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Ruth 3-4     Acts 28     Jeremiah 38     Psalm 11-12


Ruth 3

Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor

Ruth 3 1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Ruth 4

Boaz Redeems Ruth

Ruth 4 1 Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” 6 Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

Ruth and Boaz Marry

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The Genealogy of David

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.


Acts 28

Paul on Malta

Acts 28 1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul in Rome

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar— though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people's heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.


Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah Cast into the Cistern

Jeremiah 38 1 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people: 2 “Thus says the Lord: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. 3 Thus says the Lord: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” 4 Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” 5 King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.” 6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

Jeremiah Rescued from the Cistern

7 When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— 8 Ebed-melech went from the king's house and said to the king, 9 “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” 10 Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. 12 Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. 13 Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Jeremiah Warns Zedekiah Again

14 King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.” 16 Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is the vision which the Lord has shown to me: 22 Behold, all the women left in the house of the king of Judah were being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and were saying,

“‘Your trusted friends have deceived you
and prevailed against you;
now that your feet are sunk in the mud,
they turn away from you.’

23 All your wives and your sons shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city shall be burned with fire.”

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die. 25 If the officials hear that I have spoken with you and come to you and say to you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; hide nothing from us and we will not put you to death,’ 26 then you shall say to them, ‘I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.’” 27 Then all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him, and he answered them as the king had instructed him. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been overheard. 28 And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.


Psalm 11

The Lord Is in His Holy Temple

To the choirmaster. Of David.

  See Psalm 11 article below   Psalm 11 1 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2 for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
3 if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.


Psalm 12

The Faithful Have Vanished

To the choirmaster: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 12 article below   Psalm 12 1 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
8 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Psalm 11 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     SUBJECT. Charles Simeon gives an excellent summary of this Psalm in the following sentences:—"The Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed; in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of the heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various persons who were accessory either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before us a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this Psalm he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him 'as a partridge upon the mountains.' His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place, and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God."

     To assist us to remember this short, but sweet Psalm, we will give it the name of "THE SONG OF THE STEADFAST."

DIVISION. From 1 to 3, David describes the temptation with which he was assailed, and from 4 to 7, the arguments by which his courage was sustained.


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. These verses contain an account of a temptation to distrust God, with which David was, upon some unmentioned occasion, greatly exercised. It may be, that in the days when he was in Saul's court, he was advised to flee at a time when this flight would have been charged against him as a breach of duty to the king, or a proof of personal cowardice. His case was like that of Nehemiah, when his enemies, under the garb of friendship, hoped to entrap him by advising him to escape for his life. Had he done so, they could then have found a ground of accusation. Nehemiah bravely replied, "Shall such a man as I flee?" and David, in a like spirit, refuses to retreat, exclaiming, "In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" When Satan cannot overthrow us by presumption, how craftily will he seek to ruin us by distrust! He will employ our dearest friends to argue us out of our confidence, and he will use such plausible logic, that unless we once for all assert our immovable trust in Jehovah, he will make us like the timid bird which flies to the mountain whenever danger presents itself.

     Verse 2. How forcibly the case is put! The bow is bent, the arrow is fitted to the string: "Flee, flee, thou defenceless bird, thy safety lies in flight; begone, for thine enemies will send their shafts into thy heart; haste, haste, for soon wilt thou be destroyed!" David seems to have felt the force of the advice, for it came home to his soul; but yet he would not yield, but would rather dare the danger than exhibit a distrust in the Lord his God. Doubtless the perils which encompassed David were great and imminent; it was quite true that his enemies were ready to shoot privily at him.

     Verse 3. It was equally correct that the very foundations of law and justice were destroyed under Saul's unrighteous government: but what were all these things to the man whose trust was in God alone? He could brave the dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him. His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the counter-question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfillment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies? With a sling and a stone, David had smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine, could surely deliver him from King Saul and his myrmidons.   ( The Myrmidons were a legendary people of Greek mythology, native to the region of Thessaly. During the Trojan War, they were commanded by Achilles, as described in Homer's Iliad. ) There is no such word as "impossibility" in the language of faith; that martial grace knows how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee.

     Verse 4. David here declares the great source of his unflinching courage. He borrows his light from heaven—from the great central orb of deity. The God of the believer is never far from him; he is not merely the God of the mountain fastnesses, but of the dangerous valleys and battle plains.

     "Jehovah is in his holy temple." The heavens are above our heads in all regions of the earth, and so is the Lord ever near to us in every state and condition. This is a very strong reason why we should not adopt the vile suggestions of distrust. There is one who pleads his precious blood in our behalf in the temple above, and there is one upon the throne who is never deaf to the intercession of his Son. Why, then, should we fear? What plots can men devise which Jesus will not discover? Satan has doubtless desired to have us, that he may sift us as wheat, but Jesus is in the temple praying for us, and how can our faith fail? What attempts can the wicked make which Jehovah shall not behold? And since he is in his holy temple, delighting in the sacrifice of his Son, will he not defeat every device, and send us a sure deliverance?

     "Jehovah's throne is in the heavens;" he reigns supreme. Nothing can be done in heaven, or earth, or hell, which he doth not ordain and over-rule. He is the world's great Emperor. Wherefore, then, should we flee? If we trust this King of kings, is not this enough? Cannot he deliver us without our cowardly retreat? Yes, blessed be the Lord our God, we can salute him as Jehovah-nissi; in his name we set up our banners, and instead of flight, we once more raise the shout of war.

     "His eyes behold." The eternal Watcher never slumbers; his eyes never know a sleep. "His eyelids try the children of men:" he narrowly inspects their actions, words, and thoughts. As men, when intently and narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids to exclude every other object, so will the Lord look all men through and through. God sees each man as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe. He sees us always; he never removes his eye from us; he sees us entirely, reading the recesses of the soul as readily as the glancings of the eye. Is not this a sufficient ground of confidence, and an abundant answer to the solicitations of despondency? My danger is not hid from him; he knows my extremity, and I may rest assured that he will not suffer me to perish while I rely alone on him. Wherefore, then, should I take wings of a timid bird, and flee from the dangers which beset me?

     Verse 5. "The Lord trieth the righteous:" he doth not hate them, but only tries them. They are precious to him, and therefore he refines them with afflictions. None of the Lord's children may hope to escape from trial, nor, indeed, in our right minds, would any of us desire to do so, for trial is the channel of many blessings.

"Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross;
But the Saviour's power to know,
Sanctifying every loss.

Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet—
Lay me low, and keep me there.

Did I meet no trials here—
No chastisement by the way—
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a cast-away?

Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not—would not, if he might."

William Cowper.

     Is not this a very cogent reason why we should not distrustfully endeavour to shun a trial? — for in so doing we are seeking to avoid a blessing.

     Verse 6. "But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth:" why, then, shall I flee from these wicked men? If God hateth them, I will not fear them. Haman was very great in the palace until he lost favour, but when the king abhorred him, how bold were the meanest attendants to suggest the gallows for the man at whom they had often trembled! Look at the black mark upon the faces of our persecutors, and we shall not run away from them. If God is in the quarrel as well as ourselves, it would be foolish to question the result, or avoid the conflict. Sodom and Gomorrah perished by a fiery hail, and by a brimstone shower from heaven; so shall all the ungodly. They may gather together like Gog and Magog to battle, but the Lord will rain upon them "an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone:" Ezekiel 38:22. Some expositors think that in the term "horrible tempest," there is in the Hebrew an allusion to that burning, suffocating wind, which blows across the Arabian deserts, and is known by the name of Simoom. "A burning storm," Lowth calls it, while another great commentator reads it "wrathwind;" in either version the language is full of terrors. What a tempest will that be which shall overwhelm the despisers of God! Oh! what a shower will that be which shall pour out itself for ever upon the defenceless heads of impenitent sinners in hell! Repent, ye rebels, or this fiery deluge shall soon surround you. Hell's horrors shall be your inheritance, your entailed estate, "the portion of your cup." The dregs of that cup you shall wring out, and drink for ever. A drop of hell is terrible, but what must a full cup of torment be? Think of it—a cup of misery, but not a drop of mercy. O people of God, how foolish is it to fear the faces of men who shall soon be faggots in the fire of hell! Think of their end, their fearful end, and all fear of them must be changed into contempt of their threatenings, and pity for their miserable estate.

     Verse 7. The delightful contrast of the last verse is well worthy of our observation, and it affords another overwhelming reason why we should be stedfast, unmoveable, not carried away with fear, or led to adopt carnal expedients in order to avoid trial. "For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness." It is not only his office to defend it, but his nature to love it. He would deny himself if he did not defend the just. It is essential to the very being of God that he should be just; fear not, then, the end of all your trials, but "be just, and fear not." God approves, and, if men oppose, what matters it? "His countenance doth behold the upright." We need never be out of countenance, for God countenances us. He observes, he approves, he delights in the upright. He sees his own image in them, an image of his own fashioning, and therefore with complacency he regards them. Shall we dare to put forth our hand unto iniquity in order to escape affliction? Let us have done with by-ways and short turnings, and let us keep to that fair path of right along which Jehovah's smile shall light us. Are we tempted to put our light under a bushel, to conceal our religion from our neighbours? Is it suggested to us that there are ways of avoiding the cross, and shunning the reproach of Christ? Let us not hearken to the voice of the charmer, but seek an increase of faith, that we may wrestle with principalities and powers, and follow the Lord, fully going without the camp, bearing his reproach. Mammon, the flesh, the devil, will all whisper in our ear, "Flee as a bird to your mountain;" but let us come forth and defy them all. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." There is no room or reason for retreat. Advance! Let the vanguard push on! To the front! all ye powers and passions of our soul. On! on! in God's name, on! for "the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."


The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Psalm 12 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. This Psalm is headed "To the Chief Musician upon Sheminith, a Psalm of David," which title is identical with that of the Psalm 6, except that Neginoth is here omitted. We have nothing new to add, and therefore refer the reader to our remarks on the dedication of Psalm 6. As Sheminith signifies the eighth, the Arabic version says it is concerning the end of the world, which shall be the eighth day, and refers it to the coming of the Messiah: without accepting so fanciful an interpretation, we may read this song of complaining faith in the light of His coming who shall break in pieces the oppressor. The subject will be the better before the mind's eye if we entitle this Psalm: "GOOD THOUGHTS IN BAD TIMES." It is supposed to have been written while Saul was persecuting David, and those who favoured his cause.

     DIVISION. In the first and second verses David spreads his plaint before the Lord concerning the treachery of his age; verses 3 and 4 denounce judgments upon proud traitors; in verse 5, Jehovah himself thunders out his wrath against oppressors; hearing this, the Chief Musician sings sweetly of the faithfulness of God and his care of his people, in verses 6 and 7; but closes on the old key of lament in verse 8, as he observes the abounding wickedness of his times. Those holy souls who dwell in Mesech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar, may read and sing these sacred stanzas with hearts in full accord with their mingled melody of lowly mourning and lofty confidence.


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. "Help, Lord." A short but sweet, suggestive, seasonable, and serviceable prayer; a kind of angel's sword, to be turned every way, and to be used on all occasions. Ainsworth says the word rendered "help," is largely used for all manner of saving, helping, delivering, preserving, etc. Thus it seems that the prayer is very full and instructive. The Psalmist sees the extreme danger of his position, for a man had better be among lions than among liars; he feels his own inability to deal with such sons of Belial, for "he who shall touch them must be fenced with iron;" he therefore turns himself to his all-sufficient Helper, the Lord, whose help is never denied to his servants, and whose aid is enough for all their needs. "Help, Lord," is a very useful ejaculation which we may dart up to heaven on occasions of emergency, whether in labour, learning, suffering, fighting, living, or dying. As small ships can sail into harbours which larger vessels, drawing more water, cannot enter, so our brief cries and short petitions may trade with heaven when our soul is wind-bound, and business-bound, as to longer exercises of devotion, and when the stream of grace seems at too low an ebb to float a more laborious supplication. "For the godly man ceaseth;" the death, departure, or decline of godly men should be a trumpet-call for more prayer. They say that fish smell first at the head, and when godly men decay, the whole commonwealth will soon go rotten. We must not, however, be rash in our judgment on this point, for Elijah erred in counting himself the only servant of God alive, when there were thousands whom the Lord held in reserve. The present times always appear to be peculiarly dangerous, because they are nearest to our anxious gaze, and whatever evils are rife are sure to be observed, while the faults of past ages are further off, and are more easily overlooked. Yet we expect that in the latter days, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold," and then we must the more thoroughly turn from man, and address ourselves to the Churches' Lord, by whose help the gates of hell shall be kept from prevailing against us. "The faithful fail from among the children of men;" when godliness goes, faithfulness inevitably follows; without fear of God, men have no love of truth. Common honesty is no longer common, when common irreligion leads to universal godlessness. David had his eye on Doeg, and the men of Ziph and Keilah, and perhaps remembered the murdered priests of Nob, and the many banished ones who consorted with him in the cave of Adullam, and wondered where the state would drift without the anchors of its godly and faithful men. David, amid the general misrule, did not betake himself to seditious plottings, but to solemn petitionings; nor did he join with the multitude to do evil, but took up the arms of prayer to withstand their attacks upon virtue.

     Verse 2. "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour." They utter that which is vain to hear, because of its frivolous, foolish, want of worth; vain to believe, because it was false and lying; vain to trust to, since it was deceitful and flattering; vain to regard, for it lifted up the hearer, filling him with proud conceit of himself. It is a sad thing when it is the fashion to talk vanity. "Ca'me, and I'll ca'thee." is the old Scotch proverb; give me a high sounding character, and I will give you one. Compliments and fawning congratulations are hateful to honest men; they know that if they take they must give them, and they scorn to do either. These accommodation-bills are most admired by those who are bankrupt in character. Bad are the times when every man thus cajoles and cozens his neighbour. "With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak." He who puffs up another's heart, has nothing better than wind in his own. If a man extols me to my face, he only shows me one side of his heart, and the other is black with contempt for me, or foul with intent to cheat me. Flattery is the sign of the tavern where duplicity is the host. The Chinese consider a man of two hearts to be a very base man, and we shall be safe in reckoning all flatteries to be such.

     Verses 3, 4. Total destruction shall overwhelm the lovers of flattery and pride, but meanwhile how they hector and fume! Well did the apostle call them "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame." Free-thinkers are generally very free-talkers, and they are never more at ease than when railing at God's dominion, and arrogating to themselves unbounded license. Strange is it that the easy yoke of the Lord should so gall the shoulders of the proud, while the iron bands of Satan they bind about themselves as chains of honour: they boastfully cry unto God, "Who is lord over us?" and hear not the hollow voice of the evil one, who cries from the infernal lake, "I am your lord, and right faithfully do ye serve me." Alas, poor fools, their pride and glory shall be cut off like a fading flower! May God grant that our soul may not be gathered with them. It is worthy of observation that flattering lips, and tongues speaking proud things, are classed together: the fitness of this is clear, for they are guilty of the same vice, the first flatters another, and the second flatters himself, in both cases a lie is in their right hands. One generally imagines that flatterers are such mean parasites, so cringing and fawning, that they cannot be proud; but the wise man will tell you that while all pride is truly meanness, there is in the very lowest meanness no small degree of pride. Caesar's horse is even more proud of carrying Caesar, than Caesar is of riding him. The mat on which the emperor wiped his shoes, boasts vaingloriously, crying out, "I cleaned the imperial boots." None are so detestably domineering as the little creatures who creep into office by cringing to the great; those are bad times, indeed, in which these obnoxious beings are numerous and powerful. No wonder that the justice of God in cutting off such injurious persons is matter for a psalm, for both earth and heaven are weary of such provoking offenders, whose presence is a very plague to the people afflicted thereby. Men cannot tame the tongues of such boastful flatterers; but the Lord's remedy if sharp is sure, and is an unanswerable answer to their swelling words of vanity.

     Verse 5. In due season the Lord will hear his elect ones, who cry day and night unto him, and though he bear long with their oppressors, yet will he avenge them speedily. Observe that the mere oppression of saints, however silently they bear it, is in itself a cry to God: Moses was heard at the Red Sea, though he said nothing; and Hagar's affliction was heard despite her silence. Jesus feels with his people, and their smarts are mighty orators with him. By-and-by, however, they begin to sigh and express their misery, and then relief comes post-haste. Nothing moves a father like the cries of his children; he bestirs himself, wakes up his manhood, overthrows the enemy, and sets his beloved in safety. A puff is too much for the child to bear, and the foe is so haughty, that he laughs the little one to scorn; but the Father comes, and then it is the child's turn to laugh, when he is set above the rage of his tormentor. What virtue is there in a poor man's sighs, that they should move the Almighty God to arise from his throne. The needy did not dare to speak, and could only sigh in secret, but the Lord heard, and could rest no longer, but girded on his sword for the battle. It is a fair day when our soul brings God into her quarrel, for when his bare arm is seen, Philistia shall rue the day. The darkest hours of the Church's night are those which precede the break of day. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. Jesus will come to deliver just when his needy ones shall sigh, as if all hope had gone for ever. O Lord, set thy now near at hand, and rise up speedily to our help. Should the afflicted reader be able to lay hold upon the promise of this verse, let him gratefully fetch a fulness of comfort from it. Gurnall says, "As one may draw out the wine of a whole hogshead at one tap, so may a poor soul derive the comfort of the whole covenant to himself through one promise, if he be able to apply it." He who promises to set us in safety, means thereby preservation on earth, and eternal salvation in heaven.

     Verse 6. What a contrast between the vain words of man, and the pure words of Jehovah. Man's words are yea and nay, but the Lord's promises are yea and amen. For truth, certainty, holiness, faithfulness, the words of the Lord are pure as well-refined silver. In the original there is an allusion to the most severely-purifying process known to the ancients, through which silver was passed when the greatest possible purity was desired; the dross was all consumed, and only the bright and precious metal remained; so clear and free from all alloy of error or unfaithfulness is the book of the words of the Lord. The Bible has passed through the furnace of persecution, literary criticism, philosophic doubt, and scientific discovery, and has lost nothing but those human interpretations which clung to it as alloy to precious ore. The experience of saints has tried it in every conceivable manner, but not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed in the most excessive heat. What God's words are, the words of his children should be. If we would be Godlike in conversation, we must watch our language, and maintain the strictest purity of integrity and holiness in all our communications.

     Verse 7. To fall into the hands of an evil generation, so as to be baited by their cruelty, or polluted by their influence, is an evil to be dreaded beyond measure; but it is an evil foreseen and provided for in the text. In life many a saint has lived a hundred years before his age, as though he had darted his soul into the brighter future, and escaped the mists of the beclouded present: he has gone to his grave unreverenced and misunderstood, and lo! as generations come and go, upon a sudden the hero is unearthed, and lives in the admiration and love of the excellent of the earth; preserved for ever from the generation which stigmatised him as a sower of sedition, or burned him as a heretic. It should be our daily prayer that we may rise above our age as the mountain-tops above the clouds, and may stand out as heaven-pointing pinnacle high above the mists of ignorance and sin which roll around us. O Eternal Spirit, fulfil in us the faithful saying of this verse! Our faith believes those two assuring words, and cries, "Thou shalt," "thou shalt."

     Verse 8. Here we return to the fount of bitterness, which first made the psalmist run to the wells of salvation, namely, the prevalence of wickedness. When those in power are vile, their underlings will be no better. As a warm sun brings out noxious flies, so does a sinner in honour foster vice everywhere. Our turf would not so swarm with abominables if those who are styled honourables did not give their countenance to the craft. Would to God that the glory and triumph of our Lord Jesus would encourage us to walk and work on every side; as like acts upon like, since an exalted sinner encourages sinners, our exalted Redeemer must surely excite, cheer, and stimulate his saints. Nerved by a sight of his reigning power we shall meet the evils of the times in the spirit of holy resolution, and shall the more hopefully pray, "Help, Lord."


The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Amen

By R.C. Sproul 11/01/2011

     And all the people said … “Amen!” The “amen corner” has had an important place in the life of the church throughout the ages. However, it is rare to find such a spot among Presbyterians. We are known as God’s frozen chosen for a reason. It has been said that the Methodists like to shout “Fire,” the Baptists like to shout “Water,” and the Presbyterians like to softly say, “Order, order.” Nevertheless, in spite of the idiosyncrasies of various ecclesiastical persuasions, the function of the word amen far transcends denominational usages in the modern era.

     The term amen was used in the corporate worship of ancient Israel in two distinct ways. It served first as a response to praise given to God and second as a response to prayer. Those same usages of the term are still in vogue among Christians. The term itself is rooted in a Semitic word that means “truth,” and the utterance of “amen” is an acknowledgment that the word that has been heard, whether a word of praise, a word of prayer, or a sermonic exhortation, is valid, that is, sure and binding. Even in antiquity, the word amen was used in order to express a pledge to fulfill the terms of a vow. So, this little word is one that is centered on the idea of the truth of God.

     The truth of God is such a remarkable element of Christian faith that it cannot be overlooked. There are those who think that truth is negotiable or, even worse, divisive, and it therefore should not be a matter of passionate concern among believers. But if we are not concerned about truth, then we have no reason to have Bibles in our homes. The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is true. It is not just true but is truth itself. This is the assessment made of it by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 17:17).

(Jn 17:17–18) 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.   ESV

     Therefore, when we sing a hymn that reflects biblical truth and end it with the sung word amen, we are giving our approbation of the content of the praise in the hymn. When we have a choral “amen” at the end of the pastoral prayer, again we are emphasizing our agreement with the validity and surety of the content of the prayer itself.

     Worship in biblical terms is a corporate matter. The corporate body is made up of individuals, and when an individual sounds the “amen,” the individual is connecting to the corporate expression of worship and praise. However, we are told in the Scriptures that the truths of God are “yea” and “amen” (2 Cor. 1:20), which simply means that the Word of God is valid, it is certain, and it is binding. Therefore, the expression “amen” is not simply an acknowledgment of personal agreement with what has been stated; it is an expression of willingness to submit to the implications of that word, to indeed be bound by it, as if the Word of God would put ropes around us not to strangle or retard us but to hold us firmly in place.

(2 Co 1:20) 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.   ESV

     There is, perhaps, no more remarkable use of the term amen in the New Testament than on the lips of Jesus. Older translations render statements of our Lord with the preparatory words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” Later translations update that to “Truly, truly, I say unto you.” In such passages, the Greek word that is translated as “verily” or “truly” is the word amen. Jesus does not wait for the disciples to nod their agreement or submission to His teaching at the end of His saying; rather, He begins by saying, “Amen, amen, I say unto you.” What is the significance of this? Namely, that Jesus never uttered a desultory word; every word that came from His lips was true and important. Each word was, as “amen” suggests, valid, sure, and binding.

     Furthermore, even in His own pedagogy, Jesus took the opportunity on occasion to call strict attention to something He was about to say by giving it tremendous emphasis. His practice was somewhat akin to the sounding of a whistle and an announcement over a loudspeaker on a ship: “Now hear this, this is the captain speaking.” When that announcement is made on a ship, everyone listens, realizing that when the captain speaks to the entire crew, what he is saying is of the utmost importance and urgency. However, the authority of Jesus far transcends that of a captain of a seagoing vessel. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth by the Father. So when He gives a preface to a teaching and says, “Amen, amen, I say unto you,” our listening ears should be fine-tuned to take note instantly of what our Lord is going to say following the preface, for it is of the utmost importance.

     We also notice that Jesus uses the Hebrew technique of repetition by saying not merely, “Amen, I say unto you,” but “Amen, amen.” This form of repetition underlines the importance of the words that are to follow. Whenever we read in the text of Scripture our Lord giving a statement that is prefaced by the double “amen,” it is a time to pay close attention and be ready to give our response with a double amen to it. He says “amen” to indicate truth; we say it to receive that truth and to submit to it.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Problematic Analogies and Prayerful Adoration

By Carl R. Trueman 11/11/2011

     Ask any children’s Sunday school teacher what the most difficult thing to teach is and he will almost certainly tell you: “The doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one but exists in three persons.” Ask them how they do it and you will probably find them outlining an analogy: “God is like water, ice, and steam” is one of the more popular.

     The problem with such an analogy — indeed, with any analogy — for the Trinity is that it is actually more misleading than helpful. What it describes is not really something akin to the biblical Trinity but rather to the ancient heresy of modalism. The detailed problems of this heresy, which sees God as one and as turning from Father into Son and then into Holy Spirit, need not delay us here. My point is that analogies for the Trinity are unhelpful because the Trinity is absolutely unique. There is no analogy to the created world that is more helpful than it is misleading.

     Another area where Christians are wont to use analogies is that of the incarnation. Here the analogies often flow the other way: the created realm is not used to explain the incarnation so much as the incarnation is used to explain some aspect of the creation. Thus, some have argued for an incarnational analogy as a means of understanding how the divine and the human relate to each other in the doctrine of Scripture, given that the Bible has both human and divine authors. There is no monopoly by one party in the church. Liberals have used this notion; but so did the orthodox Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck. Others have used the analogy to explain the relationship of Christ to culture. Still others have used it as a means of explaining how the eternal God works in the flux of history through providence.

     There are theological arguments pro and con for these various uses of the incarnational analogy, and I will not rehearse them here. I want rather to make a simple point relating to these analogies from the perspective of the church’s praise: the Trinity and the incarnation are unique, and that is why the church had to develop particular and precise means of articulating them. We should also remember the dynamic that drove the debates that led to these formulations: Christian worship. The early church needed to know what she meant when she declared: “Jesus is Lord.” and why she baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If analogies therefore serve to reduce the uniqueness of God and the incarnation, they will eventually shape the church culture in ways that impact our worship. Whatever the problems with popular uses of theological analogies, the key practical issue is the way such watering down of uniqueness will also water down the church’s praise.

     Vital to worship is the acknowledgment of the vast difference that exists between God and His human creatures. Part of that difference is the fact that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, while we are creatures and sustained in our being by God. Part of it is moral: He is holy, but we are sinful. Part of it has to do with salvation: He is the gracious Savior, and we are vessels of grace. In all three categories, mystery and incomprehensibility provide the backdrop to His action in history.

     The doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation guard that mystery because they state biblical truth in a way that is not reducible to the categories of our finite minds. The result of that for the Christian is surely not to be confusion but adoration. The failure of our intellects to penetrate these mysteries is vital to our Christian lives because that very failure is what drives us to our knees in gasps of adoration, praise, and wonder.

     My conviction is that analogies blunt this. By reducing the distance between creation and God, they somehow make Him more manageable, more amenable to our ways of thinking, and thus take some of the urgent spiritual hunger away from our praise and adoration. This is not to argue for fideism, to say that the more mystical our faith, the greater our praise. But it is to say that there is an appropriate place for mystery and uniqueness that must be maintained if our worship is to be truly Christian. The task of the teacher is not to explain the Trinity or incarnation, or reduce them to creaturely categories; it is rather to point to the splendor of the same as a means of provoking awe and wonder in the congregation.

     When we talk of God, we should remember we walk on holy ground. We can go only so far before we have to stop and fall on our faces in adoration. As Gregory Nazianzus, an early church father, said of God as Trinity: “Every time I think of the One, my mind is drawn to the Three; yet every time I think of the Three, my mind is drawn to the One.” He could not explain the Trinity; he could simply worship and adore the Three in One and the One in Three. The mystery, the boundary of incomprehensibility, was to him a reminder that he was not God. The maintenance of such a boundary is crucial. Let us not allow any attempt to communicate the faith to become by accident a means for domesticating the faith.

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     Dr. Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Carl R. Trueman Books:

God’s Hammer

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/01/2011

     Sometimes, indeed often, we build and maintain our paradigms for our own comfort. Our worldviews are usually less the result of careful, dispassionate, sober-minded analysis and more the result of self-serving, special pleading, rationalization of our sin. We believe not because these beliefs commend themselves to our minds but because in our minds the beliefs commend us. It is these habits of our desperately deceitful hearts that make us miss the voice of God. He speaks, but we hear what we want to.

     We come to our Bibles with this most fundamental presupposition —whatever the Bible may be saying, it can’t be telling me that my life needs to be fundamentally changed. Wherever the Bible calls for such change, it must be addressing someone else. Out of this presupposition flows what I call “the diabolical art of simultaneous translation.” This is what happens when our eyes roam across the very words of God in Scripture, but our minds change what we read into something safe, something reasonable, something inoffensive. Jesus, for instance, tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, that this is what the Gentiles worry about, and that we ought to know that we are under God’s care. What our minds hear is something like this: “Those people who are more prosperous than I am need to stop worrying about money. When I get as prosperous as they are, I will be pious enough to no longer worry. Those worrying prosperous people really ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

     Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and we hear: “Those people who don’t believe, who aren’t in the kingdom, who don’t have the righteousness of Christ, need to get serious about pursuing these things. Thank heaven I already have this covered. Because I have already done this, I can now devote my time to something important, worrying about what I will wear and what I will eat.” When the Bible steps on our toes, we try to quietly tiptoe away. What we’re supposed to do is face our sins. What we’re supposed to do is repent and believe.

     One way we might begin to do battle against this weakness is to come to the Bible with a prior commitment to this basic truth—whatever this text or that text is saying, it is likely that it is speaking to me and my sin. Before we decide whether a covenantal paradigm or a dispensational paradigm makes more sense, before we settle the vexing question of who wrote Hebrews or which gospel was written first, before we figure out whether Genesis 1 and 2 are history or poetry or both, we need to come willing and eager to have the mirror of the Word show us our sins. That will happen when we expect it to show us our sins.

     The Word of God consists of the words of God. Their meanings tell us what His meaning is. They are little mirrors that build the big mirror. They are also, however, little hammers that together make up the sledgehammer God uses to smash our recalcitrant hearts. Because our hearts are hard, we insist on soft words. When alone with our Bibles, we soften our Bibles, translating our hammers into pillows. When in the pew on Sunday morning, we insist on preaching that does not offend, that does not confront, that does not strike, that rests lightly on our stony hearts.

     God’s hammer smashes not just the icons of the world around us; it also smashes the idols of my heart. It is hard, heavy, even painful, precisely because of the love of the One who wields it. He has promised to forgive me for my hard heart but has also promised to soften it. He has promised to beat it into submission. As He pounds my heart, He, in turn, opens my ears. Thus, we move from grace to grace, from life to life, from faith to faith.

     When our stony hearts are beaten, they do not merely turn into gravel. Instead, they turn to soil—soft, welcoming soil. And then the Word no longer comes as a hammer but as seed. The soft ground of our hearts welcomes that Word, and soon it bears fruit, multiplying thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold. Soon we find that we have ears to hear and eyes to see, and the very mystery of the parables unfolds before us. If we would hear, we must be willing to hear. If we would be willing, He must make us willing.

     His kingdom is that place where His Word is heard, welcomed, and obeyed. That same Word has promised that if we will drop everything for the sake of the kingdom, all these things will be added to us. Therefore, His kingdom is where worry about tomorrow is banished. God’s Word is a hammer, but it is a hammer that speaks blessing to us. May He be pleased to give us ears to hear the blessings that He speaks.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Ruth 3-4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11-12

By Don Carson 8/10/2018

     Scholars disagree somewhat over the social significance of each action taken in Ruth 3-4, but the general line is clear enough. Almost certainly the levirate laws, which allowed or mandated men to marry widowed in-laws under certain circumstances to keep the family name alive, were not followed very consistently. Following Naomi’s instruction, Ruth takes a little initiative: she lies down at Boaz’s feet in a “men only” sleeping area. When he wakes up, she says, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer” (Ruth 3:9). This was an invitation, but not a cheap one. It signaled her willingness to become his wife, if Boaz will discharge his duties as a kinsman-redeemer. Boaz takes this as a compliment: apparently there is enough difference between their ages (Ruth 3:10, plus his habit of referring to Ruth as “my daughter”) that he is touched by her willingness to marry him instead of one of the young men.

     The story plays out with romantic integrity. Hollywood would hate it: there is no blistering sex, certainly not of the premarital variety. But there is a seductive charm to the account, allied with a wholesome respect for tradition and procedure, and a knowing grasp of human nature. Hence, Naomi confidently predicts that Boaz “will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18).

     She is right, of course. The town gate is the place for public agreements, and there Boaz marshals ten elders as witnesses and gently demands that the one person who is a closer relative to Naomi (and therefore with the right of “first refusal”) discharge the obligations of kinsman-redeemer or legally abandon the claim (Ruth 4:1-4).

     Apparently at this point the marriage rights are tied to ownership of the land of the deceased husband. This particular kinsman-redeemer would love to obtain the land, but does not want to marry Ruth. Her firstborn son in such a union would maintain the property and family heritage of the deceased husband; later sons would inherit from the natural father. But the situation is messy. Suppose Ruth bore only one son?

     So Boaz marries Ruth, and in due course she gives birth to a son, whom they call Obed. Naomi is provided not only with a grandson, but with a family eager and able to look after her.

     At one level, this is a simple story of God’s faithfulness in the little things of life, at a time of social malaise, religious declension, political confusion, and frequent anarchy. God still has his people — working hard, acting honorably, marrying, bearing children, looking after the elderly. They could not know that Obed’s was the line that would sire King David — and, according to the flesh, King Jesus.

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

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What Kind of Unity?

By William W. Goligher 11/01/2011

     Thomas Manton (1620-1677), a seventeenth century minister, once wrote, “Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world.” Certainly the lack of unity in the church distracts minds, breaks hearts, squanders energy, and inhibits evangelism. Unity in the church is important to God. John 17 has been described as “a standing monument of Christ’s affection to the Church.” At least three times Jesus prays for the Church’s unity and witness: “that they all may be one” (v. 21); “that they may be one even as we are one” (v. 22); “that they may become perfectly one” (v. 23); so that all “the world may believe that you have sent me… and loved them even as you loved me” (vv. 21, 23). So the stakes are high. In the twentieth century, these verses were taken out of context and used to argue for a lowest-common-denominator kind of unity—an institutional union that flattened out distinctions and minimized the very doctrines that make the church distinctively “Christian.” What is striking, however, is to see that, rather than being minimalistic, Jesus’ prayer paints a grand picture of the rich contours of Christian belief that hold His people together in the world.

     Specifically, the church is united in a shared history. Here we find an exalted view of God the Trinity as the Son speaks to His Father of the pretemporal glory they shared “before the world existed” (v. 5). We listen to the Son speak of an eternal covenant, or arrangement, forged between the members of the Godhead in which they planned the salvation of a people out of the world. (Theologians call this the pactum salutis, or the covenant of redemption.) In other words, the church’s history began before history in the mind and heart of God, when the Father promised a people as a love gift to His Son. We hear the Son reporting that He had “accomplished the work” that the Father had given Him to do. That work finds its focus on the cross, for “the hour has come” when both God the Father and the Son will be “glorified” (17:1). He had linked His glory to His death before when He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (12:23–24). This was the “hour” for Him to “depart out of this world to the Father” (13:1). The hour of His death would be the hour of His glorification. It is with a view to this death that the Son, as our Great High Priest, “consecrates” Himself (17:19) the sacrificial victim to be our sinbearer and Savior. So we have a shared history as those chosen by the Father, then given to and redeemed by the Son.

     The church is united in a shared legacy, which was given by Christ to the Apostles for our sake. John 17:6–17 refers primarily to these men whom Christ had chosen and gathered around Him in the upper room. He had “manifested” the Father’s “name” to them (17:6) and given them God’s “words” (17:8). That “word” of God, given to the Apostles, “is truth” (17:16), and it is “through their word” that we today have come to “believe” in Jesus (17:20). In other words, as our Lord peers into the future, He sees generation after generation of His followers who will believe in Him through the word of the Apostles.

     From the very beginning, the church of Christ has been an Apostolic church: “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship” (Acts 2:42). This leads the Apostle Paul to say that the church is one, a single building, God’s temple, because it is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). For Jesus, it is the truth that unites us. Our spiritual legacy is both a common truth and a common life, for the church shares the very life of God by being organically united to both the Father and the Son: “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (17:21). John Stott has written,

     The two potential enemies of Christian unity are time and space. It is these that separate believers from each other. But the same apostolic truth spans the successive generations of the church, and the same divine life animates all believers of the same generation.

     The church is united in a shared destiny. For as Jesus finishes His prayer, He looks beyond history to eternity and expresses His final will for His church. He prays that His people will be with Him where He is and see His glory. This is the church’s destiny: both to be with Christ and to see Him as He is, and the vision of Jesus will be the vision of God. What distinguishes the church from the world now is that the world does not know God, but Christ has made Him known to the church. In eternity, that knowledge will be complete, and our fellowship perfect, for we will enjoy the very same love with which the Father has loved the Son (17:26).

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     Dr. William W. Goligher is senior minister at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied in Belfast and has pastored churches in Ireland, Canada and his native Scotland.

William W. Goligher Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 86

Great Is Your Steadfast Love
86 A Prayer Of David.

1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

ESV Study Bible

  • Mercy-Poverty
  • Limitation of Belief
  • Relationship Ministry

#1 Paul Farmer  
Yale University Divinity School


 

#2 Oliver O'Donovan   
Yale University Divinity School


 

#3 Andrew Root   
Yale University Divinity School


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2016    Reformed Theology & John 3:16

     We see it everywhere. From bumper stickers to billboards, from T-shirts to tattoos, from old faded church signs to spray-painted signs along country roads—John 3:16 is everywhere. As such, some Christians have become complacent about the simple truth of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Some think it’s just for children, some think it’s too elementary, and some perhaps think it’s doctrinally beneath them to spend time studying such a simple verse in depth. But in John 3:16 we find both the beautiful simplicity of the gospel and the glorious depths of the gospel. John 3:16 is not just for children to memorize in Sunday school; it is for the greatest biblical scholars and theologians to examine, and it is for every Christian to contemplate daily as we rest in the sovereign, gracious, and sacrifcial love of God.

     John 3:16 is the verse that the late Professor John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary used to begin his classic treatment of the atonement Redemption Accomplished and Applied. “No treatment of the atonement can be properly oriented that does not trace its source to the free and sovereign love of God. It is with this perspective that the best known text in the Bible provides us.” He adds, “Here [in John 3:16] we have an ultimate of divine revelation and therefore of human thought. Beyond this we cannot and dare not go.” The powerful truth of John 3:16 permeated the preaching of Charles Spurgeon, who said, “John 3:16 might be put in the forefront of all my volumes of discourses as the sole topic of my life’s ministry.” Puritan pastor Matthew Henry asserted that in John 3:16, “we have the very marrow and quintessence of the whole gospel.”

     As I fought against Reformed theology more than twenty years ago with all the free will I could muster, I firmly believed that John 3:16 was directly opposed to Reformed theology. But I finally came to see that John 3:16 is at the very foundation of Reformed theology. In John 3:16, we find every tenet of Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) in its most basic form. For those who want to understand Reformed theology, they can begin by striving to understand John 3:16. And for those who have studied the depths of Reformed theology, may we never become so sophisticated that we cannot boldly proclaim John 3:16.

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Black Thursday. The Stock Market crash ended the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. Millions were out of work. This was just seven months after America’s 31st President swore into office. His name was Herbert Hoover, born this day, August 10, 1874. The son of a Quaker blacksmith, he studied at Stanford and became a world renown engineer before entering politics. In the Great Depression, President Hoover stated: “American life is builded… upon… that… philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago… [It] can not survive with the defense of Cain, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7


We talk of the voices of the winds and waves,
but the voices
are only the echo of our souls.
--- George H. Morrison


     When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Upon the Lord your burden cast,
To Him bring all your care;
He will sustain and hold you fast,
And give thee strength to bear.
--- Unknown

What an immense workman is God! In miniature as well as in the great. With the one hand, perhaps, He is making a ring of one hundred thousand miles in diameter, to revolve round a planet like Saturn, and with the other is forming a tooth in the ray of the feather of a humming-bird, or a point in the claw of the foot of a microscopic insect. When He works in miniature, everything is gilded, polished, and perfect, but whatever is made by human art, as a needle, etc., when viewed by a microscope, appears rough, and coarse, and bungling.
--- William Law
Thirty Thousand Thoughts; Jehovistic names and titles of God. The attributes of God. Sins. Christian dogmatics
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 5.

     A Description Of The Roman Armies And Roman Camps And Of Other Particulars For Which The Romans Are Commended.

     1. Now here one cannot but admire at the precaution of the Romans, in providing themselves of such household servants, as might not only serve at other times for the common offices of life, but might also be of advantage to them in their wars. And, indeed, if any one does but attend to the other parts of their military discipline, he will be forced to confess that their obtaining so large a dominion hath been the acquisition of their valor, and not the bare gift of fortune; for they do not begin to use their weapons first in time of war, nor do they then put their hands first into motion, while they avoided so to do in times of peace; but, as if their weapons did always cling to them, they have never any truce from warlike exercises; nor do they stay till times of war admonish them to use them; for their military exercises differ not at all from the real use of their arms, but every soldier is every day exercised, and that with great diligence, as if it were in time of war, which is the reason why they bear the fatigue of battles so easily; for neither can any disorder remove them from their usual regularity, nor can fear affright them out of it, nor can labor tire them; which firmness of conduct makes them always to overcome those that have not the same firmness; nor would he be mistaken that should call those their exercises unbloody battles, and their battles bloody exercises. Nor can their enemies easily surprise them with the suddenness of their incursions; for as soon as they have marched into an enemy's land, they do not begin to fight till they have walled their camp about; nor is the fence they raise rashly made, or uneven; nor do they all abide in it, nor do those that are in it take their places at random; but if it happens that the ground is uneven, it is first leveled: their camp is also four-square by measure, and carpenters are ready, in great numbers, with their tools, to erect their buildings for them.

     2. As for what is within the camp, it is set apart for tents, but the outward circumference hath the resemblance to a wall, and is adorned with towers at equal distances, where between the towers stand the engines for throwing arrows and darts, and for slinging stones, and where they lay all other engines that can annoy the enemy, all ready for their several operations. They also erect four gates, one at every side of the circumference, and those large enough for the entrance of the beasts, and wide enough for making excursions, if occasion should require. They divide the camp within into streets, very conveniently, and place the tents of the commanders in the middle; but in the very midst of all is the general's own tent, in the nature of a temple, insomuch, that it appears to be a city built on the sudden, with its market-place, and place for handicraft trades, and with seats for the officers superior and inferior, where, if any differences arise, their causes are heard and determined. The camp, and all that is in it, is encompassed with a wall round about, and that sooner than one would imagine, and this by the multitude and the skill of the laborers; and, if occasion require, a trench is drawn round the whole, whose depth is four cubits, and its breadth equal.

     3. When they have thus secured themselves, they live together by companies, with quietness and decency, as are all their other affairs managed with good order and security. Each company hath also their wood, and their corn, and their water brought them, when they stand in need of them; for they neither sup nor dine as they please themselves singly, but all together. Their times also for sleeping, and watching, and rising are notified beforehand by the sound of trumpets, nor is any thing done without such a signal; and in the Morning the soldiery go every one to their centurions, and these centurions to their tribunes, to salute them; with whom all the superior officers go to the general of the whole army, who then gives them of course the watchword and other orders, to be by them carried to all that are under their command; which is also observed when they go to fight, and thereby they turn themselves about on the sudden, when there is occasion for making sallies, as they come back when they are recalled in crowds also.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 22:17-21
     by D.H. Stern

17     Pay attention, and listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my knowledge;
18     for it is pleasant to keep them deep within you;
have all of them ready on your lips.
19     I want your trust to be in ADONAI;
this is why I’m instructing you about them today.
20     I have written you worthwhile things
full of good counsel and knowledge,
21     so you will know that these sayings are certainly true
and bring back true sayings to him who sent you.


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

Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham

     II | MUSHROOMS ON THE MOOR

     Mr. G. K. Chesterton does not like mushrooms. That is the most arresting fact that I have gleaned from reading, carefully and with delight, his Victorian Age in Literature. In his treatment of Dickens, he writes very contemptuously of 'that Little Bethel to which Kit's mother went,' and he likens it to 'a monstrous mushroom that grows in the moonshine and dies in the dawn.' Now no man who was really fond of the esculent and homely fungus would have employed such a metaphor by way of disparagement. I can only infer that Mr. Chesterton thinks mushrooms very nasty. His opinion of Little Bethel does not concern me. It is neither here nor there. But Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms! I cannot get over that!

     I feel very sorry for Mr. Chesterton. It is not merely a matter of taste. I would not presume to set my opinion in a matter of this kind over against his. But the authorities are with me. I have looked up the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and its opening sentence on the subject affirms that 'there are few more delicious members of the vegetable kingdom than the common mushroom.' I suppose that in these matters association has a lot to do with it. I cannot forget those delicious summer mornings in England when we boys, rising with the lark, stole out of the house like so many burglars, and scampered with our baskets across the fragrant meadows to gather the white buttons that dotted the sparkling, dew-drenched grass. It was, as I have said in the introduction to this book, a large part of childhood's radiant romance! What tales our fancy wove into the fairy-rings under the elm-trees! We lifted each moist fungus half expecting to see the brownies and the elves fly from beneath it! And what fearsome care we took to include no single hypocritical toadstool among our treasures! I am really afraid that Mr. Chesterton would have been less conscientious. Mushrooms and toadstools are all alike to him. He can never have had such frolics in the fields as we enjoyed in those ecstatic summer mornings. And he never, therefore, knew the fierce joy of the breakfast that followed when, hungry as hunters, we returned with flushed faces to feast upon the spoils of our boisterous foray. Over such brave memories Mr. Chesterton cannot fondly linger. For Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms.

     What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton? For, to Gene Stratton Porter's hero, mushrooms were half-way to destiny. 'In the morning, brilliant sunshine awoke him, and he arose to find the earth steaming.

     '"If ever there was a perfect mushroom morning!" he said to his dog. "We must hurry and feed the stock and ourselves, and gather some!" The Harvester breakfasted, fed the stock, hitched Betsy to the spring wagon, and went into the dripping, steamy woods. If any one had asked him that morning concerning his idea of heaven, he would never have dreamed of describing gold-paved streets, crystal pillars, jewelled gates, and thrones of ivory. He would have told you that the woods on a damp sunny May morning was heaven. He only opened his soul to beauty, and steadily climbed the hill to the crest, and then down the other side to the rich, half-shaded, half-open spaces, where big, rough mushrooms sprang in a night.'

     Yes, a mushroom morning was heaven to the Harvester. And it was the mushrooms that led him the first step of the way towards the discovery of his dream-girl. The mushrooms represented the first of those golden stairs by which he climbed to his paradise. And Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms! What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton?

     One faint, struggling glimmer of hope I am delighted to discover. Mr. Chesterton likens Little Bethel to a monstrous mushroom. There can be only one reason for this inartistic mixture of analogy and antithesis. Mr. Chesterton evidently knows that a large mushroom is not so sweet or so toothsome as a small one. A 'monstrous mushroom,' even to those who like mushrooms, is coarse and less tasty. Now the gleam of hope lies in the circumstance that Mr. Chesterton knows the fine gradations of niceness (or nastiness) that distinguish mushrooms of one size from mushrooms of another. As a rule, if you get to know a thing, you get to like it. Mr. Chesterton is coming to know mushrooms. He will soon be ordering them for breakfast. He may even come, like certain tribes mentioned in the Encyclopaedia, to eat nothing else! And by that time he may have come to know Little Bethel. And if he comes to know it, he may come to like it. He will still liken it to a mushroom. But we shall be able to tell, by the way he says it, that he means that it is very good. We shall see at once that Mr. Chesterton likes mushrooms. At present, however, the stern fact remains. Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms. Richard Jefferies, in his Amateur Poacher, says that mushrooms are good either raw or cooked. The great naturalist is therefore altogether on the side of the Encyclopaedia. 'Some eat mushrooms raw, fresh as taken from the ground, with a little salt; but to me the taste is then too strong.' Perhaps that is how Mr. Chesterton has taken his mushrooms—and Little Bethel!' Of the many ways of cooking mushrooms,' Richard Jefferies goes on, 'the simplest is the best; that is, on a gridiron.' Mr. Chesterton gives the impression that that is precisely how he would prefer his mushrooms—and Little Bethel! For Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms.

     The really extraordinary feature of the whole thing is that I like mushrooms all the better for the very reason that leads Mr. Chesterton to pour upon them his most withering and pitiless contempt. He hates them because they spring up in the night. Little Bethel is a 'monstrous mushroom that grows in the moonshine.' It is perfectly true that Little Bethel, like the mushrooms, flourished in the darkness. Like Mark Tapley, she was at her brightest when her surroundings were most dreary. In this respect both the meeting-house and the mushrooms are in excellent company. Many fine things grow in the night. Indeed, Sir James Crichton-Browne, the great doctor, in his lecture on 'Sleep,' argues that all things that grow at all grow in the night. Night is Nature's growing-time. Now Michael Fairless shared Richard Jefferies' fondness for mushrooms. Every reader of The Roadmender will recall the night in the woods. 'Through the still night I heard the nightingales calling, calling, calling, until I could bear it no longer, and went softly out into the luminous dark. The wood was manifold with sound. I heard my little brothers who move by night rustling in grass and tree; and above and through it all the nightingales sang and sang and sang! The night wind bent the listening trees, and the stars yearned earthwards to hear the song of deathless love. Louder and louder the wonderful notes rose and fell in a passion of melody, and then sank to rest on that low thrilling call which it is said Death once heard and stayed his hand. At last there was silence. The grey dawn awoke and stole with trailing robes across earth's floor. Gathering a pile of mushrooms—children of the night—I hasten home.'

     The nightingales—the singers of the night!

     The mushrooms—the children of the night!

     These singers of the night, and these 'children of the night,' almost remind me of Faber:

Angels of Jesus, angels of light,
  Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night!

     But Mr. Chesterton does not like 'the children of the night.'

     Now we must really learn better manners. It will not do to treat things contemptuously either because they spring up suddenly, or because they spring up in the night. In this matter we Australians live in glass houses and must not throw stones. Mr. Chesterton is treading on our pet corns. For Australia and America are the two most 'monstrous mushrooms' on the face of the earth! Like the nations of which the prophet wrote, they were 'born in a day.' Think of what happened in America in the ten short years between 1830 and 1840! No nation in the history of the world can produce so astounding a record! In 1830 America had 23 miles of railway; in 1840 she had 800. In 1830 the country presented all the wilder characteristics of early colonial settlement; in 1840 it was a great and populous nation. In 1830 Chicago was a frontier fort; in 1840 Chicago was a city. In 1830 the population of Michigan was 32,000; in 1840 it was 212,000. It was during this sensational decade, too, that the first steamships crossed the Atlantic. And the spirit of the age reflected itself in the literary wealth of which America became possessed at that extraordinary time. Whittier and Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emerson and Bancroft, Poe and Prescott, all arose during that eventful period, and made for themselves names that have become classical and immortal. Here is a monstrous mushroom for you! Or, to pass from the things of yesterday to the things of to-day, see how, under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Canadian cities are in our own time shooting up with positively incredible swiftness. No, no; Mr. Chesterton must not speak disparagingly of mushrooms!

     And look at the rapidity at which these young nations beneath the Southern Cross sprang into existence! I remember standing on the sea-shore in New Zealand talking to a couple of old whalers, who told me of the times they spent before the first emigrant ships arrived, when they were the only white men for hundreds of miles around. And now! Why, in their own lifetime these men had seen a great nation spring into being! Here, I say again, are mushrooms for you!

     But do mushrooms really spring up as suddenly as they appear to do? Dan Crawford tells us that, in Central Africa, if a young missionary attempts to prove the existence of God, the natives laugh, and, pointing to the wonders of Nature around, exclaim, 'No rain, no mushrooms!' In effect they mean to say, without some adequate cause. If there were no God, whence came the forest and the fauna? Now that African proverb is very suggestive. 'No rain, no mushrooms.' The mushroom, that is to say, has its roots away back in old rainstorms, in fallen forests, and in ancient climatic experiences too subtle to trace. I have been reading Dr. Cooke's text-book, and he and Mr. Cuthill have convinced me that it takes about a million years to grow a mushroom. The conditions out of which the fungus suddenly springs are as old as the world itself. And that same consideration saves America and Australia from contempt. For both America and Australia—these mushroom nations—are very, very old. Dr. Stanley Hall, the President of the Clark University, was speaking on this aspect of things the other day. 'In a very pregnant psychological sense,' he said, 'ours is an unhistoric land. Our very constitution had a Minerva birth.'

     (That is a classical way of saying that it had a mushroom birth.) 'Our literature, customs, fashions, institutions, and legislation were inherited or copied, and our religion was not a gradual indigenous growth, but both its spirit and its forms were imported ready-made from Holland, Rome, England, and Palestine. No country is so precociously old for its years.' It follows, therefore, that Australia is as old as the Empire. And the Empire has its roots away back where the first man delved. We must not allow ourselves to be duped by the trickery of appearances. These new things are very ancient. 'How long did it take you to paint that picture?' somebody asked Sir Joshua Reynolds. 'All my life!' he replied.

     Anybody can grow fine flowers in the daytime. But what can you grow in the dark? That is the challenge of the mushrooms—what can you grow in the dark? 'The nights are the test!' as Charlotte Brontë used to say. When things were as black as black could be, poor Charlotte wrote: 'The days pass in a slow, dark march; the nights are the test; the sudden wakings from restless sleep, the revived knowledge that one sister lies in her grave, and another not at my side, but in a separate and sick-bed. The nights are the test.' They are indeed. Tell me: Can you grow faith, and restfulness, and patience, and a quiet heart in the darkness? If so, you will never speak contemptuously of mushrooms again.

     Why, dear me, some of the very finest things in this world of ours spring up suddenly, like the mushroom, and spring up in the dark! Dean Hole used to tell how he became a preacher.

     For years he could not lift his eyes from his manuscript. Then, one Sunday evening, the light suddenly failed. His manuscript was useless, and he found himself speaking heart to heart to his people. The eloquence for which he was afterwards famed appeared in a moment, and appeared in the dark! And I am very fond of that story of the old American soldier. He was stone blind, but very happy, and always wore his medal on his breast.

     'What do you do in these days of darkness?' somebody asked him.

     'Do?' he replied almost scornfully. 'Why, I thank God that for fifty years I had the gift of sight. I saw Abraham Lincoln, and heard the bugles call for the victory of Truth and Righteousness. I go back to those scenes now, and realize them anew. I have lost my sight, but memory has been born again in the dark.'

     If, therefore, we allow mushrooms to be treated with contempt, simply because they spring up suddenly, and spring up in the night, we shall soon find other beautiful things, much more precious, brought under the same cruel condemnation. And what of a sudden conversion? Think of Down in Water Street, and Broken Earthenware, and Varieties of Religious Experience! What of that tremendous happening on the road to Damascus? The Philippian jailer, too! See him, with a grim smile of satisfaction, locking the apostles in their terrible dungeon; yet before the night is through, he is tenderly bathing their stripes and ministering to them with all the gentle graces of Christian courtesy and compassion!' A monstrous mushroom that grew in the night,' would you call it? At any rate, it did not die with the dawn. 'Minerva births' these, with a vengeance. As for me, I have nothing but reverence for the mushrooms. They are among the wonders of a very wondrous world.


Mushrooms on the Moor
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                The sacrament of the saint

     Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing.
--- 1 Peter 4:19.

     To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint.

     The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. The people who do us good are never those who sympathize with us, they always hinder, because sympathy enervates. No one understands a saint but the saint who is nearest to the Saviour. If we accept the sympathy of a saint, the reflex feeling is—‘Well, God is dealing hardly with me.’ That is why Jesus said self-pity was of the devil (see
Matt. 16:23). Be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy to blacken God’s character because God never answers back, He never vindicates Himself. Beware of the thought that Jesus needed sympathy in His earthly life; He refused sympathy from man because He knew far too wisely that no one on earth understood what He was after. He took sympathy from His Father only, and from the angels in heaven.
(Cf. Luke 15:10.)

     Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints. According to the judgment of the world, God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say—‘God intends me to be here because I am so useful.’ God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.


My Utmost for His Highest

Cain
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Cain

Abel looked at the wound
  His brother had dealt him, and loved him
  For it. Cain saw that look
  And struck him again. The blood cried
  On the ground; God listened to it.
  He questioned Cain. But Cain answered:
  Who made the blood? I offered you
  Clean things: the blond hair
  Of the corn; the knuckled vegetables; the
  Flowers; things that did not publish
  Their hurt, that bled
  Silently. You would not accept them.

And God said: It was part of myself
  He gave me. The lamb was torn
  From my own side. The limp head,
  The slow fall of red tears --- they
  Were like a mirror to me in which I beheld
  My reflection. I anointed myself
  In readiness for the journey

H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     In September of 1960, the first of the “Great Debates” took place between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. While Nixon’s political career was always controversial, he had been vice president of the United States for eight years, including the time that President Eisenhower was incapacitated by a heart attack. Kennedy, on the other hand, had at least three things going against him: Some said he was too young; others were troubled because he was a Catholic; and many questioned his lack of seriousness as a senator and congressman.

     Historians credit the televised debates as being one of the key factors that ultimately gave the very close election to Kennedy. The nation saw him as a man who could hold his own in discussing very serious issues. They were attracted to the image of youth and confidence that he conveyed—a stark contrast to the aging and not-always-eloquent Eisenhower, who was then president. But mostly, the audience was struck by the difference in the two men they saw on their screens. Kennedy was handsome, young, and charismatic. He had a sharp wit and a good sense of humor. Nixon, on the other hand, had recently suffered a knee injury and appeared haggard and uncomfortable. The television cameras seemed to emphasize his five o’clock shadow and excessive perspiration. Most people who saw the debates believed that Kennedy had won them. However, not everyone who followed the debates saw them on television. A significant audience listened to them on radio. And according to polls taken at the time, a majority of people who listened to the debates (but did not see them) believed that Nixon had bested Kennedy.

     What do we learn from the very different reactions of those two separate audiences? Clearly, the Midrash is correct when it tells us that hearing isn’t like seeing. Listening to something is a very different experience from viewing it. But which of the two is more authentic? Which is closer to the truth? Which one should we rely upon in making a decision? If a debate is about the positions of two people on the critical issues of the day, then perhaps it is better to listen to the candidates on radio.

     Did the election of 1960 go to Kennedy because he had a better make-up person than Nixon did? Did people choose a president of the United States to lead them through the most dangerous years of the Cold War based on which of the two candidates remembered to shave that afternoon? Or do we take the position that the television camera revealed to us something about the character of both men, that looking at them was just as important as listening to them? Sweating in a stressful situation is an important clue as to how a person will react under pressure. If the “eyes are the windows to the soul,” then it is critical that we get to stare into the face of the person who has the power to destroy the world.

     Hearing certainly isn’t like seeing. But is it better—or worse?

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     The parent of a friend dies, and we can’t be there to make a personal shivah visit and express our condolences. Is it appropriate to comfort our friend—the mourner—by sending a card through the mail or making a telephone call? It may be that this is the only way possible, and it will have to do. Yet, we also know that there is no substitute for seeing the mourner in person, holding our friend’s hand, and saying kind words face-to-face.

     The personal visit can be hard on us, much harder than sending a card or calling to express our sentiments. Both for the mourner and for the comforter, hearing is surely not like seeing. We can be much more personal, much more comforting, much more empathetic when we see someone we care about. Though it takes much more from us, the personal contact also gives more.

     The traditional greeting to mourners is:

הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָיִם
“May God comfort you together with the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

     In this phrase, God is called הַמָּקוֹם/Ha-Makom, “the place.” The Rabbis referred to God as הַמָּקוֹם/Ha-Makom, “the place” because hearing God is not enough. To be truly comforted, we need to feel God’s presence, to have God’s very being touch us.

     We feel comfort when we sense “the place,” God. And we also are comforted when God’s human agents in the world see us face-to-face.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 10

     My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.

     Let me press [the first duty] on those who have this marriage union with Christ: (The Essential Works of John Flavel)

     Rejoice in your husband, Christ. Has Christ honored you by taking you into the marriage relationship and making you one with himself? This calls for joy. By virtue of the union, believers are sharers with Christ in his riches. It was a custom among the Romans when the wife was brought home for her to receive the keys of her husband’s house, intimating that the treasure and custody of the house was now committed to her. When Christ brings his bride home to those glorious rooms that he has gone ahead to prepare for her (John 14:2), he will hand over the keys of his treasure to her, and she shall be as rich as heaven can make her.

     Christians, let the times be ever so sad, you may rejoice in your spiritual betrothals.

   “Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines,
   though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food,
   though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls,
   yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior”
   --- Hab. 3:17–18.

     Let me tell you, it is a sin not to rejoice. You disparage your husband, Christ. When a wife is always sighing and weeping, what will others say? “This woman has a bad husband.” Is this the fruit of Christ’s love to you, to reflect dishonor on him? A melancholy spouse saddens Christ’s heart. I do not deny that Christians should grieve for sins of daily occurrence, but to be always weeping (as if they mourned without hope) is dishonorable to the marriage relationship. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (
Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing brings credit to your husband. Christ loves a cheerful bride, and indeed the very purpose of God’s making us sad is to make us rejoice. We sow in tears, so that we may reap in joy. The excessive sadness and contrition of the godly will make others afraid to embrace Christ. They will begin to question whether there is that satisfactory joy in religion which is claimed. Oh, you saints of God, do not forget consolation; let others see that you do not regret your choice. It is joy that puts liveliness and activity into a Christian: “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). The soul is swiftest in duty when it is carried on the wings of joy.
--- Thomas Watson

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

On This Day
     The Fall of Jerusalem  August 10

     Jesus warned of a time when Herod’s beautiful temple would be destroyed, but the disciples could hardly believe him. The temple was arguably the most magnificent structure in the world, and its glow in the setting sun seemed as eternal as Jerusalem itself.

     But a generation later Jewish zealots revolted against Rome. The rebellion began at the fortress of Masada then spread throughout Judea and Galilee. Romans were slaughtered, Jewish defenders battled bravely, and Emperor Nero sent General Vespasian to quell the uprising.

     When Nero died, the general left for Rome, placing his son Titus in charge of the 80,000 troops. The siege began in April, 70, immediately after the Passover when Jerusalem was filled with strangers. Within city walls, the Jews splintered into various factions, fighting each other at the very time they needed solidarity. Food supplies ran out and the population began dying from starvation. The high priest’s wife, accustomed to living in luxury, begged for crumbs like a street urchin. Captured Jews were crucified at a rate of 500 a day, crosses encircling the city. Daily temple sacrifices ceased July 17, all hands being needed for defense.

     The Romans, using catapults and battering rams, finally broke through the walls. The Jews streamed into the temple. Titus had reportedly wanted to spare the edifice, but his soldiers would not be restrained. A firebrand was hurled through the golden gate and exploded like a bomb. The temple became an ocean of fire. It was August 10, 70, the same day of the year, it was said, in which Solomon’s earlier temple had been destroyed by Babylon.

     This, and the subsequent fall of Masada, extinguished Israel as a nation until its rebirth in the twentieth century. Most Christians had fled Jerusalem before its final hour, but the city’s destruction remains a defining event in Christian history. It further severed the young church from its Jewish roots, making it a global entity distinct from Israel and destined to develop its own identity among the Gentiles, bearing a message for all the world.

     As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these beautiful stones and wonderful buildings!” Jesus replied,
“Do you see these huge buildings? They will certainly be torn down! Not one stone will be left in place.”
--- Mark 13:1,2.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 10

     “Christ, who is our life.” --- Colossians 3:4.

     Paul’s marvellously rich expression indicates, that Christ is the source of our life. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” That same voice which brought Lazarus out of the tomb raised us to newness of life. He is now the substance of our spiritual life. It is by his life that we live; he is in us, the hope of glory, the spring of our actions, the central thought which moves every other thought. Christ is the sustenance of our life. What can the Christian feed upon but Jesus’ flesh and blood? “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” O wayworn pilgrims in this wilderness of sin, you never get a morsel to satisfy the hunger of your spirits, except ye find it in him! Christ is the solace of our life. All our true joys come from him; and in times of trouble, his presence is our consolation. There is nothing worth living for but him; and his lovingkindness is better than life! Christ is the object of our life. As speeds the ship towards the port, so hastes the believer towards the haven of his Saviour’s bosom. As flies the arrow to its goal, so flies the Christian towards the perfecting of his fellowship with Christ Jesus. As the soldier fights for his captain, and is crowned in his captain’s victory, so the believer contends for Christ, and gets his triumph out of the triumphs of his Master. “For him to live is Christ.” Christ is the exemplar of our life. Where there is the same life within, there will, there must be, to a great extent, the same developments without; and if we live in near fellowship with the Lord Jesus we shall grow like him. We shall set him before us as our Divine copy, and we shall seek to tread in his footsteps, until he shall become the crown of our life in glory. Oh! how safe, how honoured, how happy is the Christian, since Christ is our life!


          Evening - August 10

     “The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” --- Matthew 9:6.

     Behold one of the great Physician’s mightiest arts: he has power to forgive sin! While here he lived below, before the ransom had been paid, before the blood had been literally sprinkled on the mercy-seat, he had power to forgive sin. Hath he not power to do it now that he hath died? What power must dwell in him who to the utmost farthing has faithfully discharged the debts of his people! He has boundless power now that he has finished transgression and made an end of sin. If ye doubt it, see him rising from the dead! behold him in ascending splendour raised to the right hand of God! Hear him pleading before the eternal Father, pointing to his wounds, urging the merit of his sacred passion! What power to forgive is here! “He hath ascended on high, and received gifts for men.” “He is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins.” The most crimson sins are removed by the crimson of his blood. At this moment, dear reader, whatever thy sinfulness, Christ has power to pardon, power to pardon thee, and millions such as thou art. A word will speak it. He has nothing more to do to win thy pardon; all the atoning work is done. He can, in answer to thy tears, forgive thy sins today, and make thee know it. He can breathe into thy soul at this very moment a peace with God which passeth all understanding, which shall spring from perfect remission of thy manifold iniquities. Dost thou believe that? I trust thou believest it. Mayst thou experience now the power of Jesus to forgive sin! Waste no time in applying to the Physician of souls, but hasten to him with words like these: ---

     “Jesus! Master! hear my cry;
     Save me, heal me with a word;
     Fainting at thy feet I lie,
     Thou my whisper’d plaint hast heard.”

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 10

          NEARER, STILL NEARER

     Words and Music by Leila N. Morris, 1862–1929

     The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

     It has often been observed that there were at least four groups of people who had a relationship with Christ while He was here on earth. There was the multitude, those who followed from a distance. They were interested merely in what Jesus could do. They were the spectators of the Savior. There was a second group—the 120 gathered in the upper room at Pentecost. They moved much closer to Christ. They shared in His suffering and crucifixion. There was a still closer group—the 12 (later the 11) disciples who were personally taught by Christ. And even this small band of helpers advanced to a more intimate relationship when Christ announced that they were no longer servants but His friends (John 15:15). But within the family of disciples there was another even closer group—Peter, James, and John. They were the ones who enjoyed the closest fellowship with the Lord and were the ones Jesus counted on the most.

     Even today there are various levels of closeness to the Lord. It is possible to be involved in much religious activity that does not really draw us nearer to God. To move into closer relationships with Him, we must employ the spiritual means He has provided: An understanding and application of the Scriptures to our lives and daily communion with our Lord. Our spiritual growth is in direct proportion to this vital truth.

     Leila Morris, the author and composer of this hymn, was active in the Methodist Episcopal church and in holiness camp meetings. She wrote more than 1,000 Gospel hymns, and she continued writing even after going blind. “Nearer, Still Nearer,” was first published in 1898 in the Pentecostal Praises Hymnal.

     Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart, draw me, my Savior, so precious Thou art; fold me, O fold me close to Thy breast; shelter me safe in that haven of rest.
     Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring, naught as an offering to Jesus my King: Only my sinful, now contrite heart; grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.
     Nearer, still nearer, Lord, to be Thine. Sin with its follies I gladly resign; all of its pleasures, pomp and its pride, give me but Jesus, my Lord crucified.
     Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last, till safe in glory my anchor is cast; through endless ages, ever to be, nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee.


     For Today: Psalm 119:133; Ephesians 2:13; Philippians 3:10; James 4:8; 2 Peter 3:18

     Reflect on those attitudes and actions that would move your life into a higher level of closeness with Christ. Make this your resolve. Carry this musical prayer as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     Reason IV. As it is a folly to deny that which all nations in the world have consented to, which the frame of the world evidenceth, which man in his body, soul, operations of conscience, witnesseth to; so it is a folly to deny the being of God, which is witnessed unto by extraordinary occurrences in the world.

     1. In extraordinary judgments. When a just revenge follows abominable crimes, especially when the judgment is suited to the sin by a strange concatenation and succession of providences, methodized to bring such a particular punishment; when the sin of a nation or person is made legible in the inflicted judgment, which testifies that it cannot be a casual thing. The Scripture gives us an account of the necessity of such judgments, to keep up the reverential thoughts of God in the world (Ps. 9:16): “The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hand: and jealousy is the name of God,” (Exod. 34:14), “Whose name is jealous.” He is distinguished from false gods by the judgments which he sends, as men are by their names.

     Extraordinary prodigies in many nations have been the heralds of extraordinary judgments, and presages of the particular judgments which afterwards they have felt, of which the Roman histories, and others, are full. That there are such things is undeniable, and that the events have been answerable to the threatening, unless we will throw away all human testimonies, and count all the histories of the world forgeries. Such things are evidences of some invisible power which orders those affairs. And if there be invisible powers, there is also an efficacious cause which moves them; a government certainly there is among them, as well as in the world, and then we must come to some supreme governor which presides over them. Judgments upon notorious offenders have been evident in all ages; the Scripture gives many instances. I shall only mention that of Herod Agrippa, which Josephus mentions. He receives the flattering applause of the people, and thought himself a God; but by the sudden stroke upon him, was forced by his torture to confess another. “I am God,” saith he, “in your account, but a higher calls me away; the will of the heavenly Deity is to be endured.” The angel of the Lord smote him. The judgment here was suited to the sin; he that would be a god, is eaten up of worms, the vilest creatures. Tully Hostilius, a Roman king, who counted it the most unroyal thing to be religious, or own any other God but his sword, was consumed himself, and his whole house, by lightning from heaven. Many things are unaccountable unless we have recourse to God. The strange revelations of murderers, that have most secretly committed their crimes; the making good some dreadful imprecations, which some wretches have used to confirm a lie, and immediately have been struck with that judgment they wished; the raising often unexpected persons to be instruments of vengeance on a sinful and perfidious nation; the overturning the deepest and surest counsels of men, when they have had a successful progress, and come to the very point of execution; the whole design of men’s preservation hath been eaten in pieces by some unforeseen circumstance, so that judgments have broken in upon them without control, and all their subtleties been outwitted; the strange crossing of some in their estates, though the most wise, industrious, and frugal persons, and that by strange and unexpected ways; and it is observable how often everything contributes to carry on a judgment intended, as if they rationally designed it: all those loudly proclaim a God in the world; if there were no God, there would be no sin; if no sin, there would be no punishment.

     2. In miracles. The course of nature is uniform; and when it is put out of its course, it must be by some superior power invisible to the world; and by whatsoever invisible instruments they are wrought, the efficacy of them must depend upon some first cause above nature. (Psalm 72:18): “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things,” by himself and his sole power. That which cannot be the result of a natural cause, must be the result of something supernatural: what is beyond the reach of nature, is the effect of a power superior to nature; for it is quite against the order of nature, and is the elevation of something to such a pitch, which all nature could not advance it to. Nature cannot go beyond its own limits; if it be determined by another, as hath been formerly proved, it cannot lift itself above itself, without that power that so determined it. Natural agents act necessarily; the sun doth necessarily shine, fire doth necessarily burn: that cannot be the result of nature, which is above the ability of nature; that cannot be the work of nature which is against the order of nature; nature cannot do anything against itself, or invert its own course. We must own that such things have been, or we must accuse all the records of former ages to be a pack of lies; which whosoever doth, destroys the greatest and best part of human knowledge. The miracles mentioned in the Scripture, wrought by our Saviour, are acknowledged by the heathen, by the Jews at this day, though his greatest enemies. There is no dispute whether such things were wrought, “the dead raised,” the “blind restored to sight.” The heathens have acknowledged the miraculous eclipse of the sun at the passion of Christ, quite against the rule of nature, the moon being then in opposition to the sun; the propagation of Christianity contrary to the methods whereby other religions have been propagated, that in a few years the nations of the world should be sprinkled with this doctrine, and give in a greater catalogue of martyrs courting the devouring flames, than all the religions of the word. To this might be added, the strange hand that was over the Jews, the only people in the world professing the true God, that should so often be befriended by their conquerors, so as to rebuild their temple, though they were looked upon as a people apt to rebel. Dion and Seneca observe, that wherever they were transplanted, they prospered, and gave laws to the victors; so that this proves also the authority of the Scripture, the truth of christian religion, as well as the being of a God, and a superior power over the world. To this might be added, the bridling the tumultuous passions of men for the preservation of human societies, which else would run the world into unconceivable confusions, (Psalm 65:7) “Which stilleth the noise of the sea, and the tumults of the people” as also the miraculous deliverance of a person or nation, when upon the very brink of ruin; the sudden answer of prayer when God hath been sought to, and the turning away a judgment, which in reason could not be expected to be averted, and the raising a sunk people from a ruin which seemed inevitable, by unexpected ways.

     3. Accomplishments of prophecies. Those things which are purely contingent, and cannot be known by natural signs and in their causes, as eclipses and changes in nations, which may be discerned by an observation of the signs of the times; such things that fall not within this compass, if they be foretold and come to pass, are solely from some higher hand, and above the cause of nature. This in Scripture is asserted to be a notice of the true God (Isa. 41:23): “Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are God,” and (Isa. 46:10), “I am God declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” And prophecy was consented to by all the philosophers to be from divine illumination: that power which discovers things future, which all the foresight of men cannot ken and conjecture, is above nature. And to foretell them so certainly as if they did already exist, or had existed long ago, must be the result of a mind infinitely intelligent; because it is the highest way of knowing, and a higher cannot be imagined: and he that knows things future in such a manner, must needs know things present and past. Cyrus was prophesied of by Isaiah (44:28, and 45:1) long before he was born; his victories, spoils, all that should happen in Babylon, his bounty to the Jews came to pass, according to that prophecy; and the sight of that prophecy which the Jews shewed him, as other historians report, was that which moved him to be favorable to the Jews.

     Alexander’s sight of Daniel’s prophecy concerning his victories moved him to spare Jerusalem. And are not the four monarchies plainly deciphered in that book, before the fourth rose up in the world? That power which foretells things beyond the reach of the wit of man, and orders all causes to bring about those predictions, must be an infinite power, the same that made the world, sustains it and governs all things in it according to his pleasure, and to bring about his own ends; and this being is God.

     Use I. If atheism be a folly, it is then pernicious to the world and to the atheist himself. Wisdom is the band of human societies, the glory of man. Folly is the disturber of families, cities, nations; the disgrace of human nature.

     First, It is pernicious to the world.

     1. It would root out the foundations of government. It demolisheth all order in nations. The being of a God is the guard of the world: the sense of a God is the foundation of civil order: without this there is no tie upon the consciences of men. What force would there be in oaths for the decisions of controversies, what right could there be in appeals made to one that had no being? A city of atheists would be a heap of confusion; there could be no ground of any commerce, when all the sacred bands of it in the consciences of men were snapt asunder, which are torn to pieces and utterly destroyed by denying the existence of God. What magistrate could be secure in his standing? what private person could be secure in his right? Can that then be a truth that is destructive of all public good?

     If the atheist’s sentiment, that there were no God, were a truth, and the contrary that there were a God, were a falsity, it would then follow, that falsity made men good and serviceable to one another; that error were the foundation of all the beauty, and order, and outward felicity of the world, the fountain of all good to man. If there were no God, to believe there is one, would be an error; and to believe there is none, would be the greatest wisdom, because it would be the greatest truth. And then as it is the greatest wisdom to fear God, upon the apprehension of his existence, so it would be the greatest error to fear him if there were none. It would unquestionably follow, that error is the support of the world, the spring of all human advantages; and that every part of the world were obliged to a falsity for being a quiet habitation, which is the most absurd thing to imagine. It is a thing impossible to be tolerated by any prince, without laying an aye to the root of the government.

     2. It would introduce all evil into the world. “If you take away God, you take away conscience, and thereby all measures and rules of good and evil. And how could any laws be made when the measure and standard of them were removed? All good laws are founded upon the dictates of conscience and reason, upon common sentiments in human nature, which spring from a sense of God; so that if the foundation be demolished, the whole superstructure must tumble down: a man might be a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, and could not in a strict sense be an offender. The worst of actions could not be evil, if a man were a god to himself, a law to himself.  ... and so it is today in 2018

     Nothing but evil deserves a censure, and nothing would be evil if there were no God, the Rector of the world against whom evil is properly committed. No man can make that morally evil that is not so in itself: as where there is a faint sense of God, the heart is more strongly inclined to wickedness; so where there is no sense of God, the bars are removed, the flood-gates set open for all wickedness to rush in upon mankind.   Consider the book of Judges.  Religion pinions men from abominable practices, and restrains them from being slaves to their own passions: an atheist’s arms would be loose to do anything.” Nothing so villanous and unjust but would be acted if the natural fear of a Deity were extinguished. The first consequence issuing from the apprehension of the existence of God, is his government of the world. If there be no God, then the natural consequence is that there is no supreme government of the world: such a notion would cashier all sentiments of good, and be like a Trojan horse, whence all impurity, tyranny, and all sorts of mischiefs would break out upon mankind: corruption and abominable works in the text are the fruit of the fool’s persuasion that there is no God. The perverting the ways of men, oppression and extortion, owe their rise to a forgetfulness of God (Jer. 3:21): “They have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.” (Ezek. 22:12): “Thou hast greedily gained by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord.” The whole earth would be filled with violence, all flesh would corrupt their way, as it was before the deluge, when probably atheism did abound more than idolatry; and if not a disowning the being, yet denying the providence of God by the posterity of Cain: those of the family of Seth only “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 6:11, 12, compared with Gen. 4:26).

     The greatest sense of a Deity in any, hath been attended with the greatest innocence of life and usefulness to others; and a weaker sense hath been attended with a baser impurity. If there were no God, blasphemy would be praiseworthy; as the reproach of idols is praiseworthy, because we testify that there is no divinity in them. What can be more contemptible than that which hath no being? Sin would be only a false opinion of a violated law, and an offended deity. If such apprehensions prevail, what a wide door is opened to the worst of villanies! If there be no God, no respect is due to him; all the religion in the world is a trifle, and error; and thus the pillars of all human society, and that which hath made commonwealths to flourish, are blown away.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. CXIII. — NOR is it at all to the purpose, your saying, — ‘that Moses is speaking with reference to the men of that age’ — for the same applies unto all men; because, all are flesh; as Christ saith, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John iii. 6.) And how deep a corruption that is, He Himself shews in the same chapter, where He saith, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Let, therefore, the Christian know, that Origen and Jerome, together with all their train, perniciously err, when they say, that “flesh” ought not, in these passages, to be understood as meaning ‘corrupt affection:’ because, that of 1 Cor. iii. 3, “For ye are yet carnal,” signifies ungodliness. For Paul means, that there are some among them still ungodly: and moreover, that even the saints, in as far as they savour of carnal things, are “carnal,” though justified by the Spirit.

     In a word; you may take this as a general observation upon the Scriptures. — Wherever mention is made of “flesh” in contradistinction to “spirit,” you may there, by “flesh,” understand every thing that is contrary to spirit: as in this passage, “The flesh profiteth nothing.” (John vi. 63.) But where it is used abstractedly, there you may understand the corporal state and nature: as “They twain shall be one flesh,” (Matt. xix. 5,) “My flesh is meat indeed,” (John vi. 55,) “The Word was made flesh,” (John i. 14.) In such passages, you may make a figurative alteration in the Hebrew, and for ‘flesh,’ say ‘body’. For in the Hebrew tongue, the one term “flesh” embraces in signification our two terms, ‘flesh’ and ‘body.’ And I could wish that these two terms had been distinctively used throughout the Canon of the Scripture. — Thus then, I presume, my passage Gen. vi. still stands directly against “Free-will:” since “flesh” is proved to be that which Paul declares, Rom. viii. 5-8, cannot be subject to God, as we may there see; and since the Diatribe itself asserts, ‘that it cannot will any thing good.’


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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s2-126 7-10-2016 | Brett Meador





Ruth 3-4
m2-123 7-13-2016 | Brett Meador






Believe It Or Not - Acts 28:24 -
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Acts 28:7-31
12-09-1992 / W610 | Jon Courson






Lect 3 Gen Letters
Theology of the General Letters
Dr. Herb Bateman





Lect 4 Gen Letters James 1,
Trials and True Religion
Dr. Herb Bateman






Searching for the Yachting Jesus
Faculty Panel    Yale





Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Mark
Brian K. Blount    Yale






Apocalyptic Vulnerability: Preaching Paul
Brian K. Blount    Yale





Dawn of the Dead: Preaching Revelation
Brian K. Blount    Yale






Human Flourishing
Miroslav Volf    Yale





Squaring the Ethical Circle
Katie G. Cannon    Yale






The Man Not Chosen
Kent Edwards   Biola University





Contemporary Art and Faith   
Discussion      Biola University






Seeing Icons With Protestant Eyes   
Matthew Milliner   Biola University





Lect 5 Gen Letters James 2
Trials and True Religion
Dr. Herb Bateman






Lect 6 Gen Letters James 3
Dr. Herb Bateman