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Deuteronomy 7     Psalm 90     Isaiah 35     Revelation 5


Deuteronomy 7

A Chosen People

Deuteronomy 7:1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

12 “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. 13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. 25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.


Psalm 90

From Everlasting to Everlasting

Psalm 90 A Prayer Of Moses, The Man Of God.

1  Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2  Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3  You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4  For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

7  For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8  You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9  For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10  The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11  Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12  So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13  Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16  Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!


Isaiah 35

The Ransomed Shall Return

Isaiah 35:1

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2  it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

3  Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4  Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

5  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6  then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7  the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8  And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9  No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10  And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Revelation 5

The Scroll and the Lamb

Revelation 5 1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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I Will Sing an Old Song

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2008

     Trouble comes to the people of God. If it is not here now, it will be here soon. Those who promise that the Christian life is a breezy walk through the meadow not only have not taken up their cross and followed Him, but, I fear, He may not have taken up His cross for them. Our walk, according to His Word, will be fraught with peril, our days filled with troubles. His yoke is indeed easy, and His burden light. But we follow Him on the via dolorosa. Praise God that He has not left us wandering in the dark. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. He has told us troubles will come, and He has told us how we ought to respond.

     Take, for instance, the life of David. He was the original renaissance man, a man of deep and varied talents. Were we to look at his life with rose-colored glasses, we might think he moved from victory to victory. We might remember the killing of the bear and the lion, the service to King Saul, the astonishing victory over Goliath of Gath. We might recall the cries of his countrymen who sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). He was made king over all Israel, expanded her borders, and established his throne in Jerusalem. He was the father to the wisest man, short of Jesus, ever to walk on the planet, a son whose rule is the very picture of the pinnacle of blessing. He was, and this surpasses all of the above, a man after God’s own heart.

     Such an account of the life of David shows some glaring holes. First, there he was tending the flock, and a bear came after them, and at another time a lion. The king that he served was at best a mad man, given to fits of rage. Facing Goliath was no picnic, nor could it have been easy to go so often into battle throughout his life. Saul killed his thousands, but his special target was David, leading him to flee for his life and live in exile in Egypt. His own son toppled him from his throne, and in the end, his hands were too bloody to allow him to build the temple of the Lord. David’s highs and lows were as varied as his talents.

     David’s greatest influence over the ages, however, is found in none of the above. He was a great warrior. He was, for the most part, a model king. He was an outstanding shepherd. But it is his lyrics that still shape the world. The truth of the matter is not only that the Christian’s life is much like David’s, with both breathtaking highs and soul-numbing lows, but that the life of the church is the same. The church of Jesus Christ has had, over the millennia, moments of grand triumph and episodes of grave sin. Whether it be the conquering sword of Islam or the steady decay of the Roman empire; whether it be feuding barbarian hordes or feuding clerical factions, the church of the eighth century did not move from triumph to triumph. It did move, however, under the care of the great shepherd of the sheep. And she went on her way singing the wisdom of David (Ps. 20:1–4):

May the Lord answer you in
the day of trouble!
May the name of the God
of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help
from the sanctuary and
give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your
offerings, and regard with
favor your burnt sacrifices!
May He grant you your heart’s
desire, and fulfill all your plans.

     This blessed hope, however, is no mere hope. He delivers in the day of trouble precisely because He is the author of the day of trouble. He sends the trouble and the deliverance for the same purpose, to strengthen us, to grant our hearts’ desire, to fulfill all our purpose, that we would be like the One whom He remembers, Jesus His Son.

     In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that “we will rejoice in Your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.”

     He calls us not to fear, not to worry, but to seek first the kingdom of God (Ps. 20:6):

Now I know that the Lord
saves His anointed; he will
answer him from His holy
heaven with the saving might
of His right hand.

     In times of trouble, which the church faces now and will face again, David tells us that we must look to the resurrection. The Lord has saved His anointed, and in Him, He saves us. So we will walk as the fools (Ps. 20:7–8):

Some trust in chariots, and some
in horses, but we trust in the
name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

     David’s wise son told us that there is nothing new under the sun. Troubles — like those in poverty — we will have with us always. But the son of David reigns on high. And He shall reign for ever and ever. Thus we cry out in times of need, “Save, Lord!”

     May the King answer us when we call.

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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

Standing Firm

By Bill Haynes 7/1/2008

     Martin Luther, in his Table Talk #403, makes the statement that “an upright shepherd and minister must improve his flock by edification, and also resist and defend it; otherwise, if resisting be absent, the wolf devours the sheep.” Resisting and defending require that a pastor-shepherd stand firm on the truth of the Gospel and lead his congregation to do the same.

     You have seen in this issue of Tabletalk that in the eighth century many challenges to the Gospel arose. From the Muslim advance to the iconoclastic controversy, standing firm in the truth was not easy. But, in reality, that century was no different from today, or any other century for that matter. Resistance to the Gospel will always be present.

     In the early part of the twenty-first century, we find that the Gospel is under attack in ways that are not a lot different from the eighth century. From the new atheism of Dawkins, Hitchens, and others, to the watering down of the Gospel by many who claim to be a part of the church, to the pluralistic views that place all religions on the same authority level, our generation is pleading for pastors and laypersons who will stand firm on the truth of God’s Word. When writing to young Timothy, the apostle Paul called the church the “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). As Christians we must labor to see that this is exactly what the church is in our generation.

     For the past year I have been preaching through the book of Acts, and I have noticed a recurring situation. One evening I told my congregation that one thing was a constant in Acts, especially in the life and ministry of Paul: When the truth of the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed, somebody is going to get beaten up or thrown in prison. It is amazing to me that in the twenty-first century we have developed a mentality that if we are proclaiming the truth, then everybody ought to like us. This expectation makes it difficult to face the challenges to the truth that come our way as disciples of Jesus today.

     The iconoclast controversy of the eighth century raised the question as to how the image of Christ could be presented. This is no less a struggle today. Oh, we don’t get too annoyed about pictures or statues of Christ; in fact, most evangelicals simply don’t bother to think about whether this is a violation of the second commandment or not. To most it is simply a non-issue. But this does not mean that the primary issue of the character and image of Christ is not still a matter that needs to be addressed.

     In my thirty-seven years of ministry I have never before seen a day when the lordship of Christ was more challenged than today. Sadly, this is not coming from outside the church but from within. Preach a sermon on Christ’s absolute lordship over His church and His people, and you will see people squirm a bit. Make it the theme of your overall preaching, and you will find that some people will begin to resist it altogether. In my particular denomination, the idea of the church being a “democratic” body has so clouded people’s minds with respect to the concept of Christ as the church’s head that some are ready to fight you for “taking away our rights” when this doctrine is proclaimed. Where the lordship of Christ is not honored and lifted up, the sufficiency of Scripture is not understood, and all sorts of new ideas begin to flood the church. Someone’s near-death experience or the latest New Age offering on Oprah seem to be just as important to men and women in the church as is the Bible.

     Paul warned Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). Of course, this had direct application to the city of Ephesus in which Timothy ministered, but do any words in the entire Bible give a better analysis of the twenty-first century church than these? The man-centeredness of many churches today makes a mockery of sound doctrine. While centering their message on how to feel better about yourself by self-improvement or how to have a better life now, these churches forgo the centrality of Christ and make mention of the Bible in only the most superficial ways. The grace of God is exchanged for the efforts and abilities of man for salvation and the Christian life. The attitude of “if it’s to be, then it’s up to me” has replaced the view of a sovereign God who is working out His purpose and plan in His creation.

     So in light of Luther’s words, perhaps the greatest need for the church of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century is to hold fast to the admonition of Paul: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1–2). The church must again realize that our strength for standing firm and for daily faith and obedience depends just as much on “the grace that is in Christ Jesus” as our initial salvation did. Paul is emphasizing that our ability to stand firm is not because of something in us — not our goodness, or power, or discipline — but rather it depends on God’s sustaining grace in Jesus Christ.

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     Rev. Bill Haynes is senior minister of Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky, and is on the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Will to Debate

By Keith A. Mathison 7/1/2008

     When Dutch Calvinists and Arminians squared off against one another in the early part of the seventeenth century, the Calvinists won the opening battle. The controversy, however, soon spread beyond the borders of the Netherlands. Now, four hundred years later, the conflict continues, and in terms of numbers alone, Arminianism is clearly winning the war for the hearts and minds of professing Christians. Today, Calvinists are a small minority. But why the debate in the first place? Is it really that important?

     Many professing Christians today would say that the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism should be put to rest, that we have more important things to think about. Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams disagree. In their book, Why I Am Not an Arminian, these two authors not only explain what Arminianism is, they demonstrate how it is biblically, theologically, and philosophically unsound and why it must be rejected by those concerned to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture.

     Peterson and Williams begin by providing some historical context to the debate. They look first at the fourth-century debate between Augustine and Pelagius over the nature of sin. The importance of our understanding of this doctrine can hardly be overstated, because what a person understands about sin will inevitably affect his understanding of grace and redemption. The authors show that Pelagius’ underestimation of the power of sin and his overestimation of the power of human ability destroys the Gospel.

     Two topics that have been debated from the fourth century on are predestination and perseverance, and Robertson and Williams devote the next two chapters to an examination of each. Generally speaking, Arminians teach that election to salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith. Calvinists, on the other hand, believe that the Scriptures teach unconditional election, namely, that election is based on God’s sovereign will. Arminians also reject what Calvinists refer to as the “perseverance of the saints.” According to Arminian theology, true Christians can and do apostatize from the faith. Peterson and Williams devote considerable space to showing why the Arminian doctrines are false and to demonstrating the biblical foundation of the Calvinist doctrines.

     In chapter 5, the authors provide a historical and theological overview of the Calvinist–Arminian controversy that led to the Synod of Dort in 1618–19. In the remaining four chapters, Peterson and Williams compare Calvinist and Arminian teaching on four crucial topics. They look first at the different views of human freedom. Arminianism generally teaches that human freedom and divine sovereignty are logically incompatible. Calvinists, on the other hand, argue that human freedom and divine sovereignty are compatible because the Bible affirms both. The final three chapters examine the differences between Calvinists and Arminians on the subjects of depravity, grace, and the atonement. In each case, Peterson and Williams set forth the biblical case for the Calvinist position. They argue that the Bible clearly teaches total depravity, irresistible grace, and substitutionary atonement.

     Unlike many books on the subject (from both sides), Peterson and Williams counter the claims of Arminians with both clarity and charity. They do not understate serious differences, but they take particular care to make sure the views of those with whom they differ are presented accurately. This is important because critiquing views that are held by no one in order to score debating points with those who do not know any better is both dishonest and a waste of time.

     Peterson and Williams’ book is important because the issues involved are important. The issues at the heart of the Calvinist–Arminian controversy are intimately related to the Gospel. The controversy deals with the nature of God’s sovereignty and human free will, the impact of sin upon human beings, the meaning of the atonement, the definition and power of God’s grace, the possibility of assurance, and much more. Clearly, such doctrines lie at the heart of the Christian faith.

     The Calvinist–Arminian debate is not a debate that Christians can afford to ignore. It is vitally important. If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you likely know people who are Arminian or who have been influenced by Arminian teaching. It is important to be ready to give an answer when challenged by such teaching. For those who want to be ready, Why I Am Not an Arminian is a good place to start.

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

Keith A. Mathison Books:

God Is Love

By Susan Hunt 7/1/2008

     A friend gave me a plaque that proclaims: “Grandmothers are antique little girls.” I don’t know what the originator had in mind, but my spin is that the longer we live, the more we return to the simplicity of girlhood. I am convinced that things are not as complicated as I made them when I was a young woman. I am in my sixties, so I tried out my life-gets-simpler theory on one of my spiritual mothers who is in her nineties. Her response was, “When I was a little girl I learned that God is love.” I waited for more, but she just smiled. She was done — she had said it all.

     The goodness and beauty of her simple statement stood in stark contrast to my world at that moment. Her words stood in contrast to her world too. She was preparing to leave her home of fifty-seven years — a lifetime of memories — and move to an assisted-living facility. I knew she was suffering in her soul. How can we reconcile our beliefs with our experiences?

     This, too, is not terribly complicated. Even as a little girl I knew deep inside that I was not right and things were not right. Now I have words to express this reality. We are fallen people, we live in a fallen world, and we will do so until Jesus takes us home or until He comes back and makes all things right. We wait with wounded but assured hearts because God is love. He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light so that we can live in the light even when it’s dark.

     This is one of the things I am compelled to tell the next generation, and rightly so — not because I am wise, but because God commissions us to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps. 78:4).

     This commission is even made gender-specific when Paul tells the young preacher to equip older women with sound doctrine so that they can “teach what is good, and so train the young women…” (Titus 2:3–5).

     I love the story of the older woman who told young Mary about the glorious deeds of the Lord. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God: “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Then he confronted Mary with a shocking reality: “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:30–35).

     What exhilarating and terrifying words. Imagine the emotions unleashed in Mary as her thoughts darted from light and glory to a sword in her soul. At that moment God sent Anna, an eighty-four year-old widow, who “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). She simply spoke of Him and thanked God for Him.

     Anna did not trivialize the sword; she took the whole situation into account. She saw the sword in light of the Gospel, so she spoke to Mary of the Redeemer and the redemption He came to accomplish. The older woman spoke words of life that pointed the younger woman to God’s glorious deeds and His might and His wonders, all wrapped up in the bundle in Mary’s arms.

     Redemption implies forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned, their relationship with God was broken, but God promised to pay the redemption price so the relationship could be restored. Forgiving our debt cost Him the dearest that He had, but He is love and that’s what love does.

     One who has experienced this forgiveness is freed and compelled to forgive others, even the one who thrusts the sword in our soul. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is oneself. When our own sin plunges a sword in our soul we think we are unworthy of forgiveness — and we are. That’s the wonder of it.

     Redemption is the grand story of Scripture. Everything points to the Redeemer. Mary’s story, my story, and your story are threads in the love story of redemption. God loves us so much that He planned for and accomplished our redemption in Christ. Redemption is not limited to the moment of justification. God is redeeming everything, even the swords in our souls. He is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus, and He is mighty enough to use every relationship and situation, and every sword, to accomplish His glorious objective. The Gospel really is that powerful. Anna had learned this, so she simply gave thanks. One who has lived long coram Deo, before the face of God, can speak of Jesus with credibility, assurance, and gratitude.

     Anna spoke of Jesus to a wounded woman and Mary listened. She left the temple and fulfilled her mission of mothering the Messiah.

     When my friend uttered those simple words — God is love — I listened. I left her home awash in the wonder of my redemption in Christ, and I gave thanks to God.

     When there is a sword in the soul of a younger woman, she ought to find an older woman who is compelled to tell her of Jesus, and listen until her heart begins to be thankful for Him — how profoundly and wondrously simple.

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     Susan Hunt is a wife, mother, and grandmother, and she is former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. She is coauthor of Women's Ministry in the Local Church.

Be Prepared

By Philip Graham Ryken 8/1/2008

     Make no mistake: there is an aggressive new atheism in America. The new unbelievers are eager to win people to their cause. Not content simply to disbelieve in God for themselves, they want to persuade other people not to believe in Him either.

     Some of these evangelists for atheism are famous authors with a high public profile. Others are professors on college or university campuses. Still others are ordinary people we meet at work or in the neighborhood. They may even be the members of our own families. But in each case, their opposition to the God of the Bible poses a challenge to our faith. In fact, some Christians may find aggressive atheism more than a little intimidating. Any time our faith is under attack, we face the real temptation to keep quiet about our firm confidence in biblical truth or our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

     The apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to believers who were facing similar challenges in the days of the early church. Their faith was under attack and there was real danger that standing firm for the Gospel would cause them to suffer for the cause of Christ. Thus Peter told them to be ready to witness with courage — an exhortation that still applies to us today: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:14–16).

     Peter’s words of comfort are reassuring: “Have no fear of them.” Even more reassuring is the reason why: Because Jesus is with us to help us. If we know Christ, then we regard Him as the Lord of our hearts. Now Jesus is with us — in all the power of His grace — in every difficult situation we face. This includes every opportunity we have to bear witness to His sufferings on the cross and His triumph over the tomb. There is no need for us to be intimidated by people who deny the Gospel, or who even deny the very existence of God. The true and living Lord is with us to help us speak the truth about His crucifixion and resurrection, giving people the hope of eternal life.

     We must be ready to witness, however. The helping presence of our Lord does not eliminate our own obligation to be well-prepared to tell people about His saving grace. Peter’s exhortation about how to do this is comprehensive. We should always be ready to explain the hope that is within us. We should be ready to do this in a logical way, giving reasons for our faith in Christ and answers to the legitimate questions people have about the Bible. We should be ready to do this for anyone and everyone who asks, regardless of their religious commitments.

     Are you ready to give people an answer when they ask about your hope in Christ, especially people who claim to be atheists? Reading this issue of Tabletalk is one practical way to get ready to give people an answer. Another good way to get better prepared to share our faith is to read good Christian books like R.C. Sproul’s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. It is also important for us to develop growing friendships with people outside the church. The better we know people, the more they will share their spiritual questions, and the better we will understand all the ways they need the Gospel. Peter’s words remind us to do this with gentleness and respect, loving people who still need to know Christ.

     Yet the most important thing for us to do is point people to the Scriptures. The best reasons we can give people for our hope in Christ are biblical reasons; the clearest answers we can give to their question about God are biblical answers. The Holy Spirit will use the true words of God to do His spiritual work in people’s lives. God has not promised to use our personal testimonies to bring people to Christ. No matter how eloquently or persuasively we speak, our words in themselves do not have the power to give people spiritual life. What God has promised to use in a saving and sanctifying way are His own words — the words we read in the Bible and understand by the help of the Spirit. God’s Word always does God’s work (see Isa. 55:10–11).

     The Word of God even has the power to save atheists, changing the minds and hearts of people who say they do not believe in God. The real truth, of course, is that even the most hardened atheist actually does believe in God, he just works very hard to deny it. In order to maintain a consistently atheistic point of view, unbelievers must actively suppress what they know to be true about the existence of God. Deep down, everyone knows there is a God (see Rom. 1:21).

     The inescapable reality of God’s power should give us tremendous confidence for personal evangelism. Although we may not have very much confidence in ourselves, or in our ability to respond to every objection an unbeliever may raise against the Gospel, we ought to have every confidence in the goodness of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible confronts every person’s conscience, testifying that the God who is really there speaks to people today. Whether we are fully prepared to give an answer or not, God is always ready and able to save people by His mighty Word.

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     Dr. Philip Graham Ryken is the president of Wheaton College, where he also teaches theology. He is a contributor to the book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Philip Graham Ryken Books:

Deut. 7; Psalm 90; Isaiah 35; Revelation 5

By Don Carson 6/3/2018

     Several complex themes intertwine in Deuteronomy 7. Here I want to reflect on two of them.

     The first is the emphasis on election. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6). Why so? Was it on the ground of some intrinsic superiority, some greater intelligence, some moral superiority, or some military prowess that the Lord made his choice? Not so. “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:7-8).

     Two observations: (1) In the Bible, God’s utter sovereignty does not diminish human responsibility; conversely, human beings are moral agents who choose, believe, obey, disbelieve, and disobey, and this fact does not make God’s sovereignty finally contingent. That is clear from the way God’s sovereignty manifests itself in this chapter, that is, in election, even while the chapter bristles with the responsibilities laid on the people. People who do not believe both truths — that God is sovereign and human beings are responsible — sooner or later introduce some intolerable wobbles into the structure of their faith. (2) Here God’s love is selective. God chooses Israel because he sets his affection on them, and not for anything in themselves. The thought recurs elsewhere (e.g., Mal. 1:2-3). But this is not the only way that the Bible speaks of the love of God (e.g., John 3:16).

     The second theme is the encouragement God gives his people not to fear the people they will have to fight as they take over the Promised Land (Deut. 7:17-22). The reason is the Exodus. Any God that could produce the plagues, divide the Red Sea, and free his people from a regional superpower like Egypt is not the kind of God who is going to have trouble with a few pagan and immoral Canaanites. Fear is the opposite of faith. The Israelites are encouraged not to be afraid, not because they are stronger or better, but because they are the people of God, and God is unbeatable.

     These two themes — and several others — intertwine in this chapter. The God who chooses people is strong enough to accomplish all his purposes in them; the people chosen by God ought to respond not only with grateful obedience, but with unshakable trust.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 58

God Who Judges the Earth
58 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5 so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
7 Let them vanish like water that runs away;
when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 8.

OF THE POWER OF THE CHURCH IN ARTICLES OF FAITH. THE UNBRIDLED LICENCE OF THE PAPAL CHURCH IN DESTROYING PURITY OF DOCTRINE.

This chapter is divided into two parts,--I. The limits within which the Church ought to confine herself in matters of this kind, sec. 1-9. II. The Roman Church convicted of having transgressed these limits, sec. 10-16.

Sections.

1. The marks and government of the Church having been considered in the seven previous chapters, the power of the Church is now considered under three heads--viz. Doctrine, Legislation, Jurisdiction.

2. The authority and power given to Church-officers not given to themselves, but their office. This shown in the case of Moses and the Levitical priesthood.

3. The same thing shown in the case of the Prophets.

4. Same thing shown in the case of the Apostles, and of Christ himself.

5. The Church astricted to the written Word of God. Christ the only teacher of the Church. From his lips ministers must derive whatever they teach for the salvation of others. Various modes of divine teaching. 1. Personal revelations.

6. Second mode of teaching--viz. by the Law and the Prophets. The Prophets were in regard to doctrine, the expounders of the Law. To these were added Historical Narratives and the Psalms.

7. Last mode of teaching by our Saviour himself manifested in the flesh. Different names given to this dispensation, to show that we are not to dream of anything more perfect than the written word.

8. Nothing can be lawfully taught in the Church, that is not contained in the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, as dictated by the Spirit of Christ.

9. Neither the Apostles, nor apostolic men. nor the whole Church, allowed to overstep these limits. This confirmed by passages of Peter and Paul. Argument a fortiori.

10. The Roman tyrants have taught a different doctrine--viz. that Councils cannot err, and, therefore, may coin new dogmas.

11. Answer to the Papistical arguments for the authority of the Church. Argument, that the Church is to be led into all truth. Answer. This promise made not only to the whole Church, but to every individual believer.

12. Answers continued.

13. Answers continued.

14. Argument, that the Church should supply the deficiency of the written word by traditions. Answer.

15. Argument founded on Mt. 18:17. Answer.

16. Objections founded on Infant Baptism, and the Canon of the Council of Nice, as to the consubstantiality of the Son. Answer.

1. We come now to the third division--viz. the Power of the Church, as existing either in individual bishops, or in councils, whether provincial or general. I speak only of the spiritual power which is proper to the Church, and which consists either in doctrine, or jurisdiction, or in enacting laws. In regard to doctrine, there are two divisions--viz. the authority of delivering dogmas, and the interpretation of them. Before we begin to treat of each in particular, I wish to remind the pious reader, that whatever is taught respecting the power of the Church, ought to have reference to the end for which Paul declares (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10) that it was given--namely, for edification, and not for destruction, those who use it lawfully deeming themselves to be nothing more than servants of Christ, and, at the same time, servants of the people in Christ. Moreover, the only mode by which ministers can edify the Church is, by studying to maintain the authority of Christ, which cannot be unimpaired, unless that which he received of the Father is left to him--viz. to be the only Master of the Church. For it was not said of any other but of himself alone, "Hear him" (Mt. 17:5). Ecclesiastical power, therefore, is not to be mischievously adorned, but it is to be confined within certain limits, so as not to be drawn hither and thither at the caprice of men. For this purpose, it will be of great use to observe how it is described by Prophets and Apostles. For if we concede unreservedly to men all the power which they think proper to assume, it is easy to see how soon it will degenerate into a tyranny which is altogether alien from the Church of Christ.

2. Therefore, it is here necessary to remember, that whatever authority and dignity the Holy Spirit in Scripture confers on priests, or prophets, or apostles, or successors of Apostles, is wholly given not to men themselves, but to the ministry to which they are appointed; or, to speak more plainly, to the word, to the ministry of which they are appointed. For were we to go over the whole in order, we should find that they were not invested with authority to teach or give responses, save in the name and word of the Lord. For whenever they are called to office, they are enjoined not to bring anything of their own, but to speak by the mouth of the Lord. Nor does he bring them forward to be heard by the people, before he has instructed them what they are to speak, lest they should speak anything but his own word. Moses, the prince of all the prophets, was to be heard in preference to others (Exod. 3:4; Deut. 17:9); but he is previously furnished with his orders, that he may not be able to speak at all except from the Lord. Accordingly, when the people embraced his doctrine, they are said to have believed the Lord, and his servant Moses (Exod. 14:31). It was also provided under the severest sanctions, that the authority of the priests should not be despised (Exod. 17:9). But the Lord, at the same time, shows in what terms they were to be heard, when he says that he made his covenant with Levi, that the law of truth might be in his mouth (Mal. 2:4-6). A little after he adds, "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." Therefore, if the priest would be heard, let him show himself to be the messenger of God; that is, let him faithfully deliver the commands which he has received from his Maker. When the mode of hearing, then, is treated of, it is expressly said, "According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee" (Deut. 17:11).

3. The nature of the power conferred upon the prophets in general is elegantly described by Ezekiel: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me" (Ezek. 3:17). Is not he who is ordered to hear at the mouth of the Lord prohibited from devising anything of himself? And what is meant by giving a warning from the Lord, but just to speak so as to be able confidently to declare that the word which he delivers is not his own but the Lord's? The same thing is expressed by Jeremiah in different terms, "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully" (Jer. 23:28). Surely God here declares the law to all, and it is a law which does not allow any one to teach more than he has been ordered. He afterwards gives the name of chaff to whatever has not proceeded from himself alone. Accordingly, none of the prophets opened his mouth unless preceded by the word of the Lord. Hence we so often meet with the expressions, "The word of the Lord, The burden of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord, The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." [573] And justly, for Isaiah exclaims that his lips are unclean (Isa. 6:5); and Jeremiah confesses that he knows not how to speak because he is a child (Jer. 1:6). Could anything proceed from the unclean lips of the one, and the childish lips of the other, if they spoke their own language, but what was unclean or childish? But their lips were holy and pure when they began to be organs of the Holy Spirit. The prophets, after being thus strictly bound not to deliver anything but what they received, are invested with great power and illustrious titles. For when the Lord declares, "See, I have this day set thee over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant," he at the same time gives the reason, "Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth " (Jer. 1:9, 10).

4. Now, if you look to the apostles, they are commended by many distinguished titles, as the Light of the world, and the Salt of the earth, to be heard in Christ's stead, whatever they bound or loosed on earth being bound or loosed in heaven (Mt. 5:13, 14; Luke 10:16; John 20:23). But they declare in their own name what the authority was which their office conferred on them--viz. if they are apostles they must not speak their own pleasure, but faithfully deliver the commands of him by whom they are sent. The words in which Christ defined their embassy are sufficiently clear, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Mt. 28:19, 20). Nay, that none might be permitted to decline this law, he received it and imposed it on himself. "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16). He who always was the only and eternal counsellor of the Father, who by the Father was constituted Lord and Master of all, yet because he performed the ministry of teaching, prescribed to all ministers by his example the rule which they ought to follow in teaching. The power of the Church, therefore, is not infinite, but is subject to the word of the Lord, and, as it were, included in it.

5. But though the rule which always existed in the Church from the beginning, and ought to exist in the present day, is, that the servants of God are only to teach what they have learned from himself, yet, according to the variety of times, they have had different methods of learning. The mode which now exists differs very much from that of former times. First, if it is true, as Christ says, "Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Mt. 11:27), then those who wish to attain to the knowledge of God behoved always to be directed by that eternal wisdom. For how could they have comprehended the mysteries of God in their mind, or declared them to others, unless by the teaching of him, to whom alone the secrets of the Father are known? The only way, therefore, by which in ancient times holy men knew God, was by beholding him in the Son as in a mirror. When I say this, I mean that God never manifested himself to men by any other means than by his Son, that is, his own only wisdom, light, and truth. From this fountain Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, drew all the heavenly doctrine which they possessed. [574] From the same fountain all the prophets also drew all the heavenly oracles which they published. For this wisdom did not always display itself in one manner. With the patriarchs he employed secret revelations, but, at the same time, in order to confirm these, had recourse to signs so as to make it impossible for them to doubt that it was God that spake to them. What the patriarchs received they handed down to posterity, for God had, in depositing it with them, bound them thus to propagate it, while their children and descendants knew by the inward teaching of God, that what they heard was of heaven and not of earth.

6. But when God determined to give a more illustrious form to the Church, he was pleased to commit and consign his word to writing, that the priests might there seek what they were to teach the people, and every doctrine delivered be brought to it as a test (Mal. 2:7). Accordingly, after the promulgation of the Law, when the priests are enjoined to teach from the mouth of the Lord, the meaning is, that they are not to teach anything extraneous or alien to that kind of doctrine which God had summed up in the Law, while it was unlawful for them to add to it or take from it. Next followed the prophets, by whom God published the new oracles which were added to the Law, not so new, however, but that they flowed from the Law, and had respect to it. For in so far as regards doctrine, they were only interpreters of the Law, adding nothing to it but predictions of future events. With this exception, all that they delivered was pure exposition of the Law. But as the Lord was pleased that doctrine should exist in a clearer and more ample form, the better to satisfy weak consciences, he commanded the prophecies also to be committed to writing, and to be held part of his word. To these at the same time were added historical details, which are also the composition of prophets, but dictated by the Holy Spirit; [575] I include the Psalms among the Prophecies, the quality which we attribute to the latter belonging also to the former. The whole body, therefore, composed of the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and Histories, formed the word of the Lord to his ancient people, and by it as a standard, priests and teachers, before the advent of Christ, were bound to test their doctrine, nor was it lawful for them to turn aside either to the right hand or the left, because their whole office was confined to this--to give responses to the people from the mouth of God. This is gathered from a celebrated passage of Malachi, in which it is enjoined to remember the Law, and give heed to it until the preaching of the Gospel (Mal. 4:4). For he thus restrains men from all adventitious doctrines, and does not allow them to deviate in the least from the path which Moses had faithfully pointed out. And the reason why David so magnificently extols the Law, and pronounces so many encomiums on it (Ps. 19, 119), was, that the Jews might not long after any extraneous aid, all perfection being included in it.

7. But when at length the Wisdom of God was manifested in the flesh, he fully unfolded to us all that the human mind can comprehend, or ought to think of the heavenly Father. Now, therefore, since Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has arisen, we have the perfect refulgence of divine truth, like the brightness of noon-day, whereas the light was previously dim. It was no ordinary blessing which the apostle intended to publish when he wrote: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1, 2); for he intimates, nay, openly declares, that God will not henceforth, as formerly, speak by this one and by that one, that he will not add prophecy to prophecy, or revelation to revelation, but has so completed all the parts of teaching in the Son, that it is to be regarded as his last and eternal testimony. For which reason, the whole period of the new dispensation, from the time when Christ appeared to us with the preaching of his Gospel, until the day of judgment, is designated by the last hour, the last times, the last days, that, contented with the perfection of Christ's doctrine, we may learn to frame no new doctrine for ourselves, or admit any one devised by others. With good cause, therefore, the Father appointed the Son our teacher, with special prerogative, commanding that he and no human being should be heard. When he said, "Hear him" (Mt. 17:5), he commended his office to us, in few words, indeed, but words of more weight and energy than is commonly supposed, for it is just as if he had withdrawn us from all doctrines of man, and confined us to him alone, ordering us to seek the whole doctrine of salvation from him alone, to depend on him alone, and cleave to him alone; in short (as the words express), to listen only to his voice. And, indeed, what can now be expected or desired from man, when the very Word of life has appeared before us, and familiarly explained himself? Nay, every mouth should be stopped when once he has spoken, in whom, according to the pleasure of our heavenly Father, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3), and spoken as became the Wisdom of God (which is in no part defective) and the Messiah (from whom the revelation of all things was expected) (John 4:25); in other words, has so spoken as to leave nothing to be spoken by others after him.

8. Let this then be a sure axiom--that there is no word of God to which place should be given in the Church save that which is contained, first, in the Law and the Prophets; and, secondly, in the writings of the Apostles, and that the only due method of teaching in the Church is according to the prescription and rule of his word. Hence also we infer that nothing else was permitted to the apostles than was formerly permitted to the prophets--namely, to expound the ancient Scriptures, and show that the things there delivered are fulfilled in Christ: this, however, they could not do unless from the Lord; that is, unless the Spirit of Christ went before, and in a manner dictated words to them. [576] For Christ thus defined the terms of their embassy, when he commanded them to go and teach, not what they themselves had at random fabricated, but whatsoever he had commanded (Mt. 28:20). And nothing can be plainer than his words in another passage, "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ" (Mt. 23:8-10). To impress this more deeply in their minds, he in the same place repeats it twice. And because from ignorance they were unable to comprehend the things which they had heard and learned from the lips of their Master, the Spirit of truth is promised to guide them unto all truth (John 14:26; 16:13). The restriction should be carefully attended to. The office which he assigns to the Holy Spirit is to bring to remembrance what his own lips had previously taught.

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


  • The Beast
  • Funeral Prayer
  • Election Year Joy

#1 John Piper  Desiring God

 

#2 John Piper   Desiring God

 

#3 John Piper   Desiring God

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2010    Unqualified Christians

     Words mean things, and, if we’re not careful, words can easily die the death of one, two, or a thousand qualifications. As editors, we often deliberate the use of words in their contexts and the appropriate uses of qualifiers in modifying words, particularly those words with eternal significance. For example, what’s the difference between a Christian and a true Christian, faith and true, saving faith, a church and a true, biblical church? We find ourselves using qualifiers, such as the word true, in order to emphasize the marked difference between a true Christian and a false, or nominal, Christian, between a true church and an apostate church.

     In the course of our use of language, certain qualifiers become necessary on account of the misuse and abuse of words that are used inappropriately. One of the primary reasons the magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century found it necessary to use the word sola to qualify theologically loaded and thus eternally significant words, such as Scripture, faith, grace, and Christ, is on account of the misuse of those words and the doctrinal nuances added to those words by many within Roman Catholicism. Similarly, when it came to defining what a true church is over and against the apostate churches that stemmed from Rome, the Reformers looked to Scripture alone to determine what comprises a true church. In his Institutes, John Calvin wrote, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists” (4.1.9). Calvin and the Reformers understood that the pure preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which includes the practice of church discipline, were essential elements of a true church, with the implicit repudiation of false churches that did not conform to these fundamental biblical qualifications.

     In one sense, the marks of a true church are the same marks of a true Christian, who displays his faith in the gospel of Christ with fruits unto daily repentance, faith, and eternal life. While there remains confusion about the nature of a true church, even more troubling is how few Christians seem to grasp the simple, biblical meaning of what it is to be a true Christian — or should I just say, without qualification, a Christian, saved by grace, through faith, because of Christ.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Dutch hoped there existed a water route across America to the Pacific, and they sent Henry Hudson to find it. Although he was unsuccessful, he did lay claim to the land along the Hudson River, so named for him. There the Dutch West India Company founded the colony of New Netherlands, receiving their charter this day, June 3, 1621. The Dutch leader, called the "Staten Generaal," after which Staten Island was named, gave the regulation: "[Colonists] shall…by their Christian life and conduct, lead Indians… to the knowledge of God and His Word, without, however, persecuting anyone because of his faith."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Just as Christians should not be constantly feeling the pulse of their spiritual life,
so too the Christian community has not been given to us by God
for us to be continually taking its temperature.

The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us,
the more assuredly and consistently
will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 5)

It was indispensable that God should be just in justifying the ungodly, but He does not thereby cease to be gracious, inasmuch as it was He who provided the ransom by which the objects of his love are redeemed from the curse of the law and the power of sin.
--- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology

As you emphasize your life, you must localize and define it... you cannot do everything.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks Year Book: Selections from the Writings of the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks

A lot of people are willing to give God credit, but so few ever give Him cash.
--- Robert E. Harris
So You're A Christian, Who Knew?

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 4 / “The Lord Is Our God”:
     Names Make a Difference Pt. 1


     In the King James Bible, the first verse of the Shema is translated, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One.”

     That translation grates on the ear of the contemporary English speaker. Why is the divine Name, conventionally translated in English as “Lord,” repeated? The simple answer is that in Hebrew, the copulative verb is understood. Translators must supply it in their own vernaculars. Thus, “Y-H-V-H Elohenu” is more accurately rendered, “The Lord is our God.”

     But precisely what does that mean? And what is the difference between these two divine Names?

     The Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters Y-H-V-H) is ineffable; it is never pronounced as it is written. Indeed, the Talmud held that the proper pronunciation was known only to the priests (kohanim) of the Temple in Jerusalem, where the High Priest enunciated it only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, during the solemn service, as the choir of priests chanted so as to make it impossible for non-priests to hear the Name as it was uttered by the High Priest. The original pronunciation of the Name is lost to us. For liturgical purposes, therefore, the Name is pronounced as if it was written Adonai, which means, “my Lord.” Because of the sanctity of the Tetragrammaton, we do not even pronounce or write Adonai except for liturgical or pedagogical purposes; otherwise, we substitute for it yet another euphemism, Hashem, which means nothing more than “the Name.” It is that term, Hashem, that we shall be using in discussing the Shema.

(2)     The difference between these two Names—the Tetragrammaton and Elohim (translated as “God”)—is normally explained in the Jewish tradition as the difference between middat ha-din and middat ha-raḥamim, the attribute of divine judgment (strict justice, wrath, demanding) and that of compassion (love, kindness, forgiving); Hashem implies the latter, Elohim the former.1

     For this reason, although we prefer to translate the key verse of the Shema as “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” it would be wrong to dismiss the King James translation—“… the Lord our God the Lord is One”—as simple-minded. That is so because if indeed Hashem, “the Lord,” represents the personal, relational aspect of Divinity, as opposed to Elohim, “God,” then the Name designating this divine-human intimacy should be capable of being cast in the possessive case: my or our Lord, etc. Yet it is only Elohim that exists in this form (Elohenu, Elohekhem, etc.), not Hashem, “the Lord.” Therefore, the only way Moses could express the possessive of Hashem—the Jewish God, as it were, in the sense of personality, intimacy, and involvement in the divine-human dialogue—is by linking it to Elohim; hence the compound Hashem Elohenu, “the Lord our God.” Nevertheless, we prefer—for a variety of reasons—the translation, “the Lord is our God.”

     Of course, these two terms do not represent the measure of God. Other divine attributes coexist with them. Rather, din and raḥamim are emblematic of other pairs of attributes that exist in dialectical relation with each other. Taken together, these pairs of polar opposites give us deeper insight into the comprehensive nature of yiḥud Hashem, the unity of God.

     The two Names point to God as seen in Nature versus God as experienced in History. On the one hand, Elohim is the Creator, the Master of the cosmos, who both creates and continues to direct the vast symphony of all creation, from the most massive of the galaxies to the tiniest constituent particles of the atom, where matter begins to shade into energy. Thus, the Torah opens: “In the beginning God (Elohim) created heaven and earth.”

     The Name Hashem, on the other hand, stands for God as He is revealed in the course of human events. Hashem is the Lord of History. As it is written, “And the Lord (Hashem) came down upon Mount Sinai” (Exod. 19:20). When Hashem “comes down” and involves Himself in human affairs, especially those of Israel, His “peculiar treasure” (am segula) chosen for the benefit of all humankind, He does so under the Name Hashem, the Lord.2

     At the most elementary level, Elohim is the aspect that God shares with the gods of most of the pagan world as well as with earthly sovereigns, namely, that of (presumed) power or authority. That is why this name as it appears in Scripture is sometimes considered sacred (and hence must not be destroyed or treated with disrespect) and sometimes profane. When it refers to “the Jewish God,” it is sacred; when it refers to idols, other deities, or powerful human agencies—that is, to generic aspects of divinity—it is, of course, profane.

     Hashem, the Lord, however, is a different matter altogether. This Name belongs to the God known to Jews, who has a special relationship with the Children of Israel. This is the One whom the Jews have chosen to worship as their very own, who has revealed Himself to them and chosen them as His people—the ones who would bear witness to Him and His unity in the world. Thus, the phrase Hashem Elohenu, “the Lord is our God,” means: just as other peoples have their gods, so do we have ours, personal as well as powerful, intimate as well as sovereign; the One who goes by the Name written as the Tetragrammaton, Y-H-V-H, but pronounced only as Hashem, “the Lord,” literally “the Name,” because the correct pronunciation is unknown to us.

     At another level, the double name, Hashem Elohenu, represents another significant dyad: God’s universal as opposed to His national or particularistic aspect. Elohim refers to God’s universal dimension; Hashem, to His very special and particular relation to Israel as the people to whom He has chosen to reveal Himself. Thus, in Scripture, other peoples and their leaders know Israel’s God as Elohim, whereas Jews (when not estranged from Him, i.e., not under the attribute of din, judgment) know God as Hashem. Thus, Pharaoh and (more problematically) Balaam, when they refer to Him, or in the rare instances when they encounter Him, speak of Elohim (as does the Bible in describing the situation); the only time they use the Name Hashem is when they specifically identify “the God of the Jews,” without, however, accepting His exclusive authority.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 12.

     Phasaelus Is Too Hard For Felix; Herod Also Overcomes Antigonus In Rattle; And The Jews Accuse Both Herod And Phasaelus But Antonius Acquits Them, And Makes Them Tetrarchs.

     1. When Cassius was gone out of Syria, another sedition arose at Jerusalem, wherein Felix assaulted Phasaelus with an army, that he might revenge the death of Malichus upon Herod, by falling upon his brother. Now Herod happened then to be with Fabius, the governor of Damascus, and as he was going to his brother's assistance, he was detained by sickness; in the mean time, Phasaelus was by himself too hard for Felix, and reproached Hyrcanus on account of his ingratitude, both for what assistance he had afforded Malichus, and for overlooking Malichus's brother, when he possessed himself of the fortresses; for he had gotten a great many of them already, and among them the strongest of them all, Masada.

     2. However, nothing could be sufficient for him against the force of Herod, who, as soon as he was recovered, took the other fortresses again, and drove him out of Masada in the posture of a supplicant; he also drove away Marion, the tyrant of the Tyrians, out of Galilee, when he had already possessed himself of three fortified places; but as to those Tyrians whom he had caught, he preserved them all alive; nay, some of them he gave presents to, and so sent them away, and thereby procured good-will to himself from the city, and hatred to the tyrant. Marion had indeed obtained that tyrannical power of Cassius, who set tyrants over all Syria 16 and out of hatred to Herod it was that he assisted Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, and principally on Fabius's account, whom Antigonus had made his assistant by money, and had him accordingly on his side when he made his descent; but it was Ptolemy, the kinsman of Antigonus, that supplied all that he wanted.

     3. When Herod had fought against these in the avenues of Judea, he was conqueror in the battle, and drove away Antigonus, and returned to Jerusalem, beloved by every body for the glorious action he had done; for those who did not before favor him did join themselves to him now, because of his marriage into the family of Hyrcanus; for as he had formerly married a wife out of his own country of no ignoble blood, who was called Doris, of whom he begat Antipater; so did he now marry Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, and the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, and was become thereby a relation of the king.

     4. But when Caesar and Antony had slain Cassius near Philippi, and Caesar was gone to Italy, and Antony to Asia, amongst the rest of the cities which sent ambassadors to Antony unto Bithynia, the great men of the Jews came also, and accused Phasaelus and Herod, that they kept the government by force, and that Hyrcanus had no more than an honorable name. Herod appeared ready to answer this accusation; and having made Antony his friend by the large sums of money which he gave him, he brought him to such a temper as not to hear the others speak against him; and thus did they part at this time.

     5. However, after this, there came a hundred of the principal men among the Jews to Daphne by Antioch to Antony, who was already in love with Cleopatra to the degree of slavery; these Jews put those men that were the most potent, both in dignity and eloquence, foremost, and accused the brethren. 17 But Messala opposed them, and defended the brethren, and that while Hyrcanus stood by him, on account of his relation to them. When Antony had heard both sides, he asked Hyrcanus which party was the fittest to govern, who replied that Herod and his party were the fittest. Antony was glad of that answer, for he had been formerly treated in an hospitable and obliging manner by his father Antipater, when he marched into Judea with Gabinius; so he constituted the brethren tetrarchs, and committed to them the government of Judea.

     6. But when the ambassadors had indignation at this procedure, Antony took fifteen of them, and put them into custody, whom he was also going to kill presently, and the rest he drove away with disgrace; on which occasion a still greater tumult arose at Jerusalem; so they sent again a thousand ambassadors to Tyre, where Antony now abode, as he was marching to Jerusalem; upon these men who made a clamor he sent out the governor of Tyre, and ordered him to punish all that he could catch of them, and to settle those in the administration whom he had made tetrarchs.

     7. But before this, Herod and Hyrcanus went out upon the sea-shore, and earnestly desired of these ambassadors that they would neither bring ruin upon themselves, nor war upon their native country, by their rash contentions; and when they grew still more outrageous, Antony sent out armed men, and slew a great many, and wounded more of them; of whom those that were slain were buried by Hyrcanus, as were the wounded put under the care of physicians by him; yet would not those that had escaped be quiet still, but put the affairs of the city into such disorder, and so provoked Antony, that he slew those whom he had in bonds also.

          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 18:14-15
     by D.H. Stern

14     A person’s spirit can sustain him when ill,
but a crushed spirit—who can bear it?

15     The mind of a person with discernment gets knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The secret of the Lord

     The secret (friendship R.V.) of the Lord is with them that fear Him. --- Psalm 25:14.

     What is the sign of a friend? That he tells you secret sorrows? No, that he tells you secret joys. Many will confide to you their secret sorrows, but the last mark of intimacy is to confide secret joys. Have we ever let God tell us any of His joys, or are we telling God our secrets so continually that we leave no room for Him to talk to us? At the beginning of our Christian life we are full of requests to God, then we find that God wants to get us into relationship with Himself, to get us in touch with His purposes. Are we so wedded to Jesus Christ’s idea of prayer—“Thy will be done”—that we catch the secrets of God? The things that make God dear to us are not so much His great big blessings as the tiny things, because they show His amazing intimacy with us; He knows every detail of our individual lives.

     “… him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose.” At first we want the consciousness of being guided by God, then as we go on we live so much in the consciousness of God that we do not need to ask what His will is, because the thought of choosing any other will never occur to us. If we are saved and sanctified God guides us by our ordinary choices, and if we are going to choose what He does not want, He will check, and we must heed. Whenever there is doubt, stop at once. Never reason it out and say—‘I wonder why I shouldn’t?’ God instructs us in what we choose, that is, He guides our common sense, and we no longer hinder His Spirit by continually saying—‘Now, Lord, what is Thy will?’


My Utmost for His Highest

Dic Aberdaron
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               Dic Aberdaron

Telling us so much
   it so much the more
   withholds. Who was he?
   The clothes a labourer's

   clothes: coarse trousers, torn
   jacket, a mole-skin
   cap. But that volume
   under the arm—-a

   hedge-poet, a scholar
   by rushlight? We look
   closer: no soil in
   that eye, but light

   generated by a
   mind charging self
   at its own sources.
   Radiant soul, shrugging

   the type's ignorance
   off, he hastens towards
   us, to the future
   we inhabit and must

   welcome him to, but
   nervously, all too
   aware of the discrepancy
   with his expectations.


Welsh Airs

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Niddah 61b

     D’RASH

     The words of Rav Yosef and Rabbi Elazar, cynical as they may sound, are nonetheless a good reminder not to let the amazing go unnoticed. How many wondrous things have we let slip by? How many events have we only later said, "Wow, that was a miracle!"? Yet, the exposition can also be seen as a more general reminder not to overlook the extraordinary and the positive in events as they are happening. Undoubtedly, each of us has been guilty of this at one time or another.

     Imagine that we are driving down the street, trying to get somewhere in a hurry. We are running late, and then we get stuck at a corner while a man, slowly and meticulously, crosses the street. Our first reaction may be, "Why me? Why now? Why couldn't this slow-poke choose to cross somewhere else? I'm going to be late because he's taking forever!" Just as we are about to lose our cool, we see that this man is blind, and we begin to reevaluate the situation. Thank God, we have our eyesight. We are capable of driving here and there, even rushing around, even if we are a bit late at times. The situation really isn't as bad as we assumed it was a few minutes ago. In fact, on second thought, we are extraordinarily lucky just having the ability to see. In perspective, being late turns out to be a minor inconvenience.

     Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman, in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life , asserts that people who are optimistic, who see the best in every situation, are ultimately more successful. Seligman proposes that we look at every situation critically, thinking of alternative ways of interpreting events. Does it have to be as negative as we initially thought? Is there only the one way of looking at it? Finding the optimistic and optimal way of construing situations is, according to Seligman, in our own best interest, leading to greater happiness and a fuller, richer life.

     Centuries ago, Rav Yosef and Rabbi Elazar were trying to get us to look optimistically at the world and be thankful for what we have. They knew how difficult it is for us to appreciate the miracles around us. Their words remind us to acknowledge the many positives in life. We are required, by Jewish tradition, to thank God three times every day for "Your miracles which daily attend us." We begin to realize that our lives are really quite amazing and that we have a great deal for which to be thankful. We understand that the splitting of the sea was a monumental miracle long ago; however, there are miracles all around us every single day—the birth of a baby, the constant beating of our hearts, the daily renewal of nature, and even the ability to awaken and experience all of these. For some of us, this may be an acquired skill. For all of us, this appreciation makes life so much richer.

     Mitzvot will be annulled in the World-to-Come.

     Text / The Rabbis taught: "A garment in which kilayim was lost should not be sold to an idolater or made into a saddlecloth, but it can be made into a shroud for the dead." Rav Yosef said: "This proves that mitzvot will be annulled in the World-to-Come." Abaye (and some say Rav Dimi) said to him: "Didn't Rabbi Manni say in the name of Rabbi Yannai: 'This [that we can use kilayim] was taught only to lament him, but to bury him, it is prohibited'?!" He [Rav Yosef] said: "But wasn't it taught that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: 'Even to bury him'? And Rabbi Yoḥanan is consistent, for Rabbi Yoḥanan said: 'What does it mean when it is written: "free among the dead" [Psalms 88:6, author's translation]? As soon as he dies, a man becomes free from the mitzvot.' "

     Context / You shall observe My laws.You shall not let your cattle mate with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; you shall not put on cloth from a mixture [kilayim] of two kinds of material.
--- Leviticus 19:19

     You shall not wear cloth combining wool and linen.
--- Deuteronomy 22:11

     I am numbered with those who go down to the Pit;
     I am a helpless man abandoned among the dead,
     like bodies lying in the grave of whom You are mindful no more,
     and who are cut off from Your care.
     --- Psalms 88:5–6      The Torah specifically prohibits certain mixtures called kilayim—different types of animals while plowing, different types of seeds while sowing a field, and wool and linen in cloth (called sha'atnez in Deuteronomy). This Gemara discusses the case of a garment that may have become prohibited by having both wool and linen in it. This piece of cloth is only possibly kilayim, since a thread of wool may have been woven into a linen garment—"lost"—or a thread of linen in a woolen garment. The thread cannot be found and removed from the cloth. The opening of this Gemara deals with the case of such a piece of cloth.

     The Rabbis taught that it should not be sold to a non-Jew who, while not subject to the laws of kilayim, might nonetheless inadvertently sell that cloth back to a Jew. Neither should the cloth be made into a garment which, while not worn, will still be sat upon (a "saddle-cloth") and used by a Jew. However, the Rabbis teach it may be made into a shroud. From this, Rav Yosef deduces that the mitzvot are no longer incumbent on those who have died; its use as a shroud proves that the dead no longer have to observe the mitzvah of kilayim and, hence, all the mitzvot. However, Abaye (or Rav Dimi) argues that there is a tradition that teaches us that we can use kilayim only during the mourning process, but for the burial, we are prohibited from using this cloth. Rav Yosef answers this objection with another tradition from Rabbi Yoḥanan: He taught that this cloth with kilayim is allowed even to bury a person in. Rabbi Yoḥanan finds proof in a verse from Psalm 88. The psalmist uses the expression ḥofshi which can be translated as either "free/released" or "abandoned" ["among the dead"]. Rabbi Yoḥanan understands the verse to mean that the person among the dead is "freed" from the worries and responsibilities of this world, specifically the mitzvot.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

1 Chronicles 4:1
     Spirit Filled Life Study Bible

     1 Chronicles 4:1 has recorded descendants from Adam to Jacob's sons (1:1-2:2). The tribe of Judah is emphasized because they were the line of David (2:3-3:24). Now, in the third main section of the family trees in 1 Chr. 1-9, the chronicler records some of the ancestry of the other tribes of Israel. In keeping with its emphasis on the southern kingdom and David, 1 Chr. considers the tribe of Judah first (4:1-23), though Judah was the fourth son of Jacob. In its accounting of the ancestry of the tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Dan are not specifically mentioned. However, the genealogies of the two tribes arising through Joseph—Manasseh and Ephraim—are mentioned (5:23-26; 7:14-29). The tribe of Benjamin is mentioned twice (7:6-12; 8:1-40) to show its significance as the line of King Saul. But the tribe that is given special attention in this section is Levi. More space is given to discussing the Levites than to any other tribe (6:1-81) because 1 Chr. repeatedly accents the temple and worship. The life and times of all these people can be found in Gen. 29-2 Kin. 25, and the Levites are given special attention in the Book of Leviticus.

New Spirit-Filled Life Bible:
Kingdom Equipping
Through the Power of the Word (Bible Nkjv)

1 Chron. 5:11–17
     Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch

     The families of the tribe of Gad, and their dwelling-places.—V. 11. In connection with the preceding statement as to the dwelling-places of the Reubenites, the enumeration of the families of Gad begins with a statement as to their dwelling-places: "Over against them (the Reubenites) dwelt the Gadites in Bashan unto Salcah." Bashan is used here in its wider signification of the dominion of King Og, which embraced the northern half of Gilead, i.e., the part of that district which lay on the north side of the Jabbok, and the whole district of Bashan; cf. on Deut. 3:10. Salcah formed the boundary towards the east, and is now Szalchad, about six hours eastward from Bosra (see on Deut. 3:10).


Commentary on the Old Testament

Chronicles, a historical review
     The Teacher's Commentary

     Sin's outcome in judgment. As the race multiplied and spread across the earth, the expressions of sin we read of in Genesis 4 and 5 multiplied too. Then, when "every inclination of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5), God acted to bring the judgment of the Flood on the human race (Gen. 6–9). Represented in the genealogies by Noah, this cataclysm communicated the fact that sin not only twists human experience, but also incurs guilt. And guilt forces a holy God to judge.

     One family, Noah's, was borne over the waters and planted in a renewed world. Mankind was given a fresh start by a man who had enough faith in God to obey His instructions to build a boat.

     History repeats itself. The next names in the genealogy, and Genesis 10 and 11, pick up the history of the race after the Flood. Again man disobeyed God. Rather than scattering to accept God-given dominion over creation (see 1:28), the postdiluvian people attempted to build a society without the Lord. So God scattered them Himself, confusing their language.

     It was probably at the end of this period, around the time of Abraham, that Job lived. A godly man in an unnamed culture, Job illustrates early faith in God, and the loss of knowledge of God which came as the generations passed. God still cares for and deals with individuals, but sin has twisted the course of the race into unfruitful paths.

     Abraham's call. Then comes a great name in the genealogical hall. With the introduction of Abram in Genesis 12, history took a new direction. God spoke to this pagan from Ur, and Abram responded. To Abram God gave a series of great promises, in a covenant explained in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. God announced the course of history ahead of time, as well as the purpose He would fulfill as history moves toward its intended culmination.

     God announced that He would no longer work with man as a whole, but would work for all mankind through Abraham and his descendants. To these descendants God promised a specific land, Palestine. He also promised great blessings, and a special relationship with Him. God also promised that through this people would come One in whom the whole human race would be blessed.

     From that time on, Abraham, his children, and his grandchildren began to view themselves as God's chosen people. God's purposes in history are to be worked out through them. These people are the key to understanding the past and the future; to understanding what has been, and what must surely be.

     Captivity in Egypt. As the focus in the genealogies shifts to the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, so the geographical location also shifts.

     After three generations Abraham's descendants moved from Palestine, the land of covenant promise, to Egypt. There the people of Israel, named now for Abraham's grandson, waited for the next step in God's plan to unfold.

     At first the Israelites were guests in Egypt. Then a series of political changes transformed their status, and they became slaves. As slaves, God's people suffered under harsh taskmasters. Because they multiplied so quickly, the Egyptians even initiated a policy of killing their male children when they were born.

     Israel remembered the old stories of the God who spoke to their forefathers and who made great promises. But under the harsh reality of their immediate circumstances, the past they recalled and the future they dreamed of must have seemed tragically unreal.

     Over generations of slavery, the people of Israel were humbled and crushed. They discovered through their suffering that there was no inherent strength in themselves that could win them freedom. Release could only come through the intervention of God.

     Deliverance. God did intervene. Exodus tells us how God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh, Egypt's ruler. God's first demands that Pharaoh let His people go were refused. This brought a series of terrible judgments on the Egyptian people. Finally God struck down the oldest son in each Egyptian family. In terror, the Egyptians thrust Israel out of their country.

     The redemption of Israel from Egypt by God's direct and personal intervention is a symbol of all redemption. What man cannot do to free himself from sin's slavery, God can do.

     The redemption from Egypt also reaffirmed to Israel the faithfulness of God. God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and acted to keep His promises.

     In order that Israel might always remember their need for God's intervention, the Passover feast was instituted. This annual time of remembering deliverance was designed to remind Israel that God is the source of their freedom.

     In a series of continuing miracles, including the opening of the Red Sea for Israel and its closing to destroy a pursuing Egyptian army, God demonstrated His firm intention to free His people forever from the slavery under which they had suffered.

     The Law. The name of Moses is forever linked with Law. Israel's redemption from Egypt freed God's people from external tyranny. But events soon demonstrated that this people was in bondage to an inner tyranny that was even more destructive. Sin sinks its roots deep into the personalities of even redeemed men and women. Once out of Egypt, God's people murmured and complained. They forgot His commitment to them, and they began to doubt and resist Moses at every turn.

     God guided His people to Sinai. There God gave Israel a Law to set standards that revealed the Lord's own character, and showed them the way He expected His people to live. As told in Exodus 19—24, at Sinai God gave His people the Mosaic Law. This Law not only established moral standards, but also defined the distinctive lifestyle which God was to hold His people to, both for their benefit and as a testimony.

     But, again, the Law provided an external standard. It did not change Israel within. The continuing story of the redeemed generation shows their inability to trust God, and the subsequent disobedience. Commanded to enter the Promised Land, Israel refused. The people were condemned to 38 years of wandering in the wilderness, until the generation that had known God's deliverance from Egypt died. Because of unbelief they were unable to enter into the promised rest.

     The new generation. The men and women who had seen God's mighty acts in Egypt, but had refused to trust Him, died. Their children now stood poised on the edge of the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy, we hear Moses restate the Law and sketch again the lifestyle of trust to which God called His people. In Joshua we see the new generation respond to God and follow their new leader to victory.

     The Promised Land was taken in a series of swift military moves, with God making His presence known on the side of His people at Jericho and in other actions.

     With opposition of the people of the land rendered ineffective, the people of God settled into their promised rest.

     Sin reappears again. Even though Israel moved into an ideal environment, in a social system designed by God to bless His people, the ancient specter of sin again appeared. The generations that followed drifted away from God and were marked by growing disobedience. Over the decades, the lifestyle of Israel deteriorated. God judged sin with the removal of His protection, and Israel's enemies gained ascendancy over the 12 tribes. Yet, when Israel turned to God, He sent deliverers or "judges" to free the people from their enemies and lead them back to His ways.

     The more than 330 years that the Judges ruled were days of repeated ups and downs for Israel. But the trend of history was downward. The days of the Judges were dark days, days during which sin's dreadful dominion was demonstrated even under the divinely ordained system of government, the theocracy, which was potentially the best man has ever known.

     The kingdom. Finally Israel demanded a new system of government. Israel's first king, Saul, demonstrated once again that the root of the sin problem is in man, not in society. But then God gave Israel a godly king, David. David led Israel to a foreshadowing of that glory which God told His people to expect.

     It is here that the 1 Chronicles' genealogies end. "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the Word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Chron. 10:13–14).


The Teacher's Commentary

Surprising Texts
     from the Late Second Temple Period
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Numbers

     Scholars were generally slow in digesting and accepting that new evidence from 4QpaleoExodm, but the most extensively preserved scroll of the book of Numbers provided confirmatory evidence with a profile similar to that of the Exodus scroll. 4QNumb, written in the Jewish script and dating from the latter half of the first century B.C.E., also exhibits agreement with the additions in the SP beyond the traditional text as in the MT and LXX. But like 4QpaleoExodm, it does not have the specifically Samaritan readings. It thus confirms the pattern seen in Exodus, that Palestinian Judaism knew at least two editions of the book of Numbers, and that the Samaritans used the secondary, already expanded Jewish tradition exemplified in 4QNumb. Again, both editions of Numbers were apparently in use by Jews in the late Second Temple period.

     Joshua

     The oldest manuscript of Joshua also provided a surprise, but in a different direction. 4QJosha, from the latter half of the second or the first half of the first century B.C.E., presented a sequence of important episodes that was strikingly at variance with the order of events in the traditional MT. In the scroll, Joshua evidently builds the first altar in the newly entered land at Gilgal, immediately after he has traversed the River Jordan and led all the people safely across. That is, the episode occurs at the end of chapter 4, thus prior to the circumcision and then the ensuing conquest. The scroll’s sequence seems natural and logical, and one might expect that the sanctification of the land—by the building of the first altar, the recitation of the Torah, and the rite of circumcision—would be the inaugural episode of the occupation of the promised land. In contrast, the MT locates the building of the first altar at the end of chapter 8, placing it on Mt. Ebal, which causes numerous problems. Commentators have had to struggle with that odd location, for it requires a march of twenty miles from Ai up to Ebal, the construction of the altar, then a return march south, back to Gilgal. Meanwhile, Joshua would have left that important altar abandoned in enemy territory, and, whereas Gilgal remained an important shrine (1 Sam. 11:14–15; 2 Kings 2:1), Mt. Ebal is otherwise insignificant. The problem is worsened since Josh. 9:1 logically and syntactically follows 8:29, not 8:35, suggesting that the insertion of vv. 30–35 at the end of chapter 8 is secondary. Moreover, the LXX presents yet a slightly different order, though it is in basic agreement with the MT regarding the location of the altar. But perhaps the strongest confirmation of the sequence in 4QJosha is provided by Josephus, who also places the altar at Gilgal (Ant.5.20) and who must have used as his source a biblical text that agreed with the Qumran scroll. He even adds further support (Ant. 5.45–57) insofar as he does not narrate a building of the altar where the MT places it, between the conquest of Ai (8:1–29) and the Gibeonites’ ruse (Joshua 9). An additional piece of the puzzle is provided by the SP, which reads “Mount Gerizim,” in agreement with the Old Latin, which reads “Garzin,” at Deut. 27:4, the command that is the basis for this episode in Joshua. Thus 4QJosha evidently provides a more original form of the narrative. The placement of that first altar in the land has serious consequences, of course, and the most plausible reading of the textual evidence is that 4QJosha has the earliest sequence and that a northern faction (Samarians or Samaritans) secondarily rearranged the location of the altar at their sacred shrine on Mt. Gerizim. At a third stage, in counterreaction, southerners (Judeans or rabbis), due to religious polemics, simply changed the name of the mountain from Gerizim to Ebal, despite the anomaly created.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 3

     “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
--- John 1:42. NKJV

     When the disciples found that miraculous draught of fishes enclosed in their nets, it was only on Peter’s soul that there flashed a new sense of the holiness and majesty of Christ, and of the whole apostolic company he was the only one to fall at Christ’s feet and cry, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Classic RS Thomas on the Apostle Peter (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) When after those hard sayings in Capernaum the crowds were deserting Jesus Christ, he turned to his disciples with the pathetic, heartbreaking question, “Do you also want to go away?” (NKJV). It was to Peter’s generous and loving soul that there came the great and immortal answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And when again, in Ceasarea, Christ made that wistful inquiry, “Who do you say I am?” it was the inspired Peter who made that high reply, “The Christ of God.”

     Yes, when I read of the incident on the lake and the answer in Capernaum and the confession in Caesarea, I do not wonder that the first place among the Twelve was given to a man of such insight and vision and rapture as this.

     But there are other passages in the Gospels that, when I read, I marvel that Peter was among the Twelve at all. When I come across those passages in which Peter begins to boast, when I read of his presuming to correct and rebuke the Christ, when I read about his sleeping in the garden, when I read of that terrible and shameful episode in the judgment hall, I marvel that instead of coming down to us as the prince and chief of the apostles, Peter, the denier and the blasphemer, did not make his bed with Judas the betrayer in the lowest hell.

     Is it possible, you say, for one to see the glory of the Lord on the mount and then to forsake him in the garden? Is it possible for one to confess Christ in Caesarea and then forswear him in the judgment hall? Yes, it is quite possible. Gaze steadily and bravely into that awful abyss, your own heart, and you will know it is quite possible. For in your own heart you will see both heaven and hell, aspirations and desires born of God and hideous lusts of foulnesses that issue from the pit. Yes, I will be very bold to say we can parallel Peter’s history by our own. Heaven and hell contended for the mastery in Peter’s heart long ago; heaven and hell are contending for the mastery in our divided and distracted souls today.
---J. D. Jones


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

On This Day
     Curse Ye Woodchuck  June 3

     If you often have trouble sleeping, try reading Psalms 3 and 4.

     David, running for his life and surrounded by Absalom’s rebellious army, wrote in Psalm 3:5, “I sleep and wake up refreshed because you, LORD, protect me.” Psalm 4:8 indicates the promises of God make good pillows for those who rest in him: “I can lie down and sleep soundly, because you, LORD, will keep me safe.”

     But not during the preacher’s RS Thomas.

     At least, not in early American church history.

     The Puritans of colonial New England appointed “tithingmen” to stroll among the pews on Sunday Mornings, alert for anyone nodding off during the long, sometimes ponderous RS Thomas. They carried long poles with feathers on one end and knobs or thorns on the other. Worshipers napped at their own peril, and the results were unpredictable—as noted by Obadiah Turner of Lynn, Massachusetts, in his journal for June 3, 1646:

     Allen Bridges hath bin chose to wake ye sleepers in meeting. And being much proude of his place, must needs have a fox taile fixed to ye ende of a long staff wherewith he may brush ye faces of them yt will have napps in time of discourse, likewise a sharpe thorne whereby he may pricke such as be most sound. On ye last Lord his day, as hee strutted about ye meetinghouse, he did spy Mr. Tomlins sleeping with much comfort, hys head kept steadie by being in ye corner, and his hand grasping ye rail. And soe spying, Allen did quickly thrust his staff behind Dame Ballard and give him a grievous prick upon ye hand. Whereupon Mr. Tomlins did spring vpp mch above ye floore, and with terrible force strike hys hand against ye wall; and also, to ye great wonder of all, prophanlie exclaim in a loud voice, curse ye wood-chuck, he dreaming so it seemed yt a wood-chuck had seized and bit his hand. But on coming to know where he was, and ye greate scandall he had committed, he seemed much abashed, but did not speak. And I think he will not soon again goe to sleepe in meeting.

     There are some who ask, “Who will be good to us?” Let your kindness, LORD, shine brightly on us. You brought me more happiness Than a rich harvest of grain and grapes. I can lie down and sleep soundly Because you, LORD, will keep me safe.
--- Psalm 4:6-8.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 3

     “These were potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work.” --- 1 Chronicles 4:23.

     Potters were not the very highest grade of workers, but “the king” needed potters, and therefore they were in royal service, although the material upon which they worked was nothing but clay. We, too, may be engaged in the most menial part of the Lord’s work, but it is a great privilege to do anything for “the king”; and therefore we will abide in our calling, hoping that, “although we have lien among the pots, yet shall we be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” The text tells us of those who dwelt among plants and hedges, having rough, rustic, hedging and ditching work to do. They may have desired to live in the city, amid its life, society, and refinement, but they kept their appointed places, for they also were doing the king’s work. The place of our habitation is fixed, and we are not to remove from it out of whim and caprice, but seek to serve the Lord in it, by being a blessing to those among whom we reside. These potters and gardeners had royal company, for they dwelt “with the king” and although among hedges and plants, they dwelt with the king there. No lawful place, or gracious occupation, however mean, can debar us from communion with our divine Lord. In visiting hovels, swarming lodging-houses, workhouses, or jails, we may go with the king. In all works of faith we may count upon Jesus’ fellowship. It is when we are in his work that we may reckon upon his smile. Ye unknown workers who are occupied for your Lord amid the dirt and wretchedness of the lowest of the low, be of good cheer, for jewels have been found upon dunghills ere now, earthen pots have been filled with heavenly treasure, and ill weeds have been transformed into precious flowers. Dwell ye with the King for his work, and when he writes his chronicles your name shall be recorded.


          Evening - June 3

     “He humbled himself.” --- Philippians 2:8.

     Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. We need daily to learn of him. See the Master taking a towel and washing his disciples’ feet! Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself? See him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud! Is not this sentence the compendium of his biography, “He humbled himself”? Was he not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honour and then another, till, naked, he was fastened to the cross, and there did he not empty out his inmost self, pouring out his life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid him penniless in a borrowed grave? How low was our dear Redeemer brought! How then can we be proud? Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark his scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and his whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in his outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it: if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know him. You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God’s only begotten. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at his feet. A sense of Christ’s amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt. May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him. Pride cannot live beneath the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 3

          AMAZING GRACE

     John Newton, 1725–1807 (verses 1-4), John P. Rees, 1828–1900 (verse 5)

     And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times … you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

     Calling himself a “wretch” who was lost and blind, John Newton recalled leaving school at the age of 11 to begin life as a rough, debauched seaman. Eventually he engaged in the despicable practice of capturing natives from West Africa to be sold as slaves to markets around the world. But one day the grace of God put fear into the heart of this wicked slave trader through a fierce storm. Greatly alarmed and fearful of a shipwreck, Newton began to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. God used this book to lead him to a genuine conversion and a dramatic change in his way of life.

     Feeling a definite call to study for the ministry, Newton was encouraged and greatly influenced by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. At the age of 39, John Newton became an ordained minister of the Anglican church at the little village of Olney, near Cambridge, England. To add further impact to his powerful preaching, Newton introduced simple heart-felt hymns rather than the usual Psalms in his services. When enough hymns could not be found, Newton began to write his own, often assisted by his close friend William Cowper. In 1779 their combined efforts produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal. “Amazing Grace” was from that collection.

     Until the time of his death at the age of 82, John Newton never ceased to marvel at the grace of God that transformed him so completely. Shortly before his death he is quoted as proclaiming with a loud voice during a message, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!” What amazing grace!

     Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

     ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!

     Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

     The Lord has promised good to me; His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.

     When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.


     For Today: 1 Chronicles 17:16, 17; John 1:16, 17; Romans 5:20, 21.

     Ponder anew the magnitude of God’s grace. Sing this musical truth ---

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. XLIV. — UPON the authority of Erasmus, then, “Free-will,” is a power of the human will, which can, of itself, will and not will to embrace the word and work of God, by which it is to be led to those things which are beyond its capacity and comprehension. If then, it can will and not will, it can also love and hate. And if it can love and hate, it can, to a certain degree, do the Law and believe the Gospel. For it is impossible, if you can will and not will, that you should not be able by that will to begin some kind of work, even though, from the hindering of another, you should not be able to perfect it. And therefore, as among the works of God which lead to salvation, death, the cross, and all the evils of the world are numbered, human will can will its own death and perdition. Nay, it can will all things while it can will the embracing of the word and work of God. For what is there that can be any where beneath, above, within, and without the word and work of God, but God Himself? And what is there here left to grace and the Holy Spirit? This is plainly to ascribe divinity to “Free-will.” For to will to embrace the Law and the Gospel, not to will sin, and to will death, belongs to the power of God alone: as Paul testifies in more places than one.

     Wherefore, no one, since the Pelagians, has written more rightly concerning “Free-will” than Erasmus. For I have said above, that “Free-will” is a divine term, and signifies a divine power. But no one hitherto, except the Pelagians, has ever assigned to it that power. Hence, Erasmus by far outstrips the Pelagians themselves: for they assign that divinity to the whole of “Free-will,” but Erasmus to the half of it only. They divide “Free-will” into two parts; the power of discerning, and the power of choosing; assigning the one to reason, and the other to will; and the Sophists do the same. But Erasmus, setting aside the power of discerning, exalts the power of choosing alone, and thus makes a lame, half-membered “Free-will,” God himself! What must we suppose then he would have done, had he set about describing the whole of “Free-will.”

     But, not contented with this, he outstrips even the philosophers. For it has never yet been settled among them, whether or not any thing can give motion to itself; and upon this point, the Platonics and Peripatetics are divided in the whole body of philosophy. But according to Erasmus, “Freewill” not only of its own power gives motion to itself, but ‘applies itself’ to those things which are eternal; that is, which are incomprehensible to itself! A new and unheard-of definer of “Freewill,” truly, who leaves the philosophers, the Pelagians, the Sophists, and all the rest of them, far behind him! Nor is this all. He does not even spare himself, but dissents from, and militates against himself, more than against all the rest together. For he had said before, that ‘the human will is utterly ineffective without grace:’ (unless perhaps this was said only in joke!) but here, where he gives a serious definition, he says, that ‘the human will has that power by which it can effectively apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation;’ that is, which are incomparably beyond that power. So that, in this part, Erasmus outstrips even himself!


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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