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Deuteronomy 15     Psalm 102     Isaiah 42     Revelation 12


Deuteronomy 15

The Sabbatical Year

Deuteronomy 15:1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. 3 Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. 4 But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do.

19 “All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and flock you shall dedicate to the LORD your God. You shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. 20 You shall eat it, you and your household, before the LORD your God year by year at the place that the LORD will choose. 21 But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God. 22 You shall eat it within your towns. The unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as though it were a gazelle or a deer. 23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.


Psalm 102

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

Psalm 102 A Prayer Of One Afflicted , When He Is Faint And Pours Out His Complaint Before The Lord.

1  Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2  Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

3  For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4  My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5  Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6  I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7  I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8  All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9  For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10  because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11  My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12  But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13  You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14  For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15  Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16  For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17  he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.

18  Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
19  that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20  to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21  that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22  when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23  He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24  “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”

25  Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26  They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27  but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28  The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.


Isaiah 42

The LORD’s Chosen Servant

Isaiah 42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2  He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3  a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4  He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

5  Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6  “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8  I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9  Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Sing to the LORD a New Song

10  Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11  Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12  Let them give glory to the LORD,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
13  The LORD goes out like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his zeal;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.

14  For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor;
I will gasp and pant.
15  I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,
and dry up the pools.
16  And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
17  They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”

Israel’s Failure to Hear and See

18  Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19  Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the LORD?
20  He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21  The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22  But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23  Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24  Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25  So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.


Revelation 12

The Woman and the Dragon

Revelation 12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Resurrection of Our Bodies?

By J. Warner Wallace 5/9/2014

     Christians recognize the Resurrection of Jesus as the foremost claim of Christianity. The Apostle Paul said the Resurrection was of “first importance” because it established another important truth for you and me as human beings. The Resurrection of Jesus demonstrated the power and intention of God to resurrect all of us someday. When Jesus rose from the dead, he demonstrated not only the power of God to raise Jesus, but also the power of God to provide all of us with eternal life:

     1 Corinthians 15:20-22 | But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

     Most of us, as Christians, form our notions of the afterlife from contemporary descriptions found in popular books and movies, rather than from the Biblical record. As a result, we typically forget our lives after we die will include a resurrected body. Many in our culture envision the next life as some sort of purely spiritual (non-physical) existence, but the Bible describes our experience in the afterlife differently. We will receive resurrection bodies:

     What: We Will Live in Eternity With New Resurrection Bodies | Both the Old and New Testaments affirm our souls will eventually be reunited with our bodies in the afterlife. The Old Testament predicted this would be the case:

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Who Is the "Fool" that Denies God? Not Who You Think

By Sean McDowell 6/5/2017

     A few summers ago I was doing my “Atheist Encounter” at a large student Christian camp in the Midwest. While the interaction with the audience sometimes gets heated (since I role-play an atheist, after all) the students in this session were far testier and argumentative than normal.

     About 20 minutes into the session, a girl stood up and said, “Mr. Atheist, I want to read you something.”

     I replied, “Okay, what is it?”

     And then she read me Psalms 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

     “So, are you calling me a fool since I don’t believe in God?” I asked.

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     Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell Books:

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter

Gossip, Gossip

By Lydia McGrew

     Both Matthew and Mark recount, in similar terms, an accusation that was made against Jesus in his show trial before the Sanhedrin after his arrest.

(Mk 14:57-58) 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” ESV

(Mt 26:60–61) 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” ESV

     It is certainly true that such an accusation was likely to inflame feelings against Jesus. Jewish feelings about the Temple ran high, and the suggestion that one would destroy the Temple would be inflammatory. We are familiar with such taboos in our own day. The wise elementary or high school teacher would never use a mass school shooting as a teaching example in the 21st century. Job loss or worse might follow. One does not mention the word “bomb” while going through a TSA airport screening. There are some things one does not even joke about in a given culture, and Temple destruction was one of them in first-century Judea.

     But if this were merely a story that the witnesses made up out of whole cloth as an attack against Jesus, it could easily have been made even more inflammatory. For example, why did the witnesses say that Jesus said that he would rebuild the Temple? Why not just accuse him of threatening to destroy it? And why the detail about three days?

     What this testimony sounds like to the unbiased ear is not a pure fabrication but rather a twisted or garbled version of something the accused person actually said. In our own day, such a report would have curious, fair-minded people rushing to search the Internet and find out the exact wording of the original statement and its context in order to understand the origin of the inflammatory report.

     Yet none of the Synoptics, including Matthew and Mark, contain any such statement by Jesus. Nothing about destroying the Temple. Nothing about rebuilding it in three days. Nothing at all to explain the origin of this accusation. One must turn to John to find the explanation, in a completely different passage concerning a completely different time period in Jesus’ ministry:

(Jn 2:13–21) 13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
ESV

     So John says that, several years earlier, Jesus had said that he would raise up the temple in three days if it were destroyed. John gives this saying as an answer to those asking for Jesus’ authority to drive money-changers and others out of the Temple, and he takes it to be a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. 8

     I must stress here that John nowhere includes in his Gospel the story of the witnesses who said that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple. I have already mentioned that none of the Synoptic Gospels contain the earlier scene in which Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” It is only by putting the two together that one gets the whole story: Jesus makes a cryptic statement about his own ability to raise up the Temple in three days if it is destroyed. He intends it as a prophecy of his resurrection, though he doubtless knows that it will be confusing and annoying to his interlocutors. It is remembered against him, garbled somewhat in the retelling, and brought back up at his trial later as an accusation that he was making the equivalent of terrorist threats against the Temple.

     This picture is realistic and believable, but it comes to us only by way of the combination of John and the account in Mark/ Matthew. Nothing could be less like design or more like truthful testimony.

Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

     Lydia McGrew

Some Dance to Forget

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/1/2008

     It is a sure sign of the fall that we so egregiously miss what we lost. Jesus calls us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness precisely because our priorities are all out of line. Even that for which we long — to get back to the garden — we long for in the wrong way. Eden, to be sure, was Edenic. It was a garden paradise. There were no weeds crowding their way in there. No bugs buzzed in ears, nor did they sting arms and legs. Adam and Eve had no need to fear that prowling lions would consume humble lambs or that cyclones would tear up their garden by the roots. Eden was a place of joyful, fulfilling work. Adam would never feel the pressure of too many deadlines. His laptop would never go on the fritz. Neither had he any reason to fear an industrial accident. And then Adam and Eve had each other. This was a love relationship that would stagger us in its glory, that would blow us away in its intensity, that would in turn calm us in its beauty.

     And all of the above did not amount to a hill of beans compared to the real blessing. All of the above are but shadows of a far greater glory, icing on a far richer cake. The glory of the garden was this — they walked with God. What we lost was not just beholding but entering into the very glory of God. That is to say, it would have been enough just to have been allowed the privilege of watching Him walk by. That would have shrunk every other blessing down to size. But He did not merely walk by — He walked with. Adam and Eve drew near to Him. To get just a glimpse of what this must have been like, recall to mind how C.S. Lewis portrayed the joyful Aslan playfully wrestling with the Pevensie children. This, not luscious fruit and tropical breezes, is what we lost.

     This loss, in turn, is what we are seeking so desperately to forget. We are haunted by Eden. Which may help us to understand the peculiar way in which our modern culture practices its folly. We are told by Paul in Romans 1 that all men know that God exists, but we suppress that truth in unrighteousness. Supposing ourselves to be wise we become fools and exchange the glory of the Creator for mere creatures. Our idolatry isn’t merely embracing the wrong religion. It is rejecting what we know so that we might bow down to what we have made.

     In Paul’s day it seemed that on every street corner there was a temple to this goddess and a statue to that god. Modern Americans are different — or are we? We do not self-consciously bow down to gods of our own making. But if one were to step back, to set aside the normalcy of our idolatry, we might find it in the strangest places. I suspect that archeologists in future millennia, when they dig up our civilization, will suggest that we worshiped a nearly ubiquitous god named “Starbucks.” They would, of course, be missing the point. Starbucks is not our god, but a mere aid to our worship. We carry around cups of our drug of choice that will keep us awake and alert enough to attend to our gods — that we can distract our minds, and our hearts with our cell-phones, our iPods, our satellite radios, our constant and perpetual influx of meaningless data. We are all aflutter taking in media of one sort or another so that we will not hear the deafening echo of our emptiness, so that we won’t feel the gnawing lack where we once walked with God.

     The strangest thing of all, however, is not the frantic forgetfulness of those yet on the outside. No, the truly strange thing is that Jesus has for us restored paradise. We walk with God but will not listen because our earphones are piping us the latest new band. We will not see His glory because our eyes are captured by whatever is making the rounds today on YouTube. We will not even hold His palm-scarred hand because we’re busy sending someone a text message with our iPhone. That is, we who walk in paradise, are too busy dancing with the Devil to notice.

     The kingdom is here, and the kingdom is now. We need not, in one sense, seek it. For it has sought and found us. To seek what has already been found we do not work harder. Instead we stop. We listen. We see. We smell. We enter into the glory of His presence. We rejoice and give thanks that we are already seated with Him in the heavenly places. There is no cell service up there. Be still, and know that He is God.

     In that stillness you will hear first the heavenly choirs of angels, as they cry out, “Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Then you will hear the Master’s voice. Even now, even here on this side of the veil you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). And you will rejoice that He is that exceedingly great reward. He walks with you now in the cool of the evening. For lo, He is with us always.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The Mystery of Iniquity

By R.C. Sproul 12/1/2008

     It has been called the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. Of course, I’m referring to the classical problem of the existence of evil. Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill have argued that the existence of evil demonstrates that God is either not omnipotent or not good and loving — the reasoning being that if evil exists apart from the sovereign power of God, then by resistless logic, God cannot be deemed omnipotent. On the other hand, if God does have the power to prevent evil but fails to do it, then this would reflect upon His character, indicating that He is neither good nor loving. Because of the persistence of this problem, the church has seen countless attempts at what is called theodicy. The term theodicy involves the combining of two Greek words: the word for God, theos, and the word for justification, dikaios. Hence, a theodicy is an attempt to justify God for the existence of evil (as seen, for instance, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost). Such theodicies have covered the gauntlet between a simple explanation that evil comes as a direct result of human free will or to more complex philosophical attempts such as that offered by the philosopher Leibniz. In his theodicy, which was satired by Voltaire’s Candide, Leibniz distinguished among three types of evil: natural evil, metaphysical evil, and moral evil. In this three-fold schema, Leibniz argued that moral evil is an inevitable and necessary consequence of finitude, which is a metaphysical lack of complete being. Because every creature falls short of infinite being, that shortfall must necessarily yield defects such as we see in moral evil. The problem with this theodicy is that it fails to take into account the biblical ideal of evil. If evil is a metaphysical necessity for creatures, then obviously Adam and Eve had to have been evil before the fall and would have to continue to be evil even after glorification in heaven.

     To this date, I have yet to find a satisfying explanation for what theologians call the mystery of iniquity. Please don’t send me letters giving your explanations, usually focusing on some dimension of human free will. I’m afraid that many people fail to feel the serious weight of this burden of explanation. The simple presence of free will is not enough to explain the origin of evil, in as much as we still must ask how a good being would be inclined freely to choose evil. The inclination for the will to act in an immoral manner is already a signal of sin.

     One of the most important approaches to the problem of evil is that set forth originally by Augustine and then later by Aquinas, in which they argued that evil has no independent being. Evil cannot be defined as a thing or as a substance or as some kind of being. Rather, evil is always defined as an action, an action that fails to meet a standard of goodness. In this regard, evil has been defined in terms of its being either a negation (negatio) of the good, or a privation (privatio) of the good. In both cases, the very definition of evil depends upon a prior understanding of the good. In this regard, as Augustine argued, evil is parasitic — that is, it depends upon the good for its very definition. We think of sin as something that is unrighteous, involving disobedience, immorality, and the like. All of these definitions depend upon the positive substance of the good for their very definition. Augustine argues that though Christians face the difficulty of explaining the presence of evil in the universe, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before one can even have a problem of evil, one must first have an antecedent existence of the good. Those who complain about the problem of evil now also have the problem of defining the existence of the good. Without God there is no ultimate standard for the good.

     In contemporary days, this problem has been resolved by simply denying both evil and good. Such a problem, however, faces enormous difficulties, particularly when one suffers at the hands of someone who inflicts evil upon them. It is easy for us to deny the existence of evil until we ourselves are victims of someone’s wicked action.

     However, though we end our quest to answer the origin of evil, one thing is certain: since God is both omnipotent and good, we must conclude that in His omnipotence and goodness there must be a place for the existence of evil. We know that God Himself never does that which is evil. Nevertheless, He also ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Though He does not do evil and does not create evil, He does ordain that evil exists. If it does exist, and if God is sovereign, then obviously He must have been able to prevent its existence. If He allowed evil to enter into this universe, it could only be by His sovereign decision. Since His sovereign decisions always follow the perfection of His being, we must conclude that His decision to allow evil to exist is a good decision.

     Again, we must be careful here. We must never say that evil is good, or that good is evil. But that is not the same thing as saying, “It is good that there is evil.” Again, I repeat, it is good that there is evil, else evil could not exist. Even this theodicy does not explain the “how” of the entrance of evil into the world. It only reflects upon the “why” of the reality of evil. One thing we know for sure is that evil does exist. It exists, if nowhere else, in us and in our behavior. We know that the force of evil is extraordinary and brings great pain and suffering into the world. We also know that God is sovereign over it and in His sovereignty will not allow evil to have the last word. Evil always and ever serves the ultimate best interest of God Himself. It is God in His goodness and in His sovereignty who has ordained the final conquest over evil and its riddance from His universe. In this redemption we find our rest and our joy — and until that time, we live in a fallen world.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Deut. 15; Psalm 102; Isaiah 42; Revelation 12

By Don Carson 6/10/2018

     One of the striking features of many passages in Deuteronomy that describe what life should be like once the people enter the Promised Land is a tension between what is held out as the ideal and what will in fact prove the reality.

     Thus, on the one hand, the people are told that “there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today” (Deut. 15:4-5). On the other hand, the same chapter frankly acknowledges, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:11).

     The former passage, that “there should be no poor among you,” is grounded in two things: the sheer abundance of the land (a sign of covenantal blessing), and the civil laws God wants imposed so as to avoid any form of the wretched “poverty trap.” The latter include the canceling of debts every seven years — a shocking proposal to our ears (Deut. 15:1-11). There is even a warning about harboring the “wicked thought,” once the seventh year was impending, of planning stinginess (Deut. 15:8-10).

     The extent to which these idealistic statutes were ever enacted is disputed. There is very little evidence that they became widely observed public law in the Promised Land. Thus the second passage, that “there will always be poor people in the land,” is inevitable. It reflects the grim reality that no economic system can guarantee the abolition of poverty, because human beings operate it, human beings are greedy, human beings will keep tweaking and eventually perverting the system for personal advantage. This is not to suggest that all economic systems are equally good or equally bad: transparently, that is not so. Nor is it to suggest that legislators should not constantly work to correct a system and fill loopholes that encourage corruption. But it is to suggest that the Bible is painfully realistic about the impossibility of any utopia, economic or otherwise, in this fallen world. Moreover, on occasion the Israelites would become so corrupt, both within the economic arena and beyond it, that God would withhold his blessing from the land; for instance, the rain might be withheld (as in the days of Elijah). And then the land itself would not be able to support all the people living there.

     Thus the insistence that there will always be poor people (a point Jesus reiterates, Matt. 26:11) is not a surreptitious fatalism, but an appeal for openhanded generosity.

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 62

My Soul Waits for God Alone
62 To The Choirmaster: According To Jeduthun. A Psalm Of David.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     22. As in the case where faithful pastors, presiding over churches not yet well constituted, should intimate to their flocks not to eat flesh on Friday until the weak among whom they live become strong, or to work on a holiday, or any other similar things, although, when superstition is laid aside, these matters are in themselves indifferent, still, where offence is given to the brethren, they cannot be done without sin; so there are times when believers cannot set this example before weak brethren without most grievously wounding their consciences. Who but a slanderer would say that a new law is enacted by those who, it is evident, only guard against scandals which their Master has distinctly forbidden? But nothing more than this can be said of the apostles, who had no other end in view, in removing grounds of offence, than to enforce the divine Law, which prohibits offence; as if they had said, The Lord hath commanded you not to hurt a weak brother; but meats offered to idols, things strangled, and blood, ye cannot eat, without offending weak brethren; we, therefore, require you, in the word of the Lord, not to eat with offence. And to prove that the apostles had respect to this, the best witness is Paul, who writes as follows, undoubtedly according to the sentiments of the council: "As concerning, therefore, the eating of those things which are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one."--"Howbeit, there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled."--"But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak" (1 Cor. 8:4-9). Any one who duly considers these things will not be imposed upon by the gloss which these men employ when, as a cloak to their tyranny, they pretend that the apostles had begun by their decree to infringe the liberty of the Church. But that they may be unable to escape without confessing the accuracy of this explanation, let them tell me by what authority they have dared to abrogate this very decree. It was, it seems, because there was no longer any danger of those offences and dissensions which the apostles wished to obviate, and they knew that the law was to be judged by its end. Seeing, therefore, the law was passed with a view to charity, there is nothing prescribed in it except in so far as required by charity. In confessing that the transgression of this law is nothing but a violation of charity, do they not at the same time acknowledge that it was not some adventitious supplement to the law of God, but a genuine and simple adaptation of it to the times and manners for which it was destined?

23. But though such laws are hundreds of times unjust and injurious to us, still they contend that they are to be heard without exception; for the thing asked of us is not to consent to errors, but only to submit to the strict commands of those set over us,--commands which we are not at liberty to decline (1 Pet. 2:18). But here also the Lord comes to the succour of his word, and frees us from this bondage by asserting the liberty which he has purchased for us by his sacred blood, and the benefit of which he has more than once attested by his word. For the thing required of us is not (as they maliciously pretend) to endure some grievous oppression in our body, but to be tortured in our consciences, and brought into bondage: in other words, robbed of the benefits of Christ's blood. Let us omit this, however, as if it were irrelevant to the point. Do we think it a small matter that the Lord is deprived of his kingdom which he so strictly claims for himself? Now, he is deprived of it as often as he is worshipped with laws of human invention, since his will is to be sole legislator of his worship. And lest any one should consider this as of small moment, let us hear how the Lord himself estimates it. "Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among the people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isaiah 29:13-14). And in another place, "But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9). And, indeed, when the children of Israel polluted themselves with manifold idolatries, the cause of the whole evil is ascribed to that impure mixture caused by their disregarding the commandments of God, and framing new modes of worship. Accordingly, sacred history relates that the new inhabitants who had been brought by the king of Assyria from Babylon to inhabit Samaria were torn and destroyed by wild beasts, because they knew not the judgment or statutes of the God of that land (2 Kings 17:24-34). Though they had done nothing wrong in ceremonies, still their empty show could not have been approved by God. Meanwhile he ceased not to punish them for the violation of his worship by the introduction of fictions alien from his word. Hence it is afterwards said that, terrified by the punishment, they adopted the rites prescribed in the Law; but as they did not yet worship God purely, it is twice repeated that they feared him and feared not. Hence we infer that part of the reverence due to him consists in worshipping him simply in the way which he commands, without mingling any inventions of our own. And, accordingly, pious princes are repeatedly praised (2 Kings 22:1, &c.) for acting according to all his precepts, and not declining either to the right hand or the left. I go further: although there be no open manifestation of impiety in fictitious worship, it is strictly condemned by the Spirit, inasmuch as it is a departure from the command of God. The altar of Ahaz, a model of which had been brought from Damascus (2 Kings 16:10), might have seemed to give additional ornament to the temple, seeing it was his intention there to offer sacrifices to God only, and to do it more splendidly than at the first ancient altar: yet we see how the Spirit detests the audacious attempt, for no other reasons but because human inventions are in the worship of God impure corruptions. And the more clearly the will of God has been manifested to us, the less excusable is our petulance in attempting anything. Accordingly, the guilt of Manasses is aggravated by the circumstance of having erected a new altar at Jerusalem, of which the Lord said, "In Jerusalem will I put my name" (2 Kings 22:3, 4), because the authority of God was thereby professedly rejected.

24. Many wonder why God threatens so sternly that he will bring astonishment on the people who worship him with the commandments of men, and declares that it is in vain to worship him with the commandments of men. But if they would consider what it is in the matter of religion, that is, of heavenly wisdom, to depend on God alone, they would, at the same time, see that it is not on slight grounds the Lord abominates perverse service of this description, which is offered him at the caprice of the human will. For although there is some show of humility in the obedience of those who obey such laws in worshipping God, yet they are by no means humble, since they prescribe to him the very laws which they observe. This is the reason why Paul would have us so carefully to beware of being deceived by the traditions of men, and what is called ethelothreskei'a, that is, voluntary worship, worship devised by men without sanction from God. Thus it is, indeed: we must be fools in regard to our own wisdom and all the wisdom of men, in order that we may allow him alone to be wise. This course is by no means observed by those who seek to approve themselves to him by paltry observances of man's devising, and, as it were, against his will obtrude upon him a prevaricating obedience which is yielded to men. This is the course which has been pursued for several ages, and within our own recollection, and is still pursued in the present day in those places in which the power of the creature is more than that of the Creator, where religion (if religion it deserves to be called) is polluted with more numerous, and more absurd superstitions, than ever Paganism was. For what could human sense produce but things carnal and fatuous, and savouring of their authors?

25. When the patrons of superstition cloak them, by pretending that Samuel sacrificed in Ramath, and though he did so contrary to the Law, yet pleased God (l Sam 7:17), it is easy to answer, that he did not set up any second altar in opposition to the only true one; but, as the place for the Ark of the Covenant had not been fixed, he sacrificed in the town where he dwelt, as being the most convenient. It certainly never was the intention of the holy prophet to make any innovation in sacred things, in regard to which the Lord had so strictly forbidden addition or diminution. The case of Manoah I consider to have been extraordinary and special. He, though a private man, offered sacrifice to God, and did it not without approbation, because he did it not from a rash movement of his own mind, but by divine inspiration (Judges 13:19). How much God abominates all the devices of men in his worship, we have a striking proof in the case of one not inferior to Manoah--viz. Gideon, whose ephod brought ruin not only on himself and his family, but on the whole people (Judges 8:27). In short, every adventitious invention, by which men desire to worship God, is nothing else than a pollution of true holiness.

26. Why then, they ask, did Christ say that the intolerable burdens, imposed by Scribes and Pharisees, were to be borne? (Mt. 23:3) Nay, rather, why did he say in another place that we were to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees? (Mt. 16:6) meaning by leaven, as the Evangelist Matthew explains it, whatever of human doctrine is mingled with the pure word of God. What can be plainer than that we are enjoined to shun and beware of their whole doctrine? From this it is most certain, that in the other passage our Lord never meant that the consciences of his people were to be harassed by the mere traditions of the Pharisees. And the words themselves, unless when wrested, have no such meaning. Our Lord, indeed, beginning to inveigh against the manners of the Pharisees, first instructs his hearers simply, that though they saw nothing to follow in the lives of the Pharisees, they should not, however, cease to do what they verbally taught when they sat in the seat of Moses, that is, to expound the Law. All he meant, therefore, was to guard the common people against being led by the bad example of their teachers to despise doctrine. But as some are not at all moved by reason, and always require authority, I will quote a passage from Augustine, in which the very same thing is expressed. "The Lord's sheepfold has persons set over it, of whom some are faithful, others hirelings. Those who are faithful are true shepherds; learn, however, that hirelings also are necessary. For many in the Church, pursuing temporal advantages, preach Christ, and the voice of Christ is heard by them, and the sheep follow not a hireling, but the shepherd by means of a hireling. Learn that hirelings were pointed out by the Lord himself. The Scribes and Pharisees, says he, sit in Moses' seat; what they tell you, do, but what they do, do ye not. What is this but to say, Hear the voice of the shepherd by means of hirelings? Sitting in the chair, they teach the Law of God, and therefore God teaches by them; but if they choose to teach their own, hear not, do not." Thus far Augustine. (August. in Joann. Tract. 46)

27. But as very many ignorant persons, on hearing that it is impious to bind the conscience, and vain to worship God with human traditions, apply one blot to all the laws by which the order of the Church is established, it will be proper to obviate their error. Here, indeed, the danger of mistake is great: for it is not easy to see at first sight how widely the two things differ. But I will, in a few words, make the matter so clear, that no one will be imposed upon by the resemblance. First, then, let us understand that if in every human society some kind of government is necessary to insure the common peace and maintain concord, if in transacting business some form must always be observed, which public decency, and hence humanity itself, require us not to disregard, this ought especially to be observed in churches, which are best sustained by a constitution in all respects well ordered, and without which concord can have no existence. Wherefore, if we would provide for the safety of the Church, we must always carefully attend to Paul's injunction, that all things be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). But seeing there is such diversity in the manners of men, such variety in their minds, such repugnance in their judgments and dispositions, no policy is sufficiently firm unless fortified by certain laws, nor can any rite be observed without a fixed form. So far, therefore, are we from condemning the laws which conduce to this, that we hold that the removal of them would unnerve the Church, deface and dissipate it entirely. For Paul's injunction, that all things be done decently and in order, cannot be observed unless order and decency be secured by the addition of ordinances, as a kind of bonds. In these ordinances, however, we must always attend to the exception, that they must not be thought necessary to salvation, nor lay the conscience under a religious obligation; they must not be compared to the worship of God, nor substituted for piety.

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

The Prayer and the Cry (Luther on Psalm 102)

By Fred Sanders 8/14/2017

     The first line of Psalm 102 asks God the same thing twice: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.”

     Or does it? Martin Luther, commenting on the psalm, takes the two requests as really distinct from each other: on the one hand there’s a prayer, and on the other hand there’s a cry. On this reading, the Psalmist asks God to hear his prayer, and also to let his cry ascend.

     What’s the difference between a prayer and a cry? Luther explains it in term of intellect and feeling: “The intellect makes the prayer, but the feeling makes the cry.” The feeling is the impulse of desire: vague, unstructured, nonthematic. But the prayer is formed, directed, and instructed: it shows the feeling “what it should desire, and how and whence.”

     He then plays this distinction out in Paul’s terms, “praying with the spirit, and praying with the understanding” (1 Cor 14). Prayer with the spirit, Luther says, is “strictly speaking, not a prayer but a cry.” On the other hand,

     to pray with the mind, that is, with meaning, is to have the meaning of the words which one reads or speaks. And according to this form the cry and desire is shaped, according to which prudence and thought forms every act of the will.

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Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series).

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  • Answering Lesslie Newbigin
  • Deuteronomy 15-16
  • Conversation

#1   Tim Keller

 

#2 11/25/2015 | Brett Meador

 

#3    Tim Keller

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2011    An 11th Century Reformer

     According to tradition, following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, captured the English throne. As a result, Edgar the Atheling of England was unable to secure his rightful claim to the English crown and thus decided to return to Hungary, where he had lived previously with his exiled father. Joined by his sister, Margaret, Edward set sail from England for the continent. However, a storm forced their ship north to the rocky shores of Scotland. The king of Scotland, Malcolm III (d. 1093), extended hospitality to the English family and, in time, took Edward’s sister, Margaret, to be his wife. While Edgar continued his struggle for the English throne, Margaret dedicated herself to her husband and to the people of Scotland.

     Queen Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045–1093) is barely mentioned in the annals of church history. Nevertheless, she was used of God mightily in eleventh-century Scotland. While the first crusade raged, while schism rent the church in the East, and while Anselm ministered in her homeland of England, Margaret was on her knees praying earnestly for her husband, the king of Scotland. Legend has it that as a new queen, Margaret would quietly slip out at night to a nearby cavern to pray for her husband’s conversion to Christ. At first, she was suspected of treason in plotting against her husband’s kingdom; however, she was vindicated in time as King Malcolm was converted and transformed, which, in turn, brought about transformation of his royal court and, ultimately, the nation of Scotland.

     Margaret was a pious woman whom God set forth as an example of Christian character, holiness, and worship. The ladies of her court and many ladies of Scotland esteemed her highly and imitated her example of humility, prayer, and service. Margaret was a woman of the Word who immersed herself in the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ. (Incidentally, her book of the Gospels remains one of England’s great treasures to this day, as it stands on display at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.) In addition to her own eight children, she adopted and raised nine orphans. She had a passion for the church, as she personally sponsored the construction and ministries of countless new churches and the revitalization of dilapidated churches. By her own consistent pattern of Lord’s Day worship and rest, the king and court eventually followed suit, and Sunday once again became a day of worship, rest, and service. Margaret was a reformer before the Reformation and an example to us all as she lived justly, loved kindness, and walked humbly before the face of God.

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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)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, graduated its first class on this day, June 10, 1854. The Academy was established under the direction of George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy under President James Polk. Bancroft was also known as the “father of American history,” having written the first comprehensive history of the US. George Bancroft wrote: “That the Divine Being should… be known, not as a distant Providence… but as God present in the flesh… amid the deep sorrows… protracted during centuries… carried peace into the bosom of humanity.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe
can exist without a clockmaker.
--- Voltaire
The Poetry of Physics and the Physics of Poetry

I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could. --- Mohandas Gandhi
The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi: (11 April, 1910 - 12 July, 1911)., Volume 11...

If Christ has our love, He has our all; and Christ never has whatHe deserves from us, till He has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon Him. If we actuallylove Him, He will have our time, and He will have our service, andHe will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces;indeed, then He shall have our possessions, freedom, and our verylives, whenever He calls for them. In the same way, when God lovesany of us, He will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. Hedoes not hold back His own only begotten Son, Rom.8:32. WhenChrist loves us, He gives us everything we need—His merits to justify us, His Spirit to sanctify us, His grace to adorn us, and Hisglory to crown us. Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely,we lay everything down at His feet, and give up all to be at Hiscommand and service: “And they loved not their lives unto the death,” Rev. 12:11. --- Thomas Doolittle
Love to Christ: Necessary to escape the curse at his coming

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 7 / “The Lord Is One”:
     Kabbalistic Interpretations


     Before moving on to kabbalistic views of divine unity, let us first summarize the three main lines of interpretation of our key word, eḥad. The third leader of the Ḥabad movement in Hasidism, R. Menaḥem Mendel of Lubavitch, provides us with a concise formulation. He points to three successive interpretations of the oneness of God. First and most obvious is that there exist no other gods—the simplest and most direct expression of monotheism. Taking this basic proposition one step further, the medieval Jewish philosophers understood God’s unity as uniqueness, a difference in quality as well as in number: God is utterly incomparable and hence ultimately unknowable. The last stage of interpretation was articulated by the Besht and his disciples, especially the “Great Maggid,” R. Dov Ber of Mezerich, and most elaborately developed by R. Shneur Zalman of Liady, the founder and first leader of Ḥabad. We now turn to this mystical approach, beginning with the comments of the Zohar, the foundational document of Kabbalah.

     Immediately after the first verse of the Shema, tradition interjects a sentence that, as mentioned earlier, is not found in the Bible at all. The phrase Barukh shem kevod … (“Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever”) was introduced here because of the tradition concerning Jacob and his sons. The verse has much to teach us about the meaning of eḥad in the opening verse of the Shema.

     What, other than this ancient aggada, connects the first verse of the Shema to the non-biblical addition, barukh shem kevod?

     The Zohar (I, 18b) characterizes the first verse of the Shema as yiḥuda ila’ah (the “Higher Unification”) and barukh shem kevod malkhuto le’olam va-ed as yiḥuda tata’ah (the “Lower Unification”). In hasidic literature, we find two widely divergent interpretations of these Zoharian terms as applied to the two opening verses of the Shema, each of which derives from two fundamentally different conceptions of divine unity.

     On one side, we find an unexpected alliance between two ideological antagonists, R. Shneur Zalman, founder of the Ḥabad movement in Hasidism and author of the Tanya, and R. Ḥayyim Volozhiner, founder of the famed Yeshiva of Volozhin and leading spokesman of the Mitnagdim (opponents of Hasidism), whose ideas are spelled out in his Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim. Their interpretation of the Shema might be labeled the radical or acosmic view. Opposing them is the hasidic zaddik, R. Zvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, author of Sur me-Ra va-Aseh Tov, whose view could be called the moderate or cosmic-affirming view.

     R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim hold that yiḥud Hashem implies not only that no other gods exist, i.e., the absence of multiplicity, but also that nothing else can be said truly to exist. They interpret quite literally the verse, “Know therefore this day and consider it in your heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; ein ‘od, there is no other” (
Deut. 4:39); to these last two words they append mammash, “literally.” In other words, the world, in the face of God, is reduced to nothingness; it is unreal and vanishes into nonexistence. This radical denial that the cosmos really exists is known as acosmism or as illusionism because its proponents aver that the world is only an illusion. It pushes the word eḥad, “one,” to its ultimate limits—and perhaps beyond them …

     Thus, R. Shneur Zalman writes in Tanya (2:6): “For the physical world too, which appears to the eye as utterly substantial, is literally nothing and naught compared to the Holy One.” And R. Ḥayyim writes similarly in Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim (3:2): “ ‘there is no other’ other than Him [must be taken] literally: there is nothing at all in all the worlds … such that you may say that no created object and no world exist; rather, all is filled with the simple essence of His oneness.” In other words, the mundane realm is an illusion. Only God truly exists; all else is His dream, as it were. Therefore is He called eḥad, One. This notion, they maintain, is the true meaning of the first verse of the Shema, what the Zohar calls the “Higher Unification.”

     What we have here is a highly abstract, esthetically beautiful, and conceptually compelling understanding of God’s unity, one that goes far beyond the categories of “one” proposed by Aristotle and later developed and transmuted by medieval Jewish as well as non-Jewish theologians. (2) For what can be more truly and thoroughly “one” than that unity outside of which nothing at all exists? This philosophical idea, based upon a mystical intuition, elevates the unity of God beyond all normal conceptions of oneness to its most absolute form. In this purest notion of unity, transcendence itself is transcended, and the One and the All and the Nothing meet in what is truly the “Higher Unification.” (3)

(2)     For a review of most of these definitions—which often, though not always, were motivated by interreligious polemics—see Daniel Lasker, “Definitions of ‘One’ and Divine Unity,” in Studies in Jewish Thought, ed. S. O. Heller-Wilenski and M. Idel (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1989), pp. 51–61 (Hebrew).

(3)     I suggest, according to this acosmic thesis, another explanation for the custom of placing the hand over one’s eyes upon reciting the Shema—a practice approved in the Talmud in the name of R. Judah; it symbolizes the unreality of the phenomenal world that is perceived by the senses. The eyes are therefore shielded in order to emphasize that the sensate “world” does not in fact exist, that God alone is “real.”

     But this idea, abstract and sophisticated as it is, poses an enormous challenge to the very foundations of halakhic life. For Torah and Halakha are based upon an assumption that lies at the very heart of the Jewish religious enterprise: that there is a “real” world, a vast whirling conglomeration of actual substances, a universe of discrete weights and measures, a realm that is as real as the nail in one’s shoe. How shall we distinguish between right and wrong, innocent and guilty, kosher and non-kosher, pure and impure, holy and profane, and all other such clear and measured halakhic categories if what we are dealing with is unreal, a mere illusion, a dream of God? If nothing truly exists, what is Torah all about? Is not this mystical intuition in total conflict with fundamental halakhic assumptions?

     The problem goes even deeper than Halakha. For if all the world is an illusion, of what value are life and love and hope? Why should we strive for success and aspire to transcend the bounds of self? Why even yearn for religious experience itself? If we are but actors in Someone Else’s dream, how can we make sense of sacrifice and suffering, of pleasure and happiness, of the myriad emotions and sentiments that both inspire and agitate us? Why exercise moral restraint and try to achieve a minimum of human dignity? If I am unreal, aren’t my most vital concerns and most sacred values, my most precious loves and relationships equally unreal? How then do I make sense of a life that hangs on the gossamer threads of illusion?

(2)     The answer that R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim propose is that it is God’s will that we act as if the world were real, that we take God’s dream as our reality. Indeed, they argue that this very idea is the message of Barukh shem kevod. For complementing the “Higher Unification” expressed in the first verse of the Shema is the “Lower Unification” expressed by Barukh shem kevod. This verse confirms the cosmos not as ultimate reality but as the divinely willed reality. And this pseudo-real world that we accept as real because we are so commanded is the malkhut, “kingdom,” of the Creator. In it, faced with a stunning plethora of phenomena of the most varied sorts, a world in dialogue with its Creator, we proclaim that God is One, and we bless His glorious kingdom forever and ever.

     In other words, the first verse of the Shema articulates the “Higher Unification,” the radical notion that God is One because nothing else exists; the Barukh shem kevod expresses the more conventional interpretation of divine unity as giving rise to a divinely approved and willed sacred fiction, namely, what we experience as our real existence.

     How can two such widely divergent and apparently contradictory ideas be reconciled? To resolve this paradox, both R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim point to a significant dichotomy proposed by the great sixteenth-century Safed Kabbalist, R. Moshe Cordovero, who described two radically different ways of perceiving the world: “from His side” and “from our side.” Extrapolating from Cordovero’s teaching, they explain that the “Higher Unification” can only be perceived from the divine perspective; the “Lower Unification,” from our human perspective. From the point of view of the Ein Sof, God in His aspect of utter transcendence, nothing exists but divinity; all else is fantasy, chimerical, illusory. “ ‘There is no other’—literally.” But from our limited human point of view, the world is not a dream, not even a divine dream; it possesses ontological validity. We treat it as real and autonomous. It is within this context that we conduct our dialogue with the Creator. (4)

(4)     The Cordoveran dichotomy in a way anticipates the contemporary theory of complementarity—that there are two opposite ways of apprehending the same truth. Thus, light can be conceived of as both undulatory and discrete particles—and the equations work out equally well for both wave phenomena and for discrete quanta; yet both apparently contradictory states are true. See my Torah Umadda, (Northvale, N.J. and London: Jason Aronson Inc., 1990), pp. 232–8.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 17.

     The Death Of Joseph [Herod's Brother] Which Had Been Signified To Herod In Dreams. How Herod Was Preserved Twice After A Wonderful Manner. He Cuts Off The Head Of Pappus, Who Was The Murderer Of His Brother And Sends That Head To [His Other Brother] Pheroras, And In No Long Time He Besieges Jerusalem And Marries Mariamne.

     1. In the mean time, Herod's affairs in Judea were in an ill state. He had left his brother Joseph with full power, but had charged him to make no attempts against Antigonus till his return; for that Machaerus would not be such an assistant as he could depend on, as it appeared by what he had done already; but as soon as Joseph heard that his brother was at a very great distance, he neglected the charge he had received, and marched towards Jericho with five cohorts, which Machaerus sent with him. This movement was intended for seizing on the corn, as it was now in the midst of summer; but when his enemies attacked him in the mountains, and in places which were difficult to pass, he was both killed himself, as he was very bravely fighting in the battle, and the entire Roman cohorts were destroyed; for these cohorts were new-raised men, gathered out of Syria, and here was no mixture of those called veteran soldiers among them, who might have supported those that were unskillful in war.

     2. This victory was not sufficient for Antigonus; but he proceeded to that degree of rage, as to treat the dead body of Joseph barbarously; for when he had got possession of the bodies of those that were slain, he cut off his head, although his brother Pheroras would have given fifty talents as a price of redemption for it. And now the affairs of Galilee were put in such disorder after this victory of Antigonus's, that those of Antigonus's party brought the principal men that were on Herod's side to the lake, and there drowned them. There was a great change made also in Idumea, where Machaerus was building a wall about one of the fortresses, which was called Gittha. But Herod had not yet been informed of these things; for after the taking of Samosata, and when Antony had set Sosius over the affairs of Syria, and had given him orders to assist Herod against Antigonus, he departed into Egypt; but Sosius sent two legions before him into Judea to assist Herod, and followed himself soon after with the rest of his army.

     3. Now when Herod was at Daphne, by Antioch, he had some dreams which clearly foreboded his brother's death; and as he leaped out of his bed in a disturbed manner, there came messengers that acquainted him with that calamity. So when he had lamented this misfortune for a while, he put off the main part of his mourning, and made haste to march against his enemies; and when he had performed a march that was above his strength, and was gone as far as Libanus, he got him eight hundred men of those that lived near to that mountain as his assistants, and joined with them one Roman legion, with which, before it was day, he made an irruption into Galilee, and met his enemies, and drove them back to the place which they had left. He also made an immediate and continual attack upon the fortress. Yet was he forced by a most terrible storm to pitch his camp in the neighboring villages before he could take it. But when, after a few days' time, the second legion, that came from Antony, joined themselves to him, the enemy were affrighted at his power, and left their fortifications in the night time.

     4. After this he marched through Jericho, as making what haste he could to be avenged on his brother's murderers; where happened to him a providential sign, out of which, when he had unexpectedly escaped, he had the reputation of being very dear to God; for that Evening there feasted with him many of the principal men; and after that feast was over, and all the guests were gone out, the house fell down immediately. And as he judged this to be a common signal of what dangers he should undergo, and how he should escape them in the war that he was going about, he, in the Morning, set forward with his army, when about six thousand of his enemies came running down from the mountains, and began to fight with those in his forefront; yet durst they not be so very bold as to engage the Romans hand to hand, but threw stones and darts at them at a distance; by which means they wounded a considerable number; in which action Herod's own side was wounded with a dart.

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

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

Proverbs 19:5-6
     by D.H. Stern

5     A false witness will not go unpunished;
whoever breathes out lies will not escape.

6     Many ask favors of a generous person—
to a giver of gifts, everyone is a friend.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The next best thing to do

     Seek if you have not Found. “Seek, and ye shall find.” ---
Luke 11:9.

     “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.” If you ask for things from life instead of from God, you ask amiss, that is, you ask from a desire for self-realization. The more you realize yourself the less will you seek God. “Seek, and ye shall find.” Get to work, narrow your interests to this one. Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia? Seek, concentrate, and you will find.

     “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Are you thirsty, or smugly indifferent—so satisfied with your experience that you want nothing more of God? Experience is a gateway, not an end. Beware of building your faith on experience, the metallic note will come in at once, the censorious note. You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him homesick for what you have.

     “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “Draw nigh to God.” Knock—the door is closed, and you suffer from palpitation as you knock. “Cleanse your hands”—knock a bit louder, you begin to find you are dirty. “Purify your heart”—this is more personal still, you are desperately in earnest now—you will do anything. “Be afflicted”—have you ever been afflicted before God at the state of your inner life? There is no strand of self-pity left, but a heartbreaking affliction of amazement to find you are the kind of person that you are. “Humble yourself”—it is a humbling business to knock at God’s door—you have to knock with the crucified thief. “To him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

My Utmost for His Highest

Invasion on the Farm
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Invasion on the Farm

I am Prytherch. Forgive me. I don't know
What you are talking about; your thoughts flow
Too swiftly for me; I cannot dawdle
Along their banks and fish in their quick stream
With crude fingers. I am alone, exposed
In my own fields with no place to run
From your sharp eyes. I, who a moment back
Paddled in the bright grass, the old farm
Warm as a sack about me, feel the cold
Winds of the world blowing. The patched gate
You left open will never be shut again.


Selected Poems, 1946-68

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     How The Rabbis Read The Bible
     and Created Midrash


     A fundamentalist assumes that biblical text has one meaning for all times and all situations. But the Rabbis who wrote Midrash were not fundamentalists. They acknowledged that the Bible, as sacred text, is a living document. It can have different meanings in different contexts. One Rabbi can give an interpretation, his Midrash on a verse, and another Rabbi, in the exact same time and place can say, in effect, "Here's another possible meaning of this sacred Scripture." And later generations would look not only at the biblical text but also at these interpretations; these later teachers would write their own midrashim, understanding the Bible in the light of their times, their backgrounds, their needs.

     Often, the Rabbis who wrote these interpretations were responding to the particular challenges of their age. The Jews who lived in Israel during the classic age of Midrash experienced foreign occupation, the loss of the Temple, the flourishing of Christianity, and finally the advent of Islam. They needed to understand why these things happened to them as a nation. They needed to be reassured that there was a bright future awaiting them as a people. They needed to know if the promises of God and if the words of the Torah were still meaningful and relevant. Midrash makes the biblical text applicable to the issues of the day. The Bible is not a frozen document but a living, breathing work.

     "The Rabbis also used Midrash to introduce new concepts into Judaism, which itself was developing during the same time that these interpretations were being written. (The Bible, read literally, does not have a concept of "soul"; however, the Rabbis used Midrash to find the basis for a soul in certain verses.) This creative reading allowed Rabbinic Judaism to expand and grow. Similarly, reinterpretations of sacred texts through Midrash provided comfort and consolation as well as a "revised" philosophy of Judaism that would make sense of the cataclysm—the destruction of the Temple—that Jews had only recently experienced.

     "The basic assumption of the Rabbis was that the Torah was a sacred text, originating from God. The implication of this assumption was that there is more to the Bible than initially meets the eye. In each sentence, word, and letter, there was either a direct message from God or an opportunity for the Rabbi to elucidate what God wanted from the Jewish people. Therefore, the text couldn't just be read; it had to be studied. It could not be perused; it had to be deciphered. Everything about it was of ultimate significance.

     "Scholars of the Midrash speak of two main methodologies used by the Rabbis: creative philology (the study of language and texts) and creative historiography (the study of history and narrative). First and foremost was the attention that the Rabbis paid to the language. Midrashic methodology included the following techniques, which will be found in the passages included in this book:

• Attention to unusual spellings: מָלֵא/maleh, "complete," and
     "חָסֵר/ḥaser, "missing," where a vav or a yod might be
     "included or left out.
• Puns, when a word could change meaning by minor
     "changes in a vowel or consonant.
• The literal interpretation of a word instead of its
     "usual, idiomatic meaning.
• The presence of superfluous words that were believed to
     "have been included in order to transmit additional
     "messages.
• The doubling of words—a common Hebrew form—
    "seen by the Rabbis as signaling a message.
• Notarikon, where a word was understood as an
     "abbreviation of two or more other words.
• Gematria, whereby the numerical sum of a word's letters
     "either added up to a significant quantity or equaled
     "another word of the same numerical sum.
• Gezeira Shava, in which two distinct stories shared the
     "same word or phrase, and elements of the first were
     "applied to the second.
• The etymology of names, which offered hints about a
     "person's character.
• The juxtaposition of sections, not considered coincidental
     "or meaningless, which was seen as planned and
     "significant.

     "These and many other techniques were formalized by the Rabbis in various lists of middot, "characteristics" or principles of interpretation. Among the most famous are the Thirteen Middot of Rabbi Yishmael (which became a part of the daily Shaḥarit liturgy).

     "In addition to the detailed concern with the language, the Rabbis also employed other methodologies in analyzing Bible stories and creating the Midrash texts that have come down to us:

• Logic, interpretations created through reasoning. A classic
     "example of the use of logic is the kol va-ḥomer, where a
     "law or a situation applied in a "light" case was also
     "applied to a "serious" case. [This is often referred to as
     "kal va-ḥomer,
     "though kol va-ḥomer is the more correct reading.]
• The resolution of contradictions within a story or between
     "stories (often accomplished by limiting the situations
     "in which the cases applied).
• The Bible as a paradigm of history, where the deeds of the
     "ancestors are a sign regarding the actions of their
     "descendants.
• The use of biblical stories to mask comments on politics
     "and current events.
• The desire to fill in missing details of biblical stories.

     "And perhaps most significant for the creation of midrashic narratives was the aversion to anonymity. The Rabbis tried to identify unnamed figures in the Bible and fill in missing background information.

     We also find in midrashic texts:

• Folk wisdom, including proverbs and parables.
• Case studies; incidents that actually occurred were used
     "as precedents.
• Fauna and flora, as the source of an ethical lesson.
• Imitatio Dei (imitation of the divine), with God serving
     "as a role model for human behavior.
• Apologetics, in which stories of interactions with non-Jews
     "were a basis for arguing for Judaism's superiority over
     "other religions.
• Ethical lessons derived from legal details, and legal
     "details derived from narrative sections.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

2. God Rejects the Appeal (Hosea 6:1–7:16)
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "It isn't unusual for the accused in a trial to express regret and remorse for what they've done and to ask for another chance. That's just what Israel did, but God anticipated their hypocritical subterfuge and exposed not only their duplicity but the sinful way they had treated their Lord.

     The nation's false repentance (Hosea 6:1–3). When you read these words, you get the impression that the nation is sincerely repenting and seeking the Lord, but when you read what God says, you see how shallow their "confession" really was. "They do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him" (7:10). "They have spoken lies against Me" (v. 13). "They return, but not to the Most High" (v. 16). What went wrong with this "confession"?

     To begin with, their concern was for healing and not for cleansing. They saw their nation in difficulty and wanted God to "make things right," but they did not come with broken hearts and surrendered wills. They wanted happiness, not holiness, a change of circumstances, but not a change in character. Many times in my own ministry I've met people in trouble who treated God like a celestial lifeguard who should rescue them from danger but not deliver them from their sins. They shed tears of remorse over their suffering, but not tears of repentance over their sin.

     Furthermore, the people of Israel thought that the remedy would work quickly: "After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up" (6:2). What blind optimism! They were like the false prophets in Jeremiah's day who offered the nation superficial remedies but never got to the heart of the problem (Jer. 6:14; 8:11–16). They were like physicians putting suntan lotion on a cancerous tumor instead of calling for drastic surgery. Expecting a "quick fix" is one of the marks of an unrepentant heart that doesn't want to pay the price for deep cleansing (Ps. 51:6–7).

     There is a third evidence of their shallowness: they saw forgiveness and restoration as a "mechanical" thing that was guaranteed and not as a relational matter that involved getting right with God. To paraphrase Hosea 6:3, "If we seek Him, His blessing is sure to come just as the dawn comes each Morning and the rains come each spring and winter." This is formula religion, like getting a candy bar out of a vending machine: put in the money, push the button, and out comes the candy. The Christian life is a relationship with God, and the relationships aren't based on cut-and-dried formulas.

     One more evidence of their shallowness is the fact that they depended on religious words rather than righteous deeds. When we truly repent, our words will come from broken hearts and they will cost us something. Hosea considered words to be like "spiritual sacrifices" brought to the Lord (14:2), and we must not give Him something cheap (2 Sam. 24:24). Words can reveal or conceal, depending on the honesty and humility of the sinner. (This is made clear in 1 John 1, where the phrase "if we say" is repeated three times. See also King Saul's "religious lies" in 1 Samuel 15:10–35.) We must take to heart the warning in Ecclesiastes 5:1–2. (1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil. 2 Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.) ... and yet so many are so anxious to open their mouths in prayer that they might be heard. (by others)

     The nation's true condition (Hosea 6:4–7:16). In a series of vivid similes ad metaphors, Hosea revealed the true character of the people of Israel.

     Their love for the Lord was like a Morning cloud and the dew (6:4–11). Early in the Morning, the dew looks like sparkling jewels, but as soon as the sun comes up, the dew is gone. Israel's devotion to the Lord was temporary, lovely but not lasting. To give some substance to their faith, God sent them His prophets with the Word of God which is like a penetrating sword (Eph. 6:17) and a flash of lightning (Hosea 6:5), but the people turned a deaf ear.

     God doesn't want our relationship with Him to be one of shallow, transient feelings and empty words and rituals, hearts that are enthusiastic one day and frigid the next. "For I desired mercy [loyal love], and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (v. 6). A superficial ritual can never take the place of sincere love and faithful obedience (1 Sam. 15:22–23; Amos 5:21–24; Micah 6:6–8; Matt 9:13; 12:7).

     "But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant" (Hosea 6:7, NASB).11 God promised Adam His blessings if he obeyed His commands, but Adam deliberately destroyed and plunged the human race into sin and death (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). God promised Israel the blessings of the Promised Land if they would obey Him (Deut. 28), but they broke the covenant and suffered the consequences. For both Israel and Judah, God had appointed a harvest, and they would reap just what they had sown (Gal. 6:7–8).

     Their lust was like an overheated oven (Hosea 7:1–7). It's probable that the last statement in 6:11 should be joined with 7:1 to read, "When I would have returned the captivity of My people, when I would have healed Israel." What prevented God from helping His distressed people? They wanted Him to act on their terms and not according to the condition of His holy covenant. They thought they could get away with their many sins, but God saw them all and remembered them (v. 2; contrast Heb. 10:16–17).

     Their passion for sin was like a fire in an oven: bank the fire at night, and it will be ready to blaze out in the Morning. The oven was so hot that the baker could ignore it all night and know it would be ready for baking his bread in the Morning. The "fuel" for the fire was wine, for alcohol and sin often go together.

     Hosea describes a palace celebration during which the king and his officers get drunk, and this gives the king's enemies opportunity to overthrow him and even kill him. Remember, Israel had five kings in thirteen years, and four kings were assassinated in twenty years. From Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel, to Hoshea, the last king, there were nine different dynasties! Because the leaders were far from the Lord, the political situation was confused and corrupt.

     The third simile is that of a half-baked cake (Hosea 7:8). The nomadic peoples of the East baked their bread on hot rocks. If the dough wasn't turned, one side of the loaf would be burned and the other side uncooked. Instead of remaining separate from the nations, Israel mixed with the nations and became like them. Because of her compromising political posture, the nation was "burned" by Assyria on the one hand and left uncooked on the other.

     When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we must be thorough and not "half-baked." His gracious work must permeate our whole being so that heart, mind, and strength are all devoted to Him. Compromise with the world leads to unbalanced conduct and immature character.

     Continuing the theme of compromise, Hosea pictures Israel as a man getting gray and not knowing it (vv. 9–10). By mixing with the nations and ignoring the Lord, the nation was secretly losing her strength, like someone getting older and weaker but in her pride refusing to admit it. This is the tragedy of undetected losses that quietly lead to ultimate failures. Samson made this mistake (Jud. 16:20) and so did the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:17). Israel saw her political strategy failing, but the leaders still refused to turn to the Lord. "The pride of Israel" (Hosea 7:10; see 5:5) refers to Israel's national glory which had greatly eroded since the days of David and Solomon. Selfish politicians and corrupt priests had brought the nation to ruin.

     In their political policies, the Israelites were like a silly dove (7:11–12). First they turned to Egypt for help and then to Assyria, and both nations proved to be false allies
(5:13; 8:8–10; 12:1). If the leaders had listened to the prophets, they would have known that Assyria would one day invade the land (9:3; 10:5–6; Isa. 7:18–8:10). God warned that Israel's "flying here and there" would come to an end when He caught them in His net and gave them to the King of Assyria. God is in control of the nations, but His people would not obey Him.

     According to the covenant God had with His people, the Jews could trade with the other nations, but they were not to enter into political alliances that would compromise their obedience to the Lord. "I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations"
(Num. 23:9, NIV). "You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own" (Lev. 20:26, NIV). Solomon used many wives to form alliances with other nations, and this was the beginning of the nation's downfall (1 Kings 11:1ff).

     The final image is a faulty bow (Hosea 7:13–16), because God couldn't depend on Israel to be faithful. (This image is also used in Ps. 78:57.) God had called Israel and trained them, so they should have been able to "hit the target." But because they had strayed from the Lord, rebelled against Him, lied to Him (in their feigned repentance), and refused to call upon Him, so they could not win the battle.

     As we review these images, we might take inventory of our own devotion to the Lord. How lasting is it? How deep is it? How strong is it? How serious is it? How dependable is it?


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

W. E. Vine
     Blind Bartimaeus

     Another case is the account of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. The charge of discrepancy is made in view of the fact that Matthew mentions two blind men, whereas Mark and Luke mention one, and that Matthew and Mark speak of the incident as having taken place when Christ was coming out of Jericho, while Luke seems to indicate that it was when He was drawing near to the city. There is little difficulty about the former of these differences, for it is quite consistent with the actual facts that two men should be healed but that the second and third writers should tell of one of these only. As to the exact locality of the healing, it is futile to impute inaccuracy to any one of the Gospel writers on this ground, seeing that the full details are not given in any one case. Were all the circumstances known each writer would no doubt be found perfectly accurate. For one thing, Luke’s narrative does not make it necessary to suppose that the blind man was on the side of the town where Christ was entering. It may be objected that the narrative continues with the record of Christ’s entering into the house of Zacchaeus, and that therefore the healing of the blind man must have taken place before. But this objection cannot stand, for it is not at all necessary to suppose from the first verse of the nineteenth chapter that Luke was narrating things in exact chronological order. In writing the narrative of Zacchaeus he was possibly reverting to an incident which had taken place while Christ was in Jericho. Moreover, it is a well-known feature in Luke’s Gospel that he narrates details of this sort without exact chronology.

     He frequently has an eye to the moral or spiritual association of incidents, which causes him to group events in this way rather than to observe the strict order of their occurrence. There is a striking contrast between the two sections at the end of chapter
18 which the writer seems to set off one against the other. In the section verses 31–34 there is the spiritual blindness of the disciples; then comes the incident of the physical blindness of the beggar by the wayside, suggesting that Luke was guided by the Spirit of God so to record the events as to bring to the notice of the diligent inquirer the means whereby spiritually blind people may receive their sight.

     He makes it clear, too, that he is connecting the story of Zacchaeus with the parable of the pounds, for he says that as the people heard what Christ said to Zacchaeus, He spoke the parable of the pounds because they thought that the Kingdom of God was immediately to appear (v.
11). It is noticeable, too, that Christ’s going up to Jerusalem is mentioned immediately after He had told them the parable (v. 28).

     Further, the way in which
Luke begins the Zacchaeus narrative makes it quite natural to suppose that he was reverting to something that had taken place while Christ was in the city before He healed the blind man. Literally the first verse of chapter nineteen reads “and after having entered, He was passing through Jericho,” a way of putting it which may be easily connected, not with the healing of the blind man, but with the initial statement of 18:35, when Christ was coming to the city. Every detail of the three records could be easily accounted for in some such way. The veracity of the writers at least remains unimpaired.

     In reading the Gospel of
Luke a great deal is missed if we do not observe that the object of the writer is not the mere sequence of events, but the grouping of the teachings of the Lord as well as His works and His ways.

The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set

From Collection of Scriptures to the Canon of Scripture
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     The discussion thus far has centered on individual texts, since the books developed separately and were written on separate scrolls during the Second Temple period. By the third or fourth century C.E., however, the collection of texts coalesced into a single text. Books considered to have divine authority formed a special group distinct from other works. The group of five books seen as the revelation to Moses became “the book of Moses” (4QMMT C10), though the authoritative status of Jubilees in certain circles raises the question whether the category of Torah was strictly confined to the five books. The book of Moses together with an undefined collection of prophetic books (including, for most Jewish groups, Psalms and Daniel) formed a special collection of authoritative Scripture—“the Law and the Prophets”—during the late Second Temple period. Many other works, some of which would, and others of which would not, become part of the Writings, or Poetic and Wisdom books, were still finding their place in the first century C.E. By approximately the third century, though the scroll format apparently continued in Jewish circles, at least for Christians the codex gradually supplanted the scroll as the preferred form, and the texts that had been placed only in a mental category were now transformed into a physical unity, a single text: the Old Testament. Thus, the idea of a collection of sacred texts originated in Judaism, but explicit discussion of a canon of sacred Scriptures and physical reproduction of it apparently arose in Christian circles.

     “Canon” is a theological terminus technicus denoting the definitive, official list of inspired, authoritative books that constitute the recognized and accepted body of sacred Scripture which forms the rule of faith for a major religious group, that definitive list being the result of inclusive and exclusive decisions after serious deliberation. Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and others have differing lists of books as their canon, but the definition of “the canon of Scripture” remains the same for all, and the process leading up to the establishment of the canon was an analogous process for each.

     There is no solid evidence from the Second Temple period regarding the specific books in the canon and at best inconclusive evidence for anything beyond “the Law and the Prophets.” The Prologue to Ben Sira is clearest with “the Law and the Prophets and the other books of our ancestors” (8–10; cf. 1–2, 24–25). But this could mean either a tripartite or a bipartite collection: either (1) the Law, (2) the Prophets, and (3) the Writings; or (1) the Scriptures (i.e., the Law and the Prophets) and (2) other important religious literature helpful toward instruction and wisdom. Whereas both the bipartite and the tripartite (albeit quite vague for the third category) positions are defensible, in contrast, the oft-cited reference to a tripartite canon in 4QMMT C 10 (“in the book of Moses [and] in the book[s of the P]rophets and in Dav[id …]”) requires serious scrutiny. The DJD editors’ interpretation as an attestation of a tripartite canon is highly dubious on at least five levels: questionable placement of a fragment (4QMMTd frg. 17), paleographic transcription of several letters, reconstruction of the composite text in light of disagreements between the manuscripts, awkward syntax, and the content denoted by the last phrase (wbd??[ ]). That is, two of the three sections, “the book[s of]” the Prophets, and “David,” may well disappear from the alleged tripartite reference. Appeals to other biblical references—such as in Ben Sira’s own work and 1 and 2 Maccabees—are likewise unpersuasive, unless one takes a maximalist approach in which mere knowledge of or allusive mention of a book means that it, or even its entire category of books, was already considered canonical. Only toward the end of the first century C.E. does Josephus write of an exclusive twenty-two-book collection, and 4 Ezra mentions a set of twenty-four books for the public alongside seventy to be distributed among the wise. Thus, the absence of any clear mention of a tripartite collection of Scriptures prior to the late first century C.E. weighs in favor of a bipartite collection envisioned in the Prologue to Ben Sira.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 10

     Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? --- John 12:27.

     The first thing Christianity does to the problem of suffering is to heighten and accentuate the difficulty of it. (Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons) ) In fact, it is precisely our Christian faith that creates the problem. Only to the believer is suffering a mystery. For only Christians say, “God is love”; therefore it is only they who have in their hands and hearts the terrible task of squaring the dark, tragic things in life with such a daring declaration of faith.

     We must reject the solution that all suffering comes from God. God has created his world in such a way that sin and suffering are possibilities. But to hold, as some good people do, that God is the direct and immediate cause of everything that happens and, therefore, the cause of all the evil things that happen—that kind of rigid determinism, that almost mechanical predestination—affronts our moral sense and makes nonsense of the fact of human freedom.

     We must equally reject the doctrine that all suffering is due to sin. Sin produces suffering in one form or another. Indeed, sin and folly and bungling and selfishness are responsible for a vast amount of suffering in the world today. But it is not true that all suffering is due to sin, as if someone’s troubles were punishments, indications of some flaw in her or his character.

     Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!” (Luke 13:1–3)

     That is plain enough. Here you have it, on the authority of Jesus, that it is a false simplification to say that all suffering is due to sin.

     What, then, are we to say? The search for a solution must be continued. It may be, of course, that we will find there is no complete and final answer to the mystery of suffering. We may be led to conclude that there will always, to the very end of the day, be need for an act of sheer naked faith. If that is so, we need not be ashamed. Faith requires no apology. And, if faith in God creates the problem, it is surely understandable that faith in God is going to answer it.
--- James S. Stewart


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

On This Day
     What Grace!  June 10

     John Hus, born in a peasant’s home about 1373, worked his way through school and began teaching theology at the University of Prague. He was exposed to Wycliffe’s writings, and in 1402 when he was appointed preacher at Prague’s influential Bethlehem Chapel his powerful RS Thomas about justification by faith stirred all Bohemia. Church officials grew alarmed by the ferment, and in 1414 Hus was summoned to Constance on charges of heresy. Though promised safe conduct, he was quickly arrested. On June 10, 1415, he wrote to his followers in Bohemia:

     Master John Hus, a servant of God in hope, to all the faithful Bohemians who love and will love God, praying that God may grant them to live and die in his grace, and dwell forever in the heavenly joy. Amen. Faithful and beloved of God, lords and ladies, rich and poor! I entreat you and exhort you to love God, to spread abroad his word, and to hear and observe it more willingly. I entreat you to hold fast the truth of God, which I have written and preached to you from the holy Scriptures. …

     I write this letter to you in prison, bound with chains and expecting on the morrow the sentence of death, yet fully trusting in God that I shall not swerve from his truth nor swear denial of the errors, whereof I have been charged by false witnesses. What grace God hath shown me, and how he helps me in the midst of strange temptations, you will know when by his mercy we meet in joy in his presence. Of Master Jerome, my beloved friend, I hear nothing except that he too, like myself, is in a noisome prison waiting for death, and that on account of his faith which he showed so earnestly to the Bohemians. …

     I entreat this too of you, that ye love one another, defend good men from violent oppression, and give every one an opportunity of hearing the truth. I am writing this with the help of a good angel on Monday night before St. Vitus’s Day.

     Twenty-six days later, John Hus died at the stake.

     God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven.
--- Matthew 5:10-12a.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 10

     “We live unto the Lord.” --- Romans 14:8.

     If God had willed it, each of us might have entered heaven at the moment of conversion. It was not absolutely necessary for our preparation for immortality that we should tarry here. It is possible for a man to be taken to heaven, and to be found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, though he has but just believed in Jesus. It is true that our sanctification is a long and continued process, and we shall not be perfected till we lay aside our bodies and enter within the veil; but nevertheless, had the Lord so willed it, he might have changed us from imperfection to perfection, and have taken us to heaven at once. Why then are we here? Would God keep his children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary? Why is the army of the living God still on the battle-field when one charge might give them the victory? Why are his children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from his lips would bring them into the centre of their hopes in heaven? The answer is—they are here that they may “live unto the Lord,” and may bring others to know his love. We remain on earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as ploughmen to break up the fallow ground; as heralds publishing salvation. We are here as the “salt of the earth,” to be a blessing to the world. We are here to glorify Christ in our daily life. We are here as workers for him, and as “workers together with him.” Let us see that our life answereth its end. Let us live earnest, useful, holy lives, to “the praise of the glory of his grace.” Meanwhile we long to be with him, and daily sing ---

     “My heart is with him on his throne,
     And ill can brook delay;
     Each moment listening for the voice,
     ‘Rise up, and come away.’ ”



          Evening - June 10

     “They are they which testify of me.” --- John 5:39.

     Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages; from first to last they testify of him. At the creation we at once discern him as one of the sacred Trinity; we catch a glimpse of him in the promise of the woman’s seed; we see him typified in the ark of Noah; we walk with Abraham, as he sees Messiah’s day; we dwell in the tents of Isaac and Jacob, feeding upon the gracious promise; we hear the venerable Israel talking of Shiloh; and in the numerous types of the law, we find the Redeemer abundantly foreshadowed. Prophets and kings, priests and preachers, all look one way—they all stand as the cherubs did over the ark, desiring to look within, and to read the mystery of God’s great propitiation. Still more manifestly in the New Testament we find our Lord the one pervading subject. It is not an ingot here and there, or dust of gold thinly scattered, but here you stand upon a solid floor of gold; for the whole substance of the New Testament is Jesus crucified, and even its closing sentence is bejewelled with the Redeemer’s name. We should always read Scripture in this light; we should consider the word to be as a mirror into which Christ looks down from heaven; and then we, looking into it, see his face reflected as in a glass—darkly, it is true, but still in such a way as to be a blessed preparation for seeing him as we shall see him face to face. This volume contains Jesus Christ’s letters to us, perfumed by his love. These pages are the garments of our King, and they all smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. Scripture is the royal chariot in which Jesus rides, and it is paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem. The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Saviour. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 10

          ART THOU WEARY?

     John M. Neale, 1818–1866

     Adapted from the Greek of Stephen the Sabaite, 725–815

     The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)

     I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy burdened.”
--- St. Augustine

     Inspired by Christ’s loving offer of pardon and rest for the weary and distressed soul, an 8th century Greek monk named Stephen wrote these plaintive lines. From the age of 10 Stephen lived in the monastery of Mar Sabas in the wilderness of Judea. He eventually became the abbot of this monastery until his death at the age of 90. The mystic quality of the hymn’s text reflects the introspective solitude of Stephen’s life. He joins with “saints, apostles, prophets, and martyrs” to assert God’s blessing upon all who respond to Him in simple faith.

     This text in its present form is actually a paraphrase of Stephen’s writing. It was done by John M. Neale, an English clergyman who discovered and translated many ancient Greek and Latin hymns. Neale published “Art thou Weary?” in his 1862 edition of Hymns of the Eastern Church.

     “Art Thou Weary?” has been the favorite hymn of many notable people, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its simple and direct arrangement of a question in the first line of each verse followed by the positive answer in each second line has given assurance of God’s constant faithfulness to countless despairing persons.

     Art thou weary, art thou languid, art thou sore distrest? “Come to Me,” saith One, “and, coming, be at rest.”

     Hath He marks to lead me to Him, if He be my guide? “In His feet and hands are wound-prints, and His side.”

     If I still hold closely to Him, what hath He at last? “Sorrow vanquished, labor ended, Jordan passed.”

     If I ask Him to receive me, will He say me nay? “Not till earth and not till heaven pass away.”

     Finding, foll’wing, keeping, struggling, is He sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs answer, “Yes.”


     For Today: Psalm 23:2; 55:22; Matthew 11:28, 29; John 10:10.

     Come to Christ with any burden or sorrow in your life and be assured that He will hasten to meet you with open arms just as the father of the prodigal son did. Rest in the truth of these musical lines ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. LI. — LET us now come to that passage in Ecclesiasticus, and also with it compare that first ‘probable opinion.’ The opinion saith, ‘Freewill cannot will good.’ The passage in Ecclesiasticus is adduced to prove, that “Free-will” is something, and can do something. Therefore, the opinion which is to be proved by Ecclesiasticus, asserts one thing; and Ecclesiasticus, which is adduced to prove it, asserts another. This is just as if any one, setting about to prove that Christ was the Messiah, should adduce a passage which proves that Pilate was governor of Syria, or any thing else equally discordant. It is in the same way that “Free-will” is here proved. But, not to mention my having above made it manifest, that nothing clear or certain can be said or proved concerning “Free-will,” as to what it is, or what it can do, it is worth while to examine the whole passage thoroughly.

     First he saith, “God made man in the beginning.’’ Here he speaks of the creation of man; nor does he say any thing, as yet, concerning either “Free-will” or the commandments.

     Then he goes on, “and left him in the hand of his own counsel.” And what is here? Is “Freewill” built upon this? But there is not here any mention of commandments, for the doing of which “Free-will” is required; nor do we read any thing of this kind in the creation of man. If any thing be understood by “the hand of his own counsel,” that should rather be understood which is in Genesis i. and ii.: that man was made lord of all things that he might freely exercise dominion over them: and as Moses saith, “Let us make man, and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea:” nor can any thing else be proved from those words: for it is in these things only that man may act of his own will, as being subject unto him. And moreover, he calls this man’s counsel, in contradiction as it were to the counsel of God. But after this, when He has said, that man was made and left thus in the hand of his own counsel — he adds,

     “He added moreover His commandments and His precepts.” Unto what did He add them? Certainly unto that counsel and will of man, and over and above unto that constituting of His dominion over other things. By which commandments He took from man the dominion over one part of His creatures, (that is, over the tree of knowledge of good and evil,) and willed rather that he should not be free. — Having added the commandments, He then comes to the will of man towards God and towards the things of God.

     “If thou wilt keep the commandments they shall preserve thee,” &c. From this part, therefore, “If thou wilt,” begins the question concerning “Free-will.” So that, from Ecclesiasticus we learn, that man is constituted as divided into two kingdoms. — The one, is that in which he is led according to his own will and counsel, without the precepts and the commandments of God: that is, in those things which are beneath him. Here he has dominion and is lord, as “left in the hand of his own counsel.” Not that God so leaves him to himself, as that He does not co-operate with him; but He commits unto him the free use of things according to his own will, without prohibiting him by any laws or injunctions. As we may say, by way of similitude, the Gospel has left us in the hands of our own counsel, that we may use, and have dominion over all things as we will. But Moses and the Pope left us not in that counsel, but restrained us by laws, and subjected us rather to their own will. — But in the other kingdom, he is not left in the hand of his own counsel, but is directed and led according to the Will and Counsel of God. And as, in his own kingdom, he is led according to his own will, without the precepts of another; so, in the kingdom of God, he is led according to the precepts of another, without his own will. And this is what Ecclesiasticus means, when he says, “He added moreover His commandments and His precepts: saying, If thou wilt,”

     If, therefore, these things be satisfactorily clear, I have made it fully evident, that this passage of Ecclesiasticus does not make for “Freewill,” but directly against it: seeing that, it subjects man to the precepts and will of God, and takes from him his “Free-will.” But if they be not satisfactorily clear, I have at least made it manifest, that this passage cannot make for “Freewill;” seeing that, it may be understood in a sense different from that which they put upon it, that is, in my sense already stated, which is not absurd, but most holy and in harmony with the whole Scripture. Whereas, their sense militates against the whole Scripture, and is fetched from this one passage only, contrary to the tenor of the whole Scripture. I stand therefore, secure in the good sense, the negative of “Free-will,” until they shall have confirmed their strained and forced affirmative.

     When, therefore, Ecclesiasticus says, “If thou wilt keep the commandments, and keep the faith that pleaseth Me, they shall preserve thee,” I do not see that “Free-will” can be proved from those words. For, “if thou wilt,” is a verb of the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing: as the logicians say, ‘a conditional asserts nothing indicatively:’ such as, if the devil be God, he is deservedly worshipped: if an ass fly, an ass has wings, so also, if there be “Free-will,” grace is nothing at all. Therefore, if Ecclesiasticus had wished to assert “Free-will,” he ought to have spoken thus: — man is able to keep the commandments of God, or, man, has the power to keep the commandments.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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