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Joshua 4     Psalm 129-131     Isaiah 64     Matthew 12


Joshua 4

Twelve Memorial Stones from the Jordan

Joshua 4 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

8 And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. 9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.

The people passed over in haste. 11 And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the Lord and the priests passed over before the people. 12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had told them. 13 About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

15 And the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18 And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.

19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”


Psalm 129

They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth

Psalm 129 A Song of Ascents.

1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
4 The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”


Psalm 130

My Soul Waits for the Lord

Psalm 130 A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.


Psalm 131

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

Psalm 131 A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.


Isaiah 64

Isaiah 64

1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12 Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?


Matthew 12

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

Matthew 12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

A Man with a Withered Hand

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

God's Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”


Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Return of an Unclean Spirit

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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Social Darwinism

By Gene Edward Veith 11/1/2009

     Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was never just about biology. Nor were its consequences just about religion. Rather, the origins and effects of Darwinism were largely cultural and moral.

     Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859, which was at the height of the Industrial Revolution and the Capitalist Revolution. The dynamic free market economy, characterized by intense competition in which weak companies went broke and the strong companies thrived, had brought unparalleled economic and technological progress. It was a small step to speculate that animal species compete and progress in a similar way. What Darwin did was to apply the principles of free market capitalism to biology.

     Immediately after Darwin’s theories were published, people were relating his biological theories back to economics and, more importantly, to ethics. Herbert Spencer, the great popularizer of Darwinism, coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” applying it not only to animals but to human society.

     In the very works in which he explained Darwin’s scientific theories to the world, Spencer formulated what would be called “Social Darwinism.” To achieve social progress, according to Spencer, the fittest must survive and the unfit must die out. Efforts to help the “unfit” — charity for the poor, mental hospitals, government programs for the disadvantaged — actually interfere with social evolution and should be stopped. Meanwhile, unfettered economic and social competition will favor the “fittest,” who will usher in the next stage of human evolution.

     At the same time, Darwin’s own cousin, Francis Galton, was arguing that natural selection had to do with who was able to reproduce. The “unfit,” he said, should not be allowed to breed. Only the “fittest” should be allowed to have children. Furthermore, it should be possible to breed these fit human beings for desirable traits, just as we breed domesticated animals. By sterilizing the unfit and selectively breeding the fittest, we can usher in the next stage of human evolution. Darwin’s cousin was the founder of the eugenics movement.

     Friedrich Nietzsche took Darwinist moral ideas even further. Whereas Marx believed that Christianity was a way for the strong to keep the weak under control (the “opiate of the masses”) Nietzsche believed the opposite — that Christianity with its teachings of love and compassion enabled the weak to control the strong. Christianity made the strong feel guilty and manipulated them into supporting those who would otherwise die out. As Nietzsche writes in The Twilight of the Gods, Christianity upheld “the poor and base,” representing “the general revolt of all the downtrodden, the wretched, the failures, the less favored.”

     Now that “God is dead,” Nietzsche said, mankind can evolve into the “Superman.” His virtue will not be compassion but cruelty. “It is not sufficient for him to be capable of cruelty merely at the sight of much suffering, perishing, and destruction: such a man must be capable of himself creating pain and suffering and experience pleasure in so doing, he must be cruel in hand and deed (and not merely with the eyes of the spirit).”

     Whereas the Social Darwinism of Spencer, Galton, and Nietzsche applied mainly to individuals, other thinkers, noting that Darwin was talking about species and not just individual animals, applied natural selection to various kinds of human groups. Marxists believed social evolution would emerge from the conflict between economic classes. A new movement of nationalist scholars focused on the conflict between nations. The new “race scientists,” claiming to be more Darwinian by concentrating on biology, focused on the conflict between races.

     In our own time, Margaret Sanger combined eugenics with racism, seeking birth control and sterilization for “inferior races,” becoming the founder of Planned Parenthood. Ayn Rand, the libertarian guru, embraced Spencer’s socio-economic program along with Nietzsche’s critique of Christian compassion with her “virtue of selfishness.”

     But the most thoroughgoing Social Darwinist of all was Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi party carried racial theory, nationalism, eugenics, and Nietzsche to their logical conclusion and put them into practice.

     As I document in my book Modern Fascism, the Nazi regime practiced both “positive eugenics” (breeding for positive characteristics) and “negative eugenics” (eliminating undesirables from the gene pool). In the former, couples with positive “Aryan” racial characteristics were mated outside of marriage. In the latter, a third of a million of the “unfit” were sterilized.

     And then began the euthanasia program. In the so-called T4 program, disabled children, the mentally ill, the incurably sick, and the residents of nursing homes were euthanized. Portable gas chambers were engineered for the project. Larger models were installed in the concentration camps. At first, only prisoners who were “unfit” to work went into the gas chambers. Then the gas chambers were used on a larger scale to eliminate an entire “inferior” race.

     All of this was for the Darwinist purpose of ushering in the next stage of human evolution.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Christian Publishing

By Allan Fisher 11/1/2009

     Looking for things for which to thank the Lord this Thanksgiving? Start by asking this question: Where would my church be without Christian publishing companies?

     Imagine your pastor preparing his sermons week in and week out with only a Bible, perhaps in a language that is not his native tongue, with no Bible reference works, whether in print or digital format, and with no periodicals and journals.

     Imagine your worship services without pew Bibles, hymnals, or choir music. Take away as well the text projected on a screen in front of the sanctuary.

     Imagine your Sunday school teachers with no printed curriculum, no teaching aids, no teaching DVDs, no reference books.

     Imagine your members having no Bibles of their own, either to read and study at home or to carry to church, no Bible study materials, no Bible study software, no reference works, no devotional literature, no Christian magazines, no Christian books for their children, no printed catechisms for them to learn.

     Imagine your pastor having trained for the ministry without textbooks and without libraries where he could learn to master research techniques in biblical and theological studies.

     Can the church function without such publications? Of course. It does so in many parts of the world today, including much of Asia and Africa. Is their teaching ministry impoverished by this lack? Who would deny it?

     Does Christian publishing always serve the church well in North America? No. Several factors can push companies in unproductive and even harmful directions.

     Christian publishing companies seek to survive and expand. This effort takes a different form for a small non-profit than for a large, commercial corporation owned by a secular publishing conglomerate. But it pushes companies toward publishing things that will appeal to the market rather than things that meet real spiritual needs.

     Because few Christian publishing companies are owned by ecclesiastical entities, their books tend to minimize denominational distinctives. In this way, Christian publishing companies have inadvertently promoted the lack of denominational loyalty with which church leaders are only too familiar. And because Christian books are purchased largely by individuals, too many books focus so exclusively on the individual’s direct relationship with God that they imply, if they do not say, that the church is optional. This view is already entertained by too many professing Christians.

     Scripture makes clear that an appeal to the market can easily lead to the publication of half-truths, if not outright heresy. The apostle Paul warns Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). Books by such teachers are eminently marketable today.

     Granted that Christian publishers do not always serve the church well, one must admit that in many ways they have served it well during the last fifty years in particular. During this period, for example, Reformed theology and Reformed churches have experienced a resurgence. Can anyone doubt that Christian publishing has played a role in this important and encouraging development?

     While the books of certain Reformed authors have appeared on the lists of a number of publishing companies, including some that have exhibited no special interest in Reformed teaching, a few companies have labored faithfully for decades to promote Reformed teaching specifically. Today we see a younger generation of pastors and other church leaders who, influenced by these books, have become solidly Reformed, and this in turn is having a positive effect on evangelical Christianity generally.

     Could the Lord have accomplished all of this without printed materials? Yes. But remember that from the time of the Reformation, Protestantism has spread through the printed word. More than any other division of Christendom, Protestantism has thrived on books rather than other material aids to worship and devotion. During the second half of the twentieth century, evangelical Christianity has majored in publishing more than any other part of Christendom and any other religion.

     During the mid-twentieth century Christian publishers entered the field of Bible publishing, a field they now dominate. While the number of translations vying for adoption by churches has created some chaos, and while not all of these translations are of equal quality, the focus of so much time, energy, and largesse on translating the Bible and then on creating reference works designed to put Bible study within the reach of all can only be lauded.

     Where would the church be without Christian publishers? It would be sadly impoverished. So express your gratitude to God for these companies and the faithful authors who write for them. Then resolve that you’ll read more books next year than you’ve read this year.

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     Allan Fisher served as Crossway’s book publisher for the last eight years and as senior vice president and publisher for books before retiring this year. He spent nearly forty years in publishing, beginning at Baker Publisher Group and serving there as director of publications. He held the same position at Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing for five years. He continues to work part-time at Crossway on special projects and in an advisory capacity. He is a member of Bethel Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Wheaton, Ill.

The Gospel Is for the Broken

By Rod Rosenbladt 11/1/2009

     In this article I want to address a particular problem: What we might do as Christians with those who see themselves as “alumni” of the Christian faith. By that I mean those who once professed that Christ shed His blood, freely justified them before God, forgave their sin, gave them eternal life — but now they don’t believe it.

     Given my limited space, I can only deal with today’s “sad ones,” the “having-given-up-on-it-all” ones. (In the full address of which this article is a condensed version, I also talk a little about the gospel of Christ for today’s “mad ones,” the angry ones.)

     For some reasons that I think are fairly specifiable, more people than we would like to think leave “Bible-believing” Christianity. Some are sad about it. Some are mad about it. In our day, there are so many of these people that it is hard not to come into contact with them. Many of these people were broken by the church. I know that sounds harsh. As Christians, it’s upsetting to hear words like that. But for many people, this is how they really see what has taken place in their lives.

     By the “sad alumni” of the Christian faith, I mean the hundreds whose acquaintance with the Christian church was often one in which they were helped to move from unbelief (or from rank moralism) into professing faith in Jesus Christ. They heard the preaching of God’s law and then heard the announcement of Christ’s work on their behalf on the cross — Jesus as the God-man who met the Law’s demands for them and died for their sin, died to save them, died to give them eternal life. And they came to believe that the cross of Christ was their salvation.

     But something happened after that, something that broke them. And, in many cases, I think what happened is nameable. It has to do with what our first president at Christ College Irvine called “law-gospel-law.” It’s that third point that, if executed badly, results in a lot of the “sad alumni” of Christianity. If Reformation folk execute this badly, the sensitive Christian believer can be driven to a slavery as bad as any slavery done by any totalitarian dictator. If the Ten Commandments were not impossible enough, the preaching of Christian behavior, of Christian ethics, of Christian living, can drive a professing Christian into despairing unbelief. Not happy unbelief — tragic, despairing, sad unbelief.

     In the beginning, it seemed that now that we had been justified by the death of Christ, we were equipped to obey verses like “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Or in 1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.” Or Paul in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” And then, the unexpected. Sin continued to be a part of our lives; it stubbornly would not allow us to eliminate it the way we expected. Continuing sin on our part seems to be evidence that we aren’t really believers at all. We start to imagine that we need to be “born again again.”

     When the major stress in pulpit and curriculum shifts from “Christ outside of me, dying for me” to “Christ inside of me, improving me,” the upshot is always the same: many broken, sad ex-Christians who despair of being able to live the Christian life as the Bible describes it. So they do what is really a sane thing to do — they leave. The way it looks to them is that “the message of Christianity has broken them on the rack.” To put it bluntly, it feels better to have some earthly happiness as a pagan and then be damned than it feels to be trying every day as a Christian to do something that is one continuous failure — and then be damned anyway.

     The key question here is a very basic one: Can the cross and blood of Christ save a Christian (failing as he is in living the Christian life) or not? Most of us would say, I hope, that the shed blood of Christ is sufficient to save a sinner all by itself. So far, so good.

     But is the blood of Christ enough — all by itself — to save a still-sinful-Christian? Or isn’t it? Is what Luther said about the Christian being simul justus et peccator biblical or not? Can Christ’s righteousness imputed save a still-sinful Christian? And can it save him all by itself? Or not? I think the way we answer this question determines whether we have anything at all to say to the “sad alumni” of Christianity.

     Has the Law done its killing work on these “sad ones?” Boy, has it ever. They need more of the Law like they need a hole in the head. For them, the gospel often got lost in a whole bunch of “Christian-life preaching.” And it “did them in.” So they left. And down deep there is a sadness in such people that defies description.

     C.F.W. Walther said that as soon as the Law has done its crushing work, the gospel is to be instantly preached or said to such a man or woman. What the “sad alumni” need to hear (perhaps for the first time) is that Christian failures are going to walk into heaven, be welcomed into heaven, leap into heaven like a calf leaping out of its stall, laughing and laughing as if it’s all too good to be true. It isn’t just that we failures will get in. It’s that we will get in like that. “You mean it was just Jesus’ death for me, that’s why I’m here?” But, of course. That’s the point isn’t it? As a believer in Jesus you won’t be condemned! No believer in Jesus will be. Not a single one!

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     Rod Rosenbladt and per Amazon | Rod Rosenbladt was a professor of Theology for 30 years at Concordia University, Irvine in Irvine, California, and is also well-known among Lutheran, Reformed and Evangelical Christians as the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program "The White Horse Inn". He is a founding member of the 1517. He is now a regular on The Thinking Fellows Podcast, a project of 1517.

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Intelligent Design

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2009

     The culture wars are heating up again. Such, I suppose, ought not to surprise me. Evangelical professor of sociology James Davidson Hunter published his book Culture Wars in 1992. Therein he argued that the real dividing line in modern culture was not between right wing and left wing, not between Christians and non-Christians, but between the orthodox and the progressives. The orthodox, he argued, were all those who affirmed some sort of transcendent source of truth and morality. The progressives denied the transcendent. The orthodox included then not only evangelical Christians, but conservative Roman Catholics, orthodox Jews, fundamentalist Muslims, and even old-school Mormons. The latter, by contrast, included liberal Protestants, nominal Roman Catholics, unobservant Jews, non-strict Muslims, and doubting Mormons. Our “allies” in the culture war together affirmed that there was a God and that this God has revealed Himself and His will for men. What they disagreed about was who this God is and what He has told us.

     Hunter’s work begat more books on the same theme. Michael Horton published Beyond Culture Wars. Peter Kreeft wrote Ecumenical Jihad. Hunter penned a sequel, Before the Shooting Starts. Even David Wells’ trenchant series of theological books, beginning with No Place for Truth, carried a heavy sociological tinge to them. But then, for some reason, the culture wars seemed to die down. Perhaps it was the shock of September 11 that directed our focus elsewhere. That the same kind of rhetoric is rising again, however, at least suggests a different explanation. Could it be that we beat our cultural plows into swords when a Democrat occupies the White House and beat our swords into plows when a Republican holds court?

     The culture wars, rightly understood, are ultimately only one manifestation of the broader war first declared in Genesis 3. There God promised the serpent that He would put enmity between him and the woman, between his seed and her seed. He promised in the end that the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman but also that his head would be crushed. As we remember this reality, and that this war will not be fully finished until Jesus returns, we remember to live our lives in light of this war. We prepare ourselves for battle, and we seek the wisdom to discern who our enemies and friends are, as well as where the battle lines have been drawn.

     It is not difficult, for instance, to discern the Devil’s hoof prints all over naturalistic Darwinism. That this is folly is easy enough to discern. Those, on the other hand, who stand ready to affirm the historicity and the inerrancy of the Genesis account of creation are our friends and co-belligerents. Where though, do we place that movement known as Intelligent Design? Are these scholars and scientists friend or foe?

     Advocates of Intelligent Design have a great deal going for them. First, they rightly reject the obvious folly of Darwinism. In an age where the acceptance of Darwinian dogma is virtually a loyalty test for acceptance into the academic realm, these men have stood firm and faithful. They have been wounded grievously by our enemies. Second, these good men have made strong, even compelling cases for the necessity of design in the creation of the universe. They are, in a manner of speaking, not only thinking God’s thoughts after Him, but are teaching others to do the same. And third, they have, happily, embarrassed our enemies. Darwinists come off rightly as half-armed when battling wits with ID advocates.

     For those of us glass-half-empty people, however, there remain important questions. It is well and good to reject Darwinism. However, this is not at all the same thing as championing the truthfulness of the Word of God. Do we long for the day when the world affirms that there is a maker of heaven and earth or do we long for the day when the world confesses that Jesus Christ, by whom all things were made, is Lord of heaven and earth? Are we, when we seek to answer the question of origins without appealing to the revelation of the Originator, answering a fool according to his folly, as we ought (Prov. 26:5), or are we answering a fool according to his folly as we ought not (v. 4)?

     In the end, Christian advocates of Intelligent Design at least have this right — that the God who made the world reveals Himself in and through the world. We need never fear learning from the creation. It, after all, declares His glory day after day. On the other hand, it is not merely the general revelation of God where we must stand, but on the Word of God. There is the solid ground. There is safety and security. We need not seek to curry favor with those who would gainsay the Word of God. We need instead to call them to repentance.

     Our allies in the great war are all those for whom our Commander has died. That includes, of course, not just Christians committed to the biblical account of creation. It also includes those committed to Intelligent Design. It even includes those who trust in the finished work of Christ alone, while affirming theistic evolution. All of us, wherever we are on this spectrum, however, need to strive daily to be more faithful to His Word, to be set apart and distinct from the world around us. And all of us are called to love one another along the way.

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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

All Truth Is God’s Truth

By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2009

     Few books I have read have made a lasting impression on my mind and thought. One of them I read over fifty years ago. The title of the book was The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, and it made a lasting impression upon me because it clearly set forth the importance of understanding that all scientific theories presuppose certain philosophical premises. The philosophical premises that are the underpinning of scientific inquiry are often taken for granted and never given even a cursory exploration. But in a time when fierce debate rages between science and theology, it is important that we step back and ask questions about the pre-scientific theoretical foundations for the whole enterprise of knowledge.

     The word science means “knowledge.” We tend to have a restricted view of the word as if knowledge only applies to the realm of empirical investigation. Besides material knowledge, we also have to take into account formal truth. In this regard we must consider mathematics as a genuine science, because math in its formal dimension yields real knowledge. In fact, if we look at the history of scientific progress, we see that the engine that has driven new breakthroughs and brought to bear new paradigms has more often than not been the engine of formal mathematics. But it is astonishing to see how frequently people engaged in material scientific research glibly pass over the philosophical presuppositions of their own work.

     In Carl Sagan’s famous book entitled Cosmos, based on his television series of the same title, he makes the following statement: “Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is, in a way, the opposite of chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things.” In this seemingly harmless definition of the entire structure of Sagan’s work, he assumes that the universe under investigation by science is a cosmos rather than a chaos. He speaks of cosmos “implying a deep interconnectedness of all things.” This is the grand presupposition of scientific inquiry, namely, that the universe we are seeking to know is coherent. There is an implied deep and profound interconnectedness of all things. The alternative to cosmos, as Sagan has indicated, is chaos. If the universe is at root chaotic, then the whole scientific enterprise collapses. If the universe is chaotic and disconnected, then no knowledge is possible at all. Even discreet bits of atomic data cannot be understood within the framework of utter chaos, so the presupposition of a coherent, rational order of all things is the screaming presupposition of scientists.

     This idea of an assumed coherency has its roots in ancient philosophical inquiry. Ancient Greeks, for example, sought ultimate reality. They sought a foundational principle for unity that would make sense out of diversity. This ultimate unity is what the science of theology provides. The science of theology provides the necessary presupposition for modern science. This is precisely the point that led prominent philosopher Antony Flew to his conversion from atheism to deism — namely, the essential necessity of a coherent foundation to reality to make any knowledge possible. This ultimate coherency cannot be provided by the contingency of this world. It requires a transcendent order.

     In the Middle Ages, a crisis ensued in the realm of philosophy with the revival of what Muslim thinkers called “integral Aristotelianism.” In their attempt to achieve a synthesis between Aristotelian philosophy and Muslim theology, these thinkers produced a concept called the “double-truth theory.” The double-truth theory argued that what was true in religion could be false in science, and what was true in science could at the same time be false in religion. To translate that into contemporary categories, it would go something like this: As a Christian, one could believe that the universe came into being through the purposive act of a divine Creator while at the same time believing that the universe emerged gratuitously as a cosmic accident. These two truths examined by logic would appear to be contradictory. Nevertheless, the double-truth theory would say that truth is contradictory, and one could hold these contradictory ideas at the same time. This kind of intellectual schizophrenia rules the day in our own time where people think that God had nothing to do with the formation of the cosmos from Monday to Saturday only to become creationists on Sunday, failing to see that the two concepts are utterly irreconcilable.

     At this point, the question is raised, “Well, does logic really count in our attempt to understand reality?” Again, if we’re going to assume coherency and cosmos, logic has to count not just for something but for everything. Thomas Aquinas responded to the Aristotelianism of the medieval Muslim philosophers by replacing double truths with the concept of mixed articles, distinguishing nature and grace (not dividing them, as many of his critics allege). Aquinas said that there are certain truths that can be known through special revelation that are not discerned from investigation of the natural world, while at the same time there are certain truths learned from the study of nature that are not found, for example, in the Bible. One does not find the circulatory system of the human body clearly set forth in Scripture. What Aquinas was saying was that there are certain truths that are mixed articles, truths that can be known either from the Bible or by a study of nature. Among those mixed articles, he included the knowledge of the existence of a Creator.

     The fundamental point, of course, that Aquinas was arguing, in agreement with his famous predecessor, Augustine, was that all truth is God’s truth, and that all truth meets at the top. If science contradicts religion, or if religion contradicts science, at least one of them must be wrong. There have been times in history where the scientific community has corrected not the Bible but poor interpretations of the Bible, as we saw in the Galileo scandal. On the other hand, biblical revelation can act as intellectual brakes upon scientific theories that are groundless. In any case, if knowledge is possible, what Sagan assumed must continue to be assumed — namely, that for truth to be known, for science to be possible, there must be a coherent reality that we are seeking to know.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

Joshua 4; Psalms 129-131; Isaiah 64; Matthew 12

By Don Carson 7/2/2018

     From out of what kind of “depths” is the psalmist crying in Psalm 130:1? In other Psalms the sheer despair of the expression is bound up with treasonous “friends” and overt persecution (Ps. 69), or with illness and homesickness (Pss. 6, 42). In this case, however, what has plunged the psalmist into “the depths” is sin and guilt: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Four reflections:

     First, this accent on the misery of guilt and the need for forgiveness from God serves as a welcome foil to some of the psalms that ask for vindication on the grounds that the psalmist is fundamentally just or righteous (see meditations of April 10 and 24). Such claims could scarcely be taken absolutely; genuinely righteous people invariably become more aware of their personal guilt and need for forgiveness than those who have become so foul and hard they cannot detect their own shame.

     Second, the connection between forgiveness and fear is striking: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Ps. 130:4). Perhaps this pair of lines hints that assurance of sins forgiven was at this stage in redemptive history not as robust as it would become this side of the cross. More importantly, the “fear of the Lord” is portrayed as not only the outcome of forgiveness, but one of its goals. It confirms that “fear of the Lord” has less to do with slavish, servile terror (which surely should be decreased by forgiveness, not increased) than with holy reverence. Even so, this reverence has a component of honest fear. When sinners begin to see the magnitude of their sin, and experience the joy of forgiveness, at their best they glimpse what might have been the case had they not been forgiven. Forgiveness engenders relief; ironically, it also engenders sober reflection that settles into reverence and godly fear, for sin can never be taken lightly again, and forgiveness never lightly received.

     Third, the psalmist understands that what he needs is not forgiveness in the abstract, but forgiveness from God — for what he wants and needs is reconciliation with God, restored fellowship with God. He waits for the Lord and trusts his promises (Ps. 130:5). He waits like a watchman waits for the dawn through the most frightening hours but with the assurance that the dawn’s breaking is inevitable (Ps. 130:6).

     Fourth, what is most precious about this psalm is that even though the culmination of redemption’s plan is still centuries away, the focus is not on the mechanism but on God. “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (Ps. 130:7-8).

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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 70

O LORD, Do Not Delay
70 To The Choirmaster. Of David, For The Memorial Offering.

1 Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
2 Let them be put to shame and confusion
who seek my life!
Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
3 Let them turn back because of their shame
who say, “Aha, Aha!”

4 May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
say evermore, “God is great!”
5 But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay!

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     21. What the custom was before Augustine's day is gathered, first, from Tertullian, who says, that a woman is not permitted to speak in the Church, nor yet to teach, or baptise, or offer, that she may not claim to herself any office of the man, not to say of the priest (Tertull. Cont. Hæres. Lib. 1). Of the same thing we have a sufficient witness in Epiphanius, when he upbraids Marcian with giving permission to women to baptise. I am not unaware of the answer given by those who take an opposite view--viz. that common use is very different from an extraordinary remedy used under the pressure of extreme necessity--but since he declares it mockery to allow women to baptise, and makes no exception, it is sufficiently plain that the corruption is condemned as inexcusable on any pretext. In his Third Book, also, when he says that it was not even permitted to the holy mother of Christ, he makes no reservation.

22. The example of Zipporah (Exod. 4:25) is irrelevantly quoted. Because the angel of God was appeased after she took a stone and circumcised her son, it is erroneously inferred that her act was approved by God. Were it so, we must say that God was pleased with a worship which Gentiles brought from Assyria, and set up in Samaria. [627] But other valid reasons prove, that what a foolish woman did is ignorantly drawn into a precedent. Were I to say that there was something special in the case, making it unfit for a precedent--and especially as we nowhere read that the command to circumcise was specially given to priests, the cases of baptism and circumcision are different--I should give a sufficient refutation. For the words of Christ are plain: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them" (Mt. 28:19). Since he appointed the same persons to be preachers of the Gospel, and dispensers of baptism--and in the Church, "no man taketh this honour unto himself," as the apostle declares (Heb. 5:4), "but he that is called of God, as was Aaron"--any one who baptises without a lawful call usurps another's office. Paul declares, that whatever we attempt with a dubious conscience, even in the minutest matters, as in meat and drink, is sin (Rom. 14:23). Therefore, in baptism by women, the sin is the greater, when it is plain that the rule delivered by Christ is violated, seeing we know it to be unlawful to put asunder what God has joined. But all this I pass; only I would have my readers to observe, that the last thing intended by Zipporah was to perform a service to God. Seeing her son in danger, she frets and murmurs, and, not without indignation, throws down the foreskin on the ground; thus upbraiding her husband, and taking offence at God. In short, it is plain that her whole procedure is dictated by passion: she complains both against her husband and against God, because she is forced to spill the blood of her son. We may add, that however well she might have conducted herself in all other respects, yet her presumption is inexcusable in this, in circumcising her son while her husband is present, and that husband not a mere private individual, but Moses, the chief prophet of God, than whom no greater ever arose in Israel. This was no more allowable in her, than it would be for women in the present day under the eye of a bishop. But this controversy will at once be disposed of when we maintain, that children who happen to depart this life before an opportunity of immersing them in water, are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Now, it has been seen, that unless we admit this position, great injury is done to the covenant of God, as if in itself it were weak, whereas its effect depends not either on baptism, or on any accessaries. The sacrament is afterwards added as a kind of seal, not to give efficacy to the promise, as if in itself invalid, but merely to confirm it to us. Hence it follows, that the children of believers are not baptised, in order that though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then, for the first time, become children of God, but rather are received into the Church by a formal sign, because, in virtue of the promise, they previously belonged to the body of Christ. Hence if, in omitting the sign, their is neither sloth, nor contempt, nor negligence, we are safe from all danger. By far the better course, therefore, is to pay such respect to the ordinance of God as not to seek the sacraments in any other quarter than where the Lord has deposited them. When we cannot receive them from the Church, the grace of God is not so inseparably annexed to them that we cannot obtain it by faith, according to his word.

__________________________________________________________________

[622] French, "Nous suivons donc de mot à mot la doctrine de Sainct Paul, en ce que nous disons que le peché est remis au Baptesme, quant à la coulpe, mais qu'il demeure toujours quant à la matière, en tous Chretiens jusques à la mort."--We therefore follow the doctrine of St Paul, word for word, when we say that in Baptism, sin is forgiven as to the guilt, but that it always remains as to the matter in all Christians until death.

[623] Latin, "Exsufflatio."--French, "Le souffle pour conjurer le diable."

[624] Vid. Calv. in Epist. de Fugiendis illicitis sacris. Item, Vera Ecclesia Reformandæ Ratio. See also infra, chap. 17 sec. 43. As to the form of baptism, see Cyprian, Lib. 4 Ep. 7.

[625] French, "Au reste, c'est une chose de nulle importance, si on baptise en plongeant du tout dans l'eau celui qui est baptisé, ou en repandant seulement de l'eau sur lui: mais selon la diversité des regions cela doit demeura en la liberté des Eglises. Car le signe est representé en l'un et en l'autre. Combien que le mot mesme de Baptiser signifie du tout plonger et qu'il soit certain que la coustume d'ainsi totalement plonger ait eté anciennement observée en 1'Eglise."--Moreover, it is a matter of no importance whether we baptise by entirely immersing the person baptised in the water, or only by sprinkling water upon him, but, according to the diversity of countries, this should remain free to the churches. For the sign is represented in either. Although the mere term Baptise means to immerse entirely, and it is certain that the custom of thus entirely immersing was anciently observed in the Church.

[626] 126 D126 In this sentence Calvin makes three assertions: (1) that the mode of baptism is a matter of complete indifference ("not of the least consequence"). (2) that it is evident that the term "baptize" means to immerse. (3) that immersion was the mode used by the primitive Church. These assertions deserve thoughtful consideration. Perhaps the following observations will be helpful: (1) Behind Calvin's complete infifference to mode lies an important distinction - the distinction between the substance or matter of the sacraments, and the mode or form of the sacraments; or to put it another way, the distinction between the essentials and the accidentals of the sacraments. For Calvin, the essential elements of the proper administration of baptism include: (a) a proper consecration, which includes the words of institution, the promises and obligations connected with the sacrament, and prayer; (b) a proper distribution, which involves the application of water in the name of the Trinity; and (c) a proper reception, which consists of faith, repentance, and an obedient spirit on the part of the recipient (or , in the case of infants, on the part of the parents). Beyond these, other aspects of the sacrament are "not of the least consequence," but are purely matters of expediency (such as differences of national or local custom, or diversity or climate). (2) The contention that the word translate "baptize" means to immerse is true in many instances of its usage in the Greek classics, so many of which had been rediscovered in the Renaissance which preceded the Reformation period. It was no doubt in these works that Calvin found the word "baptize" to mean "immerse". However, from a study of its usage in the Septuagient (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, made about 250-200 B.C.); and from a careful examination of its usage in the New Testament; we discover that this word, during the history of its usage, enlarged its scope of meaning to include, along with its classical definition of "to submerge, to immerse, and to dip," the further meanings of "to bathe in or with water, to wash." It should be noted that two of the most highly regarded Greek lexicons--Thayer's and Arndt and Gingrich's--bear witness to this enlarged scope of meaning. As far as the New Testament meaning of the word "baptize" is concerned, it must be decided by a study, in each instance, of its usage in context. Such a study reveals that the word "baptize" does not mean immersion (although immersion could have been used in a number of cases). On the other hand, the same study reveals that "baptize" does not mean pouring or sprinkling either! The word, as used in the New Testament, does not mean a particular mode. Whenever it is used to refer to Christian water baptism, it means "to perform the Christian ceremony of initiation, with its essential elements of consecration, distribution, and reception." (3) The contention that immersion was the mode used by the primitive Church has more recently been questioned, in the light of a comparison between the writings of the Church Fathers and the archaeological evidence that in any way relates to mode. Such a comparison appears to favor pouring the prevailing mode, with other modes also in use. Excellent studies of this question can be found in Clement F. Rogers' work, Baptism and Christian Archaeology (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1903), and J.G. Davies' work, The Architectural Setting of Baptism (London, Barrie and Rockliff, 1962).

[627] French, "Car par une mesme raison il faudroit dire, le service meslé que dresserent en Samarie ceux qui etoient la envoyés d'Orient, eut eté agreable a Dieu, veu que depuis ils ne furent plus molestes des betes sauvages."--For the same reason it would be necessary to say, that the mongrel worship set up in Samaria by those who came from the East was agreeable to God, seeing that thereafter they were not molested by wild beasts.

__________________________________________________________________

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


  • L1 Hermeneutics
  • L2 Hermeneutics
  • L3 Hermeneutics

#2    Dr. David Mathewson

 

#3    Dr. David Mathewson

 

#3 John Gabrieli   Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/1/2013    Relevant, Old Paths

     My dad was fifty-two years old when I was born. When I was thirteen, he asked me if I was embarrassed that he was so much older than my friends’ dads. I told him I wasn’t embarrassed but that I respected him and learned more from him because he was older. He was born a few years after the end of World War I and fought in World War II. He had a newspaper route during the Great Depression, and he told me stories about real cowboys, bank robbers, and his father, who grew up at the turn of the twentieth century in the old West in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. My dad wasn’t just older than my friends’ dads, he was from a different era, an era when young men respected old men and when old men raised young men to be men and not just guys. It was a time when older men and older women took seriously the biblical charge to teach and train younger men and women in old values such as integrity, service, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, wisdom, hard work, and humility.

     My father’s values were old, traditional values. But just because they were old and traditional didn’t necessarily make them good. They were good values because they were biblical values, and biblical values are relevant in every generation. But although they are relevant in every generation, they are disappearing from the rising generation. The problem today is not so much that young people have consciously rejected ancient biblical values but that they have not been taught what they are, much less been trained in them. Many teenagers simply do not know the old values that many of us take for granted. For decades now, many parents have turned over to Hollywood the responsibility of teaching values to their children. As a result, many young people have been left to fend for themselves and figure out their own personal sets of values, whether or not those values are biblical or conflict with other people’s sets of values. The result is that many young people, in the world and in the church, not only don’t know right from almost-right and truth from half-truth, they don’t even know right from wrong and truth from falsehood. They have not been taught the old values and they have not been guided down the old paths. Thus, they have had to make new paths, not knowing the old paths of their fathers or the ancient path of the Lord.

     These new paths have, in turn, become the path of our culture. Much of society is being overtaken by a youth-driven culture because we have neglected God’s call to train up the next generation of young people in the way they should go. If we are to redirect the current paths of young people, we must begin in the church by taking up the charge to come alongside younger men and women, and teach them the old, ancient values of God’s Word.

     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

     One bullet grazed his elbow, but a second lodged in the back of President James Garfield, who was shot this day, July 2, 1881, as he waited in the Washington train station. He had been in office four months. Though not wounded seriously, unsterile medical practices caused him to die two months later. A distinguished Civil War major, James Garfield was also a college president and was a preacher for the Disciples of Christ. He said: “If the next century does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the … morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

You ask: what is the meaning or purpose of life?
I can only answer with another question:
do you think we are wise enough to read God's mind?
--- Freeman Dyson
The Meaning of Life

It is against their own insoluble problem of being human that the dull and base in humanity are in revolt in anti-Semitism. Judaism, nevertheless, together with Hellenism and Christianity is an inalienable component of our Christian Western civilization, the eternal “call to Sinai” against which humanity again and again rebels.
--- Herman Rauschning
The beast from the abyss,

And shall I use these ransomed powers of mine
For things that only minister to me?
Lord, take my tongue, my hands, my heart, my all,
And let me live and love for Thee!
—Unknown
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Death, in its silent, sure march is fast gathering those whom I have longest loved, so that when he shall knock at my door, I will more willingly follow. --- Robert E. Lee
Mourning in the Mountains

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     PART III / Verses 3–6
     CHAPTER 16 / “With All Your Heart
     and All Your Soul and All Your Might”


     This monistic understanding of the yetzer, linked to an interpretation of our biblical verse, “with all your heart,” is not, however, universally accepted. Maimonides offers an alternative interpretation of this phrase that echoes the Mishnah’s teaching that one must offer a blessing for bad news as well as for good news (Berakhot 9:1). The Mishnah’s proof-text is our passage, interpreted to mean that the phrase “with all your heart” refers both to the Good and the Evil Urge, demonstrating that they are separate from and not convertible to each other. Maimonides6 explains that we must therefore implant in our hearts love for and faith in God even at the very time we are filled with rebellion, anger, and fury (against God), for as the Sages teach in reference to the verse, “In all your ways know Him” (
Prov. 3:6), we must know God “even with a sin.” (7) This dualistic view of the yetzer yields a psychologically cogent insight that acknowledges the complexity and vagaries of the human soul: that one must love God and believe in Him even while sinning, for transgression does not necessarily arise from the denial of God or any other heretical ideological reasons, but rather from the divided self.

(7)     Berakhot 63a.

     The Maharal of Prague offers another thoroughly dualistic interpretation of “with all your heart” without referring to the Sifre at all. For the Maharal, to love God requires that we devote ourselves totally to the Holy One with every part of our being. The Sages always maintained that there exists within every human being an element of pure evil, a lust for evil for its own sake and not merely to slake one’s appetites:

     Man possesses a longing for that which is evil because it is evil, not merely because of some pleasure he feels he needs. It is only because of his longing for that which is evil. (8)

(8)     Netivot Olam, Netiv Ahavat Hashem, 1:39–41.

     According to the Maharal, this pursuit of evil, motivated by our fascination with it or by some innate corruption of the human soul, is what the Talmud calls yetzer ha-ra. Thus, to love God “with all your heart” means that we direct our entire psychological and spiritual constitution in the service of that love. To do so requires that we first remove all evil and lust for evil from within ourselves.

     The Maharal’s pessimistic view of the human propensity for evil—objective, intrinsic evil that is part of human nature, not merely the subjective, relative, convertible kind—should resonate with us in this post-Holocaust era. For the Holocaust unmasked the evil face of Western civilization. It laid bare the futility of science, art, and education, the vanity of believing that two thousand years of preaching love and turning the other cheek could ensure at least a minimally safe and secure life. Even more, it stripped bare our pitiful soul, exposing all its ugliness and brutality along with the redeeming features with which its Creator endowed it. I am reminded of the late Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story, “The Last of the Demons,” in which the demon announces: “I am the last of the demons. Who needs demons any more now that man does our work?” (9)

(9)     In his collection of short stories, Short Friday (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1965).

     What the Holocaust taught us, reinforcing and amplifying the ugly lessons already drilled into us by human history, is that evil is also intrinsic and objective. In confronting this evil, therefore, we have no recourse but to meet it head on and attempt to overcome it, uproot it, banish it utterly and totally; if the contest must go on endlessly, so be it. For this kind of evil cannot simply be elevated or sanctified or converted; it is so “bitter” and “dark” that it can never be transmuted into “sweet” and “light.”

     For R. Shneur Zalman and many other hasidic masters, the Sifre’s comment—that the commandment to love God “with all your heart” means serving the Lord with both urges—must be understood ideally as the sublimation of an evil that is fundamentally chimerical and insubstantial, that is, in fact, nothing but a vehicle for the good. Yet even this monistic, redemptive view acknowledges that for the overwhelming majority of mankind, the very best of whom—with rare exceptions—qualify only for the status of benoni, the “intermediately righteous person,” such sublimation is unattainable. Our efforts must therefore be directed to the suppression of the evil within us.

     Maharal is less charitable and more pessimistic. He does not even mention the interpretation of the Sifre, for not even theoretically will he grant that yetzer ha-ra and yetzer ha-tov originate from a common source, that the good and evil within us are just two sides of the same coin. In his dualistic view, evil is real, hard, ugly, irreducible, non-negotiable, and unconvertible. To love God with all our heart requires that we confront that inner evil, that lust for evil for its own sake, realistically and courageously, that we recognize it for what it is, giving it no quarter in our incessant efforts to vanquish it.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 33.

     The Golden Eagle Is Cut To Pieces. Herod's Barbarity When He Was Ready To Die. He Attempts To Kill Himself. He Commands Antipater To Be Slain. He Survives Him Five Days And Then Dies.

     1. Now Herod's distemper became more and more severe to him, and this because these his disorders fell upon him in his old age, and when he was in a melancholy condition; for he was already seventy years of age, and had been brought by the calamities that happened to him about his children, whereby he had no pleasure in life, even when he was in health; the grief also that Antipater was still alive aggravated his disease, whom he resolved to put to death now not at random, but as soon as he should be well again, and resolved to have him slain [in a public manner].

     2. There also now happened to him, among his other calamities, a certain popular sedition. There were two men of learning in the city [Jerusalem,] who were thought the most skillful in the laws of their country, and were on that account had in very great esteem all over the nation; they were, the one Judas, the son of Sepphoris, and the other Matthias, the son of Margalus. There was a great concourse of the young men to these men when they expounded the laws, and there got together every day a kind of an army of such as were growing up to be men. Now when these men were informed that the king was wearing away with melancholy, and with a distemper, they dropped words to their acquaintance, how it was now a very proper time to defend the cause of God, and to pull down what had been erected contrary to the laws of their country; for it was unlawful there should be any such thing in the temple as images, or faces, or the like representation of any animal whatsoever. Now the king had put up a golden eagle over the great gate of the temple, which these learned men exhorted them to cut down; and told them, that if there should any danger arise, it was a glorious thing to die for the laws of their country; because that the soul was immortal, and that an eternal enjoyment of happiness did await such as died on that account; while the mean-spirited, and those that were not wise enough to show a right love of their souls, preferred a death by a disease, before that which is the result of a virtuous behavior.

     3. At the same time that these men made this speech to their disciples, a rumor was spread abroad that the king was dying, which made the young men set about the work with greater boldness; they therefore let themselves down from the top of the temple with thick cords, and this at midday, and while a great number of people were in the temple, and cut down that golden eagle with axes. This was presently told to the king's captain of the temple, who came running with a great body of soldiers, and caught about forty of the young men, and brought them to the king. And when he asked them, first of all, whether they had been so hardy as to cut down the golden eagle, they confessed they had done so; and when he asked them by whose command they had done it, they replied, at the command of the law of their country; and when he further asked them how they could be so joyful when they were to be put to death, they replied, because they should enjoy greater happiness after they were dead.

     4. At this the king was in such an extravagant passion, that he overcame his disease [for the time,] and went out, and spake to the people; wherein he made a terrible accusation against those men, as being guilty of sacrilege, and as making greater attempts under pretense of their law, and he thought they deserved to be punished as impious persons. Whereupon the people were afraid lest a great number should be found guilty and desired that when he had first punished those that put them upon this work, and then those that were caught in it, he would leave off his anger as to the rest. With this the king complied, though not without difficulty, and ordered those that had let themselves down, together with their Rabbins, to be burnt alive, but delivered the rest that were caught to the proper officers, to be put to death by them.

          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 20:15-16
     by D.H. Stern

15     A person may have gold and a wealth of pearls,
but lips informed by knowledge are a precious jewel.

16     Seize his clothes,
     because he guaranteed a stranger’s loan;
take them as security for that unknown woman.


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 conditions of discipleship

     If any man come to Me, and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple.
--- Luke 14:26
, also 27, 33.

     If the closest relationships of life clash with the claims of Jesus Christ, He says it must be instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between devotion to a Person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted love-slave of the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not devoted to Jesus Christ. No man on earth has this passionate love to the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Ghost has imparted it to him. We may admire Him, we may respect Him and reverence Him, but we cannot love Him. The only Lover of the Lord Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and He sheds abroad the very love of God in our hearts. Whenever the Holy Ghost sees a chance of glorifying Jesus, He will take your heart, your nerves, your whole personality, and simply make you blaze and glow with devotion to Jesus Christ.

     The Christian life is stamped by ‘moral spontaneous originality,’ consequently the disciple is open to the same charge that Jesus Christ was, viz., that of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent to God, and the Christian must be consistent to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to hard and fast creeds. Men pour themselves into creeds, and God has to blast them out of their prejudices before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Day In Autumn
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                A Day In Autumn

It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Genesis 16:6–11


     one person tells you: “You have donkey ears,” don’t believe him; two, make for yourself a bridle.

     BIBLE TEXT /
Genesis 16:6–11 / Abram said to Sarai, “Your maid is in your hands. Deal with her as you think right.” Then Sarai treated her harshly, and she ran away from her. An angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the road to Shur, and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” And she said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress, and submit to her harsh treatment.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly increase your offspring, and they shall be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold you are with child and shall bear a son; You shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has paid heed to your suffering.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 45, 7 / An angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water. On the way to Ḥalutzah. … And said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai.…” And she said “… from my mistress Sarai.” The proverb says, If one person tells you, “You have donkey ears,” don’t believe him; two, make for yourself a bridle. Thus Abram said, “Your maid is in your hands.” The angel said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai” “[a]nd she said … ‘from my mistress Sarai.’ ”

     And the angel of the Lord said to her.… The angel of the Lord said to her further.… How many angels came to her? Rabbi Yosé bar Rabbi Ḥanina said, “Five—each time it says ‘said,’ [there is] an angel.” The Rabbis said, “Four—each time it says ‘angel.’

     Rabbi Ḥiyya said, “Come and see the difference between the early ones and the later ones. Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen a divine being’ [
Judges 13:22]. Yet Hagar, slave of Sarai, saw five angels, one after the other, and wasn’t afraid of them.” Rabbi Ḥiyya said, “The fingernails of the fathers rather than the bellies of the sons.” Rabbi Yitzḥak said, “ ‘She oversees the activities of her household’ [Proverbs 31:27]. Those [the angels] who ‘oversee’ were members of our father Abraham’s household, so she [Hagar] was used to seeing them.”

     CONTEXT / An angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water. On the way to Ḥalutzah. The Midrash begins by helping us to locate the geographic point where the biblical story took place. Ḥalutzah is a town in the northern Negev, about twelve miles southwest of Beer-sheba. During the Roman period, Ḥalutzah (also spelled Elusa) was where the road from Israel to Egypt began. It makes sense that if Hagar, an Egyptian, were going to run away from Sarah (Sarai is Sarah’s original name), she would probably return to the land of her birth.

     “And she, Hagar, said ‘… from my mistress Sarai.’ ” Hagar seems to have been a feisty and defiant young woman. The Midrash wants to know why she refers to Sarai as “my mistress” (
Genesis 16:8). By using this term (גְּבִרְתִּי/g’virti in Hebrew), Hagar seems to be accepting her subservience. The answer is that she was referred to twice, once by Abraham, once by the angel, as a שִׁפְחָה/shifḥah, meaning “maid” or “slave.” After the second time, Hagar began to believe what others said about her. This is illustrated by the Rabbinic comment about believing people who tell you that you have donkey’s ears.

     And the angel of the Lord said to her.… The angel of the Lord said to her further.… How many angels came to her? The third section of our text wants to know how many angels actually spoke to Hagar. We might assume that the dialogue took place between just one angel and Hagar. But the Rabbis saw each additional mention of the word “angel” as a clue that it was a new and different angel who was speaking. Rabbi Yosé counted not the uses of the word angel, but rather the number of times an angel spoke to Hagar, and thus deduced there were five different angels. (In verse 8 of chapter 16, an angel speaks without being identified as such.)

     Rabbi Ḥiyya said, “Come and see the difference between the early ones and the later ones.” Our Midrash ends by comparing the earlier generations (Hagar) and the later generations (Manoah, father of Samson, whose story is told in
Judges 12). The earlier figures were familiar with angels and showed no surprise when they spoke to them. Manoah, on the later end, fears immediate death after coming in contact with an angel. Rabbi Ḥiyya said, “The fingernails of the fathers rather than the bellies of the sons.” Hagar is compared to a fingernail of the fathers, a small insignificant part of the earlier biblical figures. Manoah is compared to the belly of the sons, a crucial organ of the later stories. We are told that the greatness of the former far surpassed that of the latter.

     The verse from Proverbs, “She oversees the activities of her household,” is applied to Hagar and the four (or five) angels who visited her. The angels are referred to as seers or overseers, for their ability to know the future. “Those [the angels] who ‘oversee’ were members of our father Abraham’s household, so she [Hagar] was used to seeing them.” As a member of the household, Hagar would be used to seeing these angels.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Who Was Ahitophel
     Legends Of The Jews


     Who was Ahithopel? Modern scholars, especially the Word Biblical Commentary say he was not the grandfather of Bathsheba, but I tend to lean toward the Jewish interpretation since it is much older and after all, we are reading Jewish literature which we have appropriated as our own. Ahithophel is the only fellow-conspirator of Absalom who is mentioned by name in this story.

     Among David's courtiers and attendants, a prominent place is occupied by his counsellor Ahithophel, (1)  with whom the king was connected by family ties, Bath-sheba being his granddaughter. (2)  Ahithophel's wisdom was supernatural, for his counsels always coincided with the oracles rendered by the Urim and Thummim, and great as was his wisdom, it was equalled by his scholarship.

     Therefore David did not hesitate to submit himself to his instruction,
(3)  even though Ahithophel was a very young man, at the time of his death not more than thirty-three years old. (4)  The one thing lacking in him was sincere piety, (5)  and this it was that proved his undoing in the end, for it induced him to take part in Absalom's rebellion against David. Thus he forfeited even his share in the world to come. (6)

     To this dire course of action he was misled by astrologic and other signs, which he interpreted as prophecies of his own kingship, when in reality they pointed to the royal destiny of his granddaughter Bath-sheba.
(7)  Possessed by his erroneous belief, he cunningly urged Absalom to commit an unheard-of crime. Thus Absalom would profit nothing by his rebellion, for, though he accomplished his father’s ruin, he would yet be held to account and condemned to death for his violation of family purity, and the way to the throne would be clear for Ahithophel, the great sage in Israel. (8)

     The relation between David and Ahithophel had been somewhat strained even before Absalom’s rebellion. Ahithophel’s feelings had been hurt by his being passed over at the time when David, shortly after ascending the throne, invested, on a single day, no less than ninety thousand functionaries with positions.

     On that day a remarkable incident occurred. When the Ark was to be brought up from Geba to Jerusalem, the priests who attempted to take hold of it were raised up in the air and thrown violently to the ground. In his despair the king turned for advice to Ahithophel, who retorted mockingly: “Ask thy wise men whom thou hast but now installed in office.” It was only when David uttered a curse on him who knows a remedy and withholds it from the sufferer, that Ahithophel advised that a sacrifice should be offered at every step taken by the priests. Although the measure proved efficacious, and no further disaster occurred in connection with the Ark, yet Ahithophel’s words had been insincere.

     He knew the real reason of the misadventure, and concealed it from the king. Instead of following the law of having the Ark carried on the shoulders of priests, David had had it put on a wagon, and so incurred the wrath of God.
(9)

     Ahithophel's hostility toward David showed itself also on the following occasion. When David was digging the foundations of the Temple, a shard was found at a depth of fifteen hundred cubits. David was about to lift it, when the shard exclaimed: “Thou canst not do it.” “Why not?” asked David. “Because I rest upon the abyss.” “Since when?” “Since the hour in which the voice of God was heard to utter the words from Sinai, ‘I am the Lord thy God’, causing the earth to quake and sink into the abyss. I lie here to cover up the abyss.” Nevertheless David lifted the shard, and the waters of the abyss rose and threatened to flood the earth. Ahithophel was standing by, and he thought to himself: “Now David will meet with his death, and I shall be king.” Just then David said: “Whoever knows how to stem the tide of waters, and fails to do it, will one day throttle himself.”
(10)  Thereupon Ahithophel had the Name of God inscribed upon the shard, and the shard thrown into the abyss. The waters at once commenced to subside, but they sank to so great a depth that David feared the earth might lose her moisture, and he began to sing the fifteen “Songs of Ascents”, to bring the waters up again. (11)

     Nevertheless David’s curse was realized. Ahithophel ended his days by hanging himself. His last will contained the following three rules of conduct:
(12) 1. Refrain from doing aught against a favorite of fortune. 2. Take heed not to rise up against the royal house of David. 3. If the Feast of Pentecost falls on a sunny day, then sow wheat. (13)

     Posterity has been favored with the knowledge of but a small part of Ahithophel’s wisdom, and that little through two widely different sources, through Socrates,
(14)  who was his disciple, and through a fortune-book written by him. (15)

     I know, I know, but I still think much can be learned from Jewish sources. Don't we accept that God spoke through a donkey? Well then ...

(1)     Berakot 3b, which reads: David did not engage in any war before he took counsel with Ahitophel. Targum Ps. 141:10 describes Ahitophel as the head of the Synedrion.

(2)     Sanhedrin 101b; ps.-Jerome 2 Sam. 11:3. Ahitophel was at first David's best friend; Tehillim 55, 290.

(3)     Nedarim 37b; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10, 29a; Tehillim 3, 38, which reads: His wisdom was superhuman, like that of an angel. Comp. also Tehillim 55, 391, which reads: David feared nobody except Ahitophel, who was his master and teacher in the knowledge of the Torah. According to some, David learned two things only from Ahitophel, to acquire colleagues with whom to study the Torah, and to walk quickly to the house of God for prayer and service; see Abot 6.2; Nispahim 18; Kallah 6, 16; Mahzor Vitry 556; Nehemias, Commentary on Abot, 77; BaR 18.17.

(4)     Sanhedrin 69b; compare footnote 97 on p. 906.

(5)     Sanhedrin 106b; Hagigah 15b; Tehillim 55, 292–293, and 119, 495 and 500. Compare with p. 906, where a similar characteristic is attributed to Doeg. Ahitophel used to compose three prayers for each day; Yerushalmi Berakot 4, 8a (bottom), which is a play on the name Ahitophel brother of prayer;, i. e. man of prayers; comp., however, Ratner, Ahabat Ziyyon, ad. loc. It was his pride which brought destruction upon him, as may be seen from his haughty behavior towards David at the removal of the ark; ER 31, 157.

(6)     Sanhedrin Mishnah 10.1. Compare footnote 100 on p. 906.

(7)     Sanhedrin 101b; an unknown Midrash in Yalkut II, 151 on 2 Sam. 16. Compare footnote 52 on p. 898, and footnote 2 on p. 981.

(8)     Yalkut II, 151 on 2 Sam. 16. Ahitophel thought that David was fallen from the grace of God for ever since he had committed the sin with Bath-sheba. But he did not know that no sin can efface the merit acquired by the study of the Torah;, and these merits stood David in good stead in the time of his disgrace; see Sotah 21a; comp. also Baba Meziʿa 59a; PK 2, 10b; Tan. B. II, 106; Tan. Ki-Tissa 4; Tehillim 2, 38, which reads: Doeg and Ahitophel used to remark mockingly: Is it conceivable that he who took the sheep and slew the shepherd should be able to make good? On the reading Doeg in this passage, see Tosafot שנץ on Sotah, loc. cit.

(9)     Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10, 29a; BaR 4.20; ER 31,157, which reads: The ark was suspended in the air, and Uzzah put forth his hand; to take hold of it. The sinners in Israel then said: Were it not for Uzzah, the ark would have dropped down to the ground. No sooner did they utter these blasphemous words than Uzzah dropped dead. All then became convinced that the ark was able to support itself without human help. According to Sotah 35a, Uzzah eased himself near the ark, and as a punishment was smitten dead, whereas according to Rimze Haftarot, Shemini, he brought his death upon himself by uncovering the ark. As to the grave error committed by David in putting the ark on a wagon, see Josephus, Antiqui., VII, 4.2; Aphraates, 363; Ephraem, 2 Sam. 6:7; Ginzberg, Haggada bei den Kirchenv. The king chose pious men, and therefore passed over Ahitophel, who was wise but not pious; Hasidim 416.

(10)     Ahitophel ended his life by strangling himself; 2 Sam. 17:18. A somewhat different reason for Ahitophel's death by strangling is given in ER 31, 157.

(11)     Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10, 29a; Sukkah 53a–53b; Makkot 11a; Shemuel 26, 125; Maʾasiyyot (Gaster's edition, 113–14); Raziel; Sode Raza as quoted in Yalkut Reubeni, Gen. 1:1; Hakam ha-Razim in Yalkut Reubeni, Num. 26:56; Al-Barceloni, 72–73; Zohar III, 198b. In the last source it is stated that David found a pot filled with magic herbs at the abyss where it was placed by Balak; As to the waters below the holy of holies, see Mid-dot 2.6, and Yoma 77b–78a. All these Haggadahs belong to the cycle of legends concerning the Eben Shetiyyah; see Index, s. v.

(12)     2 Sam. 17:23 is quoted as proof for the law that the last wish of the dying has legal validity; comp. Baba Batra 147a.

(13)     Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10, 29a–29b; Baba Batra 147a (here the first rule of conduct reads: Do not engage in dissension, which is very likely a doublet to rule 2; comp. ER 31, 157); PRK 23a (as in Baba Batra, with the addition: When you begin to suffer the travail of the Messiah, start to prepare gifts for him).

14     R. Moses Isserles, Torat ha-ʿOlah 1.11, quoting an “old source”.

(15)     On the fortune-book, see Steinschneider, Hebräische Uebersetzungen, 870.

Legends of the Jews: Complete Set (Volumes 1-7)

Loyalty to David
     Legends Of The Jews


     The knowledge that a part of Absalom's following sided with him in secret,—that, though he was pursued by his son, his friends remained true to him, —somewhat consoled David in his distress. He thought that in these circumstances, if the worst came to the worst, Absalom would at least feel pity for him. (1) At first, however, the despair of David knew no bounds. He was on the point of worshipping an idol, when his friend Hushai the Archite approached him, saying: The people will wonder that such a king should serve idols. David replied: Should a king such as I am be killed by his own son? It is better for me to serve idols than that God should be held responsible for my misfortune, and His Name thus be desecrated. Hushai reproached him: Why didst thou marry a captive? There is no wrong in that, replied David, it is permitted according to the law. Thereupon Hushai: But thou didst disregard the connection between the passage permitting it and the one that follows almost immediately after it in the Scriptures, dealing with the disobedient and rebellious son, the natural issue of such a marriage. (2)

     Hushai was not the only faithful friend and adherent David had. Some came to his rescue unexpectedly, as, for instance, Shobi, the son of Nahash, who is identical with the Ammonite king Hanun, the enemy of David at first, and later his ally.
(3) Barzillai, another one of his friends in need, also surprised him by his loyalty, for on the whole his moral attitude was not the highest conceivable. (4)

(1)     Berakot 7b; Tehillim 3, 34. Owing to an incorrect reading in Tehillim, loc. cit. , Zohar, I, 151b, maintains that David felt some consolation in the fact that the leaders of the people remained faithful to him, and did not join Absalom; comp. the preceding note. In the Book of Psalms the psalm which David composed when he fled from Absalom follows the one concerning Gog and Magog (the nations in uproar against God and the Messiah; comp. Ps. 2 and 3). The reason is that if one should say: How is it possible that the slave should rebel against his master? he will receive the answer: Behold, it even happened that the son rebelled against his father. See Berakot 10a.

(2)     Sanhedrin 107a; DR 4.4; Zohar III, 24a; EZ 3, 177; ps.-Jerome, 2 Sam. 15:25. Comp. Ginzberg, Haggada bei den Kirchenv., 53–54. David served an idol because he wished to make his fate appear just in the eyes of men, who would say: “Behold, he merited his punishment.” That David on this occasion had his head covered and went barefoot (2 Sam. 16:30) was due to the fact that the Synedrion excommunicated him (on account of his sin with Bath-sheba?), and one who is excommunicated is forbidden to put on shoes or to have his head uncovered. The ban was removed from him by his master Ira. Comp. Shemuel 8, 70; BaR 3.2; Zohar II, 107b.

(3)     Tehillim 2, 34–36, where also the different kinds of food sent by David's friends (2 Sam. 17:28–29) are described in detail.

(4)     Shabbat 152a, which reads: Barzillai had led a lascivious life, and having spent his strength, he could not enjoy life any more when he became old; comp. 2 Sam. 19:36. In Tehillim 2, 35–36 it is stated that David had feared these very men who came to his assistance. Barzillai was a proselyte; see Jerushalmi Kiddushin 4.65b.

Legends of the Jews: Complete Set (Volumes 1-7)

Nahum 3:1–19
     God Is Just: Why Nineveh Will Fall
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25) God is long-suffering, but there comes a time when His hand of judgment falls. “You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name forever and ever” (Ps. 9:5, NKJV). Nahum gives three reasons why Nineveh deserved to be judged.

     Their ruthless bloodshed (
Nahum 3:1–3). The Assyrians were clever diplomats who lied to other nations and then broke their promises and destroyed them. They slaughtered people without regard for age or sex, and they stacked up corpses like lumber as warning to anybody who would oppose them. The shedding of innocent blood is a serious sin that God notes, remembers, and judges (Deut. 19:11–13; 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4; Ps. 106:38; Prov. 6:16–17; Isa. 59:7). Depraved dictators who authorize the heartless slaying of innocent victims will someday answer to God for their crimes against Him and humanity.

     Their idolatry (
Nahum 3:4–7). Often in Scripture, idolatry is associated with prostitution, and when you consider that the chief deity of Nineveh was Ishtar, goddess of sexual passion, fertility, and war, you can understand why Nahum used this metaphor. Because of their spiritual blindness, the Assyrians were ensnared by this evil goddess and were under the control of lust, greed, and violence. People become like the god that they worship (Ps. 115:8), for what we believe determines how we behave. Assyria spread this evil influence to other nations and enslaved them by their sorcery. (See the description of the corrupt end-times religious system given in Rev. 17.)

     In ancient times, prostitutes were often shamed by being publicly exposed, and this is what God promised to do to Nineveh. God would expose Assyria’s nakedness before all the nations, and this would be the end of their evil influence. The magnificent wealthy city would become a heap of ruins.

     Their pride and self-confidence (
Nahum 3:8–19. In this closing paragraph, Nahum uses a number of images to show the Assyrians their weaknesses and assure them of their ultimate defeat.

     He begins with a fact of history: the defeat of the Egyptian city of Thebes, or No-Ammon, by the Assyrians, in 663 (
vv. 8–11). If you visit Karnak and Luxor in Upper Egypt, you will be at the site of ancient Thebes. This capital city of Upper Egypt was sure it was safe from any invader, yet it went down in defeat before Assyria. Like Nineveh, Thebes was situated by waters which were supposed to be their defense, but the city fell just the same. Thebes had many allies, but they couldn’t protect her.

     What Assyria did to the people of Thebes would in turn be done to them: their children would be dashed to pieces, the leaders would become slaves, and the people would become exiles. Now, argues Nahum, if this happened to Thebes, why couldn’t it happen to Nineveh? Their pride and self-confidence would be totally destroyed as the Medes and Babylonians captured the city. Nineveh would drink the cup of God’s wrath and become drunk (
v. 11; see Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:14ff).

     In fact, the conquest would be so easy, it would be like ripe figs dropping into a person’s mouth (
Nahum 3:12). Why? Because the ferocious Assyrian soldiers would be drained of their strength and be like women: weak, afraid, and unable to meet the enemy (vv. 13–14). (This image is not meant to demean women in any way, whether civilians or in the armed forces, or to suggest that women lack strength and courage. The biblical examples of Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, and Esther prove that Scripture can magnify the courage and service of dedicated women. However, we must keep in mind that the ancient world was a masculine society; women were kept secluded and certainly wouldn’t have been expected to participate in battles. Phrases like “weak as a woman” were current; both Isaiah (19:16) and Jeremiah (50:37; 51:30) used them.) They wouldn’t be able to bar the gates or stop the enemy from setting fire to them, nor would they be able to repair the walls or carry water to put out the fires.

     The next image is that of insects (
vv. 15–17). The invading soldiers would sweep through the land and the city like a plague of grasshoppers or locusts and wipe everything out. The Babylonian merchants were also like locusts as they collected all the treasures they could find. But the Assyrian leaders were like locusts that go to sleep on the wall on a cold day, but when the sun comes up, they feel the heat and fly away. The king and his council were overconfident, like locusts sleeping on the wall, but when the invasion occurred, they flew off to a safe place!

     Assyria was like a scattered flock with sleeping shepherds (
v. 18), or like a wounded body with no way to be healed (v. 19a). They had no allies to rescue them, for all the other nations would rejoice when they heard that the Assyrian Empire was no more (v. 19b).

     Like the Book of Jonah, the Book of Nahum ends with a question: “for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” (
v. 19, NIV) Nahum emphasizes the same truth that was declared by the Prophet Amos: God punishes cruel nations that follow inhumane policies and brutal practices (Amos 1–2). Whether it’s practicing genocide, exploiting the poor, supporting slavery, or failing to provide people with the necessities of life, the sins of national leaders are known by God and He eventually judges.

     If you question that fact, go and search for Nineveh.


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

The Star of Bethlehem
     Astrology or Astronomy?
     What the Bible says

     "Setting the stage
     "Why are we hearing this now?
     The stars and the Bible
     The nine points of Christ’s star
     What was the star?

     "The Starry Dance
     "A coronation
     The birth of a King
     Westward leading
     To stop a star

     "The Day of the Cross
     "Dating the crucifixion
     Pilate and Sejanus
     Daniel’s prophecy
     Peter’s argument
     The celestial dirge
     "What does this mean?

The Star of Bethlehem

Shimei
     the notorious son of Gera

     Beside the father of Mordecai, the only ancestor of his who is mentioned by name is Shimei, and he is mentioned for a specific reason. This Shimei is none other than the notorious son of Gera, the rebel who had so scoffed and mocked at David fleeing before Absalom that he would have been killed by Abishai, if David had not generously interfered in his favor. David's prophetic eye discerned in Shimei the ancestor of Israel’s savior in the time of Ahasuerus. For this reason he dealt leniently with him, and on his death-bed he bade his son Solomon reserve vengeance until Shimei should have reached old age and could beget no more children. Thus Mordecai deserves both appellations, the Benjamite and the Judean, for he owed his existence not only to his actual Benjamite forebears on his father's side, but also to the Judean David, who kept his ancestor Shimei alive.

     Shimei's distinction as the ancestor of Israel's redeemer was due to the merits of his wife. When Jonathan and Ahimaaz, David's spies in his war against his son, fled before the myrmidons of Absalom, they found the gate of Shimei's house open. Entering, they concealed themselves in the well. That they escaped detection was due to the ruse of Shimei's pious wife. She quickly transformed the well into a lady's chamber. When Absalom's men came and looked about, they desisted from searching the place, because they reasoned, that men as saintly as Jonathan and Ahimaaz would not have taken refuge in the private apartment of a woman. God determined, that for having rescued two pious men He would reward her with two pious descendants, who should in turn avert the ruin of Israel.


Legends of the Jews: Complete Set (Volumes 1-7)

Take Heart
     July 2

     I am the LORD, who heals you. --- Exodus 15:26.

     The Lord our God will heal our spirits as he healed Marah. (Classic RS Thomas on the Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) First, he made the people know how bitter Marah was. There was no healing for that water till they had tasted it and discovered that it was too brackish to be endured, but after they knew its bitterness, then the Lord made it sweet to them. So is it with your sin. It must become more and more bitter to you, [making] you feel that you cannot live on anything that is in yourself. God’s way is first to wound and then to heal. He begins by making Marah to be Marah [“bitter”], and afterwards he makes it sweet.

     Next, there was prayer offered. I do not know whether any of the people possessed faith in God, but if so, they had a prayerless faith, and God does not work in answer to prayerless faith. Some think it useless to pray because they feel sure of having the blessing. Putting aside prayer is dangerous business. If there is not the daily cry to God for blessing and for keeping and for sanctification, the mercy will not come. Healing does not come to a prayerless faith. God will only hear you when you pray. Faith must pour itself out in prayer before the blessing will be poured into the soul. Moses cried, and he obtained the blessing; the people did not cry, and they would have been in a bad way had it not been for Moses. We must come to crying and praying before we will receive sanctification, which is the making whole of our spirits.

     Marah became sweet through the introduction of something outside of itself—a tree. I know a tree that, if put into the soul, will sweeten all its thoughts and desires, that tree on which Jesus died and shed his blood for our sin.

     If the merit of the Cross is imputed to you and the spirit of the Cross is introduced into your nature, then you will find a marvelous change of your entire nature. You were full of vice, so the Crucified One will make you full of virtue. You were bitter toward God, so you will be sweet to him, and even Christ will be refreshed as he drinks of your love, as he drinks of your trust, as he drinks of your joy in him. Where all was acrid and poisonous, everything will become pure and refreshing. We must first experience bitterness, then cry out in prayer, then yield an obedient faith that puts the tree into the stream, and then the divine power will be put forth on us by him who says, “I am the LORD, who heals you.”
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     “That Part of Publick Worship Called Singing”  July 2



     From the records of the First Church of Windsor, Connecticut, for Sunday, July 2, 1736:

     Society meeting, Capt. Pelatiah Allyn Moderator. The business of the meeting proceeded in the following manner: The Moderator proposed consideration of what should be done respecting that part of publick Worship called Singing, whether in their Publick meetings on Sabbath day, they would sing the way Deacon Marshall usually sung in his lifetime commonly called the “Old Way” or whether they would sing the way taught by Mr. Beal commonly called “Singing by Rule,” and when the Society had discoursed the matter the Moderator proposed to vote. But when the vote was passed there being many voters it was difficult to take the exact number of votes in order to determine on which side the major vote was; whereupon the Moderator ordered all the voters to go out of the seats and stand in the alleys and then those that were for Deacon Marshalls way should go into the men’s seats and those that were for Mr. Beals way should go into the women’s seats. The Moderator asked me how many there was (for Deacon Marshall’s way). I answered 42 and he said there was 63 or 64.

     Then the Moderator proceeded and desired that those who were for singing in Publick the way that Mr. Beal taught would draw out of their seats and pass out of the door and be counted. They replied they were ready to show their minds in any proper way where they were if they might be directed thereto but would not go out the door to do the same and desired that they might be led to a vote where they were and they were ready to show their minds which the Moderator refused to do and thereupon declared that it was voted that Deacon Marshall’s way of singing called the “Old Way” should be sung in Publick for the future and ordered me to record the same which I refused to do under the circumstances thereof and have recorded the facts and proceedings.

     Then they sang a new song, “You are worthy. … With your own blood you bought for God people of every tribe, language, nation, and race. Praise, honor, glory, and strength forever and ever to the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
--- Revelation 5:9,13b.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 2

     “Our heart shall rejoice in Him.” --- Psalm 33:21.

     Blessed is the fact that Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress; although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and, like many birds, they sing best in their cages. The waves may roll over them, but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God’s countenance; they have a buoyancy about them which keeps their head always above the water, and helps them to sing amid the tempest, “God is with me still.” To whom shall the glory be given? Oh! to Jesus—it is all by Jesus. Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer, but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy. He is sick and suffering, but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him. He is dying, and the cold chilly waters of Jordan are gathering about him up to the neck, but Jesus puts His arms around him, and cries, “Fear not, beloved; to die is to be blessed; the waters of death have their fountain-head in heaven; they are not bitter, they are sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God.” As the departing saint wades through the stream, and the billows gather around him, and heart and flesh fail him, the same voice sounds in his ears, “Fear not; I am with thee; be not dismayed; I am thy God.” As he nears the borders of the infinite unknown, and is almost affrighted to enter the realm of shades, Jesus says, “Fear not, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Thus strengthened and consoled, the believer is not afraid to die; nay, he is even willing to depart, for since he has seen Jesus as the Morning star, he longs to gaze upon Him as the sun in his strength. Truly, the presence of Jesus is all the heaven we desire. He is at once

     “The glory of our brightest days;
     The comfort of our nights.”



          Evening - July 2

     "Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit." --- Psalm 28:1.

     A cry is the natural expression of sorrow, and a suitable utterance when all other modes of appeal fail us; but the cry must be alone directed to the Lord, for to cry to man is to waste our entreaties upon the air. When we consider the readiness of the Lord to hear, and his ability to aid, we shall see good reason for directing all our appeals at once to the God of our salvation. It will be in vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment, but our Rock attends to our cries.

     “Be not silent to me.” Mere formalists may be content without answers to their prayers, but genuine suppliants cannot; they are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will—they must go further, and obtain actual replies from heaven, or they cannot rest; and those replies they long to receive at once, they dread even a little of God’s silence. God’s voice is often so terrible that it shakes the wilderness; but his silence is equally full of awe to an eager suppliant. When God seems to close his ear, we must not therefore close our mouths, but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, he will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case should we be in if the Lord should become for ever silent to our prayers? “Lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.” Deprived of the God who answers prayer, we should be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and should soon sink to the same level as the lost in hell. We must have answers to prayer: ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds, for he never can find it in his heart to permit his own elect to perish.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 2

          IN MY HEART THERE RINGS A MELODY

     Words and Music by Elton M. Roth, 1891–1951

     Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. (Psalm 98:1, 4)

     King Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, once made this observation: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). The medical profession has also long realized that happy people are the healthiest people. But how does one achieve that happiness—that joy? The child of God knows that it comes from living close to the Savior. And beyond that—joy experienced should also be joy expressed.

     This ought to be true in our individual lives as well as when we gather in our church services. True worship must have the ingredient of festal joy. The Psalms insist that we “burst into jubilant song with music” and that we praise our God with “trumpet, lute, harp, timbrel, and loud crashing cymbals.” Too often believers give the impression that the Christian experience is a cheerless journey of harsh self-discipline that must be painfully endured until the heavenly rewards are finally realized. Little joy or praise is evident in such a testimony.

     The author and composer of this hymn, Elton Roth, was a well-known musician of his day. It was while assisting with evangelistic meetings in Texas on a hot summer day in 1923 that the words and music for this hymn suddenly came to him. Mr. Roth recalls, “That Evening I introduced the song by having more than 200 boys and girls sing it at the open air meeting, after which the audience joined in the singing. I was thrilled as it seemed my whole being was transformed into song.”

     When our worship and personal experience are full of joy and song, it will be easier for our lives to encourage others to know this same happiness also.

     I have a song that Jesus gave me; it was sent from heav’n above; there never was a sweeter melody; ’tis a melody of love.

     I love the Christ who died on Calv’ry, for He washed my sins away; He put within my heart a melody, and I know it’s there to stay.

     ’Twill be my endless theme in glory; with the angels I will sing; ’twill be a song with glorious harmony, when the courts of heaven ring.

     Chorus: In my heart there rings a melody, there rings a melody with heaven’s harmony; in my heart there rings a melody, there rings a melody of love.


     For Today: 1 Chronicles 16:8–10; Nehemiah 8:10; Colossians 3:16.

     Consider thoughtfully—Am I truly a happy Christian? Does my life express the joy of the Lord? Does my church worship produce joy in my life? Ask God to change whatever may be lacking. Then sing joyfully as you go ---

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. LXXIII. — IT would be too tedious to repeat here each imperative passage which the Diatribe enumerates out of the New Testament, always tacking to them her own conclusions, and vainly arguing, that those things which are so said are ‘to no purpose,’ are ‘superfluous,’ are ‘coldly useless,’ are ‘ridiculous,’ are ‘nothing at all,’ if the will be not free. And I have already repeatedly observed, even to disgust, that nothing whatever is effected by such arguments; and that if any thing be proved, the whole of “Free-will” is proved. And this is nothing less than overthrowing the Diatribe altogether; seeing that, it set out to prove such a “Free-will” as cannot of itself do good, but serves sin; and then goes on to prove such a “Free-will” as can do all things; thus, throughout, forgetting and not knowing itself.

     It is mere cavillation where it makes these remarks — “By their fruits, saith the Lord, ‘ye shall know them.’ (Matt. vii. 16, 20.) He calls works fruits, and He calls them ours, but they are not ours if all things be done by necessity.” —

     I pray you, are not those things most rightly called ours, which we did not indeed make ourselves, but which we received from others? Why should not those works be called ours, which God has given unto us by His Spirit? Shall we then not call Christ ours, because we did not make Him, but only received Him? Again: if we made all those things which are called ours — therefore, we made our own eyes, we made our own hands, we made our own feet: unless you mean to say, that our eyes, our hands, and our feet are not called our own! Nay, “What have we that we did not receive,” saith Paul. (1 Cor. iv. 7.) Shall we then say, that those things are either not ours, or else we made them ourselves? But suppose they are called our fruits because we made them, where then remain grace and the Spirit? — Nor does He say, “By their fruits, which are in a certain small part their own, ye shall know them.” This cavillation rather is ridiculous, superfluous, to no purpose, coldly useless, nay, absurd and detestable, by which the holy words of God are defiled and profaned.

     In the same way also is that saying of Christ upon the cross trifled with, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke xxiii. 34.) Here, where some assertion might have been expected which should make for “Free-will,” recourse is again had to conclusions — “How much more rightly (says the Diatribe) would He have excused them on this ground — because they have not a Free-will, nor can they if they willed it, do otherwise.” —

     No! nor is that “Free-will” which ‘cannot will any thing good,’ concerning which we are disputing, proved by this conclusion either; but that “Free-will” is proved by it which can do all things; concerning which no one disputes, to except the Pelagians.

     Here, where Christ openly saith, “they know not what they do,” does He not testify that they could not will good? For how can you will that which you do not know? You certainly cannot desire that of which you know nothing! What more forcible can be advanced against “Free-will”, than that it is such a thing of nought, that it not only cannot will good, but cannot even know what evil it does, and what good is? Is there then any obscurity in this saying, “they know not what they do?” What is there remaining in the Scriptures which may not, upon the authority of the Diatribe, declare for “Free-will,” since this word of Christ is made to declare for it, which is so clearly and so directly against it? In the same easy way any one might affirm that this word declares for “Free-will” — “And the earth was without form and void:” (Gen. i. 2.) or this, “And God rested on the seventh day:” (Gen. ii. 2,) or any word of the same kind. Then, indeed, the Scriptures; would be obscure and ambiguous, nay, would be nothing at all. But to dare to make use of the Scriptures in this way, argues a mind that is in a signal manner, a contemner both of God and man, and that deserves no forbearance whatever.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Lect 11 | 2nd Great Awakening
Dr. Roger Green






Lect 12 | Catholicism in 19th Century
Dr. Roger Green





Lect 13 | Slavery, Churches, Civil War
Dr. Roger Green






Lect 14 | The Black Church in America
Dr. Roger Green





Lect 15 | 19th Century Evangelicalism, Finney
Dr. Roger Green






L16 | 19th Century Evangelicalism, Moody
Dr. Roger Green





L17 | Urban Growth and the Churches
Dr. Roger Green






L18 | Liberal Theology in America
Dr. Roger Green





L19 | The Social Gospel in America
Dr. Roger Green






L20 | Social Gospel 2
Dr. Roger Green





L21 | Neo-Orthodoxy and Social Crisis
Dr. Roger Green






L22 | Neo-Orthodoxy and Social Crisis 2
Dr. Roger Green





L23 | Neo-Orthodoxy and Social Crisis 3
Dr. Roger Green






L24 | Rise of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
Dr. Roger Green





L25 | Reformation to the Present
Dr. Roger Green