The Beginning of Knowledge
Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon
the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Shun Evil Counsel
8 My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.
The Call of Wisdom
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
21 She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
23 Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.”
The Value of Wisdom
Proverbs 2:1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
8 He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;
16 To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.
18 For her house leads down to death,
And her paths to the dead;
19 None who go to her return,
Nor do they regain the paths of life—
20 So you may walk in the way of goodness,
And keep to the paths of righteousness.
21 For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.
Guidance for the Young
Proverbs 3:1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
8 It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, let them not depart from your eyes—
Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
22 So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
23 Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
26 For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.
29 Do not devise evil against your neighbor,
For he dwells by you for safety’s sake.
30 Do not strive with a man without cause,
If he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the oppressor,
And choose none of his ways;
32 For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord,
But His secret counsel is with the upright.
33 The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the home of the just.
34 Surely He scorns the scornful,
But gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
Ulysses S. Grant was commissioned this day, July 25, 1866, as General of the Army, being the first officer to hold that rank. His courageous victories during the Civil War catapulted him into national prominence and in 1868, he was elected America’s eighteenth President. To the Editor of the Sunday School Times in Philadelphia, President Ulysses S. Grant wrote: “Your favor of … asking a message from me to the … youth of the United States … is this Morning received. My advice to Sunday schools, no matter what their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The greatest discernment is not to point out devils and recognize the enemy in every a situation, though that is a part of the equation. The most important thing is to recognize when the Lord is truly moving, so we do not miss out on His fullness. The watchmen on the wall had a two-fold responsibility in Old Testament times. They sounded an alarm when they saw the enemy approaching. But this was not their primary task. The greater responsibility was to watch for the king coming, so the gates could be opened and the inner chambers prepared for him. Without the King in our camp, we are powerless against the adversary. As we open our hearts to Jesus, we can trust Him to lead us in the way everlasting.
--- John Crowder
The Ten Commandments have lost their validity…Conscience is a Jewish invention. It is a blemish like circumcision… --- Adolph Hitler
Herman Rauschning Hitler Speaks
I used to ask God to help me.
Then I asked if I might help Him.
I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me.
--- Hudson Taylor
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How The War Of The Jews With The Romans Began, And Concerning Manahem.
1. This advice the people hearkened to, and went up into the temple with the king and Bernice, and began to rebuild the cloisters; the rulers also and senators divided themselves into the villages, and collected the tributes, and soon got together forty talents, which was the sum that was deficient. And thus did Agrippa then put a stop to that war which was threatened. Moreover, he attempted to persuade the multitude to obey Florus, until Caesar should send one to succeed him; but they were hereby more provoked, and cast reproaches upon the king, and got him excluded out of the city; nay, some of the seditious had the impudence to throw stones at him. So when the king saw that the violence of those that were for innovations was not to be restrained, and being very angry at the contumelies he had received, he sent their rulers, together with their men of power, to Florus, to Cesarea, that he might appoint whom he thought fit to collect the tribute in the country, while he retired into his own kingdom.
2. And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it. At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple.
3. Hereupon the men of power got together, and conferred with the high priests, as did also the principal of the Pharisees; and thinking all was at stake, and that their calamities were becoming incurable, took counsel what was to be done. Accordingly, they determined to try what they could do with the seditious by words, and assembled the people before the brazen gate, which was that gate of the inner temple [court of the priests] which looked toward the sun-rising. And, in the first place, they showed the great indignation they had at this attempt for a revolt, and for their bringing so great a war upon their country; after which they confuted their pretense as unjustifiable, and told them that their forefathers had adorned their temple in great part with donations bestowed on them by foreigners, and had always received what had been presented to them from foreign nations; and that they had been so far from rejecting any person's sacrifice [which would be the highest instance of impiety,] that they had themselves placed those donation about the temple which were still visible, and had remained there so long a time; that they did now irritate the Romans to take arms against them, and invited them to make war upon them, and brought up novel rules of a strange Divine worship, and determined to run the hazard of having their city condemned for impiety, while they would not allow any foreigner, but Jews only, either to sacrifice or to worship therein. And if such a law should be introduced in the case of a single private person only, he would have indignation at it, as an instance of inhumanity determined against him; while they have no regard to the Romans or to Caesar, and forbid even their oblations to be received also; that however they cannot but fear, lest, by thus rejecting their sacrifices, they shall not be allowed to offer their own; and that this city will lose its principality, unless they grow wiser quickly, and restore the sacrifices as formerly, and indeed amend the injury [they have offered foreigners] before the report of it comes to the ears of those that have been injured.
4. And as they said these things, they produced those priests that were skillful in the customs of their country, who made the report that all their forefathers had received the sacrifices from foreign nations. But still not one of the innovators would hearken to what was said; nay, those that ministered about the temple would not attend their Divine service, but were preparing matters for beginning the war. So the men of power perceiving that the sedition was too hard for them to subdue, and that the danger which would arise from the Romans would come upon them first of all, endeavored to save themselves, and sent ambassadors, some to Florus, the chief of which was Simon the son of Ananias; and others to Agrippa, among whom the most eminent were Saul, and Antipas, and Costobarus, who were of the king's kindred; and they desired of them both that they would come with an army to the city, and cut off the seditious before it should be too hard to be subdued. Now this terrible message was good news to Florus; and because his design was to have a war kindled, he gave the ambassadors no answer at all. But Agrippa was equally solicitous for those that were revolting, and for those against whom the war was to be made, and was desirous to preserve the Jews for the Romans, and the temple and metropolis for the Jews; he was also sensible that it was not for his own advantage that the disturbances should proceed; so he sent three thousand horsemen to the assistance of the people out of Auranitis, and Batanea, and Trachonitis, and these under Darius, the master of his horse, and Philip the son of Jacimus, the general of his army.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
but one who heard [what was said] will testify successfully.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
It is a keen, clear, frosty winter's night, and I am sitting here in a cheerfully lighted dining-room only a few feet from a roaring fire. An immense chasm sometimes yawns between afternoon and evening, and it seems scarcely credible that, only an hour or two ago, I was out on the river in an open boat, fishing. It was a glorious sunny afternoon when we pushed off; the great hills around were at their greenest; and the only reminder vouchsafed to us that to-morrow is midwinter's day was the glitter of snow away on the top of the mountain. The water around us, reflecting the cloudless sky above, was a sea of sapphire, out of which our oars seemed to beat up pearls and silver. Arrived at our favourite fishing grounds, we lay quietly at anchor, and for a while the sport was excellent. But, later on, things quietened down. The fish forsook us, or became too dainty for our blandishments. The sun went down over the massive ridges. A hint of evening brooded over us. The blue died out of the water, and the greenness vanished from the hills. Everything was grey and cold. As though to match the gloom around us, we ourselves grew silent. Conversation languished, and laughter was dead. We turned up the collars of our coats, and grimly bent over our lines. But the cod and the perch were proof against all our cajolery, and would not be enticed. At length my hands grew so cold and numb that I could scarcely feel the line. My enthusiasm sank with the temperature, and I suggested, not without trepidation, that we should give it up. My companions assented to the abstract proposition; but, with that wistful half-expectancy so characteristic of anglers, did not at once commence to wind up their lines. I was, therefore, just on the point of setting them an example when one of them exclaimed excitedly, 'Wait a second; I had such a lovely bite!' That was all; but it gave us a fresh lease of life. For half an hour we forgot the hardening cold and the deepening gloom, and chatted again as merrily as when we baited our hooks for the first time. It was a bite; that was all. But, oh, the thrill of a bite when patience is flagging and endurance ebbing out!
It is because of a certain cynical tendency to deride the value of a bite that I have decided to spend the evening with my pen. 'A bite!' says somebody, with a fine guffaw. 'And what on earth is the good of a bite, I should like to know? A bite is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring! A bite is of no use for breakfast, dinner, tea, or supper! Bites can neither be fried nor boiled, measured nor weighed. A bite, indeed!'—and once more the cynic loses himself in laughter. That is all he knows about it, and it merely supplies us with another evidence of the superficiality of cynicism. The critic is sometimes right, but the cynic is never right; and the roar of laughter that I hear from the cynic's chair, as he talks about bites, is, therefore, rightly translated and interpreted, a kind of thunderous applause. Why, in some respects, a bite is better than a fish. Only very occasionally does a fish look as well on the bank or in the boat as it appeared to the excited imagination of the angler when he first felt the flutter on the line. I have caught thousands of fish in my time; but most of them I have dismissed from memory as soon as they went flapping into the basket. But some of the bites that I have had! I catch myself wondering now what beauteous monsters they can have been.
'Well, and how many did you catch?' I am regularly asked on my return.
'Oh, a couple of dozen or so; but, oh, I had such a bite! . . .'
And so on. It is the bite that lingers fondly in the memory, that haunts the fancy for days afterwards, and that rushes back upon the angler in his dreams.
'Oh, I've lost him!' one of my companions called out from the other end of the boat this afternoon. 'He got off the line just after I started to draw him in; such a lovely bite; I'm sure it was the biggest fish we've had round here this afternoon!'
Of course it was! The bite is always the biggest fish. There is something very charming— something of which the cynic knows nothing at all—about this propensity of ours to attribute superlative qualities to the unrealized. It is a species of philosophic chivalry. It is a courtesy that we extend to the unknown. We do not know whether the joys that never visited us were really great or small, so we gallantly allow them the benefit of the doubt. The geese that came waddling over the hill are geese, all of them, and as geese we write them down; but the geese that never came over the hill are swans every one, and no swans that we have fed beside the lake glided hither and thither half as gracefully.
A young girl comes to my study. She is tall and comely, and her face reveals a quiet beauty. But she is dressed in black, and the marks of a great sorrow are stamped upon her pale, drawn countenance. My heart goes out to her as she tells her story. It was so entirely unexpected, so totally unthought of, this sudden loss of her lover. Just as she was dreaming of orange-blossoms for her own hair, her fingers were employed upon a wreath of lilies for his bier. As she sat in the church on that dark and dreadful day, the organ that she fancied greeting her with a wedding march set all the aisles shuddering to a dirge. And her unfinished bridal array had all been laid aside that she might garb her graceful form in gloom. As I looked into her sad eyes, swollen with weeping, I fancied that I could see into her very soul, and scan the secret pictures she had painted there. The happy wedding, with all its nonsense and solemnity, its laughter and its tears; the pretty little home, with his chair of honour, like a throne, facing hers; his homecoming evening by evening, and the welcome she would give him; the children, too—the sons so handsome and the girls so fair! What art gallery contains paintings so perfect? I saw them all—these lovely visions hung with crape! And as I saw them, I reverenced our sweet human habit of attributing impossible glories to the unrealized.
And what about the parents of the baby I buried yesterday? Are there no pictures in these stricken souls worth viewing? As you pass through these chambers of imagery, and view one of these exquisitely painted pictures after another, you have the whole splendid career mapped out before you. Such triumphs, such honours, such laurels for his brow! The glory of the life that would have been is spread out before their fancy, sketched in the fairest colours! Thus tenderly do we set a halo on the forehead of the unrealized! Thus charitably do we let the fancy play about the fish we never caught! Let the cynic hush his sacrilegious laughter! There is something about all this that is very human, and very beautiful.
And just because it is so beautiful, it is worth analysing, this thrill of joy that I feel when the fish tugs at my line. I shall try to take the sensation to pieces, in order that I may find out exactly of what it consists. I suppose that, really, the secret is: I am pleased to feel that my bait has some attraction for the fish that I now know to be there. It is horrid to keep on fishing whilst your mind is haunted by the suspicion that your hooks are bare, or that they are baited in such a way that they make no appeal to the fish that may be swarming around you. The sudden bite settles all that, and you feel every faculty start up to vigorous life once more.
Now, as a matter of fact, there are few things more pathetic than the feeling that sometimes steals over the best of men, that there is nothing in them to attract the affection, the friendship, and the confidence of others. The classical instance is the case of Mark Rutherford. How his lonely soul ached for comradeship! 'I wanted a friend,' he says. 'How the dream haunted me! It made me restless and anxious at the sight of every new face, wondering whether at last I had found that for which I searched as if for the kingdom of heaven. God knows that I would have stood against a wall and have been shot for any man whom I loved as cheerfully as I would have gone to bed, but nobody seemed to wish for such a love or to know what to do with it!' Here is the poor fisherman, who feels that he has no bait that the fish want. It was not as though he caught the perch whilst the cod fought shy of him. 'I was avoided,' he says elsewhere, 'both by the commonplace and by those who had talent. Commonplace persons avoided me because I did not chatter, and persons of talent because I stood for nothing—there was nothing in me!' But, just as he was giving up, Mark Rutherford felt the line tremble, and knew the ecstasy of a bite! He was suddenly befriended. 'Oh, the transport of it!' he exclaims. 'It was as if water had been poured on a burnt hand, or some miraculous Messiah had soothed the delirium of a fever-stricken sufferer, and replaced his visions of torment with dreams of Paradise.' The world holds more of this sort of thing than we think. A writer who cannot get readers, a preacher who cannot get hearers, a tradesman who cannot get customers—it is the same old trouble. Fishing, fishing, fishing, until the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. Fishing, fishing, fishing, until the whole world seems to be pouring its contempt upon the unhappy fisherman. Fishing, fishing, fishing, until a man feels that there is nothing in him, nothing in him, nothing in him; and the contempt of his fellows leads to the anguish and hollow laughter of self-derision. Oh, what a bite means at such an hour! 'Blessed are they,' exclaims poor Mark Rutherford, 'who heal us of our self-despisings! Of all services which can be done to man, I know of none more precious.'
But even a bite may do a man a great deal of harm unless he thinks it out very carefully. It is certainly very annoying, after waiting so long, to feel that the fish has come—and gone again! A fisherman must guard against being soured and embittered just at that point. It was the tragedy of Miss Havisham. Everybody who has read Great Expectations remembers Miss Havisham. In some respects she is Dickens' most striking and dramatic character. Poor Miss Havisham had been disappointed on her wedding-day; and, in revenge, she remained for the rest of her life dressed just as she was dressed when the blow staggered her. When Pip came upon her, years afterwards, she was still wearing her faded wedding-dress. She still had the withered flowers in her hair, although her hair was whiter than the dress itself. For the dress was yellow with age, and everything she wore had long since lost its lustre. 'I saw, too,' says Pip, 'that the bride within the bridal-dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure, upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. Once I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.' Poor Pip! And poor Miss Havisham! Miss Havisham had lost her fish just as she was in the very act of landing him. And she had let it sour and spoil her, and Pip was frightened at the havoc it had wrought.
The peril touches life at every point. It especially affects those of us who are called to be fishers of men. It is a great art, this human angling, and needs infinite tact, and infinite subtilty, and infinite patience. And, above all, it needs a resolute determination never on any account whatever to be soured by disappointment. When I am tempted to wind up my line, and give the whole thing up in despair, I revive my flagging enthusiasm by recalling the rapture of my earlier catches. What angler ever forgets the wild transport of landing his first salmon? What minister ever forgets the spot on which he knelt with his first convert? In the long and tedious hours when the waiting is weary, and the nibblings vexatious, and the bites disappointing, let him live on these wealthy memories as the bees live in the winter on the honey that they gathered in the summer-time. Yes, let him think about those unforgettable triumphs, and let him talk about them. They make great talking. And as he recalls and recites the thrilling story, the leaden moments will simply fly, the old glow will steal back into his fainting soul, and, long before he has finished his tale, he will find his fingers busy with another glorious prize.
Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Am I blessed like this?
Blessed are … --- Matthew 5:3–10 .. ---
When we first read the statements of Jesus they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling, and they sink unobserved into our unconscious minds. For instance, the Beatitudes seem merely mild and beautiful precepts for all unworldly and useless people, but of very little practical use in the stern workaday world in which we live. We soon find, however, that the Beatitudes contain the dynamite of the Holy Ghost. They explode, as it were, when the circumstances of our lives cause them to do so. When the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance one of these Beatitudes we say—‘What a startling statement that is!’ and we have to decide whether we will accept the tremendous spiritual upheaval that will be produced in our circumstances if we obey His words. That is the way the Spirit of God works. We do not need to be born again to apply the Sermon on the Mount literally. The literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is child’s play; the interpretation by the Spirit of God as He applies Our Lord’s statements to our circumstances is the stern work of a saint.
The teaching of Jesus is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things, and it comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with. We have slowly to form our walk and conversation on the line of the precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations: it is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of RS Thomas
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
All agree that tzedakah, giving to those in need, is one of the most important mitzvot in the Jewish religion. But there is disagreement on exactly how and when that mitzvah is to be carried out. Moshe ben Maimon, also known as the Rambam, or Maimonides (1135–1204) wrote in the Mishneh Torah (Laws of Gifts to the Poor, chapter 10): “There are eight levels of tzedakah.” These are, in ascending order:
1. Giving grudgingly.
2. Giving graciously, though not enough.
3. Giving after being asked.
4. Giving before being asked.
5. When the recipient knows the giver,
but the giver doesn’t know who received.
6. When the giver knows the recipient,
but the recipient doesn’t know who gave.
7. When giver and recipient don’t know one another.
8. Giving a loan or providing a job.
Israel ben Yosef Al-Nakawa (fourteenth-century Spain) had a different approach. In his work Menorat HaMaor, he spoke of “Five Levels of Tzedakah.” They are, also in ascending order:
1. Pledging in public (merely for the honor)
and then not giving.
2. Pledging publicly but with good intentions.
3. Giving anonymously, so that only the poor person
knows who gave.
4. Giving secretly, so that even the poor person
doesn’t know who gave.
5. Giving a loan or providing a job.
One could imagine the author of our Midrash writing an addendum to the above lists:
There are two levels of giving tzedakah. The lesser level is to leave a bequest, so that the money is given after one’s death. Thus the giver enjoys his wealth while he is alive, and after he is dead and can no longer derive benefit from it, it passes over to those who can. Such a person is likened to the acacia tree, of which it is said, “From the acacia there is no benefit except in cutting it down.” Only when it is no longer alive and growing can others make use of its resources.
The higher level of tzedakah is to give to others while one is still alive. For in this manner, there is a twofold benefit: The recipient is helped now and does not have to wait for the death of the giver; and the giver has the reward of seeing the results of his or her mitzvah. Such a person is likened to a fruit tree, of which it is said, “While it stood, its fruit fed us; after it was felled, its wood warmed us.”
Exodus 25–27 lists acacia as the sole wood used in the construction of the mishkan, Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness.
You shall make the planks for the Tabernacle of acacia wood, upright. (Exodus 26:15)
Thus, the acacia could be cut down and made into long, wide boards.
How ironic that the Talmud records this anonymous axiom—“The only benefit from the acacia is when it is cut down”—without acknowledging that the acacia actually has an important and sacred use in traditional Jewish life before it is cut down. Two of the primary ingredients in the ink for Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot come from the acacia tree. One is גּוּמִי/gumi, “gum acacia,” also known as gum arabic, a thickening agent made from the dry sap of this tree. The other is אֲפָצִים/עֲפָצִים/afatzim, “nutgalls” or “gallnuts,” made from a growth on the acacia.
Why, then, did the Rabbis claim that “The only benefit from the acacia is when it is cut down” when it did have clear uses even before it was cut down? Perhaps this is a case of Rabbinic exaggeration: The acacia does not produce an edible fruit. Or this may be a case where many people were not aware of the usefulness provided by the sap and gall of the acacia.
Thus, it is not really true that “The only benefit from the acacia is when it is cut down.” For Jews, there is nothing more sacred than a Torah scroll, and the Torah scroll requires an acacia before it is cut down. We should not judge a tree merely by its fruit. We also need to look at its inner essence, where we discover that there is great worth and benefit. So, too, we have to look inside people and discover that their real worth is often not what appears on the surface.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.
--- Ephesians 3:18–19.
Stand still and admire and wonder at the love of Jesus Christ to sinners—that Christ would rather die for us than for the angels. ISBN-13: 978-1936034604 They were creatures of a more noble extract and in all probability might have brought greater revenues of glory to God; yet that Christ should pass by those golden vessels and make us vessels of glory—what amazing and astonishing love is this! This is the envy of devils and the admiration of angels and saints.
The angels were more honorable and excellent creatures than we. They were celestial spirits; we, earthly bodies, dust and ashes. They were immediate attendants on God; we, servants of his in the lower house of this world and remote from his glorious presence. Their work was to sing hallelujahs, songs of praise to God in the heavenly paradise; ours, to dress the Garden of Eden, which was only an earthly paradise. They sinned only once and only in thought, as is commonly thought, but Adam sinned in thought by lusting, in deed by tasting, and in word by excusing. Why didn’t Christ suffer for their sins as well as for ours? Or, if for any, why not for theirs rather than ours? We move this question not as being curious to search your secret counsels, O Lord, but that we may more admire the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge.
The apostle, in admiration of Christ’s love, affirms it to surpass knowledge—that God, who is the eternal Being, should love the human when it had scarcely a being (Prov. 8:30–31), that he should be enamored with deformity, that he should pity us when no eye pitied us. Such was Christ’s transcendent love that our extreme misery could not abate it. The deplorableness of our condition only heightened the flame of Christ’s love. It is as high as heaven—who can reach it? It is as low as hell—who can understand it? Such is his perfect, matchless love to fallen people. That Christ’s love should extend to the ungodly, to sinners, to enemies who were in rebellion against him (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10)—yes, not only so, but that he should hug them in his arms, lodge them in his bosom, dandle them on his knees—is the highest refinement of love (Isa. 66:11–13).
--- Thomas Brooks
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Man of Habit July 25
William Romaine was a safe and predictable minister in eighteenth-century England—until he sat under the preaching of George Whitefield. For the rest of his life, Romaine was a fiery evangelical in the Church of England. His zeal confounded church leaders, and he lost both friends and positions. In at least one church, officials refused to light the building where he spoke, forcing him to preach by the light of a single candle held in his hand. But Romaine’s revivalistic preaching drew larger and larger audiences until all of London was affected.
While Whitefield traveled around the world and Wesley throughout Britain, Romaine held down the fort in London. That was his citadel, and he became the rallying point for London’s Anglicans who loved the evangelical truth.
Romaine was a man of habit. He took breakfast each day at six, reading from the book of Psalms as he ate. Dinner was at half-past one, supper at seven in the Evening, after which he took a walk. He conducted family prayer at nine in the Morning and at nine at night. Bedtime was ten.
He lived to be 81, working unabated until his final illness. On Saturday, July 25, 1795, Romaine found himself unable to go down the stairs. He settled on an upstairs couch in great weakness, “giving glory to God.” In late afternoon, he was heard to whisper, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” A little later, a friend bent over and said, “I hope, my dear sir, you now find the salvation of Jesus Christ precious, dear, and valuable to you.” Romaine replied, “He is a precious Savior to me now.” A little later, as though seeing the Lord, he cried, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Blessed Jesus! To thee be endless praise.” And about midnight “as the Sabbath began” he took his final breath. His friends planned a private funeral, but thousands showed up. Fifty coaches followed the hearse, and multitudes on foot. His critics had long since folded their tents. The city loved him, and it loved his truth.
You are true to your name, And you lead me along right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, But I won’t be afraid. You are with me, And your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.
--- Psalm 23:3b,4.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 25
“He left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.” --- Genesis 39:12.
In contending with certain sins there remains no mode of victory but by flight. The ancient naturalists wrote much of basilisks, whose eyes fascinated their victims and rendered them easy victims; so the mere gaze of wickedness puts us in solemn danger. He who would be safe from acts of evil must haste away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes not even to look upon the cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with and a blaze follows in an instant. Who would wantonly enter the leper’s prison and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He only who desires to be leprous himself would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.
This day I may be exposed to great peril, let me have the serpent’s wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. The devil I am to resist and he will flee from me, but the lusts of the flesh, I must flee, or they will surely overcome me. O God of holiness preserve thy Josephs, that Madam Bubble bewitch them not with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, never overcome us!
Evening - July 25
“In their affliction they will seek me early.” --- Hosea 5:15.
Losses and adversities are frequently the means which the great Shepherd uses to fetch home his wandering sheep; like fierce dogs they worry the wanderers back to the fold. There is no making lions tame if they are too well fed; they must be brought down from their great strength, and their stomachs must be lowered, and then they will submit to the tamer’s hand; and often have we seen the Christian rendered obedient to the Lord’s will by straitness of bread and hard labour. When rich and increased in goods many professors carry their heads much too loftily, and speak exceeding boastfully. Like David, they flatter themselves, “My mountain standeth fast; I shall never be moved.” When the Christian groweth wealthy, is in good repute, hath good health, and a happy family, he too often admits Mr. Carnal Security to feast at his table, and then if he be a true child of God there is a rod preparing for him. Wait awhile, and it may be you will see his substance melt away as a dream. There goes a portion of his estate—how soon the acres change hands. That debt, that dishonoured bill—how fast his losses roll in, where will they end? It is a blessed sign of divine life if when these embarrassments occur one after another he begins to be distressed about his backslidings, and betakes himself to his God. Blessed are the waves that wash the mariner upon the rock of salvation! Losses in business are often sanctified to our soul’s enriching. If the chosen soul will not come to the Lord full-handed, it shall come empty. If God, in his grace, findeth no other means of making us honour him among men, he will cast us into the deep; if we fail to honour him on the pinnacle of riches, he will bring us into the valley of poverty. Yet faint not, heir of sorrow, when thou art thus rebuked, rather recognize the loving hand which chastens, and say, “I will arise, and go unto my Father.”
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
ON JORDAN’S STORMY BANKS
Samuel Stennett, 1727–1795
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
In this day of the “throwaway” and the temporary, Christians must live according to their belief in eternity. The apostle Paul reminded the believers at Corinth that if their hope in Christ were related only to this life, they would be the most miserable men of all (1 Corinthians 15:17–19). The anticipation of God’s tomorrow makes it possible for Christians to live joyfully today—regardless of life’s circumstances.
He liveth long who liveth well! All other life is short and vain;
He liveth longest who can tell of living most for heavenly gain.
--- Horatius Bonar What Canaan was to God’s chosen people of the Old Testament, the “heavenly places” are to New Testament believers. God has raised us up with Christ so that even now we can sit with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Living in Canaan, our spiritual heavenlies, should be the Christian’s daily experience as well as a foretaste of our eternal glory. We, like the Israelites, must faithfully follow our Leader and foresee and enjoy our possessions now.
Samuel Stennett was one of the most respected and influential preachers among the dissenting or non-conformist groups of his times. He pastored a Baptist church on Little Wild Street in London, England, for an entire lifetime. The tune, “Promised Land,” is one of the many traditional melodies used in the United States during the early part of the 19th century. The hymn was first published in its present form in 1895.
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye to Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.
All o’er those wide extended plains shines one eternal day; where God the Son forever reigns and scatters night away.
No chilling winds nor pois’nous breath can reach that healthful shore; sickness and sorrow, pain and death are felt and feared no more.
When shall I reach that happy place and be forever blest? When shall I see my Father’s face and in His bosom rest?
Chorus: I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land; O who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.
For Today: Numbers 14:7–9; Isaiah 35:10; Revelation 21:1–4
Determine to set your sights and values more strongly on eternity and heavenly gain. Go forth with a buoyancy to your step and this song upon your lips ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 | Holy Day
Years 1 & 2
On the same date: St. James, Evening Prayer
Psalms Psalm 34
Old Testament Jeremiah 16:14–21
New Testament Mark 1:14–20
Index of Readings
Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
9 O fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD rescues them from them all.
20 He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
14 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, “As the LORD lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” 15 but “As the LORD lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors. 16 I am now sending for many fishermen, says the LORD, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight. 18 And I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.
19 O LORD, my strength and my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of trouble,
to you shall the nations come
from the ends of the earth and say:
Our ancestors have inherited nothing but lies,
worthless things in which there is no profit.
20 Can mortals make for themselves gods?
Such are no gods!
21 “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Years 1 & 2
On the same date: St. James, Morning Prayer
Psalms Psalm 33
Old Testament Jeremiah 26:1–15
New Testament Matthew 10:16–32
Index of Readings
1 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
2 Praise the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
13 The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all humankind.
14 From where he sits enthroned he watches
all the inhabitants of the earth—
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
16 A king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
and by its great might it cannot save.
18 Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
21 Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
26 At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. 4 You shall say to them: Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded— 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.
7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” New Testament
16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church