1 Samuel 71 Samuel 7 1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
Samuel Judges Israel3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
What Paul was doing by this response was to show that justification is not the only image of salvation. It would be entirely mistaken to make the equation ‘salvation equals justification’. ‘Salvation’ is the comprehensive word, but it has many facets which are illustrated by different pictures, of which justification is only one. Redemption, as we have seen, is another, and bears witness to our radical deliverance from sin as well as guilt. Another is re-creation, so that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Yet another is regeneration or new birth, which is the inward work of the Holy Spirit, who then remains as a gracious indwelling presence, transforming the believer into the image of Christ, which is the process of sanctification. All these belong together. Regeneration is not an aspect of justification, but both are aspects of salvation, and neither can take place without the other. Indeed, the great affirmation ‘he saved us’ is broken down into its component parts, which are ‘the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ on the one hand and being ‘justified by his grace’ on the other (Titus 3:5–7). The justifying work of the Son and the regenerating work of the Spirit cannot be separated. It is for this reason that good works of love follow justification and new birth as their necessary evidence. For salvation, which is never ‘by works’, is always ‘unto works’. Luther used to illustrate the correct order of events by reference to the tree and its fruit: ‘The tree must be first, and then the fruit. For the apples make not the tree, but the tree makes the apples. So faith first makes the person, who afterwards brings forth works.’ (Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians)5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
Once we hold fast that the work of the Son for us and the work of the Spirit in us, that is to say, justification and regeneration, are inseparable twins, it is quite safe to go on insisting that justification is an external, legal declaration that the sinner has been put right with God, forgiven and reinstated. This is plain from the popular use of the word. As Leon Morris has pointed out, ‘when we speak of justifying an opinion or an action, we do not mean that we change or improve it. Rather we mean that we secure a verdict for it, we vindicate it’. (The Cross in The New Testament) Similarly, when Luke says that everybody, on hearing Jesus’ teaching, ‘justified God’, what he means is that they ‘acknowledged that God’s way was right’ (Luke 7:29). The Cross of Christ
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
1 Samuel 8
Israel Demands a King1 Samuel 8 1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
Samuel's Warning Against Kings10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[c] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The Lord Grants Israel's Request19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Romans 6 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Slaves to Righteousness15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Judgment for IdolatryJeremiah 44 1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Judeans who lived in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, 3 because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers. 4 Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’ 5 But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods. 6 Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day. 7 And now thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, infant and child, from the midst of Judah, leaving you no remnant? 8 Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth? 9 Have you forgotten the evil of your fathers, the evil of the kings of Judah, the evil of their wives, your own evil, and the evil of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your fathers.
11 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set my face against you for harm, to cut off all Judah. 12 I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to come to the land of Egypt to live, and they shall all be consumed. In the land of Egypt they shall fall; by the sword and by famine they shall be consumed. From the least to the greatest, they shall die by the sword and by famine, and they shall become an oath, a horror, a curse, and a taunt. 13 I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, 14 so that none of the remnant of Judah who have come to live in the land of Egypt shall escape or survive or return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return to dwell there. For they shall not return, except some fugitives.”
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. 17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. 18 But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” 19 And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands' approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”
20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who had given him this answer: 21 “As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your officials, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them? Did it not come into his mind? 22 The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. 23 It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.”
24 Jeremiah said to all the people and all the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt. 25 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have declared with your mouths, and have fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will surely perform our vows that we have made, to make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her.’ Then confirm your vows and perform your vows! 26 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by my great name, says the Lord, that my name shall no more be invoked by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, ‘As the Lord God lives.’ 27 Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good. All the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end of them. 28 And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who came to the land of Egypt to live, shall know whose word will stand, mine or theirs. 29 This shall be the sign to you, declares the Lord, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm: 30 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and sought his life.”
Trust in the Name of the Lord Our GodTo the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. See Psalm 20 article below
Psalm 20 1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart's desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
9 O Lord, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.
The King Rejoices in the Lord's StrengthTo the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. See Psalm 21 article below
Psalm 21 1 O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2 You have given him his heart's desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3 For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6 For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
8 Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9 You will make them as a blazing oven
when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
11 Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.
13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
What I'm Reading
Psalm 20 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)SUBJECT. We have before us a National Anthem, fitted to be sung at the outbreak of war, when the monarch was girding on his sword for the fight. If David had not been vexed with wars, we might never have been favoured with such Psalms as this. There is a needs be for the trials of one saint, that he may yield consolation to others. A happy people here plead for a beloved sovereign, and with loving hearts cry to Jehovah, "God save the King." We gather that this song was intended to be sung in public, not only from the matter of the song, but also from its dedication "To the Chief Musician." We know its author to have been Israel's sweet singer, from the short title, "A Psalm of David." The particular occasion which suggested it, it would be mere folly to conjecture, for Israel was almost always at war in David's day. His sword may have been hacked, but it was never rusted. Kimchi reads the title, concerning David, or, for David, and it is clear that the king is the subject as well as the composer of the song. It needs but a moment's reflection to perceive that this hymn of prayer is prophetical of our Lord Jesus, and is the cry of the ancient church on behalf of her Lord, as she sees him in vision enduring a great fight of afflictions on her behalf. The militant people of God, with the great Captain of salvation at their head, may still in earnest plead that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in his hand. We shall endeavour to keep to this view of the subject in our brief exposition, but we cannot entirely restrict out remarks to it.
DIVISION. The first four verses are a prayer for the success of the king. Verses 5, 6, and 7 express unwavering confidence in God and his Anointed; verse 8. declares the defeat of the foe, and verse 9 is a concluding appeal to Jehovah.
Verse 1. "The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble." All loyal subjects pray for their king, and most certainly citizens of Zion have good cause to pray for the Prince of Peace. In times of conflict loving subjects redouble their pleas, and surely in the sorrows of our Lord his church could not but be in earnest. All the Saviour's days were days of trouble, and he also made them days of prayer; the church joins her intercession with her Lord's, and pleads that he may be heard in his cries and tears. The agony in the garden was especially a gloomy hour, but he was heard in that he feared. He knew that his Father heard him always, yet in that troublous hour no reply came until thrice he had fallen on his face in the garden; then sufficient strength was given in answer to prayer, and he rose a victor from the conflict. On the cross also his prayer was not unheard, for in the twenty-second Psalm he tells us, "thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." The church in this verse implies that her Lord would be himself much given to prayer; in this he is our example, teaching us that if we are to receive any advantage from the prayers of others, we must first pray for ourselves. What a mercy that we may pray in the day of trouble, and what a still more blessed privilege that no trouble can prevent the Lord from hearing us! Troubles roar like thunder, but the believer's voice will be heard above the storm. O Jesus, when thou pleadest for us in our hour of trouble, the Lord Jehovah will hear thee. This is a most refreshing confidence, and it may be indulged in without fear. "Jesu's tremendous name
"The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;" or, as some read it, "set thee in a high place." By "the name" is meant the revealed character and Word of God; we are not to worship "the unknown God," but we should seek to know the covenant God of Jacob, who has been pleased to reveal his name and attributes to his people. There may be much in a royal name, or a learned name, or a venerable name, but it will be a theme for heavenly scholarship to discover all that is contained in the divine name. The glorious power of God defended and preserved the Lord Jesus through the battle of his life and death, and exalted him above all his enemies. His warfare is now accomplished in his own proper person, but in his mystical body, the church, he is still beset with dangers, and only the eternal arm of our God in covenant can defend the soldiers of the cross, and set them on high out of the reach of their foes. The day of trouble is not over, the pleading Saviour is not silent, and the name of the God of Israel is still the defence of the faithful. The name, "God of Jacob," is suggestive; Jacob had his day of trouble, he wrestled, was heard, was defended, and in due time was set on high, and his God is our God still, the same God to all his wrestling Jacobs. The whole verse is a very fitting benediction to be pronounced by a gracious heart over a child, a friend, or a minister, in prospect of trial; it includes both temporal and spiritual protection, and directs the mind to the great source of all good. How delightful to believe that our heavenly Father has pronounced it upon our favoured heads!
Verse 2. "Send thee help from the sanctuary." Out of heaven's sanctuary came the angel to strengthen our Lord, and from the precious remembrance of God's doings in his sanctuary our Lord refreshed himself when on the tree. There is no help like that which is of God's sending, and no deliverance like that which comes out of his sanctuary. The sanctuary to us is the person of our blessed Lord, who was typified by the temple, and is the true sanctuary which God has pitched, and not man: let us fly to the cross for shelter in all times of need and help will be sent to us. Men of the world despise sanctuary help, but our hearts have learned to prize it beyond all material aid. They seek help out of the armoury, or the treasury, or the buttery, but we turn to the sanctuary. "And strengthen thee out of Zion." Out of the assemblies of the pleading saints who had for ages prayed for their Lord, help might well result to the despised sufferer, for praying breath is never spent in vain. To the Lord's mystical body the richest comes in answer to the pleadings of his saints assembled for holy worship as his Zion. Certain advertisers recommend a strengthening plaster, but nothing can give such strength to the loins of a saint as waiting upon God in the assemblies of his people. This verse is a benediction befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a church to its minister. God in the sanctuary of his dear Son's person, and in the city of his chosen church is the proper object of his people's prayers, and under such a character may they confidently look to him for his promised aid.
Verse 3. "Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice. Selah." Before war kings offered sacrifice, upon the acceptance of which the depended for success; our blessed Lord presented himself as a victim, and was a sweet savour unto the Most High, and then he met and routed the embattled legions of hell. Still does his burnt sacrifice perfume the courts of heaven, and through him the offerings of his people are received as his sacrifices and oblations. We ought in our spiritual conflicts to have an eye to the sacrifice of Jesus, and never venture to war until first the Lord has given us a token for good at the altar of the cross, where faith beholds her bleeding Lord. "Selah." It is well to pause at the cross before we march onward to battle, and with the psalmist cry "Selah." We are too much in a hurry to make good haste. A little pausing might greatly help our speed. Stay, good man, there is a haste which hinders; rest awhile, meditate on the burnt sacrifice, and put thy heart right for the stern work which lieth before thee.
Verse 4. "Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel." Christ's desire and counsel were both set upon the salvation of his people; the church of old desired for him good speed in his design, and the church in these latter days, with all her heart desires the complete fulfilment of his purpose. In Christ Jesus sanctified souls may appropriate this verse as a promise; they shall have their desire, and their plans to glorify their Master shall succeed. We may have our own will, when our will is God's will. This was always the case with our Lord, and yet he said, "not as I will, but as thou wilt." What need for submission in our case; if it was necessary to him, how much more for us?
Verse 5. "We will rejoice in thy salvation." In Jesus there is salvation; it is his own, and hence it is called thy salvation; but it is ours to receive and ours to rejoice in. We should fixedly resolve that come what may, we will rejoice in the saving arm of the Lord Jesus. The people in this Psalm, before their king went to battle, felt sure of victory, and therefore began to rejoice beforehand; how much more ought we to do this who have seen the victory completely won! Unbelief begins weeping for the funeral before the man is dead; why should not faith commence piping before the dance of victory begins? Buds are beautiful, and promises not yet fulfilled are worthy to be admired. If joy were more general among the Lord's people, God would be more glorified among men; the happiness of the subjects is the honour of the sovereign. "And in the name of our God we will set up our banners." We lift the standard of defiance in the face of the foe, and wave the flag of victory over the fallen adversary. Some proclaim war in the name of one king, and some of another, but the faithful go to war in Jesu's name, the name of the incarnate God, Immanuel, God with us. The times are evil at present, but so long as Jesus lives and reigns in his church we need not furl our banners in fear, but advance them with sacred courage.
Puts all our foes to flight;
Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb
A lion is in fight."
Verse 6. "Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed." We live and learn, and what we learn we are not ashamed to acknowledge. He who thinks he knows everything will miss the joy of finding out new truth; he will never be able to cry, "now know I," for he is so wise in his own conceit that he knows all that can be revealed and more. Souls conscious of ignorance shall be taught of the Lord, and rejoice as they learn. Earnest prayer frequently leads to assured confidence. The church pleaded that the Lord Jesus might win the victory in his great struggle, and now by faith she sees him saved by the omnipotent arm. She evidently finds a sweet relish in the fragrant title of "anointed;" she thinks of him as ordained before all worlds to his great work, and then endowed with the needful qualifications by being anointed of the Spirit of the Lord; and this is evermore the choicest solace of the believer, that Jehovah himself hath anointed Jesus to be a Prince and a Saviour, and that our shield is thus the Lord's own anointed. "He will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand." It is here asserted confidently that God's holiness and power would both come to the rescue of the Saviour in his conflict, and surely these two glorious attributes found congenial work in answering the sufferer's cries. Since Jesus was heard, we shall be; God is in heaven, but our prayers can scale those glorious heights; those heavens are holy, but Jesus purifies our prayers, and so they gain admittance; our need is great, but the divine arm is strong, and all its strength is "saving strength;" that strength, moreover, is in the hand which is most used and which is used most readily—the right hand. What encouragements are these for pleading saints!
Verse 6. Contrasts frequently bring out the truth vividly, and here the church sets forth the creature confidences of carnal men in contrast with her reliance upon the Prince Immanuel and the invisible Jehovah. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses." Chariots and horses make an imposing show, and with their rattling, and dust, and fine caparisons, make so great a figure that vain man is much taken with them; yet the discerning eye of faith sees more in an invisible God than in all these. The most dreaded war-engine of David's day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass: this was the boast and glory of the neighbouring nations; but the saints considered the name of Jehovah to be a far better defence. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was natural for them to regard the enemy's calvary with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord of hosts. Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord's are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all. Jesus, be thou alone our rock and refuge, and never may we mar the simplicity of our faith. "We will remember the name of the Lord our God." "Our God" in covenant, who has chosen us and whom we have chosen; this God is our God. The name of our God is JEHOVAH, and this should never be forgotten; the self-existent, independent, immutable, ever-present, all-filling I AM. Let us adore that matchless name, and never dishonour it by distrust or creature confidence. Reader, you must know it before you can remember it. May the blessed Spirit reveal it graciously to your soul!
Verse 8. How different the end of those whose trusts are different! The enemies of God are uppermost at first, but they ere long are brought down by force, or else fall of their own accord. Their foundation is rotten, and therefore when the time comes it gives way under them; their chariots are burned in the fire, and their horses die of pestilence, and where is their boasted strength? As for those who rest on Jehovah, they are often cast down at the first onset, but an Almighty arm uplifts them, and they joyfully stand upright. The victory of Jesus is the inheritance of his people. The world, death, Satan, and sin, shall all be trampled beneath the feet of the champions of faith; while those who rely upon an arm of flesh shall be ashamed and confounded for ever.
Verse 9. The Psalm is here recapitulated. That Jesus might himself be delivered, and might then, as our King, hear us, is the two-fold desire of the Psalm. The first request is granted, and the second is sure to all the seed; and therefore we may close the Psalm with the hearty shout, "God save the King." "God save King Jesus, and may he soon come to reign."
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).
"Jesu's tremendous name
Psalm 21 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)SUBJECT. The title gives us but little information; it is simply, To the chief Musician, a Psalm of David. Probably written by David, sung by David, relating to David, and intended by David to refer in its fullest reach of meaning to David's Lord. It is evidently the fit companion of Psalm Twenty, and is in its proper position next to it. Psalm Twenty anticipates what this regards as realized. If we pray to-day for a benefit and receive it, we must, ere the sun goes down, praise God for that mercy, or we deserve to be denied the next time. It has been called David's triumphant song, and we may remember it as The Royal Triumphal Ode. "The king" is most prominent throughout, and we shall read it to true profit if our meditation of him shall be sweet while perusing it. We must crown him with the glory of our salvation; singing of his love, and praising his power, The next Psalm will take us to the foot of the cross, this introduces us to the steps of the throne.
DIVISION. The division of the translators will answer every purpose. A thanksgiving for victory, verses 1 to 6. Confidence of further success, verses 7 to 13.
Verse 1. "The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord." Jesus is a Royal Personage. The question, "Art thou a King then?" received a full answer from the Saviour's lips: "Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth." He is not merely a King, but the King; King over minds and hearts, reigning with a dominion of love, before which all other rule is but mere brute force. He was proclaimed King even on the cross, for there, indeed, to the eye of faith, he reigned as on a throne, blessing with more than imperial munificence the needy sons of earth. Jesus has wrought out the salvation of his people, but as a man he found his strength in Jehovah his God, to whom he addressed himself in prayer upon the lonely mountain's side, and in the garden's solitary gloom. That strength so abundantly given is here gratefully acknowledged, and made the subject of joy. The Man of Sorrows is now anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Returned in triumph from the overthrow of all his foes, he offers his own rapturous Te Deum in the temple above, and joys in the power of the Lord. Herein let every subject of King Jesus imitate the King; let us lean upon Jehovah's strength, let us joy in it by unstaggering faith, let us exult in it in our thankful songs. Jesus not only has thus rejoiced, but he shall do so as he sees the power of divine grace bringing out from their sinful hiding-places the purchase of his soul's travail; we also shall rejoice more and more as we learn by experience more and more fully the strength of the arm of our covenant God. Our weakness unstrings our harps, but his strength tunes them anew. If we cannot sing a note in honour of our own strength, we can at any rate rejoice in our omnipotent God. "Let him be crowned with majesty
"And in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!" Everything is ascribed to God; the source is thy strength and the stream is thy salvation. Jehovah planned and ordained it, works it and crowns it, and therefore it is his salvation. The joy here spoken of is described by a note of exclamation and a word of wonder: "how greatly!" The rejoicing of our risen Lord must, like his agony, be unutterable. If the mountains of his joy rise in proportion to the depth of the valleys of his grief, then his sacred bliss is high as the seventh heaven. For the joy which was set before him as he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now that joy daily grows, for he rests in his love and rejoices over his redeemed with singing, as in due order they are brought to find their salvation in his blood. Let us with our Lord rejoice in salvation, as coming from God, as coming to us, as extending itself to others, and as soon to encompass all lands. We need not be afraid of too much rejoicing in this respect; this solid foundation will well sustain the loftiest edifice of joy. The shoutings of the early methodists in the excitement of the joy were far more pardonable than our own lukewarmness. Our joy should have some sort of inexpressibleness in it.
Verse 2. "Thou hast given him his heart's desire." That desire he ardently pursued when he was on earth, both by his prayer, his actions, and his suffering; he manifested that his heart longed to redeem his people, and now in heaven he has his desire granted him, for he sees his beloved coming to be with him where he is. The desires of the Lord Jesus were from his heart, and the Lord heard them; if our hearts are right with God, he will in our case also "fulfil the desires of them that fear him."
"And hast not withholden the request of his lips." What is in the well of the heart is sure to come up in the bucket of the lips, and those are the only true prayers where the heart's desire is first, and the lip's request follows after. Jesus prayed vocally as well as mentally; speech is a great assistance to thought. Some of us feel that even when alone we find it easier to collect our thoughts when we can pray aloud. The requests of the Saviour were not withheld. He was and still is a prevailing Pleader. Our Advocate on high returns not empty from the throne of grace. He asked for his elect in the eternal council-chamber, he asked for blessings for them here, he asked for glory for them hereafter, and his requests have speeded. He is ready to ask for us at the mercy-seat. Have we not at this hour some desire to send up to his Father by him? Let us not be slack to use our willing, loving, all-prevailing Intercessor.
"Selah." Here a pause is very properly inserted that we may admire the blessed success of the king's prayers, and that we may prepare our own requests which may be presented through him. If we had a few more quiet rests, a few more Selahs in our public worship, it might be profitable.
Verse 3. "For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness." The word prevent formerly signified to precede or go before, and assuredly Jehovah preceded his Son with blessings. Before he died saints were saved by the anticipated merit of his death, before he came believers saw his day and were glad, and he himself had his delights with the sons of men. The Father is so willing to give blessings through his Son, that instead of his being constrained to bestow his grace, he outstrips the Mediatorial march of mercy. "I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you." Before Jesus calls the Father answers, and while he is yet speaking he hears. Mercies may be bought with blood, but they are also freely given. The love of Jehovah is not caused by the Redeemer's sacrifice, but that love, with its blessings of goodness, preceded the great atonement, and provided it for our salvation. Reader, it will be a happy thing for thee if, like thy Lord, thou canst see both providence and grace preceding thee, forestalling thy needs, and preparing thy path. Mercy, in the case of many of us, ran before our desires and prayers, and it ever outruns our endeavours and expectancies, and even our hopes are left to lag behind. Prevenient grace deserves a song; we may make one out of this sentence; let us try. All our mercies are to be viewed as "blessings;" gifts of a blessed God, meant to make us blessed; they are "blessings of goodness," not of merit, but of free favour; and they come to us in a preventing way, a way of prudent foresight, such as only preventing love could have arranged. In this light the verse is itself a sonnet!
"Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head." Jesus wore the thorn-crown, but now wears the glory-crown. It is a "crown," indicating royal nature, imperial power, deserved honour, glorious conquest, and divine government. The crown is of the richest, rarest, most resplendent, and most lasting order—"gold," and that gold of the most refined and valuable sort, "pure gold," to indicate the excellence of his dominion. This crown is set upon his head most firmly, and whereas other monarchs find their diadems fitting loosely, his is fixed so that no power can move it, for Jehovah himself has set it upon his brow. Napoleon crowned himself, but Jehovah crowned the Lord Jesus; the empire of the one melted in an hour, but the other has an abiding dominion. Some versions read, "a crown of precious stones;" this may remind us of those beloved ones who shall be as jewels in his crown, of whom he has said, "They shall be mine in the day when I make up my jewels." May we be set in the golden circlet of the Redeemer's glory, and adorn his head for ever!
Verse 4. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever." The first words may suit King David, but the length of days for ever and ever can only refer to the King Messiah. Jesus, as man, prayed for resurrection and he received it, and now possesses it in immortality. He died once, but being raised from the dead he dieth no more. "Because I live, ye shall live also," is the delightful intimation which the Saviour gives us, that we are partakers of his eternal life. We had never found this jewel, if he had not rolled away the stone which covered it.
Verse 5. "His glory is great in thy salvation." Immanuel bears the palm; he once bore the cross. The Father has glorified the Son, so that there is no glory like unto that which surroundeth him. See his person as it is described by John in the Revelation; see his dominion as it stretches from sea to sea; see his splendour as he is revealed in flaming fire. Lord, who is like unto thee? Solomon in all his glory could not be compared with thee, thou once despised Man of Nazareth! Mark, reader: salvation is ascribed to God; and thus the Son, as our Saviour, magnifies his Father; but the Son's glory is also greatly seen, for the Father glorifies his Son.
"Honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him." Parkhurst reads, "splendour and beauty." These are put upon Jesus as chains of gold, and stars and tokens of honour are placed upon princes and great men. As the wood of the tabernacle was overlaid with pure gold, so is Jesus covered with glory and honour. If there be a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for his humble followers, what must there be for our Lord himself? The whole weight of sin was laid upon him; it is but meet that the full measure of the glory of bearing it away should be laid upon the same beloved person. A glory commensurate with his shame he must and will receive, for well has he earned it. It is not possible for us to honour Jesus too much; what our God delights to do, we may certainly do to our utmost. Oh for new crowns for the lofty brow which once was marred with thorns!
Who bowed his head to death,
And be his honours sounded high
By all things that have breath."
"Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance." He who is a blessing to others cannot but be glad himself; the unbounded good-doing of Jesus ensures him unlimited joy. The loving favour of his Father, the countenance of God, gives Jesus exceeding joy. This is the purest stream to drink of, and Jesus chooses no other. His joy is full. Its source is divine. Its continuance is eternal. Its degree exceeding all bounds. The countenance of God makes the Prince of Heaven glad; how ought we to seek it, and how careful should we be lest we should provoke him by our sins to hide his face from us! Our anticipations may cheerfully fly forward to the hour when the joy of our Lord shall be shed abroad on all the saints, and the countenance of Jehovah shall shine upon all the blood-bought. So shall we "enter into the joy of our Lord."
So far all has been "the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast." Let us shout and sing with them, for Jesus is our King, and in his triumphs we share a part.
Verse 7. "For the king trusteth in the Lord." Our Lord, like a true King and leader, was a master in the use of the weapons, and could handle well the shield of faith, for he has set us a brilliant example of unwavering confidence in God. He felt himself safe in his Father's care until his hour was come, he knew that he was always heard in heaven; he committed his cause to him that judgeth right, and in his last moments he committed his spirit into the same hands. The joy expressed in the former verses was the joy of faith, and the victory achieved was due to the same precious grace. A holy confidence in Jehovah is the true mother of victories. This Psalm of triumph was composed long before our Lord's conflict began, but faith overleaps the boundaries of time, and chants her "Io triumphe," while yet she sings her battle song.
"Through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved." Eternal mercy secures the mediatorial throne of Jesus. He who is Most High in every sense, engages all his infinite perfections to maintain the throne of grace upon which our King in Zion reigns. He was not moved from his purpose, nor in his sufferings, nor by his enemies, nor shall he be moved from the completion of his designs. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Other empires are dissolved by the lapse of years, but eternal mercy maintains his growing dominion evermore; other kings fail because they rest upon an arm of flesh, but our monarch reigns on in splendour because he trusteth in Jehovah. It is a great display of divine mercy to men that the throne of King Jesus is still among them: nothing but divine mercy could sustain it, for human malice would overturn it to-morrow if it could. We ought to trust in God for the promotion of the Redeemer's kingdom, for in Jehovah the King himself trusts: all unbelieving methods of action, and especially all reliance upon mere human ability, should be for ever discarded from a kingdom where the monarch sets the examples of walking by faith in God.
Verse 8. "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee." The destruction of the wicked is a fitting subject for joy to the friends of righteousness; hence here, and in most scriptural songs, it is noted with calm thanksgiving. "Thou hast put down the mighty from their seats," is a note of the same song which sings, "and hast exalted them of low degree." We pity the lost for they are men, but we cannot pity them as enemies of Christ. None can escape from the wrath of the victorious King, nor is it desirable that they should. Without looking for his flying foes he will find them with his hand, for his presence is about and around them. In vain shall any hope for escape, he will find out all, and be able to punish all, and that too with the ease and rapidity which belong to the warrior's right hand. The finding out relates, we think, not only to the discovery of the hiding places of the haters of God, but to the touching of them in their tenderest parts, so as to cause the severest suffering. When he appears to judge the world hard hearts will be subdued into terror, and proud spirits humbled into shame. He who has the key of human nature can touch all its springs at his will, and find out the means of bringing the utmost confusion and terror upon those who aforetime boastfully expressed their hatred of him.
Verse 9. "Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger." They themselves shall be an oven to themselves, and so their own tormentors. Those who burned with anger against thee shall be burned by thine anger. The fire of sin will be followed by the fire of wrath. Even as the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah went up to heaven, so shall the enemies of the Lord Jesus be utterly and terribly consumed. Some read it, "thou shalt put them as it were into a furnace of fire." Like faggots cast into an oven they shall burn furiously beneath the anger of the Lord; "they shall be cast into a furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." These are terrible words, and those teachers do not well who endeavour by their sophistical reasonings to weaken their force. Reader, never tolerate slight thoughts of hell, or you will soon have low thoughts of sin. The hell of sinners must be fearful beyond all conception, or such language as the present would not be used. Who would have the Son of God to be his enemy when such an overthrow awaits his foes? The expression, "the time of thine anger," reminds us that as now is the time of his grace, so there will be a set time for his wrath. The judge goes upon assize at an appointed time. There is a day of vengeance of our God; let those who despise the day of grace remember this day of wrath.
"The Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them." Jehovah will himself visit with his anger the enemies of his Son. The Lord Jesus will, as it were, judge by commission from God, whose solemn assent and co-operation shall be with him in his sentences upon impenitent sinners. An utter destruction of soul and body, so that both shall be swallowed up with misery, and be devoured with anguish, is here intended. Oh, the wrath to come! The wrath to come! Who can endure it? Lord, save us from it, for Jesu's sake.
Verse 10. "Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth." Their life's work shall be a failure, and the result of their toil shall be disappointment. That in which they prided themselves shall be forgotten; their very names shall be wiped out as abominable, "and their seed from among the children of men." Their posterity following in their footsteps shall meet with a similar overthrow, till at last the race shall come to an end. Doubtless the blessing of God is often handed down by the righteous to their sons, as almost a heirloom in the family, while the dying sinner bequeaths a curse to his descendants. If men will hate the Son of God, they must not wonder if their own sons meet with no favour.
Verse 11. "For they intended evil against thee." God takes notice of intentions. He who would but could not is as guilty as he who did. Christ's church and cause are not only attacked by those who do not understand it, but there are many who have the light and yet hate it. Intentional evil has a virus in it which is not found in sins of ignorance; now as ungodly men with malice aforethought attack the gospel of Christ, their crime is great, and their punishment will be proportionate. The words "against thee" show us that he who intends evil against the poorest believer means ill to the King himself: let persecutors beware.
"They imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform." Want of power is the clog on the foot of the haters of the Lord Jesus. They have the wickedness to imagine, and the cunning to devise, and the malice to plot mischief, but blessed be God, they fail in ability; yet they shall be judged as to their hearts, and the will shall be taken for the deed in the great day of account. When we read the boastful threatenings of the enemies of the gospel at the present day, we may close our reading by cheerfully repeating, "which they are not able to perform." The serpent may hiss, but his head is broken; the lion may worry, but he cannot devour: the tempest may thunder, but cannot strike. Old Giant Pope bites his nails at the pilgrims, but he cannot pick their bones as aforetime. Growling forth a hideous "non possumus," the devil and all his allies retire in dismay from the walls of Zion, for the Lord is there.
Verse 12. "Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them." For a time the foes of God may make bold advances, and threaten to overthrow everything, but a few ticks of the clock will alter the face of their affairs. At first they advance impudently enough, but Jehovah meets them to their teeth, and a taste of the sharp judgment of God speedily makes them flee in dismay. The original has in it the thought of the wicked being set as a butt for God to shoot at, a target for his wrath to aim at. What a dreadful situation! As an illustration upon a large scale, remember Jerusalem during the siege; and for a specimen in an individual, read the story of the death-bed of Francis Spira. God takes sure aim; who would be his target? His arrows are sharp and transfix the heart; who would wish to be wounded by them? Ah, ye enemies of God, your boastings will soon be over when once the shafts begin to fly!
Verse 13. "Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength." A sweet concluding verse. Our hearts shall join in it. It is always right to praise the Lord when we call to remembrance his goodness to his Son, and the overthrow of his foes. The exaltation of the name of God should be the business of every Christian; but since such poor things as we fail to honour him as he deserves, we may invoke his own power to aid us. Be high, O God, but do thou maintain thy loftiness by thine own almightiness, for no other power can worthily do it.
"So will we sing and praise thy power." For a time the saints may mourn, but the glorious appearance of their divine Helper awakens their joy. Joy should always flow in the channel of praise. All the attributes of God are fitting subjects to be celebrated by the music of our hearts and voices, and when we observe a display of his power, we must extol it. He wrought our deliverance alone, and he alone shall have the praise.
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).
"Let him be crowned with majesty
Smart is Not a Fruit
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/01/2012
Leave it to Reformed people to miss the point. When Paul describes the body of Christ as a body, part of which includes hands, ears, and so forth, we are quick to mark our territory — we are the brain of the church. We are the ones who are so rightly careful about our theology. The great minds of the church have been Reformed, and one could certainly argue that the greatest mind, theological or otherwise, ever to grace our North American shores was one Jonathan Edwards.
There is no question the man had a towering intellect. We would be wise to sit at his feet and learn from him. Edwards on the will is unanswerable genius. Edwards on the Trinity will make your head spin. Edwards was a titanic mind whose brilliance was overshadowed only by his earnest and passionate heart. Should we embrace the theological wisdom of Edwards? Of course, by all means. It would be better still, however, if we would just taste of his soul’s devotion.
We do not, of course, increase the fervor of our emotions by dimming the capacity of our brains. Neither, however, will we ever bear the fruit of the Spirit if the seed of the Word is planted only in the rocky soil of our brains rather than the fertile soil of the heart. We surely must know Him to love Him. We surely must study Him to know Him. But no one has studied Him more thoroughly than the Devil, and it hasn’t done him a bit of good.
Just a few weeks ago, as I write, Reformation Bible College opened its doors for the first time. The first class I taught has a rather pretentious name: ST101 Theological Prolegomena. This highbrow title translates roughly into “Introduction to Systematic Theology.” It is the study we do before we begin our study.
Historically, such a class would begin, logically enough, with the doctrine of revelation, exploring how God reveals Himself in His Word and nature. It would consider issues of the canon and various theories of inspiration. We will, eventually, get to those important issues. In another semester, we will turn our attention to what we call “theology proper,” the actual study of God’s nature and attributes. Despite the subject matter of that future class, we began this first class with a classic work, The Holiness of God.
My fear, as I looked out at that first class, was that we would fall into the trap that has captured so many Reformed people. I feared that even with the glorious truths of Scripture, we might end up tickling ears. I would be guilty of ear tickling if, in my teaching, I encouraged the students to conclude, “What a smart person I am,” rather than, “What a glorious gospel has rescued such a wretched sinner as me.” I wanted, through studying this book together, for us all to look to the mirror of His character and glory so that we would never lose sight of just how vile we are. I wanted us to understand something of the scope of His transcendence lest we should ever be tempted to conclude that our studies had reached into the heavens like the Tower of Babel. I feared for my students precisely because I remembered what I was like as a student. What a clever Devil we battle with, who can turn our study of sound theology into an occasion for pride.
We will not begin to get better until we embrace this obvious truth: smart is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Of course we are to love God with all our minds. But we are to love God with all our minds, not merely understand Him. When our knowledge cannot traverse the distance from our heads down to our hearts, we are suffering from spiritual emptiness. We will not begin to get better until we come to embrace this obvious truth: we come into the kingdom not as scholars or students, but as children.
We will not, in short, get better unless and until we learn to stop pursuing academic respectability and start seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are to put behind us all our earthly worries. We are to stop seeking those things that the Gentiles seek.
The fruit of love, in the end, is the fruit of the Spirit. Love begets love. Love bears joy. Love bestows peace. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: all these break forth like the great bunches of grapes the twelve Israelite spies found in the Promised Land. None of these, however, come forth from the barren soil of our intellectual curiosity, far less the scorched earth of intellectual pride.
Edwards was a great man of God. He was so, however, because he aspired to be a man of God rather than a great man. That his descendants were senators and governors, professors and college presidents, meant not a thing to him. That they would humbly follow the carpenter’s Son from Galilee — that was what he hoped, prayed, and worked for. That is the fruit of charity.
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
A Child’s (Mis)understanding
By Keith Mathison 2/01/2012
Like many, I have watched my fair share of films over the years, and the vast majority have been quite forgettable. There are a small number that I enjoyed enough to purchase in order to watch them again. But there are very, very few that were so powerful in one way or another that they have stayed with me years after seeing them. (I am still not sure I will ever forgive Walt Disney for the trauma inflicted by Old Yeller.)
When I think about the films I’ve seen as an adult that have really stayed with me, three come to mind. One is The Straight Story, a film based on the true story of seventy-three-year-old Alvin Straight, who drove his riding lawnmower 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother, who had recently suffered a stroke. The look on his brother’s face when he realizes what Alvin has done is deeply moving.
Two foreign-language films also fall into this category. The first, Sophie Scholl, is a German film based on the true story of a teenage girl who was arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets during WWII. Again, the final scene is powerful, but the questions this movie makes you ask about yourself and what you would have done in that situation are what stay with you long after the credits roll.
The second foreign-language film that I have never been able to forget is Ponette, a French film about a fouryear-old girl attempting to deal with the death of her mother. Ponette is not an easy film to watch. There are few things more heart-wrenching than the grief of a young child, and the performance of the young actress portraying Ponette is truly nothing short of amazing. The most fascinating aspect of the film for me, however, had to do with the questions it raised about the way young children interpret (and misinterpret) the words of adults.
In the film, Ponette’s father is an atheist, and he tells her very bluntly that her mother is gone. While dealing with his own grief, he leaves his child with her aunt and uncle, who are devout Roman Catholics. In an attempt to console Ponette, her aunt tells her the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In her four-year-old mind, Ponette takes this to mean that if she waits a few days, her mother will come back to her. Her aunt and uncle do not realize how Ponette has misunderstood them and, therefore, never really clarify things for her. Neither do they realize how devastated she is when her expectation fails to be realized. The advice Ponette’s four-year-old friends give her throughout the remainder of the film puts her through an emotional wringer, but misunderstanding them is far less serious than misunderstanding the relevance of Christ’s resurrection to her situation.
As Christians, we are called to teach our children. But how often do we simply take for granted that they have comprehended the meaning of our words? And do we consider the damage that can be done if they misinterpret us without our realizing it? Very young children are in the process of learning the basic rules of grammar through imitation and use. Their vocabulary is also growing—sometimes by inventing their own words. (My daughter came up with the word “foosies” for “flowers” when she was very young.) But young children often make mistakes in their use of the language as they learn it, and they do not always automatically grasp the proper denotations or connotations of every word and phrase they hear.
Confusing the meaning of the words restaurant and restroom as a child, while potentially embarrasing, is one thing. However, confusing the meaning of the words of Scripture or the basics of Christian theology is quite another. Anyone who teaches young children has to stop and think about the words he uses when communicating to them. We should not assume that the thoughts in our minds are effectively communicated without distortion to the minds of the children. It is vitally important to ask children what they have understood us to say.
What do they hear you, your pastors, or their Sunday school teachers saying about God when they hear talk about “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”? What do they hear us saying when we say we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s “only begotten Son”? What do they hear if we use the words “Holy Ghost”? Do they understand what is being said when we use words like heaven, faith, soul, or salvation? We can only find out by asking them.
If they do require further explanation, the next question is this: Are we equipped to do the explaining? Can we clarify the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, to a young child? It is a self-evident truth that we cannot teach what we do not know, and we cannot explain what we do not ourselves understand. The study of Scripture and theology is simply not a luxury for those entrusted with children. It is a necessity.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Soft Hearts, Solid Spines
By Joe Holland 2/01/2012
The Internet allows unprecedented opportunity for communication between Christians from different theological traditions. The results have not been pretty. Comment threads are the Devil’s playground and blogs his amusement park. And even if we exclude online media, theological bickering between Christians is and has been pervasive. Regrettably, Christians who hold to the Reformed confessions are often viewed by other Christians outside our tradition as some of the least winsome members of what we call the communion of the saints.
The command to love has been lost by us, if not lost on us. But how can the theologically astute love their equally theologically astute brothers and sisters across contentious theological and denominational lines? The solution is in the life, death, and love-commanding witness of Jesus.
Consider Jesus’ silence for a moment. As a weekly synagogue attender and itinerant preacher, Jesus was bombarded with heterodoxy, moralistic deism, theological mush, progressive nationalism, and spiritual immaturity. And I’m only speaking of what came from devout Jews. Jesus was able and entitled to rebuke the slightest theological imprecision among the faithful at any moment. But when we consider how much theological correction He could have done, His silence speaks more than His teaching. Jesus did not draw attention to every theological imprecision that He heard. He loved sinners and was patient with their theological inaccuracy and spiritual immaturity.
Next, consider Jesus’s admonition concerning those whom the disciples labeled as outsiders. In Luke 9:49–50, we find a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name even though he was not one of the twelve. John bristled at the notion of commending this rogue exorcist who lacked the kind of theological instruction that the twelve were receiving. But Jesus’ command was just the opposite. He said, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Jesus commended the ministry of a man who lacked knowledge of the finer points of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus also loved and encouraged the less theologically astute. Consider Jesus’ new command: “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34). The shadow of the cross falls on John 13. But how would the world know that these men and women were followers of Jesus? Would they be known by their rigorous theological debate? No. According to Jesus, they would be known by their rigorous love for one another.
Love for all Christians is the common ground between orthodox Christology and orthodox missiology. When was the last time a class on evangelism emphasized love among Christians? If the world will know our Christology by our love for one another, our missiology must include a strong exhortation to treat all Christians with aggressive affection.
Lastly, consider how Jesus crowned His command to love with His cross of love. If the disciples were expected to love the thousands of converts they were to see in the coming years based on their agreement on the finer points of theology, then Jesus’ command to love is naïve at best and laughable at worst. But if Jesus provided at the cross a unifying principle and redemptive power that could humble the proud, lift the humble, and soften the contentious, His command finds glorious fulfillment at Golgotha. The centrality of the cross of Jesus, shared by all Christians, is the foundation of Christian love and the antidote to angry Calvinism.
This truth was driven home to me this past summer. I was hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, praying for my congregation. I was praying about a contentious conversation I recently had had with a couple in my growing church plant. I was clearly right and they were clearly wrong, or so my self-centered narrative went. But as I prayed, I remembered that Jesus died for this couple. He spilled His blood for them, and all I could spill was self-righteous vitriol — in prayer, no less.
I still think I was right in the theology of my argument. But I was grossly wrong in how I loved them. I undermined my theological precision by wielding it with loveless blunt force trauma.
This is not to say that Jesus intends us to abandon meticulous theological study or debate. There is a malignant false dichotomy today that pits charity against orthodoxy. To show charity is to risk being labeled a liberal progressive. To express theological concern is to risk being labeled contentious. To help guide us, we must remember that although brothers and enemies both fight, how they fight makes all the difference. The honor of Jesus demands both a soft heart and a titanium spine.
Diligent theological study must lead us to humility-soaked love for all the blood-bought followers of Jesus. If it does not, we have missed one of the most basic principles that Jesus taught His disciples. Visible and unifying love toward one another is not an option for the worldwide church. It is a command.
Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident
By Joni Eareckson Tada 7/30/2017
Recently I was at my desk writing to Tommy, a 17-year-old boy who just broke his neck body surfing off the Jersey shore. He’s now a quadriplegic. He will live the rest of his life in a wheelchair without use of his hands or legs. When it comes to life-altering injuries, quadriplegia is catastrophic. Befriending Trial Suffering Is a Mirror Inexpressible Gospel Joy Ten Life-Changing Words Fifty Years of God’s Faithfulness
Halfway through my letter describing several hurdles Tommy should expect in rehab, I stopped. I felt utterly overwhelmed, thinking of all that lies ahead for him. I’ve been there. And even though half a century has passed, I can still taste the anguish. Hot, silent tears began streaming, and I choked out a prayer, Oh God, how will Tommy do it? How will he ever make it? Have mercy; help him find you!
Tommy is facing the impossible. I’m sure he feels a little like this sketch. It’s a copy of a drawing I did in rehab, holding charcoal pencils between my teeth. Although I tore up the original years ago when I was depressed, this sketch says it all: “Oh God, this is now my life?! You actually expect me to do this?!”
Somehow, I did it. Or, the Holy Spirit did it in me. As of today, I’ve done it for 50 years.
Like Tommy, I was once the 17-year-old who retched at the thought of living life without a working body. I hated my paralysis so much I would drive my power wheelchair into walls, repeatedly banging them until they cracked. Early on, I found dark companions who helped me numb my depression with scotch-and-cola. I just wanted to disappear. I wanted to die.
What a difference time makes—as well as prayer, heaven-minded friends, and deep study of God’s Word. All combined, I began to see there are more important things in life than walking and having use of your hands. It sounds incredible, but I really would rather be in this wheelchair knowing Jesus as I do than be on my feet without him. But whenever I try to explain it, I hardly know where to begin.
I really would rather be in this wheelchair knowing Jesus as I do than be on my feet without him.
Yet I know this: I’m in the zone whenever I infuse Christ-encouragement into the hearts of people like Tommy. It feels so right to agonize alongside them. Better yet, to participate in their suffering in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 1:6: “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation.” Can I do something for Tommy’s comfort and salvation? You bet.
One night, a few Young Life friends who liked to sing picked me up for a late-night drive into Baltimore City. We ended up downtown at the railway station—a massive structure with travertine floors, marble columns, and vaulted ceilings. We found a corner and started harmonizing, our voices echoing throughout the station. An officious-looking guard approached and ordered us out of the building. “See that ‘no loitering’ sign? It’s 11 p.m. and you kids don’t belong here,” he barked. Then he pointed at me: “And you put that wheelchair back where you found it. Right now!”
“But sir,” I insisted, “it’s mine.” He told me not to give him any lip and to put it back right away. When our little group started laughing, he realized his error. That night, when my friends got me home, one kneeled beside my chair: “Joni, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you call it ‘my wheelchair.’ Thank you for doing that. You’re helping me own my problems, too.”
I had welcomed my trial as a friend. And it felt so good.
I now laugh as I picture myself with these books on my music stand, flipping pages this way and that with my mouth stick. But decades of study, paralysis, pain, and cancer have taught me to say, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Ps. 119:71). I won’t rehearse all of suffering’s benefits here. Many of you know them by heart. Like the way God uses it to shape Christ’s character in us (Rom. 8:28–29). Or how it produces patience (Rom. 5:4). Or how it refines our faith like gold (1 Pet. 1:7). Or gives us a livelier hope of heaven (James 1:12). And on and on.
However, if I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am, because I’m not the paragon of virtue I’d like to think I am. Suffering keeps knocking me off my pedestal of pride. Sometimes, when my scoliosis becomes extremely painful, I’ll murmur and drop hints to God that he’s piling on too much. Later, when the pain dissipates, I’ll make excuses: Lord, that’s not like me. I’m not like that at all.
But it is like me. It’s exactly like me.
If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.
Philippians 2:14 is for people like me: “Do everything without grumbling.” Everything? The Bible says it’s possible, even for aging quadriplegics who fight terminal diseases and chronic pain. But less sin means more Jesus, and Jesus is worth it.
The process is difficult, but affliction isn’t a killjoy; I don’t think you could find a happier follower of Jesus than me. The more my paralysis helps me get disentangled from sin, the more joy bubbles up from within. I can’t tell you how many nights I have lain in bed, unable to move, stiff with pain, and have whispered near tears, “Oh, Jesus, I’m so happy. So very happy in you!” God shares his joy on his terms only, and those terms call for us to suffer, in some measure, like his Son. I’ll gladly take it.
Half a century of paralysis has also shown me how high the cosmic stakes really are. Whenever I fidget in my confinement, I can almost hear Satan taunt God—as he did with Job—“Look at her, see? She doesn’t really trust you. Test her with more pain and you’ll see her true colors!” When the Devil insists God’s people only serve him when life is easy, I have the high honor of proving him wrong. To be on the battlefield where the mightiest forces in the universe converge in warfare? By God’s grace, I’m all in.
Ten words have set the course for my life: God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.
For the saving of many lives? Yes, so I dare not hide my testimony under a bushel. Too many people with disabilities are floundering in hopelessness—people like Tommy. It’s why I wrote the Joni book, and did the Joni movie. I started Joni and Friends when special-needs families started asking, “How can I help my son with cerebral palsy out of depression? Why doesn’t God heal everyone? How can I get my church involved?” and more. I wanted to show these people what the gospel looks like, just like my Christ-with-me-in-suffering friends did.
Now, every day when I wheel into the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, I try to squeeze every ounce of ministry effort from my quadriplegic body. This summer, Joni and Friends will hold 27 Family Retreats in the United States and 23 in less resourced nations, reaching thousands of special-needs families for Christ. Christian physical therapists will serve on our Wheels for the World teams in more than 40 countries, delivering Bibles, giving the salvation message, and hand-fitting wheelchairs to needy people with disabilities. Hundreds of our Cause4Life interns will work in orphanages overseas, showing that spina bifida isn’t a voodoo curse and people aren’t better off dead than disabled. Because Jesus is ecstasy beyond compare, and it’s worth anything to be his friend.
I flashed a smile and said, “It’s why I thank God every day for my wheelchair.” After she left, I stared for a moment at the dining hall scene. I suddenly had a 35,000-foot view of the moment: She’s right . . . how did I get here?
It has everything to do with God and his grace—not just grace over the long haul, but grace in tiny moments, like breathing in and out, like stepping stones leading you from one experience to the next. The beauty of such grace is that it eclipses the suffering until one July morning, you look back and see five decades of God working in a mighty way.
Grace softens the edges of past pains, helping to highlight the eternal. What you are left with is peace that’s profound, joy that’s unshakable, faith that’s ironclad.
It’s the hard, but beautiful, stuff of which God makes 50 years of your life. Like . . . when did that happen? I cannot say, but I sure love Jesus for it.
Befriending TrialI do what wise Christian friends once did with me. Back in the early ’70s when I was starting to take seriously Christ’s lordship in my life, my friends didn’t merely tell me biblical truth: “Here, believe this. Rejoice in your trial. It’ll do you a world of good.” Instead, they hooked up their spiritual veins to mine, pumping compassion into my wounded soul. Com means “with” and passion means “Christ’s suffering.” They literally were Christ-with-me-in-suffering. I wasn’t their spiritual project; I was their friend.
Suffering Is a MirrorThroughout my 20s, I became immersed in Bible study with these same friends—mostly character studies about God, especially his sovereignty. When it came to my accident, I had to know whether the buck stopped with him, and if it did, why didn’t he prevent my accident? Around my big farmhouse table in Maryland, we’d tackle books like Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination and others by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. Gresham Machen, and J. I. Packer.
Inexpressible Gospel JoyThe core of God’s plan is to rescue me from sin and self, and to keep rescuing me. The apostle Paul calls it “the gospel . . . by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you” (1 Cor. 15:1–2). I’m in constant need of saving. My displaced hip and scoliosis are sheep dogs that constantly snap at my heels, driving me down the road to Calvary, where I die to the sins Jesus died for. Sure, I have a long way to go before I am whom God destined me to be in glory, but thankfully my paralysis keeps pushing me to “strive to reach for that heavenly prize” (Phil. 3:14).
Ten Life-Changing WordsBack in the ’70s, my Bible study friend Steve Estes shared ten little words that set the course for my life: “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” Steve explained it this way: “Joni, God allows all sorts of things he doesn’t approve of. God hated the torture, injustice, and treason that led to the crucifixion. Yet he permitted it so that the world’s worst murder could become the world’s only salvation. In the same way, God hates spinal cord injury, yet he permitted it for the sake of Christ in you—as well as in others. Like Joseph when he told his brothers, ‘God intended [my suffering] for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’” (Gen. 50:20).
Fifty Years of God’s FaithfulnessLast week my husband, Ken, and I were at our Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Alabama. We were lunching in the big, noisy dining hall when a college-aged volunteer approached me, holding a kid with Down syndrome on her hip. She gestured at the crowd and asked, “Miss Joni, do you ever think how none of this would be happening were it not for your diving accident?”
Joni Eareckson Tada Books:
- 1 Joni: An Unforgettable Story
- 2 A Spectacle of Glory: God's Light Shining through Me Every Day
- 3 A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty
- 4 When God Weeps
- 5 Pearls of Great Price: 366 Daily Devotional Readings
- 6 Diamonds in the Dust: 366 Sparkling Devotions
- 7 Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story
- 8 LIFETIME OF WISDOM by EARECKSON TADA JONI (2009-03-09)
- 9 Heaven: Your Real Home
- 10 Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite
- 11 Joni Eareckson Tada: Her Story
- 12 A Step Further
- 13 Finding God in Hidden Places
- 14 A Thankful Heart In A World Of Hurt By Joni Eareckson Tada
- 15 More Precious Than Silver: 366 Daily Devotional Readings
- 16 Hope...the Best of Things
- 17 The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus
- 18 O Come All Ye Faithful: Hymns of Adoration and Joy to Celebrate His Birth (Great Hymns of Our Faith)
- 19 Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing
- 20 Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Life after Shock
- 21 No Longer Alone pamphlet by Joni Eareckson Tada
- 22 A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty [Hardcover]  (Author) Joni Eareckson Tada
1 Samuel 7–8; Romans 6; Jeremiah 44; Psalms 20–21
By Don Carson 8/16/2018
Why people ask for something is at least as important as what they ask for.
This is true in many domains of life. I know an executive in a midsize corporation who successfully talked his bosses into setting up a new committee. The reason he gave was that it was needed to oversee some new development. What he did not tell his bosses was his real reason: he could in time use this committee to sidestep another established committee that was questioning some of his projects and holding them up. He saw the new committee as a managerial trick to avoid being controlled, and thus to shin up the ladder a little faster. What might have been construed as a shrewd device for peacefully circumventing an unnecessary roadblock in the company’s structure (had he explained what he was doing to the bosses) was in fact presented in quite different terms, because he could not honestly tell them what he was doing—he knew they thought the established committee was doing a good job. Hence the deceit.
We need not look so far. How many of our own requests—in the home, in church, at work, in our prayers—mask motives that are decidedly self-serving? I am always asking myself this; tough question and hard for me to know when I am being really honest or fooling myself.
That was the problem with Israel’s request for a king (1 Sam. 8). The problem was not the request itself. After all, God would eventually give them the Davidic dynasty. Moses had anticipated the time when there would be a king (Deut. 17). The problem was the motive. They looked at their recent ups and downs with the local Canaanites and perceived few of their own faults, their own infidelities. They did not want to rely on the word of God mediated through prophets and judges and truly learn to obey that word. They figured that there would be political stability if only they could have a king. They wanted to be like the other nations (!), with a king to lead them in their military skirmishes (1 Sam. 8:19–20).
God not only understands their requests, but he perceives and evaluates their motives. In this instance he knows that the people are not simply loosening their ties to a prophet like Samuel, they are turning away from God himself (1 Sam. 8:7–8). The result is horrific: they get what they want, along with a desperate range of new evils they had not foreseen.
That is the fatal flaw in Machiavellian schemes, of course. They may win short-term advantages. But God is on his throne. Not only will the truth eventually come out, whether in this life or the next, but we may pay a horrible price, within our families and in our culture, in unforeseen correlatives, administered by a God who loves integrity of motive.
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 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
12 The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13 You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/1/2016 Mature in Christ
One of the greatest joys of pastoral ministry is preaching the Word of God to the people of God every Lord’s Day, morning and evening. However, it is also one of the greatest challenges of pastoral ministry. The challenge is not only in the enjoyable and arduous task of sermon preparation, nor is it merely in the spiritual, emotional, and physiological strain of preaching. The challenge also comes in expositing and carefully applying the Word of God to the entire congregation—to mature believers and to new believers, to believers who are weak in the faith and to believers who are strong in the faith; to people of various races, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and to adults and to children. I am certain that I will find it a challenge to preach to the entirety of our congregation as long as the Lord sustains me in pastoral ministry. Thankfully, I have had the wonderful opportunity to be mentored by one of the most articulate communicators of our day, Dr. R.C. Sproul. His example of preaching to the entirety of the congregation is one that many faithful pastors have sought to follow.
Striving to communicate to everyone in the congregation is no easy task, and from beginning to end, we who preach are resting in the Holy Spirit to take the Word of God and instill it within and apply it to the hearts of His people. And it is our unwavering belief that the Holy Spirit can regenerate the hearts not only of adults, but of children as well. Thus, we strive to communicate to both young and old. In our congregation, that means that the older must always strive to be patient with the younger, and the younger must always strive to honor the older. For this is one of the ways that our children grow in maturity. We certainly want kids to be kids, but we don’t want them to remain kids. We want them to grow up to be young men and women who are mature in Christ and mature in all spheres of life.
Paul said to young Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Even the youngest believers can attain and model emotional and spiritual maturity, for maturity is not a matter of age. Some of the youngest among us are the most mature and some of the oldest are the least mature. Young and old alike, God calls all His people to grow into “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), and this not so people will exalt us but so they will exalt our risen and returning Savior, as we strive to live as mature believers, looking to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
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
Charles Finney was born this day, August 16, 1875. An attorney, he saw so many references to Scriptures in Blackstone’s Law Commentaries that he purchased a Bible and found faith in Christ. He became a convincing speaker influencing George Williams to found the YMCA - Young Men’s Christian Association. Finney’s Lectures on Revival inspired William Booth to found the Salvation Army. Finney was President of Oberlin College, which graduated the first Black woman in America. Concerning the Kingdom of God, Charles Finney wrote: “Every member must work or quit. No honorary members.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Barth was the first theologian to begin the criticism of religion...but he set in its place the positivist doctrine of revelation which says in effect, 'Take it or leave it': Virgin Birth, Trinity or anything else, everything which is an equally significant and necessary part of the whole, which latter has to be swallowed as a whole or not at all. That is not in accordance with the Bible. There are degrees of perception and degrees of significance, i.e. a secret discipline must be re-established whereby the mysteries of the Christian faith are preserved from profanation.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letters and Papers from Prison
I find that to be a fool as to worldly wisdom, and to commit my cause to God, not fearing to offend men, who take offence at the simplicity of truth, is the only way to remain unmoved at the sentiments of others.
John Woolman's Journal
I may not understand, Lord, but one day I shall see
Thy loving hand was taking pains to fashion me like Thee.
When we fail to mourn properly our incomplete lives then this incompleteness becomes a knowing restlessness, a bitter center, that robs our lives of all delight. Because we do not mourn… We demand that someone or something – – a marriage partner, a sexual partner, an ideal family, having children, an achievement, a vocational goal, or a job – – take all of our loneliness away. That, of course, is an unreal expectation, which invariably leads to bitterness and disappointment. In this life, there is no finished Symphony. We are built for the infinite, grand canyons without a bottom. Because of that we will, this side of eternity, always be lonely, restless, incomplete… Living in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable.
--- Ronald Rolhheser
The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
18. Upon this, Vespasian, when he saw the Romans distressed by these sallies, [though they were ashamed to be made to run away by the Jews; and when at any time they made the Jews run away, their heavy armor would not let them pursue them far; while the Jews, when they had performed any action, and before they could be hurt themselves, still retired into the city,] ordered his armed men to avoid their onset, and not fight it out with men under desperation, while nothing is more courageous than despair; but that their violence would be quenched when they saw they failed of their purposes, as fire is quenched when it wants fuel; and that it was proper for the Romans to gain their victories as cheap as they could, since they are not forced to fight, but only to enlarge their own dominions. So he repelled the Jews in great measure by the Arabian archers, and the Syrian slingers, and by those that threw stones at them, nor was there any intermission of the great number of their offensive engines. Now the Jews suffered greatly by these engines, without being able to escape from them; and when these engines threw their stones or javelins a great way, and the Jews were within their reach, they pressed hard upon the Romans, and fought desperately, without sparing either soul or body, one part succoring another by turns, when it was tired down.
19. When, therefore, Vespasian looked upon himself as in a manner besieged by these sallies of the Jews, and when his banks were now not far from the walls, he determined to make use of his battering ram. This battering ram is a vast beam of wood like the mast of a ship, its forepart is armed with a thick piece of iron at the head of it, which is so carved as to be like the head of a ram, whence its name is taken. This ram is slung in the air by ropes passing over its middle, and is hung like the balance in a pair of scales from another beam, and braced by strong beams that pass on both sides of it, in the nature of a cross. When this ram is pulled backward by a great number of men with united force, and then thrust forward by the same men, with a mighty noise, it batters the walls with that iron part which is prominent. Nor is there any tower so strong, or walls so broad, that can resist any more than its first batteries, but all are forced to yield to it at last. This was the experiment which the Roman general betook himself to, when he was eagerly bent upon taking the city; but found lying in the field so long to be to his disadvantage, because the Jews would never let him be quiet. So these Romans brought the several engines for galling an enemy nearer to the walls, that they might reach such as were upon the wall, and endeavored to frustrate their attempts; these threw stones and javelins at them; in the like manner did the archers and slingers come both together closer to the wall. This brought matters to such a pass that none of the Jews durst mount the walls, and then it was that the other Romans brought the battering ram that was cased with hurdles all over, and in the tipper part was secured by skins that covered it, and this both for the security of themselves and of the engine. Now, at the very first stroke of this engine, the wall was shaken, and a terrible clamor was raised by the people within the city, as if they were already taken.
20. And now, when Josephus saw this ram still battering the same place, and that the wall would quickly be thrown down by it, he resolved to elude for a while the force of the engine. With this design he gave orders to fill sacks with chaff, and to hang them down before that place where they saw the ram always battering, that the stroke might be turned aside, or that the place might feel less of the strokes by the yielding nature of the chaff. This contrivance very much delayed the attempts of the Romans, because, let them remove their engine to what part they pleased, those that were above it removed their sacks, and placed them over against the strokes it made, insomuch that the wall was no way hurt, and this by diversion of the strokes, till the Romans made an opposite contrivance of long poles, and by tying hooks at their ends, cut off the sacks. Now when the battering ram thus recovered its force, and the wall having been but newly built, was giving way, Josephus and those about him had afterward immediate recourse to fire, to defend themselves withal; whereupon they took what materials soever they had that were but dry, and made a sally three ways, and set fire to the machines, and the hurdles, and the banks of the Romans themselves; nor did the Romans well know how to come to their assistance, being at once under a consternation at the Jews' boldness, and being prevented by the flames from coming to their assistance; for the materials being dry with the bitumen and pitch that were among them, as was brimstone also, the fire caught hold of every thing immediately, and what cost the Romans a great deal of pains was in one hour consumed.
21. And here a certain Jew appeared worthy of our relation and commendation; he was the son of Sameas, and was called Eleazar, and was born at Saab, in Galilee. This man took up a stone of a vast bigness, and threw it down from the wall upon the ram, and this with so great a force, that it broke off the head of the engine. He also leaped down, and took up the head of the ram from the midst of them, and without any concern carried it to the top of the wall, and this while he stood as a fit mark to be pelted by all his enemies. Accordingly, he received the strokes upon his naked body, and was wounded with five darts; nor did he mind any of them while he went up to the top of the wall, where he stood in the sight of them all, as an instance of the greatest boldness; after which he drew himself on a heap with his wounds upon him, and fell down together with the head of the ram. Next to him, two brothers showed their courage; their names were Netir and Philip, both of them of the village Ruma, and both of them Galileans also; these men leaped upon the soldiers of the tenth legion, and fell upon the Romans with such a noise and force as to disorder their ranks, and to put to flight all upon whomsoever they made their assaults.
The Stepping Stone Of Intuition
Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth
Rarely have I met a true relativist. Hidden somewhere in the words of everyone who argues for complete relativism is a belief that there are, indeed, some acts that are wrong. The bottom line is this: When someone says that all truth is relative, he or she is making either a relative statement or an absolute one. If it is a relative statement, then that statement, by definition, is not always true. On the other hand, if the belief that all truth is relative is absolute, the very statement itself must be denied, because it denies absolutes. The pure relativist cuts off the branch on which he is sitting while telling you the branch cannot be severed. The landing is mind shattering.
In his book Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Jon Krakauer relates the experience of the climbers of Mount Everest in that 1996 expedition that ended up costing the lives of many. One of the chilling stories he recounts is of one group that had just been rescued by another, so that they were able to continue their journey upward. A few hundred feet later, the group that had been rescued now had the opportunity to save the lives of the climbers who had helped them. But rather than risk their own lives, they pressed onward, leaving them to perish. Later, when they had descended the mountain and were asked why they had ignored the plight of these others, their crisp answer was, “Above eight thousand meters there is no morality.”
Once when I was speaking at Oxford University, a small group of students came up to me afterward and insisted that good and bad were not absolute categories. I asked one of them whether it would be wrong for me to take a butcher knife and cut to pieces a one-year-old child for sheer delight. There was a pause, and then he said, to an audible gasp from those listening, “I would not like what you did, but I could not honestly say that it would be wrong.”
The relativist is never comfortable on the receiving end of his own assumptions. At best, he denies himself the right to any moral pronouncement; yet he cringes at the implications. And that is the point. Even when absolutes are denied, there is an intuitive certainty that some things are just plainly wrong. Alan Dershowitz, who denies our ability to define good, says with equal vehemence that he does recognize evil when he sees it. Fascinating!
And so we go back to our nemesis in Afghanistan, bin Laden, who applauded the killing of thousands in the World Trade Center. Is it not ironic that when the American forces retaliated with their bombing mission, he and his supporters in the Taliban appealed to the conscience of the world by saying that innocent civilians (some of whom may have been relatives or friends) were being killed? These very people, who have killed tens of thousands of their own, were suddenly worrying about civilians? When the killing affects the ones they love, then it becomes morally wrong.
One of the saddest stories to emerge from the media coverage of the Talibans control over Afghanistan was a report from an Afghan village, where an old man sat, his face in his hands, just staring into the sand. That picture said it all. His village had been ravaged and raped by Taliban fighters. His son had been skinned like an animal, and his skeletal remains lay buried in a shallow grave. The sight was nauseating.
Is it any wonder that the old man sat alone in the desert with an expression of unbearable and word suffocating grief ? What was there left to say or to do? Why would anyone want to live, if that is what living meant? To whom do you express your numbing heartache? What kind of mind-set did these murderers have to distribute such a hell? Evil was clearly recognizable in its merciless slaughter, even across cultural boundaries. Whether at eight-thousand meters, or high atop a building, or in the desert, evil looks hideous because the receiving end is always Ground Zero.
That is our first clue. It does not matter whether evil comes from the hand of a proclaimed absolutist or a relativist. Evil, plainly stated, is the destruction of what life was essentially meant to be. That is the simplest way to begin. And so, on that fateful day, (9/11) airplanes built for safe travel were commandeered by diabolical men and smashed into buildings. Buildings erected for the safety of those within were turned into infernos. Entry permits were given to these men with the expectation that they would live by the laws of the land, not destroy its people. Intended purpose was violated in each case, and destruction was the result.
Are you happy with America's direction? Do you think trying to remove guns has anything at all to do with evil? We are picking up speed as we move faster and faster to destruction.
by D.H. Stern
think carefully about who is before you.
2 If you have a big appetite,
put a knife to your throat!
3 Don’t be greedy for his delicacies,
for they are deceptive food.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Does He know me
He calleth … by name. --- John 10:3.
When I have sadly misunderstood Him? (John 20:17.) It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine out steps intimate touch with Jesus. Why was Mary weeping? Doctrine was no more to Mary than the grass under her feet. Any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could not ridicule out of her was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her; yet His blessings were nothing in comparison to Himself. Mary “saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus …”; immediately she heard the voice, she knew she had a past history with the One who spoke. “Master!”
When I have stubbornly doubted? (John 20:27.) Have I been doubting something about Jesus—an experience to which others testify but which I have not had? The other disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, but Thomas doubted—“Except I shall see …, I will not believe.” Thomas needed the personal touch of Jesus. When His touches come, or how they come, we do not know; but when they do come they are indescribably precious. “My Lord and my God!”
When I have selfishly denied Him? (John 21:15–17.) Peter had denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses, and yet after the Resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone. He restored him in private, then He restored him before the others. “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
Have I a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one sign of discipleship is intimate connection with Him, a knowledge of Jesus Christ which nothing can shake.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
There was a background of guns and bombs.
Bullies maintained their power
For a season. Cash had its say
Still in the disposal of seats, titles.
One voice, quieter than the rest,
Was heard, bemoaning the loss
Of beauty. Men put it on a tape
For the future, a lesson in style.
“They call me Srulik. I’m a Sabra, a native-born Israeli. I want to argue with this proverb.
“First, ‘No good thing ever comes from arguing.’ The Rabbis themselves would disagree with that. Open any page of the Talmud and you will see one argument after another. Many faiths tell their followers: ‘Here’s what we believe—memorize it; here’s what we do—do it!’ Judaism is different. The very essence of our religion is to question, to challenge, to debate. In the Gemara, one person makes his case and the other person tries to tear it down. This sharp give-and-take is the only way to discover what positions can stand up to attack, the only way to arrive at the truth. We learn in Pirkei Avot (5:19): ‘Any argument that is for the sake of Heaven will have lasting value.… What is an example of such an argument? Those between Hillel and Shammai.’ Throughout the Talmud there are hundreds of debates between these two great sages and between their disciples. It’s true that the Mishnah goes on to add that ‘any argument that is not for the sake of Heaven will not have lasting value’ and offers Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses, as an example. But it is clear that arguing itself is not forbidden; only selfish, trivial, or malicious arguing is. Much good can come from arguing, so long as it is done with the right motivation and in the right spirit.
“Second, ‘No peace ever comes from arguing.’ Modern history would challenge this. For two thousand years, the Jewish people were taught to keep quiet and not fight back. Look at the words after the Amidah, recited by Jews three times a day: ‘Let my soul be silent before those who curse me, let my soul be as dust before all.…’ Don’t make waves. Don’t talk back. Turn the other cheek. This philosophy developed during the Roman period, after Jewish uprisings were twice crushed. It was perpetuated even after the Romans were gone. And it led to twenty centuries of Jews being victimized, culminating in the Holocaust. Why did so many of our people march off to the gas chambers like ‘sheep to the slaughter?’ Perhaps because we have always been taught that arguing and fighting are bad. One of the goals of Zionism was to create a new type of Jew, one who would fight back and defend himself. The very name of our people, Yisra’el, means ‘to wrestle with God.’
“I myself fought in two wars; my father in three. If we had not fought, we wouldn’t have survived. They say that we Israelis are a prickly bunch, always shouting, always quarreling. There’s some truth to that. This personality trait is a result of living in constant conflict. We had to become tough in order to survive. You can’t turn that toughness off and on at will. It becomes a part of you. Yes, it’s not always pleasant. But it is the price we pay for living as a free people in our own land. That contentiousness has kept us alive; and, who knows, that propensity for standing up for ourselves may even, one day, lead us to peace.”
ANOTHER D’RASH / “The devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Rabbinic Judaism and Christian thought have distinct understandings of this verse. These different interpretations lead to very different views of the world and religion.
The Christian reading of this verse posits that humans are inherently evil. Just look at the story of the Garden of Eden: No sooner does God create Adam and Eve than these people are breaking the rules, eating from the tree that God had told them not to eat from. This “original sin” caused man to fall from his position of closeness to God. Our observance and obedience now come too late; our sin is so basic, so innate. Nothing can save us from this sin—it is inbred and therefore part of the human condition—except for salvation through Jesus.
The Rabbis have a different reading of the verse “The devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth.” Traditional Judaism says that man is not evil from birth, but he is inclined to do evil. The way to keep people from doing evil is to have people follow God’s laws, the Torah. God has given us a system of warnings and preventive measures that help us avoid doing wrong. That’s why the Rabbis understood the word Elohim to refer to God’s agents in justice, the judges. It’s to remind us that the legal system has the divine imprimatur, with the purpose of bringing justice to the world. It is not the belief in a messiah, but living a just life, that saves humans from Geihinnom.
As someone who has observed two babies playing together and as one who thinks of Jacob grabbing Esau's heel, and most especially, as someone who calls Jesus Christ Lord, I disagree with the Jewish perspective. Then why do I include two books on the Midrash on my web site? Because the first Christians were Jews and the Bible makes it clear how God feels about Jews. We can deepen our understanding of Scripture by listening to our Jewish brothers.
Judaism believes that humans are capable of change. Even though we may be tempted to do wrong, even if it sometimes appears that someone is “evil from his youth,” humans are not doomed by nature to sin. Quite the contrary: We have the ability to achieve more, for we were created in God’s image. When we follow God’s laws, we live up to our potential.
[Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
--- Hebrews 11:26.
If we too always see God with our minds, if we always think in remembrance of him, all things will appear endurable to us, all things will appear tolerable. (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) For if people, remembering one whom they love, are roused in spirit and elevated in thought and bear all things easily, we who remember him who loves us in deed, when will we feel anything painful, or dread anything fearful or dangerous? When will we be of cowardly spirit? Never.
Things appear difficult to us because we do not remember God as we ought, because we do not carry him about always in our thoughts. For great is the effect of God’s remembrance and great also of his being remembered by us. The result of the one is that we choose good things, of the other that we accomplish them and bring them to their purpose.
Therefore let us also, as being in Babylon, [remember him]. For although we are not sitting among warlike foes, yet we are among enemies. For some indeed were sitting as captives, but others did not even feel their captivity, as Daniel, as the three children, who became in that very country more glorious even than the king who had carried them captive. Do you see how great virtue is? When they were in actual captivity he waited on them as masters. He therefore was the captive rather than they. Do you see that the really splendid things are those that relate to God, whereas human things are a shadow? The king knew not, it seems, that he was leading away masters for himself and that he cast into the furnace those whom he was about to worship.
Let us fear God, beloved; even should we be in captivity, we are more glorious than all rulers. Let the fear of God be present with us and nothing will be grievous, even though you speak of poverty or disease, of captivity or slavery, or of any other grievous thing. Even these very things will themselves work together for us the other way. These men were captives, and the king worshiped them.
--- John Chrysostom
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
High Water August 16
Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was among the most eligible bachelors in eighteenth-century Europe—wealthy, intelligent, charming, handsome. And utterly devoted to Jesus Christ. After finishing studies at the University of Paris, he spent a year touring Europe and, in the process, became ill in Castell. There he fell in love with eighteen-year-old Theodora von Castell. He proposed to her, and she replied, saying, “If God should incline me to it more than at present, I will not resist.”
Zinzendorf wasn’t sure what to make of those words, but he gave the impression the two were virtually engaged. He resumed his travels, only to be waylaid again, this time by high water. He took the occasion to visit his close friend, Count Henry von Reuss; and as the two talked, Reuss admitted that he, too, was looking for a girl to marry. Zinzendorf said (in effect), “Well, what about Theodora? To be honest, she didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about marrying me. Why don’t you have a go at it?” Henry hesitated, saying, “But she’s your fiancée!” Zinzendorf nevertheless took his friend to Castell where Henry and Theodora promptly fell in love and married.
Zinzendorf, though magnanimous, was miserable. He spent hours studying the Old and New Testaments on the subject of marriage, celibacy, and God’s will. And his eyes were opened.
They were opened to Henry’s sister—Countess Erdmuth Dorothea von Reuss, whom he had met while detained by the high waters. Erdmuth loved Christ, and in her Zinzendorf found a soul mate. They were engaged on August 16, 1722. On that day the young count wrote a hymn of praise to God and a letter of intent to Erdmuth’s mother, saying: I foresee many difficulties in this case; as I am but a poor acquisition for any person, and the dear Countess Erdmuth must not only enter upon a life of self-denial with me, but also co-operate with me in my principal design, namely, to assist me in gaining souls for Christ.
And that’s exactly what they did—from their marriage on September 7, 1722, until the Countess’s death in 1756.
What if I could have sixty queens, eighty wives, and thousands of others!
You would be my only choice, my flawless dove, the favorite child of your mother.
The young women, the queens, and all the others tell how excited you are as they sing your praises.
--- Song of Songs 6:8,9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 16
“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” --- Psalm 29:2.
God’s glory is the result of his nature and acts. He is glorious in his character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that he must be glorious. The actions which flow from his character are also glorious; but while he intends that they should manifest to his creatures his goodness, and mercy, and justice, he is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. Shall the insect of an hour glorify itself against the sun which warmed it into life? Shall the potsherd exalt itself above the man who fashioned it upon the wheel? Shall the dust of the desert strive with the whirlwind? Or the drops of the ocean struggle with the tempest? Give unto the Lord, all ye righteous, give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto him the honour that is due unto his name. Yet it is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence—“Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory.” It is a lesson which God is ever teaching us, and teaching us sometimes by most painful discipline. Let a Christian begin to boast, “I can do all things,” without adding “through Christ which strengtheneth me,” and before long he will have to groan, “I can do nothing,” and bemoan himself in the dust. When we do anything for the Lord, and he is pleased to accept of our doings, let us lay our crown at his feet, and exclaim, “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me!”
Evening - August 16
“Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit.” --- Romans 8:23.
Present possession is declared. At this present moment we have the first fruits of the Spirit. We have repentance, that gem of the first water; faith, that priceless pearl; hope, the heavenly emerald; and love, the glorious ruby. We are already made “new creatures in Christ Jesus,” by the effectual working of God the Holy Ghost. This is called the firstfruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the spiritual life, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first operations of the Spirit of God in our souls. The firstfruits were the pledge of the harvest. As soon as the Israelite had plucked the first handful of ripe ears, he looked forward with glad anticipation to the time when the wain should creak beneath the sheaves. So, brethren, when God gives us things which are pure, lovely, and of good report, as the work of the Holy Spirit, these are to us the prognostics of the coming glory. The firstfruits were always holy to the Lord, and our new nature, with all its powers, is a consecrated thing. The new life is not ours that we should ascribe its excellence to our own merit; it is Christ’s image and creation, and is ordained for his glory. But the firstfruits were not the harvest, and the works of the Spirit in us at this moment are not the consummation—the perfection is yet to come. We must not boast that we have attained, and so reckon the wave-sheaf to be all the produce of the year: we must hunger and thirst after righteousness, and pant for the day of full redemption. Dear reader, this Evening open your mouth wide, and God will fill it. Let the boon in present possession excite in you a sacred avarice for more grace. Groan within yourself for higher degrees of consecration, and your Lord will grant them to you, for he is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think.
Morning and Evening
NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE
Sarah R. Adams, 1805–1848
Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. (James 4:8 KJV)
This well-loved hymn was written by a talented and charming English woman who lived only 43 years. In spite of her delicate health, Sarah Flower Adams had an active and productive life. After a successful career on the London stage as Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth, she began to write and became widely known for her literary accomplishments. The cross mentioned in the first stanza of her hymn text may have been the physical handicaps that limited her many ambitions.
Sarah’s sister Eliza was gifted musically and often composed melodies for her sister’s poems. Together they contributed 13 texts and 62 new tunes for a hymnal that was being compiled by their pastor. One day the Rev. William J. Fox asked for a new hymn to accompany his sermon on the story of Jacob and Esau. Sarah spent much time studying Genesis 28:10–22 and within a short time completed all of the stanzas of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Since that day in 1840, this hymn has had an unusual history of ministering spiritual comfort to hurting people everywhere.
These lines picturing Jacob sleeping on a stone, dreaming of angels, and naming the place Bethel, meaning “the house of God,” seem to reflect the common yearning—especially in times of deep need—to experience God’s nearness and presence in a very real way.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en tho it be a cross that raiseth me;
still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Tho like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone,
yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Then with my waking thoughts, bright with Thy praise,
out of my stony griefs. Bethel I raise;
so by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
nearer my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
till all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
For Today: Genesis 28:10–22; Psalm 16:7, 8; 73:28; 145:18; Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:27
When I seek God, He has promised to draw very close to me. What a joyful experience to know His intimate presence throughout every hour of this day. It causes me to sing ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
1st. As it is most spiritual and holy. A fleshly mind is most contrary to a spiritual law, and particularly as it is a searching and discovering law, that would dethrone all other rules in the soul. As men love to be without a holy God in the world, so they love to be without a holy law, the transcript and image of God’s holiness in their hearts; and without holy men, the lights kindled by the Father of lights. As the holiness of God, so the holiness of the law most offends a carnal heart (Isa. 30:11): “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us, prophesy to us right things.” They could not endure God as a holy one. Herein God places their rebellion, rejecting him as their rule (ver. 9), “Rebellious children, that will not hear the law of the Lord.” The more pure and precious any discovery of God is, the more it is disrelished by the world: as spiritual sins are sweetest to a carnal heart, so spiritual truths are most distasteful. The more of the brightness of the sun any beam conveys, the more offensive it is to a distempered eye.
2d. As it doth most relate to, or lead to God. The devil directs his fiercest batteries against those doctrines in the word, and those graces in the heart, which most exalt God, debase man, and bring men to the lowest subjection to their Creator; such is the doctrine and grace of justifying faith. That men hate not knowledge as knowledge, but as it directs them to choose the fear of the Lord, was the determination of the Holy Ghost long ago (Prov. 1:29): “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
Whatsoever respects God, clears up guilt, witnesses man’s revolt to him, rouseth up conscience, and moves to a return to God, a man naturally runs from, as Adam did from God, and seeks a shelter in some weak bushes of error, rather than appear before it. Not that men are unwilling to inquire into and contemplate some divine truths which lie furthest from the heart, and concern not themselves immediately with the rectifying the soul: they may view them with such a pleasure as some might take in beholding the miracles of our Saviour, who could not endure his searching doctrine. The light of speculation may be pleasant, but the light of conviction is grievous; that which galls their consciences, and would affect them with a sense of their duty to God. Is it not easy to perceive, that when a man begins to be serious in the concerns of the honor of God and the duty of his soul, he feels a reluctancy within him, even against the pleas of conscience; which evidenceth that some unworthy principle has got footing in the hearts of men, which fights against the declarations of God without, and the impressions of the law of God within, at the same time when a man’s own conscience takes part with it, which is the substance of the apostle’s discourse, Rom. 7:15, 16, &c. Close discourses of the honor of God, and our duty to him, are irksome when men are apon a merry pin: they are like a damp in a mine, that takes away their breath; they shuffle them out as soon as they can, and are as unwilling to retain the speech of them in their mouths, as the knowledge of them in their hearts. Gracious speeches, instead of bettering many men, distemper them, as sometimes sweet perfumes affect a weak head with aches.
3d. As it is most contrary to self. Men are unwilling to acquaint themselves with any truth that leads to God, because it leads from self. Every part of the will of God is more or less displeasing, as it sounds harsh against some carnal interest men would set above God, or as a mate with him. Man cannot desire any intimacy with that law which he regards as a bird of prey, to pick out his right eye or gnaw off his right hand, his lust dearer than himself. The reason we have such hard thoughts of God’s will is, because we have such high thoughts of ourselves. It is a hard matter to believe or will that which hath no affinity with some principle in the understanding, and no interest in our will and passions: our unwillingness to be acquainted with the will of God ariseth from the disproportion between that and our corrupt hearts; “We are alienated from the life of God in our minds” (Eph. 4:18, 19). As we live not like God, so we neither think or will as God; there is an antipathy in the heart of man against that doctrine which teaches us to deny ourselves and be under the rule of another; but whatsoever favors the ambition, lusts, and profits of men, is easy entertainable. Many are fond of those sciences which may enrich their understandings, and grate not upon their sensual delights. Many have an admirable dexterity in finding out philosophical reasons, mathematical demonstrations, or raising observations upon the records of history; and spend much time and many serious and affectionate thoughts in the study of them. In those they have not immediately to do with God, their beloved pleasures are not impaired; it is a satisfaction to self without the exercise of any hostility against it. But had those sciences been against self, as much as the law and will of God, they had long since been rooted out of the world. Why did the young man turn his back upon the law of Christ? because of his worldly self. Why did the Pharisees mock at the doctrine of our Saviour, and not at their own traditions? because of covetous self. Why did the Jews slight the person of our Saviour and put him to death, after the reading so many credentials of his being sent from heaven? because of ambitious self, that the Romans might not come and take away their kingdom. If the law of God were fitted to the humors of self, it would be readily and cordially observed by all men: self is the measure of a world of seeming religious actions; while God seems to be the object, and his law the motive, self is the rule and end (Zech. 7:5): “Did you fast unto me,”
2. As men discover their disowning the will of God as a rule by unwillingness to be acquainted with it, so they discover it, by the contempt of it after they cannot avoid the notions and some impressions of it. The rule of God is burthensome to a sinner; he flies from it as from a frightful bugbear, and unpleasant yoke: sin against the knowledge of the law is therefore called a going back from the commandment of God’s lips (Job 23:12): “A casting God’s word behind them,” as a contemptible thing, fitter to be trodden in the dirt than lodged in the heart; nay it is a casting it off as an abominable thing, for so the word ונח signifies, Hos. 8:3. “Israel hath cast off the thing that is good;” an utter refusal of God (Jer. 44:16): “As for the word which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken.” In the slight of his precepts his essential perfections are slighted. In disowning his will as a rule, we disown all those attributes which flow from his will, as goodness, righteousness, and truth. As an act of the divine understanding is supposed to precede the act of the divine will, so we slight the infinite reason of God. Every law, though it proceeds from the will of the lawgiver, and doth formally consist in an act of the will, yet it doth pre-suppose an act of the understanding. If the commandment be holy, just, and good, as it is (Rom. 7:12); if it be the image of God’s holiness, a transcript of his righteousness, and the efflux of his goodness; then in every reach of it, dirt is cast upon those attributes which shine in it; and a slight of all the regards he hath to his own honor, and all the provisions he makes for his creature. This atheism, or contempt of God, is more taken notice of by God than the matter of the sin itself; as a respect to God in a weak and imperfect obedience is more than the matter of the obedience itself, because it is an acknowledgment of God; so a contempt of God in an act of disobedience, is more than the matter of the disobedience. The creature stands in such an act not only in a posture of distance from God, but defiance of him; it was not the bare act of murder and adultery which Nathan charged upon David, but the atheistical principle which spirited those evil acts. The despising the commandment of the Lord was the venom of them. It is possible to break a law without contempt; but when men pretend to believe there is a God, and that this is the law of God, it shows a contempt of his majesty: men naturally account God’s laws too strict, his yoke too heavy, and his limits too strait; and he that liveth in a contempt of this law, curseth God in his life. How can they believe there is a God, who despise him as a ruler? How can they believe him to be a guide, that disdain to follow him? To think we firmly believe a God without living conformable to his law, is an idle and vain imagination. The true and sensible notion of a God cannot subsist with disorder and an affected unrighteousness. This contempt is seen,
1. In any presumptuous breach of any part of his law. Such sins are frequently called in Scripture, rebellions, which are a denial of the allegiance we owe to him. By a wilful refusal of his right in one part, we root up the foundation of that rule he doth justly challenge over us; his right is as extensive to command us in one thing, as in another; and if it be disowned in one thing, it is virtually disowned in all, and the whole statute book of God is contemned (James 2:10, 11): “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.” A willing breaking one part, though there be a willing observance of all the other points of it, is a breach of the whole; because the authority of God, which gives sanction to the whole, is slighted: the obedience to the rest is dissembled: for the love, which is the root of all obedience, is wanting; for “love is the fulfilling the whole law.” The rest are obeyed because they cross not carnal desire so much as the other, and so it is an observance of himself, not of God. Besides, the authority of God, which is not prevalent to restrain us from the breach of one point, would be of as little force with us to restrain us from the breach of all the rest, did the allurements of the flesh give us as strong a diversion from the one as from the other; and though the command that is transgressed be the least in the whole law, yet the authority which enjoins it is the same with that which enacts the greatest: and it is not so much the matter of the command, as the authority commanding which lays the obligation.
2. In the natural averseness to the declarations of God’s will and mind, which way soever they tend. Since man affected to be as God, he desires to be boundless; he would not have fetters, though they be golden ones, and conduce to his happiness. Thought the law of God be a strength to them, yet they will not (Isa. 30:15): “In returning shall be your strength, and you would not.” They would not have a bridle to restrain them from running into the pit, nor be hedged in by the law, though for their security; as if they thought it too slavish and low-spirited a thing to be guided by the will of another. Hence man is compared to a wild ass, that loves to “snuff up the wind in the wilderness at her pleasure,” rather than come under the “guidance of God;” from whatsoever quarter of the heavens you pursue her she will run to the other. The Israelites “could not endure what was commanded,” though in regard of the moral part, agreeable to what they found written in their own nature, and to the observance whereof they had the highest obligations of any people under heaven, since God had, by many prodigies, delivered them from a cruel slavery, the memory of which prefaced the Decalogue (Exod. 20:2), “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” They could not think of the rule of their duty, but they must reflect upon the grand incentive of it in their redemption from Egyptian thraldom; yet this people were cross to God, which way soever he moved. When they were in the brick kilns, they cried for deliverance; when they had heavenly manna, they longed for their onions and garlic. In Num. 14:3, they repent of their deliverance from Egypt, and talk of returning again to seek the remedy of their evils in the hands of their cruellest enemies, and would rather put themselves into the irons, whence God had delivered them, than believe one word of the promise of God for giving them a fruitful land; but when Moses tells them God’s order, that they should turn back by the way of the Red Sea, and that God had confrmed it by an oath, that they should not see the land of Canaan, they then run cross to this command of God, and, instead of marching towards the Red Sea, which they had wished for before, they will go up to Canaan, as in spite of God and his threatening: “We will go to the place which the Lord hath promised” (ver. 40), which Moses calls a transgressing the commandment of the Lord (ver. 41). They would presume to go up, notwithstanding Moses’ prohibition, and are smitten by the Amalekites. When God gives them a precept, with a promise to go up to Canaan, they long for Egypt; when God commands them to return to the Red Sea, which was nearer to the place they longed for, they will shift sides, and go up to Canaan; and when they found they were to traverse the solitudes of the desert, they took pet against God, and, instead of thanking him for the late victory against the Canaanites, they reproach him for his conduct from Egypt, and the manna wherewith he nourished them in the wilderness. They would not go to Canaan, the way God had chosen, nor preserve themselves by the means God had ordained. They would not be at God’s disposal, but complain of the badness of the way, and the lightness of manna, empty of any necessary juice to sustain their nature. They murmuringly solicit the will and power of God to change all that order which he had resolved in his counsel, and take another, conformable to their vain foolish desires; and they signified thereby that they would invade his conduct, and that he should act according to their fancy, which the psalmist calls a “tempting of God, and limiting the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). To what point soever the declarations of God stand, the will of man turns the quite contrary way. Is not the carriage of this nation the best then in the world? a discovery of the depth of our natural corruption, how cross man is to God? And that charge God brings against them, may be brought against all men by nature, that they despise his judgments, and have a rooted abhorrency of his statutes in their soul (Lev. 26:43). No sooner had they recovered from one rebellion, but they revolted to another; so difficult a thing it is for man’s nature to be rendered capable of conforming to the will of God. The carriage of this people is but a copy of the nature of mankind, and is “written for our admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11). From this temper men are said to make “void the law of God;” to make it of no obligation, an antiquated and motheaten record. And the Pharisees, by setting up their traditions against the will of God, are said to make his law of “none effect;” to strip it of all its authority, as the word signifies, (Matt. 15:6,) ἠκυρώσατε.
3. We have the greatest slight of that will of God which is most for his honor and his greatest pleasure. It is the nature of man, ever since Adam, to do so (Hos. 6:6, 7). God desired mercy and not a sacrifice; the knowledge of himself more than burnt offering; but they, like men as Adam, have transgressed the covenant, invade God’s rights, and not let him be Lord of one tree. We are more curious observers of the fringes of the law than of the greater concerns of it. The Jews were diligent in sacrifices and offerings, which God did not urge upon them as principals, but as types of other things; but negligent of the faith which was to be established by him. Holiness, mercy, pity, which concerned the honor of God, as governor of the world, and were imitations of the holiness and goodness of God, they were strangers to. This is God’s complaint (Isa. 1:11, 12, 16, 17). We shall find our hearts most averse to the observation of those laws which are eternal, and essential to righteousness; such that he could not but command, as he is a righteous Governor; in the observation of which we come nearest to him, and express his image more clearly; as those laws for an inward and spiritual worship, a supreme affection to him. God, in regard of his righteousness and holiness of his nature, and the excellency of his being, could not command the contrary to these. But this part of his will our hearts most swell against, our corruption doth most snarl at; whereas those laws which are only positive, and have no intrinsic righteousness in them, but depend purely upon the will of the Lawgiver, and may be changed at his pleasure (which the other, that have an intrinsic righteousness in them, cannot), we better comply with, than that part of his will that doth express more the righteousness of his nature; such as the ceremonial part of worship, and the ceremonial law among the Jews. We are more willing to observe order in some outward attendances and glavering devotions, than discard secret affections to evil, crucify inward lusts and delightful thoughts. A “hanging down the head like a bullrush” is not difficult; but the “breaking the heart,” like a potter’s vessel, to shreds and dust (a sacrifice God delights in, whereby the excellency of God and the vileness of the creature is owned), goes against the grain; to cut off an outward branch is not so hard as to hack at the root. What God most loathes, as most contrary to his will, we most love: no sin did God so severely hate, and no sin were the Jews more inclined unto, than that of idolatry. The heathen had not changed their God, as the Jews had changed their glory (Jer. 2:11); and all men are naturally tainted with this sin, which is so contrary to the holy and excellent nature of God. By how much the more defect there is of purity in our respects to God, by so much the more respect there is to some idol within or without us, to humor, custom, and interest, &c. Never did any law of God meet with so much opposition as Christianity, which was the design of God from the first promise to the exhibiting the Redeemer, and from thence to the end of the world. All people drew swords at first against it. The Romans prepared yokes for their neighbors, but provided temples for the idols those people worshipped; but Christianity, the choicest design and most delightful part of the will of God, never met with a kind entertainment at first in any place; Rome, that entertained all others, persecuted this with fire and sword, though sealed by greater testimonies from heaven than their own records could report in favor of their idols.
4. In running the greatest hazards, and exposing ourselves to more trouble to cross the will of God, than is necessary to the observance of it. It is a vain charge men bring against the divine precepts, that they are rigorous, severe, difficult; when, besides the contradiction to our Saviour, who tells us his “yoke is easy,” and his “burthen light,” they thwart their own calm reason and judgment. Is there not more difficulty to be vicious, covetous, violent, cruel, than to be virtuous, charitable, kind? Doth the will of God enjoin that that is not conformable to right reason, and secretly delightful in the exercise and issue? And on the contrary, what doth Satan and the world engage us in, that is not full of molestation and hazard? Is it a sweet and comely thing to combat continually against our own consciences, and resist our own light, and commence a perpetual quarrel against ourselves, as we ordinarily do when we sin?
They in the Prophet (Micah 6:6–8) would be at the expense of “thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil,” if they could compass them; yea, would strip themselves of their natural affection to their first-born to expiate the “sin of their soul,” rather than to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God;” things more conducible to the honor of God, the welfare of the world, the security of their souls, and of a more easy practice than the offerings they wished for. Do not men then disown God when they will walk in ways hedged with thorns, wherein they meet with the arrows of conscience, at every turn, in their sides; and slide down to an everlasting punishment, sink under an intolerable slavery, to contradict the will of God? when they will prefer a sensual satisfaction, with a combustion in their consciences, violation of their reasons, gnawing cares and weary travels before the honor of God, the dignity of their natures, the happiness of peace and health, which might be preserved at a cheaper rate, than they are at to destroy them?
5. In the unwillingness and awkwardness of the heart, when it is to pay God a service. Men “do evil with both hands earnestly,” but do good with one hand faintly; no life in the heart, nor any diligence in the hand. What slight and loose thoughts of God doth this unwillingness imply? It is a wrong to his providence, as though we were not under his government, and had no need of his assistance; a wrong to his excellency, as though there were no amiableness in him to make his service desirable; an injury to his goodness and power, as if he were not able or willing to reward the creatures’ obedience, or careless not to take notice of it; it is a sign we receive little satisfaction in him, and that there is a great unsuitableness between him and us.
(1.) There is a kind of constraint in the first engagement. We are rather pressed to it than enter ourselves volunteers. What we call service to God is done naturally much against our wills; it is not a delightful food, but a bitter potion; we are rather haled, than run to it. There is a contradiction of sin within us against our service, as there was a contradiction of sinners without our Saviour against his doing the will of God. Our hearts are unwieldy to any spiritual service of God; we are fain to use a violence with them sometimes: Hezekiah, it is said, “walked before the Lord, with a perfect heart” (2 Kings 20:9); he walked, he made himself to walk: man naturally cares not for a walk with God; if he hath any communion with him, it is with such a dulness and heaviness of spirit as if he wished himself out of his company.
Man’s nature, being contrary to holiness, hath an aversion to any act of homage to God, because holiness must at least be pretended. In every duty wherein we have a communion with God, holiness is requisite: now as men are against the truth of holiness, because it is unsuitable to them, so they are not friends to those duties which require it, and for some space divert them from the thoughts of their beloved lusts. The word of the Lord is a yoke, prayer a drudgery, obedience a strange element. We are like fish, that “drink up iniquity like water,” and come not to the bank without the force of an angle; no more willing to do service for God, than a fish is of itself to do service for man. It is a constrained act to satisfy conscience, and such are servile, not son-like performances, and spring from bondage more than affection; if conscience, like a task-master, did not scourge them to duty, they would never perform it. Let us appeal to ourselves, whether we are not more unwilling to secret, closet, hearty duty to God, than to join with others in some external service; as if those inward services were a going to the rack, and rather our penance than privilege. How much service hath God in the world from the same principle that vagrants perform their task in Bridewell! How glad are many of evasions to back them in the neglect of the commands of God, of corrupt reasonings from the flesh to waylay an act of obedience, and a multitude of excuses to blunt the edge of the precept! The very service of God shall be a pretence to deprive him of the obedience due to him. Saul will not be ruled by God’s will in the destroying the cattle of the Amalekites, but by his own; and will impose upon the will and wisdom of God, judging God mistaken in his command, and that the cattle God thought fittest to be meat to the fowls, were fitter to be sacrifices on the altar. If we do perform any part of his will, is it not for our own ends, to have some deliverance from trouble? (Isa. 26:16): “In trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.” In affliction, he shall find them kneeling in homage and devotion; in prosperity, he shall feel them kicking with contempt; they can pour out a prayer in distress, and scarce drop one when they are delivered.
(2.) There is a slightness in our service of God. We are loth to come into his presence; and when we do come, we are loth to continue with him. We pay not an homage to him heartily, as to our Lord and Governor; we regard him not as our Master, whose work we ought to do, and whose honor we ought to aim at.
1. In regard of the matter of service. When the torn, the lame, and the sick is offered to Gods; so thin and lean a sacrifice, that you may have thrown it to the ground with a puff; so some understand the meaning of “you have snuffed at it.” Men have naturally such slight thoughts of the majesty and law of God, that they think any service is good enough for him, and conformable to his law. The dullest and deadest time we think fittest to pay God a service in; when sleep is ready to close our eyes, and we are unfit to serve ourselves, we think it a fit time to open our hearts to God. How few morning sacrifices hath God from many persons and families! Men leap out of their beds to their carnal pleasures or worldly employments, without any thought of their Creator and Preserver, or any reflection upon his will as the rule of our daily obedience. And as many reserve the dregs of their lives, their old age, to offer up their souls to God, so they reserve the dregs of the day, their sleeping time, for the offering up their service to him. How many grudge to spend their best time in the serving the will of God, and reserve for him the sickly and rheumatic part of their lives; the remainder of that which the devil and their own lusts have fed upon! Would not any prince or governor judge a present half eaten up by wild beasts, or that which died in a ditch, a contempt of his royalty? A corrupt thing is too base and vile for so great a King as God is, whose name is dreadful. When by age men are weary of their own bodies, they would present them to God; yet grudgingly, as if a tired body were too good for him, snuffing at the command for service. God calls for our best, and we give him the worst.
2. In respect of frame. We think any frame will serve God’s turn, which speaks our slight of God as a Ruler. Man naturally performs duty with an unholy heart, whereby it becomes an abomination to God (Prov. 28:9): “He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayers shall be an abomination to God.” The services which he commands, he hates for their evil frames or corrupt ends (Amos 5:21): “I hate, I despise your feast-days, I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.” God requires gracious services, and we give him corrupt ones. We do not rouse up our hearts, as David called upon his lute and harp to awake (Psalm 57:8). Our hearts are not given to him; we put him off with bodily exercise. The heart is but ice to what it doth not affect,
[1.] There is not that natural vigor in the observance of God, which we have in worldly business. When we see a liveliness in men in other things, change the scene into a motion towards God, how suddenly doth their vigor shrink and their hearts freeze into sluggishness! Many times we serve God as languishingly as if we were afraid he should accept us, and pray as coldly as if we were unwilling he should hear us, and take away that lust by which we are governed, and which conscience forces us to pray against; as if we were afraid God should set up his own throne and government in our hearts. How fleeting are we in divine meditation, how sleepy in spiritual exercises! but in other exercises active. The soul Both not awaken itself, and excite those animal and vital spirits, which it will in bodily recreations and sports; much less the powers of the soul: whereby it is evident we prefer the latter before any service to God. Since there is a fulness of animal spirits, why might they not be excited in holy duties as well as in other operations, but that there is a reluctancy in the soul to exercise its supremacy in this case, and perform anything becoming a creature in subjection to God as a Ruler?
[2.] It is evident also in the distractions we have in his service. How loth are we to serve God fixedly one hour, nay a part of an hour, notwithstanding all the thoughts of his majesty, and the eternity of glory set before our eye! What man is there, since the fall of Adam, that served God one hour without many wanderings and unsuitable thoughts unfit for that service? How ready are our hearts to start out and unite themselves with any worldly objects that please us!
[3.] Weariness in it evidenceth it. To be weary of our dulness signifies a desire, to be weary of service signifies a discontent, to be ruled by God. How tired are we in the performance of spiritual duties, when in the vain triflings of time we have a perpetual motion! How will many willingly revel whole nights, when their hearts will flag at the threshold of a religious service! like Dagon, lose both our heads to think, and hands to act, when the ark of God is present. Some in the Prophet wished the new moon and the Sabhath over, that they might sell their corn, and be busied again in their worldly affairs. A slight and weariness of the Sabhath, was a slight of the Lord of the Sabhath, and of that freedom from the yoke and rule of sin, which was signified by it. The design of the sacrifices in the new moon was to signify a rest from the tyranny of sin, and a consecration to the spiritual service of God. Servants that are quickly weary of their work, are weary of the authority of their master that enjoins it. If our hearts had a value for God, it would be with us as with the needle to the loadstone; there would be upon his beck a speedy motion to him, and a fixed union with him. When the judgments and affections of the saints shall be fully refined in glory, they shall be willing to behold the face of God, and be under his government to eternity, without any weariness: as the holy angels have owned God as their sovereign near these six thousand years, without being weary of running on his errands. But, alas, while the flesh clogs us, there will be some relics of unwillingness to hear his injunctions, and weariness in performing them; though men may excuse those things by extrinsic causes, yet God’s unerring judgment calls it a weariness of himself (Isaiah 43:22): “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” Of this he taxeth his own people, when he tells them he would have the beasts of the field, the dragons and the owls—the Gentiles, that the Jews counted no better than such—to honor him and acknowledge him their rule in a way of duty (ver. 20, 21.)
6. This contempt is seen in a deserting the rule of God, when our expectations are not answered upon our service. When services are performed from carnal principles, they are soon cast off when carnal ends meet not with desired satisfaction. But when we own ourselves God’s servants and God our Master, “our eyes will wait upon him till he have mercy on us.” It is one part of the duty we owe to God as our Master in heaven to continue in prayer (Col. 4:1, 2); and by the same reason in all other service, and to watch in the same with thanksgiving: to watch for occasions of praise, to watch with cheerfulness for further manifestations of his will, strength to perform it, success in the performance, that we may from all draw matter of praise. As we are in a posture of obedience to his precepts, so we should be in a posture of waiting for the blessing of it. But naturally we reject the duty we owe to God, if he do not speed the blessing we expect from him. How many do secretly mutter the same as they in Job 21:15: “What is the Almighty that we should serve him, and what profit shall we have if we pray to him?” They serve not God out of conscience to his commands, but for some carnal profit; and if God make them to wait for it, they will not stay his leisure, but cease soliciting him any longer. Two things are expressed;—that God was not worthy of any homage from them,—“What is the Almighty that we should serve him?” and that the service of him would not bring them in a good revenue or an advantage of that kind they expected.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXIX. — IT is difficult to refrain from concluding, that you are, in this passage, crafty and double-dealing. For he who treats of the Scriptures with that prevarication and hypocrisy which you practice in treating of them, may have face enough to pretend, that he is not as yet fully acquainted with the Scriptures, and is willing to be taught; when, at the same time, he wills nothing less, and merely prates thus, in order to cast a reproach upon the all-clear light of the Scriptures, and to cover with the best cloak his determinate perseverance in his own opinions. Thus the Jews, even to this day, pretend, that what Christ, the Apostles, and the whole church have taught, is not to be proved by the Scriptures. The papists too pretend, that they do not yet fully understand the Scriptures; although the very stones speak aloud the truth. But perhaps you are waiting for a passage to be produced from the Scriptures, which shall contain these letters and syllables, ‘The principal part of man is flesh:’ or, ‘That which is most excellent in man is flesh:’ otherwise, you will declare yourself an invincible victor. Just as though the Jews should require, that a portion be produced from the prophets, which shall consist of these letters, ‘Jesus the son of the carpenter, who was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, is the Messiah the Son of God!’
Here, where you are closely put to it by a plain sentence, you challenge us to produce letters and syllables. In another place, where you are overcome both by the sentence and by the letters too, you have recourse to ‘tropes,’ to ‘difficulties,’ and to ‘sound interpretations.’ And there is no place, in which you do not invent something whereby to contradict the Scriptures. At one time, you fly to the interpretations of the Fathers: at another, to absurdities of Reason: and when neither of these will serve your turn, you dwell on that which is irrelevant or contingent: yet with an especial care, that you are not caught by the passage immediately in point. But what shall I call you? Proteus is not half a Proteus compared with you! Yet after all you cannot get off. What victories did the Arians boast of, because these syllables and letters, HOMOOUSIOS, were not to be found in the Scriptures? Considering it nothing to the purpose, that the same thing could be most effectually proved in other words. But whether or not this be a sign of a good, (not to say pious,) mind, and a mind desiring to be taught, let impiety or iniquity itself be judge.
Take your victory, then; while we, as the vanquished confess, that these characters and syllables, ‘That, which is most excellent in man is nothing but flesh,’ is not to be found in the Scriptures. But just behold what a victory you have gained, when we most abundantly prove, that though it is not found in the Scriptures, that one detached portion, or ‘that which is most excellent,’ or the ‘principal part,’ of man is flesh, but that the whole of man is flesh! And not only so, but that the whole people is flesh! And further still, that the whole human race is flesh! For Christ saith, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Do you here set about your difficulty-solving, your trope-inventing, and searching for the interpretations of the Fathers; or, turning quite another way, enter upon a dissertation on the Trojan war, in order to avoid seeing and hearing this passage now adduced.
We do not believe only, but we see and experience, that the whole human race is “born of the flesh;” and therefore, we are compelled to believe upon the word of Christ, that which we do not see; that the whole human race “is flesh.” Do we now then give the Sophists any room to doubt and dispute, whether or not the principal (egemonica) part of man be comprehended in the whole man, in the whole people, in the whole race of men? We know, however, that in the whole human race, both the body and soul are comprehended, together with all their powers and works, with all their vices and virtues, with all their wisdom and folly, with all their righteousness and unrighteousness! All things are “flesh;” because, all things savour of the flesh, that is, of their own; and are, as Paul saith, Without the glory of God, and the Spirit of God! (Rom. iii. 23; viii. 5-9).
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library