A Levite and His ConcubineJudges 19 1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 And his concubine was unfaithful to[a] him, and she went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father's house. And when the girl's father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. 4 And his father-in-law, the girl's father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. 5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” 6 So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl's father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” 7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. 8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl's father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. 9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”
10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.
16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord,[b] but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
Gibeah's Crime22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light.
27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”
Acts 23 1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
A Plot to Kill Paul12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
16 Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
Paul Sent to Felix the Governor23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod's praetorium.
The Lord Promises PeaceJeremiah 33 1 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: 2 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. 4 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: 5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
10 “Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:
“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’
12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.
The Lord's Eternal Covenant with David14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
17 “For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”
19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 “Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, 21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”
23 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”
Save Me, O My GodA Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
Psalm 3 1 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
Answer Me When I CallTo the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Psalm 4 1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
What I'm Reading
By R.C. Sproul
Saul of Tarsus was a zealot for the Pharisees, totally repulsed by the advent of a new sect called Christianity. He was determined to wipe Christians from the face of the earth. Commissioned by the authorities, he went from house to house rounding up early Christian believers and casting them into prison. He stood on the sidelines during the stoning of Stephen and applauded the act. He was gleeful when he gained a new assignment to go to Damascus to continue his pogrom of Christians. It was on the Damascus Road that he met the Holy One. He recounted the scene during his trial before King Agrippa:
See Acts 26:13-19 in the Daily Bible reading above.
Saul was zealous in his pursuit of righteousness. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a man committed to legal perfection. The irony of his zeal is seen in that the more zealous he was for his goals the more opposed he actually became to the work of God. Not that God is opposed to the pursuit of righteousness. God is for the pursuit of righteousness, but He stands against the proud and the arrogant. He stands against those who are swelled up with self-righteousness. While Saul was convinced he was fighting for God, he was actually fighting against God. In this ironic battle he was doomed to an ultimate confrontation with the very Christ he opposed.
One of the names by which God is revealed in the Old Testament is the name El Shaddai. The name means “the thunderer” or “the overpowerer.” It was by the name El Shaddai that God appeared to Job. What Job experienced was the awesome power of a sovereign God who overpowers all men and is Himself overpowered by no man. Saul met the Overpowerer on the road to Damascus.
Saul described his experience on the desert road as starting with the appearance of a dazzling light. The desert road at noonday was a place where the brilliance of the sun was particularly strong, piercing the day through a very thin atmosphere. Under normal conditions the sunshine there is intense. For any other light to be noticed against the backdrop of the desert sun it must have been extraordinary. Saul spoke of a light more brilliant, more dazzling than the sun. He described it as a “light from heaven.”
The expression “light from heaven” does not mean a light from the sky. The sun shines from the sky. Saul was in the presence of the heavenly glory of God. God’s glory is the outward manifestation of His holiness. The effulgence of His glory is so scintillating, so brilliant that it eclipses the noonday sun. In the book of Revelation we read of the appearance of the New Jerusalem, the City that comes down from heaven:
(Re 21:22–23) 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. ESV
The New Jerusalem has no sun simply because it has no need for the sun. The glory of God and of His Christ is so bright that the sun itself is overpowered by it. Saul was blinded by its rays. Consider what happens to men if they gaze directly into the sun. In times of solar eclipse people are attracted by the strange sight of a shadow passing over the sun. There is a strong temptation to fix our gaze directly at it. Yet, even in eclipse we find it is painful and dangerous to look directly at the sun. We are warned by the news media at such times not to make attempts to look directly at it lest we do serious damage to our eyes. If we cannot gaze directly at the sun during an eclipse, how much more severe would the brilliance be that literally outshines the sun? The glory of God reaches a magnitude of brightness far beyond that of the sun shining at full strength.
No angel appeared to wrestle with Saul. Yet some supernal force threw him to the ground. In an instant Saul was blinded. There was no warning, no whisper of wind to alert him. Sovereignly and powerfully he was knocked flat to the desert floor.
With the light from heaven came also a voice. The voice is elsewhere described as the sound of many waters, a voice that roars like a booming waterfall that is cascading over rocks. Saul identified the voice as speaking in the Aramaic tongue, the native language of Jesus. The voice addressed Saul personally, in the form of the repetition of his name: “Saul, Saul.” This double form of address indicated a greeting of personal intimacy. It was the way God addressed Moses at the burning bush and Abraham at his altar on Mount Moriah. It was the form by which Jesus cried over Jerusalem and addressed His Father in His darkest hour on the cross.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Notice that the voice did not inquire why Saul was persecuting Christ’s church. It was rather “Why do you persecute me?” To attack the church of Christ is to attack Him. Then the question: “Why do you kick against the goads?” The ox goads were sharp spikes implanted in a wooden frame that were fastened to oxcarts behind the oxen. If an ox became stubborn and refused to move forward it sometimes registered its stubbornness by kicking its feet backwards into the goad. Imagine how dumb an ox would be if after once kicking the goad it became so furious that it kicked it again and again. The more it kicks the goads the more pain it inflicts upon itself. It is like a man banging his head against the wall and finding solace in how good it feels when he stops.
The voice was saying to Saul, “You dumb ox! How stupid it is to keep kicking the goads. You cannot win. Your battle is futile. It is time to surrender.” Saul’s response was a simple question, but the question was loaded: “Who are you, Lord?” Saul did not know the identity of the One who had just overpowered him, but of one thing he was certain—whoever it was, He was Lord.
In this experience Saul became Paul just as Jacob had become Israel. The battle was over. Saul struggled with God and lost. Here, like Isaiah, he received his call, his commission to apostleship. His life was changed and the course of world history was changed with it. In defeat Paul found peace.
After telling this story to King Agrippa, Paul added these words: “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” As zealous as Saul had been in his fight against Christ, he became even more zealous in his fight for Christ. He had a vision of the holiness of God that was so intense he never forgot it. He contemplated it and expounded its meaning throughout his epistles. He became a man who understood what it meant to be justified. For him the holy war was over and he entered into a holy peace. He became the apostle whose writings awakened Luther in the monastery and gave to the Christian church the recipe for an abiding peace with God.
The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. He is just and we are unjust. This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God. The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge. We become fugitives fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us. We are at war with Him unless or until we are justified. Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.
The apostle Paul sets forth immediate benefits—fruits of justification. In his Epistle to the Romans he explains what happens to us when we are justified, when we are covered by the righteousness of Christ that is by faith:
(Ro 5:1–2)5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The first fruit of our justification is peace with God. To the ancient Jew peace was a precious, but elusive commodity. The present-day turmoil in the Middle East seems like a replay of ancient history. From the days of the conquest of Canaan to the period of Roman occupation in New Testament times there were but a few years when Israel was not at war. The location of Palestine as a pivotal land bridge between Africa and Asia made it a corridor not only for trade but for warfare. Tiny Israel often found herself caught between competing world powers and was used like a military Ping-Pong ball.
The Jew longed for peace. He yearned for the day when swords would be beaten into plowshares. He waited for the era when the Prince of Peace would come to end the incessant hostilities. So important to the Jew was his quest for peace that the very word peace became a daily greeting. Where we say “hello” or “good-bye,” the Jew said simply, “Shalom.” To this day the greeting shalom remains an integral part of Jewish vocabulary.
The word peace had its primary reference to the cessation of military conflict. But a deeper meaning was attached to it as well. The Jew was also deeply concerned for inner peace, for the tranquil rest of the soul that meant an end to a troubled spirit. We have a similar concept in view when we speak of “peace of mind.”
Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."
R.C. Sproul Books:
A Culture of Sacrifice
By David Temples 7/1/2011
It was October 25, 2007, and the moon shone brightly over the rugged terrain of eastern Afghanistan. Elements of 1st Platoon, B Company (173rd Airborne Brigade), walked cautiously back to their outpost after completing their assigned mission. But unknown to them, an unseen enemy waited in ambush. In the three minutes of confusion and chaos that comprised this surprise attack, then Specialist Sal Giunta responded under the intense enemy fire with such courage that he was nominated for, and eventually received, America’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. When asked why he braved incessant machine-gun and small-arms fire during the ambush to charge the enemy alone in search of one of his fellow soldiers, his straightforward reply was, “He would have done the same for me.”
This type of trust and commitment is often mentioned by those who exhibit extraordinary heroism in combat. They risk much with the knowledge that those around them are equally committed. In ways many cannot understand, the success or failure of the U.S. military’s mission rests upon this type of fraternity. It holds teams and platoons together in the face of the sheer terror, or sheer boredom, of war.
This is also the type of fraternity that must exist within our churches if they are going to maintain their witness in the face of the great persecution, or great prosperity, that marks their warfare (Eph. 6:10–20). How do we develop this? As I read news reports about (now) Staff Sergeant Giunta and reflect on my own military service, I can identify three types of activities, all common among military units, that are foundational in building this type of deep-seated trust. While more could be mentioned, think of how these could be tools used to forge greater bonds within your church.
1. Preparation. Responding in the right way to an ambush is not natural — it requires purposeful preparation. Preparing together before the crisis builds trust among the members of a unit. They believe they can undertake challenges together because they see the effort and commitment of those around them. The same is true for churches. The apostle Paul reminds us that we too need training (1 Tim. 4:7). Our natural responses fall short as we do battle against the “sin which clings one who “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). We were not designed to face these enemies alone. Preparing together builds the bond of trust among the members of our churches. This not only helps us develop important skills, it also makes us aware of the level of commitment of our fellow soldiers.
2. Time Together. Why did Staff Sergeant Giunta believe his fellow soldier “would have done the same” for him? Good training? Yes. But he also emphasized the fact that he did not charge the enemy to save a nameless soldier (though, hopefully, he would have). On this occasion, he risked his life for his friend. He did this because they shared a sense of camaraderie that went beyond their formal training.
Spending time together beyond the bounds of formal gatherings also builds camaraderie within our churches. When I was a new platoon leader, I received a surprisingly simple piece of advice for achieving this goal: “Build fires.” Whenever we were in the field and our training was over, we would build a fire for our platoon. I would often sit in the back and just listen as the men gathered around and told stories about their lives. In this relaxed setting, we got to know each other in ways we could not as we trained. So train well, but also find ways to “build fires” and get to know one another in ways you cannot in formal training. This, too, can build trust and strengthen the fraternal nature of the body of Christ.
3. A Culture of Sacrifice. There is a reason that those within the armed forces who exhibit extraordinary heroism do not consider themselves heroes: they live and train within a culture of sacrifice. They are trained to sacrifice the sense of individualism that defines our broader culture. Whether through helping carry the heavy loads of weapons and ammunition of others or sharing one’s last drink of water, putting the needs and safety of others before one’s own is expected and reinforced in countless ways. The ultimate acts of selflessness at which we marvel represent the application of this cultural value in specific circumstances.
In the same way, our willingness to sacrifice in the service of God and one another is directly related to the cultural values reinforced within our churches. The individualism and entitlement mentality of our culture must be offset by the faithful proclamation of the biblical call to self-denial and cross-bearing. Without this, our camaraderie can too easily turn our churches into well-informed and friendly country clubs. We must not only hear this call to sacrifice, we must recognize that we have a role in bearing the burdens of others as we follow our Savior, who “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
By John Piper 7/1/2011
The love of Christ for us in His dying was as conscious as His suffering was intentional. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). If He was intentional in laying down His life, it was for us. It was love. “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of His life, it helps to see how utterly intentional it was. Consider these five ways of seeing Christ’s intentionality in dying for us.
First, look at what Jesus said just after that violent moment when Peter tried to cleave the skull of the servant but only cut off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him: “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matt. 26:52–54).
It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’ death were predicted in the Old Testament; it is much more to say that Jesus Himself was making His choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.
That is what Jesus said He was doing in Matthew 26:54: “I could escape this misery, but how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” I am not choosing to take the way out that I could take because I know the Scriptures. I know what must take place. It is my choice to fulfill all that is predicted of me in the Word of God.
A second way this intentionality is seen is in the repeated expressions to go to Jerusalem — into the very jaws of the lion: “Taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise’” (Mark 10:32–34).
Jesus had one all-controlling goal: to die according to the Scriptures. He knew when the time was near and set His face like flint: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
A third way that we see the intentionality of Jesus to suffer for us is in the words He spoke in the mouth of Isaiah the prophet: “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isa. 50:6).
I have to work hard in my imagination to keep before me what iron will this required. Humans recoil from suffering. We recoil a hundred times more from suffering that is caused by unjust, ugly, sniveling, low-down, arrogant people. At every moment of pain and indignity, Jesus chose not to do what would have been immediately just. He gave His back to the smiter. He gave His cheek to slapping. He gave His beard to plucking. He offered His face to spitting. And He was doing it for the very ones causing the pain.
A fourth way we see the intentionality of Jesus’ suffering is in the way Peter explains how this was possible. He said, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
The way Jesus handled the injustice of it all was not by saying, “Injustice doesn’t matter,” but by entrusting His cause to “him who judges justly.” God would see that justice was done. That was not Jesus’ calling at Calvary nor is it our highest calling now: “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
The fifth and perhaps the clearest statement that Jesus makes about His own intentionality to die is in John 10:17–18: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus’ point in these words is that He is acting completely voluntarily. He is under no constraint from any mere human. Circumstances have not overtaken Him. He is not being swept along in the injustice of the moment. He is in control.
Therefore, when John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), we should feel the intensity of His love for us to the degree that we see His intentionality to suffer and die. I pray that you will feel it profoundly. And may that profound experience of being loved by Christ have this effect on you: “The love of Christ controls us … he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14–15).
John Piper Books:
- 1 Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture
- 2 Don't Waste Your Life
- 3 Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- 4 When I Don't Desire God (Redesign): How to Fight for Joy
- 5 A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
- 6 Future Grace, Revised Edition: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God
- 7 When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy
- 8 This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
- 9 Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace
- 10 Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Revised Edition)
- 11 Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
- 12 The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
- 13 Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 14 A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor
- 15 Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
- 16 God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
- 17 Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ
- 18 The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin
- 19 Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks From a Lifetime of Preaching
- 20 A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 21 The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul
- 22 Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure
- 23 Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition
- 24 The Supremacy of God in Preaching
- 25 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism
- 26 Risk Is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
- 27 Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)
- 28 A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You
- 29 The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce
- 30 Don't Waste Your Cancer
- 31 Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian
- 32 The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
- 33 Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis
- 34 Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
- 35 Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
- 36 The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
- 37 Finally Alive
- 38 A Godward Life: Seeing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 39 Spectacular Sins (Redesign): And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ
- 40 Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
- 41 God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)
- 42 Life as a Vapor: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Faith
- 43 Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
- 44 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood
- 45 What Jesus Demands from the World (Paperback Edition)
- 46 What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
- 47 Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen
- 48 Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
- 49 John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God
- 50 A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 51 Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
- 52 Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples
- 53 The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
- 54 The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
- 55 The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life
- 56 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 57 A Hunger for God (Redesign): Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
- 58 Quest for Joy (Pack of 25) (Proclaiming the Gospel)
- 59 Ruth: Under the Wings of God
- 60 Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?
Who Is My Brother?
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2011
Conservative Christians seeking a way to encapsulate our most fundamental political commitments came up with “family values.” We vote “family values.” We support “family values” candidates. Even the left has noticed, countering our language with this bit of bumper-sticker wisdom: “Hate is not a family value.”
We are indeed seeing an assault on the family from the left and are rightly troubled. They want to be able to redefine the family at will and by law, forgetting that the family is a gift from God and He retains the right to define it as He wills.
Yet we know what a family is supposed to look like and don’t like it when others twist and distort that image. That said, though I am a conservative Christian, though I do indeed believe in “family values,” my family doesn’t look like most. We are an eye-catching bunch — and not because of how handsome I am. When we are out together, the first thing people notice is the size and scope of my family. God has blessed my dear wife and me with eight children who are, as I write, ages seventeen down to one. The tag on my wife’s van doesn’t say, “CLOWNCR,” though it could. It instead says, “BLE ST 8 X.”
Our Shannon, who is thirteen, likewise draws stares. Her gait is unsteady. She cannot talk. She sucks her thumb. She has the mental capacity of a one-year-old. It may be, however, that people are staring because her blue eyes are so beautiful or because her countenance is so peaceful.
Finally, our family doesn’t look like most because of our two youngest, boys who are ages five and one. Reilly and Donovan are perfectly able. They are just the right size. But they do stick out. These last two, at their births, came to us through the blessing of adoption. Their genetic ancestors hail from Africa. Our family, then, includes two genders, multiple ages, multiple eye colors, multiple abilities, multiple skin colors. However, we are, together, Sprouls. We have, by the grace of God, been made into a family, a forever family.
The kingdom we seek is the same. Our familial identity is found not in our skin color, our socio-economic strata, or our genetics. The kingdom we seek is populated not just by citizens or by soldiers, but by family. We are servants of the King, soldiers of the King, but most of all we are children of the King. We become children of the King not based on where we are born but through adoption.
It has been said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated hours of the week. Some in the evangelical church are so troubled by this that they have sought out people of color like trophies. Others, sadder still, prefer the segregation. Were we paying attention, we would be guilty of neither. There was, after all, once a great Man. He gave a famous speech, a sermon if you will, that came to be known all over the world. He suggested to the gathered masses that we ought not to worry about such things. He encouraged us to have such a single-minded passion for one thing that issues of skin color would be moot. He told those who assembled that they should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Fraternity is a wonderful thing. It is the theological left, however, that teaches the heresy that proclaims the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. If everyone is my brother, then no one is my brother. If ties of kinship extend to all humanity, then there may as well be no ties at all. Wisdom requires that we learn how to recognize our brothers. I must confess that here I am not colorblind. My brothers are not those with black skin. Neither are they those with white skin. My brothers are those whose skin is red, covered by the blood of Christ. My loyalty is grounded in the kinship that I have in Christ, not the “kinship” that is coded into my genes.
In God’s good providence, I have been blessed to meet my brothers around the globe. Naing is my brother in Myanmar. Geoffrey is my brother in Kenya. Hiro is my brother in Japan. Oleg is my brother in Russia. Mykola is my brother in Ukraine. Jaime is my brother in Colombia. I have Kiwi brothers, Canuck brothers, Israeli and Palestinian brothers, and Scottish and Irish brothers. In Christ’s kingdom is every tribe and tongue. When we enter, we lay aside every other loyalty, every other tie that binds.
We fail when we are fools enough to believe that there is something of value in our own ethnicity. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, saw his pedigree as something to be cast aside, tossed overboard. Can we do any less? We are by nature children of our father, the Devil. But while we—me, my wife, my children, all the saints of history, and all the saints around the globe—were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He has together seated us, red and yellow, black and white, in the heavenly places. There we rule the nations. There we will judge angels. And there we are, and will forever be, a family.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
The Gospel and the Oncology Waiting Room
By Mike Pohlman 7/1/2011
I recently sat with my wife in the waiting room at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We were there to meet with Dr. Lupe Salazar to receive the results of Julia’s latest PET/CT scans. The goal: to determine if the cancer was progressing. This drill is an example of our “new normal” since the diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer on Mother’s Day weekend in 2009.
Julia and I talk a lot. In fact, there is no one I would rather visit with on a daily basis. But in oncology waiting rooms, we often find ourselves quiet. Cancer clinics have a way of making you measure your words. And as you consider and feel the weight of why you’re there, common conversations often yield to silence.
Of course, the iPhone is never far away, and in the silence of one’s thoughts the urge to tweet can become irresistible. Here’s what I wrote that day: “Seminary course suggestion: spend three afternoons a week for a semester in a cancer clinic with your mouth shut watching and listening.”
I was moved to write those words because of what I was witnessing in the waiting room all around me. Emotions such as concern, despair, anger, and bitterness were obvious as I studied the faces, watched the body language, and listened to some of the spoken words. But there were also clear examples of hope and joy as individuals and families came and went. Amid all this, I was gripped by the fact that one of the front-desk assistants spoke to us freely about the “bad day” she was having and how unfortunate it was given that it was not yet noon. Clearly the fact that the couple dozen people in the waiting room were fighting cancer was lost on her — at least for the moment. The cancer patients in that waiting room could just as well have been waiting for haircuts. Alas, for this employee, it was just another day at work filled with mundane tasks of checking in and scheduling people.
The pastorate is all about God and people. As pastors, we have the wonderful (and terrible) privilege of shepherding people to God in Christ every day. Cancer clinics are an indispensable resource for pastors as we strive for faithfulness in our calling, because they keep us grounded in the greatest realities in the universe. The idea of having seminary students spend consistent time in oncology waiting rooms (not to mention surgery center waiting rooms) seems more than appropriate given the things these students will be facing in their churches once called to their positions. This practice has the added benefit of helping train the future pastor to make sure his doctrine is always meeting life. Pity the church that has a pastor with mere book knowledge.
But these laboratories are not just for pastors. Cancer-clinic waiting rooms can be a tremendous resource for all people, regardless of vocation.
If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the cancer-clinic waiting room reminds us that our lives are a vapor; that our days are all numbered; that He gives us life and breath and all things, and, therefore, we are utterly dependent creatures; that sin is real and has a million tragic consequences; that pride is ridiculously ugly and meekness wonderfully beautiful; that we are called to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping; that people are either saved or lost; that God’s grace is real, His Son all-sufficient, and through the cross, cancer will one day be no more.
We must demand that pastors live in these awesome realities so that local churches are filled with members who live in these awesome realities — because they will in one form or another, sooner or later.
Cancer clinics (if I may adapt one of C.S. Lewis’ more recognized phrases) are God’s megaphone to a chronically amused people. Through cancer clinics, God brings the significance of the present and the weight of glory to bear on us in ways unlike anything else. Few things, by God’s grace, capture the mind and the heart like an oncology waiting room. And we need to be captured by God — pulled away from the numbing effects of the world.
Our default instinct is to avoid pain, grief, and sorrow by covering these emotions with fun, levity, and leisure of all kinds. And I’m not immune to this sinful weakness that leaves me anesthetized to God. In other words, I need the cancer clinic waiting room because I need God.
When the waiting was over and our nurse called us back to Dr. Salazar’s office, we learned that Julia’s cancer was indeed progressing. But given her relatively young age of forty and the chemotherapy drugs still at our disposal, we restaged and within a week began a new treatment regimen that is successfully pushing back on the tumors. We press on.
And as we do, we are by God’s grace watching and listening, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear the gospel through cancer.
(Mt 12:18–21) 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3-4
By Don Carson 1/1/2018
By the time we reach Judges 19, the law of the jungle has triumphed in the fledging nation of Israel.
The Levite introduced to us at this point takes on a concubine. (Levites were supposed to marry only virgins; see Lev. 21:7, 13-15.) She sleeps around and moves out, returning to her father’s home. In due course the Levite wants her back, so he travels to Bethlehem and finds her. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Preferring not to stop in one of the Canaanite towns, they press on to Gibeah, a Benjamite settlement. A local homeowner warns the Levite and his concubine not to stay in the town square overnight — it is far too dangerous. And he takes them in.
During the night, a mob of lusty hooligans want the homeowner to send out the Levite so they can sodomize him. That is stunning. In the first place, by the social standards of the ancient Near East, it was unthinkable not to show hospitality — and they want to gang rape a visitor. And as the account progresses, it is very clear that they will happily rape males or females — they don’t really care.
But perhaps the ugliest moment in the narrative occurs when the homeowner, remembering the rules of hospitality and doubtless frightened for himself as well, offers them his daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The account is crisp and brief, but it does not take much imagination to conjure up their terror — two women not defended by their men but abandoned and betrayed by them and offered to a howling mob insists that even that isn’t enough, so the Levite shoves his concubine out the door, alone. So began her last night on earth in a small town belonging to the people of God.
The morning dawns to find the Levite ordering this woman to get up; it’s time to go. Only then does he discover she is dead. He hauls her corpse back home, cuts her up into twelve pieces, and sends one piece to each part of Israel, saying, in effect: When does the violence stop? At what point do we put our collective foot down and reverse these horrible trends?
“In those days Israel had no king” (Judg. 19:1).
Yet what about his own profound complicity and cowardice? The sheer horror of the dismembered body parts was bound to stir up a reaction, but by this time it could not be the righteous reaction of biblically thoughtful and restrained people. Only the naive could imagine that the outcome would be anything other than a descent into a maelstrom of evil and violence.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Don Carson Books:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 83O God, Do Not Keep Silence
83 A Song. A Psalm Of Asaph.
1 O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
2 For behold, your enemies make an uproar;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
3 They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against your treasured ones.
4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”
5 For they conspire with one accord;
against you they make a covenant—
6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites,
7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Asshur also has joined them;
they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah
Your Newsfeed Is Not New
By Nick Murray 9/1/2015
Judges is one of those books in the Old Testament where we’re regularly called to pause and stare in bewilderment at Israel. As we read we cannot help but ask, “How did they get here? How did things get so bad so quickly?” But like most of the stories about Israel, they’re not just about Israel—they’re about us. And as I’ve been reading Judges lately, I haven’t been able to help but notice the parallels to our present day. Different Time, Same Place What We Most Need My Body, Your Choices
In fact, reading Judges is not unlike reading my daily newsfeed—a condemning parallel, to say the least. I’m not talking about guys killing lions (though I guess that’s also a parallel), but about the blatant disregard for human life strewn across the pages of Judges and our smartphone screens.
But then I glance from Judges to my newsfeed, and I see videos of tiny human beings who have been dismembered, packaged up, sold for research. I look to my newsfeed and see the celebration of a “freedom” lauding sex without cost—sex that disregards the true beauty and purpose of such a gift. I look to my newsfeed and see the championing of women’s rights—that women may kill the little women growing inside them in order to maintain their freedom.
And then I look back at Judges 19, and see the woman being destroyed. I see the sexual predators getting their way. And I see the bloody body parts being passed around. And with an eye on Judges 19 and an eye on Twitter, the question is no longer “How did we get here?” but “How haven’t we left?”
In our days, selfishness is king, and everyone legislates according to what’s right in their own eyes. Who will deliver us from this cultural body of death? It will not—indeed, it cannot—be an elected official. It must be the one who elects unto salvation himself.
We need a king who can heal our hearts and transform the broken desires of those who want keep their unborn as just that: unborn. We need King Jesus to pour out his Spirit on our land in order to eradicate longing for abortion. We need the God who not only forbids the sacrifice of children to Molech but who considers it a thought that’d never enter into his mind (Jer. 19:5). In a word, we need Jesus.
(Je 19:5) 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— ESV
And then I look to John 19 where Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, makes the definitive statement: “My body, for your choices.”
Different Time, Same PlaceJudges 19 is easily one of the most graphic chapters in the Bible. It starts with an unfaithful concubine, moves to a strange interchange between a guy and his father-in-law, and then rapidly escalates to gang rape, men handing over women to save their own skin, and the physical dismemberment of a woman who’s then mailed out around Israel in 12 pieces. It’s an awful, awful story. And the point is to show how the people of Israel, with no king and no order (Judges 19:1), were doing whatever they wanted.
What We Most Need“In those days there was no king in Israel,” the book concludes. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
My Body, Your ChoicesI look to my newsfeed and see, “My body, my choice.” I look to Judges 19 and watch a coward say, “My concubine, my choice.”
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2016 With Gentleness and Respect
When people first hear the word apologetics, they typically think of our modern use of the word apology. They often conclude that the task of apologetics is apologizing for the Christian faith as if to say we are sorry for our faith. However, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give an answer” or “to make a defense.” Apologetics is not an apology, it’s an answer—a defense of what we believe. In his first epistle, Peter writes, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). In his commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes:
God calls us to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us, but notice that He calls us to do it with gentleness and respect. Apologetics isn’t just for some Christians, it is for all Christians. We all must know what we believe, why we believe it, how to live it, how to defend it, and how to proclaim it—and we must do so with gentleness and respect.
Our preparation is to make us ready to give a defense and a reason for the hope that is in us… . If your neighbor says, “I notice that you are a Christian. What is it that you believe?” are you ready to explain not only what you believe but why you believe it? Some Christians tell those who inquire that we simply take a leap of faith with no bother about the credibility or the rational character of the truth claims of the Bible, but that response goes against the teaching of this text. The only leap of faith we are to take is out of the darkness and into the light. When we become Christians, we do not leave our mind in the parking lot. We are called to think according to the Word of God, to seek the mind of Christ and an understanding of the things set forth in sacred Scripture.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The very first book printed in America was the Bay Psalm Book, written by John Eliot, who was born around this date, August 5, 1604. Called the “Apostle to the Indians,” Eliot translated the Old and New Testaments into the Algonquian language. He organized thousands of “Praying Indians” into self-ruling villages, with their own leaders and ministers. They built houses, streets, bridges, and were very prosperous until King Phillip’s War, where thousands tragically died. In his plan of government, Eliot wrote: “The Word of God is the perfect System of Laws to guide all moral actions of man.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness
without requiring repentance,
baptism without church discipline,
Communion without confession....
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross,
grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord, Oh, to be lost in Thee;
Oh, that it may be no more I, but Christ that lives in me.
--- C. H. Forrest
‘Christ died,’ is only a fact in history, like ‘Napoleon died.’ The Gospel message is that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:1–4, italics mine).
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Comforted (Isaiah): Feeling Secure in the Arms of God (The BE Series Commentary)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Jews Make All Ready For The War; And Simon, The Son Of Gioras, Falls To Plundering.
1. And thus were the disturbances of Galilee quieted, when, upon their ceasing to prosecute their civil dissensions, they betook themselves to make preparations for the war with the Romans. Now in Jerusalem the high priest Artanus, and as many of the men of power as were not in the interest of the Romans, both repaired the walls, and made a great many warlike instruments, insomuch that in all parts of the city darts and all sorts of armor were upon the anvil. Although the multitude of the young men were engaged in exercises, without any regularity, and all places were full of tumultuous doings; yet the moderate sort were exceedingly sad; and a great many there were who, out of the prospect they had of the calamities that were coming upon them, made great lamentations. There were also such omens observed as were understood to be forerunners of evils by such as loved peace, but were by those that kindled the war interpreted so as to suit their own inclinations; and the very state of the city, even before the Romans came against it, was that of a place doomed to destruction. However, Ananus's concern was this, to lay aside, for a while, the preparations for the war, and to persuade the seditious to consult their own interest, and to restrain the madness of those that had the name of zealots; but their violence was too hard for him; and what end he came to we shall relate hereafter.
2. But as for the Acrabbene toparchy, Simon, the son of Gioras, got a great number of those that were fond of innovations together, and betook himself to ravage the country; nor did he only harass the rich men's houses, but tormented their bodies, and appeared openly and beforehand to affect tyranny in his government. And when an army was sent against him by Artanus, and the other rulers, he and his band retired to the robbers that were at Masada, and staid there, and plundered the country of Idumea with them, till both Ananus and his other adversaries were slain; and until the rulers of that country were so afflicted with the multitude of those that were slain, and with the continual ravage of what they had, that they raised an army, and put garrisons into the villages, to secure them from those insults. And in this state were the affairs of Judea at that time.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
but he overturns the plans of a traitor.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
I am about to say a good word for Fear. Fear is a fine thing, a very fine thing; and the world would be a poor place without it. Fear was one of our firmest but gentlest nurses. Terror was one of our sternest but kindest teachers. A very wise man once said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He might have left out the august and holy Name, and still have stated a tremendous fact; for fear is always the beginning of wisdom.
'No fears, no grace!' said James, in the second part of the Pilgrim's Progress, and Mr. Greatheart seemed of pretty much the same opinion. They were discussing poor Mr. Fearing.
'Mr. Fearing,' said Greatheart, 'was one that played upon the bass. Some say that the bass is the ground of music. The first string that the musician touches is the bass, when he intends to put all in tune. God also plays upon this string first, when He sets the soul in tune for Himself. Only here was the imperfection of Mr. Fearing: he could play upon no other music but this, till towards his latter end.'
Here, then, we have the principle stated as well as it is possible to state it. You must tune from the bass, for the bass is the basis of music. But you must rise from the bass, as a building must rise from its foundations, or the music will be a moan and a monotone. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but the wisdom that gets no farther is like music that rumbles and reverberates in one everlasting bass.
But the finest exposition of the inestimable value of fear is not by John Bunyan. It is by Jack London. White Fang is the greatest story of the inner life of an animal that has ever been contributed to our literature. And Jack London, who seems to have got into the very soul of a wolf, shows us how the wonderful character of White Fang was moulded and fashioned by fear. First there was the mere physical fear of Pain; the dread of hurting his tender little nose as the tiny grey cub explored the dark recesses of the lair; the horror of his mother's paw that smote him down whenever he approached the mouth of the cave; and, later on, the fear of the steep bank, learned by a terrible fall; the fear of the yielding water, learned by attempting to walk upon it; and the fear of the ptarmigan's beak and the weasel's teeth, learned by robbing their respective nests.
And following on the physical fear of Pain came the reverential fear of Power. 'His mother represented Power,' Jack London says, 'and as he grew older he felt this power in the sharper admonition of her paw, while the reproving nudge of her nose gave place to the slash of her fangs. For this he respected his mother.' And afterwards, when he came upon the Red Indians, and saw men for the first time, a still greater fear possessed him. Here were creatures who made the very sticks and stones obey them! They seemed to him as gods, and he felt that he must worship and serve them. And, later still, when he saw white men living, not in wigwams, but in great palaces of stone, he trembled as he had never trembled before. These were superior gods; and, as everybody knows, White Fang passed from fearing them to knowing them, and from knowing them to loving them. And at last he became their fond, devoted slave. It is true that fear was to White Fang only the beginning of wisdom; but that is precisely what Solomon says. Afterwards the brave old wolf learned fearlessness; but the early lessons taught by fear were still of priceless value, for to courage they added caution; and courage wedded to caution is irresistible.
We are living in times that are wonderfully meek and mild; and Fear, the stern old schoolmaster, is looked upon with suspicion. It is curious how we reverse the fashions of our ancestors. We flaunt in shameless abandon what they veiled in blushing modesty; but we make up for it by hiding what they had no hesitation in displaying. Our teeth, for example. It is considered the depth of impropriety to show your teeth nowadays, except in the sense in which actresses show them on post cards. But our forefathers were not afraid of showing their teeth, and they made themselves feared and honoured and loved in consequence. Yes, feared and honoured and loved; for I gravely doubt if any man ever yet taught others to honour and love him who had not first taught them on occasion to fear him.
The best illustration of what I mean occurs in the story of the Irish movement. In the politics of the last century there has been nothing so dramatic, nothing so pathetic, and nothing so tragic as the story of the rise and fall of Parnell. Lord Morley's tense and vivid chapters on that phase of modern statesmanship are far more thrilling and far more affecting than a similar number of pages of any novel in the English language. With the tragic fall of the Irish leader we need not now concern ourselves. But how are we to account for the meteoric rise of Parnell, and for the phenomenal power that he wielded? For years he was the most effective figure in British politics. There is only one explanation; and it is the explanation upon which practically all the historians of that period agree. Charles Stewart Parnell made it the first article of his creed that he must make himself feared. His predecessor in the leadership of the Irish party was Isaac Butt. Mr. Butt believed in conciliation. He was opposed to 'a policy of exasperation.' He thought that, if the Irishmen in the House exercised patience, and considered the convenience of the two great political parties, they would appeal to the good sense of the British people and ensure the success of their cause. And in return—to quote from Mr. Winston Churchill's life of his father—the two great parties treated Mr. Butt and the Irish members with 'that form of respect which, being devoid of the element of fear, is closely akin to contempt.' Then arose Parnell. He held that the Irishmen must make themselves the terror of the nation. They must embarrass and confuse the English leaders, and throw the whole political machinery of both parties hopelessly out of gear. And in a few months Mr. Parnell made the Irish question the supreme question in the mind of the nation, and became for years the most hated and the most beloved personality on the parliamentary horizon. Nobody who knows the history of that troublous time can doubt that, but for the moral shipwreck of Parnell, a shipwreck that nearly broke Mr. Gladstone's heart, the whole Irish question would have been settled, for better or for worse, twenty years ago. With the merits or demerits of his cause I am not now dealing; but everybody who has read Lord Morley's The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Vol. 1 (of 3) 1809-1859 or Mr. Barry O'Brien's The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, 1846-1891 must have been impressed by this striking and dramatic picture of a lonely and extraordinary man espousing an apparently hopeless cause, deliberately selecting fear as the weapon of his warfare, and actually leading his little band of astonished followers within sight of victory.
It is ridiculous to say that fear possesses no moral value. Whenever I hear that contention stated, my mind invariably swings back to a great story told by Sir Henry Hawkins in his The Reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins (Baron Brampton). He is telling of his experiences under Mr. Justice Maule, and is praising the judicial perspicacity of that judge. In a certain murder case a boy of eight was called to give evidence, and counsel objected to so youthful a witness being heard. Mr. Justice Maule thought for a minute, and then beckoned the boy to the bench.
'"I should like to know," His Honour observed, "what you have been taught to believe. What will become of you, my little boy, when you die, if you are so wicked as to tell a lie?"'
'"Hell-fire!" answered the boy with great promptitude.
'"But do you mean to say," the judge went on, "that you would go to hell-fire for telling any lie?"
'"Hell-fire, sir!" the boy replied again.
'To several similar questions the boy made the same terrible response.
'"He does not seem to be competent," said the counsel.
'"I beg your pardon," returned the judge. "This boy thinks that for every wilful fault he will go to hell-fire; and he is very likely while he believes that doctrine to be most strict in his observance of truth. If you and I believed that such would be the penalty for every act of misconduct we committed, we should be better men than we are. Let the boy be sworn!"'
Sir Henry Hawkins tells the story with evident approval, so that we have here the valuable testimony of two distinguished judges to the moral value of fear from a purely judicial point of view. Of course, the value is not stable or permanent. The goodness that arises from fear is like the tameness of a terrified tiger, or the willingness of a wolf to leave the deer unharmed when both are flying from before a prairie-fire. When the fear passes, the blood-lust will return. But that is not the point. Nobody said that fear was wisdom. What the wise man said was that fear is the beginning of wisdom. And as the beginning of wisdom it has a certain initial and preparatory value. The sooner that the beginning is developed and brought to a climax, the better of course it will be. But meanwhile a beginning is something. It is a step in the right direction. It is the learning of the alphabet. It is the earnest and promise of much that is to come.
Now if the Church refuses to employ this potent weapon, she is very stupid. A beginning is only a beginning, but it is a beginning. If we ignore the element of terror, we are deliberately renouncing a force which, in the wilds and in the world, is of really first-class value and importance. I am not now saying that the ministry would be untrue to its high calling if it failed to warn men with gravity and with tears. That is a matter of such sacredness and solemnity that I hesitate to touch it here; although it is obvious that, under any conceivable method of interpretation, there is a terrible note of urgency in the New Testament that no pulpit can decline, without grave responsibility, to echo. But I am content to point out here that, from a purely tactical point of view, the Church would be very foolish to scout this valuable weapon. The element of fear is one of the great primal passions, and to all those deep basic human elements the gospel makes its peculiar appeal. And the fears of men must be excited. The music cannot be all bass; but the bass note must not be absent, or the music will be ruined.
There are still those who, far from being cowards, may, like Noah, be 'moved with fear' to the saving of their houses. Cardinal Manning tells in his Journal how, as a boy at Tetteridge, he read again and again of the lake that burneth with fire. 'These words,' he says, 'became fixed in my mind, and kept me as boy and youth and man in the midst of all evil. I owe to them more than will ever be known to the last day.' And Archbishop Benson used to tell of a working man who was seen looking at a placard announcing a series of addresses on 'The Four Last Things.' After he had read the advertisement he turned to a companion and asked, 'Where would you and I have been without hell?' And the Archbishop used to inquire whether, if we abandoned the legitimate appeal to human fear, we should not need some other motive in our preaching to fill the vacant place.
I know, of course, that all this may be misconstrued. But the wise will understand. The naturalist will not blame me, for fear is the life of the forest. The humanitarian can say no word of censure, for fear is intensely human. But the preacher who strikes this deep bass note must strike it very soulfully. No man should be able to speak on such things except with a sob in his throat and tears in his eyes. We must warn men to flee from the wrath to come; but that wrath is the wrath of a Lamb. Andrew Bonar one day told Murray McCheyne that he had just preached a sermon on hell. 'And were you able to preach it with tenderness?' McCheyne wistfully inquired. Fear is part of that wondrous instrument on all the chords of which the minister is called at times to play; but this chord must be struck with trembling fingers.
No mistake can be more fatal than to set off this aspect of things against more attractive themes. All truth is related. Some years ago in Scotland an express train stopped abruptly on a curve in the time of a great flood. Just in front of the train was a roaring chasm from which the viaduct had been swept away. Just behind the train was the mangled frame of the girl who had warned the driver. It is impossible to understand that sacrifice lying just behind the guard's van unless you have seen the yawning chasm just in front of the engine!
'No fears, no grace!' said James.
'And this I took very great notice of,' said Mr. Greatheart, 'that the Valley of the Shadow of Death was as quiet while Mr. Fearing went through it as ever I knew it before or since; and when he came to the river without a bridge, I took notice of what was very remarkable; the water of that river was lower at this time than ever I saw it in all my life. So he went over at last, not much above wet shod.'
Fear had done its work, and done it well. The bass notes had proved the foundation of a music that blended at last with the very harmonies of heaven. Fear, even with White Fang, led on to love; and perfect love casteth out fear.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The baffling call of God
And all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.… And they understood none of these things. --- Luke 18:31, 34.
God called Jesus Christ to what seemed unmitigated disaster. Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death; He led every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. Jesus Christ’s life was an absolute failure from every standpoint but God’s. But what seemed failure from man’s standpoint was a tremendous triumph from God’s, because God’s purpose is never man’s purpose.
There comes the baffling call of God in our lives also. The call of God can never be stated explicitly; it is implicit. The call of God is like the call of the sea, no one hears it but the one who has the nature of the sea in him. It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purpose, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after. The things that happen do not happen by chance, they happen entirely in the decree of God. God is working out His purposes.
If we are in communion with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, we shall no longer try to find out what His purposes are. As we go on in the Christian life it gets simpler, because we are less inclined to say—‘Now why did God allow this and that?’ Behind the whole thing lies the compelling of God. “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.” A Christian is one who trusts the wits and the wisdom of God, and not his own wits. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
I choose white, but with
Red on it, like the snow
In winter with its few
Holly berries and the one
Robin, that is a fire
To warm by and like Christ
Comes to us in his weakness,
But with a sharp song.
Exodus 14:10, 13–16
There is a time to be brief and a time to prolong.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 14:10, 13–16 / As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord.… But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace!”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground.”
MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Be-shallaḥ 3 / Rabbi Yehoshua says, “The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, ‘Moses! All Israel has to do is go forward.’ ” Rabbi Eliezer says, “The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, ‘Moses! My children are in trouble—the sea is closing, the enemy is pursuing—and you are standing, going on and on in prayer! Why do you cry out to Me?’ For He was saying, ‘There is a time to be brief and a time to prolong.’ ‘O God, pray heal her!’ [Numbers 12:13]—this is an example of being brief. ‘I threw myself down before the Lord.’ [Deuteronomy 9:18]—this is an example of prolonging.”
Throughout his long career as leader of the Israelites, Moses had many occasions to offer prayers to God. Our Midrash notes how vastly different some of these prayers were. In the Book of Numbers, chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron spoke out against their brother Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. Miriam was punished by God for this slander by being stricken with snow-white scales all over her body. Aaron asked his brother to intercede on Miriam’s behalf. “So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying “O God, pray heal her!”—five short words (in Hebrew: El na, refah na lah). Moses’ prayer was heard by God and answered; Miriam was healed.
After Moses had received the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, he came down and found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf. In chapter 9 of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the people how he had smashed the tablets and destroyed the idol. He also recounted to them that he spent the next forty days and nights both fasting and praying on their behalf—”I threw myself down before the Lord,” interceding for Aaron, who had built the calf. “When I lay prostrate before the Lord those forty days and forty nights because the Lord was determined to destroy you, I prayed to the Lord …” (9:25–26). Again Moses’ prayer to God was answered; the Israelites were saved from destruction.
The Midrash imagines Moses’ prayer at the Sea of Reeds to be of the long-winded kind.… The sea is closing, the enemy is pursuing—and you are standing, going on and on in prayer! God, in effect, tells him, “Make it brief; now is the time for action, not words.” It is interesting to note that the biblical text does not mention the words of prayer that Moses recited. All we have is his two-sentence response trying to calm the frightened Israelites. The ancient Syriac translation of the Book of Exodus adds the line, “Moses cried out to the Lord.” Josephus, in The Jewish Antiquities, actually quotes from the prayer of Moses to God. Thus, a text of Moses’ long prayer may have existed in antiquity. Alternatively, the Rabbis merely assumed its existence based on God’s response “Why do you cry out to Me?”
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
In this Song of Songs we see the love of Christ and his church. The Essential Works of John Flavel There is a conjugal union between Christ and believers.
It is a natural union. This all people have, Christ having taken human nature on him. But if there is no more than this natural union, it will give little comfort. Thousands are damned though Christ is united to their human nature.
It is a sacred union. By this we are mystically united to Christ. The union with Christ is not personal. If Christ’s essence were transfused into the person of a believer, then it would follow that all that a believer does should be meritorious.
But the union between Christ and a saint is
contractual. “My lover is mine.” God the Father gives the bride, God the Son receives the bride, God the Holy Spirit ties the knot in marriage—he knits our wills to Christ and Christ’s love to us.
effective. Christ unites himself to his spouse by his graces and influences. Christ makes himself one with the spouse by conveying his image and stamping the impress of his own holiness on her.
spiritual. It is hard to describe how the soul is united to the body and how Christ is united to the soul. But though this union is spiritual, it is real. Things in nature often work imperceptibly; so the union between Christ and the soul, though it is imperceptible to the eye of reason, is still real.
Before this union with Christ, however, there must be a separation. The heart must be separated from all other lovers. So there must be a leaving of our former sins, a breaking off the old league with hell before we can be united to Christ. There must be a divorce before a union.
The purpose of our conjugal union with Christ is twofold:
Cohabitation. This is one purpose of marriage, to live together “that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (Eph. 3:17). It is not enough to pay Christ a few visits in his ordinances; we must dwell on the thoughts of Christ. Married persons should not live apart.
Fruit bearing. The spouse bears the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). Barrenness is a shame in Christ’s spouse.
--- Thomas Watson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Only One Missionary August 5
Mary Slessor’s childhood was marred by a drinking father. Every Saturday his paycheck turned into alcohol, leaving the family destitute for another week. By age 11 Mary was putting in 12-hour shifts in the mills, six in the Morning till six at night. She hid her earnings from her father, incurring his wrath but keeping the family fed. In her spare time, Mary taught herself to read and found she could prop books on her loom and read while working. There Mary learned of Calabar (Nigeria), an “unhealthy, mysterious, terrible land ruled by witchcraft and secret societies.” She was convinced she should go there as a missionary.
For several years Mary worked in mission halls near her home in the slums of Dundee, Scotland. She learned to face down gangs, to pray down blessings, and to break down hardened hearts. Her work finally led to her being appointed missionary to Calabar, and on August 5, 1876, she sailed for West Africa aboard the S.S. Ethiopia. She was dismayed to find the ship loaded with hundreds of barrels of whiskey. Remembering how alcohol had ruined her own family, she frowned. “Scores of barrels of whisky,” she muttered, “and only one missionary.”
But what a missionary! In the years that followed, she single-handedly tamed and transformed three pagan areas by preaching the Gospel, teaching the children, defending the abused, and rescuing the mistreated. She was feisty. She didn’t mind living in mud huts and sleeping amid sweating bodies. She was a combination circuit preacher, village teacher, nurse, nanny, and negotiator. She diverted tribal wars and rescued women and children by the hundreds. Often babies filled her home by the dozens. (Mary learned to tie a string to each little hammock, lie in bed at night, and pull the strings as each baby needed soothing.)
She so won the respect of Europe and Africa that she became the first woman vice consul of Britain, using her position to further her missions. For 40 years she pioneered the Gospel in areas that had proved the graveyard of other missionaries.
How can they hear, unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.
--- Romans 10:14b,15.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 5
“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” --- Romans 8:28.
Upon some points a believer is absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world’s tiller, and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading the billows, and he hears a voice saying, “It is I, be not afraid.” He knows too that God is always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which ought not to arise. He can say, “If I should lose all I have, it is better that I should lose than have, if God so wills: the worst calamity is the wisest and the kindest thing that could befall to me if God ordains it.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that he governs wisely, that he brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in the spirit of true resignation pray, “Send me what thou wilt, my God, so long as it comes from thee; never came there an ill portion from thy table to any of thy children.”
“Say not my soul, ‘From whence can God relieve my care?’
Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere.
His method is sublime, his heart profoundly kind,
God never is before his time, and never is behind.”
Evening - August 5
“Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” --- Numbers 32:6.
Kindred has its obligations. The Reubenites and Gadites would have been unbrotherly if they had claimed the land which had been conquered, and had left the rest of the people to fight for their portions alone. We have received much by means of the efforts and sufferings of the saints in years gone by, and if we do not make some return to the church of Christ by giving her our best energies, we are unworthy to be enrolled in her ranks. Others are combating the errors of the age manfully, or excavating perishing ones from amid the ruins of the fall, and if we fold our hands in idleness we had need be warned, lest the curse of Meroz fall upon us. The Master of the vineyard saith, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” What is the idler’s excuse? Personal service of Jesus becomes all the more the duty of all because it is cheerfully and abundantly rendered by some. The toils of devoted missionaries and fervent ministers shame us if we sit still in indolence. Shrinking from trial is the temptation of those who are at ease in Zion: they would fain escape the cross and yet wear the crown; to them the question for this Evening’s meditation is very applicable. If the most precious are tried in the fire, are we to escape the crucible? If the diamond must be vexed upon the wheel, are we to be made perfect without suffering? Who hath commanded the wind to cease from blowing because our bark is on the deep? Why and wherefore should we be treated better than our Lord? The firstborn felt the rod, and why not the younger brethren? It is a cowardly pride which would choose a downy pillow and a silken couch for a soldier of the cross. Wiser far is he who, being first resigned to the divine will, groweth by the energy of grace to be pleased with it, and so learns to gather lilies at the cross foot, and, like Samson, to find honey in the lion.
Morning and Evening
OPEN MY EYES, THAT I MAY SEE
Words and Music by Clara H. Scott, 1841–1897
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law. (Psalm 119:18)
The Scriptures teach that our faith in Christ employs all of our God-given senses:
SIGHT— “Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22).
HEARING— “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3).
SMELL— “Thy name is like ointment poured forth” (Song of Solomon 1:3).
TOUCH— “If I may but touch His garment, I shall be well” (Matthew 9:21).
TASTE— “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
In order to receive God’s truth properly, then, we must have our entire being alive and alert to His every prompting. In general, most Christians do not deliberately and dramatically disobey God. Instead we simply do not heed Him by being sensitive to His leading in the small details of our lives. How important that we learn the lesson taught by this hymn text that we should have seeing eyes, hearing ears, a verbal communication of the truth, and a loving heart for sharing God’s love. All of this is possible as we are illuminated by the Holy Spirit during times of quiet waiting.
Clara Scott, author and composer of this hymn, taught music in the Ladies’ Seminary at Lyons, Iowa. Mrs. Scott was a prolific composer of vocal and instrumental music, including a book of anthems, The Royal Anthem Book, published in 1882. These words have since been widely used to help believers have a greater awareness of God’s will for their lives and a readiness to obey (James 1:22).
• Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see; open my eyes—illumine me, Spirit divine!
Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth Thou sendest clear; and while the wave-notes fall on my ear, ev’rything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see; open my ears—illumine me, Spirit divine!
Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere. Open my heart and let me prepare love with Thy children thus to share. Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see; open my heart—illumine me, Spirit divine!
For Today: Psalm 40:8; Proverbs 16:9; Matthew 13:6; Luke 8:18; John 7:17
Ask God to activate your senses for receiving His truth and to make you more sensitive to the needs of those who need to hear “the warm truth” and to experience His love. Breathe this musical prayer as you prepare to go forth ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
II. Which will appear further in this proposition, No creature can make itself; the world could not make itself. If every man had a beginning, every man then was once nothing; he could not then make himself, because nothing cannot be the cause of something; This is what our modern culture now believes, that nothing can create something. ‘The Lord he is God; he hath made us, and not we ourselves.’ (Ps. 100:3.) Whatsoever begun in time was not; and when it was nothing, it had nothing, and could do nothing; and therefore could never give to itself, nor to any other, to be, or to be able to do: for then it gave what it had not, and did what it could not. Since reason must acknowledge a first of every kind, a first man, c., it must acknowledge him created and made, not by himself: why have not other men since risen up by themselves, not by chance? why hath not chance produced the like in that long time the world hath stood? If we never knew anything give being to itself, how can we imagine anything ever could? If the chiefest part of this lower world cannot, nor any part of it hath been known to give being to itself, then the whole cannot be supposed to give any being to itself: man did not form himself; his body is not from himself; it would then have the power of moving itself, but that it is not able to live or act without the presence of the soul. Whilst the soul is present, the body moves; when that is absent, the body lies as a senseless log, not having the least action or motion. His soul could not form itself. Can that which cannot form the least mote, the least grain of dust, form itself a nobler substance than any upon the earth? This will be evident to every man’s reason, if we consider, 1. Nothing can act before it be. The first man was not, and therefore could not make himself to be. For anything to produce itself is to act; if it acted before it was, it was then something and nothing at the same time; it then had a being before it had a being; it acted when it brought itself into being. How could it act without a being, without it was? So that if it were the cause of itself, it must be before itself as well as after itself; it was before it was; it was as a cause before it was as an effect. Action always supposeth a principle from whence it flows; as nothing hath no existence, so it hath no operation: there must be, therefore, something of real existence to give a being to those things that are, and every cause must be an effect of some other before it be a cause. To be and not to be at the same time, is a manifest contradiction, which would be, if anything made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made. Who will say the house is before the carpenter, or the picture before the limner? The world as a creator must be before itself as a creature.
2. That which doth not understand itself and order itself could not make itself. If the first man fully understood his own nature, the excellency of his own soul, the manner of its operations, why was not that understanding conveyed to his posterity? Are not many of them found, who understand their own nature, almost as little as a beast understands itself; or a rose understands its own sweetness; or a tulip its own colors? The Scripture, indeed, gives us an account how this came about, viz. by the deplorable rebellion of man, whereby death was brought upon them (a spiritual death, which includes ignorance, as well as an inability to spiritual action.) Thus he fell from his honor, and became like the beasts that perish, and not retaining God in his knowledge, retained not himself in his own knowledge.
But what reply can an atheist make to it, who acknowledges no higher cause than nature? If the soul made itself, how comes it to be so muddy, so wanting in its knowledge of itself, and of other things? If the soul made its own understanding, whence did the defect arise? If some first principle was settled by the first man in himself, where was the stop that he did not implant all in his own mind, and, consequently in the minds of all his descendants? Our souls know little of themselves, little of the world, are every day upon new inquiries, have little satisfaction in themselves, meet with many an invincible rub in their way, and when they seem to come to some resolution in some cases, stagger again, and, like a stone rolled up to the top of the hill, quickly find themselves again at the foot. How come they to be so purblind in truth? so short of that which they judge true goodness? How comes it to pass they cannot order their own rebellious affections, and suffer the reins they have to hold over their affections to be taken out of their hands by the unruly fancy and flesh? This no man that denies the being of a God, and the revelation in Scripture, can give an account of. Blessed be God that we have the Scripture, which gives us an account of those things, that all the wit of men could never inform us of; and that when they are discovered and known by revelation, they appear not contrary to reason!
3. If the first man made himself, how came he to limit himself? If he gave himself being, why did he not give himself all the perfections and ornaments of being? Nothing that made itself could sit down contented with a little, but would have had as much power to give itself that which is less, as to give itself being, when it was nothing. The excellences it wanted had not been more difficult to gain than the other which it possessed, as belonging to its nature. If the first man had been independent upon another, and had his perfection from himself, he might have acquired that perfection he wanted as well as have bestowed upon himself that perfection he had; and then there would have been no bounds set to him. He would have been omniscient and immutable. He might have given himself what he would; if he had had the setting his own bounds, he would have set none at all; for what should restrain him? No man now wants ambition to be what he is not; and if the first man had not been determined by another, but had given himself being, he would not have remained in that determinate being, no more than a toad would remain a toad, if it had power to make itself a man, and that power it would have had, if it had given itself a being. Whatsoever gives itself being, would give itself all degrees of being, and so would have no imperfection, because every imperfection is a want of some degree of being. He that could give himself matter and life, might give himself everything. The giving of life is an act of omnipotence; and what is omnipotent in one thing may be in all. Besides, if the first man had made himself, he would have conveyed himself to all his posterity in the same manner; every man would have had all the perfections of the first man, as every creature hath the perfections of the same kind, from whence it naturally issues; all are desirous to communicate what they can to their posterity. Communicative goodness belongs to every nature. Every plant propagates its kind in the same perfection it hath itself; and the nearer anything comes to a rational nature, the greater affection it hath to that which descends from it; therefore this affection belongs to a rational nature much more. The first man, therefore, if he had had power to give himself being, and, consequently, all perfection, he would have had as much power to convey it down to his posterity; no impediment could have stopped his way; then all souls proceeding from that first man would have been equally intellectual. What should hinder them from inheriting the same perfections? Whence should they have divers qualifications and differences in their understandings? No man then would have been subject to those weaknesses, doubtings, and unsatisfied desires of knowledge and perfection. But being all souls are not alike, it is certain they depend upon some other cause for the communication of that excellency they have. If the perfections of man be so contracted and kept within certain bounds, it is certain that they were not in his own power, and so were not from himself. Whatsoever hath a determinate being must be limited by some superior cause. There is, therefore, some superior power, that hath thus determined the creature by set bounds and distinct measures, and hath assigned to every one its proper nature, that it should not be greater or less than it is; who hath said of every one as of the waves of the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further” and this is God. Man could not have reserved any perfection from his posterity; for since he doth propagate not by choice, but nature, he could no more have kept back any perfection from them, than he could, as he pleased, have given any perfection belonging to his nature to them.
4. That which hath power to give itself being, cannot want power to preserve that being. Preservation is not more difficult than creation. If the first man made himself, why did he not preserve himself? He is not now among the living in the world. How came he to be so feeble as to sink into the grave? Why did he not inspire himself with new heat and moisture, and fill his languishing limbs and declining body with new strength? Why did he not chase away diseases and death at the first approach? What creature can find the dust of the first man? All his posterity traverse the stage and retire again; in a short space their age departs, and is removed from them ‘as a shepherd’s tent,’ and is ‘cut off with pining sickness.’ ‘The life of man is as a wind, and like a cloud that is consumed and vanishes away. The eye that sees him shall see him no more; he returns not to his house, neither doth his place know him any more.’ The Scripture gives us the reason of this, and lays it upon the score of sin against his Creator, which no man without revelation can give any satisfactory account of. Had the first man made himself, he had been sufficient for himself, able to support himself without the assistance of any creature. He would not have needed animals and plants, and other helps to nourish and refresh him, nor medicines to cure him. He could not be beholden to other things for his support, which he is certain he never made for himself. His own nature would have continued that vigor, which once he had conferred upon himself. He would not have needed the heat and light of the sun; he would have wanted nothing sufficient for himself in himself; he needed not have sought without himself for his own preservation and comfort. What depends upon another is not of itself; and what depends upon things inferior to itself is less of itself. Since nothing can subsist of itself, since we see those things upon which man depends for his nourishment and subsistence, growing and decaying, starting into the world and retiring from it, as well as man himself; some preserving cause must be concluded, upon which all depends.
5. If the first man did produce himself, why did be not produce himself before? It hath been already proved, that he had a beginning, and could not be from eternity. Why then did he not make himself before? Not because he would not. For having no being, he could have no will; he could neither be willing nor not willing. If he could not then, how could he afterwards? If it were in his own power, he could have done it, he would have done it; if it were not in his own power, then it was in the power of some other cause, and that is God. How came he by that power to produce himself? If the power of producing himself were communicated by another, then man could not be the cause of himself. That is the cause of it which communicated that power to it. But if the power of being was in and from himself and in no other, nor communicated to him, man would always have been in act, and always have existed; no hindrance can be conceived. For that which had the power of being in itself was invincible by anything that should stand in the way of its own being.
We may conclude from hence, the excellency of the Scripture; that it is a word not to be refused credit. It gives us the most rational account of things in the 1st and 2d of Genesis, which nothing in the world else is able to do.
The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CVIII. — THE Diatribe, however, being itself bitterly offended at this similitude of the “potter” and the “clay,” is not a little indignant, that it should be so pestered with it. And at last it comes to this. Having collected together different passages of Scripture, some of which seem to attribute all to man, and others all to grace, it angrily contends — ‘that the Scriptures on both sides should be understood according to a sound interpretation, and not received simply as they stand: and that, otherwise, if we still so press upon it that similitude, it is prepared to press upon us, in retaliation, those subjunctive and conditional passages; and especially, that of Paul, “If a man purify himself from these.” This passage (it says) makes Paul to contradict himself, and to attribute all to man, unless a sound interpretation be brought in to make it clear. And if an interpretation be admitted here, in order to clear up the cause of grace, why should not an interpretation be admitted in the similitude of the potter also, to clear up the cause of “Free-will?” —
I answer: It matters not with me, whether you receive the passages in a simple sense, a twofold sense, or a hundred-fold sense. What I say is this: that by this sound interpretation of yours, nothing that you desire is either effected or proved. For that which is required to be proved, according to your design is, that “Free-will” cannot will good. Whereas, by this passage, “If a man purify himself from these,” as it is a conditional sentence, neither any thing nor nothing is proved, for it is only an exhortation of Paul. Or, if you add the conclusion of the Diatribe, and say, ‘the exhortation is in vain, if a man cannot purify himself;’ then it proves, that “Free-will” can do all things without grace. And thus the Diatribe explodes itself.
We are waiting, therefore, for some passage of the Scripture, to shew us that this interpretation is right; we give no credit to those who hatch it out of their own brain. For, we deny, that any passage can be found which attributes all to man. We deny that Paul contradicts himself, where he says, “If a man shall purify himself from these.” And we aver, that both the contradiction and the interpretation which exhorts it, are fictions; that they are both thought of, but neither of them proved. This, indeed, we confess, that, if we were permitted to augment the Scriptures by the conclusions and additions of the Diatribe, and to say, ‘if we are not able to perform the things which are commanded, the precepts are given in vain;’ then, in truth, Paul would militate against himself, as would the whole Scripture also: for then, the Scripture would be different from what it was before, and would prove that “Free-will” can do all things. What wonder, however, if he should then contradict himself again, where he saith, in another place, that “God worketh all in all!” (1 Cor. xii. 6).
But, however, the Scripture in question, thus augmented, makes not only against us, but against the Diatribe itself, which defined “Free-will” to be that, ‘which cannot will any thing good.’ Let, therefore, the Diatribe clear itself first, and say, how these two assertions agree with Paul: — ‘Free-will cannot will any thing good,’ and also, ‘If a man purify himself from these: therefore, man can purify himself, or it is said in vain.’ — You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, being entangled and overcome by that similitude of the potter, only aims at evading it; not at all considering in the meantime, how its interpretation militates against its subject point, and how it is refuting and laughing at itself.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library