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Ecclesiastes 7 thru 12
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A Disillusioned View of Life

Ecclesiastes 7:1     A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death, than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting;
for this is the end of everyone,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For like the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of fools;
this also is vanity.

7 Surely oppression makes the wise foolish,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning;
the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit.
9 Do not be quick to anger,
for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge
is that wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it.
13 Consider the work of God;
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful,
and in the day of adversity consider;
God has made the one as well as the other,
so that mortals may not find out anything
that will come after them.

The Riddles of Life

     15 In my vain life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing. 16 Do not be too righteous, and do not act too wise; why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be too wicked, and do not be a fool; why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of the one, without letting go of the other; for the one who fears God shall succeed with both.

     19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise more than ten rulers that are in a city.

     20 Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.

     21 Do not give heed to everything that people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; 22 your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others.

     23 All this I have tested by wisdom; I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? 25 I turned my mind to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things, and to know that wickedness is folly and that foolishness is madness. 26 I found more bitter than death the woman who is a trap, whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are fetters; one who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 See, this is what I found, says the Teacher,a adding one thing to another to find the sum, 28 which my mind has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes.

Obey the King and Enjoy Yourself

Ecclesiastes 8:1     Who is like the wise man?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
Wisdom makes one’s face shine,
and the hardness of one’s countenance is changed.

     2 Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath. 3 Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way. 6 For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. 7 Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? 8 No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. 9 All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.

God’s Ways Are Inscrutable

     10 Then I saw the wicked buried; they used to go in and out of the holy place, and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil. 12 Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they stand in fear before him, 13 but it will not be well with the wicked, neither will they prolong their days like a shadow, because they do not stand in fear before God.

     14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

     16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one’s eyes see sleep neither day nor night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.

Take Life as It Comes

Ecclesiastes 9:1     All this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hate one does not know. Everything that confronts them 2 is vanity,a since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice. As are the good, so are the sinners; those who swear are like those who shun an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone. Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun.

     7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. 8 Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

     11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.

Wisdom Superior to Folly

     13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded.”

17     The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18     Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.

Miscellaneous Observations

Ecclesiastes 10:1     Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a foul odor;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2     The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of a fool to the left.
3     Even when fools walk on the road, they lack sense,
and show to everyone that they are fools.
4     If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post,
for calmness will undo great offenses.

     5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as great an error as if it proceeded from the ruler: 6 folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7 I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves.

8     Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake.
9     Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them;
and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them.
10     If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge,
then more strength must be exerted;
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
11     If the snake bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage in a charmer.

12     Words spoken by the wise bring them favor,
but the lips of fools consume them.
13     The words of their mouths begin in foolishness,
and their talk ends in wicked madness;
14     yet fools talk on and on.
No one knows what is to happen,
and who can tell anyone what the future holds?
15     The toil of fools wears them out,
for they do not even know the way to town.

16     Alas for you, O land, when your king is a servant,
and your princes feast in the Morning!
17     Happy are you, O land, when your king is a nobleman,
and your princes feast at the proper time—
for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18     Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.
19     Feasts are made for laughter;
wine gladdens life,
and money meets every need.
20     Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts,
or curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
for a bird of the air may carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter.

The Value of Diligence

Ecclesiastes 11:1     Send out your bread upon the waters,
for after many days you will get it back.
2     Divide your means seven ways, or even eight,
for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.
3     When clouds are full,
they empty rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4     Whoever observes the wind will not sow;
and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

     5 Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

     6 In the Morning sow your seed, and at Evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Youth and Old Age

     7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

     8 Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the
days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

     9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your
youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these
things God will bring you into judgment.

     10 Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of
life are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1     Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return witha the rain; 3 in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; 4 when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; 5 when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself alongb and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; 6 before the silver cord is snapped,c and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breathd returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.


     9 Besides being wise, the Teacherf also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. 10 The Teacherg sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

     11 The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd.h 12 Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

     13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, includingi every secret thing, whether good or evil.

The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books [New Revised Standard Version]

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  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     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.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     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.
--- Unknown

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

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

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

Have You Met A True Relativist?
     The Stepping Stone Of Intuition

     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.

Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth

Proverbs 23:1-3
     by D.H. Stern

1     When you sit down to dine with a ruler,
     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.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     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.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Times
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                The Times

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.


Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     “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.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 16

     [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

On This Day
     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

Morning and Evening
     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: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     August 16


     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

Book Of Common Prayer
     Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | After Pentecost

Proper 14, Wednesday
Year 1

Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 101, 109:1–5 (6–20) 21–31
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 119:121–144
Old Testament     2 Samuel 14:21–33
New Testament     Acts 21:15–26
Gospel     Mark 10:17–31

Index of Readings

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 101, 109:1–5 (6–20) 21–31

Of David. A Psalm.
1 I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O LORD, I will sing.
2 I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?

I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is base.

I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 Perverseness of heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

5 One who secretly slanders a neighbor
I will destroy.
A haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not tolerate.

6 I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
so that they may live with me;
whoever walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.

7 No one who practices deceit
shall remain in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue in my presence.

8 Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all evildoers
from the city of the LORD.

1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

6 They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
8 May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
9 May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.
10 May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
12 May there be no one to do him a kindness,
nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation.
14 May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the LORD,
and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be before the LORD continually,
and may his memory be cut off from the earth.
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted to their death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him.
He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones.
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself,
like a belt that he wears every day.”

20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the LORD,
of those who speak evil against my life.

21 But you, O LORD my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.

26 Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O LORD, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame; may your servant be glad.
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 119:121–144

121 I have done what is just and right;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
do not let the godless oppress me.
123 My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes.
125 I am your servant; give me understanding,
so that I may know your decrees.
126 It is time for the LORD to act,
for your law has been broken.
127 Truly I love your commandments
more than gold, more than fine gold.
128 Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts;
I hate every false way.

129 Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 With open mouth I pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your custom toward those who love your name.
133 Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears
because your law is not kept.

137 You are righteous, O LORD,
and your judgments are right.
138 You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me
because my foes forget your words.
140 Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
and your law is the truth.
143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
but your commandments are my delight.
144 Your decrees are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.

Old Testament
2 Samuel 14:21–33

21 Then the king said to Joab, “Very well, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 Joab prostrated himself with his face to the ground and did obeisance, and blessed the king; and Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab set off, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 The king said, “Let him go to his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom went to his own house, and did not come into the king’s presence.

25 Now in all Israel there was no one to be praised so much for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. 27 There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a beautiful woman.

28 So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the king; but Joab would not come to him. He sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab rose and went to Absalom at his house, and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent word to you: Come here, that I may send you to the king with the question, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.’ Now let me go into the king’s presence; if there is guilt in me, let him kill me!” 33 Then Joab went to the king and told him; and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.

New Testament
Acts 21:15–26

15 After these days we got ready and started to go up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came along and brought us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to stay.

17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. 24 Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.

Mark 10:17–31

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church

Passing The Torch
Vasti McKenzie       Yale

The Influence of Henri J.M. Nouwen    
Dale Peterson       Yale

The Urgent Faith of Henri Nouwen
Robert Massie       Yale

Faith & Citizenship   
E.J. Dionne       Yale

Faith and Citizenship in the United States
Panel       Yale

Faith and Citizenship in Global Perspective    
Panel       Yale

Religious People, Secular Nation:
Toward a New Wall of Separation?   
Panel       Yale

Rethinking Theological Foundations
Panel       Yale

Shaping the New Moral Agenda   
Panel       Yale

Sin and Salvation   
Jane Williams       Yale

Aesthetic Dimensions of Religion
in South Africa    
Regina Schwartz       Yale

Separation of Church and State   
Joseph Henderson    Biola University

The Faerie Queene   
Discussion    Biola University

Why does Hamlet delay?   
Discussion    Biola University

Theology of Technology
John Edmiston    Biola University

Lect 10 Gen Letters Jude 2
Dr. Herb Bateman