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1 Samuel 15     Romans 13     Jeremiah 52     Psalm 31

1 Samuel 15

The Lord Rejects Saul

1 Samuel 15 1 And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

4 So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7 And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

10 The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”

17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also  the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”  30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul bowed before the Lord.

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Romans 13

Submission to the Authorities

Romans 13 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Jeremiah 52

The Fall of Jerusalem Recounted

Jeremiah 52 1 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 4 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 5 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 6 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. 7 Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. 8 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. 9 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. 10 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. 11 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

The Temple Burned

12 In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month — that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon — Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. 13 And he burned the house of the Lord, and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 14 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. 15 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poorest of the people and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the artisans. 16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.

17 And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all the bronze to Babylon. 18 And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the basins and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service; 19 also the small bowls and the fire pans and the basins and the pots and the lampstands and the dishes for incense and the bowls for drink offerings. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. 20 As for the two pillars, the one sea, the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea, and the stands, which Solomon the king had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these things was beyond weight. 21 As for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, its circumference was twelve cubits, and its thickness was four fingers, and it was hollow. 22 On it was a capital of bronze. The height of the one capital was five cubits. A network and pomegranates, all of bronze, were around the capital. And the second pillar had the same, with pomegranates. 23 There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the network all around.

The People Exiled to Babylon

24 And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest and the three keepers of the threshold; 25 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and seven men of the king's council, who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. 26 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 27 And the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.

28 This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; 29 in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons; 30 in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600.

Jehoiachin Released from Prison

31 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. 32 And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 33 So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table, 34 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.

Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit

Of David.  See Psalm 31 article below

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

Psalm 31 1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2 Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!

3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8 and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

How (and Where) Did Judas Really Die?

By J. Warner Wallace 2/9/2015

     I’ve been writing intermittently about some of the alleged Gospel contradictions skeptics cite when arguing against the reliability of the New Testament. When two or more eyewitness accounts appear to disagree, we’ve either encountered an error on the part of one of the witnesses, are somehow misreading (or misinterpreting) the accounts, or have insufficient information to reconcile the descriptions. The death of Judas, as recorded in two places in the New Testament, appears to present us with a contradiction:

     Matthew 27:3-10 | Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”

     Acts 1:15-20 | At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’”

     These accounts seem to differ in two important ways. How was the “blood money” spent? Did Judas use it to purchase a piece of property or did the chief priests use it to purchase the Potter’s Field? This first alleged contradiction seems rather simple to reconcile if we are willing to layer the two accounts (this is often necessary when examining two descriptions in my cold-case investigations, especially when I no longer have access to the original witnesses). Judas threw the money into the temple and departed. The chief priests retrieved the coins and decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. Luke’s description of the purchase does not appear to be a direct quote from Peter linking Judas to the purchase, but is instead a tangential description intended for those who were not familiar with the details of the field or Judas’ death. Luke simply wanted us to know the acquisition of the field was made possible by the money Judas provided.

     But what about the manner of Judas’ death? Did he stumble to his death on that field or go off somewhere and hang himself? This aspect of the accounts can be reconciled if you know something about human anatomy and post-mortem bloating. Let me explain. The descriptions from Matthew and Luke are consistent with one another if Judas later “went away and hanged himself” in the very field purchased with the “blood money” he received from betraying Jesus. This location makes sense, given it was a permanent, public reminder of Judas’ action against Jesus. If he felt remorseful enough about his betrayal to kill himself, it is likely he might commit suicide in the one place demarking his betrayal. The “Potter’s Field” is exactly where I would expect Judas to hang himself.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

How I Started Reading the Bible Every Day: Encouragement for Parents & Children

By Don Whitney 6/8/2017

     I literally don’t remember not reading the Bible every day. Here’s how it happened.

     I’m told I started reading fairly early, reading Dick and Jane books sometime before my fifth birthday. But while I remember reading the books, I have no recollection of starting to read them.

     I do remember learning words and phrases by watching TV commercials that consisted of nothing more than an announcer reading exactly what was on the black-and-white screen. In particular I recall a long-running commercial for a Memphis-area car dealer. It was just black words on a white background, like broadcasting a 60-second video of a poster, advertising a Volkswagen Beetle. Eventually I realized that the voice-over corresponded exactly to what I was seeing, and I learned to read along. On small-market stations—such as the four channels we could receive from Memphis television in the late 1950s—local advertising was a very low-budget enterprise.

     So by sometime early in elementary school—though I don’t remember exactly when—I was able to start reading the narrative passages of Scripture.

     The Influence of the Home | I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the greatest blessings in my life was not just learning to read at an early age, but being trained at that age to read the Bible every day. My dad modeled daily Bible reading, and lovingly encouraged me in the practice. My mother made sure I had adequate lighting above my bed, the place where I did most of my childhood reading.

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     Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005.  Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for ten years.  He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

     Don grew up in Osceola, Arkansas where he came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was active in sports throughout high school and college, and worked in the radio station his dad managed.

     After graduating from Arkansas State University, Don planned to finish law school and pursue a career in sportscasting. While at the University of Arkansas School of Law, he sensed God’s call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1979. In 1987, Don completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and later a Ph.D. in theology at the University of the Free State in South Africa.

     Prior to his ministry as a seminary professor, Don was pastor of Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), for almost fifteen years.  Altogether, he has served local churches in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years.

     He is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 1991; 2014), which has a companion discussion guide. He has also written How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)? (NavPress, 1994), Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ (Moody Press, 1996), Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (NavPress, 2001), Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed (NavPress, 2003), Praying the Bible (Crossway 2015), and Family Worship (2006; and Crossway 2016).  His hobby is restoring and using old fountain pens.

     Don lives with his wife Caffy in their home near Louisville. She regularly teaches a class for seminary wives, and works from their home as an artist, muralist, and illustrator. The Whitneys have a married daughter, Laurelen, and a grandson.

     Don’s website address is www.BiblicalSpirituality.org.

     He is on Twitter @DonWhitney and on Facebook as Don Whitney (look for the “Public Figure” page).

How Evolutionary Virologist & Molecular Biologist, Karma Carrier, Converted to Christianity

By James Bishop 6/8/2017

     By James Bishop| Karma James Carrier, a former atheist, has a PhD in molecular biology and currently works in the biotech industry at Meso Scale Discovery that specializes in Biomarker detection and translational research. Some few years ago he studied and graduated in genetics and molecular virology at the University of British Columbia.

     Karma also runs GC Science (GC stands for Grace Chapel) on Facebook and regularly dialogues about how science points towards God’s existence rather than from it. What’s even more Karma has his black belt in karate. More information can be accessed on the Grace Chapel website, and although Karma kindly provided me with his personal written testimony readers can also engage his video testimonial on YouTube.

     People have asked Karma where he got his name. Comically he recalls that he received it after being “born to hippy parents.” Karma was an “honest to goodness hippy love child” whose mother was a Christian though in a“New Age-hippy sort of way.” She loved doing creative work in painting and making soap. On the other hand, however, his “father was not very spiritual and was closer to being agnostic.”

     Karma’s passion for science and especially evolutionary science began when he was just a child and in this way he certainly differed from most other children his age, “when I was in grade four all the kids in my class had to write about a place that they would like to visit. Most kids, chose places like Disneyworld, or Hawaii.

     I wrote that I wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands, which was the place where Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution… it was clear that I had a strong interest in science. Science in general and evolution in particular was very exciting to me. I tried to learn as much about science as I could.”

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     James is a graduate from Vega School of Brand Leadership specialising in Multimedia Design and Brand Communications. He is currently enrolled at Cornerstone Institute studying Theology and majoring in Psychology. His theological interests encompass comparative religion and the links between science and religion.

Eerily Accurate 1968 Prophecy From A 90-Year-Old Woman In Norway Is Being Fulfilled Right Before Our Eyes

By Michael Snyder 5/1/2017

     In 1968, a 90-year-old woman in Norway was given an incredible glimpse into the future. She was shown what life would be like just before World War 3 and the return of Jesus Christ, and what she saw is eerily similar to current conditions in our world today. When evangelist Emanuel Minos held meetings in the town of Valdres, Norway where she lived, this precious elderly lady shared what the Lord had shown to her with him. Minos wrote down what he was told, and it got put away in a drawer for 30 years. But after many of the things that she saw started to come to pass, Minos remembered the vision and decided to share it with the world.

     One of the reasons why I wanted to share this vision now is because it has so many parallels to other visions that I have been sharing recently. You can read her entire vision here, but in this article, I just wanted to highlight a few portions of it. One of the things that this 90-year-old woman was shown was that there would be a "lukewarmness without parallel" before Jesus comes back and that "Christians will not be open for penetrating preaching":

     A lukewarmness without parallel will take hold of the Christians, a falling away from true, living Christianity. Christians will not be open for penetrating preaching. They will not, like in earlier times, want to hear of sin and grace, law and gospel, repentance and restoration. There will come a substitute instead: prosperity (happiness) Christianity. The important thing will be to have success, to be something; to have material things, things that God never promised us in this way. Churches and prayer houses will be emptier and emptier. Instead of the preaching we have been used to for generations —like, to take your cross up and follow Jesus—entertainment, art and culture will invade the churches where there should have been gatherings for repentance and revival. This will increase markedly just before the return of Jesus.

     This prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes.

     There is a reason why you very rarely hear words such as "sin" and "repentance" in the Christian world today. In fact, for many ministries those have become extremely dirty words. It seems like everyone wants to have "happy church", and so the conviction of the Holy Spirit is suppressed as much as possible.

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     Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho's First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled "Living A Life That Really Matters" is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

What John Really Meant: The Gospel of the New Temple

By N.T. Wright

     John’s opening line must be one of the most famous initial sentences in all literature, ranking with Shakespeare’s ‘If music be the food of love, play on’, or even Melville’s dark and haunting ‘Call me Ishmael.’ And it is obvious, even at first glance, why John’s simple opening is so profound:

     It echoes the first line of Genesis.

     John’s opening move is, of course, bold. It borders (one might think) on blasphemy. Are you really sitting down to write a new Genesis?

     ‘Yes!’ replies John, ‘because that is the truth to which I am bearing witness. I am telling a story about something that has happened in which heaven and earth have come together in a whole new way, about the long and dark fulfillment of the creator’s purposes for his creation.’

     ‘And,’ John might continue, ‘since I am writing in the tradition of the Hebrew Bible, it won’t surprise you that I am telling this story of creation and new creation in terms of the fulfillment of the divine purpose in, for, and through Israel.’

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According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright.[3] Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification,[4] women's ordination,[5] and popular Christian views about life after death.[6] He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture.[7] Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.[8]The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus,[9][10] while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[

N.T. Wright Books:

How Do We Cultivate The Art Of Listening Well

By Sean McDowell 8/14/2017

     Along with asking good questions, cultivating the art of listening well is one of the most important skills for Christians to develop today. And it is especially important for those who want to be effective apologists in our “argumentative” culture. Here are three brief reasons why:

     First, the Bible consistently mentions the wisdom in listening. For instance, James 1:19 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” As a culture, we are easily angered and quick to speak. How many of us are truly quick to listen?

     Second, many in our culture increasingly consider Christians bigoted, hateful, and intolerant. One way to counter this, and also to develop a compassionate heart for others, is to genuinely listen to other people and their perspectives.

     Third, Americans are spending an enormous amount of time on screens, which can contribute to loneliness and fragmented relationships. There is a genuine hunger to know and be known that cannot be filled by technology alone. Truly listening to people can help bring healing into many people’s lives.

     So, how does one develop the art of listening well? Here are four tips I have learned from personal experience as well as through my undergrad Communication Studies program at Biola University:

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     Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell Books:

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter

Is America Worth Saving?

By Larry Alex Taunton 8/14/2017

     As President, Barack Obama had what Politico called "an apology complex," viewing America, it seems, as a nation with a criminal history and himself as the instrument of retribution. During his two terms in office, America-bashing — which had gone out of style with the end of the Vietnam War and hinted of treason after 9/11 (ask the Dixie Chicks) — was suddenly fashionable again. Of course, it never really ceased to exist, it just went underground.

     But no longer.

     America-bashing is now all the rage. Making its first bold modern-day appearance under President Obama, it has become a cause célèbre with the election of President Trump. Indeed, a hatred for Donald Trump and the "deplorables" he represents is what fuels it. Trump's White House has become the flashpoint in a winner-take-all contest featuring two very different visions for America.

     One group sees America's wealth, power, and influence as an accident of history. For them, the idea of "American Exceptionalism" is not only dead, it is offensive. These people never tire of lecturing us about how out-of-step America is with the rest of the world and how she needs to get with it. America, they say, is bad for the world. Moreover, where America is exceptional — a deep suspicion of socialism and environmentalism; strongly Christian in a post-Christian world; and alone patriotic among Western nations swept up in a globalist dream — is where America is at her worst and must change.

     Others want to preserve America's uniqueness, her exceptionalism, which is anchored in a Judeo-Christian heritage that has given rise to her laws, art, literature, culture and place in the world as a refuge from just the types of governments the Left idealizes. Proponents of this vision would readily acknowledge that America's global influence has, at times, been evil, but this is, they would argue, the result of an agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with the principles upon which America was founded. On the contrary, that agenda — championed by the Left and epitomized by America's bullying of Third World countries to adopt permissive abortion and LGBT policies — is at odds with those principles. Trump's rallying cry — "Make America Great Again" — embodies this group's fear that America is rapidly becoming something not-so-great and that it must be saved.

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     Who is Larry Alex Taunton?

Psalm 31 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. To the Chief Musician — a Psalm of David. The dedication to the chief musician proves that this song of mingled measures and alternate strains of grief and woe was intended for public singing, and thus a deathblow is given to the notion that nothing but praise should be sung. Perhaps the Psalms, thus marked, might have been set aside as too mournful for temple worship, if special care had not been taken by the Holy Spirit to indicate them as being designed for the public edification of the Lord's people. May there not also be in Psalms thus designated a peculiar distinct reference to the Lord Jesus? He certainly manifests himself very clearly in the twenty-second, which bears this title; and in the one before us we plainly hear his dying voice in the fifth verse. Jesus is chief everywhere, and in all the holy songs of his saints he is the chief musician. The surmises that Jeremiah penned this Psalm need no other answer than the fact that it is "a Psalm of David."

     SUBJECT. The psalmist in dire affliction appeals to his God for help with much confidence and holy importunity, and ere long finds his mind so strengthened that he magnifies the Lord for his great goodness. Some have thought that the occasion in his troubled life which led to this Psalm, was the treachery of the men of Keilah, and we have felt much inclined to this conjecture; but after reflection it seems to us that its very mournful tone, and its allusion to his iniquity demand a later date, and it may be more satisfactory to illustrate it by the period when Absalom had rebelled, and his courtiers were fled from him, while lying lips spread a thousand malicious rumours against him. It is perhaps quite as well that we have no settled season mentioned, or we might have been so busy in applying it to David's case as to forget its suitability to our own.

     DIVISION. There are no great lines of demarcation; throughout the strain undulates, falling into valleys of mourning, and rising with hills of confidence. However, we may for convenience arrange it thus: David testifying his confidence in God pleads for help, Ps 31:1-6; expresses gratitude for mercies received, Ps 31:7-8; particularly describes his case, Ps 31:9-13; vehemently pleads for deliverance, Ps 31:14-18; confidently and thankfully expects a blessing, Ps 31:19-22; and closes by showing the bearing of his case upon all the people of God.


     Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Nowhere else do I fly for shelter, let the tempest howl as it may. The psalmist has one refuge, and that the best one. He casts out the great sheet anchor of his faith in the time of storm. Let other things be doubtful, yet the fact that he relies on Jehovah, David lays down most positively; and he begins with it, lest by stress of trial he should afterwards forget it. This avowal of faith is the fulcrum by means of which he labours to uplift and remove his trouble; he dwells upon it as a comfort to himself and a plea with God. No mention is made of merit, but faith relies upon divine favour and faithfulness, and upon that alone. Let me never be ashamed. How can the Lord permit the man to be ultimately put to shame who depends alone upon him? This would not be dealing like a God of truth and grace. It would bring dishonour upon God himself if faith were not in the end rewarded. It will be an ill day indeed for religion when trust in God brings no consolation and no assistance. Deliver me in thy righteousness. Thou are not unjust to desert a trustful soul, or to break thy promises; thou wilt vindicate the righteousness of thy mysterious providence, and give me joyful deliverance. Faith dares to look even to the sword of justice for protection: while God is righteous, faith will not be left to be proved futile and fanatical. How sweetly the declaration of faith in this first verse sounds, if we read it at the foot of the cross, beholding the promise of the Father as yea and amen through the Son; viewing God with faith's eye as he stands revealed in Jesus crucified.

     Verse 2. Bow down thine ear to me. Condescend to my low estate; listen to me attentively as one who would hear every word. Heaven with its transcendent glories of harmony might well engross the divine ear, but yet the Lord has an hourly regard to the weakest moanings of his poorest people. Deliver me speedily. We must not set times or seasons, yet in submission we may ask for swift as well as sure mercy. God's mercies are often enhanced in value by the timely haste which he uses in their bestowal; if they came late they might be too late — but he rides upon a cherub, and flies upon the wings of the wind when he intends the good of his beloved. Be thou my strong rock. Be my Engedi, my Adullam; my immutable, immovable, impregnable, sublime, resort. For an house of defence to save me, wherein I may dwell in safety, not merely running to thee for temporary shelter, but abiding in thee for eternal salvation. How very simply does the good man pray, and yet with what weight of meaning! he uses no ornamental flourishes, he is too deeply in earnest to be otherwise than plain: it were well if all who engage in public prayer would observe the same rule.

     Verse 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress. Here the tried soul avows yet again its full confidence in God. Faith's repetitions are not vain. The avowal of our reliance upon God in times of adversity is a principle method of glorifying him. Active service is good, but the passive confidence of faith is not one jot less esteemed in the sight of God. The words before us appear to embrace and fasten upon the Lord with a fiducial grip which is not to be relaxed. The two personal pronouns, like sure nails, lay hold upon the faithfulness of the Lord. O for grace to have our heart fixed in firm unstaggering belief in God! The figure of a rock and a fortress may be illustrated to us in these times by the vast fortress of Gibraltar, often besieged by our enemies, but never wrested from us: ancient strongholds, though far from impregnable by our modes of warfare, were equally important in those remoter ages — when in the mountain fastnesses, feeble bands felt themselves to be secure. Note the singular fact that David asked the Lord to be his rock Ps 31:2 because he was his rock; and learn from it that we may pray to enjoy in experience what we grasp by faith. Faith is the foundation of prayer. Therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. The psalmist argues like a logician with his fors and therefores. Since I do sincerely trust thee, saith he, O my God, be my director. To lead and to guide are two things very like each other, but patient thought will detect different shades of meaning, especially as the last may mean provide for me. The double word indicates an urgent need — we require double direction, for we are fools, and the way is rough. Lead me as a soldier, guide me as a traveller! lead me as a babe, guide me as a man; lead me when thou art with me, but guide me even if thou be absent; lead me by thy hand, guide me by thy word. The argument used is one which is fetched from the armoury of free grace: not for my own sake, but for thy name's sake guide me. Our appeal is not to any fancied virtue in our own names, but to the glorious goodness and graciousness which shines resplendent in the character of Israel's God. It is not possible that the Lord should suffer his own honour to be tarnished, but this would certainly be the case if those who trusted him should perish. This was Moses' plea, "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?"

     Verse 4. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me. The enemies of David were cunning as well as mighty; if they could not conquer him by power, they would capture him by craft. Our own spiritual foes are of the same order — they are of the serpent's brood, and seek to ensnare us by their guile. The prayer before us supposes the possibility of the believer being caught like a bird; and, indeed, we are so foolish that this often happens. So deftly does the fowler do his work that simple ones are soon surrounded by it. The text asks that even out of the meshes of the net the captive one may be delivered; and this is a proper petition, and one which can be granted; from between the jaws of the lion and out of the belly of hell can eternal love rescue the saint. It may need a sharp pull to save a soul from the net of temptation, and a mighty pull to extricate a man from the snares of malicious cunning, but the Lord is equal to every emergency, and the most skilfully placed nets of the hunter shall never be able to hold his chosen ones. Woe unto those who are so clever at net laying: they who tempt others shall be destroyed themselves. Villains who lay traps in secret shall be punished in public. For thou art my strength. What an inexpressible sweetness is to be found in these few words! How joyfully may we enter upon labours, and how cheerfully may we endure sufferings when we can lay hold upon celestial power. Divine power will rend asunder all the toils of the foe, confound their politics and frustrate their knavish tricks; he is a happy man who has such matchless might engaged upon his side. Our own strength would be of little service when embarrassed in the nets of base cunning, but the Lord's strength is ever available; we have but to invoke it, and we shall find it near at hand. If by faith we are depending alone upon the strength of the strong God of Israel, we may use our holy reliance as a plea in supplication.

     Verse 5. Into thine hand I commit my spirit. These living words of David were our Lord's dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure. Be assured that they are good, choice, wise, and solemn words; we may use them now and in the last tremendous hour. Observe, the object of the good man's solicitude in life and death is not his body or his estate, but his spirit; this is his jewel, his secret treasure; if this be safe, all is well. See what he does with his pearl! He commits it to the hand of his God; it came from him, it is his own, he has aforetime sustained it, he is able to keep it, and it is most fit that he should receive it. All things are safe in Jehovah's hands; what we entrust to the Lord will be secure, both now and in that day of days towards which we are hastening. Without reservation the good man yields himself to his heavenly Father's hand; it is enough for him to be there; it is peaceful living and glorious dying to repose in the care of heaven. At all times we should commit and continue to commit our all to Jesus' sacred care, then, though life may hang on a thread, and adversities may multiply as the sands of the sea, our soul shall dwell at ease, and delight itself in quiet resting places. Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Redemption is a solid base for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance. What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is a God of veracity, faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people.

     Verse 6. I have hated them that regard lying vanities. Those who will not lean upon the true arm of strength, are sure to make to themselves vain confidences. Man must have a god, and if he will not adore the only living and true God, he makes a fool of himself, and pays superstitious regard to a lie, and waits with anxious hope upon a base delusion. Those who did this were none of David's friends; he had a constant dislike to them: the verb includes the present as well as the past tense. He hated them for hating God; he would not endure the presence of idolaters; his heart was set against them for their stupidity and wickedness. He had no patience with their superstitious observances, and calls their idols vanities of emptiness, nothings of nonentity. Small courtesy is more than Romanists and Puseyists deserve for their fooleries.  Men who make gods of their riches, their persons, their wits, or anything else, are to be shunned by those whose faith rests upon God in Christ Jesus; and so far from being envied, they are to be pitied as depending upon utter vanities.  But I trust in the Lord. This might be very unfashionable, but the psalmist dared to be singular. Bad example should not make us less decided for the truth, but the rather in the midst of general defection we should grow the more bold. This adherence to his trust in Jehovah is the great plea employed all along: the troubled one flies into the arms of his God, and ventures everything upon the divine faithfulness.

     Verse 7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy. For mercy past he is grateful, and for mercy future, which he believingly anticipates, he is joyful. In our most importunate intercessions, we must find breathing time to bless the Lord: praise is never a hindrance to prayer, but rather a lively refreshment therein. It is delightful at intervals to hear the notes of the high sounding cymbals when the dolorous sackbut rules the hour. Those two words, glad and rejoice, are an instructive reduplication, we need not stint ourselves in our holy triumph; this wine we may drink in bowls without fear of excess. For thou hast considered my trouble. Thou hast seen it, weighed it, directed it, fixed a bound to it, and in all ways made it a matter of tender consideration. A man's consideration means the full exercise of his mind; what must God's consideration be? Thou hast known my soul in adversities.  God owns his saints when others are ashamed to acknowledge them; he never refuses to know his friends. He thinks not the worse of them for their rags and tatters. He does not misjudge them and cast them off when their faces are lean with sickness, or their hearts heavy with despondency.  Moreover, the Lord Jesus knows us in our pangs in a peculiar sense, by having a deep sympathy towards us in them all; when no others can enter into our griefs, from want of understanding them experimentally, Jesus dives into the lowest depths with us, comprehending the direst of our woes, because he has felt the same. Jesus is a physician who knows every case; nothing is new to him. When we are so bewildered as not to know our own state, he knows us altogether. He has known us and will know us: O for grace to know more of him! "Man, know thyself, "is a good philosophic precept, but "Man, thou art known of God, "is a superlative consolation. Adversities in the plural — "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."

     Verse 8. And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy. To be shut up in one's hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape. Thou hast set my feet in a large room. Blessed be God for liberty: civil liberty is valuable, religious liberty is precious, spiritual liberty is priceless. In all troubles we may praise God if these are left. Many saints have had their greatest enlargements of soul when their affairs have been in the greatest straits. Their souls have been in a large room when their bodies have been lying in Bonner's coal hole, or in some other narrow dungeon. Grace has been equal to every emergency; and more than this, it has made the emergency an opportunity for displaying itself.

     Verse 9. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. Now, the man of God comes to a particular and minute description of his sorrowful case. He unbosoms his heart, lays bare his wounds, and expresses his inward desolation. This first sentence pithily comprehends all that follows, it is the text for his lamenting discourse. Misery moves mercy — no more reasoning is needed. "Have mercy" is the prayer; the argument is as prevalent as it is plain and personal, "I am in trouble." Mine eye is consumed with grief. Dim and sunken eyes are plain indicators of failing health. Tears draw their salt from our strength, and floods of them are very apt to consume the source from which they spring. God would have us tell him the symptoms of our disease, not for his information, but to show our sense of need. Yea, my soul and my belly (or body). Soul and body are so intimately united, that one cannot decline without the other feeling it. We, in these days, are not strangers to the double sinking which David describes; we have been faint with physical suffering, and distracted with mental distress: when two such seas meet, it is well for us that the Pilot at the helm is at home in the midst of the water floods, and makes storms to become the triumph of his art.

     Verse 10. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing. It had become his daily occupation to mourn; he spent all his days in the dungeon of distress. The sap and essence of his existence was being consumed, as a candle is wasted while it burns. His adversities were shortening his days, and digging for him an early grave. Grief is a sad market to spend all our wealth of life in, but a far more profitable trade may be driven there than in Vanity Fair; it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Black is good wear. The salt of tears is a healthy medicine. Better spend our years in sighing than in sinning. The two members of the sentence before us convey the same idea; but there are no idle words in Scripture, the reduplication is the fitting expression of fervency and importunity. My strength faileth because of mine iniquity. David sees to the bottom of his sorrow, and detects sin lurking there. It is profitable trouble which leads us to trouble ourselves about our iniquity. Was this the psalmist's foulest crime which now gnawed at his heart, and devoured his strength? Very probably it was so. Sinful morsels, though sweet in the mouth, turn out to be poison in the bowels: if we wantonly give a portion of our strength to sin, it will by and by take the remainder from us. We lose both physical, mental, moral, and spiritual vigour by iniquity. And my bones are consumed. Weakness penetrated the innermost parts of his system, the firmest parts of his frame felt the general decrepitude. A man is in a piteous plight when he comes to this.

     Verse 11. I was a reproach among all mine enemies. They were pleased to have something to throw at me; my mournful estate was music to them, because they maliciously interpreted it to be a judgment from heaven upon me. Reproach is little thought of by those who are not called to endure it, but he who passes under its lash knows how deep it wounds. The best of men may have the bitterest foes, and be subject to the most cruel taunts. But especially among my neighbours. Those who are nearest can stab the sharpest. We feel most the slights of those who should have shown us sympathy. Perhaps David's friends feared to be identified with his declining fortunes, and therefore turned against him in order to win the mercy if not the favour of his opponents. Self interest rules the most of men: ties the most sacred are soon snapped by its influence, and actions of the utmost meanness are perpetrated without scruple. And a fear to mine acquaintance. The more intimate before, the more distant did they become. Our Lord was denied by Peter, betrayed by Judas, and forsaken by all in the hour of his utmost need. All the herd turn against a wounded deer. The milk of human kindness curdles when a despised believer is the victim of slanderous accusations. They that did see me without fled from me. Afraid to be seen in the company of a man so thoroughly despised, those who once courted his society hastened from him as though he had been infected with the plague. How villainous a thing is slander which can thus make an eminent saint, once the admiration of his people, to become the general butt, the universal aversion of mankind! To what extremities of dishonour may innocence be reduced!

     Verse 12. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. All David's youthful prowess was now gone from remembrance; he had been the saviour of his country, but his services were buried in oblivion. Men soon forget the deepest obligations; popularity is evanescent to the last degree: he who is in every one's mouth today may be forgotten by all tomorrow. A man had better be dead than be smothered in slander. Of the dead we say nothing but good, but in the psalmist's case they said nothing but evil. We must not look for the reward of philanthropy this side of heaven, for men pay their best servants but sorry wages, and turn them out of doors when no more is to be got out of them. I am like a broken vessel, a thing useless, done for, worthless, cast aside, forgotten. Sad condition for a king! Let us see herein the portrait of the King of kings in his humiliation, when he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.

     Verse 13. For I have heard the slander of many. One slanderous viper is death to all comfort — what must be the venom of a whole brood? What the ear does not hear the heart does not rue; but in David's case the accusing voices were loud enough to break in upon his quiet — foul mouths had grown so bold, that they poured forth their falsehoods in the presence of their victim. Shimei was but one of a class, and his cry of "Go up, thou bloody man, "was but the common speech of thousands of the sons of Belial. All Beelzebub's pack of hounds may be in full cry against a man, and yet he may be the Lord's anointed. Fear was on every side. He was encircled with fearful suggestions, threatenings, remembrances, and forebodings; no quarter was clear from incessant attack. While they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. The ungodly act in concert in their onslaughts upon the excellent of the earth: it is to be wondered at that sinners should often be better agreed than saints, and generally set about their wicked work with much more care and foresight than the righteous exhibit in holy enterprises. Observe the cruelty of a good man's foes! they will be content with nothing less than his blood — for this they plot and scheme. Better fall into the power of a lion than under the will of malicious persecutors, for the beast may spare its prey if it be fed to the full, but malice is unrelenting and cruel as a wolf. Of all fiends the most cruel is envy. How sorely was the psalmist bestead when the poisoned arrows of a thousand bows were all aimed at his life! Yet in all this his faith did not fail him, nor did his God forsake him. Here is encouragement for us.

     Verses 14-18. In this section of the Psalm he renews his prayers, urging the same pleas as at first: earnest wrestlers attempt over and over again the same means of gaining their point.

     Verse 14. But I trusted in thee, O Lord. Notwithstanding all afflicting circumstances, David's faith maintained its hold, and was not turned aside from its object. What a blessed saving clause is this! So long as our faith, which is our shield, is safe, the battle may go hard, but its ultimate result is no matter of question; if that could be torn from us, we should be as surely slain as were Saul and Jonathan upon the high places of the field. I said, Thou art my God. He proclaimed aloud his determined allegiance to Jehovah. He was no fair weather believer, he could hold to his faith in a sharp frost, and wrap it about him as a garment fitted to keep out all the ills of time. He who can say what David did need not envy Cicero his eloquence: "Thou art my God, "has more sweetness in it than any other utterance which human speech can frame. Note that this adhesive faith is here mentioned as an argument with God to honour his own promise by sending a speedy deliverance.

     Verse 15. My times are in thy hand. The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of our life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of fate, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven. Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads, an anodyne for care, a grave for despair. Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. It is lawful to desire escape from persecution if it be the Lord's will; and when this may not be granted us in the form which we desire, sustaining grace will give us deliverance in another form, by enabling us to laugh to scorn all the fury of the foe.

     Verse 16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. Give me the sunshine of heaven in my soul, and I will defy the tempests of earth. Permit me to enjoy a sense of thy favour, O Lord, and a consciousness that thou art pleased with my manner of life, and all men may frown and slander as they will. It is always enough for a servant if he pleases his master; others may be dissatisfied, but he is not their servant, they do not pay him his wages, and their opinions have no weight with him. Save me for thy mercies' sake. The good man knows no plea but mercy; whoever might urge legal pleas David never dreamed of it.

     Verse 17. Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee. Put not my prayers to the blush! Do not fill profane mouths with jeers at my confidence in my God. Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. Cause them to their amazement to see my wrongs righted and their own pride horribly confounded. A milder spirit rules our prayers under the gentle reign of the Prince of Peace, and, therefore, we can only use such words as these in their prophetic sense, knowing as we do full well, that shame and the silence of death are the best portion that ungodly sinners can expect. That which they desired for despised believers shall come upon themselves by a decree of retributive justice, at which they cannot cavil — "As he loved mischief, so let it come upon him."

     Verse 18. Let the lying lips be put to silence. A right good and Christian prayer; who but a bad man would give liars more license than need be? May God silence them either by leading them to repentance, by putting them to thorough shame, or by placing them in positions where what they may say will stand for nothing. Which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. The sin of slanderers lies partly in the matter of their speech; "they speak grievous things; "things cutting deep into the feelings of good men, and wounding them sorely in that tender place — their reputations. The sin is further enhanced by the manner of their speech; they speak proudly and contemptuously; they talk as if they themselves were the cream of society, and the righteous the mere scum of vulgarity. Proud thoughts of self are generally attended by debasing estimates of others. The more room we take up ourselves, the less we can afford our neighbours. What wickedness it is that unworthy characters should always be the loudest in railing at good men! They have no power to appreciate moral worth of which they are utterly destitute, and yet they have the effrontery to mount the judgment seat, and judge the men compared with whom they are as so much chaff. Holy indignation may well prompt us to desire anything which may rid the world of such unbearable impertinence and detestable arrogance.

     Verses 19-22. Being full of faith, the psalmist gives glory to God for the mercy which he is assured will be his position.

     Verse 19. Oh how great is thy goodness. Is it not singular to find such a joyful sentence in connection with so much sorrow? Truly the life of faith is a miracle. When faith led David to his God, she set him singing at once. He does not tell us how great was God's goodness, for he could not; there are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable goodness of Jehovah, who is goodness itself. Holy amazement uses interjections where adjectives utterly fail. Notes of exclamation suit us when words of explanation are of no avail. If we cannot measure we can marvel; and though we may not calculate with accuracy, we can adore with fervency. Which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee. The psalmist in contemplation divides goodness into two parts, that which is in store and that which is wrought out. The Lord has laid up in reserve for his people supplies beyond all count. In the treasury of the covenant, in the field of redemption, in the caskets of the promises, in the granaries of providence, the Lord has provided for all the needs which can possibly occur to his chosen. We ought often to consider the laid up goodness of God which has not yet been distributed to the chosen, but is already provided for them: if we are much in such contemplations, we shall be led to feel devout gratitude, such as glowed in the heart of David. Which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men. Heavenly mercy is not all hidden in the storehouse; in a thousand ways it has already revealed itself on behalf of those who are bold to avow their confidence in God; before their fellow men this goodness of the Lord has been displayed, that a faithless generation might stand rebuked. Overwhelming are the proofs of the Lord's favour to believers, history teems with amazing instances, and our own lives are full of prodigies of grace. We serve a good Master. Faith receives a large reward even now, but looks for her full inheritance in the future. Who would not desire to take his lot with the servants of a Master whose boundless love fills all holy minds with astonishment?

     Verse 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man. Pride is a barbed weapon: the proud man's contumely is iron which entereth into the soul; but those who trust in God, are safely housed in the Holy of holies, the innermost court, into which no man may dare intrude; here in the secret dwelling place of God the mind of the saint rests in peace, which the foot of pride cannot disturb. Dwellers at the foot of the cross of Christ grow callous to the sneers of the haughty. The wounds of Jesus distil a balsam which heals all the scars which the jagged weapons of contempt can inflict upon us; in fact, when armed with the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, the heart is invulnerable to all the darts of pride. Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. Tongues are more to be dreaded than beasts of prey — and when they strive, it is as though a whole pack of wolves were let loose; but the believer is secure even in this peril, for the royal pavilion of the King of kings shall afford him quiet shelter and serene security. The secret tabernacle of sacrifice, and the royal pavilion of sovereignty afford a double security to the Lord's people in their worst distresses. Observe the immediate action of God, "Thou shalt hide, ""Thou shalt keep, "the Lord himself is personally present for the rescue of his afflicted.

     Verse 21. Blessed be the Lord. When the Lord blesses us we cannot do less than bless him in return. For he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. Was this in Mahanaim, where the Lord gave him victory over the hosts of Absalom? Or did he refer to Rabbath of Ammon, where he gained signal triumphs? Or, best of all, was Jerusalem the strong city where he most experienced the astonishing kindness of his God? Gratitude is never short of subjects; her Ebenezers stand so close together as to wall up her path to heaven on both sides. Whether in cities or in hamlets our blessed Lord has revealed himself to us, we shall never forget the hallowed spots: the lonely mount of Hermon, or the village of Emmaus, or the rock of Patmos, or the wilderness of Horeb, are all alike renowned when God manifests himself to us in robes of love.

     Verse 22. Confession of faults is always proper; and when we reflect upon the goodness of God, we ought to be reminded of our own errors and offences. For I said in my haste. We generally speak amiss when we are in a hurry. Hasty words are but for a moment on the tongue, but they often lie for years on the conscience. I am cut off from before thine eyes. This was an unworthy speech; but unbelief will have a corner in the heart of the firmest believer, and out of that corner it will vent many spiteful things against the Lord if the course of providence be not quite so smooth as nature might desire. No saint ever was, or ever could be, cut off from before the eyes of God, and yet no doubt many have thought so, and more than one has said so. For ever be such dark suspicions banished from our minds. Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. What a mercy that if we believe not, yet God abideth faithful, hearing prayer even when we are labouring under doubts which dishonour his name. If we consider the hindrances in the way of our prayers, and the poor way in which we present them, it is a wonder of wonders that they ever prevail with heaven.

     Verse 23. O love the Lord, all ye his saints. A most affecting exhortation, showing clearly the deep love of the writer to his God: there is the more beauty in the expression, because it reveals love toward a smiting God, love which many waters could not quench. To bless him who gives is easy, but to cling to him who takes away is a work of grace. All the saints are benefited by the sanctified miseries of one, if they are led by earnest exhortations to love their Lord the better. If saints do not love the Lord, who will? Love is the universal debt of all the saved family: who would wish to be exonerated from its payment? Reasons for love are given, for believing love is not blind. For the Lord preserveth the faithful. They have to bide their time, but the recompense comes at last, and meanwhile all the cruel malice of their enemies cannot destroy them. And plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. This also is cause for gratitude: pride is so detestable in its acts that he who shall mete out to it its righteous due, deserves the love of all holy minds.

     Verse 24. Be of good courage. Keep up your spirit, let no craven thoughts blanch your cheek. Fear weakens, courage strengthens. Victory waits upon the banners of the brave. And he shall strengthen your heart. Power from on high shall be given in the most effectual manner by administering force to the fountain of vitality. So far from leaving us, the Lord will draw very near to us in our adversity, and put his own power into us. All ye that hope in the Lord. Every one of you, lift up your heads and sing for joy of heart. God is faithful, and does not fail even his little children who do but hope, wherefore then should we be afraid?

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).

1 Samuel 15; Romans 13; Jeremiah 52; Psalm 31

By Don Carson 8/23/2018

     Saul already has a checkered record. On the one hand, he courageously rescued the city of Jabesh from the Ammonites and displayed an admirable restraint in the early use of his royal power (1 Sam. 11). Nevertheless it was not long before he starts treating the Lord God as a talisman, and his word as the equivalent of a magical or astrological hint of what he should do, rather than something that is first of all to be reverenced and obeyed (1 Sam. 13). By chapter 14, only the intervention of his own men keeps him from killing his son Jonathan over a promise that should never have been made and should certainly not have been kept (compare the meditation for July 28). Here in 1 Samuel 15, several traits of character ensure that Saul will not head a dynasty. He will be replaced by another king.

     (1) Despite explicit instructions from the Lord regarding the Amalekites, Saul and his army spare the best sheep and cattle, and even the Amalekite King Agag, perhaps as a kind of trophy. Worse, Saul then lies about this to Samuel—as if God could be deceived. The lie betrays the fact that by this time Saul is thinking without reference to an all-knowing God; he is thinking like a mere politician, like a pagan or a secularist.

     (2) Samuel understands the heart of the problem to lie in Saul’s changed perceptions of himself (1 Sam. 15:17): at one time he was small in his own eyes, and could scarcely imagine being king. Now he is ready to lie to God’s prophet and never, never, truly repent.

     (3) Saul changes his tactics, and insists that the reason he kept the best sheep and cattle was to offer a great sacrifice to the Lord. There is nothing like a little religious patter to pull the wool over some people’s eyes. But not Samuel’s. “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” he asks. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:22–23). Such reminders need to be enshrined in contemporary evangelicalism.

     (4) So Saul offers formal repentance — but makes the excuse that he was afraid of the people. He simply will not face his own responsibility — and Samuel sees this clearly (1 Sam. 15:24–26).

     (5) Saul tries formal repentance once more; but once again he betrays his own heart when he shows that he finds it more important to be honored before the elders of Israel than by the God of Israel (1 Sam. 15:30–31). We are lost when human opinion means more to us than God’s.

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 91

My Refuge and My Fortress

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

ESV Study Bible

  • Heroes of the Faith
  • Part 2
  • Part 3

Heroes of the Faith | David Pawson


Heroes of the Faith | David Pawson


Heroes of the Faith | David Pawson


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2017    To Be Blessed

     The blessing of God is not to be taken lightly. But in our day, blessings are thrown around so flippantly and indiscriminately that the word blessing has all but lost its meaning. People speak about feeling blessed and having a blessed day or a blessed life when everything is going well and nothing too severe is bothering them in the moment. We hear blessings after sneezes, at the end of voicemail messages, as hashtags in social media posts, and on bumper stickers.

     In these United States, the statement “God bless America” used to be a prayer of humble dependence, but now it is often treated as an arrogant, presumptuous declaration that God will bless us no matter what we do as a nation. God has blessed, and God does bless, and we pray that God will bless, but we must remember that His blessings are serious things, and we are not to treat them frivolously. God takes His blessing seriously, and so should we. God doesn’t bless people flippantly and He doesn’t bless indiscriminately—He blesses His people according to His steadfast covenant love for us. Not everyone is blessed, and God’s blessing shouldn’t simply be assumed. Only those who are in covenant with God are blessed, and only those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ are blessed, for He met the condition by His perfect life and substitutionary atoning death. Only those united to Christ by faith are blessed. As believers, we are blessed in Christ because Christ took the curse of sin for us and suffered the wrath of God for us. If someone is not in Christ, and never trusts Christ, he will prove that he is condemned already. His apparent blessings will ultimately redound to his condemnation.

     If we are truly in Christ, we will strive to bear the fruit of Christ. If we believe the gospel, we will strive to walk worthy of the gospel. If we have the Spirit, we will strive to walk in the Spirit. If we love Christ, we will strive to follow and obey Christ. If we love God, we will strive to keep God’s commandments. If we are blessed, we will strive to possess and pursue the characteristics Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes, and as we demonstrate them in this world, we will be persecuted. But if we are self-absorbed, self-centered, hard-hearted, unmerciful, divisive, and arrogant, then we not only aren’t blessed, we aren’t saved. But if the conditions and characteristics of the Beatitudes are true of us, we are blessed. We can have assurance that Jesus is ours and we are His, and that nothing can separate us from the present or eternal condition of being blessed as we live coram Deo, before our Lord’s shining face with the light of His glorious countenance lifted up upon us

     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

     “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” wrote Navy Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, who died this day, August 23, 1819. Captain Perry encountered six powerful British warships in the Battle of Lake Eire during the War of 1812. With no long range firepower, the winds prevented him from getting in a safe position and the British cannons crippled his flagship. In a courageous move, he switched to the ship “Niagra,” sailed directly into the British line, firing broadside, and won the battle in fifteen minutes. To the sailors on deck he remarked: “The prayers of my wife are answered.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Feasts, and business, and pleasures, and enjoyments,
seem great things to us, whilst we think of nothing else;
but as soon as we add death to them
they all sink into an equal littleness.
--- William Law

The immediate purpose of prayer is the accomplishing of God’s will on earth; the ultimate purpose of prayer is the eternal glory of God.
--- Warren Wiersbe
On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord's Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively

God doesn’t need me for Him To be Him, but I need Him to be Him for me to be me.
--- R.C. Sproul

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side, With each choice God speaking to us, offers each the bloom or blight, Then the man or nation chooses for the darkness or the light.
--- James Russell Lowell

Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     6. But as the truth came out in time, it appeared how the affairs of Jotapata really stood; yet was it found that the death of Josephus was a fiction; and when they understood that he was alive, and was among the Romans, and that the commanders treated him at another rate than they treated captives, they were as vehemently angry at him now as they had showed their good-will before, when he appeared to have been dead. He was also abused by some as having been a coward, and by others as a deserter; and the city was full of indignation at him, and of reproaches cast upon him; their rage was also aggravated by their afflictions, and more inflamed by their ill success; and what usually becomes an occasion of caution to wise men, I mean affliction, became a spur to them to venture on further calamities, and the end of one misery became still the beginning of another; they therefore resolved to fall on the Romans the more vehemently, as resolving to be revenged on him in revenging themselves on the Romans. And this was the state of Jerusalem as to the troubles which now came upon it.

     7. But Vespasian, in order to see the kingdom of Agrippa, while the king persuaded himself so to do, [partly in order to his treating the general and his army in the best and most splendid manner his private affairs would enable him to do, and partly that he might, by their means, correct such things as were amiss in his government,] he removed from that Cesarea which was by the sea-side, and went to that which is called Cesarea Philippi 6 and there he refreshed his army for twenty days, and was himself feasted by king Agrippa, where he also returned public thanks to God for the good success he had had in his undertakings. But as soon as he was informed that Tiberias was fond of innovations, and that Taricheae had revolted, both which cities were parts of the kingdom of Agrippa, and was satisfied within himself that the Jews were every where perverted [from their obedience to their governors], he thought it seasonable to make an expedition against these cities, and that for the sake of Agrippa, and in order to bring his cities to reason. So he sent away his son Titus to [the other] Cesarea, that he might bring the army that lay there to Seythopous, which is the largest city of Decapolis, and in the neighborhood of Tiberias, whither he came, and where he waited for his son. He then came with three legions, and pitched his camp thirty furlongs off Tiberias, at a certain station easily seen by the innovators; it is named Sennabris. He also sent Valerian, a decurion, with fifty horsemen, to speak peaceably to those that were in the city, and to exhort them to give him assurances of their fidelity; for he had heard that the people were desirous of peace, but were obliged by some of the seditious part to join with them, and so were forced to fight for them. When Valerian had marched up to the place, and was near the wall, he alighted off his horse, and made those that were with him to do the same, that they might not be thought to come to skirmish with them; but before they could come to a discourse one with another, the most potent men among the seditious made a sally upon them armed; their leader was one whose name was Jesus, the son of Shaphat, the principal head of a band of robbers. Now Valerian, neither thinking it safe to fight contrary to the commands of the general, though he were secure of a victory, and knowing that it was a very hazardous undertaking for a few to fight with many, for those that were unprovided to fight those that were ready, and being on other accounts surprised at this unexpected onset of the Jews, he ran away on foot, as did five of the rest in like manner, and left their horses behind them; which horses Jesus led away into the city, and rejoiced as if they had taken them in battle, and not by treachery.

     8. Now the seniors of the people, and such as were of principal authority among them, fearing what would be the issue of this matter, fled to the camp of the Romans; they then took their king along with them, and fell down before Vespasian, to supplicate his favor, and besought him not to overlook them, nor to impute the madness of a few to the whole city, to spare a people that have been ever civil and obliging to the Romans; but to bring the authors of this revolt to due punishment, who had hitherto so watched them, that though they were zealous to give them the security of their right hands of a long time, yet could they not accomplish the same. With these supplications the general complied, although he were very angry at the whole city about the carrying off his horses, and this because he saw that Agrippa was under a great concern for them. So when Vespasian and Agrippa had accepted of their right hands by way of security, Jesus and his party thought it not safe for them to continue at Tiberias, so they ran away to Taricheae. The next day Vespasian sent Trajan before with some horsemen to the citadel, to make trial of the multitude, whether they were all disposed for peace; and as soon as he knew that the people were of the same mind with the petitioner, he took his army, and went to the city; upon which the citizens opened to him their gates, and met him with acclamations of joy, and called him their savior and benefactor. But as the army was a great while in getting in at the gates, they were so narrow, Vespasian commanded the south wall to be broken down, and so made a broad passage for their entrance. However, he charged them to abstain from rapine and injustice, in order to gratify the king; and on his account spared the rest of the wall, while the king undertook for them that they should continue [faithful to the Romans] for the time to come. And thus did he restore this city to a quiet state, after it had been grievously afflicted by the sedition.

     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 23:15-16
     by D.H. Stern

15     My son, if your heart is wise,
     then my own heart too is glad;
16     my inmost being rejoices
     when your lips say what is right.

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

                Prayer choice and prayer conflict

     When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and pray to thy Father which is in secret. --- Matthew 6:6.

     Jesus did not say—‘Dream about thy Father in secret,’ but ‘pray to thy Father in secret.’ Prayer is an effort of will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray. We cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is the overcoming of mental wool-gathering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on wilful prayer.

     We must have a selected place for prayer and when we get there the plague of flies begins—This must be done, and that. “Shut thy door.” A secret silence means to shut the door deliberately on emotions and remember God. God is in secret, and He sees us from the secret place; He does not see us as other people see us, or as we see ourselves. When we live in the secret place it becomes impossible for us to doubt God, we become more sure of Him than of anything else. Your Father, Jesus says, is in secret and nowhere else. Enter the secret place, and right in the centre of the common round you find God there all the time. Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.

My Utmost for His Highest
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


Job Davies , eighty-five
Winters old, and still alive
After the slow poison
And treachery of the seasons.

Miserable? Kick my arse!
It needs more than the rain's hearse,
Wind-drawn, to pull me off
The great perch of my laugh.

What's living but my courage?
Paunch full of hot porridge,
Nerves strengthened with tea,
Peat-black, dawn found me

Mowing where the grass grew,
Bearded with golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe

Kept this tall frame lithe.

What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls.
Live large, man, and dream small.

Poems of R.S. Thomas
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 33:17–23

     BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 33:17–23 / And the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name.” He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” And He answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My presence passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”

     MIDRASH TEXT/ Exodus Rabbah 45, 5 / He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba opened, “For it is better to be told, ‘Step up here,’ than to be degraded [in the presence of the great]” (
Proverbs 25:7). Hillel says, “When I lower myself, I am raised, and when I raise myself, I am lowered. It is better for a person to be told, ‘Go up!’ than to be told, ‘Go down!’ David said, ‘[Who is like the Lord our God, who] enthroned on high …’ (Psalm 113:5). When I raise myself, they lower my place, thus, ‘Enthroned on high.’ And when I lower myself, they raise me, as it says, ‘[Who] sees what is below [in heaven and on earth?]’ (Psalm 113:6). What caused me to see all the lands, as it is written, ‘David became famous throughout the lands’ (1 Chronicles 14:17)? Because I lowered myself.”

     CONTEXT / In the Book of Exodus, soon after the incident of the Golden Calf, Moses asks God, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Moses wants to be more intimate with the Holy One. Because Moses has gained God’s favor, God accedes to his request. The Rabbis understand this as God raising Moses. Thus, Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba opened his interpretation with a verse from Proverbs, “For it is better to be told, ‘Step up here,’ than to be degraded [in the presence of the great].” Rabbi Tanḥuma quotes only half of the verse; the knowledgeable student would know the entire verse and its context in Proverbs. The previous verse states, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence; do not stand in the place of nobles” (
Proverbs 25:6). And the following verse, the one quoted in the Midrash text, continues the theme of “Know your place.” It’s better to be in a low position and be raised than to be in a high position and lowered. Moses knew his place and was humble in God’s presence. Therefore, God responded positively, raised him, and showed him a glimpse of the Divine Presence.

     Hillel continues this thought and says, “When I lower myself, I am raised, and when I raise myself I am lowered”. Therefore, it is better for a person to be told, “Go higher!” than to be told, “Go lower.” Hillel counsels us to be humble and then raised rather than to be conceited and then put down.

     The Midrash next quotes a verse from the
Psalms, ascribed to David and describing God:

  Who is like the Lord our God,
  who, enthroned on high,
  sees what is below,
  in heaven and on earth?

     This verse is well known from Hallel, the Psalms of praise recited on holidays. The phrase הַמַּגְבִּיהִי/hamagbihi, “on high,” could also be translated “raised,” and the Hebrew is from the same root as the word Hillel uses in the phrase when I raise myself. This verse reiterates the idea that those who raise themselves are lowered, and those who lower themselves are raised. Apparently, the Rabbis understood David to be referring to himself in this verse, though in its context, it refers to God, the One who is “enthroned on high.” David then asks, What caused me, as ruler, to see all the lands around Israel under my control, as it is written, “David became famous throughout the lands”? Hillel finds proof for David’s fame from his humility. He became famous—that is, was seen by others as “high and mighty”—because he acted in a lowly, humble manner: Because I, David, lowered myself. Though we might not think of David as being so humble in saying “I was rewarded for my modesty,” Hillel thought this of David.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 23

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

     The next thing proposed was, in order to enlarge our faith, to speak of the extent of this store and treasure that Christ has, the Father having placed everything in his hands.
The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9)

     If everything is in his hands, then all the attributes of God are in him. There is nothing that the Father has, except his personality, but the Son has, as Mediator; “All that belongs to the Father is mine” (John 16:15). Here then is an ocean where you and I may dive forever and never get to the bottom.

     Having everything, he has all the wisdom of God: “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Poor, foolish sinner, who has no wisdom, knowledge, nor understanding, here is a treasure for you—Christ, “who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).

     Having everything, he has all the power of God: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (vv. 23–24).

     Poor feeble soul, who can do nothing, here is a good bargain for you to take hold of; it is he who can work in you both to will and do. You are not called to come to Christ except by the power of Christ, which is the power of God. You are to receive him who can give you power to receive him. Having everything, he has all the holiness of God; he is said to be made by God our sanctification, and surely here is an immense fountain of sanctity, the infinite holiness of God. O poor, vile polluted sinner, who has lost the image of God by the fall of the first Adam and the deficiency of his holiness, here is a better head and husband for you, in whom is all the fullness of the deity, that you may be given fullness in him.
--- Ralph Erskine

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Bartholomew’s Day  August 23

     When 10-year-old Charles IX became king of France in 1560, his mother, Catherine de Medici, seized power as queen regent then tried to stabilize her religiously divided country. She tilted first toward Protestants then toward Catholics. Skirmishes broke out; and between 1561 and 1572 there were 18 massacres of Protestants, 5 of Catholics, and 30 assassinations. Civil war loomed.

     In a bid for peace, Catherine, a Catholic, offered her daughter in marriage to Protestant Henry of Navarre. Henry came to Paris for the wedding, accompanied by thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants). The city trembled, and rumors spread that Huguenots were planning to kidnap the royal family. Clanging anvils across Paris betrayed the making of weapons. On August 23, 1572 Catherine and Charles were sequestered in the palace. About 10 P.M. Catherine warned Charles of imminent insurrection, working him into a fever, telling him Huguenots were planning to seize him. Charles suggested the rebels be arrested. It was too late for that, Catherine retorted. She roared and raged and threatened to flee France. Charles, nerves wracked, ran from the room about midnight screaming, “By the death of God, since you choose to kill … I consent! But then you must kill all the Huguenots in France. … Kill them all! Kill them all!”

     The gates of the city were closed. Word spread among the troops, “Kill! The king commands it.” As church bells pealed 3 A.M., swords were drawn. Protestant leader Gaspard de Coligny was seized, strung by the heels, and his hands and genitals were lobbed off and sold. Huguenots and their children were dragged into the streets and slain. Embryos torn from dead mothers were smashed against the pavement. The sun, rising over Paris on St. Bartholomew’s Day, revealed thousands of Protestant corpses.

     The cries of butchered Huguenots rang in the king’s head, day and night. “Who but you is the cause of all this?” he shouted to his mother. “God’s blood, you are the cause of it all!” His constitution failed and he began seeing visions of his victims. He ranted and raved and died at age 23. “What evil counsel have I followed!” he cried. “O my God, forgive me! I am lost!”

  The wicked are a restless sea tossing up mud.
  But I, the LORD,
  have promised that none who are evil
  Will live in peace.
--- Isaiah 57:20,21.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 23

     “The voice of weeping shall be no more heard.”
--- Isaiah 65:19.

     The glorified weep no more, for all outward causes of grief are gone. There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in heaven. Poverty, famine, peril, persecution, and slander, are unknown there. No pain distresses, no thought of death or bereavement saddens. They weep no more, for they are perfectly sanctified. No “evil heart of unbelief” prompts them to depart from the living God; they are without fault before his throne, and are fully conformed to his image. Well may they cease to mourn who have ceased to sin. They weep no more, because all fear of change is past. They know that they are eternally secure. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed; they bask in a sun which shall never set; they drink of a river which shall never dry; they pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither. Countless cycles may revolve, but eternity shall not be exhausted, and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are for ever with the Lord. They weep no more, because every desire is fulfilled. They cannot wish for anything which they have not in possession. Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire, will, all the faculties, are completely satisfied; and imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, yet we know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, that the saints above are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fulness of delight, is in them. They bathe themselves in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite beatitude. That same joyful rest remains for us. It may not be far distant. Ere long the weeping willow shall be exchanged for the palm-branch of victory, and sorrow’s dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

          Evening - August 23

     “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” --- Ephesians 3:17.

     Beyond measure it is desirable that we, as believers, should have the person of Jesus constantly before us, to inflame our love towards him, and to increase our knowledge of him. I would to God that my readers were all entered as diligent scholars in Jesus’ college, students of Corpus Christi, or the body of Christ, resolved to attain unto a good degree in the learning of the cross. But to have Jesus ever near, the heart must be full of him, welling up with his love, even to overrunning; hence the apostle prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” See how near he would have Jesus to be! You cannot get a subject closer to you than to have it in the heart itself. “That he may dwell”; not that he may call upon you sometimes, as a casual visitor enters into a house and tarries for a night, but that he may dwell; that Jesus may become the Lord and Tenant of your inmost being, never more to go out.

     Observe the words—that he may dwell in your heart, that best room of the house of manhood; not in your thoughts alone, but in your affections; not merely in the mind’s meditations, but in the heart’s emotions. We should pant after love to Christ of a most abiding character, not a love that flames up and then dies out into the darkness of a few embers, but a constant flame, fed by sacred fuel, like the fire upon the altar which never went out. This cannot be accomplished except by faith. Faith must be strong, or love will not be fervent; the root of the flower must be healthy, or we cannot expect the bloom to be sweet. Faith is the lily’s root, and love is the lily’s bloom. Now, reader, Jesus cannot be in your heart’s love except you have a firm hold of him by your heart’s faith; and, therefore, pray that you may always trust Christ in order that you may always love him. If love be cold, be sure that faith is drooping.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     August 23


     Source of words and music unknown

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)

     The story of Martha the worker and Mary the worshiper (Luke 10:38–42) illustrates an important spiritual principle: We please our Lord most when we learn to sit at His feet in adoration and worship before trying to serve Him in our own strength. Sitting implies our humble dependence upon Him and a sense of quietness of soul that indicates our willingness to hear. We can become so busy with life’s pursuits, even worthy Christian activities, that we do not hear the still small voice of God. Or sometimes we pursue God in spiritual spectaculars. But like the story of Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11, 12), the Lord does not always reveal Himself in the wind, fire, or earthquake, but sometimes in the stillness of the small voice.

     Speak, Lord, in the stillness while I wait on Thee;
     Hushed my heart to listen in expectancy.
     Speak, Thy servant heareth! Be not silent, Lord;
     Waits my soul upon Thee for the quick’ning word!

--- E. May Grimes

     Learning to listen to God’s voice is one of the important factors in our spiritual growth. When we are silent before Him in the enjoyment of His presence and His Word, we gain His wisdom, insights, and the renewal of our strength for daily living. May the people who see and know us say of us even as it was said of the early disciples—“they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

     Sitting at the feet of Jesus, O what words I hear Him say! Happy place—so near, so precious! May it find me there each day! Sitting at the feet of Jesus, I would look upon the past, for His love has been so gracious—It has won my heart at last.
     Sitting at the feet of Jesus, where can mortal be more blest? There I lay my sins and sorrows, and, when weary, find sweet rest. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, there I love to weep and pray, while I from His fullness gather grace and comfort ev’ry day.
     Bless me, O my Savior, bless me, as I sit low at Thy feet! O look down in love upon me, let me see Thy face so sweet! Give me, Lord, the mind of Jesus; make me holy as He is; may I prove I’ve been with Jesus, who is all my righteousness.

     For Today: 2 Kings 22:19; Psalm 130:5; Isaiah 30:15; 57:15; Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 4:16

     Be especially sensitive to God’s still small voice in your life. Let this awareness of His presence and concern encourage and empower you. Use this hymn to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     (1.) In unwieldiness to religious duties where self is not concerned. With what lively thoughts will many approach to God, when a revenue may be brought in to support their own ends! But when the concerns of God only are in it, the duty is not the delight, but the clog; such feeble devotions, that warm not the soul, unless there be something of self to give strength and heat to them. Jonah was sick of his work, and run from God, because he thought he should get no honor by his message: God’s mercy would discredit his prophecy. Thoughts of disadvantage cut the very sinews of service. You may as well persuade a merchant to venture all his estate upon the inconstant waves without hopes of gain, as prevail with a natural man to be serious in duty, without expectation of some warm advantage. “What profit should we have if we pray to him?” is the natural question (Job 21:15). “What profit shall I have if I be cleansed from my sin?” (Job 35:3). I shall have more good by my sin than by my service. It is for God that I dance before the ark, saith David, therefore I will be more vile (2 Sam. 6:22). It is for self that I pray, saith a natural man, therefore I will be more warm and quick. Ordinances of God are observed only as a point of interest, and prayer is often most fervent, when it is least godly, and most selfish; carnal ends and affections will pour out lively expressions.  If there be no delight in the means that lead to God, there is no delight in God himself; because love is appetitus unionis, a desire of union; and where the object is desirable, the means that brings us to it would be delightful too.

     (2.) In calling upon God only in a time of necessity. How officious will men be in affliction, to that God whom they neglect in their prosperity! “When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired after God, and they remembered that God was their rock” (Psalm 78:34). They remembered him under the scourge, and forgot him under his smiles: they visit the throne of grace, knock loud at heaven’s gates, and give God no rest for their early and importunate devotions when under distress: but when their desires are answered, and the rod removed, they stand aloof from him, and rest upon their own bottom, as Jer. 2:31: “We are lords; we will come no more unto thee.” When we have need of him, he shall find us clients at his gate; and when we have served our turn, he hears no more of us: like Noah’s dove sent out of the ark, that returned to him when she found no rest on the earth, but came not back when she found a footing elsewhere. How often do men apply themselves to God, when they have some business for him to do for them! And then too, they are loth to put it solely into his hand to manage it for his own honor; but they presume to be his directors, that he may manage it for their glory. Self spurs men onto the throne of grace; they desire to be furnished with some mercy they want, or to have the clouds of some judgments which they fear blown over: this is not affection to God, but to ourselves: as the Romans worshipped a quartan ague as a goddess, and Timorem and Pallorem, fear and paleness, as gods; not out of any affection they had to the disease or the passion, but for fear to receive any hurt by them. Again, when we have gained the mercy we need, how little do we warm our souls with the consideration of that God that gave it, or lay out the mercy in his service! We are importunate to have him our friend in our necessities, and are ungratefully careless of him, and his injuries he sufers by us or others. When he hath discharged us from the rock where we stuck, we leave him, as having no more need of him, and able to do well enough without him; as if we were petty gods ourselves, and only wanted a lift from him at first.

     This is not to glorify God as God, but as our servant; not an honoring of God, but a self-seeking: he would hardly beg at God’s door, if he could pleasure himself without him.

     (3.) In begging his assistance to our own projects. When we lay the plot of our own affairs, and then come to God, not for counsel but blessing, self only shall give us counsel how to act; but because we believe there is a God that governs the world, we will desire him to contribute success. God is not consulted with till the counsel of self be fixed; then God must be the executor of our will. Self must be the principal, and God the instrument to hatch what we have contrived. It is worse when we beg of God to favor some sinful aim; the Psalmist implies this (Psalm 66:18): “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Iniquity regarded as the aim in prayer, renders the prayer successless, and the suppliant an atheist, in debasing God to back his lust by his holy providence. The disciples had determined revenge; and because they could not act it without their Master, they would have him be their second in their vindictive passion (Luke 9:55): “Call for fire from heaven.” We scarce seek God till we have modelled the whole contrivance in our own brains, and resolved upon the methods of performance; as though there were not a fulness of wisdom in God to guide us in our resolves, as well as power to breathe success upon them.

     (4.) In impatience upon the refusal of our desires. How often do men’s spirits rise against God, when he steps not in with the assistance they want! If the glory of God swayed more with them than their private interest, they would let God be judge of his own glory, and rather magnify his wisdom than complain of his want of goodness. Selfish hearts wild charge God with neglect of them, if he be not as quick in their supplies as they are in their desires; like those in Isa. 58:3, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?” When we aim at God’s glory in our importunities, we shall fall down in humble submissions when he denies us; whereas self riseth up in bold expostulations, as if God were our servant, and had neglected the service he owed us, not to come at our call. We over-value the satisfactions of self above the honor of God. Besides, if what we desire be a sin, our impatience at a refusal is more intolerable: it is an anger, that God will not lay aside his holiness to serve our corruption.

     (5.) In the actual aims men have in their duties. In prayer for temporal things, when we desire health for our own ease, wealth for our own sensuality, strength for our revenge, children for the increase of our family, gifts for our applause; as Simon Magus did the Holy Ghost: or, when some of those ends are aimed at, this is to desire God not to serve himself of us, but to be a servant to our worldly interest, our vain glory, the greatening of our names, In spiritual mercies begged for; when pardon of sin is desired only for our own security from eternal vengeance; sanctification desired only to make us fit for everlasting blessedness; peace of conscience, only that we may lead our lives more comfortably in the world; when we have not actual intentions for the glory of God, or when our thoughts of God’s honor are overtopped by the aims of self-advantage: not but that as God hath pressed us to those things by motives drawn from the blessedness derived to ourselves by them, so we may desire them with a respect to ourselves; but this respect must be contained within the due banks, in subordination to the glory of God, not above it, nor in an equal balance with it. That which is nourishing or medicinal in the first or second degree, is in the fourth or fifth degree mere destructive poison. Let us consider it seriously; though a duty be heavenly, doth not some base end smut us in it?

          [1.] How is it with our confessions of sin? Are they not more to procure our pardon, than to shame ourselves before God, or to be freed from the chains that hinder us from bringing him the glory for which we were created; or more to partake of his benefits, than to honor him in acknowledging the rights of his justice? Do we not bewail sin as it hath ruined us, not as it opposed the holiness of God? Do we not shuffle with God, and confess one sin, while we reserve another; as if we would allure God by declaring our dislike of one, to give us liberty to commit wantonness with another; not to abhor ourselves, but to daub with God.

          [2.] Is it any better in our private and family worship? Are not such assemblies frequented by some, where some upon whom they have a dependence may eye them, and have a better opinion of them, and affection to them? If God were the sole end of our hearts, would they not be as glowing under the sole eye of God, as our tongues or carriages are seemingly serious under the eye of man? Are not family duties performed by some that their voices may be heard, and their reputation supported among godly neighbors?

          [3.] Is not the charity of many men tainted with this end—self, as the Pharisees were, while they set the miserable object before them, but not the Lord; bestowing alms not so much upon the necessities of the people, as the friendship we owe them for some particular respects; or casting our bread upon those waters which stream down in the sight of the world, that our doles may be visible to them, and commended by them; or when we think to oblige God to pardon our transgressions, as if we merited it and heaven too at his hands, by bestowing a few pence upon indigent persons? And

          [4.] Is it not the same with the reproofs of men? Is not heat and anger carried out with full sail when our worldly interest is prejudiced and becalmed in the concerns of God? Do not many masters reprove their servants with more vehemency for the neglect of their trade and business, than the neglect of divine duties; and that upon religious arguments, pretending the honor of God that they may mind their own interest? But when they are negligent in what they owe to God, no noise is made, they pass without rebuke; is not this to make God and religion a stale to their own ends? It is a part of atheism not to regard the injuries done to God, as Tiberius, “Let God’s wrongs be looked to or cared for by himself.”

          [5.] Is it not thus in our seeming zeal for religion? as Demetrius and the craftsmen at Ephesus cried up aloud the greatness of Diana of the Ephesians, not out of any true zeal they had for her, but their gain, which was increased by the confluence of her worshippers, and the sale of her own shrines (Acts 19:24, 28).

     4. In making use of the name of God to countenance our sin. When we set up an opinion that is a friend to our lusts, and then dig deep into the Scripture to find crutches to support it, and authorize our practices; when men will thank God for what they have got by unlawful means, fathering the fruit of their cheating craft, and the simplicity of their chapmen upon God; crediting their cozenage by his name, as men do brass money, with a thin plate of silver, and the stamp and image of the prince. The Jews urge the law of God for the crucifying his Son (John 19:7): “We have a law, and by that law he is to die,” and would make him a party in their private revenge. Thus often when we have faltered in some actions, we wipe our mouths, as if we sought God more than our own interest, prostituting the sacred name and honor of God, either to hatch or defend some unworthy lust against his word. Is not all this a high degree of atheism?

     1. It is a vilifying God, an abuse of the highest good. Other sins subject the creature and outward things to them, but acting in religious services for self, subjects not only the highest concernments of men’s souls, but the Creator himself to the creature, nay, to make God contribute to that which is the pleasure of the devil, a greater slight than to cast the gifts of a prince to a herd of nasty swine. It were more excusable to serve ourselves of God upon the higher accounts, such that materially conduce to his glory; but it is an intolerable wrong to make him and his ordinances caterers for our own bellies, as they did: they sacrificed the נדכות of which the offerer might eat, not out of any reference to God, but love to their gluttony; not to please him, but feast themselves. The belly was truly made the god, when God was served only in order to the belly; as though the blessed God had his being, and his ordinances were enjoined to pleasure their foolish and wanton appetites; as though the work of God were only to patronize unrighteous ends, and be as bad as themselves, and become a pander to their corrupt affections.

     2. Because it is a vilifying of God, it is an undeifying or dethroning God. It is an acting as if we were the lords, and God our vassal; a setting up those secular ends in the place of God, who ought to be our ultimate end in every action; to whom a glory is as due, as his mercy to us is utterly unmerited by us. He that thinks to cheat and put the fool upon God by his pretences, doth not heartily believe there is such a being. He could not have the notion of a God, without that of omniscience and justice; an eye to see the cheat, and an arm to punish it. The notion of the one would direct him in the manner of his services, and the sense of the other would scare him from the cherishing his unworthy ends. He that serves God with a sole respect to himself, is prepared for any idolatry; his religion shall warp with the times and his interest; he shall deny the true God for an idol, when his worldly interest shall advise him to it, and pay the same reverence to the basest image, which he pretends now to pay to God; as the Israelites were as real for idolatry under their basest princes, as they were pretenders to the true religion under those that were pious. Before I come to the use of this, give me leave to evince this practical atheism by two other considerations.

     1. Unworthy imaginations of God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God:” that is, he is not such a God as you report him to be; this is meant by their being “corrupt,” in the second verse, corrupt being taken for playing the idolaters (Exod. 32:7). We cannot comprehend God; if we could, we should cease to be finite; and because we cannot comprehend him, we erect strange images of him in our fancies and affections. And since guilt came upon us, because we cannot root out the notions of God, we would debase the majesty and nature of God, that we may have some ease in our consciences, and lie down with some comfort in the sparks of our own kindling. This is universal in men by nature. “God is not in all his thoughts;” not in any of his thoughts, according the excellency of his nature and greatness of his majesty. As the heathen did not glorify God as God, so neither do they conceive of God as God; they are all infected with some one or other ill opinion of him, thinking him not so holy, powerful, just, good, as he is, and as the natural force of the human understanding might arrive to. We join a new notion of God in our vain fancies, and represent him not as he is, but as we would have him to be, fit for our own use, and suited to our own pleasure. We set that active power of imagination on work, and there comes out a god (a calf) whom we own for a notion of God. Adam cast him into so narrow a mould, as to think that himself, who had newly sprouted up by his almighty power, was fit to be his corrival in knowledge, and had vain hopes to grasp as much as infiniteness; if he, in his first declining, begun to have such a conceit, it is no doubt but we have as bad under a mass of corruption. When holy Agur speaks of God, he cries out that he had not “the understanding of a man, nor the knowledge of the holy;” he did not think rationally of God, as man might by his strength at his first creation. There are as many carved images of God as there are minds of men, and as monstrous shapes as those corruptions into which they would transform him. Hence sprang,

     1. Idolatry. Vain imaginations first set afloat and kept up this in the world. Vain imaginations of the God “whose glory they changed into the image of corruptible man.” They had set up vain images of him in their fancy, before they set up idolatrous representations of him in their temples; the likening him to those idols of wood and stone, and various metals, were the fruit of an idea erected in their own minds. This is a mighty debasing the Divine nature, and rendering him no better than that base and stupid matter they make the visible object of their adoration; equalling him with those base creatures they think worthy to be the representations of him. Yet how far did this crime spread itself in all corners of the world, not only among the more barbarous and ignorant, but the more polished and civilized nations! Judea only, where God had placed the ark of his presence, being free from it, in some intervals of time only after some sweeping judgment. And though they vomited up their idols under some sharp scourge, they licked them up again after the heavens were cleared over their heads: the whole book of Judges makes mention of it. And though an evangelical light hath chased that idolatry away from a great part of the world, yet the principle remaining coins more spiritual idols in the heart, which are brought before God in acts of worship.

     2. Hence all superstition received its rise and growth. When we mint a god according to our own complexion, like to us in mutable and various passions, soon angry and soon appeased, it is no wonder that we invent ways of pleasing him after we have offended him, and think to expiate the sin of our souls by some melancholy devotions and self-chastisements.  Superstition is nothing else but an unscriptural and unrevealed dread of God.  When they imagined him a rigorous and severe master, they cast about for ways to mitigate him whom they thought so hard to be pleased: a very mean thought of him, as if a slight and pompous devotion could as easily bribe and flatter him out of his rigors, as a few good words or baubling rattles could please and quiet little children; and whatsoever pleased us, could please a God infinitel above us. Such narrow conceits had the Philistines, when they thought to still the anger of the God of Israel, whom they thought they possessed in the ark, with the present of a few golden mice. All the superstition this day living in the world is built upon this foundation: so natural it is to man to pull God down to his own imaginations, rather than raise his imaginations up to God. Hence doth arise also the diffidence of his mercy, though they repent; measuring God by the contracted models of their own spirits; as though his nature were as difficult to pardon their offences against him, as they are to remit wrongs done to themselves.

     3. Hence springs all presumption, the common disease of the world. All the wickedness in the world, which is nothing else but presuming upon God, rises from the ill interpretations of the goodness of God, breaking out upon them in the works of creation and providence. The corruption of man’s nature engendered by those notions of goodness a monstrous birth of vain imaginations; not of themselves primarily, but of God; whence arose all that folly and darkness in their minds and conversations (Rom. 1:20, 21). They glorified him not as God, but, according to themselves, imagined him good that themselves might be bad; fancied him so indulgent, as to neglect his own honor for their sensuality. How doth the unclean person represent him to his own thoughts, but as a goat; the murderer as a tiger; the sensual person as a swine; while they fancy a God indulgent to their crimes without their repentance! As the image on the seal is stamped upon the wax, so the thoughts of the heart are printed upon the actions. God’s patience is apprehended to be an approbation of their vices, and from the consideration of his forbearance, they fashion a god that they believe will smile upon their crimes. They imagine a god that plays with them; and though he threatens doth it only to scare, but means not as he speaks. A god they fancy like themselves, that would do as they would do, not be angry for what they count a light offence (Psalm 50:21): “Thou thoughtest I was such a one as thyself;” that God and they were exactly alike as two tallies. “Our wilful misapprehensions of God are the cause of our misbehavior in all his worship. Our slovenly and lazy services tell him to his face what slight thoughts and apprehensions we have of him.” Compare these two together. Superstition ariseth from terrifying misapprehensions of God: presumption from self pleasing thoughts. One represents him only rigorous, and the other careless. One makes us over- officious in serving him by our own rules; and the other over-bold in offending him according to our humors. The want of a true notion of God’s justice makes some men slight him; and the want of a true apprehension of his goodness makes others too servile in their approaches to him. One makes us careless of duties, and the other makes us look on them rather as physic than food; an unsupportable penance, than a desirable privilege. In this case  hell is the principle of duty performed to heaven.  The superstitious man believes God hath scarce mercy to pardon; the presumptuous man believes he hath no such perfection as justice to punish. The one makes him insignificant to what he desires, kindness and goodness; the other renders him insignificant to what he fears, his vindictive justice. What between the idolater, the superstitious, the presumptuous person, God should look like no God in the world. These unworthy imaginations of God are likewise,

     2. A vilifying of him. Debasing the Creator to be a creature of their own fancies; putting their own stamp upon him; and fashioning him not according to that beautiful image he impressed upon them by creation; but the defaced image they inherit by their fall, and which is worse, the image of the devil which spread itself over them at their revolt and apostasy. Were it possible to see a picture of God, according to the fancies of men, it would be the most monstrous being, such a God that never was, nor ever can be. We honor God when we have worthy opinions of him suitable to his nature; when we conceive of him as a being of unbounded loveliness and perfection. We detract from him when we ascribe to him such qualities as would be a horrible disgrace to a wise and good man as injustice and impurity. Thus men debase God when they invert his order, and would create him according to their image, as he first created them according to his own; and think him not worthy to be a God, unless he fully answer the mould they would cast him into, and be what is unworthy of his nature. Men do not conceive of God as he would have them; but he must be what they would have him, one of their own shaping.

The Existence and Attributes of God

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

     Sect. CXXVI. — THE Diatribe after this, having said that many such testimonies, as Luther collects, may be collected out of the book of Proverbs; but which, by a convenient interpretation, may stand both for and against “Free-will”; adduces at last that Achillean and invincible weapon of Luther, “Without me ye can do nothing,” &c. (John xv. 5).

     I too, must laud that notable champion-disputant for “Free-will,” who teaches us, to modify the testimonies of Scripture just as it serves our turn, by convenient interpretations, in order to make them appear to stand truly in confirmation of “Free-will”; that is, that they might be made to prove, not what they ought, but what we please; and who merely pretends a fear of one Achillean Scripture, that the silly reader, seeing this one overthrown, might hold all the rest in utter contempt. But I will just look on and see, by what force the full-mouthed and heroic Diatribe will conquer my Achilles; which hitherto, has never wounded a common soldier, nor even a Thersites, but has ever miserably dispatched itself with its own weapons.

     Catching hold of this one word “nothing,” it stabs it with many words and many examples; and, by means of a convenient interpretation, brings it to this; that “nothing,” may signify that which is in degree and imperfect. That is, it means to say, in other words, that the Sophists have hitherto explained this passage thus. — “Without me ye can do nothing;” that is, perfectly. This gloss, which has been long worn out and obsolete, the Diatribe, by its power of rhetoric, renders new; and so presses it forward, as though it had first invented it, and it had never been heard of before, thus making it appear to be a sort of miracle. In the mean time, however, it is quite self-secure, thinking nothing about the text itself, nor what precedes or follows it, whence alone the knowledge of the passage is to be obtained.

     But (to say no more about its having attempted to prove by so many words and examples, that the term “nothing” may, in this passage, be understood as meaning ‘that which is in a certain degree, or imperfect,’ as though we were disputing whether or not it may be, whereas, what was to be proved is whether or not it ought to be, so understood;) the whole of this grand interpretation effects nothing, if it affect any thing, but this: — the rendering of this passage of John uncertain and obscure. And no wonder, for all that the Diatribe aims at, is to make the Scriptures of God in every place obscure, to the intent that it might not be compelled to use them; and the authorities of the Ancients certain, to the intent that it might abuse them; — a wonderful kind of religion truly, making the words of God to be useless, and the words of man useful!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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