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Deuteronomy 9     Psalm 92-93     Isaiah 37     Revelation 7


Deuteronomy 9

Not Because of Righteousness

Deuteronomy 9:1 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.

4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’

The Golden Calf

13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ 15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. 17 So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. 18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. 20 And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21 Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.

22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23 And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God and did not believe him or obey his voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.

25 “So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 And I prayed to the LORD, ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, 28 lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” 29 For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’


Psalm 92

How Great Are Your Works

Psalm 92 A Psalm. A Song For The Sabbath.

1  It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2  to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3  to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4  For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

5  How great are your works, O LORD!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6  The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7  that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8  but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
9  For behold, your enemies, O LORD,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.

10  But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11  My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

12  The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13  They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14  They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15  to declare that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.


Psalm 93

The LORD Reigns

Psalm 93 

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2  Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

3  The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4  Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!

5  Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, forevermore.


Isaiah 37

Hezekiah Seeks Isaiah’s Help

Isaiah 37:1 As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD. 2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. 3 They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’ ”

5 When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’ ”

8 The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9 Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “He has set out to fight against you.” And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10 “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’ ”

Hezekiah’s Prayer for Deliverance

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

Sennacherib’s Fall

21 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning him:

“ ‘She despises you, she scorns you—
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
the daughter of Jerusalem.

23  “ ‘Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
24  By your servants you have mocked the Lord,
and you have said, With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon,
to cut down its tallest cedars,
its choicest cypresses,
to come to its remotest height,
its most fruitful forest.
25  I dug wells
and drank waters,
to dry up with the sole of my foot
all the streams of Egypt.

26  “ ‘Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
crash into heaps of ruins,
27  while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blighted before it is grown.

28  “ ‘I know your sitting down
and your going out and coming in,
and your raging against me.
29  Because you have raged against me
and your complacency has come to my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
by which you came.’

30 “And this shall be the sign for you: this year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that. Then in the third year sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.


Revelation 7

The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

Revelation 7 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

5  12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
6  12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
7  12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
8  12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

A Great Multitude from Every Nation

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15  “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”



The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Greatest Treasure

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2008

     C.S. Lewis, in his essay “On the Reading of Old Books,” which is found in the collection of essays, God in the Dock, argues that we are all by nature time bound. This frailty will, of necessity, give us a parochial view of the world. We tend to confuse our current circumstances with what is “normal,” that is, we think the experiences of our lives are perfectly capable judges of ultimate reality. We therefore come to reading new books with the same prejudices and unexamined presuppositions as the author, and so have difficulty stepping outside ourselves. When we read older books, on the other hand, we run into the prejudices and presuppositions of another age, revealing not only them, but our own as well. Stepping out of our time in our reading, he argues, helps us step out of our unspoken and likely unhealthy assumptions.

     Our parochialism, however, is not merely along the axis of time. We have a narrow view of things geographically as well. We can, in a sense, travel to other times through reading old books. To get to other places, literal travel will often do the trick. Of course, even here we are still more comfortable the closer to home that we are. Reading a one hundred-year-old book will not challenge us the same way a one thousand-year-old book will. Taking a trip to England won’t upset our equilibrium as much as say, a trip to Burma — which is where I was several months ago.

     Burma, now called Myanmar, is a third-world country in southeast Asia, nestled between India to its west and Thailand to its east. Eighty percent of the population is Buddhist, and the nation has been ruled by a military dictatorship for over thirty years. It is brutally poor. Last fall the government cut down hundreds of demonstrators who only wanted a touch of reform. It is a long way from the land of the free and the home of the brave.

     I went there, however, to meet with and teach a group of faithful, local Christian leaders. As we made our way from the airport to the rundown motel where we stayed, I couldn’t help but think of what a difference it would make were these good people to be given some liberty. If only, I wondered, God would bless these people the way He once blessed our country, who knows what wonders they might do?

     As time went on and I got to know my hosts and witness their ministry at work in that tragic land, my perspective changed. While freedom is a good thing and a blessing, what they have is far more valuable. These are men and women who are content in God’s grace. These are men and women whom we would see as the man robbed and left for dead along the road, but who see themselves as the Samaritan. We pity them, but they serve those who are truly in need. These are men and women whose love for each other constructs an alternate nation, a holy nation. In the midst of their poverty, they are a royal priesthood. While we might be able to export Western style democracy, they are sitting on a surplus of biblical fidelity, mutual love, and true Christ-honoring freedom that we so desperately need on our shores. We don’t need to go over there and rescue them. We need them to come and rescue us.

     Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are wonderful things, blessings from the hand of God Himself. That said, Jesus tells us that if we would gain our lives, we must first die. Jesus tells us that it is His truth, not this political party or that, not this tax burden or that, that would set us free. Jesus tells us that we ought not to be pursuing happiness, but that instead we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus tells us what His priorities are, what His standards are. He tells us how we are to live as citizens of the kingdom we are pursuing. His economy, the way He has ordered the world, is right side up. Our way of looking at things is both upside down and backwards.

     It is backward to believe that we must secure a social order wherein we enjoy the blessings of liberty so that we can then grow in grace. It is an evil wagging of the dog, on the other hand, to pursue Christ so that we might enjoy greater political liberty. Instead, we must pursue Jesus. If we would be free from intrusive government, we must first be set free from our appetites, our idolatries, our desires for the things the pagans chase after. But if we pursue Jesus and find Him, just as my friends have in Burma, then even the yoke of political oppression is easy, the burden of grinding poverty is light. If we have the pearl of great price, hidden where neither rust, nor moth, nor thieves, nor bureaucrats can get at it, then we will no longer pursue happiness. We will have found it.

     Jesus did not demand His rights, but gave them up. He now rules over all men. And he calls us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

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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

Integrity in Vocation

By Greg Miseyko 9/1/2008

     Mr. Reagan is “a firm and unbending politician for whom words and deeds are one and the same.” This assessment found in East German secret police files provides future generations with a lasting example of integrity. These files must have reached the attention of Iranian leaders who released fifty-two American hostages held for fourteen months — on the very day Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981. His reputation for integrity meant all parties could anticipate a swift and sure response from a man of principle. Those files, recovered after the ransacking of the Stassi headquarters in Berlin, now hang prominently in the Reagan Library.

     The word integrity means wholeness, completeness, or consistency. Derivatives of the word penetrate the vocabulary of many professions. In mathematics, we call whole numbers “integers,” and calculus uses integral equations. School integration meant we bused school children across towns seeking racial consistency. Engineers design structural integrity into our buildings, bridges, and airplanes, or their lack of integrity creates catastrophe in the news. Most recently, the lack of financial integrity in certain types of insurance and investments has brought turmoil where we expect soundness. In Scripture, when God appeared to Isaiah in chapter 6, Isaiah realized his own lack of integrity by confessing that he was undone, or in other words, he disintegrated.

     In the vocational realm, to whatever line of work or responsibility God has called you, nothing matters more than maintaining integrity. Through the years, I’ve noticed how successful people must excel in three respects: They must develop compelling competence, they must produce a high volume or reach a large scale, and they must operate with integrity. If they lack competence, we call their work mediocre. If they don’t reach a large scale, we can still respect their quality, and may prize their work for its scarcity, though they won’t earn much. But if someone’s work lacks integrity, no matter how large or profitable they become, they bring dishonor upon themselves and their profession. To paraphrase Jesus, what does it profit a man if he (sells to) the whole world, but loses his soul? (Mark 8:36). My advice to people in any career stage always stresses the need to begin with integrity, and only then constantly improve quality while you increase volume.

     Early in our careers, we have ample time to establish a reputation for integrity and improve our skills, knowledge, and productivity. The future holds out hope for unbridled success. We have plenty of potential, but not much to show for it yet. In time, we reach the middle and later stages of our callings, so our future opportunities narrow. Nevertheless, we have established a track record, and maybe we have accumulated some wealth. I’ve known a number of people of significant wealth, and for some of them, their material and professional success rings hollow because they forfeited their integrity to gain wealth. Every time we cut a corner, drop a detail, overcharge, or fail to admit and correct errors, we erode our integrity. These lapses accumulate quickly and sully our reputation. Most shamefully for the Christian, tarnished integrity undermines the credibility of our Christian witness and brings dishonor upon Christ and the Gospel. As the Westminster Confession 16.2 tells us, our vocational integrity should “adorn the profession of the gospel, [and] stop the mouths of the adversaries.”

     Among the vocational heroes in the Scriptures, I find the prophet Daniel and his friends most intriguing and instructive for their example of enduring integrity. As a youth, Daniel resolved not to defile himself, and God gave him favor, learning, skill, and wisdom (Dan. 1:8–9, 17), the essential elements of vocational success mentioned earlier. In his middle years, by his integrity and godliness, Daniel distinguished himself above all his peers by the excellent spirit within him and because no fault was found in him (6:3–5). Even the crafty schemes and traps laid for Daniel could not dissuade him from serving God continually (6:16, 20), and so he prospered (v. 28). Daniel’s life reminds us of Proverbs 22:29: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”

     Meaningful tests of integrity arise with adversity, hardship, and temptation, especially the temptation to avoid large business losses. People will work several times harder to avoid a financial loss than they will work to make an equivalent gain, so watch your integrity assiduously when contemplating a loss. Our ultimate example comes from Jesus Himself. Hebrews 12:3–4 asks us to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility…. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

     Whatever our vocational challenges, career stresses, or temptations to compromise for personal gain, we must remember always that finishing the course with our integrity intact will far exceed the satisfaction of any degree of material prosperity. Above all, I want to hear from the Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).

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     Greg Miseyko is a member of Ligonier Ministries’ board of directors, a ruling elder in the PCA, and manages investment portfolios for a living in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Statism

By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2008

     “A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered….” In Luke 2, the well-known passage introducing the nativity story, the title accorded to the Roman emperor is Caesar Augustus. Had this census been mandated earlier under the monarchy of Julius Caesar, the Scripture would read: “A decree went out from Julius Caesar….” Had Octavian followed the model of Julius, he would have called himself Octavianus Caesar, and then the text would read: “A decree went out from Octavianus Caesar….” But we note Octavius’ explicit change of his personal name to the title Caesar Augustus. This indicates the emerging dimension of the emperor cult in Rome, by which those who were elevated to the role of emperor were worshiped as deities. To be called “august” would mean to be clothed with supreme dignity, to which is owed the reverence given to the sacred. The elevation of the emperor in Rome to this kind of status was the ancient zenith of statism.

     About thirty years ago, I shared a taxi cab in St. Louis with Francis Schaeffer. I had known Dr. Schaeffer for many years, and he had been instrumental in helping us begin our ministry in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1971. Since our time together in St. Louis was during the twilight of Schaeffer’s career, I posed this question to him: “Dr. Schaeffer, what is your biggest concern for the future of the church in America?” Without hesitation, Dr. Schaeffer turned to me and spoke one word: “Statism.” Schaeffer’s biggest concern at that point in his life was that the citizens of the United States were beginning to invest their country with supreme authority, such that the free nation of America would become one that would be dominated by a philosophy of the supremacy of the state.

     In statism, we see the suffix “ism,” which indicates a philosophy or worldview. A decline from statehood to statism happens when the government is perceived as or claims to be the ultimate reality. This reality then replaces God as the supreme entity upon which human existence depends.

     In the nineteenth century, Hegel argued in his extensive and complex study of Western history that progress represents the unfolding in time and space of the absolute Idea (Hegel’s vague understanding of God), which would reach its apex in the creation of the Prussian state. The assumption that Hegel made in the nineteenth century was made before the advent of Hitler’s Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Chairman Mao’s communist China. These nations reached an elevation of statism never dreamed of by Hegel in his concept of the Prussian state.

     In America, we have a long history of valuing the concept of the separation of church and state. This idea historically referred to a division of labors between the church and the civil magistrate. However, initially both the church and the state were seen as entities ordained by God and subject to His governance. In that sense, the state was considered to be an entity that was “under God.” What has happened in the past few decades is the obfuscation of this original distinction between church and state, so that today the language we hear of separation of church and state, when carefully exegeted, communicates the idea of the separation of the state from God. In this sense, it’s not merely that the state declares independence from the church, it also declares independence from God and presumes itself to rule with autonomy.

     The whole idea of a nation under God has been challenged again and again, and we have seen the exponential growth of government in our land, particularly the federal government, so that the government now virtually engulfs all of life. Where education once was under the direction of local authorities, it now is controlled and directed by federal legislation. The economy that once was driven by the natural forces of the market has now come under the strict control of the federal government, which not only regulates the economy, but considers itself responsible for controlling it. Where we have seen the largest measure of the loss of liberty is with respect to the function of the church. Though the church is still somewhat tolerated in America (in a way it was not tolerated in Mao’s Red China and under Stalin), it is tolerated only when it remains outside of the public square. In other words, the church has been relegated to a status not unlike that given to the native Americans, where the tribes were allowed to continue to exist as long as they functioned safely on a reservation, outside of any significant influence on the government. So although the church has not been banished completely by the statism that has emerged in America, it has been effectively banished from the public square.

     Throughout the history of the Christian church, Christianity has always stood over against all forms of statism. Statism is the natural and ultimate enemy to Christianity because it involves a usurpation of the reign of God. If Francis Schaeffer was right — and each year that passes makes his prognosis seem all the more accurate — it means that the church and the nation face a serious crisis in our day. In the final analysis, if statism prevails in America, it will mean not only the death of our religious freedom, but also the death of the state itself. We face perilous times where Christians and all people need to be vigilant about the rapidly encroaching elevation of the state to supremacy.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Secular Canon

By Gene Edward Veith 10/1/2008

     When Christians talk about the “canon,” they are referring to the books that comprise the Bible. But non-theological scholars too are debating the “canon.” Not the canon of the Bible, but the canon of the “great books” that comprise our civilization.

     The question of what books and authors belong in our secular canon is, in fact, one of the biggest academic controversies of our day. What authors and ideas should be taught in schools? What writings should be in our anthologies and textbooks? What books should we still read and what should we allow to fall into oblivion?

     The answer to these questions will be momentous. What is our intellectual and cultural heritage? Do we have a secular canon that is worth preserving and handing down from generation to generation? Or can we change our heritage by changing the books that we pass down?

     Most people can name a number of the books that are in our current canon of great books, even though they might have never read them. Shakespeare is up there, as is Homer.

     A more systematic account would break the canon into its categories. In literature, we would have the epics of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton, along with authors like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the like. In philosophy we would have Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and on through Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and more recent thinkers. There are similar lists of canonical texts in science, economics, politics, and the various professions.

     But there is a problem with these lists, according to many people today. They consist mostly of “dead white males.”

     Why doesn’t the canon include more women? More racial minorities? Why are most of them Europeans or Americans instead of people from other cultures? This isn’t fair. The canon needs to be more inclusive.

     To make room, of course, some of the dead white males have to get dropped. The first targets are the ones who can be dismissed as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Thus, Dante, one of the greatest poets in any language, has dropped off of many reading lists because Muhammad is a denizen of his Inferno, as are homosexuals and other popular sinners.

     This approach to the canon, however, has its contradictions. Many women, for example, are in the traditional canon. The novel, in particular, has been a genre that women have mastered. Jane Austen is one of the greatest novelists. Not to mention Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë, to name just a few.

     Jane Austen, though a woman, doesn’t necessarily count, according to some postmodernists. She too reinforces the power structure because her novels lead to marriage. Though she is a woman, she shows “false consciousness” by supporting the cultural constructs that oppress women. For this, the patriarchal system rewards her by giving her a place in the canon.

     This mindset, of course, undermines, intentionally, traditional ideas and values. And yet, the effort to include women and minorities in the canon has unintended consequences. Many of those women admitted into the canon (Dame Julian of Norwich, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Flannery O’Connor — who belongs in any canon of modern literature but who has a new prominence as a major female author) wrote about Christianity! The same is true of many minority authors (Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass). So we have the spectacle of liberal, feminist, politically-correct college classrooms having to wrestle with O’Connor’s depictions of sin and grace, and Wheatley’s evangelical fervor as a freed slave.

     The notion that a list of secular writings can constitute a “canon” in the biblical sense probably derives from the nineteenth-century humanist Matthew Arnold’s insistence that literature can replace religion as a guide for life and meaning. It can’t.

     The postmodernist critiques of the literary canon make some points. The “Great Books” set from the Encyclopædia Britannica people, edited and chosen by Mortimer Adler, show a strain of thought that has led to constitutional democracy. That is an invaluable tradition, though, that postmodernists are wrong to minimize. But it is true that there can be other “canons” for other strains of Western thought, such as those that gave us conservatism or empirical science. A collection of the Great Christian Books would be worth assembling.

     Nevertheless, contrary to the postmodernists, there are objective standards — those that belong to the absolutes of truth, goodness, and beauty — by which books can be measured and which allow some to ace the test of time. Put Shakespeare, Milton, and Austen in a reading list with angry feminist correspondence, political tracts, and multi-cultural mythology and the greatness of the Greats becomes immediately obvious.

     Furthermore, the truly great authors of the secular canon resist the attempts to turn their writings into a sacred canon. It may be a mark of their greatness that our culture’s greatest writers often draw on, quote, allude to, and are inspired by the canon of Holy Scripture.

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

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Pastoral Wisdom

By David Osborne 10/1/2008

     The fourth Saturday of this month is legendary for college football fans. It is the annual clash between Alabama and Tennessee (two of the Deep South’s most storied football programs). Alabama fans recognize Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s iconic status. The “General,” as Robert Neyland is often called, stands out on the big orange side of the grid-iron as a legend in his own right. What made General Neyland memorable was his ability to boil down a complicated and involved game into seven maxims — keys to focus one’s mind before, during, and after the game. The ministry is certainly not a game and I do not pretend to have the status of the Bear or the General. By way of advice, however, I offer seven fluid maxims (in no particular order) I strive to live by in the ministry.

     First, the ministry is more dependent on prayer than you can ever imagine. Pray conscious of the fact that God knows all the weapons of the enemy (Rom. 8:35, 38–39). Pray conscious of the fact that God knows exactly what He wants to change in you and in those to whom you are called to shepherd (His plans may be different from yours). Beg God that He might teach you how to pray, to want what you should want, to desire what you should desire, and to be able to discern what He is doing — not what you think He is doing. Pray His Word early and often, persistently and consistently in order to saturate your heart with the will of God. Remember the famous words of E.M. Bounds: “The Holy Spirit does not come on methods but men…especially men of prayer.”

     Second, purpose to improve your preaching. As you begin to get into a routine of systematically unpacking God’s Word, expect to improve. Preaching is an overwhelming task. Instead of remaining overwhelmed, resolve to work on specific aspects of preaching. Break down the various aspects of preaching: introduction, exegesis, illustrations, outlining, conclusion, momentum, utilizing imaginative language, transitions, and application. Strive to improve on all aspects all the time, but work to systematically address all these items over a five-year period. Perhaps the first year focus primarily on exegesis and outlining. The next year, focus attention on introducing and illustrating the sermon. The third year, improve application and lively, gripping language. Along with this systematic approach, commit yourself to continual reading about preaching. Read seasoned pastors. Christian Focus has published many small and practical volumes on preaching, written by experienced pastors. Remember that preaching is unleashing the mind and character of God.

     Third, crave mentors. All of us naturally have people God has placed in our lives who dramatically impact us. This should be true in the ministry as well. Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, and Donald MacLeod are men who have been an integral part of the ministry to which God has called me. I will probably never have the opportunity to sit down with these mentors face to face until we meet after this life. If, like me, you are unable to sit down with your mentors, utilize the Internet to sit under their teaching. Yes, read what your mentors have written, but make it more personal. For example, whenever I read something Sinclair Ferguson has written, in my mind I always preface his words with “Dear Dave…” Is this not how Timothy received Paul’s letters? (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim.1:2). Be challenged by their sermons and lectures. Put aside as many barriers as you can and let these sermons rebuke and encourage your soul. Don’t listen to these men for ideas (only) but to draw you closer to God.

     Fourth, strive to be a friend to your people. Take time to get to know the flock under your charge. Desire to be with them outside of corporate worship. Many people with whom you interact have never had a genuine friend. They have never had someone willing to invest in them. The disciples were a motley crew chosen by Christ so that He could be with them (Mark 3:14).

     Fifth, gorge yourself on God’s Word. The Word is where God has promised to transform you from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18), thoroughly equip you (2 Tim.3:16–17), and make you wiser than your enemies (Ps. 119:98). When understood, it enables your heart to burn with passion (Luke 24:32). It is where you find certainty regarding Christ (Luke 1:4) and where your freedom can be understood (John 8:32). It is where we find out that God is not ashamed of those who believe (Heb. 11:16). In keeping us He neither faints nor grows weary (Isa. 40:28); He never sleeps nor slumbers (Ps. 121:3-4). Any reason not to gorge yourself on this Word?

     Sixth, struggle to state matters positively. Oftentimes we are able to talk about the love of God in ways that are endearing. Work to talk about all doctrines in equally endearing ways. Many will desire that you talk about the love of God but not much about sin and repentance. Show your flock that all of God’s doctrines are beautiful and desirable. For example, inform people that repentance is repeatedly tapping into the blessings of being united to Christ. Or, repenting is telling Christ exactly why you need Him. Strive to present the whole counsel of God faithfully, lucidly, and attractively.

     Seventh, believe in change. It will be very tempting to begin to champion the phrase: “Well that’s just the way things are…they will not change.” Don’t buy into this mentality. Never stop believing in change. If you know that the spiritually dead can be brought to life (from first-hand experience), everything else pales in comparison! Remember, God’s presence changes everything! Soli Deo Gloria.

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     Rev. David Osborne is a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at Western Carolina University.

Deut. 9; Psalms 92-93; Isaiah 37; Revelation 7

By Don Carson 6/5/2018

     If Deuteronomy 8 reminds me the Israelites that God is the One who gave them all their material blessings, not least the ability to work and produce wealth, Deuteronomy 9 insists he is also the One who will enable them to take over the Promised Land and vanquish their opponents. Before the struggle, the Israelites are still fighting their fears. God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you” (Deut. 9:3). But after the struggle, the temptation of the Israelites will be quite different. Then they will be tempted to think that, whatever their fears before the event, it was their own intrinsic superiority that enabled them to accomplish the feat. So Moses warns them:

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteous- ness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations . . . to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people (Deut. 9:4-6).
     And the evidence for this last point? Moses reminds them of their sorry rebellions during the wilderness years, starting from the wretched incident of the golden calf (Deut. 9:4-29).

     What shall we learn? (1) Although the annihilation of the Canaanites fills us with embarrassed horror, there is a sense in which (dare I say it?) we had better get used to it. It is of a piece with the Flood, with the destruction of several empires, with hell itself. The proper response is Luke 13:1-5: unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish. (2) It may be true to say that the Israelites won because the Canaanites were so evil. It does not follow that the Canaanites lost because the Israelites were so good. God was working to improve the Israelites out of his own covenantal faithfulness. But they were extremely foolish if they thought, after the event, that they had earned their triumph. (3) Our temptations, like Israel’s vary with our circumstances: faithless fear in one circumstance, arrogant pride in another. Only the closest walk with God affords us the self-criticism that abominates both.

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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 59

Deliver Me from My Enemies
59 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When Saul Sent Men To Watch His House In Order To Kill Him.

6 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips—
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

8 But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11 Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13 consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth. Selah

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 9.

OF COUNCILS AND THEIR AUTHORITY. [579]

Since Papists regard their Councils as expressing the sentiment and consent of the Church, particularly as regards the authority of declaring dogmas and the exposition of them, it was necessary to treat of Councils before proceeding to consider that part of ecclesiastical power which relates to doctrine. I. First, the authority of Councils in delivering dogmas is discussed, and it is shown that the Spirit of God is not so bound to the Pastors of the Church as opponents suppose. Their objections refuted, sec. 1-7. II. The errors, contradictions, and weaknesses, of certain Councils exposed. A refutation of the subterfuge, that those set over us are to be obeyed without distinction, sec. 8-12. III. Of the authority of Councils as regards the interpretation of Scripture, sec. 13, 14.

Sections.

1. The true nature of Councils.

2. Whence the authority of Councils is derived. What meant by assembling in the name of Christ.

3. Objection, that no truth remains in the Church if it be not in Pastors and Councils. Answer, showing by passages from the Old Testament that Pastors were often devoid of the spirit of knowledge and truth.

4. Passages from the New Testament showing that our times were to be subject to the same evil. This confirmed by the example of almost all ages.

5. All not Pastors who pretend to be so.

6. Objection, that General Councils represent the Church. Answer, showing the absurdity of this objection from passages in the Old Testament.

7. Passages to the same effect from the New Testament.

8. Councils have authority only in so far as accordant with Scripture. Testimony of Augustine. Councils of Nice, Constantinople, and Ephesus, Subsequent Councils more impure, and to be received with limitation.

9. Contradictory decisions of Councils. Those agreeing with divine truth to be received. Those at variance with it to be rejected. This confirmed by the example of the Council of Constantinople and the Council of Nice; also of the Council of Chalcedon, and second Council of Ephesus.

10. Errors of purer Councils. Four causes of these errors. An example from the Council of Nice.

11. Another example from the Council of Chalcedon. The same errors in Provincial Councils.

12. Evasion of the Papists. Three answers. Conclusion of the discussion as to the power of the Church in relation to doctrine.

13. Last part of the chapter. Power of the Church in interpreting Scripture. From what source interpretation is to be derived. Means of preserving unity in the Church.

14. Impudent attempt of the Papists to establish their tyranny refuted. Things at variance with Scripture sanctioned by their Councils. Instance in the prohibition of marriage and communion in both kinds.

1. Were I now to concede all that they ask concerning the Church, it would not greatly aid them in their object. For everything that is said of the Church they immediately transfer to councils, which, in their opinion, represent the Church. Nay, when they contend so doggedly for the power of the Church, their only object is to devolve the whole which they extort on the Roman Pontiff and his conclave. Before I begin to discuss this question, two points must be briefly premised. First, though I mean to be more rigid in discussing this subject, it is not because I set less value than I ought on ancient councils. I venerate them from my heart, and would have all to hold them in due honour. [580] But there must be some limitation, there must be nothing derogatory to Christ. Moreover, it is the right of Christ to preside over all councils, and not share the honour with any man. Now, I hold that he presides only when he governs the whole assembly by his word and Spirit. Secondly, in attributing less to councils than my opponents demand, it is not because I have any fear that councils are favourable to their cause and adverse to ours. For as we are amply provided by the word of the Lord with the means of proving our doctrine and overthrowing the whole Papacy, and thus have no great need of other aid, so, if the case required it, ancient councils furnish us in a great measure with what might be sufficient for both purposes.

2. Let us now proceed to the subject itself. If we consult Scripture on the authority of councils, there is no promise more remarkable than that which is contained in these words of our Saviour, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." But this is just as applicable to any particular meeting as to a universal council. And yet the important part of the question does not lie here, but in the condition which is added--viz. that Christ will be in the midst of a council, provided it be assembled in his name. Wherefore, though our opponents should name councils of thousands of bishops it will little avail them; nor will they induce us to believe that they are, as they maintain, guided by the Holy Spirit, until they make it credible that they assemble in the name of Christ: since it is as possible for wicked and dishonest to conspire against Christ, as for good and honest bishops to meet together in his name. Of this we have a clear proof in very many of the decrees which have proceeded from councils. But this will be afterwards seen. At present I only reply in one word, that our Saviour's promise is made to those only who assemble in his name. How, then, is such an assembly to be defined? I deny that those assemble in the name of Christ who, disregarding his command by which he forbids anything to be added to the word of God or taken from it, determine everything at their own pleasure, who, not contented with the oracles of Scripture, that is, with the only rule of perfect wisdom, devise some novelty out of their own head (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18). Certainly, since our Saviour has not promised to be present with all councils of whatever description, but has given a peculiar mark for distinguishing true and lawful councils from others, we ought not by any means to lose sight of the distinction. The covenant which God anciently made with the Levitical priests was to teach at his mouth (Mal. 2:7). This he always required of the prophets, and we see also that it was the law given to the apostles. On those who violate this covenant God bestows neither the honour of the priesthood nor any authority. Let my opponents solve this difficulty if they would subject my faith to the decrees of man, without authority from the word of God.

3. Their idea that the truth cannot remain in the Church unless it exist among pastors, and that the Church herself cannot exist unless displayed in general councils, is very far from holding true if the prophets have left us a correct description of their own times. In the time of Isaiah there was a Church at Jerusalem which the Lord had not yet abandoned. But of pastors he thus speaks: "His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way" (Isa. 56:10, 11). In the same way Hosea says, "The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God" (Hosea 9:8). Here, by ironically connecting them with God, he shows that the pretext of the priesthood was vain. There was also a Church in the time of Jeremiah. Let us hear what he says of pastors: "From the prophet even unto the priest, every one dealeth falsely." Again, "The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them" (Jer. 6:13; 14:14). And not to be prolix with quotations, read the whole of his thirty-third and fortieth chapters. Then, on the other hand, Ezekiel inveighs against them in no milder terms. "There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls." "Her priests have violated my law, and profaned mine holy things" (Ezek. 22:25, 26). There is more to the same purpose. Similar complaints abound throughout the prophets; nothing is of more frequent recurrence.

4. But perhaps, though this great evil prevailed among the Jews, our age is exempt from it. Would that it were so; but the Holy Spirit declared that it would be otherwise. For Peter's words are clear, "But there were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily will bring in damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). See how he predicts impending danger, not from ordinary believers, but from those who should plume themselves on the name of pastors and teachers. Besides, how often did Christ and his apostles foretell that the greatest dangers with which the Church was threatened would come from pastors? (Mt. 24:11, 24). Nay, Paul openly declares, that Antichrist would have his seat in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4); thereby intimating, that the fearful calamity of which he was speaking would come only from those who should have their seat in the Church as pastors. And in another passage he shows that the introduction of this great evil was almost at hand. For in addressing the Elders of Ephesus, he says, "I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29, 30). How great corruption might a long series of years introduce among pastors, when they could degenerate so much within so short a time? And not to fill my pages with details, we are reminded by the examples of almost every age, that the truth is not always cherished in the bosoms of pastors, and that the safety of the Church depends not on their state. It was becoming that those appointed to preserve the peace and safety of the Church should be its presidents and guardians; but it is one thing to perform what you owe, and another to owe what you do not perform.

5. Let no man, however, understand me as if I were desirous in everything rashly and unreservedly to overthrow the authority of pastors. [581] All I advise is, to exercise discrimination, and not suppose, as a matter of course, that all who call themselves pastors are so in reality. But the Pope, with the whole crew of his bishops, for no other reason but because they are called pastors, shake off obedience to the word of God, invert all things, and turn them hither and thither at their pleasure; meanwhile, they insist that they cannot be destitute of the light of truth, that the Spirit of God perpetually resides in them, that the Church subsists in them, and dies with them, as if the Lord did not still inflict his judgments, and in the present day punish the world for its wickedness, in the same way in which he punished the ingratitude of the ancient people--namely, by smiting pastors with astonishment and blindness (Zech. 12:4). These stupid men understand not that they are just chiming in with those of ancient times who warred with the word of God. For the enemies of Jeremiah thus set themselves against the truth, "Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet" (Jer. 18:18).

6. Hence it is easy to reply to their allegation concerning general councils. It cannot be denied, that the Jews had a true Church under the prophets. But had a general council then been composed of the priests, what kind of appearance would the Church have had? We hear the Lord denouncing not against one or two of them, but the whole order: "The priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder" (Jer. 4:9). Again, "The law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients" (Ezek. 7:26). Again, "Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them," &c. (Micah 3:6). Now, had all men of this description been collected together, what spirit would have presided over their meeting? Of this we have a notable instance in the council which Ahab convened (1 Kings 22:6, 22). Four hundred prophets were present. But because they had met with no other intention than to flatter the impious king, Satan is sent by the Lord to be a lying spirit in all their mouths. The truth is there unanimously condemned. Micaiah is judged a heretic, is smitten, and cast into prison. So was it done to Jeremiah, and so to the other prophets.

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


  • What Jesus Demands
  • Isaiah 11; 65:17–25
  • Killing Sin

#1 John Piper  Desiring God

 

#2 R.C. Sproul & John Piper   Desiring God

 

#3 John Piper   Desiring God

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2010    Truly Reformed Theology

     It probably won’t surprise you to learn that no one has taught me more about the Bible and its theology than R.C. Sproul. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that no one has taught me more about mercy ministry than R.C. Sproul. Having worked for R.C. going on twelve years, I have witnessed, firsthand, one man’s faith working itself out in love. As the testimonies of his wife and children reveal, his theology of grace sustains his concern for the hungry, the widow, and the orphan. Appropriately, his theology informs his practice, as should ours.

     At its core, Christian theology is a theology of grace. One of the primary distinctions of Christian theology is the doctrine of grace, which pervades every area of our faith and life. Throughout the centuries of history, Christians have testified to this truth. When Paul, in the first century, and the Reformers, in the sixteenth century, contended earnestly for the faith, they contended not only to preserve the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone but to preserve the all-encompassing gospel religion of God’s grace. This gospel informs everything we are and, thus, everything we do as we show forth our faith in word and deed, with God’s gospel and God’s glory at the forefront of our mission, not our own socialized gospel or our own societal glory.

     The puritans of the seventeenth century were a people of holy and gracious action whose ministry in word and deed was motivated by the biblical theology of grace, which liberates redeemed sinners to give sacrificially in response to God’s giving of Himself on the cross. In a puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision, we read: “Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, … diffuse the gospel, show neighborly love to all.” Similarly, in the nineteenth century, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–43) preached to his congregation about God’s call to care for the poor and needy: “My dear friends, I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in that great day … I fear there are many hearing me who may now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudgingly, desires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than with its money.”

     Gospel ministry in word and deed is nothing new but is as old as the fall of man, when God came to us in our greatest need, clothed us, and gave us a hunger to serve Him that the world might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

     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

     Today, June 5, 1967, the Six-Day War began. Egypt had 80,000 troops and 900 tanks facing Israel. Jordan and Syria, with Soviet weapons, violently shelled Jerusalem and Israeli villages. Cairo radio announced: "The hour has come in which we shall destroy Israel." In a surprise move, Israeli air force destroyed 400 Egyptian planes, courageously drove Syria from the Golan Heights and captured all of Jerusalem. In a CBS-TV interview, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stated: "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Man no longer lives in the beginning--
he has lost the beginning.
Now he finds he is in the middle,
knowing neither the end nor the beginning,
and yet knowing that he is in the middle,
coming from the beginning and going towards the end.
He sees that his life is determined by these two facets,
of which he knows only
that he does not know them.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies

For light I go directly to the Source of light,
not to any of the reflections.
--- Peace Pilgrim
Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words

The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.
--- Charles Hodge
The Way of Life

Why should we then fear death, which is but a passage to Christ? It is but a grim sergeant that lets us into a glorious palace, that strikes off our bolts, that takes off our rags, that we may be clothed with better robes, that ends all our misery, and is the beginning of all our happiness. Why should we therefore be afraid of death? It is but a departure to a better condition. It is but as Jordan to the children of Israel, by which they passed to Canaan. It is but as the Red Sea by which they were going that way. Therefore we have no reason to fear death.
--- Richard Sibbes
The Complete Works Of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 5 / “The Lord Is One”:
     The Eschatological Interpretation


     These two words—Hashem eḥad, “the Lord is One”—constitute probably the most significant and revolutionary phrase in the entire lexicon of Jewish thought. Simple yet enormously complex, they have challenged and stimulated generations of scholars and ordinary folk since they were first uttered by Moses toward the end of his days. In exploring the various interpretations of these two critical words, we gain valuable insights into the content of Judaism’s major proclamation of faith.

     Rashi (to Deut. 6:4), apparently troubled by the repetition of the Name Hashem, “the Lord,” in the Shema, comments:

      The Lord who is our God now, but not (yet) the God of the (other) nations, is destined to be the One Lord, as it is said, “For then will I give to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent” (Zeph. 3:9). And (likewise) it is said, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One and His name One” (Zech. 14:9).

     Thus, the mention of the first two divine Names—Hashem and Elohim/Elohenu—evokes the current condition of monotheism, when only Israel fully accepts the utter unity of God; the repetition of Hashem in the final phrase, “the Lord is One,” refers to the End of Days, the very distant future, the time of the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead, when this great faith will be accepted by all humanity.

     Rashi’s source for his comment is found in the Sifre (to Vaet’ḥanan, 31):

     Why does the verse say, “the Lord is our God”? Does it not state (later in the same verse) “the Lord is One”?… Another interpretation: (it is intended) for all human beings. (Thus:) “the Lord is our God”—in this world; “the Lord is One”—in the world-to-come (i.e., the Messianic era, when His unity will be universally acknowledged). Therefore is it said, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One and His name one” (Zech. 14:9).


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     6. In the mean time, the cup-bearer was sent [back], and laid a plot how to seize upon Herod, by deluding him, and getting him out of the city, as he was commanded to do. But Herod suspected the barbarians from the beginning; and having then received intelligence that a messenger, who was to bring him the letters that informed him of the treachery intended, had fallen among the enemy, he would not go out of the city; though Pacorus said very positively that he ought to go out, and meet the messengers that brought the letters, for that the enemy had not taken them, and that the contents of them were not accounts of any plots upon them, but of what Phasaelus had done; yet had he heard from others that his brother was seized; and Alexandra 20 the shrewdest woman in the world, Hyrcanus's daughter, begged of him that he would not go out, nor trust himself to those barbarians, who now were come to make an attempt upon him openly.

     7. Now as Pacorus and his friends were considering how they might bring their plot to bear privately, because it was not possible to circumvent a man of so great prudence by openly attacking him, Herod prevented them, and went off with the persons that were the most nearly related to him by night, and this without their enemies being apprized of it. But as soon as the Parthians perceived it, they pursued after them; and as he gave orders for his mother, and sister, and the young woman who was betrothed to him, with her mother, and his youngest brother, to make the best of their way, he himself, with his servants, took all the care they could to keep off the barbarians; and when at every assault he had slain a great many of them, he came to the strong hold of Masada.

     8. Nay, he found by experience that the Jews fell more heavily upon him than did the Parthians, and created him troubles perpetually, and this ever since he was gotten sixty furlongs from the city; these sometimes brought it to a sort of a regular battle. Now in the place where Herod beat them, and killed a great number of them, there he afterward built a citadel, in memory of the great actions he did there, and adorned it with the most costly palaces, and erected very strong fortifications, and called it, from his own name, Herodium. Now as they were in their flight, many joined themselves to him every day; and at a place called Thressa of Idumea his brother Joseph met him, and advised him to ease himself of a great number of his followers, because Masada would not contain so great a multitude, which were above nine thousand. Herod complied with this advice, and sent away the most cumbersome part of his retinue, that they might go into Idumea, and gave them provisions for their journey; but he got safe to the fortress with his nearest relations, and retained with him only the stoutest of his followers; and there it was that he left eight hundred of his men as a guard for the women, and provisions sufficient for a siege; but he made haste himself to Petra of Arabia.

     9. As for the Parthians in Jerusalem, they betook themselves to plundering, and fell upon the houses of those that were fled, and upon the king's palace, and spared nothing but Hyrcanus's money, which was not above three hundred talents. They lighted on other men's money also, but not so much as they hoped for; for Herod having a long while had a suspicion of the perfidiousness of the barbarians, had taken care to have what was most splendid among his treasures conveyed into Idumea, as every one belonging to him had in like manner done also. But the Parthians proceeded to that degree of injustice, as to fill all the country with war without denouncing it, and to demolish the city Marissa, and not only to set up Antigonus for king, but to deliver Phasaelus and Hyrcanus bound into his hands, in order to their being tormented by him. Antigonus himself also bit off Hyrcanus's ears with his own teeth, as he fell down upon his knees to him, that so he might never be able upon any mutation of affairs to take the high priesthood again, for the high priests that officiated were to be complete, and without blemish.

     10. However, he failed in his purpose of abusing Phasaelus, by reason of his courage; for though he neither had the command of his sword nor of his hands, he prevented all abuses by dashing his head against a stone; so he demonstrated himself to be Herod's own brother, and Hyrcanus a most degenerate relation, and died with great bravery, and made the end of his life agreeable to the actions of it. There is also another report about his end, viz. that he recovered of that stroke, and that a surgeon, who was sent by Antigonus to heal him, filled the wound with poisonous ingredients, and so killed him; whichsoever of these deaths he came to, the beginning of it was glorious. It is also reported that before he expired he was informed by a certain poor woman how Herod had escaped out of their hands, and that he said thereupon, "I now die with comfort, since I leave behind me one alive that will avenge me of mine enemies."

     11. This was the death of Phasaelus; but the Parthians, although they had failed of the women they chiefly desired, yet did they put the government of Jerusalem into the hands of Antigonus, and took away Hyrcanus, and bound him, and carried him to Parthia.

          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 18:18-19
     by D.H. Stern

18     Casting lots puts an end to strife
and separates powerful disputants.

19     It is harder to win an offended brother than a strong city;
their fights are like the bars of a fortress.

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

                God’s say-so

     He hath said … so that we may boldly say …
--- Hebrews 13:5–6.

     My say-so is to be built on God’s say-so. God says—“I will never leave thee,” then I can with good courage say—“The Lord is my helper, I will not fear”—I will not be haunted by apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s say-so. I will be full of courage, like a child ‘bucking himself up’ to reach the standard his father wants. Faith in many a one falters when the apprehensions come, they forget the meaning of God’s say-so, forget to take a deep breath spiritually. The only way to get the dread taken out of us is to listen to God’s say-so.

     What are you dreading? You are not a coward about it, you are going to face it, but there is a feeling of dread. When there is nothing and no one to help you, say—‘But the Lord is my Helper, this second, in my present outlook.’ Are you learning to say things after listening to God, or are you saying things and trying to make God’s word fit in? Get hold of the Father’s say-so, and then say with good courage—“I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in the way, He has said—“I will never leave thee.”

     Frailty is another thing that gets in between God’s say-so and ours. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God becomes a nonentity. Remember God’s say-so—“I will in no wise fail you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s key-note? Are we always possessed with the courage to say—“The Lord is my helper,” or are we succumbing?


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Gone
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               Gone

  There was a flower blowing
  and a hand plucked it.

  There was a stream flowing
  and a body smirched it.

  There was a pure mirror
  of water and a face came

  and looked in it. There was words
  and wars and treaties, and feet trampled

  the earth and the wheels
  seared it; and an explosion

  followed. There was dust
  and silence; and out of the dust

  a plant grew; and the dew formed
  upon it; and a stream seeped

  from the dew to construct
  a mirror, and the mirror was empty.


Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Phoenix Press)

Swimming in the sea of the Talmud:
     Comment

     D'RASH

     In the Bible, references to the afterlife and the "World-to-Come" are few and far between. Even in Psalm 88, the section used by Rabbi Yoḥanan to prove his point, the psalmist cites "the Pit" and "Sheol" (the dark underworld) but does not describe it. This is in sharp contrast to the Talmud, where there are many references and complete descriptions of olam ha-ba, "the World-to-Come." The Rabbis foresaw a time in which the righteous would sit beneath God's throne, would dine luxuriously on the most sumptuous foods and would be privileged to study all the time.

     "Nonetheless, the Rabbis also knew that the emphasis of the Torah and of Jewish life is this world. The World-to-Come was described in detail, in part, to reflect an ideal. Everything they envisioned for the next world was a goal, a vision for this world, the world of reality. Thus, they constructed a system of practices and rites that would reflect some of the ideals of the next world in this one. If in the next world, material possessions would not be a worry, then in this world, they should not be our ultimate concern. What activity would be more worthwhile than study of Torah day and night? Therefore, they strove to combine the concern for worldly possessions and our daily needs with daily study of Torah. Few could exempt themselves from the struggle for sustenance; none could be exempted from daily study.

     If the system worked to perfection, this world would become a reflection of the next world. If everyone observed the mitzvot, then strife and warfare would end. If nothing else, this world would be elevated and beautified. That the ideal could never be achieved was not a concern to the Rabbis. The ideal itself would become a paradigm for how a person should conduct everyday life. Ironically, if every person lived out all of these ideals—the mitzvot being a crystallization of God's vision of a perfect world—then there would no longer be a need for the mitzvot, for the next world would be achieved.

     This irony was not lost on the Rabbis. They knew that we often strive to leave an inheritance (in Hebrew, yerushah) after we die, something tangible and physical that our children and grandchildren can possess, when we should really be working to leave a heritage (morashah, from the same Hebrew root), something that enriches life before we die. If our Sages were to look at our world today, they might tell us: "You may think that you can gain immortality through stock futures, annuities, and insurance policies. These are ephemeral—important, but fleeting. If you want to leave something that will live on forever, turn this world into a reflection of the next. Be concerned with something even greater than yourselves, something more lasting than tomorrow."

     As we complete our study of Talmud texts, this remains our challenge.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday LIving

Genealogy
     Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14,
     1 Chronicles

     The genealogy of 1 Chr 5:27–41 [6:1–15] is the most extensive of the priestly line found in the Old Testament and is effectively the latest as well. ... Johnson is probably correct in seeing the lists of Neh 11:11 and 1 Chr 9:11 as the oldest, or at least as based upon the oldest sources. Zadok stands at the center of each list and in apparent harmony with 2 Sam 8:17, is descended from Ahitub. While textual and chronological difficulties abound in this verse, the primary intent is surely to secure for the otherwise unknown Zadok a place within the Levitical line of Ahitub, whose grandson Abiathar was removed by Solomon from the priesthood (cf. 1 Sam 20–23; I Kgs 2:27). Hilkiah, it may be supposed, is to be identified with the priest of Josiah's reformation (2 Kgs 22; 2 Chr 34–35); Seraiah (Neh 11:11), named as chief priest at the time of the exile was put to death by the king of Babylon at Riblah (2 Kgs 25:18, 21). The parallel of 1 Chr 9:11 instead names Azariah here—a common name, especially among priests and Levites. These two names are very similar in sound and, at least in some scripts, in appearance. It is at least suggestive that they have been interchanged in other places as well: the Seraiah listed as accompanying Zerubbabel and Jeshua in Ezra 2:2 and 1 Esdr 5:8 is named Azariah in Neh 7:7; and the Azariah of Neh 10:3 [2] (which stands next to another Seraiah) seems to be identical with the Ezra of Neh 12:1. See also Ezra 7:1, where Ezra himself is the son of Seraiah, without intervening generations.

Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp

Families of singers
     Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14,
     1 Chronicles

     Concerning these families of singers, the editorial framework seeks to establish the following points. (1) The Levitical musicians were appointed to their posts by David himself when the ark was brought up to Jerusalem (1 Chr 15–16). There is here no idea apparently, as in 1 Chr 16:37–42; 2 Chr 1:2–6, that the ark and the tent or tabernacle were separated, with families of priests and Levites divided between the two. Although not stated directly, it seems to be assumed that with the erection of the temple their duties were transferred there. (2) Although the musicians are considered Levites, as evidenced by their genealogies (and cf. especially [38] with respect to Heman), their status is distinct from that of other Levites [48], whose task is less definite, "all of the service of the tabernacle of the house of God" [48]. (3) The work of the Levites is also distinguished from that of "Aaron and his sons" [49], to whom has been given the prerogative of sacrifice and ministry within the Holy of Holies. Such a note is in harmony with other statements in the book which speak apologetically of specifically priestly duties (cf. 1 Chr 16:6; 2 Chr 29:16; 35:2) and may well be a later addition to the text. According to this understanding, the priests were established in their offices by Moses, the Levites owe at least their organization to David (cf. 1 Chr 15:2, 6; 16:4, 7, 37, 39; 2 Chr 8:14).

Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp

Cities of the Aaronides
     Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14,
     1 Chronicles

     Regarding verses [54–60] Cities of the Aaronides. V 39a [54a] is the writer's own introduction to the list (contrast Josh 21:1–3, where the emphasis is upon the divine character of the allotments). The nine cities of [55–59] are obviously to be viewed as the combined contribution of Simeon and Judah (cf. v 50 [65] and Josh 21:4, 9), though surprisingly this is not stated. Judah is mentioned only in connection with a reference to Hebron already considered secondary in Joshua by many [55], cf. Josh 21:11). Simeon is not mentioned at all, although Ashan (v 44 [59]) is in Josh 19:7 attributed to Simeon. This doubtless reflects the early demise of Simeon as an independent tribal unit.

     Apart from Beth-shemesh (accorded to Dan in Josh 19:41) and Libnah, the remaining seven cities all lie in the extreme south. ... Since this territory did not belong to the restored Judah of post-exilic days, it would be erroneous to find the reason for the retention of the list in its immediate relevance to the post-exilic situation. The reference to Benjamin as the source of the four remaining cities [60]) has been retained from Josh 21:17, although in a very prosaic manner. If the writer were the Chronicler himself, this failure to point more specifically to Judah and Benjamin as the source of the cities given to the Aaronide priests would seem difficult to justify, given this opportunity to bring together two themes about which he felt so strongly.


Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp

Cities of the Gershomites
     Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14,
     1 Chronicles

     [71–76] Cities of the Gershomites. Two cities of the remaining half-tribe of (E) Manasseh, together with four each from Issachar and Asher and three from Naphtali, make up the Gershomites' allotment. ... If the text is correct as we have reconstructed it, each tribe but Naphtali would have contributed four cities, with Naphtali's three counterbalanced by the nine of Judah and Simeon to reach the ideal total of forty-eight.

Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp

Chapter 3
     Accommodating Quotations

     Quotations from the Septuagint

     The subject of the use of the Septuagint by the New Testament writers is deeply interesting, and while it is impossible within the limits of the present book to treat the subject at all fully, yet it calls for some mention. This Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, made between 250 and 150 B.C. in Alexandria, is evidently of very variable quality; it was plainly not intended to be literal. Few, if any, would now be found to hold that the Septuagint translation was made by Divine Inspiration; yet there are numerous quotations from it in the New Testament. The question therefore arises whether such quotations are inspired.

     "There are many quotations in which the Hebrew, Septuagint, and the New Testament agree. There is a larger number of quotations where the Septuagint quoted is not in agreement with the Hebrew. Such, for instance, is the case in Hebrews 1:6, where the quotation “let all the angels of God worship Him” is quoted word for word from the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:43, but this is entirely absent from the Hebrew text of that passage. Again, Matthew 19:5, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh,” is from the LXX of Genesis 2:24, not from the Hebrew.

     There are a still larger number of cases where the New Testament differs both from the Hebrew and the Septuagint. Thus Romans 11:8, “God gave them a spirit of stupor,” is neither from the Hebrew nor from the LXX of Isaiah 29:10, each of which has “the Lord hath poured upon you the spirit of slumber.” Again, Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,” is from neither the Hebrew nor the Greek of Psalm 68:18.

     There are some cases where the Hebrew is partly followed and partly the LXX and partly neither. This is the case, for instance, in Matthew 12:17–21, which chiefly follows the Hebrew of Isaiah 42:1–3, but departs from both Hebrew and LXX in the clause “Till He send forth judgment unto victory,” and finishes by following the LXX.

     There are a few where the Septuagint has been altered in quoting, in accordance with the Hebrew, as for instance in 2 Timothy 2:19, where the words “The Lord knoweth them that are His” are from the LXX of Numbers 16:5, but the title “God” is changed to “the Lord” as in the Hebrew. In some cases the Hebrew has been followed and not the LXX, as in Matthew 2:15, from the Hebrew of Hosea 11:1 (the LXX has “out of Egypt did I call his children”), and John 19:37, from the Hebrew of Zechariah 12:10, with the exception of “Him” for “Me” (i.e. interpreting the Hebrew).

     Sometimes one New Testament writer adopts the Hebrew and another the Greek. Matthew closely follows the Hebrew in Matthew 8:17, “Himself took our infirmities, and bear our diseases,” from Isaiah 53:4, 5. Peter in 1 Peter 2:24 follows the LXX. This provides an instance of the use of the same passage to cast light upon different aspects of the same subject. These facts show with what variety of method the quotations have been made.


The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine- 5 Volume Set Complete

Genealogies - Sacred History
     The Teacher's Commentary

     For the Israelite, a review of the genealogies was a review of sacred history itself. There were so many memories, captured there by familiar names.

     The review of history was also a reminder to the Israelite of his heritage. As a descendant of Abraham, he was one of that special line chosen to be the focus of God's working in the world.

     But for us, as we look back over Old Testament history as it is reflected in these names, there is another lesson as well. Our journey through Bible history reminds us that no changes in external conditions brought men to the condition of blessedness and dominion that God intends for man. Yet, human beings still struggle to find release and fulfillment without God, denying God's judgment that it is sin that has brought death, and that death still holds man and society in its unbreakable grip.

     Looking ahead, in future studies we'll trace God's continuing revelation of His own solution to each individual's—and society's—need. We'll see in the continuing flow of history even more evidence that nothing apart from God's personal action in Christ can offer meaningful hope.

     There is a personal message in this flow of history. The death we see expressed in history and in society grips you and me as well as others. You and I must turn from our own efforts and reject all the tempting solutions the world offers. We must seek God's intervention in our own lives. As the New Testament phrases God's message to the individual, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked" (Eph. 2:1–2, NASB).

     The passage, Ephesians 2, goes on to explain. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ" (vv. 4–5, NASB).

     In the person of Jesus Christ, promised in the Old Testament and revealed in the New, God has acted to bring you and me the possibility of life, and to call us from the experience of sin's death to a new and abundant life in Jesus.

     If we have heard the message of Bible history, our eyes have been turned away from ourselves and our own efforts to God. If we have heard the message of Bible history, we have recognized the reality of death, spiritual and physical. If we have heard the message of Bible history, we can begin to realize that our one and only hope is in God, our Creator and the Saviour of us all.


The Teacher's Commentary

The Zadokite Priesthood
     R.B. Zuck

     … Chronicles is very much concerned with Israel's religion and religious institutions as vehicles by which her mediatorial role among the nations can be articulated. The critical ministry of the priests and Levites as part of the cultic apparatus is evident from the beginning of the chronicler's work where he devoted a long chapter (1 Chron. 6) to this matter.

     To establish first the legitimacy of the Zadokite priesthood of his own contemporaries, the chronicler traced its genealogy back through Zadok, Eleazar, and Aaron to Levi himself (1 Chron 6:1–15). He ended the list with Jehozadak, the priest who accompanied the exiles into Babylon and who was also the direct ancestor of Joshua, the high priest of postexilic times (Zech. 6:11). The Exile, then, as traumatic as it was, did not bring the ancient Aaronic priesthood to an end.

     The next section of the genealogy (1 Chron. 6:16–30) commences again with Levi but it traces the nonpriestly descendants, that is, the Levites. Their tasks were multifaceted but primarily consisted of assisting the priests in their mediatorial work. Specifically they were in charge of music in the Tabernacle and Temple (vv. 31–48) and, except for actually making offerings on the altars (vv. 48–53), occupied themselves with worship at the house of the Lord. To make themselves accessible to the whole population of Israel, the Levites settled in towns and villages strategically located throughout the land (vv. 54–81). Holy place and holy person are thus juxtaposed once more.

     When David became king and made preparation for the centralization of worship at Jerusalem, he ordered the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves to the assignment of moving the Ark into Jerusalem, a task that must explicitly follow Mosaic regulation (cf. 1 Chron. 15:11–15; Ex. 25:14). He then appointed the Levitical singers according to their orders (1 Chron. 15:16–24), defining their ministry as one of making petition, giving thanks, and praising the Lord (16:4–6). On the eve of temple building, David again organized the Levites to oversee the work of the Temple (23:4), to serve as officials and judges (v. 4), to be gatekeepers (v. 5), and to praise the Lord in music (v. 5). In sum, "the duty of the Levites was to help Aaron's descendants in the service of the temple of the Lord" (23:28).

     The priests and Levites obviously played an important part in the cultic life of Israel, serving as they did, within the context of the Sinaitic Covenant, as mediators between the vassal nation and its Great King. What must be remembered, however, is that this ministry was restricted to that covenant and to that nation, though lessons in holiness and intercession of eternal application may be seen in it.

     This is not the case with the second kind of holy person, the king, as he is revealed in Chronicles in his twin roles as priest and son of God. In fact, Chronicles makes an unusual contribution to biblical theology in precisely these concepts. As this study has repeatedly argued, biblical theology most clearly and consistently finds integration around the theme of sovereignty, that of Yahweh over all His creation and that of man, His vice-regent, over all things delegated to him. That derived dominion, though impaired by the Fall, is still in force and will find unimpeded perfection in the ages to come.

     In the meantime, in human history Yahweh elected a nation, Israel, to mediate His saving purposes to the world and also to provide a model of sovereignty on the earth. Thus Abraham was called and received a promise that through his descent all the earth would be blessed. A corollary promise was that he would sire kings, a promise narrowed in the blessing of Jacob to a ruler who would come from the tribe of Judah. Picking up on this line of expectation, the chronicler made the direct connection between Adam and Abraham and then between Abraham and David, his purpose being to show that David and his royal house were the physical and historical expression of the dominion mandate given to Adam and channeled through Abraham and his seed. The king of Israel was therefore more than a mere political figure; he was the messianic ruler who stood as second Adam in dominion over all things but who, because he was human, stood also as a type of anticipation of the sinless One who would climax and complete the line of David.   Toward an Old Testament Theology

     As such a king, then, David was an intercessor, a priest, but one not limited to Israel and the Aaronic line. He was, in fact, of the line of Melchizedek, priest of El Elyon, who, the author of Hebrews emphasizes, was "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life," one who "like the Son of God … remains a priest forever" (Heb. 7:3).   Covenant and Creation: A Theology of Old Testament Covenants    This was the understanding of David himself for, referring to himself, he wrote, "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek' " (Ps. 110:4).

     This extravagant claim finds abundant confirmation and illustration in the accounts of David's reign, particularly in Chronicles. The first attestation appears in connection with the transfer of the Ark into Jerusalem from Kiriath-jearim. Leading the procession is David himself, "clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark" (1 Chron. 15:27). In fact, above that he wore the linen ephod, a garment reserved to the Aaronic high priest alone (v. 27). Since he was not of Levi but Judah, David could not have worn the habiliments of the Levitical priesthood. Thus his was a priesthood of a different kind (cf. Heb. 7:11–17).   Ancient Israel, 2 Volumes

     Once David had placed the Ark in the Zion Tabernacle, he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings, rites reserved to the priesthood, and he bestowed on the people a priestly blessing (1 Chron. 16:1–2). Again, only as a priest could even the king qualify to discharge these functions.

     That this office of royal priest was transmissible by David is evident in the intercessory ministry of Solomon, his son. After he completed the Temple and it was invested with the glorious presence of the Lord, Solomon offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings (2 Chron. 7:7). These were not just offerings sanctioned by him or offered on his behalf, but as his leadership of the religious convocation shows (5:2–7:10) Solomon was himself participating and was doing so in a priestly capacity.

     Negative support for the royal priesthood concept appears in the story of Uzziah (2 Chron 26:16–20). Having become powerful, he arrogated to himself priestly prerogatives that lay exclusively in the domain of the Aaronic priests and entered the Temple to burn incense. While in the act he was confronted by the high priest Azariah who chided him for usurping ministry reserved for the Levitical priesthood.   The Books of the Chronicles   "It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord," Azariah warned. "That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense." The identification of the priests as the descendants of Aaron presupposes another order of priests, that to which Uzziah himself belonged. His sin was not in functioning as a priest but rather in intruding into the domain of the priests of Israel.

     Even more remarkable is the chronicler's description of David and his dynasty as sons of God. This bold metaphor is in keeping with the connection between David and Melchizedek as established in Psalm 110, and in fact that psalm of David states explicitly, "The Lord says to my Lord [i.e., David]: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet' " (Ps. 110:1).

     When this elevated language is viewed in light of another psalm of David (Psalm 2) it is most evident that the priestly king is none other than the Son of God.   Toward an Old Testament Theology   The relevant lines read, "He said to me, 'You are my son, Today I have become your father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession' " (Ps. 2:7b–8).

     This obviously refers to adoptive sonship, as most scholars agree, but it suits most admirably the One who someday would be the Son of God in human flesh, David's greatest scion. David himself is never described as the son of God in the Old Testament narrative texts, but Solomon is in Chronicles. In discussing with his son the plans for the Temple, David said to Solomon, speaking for the Lord, "He [Solomon] will be my son, and I will be his father" (1Chron. 22:10). The same statement appears in 1 Chronicles 28:6.

     Finally, there may be a hint of divine sonship in the reaction of the people of Israel to David on the occasion of his presentation to them of Solomon to be his successor. The record states that they praised the Lord God of their fathers and then "bowed low and fell prostrate before the Lord and the king" (l Chron 29:20). This unusual linking of the Lord and the king as subjects of homage suggests more than ordinary kinship between them.

     It has already been proposed that the theology of Chronicles focuses on the Davidic monarchy as a theocratic expression of God's sovereign elective and redemptive purposes for His people and ultimately for all nations. This initial programmatic thesis finds abundant confirmation in the role of David and the Davidic dynasty as both priest and son of God. It is certainly of interest that Jesus Christ, offspring and heir of David, is revealed also as royal priest and Son of God (Heb. 5:1–10).


A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament

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

     Jeremiah

     While several scrolls show that the edition they represent is at variance with the MT, the scrolls of Jeremiah provide an example of two variant, successive editions of the book visible among the scrolls themselves. Small fragments of two manuscripts, 4QJerb and 4QJerd, both from the second century B.C.E., display in Hebrew the earlier, shorter edition with one arrangement of the book that formed the basis of the OG translation. In contrast, both 4QJera, from ca. 225–175 B.C.E., and 4QJerc, from the latter part of the first century B.C.E., have the later, more expanded edition with a variant arrangement in agreement with the MT. Just as 4QJerb and the OG witness to the secondary addition of vv. 6–8 and 10 into chap. 10 in the MT, 4QJera, though it agrees with the MT in its overall edition, nonetheless exposes a large secondary addition of seven verses in the MT at Jer. 7:30–34; 8:1–3. The original scroll, copied ca. 225–175 B.C.E., lacked this lengthy pair of passages; but a later scribe, palaeographically dated a century or more later, about 100–50 B.C.E., inserted them into the old text. He squeezed three lines of tiny script into a horizontal space in the text, continued with four lines written down the left margin, and, since there was yet more text, wrote a final line upside down in the bottom margin (DJD 15: 155 and plate 24). That this two-part passage was not part of the original Jeremiah text is suggested by the fact that it is not closely related to the context, that the prose insertion interrupts the flow of the poetic verse 7:29 into another logically following poetic verse 8:4, and that the original scribe’s omission of it would have required an unparalleled parablepsis involving about twelve lines of text.

     
Psalms

     The evidence from Qumran and Masada also demonstrates that there were at least two editions of the Psalter in antiquity. One manuscript from Masada has Psalm 150 followed by a blank sheet, showing that it represented the same edition handed down in the MT. Cave 11, however, held a beautiful and generously preserved scroll with Psalms that was so different from the MT that many scholars, especially in the early decades, considered it as nonbiblical. 11QPsa contains thirty-nine Psalms known from the MT plus ten additional compositions. Shortly after it was published, there was a vigorous debate concerning its nature, whether biblical or not. Its editor, James A. Sanders, considered it a biblical scroll and thus listed “Ps” in the title, but other major scholars challenged this classification. Their challenges included the following reasons: (1) the Psalms that are familiar as biblical Psalms are presented in a sequence that differs repeatedly from that of the MT; (2) it includes additional “nonbiblical” Psalms not found in the MT; (3) it was characterized as “liturgical,” because even within the biblical Psalm 145 an antiphon is repeatedly added in contrast with the MT; (4) it includes in the midst of the Psalms a prose piece, “David’s Compositions”; and (5) the tetragrammaton is written in the Paleo-Hebrew script, not in the normal Jewish script used for the remainder of the scroll.

     But in light of the accumulating evidence from the biblical manuscripts, each of those objections collapsed, and the scroll is being increasingly acknowledged as an alternate edition of the biblical Psalter in ancient Judaism. (1) The MT Psalter does not have a rigorously or clearly intentionally arranged sequence to its Psalms; some deliberate groupings can be postulated, but there is no discernible comprehensive plan. (2) Four of the so-called noncanonical compositions are in fact Psalms found in the Greek and Syriac Psalters, and two others are found at other places in the MT or LXX, namely, 2 Sam. 23:1–7 and Sir. 51:13–30. The remaining Psalms were hitherto unknown but had been composed in the ancient style of the biblical Psalms, not in that of the later Qumran Hodayot. They were clearly originally Hebrew Psalms, even if not eventually accepted into the MT edition of the Psalter. (3) 11QPsa is indeed a liturgical scroll, but so is the MT Psalter by its very nature. The antiphon interspersed in Psalm 145, “Blessed be the LORD, and blessed be his name forever and ever,” is totally derived from verse 1 of Psalm 145, and it is systematically repeated in the identical manner in which the antiphon “For his faithfulness endures forever” is repeated in Psalm 136 in the MT. (4) “David’s Compositions” stakes an explicit claim for prophetic inspiration and thus scriptural status of the Psalter. It may have originally been positioned not within the collection but at the end of an earlier edition of the collection (before Psalms 140, 134, and 151 were appended), thus functioning as a quasi-colophon with the claim for scriptural status. (5) The use of the Paleo-Hebrew script for the divine name in a text written in the Jewish script had earlier been considered an indication that the text was not biblical, but several other biblical scrolls in the Jewish script have also been identified that write the tetragrammaton in the Paleo-Hebrew script. Two additional manuscripts (11QPsb and 4QPse) apparently witness to the 11QPsa edition, whereas none of the ancient manuscripts found at Qumran unambiguously supports the MT sequence of Psalms against the 11QPsa sequence.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 5

     The glorious appearing of our great God and Savior,Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem usfrom all wickedness.
---
Titus 2:13–14.

     [Paul] believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be truly human, but he also believed him to be God. (Classic RS Thomas on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) There is no appearing of God the Father. It is of that second person of the Trinity who has already once appeared and who will appear a second time in the latter days. It was Paul’s delight to extol the Lord who once was crucified in weakness. He calls him here the great God, thus specially dwelling on his power, dominion, and glory. This is the more remarkable because he immediately goes on to say, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness.” He who surrendered life itself, who was stripped of all honor and glory and entered the utmost depths of humiliation, was assuredly the great God. If you take away the deity of Christ, what in the Gospel is left that is worth preaching? No one but the great God is equal to the work of being our Savior.

     Paul believed also in a great redemption: “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness.” That word redemption sounds in my ears like a silver bell. We are ransomed, purchased back from slavery—and at an immeasurable price, not merely by the obedience, the suffering, nor even the death of Christ, but by Christ’s giving himself for us. The splendor of the Gospel lies in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God. It is the gem of all the Gospel gems.

     Paul looked, [too], on the appearing of the Savior as a display of the grace of God. He says, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” It is not a private vision of God to a favored prophet but an open declaration of the grace of God to every creature under heaven—a display of the grace of God to all eyes that are open to behold it. When the Lord Jesus Christ came to Bethlehem and when he closed a perfect life by death on Calvary, he manifested the grace of God more gloriously than has been done by creation or providence. This is the clearest revelation of the mercy of God. In the Redeemer we see the unveiling of the Father’s face—the laying bare of the divine heart. This was given us not because of any deservings on our part; it is a fullness of free, rich, undeserved grace. The grace of God has been made manifest to the entire universe in the appearing of Jesus Christ our Lord.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     The Ax of the Apostle  June 5

     He is called the apostle to the Germans and was perhaps the greatest missionary of the Dark Ages.

     Boniface was an Englishman, born in 680. He entered a monastery and at age 30 was ordained. His abilities guaranteed a rising career in the English church, but Boniface had a missions call on his life that would not be denied. About 716, he sailed to Holland on his first missionary endeavor, but he met strong political opposition and returned to England discouraged.

     He recovered and left again for the Continent, going to Rome in 718, then, with the Pope’s sanction, to Germany. For the next 12 years he worked there (with occasional forays back to Holland), and he soon began seeing great numbers of pagans converted. His boldness knew no bounds. In one village he could win no converts because the local populace was convinced that a massive tree, the sacred oak of Thundergod, held supernatural powers over them. Boniface took an ax and felled it in full view of the horrified citizens. He then proceeded to build a church with the wood. News spread across Central Europe, and thousands confessed Christ as Lord. Boniface traveled from village to village, smashing idols, destroying temples, and preaching the Gospel.

     But he soon reconsidered his “smash-and-burn” evangelism and began building churches, training and organizing an indigenous clergy. Women became actively involved in his work. In 744, he established the important monastery of Fulda, to this day the center of Roman Catholicism in Germany. Boniface’s converts fanned out as missionaries throughout Central Europe.

     Everywhere he went, it was with papal sanction and authority, and he became one of the most powerful churchmen of the eighth century. Some have criticized him for emphasizing the church over the Gospel. He was back in Holland for a preaching tour, and thousands of converts were being baptized. On June 5, 755 a band of hostile pagans fell upon him as he camped by the river Borne. He was slain while clutching a Bible in his hand.

     The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth.” … Everyone who had been chosen for eternal life then put their faith in the Lord.
--- Acts 13:47,48.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 5

     “The Lord shut him in.” --- Genesis 7:16.

     Noah was shut in away from all the world by the hand of divine love. The door of electing purpose interposes between us and the world which lieth in the wicked one. We are not of the world even as our Lord Jesus was not of the world. Into the sin, the gaiety, the pursuits of the multitude we cannot enter; we cannot play in the streets of Vanity Fair with the children of darkness, for our heavenly Father has shut us in. Noah was shut in with his God. “Come thou into the ark,” was the Lord’s invitation, by which he clearly showed that he himself intended to dwell in the ark with his servant and his family. Thus all the chosen dwell in God and God in them. Happy people to be enclosed in the same circle which contains God in the Trinity of his persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us never be inattentive to that gracious call, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, and hide thyself as it were for a little moment until the indignation be overpast.” Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety. Noah was so shut in that he could not even desire to come out, and those who are in Christ Jesus are in him for ever. They shall go no more out for ever, for eternal faithfulness has shut them in, and infernal malice cannot drag them out. The Prince of the house of David shutteth and no man openeth; and when once in the last days as Master of the house he shall rise up and shut the door, it will be in vain for mere professors to knock, and cry Lord, Lord open unto us, for that same door which shuts in the wise virgins will shut out the foolish for ever. Lord, shut me in by thy grace.


          Evening - June 5

     “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” --- 1 John 4:8.

     The distinguishing mark of a Christian is his confidence in the love of Christ, and the yielding of his affections to Christ in return. First, faith sets her seal upon the man by enabling the soul to say with the apostle, “Christ loved me and gave himself for me.” Then love gives the countersign, and stamps upon the heart gratitude and love to Jesus in return. “We love him because he first loved us.” In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus; they were men who knew the love of Christ, and rested upon it as a man leaneth upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried. The love which they felt towards the Lord was not a quiet emotion which they hid within themselves in the secret chamber of their souls, and which they only spake of in their private assemblies when they met on the first day of the week, and sang hymns in honour of Christ Jesus the crucified, but it was a passion with them of such a vehement and all-consuming energy, that it was visible in all their actions, spoke in their common talk, and looked out of their eyes even in their commonest glances. Love to Jesus was a flame which fed upon the core and heart of their being; and, therefore, from its own force burned its way into the outer man, and shone there. Zeal for the glory of King Jesus was the seal and mark of all genuine Christians. Because of their dependence upon Christ’s love they dared much, and because of their love to Christ they did much, and it is the same now. The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love—the love of Christ constraineth them; they rejoice that divine love is set upon them, they feel it shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them, and then by force of gratitude they love the Saviour with a pure heart, fervently. My reader, do you love him? Ere you sleep give an honest answer to a weighty question!

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     June 5

          GRACE GREATER THAN OUR SIN

     Julia H. Johnston, 1849–1919

     But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20, 21)

     God’s grace is not merely a sufficient grace; it is an abounding grace—“that you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). His grace provides our eternal salvation as well as the enablement to know life more abundantly. It is available for our every problem and need.

     Sometimes the argument is advanced that since God’s grace covers all our sins, then we are free to live as we please. God’s grace does provide for our freedom, but it is meant to free us from a slavery to our selfish, sinful nature in order that we might pursue “every good work”—to become all that God intends us to be.

     Julia Johnston was for many years involved in the work of Sunday schools at the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Illinois, and as a writer of lesson materials for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Company. She also wrote approximately 500 hymn texts. The composer of this hymn, Daniel B. Towner, was for many years the director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute. “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” first appeared in Towner’s compilation, Hymns Tried and True, 1911.

     Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured—there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

     Sin and despair, like the seawaves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss; grace that is greater—yes, grace untold—points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.

     Dark is the stain that we cannot hide; what can avail to wash it away? Look! there is flowing a crimson tide—whiter than snow you may be today.

     Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, will you this moment His grace receive?

     Chorus: Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!


     For Today: Romans 3:24-26; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:6–8; Titus 2:11.

     What does the term “grace” mean to your life? Try to define it in your own words. Discuss your insights with another. Carry this musical truth as you go ---

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. XLVI. — FIRST of all, we have that of Ecclesiasticus xv. 15-18. — “God from the beginning made man, and left him in the hand of his own counsel. He gave him also His commandments, and His precepts: saying, If thou wilt keep My commandments, and wilt keep continually, the faith that pleaseth Me, they shall preserve thee. He hath set before thee fire and water; and upon which thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand. Before man is life and death, good and evil; and whichsoever pleaseth him, shall be given unto him.” —

     Although I might justly refuse this book, yet, nevertheless, I receive it; lest I should, with loss of time, involve myself in a dispute concerning the books that are received into the canon of the Hebrews: which canon you do not a little reproach and deride, when you compare the Proverbs of Solomon, and the Love-song, (as, with a double-meaning sneer, you call it,) with the two books Esdras and Judith, the History of Susannah, of the Dragon, and the Book of Esther, though they have this last in their canon, and according to my judgment, it is much more worthy of being there, than any one of those that are considered not to be in the canon.

     But I would briefly answer you here in your own words, ‘The Scripture, in this place, is obscure and ambiguous;’ therefore, it proves nothing to a certainty. But however, since I stand in the negative, I call upon you to produce that place which declares, in plain words, what “Free-will” is, and what it can do. And this perhaps you will do by about the time of the Greek Calends. — In order to avoid this necessity, you spend many fine sayings upon nothing; and moving along on the tip-toe of prudence, cite numberless opinions concerning “Free-will,” and make of Pelagius almost an Evangelist. Moreover, you vamp up a four-fold grace, so as to assign a sort of faith and charity even to the philosophers. And also that new fable, a three-fold law; of nature, of works, and of faith, so as to assert with all boldness, that the precepts of the philosophers agree with the precepts of the Gospel. Again, you apply that of Psalm iv. 6. “The light of Thy countenance is settled upon us,” which speaks of the knowledge of the very countenance of the Lord, that is, of faith, to blinded reason. All which things together, if taken into consideration by any Christian, must compel him to suspect, that you are mocking and deriding the doctrines and religion of Christians: For to attribute these things as so much ignorance to him, who has illustrated all our doctrines with so much diligence, and stored them up in memory, appears to me very difficult indeed. But however, I will here abstain from open exposure, contented to wait until a more favourable opportunity shall offer itself. Although I entreat you, friend Erasmus, not to tempt me in this way like one of those who say — who sees us? For it is by no means safe in so great a matter, to be continually mocking every one with Vertumnities of words. But to the subject.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library



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