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Joshua 24     Acts 4     Jeremiah 13     Matthew 27


Joshua 24

The Covenant Renewal at Shechem

Joshua 24 1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates,[a] Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River[b] and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.

6 “‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

Choose Whom You Will Serve

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28 So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.

Joshua's Death and Burial

29 After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old. 30 And they buried him in his own inheritance at Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

31 Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.

32 As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money.[c] It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of Phinehas his son, which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim.


Acts 4

Peter and John Before the Council

Acts 4:1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

     Some New Testament passages suggest that the apostle Paul was not an eloquent man either. We know from his own statements that, whether by choice or necessity, he did not come among the Corinthians “proclaiming . . . in lofty words or wisdom”; rather he came “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). Paul’s only confidence was in God speaking with him, electrifying his words, as it were, when he spoke.
     It is significant, I believe, that those the Lord chose to bear his message and carry on his work were for the most part “uneducated and ordinary” people (Acts 4:13). The pattern seems to prove amply that in God’s selecting them there would be no mistake as to the source of their words and authority. God would use ordinary human beings and would dignify them by their association with him. But just as this is wholly suitable to his redemptive purposes, so it is wholly appropriate that everyone (especially the individuals involved) should be clear about the source of the power manifested.
     There must be no misallocation of glory, not because God is a cosmic egotist but because that would destroy the order that’s in the blessedness of life in Christ. It would direct us away from God. Hence Paul writes, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31). The success of the redemptive plan therefore requires that “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor 1:26). Moses and Paul, two of the people most responsible for the human authorship of the Bible, were, accordingly, weak with words so that they might have the best chance of clinging constantly to their support in God, who spoke in union with them, and so that they might unerringly connect their hearers with God.
   Dallas Willard - Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God

14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26  The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They Had Everything in Common

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.


Jeremiah 13

The Ruined Loincloth

Jeremiah 13

1 Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

The Jars Filled with Wine

12 “You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.”’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ 13 Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David's throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 14 And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’”

Exile Threatened

15 Hear and give ear; be not proud,
for the Lord has spoken.
16 Give glory to the Lord your God
before he brings darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the twilight mountains,
and while you look for light
he turns it into gloom
and makes it deep darkness.
17 But if you will not listen,
my soul will weep in secret for your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,
because the Lord's flock has been taken captive.

18 Say to the king and the queen mother:
“Take a lowly seat,
for your beautiful crown
has come down from your head.”
19 The cities of the Negeb are shut up,
with none to open them;
all Judah is taken into exile,
wholly taken into exile.

20 “Lift up your eyes and see
those who come from the north.
Where is the flock that was given you,
your beautiful flock?
21 What will you say when they set as head over you
those whom you yourself have taught to be friends to you?
Will not pangs take hold of you
like those of a woman in labor?
22 And if you say in your heart,
‘Why have these things come upon me?’
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up
and you suffer violence.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
24 I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the wind from the desert.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord,
because you have forgotten me
and trusted in lies.
26 I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
27 I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”


Jesus Delivered to Pilate

Matthew 27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

Judas Hangs Himself

3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

The Crowd Chooses Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  We must not lose sight of the truth which was unwittingly uttered by the Jewish scoffers. They themselves are witnesses that Jesus of Nazareth trusted in God: why then was he permitted to perish? Jehovah had aforetime delivered those who rolled their burdens upon him: why was this man deserted? Oh that they had understood the answer! Note further, that their ironical jest, "seeing he delighted in him," was true. The Lord did delight in his dear Son, and when he was found in fashion as a man, and became obedient unto death, he still was well pleased with him. Strange mixture! Jehovah delights in him, and yet bruises him; is well pleased, and yet slays him.  The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)  For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

     Pilate, Caiaphas and Judas – on whom the evangelists fasten the major blame for the crucifixion of Jesus, and at those associated with them, whether priests or people or soldiers. Of each person or group the same verb is used, paradidōmi, to ‘hand over’ or ‘betray’. Jesus had predicted that he would be ‘betrayed into the hands of men’ or ‘handed over to be crucified’.  Matt. 17:22; 26:2  And the evangelists tell their story in such a way as to show how his prediction came true. First, Judas ‘handed him over’ to the priests (out of greed). Next, the priests ‘handed him over’ to Pilate (out of envy). Then Pilate ‘handed him over’ to the soldiers (out of cowardice), and they crucified him.  Matt. 26:14–16  (Judas);  27:18  (the priests);  27:26  (Pilate) Our instinctive reaction to this accumulated evil is to echo Pilate’s astonished question, when the crowd howled for his blood: ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ (Matt. 27:23). But Pilate received no rational answer. The hysterical crowd only shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ But why?
     It is natural to make excuses for them, for we see ourselves in them and we would like to be able to excuse ourselves. Indeed, there were some mitigating circumstances. As Jesus himself said in praying for the forgiveness of the soldiers who were crucifying him,  ‘they do not know what they are doing’.  Similarly, Peter said to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, ‘I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.’ Paul added that, if ‘the rulers of this age’ had understood, ‘they would not have crucified the Lord of glory’.  Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17; 1 Cor. 2:8   Yet they knew enough to be culpable, to accept the fact of their guilt and to be condemned for their actions. Were they not claiming full responsibility when they cried out, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’?  Matt. 27:25. Cf. Acts 5:28   Peter was quite outspoken on the Day of Pentecost: ‘Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Moreover, far from disagreeing with his verdict, his hearers were ‘cut to the heart’ and asked what they should do to make amends  (Acts 2:36–37).  Stephen was even more direct in his speech to the Sanhedrin which led to his martyrdom. Calling the Council ‘stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears’, he accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit just like their ancestors. For their ancestors had persecuted the prophets and killed those who predicted the Messiah’s coming, and now they had betrayed and murdered the Messiah himself  (Acts 7:51–52).  Paul was later to use similar language in writing to the  Thessalonians  about contemporary Jewish opposition to the gospel: they ‘killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out’. Because they were trying to keep the Gentiles from salvation, God’s judgment would fall upon them  (1 Thess. 2:14–16).
     This blaming of the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Jesus is extremely unfashionable today. Indeed, if it is used as a justification for slandering and persecuting the Jews (as it has been in the past), or for anti-Semitism, it is absolutely indefensible. The way to avoid anti-Semitic prejudice, however, is not to pretend that the Jews were innocent, but, having admitted their guilt, to add that others shared in it. This was how the apostles saw it. Herod and Pilate, Gentiles and Jews, they said, had together ‘conspired’ against Jesus  (Acts 4:27) . More important still, we ourselves are also guilty. If we were in their place, we would have done what they did. Indeed, we have done it. For whenever we turn away from Christ, we ‘are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace’  (Heb. 6:6).  We too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ the old negro spiritual asks. And we must answer, ‘Yes, we were there.’ Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining, and handing him over to be crucified. We may try to wash our hands of responsibility like Pilate. But our attempt will be as futile as his. For there is blood on our hands. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, ‘only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross’, wrote Canon Peter Green, ‘may claim his share in its grace’.
     Peter Green, Watchers by the Cross, p.17  The Cross of Christ

The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Man Shall Not Live on the New Testament Alone

By David T. Lamb

     What do Christians do with the Old Testament, with its weird laws, brutal violence, and unpredictable God? Some are confused by it, some are afraid of it, and some simply ignore it. Our confusion, fear, and avoidance of the Old Testament has led to a severe problem. Like a doctor examining a patient, Brent Strawn examines our Old Testament habits and makes a dire diagnosis that supplies the title of his new book: The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment.

     Strawn’s analysis is divided into three sections. The first two focus on the problem (Part 1: “The Old Testament as a Dying Language” and Part 2: “Signs of Morbidity”), while the final section offers a solution (Part 3: “Path to Recovery”). Strawn’s grave assessment should cause great concern to any who believe, along with Paul the apostle, that all Scripture is divinely inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16). But his suggested treatment should be a source of great hope.

     A Disappearing Language | Strawn bases his diagnosis on empirical data from a 2010 Pew Forum survey (inspired by Stephen Prothero’s 2007 book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-And Doesn't). In addition, he draws on patterns of Old Testament usage in popular sermons, hymns, and songs, and in the The Revised Common Lectionary: Episcopal Edition (a daily Bible-reading plan used by certain Protestant denominations). Despite widespread claims of religiosity among the US population, Strawn’s evidence strongly suggests that most American Christians are relatively ignorant of basic truths about the Bible, particularly the Old Testament—and that trends in sermons and worship are contributing to the problem. For the most part, the Old Testament is ignored, and even when it isn’t, only a narrow selection of familiar texts are read, sung, or taught.

     To convey the severity of the problem, Strawn uses two helpful metaphors (medical and linguistic), and terminology from these realms permeate the book. While the book’s title emphasizes the medical analogy (the Old Testament as dying patient), the linguistic analogy plays a larger role in illustrating the book’s point. Strawn conceives of the Old Testament as a language that has been disappearing due to neglect and avoidance by the church. When people fail to learn the language in its full complexity, they end up essentially recreating it in a simplified, pidgin form.

     In the middle of the book, Strawn looks at the problem from a different angle by focusing on three problematic groups: New Atheists, Marcionites, and “Happiologists” (Joel Osteen–types). New Atheists like Richard Dawkins misrepresent the Old Testament with flat, overly literal readings. Strawn insightfully points out some of the problems with Dawkins’s use of Scripture. Despite what Dawkins claims, Genesis 19 (an account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) doesn’t present Lot in anything like a positive light. And while Genesis 22 is a difficult text, it is abundantly clear that Abraham was being tested and that ultimately God did not want him to sacrifice his son.

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     David T. Lamb, per Amazon | David T. Lamb is the Allan A. MacRae Professor of Old Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary.

     Dave lived in Lexington (KY) long enough to become a Wildcat fan (age 1), lived in Downers Grove (IL) long enough to become a Cubs fan (age 5), and lived in Ames (IA) long enough to learn how to walk beans and de-tassel corn (age 18).

     As a young man, he went west to Stanford (CA), where he studied economics (BA), industrial engineering (MS) and Bible (in InterVarsity). He witnessed “The Play” where the Cardinal band came on the field after the Cal player’s knee hit the ground (before lateraling the ball). He served on staff with InterVarsity (1986-1999) at Claremont, Redlands (CA), and Penn (PA).

     Against her better judgment, Shannon agreed to marry him (1991), and together they created Nathan and Noah. One can never have enough advanced degrees, so he got an MDiv (Fuller Seminary), an MPhil, and DPhil (University of Oxford).

     Since 2006, he has taught Old Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary. He loves to give others a love for God’s word.


David T. Lamb Books:

Repentance and Reformation

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/1/2010

     The Protestant Reformation is called the Reformation for a good reason. It is not called the First Reformation or Reformation II, as if they happen every so often. I have never been asked, when referencing the Reformation, “Of which Reformation do you speak?” Renewals? Of course. Revivals? Who could doubt it? There has been only one Reformation, precisely because they are rather hard to come by. Those of us who long for another, then, might be wise to search out that spark that started the Reformation. Where did it all begin? Was it with Martin Luther’s stirring speech at the Diet of Worms, his firm resolve to stand on the Word of God? Perhaps. Did it start earlier, in Luther’s study, as he exegeted key texts on justification? Maybe. Did it start with his fiery speech before he dropped the papal bull announcing his excommunication into the flames? One could so argue.

     Most of us, however, celebrate Reformation Day on October 31, not the anniversary of any of the above but the day Luther nailed the Ninetyfive Theses to the door in Wittenberg. That hammer striking the nail ignited the spark that started it all. If we want a new reformation, and such we ought, we should look no further than the very first of those theses, which reads, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” If we would find reformation again, we must repent of our failure to live lives of repentance. We will change the world out there when we change the church in here. We will change the church in here when our own hearts are changed. That happens only as we repent and believe the gospel.

     One of the great blessings of the Reformation was the destruction of that perspective that cleaves the world in two. Rome divided the world into a spiritual and a natural realm — one good, the other at best neutral. The Reformation carried with it the notion of the priesthood of all believers and the principle that all our lives are lived coram Deo, before the face of God. The Bible became for our fathers the sourcebook for wisdom not just on how to get one’s soul saved but on how to justly govern a culture, how to understand work, how to raise up godly seed. That creation-affirming spirit drove both the Pilgrims and the puritans across the ocean to fulfill their errand in the wilderness. In more recent times, heroes of the faith such as Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer have carried the banner of reformation into broader and broader spheres. For all this blessing we must give thanks. We ought also, however, to be on our guard. In reaction against the dangers of pietism — the view that suggests that all we ought to be concerned about is our own souls and not the world around us — too many of us have dishonored the blessings of piety. Worse still, we have missed the hard truth that it is piety that drives the engine of reformation.

     That piety that drives reformation, however, is Reformation piety. That is to say, we will get nowhere if we seek to change the world by our own spiritual bootstraps. Reformation piety is not a mere commitment not to dance, drink, or chew, and not to date girls that do. No reformation will ever be built on the foundation of our own spiritual ardor. Reformation piety is a piety that breathes the very air of repentance. It sets aside the camel-swallowing, gnat-strangling propensity we all have of looking at our own sins through a microscope and looking at the sins of others through a magnifying glass. We instead ought to be, as Luther was before us, haunted by our own sin long enough to cry out for the grace of God. And then we believe.

     It was, in the end, faith that brought us the Reformation, and only faith will bring us another. We did not change until we learned that we cannot change ourselves. We did not enter into purity until we understood, by His grace, that only His purity would do. That Reformation faith, however, did not end with our own salvation. Neither did it leap from our own salvation to remaking the world. Instead, it moved from saving faith to sanctifying faith, from repenting to believing. Then, all heaven began to break loose.

     Jesus said much the same thing. He told us to stop our fretting and worrying about this thing and that. He reminded us that this is how the unbelievers behave. We are called to faith. We are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Repenting and believing is the very pathway into the kingdom, the very coin of the realm. It is, in turn, how we come to possess that righteousness that is His rather than our own. When we do this, and stop our incessant worrying and plotting about everything else, it turns out that everything else takes care of itself. All these things are added unto us.

     The life of repentance and faith — this must needs be our only “strategy.” Repent and believe, and reformation will follow. Jesus said so. Luther said so. Here we stand. We can do no other. So help us God.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

After the Revolution

By Albert Mohler 6/1/2010

     Welcome to the Brave New World of new media. Over the last two decades, we have experienced nothing less than a revolution in the ways that information is gathered, manipulated, published, and disseminated. And, as is the case with any development of this magnitude, Christians must give careful consideration to our responsibility in the context of this new digital age.

     Years ago, Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab declared the revolution as a shift from atoms to bits — digital bits of information shared computer to computer. Even in 1995, that looked like an overstatement. We now know that it was not. The old world of media was about paper, books, newsprint, and film. The new world is digital, appearing mainly on electronic screens. The great media transformation has been described as a shift from dead trees to live screens, opening unprecedented opportunities for the sharing of information.

     Looking back, it is now clear that the development of print — the Gutenberg Revolution — was a major factor in the spread of the Reformation. Books and Bibles could now be printed in mass quantities, and printing presses could be easily hidden and hastily reassembled.

     The printed word became the context for public conversation. Theological disputations, political debates, and philosophical arguments took shape in books, pamphlets, and other forms of printed media. Christians responded by placing a premium on literacy and engaging print media with a sense of missionary zeal.

     A second revolution in communication came mainly in the twentieth century, with the development of the film industry and broadcast media. Once again, Christians quickly came to understand their responsibility to listen carefully to the public conversation that now shifted to radio, television, and cinema.

     The third great transformation in modern communications is the Digital Revolution — the great shift of information and entertainment to the internet and an ever-expanding universe of digital appliances. The digital world is home to the new media, a constellation of new modes and technologies of communication. Once again, the public conversation has shifted in light of this revolution. The world has gone digital.

     The migration of information to digital formats happened with stunning speed, leaving newspapers, magazines, and the major television networks facing the possibility of extinction — at least in their present form. The impact of the revolution is still unfolding. The internet is now home to millions of weblogs (blogs) that drive the news and shape opinion often before the major media know what is happening, much less what to say about it. Webpages offer a seemingly endless stream of news, information, entertainment, analysis, gossip, and nonsense. The digital world flattens hierarchies. A teenager might be writing that blog that scoops a major news network on a major story. The great challenge for most of us is not access (the challenge of the old media) but adequate filtering. The digital world is all about open communication — the gatekeepers of old media are no longer in control. How do we find what we need and disregard all the rest?

     The New Media world includes social media, as the world is increasingly and incessantly connected. The 350 million registered users of Facebook would, taken together, constitute one of the largest nations on earth. Twitter, the microblogging phenomenon, is now a major platform for instant news and analysis. Like every information revolution, the digital revolution and new media present Christians and the church with both enormous challenges and unprecedented opportunities.

     In 1 Peter 3:15, the faithful Christian is described as “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Christians must be engaged in the public conversation that goes on all around us. Like the old media of print and airwaves, the new media demand our attention — not just because they are the conduits of what is new, interesting, and entertaining — but because these are the media currently shaping the minds around us, igniting the interest of the public, establishing what our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens understand as reality.

     Like the Reformers who seized the opportunity afforded by the Gutenberg Revolution, we must see the world of new media as an arena for Christian truth-telling. Our engagement with new media is driven by impulses that are evangelistic, missiological, and grounded in apologetics.

     We must be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” in the context of new media as well as the media platforms of old. We rightly treasure the printed book, but we are also aware that the public conversation is now largely online.

     Like every information revolution, the rise of new media requires Christian discernment. At the same time, there is no way we can ignore this challenge and deny the revolution. We can hardly expect to explain the hope that is in us when we aren’t even part of the conversation.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Albert Mohler Books:

The Blessings of the New Media

By Ed Stetzer 6/1/2010

     Popular and emerging forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging are all around us. Yet many pastors and church leaders have been reluctant to embrace them. These new forms of media have become a very present part of our culture, and while abuses and misuses are often pointed out, I would like to suggest that when used in the best ways, the new media are a blessing and aid to our churches, pastors, and church planters.

     As I see it, social media assist churches and Christian leaders in at least four ways:

Social Media Assist in Community

     No, Twitter is not biblical community. And I don’t believe there is such a thing as an “internet church.” Social media itself cannot create enough community for us to live as God intends, but they can be a part of it.

     Those who attempt to find community exclusively online will miss out on the fullness and authenticity of relationships God intends for us to have face to face. Gathering together ( Heb. 10:25 ) requires feet and faces, not just electrons and avatars. Therefore, when a Christian seeks to be a part of a local church only by live streaming the worship service and conversing on message boards, he is short-circuiting the fellowship of the saints and his own spiritual growth. Yet, I do not believe that virtual community and real community are enemies. I see them more as friends, the former as a help to the latter. Unfortunately, for too many theologically-minded pastors, their aversion to the abuses of social media has distracted them from the opportunity they provide.

     While social media cannot replace real-life interpersonal relationships, they can assist in building real community by connecting people in ways that allow them to share both the big and small things of life. Web services such as Facebook allow people who might see one another only during church on Sunday, or midweek in smaller community groups, to continue to share aspects of life they would not otherwise. This allows friends to look into the parts of life we share and respond with encouragement or exhortation.

Social Media Assist in Communication

     The age of the bulletin (or worship guide) may not have completely passed, but these days few read it carefully to stay abreast of current events and news within the church. Instead, many rely on email blasts, Twitter, and texting for communication. These forms of communication can’t be left in the pews or forgotten in Bibles. They pop up in our email inboxes or on our phones, and can be easily passed on to others.

Social Media Assist in Inspiration

     I get that most of us don’t need to waste time with some Twitter or Facebook comments when people are just sharing the mundane aspects of life. But many are choosing to share quotes from classic and modern authors, or insights they glean from Scripture. One leader recently gathered summations of the gospel via Twitter. Many of those 140-character responses were quite good. Therefore, this medium can serve as a means of introducing participants to theologians, pastors, writers, musicians, books, conferences, events, and so on. While services such as Twitter do not really allow for deep conversations, they can at least bring some great influences and inspiration into our lives.

Social Media Allow Better Introductions

     Admittedly, people who use social networking choose to share more of themselves. However, in doing so, they have the opportunity to show the work of the gospel in their thinking, family, and lives.

     On countless occasions, young pastors have thanked me for blogging and tweeting about my family and how I prioritize them. Many listen more readily to me because they feel they know me already.

Conclusion

     Like all good things common to man, social media can be either a distraction or a blessing. It depends on what we do with them. Some say they take too much time — which tells me they may not be familiar with tools such as Twitter or Facebook.

     Resisting social media and being unengaged in online community is safe but unwise. The gospel was not lost in the move from the scroll to the book, and it won’t be lost in the move from the page to hypertext. Social media are helpful tools that many in your congregation are already using — and your church (including its leadership) needs to be a part of that.

     As I consider social media in the twenty-first century, I can’t help but think of the spread of the gospel and the church’s growth in the first century. Communication was greatly aided then by the common language of Koine Greek. Since the New Testament was written in a language accessible to so many, the Word of God was able to penetrate different cultures rapidly. Perhaps today the new media will be the “common language” for the masses to hear the gospel.

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     Per Amazon | Ed Stetzer, PhD, holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and is the dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College. He also serves as the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton. Stetzer is a prolific author and a well-known conference speaker. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; holds two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and has written or cowritten more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles.

     Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today and a columnist for Outreach magazine. He is frequently interviewed for or cited in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. He is also the executive editor of The Gospel Project, a bible study curriculum used by more than one million people each week.

     Stetzer cohosts BreakPoint This Week, a radio broadcast that airs on more than four hundred media outlets. He serves as the interim teaching pastor at The Moody Church in Chicago. Stetzer lives in Wheaton, Illinois, with his wife, Donna, and their three daughters.


Ed Stetzer Books:

Get Real

By Keith Mathison 6/1/2010

     I do not care for shopping malls. I have not reflected on the reasons for my dislike for any significant amount of time. It’s just a gut-level, visceral reaction I have when I enter one of these buildings. I like the main streets in small towns with local shops that have their own unique atmosphere. Malls seem to want to mimic small-town main streets in some ways, but with their cookiecutter franchises that are like the stores in every other mall in every other city, they are the exact opposite of small-town main streets. In fact, they have contributed to the gradual extinction of small-town main streets.

     On those occasions when I do have to enter a mall, I often sit on one of the benches outside the store while my wife shops. It’s a good place to do some people watching, and there are some interesting characters inhabiting the malls. Not too long ago, while sitting on one of these benches in a local suburban mall, I turned and saw a bizarre sight. Several young boys, about eleven or twelve years old, were walking in my direction. It appeared that every one of them was trying to copy the fashion style of the so-called “gangster rappers.” They were wearing oversized baggy jeans with their boxer shorts exposed. They had their caps on sideways. It was the full getup. To top it off, it was evident that they were trying to appear menacing.

     I couldn’t help the thoughts that went through my head in rapid succession: “Did your parents let you out of the house looking like that? Are you aware of the girls behind you giggling hysterically? Do you know you’d be a lot scarier without the Pokemon T-Shirts?” You get the point. They looked silly, but they didn’t know they looked silly. They were posers, pretending to be something they weren’t, and they were failing spectacularly.

     Sadly, pre-teens are not the only ones who sometimes pretend to be something they are not. Many grown men and women who should know better do similar things. The clichéd mid-life crisis is a perfect example. How many times have you seen an overweight fifty-something-year-old man trying to look and act as if he is in his twenties again? Some men do not seem to realize that unbuttoning Hawaiian shirts halfway down their chests, wearing gold chains, and driving Corvette convertibles does not cause people to be transported back in time.

     The same phenomenon exists in the church. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve visited or been told by others of churches that have adopted some kind of new worship service, not because it is who they are, but because they think it will make them more acceptable to a younger crowd. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but churches that do this do nothing other than make themselves look as silly as those twelveyear- olds in the mall. And the younger crowd isn’t fooled for a moment. Like a middle-aged man trying to hide his baldness with a comb-over, the truth is obvious to everyone.

     This phenomenon is also evident in some pulpits. Occasionally one comes across preachers who embrace a manner of speaking that is completely unnatural for them. Some attempt to adopt the mannerisms and enunciation of preachers they admire and respect, even though such mannerisms and ways of speaking are not their own. Some put on airs. I’ve heard some go so far as to attempt accents that are unnatural to them when they preach. Impersonating a police officer is a crime. Impersonating a Victorian-era Englishman in the pulpit should be.

     There is a potential danger in such behavior, aside from looking silly, because saying something in a way that is forced and artificial can very easily distract people from hearing what is being said. If the content of what is being said is a political speech, a classroom lecture, or something similar, the consequences may be minimal. If the content of what is being said is the gospel, the consequences may be eternal. There is no need to place such obstacles in the way of biblical truth.

     The prophets and apostles came from all spheres of life. Some were priests. Some were farmers. Some were fishermen. And yet they proclaimed God’s Word. Peter and John, for example, did not pretend to be educated philosophers or Pharisees when they proclaimed the gospel (Acts 4:1–12). Their listeners recognized quite easily that they were “uneducated, common men” (4:13). Peter and John understood that their identity was not the important question their listeners needed to be thinking about. The truly important question their listeners needed to consider was the identity of Jesus.

     Whether we were born black or white, rich or poor, let us be honest about who we are, recognizing that our true identity is found in Christ. Let us not place unnecessary stumbling-stones in the paths of unbelievers. Let us leave the playacting, pomposity, and pretentions to the experts in Hollywood, where bad impersonations are expected.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Joshua 24; Acts 4; Jeremiah 13; Matthew 27

By Don Carson 7/17/2018

     When Peter and John were released from their first whiff of persecution, they “went back to their own people” (Acts 4:23). The church gathered for prayer, using the words of Psalm 2 (Acts 4: 25-26). They understood that Old Testament text to be God’s speech (“You spoke”) by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David (Acts 4:25).

     At one level, Psalm 2 is an enthronement Psalm. Once again, however, the David-typology is strong. The kings of the earth and the rulers gathered against the Lord and against his Anointed One (the Messiah) — and climactically so when “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27). These earliest of our brothers and sisters in Christ ask for three things (Acts 4:29-30); (a) that the Lord would consider the threats of their opponents; (b) that they themselves might be enabled to speak God’s word with boldness; and (c) that God would perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus (which may mean, in their expectation, “through the apostles”; cf. Acts 2:4; Acts 3:6ff.; Acts 5:12).

     But before making their requests, these prayer warriors, after mentioning the wicked conspiracy of Herod, Pilate, and the rest, calmly address God in a confession of staggering importance: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28).

Observe:

     First, God’s sovereignty over the death of Christ does not mitigate the guilt of the human conspirators. On the other hand, the malice of their conspiracy has not caught God flat-footed, as if he had not foreseen the cross, much less planned it. The text plainly insists that God’s sovereignty is not mitigated by human actions, and human guilt is not exculpated by appeal to divine sovereignty. This duality is sometimes called compatibilism: God’s utter sovereignty and human moral responsibility are compatible. Complex issues are involved, but there can be no serious doubt that this stance is either taught or presupposed by the biblical writers (see meditation for February 17).

     Second, in this case it is doubly necessary to see how the two points hang together. If Jesus died solely as a result of human conspiracy, and not by the design and purpose of God, it is difficult to see how his death can be the long-planned divine response to our desperate need. If God’s sovereignty over Jesus’ death means that the human perpetrators are thereby exonerated, should this not also be true wherever God is sovereign? And then where is the sin that needs to be paid for by Jesus’ death? The integrity of the Gospel hangs on that element of Christian theism called compatibilism.

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 76

Who Can Stand Before You?
76 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.

1 In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
2 His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
3 There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah

4 Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains full of prey.
5 The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war
were unable to use their hands.
6 At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     7. I come now to the crowning point--viz. that the sacred Supper, on which the Lord left the memorial of his passion formed and engraved, was taken away, hidden, and destroyed, when the mass was erected. While the supper itself is a gift of God, which was to be received with thanksgiving, the sacrifice of the mass pretends to give a price to God to be received as satisfaction. As widely as giving differs from receiving, does sacrifice differ from the sacrament of the Supper. But herein does the wretched ingratitude of man appear,-- that when the liberality of the divine goodness ought to have been recognised, and thanks returned, he makes God to be his debtor. The sacrament promised, that by the death of Christ we were not only restored to life once, but constantly quickened, because all the parts of our salvation were then completed. The sacrifice of the mass uses a very different language--viz. that Christ must be sacrificed daily, in order that he may lend something to us. The Supper was to be dispensed at the public meeting of the Church, to remind us of the communion by which we are all united in Christ Jesus. This communion the sacrifice of the mass dissolves, and tears asunder. For after the heresy prevailed, that there behoved to be priests to sacrifice for the people, as if the Supper had been handed over to them, it ceased to be communicated to the assembly of the faithful according to the command of the Lord. Entrance has been given to private masses, which more resemble a kind of excommunication than that communion ordained by the Lord, when the priestling, about to devour his victim apart, separates himself from the whole body of the faithful. That there may be no mistake, I call it a private mass whenever there is no partaking of the Lord's Supper among believers, though, at the same time, a great multitude of persons may be present.

8. The origin of the name of Mass I have never been able certainly to ascertain. It seems probable that it was derived from the offerings which were collected. Hence the ancients usually speak of it in the plural number. But without raising any controversy as to the name, I hold that private masses are diametrically opposed to the institution of Christ, and are, therefore, an impious profanation of the sacred Supper. For what did the Lord enjoin? Was it not to take and divide amongst ourselves? What does Paul teach as to the observance of this command? Is it not that the breaking of bread is the communion of body and blood? (1 Cor. 10:16). Therefore, when one person takes without distributing, where is the resemblance? But that one acts in the name of the whole Church. By what command? Is it not openly to mock God when one privately seizes for himself what ought to have been distributed among a number? But as the words, both of our Saviour and of Paul, are sufficiently clear, we must briefly conclude, that wherever there is no breaking of bread for the communion of the faithful, there is no Supper of the Lord, but a false and preposterous imitation of the Supper. But false imitation is adulteration. Moreover, the adulteration of this high ordinance is not without impiety. In private masses, therefore, there is an impious abuse: and as in religion, one fault ever and anon begets another, after that custom of offering without communion once crept in, they began gradually to make innumerable masses in all the separate corners of the churches, and to draw the people hither and thither, when they ought to have formed one meeting, and thus recognised the mystery of their unity. Let them now go and deny their idolatry when they exhibit the bread in their masses, that it may be adored for Christ. In vain do they talk of those promises of the presence of Christ, which, however they may be understood, were certainly not given that impure and profane men might form the body of Christ as often as they please, and for whatever abuse they please; but that believers, while, with religious observance, they follow the command of Christ in celebrating the Supper, might enjoy the true participation of it.

9. We may add, that this perverse course was unknown to the purer Church. For however the more impudent among our opponents may attempt to gloss the matter, it is absolutely certain that all antiquity is opposed to them, as has been above demonstrated in other instances, and may be more surely known by the diligent reading of the Fathers. [657] But before I conclude, I ask our missal doctors, seeing they know that obedience is better than sacrifice, and God commands us to listen to his voice rather than to offer sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22),--how they can believe this method of sacrificing to be pleasing to God, since it is certain that he does not command it, and they cannot support it by one syllable of Scripture? Besides, when they hear the apostle declaring that "no man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron," so also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but he that said unto him, "Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee" (Heb. 5:4, 5). They must either prove God to be the author and founder of their priesthood, or confess that there is no honour from God in an office, into which, without being called, they have rushed with wicked temerity. They cannot produce one iota of Scripture in support of their priesthood. And must not the sacrifices be vain, since they cannot be offered without a priest?

10. Should any one here obtrude concise sentences of the ancients, and contend, or their authority, that the sacrifice which is performed in the Supper is to be understood differently from what we have explained it, let this be our brief reply,--that if the question relates to the approval of the fiction of sacrifice, as imagined by Papists in the mass, there is nothing in the Fathers to countenance the sacrilege. They indeed use the term sacrifice, but they, at the same time, explain that they mean nothing more than the commemoration of that one true sacrifice which Christ, our only sacrifice (as they themselves everywhere proclaim), performed on the cross. "The Hebrews," says Augustine (Cont. Faust. Lib. 20 c. 18), "in the victims of beasts which they offered to God, celebrated the prediction of the future victim which Christ offered: Christians now celebrate the commemoration of a finished sacrifice by the sacred oblation and participation of the body of Christ." Here he certainly teaches the same doctrine which is delivered at greater length in the Treatise on Faith, addressed to Peter the deacon, whoever may have been the author. The words are, "Hold most firmly, and have no doubt at all, that the Only-Begotten became incarnate for us, that he offered himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the time of the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed, and to whom now, with the Father and the Holy Spirit (with whom there is one Godhead), the holy Church, throughout the whole world, ceases not to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine. For, in those carnal victims, there was a typifying of the flesh of Christ, which he himself was to offer for our sins, and of the blood which he was to shed for the forgiveness of sins. But in that sacrifice there is thanksgiving and commemoration of the flesh of Christ which he offered for us, and of the blood which he shed for us." Hence Augustine himself, in several passages (Ep. 120, ad Honorat. Cont. Advers. Legis.), explains, that it is nothing else than a sacrifice of praise. In short, you will find in his writings, passim, that the only reason for which the Lord's Supper is called a sacrifice is, because it is a commemoration, an image, a testimonial of that singular, true, and only sacrifice by which Christ expiated our guilt. For there is a memorable passage (De Trinitate, Lib. 4 c. 24), where, after discoursing of the only sacrifice, he thus concludes: "Since, in a sacrifice, four things are considered--viz. to whom it is offered, by whom, what and for whom, the same one true Mediator, reconciling us to God by the sacrifice of peace, remains one with him to whom he offered, made himself one with those for whom he offered, is himself the one who offered, and the one thing which he offered." Chrysostom speaks to the same effect. They so strongly claim the honour of the priesthood for Christ alone, that Augustine declares it would be equivalent to Antichrist for any one to make a bishop to be an intercessor between God and man (August. Cont. Parmen. Lib. 2 c. 8). [658]

11. And yet we deny not that in the Supper the sacrifice of Christ is so vividly exhibited as almost to set the spectacle of the cross before our eyes, just as the apostle says to the Galatians, that Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth before their eyes, when the preaching of the cross was delivered to them (Gal. 3:1). But because I see that those ancient writers have wrested this commemoration to a different purpose than was accordant to the divine institution (the Supper somehow seemed to them to present the appearance of a repeated, or at least renewed, immolation), nothing can be safer for the pious than to rest satisfied with the pure and simple ordinance of God, whose Supper it is said to be, just because his authority alone ought to appear in it. Seeing that they retained a pious and orthodox view of the whole ordinance--and I cannot discover that they wished to derogate in the least from the one sacrifice of the Lord--I cannot charge them with any impiety, and yet I think they cannot be excused from having erred somewhat in the mode of action. They imitated the Jewish mode of sacrificing more closely than either Christ had ordained, or the nature of the gospel allowed. The only thing, therefore, for which they may be justly censured is, that preposterous analogy, that not contented with the simple and genuine institution of Christ, they declined too much to the shadows of the law.

12. Any who will diligently consider, will perceive that the word of the Lord makes this distinction between the Mosaic sacrifices and our eucharist--that while the former represented to the Jewish people the same efficacy of the death of Christ which is now exhibited to us in the Supper, yet the form of representation was different. There the Levitical priests were ordered to typify the sacrifice which Christ was to accomplish; a victim was placed to act as a substitute for Christ himself; an altar was erected on which it was to be sacrificed; the whole, in short, was so conducted as to bring under the eye an image of the sacrifice which was to be offered to God in expiation. But now that the sacrifice has been performed, the Lord has prescribed a different method to us--viz. to transmit the benefit of the sacrifice offered to him by his Son to his believing people. The Lord, therefore, has given us a table at which we may feast, not an altar on which a victim may be offered; he has not consecrated priests to sacrifice, but ministers to distribute a sacred feast. The more sublime and holy this mystery is, the more religiously and reverently ought it to be treated. Nothing, therefore, is safer than to banish all the boldness of human sense, and adhere solely to what Scripture delivers. And certainly, if we reflect that it is the Supper of the Lord and not of men, why do we allow ourselves to be turned aside one nail's-breadth from Scripture, by any authority of man or length of prescription? [659] Accordingly, the apostle, in desiring completely to remove the vices which had crept into the Church of Corinth, as the most expeditious method, recalls them to the institution itself, showing that thence a perpetual rule ought to be derived.

13. Lest any quarrelsome person should raise a dispute with us as to the terms sacrifice and priest, I will briefly explain what in the whole of this discussion we mean by sacrifice, and what by priest. Some, on what rational ground I see not, extend the term sacrifice to all sacred ceremonies and religious acts. We know that by the uniform use of Scripture, the name of sacrifice is given to what the Greeks call at one time thusia, at another prosphopa`, at another teletne`. This, in its general acceptation, includes everything whatever that is offered to God. Wherefore, we ought to distinguish, but so that the distinction may derive its analogy from the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law, under whose shadows the Lord was pleased to represent to his people the whole reality of sacrifices. Though these were various in form, they may all be referred to two classes. For either an oblation for sin was made by a certain species of satisfaction, by which the penalty was redeemed before God, or it was a symbol and attestation of religion and divine worship, at one time in the way of supplication to demand the favour of God; at another, by way of thanksgiving, to testify gratitude to God for benefits received; at another, as a simple exercise of piety, to renew the sanction of the covenant, to which latter branch, burnt-offerings, and libations, oblations, first-fruits, and peace offerings, referred. Hence let us also distribute them into two classes. The other class, with the view of explaining, let us call latpeutiko`n, and sebasticho`n, as consisting of the veneration and worship which believers both owe and render to God; or, if you prefer it, let us call it eucharistiko`n, since it is exhibited to God by none but those who, enriched with his boundless benefits, offer themselves and all their actions to him in return. The other class let us call propitiatory or expiatory. A sacrifice of expiation is one whose object is to appease the wrath of God, to satisfy his justice, and thereby wipe and wash away the sins, by which the sinner being cleansed and restored to purity, may return to favour with God. Hence the name which was given in the Law to the victims which were offered in expiation of sin (Exod. 29:36); not that they were adequate to regain the favour of God, and wipe away guilt, but because they typified the true sacrifice of this nature, which was at length performed in reality by Christ alone; by him alone, because no other could, and once, because the efficacy and power of the one sacrifice performed by Christ is eternal, as he declared by his voice, when he said, "It is finished;" that is, that everything necessary to regain the favour of the Father, to procure forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and salvation, that all this was performed and consummated by his one oblation, and that hence nothing was wanting. No place was left for another sacrifice.

14. Wherefore, I conclude, that it is an abominable insult and intolerable blasphemy, as well against Christ as the sacrifice, which, by his death, he performed for us on the cross, for any one to think of repeating the oblation, of purchasing the forgiveness of sins, of propitiating God, and obtaining justification. But what else is done in the mass than to make us partakers of the sufferings of Christ by means of a new oblation? And that there might be no limit to their extravagance, they have deemed it little to say, that it properly becomes a common sacrifice for the whole Church, without adding, that it is at their pleasure to apply it specially to this one or that, as they choose; or rather, to any one who is willing to purchase their merchandise from them for a price paid. Moreover, as they could not come up to the estimate of Judas, still, that they might in some way refer to their author, they make the resemblance to consist in the number. He sold for thirty pieces of silver: they, according to the French method of computation, sell for thirty pieces of brass. He did it once: they as often as a purchaser is met with. We deny that they are priests in this sense--namely, that by such oblations they intercede with God for the people, that by propitiating God they make expiation for sins. Christ is the only Pontiff and Priest of the New Testament: to him all priestly offices were transferred, and in him they closed and terminated. Even had Scripture made no mention of the eternal priesthood of Christ, yet, as God, after abolishing those ancient sacrifices, appointed no new priest, the argument of the apostle remains invincible, "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4). How, then, can those sacrilegious men, who by their own account are murderers of Christ, dare to call themselves the priests of the living God?

15. There is a most elegant passage in the second book of Plato's Republic. Speaking of ancient expiations, and deriding the foolish confidence of wicked and iniquitous men, who thought that by them, as a kind of veils, they concealed their crimes from the gods; and, as if they had made a paction with the gods, indulged themselves more securely, he seems accurately to describe the use of the expiation of the mass, as it exists in the world in the present day. All know that it is unlawful to defraud and circumvent another. To do injustice to widows, to pillage pupils, to molest the poor, to seize the goods of others by wicked arts, to get possession of any man's succession by fraud and perjury, to oppress by violence and tyrannical terror, all admit to be impious. How then do so many, as if assured of impunity, dare to do all those things? Undoubtedly, if we duly consider, we will find that the only thing which gives them so much courage is, that by the sacrifice of the mass as a price paid, they trust that they will satisfy God, or at least will easily find a means of transacting with him. Plato next proceeds to deride the gross stupidity of those who think by such expiations to redeem the punishments which they must otherwise suffer after death. And what is meant by anniversaries and the greater part of masses in the present day, but just that those who through life have been the most cruel tyrants, or most rapacious plunderers, or adepts in all kinds of wickedness, may, as if redeemed at this price, escape the fire of purgatory?

16. Under the other kind of sacrifice, which we have called eucharistic, are included all the offices of charity, by which, while we embrace our brethren, we honour the Lord himself in his members; in fine, all our prayers, praises, thanksgivings, and every act of worship which we perform to God. All these depend on the greater sacrifice with which we dedicate ourselves, soul and body, to be a holy temple to the Lord. For it is not enough that our external acts be framed to obedience, but we must dedicate and consecrate first ourselves, and, secondly, all that we have, so that all which is in us may be subservient to his glory, and be stirred up to magnify it. This kind of sacrifice has nothing to do with appeasing God, with obtaining remission of sins, with procuring justification, but is wholly employed in magnifying and extolling God, since it cannot be grateful and acceptable to God unless at the hand of those who, having received forgiveness of sins, have already been reconciled and freed from guilt. This is so necessary to the Church, that it cannot be dispensed with. Therefore, it will endure for ever, so long as the people of God shall endure, as we have already seen above from the prophet. For in this sense we may understand the prophecy, "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, said the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 1:11); so far are we from doing away with this sacrifice. Thus Paul beseeches us by the mercies of God, to present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," our "reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). Here he speaks very significantly when he adds, that this service is reasonable, for he refers to the spiritual mode of worshipping God, and tacitly opposes it to the carnal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. Thus to do good and communicate are called sacrifices with which God is well pleased (Heb. 13:16). Thus the kindness of the Philippians in relieving Paul's want is called "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Phil. 4:18); and thus all the good works of believers are called spiritual sacrifices.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion


  • Reflection Never Forgotten
  • End of Prophecy
  • Forgiveness

#1 Todd Pickett  Biola University

 

#2 Andy Draycott   Biola University

 

#3 Hashim Garrett, Charles Williams   Biola University

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     6/1/2014    Contending for Peace and Purity

     I spent my first year of college at a second-degree separatist school that was founded by the Bible Presbyterian Church. The men who founded the college were colleagues of Carl MacIntyre, Allan MacRae, J. Gresham Machen, and Bob Jones Jr. These stalwarts of the faith fought for the fundamentals of the faith against the rising tide of liberalism for a good portion of the twentieth century. My professors had been their students, and I am grateful to God to have been one of theirs. They were thoroughgoing fundamentalists — staunchly committed to the fundamentals of the faith, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, and the pure preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were willing to separate from anyone who compromised the fundamentals of the faith, and they were willing to separate from anyone else who was unwilling to separate from those who compromised the fundamentals of the faith. As a first-year college student preparing for ministry, I respected these men not only because they contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, but because they were some of the most godly, loving, and gracious men I have ever known.

     On one occasion, in the midst of wrestling through the implications of second-degree separationism, I went to see one of my professors to gain his counsel about the Southern Baptist church where I served on staff. At one point in our conversation, I asked him, “Sir, at some point don’t we simply need to recognize that within the church there are just different strokes for different folks?” I’ll never forget the way he looked at me with his penetrating eyes and a warm grin: “Yes, just as long as those strokes are biblical.”

     For nearly twenty years, I have seriously considered his words and the principles of separation that he instilled within me. Both then and now, I have found that I am more aligned with the principles of separation and association with J. Gresham Machen than anyone else. Dr. Machen pursued right association for the sake of the unity and peace of the church with as much earnestness as he pursued necessary separation for the sake of the purity of the church and the gospel. For there cannot be true peace and unity in the church without purity. God calls us not only to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) but to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Both are necessary, but it takes wisdom from above to do both in a biblical way that glorifies God.

     Like Machen, Francis Schaeffer, who early in his ministry was part of the Bible Presbyterian Church, taught that the church should practice two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of visible community. As we strive for both, God calls us to contend earnestly on our knees in prayer and to stand up and speak the truth in love for the sake of the name of Christ and the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Bartolome’ de Las Casas, the “Apostle of the Indies,” died this day, July 17, 1566. He was one of the first Christian missionaries known for his devotion to the oppressed and enslaved natives of Latin America. His work Apologetic History of the Indies, published in 1530, exposed the oppression of the Indians in the forced labor and influenced Madrid to enact New Laws to protect them. Bartolome’ de Las Casas stated: “The main goal of divine Providence in the discovery of these tribes … is …the conversion and well-being of souls, and to this goal everything temporal must necessarily be … directed.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


     Prayer is an attitude of the heart.
--- Dr. Larry Dossey
Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer

Until today (1888), no people has succeeded in establishing national dominion in the Land of Israel. No national unity, in the spirit of nationalism, has acquired any hold there. The mixed multitude of itinerant tribes that managed o settle there did so on lease, as temporary residents. It seems that they await the return of the permanent residents of the land.
--- Professor Sir John William Dosson
Modern Science in Bible Lands ... With maps and illustrations.

We ought not to be in too much of a hurry here
to speak piously of God’s will and guidance.
It is obvious, and it should not be ignored,
that it is your own very human wills that are at work here,
celebrating their triumph;
the course that you are taking at the outset
is one that you have chosen for yourselves…
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Reader's Edition)

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     The Requirement of Kavvanah


     How many of these readings require kavvanah? To begin (le’khat’ḥilah), one must avoid any distractions and intend what he recites throughout all these readings. But what of be’di’avad, if one read them but paid no attention: must he repeat them or is he, in such a situation, excused from repeating them and regarded as if he had fulfilled this mitzvah?

     The Talmud records three opinions of the Tannaim. R. Akiva maintains that the entire first section, but not the other two, requires kavvanah. R. Eliezer restricts the requirement to the first two verses of the first paragraph, and R. Meir—to the first verse, that of the Shema alone. (6)

(6)     Berakhot 13a.

     What is the underlying rationale of these various points of view? My revered teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, o.b.m., offers the following interpretation: (7) Rambam explains the Talmud’s order of the three sections and the priority given to the first by underscoring the larger themes of the first section, that of the Shema. “The portion of Shema is recited first,” he writes, “because it contains [the themes of] the unity of God (‘the Lord is One’), His love (‘you shall love the Lord your God’), and the study of Torah (‘you shall teach them,’ etc.), which is the great principle upon which all else depends.” (8) The second paragraph speaks of all the other commandments of the Torah, as does the third, which mentions, in addition, the exodus from Egypt. These three principles implicit in the Shema section are the major constituents of kabbalat ‘ol malkhut shamayim, the submission to the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the essence of the Shema.

(7)     I recall hearing this lecture, which was published later in his Sheurim li’Zekher Abba Mari zal (Jerusalem: 1983), vol. I, pp. 20ff.

(8)     Hilkhot Keriat Shema, 1:2.

     This interpretation throws light on the tannaitic dispute as to how far we go in demanding kavvanah. R. Akiva is the most straightforward in insisting upon kavvanah for the complete first portion of the Shema; after all, the third of these principles, the study of Torah, appears in the fourth verse of the first section, and it makes eminently good sense to require kavvanah for more than the first verse or two. Hence, one must exercise kavvanah for the entire first section. The other two opinions, however, remain problematic. Rabbi Soloveitchik’s response is that R. Eliezer must hold that the two central themes of unity and love are sufficient to qualify as “accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” and therefore it is adequate to achieve kavvanah for the first two verses, which reflect these themes. By the same token, R. Meir must consider the theme of the unity of God of such overarching importance that attention paid to this one verse of the Shema qualifies as “accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” and thus as having recited the Shema with the minimum necessary intention. Moreover, by having kavvanah for only part of the first paragraph—the two verses for R. Eliezer and the first for R. Meir—and thereby succeeding to kabbalat ‘ol malkhut shamayim, one fulfills the requirement of affirming all three principles, perhaps because the lesser are somehow implied in the larger principles, which are not only more fundamental but also more comprehensive.

     Now, while this pattern is structurally attractive and rings true, it remains to be explained why, according to R. Eliezer and R. Meir, the first or first two principles imply the remaining themes. How, for instance, does the unity of God include, according to R. Meir, the love of God and the study of Torah?

     I venture the following amplification of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s thesis: It is not that the earlier principle or principles imply the latter, but that they lead to them. Thus, R. Eliezer will hold that if one affirms the unity and love for God, this will invariably lead him to the study of Torah. More than a millennium after R. Eliezer, Rambam defined the love of God as inextricably bound up with the knowledge of God (see chapter 10); the same holds true for the very closely related commandment to study the Torah. For R. Meir, unity implies love (see chapter 6) and, hence, at one remove, the study of Torah as well.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 12.

     Many Tumults Under Cumanus, Which Were Composed By Quadratus. Felix Is Procurator Of Judea. Agrippa Is Advanced From Chalcis To A Greater Kingdom.

     1 Now after the death of Herod, king of Chalcis, Claudius set Agrippa, the son of Agrippa, over his uncle's kingdom, while Cumanus took upon him the office of procurator of the rest, which was a Roman province, and therein he succeeded Alexander; under which Cumanus began the troubles, and the Jews' ruin came on; for when the multitude were come together to Jerusalem, to the feast of unleavened bread, and a Roman cohort stood over the cloisters of the temple, [for they always were armed, and kept guard at the festivals, to prevent any innovation which the multitude thus gathered together might make,] one of the soldiers pulled back his garment, and cowering down after an indecent manner, turned his breech to the Jews, and spake such words as you might expect upon such a posture. At this the whole multitude had indignation, and made a clamor to Cumanus, that he would punish the soldier; while the rasher part of the youth, and such as were naturally the most tumultuous, fell to fighting, and caught up stones, and threw them at the soldiers. Upon which Cumanus was afraid lest all the people should make an assault upon him, and sent to call for more armed men, who, when they came in great numbers into the cloisters, the Jews were in a very great consternation; and being beaten out of the temple, they ran into the city; and the violence with which they crowded to get out was so great, that they trod upon each other, and squeezed one another, till ten thousand of them were killed, insomuch that this feast became the cause of mourning to the whole nation, and every family lamented their own relations.

     2. Now there followed after this another calamity, which arose from a tumult made by robbers; for at the public road at Beth-boron, one Stephen, a servant of Caesar, carried some furniture, which the robbers fell upon and seized. Upon this Cumanus sent men to go round about to the neighboring villages, and to bring their inhabitants to him bound, as laying it to their charge that they had not pursued after the thieves, and caught them. Now here it was that a certain soldier, finding the sacred book of the law, tore it to pieces, and threw it into the fire. 14 Hereupon the Jews were in great disorder, as if their whole country were in a flame, and assembled themselves so many of them by their zeal for their religion, as by an engine, and ran together with united clamor to Cesarea, to Cumanus, and made supplication to him that he would not overlook this man, who had offered such an affront to God, and to his law; but punish him for what he had done. Accordingly, he, perceiving that the multitude would not be quiet unless they had a comfortable answer from him, gave order that the soldier should be brought, and drawn through those that required to have him punished, to execution, which being done, the Jews went their ways.

     3. After this there happened a fight between the Galileans and the Samaritans; it happened at a village called Geman, which is situate in the great plain of Samaria; where, as a great number of Jews were going up to Jerusalem to the feast [of tabernacles,] a certain Galilean was slain; and besides, a vast number of people ran together out of Galilee, in order to fight with the Samaritans. But the principal men among them came to Cumanus, and besought him that, before the evil became incurable, he would come into Galilee, and bring the authors of this murder to punishment; for that there was no other way to make the multitude separate without coming to blows. However, Cumanus postponed their supplications to the other affairs he was then about, and sent the petitioners away without success.

     4. But when the affair of this murder came to be told at Jerusalem, it put the multitude into disorder, and they left the feast; and without any generals to conduct them, they marched with great violence to Samaria; nor would they be ruled by any of the magistrates that were set over them, but they were managed by one Eleazar, the son of Dineus, and by Alexander, in these their thievish and seditious attempts. These men fell upon those that were in the neighborhood of the Acrabatene toparchy, and slew them, without sparing any age, and set the villages on fire.

     5. But Cumanus took one troop of horsemen, called the troop of Sebaste, out of Cesarea, and came to the assistance of those that were spoiled; he also seized upon a great number of those that followed Eleazar, and slew more of them. And as for the rest of the multitude of those that went so zealously to fight with the Samaritans, the rulers of Jerusalem ran out clothed with sackcloth, and having ashes on their head, and begged of them to go their ways, lest by their attempt to revenge themselves upon the Samaritans they should provoke the Romans to come against Jerusalem; to have compassion upon their country and temple, their children and their wives, and not bring the utmost dangers of destruction upon them, in order to avenge themselves upon one Galilean only. The Jews complied with these persuasions of theirs, and dispersed themselves; but still there were a great number who betook themselves to robbing, in hopes of impunity; and rapines and insurrections of the bolder sort happened over the whole country. And the men of power among the Samaritans came to Tyre, to Ummidius Quadratus, 15 the president of Syria, and desired that they that had laid waste the country might be punished: the great men also of the Jews, and Jonathan the son of Ananus the high priest, came thither, and said that the Samaritans were the beginners of the disturbance, on account of that murder they had committed; and that Cumanus had given occasion to what had happened, by his unwillingness to punish the original authors of that murder.

     6. But Quadratus put both parties off for that time, and told them, that when he should come to those places, he would make a diligent inquiry after every circumstance. After which he went to Cesarea, and crucified all those whom Cumanus had taken alive; and when from thence he was come to the city Lydda, he heard the affair of the Samaritans, and sent for eighteen of the Jews, whom he had learned to have been concerned in that fight, and beheaded them; but he sent two others of those that were of the greatest power among them, and both Jonathan and Ananias, the high priests, as also Artanus the son of this Ananias, and certain others that were eminent among the Jews, to Caesar; as he did in like manner by the most illustrious of the Samaritans. He also ordered that Cumanus [the procurator] and Celer the tribune should sail to Rome, in order to give an account of what had been done to Caesar. When he had finished these matters, he went up from Lydda to Jerusalem, and finding the multitude celebrating their feast of unleavened bread without any tumult, he returned to Antioch.

     7. Now when Caesar at Rome had heard what Cumanus and the Samaritans had to say, [where it was done in the hearing of Agrippa, who zealously espoused the cause of the Jews, as in like manner many of the great men stood by Cumanus,] he condemned the Samaritans, and commanded that three of the most powerful men among them should be put to death; he banished Cumanus, and sent Celer bound to Jerusalem, to be delivered over to the Jews to be tormented; that he should be drawn round the city, and then beheaded.

     8. After this Caesar sent Felix, 16 the brother of Pallas, to be procurator of Galilee, and Samaria, and Perea, and removed Agrippa from Chalcis unto a greater kingdom; for he gave him the tetrarchy which had belonged to Philip, which contained Batanae, Trachonitis, and Gaulonitis: he added to it the kingdom of Lysanias, and that province [Abilene] which Varus had governed. But Claudius himself, when he had administered the government thirteen years, eight months, and twenty days, died, and left Nero to be his successor in the empire, whom he had adopted by his Wife Agrippina's delusions, in order to be his successor, although he had a son of his own, whose name was Britannicus, by Messalina his former wife, and a daughter whose name was Octavia, whom he had married to Nero; he had also another daughter by Petina, whose name was Antonia.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 21:13-14
     by D.H. Stern

13     Whoever stops up his ears at the cry of the poor
will himself cry, but not be answered.

14     A secret gift allays anger,
and a bribe under the cloak the strongest fury.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The miracle of belief

     My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words. --- 1 Cor. 2:1–5.

     Paul was a scholar and an orator of the first rank; he is not speaking out of abject humility, but saying that he would veil the power of God if, when he preached the Gospel, he impressed people with his “excellency of speech.” Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the efficacy of Redemption, not by impressiveness of speech, not by wooing and winning, but by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of the Redemption comes through the preaching of the Gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher. The real fasting of the preacher is not from food, but rather from eloquence, from impressiveness and exquisite diction, from everything that might hinder the Gospel of God being presented. The preacher is there as the representative of God—“as though God did beseech you by us.” He is there to present the Gospel of God, not human ideals. If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get anywhere near Jesus Christ. Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the Gospel will end in making me a traitor to Jesus; I prevent the creative power of His redemption from doing its work.


     “I, if I be lifted up …, will draw all men unto Me.”.
--- John 12:32.

My Utmost for His Highest

Mother and Son
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Mother and Son

At nine o'clock in the Morning
  My son said to me:
  Mother, he said, from the wet streets
  The clouds are removed and the sun walks
  Without shoes on the warm pavements.
  There are girls biddable at the corners
  With teeth cleaner than your white plates
  The sharp clatter of your dishes
  Is less pleasant to me than their laughter.
  The day is building; before its bright walls
  Fall in dust, let me go
  Beyond the front garden without you
  To find glasses unstained by tears,
  To find mirrors that do not reproach
  My smooth face; to hear above the town's
  Din life roaring in the veins.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Midrash on Psalms
     Book 4, Psalm 104, 105


       … The Holy One, blessed be He, said: In the time-to-come, I shall give glory and majesty to the king Messiah, as is said For Thou meetest him with choicest blessings …

     Glory and majesty dost Thou lay upon him (
Ps. 21:4, 6).
And God gives glory and majesty not only to the king
Messiah, but also to every man who labors diligently in the Torah. For in the verse The works of the Lord are great,
sought out of all them that have pleasure therein
(
Ps. 111:2), the works of the Lord means the Torah, as it is said “And the tables were the work of God” (Ex. 32:16).

Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia: Hananeel House, 1998), Ps 111:2.

Malachi 2:17–4:6
     The Sins of God’s People: Part 2
     W. W. Wiersbe


     As Malachi continued his message, the people continued their resistance to God’s truth. They had already argued with him about God’s love (1:2), God’s name (v. 6), and God’s teaching about marriage and divorce (2:14), and now they would argue about three other matters: the justice of God, giving to God, and serving God. People who argue with God rarely receive blessings from God. It’s when our mouth is stopped and we submit to His will that we can experience the grace of God (Rom. 3:19).

     But Malachi didn’t stop preaching; he went on to deal with these “sins of the saints.”

     1. Questioning God’s Justice (Mal. 2:17–3:6)

     “You have wearied the Lord with your words,” the prophet said; and they replied, “How have we wearied Him?” (2:17, NIV) Of course, God never gets weary in a physical sense because God doesn’t have a body (Isa. 40:28), but He does grow weary of some of the things His people say and do. The hypocritical people in Israel wearied God with their iniquities (43:24), and the Jewish remnant in Malachi’s day wearied Him with their words.

     Their words were cynical and skeptical. “We came back to the land, rebuilt the temple, and restored the worship,” they said, “and look at the difficulties we’re experiencing! Why isn’t God keeping his promise? Where are all the blessings He promised through His prophets?” It was the age-old problem of “Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?” Job and his friends wrestled with it, and so did Asaph (Ps. 73), Jeremiah (Jer. 12), and Habakkuk.

     But these skeptical Jews had forgotten the terms of the covenant and the conditions laid down by the prophets: if the people obeyed God’s law, God would bless them with all they needed. But they were divorcing their wives, marrying pagan women, offering defiled sacrifices, robbing God of tithes and offerings, and complaining about having to serve the Lord! For God to bless people like that would mean approving of their sins. The Jews didn’t need justice; they needed mercy!

     Malachi answered their question “Where is the God of justice?” by speaking about two messengers.

     “My messenger”—John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1a). As we’ve seen, the name Malachi means “my messenger”; and the messenger referred to in this statement we know as John the Baptist. Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said,
“For this is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face who will prepare Your way before You’ ” (Matt. 11:10, NKJV; see Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27).

     While Malachi was the last of the writing prophets, John the Baptist was the last and the greatest of the Old Covenant prophets. (Keep in mind that the Old Covenant was not ended by the birth of Jesus in the manger but by the death of Jesus on the cross. John’s ministry took place at the close of the old dispensation, so strictly speaking, he was an Old Testament prophet.) To John was given the unique privilege of ministering at the close of the old dispensation and the beginning of the new, and it was John who presented Jesus to Israel (John 1:29–31). Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, John was born into a priestly family but was called of God to be a prophet. He was also a martyr, for he gave his life in the work God called him to do (Matt. 14:1–12).

     The Prophet Isaiah had also written about John’s ministry (
Isa. 40:3–5; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4–6; John 1:23). The image is that of people preparing a way for the king to come, leveling the roads and removing the obstacles so that the king might enjoy an easy and comfortable trip. John prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus by preaching the Word to the crowds, urging them to repent of their sins, baptizing them, and then introducing them to Jesus.

     But how does this answer the question, “Where is God’s justice for His people?” When Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, He completely satisfied the justice of God. He paid the penalty for the sins of the world and vindicated the holiness of God. Nobody can ever truthfully say, “God isn’t just!” The cross of Christ is proof that the same God who ordained “the law of sin and death” (
Gen. 2:15–17; Rom. 6:23; 8:2–4) also “took His own medicine” (to quote Dorothy Sayers) and willingly died for sinners. Because of Calvary, God is both “just and justifier” of all who trust Jesus Christ (3:26).

     The messenger of the covenant”—Jesus Christ (
Mal. 3:1b–6). The first prophecy refers to our Lord’s first coming in grace and mercy, but this prophecy speaks of His second coming in judgment. When He comes, He will prove that God is just by purifying His people and judging rebellious sinners. Jesus Christ is the “Messenger of the Covenant” in that He fulfilled all the demands of the covenant in His life, suffered the penalties in His death, and rose from the dead to usher in a New Covenant of grace (Jer. 31:31–40; Matt. 26:26–30; Heb. 8:6–13). All the covenants in Old Testament history unite in pointing to Jesus Christ and His marvelous work of redemption.

     An unannounced coming (
Mal. 3:3). Messiah’s second coming will be sudden and unexpected, and its purpose will be the judging of sinners and the establishing of His kingdom on earth. “But of that day and hour, no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36, NKJV). “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman” (1 Thes. 5:3).

     An unprepared people (
Mal. 3:1). The phrase “whom you delight in” suggests that the Jews in Malachi’s day were hoping that “the Day of the Lord” would come soon, not realizing what a terrible day it would be for the whole earth. His listeners were like the people in the days of Amos the prophet who had the same false confidence that they were ready for the promised “Day of the Lord.” Amos warned them, “Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord! Why do you long for the Day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light” (see Amos 5:18–20).

     When the Jewish remnant of that day read the prophets, they saw only the promises of blessing and not the warnings of judgment. They rejoiced in the prophecies of the coming King and His glorious kingdom, but they overlooked the prophecies that described worldwide terror when the wrath of God is poured out on sinners. (Some of the old editions of the Bible made this same mistake in their chapter headings. If the chapter was about blessing, the caption read “God’s blessing on the church,” but if it was about judgment the heading said, “God’s judgment on the Jews.” Yet the Bible tells us that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (
1 Peter 4:17).) These Israelites were not unlike some Christians today who talk about the coming of the Lord as though seeing Him will be more like beholding a visiting celebrity and basking in his or her glory. Standing at the judgment seat of Christ will be an awesome experience, even though we know that we have a place reserved for us in heaven.

     An unclean nation (
Mal. 3:2b–4). Malachi asked, “But who may abide in the day of His coming?” and then described what Messiah would do when he came: He would purify the Jewish nation, especially the priests, and bring swift judgment to the sinners who arrogantly disobeyed His Law.

     In the Law of Moses, God provided three ways for people and things to be cleansed and made acceptable to God: water, fire, and blood. There is no mention here of blood because Jesus Christ died for sinners at His first coming. But he would wash the unclean nation like a launderer washes dirty clothes. He would purify the tribe of Levi the way a jeweler purifies precious metal in his furnace. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (
Zech. 13:1).

     Once the nation is cleansed, and the priests are purified, then they can become an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord (
Mal. 3:4), and He will be pleased with them. The priests in Malachi’s time were offering sacrifices that were unacceptable (1:7–8), and the priests themselves were unacceptable, but in that great day, God’s Messenger would make His people “living sacrifices” that would be acceptable to the Lord (Rom. 12:1).

     An unsparing judgment (
Mal. 3:5). This list of sinners gives us some idea of the kind of practices that were going on in Malachi’s time and will be going on in the end times. All of them are contrary to God’s Law. Sorcery is forbidden because it means trafficking with demons (Ex. 22:18; Lev. 20:27; Deut. 18:14). The “satanic revival” that’s going on today indicates that many people aren’t heeding God’s warnings as they dabble in witchcraft and other demonic practices. In fact, witchcraft is a legal religion in many places.

     “False swearers” describes people who commit perjury by lying while under oath. Perjury violates the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (
v. 7), and the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (v. 16). Trust is the “cement” that holds society together, and when that cement crumbles, society falls apart. If we can’t trust one another’s words and promises, then how can we live and work together safely?

     The oppressing of the poor and needy is a sin that the prophets condemned with vehemence, and it needs to be condemned today. God has a special concern for widows and orphans who are exploited and laborers who don’t receive their wages (
Ex. 22:22–24; Lev. 19:10; Deut. 10:17–19; 24:14–15, 19–32; 27:19; Ps. 68:5; Isa. 1:17, 23: Jer. 7:6; James 5:1–8).

     An unchanging God (
Mal 3:6). What was the reason for these social abuses? The people who committed them had no fear of the Lord. They thought that God was like themselves, that He would close His eyes to their sins and not judge them for breaking His law. “You thought that I was altogether like you, but I will reprove you” (Ps. 50:21, NKJV).

     The Jews should have been grateful that God was unchanging in His nature, His purposes, and His promises, for if He were not, He would have consumed them for their sins. Twice Moses used this truth about God as his argument when he interceded for the nation (
Ex. 33:12–23; Num. 14:11–21). The same principle applies to believers today, for 1 John 1:9 states that God is “faithful and just to forgive our sins.” God is faithful to His promises and just toward His Son who died for our sins that we might be forgiven. (See also Num. 23:19; Deut. 4:31; and James 1:17.)

     Malachi has proved that God is just. Now he discusses the fact that the people are unjust in the way they’ve robbed God of what rightfully belongs to Him.


Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     /Aḥaron aḥaron ḥaviv, “The very last is dearest,” means that we save the best for last. All of us do this when we save the sweets for dessert, the last course of the meal. Adults will often remind children, “Eat your meal so that you can have dessert,” just as we tell the adults, “Leave room for dessert.” It’s rare that we forget the cake that will follow the main course.

     Elsewhere in the Midrash, we are told that even God saved the best for last in creating Shabbat, the Sabbath, as the seventh and final day of the week. The tradition tells us that God thought of Shabbat first but delayed creating it until all the other days of the week were complete. Shabbat is, in the words of the Shabbat hymn “Lekhah Dodi,” paraphrasing the Midrash:

סוֹף מַעֲשֶׂה בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה תְּחִלָּה
Sof ma’aseh b’maḥashavah teḥillah.
Last created, first in thought.

     In the Mekhilta, the oldest rabbinic Midrash on Exodus, Rabbi Elazar ben Ḥananiah gives a practical use of the concept of “The very last is dearest” by teaching: “Remember the Sabbath day continually from the first day of the week. If a good portion happens to come your way, prepare it for use on the Sabbath.” The great sage Hillel did this by saving the best food he found during the week for use on the next Shabbat. If, later in the week, he found something better, he set the first aside, saying that the new and better food was reserved for Shabbat.

     The problem is that we can start out with good intentions at the beginning of the week but lose interest as the week wears on. Perhaps this is why the axiom is אַחֲרוֹן אַחֲרוֹן חָבִיב/Aḥaron aḥaron ḥaviv, with the word אַחֲרוֹן/aḥaron, “last,” repeated twice. What we have translated as “The very last is dearest” literally means, “The last, the [very] last is dear.” The Rabbis may have been saying that not only do we have to keep the last in mind (the first use of the word אַחֲרוֹן/aḥaron), but we also have to remember to keep the last in mind (the second mention of the word אַחֲרוֹן/aḥaron).

     Shabbat is our weekly dessert. We can remind the children: “Work hard during the week so that you can have the week’s icing on the cake, Shabbat.” And we can also tell the adults: “Leave room in the week for a special day, a day of sweetness and joy, for the last and therefore the most precious day of all, Shabbat.”

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     “This must be my lucky day!” quipped Gad, whose Hebrew name meant “luck.”

     “And don’t forget how fortunate I am—I whose very name signifies ‘fortune,’ ” added Asher.

     “What are you two so happy about?” asked their half-brother Naphtali.

     “For the first time that either of us can ever remember, Abba has put us first. We are to march at the head of the family! Today, everyone follows us!”

     Dan took a swallow of water from the leather-skin bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “How stupid can two people be? Don’t you understand, you sons of Zilpah? Our ‘loving’ father has placed you at the head of the family so that if we are attacked by our Uncle Esau, you and your mother will be the ones slaughtered, and our precious half-brother Joseph and his mother Rachel will have a chance to escape. Today, there is no luck or good fortune in being first. Last is where you want to be.”

     “You’re not being fair, Dan. Abba doesn’t want to see any of us hurt. Joseph is at the rear because he’s just a little boy. We’re older and we can take care of ourselves and help defend the family if it comes to a fight with Esau,” retorted Asher.

     Naphtali jumped into the argument, taking up where his brother Dan left off. “Then why aren’t Reuben and Simeon up front? They’re older than we are. We’re just teenagers; they’re grown men. I’ll tell you why: Because they are sons of Leah, whereas we are only sons of the handmaidens. Once again our father has shown that he plays favorites. The son of Rachel he worships. The sons of Leah he admires. The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah he treats like dirt.”

     “I don’t agree with you, Naphtali. Yes, Abba loves Rachel the most of all his wives. But we are still the fruit of his loins. His seed created us. We look more like him than Joseph does. I can’t believe a father doesn’t love all his children.”

     Dan fired back, “Did Abba give you or Gad a many-colored coat? Naphtali and I didn’t get one. Only Joseph did. And as for looking like our father, maybe that’s exactly the point! When he looks at us he sees himself. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t love us; we remind him of someone he can’t stand—himself!”

     “Dan is right,” Naphtali added. “We come from the second-class wives. We remind our father that, being born after Esau, he was a second-class son. And the only way he could overcome that was through deceit and trickery. To get where he is today, Abba had to lie to his blind father. He was manipulated by his mother, chased away from home by his brother, cheated by his uncle. He can’t be very proud of himself. Even the name he carries—Jacob, “the heel”—is a reminder that he is lowly and insignificant. He looks at us and sees himself, and wants no part of the children of Bilhah and Zilpah. But he looks at Joseph, son of his beautiful and beloved wife, and he sees what he never became: handsome, self-assured, powerful. That’s why he favors his eleventh son so much and why he does everything he can to make Joseph his favorite.”

     Suddenly, off in the distance, a few miles ahead, the brothers saw a cloud of dust. Then they saw their father run in the direction of what was, no doubt, Esau and his armed men. “Remember your places!” Jacob shouted as he passed. Gad and Asher grabbed their weapons and went to stand at the head of the family that Jacob had left behind. The two brothers turned around and saw little Joseph, far back, safe, the last—and dearest—of the children.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 17

     Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
--- Matthew 11:28–30.

     What has sin done for you that you should desire it? (John A. Broadus, “Come unto Me,” downloaded from the Web site of Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Church, Gainesville, Georgia, at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) It brought death and woe into the world. It has filled the earth with suffering and sorrow. It has made it necessary that Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, should suffer and die to make atonement for it. It has brought on you much unhappiness now and many fears for the future. By your sins you have incurred the just anger of him who made you—already they rise mountain high, and still you go on in your sinfulness, “storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath” (Rom. 2:5). You shudder when you think of death, you tremble when you think of God, for you know well that you are not prepared to die, that you cannot meet your Maker and Judge in peace. And not only has sin brought on you all these sufferings and fears, but you cannot rid yourself of it.

     It has made you unhappy, filling you with craving, unsatisfied desires; it has bound you with cords you cannot burst; it has brought on you the indignation and wrath of almighty God, which you cannot atone for. Isn’t it then a burden of which you would like to be relieved? If so, hear the Savior’s own invitation and go to him. He will take off the heavy load that crushes you, and you will find rest for your souls. He will intercede in your behalf before God, he will take away your guilt by the sacrifice he has offered, he will wash away all your iniquity and cleanse you from your sin.

     Do you fear that God is angry with you and will not hear your prayer? It is true, God is angry with the wicked, and the sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the Lord. You may not mock the offended majesty of God by going to him in your own name and trusting in your own righteousness. But you may go to Jesus—you are invited to go to him. He is the appointed mediator between God and you. Go and ask him to intercede for you. And then through him draw near to the throne of grace. Make mention of his merits, plead his atoning sacrifice, rely wholly on what he has done, and God’s anger is turned away—he will hear, he will pardon, and your soul will live. If then you are burdened with a sense of your unworthiness, go to Jesus, and you will not go in vain.
--- John A. Broadus


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

On This Day
     The Martyrs of Scilli  July 17


     The northern shores of Africa teemed with Christians during the second century, but all were at risk. In 180 seven men and five women were captured carrying “the sacred books, and the letters of Paul, a just man.” On July 17, 180 they appeared before the Roman proconsul Saturninus in Carthage. Charges against them were read: “Whereas Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda, and the rest have confessed they live in accordance with the religious rites of the Christians, and when an opportunity was given them of returning to the usage of the Romans they persevered in their obstinacy, it is our pleasure they should suffer the sword.”

     Speratus, hearing the charges, shouted, “Thanks be to God!”

     Nartzalus said, “Today we are martyrs in heaven. Thanks be to God!”

     The proconsul was bewildered by their reaction and by their claim that Christianity was the only true religion. “We too have a religion,” he said, “and ours is a simple one. We swear by the fortune of the emperor. You should do the same.”

     Speratus replied, “I do not recognize an empire in this world. I serve that God whom no man has seen or can see. The Lord I acknowledge is the Emperor of all kings and all nations.”

     Donata added, “Honor to Caesar, but reverence to God alone.”

     “We reverence no one except our God in heaven,” said another.

     Saturninus, still perplexed, asked, “Would you like time to think it over?”

     “What is the use?” replied Speratus. “The matter is as plain as can be.”

     And it was. The early Christians expected persecution. The Savior had died on the cross, the Twelve had suffered for their faith, and no generation since had escaped pain and bloodshed. In 95 Domitian executed his own family members who espoused Christianity. In 107 Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, was killed. In 110 Ignatius died. Polycarp was martyred in 155. In 165 Justin Martyr was scourged and killed. In 177, 48 Christians perished in France.

     And in 180 the twelve from Scilli were marched out and beheaded.

     It is exactly as the Scriptures say, “For you we face death all day long. We are like sheep on their way to be butchered.” In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us.
--- Romans 8:36,37.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 17

     “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” --- 1 Thessalonians 1:4.

     Many persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but they cannot learn it thus, it is only to be discovered by “looking unto Jesus.” If you desire to ascertain your own election;—after the following manner, shall you assure your heart before God. Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? go straightway to the cross of Christ, and tell Jesus so, and tell him that you have read in the Bible, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Tell him that he has said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Look to Jesus and believe on him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for so surely as thou believest, thou art elect. If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust him, then you are one of God’s chosen ones; but if you stop and say, “I want to know first whether I am elect,” you ask you know not what. Go to Jesus, be you never so guilty, just as you are. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ and hide in his wounds, and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.” Christ was at the everlasting council: he can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out in any other way. Go and put your trust in him, and his answer will be—“I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” There will be no doubt about his having chosen you, when you have chosen him.

     “Sons we are through God’s election,      Who in Jesus Christ believe.”


          Evening - July 17

     "Let not one of them escape." --- 1 Kings 18:40.

     When the prophet Elijah had received the answer to his prayer, and the fire from heaven had consumed the sacrifice in the presence of all the people, he called upon the assembled Israelites to take the priests of Baal, and sternly cried, “Let not one of them escape.” He took them all down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. So must it be with our sins—they are all doomed, not one must be preserved. Our darling sin must die. Spare it not for its much crying. Strike, though it be as dear as an Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon his own Son. With stern unflinching purpose must you condemn to death that sin which was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate presence of God. Job never knew how to get rid of sin half so well as he did when his eye of faith rested upon God, and then he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes. The fine gold of the Christian is oft becoming dim. We need the sacred fire to consume the dross. Let us fly to our God, he is a consuming fire; he will not consume our spirit, but our sins. Let the goodness of God excite us to a sacred jealousy, and to a holy revenge against those iniquities which are hateful in his sight. Go forth to battle with Amalek, in his strength, and utterly destroy the accursed crew: let not one of them escape.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 17

          UNDER HIS WINGS

     William O. Cushing, 1823–1902

     He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. (Psalm 91:4)

     Daily living is often filled with unexpected dangers. We never know what lies ahead as we begin each new day. How does a person cope with uncertainty and have the stability to live victoriously? For the Christian, daily security is having an unwavering confidence that God is in absolute control and personally involved in every detail of life. The only condition is that we must be willing to accept His help and remain close to Him wherever He leads. Jesus taught this truth to the people of His day; He longed to gather them to Himself even as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings when there is an impending storm. The human tragedy then and still today is that people are generally unwilling to accept His gracious offer (Luke 13:34).

     The author of this hymn text, William Cushing, wrote these words as an expression of Psalm 17:8 — “Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings.” After pastoring several large churches, Cushing suddenly was told that he could no longer preach. He had lost the power of speech. Broken in spirit, he cried out to God with the words of the psalmist. God answered by giving him the gift of writing. In all, William Cushing wrote more than 300 Gospel hymns, which have had an even wider spiritual influence than his years of successful pastoring. “Under His Wings” first appeared in Ira Sankey’s Sacred Songs No. 1, published in 1896. It has continued to be a favorite hymn of comfort among God’s people.

     Under His wings I am safely abiding; tho the night deepens and tempests are wild, still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me; He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
     Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow! How the heart yearningly turns to His rest! Often when earth has no balm for my healing, there I find comfort and there I am blest.
     Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment! There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er; sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me; resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore.
     Refrain: Under His wings, under His wings, who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, safely abide forever.


     For Today: Deuteronomy 33:27; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; Isaiah 12:2; Matthew 23:37.

     Realize anew that God Himself desires to protect you and provide for your best welfare. Thank Him for this blessing. Go forth with this musical truth ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. LXXXVIII. — IT now then remains, that perhaps some one may ask — Why then does not God cease from that motion of His Omnipotence, by which the will of the wicked is moved to go on in evil, and to become worse? I answer: this is to wish that God, for the sake of the wicked, would cease to be God; for this you really desire, when you desire His power and action to cease; that is, that He should cease to be good, lest the wicked should become worse.

     Again, it may be asked — Why does He not then change, in His motion, those evil wills which He moves? This belongs to those secrets of Majesty, where “His judgments are past finding out.” Nor is it ours to search into, but to adore these mysteries. If “flesh and blood” here take offence and murmur, let it murmur, but it will be just where it was before. God is not, on that account, changed! And if numbers of the wicked be offended and “go away,” yet, the elect shall remain!

     The same answer will be given to those who ask — Why did He permit Adam to fall? And why did He make all of us to be infected with the same sin, when He might have kept him, and might have created us from some other seed, or might first have cleansed that, before He created us from it? —

     God is that Being, for whose will no cause or reason is to be assigned, as a rule or standard by which it acts; seeing that, nothing is superior or equal to it, but it is itself the rule of all things. For if it acted by any rule or standard, or from any cause or reason, it would be no longer the will of GOD. Wherefore, what God wills, is not therefore right, because He ought or ever was bound so to will; but on the contrary, what takes place is therefore right, because He so wills. A cause and reason are assigned for the will of the creature, but not for the will of the Creator; unless you set up, over Him, another Creator.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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