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1 Samuel 14     Romans 12     Jeremiah 51     Psalm 30

1 Samuel 14

Jonathan Defeats the Philistines

1 Samuel 14 1 One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4 Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5 The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us,  for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”  7 And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” 8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12 And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14 And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land. 15 And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.

16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude was dispersing here and there. 17 Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Count and see who has gone from us.” And when they had counted, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there. 18 So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel. 19 Now while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” 20 Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine's sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. 21 Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.

Saul's Rash Vow

24 And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. 25 Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. 28 Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were faint. 29 Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.”

31 They struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very faint. 32 The people pounced on the spoil and took sheep and oxen and calves and slaughtered them on the ground. And the people ate them with the blood. 33 Then they told Saul, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a great stone to me here.” 34 And Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Let every man bring his ox or his sheep and slaughter them here and eat, and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’” So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and they slaughtered them there. 35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord.

36 Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light; let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” But the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” 37 And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?” But he did not answer him that day. 38 And Saul said, “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. 39 For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But there was not a man among all the people who answered him. 40 Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” 41 Therefore Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. 42 Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” 44 And Saul said, “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” 45 Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. 46 Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.

Saul Fights Israel's Enemies

47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. 48 And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.

49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchi-shua. And the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn was Merab, and the name of the younger Michal. 50 And the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul's uncle. 51 Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

52 There was hard fighting against the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.

Romans 12

A Living Sacrifice

Romans 12 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Gifts of Grace

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Marks of the True Christian

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jeremiah 51

The Utter Destruction of Babylon

Jeremiah 51 1 Thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
against Babylon,
against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
2 and I will send to Babylon winnowers,
and they shall winnow her,
and they shall empty her land,
when they come against her from every side
on the day of trouble.
3 Let not the archer bend his bow,
and let him not stand up in his armor.
Spare not her young men;
devote to destruction all her army.
4 They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
and wounded in her streets.
5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the Lord of hosts,
but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt
against the Holy One of Israel.

6 “Flee from the midst of Babylon;
let every one save his life!
Be not cut off in her punishment,
for this is the time of the Lord's vengeance,
the repayment he is rendering her.
7 Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord's hand,
making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine;
therefore the nations went mad.
8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
perhaps she may be healed.
9 We would have healed Babylon,
but she was not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go
each to his own country,
for her judgment has reached up to heaven
and has been lifted up even to the skies.
10 The Lord has brought about our vindication;
come, let us declare in Zion
the work of the Lord our God.

11 “Sharpen the arrows!
Take up the shields!

The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.

12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;
make the watch strong;
set up watchmen;
prepare the ambushes;
for the Lord has both planned and done
what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
13 O you who dwell by many waters,
rich in treasures,
your end has come;
the thread of your life is cut.
14 The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,
and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.

15 “It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
16 When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
17 Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
18 They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
19 Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the Lord of hosts is his name.

20 “You are my hammer and weapon of war:
with you I break nations in pieces;
with you I destroy kingdoms;
21 with you I break in pieces the horse and his rider;
with you I break in pieces the chariot and the charioteer;
22 with you I break in pieces man and woman;
with you I break in pieces the old man and the youth;
with you I break in pieces the young man and the young woman;
23 with you I break in pieces the shepherd and his flock;
with you I break in pieces the farmer and his team;
with you I break in pieces governors and commanders.

24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord.

25 “Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
declares the Lord,
which destroys the whole earth;
I will stretch out my hand against you,
and roll you down from the crags,
and make you a burnt mountain.
26 No stone shall be taken from you for a corner
and no stone for a foundation,
but you shall be a perpetual waste,
declares the Lord.

27 “Set up a standard on the earth;
blow the trumpet among the nations;
prepare the nations for war against her;
summon against her the kingdoms,
Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz;
appoint a marshal against her;
bring up horses like bristling locusts.
28 Prepare the nations for war against her,
the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies,
and every land under their dominion.
29 The land trembles and writhes in pain,
for the Lord's purposes against Babylon stand,
to make the land of Babylon a desolation,
without inhabitant.
30 The warriors of Babylon have ceased fighting;
they remain in their strongholds;
their strength has failed;
they have become women;
her dwellings are on fire;
her bars are broken.
31 One runner runs to meet another,
and one messenger to meet another,
to tell the king of Babylon
that his city is taken on every side;
32 the fords have been seized,
the marshes are burned with fire,
and the soldiers are in panic.
33 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
at the time when it is trodden;
yet a little while
and the time of her harvest will come.”

34 “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me;
he has crushed me;
he has made me an empty vessel;
he has swallowed me like a monster;
he has filled his stomach with my delicacies;
he has rinsed me out.
35 The violence done to me and to my kinsmen be upon Babylon,”
let the inhabitant of Zion say.
“My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,”
let Jerusalem say.
36 Therefore thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will plead your cause
and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea
and make her fountain dry,
37 and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins,
the haunt of jackals,
a horror and a hissing,
without inhabitant.

38 “They shall roar together like lions;
they shall growl like lions' cubs.
39 While they are inflamed I will prepare them a feast
and make them drunk, that they may become merry,
then sleep a perpetual sleep
and not wake, declares the Lord.
40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
like rams and male goats.

41 “How Babylon is taken,
the praise of the whole earth seized!
How Babylon has become
a horror among the nations!
42 The sea has come up on Babylon;
she is covered with its tumultuous waves.
43 Her cities have become a horror,
a land of drought and a desert,
a land in which no one dwells,
and through which no son of man passes.
44 And I will punish Bel in Babylon,
and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed.
The nations shall no longer flow to him;
the wall of Babylon has fallen.

45 “Go out of the midst of her, my people!
Let every one save his life
from the fierce anger of the Lord!
46 Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
at the report heard in the land,
when a report comes in one year
and afterward a report in another year,
and violence is in the land,
and ruler is against ruler.

47 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming
when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
48 Then the heavens and the earth,
and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord.
49 Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.

50 “You who have escaped from the sword,
go, do not stand still!
Remember the Lord from far away,
and let Jerusalem come into your mind:
51 ‘We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach;
dishonor has covered our face,
for foreigners have come
into the holy places of the Lord's house.’

52 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will execute judgment upon her images,
and through all her land
the wounded shall groan.
53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,
and though she should fortify her strong height,
yet destroyers would come from me against her,
declares the Lord.

54 “A voice! A cry from Babylon!
The noise of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
55 For the Lord is laying Babylon waste
and stilling her mighty voice.
Their waves roar like many waters;
the noise of their voice is raised,
56 for a destroyer has come upon her,
upon Babylon;
her warriors are taken;
their bows are broken in pieces,
for the Lord is a God of recompense;
he will surely repay.
57 I will make drunk her officials and her wise men,
her governors, her commanders, and her warriors;
they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake,
declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.

58 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
The broad wall of Babylon
shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates
shall be burned with fire.
The peoples labor for nothing,
and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”

59 The word that Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah king of Judah to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign. Seraiah was the quartermaster. 60 Jeremiah wrote in a book all the disaster that should come upon Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon. 61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, 62 and say, ‘O Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’ 63 When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, 64 and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’”

Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

Psalm 30

Joy Comes with the Morning

Of David.  See Psalm 30 article below

Psalm 30 1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Bible, the Whole Bible, and Nothing but the Bible: An Interview with Eric J. Alexander

By Eric Alexander 5/01/2012

     Tabletalk: Describe how God first called you to ministry.

     Eric Alexander: From as early as I can remember, if anyone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would not have hesitated to answer, “I want to be a doctor.” I think that might have had something to do with a story my mother often told us of how her life was saved when she was just twenty-one, when a young and inexperienced doctor performed an emergency operation to remove her appendix. His name was Eric Anderson, and I was named “Eric” after him. So I went to a school that was well known for the number of medical doctors it produced. But soon after I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I was preparing for university when my brother asked me, “Have you asked God what he wants you to be?” Frankly, I had never thought that He would be interested. However, I started to pray seriously about this, and I know my brother (who had led me to Christ) was praying too. Before long, I found I was being drawn (it is the only word I can use) to the idea that God wanted me to be a preacher of the gospel. When I spoke with my minister, he told me that he had become increasingly persuaded of this too. Doors opened in remarkable ways. My desire for medical training receded, and I began to study for the ministry at Glasgow University.

     TT: What are a few reasons why preaching the word of God is relevant today?

     EA: The primary reason lies in the nature of Holy Scripture, which is the Word of God: it is God speaking to us about every facet of our lives. This is the primary way God communicates His truth to us. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that Scripture is literally “breathed out by God.” If that is so (and it is), then our primary concern will be to find out what God is saying to us, and the church’s primary responsibility will be to teach and preach the Bible.

     The second reason lies in the nature of humanity. Men and women have not changed with the changing centuries. The world around us has changed dramatically, but we are essentially the same people. That is why we recognize ourselves in the pages and characters of the Bible: we are like Jacob, Esau, David, Peter, Mary, Timothy, and so on. We find that the eternal Word of God goes to the heart of the human situation as nothing else does. That is why, when we are preaching the Bible, people will say, “He was speaking about me.”

     TT: What are a few things Christians can do to prepare themselves for the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day?

     EA: It is perhaps unwise to overgeneralize, but for most people, the preparation of a good night’s sleep is impor tant. How you spend Saturday evening may well be a strong influence on how you benefit from Sunday morning. Pray much for the preacher, and for yourself and those who worship with you. If you know the text or passage for Sunday’s ministry, study it well and pray over it in the days before. Guard your conversation both before and after the services.

     TT: What counsel would you give to the aspiring pastor?

     EA: Covet a humble spirit. Only God can produce genuine humility, and almost nothing is more important. Write out in large letters and place it where it will always confront you: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” John Stott has written, “Nothing is more hostile to spiritual growth than arrogance, and nothing is more conducive to spiritual growth than humility.” Devote your mornings to studying the Scripture and prayer. Your “office” should be for your secretary (if you have one). Your study should be recognized as your workplace, where you are not to be disturbed unless it is essential. Jesus was not “always available.” Decide at an early stage that by God’s grace you will preach the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.

     TT: Did you ever question your calling to the ministry? If so, how was your calling re-confirmed?

     EA: I would have to say that I cannot think of a time when I seriously doubted whether God had called me to be a preacher and a pastor. This may be due to several factors:

     1. The manner in which the call came and the fact that I eventually found I could do nothing else.

     2. I was deeply impressed by the fact that the call came from God, and He had said in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” So God never withdraws His call, and that is the vital truth.

     3. My conviction from studying Scripture that life in Christ and service for Christ are both a continuing warfare (Paul says, “we wrestle”), and the obvious place Satan would seek to unsettle us would be in the whole area of whether we are in the wrong place or the wrong job. The only ideal place in which to serve God is the place where He has currently set you down.

     TT: Please share with us a time when you were discouraged in your life, and how did God provide encouragement in the midst of it ?

     EA: My greatest discouragement is with myself and with how unprofitable a servant I have been. But the undeserved encouragements I have known have swamped my discouragements in the ministry so that I have to think hard to find them. Of course, there have been some. Many years ago, a situation arose in the church in which I was then serving that was a heartbreak of an immeasurable kind. That was a circumstance that could have seriously disabled me. A senior colleague in the ministry helped me through those days with wise counsel, and people from all sorts of places prayed earnestly for me. Jeremiah 32:17 was a source of great encouragement to me, especially the phrase, “nothing is too hard for you” in Jeremiah’s prayer. That has often been God’s word to me over the years.

     TT: How did you manage to preach through the New Testament twice during your ministry?

     EA: The key to explain this is twofold. First, I preached twice every Sunday and once on Wednesday evenings. On average, that would be so for forty-five weeks in the year and for forty years. That gave me a total of some 5,400 preaching occasions. Second, I was not preaching through every verse of the New Testament separately. Sometimes I would take a substantial passage, sometimes just a few verses or even one verse, but always in context. I must add that in these years I also covered the great majority of the Old Testament, preached special series at Christmas and Easter, and also a series of “subjects.” It is not a great feat to do this.

     TT: What three chief lessons have you learned in ministry that you did not learn in seminary?

     EA: The man I am is more important to God than the work I do. The secret of failure is often failure in secret. Resist professionalism in the ministry: be yourself.

Click here to go to source

     Eric J. Alexander was born and educated in Glasgow, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, philosophy, and theology at the University of Glasgow. He ministered for fifteen years in a rural parish in Ayrshire, Scotland, after which he spent twenty years at historic St. George’s-Tron Church in the city center of Glasgow, retiring at the end of 1997. Since his retirement, he has traveled around the world preaching and teaching at churches, conferences, and theological seminaries. He lives in St. Andrews, Scotland, with his wife, with whom he has a son and a daughter. His books are  Prayer: A Biblical Perspective  and  Our Great God And Saviour.

Psalm 30 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. A Psalm and Song at the Dedication of the House of David; or rather, A Psalm; a Song of Dedication for the House. By David. A song of faith since the house of Jehovah, here intended, David never lived to see. A Psalm of praise, since a sore judgment had been stayed, and a great sin forgiven. From our English version it would appear that this Psalm was intended to be sung at the building of that house of cedar which David erected for himself, when he no longer had to hide himself in the Cave of Adullam, but had become a great king. If this had been the meaning, it would have been well to observe that it is right for the believer when removing, to dedicate his new abode to God. We should call together our Christian friends, and show that where we dwell, God Dwells, and where we have a tent, God has an altar. But as the song refers to the temple, for which it was David's joy to lay by in store, and for the site of which he purchased in his later days the floor of Ornan, we must content ourselves with remarking the holy faith which foresaw the fulfilment of the promise made to him concerning Solomon. Faith can sing—

"Glory to thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet."

     Throughout this Psalm there are indications that David had been greatly afflicted, both personally and relatively, after having, in his presumption, fancied himself secure. When God's children prosper one way, they are generally tried another, for few of us can bear unmingled prosperity. Even the joys of hope need to be mixed with the pains of experience, and the more surely so when comfort breeds carnal security and self confidence. Nevertheless, pardon soon followed repentance, and God's mercy was glorified. The Psalm is a song, and not a complaint. Let it be read in the light of the last days of David, when he had numbered the people, and God had chastened him, and then in mercy had bidden the angel sheathe his sword. On the floor of Ornan, the poet received the inspiration which glows in this delightful ode. It is the Psalm of the numbering of the people, and of the dedication temple which commemorated the staying of the plague. DIVISION. In Ps 30:1-3, David extols the Lord for delivering him. Ps 30:4-5 he invites the saints to unite with him in celebrating divine compassion. In Ps 30:6-7 he confesses the fault for which he was chastened, Ps 30:8-10 repeats the supplication which he offered, and concludes with commemorating his deliverance and vowing eternal praise.


     Verse 1. I will extol thee. I will have high and honourable conceptions of thee, and give them utterance in my best music. Others may forget thee, murmur at thee, despise thee, blaspheme thee, but "I will extol thee, "for I have been favoured above all others. I will extol thy name, thy character, thine attributes, thy mercy to me, thy great forbearance to my people; but, especially will I speak well of thyself; "I will extol thee, "O Jehovah; this shall be my cheerful and constant employ. For thou hast lifted me up. Here is an antithesis, "I will exalt thee, for thou hast exalted me." I would render according to the benefits received. The Psalmist's praise was reasonable. He had a reason to give for the praise that was in his heart. He had been drawn up like a prisoner from a dungeon, like Joseph out of the pit, and therefore he loved his deliverer. Grace has uplifted us from the pit of hell, from the ditch of sin, from the Slough of Despond, from the bed of sickness, from the bondage of doubts and fears: have we no song to offer for all this? How high has our Lord lifted us? Lifted us up into the children's place, to be adopted into the family; lifted us up into union with Christ, "to sit together with him in heavenly places." Lift high the name of our God, for he has lifted us up above the stars. And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. This was the judgment which David most feared out of the three evils; he said, let me fall into the hand of the Lord, and not into the hand of man. Terrible indeed were our lot if we were delivered over to the will of our enemies. Blessed be the Lord, we have been preserved from so dire a fate. The devil and all our spiritual enemies have not been permitted to rejoice over us; for we have been saved from the fowler's snare. Our evil companions, who prophesied that we should go back to our old sins, are disappointed. Those who watched for our halting, and would fain say, "Aha! Aha! So would we have it!" have watched in vain until now. O happy they whom the Lord keeps so consistent in character that the lynx eyes of the world can see no real fault in them. Is this our case? let us ascribe all the glory to him who has sustained us in our integrity.

     Verse 2. O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. David sent up prayers for himself and for his people when visited with the pestilence. He went at once to head quarters, and not roundabout to fallible means. God is the best physician, even for our bodily infirmities. We do very wickedly and foolishly when we forget God. It was a sin in Asa that he trusted to physicians and not to God. If we must have a physician, let it be so, but still let us go to our God first of all; and, above all, remember that there can be no power to heal in medicine of itself; the healing energy must flow from the divine hand. If our watch is out of order, we take it to the watchmaker; if our body or soul be in an evil plight, let us resort to him who created them, and has unfailing skill to put them in right condition. As for our spiritual diseases, nothing can heal these evils but the touch of the Lord Christ: if we do but touch the hem of his garment, we shall be made whole, while if we embrace all other physicians in our arms, they can do us no service. "O Lord my God." Observe the covenant name which faith uses—"my God." Thrice happy is he who can claim the Lord himself to be his portion. Note how David's faith ascends the scale; he sang "O Lord" in the first verse, but it is "O Lord my God, "in the second. Heavenly heart music is an ascending thing, like the pillars of smoke which rose from the altar of incense. I cried unto thee. I could hardly pray, but I cried; I poured out my soul as a little child pours out its desires. I cried to my God: I knew to whom to cry; I did not cry to my friends, or to any arm of flesh. Hence the sure and satisfactory result—Thou hast healed me. I know it. I am sure of it. I have the evidence of spiritual health within me now: glory be to thy name! Every humble suppliant with God who seeks release from the disease of sin, shall speed as well as the Psalmists did, but those who will not so much as seek a cure, need not wonder if their wounds putrefy and their soul dies.

     Verse 3. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave. Mark, it is not "I hope so; "but it is, "Thou hast; thou hast; thou hast"—three times over. David is quite sure, beyond a doubt, that God has done great things for him, whereof he is exceeding glad. He had descended to the brink of the sepulchre, and yet was restored to tell of the forbearance of God; nor was this all, he owned that nothing but grace had kept him from the lowest hell, and this made him doubly thankful. To be spared from the grave is much; to be delivered from the pit is more; hence there is growing cause for praise, since both deliverances are alone traceable to the glorious right hand of the Lord, who is the only preserver of life, and the only Redeemer of our souls from hell.

     Verse 4. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. "Join my song; assist me to express my gratitude." He felt that he could not praise God enough himself, and therefore he would enlist the hearts of others. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. David would not fill his choir with reprobates, but with sanctified persons, who could sing from their hearts. He calls to you, ye people of God, because ye are saints: and if sinners are wickedly silent, let your holiness constrain you to sing. You are his saints—chosen, blood bought, called, and set apart for God; sanctified on purpose that you should offer the daily sacrifice of praise. Abound ye in this heavenly duty. Sing unto the Lord. It is a pleasing exercise; it is a profitable engagement. Do not need to be stirred up so often to so pleasant a service. And give thanks. Let your songs be grateful songs, in which the Lord's mercies shall live again in joyful remembrance. The very remembrance of the past should tune our harps, even if present joys be lacking. At the remembrance of his holiness. Holiness is an attribute which inspires the deepest awe, and demands a reverent mind; but still give thanks at the remembrance of it. "Holy, holy, holy!" is the song of seraphim and cherubim; let us join it—not dolefully, as though we trembled at the holiness of God, but cheerfully, as humbly rejoicing in it.

     Verse 5. For his anger endureth but a moment. David here alludes to those dispensations of God's providence which are the chastisement ordered in his paternal government towards his erring children, such as the plague which fell upon Jerusalem for David's sins; these are but short judgments, and they are removed as soon as real penitence sues for pardon and presents the great and acceptable sacrifice. What a mercy is this, for if the Lord's wrath smoked for a long season, flesh would utterly fail before him. God puts up his rod with great readiness as soon as its work is done; he is slow to anger and swift to end it. If his temporary and fatherly anger be so severe that it has need be short, what must be the terror of eternal wrath exercised by the Judge towards his adversaries? In his favour is life. As soon as the Lord looked favourably upon David, the city lived, and the king's heart lived too. We die like withered flowers when the Lord frowns, but his sweet smile revives us as the dews refresh the field. His favour not only sweetens and cheers life, but it is life itself, the very essence of life. Who would know life, let him seek the favour of the Lord. Weeping may endure for a night; but nights are not for ever. Even in the dreary winter the day star lights his lamp. It seems fit that in our nights the dews of grief should fall. When the Bridegroom's absence makes it dark within, it is meet that the widowed soul should pine for a renewed sight of the Well beloved. But joy cometh in the morning. When the Sun of Righteousness comes, we wipe our eyes, and joy chases out intruding sorrow. Who would not be joyful that knows Jesus? The first beams of the morning brings us comfort when Jesus is the day dawn, and all believers know it to be so. Mourning only lasts to morning: when the night is gone the gloom shall vanish. This is adduced as a reason for saintly singing, and forcible reason it is; short nights and merry days call for the psaltery and harp.

     Verse 6. In my prosperity. When all his foes were quiet, and his rebellious son dead and buried, then was the time of peril. Many a vessel founders in a calm. No temptation is so bad as tranquillity. I said, I shall never be moved. Ah! David, you said more than was wise to say, or even to think, for God has founded the world upon the floods, to show us what a poor, mutable, moveable, inconstant world it is. Unhappy he who builds upon it! He builds himself a dungeon for his hopes. Instead of conceiving that we shall never be moved, we ought to remember that we shall very soon be removed altogether. Nothing is abiding beneath the moon. Because I happen to be prosperous today, I must not fancy that I shall be in my high estate tomorrow. As in a wheel, the uppermost spokes descend to the bottom in due course, so it is with mortal conditions. There is a constant revolution: many who are in the dust today shall be highly elevated tomorrow; while those who are now aloft shall soon grind the earth. Prosperity had evidently turned the psalmist's head, or he would not have been so self confident. He stood by grace, and yet forgot himself, and so met with a fall. Reader, is there not much of the same proud stuff in all our hearts? let us beware lest the fumes of intoxicating success get into our brains and make fools of us also.

     Verse 7. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong. He ascribed his prosperity to the Lord's favour—so far good, it is well to own the hand of the Lord in all our stability and wealth. But observe that the good in a good man is not unmingled good, for this was alloyed with carnal security. His state he compares to a mountain, a molehill would have been nearer—we never think too little of ourselves. He boasted that his mountain stood strong, and yet he had before, in Psalm 29, spoken of Sirion and Lebanon as moving like young unicorns. Was David's state more firm than Lebanon? Ah, vain conceit, too common to us all! How soon the bubble bursts when God's people get conceit into their heads, and fancy that they are to enjoy immutability beneath the stars, and constancy upon this whirling orb. How touchingly and teachingly God corrected his servant's mistake: Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. There was no need to come to blows, a hidden face was enough. This proves, first, that David was a genuine saint, for no hiding of God's face on earth would trouble a sinner; and, secondly, that the joy of the saint is dependent upon the presence of his Lord. No mountain, however firm, can yield us rest when our communion with God is broken, and his face is concealed. However, in such a case, it is well to be troubled. The next best thing to basking in the light of God's countenance, is to be thoroughly unhappy when that bliss is denied us.

"Lord, let me weep for nought for sin!
And after none but thee!
And then I would—O that I might,
A constant weeper be!"

     Verse 8. I cried to thee, O Lord. Prayer is the unfailing resource of God's people. If they are driven to their wit's end, they may still go to the mercyseat. When an earthquake makes our mountain tremble, the throne of grace still stands firm, and we may come to it. Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer. The hand which wounds can heal: let us turn to him who smites us, and he will be entreated of us. Prayer is better solace than Cain's building a city, or Saul's seeking for music. Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing: prayer will succeed where all else fails.

     Verse 9. In this verse we learn the form and method of David's prayer. It was an argument with God, an urging of reasons, a pleading of his cause. It was not a statement of doctrinal opinions, nor a narration of experience, much less a sly hit at other people under pretence of praying to God, although all these things and worse have been substituted for holy supplication at certain prayer meetings. He wrestled with the angel of the covenant with vehement pleadings, and therefore he prevailed. Head and heart, judgment and affections, memory and intellect were all at work to spread the case aright before the Lord of love. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Wilt thou not lose a songster from thy choir, and one who loves to magnify thee? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Will there not be one witness the less to thy faithfulness and veracity? Spare, then, thy poor unworthy one for thine own name sake!

     Verse 10. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me. A short and comprehensive petition, available at all seasons, let us use it full often. It is the publican's prayer; be it ours. If God hears prayer, it is a great act of mercy; our petitions do not merit a reply. Lord, be thou my helper. Another compact, expressive, ever fitting prayer. It is suitable to hundreds of the cases of the Lord's people; it is well becoming in the minister when he is going to preach, to the sufferer upon the bed of pain, to the toiler in the field of service, to the believer under temptation, to the man of God under adversity; when God helps, difficulties vanish. He is the help of his people, a very present help in trouble. The two brief petitions of this verse are commended as ejaculations to believers full of business, denied to those longer seasons of devotion which are the rare privilege of those whose days are spent in retirement.

     Verse 11. Observe the contrast, God takes away the mourning of his people; and what does he give them instead of it? Quiet and peace? Aye, and a great deal more than that. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing. He makes their hearts to dance at the sound of his name. He takes off their sackcloth. That is good. What a delight to be rid of the habiliments of woe! But what then? He clothes us. And how? With some common dress? Nay, but with that royal vestment which is the array of glorified spirits in heaven. Thou hast girded me with gladness. This is better than to wear garments of silk or cloth of gold, bedight with embroidery and bespangled with gems. Many a poor man wears this heavenly apparel wrapped around his heart, though fustian and corduroy are his only outward garb; and such a man needs not envy the emperor in all his pomp. Glory be to thee, O God, if, by a sense of full forgiveness and present justification, thou hast enriched my spiritual nature, and filled me with all the fulness of God.

     Verse 12. To the end—namely, with this view and intent—that my glory—that is, my tongue or my soul—may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. It would be a shameful crime, if, after receiving God's mercies, we should forget to praise him. God would not have our tongues lie idle while so many themes for gratitude are spread on every hand. He would have no dumb children in the house. They are all to sing in heaven, and therefore they should all sing on earth. Let us sing with the poet:

"I would begin the music here,
And so my soul should rise:
Oh for some heavenly notes to bear
My passions to the skies."
O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
"I will praise him in life; I will praise him in death;
I will praise him as long as he lendeth me breath;
And say when the death dew lays cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, it is now."

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).

Pray the Scriptures

By Scotty Smith 5/01/2012

     I am a recovering self-centered pragmatic pray-er — a believer who spent many of my first years in Christ thinking of God more as a sugar daddy than the sovereign Father. Prayer, for me, had more in common with programming a heavenly computer than surrendering to a loving Master. I worked harder at claiming God’s promises for my ease than being claimed by God’s purposes for His kingdom. Instead of being still and knowing that God is God, my prayer life was that of an antsy man, trying to help God be God.

     Alas, this was a manifestation of the man-centered gospel that distorted my view of God and, therefore, enfeebled my practice of prayer. Thankfully, continued growth in grace has led me to a better understanding of the gospel, which, in turn, has radically reoriented my prayer life. It’s not cliché; it’s wondrously true: the gospel changes everything.

     Nothing has been of greater importance to my growth in grace than learning to pray the Scriptures while wearing the lens of the gospel, and nothing has proven to be more fruitful. A gospel-centered approach to praying through the Bible will yield a mind informed by the will of God, a heart enflamed with the love of God, and hands extended in the service of God. All three of these are central to life in Christ, and all three flow out of our union and communion with Christ.

     So, what’s involved in this doxological discipline of praying the Scriptures? I don’t suggest my way is the only way, but here’s how my commitment to Bible study and prayer have been tremendously enriched in recent years.

     Praying the Scriptures requires us first to be in the Scriptures regularly, preferably daily. A “diligent use of the means of grace” doesn’t earn us anything, but it profits us in every way. We can’t hide the Word in our hearts if we’re not lingering in the Bible’s pages. Personally, the best time for me to meet with God in an unrushed, expectant way is early in the morning, but we’re all wired differently.

     Jack Miller, my spiritual dad and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, taught me the importance of reading through the whole Bible while at the same time having a smaller portion of Scripture read me. If we aren’t careful, we can read the Scriptures for information and inspiration while playing dodgeball with our calling to transformation. Having the Scriptures “read me” deepens my prayer life because it exposes my sin, reveals Jesus, and makes me hunger and thirst for more of the gospel.

     As Martin Luther said, we need the gospel every day because we forget the gospel every day. There’s nothing like knowing our need for Jesus to cure us of gospel amnesia. Nothing will so enflame our hearts like a fresh experience of God’s grace for our current needs. Reading the Bible and having the Bible read me constantly convinces me of this: there’s nothing more than the gospel, there’s just more of the gospel.

     Praying the Scriptures, therefore, calls us to look for Jesus in every part of the Bible, for He is the heart, heartbeat, and hero of the gospel. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27), we want to discover everything prophesied and promised about Jesus as He is progressively revealed in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation.

     All of God’s promises find their “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20), but they’re not God’s “yes” to all of our fancies and fantasies. Jack Miller taught me to pray the promises of God with my eyes fixed on Jesus and His kingdom purposes. This represents an important paradigm shift away from looking for verses we can name and claim to pursuing the Christ we can know and serve.

     Minds informed by the will of God and hearts enflamed with the love of God will be authenticated by hands extended in the service of God. The more we pray through the Scriptures wearing the lens of the gospel, the less we’ll find ourselves giving God bit parts in our story and the more we’ll think about finding our place in His story. The central and operative question in life is not “What can I do for Jesus?” while He’s away in heaven. Rather, it’s “What can I do with Jesus?” since He’s right here, right now. Each of us is called to live as a character in and a carrier of His story of redemption and restoration.

     Praying the Scriptures involves heart-fully engaging with Christ in His three offices of prophet, priest, and king:

     Because Jesus is our Prophet — the final Word from God — reading the Bible isn’t merely about gaining information; it’s about prayerfully listening to the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are to give Jesus our rapt attention and our grace-liberated consciences.

     Because Jesus is our Priest — our great High Priest — we must read the Scriptures doxologically, for Christ is the completed sacrifice for our sins, our perfect righteousness from God, and the Shepherd of our souls. We are to give Jesus our current brokenness and our fresh adoration.

     Because Jesus is our King — the King of kings and Lord of lords — we must pray through the Bible with bowed heads and surrendered lives. We are to give Jesus our humble obeisance and our overjoyed obedience.

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     Rev. Scotty Smith is founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Rev. Scotty Smith Books:

The Pastor’s Example of Evangelism

By Steven Lawson 6/1/2012

     In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

     With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?

     First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace.

     In The Reformed Pastor, Puritan Richard Baxter addressed the ministers of his day, many of whom were unconverted: “See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others.” Simply put, pastors must embrace the very message they preach.

     Charles Spurgeon writes:

     A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon … the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark! He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man f luent upon symphonies and harmonies! He is a mole professing to educate eaglets.

     Sadly, unconverted pastors do exist. Martin Luther was a doctor of theology and professor of Bible before he was born again. John Wesley was an overseas missionary prior to his conversion. Every pastor must be certain of his own salvation before he can powerfully preach the gospel to others.

     Second, every pastor must preach the gospel to his family. Evangelism in the home begins with shepherding one’s own wife in her relationship with Christ. I will never forget an elder’s meeting in which one of our pastors shared that his wife had been converted the previous night. She was one of the nicest people in the church, yet, unknown to us, she was unconverted. How often is this the reality? To this end, every pastor must give attention to the spiritual state of his wife.

     Similarly, he must give the same attention to his children. This evangelism should begin early and involve disciplines such as Bible readings, catechizing, and family devotions. I came to faith in Christ as a result of my father reading the Bible to me in the evenings. Moreover, home evangelism should include informal conversations, probing questions, and a consistently godly life modeled before the children.

     Third, every pastor must preach the gospel to his flock. There must be a sober realization that not every church member is regenerate. Every pastor’s evangelistic work must center in his pulpit ministry as he regularly presents the gospel with clear, decisive appeals. He must implore his congregation to respond to the gospel and be saved. There should be a distinct urgency in his voice as he exhorts, even pleads, for his flock to be converted.

     Certainly, this evangelistic thrust is not to be confused with abuses and manipulative methods. I am not contending that people raise a hand, walk an aisle, parrot a prayer, and be declared saved—all within five minutes. But I am insisting that our gospel preaching must be compelling. It must come with bold proclamations of the cross, warm appeals to come to Christ, and passionate persuasions that urge people to respond by faith alone. Pastors must give gospel messages that call for repentance and issue severe warnings of eternal consequences for unbelief.

     Fourth, every pastor should evangelize the community. The strategies will differ from one man to the next, depending upon his gifts and opportunities. As a fisher of men, he must go where the fish are. He must leave dry land, sail out into deep waters, and cast his net. Pastors must venture out into the community, share the gospel, and urge people to believe upon Christ. Community outreach involves building bridges to unbelievers. This may include hosting a Bible study in an office, a restaurant, or a home. It can involve a local radio program, a newspaper editorial, or an Internet blog. It means showing acts of mercy with a gospel presentation. Whatever the strategy, making such inroads requires going where unconverted people are and unashamedly sharing Christ.

     It has been rightly said that the greatest joy is knowing Christ and the second greatest is making Him known. May every pastor enter joyfully into this privileged task of doing the work of an evangelist.

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     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

Steven Lawson Books:

The Church is One

By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2012

     In the seventeenth chapter of his gospel, the Apostle John recounts the most extensive prayer that is recorded in the New Testament. It is a prayer of intercession by Jesus for His disciples and for all who would believe through their testimony. Consequently, this prayer is called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. Christ implored the Father in this prayer that His people might be one. He went so far as to ask the Father that “they may be one even as we are one” (v. 22b). He desired that the unity of the people of God — the unity of the church — would reflect and mirror the unity that exists between the Father and the Son.

     Early in church history, as the church fathers were hammering out the cardinal doctrines of the faith, they wrestled with the nature of the church. In the fourth century, in the Nicene Creed, the church was defined with four adjectival qualifiers: one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic. These early saints believed, as Scripture teaches, that the church is one, a unity.

     We know that the prayers of Christ, our High Priest, are efficacious and powerful. We know that the early church experienced remarkable unity (Acts 2:42–47; 4:32). Yet the church today, in its visible manifestation, is probably more fragmented and fractured than at any time in church history. There are thousands of denominations in the United States and even more around the world. How, then, are we to understand Christ’s prayer for the unity of the church? How are we to understand the ancient church’s declaration that the church is one?

     There have been different approaches to this. In the twentieth century, we witnessed the rise of relativistic pluralism, a philosophy that allows for a wide diversity of theological viewpoints and doctrines within a single body. In the face of numerous doctrinal disputes, some churches have tried to maintain unity by accommodating many differing views. Such pluralism has frequently succeeded in maintaining unity — at least organizational and structural unity.

     However, there’s always a price tag for pluralism, and historically, the price tag has been the confessional purity of the church. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Protestant movement began, various ecclesiastical groups created confessions, creedal statements that set forth the doctrines these groups embraced. In the main, these documents reiterated that body of doctrine that had been passed down through the centuries, having been defined in the so-called ecumenical councils of the first several centuries. These confessions also spelled out the particular beliefs of these various groups. For centuries, Protestantism was defined confessionally. But in our day, the older confessions have been largely relativized as churches try to broaden their confessional stances in order to achieve a visible unity.

     There has always been a certain level of pluralism within historic Christianity. The church has always made a distinction between heresy and error. It is a distinction not of kind but of degree. The church is always plagued with errors, or at least members who are in error in their thinking and beliefs. But when an error becomes so serious that it threatens the very life of the church, when it begins to approach a doctrinal mistake that affects the essentials of the Christian faith, the church has had to stand up and say: “This is not what we believe. This false belief is heresy and cannot be tolerated within this church.” Simply put, the church has recognized that it can live with differences that are not of the essence of the church, matters that are not essentials of the faith. But other matters are far more serious, striking at the very basics of the faith. So, we make a distinction between those errors that impact the being of the church — major heresies — and lesser errors that impact the well-being of the church.

     Today, however, the church, in order to achieve unity, increasingly negotiates central truths, such as the deity of Christ and the substitutionary atonement. This must not be allowed to happen, for the Bible calls us to “the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13), a unity based on the truth of God’s Word. Believers who are trying to be faithful to the Scriptures know that the New Testament writers stress the need for us to guard the truth of the faith once delivered (Jude 3; 1 Tim. 6:20a) as well as the need for us to beware those who would undermine the truth of the Apostolic faith by means of false doctrine (Matt. 7:15).

     The Christian faith is lived on the razor’s edge. The Apostle Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). We need to bend over backward to keep peace and maintain unity. Yet, at the same time, we are called to be faithful to the truth of the gospel and to maintain the purity of the church. That purity must never be sacrificed to safeguard unity, for such unity is no unity at all.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Motivation for Love

By Conrad Mbewe 6/01/2012

     In his twentieth century classic, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines the demon Screwtape writing to his nephew Wormwood about the need to discover the secret as to why God loves humans. He writes, “The truth is, I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility… . All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else — He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to find out that real motive. What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question… . And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot really love: nobody can; it doesn’t make sense. If we could only find out what He is really up to!”

     We wish the devils well in their quest to find the answer. For we who are God’s people, there is no need for such a search. We believe that God really loves us. God is love (1 John 4:16). Therefore, it is His very nature to love. He loved us in the period of our innocence before the fall, and He continues to love us in our fallen state. Hence, Jesus could say, “Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).

     God’s love for us reached its acme in His redemptive work on the cross: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is love indescribable, and it totally bowls us over. As Charles Wesley puts it:

     Whence to me this waste of love? Ask my Advocate above! See the cause in Jesus’ face, Now before the throne of grace.

     There for me the Savior stands; Shows His wounds and spreads His hands, God is love; I know, I feel; Jesus lives, and loves me still.

     The Bible’s display of the love of God for us is what has ignited our own love for Him. I mean, in the light of such stupendous facts, how could we not love Him back? The sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross is the fireplace where we warm our cold hearts toward God. For those of us who are preachers, no sacrifice in ministry is too big to make in the light of the sacrifice that God made for us. The Holy Spirit uses this truth to keep the combustion chambers of our souls ablaze. Our zeal becomes unquenchable. Isaac Watts’ famous hymn captures this truth very well in the closing stanza:

     Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

     Yet, we do not simply love God back, but we also turn our affections toward those whom God has loved and continues to love. We want to become the vehicles through which the love of God can reach its intended subjects. We will cross lands and seas not only to warn lost souls about the wrath of God but also to plead earnestly with them to respond to God’s love for them in Christ Jesus. Indeed, if we know this love, we ought to do so.

     This is what Paul meant when he said: “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died… . We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:14, 20). If this love is not propelling you in your evangelistic labors, then you are most likely operating way below your full potential.

     As we love God in the light of His love for us, we also find ourselves loving His bride — the church. The people of God, who have been purchased by His own blood, become very precious to us. With Paul, we say to them:

     [May Christ] dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17–19)

     To this end, we labor and strive with all the power and might that God gives us.

     While Lewis’ devils in hell are busy trying to figure out the real motive behind God’s claim to love us, we find this love propelling us not only to love God but also to love the people He has made and redeemed. We say to ourselves (in the words of John Kent):

     On such love, my soul, still ponder, Love so great, so rich and free; Say, while lost in holy wonder, Why, O Lord, such love to me? Hallelujah! Grace shall reign eternally.

Click here to go to source

     Rev. Conrad Mbewe has pastored Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia for nearly three decades. He has a PhD in Missions from the University of Pretoria, South Africa and is Chancellor of African Christian University, Zambia. He is also a prolific itinerant preacher who has ministered globally with a passion for writing be it his books, blog or as a national weekly columnist.

Conrad Mbewe Books:

1 Samuel 14; Romans 12; Jeremiah 51; Psalm 30

By Don Carson 8/22/2018

     Among the major points that Paul has been making in his letter to the Romans is the sheer gratuity of grace, the amazing measure of mercy that has won Jews and Gentiles alike. Alike we are guilty; alike we are justified, forgiven, renewed, owing to the measureless mercy of God.

     In view of such mercy, Paul urges his readers “to offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1). We are so familiar with this verse that its strangeness no longer strikes us. In the ancient world, a sacrifice must be living to begin with, of course, but what makes it a sacrifice is that it is put to death. But Paul wants us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, that is, as ongoing “sacrifices” that respond to God’s mercy by devoting ourselves, not least our bodies, to him. Such sacrifices are “holy and pleasing to him.” The idea is that in the light of the matchless mercy we have received, the least we will want to do is to be pleasing to him.

     Such sacrifices constitute our “spiritual worship.” The adjective rendered “spiritual” embraces both “spiritual” and “reasonable” or perhaps “rational.” These are not sacrifices offered in a temple, begun with a bloodletting, continued with a burning of the body, and completed in selective eating of the meat. New covenant worship is no longer bound up with the temple and the ritual demands of the Sinai covenant. The way we live, in response to the mercy of God, lies at the heart of Christian worship.

     If we want to know what this looks like, the second verse spells out the practicalities in principle, and the ensuing verses give them concrete form. To offer up our bodies in living sacrifice to God means conforming no longer to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds (12:2). In other words, what is at issue is not merely external behavior, while inwardly we remain in the grip of carefully masked hate, lust, deceit, envy, greed, fear, bitterness, and arrogance. What is at issue is the transformation of the way we think, bringing our minds in line with the ways and Word of God. That will produce all the change in behavior that is necessary and wise—and that change will be radical. By this fundamental transformation, we shall be enabled to test and approve in our own experience what God’s will is—and find it “good, pleasing and perfect” (12:2). In the light of Romans 8:9, doubtless the motivating power for this transformation is the Spirit of God. But that magnificent truth does not absolve us of resolve; it empowers it.

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 90

Book Four

From Everlasting to Everlasting
90 A Prayer Of Moses, The Man Of God.

8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

ESV Study Bible

  • Men For God Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3

Men For God Part 1 | David Pawson


Men For God Part 2 | David Pawson


Men For God Part 3 | David Pawson


#3 Robert Wilson   
Yale University Divinity School


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2017    We Are Reformed

     This month marks Tabletalk’s fortieth year of publication. In 1977, Dr. R.C. Sproul launched Tabletalk as a monthly newsletter featuring news about the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which was established in 1971. The newsletter also included articles covering a wide range of subjects for Ligonier students and supporters. Dr. Sproul and his fellowship of teachers from the study center and abroad contributed articles on biblical, theological, cultural, and philosophical matters with a focus on helping Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. In 1989, the format of Tabletalk changed, and a monthly theme, columns, and daily Bible studies were introduced. Since 1977, Tabletalk has witnessed tremendous growth in readership, with now more than one hundred thousand copies of Tabletalk going out the door every month and an estimated audience of 250,000 readers in more than fifty countries. We are grateful for our Lord’s continued blessing these past forty years, and, if the Lord tarries, we hope He will continue to bless the ministry and readers of Tabletalk for the next forty years as we strive to make disciples of all nations for God’s glory, not ours.

     Tabletalk is Reformed, and we mean it. We are not ashamed of being distinctively Reformed in all that we do. We are Reformed because we believe that to be Reformed is to be biblical. To be Reformed is not only to stand firmly on the same doctrine as our faithful Reformation forefathers, it is to stand firmly on the Word of God. To be Reformed is not only to believe that God is sovereign over salvation, but to believe that He is sovereign over everything. To be Reformed isn’t simply to accept the doctrines of grace, but to take great comfort in them, to teach them graciously, and to defend them courageously. To be Reformed is to believe that God has one glorious covenantal plan of redemption, and that He is carrying out that plan. To be Reformed is not to give mere lip service to the historic Reformed confessional standards, but to affirm them heartily and study them diligently. To be Reformed means not only that we are professing members of a local Reformed church but that we are regular, active worshipers and participants in the life, community, and mission of our local churches as we take the gospel to the ends of the earth. To be Reformed is not to be a complacent, smug, arrogant, or apathetic people, but to be a gracious, dependent, humble, prayerful, evangelistic, joyful, loving people who believe that God not only ordains the end of all things but that He ordains the means of all ends in us and through us by the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit for His glory alone.

     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

     He served in Vietnam and commanded the U.S. invasion of Grenada. A four star general, he was commander in Desert Storm. After the war, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and knighted by the Queen of England. His name: General Norman Schwarzkopf, born this day, August 22, 1934. In an interview, he described an extreme flanking maneuver to cut off the Iraqi retreat: “When my forward commander radioed that they had reached the Euphrates River… I waited… ‘General,’ he said, ‘I’ve got to tell you about the casualties.’ I braced myself. ‘One man was slightly wounded.’ That’s when I knew God was with us.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

How fast we learn in a day of sorrow!
Scripture shines out in a new effulgence;
every verse seems to contain a sunbeam,
every promise stands out in illuminated splendor;
things hard to be understood
become in a moment plain.
--- Horatius Bonar

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen

In the home Christ-likeness is kindness;
In business it is honesty;
Toward the weak it is burden bearing;
Toward the sinner it is evangelism;
Toward ourselves it is self-control;
Toward God it is reverence, love and worship.
--- Unknown

Of all the disputations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- These finest props of duties of men and citizens …. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
--- George Washington

Speeches and Addresses: Political, Literary and Religious

... from here, there and everywhere
What About The Sign
     Of The Cross?

     Hippolytus, the scholar-presbyter of Rome, is a particularly interesting witness, because he is known to have been ‘an avowed reactionary who in his own generation stood for the past rather than the future’. His famous treatise The Apostolic Tradition (c. AD 215) ‘claims explicitly to be recording only the forms and models of rites already traditional and customs already long-established, and to be written in deliberate protest against innovations’.  The Creed: The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology  When he describes certain ‘church observances’, therefore, we may be sure that they were already being practised a generation or more previously. He mentions that the sign of the cross was used by the bishop when anointing the candidate’s forehead at Confirmation, and he recommends it in private prayer: ‘imitate him (Christ) always, by signing thy forehead sincerely: for this is the sign of his passion.’ It is also, he adds, a protection against evil: ‘When tempted, always reverently seal thy forehead with the sign of the cross. For this sign of the passion is displayed and made manifest against the devil if thou makest it in faith, not in order that thou mayest be seen of men, but by thy knowledge putting it forth as a shield.’

The Cross of Christ
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 9.

     How Joppa Was Taken, And Tiberias Delivered Up.

     1. Now Vespasian returned to Ptolemais on the fourth day of the month Panemus, [Tamus] and from thence he came to Cesarea, which lay by the sea-side. This was a very great city of Judea, and for the greatest part inhabited by Greeks: the citizens here received both the Roman army and its general, with all sorts of acclamations and rejoicings, and this partly out of the good-will they bore to the Romans, but principally out of the hatred they bore to those that were conquered by them; on which account they came clamoring against Josephus in crowds, and desired he might be put to death. But Vespasian passed over this petition concerning him, as offered by the injudicious multitude, with a bare silence. Two of the legions also he placed at Cesarea, that they might there take their winter-quarters, as perceiving the city very fit for such a purpose; but he placed the tenth and the fifth at Scythopolis, that he might not distress Cesarea with the entire army. This place was warm even in winter, as it was suffocating hot in the summer time, by reason of its situation in a plain, and near to the sea [of Galilee].

     2. In the mean time, there were gathered together as well such as had seditiously got out from among their enemies, as those that had escaped out of the demolished cities, which were in all a great number, and repaired Joppa, which had been left desolate by Cestius, that it might serve them for a place of refuge; and because the adjoining region had been laid waste in the war, and was not capable of supporting them, they determined to go off to sea. They also built themselves a great many piratical ships, and turned pirates upon the seas near to Syria, and Phoenicia, and Egypt, and made those seas unnavigable to all men. Now as soon as Vespasian knew of their conspiracy, he sent both footmen and horsemen to Joppa, which was unguarded in the night time; however, those that were in it perceived that they should be attacked, and were afraid of it; yet did they not endeavor to keep the Romans out, but fled to their ships, and lay at sea all night, out of the reach of their darts.

     3. Now Joppa is not naturally a haven, for it ends in a rough shore, where all the rest of it is straight, but the two ends bend towards each other, where there are deep precipices, and great stones that jut out into the sea, and where the chains wherewith Andromeda was bound have left their footsteps, which attest to the antiquity of that fable. But the north wind opposes and beats upon the shore, and dashes mighty waves against the rocks which receive them, and renders the haven more dangerous than the country they had deserted. Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the Morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there "the black north wind," and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks, and carried many of them by force, while they strove against the opposite waves, into the main sea; for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it, that they were afraid to come to land; nay, the waves rose so very high, that they drowned them; nor was there any place whither they could fly, nor any way to save themselves; while they were thrust out of the sea, by the violence of the wind, if they staid where they were, and out of the city by the violence of the Romans. And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred. The Romans also took the city without opposition, and utterly demolished it.

     4. And thus was Joppa taken twice by the Romans in a little time; but Vespasian, in order to prevent these pirates from coming thither any more, erected a camp there, where the citadel of Joppa had been, and left a body of horse in it, with a few footmen, that these last might stay there and guard the camp, and the horsemen might spoil the country that lay round it, and might destroy the neighboring villages and smaller cities. So these troops overran the country, as they were ordered to do, and every day cut to pieces and laid desolate the whole region.

     5. But now, when the fate of Jotapata was related at Jerusalem, a great many at the first disbelieved it, on account of the vastness of the calamity, and because they had no eye-witness to attest the truth of what was related about it; for not one person was saved to be a messenger of that news, but a fame was spread abroad at random that the city was taken, as such fame usually spreads bad news about. However, the truth was known by degrees, from the places near Jotapata, and appeared to all to be too true. Yet were there fictitious stories added to what was really done; for it was reported that Josephus was slain at the taking of the city, which piece of news filled Jerusalem full of sorrow. In every house also, and among all to whom any of the slain were allied, there was a lamentation for them; but the mourning for the commander was a public one; and some mourned for those that had lived with them, others for their kindred, others for their friends, and others for their brethren, but all mourned for Josephus; insomuch that the lamentation did not cease in the city before the thirtieth day; and a great many hired mourners, with their pipes, who should begin the melancholy ditties for them.

     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 23:13-14
     by D.H. Stern

13     Don’t withhold discipline from a child—
     if you beat him with a stick, he won’t die!
14     If you beat him with a stick,
     you will save him from Sh’ol.

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

                “I indeed … but He”

     I indeed baptize you with water … but He … shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire. --- Matthew 3:11.

     Have I ever come to a place in my experience where I can say—“I indeed … but He”? Until that moment does come, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Ghost means. “I indeed” am at an end, I cannot do a thing: “but He” begins just there—He does the things no one else can ever do. Am I prepared for His coming? Jesus cannot come as long as there is anything in the way either of goodness or badness. When He comes am I prepared for Him to drag into the light every wrong thing I have done? It is just there that He comes. Wherever I know I am unclean, He will put His feet; wherever I think I am clean, He will withdraw them. Repentance does not bring a sense of sin, but a sense of unutterable unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am utterly helpless; I know all through me that I am not worthy even to bear His shoes. Have I repented like that? Or is there a lingering suggestion of standing up for myself? The reason God cannot come into my life is because I am not through into repentance.

     “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” John does not speak of the baptism of the Holy Ghost as an experience, but as a work performed by Jesus Christ, “He shall baptize you.” The only conscious experience those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost ever have is a sense of absolute unworthiness.

      “I indeed” was this and that;”but He” came, and a marvellous thing happened. Get to the margin where He does everything.

My Utmost for His Highest
Nocturne By Ben Shahn
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Nocturne By Ben Shahn

'Why look at me like that?'
  'Well -- it's your hand on the guitar.'
  'Don't touch it; there is fire in it.'
  'But why doesn't it burn you?'
  'It does, it does; but inside me.'
  'I see no smoke at your nostrils.'
  'But I see green leaves at your lips.'
  'They are the thoughts I would conceal.'
  'You are the music that I compose.'
  'Play me, then, back to myself.'
  'It is too late; your face forbids it.'
  'The arteries of the tall trees--'
  'Are electric, charged with your blood.'
  'But my hand now sleeps in my lap.'
  "Let it remain so, clawed like my own.'

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     The thing about “hanging” (a euphemism for the Roman punishment of crucifixion) is that it was very public. The purpose was not only to kill but also to send a message: “This same fate awaits anyone who crosses us” (pun intended). The victim was left hanging for some time so that no one would miss the point.

     To Rabbi Ammi, in times of religious persecution, there were only two options for the Jew: Defy the oppressors and continue to live publicly and proudly as a Jew, or die, giving one’s life publicly and proudly for “the Sanctification of the Name of God.” There were no other choices.

     The most famous case of Jewish martyrdom is the legend of Rabbi Akiva, who lived about a century before Rabbi Ammi. According to Rabbinic tradition, Akiva defied the Roman decree to cease and desist from publicly teaching Torah; he was also a proud supporter of Shimon bar Kokhba, who led an uprising against Roman rule in 132 C.E. When asked why he continued to live openly as a Jew when it could cost him his life, Akiva responded with a parable:

     Fishermen were out casting their nets for a catch. A fox saw a school of fish frantically swim by. “Why not come here with me on dry land and escape the nets?” the fox asked. The fish replied: “Water is our element. If we leave it, we die. We’ll take our chances with the nets here in the water; the fishermen might catch us, but they might not. Out there, with you, we will surely die.” (Berakhot 61b)

     For Akiva, living by Torah was the Jew’s element; living outside of it was not thinkable. Thus, “either a Jew or hanged” encapsulates Rabbi Akiva’s life—and his death. Akiva’s execution was not by crucifixion, but it is reported that the skin of his body was seen hanging in a public square. He went to his death reciting the Sh’ma, both as a proud declaration of his faith and a public defiance of his killers. Since his time, many have followed his example, dying with the Sh’ma on their lips.

     Rabbi Ammi’s words aside, there was, of course, a third possibility in times of persecution: renouncing one’s religion and embracing the faith of the oppressor. The most famous case of apostasy in Jewish history occurred in the seventeenth century. It was a period of great messianic speculation. After the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, word swept the Jewish world that the long-awaited Messiah had finally appeared to bring about the final redemption. A Turkish Jew named Shabbetai Zevi was hailed as and proclaimed the “Anointed One.” Jews throughout the world prepared for the “end of days.” Shabbetai Zevi traveled to the sultan to make his demand that the land of Israel be turned over to the Jewish people. Instead, the Turkish ruler offered a choice: Convert or die. Shabbetai Zevi donned a turban, took the name Mehemet Effendi, and became a Muslim.

     We have to admire those Jews who, when faced with terrible choices, opted proudly and publicly to be Jewish. We have to be thankful that we don’t have to make such choices. And we have to ask ourselves if we are as proudly and publicly devoted to Judaism today, when “hanging” is not the only other option.

     ANOTHER D’RASH / In the context of the story in Exodus, “stiffnecked” is a negative characteristic. When God tells Moses “I see that this is a stiffnecked people,” there is certainly no compliment intended. Yet, Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa takes a negative and turns it into a positive. The Jews are “stiffnecked,” and this is now praise! Rabbi Yitzḥak reframes a criticism as a compliment.

     Perhaps we too can do that with the people we meet:

•     The young woman whom everyone criticizes as “timid” can actually be seen as deliberate and pensive. In a world where talk is cheap and where people often speak before they think, her reticence may work to her advantage. When she finally speaks, though her words are few, they are well thought out and measured.

•     The man who is “aggressive” can be seen as passionate for his cause. That he advocates on behalf of what he believes in and pushes his agenda is a reminder of just how seriously he takes his cause.

•     The couple that is called “spendthrift,” hoarding their wealth, may actually be quite generous if we see the broad picture. Rather than squandering their fortune, they mete it out slowly and thoughtfully. In this way, their altruism will last longer, and the impact of their generosity will be even greater.

     Not every cloud has a silver lining. Still, we would get along better with people, and would find this world a much brighter and uplifting place, if we reframed negatives as positives. By seeing “stiffnecked” as a compliment, Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Radifa has shown us a way of bettering both the world around us and ourselves.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     August 22

     The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.

     If Christ can satisfy all the desires, suit all the conditions, and answer all the objections of sinners, then he must have everything, [and] so it is.
The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9)

     He can satisfy all desires of sinners, for everything desirable is in him. Is wisdom desirable? In him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”
Col. 2:3). “Wisdom has built her house” (Prov. 9:1); it is in the plural, wisdoms. Christ is a compound of wisdom.

     There is no condition you can be in but he has a promise suited to it, so that in Christ there is what suits all cases, for the promises are the veins where the blood and fullness of Christ run.

     Are you wandering? Christ says, I am the way. Are you in darkness? Christ says, I am the light of the world. Are you guilty? Christ is the Lord our righteousness. Are you polluted? Christ says he is the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. Are you dejected? Christ will send the Comforter. Do you need direction? Christ is the wonderful Counselor, and he says, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known” (
Isa. 42:16).

     Christ can answer all objections. If anyone says, “Alas! I am lost,” then Christ says, “I came to seek and to save what was lost.” Says another, “I am a great sinner.” Well, Christ says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”
Matt. 9:13). Cries another, “I cannot turn from sin.” It is Christ’s work to turn you “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

     “But I have no might or ability to go to Christ.” It is answered, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isa. 40:29). He is the author of faith. “Oh! but I have sinned to the uttermost.” Why, then, he tells you he is able to save to the uttermost. “Alas! I am wayward.” It is answered, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely” (Hos. 14:4).

     Whatever the objection is, he can answer it; whatever the case is, he can remedy it; whatever the desire is, he can satisfy it. Why, then, everything must be in his hands, and no wonder, for all the treasures of divine plenty and fullness are in his hands.
--- Ralph Erskine

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Twenty-Three Days  August 22

     He was a has-been, a fossil, a relic, an old fogey … but as a child, George Frideric Handel had accompanied his father to the court of Duke Johann Adolf. Idly wandering into the chapel, the boy found the organ and started improvising, causing Duke Adolf to exclaim, “Who is this remarkable child?”

     This “remarkable child” soon began composing operas, first in Italy, then in London. By his 20s he was the talk of England and the best paid composer on earth. He opened the Royal Academy of Music. Londoners fought for seats at his every performance, and his fame soared around the world.

     But the glory passed. Audiences dwindled. His music became outdated. The academy went bankrupt, and newer artists eclipsed the aging composer. One project after another failed, and Handel grew depressed. The stress brought on a case of palsy that crippled some of his fingers. “Handel’s great days are over,” wrote Frederick the Great, “his inspiration is exhausted.”

     Yet his troubles also matured him, softening his sharp tongue. His temper mellowed, and his music became more heartfelt. One Morning Handel received by post a script from Charles Jennens. It was a word-for-word collection of various biblical texts about Christ. The opening words from Isaiah 40 moved Handel: Comfort ye my people. …

     On August 22, 1741 he shut the door of his London home and started composing music for the words. Twenty-three days later, the world had Messiah. “Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not,” Handel later said, trying to describe the experience. Messiah opened in London to enormous crowds on March 23, 1743. Handel led from his harpsichord, and King George II, who was present that night, surprised everyone by leaping to his feet during the Hallelujah Chorus. No one knows why. Some believe the king, being hard of hearing, thought it the national anthem. No matter—from that day audiences everywhere have stood in reverence during the stirring words: Hallelujah! For He shall reign forever and ever.

     Then I heard what seemed to be a large crowd. … They were saying, “Praise the Lord! Our Lord God All-Powerful now rules as king. So we will be glad and happy and give him praise.”
--- Revelation 19:6,7a.

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

          Morning - August 22

     “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.”
--- Song of Solomon 5:8.

     Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigour, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveller in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us; and, therefore, if we are not consciously one with him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.” This earnest longing after Jesus has a blessing attending it: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness”; and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One. Blessed is that hunger, since it comes from God: if I may not have the full-blown blessedness of being filled, I would seek the same blessedness in its sweet bud-pining in emptiness and eagerness till I am filled with Christ. If I may not feed on Jesus, it shall be next door to heaven to hunger and thirst after him. There is a hallowedness about that hunger, since it sparkles among the beatitudes of our Lord. But the blessing involves a promise. Such hungry ones “shall be filled” with what they are desiring. If Christ thus causes us to long after himself, he will certainly satisfy those longings; and when he does come to us, as come he will, oh, how sweet it will be!

          Evening - August 22

     “The unsearchable riches of Christ.” --- Ephesians 3:8.

     My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are unsearchable! You may look, and study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Saviour than you think him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you to sin, more able to forgive than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on his head, you will only crown him with silver when he deserves gold. My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now. He can make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside still waters. There is no music like the music of his pipe, when he is the Shepherd and you are the sheep, and you lie down at his feet. There is no love like his, neither earth nor heaven can match it. To know Christ and to be found in him—oh! this is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees well refined. My Master does not treat his servants churlishly; he gives to them as a king giveth to a king; he gives them two heavens—a heaven below in serving him here, and a heaven above in delighting in him for ever. His unsearchable riches will be best known in eternity. He will give you on the way to heaven all you need; your place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks, your bread shall be given you, and your waters shall be sure; but it is there, THERE, where you shall hear the song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast, and shall have a face-to-face view of the glorious and beloved One. The unsearchable riches of Christ! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven. Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell out the good news to others.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 22


     James Nicholson, c. 1828–1876

     Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

     God’s people have been placed in their particular circle of influence so they can demonstrate purity and a concern for righteousness. If we do not fulfill this role, who will? It is easy, however, to become so accustomed and hardened to the lust and sin all about us that we lose that fine edge of our Christian witness. In fact, without God’s daily cleansing and renewal, we are easily infiltrated with and influenced by the very lifestyle that we reject in others.

     Unconfessed sin becomes a destructive poison in our lives, not only spiritually but also emotionally and physically. Repentance and confession are always the starting points for a restored fellowship with God. Like the psalmist David did in his prayer in Psalm 51, we all need to experience God’s cleansing and forgiveness. Only then will we be effective for God in helping others and directing sinners to Him
(Psalm 51:13).

     This is another fine hymn text written by a Christian layman. James Nicholson spent his entire life as a clerk in the post office in Philadelphia, yet he was always active in the work of the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The hymn was first published in a pamphlet titled “Joyful Songs” in 1872. The hymn’s popularity greatly increased with its inclusion in the well-known Gospel Hymns series published by Sankey and Bliss. It has since provided a musical prayer that needs to be expressed by every Christian on a daily basis:

     Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole; I want thee forever to live in my soul, break down ev’ry idol, cast out ev’ry foe—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies and help me to make a complete sacrifice. I give up myself and whatever I know—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat; I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet. By faith, for my cleansing I see Thy blood flow—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait; come now and within me a new heart create. To those who have sought Thee Thou never saidst “No”—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
     Refrain: Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow—Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

     For Today: Psalm 32:3; Isaiah 1:18; Romans 3:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 6:11

     Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of sin. Confess it to God and claim His forgiving grace. Pray this prayer with the hymnwriter ---

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


     Thirdly, Man would make himself the end of all creatures. Man would sit in the seat of God, and set his heart as the heart of God, as the Lord saith of Tyrus (Ezek. 28:2). What is the consequence of this, but to be esteemed the chief good and end of other creatures? a thing that the heart of God cannot but be set upon, it being an inseparable right of the Deity, who must deny himself if he deny this affection of the heart. Since it is the nature of man, derived from his root, to desire to be equal with God, it follows that he desires no creature should be equal with him, but subservient to his ends and his glory. He that would make himself God, would have the honor proper to God. He that thinks himself worthy of his own supreme affection, thinks himself worthy to be the object of the supreme affection of others. Whosoever counts himself the chiefest good and last end, would have the same place in the thoughts of others.

     Nothing is more natural to man than a desire to have his own judgment the rule and measure of the judgments and opinions of the rest of mankind.   ... and such it is today, over 300 years later. He that sets himself in the place of the prince, doth, by that act, challenge all the prerogatives and dues belonging to the prince; and apprehending himself fit to be a king, apprehends himself also worthy of the homage and fealty of the subjects. He that loves himself chiefly, and all other things and persons for himself, would make himself the end of all creatures. It hath not been once or twice only in the world that some vain princes have assumed to themselves the title of gods, and caused divine adorations to be given to them, and altars to smoke with sacrifices for their honor. What hath been practised by one, is by nature seminally in all; we would have all pay an obedience to us, and give to us the esteem that is due to God. This is evident,

     1. In pride. When we entertain a high opinion of ourselves, and act for our own reputes, we dispossess God from our own hearts; and while we would have our fame to be in every man’s mouth, and be admired in the hearts of men, we would chase God out of the hearts of others, and deny his glory a residence anywhere else, that our glory should reside more in their minds than the glory of God; that their thoughts should be filled with our achievements, more than the works and excellency of God, with our image, and not with the divine. Pride would paramount God in the affections of others, and justle God out of their souls; and by the same reason that man doth thus in the place where he lives, he would do so in the whole world, and press the whole creation from the service of their true Lord, to his own service. Every proud man would be counted by others as he counts himself, the highest, chiefest piece of goodness, and be adored by others, as much as he adores and admires himself. No proud man, in his self-love, and self admiration, thinks himself in an error; and if he be worthy of his own admiration, he thinks himself worthy of the highest esteem of others, that they should value him above themselves, and value themselves only for him. What did Nebuchadnezzar intend by setting up a golden image, and commanding all his subjects to worship it, upon the highest penalty he could inflict, but that all should aim only at the pleasing his humor?

     2. In using the creatures contrary to the end God has appointed. God created the world and all things in it, as steps whereby men might ascend to a prospect of him, and the acknowledgment of his glory; and we would use them to dishonor God, and gratify ourselves: he appointed them to supply our necessities, and support our rational delights, and we use them to cherish our sinful lusts. We wring groans from the creature in diverting them from their true scope to one of our own fixing, when we use them not in his service, but purely for our own, and turn those things he created for himself, to be instruments of rebellion against him to serve our turns, and hereby endeavor to defeat the ends of God in them, to establish our own ends by them: this is a high dishonor to God, a sacrilegious undermining of his glory, to reduce what God hath made to serve our own glory and our own pleasure; it perverts the whole order of the world, and directs it to another end than what God hath constituted,. to another intention contrary to the intention of God; and thus man makes himself a God by his own authority. As all things were made by God, so they are for God; but while we aspire to the end of the creation, we deny and envy God the honor of being Creator; we cannot make ourselves the chief end of the creatures against God’s order, but we imply thereby that we were their first principle; for if we lived under a sense of the Creator of them while we enjoy there for our use, we should return the glory to the right owner. This is diabolical; though the devil, for his first affecting an authority in heaven, has been hurled down from the state of an angel of light into that of darkness, vileness, and misery, to be the most accursed creature living, yet he still aspires to mate God, contrary to the knowledge of the impossibility of success in it. Neither the terrors he feels, nor the future torments he doth expect, do a jot abate his ambition to be competitor with his Creator; how often hath he, since his first sin, arrogated to himself the honor of a God from the blind world, and attempted to make the Son of God, by a particular worship, count him as the “chiefest good and benefactor of the world!” Since all men by nature are the devil’s children, the serpent’s seed, they have something of this venom in their natures, as well as others of his qualities. We see that there may be, and is a prodigious atheism, lurking under the belief of a God; the devil knows there is a God, but acts like an atheist; and so do his children.

     Fourthly, Man would make himself the end of God. This necessarily follows upon the former; whosoever makes himself his own law and his own end in the place of God, would make God the subject in making himself the sovereign; he that steps into the throne of a prince, sets the prince at his footstool; and while he assumes the prince’s prerogative, demands a subjection from him. The order of the creation has been inverted by the entrance of sin. God implanted an affection in man with a double aspect, the one to pitch upon God, the other to respect ourselves; but with this proviso, that our affection to God should be infinite, in regard of the object, and centre in him as the chiefest happiness and highest end. Our affections to ourselves should be finite, and refer ultimately to God as the original of our being; but sin hath turned man’s affections wholly to himself, whereas he should love God first, and himself in order to God; he now loves himself first, and God in order to himself; love to God is lost, and love to self hath usurped the throne. As God by “creation put all things under the feet of man,” reserving the heart for himself, man by corruption hath dispossessed God of his heart, and put him under his own feet. We often intend ourselves when we pretend the honor of God, and make God and religion a stale to some designs we have in hand; our Creator a tool for our own ends. This is evident,

     1. In our loving God, because of some self-pleasing benefits distributed by him. There is in men a kind of natural love to God, but it is but a secondary one, because God gives them the good things of this world, spreads their table, fills their cup, stuffs their coffers, and doth them some good turns by unexpected providences; this is not an affection to God for the unbounded excellency of his own nature, but for his beneficence, as he opens his hand for them; an affection to themselves, and those creatures, their gold, their honor, which their hearts are most fixed upon, without a strong spiritual inclination that God should be glorified by them in the use of those mercies. It is rather a disowning of God, than any love to him, because it postpones God to those things they love him for; this would appear to be no love, if God should cease to be their benefactor, and deal with them as a judge; if he should change his outward smiles into afflicting frowns, and not only shut his hand, but strip them of what he sent them. The motive of their love being expired, the affection raised by it must cease for want of fuel to feed it; so that God is beholden to sordid creatures of no value (but as they are his creatures) for most of the love the sons of men pretend to him. The devil spake truth of most men, though not of Job, when he said (Job 1:9): “They love not God for naught;” but while he makes a hedge about them and their families, whilst he blesseth the works of their hands, and increaseth their honor in the land. It is like Peter’s sharp reproof of his Master, when he spake of the ill-usage, even to death, he was to meet with at Jerusalem: “This shall not be unto thee.” It was as much out of love to himself, as zeal for his Master’s interest, knowing his Master could not. be in such a storm without some drops lighting upon himself. All the apostasies of men in the world are witnesses to this; they fawn whilst they may have a prosperous profession, but will not bear one chip of the cross for the interest of God; they would partake of his blessings, but not endure the prick of a lance for him, as those, that admired the miracles of our Saviour, and shrunk at his sufferings. A time of trial discovers these mercenary souls to be more lovers of themselves than their Maker. This is a pretended love of friendship to God, but a real love to a lust, only to gain by God. A good man’s temper is contrary: “Quench hell, burn heaven,” said a holy man, “I will love and fear my God.”

     2. It is evident, in abstinence from some sins, not because they offend God, but because they are against the interest of some other beloved corruption, or a bar to something men hunt after in the world. When temperance is cherished not to honor God, but preserve a crazy carcase; prodigality forsaken, out of a humor of avarice; uncleanness forsaken, not out of a hatred of lust, but love to their money; declining a denial of the interest and truth of God, not out of affection to them, but an ambitious zeal for their own reputation. There is a kind of conversion from sin, when God is not made the term of it (Jer. 4:1): “If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto me, saith the Lord.” When we forbear sin as dogs do the meat they love: they forbear not out of a hatred of the carrion, but fear of the cudgel; these are as wicked in their abstaining from sin, as others are in their furious committing it. Nothing of the honor of God and the end of his appointments is indeed in all this, but the conveniences self gathers from them. Again, many of the motives the generality of the world uses to their friends and relations to draw them from vices, are drawn from self, and used to prop up natural or sinful self in them. Come, reform yourself, take other courses, you will smut your reputation and be despicable; you will destroy your estate, and commence a beggar; your family will be undone, and you may rot in a prison: not laying close to them the duty they owe to God, the dishonor which accrues to him by their unworthy courses, and the ingratitude to the God of their mercies; not that the other motives are to be laid aside and slighted. Mint and cummin may be tithed, but the weightier concerns are not to be omitted; but this shows that self is the bias, not only of men in their own course, but in their dealings with others; what should be subordinate to the honor of God, and the duty we owe to him, is made superior.

     3. It is evident, in performing duties merely for a selfish interest: making ourselves the end of religious actions, paying a homage to that, while we pretend to render it to God (Zech. 7:5): “Did you at all fast unto me, even unto me?” Things ordained by God may fall in with carnal ends affected by ourselves; and then religion is not kept up by any interest of God in the conscience, but the interest of self in the heart: we then sanctify not the name of God in the duty, but gratify ourselves: God may be the object, self is the end; and a heavenly object is made subservient to a carnal design. Hypocrisy passes a compliment on God, and is called flattery (Psalm 78:36): They did flatter him with their lips,” They gave him a parcel of good words for their own preservation. Flattery, in the old notion among the heathens, is a vice more peculiar to serve our own turn and purvey for the belly: they knew they could not subsist without God, and therefore gave him a parcel of good words, that he might spare them, and make provision for them. Israel is an empty vine, a vine, say some, with large branches and few clusters, but bring forth fruit to himself: while they professed love to God with their lips, it was that God should promote their covetous designs, and preserve their wealth and grandeur; in which respect a hypocrite may be well termed a religious atheist, an atheist masked with religion. The chief arguments which prevail with many men to perform some duties and appear religious, are the same that Hamor and Shechem used to the people of their city to submit to circumcision, viz. the engrossing of more wealth (Gen. 34:21, 22): “If every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle and their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours?” This is seen, (continues tomorrow)

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect. CXXV. — BUT the Diatribe returns to harping upon its old string — ‘that in the book of Proverbs, many things are said in confirmation of “Free-will”: as this, “Commit thy works unto the Lord.” Do you hear this (says the Diatribe,) thy works?’ —

     Many things in confirmation! What because there are, in that book, many imperative and conditional verbs, and pronouns of the second person! For it is upon these foundations that you build your proof of the Freedom of the Will. Thus, “Commit” — therefore thou canst commit thy works: therefore thou doest them. So also this passage, “I am thy God,” (Isa. xli. 10), you will understand thus: — that is, Thou makest Me thy God. “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke vii. 50): do you hear this word “thy?” therefore, expound it thus: Thou makest thy faith: and then you have proved “Freewill.” Nor am I here merely game-making; but I am shewing the Diatribe, that there is nothing serious on its side of the subject.

     This passage also in the same chapter, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. xvi. 4), it modifies by its own words, and excuses God as having never created a creature evil.’ —

     As though I had spoken concerning the creation, and not rather concerning that continual operation of God upon the things created; in which operation, God acts upon the wicked; as we have before shewn in the case of Pharaoh. But He creates the wicked, not by creating wickedness or a wicked creature; (which is impossible) but, from the operation of God, a wicked man is made, or created, from a corrupt seed; not from the fault of the Maker, but from that of the material.

     Nor does that of “The heart of the king is in the Lord’s hand: He inclineth it whithersoever He will,” (Prov. xxi. 1), seem to the Diatribe to imply force. — “He who inclines (it observes) does not immediately compel.” —

     As though we were speaking of compulsion, and not rather concerning the necessity of Immutability. And that is implied in the inclining of God: which inclining, is not so snoring and lazy a thing, as the Diatribe imagines, but is that most active operation of God, which a man cannot avoid or alter, but under which he has, of necessity, such a will as God has given him, and such as he carries along by his motion: as I have before shewn.

     Moreover, where Solomon is speaking of “the king’s heart,” the Diatribe thinks — ‘that the passage cannot rightly be strained to apply in a general sense: but that the meaning is the same as that of Job, where he says, in another place, “He maketh the hypocrite to reign, because of the sins of the people.”’ At last, however, it concedes, that the king is inclined unto evil by God: but so, ‘that He permits the king to be carried away by his inclination, in order to chastise the people.’ —

     I answer: Whether God permit, or whether He incline, that permitting or inclining does not take place without the will and operation of God: because, the will of the king cannot avoid the action of the omnipotent God: seeing that, the will of all is carried along just as He wills and acts, whether that will be good or evil.

     And as to my having made out of the particular will of the king, a general application; I did it, I presume, neither vainly nor unskillfully. For if the heart of the king, which seems to be of all the most free, and to rule over others, cannot will good but where God inclines it, how much less can any other among men will good! And this conclusion will stand valid, drawn, not from the will of the king only, but from that of any other man. For if any one man, how private soever he be, cannot will before God but where God inclines, the same must be said of all men. Thus in the instance of Balaam, his not being able to speak what he wished, is an evident argument from the Scriptures, that man is not in his own power, nor a free chooser and doer of what he does: were it not so, no examples of it could subsist in the Scriptures.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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The Normal Christian Birth 5
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Why does God Allow Natural Disasters 2
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Why does God Allow Natural Disasters 3
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