Job Continues: Where Then Is My Hope?
Job 17 1 My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.
2 Surely there are mockers about me,
and my eye dwells on their provocation.
3 “Lay down a pledge for me with you;
who is there who will put up security for me?
4 Since you have closed their hearts to understanding,
therefore you will not let them triumph.
5 He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property—
the eyes of his children will fail.
6 “He has made me a byword of the peoples,
and I am one before whom men spit.
7 My eye has grown dim from vexation,
and all my members are like a shadow.
8 The upright are appalled at this,
and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless.
9 Yet the righteous holds to his way,
and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger.
10 But you, come on again, all of you,
and I shall not find a wise man among you.
11 My days are past; my plans are broken off,
the desires of my heart.
12 They make night into day:
‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’
13 If I hope for Sheol as my house,
if I make my bed in darkness,
14 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?
16 Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?”
Bildad Speaks: God Punishes the Wicked
Job 18 1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
2 “How long will you hunt for words?
Consider, and then we will speak.
3 Why are we counted as cattle?
Why are we stupid in your sight?
4 You who tear yourself in your anger,
shall the earth be forsaken for you,
or the rock be removed out of its place?
5 “Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out,
and the flame of his fire does not shine.
6 The light is dark in his tent,
and his lamp above him is put out.
7 His strong steps are shortened,
and his own schemes throw him down.
8 For he is cast into a net by his own feet,
and he walks on its mesh.
9 A trap seizes him by the heel;
a snare lays hold of him.
10 A rope is hidden for him in the ground,
a trap for him in the path.
11 Terrors frighten him on every side,
and chase him at his heels.
12 His strength is famished,
and calamity is ready for his stumbling.
13 It consumes the parts of his skin;
the firstborn of death consumes his limbs.
14 He is torn from the tent in which he trusted
and is brought to the king of terrors.
15 In his tent dwells that which is none of his;
sulfur is scattered over his habitation.
16 His roots dry up beneath,
and his branches wither above.
17 His memory perishes from the earth,
and he has no name in the street.
18 He is thrust from light into darkness,
and driven out of the world.
19 He has no posterity or progeny among his people,
and no survivor where he used to live.
20 They of the west are appalled at his day,
and horror seizes them of the east.
21 Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
such is the place of him who knows not God.”
Job Replies: My Redeemer Lives
Job 19 1 Then Job answered and said:
2 “How long will you torment me
and break me in pieces with words?
3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
are you not ashamed to wrong me?
4 And even if it be true that I have erred,
my error remains with myself.
5 If indeed you magnify yourselves against me
and make my disgrace an argument against me,
6 know then that God has put me in the wrong
and closed his net about me.
7 Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
8 He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass,
and he has set darkness upon my paths.
9 He has stripped from me my glory
and taken the crown from my head.
10 He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone,
and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.
11 He has kindled his wrath against me
and counts me as his adversary.
12 His troops come on together;
they have cast up their siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.
13 “He has put my brothers far from me,
and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.
14 My relatives have failed me,
my close friends have forgotten me.
15 The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger;
I have become a foreigner in their eyes.
16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer;
I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy.
17 My breath is strange to my wife,
and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.
18 Even young children despise me;
when I rise they talk against me.
19 All my intimate friends abhor me,
and those whom I loved have turned against me.
20 My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh,
and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
21 Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
22 Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
23 “Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
28 If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’
and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’
29 be afraid of the sword,
for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
that you may know there is a judgment.”
Zophar Speaks: The Wicked Will Suffer
Job 20 1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:
2 “Therefore my thoughts answer me,
because of my haste within me.
3 I hear censure that insults me,
and out of my understanding a spirit answers me.
4 Do you not know this from of old,
since man was placed on earth,
5 that the exulting of the wicked is short,
and the joy of the godless but for a moment?
6 Though his height mount up to the heavens,
and his head reach to the clouds,
7 he will perish forever like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
8 He will fly away like a dream and not be found;
he will be chased away like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will see him no more,
nor will his place any more behold him.
10 His children will seek the favor of the poor,
and his hands will give back his wealth.
11 His bones are full of his youthful vigor,
but it will lie down with him in the dust.
12 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth,
though he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he is loath to let it go
and holds it in his mouth,
14 yet his food is turned in his stomach;
it is the venom of cobras within him.
15 He swallows down riches and vomits them up again;
God casts them out of his belly.
16 He will suck the poison of cobras;
the tongue of a viper will kill him.
17 He will not look upon the rivers,
the streams flowing with honey and curds.
18 He will give back the fruit of his toil
and will not swallow it down;
from the profit of his trading
he will get no enjoyment.
19 For he has crushed and abandoned the poor;
he has seized a house that he did not build.
20 “Because he knew no contentment in his belly,
he will not let anything in which he delights escape him.
21 There was nothing left after he had eaten;
therefore his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the fullness of his sufficiency he will be in distress;
the hand of everyone in misery will come against him.
23 To fill his belly to the full,
God will send his burning anger against him
and rain it upon him into his body.
24 He will flee from an iron weapon;
a bronze arrow will strike him through.
25 It is drawn forth and comes out of his body;
the glittering point comes out of his gallbladder;
terrors come upon him.
26 Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures;
a fire not fanned will devour him;
what is left in his tent will be consumed.
27 The heavens will reveal his iniquity,
and the earth will rise up against him.
28 The possessions of his house will be carried away,
dragged off in the day of God’s wrath.
29 This is the wicked man’s portion from God,
the heritage decreed for him by God.”
What I'm Reading
What Does the Bible Say About “End Times”? Three Historic Perspectives
By J. Warner Wallace 7/14/2014
Few topics divide the Christian community as quickly as the issue of “end times” (known amongst theologians as the study of “eschatology”). Entire denominations divide over the issue, and many would argue a particular “eschatology” must be adopted if we are going to claim we are “Christians”. There are some essentials Christians must adopt related to “end times” and it turns out these essentials are relatively simple and easy to understand. Let’s take a look at some of the theories and interpretations developed over time as people have tried their best to understand what the Bible teaches, and then let’s offer an the essential truth all of us should hold as Christians.
Let’s start with the basics. All Christians agree (1) Jesus came and appeared to His followers over 2000 years ago, (2) Jesus will eventually return, and (3) Jesus will someday judge the living and the dead. We believe these things based on the clear teaching of Scripture:
Jesus Came: | For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Peter 1:16)
Jesus Will Return: | “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3)
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
How The Bible Speaks Authentically
By Teri Dugan 6/3/2017
In making our “Case for Christ” we are looking at evidence for the reliability, historicity and inerrancy of the New Testament.
Using the acronym MAPS-S our case can be made based on five categories of Biblical evidence:
From the last two posts: | 1. Manuscript evidence includes over 25,000 early New Testament documents with which textual critics can compare, and scholars have given the transmission of what we have today from the originals a 99.5% accuracy rate. Keep in mind that anyone can take versions of the New Testament we use today and go back to the original Greek language to check the translations because there are roughly 6000 early Greek manuscripts to do this with. No other book of antiquity even comes close to this level of verifiable reliability.
2. Archeological evidence includes over 25,000 finds that support people, places and events recorded in the Bible. No archeological find has ever discounted a Biblical report. Archeology, in many ways, gives additional credibility to the manuscript evidence. The Bible has been used by scholars worldwide as a source in historical and archeological research.
Teri Dugan is a graduate of Biola University’s M.A. in Apologetics Program. She also holds an M.A. in Education from California State University, Long Beach and currently teaches Biology, Anatomy and Physiology at Lynwood High School in California. Teri has also coached the Girls’ Varsity Tennis and Softball teams at Lynwood and now sponsors the Christian On Campus Ministry Club. She teaches evening Christian Apologetics classes at her home Church, Sea Coast Grace in Cypress, California and is available for speaking or teaching engagements at other venues.
Progressive Christianity is as Much of a Threat to Your Kids’ Faith as Atheism
By Natasha Crain 6/1/2017
In our backyard we used to have a beautiful lime tree.
One day I noticed that a thorny vine of some kind had started growing around it. It looked enough like the rest of the tree that I figured it was just another stage of growth. A quick Google search told me thorns often grow around citrus trees, so I didn’t think much more about it.
Then, within a couple of months, the thorns took over the tree and it began to die. A gardener looked at it and said these particular thorns weren’t part of the tree at all. It turns out they were a foreign invader.
Had the foreign invader looked more foreign, I would have realized the need to uproot it immediately. But because it shared surface-level similarities with the tree, I was fooled into thinking it was all the same thing.
Natasha Crain : Before we had kids, I went back to school and got an MBA in marketing and statistics at UCLA. I worked my way up the corporate marketing ladder for several years and was an adjunct university market research professor on the side.
1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s
By Tim Challies 6/2/2014
As Christians we have the great privilege of knowing that God speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. There is no other book like it—no other book that rewards us with God’s own words. But to know what God says to us, and how God means for us to live, we need to do a little bit of work. Every Christian, and every preacher in particular, has to go from the text to today. We all wonder, “But what does this mean to me?” or “What does this mean to my congregation?”
Every word of the Bible was written at a certain time and in a certain context. Even the most recent of those times and the nearest of those contexts is at a great distance from us in time and space. Thus, when we read the Bible, we have to determine how those words apply to us today in our very different times and very different contexts. It is not always a simple task.
We have all seen situations—and many of us have caused situations—where we have been sloppy in going from the text to today. The young man who marches three times around a young woman and waits for her walls of romantic resistance to crumble is not properly understanding how to go from the text to today. Similarly, the muscleman who tears a phone book in half while quoting, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is not properly accounting for the context of that verse. (Here is another example of a tricky text.)
There are different ways Christians attempt to get from the text to today in ways that are faithful and accurate. I’m going to borrow from my friend James Seward and display one of these ways with a triangle that has four T’s on it. Look at figure 1 and you’ll see it: One triangle, three corners, four T’s.
Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
City: You Can’t Sell Blueberries Unless You Affirm Gay Marriage
By Todd Starnes 6/1/2017
The Tennes family has been farming in Michigan for generations.
They grow all sorts of crops at the Country Mill Farm — organic apples, blueberries, pumpkins, sweet corn.
And for the past seven years, Steve Tennes and his family have sold their produce at the farmer’s market owned by the city of East Lansing.
But this year city officials told the devout Catholic family that their blueberries and sweet corn were not welcome at the farmer’s market — and neither were they.
Last year, someone posted a message on Country Mill’s Facebook page inquiring about whether they hosted same-sex weddings at the farm. Tennes told the individual they did not permit same-sex marriages on the farm because of the family’s Catholic belief that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman.
City officials later discovered the Facebook posting and began immediate action to remove Country Mill from the Farmer’s Market — alleging the family had violated the city’s discrimination ordinance.
Todd Starnes is the host of FOX News & Commentary — heard daily on hundreds of radio stations. He’s also a columnist for FoxNews.com and makes regular television appearances on the Fox News Channel. Throughout his journalism career, Todd has covered a number of high profile stories — taking him from Wall Street to the White House. He is a frequent speaker and prolific writer, with regular columns appearing in numerous publications and Web sites.
Todd is the author of four books — the most recent being The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again. He also wrote God Less America, a compilation of evidence exposing the Obama Administration’s war on religious liberty, and Dispatches From Bitter America, a collection of essays detailing how President Obama has declared war on the values that made this country great. They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick was published in 2009 and became a best-seller. The book was a collection of humorous and inspirational stories from his open heart surgery in 2005.
Todd has been awarded the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award, an Associated Press Mark Twain Award, and the National Religious Broadcasters Board of Director’s Award. In his spare time, Todd is active in his church, plays golf, follows SEC football and eats barbecue.
What We Really Know About the Origin of Life
By Tom Gilson 6/3/2017
I was just watching a National Geographic channel show about astrobiology (or exobiology) — the science of looking for life outside of the Earth. I didn’t get to see the whole program, but what I did see featured some amazing facts about where life can thrive on earth — and maybe elsewhere?
The operative word there, of course, is maybe.
Amazing Life on Earth | There are microorganisms in boiling pools at Yellowstone, where the pH is 1 (about the same as battery acid), and you or I would quickly dissolve if we fell in.
There are tall tube worms at the dark bottom of the ocean, living without no access to the solar energy the rest of earth’s life depends on. They get their energy and nutrients from searingly hot (600° — they didn’t say whether Fahrenheit or Celsius) mineral plumes issuing from deeper in earth’s crust.
Life Elsewhere? | If life could thrive there, who knows where else it might exist? There are ice crystals just inches below the surface of Martian soil. Maybe deeper down, there’s enough pressure to liquefy that ice into water. There could be life there.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor of The Stream, author of the new 2016 parent-friendly guide to keeping kids in the faith, titledCritical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, the chief editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, and Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician: A Preliminary Response To "A Manual For Creating Atheists" the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog.
He lives in southwest Ohio with Sara, his wife, and their two 20-something children. He has received a B.Mus. in Music Education with a specialty in performance from Michigan State University and an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. When he’s not writing he loves drinking coffee, canoeing, walking in the woods, and playing his trombones.
By Mark Jones 6/5/2017
Writing here at the Calvinist International gives me the opportunity to argue that the name of the website should be changed. Why? Because Calvinism is an unfortunate word. Scholars should try to avoid it in most instances. Churchmen and laypeople need to be aware of the pitfalls of the word. Nonetheless, the term is here to stay, with only the most rabid Post–millennials suggesting that it might be forgotten one day. Yet consider that today “Calvinism” has morphed into a brand of theology that would have been very unwelcome in Geneva during Calvin’s time. Some now entertain heretical views on the Trinity (i.e., the eternal subordination of the Son) and others (perhaps the same people just described) gladly call themselves “four–point Calvinists” who also refuse to baptize babies.
What Is Calvinism?
At the outset I wish to suggest that “Calvinism” as a term of reference for a body of doctrine is, in the final analysis, meaningless today. In many “Calvinistic” churches they have a view of the Lord’s Table that would forbid most Presbyterians from enjoying communion in their church. The Presbyterian, who is baptized as an infant, is not really baptized and thus needs to be baptized (by immersion) before they can come to the Lord’s Table in these “Calvinistic” churches. When one considers the rather strong language Calvin uses towards antipaedobaptists, it seems rather odd to refer to a group of believers as “Calvinists” when Calvin would likely have had them kicked out of Geneva for their views. And, quite frankly, after being called a “frantic/fanatical/frenzied spirit” (“Quoniam autem hoc seculo phrenetici quida spiritus…”) 1 who would want to be identified with Calvin? I am not making a statement that Baptists are wrong – though, as a Presbyterian, I differ with my brothers on whether the children of believers should be baptized – but rather that to be “Baptistic” (i.e., an anti–paedobaptist) and identify as a “Calvinist” is somewhat odd, in my mind. Credit to the “particular” and “general” Baptist distinction, or the phrase “Reformed Baptist” (which at least clarifies the 1677/89 confessional history of the term).
One has to ask, if you wish to be identified as a Calvinist, but you would not admit Calvin to the Table in your local church, what point is there in self–identifying as a Calvinist? Usually one is a “Calvinist” today because they hold to certain soteriological truths, especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone and God’s sovereign grace in salvation. After that, almost everything else seems pretty much up for grabs, so much so that types of antinomianism are viewed as pillars of orthodoxy in much present–day thinking on salvation and grace. Indeed, without wishing to go into detail proving this point, but let the reader take it is for what it is, Jacob Arminius (1559–1609) was likely closer to Calvin theologically than many so–called Calvinists today. He certainly read Calvin a lot more than most Calvinists today. 2
Historically Rejected | There is also the matter of whether “Calvinism” is a helpful term even in its sixteenth–century context in which it emerged. Like the term “Puritanism,” “Calvinism” was originally a hostile epithet. As a matter of fact, “Lutheranism” was also used with hostility by the Roman Catholics towards Luther’s followers. Calvin certainly viewed the term “Calvinism” as a term of hostility, especially since “Calvinism” was viewed as more dangerous than Islam. As Bruce Gordon makes clear, “Terms like ‘Calvinist’…were not badges worn with pride so much as insults used by opponents to indicate that the people were not Christians.” 3 Calvin wished to be known as a true Catholic, saying on one occasion about the Lutherans, “They can find no more horrific insult to attack your Highness [Frederick III]…than the term Calvinism.” 4 Lutherans used the term in connection with their disagreement with the Reformed on the Lord’s Supper. In its original context, “Calvinism” is not a term denoting the emergence of a distinct theological tradition, but rather the unfortunate discord between Protestants. Hence “Calvinists” versus “Lutherans.” Had certain Reformers been able to persuade Luther and his followers to sort out their Christology, perhaps the “Calvinist” epithet would never have emerged. But, alas, Hoc est corpus meum, says Luther!
Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver Church (PCA) since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lectures at various seminaries around the world and is currently writing a book titled, "God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God" (Crossway, 2017) and "Faith, Hope, and Love" (Crossway, 2017).
Books by Mark Jones:
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?
God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God
Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace
A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality)
A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology by Mark Jones (20-May-2012) Paperback
Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-century British Puritanism
The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox Theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) (Reformed Historical Theology)
Shall I not drink the cup?
By Lydia McGrew
John’s account of Jesus’ arrest says that Simon Peter cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants, and this event will play an important role in several of the undesigned coincidences I will be discussing. John says that Jesus rebuked Peter, and so do Matthew and Luke, but the words of rebuke in each Gospel are different. In John, Jesus uses a vivid metaphor for his coming death:
(Jn 18:10–11) 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” ESV
This expression, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” appears in no other Gospel’s account of this event. Even more striking, the Gospel of John never anywhere else portrays Jesus as using the metaphor of the cup to describe his crucifixion. So why does he use it here?
The Synoptic Gospels give the answer. In their accounts of Jesus’ agonized prayers to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Synoptics all show Jesus using this very metaphor.
(Mt 26:39–42) 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” ESV
Luke 22.42 and Mark 14.35– 36 are similar. 12 Though John gives no version of this prayer at all, the Synoptics state that Jesus prayed that night in these very terms, asking that the Father would take from him the necessity of suffering crucifixion, calling it “the cup.” When Judas and the guards came to arrest him, Jesus accepted this as the Father’s decision to give him the cup, as shown by the words in John, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Matthew and Mark tell of a different incident, also not recorded in John, in which Jesus used the same metaphor. When the mother of James and John asked that her sons might be allowed to sit on Jesus’ right and left hands when Jesus eventually came into his kingdom, he answered them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10.38), an allusion to his coming death. This makes it clear that this was a metaphor Jesus tended to use, though one would never draw that conclusion from reading John alone.
This point strengthens the case for the historicity and eyewitness sources of the Synoptics, on the one hand, and John, on the other. They tell of different incidents in which Jesus used this metaphor of the cup for his death. Moreover, John’s account of Jesus’ specific words to Peter dovetails especially beautifully with the Synoptics’ account of Jesus’ anguished request to the Father on that very night. Yet John, though later than the Synoptic Gospels, made no attempt to include that prayer that the cup might pass, though it would help to explain his own account of what Jesus said when he was arrested. What we have here are different, interlocking details of the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest as told truthfully from different perspectives.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
By Don Carson 6/6/2018
Interspersed with the historical recital that makes up much of the early chapters of Deuteronomy are bursts of exhortation. One of the most moving is found in Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Its magnificent themes include:
(1) A sheer God-centerdness that embraces both fearing God and loving God (Deut. 10:12-13). In our confused and blinded world, fearing God without loving him will dissolve into terror, and thence into taboos, magic, incantations, rites; loving God without obeying him will dissolve into sentimentalism without strong affection, pretensions of godliness without moral vigor, unbridled lust for power without any sense of impropriety, nostalgic yearnings for relationships without any passion for holiness. Neither pattern squares with what the Bible says: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him . . .?” (Deut. 10:12).
(2) A sheer God-centeredness that pictures election as a gracious act. God owns the whole show — “the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut. 10:14). He can do with it as he wishes. What he has in fact done is “set his affection” on the patriarchs, loving them, and in turn choosing their descendants (Deut. 10:15; cf. Deut. 4:37).
(3) A sheer God-centeredness that is never satisfied with the mere rites and show of religion: it demands the heart (Deut. 10:16). That is why physical circumcision could never be seen as an end in itself, not even in the Old Testament. It symbolized something deeper: circumcision of the heart. What God wants is not merely an outward sign that certain people belong to him, but an inward disposition of heart and mind that orient us to God continually.
(4) A sheer God-centeredness that recognizes his impartiality, and therefore his justice — and acts accordingly (Deut. 10:17-20). He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deut. 10:17). Small wonder then that he accepts no bribes and shows no partiality. (Never confuse election with partiality. Partiality is favoritism that is corrupted by a willingness to pervert justice for the sake of the favored few; election chooses certain people out of God’s free decision and nothing else, and even then justice is not perverted: hence the cross.) And he expects his people to conduct themselves accordingly.
(5) A sheer God-centeredness that is displayed in his people’s praise (Deut. 10:20-22). “He is your praise; he is your God” (Deut. 10:21). Those who focus much on God have much for which to praise. Those whose vision is merely terrestrial or self-centered dry up inside like desiccated prunes. God is your praise!
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 | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 59Deliver 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.
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
14 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
15 They wander about for food
and growl if they do not get their fill.
16 But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
7. But there is one memorable example which may suffice for all. In the council which the priests and Pharisees assembled at Jerusalem against Christ (John 11:47), what is wanting, in so far as external appearance is concerned? Had there been no Church then at Jerusalem, Christ would never have joined in the sacrifices and other ceremonies. A solemn meeting is held; the high priest presides; the whole sacerdotal order take their seats, and yet Christ is condemned, and his doctrine is put to flight. This atrocity proves that the Church was not at all included in that council. But there is no danger that anything of the kind will happen with us. Who has told us so? Too much security in a matter of so great importance lies open to the charge of sluggishness. Nay, when the Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, foretells, in distinct terms, that a defection will take place, a defection which cannot come until pastors first forsake God (2 Thess. 2:3), why do we spontaneously walk blindfold to our own destruction? Wherefore, we cannot on any account admit that the Church consists in a meeting of pastors, as to whom the Lord has nowhere promised that they would always be good, but has sometimes foretold that they would be wicked. When he warns us of danger, it is to make us use greater caution.
8. What, then, you will say, is there no authority in the definitions of councils? Yes, indeed; for I do not contend that all councils are to be condemned, and all their acts rescinded, or, as it is said, made one complete erasure. But you are bringing them all (it will be said) under subordination, and so leaving every one at liberty to receive or reject the decrees of councils as he pleases. By no means; but whenever the decree of a council is produced, the first thing I would wish to be done is, to examine at what time it was held, on what occasion, with what intention, and who were present at it; next I would bring the subject discussed to the standard of Scripture. And this I would do in such a way that the decision of the council should have its weight, and be regarded in the light of a prior judgment, yet not so as to prevent the application of the test which I have mentioned. I wish all had observed the method which Augustine prescribes in his Third Book against Maximinus, when he wished to silence the cavils of this heretic against the decrees of councils, "I ought not to oppose the Council of Nice to you, nor ought you to oppose that of Ariminum to me, as prejudging the question. I am not bound by the authority of the latter, nor you by that of the former. Let thing contend with thing, cause with cause, reason with reason, on the authority of Scripture, an authority not peculiar to either, but common to all." In this way, councils would be duly respected, and yet the highest place would be given to Scripture, everything being brought to it as a test. Thus those ancient Councils of Nice, Constantinople, the first of Ephesus, Chalcedon, and the like, which were held for refuting errors, we willingly embrace, and reverence as sacred, in so far as relates to doctrines of faith, for they contain nothing but the pure and genuine interpretation of Scripture, which the holy Fathers with spiritual prudence adopted to crush the enemies of religion who had then arisen. In some later councils, also, we see displayed a true zeal for religion, and moreover unequivocal marks of genius, learning, and prudence. But as matters usually become worse and worse, it is easy to see in more modern councils how much the Church gradually degenerated from the purity of that golden age. I doubt not, however, that even in those more corrupt ages, councils had their bishops of better character. But it happened with them as the Roman senators of old complained in regard to their decrees. Opinions being numbered, not weighed, the better were obliged to give way to the greater number. They certainly put forth many impious sentiments. There is no need here to collect instances, both because it would be tedious, and because it has been done by others so carefully, as not to leave much to be added.
9. Moreover, why should I review the contests of council with council? Nor is there any ground for whispering to me, that when councils are at variance, one or other of them is not a lawful council. For how shall we ascertain this? Just, if I mistake not, by judging from Scripture that the decrees are not orthodox. For this alone is the sure law of discrimination. It is now about nine hundred years since the Council of Constantinople, convened under the Emperor Leo, determined that the images set up in temples were to be thrown down and broken to pieces. Shortly after, the Council of Nice, which was assembled by Irene, through dislike of the former, decreed that images were to be restored. Which of the two councils shall we acknowledge to be lawful? The latter has usually prevailed, and secured a place for images in churches. But Augustine maintains that this could not be done without the greatest danger of idolatry. Epiphanius, at a later period, speaks much more harshly (Epist. ad Joann. Hierosolym. et Lib. 3 contra Hæres.). For he says, it is an unspeakable abomination to see images in a Christian temple. Could those who speak thus approve of that council if they were alive in the present day? But if historians speak true, and we believe their acts, not only images themselves, but the worship of them, were there sanctioned. Now it is plain that this decree emanated from Satan. Do they not show, by corrupting and wresting Scripture, that they held it in derision? This I have made sufficiently clear in a former part of the work (see Book I. chap. 11 sec. 14). Be this as it may, we shall never be able to distinguish between contradictory and dissenting councils, which have been many, unless we weigh them all in that balance for men and angels, I mean, the word of God. Thus we embrace the Council of Chalcedon, and repudiate the second of Ephesus, because the latter sanctioned the impiety of Eutyches, and the former condemned it. The judgment of these holy men was founded on the Scriptures, and while we follow it, we desire that the word of God, which illuminated them, may now also illuminate us. Let the Romanists now go and boast after their manner, that the Holy Spirit is fixed and tied to their councils.
10. Even in their ancient and purer councils there is something to be desiderated, either because the otherwise learned and prudent men who attended, being distracted by the business in hand, did not attend to many things beside; or because, occupied with grave and more serious measures, they winked at some of lesser moment; or simply because, as men, they were deceived through ignorance, or were sometimes carried headlong by some feeling in excess. Of this last case (which seems the most difficult of all to avoid) we have a striking example in the Council of Nice, which has been unanimously received, as it deserves, with the utmost veneration. For when the primary article of our faith was there in peril, and Arius, its enemy, was present, ready to engage any one in combat, and it was of the utmost moment that those who had come to attack Arius should be agreed, they nevertheless, feeling secure amid all these dangers, nay, as it were, forgetting their gravity, modesty, and politeness, laying aside the discussion which was before them (as if they had met for the express purpose of gratifying Arius), began to give way to intestine dissensions, and turn the pen, which should have been employed against Arius, against each other. Foul accusations were heard, libels flew up and down, and they never would have ceased from their contention until they had stabbed each other with mutual wounds, had not the Emperor Constantine interfered, and declaring that the investigation of their lives was a matter above his cognisance, repressed their intemperance by flattery rather than censure. In how many respects is it probable that councils, held subsequently to this, have erred? Nor does the fact stand in need of a long demonstration; any one who reads their acts will observe many infirmities, not to use a stronger term.
11. Even Leo, the Roman Pontiff, hesitates not to charge the Council of Chalcedon, which he admits to be orthodox in its doctrines, with ambition and inconsiderate rashness. He denies not that it was lawful, but openly maintains that it might have erred. Some may think me foolish in labouring to point out errors of this description, since my opponents admit that councils may err in things not necessary to salvation. My labour, however, is not superfluous. For although compelled, they admit this in word, yet by obtruding upon us the determination of all councils, in all matters without distinction, as the oracles of the Holy Spirit, they exact more than they had at the outset assumed. By thus acting what do they maintain but just that councils cannot err, of if they err, it is unlawful for us to perceive the truth, or refuse assent to their errors? At the same time, all I mean to infer from what I have said is, that though councils, otherwise pious and holy, were governed by the Holy Spirit, he yet allowed them to share the lot of humanity, lest we should confide too much in men. This is a much better view than that of Gregory Nanzianzen, who says (Ep. 55), that he never saw any council end well. In asserting that all, without exception, ended ill, he leaves them little authority. There is no necessity for making separate mention of provincial councils, since it is easy to estimate, from the case of general councils, how much authority they ought to have in framing articles of faith, and deciding what kind of doctrine is to be received.
12. But our Romanists, when, in defending their cause, they see all rational grounds slip from beneath them, betake themselves to a last miserable subterfuge. Although they should be dull in intellect and counsel, and most depraved in heart and will, still the word of the Lord remains, which commands us to obey those who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17). Is it indeed so? What if I should deny that those who act thus have the rule over us? They ought not to claim for themselves more than Joshua had, who was both a prophet of the Lord and an excellent pastor. Let us then hear in what terms the Lord introduced him to his office. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and thou shalt have good success" (Josh. 1:7, 8). Our spiritual rulers, therefore, will be those who turn not from the law of the Lord to the right hand or the left. But if the doctrine of all pastors is to be received without hesitation, why are we so often and so anxiously admonished by the Lord not to give heed to false prophets? "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord" (Jer. 23:16). Again, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Mt. 7:15). In vain also would John exhort us to try the spirits whether they be of God (1 John 4:1). From this judgment not even angels are exempted (Gal. 1:8); far less Satan with his lies. And what is meant by the expression, "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch"? (Mt. 15:14) Does it not sufficiently declare that there is a great difference among the pastors who are to be heard, that all are not to be heard indiscriminately? Wherefore they have no ground for deterring us by their name, in order to draw us into a participation of their blindness, since we see, on the contrary, that the Lord has used special care to guard us from allowing ourselves to be led away by the errors of others, whatever be the mask under which they may lurk. For if the answer of our Saviour is true, blind guides, whether high priests, prelates, or pontiffs, can do nothing more than hurry us over the same precipice with themselves. Wherefore, let no names of councils, pastors, and bishops (which may be used on false pretences as well as truly), hinder us from giving heed to the evidence both of words and facts, and bringing all spirits to the test of the divine word, that we may prove whether they are of God.
13. Having proved that no power was given to the Church to set up any new doctrine, let us now treat of the power attributed to them in the interpretation of Scripture. We readily admit, that when any doctrine is brought under discussion, there is not a better or surer remedy than for a council of true bishops to meet and discuss the controverted point. There will be much more weight in a decision of this kind, to which the pastors of churches have agreed in common after invoking the Spirit of Christ, than if each, adopting it for himself, should deliver it to his people, or a few individuals should meet in private and decide. Secondly, When bishops have assembled in one place, they deliberate more conveniently in common, fixing both the doctrine and the form of teaching it, lest diversity give offence. Thirdly, Paul prescribes this method of determining doctrine. For when he gives the power of deciding to a single church, he shows what the course of procedure should be in more important cases--namely, that the churches together are to take common cognisance. And the very feeling of piety tells us, that if any one trouble the Church with some novelty in doctrine, and the matter be carried so far that there is danger of a greater dissension, the churches should first meet, examine the question, and at length, after due discussion, decide according to Scripture, which may both put an end to doubt in the people, and stop the mouths of wicked and restless men, so as to prevent the matter from proceeding farther. Thus when Arius arose, the Council of Nice was convened, and by its authority both crushed the wicked attempts of this impious man, and restored peace to the churches which he had vexed, and asserted the eternal divinity of Christ in opposition to his sacrilegious dogma. Thereafter, when Eunomius and Macedonius raised new disturbances, their madness was met with a similar remedy by the Council of Constantinople; the impiety of Nestorius was defeated by the Council of Ephesus. In short, this was from the first the usual method of preserving unity in the Church whenever Satan commenced his machinations. But let us remember, that all ages and places are not favoured with an Athanasius, a Basil, a Cyril, and like vindicators of sound doctrine, whom the Lord then raised up. Nay, let us consider what happened in the second Council of Ephesus when the Eutychian heresy prevailed. Flavianus, of holy memory, with some pious men, was driven into exile, and many similar crimes were committed, because, instead of the Spirit of the Lord, Dioscorus, a factious man, of a very bad disposition, presided. But the Church was not there. I admit it; for I always hold that the truth does not perish in the Church though it be oppressed by one council, but is wondrously preserved by the Lord to rise again, and prove victorious in his own time. I deny, however, that every interpretation of Scripture is true and certain which has received the votes of a council.
14. But the Romanists have another end in view when they say that the power of interpreting Scripture belongs to councils, and that without challenge. For they employ it as a pretext for giving the name of an interpretation of Scripture to everything which is determined in councils. Of purgatory, the intercession of saints, and auricular confession, and the like, not one syllable can be found in Scripture. But as all these have been sanctioned by the authority of the Church, or, to speak more correctly, have been received by opinion and practice, every one of them is to be held as an interpretation of Scripture. And not only so, but whatever a council has determined against Scripture is to have the name of an interpretation. Christ bids all drink of the cup which he holds forth in the Supper. The Council of Constance prohibited the giving of it to the people, and determined that the priest alone should drink. Though this is diametrically opposed to the institution of Christ (Mt. 26:26), they will have it to be regarded as his interpretation. Paul terms the prohibition of marriage a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1, 3); and the Spirit elsewhere declares that "marriage is honourable in all" (Heb. 13:4). Having afterwards interdicted their priests from marriage, they insist on this as a true and genuine interpretation of Scripture, though nothing can be imagined more alien to it. Should any one venture to open his lips in opposition, he will be judged a heretic, since the determination of the Church is without challenge, and it is unlawful to have any doubt as to the accuracy of her interpretation. Why should I assail such effrontery? to point to it is to condemn it. Their dogma with regard to the power of approving Scripture I intentionally omit. For to subject the oracles of God in this way to the censure of men, and hold that they are sanctioned because they please men, is a blasphemy which deserves not to be mentioned. Besides, I have already touched upon it (Book 1 chap. 7; 8 sec. 9). I will ask them one question, however. If the authority of Scripture is founded on the approbation of the Church, will they quote the decree of a council to that effect? I believe they cannot. Why, then, did Arius allow himself to be vanquished at the Council of Nice by passages adduced from the Gospel of John? According to these, he was at liberty to repudiate them, as they had not previously been approved by any general council. They allege an old catalogue, which they call the Canon, and say that it originated in a decision of the Church. But I again ask, In what council was that Canon published? Here they must be dumb. Besides, I wish to know what they believe that Canon to be. For I see that the ancients are little agreed with regard to it. If effect is to be given to what Jerome says (Præf. in Lib. Solom.), the Maccabees, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, and the like, must take their place in the Apocrypha: but this they will not tolerate on any account.
 See Calvin's Antidote to the Articles of Sorbonne; Letter to Sadolet; Necessity of Reforming the Church; Antidote to the Council of Trent; Remarks on the Paternal Admonition of the Pope.
 French , "Si je tien ici la bride roide pour ne lascher rien facilement à nos adversaires, ce n'est pas a dire pourtant que je prise les conciles anciens moins que je ne doy. Car je les honore de bonne affection, et desire que chacun les estime, et les ait en reverence."--If I here keep the reins tight, and do not easily yield anything to our opponents, it is not because I prize ancient councils less than I ought. For I honour them sincerely and desire that every man esteem them, and hold them in reverence.
 French, "Toutesfois je ne veux point que ces propos soyent entendus comme si je vouloye amoindrir l'authorité des pasteurs, et induire le peuple à la mepriser legerement."--However, I would not have these statements to be understood as if I wished to lessen the authority of pastors, and induce the people lightly to despise it.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2011 | United in the (whole) Truth
We are prone to partiality. It is our habit not only to have preferences but to establish ourselves and pride ourselves in the preferences we choose. We play favorites and then rally around our favorites as we strive to demonstrate why our favorites should be everyone’s favorites. Being partial, having preferences, and playing favorites isn’t inherently wrong, so long as our partiality, preferences, and favorites are in accord with sacred Scripture. Problems quickly emerge, however, when we begin to play favorites with Scripture itself.
Paul boldly confronted the Corinthians on this very matter when he wrote at the outset of his epistle: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:10–13). The Corinthians were playing favorites with the apostles and their teachings. Individual Christians within the church were holding up one apostle’s teachings over those of another, thereby creating unnecessary and, thus, unbiblical divisions within the body of Christ, which cannot be truly divided any more than can Christ Himself.
Even now, though we would never admit it, we play favorites with the apostles and their teachings. We rally around our favorite New Testament epistles to the exclusion of others and sometimes wind up being unnecessarily divided within the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t trump Peter, Peter doesn’t trump John, and John doesn’t trump James. In His sovereign wisdom, God was quite partial in providing us with a beautiful array of inspired epistles on all matters pertaining to life and godliness, to the end that we would glorify Him and enjoy Him forever as one, united body of Christ, because of the truth, not in spite of it.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
"D-Day" June 6, 1944, one hundred and fifty-six thousand men landed on the Normandy coast of France. It was the largest invasion force in history. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, had issued the order: "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade…. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you…. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely." General Eisenhower concluded: "Let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Some people talk about finding God -
as if He could get lost.
--- Author Unknown
A Man Called Blessed (The Caleb Books Series)
Somewhere, and I can't find where, I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?" "No," said the priest, "not if you did not know." "Then why," asked the Eskimo earnestly, "did you tell me?
--- Annie Dillard
The Seven Deadly Sins
Satan wants us to think that our ‘disobedience detours’ must become the permanent road for the rest of our lives, but this is a lie.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Obedient (Genesis 12-25): Learning the Secret of Living by Faith (The BE Series Commentary)
Do you not blush to think that worldlings are more busy and laborious about the low things, the rattles and trifles of this life, than you are about the high affairs of God and your soul, the noble and serious concernments of eternity?
--- George Swinnock
Works of George Swinnock (5 Volume Set)
... from here, there and everywhere
Garden of Gethsemane
Supper is now over, and Jesus has finished his instruction of the apostles. He has urged them to abide in him, as the branches abide in the vine. He has warned them of the opposition of the world, yet encouraged them to bear witness to him none the less, remembering that the Spirit of truth will be the chief witness. He has also prayed – first for himself that he may glorify his Father in the coming ordeal, then for them that they may be kept in truth, holiness, mission and unity, and lastly for all those of subsequent generations who would believe in him through their message. Probably now they sing a hymn, and then together they leave the upper room. They walk through the streets of the city in the stillness of the night, and in the soft light of the Paschal moon, cross the Kidron Valley, begin to climb the Mount of Olives, and turn off into an olive orchard, as its name ‘Gethsemane’ (‘oil press’) suggests. It is evidently a favourite retreat for Jesus, for John comments that he ‘had often met there with his disciples’ (John 18:2). Here something takes place which, despite the sober way the evangelists describe it, simply cries out for an explanation, and begins to disclose the enormous costliness of the cross to Jesus. We rightly call it ‘the agony in the garden’.
Leaving most of the apostles behind, and urging them to watch and pray, he takes Peter, James and John – the intimate three – a stone’s throw farther into the olive grove with him, shares with them that he feels ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’, and asks them to keep watch with him. He then goes on a little farther alone, falls prostrate with his face to the ground and prays: ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Returning to the apostles, he finds them sleeping and remonstrates with them. Going away a second time, he prays: ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ Again he finds the disciples sleeping. So he leaves them once more and prays the third time, saying the same thing. After this third season of prayer he returns to find them asleep again, for they cannot enter into the fathomless mystery of his suffering. This is a path he has to walk alone. At some point, Luke says, he was ‘in anguish’ (or ‘agony’), and prayed yet more earnestly, so that ‘his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground’. (1)
As we approach this sacred scene, we should first consider the forceful words which Jesus and the evangelists used to express his strong emotions. We have been prepared for these a little by two of his earlier statements. The first, which Luke records, was that he had ‘a baptism to undergo’ and felt ‘distressed’ (or ‘pressed’, even ‘tormented’, synechō) until it was completed. Luke 12:50 The second was a saying which John records that his heart was ‘troubled’ (or ‘agitated’, tarassō), so that he even wondered if he should ask his Father to save him from ‘this hour’. It was an anticipation of Gethsemane. John 12:27
B. B. Warfield wrote a careful study entitled ‘The Emotional Life of our Lord’, in the course of which he referred to the terms employed by the Synoptic evangelists in relation to Gethsemane. Luke’s word agōnia he defines as ‘consternation, appalled reluctance’. Matthew and Mark share two expressions. The primary idea of ‘troubled’ (adēmoneō), he suggests, is ‘loathing aversion, perhaps not unmixed with despondency’, while Jesus’ self-description as ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’ (perilypos) ‘expresses a sorrow, or perhaps we would better say, a mental pain, a distress, which hems him in on every side, from which there is therefore no escape’. Mark uses another word of his own, ‘deeply distressed’ (ektham-beomai), which has been rendered ‘horror-struck’; it is ‘a term’, Warfield adds, ‘which more narrowly defines the distress as consternation – if not exactly dread, yet alarmed dismay’. (2) Put together, these expressive words indicate that Jesus was feeling an acute emotional pain, causing profuse sweat, as he looked with apprehension and almost terror at his future ordeal.
This ordeal he refers to as a bitter ‘cup’ which he ardently prays may, if possible, be taken from him, so that he does not have to drink it. What is this cup? Is it physical suffering from which he shrinks, the torture of the scourge and the cross, together perhaps with the mental anguish of betrayal, denial and desertion by his friends, and the mockery and abuse of his enemies? Nothing could ever make me believe that the cup Jesus dreaded was any of these things (grievous as they were) or all of them together. His physical and moral courage throughout his public ministry had been indomitable. To me it is ludicrous to suppose that he was now afraid of pain, insult and death. Socrates in the prison cell in Athens, according to Plato’s account, took his cup of hemlock ‘without trembling or changing colour or expression’. He then ‘raised the cup to his lips, and very cheerfully and quietly drained it’. When his friends burst into tears, he rebuked them for their ‘absurd’ behaviour and urged them to ‘keep quiet and be brave’. (Phaedo) He died without fear, sorrow or protest. So was Socrates braver than Jesus? Or were their cups filled with different poisons?
Then there have been the Christian martyrs. Jesus had himself told his followers that when insulted, persecuted and slandered, they were to ‘rejoice and be glad’. Did Jesus not practise what he preached? His apostles did. Leaving the Sanhedrin with backs bleeding from a merciless flogging, they were actually ‘rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name’. Pain and rejection were to them a joy and a privilege, not an ordeal to be shrunk from in dismay. Matt. 5:11–12; Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29–30.
In the post-apostolic period there was even a longing to be united with Christ in martyrdom. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century, on his way to Rome, begged the church there not to attempt to secure his release lest they should deprive him of this honour! ‘Let fire and the cross,’ he wrote, ‘let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, if only I may gain Christ Jesus!’ Fox's Book of Martyrs A few years later, in the middle of the second century, Polycarp the eighty-six-year-old Bishop of Smyrna, having refused to escape death either by fleeing or by denying Christ, was burnt at the stake. Just before the fire was lit, he prayed, ‘O Father, I bless thee that thou hast counted me worthy to receive my portion among the number of martyrs.’ Fox's Book of Martyrs As for Alban, the first known British Christian martyr during one of the severe persecutions of the third century, he was first ‘cruelly beaten, yet suffered he the same patiently, nay rather joyfully, for the Lord’s sake’, and was then beheaded. Fox's Book of Martyrs And so it has continued in every generation. ‘O the joy that the martyrs of Christ have felt’, cried Richard Baxter, ‘in the midst of the scorching flames!’ Although made of flesh and blood like us, he continued, their souls could rejoice even ‘while their bodies were burning’. The Saints' Everlasting Rest
Of many examples which could be given from the twentieth century I choose only those mentioned by Sadhu Sundar Singh, the Indian Christian mystic and evangelist. He told, for instance, of a Tibetan evangelist, flogged by tormentors who then rubbed salt into his wounds, whose ‘face shone with peace and joy’, and of another who, sewn into a damp yak skin and left in the sun for three days, ‘was joyful all the time’ and thanked God for the privilege of suffering for him. It is true that the Sadhu sometimes embellished or romanticized his stories, yet there seems no reason to doubt his testimony, from his own experience and others’, that even in the midst of torture God gives his people a supernatural joy and peace. The Gospel of Sâdhu Sundar Singh
We turn back to that lonely figure in the Gethsemane olive orchard – prostrate, sweating, overwhelmed with grief and dread, begging if possible to be spared the drinking of the cup. The martyrs were joyful, but he was sorrowful; they were eager, but he was reluctant. How can we compare them? How could they have gained their inspiration from him if he had faltered when they did not? Besides, up till now he had been clear-sighted about the necessity of his sufferings and death, determined to fulfil his destiny, and vehement in opposing any who sought to deflect him. Had all that suddenly changed? Was he now after all, when the moment of testing came, a coward? No, no! All the evidence of his former teaching, character and behaviour is against such a conclusion.
In that case the cup from which he shrank was something different. It symbolized neither the physical pain of being flogged and crucified, nor the mental distress of being despised and rejected even by his own people, but rather the spiritual agony of bearing the sins of the world, in other words, of enduring the divine judgment which those sins deserved. That this is the correct understanding is strongly confirmed by Old Testament usage, for in both the Wisdom literature and the prophets the Lord’s ‘cup’ was a regular symbol of his wrath. A wicked person was said to ‘drink of the wrath of the Almighty’ (Job 21:20). Through Ezekiel, Yahweh warned Jerusalem that she would shortly suffer the same fate as Samaria, which had been destroyed:
‘You will drink your sister’s cup,
a cup large and deep;
it will bring scorn and derision,
for it holds so much.
You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow,
the cup of ruin and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria.
You will drink it and drain it dry;...’
Not long afterwards this prophecy of judgment came true, and then the prophets began to encourage the people with promises of restoration. Describing Jerusalem as ‘you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger’, Isaiah summoned her to wake up and to get up, for Yahweh had now taken the cup out of her hand and she would never have to drink it again. Nor was the cup of the Lord’s wrath given only to his disobedient people. Psalm 75 is a meditation on the universal judgment of God: ‘In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.’ Similarly, Jeremiah was told to take from God’s hand a cup filled with the wine of his wrath and to make all the nations drink it to whom he was sent. The same figure of speech recurs in the book of Revelation, where the wicked ‘will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath’, and the final judgment is depicted as the pouring out of ‘the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth’. Isa. 51:17–22; Ps. 75:8; Jer. 25:15–29 (cf. Hab. 2:16); 49:12; Rev. 14:10; 16:1ff. and 18:6
This Old Testament imagery will have been well known to Jesus. He must have recognized the cup he was being offered as containing the wine of God’s wrath, given to the wicked, and causing a complete disorientation of body (staggering) and mind (confusion) like drunkenness. Was he to become so identified with sinners as to bear their judgment? From this contact with human sin his sinless soul recoiled. From the experience of alienation from his Father which the judgment on sin would involve, he hung back in horror. Not that for even a single instant he rebelled. His vision had evidently become blurred, as a dreadful darkness engulfed his spirit, but his will remained surrendered. Each prayer began ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me’, and each prayer ended ‘yet not as I will, but as you will’. Although in theory ‘everything is possible’ to God, as Jesus himself affirmed in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36), yet this was not possible. God’s purpose of love was to save sinners, and to save them righteously; but this would be impossible without the sin-bearing death of the Saviour. So how could he pray to be saved from ‘this hour’ of death? ‘No,’ he had said, he would not, since ‘it was for this very reason I came to this hour’ (John 12:27).
From his agony of dread, as he contemplated the implications of his coming death, Jesus emerged with serene and resolute confidence. So when Peter drew his sword in a frantic attempt to avert the arrest, Jesus was able to say: ‘Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11). Since John has not recorded Jesus’ agonized prayers for the cup to be removed, this reference to it is all the more important. Jesus knows now that the cup will not be taken away from him. The Father has given it to him. He will drink it. Moreover, bitter and painful though the draining of the cup will be, he will yet find that to do the will of the Father who sent him and to finish his work will be his ‘meat and drink’ (as we might say), deeply and completely satisfying to his thirst (John 4:34).
The agony in the garden opens a window on to the greater agony of the cross. If to bear man’s sin and God’s wrath was so terrible in anticipation, what must the reality have been like?
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
(1) Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is described by Matthew (26:36–46), Mark (14:32–42) and Luke (22:39–46). John does not refer to it, although he does tell of the walk to the olive orchard at the foot of the Mount of Olives where Jesus was betrayed and arrested (18:1–11). (2) These particular Greek words occur in Matt. 26:37; Mark 14:33 and Luke 22:44.
CHAPTER 5 / “The Lord Is One”:
The Eschatological Interpretation
The Sifre ponders two reasons for the second mention of Hashem: one universal, the other eschatological. But exactly what is meant by affirming the future triumph of Judaism’s present faith?
Because of America’s climate of cultural and religious pluralism, we commonly take this declaration to mean that Jews will someday be free to observe their faith in its fullest sense and that all other peoples will acknowledge the Tightness of Judaism’s fundamental principles and purify their own religions to believe in the oneness of God without compromise, even while they express this purified faith in their own idiom and form of worship. The source for this interpretation is generally given as Micah (4:5): “For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (1) In halakhic terms, this means that all non-Jews will accept the Noahide Laws (the “Seven Laws of the Children of Noah,” the Torah’s legislation of the basic moral and religious code for all humankind) and formally become gerei toshav, halakhically recognized “resident aliens.”
(1) However, the ascription of this hope for the future to Micah is forced; there is more than a bit of an apologetic strain in this interpretation, which would introduce embryonic contemporary notions of mutual tolerance and religious pluralism into antiquity. The prophet obviously speaks in defiant terms: we will march under the banner of the One God even if the rest of the world continues to maintain its various forms of paganism. Zephaniah, in the verse quoted by Rashi, is quite clear; he insists upon an unambiguous commitment to the Jewish conception of the unity of God by the nations of the world.
At the end of his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides takes this eschatological vision one step further:
That which Isaiah said, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Isa. 11:6), is a parable and a puzzle. Its meaning is this: that Israel will dwell securely with the wicked of the pagan nations who are compared to wolves and leopards … and they will all return to the true faith and will no longer rob and destroy; rather, they will peacefully eat permissible foods as do Israelites. (Hilkhot Melakhim, 12:1)
One contemporary scholar (2) maintains that the words, “and they will return to the true faith,” clearly imply the conversion of the entire world to Judaism. (3) Indeed, that seems clearly to be Maimonides’ intent when he states that the entire world will adopt a kosher food diet!
(2) Menachem Kellner, “A Suggestion Concerning Maimonides’ ‘Thirteen Principles’ and the Status of Non-Jews in the Messianic Era,” in Tura: Oranim Studies in Jewish Thought, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Ha-kibbutz, ha-Meuḥad 1988), pp. 249–60; and his Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish People (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), pp. 33–48. See too his “Chosenness, Not Chauvinism,” in A People Apart, ed. Daniel H. Frank (Albany: SUNY Press, 1993), pp. 55–6.
(3)Indeed, there are several other places in his halakhic code, the Mishneh Torah, in which Maimonides uses this locution in referring to Judaism. There may thus be some merit to this claim, even though the entire passage is not without its difficulties (especially the use of the verb “they will return”).
But whatever the ultimate goal for humanity—whether pure monotheism, even if associated with a non-Jewish cult (possibly Micah’s theme); or the status of resident aliens (gerei toshav); or the conversion of all humankind to Judaism (Zephaniah and Maimonides)—the interpretation suggested by the Sifre adds two significant elements to our understanding of the Shema.
The first, to which we shall return later, is that the oneness of God is, as it were, still fractured or incomplete. The divine Name is not yet one (names, especially divine Names, are charged with enormous metaphysical significance in the Torah); only in the distant future will God’s unity be acknowledged. Indeed, the Kabbalah teaches that God is dependent, as it were, upon human beings to establish His Kingdom. (This is reminiscent, of course, of the doctrine of “the breaking of the vessels,” the primal cosmic cataclysm at the heart of the Lurianic creation drama, which must be “repaired” by means of the “elevation” or “redemption” of the divine sparks that inhere in matter. Similarly, it is up to us to “elevate” or “redeem” the holy sparks that inhere in the coarse “shells,” trapped there after “the breaking of the vessels.” The divine unity is imperfect until that happens; the “reputation” of the Creator is sullied and His Name is not One unless and until mankind as a whole acknowledges the divine unity.)
The Maharal teaches that “there is no king without a people.” (5) It is we, mere mortals though we be, who manifest God’s sovereignty. It is we who bring about His “Kingdom of Heaven.” Therefore it is we who restore and complete His unity. That unity is flawed or incomplete because it is not yet universally acknowledged. In proclaiming our confidence that the wholeness of that divine oneness will yet be restored, we commit ourselves to bring about that situation of redemption. As Saadia maintained about the double meaning of the word shema: we not only acknowledge but commit ourselves (da, “know, understand”); and, in taking upon ourselves the kabbalat ‘ol malkhut shamayim (the “acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven”—kabbel, “accept, commit yourself”), we not only submit to the divine Lordship over us, which is expressed in a life of Torah and mitzvot, but we also resolve to widen the circle of those who accept Him so that, ultimately, all humankind will declare that God is One.
(5) See his Gevurot Hashem, chapter 47; and Derush al ha-Torah, p. 27a. From Maharal, the expression flourished, especially in hasidic literature. The first source is probably Tikkunei Zohar, 21, p. 60b: “there is no king without a kingdom.”
Here lies an answer to those Jews, deeply committed to their Judaism, who often pose the challenge, usually with a degree of petulance: Does it really matter what the Gentiles believe? Do we—and should we—have any interest in their religion, their theology? The answer is, obviously, that we should and we must. Nothing short of God’s ultimate unity depends on how and to what extent we encourage all of humankind to acknowledge that unity and the consequences, especially moral, of that belief. We are, in this sense, responsible for them. (6) A truly religious Jew, devoted to his own people in keen attachment to both their physical and spiritual welfare, must at the same time be deeply concerned with all human beings. Paradoxically, the more particularistic a Jew is, the more universal must be his concerns.
(6) One of the very earliest of the famous Spanish Jewish philosophers, the saintly R. Baḥya, concludes in the first part (shaar ha-yiḥud) of his Ḥovot ha-Levavot (“Duties of the Heart”) that it is a mitzvah to reflect on the unity of God and, moreover, to instruct the pagans in this doctrine. Thus, in his third chapter, R. Baḥya, commenting on the verse in Deut. 4:6, “for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples,” writes: “It is impossible that the [other] nations will acknowledge our wisdom and understanding without us bringing rational proof to the truth of our Torah and our faith.”
Surprisingly, this universalist element often emerges where we least expect it—such as in the writings of one of the most radical hasidic masters, R. Naḥman of Bratzlav. (7) The Bratzlaver interprets two of the talmudic laws relating to the Shema as prescriptions to implementing this universalism. About the halakha, “ ‘Hear’—any language that you can hear (i.e., understand)” (the Talmud’s warrant for permission to recite the Shema in any language), (8) he teaches that this law implies the proclamation of divine unity to all humanity; and the halakha “let your ear hear what your mouth says” (normally understood as requiring that the reading of the Shema be audible to one’s own ears), implies that such relatedness to the Creator already exists in the world and needs only to be revealed: “That is, one can reveal His blessed divinity even in the languages of the pagan nations.”
(7) See his Likkutei Halakhot, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, Hilkhot Keriat
Shema, hal. 3, no. 10.
(8) Both these laws are mentioned in Berakhot 13a.
See chapter 2.
The theme of divine unity now leads us to another, related theme of both religious and historical significance. Our success or failure in discharging our responsibility to establish yiḥud Hashem, the unity of God, is a matter of the “sanctification of the Name” (kiddush Hashem) or its “desecration” (ḥillul Hashem)—an exceedingly important pair of concepts in Jewish law, lore, and history. If, through our persuasiveness—or, more importantly, our example as believers in and practitioners of Judaism, as the people of Torah—we incline the non-Jewish world to a greater respect for Torah and Judaism, and hence to a more refined notion of yiḥud Hashem, then we have “sanctified” the Name, the very Name that is now fragmented and fractured but that will, through such sanctification, become whole again:
“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be One and His Name One.” If we fail, we desecrate the Name, condemning it to continue in its present state of impairment and imperfection.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
When Herod Is Rejected In Arabia, He Makes Haste To Rome Where Antony And Caesar Join Their Interest To Make Him King
1. Now Herod did the more zealously pursue his journey into Arabia, as making haste to get money of the king, while his brother was yet alive; by which money alone it was that he hoped to prevail upon the covetous temper of the barbarians to spare Phasaelus; for he reasoned thus with himself:—that if the Arabian king was too forgetful of his father's friendship with him, and was too covetous to make him a free gift, he would however borrow of him as much as might redeem his brother, and put into his hands, as a pledge, the son of him that was to be redeemed. Accordingly he led his brother's son along with him, who was of the age of seven years. Now he was ready to give three hundred talents for his brother, and intended to desire the intercession of the Tyrians, to get them accepted; however, fate had been too quick for his diligence; and since Phasaelus was dead, Herod's brotherly love was now in vain. Moreover, he was not able to find any lasting friendship among the Arabians; for their king, Malichus, sent to him immediately, and commanded him to return back out of his country, and used the name of the Parthians as a pretense for so doing, as though these had denounced to him by their ambassadors to cast Herod out of Arabia; while in reality they had a mind to keep back what they owed to Antipater, and not be obliged to make requitals to his sons for the free gifts the father had made them. He also took the impudent advice of those who, equally with himself, were willing to deprive Herod of what Antipater had deposited among them; and these men were the most potent of all whom he had in his kingdom.
2. So when Herod had found that the Arabians were his enemies, and this for those very reasons whence he hoped they would have been the most friendly, and had given them such an answer as his passion suggested, he returned back, and went for Egypt. Now he lodged the first Evening at one of the temples of that country, in order to meet with those whom he left behind; but on the next day word was brought him, as he was going to Rhinocurura, that his brother was dead, and how he came by his death; and when he had lamented him as much as his present circumstances could bear, he soon laid aside such cares, and proceeded on his journey. But now, after some time, the king of Arabia repented of what he had done, and sent presently away messengers to call him back: Herod had prevented them, and was come to Pelusium, where he could not obtain a passage from those that lay with the fleet, so he besought their captains to let him go by them; accordingly, out of the reverence they bore to the fame and dignity of the man, they conducted him to Alexandria; and when he came into the city, he was received by Cleopatra with great splendor, who hoped he might be persuaded to be commander of her forces in the expedition she was now about; but he rejected the queen's solicitations, and being neither afrighted at the height of that storm which then happened, nor at the tumults that were now in Italy, he sailed for Rome.
3. But as he was in peril about Pamphylia, and obliged to cast out the greatest part of the ship's lading, he with difficulty got safe to Rhodes, a place which had been grievously harassed in the war with Cassius. He was there received by his friends, Ptolemy and Sappinius; and although he was then in want of money, he fitted up a three-decked ship of very great magnitude, wherein he and his friends sailed to Brundusium, 21 and went thence to Rome with all speed; where he first of all went to Antony, on account of the friendship his father had with him, and laid before him the calamities of himself and his family; and that he had left his nearest relations besieged in a fortress, and had sailed to him through a storm, to make supplication to him for assistance.
4. Hereupon Antony was moved to compassion at the change that had been made in Herod's affairs, and this both upon his calling to mind how hospitably he had been treated by Antipater, but more especially on account of Herod's own virtue; so he then resolved to get him made king of the Jews, whom he had himself formerly made tetrarch. The contest also that he had with Antigonus was another inducement, and that of no less weight than the great regard he had for Herod; for he looked upon Antigonus as a seditious person, and an enemy of the Romans; and as for Caesar, Herod found him better prepared than Antony, as remembering very fresh the wars he had gone through together with his father, the hospitable treatment he had met with from him, and the entire good-will he had showed to him; besides the activity which he saw in Herod himself. So he called the senate together, wherein Messalas, and after him Atratinus, produced Herod before them, and gave a full account of the merits of his father, and his own good-will to the Romans. At the same time they demonstrated that Antigonus was their enemy, not only because he soon quarreled with them, but because he now overlooked the Romans, and took the government by the means of the Parthians. These reasons greatly moved the senate; at which juncture Antony came in, and told them that it was for their advantage in the Parthian war that Herod should be king; so they all gave their votes for it. And when the senate was separated, Antony and Caesar went out, with Herod between them; while the consul and the rest of the magistrates went before them, in order to offer sacrifices, and to lay the decree in the Capitol. Antony also made a feast for Herod on the first day of his reign.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
with what his lips produce he will be filled.
21 The tongue has power over life and death;
those who indulge it must eat its fruit.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Work out what God works in
Work out your own salvation. --- Phil. 2:12–13.
Your will agrees with God, but in your flesh there is a disposition which renders you powerless to do what you know you ought to do. When the Lord is presented to the conscience, the first thing conscience does is to rouse the will, and the will always agrees with God. You say—‘But I do not know whether my will is in agreement with God.’ Look to Jesus and you will find that your will and your conscience are in agreement with Him every time. The thing in you which makes you say ‘I shan’t’ is something less profound than your will; it is perversity, or obstinacy, and they are never in agreement with God. The profound thing in man is his will, not sin. Will is the essential element in God’s creation of man: sin is a perverse disposition which entered into man. In a regenerated man the source of will is almighty, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” You have to work out with concentration and care what God works in; not work your own salvation, but work it out, while you base resolutely in unshaken faith on the complete and perfect Redemption of the Lord. As you do this, you do not bring an opposed will to God’s will, God’s will is your will, and your natural choices are along the line of God’s will, and the life is as natural as breathing. God is the source of your will, therefore you are able to work out His will. Obstinacy is an unintelligent ‘wadge’ that refuses to be enlightened; the only thing is for it to be blown up with dynamite, and the dynamite is obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Do I believe that Almighty God is the source of my will? God not only expects me to do His will, but He is in me to do it.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
and one said
speak to us of love
and the preacher opened
his mouth and the word God
fell out so they tried
again speak to us
of God then but the preacher
was silent reaching
his arms out but the little
children the ones with
big bellies and bow
legs that were like
a razor shell
were too weak to come
Teacher / Colleague
We can imagine what Akiva, the 40-year-old novice student, must have felt like, some eighteen centuries ago. We can visualize how, as Akiva began his first lesson, he must have felt overwhelmed! He may have said to himself: "I don't belong here. Maybe I made a terrible mistake. I don't know what any of this means, I certainly don't know how it applies to me!" It took a great deal of commitment for him to decide that study was important, just as it required tremendous courage to actually go and learn.
We can't know what Akiva's study began with, but we can imagine that Akiva's teacher anticipated his student's fears and chose a very special instruction for that day. Perhaps the lesson came from the words of Yehoshua ben Peraḥiah, two centuries earlier:
"Select for yourself a rav/teacher;
"Acquire for yourself a ḥaver/colleague. (Pirkei Avot 1:6)
A wise yet caring teacher would have been concerned that Akiva have both a teacher and a friend; these two needs are very much our essentials as well.
The rav or rabbi is a teacher who explains the text to us. Often, a page of Talmud is incomprehensible without a rabbi, even if we understand all of the words. (How much more so when we do not understand the words, or when we read the work in translation!) Our focus is generally limited to the particular chapter or issue we are dealing with, while the teacher sees the totality of the Talmud and helps us understand broader concepts, ideas, and approaches as they apply to this text.
A teacher cites traditional interpretations, linking us with the Jewish past. Before we can bring our own interpretations and insights to the page, we should appreciate and understand the traditional Jewish readings of the Talmud text. Only then can we disagree with them and, perhaps, even expand upon them.
For some of us, the need for a teacher may not be obvious. After all, we Americans are used to "rugged individualism," doing something on our own and without help. We live in a culture of "do-it-yourself" books and "self-actualization." Relying on others is often seen as a sign of weakness. Jewish tradition takes a radically different approach. We do not have to "go it alone." "Doing it yourself" may be unhealthy and may lead us to err in our interpretation of the text. We may find ourselves in totally over our heads, unable to comprehend.
In addition, some of us—especially those who are knowledgeable and used to instructing others—may find it difficult to rely on others. Letting a teacher guide us means admitting that while we may know a great deal about medicine, law, stocks, soybean futures, plumbing fixtures, or any other topic—there is still much that we do not know about the Talmud. It requires the ego strength to let others instruct us and a willingness to admit that even if we know a little, someone else knows a little more.
A mentor challenges us to see the text from another viewpoint. He or she questions whether our outlook is justified based on the material we are studying. Yet, this teacher knows not only text, but also us. The rabbi or rav understands that the challenge is not only to the subject taught, but also to a human being, a student with mind, habits, and personality. Thus, the teacher understands how far to push us—when we are being lazy and falling back on pat answers, and when we have stretched our minds to their limit and need time to assimilate the material. He or she knows how and when to criticize us, as well as how and when to encourage.
An effective teacher knows whether to respond to specific questions or to broader and more general issues. Our ideal teacher realizes that the student's question may have to deal solely with the text at hand; yet, the inquiry may reflect other concerns and necessitate answers that go far beyond this page of Talmud (though not beyond the purview of the Talmud as a whole). Hence, this teacher can put the subject-at-hand into a context, bringing the text to bear on all of life itself.
A rabbi helps us to grow—and to continue growing. Thus, even a teacher needs a rav; even one with knowledge requires his or her own guide for all the very same mentoring and growth reasons as the less knowledgeable student.
The Hebrew phrase "Aseh lekha rav," "Select for yourself a teacher," could also be translated "Make for yourself a teacher." It is clear from the Hebrew that the teacher referred to is not found overnight or stumbled upon accidentally; he or she is made. The teacher may be the rabbi at the local synagogue, a Jewish studies professor at a nearby university, or a friend with a good traditional Jewish education. Making a teacher implies an ongoing process of give-and-take, as well as effort on behalf of the student. It is not only the teacher who must push the student; the student has to respectfully challenge the rav. Hopefully, this will result in a warm, lasting and developing relationship.
The second half of the equation is K'neh lekha ḥaver, or "acquire a colleague for yourself." The word ḥaver/ḥavera, a friend, colleague, or study partner, comes from a Hebrew root meaning "joined together." With a friend, there is a coming together of concerns for each other and a joining together of each other's strengths. This is why traditional Jewish study is often in ḥavruta (from the same root), a pair of students learning together. Ḥavruta provides for give-and-take with a peer. While a student cannot give that much to a teacher, one peer can give tremendously to another. They can also receive from each other on a social, as well as an intellectual, level.
In a ḥavruta, one ḥaver will see the other outside the formal boundaries of classroom study. The concerns of a ḥaver will thus extend beyond the fixed curriculum to all of life itself. One traditional source asks: "Why do we need a ḥaver?" The answer is: "He is the one who corrects your halakhah" (Avot derabbi Natan 8). Many understand the word from the root halakh, meaning "walk" or "go," and referring not only to Jewish law but also a person's practice or actions. There are certain necessary criticisms and suggestions that are embarrassing when coming from a teacher, but more tolerable when coming from a peer. The ḥaver, being an equal, shares similar experiences and similar feelings. Each partner in a study group or ḥavruta brings his or her own strengths and personal perspectives. Each challenges the other with a fresh outlook and a different approach. Thus, it is considered healthy to study with a colleague. A ḥaver assures us that we will be in touch with other Jews, both for a sense of community and for a periodic "reality check." In a famous talmudic story, Ḥoni ha-Me'agel returns home after seventy years of sleep. To his chagrin, the new generation of Rabbis in the study house do not recognize him. Despondent, he prays for his own death. Rava comments: "This is why people say: 'Either companionship [ḥavruta] or death [mituta]' " (Ta'anit 23a). While this may be an exaggeration, it gives us a sense of the difficulty of trying to study alone.
Yehoshua ben Peraḥiah knew that we need both a rav/teacher and a ḥaver/colleague. Each provides something unique. The same places we found a rav, the synagogue or university or even closer to home among family or friends, may be the very areas we find a ḥaver. We may find a ḥaver in someone who is already a friend socially but not yet a study-partner. The ḥaver may be assigned to us by a teacher, or we may search out another person, unknown to us, who is simply looking for a partner to study with. Just as the relationships with teachers are made over time, colleagues become joined together through prolonged sharing. The Rabbis knew that study is difficult and that the tools for learning take both time and effort. Just as a "swimming buddy" can keep an eye on us and help us when we find ourselves in over our heads, so too a ḥaver can assist us when things get particularly difficult in the sea of Talmud.
Occasionally, a book may have to substitute for a rav until a personal teacher can be found. A group may study together for a period of time while searching for a compatible mentor. Similarly, one may have to study alone with a teacher until a ḥaver can be found. Hopefully, while we learn, we also become more fluent in the methods of Jewish study, how and where to continue learning. We may find out that even with a weaker background, we have a great deal to offer others and to contribute to the material being studied. This reflects the sentiments of another talmudic sage, Rabbi Ḥanina, who remarked: "I have learned a great deal from my teachers, more from my colleagues than from my teachers, and even more than all from my students" (Ta'anit 7a). In other words, he learned more from his students than from anyone else. Each individual is unique and has his or her own insight and something of value to contribute.
Having entered the sea of Talmud, we may still feel a bit frightened or overwhelmed. One way to overcome these feelings is with a ḥaver/friend or a rav/instructor. This will undoubtedly make entering the sea easier. Hopefully, this book will have served as a rav and ḥaver to you, smoothing your entry into the sea of Talmud.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday LIving
Biblical counseling for today
As the jail chaplain stepped up to the prison microphone, he felt clearheaded. "The Gospel, nothing but the Gospel today!" he reminded himself silently, as he scanned the crowd.
This chaplain was a tough man, a diesel mechanic before he had gone to seminary. Before that, he had spent time in prison. When he stood nose-to-nose in a cellblock, he had a single mission: to get the inmate saved. Once saved, there was another mission: to get the convert to grow.
Everything had gone according to plan with prisoner Lester. The chaplain had met him during his first week in prison. Back then, Lester wouldn't even talk to a white man. He just stared, as if he was in a police lineup. But when the chaplain sent volunteers to deliver Christmas presents to Lester's children, his stony face softened. After that, Lester became a person. In the chaplain's mind, Lester now had a story. Sometimes he smiled, and once he even cried.
During one of his softer times Lester trusted Christ for salvation. And for the next six months he came to about half of the Bible studies offered by the chaplain's office. It seems he was expecting God to make him a new man and to restore him someday to his wife and children.
Then it happened. On the Morning circuit the inspector found Lester dead by hanging. The denim work shirt had become his noose, his escape hatch, his exclamation mark. Friends said news of his wife's boyfriend had sent him into a downward spiral for several weeks. He never pulled out.
As the chaplain cleared his throat, he began the funeral sermon. "Today we bury Lester's body but only God can describe the plight of his soul, that unholy place of torment, the sulfuric streets of the damned." The audience winced. "God is a God of hope and Christians are people of hope; but suicide is an act of utter hopelessness. Like his suicidal forbear, Judas, biblically known as the 'son of perdition' (John 17:12, NASB), Lester showed us last Tuesday that deep down he did not believe." The sermon went on, but its essence had been telegraphed in the first few sentences.
Several days later a prison-ministry volunteer asked to have lunch with the chaplain. He too had been puzzled by Lester's fatal choice, but he was even more puzzled by the chaplain's all-or-nothing logic. "Didn't Lester show us some of the fruit of salvation? Didn't you know his wife said she was dumping him?"
The chaplain barely paused. "Man, if I preached that funeral like he was a Christian, we'd have suicides here by the dozen. I can hear it now, 'Lester got saved, killed himself, and went to heaven. Anybody else want to get out of here?' "
The volunteer thought about it, trying to appreciate the leadership dilemma the chaplain had faced in his sermon. "But what about 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which says we are made up of spirit, soul, and body, like three concentric circles?" As he talked, the volunteer quickly diagrammed his thoughts on the chaplain's white board, labeling the circles from the inside out, "spiritual … emotional … physical." "Couldn't Lester have been saved on that innermost, spiritual level, but been sad or depressed on the emotional level?"
"Listen," the chaplain jabbed back, looking down at his watch. "You can't buy into that psychobabble, like they try and teach us at our chaplains' in-services. If a kid fell out of a tree and broke his arm, we'd take him to a doc. The doc would x-ray the break, reset his bone, and put him in a cast. But anything that isn't physical is spiritual." As the chaplain walked from his desk, he smudged out the smallest circle and the middle label, "emotional." "Spiritual and emotional, one and the same," he smiled, as if he had just won an argument.
Though the conversation was over, the controversies it touched on were not. Just as certainly as the chaplain had lumped the emotional and spiritual dimensions of life together under one religious umbrella, some best-selling social scientists have lumped the same elements together as if they are an indivisible whole. The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
The chaplain's two-dimensional model, emphasizing the physical and nonphysical, could find wide support in Christendom and Scripture (Matt. 10:28). Even the hymn writer Charles Gabriel interpreted Jesus' tears in Gethsemane as an expression of spirituality, not emotionality (26:37–39).
For me it was in the garden
He prayed, "not my will, but Thine";
He had no tears for His own griefs
But sweat-drops of blood for mine.
Praise! Our Songs and Hymns: King James Version Responsive Readings
Though Jesus had tenderly grieved for Jerusalem (23:37) and Lazarus (John 11:35), was it beneath Him to weep for Himself? Are we sure Jesus' spirituality canceled out His emotions? "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death" (Heb. 5:7). "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him" (Luke 22:43). "He learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). To argue that Jesus was too spiritual to cry for Himself would be like arguing that He was too spiritual to bleed for Himself. But God, in whose image we are all made (Gen. 1:26), designed the human body to bleed after certain physical injuries and the human soul to grieve after certain emotional injuries. Despite these injuries and these reactions, Jesus' spirituality led Him to pray, "Not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). Similarly the apostle Paul reminded us (1 Thess. 4:13) that when our loved ones die (physically), even Christians grieve (emotionally), but not in a way that is hopeless (spiritually).
Perhaps the chaplain's true gift was evangelism. But even a burden for soul-winning, made rigid by a bipartite anthropology and a fear of copycat suicides, does not excuse an end-justifies-the-means rationalization. Biblical counseling is not a confusion of human emotion and spirituality.
Biblical Counseling For Today
The Canvas Cathedral
Along with enthusiasm for the Scriptures, Billy Graham is likewise committed to the absolute necessity of prayer for Christian godliness and maturity. When asked what he would do if he had to live his life over again, he invariably says he would "spend more time in study and more time in prayer." He tells us, "Prayer is for every moment of our lives, not just for times of suffering." Hope for the Troubled Heart: Finding God in the Midst of Pain
Graham knows that success in God's work revolves around prayer. He has said, "If Christianity is to survive in a godless and materialistic world, we must repent of our prayerlessness. We must make prayer our priority." He fully understands that his work in evangelism is essentially the work of the Holy Spirit in and through his life and ministry. He constantly states that if he were to take any credit for himself, his lips would turn to clay. The Holy Spirit does the work; and persistent, prevailing prayer "releases" the Spirit to accomplish the task.
"Not only does Graham see this as true for his own ministry, but it stands true for the entire kingdom of God. In a message on the power of prayer, he said, "Today the world is being carried on a rushing torrent that is sweeping out of control. Only one power is available to redeem the course of events, and that is the power of prayer. . . . How can we go on unless there is a renewed emphasis on prayer?" The sin of tolerance (Hour of Decision)
"Billy contends we must again look to Jesus, for He set the example of a life of prevailing prayer. Graham always exalts Jesus Christ as the pattern and source of meaningful prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ prayed to the point of "great drops of blood" bursting out on His forehead (Luke 22:44 KJV).
Further, as Graham said, "So fervent and so direct were the prayers of Jesus that once when he had finished praying, his followers turned to him and said, 'Lord teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). They knew that Jesus had been in touch with God, they wanted to have such an experience." Prayer is always to God and brings one into fellowship with Him. Jesus set the pattern, and those who have developed a life of godliness have grasped and implemented the principle of prayer.
Backgrounds of Meaningful Prayer
Graham points out that those who have turned the tide of history have turned it by prayer. It all begins in many great Old Testament accounts. In a message on prayer, Billy relates how King Hezekiah prayed, and as a result the entire army of the Assyrians was destroyed and the nation spared. He further points out that Elijah, a great man of prayer, lifted up his voice to God and fire from heaven fell and consumed the offering.
In the New Testament, the evangelist cites the apostle Paul's dynamic prayer life. As a result of the apostle's fervent intercession, churches were born throughout Asia Minor and Europe. And down through the pages of history, Graham contends it was men of fervent prayer such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and others who accomplished great feats for Christ. "Time after time," Graham declares, "events have been changed because of prayer. If millions of us would avail ourselves of the privilege of prayer, we could go to our knees in believing prayer and change the course of events."
Practical Principles Of Prayer
Graham thus urges all believers to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). He declares, "This should be the motto of every follower of Jesus Christ. Never stop praying no matter how dark and hopeless it may seem." Graham gives some helpful advice: "I would urge you to select a place where you can meet alone with God . . . that can be one of your greatest blessings."
Again, in a practical manner, Graham urges the church to pray for those who do not know Jesus Christ. He stated that on one occasion, "I listened to a discussion of religious leaders on how to communicate the Gospel. Not once did I hear them mention prayer. And yet I know of scores of churches that win many converts each year by prayer alone. If there is a person in our acquaintance that needs Christ in his life, then we need to start praying for him." Graham is convinced that with God nothing is impossible.
Graham fully realizes the centrality of prayer in his crusades. Prayer preparation and prayer ministries permeate his every evangelistic effort. Prayer has been an essential part of the crusades, beginning in Los Angeles in 1949. Recall Armin Gesswein and the prayer ministry he inaugurated. The more formal prayer preparation in the crusades started worldwide with Billy Graham asking Mrs. Millie Dienert to travel to England to prepare for an upcoming crusade with prayer. Through the years, prayer preparation programs have grown tremendously. Now in the crusades a chairman and chairwoman are selected to lead out in prayer ministries for God's power to fall on the crusade. It blossoms out in ministers praying with ministers, women praying in small groups in homes, and churches using many avenues to intercede. Out of it have come what are termed "Prayer Triplets," three people joining together in concerted prayer for God's power to fall. Millie Deinert tells of women remarking, "We have learned to pray like never before."
God's people get excited about prayer. Billy's goal is to see revival take place because of faithful prayer in the home and in the church. Prayer does change things. As the Bible states, there is no task or problem too difficult for the power and love of God to intervene and meet the need
(Gen. 18:14). Thus Graham programs for prayer, earnest prayer, in all his crusades. For the evangelist, "prayer is natural. We were fashioned in the beginning to live a life of prayer." In a word, prayer is absolutely vital in one's own personal life and service. Billy emphasizes that a person is simply not godly if he or she does not pray. But there is a third discipline in a growing godliness: sharing one's faith with lost people.
The Canvas Cathedral: A Complete History of Evangelism from the Apostle Paul to Billy Graham
Evidently the Septuagint was used by the New Testament writers only to a limited extent.
Taking a purely naturalistic view, it will surely be conceded that a writer is at liberty to select his version in handling the subject before him, or even to adapt a quotation to his own purpose. The translation adopted by a writer would be used to convey his sense of the meaning of the passage, and so would to all intents and purposes be his translation. What would be legitimate for an ordinary writer may certainly be expected no less in the case of one who was writing by Divine Inspiration. Quotations in this way would express the mind of God as to the meaning and bearing of an Old Testament Scripture. The quality of inspiration would attach to it in virtue of its being a part of the New Testament Scriptures. It is significant that New Testament writers like Paul who naturally as Jews looked upon the words of the Old Testament with the utmost regard for even the letter of the text, and would ordinarily have copied the original with extreme care, should have made such alterations as occur in the New Testament. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for instance, writing as he did to those who were of Jewish nationality, might be expected to guard against a possible prejudice by adhering closely to the Hebrew text in his quotations. He not infrequently deviates from both the Hebrew and the LXX. As an instance we may take Hebrews 10:30, where the quotation, “Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense” is neither altogether from the Hebrew nor from the LXX of
Deut. 32:35. Paul himself intimated that he was governed not merely by his own discretion, but by the Spirit of God, with the result that he uses, as he says, “words which the Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual”
(1 Cor. 2:13).
"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.
The whole subject of the quotations of the New Testament repays careful investigation. The student of Scripture will find many a treasure of Divine truth in this respect if he has regard to the progressive character of revelation, to the different character of successive eras, and to the unity of the teaching on any given subject throughout the Volume. For instance, the quotation “A body hast thou prepared Me” (Heb. 10:5) is taken from the LXX of
Psalm 40:6. The Hebrew reads “ears hast thou digged for Me,” as in the margin of the Revised Version, but the LXX has “a body didst Thou prepare for Me,” and in this form the passage is quoted in Hebrews 10:5. “The thought is the same in either case, though it is differently expressed, for whereas in the Hebrew text the part is put for the whole, i.e., if there is an ear there is, of course, a body of which that ear forms a part, in the Greek translation and in the New Testament quotation, the whole is put for the part, i.e., if there is a body it must, of course, include an ear as part thereof.”
The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine- 5 Volume Set Complete
The Teacher's Commentary
The events associated with Jesus' trials and death took place in and around Jerusalem. While there is debate concerning some of the specific locations, such as the location of Joseph's tomb, we have a great deal of information on the specific places Jesus traveled to on that fateful night.
Jerusalem in the time of Jesus was a typical walled city. The "lower city," built along a steep hillside, was filled with crowded tenement-type structures. The upper city contained the larger city homes of the wealthy, like Caiaphas, the high priest and the beautiful palace of Herod.
It was the temple, however, which dominated the city, and was the focus of the faith of all Jews in every land. Immediately next to the temple was the Fortress Antonia, where a Roman army contingent was stationed and Pontius Pilate held court. Directly across from the temple, separated from it by the deep Kidron Valley, and up on the side of the Mount of Olives lay the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive orchard where Jesus often stopped to rest and pray. On the other side of the city, just outside the city walls, was the public execution grounds, Golgotha—the place of the skull. Many believe that a tomb nearby, hewn into the living rock and matching perfectly the description given in the Gospels, is the very tomb which Joseph of Arimathea surrendered to the Saviour.
This, then, was the setting for those familiar yet terrible events that we know so well as Jesus, near the end of His life on earth, approached the Cross.
Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus
Tuesday and Wednesday: Mark 14:1–11
Jesus passed the two days between His confrontation with the Jewish leaders and His final day on earth with friends in Bethany. There He was anointed by a woman who poured expensive perfume on His head. This was a "beautiful thing" done in preparation "for My burial." The woman may not have understood, but she did love the Lord and expressed that love by giving.
Judas, on the other hand, "went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them" for the promise of money.
What a contrast. The woman gave generously because she loved Jesus: Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved money.
Thursday: Mark 14:12–15:1
The Passover meal (Mark 14:12–26). That Thursday Jesus and His followers met in a room in a house in Jerusalem's upper city.
John's Gospel tells us in great detail what Jesus taught His disciples there. Mark simply tells us that Jesus, seated at the table, told the Twelve that one of them was about to betray Him. Judas then slipped away to go to the chief priests.
Mark tells us that then Jesus broke bread and told the disciples, "This is My body." And He took the cup, saying, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." After they sang a hymn, they left the house where they had eaten and went to the Mount of Olives.
It was night, and the little party probably went down steps that still lead down the steep hillside near the house of Caiaphas into the valley. Traveling back along the Hinnom Valley into the Kidron, they moved up a path that climbed the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Peter's denial predicted (Mark 14:27–31). On the way Jesus remarked that soon all the disciples would desert Him. Peter was incensed. "Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You." But Jesus told Peter that that very night he would disown Christ three times—three times before the rooster crowed.
Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42). It was now late at night. The tired disciples could hardly stay awake. But Jesus was in anguish, so tormented by His knowledge of what was about to come that He was "overwhelmed with sorrow." Jesus needed their companionship, but the disciples' eyes were so heavy they kept nodding off.
Finally Jesus wakened them. At the base of the hill, torches could be seen, and the sounds of a mob stumbling up the hill could be heard.
Jesus arrested (Mark 14:43–52). Judas was leading the armed crowd that had been sent by the religious leaders to seize Jesus. He identified Christ with a kiss, and the men roughly grabbed hold of the Lord.
Other Gospels tell us that it was Peter who then bravely drew a sword and struck out. His blade grazed the head of a servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Again, another Gospel tells us that Jesus picked up the severed ear and replaced it. As Jesus rebuked the mob, His terrified disciples all slipped away and fled.
Most believe that the "young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment" who was following Jesus was John Mark himself, the author of this Gospel. When the mob seized Jesus, Mark was so terrified he fled "leaving his garment behind him."
On trial before Annas. Jesus was taken back through the Kidron Valley and up the Hinnom to the steps that led up the hill toward Caiaphas' house. John tells us that He was taken first to Annas, who is also called the high priest. In fact, Annas was high priest emeritus, and was the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. He exerted such influence that Luke, in Acts 4, spoke of Annas as high priest.
After a preliminary examination in which Jesus was struck in the face (John 18:22), Christ was sent on to Caiaphas.
The Teacher's Commentary
After the death of King Solomon, his son Rehoboam pursued a course which divided the nation into two kingdoms. Rehoboam reigned over Judah, the Southern Kingdom, composed of Judah and Benjamin; and Jeroboam II ruled over the remaining ten tribes that formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, also called Ephraim.
Fearful that the people would go back to Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam I put golden calves at Bethel and Dan, thus leading the ten tribes into idolatry. Along with idolatry came immorality, and soon the religion of Israel became an evil blend of Jewish ritual and pagan idolatry. The people loved it.
The prophets were God's spokesmen to call Israel and Judah back to the covenant God had made with them at Mt. Sinai. But the people refused to listen, and both kingdoms suffered for their disobedience. Israel became an Assyrian vassal in 733 B.C.and then was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. The Babylonians invaded Judah in 606 B.C. and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.. Thousands of Jews died, and thousands more went into exile in Babylon.
Hosea ministered in the Northern Kingdom from about 760 to 720 B.C. Israel was enjoying great prosperity, but Hosea could see that the nation was rotten to the core; for honest government, pure religion, godly homes, and personal integrity had vanished from the land. Judgment was inevitable. Hosea faithfully preached the Word, but the nation refused to repent and was finally swallowed up by Assyria.
Chapter One / Hosea 1–3 / You Married a What?
A Suggested Outline of the Book of Hosea
Key theme: Devotion to the Lord is like faithfulness in marriage. Idolatry is like adultery. Key verse: Hosea 2:20
I. Israel's unfaithfulness described—1–3
1. God is gracious — 1:1–2:1
2. God is holy — 2:2–13
3. God is love — 2:14–3:5
II. Israel's sins denounced—4–7
1. Ignorance — 4:1–11
2. Idolatry — 4:12–5:15
3. Insincerity — 6:1–7:16
III. Israel's judgment determined—8–10
1. The Assyrian invasion — 8
2. The nation scattered — 9
3. Reaping what they have sown — 10
IV. Israel's restoration declared—11–14
1. God's past mercies — 11
2. God's present disciplines — 12–13
3. God's future promises — 14
Prophets sometimes do strange things. For three years, Isaiah embarrassed people by walking the streets dressed like a prisoner of war. For several months, Jeremiah carried a yoke on his shoulders. The prophet Ezekiel acted like a little boy and "played war," and once he used a haircut as a theological object lesson. When his wife suddenly died, Ezekiel even turned that painful experience into a sermon. (See Isaiah 20; Jeremiah 27–28; Ezekiel 4:1–8; 5:1ff; 12:1–16; 24:15ff.)
Why did these men do these peculiar things?
"These peculiar things" were really acts of mercy. The people of God had become deaf to God's voice and were no longer paying attention to His covenant. The Lord called His servants to do these strange things—these "action RS Thomas"—in hopes that the people would wake up and listen to what they had to say. Only then could the nation escape divine discipline and judgment.
But no prophet preached a more painful "action sermon" than Hosea. He was instructed to marry a prostitute named Gomer who subsequently bore him three children, and he wasn't even sure the last two children were fathered by him. Then Gomer left him for another man, and Hosea had the humiliating responsibility of buying back his own wife.
What was this all about? It was a vivid picture of what the people of Israel had done to their God by prostituting themselves to idols and committing "spiritual adultery." Since God's people today face the same temptation (James 4:4), we need to heed what Hosea wrote for his people. Each of the persons in this drama—Hosea, Gomer, and the three children—teach us important spiritual lessons about the God whom Israel was disobeying and grieving.
1. The Children: God Is Gracious (Hosea 1:1–2:1)
The times (Hosea 1:1). Hosea names four kings of Judah and only one king of Israel, Jeroboam II. The kings of Judah, of course, belonged to David's dynasty, the only dynasty the Lord accepted (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4). The kings of Israel were a wicked lot who followed the sins of Israel's first king, Jeroboam I, and refused to repent and turn to God (2 Kings 13:6)
After Jeroboam II died, his son Zechariah reigned only six months and was assassinated by his successor Shallum who himself was assassinated after reigning only one month. Menahem reigned for ten years; his son Pekahiah ruled two years before being killed by Pekah who was able to keep the throne for twenty years. He was slain by Hoshea, who reigned for ten years, the last of the kings of Israel. During his evil reign, the nation was conquered by Assyria, the Jews intermingled with the foreigners the Assyrians brought into the land, and the result was a mixed race known as the Samaritans.
What a time to be serving the Lord! Murder, idolatry, and immorality were rampant in the land, and nobody seemed to be interested in hearing the Word of the Lord! On top of that, God told His prophet to get married and raise a family!
The marriage (Hosea 1:2). Here we meet a bit of a problem because not every Bible student agrees on the kind of woman Hosea married. Hosea either married a pure woman who later became a prostitute, or he married a prostitute who bore him three children. (When you study the commentaries, you discover a number of different views defended: (1) Gomer was a pure woman who later became a prostitute and bore Hosea three children; (2) Gomer was a pure woman who became a prostitute and bore Hosea a son, but also gave birth to a daughter and son who were not fathered by Hosea; (3) Gomer was a prostitute from the beginning and bore Hosea three children; (4) Gomer was a prostitute from the beginning and bore Hosea his own son, but also bore two children by another man; (5) Gomer was a prostitute who already had three children, but Hosea ultimately divorced her and married another woman who was an adulteress (3:1). It's easy to lose sight of the main message God wanted to get across: He loved His people and wanted them to return that love to Him. They were committing evil by worshiping idols, just like a woman who is unfaithful to her husband. They were not only sinning against God's law, but also sinning against God's love. As to the legitimacy of the children, the fact that 1:6 and 8 don't read "and bore him a daughter … a son" does not mean Hosea wasn't the father of these children. It seems natural to assume from the context that Hosea is the father.
In the Old Testament, prostitution is symbolic of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God (Jer. 2–3; Ezek. 16; 23). Since the Jews were idolatrous from the beginning (Josh. 24:2–3, 14), it seems likely that Gomer would have to be a prostitute when she married Hosea; for this would best symbolize Israel's relationship to the Lord. God called Israel in the idolatry; He "married" them at Mt. Sinai when they accepted His covenant (Ex. 19–21); and then He grieved over them when they forsook Him for the false gods of the land of Canaan. Like Gomer, Israel began as idolater, "married" Jehovah, and eventually returned to her idolatry.
If Hosea had married a pure woman who later became unfaithful, "wife of whoredoms" in 1:2 has to mean "a wife prone to harlotry who will commit it later" but this seems to be a strained reading of the verse. But could God ask His faithful servant to marry a defiled woman? Why not? We might as well ask, "Could God permit Ezekiel's wife to die?" Though marrying a prostitute might not be the safest step to take, such marriages were forbidden only to priests (Lev. 21:7). Salmon married Rahab the harlot who became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestress of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:4–5).
The names (Hosea 1:3–9). As with Isaiah's two sons (Isa. 7:3 and 8:3), and numerous other people in Scripture, Gomer's three children were given meaningful names selected by the Lord.
The first child, a son, was called Jezreel (Hosea 1:4–5), which means "God sows" or "God scatters." Jezreel was a city in the tribe of Isaachar, near Mt. Gilboa, and is associated with the drastic judgment that Jehu executed on the family of Ahab (2 Kings 9–10; and see 1 Kings 21:21–24 and 2 Kings 9:6–10). So zealous was Jehu to purge the land of Ahab's evil descendants that he murdered far more people than the Lord commanded, including King Ahaziah of Judah and forty-two of his relatives (9:27–10:14).
Through the birth of Hosea's son, God announced that He would avenge the innocent blood shed by Jehu and put an end to Jehu's dynasty in Israel. This was fulfilled in 752 B.C. when Zechariah was assassinated, the great-great-grandson of Jehu and the last of his dynasty to reign. (See 2 Kings 10:30.) God also announced that the whole kingdom of Israel would come to an end with the defeat of her army, which occurred in 724.
The second child was a daughter named Lo-ruhamah (Hosea 1:6–7), which means "unpitied" or "not loved." God had loved His people and proved it in many ways, but now He would withdraw that love and no longer show them mercy. The expression of God's love is certainly unconditional, but our enjoyment of that love is conditional and depends on our faith and obedience. (See Deut. 7:6–12 and 2 Cor. 6:14–7:1.) God would allow the Assyrians to swallow up the Northern Kingdom, but He would protect the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Isa. 36–37; 2 Kings 19).
Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:8–9) was the third child, a son, and his name means "not My people." Not only would God remove His mercy from His people, but He would also renounce the covenant He had made with them. It was like a man divorcing his wife and turning his back on her, or like a father rejecting his own son (See Ex. 4:22 and Hosea 11:1).
The new names (Hosea 1:10–2:1). Here is where the grace of God comes in, for God will one day change these names. "Not my people" will become "My people," "unloved" will become "My loved one." These new names reflect the nation's new relationship to God, for all of them will be "the sons of the living God." Judah and Israel will unite as one nation and will submit to God's ruler, and the centuries' old division will be healed.
Instead of "Jezreel" being a place of slaughter and judgment, it will be a place of sowing where God will joyfully sow His people in their own land and cause them to prosper. Today, the Jews are sown throughout the Gentile world (Zech. 10:9), but one day God will plant them in their own land and restore to them their glory. As God promised to Abraham, Israel will become like the sand on the seashore. (Gen. 22:17).
When will these gracious promises be fulfilled for the Jews? When they recognize their Messiah at His return, trust Him, and experience His cleansing (Zech. 12:10–13:1). Then they will enter into their kingdom, and the promises of the prophets will be fulfilled (Isa. 11–12; 32; 35; Jer. 30–31; Ezek. 37; Amos 9:11–15).
The three children teach us about the grace of God. Now we'll consider the lesson that Gomer teaches us.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
from the Late Second Temple Period
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The (Reworked?) Pentateuch
Four sets of fragments, three of them containing text from four or all five books of the Pentateuch, still pose challenges that deserve exploration. First, it remains undecided whether 4Q364–367, to which yet a fifth manuscript (4Q185) has been linked, represent copies of the same composition or only similar variant forms of pentateuchal development. Second, the classification is still debated. In large part the fragments present a running text of the Pentateuch but have frequent additions, a few omissions, and alternate sequences. Accordingly, they were first published as “4QReworked Pentateuch”; that is, the variants were deemed to outweigh the agreements, and thus they were not the Pentateuch but beyond the Pentateuch. A number of scholars, having digested the lessons from the many variant, developing editions of the biblical books—that additions, omissions, and altered sequences are characteristic of the biblical text in the Second Temple period—have begun to see these texts as a yet later form (or forms) of the Pentateuch, and thus refer to it as 4QPentateuch. It seems to be moderately developed beyond the expanded Jewish version used by the Samaritans; in fact, many of its variants agree with the SP, though none are sectarian. Other scholars remain somewhere in a middle position between “Pentateuch” and “reworked,” searching for a proper category and term.
Similar Examples from the MT, SP, and OG
Once taught by the variant editions posed by the biblical scrolls, scholars could recognize similar examples long available in familiar sources. The MT was recognized as containing revised and expanded editions when compared with the OG, in the Tabernacle account (Exodus 35–40), the account of David’s induction into Saul’s service
(1 Samuel 16–17), and the book of Jeremiah. The SP was recognized as witnessing the already expanded Jewish editions of the pentateuchal books with only slight theological changes. The OG of Daniel was seen as an expanded form of the edition in the MT—the reverse process compared with the situation in Jeremiah.
The Greek papyrus 967 may well also display an edition of Ezekiel that is earlier than the edition now attested by the MT and the LXX. It has the order of chapters as 36, 38, 39, 37, and 40, and lacks 36:23c–38. Analysis suggests that this was the early form translated from a Hebrew text with that order. A later Hebrew editor transposed chap. 37 into its present (MT) position and added the last section of chap. 36 (vv. 23c–38) at the same time as a suitable eschatological introduction into chap. 37. Other ancient sources join the biblical texts in adding their witness. Josephus, for example, as seen above, used biblical texts similar to 4QJosha and 4QSama, rather than the forms in the MT, for his Jewish Antiquities.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The grace of God… teaches us… to live… upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
--- Titus 2:11–13.
We live in an interval between two appearings of the Lord. (Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons)) We are divided from the past by the words Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary. All the rest of time is before Christ, and the chief landmark in all time to us is the wondrous life of him who is the light of the world.
We look forward to a second appearing—of glory rather than of grace. Our Lord, in the fullness of time, will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God. This is the terminus of the present age. We look from anno Domini, in which he came the first time, to that greater anno Domini, or year of our Lord, in which he will come a second time in all the splendor of his power to reign in righteousness and break the powers of evil.
Behind us is our trust; before us is our hope. Behind us is the Son of God in humiliation; before us is the great God our Savior in his glory.
We are living between the two beacons of the divine appearings. We have everything to hope for in the last appearing, as we have everything to trust to in the first appearing. We wait with patient hope throughout that weary interval. Paul calls it “this present age.” This marks its fleeting nature. It is present now, but it will not be present long. We look to the things that are not seen and not present as being real and eternal. We traverse an enemy’s country—there is no rest for us by the way.
Already I have given you the best argument for a holy life. If before you blazes the splendor of the Second Advent and behind you burns the everlasting light of the Redeemer’s first appearing, what manner of people ought you to be! If indeed, you are but journeying through this present world, do not permit your hearts to be defiled with its sins.
Put on therefore the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). What a grand expression! Helmet of light, breastplate of light, shoes of light—everything of light. What a knight must one be who is clad in light! Like a wall of fire, the Lord’s appearings are around you; there ought to be a special glory of holiness in the midst. That is the position of the righteous, and it furnishes a call to holiness.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Yellow Enemy | June 6
Central America was conquered by Spain in the 1500s and held in the grip of Catholicism for 300 years. Non-Catholic holdouts were subjected to dripping water torture while bound in straitjackets. Others were hung from rings in the ceilings or roasted alive in huge ovens. When the Spanish Empire broke apart in 1838, several new nations emerged, including Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The entrance of evangelical missionaries then became possible but hazardous.
The first to come were German Moravians, followed by Presbyterians. Then in the late 1880s C. I. Scofield established the Central American Mission (CAM). One of these early missionaries, Miss Eleanor Blackmore, wrote to her supporters: I’m stoned and cursed and hooted in every street. I don’t know one road in the whole city where I can walk in which there are not houses where they lie in wait to stone me. … We don’t want pity. We count it an honor thus to be trusted to suffer, but we do covet your prayers.
The first CAM missionaries went to Costa Rica, but soon a team of three headed toward El Salvador. They didn’t make it, but it wasn’t sticks and stones that struck them down. Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Dillon and Clarence Wilber were traversing Nicaragua in 1894, headed to El Salvador, when they became ill with fever, chills, and congestion of eyes and mouth. Clarence died vomiting black blood and was buried in a makeshift grave. The Dillons reached ship and started for home, but Mrs. Dillon died en route. Mr. Dillon survived and soon remarried.
He and his new wife, Margaret, returned to Central America where Dillon again contracted yellow fever and soon died. Margaret remained in Honduras, living in a small shack, sleeping on a straw mat, and training Honduran evangelists. Fifteen years passed without a furlough, then she planned a trip home. While packing, she was stricken with yellow fever and was carried 36 miles in a hammock to a missions station, arriving on June 6, 1913. She died two days later.
But these graves were but seed-plots for a harvest of souls that continues to this day.
My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won’t grieve over them and be like people who don’t have any hope. We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life. We also believe that when God brings Jesus back again, he will bring with him all who had faith in Jesus before they died.
--- 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 6
“Behold, I am vile.” --- Job 40:4.
One cheering word, poor lost sinner, for thee! You think you must not come to God because you are vile. Now, there is not a saint living on earth but has been made to feel that he is vile. If Job, and Isaiah, and Paul were all obliged to say “I am vile,” oh, poor sinner, wilt thou be ashamed to join in the same confession? If divine grace does not eradicate all sin from the believer, how dost thou hope to do it thyself? and if God loves his people while they are yet vile, dost thou think thy vileness will prevent his loving thee? Believe on Jesus, thou outcast of the world’s society! Jesus calls thee, and such as thou art.
“Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners, Jesus came to call.”
Even now say, “Thou hast died for sinners; I am a sinner, Lord Jesus, sprinkle thy blood on me;” if thou wilt confess thy sin thou shalt find pardon. If, now, with all thy heart, thou wilt say, “I am vile, wash me,” thou shalt be washed now. If the Holy Spirit shall enable thee from thy heart to cry
“Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!”
thou shalt rise from reading this Morning’s portion with all thy sins pardoned; and though thou didst wake this Morning with every sin that man hath ever committed on thy head, thou shalt rest to-night accepted in the Beloved; though once degraded with the rags of sin, thou shalt be adorned with a robe of righteousness, and appear white as the angels are. For “now,” mark it, “Now is the accepted time.” If thou “believest on him who justifieth the ungodly thou art saved.” Oh! may the Holy Spirit give thee saving faith in him who receives the vilest.
Evening - June 6
“Are they Israelites? so am I.” --- 2 Corinthians 11:22.
We have here A PERSONAL CLAIM, and one that needs proof. The apostle knew that his claim was indisputable, but there are many persons who have no right to the title who yet claim to belong to the Israel of God. If we are with confidence declaring, “So am I also an Israelite,” let us only say it after having searched our heart as in the presence of God. But if we can give proof that we are following Jesus, if we can from the heart say, “I trust him wholly, trust him only, trust him simply, trust him now, and trust him ever,” then the position which the saints of God hold belongs to us—all their enjoyments are our possessions; we may be the very least in Israel, “less than the least of all saints,” yet since the mercies of God belong to the saints AS SAINTS, and not as advanced saints, or well-taught saints, we may put in our plea, and say, “Are they Israelites? so am I; therefore the promises are mine, grace is mine, glory will be mine.” The claim, rightfully made, is one which will yield untold comfort. When God’s people are rejoicing that they are his, what a happiness if they can say, “SO AM I!” When they speak of being pardoned, and justified, and accepted in the Beloved, how joyful to respond, “Through the grace of God, SO AM I.” But this claim not only has its enjoyments and privileges, but also its conditions and duties. We must share with God’s people in cloud as well as in sunshine. When we hear them spoken of with contempt and ridicule for being Christians, we must come boldly forward and say, “So am I.” When we see them working for Christ, giving their time, their talent, their whole heart to Jesus, we must be able to say, “So do I.” O let us prove our gratitude by our devotion, and live as those who, having claimed a privilege, are willing to take the responsibility connected with it.
Morning and Evening
SAVED BY GRACE
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
And I—in righteousness I will see Your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing Your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
I am living for the moment when my Savior’s face I see—
Oh, the thrill of that first meeting, when His glory shines on me!
When His voice like sweetest music falls upon my waiting ear,
And my name, amid the millions, from His precious lips I hear.
--- Avis B. Christiansen
The anticipation of seeing her Savior’s face and praising Him for redeeming grace was a thrilling thought for blind Fanny Crosby to ponder, for the face of Christ as He opened the gate to heaven would be the first sight her eyes would ever behold. Written in 1891 when she was 71 years of age, “Some Day,” as Fanny titled the text, was prompted by the final words of a dying pastor friend: “If each of us is faithful to the grace, which is given us by Christ, that same grace which teaches us how to live will also teach us how to die.” Deeply moved by this thought, Fanny completed the lines in a matter of minutes under a sense of “divine inspiration.” Of all her many hymn texts, this one always seemed to be her favorite. She called it her “heart-song.” “Saved by Grace” was one of the favorite hymns of both D. L. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey. In their later campaigns, they used it at nearly every service.
As Ira Sankey lay dying, it is reported that he drifted into a final coma as he softly sang:
Some day the silver chord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King!
Some day my earthly house will fall—I cannot tell how soon ’twill be; but this I know—my All in All has now a place in heav’n for me.
Some day, when fades the golden sun beneath the rosy-tinted west, my blessed Lord will say, “Well done!” and I shall enter into rest.
Some day—till then I’ll watch and wait, my lamp all trimmed and burning bright, that when my Savior opens the gate, my soul to Him may take its flight.
Chorus: And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story—Saved by grace; and I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story—Saved by grace.
For Today: Acts 15:11; Ephesians 1:6, 7; 2:8; 1 Peter 1:3, 4.
Take time to anticipate the moment when you, like Fanny Crosby, will see the face of Christ. Praise Him even now because you have been saved by His redeeming grace. Allow this musical truth to encourage your way and perhaps even share it with another.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XLVII. – OUT of the ONE opinion concerning “Free-will” you make THREE. You say — ‘that THE FIRST OPINION, of those who deny that man can will good without special grace, who deny that it can begin, who deny that it can make progress, perfect, &c., seems to you severe, though it may be VERY PROBABLE.’ And this you prove, as leaving to man the desire and the effort, but not leaving what is to be ascribed to his own power. ‘That THE SECOND OPINION of those who contend, that “Free-will” avails unto nothing but to sin, and that grace alone works good in us, &c. is more severe still.’ And THIRDLY ‘that the opinion of those who say that “Free-will” is an empty term, for that God works in us both good and evil, is most severe. And, that, it is against these last that you profess to write.’ —
Do you know what you are saying, friend Erasmus? You are here making three different opinions as if belonging to three different sects: because you do not know that it is the same subject handled by us same professors of the same sect, only by different persons, in a different way and in other words. But let me just put you in remembrance, and set before you the yawning inconsiderateness, or stupidity of your judgment.
How does that definition of “Free-will,” let me ask you, which you gave us above, square with this first opinion which you confess to be, ‘very probable?’ For you said that “Free-will” is a power of the human will, by which a man can apply himself unto good;’ whereas here, you say and approve the saying, that ‘man, without grace, cannot will good!’ The definition, therefore, affirms what its example denies. And hence there are found in your “Free-will” both a YEA and a NAY:” so that, in one and the same doctrine and article, you approve and condemn us, and approve and condemn yourself. For do you think, that to ‘apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation,’ which power your definition assigns to “Free-will,” is not to do good, when, if there were so much good in “Free-will,” that it could apply itself unto good, it would have no need of grace? Therefore, the “Free-will” which you define is one, and the “Free-will” you defend is another. Hence then, Erasmus, outstripping all others, has two “Free-wills;” and they, militating against each other!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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