1 Samuel 4
The Philistines Capture the Ark1 Samuel 4 1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it[a] may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
The Death of Eli12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head. 13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?” 17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed[b] from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
Abraham Justified by Faith
Romans 4 1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
The Promise Realized Through Faith13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Warning Against Going to EgyptJeremiah 42 1 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4 Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”
7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.
18 “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: As my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an execration, a horror, a curse, and a taunt. You shall see this place no more. 19 The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day 20 that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives. For you sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, declare to us and we will do it.’ 21 And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. 22 Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.”
The Lord Is My Rock and My FortressTo the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: See Psalm 18 article below
Psalm 18 1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules[c] were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
What I'm Reading
One or Two?
By Peter Jones 1/01/2012
An ideology is taking over the West that is both very spiritual and self-consciously anti-Christian. It intends, ever so subtly, without ever saying so explicitly, to grind the gospel into the dustbin of history. The 1960s was an incredibly formative decade. In 1962, Mircea Eliade, the world expert on comparative religions, observed: “Western thought [he meant Christendom] can no longer maintain itself in this splendid isolation from a confrontation with the ‘unknown,’ the ‘outsiders.’” As if on cue, the “Fab Four” met the Maharishi and introduced the “wisdom of the East” to popular Western culture. In the same decade, the “Death of God” theology arose, which turned out not to be the final triumph of secular humanism over the God of the Bible but instead the arrival of “the new polytheism” in the rebirth of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A’Changin,” and we heard for the first time of the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” an age of pagan utopian spirituality. This was the age when many became aware of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism through the discovery of ancient Gnostic texts and the psychological theories of the modern, very spiritual Gnostic Carl Jung, who called Christian orthodoxy “systematic blindness.” Jung followed the ancient Gnostic god Abraxas, half man, half beast, as a deity higher than both the Christian God and the Devil. His secular biographer recently stated that Jung, like the Roman Emperor Julian in the fourth century AD, succeeded in turning the Western world back to paganism.
The results of this pagan invasion of the West are stunning. In August 2009, Newsweek announced that “we are all Hindus now,” meaning that the Western “Christian” soul has been profoundly and definitively altered by Eastern spiritual one-ism, the seductive message of which is bound up in the Hindu word advaita, meaning “not two.” Here is the massive clash of two fundamentally opposed worldviews. Whereas Scripture affirms two-ism (the Creator/creature distinction and all the distinctions God creates in the cosmos He made), Hindu one-ism categorically affirms that things are “not two” but “one.” In a cosmos without a Creator, all distinctions collapse and man is god.
The conversion of the West has had practical effects. California is now mandating, in the name of oneist fairness, that gay history must be taught in all the schools, including grade school. The effect on Christian teachers will be devastating. If they leave, we hand over public education to the pagans. The same is happening in the military chaplaincy, just the way it happened in the fourth century under Julian the Apostate, who turned the empire back to Isis worship and purged Christians from the imperial administration.
Pagan territory is new for us. The theological binary (two-ism) is being ineluctably undermined by the rejection of the normative male/female binary. In a Swedish, tax-funded preschool, teachers can no longer use the pronouns him or her and must address the children as “friends.” “Homophobic,” gender-specific children’s stories such as “Thumbelina” or “Cinderella” are forbidden. A Toronto couple is raising their baby, Storm, without telling anyone the child’s gender.
While only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population claims a same-sex orientation (see the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2011), this minuscule tail wags the massive dog of Western culture because the agenda of homosexual oneness fits the “new ideology” of advaita — “not two.”
The one-ism of secular environmentalism is capturing the mind of the rising generation, raised in grade school through college on the notion of “sustainability” that worships Mother Earth and flattens the difference between creatures made in God’s image and those that are not.
What will happen to gospel witness when Western culture is “purified” of its literary canon and its Christian ethical past? The church must still speak and live out all issues of fundamental truth, whatever the cost — not to save America but to save souls from eternal doom. Without a clear understanding of the biblical worldview of two-ism — especially without the unambiguous embodiment of gender distinctions — as part of the image of God, we lose the essence of who we are as human beings, and the gospel loses its clarity.
It is time for people everywhere to hear that the good news concerns the amazing grace of reconciliation with God, the great Other, who, while transcendently different from us, redeems sinful creatures like us and restores to us personal fellowship with Him through the atoning death of His Son.
- 1 The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity's Greatest Threat
- 2 The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age
- 3 One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference
- 4 Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference?
- 5 Cracking Da Vinci's Code: You've Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts
- 6 Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America
- 7 The God of Sex
- 8 On Global Wizardry: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and a Christian Response
- 9 Pagans in the Pews
- 10 Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus
- 11 Capturing the Pagan Mind: Paul's Blueprint for Thinking and Living in the New Global Culture
Eyes to See
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/01/2012
It was my habit — my sophomoric habit — to proudly argue from my ignorance that we ought always to consider last things last. That is, recognizing the great difficulty in grasping the meaning of the end times and the final book of God’s Word, I thought discretion the better part of valor, and I suggested formerly that we can wait to figure out what the end means until after we have mastered all the other important stuff, like the stuff I was interested in and with which I felt reasonably competent.
I was awakened from my eschatological slumbers, however, not by finally finding a crystal clear exposition of the issues but by simply seeing the title of the book. If God revealed truths about Jesus to John, and John, by the power of the Spirit, is revealing those same truths to the church, it is not humility but arrogance that suggests, “Let’s set this aside for another time.” Jesus is revealed in the book of Revelation. His kingdom is revealed in the book of Revelation. And that is something we are called to see, even as we are called to seek.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples that they were called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How, though, would they know when they had found it? What would their eyes see when they beheld it?
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the One, Jesus sent back this message: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5). Are we to look for signs and wonders in order to recognize the kingdom?
In another instance, the disciples sought to keep children away from Jesus. They reasoned that He was far too busy for such a distraction. Jesus, however, had a surprising response: “They were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13–14). Should we, then, be looking for the kingdom where we find children? Do we recognize its borders by the youth of its citizens?
In a third instance, after Jesus had been crucified, after He had been raised from the dead, and just as He was about to ascend to His throne, the disciples asked whether the kingdom would now come. Jesus replied that they would not be told the day and the hour, but that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth after the Spirit came in power. Should we, then, look for the kingdom where tongues of fire descend or where the gospel has discipled the nations?
The gospel did, even in the first century, go forth as Jesus predicted in Acts 1. Many were brought into the kingdom. When the Christian faith arrived at Thessalonica, the angry crowd described our missionaries as “men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). From humble beginnings, we see in the book of Acts the gospel changing the world. Is that, then, where we find the kingdom — where believers have unbelievers shaking in their boots?
It was not long after Jesus’ ascension, however, that a counteroffensive was launched on two competing fronts. First, the Jewish authorities kicked the faithful out of the temple and out of the synagogues. Second, the Roman Empire turned on Christians, persecuting them fiercely and putting them to death. It was in this context that John wrote what he saw. He showed the people of God the better country for which they longed. He showed them the kingdom they were seeking. Revelation reveals Jesus not in His humility, not in His tender care of the broken, not in the agony of His passion, and not in the joy of His resurrection. What the book of Revelation reveals is Jesus as our King, the Jesus who reigns. This is what is revealed — the King ruling over His kingdom.
Because we are soft, we think we are likewise being “persecuted.” Hollywood makes fun of us. Academia mocks us. And Washington turns a deaf ear to our concerns. We tear our clothes, throw dust in the air, and weep bitterly because we cannot see the kingdom, because we are weak and despised.
The same Spirit, however, who revealed the truth to John is revealing the same truth to us. He is giving us eyes to see. Our Lord reigns. He reigns in heaven, and from there goes forth into battle with principalities and powers. He reigns also, however, on earth — not just in our hearts and not just in our churches. No, Jesus reigns wher’er the sun doth its successive journeys run. All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto Him. Wherever there is a there, there you will find the kingdom of God. Last things first — Jesus is Lord.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
The Pursuit of Holiness: An Interview with Jerry Bridges
By Jerry Bridges 1/01/2012
Tabletalk: What do you see as the greatest need in the church today?
Jerry Bridges: There are so many needs in the church today that it is difficult to single out one as the greatest. However, if I had to pick one, I would say the most fundamental need is an ever-growing awareness of the holiness of God. I don’t say this because that is the main emphasis of Ligonier Ministries but because I believe it is true.
The emphasis of my own ministry has been the believer’s personal pursuit of holiness. But years ago I came to realize the gospel has to be the foundation and motivation for the pursuit of holiness. Believers need the gospel to remind them that our standing with God is not based on our own obedience but on the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ. Otherwise, the pursuit of holiness can be performance driven: that is, “If I’m good, God will bless me.”
How, then, can we get Christians to embrace the gospel every day? I believe Isaiah 6:1–8 gives us a paradigm for addressing this need. Isaiah sees God in His holiness, that is, His supreme majesty and infinite moral purity. In the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah is completely undone by an acute awareness of his own sinfulness. This is what we need in our churches today. Because we tend to define sin in terms of the more flagrant sins of society, we don’t see ourselves as practicing sinners.
It is only after Isaiah has been totally devastated by the realization of his own sinfulness that he is in the right position to hear the gospel proclaimed to him by the seraphim: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).
What happens next? Isaiah hears God say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Immediately he responds, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). What causes such an immediate and spontaneous response? It is gratitude for the forgiveness of his sins as he hears the gospel from the seraphim. Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). It is because the vast majority of Christians do not realize how much they have been forgiven that there is so much lethargy in the church today.
There is an inevitable sequence in the account of Isaiah’s vision. It is God (in His holiness), guilt, gospel, and gratitude. It is deep, heartfelt gratitude for the work of Christ as proclaimed in the gospel that motivates us to pursue holiness. But it all begins with an ever-increasing realization of the holiness of God. That is why I see it as the greatest need in the church today.
TT: What is the mission of the Navigators and how have you participated in this ministry over the years?
JB: Our mission statement is “To advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost.” The phrase “into the nations” expresses our conviction that God has called The Navigators to be a missionary-sending organization. We now have ministries in just over one hundred nations and about four thousand staff from more than thirty countries.
The phrase, “spiritual generations of laborers” expresses our emphasis on training disciples to establish and equip others, thus continuing the process of producing “spiritual generations.”
I became a staff trainee in 1955. I thought that after a couple of years of training I would go overseas as a missionary. Instead, I was asked to become part of the headquarters administrative team. At one point, I wrestled with this because I wanted to have a part in the Great Commission. Then I realized it takes many people fulfilling many roles to accomplish our God-given task. I sensed that my part in the Great Commission was to provide administrative support for those who were engaged in more obvious ministry. So I served in administration for almost forty years.
For the last seventeen years I have been a Bible teacher both inside The Navigators and among a larger audience outside of The Navigators. I have also written about a dozen books, though my writing actually began when I was still serving in administration.
TT: You have written numerous books on the topics of grace and holiness. Why did you write on these topics, and how do you hope God will use these books in the lives of His people?
JB: From my earliest contact with The Navigators, I sensed the need to apply the Scriptures specifically and intentionally to my life. But I struggled with the question, “What is my part and what is God’s part?” Finally, the Lord enabled me to see from the Scriptures the principle I call “dependent responsibility.” We are responsible to respond to the moral commands of Scripture, but we are absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable us.
I started to teach this principle of “dependent responsibility.” Then I was challenged by a friend to try writing. My first book, The Pursuit of Holiness, became a best-seller. But I soon realized that a pursuit of holiness that is not founded on grace and the gospel can lead to a performance mentality and even to discouragement. That’s when I began to emphasize grace and the gospel as foundational to the pursuit of holiness.
It is my desire that as a result of reading my books, people will seek to pursue holiness out of gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ. There is no doubt that it is our duty to pursue holiness. But I want believers to desire to do out of gratitude what is our duty to do. I want to see the “ought to” mentality replaced with a “want to” attitude.
TT: What led you to write the book Respectable Sins?
JB: I observed for some years a growing tendency among conservative evangelicals to focus on the more flagrant sins of society but to overlook our own sins of pride, selfishness, gossip, and the like. Again, it goes back to this: “He who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). Because of our self-righteousness, due to focusing on the major sins of society, we do not see our own desperate need of living by the gospel every day.
TT: Can and should we measure the progress of our sanctification? If so, why and how?
JB: Not numerically in the sense that I am 10 percent more generous now than I was last year. But we should be able to say, “I have improved in certain areas of my life. I do see progress in putting to death persistent sin patterns and in growing in the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit.” We are commanded to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13). We are commanded to put on a Christ-like character (Col. 3:14). That being true, we should seek to measure, in a general sense, the progress of our sanctification. However, it is also true that the more we grow in spiritual maturity, the more we see our need to grow. So we should always, to use Paul’s expression, be pressing on to become more like Christ.
TT: How important is fellowship with other Christians to our spiritual health?
JB: The biblical word for our English word fellowship is koinōnia, which has a much richer and deeper meaning than the concept of fellowship as mere social activities. Koinōnia has the connotation of sharing together a common life in Christ and of expressing that common life in encouraging and admonishing one another. The expression “two are better than one” in Ecclesiastes 4:9 and the several “one-another” passages in the New Testament, such as Hebrews 2:13 and 10:24–25, emphasize the importance of true, biblical fellowship.
TT: Aside from the Bible, do you have a favorite Christian classic? What is it about this book you admire?
JB: My all-time favorite Christian book is Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement by nineteenth-century Scottish theologian George Smeaton. It has two strengths. First, it is thorough in the sense that Smeaton treats every passage on the atonement from Acts through Revelation. But for me, the real strength of the book and that which makes it my favorite is his continual emphasis on the believer’s union with Christ, both representatively and organically. But it is his emphasis on the representative nature of our union with Christ (that Christ both lived a perfect life and died on the cross in our place) that gets me so excited.
Jerry Bridges Books:
- 1 Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement
- 2 Respectable Sins
- 3 The Pursuit of Holiness
- 4 The Discipline of Grace
- 5 Who Am I?: Identity in Christ
- 6 Joy of Fearing God, The
- 7 The Practice of Godliness
- 8 The Fruitful Life
- 9 True Community
- 10 Transforming Power of the Gospel
- 11 The Bookends of the Christian Life
- 12 Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey
- 13 Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ
- 14 The Pursuit of Holiness Small-Group Curriculum
- 15 Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt
The Things of God
By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2012
It is one thing for a student to disagree with his teacher. But it is another thing entirely for a student to rebuke his teacher for his teaching. Yet, that is precisely what the Apostle Peter did. He had the gall to confront the incarnate Word of God, the One who embodies all truth, and rebuke Him for what He was teaching (Mark 8:32).
To make matters worse, the Greek word translated as “rebuke” is used biblically in connection with the condemnation of demons. When Jesus silenced demons, He did it by rebuking them, judging them worthy of condemnation (Matt. 17:18; Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35; 9:42). It is clear that Peter’s protest was not mild; he stood up to Jesus with the full measure of hostility. The Apostle who had said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and who had heard Jesus say, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah” (Matt. 16:16–17a), presumed to correct and admonish his Master.
What was the nature of Peter’s rebuke? He said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (v. 22b). Peter was saying that all the things Jesus had predicted (His betrayal and execution) most certainly would not happen to Him. Why? Because Peter was prepared to prevent them from happening — or so he thought.
Jesus’ response was equally sharp. Mark tells us: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (8:33). Here again is the Greek word that the gospel writers use to describe how Jesus spoke to demons. Now Mark uses it to describe what Jesus said to Peter, and Jesus’ words drive home the severity of this correction, for the Lord called His disciple “Satan.”
Why did Jesus equate Peter with the Devil? I believe it was because Peter presented the same temptation the Devil brought to Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. In his record of Jesus’ final temptation, Matthew writes,
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve.’” (4:8–10)
Satan asked Jesus to bow down to him. “Nobody will see it,” he suggested. “If you’ll do it, I will give you all of the kingdoms of this world. You won’t have to go through the Via Dolorosa (“the way of grief”). There will be no cross; there will be no cup of wrath; there will be no suffering.” The promise of this temptation was the acquisition of a throne without the experience of pain and suffering.
Our Lord withstood that temptation just as He withstood all of Satan’s offers. But Luke tells us that Satan “departed from him until an opportune time” (4:13b). There is foreboding there, the hint that Satan wasn’t finished with his temptation.
Who could have foreseen that the “opportune time” would follow on the heels of the highest confession of faith among the disciples? Who could have foreseen that Satan would speak through the spokesman of the disciples, the man who had said, “You are the Christ”? But Jesus recognized the work of Satan right away.
Jesus told Peter: “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Peter was not looking at the Messiah from God’s point of view but was thinking of the Messiah as a political leader who would deliver the Jews from Roman subjugation. For Peter, it was inconceivable that the Messiah should suffer — even though the Old Testament said He would.
Jesus showed Peter that there are two ways of looking at things — God’s way and man’s way. This is the divide between godliness and godlessness. The godly person is deeply concerned about the things of God, but the godless person has no concern for the things of God. Instead, he is preoccupied with this world.
We need to evaluate ourselves on these criteria from time to time. We need to ask ourselves: “Where is my heart? What is my chief concern? Am I preoccupied with the things of this world, or does my heart beat for the things of God? Am I seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Or is there some other priority, some ambition, some goal to which all of my energy is devoted?”
We especially need to ask ourselves these questions if we find that Jesus’ teaching offends us and prompts us to question or even rebuke Him. May we never be so foolhardy.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books:
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
A Catechism on the Heart
By Sinclair Ferguson 1/01/2012
Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God. O for a heart to praise my God!
Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn:
A heart from sin set free.
But behind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.
What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:
Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).
Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.
Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.
Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”
Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”
Q.6. What four things does God counsel me to do so that my heart may be kept for Him?
A. First, I must guard my heart as if everything depended on it. This means that I should keep my heart like a sanctuary for the presence of the Lord Jesus and allow nothing and no one else to enter.
Second, I must keep my heart healthy by proper diet, growing strong on a regular diet of God’s Word — reading it for myself, meditating on its truth, but especially being fed on it in the preaching of the Word. I also will remember that my heart has eyes as well as ears. The Spirit shows me baptism as a sign that I bear God’s triune name, while the Lord’s Supper stimulates heart love for the Lord Jesus.
Third, I must take regular spiritual exercise, since my heart will be strengthened by worship when my whole being is given over to God in expressions of love for and trust in Him.
Fourth, I must give myself to prayer in which my heart holds on to the promises of God, rests in His will, and asks for His sustaining grace — and do this not only on my own but with others so that we may encourage one another to maintain a heart for God.
This — and much else — requires development, elaboration, and exposition. But it can be summed up in a single biblical sentence. Listen to your Father’s appeal: “My son, give Me your heart.”
O for a heart to praise my God!
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.Sinclair Ferguson Books:
- 1 Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification
- 2 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 3 The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 4 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
- 5 Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries
- 6 The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology)
- 7 Sermon on the Mount
- 8 By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
- 9 From the Mouth of God
- 10 The Grace of Repentance (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 11 The Pundit's Folly: Chronicles of an Empty Life
- 12 Let's Study Philippians (Let's Study Series)
- 13 Discovering God's Will
- 14 Heart for God
- 15 Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth
- 16 Children of the Living God
- 17 Name above All Names
- 18 Big Book of Questions & Answers: A Family Devotional Guide
- 19 Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism
- 20 John Owen on the Christian Life
- 21 Man Overboard!: The Story of Jonah
- 22 Child in the Manger
- 23 The Preacher's Commentary - Vol. 21- Daniel
- 24 Ephesians (Let's Study)
- 25 Let's Study Mark (Let's Study Series)
- 26 Irenaeus of Lyons (Heroes of the Faith)
- 27 Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour
- 28 The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction
- 29 Polycarp of Smyrna (Heroes of the Faith)
- 30 Grow in Grace
- 31 The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
- 32 Ignatius of Antioch (Heroes of the Faith)
- 33 Deserted by God?
- 34 Big Book of Bible Truths 1
- 35 In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life
Psalm 18 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. To the Chief Musician a Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul." We have another form of this Psalm, with significant variations (2 Samuel 22), and this suggests the idea that it was sung by David at different times when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all. Like Addison's hymn beginning, "When all thy mercies, O my God," this Psalm is the song of a grateful heart overwhelmed with a retrospect of the manifold and marvellous mercies of God. We will call it THE GRATEFUL RETROSPECT. The title deserves attention. David, although at this time a king, calls himself, "the servant of Jehovah," but makes no mention of his royalty; hence we gather that he counted it a higher honour to be the Lord's servant than to be Judah's king. Right wisely did he judge. Being possessed of poetic genius, he served the Lord by composing this Psalm for the use of the Lord's house; and it is no mean work to conduct or to improve that delightful part of divine worship, the singing of the Lord's praises. Would that more musical and poetical ability were consecrated, and that our chief musicians were fit to be trusted with devout and spiritual psalmody. It should be observed that the words of this song were not composed with the view of gratifying the taste of men, but were spoken unto Jehovah. It were well if we had a more single eye to the honour of the Lord in our singing, and in all other hallowed exercises. That praise is little worth which is not directed solely and heartily to the Lord. David might well be thus direct in his gratitude, for he owed all to his God, and in the day of his deliverance he had none to thank but the Lord, whose right hand had preserved him. We too should feel that to God and God alone we owe the greatest debt of honour and thanksgiving.
If it be remembered that the second and the forty-ninth verses are both quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:13; Romans 15:9) as the words of the Lord Jesus, it will be clear that a greater than David is here. Reader, you will not need our aid in this respect; if you know Jesus you will readily find him in his sorrows, deliverance, and triumphs all through this wonderful Psalm.
DIVISION. The first three verses are the proem or preface in which the resolve to bless God is declared. Delivering mercy is most poetically extolled from verse 4 to verse 19; and then the happy songster from verse 20 to 28, protests that God had acted righteously in thus favouring him. Filled with grateful joy he again pictures his deliverance, and anticipates future victories from verse 29-45; and in closing speaks with evident prophetic foresight of the glorious triumphs of the Messiah, David's seed and the Lord's anointed.
Verse 1. "I will love thee, O Lord." With strong, hearty affection will I cling to thee; as a child to its parent, or a spouse to her husband. The word is intensely forcible, the love is of the deepest kind. "I will love heartily, with my inmost bowels." Here is a fixed resolution to abide in the nearest and most intimate union with the Most High. Our triune God deserves the warmest love of all our hearts. Father, Son and Spirit have each a claim upon our love. The solemn purpose never to cease loving naturally springs from present fervour of affection. It is wrong to make rash resolutions, but this when made in the strength of God is most wise and fitting. "My strength." Our God is the strength of our life, our graces, our works, our hopes, our conflicts, our victories. This verse is not found in 2 Samuel 22, and is a most precious addition, placed above all and after all to form the pinnacle of the temple, the apex of the pyramid. Love is still the crowning grace.
Verse 2. "The Lord is my rock and my fortress." Dwelling among the crags and mountain fastnesses of Judea David had escaped the malice of Saul, and here he compares his God to such a place of concealment and security. Believers are often hidden in their God from the strife of tongues and the fury of the storm of trouble. The clefts of the Rock of Ages are safe abodes. "My deliverer," interposing in my hour of peril. When almost captured the Lord's people are rescued from the hand of the mighty by him who is mightier still. This title of "deliverer" has many sermons in it, and is well worthy of the study of all experienced saints. "My God;" this is all good things in one. There is a boundless wealth in this expression; it means, my perpetual, unchanging, infinite, eternal good. He who can say truly "my God," may well add, "my heaven, my all." "My strength;" this word is really "my rock," in the sense of strength and immobility. My sure, unchanging, eternal confidence and support. Thus the word rock occurs twice, but it is no tautology, for the first time it is a rock for concealment, but here a rock for firmness and immutability. "In whom I will trust." Faith must be exercised, or the preciousness of God is not truly known; and God must be the object of faith, or faith is mere presumption. "My buckler," warding off the blows of my enemy, shielding me from arrow or sword. The Lord furnishes his warriors with weapons both offensive and defensive. Our armoury is completely stored so that none need go to battle unarmed. "The horn of my salvation," enabling me to push down my foes, and to triumph over them with holy exultation. "My high tower," a citadel high planted on a rocky eminence beyond the reach of my enemies, from the heights of which I look down upon their fury without alarm, and survey a wide landscape of mercy reaching even unto the goodly land beyond Jordan. Here are many words, but none too many; we might profitably examine each one of them had we leisure, but summing up the whole, we may conclude with Calvin, that David here equips the faithful from head to foot.
Verse 3. In this verse the happy poet resolves to invoke the Lord in joyful song, believing that in all future conflicts his God would deal as well with him as in the past. It is well to pray to God as to one who deserves to be praised, for then we plead in a happy and confident manner. If I feel that I can and do bless the Lord for all his past goodness, I am bold to ask great things of him. That word So has much in it. To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still upon his lips. How happy a thing to receive fresh mercy with a heart already sensible of mercy enjoyed, and to anticipate new trials with a confidence based upon past experiences of divine love!
"No fearing or doubting with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting, 'The Lord will provide.'"
Verse 4. "The sorrows of death compassed me." Death like a cruel conqueror seemed to twist round about him the cords of pain. He was environed and hemmed in with threatening deaths of the most appalling sort. He was like a mariner broken by the storm and driven upon the rocks by dreadful breakers, white as the teeth of death. Sad plight for the man after God's own heart, but thus it is that Jehovah dealeth with his sons. "The floods of ungodly men made me afraid." Torrents of ungodliness threatened to swamp all religion, and to hurry away the godly man's hope as a thing to be scorned and despised; so far was this threat fulfilled, that even the hero who slew Goliath began to be afraid. The most seaworthy bark is sometimes hard put to it when the storm fiend is abroad. The most courageous man, who as a rule hopes for the best, may sometimes fear the worst. Beloved reader, he who pens these lines has known better than most men what this verse means, and feels inclined to weep, and yet to sing, while he writes upon a text so descriptive of his own experience. On the night of the lamentable accident at the Surrey Music Hall, the floods of Belial were let loose, and the subsequent remarks of a large portion of the press were exceedingly malicious and wicked; our soul was afraid as we stood encompassed with the sorrows of death and the blasphemies of the cruel. But oh, what mercy was there in it all, and what honey of goodness was extracted by our Lord out of this lion of affliction! Surely God hath heard me! Art thou in an ill plight? Dear friend, learn thou from our experience to trust in the Lord Jehovah, who forsaketh not his chosen.
Verse 5. "The sorrows of hell compassed me about." From all sides the hell-hounds barked furiously. A cordon of devils hemmed in the hunted man of God; every way of escape was closed up. Satan knows how to blockade our coasts with the iron war-ships of sorrow, but, blessed be God, the port of all prayer is still open, and grace can run the blockade bearing messages from earth to heaven, and blessings in return from heaven to earth. "The snares of death prevented me." The old enemy hunts for his prey, not only with the dogs of the infernal kennel, but also with the snares of deadly craft. The nets were drawn closer and closer until the contracted circle completely prevented the escape of the captive:
"About me the cords of hell were wound,
And snares of death my footsteps bound."
Verse 6. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God." Prayer is that postern gate which is left open even when the city is straitly besieged by the enemy; it is that way upward from the pit of despair to which the spiritual miner flies at once when the floods from beneath break forth upon him. Observe that he calls, and then cries; prayer grows in vehemence as it proceeds. Note also that he first invokes his God under the name of Jehovah, and then advances to a more familiar name, "my God;" thus faith increases by exercise, and he whom we at first viewed as Lord is soon seen to be our God in covenant. It is never an ill time to pray; no distress should prevent us from using the divine remedy of supplication. Above the noise of the raging billows of death, or the barking dogs of hell, the feeblest cry of a true believer will be heard in heaven. "He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears." Far up within the bejewelled walls, and through the gates of pearl, the cry of the suffering suppliant was heard. Music of angels and harmony of seraphs availed not to drown or even to impair the voice of that humble call. The king heard it in his palace of light unsufferable, and lent a willing ear to the cry of his own beloved child. O honoured prayer, to be able thus through Jesus' blood to penetrate the very ears and heart of Deity. The voice and the cry are themselves heard directly by the Lord, and not made to pass through the medium of saints and intercessors; "My cry came before Him;" the operation of prayer with God is immediate and personal. We may cry with confident and familiar importunity, while our Father himself listens.
Verse 7. There was no great space between the cry and its answer. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is swift to rescue his afflicted. David has in his mind's eye the glorious manifestations of God in Egypt, at Sinai, and on different occasions to Joshua and the judges; and he considers that his own case exhibits the same glory of power and goodness, and that, therefore, he may accommodate the descriptions of former displays of the divine majesty into his hymn of praise. "Then the earth shook and trembled." Observe how the most solid and immovable things feel the force of supplication. Prayer has shaken houses, opened prison doors, and made stout hearts to quail. Prayer rings the alarm bell, and the Master of the house arises to the rescue, shaking all things beneath his tread. "The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because of his wrath." He who fixed the world's pillars can make them rock in their sockets, and can upheave the corner-stones of creation. The huge roots of the towering mountains are torn up when the Lord bestirs himself in anger to smite the enemies of his people. How shall puny man be able to face it out with God when the very mountains quake with fear? Let not the boaster dream that his present false confidence will support him in the dread day of wrath.
Verse 8. "There went up a smoke out of his nostrils." A violent oriental method of expressing fierce wrath. Since the breath from the nostrils is heated by strong emotion, the figure portrays the Almighty Deliverer as pouring forth smoke in the heat of his wrath and the impetuousness of his zeal. Nothing makes God so angry as an injury done to his children. He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye. God is not subject to the passions which govern his creatures, but acting as he does with all the energy and speed of one who is angry, he is here aptly set forth in poetic imagery suitable to human understandings. The opening of his lips is sufficient to destroy his enemies; "and fire out of his mouth devoured." This fire was no temporary one but steady and lasting; "Coals were kindled by it." The whole passage is intended to depict God's descent to the help of his child, attended by earthquake and tempest: at the majesty of his appearing the earth rocks, the clouds gather like smoke, and the lightning as flaming fire devours, setting the world on a blaze. What grandeur of description is here! Bishop Mant very admirably rhymes the verse thus:—
"Smoke from his heated nostrils came,
And from his mouth devouring flame;
Hot burning coals announced his ire,
And flashes of careering fire."
Verse 10. There is inimitable grandeur in this verse. Under the Mosaic system the cherubim are frequently represented as the chariot of God; hence Milton, in "Paradise Lost," writes of the Great Father,—
"He on the wings of cherubim
Uplifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into chaos."
Verse 11. The storm thickened, and the clouds pouring forth torrents of rain combined to form the secret chamber of the invisible but wonder-working God. "Pavilioned in impervious shade" faith saw him, but no other eye could gaze through the "thick clouds of the skies." Blessed is the darkness which encurtains my God; if I may not see him, it is sweet to know that he is working in secret for my eternal good. Even fools can believe that God is abroad in the sunshine and the calm, but faith is wise, and discerns him in the terrible darkness and threatening storm.
Verse 12. Suddenly the terrible artillery of heaven was discharged; the brightness of lightning lit up the clouds as with a glory proceeding from him who was concealed within the cloudy pavilion; and volleys of hailstones and coals of fire were hurled forth upon the enemy. The lightnings seemed to cleave the clouds and kindle them into a blaze, and then hailstones and flakes of fire with flashes of terrific grandeur terrified the sons of men.
Verse 13. Over all this splendour of tempest pealed the dread thunder. "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice." Fit accompaniment for the flames of vengeance. How will men bear to hear it at the last when addressed to them in proclamation of their doom, for even now their hearts are in their mouths if they do but hear it muttering from afar? In all this terror David found a theme for song, and thus every believer finds even in the terrors of God a subject for holy praise. "Hailstones and coals of fire" are twice mentioned to show how certainly they are in the divine hand, and are the weapons of Heaven's vengeance. Horne remarks that "every thunderstorm should remind us of that exhibition of power and vengeance, which is hereafter to accompany the general resurrection;" may it not also assure us of the real power of him who is our Father and our friend, and tend to assure us of our safety while he fights our battles for us. The prince of the power of the air is soon dislodged when the cherubic chariot is driven through his dominions; therefore let not the legions of hell cause us dismay. He who is with us is greater than all they that be against us.
Verse 14. The lightnings were darted forth as forked arrows upon the hosts of the foe, and speedily "scattered them." Boastful sinners prove to be great cowards when Jehovah enters the lists with them. They despise his words, and are very tongue-valiant, but when it comes to blows they fly apace. The glittering flames, and the fierce bolts of fire "discomfited them." God is never at a loss for weapons. Woe be unto him that contendeth with his Maker! God's arrows never miss their aim; they are feathered with lightning, and barbed with everlasting death. Fly, O sinner, to the rock of refuge before these arrows stick fast in thy soul.
Verse 15. So tremendous was the shock of God's assault in arms that the order of nature was changed, and the bottoms of rivers and seas were laid bare. "The channels of waters was seen;" and the deep cavernous bowels of the earth were upheaved till "the foundations of the world were discovered." What will not Jehovah's "rebuke" do? If "the blast of the breath of thy nostrils," O Lord, be so terrible, what must thine arm be? Vain are the attempts of men to conceal anything from him whose word unbars the deep, and lifts the doors of earth from their hinges! Vain are all hopes of resistance, for a whisper of his voice makes the whole earth quail in abject terror.
Verse 16. Now comes the rescue. The Author is divine, "He sent;" the work is heavenly, "from above;" the deliverance is marvellous, "He drew me out of many waters." Here David was like another Moses, drawn from the water; and thus are all believers like their Lord, whose baptism in many waters of agony and in his own blood has redeemed us from the wrath to come. Torrents of evil shall not drown the man whose God sitteth upon the floods to restrain their fury.
Verse 17. When we have been rescued, we must take care to ascribe all the glory to God by confessing our own weakness, and remembering the power of the conquered enemy. God's power derives honour from all the incidents of the conflict. Our great spiritual adversary is a "strong enemy" indeed, much too strong for poor, weak creatures like ourselves, but we have been delivered hitherto and shall be even to the end. Our weakness is a reason for divine help; mark the force of the "for" in the text.
Verse 18. It was an ill day, a day of calamity, of which evil foes took cruel advantage, while they used crafty means uterly to ruin him, yet David could say, "but the Lord is my stay." What a blessed but which cuts the Gordian knot, and slays the hundred-headed hydra! There is no fear of deliverance when our stay is in Jehovah.
Verse 19. "He brought me forth also into a large place." After pining awhile in the prison-house Joseph reached the palace, and from the cave of Adullam David mounted to the throne. Sweet is pleasure after pain. Enlargement is the more delightful after a season of pinching poverty and sorrowful confinement. Besieged souls delight in the broad fields of the promise when God drives off the enemy and sets open the gates of the environed city. The Lord does not leave his work half done, for having routed the foe he leads out the captive into liberty. Large indeed is the possession and place of the believer in Jesus, there need be no limit to his peace, for there is no bound to his privilege. "He delivered me, because he delighted in me." Free grace lies at the foundation. Rest assured, if we go deep enough, sovereign grace is the truth which lies at the bottom of every well of mercy. Deep sea fisheries in the ocean of divine bounty always bring the pearls of electing, discriminating love to light. Why Jehovah should delight in us is an answerless question, and a mystery which angels cannot solve; but that he does delight in his beloved is certain, and is the fruitful root of favours as numerous as they are precious. Believer, sit down, and inwardly digest the instructive sentence now before us, and learn to view the uncaused love of God as the cause of all the lovingkindness of which we are the partakers.
Verse 20. "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness." Viewing this Psalm as prophetical of the Messiah, these strongly-expressed claims to righteousness are readily understood, for his garments were as white as snow; but considered as the language of David they have perplexed many. Yet the case is clear, and if the words be not strained beyond their original intention, no difficulty need occur. Albeit that the dispensations of divine grace are to the fullest degree sovereign and irrespective of human merit, yet in the dealings of Providence there is often discernible a rule of justice by which the injured are at length avenged, and the righteous ultimately delivered. David's early troubles arose from the wicked malice of envious Saul, who no doubt prosecuted his persecutions under cover of charges brought against the character of "the man after God's own heart." These charges David declares to have been utterly false, and asserts that he possessed a grace-given righteousness which the Lord had graciously rewarded in defiance of all his calumniators. Before God the man after God's own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the "cleanness of his hands" and the righteousness of his life. He knows little of the sanctifying power of divine grace who is not at the bar of human equity able to plead innocence. There is no self-righteousness in an honest man knowing that he is honest, nor even in his believing that God rewards him in providence because of his honesty, for such is often a most evident matter of fact; but it would be self-righteousness indeed if we transferred such thoughts from the region of providential government into the spiritual kingdom, for there grace reigns not only supreme but sole in the distribution of divine favours. It is not at all an opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace, and no sort of evidence of a Pharisaic spirit, when a gracious man, having been slandered, stoutly maintains his integrity, and vigorously defends his character. A godly man has a clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright; is he to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost, by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is? A godly man prizes his integrity very highly, or else he would not be a godly man at all; is he to be called proud because he will not readily lose the jewel of a reputable character? A godly man can see that in divine providence uprightness and truth are in the long run sure to bring their own reward; may he not, when he sees that reward bestowed in his own case, praise the Lord for it? Yea rather, must he not show forth the faithfulness and goodness of his God? Read the cluster of expressions in this and the following verses as the song of a good conscience, after having safely outridden a storm of obloquy, persecution, and abuse, and there will be no fear of our upbraiding the writer as one who sets too high a price upon his own moral character.
Verse 21. Here the assertion of purity is repeated, both in a positive and a negative form. There is "I have" and "I have not," both of which must be blended in a truly sanctified life; constraining and restraining grace must each take its share. The words of this verse refer to the saint as a traveler carefully keeping to "the ways of the Lord," and "not wickedly," that is, designedly, wilfully, persistently, defiantly forsaking the ordained pathway in which God favours the pilgrim with his presence. Observe how it is implied in the expression, "and have not wickedly departed from my God," that David lived habitually in communion with God, and knew him to be his own God, whom he might speak of as "my God." God never departs from his people, let them take heed of departing from him.
Verse 22. "For all his judgments were before me." The word, the character, and the actions of God should be evermore before our eyes; we should learn, consider, and reverence them. Men forget what they do not wish to remember, but the excellent attributes of the Most High are objects of the believer's affectionate and delighted admiration. We should keep the image of God so constantly before us that we become in our measure conformed unto it. This inner love to the right must be the main spring of Christian integrity in our public walk. The fountain must be filled with love to holiness, and then the streams which issue from it will be pure and gracious. "I did not put away his statutes from me." To put away the Scriptures from the mind's study is the certain way to prevent their influencing the outward conversation. Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles, and go on to filthy garments.
Verse 23. "I was also upright before him." Sincerity is here claimed; sincerity, such as would be accounted genuine before the bar of God. Whatever evil men might think of him, David felt that he had the good opinion of his God. Moreover, freedom from his one great besetting sin he ventures also to plead, "I kept myself from mine iniquity." It is a very gracious sign when the most violent parts of our nature have been well guarded. If the weakest link in the chain is not broken, the stronger links will be safe enough. David's impetuous temper might have led him to slay Saul when he had him within his power, but grace enabled him to keep his hands clean of the blood of his enemy; but what a wonder it was, and how well worthy of such a grateful record as these verses afford! It will be a sweet cordial to us one of these days to remember our self-denials, and to bless God that we were able to exhibit them.
Verse 24. God first gives us holiness, and then rewards us for it. We are his workmanship; vessels made unto honour; and when made, the honour is not withheld from the vessel; though, in fact, it all belongs to the Potter upon whose wheel the vessel was fashioned. The prize is awarded to the flower at the show, but the gardener reared it; the child wins the prize from the schoolmaster, but the real honour of his schooling lies with the master, although instead of receiving he gives the reward.
Verse 25. The dealings of the Lord in his own case, cause the grateful singer to remember the usual rule of God's moral government; he is just in his dealings with the sons of men, and metes out to each man according to his measure. "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright." Every man shall have his meat weighed in his own scales, his corn meted in his own bushel, and his land measured with his own rod. No rule can be more fair, to ungodly men more terrible, or to the generous man more honourable. How would men throw away their light weights, and break their short yards, if they could but believe that they themselves are sure to be in the end the losers by their knavish tricks! Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy. Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Verse 26. "With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward." The sinner's frowardness is sinful and rebellious, and the only sense in which the term can be applied to the Most Holy God is that of judicial opposition and sternness, in which the Judge of all the earth will act at cross-purposes with the offender, and let him see that all things are not to be made subservient to wicked whims and wilful fancies. Calvin very forcibly says, "This brutish and monstrous stupidity in men compels God to invent new modes of expression, and as it were to clothe himself with a different character." There is a similar sentence in Leviticus 26:21-24, where God says, "and if ye walk contrary unto (or perversely with) me, then I will also walk contrary unto (or perversely, or roughly, or at random with) you." As if he had said that their obstinacy and stubbornness would make him on his part forget his accustomed forbearance and gentleness, and cast himself recklessly or at random against them. We see then what the stubborn at length gain by their obduracy; it is this, that God hardens himself still more to break them in pieces, and if they are of stone, he causes them to feel that he has the hardness of iron." The Jewish tradition was that the manna tasted according to each man's mouth; certainly God shows himself to each individual according to his character.
(Le 26:21–24) 21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted. 23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. ESV
Verse 27. "For thou wilt save the afflicted people." This is a comforting assurance for the poor in spirit whose spiritual griefs admit of no sufficient solace from any other than a divine hand. They cannot save themselves nor can others do it, but God will save them. "But will bring down high looks." Those who look down on others with scorn shall be looked down upon with contempt ere long. The Lord abhors a proud look. What a reason for repentance and humiliation! How much better to be humble than to provoke God to humble us in his wrath! A considerable number of clauses occur in this passage in the future tense; how forcibly are we thus brought to remember that our present joy or sorrow is not to have so much weight with us as the great and eternal future!
Verse 28. "For thou wilt light my candle." Even the children of the day sometimes need candle-light. In the darkest hour light will arise; a candle shall be lit, it will be comfort such as we may fittingly use without dishonesty—it will be our own candle; yet God himself will find the holy fire with which the candle shall burn; our evidences are our own, but their comfortable light is from above. Candles which are lit by God the devil cannot blow out. All candles are not shining, and so there are some graces which yield no present comfort; but it is well to have candles which may by and by be lit, and it is well to possess graces which may yet afford us cheering evidences. The metaphor of the whole verse is founded upon the dolorous nature of darkness and the delightfulness of light; "truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun;" and even so the presence of the Lord removes all the gloom of sorrow, and enables the believer to rejoice with exceeding great joy. The lighting of the lamp is a cheerful moment in the winter's evening, but the lifting up of the light of God's countenance is happier far. It is said that the poor in Egypt will stint themselves of bread to buy oil for the lamp, so that they may not sit in darkness; we could well afford to part with all earthly comforts if the light of God's love could but constantly gladden our souls.
Verses 29-45. Some repetitions are not vain repetitions. Second thoughts upon God's mercy should be and often are the best. Like wines on the lees our gratitude grows stronger and sweeter as we meditate upon divine goodness. The verses which we have now to consider are the ripe fruit of a thankful spirit; they are apples of gold as to matter, and they are placed in baskets of silver as to their language. They describe the believer's victorious career and his enemies' confusion.
Verse 29. "For by thee have I run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall." Whether we meet the foe in the open field or leap upon them while they lurk behind the battlements of a city, we shall by God's grace defeat them in either case; if they hem us in with living legions, or environ us with stone walls, we shall with equal certainty obtain our liberty. Such feats we have already performed, hewing our way at a run through hosts of difficulties, and scaling impossibilities at a leap. God's warriors may expect to have a taste of every form of fighting, and must by the power of faith determine to quit themselves like men; but it behoves them to be very careful to lay all their laurels at Jehovah's feet, each one of them saying, "by my God" have I wrought this valiant deed. Our spolia optima, the trophies of our conflicts, we hereby dedicate to the God of Battles, and ascribe to him all glory and strength.
Verse 30. "As for God, his way is perfect." Far past all fault and error are God's dealings with his people; all his actions are resplendent with justice, truth, tenderness, mercy, and holiness. Every way of God is complete in itself, and all his ways put together are matchless in harmony and goodness. Is it not very consolatory to believe that he who has begun to bless us will perfect his work, for all his ways are "perfect." Nor must the divine "word" be without its song of praise. "The word of the Lord is tried," like silver refined in the furnace. The doctrines are glorious, the precepts are pure, the promises are faithful, and the whole revelation is superlatively full of grace and truth. David had tried it, thousands have tried it, we have tried it, and it has never failed. It was meet that when way and word had been extolled, the Lord himself should be magnified; hence it is added, "He is a buckler to all those that trust in him." No armour of proof or shield of brass so well secures the warrior as the covenant God of Israel protects his warring people. He himself is the buckler of trustful ones; what a thought is this! What peace may every trusting soul enjoy!
Verse 31. Having mentioned his God, the psalmist's heart burns, and his words sparkle; he challenges heaven and earth to find another being worthy of adoration or trust in comparison with Jehovah. His God, as Matthew Henry says, is a None-such. The idols of the heathen he scorns to mention, snuffing them all out as mere nothings when Deity is spoken of. "Who is God save the Lord?" Who else creates, sustains, foresees, and overrules? Who but he is perfect in every attribute, and glorious in every act? To whom but Jehovah should creatures bow? Who else can claim their service and their love? "Who is a rock save our God?" Where can lasting hopes be fixed? Where can the soul find rest? Where is stability to be found? Where is strength to be discovered? Surely in the Lord Jehovah alone can we find rest and refuge.
Verse 32. Surveying all the armour in which he fought and conquered, the joyful victor praises the Lord for every part of the panoply. The girdle of his loins earns the first stanza: "It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect." Girt about the loins with power from heaven, the warrior was filled with vigour, far above all created might; and, whereas, without this wondrous belt he would have been feeble and effeminate, with relaxed energies and scattered forces, he felt himself, when braced with the girdle of truth, to be compact in purpose, courageous in daring, and concentrated in power; so that his course was a complete success, so undisturbed by disastrous defeat as to be called "perfect." Have we been made more than conquerors over sin, and has our life hitherto been such as becometh the gospel? Then let us ascribe all the glory to him who girt us with his own inexhaustible strength, that we might be unconquered in battle and unwearied in pilgrimage.
Verse 33. The conqueror's feet had been shod by a divine hand, and the next note must, therefore, refer to them. "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places." Pursuing his foes the warrior had been swift of foot as a young roe, but, instead of taking pleasure in the legs of a man, he ascribes the boon of swiftness to the Lord alone. When our thoughts are nimble, and our spirits rapid, like the chariots of Amminadib, let us not forget that our best Beloved's hand has given us the choice favour. Climbing into impregnable fortresses, David had been preserved from slipping, and made to stand where scarce the wild goat can find a footing; herein was preserving mercy manifested. We, too, have had our high places of honour, service, temptation, and danger, but hitherto we have been kept from falling. Bring hither the harp, and let us emulate the psalmist's joyful thanksgiving; had we fallen, our wailings must have been terrible; since we have stood, let our gratitude be fervent.
Verse 34. "He teacheth my hands to war." Martial prowess and skill in the use of weapons are gratefully acknowledged to be the result of divine teaching; no sacrifice is offered at the shrine of self in praise of natural dexterity, or acquired skilfulness; but, regarding all warlike prowess as a gift of heavenly favour, thankfulness is presented to the Giver. The Holy Spirit is the great Drillmaster of heavenly soldiers. "So that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms." A bow of brass is probably meant, and these bows could scarcely be bent by the arms alone, the archer had to gain the assistance of his foot; it was, therefore, a great feat of strength to bend the bow, so far as even to snap it in halves. This was meant of the enemies' bow, which he not only snatched from his grasp, but rendered useless by breaking it in pieces. Jesus not only destroyed the fiery suggestions of Satan, but he broke his arguments with which he shot them, by using Holy Scripture against him; by the same means we may win a like triumph, breaking the bow and cutting the spear in sunder by the sharp edge of revealed truth. Probably David had by nature a vigorous bodily frame; but it is even more likely that, like Samson, he was at times clothed with more than common strength; at any rate, he ascribes the honour of his feats entirely to his God. Let us never wickedly rob the Lord of his due, but faithfully give unto him the glory which is due unto his name.
Verse 35. "Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation." Above all we must take the shield of faith, for nothing else can quench Satan's fiery darts; this shield is of celestial workmanship, and is in all cases a direct gift from God himself; it is the channel, the sign, the guarantee, and the earnest of perfect salvation. "Thy right hand hath holden me up." Secret support is administered to us by the preserving grace of God, and at the same time Providence kindly yields us manifest aid. We are such babes that we cannot stand alone; but when the Lord's right hand upholds us, we are like brazen pillars which cannot be moved. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." There are several readings of this sentence. The word is capable of being translated, "thy goodness hath made me great." David saw much of benevolence in God's action towards him, and he gratefully ascribed all his greatness not to his own goodness, but to the goodness of God. "Thy providence" is another reading, which is indeed nothing more than goodness in action. Goodness is the bud of which providence is the flower; or goodness is the seed of which providence is the harvest. Some render it, "thy help," which is but another word for providence; providence being the firm ally of the saints, aiding them in the service of their Lord. Certain learned annotators tell us that the text means, "thy humility hath made me great." "Thy condescension" may, perhaps, serve as a comprehensive reading, combining the ideas which we have already mentioned, as well as that of humility. It is God's making himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little that If God should manifest his greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies and bow to see what angels do, looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. While these are the translations which have been given to the adopted text of the original, we find that there are other readings altogether; as for instance, the Septuagint, which reads, "thy discipline"—thy fatherly correction— "hath made me great;" while the Chaldee paraphrase reads, "thy word hath increased me." Still the idea is the same. David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness and graciousness of his Father in heaven. Let us all feel this sentiment in our own hearts, and confess that whatever of goodness or greatness God may have put upon us, we must cast our crowns at his feet and cry, "thy gentleness hath made me great."
Verse 36. "Thou hast enlarged my steps." A smooth pathway leading to spacious possessions and camping-grounds had been opened up for him. Instead of threading the narrow mountain paths, and hiding in the cracks and corners of caverns, he was able to traverse the plains and dwell under his own vine and fig tree. It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a greater favour still to be enabled to walk worthily in such liberty, not being permitted to slip with our feet. To stand upon the rocks of affliction is the result of gracious upholding, but that aid is quite as much needed in the luxurious plains of prosperity.
Verse 37. The preservation of the saints bodes ill for their adversaries. The Amelekites thought themselves clear away with their booty, but when David's God guided him in the pursuit, they were soon overtaken and cut in pieces. When God is with us sins and sorrows flee, and all forms of evil are "consumed" before the power of grace. What a noble picture this and the following verses present to us of the victories of our glorious Lord Jesus!
Verse 38. The destruction of our spiritual enemies is complete. We may exult over sin, death, and hell, as disarmed and disabled for us by our conquering Lord; may he graciously give them a like defeat within us.
Verses 39 and 40. It is impossible to be too frequent in the duty of ascribing all our victories to the God of our salvation. It is true that we have to wrestle with our spiritual antagonists, but the triumph is far more the Lord's than ours. We must not boast like the ambitious votaries of vainglory, but we may exult as the willing and believing instruments in the Lord's hand of accomplishing his great designs.
Verse 41. "They cried, but there was none to save them; even unto the Lord, but he answered them not." Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it to in their fits of desperation. Bad men have appealed to God against God's own servants, but all in vain; the kingdom of heaven is not divided, and God never succours his foes at the expense of his friends. There are prayers to God which are no better than blasphemy, which bring no comfortable reply, but rather provoke the Lord to greater wrath. Shall I ask a man to wound or slay his own child to gratify my malice? Would he not resent the insult against his humanity? How much less will Jehovah regard the cruel desires of the enemies of the church, who dare to offer their prayers for its destruction, calling its existence schism, and its doctrine heresy!
Verse 42. The defeat of the nations who fought with King David was so utter and complete that they were like powders pounded in a mortar; their power was broken into fragments and they became as weak as dust before the wind, and as mean as the mire of the roads. Thus powerless and base are the enemies of God now become through the victory of the Son of David upon the cross. Arise, O my soul, and meet thine enemies, for they have sustained a deadly blow, and will fall before thy bold advance.
"Hell and my sins resist my course,
But hell and sin are vanquish'd foes
My Jesus nail'd them to his cross,
And sung the triumph when he rose."
Verse 44. "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me." Thus readily did the once struggling captain become a far-renowned victor, and thus easy shall be our triumphs. We prefer, however, to speak of Jesus. In many cases the gospel is speedily received by hearts apparently unprepared for it. Those who have never heard the gospel before, have been charmed by its first message, and yielded obedience to it; while others, alas! who are accustomed to its joyful sound, are rather hardened than softened by its teachings. The grace of God sometimes runs like fire among the stubble, and a nation is born in a day. Surely Spurgeon is thinking of Isaiah 66:8, but it has happened in my lifetime. Israel became a nation in one day, just as God said. "Love at first sight" is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Caesar's message without boasting, Veni, vidi, vici; ( I came, I saw, I conquered. ) his gospel is in some cases no sooner heard than believed. What inducements to spread abroad the doctrine of the cross!
Verse 45. "The strangers shall fade away." Like sear leaves or blasted trees our foes and Christ's foes shall find no sap and stamina remaining in them. Those who are strangers to Jesus are strangers to all lasting happiness; those must soon fade who refuse to be watered from the river of life. "And be afraid out of their close places." Out of their mountain fastnesses the heathen crept in fear to own allegiance to Israel's king, and even so, from the castles of self-confidence and the dens of carnal security, poor sinners come bending before the Saviour, Christ the Lord. Our sins which have entrenched themselves in our flesh and blood as in impregnable forts, shall yet be driven forth by the sanctifying energy of the Holy Spirit, and we shall serve the Lord in singleness of heart.
Thus with remembrance of conquests in the past, and with glad anticipations of victories yet to come, the sweet singer closes the description, and returns to exercise of more direct adoration of his gracious God.
Verse 46. "The Lord liveth." Possessing underived, essential, independent and eternal life. We serve no inanimate, imaginary, or dying God. He only hath immortality. Like loyal subjects let us cry, Live on, O God. Long live the King of kings. By thine immortality do we dedicate ourselves afresh to thee. As the Lord our God liveth so would we live to him. "And blessed be my rock." He is the ground of our hope, and let him be the subject of our praise. Our hearts bless the Lord, with holy love extolling him.
Jehovah lives, my rock be blessed!
Praised be the God who gives me rest!
Verse 47. "It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me." To rejoice in personal revenge is unhallowed and evil, but David viewed himself as the instrument of vengeance upon the enemies of God and his people, and had he not rejoiced in the success accorded to him he would have been worthy of censure. That sinners perish is in itself a painful consideration, but that the Lord's law is avenged upon those who break it is to the devout mind a theme for thankfulness. We must, however, always remember that vengeance is never ours, vengeance belongeth unto the Lord, and he is so just and withal so longsuffering in the exercise of it, that we may safely leave its administration in his hands.
Verse 48. From all enemies, and especially from one who was pre-eminent in violence, the Lord's anointed was preserved, and at the last over the head of Saul and all other adversaries he reigned in honour. The like end awaits every saint, because Jesus who stooped to be lightly esteemed among men is now made to sit far above all principalities and powers.
Verse 49. Paul cites this verse (Romans 15:9): "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name." This is clear evidence that David's Lord is here, but David is here too, and is to be viewed as an example of a holy soul making its boast in God even in the presence of ungodly men. Who are the despisers of God that we should stop our mouths for them? We will sing to our God whether they like it or no, and force upon them the knowledge of his goodness. Too much politeness to traitors may be treason to our King.
Verse 50. This is the winding up verse into which the writer throws a fulness of expression, indicating the most rapturous delight of gratitude. "Great deliverance." The word "deliverance" is plural, to show the variety and completeness of the salvation; the adjective "great" is well placed if we consider from what, to what, and how we are saved. All this mercy is given to us in our King, the Lord's Anointed, and those are blessed indeed who as his seed may expect mercy to be built up for evermore. The Lord was faithful to the literal David, and he will not break his covenant with the spiritual David, for that would far more involve the honour of his crown and character.
The Psalm concludes in the same loving spirit which shone upon its commencement; happy are they who can sing on from love to love, even as the pilgrims marched from strength to strength.
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 Students; The 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 4; Romans 4; Jeremiah 42; Psalm 18
By Don Carson 8/14/2018
When people know little about the God who has actually disclosed himself, it is terribly easy for them to sink into some perverted view of this God, until the image held of him has very little to do with the reality.
One can understand the Philistines’ ignorance (1 Sam. 4). In their polytheistic world, full of idols providing concrete representations of their gods, the arrival of the ark of the covenant in the Israelite camp is understood to be the arrival of the Israelite god (1 Sam. 4:6-7). But this god, even if he proved so powerful that he could at one point take on the Egyptians, is merely one more god, finite, limited, local. So the Philistines, having to choose between buckling under and courageous defiance, opt for the latter, and win. Implicit in their win are an assumption and a result: the assumption is that God is no longer laying on the hearts of the Canaanites the mortal dread of the Israelites that had accompanied the early Israelite victories (and this spells judgment for the Israelites); the result is that the Philistines will now have an even more diminished view of God. Knowing the God of the Bible, we can be certain that this is a situation that will not last long; God will take action to defend his own glory.
The Israelites’ ignorance of God is wholly without excuse, but is of a piece with the horrible declension toward the end of the period of the judges. They are getting trounced by the Philistines. Their theological reasoning is so bad that they think they can reverse the fortunes of war by bringing the ark of the covenant into the military camp like an oversized good-luck charm. The writer hints at the sheer preposterousness of the notion; they bring “the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim” (1 Sam. 4:4). Sadly, Eli’s sons, the priests Hophni and Phinehas, are complicit in these arrangements. Is God’s favor so easily manipulated? Does he care as much about the location of a box as he does about the conduct and (in)fidelity of his image-bearers and covenant community? What kind of pared-down and domesticated image of God did the leaders of Israel hold at this juncture that they should utter such nonsense?
Yesterday I received in the mail a letter from one of America’s premier television preachers, inviting me to send money and offering me in return a Christmas tree ornament of an “angel” with a trumpet, to remind me that God had commanded the angel looking after me to blow a trumpet to celebrate me. What kind of pared-down and domesticated image of God do such leaders hold that they should utter such nonsense?
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:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 88I 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.
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
9/1/2016 Our Family Forever
In the church, many people assume that men enter pastoral ministry simply out of a desire to be pastors. But such an assumption is far from the truth. God makes men pastors. He calls us, gifts us, equips us, and sustains us. We enter pastoral ministry not necessarily because we want to but because we must. It is not as if we are incapable of doing other things for a living, but rather that we are incapable of doing anything else that will allow us to obey God and find the God-ordained fulfillment that comes from serving Him with the particular calling and gifts He has bestowed on us. Left to ourselves and our own selfish desires, we would run from God’s call upon our lives. However, we answer God’s call because we cannot help it. For just as God by His sovereign grace makes us all the sheep of Jesus Christ, He makes some of us undershepherds of Jesus Christ, our Chief Shepherd, the one and only head of the church.
Although not every Christian is called to be a pastor, every Christian is called to serve the Lord and His church with the gifts He has given them. The church is not a business organization where the pastor is the paid visionary, entertainer, program director, and CEO. On the contrary, the church is a living organism wherein each and every communing member of the church serves the church with his or her gifts. One of the jobs that pastors perform is helping to shepherd and disciple God’s people so that we might all serve one another, our families, our communities, and our neighbors as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. At Saint Andrew’s Chapel, one of the questions we ask professing Christians when they take their vows to become members of our church is, “Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?” In taking that vow, members are agreeing not only to support our congregation and missional outreach financially but to support the congregation with their gifts and service, being faithful stewards of their God-given time, talents, and treasures. Furthermore, in vowing to support the church, members are not only vowing to support our congregation alone, but to support the one, holy, catholic (universal), and Apostolic church of Jesus Christ.
As pastors, one of the driving passions of our hearts is to see the church, the family of God, love one another. That each and every member of the church, both young and old, from every culture, race, and socioeconomic background, would serve one another with their spiritual gifts. That God’s people would treat the church like their home, not like a hotel. That we would all see the church as our family, with whom, by the grace of God, we will love, worship, and enjoy our triune God now and forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Over 3,000 American troops were killed or wounded when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. 20,000 died on the infamous Bataan Death March, when Japanese forced starving prisoners to march through jungles. 100,000 died retaking Okinawa and other islands. Though devastating, President Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic Bomb prevented an estimated one million casualties and Emperor Hirohito surrendered Japan on this day, August 14, 1945. Father Cummings, a chaplain who was captured and died in the Philippines, told his men: “There are no atheists in the foxholes.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
The moment your Christianity
is the moment
it actually becomes Christianity.
--- Damon Thompson
Patience and Diligence,
like faith, remove mountains.
--- William Penn
My will is not my own till Thou has made it Thine; if it would reach the monarch’s throne it must its crown resign. It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife, till on Thy bosom it has leant and found in Thee its life.
--- George Matheson
I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
Gibbon, E. (2004). The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. (H. H. Milman, Ed.
I was listening to Ravi Zacharias, ‘His Work Will Always Cause You To Win’ and he mentioned how The Roman Gladiator Games came to an end. It sounded familiar, but I wanted to research it.
I learned the Gladiator games in Rome ended January 1st, A.D. 404 because the Emperor Honorius was upset by the murder of Telemachus. Telemachus tried to stop the bloody combat and the crowd stoned him.
In these games of Honorius, the inhuman combats of gladiators polluted, for the last time, the amphitheater of Rome. The first Christian emperor may claim the honor of the first edict which condemned the art and amusement of shedding human blood;3665 but this benevolent law expressed the wishes of the prince, without reforming an inveterate abuse, which degraded a civilized nation below the condition of savage cannibals. Several hundred, perhaps several thousand, victims were annually slaughtered in the great cities of the empire; and the month of December, more peculiarly devoted to the combats of gladiators, still exhibited to the eyes of the Roman people a grateful spectacle of blood and cruelty. Amidst the general joy of the victory of Pollentia, a Christian poet exhorted the emperor to extirpate, by his authority, the horrid custom which had so long resisted the voice of humanity and religion. The pathetic representations of Prudentius were less effectual than the generous boldness of Telemachus, and Asiatic monk, whose death was more useful to mankind than his life. The Romans were provoked by the interruption of their pleasures; and the rash monk, who had descended into the arena to separate the gladiators, was overwhelmed under a shower of stones. But the madness of the people soon subsided; they respected the memory of Telemachus, who had deserved the honors of martyrdom; and they submitted, without a murmur, to the laws of Honorius, which abolished forever the human sacrifices of the amphitheater.
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. On the next day the Jews made another attack upon the Romans, and went out of the walls and fought a much more desperate battle with them than before. For they were now become more courageous than formerly, and that on account of the unexpected good opposition they had made the day before, as they found the Romans also to fight more desperately; for a sense of shame inflamed these into a passion, as esteeming their failure of a sudden victory to be a kind of defeat. Thus did the Romans try to make an impression upon the Jews till the fifth day continually, while the people of Jotapata made sallies out, and fought at the walls most desperately; nor were the Jews affrighted at the strength of the enemy, nor were the Romans discouraged at the difficulties they met with in taking the city.
7. Now Jotapata is almost all of it built on a precipice, having on all the other sides of it every way valleys immensely deep and steep, insomuch that those who would look down would have their sight fail them before it reaches to the bottom. It is only to be come at on the north side, where the utmost part of the city is built on the mountain, as it ends obliquely at a plain. This mountain Josephus had encompassed with a wall when he fortified the city, that its top might not be capable of being seized upon by the enemies. The city is covered all round with other mountains, and can no way be seen till a man comes just upon it. And this was the strong situation of Jotapata.
8. Vespasian, therefore, in order to try how he might overcome the natural strength of the place, as well as the bold defense of the Jews, made a resolution to prosecute the siege with vigor. To that end he called the commanders that were under him to a council of war, and consulted with them which way the assault might be managed to the best advantage. And when the resolution was there taken to raise a bank against that part of the wall which was practicable, he sent his whole army abroad to get the materials together. So when they had cut down all the trees on the mountains that adjoined to the city, and had gotten together a vast heap of stones, besides the wood they had cut down, some of them brought hurdles, in order to avoid the effects of the darts that were shot from above them. These hurdles they spread over their banks, under cover whereof they formed their bank, and so were little or nothing hurt by the darts that were thrown upon them from the wall, while others pulled the neighboring hillocks to pieces, and perpetually brought earth to them; so that while they were busy three sorts of ways, nobody was idle. However, the Jews cast great stones from the walls upon the hurdles which protected the men, with all sorts of darts also; and the noise of what could not reach them was yet so terrible, that it was some impediment to the workmen.
9. Vespasian then set the engines for throwing stones and darts round about the city. The number of the engines was in all a hundred and sixty, and bid them fall to work, and dislodge those that were upon the wall. At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only not come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines; for the multitude of the Arabian archers, as well also as all those that threw darts and slung stones, fell to work at the same time with the engines. Yet did not the others lie still, when they could not throw at the Romans from a higher place; for they then made sallies out of the city, like private robbers, by parties, and pulled away the hurdles that covered the workmen, and killed them when they were thus naked; and when those workmen gave way, these cast away the earth that composed the bank, and burnt the wooden parts of it, together with the hurdles, till at length Vespasian perceived that the intervals there were between the works were of disadvantage to him; for those spaces of ground afforded the Jews a place for assaulting the Romans. So he united the hurdles, and at the same time joined one part of the army to the other, which prevented the private excursions of the Jews.
10. And when the bank was now raised, and brought nearer than ever to the battlements that belonged to the walls, Josephus thought it would be entirely wrong in him if he could make no contrivances in opposition to theirs, and that might be for the city's preservation; so he got together his workmen, and ordered them to build the wall higher; and while they said that this was impossible to be done while so many darts were thrown at them, he invented this sort of cover for them: He bid them fix piles, and expand before them the raw hides of oxen newly killed, that these hides by yielding and hollowing themselves when the stones were thrown at them might receive them, for that the other darts would slide off them, and the fire that was thrown would be quenched by the moisture that was in them. And these he set before the workmen, and under them these workmen went on with their works in safety, and raised the wall higher, and that both by day and by night, till it was twenty cubits high. He also built a good number of towers upon the wall, and fitted it to strong battlements. This greatly discouraged the Romans, who in their own opinions were already gotten within the walls, while they were now at once astonished at Josephus's contrivance, and at the fortitude of the citizens that were in the city.
11. And now Vespasian was plainly irritated at the great subtlety of this stratagem, and at the boldness of the citizens of Jotapata; for taking heart again upon the building of this wall, they made fresh sallies upon the Romans, and had every day conflicts with them by parties, together with all such contrivances, as robbers make use of, and with the plundering of all that came to hand, as also with the setting fire to all the other works; and this till Vespasian made his army leave off fighting them, and resolved to lie round the city, and to starve them into a surrender, as supposing that either they would be forced to petition him for mercy by want of provisions, or if they should have the courage to hold out till the last, they should perish by famine: and he concluded he should conquer them the more easily in fighting, if he gave them an interval, and then fell upon them when they were weakened by famine; but still he gave orders that they should guard against their coming out of the city.
by D.H. Stern
28 Don’t move the ancient boundary stone
set up by your ancestors.
by Frank W. Boreham
I love a margin. There is something delicious, luxurious, glorious in the spacious field of creamy paper bounded by the black letterpress on the one side and the gilt edges on the other. Could anything be more abominable than a book that is printed to the uttermost extremities of every page? It is an outrage, I aver, on human nature. Indeed, it is an outrage upon Nature herself, for Nature loves her margins even more than I do. She goes in for margins on a truly stupendous scale. She wants a bird, so a dozen are hatched. She knows perfectly well that eleven out of the twelve are merely margin. She will throw them to the cats, and the foxes, and the weasels, and the snakes, and only keep the best of the batch. She wants a tree, so she plants a hundred. She knows that ninety and nine are margin, to be browsed down by cattle, but she means to make sure of her one. 'The roe of a cod,' Grant Alien tells me, 'contains nearly ten million eggs; but, if each of those eggs produced a young fish which arrived at maturity, the whole sea would immediately become a solid mass of closely packed cod-fish.' But Nature has no intention of turning her bright blue ocean into a gigantic box of sardines; she is simply providing herself with a margin. Linnaeus says that a fly may multiply itself ten thousandfold in a fortnight. If this increase continued during the three summer months, he says, one fly at the beginning of summer would produce one hundred millions of millions of millions before the three months were over, and the air would be black with the horror. The probability, however, is that there are never one hundred millions of millions of millions of flies in the whole world. Nature is not arranging for a repetition of the plague of Egypt; she is simply gratifying her appetite for a margin. As Tennyson sings in 'In Memoriam,'
of fifty seeds She often brings but one to bear.
So I suppose I learned my love of margins from her. At any rate, if anybody thinks me extravagant, they must quarrel with her and not with me.
I fancy there's a good deal in it. It is the margin that makes all the difference. If the work that absolutely must be done occupies every waking moment of my time, I am a slave; but if it leaves a margin of a single hour, I am in clover. If my receipts will only just balance my expenditure, I am living a mere hand-to-mouth existence; but if they leave me a margin, I jingle the odd coins in my pocket with the pride of a prince. Mr. Micawber's philosophy comes back to us. 'Annual income—twenty pounds; annual expenditure—nineteen nineteen six; result—happiness. Annual income—twenty pounds; annual expenditure—twenty pounds ought and six; result—misery.' I believe that one of the supreme aims of a man's life should be to secure a margin. Nature does it, and we must copy her. A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin. I hate books whose pages are so crowded that you cannot handle them without putting your thumbs on the type. And, in exactly the same way, there are very few things more repelling than the feeling that a man has no time for you. It may be a most excellent book; but if it has no margin, I shall never grow fond of it. He may be a most excellent man; but if he lacks leisure, restfulness, poise, I shall never be able to love him.
It is difficult to account for it; but the fact most certainly is that the most winsome people in the world are the people who make you feel that they are never in a hurry. The man whom you trust most readily is the man with a little time to spare, or who makes you think that he has. When my life gets tangled and twisted, and I want a minister to help me, I shall be too timid to approach the man who is always in a fluster. I feel instinctively that he is far too busy for poor me. He tears through life like a superannuated whirlwind. If I meet him on the street, his coat tails are always flying out behind him; his eyes wear a hunted look; and a sense of feverish haste is stamped upon his countenance. He reminds me of poor John Gilpin, for it is always neck or nothing with him. He seems to be everlastingly consulting his watch, and is always muttering something about his next engagement. He gets through an amazing number of odd jobs in the course of a day, and his diary will be a wonder to posterity. But he would be much better off in the long run if he cultivated a margin. He makes people feel at present that he is too busy for them. A poor woman, who is in great trouble about her son, heard him preach last Sunday, and felt that she would give anything to have a quiet talk with him about her sorrow, and kneel with him as he commended both her and her wayward boy to the Throne of the heavenly grace. But she dreads to be caught in the whirl of his week-a-day flurry, and stays away, her grief eating her heart out the while. A shrinking young girl is in perplexity about her love affairs, and she feels sure, from some things he said in his sermon a few weeks ago, that he could help her. But she remembers that in his study he keeps a motto to remind her that his time is precious. If the words 'Beware of the dog!' were painted on his study door, they could not be more terrifying. She fears that, before she has half unfolded the tender tale that she scarcely likes to tell, his hand will be upon the doorknob. The tendency of the time is indisputably towards flurry—the flurry of business or the flurry of pleasure. I feel very sorry for these busy folk. Their energy is prodigious. But, for all that, they are losing life's best. Surely William Cowper had a secret in his soul when he told us that, in his mad career, John Gilpin lost the wine!
'And now, as he went bowing down,
His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
Were shattered at a blow
Down ran the wine into the road,
Most piteous to be seen,
Which made his horses' flanks to smoke
As they had basted been.
It is very easy to go too fast. In his Forest, Mr. Stewart White gives us some lessons in bushmanship. 'As long as you restrain yourself,' he says, 'to a certain leisurely plodding, you get along without extraordinary effort; but even a slight increase of speed drags fiercely at your feet. One good step is worth six stumbling steps; go only fast enough to assure that good one. An expert woods-walker is never in a hurry.' I was chatting the other day with the captain of a great steamship. The vessel is capable of steaming at the rate of seventeen knots an hour; but I noticed from the log that she never exceeds fifteen. I asked the reason. 'It is too expensive!' the captain answered. And then he told me the difference in the consumption of coal between steaming at fifteen and steaming at seventeen knots an hour. It was astounding. I recognized at once his wisdom in keeping the margin. When I next meet my busy brother, I shall tell him the story—if he can spare the time to listen. For, apart from the expense to himself of driving the engines at that high pressure, and apart from the loss of the wine, I feel sure that the folk who most need him love the ministry of a man with a margin. Even as I write, there rush back upon my mind the memories of the great doctors and eminent lawyers whose biographies I have read. How careful these busy men were to convey a certain impression of leisureliness! It will never do for a doctor to burst in upon his poor feverish patient, and throw everything into commotion. And see how composedly the lawyer listens to his client's tale! Wise men these; and I must not be too proud to learn from them.
Great souls have ever been leisurely souls. I have no right to allow the rush and throb and tear of life to rob me of my restfulness. I must keep a quiet heart. I must be jealous of my margins. I must find time to climb the hills, to scour the valleys, to explore the bush, to row on the river, to stroll along the sands, to poke among the rocks, and to fish in the stream. I must cultivate the friendship of the fields and the ferns and the flowers. I must lie back in my easy chair, with my feet on the fender, and laugh with my friends. And pity me, men and angels, if I am too busy to romp with the children and to tell them a tale if they want it! There are many things in a man's life that he can give up, just as there are many things in a book that can be skipped, but the last thing to go must be the margin.
Now, rising from my desk for a moment, just to stretch my legs a little, I glance out of my study window at the busy world outside. I see men making bargains, reading newspapers, and talking politics. And really, when you come to analyse the thing, this matter of the margin touches that bustling world at every point. To begin with, the essential difference between life here in Australia and life in the old world is mainly a difference in the breadth of the margin. Here life is not so hemmed in and cramped up as it must of necessity be there. Then, too, the whole tendency of modern legislation is in the direction of widening the margin. Everything tends to increase the leisure of the people. Early closing has come into its own. Shopkeepers put up their shutters quite early in the evening; the hours of the labourer have been considerably curtailed; and in other ways the leisure of the people has been greatly increased. Now in this broadening of life's margin there lie both tremendous possibilities and tremendous perils. The idleness of an entire community during a considerable proportion of its waking hours may become a huge national asset or a serious menace to the general wellbeing. People are too apt to suppose that character is determined by the main business of life. It is a fallacy. It is, as I have said, the margin that really matters. There is a section of time that remains to a man after the main business of life has been dealt with. It is the use to which that margin is put that reveals the true propensities of the individual and that, in the long run, determines the destiny of the nation.
Here, for example, are two bricklayers. They walk down the street side by side on their way to their work. From the time that the hour strikes for them to commence operations until the time comes to lay aside their trowels for the day, they are pretty much alike. The one may be a philosopher and the other a scoundrel; but these traits will have small opportunity of betraying themselves as they chip away at the bricks in their hands, and ply their busy tasks. The intellectual proclivities of the one, and the vicious propensities of the other, will be held in the severest restraint as they labour side by side. The inexorable laws of industrial competition will keep their work up to a certain standard of excellence. But the moment that the tools are thrown aside the character of each man stands revealed. He is his own master. He is like a hound unleashed, and will now follow his bent without let or hindrance. And the more the State restricts the hours of toil, and multiplies the hours of leisure, the more does it increase the possibilities of good in the one case and the perils of evil-doing in the other. It is during that lengthened leisure that the one will apply himself to self-improvement, and, by developing himself, will increase the value of his citizenship to the State; and it is during that prolonged immunity from restraint that the other will compass his own deterioration and exert his influence for the general impoverishment.
Precisely the same law holds good in relation to the expenditure of money. The way in which a people spends its money represents the most crucial test of national character. If a man spends his money wisely, he is a wise man; if he spends his money foolishly, he is a foolish man. But it is not along the main line of expenditure that the revelation is made. The principal items of expenditure are inevitable, and beyond the control of the individual, whoever or whatever he may be. A man must eat and wear clothes, whether he be a burglar or a bishop. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, and the milkman will call at every door; and you cannot argue as to the morals of a man from the fact that he eats bread, that he is fond of beef, or that he takes sugar with his porridge. There are certain main lines of expenditure along which each man, whatever his characteristics and idiosyncrasies, is resistlessly driven. But after he has submitted to this stern compulsion, and has paid his butcher, his baker, his grocer, and his milkman, then comes the test. What about the margin? Is there a margin? For upon the margin everything depends. We will suppose that, after paying for the things that he eats and the things that he wears, he still jingles in his pocket a dozen coins, with which he may do exactly as he likes. Now it is in the expenditure of that margin of money—as, in the other case, it was in the expenditure of that margin of leisure—that the real man will reveal himself. It is the use to which he puts that margin that declares his true character and determines the contribution that he, as an individual citizen, will make to the national weal or woe.
Now, if this broadening margin means anything at all, it means that the responsibilities of the Church are increasing. For the Church is essentially the Mistress of the Margin. Concerning the expenditure of the hours occupied with labour, and concerning the money spent in the actual requisites of life, the statesman may have something to say. Legislation may deal with the hours of labour and the rate of wages. It may even influence the precise amount of the butcher's or the baker's bills. But when it comes to the hours that follow toil, and to the cash that remains after the principal accounts have been paid, the legislator finds himself in difficulties. He has come to the end of his tether. He cannot direct the people as to how to spend their spare cash. And, as we have seen, it is just this spare time and spare cash that determine everything. It is the dominating and deciding factor in the whole situation. It is manifest, therefore, that, important as are the functions of statesmanship, the really fundamental factors of individual conduct and of national life elude the most searching enactments of the most vigilant legislators. As the hours of labour shorten, and the margin of spare cash increases, the authority of the egislator becomes less and less; and the need for some force that shall shape the moral tone of the people becomes greater and greater. If the Church cannot supply that force, and become the Mistress of the Margin, the outlook is by no means reassuring. On one phase of this matter of the margin the Church holds a wonderful secret. She knows that there are people who, through no fault of their own, are marginless. They have neither a moment nor a penny to spare. Sickness, trouble, and the war of the world have been too much for them. They are right up against the wall; and they know it. But the matter does not end there. I remember once entering a dingy little dwelling in the slums of London. In the squalid room a cripple girl sat sewing, and as she sewed she sang:
My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full—He has riches untold.
I'm the child of a King! the child of a King!
With Jesus my Saviour, I'm the child of a King!
What did this mean but that she had discovered that her cramped and narrow life had a spacious white margin after all? In a recent speech at Glasgow, Mr. Lloyd George told a fine story of a quaint old Welsh preacher who was conducting the funeral service of a poor old fellow, a member of his church, who, through no fault of his own, had had a very bad time of it. They could hardly find a space in the churchyard for his tomb. At last they got enough to make a brickless grave amidst towering monuments that pressed upon it, and the old minister, standing above it, said, 'Well, Davie, vach, you have had a narrow time right through life, and you have a very narrow place in death; but never you mind, old friend, I can see a day dawning for you when you will rise out of your narrow bed, and find plenty of room at the last. Ah!' he cried in a burst of natural eloquence, 'I can see it coming! I can see the day of the resurrection! I can see the dawn of immortality! There will be room, room, room, even for the poor! The light of that morning already gilds the hilltops!' What did he mean, that old Welsh minister, as he shaded his eyes with his hands and looked towards the East? He was pointing away from life's black and crowded letterpress to the white and spacious margin—the margin with the gilt edge—that was all.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.
--- Hebrews 12:5.
It is very easy to quench the Spirit; we do it by despising the chastening of the Lord, by fainting when we are rebuked by Him. If we have only a shallow experience of sanctification, we mistake the shadow for the reality, and when the Spirit of God begins to check, we say—‘Oh, that must be the devil.’
Never quench the Spirit, and do not despise Him when He says to you—‘Don’t be blind on this point any more; you are not where you thought you were. Up to the present, I have not been able to reveal it to you, but I reveal it now.’ When the Lord chastens you like that, let Him have His way. Let Him relate you rightly to God.
“Nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” We get into sulks with God and say—‘Oh well, I can’t help it; I did pray and things did not turn out right, and I am going to give it all up.’ Think what would happen if we talked like this in any other domain of life!
Am I prepared to let God grip me by His power and do a work in me that is worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me; sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me, and He has to get me into the attitude of mind and spirit where at any cost I will let Him sanctify me wholly.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And the cobbled water
Of the stream with the trout's indelible
Shadows that winter
Has not erased -- I walk it
Again under a clean
Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,
Silently singing among the weed's
I bring the heart
Not the mind to the interpretation
Of their music, letting the stream
Comb me, feeling it fresh
In my veins, revisiting the sources
That are as near now
As on the Morning I set out from them.
It’s a dreary day at the cemetery. As the rabbi leaves graveside, she sees an old woman standing alone at a nearby monument. The lady looks tired and drained. “It’s cold out,” the rabbi tells her.
And she answers her, “It’s not so cold for me. I’m used to it.”
“This must be hard for you,” the rabbi says.
“Who said it would be easy?” she replies, “We were married for over fifty years.”
The rabbi notices her tears. “That’s a long time. It must be emotional coming here to visit.”
“It’s emotional, but I want to be here. It’s where I belong. Today is my late husband’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death.”
“Where are you from?” queries the rabbi.
“That’s not around the corner,” the rabbi tells her, adding, “It must be an effort for you to get here.”
“I don’t drive, so I have to take a subway and a train, and then a bus. It takes me over two hours each way.”
“That’s incredible,” responds the rabbi, “you must have been very devoted to each other.”
With this, the old woman looks up at the rabbi. “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But you look like a nice woman, so I’ll tell you. It’s a long, difficult trip. I come here three times every year—once for our wedding anniversary, once for his birthday, and once for his yahrzeit. We shared everything for over fifty years. Over fifty years! I’m eighty now. My feet ache. It’s cold out. And I have to take a bus, and then a train, and then a subway just to get home and soak my aching feet. But it’s my late husband’s yahrzeit, and he’ll always have a special place in my heart, and so I’m here. That’s the long and the short of it.”
A tear wells up in the rabbi’s eye. She has been married far fewer years, and her feet don’t ache yet. But she feels this woman’s pain, as well as her love, inside. “I’ll drive you to the train station,” she tells her. “But take your time. Take your time.”
We demonstrate that something is important to us by finding a way to make it happen. Even when our bodies are tired and our minds are strained, we have to make sure that our feet carry us there. How else can we show that we care so much?
ANOTHER D’RASH / Think of the human body as a ship: The captain is situated somewhere in the brain. He’s plotted out a course on his navigational charts, and he’s ready to cast off and set sail. He sends a message down to the boiler room (the feet): “I want you to head in this direction, at such-and-such a speed.” And the feet respond “Aye aye, captain!” and they do their duty and follow their orders.
But where we end up in life, and how we get there, isn’t always so logical.
“Hey, everybody,” the father calls out to his family. “Get in the car.”
“Where we goin’, Dad?”
“For a ride,” the father answers.
“Where to, Honey?” the wife asks.
“I don’t know—it’s such a gorgeous day; it’s a shame to stay cooped up here in the house. I’ll put my foot on the gas, and we’ll just go. Let’s be explorers and see what’s out there! If it looks interesting to the right, we’ll go to the right! If we come across something inviting, we’ll pull over and investigate. Come on! Let’s make this a ‘magical mystery tour’!”
Later, when they tell their friends of the incredible place they went to, the family will say “You won’t believe it, but we were out for a drive and we literally stumbled upon it …” or “Our feet just sort of tripped over this terrific spot.…”
But at other times, how we end up at our destination is a lot more complex.
“Dr. Freud, you’ve got to help me!”
“Vat zeems to be ze problem, Mr. Bailey?”
“More than anything else in the world, I want to get out of this crummy little town. But every time I make plans, something comes up and I get stuck here. I can’t understand it! It’s driving me crazy! I’m ready to jump off a bridge!”
“Calm down, George. Vat keeps coming up?”
“I was ready to go to Europe, and my father had a stroke. I was all set to go off to college, when Mr. Potter tried to take over the Building and Loan. I was ready to turn things over to my brother, when he got married and got a great offer for a job in research. And then, just as Mary and I were about to go off on our honeymoon, there was a run on the bank, and I had to stay. Can you believe what bad luck I have? Every time I try to leave Bedford Falls, something happens.”
Dr. Freud stroked his goatee and shook his head. “Mr. Bailey, we zychoanalysts believe zat zere are no accidents or coincidences. You could have chozen to leave on any of zose occasions. But you decided to ztay. Yes, zere is a part of you zat vonders vat it vould be like to go someplace else. But deep down, you really vant to ztay. Your zubconscious vill not permit you to leave, because your home is here. Your destiny is here. Vhere your feet take you is the place you vanted to be—vhether your head admits it or not.”
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
--- Matthew 6:19.
At the end of the world, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to judge, he will gather all nations before him. (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) To those on his right he will say, “Come,… take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). But to those on the left, “Depart from me… into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41).
Why so great a reward or so great a punishment? Why will the first receive the kingdom? “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat” (v. 35). Why will the others depart into eternal fire? “For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat” (v. 42). Those who receive the kingdom gave as good and faithful Christians. Had they not done so, this barrenness would surely not have accorded with their good lives. Maybe they were chaste, not drunkards, and kept themselves from evil works. Yet if they had not added good works, they would have remained barren. For they would have kept, “Turn from evil,” but they would not have kept, “and do good”
(Ps. 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11).
Give away your earthly bread and knock for the heavenly! How will the Lord give to you who do not give to those in need? [Others] are in need before you, and you are in need before Another. Do then to others as you would have done to you. Though he is the Lord and doesn’t need our goods, yet that we might do something for him, he has submitted to be hungry in his poor.
John said to those who came to him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7–8). The crowd asked him, “What should we do then?” (v. 10). That is, what are these fruits that you exhort us to bring forth? He said, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (v. 11). What other meaning then can it have when he said, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (v. 9), but the same that they on the left will hear, “Depart from me.… For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.” It is only a small matter to depart from sins, if you neglect to cure what is past. If then you will be heard when you pray for pardon of your sins, forgive, and it will be forgiven you; give, and it will be given you.
--- Augustine of Hippo
And to Die Is Gain August 14
On a sizzling summer’s day in 1925, 17-year-old Bill Wallace sat in a garage working on a dismantled Ford, but his thoughts were on the future. Putting down his wrench, he reached for his New Testament and scrawled a decision on its grease-stained flyleaf. He would become a medical missionary.
Ten years later he arrived at Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, South China. War was brewing between the warlords of Kwangsi Province and the government of Chiang Kai-shek, and many missionaries had fled. Wallace remained at the hospital, performing surgery, making rounds, and sharing Christ.
He survived the dangers only to face a greater one. It was Japan, intent on a conquest of the Chinese mainland. Still Wallace stayed, treating the wounded and performing surgery amid exploding bombs and flying bullets. Not until 1940 did he return to America on furlough. When time came to return, his friends questioned him; but he said, “When I was trying to decide what I should do with my life, I became convinced God wanted me to be a medical missionary. That decision took me to China. And that, along with the fact that I was extremely happy there, will take me back.” He returned on August 14, 1942, and began dispensing medical and spiritual help during World War II.
Then an even greater threat emerged—the Communist takeover of China. Still Wallace stayed, performing duties with a hero’s valor. Finally, during predawn of December 19, 1950, Communist solders came to arrest the “best surgeon in China” on trumped-up espionage charges. He was placed in a small cell where he preached to passersby from a tiny window. Brutal interrogations followed, and Wallace, wearing down, stuck verses of Scripture on the walls of his cell. When he died from the ordeal, the Communists tried to say he had hanged himself; but his body showed no signs of suicide. He was buried in a cheap wooden coffin in a bamboo-shaded cemetery. The inscription on his grave simply said: For to Me to Live Is Christ.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 14
“Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work.” --- Psalm 92:4.
Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.” Christian, if thou art thus saved, whilst thou art glad, be grateful and loving. Cling to that cross which took thy sin away; serve thou him who served thee. “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Let not your zeal evaporate in some little ebullition of song. Show your love in expressive tokens. Love the brethren of him who loved you. If there be a Mephibosheth anywhere who is lame or halt, help him for Jonathan’s sake. If there be a poor tried believer, weep with him, and bear his cross for the sake of him who wept for thee and carried thy sins. Since thou art thus forgiven freely for Christ’s sake, go and tell to others the joyful news of pardoning mercy. Be not contented with this unspeakable blessing for thyself alone, but publish abroad the story of the cross. Holy gladness and holy boldness will make you a good preacher, and all the world will be a pulpit for you to preach in. Cheerful holiness is the most forcible of RS Thomas, but the Lord must give it you. Seek it this Morning before you go into the world. When it is the Lord’s work in which we rejoice, we need not be afraid of being too glad.
Evening - August 14
“I know their sorrows.” --- Exodus 3:7.
The child is cheered as he sings, “This my father knows”; and shall not we be comforted as we discern that our dear Friend and tender soul-husband knows all about us?
1. He is the Physician, and if he knows all, there is no need that the patient should know. Hush, thou silly, fluttering heart, prying, peeping, and suspecting! What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter, and meanwhile Jesus, the beloved Physician, knows thy soul in adversities. Why need the patient analyze all the medicine, or estimate all the symptoms? This is the Physician’s work, not mine; it is my business to trust, and his to prescribe. If he shall write his prescription in uncouth characters which I cannot read, I will not be uneasy on that account, but rely upon his unfailing skill to make all plain in the result, however mysterious in the working.
2. He is the Master, and his knowledge is to serve us instead of our own; we are to obey, not to judge: “The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” Shall the architect explain his plans to every hodman on the works? If he knows his own intent, is it not enough? The vessel on the wheel cannot guess to what pattern it shall be conformed, but if the potter understands his art, what matters the ignorance of the clay? My Lord must not be cross-questioned any more by one so ignorant as I am.
3. He is the Head. All understanding centres there. What judgment has the arm? What comprehension has the foot? All the power to know lies in the head. Why should the member have a brain of its own when the head fulfils for it every intellectual office? Here, then, must the believer rest his comfort in sickness, not that he himself can see the end, but that Jesus knows all. Sweet Lord, be thou for ever eye, and soul, and head for us, and let us be content to know only what thou choosest to reveal.
TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY
William D. Longstaff, 1822 -1894
But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:15, 16)
The valuable guidelines given in this hymn for living a holy life are just as pertinent for believers today as they were when William Longstaff wrote them more than a century ago. God still requires a holy lifestyle for His people. We sometimes confuse holiness with piety, which can be merely a hypocritical goodness that masks inner deceit or impurity. A truly holy or Christ-like life reveals the virtues mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5, 6: Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. We are surrounded today by so much sham and insincerity that we are often unconsciously affected by such influences. To maintain the quality of life that God demands, we must determine to take time to develop a life that is genuinely and consistently holy in every area.
William Longstaff, though financially independent (son of a wealthy English ship owner), was a humble and devout Christian layman and a close friend and supporter of the Moody-Sankey evangelistic team that stirred England with great revival campaigns during the late 19th century. After hearing a sermon on 1 Peter 1:16—“Be ye holy, for I am holy”—with reference to the book of Leviticus from which it was originally taken, young William began to make the achievement of holiness his life’s goal. Although this was his only hymn, these words have since been an invaluable influence for sincere believers everywhere who truly desire to live a genuine Christian life:
Take time to be holy. Speak oft with thy Lord; abide in Him always and feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children. Help those who are weak, forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy. The world rushes on; spend much time in secret with Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy. Let Him be thy guide, and run not before Him, whatever betide. In joy or in sorrow still follow thy Lord, and, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy. Be calm in thy soul—Each thought and each motive beneath His control. Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
For Today: Leviticus 20:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:23, 24; 1 Timothy 1:8; Hebrews 12:14
Reflect on all of the various suggestions for holy living listed in this hymn text. Sing these truths as you go realizing you need to ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
Prop. III. Sin implies that God is unworthy of a being. Every sin is a kind of cursing God in the heart; an aim at the destruction of the being of God; not actually, but virtually; not in the intention of every sinner, but in the nature of every sin. That affection which excites a man to break His law, would excite him to annihilate his being if it were in his power. A man in every sin aims to set up his own will as his rule, and his own glory as the end of his actions against the will and glory of God; and could a sinner attain his end, God would be destroyed. God cannot outlive his will and his glory; God cannot have another rule but his own will, nor another end but his own honor. Sin is called a turning the back upon God, a kicking against him, as if he were a slighter person than the meanest beggar. What greater contempt can be shown to the meanest, vilest person, than to turn the back, lift up the heel, and thrust away with indignation? all which actions, though they signify that such a one hath a being, yet they testify also that he is unworthy of a being, that he is an unuseful being in the world, and that it were well the world were rid of him. All sin against knowledge is called a reproach of God. Reproach is a vilifying a man as unworthy to be admitted into company. We naturally judge God unfit to be conversed with. God is the term turned from by a sinner; sin is the term turned to, which implies a greater excellency in the nature of sin than in the nature of God; and as we naturally judge it more worthy to have a being in our affections, so consequently more worthy to have a being in the world, than that infinite nature from whom we derive our beings and our all, and upon whom, with a kind of disdain, we turn our backs. Whosoever thinks the notion of a Deity unfit to be cherished in his mind by warm meditation, implies that he cares not whether he hath a being in the world or no. Now though the light of a Deity shines so clearly in man, and the stings of conscience are so smart, that he cannot absolutely deny the being of a God, yet most men endeavor to smother this knowledge, and make the notion of a God a sapless and useless thing (Rom. 1:28): “They like not to retain God in their knowledge.” It is said, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16); that is, from the worship of God. Our refusing or abhorring the presence of a man implies a carelessness whether he continue in the world or no; it is a using him as if he had no being, or as if we were not concerned in it. Hence all men in Adam, under the emblem of the prodigal, are said to go into a far country; not in respect of place, because of God’s omnipresence, but in respect of acknowledgment and affection: they mind and love anything but God. And the descriptions of the nations of the world, lying in the ruins of Adam’s fall, and the dregs of that revolt, is that they know not God. They forget God, as if there were no such being above them; and, indeed, he that doth the works of the devil, owns the devil to be more worthy of observance, and, consequently, of a being, than God, whose nature he forgets, and whose presence he abhors.
Prop. IV. Every sin in its own nature would render God a foolish and impure being. Many transgressors esteem their acts, which are contrary to the law of God, both wise and good: if so, the law against which they are committed, must be both foolish and impure. What a reflection is there, then, upon the Lawgiver! The moral law is not properly a mere act of God’s will considered in itself, or a tyrannical edict, like those of whom it may well be said, stat pro ratione voluntas: but it commands those things which are good in their own nature, and prohibits those things which are in their own nature evil; and therefore is an act of his wisdom and righteousness; the result of his wise counsel, and an extract of his pure nature; as all the laws of just lawgivers, are not only the acts of their will, but of a will governed by reason and justice, and for the good of the public, whereof they are conservators. If the moral commands of God were only acts of his will, and had not an intrinsic necessity, reason and goodness, God might have commanded the quite contrary, and made a contrary law, whereby that which we now call vice, might have been canonized for virtue: He might then have forbid any worship of him, love to him, fear of his name: He might then have commanded murders, thefts, adulteries. In the first he would have untied the link of duty from the creature, and dissolved the obligations of creatures to him, which is impossible to be conceived; for from the relation of a creature to God, obligations to God, and duties upon those obligations, do necessarily result. It had been against the rule of goodness and justice to have commanded the creature not to, love him, and fear and obey him: this had been a command against righteousness, goodness, and intrinsic obligations to gratitude. And should murder, adulteries, rapines have been commanded instead of the contrary, God would have destroyed his own creation; he would have acted against the rule of goodness and order; he had been an unjust tyrannical governor of the world: public society would have been cracked in pieces, and the world become a shambles, a brothel-house, a place below the common sentiments of a mere man. All sin, therefore, being against the law of God, the wisdom and holy rectitude of God’s nature is denied in every act of disobedience. And what is the consequence of this, but that God is both foolish and unrighteous in commanding that, which was neither an act of wisdom, as a governor, nor an act of goodness, as a benefactor to his creature? As was said before, presumptuous sins are called reproaches of God (Num. 15:30): “The soul that doth aught presumptuously reproacheth the Lord.” Reproaches of men are either for natural, moral, or intellectual defects. All reproaches of God must imply a charge, either of unrighteousness or ignorance: if of unrighteousness, it is a denial of his holiness; if of ignorance, it is a blemishing his wisdom. If God’s laws were not wise and holy, God would not enjoin them: and if they are so, we deny infinite wisdom and holiness in God by not complying with them. As when a man believes not God when he promises, he makes him a liar (1 John 5:10); so he that obeys not a wise and holy God commanding, makes him guilty either of folly or unrighteousness. Now, suppose you knew an absolute atheist who denied the being of a God, yet had a life free from any notorious spot or defilement; would you in reason count him so bad as the other that owns a God in being, yet lays, by his course of action, such a black imputation of folly and impurnty upon the God he professeth to own—an imputation which renders any man a most despicable creature?
Prop. V. Sin in its own nature endeavors to render God the most miserable being. It is nothing but an opposition to the will of God the will of no creature is so much contradicted as the will of God is by devils and men; and there is nothing under the heavens that the affections of human nature stand more point blank against, than against God. There is a slight of him in all the faculties of man; our souls are as unwilling to know him, as our wills are averse to follow him (Rom. 8:7): “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, nor can be subject.” It is true, God’s will cannot be hindered of its effect, for then God would not be supremely blessed, but unhappy and miserable: all misery ariseth from a want of that which a nature would have, and ought to have besides, if anything could frustrate God’s will, it would be superior to him: God would not be omnipotent, and so would lose the perfection of the Deity, and consequently the Deity itself; for that which did wholly defeat God’s will, would be more powerful than he.
But sin is a contradiction to the will of God’s revelation, to the will of his precept: and therein doth naturally tend to a superiority over God, and would usurp his omnipotence, and deprive him of his blessedness. For if God had not an infinite power to turn the designs of it to his own glory, but the will of sin could prevail, God would be totally deprived of his blessedness. Doth not sin endeavor to subject God to the extravagant and contrary wills of men, and make him more a slave than any creature can be? For the will of no creature, not the meanest and most despicable creature, is so much crossed, as the will of God is by sin (Isa. 43:24): “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins:” thou hast endeavored to make a mere slave of me by sin. Sin endeavors to subject the blessed God to the humor and lust of every person in the world.
Prop. VI. Men sometimes in some circumstances do wish the not being of God. This some think to be the meaning of the text, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” that is, he wishes there were no God. Many tamper with their own hearts to bring them to a persuasion that there is no God: and when they cannot do that, they conjure up wishes that there were none. Men naturally have some conscience of sin, and some notices of justice (Rom. 1:32): “They know the judgment of God,” and they know the demerit of sin; “they know the judgment of God, and that they which do such things are worthy of death.” What is the consequent of this but fear of punishment; and what is the issue of that fear, but a wishing the Judge either unwilling or unable to vindicate the honor of his violated law? When God is the object of such a wish, it is a virtual undeifying of him: not to be able to punish, is to be impotent; not to be willing to punish, is to be unjust: imperfections inconsistent with the Deity. God cannot be supposed without an infinite power to act, and an infinite righteousness as the rule of acting. Fear of God is natural to all men; not a fear of offending him, but a fear of being punished by him: the wishing the extinction of God has its degree in men, according to the degree of their fears of his just vengeance: and though such a wish be not in its meridian but in the damned in hell, yet it hath its starts and motions in affrighted and awakened consciences on the earth: under this rank of wishers, that there were no God, or that God were destroyed, do fall.
1. Terrified consciences, that are Magor-missabib ( fear on every side, ( Jeremiah 20:3 ), a symbolical name given to the priest Pashur, expressive of the fate announced by the prophet as about to come upon him. Pashur was to be carried to Babylon, and there die. ) , see nothing but matter of fear round about. As they have lived without the bounds of the law, they are afraid to fall under the stroke of his justice: fear wishes the destruction of that which it apprehends hurtful: it considers him as a God to whom vengeance belongs, as the Judge of all the earth. The less hopes such an one hath of his pardon, the more joy he would have to hear that his judge should be stripped of his life: he would entertain with delight any reasons that might support him in the conceit that there were no God: in his present state such a doctrine would be his security from an account: he would as much rejoice if there were no God to inflame an hell for him, as any guilty malefactor would if there were no judge to order a gibbet for him. Shame may bridle men’s words, but the heart will be casting about for some arguments this way, to secure itself: such as are at any time in Spira’s case, would be willing to cease to be creatures, that God might cease to be Judge. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no Elohim, no Judge;” fancying God without any exercise of his judicial authority. And there is not any wicked man under anguish of spirit, but, were it within the reach of his power, would take away the life of God, and rid himself of his fears by destroying his Avenger.
2. Debauched persons are not without such wishes sometimes: an obstinate servant wishes his master’s death, from whom he expects correction for his debaucheries. As man stands in his corrupt nature, it is impossible but one time or other most debauched persons at least have some kind of velleities, or imperfect wishes. It is as natural to men to abhor those things which are unsuitable and troublesome, as it is to please themselves in things agreeable to their minds and humors; and since man is so deeply in love with sin, as to count it the most estimable good, he cannot but wish the abolition of that law which checks it, and, consequently, the change of the Lawgiver which enacted it; and in wishing a change in the holy nature of God, he wishes a destruction of God, who could not be God if he ceased to be immutably holy. They do as certainly wish that God had not a holy will to command them, as despairing souls wish that God had not a righteous will to punish them, and to wish conscience extinct for the molestations they receive from it, is to wish the power conscience represents out of the world also. Since the state of sinners is a state of distance from God, and the language of sinners to God is, “Depart from us;” they desire as little the continuance of his being, as they desire the knowledge of his ways; the same reason which moves them to desire God’s distance from them, would move them to desire God’s not being: since the greatest distance would be most agreeable to them, the destruction of God must be so too; because there is no greater distance from us, than in not being. Men would rather have God not to be, than themselves under control, that sensuality might range at pleasure; he is like a “heifer sliding from the yoke” (Hosea 4:16). The cursing of God in the heart, feared by Job of his children, intimates a wishing God despoiled of his authority, that their pleasure might not be damped by his law. Besides, is there any natural man that sins against actuated knowledge, but either this or wishes that God might not see him, that God might not know his actions? And is not this to wish the destruction of God, who could not be God unless he were immense and omniscient?
3. Under this rank fall those who perform external duties only out of a principle of slavish fear. Many men perform those duties that the law enjoins, with the same sentiments that slaves perform their drudgery; and are constrained in their duties by no other considerations but those of the whip and the cudgel. Since, therefore, they do it with reluctancy, and secretly murmur while they seem to obey, they would be willing that both the command were recalled, and the master that commands them were in another world. The spirit of adoption makes men act towards God as a father, a spirit of bondage only eyes him as a judge. Those that look upon their superiors as tyrannical, will not be much concerned in their welfare; and would be more glad to have their nails pared, than be under perpetual fear of them. Many men regard not the Infinite Goodness in the service of him, but consider him as cruel, tyrannical, injurious to their liberty. Adam’s posterity are not free from the sentiments of their common father, till they are regenerate. You know what conceit was the hammer whereby the hellish Jael struck the nail into our first parents, which conveyed death, together with the same imagination to all their posterity (Gen. 3:5): “God knows that in the day you eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Alas, poor souls! God knew what he did when he forbade you that fruit; he was jealous you should be too happy; it was cruelty in him to deprive you of a food so pleasant and delicious. The apprehension of the severity of God’s commands riseth up no less in desires that there were no God over us, than Adam’s apprehension of envy in God for the restraint of one tree, moved him to attempt to be equal with God: fear is as powerful to produce the one in his posterity, as pride was to produce the other in the common root. When we apprehend a thing hurtful to us, we desire so much evil to it, as may render it incapable of doing us the hurt we fear. As we wish the preservation of what we love or hope for, so we are naturally apt to wish the not being of that whence we fear some hurt or trouble. We must not understand this as if any man did formally wish the destruction of God, as God. God in himself is an infinite mirror of goodness and ravishing loveliness; he is infinitely good, and so universally good, and nothing but good; and is therefore so agreeable to a creature, as a creature, that it is impossible that the creature, while it bears itself to God as a creature, should be guilty of this, but thirst after him and cherish every motion to him. As no man wishes the destruction of any creature, as a creature, but as it may conduce to something which he counts may be beneficial to himself; so no man doth, nor perhaps can wish the cessation of the being of God, as God; for then he must wish his own being to cease also; but as he considers him clothed with some perfections, which he apprehends as injurious to him, as his holiness in forbidding sin, his justice in punishing sin; and God being judged in those perfections, contrary to what the revolted creature thinks convenient and good for himself, he may wish God stripped of those perfections, that thereby he may be free from all fear of trouble and grief from him in his fallen state. In wishing God deprived of those, he wishes God deprived of his being; because God cannot retain his deity without a love of righteousness, and hatred of iniquity; and he could not testify his love to the one, or his loathing of the other, without encouraging goodness, and witnessing his anger against iniquity. Let us now appeal to ourselves, and examine our own consciences. Did we never please ourselves sometimes in the thoughts, how happz we should be, how free in our vain pleasures, if there were no God? Have we not desired to be our own lords, without control, subject to no law but our own, and be guided by no will but that of the flesh? Did we never rage against God under his afflicting hand? Did we never wish God stripped of his holy will to command, and his righteous will to punish?
Thus much for the general. For the proof of this, many considerations will bring in evidence; most may be reduced to these two generals: Man would set himself up, first, as his own rule; secondly, as his own end and happiness.
I. Man would set himself up as his own rule instead of God. This will be evidenced in this method.
1. Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him.
2. He owns any other rule rather than that of God’s prescribing.
3. These he doth in order to the setting himself up as his own rule.
4. He makes himself not only his own rule, but he would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator.
First, Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him. It is all one to deny his royalty, and to deny his being. When we disown his authority, we disown his Godhead. It is the right of God to be the sovereign of his creatures, and it must be a very loose and trivial assent that such men have to God’s superiority over them, (and consequently to the excellency of his being, upon which that authority is founded) who are scarce at ease in themselves, but when they are invading his rights, breaking his bands, casting away his cords, and contradicting his will: Every man naturally is a son of Belial, would be without a yoke, and leap over God’s enclosures; and in breaking out against his sovereignty, we disown his being, as God, for to be God and sovereign are inseparable; he could not be God, if he were not supreme; nor could he be a Creator without being a Lawgiver. To be God and yet inferior to another, is a contradiction. To make rational creatures without prescribing them a law, is to make them without holiness, wisdom and goodness.
1. There is in man naturally an unwillingness to have any acquaintance with the rule God sets him (Psalm 14:2): “None that did understand and seek God.” The refusing instruction and casting his Word behind the back is a part of atheism. We are heavy in hearing the instructions either of law or gospel, and slow in the apprehension of what we hear. The people that God had hedged in from the wilderness of the world for his own garden, were foolish and did not know God; were sottish and had no understanding of him. The law of God is accounted a strange thing; a thing of a different climate, and a far country from the heart of man; wherewith the mind of man had no natural acquaintance, and had no desire to have any; or they regarded it as a sordid thing: what God accounts great and valuable, they account mean and despicable. Men may show a civility to a stranger, but scarce contract an intimacy: there can be no amicable agreement between the holy will of God and the heart of a depraved creature: one is holy, the other unholy; one is universally good, the other stark naught. The purity of the Divine rule renders it nauseous to the impurity of a carnal heart. Water and fire may as well friendly kiss each other and live together without quarrelling and hissing, as the holy will of God and the unregenerate heart of a fallen creature.
The nauseating a holy rule is an evidence of atheism in the heart, as the nauseating wholesome food is of putrefied phlegm in the stomach. It is found more or less in every Christian, in the remainders, though not in a full empire. As there is a law in his mind whereby he delights in the law of God, so there is a law in his members whereby he wars against the law of God (Rom. 7:22, 23, 25).
How predominant is this loathing of the law of God, when corrupt nature is in its full strength, without any principle to control it!
There is in the mind of such a one a darkness, whereby it is ignorant of it, and in the will a depravedness, whereby it is repugnant to it. If man were naturally willing and able to have an intimate acquaintance with, and delight in the law of God, it had not been such a signal favor for God to promise to “write the law in the heart.” A man may sooner engrave the chronicle of a whole nation, or all the records of God in the Scripture upon the hardest marble with his bare finger, than write one syllable of the law of God in a spiritual manner upon his heart. For,
(1.) Men are negligent in using the means for the knowledge of God’s will. All natural men are fools, who know not how to use the price God puts into their hands; they put not a due estimate upon opportunities and means of grace, and account that law folly which is the birth of an infinite and holy wisdom. The knowledge of God which they may glean from creatures, and is more pleasant to the natural gust of men, is not improved to the glory of God, if we will believe the indictment the apostle brings against the Gentiles. And most of those that have dived into the depths of nature, have been more studious of the qualities of the creatures, than of the excellency of the nature, or the discovery of the mind of God in them; who regard only the rising and motions of the star, but follow not with the wise men, its conduct to the King of the Jews. How often do we see men filled with an eager thirst for all other kind of knowledge, that cannot acquiesce in a twilight discovery, but are inquisitive into the causes and reasons of effects, yet are contented with a weak and languishing knowledge of God and his law, and are easily tired with the proposals of them! He now that nauseates the means whereby he may come to know and obey God, has no intention to make the law of God his rule. There is no man that intends seriously an end, but he intends means in order to that end: as when a man intends the preservation or recovery of his health, he will intend means in order to those ends, otherwise he cannot be said to intend his health; so he that is not diligent in using means to know the mind of God, has no sound intention to make the will and law of God his rule. Is not the inquiry after the will of God made a work by the bye, and fain to lacquey after other concerns of an inferior nature, if it hath any place at all in the soul? which is a despising the being of God.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXVII. — THE fourth passage is that of Isaiah in the same chapter. “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, the flower of grass is fallen: because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it.” (Isa. xl. 6-7). —
This Scripture appears to my friend Diatribe, to be treated with violence, by being dragged in as applicable to the causes of grace, and “Free-will.” Why so, I pray? ‘Because, (it says), Jerome understands “spirit” to signify indignation, and “flesh” to signify the infirm condition of man, which cannot stand against God.’ Here again the trifling vanities of Jerome are cast in my teeth instead of Isaiah. And I find I have more to do in fighting against that wearisomeness, with which the Diatribe with so much diligence (to use no harsher term) wears me out, than I have in fighting against the Diatribe itself. But I have given my opinion upon the sentiment of Jerome already.
Let me beg permission of the Diatribe to compare this gentleman with himself. He says ‘that “flesh,” signifies the infirm condition of man; and “spirit,” the divine indignation.’
Has then the divine indignation nothing else to “wither” but that miserable infirm condition of man, which it ought rather to raise up?
This, however, is more excellent still. ‘The “flower of grass,” is the glory which arises from the prosperity of corporal things.’
The Jews gloried in their temple, their circumcision, and their sacrifices, and the Greeks in their wisdom. Therefore, the “flower of grass,” is the glory of the flesh, the righteousness of works, and the wisdom of the world. — How then are righteousness and wisdom called by the Diatribe, ‘corporal things?’ And after all, what have these to do with Isaiah, who interprets his own meaning in his own words, saying, “Surely the people is grass?” He does not say; Surely the infirm condition of man is grass, but “the people;” and affirms it with an asseveration. And what is the people? Is it the infirm condition of man only? But whether Jerome, by ‘the infirm condition of man’ means the whole creation together, or the miserable lot and state of man only, I am sure I know not. Be it, however, which it may, he certainly makes the divine indignation to gain a glorious renown and a noble spoil, from withering a miserable creation or a race of wretched men, and not rather, from scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their seat, and sending, the rich empty away: as Mary sings! (Luke i. 51-53).
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library