tim 3:16). In short, God knows the full scope of our needs – physical, spiritual, corporate, and individual – and graciously provides for them out of an abundant measure of his love, wisdom, and tender, Fatherly care.
Ben Davis | Northern Seminary student
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 37He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.
21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
4. I know that the Sophists abuse some passages in order to prove that
the Scriptures use the term merit with reference to God. They quote a
passage from Ecclesiasticus: "Mercy will give place to every man
according to the merit of his works," (Ecclesiasticus 16:14); and from
the Epistle to the Hebrews: "To do good and communicate forget not; for
with such sacrifices God is well pleased," (Heb. 13:16). I now renounce
my right to repudiate the authority of Ecclesiasticus; but I deny that
the words of Ecclesiasticus, whoever the writer may have been, are
faithfully quoted. The Greek is as follows: Pa'se eleemosu'ne poie'sei
to'pon` e'kastos ga'r kata` ta` e'rga autou eure'sei. "He will make
room for all mercy: for each shall find according to his works." That
this is the genuine reading, and has been corrupted in the Latin
version, is plain, both from the very structure of the sentence, and
from the previous context. In the Epistle to the Hebrews there is no
room for their quibbling on one little word, for in the Greek the
Apostle simply says, that such sacrifices are pleasing and acceptable
to God. This alone should amply suffice to quell and beat down the
insolence of our pride, and prevent us from attaching value to works
beyond the rule of Scripture. It is the doctrine of Scripture,
moreover, that our good works are constantly covered with numerous
stains by which God is justly offended and made angry against us, so
far are they from being able to conciliate him, and call forth his
favor towards us; and yet because of his indulgence, he does not
examine them with the utmost strictness, he accepts them just as if
they were most pure; and therefore rewards them, though undeserving,
with innumerable blessings, both present and future. For I admit not
the distinction laid down by otherwise learned and pious men, that good
works merit the favors which are conferred upon us in this life,
whereas eternal life is the reward of faith only. The recompense of our
toils, and crown of our contest, our Lord almost uniformly places in
heaven. On the other hand, to attribute to the merit of works, so as to
deny it to grace, that we are loaded with other gifts from the Lord, is
contrary to the doctrine of Scripture. For though Christ says, "Unto
every one that has shall be given;" "thou hast been faithful over a few
things, I will make thee ruler over many things," (Mt. 25:29, 21), he,
at the same time, shows that all additional gifts to believers are of
his free benignity: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the
waters, and he that has no money, come ye, buy, and eat: yea, come, buy
wine and milk, without money and without price," (Isaiah 55:1).
Therefore, every help to salvation bestowed upon believers, and
blessedness itself, are entirely the gift of God, and yet in both the
Lord testifies that he takes account of works, since to manifest the
greatness of his love toward us, he thus highly honors not ourselves
only, but the gifts, which he has bestowed upon us.
5. Had these points been duly handled and digested in past ages, never could so many tumults and dissensions have arisen. Paul says, that in the architecture of Christian doctrine, it is necessary to retain the foundation which he had laid with the Corinthians, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 3:11). What then is our foundation in Christ? Is it that he begins salvation and leaves us to complete it? Is it that he only opened up the way, and left us to follow it in our own strength? By no means, but as Paul had a little before declared, it is to acknowledge that he has been given us for righteousness. No man, therefore, is well founded in Christ who has not entire righteousness in him, since the Apostle says not that he was sent to assist us in procuring, but was himself to be our righteousness. Thus, it is said that God "has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world," not according to our merit, but "according to the good pleasure of his will;" that in him "we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins;" that peace has been made "through the blood of his cross;" that we are reconciled by his blood; that, placed under his protection, we are delivered from the danger of finally perishing; that thus ingrafted into him we are made partakers of eternal life, and hope for admission into the kingdom of God.  Nor is this all. Being admitted to participation in him, though we are still foolish, he is our wisdom; though we are still sinners he is our righteousness; though we are unclean, he is our purity; though we are weak, unarmed, and exposed to Satan, yet ours is the power which has been given him in heaven and in earth, to bruise Satan under our feet, and burst the gates of hell (Mt. 28:18); though we still bear about with us a body of death, he is our life; in short, all things of his are ours, we have all things in him, he nothing in us. On this foundation, I say, we must be built, if we would grow up into a holy temple in the Lord.
6. For a long time the world has been taught very differently. A kind of good works called moral has been found out, by which men are rendered agreeable to God before they are ingrafted into Christ; as if Scripture spoke falsely when it says, "He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son of God has not life," (1 John 5:12). How can they produce the materials of life if they are dead? Is there no meaning in its being said that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin?" (Rom. 14:23); or can good fruit be produced from a bad tree? What have these most pestilential Sophists left to Christ on which to exert his virtue? They say that he merited for us the first grace, that is, the occasion of meriting, and that it is our part not to let slip the occasion thus offered. O the daring effrontery of impiety! Who would have thought that men professing the name of Christ would thus strip him of his power, and all but trample him under foot? The testimony uniformly borne to him in Scripture is that whose believeth in him is justified; the doctrine of these men is, that the only benefit which proceeds from him is to open up a way for each to justify himself. I wish they could get a taste of what is meant by these passages: "He that hath the Son hath life." "He that hearth my word, and believeth in him that sent me," "is passed from death unto life." Whose believeth in him "is passed from death unto life." "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him." God "has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ." "Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."  There are similar passages without number. Their meaning is not, that by faith in Christ an opportunity is given us of procuring justifications or acquiring salvation, but that both are given us. Hence, so soon as you are ingrafted into Christ by faith, you are made a son of God, an heir of heaven, a partaker of righteousness, a possessor of life, and (the better to manifest the false tenets of these men) you have not obtained an opportunity of meriting, but all the merits of Christ, since they are communicated to you.
7. In this way the schools of Sorbonne, the parents of all heresies, have deprived us of justification by faith, which lies at the root of all godliness. They confess, indeed, in word, that men are justified by a formed faith, but they afterwards explain this to mean that of faith they have good works which avail to justification, so that they almost seem to use the term faith in mockery, because they were unable, without incurring great obloquy, to pass it in silence, seeing it is so often repeated by Scripture. And yet not contented with this, they by the praise of good works transfer to man what they steal from God. And seeing that good works give little ground for exultation, and are not even properly called merits, if they are regarded as the fruits of divine grace, they derive them from the power of free-will; in other words extract oil out of stone. They deny not that the principal cause is in grace; but they contend that there is no exclusion of free-will through which all merit comes. This is the doctrine, not only of the later Sophists, but of Lombard their Pythagoras (Sent. Lib. 2, Dist. 28), who, in comparison of them, may be called sound and sober. It was surely strange blindness, while he had Augustine so often in his mouth, not to see how cautiously he guarded against ascribing a single particle of praise to man because of good works. Above, when treating of free-will, we quoted some passages from him to this effect, and similar passages frequently occur in his writings (see in Psal. 104; Ep. 105), as when he forbids us ever to boast of our merits, because they themselves also are the gifts of God, and when he says that all our merits are only of grace, are not provided by our sufficiency, but are entirely the production of grace, &c. It is less strange that Lombard was blind to the light of Scripture, in which it is obvious that he had not been a very successful student.  Still there cannot be a stronger declaration against him and his disciples than the words of the Apostles who, after interdicting all Christians from glorying, subjoins the reason why glorying is unlawful: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10). Seeing, then, that no good proceeds from us unless in so far as we are regenerated--and our regeneration is without exception wholly of God--there is no ground for claiming to ourselves one iota in good works. Lastly, while these men constantly inculcate good works, they, at the same time, train the conscience in such a way as to prevent it from venturing to confide that works will render God favorable and propitious. We, on the contrary, without any mention of merit, give singular comfort to believers when we teach them that in their works they please, and doubtless are accepted of God. Nay, here we even insist that no man shall attempt or enter upon any work without faith, that is, unless he previously have a firm conviction that it will please God.
8. Wherefore, let us never on any account allow ourselves to be drawn away one nail's breadth  from that only foundation. After it is laid, wise architects build upon it rightly and in order. For whether there is need of doctrine or exhortation, they remind us that "for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil;" that "whosoever is born of God does not commit sin;" that "the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles;" that the elect of God are vessels of mercy, appointed "to honor," purged, "sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." The whole is expressed at once, when Christ thus describes his disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."  He who has denied himself has cut off the root of all evils so as no longer to seek his own; he who has taken up his cross has prepared himself for all meekness and endurance. The example of Christ includes this and all offices of piety and holiness. He obeyed his Father even unto death; his whole life was spent in doing the works of God; his whole soul was intent on the glory of his Father; he laid down his life for the brethren; he did good to his enemies, and prayed for them. And when there is need of comfort, it is admirably afforded in these words: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." " For if we be dead with him we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him;" by means of "the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" the Father having predestinated us "to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren." Hence it is, that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord;"  nay, rather all things will work together for our good. See how it is that we do not justify men before God by works, but say, that all who are of God are regenerated and made new creatures, so that they pass from the kingdom of sin into the kingdom of righteousness. In this way they make their calling sure, and, like trees, are judged by their fruits.
 1. Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:3-5; Col. 1:14, 20; John 1:12; 10:28.
 John 5:12; John 5:24; Rom. 3:24; John 3:24; Eph. 2:6; Col. 1:13
 French, "d'autant qu'il n'y estoit gueres exercité;"--inasmuch as he was little versant in it.
 French, "ne fust ce que de la pointe d'une sepingle;"--were it only a pin's point.
 John 3:8; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:20, 21; Luke 9:23.
 2 Cor. 4:8; 2 Tim. 2:11; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 7:29, 39.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 13 Second Sermon On The MountTHE connecting link between the past and the future, between the fulfilled and the unfulfilled in prophecy, will be found in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The chief Messianic promises are grouped in two great classes, connected respectively with the names of David and of Abraham, and the New Testament opens with the record of the birth and ministry of Messiah as "the Son of David, the son of Abraham;" (Matthew 1:1) for in one aspect of His work He was "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." (Romans 15:8) The question of the Magi, "Where is He that is born king of the Jews?" aroused a hope which was part of the national politics of Judah; and even the base Idumean who then usurped the throne was sensible of its significance: "Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 
 Matthew 2:3. It must not be imagined that it was any religious emotion which disturbed the king. The announcement of the Magi was to him what the news of the birth of an heir is to an heir-presumptive. The Magi asked, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" Herod's inquiry, therefore, to the Sanhedrin was, "Where should Messiah be born?" and on being referred to the prophecy which so plainly designated Bethlehem, he determined to destroy every infant child in that city and district. Herod and the Sanhedrin had not learned to spiritualize the prophecies.And when the proclamation afterwards was made, first by John the Baptist, and finally by the Lord and His apostles, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," the Jews knew well its import. It was not "the Gospel," as we understand it now, but the announcement of the near fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy.  And the testimony had a twofold accompaniment. "The Sermon on the Mount" is recorded as embodying the great truths and principles which were associated with the Kingdom Gospel; and the attendant miracles gave proof that all was Divine. And in the earlier stages of the ministry of Christ, His miracles were not reserved for those whose faith responded to His words; the only qualification for the benefit was that the recipient should belong to the favored race. "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give."  Such was the commission under which the twelve went forth through that little land, to every corner of which their Master's fame had gone before them. (Matthew 4:24-25)
 Cf. Pusey, Daniel, p. 84But the verdict of the nation, through its accredited and responsible leaders, was a rejection of His Messianic claims.  The acts and words of Christ recorded in the twelfth chapter of Matthew were an open and deliberate condemnation and defiance of the Pharisees, and their answer was to meet in solemn council and decree His death. (Matthew 12:1- 14) From that hour His ministry entered upon a new phase. The miracles continued, for He could not meet with suffering and refuse to relieve it; but those whom thus He blessed were charged "that they should not make Him known." (Matthew 12:16) The Gospel of the Kingdom ceased; His teaching became veiled in parables,  and the disciples were forbidden any longer to testify to His Messiahship. (Matthew 16:20)
 Matthew 10:5-8. The chapter is prophetic, in keeping with the character of the book, and reaches on to the testimony of the latter days (see ex. gr., ver. 23).
 In our own time the Jews have had the temerity to publish a translation of the Mishna, and the reader who will peruse its treatises can judge with what contempt and loathing the Lord must have regarded the religion of those miserable men. The treatise Sabbath will afford an invaluable commentary on the twelfth of Matthew. The Mishna is a compilation of the oral traditions of the Rabbins, made in the second century, A. D., to prevent their being lost by the dispersion — Note the following: the very traditions, many of them, which prevailed when the Lord was on earth, and which He so unsparingly condemned as undermining the Scriptures, for then as now the Jews regarded them as possessing a Divine sanction. (Cf Lindo's Jewish Cal., Introd.; Milman's Hist. Jews, Book 18.)The thirteenth chapter is prophetic of the state of things which was to intervene between the time of His rejection and His return in glory to claim the place which in His humiliation was denied Him. Instead of the proclamation of the Kingdom, He taught them "the mysteries of the Kingdom." (Matthew 13:11) His mission changed its character, and instead of a King come to reign, He described Himself as a Sower sowing seed. Of the parables which follow, the first three, spoken to the multitude, described the outward results of the testimony in the world; the last three, addressed to the disciples,  speak of the hidden realities revealed to spiritual minds.
 Matthew 13:3, 13. "From the expression ardzato in Mark, compared with the question of the disciples in ver. 10, — and with ver. 34, — it appears that this was the first beginning of our Lord's teaching by parables, expressly so delivered, and properly so called. And the natural sequence of things here agrees with and confirms Matthew's arrangement against those who would place (as Ebrard) all this chapter before the Sermon on the Mount. He there spoke without parables, or mainly so; and continued to do so till the rejection and misunderstanding of His teaching led to His judicially adopting the course here indicated, choris par. ouden elalei autois." — ALFORD, Gr. Test, Matthew 13:3.
 As were also the interpretations of the Parables of the Sower and of the Tares.But these very parables, while they taught the disciples in the plainest terms that everything was postponed which the prophets had led them to look for in connection with the Kingdom, taught them no less clearly that the day would surely come when all should be fulfilled; when evil should be rooted out, and the Kingdom established in righteousness and peace. (Matthew 13:41-43) They thus learned that there was to be an "age" of which prophecy took no account, and another "Advent" at its close; and "the second Sermon on the Mount" was the Lord's reply to the inquiry, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" 
 Matthew 24:3. "As He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him." Compare Matthew 5:1" He went up into a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him." The Sermon on the Mount unfolded the principles on which the Kingdom would be set up. The King having been rejected by the nation, the second Sermon on the Mount unfolded the events which must precede His returnThe twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew has been well described as "the anchor of apocalyptic interpretation," and "the touchstone of apocalyptic systems."  The fifteenth verse specifies an event and fixes an epoch, by which we are enabled to connect the words of the Lord with the visions of St. John, and both with the prophecies of Daniel. The entire passage is obviously prophetic, and its fulfillment clearly pertains to the time of the end. The fullest and most definite application of the words must therefore be to those who are to witness their accomplishment. To them it is that the warning is specially addressed, against being deceived through a false hope of the immediate return of Christ. 
 Alford, Gr. Test., vol. 4., Pt. 2. Proleg. Rev.A series of terrible events are yet to come; but "these are the beginning of sorrows;" "the end is not yet." How long these "sorrows" shall continue is not revealed. The first sure sign that the end is near will be the advent of the fiercest trial that the redeemed on earth have ever known. The fulfillment of Daniel's vision of the defilement of the Holy Place is to be the signal for immediate flight; "for then shall be the great tribulation," (Vers. 15-21. Compare Daniel 11:1.) unparalleled even in Judah's history. But, as already noticed, this last great persecution belongs to the latter half of Daniel's seventieth week, and therefore it affords a landmark by which we can determine the character and fix the order of the chief events which mark the closing scenes foretold in prophecy.
 Matthew 24:4, 6. That is, the final stage of the advent; not His coming as foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4 and elsewhere, which has no signs preceding.
To refer verse 5 to the times of Barcochab involves a glaring anachronism. The primary reference in vers. 15-20, and, therefore, of the earlier portion of the prophecy, was to the period ending with the destruction of Jerusalem.
With the clew thus obtained from the Gospel of St. Matthew, we can turn with confidence to study the Apocalyptic visions of St. John. But first it must be clearly recognized that in the twenty-fourth of Matthew, as in the book of Daniel, Jerusalem is the center of the scene to which the prophecy relates; and this of necessity implies that the Jews shall have been restored to Palestine before the time of its fulfillment. 
 The question of their restoration to a place of blessing spiritually has already been discussed.Objections based on the supposed improbability of such an event are sufficiently answered by marking the connection between prophecy and miracle. The history of the Abrahamic race, to which prophecy is so closely related, is little else than a record of miraculous interpositions. "Their passage out of Egypt was miraculous. Their entrance into the promised land was miraculous. Their prosperous and their adverse fortunes in that land, their servitudes and their deliverances, their conquests and their captivities, were all miraculous. The entire history from the call of Abraham to the building of the sacred temple was a series of miracles. It is so much the object of the sacred historians to describe these that little else is recorded… There are no historians in the sacred volume of the period in which miraculous intervention was withdrawn. After the declaration by the mouth of Malachi that a messenger should be sent to prepare the way, the next event recorded by any inspired writer is the birth of that messenger. But of the interval of 400 years between the promise and the completion no account is given." 
 Clinton, Fasti H., vol. 1., p. 243.The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
The Story of Dr. W. P. MackayWilliam P. Mackay, was born in the year 1839. At the age of 17, he left for college. His mother was a very godly Christian woman, who didn't want him to go, for fear that he was heading down a path of destruction. But she turned him over to the Lord, and let him go on his way. Before his departure, she gave him a Bible to take with him, and in the fly-leaf of the Bible, she wrote his name, her name and a Bible verse. The young man left for college and then went on to the university medical school but he began to travel with the wrong crowd. And one day, in a drunken spree, he pawned the Bible that his mother had given him for money to buy more liquor.
He wandered far away from what he had been taught at home. Yet, at the same time, the young Scotsman went on to become a very successful doctor, rising to the head of the largest hospital in Edinburgh. Forsaking his upbringing, he became a committed infidel, and was even elected president of a society of atheists in the city.
Yet God had a plan for this man. One day, an accident victim came into his hospital and was under Dr. Mackay's care. The patient, learning that he only had a few hours to live, asked Dr. Mackay, "Will you please send for my landlady, and ask her to send me the Book?" The doctor agreed, and within a few hours the landlady arrived with "the Book." It was the dying patient's Bible.
Within a short time, the patient died. Dr. Mackay was curious as to what kind of book the patient wanted. He asked the nurse, "What about the book that he asked for? Was it is his bank book or date book?" The nurse replied, "No, it was neither of those. It is still under his pillow. Go look." The doctor reached under the pillow and pulled out "the Book." When he opened it, his eyes fell immediately upon the front flyleaf. To his amazement-- it was the very Bible he had received from his mother that he had pawned years before. He saw his name, his mother's name and the Bible verse she inscribed.
And so overwhelmed, he slipped the Bible under his coat and rushed back to his private office. It was there, in that office, that the doctor, who had become a wicked infidel and atheist, fell to his knees praying that God would have mercy on him, and save him. He asked God to forgive him for his sinful life. As he prayed, he remembered a verse his mother taught him long ago: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Dr. Mackay immediately contacted his mother to tell her of his salvation, and how God used the Bible she gave him to dramatically answer her prayers. In due time, Mackay's life proved that "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By the grace of God, William Patton Mackay, a world renowed doctor went on to become a Presbyterian preacher, well-known author and songwriter. In fact, it was from his pen that we received the beautiful hymn:
"Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Revive us again!"
"Jesus did all the saving work. He brought the cross to our level. Get saved by looking to Him... Lie down as wounded, helpless, ungodly sinner, and look away from yourself to Jesus..."
Click here to go to source
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2007 Two Kingdoms
What is the kingdom of God? It’s a simple question, yet if I were to ask that same question to a hundred theologians I would likely get a hundred different answers. The kingdom of God is not some sort of ancient or obsolete doctrine that no one has ever heard of. Rather, it is something we hear about all the time as a fundamental component of Jesus’ teaching and a primary theme throughout sacred Scripture. Although few would admit it, when most Christians think about the kingdom of God, their minds are strained to conceive of anything beyond some ethereal notion of mustard seeds, lost coins, different soils, and undefined future bliss.
However, when it comes right down to it, the kingdom of God should be more simple to define than just about any other theological term. It’s quite plain really: God reigns. Or, to say it another way: The kingdom of God is the omnipotent rule and sovereign reign of Almighty God over all things, the inauguration of which came with the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus and the fullness of which is yet to come.
Nevertheless, while it is important to have a good, biblical answer to the question, what is the kingdom of God? it is just as important to have an honest answer to the question, whose kingdom do you serve? These are the questions that are at the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount: Are you the king of your own kingdom? Are you the self-appointed potentate of your own, private little empire? You may answer with a hearty no, but does your life demonstrate that you are a servant of God or a servant of self? We all certainly want to be part of the kingdom, but most Christians want to serve the kingdom on their own terms.
As divinely appointed citizens of the kingdom of God we are foreigners in the kingdom of this world. We are real characters in the real story of redemptive history in real space and real time who have been summoned to follow the King of kings as servants, saints, and soldiers - coram Deo, before His face, in life and in death. Augustine understood this well: “We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Five Star General Omar Bradley died this day, April 8, 1981. During World War II, he commanded the Army in North Africa and in 1944, led the 12th Army Group in France and Germany, which consisted of one million men in four armies. In 1950, he became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Omar Bradley stated: “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount…. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The readiest way to escape from our sufferings is, to be willing they should endure as long as God pleases.
--- John Wesley
Living Thoughts of John Wesley: A Comprehensive Selection of the Living Thoughts of the Founder of Methodism As Contained in His Miscellaneous Works
Jesus didn't save you so you could cruise to heaven in a luxury liner. He wants you to be useful in His kingdom! The moment you got saved, He enrolled you in His school the school of suffering and affliction.
--- David Wilkerson
Hungry for More of Jesus: Experiencing His Presence in These Troubled Times
God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice.
--- John Donne
The Works of John Donne, D.D. Dean of Saint Paul's, 1621-1631: With a Memoir of His Life, Volume 3
Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.
--- Issac Asimov
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, July 1983 (Vol. 7, No. 7) (Whole 67)
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Tenth of fifth month. -- It being the first day of the week and fine weather, we had a meeting in the cabin, at which most of the seamen were present; this meeting was to me a strengthening time. 13th. -- As I continue to lodge in the steerage I feel an openness this morning to express something further of the state of my mind in respect to poor lads bound apprentice to learn the art of sailing. As I believe sailing is of use in the world, a labor of soul attends me that the pure counsel of truth may be humbly waited for in this case by all concerned in the business of the seas. A pious father whose mind is exercised for the everlasting welfare of his child may not with a peaceable mind place him out to an employment among a people whose common course of life is manifestly corrupt and profane. Great is the present defect among seafaring men in regard to virtue and piety; and, by reason of an abundant traffic and many ships being used for war, so many people are employed on the sea that the subject of placing lads to this employment appears very weighty.
When I remember the saying of the Most High through his prophet, "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise," and think of placing children among such to learn the practice of sailing, the consistency of it with a pious education seems to me like that mentioned by the prophet, "There is no answer from God."
Profane examples are very corrupting and very forcible. And as my mind day after day and night after night hath been affected with a sympathizing tenderness towards poor children who are put to the employment of sailors, I have sometimes had weighty conversation with the sailors in the steerage, who were mostly respectful to me and became more so the longer I was with them. They mostly appeared to take kindly what I said to them; but their minds were so deeply impressed with the almost universal depravity among sailors that the poor creatures in their answers to me have revived in my remembrance that of the degenerate Jews a little before the captivity, as repeated by Jeremiah the prophet, "There is no hope."
Now under this exercise a sense of the desire of outward gain prevailing among us felt grievous; and a strong call to the professed followers of Christ was raised in me that all may take heed lest, through loving this present world, they be found in a continued neglect of duty with respect to a faithful labor for reformation.
To silence every motion proceeding from the love of money and humbly to wait upon God to know his will concerning us have appeared necessary. He alone is able to strengthen us to dig deep, to remove all which lies between us and the safe foundation, and so to direct us in our outward employments, that pure universal love may shine forth in our proceedings. Desires arising from the spirit of truth are pure desires; and when a mind divinely opened towards a young generation is made sensible of corrupting examples powerfully working and extensively spreading among them, how moving is the prospect! In a world of dangers and difficulties, like a desolate, thorny wilderness, how precious, how comfortable, how safe, are the leadings of Christ the good Shepherd, who said, "I know my sheep, and am known of mine!"
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Thirtieth Chapter / The Quest Of Divine Help And Confidence In Regaining Grace
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, I am the Lord Who gives strength in the day of trouble. Come to Me when all is not well with you. Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation, for before you pray earnestly to Me you first seek many comforts and take pleasure in outward things. Thus, all things are of little profit to you until you realize that I am the one Who saves those who trust in Me, and that outside of Me there is no worth-while help, or any useful counsel or lasting remedy.
But now, after the tempest, take courage, grow strong once more in the light of My mercies; for I am near, says the Lord, to restore all things not only to the full but with abundance and above measure. Is anything difficult for Me? Or shall I be as one who promises and does not act? Where is your faith? Stand firm and persevere. Be a man of endurance and courage, and consolation will come to you in due time. Wait for Me; wait—and I will come to heal you.
It is only a temptation that troubles you, a vain fear that terrifies you.
Of what use is anxiety about the future? Does it bring you anything but trouble upon trouble? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. It is foolish and useless to be either grieved or happy about future things which perhaps may never happen. But it is human to be deluded by such imaginations, and the sign of a weak soul to be led on by suggestions of the enemy. For he does not care whether he overcomes you by love of the present or fear of the future.
Let not your heart be troubled, therefore, nor let it be afraid. Believe in Me and trust in My mercy. When you think you are far from Me, then often I am very near you. When you judge that almost all is lost, then very often you are in the way of gaining great merit.
All is not lost when things go contrary to your wishes. You ought not judge according to present feelings, nor give in to any trouble whenever it comes, or take it as though all hope of escape were lost. And do not consider yourself forsaken if I send some temporary hardship, or withdraw the consolation you desire. For this is the way to the kingdom of heaven, and without doubt it is better for you and the rest of My servants to be tried in adversities than to have all things as you wish. I know your secret thoughts, and I know that it is profitable for your salvation to be left sometimes in despondency lest perhaps you be puffed up by success and fancy yourself to be what you are not.
What I have given, I can take away and restore when it pleases Me. What I give remains Mine, and thus when I take it away I take nothing that is yours, for every good gift and every perfect gift is Mine.
If I send you trouble and adversity, do not fret or let your heart be downcast. I can raise you quickly up again and turn all your sorrow into joy. I am no less just and worthy of great praise when I deal with you in this way.
If you think aright and view things in their true light, you should never be so dejected and saddened by adversity, but rather rejoice and give thanks, considering it a matter of special joy that I afflict you with sorrow and do not spare you. “As the Father hath loved Me, so also I love you,” I said to My disciples, and I certainly did not send them out to temporal joys but rather to great struggles, not to honors but to contempt, not to idleness, but to labors, not to rest but to bring forth much fruit in patience. Do you, My child, remember these words.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
Then comes my fifth thought, and it is this--This holy partnership with the Holy Spirit in this work becomes a matter of consciousness and of action.
These men, what did they do? They set apart Paul and Barnabas, and then it is written of the two that they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia. Oh, what fellowship! The Holy Spirit in Heaven doing part of the work, men on earth doing the other part. After the ordination of the men upon earth, it is written in God's inspired Word that they were sent forth by the Holy Spirit.
And see how this partnership calls to new prayer and fasting. They had for a certain time been ministering to the Lord and fasting, perhaps days; and the Holy Spirit speaks, and they have to do the work and to enter into partnership, and at once they come together for more prayer and fasting. That is the spirit in which they obey the command of their Lord. And that teaches us that it is not only in the beginning of our Christian work, but all along that we need to have our strength in prayer. If there is one thought with regard to the Church of Christ, which at times comes to me with overwhelming sorrow; if there is one thought in regard to my own life of which I am ashamed; if there is one thought of which I feel that the Church of Christ has not accepted it and not grasped it; if there is one thought which makes me pray to God:
"Oh, teach us by Thy grace, new things"--it is the wonderful power that prayer is meant to have in the kingdom. We have so little availed ourselves of it.
We have all read the expression of Christian in Bunyan's great work, when he found he had the key in his breast that should unlock the dungeon. We have the key that can unlock the dungeon of atheism and of heathendom. But, oh! we are far more occupied with our work than we are with prayer. We believe more in speaking to men than we believe in speaking to God. Learn from these men that the work which the Holy Spirit commands must call us to new fasting and prayer, to new separation from the spirit and the pleasures of the world, to new consecration to God and to His fellowship. Those men gave themselves up to fasting and prayer, and if in all our ordinary Christian work there were more prayer, there would be more blessing in our own inner life. If we felt and proved and testified to the world that our only strength lay in keeping every minute in contact with Christ, every minute allowing God to work in us--if that were our spirit, would not, by the grace of God, our lives be holier? Would not they be more abundantly fruitful?
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but a fool is reckless and overconfident.
17 He who is quick-tempered does stupid things,
and one who does vile things is hated.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘But, Pam, do think! Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.’
‘You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a mother.’
‘You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.’
‘If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take Michael away from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.’
‘But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake …’
‘I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life …’
‘Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask our own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.’
‘This is all nonsense—cruel and wicked nonsense. What right have you to say things like that about Mother-love? It is the highest and holiest feeling in human nature.’
‘Pam, Pam—no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.’
‘My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we’d lived together for millions of years.’
‘You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven’t you met—down there—mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?’
‘If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you’re not suggesting … If I had Michael I’d be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn’t be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn’t quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn’t go about whining and complaining that he wasn’t nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don’t you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won’t stand.’
‘What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.’
‘It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?’
‘That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.’
‘What was a mistake?’
‘All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it; keeping anniversaries; refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
His resurrection destiny
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? --- Luke 24:26.
Our Lord’s Cross is the gateway into His life: His Resurrection means that He has power now to convey His life to me. When I am born again from above, I receive from the risen Lord His very life.
Our Lord’s Resurrection destiny is to bring “many sons unto glory.” The fulfilling of His destiny gives Him the right to make us sons and daughters of God. We are never in the relationship to God that the Son of God is in; but we are brought by the Son into the relation of sonship. When Our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life, to a life He did not live before He was incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before; and His resurrection means for us that we are raised to His risen life, not to our old life. One day we shall have a body like unto His glorious body, but we can know now the efficacy of His resurrection and walk in newness of life. “I would know Him in the power of His resurrection.”
“As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.” “Holy Spirit” is the experimental name for Eternal Life working in human beings here and now. The Holy Spirit is the Deity in proceeding power Who applies the Atonement to our experience. Thank God it is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Ghost can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey Him.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Souillac: Le Sacrifice
And he grasps him by the hair
With innocent savagery
And the son's face is calm;
There is trust there.
And the beast looks on.
This is what art can do,
With serene chisel.
The resistant stone
Is quiet as our breath,
And is accepted.
A man returned to his doctor, six months after being diagnosed with emphysema caused primarily by smoking. Although his condition had improved somewhat after the initial diagnosis and treatments, the painful symptoms, including the difficult breathing, had recently returned. During the course of the examination, the doctor found that the patient had, in the past two months, taken up smoking again.
“Doc, you’ve got to help me. I can hardly catch my breath, and the coughing is torture.”
“John, I’ve explained this to you before: Until you stop the smoking, there’s nothing that I can do to help you. It’s really up to you. You want to get better? First get rid of the cigarettes.”
Before we can move ahead and try to become better, we need to get rid of the bad and leave it behind. This law of nature apparently applies not only to the ritual of mikveh and to the science of medicine, but also to the realm of ethics as well. The Rabbis teach us that the power of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is such that if we seek God’s forgiveness for sins we have committed against God, we are automatically forgiven. However, all the crimes and transgressions we have committed and all the wrongs we have done to our fellow human beings in the past year are not forgiven unless and until we go to those we have hurt and offended and make restitution to them. Admitting our errors is the first step but it, by itself, is not sufficient. If we have broken something, we need to replace it. If we have humiliated another person, we need to find a way to restore his or her dignity. To do any less would be the equivalent of immersing in the mikveh with a reptile still in our hands.
A person should always be as bending as a reed, not as rigid as the cedar.
Text / A story: Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon came from his master’s house in Migdal Gedor, riding on a donkey, travelling by the river. He was extremely happy, very taken with himself after having learned so much Torah. He came upon a very ugly man who said to him: “Shalom, Rabbi.” He did not return his greeting. He then said [to the ugly man]: “You nothing! How ugly that man is! Are all the people of your town ugly like you?” He answered: “I do not know, but why don’t you go and tell the Craftsman who made me?” When he [Rabbi Elazar] himself realized that he had sinned, he got off his donkey and bowed before him and said to him: “I have spoken improperly to you. Forgive me!” He said to him: “I will not forgive you until you go and tell the Craftsman who made me ‘How ugly is this thing You have made!’ ” He [Rabbi Elazar] followed him until he reached his town. The townspeople came out to greet him, saying: “Shalom, Rabbi, Rabbi! Master, Master!” He [the ugly man] said to them: “Who are you calling ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’?” They said: “This man, walking behind you.” He said to them: “If this is a Rabbi, may there not be more like him in Israel!” They said to him: “Why?” He said to them: “This is what he did to me.…” They said to him: “Nevertheless, forgive him, for he is a great man of the Torah.” He said: “For your sakes, I will forgive him, on the condition that he not do this again.” Immediately, Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon came in and preached: “A person should always be as bending as a reed, not as rigid as a cedar. Therefore has the reed merited to be used for the quills with which we write the Torah scroll, tefillin, and mezuzzot.”
Context / On the Gemara, Rashi comments: “There are books in which it is written that it was Elijah, may his memory be for a blessing, and his intention was to reprove him so he would not do this again.”
The Gemara notes the similarities of the Jews to the reed: Both desperately need water in order to survive. In addition, the Jews were simple, weak, and humble like the reed. The strong, tall, and noble cedar tree was seen as symbolic of the nations of the world and, specifically, the Romans. Yet, the poor reed was the ultimate survivor. It was able to bend and give in the face of a strong wind or a storm. The mighty cedar, because it was not as pliant, was more likely to be uprooted. This message was to become an important strategy in coping with persecution.
Because of its “easy-going” nature and its willingness to show flexibility, the reed was, according to tradition, rewarded with the privilege of being used in the holy task of writing Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzzot. (Tefillin are the two boxes strapped on to the arm and head during the morning weekday service; the boxes contain parchment on which sections from the Torah are written; mezuzzot are containers attached to the doorpost which also contain selections of the Torah written on parchment.)
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Foundation is love
Overview / Following the form of ancient treaties, Moses now introduced the basic stipulations which explained how persons were to live in relationship with God under Law.
To this expression of underlying principle, the Old Testament brings one dominant theme: the theme of love. We cannot understand the Old Testament or its Law without seeing it in love’s perspective, as a way of working out our relationships with God and with other human beings.
Jealous. Here we meet the idea of God as a jealous person. What does this term mean? The Hebrew root portrays a very strong emotion, even a passionate desire. In a negative sense the emotion is directed against another person, or when directed to an object, is envy. There is a positive aspect when the Old Testament speaks of God’s jealousy. In this case jealousy is intense love: a high level of commitment that demands expression in a relationship which excludes all others.
No wonder God said to Israel, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5). God loved Israel as He loves us, totally and completely. And He asks that we love Him in this same, intense way.
To memorize: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5).
Commentary / The other day one of the neighborhood children went to court. The judge warned him: “Once more, and you’ll be locked up.” That very afternoon, that same 13-year-old stole money from our car to buy a birthday present. And that evening he insisted, “Mom doesn’t really love me.”
Young Nat needs love. But he is constantly testing the limits: constantly pushing to see how far he can go before the inevitable rejection. Sure that he’s not loved, Nat is driven to prove over and over that he is right about his unloveliness. When he is rejected or disciplined because of his actions, he confirms what he has decided his identity to be.
I have another friend who was brought up in a home without love. Married now, she is unable to express love for her husband, or to sense his love for her. The cause has been traced and understood. But the void that lovelessness has left in her personality has scarred her and, against her will, has hurt others as well.
The effects of lack of love have been noted and traced by generations of psychologists—and myriads of sufferers. Some substitute food for affection, and grow fat. Others feel worthless, unable to value a personality that their parents rejected. Still others are driven to prove themselves and try to earn love by accomplishments that stretch their nerves and energies to the breaking point. No wonder social psychologist Abraham Maslow places a need for “love and belongingness” as a basic need of the human personality; a need which must be met if a person is to grow toward becoming his potential self. I like the video below, Universal Love.
“Do I belong [acceptance]?” and “Am I loved?” are perhaps two of the most basic questions that can be asked in thinking about any relationship. It’s not surprising, then, to realize that these basic questions are answered for Israel in an unmistakable way. Moses, speaking to a new generation of Hebrews about to cross into the Promised Land, brought into clearest focus God’s great assurance, “You are loved!” (Deut. 7:7–8) The heritage of the Jews was a living heritage—God Himself, walking in personal relationship with them.
Sometimes you feel unloved and unaccepted. So do I. But something both of us need to do is to learn that we are loved: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up” (Ps. 27:10).
As we teach these vital chapters of Deuteronomy, let’s remember that these same affirmations of love are made to you and to me. We too have a heritage in our personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In Him we are accepted and loved.
The Teacher's Commentary
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration
If the Bible provides no solid leads in the case of Ezra’s reading, it does offer a number of other examples of ancient biblical interpretation; in fact, the most ancient p 128 examples of biblical interpretation that we have are found within the Bible itself, where later books explain or expand on things that appear in earlier books. Often, the things that ancient interpreters felt called to comment upon were apparent inconsistencies or contradictions within the biblical text. Take, for example, the law in Exodus about the Passover meal:
Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.… They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. (Exod. 12:3–9)
This passage could hardly be less ambiguous: the Passover meal was to feature the meat of a lamb (though, apparently, goat meat was also acceptable, “from the sheep or from the goats”), and it was not to be boiled, but roasted. But if so, then how is one to explain this passage from Deuteronomy?
You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall boil it and eat it at the place that the LORD your God will choose; the next morning you may go back to your tents. (Deut. 16:2, 7)
The phrase “from the flock and the herd” presumably means that a calf or a bull would be just as acceptable as a lamb or goat, and whichever animal was chosen, its meat was apparently to be boiled—precisely what the earlier passage had forbidden. What was a person to do?
The author of the book of Chronicles, an early postexilic work, seems to have been aware of the contradiction between these two texts, since he addressed at least part of it in his own history:
They [the Israelites] slaughtered the Passover offering, and the priests dashed the blood that they received from them, while the Levites did the skinning.… Then they boiled the Passover offering in fire according to the ordinance.…
(2 Chron. 35:13)
“Boiled”—the same word used earlier by Deuteronomy—need not necessarily mean “boiled in water,” this passage suggests; instead, it might just be a circumlocution for roasting, that is, “boiling in fire.” If so, then there really was no contradiction between the Exodus and Deuteronomy passages—both of them really meant “roast”; it was just that Deuteronomy had, for some reason, not used that word explicitly.
Another little problem found within an early book of the Bible was addressed p 129 by a later one; this time, the issue concerned the inheritance rights of the firstborn son. According to biblical law, the firstborn son was to receive a larger portion of his father’s estate—just because he was the firstborn. But what happened if the father had two wives and wished to give precedence to the son of his other wife, even though that son was not his first? This was probably not an uncommon situation, since the law in Deuteronomy is quite emphatic:
If a man has two wives, and one of them is favored over the other, and if both the favored one and the other have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the disfavored one; then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to grant the son of the favored wife preference over the son of the other, who is the firstborn. Instead, he must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the one who is not favored, giving him a double portion of all that he has; since he is the first issue of his virility, the right of the firstborn is his. (Deut. 21:15–17)
The firstborn son is to get the double portion no matter how the father feels about the boy’s mother. But if so, then how does one explain what happened in the biblical story of Jacob and his sons? Jacob marries Leah and Rachel, but it is clear from the start that Rachel is his favorite (Gen. 29:17–18). Nevertheless, Reuben, Leah’s son, is Jacob’s oldest boy, so by rights the double portion is to be his. As things turn out, however, Reuben gets pushed aside: it is Joseph, Rachel’s son, who effectively ends up with the extra inheritance (Gen. 48:5–6). To later readers of Scripture, this surely seemed to be a blatant violation of biblical law. To make matters worse, Reuben kept being referred to as Jacob’s “firstborn” (Exod. 6:14; Num. 1:20; 26:5; etc.). Was he—and if so, why did he lose his inheritance?
Once again, the author of Chronicles went out of his way to explain an apparent contradiction in the text:
The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel [that is, Jacob]. (He was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.) (1 Chron. 5:1)
In Reuben’s case, the Chronicler explains, an exception was made to the general rule because of Reuben’s egregious sin with his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). He was still, in genealogical terms, the firstborn, but the firstborn’s special inheritance (the “birthright”) was given instead to Joseph, Rachel’s son.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
--- Proverbs 18:14.
Some have talked about having a crushed spirit. (Twelve sermons for the troubled and tried: Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle ) One has been disappointed in love—sad, but a trial that can be endured. We have no right to love the creature so much as to make it our idol. Some have been disappointed in their ambition. But who are you that you should not be disappointed, and what are you that you should have everything your way? Surely, if the Lord were to deal with us according to our sins, we would have something to bear worse than the present disappointment. Do not, therefore, allow these things to destroy your peace. About such crushed hearts as these is a good deal of sin mingled with the sorrow, and a great deal of pride, a great deal of creature-worship and of idolatry. Depend on it, if you make an idol, and God loves you, he will break it.
A mother wore black for years after her child had been taken away; she had never forgiven her God for what he had done. Now this is an evil that is to be rebuked. I dare not comfort those whose spirits are crushed in this fashion. If they carry even their mourning too far, we must say to them, “Dear friend, isn’t this rebellion against God? May this not be petulance instead of patience?” We may sorrow and be grieved when we lose our loved ones, for we are human, but we must moderate our sorrow and bow our wills to the will of the Lord, for aren’t we also people of God?
Some have crushed spirits through the cruelty of people, the unkindness of children, the ingratitude of those they have helped. It is a terrible crushing when one who should have been your friend becomes your foe and when you, like your Lord, also have your Judas. We should cry to God to help us bear this trial, for after all, who are we that we should not be despised? The wise expect this kind of trial and, expecting it, are not disappointed when it comes.
Others have been crushed by sorrow. They have had affliction upon affliction, loss after loss, bereavement after bereavement. And we ought to feel these things. Still, every Christian should cry to God for strength to bear repeated losses and bereavements. If we yield to temptation and begin to complain of God for permitting such things to come on us, we will only wound ourselves all the more. Let us be submissive to the hand that wields the rod of correction.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Mystery of Providence April 8
James Chalmers was a carefree, high-spirited Scottish boy. “I dearly loved adventure,” he later said, “and a dangerous position was exhilarating.” Perhaps that’s why he listened carefully one Sunday when his minister read a letter from missionaries in Fiji. The preacher, tears in his eyes, added, “I wonder if there is a boy here who will by and by bring the gospel to the cannibals.” Young James said quietly, “I will!”—and he wasn’t even yet converted.
In 1866, having been converted and trained, he sailed for the South Pacific as a Presbyterian missionary. Chalmers had a way with people. “It was in his presence, his carriage, his eye, his voice,” a friend wrote. “There was something almost hypnotic about him. His perfect composure, his judgment and tact and fearlessness brought him through a hundred difficulties.” Robert Louis Stevenson, who didn’t like missionaries until he met Chalmers, said, “He is a rowdy, but he is a hero. You can’t weary me of that fellow. He took me fairly by storm.”
In 1877 Chalmers sailed on to New Guinea. His ministry was successful there. Packed churches replaced feasts of human flesh. But as the years passed he grew lonely. He was delighted when young Oliver Tomkins came to join him in 1901. The two men decided to explore a new part of the islands, and on Easter Sunday they sailed alongside a new village. The next morning, April 8, 1901, Chalmers and Tomkins went ashore. They were never seen again. A rescue party soon learned that the men had been clubbed to death, chopped to pieces, cooked, and eaten.
News flashed around the world. “I cannot believe it!” exclaimed Dr. Joseph Parker from the pulpit of London’s famous City Temple. “I do not want to believe it! Such a mystery of Providence makes it hard for our strained faith to recover. Yet Jesus was murdered. Paul was murdered. Many missionaries have been murdered. When I think of that side of the case, I cannot but feel that our honored and nobleminded friend has joined a great assembly.”
These are the ones
Who have gone through the great suffering.
They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb
And have made them white.
And so they stand before the throne of God. …
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 8
"If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" --- Luke 23:31.
Among other interpretations of this suggestive question, the following is full of teaching: “If the innocent substitute for sinners, suffer thus, what will be done when the sinner himself —the dry tree—shall fall into the hands of an angry God?” When God saw Jesus in the sinner’s place, he did not spare him; and when he finds the unregenerate without Christ, he will not spare them. O sinner, Jesus was led away by his enemies: so shall you be dragged away by fiends to the place appointed for you. Jesus was deserted of God; and if he, who was only imputedly a sinner, was deserted, how much more shall you be? “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” what an awful shriek! But what shall be your cry when you shall say, “O God! O God! why hast thou forsaken me?” and the answer shall come back, “Because ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” If God spared not his own Son, how much less will he spare you! What whips of burning wire will be yours when conscience shall smite you with all its terrors. Ye richest, ye merriest, ye most self-righteous sinners—who would stand in your place when God shall say, “Awake, O sword, against the man that rejected me; smite him, and let him feel the smart for ever?” Jesus was spit upon: sinner, what shame will be yours! We cannot sum up in one word all the mass of sorrows which met upon the head of Jesus who died for us, therefore it is impossible for us to tell you what streams, what oceans of grief must roll over your spirit if you die as you now are. You may die so, you may die now. By the agonies of Christ, by his wounds and by his blood, do not bring upon yourselves the wrath to come! Trust in the Son of God, and you shall never die.
Evening - April 8
"I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." Psalm 23:4.
Behold, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian’s heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit’s power to comfort us. Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross—a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul. Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus’ name will be your soul’s best music, and his person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, “Philosophers can be happy without music;” and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.
Morning and Evening
William R. Newell, 1868–1956
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7, 8)
Calvary, meaning “the place of the skull,” is a place that everyone has heard about and that thousands of Holy Land tourists visit every year. But the significance of the events that took place on this hill nearly two thousand years ago are often not truly realized by many of those who merely view its location. “At Calvary” focuses our attention on the wondrous mercy and grace that Christ demonstrated through His death on the cross. The hymn exalts our Lord for conquering sin and death and bringing salvation to all who will accept Him as Redeemer and Lord. The “mighty gulf” between God and man was bridged with Christ’s sacrificial atonement at Calvary.
William R. Newell was a noted evangelist, Bible teacher, and later assistant superintendent at the Moody Bible Institute. One day on his way to teach a class, he was meditating about Christ’s suffering at Calvary and all that it meant to him as a lost sinner. These thoughts so impressed themselves on his mind that he stepped into an empty classroom and quickly scribbled down the lines of this hymn on the back of an envelope. A few minutes later he met his friend and colleague, Daniel B. Towner, music director at the institute, and showed him the text he had just written, suggesting that Towner try composing music for it. An hour later as Newell returned from class, Dr. Towner presented him with the melody and they sang their completed hymn together.
Following its publication in 1895, Christians everywhere have used this hymn enthusiastically to rejoice in the “riches of God’s grace” made available “At Calvary.”
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned—
then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus ev’rything;
now I gladly own Him as my King;
now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.
O the love that drew salvation’s plan!
O the grace that bro’t it down to man!
O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
Chorus: Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty—at Calvary.
For Today: Romans 5:6–11; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:19–23.
Give joyful praise from a grateful heart for what the cross means—an instrument of human indignity became the means of our salvation.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Our Suffering with Christ Must Precede Our Being Glorified with Christ
Sixthly, we come to ponder the qualification of this prayer: “after that ye have suffered a while.” This clause is intimately connected with two others: (1) “who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus”; and (2) the petition “himself make you perfect.” The apostle did not pray that believers be removed from this world as soon as they be regenerated, nor that they be immediately relieved of their sufferings. Rather, he prays that their sufferings should give way to eternal glory “after a while,” or, as the Greek signifies, “after a little while,” because all time is short in comparison with eternity. For the same reason the severest afflictions are to be regarded as “light” and “but for a moment” when set over against the “eternal weight of glory” that is awaiting us (2 Cor. 4:17). The sufferings and the glory are inseparably connected, for “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The Apostle Paul clearly teaches that those of us who are God's children shall indeed share in Christ's inheritance, “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). If one bear no cross, he shall gain no crown (Luke 14:27). All who have suffered for Christ's sake on earth shall be glorified in heaven; but none shall be glorified save those who, in some form or other, have been “made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10). Some of the believer's sufferings are from the hand of God's providence, some from “false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26; Gal. 2:4), some from the profane world, some from Satan, and some from indwelling sin. Peter speaks of “manifold temptations” or “trials” (1 Peter 1:6), but they are counterbalanced by “manifold grace” (1 Peter 4:10). And both are directed by “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10)!
Our Conformity to Christ Necessarily Includes Our Having Fellowship with Him in His Sufferings
The abounding grace of God does not preclude trials and afflictions, but those who are the recipients of Divine grace have been “appointed thereunto” (1 Thess. 3:3). Then let us not be dismayed or cast down by them, but seek grace to get them sanctified to us. Sufferings are necessary to the saints on various accounts. First and foremost, they are appointed in order that the members might be conformed to their Head. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Sufficient then for the disciple to be like his Master, that he should be made perfect after he has suffered awhile. Peter himself alludes to this Divinely prescribed order in the way of salvation (namely humiliation, then exaltation, which applies not only to the Head but to His members also) when he refers to “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). It was the Divine will that even the incarnate Son should “learn obedience [submission] by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8, brackets mine). There was a turning point in His ministry when Jesus began “to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). Why did He have to suffer thus? It is because God had ordained it (Acts 4:28). Was Christ tempted by the devil merely on account of Satan's malice toward Him? No, for Jesus was “led up of [by] the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1, brackets mine; cf. Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1, 2). Remember, dear saints enduring trials, that the Savior Himself entered the kingdom of God “through much tribulation” (Acts 14:22), even as we must do. Thus, “in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor [“relieve” or “help”] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18, brackets mine). Therefore, let us “count it all joy when ye [we] fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2, brackets mine), for suffering “as a Christian” is a means by which we can glorify our redeeming God (1 Peter 4:16). The privilege of experiencing “the fellowship of his sufferings” is one of God's appointed means by which we may know that we are in Christ, and no longer identified with the world that now abides under God's wrath (Phil. 3:7-1 1). Hear the words of our Master (Matthew 5:10-12):
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
God's Grace Is Magnified in Meeting Our Needs and Confounding Our Enemies
Secondly, the God of all grace has made this appointment because His grace is best seen in sustaining us and is most manifest by relieving us. Hence, we find the throne of grace magnified by God's giving us “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Much of the glory of God's grace appears in His supporting the weak, in delivering the tempted, and in raising the fallen. The Lord exempts us not from conflict, but maintains us in it. Effectual calling ensures our final perseverance, yet it does not render needless continual supplies of grace. As Manton expressed it, “God will not only give them glory at the end of their journey, but bears their expenses by the way.”
Thirdly, our Father leads us through fiery trials in order to confound those who are opposed to us. Grace reigns (Rom. 5:21), and the greatness of a monarchy is demonstrated by its subduing of rebels and vanquishing of enemies. God raised up the mighty Pharaoh in order to show forth His own power. In the context (I Peter 5:8), as we have seen, He suffers the devil, as a roaring lion, to rage up and down opposing and assaulting us. But He does this only to foil him, for “the prey [shall] be taken from the mighty” (Isa. 49:24, brackets mine), and shortly God shall “bruise Satan under your [our] feet” (Rom. 16:20, brackets mine).
Suffering Proves Our Graces and Makes Heaven More Glorious
Fourthly, suffering is necessary for the trying and proving of our graces: “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3). Consider what Peter says concerning us who have been “begotten again unto a lively hope”:
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6, 7).
It is the wind of tribulation that separates the wheat from the chaff, the furnace that reveals the difference between dross and gold. The stony-ground hearer is offended and falls away “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word” (Matthew 13:21). So, too, for the purifying and the brightening of our hope, our hearts have to be more completely weaned from this world before they become set upon things above.
Fifthly, the glory of our eternal inheritance is enhanced by our enduring affliction. Hear the words of Thomas Goodwin:
“Heaven is not simply joy and happiness, but a glory, and a glory won by conquest—‘to him that overcometh’ [are the promises made] in each one of the seven epistles of Revelation 2 and 3. It is a crown won by mastery, and so by striving, according to certain laws set to be observed by those that win (2 Tim. 2:5). The glory won by conquest and masteries is the more valuable. The portion Jacob won ‘with my sword and with my bow’ was the one he reserved for his beloved Joseph (Gen. 48:22). We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
Grace Is Provided for Both Internal and External Conflicts
It is a mistake (made by some) to restrict either the afflictions of verse 9 or the suffering of verse 10 to outward persecutions and trials. But all inward assaults (whether from our own lusts or Satan), and so all temptations whatsoever, are to be included. The context requires this, for the words “be sober, be vigilant” have respect to our lusts as well as to every other provocation to evildoing, so that the call to resist the devil clearly relates to his inward temptations to sin. The experience of all saints requires it, for their acutest pangs are occasioned by their own corruptions. Moreover, as Goodwin has pointed out, our setting of God before the eyes of our faith as “the God of all grace” argues the same; for His grace stands principally ready to help us against inward sins and temptations to sin. Furthermore, the all of His grace extends not only to all sorts of external miseries, but to all internal maladies, which are our greatest grief, which require His abundant grace above all others, and to which His grace is chiefly directed (Ps. 19:14; 119:1-16; Prov. 3:5-7; 4:20-27). His grace is the grand remedy for every evil to which the believer is subject. Some are guilty of worse sins after conversion than before, and were not the God of all grace their God, where would they be?
Perfection in Grace Is Both Progressive and Eschatological
“After that ye have suffered a while, Himself make you perfect: stablish, strengthen, settle you.” This may well be regarded as a request for grace to enable us to obey the exhortation found in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” We are to be constantly opposing sin and striving to be holy in all manner of conversation. This request receives a partial fulfillment in this life, but a complete and more transcendent one in heaven. Saints are advanced to further degrees of faith and holiness when, after seasons of wavering and suffering, God strengthens and establishes them in a more settled frame of spirit. Yet only in our fixed condition after death will these blessings be fully ours. Not till then shall we be made perfect in the sense of being fully conformed to the image of God's Son. Our hearts will be established “unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 3:13). Only then will all our weakness end and our bodies be “raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43). Then indeed shall we be eternally settled, for the Divine promise is this: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Rev. 3:12).
A Doxology of Infallible Hope
Seventh and finally, we come to the great ascription of this apostolic prayer: “to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” “The apostle, having added prayer to his doctrine, here added praise to his prayer,” says Leighton. It expressed the apostle's confidence that the God of all grace would grant his request. He was assured that what he had asked for on behalf of the saints would be to the Divine “glory,” and that the Divine “dominion” would infallibly bring it to pass. There is thus a practical hint implied for us in this closing doxology. It intimates where relief is to be obtained and strength is to be found in the midst of our suffering: by eyeing the glory of God, which is the grand end He has in view in all His dealings with us; and by confidently trusting in God's dominion in working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). For if His be the dominion, and He has called us to His eternal glory, then what have we to fear? So certain is our glorification (Rom. 8:30) that we should give thanks for it now. The abundant and infinite grace of God is engaged to effect it, and His omnipotent power guarantees its performance.
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
2010 Pastors Conference
Q & A #1
Q & A #2
Q & A #3
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
2 Samuel 13
m2-146 | 01-04-2017
Down But Not Out 2 Samuel 15:13-14
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2 Samuel 14:1-33, 15:1-37, 16:1-12
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