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1 Samuel 3     Romans 3     Jeremiah 41     Psalm 17

1 Samuel 3

The Lord Calls Samuel

1 Samuel 3 1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”

19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Romans 3

God's Righteousness Upheld

Romans 3 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

No One Is Righteous

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one — who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Jeremiah 41

Gedaliah Murdered

Jeremiah 41 1 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king's daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Psalm 17

In the Shadow of Your Wings

A Prayer Of David.  See Psalm 17 article below    

Psalm 17 1 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
2 From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!

3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.

6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

10 They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.

He who adores himself, will have no heart to adore the Lord. Full of selfish pleasure within his heart, the wicked man fills his mouth with boastful and arrogant expressions. Prosperity and vanity often lodge together.   The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

11 They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12 He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.

13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5)

By John R.W. Stott from The Cross Of Christ

     Paul must have shocked his Roman readers when he wrote that ‘God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5). How could God conceivably do such a thing? It was outrageous that the Divine Judge should practise what – in the very same Greek words – he had forbidden human judges to do. Besides, how could the Righteous One declare the unrighteous righteous? The very thought was preposterous.

     In order to summarize Paul’s defence of the divine justification of sinners, I will select four of his key phrases, which relate successively to justification’s source, ground, means and effects. First, the source of our justification is indicated in the expression justified by his grace (Rom. 3:24), that is, by his utterly undeserved favour. Since it is certain that ‘there is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Rom. 3:10), it is equally certain that no-one can declare himself to be righteous in God’s sight. (Ps. 143:2. Cf. Pss. 51:4; 130:3; Job 25:4.) Self-justification is a sheer impossibility (Rom. 3:20). Therefore, ‘it is God who justifies’ (Rom. 8:33); only he can. And he does it ‘freely’ (Rom. 3:24, dōrean, ‘as a free gift, gratis’), not because of any works of ours, but because of his own grace. In Tom Wright’s neat epigram, ‘no sin, no need for justification: no grace, no possibility of it’. (From his essay ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism’, in Great Acquittal, p.16.)

     Grace is one thing, however; justice is another. And justification has to do with justice. To say that we are ‘justified by his grace’ tells us the source of our justification, but says nothing about a righteous basis of it, without which God would contradict his own justice. So another key expression of Paul’s, which introduces us to the ground of our justification, is justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). Justification is not a synonym for amnesty, which strictly is pardon without principle, a forgiveness which overlooks – even forgets (amnēstia is ‘forgetfulness’) – wrongdoing and declines to bring it to justice. No, justification is an act of justice, of gracious justice. Its synonym is ‘the righteousness of God’ (Rom. 1:17; 3:21), which might for the moment be explained as his ‘righteous way of righteoussing the unrighteous’. Dr J. I. Packer defines it as ‘God’s gracious work of bestowing upon guilty sinners a justified justification, acquitting them in the court of heaven without prejudice to his justice as their Judge’. (From his article ‘Justification’ in New Bible Dictionary, p.647.) When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking. That is why Paul is able to bring together in a single sentence the concepts of justification, redemption and propitiation (Rom. 3:24–25). The reasons why we are ‘justified freely by God’s grace’ are that Christ Jesus paid the ransom-price and that God presented him as a propitiatory sacrifice. In other words, we are ‘justified by his blood’. There could be no justification without atonement.

     Thirdly, the means of our justification is indicated in Paul’s favourite expression justified by faith. (E.g. Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9.) Grace and faith belong indissolubly to one another, since faith’s only function is to receive what grace freely offers. We are not, therefore, justified ‘by’ our faith, as we are justified ‘by’ God’s grace and ‘by’ Christ’s blood. God’s grace is the source and Christ’s blood the ground of our justification; faith is only the means by which we are united to Christ. As Richard Hooker put it with his usual precision: ‘God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for his worthiness who is believed.’ (From Hooker’s ‘Definition of Justification’, being Chapter xxxiii of his Ecclesiastical Polity, which began to be published in 1593.)

     Further, if faith is only the means, it is also the only means. Although the word ‘only’ does not occur in the Greek of Romans 3:28, it was a right instinct of Luther’s, as we have seen, and indeed a correct translation, to render Paul’s expression ‘we maintain that a man is justified by faith only, apart from observing the law’. The point of his writing ‘by faith apart from works of law’ was to exclude law-works altogether, leaving faith as the sole means of justification. And Paul has already given his reason in the previous verse, namely to exclude boasting. For unless all human works, merits, co-operation and contributions are ruthlessly excluded, and Christ’s sin-bearing death is seen in its solitary glory as the only ground of our justification, boasting cannot be excluded. Cranmer saw this clearly: ‘This saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being unable to deserve our justification at God’s hands,...and thereby wholly for to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and his most precious bloodshedding....And this form of speaking we use in the humbling of ourselves to God, and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it.’ (From Cranmer’s ‘Sermon on Salvation’ in the First Book of Homilies, pp.25 and 29.)

     Fourthly, what are the effects of our justification? I think we can deduce them from another, and sometimes neglected, Pauline expression, namely that we are justified in Christ. (Gal. 2:17. Cf. Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6.) To say that we are justified ‘through Christ’ points to his historical death; to say that we are justified ‘in Christ’ points to the personal relationship with him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings. The first is membership of the Messianic community of Jesus. If we are in Christ and therefore justified, we are also the children of God and the true (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Further, no racial, social or sexual barrier can come between us. This is the theme of Galatians 3:26–29. Tom Wright is surely correct in his emphasis that ‘justification is not an individualist’s charter, but God’s declaration that we belong to the covenant community’. (Tom Wright, ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis’ from Great Acquittal, p.36.) Secondly, this new community, to create which Christ gave himself on the cross, is to be ‘eager to do what is good’, and its members are to devote themselves to good works. (Titus 2:14; 3:8.) So there is no ultimate conflict between Paul and James. They may have been using the verb ‘justify’ in different senses. They were certainly writing against different heresies, Paul against the self-righteous legalism of the Judaizers and James against the dead orthodoxy of the intellectualizers. Yet both teach that an authentic faith works, Paul stressing the faith that issues in works, and James the works that issue from faith. (E.g. Gal. 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:3; Jas 2:14–26.)

The Cross of Christ

The Politics of Solomon’s Dream

By Alastair Roberts 7/24/2017

      (1 Ki 3:5–14)5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
     10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

     Our passage finds the young King Solomon, David’s son, having successfully navigated the precarious early days of his reign, secured his right as the heir of the dynasty against pretenders and threats to his throne, and established a strategic alliance with Pharaoh by marrying his daughter. Now that the ship of the kingdom is finally on an even keel, Solomon’s task of ruling Israel can truly begin.

     Within the story of the early life of Solomon, there are various details that recall the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden. Solomon constructs the temple, a building replete with garden symbolism—pomegranates, lilies, cedars, olive wood, and streams of water moving out—and containing images of guarding cherubim, as God appointed in the Garden of Eden. This new construction is associated with a time of peace and rest after the wars and struggles of King David’s reign.

     As king, Solomon is like a restored Adam, established by God to reign in a kingdom of peace. Peter Leithart remarks:

     Solomon asks for wisdom, more specifically for “discernment of good and evil” … (3:9), using a phrase similar to that found in Gen. 2–3 to describe the tree in the garden … a tree that gives wisdom. Solomon’s request can thus be described as a request for access to the tree forbidden to Adam. Like Adam, Solomon goes into “deep sleep” in order to receive a bride, but Solomon awakes in the company of Lady Wisdom. As in 1 Kgs. 2, Solomon is a new and improved Adam.

     As 1 Kings 3 recalls the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it also alerts us to a movement beyond the order of Genesis. In Genesis 2 and 3, that tree—the tree associated with wisdom and authoritative rule in the wider world—was forbidden to Adam and Eve, yet the wisdom and authority its fruit once promised is here given by God to Solomon.

Click here to go to source      Alastair Roberts Alastair Roberts (@zugzwanged) recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Durham. He participates in the Mere Fidelity podcast and is a contributing editor for Political Theology Today.

Why Believing in Miracles is Not Illogical

By Lenny Esposito 1/24/2017

     When Christians believe in miracles, are they being irrational? A recent Pew Research article entitled "Why America's 'nones' left religion behind" held this interesting quote:

     About half of current religious "nones" who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention "science" as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said "I'm a scientist now, and I don't believe in miracles." Others reference "common sense," "logic" or a "lack of evidence" – or simply say they do not believe in God.1

     There's a whole lot in that paragraph to unpack. However, the claim that faith is somehow against logic caught my eye. Just how would Christianity be illogical? One claim made by atheists is that believing in miracle accounts like those presented in the Bible is itself illogical.

     The charge that believing in miracles is illogical as a long history, and most will point to David Hume's famous essay "On Miracles" in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. There, he makes this charge:

     A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle.2

Click here to go to source

     Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
     Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
     Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.

The Origin of Calvinism

By John Piper 12/01/2011

     Of course, like every other man besides Jesus Christ, John Calvin was imperfect. His renown is not owing to infallibility but to his relentless allegiance to the Scriptures as the Word of God in a day when the Bible had been almost swallowed up by church tradition. He was born in July 1509, in Noyon, France, and was educated at the best universities in law, theology, and classics. At the age of twenty-one, he was dramatically converted from tradition-centered medieval Catholicism to radical, biblical, evangelical faith in Christ and His Word. He said:

     God, by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, I yet pursued them with less ardor.

     There is a reason why Calvin moved away from his classical studies to a life devoted to the Word of God. Something dramatic happened in his perception of reality as he read the Scriptures for himself. He heard in them the voice of God and saw the majesty of God:

     Now this power which is peculiar to Scripture is clear from the fact that, of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that, compared with its deep impressions, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine.

     After this discovery, Calvin was utterly bound to the Word of God. He was a preacher in Geneva for twenty-five years until he died at the age of fifty-four in May 1564. His custom was to preach twice every Sunday and once every day of alternate weeks; that is, he preached, on average, ten times every two weeks. His method was to take a few verses and explain and apply them for the people’s faith and life. He worked his way through book after book. For example, he preached 189 sermons on the book of Acts, 271 on Jeremiah, 200 on Deuteronomy, 343 on Isaiah, and 110 on 1 Corinthians. Once he was exiled from Geneva for about two years. On returning, he stepped into his pulpit at St. Peter’s and began with the text where he had left off.

     This incredible devotion to the exposition of the Word of God year after year was owing to his profound conviction that the Bible is the very Word of God. He said:

     The law and the prophecies are not teaching delivered by the will of men, but dictated by the Holy Ghost…. We owe the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.

     What Calvin saw in the Bible, above all things, was the majesty of God. He said that through the Scriptures “in a way that surpasses human judgment, we are made absolutely certain, just as if we beheld there the majesty of God Himself.”

     The Bible, for Calvin, was above all a witness of God to the majesty of God. This led inevitably to what is the heart of Calvinism. Benjamin Warfield put it like this:

     The Calvinist is the [person] who sees God behind all phenomena, and in all that occurs recognizes the hand of God…’who makes the attitude of the soul to God in prayer the permanent attitude…’ and who casts himself on the grace of God alone, excluding every trace of dependence on self from the whole work of salvation.

     That is what I want to be: one who excludes every trace of dependence on self from the whole work of my salvation. In that way, I will enjoy the peace that rests in God alone, and God will get all the glory as the one from whom and through whom and to whom are all things, and the message of the church will resound for the nations.

Click here to go to source

      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books:

God’s Righteous Judgment

     If human beings have sinned (which they have), and if they are responsible for their sins (which they are), then they are guilty before God. Guilt is the logical deduction from the premises of sin and responsibility. We have done wrong, by our own fault, and are therefore liable to bear the just penalty of our wrongdoing.

     This is the argument of the early chapters of the letter to the Romans. Paul divides the human race into three major sections, and shows how each knows something of its moral duty, but has deliberately suppressed its knowledge in order to pursue its own sinful course. As John put it, ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Nothing is more serious than this deliberate rejection of the light of truth and goodness. Paul begins with decadent Roman society. Its people have known God’s power and glory from the creation, and his holiness from their conscience, but they have refused to live up to their knowledge. Instead, they have turned from worship to idolatry. So God has given them over to immorality and other forms of anti-social behaviour (Rom. 1:18–32).

     The second section of humanity that Paul addresses is the self-righteous world, whose knowledge of God’s law may be either in the Scriptures (Jews) or in their hearts (Gentiles). In either case they do not live up to their knowledge (2:1–16). The third section is the specifically Jewish world, whose members pride themselves on the knowledge they have and on the moral instruction they give to others. Yet the very law they teach they also disobey. This being so, their privileged status as God’s covenant people will not render them immune to his judgment (2:17 – 3:8).

The Cross of Christ

Hamartia | Sin

     The New Testament uses five main Greek words for sin, which together portray its various aspects, both passive and active. The commonest is hamartia, which depicts sin as a missing of the target, the failure to attain a goal. Adikia is ‘unrighteousness’ or ‘iniquity’, and ponēria is evil of a vicious or degenerate kind. Both these terms seem to speak of an inward corruption or perversion of character. The more active words are parabasis (with which we may associate the similar paraptōma), a ‘trespass’ or ‘transgression’, the stepping over a known boundary, and anomia, ‘lawlessness’, the disregard or violation of a known law. In each case an objective criterion is implied, either a standard we fail to reach or a line we deliberately cross.

     It is assumed throughout Scripture that this criterion or ideal has been established by God. It is, in fact, his moral law, which expresses his righteous character. It is not the law of his own being only, however; it is also the law of ours, since he has made us in his image and in so doing has written the requirements of his law in our hearts (Rom. 2:15). There is, thus, a vital correspondence between God’s law and ourselves, and to commit sin is to commit ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4), offending against our own highest welfare as well as against the authority and love of God.

     The emphasis of Scripture, however, is on the godless self-centredness of sin. Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment’, not just by failing to love God with all our being, but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a bid for independence. Worse still, we have dared to proclaim our self-dependence, our autonomy, which is to claim the position occupied by God alone. Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him. It has been described in terms of ‘getting rid of the Lord God’ in order to put ourselves in his place in a haughty spirit of ‘God-almightiness’. Emil Brunner sums it up well: ‘Sin is defiance, arrogance, the desire to be equal with God,...the assertion of human independence over against God,...the constitution of the autonomous reason, morality and culture.’ It is appropriate that he entitled the book from which this quotation is taken Man in Revolt.

     Once we have seen that every sin we commit is an expression (in differing degrees of self-consciousness) of this spirit of revolt against God, we shall be able to accept David’s confession: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Ps. 51:4). In committing adultery with Bathsheba, and in arranging to have her husband Uriah killed in battle, David had committed extremely serious offences against them and against the nation. Yet it was God’s laws which he had broken and thereby ultimately against God that he had chiefly offended.

The Cross of Christ

The Politics of Premature Rule—Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

By Alastair Roberts 2/27/2017

     (Ge 2:15–17) 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” NRSV
     (Ge 3:1–7) 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

     It might be argued that the story of the Fall has become a victim of its own success. As it is such a prominent landmark in the scriptural narrative on account of its paradigmatic features or theological significance, many of the actual lineaments of the account lie under-examined, neglected beneath those dimensions of it that most answer to the specific concerns of its Christian readers.

     Furthermore, in attending to the theologically definitive entrance of Sin and Death into the world, we may fail to appreciate the manner in which the man and woman’s sin in Eden is the event that initiates a series of escalating ingresses of these forces into God’s good creation. In the ugly litany of Cain’s slaying of Abel, the polygamous Lamech’s vengeance, the sin of the sons of God, and the saturation of the entire world and the consciousness of humankind with evil prior to the Flood, we see the dark blot of Sin steadily spreading out, until it envelops all.

     Even beyond the opening chapters of Genesis, the tragic events of the Garden of Eden reverberate in numerous later scriptural accounts, as Sin’s entropic grip upon the world tightens. In events such as Noah’s drunkenness in his vineyard, Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf, or in the sins of Solomon’s reign, Sin’s relentless hold is rediscovered at those very moments where hope most tantalizes.

     Our lection introduces the narrative with the charge given to the adam, when he was first placed within the garden. This charge particularizes the more general blessing given in 1:28, commissioning the adam to exercise dominion in and establish the fruitfulness of the garden in particular, presumably before venturing out into the lands beyond the garden mentioned in the preceding verses. The narrative implies that the garden is to serve as an archetypal model for his task of the cultivation of the earth more generally (cf. 2:5); as the adam learns to serve and keep the divinely ordered realm of the garden, he will gain the necessary wisdom and skills to bring God’s beautiful and good order to bear upon the wider creation.

     God repeats the permission of 1:29 at this juncture, albeit with reference to the trees of the garden in particular, and with one explicit exception: the adam must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in its midst on pain of death (permission to eat of the tree of life is implicitly granted). The gravity of the divine sanction attached to the prohibition suggests the sacred status of the tree and its fruit.

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     Alastair Roberts Alastair Roberts (@zugzwanged) recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Durham. He participates in the Mere Fidelity podcast and is a contributing editor for Political Theology Today.

Paul, A Jew

By James S. Stewart

     It is clear, to begin with, that all through his life— after his conversion to Christianity, no less than before it— the fact that he had been born a Jew filled Paul with an intense sense of gratitude to God. Despised among the nations the Jews might be; but it never occurred to the apostle, not even when confronting the most cultured and critical Greek audiences, to make any secret of his origin. Jewish lineage, he felt, was not a thing to be apologetic about: on the contrary, it was a unique cause for thanksgiving. He would not indeed boast about it, for when a man has really seen Christ and caught His Spirit (as Paul once said himself) "boasting is excluded," and all that attitude of pride is finished: one thing only is left for him to glory in, the cross by which he has been saved. Still he does tell the Corinthians that if his apostolic authority and his right to speak were questioned, and if it were permissible in answer to forget the Christian spirit just for a moment and "have his little boast as well as others" (so Dr. Moffatt translates it, rightly conserving the playful turn of the apostle's thought), he could soon produce satisfactory credentials. "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." Similarly, he writes to the Philippians that if he chose to rely on outward privilege (meaning, of course, that he does not so choose—but if he did) he could outvie even the Judaizing teachers themselves: "I was circumcised on the eighth day after birth; I belonged to the race of Israel, to the tribe of Benjamin; I was the Hebrew son of Hebrew parents, a Pharisee as regards the Law, in point of ardour a persecutor of the Church, immaculate by the standard of legal righteousness." According to St. Luke's narrative in the Book of Acts, the apostle's defence before Agrippa opened with the plea, "My manner of life from my youth . . . know all the Jews . . . that in the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." The same note is heard again in the letter to the Galatians: "I outstripped many of my own age in my zeal for the traditions of my fathers." Damascus brought many great discoveries in its train, and many new convictions came to Paul as direct corollaries of the revolutionizing experience through which he then passed: one of the greatest was the discovery of a human brotherhood in which the old lines of Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, bond and free, had been obliterated, and the old barriers had for ever vanished. Yet right to the end there remained clearly stamped upon his mind the thought of God's surpassing goodness to the chosen people ; and it baffled and bewildered and hurt him more than he could tell that Israel, "entrusted with the oracles of God," starting with an initial advantage so huge and so decisive, should have stood back watching others, who had no such privilege, pressing forward into a fullness of life and a glory of service that she herself refused to enter. Why should this have happened? he wonders. Why this startling disloyalty to the God whose blessing of Israel had been so unstinted, so royally extravagant? Facing the tragic problem, Paul heaps up the splendours his nation had inherited, the unique privileges which ought surely to have made Judaism the first to recognize and hail its Lord : "they are Israelites, theirs is the Sonship, the Glory, the covenants, the Divine legislation, the Worship, and the promises; the patriarchs are theirs, and theirs too (so far as natural descent goes) is the Christ." All this is the Jew's prerogative, his mandate straight from God, in which Paul claims a share. "I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham." But how much his birth and lineage meant to him may be gathered best of all from the way in which, even in his people's stubbornness and blindness and downright apostasy, he clings to them with the yearning and fervour of his soul, refusing, like God with Ephraim, to let them go. "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Hearing these words, white-hot with love and wild with all regret, words surely as moving as anything in the literature of the world, we seem to watch the centuries falling away, and Paul the born Jew takes his stand with that other great priestly and vicarious soul, the lonely Jew who stood before God on Sinai in the morning of Israel's days, and cried "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." The great, human, god-like cry, wrung from Paul's heart in Romans, is the real index of what his ancestral faith stood for in his experience. To be "a Hebrew of the Hebrews "—that was a priceless and enduring privilege. Even to Paul the Christian, it was a gift of God.

     (Ro 3:27) Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. NRSV

     (Ga 6:14) May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. NRSV

     (2 Co 11:16) I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. NRSV

     (2 Co 11:22) Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. NRSV

     (Php 3:5–6) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. NRSV

     (Ac 26:4) “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. NRSV

     (Ga 1:14) I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. NRSV

     (Ro 3:2) Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. NRSV

     (Ro 9:4) They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; NRSV

     (Ro 11:1) I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. NRSV

     (Ro 9:3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. NRSV

     (Ex 32:30–34) On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.” NRSV

A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)

Psalm 17 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE and SUBJECT. A prayer of David. David would not have been a man after God's own heart, if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication. He flies to prayer in all times of need, as a pilot speeds to the harbour in the stress of tempest. So frequent were David's prayers that they could not be all dated and entitled; and hence this simply bears the author's name, and nothing more. The smell of the furnace is upon the present Psalm, but there is evidence in the last verse that he who wrote it came unharmed out of the flame. We have in the present plaintive song, AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN from the persecutions of earth. A spiritual eye may see Jesus here.

     DIVISIONS. There are no very clear lines of demarcation between the parts; but we prefer the division adopted by that precious old commentator, David Dickson. In verses 1-4, David craves justice in the controversy between him and his oppressors. In verses 5 and 6, he requests of the Lord grace to act rightly while under the trial. From verse 7-12, he seeks protection from his foes, whom he graphically describes; and in verses 13 and 14, pleads that they may be disappointed; closing the whole in the most comfortable confidence that all would certainly be well with himself at the last.


     Verse 1. "Hear the right, O Lord." He that has the worst cause makes the most noise; hence the oppressed soul is apprehensive that its voice may be drowned, and therefore pleads in this one verse for a hearing no less than three times. The troubled heart craves for the ear of the great Judge, persuaded that with him to hear is to redress. If our God could not or would not hear us, our state would be deplorable indeed; and yet some professors set such small store by the mercy-seat, that God does not hear them for the simple reason that they neglect to plead. As well have no house if we persist like gipsies in living in the lanes and commons; as well have no mercy-seat as be always defending our own cause and never going to God. There is more fear that we will not hear the Lord than that the Lord will not hear us. "Hear the right;" it is well if our case is good in itself and can be urged as a right one, for right shall never be wronged by our righteous Judge; but if our suit be marred by our infirmities, it is a great privilege that we may make mention of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus, which is ever prevalent on high. Right has a voice which Jehovah always hears; and if my wrongs clamour against me with great force and fury, I will pray the Lord to hear that still louder and mightier voice of the right, and the rights of his dear Son. "Hear, O God, the Just One;" i.e., "hear the Messiah," is a rendering adopted by Jerome, and admired by Bishop Horsley, whether correct or not as a translation, it is proper enough as a plea. Let the reader plead it at the throne of the righteous God, even when all other arguments are unavailing.

     "Attend unto my cry." This shows the vehemence and earnestness of the petitioner; he is no mere talker, he weeps and laments. Who can resist a cry? A real hearty, bitter, piteous cry, might almost melt a rock, there can be no fear of its prevalence with our heavenly Father. A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds; if our prayer should like the infant's cry be more natural than intelligent, and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child's cry to prevail with a parent's heart. "Give ear unto my prayer." Some repetitions are not vain. The reduplication here used is neither superstition nor tautology, but is like the repeated blow of a hammer hitting the same nail on the head to fix it the more effectually, or the continued knocking of a beggar at the gate who cannot be denied an alms. "That goeth not out of feigned lips." Sincerity is a sine quà non in prayer. Lips of deceit are detestable to man and much more to God. In intercourse so hallowed as that of prayer, hypocrisy even in the remotest degree is as fatal as it is foolish. Hypocritical piety is double iniquity. He who would feign and flatter had better try his craft with a fool like himself, for to deceive the all-seeing One is as impossible as to take the moon in a net, or to lead the sun into a snare. He who would deceive God is himself already most grossly deceived. Our sincerity in prayer has no merit in it, any more than the earnestness of a mendicant in the street; but at the same time the Lord has regard to it, through Jesus, and will not long refuse his ear to an honest and fervent petitioner.

     Verse 2. "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence." The psalmist has now grown bold by the strengthening influence of prayer, and he now entreats the Judge of all the earth to give sentence upon his case. He has been libelled, basely and maliciously libelled; and having brought his action before the highest court, he, like an innocent man, has no desire to escape the enquiry, but even invites and sues for judgment. He does not ask for secrecy, but would have the result come forth to the world. He would have sentence pronounced and executed forthwith. In some matters we may venture to be as bold as this; but except we can plead something better than our own supposed innocence, it were terrible presumption thus to challenge the judgment of a sin-hating God. With Jesus as our complete and all-glorious righteousness we need not fear, though the day of judgment should commence at once, and hell open her mouth at our feet, but might joyfully prove the truth of our hymn writer's holy boast—

"Bold shall I stand in that great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, through thy blood, absolved I am,
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."

     "Let thine eyes behold the things that are equal." Believers do not desire any other judge than God, or to be excused from judgment, or even to be judged on principles of partiality. No; our hope does not lie in the prospect of favouritism from God, and the consequent suspension of his law; we expect to be judged on the same principals as other men, and through the blood and righteousness of our Redeemer we shall pass the ordeal unscathed. The Lord will weigh us in the scales of justice fairly and justly; he will not use false weights to permit us to escape, but with the sternest equity those balances will be used upon us as well as upon others; and with our blessed Lord Jesus as our all in all we tremble not, for we shall not be found wanting. In David's case, he felt his cause to be so right that he simply desired the Divine eyes to rest upon the matter, and he was confident that equity would give him all that he needed.

     Verse 3, "Thou hast proved mine heart." Like Peter, David uses the argument, "Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." It is a most assuring thing to be able to appeal at once to the Lord, and call upon our Judge to be a witness for our defence. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." "Thou hast visited me in the night." As if he had said, "Lord, thou hast entered my house at all hours; and thou hast seen me when no one else was nigh; thou hast come upon me unawares and marked my unrestrained actions, and thou knowest whether or no I am guilty of the crimes laid at my door." Happy man who can thus remember the omniscient eye, and the omnipresent visitor, and find comfort in the remembrance. We hope we have had our midnight visits from our Lord, and truly they are sweet; so sweet that the recollection of them sets us longing for more of such condescending communings. Lord, if indeed, we had been hypocrites, should we have had such fellowship, or feel such hungerings after a renewal of it? "Thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing." Surely the Psalmist means nothing hypocritical or wicked in the sense in which his slanderers accused him; for if the Lord should put the best of his people into the crucible, the dross would be a fearful sight, and would make penitence open her sluices wide. Assayers very soon detect the presence of alloy, and when the chief of all assayers shall, at the last, say of us he has found nothing, it will be a glorious hour indeed—"They are without fault before the throne of God." Even here, as viewed in our covenant Head, the Lord sees no sin in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel; even the all-detecting glance of Omniscience can see no flaw where the great Substitute covers all with beauty and perfection. "I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress." Oh those sad lips of ours! we had need purpose to purpose if we would keep them from exceeding their bounds. The number of diseases of the tongue is as many as the diseases of all the rest of the man put together, and they are more inveterate. Hands and feet one may bind, but who can fetter the lips? iron bands may hold a madman, but what chains can restrain the tongue? It needs more than a purpose to keep this nimble offender within its proper range. Lion-taming and serpent-charming are not to be mentioned in the same day as tongue-taming, for the tongue can no man tame. Those who have to smart from the falsehoods of others should be the more jealous over themselves; perhaps this led the Psalmist to register this holy resolution; and, moreover, he intended thereby to aver that if he had said too much in his own defence, it was not intentional, for he desired in all-respects to tune his lips to the sweet and simple music of truth. Notwithstanding all this David was slandered, as if to show us that the purest innocence will be bemired by malice. There is no sunshine without a shadow, no ripe fruit unpecked by the birds.

     Verse 4. "Concerning the works of men." While we are in the midst of men we shall have their works thrust under our notice, and we shall be compelled to keep a corner of our diary headed "concerning the works of men." To be quite clear from the dead works of carnal humanity is the devout desire of souls who are quickened by the Holy Spirit. "By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." He had kept the highway of Scripture, and not chosen the bye-paths of malice. We should soon imitate the example of the worst of men if the grace of God did not use the Word of God as the great preservative from evil. The paths of the destroyer have often tempted us; we have been prompted to become destroyers too, when we have been sorely provoked, and resentment has grown warm; but we have remembered the example of our Lord, who would not call fire from heaven upon his enemies, but meekly prayed, "Father, forgive them." All the ways of sin are the paths of Satan,—the Apollyon or Abaddon, both of which words signify the destroyer. Foolish indeed are those who give their hearts to the old murderer, because for the time he panders to their evil desires. That heavenly Book which lies neglected on many a shelf is the only guide for those who would avoid the enticing and entangling mazes of sin; and it is the best means of preserving the youthful pilgrim from ever treading those dangerous ways. We must follow the one or the other; the Book of Life, or the way of death; the word of the Holy Spirit, or the suggestion of the Evil Spirit. David could urge as the proof of his sincerity that he had no part or lot with the ungodly in their ruinous ways. How can we venture to plead our cause with God, unless we also can wash our hands clean of all connection with the enemies of the Great King?

     Verse 5. Under trial it is not easy to behave ourselves aright; a candle is not easily kept alight when many envious mouths are puffing at it. In evil times prayer is peculiarly needful, and wise men resort to it at once. Plato said to one of his disciples, "When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them;" good enough advice, but he did not tell us how to carry it out. We have a precept here incorporated in an example; if we would be preserved, we must cry to the Preserver, and enlist divine support upon our side. "Hold up my goings"—as a careful driver holds up his horse when going down hill. We have all sorts of paces, both fast and slow, and the road is never long of one sort, but with God to hold up our goings, nothing in the pace or in the road can cast down. He who has been down once and cut his knees sadly, even to the bone, had need redouble his zeal when using this prayer; and all of us, since we are so weak on our legs through Adam's fall, had need use it every hour of the day. If a perfect father fell, how shall an imperfect son dare to boast? "In thy paths." Forsaking Satan's paths, he prayed to be upheld in God's paths. We cannot keep from evil without keeping to good. If the bushel be not full of wheat, it may soon be once more full of chaff. In all the appointed ordinances and duties of our most holy faith, may the Lord enable us to run through his upholding grace! "That my footsteps slip not." What! slip in God's ways? Yes, the road is good, but our feet are evil, and therefore slip, even on the King's highway. Who wonders if carnal men slide and fall in ways of their own choosing, which like the vale of Siddim, are full of deadly slime-pits? One may trip over an ordinance as well as over a temptation. Jesus Christ himself is a stumbling-block to some, and the doctrines of grace have been the occasion of offence to many. Grace alone can hold up our goings in the paths of truth.

     Verse 6. "I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God." Thou hast always heard me, O my Lord, and therefore I have the utmost confidence in again approaching thine altar. Experience is a blessed teacher. He who has tried the faithfulness of God in hours of need, has great boldness in laying his case before the throne. The well of Bethlehem, from which we drew such cooling draughts in years gone by, our souls long for still; nor will we leave it for the broken cisterns of earth. "Incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech." Stoop out of heaven and put thine ear to my mouth; give me thine ear all to myself, as men do when they lean over to catch every word from their friend. The Psalmist here comes back to his first prayer, and thus sets us an example of pressing our suit again and again, until we have a full assurance that we have succeeded.

     Verse 7. "Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness." Marvellous in its antiquity, its distinguishing character, its faithfulness, its immutability, and above all, marvellous in the wonders which it works. That marvellous grace which has redeemed us with the precious blood of God's only begotten, is here invoked to come to the rescue. That grace is sometimes hidden; the text says, "Shew it." Present enjoyments of divine love are matchless cordials to support fainting hearts. Believer, what a prayer is this! Consider it well. O Lord, shew thy marvellous lovingkindness; shew it to my intellect, and remove my ignorance; shew it to my heart, and revive my gratitude; shew it to my faith, and renew my confidence; shew it to my experience, and deliver me from all my fears. The original word here used is the same which in Psalm 4:3 is rendered set apart, and it has the force of, Distinguish thy mercies, set them out, and set apart the choicest to be bestowed upon me in this hour of my severest affliction. "O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them." The title here given to our gracious God is eminently consolatory. He is the God of salvation; it is his present and perpetual habit to save believers; he puts forth his best and most glorious strength, using his right hand of wisdom and might, to save all those, of whatsoever rank or class, who trust themselves with him. Happy faith thus to secure the omnipotent protection of heaven! Blessed God, to be thus gracious to unworthy mortals, when they have but grace to rely upon thee! The right hand of God is interposed between the saints and all harm; God is never at a loss for means; his own bare hand is enough. He works without tools as well as with them.

     Verse 8. "Keep me as the apple of the eye." No part of the body more precious, more tender, and more carefully guarded than the eye; and of the eye, no portion more peculiarly to be protected than the central apple, the pupil, or as the Hebrew calls it, "the daughter of the eye." The all-wise Creator has placed the eye in a well-protected position; it stands surrounded by projecting bones like Jerusalem encircled by mountains. Moreover, its great Author has surrounded it with many tunics of inward covering, besides the hedge of the eyebrows, the curtain of the eyelids, and the fence of the eyelashes; and, in addition to this, he has given to every man so high a value for his eyes, and so quick an apprehension of danger, that no member of the body is more faithfully cared for than the organ of sight. Thus, Lord, keep thou me, for I trust I am one with Jesus, and so a member of his mystical body. "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings." Even as the parent bird completely shields her brood from evil, and meanwhile cherishes them with the warmth of her own heart, by covering them with her wings, so do thou with me, most condescending God, for I am thine offspring, and thou hast a parent's love in perfection. This last clause is in the Hebrew in the future tense, as if to show that what the writer had asked for but a moment before he was now sure would be granted to him. Confident expectations should keep pace with earnest supplication.

     Verse 9. "From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about." The foes from whom David sought to be rescued were wicked men. It is hopeful for us when our enemies are God's enemies. They were deadly enemies, whom nothing but his death would satisfy. The foes of a believer's soul are mortal foes most emphatically, for they who war against our faith aim at the very life of our life. Deadly sins are deadly enemies, and what sin is there which hath not death in its bowels? These foes oppressed David, they laid his spirit waste, as invading armies ravage a country, or as wild beasts desolate a land. He likens himself to a besieged city, and complains that his foes compass him about. It may well quicken our business upward, when all around us, every road, is blockaded by deadly foes. This is our daily position, for all around us dangers and sins are lurking. O God, do thou protect us from them all.

     Verse 10. "They are inclosed in their own fat." Luxury and gluttony beget vainglorious fatness of heart, which shuts up its gates against all compassionate emotions and reasonable judgments. The old proverb says that full bellies make empty skulls, and it is yet more true that they frequently make empty hearts. The rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. Riches and self-indulgence are the fuel upon which some sins feed their flames. Pride and fulness of bread were Sodom's twin sins. (Ezekiel 16:49.) Fed hawks forget their masters; and the moon at its fullest is furthest from the sun. Eglon was a notable instance that a well-fed corporation is no security to life, when a sharp message comes from God, addressed to the inward vitals of the body. "With their mouth they speak proudly." He who adores himself, will have no heart to adore the Lord. Full of selfish pleasure within his heart, the wicked man fills his mouth with boastful and arrogant expressions. Prosperity and vanity often lodge together. Woe to the fed ox when it bellows at its owner, the poleax is not far off.

     Verse 11. "They have now compassed us in our steps." The fury of the ungodly is aimed not at one believer alone, but at all the band; they have compassed us. All the race of the Jews were but a morsel for Haman's hungry revenge, and all because of one Mordecai. The prince of darkness hates all the saints for their Master's sake. The Lord Jesus is one of the us, and herein is our hope. He is the Breaker, and will clear a way for us through the hosts which environ us. The hatred of the powers of evil is continuous and energetic, for they watch every step, hoping that the time may come when they shall catch us by surprise. If our spiritual adversaries thus compass every step, how anxiously should we guard all our movements, lest by any means we should be betrayed into evil! "They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth." Trapp witily explains this metaphor by an allusion to a bull when about to run at his victim; he lowers his head, looks downward, and then concentrates all his force in the dash which he makes. It most probably denotes the malicious jealousy with which the enemy watches the steps of the righteous; as if they studied the ground on which they trod, and searched after some wrong foot-mark to accuse them for the past, or some stumbling-stone to cast in their future path to trip them in days to come.

     Verse 12. Lions are not more greedy, nor their ways more cunning than are Satan and his helpers when engaged against the children of God. The blood of souls the adversary thirsts after, and all his strength and craft are exerted to the utmost to satisfy his detestable appetite. We are weak and foolish like sheep; but we have a shepherd wise and strong, who knows the old lion's wiles, and is more than a match for his force; therefore will we not fear, but rest in safety in the fold. Let us beware, however, of our lurking foe; and in those parts of the road where we feel most secure, let us look about us lest, peradventure, our foe should leap upon us.

     Verse 13. "Arise, O Lord." The more furious the attack, the more fervent the Psalmist's prayer. His eye rests singly upon the Almighty, and he feels that God has but to rise from the seat of his patience, and the work will be performed at once. Let the lion spring upon us, if Jehovah steps between we need no better defence. When God meets our foe face to face in battle, the conflict will soon be over. "Disappoint him." Be beforehand with him, outwit and outrun him. Appoint it otherwise than he has appointed, and so disappoint him. "Cast him down." Prostrate him. Make him sink upon his knees. Make him bow as the conquered bows before the conqueror. What a glorious sight will it be to behold Satan prostrate beneath the foot of our glorious Lord! Haste, glorious day! "Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword." He recognizes the most profane and oppressive as being under the providential rule of the King of kings, and used as a sword in the divine hand. What can a sword do unless it be wielded by a hand? No more could the wicked annoy us, unless the Lord permitted them so to do. Most translators are, however, agreed that this is not the correct reading, but that it should be as Calvin puts it, "Deliver my soul from the ungodly man by thy sword." Thus David contrasts the sword of the Lord with human aids and reliefs, and rests assured that he is safe enough under the patronage of heaven.

     Verse 14. Almost every word of this verse has furnished matter for discussion to scholars, for it is very obscure. We will, therefore, rest content with the common version, rather than distract the reader with divers translations. "From men which are thy hand." Having styled the ungodly a sword in his Father's hand, he now likens them to that hand itself, to set forth his conviction that God could as easily remove their violence as a man moves his own hand. He will never slay his child with his own hand. "From men of the world," mere earthworms; not men of the world to come, but mere dwellers in this narrow sphere of mortality; having no hopes or wishes beyond the ground on which they tread. "Which have their portion in this life." Like the prodigal, they have their portion, and are not content to wait their Father's time. Like Passion in the "Pilgrim's Progress," they have their best things first, and revel during their little hour. Luther was always afraid lest he should have his portion here, and therefore frequently gave away sums of money which had been presented to him. We cannot have earth and heaven too for our choice and portion; wise men choose that which will last the longest. "Whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure." Their sensual appetite gets the gain which it craved for. God gives to these swine the husks which they hunger for. A generous man does not deny dogs their bones; and our generous God gives even his enemies enough to fill them, if they were not so unreasonable as never to be content. Gold and silver which are locked up in the dark treasuries of the earth are given to the wicked liberally, and they therefore roll in all manner of carnal delights. Every dog has his day, and they have theirs, and a bright summer's day it seems; but ah! how soon it ends in night! "They are full of children." This was their fondest hope, that a race from their loins would prolong their names far down the page of history, and God has granted them this also; so that they have all that heart can wish. What enviable creatures they seem, but it is only seeming! "They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes." They were fat housekeepers, and yet leave no lean wills. Living and dying they lacked for nothing but grace and alas! that lack spoils everything. They had a fair portion within the little circle of time, but eternity entered not into their calculations. They were penny wise, but pound foolish; they remembered the present, and forgot the future; they fought for the shell, and lost the kernel. How fine a description have we here of many a successful merchant, or popular statesman; and it is, at first sight, very showy and tempting, but in contrast with the glories of the world to come, what are these paltry molehill joys. Self, self, self, all these joys begin and end in basest selfishness; but oh, our God, how rich are those who begin and end in thee! From all the contamination and injury which association with worldly men is sure to bring us, deliver thou us, O God!

     Verse 15. "As for me." "I neither envy nor covet these men's happiness, but partly have and partly hope for a far better." To behold God's face and to be changed by that vision into his image, so as to partake in his righteousness, this is my noble ambition; and in the prospect of this I cheerfully waive all my present enjoyments. My satisfaction is to come; I do not look for it as yet. I shall sleep awhile, but I shall wake at the sound of the trumpet; wake to everlasting joy, because I arise in thy likeness, O my God and King! Glimpses of glory good men have here below to stay their sacred hunger, but the full feast awaits them in the upper skies. Compared with this deep, ineffable, eternal fulness of delight, the joys of the worldlings are as a glowworm to the sun, or the drop of a bucket to the ocean.

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).

1 Samuel 3; Romans 3; Jeremiah 41; Psalm 17

By Don Carson 8/13/2018

     The LORD does not call all his prophets in the same way, or at the same time of life. Amos was called when he was a shepherd in Tekoa. Elisha was called by Elijah to serve an apprenticeship. But Samuel was called even from before conception.

     Samuel’s conscious experience of the call of God (1 Sam. 3) occurred when he was still quite a young lad — not, surely, a tiny tot, as some of our more romantic pictures have portrayed it, for he knew enough to be able to understand what the Lord said to him, to be troubled by it and to hesitate before repeating it to Eli. But he was not very old, still a “boy” (1 Sam. 3:1).

     The story is so well known it scarcely needs repeating. But some observations may focus matters a little.

     (1) The voice that comes to Samuel is a real voice, speaking Hebrew, a real language. This is not some merely subjective “feel” of being called. Real calls, real visions, real revelations take place in the Bible; but in the days of Samuel they were “rare” (1 Sam. 3:1). Certainly up to this point Samuel had never had such an experience; he “did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him” (1 Sam. 3:7).

     (2) Eli is a sad figure. In his own life, he is a person of integrity — even though he is a disaster with his family. His long experience enables him, on the Lord’s third calling of Samuel, to guess what is going on, and to guide young Samuel in an appropriate response: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9).

     (3) The substance of the revelation given to Samuel on this occasion concerns a coming setback so startling that it “will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle” (1 Sam. 3:11). Included in this tragedy will be the destruction of Eli’s family, in line with what the Lord had previously told Eli: God would judge Eli’s family forever “because of the sin he (Eli) knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain then” (1 Sam. 3:13). Such neglect is always wicked, of course, but it is especially wicked in religious leaders who promote their sons to positions where they use their power to abuse people and treat God himself with contempt (1 Sam. 2:12-25).

     (4) When Eli manages to get Samuel to tell him all the Lord said, his own response, while preserving a show of trust, betrays his irresponsibility. “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes” (1 Sam. 3:18). Why does he not immediately repent, take decisive action against his sons, exercise the discipline that was within his priestly right, and ask the Lord for mercy?

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 88

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
88 A Song. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah. To The Choirmaster: According To Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil Of Heman The Ezrahite.

1 O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

ESV Study Bible

  • Jeffrey Schwartz
  • Scientist Discuss God
  • Dr. John Walton

The Crisis of the Modern Mind  
The Veritas Forum


God, Self, and Mental Health   
The Veritas Forum


Genesis 1-2   
The Veritas Forum


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     8/1/2016    Ministering to Addicts

     As a pastor, I often find myself counseling people with addictions. Having served in local church settings for more than twenty years, I find ministering to addicts and their families to be one of the more difficult, complicated, and sad things I do. Every week, I preach the Word of God to people who have never been addicts and may never become addicts, to former addicts, to addicts themselves, and to future addicts. There are some addicts who know they are addicts, some who are seeking help for their addiction, and some who either do not know they are addicts or do not want to admit it. Some people think they will never become addicts because they do not have an “addictive personality.” Others think they will never become addicts because their parents were not addicts. And some fear becoming addicts because they think they have an addictive personality or because so many in their family history were addicts. Whatever the case, all of us have been somehow affected by addicts and addictions.

     Statistics reveal that the prevalence of addictions is growing rapidly around the world, even among children who are becoming unknowingly addicted to behavioral and psychotropic medications. We are most familiar with addictions to illegal substances, medicines, gambling, and pornography. Yet we are less familiar with addictions involving sex, screens (video games, TV, smartphones, and so on), and self-injury. In addition, there are numerous people who struggle with addictions that many of us mistakenly deem as “harmless,” such as overeating, shopping, exercise, work, social media, and Internet addictions. Whether public or private, big or little, outward or inward, addictions are real and are ultimately matters of the heart in the lives of image bearers of God.

     All addictions have consequences and must be taken seriously. We should not underestimate the significance of addictions in our lives or in the lives of others. What’s more, we should not make addictions insignificant things and simply ridicule and threaten addicts, leaving them to themselves and abandoning them in their addictions. If we ignore an addiction, the consequences can be devastating. We must be compassionate and courageous as we come alongside one another. We must pray, confess, confront, admit, intervene, befriend, and love. As the family of God, we must not give up on those who struggle with addictions as we depend on the transforming and renewing work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     New Jersey is being invaded by Martians! This was the script of a 1938 radio drama based on the novel War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells, who died this day, August 13, 1946. Wells’ novel inspired a boy named Robert Goddard that space flight was possible and he grew up to be the father of modern rocketry. H.G. Wells also wrote the best sellers The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The First Men in the Moon. Though a skeptic, in his Outlines of History, H.G. Wells described the U.S. Constitution, saying: “Its spirit is indubitably Christian.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Pride is the deification of self
--- Oswald Chambers

If thou desire the love of God and man,
be humble, for the proud heart,
as it loves none but itself,
is beloved of none but itself.
Humility enforces where neither virtue,
nor strength, nor reason can prevail.
--- Francis Quarles

Not merely in the words you say,
Not merely in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you …
And see Christ the Lord instead.
--- Unknown

You cannot in the last resort, measure and explain: you can only wonder and adore.
--- James S. Stewart
A Man in Christ

... from here, there and everywhere

What Happened To the word Sin?
     A Psychologist Wants To Know

     Perhaps it is a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the gravity of sin which has led to its omission from the vocabulary of many of our contemporaries. One acute observer of the human condition, who has noticed the disappearance of the word, is the American psychiatrist Karl Menninger. He has written about it in his book, Whatever Became of Sin? Describing the malaise of western society, its general mood of gloom and doom, he adds that ‘one misses any mention of “sin”’. ‘It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but is now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean’, he asks, ‘that no sin is involved in all our troubles...? Has no-one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?’. Enquiring into the causes of sin’s disappearance, Dr Menninger notes first that ‘many former sins have become crimes’, so that responsibility for dealing with them has passed from church to state, from priest to policeman, while others have dissipated into sicknesses, or at least into symptoms of sickness, so that in their case punishment has been replaced by treatment. A third convenient device called ‘collective irresponsibility’ has enabled us to transfer the blame for some of our deviant behaviour from ourselves as individuals to society as a whole or to one of its many groupings.
     Dr Menninger goes on to plead not only for the reinstatement of the word ‘sin’ in our vocabulary, but also for a recognition of the reality which the word expresses. Sin cannot be dismissed as merely a cultural taboo or social blunder. It must be taken seriously. He takes preachers to task for soft-pedalling it, and adds: ‘The clergyman cannot minimize sin and maintain his proper role in our culture’. For sin is ‘an implicitly aggressive quality – a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion....Sin has a willful, defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defied or offended or hurt’. To ignore this would be dishonest. To confess it would enable us to do something about it. Moreover, the reinstatement of sin would lead inevitably to ‘the revival or reassertion of personal responsibility’. In fact the ‘usefulness’ of reviving sin is that responsibility would be revived with it.

( The Cross of Christ )
Recapture the Wonder
     Borrowed from Ravi Zacharias

     Somewhere in the 1980s, I picked up this quote. I do not know who gave it to me or who the author is. But whoever penned it had profound insight:
     In the 1950s kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term–the generation gap.
     In the 1960s, kids lost their authority. It was a decade of protest–church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.
     In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion... It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.
     In the 1980s, kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority, and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.
     To bring it up to date, I have added two more paragraphs:
     In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.
     In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.
     Now go back and look at the list and see the progression. If the word innocence can be replaced by the word wonder, then you see how the slide into despair began. Wonder has a direct bearing on hopelessness and evil. The loss of wonder sets the stage for evil, until truth itself dies at the altar of a desecrated imagination.

Recapture the Wonder
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 7.

     Vespasian, When He Had Taken The City Gadaea Marches To Jotapata. After A Long Siege The City Is Betrayed By A Deserter, And Taken By Vespasian.

     1. So Vespasian marched to the city Gadara, and took it upon the first onset, because he found it destitute of any considerable number of men grown up and fit for war. He came then into it, and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever; and this was done out of the hatred they bore the nation, and because of the iniquity they had been guilty of in the affair of Cestius. He also set fire not only to the city itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it; some of them were quite destitute of inhabitants, and out of some of them he carried the inhabitants as slaves into captivity.

     2. As to Josephus, his retiring to that city which he chose as the most fit for his security, put it into great fear; for the people of Tiberias did not imagine that he would have run away, unless he had entirely despaired of the success of the war. And indeed, as to that point, they were not mistaken about his opinion; for he saw whither the affairs of the Jews would tend at last, and was sensible that they had but one way of escaping, and that was by repentance. However, although he expected that the Romans would forgive him, yet did he choose to die many times over, rather than to betray his country, and to dishonor that supreme command of the army which had been intrusted with him, or to live happily under those against whom he was sent to fight. He determined, therefore, to give an exact account of affairs to the principal men at Jerusalem by a letter, that he might not, by too much aggrandizing the power of the enemy, make them too timorous; nor, by relating that their power beneath the truth, might encourage them to stand out when they were perhaps disposed to repentance. He also sent them word, that if they thought of coming to terms, they must suddenly write him an answer; or if they resolved upon war, they must send him an army sufficient to fight the Romans. Accordingly, he wrote these things, and sent messengers immediately to carry his letter to Jerusalem.

     3. Now Vespasian was very desirous of demolishing Jotapata, for he had gotten intelligence that the greatest part of the enemy had retired thither, and that it was, on other accounts, a place of great security to them. Accordingly, he sent both foot-men and horsemen to level the road, which was mountainous and rocky, not without difficulty to be traveled over by footmen, but absolutely impracticable for horsemen. Now these workmen accomplished what they were about in four days' time, and opened a broad way for the army. On the fifth day, which was the twenty-first of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] Josephus prevented him, and came from Tiberias, and went into Jotapata, and raised the drooping spirits of the Jews. And a certain deserter told this good news to Vespasian, that Josephus had removed himself thither, which made him make haste to the city, as supposing that with taking that he should take all Judea, in case he could but withal get Josephus under his power. So he took this news to be of the vastest advantage to him, and believed it to be brought about by the providence of God, that he who appeared to be the most prudent man of all their enemies, had, of his own accord, shut himself up in a place of sure custody. Accordingly, he sent Placidus with a thousand horsemen, and Ebutius a decurion, a person that was of eminency both in council and in action, to encompass the city round, that Josephus might not escape away privately.

     4. Vespasian also, the very next day, took his whole army and followed them, and by marching till late in the Evening, arrived then at Jotapata; and bringing his army to the northern side of the city, he pitched his camp on a certain small hill which was seven furlongs from the city, and still greatly endeavored to be well seen by the enemy, to put them into a consternation; which was indeed so terrible to the Jews immediately, that no one of them durst go out beyond the wall. Yet did the Romans put off the attack at that time, because they had marched all the day, although they placed a double row of battalions round the city, with a third row beyond them round the whole, which consisted of cavalry, in order to stop up every way for an exit; which thing making the Jews despair of escaping, excited them to act more boldly; for nothing makes men fight so desperately in war as necessity.

     5. Now when the next day an assault was made by the Romans, the Jews at first staid out of the walls and opposed them, and met them, as having formed themselves a camp before the city walls. But when Vespasian had set against them the archers and slingers, and the whole multitude that could throw to a great distance, he permitted them to go to work, while he himself, with the footmen, got upon an acclivity, whence the city might easily be taken. Josephus was then in fear for the city, and leaped out, and all the Jewish multitude with him; these fell together upon the Romans in great numbers, and drove them away from the wall, and performed a great many glorious and bold actions. Yet did they suffer as much as they made the enemy suffer; for as despair of deliverance encouraged the Jews, so did a sense of shame equally encourage the Romans. These last had skill as well as strength; the other had only courage, which armed them, and made them fight furiously. And when the fight had lasted all day, it was put an end to by the coming on of the night. They had wounded a great many of the Romans, and killed of them thirteen men; of the Jews' side seventeen were slain, and six hundred wounded.

          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 22:26-27
     by D.H. Stern

26     Don’t be one of those who give pledges,
guaranteeing loans made to others;
27     for if you don’t have the wherewithal to pay,
they will take your bed away from underneath 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


     Wild horses shall not drag from me the wonderful secret that suggested my theme. Suffice it to say that it had to do with the naming of a baby. And the naming of a baby is really one of the most momentous events upon which the sentinel stars look down. There is more in it than a cursory observer would suppose. Tennyson recognized this when his first son was born, the son who was destined to become the biographer of his distinguished sire and the Governor-General of our Australian Commonwealth. Whilst revelling in the proud ecstasies of early fatherhood, he sought the companionship of his intimate friend, Henry Hallam, the historian. They were strolling together one day in a beautiful English churchyard.

     'What name do you mean to give him?' asked Hallam.

     'Well, we thought of calling him Hallam,' replied the poet.

     'Oh! had you not better call him Alfred, after yourself?' suggested the historian.

     'Aye!' replied the naïve bard, 'but what if he should turn out to be a fool?'

     Ah, there's the rub. It turned out all right, as it happened. The boy was no fool, as the world very well knows; but if you examine the story under a microscope you will discover that it is encrusted with a golden wealth of philosophy. For the point is that the baby's name sets before the baby a certain standard of achievement. The baby's name commits the baby to something. Names, even in the ordinary life of the home and the street, are infinitely more than mere tags attached to us for purposes of convenience and identification.

     In describing the striking experiences through which he passed on being made a freeman, Booker T. Washington, the slave who carved his way to statesmanship, tells us that his greatest difficulty lay in regard to a name. Slaves have no names; no authentic genealogy; no family history; no ancestral traditions. They have, therefore, nothing to live up to. Mr. Booker Washington himself invented his own name. 'More than once,' he says 'I tried to picture myself in the position of a boy or man with an honoured and distinguished ancestry. As it is, I have no idea who my grandmother was. The very fact that the white boy is conscious that, if he fails, he will disgrace the whole family record is of tremendous value in helping him to resist temptations. And the fact that the individual has behind him a proud family history serves as a stimulus to help him to overcome obstacles when striving for success.' Every student of biography knows how frequently men have been restrained from doing evil, or inspired to lofty achievement, by the honour in which a cherished memory has compelled them to hold the names they are allowed to bear. Every schoolboy knows the story of the Grecian coward whose name was Alexander. His cowardice seemed the more contemptible because of his distinguished name; and his commander, Alexander the Great, ordered him either to change his name or to prove himself brave.

     I notice that the American people have lately been rudely awakened to a recognition of the fact that a nation that can boast of a splendid galaxy of illustrious names stands involved, not only in a great and priceless heritage, but also in a weighty national responsibility. Three citizens of the United States, bearing three of the most distinguished names in American history, have recently figured with painful prominence before the criminal courts of that country. 'It is not rarely,' as a leading American journal remarks, 'that a man who has acquired credit and reputation ruins his own good name by some act of fraud or passion. It is much rarer that the case appears of one who soils the good name of a distinguished father. But it is without parallel that three names, borne by men the most famous in our annals, should all have been so foully soiled by their sons.' And the pitiable element in the case is not relieved by the circumstance that these unhappy men have clearly inherited, with their fathers' names, something of their fathers' genius. The fact is that American soil has proved singularly congenial to the growth of greatness. The length of America's scroll of fame is altogether out of proportion to the brevity of her history. The stirring epochs of her short career have developed a phenomenal wealth of leaders in all the arts and crafts of national life. In statesmanship, in arms, in letters, and in inventive science, she can produce a record of which many nations, very much older, might be pardonably proud. And she therefore displays a perfectly natural and honourable solicitude when she looks with serious concern on the untoward happenings that have recently smudged some of those fair names which she so justly regards as the shining hoard and cherished legacy which have been bequeathed to her by a singularly eventful past.

     'Names!' exclaims Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh. 'Could I unfold the influence of names, I were a second greater Trismegistus!' Names occupy a place in literature peculiarly their own. From Homer downwards, all great writers have recognized their magical value. The most superficial readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey must have noticed how liberally every page is sprinkled with capital letters. The name of a god or of a hero blazes like an oriflamme in almost every line. And Macaulay, in accounting for the peculiar charm of Milton, says that none of his poems are more generally known or more frequently repeated than those that are little more than muster-rolls of names. 'They are not always more appropriate,' he says, 'or more melodious than other names. But they are charmed names. Every one of them is the first link in a long chain of associated ideas. Like the dwelling-place of our infancy revisited in manhood, like the song of our country heard in a strange land, these names produce upon us an effect wholly independent of their intrinsic value. One transports us back to a remote period of history. Another places us among the novel scenes and manners of a distant region. A third evokes all the dear, classical recollections of childhood—the schoolroom, the dog-eared Virgil, the holiday, and the prize. A fourth brings before us the splendid phantoms of chivalrous romance—the trophied lists, the embroidered housings, the quaint devices, the haunted forests, the enchanted gardens, the achievements of enamoured knights, and the smiles of rescued princesses.'

     To tell the whole truth, I rather suspect that Macaulay appreciated this subtle art so highly in Milton because he himself had mastered the trick so thoroughly. He knew what magic slumbered in that wondrous wand. His own dexterity in conjuring with heroic names is at least as marvellous as Milton's. In his Victorian Age in Literature, Mr. G. K. Chesterton says that Macaulay felt and used names like trumpets. 'The reader's greatest joy is in the writer's own joy,' he says, 'when he can let his last phrase fall like a hammer on some resounding names, such as Hildebrand or Charlemagne, the eagles of Rome or the pillars of Hercules. As with Sir Walter Scott, some of the best things in his prose and poetry are the surnames that he did not make. That is exactly where Macaulay is great. He is almost Homeric. The whole triumph turns upon mere names.' We have all wondered at the uncanny ingenuity that Bunyan and Dickens displayed in the manufacture of names to suit their droll and striking characters; but we are compelled to confess that Homer and Milton and Macaulay reveal a still higher phase of genius, for they succeed in marshalling with rhythmic and dramatic effect the actual names that living men have borne, and in weaving those names into glorious pageants of extraordinary impressiveness and splendour.

     It is very odd, the way in which history and prophecy meet and mingle in the naming of the baby. A friend of mine has just named his child after John Wesley. He has clearly done so in the fond hope that the august virtues of the great Methodist may be duplicated and revived in a generation that is coming. It is an ingenious device for transferring the moral excellences of the remote past to the dim and distant regions of an unborn future. The phenomenon sometimes becomes positively pathetic. I remember reading, in the stirring annals of the Melanesian Mission, of a native boy whom Bishop John Selwyn had in training at Norfolk Island. He had been brought from one of the most barbarous of the South Sea peoples, and did not promise particularly well. One day Bishop Selwyn had occasion to rebuke him for his stubborn and refractory behaviour. The boy instantly flew into a passion and struck the Bishop a cruel blow in the face. It was an unheard-of incident, and all who saw it stood aghast. The Bishop said nothing, but turned and walked quietly away. The conduct of the lad continued to be most recalcitrant, and he was at last returned to his own island as incorrigible. There he soon relapsed into all the debasements of a savage and cannibal people. Many years afterwards a missionary on that island was summoned post-haste to visit a sick man. It proved to be Dr. Selwyn's old student. He was dying, and desired Christian baptism. The missionary asked him by what name he would like to be known. 'Call me John Selwyn,' the dying man replied, 'because he taught me what Christ was like that day when I struck him.'

     We have a wonderful way of associating certain qualities with certain names. The name becomes fragrant, not as the rose is fragrant, but as the clay is fragrant that has long lain with the rose. I see that two European newspapers have recently taken a vote as to the most popular name for a boy and the most popular name for a girl. And in the result the names of John and Mary hopelessly outdistanced all competitors. But why? There is nothing in the name of John or in that of Mary to account for such general attachment. Some names, like Lily, or Rose, or Violet, suggest beautiful images, and are loved on that account. But the name of John and the name of Mary suggest nothing but the memory of certain wearers. How, then, are we to account for it? The riddle is easily read. Long, long ago, on a green hill far away, there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. And, when Mary left that awful and tragic scene, she left it, as Jesus Himself desired that she should leave it, leaning on the arm of John. And because those two were first in the human love of Jesus, their names have occupied a place of special fondness in the hearts of all men ever since. Like the fly held in the amber, the memory of great and sterling qualities is encased and perpetuated in the very names we bear.

     I like to dwell on that memorable scene that took place at the burial of Longfellow. A notable company gathered at the poet's funeral; and, among them, Emerson came up from Concord. His brilliant and majestic powers were in ruins. He stood for a long, long time looking down into the quiet, dead face of Longfellow, but said nothing. At last he turned sadly away, and, as he did so, he remarked to those who stood reverently by, 'The gentleman we are burying to-day was a sweet and beautiful soul, but I forget his name!' Yes, that is the beauty of it all. The name perpetuates and celebrates the memory of the goodness; but the memory of the goodness lingers after the memory of the name is lost. I shall enjoy the fragrance of the roses over my lattice when I can no longer recall the names by which they are distinguished.

     Mrs. Booth used to love to tell a beautiful story of a man whose saintly life left its permanent and gracious impress upon her own. He seemed to grow in grace and charm and in all nobleness with every day he lived. At the last he could speak of nothing but the glories of his Saviour, and his face was radiant with awe and affection whenever he mentioned that holy name. It chanced that, as he was dying, a document was discovered that imperatively required his signature. He held the pen for one brief moment, wrote, and fell back upon the pillows, dead. And on the paper he had written, not his own name, but the Name that is above every name. Within sight of the things within the veil, that seemed to be the only name that mattered.

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

                Quench not the Spirit

     Quench not the spirit. --- 1 Thess. 5:19.

     The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr, so gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it. The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them.

     Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say—‘Once, so many years ago, I was saved.’ If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God. If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note. Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light. Whenever the Spirit checks, call a halt and get the thing right, or you will go on grieving Him without knowing it.

     Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


As life improved, their poems
  Grew sadder and sadder. Was there oil
  For the machine? It was
  The vinegar in the poet's cup.

The tins marched to the music
  Of the conveyer belt. A billion
  Mouths opened. Production,
  Production, the wheels

Whistled. Among the forests
  Of metal the one human
  Sound was the lament of
  The poets for the deciduous language.


Comment On Romans
     Scot McKnight

     I want to avoid words like “penal” for two reasons: (1) for some it’s nothing but a red flag that (2) sets off caricatures of what retribution means. Frankly, Sharon Baker’s book is laced up with caricatures of what retribution and justice and substitutionary atonement must mean. There’s no reason to go there, then, with the word penal.

     So, let’s talk
Roman 3:26: why does Paul say God must be both just and the justifier? This isn’t Anselm; this is Paul — 1st Century; a Jew; a Christian; this isn’t medieval punitive justice nor the medieval justice system. It’s 1st Century. For Paul God can’t forgive willy-nilly; justice is involved to be justifier.

     The two fundamental means of forgiveness in the Bible are (1) the OT sacrificial system, and I’m thinking here esp of Yom Kippur, and (2) the cross of Christ. God forgives us by means of these events and I think it could be said God doesn’t forgive apart from those two means. So, something is done in order to establish the ground of forgiveness.

     Put differently, God evidently thinks something must be done in order for forgiveness to occur, and however you read those two events, it comes down to Christ paying the debt of death on our behalf, instead of us. I think of Paul’s statement that he became sin who knew no sin. Clearly there is some kind of transference of sin/debt/guilt onto Christ so that we need not bear the load/debt. The moment you acknowledge that Christ took upon himself due us you’ve got the justice system at work, even if you make it entirely covenantal and relational. (That’s not the issue here, unless it gets to be exaggerated judicial system.)

     I believe all forgiveness is the result of God’s forgiveness and we don’t forgive out of the goodness of our own hearts. As God has forgiven so we forgive by extending that forgiveness.

     So, I would say Jesus’ words “forgive them” are rooted in Jesus’ belief in how forgiveness occurs. Furthermore, those folks won’t experience reconciliation with God apart from repentance and faith, both of which are connected to God being just in justifying.

   Comment by Scot McKnight — October 4, 2010 @ 1:09 pm on his web blog

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 20:20–21

     The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.

Exodus 20:20–21 / With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold. Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Yitro 11 / In every place … that I reveal Myself to you—the Temple. From this it has been taught: The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.”

     The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there. From this they said, “Whenever ten people enter the synagogue, the Divine Presence is with them, as it says, ‘God stands in the divine assembly …’ ” [
Psalm 82:1]. And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even three who render judgement? As it says, “… among the divine beings He pronounces judgement” [ibid.].

     And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even two? As it says, “In this vein have those who revere the Lord been talking to one another” [
Malachi 3:16].

     And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.”

     CONTEXT / Our passage from Exodus indicates that sacrifices could be offered in any number of places as long as there were no idols there and the offerings were brought in accordance with the proper procedures. Indeed, sacrifices during the forty years in the wilderness were brought to the portable Tabernacle; after the Israelites entered the land of Israel, sacrifices were offered in many sites. The Book of Deuteronomy introduces laws centralizing the cult: All offerings had to be brought to the one “place,” which God would choose. The Rabbis understood this to be the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, even though the Torah had originally said “every place,” it actually was to be “the only place,” the Temple.

     The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. This refers to the Tetragrammaton, the four letters that comprise the divine name (spelled yod-heh-vav-heh in Hebrew). To this very day, we never pronounce these letters or say the explicit name of God. Instead, we say Adonai (meaning “My Lord”). However, the four-letter name of God was, on occasion, pronounced inside the Temple (most notably on the Day of Atonement by the Kohen Gadol).

     Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.” If people come to worship at the Temple, the only place where God’s name is actually pronounced aloud, they can be assured that God will be there with them. Where God’s (actual) name is, God (actually) is. One can imagine that praying to an “invisible God”—one who could not be represented by a figure made of silver or gold—might have led to doubts among the people (“Is God really here? Does God really hear our prayers?). The Midrash responds with its strong answer: God is here (in the Temple in Jerusalem). If you come to the Temple, you will find God’s presence.

     These doubts were heightened with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. How was a Jew to enter God’s presence in the absence of the place where God had previously “resided?” Rabbinic Judaism attempted to deal with this monumental loss. The interpretation that follows shows that the average Jew could find God outside of the Temple in Jerusalem. “The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.” On the one hand, this can be understood as the words of God: Any place where Jews gather to worship, I will be there. On the other hand, it can also be applied to those who love God and who make it their business, despite distance or hardship, to attend a holy place of worship.

     Two additional biblical verses (from
Psalm 82 and the prophet Malachi) are brought to prove that God’s presence is to be found even in small groups: ten (a minyan); three (a beit-din, or court); and two (study-partners). The Rabbis then ask, And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one, that God’s presence resides with an individual? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” Note how the Rabbis believe that God can be both everywhere and in a specific place: “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” “If you come to My House, I will come to your house.” The omnipresent God can be found even by an individual who calls to God.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 13

     Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Matthew 6:19.

     “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: he bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” (
Ps. 39:6). (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) What is more mad, more unhappy? All day long you are harassed by labor, all night agitated by fear. That your coffer may be filled with money, your soul is in a fever of anxiety.

     You bustle about in vain. Suppose that all your undertakings succeed. You bustle about, not fruitlessly indeed—still in vain. You are heaping up treasure and do not know for whom you gather it. For yourself?—you, who must die so soon? For your children?—those who must die so soon? It is a great futility—ones who must soon die lay up for those who must soon die also.

     Let us then give ear to Jesus Christ: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What more do you wait for?

     The voice of prediction is, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (
Matt. 24:35). The voice of warning is, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” If then you believe God in his prediction, if you do not despise his warning, let what he says be done. You will not lose what you have given away but will follow what you have only sent ahead of you. What you have on earth—with anxiety—you shall possess in heaven free from care. Transport your goods, then. I am giving you counsel for keeping, not for losing. “You will have,” says he, “treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21), that I may bring you to your treasure.

     If what we have must be transported, let us transfer it to that place from where we cannot lose it. What are the poor to whom we give but our carriers, by whom we convey our goods from earth to heaven? Give then—you are only giving to your carriers. “How,” say you, “do they carry it to heaven? For I see that they make an end of it by eating.” No doubt they carry it not by keeping it but by making it their food. Have you forgotten? “Whatever,” says Christ, “you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He has received it who gave you something to give. He has received it who, in the end, will give his own self to you.
Augustine of Hippo

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

On This Day
     Maximus  August 13

     Maximus Confessor was born in Constantinople about 580. His family belonged to the old Byzantine aristocracy, and Maximus was afforded a good education. He proved an able leader and became Imperial Secretary under Emperor Heraclius. But he resigned. Driven by spiritual passion, he entered a monastery and eventually became the abbot. His theological and literary skills blossomed. The Greek church was inundated with his writings, and men as brilliant as John Scotus Erigena in the West and John of Damascus in the East drew wisdom from his pen.

     In the course of time, Maximus led the fight against a heresy called Monothelitism—the teaching that Christ had a divine, but no human, will. This became the fight of his life. For many years, Maximus in the East and Pope Martinus I in the Western church held the line for orthodoxy—that Christ has two natures (human and divine), and two wills (not separated or mixed but in harmony).

     The emperor, unimpressed, advanced Monothelitism. Pope Martinus was deposed, imprisoned with common criminals, exposed to cold and hunger, and finally banished to a cavern on the Black Sea where he died in 655. Maximus was treated even worse. Though now a feeble 73-year-old man, he was seized, dragged across the empire, placed on trial in Constantinople, and banished to a remote spot where he suffered greatly from cold and hunger. After several months, a commission was sent to interview him, headed by Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea, a Monothelitist. Maximus so eloquently defended the two natures of Christ that Theodosius left a converted man.

     Another delegation was sent, and the emperor offered Maximus great rewards to convert to Monothelitism, and great suffering if he refused. He refused and was beaten, spat on, robbed of his possessions, imprisoned for six years, then flogged. His tongue and right hand were whacked off. He was displayed at a pillory in each of the 12 quarters of the city, then imprisoned for the rest of his life—which proved only a few weeks. He died August 13, 662 at age 82. But his sufferings paved the way for the triumph of his doctrine.

     The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.
--- John 1:14.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 13

     “The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted.” --- Psalm 104:16.

     Lebanon’s cedars are emblematic of the Christian, in that they owe their planting entirely to the Lord. This is quite true of every child of God. He is not man-planted, nor self-planted, but God-planted. The mysterious hand of the divine Spirit dropped the living seed into a heart which he had himself prepared for its reception. Every true heir of heaven owns the great Husbandman as his planter. Moreover, the cedars of Lebanon are not dependent upon man for their watering; they stand on the lofty rock, unmoistened by human irrigation; and yet our heavenly Father supplieth them. Thus it is with the Christian who has learned to live by faith. He is independent of man, even in temporal things; for his continued maintenance he looks to the Lord his God, and to him alone. The dew of heaven is his portion, and the God of heaven is his fountain. Again, the cedars of Lebanon are not protected by any mortal power. They owe nothing to man for their preservation from stormy wind and tempest. They are God’s trees, kept and preserved by him, and by him alone. It is precisely the same with the Christian. He is not a hot-house plant, sheltered from temptation; he stands in the most exposed position; he has no shelter, no protection, except this, that the broad wings of the eternal God always cover the cedars which he himself has planted. Like cedars, believers are full of sap, having vitality enough to be ever green, even amid winter’s snows. Lastly, the flourishing and majestic condition of the cedar is to the praise of God only. The Lord, even the Lord alone hath been everything unto the cedars, and, therefore David very sweetly puts it in one of the Psalms, “Praise ye the Lord, fruitful trees and all cedars.” In the believer there is nothing that can magnify man; he is planted, nourished, and protected by the Lord’s own hand, and to him let all the glory be ascribed.

          Evening - August 13

     “And I will remember my covenant.” --- Genesis 9:15.

     Mark the form of the promise. God does not say, “And when ye shall look upon the bow, and ye shall remember my covenant, then I will not destroy the earth,” but it is gloriously put, not upon our memory, which is fickle and frail, but upon God’s memory, which is infinite and immutable. “The bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant.” Oh! it is not my remembering God, it is God’s remembering me which is the ground of my safety; it is not my laying hold of his covenant, but his covenant’s laying hold on me. Glory be to God! the whole of the bulwarks of salvation are secured by divine power, and even the minor towers, which we may imagine might have been left to man, are guarded by almighty strength. Even the remembrance of the covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget, but our Lord cannot forget the saints whom he has graven on the palms of his hands. It is with us as with Israel in Egypt; the blood was upon the lintel and the two side-posts, but the Lord did not say, “When you see the blood I will pass over you,” but “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God’s looking to Jesus which secures my salvation and that of all his elect, since it is impossible for our God to look at Christ, our bleeding Surety, and then to be angry with us for sins already punished in him. No, it is not left with us even to be saved by remembering the covenant. There is no linsey-wolsey here—not a single thread of the creature mars the fabric. It is not of man, neither by man, but of the Lord alone. We should remember the covenant, and we shall do it, through divine grace; but the hinge of our safety does not hang there—it is God’s remembering us, not our remembering him; and hence the covenant is an everlasting covenant.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 13


     Henry F. Lyte, 1793–1847

     Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

     Every believer has a cross of some kind that Christ expects him to carry cheerfully each day as a demonstration of his discipleship. Life is a matter of choices. If we have made a decision to follow Christ, there must be purposeful self-denial in our lives or we have not really learned the meaning of true discipleship. Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. Bearing the cross involves a willingness to look beyond our own affairs and to share the load of others in order that they too may have a personal relationship with the Savior.

     Henry Lyte spent the last 23 years of his life ministering to an Anglican parish of humble fishermen in Devonshire, England. In spite of his cross of frail health, Lyte worked tirelessly to build up a Sunday school of more than 800 children, and he contributed to a great spiritual and moral change in the hardened community around him. Also during these years, he had a number of books of poetry published as well as 80 hymn texts.

     In everything he attempted amidst numerous difficulties, Henry Lyte demonstrated that he truly denied himself, took up his cross, and faithfully followed and served his Lord.

     Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee; destitute, despised, forsaken—Thou from hence my all shalt be. Perish ev’ry fond ambition—all I’ve sought and hoped and known! Yet how rich is my condition—God and heav’n are still my own!
     Let the world despise and leave me; they have left my Savior too; human hearts and looks deceive me—Thou art not, like man, untrue. And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, foes may hate, and friends may shun me—Show Thy face, and all is bright!
     Haste thee, on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer; Heav’n’s eternal days before thee—God’s own hand shall guide thee there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission; swift shall pass thy pilgrim days; hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise!

     For Today: 2 Kings 18:1–7; Matthew 10:38; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23, 62; 1 Peter 2:21

     Purpose in your heart to deny yourself, cheerfully enduring whatever your cross may be, and then serve God by serving someone else. Begin by reflecting seriously on the words of this hymn ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
     By Blaise Pascal

          6/19/1623 - 8/19/1662

     When I see the blind and wretched state of man, when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost and with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair.

     I see other people around me, made like myself. I ask them if they are any better informed than I, and they say they are not. Then these lost and wretched creatures look around and find some attractive objects to which they become addicted and attached. For my part I have never been able to form such attachments, and considering how very likely it is that there exists something besides what I can see, I have tried to find out whether God has left any traces of himself.

Pensees (Penguin Classics)
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     Psalm 14:1.—The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

     PRACTICAL atheism is natural to man in his depraved state, and very frequent in the hearts and lives of men.

     The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. He regards him as little as if he had no being. He said in his heart, not with his tongue, nor in his head: he never firmly thought it, nor openly asserted it. Shame put a bar to the first, and natural reason to the second; yet, perhaps, he had sometimes some doubts whether there were a God or no. He wished there were not any, and sometimes hoped there were none at all. He could not raze out the notion of a Deity in his mind, but he neglected the fixing the sense of God in his heart, and made it too much his business to deface and blot out those characters of God in his soul, which had been left under the ruins of original nature. Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads. Their reasons may defend the notion of a Deity, while their hearts are empty of affection to the Deity. Job’s children may curse God in their hearts, though not with their lips.

     There is no God. Most understand it of a denial of the providence of God, as I have said in opening the former doctrine. He denies some essential attribute of God, or the exercise of that attribute in the world. He that denies any essential attribute, may be said to deny the being of God. Whosoever denies angels or men to have reason and will, denies the human and angelical nature, because understanding and will are essential to both those natures; there could neither be angel nor man without them. No nature can subsist without the perfections essential to that nature, nor God be conceived of without his. The apostle tells us (Eph. 2:12), that the Gentiles were “without God in the world.” So, in some sense, all unbelievers may be termed atheists; for rejecting the Mediator appointed by God, they reject that God who appointed him. But this is beyond the intended scope, natural atheism being the only subject; yet this is deducible from it. That the title of 􀀀θεοιd oth not only belong to those who deny the existence of God, or to those who contemn all sense of a Deity, and would root the conscience and reverence of God out of their souls; but it belongs also to those who give not that worship to God which is due to him, who worship many gods, or who worship one God in a false and superstitious manner, when they have not right conceptions of God, nor intend an adoration of him according to the excellency of his nature. All those that are unconcerned for any particular religion fall under this character: though they own a God in general, yet are willing to acknowledge any God that shall be coined by the powers under whom they live. The Gentiles were without God in the world; without the true notion of God, not without a God of their own framing. This general or practical atheism is natural to men.

     1. Not natural by created, but by corrupted nature. It is against nature, as nature came out of the hand of God; but universally natural, as nature hath been sophisticated and infected by the serpent’s breath. Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason. God is not denied, naturâ, sed vitiis.

     2. It is universally natural: “The wicked are estranged from the womb (Psalm 58:3). They go astray as soon as they be born: their poison is like the poison of a serpent.” The wicked, (and who by his birth hath a better title?) they go astray from the dictates of God and the rule of their creation as soon as ever they be born. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent, which is radically the same in all of the same species. It is seminally and fundamentally in all men, though there may be a stronger restraint by a divine hand upon some men than upon others. This principle runs through the whole stream of nature. The natural bent of every man’s heart is distant from God. When we attempt anything pleasing to God, it is like the climbing up a hill, against nature; when anything is displeasing to him, it is like a current running down the channel in its natural course; when we attempt anything that is an acknowledgment of the holiness of God, we are fain to rush, with arms in our hands, through a multitude of natural passions, and fight the way through the oppositions of our own sensitive appetite. How softly do we naturally sink down into that which sets us at a greater distance from God! There is no active, potent, efficacious sense of a God by nature. “The heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). The heart, in the singular number, as if there were but one common heart beat in all mankind, and bent, as with one pulse, with a joint consent and force to wickedness, without a sense of the authority of God in the earth, as if one heart acted every man in the world. The great apostle cites the text to verify the charge he brought against all mankind. In his interpretation, the Jews, who owned one God, and were dignified with special privileges, as well as the Gentiles that maintained many gods, are within the compass of this character. The apostle leaves out the first part of the text, “The fool hath said in his heart,” but takes in the latter part, and the verses following. He charges all, because all, every man of them, was under sin—“There is none that seeks God;” and, ver. 19, he adds, “What the law saith, it speaks to those that are under the law,” that none should imagine he included only the Gentiles, and exempted the Jews from this description. The leprosy of atheism had infected the whole mass of human nature. No man, among Jews or Gentiles, did naturally seek God; and, therefore, all were void of any spark of the practical sense of the Deity. The effects of this atheism are not in all externally of an equal size; yet, in the fundamentals and radicals of it, there is not a hair’s difference between the best and the worst men that ever traversed the world. The distinction is laid either in common grace, bounding and suppressing it; or in special grace, killing and crucifying it. It is in every one either triumphant or militant, reigning or deposed. No man is any more born with sensible acknowledgments of God, than he is born with a clear knowledge of the nature of all the stars in the heavens, or plants upon the earth. None seeks after God. None seek God as his rule, as his end, as his happiness, which is a debt the creature naturally owes to God. He desires no communion with God; he places his happiness in anything inferior to God; he prefers everything before him, glorifies everything above him; be hath no delight to know him; he regards not those paths which lead to him; he loves his own filth better than God’s holiness; his actions are tinctured and dyed with self, and are void of that respect which is due from him to God.

     The noblest faculty of man, his understanding, wherein the remaining lineaments of the image of God are visible; the highest operation of that faculty, which is wisdom, is, in the judgment of the Spirit of God, devilish, whilst it is earthly and sensual; and the wisdom of the best man is no better by nature; a legion of impure spirits possess it; devilish, as the devil, who, though he believe there is a God, yet acts as if there were none, and wishes he had no superior to prescribe him a law, and inflict that punishment upon him which his crimes have merited. Hence the poison of man by nature is said to be like the poison of a serpent, alluding to that serpentine temptation which first infected mankind, and changed the nature of man into the likeness of that of the devil; so that, notwithstanding the harmony of the world, that presents men not only with the notice of the being of a God, but darts into their minds some remarks of his power and eternity; yet the thoughts and reasonings of man are so corrupt, as may well be called diabolical, and as contrary to the perfection of God, and the original law of their nature, as the actings of the devil are; for since every natural man is a child of the devil, and is acted by the diabolical spirit, he must needs have that nature which his father hath, and the infusion of that venom which the spirit that acts him is possessed with, though the full discovery of it may be restrained by various circumstances (Eph. 2:2). To conclude: though no man, or at least very few, arrive to a round and positive conclusion in their hearts that there is no God, yet there is no man that naturally hath in his heart any reverence of God. In general, before I come to a particular proof, take some propositions.

     Prop. I. Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words; and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart, but a course of actions is as little guilty of lying as interest is, according to our common saying. All outward impieties are the branches of an atheism at the root of our nature, as all pestilential sores are expressions of the contagion in the blood; sin is therefore frequently called ungodliness in our English dialect. Men’s practices are the best indexes of their principles: the current of a man’s life is the counterpart of the frame of his heart. Who can deny an error in the spring or wheels, when he perceives an error in the hand of the dial? Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so much is visible in the life? The taste of the water discovers what mineral it is strained through. A practical denial of God is worse than a verbal, because deeds have usually more of deliberation than words; words may be the fruit of a passion, but a set of evil actions are the fruit and evidence of a predominant evil principle in the heart. All slighting words of a prince do not argue an habitual treason; but a succession of overt treasonable attempts signify a settled treasonable disposition in the mind. Those, therefore, are more deservedly termed atheists, who acknowledge a God, and walk as if there were none, than those (if there can be any such) that deny a God, and walk as if there were one. A sense of God in the heart would burst out in the life; where there is no reverence of God in the life, it is easily concluded there is less in the heart. What doth not influence a man when it hath the addition of the eyes, and censures of outward spectators, and the care of a reputation (so much the god of the world) to strengthen it and restrain the action, must certainly have less power over the heart when it is single, without any other concurrence. The flames breaking out of a house discover the fire to be much stronger and fiercer within. The apostle judgeth those of the circumcision, who gave heed to Jewish fables, to be deniers of God, though he doth not tax them with any notorious profaneness: (Tit. 1:16), “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” He gives them epithets contrary to what they arrogated to themselves. They boasted themselves to be holy; the apostle calls them abominable: they bragged that they fulfilled the law, and observed the traditions of their fathers; the apostle calls them disobedient, or unpersuadable: they boasted that they only had the rule of righteousness, and a sound judgment concerning it; the apostle said they had a reprobate sense, and unfit for any good work; and judges against all their vain-glorious brags, that they had not a reverence of God in their hearts; there was more of the denial of God in their works than there was acknowledgment of God in their words. Those that have neither God in their thoughts, nor in their tongues, nor in their works, cannot properly be said to acknowledge him. Where the honor of God is not practically owned in the lives of men, the being of God is not sensibly acknowledged in the hearts of men. The principle must be of the same kind with the actions; if the actions be atheistical, the principle of them can be no better.

     Prop. II. All sin is founded in a secret atheism. Atheism is the spirit of every sin;—all the floods of impieties in the world break in at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join hand in hand against the interest of God. Though lusts and pleasures be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him. All the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret repinings, self-applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength, &c., envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and would not have a God superior to me. The variety of sins against the first and second table, the neglects of God, and violences against man, are derived from this in the text; first, “The fool hath said in his heart,” and then follows a legion of devils. As all virtuous actions spring from an acknowledgment of God, so all vicious actions rise from a lurking denial of him: all licentiousness goes glib down where there is no sense of God. Abraham judged himself not secure from murder, nor his wife from defilement in Gerar, if there were no fear of God there. He that makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the honor, and, consequently, none to the being of God. “By the fear of God men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6); by the non-regarding of God men rush into evil. Pharaoh oppressed Israel because he “knew not the Lord.” If he did not deny the being of a Deity, yet he had such an unworthy notion of God as was inconsistent with the nature of a Deity; he, a poor creature, thought himself a mate for the Creator. In sins of omission we own not God, in neglecting to perform what he enjoins; in sins of commission we set up some lust in the place of God, and pay to that the homage which is due to our Maker. In both we disown him; in the one by not doing what he commands, in the other by doing what he forbids. We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws; we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face; we disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our actions than that law he hath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone; and his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him. Every sin invades the rights of God, and strips him of one or other of his perfections. It is such a vilifying of God as if he were not God; as if he were not the supreme Creator and Benefactor of the world; as if we had not our being from him; as if the air we breathed in, the food we lived by, were our own by right of supremacy, not of donation. For a subject to slight his sovereign, is to slight his royalty; or a servant his master, is to deny his superiority.

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect. CXVI. — BUT as to the Diatribe disputing thus — “Although sin abound by the law, and where sin has abounded, grace much more abound; yet it does not therefore follow, that man, doing by God’s help what is pleasing to Him, cannot by works morally good, prepare himself for the favour of God.” —

     Wonderful! Surely the Diatribe does not speak this out of its own head, but has taken it out of some paper or other, sent or received from another quarter, and inserted it in its book! For it certainly can neither see nor hear the meaning of these words! If sin abound by the law, how is it possible that a man can prepare himself by moral works, for the favour of God? How can works avail any thing, when the law avails nothing? Or, what else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins? — But of this elsewhere. But what does it mean when it says, that man, assisted by the help of God, can prepare himself by moral works? Are we here disputing concerning the divine assistance, or concerning “Free-will”? For what is not possible through the divine assistance? But the fact is, as I said before, the Diatribe cares nothing for the cause it has taken up, and therefore it snores and yawns forth such words as these.

     But however, it adduces Cornelius the centurion, Acts x. 31, as an example: observing — ‘that his prayers and alms pleased God before he was baptized, and before he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.’

     I have read Luke upon the Acts too, and yet I never perceived from one single syllable, that the works of Cornelius were morally good without the Holy Spirit, as the Diatribe dreams. But on the contrary, I find that he was “a just man and one that feared God:” for thus Luke calls him. But to call a man without the Holy Spirit, “a just man and one that feared God,” is the same thing as calling Baal, Christ!

     Moreover, the whole context shews, that Cornelius was “clean” before God, even upon the testimony of the vision which was sent down from heaven to Peter, and which reproved him. Are then the righteousness and faith of Cornelius set forth by Luke in such words and attending circumstances, and do the Diatribe and its Sophists remain blind with open eyes, or see the contrary, in a light of words and an evidence of circumstances so clear? Such is their want of diligence in reading and contemplating the Scriptures: and yet, they must brand them with the assertion that they are ‘obscure and ambiguous.’ But grant it, that he was not as yet baptized, nor had as yet heard the word concerning Christ risen from the dead: — does it therefore follow, that He was without the Holy Spirit? According to this, you will say that John the Baptist and his parents, the mother of Christ, and Simeon, were without the Holy Spirit! — But let us take leave of such thick darkness!

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