Abraham’s Death and His DescendantsGenesis 25:1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.
7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9 Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. 11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.
12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.
The Birth of Esau and Jacob19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Esau Sells His Birthright29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the TempleMatthew 24:1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The Abomination of Desolation15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
The Coming of the Son of Man29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day and Hour36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The King’s BanquetsEsther 1:1 Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, 3 in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, 4 while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. 5 And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6 There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. 7 Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8 And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.
Queen Vashti’s Refusal10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
13 Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, 14 the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): 15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. 19 If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” 21 This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.
Paul Before Felix at CaesareaActs 24:1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”
9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.
10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ”
Paul Kept in Custody22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. 24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Seven Important Differences Between Angels and Demons
By J. Warner Wallace 1/22/2018
A recent study revealed 63% of young Americans (age 18-29) believe in demon possession. Even though fewer people in this age group claim any affiliation to organized religion, their belief in demons is actually increasing. While there are good reasons to believe in the existence of angelic beings (even apart from what the Bible teaches), the clearest description of angels and demons comes directly from the Biblical text. We’ve been examining the nature of angels in recent posts, but given the increasing cultural interest in demons, it might be wise to understand them more deeply. While angelic beings were originally were created to love God, demons have rejected him entirely. In many ways the story of angelic beings parallels our own experiences as humans. Demons rebelled against God in a manner similar to those of us who have also rebelled. Angels worship and honor their Creator and choose continually to help reunite all of creation to Him, but demons reject God and endeavor daily to oppose the spiritual understanding and development of humans (Ephesians 6:12). Angels and demons are the same kind of being; they share the same powers we’ve already described. The behavior of demons, therefore, can be contrasted with the behavior of angels:
Angels Appear Human / Demons Inhabit Humans | While angels appear in human form to demonstrate their empathy and love for us, demons enter human bodies to take on the form of those they are attacking:
Matthew 17:14-18 | When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Angels Herald the Savior / Demons Shriek the Savior | While angels announce the Savior in love and expectation, demons scream his name in fear, provoking fear in those non-believers who may be watching:
Mark 3:11-12 | Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
In Christ Alone (Calvin)
By John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
When we see salvation whole—its every single part
is found in Christ,
we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.
If we seek salvation,
the very name of Jesus
that he possesses it.
If other Spirit-given gifts are sought—in his anointing they are found;
strength—in his reign; and purity—in his conception;
tenderness—expressed in his nativity,
in which he was made like us in all respects, that he might feel our pain:
Redemption when we seek it, is in his passion found;
acquittal—in his condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse—in his cross is known.
If satisfaction for our sins we seek—we’ll find it in his sacrifice.
There’s cleansing in his blood.
And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it he entered Hades;
if mortification of our flesh—then in his tomb it’s laid.
And newness of our life—his resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift.
And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance,
His entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound
—all flowing from his kingly reign.
The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings,
These blessings of all kinds, is this:
from nowhere else than him can they be drawn;
For they are ours in Christ alone.
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Donkeys, Alexander and Christ
By Andrew Wilson | 1/18/2017
About a year ago, I was teaching on the doctrine of Scripture when I suddenly realised that I didn't understand the book of Zechariah. At all. So I bought a series of teaching sessions on Zechariah 9-14 by Peter Leithart and James Jordan, and I've been slowly working through it with the text in front of me. It has been a fascinating journey into one of the trickiest parts of Scripture, and it has been full of intriguing suggestions. One of the most striking ones is the idea that the famous prophecy of Zechariah 9, in which a king enters Jerusalem on a donkey, refers in the first instance to Alexander the Great, who then serves as a sort of type of Christ. The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
The central idea is that if the oracle of Zechariah 9:1-8 is taken to be about Alexander, as it usually is, then it would seem natural to read the well-known triumphal entry prophecy as referring to him as well. Conversely, if 9:9-10 is about Jesus, then it would seem that we should also take 9:1-8 that way, which leaves us either shoehorning in completely unknown events to make things fit, or spiritualising a section that seems for all the world to be about real nations and real battles. The opening oracle is as follows:
and Damascus is its resting-place.
For the Lord has an eye on mankind
and on all the tribes of Israel,
2 and on Hamath also, which borders on it,
Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
3 Tyre has built herself a rampart
and heaped up silver like dust,
and fine gold like the mud of the streets.
4 But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions
and strike down her power on the sea,
and she shall be devoured by fire.
5 Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid;
Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish;
Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded.
The king shall perish from Gaza;
Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
6 a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod,
and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.
7 I will take away its blood from its mouth,
and its abominations from between its teeth;
it too shall be a remnant for our God;
it shall be like a clan in Judah,
and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
8 Then I will encamp at my house as a guard,
so that none shall march to and fro;
no oppressor shall again march over them,
for now I see with my own eyes.
Then, with no break other than the one we insert in our Bibles, comes this:
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Can theology save the NHS?
By Ian Paul /1/19/2017
By any account, the NHS is in crisis, and a crisis more acute this winter than we have seen before. Some have described the challenges facing the service as a ‘perfect storm’ of pressures, and whilst there is a debate about whether it is a question of quantity of funding or how that funding is used, there are some alarming statistics that it is hard to get away from.
Dr Alex Gates, an NHS doctor from Bath, highlights some of the key issues. The first relates to community care, which has been drastically cut by the Conservative Government as part of George Osborne’s ‘austerity’ measures.
An ageing population brings with it more complex health needs. Many of these are best addressed in the community and not in an acute hospital bed. But most of our community beds have been closed, so as a GP there will be nowhere for me to send my frail 85 year old patient who has had a fall at home and can no longer cope.
This is compounded by a dramatic shortage of beds, compared both with the past and with other health services.
In 1987 there were over 297,000 beds available in England. By 2015, this number was just 130,000. This is a drop of about 56%. Even more worrying is the drop in mental health beds, down from 67,000 beds in 1987 to 19000 in 2015.
Ian Paul | About
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 12The Faithful Have Vanished
12 To The Choirmaster: According To The Sheminith. A Psalm Of David
1 Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
7 You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
8 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
Why Being "Blessed" is Better than Being "Happy"
By Sean McDowell 1/19/17
Our culture is obsessed with happiness. From the movies we watch, the purchases we make, and our obsessive use of technology and social media, it is clear that many people today live for happiness.
You might be thinking, “So what? Isn’t happiness a good thing?” Well, that depends on what is meant by happiness. In his book Happiness is a Serious Problem, Dennis Prager argues that the common definition of happiness today is H = nF. In other words, happiness is equivalent to the number (n) of fun (F) experiences we can accumulate in a lifetime. The more fun experiences, the happier we are. To be happy is to feel good and have fun.
Prager explains, “Most people believe that happiness and fun are virtually identical. Ask them, for example, to imagine a scene of happy people. Most people will immediately conjure up a picture of people having fun (e.g. laughing, playing games, drinking at a party).”
Pleasure is certainly not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, God designed us as embodied beings to experience remarkable pleasure. But can pleasure-seeking in itself ultimately bring a meaningful life?
The Futility of a Pleasure-Seeking Life | King Solomon, who had all the pleasures the world could possibly offer, wrote millennia ago about the emptiness that comes from seeking pleasure as the purpose of life:
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Disabled by Design
By Daniel Ritchie 1/22/2018
Take a step back for a moment and imagine that you were born without arms.
You have to do everyday tasks with your feet. You write with your feet. You eat with your feet. You put gas in your car by lying down on the ground to lift the nozzle with your feet. You pay for a gallon of milk at the grocery store by carrying it to the checkout line with your teeth and then taking your debit card out of your shoe and swiping it through the credit card machine with your toes.
That’s my life. Every day is an exercise in the unusual, and the world recognizes that. I get stared at and hear rude comments on an almost daily basis. As a child and teen, being different than everyone else I knew was a terrible burden. I did not think my own life was precious, remarkable, or holy. I felt worthless and broken.
New Eyes | God rescued and redeemed me at the age of 15, and he slowly began to show me how precious my life is in spite of my disability. In particular, God used the story of the blind man in John 9 to show me the sanctity of all lives, even those with disabilities:
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1–3)
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
23. In the first place, we must consider what an oath is. An oath,
then, is calling God to witness that what we say is true. Execrations
being manifestly insulting to God, are unworthy of being classed among
oaths. That an oath, when duly taken, is a species of divine worship,
appears from many passages of Scripture, as when Isaiah prophesies of
the admission of the Assyrians and Egyptians to a participation in the
covenant, he says, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt
speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts," (Isaiah
19:18). Swearing by the name of the Lord here means, that they will
make a profession of religion. In like manner, speaking of the
extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, it is said, "He who blesseth
himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth: and he
that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth," (Isaiah
65:16). In Jeremiah it is said, "If they will diligently learn the ways
of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my
people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my
people," (Jer. 12:16). By appealing to the name of the Lord, and
calling him to witness, we are justly said to declare our own religious
veneration of him. For we thus acknowledge that he is eternal and
unchangeable truth, inasmuch as we not only call upon him, in
preference to others, as a fit witness to the truth, but as its only
assertor, able to bring hidden things to light, a discerner of the
hearts. When human testimony fails, we appeal to God as witness,
especially when the matter to be proved lies hid in the conscience. For
which reason, the Lord is grievously offended with those who swear by
strange gods, and construes such swearing as a proof of open revolt,
"Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods,"
(Jer. 5:7). The heinousness of the offence is declared by the
punishment denounced against it, "I will cut off them that swear by the
Lord, and that swear by Malcham," (Zeph. 1:4, 5).
24. Understanding that the Lord would have our oaths to be a species of divine worship, we must be the more careful that they do not, instead of worship, contain insult, or contempt, and vilification. It is no slight insult to swear by him and do it falsely: hence in the Law this is termed profanation (Lev. 19:12). For if God is robbed of his truth, what is it that remains? Without truth he could not be God. But assuredly he is robbed of his truth, when he is made the approver and attester of what is false. Hence, when Joshua is endeavouring to make Achan confess the truth, he says, "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel," (Joshua 7:19); intimating, that grievous dishonour is done to God when men swear by him falsely. And no wonder; for, as far as in them lies, his sacred name is in a manner branded with falsehood. That this mode of expression was common among the Jews whenever any one was called upon to take an oath, is evident from a similar obtestation used by the Pharisees, as given in John (John 9:24); Scripture reminds us of the caution which we ought to use by employing such expressions as the following:--"As the Lord liveth;" "God do so and more also;" "I call God for a record upon my soul."  Such expressions intimate, that we cannot call God to witness our statement, without imprecating his vengeance for perjury if it is false.
25. The name of God is vulgarised and vilified when used in oaths, which, though true, are superfluous. This, too, is to take his name in vain. Wherefore, it is not sufficient to abstain from perjury, unless we, at the same time, remember that an oath is not appointed or allowed for passion or pleasure, but for necessity; and that, therefore, a licentious use is made of it by him who uses it on any other than necessary occasions. Moreover, no case of necessity can be pretended, unless where some purpose of religion or charity is to be served. In this matter, great sin is committed in the present day--sin the more intolerable in this, that its frequency has made it cease to be regarded as a fault, though it certainly is not accounted trivial before the judgment-seat of God. The name of God is everywhere profaned by introducing it indiscriminately in frivolous discourse; and the evil is disregarded, because it has been long and audaciously persisted in with impunity. The commandment of the Lord, however, stands; the penalty also stands, and will one day receive effect. Special vengeance will be executed on those who have taken the name of God in vain. Another form of violation is exhibited, when, with manifest impiety, we, in our oaths, substitute the holy servants of God for God himself,  thus conferring upon them the glory of his Godhead. It is not without cause the Lord has, by a special commandment, required us to swear by his name, and, by a special prohibition, forbidden us to swear by other gods.  The Apostle gives a clear attestation to the same effect, when he says, that "men verily swear by the greater;" but that "when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;" (Heb. 6:16, 13).
26. The Anabaptists, not content with this moderate use of oaths, condemn all, without exception, on the ground of our Saviour's general prohibition, "I say unto you, Swear not at all:" "Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil," (Mt. 5:34; James 5:12). In this way, they inconsiderately make a stumbling-stone of Christ, setting him in opposition to the Father, as if he had descended into the world to annul his decrees. In the Law, the Almighty not only permits an oath as a thing that is lawful (this were amply sufficient), but, in a case of necessity, actually commands it (Exod. 22:11). Christ again declares, that he and his Father are one; that he only delivers what was commanded of his Father; that his doctrine is not his own, but his that sent him (John 10:18, 30; 7:16). What then? Will they make God contradict himself, by approving and commanding at one time, what he afterwards prohibits and condemns? But as there is some difficulty in what our Saviour says on the subject of swearing, it may be proper to consider it a little. Here, however, we shall never arrive at the true meaning, unless we attend to the design of Christ, and the subject of which he is treating. His purpose was, neither to relax nor to curtail the Law, but to restore the true and genuine meaning, which had been greatly corrupted by the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees. If we attend to this we shall not suppose that Christ condemned all oaths but those only which transgressed the rule of the Law. It is evident, from the oaths themselves, that the people were accustomed to think it enough if they avoided perjury, whereas the Law prohibits not perjury merely, but also vain and superfluous oaths. Therefore our Lord, who is the best interpreter of the Law, reminds them that there is a sin not only in perjury, but in swearing. How in swearing? Namely, by swearing vainly. Those oaths, however, which are authorised by the Law, he leaves safe and free. Those who condemn oaths think their argument invincible when they fasten on the expression, not at all. The expression applies not to the word swear, but to the subjoined forms of oaths. For part of the error consisted in their supposing, that when they swore by the heaven and the earth, they did not touch the name of God. The Lord, therefore, after cutting off the principal source of prevarication, deprives them of all subterfuges, warning them against supposing that they escape guilt by suppressing the name of God, and appealing to heaven and earth. For it ought here to be observed in passing, that although the name of God is not expressed, yet men swear by him in using indirect forms, as when they swear by the light of life, by the bread they eat, by their baptism, or any other pledges of the divine liberality towards them. Some erroneously suppose that our Saviour, in that passage, rebukes superstition, by forbidding men to swear by heaven and earth, and Jerusalem. He rather refutes the sophistical subtilty of those who thought it nothing vainly to utter indirect oaths, imagining that they thus spared the holy name of God, whereas that name is inscribed on each of his mercies. The case is different, when any mortal living or dead, or an angel, is substituted in the place of God, as in the vile form devised by flattery in heathen nations, "By the life or genius of the king"; for, in this case, the false apotheosis obscures and impairs the glory of the one God. But when nothing else is intended than to confirm what is said by an appeal to the holy name of God, although it is done indirectly, yet his majesty is insulted by all frivolous oaths. Christ strips this abuse of every vain pretext when he says "Swear not at all". To the same effect is the passage in which James uses the words of our Saviour above quoted (James 5:12). For this rash swearing has always prevailed in the world, notwithstanding that it is a profanation of the name of God. If you refer the words, "not at all", to the act itself, as if every oath, without exception, were unlawful, what will be the use of the explanation which immediately follows--Neither by heaven, neither by the earth, &c.? These words make it clear, that the object in view was to meet the cavils by which the Jews thought they could extenuate their fault.
27. Every person of sound judgment must now see that in that passage our Lord merely condemned those oaths which were forbidden by the Law. For he who in his life exhibited a model of the perfection which he taught, did not object to oaths whenever the occasion required them; and the disciples, who doubtless in all things obeyed their Master, followed the same rule. Who will dare to say that Paul would have sworn (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23) if an oath had been altogether forbidden? But when the occasion calls for it, he adjures without any scruple, and sometimes even imprecates. The question, however, is not yet disposed of. For some think that the only oaths exempted from the prohibition are public oaths, such as those which are administered to us by the magistrate, or independent states employ in ratifying treaties, or the people take when they swear allegiance to their sovereign, or the soldier in the case of the military oath, and others of a similar description. To this class they refer (and justly) those protestations in the writings of Paul, which assert the dignity of the Gospel; since the Apostles, in discharging their office, were not private individuals, but the public servants of God. I certainly deny not that such oaths are the safest because they are most strongly supported by passages of Scripture. The magistrate is enjoined, in a doubtful matter, to put the witness upon oath; and he in his turn to answer upon oath; and an Apostle says, that in this way there is an end of all strife (Heb. 6:16). In this commandment, both parties are fully approved. Nay, we may observe, that among the ancient heathens a public and solemn oath was held in great reverence, while those common oaths which were indiscriminately used were in little or no estimation, as if they thought that, in regard to them, the Deity did not interpose. Private oaths used soberly, sacredly, and reverently, on necessary occasions, it were perilous to condemn, supported as they are by reason and example. For if private individuals are permitted, in a grave and serious matter, to appeal to God as a judge, much more may they appeal to him as a witness. Your brother charges you with perfidy. You, as bound by the duties of charity, labour to clear yourself from the charge. He will on no account be satisfied. If, through his obstinate malice, your good name is brought into jeopardy, you can appeal, without offence, to the judgment of God, that he may in time manifest your innocence. If the terms are weighed, it will be found that it is a less matter to call upon him to be witness; and I therefore see not how it can be called unlawful to do so. And there is no want of examples. If it is pretended that the oath which Abraham and Isaac made with Abimelech was of a public nature, that by which Jacob and Laban bound themselves in mutual league was private. Boaz, though a private man, confirmed his promise of marriage to Ruth in the same way. Obadiah, too, a just man, and one that feared God, though a private individual, in seeking to persuade Elijah, asseverates with an oath.  I hold, therefore, that there is no better rule than so to regulate our oaths that they shall neither be rash, frivolous, promiscuous, nor passionate, but be made to serve a just necessity; in other words, to vindicate the glory of God, or promote the edification of a brother.
This is the end of the Commandment.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Memucan and Haman
Son of Hammedatha; chief minister of King Ahasuerus (Esth.iii.1-2). As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. On account of his attempt to exterminate the Jews in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, he is frequently called "the persecutor of the Jews" ( ; Esth. iii. 10; viii. 1; ix. 10, 24). His machinations against the Jews and his downfall are remembered during the Feast of Purim. Filled with annoyance because Mordecai did not bow before him, Haman resolved upon the extermination of the Jews throughout the whole kingdom. He drew lots to determine the day of the massacre, and the lot fell on the 13th of Adar (Esth. iii. 4-7). He offered the king ten thousand talents of silver for permission to do with the Jews as he pleased. The permission was granted, and he accordingly despatched letters to all parts of the Persian kingdom to massacre the Jews on the 13th of Adar (iii. 8-15). His intrigues, however, were baffled by Esther. In order to throw him off his guard she invited him to a banquet to which she had also asked the king. Haman, looking upon this as an indication of special favor, in his pride went so far as to prepare a gallows whereon to hang Mordecai (v. 14). But in that night a sudden change occurred in Haman's fortunes. His own answer to the king's question what should be done to him whom the king delighted to honor, which Haman supposed referred to himself, obliged Haman to lead Mordecai, his mortal enemy, clad in royal garments and seated on the king's horse, through the streets of Shushan and to proclaim: "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor" (vi. 9). Afterward, while Haman was again drinking with the king at a banquet prepared by Esther, the latter exposed to the king Haman's plot. The king, filled with anger, ordered his officers to hang Haman on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai (vii. 9). Ahasuerus bestowed upon Esther Haman's house (viii. 1); the ten sons of Haman were executed on the 13th of Adar and then hanged.
Haman is identified by the Talmudists with Memucan, the last of the seven princes "which saw the king's face" (Esth. i. 14), giving to "Memucan" the signification of "prepared for punishment" (Targ. to Esth.; Meg. 12b). Haman was a direct descendant of Agag in the sixteenth generation and consequently an Amalekite (Targ. Sheni; Josephus, "Ant." xi. 6, § 5). The Septuagint, however, gives for "ha-Agagi" ὅ Μακεδόν in Esth. ix. 24, while in the preceding instances no translation whatever is given. Having attempted to exterminate the Jews of Persia, and rendering himself thereby their worst enemy, Haman naturally became the center of many Talmudic legends. Being at one time in extreme want, he sold himself as a slave to Mordecai (Meg. 15a). He was a barber at Kefar Ḳarẓum for the space of twenty-two years (ib. 16a). Haman had an idolatrous image embroidered on his garments, so that those who bowed to him at command of the king bowed also to the image (Esth. R. vii.).
Haman was also an astrologer, and when he was about to fix the time for the massacre of the Jews he first cast lots to ascertain which was the most auspicious day of the week for that purpose. Each day, however, proved to be under some influence favorable to the Jews. He then sought to fix the month, but found that the same was true of each month; thus, Nisan was favorable to the Jews because of the Passover sacrifice; Iyyar, because of the small Passover. But when he arrived at Adar he found that its zodiacal sign was Pisces, and he said, "Now I shall be able to swallow them as fish which swallow one another" (Esth. R. vii.; Targ. Sheni iii.). Haman had 365 counselors, but the advice of none was so good as that of his wife, Zeresh. She it was especially that induced Haman to build a gallows for Mordecai, assuring him that this was the only way in which he would be able to prevail over his enemy, for hitherto the just had always been rescued from every other kind of death. As God foresaw that Haman himself would be hanged on the gallows He asked which tree would volunteer to serve as the instrument of death. Each tree, declaring that it was used for some holy purpose, objected to being soiled by the unclean body of Haman. Only the thorn-tree could find no excuse, and therefore offered itself for a gallows (Esth. R. ix.; Midr. Abba Gorion vii., ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886; in Targum Sheni this is narrated somewhat differently).
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Don’t just read it, do it (2)
1/24/2018 Bob Gass
‘The Holy Spirit…will teach you…and will remind you of everything I have said.’
(Jn 14:26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ESV
Jesus ended His Sermon on the Mount with a striking story that addresses the gap between knowing and doing: ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock’ (Matthew 7:24 NIV 2011 Edition). The problem is, we find it easier to be smart than to be good. You don’t need to know more about the Bible until you put into practice what you already know. John Ortberg says that when he taught tennis, unskilled novices would agonise over which racket to buy – whether to use nylon or gut strings, whether to string them up at sixty-five or seventy pounds. The problem was, they couldn’t even hit the ball. Instead of debating the minutiae, they simply needed to practise. But a word of caution here: you don’t become a ‘doer of the word’ by drawing on your own strength and willpower. The Holy Spirit who dwells within you is referred to in Scripture as ‘the paraclete’. The word means ‘one who comes alongside to help’. When you decide to do what’s right, the Holy Spirit within you empowers you to do it. When a situation arises, He will prompt you as to what you should do. Jesus promised, ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ You ask, ‘But what if I don’t get it right?’ He will work with you, giving you opportunities until you do get it right.
Richard S. Adams
I hear people mention baggage, demons or a cloud to refer to things that haunt them. Maybe that is too strong. I will settle on the word bother, not bother like a fly bothers you, but more like bother the way a hornet can bother you. A fly seldom makes you stop what you are doing, but for me, a hornet can make me decide to go up the stairs later, or take out the trash later, or move to a different spot, right now.
I have a personal hornet, cloud, whatever you may want to call it. All too frequently it flies in, probably from hell, to buzz over me, haunt me and block the exits where I try to escape.
It comes when I start to think of the future, what will happen to my bride when I am gone and she is older. You see she cleans people’s houses. It is hard, physical work and as she nears 61 it takes more and more out of her.
I often hear people complain about the new work ethic, or lack of work ethic that has become so pervasive. Despite that, the world remains skeptical of hiring someone closing in on 70, but full time work with benefits is what I think I need. Old folks need those benefits and it would give my Lily relief.
She always tells me God is faithful and reminds me how God has watched over us. I agree, God has been very faithful to us. Old age brings few prospects. We are learning what total dependence on God looks like.
That hornet’s battle plan is always the same. The goal is to keep me looking at the world we live in through my own eyes. Options appear non-existent.
Lily constantly reminds me this world will pass away. Until it does, we need to see it through our ears, according to God's Word, and not according to our eyes, because God’s Word is true and real. The invisible has more substance than everything we can see.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary since 2009.Articles
- Feb 5 Prosperity and the Camp Fire
- Feb 7 Job 6:14-23
- Feb 10 Spontaneous Generation
- Feb 14 Hindsight
- Feb 18 The Cure For Despair
- Feb 22 RE: Job's Friends
- Feb 23 Job 23:14
- Feb 25 No Time To Text
- Mar 5 Polemics and Caricature
- Apr 20 Death and My Master's Voice
- May 10 Ruth | Relationships
- June 18 Lincoln City 6/2/18
- July 14 Tom - Gen & Revelation
- Nov 27 The Way The World Is
- Nov 30 The Renewal Of Israel
- Dec 11 Open Door
- Dec 20 Replacement Theology
by Bill Federer
James Madison’s strong position of defending religious freedom began when, as a youth, he stood with his father outside a jail in the village of Orange and listened to several Baptists preach from their cell windows, having been imprisoned for their religious opinions. Madison wrote of his disapproval of this practice to a friend named William Bradford, on this day, January 24, 1774, stating: “There are at this [time] in the adjacent [Culpepper] County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in [jail] for publishing their religious sentiments which in the main are very orthodox.”
Thomas R. Kelly
Nine days before his death, he wrote me a letter which he sent to Portugal by clipper. In it he described the last piece of writing he was to do. "Spent last week (vacation) writing in bare hope of publication, on practical procedure and conduct of the self in living by, and oriented toward, the Light within, both in private devotion and in public reaction to the world of men and events, seeing them in and through the Light . . . Read one at Pendle Hill last Sunday." These three chapters of rare grace and suggestiveness form the opening chapters of this little collection.
He died very suddenly of a heart attack on January 17, 1941 at the age of forty-seven years. His friend, E. Merrill Root, wrote to Lael Kelly from Earlham College, "I cannot tell you adequately, and yet 1 think you know, how much I loved Tom. He was my great friend and comrade here; there was no one else who entered the inner circle of the heart, or shared the heights of the soul. He was the perfect friend, whether we shared the gay sunlight of humor, or ascended the peaks of highest vision together. I had especially marvelled to see how he grew always in insight and power, and rejoiced at the light he brought me and all men. He was a great strength to me. The thought of him was always a beatitude, a great light, a wind of courage."
A neighbor in Maine who had watched with admiration Thomas Kelly's skill with carpenters' tools, and who looked forward to his evening visits, wrote simply, "I will find it very difficult to realize that he will not wander over with his lantern next summer and tarry with us for a while to bless and cheer us."
Gerald Heard, who had never met Thomas Kelly but who had been moved by his devotional writing, wrote to a mutual friend at the news of Thomas Kelly's death, "I was filled with a kind of joy when I read of Thomas Kelly. It was formerly the custom of the Winston Salem Community of Moravians in North Carolina to announce the passing of a member by the playing of three chorales by the church band from the top of the church tower. So I feel I want to sing when I hear of such men emerging. I know it is an outward loss to us – though even directly we may gain more than we lose by their joining the more active side of the communion of saints-but - I keep on feeling what it must be for a man as good as he to be able to push aside this fussy veil of the body and look unblinking at the Light, never again, maybe, to be distracted, unintentional, unaware, always concentrated."
These devotional essays are gathered here without any of the cutting or clipping or the critical revision which Thomas Kelly would certainly have given them had he lived. They are all written on the same theme and often develop an identical aspect, but always with some fresh illumination. Few can resist feeling the power of the current that is in this stream. They are in very truth a testament of devotion.
April 10, 1941.
DOUGLAS V. STEERE
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The chief end of man
is to glorify God
and enjoy Him forever.
--- Westminster Catechism
All God’s men are ordinary men
by the matter He has given them.
--- Oswald Chambers
I’m not going to die, honey. I'm going home like a shooting star.
--- Nineteenth-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth
That which the people called Quakers lay down as a main fundamental in religion is this— That God, through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man, to inform him of his duty, and to enable him to do it; and that those that live up to this principle are the people of God, and those that live in disobedience to it, are not God’s people, whatever name they may bear, or profession they may make of religion. This is their ancient, first, and standing testimony: with this they began, and this they bore, and do bear to the world.
--- William Penn, 1644-1718
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
her mouth is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death,
her steps lead straight to Sh’ol;
6 she doesn’t walk the level path of life—
her course wanders all over, but she doesn’t know it.
7 So now, children, listen to me;
don’t turn away from what I am saying:
8 distance your way from her,
stay far from the door of her house;
9 so that you won’t give your vigor to others
and your years to someone who is cruel,
10 so strangers won’t be filled with your strength
and what you worked for go to a foreign house.
11 Then, when your flesh and bones have shrunk,
at the end of your life, you would moan,
12 “How I hated discipline!
My whole being despised reproof,
13 I ignored what my teachers said,
I didn’t listen to my instructors.
14 I took part in almost every kind of evil,
and the whole community knew it.”
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The overmastering direction
I have appeared unto thee for this purpose. --- Acts 26:16.
The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was no passing emotion, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him, and he says—“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Our Lord said, in effect, to Paul—‘Your whole life is to be overmastered by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine.’ ‘I have chosen him.’
When we are born again we all have visions, if we are spiritual at all, of what Jesus wants us to be, and the great thing is to learn not to be disobedient to the vision, not to say that it cannot be attained. It is not sufficient to know that God has redeemed the world, and to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did effectual in me; I must have the basis of a personal relationship to Him. Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim, he was brought into a vivid, personal, overmastering relationship to Jesus Christ. Verse 16 is immensely commanding—“to make thee a minister and a witness.” There is nothing there apart from the personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ’s; he saw nothing else; he lived for nothing else. “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
It appears before us,
wringing its dry hands,
quoting from Nietzsche's book,
Sing us, we say,
more sunlit occasions;
the child by the still pool
It remains unconsoled
in its dust-storm of tears,
remembering the Crusades,
the tortures, the purges.
But time passes by;
it commits adultery
with it to father the cause
of its continued weeping.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Sometimes we tend to idealize Bible people. We forget that, while they were giants in many ways, they were also all too human. In fact, before we look at the faith of a man like Abraham, we need to realize that he was, like all believers, far from perfect!
We have an early indication of Abram’s flaws in Genesis 12. Abram had been called by God to go to a land which the Lord Himself chose. He had obeyed in an act that required real faith. But once in the land, Abram’s faith was shaken by a famine. Rather than trust God or wait for further direction, he went to Egypt. There he continued to show lack of trust by getting Sarah to tell a half-truth about their relationship, to deny she was his wife. Fear that he might be killed outweighed his commitment to his wife! Even when she was taken in Pharaoh’s household, Abram did not reveal their relationship. Instead he profited in silence from the favor extended to the supposed brother!
Abraham’s tendency to rely on his wits rather than on God also is shown in the events leading up to the birth of Ishmael. Some 10 years passed while Abraham waited for God to send the son He had promised. Finally Sarah began urging him to take her maid as a secondary wife. Even though this was a custom of the land, it took Sarah’s nagging to make him take action. He “hearkened to [obeyed] the voice of Sarai” (16:2, KJV). Perhaps Abram thought he would “help” God keep His promises! Perhaps he felt that 86 was just too old to wait any longer. In any case Abram did not consult God. He simply went ahead, without direction, relying on his own plan to fulfill God’s purposes. Self reliance and self-effort took the place of trust in God.
And then, how stunning. Abraham repeated the sin he did in Egypt! Again Abraham misrepresented Sarah as only his sister, and she was placed in the harem of a king named Abimelech. God protected Sarah even though her husband was not willing to, and before Abimelech came to her God spoke to him in a vision. Abimelech, fearful at the divine visit, complained to Abraham that he might have led the king into unknowing sin! Abram’s reply was weak (20:11–12). Abraham was worried, afraid that the people of the foreign land they visited might not fear God, and thus might kill him for Sarah. Abraham feared for his life—but not for his wife!
Abraham apparently had not stopped to think that though a particular people might not know God, God knew them! There was no place that Abraham could go to be beyond the protection of the Lord. Yet, even after an earlier rebuke in Egypt, Abraham repeated the same sin and let fear and selfishness control his choices.
No, the Abraham we meet on the pages of the Bible is no idealized man. He is a man we need to see both as weak, and as a willful sinner.
The Teacher's Commentary
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
--- Luke 15:4.
If you look into that shepherd’s face, there is no trace of anger. (Spurgeon's Sermons on Soulwinning (C.H. Spurgeon Sermon Outline Series)) It is all love and nothing else but love, before he finds and until he finds [the lost sheep], and you may be sure that careful tenderness will be in full action after he has found it.
And mark, for a shepherd there is no giving up. The sun has risen, and the sun has set, but as long as the shepherd can see and the sheep is still alive, he will pursue it until he finds it. He is impelled onward by irresistible love, and he must continue his weary search until he finds it. It was precisely so with our Lord Jesus Christ. When he came after you and after me, we ran from him, but he pursued us; we hid from him, but he discovered us.
He would not be turned away. The Lord Jesus has in hundreds and thousands of cases pursued sinners with unflagging mercy until he has found them. We are now his forever and ever, for he who has found us will never lose us. Blessed be his name.
If ever you are seeking the conversion of any, follow up until you find them. Do not be discouraged. Put up with a great many rebuffs and rebukes. Whisper to yourself, “I might well have put the Great Shepherd off from caring for me, and yet he was not turned aside. If he persevered with me even to the death, I may well persevere as long as I live in seeking and finding this soul.” Persevere with loving entreaties! Until you bury your unsaved ones, do not consider them dead.
Live or die, or work or suffer, whether the time is short or long or the way is smooth or rough, let each one of you be bound to seek a soul until you find it. You will find it then, even as Christ found you.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
My God, why … ? is not an unknown prayer among Christians—Why did she contract cancer? Why was I fired? Why does God seem to forget us? Yet Jesus, having uttered My God, why … ? on the cross, then whispered, It is finished, signaling not only the end of his suffering, but the completion of his work.
Irene Ferrel graduated from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles with a burden for overseas missions. She found her place in the Congo (Zaire), where for 10 years she taught school, shared Christ, and worked in a dispensary in the Kwilu bush.
In 1964, Communist rebels mounted guerrilla raids to overthrow the government. Missionaries in the Kwilu Province were threatened. Irene and her co-worker Ruth Hege decided to evacuate from their station. A helicopter was ordered, and on January 24, 1964, the two prepared to leave.
They packed essential belongings then gathered their Congolese workers for a final time of worship, Irene playing the organ. The final songs died down, the last prayers were offered, and the women began anticipating the chopper’s arrival. When it didn’t come, they decided to retire and rise early to await it the next day.
Shortly after midnight, young, intoxicated rebels attacked. The youngsters, some barely teenagers, were smoking hemp, smashing windows, and screaming for blood. Storming the house, they dragged the women from their beds and danced around them in wild circles in the moonlight. One youth shot an arrow into Irene’s neck. With her last ounce of strength she pulled it out, whispering, “I am finished,” and died.
Ruth Hege, also struck by arrows, pretended to be dead, not even moving when one of the rebels jerked out a handful of her hair. Only after the attackers finally ran into the forest could Ruth crawl to safety.
Many other Christians perished during the 1960s Congolese turmoil, including both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. It was a killing time. Why was the helicopter late? Why do God’s servants sometimes perish? We’ll understand someday.
Till then we trust, knowing his kindness never fails.
I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.” Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The LORD’s kindness never fails.
--- Lamentations 3:18-22.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 24
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler.”
--- Psalm 91:3.
God delivers his people from the snare of the fowler in two senses. From, and out of. First, he delivers them from the snare—does not let them enter it; and secondly, if they should be caught therein, he delivers them out of it. The first promise is the most precious to some; the second is the best to others.
“He shall deliver thee from the snare.” How? Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us. God knows that our backsliding will soon end in our destruction, and he in mercy sends the rod. We say, “Lord, why is this?” not knowing that our trouble has been the means of delivering us from far greater evil. Many have been thus saved from ruin by their sorrows and their crosses; these have frightened the birds from the net. At other times, God keeps his people from the snare of the fowler by giving them great spiritual strength, so that when they are tempted to do evil they say, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” But what a blessed thing it is that if the believer shall, in an evil hour, come into the net, yet God will bring him out of it! O backslider, be cast down, but do not despair. Wanderer though thou hast been, hear what thy Redeemer saith—“Return, O backsliding children; I will have mercy upon you.” But you say you cannot return, for you are a captive. Then listen to the promise—“Surely he shall deliver thee out of the snare of the fowler.” Thou shalt yet be brought out of all evil into which thou hast fallen, and though thou shalt never cease to repent of thy ways, yet he that hath loved thee will not cast thee away; he will receive thee, and give thee joy and gladness, that the bones which he has broken may rejoice. No bird of paradise shall die in the fowler’s net.
Evening - January 24
“Martha was cumbered about much serving.” --- Luke 10:40.
Her fault was not that she served: the condition of a servant well becomes every Christian. “I serve,” should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had “much serving.” We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head, and heart, and hands, be engaged in the Master’s service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew “cumbered with much serving,” so that she forgot him, and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another. We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands. The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear: the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate. Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus. See to it that sitting at the Saviour’s feet is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing him service. The first thing for our soul’s health, the first thing for his glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our religion is maintained over and above everything else in the world.
Morning and Evening
FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38)
We hear many missionary sermons in our churches, but not often do we sing such a beautifully worded and challenging missionary hymn as this one, which was quickly and spontaneously written by Reginald Heber. These well-chosen words and ideas inspire us to spread the blessings of salvation to all people and nations until our Lord “in bliss returns to reign.”
Heber was a minister in the Anglican church in England. With his keen interest in world missions, he did much through his writings and influence to promote the missionary activity that greatly increased during his lifetime.
In the summer of 1819, Heber was asked by his father-in-law if he knew a worthy hymn that could be used at a missionary service the next Sunday. Reginald went at once to his study for a few minutes of quiet meditation and soon returned with the first stanzas of this text. His family was very pleased with it. Heber, however, feeling the hymn was still incomplete, returned to his study and completed the triumphant final verse.
Five years later the tune was composed specifically for Heber’s text by the noted American educator and church musician, Lowell Mason. It is said that Mason composed this tune with a great sense of inspiration.
Today, Reginald Heber is ranked as one of the foremost 19th century English hymnists, having written 57 well-known hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As a result of his zeal for missions, he became an Anglican bishop to Calcutta, India, but died there at the age of 43. Notice how large is the Lord’s harvest field.
From Greenland’s icy mountains, from India’s coral strand, where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand, from many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain, they call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.
Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high, shall we to men benighted the lamp of life deny? Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll, till like a sea of glory it spreads from pole to pole; till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain, Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.
For Today: Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; John 4:35; Acts 1:8.
Pray especially for some foreign missionary in your church, that the truth of this musical message might become a greater reality in today’s world ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | Holy Day
Conversion Of St. Paul
Years 1 & 2
On the same date: Conversion of St. Paul, Evening Prayer
Psalms Psalm 19
Old Testament Isaiah 45:18–25
New Testament Philippians 3:4b–11
Index of Readings
19 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
18 For thus says the LORD,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19 I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.
20 “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
24 “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Conversion Of St. Paul
Years 1 & 2
On the same date: Conversion of St. Paul, Morning Prayer
Psalms Psalm 119:89–112
Old Testament Sirach 39:1–10
New Testament Acts 9:1–22
Index of Readings
89 Forever, O LORD, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day,
for all things are your servants.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD,
and teach me your rules.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
39He seeks out the wisdom of all the ancients,
and is concerned with prophecies;
2he preserves the sayings of the famous
and penetrates the subtleties of parables;
3he seeks out the hidden meanings of proverbs
and is at home with the obscurities of parables.
4He serves among the great
and appears before rulers;
he travels in foreign lands
and learns what is good and evil in the human lot.
5He sets his heart to rise early
to seek the Lord who made him,
and to petition the Most High;
he opens his mouth in prayer
and asks pardon for his sins.
6If the great Lord is willing,
he will be filled with the spirit of understanding;
he will pour forth words of wisdom of his own
and give thanks to the Lord in prayer.
7The Lord will direct his counsel and knowledge,
as he meditates on his mysteries.
8He will show the wisdom of what he has learned,
and will glory in the law of the Lord’s covenant.
9Many will praise his understanding;
it will never be blotted out.
His memory will not disappear,
and his name will live through all generations.
10Nations will speak of his wisdom,
and the congregation will proclaim his praise.
9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
The Book of Common Prayer