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Exodus 29     John 8     Proverbs 5     Galatians 4


Exodus 29

Consecration of the Priests

Exodus 29:1  “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. 4 You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 6 And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. 8 Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, 9 and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull.
Exodus 29:10 Priests laid their hands on the bull calf to symbolize personal identification and substitution in this sin offering. Blood was smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt offering as for laymen, since Aaron and his sons were still unconsecrated (Lev. 4:25, 30; cf. Lev. 4:7). The remainder of the blood was poured at the bottom of the altar as for a sin offering. Certain parts were to be burned on the altar (v. 13), but the remainder was to be burned outside the camp as unclean (v. 14).  ESV Reformation Study Bible
11 Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12 and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

15 “Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 16 and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, 18 and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD.

19 “You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 20 and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. 21 Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination),  the right thigh. Normally part of the priest’s portion (Lev. 7:32), this was also burned in this sacrifice for the priests.  ESV Reformation Study Bible   23 and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the LORD. 24 You shall put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 25 Then you shall take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the LORD. It is a food offering to the LORD.

26 “You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be your portion. 27 And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. 28 It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the LORD.  The requirements for the daily priestly offerings are reviewed (vv. 38–46). The author of Hebrews contrasts these daily sacrifices for sin (whose repetition pointed to their insufficiency) with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 10:11–14).  ESV Reformation Study Bible  

29 “The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest, who comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place, shall wear them seven days.

31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them, 36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.

38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.


John 8

The Woman Caught in Adultery

John 8:1 [[They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ]]   7:53–8:11 These verses are not present in some Greek manuscripts, and in others they appear at different locations, such as after 7:36, or even in Luke.  ESV Reformation Study Bible

I Am the Light of the World

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

The Truth Will Set You Free

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

You Are of Your Father the Devil

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Before Abraham Was, I Am

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.


Proverbs 5

Warning Against Adultery

Proverbs 5:1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2  that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
3  For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
4  but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5  Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6  she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.

7  And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8  Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
9  lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10  lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11  and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12  and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14  I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.”

15  Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16  Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17  Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18  Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19  a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
20  Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21  For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
22  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23  He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.



Galatians 4

Sons and Heirs

Galatians 4:1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Example of Hagar and Sarah

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

ESV Study Bible


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Exile and Restoration

By David M. Howard Jr. 2/2006

     When the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar finished its work in destroying Jerusalem and carrying off the cream of its citizenry into exile in 586 BC, God’s people faced their greatest crisis ever, both politically and spiritually. This was the land that God had promised centuries earlier to Abraham, and where his descendants had lived for more than eight hundred years. Now it lay “uncovered” (this is the basic meaning of the word exile), its cities and its people brutalized. Abraham’s descendants now lived exiled in a hostile land.

     The great promises that God had made to David — about a kingdom centered in Jerusalem — seemed far away, even broken (see Psalm 89:19, 38–40). Psalm 137 captures some of the Israelites’ anguish: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres…. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (vv. 1–2, 4). The impact of Jerusalem’s destruction is described in excruciating detail three separate times in Scripture: 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36; and Jeremiah 52.

     This was a spiritual crisis, as well as a political one, because God had promised Abraham and his descendants the land in perpetuity (see Gen. 13:15; 17:8; 48:4), and David a royal descendent on the throne in Jerusalem in perpetuity (2 Sam. 7:11–16; 1 Chron. 17:10–14). Now, seemingly, all was lost: their land, their holy city, their temple and all its trappings, their elaborate sacrificial system and its priesthood, their king — everything.

     This did not come upon God’s people unawares. God had warned the nation from the very beginning that their continued tenure in the land depended on their obedience; if they were not faithful, God would remove them from it (Deut. 4:25–27; 30:17–20). The prophets had repeatedly warned of this (see Mic. 1:3–4; Zeph. 1:4–6; Jer. 25:4–7; 26:4–6).

     So, the Israelites in exile cried out to God with a renewed awareness of their sin: “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?” (Ezek. 33:10). God answered them that the key to their survival was repentance — turning their backs on sin (vv. 11–20). This was to be a genuine and heart-felt repentance, like had not been seen among God’s people in many generations.

     God in His grace had promised His people that He would certainly bring them back (Jer. 29:10), and that He would use Cyrus as His anointed instrument (Isa. 44:28; 45:1–4). When the time came, Cyrus indeed was God’s instrument, issuing a remarkable decree, freeing the Jews to return to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–4). The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the restoration of God’s people after the exile.

     In Ezra 1–6, we learn of the first wave of returnees under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, of the first attempts to rebuild the temple, of local opposition to that rebuilding, and of the eventual completion of the temple, over a twenty-five year period (539–515 BC). A gap of more than fifty years followed until the time of Ezra’s return to the land in 458 BC, with a religious commission to teach the Law (Ezra 7–10).

     Nehemiah was Ezra’s later contemporary, arriving in Jerusalem in 445 BC. He returned with a political commission as governor, which included authorization to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He oversaw this task in the face of fierce opposition (Neh. 1–6), and joined Ezra in a great ceremony of reading the Law and celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles, including a great national confession and a renewing of the covenant (Neh. 8–10).

     In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we see joy, optimism, and a strong sense of spiritual purpose. After all, had not God brought His people back in fulfillment of the prophecy to Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1)? The return to the land from Babylon echoed in many ways the earlier return to the land from Egypt, only this time, a spirit of joy and enthusiasm prevailed (see Ezra 1–3). The whole nation pitched in to help, whether in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1–6), or, later, in rebuilding the walls (Neh. 3), or even in repopulating Jerusalem (Neh. 11).

     There was a return to strict adherence to the Law, seen, for example, in the reforms that Ezra and Nehemiah instituted. Both confronted the issue of mixed marriages with foreigners, and both took drastic measures to eradicate all such ties (Ezra 9–10; Neh. 13:23–27). Years before them, the people under Zerubbabel and Jeshua carefully reinstituted sacrifices (Ezra 3). Years later, they publicly read the Law and made confession on the basis of what they had read (Neh. 8–9). The impression is that the people had learned a lesson from the trauma of the exile: if they were going to err in any direction, it was going to be in the direction of being too strict.

     Despite the joy and sense of community that attended the different returns to the land and the rebuilding of the temple and the walls, there were also traces of sadness and diminished expectations. This is seen most vividly when the temple foundations were laid around 536 BC. On this occasion, a great shout of joy was raised, but it was intermingled with a great cry from those who remembered the first temple: this temple now being constructed could not compare with the glories of the previous one (Ezra 3:10–13). The land had suffered greatly during the exile, and the people were greatly impoverished, and so a temple on the scale of Solomon’s temple simply would not be built.

     Moreover, the glories of the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom would not be re-established any time soon. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was living proof that the promises of the Davidic Covenant were still in effect (Ezra 3:2; 5:2). But, Zerubbabel did not preside over anything close to the kingdom that had been promised to David, to say nothing of the far more glorious kingdom predicted in the prophets. Both Ezra and Nehemiah, in their prayers, indicated their acute awareness that they were still under foreign domination, and thus not free (Ezra 9:7; Neh. 9:36).

     What, then, of the great promises of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, in the light of the diminished state of affairs after the exile? Evangelical believers differ as to the exact place of the land in the future of God’s dealings with His people. But, all agree that the great promises to Abraham and David — about their descendants, about God’s relationship with His people, about the blessing of the nations through them — find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, the Christ. Indeed, the New Testament begins by affirming this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Of all the forty-two names in the list that follows (vv. 2–17), Matthew’s selection of these two — David and Abraham — betrays his conviction that Jesus was not only physically the descendant of these two great Old Testament figures, but also the very embodiment of the great promises that had been given to them. The One toward which Old Testament history points has now come.

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     Dr. David M. Howard Jr. is professor of Old Testament, Hebrew, and hermeneutics at Bethel Seminary.

David M. Howard Jr. Books:

The Everlasting Kingdom

By Robert Bothwell 2/2006

     Even though the 2004 U.S. presidential election was not even two years ago, the media is already looking ahead to the 2008 campaign cycle. This reporting can be exasperating, but it is not surprising. In biblical terms, the attention paid to presidential politics seems to reflect our desire, even in a republic, to have one, sovereign ruler. This wish, revealing an innate need for submission to the One whose image we bear, may be unconscious, but it is present nonetheless. The story of Israel’s king is the emphasis of the historical books of the Bible, and this story is told most explicitly in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. While space prohibits us from covering each event in these inspired works, I hope to stress how these books, and David’s line in particular, anticipate the perfect king who fulfills God’s purpose for mankind and reclaims for us what Adam lost.

     Foundations of Kingship

     Kingship has always been God’s intent for His people. Mankind was created to exercise dominion and manifest God’s reign on the earth (Gen. 1:26–28), but the fall into sin corrupted this ideal. In redeeming a people for Himself, God promised to restore righteous dominion. Kings would come from Abraham’s line, (Gen. 17:5–6), and they were required to rule justly according to God’s law (Deut. 17:14–20). Moreover, even though this kingship is fully realized in the God of Israel, and one righteous servant par excellence, all believers will one day share in His reign (Isa. 60; Dan. 7:9–27; 2 Tim. 2:12a).

     We must remember these truths lest we think that Israel’s monarchy was not originally in God’s plan. 1 Samuel 8 records the Lord’s displeasure at Israel’s request for a king, but this is not because kingship is in itself evil. The author of Judges laments that chaos marked the period between Joshua and Saul because there was no king in Israel (Judg. 21:25). In describing the wickedness of Samuel’s sons even under his righteous judgeship (1 Sam. 8:1–3), the author of Samuel indicates that to have a strong, holy king in Israel is the ideal.

     No, the desire for a monarch is displeasing because of its motivation. Israel wants someone not to represent but to replace God’s rule (8:4–9). They seek a king like the other nations have who will rely on his own strength instead of the Lord’s to crush their enemies (8:10–22). But instead of rejecting their wish, the Lord gives them this exact kind of king in Saul.

     The Davidic Covenant and Beyond

     Outwardly, the man God chooses to be the first king of His people seems to be a good selection. Tall and handsome (9:1–2), Saul delivers Israel from the Ammonites (11:1–11). However, when the people fear the Philistines at Gilgal, Saul, instead of relying upon the word of the Lord through Samuel, does not wait for the prophet to offer the appointed sacrifices. Because of his disobedience, Saul’s dynasty will not rule forever (13:1–14a). Instead, the Lord will appoint a man who will possess a heart to serve Him (13:14b; 16:7). King David will rely upon the Lord and not himself to save Israel (chap. 17).

     Upon ascending the throne in 1004 bc, David conquers Jerusalem and brings the ark into the city (2 Sam. 5:1–6:15). At this point the historical books reach their climax when God makes an everlasting covenant with David.

     David desires to build a house for God, but the prophet Nathan informs the king he will not be the one to build the Lord’s temple (7:1–17; 1 Chron. 17:1–15). This interchange confirms that the offices of king and prophet are closely connected. Israel’s king must obey the law of Moses, the Lord’s first prophet (Deut. 17:18–20), and later prophets like Nathan repeat this demand to the king (see 2 Sam. 12:1–15). Yet the monarchy’s later decline into idolatry shows that he who merely hears God’s word will not be the true shepherd of Israel. The perfect ruler will have to be like David — a prophet (in the Psalms he gives us God’s Word) and a king. However, David’s own sins preclude him from being the perfect prophet-king; only He who is the exact imprint and final revelation of God can rightly exercise both offices at all times (Heb. 1:1–3a).

     The Davidic covenant is recorded in 2 Samuel 7 (see 1 Chron. 17; Pss. 89; 110). Three aspects of this covenant in particular serve as the framework for the history of God’s people after David.

     First, we read that David’s son will build the Lord’s house (2 Sam. 7:12–13). Initially, it seems Solomon will fulfill this promise because he builds the first temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5–8). However, Solomon’s later idolatry (chap. 11) reveals his inability to erect God’s final dwelling place. It will be David’s greater Son, the Temple of God Himself (Rev. 21:22), who builds His people into a living, spiritual house of true worship (1 Peter 2:4–10).

     God punishes Solomon for the worship of false gods (Deut. 17:17; 1 Kings 11:1–8) by dividing the kingdom after his death (vv. 9–13) and by raising up adversaries against Solomon (vv. 14–43), just as He did after David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:11). This illustrates a second aspect of the Davidic covenant — conditionality.

     Though His steadfast love will never depart from David’s house, God pledges to bring “the rod of men” against the king for his iniquity (2 Sam. 7:14–16). David will surely have a throne forever (v. 13), but not all of his sons will reign — only the righteous can inherit the promise.

     This is clear from Israel’s later history. After Solomon dies, God hands ten tribes over to Jeroboam, leaving Solomon’s son Rehoboam with only Judah (1 Kings 11:26–12:20). Benjamin, the twelfth tribe, is not forgotten but is incorporated into Judah at this time (v. 21). Even though Jeroboam is not a descendant of David, his northern kingdom of Israel is still required to keep the covenant. However, Jeroboam is unfaithful and leads his people into sin (14:16). Subsequent regents in the north all follow his example; none of them serves the Lord. Some are notoriously wicked; Ahab and Jezebel, for example, persecute the prophet Elijah (19:1–3). Flagrant covenant violation moves God to bring final discipline against Israel when Assyria takes the ten northern tribes into exile in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6–41).

     The southern kingdom of Judah lasts nearly 150 years longer, and the Davidic line sustains its authority there. Yet Judah is also disciplined for serving false gods. Her first king, Rehoboam, and her people practice every abomination “of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” resulting in an Egyptian siege of Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:21–31).

     The king represents the people before God, and thus his fate is shared by his subjects. Manasseh’s reign as recorded in Chronicles links the destiny of the king with the destiny of his people. As one of Judah’s last kings, Manasseh’s wickedness brings the curse of exile even upon David’s line. While he is carried into Babylon before the rest of Judah, he is restored to the throne upon his repentance (2 Chron. 33:1–20). God’s people will later face the same punishment for their sins, but they will also receive the same restoration.

     This inseparable connection between the king and his people points toward the final aspect of the Davidic covenant — unconditionality. The Lord swore to establish David’s throne (Ps. 89:3–4), and He always fulfills His oaths. His steadfast love will never depart from David’s line (2 Sam. 7:16); thus, He must establish His king and His people securely in their land forever (vv. 10–11). He must provide a king who will keep covenant and provide righteousness for His people. The promise is unconditional because God Himself ensures its final fulfillment — not because He has no requirement for His kings. Righteousness is the obligation of king and subject (Deut. 28). God’s covenant love will make sure this righteousness, and thus the promise to David, is achieved. However, He does not set His love on all of David’s sons.

     God keeps His promise to David by combining the office of priest and king (who is to be a prophet as well). The Son that keeps the covenant and therefore effectively intercedes for the people will have His throne established forever. This is anticipated in David who plans the temple (1 Chron. 22–26) and sacrifices to the Lord (2 Sam. 6:17b). Righteous kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah also embrace the priestly vocation by renewing the covenant during their tenures as Judah’s king (2 Kings 18:1–8; 22:1–23:25).

     Despite this apparent failure of God to keep His promise to David, the pre-exilic history ends with an inkling of hope. Jehoiachin, Zedekiah’s immediate predecessor, is freed from prison and given a seat higher than any other king exiled into Babylon (2 Kings 25:27–30). God is preserving the royal line so His Son can enter into history and fulfill His promises to David. Jesus of Nazareth became the perfect priest, and, as the Davidic king (Matt. 1:1–17), His destiny is inseparable from the destiny of His people. Like Manasseh and Jehoiachin before Him, He receives the penalty due sin, yet not for His own but for that of His people (Isa. 53). He too is restored after death in exile, but His restoration is permanent. His resurrection is the first fruits of a cosmic restoration (Rom. 8:19–23), and all those in Him will dwell securely in a good land — a new earth — forever (Rev. 21:1–8).

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     Robert Rothwell (@Robert_Rothwell) is associate editor of Tabletalk and has been writing the magazine’s daily studies since 2004.

The Historical Book

By Gene Edward Veith 2/2006

     Non-Christians assume that the Bible is a collection of myths. So do theological liberals, which is why they feel free to support abortion, homosexual marriage, the validity of all world religions — and they have constructed a whole vein of scholarship designed to “demythologize” the Bible, so as to salvage what they consider to be relevant to contemporary culture.

     As a long-time student of literature, I get frustrated reading liberal biblical scholarship, not just because of its bad theology but because of its distortion of literature. A person might not believe the Bible is historical, but it is beyond doubt that the Bible is written in a historical style (which, in turn, is strong evidence for its historicity).

     A greater literary scholar than I, C.S. Lewis, saw the same thing. “Whatever these men may be as biblical critics, I distrust them as critics,” Lewis wrote. “They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading.” Lewis thought that part of the problem may be specialization, that these scholars have devoted so much time to the minute scrutiny of biblical texts that they have failed to attain “a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general.… If he tells me something in a gospel is a legend or a romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read” (“Fern-seed and Elephants,” in Christian Reflections).

     For most of the history of Western literature, beginning in the ancient world and continuing up until the invention of the novel in the eighteenth century, legends, romances, and myths were written in poetry. Historical records were written in prose.

     The Bible has poetry, of course — the Psalms and the prophetic books — but these are lyric poems (that is, personal expressions, the kind of poetry that can be assumed to be true). The great narratives of Scripture — in Genesis, the saga of the Israelites, the Gospels — are in prose. That alone is good evidence that they are historical.

     But more than that, the texture, details, and composition of these narratives marks them not as myths or imaginative fictions but history. Lewis makes fun of Bible scholars who call the gospel of John an “allegory,” pointing to the vividly lifelike dialogues and to the extraneous details — such as Jesus writing in the dust — whose inclusion can only be accounted for if they actually happened. “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this.”

     Lewis sees only two possibilities. Either these accounts are reports of actual events, “or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole universe of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.”

     Lewis says, “The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.” So let us read Eric Auerbach, whose book Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1953) is recognized as one of the century’s greatest works of literary criticism. The first chapter, “Odyseuss’ Scar,” compares the style of Homer to that of the Bible.

     Homer, Auerbach shows, puts everything in the foreground — giving us what the characters look like, describing their surroundings in detail, and even telling us what they are thinking. This approach, which has become the model for Western fiction, is “to represent phenomena in a fully externalized form, visible and palpable in all their parts, and completely fixed in their spatial and temporal relations,” says Auerbach.

     He contrasts this highly-imaginative approach to the way the Bible in Genesis describes the sacrifice of Isaac. We do not know what Abraham or Isaac look like; there is no description of the landscape; we are not told what Abraham thinks as he prepares to sacrifice his son; nor are we informed why God acts as He does. Such meaning is in the “background,” requiring interpretation and reflection and opening up untold depths.

     This kind of narrative testifies to the real because it is messy, unpredictable, and compels, just like real life. Auerbach says that the story of David has to be historical. “In Absalom’s rebellion, for example, or in the scenes from David’s last days, the contradictions and crossing of motives both in individuals and in the general action have become so concrete that it is impossible to doubt the historicity of the information conveyed.”

     Unlike Homer, the biblical narrator was not just making things up. “His freedom in creative or representative imagination was severely limited.” This is because he was constrained by the truth. The Bible conveys not just truth, but authoritative truth. “Far from seeking, like Homer, merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, it seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history.”

     Auerbach was not a Christian. He remained a Jewish rationalist. But he recognized the implications of the Bible’s historicity and truth. “The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us — they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”

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

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Setting a Course for Faithfulness

By Stephen Nichols 1/1/1989 Tabletalk Magazine

     TT: What are your responsibilities in your role as president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries? | SN: Under the supervision and direction of the board of directors, the president of Reformation Bible College governs all aspects of the college from the staff and faculty to the students and curriculum. I am not alone in this, as I work alongside Dr. John W. Tweeddale, our academic dean.

     Ligonier is primarily a teaching ministry that delivers content in a variety of ways. As chief academic officer, I work with Chris Larson, Ligonier’s president, in maintaining the theological emphasis and voice of Ligonier, which has proven beneficial to so many in the church over these last four decades. In both of these positions, I report directly to Dr. R.C. Sproul.

     It is all rather humbling. Ultimately, the responsibility of both positions is to maintain theological fidelity. History abounds with tragic examples of ministries and colleges losing their moorings. Above all, institutions need God’s grace to stay true to Him, and they also need to be purposeful and committed. Dr. Sproul has cast the vision and set the course. These two roles that I will, along with many other roles at Ligonier and RBC where others serve, are in place so that the next generation, and generations to come, may grow in their knowledge of God—to increase their zeal to serve God, and to glorify and enjoy God forever.

     TT: What excites you most about the ministry of RBC? | SN: It would have to be both the potential of the faculty and the potential of the students. Gathered in Sanford, Fla., is a world-class collection of scholars who are committed to the mission of Ligonier Ministries, RBC, and the church. Augustine once said that a good teacher is one who loves the subject, loves the students, and, above all, loves God. That is the RBC faculty, and they will be a substantial resource for the church for years to come. Then there are the students. They are taught the full range of biblical studies, church history, philosophy, and apologetics. On top of that, RBC has a great works curriculum, affording students the opportunity to engage classic texts and the history of ideas from the early Greeks to the present day. The curriculum is built upon and aims at one thing: the knowledge of God. We exist to teach students theology. And they are taught by godly professors who love their subjects and are called to their students. When you consider all of this, you can’t help but get excited about the potential of RBC. There is an urgent need for this kind of education and for this unique college.

     TT: What would you like to see RBC accomplish over the next ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? | SN: First and foremost would be faithfulness—faithfulness as an institution to the Reformed faith and to the particular theological emphases that have marked Ligonier Ministries since its inception forty years ago. That faithfulness also has to do with our students. They come to us, study with us, and eventually graduate. Commencement is not an end, however, but a beginning of a life of ministry, of work and vocation, and of family. What will be said of RBC students at the end of their life’s journey? If the answer is faithfulness, then RBC will have been used by God in their lives to accomplish something of lasting significance and of true substance.

     Second is fruitfulness. The goal for RBC is not to be big, but to be influential. We want RBC men and women to know and love God, to be articulate and persuasive, and to contend for truth, goodness, and beauty.

     TT: Why are you concerned with defending the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy in this day and age? | SN: Defending inerrancy is necessary precisely because it is being challenged and even jettisoned by many who would claim to be evangelicals. The doctrine of inerrancy reminds us that the Bible is God’s authoritative and trustworthy Word to us. My concern is with alternative views, and especially with the consequences of those alternatives. If you do not hold to the full inerrancy of Scripture, what do you have? Essentially, you have limited inerrancy. That has the Bible submitting to us—to our judgment. That has it all topsy-turvy. The doctrine of Scripture is the first domino, so to speak. If it falls in the wrong direction, the whole chain of dominoes falls in the wrong direction.

     TT: Why is it important to express and defend a biblical Christology? | SN: Christology encompasses the person and work of Christ. As for His person, we must confess the God-man, the hypostatic union of the divine nature and the human nature in one person. As for Christ’s work, we must confess His sinless life, His perfect obedience, His atoning death as a substitute in our place, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father’s right hand. Sadly, many of these doctrines are also being challenged and jettisoned today. Consider this: Can we have the gospel without a biblical Christology? The answer, of course, is no. And without the gospel, we cease to be the church. We are called to proclaim the gospel and live out its ramifications. The heart and soul of the gospel is a biblical Christology. We must confess it, teach it, and defend it. This is why we produced The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. We must confess and contend for a biblical Christology.

     TT: Several of your writings focus on Jonathan Edwards. Why do you return to this early American preacher and theologian so often? | SN: I never find the time I spend with Edwards to be wasted time. I come away from reading him being challenged and with new ways of thinking about and living the Christian life. Just the other day, I was looking at the letter Sarah Edwards, his wife, wrote to their daughter after Jonathan died. She said, “What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud.” She clings to God’s holiness and goodness in a time of turmoil and suffering. Sarah’s reaction reflects what her husband lived, taught, and wrote. I go back to Edwards because I so need that perspective.

     TT: What are two major lessons that American Christians need to learn from Christians who lived in centuries past? | SN: Track down a copy of Augustine’s Confessions. You will see that the first word in Latin is magnus. God is great. He is transcendent, infinitely above and over His creation. The corollary is that we are not. We are finite. I don’t think we reflexively think of God as great and of ourselves as small. But we must.

     The second major lesson concerns suffering. The vast majority of voices from the past offer a far different perspective than we do on suffering. Perhaps it’s due to our living in the “entitlement age,” or due to our sense of overcoming so many diseases and ailments that once plagued previous generations. Whatever the reason, we see suffering as abnormal and to be avoided. What does Paul mean by participating in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? We learn more about what that means when we look to the past than when we confine ourselves to the present.

     TT: In what major ways has American culture distorted our understanding of Jesus? | SN: American culture’s distorting our understanding of Jesus offers a clear case where culture rushes in to fill the vacuum left when we disdain tradition. The Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds mark out helpful boundaries regarding the person of Christ. The Reformers mark out helpful boundaries for thinking of Christ’s work. When we neglect these resources, we are overly influenced by culture. In America’s Victorian age, Jesus was “feminized.” He was seen exclusively as meek and mild. Even the images of this era portray Jesus as feminine. In our day, Jesus has taken on any number of personae. I’ve seen images of Him in a boxing ring with gloves on, ready to fight the devil. Scripture presents Jesus as a rather complex person. We can distort that image, constructing a Jesus who looks like us, and is there simply to affirm us. The creeds and the Reformation solas can go a long way in helping us think clearly and biblically about Jesus.

     TT: Name a few inappropriate ways to read church history. | SN: I can name three. The first would be not to read it. Why cut yourself off from the riches of the past? The second concerns reading history with judgmental and dismissive attitudes. We can easily do this because we tend to think so highly of our own age, and we tend to be unaware of our own blind spots. The counter is to read church history with humility, not hubris. Third, we need to avoid “hagiography.” Our church history figures don’t need halos. The Scripture writers show the faults and flaws of the biblical figures. There is only one who ranks as the true hero: Christ. We can be so thankful for leaders from church history who so clearly and persuasively point us to Christ. But we must ultimately look to the One to whom they are pointing and not to them.

     TT: How can Christians have confidence in God in this day and age? | SN: When Rome collapsed in the early 400s, the great scholar Jerome declared the world to be in ruins, went into a cave outside of Bethlehem, and waited to die. Conversely, Augustine wrote the classic text The City of God (Translated with an Introduction by Marcus Dods). Augustine reminds us that, while empires come and go, God’s kingdom is unshakable. What Augustine said then is what we need now. We can have confidence in God because His Word is true and sure, because His ways are perfect and good, and because He sovereignly reigns over His world. We live in challenging and confusing times that can throw us off balance. But we do not go crawling into a cave. Instead, with confidence and conviction, we remember our unchanging God and we trust in His steadfast love and faithfulness.

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     Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is on Twitter @DrSteveNichols Stephen Nichols Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
31 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

21 Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!

ESV Reformation Study

Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4

By Don Carson 3/18/2018

     Two comments on John 8:12-51.

     (1) Already in John 7:7, Jesus said to his brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify that what it does is evil.” Both in his own person and in his uncompromising words, Jesus is so offensive that the world hates him. He is the very embodiment of 3:19-21: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

     John 8 now goes further. Jesus insists that when the Devil lies, “he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (8:44). Then Jesus adds, “Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me” (8:45).

     That is stunning. The first clause is not concessive, as if Jesus had said, “Although I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.” That would be bad enough. But Jesus says, “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.” What options does that leave him? Should he tell the smooth lies that comfortable people want to hear? That might get him a hearing, but it is unthinkable that Jesus would follow such a course. So he continues telling the truth, and precisely because he tells the truth, he is not believed. To those so blinded, speaking the truth is precisely what hardens their hearts. It ignites the burning hatred that issues in the conflagration of the cross.

     (2) Jesus insists that “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day” (8:56): probably what Jesus has in mind is the promise God made and renewed to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12). It is unlikely Jesus is claiming that Abraham had some vision that unfolded the life and times of Jesus in a kind of visionary preview. What he means, rather, is that Abraham knew God, believed God’s promises about the offspring, and in faith contemplated the fulfillment of those promises, rejoicing in the prospect of what he could not yet fully grasp: “he saw it and was glad” (8:56). But at very least this means that Jesus is the object and fulfillment of God’ s promise to Abraham, thus superseding him in importance. More: if the eternal Word (John 1:1) was always with God, and was always God, even Abraham’ s faith-borne contemplation of God was nothing less than a contemplation of him who became Jesus of Nazareth. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am” — the very covenant name of God (Ex. 3:14).

     When his opponents pick up stones to kill Jesus because of this second point, they prove his first point.

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

Don Carson Books:

In what way does the Spirit testify?

By Sinclair Ferguson

     The key issue is: In what way does the Spirit testify? In particular, in Romans 8:16 does Paul regard the Spirit’s testimony as either (a) a testimony to our spirit or (b) a testimony with our spirit? Paul’s verb, summartureō can be used in either sense.

     In his commentary on Romans, C. E. B. Cranfield (now followed by others) argued forcefully that the testimony of the Spirit must be given to our spirits and not (along) with (the testimony of) our spirits. He asks: “What standing does our spirit have in this matter? Of itself it surely has no right to testify to our being sons of God.”   A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, 2 volumes   C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols.

     But there seem to be good reasons to reject this view, as follows.

     1) Paul uses the verb summartureō elsewhere in Romans. ( Rom. 2:15; 9:1 ) In both instances the idea seems to be that of a witness with rather than to. In addition, Romans 8 is replete with sun compound words. We are heirs with Christ (8:17); we suffer with Christ (v. 17); the creation groans together (v. 22); it travails together (v. 22); the Spirit helps us (along with us) in our weakness (v. 26); things work together with each other for our good (v. 28). This further suggests that the sun compound verb summartureō also carries the sense of “witness along with” rather than “witness to.”

(Ro 2:15–29) 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
ESV
     2) Contrary to Cranfield’s contention, it is of considerable importance to stress that we do in fact bear witness to our standing before God. While in Galatians Paul says that “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!,’” ( Galatians 4:6 ) in Romans it is the believer who cries, “Abba! Father!” thus expressing his or her own consciousness of being a son of God and therefore a joint heir with Christ. In this context then the witness of the Spirit must, in some sense, be additional to that of our own spirit.

     Cranfield asks a proper question: “What place does the witness of our spirits play in this matter of being assured we are children of God?” But the answer is not: “No part.” Rather, Paul’s point is that it is precisely in the weakness of our consciousness of our new identity, and the fragility that may attend our sense of assurance, that the Spirit bears his joint testimony. Thus the question of our status is confirmed by two witnesses. In essence Cranfield’s interpretation makes the Spirit the sole witness.

     This view is confirmed by the parallel, but not identical, statement Paul makes in Galatians 4:6. While in Romans 8 it is we who cry, “Abba! Father,” in Galatians 4 it is the Spirit who utters this cry.

     How are we to correlate these passages?

     Here Paul’s statement that it is only through the Spirit that a person can say, “Jesus is Lord,” may provide a key. ( 1 Cor. 12:3 ) It is the believer who bears witness thus to Christ; but it is only through the ministry of the Spirit in his life that this can take place. In the same way, it is the believer who cries, “Abba! Father!” but we can do this only as the Spirit bears his joint testimony with our spirit. The testimony of the Spirit of sonship is therefore not something existentially distinguishable from this testimony of our own spirits. It is distinct from it, but it cannot be distinguished by an introspective analysis of our consciousness—any more than we can directly detect the work of the Spirit when we say, “Jesus is Lord!” B. B. Warfield finely expresses the balance here when he writes:

     Distinct in source, it is yet delivered confluently with the testimony of our own consciousness. Faith and Life B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life

     From The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance

     Sinclair Ferguson | Wikipedia

Sinclair Ferguson Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 7.

A SUMMARY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. OF SELF-DENIAL. [391]

The divisions of the chapter are,--I. The rule which permits us not to go astray in the study of righteousness, requires two things--viz. that man, abandoning his own will, devote himself entirely to the service of God; whence it follows, that we must seek not our own things, but the things of God, sec. 1, 2. II. A description of this renovation or Christian life taken from the Epistle to Titus, and accurately explained under certain special heads, sec. 3 to end.

Sections.

1. Consideration of the second general division in regard to the Christian life. Its beginning and sum. A twofold respect. 1. We are not our own. Respect to both the fruit and the use. Unknown to philosophers, who have placed reason on the throne of the Holy Spirit.

2. Since we are not our own, we must seek the glory of God, and obey his will. Self-denial recommended to the disciples of Christ. He who neglects it, deceived either by pride or hypocrisy, rushes on destruction.

3. Three things to be followed, and two to be shunned in life. Impiety and worldly lusts to be shunned. Sobriety, justice, and piety, to be followed. An inducement to right conduct.

4. Self-denial the sum of Paul's doctrine. Its difficulty. Qualities in us which make it difficult. Cures for these qualities. 1. Ambition to be suppressed. 2. Humility to be embraced. 3. Candour to be esteemed. 4. Mutual charity to be preserved. 5. Modesty to be sincerely cultivated.

5. The advantage of our neighbour to be promoted. Here self-denial most necessary, and yet most difficult. Here a double remedy. 1. The benefits bestowed upon us are for the common benefit of the Church. 2. We ought to do all we can for our neighbour. This illustrated by analogy from the members of the human body. This duty of charity founded on the divine command.

6. Charity ought to have for its attendants patience and kindness. We should consider the image of God in our neighbours, and especially in those who are of the household of faith. Hence a fourfold consideration which refutes all objections. A common objection refuted.

7. Christian life cannot exist without charity. Remedies for the vices opposed to charity. 1. Mercy. 2. Humility. 3. Modesty. 4. Diligence. 5. Perseverance.

8. Self-denial, in respect of God, should lead to equanimity and tolerance. 1. We are always subject to God. 2. We should shun avarice and ambition. 3. We should expect all prosperity from the blessing of God, and entirely depend on him.

9. We ought not to desire wealth or honours without the divine blessing, nor follow the arts of the wicked. We ought to cast all our care upon God, and never envy the prosperity of others.

10. We ought to commit ourselves entirely to God. The necessity of this doctrine. Various uses of affliction. Heathen abuse and corruption.

1. Although the Law of God contains a perfect rule of conduct admirably arranged, it has seemed proper to our divine Master to train his people by a more accurate method, to the rule which is enjoined in the Law; and the leading principle in the method is, that it is the duty of believers to present their "bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service," (Rom. 12:1). Hence he draws the exhortation: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." The great point, then, is, that we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and, therefore, should not henceforth think, speak, design, or act, without a view to his glory. What he hath made sacred cannot, without signal insult to him, be applied to profane use. But if we are not our own, but the Lord's, it is plain both what error is to be shunned, and to what end the actions of our lives ought to be directed. We are not our own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts and counsels. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are not our own; therefore, as far as possible, let us forget ourselves and the things that are ours. On the other hand, we are God's; let us, therefore, live and die to him (Rom. 14:8). We are God's; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God's; to him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed. O how great the proficiency of him who, taught that he is not his own, has withdrawn the dominion and government of himself from his own reason that he may give them to God! For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God. By service, I mean not only that which consists in verbal obedience, but that by which the mind, divested of its own carnal feelings, implicitly obeys the call of the Spirit of God. This transformation (which Paul calls the renewing of the mind, Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23), though it is the first entrance to life, was unknown to all the philosophers. They give the government of man to reason alone, thinking that she alone is to be listened to; in short, they assign to her the sole direction of the conduct. But Christian philosophy bids her give place, and yield complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so that the man himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him (Gal. 2:20).

2. Hence follows the other principle, that we are not to seek our own, but the Lord's will, and act with a view to promote his glory. Great is our proficiency, when, almost forgetting ourselves, certainly postponing our own reason, we faithfully make it our study to obey God and his commandments. For when Scripture enjoins us to lay aside private regard to ourselves, it not only divests our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or human favour, but eradicates all ambition and thirst for worldly glory, and other more secret pests. The Christian ought, indeed, to be so trained and disposed as to consider, that during his whole life he has to do with God. For this reason, as he will bring all things to the disposal and estimate of God, so he will religiously direct his whole mind to him. For he who has learned to look to God in everything he does, is at the same time diverted from all vain thoughts. This is that self-denial which Christ so strongly enforces on his disciples from the very outset (Mt. 16:24), which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self love. On the contrary, wherever it reigns not, the foulest vices are indulged in without shame; or, if there is some appearance of virtue, it is vitiated by a depraved longing for applause. Show me, if you can, an individual who, unless he has renounced himself in obedience to the Lord's command, is disposed to do good for its own sake. Those who have not so renounced themselves have followed virtue at least for the sake of praise. The philosophers who have contended most strongly that virtue is to be desired on her own account, were so inflated with arrogance as to make it apparent that they sought virtue for no other reason than as a ground for indulging in pride. So far, therefore, is God from being delighted with these hunters after popular applause with their swollen breasts, that he declares they have received their reward in this world (Mt. 6:2), and that harlots and publicans are nearer the kingdom of heaven than they (Mt. 21:31). We have not yet sufficiently explained how great and numerous are the obstacles by which a man is impeded in the pursuit of rectitude, so long as he has not renounced himself. The old saying is true, There is a world of iniquity treasured up in the human soul. Nor can you find any other remedy for this than to deny yourself, renounce your own reason, and direct your whole mind to the pursuit of those things which the Lord requires of you, and which you are to seek only because they are pleasing to Him.

3. In another passage, Paul gives a brief, indeed, but more distinct account of each of the parts of a well-ordered life: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," (Tit. 2:11-14). After holding forth the grace of God to animate us, and pave the way for His true worship, he removes the two greatest obstacles which stand in the way--viz. ungodliness, to which we are by nature too prone, and worldly lusts, which are of still greater extent. Under ungodliness, he includes not merely superstition, but everything at variance with the true fear of God. Worldly lusts are equivalent to the lusts of the flesh. Thus he enjoins us, in regard to both tables of the Law, to lay aside our own mind, and renounce whatever our own reason and will dictate. Then he reduces all the actions of our lives to three branches, sobriety, righteousness, and godliness. Sobriety undoubtedly denotes as well chastity and temperance as the pure and frugal use of temporal goods, and patient endurance of want. Righteousness comprehends all the duties of equity, in every one his due. Next follows godliness, which separates us from the pollutions of the world, and connects us with God in true holiness. These, when connected together by an indissoluble chain, constitute complete perfection. But as nothing is more difficult than to bid adieu to the will of the flesh, subdue, nay, abjure our lusts, devote ourselves to God and our brethren, and lead an angelic life amid the pollutions of the world, Paul, to set our minds free from all entanglements, recalls us to the hope of a blessed immortality, justly urging us to contend, because as Christ has once appeared as our Redeemer, so on his final advent he will give full effect to the salvation obtained by him. And in this way he dispels all the allurements which becloud our path, and prevent us from aspiring as we ought to heavenly glory; nay, he tells us that we must be pilgrims in the world, that we may not fail of obtaining the heavenly inheritance.

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



  • Know Jesus??
  • Resisting Temptation
  • Understanding Exodus

#1 John Piper   Desiring God

 

#2 John Piper   Desiring God

 

#3 John Piper   Desiring God

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/2006    Passionate Complacency

     Sir Edmund Burke is quoted as having said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”— a true statement indeed. For as the history of civilization has shown, when we stand by and do nothing, that which is evil always seems to gain the victory.

     However, as the people of God, we understand that evil is not some sort of impersonal entity that exists outside the heart of man. In fact, evil is at the very core of natural man’s being after the fall. We also understand that in our natural condition, none seeks to do good and to bring about true justice. Nevertheless, we know that evil will not ultimately triumph. Christ has won the battle, and He has overcome the condemning evil in our hearts, replacing our stony hearts with humble hearts. Herein is the Good News of Christ: Upon the rock of Christ, the Lord Almighty is building His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. This, our forefathers understood well and demonstrated their commitment to Christ as they stood as ardent defenders of the faith amidst a battle that rages to this day.

     Although the enemies of Christ have not ceased in their attempt to destroy the church, God has preserved a remnant of faithful people whom He has raised up to fight the good fight and proclaim His truth. And while the history of God’s people in the United States of America is a magnificent history in many respects, our history is not without great turmoil and persecution. Most Christians in America, however, are unaware of the battles that have been fought for truth and righteousness. They do not know of the great men whom God has raised up as guardians of the faith to proclaim His Word to the wolves in their midst. As a result, so many Christians within evangelical and Reformed churches are unable to appreciate the significance of the battles that are raging all around us. For this reason we have devoted an entire issue of Tabletalk to remind our readers of our glorious heritage as the people of God in America. For as I look out over the landscape of evangelicalism in America, I do not observe a people who are passionate defenders of the faith who live and breathe the Word of God coram Deo. Rather, I see a people who have grown complacent to the faith once delivered to the saints. The prophet Zephaniah proclaimed: “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency” (Zeph. 1:12 NKJV).

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this date, March 18, 1845 missionary John Chapman died, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Collecting apple seeds from cider presses in western Pennsylvania, he began planting nurseries from the Alleghenies to central Ohio, giving thousands of seedlings to pioneers. Bare foot, wearing a mush pan over his eccentric long hair, and an old coffee sack over his shoulders, Johnny’s harmony with the Indians and devotion to the Bible led William Venable to write: “Remember Johnny Appleseed--- All ye who love the apple--- He served his kind by word and deed--- In God’s grand greenwood chapel.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


You aspire to great things?
Begin with little ones.
--- Saint Augustine   The Confessions: (Vol. I/1) 2nd edition, (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century)


If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor,
how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?
--- David Livingstone   The Sovereignty of God


You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers.
You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time.'
And how long is that going to take?'
I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps.'
That could be a long time.'
I will tell you a further mystery, 'he said.' It may take longer.
--- Wendell Berry   Jayber Crow


A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
--- H. L. Mencken   A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 3/18
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Tenth of sixth month. -- We set out early this morning and crossed the western branch of Delaware, called the Great Lehie, near Fort Allen. The water being high, we went over in a canoe. Here we met an Indian, had friendly conversation with him, and gave him some biscuit; and he, having killed a deer, gave some of it to the Indians with us. After travelling some miles, we met several Indian men and women with a cow and horse, and some household goods, who were lately come from their dwelling at Wyoming, and were going to settle at another place. We made them some small presents, and, as some of them understood English, I told them my motive for coming into their country, with which they appeared satisfied. One of our guides talking awhile with an ancient woman concerning us, the poor old woman came to my companion and me and took her leave of us with an appearance of sincere affection. We pitched our tent near the banks of the same river, having labored hard in crossing some of those mountains called the Blue Ridge. The roughness of the stones and the cavities between them, with the steepness of the hills, made it appear dangerous. But we were preserved in safety, through the kindness of Him whose works in these mountainous deserts appeared awful, and towards whom my heart was turned during this day's travel.

     Near our tent, on the sides of large trees peeled for that purpose, were various representations of men going to and returning from the wars, and of some being killed in battle. This was a path heretofore used by warriors, and as I walked about viewing those Indian histories, which were painted mostly in red or black, and thinking on the innumerable afflictions which the proud, fierce spirit produceth in the world, also on the toils and fatigues of warriors in travelling over mountains and deserts; on their miseries and distresses when far from home and wounded by their enemies; of their bruises and great weariness in chasing one another over the rocks and mountains; of the restless, unquiet state of mind of those who live in this spirit, and of the hatred which mutually grows up in the minds of their children, -- the desire to cherish the spirit of love and peace among these people arose very fresh in me. This was the first night that we lodged in the woods, and being wet with travelling in the rain, as were also our blankets, the ground, our tent, and the bushes under which we purposed to lay, all looked discouraging; but I believed that it was the Lord who had thus far brought me forward, and that he would dispose of me as he saw good, and so I felt easy. We kindled a fire, with our tent open to it, then laid some bushes next the ground, and put our blankets upon them for our bed, and, lying down, got some sleep. In the morning, feeling a little unwell, I went into the river; the water was cold, but soon after I felt fresh and well. About eight o'clock we set forward and crossed a high mountain supposed to be upward of four miles over, the north side being the steepest. About noon we were overtaken by one of the Moravian brethren going to Wehaloosing, and an Indian man with him who could talk English; and we being together while our horses ate grass had some friendly conversation; but they, travelling faster than we, soon left us. This Moravian, I understood, has this spring spent some time at Wehaloosing, and was invited by some of the Indians to come again.

     Twelfth of sixth month being the first of the week and rainy day, we continued in our tent, and I was led to think on the nature of the exercise which hath attended me. Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they might be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of truth among them; and as it pleased the Lord to make way for my going at a time when the troubles of war were increasing, and when, by reason of much wet weather, travelling was more difficult than usual at that season, I looked upon is as a more favorable opportunity to season my mind, and to bring me into a nearer sympathy with them. As mine eye was to the great Father of Mercies, humbly desiring to learn his will concerning me, I was made quiet and content.

     Our guide's horse strayed, though hoppled, in the night, and after searching some time for him his footsteps were discovered in the path going back, whereupon my kind companion went off in the rain, and after about seven hours returned with him. Here we lodged again, tying up our horses before we went to bed, and loosing them to feed about break of day.

John Woolman's Journal

RE: Proverbs
     A Book To Be Read

Regarding the Book Of Proverbs, remember

Books are the windows through which the soul looks out.
--- Henry Ward Beecher

People will not be better than the books they read.
--- Bishop Potter

A good book is the precious life-blood
of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured
up on purpose to a life beyond life.
--- John Milton

“Classic": A book which people praise but don't read.
--- Mark Twain


... from here, there and everywhere

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness, and throughout the universe there is nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the flowers, and the trees, and the grass; and are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow God to work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He works in its beauty? And God's redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can work His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, and love, and blessing, and power, and infinite beauty, and God delights to communicate Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him; but ah! this one lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.

     You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is absolutely given up to me to cover my body. This building is entirely given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The Temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition--absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

     God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.

I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 12:24-25
     by D.H. Stern

24     The diligent will rule,
while the lazy will be put to forced labor.

25     Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down,
but a kind word cheers him up.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          5

     ‘There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.’

     ‘Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.’

     ‘Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.’

     ‘But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.’

     ‘Are you serious, Dick?’

     ‘Perfectly.’

     ‘This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.’

     ‘Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?’

     ‘There are indeed, Dick. There is hide-bound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed—they are not sins.’

     ‘I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.’

     ‘Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.’

     ‘What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came—popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?’

     ‘Dick, this is unworthy of you. What are you suggesting?’

     ‘Friend, I am not suggesting at all. You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment’s real resistance to the loss of our faith?’

     ‘If this is meant to be a sketch of the genesis of liberal theology in general, I reply that it is a mere libel. Do you suggest that men like …’

The Great Divorce   or   The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Shall I rouse myself up to this?

Perfecting holiness in the fear of God. --- 2 Cor. 7:1.

     “Having therefore these promises.” I claim the fulfilment of God’s promises, and rightly, but that is only the human side; the Divine side is that through the promises I recognize God’s claim on me. For instance, am I realizing that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, or have I a habit of body that plainly will not bear the light of God on it? By sanctification the Son of God is formed in me, then I have to transform my natural life into a spiritual life by obedience to Him. God educates us down to the scruple. When He begins to check, do not confer with flesh and blood, cleanse yourself at once. Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

     I have to cleanse myself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit until both are in accord with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I insubordinate in intellect? Am I forming the mind of Christ, Who never spoke from His right to Himself, but maintained an inner watchfulness whereby He continually submitted His spirit to His Father? I have the responsibility of keeping my spirit in agreement with His Spirit, and by degrees Jesus lifts me up to where He lived—in perfect consecration to His Father’s will, paying no attention to any other thing. Am I perfecting this type of holiness in the fear of God? Is God getting His way with me, and are other people beginning to see God in my life more and more?

     Be serious with God and leave the rest gaily alone. Put God first literally.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Seventieth Birthday
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Seventieth Birthday

Made of tissue and H2O,
and activated by cells
firing - Ah, heart, the legend
of your person! Did I invent
it, and is it in being still?

In the competition with other
women your victory is assured.
It is time, as Yeats said, is
the caterpillar in the cheek's rose,
the untiring witherer of your petals.

You are drifting away from
me on the whitening current of your hair.
I lean far out from the bone's bough,
knowing the hand I extend
can save nothing of you but your love.


Teacher's Commentary
     Meaning of Discipleship: Luke 9:23–26

     Now the Gospel of Luke shifts its focus. Christ came, and offered new life to a world that, even after conclusive demonstration of who He is, rejected Him. But some believed. This little band of men who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” launched out on new life. From now on, while Christ would still speak to the crowds and their leaders, His message was primarily for those who had trusted in Him.

     Jesus talked now about discipleship: about how we who are His followers can grow to experience the abundant new life that may be ours in Him.

     Life saved or lost (Luke 9:23–25). Many puzzle over Jesus’ warning, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” We’re helped when we remember the focus of Luke. As a Christian, with new life from God, you and I have the potential to be new and different persons. We saw it earlier. Jesus said, “Be like your Heavenly Father.” God’s intention for believers is that we might bear the family resemblance of His Son. You and I are to develop into persons whose character expresses the very stamp of God’s own heredity. This is our destiny. We are to be like God throughout eternity, and, in this world, to become more and more like Him all the time.

     But the potential self (Luke 9:25) can be lost. We can choose to live the old way, by the values and motives that move men in this world. We can live the old life, and let the new remain unnourished, buried deep within us. If we do so choose, what we lose is ourselves, our experience on this earth of the person we could have been.

     Earlier we saw a great choice each person must make: Will I accept Jesus’ offer of life? Now we see a second choice: Will I become a disciple, put the old behind me, and become new?

     This is a question you have to answer. Will you lose your old life, or are you determined to hold tightly to it, to try and save your “self”? Or will you let go, turn away from the old for Jesus’ sake, and in so doing become the new, the true, you?

     * Let him deny himself (Luke 9:23). Jesus gives a profound three-part prescription to anyone who wants to come after Him (Luke 9:23). The first is: deny yourself.

     Self-denial doesn’t mean self-rejection. It doesn’t mean wallowing in self-loathing, or turning away from everything you enjoy because, “If you like it, it must be bad.” God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17). We know that, far from being worthless, you and I are of infinite value. Jesus thought enough of you to die for you. If He loved you so, how can you hate or reject yourself?

     But denying self is important in discipleship—as long as we understand that it means deny everything rooted in the old life. Deny and reject “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the … pride of life” (1 John 2:16, NASB).

     Carla had been angry. She struck out at her dad with biting words, then ran to her room. After the flood of tears she felt better. But she knew too that for her to follow Jesus would now mean going to apologize. How she fought making that apology! She told herself it had been his fault—and in some ways it was. She told herself she couldn’t go and say, “I’m sorry.” Not when he should by rights apologize to her first! Everything in her struggled against the self-humbling that an apology would mean. And for a long time she stayed in her room, as the tension within her grew.

     Finally, Carla got up off her bed and, denying the fears and pride of her old nature, went to do what she knew Jesus wanted.

     This is self-denial. Growth in the Christian life demands just this: the brutal setting aside of pride and fear and of all the “rights” that the old self demands as its due, to live instead a Jesus kind of life.


The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Shabbat 63a

     D’RASH

     It is human nature to be excited and enthusiastic at the outset about something new. Kids get a new toy and cannot tear themselves away from it for a second. Adults make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or to stop smoking and are “gung-ho” about sticking to the program. A new president takes office and the people and the press are caught-up in the good feelings of the “honeymoon period.”

     Yet, it is also human nature to quickly grow bored, complacent, or forgetful of the intense feelings that we had not too long ago. The child leaves the favorite toy in the closet and moves on to something else. The temptation to eat a rich dessert or to smoke that one cigarette are just too much for us. We soon take out our frustrations and disappointments on our leaders and mercilessly criticize and complain. The enthusiasm we once had is gone, and we fall back into our old patterns and behaviors.

     The Rabbis understood human behavior and our propensity to get bored rather easily. They knew that we would be more excited about Hanukkah on the first night than we would be on the last. This may be why Bet Hillel, in designing the menorah ritual, came up with the brilliant suggestion of increasing the number of lights each night. They recognized that as our natural enthusiasm would begin to wane, our excitement and interest could be piqued by having us look forward to a menorah filled with brilliantly burning wicks at the end of the holiday week. Interestingly (and not coincidentally), the word Hanukkah means “rededication”; it signifies when the Maccabees came back to restore the desecrated Temple and to recommit themselves to all that it stood for. The message of “We raise up in matters of holiness …” is that we must rededicate ourselves to the things in our lives that are of ultimate importance.

     Bet Hillel anticipated where and when the let-downs would come, and it planned ahead to compensate for them. Instead of allowing a toy to collect dust in a chest, a child can be taught the lessons of sharing and giving by being encouraged to present it to another child. Turning to a support group for assistance can be a source of great strength for someone tempted by things that can hurt them. A president can plan new initiatives at different milestones that can bring new excitement and enthusiasm to the nation.

     The Rabbis counseled us to go against our nature and to strive to ascend in matters of holiness: Fight the complacency, struggle with the boredom, wrestle with the waning commitment. Make every effort to do better, not worse. Don’t be satisfied to stay at the status quo. Try whenever possible to go up in matters of holiness.

     A verse never loses its contextual meaning.

     Text / Mishnah (6:4): A man should not go out with a sword, a bow, a shield, a lance, or a spear, and if he did go out, he is liable a sin-offering. Rabbi Eliezer says: “These are his ornaments.” But the Sages say: “They are harmful, as it is written: ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war’ [Isaiah 2:4].”
Gemara: Abaye said to Rav Dimi—some say to Rav Avya—and some say Rav Yosef to Rav Dimi—and some say to Rav Avya—and some say Abaye to Rav Yosef: “What is the prooftext that Rabbi Eliezer said that they are ornaments? As it is written: ‘Gird your sword upon your thigh, O hero, in your splendor and glory’ [Psalms 45:4].” Rav Kahana said to Mar son of Rav Huna: “This is speaking about words of Torah!” He said to him: “A verse never loses its contextual meaning.”


     Context / One of the objects of jewelry mentioned in the previous Mishnah is a “golden city,” perhaps a golden pendant with a picture of Jerusalem etched into it. (Recent research shows this to be a golden tiara.) There is a famous story in the Talmud (Nedarim 50a) about Rabbi Akiva and a “golden city” tiara. Before he was a famous scholar and teacher, Akiva was a poor shepherd working for Kalba Savua (also called Bar Kalba Savua), one of the richest men in Jerusalem. The daughter of Kalba Savua, Raḥel, found something appealing in Akiva and promised to marry him if he dedicated his life to the study house. Akiva agreed, but Kalba Savua disapproved of this ignorant shepherd named Akiva. Kalba Savua cut off his daughter from her family money. She and Akiva lived in poverty, so much so that in the winter they slept on straw to keep warm. One time, as Akiva picked straw from Raḥel’s hair, he told her: “If I could, I would buy you a Jerusalem of gold!” Of course, Akiva went on to become one of the greatest sages of the Talmudic era.
     In the days of the Talmud, love of Jerusalem was shown by wearing an image of the city on one’s jewelry. Today, we are more likely to sing about the city, and “Jerusalem of Gold” refers not to the tiara but to the city itself. This is largely because of the Naomi Shemer song “Yerushalayim shel Zahav,” or “Jerusalem of Gold,” written in 1967 only days before the Six-Day War. Naomi Shemer used the talmudic image as the basis for her lyrics.


     The previous Mishnah listed objects (like certain jewelry) that a woman would likely wear and which may not be carried outside on Shabbat. This would be a violation of one of the traditional Shabbat prohibitions, carrying from domain to domain. This Mishnah continues the theme, listing objects that a man would likely wear. The Sages argue that these are weapons and, thus, prohibited. Rabbi Eliezer, however, sees them as ornaments. Just as a woman is allowed to wear her jewelry on Shabbat, so too a man may wear his ornaments—a sword, a bow, a shield, a lance, or a spear—in the public domain on Shabbat.

     The discussion in the Gemara asks for proof from a verse, for a rabbinic argument is stronger with biblical substantiation. Thus, the verse from Psalms is cited. However, this verse was already known for its metaphoric, homiletical meaning. According to Rav Kahana, the “hero” is really a scholar, and his weapon, the “sword,” is Torah. He is answered by Mar who, while not denying the possibility of this metaphoric reading of the verse, asserts that “sword” means not only “Torah,” its assigned meaning in the Midrash, but also a weapon, its simple, contextual meaning in the psalm. Thus, Mar can answer Rav Kahana: A verse, even when used for a sermonic purpose, still retains its obvious meaning in the context.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Ninth Chapter / All Things Should Be Referred To God As Their Last End

          THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, I must be your supreme and last end, if you truly desire to be blessed. With this intention your affections, which are too often perversely inclined to self and to creatures, will be purified. For if you seek yourself in anything, you immediately fail interiorly and become dry of heart.

     Refer all things principally to Me, therefore, for it is I Who have given them all. Consider each thing as flowing from the highest good, and therefore to Me, as to their highest source, must all things be brought back.

     From Me the small and the great, the poor and the rich draw the water of life as from a living fountain, and they who serve Me willingly and freely shall receive grace upon grace. He who wishes to glory in things apart from Me, however, or to delight in some good as his own, shall not be grounded in true joy or gladdened in his heart, but shall be burdened and distressed in many ways. Hence you ought not to attribute any good to yourself or ascribe virtue to any man, but give all to God without Whom man has nothing.

     I have given all things. I will that all be returned to Me again, and I exact most strictly a return of thanks. This is the truth by which vainglory is put to flight.

     Where heavenly grace and true charity enter in, there neither envy nor narrowness of heart nor self-love will have place. Divine love conquers all and enlarges the powers of the soul.

     If you are truly wise, you will rejoice only in Me, because no one is good except God alone, Who is to be praised above all things and above all to be blessed.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 18

     They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one. --- John 17:11.

     What were those mercies and special favors that Christ begged for his people when he was to die? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... )

     The mercy of preservation both from sin and danger: “Protect them by the power of your name,” which is explained, John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” We and the saints that are gone have reaped the fruit of this prayer. How else are our souls preserved amid temptations—assisted and aided by our own corruption? Surely, the preservation of the burning bush, of the three children amid the flames, of Daniel in the den of lions are not greater wonders than this.

     The blessing of union among them. This he joins immediately with the first mercy of preservation and prays for it in the same breath, verse
11, “so that they may be one as we are one.” Their union with one another is a special means to preserve them all.

     That “they may have the full measure of my joy within them”v. 13). He wanted to provide for their joy even when the hour of his greatest sorrow was at hand—he wanted not only to obtain joy for them, but full joy. It is as if he had said, “Father, I am to leave these dear ones in a world of troubles and perplexities; I know their hearts will be subject to discouragement. Let me obtain the restoratives of divine joy for them before I go. I would not only have them live, but live joyfully; provide, for fainting hours, reviving tonics.”

     And to maintain all these mercies, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (v. 17), that is, more abundantly sanctified than yet they were, by a deeper establishment of gracious habits and principles in their hearts. This is a singular mercy in itself, to have holiness spreading itself over and through their souls. Nothing is more desirable. And it is also a singular help to their perseverance, union, and spiritual joy.

     And lastly, as the complement and perfection of all desirable mercies, that they may be with him where he is, to see his glory (v.
24). This is the best and ultimate privilege they are capable of. The design of his coming down from heaven and returning there is to bring many sons and daughters to glory. Christ asks no trifles, no small things for his people. No mercies but the best that both worlds afford will satisfy him on their behalf.
--- John Flavel


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

On This Day   March 18
     The Imperfect Vessel

     Great men boast of great strengths, but they can also harbor great faults. Charles T. Studd, one of England’s most famous cricket players, was converted in 1883 through D. L. Moody’s influence. He developed a deep friendship with six other young men, and they offered themselves en masse to Hudson Taylor for missionary service in China. The “Cambridge Seven” sailed from England and arrived in Shanghai on March 18, 1885.

     Studd set passionately to work, adopting Chinese clothes and customs and laboring to exhaustion for souls. On December 5 he turned 25 and legally gained control of a large inheritance. He gave it all to the Lord’s work, for he had found a greater wealth. “I cannot tell you,” he later said, “what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures this world can give. Those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.”

     Studd later poured himself into India, then Africa. He once said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” He toiled day and night, 18 hours at a stretch, with no meals except what he gulped down while working, and no vacations.

     But his zeal overwhelmed those around him, leading to stress and broken relationships. His wife, often ill and lonely, was abandoned in England for years at a time while Studd was overseas. He expected his associates to work as he did, and he grew critical of those who didn’t. He wrote a book deploring lethargy as he saw it among Christians, and its title offended his supporters—D.C.D., standing for “Don’t Care a Damn.” He began treating his exhaustion and disorders with morphine. And when he died in Africa in 1931, he was broken in body and spirit.

     But his fruit remains. The organization he founded, Worldwide Evangelism Crusade, is still sending out missionaries and changing the world. Despite his faults, Studd remains as one of our most passionate missionary heroes.

     Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle. Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. Promise to obey completely and fully all that you have been told until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
--- 1 Timothy 6:11b,12a,14

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 18

     “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
--- Galatians 3:26.

     The fatherhood of God is common to all his children. Ah! Little-faith, you have often said, “Oh that I had the courage of Great-heart, that I could wield his sword and be as valiant as he! But, alas, I stumble at every straw, and a shadow makes me afraid.” List thee, Little-faith. Great-heart is God’s child, and you are God’s child too; and Great-heart is not one whit more God’s child than you are. Peter and Paul, the highly- favoured apostles, were of the family of the Most High; and so are you also; the weak Christian is as much a child of God as the strong one.

     “This cov’nant stands secure,
     Though earth’s old pillars bow;
     The strong, the feeble, and the weak,
     Are one in Jesus now.”


     All the names are in the same family register. One may have more grace than another, but God our heavenly Father has the same tender heart towards all. One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”

     Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace. If then you would live to Christ’s glory, and be happy in his service, seek to be filled with the spirit of adoption more and more completely, till perfect love shall cast out fear.


          Evening - March 18

     “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." John 15:9.

     As the Father loves the Son, in the same manner Jesus loves his people. What is that divine method? He loved him without beginning, and thus Jesus loves his members. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of your love to Christ, but his love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity. God the Father loves Jesus without any change. Christian, take this for your comfort, that there is no change in Jesus Christ’s love to those who rest in him. Yesterday you were on Tabor’s top, and you said, “He loves me:” to-day you are in the valley of humiliation, but he loves you still the same. On the hill Mizar, and among the Hermons, you heard his voice, which spake so sweetly with the turtle-notes of love; and now on the sea, or even in the sea, when all his waves and billows go over you, his heart is faithful to his ancient choice. The Father loves the Son without any end, and thus does the Son love his people. Saint, thou needest not fear the loosing of the silver cord, for his love for thee will never cease. Rest confident that even down to the grave Christ will go with you, and that up again from it he will be your guide to the celestial hills. Moreover, the Father loves the Son without any measure, and the same immeasurable love the Son bestows upon his chosen ones. The whole heart of Christ is dedicated to his people. He “loved us and gave himself for us.” His is a love which passeth knowledge. Ah! we have indeed an immutable Saviour, a precious Saviour, one who loves without measure, without change, without beginning, and without end, even as the Father loves him! There is much food here for those who know how to digest it. May the Holy Ghost lead us into its marrow and fatness!

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

Amazing Grace
     March 18

          I MUST TELL JESUS

     Words and Music by Elisha A. Hoffman 1839–1929

     The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength … (2 Timothy 4:17)

     Oh, help me, Lord, to take the time
     To set all else aside,
     That in the secret place of prayer
     I may with you abide.

--- Unknown

     One of the loneliest feelings we can have comes when we face a time of need without having a loving friend to talk to about it. Everyone needs at least one trusted friend in whom to confide.

     Pastor Elisha A. Hoffman, author and composer of more than 2,000 gospel songs, gives the following account of the writing of this well-loved hymn:

     During a pastorate in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, there was a woman to whom God permitted many visitations of sorrow and affliction. Coming to her home one day, I found her much discouraged. She unburdened her heart, concluding with the question, “Brother Hoffman, what shall I do? What shall I do?” I quoted from the Word, then added, “You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”
     For a moment she seemed lost in mediation. Then her eyes lighted as she exclaimed, “Yes, I must tell Jesus.”
     As I left her home I had a vision of that joy-illuminated face … and I heard all along my pathway the echo, “I must tell Jesus … I must tell Jesus.”


     Pastor Hoffman quickly wrote the words and soon completed the music as well. Since its publication in 1894 in Pentecostal Hymns, this hymn text has reminded many believers that they have a heavenly Friend who is always available to hear and help:

     I must tell Jesus all of my trials; I cannot bear these burdens alone: In my distress He kindly will help me; He ever loves and cares for His own.
     I must tell Jesus all of my troubles; He is a kind, compassionate friend; if I but ask Him, He will deliver, make of my troubles quickly an end.
     O how the world to evil allures me! O how my heart is tempted to sin! I must tell Jesus, and He will help me over the world the vict’ry to win.
     Chorus: I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.


     For Today: Psalm 6:9; Proverbs 14:26; John 14:14; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 10:22.

     Determine to go to Jesus with all of the concerns, temptations or trials that may arise. Share this truth with another who may also be hurting. Carry this tune with you knowing that ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)


          Prayer, a Primary Duty of Ministers

     The fact that so many prayers are found in the New Testament Epistles calls attention to an important aspect of ministerial duty. The preacher’s obligations are not fully discharged when he leaves the pulpit, for he needs to water the seed which he has sown. For the sake of young preachers, allow me to enlarge a little upon this point. It has already been seen that the apostles devoted themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), and thereby they have left an excellent example to be observed by all who follow them in the sacred vocation. Observe the apostolic order; yet do not merely observe it, but heed and practice it. The most laboriously and carefully-prepared sermon is likely to fall unctionless upon the hearers unless it has been born out of travail of soul before God. Unless the sermon be the product of earnest prayer we must not expect it to awaken the spirit of prayer in those who hear it. As has been pointed out, Paul mingled supplications with his instructions. It is our privilege and duty to retire to the secret place after we leave the pulpit, there begging God to write His Word on the hearts of those who have listened to us, to prevent the enemy from snatching away the seed, and to so bless our efforts that they may bear fruit to His eternal praise.

     Luther was wont to say, “There are three things that go to the making of a successful preacher: supplication, meditation, and tribulation.” I know not what elaboration the great Reformer made. But I suppose he meant this: that prayer is necessary to bring the preacher into a suitable frame to handle Divine things and to endue him with Divine power; that meditation on the Word is essential in order to supply him with material for his message; and that tribulation is required as ballast for his vessel, for the minister of the Gospel needs trials to keep him humble, just as the Apostle Paul was given a thorn in the flesh that he might not be unduly exalted by the abundance of the revelations granted to him. Prayer is the appointed means for receiving spiritual communications for the instruction of our people. We must be much with God before we can be fitted to go forth and speak in His name. Paul, in concluding his Epistle to the Colossians, informs them of the faithful intercessions of Epaphras, one of their ministers, who was away from home visiting Paul. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you . . .” (Col. 4:12, 13a). Could such a commendation of you be made to your congregation?

          Prayer, a Universal Duty Among Believers

     But let it not be thought that this marked emphasis of the Epistles indicates a duty for preachers only. Far from it. These Epistles are addressed to God’s children at large, and everything in them is both needed for, and suited to, their Christian walk. Believers, too, should pray much not only for themselves but for all their brothers and sisters in Christ. We should pray deliberately according to these apostolic models, petitioning for the particular blessings they specify. I have long been convinced there is no better way—no more practical, valuable, and effective way—of expressing solicitude and affection for our fellow saints than by bearing them up before God by prayer in the arms of our faith and love.

     By studying these prayers in the Epistles and pondering them clause by clause, we may learn more clearly what blessings we should desire for ourselves and for others, that is, the spiritual gifts and graces for which we have great need to be solicitous. The fact that these prayers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have been placed on permanent record in the Sacred Volume declares that the particular favors sought herein are those which God has given us warrant to seek and to obtain from Himself (Rom. 8:26, 27; 1 John 5:14, 15).

          Christians Are to Address God as Father

     We will conclude these preliminary and general observations by calling attention to a few of the more definite features of the apostolic prayers. Observe then, to Whom these prayers are addressed. While there is no wooden uniformity of expression but rather appropriate variety in this matter, yet the most frequent manner in which the Deity is addressed is as Father: “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3); “the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17); “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:14). In this language we see clear evidence of how the holy apostles took heed to the injunction of their Master. For when they made request of Him, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray,” He responded thus: “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven” (Luke 11:1, 2). This He also taught them by means of example in John 17:1, 5, 11,21, 24, and 25. Both Christ’s instruction and example have been recorded for our learning. We are not unmindful of how many have unlawfully and lightly addressed God as “Father,” yet their abuse does not warrant our neglecting to acknowledge this blessed relationship. Nothing is more calculated to warm the heart and give liberty of utterance than a realization that we are approaching our Father. If we have received, of a truth, “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15), let us not quench Him, but by His promptings cry, “Abba, Father.”

          The Brevity and Definiteness of Apostolic Praying

     Next, we note their brevity. The prayers of the apostles are short ones. Not some, or even most, but all of them are exceedingly brief, most of them encompassed in but one or two verses, and the longest in only seven verses. How this rebukes the lengthy, lifeless and wearisome prayers of many a pulpit. Wordy prayers are usually windy ones. I quote again from Martin Luther, this time from his comments on the Lord’s prayer directed to simple laymen:

     When thou prayest let thy words be few, but thy thoughts and affections many, and above all let them be profound. The less thou speakest the better thou prayest. . . . External and bodily prayer is that buzzing of the lips, that outside babble that is gone through without any attention, and which strikes the ears of men; but prayer in spirit and in truth is the inward desire, the motions, the sighs, which issue from the depths of the heart. The former is the prayer of hypocrites and of all who trust in themselves: the latter is the prayer of the children of God, who walk in His fear.

     Observe, too, their definiteness. Though exceedingly brief, yet their prayers are very explicit. There were no vague ramblings or mere generalizations, but specific requests for definite things. How much failure there is at this point. How many prayers have we heard that were so incoherent and aimless, so lacking in point and unity, that when the Amen was reached we could scarcely remember one thing for which thanks had been given or request had been made! Only a blurred impression remained on the mind, and a feeling that the supplicant had engaged more in a form of indirect preaching than direct praying. But examine any of the prayers of the apostles and it will be seen at a glance that theirs are like those of their Master’s in Matthew 6:9-13 and John 17, made up of definitive adorations and sharply-defined petitions. There is neither moralizing nor uttering of pious platitudes, but a spreading before God of certain needs and a simple asking for the supply of them.


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


A Perfect Picture of Saving Faith 1

Galatians 4 | John MacArthur





A Perfect Picture of Saving Faith 2

Galatians 4 | John MacArthur






The Power of the Promise

Douglas Wilson | Ligonier





Sighing for Beauty

Steven Lawson | Ligonier






Let the Nations Be Glad

John Piper | Ligonier





Ashamed of the Gospel

Albert Mohler | Ligonier






Loving Your Enemies

Sinclair Ferguson | Ligonier





The Gift of the Spirit

Albert Martin | Ligonier






A Bruised Reed

Joni Eareckson-Tada | Ligonier





The Blood of the Martyrs

Sinclair Ferguson | Ligonier






The Heavenly Feast

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier





Ferguson, Sproul, and Wilson:

2003 National Conference | Ligonier






Ferguson, Godfrey, MacArthur,

Sproul, and Wilson:
2003 National Conference | Ligonier





Ferguson, MacArthur, Sproul, & Sproul Jr. 3

2003 National Conference | Ligonier






Duncan, Godfrey, Sproul, Sproul Jr.1

2004 National Conference | Ligonier





Duncan, Ferguson, MacArthur, and Sproul

2004 National Conference | Ligonier






The Glory of God Through Man

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier