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1 Samuel 10     Romans 8     Jeremiah 47     Psalm 23-24

1 Samuel 10

Saul Anointed King

1 Samuel 10 1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. 2 When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ 3 Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. 5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place.

14 Saul's uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 And Saul's uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.

Saul Proclaimed King

17 Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”

20 Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23 Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

Romans 8

Life in the Spirit

Romans 8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God's Everlasting Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jeremiah 47

Judgment on the Philistines

Jeremiah 47 1 The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.

2 “Thus says the Lord:
Behold, waters are rising out of the north,
and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
3 At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
so feeble are their hands,
4 because of the day that is coming to destroy
all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
every helper that remains.
For the Lord is destroying the Philistines,
the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
5 Baldness has come upon Gaza;
Ashkelon has perished.
O remnant of their valley,
how long will you gash yourselves?
6 Ah, sword of the Lord!
How long till you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard;
rest and be still!
7 How can it be quiet
when the Lord has given it a charge?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore
he has appointed it.”

Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.  See Psalm 23 article below

Psalm 23 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 24

The King of Glory

A Psalm of David.  See Psalm 24 article below

Psalm 24 1 The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Psalm 23 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     There is no inspired title to this Psalm, and none is needed, for it records no special event, and needs no other key than that which every Christian may find in his own bosom. It is David's Heavenly Pastoral; a surpassing ode, which none of the daughters of music can excel. The clarion of war here gives place to the pipe of peace, and he who so lately bewailed the woes of the Shepherd tunefully rehearses the joys of the flock. Sitting under a spreading tree, with his flock around him, like Bunyan's shepherd-boy in the Valley of Humiliation, we picture David singing this unrivalled pastoral with a heart as full of gladness as it could hold; or, if the Psalm be the product of his after-years, we are sure that his soul returned in contemplation to the lonely water-brooks which rippled among the pastures of the wilderness, where in early days she had been wont to dwell. This is the pearl of psalms whose soft and pure radiance delights every eye; a pearl of which Helicon need not be ashamed, though Jordan claims it. Of this delightful song it may be affirmed that its piety and its poetry are equal, its sweetness and its spirituality are unsurpassed.

     The position of this Psalm is worthy of notice. It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross. There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second Psalm. It is only after we have read, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" that we come to "The Lord is my Shepherd." We must by experience know the value of blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the Sweetness of the good Shepherd's care.

     It has been said that what the nightingale is among birds, that is this divine ode among the Psalms, for it has sung sweetly in the ear of many a mourner in his night of weeping, and has bidden him hope for a morning of joy. I will venture to compare it also to the lark, which sings as it mounts, and mounts as it sings, until it is out of sight, and even then is not out of hearing. Note the last words of the Psalm—"I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever;" these are celestial notes, more fitted for the eternal mansions than for these dwelling places below the clouds. Oh that we may enter into the spirit of the Psalm as we read it, and then we shall experience the days of heaven upon the earth!


     Verse 1. "The Lord is my shepherd." What condescension is this, that the infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenceless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's sheep unless his nature has been renewed for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no "if" nor "but," nor even "I hope so;" but he says, "The Lord is my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, "My." He does not say, "The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock," but "The Lord is my shepherd;" if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

     The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement—they are sententious and positive—"I shall not want." I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want." I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, "As thy day so shall thy strength be." I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I shall not want." Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but "I shall not." "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." It is not only "I do not want," but "I shall not want." Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I shall not want."   Ah, the following is for me.  Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my shepherd." The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

     Verse 2. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the contemplative. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." What are these "green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: "He maketh me to lie down." It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises! There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they could but do this. They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that this blessedness is theirs. They know the "green pastures," but they are not made to "lie down" in them. Those believers who have for years enjoyed a "full assurance of faith" should greatly bless their gracious God.

     The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, "he leadeth me beside the still waters." What are these "still waters" but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters—in the plural—to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilise, to cherish. They are "still waters," for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbour's, and therefore our neighbour may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favoured one may know nothing of it.

"In sacred silence of the mind
My heaven, and there my God I find."

     Still waters run deep. Nothing more noisy than an empty drum. That silence is golden indeed in which the Holy Spirit meets with the souls of his saints. Not to raging waves of strife, but to peaceful streams of holy love does the Spirit of God conduct the chosen sheep. He is a dove, not an eagle; the dew, not the hurricane. Our Lord leads us beside these "still waters;" we could not go there of ourselves, we need his guidance, therefore it is said, "he leadeth me." He does not drive us. Moses drives us by the law, but Jesus leads us by his example, and the gentle drawing of his love.

     Verse 3. "He restoreth my soul." When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. "He" does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. "He restoreth my soul." Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing — "Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"

     "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me." The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to all. Observe, that the plural is used—"the paths of righteousness." Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love. Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant. If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness. All this is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake." It is to the honour of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness. If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.

     Verse 4. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright times out of mind. Every word in it has a wealth of meaning. "Yea, though I walk," as if the believer did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God. To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it. The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude, and thus full often the last days of the Christian are the most peaceful of his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived. And, then, it is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death," for death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. "I will fear no evil." He does not say there shall not be any evil; he had got beyond even that high assurance, and knew that Jesus had put all evil away; but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were gone for ever. The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. "I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself; I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me." This is the joy of the Christian! "Thou art with me." The little child out at sea in the storm is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it sleeps in its mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough for the believer to know that Christ is with him. "Thou art with me; I have, in having thee, all that I can crave: I have perfect comfort and absolute security, for thou art with me." "Thy rod and thy staff," by which thou governest and rulest thy flock, the ensigns of thy sovereignty and of thy gracious care—"they comfort me." I will believe that thou reignest still. The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succour of my soul.

     Many persons profess to receive much comfort from the hope that they shall not die. Certainly there will be some who will be "alive and remain" at the coming of the Lord, but is there so very much of advantage in such an escape from death as to make it the object of Christian desire? A wise man might prefer of the two to die, for those who shall not die, but who "shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air," will be losers rather than gainers. They will lose that actual fellowship with Christ in the tomb which dying saints will have, and we are expressly told that they shall have no preference beyond those who are asleep. Let us be of Paul's mind when he said that "To die is gain," and think of "departing to be with Christ, which is far better." This 23rd Psalm is not worn out, and it is as sweet in a believer's ear now as it was in David's time, let novelty-hunters say what they will.

     Verse 5. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The good man has his enemies. He would not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God. Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his enemies. How refreshing is his calm bravery! "Thou preparest a table before me." When a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight. But observe: "Thou preparest a table," just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door, and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh! the peace which Jehovah gives to his people, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!

"Let earth be all in arms abroad,
They dwell in perfect peace."

     "Thou anointest my head with oil." May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh anointing for every day's duties. Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost, that we may have our heads anointed with oil. A priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service when he is devoid of new grace from on high. "My cup runneth over." He had not only enough, a cup full, but more than enough, a cup which overflowed. A poor man may say this as well as those in higher circumstances. "What, all this, and Jesus Christ too?" said a poor cottager as she broke a piece of bread and filled a glass with cold water. Whereas a man may be ever so wealthy, but if he be discontented his cup cannot run over; it is cracked and leaks. Content is the philosopher's stone which turns all it touches into gold; happy is he who has found it. Content is more than a kingdom, it is another word for happiness.

     Verse 6. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or "surely" is set as a seal upon it. This sentence may be read, "only goodness and mercy," for there shall be unmingled mercy in our history. These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always—"all the days of his life"—the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." "A servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever." While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever.

     May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

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

Psalm 24 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     Title. A Psalm of David. From the title we learn nothing but the authorship: but this is interesting and leads us to observe the wondrous operations of the Spirit upon the mind of Israel's sweet singer, enabling him to touch the mournful string in Psalm twenty-two, to pour forth gentle notes of peace in Psalm twenty-three, and here to utter majestic and triumphant strains. We can do or sing all things when the Lord strengtheneth us.

     This sacred hymn was probably written to be sung when the ark of the covenant was taken up from the house of Obed-edom, to remain within curtains upon the hill of Zion. The words are not unsuitable for the sacred dance of joy in which David led the way upon that joyful occasion. The eye of the psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical upgoing of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory. We will call it The Song of the Ascension.

     Division. The Psalm makes a pair with the fifteenth Psalm. It consists of three parts. The first glorifies the true God, and sings of his universal dominion; the second describes the true Israel, who are able to commune with him; and the third pictures the ascent of the true Redeemer, who has opened heaven's gates for the entrance of his elect.


     Verse 1. How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour's day? The Jews said, "The holy land is God's, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;" but their great Monarch had long before instructed them,—"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, "and they that dwell therein" are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian,—when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul's being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this Psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ had made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond not free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus.

     Man lives upon "the earth," and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man's. He is but a tenant at will, a leaseholder upon the most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds, and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The "fulness" of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores. The sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man's tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord's; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth's wonders are Jehovah's. We look also for a sublimer fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be be the Lord's and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London's Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky.

     The term "world" indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah's rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.

     Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God's; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God's world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father's, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.

     Verse 2. In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God, namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute. "For he hath founded it upon the seas." It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it. "He hath established it upon the floods." The world is Jehovah's, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title-deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundations has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God's grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable sea?

     Verses 3-6. Here we have the true Israel described. The men who shall stand as courtiers in the palace of the living God are not distinguished by race, but by character; they are not Jews only, nor Gentiles only, nor any one branch of mankind peculiarly, but a people purified and made meet to dwell in the holy hill of the Lord.

     Verse 3. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" It is uphill work for the creature to reach the Creator. Where is the mighty climber who can scale the towering heights? Nor is it height alone; it is glory too. Whose eye shall see the King in his beauty and dwell in his palace? In heaven he reigns most gloriously, who shall be permitted to enter into his royal presence? God has made all, but he will not save all; there is a chosen company who shall have the singular honour of dwelling with him in his high abode. These choice spirits desire to commune with God, and their wish shall be granted them. The solemn enquiry of the text is repeated in another form. Who shall be able to "stand" or continue there? He casteth away the wicked, who then can abide in his house? Who is he that can gaze upon the Holy One, and can abide in the blaze of his glory? Certainly none may venture to commune with God upon the footing of the law, but grace can make us meet to behold the vision of the divine presence. The question before us is one which all should ask for themselves, and none should be at ease till they have received an answer of peace. With careful self-examination let us enquire, "Lord, is it I."

     Verse 4. "He that hath clean hands." Outward, practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. To wash in water with Pilate is nothing, but to wash in innocency is all-important. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. It is vain to prate of inward experience unless the daily life is free from impurity, dishonesty, violence, and oppression. Those who draw near to God must have "clean hands." What monarch would have servants with filthy hands to wait at his table? They who were ceremonially unclean could not enter into the Lord's house which was made with hands, much less shall the morally defiled be allowed to enjoy spiritual fellowship with a holy God. If our hands are now unclean, let us wash them in Jesu's precious blood, and so let us pray unto God, lifting up pure hands. But "clean hands" would not suffice, unless they were connected with "a pure heart." True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please; but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are. We may lose our hands and yet live, but we could not lose our heart and still live; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. There must be a work of grace in the core of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion. May God grant that our inward powers may be cleansed by the sanctifying Spirit, so that we may love holiness and abhor all sin. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats; stone-blindness in the eyes arises from stone in the heart. Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes.

     The soul must be delivered from delighting in the grovelling toys of earth; the man who is born for heaven "hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity." All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with the husks will be reckoned with the swine. If we suck our consolation from the breasts of the world, we prove ourselves to be its home-born children.  Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and thy portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.

     "Nor sworn deceitfully." The saints are men of honour still. The Christian man's word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God's house, whatever may be his professions or doings. God will have nothing to do with liars, except to cast them into the lake of fire. Every liar is a child of the devil, and will be sent home to his father. A false declaration, a fraudulent statement, a cooked account, a slander, a lie—all these may suit the assembly of the ungodly, but are detested among true saints: how could they have fellowship with the God of truth, if they did not hate every false way?

     Verse 5. It must not be supposed that the persons who are thus described by their inward and outward holiness are saved by the merits of their works; but their works are the evidences by which they are known. The present verse shows that in the saints grace reigns and grace alone. Such men wear the holy livery of the Great King because he has of his own free love clothed them therewith. The true saint wears the wedding garment, but he owns that the Lord of the feast provided it for him, without money and without price. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." So that the saints need salvation; they receive righteousness, and "the blessing" is a boon from God their Saviour. They do not ascend the hill of the Lord as givers but as receivers, and they do not wear their own merits, but a righteousness which they have received. Holy living ensures a blessing as its reward from the thrice Holy God, but it is itself a blessing of the New Covenant and a delightful fruit of the Spirit. God first gives us good works, and then rewards us for them. Grace is not obscured by God's demand for holiness, but is highly exalted as we see it decking the saint with jewels, and clothing him in fair white linen; all this sumptuous array being a free gift of mercy.

     Verse 6. "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob." These are the regeneration, these are in the line of grace; these are the legitimate seed. Yet they are only seekers; hence learn that true seekers are very dear in God's esteem, and are entered upon his register. Even seeking has a sanctifying influence; what a consecrating power must lie in finding and enjoying the Lord's face and favour! To desire communion with God is a purifying thing. Oh to hunger and thirst more and more after a clear vision of the face of God; this will lead us to purge ourselves from all filthiness, and to walk with heavenly circumspection. He who longs to see his friend when he passes takes care to clear the mist from the window, lest by any means his friend should go by unobserved.  Really awakened souls seek the Lord above everything, and as this is not the usual desire of mankind, they constitute a generation by themselves; a people despised of men but beloved of God.  The expression "O Jacob" is a very difficult one, unless it be indeed true that the God of Jacob here condescendeth to be called Jacob, and takes upon himself the name of his chosen people.

     The preceding verses correct the inordinate boastings of those Jews who vaunted themselves as the favourites of heaven; they are told that their God is the God of all the earth, and that he is holy, and will admit none but holy ones into his presence. Let the mere professor as he reads these verses listen to the voice which saith, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."

     "Selah." Lift up the harp and voice, for a nobler song is coming; a song of our Well-beloved.

     Verse 7. These last verses reveal to us the great representative man, who answered to the full character laid down, and therefore by his own right ascended the holy hill of Zion. Our Lord Jesus Christ could ascend into the hill of the Lord because his hands were clean and his heart was pure, and if we by faith in him are conformed to his image we shall enter too. We have here a picture of our Lord's glorious ascent. We see him rising from amidst the little group upon Olivet, and as the cloud receives him, angels reverently escort him to the gates of heaven.

     The ancient gates of the eternal temple are personified and addressed in song by the attending cohorts of rejoicing spirits.

"Lo his triumphal chariot waits,
And angels chant the solemn lay.
'Lift up your heads, ye heavenly gates;
Ye everlasting doors, give way."

     They are called upon "to lift up their heads," as though with all their glory they were not great enough for the All glorious King. Let all things do their utmost to honour so great a Prince; let the highest heaven put on unusual loftiness in honour of "the King of Glory." He who, fresh from the cross and the tomb, now rides through the gates of the New Jerusalem is higher than the heavens; great and everlasting as they are, those gates of pearl are all unworthy of him before whom the heavens are not pure, and who chargeth his angels with folly. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates."

     Verse 8. The watchers at the gate hearing the song look over the battlements and ask, "Who is this King of glory?" A question full of meaning and worthy of the meditations of eternity. Who is he in person, nature, character, office and work? What is his pedigree? What his rank and what his race? The answer given in a mighty wave of music is, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." We know the might of Jesus by the battles which he has fought, the victories which he has won over sin, and death, and hell, and we clap our hands as we see him leading captivity captive in the majesty of his strength. Oh for a heart to sing his praises! Mighty hero, be thou crowned for ever King of kings and Lord of lords.

     Verse 9. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The words are repeated with a pleasing variation. There are times of deep earnest feeling when repetitions are not vain but full of force. Doors were often taken from their hinges when Easterns would show welcome to a guest, and some doors were drawn up and down like a portcullis, and may possibly have protruded from the top; thus literally lifting up their heads. The picture is highly poetical, and shows how wide heaven's gate is set by the ascension of our Lord. Blessed be God, the gates have never been shut since.  The opened gates of heaven invite the weakest believer to enter.

     Dear reader, it is possible that you are saying, "I shall never enter into the heaven of God, for I have neither clean hands nor a pure heart." Look then to Christ, who has already climbed the holy hill. He has entered as the forerunner of those who trust him. Follow in his footsteps, and repose upon his merit. He rides triumphantly into heaven, and you shall ride there too if you trust him. "But how can I get the character described?" say you. The Spirit of God will give you that. He will create in you a new heart and a right spirit.  Faith in Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit, and has all virtues wrapped up in it. Faith stands by the fountain filled with blood, and as she washes therein, clean hands and a pure heart, a holy soul and a truthful tongue are given to her.

     Verse 10. The closing note is inexpressibly grand. Jehovah of hosts, Lord of men and angels, Lord of the universe, Lord of the worlds, is the King of glory. All true glory is concentrated upon the true God, for all other glory is but a passing pageant, the painted pomp of an hour. The ascended Saviour is here declared to be the Head and Crown of the universe, the King of Glory. Our Immanuel is hymned in sublimest strains. Jesus of Nazareth is Jehovah Sabaoth.

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

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

Your Church and Your Life Planning

By Jonathan Leeman 3/01/2012

     A friend recently emailed me asking how he should weigh leaving his church to take a job in another city. I told him that he was “free in Christ” to stay or go but that I loved his factoring his local church into the decision. Well done. Too often, it’s easy to make life’s “big decisions” just like a non-Christian would, giving no regard to how it will impact our membership in our local churches. We consider a job offer in another city with scant regard for whether that city has a healthy church. We consider a possible marriage partner without asking whether the person has a track record of loving and serving Christ’s body.

     Let me look at the matter another way. We fail, when confronted with such decisions, to seek counsel from the brothers and sisters in our congregations who know us well — often because we have not sought meaningful relationships in the first place.

     We don’t consider the impact our going will have on others — the children we’ve been teaching in Sunday school or the fellow people who depend on our weekly encouragement.

     We face many difficult decisions about how to raise our children: Am I disciplining too much? Not enough? Should we home school? Public school? But we do not avail ourselves of older and wiser parents in the congregation.

     You get the picture. If you are a Christian, it’s worth asking whether you include your church in your life planning. I mean “include the church” in two ways: do you consider it as a factor in your thinking, and do you actually involve the people in your decision making?

     God has given all of us a wonderful gift in other Christians who have weaknesses and strengths, talents and resources, that complement our own. Whatever gift we have, we have it for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10). We’re to build one another up to maturity (Eph. 4:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Jude 20–21). Maturity in Christ is a group project, which is why our discipleship should occur primarily in and through the local church. Christian love and obedience put on flesh there.

(1 Co 12:7) 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.   ESV

(1 Pe 4:10) 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:   ESV

(Eph 4:13) 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,   ESV

(1 Th 5:11) 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.   ESV

(Jud 20–21) 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.   ESV

     For instance, Philippians 2:1–11 says to “consider others better than [ourselves]” and to “look to the interests of others.” Then it tells us to have the same attitude as Christ, who became man, made Himself a servant, and went to die on the cross. Let me see if I can apply these verses by fleshing out one example of a big life decision: which home to buy or apartment to rent.

     If you are able, “consider others better than yourselves” and “look to the interests of others” by living geographically close to the church. When a person lives within walking distance of a church or clumps of members, it is easier to invite people to one’s house for dinner, to watch one another’s children while running errands, and to pick up bread or milk at the store for one another. In other words, it is just plain easier to integrate daily life when there is relative — even walkable — geographic proximity.

     When choosing a place to live, Christians do well to ask some of the same questions that non-Christians ask: What are the costs? Are there good schools nearby? But a Christian also does well to ask additional questions like these: Will the mortgage or rent payment allow for generosity to others? Will it give other church members quick access to me for discipleship and hospitality?

     During my family’s last move, the question of living near the church came down to a choice between two houses, both of which were affordable but very different otherwise. House 1 was newer, better designed, more attractive, did not need repairs, and was less expensive. But it was a thirty-minute drive from the church building and near no other church members. House 2 was older, draftier, in need of several repairs (such as a rotting front porch and an occasionally flooding basement), and it was more expensive. But it was only a fifteen-minute drive from the church building and, more important, within walkable proximity of a dozen (now two dozen) church families. I sought the counsel of several elders, all of whom advised me to prioritize church relationships. This actually meant choosing the older, less attractive, more expensive house.

     Thankfully, we did, and it has been enriching for our whole family. My wife interacts with the other mothers almost daily, and our children with their children. I met with one brother every weekday morning to pray and read Scripture for a year and a half. And our church families can work together in serving and evangelizing our neighbors.

     Must a Christian move close to other members of his or her church? No, the Bible doesn’t command this. We’re free in Christ to live wherever we want. But this is one concrete way to love your church — to consider others better than yourself and look to their interests.

     Did the Son of God submit Himself geographically for the church’s good? He left heaven. Now, let’s put on the same attitude our Savior put on for us.

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     Dr. Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director of 9Marks, editor of the 9Marks Journal,

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It’s Not About You

By Eric Landry 3/1/2012

     After a particularly difficult marriage counseling session early in my first year of ministry, I called a mentor to debrief and decompress. He patiently heard me out and then offered a convicting assessment: “It sounds as if you’re more concerned about being right than you are about the couple you are counseling.” I knew immediately that he was right, but I made a mild protest and changed the subject. I didn’t want to face that truth about myself. It’s still hard to face the facts, but I can see now that in many different areas of my ministry, the focus has shifted from selfless service to selfish gain. It’s all about me.

     I’m not sure you could notice, looking in from the outside. It’s not as if I’m some kind of Elmer Gantrylike character on the prowl. The shift in emphasis is subtle: Did I really connect in my sermon? Did I spend enough time pursuing visitors? Did I give the right advice to the parents of a troubled teen? If I had done something different, would the result have been better? Slowly but surely, the terms of evaluating my ministry have become highly self-referential.

     When we try to think of examples of the kind of ministry that is focused on the self, it is easy to jump quickly to the televangelists. With their flashy suits, worldwide tours, and lavish lifestyles, they have become (like John Lennon once boasted) bigger than Jesus. But is that really our temptation? The inward curve that isn’t as easy to detect is the kind of ministry that preaches Christ from envy (Phil. 1:15) or shepherds people for shameful gain (1 Peter 5:2). The faster we humble, evangelical, Reformational pastors can identify the most egregious practitioners of such ministry, the easier it is to overlook some of our own temptations toward a ministry that puts ourselves at the center.

(Php 1:15) 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.   ESV

(1 Pe 5:2) 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;   ESV

     Immediately after God delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s menace, there were three incidents of the people grumbling against God. They grumbled when they came upon bitter water, they grumbled when they didn’t have bread, and then they grumbled when they didn’t have water at all. By the third incident, Moses was fed up. He told them that their real problem was that they were testing the Lord with their short-lived gratitude for God’s gracious provision (Ex. 17:2). But when Moses turned to God, the focus of his complaint was on himself: “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me” (v. 4). Rather than going to God as he had done in the past and praying that God would come to rescue and redeem His people, Moses appears to have stepped over the people and put his own needs front and center.

(Ex 17:2) 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”   ESV

     What happens when the ministry is reoriented to address my needs? I live or die by the people’s response. Does that brother still struggle with debilitating sin? Then I will make him my special project. But if he does not improve, if he does not see victory, if he never becomes a trophy of my success, then my own sense of ministry success is crushed. I am crushed. And that brother is crushed, too, for I have stood on him in order to raise myself up.

     By exalting myself, my wellbehaved children, and my vision for ministry, I am training the people to look to me for the answers to their deepest fears and most challenging problems. For a time, I can keep up the façade, but it will crumble when real life starts to bear down. How, then, do I reorient my people and myself away from me? How do we all redirect our eyes to the supremacy of Jesus?

     Even though the ministry is not about us, it is for us. As heralds of the great King, the message we bring is good news to us just as much as it is to the people who hear it. The great mysteries over which God has granted us stewardship benefit us just as much as the people who receive them. After focusing on his needs in Exodus 17:4, Moses was directed by God to the rock at Horeb, where God promised, “I will stand before you” (v. 6). Moses still had a task to accomplish, a ministry to perform — he hit the rock — but he was most of all a recipient of that life-giving drink and a witness to that life-giving act. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the “rock was Christ.” He did not provide physical and spiritual drink for the people in order to uphold Moses and his ministry; He gave it to sustain the people and their prophet, whose physical thirst was but a pale reflection of the spiritual thirst brought on by their self-referential focus.

     That day, Moses stood with the people and looked to Christ. Together their eyes were drawn to God’s saving work and presence. And that day, their deepest needs were met and filled. May God grant to us the same posture each Sunday as we pull our eyes off of ourselves and, together with our people, seek Christ in Scripture and the Supper, finding in Him all of our hope, righteousness, and satisfaction.

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     Rev. Eric Landry is founding pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA ) in Murrieta, California, and executive director for White Horse, Inc., the parent company of Modern Reformation magazine and the White Horse Inn radio broadcast.

Enlightened Self-Interest

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2012

     The last Saturday in October is perhaps my favorite day of the year. The Southwest Virginia church I served for more than a dozen years has a grand celebration every year on that day. The people celebrate the grace of God in bringing us the Reformation, which began October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. The celebration includes a telling of the story of Martin Luther to the children around a bonfire with s’mores. (I told the story when we lived there.) It includes contests in cooking chili and in cooking pies. It includes a grand street fair, with fresh fried doughnuts, barbeque, and hot french fries. All Ninety-Five of the theses are recited. Children and adults sing and play their instruments. And as the day draws to a close, the people dance. They dance with each other. They dance before the watching world. Most of all, they dance for the pleasure of our King and Redeemer. It’s a wonderful day, celebrating a glorious gospel.

     On the last Saturday in October 2011, however, I was not at our Reformation celebration. I was not in the mountains watching the fall leaves float to the ground. I was not eating funnel cake or serving as a judge in the chili contest (a perk of winning in the past). I was, instead, in hot and muggy Orlando, surrounded by concrete. I was sitting in the hospital with my dear wife as she received a blood transfusion, part of her continuing treatment in her battle with leukemia.

     One could argue that here we had evidence of the work of Christ in my life. I did not, after all, choose the crassly selfish thing. I did not kiss my wife on the cheek and wish her the best on my way out the door for a quick trip to Virginia. The truth is, however, that there is no place I would have rather been, but I moved my family from beauty and friends in Virginia to a crowded city out of a certain kind of selfishness. And I sat in that hospital room out of that same kind of selfishness.

     In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us against a grasping, fearful perspective on life. We tend to chase wealth, acclaim, and comfort, thinking only of ourselves. That Jesus condemns this perspective does not surprise us. How He does so, however, ought to stun us. His argument in this most famous sermon (and elsewhere) is not that we should give up on all the joy, peace, happiness, and satisfaction we would have if we were to be blessed to acquire wealth, acclaim, and comfort. Instead, out of gratitude for our eternal salvation, Jesus teaches that we must not seek these things first, but instead pursue our one duty.

     Our redemption is indeed glorious enough that it ought to push us to be willing to set aside our own interests and pursue the greater good of the kingdom. Even those who are unredeemed owe Him everything. How much more, then, do we who are redeemed owe Him? Jesus, however, argues that instead of giving up our own interests, we ought to pursue those interests with wisdom. We don’t change the end, but the means.

     Consider first my move to Florida. My earthly father asked me to move to Orlando. My heavenly Father tells me that the way to have a good life, the strategy for having it go well for me, is to honor my father and mother. The calculus, then, was rather simple. The same was true on this particular day. Would I rather be at a Reformation celebration than in the hospital? Of course. However, would I rather be with my wife or with my friends in Virginia? With my wife, of course. Whatever the circumstances, the one place I most want to be is with my wife.

     We are called not to seek self but to seek first the kingdom of God. We are told, however, not just that when we do this, all these things, the silly things we worry about, will be added to us. We are told also that there we will find life abundant. There we will find, at the right hand of the King of this kingdom, pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). The world promises us that if we will just seek it, we can be kings. Because He has already secured it, the King promises us the world.

     When we moved to Florida, I reminded my children that all that we enjoyed in Virginia was by the grace of God and that the grace of God extends to Florida. It also extends into hospital rooms. His grace extends as far as the ends of His kingdom. And remember this: we are called to seek that kingdom, not to expand it. We seek, we serve, we pursue, and we promote, but we do not grow the kingdom. He reigns everywhere right now. His rule cannot be extended because He rules wherever there is a there. And there He showers us with His goodness.

     We don’t, therefore, need to seek things. We already have everything. We don’t need to seek self. When we lost it, He found it. What we need instead is to rejoice, to give thanks, to ask that He would not give us more, save for a deeper gratitude for all that He has already given us.

Click here to go to source

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Christian Parenting

By Elyse Fitzpatrick 3/1/2012

     Allie was having a rough night. She had already been disciplined once for slapping one of the pastor’s sons across the face, and she had just done it again, this time to his brother. Her mother was humiliated and frustrated. Allie was angry, ashamed, and hopeless as she sat in her room awaiting the consequences.

     When her mom went to speak with her, Allie cried, “I don’t deserve to be out there with my friends.”

     How would you have answered her?

     Practically every parent on the planet has had a conversation with a child about the impropriety of hitting others. The question before Christian parents is not “Should I correct this behavior?” The question is “How does the gospel inform the way I correct my children?” Perhaps a more pointed question would be “How does my parenting differ from that of my Mormon neighbors down the street?”

     In one of only two direct commands about parenting in the New Testament, Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Entire books have been written about this verse: how fathers can avoid provoking their kids and what discipline and instruction look like. But in all of our parsing of this verse, perhaps we’ve overlooked the most important phrase: “of the Lord.” This phrase would have shocked Paul’s early readers because Ephesian parents trained their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Greek philosophers. Paul tells Christian parents that we are to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. What does that look like?

     First of all, parenting that is “of the Lord” is dependent on grace. Because “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9, NKJV), we know that we are incapable of transforming our children’s hearts or making them believe. So, rather than fussing, manipulating, worrying, and demanding, Christian dads or moms can rest in God’s grace, enjoy their children, and give up trying to do what only the Spirit can do.

     Christian parenting is also transparent. As Christians, we know we are sinners. When it comes to righteousness before God, we are not superior to anyone, not even our children. We should never wonder, “Why would my child do that?” We know the answer: he or she is the child of a sinner. The gospel tells us that we are not warring against our children but rather alongside them, fighting sin together. It’s not us versus them but parents and children versus sin and unbelief.

     Christian parents know the true function of God’s law in our children’s lives. God’s law makes them know their need for Christ, teaches believing children how to respond to the grace they’ve received, and makes them truly grateful for Jesus’ perfect keeping of it. But it does not make them good. Indeed, it cannot make them good, and we must stop expecting it to do so. Only Christ’s righteousness can earn the blessed benediction: “You are good.”

     If our parenting is truly Christian, tethered to both the indicatives and imperatives of God’s Word, then we’ll need to pray. We’ll need to pray because we need help connecting the gospel to their everyday lives. None of us does this well.

     Christian parents must flee from moralism and manipulation into the blood and righteousness of Jesus alone. We have to give them the gospel, graciously but relentlessly, so that they’ll know that there is a God who is as good as He says He is. Love them, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus.

     Now, back to our opening vignette. Allie had just declared, “I don’t deserve to be with my friends.” How would the gospel transform her mom’s response?

     Although her mom wasn’t thinking about the gospel and didn’t want to take time away from her company to correct her daughter or talk to her about Jesus, the Lord used Allie’s words to melt her heart.

     “You’re right, Allie. You don’t deserve to be with your friends. But neither do I. I’ve been angry and embarrassed. I don’t deserve God’s good gifts either. But God is so kind, He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives us mercy instead. Do you know what mercy is, little one?” Allie shook her head no.

     “Mercy is God giving you good when you deserve punishment. And grace is God just piling on all the good stuff you could never earn by being good enough. God can give us grace because His Son never slapped anyone. He can give us mercy because His Son was slapped in our place. Jesus has made a way for you and me to experience God’s mercy instead of His judgment. Isn’t He good?”

     “You’re making me cry,” Allie whispered through her tears.

     “Yes, God’s mercy is making me cry, too,” her mom replied. “Let’s pray together that the Lord helps us both remember His grace tonight.”

     After discipline and prayer, Allie hugged her mom and said, “Mommy, now I know that God really loves me.”

     Christian parenting isn’t a new method. It’s sharing the gospel you already know.

Click here to go to source

     Elyse M. Fitzpatrick is a retreat and conference speaker, and is the director of Women Helping Women Ministries. You can follow her on Twitter @ElyseFitz.

Elyse Fitzpatrick Books:

1 Samuel 10; Romans 8; Jeremiah 47; Psalms 23–24

By Don Carson 8/18/2018

     What does it mean for Christians to be “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37)? A considerable body of thought pictures a special group of illustrious Christians who “live above it all,” powerful in confronting temptation, victorious in their prayer lives, fruitful in their witness, mature and faithful in their relationships. And none of that is what the text says.

     First, the “us” to whom the apostle refers includes all Christians. All Christians are the ones whom God has foreknown, “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” called, justified, glorified (Rom. 8:29–30). The people referred to are not the elite of the elect; they are ordinary Christians, all genuine Christians.

     Second, the actual evidence that they are “more than conquerors” is that they persevere regardless of all opposition. That opposition may take the form of horrible persecution, of the kind that Scripture describes (Rom. 8:35–38). It may be some other hardship, all the way to famine. The glories of life will not finally seduce them; the terrors of death will not finally sway them; neither the pressures of the present nor the frustrations of the future will destroy them (Rom. 8:38). Neither human powers nor anything else in all creation, not even all the powers of hell unleashed, can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

     Third, as the last sentence already makes clear, that from which Christians cannot be finally separated is the “love of Christ” (Rom. 8:35) or the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:39). At one level, of course, that is simply saying that no power can stop Christians from being Christians. That is why we are “more than conquerors.” But that point could have been made a lot of different ways. To make it this way, with an emphasis on the love of Christ as that from which we cannot be separated, reminds us of the sheer glory and pleasure that is ours, both now and in eternity, to be in such a relationship. We are not simply acquitted; we are loved. We are loved not simply by a peer, but by God himself. Nor is this a reference to the general love that God has for his entire creation. What is at stake here is that special love that attaches to “all who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

     Fourth, the guarantee that we shall prevail and persevere, and prove to be “more than conquerors” in this sense, is nothing other than the sovereign purposes of God (Rom. 8:29–30), manifest in the death of his Son on our behalf (Rom. 8:31–35). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:32). No greater security is imaginable.

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 89

I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.

25 I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.

ESV Study Bible

  • 1 -- 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11
  • 2 -- 1 Sam. 2
  • 3 -- 1 Sam 3-4

#1 Dr. Robert Chisholm | Biblical E-Learning


#2 Dr. Robert Chisholm | Biblical E-Learning


#3 Dr. Robert Chisholm | Biblical E-Learning


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     1/1/2017    True Success

     Well done. Great job. Good work. As children, we loved to hear words of encouragement from our fathers, mothers, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. I fondly remember my father’s approving smile and my mother’s loving embrace when I did a good job. Truth be told, as adults we still want to be told we’ve done well. We love to be encouraged when we’ve been successful.

     God has given us an inherent desire to be successful. We want to be successful men, women, parents, grandparents, employees, students, and Christians. We want to succeed not only because it feels good to succeed, but because we know it is good to succeed. We want to succeed for our own security and so we can provide for ourselves and our families. We want our lives to matter, and we want our work to matter. We want to be appreciated, respected, and loved. We do not want to do our best and fail, and we do not want to succeed at all the wrong things. We want to do the right things and for our lives to make a difference where it really counts.

     Some say the desire for success is inherently evil. Others believe earthly success is all that matters. Both are wrong. God gave us the desire for success, and by striving for biblically defined success, we bring glory to our Creator. However, biblically defined success doesn’t always look like success to the world. God calls us to be faithful, for that is true success. Faithfulness always means fruitfulness and success in the eyes of God. It does not always mean success in the eyes of men. God calls us to be faithful as we daily depend upon the Holy Spirit to make our way prosperous and to have good success for His glory, not our own (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 118:25). And as we await the return of Jesus Christ, who is our only hope for true and ultimate success, may we strive to be always faithful so that we would hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23a).

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     His legal decisions were so respected they were referenced by in U.S. Supreme Court Cases. For forty years he served on the New York District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals before dying this day, August 18, 1961. His name was Learned Hand. During World War II in New York’s Central Park, Judge Learned Hand stated: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, nearly two thousand years ago, taught mankind the lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten--that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be… side by side with the greatest.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

That best portion of a man's life,
his little, nameless,
unremembered acts of kindness and love.
--- William Wordsworth

One great characteristic in the life of a man whose life is hid with Christ in God is that he has received the gift Jesus Christ gives. What gift does Jesus Christ give to those who are identified with him? The gift His Father gave him, The Father gave Him the Cross, and He gives us our cross.
--- Oswald Chambers
Christian Disciplines: Building Strong Christian Character through Divine Guidance, Suffering, Peril, Prayer, Loneliness and Patience (OSWALD CHAMBERS LIBRARY)

Order my footsteps by Thy Word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
--- Unknown

Our beliefs are not gospel. They are not universal truths. They are artifacts of specific times, places, and influential people. They may in fact be quite untrue.
--- Adam Burke, Ph.D.
... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     26. And thus did Josephus dispose of both his bodies of men; but then for the useless part of the citizens, the women and children, when they saw their city encompassed by a threefold army, [for none of the usual guards that had been fighting before were removed,] when they also saw, not only the walls thrown down, but their enemies with swords in their hands, as also the hilly country above them shining with their weapons, and the darts in the hands of the Arabian archers, they made a final and lamentable outcry of the destruction, as if the misery were not only threatened, but actually come upon them already. But Josephus ordered the women to be shut up in their houses, lest they should render the warlike actions of the men too effeminate, by making them commiserate their condition, and commanded them to hold their peace, and threatened them if they did not, while he came himself before the breach, where his allotment was; for all those who brought ladders to the other places, he took no notice of them, but earnestly waited for the shower of arrows that was coming.

     27. And now the trumpeters of the several Roman legions sounded together, and the army made a terrible shout; and the darts, as by order, flew so last, that they intercepted the light. However, Josephus's men remembered the charges he had given them, they stopped their ears at the sounds, and covered their bodies against the darts; and as to the engines that were set ready to go to work, the Jews ran out upon them, before those that should have used them were gotten upon them. And now, on the ascending of the soldiers, there was a great conflict, and many actions of the hands and of the soul were exhibited; while the Jews did earnestly endeavor, in the extreme danger they were in, not to show less courage than those who, without being in danger, fought so stoutly against them; nor did they leave struggling with the Romans till they either fell down dead themselves, or killed their antagonists. But the Jews grew weary with defending themselves continually, and had not enough to come in their places, and succor them; while, on the side of the Romans, fresh men still succeeded those that were tired; and still new men soon got upon the machines for ascent, in the room of those that were thrust down; those encouraging one another, and joining side to side with their shields, which were a protection to them, they became a body of men not to be broken; and as this band thrust away the Jews, as though they were themselves but one body, they began already to get upon the wall.

     28. Then did Josephus take necessity for his counselor in this utmost distress, [which necessity is very sagacious in invention when it is irritated by despair,] and gave orders to pour scalding oil upon those whose shields protected them. Whereupon they soon got it ready, being many that brought it, and what they brought being a great quantity also, and poured it on all sides upon the Romans, and threw down upon them their vessels as they were still hissing from the heat of the fire: this so burnt the Romans, that it dispersed that united band, who now tumbled clown from the wall with horrid pains, for the oil did easily run down the whole body from head to foot, under their entire armor, and fed upon their flesh like flame itself, its fat and unctuous nature rendering it soon heated and slowly cooled; and as the men were cooped up in their head-pieces and breastplates, they could no way get free from this burning oil; they could only leap and roll about in their pains, as they fell down from the bridges they had laid. And as they thus were beaten back, and retired to their own party, who still pressed them forward, they were easily wounded by those that were behind them.

     29. However, in this ill success of the Romans, their courage did not fail them, nor did the Jews want prudence to oppose them; for the Romans, although they saw their own men thrown down, and in a miserable condition, yet were they vehemently bent against those that poured the oil upon them; while every one reproached the man before him as a coward, and one that hindered him from exerting himself; and while the Jews made use of another stratagem to prevent their ascent, and poured boiling fenugreek upon the boards, in order to make them slip and fall down; by which means neither could those that were coming up, nor those that were going down, stand on their feet; but some of them fell backward upon the machines on which they ascended, and were trodden upon; many of them fell down upon the bank they had raised, and when they were fallen upon it were slain by the Jews; for when the Romans could not keep their feet, the Jews being freed from fighting hand to hand, had leisure to throw their darts at them. So the general called off those soldiers in the Evening that had suffered so sorely, of whom the number of the slain was not a few, while that of the wounded was still greater; but of the people of Jotapata no more than six men were killed, although more than three hundred were carried off wounded. This fight happened on the twentieth day of the month Desius [Sivan]. 30. Hereupon Vespasian comforted his army on occasion of what happened, and as he found them angry indeed, but rather wanting somewhat to do than any further exhortations, he gave orders to raise the banks still higher, and to erect three towers, each fifty feet high, and that they should cover them with plates of iron on every side, that they might be both firm by their weight, and not easily liable to be set on fire. These towers he set upon the banks, and placed upon them such as could shoot darts and arrows, with the lighter engines for throwing stones and darts also; and besides these, he set upon them the stoutest men among the slingers, who not being to be seen by reason of the height they stood upon, and the battlements that protected them, might throw their weapons at those that were upon the wall, and were easily seen by them. Hereupon the Jews, not being easily able to escape those darts that were thrown down upon their heads, nor to avenge themselves on those whom they could not see, and perceiving that the height of the towers was so great, that a dart which they threw with their hand could hardly reach it, and that the iron plates about them made it very hard to come at them by fire, they ran away from the walls, and fled hastily out of the city, and fell upon those that shot at them. And thus did the people of Jotapata resist the Romans, while a great number of them were every day killed, without their being able to retort the evil upon their enemies; nor could they keep them out of the city without danger to themselves.

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

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 23:6-8
     by D.H. Stern

6     Don’t eat the food of a stingy man;
     don’t be greedy for his delicacies.
7     For he is like someone who keeps accounts—
     “Eat! Drink!” he says to you,
     but he doesn’t really mean it.
8     The little you eat you will vomit up,
     and your compliments will have been wasted.

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

     Have you ever been expressionless with sorrow?

     And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. --- Luke 18:23.

     The rich young ruler went away expressionless with sorrow; he had not a word to say. He had no doubt as to what Jesus said, no debate as to what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow that had not any words. Have you ever been there? Has God’s word come to you about something you are very rich in—temperament, personal affinity, relationships of heart and mind? Then you have often been expressionless with sorrow. The Lord will not go after you, He will not plead, but every time He meets you on that point He will simply repeat—
“If you mean what you say, those are the conditions.’

     I can be so rich in poverty, so rich in the consciousness that I am nobody, that I shall never be a disciple of Jesus; and I can be so rich in the consciousness that I am somebody—that I shall never be a disciple. Am I willing to be destitute of the sense that I am destitute? This is where discouragement comes in. Discouragement is disenchanted self-love, and self-love may be love of my devotion to Jesus.

My Utmost for His Highest
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


What made us think
  It was yours? Because it was signed
  With your blood, God of battles?
  It is such a small thing,
  Easily overlooked in the multitude
  Of the worlds. We are misled
  By perspective; the microscope
  Is our sin, we tower enormous
  Above it the stronger it
  Grows. Where have your incarnations
  Gone to? The flesh is too heavy
  To wear you, God of light
  And fire. The machine replaces
  The hand that fastened you
  To the cross, but cannot absolve us.

Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Nowadays we say that dog is “man’s best friend.” We ascribe incredible loyalty to the dog. We often hear amazing stories in the news: A dog would not leave its master’s side during a disaster, sacrificing its own life out of a sense of loyalty; or a dog continued barking after its owner had lost consciousness, thus saving the woman’s life. Dogs are legendary for an incredible sensitivity of smell and hearing. After all, they were smart enough to distinguish between Egyptians and Israelites! “When I slew the first-born Egyptians, they were up all night burying their dead, and the dogs barked at them, but at Israel, they didn’t bark.”

     But dogs can also be harmful because of their ability to become pack animals. In the wild, they will follow a leader, and often a savage and cruel one. Even tamed dogs have been known to go wild on hearing the howls of other animals. For reasons unknown to us, when one dog—even a house pet—starts barking, others will often join in, oblivious to our need for peace and quiet.

     The Rabbis often look to animals for both positive and negative character traits. Thus, the Rabbis would remind us to emulate the loyalty and sensitivity of the dog, while not copying its mindless going along with the crowd. When a loud and crude person starts barking out complaints about a member of our community, we must be sensitive and think before joining in this yelping. When one neighbor begins snarling at another, we would be wise to step back and ponder the situation before joining in the howling. Otherwise, we might be like dogs who gather round and start barking at nothing at all.


     “Conventional wisdom” has it that birth order goes a long way toward determining personality. First-borns, it is said, are serious and responsible; they follow the rules and look to please their parents. Youngest children grow up as the “baby” of their families. They are often showered with playful attention and sometimes “spoiled” by their older and more relaxed parents. Middle children struggle for attention, doing whatever it takes to stand out from the serious first-born and the cute baby. At the same time, they have excellent people skills, honed while mediating between their older and younger siblings.

     The Midrash focuses on a number of first-borns: First-born children are redeemed from the service of God though the pidyon he-ben ceremony. The first-born of the flocks were dedicated to the Temple and offered as sacrifices. The first portions of the harvest were set aside as terumah for the Kohanim in the Temple. Then the Midrash brings in a brilliant insight of the prophet Jeremiah: the Jewish people are considered by God as “the first fruits of His harvest.” In other words, while other peoples and nations play the roles of youngest child and middle child, Israel has the position of first-born.

     Those who are the first-born in their families will tell you that it is both a blessing and a curse. The other children look up enviously to the first-born, complaining that he or she gets all the privileges while they get none. But the oldest child will say that there are liabilities that go along with the position. If something goes wrong, he is held responsible and gets the lion’s share of the blame. She has to meet the very high expectations her parents have for her; ordinary or average accomplishments just won’t do. And finally, the first-borns have no accessible role models. They have to be the trailblazers, figuring out on their own just how to do this or that. Years later they can share their experiences with their younger siblings and offer advice and counsel. No one serves that function for the oldest.

     Jeremiah’s metaphor about Israel being God’s first suggests that those same personality dynamics that apply to first-born children also apply to the Jewish people: There is a special affection from the Parent, but there is also a great deal of responsibility as well. While the other children—the nations of the world—may feel resentment and jealousy toward “the Chosen One,” that position brings great burdens as well as benefits.

     Dogs, we are reminded, run in packs, blindly following the crowd. Israel, the firstborn, doesn’t have that luxury. It must find its own way, and then it is expected to show that way to the rest of the world.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     August 18

     Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
--- John 17:17.

     The second petition. (
John A. Broadus, “The Saviour Praying for Us,” downloaded from the Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga. at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) You observe Jesus does not merely pray that they may be kept from evil, but that they may be made holy. Piety is not a mere negative thing. The Ten Commandments, I know, are all in negative form, “thou shalt not.” Even so, Christianity reveals that this is but one side and that the nobler and more glorious side of piety is that we must not merely try to keep from doing wrong but try to do right. Jesus prays not simply that they may be kept from evil but that they may be made holy. Do you want to be holy? You should desire to be holy! Anyhow, Jesus wishes that for you, and he prays, “Make them holy—make them holy through your truth; your word is truth.”

     It is truth that makes people holy. Earth’s unholiness began with a lie that people believed and so went headlong to ruin. Truth is the lifeblood of piety. Truth is the medicine for the soul’s disease. Nobody is ever made holy except through truth. Blessed be God, it often works its healing work though sadly mingled with error. The truth may still work its healing, saving, sanctifying work. “Your word is truth.” We know that word, and we may use it as the means of becoming holy.

     Regard the Bible as that which we are to use as the means of becoming holy. Regard the Bible as the means of making you better, of making you good. Use the Bible for that purpose. I know how it is, many times you do not love to read your Bible. The truth is, you take up your newspaper a second time and go on looking for something else in it when the Bible is lying neglected by your side. Then when you do take the Bible, you feel that it is rather dull reading. Learn to regard the Bible more as the means of making you holy. When you read it in private or hear it read in public, regard it as the great means of making you better, of strengthening you, of correcting your faults, of helping you to know your duty and helping you to do your duty. Fill your heart and mind full of the teachings of God’s Word, hoping it will make you better. You will take more interest in hearing the preacher read it from the pulpit and explain and impress on you its teachings, if you listen with the idea, “How I hope this will help me!” So in private read the Bible with the thought, “How I pray that this may do me good.” Please remember this suggestion and act on it!
--- John A. Broadus

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     One Hundred Hymns  August 18

     Can you imagine singing 100 hymns in one Evening? One church did, with history-shattering results.

     Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, born in 1700, grew up in an atmosphere of Bible reading and hymn-singing. He married a Christian countess, and the two began allowing Protestant refugees to camp on their German estate. A Moravian community named Herrnhut
( “Under the Lord’s Watch”) soon developed.

     One day a potter named Leonard Dober arrived to establish artistic pottery as a profitable product for Herrnhut. Not long thereafter, Zinzendorf returned from a trip to Copenhagen with reports of slaves in the West Indies having no one to tell them of Christ. Dober spent a sleepless night. “I could not get free of it,” he said. “I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave.”

     He found his brother in David Nitschmann, a carpenter.

     On August 18, 1732, in an extraordinary, emotion-packed service, the two were commissioned. One hundred hymns were sung that night as the congregation bade them good-bye and Godspeed.

     The two sailed from Copenhagen on October 8, sustained by
Numbers 23:19: God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.

     They arrived on St. Thomas in December, and a planter named Lorenzen took them in. Their first Sunday saw them beginning their search for souls, preaching to a small group of slaves, several of whom soon followed Christ. Dober ministered to those suffering from malaria, at one point nearly dying of the fever himself. On another occasion, he almost starved. But reinforcements began arriving from Herrnhut in 1734. Though many died, the Moravian tide of missionaries continued—to Greenland, to Lapland and Georgia, to Surinam, to Guinea, to South Africa, to Algeria, to North American Indians, to Ceylon and Romania and Constantinople. From 1732 to 1742, more than 70 Moravian missionaries were sent from Herrnhut, a community of 600.

     It has been called “The Golden Decade.” It was the dawn of Protestant missions.

     Tell every nation on earth, “The LORD is wonderful and does marvelous things!”
--- Psalm 96:3.

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

          Morning - August 18

     “Strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord’s house.” --- Jeremiah 51:51.

     In this account the faces of the Lord’s people were covered with shame, for it was a terrible thing that men should intrude into the Holy Place reserved for the priests alone. Everywhere about us we see like cause for sorrow. How many ungodly men are now educating with the view of entering into the ministry! What a crying sin is that solemn lie by which our whole population is nominally comprehended in a National Church! How fearful it is that ordinances should be pressed upon the unconverted, and that among the more enlightened churches of our land there should be such laxity of discipline. If the thousands who will read this portion shall all take this matter before the Lord Jesus this day, he will interfere and avert the evil which else will come upon his Church. To adulterate the Church is to pollute a well, to pour water upon fire, to sow a fertile field with stones. May we all have grace to maintain in our own proper way the purity of the Church, as being an assembly of believers, and not a nation, an unsaved community of unconverted men.

     Our zeal must, however, begin at home. Let us examine ourselves as to our right to eat at the Lord’s table. Let us see to it that we have on our wedding garment, lest we ourselves be intruders in the Lord’s sanctuaries. Many are called, but few are chosen; the way is narrow, and the gate is strait. O for grace to come to Jesus aright, with the faith of God’s elect. He who smote Uzzah for touching the ark is very jealous of his two ordinances; as a true believer I may approach them freely, as an alien I must not touch them lest I die. Heart searching is the duty of all who are baptized or come to the Lord’s table. “Search me, O God, and know my way, try me and know my heart.”

          Evening - August 18

     “And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.” --- Mark 15:23.

     A golden truth is couched in the fact that the Saviour put the myrrhed wine-cup from his lips. On the heights of heaven the Son of God stood of old, and as he looked down upon our globe he measured the long descent to the utmost depths of human misery; he cast up the sum total of all the agonies which expiation would require, and abated not a jot. He solemnly determined that to offer a sufficient atoning sacrifice he must go the whole way, from the highest to the lowest, from the throne of highest glory to the cross of deepest woe. This myrrhed cup, with its soporific influence, would have stayed him within a little of the utmost limit of misery, therefore he refused it. He would not stop short of all he had undertaken to suffer for his people. Ah, how many of us have pined after reliefs to our grief which would have been injurious to us! Reader, did you never pray for a discharge from hard service or suffering with a petulant and wilful eagerness? Providence has taken from you the desire of your eyes with a stroke. Say, Christian, if it had been said, “If you so desire it, that loved one of yours shall live, but God will be dishonoured,” could you have put away the temptation, and said, “Thy will be done”? Oh, it is sweet to be able to say, “My Lord, if for other reasons I need not suffer, yet if I can honour thee more by suffering, and if the loss of my earthly all will bring thee glory, then so let it be. I refuse the comfort, if it comes in the way of thine honour.” O that we thus walked more in the footsteps of our Lord, cheerfully enduring trial for his sake, promptly and willingly putting away the thought of self and comfort when it would interfere with our finishing the work which he has given us to do. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 18


     Kate B. Wilkinson, 1859–1928

     Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5

     Each day our prayer life should include the request that the Holy Spirit reveal the mind of Christ to us. As we mature in the Christian faith, our personalities and characters should take on Christ-like qualities. To have a Christ-like mind, it is vitally important that we nourish our minds daily with quality materials—things “that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

     Kate Wilkinson was a member of the Church of England and actively involved in the Keswick Deeper Life Movement. The hymn first appeared in the Golden Bells Hymnal, published in 1925.

     As a suggestion for your devotional times, take the six prayers of this hymn and use one each day to meditate upon as preparation for your worship on the Lord’s Day. What does it mean to have the “mind of Christ,” the “Word of God,” the “peace of God,” the “love of Jesus,” the strength of Jesus, and the beauty of Jesus in your life? How would these Christ-like virtues affect your daily living? How would they influence your worship of God?

     May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day, by His love and pow’r controlling all I do and say.
     May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour, so that all may see I triumph only thru His pow’r.
     May the peace of God, my Father, rule my life in ev’rything that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
     May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self-abasing— this is victory.
     May I run the race before me strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
     May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win, and may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.

     For Today: 1 Corinthians 15:49; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:1–16

     Try to base every action and decision on the response to this question: What is the Christ-like way for handling this situation? Reflect on this hymn ---

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


     (2.) As they are agreeable to sinful self. Not that the commands of God are suited to bolster up the corruptions of men, no more than the law can be said to excite or revive sin: but it is like a scandal taken, not given; an occasion taken by the tumultuousness of our depraved nature. The Pharisees were devout in long prayers, not from a sense of duty, or a care of God’s honor; but to satisfy their ambition, and rake together fuel for their covetousness, that they might have the greater esteem and richer offerings, to free by their prayers the souls of deceased persons from purgatory; an opinion that some think the Jewish synagogue had then entertained, since some of their doctors have defended such a notion. Men may observe some precepts of God to have a better conveniency to break others. Jehu was ordered to cut off the house of Ahab. The service he undertook was in itself acceptable, but corrupt nature misacted that which holiness and righteousness commanded. God appointed it to magnify his justice, and check the idolatry that had been supported by that family; Jehu acted it to satisfy his revenge and ambition: he did it to fulfil his lust, not the will of God who enjoined him: Jehu applauds it as zeal; and God abhors it as murder, and therefore would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu (Hos. 1:4). Such kind of services are not paid to God for his own sake, but to ourselves for our lusts’ sake.

     4. This is evident in neglecting to take God’s direction upon emergent occasions. This follows the text, “None did seek God.” When we consult not with him, but trust more to our own will and counsel, we make ourselves our own governors and lords independent upon him; as though we could be our own counsellors, and manage our concerns without his leave and assistance; as though our works were in our own hands, and not in the “hands of God.” that we can by our own strength and sagacity direct them to a successful end without him. If we must “acquaint ourselves with God” before we decree a thing, then to decree a thing without acquainting God with it, is to prefer our purblind wisdom before the infinite wisdom of God: to resolve without consulting God, is to depose God and deify self, our own wit and strength. We would rather, like Lot, follow our own humor and stay in Sodom, than observe the angel’s order to go out of it.

     6. As we account the actions of others to be good or evil, as they suit with, or spurn against our fancies and humors. Virtue is a crime, and vice a virtue, as it is contrary or concurrent with our humors. Little reason have many men to blame the actions of others, but because they are not agreeable to what they affect and desire; we would have all men take directions from us, and move according to our beck, hence that common speech in the world, Such an one is an honest friend. Why? because he is of their humor, and lackeys according to their wills. Thus we make self the measure and square of good and evil in the rest of mankind, and judge of it by our own fancies, and not by the will of God, the proper rule of judgment. Well then, let us consider: Is not this very common? are we not naturally more willing to displease God than displease ourselves, when it comes to a point that we must do one or other? Is not our own counsel of more value with us, than conformity to the will of the Creator? Do not our judgments often run counter to the judgment of God? Have his laws a greater respect from us, than our own humors? Do we scruple the staining his honor when it comes in competition with our own? Are not the lives of most men a pleasing themselves, without a repentance that ever they displeased God? Is not this to undeify God, to deify ourselves, and disown the propriety he hath in us by the right of creation and beneficence? We order our own ways by our own humors, as though we were the authors of our own being, and had given ourselves life and understanding. This is to destroy the order that God hath placed between our wills and his own, and a lifting up of the foot above the head; it is the deformity of the creature. The honor of every rational creature consists in the service of the First Cause of his being; as the welfare of every creature consists in the orders and proportionable motion of its members, according to the law of its creation. He that moves and acts according to a law of his own, offers a manifest wrong to God, the highest wisdom and chiefest good; disturbs the order of the world; nulls the design of the righteousness and holiness of God. The law of God is the rule of that order he would have observed in the world; he that makes another law his rule, thrusts out the order of the Creator, and establishes the disorder of the creature. But this will yet be more evident, in the fourth thing.

     Fourthly, Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship, provided he will walk by our rule. “This commits a riot upon his nature, To think him to be what we ourselves “would have him, and wish him to be” (Psalm 50:21), we would amplify his mercy and contract his justice; we would have his power enlarged to supply our wants, and straitened when it goes about to revenge our crimes; we would have him wise to defeat our enemies, but not to disappoint our unworthy projects; we would have him all eye to regard our indigence, and blind not to discern our guilt; we would have him true to his promises, regardless of his precepts, and false to his threatenings; we would new mint the nature of God according to our models, and shape a God according to our own fancies, as he made us at first according to his own image;” instead of obeying him, we would have him obey us; instead of owning and admiring his perfections, we would have him strip himself of his infinite excellency, and clothe himself with a nature agreeable to our own. This is not only to set up self as the law of God, but to make our own imaginations the model of the nature of God. Corrupted man takes a pleasure to accuse or suspect the actions of God: we would not have him act conveniently to his nature; but act what doth gratify us, a nd abstain from what distastes us. Man is never well but when he is impeaching one or other perfection of God’s nature, and undermining his glory, as if all his attributes must stand indicted at the bar of our purblind reason: this weed shoots up in the exercise of grace. Peter intended the refusal of our Saviour s washing his feet, as an act of humility, but Christ understands it to be a prescribing a law to himself, a correcting his love (John 13:8, 9). This is evidenced,

     1. In the strivings against his law. How many men imply by their lives, that they would have God deposed from his government, and some unrighteous being step into his throne; as if God had or should change his laws of holiness into laws of licentiousness: as if he should abrogate his old eternal precepts, and enact contrary ones in their stead? What is the language of such practices, but that they would be God’s lawgivers and not his subjects? that he should deal with them according to their own wills, and not according to his righteousness? that they could make a more holy, wise, and righteous law than the law of God? that their imaginations, and not God’s righteousness, should be the rule of his doing good to them? (Jer. 9:31): “They have forsaken my law, and walked after the imaginations of their own heart.” When an act is known to be a sin, and the law that forbids it acknowledged to be the law of God, and after this we persist in that which is contrary to it, we tax his wisdom as if he did not understand what was convenient for us; “we would teach God knowledge;” it is an implicit wish that God had laid aside the holiness of his nature, and framed a law to pleasure our lusts. When God calls for weeping and mourning, and girding with sackcloth upon approaching judgments, then the corrupt heart is for joy and gladness, eating of flesh and drinking of wine, because to-morrow they should die; as if God had mistaken himself when he ordered them so much sorrow, when their lives were so near an end; and had lost his understanding when he ordered such a precept: disobedience is therefore called contention (Rom. 2:8): “Contentious, and obey not the truth:” contention against God, whose truth it is that they disobey; a dispute with him, which hath more of wisdom in itself, and conveniency for them, his truth of their imaginations. The more the love, goodness, and holiness of God appears in any command, the more are we naturally averse from it, a nd cast an imputation on him, as if he were foolish, unjust, cruel, and that we could have advised and directed him better. The goodness of God is eminent to us in appointing a day for his own worship, wherein we might converse with him, and he with us, and our souls be refreshed with spiritual communications from him; and we rather use it for the ease of our bodies, than the advancement of our souls, as if God were mistaken and injured his creature, when he urged the spiritual part of duty. Every disobedience to the law is an implicit giving law to him, and a charge against him that he might have provided better for his creature.

     2. In disapproving the methods of God’s government of the world. If the counsels of Heaven roll not about according to their schemes, instead of adoring the unsearchable depths of his judgments, they call him to the bar, and accuse him, because they are not fitted to their narrow vessels, as if a nut-shell could contain an ocean. As corrupt reason esteems the highest truths foolishness, so it counts the most righteous ways unequal. Thus we commence a suit against God., as though he had not acted righteously and wisely, but must give an account of his proceedings at our tribunal. This is to make ourselves God’s superiors, and resume to instruct him better in the government of the world; as tough God hindered himself and the world, in not making us of his privy council, and not ordering his affairs according to the contrivances of our dim understandings. Is not this manifest in our immoderate complaints of God’s dealings with his church, as though there were a coldness in God’s affections to his church, and a glowing heat towards it only in us? Hence are those importunate desires for things which are not established by any promise, as though we would overrule and over persuade God to comply with our humor. We have an ambition to be God’s tutors and direct him in his counsels: “Who hath been his counsellor?” saith the apostle. Who ought not to be his counsellor? saith corrupt nature. Men will find fault with God in what he suffers to be done according to their own minds, when they feel the bitter fruit of it. When Cain had killed his brother, and his conscience racked him, how saucily and discontentedly doth he answer God! (Gen. 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since thou dost own thyself the rector of the world, thou shouldst have preserved his person from my fury; since thou dost accept his sacrifice before my offering, preservation was due as well as acceptance. If this temper be found on earth, no wonder it is lodged in hell. That deplorable person under the sensible stroke of God’s sovereign justice, would oppose his nay to God’s will (Luke 16:30): “And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent.” He would presume to prescribe more effectual means than Moses and the prophets, to inform men of the danger they incurred by their sensuality. David was displeased, it is said (2 Sam. 6:8), when the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah, not with Uzzah, who was the object of his pity, but with God, who was the inflicter of that punishment. When any of our friends have been struck with a rod, against our sentiments and wishes, have not our hearts been apt to swell in complaints against God, as though he disregarded the goodness of such a person, did not see with our eyes, and measure him by our esteem of him? as if he should have asked our counsel, before he had resolved, and managed himself according, to our will, rather than his own. If he be patient to the wicked, we are apt to tax his holiness, and accuse him as an enemy to his own law. If he inflict severity upon the righteous, we are ready to suspect his goodness, and charge him to be an enemy to his affectionate creature. If he spare the Nimrods of the world, we are ready to ask, “Where is the God of judgment?” If he afflict the pillars of the earth, we are ready to question, where is the God of mercy? It is impossible, since the depraved nature of man, and the various interests and passions in the world, that infinite power and wisdom can act righteously for the good of the universe, but he will shake some corrupt interest or other upon the earth; so various are the inclinations of men, and such a weather-cock judgment hath every man in himself, that the divine method he applauds this day, upon a change of his interest, he will cavil at the next. It is impossible for the just orders of God to please the same person many weeks, scarce many minutes together. God must cease to be God, or to be holy, if he should manage the concerns of the world according to the fancies of men. How unreasonable is it thus to impose laws upon God! Must God revoke his own orders? govern according to the dictates of his creature? Must God, who hath only power and wisdom to sway the sceptre, become the obedient subject of every man’s humor, and manage everything to serve the design of a simple creature? This is not to be God, but to set the creature in his throne: though this be not formally done, yet that it is interpretatively and practically done, is every hour’s experience.

     3. In impatience in our particular concerns. It is ordinary with man to charge God in his complaints in the time of affliction. Therefore it is the commendation the Holy Ghost gives to Job (ch. 1:22), that in all this, that is, in those many waves that rolled over him, he did not charge God foolishly, he never spake nor thought anything unworthy of the majesty and righteousness of God; yet afterwards we find him warping; he nicknames the affliction to be God’s oppression of him, and no act of his goodness (10:3): “Is it good for thee, that thou shouldst oppress?” He seems to charge God with injustice, for punishing him when he was not wicked, for which he appeals to God: “Thou knowest that I am not wicked” (ver. 7), and that God acted not like a Creator (ver. 8). If our projects are disappointed, what fretfulness against God’s management are our hearts racked with! How do uncomely passions bubble upon us, interpretatively at least wishing that the arms of his power had been bound, and the eye of his omniscience been hoodwinked, that we might have been left to our own liberty and designs? and this oftentimes when we have more reason to bless him than repine at him. The Israelites murmured more against God in the wilderness, with manna in their mouths, than they did at Pharaoh in the brickkilns, with their garlic and onions between their teeth. Though we repine at instruments in our afflictions, yet God counts it a reflection upon himself. The Israelites speaking against Moses, was, in God’s interpretation, a rebellion against himself: and rebellion is always a desire of imposing laws and conditions upon those against whom the rebellion is raised. The sottish dealings of the vinedressers in Franconia with the statue of St. Urban, the protector of the vines, upon his own day, is an emblem of our dealing with God: if it be a clear day and portend a prosperous vintage, they honor the statue and drink healths to it; if it be a rainy day, and presage a scantiness, they daub it with dirt in indignation. We cast out our mire and dirt against God when he acts cross to our wishes, and flatter him when the wind of his providence joins itself to the tide of our interest. Men set a high price upon themselves, and are angry God values them not at the same rate, as if their judgment concerning themselves were more piercing than his. This is to disannul God’s judgment, and condemn him and count ourselves righteous, as ’tis Job 40:8. This is the epidemical disease of human nature; they think they deserve caresses instead of rods, and upon crosses are more ready to tear out the heart of God, than reflect humbly upon their own hearts. When we accuse God, we applaud ourselves, and make ourselves his superiors, intimating that we have acted more righteously to him than he to us, which is the highest manner of imposing laws apon him; as that emperor accused the justice of God for snatching him out of the world too soon. What a high piece of practical atheism is this, to desire that infinite wisdom should be guided by our folly, and asperse the righteousness of God rather than blemish our own! Instead of silently submitting to his will and adoring his wisdom, we declaim against him, as an unwise and unjust governor: we would invert his order, make him the steward and ourselves the proprietors of what we are and have: we deny ourselves to be sinners, and our mercies to be forfeited.

     4. It is evidenced in envying the gifts and prosperities of others. Envy hath a deep tincture of practical atheism, and is a cause of atheism. We are unwilling to leave God to be the proprietor and do what he will with his own, and as a Creator to do what he pleases with his creatures. We assume a liberty to direct God what portions, when and how, he should bestow upon his creatures. We would not let him choose his own favorites, and pitch upon his own instruments for his glory; as if God should have asked counsel of us how he should dispose of his benefits. We are unwilling to leave to his wisdom the management of his own judgments to the wicked, and the dispensation of his own love to ourselves. This temper is natural: it is as ancient as the first age of the world. Adam envied God a felicity by himself, and would not spare a tree that he had reserved as a mark of his sovereignty. The passion that God had given Cain to employ against his sin, he turns against his Creator. He was wroth with God and with Abel; but envy was at the root, because his brother’s sacrifice was accepted and his refused. How could he envy his accepted person, without reflecting upon the Acceptor of his offering? Good men have not been free from it. Job questions the goodness of God, that he should shine upon the counsel of the wicked (Job 10:3). Jonah had too much of self, in fearing to be counted a false prophet, when he came with absolute denunciations of wrath; and when he could not bring a volley of destroying judgments upon the Ninevites, he would shoot his fury against his Master, envying those poor people the benefit, and God the honor of his mercy; and this after he had been sent into the whale’s belly to learn humiliation, which, though he exercised there, yet those two great branches of self-pride and envy were not lopped off from him in the belly of hell; and God was fain to take pains with him, and by a gourd scarce makes him ashamed of his peevishness. Envy is not like to cease till all atheism be cashiered, and that is in heaven. This sin is an imitation of the devil, whose first sin upon earth was envy, as his first sin in heaven was pride. It is a wishing that to ourselves, which the devil asserted as his right, to give the kingdoms of the world to whom he pleased: it is an anger with God, because he hath not given us a patent for government. It utters the same language in disparagement of God, as Absalom did in reflection on his father: If I were king in Israel, justice should be better managed; if I were Lord of the world, there should be more wisdom to discern the merits of men, and more righteousness in distributing to them their several portions. Thus we impose laws upon God, and would have the righteousness of his will submit to the corruptions of ours, and have him lower himself to gratify our minds, rather than fulfil his own. We charge the Author of those gifts with injustice, that he hath not dealt equally; or with ignorance, that he hath mistook his mark. In the same breath that we censure him by our peevishness, we would guide him by our wills. This is an unreasonable part of atheism. If all were in the same state and condition, the order of the world would be impaired. Is God bound to have a care of thee, and neglect all the world besides? “Shall the earth be forsaken for thee?” Joseph had reason to be displeased with his brothers, if they had muttered because he gave Benjamin a double portion, and the rest a single. It was unfit that they, who had deserved no gift at all, should prescribe him rules how to dispense his own doles; much more unworthy it is to deal so with God; yet this is too rife.

     5. It is evidenced in corrupt matter or ends of prayer and praise. When we are importunate for those things that we know not whether the righteousness, holiness, and wisdom of God can grant, because he hath not discovered his will in any promise to bestow them, we would then impose such conditions on God, which he never obliged himself to grant; when we pray for things not so much to glorify God, which ought to be the end of prayer, as to gratify ourselves. We acknowledge, indeed, by the act of petitioning, that there is a God; but we would have him ungod himself to be at our beck, and debase himself to serve our turns. When we desire those things which are repugnant to those attributes whereby he doth manage the government of the world; when, by some superficial services, we think we have gained indulgence to sins, which seems to be the thought of the strumpet, in her paying her vows, to wallow more freely in the mire of her sensual pleasures—“I have peace-offerings with me; this day I have paid my vows, I have made my peace with God, and have entertainment for thee;” or when men desire God to bless them in the commission of some sin, as when Balak and Balaam offered sacrifices, that they might prosper in the cursing of the Israelites (Num. 25:1) So for a man to pray to God to save him, while he neglects the means of salvation appointed by God, or to renew him when he slights the word, the only instrument to that purpose; this is to impose laws upon God, contrary to the declared will and wisdom of God, and to desire him to slight his own institutions. When we come into the presence of God with lusts reeking in our hearts, and leap from sin to duty. we would impose the law of our corruption on the holiness of God.

     While we pray “the will of God may be done,” self-love wishes its own will may be performed, as though God should serve our humors, when we will not obey his precepts. And when we make vows under any affliction, what is it often but a secret contrivance to bend and flatter him to our conditions? We will serve him if he will restore us; we think thereby to compound the business with him, and bring him down to our terms.

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect. CXXI. — BUT pray let us suppose the sentiment of the Diatribe to stand good — ‘that every affection is not “flesh;” that is, ungodly; but is that which is called good and sound spirit.’ — Only observe what absurdity must hence follow; not only with respect to human reason, but with respect to the Christian religion, and the most important Articles of Faith. For if that which is most excellent in man be not ungodly, nor utterly depraved, nor damnable, but that which is flesh only, that is the grosser and viler affections, what sort of a Redeemer shall we make Christ? Shall we rate the price of His blood so low as to say, that it redeemed that part of man only which is the most vile, and that the most excellent part of man has power to work its own salvation, and does not want Christ? Henceforth then, I must preach Christ as the Redeemer, not of the whole man, but of his vilest part; that is, of his flesh; but that the man himself is his own redeemer, in his better part!

     Have it, therefore, which way you will. If the better part of man be sound, it does not want Christ as a Redeemer. And if it does not want Christ, it triumphs in a glory above that of Christ: for it takes care of the redemption of the better part itself, whereas Christ only takes care of that of the vile part. And then, moreover, the kingdom of Satan will come to nothing at all, for it will reign only in the viler part of man, because the man himself will rule over the better part.

     So that, by this doctrine of yours, concerning ‘the principal part of man,’ it will come to pass, that man will be exalted above Christ and the devil both: that is, he will be made God of gods, and Lord of lords! — Where is now that ‘probable opinion’ which asserted ‘that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good?’ It here contends, ‘that it is a principal part, meritoriously good, and sound; and that, it does not even want Christ, but can do more than God Himself and the devil can do, put together!

     I say this, that you may again see, how eminently perilous a matter it is to attempt sacred and divine things, without the Spirit of God, in the temerity of human reason. If, therefore, Christ be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, it follows, that the whole world is under sin, damnation, and the devil. Hence your distinction between the principal parts, and the parts not principal, profits you nothing: for the world, signifies men, savouring of nothing but the things of the world, throughout all their faculties.

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