The Birth of SamsonJudges 13 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11 And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child's manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
21 The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” 24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Samson's MarriageJudges 14 1 Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”
4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson's eyes.
8 After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9 He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 And he said to them,
“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.”
And in three days they could not solve the riddle.
15 On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson's wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,
“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.”
Samson Defeats the PhilistinesJudges 15 1 After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2 And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4 So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8 And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam.
9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”
18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
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In the Dungeon of Giant Despair
By Andrew McGowan 1/2006
At one point on their pilgrimage, Christian and his companion Hopeful stepped aside from the true Way, into By-Path-Meadow, because it looked easier and seemed to be going in the same direction as the Way. Soon they realized their mistake and began the journey back towards the Way. As they traveled, they slept one night on the grounds of a castle, but it turned out that this was Doubting-Castle, owned by Giant Despair. When the giant found them, he threw them into his dark and nasty dungeon, and they suffered terribly, from capture on Wednesday until escape on Sunday.
On Thursday, at the suggestion of his wife, Diffidence, Giant Despair beat them severely and mercilessly. On Friday he told them to kill themselves since there was no hope for them. On Saturday, angered that they had not committed suicide, he showed them the bones of those he had previously murdered by tearing them to pieces. He assured them that their end would come soon in the same manner. Then he beat them again.
At midnight on Saturday, despite their wounds, Christian and Hopeful began to pray (like Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25), and they continued this prayer throughout the night. Then we read of the amazing escape: “Now a little before it was Day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech; ‘What a fool,’ quoth he, ‘am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting-Castle.’ Using the key, Christian and Hopeful escaped.”
The Meaning | There are at least two lessons to be learned from this incident in Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.. The first lesson concerns the importance of keeping to the Way, no matter how much easier or more attractive the alternatives might seem. Many Christians have made shipwreck of their lives by following the ways of the world and emulating the values, ambitions, and lifestyles of their non-Christian neighbors, or their society, rather than following Christ. It is very easy to persuade ourselves that our situation is exceptional or that our circumstances warrant making a decision that goes contrary to Scripture. The end justifies the means, we say. This is never true. Keep to the Way.
The second and key lesson, however, concerns assurance. The most striking part of the story is where Christian realizes that he had the key all the time! There was no need for them to have spent even one hour in the dungeon. Sadly, Christian had forgotten that he had the key in his possession. What was the key? Well, it was the key called “Promise,” and because he had this key, there was no need to be in Doubting-Castle as a prisoner of Giant Despair. In modern language, Christian had in his possession all of the promises of God, and therefore he had no need to be a captive to despair. Christian ought to have trusted in God and His promises. Had he done so, he would not have been the prisoner of doubt and despair.
The Doctrine | At the heart of this incident from Pilgrim’s Progress is the issue of the assurance of salvation. How can I be sure that I am a Christian and so avoid doubt and despair? Christians in the Reformed tradition have not always agreed on this doctrine. Some have argued that assurance is of the very essence of saving faith and should, therefore, be the possession of every Christian. Others, including those who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith (18.3), have argued that assurance may be (and indeed ought to be) the possession of every Christian, but that it does not automatically accompany saving faith. Rather, they say, it often comes later, as men and women reflect upon the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The great Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676–1732), recognized that there was some truth in both of these positions. He held to the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith that assurance of salvation is not of the essence of saving faith, and so there are many people who are true believers and yet lack assurance. He spoke of those who go to heaven “in as a mist,” truly converted yet unsure of their salvation. At the same time, however, he recognized that there is a certain assurance, or “appropriating persuasion,” that is indeed a constituent element in saving faith. It seems wise to follow Boston in this matter and to recognize both kinds of assurance.
The Application | Are you going through a time of doubt or despair? Have you become a prisoner of these enemies of God and the Gospel? If you are a Christian, the wonderful truth is that you already have in your possession all that is necessary for your deliverance — you need to trust in the promises of God.
Andrew T.B. McGowan is minister of Inverness East Church of Scotland, Professor of Theology in the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Honorary Professor in Reformed Doctrine at the University of Aberdeen.
Andrew McGowan Books:
- 1 An Educated Clergy: Scottish Theological Education and Training in the Kirk and Secession
- 2 Federal Theology of Thomas Boston (Rutherford Studies: Historical Theology)
- 3 Men of One Book: A Comparison of Two Methodist Preachers, John Wesley and George Whitefield
- 4 The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging Evangelical Perspectives
- 5 The Person & Work of Christ: Understanding Jesus (Paperback) - Common
- 6 Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology
- 7 The Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retrieving an Evangelical Heritage
Crossing the River
By Frank E. Farrell 1/2006
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said he had read Pilgrim’s Progress one hundred times. Alexander Whyte said he had read it almost as often. These two giants of the British pulpit have been called the “last of the Puritans,” so thoroughly immersed were they in Puritan writings. Spurgeon gives us the key to Bunyan’s genius: “Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied the Bible; he had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture and…he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress — that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.”
The Bible was the antidote for Bunyan’s early, unpromising years, which held out little hope for his writing the most popular Protestant devotional work of the ages. This is not, to say the least, the usual expectation for a tinker (his father’s trade as well) with very little formal education. John Owen, Oxford’s Puritan theologian par excellence, who declined Harvard’s offer of its presidency, would take every opportunity to hear Bunyan preach. When King Charles II expressed surprise at this, Owen responded that he would gladly exchange all of his learning for the tinker’s ability to touch the heart. Bunyan kept his common touch: Once, when told he had preached a grand sermon, he replied, “Aye, you have no need to tell me that, for the devil whispered it to me before I was well out of the pulpit.”
The contrast between Bunyan’s mastery of devotional English writing and his earlier unregenerate use of the language is truly staggering. In his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he writes: “One day, as I was standing at a neighbor’s shop window, and there cursing and swearing and playing the madman after my unwanted manner, there sat within the woman of the house, and heard me, who, though she was a very loose and ungodly wretch, yet protested that I swore and cursed at the most fearful rate that she was made to tremble to hear me; and told me further, that I was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that she had ever heard in all her life, and that I by thus doing was able to spoil all the youth in the whole town, if they came but in my company.”
Bunyan says he was silenced and shamed by this reproof and soon after “I beetook me to my Bible.” By God’s grace in conversion and providence, the tinker would come to write what has been described as the finest piece of writing in the English language — his description in Pilgrim’s Progress of Christian’s crossing the river of death into the city of the great King. Robert Browning put it this way: “His language was not ours: ‘Tis my belief, God spake: No tinker has such powers.”
In his unregenerate state as a church bell-ringer, he feared death from the collapse of the belfry, but later he would write of the bells of heaven ringing for joy to welcome the pilgrims who had crossed the river. He would also write of two angels who would tell Christian and Hopeful that they would have to pass through the river of death before they could enter the heavenly Jerusalem. In the crossing of the river, Christian encountered “a great darkness and horror,” but Hopeful encouraged him with words from Isaiah: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (KJV).
On the other side, the two “shining Ones” met them and told them of the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. Bunyan, “the immortal dreamer” continues: “Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold.… Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the city rang again for joy; and that it was said unto them, enter ye into the joy of your Lord. I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, Blessing, Honour, Glory, and Power, be to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.… There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, Holy, is the Lord. And after that, they shut up the gates: which when I had seen, I wished myself among them.”
The account of the pilgrims’ glorious reception in heaven, only part of which has been quoted here, is one of the most famous scenes in literature and has been called the crown of all Bunyan’s work. In Grace Abounding, he testifies that his former fears about death had been banished to the point where he cried, “‘Let me die’; now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight, for I saw we shall never live indeed until we be gone to the other world.” Puritan Thomas Shepard, one of Harvard’s founders, strikingly called death “the very best of all our gospel ordinances.” He points out that “in all his other ordinances, Christ comes, on occasion, to us; but in a believer’s death Christ takes us to be forever with Him.”
Another Puritan contemporary of Bunyan’s, Richard Baxter, wrote an enduring devotional classic The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, in which he urges his readers to spend half an hour every day “meditating on the joys of heaven.”
Dr. Farrell, ordained in 1961, was a well known scholar, editor and educator in church history. He served as an editor for World Vision and Christianity Today magazines, and as a professor of church history and devotional classics at Simpson College in San Francisco, Nyack College in New York, and Reformed Theological Seminary in both Orlando, FL and Atlanta, GA.
By Derek Thomas 1/2006
For John Bunyan, a Puritan to his fingertips, the Christian life was an experience of conflict and tension with this world. Imprisoned for upwards of twelve years, he experienced firsthand the world’s hostility. Cheerful and sanguine by temperament, his portrayal of what believers can expect from this world is both solemn and dark: the path that leads to the Celestial City winds through unavoidable places of considerable, even deadly, danger — places like the town called Vanity with its “lusty Fair.” Here, all the resources of protection and resolution will be needed to prevent contamination and possible destruction.
Christian, in Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, is both a pilgrim on a journey (road-trip) to heaven and a warrior in conflict with temptations from within (indwelling sin) and without (the world in its opposition to all things godly). It is a principle that Christian is taught early in the journey that every believer can expect to be both fascinated by and drawn towards the world. He can also expect to be repulsed and attacked when all offers are spurned. “Hell hath no fury…,” in this case, “like the world scorned.”
Vanity Fair, described in various dictionaries as the “vain and frivolous way of life especially in large cities,” and the “place or scene of ostentation or empty, idle amusement and frivolity,” represents for Bunyan the world in all its gaudiness: alluring and seductive, offering merchandise of all kinds — some innocent enough in themselves but designed to misdirect the affections away from our love for God and our love for His kingdom. What is Bunyan teaching us here? Several things.
First and foremost, Vanity Fair represents Bunyan’s attempt to warn every Christian of the reality of temptation and the need to resist it. There is always a “gospel-focus” in Bunyan’s writings, and he is careful to note that believers can resist temptation in the knowledge that their Savior has done so on their behalf: “The prince of Princes himself, when here, went through this Town to his own Country, and that upon a Fair-day too: Yea, and as I think it was Beelzebub, the chief Lord of this Fair, that invited him to buy of his Vanities; yea, would have him made Lord of the Fair, would he but have done him Reverence as he went through the Town.”
Vanity Fair thus signals the need to “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1), with the assurance that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Then again, Vanity Fair establishes the truth that Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and must therefore sit loose to the attractions of this world, however innocent they may appear to be in themselves. Christian and Faithful (Christian’s trusty companion) stood out “like sore thumbs” in Vanity Fair. Not only did they not purchase anything, they refused to be drawn aside and enticed by what it offered, having discovered “solid joys and lasting treasures” elsewhere in communion with Jesus Christ. As citizens of heaven they adopted the viewpoint that they must not conform to this world (Phil. 3:20).
On offer in Vanity Fair are both material things (gold, pearls, precious stones, etc.) as well as honors (titles, preferments — designed to turn one’s head). Additionally, Bunyan mentions “the ware of Rome and her merchandise is greatly promoted in the fair” — an allusion to the beguiling nature of Roman Catholic teaching that had suggested (barely a hundred years in Bunyan’s past) that indulgences could be purchased so as to make a sinner’s journey through purgatory that much quicker. To all of these, Bunyan’s faithful companions say “No!”
Derek W.H. Thomas is senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He is also editorial director of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and editor of its e-zine, Reformation21. Dr. Thomas is originally from Wales, and he holds a PhD from the University of Wales.
Derek Thomas Books:
Derek Thomas Books | Go to Books Page
The Power of His Glory
By R.C. Sproul 1/2006
You want to know what your problem is? You don’t love Jesus enough. I know this not because I know you, but because I know me. I’ve got the same problem. My wife has the same problem, as do my kids. The sheep in my flock suffer from the same problem.
The folks I meet at conferences have the same problem too. Wherever there is a sin-problem, underneath it all, is this problem. Husbands don’t love their wives as Jesus loves the church, because husbands don’t love Jesus enough. Children disobey their parents, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Pastors soft-pedal the Bible because they don’t love Jesus enough. And people hop from one church to another because they don’t love Jesus enough. Politicians grow power hungry because they don’t love Jesus enough. Rich people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Middle class people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Poor people suffer from greed, because they don’t love Jesus enough. Find a sin and you will find there a heart that doesn’t love Jesus enough. Find Jesus, and you will find the solution to our problem. Which is just what Jesus has promised will happen.
It is a good thing that evangelical Christians have wakened from their pietistic slumbers. It is good and proper that we should be about the business of making manifest the reign of Christ over all things. That He is Lord has effects that stray rather far from our hearts. We fight the culture wars because they are simply a manifestation of the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. But the serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. He took the biblical wisdom that argued that we ought to tend to our souls, and turned it into world-denying piety. And now he takes the biblical wisdom that argues that we must push for the crown rights of King Jesus, and turned it into worldliness, and a denial of the call to piety. Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to seek first two things, the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
How can we seek two different things first? We do so when we realize that the weapons of our warfare, that the very engine of changing the world, is changing ourselves. The reign of Christ will be manifest in the political, social, artistic, cultural realms only insofar and only through the manifestation of the reign of Christ within His people. We will only make known the great Gospel truth that this is our Father’s world, as we live as pilgrims, recognizing that this world isn’t our home, that we are just passing through.
It is because we are worldly that we embrace the culture’s engines of change. We think that we will change ourselves and the world only as we read more books, make more movies, elect more politicians, produce more widgets, and add more programs to our churches. We think sanctification is a doctrine to be studied, rather than a calling to be pursued. In truth, it is neither. We do not pursue a calling, but a person. Sanctification isn’t merely the means by which we become more holy, but is the means by which we become more like Jesus. Just as He, the Son of God, is the express image of the glory of the Father, so we, the bride of Christ, are the image of our eternal Husband. We glorify Him by becoming more like Him.
This is the promise of God, the end of our sanctification, our glorification: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Do you see the connection? We don’t know what we shall be, but we do know we will be like Him. How will we be like Him? What means brings this to pass? We shall see Him as He is. This is the glory of our King, not that He labors faithfully to change us, not that He changes us by the Word of His power, but that He changes us by the power of His glory. Seeing Him makes us like Him.
Which brings us back to our troubles. Our sanctification is long and laborious simply because we do not seek His face. We do not long for His presence. We do not seek to behold His glory, because we are insufficiently impressed. It is the pomp and the power, the dazzle and the sizzle, the bright lights and the baubles of the world around us that have captured our hearts. We don’t find His glory glorious enough, and so we are not yet like Him. We do indeed see through a glass darkly, a glass darkened by our love affair with the world. If we loved Him, we would seek Him. If we sought Him, we would find Him. If we found Him, we would see Him. And if we saw Him, we would be like Him. And believing this, John tells us, will purify us, “and everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (v. 3). So may it be said of us.
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
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 33The Steadfast Love of the LORD
10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
What’s Wrong with Wright: Examining the New Perspective on Paul
By Phil Johnson
My assignment in this hour is to give a critical review of an influential book by Anglican author N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham. The book is titled What Saint Paul Really Said. It’s a fairly thin paperback, fewer than 200 pages, and although Wright is a prolific writer, best known and most influential because of his massive scholarly works, this little book—which is written in a simple style for the serious lay person—has undoubtedly been the most influential (and perhaps the most controversial) of all his published works. One of its aims is to explain the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” in a clear and concise format so that lay readers can grasp the main ideas.
The book is easy to read and thought-provoking. Wright is a gifted writer. He is able to communicate effortlessly on either a scholarly or a popular level, and he moves back and forth easily between the two styles. He seems to feel as much at home writing simple material for lay people as he does when he writes massive tomes for scholars. And he’s prolific. It’s no easy task to keep up with everything Tom Wright publishes.
His style in this book is warm and winsome. He no doubt anticipated that he would have critics when he wrote the book, so throughout the book he makes every effort to disarm his critics. He seems to labor to leave the impression throughout the book that even though he subscribes to a “New Perspective on Paul,” he’s not trying to overthrow the old Protestant confessional doctrinal standards. He claims he is not denying that Christ took believers’ sins and they in turn get His righteousness; he’s simply saying that’s not what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke about justification. Wright claims his concerns are biblical and exegetical, not theological and dogmatic.
Evangelical readers who know Wright’s reputation are likely to read him with great sympathy. In his other works, Wright has skillfully defended the historicity of Jesus and the truth of the resurrection against the skepticism and liberal scholarship of people like the “Jesus Seminar.” Lots of evangelicals know Wright best from his excellent work in this realm of scholarly apologetics, and we do owe him a great debt for the clarity and force with which he has answered the left wing of contemporary scholarship.
Tom Wright’s name and face have become recognized throughout the United Kingdom, mainly because of his frequent appearances on the BBC—where he usually takes the conservative side against the radical skeptics in the scholarly world. People who know him from the popular media usually assume that Tom Wright’s evangelical credentials are impeccable. And (let’s face it) he probably does have much more in common with evangelicalism than the average Anglican bishop these days.
Rev. Phil Johnson is executive director of Grace to You, pastor of GraceLife Fellowship, and an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.
The Constancy of a Pilgrim’s Life
By Ligon Duncan 1/2006
It has been said that one hallmark of the Puritan view of the Christian life was the emphasis placed on being “constant” (or being steady and unchanging). Remember how John Bunyan puts the challenge to us to learn from the life of the pilgrim?
Who would true valour see, let him come hither; one here will constant be, come wind, come weather. There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
That is, “if you want to know how to live a constant Christian life, come take a look at this guy.”
The Puritans, and certainly Bunyan, highly valued the Bible’s accent on faithfully, consistently, tirelessly pursuing the Christian life with a view to the long haul. Key to this is the role of the ordinary means of grace (chief among them the reading/preaching of the Word, the right partaking of the sacraments, the engagement of the soul with God in prayer). If we are to manifest the constancy of the Christian pilgrim’s life then we will also place much stock in the ordinary means of grace.
The Word, sacraments, and prayer — these are the ordinances given by God with which spiritual life is nurtured. By “ordinances” we mean spiritual instruments of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible. Here’s how the Westminster Assembly explained this in their Shorter Catechism, Question 88: “What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption? Answer: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.”
How does one go about living the Christian life? How does one walk in the way of salvation? How does one become a “constant Christian?” By a careful use of God’s appointed, ordinary and outward means of growth. Again, the assembly of divines gives this helpful summation of the Bible’s answer: by “faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.” In other words, the constant Christian is strengthened for his pilgrimage by God’s grace held out to all who trust in Christ, bestowed and received through the ordinary means set forth in the Word.
So, when we say that the Christian pilgrim highly values God’s ordinances and faithfully participates in the ordinary means of grace, we mean that the pilgrim believes the things that God says in the Bible are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, are in fact central in his own Christian life. In other words, if God says in the Bible that the way His people grow is by a diligent use of His ordinary means, a true pilgrim believes God and lives accordingly.
Thus, pilgrims (in order to know and grow in the true knowledge of God, and to keep fast in the way of faithfulness) delight in, highly value, and faithfully attend the public reading and preaching of the Word; mature in their assurance as they contemplate God’s saving promises to them each time they see baptism administered and joyfully commune in the Lord’s Supper; and engage in a life of prayer, especially expressed corporately in the local church.
This isn’t just a Puritan thing though. It is a biblical thing. Throughout the New Testament, God explicitly instructs pastors and churches to do the following things: First, “Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 3:13 NASB); Second, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2 NASB); Third, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20 NASB); Fourth, “This is My body, which is for you.… This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:24–26 NASB); Fifth, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made…. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:1, 8 NASB).
These are the main ways God’s people grow and become constant. We are saved by grace through faith — indeed, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But the means of God’s grace to bring us to faith and grow us in grace are the Word, prayer, and the sacraments. Nothing else we do in the church’s program should detract from these central means of grace; indeed, everything else we do should promote and coalesce with them. Nothing else is more important if we are to display the constancy of the pilgrim life.
Walk this way, and you’ll be constant, come wind or weather.
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan is the chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. He has authored, coauthored, edited or contributed to more than 35 books.
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The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF MEDITATING ON THE FUTURE LIFE.
The three divisions of this chapter,--I. The principal use of the cross is, that it in various ways accustoms us to despise the present, and excites us to aspire to the future life, sec. 1, 2. II. In withdrawing from the present life we must neither shun it nor feel hatred for it; but desiring the future life, gladly quit the present at the command of our sovereign Master, sec. 3, 4. III. Our infirmity in dreading death described. The correction and safe remedy, sec. 6.
1. The design of God in afflicting his people. 1. To accustom us to despise the present life. Our infatuated love of it. Afflictions employed as the cure. 2. To lead us to aspire to heaven.
2. Excessive love of the present life prevents us from duly aspiring to the other. Hence the disadvantages of prosperity. Blindness of the human judgment. Our philosophizing on the vanity of life only of momentary influence. The necessity of the cross.
3. The present life an evidence of the divine favour to his people; and therefore, not to be detested. On the contrary, should call forth thanksgiving. The crown of victory in heaven after the contest on earth.
4. Weariness of the present life how to be tempered. The believer's estimate of life. Comparison of the present and the future life. How far the present life should be hated.
5. Christians should not tremble at the fear of death. Two reasons. Objection. Answer. Other reasons.
6. Reasons continued. Conclusion.
1. Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are afflicted, we should always consider the end of it to be, that we may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to aspire to the future life. For since God well knows how strongly we are inclined by nature to a slavish love of this world, in order to prevent us from clinging too strongly to it, he employs the fittest reason for calling us back, and shaking off our lethargy. Every one of us, indeed, would be thought to aspire and aim at heavenly immortality during the whole course of his life. For we would be ashamed in no respect to excel the lower animals; whose condition would not be at all inferior to ours, had we not a hope of immortality beyond the grave. But when you attend to the plans, wishes, and actions of each, you see nothing in them but the earth. Hence our stupidity; our minds being dazzled with the glare of wealth, power, and honours, that they can see no farther. The heart also, engrossed with avarice, ambition, and lust, is weighed down and cannot rise above them. In short, the whole soul, ensnared by the allurements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on the earth. To meet this disease, the Lord makes his people sensible of the vanity of the present life, by a constant proof of its miseries. Thus, that they may not promise themselves deep and lasting peace in it, he often allows them to be assailed by war, tumult, or rapine, or to be disturbed by other injuries. That they may not long with too much eagerness after fleeting and fading riches, or rest in those which they already possess, he reduces them to want, or, at least, restricts them to a moderate allowance, at one time by exile, at another by sterility, at another by fire, or by other means. That they may not indulge too complacently in the advantages of married life, he either vexes them by the misconduct of their partners, or humbles them by the wickedness of their children, or afflicts them by bereavement. But if in all these he is indulgent to them, lest they should either swell with vain-glory, or be elated with confidence, by diseases and dangers he sets palpably before them how unstable and evanescent are all the advantages competent to mortals. We duly profit by the discipline of the cross, when we learn that this life, estimated in itself, is restless, troubled, in numberless ways wretched, and plainly in no respect happy; that what are estimated its blessings are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and vitiated by a great admixture of evil. From this we conclude, that all we have to seek or hope for here is contest; that when we think of the crown we must raise our eyes to heaven. For we must hold, that our mind never rises seriously to desire and aspire after the future, until it has learned to despise the present life.
2. For there is no medium between the two things: the earth must either be worthless in our estimation, or keep us enslaved by an intemperate love of it. Therefore, if we have any regard to eternity, we must carefully strive to disencumber ourselves of these fetters. Moreover, since the present life has many enticements to allure us, and great semblance of delight, grace, and sweetness to soothe us, it is of great consequence to us to be now and then called off from its fascinations.  For what, pray, would happen, if we here enjoyed an uninterrupted course of honour and felicity, when even the constant stimulus of affliction cannot arouse us to a due sense of our misery? That human life is like smoke or a shadow, is not only known to the learned; there is not a more trite proverb among the vulgar. Considering it a fact most useful to be known, they have recommended it in many well-known expressions. Still there is no fact which we ponder less carefully, or less frequently remember. For we form all our plans just as if we had fixed our immortality on the earth. If we see a funeral, or walk among graves, as the image of death is then present to the eye, I admit we philosophise admirably on the vanity of life. We do not indeed always do so, for those things often have no effect upon us at all. But, at the best, our philosophy is momentary. It vanishes as soon as we turn our back, and leaves not the vestige of remembrance behind; in short, it passes away, just like the applause of a theatre at some pleasant spectacle. Forgetful not only of death, but also of mortality itself, as if no rumour of it had ever reached us, we indulge in supine security as expecting a terrestrial immortality. Meanwhile, if any one breaks in with the proverb, that man is the creature of a day,  we indeed acknowledge its truth, but, so far from giving heed to it, the thought of perpetuity still keeps hold of our minds. Who then can deny that it is of the highest importance to us all, I say not, to be admonished by words, but convinced by all possible experience of the miserable condition of our earthly life; since even when convinced we scarcely cease to gaze upon it with vicious, stupid admiration, as if it contained within itself the sum of all that is good? But if God finds it necessary so to train us, it must be our duty to listen to him when he calls, and shakes us from our torpor, that we may hasten to despise the world, and aspire with our whole heart to the future life.
3. Still the contempt which believers should train themselves to feel for the present life, must not be of a kind to beget hatred of it or ingratitude to God. This life, though abounding in all kinds of wretchedness, is justly classed among divine blessings which are not to be despised. Wherefore, if we do not recognize the kindness of God in it, we are chargeable with no little ingratitude towards him. To believers, especially, it ought to be a proof of divine benevolence, since it is wholly destined to promote their salvation. Before openly exhibiting the inheritance of eternal glory, God is pleased to manifest himself to us as a Father by minor proofs--viz. the blessings which he daily bestows upon us. Therefore, while this life serves to acquaint us with the goodness of God, shall we disdain it as if it did not contain one particle of good? We ought, therefore, to feel and be affected towards it in such a manner as to place it among those gifts of the divine benignity which are by no means to be despised. Were there no proofs in Scripture (they are most numerous and clear), yet nature herself exhorts us to return thanks to God for having brought us forth into light, granted us the use of it, and bestowed upon us all the means necessary for its preservation. And there is a much higher reason when we reflect that here we are in a manner prepared for the glory of the heavenly kingdom. For the Lord hath ordained, that those who are ultimately to be crowned in heaven must maintain a previous warfare on the earth, that they may not triumph before they have overcome the difficulties of war, and obtained the victory. Another reason is, that we here begin to experience in various ways a foretaste of the divine benignity, in order that our hope and desire may be whetted for its full manifestation. When once we have concluded that our earthly life is a gift of the divine mercy, of which, agreeably to our obligation, it behoves us to have a grateful remembrance, we shall then properly descend to consider its most wretched condition, and thus escape from that excessive fondness for it, to which, as I have said, we are naturally prone.
4. In proportion as this improper love diminishes, our desire of a better life should increase. I confess, indeed, that a most accurate opinion was formed by those who thought, that the best thing was not to be born, the next best to die early. For, being destitute of the light of God and of true religion, what could they see in it that was not of dire and evil omen? Nor was it unreasonable for those  who felt sorrow and shed tears at the birth of their kindred, to keep holiday at their deaths. But this they did without profit; because, devoid of the true doctrine of faith, they saw not how that which in itself is neither happy nor desirable turns to the advantage of the righteous: and hence their opinion issued in despair. Let believers, then, in forming an estimate of this mortal life, and perceiving that in itself it is nothing but misery, make it their aim to exert themselves with greater alacrity, and less hinderance, in aspiring to the future and eternal life. When we contrast the two, the former may not only be securely neglected, but, in comparison of the latter, be disdained and contemned. If heaven is our country, what can the earth be but a place of exile? If departure from the world is entrance into life, what is the world but a sepulchre, and what is residence in it but immersion in death? If to be freed from the body is to gain full possession of freedom, what is the body but a prison? If it is the very summit of happiness to enjoy the presence of God, is it not miserable to want it? But "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord," (2 Cor. 5:6). Thus when the earthly is compared with the heavenly life, it may undoubtedly be despised and trampled under foot. We ought never, indeed, to regard it with hatred, except in so far as it keeps us subject to sin; and even this hatred ought not to be directed against life itself. At all events, we must stand so affected towards it in regard to weariness or hatred as, while longing for its termination, to be ready at the Lord's will to continue in it, keeping far from everything like murmuring and impatience. For it is as if the Lord had assigned us a post, which we must maintain till he recalls us. Paul, indeed, laments his condition, in being still bound with the fetters of the body, and sighs earnestly for redemption (Rom. 7:24); nevertheless, he declared that, in obedience to the command of Gods he was prepared for both courses, because he acknowledges it as his duty to God to glorify his name whether by life or by death, while it belongs to God to determine what is most conducive to His glory (Phil. 1:20-24). Wherefore, if it becomes us to live and die to the Lord, let us leave the period of our life and death at his disposal. Still let us ardently long for death, and constantly meditate upon it, and in comparison with future immortality, let us despise life, and, on account of the bondage of sin, long to renounce it whenever it shall so please the Lord.
5. But, most strange to say, many who boast of being Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and dreadful. We cannot wonder, indeed, that our natural feelings should be somewhat shocked at the mention of our dissolution. But it is altogether intolerable that the light of piety should not be so powerful in a Christian breast as with greater consolation to overcome and suppress that fear. For if we reflect that this our tabernacle, unstable, defective, corruptible, fading, pining, and putrid, is dissolved, in order that it may forthwith be renewed in sure, perfect, incorruptible, in fine, in heavenly glory, will not faith compel us eagerly to desire what nature dreads? If we reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our native country, a heavenly country, shall this give us no comfort? But everything longs for permanent existence. I admit this, and therefore contend that we ought to look to future immortality, where we may obtain that fixed condition which nowhere appears on the earth. For Paul admirably enjoins believers to hasten cheerfully to death, not because they "would be unclothed, but clothed upon," (2 Cor. 5:2). Shall the lower animals, and inanimate creatures themselves even wood and stone, as conscious of their present vanity, long for the final resurrection, that they may with the sons of God be delivered from vanity (Rom. 8:19); and shall we, endued with the light of intellect, and more than intellect, enlightened by the Spirit of God, when our essence is in question, rise no higher than the corruption of this earth? But it is not my purpose, nor is this the place, to plead against this great perverseness. At the outset, I declared that I had no wish to engage in a diffuse discussion of common-places. My advice to those whose minds are thus timid is to read the short treatise of Cyprian De Mortalitate, unless it be more accordant with their deserts to send them to the philosophers, that by inspecting what they say on the contempt of death, they may begin to blush. This, however let us hold as fixed, that no man has made much progress in the school of Christ who does not look forward with joy to the day of death and final resurrection (2 Tim. 4:18; Tit. 2:13) for Paul distinguishes all believers by this mark; and the usual course of Scripture is to direct us thither whenever it would furnish us with an argument for substantial joy. "Look up," says our Lord, "and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh," (Luke 21:28). Is it reasonable, I ask, that what he intended to have a powerful effect in stirring us up to alacrity and exultation should produce nothing but sadness and consternation? If it is so, why do we still glory in him as our Master? Therefore, let us come to a sounder mind, and how repugnant so ever the blind and stupid longing of the flesh may be, let us doubt not to desire the advent of the Lord not in wish only, but with earnest sighs, as the most propitious of all events. He will come as a Redeemer to deliver us from an immense abyss of evil and misery, and lead us to the blessed inheritance of his life and glory.
6. Thus, indeed, it is; the whole body of the faithful, so long as they live on the earth, must be like sheep for the slaughter, in order that they may be conformed to Christ their head (Rom. 8:36). Most deplorable, therefore, would their situation be did they not, by raising their mind to heaven, become superior to all that is in the world, and rise above the present aspect of affairs (1 Cor. 15:19). On the other hand, when once they have raised their head above all earthly objects, though they see the wicked flourishing in wealth and honour, and enjoying profound peace, indulging in luxury and splendour, and revelling in all kinds of delights, though they should moreover be wickedly assailed by them, suffer insult from their pride, be robbed by their avarice, or assailed by any other passion, they will have no difficulty in bearing up under these evils. They will turn their eye to that day (Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 7:17), on which the Lord will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his happiness. But the wicked who may have flourished on the earth, he will cast forth in extreme ignominy, will change their delights into torments, their laughter and joy into wailing and gnashing of teeth, their peace into the gnawing of conscience, and punish their luxury with unquenchable fire. He will also place their necks under the feet of the godly, whose patience they abused. For, as Paul declares, "it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven," (2 Thess. 1:6, 7). This, indeed, is our only consolation; deprived of it, we must either give way to despondency, or resort to our destruction to the vain solace of the world. The Psalmist confesses, "My feet were almost gone: my steps had well nigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked," (Psalm 73:3, 4); and he found no resting-place until he entered the sanctuary, and considered the latter end of the righteous and the wicked. To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of his resurrection.
 French, "Or pource que la vie presente a tousiours force de delices pour nous attraire, et a grande apparence d'amenité, de grace et de douceur pour nous amieller, il nous est bien mestier d'estre retiré d'heure en d'heure, à ce que nous ne soyons point abusez, et comme ensorcelez de telles flatteries;"--Now because the present life has always a host of delights to attracts, and has great appearance of amenity, grace, and sweetness to entice us, it is of great importance to us to be hourly withdrawn, in order that we may not be deceived, and, as it were, bewitched with such flattery.
 Latin, "Animal esseephemeron;" --is an ephemeral animal.
 French, "Le peuple des Scythes;"--the Scythians.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 4 The Vision By The River Of Ulai
"The times of the Gentiles;" thus it was that Christ Himself described the era of Gentile supremacy. Men have come to regard the earth as their own domain, and to resent the thought of Divine interference in their affairs. But though monarchs seem to owe their thrones to dynastic claims, the sword or the ballot-box, — and in their individual capacity their title may rest solely upon these, — the power they wield is divinely delegated, for "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." (Daniel 4:25)
Daniel 4:25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. ESV
In the exercise of this high prerogative He took back the scepter He had entrusted to the house of David, and transferred it to Gentile hands; and the history of that scepter during the entire period, from the epoch to the close of the times of the Gentiles, is the subject of the prophet's earlier visions.
The vision of the eighth chapter of Daniel has a narrower range. It deals only with the two kingdoms which were represented by the middle portion, or arms and body, of the image of the second chapter. The Medo-Persian Empire, and the relative superiority of the younger nation, are represented by a ram with two horns, one of which was higher than the other, though the last to grow. And the rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander, followed by its division among his four successors, is typified by a goat with a single horn between its eyes, which horn was broken and gave place to four horns that came up instead of it. Out of one of these horns came forth a little horn, representing a king who should become infamous as a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His people.
That the career of Antiochus Epiphanes was in a special way within the scope and meaning of this prophecy is unquestioned. That its ultimate fulfillment belongs to a future time, though not so generally admitted, is nevertheless sufficiently clear. The proof of it is twofold. First, it cannot but be recognized that its most striking details remain wholly unfulfilled.  And secondly, the events described are expressly stated to be "in the last end of the indignation," (Daniel 8:19) which is "the great tribulation" of the last days, (Matthew 24:21) "the time of trouble" which is immediately to precede the complete deliverance of Judah. 
 I allude to the 2, 300 days of verse 14, and to the statement of verse 25, "He shall also stand up against the Prince of Princes, but he shall be broken without hand."
Daniel 8:19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. ESV
Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. ESV
 "And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered," — i. e., the Jews (Daniel 12:1).
Daniel 12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. ESV
It is unnecessary, however, further to embarrass the special subject of these pages by any such discussion. So far as the present inquiry is immediately concerned, this vision of the ram and the he-goat is important mainly as explanatory of the visions which precede it. 
 The following is the vision of the eighth chapter:
The Coming Prince
Daniel 8:1 1 In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state. ESV
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/2006 The Light of Glory
Humanistic historians and secular sociologists are eager to assign their carefully crafted, far-reaching labels to just about anything. Centuries-long periods of history and entire generations of people have been adorned with meaningless titles and simplistic definitions. From the so called “baby-boom generation” to the “me generation” and “generation x,” our society has determined that bestowing a general category upon an entire population based on age is appropriate. Similarly, entire periods of history are known for the type of metal prominently used during that particular period, for instance, the “Bronze Age.” We have “golden” ages and ages of “enlightenment,” the “Age of Reason” and the infamous “Dark Ages.”
Although modern historians have generally done away with using the term “Dark Ages” (AD 476–1000), it is still a label that is stuck in the minds of most of us when we think of the early Middle Ages. We too often forget, however, that the dark ages did not begin in the fifth century in Europe, nor did they end at the turn of the first millennium AD. The dark ages began long ago in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord and fell into a corrupt state. And while no respectable historian would ever assign the title “Dark Ages” to the larger part of the history of civilization, since the fall, man has witnessed a dark age.
Nevertheless, ever since the fall, the Lord has shed the light of His gospel upon the world. In Genesis 3:15, we hear the words of the first gospel spoken to our great ancestors, and throughout history we see how God has brought His light to His people in their darkest hours. In the Old Testament, we read the christological prophecy of Isaiah in which he heralds the coming Light of the World: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). In the New Testament, we witness the fulfillment of that proclamation: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). Although the history of sixth-century civilization is much darker than secularists can comprehend, there is a glorious light that shines in the darkness. In the sixth century as well as in the twenty-first century, the Lord enables His light to shine through us so that we might live coram Deo in a dark world.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
by Bill Federer
On this date, March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry spoke to the Second Virginia Convention, which, because of British hostilities, was meeting in St. John’s Church. He proclaimed: “There is a just God who presides over the destines of nations… who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…. Patrick Henry concluded: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.
--- Saint Augustine
The Confessions of Saint Augustine
You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving.
--- Amy Carmichael, missionary to India
A Life God Rewards Devotional
All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass
Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.
--- Archibald Alexander
Beyond the Sunset I know up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
--- Dr. Seuss
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
1763-1769. Religious Conversation with a Company met to see the Tricks of a Juggler -- Account of John Smith's Advice and of the Proceeding of a Committee at the Yearly Meeting in 1764 -- Contemplations on the Nature of True Wisdom -- Visit to the Families of Friends at Mount Holly, Mansfield, and Burlington, and to the Meetings on the Sea-Coast from Cape May towards Squan -- Some Account of Joseph Nichols and his Followers -- On the different State of the First Settlers in Pennsylvania who de depended on their own Labor, compared with those of the Southern Provinces who kept Negroes -- Visit to the Northern Parts of New Jersey and the Western Parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania; also to the Families of Friends at Mount Holly and several Parts of Maryland -- Further Considerations on keeping Slaves, and his Concern for having been a Party to the Sale of One -- Thoughts on Friends exercising Offices in Civil Government.
THE latter part of the summer, 1763, there came a man to Mount Holly who had previously published a printed advertisement that at a certain public-house he would show many wonderful operations, which were therein enumerated. At the appointed time he did, by sleight of hand, perform sundry things which appeared strange to the spectators. Understanding that the show was to be repeated the next night, and that the people were to meet about sunset, I felt an exercise on that account. So I went to the public-house in the evening, and told the man of the house that I had an inclination to spend a part of the evening there; with which he signified that he was content. Then, sitting down by the door, I spoke to the people in the fear of the Lord, as they came together, concerning this show, and labored to convince them that their thus assembling to see these sleight-of-hand tricks, and bestowing their money to support men who, in that capacity, were of no use to the world, was contrary to the nature of the Christian religion. One of the company endeavored to show by arguments the reasonableness of their proceedings herein; but after considering some texts of Scripture and calmly debating the matter he gave up the point. After spending about an hour among them, and feeling my mind easy, I departed.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.
And, on the other side, come and say: "I give myself absolutely to God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has promised to do."
Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we cannot understand, but that God's Word has revealed, and He wants to work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, and unbounded trust.
God Blesses When You Surrender
This absolute surrender to God will wonderfully bless.
What Ahab said to his enemy, King Ben-hadad--"My lord, O king, according to thy word I am thine, and all that I have"--shall we not say to our God and loving Father? If we do say it, God's blessing will come upon us. God wants us to be separate from the world; we are called to come out from the world that hates God. Come out for God, and say: "Lord, anything for Thee." If you say that with prayer, and speak that into God's ear, He will accept it, and He will teach you what it means.
I say again, God will bless you. You have been praying for blessing. But do remember, there must be absolute surrender. At every tea-table you see it. Why is tea poured into that cup? Because it is empty, and given up for the tea. But put ink, or vinegar, or wine into it, and will they pour the tea into the vessel? And can God fill you, can God bless you if you are not absolutely surrendered to Him? He cannot. Let us believe God has wonderful blessings for us, if we will but stand up for God, and say, be it with a trembling will, yet with a believing heart:
"O God, I accept Thy demands. I am thine and all that I have. Absolute surrender is what my soul yields to Thee by divine grace."
You may not have such strong and clear feelings of deliverances as you would desire to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will, self-confidence, and self-effort. Bow humbly before him in the confession of that, and ask him to break the heart and to bring you into the dust before Him. Then, as you bow before Him, just accept God's teaching that in your flesh "there dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18), and that nothing will help you except another life which must come in. You must deny self once for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.
When was Peter delivered? When was the change accomplished? The change began with Peter weeping, and the Holy Spirit came down and filled his heart.
God the Father loves to give us the power of the Spirit. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. We come to God confessing that, and praising God for it, and yet confessing how we have grieved the Spirit. And then we bow our knees to the Father to ask that He would strengthen us with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, and that He would fill us with His mighty power. And as the Spirit reveals Christ to us, Christ comes to live in our hearts forever, and the self-life is cast out.
Let us bow before God in humility, and in that humility confess before Him the state of the whole Church. No words can tell the sad state of the Church of Christ on earth. I wish I had words to speak what I sometimes feel about it. Just think of the Christians around you. I do not speak of nominal Christians, or of professing Christians, but I speak of hundreds and thousands of honest, earnest Christians who are not living a life in the power of God or to His glory. So little power, so little devotion or consecration to God, so little perception of the truth that a Christian is a man utterly surrendered to God's will! Oh, we want to confess the sins of God's people around us, and to humble ourselves. We are members of that sickly body, and the sickliness of the body will hinder us, and break us down, unless we come to God, and in confession separate ourselves from partnership with worldliness, with coldness toward each other, unless we give up ourselves to be entirely and wholly for God.
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
also those with great wealth who pretend they are poor.
8 The rich man may have to ransom his life,
but a poor man gets no threats.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Dr. David Wells
This relattvizing process, which has been handled with the utmost subtlety by scholars, has emerged among the laity in a rather more blatant fashion. During the 1980s, the Vatican, especially under Pope John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger, has placed great emphasis on the importance of confession and has disciplined some teachers who have appeared to be undercutting Vatican interests. But polls of the Catholic laity indicate that these actions of the pope and his guardians of Catholic doctrine amount to little more than sticking fingers in a dike through which torrents of relativity are now pouring. The American Catholic church is awash with such amazing confessional diversity that its members are frequently indistinguishable from a variety of Protestants and even non-Christians. This stunning diversity in a church that has always been known for its interest in confessional conformity certainly raises the question of whether the Modernists, who were condemned in uncommonly fierce terms in 1907, might not have lost the battle but now, by a strange turn of events, have won the war. Indeed, the decree Instruction on the Ecdesial Vocation of the Theologian, issued in 1990 with the specific intention of silencing Church teachers who disagree with the Church and making that silence a condition of their retaining their roles as Church teachers, sounds remarkably like some of the papal utterances that were sent forth from Rome as Modernism was just gaining momentum at the turn of the century. What has now to be seen is only whether the dissenters will this time succeed in overwhelming the Church or whether, once again, they will be dislodged.
On the Protestant side, it is true that ritual assent continues to be given to the idea that the Bible must, in some fashion, be used confessionally. The problem, however, is that it is used in so many different ways, as David Kelsey has argued, that its role is no longer binding in the same way. Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, and Carl Henry all believed that their theology was "biblical," but the sense in which each did so was quite different, and hence the way in which Scripture functioned to authorize their theologies was quite different. Although the idea of confession has lingered on, clearly what is confessed no longer belongs in or is drawn from the same universe of meaning. Far more commonly, what is confessed has meaning only within a private world of religious consciousness, and this private world all too frequently resonates with the pluralism of the modern world.
What makes the disappearance of confession in academic circles almost inevitable, barring an occasional episode of rebellion such as that mounted by Karl Barth and his allies, is that there is now an insurmountable coalition between the Enlightenment idea that it is the subject who defines reality and the universities that are now structured not only to make this idea normative but also to make its orthodox alternative unacceptable.
In twentieth-century universities, especially in America, the fact that confession is unwanted is communicated in a number of ways. There has been a trend (which peaked in the 1960s) toward replacing departments of theology with departments of religious studies. The new script for study is human experience, not the teaching of the Bible or, for that matter, of the Church. This script encompasses all human experience in all of its religious shades; it is no longer tolerable to restrict academic consideration to what is Christian or Western. The method of study is now scientific, objective, and comparative; the starting point is the assumption that all religions are works of human interpretation and that no one religion has "the truth." And, because the study is conducted under the aegis of the social scientists rather than that of the clergy or theologians, the credibility of the whole undertaking requires that it take place not in the context of the old spirit of belief but rather in the context of the most audacious, irreverent, and skeptical questions, even if the result is to create a maze through which befuddled students will not easily find a way. Unhappily, the demand for pluralistic values, to which unstinting support is given in these departments, itself invariably becomes an unyielding orthodoxy. Faculty in many of these departments will not tolerate those whose views are not pluralistic.
The damage to human lives is everywhere. Is there any hope?
(Mt 16:16–19)You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
Although I watched the misfortunes of the Ghost in the Bowler with some complacency, I found, when we were left alone, that I could not bear the presence of the Water-Giant. It did not appear to take any notice of me, but I became self-conscious; and I rather think there was some assumed nonchalance in my movements as I walked away over the flat rocks, down-stream again. I was beginning to be tired. Looking at the silver fish which darted over the river-bed, I wished greatly that to me also that water were permeable. I should have liked a dip.
‘Thinking of going back?’ said a voice close at hand. I turned and saw a tall ghost standing with its back against a tree, chewing a ghostly cheroot. It was that of a lean hard-bitten man with grey hair and a gruff, but not uneducated voice: the kind of man I have always instinctively felt to be reliable.
‘I don’t know,’ said I. ‘Are you?’
‘Yes,’ it replied. ‘I guess I’ve seen about all there is to see.’
‘You don’t think of staying?’
‘That’s all propaganda,’ it said. ‘Of course there never was any question of our staying. You can’t eat the fruit and you can’t drink the water and it takes you all your time to walk on the grass. A human being couldn’t live here. All that idea of staying is only an advertisement stunt.’
‘Then why did you come?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Just to have a look round. I’m the sort of chap who likes to see things for himself. Wherever I’ve been I’ve always had a look at anything that was being cracked up. When I was out East, I went to see Pekin. When …’
‘What was Pekin like?’
‘Nothing to it. Just one darn wall inside another. Just a trap for tourists. I’ve been pretty well everywhere. Niagara Falls, the Pyramids, Salt Lake City, the Taj Mahal …’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Am I carnally minded?
Whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal? --- 1 Cor. 3:3.
No natural man knows anything about carnality. The flesh lusting against the Spirit that came in at regeneration, and the Spirit lusting against the flesh, produces carnality. “Walk in the Spirit,” says Paul, “and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”; and carnality will disappear.
Are you contentious, easily troubled about trifles? ‘Oh, but no one who is a Christian ever is!’ Paul says they are, he connects these things with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens petulance in you? That is a proof that you are yet carnal. If sanctification is being worked out, there is no trace of that spirit left.
If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He does not ask you to put it right; He asks you to accept the light, and He will put it right. A child of the light confesses instantly and stands bared before God; a child of the darkness says—‘Oh, I can explain that away.’ When once the light breaks and the conviction of wrong comes, be a child of the light, and confess, and God will deal with what is wrong; if you vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.
What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone it is the most real thing imaginable. God will see that you have any number of opportunities to prove to yourself the marvel of His grace. The practical test is the only proof. ‘Why,’ you say, ‘if this had happened before, there would have been the spirit of resentment!’ You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The Unborn Daughter
On her unborn in the vast circle
Concentric with our finite lives;
On her unborn, her name uncurling
Like a young fern within the mind;
On her unclothed with flesh or beauty
In the womb's darkness, I bestow
The formal influence of the will,
The wayward influence of the heart,
Weaving upon her fluid bones
The subtle fabric of her being,
Hair, hands and eyes, the body's texture,
Shot with the glory of the soul.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Choice: Numbers 13–14
Israel had been given instruction in responsibility on the way to the Promised Land. When they arrived at the borders of Palestine, Moses sent 12 men out in pairs to spy out the land. The 12 were to evaluate the strength of the peoples, their numbers, and whether the land was rich or poor. God was giving Israel information, that the dangers might be known and weighed against their confidence in God.
Ten of the 12 spies were overawed by the strength of the enemy and by the fortified towns they found in the land. Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, encouraged the people to trust in God. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (13:30). But the fears of the others prevailed. Crying in fright and anguish, the whole congregation was ready to choose other leaders to guide them back to Egypt!
Stunned by the choice Israel was making, Moses and Aaron “fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there” and Caleb and Joshua tore their clothing (an action indicating great depth of feeling). They urged Israel, “Do not rebel against the Lord.… Their protection is gone but Lord is with us” (14:9).
This affirmation of faith showed vividly the response that Israel should have made when faced with their choice. Instead, “the whole assembly talked about stoning them.”
The choice had been made.
Now, as a responsible people, Israel had to accept the full consequences of her decision.
God appears. At this point the Lord visibly intervened. His “glory” suddenly flashed from the tabernacle. The action of Israel justified their total destruction.… God could make of Moses alone a greater people than Israel. But Moses again prayed for the people, and they were pardoned.
Yet even with the pardon, the people of Israel would bear the consequences of their decision.
“Not one of the men who saw My glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed Me and tested Me 10 times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it” (vv. 22–23).
Only Caleb and Joshua were exempted, because they had responded to God with trust. The rest would be led out again into the wilderness, to wander there for 38 years.
“Your bodies will fall—every one of you 20 years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against Me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home except Caleb … and Joshua” (vv. 29–30).
When the children of the next generation had learned to accept responsibility and to trust God, then they would come again to the Promised Land. A people who refused to trust could never experience the Promised Land’s rest.
Unfair? Lest we think this judgment was too severe, we need to look at the aftermath. When Moses told the people the judgment of God, they “mourned greatly.” And the next morning they jumped up—and mounted an attack on the land they had been unwilling to approach. But this was after God had expressly commanded them to turn back to the wilderness!
Moses cried out, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed!” (v. 41) But the people stumbled on to meet the enemy, though God’s ark and His presence remained in the camp.
They were defeated and pursued.
The people had once again demonstrated that they simply would not listen to God or respond to Him. Over and over the failure of Israel to be obedient led them into disaster. Yet they refused to be responsible.
The lesson still had to be learned. Until it was learned, the people would know only the tragic consequences of disobedience with each wrong choice.
The Teacher's Commentary
Who among us hasn’t, like Rabbi Yannai, feared being out of place? While each of us wants to be an individual, none of us wants to stick out like a sore thumb. Rabbi Yannai’s words aptly reflect this anxiety. Rabbi Yannai is talking about planning for important events in life, and by asking to be buried neither in white nor in black in preparation for two possible eventualities is thinking ahead to save himself embarrassment, in this case, after death. Wearing olaryin will allow him to be neither like a groom among mourners nor like a mourner among grooms.
Many of us have had the experience, at one time or another, of walking into a room and feeling inappropriately dressed. A friend says, “Let’s go out for a casual dinner,” but her definition of casual and ours do not mesh. Because of the way we are dressed, we end up fidgeting in our seat all night long, like a mourner among grooms. We may remember the one man who, for whatever reason, came to a black-tie reception wearing a light-colored suit. Perhaps he could not afford a tuxedo; maybe he misread the invitation. Whatever the reason, he stood out like a groom among mourners.
We can avoid embarrassment by planning ahead, not only in how we dress but in other kinds of preparations. In order to enjoy the opera and not feel out of place, you read the libretto to understand the plot and story-line. Similarly, if you are invited to a life-cycle ritual in a different religious tradition, or even in your own tradition, you might benefit and feel more comfortable by finding out the customs of manners and dress beforehand.
Suppose you are invited to a simḥat bat, the new ritual that has developed over past decades as a special way of welcoming a baby girl into the Jewish community. If this is the first simḥat bat you are attending, you may feel apprehensive about feeling out of place. A little research, however, will help increase the comfort level. “How long does a simḥat bat last? How formal is it? Will I need any preparation? Are there others with whom I can share my anxieties?”
We can never be 100 percent sure that we’ll feel comfortable where we are. Life is just too complicated for that. Still, we want to feel as much at ease as possible, wherever we are. By properly thinking and planning ahead, we can make sure that we fit in and that we do not feel like either a groom among mourners or a mourner among grooms.
Both are the words of the living God.
Text / Rabbi Abba said in the name of Shmuel: “For three years there was a dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel, the former saying: ‘The law follows our views, and the latter saying: ‘The law follows our views.’ A voice from heaven proclaimed: ‘Both are the words of the living God but the law follows Bet Hillel.’ ” Since both are the words of the living God, why did Bet Hillel merit having the law follow their views? Because they were kind and modest; they used to teach their views and the views of Bet Shammai; moreover, they used to mention Bet Shammai’s views before their own.
Context / Another of the discussions and disagreements of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai found on the very same page in the Talmud: For two and a half years, Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel disagreed: One said: “It would have been better if humans had not been created.” The other said: “It is better that humans have been created.” They voted and concluded: “It would have been better if humans had not been created. But now that humans have been created, let them search their [past] actions.” Others say: “Let them look into their [future] deeds.”
Hillel and Shammai were the two great rabbinic leaders at the end of the first century, B.C.E. The disciples of these two men over the next century were known, respectively, as Bet (“The House of”) Hillel and Bet Shammai. These two groups shaped much of Judaism as we know it today during the critical years just prior to, and immediately after, the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. Over three hundred of their halakhic disputes are recorded throughout the Talmud. Many scholars used to see a philosophical or sociological basis for the legal disagreements. Bet Hillel is often more lenient and may have represented the lower classes. Bet Shammai usually takes a stricter position, and its members may have come from the wealthier upper classes. However, this approach is disputed today.
In our section, Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai have been arguing for a considerable amount of time over whose views best reflected God’s will. The answer comes from a bat kol, a “small voice,” which is understood to be a message from God in heaven. This message could come as an actual voice, or it could be revealed in a dream. Once prophecy came to an end, a bat kol was the sole means of receiving direct communication from God.
Both Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai believed that in their opinions and legal rulings, they were uncovering and transmitting the will of God. The Written Law, the Torah given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, was often imprecise or even silent about many details and issues. What the Rabbis attempted to do in the Oral Law (the Midrash and the Talmud) was to try to discover what God had in mind. They struggled to understand the Torah and to apply its teachings to their own times. They often came up with very different interpretations. But, as we see here, they deeply believed that each interpretation reflected God’s truth. Nevertheless, the law—what was to be normative, accepted behavior—had to be fixed; otherwise the unity of the people would be destroyed by numerous practices. More often than not, Bet Hillel’s views were chosen not because Bet Hillel was right and Bet Shammai was wrong. Rather, Bet Hillel’s views became law, according to the Talmud, as a reward for the way they treated those they disagreed with.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fourteenth Chapter / Consider The Hidden Judgments Of God Lest Youu Become Proud Of Your Own Good Deeds
YOU thunder forth Your judgments over me, Lord. You shake all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul is very much afraid. I stand in awe as I consider that the heavens are not pure in Your sight. If You found wickedness in the angels and did not spare them, what will become of me? Stars have fallen from heaven, and I—I who am but dust—how can I be presumptuous? They whose deeds seemed worthy of praise have fallen into the depths, and I have seen those who ate the bread of angels delighting themselves with the husks of swine.
There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No chastity is secure if You do not guard it. Our vigilance avails nothing if Your holy watchfulness does not protect us. Left to ourselves we sink and perish, but visited by You we are lifted up and live. We are truly unstable, but You make us strong. We grow lukewarm, but You inflame us. Oh, how humbly and lowly should I consider myself! How very little should I esteem anything that seems good in me! How profoundly should I submit to Your unfathomable judgments, Lord, where I find myself to be but nothing!
O immeasurable weight! O impassable sea, where I find myself to be nothing but bare nothingness! Where, then, is glory’s hiding place? Where can there be any trust in my own virtue? All vainglory is swallowed up in the depths of Your judgments upon me.
What is all flesh in Your sight? Shall the clay glory against Him that formed it? How can he whose heart is truly subject to God be lifted up by vainglory? The whole world will not make him proud whom truth has subjected to itself. Nor shall he who has placed all his hope in God be moved by the tongues of flatterers. For behold, even they who speak are nothing; they will pass away with the sound of their words, but the truth of the Lord remains forever.
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.
How [does] this prayer give evidence of Christ’s tender care and love to his people? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... )
1. His love and care was obvious in the choice of mercies for them. He does not pray for health, honor, long life, riches, and the like, but for their preservation from sin, spiritual joy in God, sanctification, and eternal glory. No mercies but the very best in God’s treasure will content him. The rest he is content should be dispensed indiscriminately by providence, but these he will settle as a heritage on his children. See the love of Christ! Look over your spiritual inheritance in Christ, compare it with the richest, fairest, sweetest inheritance on earth, and see what poor things these are to yours.
2. He pleaded your concerns with God at a time when a world of sorrow surrounded him on every side, a cup of wrath mixed and ready to be delivered into his hand. At that very time when the clouds of wrath grew black, a storm coming such as he never felt before, one would have thought all his care, thoughts, and diligence would have been employed on his own account to mind his own sufferings. No, he forgets his own sorrows to mind our peace and comfort.
If Christ so amply showed his care and love for his people in this his parting hour, then we conclude the perseverance of the saints is unquestionable. Do you hear how he pleads! how he argues! how he chooses his words and sets them in order, how he winds up his spirit to the very highest pitch of zeal and fervency? Can such a Father deny the persistence and strong reasonings and pleading of such a Son? O, it can never be! He cannot deny him. Christ has the art and skill of prevailing with God. If the heart and hand of God were hard to be opened, yet this would open them, but when the Father himself loves us and is inclined to do us good, who can doubt of Christ’s success?
--- John Flavel
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
“Mission statements” for organizations and individuals are prevalent today. Johann Sebastian Bach did that 200 years ago.
Johann Sebastian Bach, the youngest in a family of German musicians, was baptized on March 23, 1685, two days old, in Eisenach. He excelled at music, and his skills increased when, at age 9, he moved in with an older brother who taught music.
Johann also loved Scripture. He collected a library of 83 volumes that included the Bible, Luther’s writings, and the works of Luther’s followers. He soon combined his love of music and Scripture, penning this note in the margin of 1 Chronicles 25, the chapter in which King David commissioned the temple musicians: “This chapter is the true foundation for all God-pleasing music.”
Johann would travel any distance to hear good music. Often he tramped 30 miles to Hamburg or 60 miles to Celle to hear famous organists. At age 20, hearing that a renowned organist would perform in Lubeck, he persuaded his superiors to give him a month’s leave of absence, and he made the 200-mile trip by foot.
Three years later he announced his life’s purpose: to create “well-regulated church music to the glory of God.” He believed music should exist only for God’s glory, and when he sat down to compose he often scribbled J.J. on his blank pages: Jesu Juva—Help me, Jesus. At the manuscript’s end, he jotted S.D.G.—Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone, the glory.
Bach served as court musician at Weimar and Cothen, then taught music in Leipzig until his death. He fathered 20 children during his life and hundreds of compositions.
He received little fame during his lifetime and died in relative obscurity. His grave was not marked. After his death, his music was largely forgotten until Mendelssohn rediscovered it. Bach himself had remained modest. When a friend once praised his skill as an organist, he shrugged and smiled. “There is nothing very wonderful about it,” he said. “You have only to hit the right notes at the right moment and the instrument does the rest.”
David and the temple officials chose the descendants of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to be in charge of music. They were to praise the LORD by playing cymbals, harps and other stringed instruments.
--- 1 Chronicles 25:1.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 23
“His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
--- Luke 22:44.
The mental pressure arising from our Lord’s struggle with temptation, so forced his frame to an unnatural excitement, that his pores sent forth great drops of blood which fell down to the ground. This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able to crush the Saviour so that he distilled great drops of blood! This demonstrates the mighty power of his love. It is a very pretty observation of old Isaac Ambrose that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best. This precious camphire-tree yielded most sweet spices when it was wounded under the knotty whips, and when it was pierced by the nails on the cross; but see, it giveth forth its best spice when there is no whip, no nail, no wound. This sets forth the voluntariness of Christ’s sufferings, since without a lance the blood flowed freely. No need to put on the leech, or apply the knife; it flows spontaneously. No need for the rulers to cry, “Spring up, O well;” of itself it flows in crimson torrents. If men suffer great pain of mind apparently the blood rushes to the heart. The cheeks are pale; a fainting fit comes on; the blood has gone inward as if to nourish the inner man while passing through its trial. But see our Saviour in his agony; he is so utterly oblivious of self, that instead of his agony driving his blood to the heart to nourish himself, it drives it outward to bedew the earth. The agony of Christ, inasmuch as it pours him out upon the ground, pictures the fulness of the offering which he made for men.
Do we not perceive how intense must have been the wrestling through which he passed, and will we not hear its voice to us? “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Behold the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and sweat even to blood rather than yield to the great tempter of your souls.
Evening - March 23
"I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."Luke 19:40.
But could the stones cry out? Assuredly they could if he who opens the mouth of the dumb should bid them lift up their voice. Certainly if they were to speak, they would have much to testify in praise of him who created them by the word of his power; they could extol the wisdom and power of their Maker who called them into being. Shall not we speak well of him who made us anew, and out of stones raised up children unto Abraham? The old rocks could tell of chaos and order, and the handiwork of God in successive stages of creation’s drama; and cannot we talk of God’s decrees, of God’s great work in ancient times, in all that he did for his church in the days of old? If the stones were to speak, they could tell of their breaker, how he took them from the quarry, and made them fit for the temple, and cannot we tell of our glorious Breaker, who broke our hearts with the hammer of his word, that he might build us into his temple? If the stones should cry out they would magnify their builder, who polished them and fashioned them after the similitude of a palace; and shall not we talk of our Architect and Builder, who has put us in our place in the temple of the living God? If the stones could cry out, they might have a long, long story to tell by way of memorial, for many a time hath a great stone been rolled as a memorial before the Lord; and we too can testify of Ebenezers, stones of help, pillars of remembrance. The broken stones of the law cry out against us, but Christ himself, who has rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, speaks for us. Stones might well cry out, but we will not let them: we will hush their noise with ours; we will break forth into sacred song, and bless the majesty of the Most High, all our days glorifying him who is called by Jacob the Shepherd and Stone of Israel.
Morning and Evening
THERE SHALL BE SHOWERS OF BLESSING
Daniel W. Whittle, 1840–1901
I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
How disheartening it is to see a once fertile field that has been rendered hardened and useless by a drought. Land that was intended to produce a rich harvest for its owner lies barren and lifeless. As Christians, God desires that our lives bear much fruit for Him. But the soil of our hearts must be right if we want the seeds of righteousness to grow. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 teaches that it is possible to have four different kinds of soil in our lives: An unconcerned soil, a shallow soil, a polluted soil, and a good soil—one that responds and produces a bountiful harvest.
At times many Christians feel as though they are in a spiritual drought. God seems removed. Spiritual activities are just routine business. Prayer and Bible reading become monotonous. Christian friends seem critical and irritating. We feel that life is really a valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1–4). Then we cry out to God for a fresh outpouring of His grace, not just drops of mercy but showers of blessing. And soon the answer comes—perhaps in the form of a Scripture passage, a sermon, a song, an encouraging remark, a new insight. Our souls revive and we are once again able to “raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
“There Will Be Showers of Blessing” was the product of one of the outstanding gospel duos of the past century, Major Daniel Whittle, the evangelist, and musician James McGranahan. Together these two traveled extensively for a number of years in a very successful evangelism ministry. They also collaborated on a number of popular gospel songs still widely used today. This hymn first appeared in Gospel Hymns No. 4, 1883.
“There shall be showers of blessing”—this is the promise of love; there shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.
“There shall be showers of blessing”—precious reviving again; over the hills and the valleys sound of abundance of rain.
“There shall be showers of blessing”—send them upon us, O Lord; grant to us now a refreshing; come and now honor Thy Word.
“There shall be showers of blessing”—O that today they might fall, now as to God we’re confessing, now as on Jesus we call!
Chorus: Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need; mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.
For Today: Genesis 12:3; Deuteronomy 7:13; Psalm 72:6; 1 Peter 1:3.
If perhaps you should feel “spiritually dry,” first reflect on the condition of the soil of your heart. Then claim God’s promise for “showers of blessing.” Sing as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Through the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
In the last place, consider that the great act of God here spoken of is said to be “through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” As to the exact meaning of these words there has been no little confusion in the minds of different writers on this Epistle; and while a full canvassing of this interesting question is really outside the scope of the present article, yet some of the more erudite of our readers would be displeased if we failed to make a few remarks thereon. So I shall ask others kindly to bear with me while I deal with a somewhat technical detail. A careful reading through of the Epistle to the Hebrews shows that mention is made therein of “the covenant” (Hebrews 10:29), “a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6), “a new covenant” (Hebrews 8:8), and here to “the everlasting covenant.” Not a few able men have concluded that reference is made to the same thing throughout, but with them I cannot agree. It is quite clear from Hebrews 8:6-13 that the new and better covenant made with the spiritual Israel and Judah (that is, the Church) stands in opposition to the first (Hebrews 8:7) or old (Hebrews 8:13) covenant made with the nation of Israel at Sinai (that is “Israel after the flesh”). In other words, the contrast is between Judaism and Christianity under two different covenants or economies, whereas “the everlasting covenant” is the antitheses of that covenant of works made with Adam as the federal head of the human race.
Though the covenant of works was first in manifestation, the everlasting covenant, or covenant of grace, was first in origination. In all things Christ must have the preeminence (Col. 1:18), and thus God entered into compact with Him before Adam was created. That compact has been variously designated as the “covenant of redemption” and the “covenant of grace.” In it God made full arrangements and provisions for the salvation of His elect. That everlasting covenant has been administered, under different economies, throughout human history, the blessings of the same being bestowed on favored individuals all through the ages. Under the Old Covenant, or Judaism, the requirements and provisions of the everlasting covenant were typified or foreshadowed particularly by means of the moral and ceremonial law; under the New Covenant, or Christianity, its requirements and provisions are set forth and proclaimed in and by the Gospel. In every generation repentance, faith, and obedience have been required of those who would (and do) partake of its inestimable blessings (Isa. 55:3). In his Outlines of Theology, the renowned theologian A. A. Hodge says this:
“The phrase ‘mediator of the covenant’ is applied to Christ three times in the New Testament (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), but as in each case the term for covenant is qualified by either the adjective ‘new’ or ‘better,’ it evidently here is used to designate not the covenant of grace properly, but that new dispensation of that eternal covenant which Christ introduced in person in contrast with the less perfect administration of it which was instrumentally introduced by Moses.”
Christ, the Mediator of an Everlasting Covenant
Thus we take those words “the blood of the everlasting covenant” at their face value, as referring to the eternal compact that God entered into with Christ. In the light of the preceding phrases of Hebrews 13:20, it is evident that “the blood of the everlasting covenant” has a threefold connection. First, it is connected to the Divine title here employed. God became historically “the God of peace” when Christ made propitiation and confirmed the eternal compact with His own blood (Col. 1:20). From before the foundation of the world God had purposed and planned that peace between Himself and sinful men (Luke 2:13, 14) that Christ was to make; everything connected with the same had been eternally agreed upon between Them. Secondly, it points to the fact of Christ’s death. As the righteous Judge of all, God the Father was moved by the shedding of Christ’s precious blood to restore Him from the grave and to exalt Him to a place of supreme honor and authority (Matthew 28:18; Phil. 2:5-11). Since the Surety had fully carried out His part of the contract, it behooved the Ruler of this world to deliver Him from prison as that which was righteously due to Him. Thirdly, this blessed phrase is connected to Christ’s office. It was by the shedding of His blood for them, according to covenant agreement, that our Lord Jesus became “that great shepherd of the sheep,” the One who would seek out God’s elect, bring them into the fold, and there minister to, provide for, and protect them (John 10:11, 15).
God’s bringing back our Lord Jesus from the dead was not done simply by contract, but also on account of His merits, and therefore it is attributed not barely to “the covenant” but to “the blood” of it. As God the Son, He merited or purchased it not, for honor and glory were His due; but as the God-man Mediator He earned His deliverance from the grave as a just reward for His obedience and sufferings. Moreover, it was not as a private person but as the Head of His people that He was delivered, and that ensured their deliverance also. If He was restored from the tomb “through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” equally so must they be. Scripture ascribes our deliverance from the grave not only to the death of Christ but to His resurrection as well. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him:” (1 Thess. 4:14; cf. Rom. 4:25). Thus assurance is given to the Church of its full and final redemption. God expressly made promise to the Shepherd of old: “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water [that is, the grave]” (Zech. 9:11, brackets mine). As it was “by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place” (Heb. 9:12), so also on the ground of the infinite value of that blood we also enter the heavenly throne room (Heb. 10:19). As He declared, “because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
The Well-Grounded Petition
We turn now to the petition itself. “Now the God of peace . . . Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” This verse is intimately related to the whole of the preceding one, and the blessed connection between them inculcates a lesson of great practical importance. It may be stated, simply, as follows: God’s wondrous working in the past should deepen our confidence in Him and make us to seek at His hands blessings and mercies for the present. Since He so graciously provided such a Shepherd for the sheep, since He has been pacified toward us and not a frown now remains upon His face, since He has so gloriously displayed both His power and His righteousness in bringing back Christ from the dead, a continuance of His favor may be safely counted upon. We should expectantly look to Him day by day for all needed supplies of grace. The One who raised our Savior is well able to quicken us and make us fruitful to every good work. Let us therefore eye “the God of peace” and plead “the blood of the everlasting covenant” in every approach to the mercy seat.
More specifically, God’s bringing back Christ from the dead is His infallible guarantee to us that He will fulfill all His promises to the elect, even all the blessings of the everlasting covenant. This is clear from Acts 13:32-34: “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again…and as concerning that He raised Him from the dead. . . He said [by that action], I will give you the sure mercies of David” (brackets mine). By restoring Christ from the dead, God fulfilled the grand promise made to the Old Testament saints (in which all His promises were virtually contained) and gave pledge for the performance and accomplishment of all future ones, thereby giving virtue to them. The “sure mercies of David” are the blessings that God swore to in the everlasting covenant (Isa. 55:3). The shedding of Christ’s blood ratified, sealed, and established forever every article in that covenant. By bringing Him back from the dead God has ensured to His people that He will infallibly bestow upon them all those benefits which Christ obtained for them by His sacrifice. All those blessings of regeneration, pardon, cleansing, reconciliation, adoption, sanctification, preservation, and glorification were given to Christ for His redeemed, and are safe in His hand.
By His mediatorial work Christ has opened a way whereby God can bestow, consistently with all the glory of His perfections, all the good things that flow from those Divine perfections. As Christ’s death was necessary that believers might receive those “sure mercies” according to the Divine counsels, so His resurrection was equally indispensable, so that living in heaven He might impart them to us as the fruits of His travail and the reward of His victory. God has fulfilled to Christ every article for which He engaged in the everlasting covenant: He has brought Him from the dead, exalted Him to His own right hand, invested Him with honor and glory, seated Him upon the mediatorial throne, and given Him that Name which is above every name. And what God has done for Christ, the Head, is the guarantee that He will perform all that He has promised to Christ’s members. It is a most glorious and blessed consideration that our all, both for time and eternity, depends wholly upon what passed between the Father and Jesus Christ: that God the Father remembers and is faithful to His engagements to the Son, and that we are in His hand (John 10:27-30). When faith truly apprehends that grand fact, all fear and uncertainty is at an end; all legality and talking about our unworthiness silenced. “Worthy is the Lamb” becomes our theme and song!
This Kind of Praying Produces Spiritual Stability
How tranquilizing and stabilizing it is to us when we consider that we have a personal interest in all the eternal acts that passed between God the Father and the Lord Christ on our behalf even before man was created, as well as in all those acts that were transacted between the Father and the Son in and throughout the whole of His mediatorial work that He wrought and finished here below. It is this covenant salvation, in its full blessedness and efficacy, apprehended by faith, that alone can lift us out of ourselves and above our spiritual enemies, that can enable us to triumph over our present corruptions, sins, and miseries. It is wholly a subject for faith to be engaged with, for feelings can never provide the basis for spiritual stability and peace. Such can only be obtained by a consistent feeding upon objective truth, the Divine counsels of wisdom and grace made known in the Scriptures. As faith is exercised thereon, as the record of the eternal engagements of the Father and Son are received into the spiritual mind, peace and joy will be our experience. And the more faith feeds upon objective truth, the more are we strengthened subjectively, that is, emotionally. Faith regards every past fulfillment of God’s promises as a certain evidence of His fulfilling all the rest of His promises to us, in His own good time and way. Especially will faith regard God’s fulfillment of His promise to bring back our Lord Jesus from the grave in this light. Has the Shepherd Himself been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father? Just as surely, then, will all His sheep be delivered from death in sin, quickened to newness of life, sanctified by the Spirit, received into Paradise when their warfare is ended, and raised bodily to immortality at the last day.
Tomorrow starts Chapter 3
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
DeYoung, Godfrey, Nichols,
Sproul, Sproul Jr.
Sinclair Ferguson, Steven J. Lawson,
Russell Moore, R.C. Sproul