Sarai and HagarGenesis 16 1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Abraham and the Covenant of CircumcisionGenesis 17 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Isaac’s Birth Promised15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Genesis 18Genesis 18 1 And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
Abraham Intercedes for Sodom22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Disappointed By Christmas
By Samuel James 12/27/2016
I’ve heard several people say the days and weeks after Christmas are one of the sadder and more melancholy times of the year for them. True for me as well. My parents have told me that when I was younger they watched as I emotionally primed myself for Christmas Day, only to seem sad and distant after the last present had been opened. Eventually they realized my mood had nothing to do with gifts; rather, I was “crashing,” reentering reality’s orbit after weeks of fantasy. Christmas didn’t let me down; my own hope did.
For many of us, the symbols and sounds of Christmas unleash an intense kind of longing. Sometimes we may not even articulate what this longing is for, but we feel it nonetheless. In American culture, Christmas is often talked about like an all-healing euphoric experience; advertisements and literature often acknowledge that the “holiday season” is a particularly good time to be happy, or childlike, or charitable, or even just alive. By the week after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas carols start to swell in our car radios and colored trees beam into the lengthening fall evenings, many begin to feel this inarticulate hope throbbing, like the memory of something long forgotten.
It’s no wonder then that for many of us, the days after Christmas inspire a dour kind of “Was that all?” True, sometimes our Christmas is difficult, or lonely, or sad. Sometimes its just not what we expected. But for me, I think what has disappointed me is not the holiday itself. It’s my hope for it. The reality didn’t “live up” to my expectations because it was never supposed to; the expectation was the point. And now, it’s gone.
The realization that it’s possible to get exactly what you want and yet feel that hope has betrayed you is one of life’s milestones. We are all born believing that what really stands between us and joy is not getting what we want. We have to be taught otherwise, and many never are. We have to be taught that peace and satisfaction are not the same thing, and then we even have to be taught that sometimes the two are opposed to each other. None of this comes naturally, because natural human nature does not discern it.
To feel disappointed by Christmas is to plunge headfirst into the truth that we are made for something even greater than hope. For the Christian, the hope of Christmas is not formless and void. It has a shape, a color, and a name. It has blood and sinew. The hope of Christmas is not even the numinous experience we feel when we hear “O Holy Night” or see Gerard van Honthorst’s manger scene. In other words, the hope of Christmas is not hope at all. It’s a Savior, a Savior whose bloody birth stank of manger in a real place at a real time. To hope in some ethereal Christmas ebullience is not the same as to hope in Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the apostle Paul went out of his way to say that if the baby in the manger hasn’t actually been crucified and actually raised from the dead, then Christianity is an idiocy so extreme that we who name it should be pitied more than anyone.
Death, The New Year And The Hope of Christ
By Matt Foreman 1/2/2017
2016 was a sobering year for our celebrity-driven culture. A recent CNN article reminded us of the many well known individuals that we lost over the course of the last year. More names have been added just in this past week. More than usual, it seems that many of these celebrities and artists lost in 2016 were icons of culture--a part of people's personal identities and memories. Social media has provided an unprecedented forum for shared grief and lament. (On a humorous note, one man even started a Go Fund Me page to " protect Betty White from 2016".)
From a biblical perspective, these social laments don't go far enough; and, sadly they seem to miss the point altogether. 2016 has not been all that unusual of a year--although it may have been more providentially jarring for some. People are shocked by tragedy and tragedies are supposed to be shocking. But tragedies are not surprises. They are reminders. Tragedies help to awaken us out of an illusion of what is not to what is actually the norm in this world. There is nothing more normal to history than evil and death. It is not strange. It is tragically normal.
I heard someone once say that people in this world are like people in prison who pretend most of their lives that they are not in prison. And every once in a while when tragedy strikes, they are forced to come out and stare at the bars and be reminded of what is real.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a Christmas letter from prison during WWII in which he said, "A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent. One waits, hopes, does this or that--ultimately negligible things--the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside."
So what is the biblical lesson and answer in the face of a tragic reality? Can Christianity offer any hope in the New Year in the face of death? To the surprise of many, the Christian answer does not sugar-coat reality. The Christian Gospel has always been set in the midst of tragedy--from the cradle to the cross.
This Ancient Hebrew Discovery is About to Rewrite History as We Know it
By Tsivya Fox 12/30/16
“And Pharaoh called Yosef’s name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Yosef went out over the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:45 (The Israel Bible™)
After years of intense study, Dr. Douglas Petrovich has gathered sufficient evidence to claim that the ancient Israelites took Egyptian hieroglyphics and transformed it into a writing system of 22 alphabetic letters which correspond to the widely recognized Hebrew alphabet used today.
Archaeologist, epigrapher and professor of ancient Egyptian studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, Dr. Petrovich used Hebrew and the Bible to translate inscriptions found on 18 ancient stone slabs. His findings have truly rocked Bible critics to the core.
“Judaism has always believed that ‘God looked into the Hebrew Bible and created the world’ making Hebrew the oldest known language,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, an online language academy specializing in Biblical Hebrew, to Breaking Israel News. “However, to find an archaeologist making a similar claim is fascinating.
It is generally accepted that hieroglyphics are one of the oldest forms of written communication. Following Petrovich’s study of the inscribed Egyptian stone slabs, he asserted that the writings are actually an early form of Hebrew. He believes that the stones recall the Bible’s descriptions about the Israelites living in Egypt and concludes that they transformed Egyptian hieroglyphics into Hebrew more than 3,800 years ago.
Why Is Repentance Important?
By Mike Mobley
Repentance isn’t one of those popular topics to discuss for most people. In fact, a lot of followers of Christ (me included) often push this subject to the back of the line behind other current trending ones. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t want to offend people or “judge” them. Are we more concerned with how we might offend others or if we are offending God? Are we really loving others if we are content as they continue to sin? Why is repentance important?
All throughout the Bible we see people being called to repentance. God, Jesus, Paul, the Prophets, etc. all were involved in clearly communicating to others to repent. Repentance is not just believing in God (even the demons believe, James 2:19), but rather as we believe and make a decision to trust and follow Christ, we will repent (turn from) our old ways. We will begin to live as new creations and let the old pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). If repentance is not involved in the life of a believer, then that person is not a believer. It’s impossible to decide to follow Christ and not turn from old sinful ways.
(2 Pe 3:9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV
God’s desire is that we all would reach repentance. He’s not slow. He does not delay. He knows exactly what He’s doing and His character more and more in the Bible reveals just how much He loves us. He is patient towards all of us and shows His great mercy as we continue to fall short each day.
“God hasn’t held off lighting the match for eternal fire because He finds our sins tolerable but rather because He is patient in giving sinners an opportunity for repentance before the burning begins.” – Mark Driscoll, A Call To Resurgence
Being Too Hard On Repentance | You may have experienced this scene for yourself, but imagine a bullhorn and someone in your face screaming, REPENT. Well, that sure is one way of preaching repentance to others, but probably won’t be the most effective way.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 4Answer Me When I Call
4 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm Of David.
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.
The Miracle That Saves the World
By Michael Sacasas 1/2/2017
“Hannah Arendt is preeminently the theorist of beginnings,” according to Margaret Canovan in her Introduction to Arendt’s The Human Condition. “Reflections on the human capacity to start something new pervade her thinking,” she adds.
I’ve been thinking about this theme in Arendt’s work, particularly as the old year faded and the new one approached. Arendt spoke of birth and death, natality and morality, as the “most general condition of human existence.” Whereas most Western philosophy had taken its point of departure from the fact of our mortality, Arendt made a point of emphasizing natality, the possibility of new beginnings.
“The most heartening message of The Human Condition, 2nd Edition,” Canovan writes,
is its reminder of human natality and the miracle of beginning. In sharp contrast to Heidegger’s stress on our mortality, Arendt argues that faith and hope in human affairs come from the fact that new people are continually coming into the world, each of them unique, each capable of new initiatives that may interrupt or divert the chains of events set in motion by previous actions.”
This is, indeed, a heartening message. One that we need to take to heart in these our own darkening days. Below are a three key paragraphs in which Arendt develops her understanding of the importance of natality in human affairs.
Hannah Arendt Books by Hannah Arendt:
The Origins of Totalitarianism
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
The Human Condition, 2nd Edition
Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution
The Life of the Mind (Combined 2 Volumes in 1) (Vols 1&2)
On Revolution (Penguin Classics)
Between Past and Future (Penguin Classics)
How to Stop Praying the Same Old Things
By Don Whitney 2015
It doesn’t take long before rote prayers fragment your attention span and freeze your heart.
Editor's note: We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." The problem for many of us is that prayer can become a boring exercise of, in the words of Don Whitney, "praying the same old things about the same old things." In this article Whitney describes how praying through Scripture can revolutionize your prayer life and lift it from the rut of mindless repetition.
"Empty phrases" are ruinous in any area of spirituality, but especially in prayer. Jesus warned, "But when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Matthew 6:7).
Such "empty phrases" can result from insincerity or repetition. That is, we might pray meaningless, vacuous words because either our hearts or minds are far away.
One of the reasons Jesus prohibited the mindless repetition of prayers is because that's exactly the way we're prone to pray. Although I don't recite intentionally memorized prayers, my own tendency is to pray basically the same old things about the same old things. And it doesn't take long before such prayers fragment the attention span and freeze the heart of prayer.
Other Books by Roger Steer:
J. Hudson Taylor: A Man In Christ (Missionary Life Stories)
George Müller: Delighted in God (History Maker)
Jesus Rising in the East: The Extraordinary Story of the Church in Modern China (Christianity Today Essentials Book 3)
Guarding the Holy Fire: The Evangelicalism of John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, and Alister McGrath
Letter to an Influential Atheist by Roger Steer (2003-07-01)
Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Biography
Donald S. Whitney Books:
- 1 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
- 2 Praying the Bible
- 3 Family Worship
- 4 Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 5 How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)
- 6 Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ
- 7 Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed
- 8 The Call to Ministry
- 9 A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
- 10 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life/Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 11 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [10 QUES TO DIAGNOSE YOUR S -OS]
- 12 The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality
- 13 Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry (American University Studies)
- 14 Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church (Reformation Theology Series)
- 15 By Donald S. Whitney - Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home (1905-07-13) [Paperback]
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
9. With this view, likewise the prayers of the saints correspond. Thus
Solomon prays that the Lord may "incline our hearts unto him, to walk
in his ways, and keep his commandments" (1 Kings 8:58); intimating that
our heart is perverse, and naturally indulges in rebellion against the
Divine law, until it be turned. Again, it is said in the Psalms,
"Incline my heart unto thy testimonies," (Ps. 119:36). For we should
always note the antithesis between the rebellious movement of the
heart, and the correction by which it is subdued to obedience. David
feeling for the time that he was deprived of directing grace, prays,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within
me," (Ps. 51:10). Is not this an acknowledgment that all the parts of
the heart are full of impurity, and that the soul has received a twist,
which has turned it from straight to crooked? And then, in describing
the cleansing, which he earnestly demands as a thing to be created by
God, does he not ascribe the work entirely to Him? If it is objected,
that the prayer itself is a symptom of a pious and holy affection, it
is easy to reply, that although David had already in some measure
repented, he was here contrasting the sad fall which he had experienced
with his former state. Therefore, speaking in the person of a man
alienated from God, he properly prays for the blessings which God
bestows upon his elect in regeneration. Accordingly, like one dead, he
desires to be created anew, so as to become, instead of a slave of
Satan, an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Strange and monstrous are the
longings of our pride. There is nothing which the Lord enjoins more
strictly than the religious observance of his Sabbath, in other words
resting from our works; but in nothing do we show greater reluctance
than to renounce our own works, and give due place to the works of God.
Did not arrogance stand in the way, we could not overlook the clear
testimony which Christ has borne to the efficacy of his grace. "I,"
said he, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man." "As the
branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no
more can ye, except ye abide in me," (John 15:1, 4). If we can no more
bear fruit of ourselves than a vine can bud when rooted up and deprived
of moisture, there is no longer any room to ask what the aptitude of
our nature is for good. There is no ambiguity in the conclusion, "For
without me ye can do nothing." He says not that we are too weak to
suffice for ourselves; but, by reducing us to nothing, he excludes the
idea of our possessing any, even the least ability. If, when engrafted
into Christ, we bear fruit like the vine, which draws its vegetative
power from the moisture of the ground, and the dew of heaven, and the
fostering warmth of the sun, I see nothing in a good work, which we can
call our own, without trenching upon what is due to God. It is vain to
have recourse to the frivolous cavil, that the sap and the power of
producing are already contained in the vine, and that, therefore,
instead of deriving everything from the earth or the original root, it
contributes something of its own. Our Saviour's words simply mean, that
when separated from him, we are nothing but dry, useless wood, because,
when so separated, we have no power to do good, as he elsewhere says,
"Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted
up," (Mt. 15:13). Accordingly, in the passage already quoted from the
Apostle Paul, he attributes the whole operation to God, "It is God
which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,"
(Phil. 2:13). The first part of a good work is the will, the second is
vigorous effort in the doing of it.  God is the author of both. It
is, therefore, robbery from God to arrogate anything to ourselves,
either in the will or the act. Were it said that God gives assistance
to a weak will, something might be left us; but when it is said that he
makes the will, every thing good in it is placed without us. Moreover,
since even a good will is still weighed down by the burden of the
flesh, and prevented from rising, it is added, that, to meet the
difficulties of the contest, God supplies the persevering effort until
the effect is obtained. Indeed, the Apostle could not otherwise have
said, as he elsewhere does, that "it is the same God which worketh all
in all," (1 Cor. 12:6); words comprehending, as we have already
observed (sec. 6), the whole course of the spiritual life. For which
reason, David, after praying, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in
thy truths" adds, "unite my heart to fear thy name," (Ps. 86:11); by
these words intimating, that even those who are well-affected are
liable to so many distractions that they easily become vain, and fall
away, if not strengthened to persevere. And hence, in another passage,
after praying, "Order my steps in thy word," he requests that strength
also may be given him to carry on the war, "Let not any iniquity have
dominion over me," (Ps. 119:133). In this way, the Lord both begins and
perfects the good work in us, so that it is due to Him, first, that the
will conceives a love of rectitude, is inclined to desire, is moved and
stimulated to pursue it; secondly, that this choice, desire, and
endeavour fail not, but are carried forward to effect; and, lastly,
that we go on without interruption, and persevere even to the end.
10. This movement of the will is not of that description which was for many ages taught and believed--viz. a movement which thereafter leaves us the choice to obey or resist it, but one which affects us efficaciously. We must, therefore, repudiate the oft-repeated sentiment of Chrysostom, "Whom he draws, he draws willingly;" insinuating that the Lord only stretches out his hand, and waits to see whether we will be pleased to take his aid. We grant that, as man was originally constituted, he could incline to either side, but since he has taught us by his example how miserable a thing free will is if God works not in us to will and to do, of what use to us were grace imparted in such scanty measure? Nay, by our own ingratitude, we obscure and impair divine grace. The Apostle's doctrine is not, that the grace of a good will is offered to us if we will accept of it, but that God himself is pleased so to work in us as to guide, turn, and govern our heart by his Spirit, and reign in it as his own possession. Ezekiel promises that a new spirit will be given to the elect, not merely that they may be able to walk in his precepts, but that they may really walk in them (Ezek. 11:19; 36:27). And the only meaning which can be given to our Saviour's words, "Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6:45), is, that the grace of God is effectual in itself. This Augustine maintains in his book De Prædestinatione Sancta. This grace is not bestowed on all promiscuously, according to the common brocard (of Occam, if I mistake not), that it is not denied to any one who does what in him lies. Men are indeed to be taught that the favour of God is offered, without exception, to all who ask it; but since those only begin to ask whom heaven by grace inspires, even this minute portion of praise must not be withheld from him. It is the privilege of the elect to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, and then placed under his guidance and government. Wherefore Augustine justly derides some who arrogate to themselves a certain power of willing, as well as censures others who imagine that that which is a special evidence of gratuitous election is given to all (August. de Verbis Apost. Serm. 21). He says, "Nature is common to all, but not grace;" and he calls it a showy acuteness "which shines by mere vanity, when that which God bestows, on whom he will is attributed generally to all." Elsewhere he says, "How came you? By believing. Fear, lest by arrogating to yourself the merit of finding the right way, you perish from the right way. I came, you say, by free choice, came by my own will. Why do you boast? Would you know that even this was given you? Hear Christ exclaiming, No man comets unto me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.' " And from the words of John (6:44), he infers it to be an incontrovertible fact, that the hearts of believers are so effectually governed from above, that they follow with undeviating affection. "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him" (I John 3:9). That intermediate movement which the sophists imagine, a movement which every one is free to obey or to reject, is obviously excluded by the doctrine of effectual perseverance. 
11. As to perseverance, it would undoubtedly have been regarded as the gratuitous gift of God, had not the very pernicious error prevailed, that it is bestowed in proportion to human merit, according to the reception which each individual gives to the first grace. This having given rise to the idea that it was entirely in our own power to receive or reject the offered grace of God, that idea is no sooner exploded than the error founded on it must fall. The error, indeed, is twofold. For, besides teaching that our gratitude for the first grace and our legitimate use of it is rewarded by subsequent supplies of grace, its abettors add that, after this, grace does not operate alone, but only co-operates with ourselves. As to the former, we must hold that the Lord, while he daily enriches his servants, and loads them with new gifts of his grace, because he approves of and takes pleasure in the work which he has begun, finds that in them which he may follow up with larger measures of grace. To this effect are the sentences, "To him that has shall be given." "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things," (Mt. 25:21, 23, 29; Luke 19:17, 26). But here two precautions are necessary. It must not be said that the legitimate use of the first grace is rewarded by subsequent measures of grace, as if man rendered the grace of God effectual by his own industry, nor must it be thought that there is any such remuneration as to make it cease to be the gratuitous grace of God. I admit, then, that believers may expect as a blessing from God, that the better the use they make of previous, the larger the supplies they will receive of future grace; but I say that even this use is of the Lord, and that this remuneration is bestowed freely of mere good will. The trite distinction of operating and co-operating grace is employed no less sinistrously than unhappily. Augustine, indeed, used it, but softened it by a suitable definition--viz. that God, by co-operating, perfects what he begins by operating,--that both graces are the same, but obtain different names from the different manner in which they produce their effects. Whence it follows, that he does not make an apportionment between God and man, as if a proper movement on the part of each produced a mutual concurrence. All he does is to mark a multiplication of grace. To this effect, accordingly, he elsewhere says, that in man good will precedes many gifts from God; but among these gifts is this good will itself. (August. Enchiridion ad Laurent. cap. 32). Whence it follows, that nothing is left for the will to arrogate as its own. This Paul has expressly stated. For, after saying, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do," he immediately adds, "of his good pleasure," (Phil. 2:13); indicating by this expression, that the blessing is gratuitous. As to the common saying, that after we have given admission to the first grace, our efforts co-operate with subsequent grace, this is my answer:--If it is meant that after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace, I have nothing to object. For it is most certain, that where the grace of God reigns, there is also this readiness to obey. And whence this readiness, but just that the Spirit of God being everywhere consistent with himself, after first begetting a principle of obedience, cherishes and strengthens it for perseverance? If, again, it is meant that man is able of himself to be a fellow-labourer with the grace of God, I hold it to be a most pestilential delusion.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Keys to Bible study (2)
1/5/2018 Bob Gass
‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’
(Ps 119:18) 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ESV
Here are some helpful keys to getting more out of your Bible study time: 1) Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of it. Who was this written to? What was the situation the writer was facing? What was the main message the author was trying to get through to them? As you ask these questions you’ll begin to discover things you’ve overlooked or never seen before. The psalmist was a meditator and an in-depth studier of God’s Word. That’s why he prayed, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ 2) Write down the answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get answers. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips and fingertips.’ So have your notebook handy and write down the nuggets of truth God gives you. If you don’t, you’ll lose them. 3) Don’t just discover it, do it! Evangelist D.L. Moody said, ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.’ James wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says’ (James 1:22 NIV 2011 Edition). Ask yourself, ‘What attitudes do I need to change? What do I need to stop doing, or start doing? What do I need to believe, or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having to others?’ Don’t go to your Bible with the attitude of finding some truth nobody’s ever seen before, or something to impress others with. Find out what God is saying to you.
UCB The Word For Today
January 5, 2016
We finally got to leave for home about 11:30 this morning. We had to creep down Parrett Mtn. Rd. about 5 mph, but we made it. Earl and Peggy were very warm and friendly as they extended to us the greatest hospitality, but it was great to get home. Lily missed a couple of days of work so we will have to be careful, but right now we’re just glad to be home.
When I think about how much God loves us it breaks my heart that I am not more appreciative. I tell God several times a day that I love Him. I thank God for my bride, (His daughter), my family and the health we all enjoy. I am grateful that we all walk in health. I am blessed. I know I am blessed so why am I occasionally overwhelmed by the darkness and discouragement within me?
The next few hours were tragic and brutal. Jesus wrestled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the darkness which he felt caving in upon him while he waited for arrest. The chief priests did what one might have expected: carried out a quick, quasi-legal procedure—enough to frame a charge of seditious talk against the Temple and ultimately of blasphemy. This could be conveniently translated, for the benefit of the Roman governor, into a charge of sedition against Rome. The Roman governor was weak and indecisive; the priests, manipulative. Jesus went to his death on a charge of which he was innocent—actual rebellion against Rome—but of which most of his contemporaries were guilty, at least in intention. Barabbas, a rebel leader, went free in his stead. A centurion, looking up at his thousandth victim, saw and heard something he hadn’t expected and muttered that maybe this man was God’s Son after all. The meaning of the story is found in every detail, as well as in the broad narrative. The pain and tears of all the years were met together on Calvary. The sorrow of heaven joined with the anguish of earth; the forgiving love stored up in God’s future was poured out into the present; the voices that echo in a million human hearts, crying for justice, longing for spirituality, eager for relationship, yearning for beauty, drew themselves together into a final scream of desolation.
Nothing in all the history of paganism comes anywhere near this combination of event, intention, and meaning. Nothing in Judaism had prepared for it, except in puzzling, shadowy prophecy. The death of Jesus of Nazareth as the king of the Jews, the bearer of Israel’s destiny, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people of old, is either the most stupid, senseless waste and misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns.
Christianity is based on the belief that it was and is the latter.
by Bill Federer
Raised by an elderly white couple after his mother was kidnapped following the Civil War, he began school in Neosho, Missouri, and graduated from Iowa State College of Agriculture. Booker T. Washington recruited him to teach at Tuskegee Institute, where he introduced hundred of uses for the peanut, soybean and sweet potato, revolutionizing the South’s economy. His name was George Washington Carver, and he died this day, January 5, 1943. Turning down offers to work for Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver said: “My purpose alone must be God’s purpose - to increase the welfare and happiness of His people.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
In Israel, in order to be a realist
you must believe in miracles.
--- Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
In a CBS-TV interview
True godliness does not turn men out of the world,
but enables them to live better in it
and excites their endeavors to mend it.
--- William Penn
Slander is worse than cannibalism.
--- John Chrysostom
We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.
--- Bill Hicks
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
and store my commands inside you,
2 paying attention to wisdom
inclining your mind toward understanding—
3 yes, if you will call for insight
and raise your voice for discernment,
4 if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure—
5 then you will understand the fear of ADONAI
and find knowledge of God.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The afterwards of the life of power
Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards. --- John 13:36.
“And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.” Three years before, Jesus had said—“Follow Me,” and Peter had followed easily, the fascination of Jesus was upon him, he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him to do it. Then he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit, and now Jesus says again—“Follow Me.” There is no figure in front now saving the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” had nothing mystical in it, it was an external following; now it is a following in internal martyrdom (cf. John 21:18).
Between these times Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency; there was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation from the risen Lord. “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” No matter what changes God has wrought in you, never rely upon them, build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.
All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit. “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”—the idea is that of invasion. There is only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The old men ask
for more time, while the young
waste it. And the philosopher
smiles, knowing there is none
there. But the hero stands
sword drawn at the looking-glass
of his mind, aiming at that
anonymous face over his shoulder.
Sermon On The Mount
In this particular study of Matthew 5 we focus on the Beatitudes—a series of “blessed are” or “happy are” statements. The issues explored by Jesus deal with the basic values which human beings adopt and live by. Jesus’ point is that the values of this world do not lead to blessing. Instead blessing comes through living by values which the world despises, but which God holds dear.
Blessed. Both Old and New Testaments speak of the “blessed.” In the Old Testament, and especially the Psalms, the “blessed are” statements describe qualities in a person which bring him or her God’s blessing. Here in Matthew the Greek word is makarios, which means “happy.” Is there a difference? Yes. The Old Testament describes blessings that will come to the godly person, and emphasizes material goods. Jesus focused on the present state of persons who adopt values and attitudes which permit them to know, now, the inner touch of God in their present lives.
Matthew tells us that, after Jesus’ baptism, “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ ” (4:17). Book after book has been written exploring Jesus’ “kingdom” emphasis, puzzling over the exact thrust of all His words.
God as King over all. All agree that the Bible pictures God as King over all His creation. In this sense God is sovereign, marking out the course of cultures and the process of the ages. In a universal sense, everything and all times are to be viewed as God’s kingdom: a realm over which He exercises control.
It is also true that the Old Testament brings another focus to God’s kingly rule. God in a special way rules over Israel: He is Israel’s true King (Deut. 33:5; 1 Sam. 12:12), and Israel is His kingdom (1 Chron. 17:14; 28:5). In a distinctive sense, God involved Himself in the control and direction of Israel’s destiny.
When we read in the New Testament that Christ is “Head over everything for the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22–23), we have a parallel to the Old Testament emphasis. The rule of God extends over all—but finds special focus in His concern for His own.
God’s future reign. A reading of the Old Testament makes it plain that there is more involved in talk of a kingdom than God’s overarching rule. God promised through the prophets that a day would come when He will set up an everlasting kingdom on earth, and personally rule from Zion (Isa. 24:23; Micah 4:6; Zech. 14:9–17). Daniel and Isaiah added their descriptions: the King will be God, and yet of David’s line. When the Messiah comes, the rule of God will find visible and overwhelming expression as God openly exercises His once-hidden power.
It was this kingdom the Jews expected and yearned for. And it was this kingdom which is described in the prophecies which Matthew relates to Jesus.
So we can hardly doubt what Jesus’ listeners pictured in their minds when Jesus announced the good news that the kingdom was at hand. His listeners were sure He meant the eschatological expression of the rule of God. They thought “kingdom of heaven” must mean God’s revelation of His power and goodness through Messiah’s righteous, endless rule.
Near? It is here that many hesitate. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was “near.” Yet, 2,000 years have fled since that announcement, and the visible earthly kingdom Jesus’ hearers expected has not come. So some have stepped back, and denied the Old Testament vision. They have tried to make the “kingdom of heaven” simply another affirmation that God is in charge, after all.
But why then did Jesus say that the kingdom was finally “near”? Why the urgency? Why, if God has always exercised that kind of rule? Clearly some other aspect of the kingdom than God’s universal rule must be drawing near.
Particularly significant is the Greek word translated “near.” It can mean “at hand,” or “has arrived.” Was Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom an affirmation that in His own coming, God’s kingly action was already breaking in uniquely on time and space?
Usually we think of “kingdom” as a place. The “kingdom of Liechtenstein” is geographically defined: a tiny bit of land. Certainly the Old Testament picture of God’s ultimate kingdom does involve a place: Palestine is the center from which the Messiah will rule, and the whole earth will be His kingdom’s limitless extent. However, in rabbinic literature, kingdom emphasis is not on a place but on action! “The kingdom of heaven” speaks of that divine action which breaks into our universe and marks out events as God’s accomplishment.
No wonder Jesus taught His disciples to pray and say:
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. --- Matthew 6:10
Jesus’ disciples, then and now, are to look to God to act on earth just as He acts in heaven itself, to bring His will to pass.
On the other hand, Jesus also was announcing that the kingdom had arrived! In the personal presence of Jesus on earth, God had acted to take a hand in human affairs. In Jesus, God was already bringing to humankind His final gift of deliverance, and dominion.
The Teacher's Commentary
Dr. Scot McKnight
How do we apply Jesus' moral expectations? In particular, how do we apply the kinds of moral demands of Jesus we find in the Sermon on the Mount? We should be marked by a righteousness that (greatly surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20); we should avoid anger because Jesus teaches that anger is murderous (5:21-22); married folk should avoid lusting after others sexually because Jesus teaches that lust is adulterous (5:27-30); and we should, apart from the one singular exception in sexual infidelity, neither divorce nor remarry (5:31-32). To put all of this in one attractive container, we should be "perfect ... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48). Even the disciples wondered if words like these were too much to handle; when Jesus said something similar sometime later, his best followers blurted out: "It is better nor to marry!" (19:10).
How do we apply words like those in the Sermon on the Mount today? Let's look at the different approaches in the history of the church to just one saying in this sermon: "Be perfect" (Matthew 5:48). What have we done with this statement of Jesus?
Sorne say Jesus is exaggerating, raising the standard higher than we can achieve, but if we strive for it we'll do better than we are now.
Others say that "being perfect" is what our moral life will be like in the eternal kingdom, and Jesus is teaching the final and eternal ethic God designs for us.
Still others suggest that "being perfect" forces us to look inside to our heart of hearts to see our sinfulness.
Yet others think Jesus means exactly what he says: he expects us to be perfect.
One more; some think "perfect" actually means "whole" or "mature," so that being whole and mature is what Jesus really wants.
We will probably not agree on how to read the word "perfect" in Matthew 5:48, but I hope this little section gets us to think harder about how we are reading the Bible. We are not trying to resolve all these issues. Instead, we are intent on demonstrating that we apply some of what Jesus says and we choose not to apply other things Jesus has said. In other words, there is some adopting and adapting involved even with the sayings of Jesus. If there are two choices --totally literal or discerning a pattern -- most of us will choose the latter every time.
By now I hope you are a bit unnerved about what I have said. This Chapter is intended to provoke in order to get you to think together about how you are actually reading the Bible. Some of you may want to turn back to a much more literal, take-it-all-or-nothing approach, but I'm guessing most of you are now becoming aware that you do in fact adopt and adapt. What we must now discover is this: What principles do we use to adopt and adapt the Bible?
What about the name?
The name Theophilus occurs frequently from the third century B.C. on for both Jews and Greeks. It is clear that the etymology of the name was not forgotten when the name was given.
“a friend of God”; Cadbury, “Preface of Luke,” 507
The many attempts at identifying Theophilus, either under that name, or assuming it is a pseudonym, are pure speculation. A symbolic significance for the name cannot be entirely ruled out. Much about Luke-Acts would well suit Cornelius-like readers.
The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, each of which provided in turn priestly service in the temple for one week, twice in the year. The earlier pre-exilic divisions (1 Chr 24:7–18) were apparently reconstituted out of the four divisions that returned from exile (Ezra 2:36–39; 10:18–22). The word Luke uses for these courses is found in the LXX (The Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT) of 1 Chr 23:6 and is also found in a first-century-b.c.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition
The division of Abijah is the eighth of the courses (special dignities were attached to the first of the courses [Zahn, 63 n 52], but there is no reason to think beyond that of a ranking of the courses). Goulder and Sanderson  17) note that the following course in 1 Chr 24:10 is that of Jeshua (=Jesus).
Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! --- Luke 1:28.
My mail carrier, driving his stubby white
Truck, trimmed in blue and red, wingless
commissioned by the civil service
Daily delivers the Gospel every Advent.
This Gabriel, uniformed in gabardine,
of his dazzling original,
Under the burden of greetings is stoical
But prompt: annunciations
at ten each Morning.
One or two or three a day at first;
By the second week momentum’s up,
My mail box is stuffed, each card stamped
With the glory at a cost
of only twenty-five cents,
(Bringing the news that God is here with us)
First class, personally hand addressed.
Some time later the brook dried up. --- 1 Kings 17:7.
The failure of the waters was meant, first, to deepen the prophet [Elijah’s] sense of kinship. (The Weaving of Glory (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The)
) He was drawn into a new communion with Israel in the very hour that Cherith ceased to flow. There had been no rain, and the whole land was parched—and all the time, in the little vale of Cherith, the coolness and murmuring of the stream. It was very comfortable, and it was very happy, but it is not thus that Jehovah makes his prophets. What people have got to suffer they must suffer. What people have to endure they must endure. And so, that he might be a brother among brothers and feel his kinship with his suffering nation, some time later the brook dried up.
That is still the secret of the failing brook—not because God is angry; it is because our Father wants us to be a family. One touch of nature makes us all akin, even if it is only a touch of common thirst, and there is many a brook that the Almighty dries so that we may cease from our pride and realize our kinship. There is no sympathy so deep and strong as the sympathy that springs out of a common suffering. Exclude a person from what others have to bear and you exclude him or her from the family heritage.
There are things, then, that it is hard to lose, but in God’s sight it may be good to lose them. We grow more loving, more sympathetic, and more kind; life is fuller and richer and warmer than it once was. We were very superior and exclusive once, and the common people were odiously common—but some time later the brook dried up.
--- George H. Morrison
As the church grew institutionally during its first centuries, those flooding through its doors were not always of high caliber. In reaction, a number of Christians withdrew to a life of poverty, chastity, and separation. Monastic forms developed, and sometimes rivalry arose among monks concerning self-denial. Simeon seems to have won the contest.
He was born about 390 to a shepherd’s family in Cilicia. He kept flocks as a boy, but when thirteen he was moved by listening to the Beatitudes. He left home to join a cloister but was soon dismissed because of his acts of self-torture. Simeon moved to the Syrian desert and lived with an iron chain on his feet before having himself buried up to the neck for several months.
When crowds flocked to view his acts of perceived holiness, Simeon determined to escape the distractions by living atop a pillar. His first column was six feet high, but soon he built higher ones until his permanent abode towered sixty feet above ground.
The tiny perch wouldn’t allow for comfort, but a railing and a rope kept Simeon from falling while asleep. Disciples took his food and removed his waste by ladder. The rope eventually became embedded in his flesh, rotted, and teemed with worms. When worms fell from his sores, Simeon would pick them up and replace them, saying, “Eat what God has given you.”
Simeon lived atop his pole for thirty years, exposed to blistering heat, driving rain, and chilling frost. But if his motive was crowd avoidance, he failed. Huge numbers came to gawk at him, and Simeon preached to them daily, stressing the importance of prayer, selflessness, and justice. He settled disputes between neighbors and persuaded lenders to reduce their interest.
He was likened to a candle on a candlestick.
He died at age 69, but his example created a fashion of pillar hermits lasting over a thousand years. His name has been remembered throughout church history on January 5—in western tradition the Feast Day of Saint Simeon Stylites.
You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols.
--- 1 Corinthians 5:10.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 5
“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” --- Genesis 1:4.
Light might well be good since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, “Let there be light.” We who enjoy it should be more grateful for it than we are, and see more of God in it and by it. Light physical is said by Solomon to be sweet, but Gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures. When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we behold sin in its true colours, and ourselves in our real position; we see the Most Holy God as he reveals himself, the plan of mercy as he propounds it, and the world to come as the Word describes it. Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colours, but whether they be knowledge, joy, holiness, or life, all are divinely good. If the light received be thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where he reveals himself. O Lord, since light is so good, give us more of it, and more of thyself, the true light.
No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them, let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. The children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord’s work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it for ever. Our Churches should by discipline divide the light from the darkness, and we should by our distinct separation from the world do the same. In judgment, in action, in hearing, in teaching, in association, we must discern between the precious and the vile, and maintain the great distinction which the Lord made upon the world’s first day. O Lord Jesus, be thou our light throughout the whole of this day, for thy light is the light of men.
Evening - January 5
“And God saw the light.” --- Genesis 1:4.
This Morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord’s dividing it from the darkness, we now note the special eye which the Lord had for the light. “God saw the light”—he looked at it with complacency, gazed upon it with pleasure, saw that it “was good.” If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, he looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to him as his own handiwork, but because it is like himself, for “He is light.” Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which he has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees “light” in your heart, for he has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from his gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in his finished work, God sees the “light.” He not only sees it, but he also preserves it in you. “I, the Lord, do keep it.” This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by his grace, he will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION
1787 “K”—in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns,
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
A believer’s stability for this life, as well as his confidence for eternity, rests solely on the written promises of God’s Word. The direction of the living God for our lives is very definite. It is found in a firm foundation—the written revelation: “Thus saith the Lord.”
In the first stanza the sure foundation of the Christian faith is established as being the Word of God. This challenging question is posed: What more can God do than provide His very Word as a completed revelation of Himself to man? The succeeding verses personalize precious promises from His Word:
Verse Two—Isaiah 41:10—“Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God …”
Verse Three—Isaiah 43:2—“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee …”
Verse Four—2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness …”
Verse Five—Hebrews 13:5—“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee …”
The authorship of the text has always been a mystery to hymnologists. Its first appearance was in 1787 in Selection of Hymns, published by Dr. John Rippon, pastor of the Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London. He was one of the most popular and influential dissenting ministers of his time.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said—To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee—O be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.
“When thru the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
“When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee—I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never—no, never—no, never forsake.”
For Today: Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Psalm 36:1; Psalm 118:6, 7; Hebrews 13:5, 6.
Plant your feet firmly on the “thus saith the Lords” and live life confidently in that strength. Carry this musical message with you ---