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Deuteronomy 18     Psalm 105     Isaiah 45     Revelation 15


Deuteronomy 18

Provision for Priests and Levites

Deuteronomy 18:1 “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4 The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.

6 “And if a Levite comes from any of your towns out of all Israel, where he lives—and he may come when he desires—to the place that the LORD will choose, 7 and ministers in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD, 8 then he may have equal portions to eat, besides what he receives from the sale of his patrimony.

Abominable Practices

9 “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

A New Prophet like Moses

15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.


Psalm 105

Tell of All His Wondrous Works

Psalm 105

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2  Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3  Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4  Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5  Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6  O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

7  He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8  He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9  the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10  which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11  saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”

12  When they were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
13  wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14  he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15  saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”

16  When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
17  he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18  His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19  until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
20  The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
21  he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
22  to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.

23  Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24  And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25  He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.

26  He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27  They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28  He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29  He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30  Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31  He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32  He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33  He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34  He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35  which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36  He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their strength.

37  Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38  Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.

39  He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40  They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41  He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42  For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.

43  So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44  And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45  that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD!


Isaiah 45

Cyrus, God’s Instrument

Isaiah 45 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
2  “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3  I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4  For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5  I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6  that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7  I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

8  “Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the LORD have created it.

9  “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10  Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’ ”

11  Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
12  I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
13  I have stirred him up in righteousness,
and I will make all his ways level;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,”
says the LORD of hosts.

The LORD, the Only Savior

14  Thus says the LORD:
“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.’ ”

15  Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
16  All of them are put to shame and confounded;
the makers of idols go in confusion together.
17  But Israel is saved by the LORD
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.

18  For thus says the LORD,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19  I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

20  “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21  Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

22  “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23  By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

24  “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
25  In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”


Revelation 15

The Seven Angels with Seven Plagues

Revelation 15 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4  Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

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The Resolution Solution

By Gene Edward Veith 1/1/2009

     A modern reader perusing Jonathan Edwards’ “Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions: And Advice to Young Converts” is likely to think, what about dieting? And, didn’t eighteenth-century New England have any gyms that he could resolve to join? Today, losing weight and getting more exercise are about the extent of our resolutions. We summon up our will-power, self-scrutiny, and self-discipline in an attempt to look better. Edwards was engaged in an attempt to be better.

     Edwards’ effort at self-improvement, though — so strenuous as to engage “all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of” — is that of a man wholly informed by the Word of God and the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Edwards exercised his will while knowing that his will was in bondage. He resolved to be righteous, while knowing that his righteousness did not earn his salvation. He scrutinized himself, while knowing that his spiritual security resided outside himself — in the objective fact of Christ’s atonement for his sins.

     Many of the puritans’ habits and habits of mind — their work ethic, their self-discipline, their moral seriousness — persisted long after the eclipse of their theology, to be taken up by Enlightenment secularists, social-gospel liberals, and Victorian materialists. Shortly after Edwards’ time, Benjamin Franklin started a similar program of resolutions and self-scrutiny. Franklin set forth thirteen resolutions — as opposed to Edwards’ seventy — that were built around rational virtues such as thrift, moderation, and chastity.

     Whereas Edwards’ resolutions were focused on God’s glory, Scripture, heaven and hell, and Jesus Christ, Franklin’s were secular, pragmatic, and this-worldly, focused on becoming a good citizen and a successful businessman. Though Franklin does mention prayer, Christ is reduced to being a good example for him to follow, mentioned in the same breath as Socrates.

     Franklin kept a chart upon which he made check marks indicating his progress. When he found that he had problems keeping them all at once, he tried concentrating on one virtue at a time. When he found that he was still not making all that much progress, he eventually gave up the whole plan.

     Paying such attention to one’s self, when separated from a biblical self-examination designed to provoke repentance, would bear another kind of fruit: Romanticism.

     American literature classes today study Jonathan Edwards not for his theology and not even just for his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, with its hair-raising imagery, but as a precursor to the Transcendentalists.

     Edwards saw spiritual meaning in nature, which, as God’s creation, he saw as an expression of the divine personality. Literary historians — missing the point of Edwards’ distinctly Christian worldview — interpret this as a step towards the Transcendentalists’ deification of nature.

     Edwards also scrutinized his inner life, as he does in his “Resolutions,” and cultivated his inner emotions, which he associates with his spiritual state, as he does in his “Personal Narrative.” This is taken as a step towards the Transcendentalists’ deification of the self.

     In reality, Edwards was very different from his fellow New Englander Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Unitarian mystic rhapsodizing about nature. Nor was he much like Walt Whitman, the great American poet who wrote an epic poem entitled “Song of Myself.” Rather, Edwards exemplifies the integrated Christian sensibility in which the spirit, the intellect, and the emotions each have their place. Later, in T.S. Eliot’s words, these human powers would become “dissociated” into the conflicting movements of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism.

     Edwards is certainly not to blame for the obsession with the self that characterizes American culture and even many strains of American Christianity. Our best-seller lists testify to our values of self-help, self-reliance, and self-improvement. Many of our pulpits resound with the slogans “be true to yourself,” “trust yourself,” and even “have faith in yourself.” If Edwards were to hear of such things, he would surely preach a sermon that would make “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” seem like a devotion for Vacation Bible School.

     But even conservative Christians can sometimes fall into the trap of paying too much attention to themselves. “Am I really saved?” we can sometimes wonder, looking at our inner lives and hidden sins and finding all too little evidence of our holiness.

     We have to admit that our own resolutions to improve our lives, however well-intentioned and sincerely meant, often have little effect. We cannot even keep our resolutions to lose weight or work out at the gym, much less eliminate our sins of lust and cruelty.

     Surely Edwards would agree with Martin Luther, who, in his spiritual counseling, would urge tormented souls to stop looking at themselves. Instead, they should look outside themselves to Christ on the cross.

     Salvation, both would insist, is extra nos (outside ourselves), founded on the unshakable grace of God and on the objective work of Christ. When we look inside ourselves we see our sin and our weakness, leading us only to despair. But when we look outside ourselves to the promises in God’s Word, we can find joy, confidence, and assurance.

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

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The Lie We Believe

By C. FitzSimons Allison 1/1/2009

     I wish I had been told when I was young about the lie all of us naturally believe. This lie is explained to us by Jesus when he said to the Jews who had believed on Him: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him: “We are offspring of Abraham, and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33).

     This is an extraordinary response! How can these Jews say that “they have never been enslaved to anyone”? Had they forgotten slavery in Egypt, bricks without straw, plagues, the Passover, and the Red Sea? In fact, redemption from slavery was part of their very identity. Not only was it their historical identity, but their deliverance from bondage in Egypt was celebrated each year at Passover.

     Jesus did not bother enumerating these facts. He went immediately to the basic point of human reality: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. …if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (John 8:34–36). Why did they lie? Because it is our nature to deny our bondage and claim to be free. We believe and tell this lie because we are sinners.

     Archbishop William Temple gives us the posture from which we continue to be misled about freedom:

     “When we open our eyes as babies we see the world stretching out around us; we are in the middle of it; all we see is determined by the relation of all objects to ourselves. This will be true as long as we live. I am the center of the world I see; where the horizon is depends on where I stand. The same is true of our mental and spiritual vision. Some things hurt us; we hope they will not happen again; we call them bad. Some things please us; we hope they will happen again; we call them good. Our standard of value is the way things affect ourselves. So each of us takes his place in the center of his own world. But I am not the center of the world, nor do I determine what is good or bad. I am not the center; God is.”

     It is quite “natural,” then, for all of us to feel that we are free in getting what we want. But our lives are individual “centers” colliding with others’ centers, among children in the back of the car, schools, businesses, towns, countries, and the world. We think that we are free when our wills are fulfilled and that we are not free when our wills are frustrated. This universal self-as-center is the cause of litigation, divorce, rivalry, murder, war, and genocide. It is not a condition of freedom but one of bondage.

     Our situation, however, is not quite so simple. Sometimes our wills coincide, not collide, with other wills. Some measure of freedom is achieved by civilization itself, by cooperation, education, teamwork, law, and order. Where these matters are absent it becomes rapidly apparent how unfree we are. In a civilized society we may pass through a stage of making ourselves do homework to the discovery of pleasure in literature and math, from making oneself practice piano lessons to the delight in playing Mozart, from undesired discipline of caring for a senile parent to being surprised how one misses that relationship after the funeral. These can be small incidences of true freedom beyond restrained wills. Literature, science, and human caring are surely parts of the abundant life Christ came to give.

     Amidst the luxury of a high civilization with the frustrations from control and constraints on our wills, we continue to be like the Jews who told Jesus that they had never been in bondage. We keep telling ourselves that we are free if there are no restraints or inhibitions controlling what we do. But this ignores our condition as described by William Temple. If unrestrained, we are a danger to ourselves and to others. Hence, we have parents, police, and governments to control the self-centered, non-free condition of human nature that we sinners persist in calling “freedom.” When we “freely” choose to do evil is it not clear that the choice is bondage, not freedom? We need repeatedly to hear our Lord’s words: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. [When] the Son sets you free you are free indeed.”

     How can this be? Parents and discipline can control, inhibit, restrain and, with difficulty, domesticate children, but that is not the same as being free. If we are not free because our very inborn wills desire to be the center, and if we are not the center and God is, how can we be free?

     Well, it is impossible! It is impossible just as Nicodemus knew when Jesus told him that he must be born again. But the miracle of the impossible possibility is regeneration — to be born again. What God has provided in Jesus Christ is the new center that makes us truly free. When we are baptized into the family of Christ we are given a new center. As we grow in this family we become increasingly aware that we are grounded in the everlasting and final triumph of God’s victory over injustice, selfishness, and death. Only in God’s merciful providence is true freedom to be found. As C.K. Barrett shows in his commentary on John (p. 285): “Being made free is nothing other than a synonym for salvation.”

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     C. FitzSimons Allison is the retired bishop of South Carolina, who now serves as a pastoral bishop for churches in the Anglican Communion Network, a network of orthodox churches in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

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Principle Vs. Pragmatism

By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2009

     Some years ago, I drove along the Pennsylvania Turnpike about two o’clock in the morning with a friend after having spent all day at a steel corporation in eastern Pennsylvania dealing with labor management issues. My companion was a man who had lost his job as a highly paid executive in the industry for being too concerned about the welfare and dignity of the laborers in his plant. As we were making this drive in the wee hours of the morning, I noticed my friend was at the point of exhaustion, and so I asked him the question: “Why are you doing this?” He looked over at me as if to indicate that my question was a foolish one, and he replied simply: “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

     In stark contrast to that, in this past year I have witnessed the worst type of corruption within the church that I have seen in my lifetime. I was chairing the board of a Christian institution of learning as we dealt with a question of the propriety of the teaching of one of the professors. The task of the board was to guard the purity of the doctrine of the institution. The motion was made to suspend the professor for a brief period of time in order to give him an opportunity to amend his views. As chairman, I did not vote, but the motion carried by a vote of eight to two.

     During the discussion, one of the men who voted against the resolution asked this question: “Can’t we deal with this question in a more pragmatic way?” Another board member responded by saying, “No, it is our responsibility to act not according to pragmatism but according to principle.” The motion to suspend was passed by a margin of eight-to-two. The pragmatist who was outvoted, instead of submitting to the vote or bringing in a minority report, went around the board and did everything in his power to have the board’s decision overthrown. Accomplishing this, his next move was to see to it that board members with whom he disagreed were ousted from the board. Through Machiavellian machinations of corruption, this pragmatist was able to succeed. In his wake, he left the demolition of a strategically important institution of Christian learning.

     What is pragmatism? Pragmatism is the only philosophy native to America. Pragmatism eschews any hope of discovering ultimate truth. It is skeptical with respect to objective principles of righteousness and defines truth as “that which works.” In this philosophy, the end always justifies the means. The driving force behind decisions within the scope of pragmatism is the force of expediency.

     We remember in the days of the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, two of the important players were Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. Both men made their decisions to have Jesus executed on the basis of expediency (Mark 15:15; John 11:45–53). Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate were pragmatists with a vengeance.

     Several years ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a ranking senator of the United States Congress. During our discussion, I raised an ethical issue that the Senate faced at that time and asked him why the Senate didn’t act on that particular issue. He replied that he agreed with me that the Senate certainly should act on it, but he added that they could not do it that year because it was an election year. I moved to my second question and asked about another issue that needed the Senate’s attention. Again he agreed that it should be addressed, but not that particular year because it was an election year.

     After we got to the sixth or seventh question where the mantra was repeated again (“not this year because it’s an election year”), I looked at the senator and asked, “Is there anybody up here on Capitol Hill who thinks about the next generation instead of the next election?” I guess it was too idealistic of me to think that our nation’s leaders would be a bit more concerned for the welfare of the nation than for their own political war chest. No nation (or Christian institution, for that matter) can survive when its leaders are driven by a spirit of pragmatism or make their decisions according to political expediency.

     Expediency is an obscene word. It is the word that is ever and always at war with principle. A person who is a Christian is called of God to live by biblical principles. The principles that the Bible reveals to guide our steps are the necessary elements for authentic righteousness. Take away principle, and righteousness is slain in the streets. We need an awakening in the culture and in the church to principle — to working according to truth and to living according to biblical revelation. Without principle, the church as well as the culture will decay, and the church will become a mere echo of the unprincipled pragmatism of secularism.

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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.

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Christ and Culture

By Keith A. Mathison 1/1/2009

     In the first centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and the inauguration of the new covenant under which the people of God became a trans-national people crossing all borders, the church had few choices in the matter of her relationship to the surrounding culture. The options were limited due to persecution. As the church gained in numbers and influence, however, the situation began to change. With the (at least nominal) conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan (AD 313), the questions became acute. Now Christianity was tolerated. Would this new circumstance allow the church to transform the Roman culture, or would it open the door for the Roman culture to transform the church? Sensing trouble ahead, some believers opted for withdrawal, and these early monastics have provided a general example for many Christians ever since. Others, however, attempted to take advantage of the new opportunities and sought to transform the culture from within. Seventeen centuries later, the church continues to wrestle with how best to deal with both the opportunities and challenges presented by the various cultures in which it finds itself.

     Since 1951, the starting point for discussions of the church’s relation to culture, or the Christian’s relation to culture, has been H. Richard Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture. The five paradigms surveyed in that book (Christ Against Culture; Christ of Culture; Christ Above Culture; Christ and Culture in Paradox; and Christ the Transformer of Culture) shape the contemporary discussion in many ways. But are Niebuhr’s categories sufficient? Are they mutually exclusive ways of understanding the relationship between the church and culture? Should different approaches be taken depending on whether one lives in eighteenth-century England or twenty-first-century Saudi Arabia? What do we mean when we speak of “culture” anyway? These and many other related questions are discussed by D.A. Carson in his recent book Christ & Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2008). Dr. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and is the author of numerous academic articles and more than forty books, including commentaries as well as works on biblical, theological, and cultural issues. In this book, he brings years of biblical reflection to bear on the subject at hand.

     One of the first issues that must be settled before entering into any discussion of the church’s relation to culture is the meaning of the term culture. According to Carson, Niebuhr’s understanding of “culture” can be difficult to grasp initially because Niebuhr associates “culture” with what the New Testament speaks of as the “world,” and thus when Niebuhr speaks of culture he means something along the lines of “culture-devoid-of-Christ.” With this in mind, Carson devotes chapter one to a summary of Niebuhr’s five paradigms. Carson then turns, in chapter two, to a critique of the paradigms, where he notes immediately that he finds little to no biblical support for the “Christ of culture” paradigm. Support for the other four paradigms, however, can be found.

     Carson turns to a discussion of the major turning points in redemptive history in the second half of chapter two, arguing that these turning points must be taken into account in this discussion. We must, for example, take into account the fact of creation and the fall. We must take into account the distinctive nature of Israel under the old covenant. We must take into account the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the new covenant.

     In chapter three, Carson reflects in greater detail on the precise meaning of “culture” and offers a critical assessment of some aspects of postmodernism. Chapter four contains a thought-provoking discussion of four major cultural forces in the Western world: secularization, democracy, freedom, and power. As Carson observes, the way the dominant culture views these four realities is not necessarily the way the church should view them. In chapter five, Carson turns to one of the central debates connected to questions of Christ and culture, namely, the relationship between the church and state. So many contemporary Christian discussions of this subject are merely baptized versions of one political party platform or another that it is refreshing to see a discussion centered on the biblical themes that contribute to our understanding.

     In his final chapter, Carson surveys several common approaches to Christ and culture, including Lutheran, Anabaptist, and Reformed approaches, detailing what he sees as their strengths and weaknesses. While few will agree with every one of Carson’s conclusions, all will benefit from careful reflection on his thoughtful contribution to the debate.

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     Dr. Keith A. Mathison’s professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla.

Keith A. Mathison Books:

The Best-Laid Plans

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

     To suggest that wisdom is always balanced seems to me to be a bit, well, unbalanced. Whoever first uttered the words of wisdom, “moderation in all things,” should, I believe, have healed himself. All things? Isn’t that a bit extreme? In like manner, wisdom is almost always balanced. We need to measure the wisdom of looking before we leap with the equally potent conviction that he who hesitates is lost. We need to remember, as we loudly affirm that we ought not answer a fool according to his folly lest we be like him, that we ought to answer a fool according to his folly lest he become wise in his own eyes (Prov. 26: 4–5).

     Jesus, who is wisdom incarnate, wisely tells us that we must consider the cost. Only a fool would set about the business of building a tower without first determining if he had the money to complete the job. Planning, according to Jesus, is good and proper. Out of this wisdom we have with all due wisdom extrapolated our calling to set goals before us, to look beyond today, to discern the times. This same Jesus, however, speaking through James His brother, says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13–16).

     It is a great thing to plan, to lay down your hopes and aspirations. It is a great thing, in fact, not just to hope for a particular destination but to map out the steps that will get you there. It is, however, incumbent upon us to do this as creatures, as vapor. We must remember our frame. We must remember that we simply propose while God disposes. If the Lord wills, we will do this or that. If, however, the Lord wills differently, His plans will supersede our own. Not only ought we to pray, “nevertheless not my will but Thine be done,” but we ought also to pray knowing that His sovereign will, in fact, will be done.

     If we would plan in accordance with God’s plan, we must first know what God’s plan is. He has not told us that we will go into such and such a city, buy and sell and make a profit. He has not told us that our five-year-old daughter will marry her eight-year-old neighbor, and the two of them will build their home on the back side of our property. He has not told us that our ten-year-old son will thrive in a particular line of work, and will, along with his own as yet unborn children, seize that whole industry for the kingdom of God. He has not told us that once we have seized this industry we will cooperate with the plan set in motion by Brother Jones fifty years ago so that we can together seize that other cultural doodad for Jesus. It is a shameful thing to be shortsighted. It is likewise an arrogant thing to boast that you can see far into the future.

     God’s secret plan is just that — secret. We don’t know His strategy, how He will move in this coming year, decade, or century. God’s revealed plan is, well, that which has been revealed. He has told us what is required of us — that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Mic. 6:8). He has told us the sum of the matter — that we should fear Him and obey all that He commands (Eccl. 12:13). He has called us to go into all the nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:19–20). He has told us that we ought not worry about what we will eat or about what our great grandchildren will eat. The Gentiles worry about such things. No, our calling is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). My prayer and my plan is that every day I would grow more faithful in this calling, that I would in turn encourage my dear wife in the same direction. My prayer and my plan is that the two of us, as long as life should last, will encourage our children along this same path. He may call our children to the mission field. He may call us to the mission field. He may call us to suffer this illness or that. He may call all or some of us home. But as long as we live, we are all called to grow in grace and wisdom.

     This, we highly resolve — that we would seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. We resolve to teach our children to do the same, and to teach their children to do the same. If we would but keep this one resolution, we would witness worldwide revolution. Better yet, we would enjoy a new reformation. May God give us the grace to be extremists where we ought to be, that we would always seek out wisdom and rest in His finished work.

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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

Deut. 18; Psalm 105; Isaiah 45; Revelation 15

By Don Carson 6/13/2018

     The prophecy of the coming of a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18) must first of all be understood within its own context. Four observations bring this passage to sharp focus.

     First, the preceding verses (Deut. 18:9-13) condemn the religious practices of the nations the Israelites are displacing, especially those religious practices used for guidance: divination, sorcery, interpretation of omens, witchcraft, casting of spells, spiritism, and necromancy. These “detestable practices” (Deut. 18:12) constitute part of the reason why these nations were driven out — a lesson many in the West have not learned, to our great danger. Such practices implicitly deny God’s sovereignty, and encourage people to rely for their safety and well-being on either superstitious nonsense or demonic power. In the transition verse (Deut. 18:14), Moses contrasts the Israelites: “But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.” Far from it: as the Lord gave his word through the prophet Moses, so after Moses’ death God will raise up a prophet like Moses. “You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15). God’s people are to be led by the word of God faithfully delivered by his prophets, not by religious superstition.

     Second, that raises the question as to who is a true prophet (Deut. 18:20-22), a theme Moses had already discussed (Deut. 13; see the June 9 meditation) but which is here briefly reintroduced. For if people will know the Word of God through God’s prophets, it is important to reiterate some of the criteria by which one may distinguish true prophets from false.

     Third, Moses reminds the Israelites of the essentially mediatorial role of the prophet (Deut. 18:16-17). Of course, this is true at a fairly trite level: genuine prophets reveal words from God that would otherwise be unknown, and thus mediate between God and people. But Moses refers to something more profound. When God displayed himself at Sinai, the people were so terrified that they knew they dared not approach this holy God: they would be destroyed (Ex. 20:18-19). The people wanted Moses to be the mediator of the revelation from God. God praises them for this judgment, this right-minded fear of God (Deut. 18:17). In the same way, God will raise up another prophet who will exercise the same mediating function.

     Fourth, at some level this promise was fulfilled in every genuine prophet God sent. But the language of this promise is so generous it is difficult not to see that some special prophet is finally in view: he will not only tell everything that God commands him, but if anyone does not listen to God’s words spoken in God’s name, God himself will hold him to account. Meditate not only on Acts 3:22-23; 7:37, but also on John 5:16-30.

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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 63

My Soul Thirsts for You
63 A Psalm Of David, When He Was In The Wilderness Of Judah.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     5. But, on the other hand, it will be proper to see what was anciently the true use of ecclesiastical discipline, and how great the abuses which crept in, that we may know what of ancient practice is to be abolished, and what restored, if we would, after overthrowing the kingdom of Antichrist, again set up the true kingdom of Christ. First, the object in view is to prevent the occurrence of scandals, and when they arise, to remove them. In the use two things are to be considered: first, that this spiritual power be altogether distinct from the power of the sword; secondly, that it be not administered at the will of one individual, but by a lawful consistory (1 Cor. 5:4). Both were observed in the purer times of the Church. For holy bishops did not exercise their power by fine, imprisonment, or other civil penalties, but as became them, employed the word of God only. For the severest punishment of the Church, and, as it were, her last thunderbolt, is excommunication, which is not used unless in necessity. [586] This, moreover, requires neither violence nor physical force, but is contented with the might of the word of God. [587] In short, the jurisdiction of the ancient Church was nothing else than (if I may so speak) a practical declaration of what Paul teaches concerning the spiritual power of pastors. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience" (2 Cor. 10:4-6). As this is done by the preaching of doctrine, so in order that doctrine may not be held in derision, those who profess to be of the household of faith ought to be judged according to the doctrine which is taught. Now this cannot be done without connecting with the office of the ministry a right of summoning those who are to be privately admonished or sharply rebuked, a right, moreover, of keeping back from the communion of the Lord's Supper, those who cannot be admitted without profaning this high ordinance. Hence, when Paul elsewhere asks, "What have I to do to judge them also that are without?" (1 Cor. 5:12), he makes the members of the Church subject to censures for the correction of their vices, and intimates the existence of tribunals from which no believer is exempted.

6. This power, as we have already stated, did not belong to an individual who could exercise it as he pleased, but belonged to the consistory of elders, which was in the Church what a council is in a city. Cyprian, when mentioning those by whom it was exercised in his time, usually associates the whole clergy with the bishop (Cyprian, Lib. 3 Ep. 14, 19). In another place, he shows that though the clergy presided, the people, at the same time, were not excluded from cognisance: for he thus writes:--"From the commencement of my bishopric, I determined to do nothing without the advice of the clergy, nothing without the consent of the people." But the common and usual method of exercising this jurisdiction was by the council of presbyters, of whom, as I have said, there were two classes. Some were for teaching, others were only censors of manners. This institution gradually degenerated from its primitive form, so that, in the time of Ambrose, the clergy alone had cognisance of ecclesiastical causes. Of this he complains in the following terms:--"The ancient synagogue, and afterwards the Church, had elders, without whose advice nothing was done: this has grown obsolete, by whose fault I know not, unless it be by the sloth, or rather the pride, of teachers, who would have it seem that they only are somewhat" (Ambros. in 1 Tim. 5). We see how indignant this holy man was because the better state was in some degree impaired, and yet the order which then existed was at least tolerable. What, then, had he seen those shapeless ruins which exhibit no trace of the ancient edifice? How would he have lamented? First, contrary to what was right and lawful, the bishop appropriated to himself what was given to the whole Church. For this is just as if the consul had expelled the senate, and usurped the whole empire. For as he is superior in rank to the others, so the authority of the consistory is greater than that of one individual. It was, therefore, a gross iniquity, when one man, transferring the common power to himself, paved the way for tyrannical licence, robbed the Church of what was its own, suppressed and discarded the consistory ordained by the Spirit of Christ.

7. But as evil always produces evil, the bishops, disdaining this jurisdiction as a thing unworthy of their care, devolved it on others. Hence the appointment of officials to supply their place. I am not now speaking of the character of this class of persons; all I say is, that they differ in no respect from civil judges. And yet they call it spiritual jurisdiction, though all the litigation relates to worldly affairs. Were there no other evil in this, how can they presume to call a litigious forum a church court? But there are admonitions; there is excommunication. This is the way in which God is mocked. Does some poor man owe a sum of money? He is summoned: if he appears, he is found liable; when found liable, if he pays not, he is admonished. After the second admonition, the next step is excommunication. If he appears not, he is admonished to appear; if he delays, he is admonished, and by-and-by excommunicated. I ask, is there any resemblance whatever between this and the institution of Christ, or ancient custom or ecclesiastical procedure? But there, too, vices are censured. Whoredom, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and similar iniquities, they not only tolerate, but by a kind of tacit approbation encourage and confirm, and that not among the people only, but also among the clergy. Out of many they summon a few, either that they may not seem to wink too strongly, or that they may mulct them in money. I say nothing of the plunder, rapine, peculation, and sacrilege, which are there committed. I say nothing of the kind of persons who are for the most part appointed to the office. It is enough, and more than enough, that when the Romanists boast of their spiritual jurisdiction, we are ready to show that nothing is more contrary to the procedure instituted by Christ, that it has no more resemblance to ancient practice than darkness has to light.

8. Although we have not said all that might here be adduced, and even what has been said is only briefly glanced at, enough, I trust, has been said to leave no man in doubt that the spiritual power on which the Pope plumes himself, with all his adherents, is impious contradiction of the word of God, and unjust tyranny against his people. Under the name of spiritual power, I include both their audacity in framing new doctrines, by which they led the miserable people away from the genuine purity of the word of God, the iniquitous traditions by which they ensnared them, and the pseudo-ecclesiastical jurisdiction which they exercise by suffragans and officials. For if we allow Christ to reign amongst us, the whole of that domination cannot but immediately tumble and fall. The right of the sword which they also claim for themselves, not being exercised against consciences, does not fall to be considered in this place. Here, however, it is worth while to observe, that they are always like themselves, there being nothing which they less resemble than that which they would be thought to be--viz. pastors of the Church. I speak not of the vices of particular men, but of the common wickedness, and, consequently, the pestiferous nature of the whole order, which is thought to be mutilated if not distinguished by wealth and haughty titles. If in this matter we seek the authority of Christ, there can be no doubt that he intended to debar the ministers of his word from civil domination and worldly power when he said, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you" (Mt. 20:25, 26). For he intimates not only that the office of pastor is distinct from the office of prince, but that the things differ so widely that they cannot be united in the same individual. Moses indeed held both (Exod. 18:16); but, first, this was the effect of a rare miracle; and, secondly, it was temporary, until matters should be better arranged. For when a certain form is prescribed by the Lord, the civil government is left to Moses, and he is ordered to resign the priesthood to his brother. And justly; for it is more than nature can do, for one man to bear both burdens. This has in all ages been carefully observed in the Church. Never did any bishop, so long as any true appearance of a church remained, think of usurping the right of the sword: so that, in the age of Ambrose, it was a common proverb, that emperors longed more for the priesthood than priests for imperial power. [588] For the expression which he afterwards adds was fixed in all minds, Palaces belong to the emperor, churches to the priest.

9. But after a method was devised by which bishops might hold the title, honour, and wealth of their office without burden and solicitude, that they might be left altogether idle, the right of the sword was given them, or rather, they themselves usurped it. With what pretext will they defend this effrontery? Was it the part of bishops to entangle themselves with the cognisance of causes, and the administration of states and provinces, and embrace occupations so very alien to them--of bishops, who require so much time and labour in their own office, that though they devote themselves to it diligently and entirely, without distraction from other avocations, they are scarcely sufficient? But such is their perverseness, that they hesitate not to boast that in this way the dignity of Christ's kingdom is duly maintained, and they, at the same time, are not withdrawn from their own vocation. In regard to the former allegation, if it is a comely ornament of the sacred office, that those holding it be so elevated as to become formidable to the greatest monarchs, they have ground to expostulate with Christ, who in this respect has grievously curtailed their honour. For what, according to their view, can be more insulting than these words, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise authority over them"? "But ye shall not be so" (Luke 22:25, 26). And yet he imposes no harder law on his servants than he had previously laid on himself. "Who," says he, "made me a judge or divider over you?" (Luke 12:14) We see that he unreservedly refuses the office of judging; and this he would not have done if the thing had been in accordance with his office. To the subordination to which the Lord thus reduced himself, will his servants not submit? The other point I wish they would prove by experience as easily as they allege it. But as it seemed to the apostles not good to leave the word of God and serve tables, so these men are thereby forced to admit, though they are unwilling to be taught, that it is not possible for the same person to be a good bishop and a good prince. For if those who, in respect of the largeness of the gifts with which they were endued, were able for much more numerous and weighty cares than any who have come after them, confessed that they could not serve the ministry of the word and of tables, without giving way under the burden, how are these, who are no men at all when compared with the apostles, possibly to surpass them a hundred times in diligence? The very attempt is most impudent and audacious presumption. Still we see the thing done; with what success is plain. The result could not but be that they have deserted their own functions, and removed to another camp.

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


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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     8/1/2011    Writing For God’s Glory

     Each of us was born with an imagination. Since creation, we have possessed the ability to form unseen images and original ideas in our minds — to visualize neverbefore seen characters and to craft intricately interwoven themes never experienced by anyone at any time in history. With our imaginations, we create stories and thus create imaginary worlds where there are heroes and villains, brave little hobbits, and great white whales. Some stories are historical, and some are fictional. Some stories are told to teach a lesson, and some are told merely to entertain. Throughout history, some stories have been passed down by oral tradition from generation to generation, and some stories have been penned and have thereby become part of the world’s library of literature.

     While everything written is a type of literature, not everything that is written is worth being read, much less duplicated, printed, and distributed. And although every story will find an audience, most stories have been forgotten and have never earned an audience beyond the story’s immediate generation and context. Few stories, however, have stood the test of time. Few stories have lived on from generation to generation or have been translated from one language to another. Few stories touch our souls in such a way that we are moved to tears. Few stories make us rise in shouts of triumph. Few stories fill us with such passion that drives us to change the way we think, speak, and live. Few stories are truly classic stories. Yet, indeed, in the world’s library, we have universally agreed there are a small handful of stories that we call classics.

     In the end, in every culture, in any country, in every generation, we will do everything we must to preserve our classic literature against sophomoric apathy, dictatorial tyranny, generational pride, and unjustified prejudice. Our pursuit to preserve our classic literature is a pursuit to preserve who we are, how we think, and how we live as the human race.

     Although all literature is by no means Christian literature, every piece of literature has a theology. The only question is whether its particular theology is biblical. Throughout history, certain pieces of literature have not only been hailed as classics but have depicted biblical themes such as good and evil, sovereignty and grace, sin and redemption, repentance and faith, love and sacrifice. As Christians, we are called to study the Scriptures diligently and to know God as God so that in whatever we do, whether we read stories, write stories, or create stories, we will do so to the glory of the God of Scripture — not the God of our own imaginations.

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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

     Nineteen-year-old Marquis de Lafayette purchased a ship and sailed to America, arriving this day, June 13, 1777. Trained in the French Military, he was appointed a major general. He endured the winter at Valley Forge, fought at Brandywine, Barren Hill and Monmouth, led troops against the traitor Benedict Arnold and commanded at Yorktown, pressuring Cornwallis to surrender. George Washington wrote to Lafayette: "We must… place a confidence in that Providence who rules great events, trusting that out of confusion He will produce order… notwithstanding the dark clouds which… threaten at present."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Peace on the outside
comes from knowing God
on the inside.
--- Author Unknown
Prayer: Asking and Receiving

Are sense and feelings suitable to judge of the dispensations and designs of God by? Can their testimony be safely relied on? Is it safe to argue thus: ‘If God had any love for my soul, I should feel it now, as well as in former times; but I cannot feel it, therefore it is gone? May you not as well conclude, when the sun is invisible to you, that he has ceased to exist?
--- John Flavel
The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ...

When believers have a godly ministry that exalts the Lord and obeys the Word, they are only too glad to bring their tithes and offerings to support it. A worldly ministry that seeks only to fulfill its own ambitions does not deserve the support of God’s people.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Determined (Nehemiah): Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition (The BE Series Commentary)

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 8 / “The Lord Is One”:
     “One” and Contemporary Science


     Maimonides, contrariwise, draws the exactly opposite conclusion from the identical premises. According to him, the unity of God gives rise not to the world’s manifold quality but to its unitary nature. Thus:

     Know that the whole of being is one individual and nothing else. I mean to say that the sphere of the outermost heaven with everything that is within it is undoubtedly one individual having in respect of individuality the rank of Zayd and Umar. The differences between its substances, I mean the substances of this sphere with everything that is within it, are like unto the differences between the limbs of a man, for instance. Thus just as Zayd, for instance, is one individual and is at the same time composed of various parts of the body, such as the flesh and the bones and of various mixtures and of several spirits, the sphere in question as a whole is composed of the heavens, the four elements, and what is compounded of the latter.…

     And Maimonides here goes into a lengthy scientific discourse demonstrating how the physical world, astronomically and biologically, functions as a whole, integrating its various parts. He then continues:

     Accordingly, it behooves you to represent to yourself in this fashion the whole of this sphere as one living individual in motion and possessing a soul. For this way of representing the matter to oneself is most necessary or most useful for the demonstration that the deity is one, as shall be made clear. By means of this representation it will also be made clear that the One has created one being.

     Maimonides then returns to his analogies from Nature, in order to demonstrate that the world is one by virtue of a single governing principle. Thus he concludes:

     In the same way, there exists in the universe a certain force which controls the whole and sets into motion its first and principal parts, granting it the motive power for governing the rest.… Without that force, the existence of this sphere and every part of it would be impossible. This force is the Deity, may His name be exalted. (4)

(4)     Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, part I, chapter 72. I have used here a combination of the newer translation by Shlomo Pines (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 184–91, and the older one by M. Friedlander (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 2nd ed., 1956), pp. 113–8. For more on Maimonides’ view, see my Faith and Doubt, chapter 2, n. 1.

     Unlike Saadia, Maimonides sees the entire cosmos as one large organism. Indeed, it is precisely this unitary character of the creation that leads us to conclude that the Creator is One. For Maimonides, this analogy from Nature explains how the One can be the author of the many: the world is not “many” but one; thus, the unity of existence and the unity of the Creator reflect each other. Of course, the character of that natural unity differs from God’s unity: the divine unity is simple; the unity of the world, compound—that of an organism rather than that of a “simple” substance.

     Most modern scientists reflect the intuition of Maimonides. They seek a grand unified field theory and, in general, prefer “simple” and elegant explanations that will account for all natural forces—gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak atomic forces—under one theoretical roof, despite the fact that no independent scientific evidence has proven the objective superiority of such comprehensive theories over those that provide separate explanations for different sets of phenomena. In contrast, those who argue for diversity in Nature accord with the views of Saadia, for whom the multiplicity of the creation testifies to the unity of the Creator. Thus, the theme of divine unity at the core of the Shema suggests intriguing parallels to the structure of contemporary science.

     We now turn our attention from the natural to the human world. How does the idea of unity figure into our sense of ourselves? No longer are we looking at divine unity as it is reflected in mute Nature—either as unified or as diverse—but at divine unity as it shapes our modern sensibilities, our fundamental psychology, our cultural outlook. In other words, we are interested in this unity not as a fact, but as a value in human life and civilization. In this context, the Saadianic view describes the prevailing anthropological reality, whereas the Maimonidean view represents a vision, a glimmer of a hope.

     One contemporary writer, pointing to the contradictory and fragmented quality of modern life, its multiplicity and diversity, concludes that such erosion of our sense of cohesion and unity is inevitable in contemporary society.5 The more sophisticated we become, the more aware we are of the enormous complexity of nature, of human beings, of the mind, of life in general; the more sensitive we are to the vast variety that abounds in the world, the more do we identify with the trees and not the forest. As William Butler Yeats said in his powerful poem, “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
     The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
     The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
     The best lack all conviction, while the worst
     Are full of passionate intensity.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 19.

     How Antony At The Persuasion Of Cleopatra Sent Herod To Fight Against The Arabians; And Now After Several Battles, He At Length Got The Victory. As Also Concerning A Great Earthquake.

     1. Now when the war about Actium was begun, Herod prepared to come to the assistance of Antony, as being already freed from his troubles in Judea, and having gained Hyrcania, which was a place that was held by Antigonus's sister. However, he was cunningly hindered from partaking of the hazards that Antony went through by Cleopatra; for since, as we have already noted, she had laid a plot against the kings [of Judea and Arabia], she prevailed with Antony to commit the war against the Arabians to Herod; that so, if he got the better, she might become mistress of Arabia, or, if he were worsted, of Judea; and that she might destroy one of those kings by the other.

     2. However, this contrivance tended to the advantage of Herod; for at the very first he took hostages from the enemy, and got together a great body of horse, and ordered them to march against them about Diespous; and he conquered that army, although it fought resolutely against him. After which defeat, the Arabians were in great motion, and assembled themselves together at Kanatha, a city of Celesyria, in vast multitudes, and waited for the Jews. And when Herod was come thither, he tried to manage this war with particular prudence, and gave orders that they should build a wall about their camp; yet did not the multitude comply with those orders, but were so emboldened by their foregoing victory, that they presently attacked the Arabians, and beat them at the first onset, and then pursued them; yet were there snares laid for Herod in that pursuit; while Athenio, who was one of Cleopatra's generals, and always an antagonist to Herod, sent out of Kanatha the men of that country against him; for, upon this fresh onset, the Arabians took courage, and returned back, and both joined their numerous forces about stony places, that were hard to be gone over, and there put Herod's men to the rout, and made a great slaughter of them; but those that escaped out of the battle fled to Ormiza, where the Arabians surrounded their camp, and took it, with all the men in it. 3. In a little time after this calamity, Herod came to bring them succors; but he came too late. Now the occasion of that blow was this, that the officers would not obey orders; for had not the fight begun so suddenly, Athenio had not found a proper season for the snares he laid for Herod: however, he was even with the Arabians afterward, and overran their country, and did them more harm than their single victory could compensate. But as he was avenging himself on his enemies, there fell upon him another providential calamity; for in the seventh 29 year of his reign, when the war about Actium was at the height, at the beginning of the spring, the earth was shaken, and destroyed an immense number of cattle, with thirty thousand men; but the army received no harm, because it lay in the open air. In the mean time, the fame of this earthquake elevated the Arabians to greater courage, and this by augmenting it to a fabulous height, as is constantly the case in melancholy accidents, and pretending that all Judea was overthrown. Upon this supposal, therefore, that they should easily get a land that was destitute of inhabitants into their power, they first sacrificed those ambassadors who were come to them from the Jews, and then marched into Judea immediately. Now the Jewish nation were affrighted at this invasion, and quite dispirited at the greatness of their calamities one after another; whom yet Herod got together, and endeavored to encourage to defend themselves by the following speech which he made to them:

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

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

Proverbs 19:10-12
     by D.H. Stern

10     It isn’t fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
and even less for a slave to govern princes.

11     People with good sense are slow to anger,
and it is their glory to overlook an offense.

12     A king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.


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

                Getting there

     Where the selective affinity dies and the sanctified abandon lives. Come ye after Me. --- Mark 1:17.

     One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of temperament. We make our temperament and our natural affinities barriers to coming to Jesus. The first thing we realize when we come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatever to our natural affinities. We have the notion that we can consecrate our gifts to God. You cannot consecrate what is not yours; there is only one thing you can consecrate to God, and that is your right to yourself (Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God’s experiments always succeed. The one mark of a saint is the moral originality which springs from abandonment to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing wellspring of original life all the time; the Spirit of God is a well of water springing up, perennially fresh. The saint realizes that it is God Who engineers circumstances, consequently there is no whine, but a reckless abandon to Jesus. Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.

     If you abandon to Jesus, and come when He says ‘Come,’ He will continue to say ‘Come’ through you; you will go out into life reproducing the echo of Christ’s ‘Come.’ That is the result in every soul who has abandoned and come to Jesus.

     Have I come to Jesus? Will I come now?


My Utmost for His Highest

Petition
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Petition

And I standing in the shade
  Have seen it a thousand times
  Happen: first theft, then murder;
  Rape; the rueful acts
  Of the blind hand. I have said
  New prayers, or said the old
  In a new way. Seeking the poem
  In the pain, I have learned
  Silence is best, paying for it
  With my conscience. I am eyes
  Merely, witnessing virtue's
  Defeat; seeing the young born
  Fair, knowing the cancer
  Awaits them. One thing I have asked
  Of the disposer of the issues
  Of life: that truth should defer
  To beauty. It was not granted.


Selected Poems, 1946-68

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     How to use this book—a sample entry


     Two famous passages in Rabbinic literature use rocks as a metaphor for learning. One comes from Avot de-Rabbi Natan 6 and concerns Rabbi Akiva: "One time, standing by the mouth of a well in Lydda, he inquired: 'Who hollowed out this stone?' And he was told, 'It was water falling upon it constantly, day after day.' At that, Akiva asked himself: 'Is my mind harder than this stone? I will go and study at least one section of Torah.' "

     The second passage is the one above from the Talmud: "Just as a hammer splits [a rock] into many pieces, so will one verse have many meanings." These sayings constitute two very different approaches to Torah. In the first, learning takes place over many years, one small step (or drop!) at a time. It is a slow, natural, and subtle process. But in the second text, learning occurs suddenly. It is swift and forceful, requiring directed strength and much energy.

     "How typical of Midrash: Instead of giving us one fixed dogmatic position, it presents us with very different views of an issue, forcing us to examine our own beliefs and opinions and challenging us to weigh in on one side or the other of the argument.

     "And how perceptive of the Rabbis to recognize that truth is to be found in many places and in many forms. Yes, learning for some people can be very slow, while for others it can be very swift. It can come easily, or it can come with great difficulty. Sometimes it is like the dripping of water on a stone, other times like the crashing of a hammer on a rock.

     "(In the D'rash section, we attempt to find our own contemporary meaning in the ancient texts of the Rabbis. Here we will bring stories, brief RS Thomas, and meditations that are inspired by a word, a phrase, or an idea found in the Midrash. The thoughts in this section are very subjective pieces based in one way or another on the Midrash. We do not claim to speak for the Rabbis, or for the Midrash; in this section we speak only for ourselves, sharing how the Midrash inspires or challenges us today. We present our D'rashot not to say "This is what the Rabbis would have taught" but rather "This is what it means to us." Ultimately, we want the reader to create his or her own D'rashot. We believe that the key question when reading the Midrash is always: "What does this text mean to me?")

     "ANOTHER D'RASH

     "A hammer can be either a tool for building or a weapon for destroying. The famous American folksong "If I Had a Hammer" hints at the dual nature of the object. "I'd hammer out justice" can refer to the (hammer-like) gavel, wielded by a judge as she presides over a courtroom and tries to redress wrongs and punish crimes. But that is followed by the line "I'd hammer out warning." Here, perhaps, we see a threat of violence. "No justice, no peace!" has become a contemporary catchphrase of those ready to take to the streets and commit acts of civil disobedience, and of others willing to riot and burn down a city that denies them what they believe is due them.

     "Were the Rabbis aware of the dual nature of the hammer when they used it as a metaphor for learning Torah? Perhaps they were. By taking a hammer to the words of Torah, we might destroy the original shape of the "stone" and the meaning of the words. But the Rabbis were apparently willing to allow that, so long as we then used the pieces of the original rock to make something new. To smash the tablets of stone and then turn one's back on them is heretical. But to break the rock and then fashion something Jewish out of the raw material—that is called Midrash.

     "(One of the most frequently found phrases in the Midrash is דָּבָר אַחֵר/davar aḥer, "another interpretation." It is used when the Rabbis differ over the meaning of a word or a story, and have a second, or a third, or a fourth suggestion as to what the biblical text means. We have adopted that convention in this book. For each of the entries, following the D'rash, there will be "דָּבָר אַחֵר/Another D'rash." At times, this section will expand on the first D'rash. At other times, this second interpretation will disagree with the first D'rash. "Another D'rash" may carry the understanding to a totally different plane. We ask our readers not merely to accept the interpretations we have presented, but to use our D'rashot as the impetus for creating their own. In doing so, we wish to emphasize the unending work that every serious reader of Midrash must be engaged in: the search for meaning.)

     "A PARABLE

     "In the beginning, when we were very young, our father was always close by—holding us, talking to us, taking care of our every need. He was like a god to us; his presence was the most important thing in our lives.

     "As we grew up, we believed we'd do just fine on our own; we couldn't wait to be free of him. The days came when I, my sisters, and brothers said goodbye to our father, and each of us went off on our own. From time to time, usually on holidays, we would make the pilgrimage home to visit our father.

     "During the years we were away—busy and self-absorbed—we didn't make much of an effort to stay in touch. But our father did; he wrote to us regularly. His letters were like no one else's. He had exquisite handwriting that was almost like calligraphy. He used a shiny, black ink on a heavy, white stock; each letter was a work of art; many words were decorated and adorned.

     "In these letters he might tell us family stories—genealogies, gossip, and goings-on. Or he might give us advice—how to get by and how to get along. And occasionally, he'd even write us a poem expressing his gratitude for all that he had.

     "And then, war broke out. The letters stopped coming. Only then did we realize how much he meant to us. We lost contact with our father, and with one another, for quite some time.

     "When things finally quieted down, we children made our way back to our father's house to search for family, to learn who had survived. We were shocked to discover our childhood home was gone, destroyed in the carnage of war. All that remained standing was one damaged wall.

     "But where was our father? We looked everywhere, questioned everyone—there was no trace. We didn't know if he was alive or dead, if he was being held prisoner or was free, if he had relocated or was somewhere in exile. We stood together at the wall of our house and wept.

     "For months, we searched for him to no avail. The months soon turned into years.

     "The older we grow, the more we miss him. What we wouldn't give to hug him, to hear him, one more time!

     "All that remains are our fading memories … and his magnificent letters. Those letters have become our most prized possessions. They are our only link to our father. We can't hold him, but we can caress his letters. We can't hear his voice, but we can read his very own words.

     "I tied mine with a velvet sash, and wrapped them in a silken cloth, and placed them in a wooden case. My brothers and sisters did likewise. While each of us kept the letters we had been sent, we made copies of all of his correspondence and had them compiled and bound into a book, so that each of us could have all of Father's words to his children.

     "Whenever we wish to be in Father's presence, we take out his letters to us. My sister does it maybe three times a week, reading a different letter each time. When she takes out the box, she brings her hand to her mouth, kisses her fingertips, and she touches those fingers to the letters. My brother, on the other hand, leaves the letters in their case—not wanting to soil them. On weekends, he takes out the bound version and pores over Father's words for hours. As for me, I pull out his letters on holidays, when my memories of my father are the strongest.

     "Over the years, we've read and studied and memorized each sentence of his letters. It's all we have left of him. And the more we read, the more desperate we become … for more stories, for more wisdom, for more of him. We are determined to find him, if not in the flesh, then at least in the word.

     "When I am faced with a difficult problem in my life, I wish that he were here so that I could ask for his advice and help. But I can't. So instead, I go to his letters. Sometimes I find that long ago he had a similar problem, and by reading of how he handled it I'll know what to do. And even if not, at least I feel that by reading his words I become infused with his spirit. I become stronger, able to face whatever challenges come my way.

     "Sometimes, when I read what he wrote, it triggers a memory in me of something or some place he didn't write about. I take pen and paper in hand and write those stories down.

     "Sometimes, when I read what he wrote, a detail from one letter suddenly connects with a detail from another, and as I put the stories together, I find that a secret has been revealed, another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was my father. The more I delve, the more of him I understand.

     "Sometimes, when I read what he wrote, and I feel that I've come to a dead end in my detective work, I retreat to my imagination. I create my own stories of his life. Though they may not be factually true, they have been inspired by his letters and they convey the essence of who he was, and what he is to me.

     "I write down in a journal all these things that his letters have spawned. I share them with my brothers and sisters. And they do the same for me.

     "Between the stack of his letters, which we continue to read, and the growing journal entries, which we continue to write, Father's presence has remained a very important part of our lives.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Hosea 12:1–13:16 Love So Amazing
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "2. God's Disciplines in the Present

     "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Heb. 12:6; Prov. 3:11–12). Chastening isn't a judge inflicting punishment on a criminal in order to uphold the law. Rather, chastening is a loving parent disciplining his or her child in order to perfect his character and build his endurance. (Hebrews 12:11–17 is the classic passage in Scripture on chastening. The Greek word paideia means "the rearing of a child," because the purpose of discipline is maturity. Sometimes God disciplines us to correct our disobedience, but He may also discipline us when we're obedient in order to equip us to serve Him better. David is an example of correcting discipline (2 Sam. 12; Pss. 32; 51), while Joseph is an example of perfecting discipline (Gen. 39–42; Ps. 105:16–22). Note that the context of Hebrews 12 is that of athletics, running the race (12:1–3). Athletes must experience the pain of discipline (dieting, exercising, competing) if they ever hope to excel. Nobody ever mastered a sport simply by listening to a lecture or watching a video, as helpful as those encounters may be. At some point, the swimmer must dive into the water, the wrestler must hit the mat, and the runner must take his or her place on the track. Likewise, the children of God must experience the pain of discipline—correcting and perfecting—if they are to mature and become like Jesus Christ.) Punishment has to do with law, which is important, but chastening has to do with love, which is also important.

     The need for discipline (Hosea 12:1). The Jewish people were living for vanity—"the wind"—and receiving no nourishment. The word translated "feed" means "to graze"; but whoever saw hungry sheep ignoring the green grass and chewing on the wind? The very idea is ridiculous, but that's the way God's people were living.

     Israel was committing two sins: First, they were worshiping idols which are nothing, even less than nothing, and turning from the true God to live on empty substitutes. They were feeding on the wind. Second, they were depending for protection on treaties with Egypt and Assyria instead of trusting their great God. This too was emptiness and chasing after the wind, and God had to discipline Israel to bring them back to Himself and His Word.

     The example of discipline (Hosea 12:2–6, 12). Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation (Matt. 3:9), but it was Jacob who built the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 46:8–27). ("Israel" is the new name God gave Jacob after struggling with him at Jabbok (Gen. 32:24–32), but scholars aren't agreed on its meaning. The generally accepted meaning is "prince with God," i.e., a "God-controlled person." Others suggest "he persists with God," which certainly fits the account; for Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord and didn't want to give in. Though Jacob made some mistakes and sometimes trusted his own ingenuity too much, he did persist with God and seek God's help, and God used him to build the nation of Israel. Some people have been too hard on Jacob, forgetting that believers in that day didn't have the advantages we have today. God has deigned to call Himself "the God of Jacob," and that's a very high compliment to a great man.) Hosea used the name "Jacob" for the nation because Jacob is an illustration of God's loving discipline. Hosea cited several key events in Jacob's life.

     Jacob struggled with his brother even before he and Esau were born (25:20–23), and at birth, Jacob tried to trip up his brother Esau even as they were coming from the womb (vv. 24–26). The name "Jacob" means "he grasps the heel," which is another way or saying, "He's a deceiver, a trickster." (All of us are Jacobs at heart according to Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The Hebrew word translated "deceitful" is the root word for the name "Jacob." It means "to take by the heel, to supplant." The English word "supplant" comes from a Latin word that means to "to overthrow by tripping up." Jacob tripped up his brother and took his place when it came to both the family birthright and the blessing (Gen. 27:36). Of course, God had given both to Jacob before his birth (25:23), but instead of trusting God, Jacob used his own devices to get what he wanted. Faith is living without scheming.) During most of his life, Jacob struggled with himself, with others, and with the Lord, and until he surrendered to God at Jabbok, he never really walked by faith. God had to discipline him to bring him to that place of surrender.

     In obedience to God's command, Jacob left Shechem and went to Bethel (Gen. 35), for it was at Bethel that he had first met the Lord years before (28:10–22). There God had revealed Himself and given Jacob promises for himself and his descendants, and there Jacob had made solemn vows to the Lord. Actually, the return to Bethel was a new spiritual beginning for his whole family; for Jacob commanded them to abandon their foreign gods and worship Jehovah alone. It does a family good to experience this kind of dedication. Alexander Whyte said that the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings, and he was right.

     But the Bethel experience also included some pain, for it was on that journey that Jacob's beloved wife Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin (35:16–22). She called the boy Ben-Oni, which means "son of my sorrow"; but by faith, Jacob renamed him Benjamin, "son of my right hand." (These two names suggest the two aspects of our Lord's life and ministry, a Man of Sorrows and the resurrected Son exalted to the Father's right hand.)

     The divine title "Lord God of hosts [armies]" (Hosea 12:5) reminds us of Jacob's experience at Mahanaim when he was about to meet his brother Esau (Gen. 32). Mahanaim means "the two camps," for Jacob saw an army of angels watching over his camp. He was afraid of Esau and tried to appease him with gifts instead of trusting the Lord to deliver him. After all, didn't God promise to care for Jacob and bring him safely back to Bethel? It was there that the angel of God wrestled with Jacob and "broke" him.

     Jacob's experiences getting a wife and raising a family are examples of God's loving discipline (Gen. 29–30). In order to get the family blessing, Jacob had schemed and lied to his father Isaac, but now Laban would scheme and lie to Jacob in order to marry off two daughters in one week! Trying to please two wives, only one of whom he really loved, and trying to raise a large family, brought many burdens to Jacob, but he persisted, and God blessed him and made him a wealthy man. However, during those difficult years, Jacob suffered much (31:36–42), yet the Lord was working out His purposes.

     The reasons for discipline (Hosea 12:7–13:6). Now Hosea names some of the sins that His people had committed. Some of these he has dealt with before, so there's no need to discuss them in detail.

     He begins with dishonesty in business (12:7), defrauding people so as to make more money. Their prosperity led to pride (v.8), the kind of self-sufficiency that says, "We don't need God" (see Rev. 3:17). But the Lord warned that He would humble them. Instead of enjoying their houses, they would live in tents as they did during their wilderness journey. When the Assyrians were through with Israel, the Jews would be grateful even for the booths they lived in for a week during the Feast of Tabernacles.

     The prophets God sent had warned the people, but the people wouldn't listen (Hosea 12:10). They turned from the Word of the living God and practiced idolatry (vv. 11–14). This provoked God to anger, and the way they shed innocent blood provoked Him even more. (On Gilead's wickedness, see 6:8–9).

     Hosea singled out the arrogant attitude of the tribe of Ephraim (13:1–3). The name "Ephraim" is found thirty-seven times in Hosea's prophecy. Sometimes "Ephraim" is a synonym for the whole Northern Kingdom, but here the prophet was addressing the tribe of Ephraim in particular. Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph whom Jacob "adopted and whose birth order he reversed (Gen. 48). Manasseh was the firstborn, but Jacob gave that honor to Ephraim.

     The people of Ephraim felt they were an important tribe that deserved to be listened to and obeyed. After all, Joshua came from Ephraim (Num. 13:8) and so did the first king of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam I (1 Kings 11:26). The tabernacle of testimony was pitched in Shiloh which was in Ephraim (Josh. 18:1). In their arrogance, the tribe of Ephraim created problems for both Gideon (Jud. 7:24–25; 8:1–3) and Jephthah (12:1–6). After the death of King Saul, the Ephraimites refused to submit to David's rule (2 Sam. 2:8–11); in fact, they had a strong prejudice against the tribe of Judah, the ruling tribe (19:40–43). When the Northern Kingdom was established, so powerful were the Ephraimites that the kingdom was even called by their name.

     But Ephraim abandoned Jehovah for Baal, and that brought spiritual death. They gladly participated in Jeroboam's man-made religion by sacrificing to the golden calves—even offering human sacrifices—and kissing the calves in worship. But idols are nothing, and those who worship them become like them—nothing (Ps. 115:8). Hosea compared the people to the "nothings" with which they were familiar: Morning dew that the sun burns away; chaff that the wind blows away; smoke that disappears out the window and is seen no more.

     One more sin that Hosea condemned was the nation's ingratitude (Hosea 13:4–6). It was the same old story: the Jews were glad for what God had done for their forefathers—the Exodus, God's provision and guidance in the wilderness, the abundant wealth in the Promised Land—but they didn't really show Him sincere appreciation. In their trials, they turned to God for help, but in their prosperity, they became proud and turned away from God to idols. Moses had warned them about this sin, but they committed it just the same (Deut. 8:10–20).

     The name "Ephraim" means "fruitful," and this was a very fruitful tribe. Through Jacob, God had promised abundant blessings to Joseph and his sons (Gen. 48; 49:22–26), and that promise was fulfilled. It's too bad the people didn't use what God gave them for God's glory.

     The kinds of discipline (Hosea 13:7–16). Once again, Hosea uses a number of similes and metaphors to describe the trials that God was sending on His disobedient people. Like a ferocious beast, He would suddenly attack them (vv. 7–8; see 5:14), a reference to the invasion of the Assyrian army. The rulers of Israel would be weak, temporary, and ineffective (13:9–11; see 8:4). Now the time had come for the nation to have no king (3:4), a situation that would last for centuries.

     The woman in travail is used often in Scripture to picture extreme pain and sorrow (13:13; Isa. 13:8; Jer. 4:31; Matt. 24:8), but Hosea adds a new twist. He sees the woman too weak to deliver the child and the baby too stupid to come out of the womb! All the travail was wasted.

     The invasion of the Assyrians will be like a hot, dry wind from the desert that will smother the people and dry up the watercourses. All the nation's treasures will be plundered, and their greatest treasure, their children, will be slain mercilessly. Why? Because the nation would not return to God.

     Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55 to emphasize the victory of Jesus Christ over death and the grave because of His resurrection, but Hosea's words in this context may have a different meaning. (When New Testament writers quoted Old Testament statements, the Holy Spirit directing them had every right to adapt those passages as He wished, since the Spirit is the author of Scripture. Surely God sees much more in His Word than we do! For example, Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel's Exodus from Egypt, but Matthew used it to point to Christ's coming out of Egypt when a child (Matt. 2:11–15).)

     The next statement ("I will have no compassion") supports our interpretation that Hosea 13:14 refers to judgment and not victory over the enemy. This doesn't suggest that God no longer loved His people, because God's love for His people is the major theme of this book. But the time had come for God to discipline the nation, for they had rejected every other manifestation of His love. "For I will not relent!" is the way The Living Bible states it.

     God revealed His love to Israel in His past mercies and now in His present disciplines. Hosea closes his book with a third evidence of God's love.


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

Shifts in the Process toward Canon
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     While the terminology regarding the canonical process may be clarified, and the evidence from Qumran may witness to certain Scriptures but no canon yet, the waters remain largely uncharted for the more important and intriguing issue of the socio-political struggles and theological debates that formed the path to the eventual canon. A few turns in the path, however, can be seen.

     First, there was a shift from national literature to sacred Scripture, described above. Some works of Israel’s literature became recognized as having divine origin and thus were regarded as sacred Scripture.

     Second, there was a shift in the understanding of revelation. Whereas revelation had been seen as dynamic and a continuing possibility, gradually it was viewed as verbal and recorded in the distant past. This gets expressed in the ancient (and a lingering modern) conviction regarding the cessation of prophecy.

     Third, there was a shift from a religion centered primarily on the Temple and its rituals to a religion centered on its texts. This was a result of the destruction of the Temple and the ability of shared texts to function as a unifying force even for a people spread throughout Diaspora communities.

     Fourth, vague consciousness had to give way to clear decisions regarding the scriptural status of books toward the periphery. The new focus on sacred texts as Judaism’s centripetal force required new questions, scrutiny, debate, and decisions about the relative status of various texts. While all Jews recognized the sanctity of the Torah and most recognized divine revelation in a collection of prophetic books, now decisions had to be made concerning which books belonged in the “Prophets” collection and whether extra books might also deserve to be accorded supreme authority.

     Fifth, a dramatic shift replaced textual pluriformity with uniformity. Throughout the Second Temple period, the texts were characterized by fluidity, pluriformity, and creativeness in composition. But the shocks of the two revolts and the increased importance of the texts precluded further development. This shift, which froze each book in a single textual form, happened quite abruptly in the late first or early second century C.E.; it is often referred to as “stabilization,” but “freezing” or “termination of development” is more accurate, since it was not a textual process but simply a cessation.

     Sixth, the format of the books of the Scriptures shifted from individual scrolls to codex. Whereas a scroll usually contained one or at most two books, a codex could contain a large number of books. Thus, decisions whether a book was recognized as sacred Scripture were more pressing when considering its inclusion in, or exclusion from, a single collection between front and back covers.

     At the end of the lengthy process of composition and development of the Scriptures from their beginnings and through the late shifts just described, came the Romans. After two failed revolts by the Jews, the Qumran covenanters were no more; the Samaritans remained apart; the Jewish followers of Jesus inherited a large, not yet delimited collection of Scriptures emphasizing the prophetic writings. The rabbis eventually restricted the collection to twenty-four books, rejecting 1 Enoch, Ben Sira, and others; de-emphasizing certain apocalyptic and messianic aspects; and focusing on the sapiential rather than prophetic character of the Psalms and Daniel.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 13

     Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. --- Hebrews 5:8.

     There is a fifth light that flashes out before us. (Selected Poems, 1946-68) It is the gift that suffering brings to character, the contribution trouble makes to the molding and shaping and beautifying of the soul. Even of Jesus it stands written that “he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

     It takes a world with trouble in it to make possible some of the finest qualities of life. You do not need to be an art connoisseur to realize that it is an essential of a good picture that in it there should be shadow as well as light. Now life is like that. If there were no risk and danger in life, where would fortitude and chivalry be? If there were no suffering, would there be compassion? If there were no discipline and hardship, would we ever learn patience and endurance?

     It takes a world with trouble in it to satisfy the human demand for a dangerous universe. The passion for adventure haunts the human spirit. There is that in us which craves risk.

     It takes a world with trouble in it to train people for their high calling as children of God and to carve on the soul the profile of Christ.

     Who are those whose names stand on the dramatic roll-call of the faithful in the Epistle to the Hebrews? Are they people whose days were happy and unclouded and serene? “They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.… They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” That, declares the New Testament, has been in every age faith’s grim heredity! And it is not from sheltered ways and quiet, sequestered paths; it is from a thousand crosses that the cry ascends—“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6).
--- James S. Stewart


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

On This Day
     Luther’s Wedding Night  June 13

     Katherine von Bora found herself virtually imprisoned as a nun at Cistercian Convent of Nimbschem, Germany, in the sixteenth century. Relatives were unable to speak to her except through a latticed window, and she was even forbidden to talk to her fellow nuns. Silence was the rule at Cistercian Convent.

     Katherine managed to smuggle in reading material—the writings of a man named Martin Luther—and she began hoping for new life. In 1523 she and several other nuns hatched an escape plan, and they sneaked word to Luther. He recruited a merchant who sold smoked herring. The man made a delivery to the convent and when he left, the nuns were stowed away in the empty herring barrels.

     Luther succeeded in finding husbands for all the women except for Katherine, a strong-willed, 26-year-old redhead. At length he proposed to her. The account of their wedding night by Luther’s biographer, Richard Friedenthal, leaves us … well, curious:

     On the Evening of 13 June 1525, according to the custom of the day, (Luther) appeared with his bride before a number of his friends as witnesses. The Pomeranian [Johann] Bugenhagen blessed the couple, who consummated the marriage in front of the witnesses, [Justus] Jonas reported the next day: “Luther has taken Katharina von Bora to wife. I was present yesterday and saw the couple on their marriage bed. As I watched this spectacle I could not hold back my tears.”*

     The marriage created a storm of criticism in church circles across Europe. Erasmus called it a comedy and Henry VIII called it a crime (as if he should talk!). But Luther said, “I would not change my Katie for France and Venice, because God has given her to me.” She proved equal to her role as Protestantism’s first pastor’s wife, becoming known as “First Lady of the Reformation.”

     Her words are sensible, And her advice is thoughtful. … Her husband says, “There are many good women, but you are the best!”
--- Proverbs 31:26,28–29.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 13

     “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” --- Revelation 22:17.

     Jesus says, “take freely.” He wants no payment or preparation. He seeks no recommendation from our virtuous emotions. If you have no good feelings, if you be but willing, you are invited; therefore come! You have no belief and no repentance,—come to him, and he will give them to you. Come just as you are, and take “Freely,” without money and without price. He gives himself to needy ones. The drinking fountains at the corners of our streets are valuable institutions; and we can hardly imagine any one so foolish as to feel for his purse, when he stands before one of them, and to cry, “I cannot drink because I have not five pounds in my pocket.” However poor the man is, there is the fountain, and just as he is he may drink of it. Thirsty passengers, as they go by, whether they are dressed in fustian or in broadcloth, do not look for any warrant for drinking; its being there is their warrant for taking its water freely. The liberality of some good friends has put the refreshing crystal there and we take it, and ask no questions. Perhaps the only persons who need go thirsty through the street where there is a drinking fountain, are the fine ladies and gentlemen who are in their carriages. They are very thirsty, but cannot think of being so vulgar as to get out to drink. It would demean them, they think, to drink at a common drinking fountain: so they ride by with parched lips. Oh, how many there are who are rich in their own good works and cannot therefore come to Christ! “I will not be saved,” they say, “in the same way as the harlot or the swearer.” What! go to heaven in the same way as a chimney sweep. Is there no pathway to glory but the path which led the thief there? I will not be saved that way. Such proud boasters must remain without the living water; but, “WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY.”


          Evening - June 13

     “Remove far from me vanity and lies.” --- Proverbs 30:8.

     “O my God, be not far from me.” --- Psalm 38:21.

     Here we have two great lessons—what to deprecate and what to supplicate. The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ. No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on vanity—he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God. The world may win happiness elsewhere, but he cannot. I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures. Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy. A converted wife who despaired of her husband was always very kind to him, for she said, “I fear that this is the only world in which he will be happy, and therefore I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can in it.” Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere than the insipid frivolities or sinful enjoyments of the world. Vain pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls. We have heard of a philosopher who, while he looked up to the stars, fell into a pit; but how deeply do they fall who look down. Their fall is fatal. No Christian is safe when his soul is slothful, and his God is far from him. Every Christian is always safe as to the great matter of his standing in Christ, but he is not safe as regards his experience in holiness, and communion with Jesus in this life. Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from his God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavours to feed on vanities, that the devil discovers his vantage hour. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master’s service, but the battle is generally short: he who slips as he goes down into the Valley of Humiliation, every time he takes a false step invites Apollyon to assail him. O for grace to walk humbly with our God!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 13

          LET JESUS COME INTO YOUR HEART

     Words and Music by Lelia N. Morris, 1862–1929

     I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

     Gospel songs that urgently ask people to respond to Christ’s invitation for salvation have had a powerful influence in evangelism since they were first written shortly after the close of the American Civil War. Many believers can remember which song was used when they made their decision for Christ. Ira D. Sankey, often called the “father of the Gospel song,” once stated: “These songs were calculated to awaken the careless, to melt the hardened, and to guide inquiring souls to Jesus Christ.”

     “Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart,” written and composed by Mrs. Lelia Morris, has been one of the these invitation hymns widely used by God to direct seeking sinners to a personal salvation experience. Its origin in 1898 was at a camp meeting in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland. A woman of culture and refinement responded to the altar call invitation. Mrs. Morris joined her there and with an arm around her shoulder whispered, “Just now your doubtings give o’er.” The song leader of the camp meeting joined the duo and added another phrase, “Just now reject Him no more.” Then the evangelist earnestly importuned, “Just now throw open the door.” Mrs. Morris made the last appeal, “Let Jesus come into your heart.” Shortly thereafter Mrs. Morris completed the thought and added the music before the camp meetings closed. Another song was born to guide countless numbers of inquiring souls to Jesus Christ.

     If you are tired of the load of your sin,
let Jesus come into your heart;
if you desire a new life to begin,
let Jesus come into your heart.

     If ’tis for purity now that you sigh,
let Jesus come into your heart:
fountains for cleansing are flowing near by;
let Jesus come into your heart.

     If there’s a tempest your voice cannot still,
let Jesus come into your heart;
if there’s a void this world never can fill,
let Jesus come into your heart.

     If you would join the glad songs of the blest,
let Jesus come into your heart;
if you would enter the mansions of rest,
let Jesus come into your heart.

Refrain:
     Just now, your doubtings give o’er;
just now, reject Him no more;
just now, throw open the door;
let Jesus come into your heart.


     For Today: John 6:37; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 3:15; 1 John 1:9; Revelation 22:17.

     Be sensitive to the spiritual needs of those about you. Often you will be able to detect signs of a struggling soul searching for God. With gracious boldness share with such a one the message of this song ---

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. LIV. — BUT, as I said at first, so I say here: this passage of Ecclesiasticus is in favour of no one of those who assert “Free-will,” but makes against them all. For that conclusion is not to be admitted, ‘If thou wilt — therefore thou art able;’ but those words, and all like unto them, are to be understood thus: — that by them man is admonished of his impotency; which, without such admonitions, being proud and ignorant, he would neither know nor feel.

     For he here speaks, not concerning the first man only, but concerning any man: though it is of little consequence whether you understand it concerning the first man, or any others. For although the first man was not impotent, from the assistance of grace, yet, by this commandment, God plainly shews him how impotent he would be without grace. For if that man, who had the Spirit, could not by his new will, will good newly proposed, that is, obedience, because the Spirit did not add it unto him, what can we do without the Spirit toward the good that is lost! In this man, therefore, it is shewn, by a terrible example for the breaking down of our pride, what our “Free-will” can do when it is left to itself, and not continually moved and increased by the Spirit of God. He could do nothing to increase the Spirit who had its first-fruits, but fell from the first-fruits of the Spirit. What then can we who are fallen, do towards the first-fruits of the Spirit which are taken away? Especially, since Satan now reigns in us with full power, who cast him down, not then reigning in him, but by temptation alone! Nothing can be more forcibly brought against “Free-will,” than this passage of Ecclesiasticus, considered together with the fall of Adam. But we have no room for these observations here, an opportunity may perhaps offer itself elsewhere. Meanwhile, it is sufficient to have shewn, that Ecclesiasticus, in this place, says nothing whatever in favour of “Free-will” (which nevertheless they consider as their principal authority), and that these expressions and the like, ‘if thou wilt,’ ‘if thou hear,’ ‘if thou do,’ shew, not what men can do, but what they ought to do!.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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