Conquests in Northern CanaanJoshua 11 When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2 and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4 And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5 And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.
6 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” 7 So Joshua and all his warriors came suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. 8 And the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. 9 And Joshua did to them just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
10 And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. 11 And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction;[a] there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12 And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. 14 And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every person they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15 Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
16 So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.
21 And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.
My Rock and My FortressPsalm 142 Of David.
1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
3 O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
5 Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
8 whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
10 who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
11 Rescue me and deliver me
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;
13 may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;
14 may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
Jerusalem Refused to RepentJeremiah 5
1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.
2 Though they say, “As the Lord lives,”
yet they swear falsely.
3 O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
4 Then I said, “These are only the poor;
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.
5 I will go to the great
and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke;
they had burst the bonds.
6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall strike them down;
a wolf from the desert shall devastate them.
A leopard is watching their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces,
because their transgressions are many,
their apostasies are great.
7 “How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
8 They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor's wife.
9 Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
10 “Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end;
strip away her branches,
for they are not the Lord's.
11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly treacherous to me,
declares the Lord.
12 They have spoken falsely of the Lord
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.
13 The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!’”
The Lord Proclaims Judgment
14 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
“Because you have spoken this word,
behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire,
and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.
15 Behold, I am bringing against you
a nation from afar, O house of Israel,
declares the Lord.
It is an enduring nation;
it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
nor can you understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open tomb;
they are all mighty warriors.
17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
your fortified cities in which you trust
they shall beat down with the sword.”
20 Declare this in the house of Jacob;
proclaim it in Judah:
21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes, but see not,
who have ears, but hear not.
22 Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail;
though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say in their hearts,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
the weeks appointed for the harvest.’
25 Your iniquities have turned these away,
and your sins have kept good from you.
26 For wicked men are found among my people;
they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.
They set a trap;
they catch men.
27 Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
28 they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
29 Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?”
30 An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
31 the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
Teaching About DivorceMatthew 19 1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
Let the Children Come to Me13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
The Rich Young Man16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The Second World War
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2010
It is natural, though altogether wrong, to think that somehow when we turn the pages that separate the Old and New Testaments that we are entering into more gentle times, that God in the interim somehow became kinder and gentler. We do not see in the New Testament, as we do in the Old, flaming mountains with flashing lightning and earth-shaking thunder. We do not see all the first born of a given nation wiped out in a single night, nor the earth’s whole population, save one family, suffer death by drowning. We do not see Uzzah struck dead for touching God’s ark, nor do we see the prophets of Baal struck down by God’s own prophets. Instead, we meet Jesus. Jesus, we are told, will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20). He is gentle and mild, and utterly determined to bring all His enemies under subjection, to silence every pretender to His throne. The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed (Ps 2:1–12) 1 Why do the nations rage
It was when Jesus interpreted law on the mount, at His sermon there, that He first commanded us that we should seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. But it was in Psalm 2 where we are told that Jesus will be given the nations for an inheritance, the ends of the earth for a possession, and where we are told that He will break the rebellious princes and potentates with a rod of iron.
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. ESV
Both books are stories of conquest. In both instances it is Jesus Himself, the Captain of the Lord’s Host, who goes before His people in conquest. The difference is here — Joshua, at God’s command, fights with a literal sword. The apostles, at God’s command, fight with the Word of the Lord. Because we are worldly, we find the Joshua story more dramatic, the new covenant context a toning down of the war. The reality is far different. The warfare is intensifying rather than waning, the stakes growing more deadly. Now it is clear that it is not a question of dead bodies but of dead souls.
For all the parallels between the books of Joshua and Acts, there is this difference as well. Joshua finished his conquest. The land was subdued under his leadership. In the book of Acts, the war begins in Jerusalem, spreads to Judea, and from there to Samaria and the outermost parts of the world. Never, however, has this battle ended. Indeed, it will not end until the end. Jesus is bringing every enemy under subjection. He is conquering the whole of the promised land (the earth), not a narrow strip of land in the Middle East.
It is because the battle continues that we must continue to hear the battle call of our Lord. From that first mount He commanded all that were there that they would set aside all their worldly worries and set their hearts on the battle. He commands of us the same. He has drafted us into His army not as the war is cooling down but as it is heating up. And He has equipped us not with sword and spear but with that spirit of liberty that is ready to die. He has not called us to go out and kill the enemy but to die for the enemy that they might be won. He has called us to follow His supreme example.
The “bloodthirsty” God of the Old Testament, we would be wise to remember, wisely, rightly, executed the guilty. He never practiced an uncontrolled fury. He never punished the innocent with the guilty, for in the Old Testament there were no innocent. The next time we are tempted to fall for that folly that sees God getting soft in the New Testament, we need to remember this: Only once did God kill an innocent man. And that was in the New Testament.
In the new covenant, it is we who are called to be bloodthirsty. We do not subdue His enemies with carnal weapons but with spiritual. Joshua’s soldiers were sustained by the bread from heaven. So are we. Their thirsts were sated by the rock that was struck. Our thirsts too. We must hunger for His body and we must thirst for His blood. We must, if we would conquer in His name, conquer in His way — by dying to ourselves, by picking up our cross.
The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed
(Ps 2:1–12) 1 Why do the nations rage
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
By Keith Mathison 3/1/2010
While perusing the internet recently, I happened across a discussion among some Reformed Christians about the concept of geocentrism — the belief that the earth is stationary and at the center of the universe. Some of the participants in the discussion were arguing that the Bible teaches geocentrism. Others were arguing that science has definitively proven that the earth circles the sun, therefore the Bible must not be teaching geocentrism. As I read through the discussion, it became clear that several participants saw the entire debate as a conflict between Scripture and science. As they saw it, those who reject geocentrism are rejecting the Bible. In another similar online discussion, a Reformed participant confessed that if he were ever convinced that the universe was billions of years old, he would renounce Christianity because such a discovery would mean the Bible is untrue. I don't get this discussion at all. Columbus proved in 1492 that the world is round. If we really believed the Bible wouldn't we have known that long ago? All Columbus did was prove the Bible true.Consider Isaiah 40:22 and Job 26:20. (Is 40:22) 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, (Job 26:10) 10 He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
at the boundary between light and darkness.
I believe the nineteenth and early twentieth-century theologians at Princeton provide some helpful guidance in approaching the subject. If we look at the work of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and Benjamin B. Warfield, we notice several striking things about the way they dealt with the issue. These men were in agreement on several fundamental principles. To begin with, they were all conservative, confessional Reformed theologians who were staunch defenders of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
They were also in general agreement on questions involving the relation of science and Scripture. They believed that truth, whether taught in Scripture or found in nature, is not ultimately contradictory. They agreed that when science and Scripture appear to contradict each other, either the scientific interpretation of God’s creation is in error or the Christian interpretation of Scripture is in error, or both are in error. They agreed that science had helped Christians correct wrong interpretations of Scripture in the past and could conceivably do so again in the future. All of this meant that when looking at any proposed scientific idea or theory, they had one basic question: “Is it true or not?” They answered this question by examining the evidence for and against the theory.
The key point here is that the Princetonians were able to understand the conceptual difference between God’s Word and their interpretation of that Word. They understood that Scripture was is infallible and inerrant but that their interpretation of it was not. Their interpretation of Scripture could be mistaken. It was this basic understanding that allowed them to deal with the scientific questions of their day in a way that we today seem to have forgotten. Today, when there is an apparent contradiction between science and Scripture, we assume that the contradiction must be real, and we assume that it is due to the mistaken interpretation of nature. This is one possibility, but it never seems to occur to us, as it did to the Princetonians, that the apparent contradiction may also be due to a mistaken interpretation of Scripture — or a mistaken interpretation of both.
We need to be very clear on one point. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy denies “that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood” (Art. XII). However, as R.C. Sproul explains in his commentary on the Statement, this simply means that the actual teachings of Scripture cannot be overturned by external sources (Scripture Alone, p. 152). Using the medieval debate over geocentrism as an illustration, he explains that science can sometimes “correct false inferences drawn from Scripture” or even “actual misinterpretations of the Scripture” (ibid., 153). Here Dr. Sproul is simply echoing the nuanced approach of the Princetonians by distinguishing between God’s infallible Word and our fallible interpretations of that Word and of His world.
The Reformed approach of the Princetonians is necessary to regain because it allows us to evaluate any scientific proposal or theory without fear because we know that the truth God has revealed in His Word and the truth about His created universe cannot ultimately contradict each other. When we understand that any apparent contradiction between the two is the result of an incorrect interpretation of either Scripture or nature, then we are able to look at any scientific proposal (that is, interpretation) and ask the same question the Princetonians asked, and the only one that really matters, namely: Is it true or not? We may at times be required to humbly admit error in our interpretation of Scripture. The scientist may at times be required to humbly admit error in his interpretation of God’s creation, but when all is said and done, we can rest assured knowing that God is true.
(Is 40:22) 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
(Job 26:10) 10 He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
What Have You Done?
By David VanDrunen 3/1/2010
Get a group of conservative Christians together and before long someone will probably express shock at the latest evidence of cultural decline: “Can you believe what they did?” It’s not nearly as common in such settings for someone to say, “Well, of course outrageous things happen in society — we’re all a bunch of rotten sinners.”
From a biblical perspective, perhaps what is really surprising is not how morally corrupt things can be but how well they often turn out. Many societies have legal, economic, and healthcare systems that, however imperfect, provide tremendous benefits for large numbers of people. Given the moral state of humanity — “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5) — this is remarkable.
Christians have appealed to several theological concepts to explain the existence of these wholesome aspects of human culture. By His providence God works out good results from wicked human intentions. God’s common grace restrains the full outbreak of evil and showers many non-saving blessings upon human life. And many Christian theologians have pointed to natural law to explain the moral instincts and insights of so many non-Christians. Natural law is simply an aspect of natural revelation. God reveals Himself and His moral law in the structure of the created order, including human nature itself as it reflects the image of God. Natural law does not reveal the gospel and has no power to regenerate fallen human hearts. Though natural law does not save, it does press God’s moral claims upon the conscience of all people, even those unaware of God’s revelation in Scripture.
The New Testament refers to Christians as “sojourners and exiles” in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11). By God’s grace in Christ we are already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but we live temporarily away from home, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Natural law must surely play an important role as we seek to live “peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18) in such a world.
Though Scripture never uses the term “natural law,” it refers to the concept of natural law on all sorts of occasions. Some of the most interesting and relevant occur in the stories about the patriarchs in Genesis. When the New Testament calls us “sojourners,” it points us back to the experience of the patriarchs, the original “sojourners” (Gen. 12:10; 15:13; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4). The patriarchs were believers in the true God, living amidst pagans and without a true home in this world. Scripture wishes us to learn something about our life in the present world by observing the patriarchs in their world. How did the reality of natural law shape their sojourn?
The fascinating encounter between Abraham and the pagan king Abimelech in Genesis 20 is an illuminating example. Fearing for his own life when he entered Gerar, Abraham announced that his wife Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech promptly took Sarah for himself. Informed by God that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech confronts Abraham: “What have you done to us?” (v. 9). The pagan king is apparently shocked by this reckless disregard for marriage. He accuses Abraham: “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (v. 9). Abraham replies, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place” (v. 11). As it turns out, Abraham was wrong. These pagans actually did fear God (in some sense) and understood that people should not do certain things to one another. Natural law had impressed fundamental moral truths upon their consciences.
There are certainly things to learn from this story that are relevant for Christian sojourners today. First, natural law gives unbelievers a sense of moral boundaries that people simply should not cross. Even pagans like Abimelech are sometimes appalled when such boundaries are transgressed. This should provide encouragement and remind us that it is possible to have meaningful moral conversations with unbelievers.
Second, people often transgress these moral boundaries, though they know better, and this can bring great hardship for believers. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by a pagan prince, though “such a thing must not be done” (Gen. 34:7). Sodom and Gomorrah grossly violated social propriety and Lot was forced to flee (Gen. 19). Natural law will never usher in utopia. We should be sober-minded with respect to this world and remember to set our hearts upon the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).
Third, believers themselves, sadly, sometimes transgress fixed moral boundaries. Abraham and Isaac tried the wife-sister stunt three times and were rightly rebuked by pagans on each occasion (Gen. 12:18; 20:9; 26:9–10). In response to cultural decline, Christians can be self-righteously quick to denounce others for moral degeneracy. But we are often the ones who do terrible things, and we shouldn’t think that unbelievers don’t notice. Christian sojourners should live with circumspection and humility. We must always remember that our own true righteousness is not of ourselves but is a gift of Christ to which we cling by faith.
David VanDrunen Books:
- 1 Living in God's Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture
- 2 Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion)
- 3 Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion)
- 4 Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions
- 5 By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification
- 6 Law and Custom: The Thought of Thomas Aquinas and the Future of the Common Law
The Christian Club
By W. Robert Godfrey 3/1/2010
Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?
What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.
What solution does the Bible teach for this sad situation? The short but profound answer is given by Paul in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We need the Word to dwell in us richly so that we will know the truths that God thinks are most important and so that we will know His purposes and priorities. We need to be concerned less about “felt-needs” and more about the real needs of lost sinners as taught in the Bible.
Paul not only calls us here to have the Word dwell in us richly, but shows us what that rich experience of the Word looks like. He shows us that in three points. (Paul was a preacher, after all.)
First, he calls us to be educated by the Word, which will lead us on to ever-richer wisdom by “teaching and admonishing one another.” Paul is reminding us that the Word must be taught and applied to us as a part of it dwelling richly in us. The church must encourage and facilitate such teaching whether in preaching, Bible studies, reading, or conversations. We must be growing in the Word.
It is not just information, however, that we are to be gathering from the Word. We must be growing in a knowledge of the will of God for us: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). Knowing the will of God will make us wise and in that wisdom we will be renewed in the image of our Creator, an image so damaged by sin: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (3:10).
This wisdom will also reorder our priorities and purposes, from that which is worldly to that which is heavenly: “The hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel” (1:5). When that Word dwells in us richly we can be confident that we know the full will of God: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (1:25). From the Bible we know all that we need for salvation and godliness.
Second, Paul calls us to expressing the Word from ever-renewed hearts in our “singing.” Interestingly, Paul connects the Word dwelling in us richly with singing. He reminds us that singing is an invaluable means of placing the truth of God deep in our minds and hearts. I have known of elderly Christians far gone with Alzheimer’s disease who can still sing songs of praise to God. Singing also helps connect truth to our emotions. It helps us experience the encouragement and assurance of our faith: “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2–3).
The importance of singing, of course, makes the content of our songs vital. If we sing shallow, repetitive songs, we will not be hiding much of the Word in our hearts. But if we sing the Word itself in its fullness and richness, we will be making ourselves rich indeed. We need to remember that God has given us a book of songs, the Psalter, to help us in our singing.
Third, Paul calls us to remember the effect of the Word to make us a people with ever-ready “thanksgiving.” Three times in Colossians 3:15–17 Paul calls us to thankfulness. When the “word of Christ” dwells in us richly, we will be led on to lives of gratitude. As we learn and contemplate all that God has done for us in creation, providence, and redemption, we will be filled with thanksgiving. As we recall His promises of forgiveness, renewal, preservation, and glory, we will live as a truly thankful people.
We need the word of Christ to dwell in us richly today more than ever. Then churches may escape being a mess and become the radiant body of Christ as God intended.
W. Robert Godfrey Books
- 1 Learning to Love the Psalms
- 2 Learning to Love the Psalms Study Guide
- 3 God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1
- 4 A Survey of Church History, Part 1 A.D. 100-600 Study Guide
- 5 John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor
- 6 Learning to Love the Psalms
- 7 An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity
- 8 A Survey of Church History, Part 6 A.D. 1900-2000 Study Guide
- 9 Reformation Sketches: Insights into Luther, Calvin, and the Confessions
- 10 Westminster Seminary California - A New Old School
- 11 Theonomy: A Reformed Critique
- 12 The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary
- 13 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 14 John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor
- 15 Pulpit Aflame
- 16 A Survey of Church History, Part 4 A.D. 1600-1800 Study Guide
- 17 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 18 Pleasing God in Our Worship (Today's Issues)
- 19 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 20 Puritan Papers: 5 Volume Set
- 21 God's Pattern for Creation, A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 by W. Robert Godfrey (2003-10-20)
- 22 Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ
- 23 A Survey of Church History Teaching Series, Part 3: AD 1500-1600
- 24 Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey
- 25 Survey of Church History (Part 3 Anno Domini 1500-1620)
- 26 John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor [Paperback]  (Author) W. Robert Godfrey
The Sinkhole Syndrome
By Donald S. Whitney 3/1/2010
You know the story. A man has been a believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.
Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden—a mere obligation sometimes—than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard—in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself—he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.
One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.
If you’re a strong, young Christian, passionate about the things of God, and you find it impossible to imagine yourself coming to such a condition: beware. This situation could easily be yours in a few years. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 are an apt admonition here: “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. For fifteen years I’ve been a professor of biblical spirituality. I’ve written several books and many articles related to spirituality. I speak on the subject to future ministers and missionaries on a daily basis in the seminary classroom, and in churches and conferences around the country almost every weekend. And yet I will freely admit that it’s harder for me to maintain my devotional life now than ever in my life. That’s because I’m busier now than ever. I have many more responsibilities than I had as a young man. And they all take time, time that must come from somewhere.
As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. And herein is where the erosion begins.
At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.
I’m sure you’re already familiar with many factors that undermine intimacy with Christ. Realize that it’s almost certain that the “time-thieves” trying to steal from your time with God will only increase as the years pass. My hope is that this article will alert you to this subtle, creeping tendency so that it won’t overtake you.
Never be deceived by the temptation to think that with the increasing spiritual maturity you expect to come with age, the less you will need to feast your soul on Christ through the Bible and prayer. What Jesus prayed in John 17:17 for all His followers—“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”—applies to us all throughout our lives.
(Jn 17:17) 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Jesus practiced what He prayed for us. While Jesus is infinitely more than our example, nevertheless, He is also our example of sanctified living, of life coram Deo. The Bible tells us that Jesus regularly attended when God’s people assembled to hear the Scriptures (Luke 4:16) and also that He would get alone to meet with His Father (Matt. 14:23). Jesus’ followers need both the sustaining grace that comes through the public worship of God as well as that which comes to us when we meet with Him individually.
I don’t want to minimize the role of the church in preventing spiritual shipwreck in the life of the believer. In this piece, however, I am writing to warn those who will increasingly be tempted to think that frequently meeting God with others can compensate for seldom meeting with Him alone.
There are seasons of life when our devotional habits may be providentially altered. But the general rule is that those reconciled to God through the cross of His Son need conscious, personal communion with Him every day until the day they see Him face to face. And the ordinary means by which He gives it is through the personal spiritual disciplines found in Scripture, chief of which are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.
Pursue the Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion. Resolve never to let your daily life keep you from Jesus daily.
Donald S. Whitney Books:
- 1 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
- 2 Praying the Bible
- 3 Family Worship
- 4 Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 5 How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)
- 6 Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ
- 7 Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed
- 8 The Call to Ministry
- 9 A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
- 10 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life/Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 11 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [10 QUES TO DIAGNOSE YOUR S -OS]
- 12 The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality
- 13 Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry (American University Studies)
- 14 Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church (Reformation Theology Series)
- 15 By Donald S. Whitney - Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home (1905-07-13) [Paperback]
Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19
By Don Carson 7/9/2018
Verses 12-14 of Psalm 144 picture an idyllic situation in the land: sons and daughters multiplying and healthy, barns filled with produce, cattle filling the fields, trade flourishing, military defenses secure, freedom
from some regional superpower, basic prosperity and contentment in the streets. What will bring about these conditions?
The answer is summarized in the last verse: “Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is YAHWEH” (Ps. 144:15). This last line means more than that these people happen to have preferred a certain brand of religion. It means, rather, that if this God — the one true God — owns a people — a people who in confessing him as their God trust him and worship him and obey him — that people is blessed indeed. And because this last verse is a summarizing verse, the unpacking of this notion is found in the rest of the Psalm.
The Psalm opens in praise to “the LORD my Rock” — a symbol that is evocative of absolute stability and security. This God trains the hands of the king for war: that is, his providential rule works through the means of supplying and strengthening those whose responsibility it is to provide the national defense, while they for their part rely on him and do not pretend their military prowess is somehow a sign of innate superiority (Ps. 144:1-2). Far from it: human beings are fleeting, nothing but passing shadows (Ps. 144:3-4). What we must have is the presence of the Sovereign of the universe, his powerful intervention: “Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke” (Ps. 144:5). When the Lord takes a hand, David and his people are rescued from danger, oppression, and deceit (Ps. 144:7-8). What this evokes is fresh praise “to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David” (Ps. 144:10). When God takes a hand, the result is the security and fruitfulness described in verses 10-15.
Here is a balance rarely understood — still more rarely achieved. It applies every bit as much to, say, revival in the church, as it applies to the security and prosperity of the ancient nation of Israel. On the one hand, there is a deep recognition that what is needed is for the Lord to rend the heavens and come down. But on the other hand, this generates no passivity or fatalism, for David is confident that the Lord’s strength enables him to fight successfully. What we do not need is an arrogant “can do” mentality that tacks God onto the end, or a clichéd spirituality that confuses passion with passivity. What we do need is the power of the sovereign, transforming God.
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:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 73God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
73 A Psalm Of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
11. I hold then (as has always been received in the Church, and is
still taught by those who feel aright), that the sacred mystery of the
Supper consists of two things--the corporeal signs, which, presented to
the eye, represent invisible things in a manner adapted to our weak
capacity, and the spiritual truth, which is at once figured and
exhibited by the signs. When attempting familiarly to explain its
nature, I am accustomed to set down three things--the thing meant, the
matter which depends on it, and the virtue or efficacy consequent upon
both. The thing meant consists in the promises which are in a manner
included in the sign. By the matter, or substance, I mean Christ, with
his death and resurrection. By the effect, I understand redemption,
justification, sanctification, eternal life, and all other benefits
which Christ bestows upon us. Moreover, though all these things have
respect to faith, I leave no room for the cavil, that when I say Christ
is conceived by faith, I mean that he is only conceived by the
intellect and imagination. He is offered by the promises, not that we
may stop short at the sight or mere knowledge of him, but that we may
enjoy true communion with him. And, indeed, I see not how any one can
expect to have redemption and righteousness in the cross of Christ, and
life in his death, without trusting first of all to true communion with
Christ himself. Those blessings could not reach us, did not Christ
previously make himself ours. I say then, that in the mystery of the
Supper, by the symbols of bread and wine, Christ, his body and his
blood, are truly exhibited to us, that in them he fulfilled all
obedience, in order to procure righteousness for us-- first that we
might become one body with him; and, secondly, that being made
partakers of his substance, we might feel the result of this fact in
the participation of all his blessings.
12. I now come to the hyperbolical mixtures which superstition has introduced. Here Satan has employed all his wiles, withdrawing the minds of men from heaven, and imbuing them with the perverse error that Christ is annexed to the element of bread. And, first, we are not to dream of such a presence of Christ in the sacrament as the artificers of the Romish court have imagined, as if the body of Christ, locally present, were to be taken into the hand, and chewed by the teeth, and swallowed by the throat. This was the form of Palinode, which Pope Nicholas dictated to Berengarius, in token of his repentance, a form expressed in terms so monstrous, that the author of the Gloss exclaims, that there is danger, if the reader is not particularly cautious, that he will be led by it into a worse heresy than was that of Berengarius (Distinct. 2 c. Ego Berengarius). Peter Lombard, though he labours much to excuse the absurdity, rathers inclines to a different opinion. As we cannot at all doubt that it is bounded according to the invariable rule in the human body, and is contained in heaven, where it was once received, and will remain till it return to judgment, so we deem it altogether unlawful to bring it back under these corruptible elements, or to imagine it everywhere present. And, indeed, there is no need of this, in order to our partaking of it, since the Lord by his Spirit bestows upon us the blessing of being one with him in soul, body, and spirit. The bond of that connection, therefore, is the Spirit of Christ, who unites us to him, and is a kind of channel by which everything that Christ has and is, is derived to us. For if we see that the sun, in sending forth its rays upon the earth, to generate, cherish, and invigorate its offspring, in a manner transfuses its substance into it, why should the radiance of the Spirit be less in conveying to us the communion of his flesh and blood? Wherefore the Scripture, when it speaks of our participation with Christ, refers its whole efficacy to the Spirit. Instead of many, one passage will suffice. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 8:9-11), shows that the only way in which Christ dwells in us is by his Spirit. By this, however, he does not take away that communion of flesh and blood of which we now speak, but shows that it is owing to the Spirit alone that we possess Christ wholly, and have him abiding in us.
13. The Schoolmen, horrified at this barbarous impiety, speak more modestly, though they do nothing more than amuse themselves with more subtle delusions. They admit that Christ is not contained in the sacrament circumscriptively, or in a bodily manner, but they afterwards devise a method which they themselves do not understand, and cannot explain to others. It, however, comes to this, that Christ may be sought in what they call the species of bread. What? When they say that the substance of bread is converted into Christ, do they not attach him to the white colour, which is all they leave of it? But they say, that though contained in the sacrament, he still remains in heaven, and has no other presence there than that of abode. But, whatever be the terms in which they attempt to make a gloss, the sum of all is, that that which was formerly bread, by consecration becomes Christ: so that Christ thereafter lies hid under the colour of bread. This they are not ashamed distinctly to express. For Lombard's words are, "The body of Christ, which is visible in itself, lurks and lies covered after the act of consecration under the species of bread" (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 12). Thus the figure of the bread is nothing but a mask which conceals the view of the flesh from our eye. But there is no need of many conjectures to detect the snare which they intended to lay by these words, since the thing itself speaks clearly. It is easy to see how great is the superstition under which not only the vulgar but the leaders also, have laboured for many ages, and still labour, in Popish Churches. Little solicitous as to true faith (by which alone we attain to the fellowship of Christ, and become one with him), provided they have his carnal presence, which they have fabricated without authority from the word, they think he is sufficiently present. Hence we see, that all which they have gained by their ingenious subtlety is to make bread to be regarded as God.
14. Hence proceeded that fictitious transubstantiation  for which they fight more fiercely in the present day than for all the other articles of their faith. For the first architects of local presence could not explain, how the body of Christ could be mixed with the substance of bread, without forthwith meeting with many absurdities. Hence it was necessary to have recourse to the fiction, that there is a conversion of the bread into body, not that properly instead of bread it becomes body, but that Christ, in order to conceal himself under the figure, reduces the substance to nothing. It is strange that they have fallen into such a degree of ignorance, nay, of stupor, as to produce this monstrous fiction not only against Scripture, but also against the consent of the ancient Church. I admit, indeed, that some of the ancients occasionally used the term conversion, not that they meant to do away with the substance in the external signs, but to teach that the bread devoted to the sacrament was widely different from ordinary bread, and was now something else. All clearly and uniformly teach that the sacred Supper consists of two parts, an earthly and a heavenly. The earthly they without dispute interpret to be bread and wine. Certainly, whatever they may pretend, it is plain that antiquity, which they often dare to oppose to the clear word of God, gives no countenance to that dogma. It is not so long since it was devised; indeed, it was unknown not only to the better ages, in which a purer doctrine still flourished, but after that purity was considerably impaired. There is no early Christian writer who does not admit in distinct terms that the sacred symbols of the Supper are bread and wine, although, as has been said, they sometimes distinguish them by various epithets, in order to recommend the dignity of the mystery. For when they say that a secret conversion takes place at consecration, so that it is now something else than bread and wine, their meaning, as I already observed, is, not that these are annihilated, but that they are to be considered in a different light from common food, which is only intended to feed the body, whereas in the former the spiritual food and drink of the mind are exhibited. This we deny not. But, say our opponents, if there is conversion, one thing must become another. If they mean that something becomes different from what it was before, I assent. If they will wrest it in support of their fiction, let them tell me of what kind of change they are sensible in baptism. For here, also, the Fathers make out a wonderful conversion, when they say that out of the corruptible element is made the spiritual laver of the soul, and yet no one denies that it still remains water. But say they, there is no such expression in Baptism as that in the Supper, This is my body; as if we were treating of these words, which have a meaning sufficiently clear, and not rather of that term conversion, which ought not to mean more in the Supper than in Baptism. Have done, then, with those quibbles upon words, which betray nothing but their silliness. The meaning would have no congruity, unless the truth which is there figured had a living image in the external sign. Christ wished to testify by an external symbol that his flesh was food. If he exhibited merely an empty show of bread, and not true bread, where is the analogy or similitude to conduct us from the visible thing to the invisible? For, in order to make all things consistent, the meaning cannot extend to more than this, that we are fed by the species of Christ's flesh; just as, in the case of baptism, if the figure of water deceived the eye, it would not be to us a sure pledge of our ablution; nay, the fallacious spectacle would rather throw us into doubt. The nature of the sacrament is therefore overthrown, if in the mode of signifying the earthly sign corresponds not to the heavenly reality; and, accordingly, the truth of the mystery is lost if true bread does not represent the true body of Christ. I again repeat, since the Supper is nothing but a conspicuous attestation to the promise which is contained in the sixth chapter of John--viz. that Christ is the bread of life, who came down from heaven, that visible bread must intervene, in order that that spiritual bread may be figured, unless we would destroy all the benefits with which God here favours us for the purpose of sustaining our infirmity. Then on what ground could Paul infer that we are all one bread, and one body in partaking together of that one bread, if only the semblance of bread, and not the natural reality, remained?
15. They could not have been so shamefully deluded by the impostures of Satan had they not been fascinated by the erroneous idea, that the body of Christ included under the bread is transmitted by the bodily mouth into the belly. The cause of this brutish imagination was, that consecration had the same effect with them as magical incantation. They overlooked the principle, that bread is a sacrament to none but those to whom the word is addressed, just as the water of baptism is not changed in itself, but begins to be to us what it formerly was not, as soon as the promise is annexed. This will better appear from the example of a similar sacrament. The water gushing from the rock in the desert was to the Israelites a badge and sign of the same thing that is figured to us in the Supper by wine. For Paul declares that they drank the same spiritual drink (1 Cor. 10:4). But the water was common to the herds and flocks of the people. Hence it is easy to infer, that in the earthly elements, when employed for a spiritual use, no other conversion takes place than in respect of men, inasmuch as they are to them seals of promises. Moreover, since it is the purpose of God, as I have repeatedly inculcated, to raise us up to himself by fit vehicles, those who indeed call us to Christ, but to Christ lurking invisibly under bread, impiously, by their perverseness, defeat this object. For it is impossible for the mind of man to disentangle itself from the immensity of space, and ascend to Christ even above the heavens. What nature denied them, they attempted to gain by a noxious remedy. Remaining on the earth, they felt no need of a celestial proximity to Christ. Such was the necessity which impelled them to transfigure the body of Christ. In the age of Bernard, though a harsher mode of speech had prevailed, transubstantiation was not yet recognised. And in all previous ages, the similitude in the mouths of all was, that a spiritual reality was conjoined with bread and wine in this sacrament. As to the terms, they think they answer acutely, though they adduce nothing relevant to the case in hand. The rod of Moses (they say), when turned into a serpent, though it acquires the name of a serpent, still retains its former name, and is called a rod; and thus, according to them, it is equally probable that though the bread passes into a new substance, it is still called by catachresis, and not inaptly, what it still appears to the eye to be. But what resemblance, real or apparent, do they find between an illustrious miracle and their fictitious illusion, of which no eye on the earth is witness? The magi by their impostures had persuaded the Egyptians, that they had a divine power above the ordinary course of nature to change created beings. Moses comes forth, and after exposing their fallacies, shows that the invincible power of God is on his side, since his rod swallows up all the other rods. But as that conversion was visible to the eye, we have already observed, that it has no reference to the case in hand. Shortly after the rod visibly resumed its form. It may be added, that we know not whether this was an extemporary conversion of substance.  For we must attend to the illusion to the rods of the magicians, which the prophet did not choose to term serpents, lest he might seem to insinuate a conversion which had no existence, because those impostors had done nothing more than blind the eyes of the spectators. But what resemblance is there between that expression and the following? "The bread which we break;"--"As often as ye eat this bread;"--"They communicated in the breaking of bread;" and so forth. It is certain that the eye only was deceived by the incantation of the magicians. The matter is more doubtful with regard to Moses, by whose hand it was not more difficult for God to make a serpent out of a rod, and again to make a rod out of a serpent, than to clothe angels with corporeal bodies, and a little after unclothe them. If the case of the sacrament were at all akin to this, there might be some colour for their explanation. Let it, therefore, remain fixed that there is no true and fit promise in the Supper, that the flesh of Christ is truly meat, unless there is a correspondence in the true substance of the external symbol. But as one error gives rise to another, a passage in Jeremiah has been so absurdly wrested, to prove transubstantiation, that it is painful to refer to it. The prophet complains that wood was placed in his bread, intimating that by the cruelty of his enemies his bread was infected with bitterness, as David by a similar figure complains, "They gave me also gall for my meat: and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21). These men would allegorise the expression to mean, that the body of Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross. But some of the Fathers thought so! As if we ought not rather to pardon their ignorance and bury the disgrace, than to add impudence, and bring them into hostile conflict with the genuine meaning of the prophet.
16. Some, who see that the analogy between the sign and the thing signified cannot be destroyed without destroying the truth of the sacrament, admit that the bread of the Supper is truly the substance of an earthly and corruptible element, and cannot suffer any change in itself, but must have the body of Christ included under it. If they would explain this to mean, that when the bread is held forth in the sacrament, an exhibition of the body is annexed, because the truth is inseparable from its sign, I would not greatly object. But because fixing the body itself in the bread, they attach to it an ubiquity contrary to its nature, and by adding under the bread, will have it that it lies hid under it,  I must employ a short time in exposing their craft, and dragging them forth from their concealments. Here, however, it is not my intention professedly to discuss the whole case; I mean only to lay the foundations of a discussion which will afterwards follow in its own place. They insist, then, that the body of Christ is invisible and immense, so that it may be hid under bread, because they think that there is no other way by which they can communicate with him than by his descending into the bread, though they do not comprehend the mode of descent by which he raises us up to himself. They employ all the colours they possibly can, but after they have said all, it is sufficiently apparent that they insist on the local presence of Christ. How so? Because they cannot conceive any other participation of flesh and blood than that which consists either in local conjunction and contact, or in some gross method of enclosing.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
10/1/2013 All My Fears Relieved
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the Proverbs tell us, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the end of all other fears. For us as sons of God, to fear God means to humbly trust Him and helplessly tremble before Him with reverence and awe, love and gratitude (Ps. 147:11; 2 Cor. 7:15; Heb. 12:28). Although most fear is deadly, the fear of the Lord is life. The fears we experience in this life are countless and complex. And while we have chosen to address seven deadly fears, there are innumerably more that each of us experience every day of our lives. For it’s not only that we experience fears from things outside of us, but that we experience fears from things within us, as Martin Luther admitted: “I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.”
Fear often takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that might happen to us, but it also takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that have already happened to us. We fear not only the fiery darts that come from the hand of our Enemy, but we fear the fiery darts our hearts sometimes shoot at themselves. What’s more, we sometimes worry about our proclivity to worry, and we find ourselves fearing our worst fears coming true. We fear and we worry when we try to play God and act as if we are sovereignly in control of our lives. It’s only when we trust God and daily recognize and surrender to His sovereign control that we know we are rightly fearing God as the sovereign God He is.
Whenever I encounter someone who claims not ever to worry about anything or who claims not to have any fears, I conclude one of three things: they are lying, they are self-deceived, or they have grown so callous and complacent to their own hearts that they don’t care about anything or anyone and are, thus, blindly self-absorbed. The believer is one who has been rescued and redeemed, justified and pardoned by God, and he is one who still has indwelling sin, and, thus, fear and anxiety. Yet, whereas the unbeliever is riddled with self-sustaining and self-medicating fears and anxieties, the believer takes all his fears and anxieties to the One whose perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). As God’s adopted sons, God has sovereignly humbled us and has graciously made our hearts to fear Him so that all our other fears might be no more, as John Newton so beautifully penned in his hymn “Amazing Grace”: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” However, we cannot rightly fear God if we don’t know God, and so the more we know the God of the Bible, the more we are able to rightly fear the holy and gracious God who fearfully and wonderfully made us to live coram Deo, before His face forever.
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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)
by Bill Federer
“Old Rough and Ready” died this day, July 9, 1850. He fought the British in the War of 1812, the Indians in the Black Hawk War, and defeated the Seminole Indians in Florida. But it was his courageous victories in the Mexican War, being greatly outnumbered by Santa Anna’s forces, that made him a national hero. His popularity spread like fire and he was elected America’s twelfth President. Refusing to be sworn in on the Sabbath, President Zachary Taylor stated: “The only ground of hope for the continuance of our free institutions is in the proper moral and religious training of the children.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I have seen the science I worshiped,
and the aircraft I loved,
destroying the civilization I expected them to serve.
--- Charles Lindbergh
The preservation of the Jews is really one of the most signal and illustrious acts of divine Providence… and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth hath been preserved. Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their preservation… We see that the great empires, which in their turn subdued and oppressed the people of God, are all come to ruin… And if such hath been the fatal end of the enemies and oppressors of the Jews, let it serve as a warning to all those, who at any time or upon any occasion are for raising a clamor and persecution against them.
--- Thomas Newton - British Clergyman: Bishop of Bristol (1704-1782)
All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass—
Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.
--- Archibald Alexander
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
However, these terms are relative. One person’s “Torah,” his profound and true intellectual apprehension, may be mere “imagination” from the perspective of a superior mind. Yet such understanding of Torah, though limited, should not be deprecated, for it often presents truths that are accepted on faith alone. Regardless of how they are arrived at, they are true nonetheless.
Indeed, herein lies the difference between Moses and all other true prophets. Prophecy, which occupies a lower rung than wisdom, must employ the imaginative faculty because the prophet can only intuit, suggest, and teach by indirection, by symbol and metaphor. The truths he wishes to impart may be beyond his cognitive grasp; they are usually too abstruse to communicate to others. Hence his extensive use of metaphor and image. Moses, however, because he attained the heights of “wisdom,” was able to dispense with “imagination.” His vision was clear and unobstructed, whereas all other seers beheld the truth “through a glass, darkly” (Yevamot 49b). For Moses alone, the words of Torah were not just upon his heart, but in it; they penetrated to the depths of his heart, so that his very being was suffused with the truth of Torah—and nothing else. All the others had Torah upon their hearts, not within them. They had no choice but to use analogy and suggestion arising from their imagination, because the whole, unadorned truth eluded them, remaining beyond their capacities of either comprehension or communication.
That is why the Shema uses the term al levavekha, “upon your heart.” For the Torah was given to all the people, not to Moses alone. For them as for us, the penetration of the divine word into the heart is an impossibility. Only when we are aided by imagination and by faith can we apprehend the truth that is beyond understanding; for with the exception of Moses, truth is not perceptible without faith, itself an exercise of imagination.
It is this teaching, says R. Zadok, that we glean from the stylistic peculiarity of this expression. Because the human heart is capable of the best and the worst, the divine word does not penetrate it directly. The sacred truth cannot—except for Moses—be perceived by reason alone, but must be approached with faith and trust as well—the best that “imagination” has to offer. The Torah, recognizing our human limitations and weaknesses, urges us to aspire to the best of which we are capable: its words of truth shall be placed “upon your heart.”
Thus is our dilemma resolved. The Torah most certainly intends for us to take this paragraph of the Shema both literally and seriously. We are expected to love God as Scripture’s words indicate, and even according to what the Sages saw in them in addition. For though we may consider our religious potential meager, our emotions dilute, and our spiritual capacities thin—and they may indeed be—they are never too meager, too thin, too inadequate to make up in “faith” what we lack in “wisdom.” The Torah’s truths are applicable at all times and by all individuals. The Torah never makes excessive demands upon us; it merely helps us stretch our capacities. If its words cannot penetrate our very hearts, at least they can rest upon our hearts. And that, too, is a magnificent accomplishment.
It is worth adding here another interpretation of “upon your heart” that comes to us by oral tradition from R. Menaḥem Mendel of Kotzk (the one-time teacher of R. Mordecai Joseph Leiner, “the Izhbitzer,” who was the master of R. Zadok). The “Kotzker” typically expressed the most psychologically and spiritually profound truths in highly concentrated and sharp aphorisms. Thus, noting the literary oddity in our passage, he had a simple yet potent comment: Even if you feel that your heart is shut tight and words of Torah do not penetrate it—because you are weary or inattentive or preoccupied or simply dull—do not despair. Do not cease your efforts even if you feel that your heart is securely locked against the transcendent message of the divine. Just let the words pile up upon your heart. Be confident that in due time your heart will open up, and when it does, inspiration will come. Then, all that has been gathered in, lying patiently upon your heart, will tumble into your newly opened heart.…
This deceptively simple homily, homey yet psychologically compelling, is an important reminder to we who inhabit tumultuous and noisy cities in this frenetic era, that our basic humanity must emerge despite our vast and complex preoccupations, that our shriveled sensitivities and hermetically sealed hearts can and may yet open up, and that it is our responsibility to make that happen—and so allow our lives to be touched by the holy and exalted by the sublime.
Even more, it holds out hope for parents and teachers who may despair over underachieving or unmotivated children. It encourages them to keep on teaching, to wait hopefully for that magic moment when the child’s heart will open up, when motivation will take root and a thirst for knowledge will suddenly emerge. At that time, all previous efforts will be vindicated. Thus, whether for ourselves or for our children, the words of Torah should be welcomed upon the sealed heart. For nothing will be lost when the heart finally opens to embrace them.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Varus Composes The Tumults In Judea And Crucifies About Two Thousand Of The Seditious.
1. Upon Varus's reception of the letters that were written by Sabinus and the captains, he could not avoid being afraid for the whole legion [he had left there]. So he made haste to their relief, and took with him the other two legions, with the four troops of horsemen to them belonging, and marched to Ptolenlais; having given orders for the auxiliaries that were sent by the kings and governors of cities to meet him there. Moreover, he received from the people of Berytus, as he passed through their city, fifteen hundred armed men. Now as soon as the other body of auxiliaries were come to Ptolemais, as well as Aretas the Arabian, [who, out of the hatred he bore to Herod, brought a great army of horse and foot,] Varus sent a part of his army presently to Galilee, which lay near to Ptolemais, and Caius, one of his friends, for their captain. This Caius put those that met him to flight, and took the city Sepphoris, and burnt it, and made slaves of its inhabitants; but as for Varus himself, he marched to Samaria with his whole army, where he did not meddle with the city itself, because he found that it had made no commotion during these troubles, but pitched his camp about a certain village which was called Aras. It belonged to Ptolemy, and on that account was plundered by the Arabians, who were very angry even at Herod's friends also. He thence marched on to the village Sampho, another fortified place, which they plundered, as they had done the other. As they carried off all the money they lighted upon belonging to the public revenues, all was now full of fire and blood-shed, and nothing could resist the plunders of the Arabians. Emnaus was also burnt, upon the flight of its inhabitants, and this at the command of Varus, out of his rage at the slaughter of those that were about Arias.
2. Thence he marched on to Jerusalem, and as soon as he was but seen by the Jews, he made their camps disperse themselves; they also went away, and fled up and down the country. But the citizens received him, and cleared themselves of having any hand in this revolt, and said that they had raised no commotions, but had only been forced to admit the multitude, because of the festival, and that they were rather besieged together with the Romans, than assisted those that had revolted. There had before this met him Joseph, the first cousin of Archelaus, and Gratus, together with Rufus, who led those of Sebaste, as well as the king's army: there also met him those of the Roman legion, armed after their accustomed manner; for as to Sabinus, he durst not come into Varus's sight, but was gone out of the city before this, to the sea-side. But Varus sent a part of his army into the country, against those that had been the authors of this commotion, and as they caught great numbers of them, those that appeared to have been the least concerned in these tumults he put into custody, but such as were the most guilty he crucified; these were in number about two thousand.
3. He was also informed that there continued in Idumea ten thousand men still in arms; but when he found that the Arabians did not act like auxiliaries, but managed the war according to their own passions, and did mischief to the country otherwise than he intended, and this out of their hatred to Herod, he sent them away, but made haste, with his own legions, to march against those that had revolted; but these, by the advice of Achiabus, delivered themselves up to him before it came to a battle. Then did Varus forgive the multitude their offenses, but sent their captains to Caesar to be examined by him. Now Caesar forgave the rest, but gave orders that certain of the king's relations [for some of those that were among them were Herod's kinsmen] should be put to death, because they had engaged in a war against a king of their own family. When therefore Varus had settled matters at Jerusalem after this manner, and had left the former legion there as a garrison, he returned to Antioch.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
the dignity of the old is gray hair.
30 Blows that wound purge away evil,
yes, beatings [cleanse] one’s inmost being.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The great probing
Ye cannot serve the Lord. --- Joshua 24:19.
Have you the slightest reliance on any thing other than God? Is there a remnant of reliance left on any natural virtue, any set of circumstances? Are you relying on yourself in any particular in this new proposition which God has put before you? That is what the probing means. It is quite true to say—‘I cannot live a holy life’; but you can decide to let Jesus Christ make you holy. “Ye cannot serve the Lord God”—but you can put yourself in the place where God’s Almighty power will work through you. Are you sufficiently right with God to expect Him to manifest His wonderful life in you?
“Nay, but we will serve the Lord.” It is not an impulse, but a deliberate commitment. You say—‘But God can never have called me to this, I am too unworthy, it can’t mean me.’ It does mean you, and the weaker and feebler you are, the better. The one who has something to trust in is the last one to come anywhere near saying—‘I will serve the Lord.’
We say—‘If I really could believe!’ The point is—If I really will believe. No wonder Jesus Christ lays such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. “And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” If we really believed that God meant what He said—what should we be like! Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be?
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
I would have spared you this, Prytherch;
You were like a child to me.
The wind feathering his hair:
The sky's ruins, gutted with fire
Of the late sun, smouldering still.
Nothing is his, neither the land
Nor the land's flocks, Hired to live
On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth
With cats and hens, he has lost all
Property but the grey ice
Of a face splintered by life's stone.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Prophet Worshiping
W. W. Wiersbe
When Habakkuk started his book, he was “down in the valley,” wrestling with the will of God. Then he climbed higher and stood on the watchtower, waiting for God to reply. After hearing God’s Word and seeing God’s glory, he became like a deer bounding confidently on the mountain heights! (3:19) His circumstances hadn’t changed, but he had changed, and now he was walking by faith instead of sight. He was living by promises, not explanations.
It isn’t easy to climb higher in the life of faith, but who wants to live in the valley? Like Habakkuk, we must honestly talk to God about our difficulties, we must pray, we must meditate on God’s Word, and we must be willing to experience fear and trembling as the Lord reveals Himself to us (v. 16). But it will be worth it as we reach new summits of faith and discover new opportunities for growth and service.
What took Habakkuk from the valley to the summit? The same spiritual disciplines that can take us there: prayer, vision, and faith. Habakkuk interceded for God’s work (vv. 1–2), pondered God’s ways (vv. 3–15), and affirmed God’s will (vv. 16–19).
1. Prayer: Pray for the Work of God (Hab. 3:1–2)
This chapter is a “prayer psalm” that may have been used in the temple worship in Jerusalem. (We don’t know what the Hebrew word “Shigionoth” means. Some scholars trace it to a root that means “to reel to and fro,” so perhaps “Shigionoth” was a musical term that told the people how the psalm was to be sung. Three times in the psalm you find “Selah” (vv. 3, 9, 13), another Hebrew word whose meaning and significance are still a mystery. Some say it marks a pause in the psalm for the reader (or singer and listeners) to ponder what was said.) (For the other “prayer Psalms,” see Pss. 17; 86; 90; 102; and 142.) The prophet was now praying to the Lord and not arguing with the Lord, and his prayer soon became praise and worship.
He prayed because he had heard God speak. The word “speech” means “report” and refers to what God had told him earlier (Hab. 2:2–3). Knowing the will of God should motivate us to pray “Thy will be done.” The same God who ordains the end also ordains the means to the end, and prayer is an important part of that means. “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2, NKJV).
Also, hearing God’s Word generates faith in the heart of the child of God (Rom. 10:17), and without faith, we can’t pray effectively (Mark 11:22–24). The Word of God and prayer must always go together (Acts 6:4; John 15:7) lest our praying become zeal without knowledge. “I used to think I should close my Bible and pray for faith,” said D.L. Moody, “but I came to see that it was in studying the Word that I was to get faith.”
Habakkuk prayed because he was overwhelmed by God’s splendor. “I stand in awe of Your deeds” (Hab. 3:2, NIV). He had seen a vision of the greatness of God, recorded for us in verses 3–15, and this vision left him weak and helpless (v. 16). All he could do was cry out to God.
Many people have the idea that it’s always an enjoyable experience getting to know God in a deeper way, but that’s not what the saints of God in the Bible would say. Moses trembled at Mt. Sinai when God gave the Law (Heb. 12:18–21). Joshua fell on his face before the Lord (Josh. 5:13–15), as did David (1 Chron. 21:16). Daniel became exhausted and ill after seeing the visions God gave him (Dan. 8:27; 10:11). The vision of Christ’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration left Peter, James, and John facedown on the ground and filled with terror (Matt. 17:6). When John saw the glorified Christ, he fell at His feet as though dead (Rev. 1:17).
A plaque hanging in my study carries this quotation from A.W. Tozer: “To know God is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world.” God certainly has the ability to reveal Himself to us, for He can do anything; but it’s a problem for God to find somebody who is ready to meet Him. God doesn’t reveal Himself to superficial saints who are only looking for “a new experience” they can brag about, or to curious Christians who want to “sample” deeper fellowship with God but not at too great a price.
We are the ones who make it difficult to get to know God better. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV). “But on this one will I look,” says the Lord, “on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2, nkjv). “My flesh trembles in fear of you,” wrote the psalmist; “I stand in awe of your laws” (Ps. 119:120).
Habakkuk prayed because he wanted God’s work to succeed. God had told him that He was “working a work” in the world (Hab. 1:5), and now the prophet prayed that God would keep that work alive and cause it to prosper. What God was doing wasn’t the work Habakkuk would have chosen, but he accepted God’s plan and prayed, “Thy will be done.” When God revealed that work to Habakkuk, he cried out, “We shall not die” (v. 12) Then in 2:4, God told him that the only way to live was by faith. So, when Habakkuk prayed for God’s work to stay alive, he was also praying that his own faith might grow. (The phrase “in the midst of the years” probably refers to the period between Habakkuk’s time and “the appointed time” when the vision would be fulfilled (2:3). Throughout the centuries, God’s people have prayed for quickening power so that God’s great work will prosper. While the word “revival” as we think of it wasn’t in Habakkuk’s mind, the concept is there. See Psalms 44 and 85.)
Finally, Habakkuk prayed because He wanted God to show mercy. The prophet agreed that the people of Judah deserved to be chastened, and that God’s chastening would work out for their good, but He asked that God’s heart of love would reveal itself in mercy. He was like Moses when he interceded for the nation at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 32) and at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 14). Perhaps Habakkuk had the promise of Isaiah 54:7–8 in mind as he prayed, and see Jeremiah 10:23–24. Certainly the Lord did show mercy to the Jews, for He preserved them in Babylon and then permitted a remnant to return to their land and establish the nation.
If, like Habakkuk, you ever become discouraged about the condition of the church, the state of the world, or your own spiritual life, take time to pray and seek God’s mercy. Charles Spurgeon said, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom.” The greatest need today is for intercessors. “And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isa. 59:16).
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
“So, Murray, how did the argument start?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, you were one of the people in the argument. Everyone in the family knows that you and Ellis don’t talk, haven’t for years.”
“It was a long time ago. Who remembers?”
“If you haven’t talked for twenty, thirty years, don’t you think you’d remember what you were peeved about? After all, it wasn’t just a disagreement over a cup of coffee!”
“Who knows? Maybe it was over a cup of coffee. Ellis was a jerk, and I decided there and then not to talk to him again.”
“But you once were close relatives, best of friends. Was it really such a hoo-ha that you didn’t like the way he did something?”
“You’re not hearing me. He was a jerk! And I don’t associate with jerks!!”
“But Murray, think of all the good times you missed. You didn’t go to Marlene’s wedding …”
“That’s right. And he didn’t come to Robert’s wedding either. So we’re even.”
“Murray, you’re getting older. Is it still worth standing on ceremony, now, twenty, maybe thirty years after? Why can’t you just ‘kiss and make up,’ as they say?”
“The thought disgusts me.”
“Don’t get all excited. It’s just an expression. You know, my rabbi taught us a text from the Midrash in adult education last week. In the Midrash, it says: ‘Between the midwife and the woman in labor, the poor child was lost.’ In other words, they both had good intentions, but the patient died anyway. A pretty sad series of events, if you ask me. I mean the Midrash case, not yours.”
“Look, if Ellis wants to apologize to me after all these years, maybe I’ll listen. The ball’s in his court. He acted like a jerk then. He caused the wall to be built between us. Now he’ll have break it down.”
“Murray, a loving relationship has been lost. Think of the friendship, the simchas, the memories you could have shared all these years.”
“Think of what an idiot he’s been all these years.”
“I don’t know which is which, but one of you is the midwife and the other is the woman in labor. And neither of you is willing to think of what you have lost.”
The parallels between the maxim and the story of Jephthah’s daughter are not as perfect as the Midrash would like us to believe. Jephthah made a rash vow. He was obligated to fulfill it (and kill his daughter!) unless a priest would annul it for him. Phinehas was the priest. He had the power to release Jephthah and save the girl’s life. But each man stubbornly refused to go to the other. Their dignity (read: egos) would not permit them to make the first move and seek out the other. The Jephthah figure in our Midrash behaves like an idiot; the Phinehas figure like a jerk. Between the midwife (the priest) and the woman in labor (the father), the poor child (Jephthah’s daughter) was lost.
However, a closer examination shows us that the two situations are not really analogous. A woman in labor has one goal: deliver a healthy baby as quickly and as painlessly as possible. And the midwife has but one goal: to help the woman deliver a healthy baby as quickly and as painlessly as possible. If the baby dies, it is not because the two women were at cross-purposes. It is not because the ego of one woman would not let her go to the other. If the poor child is lost, it is because, tragically, sometimes things go wrong. It is no one’s fault. The mother did all that she could do. As did the midwife. Sometimes in life, regardless of our good intentions and notwithstanding our best efforts, bad things happen to good people. No one is to blame.
Some situations, like the case of a birth-gone-wrong, are tragically beyond our control. Nothing could have been done to save the baby. Pity two such women who stood by helplessly as the child was lost. But other times, as in the case of the young woman offered as a sacrifice, there is a way out. Something could have been done to save the girl, but the egos of her father and the priest got in the way. Shame on two such men who stupidly and callously allowed the tragedy to happen.
The Midrash challenges us to examine our own crises and to determine if they are tragedies beyond our control or opportunities waiting for our intervention. Recognizing the difference is the beginning of wisdom.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.
In saving for his name’s sake, God designs the manifestation of his name—that his name may be known, declared, published, and proclaimed. (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.)
In saving for his name’s sake, he designs the vindication of his name. The world is filled with harsh thoughts of God, as if he were either unjust or unmerciful; therefore, in saving for his name’s sake, he will vindicate his name.
In saving for his name’s sake, he designs the exaltation of his name: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10). He designs that the right hand of the Lord should be exalted in doing mighty things (Ps. 118:16). Why has God exalted Christ to his right hand except that his name may be exalted in him? “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,… that at the name [or, in the name] of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:6, 10).
In saving sinners for his name’s sake, he designs the pleasure of his name, that his name should not only be exalted but delighted in. God being infinitely pleased in Christ, he takes pleasure in giving out of his goodness through him.
In saving sinners for his name’s sake, he designs the aggrandizing of his name. His name should not only be glorified and exalted, but magnified to the highest, according to the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”
(Luke 2:14). His name is magnified to the highest in this way of salvation through Christ. Damnation is only the lowest way in which God glorifies himself, [but] sinners may fall in love with that way in which God is glorified and magnified to the highest.
In saving sinners for his name’s sake, he designs the eternalizing of his name, that his name may be celebrated with hallelujahs of praise to all eternity. Christ, the Savior, was set up from everlasting, that the sinner saved by God in him might praise him to everlasting. And his ransomed will come to Zion with everlasting songs, saying, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever” (Rev. 7:12).
--- Ralph Erskine
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Ora et Labora July 9
A group of frightened children huddled around their mother’s bed in a dark little room in Germany. Among them was a bewildered four-year-old boy about to become an orphan. As he listened, his sinking mother whispered, “My dear children, I have a great treasure for you.”
“What is it, Mother?” asked an older sister.
The woman pointed to the Bible. “Seek it in the Bible; there you will find great treasure. I have watered every page with my tears.” With that she died. The family was broken up, and little Bartholomew Ziegenbalg went to live with sympathetic friends in Halle. He never forgot his mother’s words, and at age 12, he claimed Christ as his Savior. At 18 he graduated from the university in Halle with honors.
Lutheranism in Germany had been rekindled by a revival known as Pietism, and King Ferdinard of Denmark had been stirred. He appealed for missionaries for the Danish possession of Tranquebar on the southern tip of India. Ziegenbalg heard the call and presented himself. Scarcely anyone saw him off at the dock, and the trip to India was long—seven months, twenty days. He arrived in India on July 9, 1706, and was promptly imprisoned.
Ziegenbalg, however, had a motto: Ora et Labora—Pray and Work! He would not be denied. Even in prison, he labored at learning the Tamil language, and as soon as he gained freedom he began sharing Christ. Within a year he baptized five slaves in the first Protestant baptismal service ever held in India, and soon the first Protestant church for nationals in India was dedicated. By 1711 Ziegenbalg completed the translation of the New Testament into Tamil, along with Luther’s catechism, a Danish liturgy, and some German hymns.
His health failed after 13 years, and he died at Tranquebar in 1719 at age 35, leaving 350 converts to mourn his death and continue his work. If William Carey is the “Father of Modern Missions” perhaps Ziegenbalg should be called its Grandfather, for he served faithfully in India nearly a generation before the Moravian missionaries left Herrnhut and nearly 100 years before Carey.
Because of Christ Jesus, I can take pride in my service for God. In fact, all I will talk about is how Christ let me speak and work, so that the Gentiles would obey him. I have always tried to preach where people have never heard about Christ. I am like a builder who doesn’t build on anyone else’s foundation.
--- Romans 15:17,18,20.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 9
“Forget not all His benefits.” --- Psalm 103:2.
It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe his goodness in delivering them, his mercy in pardoning them, and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of his goodness and of his truth, as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favours? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath he never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath he never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters? Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave his mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.
Evening - July 9
"And God divided the light from the darkness." --- Genesis 1:4.
A believer has two principles at work within him. In his natural estate he was subject to one principle only, which was darkness; now light has entered, and the two principles disagree. Mark the apostle Paul’s words in the seventh chapter of Romans: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.” How is this state of things occasioned? “The Lord divided the light from the darkness.” Darkness, by itself, is quiet and undisturbed, but when the Lord sends in light, there is a conflict, for the one is in opposition to the other: a conflict which will never cease till the believer is altogether light in the Lord. If there be a division within the individual Christian, there is certain to be a division without. So soon as the Lord gives to any man light, he proceeds to separate himself from the darkness around; he secedes from a merely worldly religion of outward ceremonial, for nothing short of the Gospel of Christ will now satisfy him, and he withdraws himself from worldly society and frivolous amusements, and seeks the company of the saints, for “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” The light gathers to itself, and the darkness to itself. What God has divided, let us never try to unite, but as Christ went without the camp, bearing his reproach, so let us come out from the ungodly, and be a peculiar people. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; and, as he was, so we are to be nonconformists to the world, dissenting from all sin, and distinguished from the rest of mankind by our likeness to our Master.
Morning and Evening
DOES JESUS CARE?
Frank E. Graeff, 1860–1919
And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pain.
--- C. S. Lewis
Frank E. Graeff, author of this hymn text, knew what it was to wonder, as most of God’s children do at times, if the Lord is really concerned during our times of hurt, when the burdens and cares weigh heavily, when the way seems dark, when temptation seems difficult to resist, or when we must part with our dearest loved one. Yet the answer comes back triumphantly: “I know my Savior cares!”
Known as the “sunshine minister” of the Methodist denomination in the churches of the Philadelphia conference, Frank Graeff was widely liked for his cheerful and winsome personality. C. Austin Miles, writer of the hymn “In the Garden,” said of him:
He is a spiritual optimist, a great friend of children; his bright sun-shining disposition attracts not only children but all with whom he comes in contact. He has a holy magnetism and a child-like faith.
Unknown to others, however, were the many severe testing experiences in Mr. Graeff’s life. It was during a time of severe physical agony, doubt, and despondency that he turned to the Scriptures for comfort and strength. First Peter 5:7, which says, “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you,” became especially meaningful to him in this time of need. He wrote the lines of “Does Jesus Care?” to express the feelings of assurance that came to him. Mr. Graeff wrote more than 200 hymns in his lifetime, but none has been more consoling to God’s people than this text:
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song, as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when my way is dark with a nameless dread and fear? As the daylight fades into deep night shades, does He care enough to be near?
Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed to resist some temptation strong, when for my deep grief I find no relief, tho my tears flow all the night long?
Does Jesus care when I’ve said good bye to the dearest on earth to me, and my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks—Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
Chorus: O yes, He cares—I know He care! His heart is touched with my grief; when the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.
For Today: Psalm 28:7; 42:8; Isaiah 26:4; Mark 5:36; 1 Peter 5:7.
In your times of darkness or sorrow, rest in the security of the truth that Jesus truly cares deeply and will ultimately meet your need. Then try to comfort someone else with this musical truth ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect LXXX. — BUT since I have to fight with fiction-framers and ghosts, let me turn to ghost-raising also. Let me suppose (which is an impossibility) that the trope of which the Diatribe dreams avails in this passage; in order that I may see, which way the Diatribe will elude the being compelled to declare, that all things take place according to the will of God alone, and from necessity in us; and how it will clear God from being Himself the author and cause of our becoming hardened. — For if it be true that God is then said to “harden” when He bears with long-suffering, and does not immediately punish, these two positions still stand firm.
First, that man, nevertheless, of necessity serves sin. For when it is granted that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good, (which kind of Free-will the Diatribe undertook to prove) then, by the goodness of a long-suffering God, it becomes nothing better, but of necessity worse. — Wherefore, it still remains that all that we do, is done from necessity.
And next, that God appears to be just as cruel in this bearing with us by His long-suffering, as He does by being preached, as willing to harden, by that will inscrutable. For when He sees that, “Free-will” cannot will good, but becomes worse by His enduring with long-suffering; by this very long-suffering He appears to be most cruel, and to delight in our miseries; seeing that, He could remedy them if He willed, and might not thus endure with long-suffering if He willed, nay, that He could not thus endure unless He willed; for who can compel Him against His will? That will, therefore, without which nothing is done, being admitted, and it being admitted also, that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good, all is advanced in vain that is advanced, either in excusation of God, or in accusation of “Free-will.” For the language of “Free-will” is ever this: — I cannot, and God will not. What can I do! If He have mercy upon me by affliction, I shall be nothing benefited, but must of necessity become worse, unless He give me His Spirit. But this He gives me not, though He might give it me if He willed. It is certain, therefore, that He wills, not to give.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library