Gideon Defeats Zebah and ZalmunnaJudges 8 1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger[a] against him subsided when he said this.
4 And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5 So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” 7 So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8 And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.
13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.
Gideon's Ephod22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels[b] of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.
The Death of Gideon29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
Abimelech's ConspiracyJudges 9 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother's family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”
3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 And he went to his father's house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian, 18 and you have risen up against my father's house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” 21 And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.
The Downfall of Abimelech22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.
26 And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him. 27 And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech. 28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.’”
30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. 31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field. 33 Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”
34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies. 35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush. 36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners' Oak.” 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.” 39 And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate. 41 And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem.
42 On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told. 43 He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them. 44 Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them. 45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.” 49 So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.
50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
When You’re Truly Broken Over Sin
By Vermon Pierre 9/18/2014
My 4-year-old is already learning the lesson that, sadly, despite what his preschool might say, he will not be able to be anything he wants to be when he grows up. For instance, I'm fairly certain that a career as a professional poker player is off the list of possibilities. He's already developed a pretty big tell. If my son is not quite telling the truth he always looks away. And by “look away” I mean his whole head will turn and look at every direction except for his mother or me. His words might say, “Yes, Daddy, I'm sorry for what I did.” But his erratic head movements say, “I don't really mean what I’m saying right now. But you can't tell because of how I'm cleverly hiding my face from you.”
Repentance is hard because pridefulness is easy. We don’t want to admit when we have sinned, and thus we have trouble truly confessing and then repenting of sin. How often have the words Yes, but . . . entered your thoughts when you have been confronted over sin?
Sin, however, cannot be dealt with in any other way but head on, without any self-justifying excuses. We need to address it directly, with full honesty and little reservation, if we are to truly kill it.
Vermon Pierre is the lead pastor for preaching and mission at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. A graduate of Princeton University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Vermon previously served as a pastoral intern at Camelback Bible Church. He is the author of Gospel Shaped Living, the latest installment in the Gospel Shaped Church curriculum published by The Good Book Company and TGC.
A Theology of Death and Dying
By Alistair Begg
One of the great challenges we face at the turn of the millennium is to learn how to cope with the fact that we are living longer and that the process of death has become for many far more protracted than it was in an earlier time.
We have to develop an approach to terminal care that allows the individual who is facing death to balance hope with reality. In hoping and praying for continuances of life we must learn to prepare for death. If we are not prepared for this “final journey,” then we are building castles in the air, constructing houses on sand instead of on the solid rock of Jesus’ words regarding resurrection and life.
“To tell or not to tell,” that is the question when someone in the family is gravely ill. Should we confront our family member with abrupt and unguarded revelations about the imminence of his demise?
Every circumstance will need to be considered on its own merits, but probably not. We will be the most help to the one facing a grave illness when we remind him of the uncertainty of his condition and and allow him to face the possibility—or even the probability—that he will not recover.
When I sat at my father’s hospital bedside a few days before he passed away, I was in no doubt that he was aware of his circumstances.
In dealing with death as a pastor over the years I observed that circumstances like my father’s are common. The human frame is increasingly alert to its demise. We do best by helping one another to face the prospect gradually rather than waiting until the pain medication takes the sufferer into a state that makes communication impossible.
Let us beware of sharing platitudes with the dying that may ease our discomfort but do little for them. Honesty with wisdom and grace is always the best policy. The assistance we should provide is not that which shocks them into an untimely passing but that which enables them to rest in the promises of God’s Word.
And what of you?
Do you have a theology that prepares you for death? Let me suggest one. Any view of life and death that does not come to grips with John 11:25 is deficient. Jesus told His friend Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
We cannot really begin to live until we have faced with composure the reality of death and have prepared for it by faith in Jesus Christ. Are you prepared to die? If so, you are prepared to live.
Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 32Blessed Are the Forgiven
32 A Maskil Of David.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Jesus Didn't Become God; the Earliest Christians Believed Him to Be Divine
By Lenny Esposito 3/21/2017
In his excellent new book, God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader, Kenneth Samples has done a wonderful job in combining an apologetic showing the Gospel accounts reflect the historic person of Jesus of Nazareth and how the Jesus of the Gospels is markedly different from the founders of Eastern religions, such as Krishna, who was also thought to be a god taking on human form.
The comparison is interesting, especially considering the charge made by many modern skeptics that the Christian belief of Jesus as God incarnate was foreign to Jesus's first followers and only grew as a later addition to the new religion. Bart Ehrman's book How Jesus Became God is one such challenge. Samples answers it well when he writes:
But just what did the earliest Christians believe about the nature and person of Jesus Christ? A major textual breakthrough over the last couple of decades has al1owed scholars to see more dearly what the earliest Christians believed about Jesus Christ, particularly as expressed in their church services.
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
Exodus 32; John 11; Proverbs 8; Ephesians 1
By Don Carson 3/21/2018
Exodus 32 is simultaneously one of the low points and one of the high points in Israel’s history.
Only months out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites prove so fickle that the delay of Moses on the mountain (a mere forty days) provides them with all the excuse they need for a new round of complaining. Moses’ delay does not prompt them to pray, but elicits callous ingratitude and disoriented syncretism. Even their tone is sneering: “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’ t know what has happened to him” (32:1).
Aaron is revealed as a spineless wimp, unable or unwilling to impose any discipline. He is utterly without theological backbone — not even enough to be a thoroughgoing pagan, as he continues to invoke the name of the Lord even while he himself manufactures a golden calf (32:4-5). He is still a wimp when, challenged by his brother, he insists, rather ridiculously, “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (32:24). Despite the covenantal vows they had made (24:7), many in the nation wanted all the blessings they could get from Yahweh, but gave little thought to the nature of their own sworn obligations to their Maker and Redeemer. It was a low moment of national shame — not the last in their experience, not the last in the confessing church.
The high point? When God threatens to wipe out the nation, Moses intercedes. Not once does he suggest that the people do not deserve to be wiped out, or that they are not as bad as some might think. Rather, he appeals to the glory of God. Why should God act in such a way that the Egyptians might scoff and say that the Lord isn’t strong enough to pull off this rescue (32:12)? Besides, isn’t God obligated to keep his vows to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (32:13)? How could God go back on his solemn promises? His final appeal is simply for forgiveness (32:30-32), and if God cannot extend such mercy, then Moses does not want to begin a new race (as angry as he himself is, 32:19). He prefers to be blotted out with the rest of the people.
Here is an extraordinary mediator, a man whose entire sympathies are with God and his gracious salvation and revelation, a man who makes no excuses for the people he is called to lead, but who nevertheless so identifies with them that if judgment is to fall on them he begs to suffer with them. Here is a man who “stands in the gap” (cf. Ezek. 13:3-5; 22:29-30).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
The Spirit’s Internal Witness
By R.C. Sproul
Nearly forty years ago, I was a part of a group known as the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Concerned about the impact of liberal higher criticism, we gathered to define what it means that the Bible does not teach any error and to articulate a defensible position on the trustworthiness of God’s Word that Christians could use to combat misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the church’s historic position on the Bible. The council developed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which deals with many issues related to the inspiration and truthfulness of Scripture. Article XVII of this statement asserts, in part, that “the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.”
By this article we wanted to make it clear that the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book. He is involved not only in the inspiration of Scripture, but is also a witness to Scripture’s truthfulness. This is what we call the “internal testimony” of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit provides a testimony that takes place inside of us—He bears witness to our spirits that the Bible is the Word of God. Just as the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), He assures us of the sacred truth of His Word.
Despite its importance, the internal testimony of the Spirit is subject to misunderstanding. One of these misunderstandings relates to how we defend the truthfulness of the Bible. Do we need to provide an apologetic—a defense—for sacred Scripture that relies on evidence from archaeology and history, on demonstrating the Bible’s internal consistency, and on logical argumentation? Some misconstrue the doctrine of the internal testimony to mean that the presentation of evidence to the veracity of the Bible is unnecessary and even counterproductive. All we need to do is rest on the fact that the Holy Spirit tells us that the Bible is God’s Word both in direct biblical statements and in His internal work of confirming Scripture’s truthfulness.
Those who hold this position usually want to stress that the authority of God’s Word depends on God Himself and believe that subjecting His Word to empirical testing is to make the Bible’s truthfulness dependent on our own authority to evaluate its truth claims. At one level, this concern is laudable. Scripture’s authority depends on its being the revelation of God, above whom there is no higher authority. But when we are talking about proof for the veracity of Scripture, we are not talking about the authority of God’s Word but about how we know which of the books that claim to be the Word of God are actually from Him. Here, subjective experience cannot be our only court of appeal. We need some sort of objective testimony to determine whether the Bible, Qur’an, or Bhagavad Gita is the Word of God because they all claim to be the Word of God.
This is where what John Calvin called the indicia come into play. The indicia—indicators—are testable, analyzable, falsifiable, or verifiable aspects of proof. They include such things as archaeological evidence, Scripture’s conformity to what we know about history from other sources, its internal consistency, its majesty and beauty, and so forth. These things give us objective confidence that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Both Calvin and the Westminster Confession of Faith tell us that these indicators are enough in themselves to convince people that Scripture alone is the Word of God.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
4. Another end which the Lord has in afflicting his people is to try
their patience, and train them to obedience--not that they can yield
obedience to him except in so far as he enables them; but he is pleased
thus to attest and display striking proofs of the graces which he has
conferred upon his saints, lest they should remain within unseen and
unemployed. Accordingly, by bringing forward openly the strength and
constancy of endurance with which he has provided his servants, he is
said to try their patience. Hence the expressions that God tempted
Abraham (Gen. 21:1, 12), and made proof of his piety by not declining
to sacrifice his only son. Hence, too, Peter tells us that our faith is
proved by tribulation, just as gold is tried in a furnace of fire. But
who will say it is not expedient that the most excellent gift of
patience which the believer has received from his God should be applied
to uses by being made sure and manifest? Otherwise men would never
value it according to its worth. But if God himself, to prevent the
virtues which he has conferred upon believers from lurking in
obscurity, nay, lying useless and perishing, does aright in supplying
materials for calling them forth, there is the best reason for the
afflictions of the saints, since without them their patience could not
exist. I say, that by the cross they are also trained to obedience,
because they are thus taught to live not according to their own wish,
but at the disposal of God. Indeed, did all things proceed as they
wish, they would not know what it is to follow God. Seneca mentions (De
Vit. Beata, cap. 15) that there was an old proverb when any one was
exhorted to endure adversity, "Follow God;" thereby intimating, that
men truly submitted to the yoke of God only when they gave their back
and hand to his rod. But if it is most right that we should in all
things prove our obedience to our heavenly Father, certainly we ought
not to decline any method by which he trains us to obedience.
5. Still, however, we see not how necessary that obedience is, unless we at the same time consider how prone our carnal nature is to shake off the yoke of God whenever it has been treated with some degree of gentleness and indulgence. It just happens to it as with refractory horses, which, if kept idle for a few days at hack and manger, become ungovernable, and no longer recognize the rider, whose command before they implicitly obeyed. And we invariably become what God complains of in the people of Israel--waxing gross and fat, we kick against him who reared and nursed us (Deut. 32:15). The kindness of God should allure us to ponder and love his goodness; but since such is our malignity, that we are invariably corrupted by his indulgence, it is more than necessary for us to be restrained by discipline from breaking forth into such petulance. Thus, lest we become emboldened by an over-abundance of wealth; lest elated with honour, we grow proud; lest inflated with other advantages of body, or mind, or fortune, we grow insolent, the Lord himself interferes as he sees to be expedient by means of the cross, subduing and curbing the arrogance of our flesh, and that in various ways, as the advantage of each requires. For as we do not all equally labour under the same disease, so we do not all need the same difficult cure. Hence we see that all are not exercised with the same kind of cross. While the heavenly Physician treats some more gently, in the case of others he employs harsher remedies, his purpose being to provide a cure for all. Still none is left free and untouched, because he knows that all, without a single exception, are diseased.
6. We may add, that our most merciful Father requires not only to prevent our weakness, but often to correct our past faults, that he may keep us in due obedience. Therefore, whenever we are afflicted we ought immediately to call to mind our past life. In this way we will find that the faults which we have committed are deserving of such castigation. And yet the exhortation to patience is not to be founded chiefly on the acknowledgment of sin. For Scripture supplies a far better consideration when it says, that in adversity "we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world," (1 Cor. 11:32). Therefore, in the very bitterness of tribulation we ought to recognise the kindness and mercy of our Father, since even then he ceases not to further our salvation. For he afflicts, not that he may ruin or destroy but rather that he may deliver us from the condemnation of the world. Let this thought lead us to what Scripture elsewhere teaches: "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth," (Prov. 3:11, 12). When we perceive our Father's rod, is it not our part to behave as obedient docile sons rather than rebelliously imitate desperate men, who are hardened in wickedness? God dooms us to destruction, if he does not, by correction, call us back when we have fallen off from him, so that it is truly said, "If ye be without chastisement," "then are ye bastards, and not sons," (Heb. 12:8). We are most perverse then if we cannot bear him while he is manifesting his good-will to us, and the care which he takes of our salvation. Scripture states the difference between believers and unbelievers to be, that the latter, as the slaves of inveterate and deep-seated iniquity, only become worse and more obstinate under the lash; whereas the former, like free-born sons turn to repentance. Now, therefore, choose your class. But as I have already spoken of this subject, it is sufficient to have here briefly adverted to it.
7. There is singular consolation, moreover, when we are persecuted for righteousness' sake. For our thought should then be, How high the honour which God bestows upon us in distinguishing us by the special badge of his soldiers. By suffering persecution for righteousness' sake, I mean not only striving for the defence of the Gospel, but for the defence of righteousness in any way. Whether, therefore, in maintaining the truth of God against the lies of Satan, or defending the good and innocent against the injuries of the bad, we are obliged to incur the offence and hatred of the world, so as to endanger life, fortune, or honour, let us not grieve or decline so far to spend ourselves for God; let us not think ourselves wretched in those things in which he with his own lips has pronounced us blessed (Mt. 5:10). Poverty, indeed considered in itself, is misery; so are exile, contempt, imprisonment, ignominy: in fine, death itself is the last of all calamities. But when the favour of God breathes upon is, there is none of these things which may not turn out to our happiness. Let us then be contented with the testimony of Christ rather than with the false estimate of the flesh, and then, after the example of the Apostles, we will rejoice in being "counted worthy to suffer shame for his name," (Acts 5:41). For why? If, while conscious of our innocence, we are deprived of our substance by the wickedness of man, we are, no doubt, humanly speaking, reduced to poverty; but in truth our riches in heaven are increased: if driven from our homes we have a more welcome reception into the family of God; if vexed and despised, we are more firmly rooted in Christ; if stigmatised by disgrace and ignominy, we have a higher place in the kingdom of God; and if we are slain, entrance is thereby given us to eternal life. The Lord having set such a price upon us, let us be ashamed to estimate ourselves at less than the shadowy and evanescent allurements of the present life.
8. Since by these, and similar considerations, Scripture abundantly solaces us for the ignominy or calamities which we endure in defence of righteousness, we are very ungrateful if we do not willingly and cheerfully receive them at the hand of the Lord, especially since this form of the cross is the most appropriate to believers, being that by which Christ desires to be glorified in us, as Peter also declares (1 Pet. 4:11, 14). But as to ingenuous natures, it is more bitter to suffer disgrace than a hundred deaths, Paul expressly reminds us that not only persecution, but also disgrace awaits us, "because we trust in the living God," (1 Tim. 4:10). So in another passage he bids us, after his example, walk "by evil report and good report," (2 Cor. 6:8). The cheerfulness required, however, does not imply a total insensibility to pain. The saints could show no patience under the cross if they were not both tortured with pain and grievously molested. Were there no hardship in poverty, no pain in disease, no sting in ignominy, no fear in death, where would be the fortitude and moderation in enduring them? But while every one of these, by its inherent bitterness, naturally vexes the mind, the believer in this displays his fortitude, that though fully sensible of the bitterness and labouring grievously, he still withstands and struggles boldly; in this displays his patience, that though sharply stung, he is however curbed by the fear of God from breaking forth into any excess; in this displays his alacrity, that though pressed with sorrow and sadness, he rests satisfied with spiritual consolation from God.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 3 The King's Dream and the Prophet's Visions
The distinction between the Hebrew and the Chaldee portions of the writings of Daniel  affords a natural division, the importance of which will appear on a careful consideration of the whole. But for the purpose of the present inquiry, the book will more conveniently divide itself between the first six chapters and the last, the former portion being primarily historical and didactic, and the latter containing the record of the four great visions granted to the prophet in his closing years. It is with the visions that here we are specially concerned. The narrative of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters is beyond the scope of these pages, as having no immediate bearing upon the prophecy. The second chapter, however, is of great importance, as giving the foundation of the later visions. 
 "The Chaldee portion of Daniel commences at the fourth verse of the second chapter, and continues to the end of the seventh chapter." —TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 8.
 The following analysis of the Book of Daniel may help the study of it:
In a dream, King Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image, of which the head was gold, the breasts and arms silver, the body brass, the legs iron, and the feet partly iron and partly potter's ware. Then a stone, hewn without hands, struck the feet of the image and it fell and crumbled to dust, and the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. 
Chap. 1. The capture of Jerusalem. The captivity of Daniel and his three companions, and their fortunes in Babylon (B. C. 606).
Chap. 2. Nebuchadnezzar's dream of THE GREAT IMAGE (B. C. 6o3-2).
Chap. 3. Nebuchadnezzar's golden image set up for all his subjects to worship. Daniel's three companions cast into the fiery furnace.
Chap. 4. Nebuchadnezzar's dream about his own insanity, and Daniel's interpretation of it. Its fulfillment.
Chap. 5 Belshazzar's feast. Babylon taken by Darius the Mede (B. C. 538).
Chap. 6. Daniel is promoted by Darius; refuses to worship him, and is cast into a den of' lions. His deliverance and subsequent prosperity (? B. C.. 537).
Chap. 7. Daniel's vision of THE FOUR BEASTS (? B. C. 54I).
Chap. 8. Daniel's vision of THE RAM AND THE GOAT (? B. C. 539).
Chap. 9. Daniel's prayer: the prophecy of THE SEVENTY WEEKS (B. C. 538).
Chaps. 10. - 12. Daniel's LAST VISION (B. C. 534).
 The difficulty connected with the date of this vision (the second year of Nebuchadnezzar) is considered in App. 1. post.The interpretation is in these words:
Daniel 2:37-45 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” ESV
The predicted sovereignty of Judah passed far beyond the limits of mere supremacy among the tribes of Israel. It was an imperial scepter which was entrusted to the Son of David.
Psalm 89:And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth. ESV
Psalm 72:11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him! ESV
2 Chronicles 9:22-28 22 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. 23 And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. 24 Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and of gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. 25 And Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 26 And he ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. 27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 28 And horses were imported for Solomon from Egypt and from all lands. ESV
Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, ESV
It is unnecessary here to discuss in detail the earlier portions of this prophecy. There is, in fact, no controversy as to its general character and scope; and bearing in mind the distinction between what is doubted and what is doubtful, there need be no controversy as to the identity of the empires therein described with Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. That the first was Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom is definitely stated, (Daniel 2:37-38) and a later vision as expressly names the Medo-Persian empire and the empire of Alexander as being distinct "kingdoms" within the range of the prophecy. (Daniel 8:20-21) The fourth empire, therefore, must of necessity be Rome. But it is sufficient here to emphasize the fact, revealed in the plainest terms to Daniel in his exile, and to Jeremiah in the midst of the troubles at Jerusalem, that thus the sovereignty of the earth, which had been forfeited by Judah, was solemnly committed to the Gentiles.  The only questions which arise relate, first to the character of the final catastrophe symbolized by the fall and destruction of the image, and secondly to the time of its fulfillment; and any difficulties which have been raised depend in no way upon the language of the prophecy, but solely upon the preconceived views of interpreters. No Christian doubts that the "stone cut out without hands" was typical either of Christ Himself or of His kingdom. It is equally clear that the catastrophe was to occur when the fourth empire should have become divided, and be "partly strong and partly brittle." Therefore its fulfillment could not belong to the time of the first advent. No less clear is it that its fulfillment was to be a sudden crisis, to be followed by the establishment of "a kingdom which shall never be destroyed." Therefore it relates to events still to come. We are dealing here, not with prophetic theories, but with the meaning of plain words; and what the prophecy foretells is not the rise and spread of a "spiritual kingdom" in the midst of earthly kingdoms, but the establishment of a kingdom which "shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms." 
Daniel 2:37-38 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. ESV
Daniel 8:20-21 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. ESV
 Cf. Daniel 2:38, and Jeremiah 27:6-7. — The statement of Genesis 49:10 may seem at first sight to clash With this: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." But, as events prove, this cannot mean that royal power was to be exercised by the house of Judah until the advent of Christ. Hengstenberg has rightly interpreted it (Christology, Arnold's trans., Ch. 78): "Judah shall not cease to exist as a tribe, nor lose its superiority, until it shall be exalted to higher honor and glory through the great Redeemer, who shall spring from it, and whom not only the Jews, but all the nations of the earth shall obey." As he points out, "until not unfrequently means up to and afterwards." (See ex. gr. Genesis 28:15.) The meaning of the prophecy, therefore, was not that Judah was to exercise royal power until Christ, and then lose it, which is the lame and unsatisfactory gloss usually adopted; but that the pre-eminence of Judah is to be irrevocably established in Christ — not spiritually, but in fact, in the kingdom of which Daniel prophesies.
Daniel 2:38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. ESV
Jeremiah 27:6-7 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave. ESV
Genesis 28:15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” ESV
 To believe that such a prophecy can ever be realized may seem to betoken fanaticism and folly, but at least let us accept the language of Scripture, and not lapse into the blind absurdity of expecting the fulfillment of theories based on what men conjecture the prophets ought to have foretold.The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/2006 | What’s the Problem?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that evil exists. You don’t even have to be a theologian to know that evil exists. All that is necessary for you to know that evil exists is to exist. In this fallen world, we are bombarded with evil from every side — not only the evil of this world but the evil within our own hearts as well, and that is where the real problem exists. As fallen creatures who exist in this fallen world of sin and misery, we do not reflect the light of God’s glory as we should. We are but a dim and distorted shadow of the glorious light of Almighty God. For the Creator of the universe is neither the author nor approver of sin. However, in our rebellion, which was sovereignly permitted by God, we not only authored sin but approved it. Thus, the problem of evil is our problem, one that we created and one we have to live with until the Lord returns.
When we understand the genesis of the problem of evil, we cease asking the Lord why so much evil exists. Having been confronted by our own guilt and shame before our holy and righteous Lord, we should realize the foolishness of the commonly uttered assertion: “If God is a good God, He would not allow so much evil to exist.” Instead, we would begin to ask the more appropriate question: “If God is a just God, why doesn’t more evil exist?” Why is there not more death and destruction on this earth? Why do we not struggle more than we do? Do we not justly deserve to experience more pain and misery in this world of sin? When we begin to ask such questions, we have just begun to understand our radical corruption, and in turn, we have just begun to understand the grace of God.
Just as all glory was restored to Christ after He endured the cross, so we too must bear our crosses before we receive our crowns at the feet of our Savior. In his Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin comments: “We, therefore, truly profit from the discipline of the cross when we learn that this life, estimated in itself, is full of unrest, trouble, and misery…. In consequence of this, we should at once come to the conclusion that nothing in this world can be sought or expected but strife, and that we must raise our eyes to heaven to see a crown.” In truth, the problem of evil is only a problem for those who have never been confronted by the problem within their own hearts. However, as Christians, we have been confronted by the evil in our hearts and have been made to live coram Deo, by the wonderful grace of God.
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)
by Bill Federer
On this date, March 21, 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach was born. By the age of ten, both his parents had died. At eighteen he was appointed organist at a church, followed by positions in royal courts. Once he was imprisoned because the duke he worked for did not want him seeking employment elsewhere. Widowed with seven children, he remarried and had thirteen more. Bach composed hundreds of pieces, sometimes at the rate of one per week and influenced composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. John Sebastian Bach stated: “The aim… of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently.
--- Saint Augustine
The Confessions of St. Augustine
You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving.
--- Amy Carmichael, missionary to India
Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.
--- George Mueller 1805-1898
Streams in the Desert
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp--or what's a heaven for?
--- Robert Browning
Robert Browning: Selected Poems (Longman Annotated English Poets)
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
Nineteenth of sixth month and first of the week. -- This morning the Indian who came with the Moravian, being also a member of that society, prayed in the meeting, and then the Moravian spake a short time to the people. In the afternoon, my heart being filled with a heavenly care for their good, I spake to them awhile by interpreters; but none of them being perfect in the work, and I feeling the current of love run strong, told the interpreters that I believed some of the people would understand me, and so I proceeded without them; and I believe the Holy Ghost wrought on some hearts to edification where all the words were not understood. I looked upon it as a time of Divine favor, and my heart was tendered and truly thankful before the Lord. After I sat down, one of the interpreters seemed spirited to give the Indians the substance of what I said.
Before our first meeting this morning, I was led to meditate on the manifold difficulties of these Indians who, by the permission of the Six Nations, dwell in these parts. A near sympathy with them was raised in me, and, my heart being enlarged in the love of Christ, I thought that the affectionate care of a good man for his only brother in affliction does not exceed what I then felt for that people. I came to this place through much trouble; and though through the mercies of God I believed that if I died in the journey it would be well with me, yet the thoughts of falling into the hands of Indian warriors were, in times of weakness, afflicting to me; and being of a tender constitution of body, the thoughts of captivity among them were also grievous; supposing that as they were strong and hardy they might demand service of me beyond what I could well bear. But the Lord alone was my keeper, and I believed that if I went into captivity it would be for some good end. Thus, from time to time, my mind was centred in resignation, in which I always found quietness. And this day, though I had the same dangerous wilderness between me and home, I was inwardly joyful that the Lord had strengthened me to come on this visit, and had manifested a fatherly care over me in my poor lowly condition, when, in mine own eyes, I appeared inferior to many among the Indians.
When the last-mentioned meeting was ended, it being night, Papunehang went to bed; and hearing him speak with an harmonious voice, I suppose for a minute or two, I asked the interpreter, who told me that he was expressing his thankfulness to God for the favors he had received that day, and prayed that he would continue to favor him with the same, which he had experienced in that meeting. Though Papunehang had before agreed to receive the Moravian and join with them, he still appeared kind and loving to us.
I was at two meetings on the 20th, and silent in them. The following morning, in meeting, my heart was enlarged in pure love among them, and in short plain sentences I expressed several things that rested upon me, which one of the interpreters gave the people pretty readily. The meeting ended in supplication, and I had cause humbly to acknowledge the loving-kindness of the Lord towards us; and then I believed that a door remained open for the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ to labor among these People. And now, feeling my mind at liberty to return, I took my leave of them in general at the conclusion of what I said in meeting, and we then prepared to go homeward. But some of their most active men told us that when we were ready to move the people would choose to come and shake hands with us. Those who usually came to meeting did so; and from a secret draught in my mind I went among some who did not usually go to meeting, and took my leave of them also. The Moravian and his Indian interpreter appeared respectful to us at parting. This town, Wehaloosing, stands on the bank of the Susquehanna, and consists, I believe, of about forty houses, mostly compact together, some about thirty feet long and eighteen wide, -- some bigger, some less. They are built mostly of split plank, one end being set in the ground, and the other pinned to a plate on which rafters are laid, and then covered with bark. I understand a great flood last winter overflowed the greater part of the ground where the town stands, and some were now about moving their houses to higher ground.
We expected only two Indians to be of our company, but when we were ready to go we found many of them were going to Bethlehem with skins and furs, and chose to go in company with us. So they loaded two canoes in which they desired us to go, telling us that the waters were so raised with the rains that the horses should be taken by such as were better acquainted with the fording-places. We, therefore, with, several Indians, went in the canoes, and others went on horses, there being seven besides ours. We met with the horsemen once on the way by appointment, and at night we lodged a little below a branch called Tankhannah, and some of the young men, going out a little before dusk with their guns, brought in a deer.
Through diligence we reached Wyoming before night, the 22d, and understood that the Indians were mostly gone from this place. We went up a small creek into the woods with our canoes, and, pitching our tent, carried out our baggage, and before dark our horses came to us. Next morning, the horses being loaded and our baggage prepared, we set forward, being in all fourteen, and with diligent travelling were favored to get near half-way to Fort Allen. The land on this road from Wyoming to our frontier being mostly poor, and good grass being scarce, the Indians chose a piece of low ground to lodge on, as the best for grazing. I had sweat much in travelling, and, being weary, slept soundly. In the night I perceived that I had taken cold, of which I was favored soon to get better.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
God Maintains Your Surrender
That is the great difficulty with many. People say: "I have often been stirred at a meeting, or at a convention, and I have consecrated myself to God, but it has passed away. I know it may last for a week or for a month, but away it fades, and after a time it is all gone."
But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it. Will you believe that?
In this matter of surrender there are two: God and I--I a worm, God the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to trust yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?
Moment by moment I'm kept in His love;
I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but one who talks too much comes to ruin.
4 The lazy person wants but doesn’t have;
the diligent get their desires filled.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The cool smooth skin of the bright water was delicious to my feet and I walked on it for about an hour, making perhaps a couple of hundred yards. Then the going became difficult. The current grew swifter. Great flakes or islands of foam came swirling down towards me, bruising my shins like stones if I did not get out of their way. The surface became uneven, rounded itself into lovely hollows and elbows of water which distorted the appearance of the pebbles on the bottom and threw me off my balance, so that I had to scramble to shore. But as the banks hereabouts consisted of great flat stones, I continued my journey without much hurt to my feet. An immense yet lovely noise vibrated through the forest. Hours later I rounded a bend and saw the explanation.
Before me green slopes made a wide amphitheatre, enclosing a frothy and pulsating lake into which, over many-coloured rocks, a waterfall was pouring. Here once again I realised that something had happened to my senses so that they were now receiving impressions which would normally exceed their capacity. On Earth, such a waterfall could not have been perceived at all as a whole; it was too big. Its sound would have been a terror in the woods for twenty miles. Here, after the first shock, my sensibility ‘took’ both as a well-built ship takes a huge wave. I exulted. The noise, though gigantic, was like giants’ laughter: like the revelry of a whole college of giants together laughing, dancing, singing, roaring at their high works.
Near the place where the fall plunged into the lake there grew a tree. Wet with the spray, half-veiled in foam-bows, flashing with the bright, innumerable birds that flew among its branches, it rose in many shapes of billowy foliage, huge as a fen-land cloud. From every point apples of gold gleamed through the leaves.
Suddenly my attention was diverted by a curious appearance in the foreground. A hawthorn bush not twenty yards away seemed to be behaving oddly. Then I saw that it was not the bush but something standing close to the bush and on this side of it. Finally I realised that it was one of the Ghosts. It was crouching as if to conceal itself from something beyond the bush, and it was looking back at me and making signals. It kept on signing to me to duck down. As I could not see what the danger was, I stood fast.
Presently the Ghost, after peering around in every direction, ventured beyond the hawthorn bush. It could not get on very fast because of the torturing grasses beneath its feet, but it was obviously going as fast as it possibly could, straight for another tree. There it stopped again, standing straight upright against the trunk as though it were taking cover. Because the shadow of the branches now covered it, I could see it better: it was my bowler-hatted companion, the one whom the Big Ghost had called Ikey. After it had stood panting at the tree for about ten minutes and carefully reconnoitred the ground ahead, it made a dash for another tree—such a dash as was possible to it. In this way, with infinite labour and caution, it had reached the great Tree in about an hour. That is, it had come within ten yards of it.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Interest or identification?
I have been crucified with Christ. --- Gal. 2:20.
The imperative need spiritually is to sign the death-warrant of the disposition of sin, to turn all emotional impressions and intellectual beliefs into a moral verdict against the disposition of sin, viz., my claim to my right to myself. Paul says—“I have been crucified with Christ”; he does not say, ‘I have determined to imitate Jesus Christ,’ or, ‘I will endeavour to follow Him,’ but, ‘I have been identified with Him in His death.’ When I come to such a moral decision and act upon it, then all that Christ wrought for me on the Cross is wrought in me. The free committal of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the chance to impart to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.
“… nevertheless I live …” The individuality remains, but the mainspring, the ruling disposition, is radically altered. The same human body remains, but the old satanic right to myself is destroyed.
“And the life which I now live in the flesh …,” not the life which I long to live and pray to live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh, the life which men can see, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” This faith is not Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith that the Son of God has imparted to him—“the faith of the Son of God.” It is no longer faith in faith, but faith which has overleapt all conscious bounds, the identical faith of the Son of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
From my father my strong heart,
My weak stomach.
From my mother the fear.
From my sad country the shame.
To my wife all I have
Saving only the love
That is not mine to give.
To my one son the hunger.
Collected Poems: 1945-1990 R.S.Thomas: Collected Poems : R S Thomas
Rejection of God’s appointed (Num. 12).
Shortly afterward another incident of rebellion occurred. This time Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, resented the special role Moses was given by God. They were aware that God had used them as well as Moses. So they challenged Moses’ authority.
God responded angrily, pointing out the special relationship that He Himself had chosen to have with Moses. “He is faithful in all My house[hold]” (v. 7). In judgment, Miriam was stricken with leprosy, and put out of the camp for seven days. Afterward she was healed in answer to Moses’ prayer. (Aaron, who served as high priest, would have been disqualified from his office if he had been similarly judged.) The entire nation was intended to learn by this experience. Everyone was forced to wait for Miriam for those seven days, and did not set out again until she was brought in healed.
Why did God deal so harshly and so decisively with the people at fault in these three incidents? These things happened to them as examples. Israel was about to make a vitally important decision—one that would affect her future drastically. On the journey to the place of decision, God permitted these three incidents so that Israel might learn the lesson of responsibility. Notice the parallel in each situation:
Circumstances, rather than God’s presence, were given priority by the people.
God’s revealed will and purposes were rejected.
The rejecting attitude was expressed in actions.
Israel’s wrong choices led to judgment and to suffering.
In unmistakable and dramatic ways Israel was shown that they were now responsible for their own choices. Whenever they chose to turn away from God, tragic results would inevitably follow.
The Teacher's Commentary
THE ascription of this psalm in the title to Moses must be admitted to be very remarkable. No other psalm is so ascribed. Nor indeed is a date given to any other earlier than the time of David. The psalm itself, however, when examined, is found to accord with the traditional date. Professor Cheyne notes in it a “roughness,” which is presumably a sign of antiquity. Ewald says of it, “The poem has in it something uncommonly striking, solemn, sinking into the depth of the Godhead. In contents and language it is throughout original and powerful; and, as it is undoubtedly very old, it would have been universally considered as correctly derived from Moses, had we known exactly the reasons which guided the collector.” Hengstenberg, Kay, Professor Alexander, and Dean Johnson accept unhesitatingly the Mosaic authorship.
The psalm is termed, “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” It is, however, only in part a “prayer.” Meditation occupies the opening portion (vers. 1–6); complaint follows (vers. 7–11); it is only with ver. 12 that prayer begins. (For the application to Moses of the phrase, “man of God.” see Deut. 33:1; Josh. 14:6; Ezra 3:2.)
Ver. 1.—Lord, thou hast been our Dwelling-place in all generations; or, “our habitation” (see Ps. 91:9); comp. Ps. 32:7, “Thou art my Hiding-place.” For well-nigh forty years Moses had had no fixed material dwelling-place.
Ver. 2.—Before the mountains were brought forth (comp. Prov. 8:25). The “mountains” are mentioned as perhaps the grandest, and certainly among the oldest, of all the works of God. Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world; literally, or thou gavest birth to the earth and the world (comp. Deut. 32:18). Even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God (comp. Ps. 93:2; Prov. 8:23; Micah 5:2; Hab. 1:12).
Ver. 3.—Thou turnest man to destruction; or, “to dust” (comp. Gen. 3:19). And sayest, Return, ye children of men; i.e. “return once more, and replenish the earth.” There may be an allusion to the destruction of mankind by the Deluge, and the repeopling of the earth by the descendants of Noah, as Dr. Kay supposes; or the meaning may be that God is continually bringing one generation of men to an end, and then setting up another, having the same control over human life that he has over inanimate nature (ver. 2).
Ver. 4.—For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday. Time has no relation to God; it does not exist for him. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). Therefore we must not judge his methods of working by our own. When it is past; rather, as it passes. And as a watch in the night. To the sleeper a nightwatch seems gone in a moment.
Ver. 5.—Thou carriest them away as with a flood. This verse is to be connected with ver. 3, “Thou sweepest mankind away;” i.e. removest them from the earth, when it pleases thee. They are as a sleep. Fantastic, vague, forgotten as soon as it is over. In the morning they are like grass which groweth up (comp. Pss. 37:2; 72:16; 92:7; 103:15; Isa. 40:7).
Ver. 6.—In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withered (comp. Pss. 102:4, 11; 103:15; Isa. 40:7; Jas. 1:10, 11).
Ver. 7.—For we are consumed by thine anger. From the general reflections, and the general consideration of human weakness, which have hitherto occupied him, the psalmist proceeds to speak particularly of the weakness and sin of himself and his own people, which have brought upon them a painful visitation. God’s anger is hot upon them, and has “consumed” them—not utterly, but so that they are greatly “troubled” and cast down. By thy wrath are we troubled. The expressions used suit the time of the later wanderings in the wilderness, when the generation that had especially sinned was being gradually “consumed,” that it might not enter the Holy Land.
Ver. 8.—Thou hast set our iniquities before thee. Instead of hiding his face from their iniquities, turning away from them and overlooking them, God has placed them steadily “before him,” in the full searching and scorching light of his own purity and holiness. And not only has he done this with the sins which they know of, and whereof their consciences are afraid; but he has set their secret sins also in the light of his countenance. (On man’s “secret sins,” comp. Ps. 19:12, and the comment ad loc.)
Ver. 9.—For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; or, “under thy wrath”—“whilst thou art still angry with us” (comp. Deut. 32:15–25). We spend our years—rather, bring our years to an end (Hengstenberg, Kay, Revised Version) as a tale that is told; rather, as a reverie, or “as a murmur.”
Ver. 10.—The days of our years are three score years and ten. This seems a low estimate for the time of Moses, since he himself died at the age of a hundred and twenty (Deut. 34:7), Aaron at the age of a hundred and twenty-three (Numb. 33:39), and Miriam at an age which was even more advanced (Numb. 20:1; comp. Exod. 2:4). But these may have been exceptional cases, and we have certainly no sufficient data for determining what was the average length of human life in the later period of the wanderings. The suggestion has been made that it was probably even shorter than that here mentioned. And if by reason of strength they be four score years; i.e. “if, through exceptional strength in this or that individual, they occasionally mount up to four score years.” Yet is their strength labour and sorrow; rather, yet is their pride then but labour and vanity. They may boast of their age; but what real advantage is it to them? After seventy, the years draw nigh when each man is forced to say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Eccles. 12:1). For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Moreover, even if we live to eighty, our life seems to us no more than a span, so soon does it pass away, and we take our departure.
Ver. 11.—Who knoweth the power of thine anger? Who can duly estimate the intensity of God’s anger against such as have displeased him? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath; rather, or who can estimate thy fury as the fear of thee (i.e. the proper fear) requires? The verse is exegetical of ver. 9, and is intended to impress on man the terribleness of God’s anger.
Vers. 12–17.—From complaint the psalmist, in conclusion, turns to prayer—prayer for his people rather than for himself. His petitions are, (1) that God will enable his people to take to heart the lessons which the brevity of life should teach (ver. 12); (2) that he will cease from his anger, and relent concerning them (ver. 13); (3) that he will once more shower his mercies upon them, and cause their affliction to be swallowed up in gladness (vers. 14, 15); (4) that he will show his glorious doings to them and to their children (ver. 16); (5) that he will let his beauty rest upon them (ver. 17); and (6) that he will bless their doings, and establish them (ver. 17).
Ver. 12.—So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. “Teach us,” that is, “so to reflect on the brevity of life, that we may get to ourselves a heart of wisdom,” or a heart that is wise and understanding.
Ver. 13.—Return, O Lord, how long? rather, turn, O Lord; i.e. “turn from thy anger—how long will it be ere thou turnest?” And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. God “is not a man, that he should repent” (Numb. 23:19); and yet from time to time “it repents him concerning his servants” (Deut. 32:36; Ps. 135:14). He relents, that is, from his fierce anger, allows himself to be appeased, and has compassion upon those who have provoked him.
Ver. 14.—Oh satisfy us early with thy mercy; literally, satisfy us in the morning with thy mercy; i.e. “after a night of trouble, give us a bright morning of peace and rest.” That we may rejoice and be glad all our days; rather, and we will rejoice and be glad, etc.
Ver. 15.—Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us. Proportion our time of joy to our time of sorrow; as the one has lasted many long years, so let the other. And the years wherein we have seen evil; or, “suffered adversity.”
Ver. 16.—Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. The “work” and the “glory” are the same thing—some vast exertion of the Divine power and majesty, which will result in great good to his people. If we accept the Mosaic authorship of the psalm, the establishment of Israel in the land of Canaan may reasonably be taken as the “work” spoken of.
Ver. 17.—And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us (comp. Ps. 45:2, “Thou art fairer than the children of men;” Ps. 27:4, “To behold the beauty of the Lord;” Isa. 33:17, “Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty”). The “beauty of God” is upon us when we see and realize the loveliness of his character. And establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. The repetition adds nothing, except it be emphasis. God is asked, finally, to “establish the work” in which his servants are engaged—to bless it; that is, to advance it and prosper it. The nature of the “work” is not mentioned.
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
A teenager boils a pot of water to make hot chocolate. After the water is ready and the drink is made, the youngster puts the kettle back on the flame and leaves the house. The water eventually boils off, the pot burns, and the kitchen catches fire. When the parents question the teen on the lack of responsibility, the reply is: “What did I do wrong? All I did was put water on the stove. Is that a crime?” By itself, of course not. But an unwatched pot of water will always boil off and then burn.
A laborer from the Department of Public Works digs a three-foot hole in the sidewalk, trying to get to some gas lines. At the end of the day, he leaves the pit uncovered, without warning signs or barricades. After dark, an elderly woman falls into the pit and is severely injured. The worker asks: “What did I do wrong? I just dug a pit! That’s what I’m paid to do.” Combine the innocent digging of a pit with the lack of protection and the coming of darkness, and there is a real disaster in the making.
Physicists in Germany during World War II are engaged by the government to experiment with rocket science. They turn over their research, which is used by Germany to build missiles that deliver payloads of death and destruction hundreds of miles away. After Germany’s defeat, these scientists are tried for war crimes. They plead not guilty. “We were only involved in theoretical scientific issues. What the government and the army did with it is not our fault and not our responsibility.”
The Rabbis take a tougher stance. One cannot avoid responsibility by saying: “It’s not my fault! What I did was okay. I’m not to blame if something else happened. I never intended that. I never in a million years thought …” It’s ludicrous to say, “I cut off its head, but I never meant it to die!” Just as ludicrous is the way that so many people refuse to see the consequences of their actions.
We do not bring proof from fools!
Text / Mishnah (12:4): One who writes in one act of forgetfulness is liable. If he wrote with ink, paint, red paint, gum, vitriol, or anything else that leaves a mark, on two corner walls or on two pages of a tablet which are read together, he is liable. He who writes on his flesh is liable. He who scratches on his flesh—Rabbi Eliezer makes him liable for a sin offering, while the Sages exempt him.
Gemara: “He who scratches on his flesh.” It was taught: Rabbi Eliezer said to the Sages: “Didn’t Ben S’tada bring witchcraft from Egypt using scratches on his flesh?” They said to him: “He was a fool, and we do not bring proof from fools!”
Context / Ben S’tada is an obscure figure mentioned several times in the Talmud. In Sanhedrin 67a, we are told that he was taken out from Lydda on Pesaḥ eve and hanged. His mother is identified as Miriam. Given these two facts, some have speculated that Ben S’tada is another name for Jesus, though this seems impossible based on the chronology: Ben S’tada lived a century after Jesus. Apparently, he was a figure known in rabbinic circles for having stolen some of the secrets of Egyptian sorcery and witchcraft on an ancient version of a “crib sheet.” He was also not very well respected; the Gemara in Sanhedrin describes his lineage in particularly crude terms. These few particulars leave more unknown than known about Ben S’tada—except for the fact that the Rabbis were sure that he was a fool!
The Mishnah reaches who is liable to bring a sin offering, a type of sacrifice given for an accidental transgression, in this case, of the Shabbat. For example, what if one forgot that it was Shabbat and wrote something, in violation of a Shabbat prohibition? Is that person liable to bring a sin offering? First, it must be “one act of forgetfulness,” that is, writing at least two letters at once. (Two letters are the equivalent of the shortest possible Hebrew word and, thus, the minimal requirement for breaking the law of Shabbat.) The next Mishnah will teach that the Rabbis exempt from bringing a sin offering one who forgot that it was Shabbat early in the day and wrote a letter, and then later in the day forgot again and wrote another letter.
Second, one is liable for a Shabbat violation only for writing that is permanent. Thus, all of the writing materials—“ink, paint, red paint, gum, vitriol, or anything else that leaves a mark”—are mentioned. Each leaves a specific type of permanent mark.
What if someone wrote on two adjoining walls, one letter on each wall? (Rashi says, for example, one on the eastern and one on the northern.) In such a case, that person is “liable” and must bring a sin offering. The same is true in the case of two leaves of a tablet (like a sales ledger).
This leads to the disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and the Rabbis over writing on one’s flesh (as opposed to writing on paper or parchment with a type of ink). Is such scratching considered permanent writing? Rabbi Eliezer says that it is, bringing proof from Ben S’tada, a man who (supposedly) smuggled the secrets of Egyptian witchcraft out of that country by scratching the words onto his skin. The Rabbis respond to Rabbi Eliezer that Ben S’tada’s actions are no proof, for it was known that Ben S’tada was a fool.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twelfth Chapter / Acquiring Patience In The Fight Against Concupiscence
PATIENCE, O Lord God, is very necessary for me, I see, because there are many adversities in this life. No matter what plans I make for my own peace, my life cannot be free from struggle and sorrow.
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
My child, you are right, yet My wish is not that you seek that peace which is free from temptations or meets with no opposition, but rather that you consider yourself as having found peace when you have been tormented with many tribulations and tried with many adversities.
If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of purgatory? Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen. Therefore, in order that you may escape the everlasting punishments to come, try to bear present evils patiently for the sake of God.
Do you think that men of the world have no suffering, or perhaps but little? Ask even those who enjoy the most delights and you will learn otherwise. “But,” you will say, “they enjoy many pleasures and follow their own wishes; therefore they do not feel their troubles very much.” Granted that they do have whatever they wish, how long do you think it will last? Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke, and there shall be no memory of their past joys. Even in this life they do not find rest in these pleasures without bitterness, weariness, and fear. For they often receive the penalty of sorrow from the very thing whence they believe their happiness comes. And it is just. Since they seek and follow after pleasures without reason, they should not enjoy them without shame and bitterness.
How brief, how false, how unreasonable and shameful all these pleasures are! Yet in their drunken blindness men do not understand this, but like brute beasts incur death of soul for the miserly enjoyment of a corruptible life.
Therefore, My child, do not pursue your lusts, but turn away from your own will. “Seek thy pleasure in the Lord and He will give thee thy heart’s desires.”33 If you wish to be truly delighted and more abundantly comforted by Me, behold, in contempt of all worldly things and in the cutting off of all base pleasures shall your blessing be, and great consolation shall be given you. Further, the more you withdraw yourself from any solace of creatures, the sweeter and stronger comfort will you find in Me.
At first you will not gain these blessings without sadness and toil and conflict. Habit already formed will resist you, but it shall be overcome by a better habit. The flesh will murmur against you, but it will be bridled by fervor of spirit. The old serpent will sting and trouble you, but prayer will put him to flight and by steadfast, useful toil the way will be closed to him.
The Imitation Of Christ
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.
With what [final] arguments [does] he plead with the Father? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... )
He adds [a fifth] argument in the words, “I am coming to you.” As his leaving them was an argument, so his going to the Father is a mighty argument also. There is much in these words, “I am coming to you”—“I, your beloved Son, in whom your soul delights; to whom you never denied anything. It is I who come to you, swimming through a bloody ocean. I come, treading every step to you in blood and unspeakable sufferings—all this for the sake of those dear ones I now pray for. Yes, the design and purpose of my coming to you is for them. I am coming to heaven in the capacity of an advocate to plead with you for them, my Father and their Father, my God and their God. Since I who am so dear come through such bitter pangs to you, so tenderhearted a Father, and all this on their account, since I now give them a little taste of that intercession work that I shall forever perform for them in heaven, Father, grant what I request. I know you will not deny me.”
And [sixth,] to close up all, he tells the Father how careful he had been to observe and perform that trust which was committed to him: “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction”
--- (John 17:12).
And thus lies the argument: “You committed to me a certain number of souls. I undertook the trust and said, if any of these are lost, I will answer for them. In pursuing this trust I am now here on the earth in a body of flesh. I have been faithful. I have redeemed them” (for he speaks of that as finished and done which was now ready to be done). “I have kept them also and confirmed them until now, and now, Father, I commit them to your care. Do not let them fail now, do not let one of them perish.”
Thus you see what a muscular, argumentative, pleading prayer Christ poured out to the Father for them at parting.
--- John Flavel
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
He Is Risen!
Easter is the greatest of Christian holidays. But what does the word Easter mean? Where and when was it first celebrated?
The origin of the word Easter is uncertain, but the Venerable Bede claimed that the Christian resurrection festival displaced ancient pagan celebrations involving the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess “Eostre.” That, he said, occasioned the term. Others believe the word derives from an old German term meaning sunrise.
Whatever its meaning, it is the oldest celebration of Christianity. The earliest written reference to Easter comes from the mid-second century. A controversy arose about the dating of Easter, causing Polycarp to visit Rome’s bishop Anicetus. The two were unable to settle the controversy, and it became a hotly debated issue threatening to split the church. Believers in Asia celebrated one day, Christians in Europe another. Books, tracts, sermons, and harangues were devoted to the topic. Synods and councils were called. Tempers flared. Clergy excommunicated one another. Irenaeus wrote, “The apostles ordered that we should judge no one in respect to a feast day or a holy day. Whence then these wars? Whence these schisms?”
The issue came to a vote at the famous Council of Nicaea in 325. Easter, declared the council, should be celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21, the vernal equinox. Easter then is a “movable feast” that may occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. The matter wasn’t entirely settled, but believers seemed to realize that it wasn’t the date, but the significance, that gave Easter its magnificence.
A custom arose among early worshipers to keep watch the Saturday night preceding Easter morning, and many believed that Christ would return at the breaking of this day. New converts kept watch and prayed throughout the night, then were baptized at sunrise. Another custom, still widely practiced, finds the pastor addressing the congregation with the glorious words: He is risen! The assembled worshipers shout in return: He is risen indeed! For 2,000 years the foundation of Christianity has rested securely on this simple yet unfathomable truth.
The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would.
--- Matthew 28:5,6a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 21
“Ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.”
--- John 16:32.
Few had fellowship with the sorrows of Gethsemane. The majority of the disciples were not sufficiently advanced in grace to be admitted to behold the mysteries of “the agony.” Occupied with the passover feast at their own houses, they represent the many who live upon the letter, but are mere babes as to the spirit of the gospel. To twelve, nay, to eleven only was the privilege given to enter Gethsemane and see “this great sight.” Out of the eleven, eight were left at a distance; they had fellowship, but not of that intimate sort to which men greatly beloved are admitted. Only three highly favoured ones could approach the veil of our Lord’s mysterious sorrow: within that veil even these must not intrude; a stone’s-cast distance must be left between. He must tread the wine-press alone, and of the people there must be none with him. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, represent the few eminent, experienced saints, who may be written down as “Fathers;” these having done business on great waters, can in some degree measure the huge Atlantic waves of their Redeemer’s passion. To some selected spirits it is given, for the good of others, and to strengthen them for future, special, and tremendous conflict, to enter the inner circle and hear the pleadings of the suffering High Priest; they have fellowship with him in his sufferings, and are made conformable unto his death. Yet even these cannot penetrate the secret places of the Saviour’s woe. “Thine unknown sufferings” is the remarkable expression of the Greek liturgy: there was an inner chamber in our Master’s grief, shut out from human knowledge and fellowship. There Jesus is “left alone.” Here Jesus was more than ever an “Unspeakable gift!” Is not Watts right when he sings ---
“And all the unknown joys he gives,
Were bought with agonies unknown.”
Evening - March 21
"Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?"Job 38:31.
If inclined to boast of our abilities, the grandeur of nature may soon show us how puny we are. We cannot move the least of all the twinkling stars, or quench so much as one of the beams of the morning. We speak of power, but the heavens laugh us to scorn. When the Pleiades shine forth in spring with vernal joy we cannot restrain their influences, and when Orion reigns aloft, and the year is bound in winter’s fetters, we cannot relax the icy bands. The seasons revolve according to the divine appointment, neither can the whole race of men effect a change therein. Lord, what is man?
In the spiritual, as in the natural world, man’s power is limited on all hands. When the Holy Spirit sheds abroad his delights in the soul, none can disturb; all the cunning and malice of men are ineffectual to stay the genial quickening power of the Comforter. When he deigns to visit a church and revive it, the most inveterate enemies cannot resist the good work; they may ridicule it, but they can no more restrain it than they can push back the spring when the Pleiades rule the hour. God wills it, and so it must be. On the other hand, if the Lord in sovereignty, or in justice, bind up a man so that he is in soul bondage, who can give him liberty? He alone can remove the winter of spiritual death from an individual or a people. He looses the bands of Orion, and none but he. What a blessing it is that he can do it. O that he would perform the wonder to-night. Lord, end my winter, and let my spring begin. I cannot with all my longings raise my soul out of her death and dulness, but all things are possible with thee. I need celestial influences, the clear shinings of thy love, the beams of thy grace, the light of thy countenance, these are the Pleiades to me. I suffer much from sin and temptation, these are my wintry signs, my terrible Orion. Lord, work wonders in me, and for me. Amen.
Morning and Evening
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say this ---
(Psalm 107:1, 2)
All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass—Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.
--- Archibald Alexander
The word redeemed implies the idea of a slave standing on the trader’s auction block being offered to the highest bidder. At last the price is paid by a compassionate new owner, who then gives the slave his unconditional freedom. But the freed slave, out of gratitude to his new owner, offers himself as a loving bond servant for life to his redeemer.
Man has been separated from God by sin and has become a slave of Satan. But man has been redeemed. Because Christ paid the ransom we owed to divine justice, we have been freed from the shackles of sin’s bondage and God’s eternal wrath. Out of gratitude for this deliverance, we cling to our new master and lovingly determine to serve Him forever. A realization of redemption causes the ransomed to sing repeatedly, “Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb …”
This popular gospel song by Fanny Crosby first appeared with William Kirkpatrick’s jubilant tune in the hymnal Songs of Redeeming Love, published in 1882. It is another of the more than 8,000 hymns by the blind American poetess, Fanny Jane Crosby, the most important writer of gospel hymn texts in American history.
Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; redeemed thru His infinite mercy —His child, and forever, I am.
Redeemed and so happy in Jesus; no language my rapture can tell; I know that the light of His presence with me doth continually dwell.
I think of my blessed Redeemer. I think of Him all the day long; I sing, for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song.
I know I shall see in His beauty the King in whose law I delight, who lovingly guardeth my footsteps and giveth me songs in the night.
Chorus: Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; redeemed, redeemed, His child, and forever, I am.
For Today: Romans 3:24–26; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:12–14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19.
One of the strongest evidences for the validity of the gospel is a redeemed, vibrant life. Determine with the Holy Spirit’s help to be such a demonstration. Carry this musical testimony with you as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
God’s Resurrection of Christ Our Plea
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20). This reference to the deliverance of Christ from the tomb I regard as the plea on which the apostle bases the request that follows. Since I consider this to be one of the most important verses in the New Testament, I shall give my best attention to every word in it, the more so since part of its wondrous contents is so little comprehended today. We should observe, first, the character in which the Savior is here viewed; secondly, the act of God in bringing him forth from the dead; thirdly, the connection between that act and His office as “the God of peace”; fourthly, how that the meritorious cause of the same was “the blood of the everlasting covenant;” and fifthly, the powerful motive that the meritorious cause provides to encourage the saints to come boldly to the throne of grace where they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. May the Holy Spirit deign to be our Guide as we prayerfully ponder this portion of the Truth.
That Great Shepherd of the Sheep
This title of Christ’s was most pertinent and appropriate in an Epistle to Jewish converts, for the Old Testament had taught them to look for the Messiah in that specific function. Moses and David, eminent types of Him, were shepherds. Concerning the first it is said, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Ps. 77:20). Under the name of the second God promised the Messiah to Israel: “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant [the antitypical] David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23). That Paul here made reference to that particular prophecy is clear from what it went on to say: “And I will make with them a covenant of peace” (Ezek. 34:25). Here in Hebrews 13:20, the same three things are brought together: the God of peace, the great Shepherd, the everlasting covenant, and in a manner (in perfect accord with the theme of the Epistle) that refuted the erroneous conception that the Jews had formed of their Messiah. They imagined that He would secure for them an external deliverance as Moses had done and a prosperous national state as David had set up. They had no idea that He would shed His precious blood and be brought down into the grave, though they should have known and understood it in the light of prophetic revelation.
When Christ appeared in their midst, He definitely presented Himself to the Jews in this character. He not only declared, “I am the good shepherd:” but added this: “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, heralded His public manifestation in this wise: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In this dual character, or under this twofold revelation, the Lord Jesus had been prophesied in Isaiah 53 (as viewed against the backdrop of Ezek. 34): “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him [i.e. the Shepherd, whose the sheep are!] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6, cf. Zech. 13:7). Note a wonderful congruity of expression between the next verse of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53:7) and the prayer we are studying. Isaiah prophesies, “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Notice how the same Spirit who inspired Isaiah prompts Paul to say in Hebrews 13:20 that God—not “raised,” but—“brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep”. The fact that God brought back again from the dead this great Shepherd signifies that the Father had previously brought Him into death as a Substitute, a propitiatory Lamb, for the sins of His sheep. How minutely accurate is the language of Holy Writ and how perfect the harmony— verbal harmony —of the Old and New Testaments!
Peter, in his first Epistle, under the Spirit, appropriated the same wonderful prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus. After referring to Him as the “lamb without blemish and without spot:” by Whom we are redeemed (1 Peter 1:18, 19), he goes on to cite some of the predictive expressions of Isaiah 53: that which speaks of us “as sheep going astray”; that which refers to the saving virtue of Christ’s expiatory passion—“by whose stripes ye were healed”; and the general teaching of the prophecy, that in bearing our sins in His own body on the tree Christ was transacting heavenly business with the righteous Judge as “the Shepherd and Bishop of your [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:24, 25). Thus he was led to expound Isaiah portraying the Savior as a Lamb in death and a Shepherd in resurrection. The excuselessness of the Jews’ ignorance of Christ in this particular office appears still further in that, through yet another of their prophets, it had been announced that God would say, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the Shepherd. . . “ (Zech. 13:7). There God is viewed in His judicial character as being angry with the Shepherd for our sakes: since He bore our sins, justice must take satisfaction from Him. Thus was “the chastisement of our peace” laid upon Him, and the good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep as a satisfaction for the righteous claims of God.
That Great Shepherd
From what has been set forth above, we may the better perceive why it was that the Apostle Paul designated Him “that great shepherd”: the One not only foreshadowed by Abel, by the patriarchal shepherds; typified by David, but also portrayed as the Shepherd of Jehovah in the Messianic predictions. We should note that both of His natures were contemplated under this appellation: “my Shepherd,. . . the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD” (Zech. 13:7). As the profound Goodwin pointed out centuries ago, this title also implies all of Christ’s offices: His prophetic office—“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:11; cf. Ps. 23:1, 2); His priestly office—“the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11); His royal office—for the same passage that announced that He should be Shepherd over God’s people also denominated Him a “prince” (Ezek. 34:23, 24). Christ Himself points out the connection between His kingly office and His being described as a Shepherd: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31, 32). He is indeed that “great Shepherd,” all-sufficient for His flock.
A Shepherd Must Have Sheep
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.” See there the relation of the Redeemer to the redeemed. Shepherd and sheep are correlative terms: one cannot properly term any man a shepherd if he has no sheep. The idea of Christ as Shepherd necessarily implies that there is a chosen flock. Christ is the Shepherd of the sheep, and not of the wolves (Luke 10:3), nor even of the goats (Matthew 25:32, 33), for He has received no charge from God to save them. How the basic truth of particular redemption stares us in the face in innumerable passages throughout the Scriptures! “He did not lay down His life for the whole herd of mankind, but for the flock of the elect which was given to Him by the Father, as He declared in John 10:14-16, 26” (John Owen).
Observe, too, how this title intimates His Mediatorship: as the Shepherd He is not the ultimate Lord of the flock, but the Father’s Servant who takes charge of and cares for it: “thine they were, and thou gavest them me” (John 17:6). Christ’s relation to us is further seen in the phrase “our [not the] Lord Jesus.” He is therefore our Shepherd: ours in His pastoral office, which He is still discharging; ours, as brought from the dead, for we rose in Him (Col. 3:1).
The Superiority of Christ the Great Shepherd
The words “that great shepherd of the sheep” emphasize Christ’s immeasurable superiority over all the typical and ministerial shepherds of Israel, just as the words “a great high priest” (Heb. 4:14) stress His eminency over Aaron and the Levitical priests. In like manner, it denotes His authority over the pastors He sets over His churches, for He is “the chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4) in relation to all undershepherds. He is the Shepherd of souls; and one of them is worth far more than the whole world, which is the value He sets upon them by redeeming them with His own blood. This adjective also looks at the excellence of His flock: He is the great Shepherd over an entire, indivisible flock composed both of Jews and Gentiles. Thus He declared, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this [Jewish] fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16, brackets mine). This “one fold,” a single flock, comprehends all the saints both of the Old Testament and the New Testament (see also how the Apostle Paul sets forth this unity of the people of God by his metaphor of the olive tree in Rom. 11). The phrase “that great Shepherd” also has respect to His abilities: He has a particular knowledge of each and every one of His sheep (John 10:3); He has the skill to gather, to feed, and to heal them (Ezek. 34:11-16); and He has the power to effectually preserve them. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Then how greatly should we trust, love, honor, worship, and obey Him!
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