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3/25/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Judges 19 - 21

Judges 19

A Levite and His Concubine

Judges 19:1     In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father's house. And when the girl's father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. 4 And his father-in-law, the girl's father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. 5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” 6 So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl's father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” 7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. 8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl's father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. 9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

Gibeah's Crime

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

Judges 20

Israel’s War with the Tribe of Benjamin

Judges 20:1     Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah. 2 And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword. 3 (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. 5 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. 6 So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. 7 Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”

8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, 10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin, for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you? 13 Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel. 14 Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel. 15 And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men. 16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war.

18 The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”

19 Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. 21 The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. 23 And the people of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until the evening. And they inquired of the LORD, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against them.”

24 So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. 26 Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27 And the people of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”

29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba. 34 And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them. 35 And the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.

The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah. 37 Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst. 43 Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.

Judges 21

Wives Provided for the Tribe of Benjamin

Judges 21:1     Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” 2 And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3 And they said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” 4 And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 5 And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” 6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. 7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”

8 And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. 9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. 11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. 14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. 15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17 And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” 19 So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’” 23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. 24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

No king, how many times has this been repeated in Judges!  Man in the first instant of the use of reason, finds natural principles within himself; directing and choosing them, he finds a distinction between good and evil; how could this be if there were not some rule in him to try and distinguish good and evil? If there was not such a law and rule in man, he could not sin; for where there is no law there is no transgression. If man were a law to himself, and his own will his law, there could be no such thing as evil; whatsoever he willed, would be good and agreeable to the law, and no action could be accounted sinful; the worst act would be as commendable as the best. Everything at man’s appointment would be good or evil. If there were no such law, how should men that are naturally inclined to evil disapprove of that which is unlovely, and approve of that good which they practise not?  The Existence and Attributes of God
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The Death of a Fetal Human is Different Than the Death of a Dying Human

By J. Warner Wallace 2/5/2013

     While hosting the Stand to Reason Radio Show on Sunday, a caller asked me how to defend an objection related to abortion. A friend asked him how he could be comfortable ending the life of a person on life support, yet uncomfortable ending a life in the womb. He was asked to imagine the scenario of a dying man who (as the result of suffering a stroke or being involved in a car accident) had no recordable brain activity. Isn’t this person just like the fetal human in the earliest weeks of development? Neither has any observable brain activity; should either been seen as a living human? If we have the right to “un-plug” one (the dying human), why don’t we have the right to unplug the other (the fetal human)?

     Of course the biggest problem with this description of “living humans” is that it equates mental capacity with personhood. Can a person still be a person even if they lack a certain degree of measurable brain activity? How much activity is required before one attains personhood? Am I less a “person” if I don’t have the mental capacity of someone who is smarter? What if I am in an induced coma? What if my diminished metal condition is temporary? See the problem? But there is an even bigger problem with the scenario offered by the caller. We simply cannot equate the of lack brain activity in the unborn with the lack of brain activity in the aging or injured. We must distinguish between these two groups:

     “Not Yet” Adult Humans | Fetal humans may lack brainwave activity, but if left to their own devices (if we do nothing to intervene) they will eventually become fully functioning human beings. They are “not yet” adult humans, but if you simply leave them alone, they will become adults like you and me. Ever notice the bananas on sale at your local market? Most of them are green. Many are so green that you wouldn’t even imagine eating them for a week. But we buy them anyway. Why? Because they are “not yet” ripe bananas. If we buy them, put them on the shelf, simply leave them alone and do nothing to intervene, they will become the ripe bananas we all know and love. We don’t throw away green bananas; we wait patiently for them to ripen. We understand their value even though they are green.

     “Never Again” Adult Humans | But we don’t feel the same way about over-ripe, black bananas. We recognize that bananas (like all living things) have a life cycle. There is a time when a banana’s life is over. Sadly, there are times when we must also admit the same is true for humans. At the end of one’s life, when we are sure that someone will “never again” be a living adult human being, it may be appropriate to allow life to run it’s course. Aging or injured humans are not like fetal humans. When someone is aging or injured we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to prolong life?” When considering the fate of the fetal human, we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to end life?” See the important difference?

     As Christians, we are consistent in our approach in these two scenarios when we say we ought not intervene. We don’t want to intervene to end the life of a fetal human, because our intervention alters the course of someone who is developing into a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as fetal humans). And we don’t want to intervene to extend the life of someone who is already brain dead, because our intervention alters the course of someone who will never again be a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as aging humans). Fetal humans ought to be allowed to live, even as dying humans ought to be allowed to die.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

Christian Loses His Burden

By R.C. Sproul 1/2006

     As a seminary student, I remember my favorite professor often setting forth arguments for particular theological positions. On many occasions, as these debates proceeded, the professor stopped in mid-sentence, paused, looked at his students and said, “I sense that you do not feel the weight of this argument.” His regular reference to the “weight” of arguments was an interesting metaphor for me. Arguments that we do not take seriously are those that we take lightly. The whole idea of weight or weightiness is one that is found throughout the Bible. In the first instance, the glory of God is described in terms of His inherent and eternal weightiness. Those who take God lightly are those who have no regard for His glory.

     One of the most important areas in which the whole idea of weight comes to bear in the New Testament has to do with the Law. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapter 3, verse 9, after he has set forth the unrighteousness of both Jew and Gentile, he makes the comment, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin” (NKJV). Again in verse 19 of the same chapter, the apostle writes, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (NKJV).

     In our day, the weightiness of the Gospel itself has been eclipsed. I doubt if there’s a period in the history of the church in which professing evangelicals have been as ignorant of the elements of the biblical Gospel as they are today.

     There is a stark contrast between the second best-seller in the history of the English language, second only to the Bible, namely, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and the runaway best-seller of the last two years, The Purpose Driven Life. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we see set forth in masterful literary style the depths and the riches of the biblical Gospel. When we compare it to The Purpose Driven Life, we see a book in which it is difficult to find a full explanation of the biblical Gospel. Justification, the relief from the burden of sin that weighs down the soul, is all but absent in the setting forth of a new and different gospel of achieving or discovering purpose in one’s life. One of the leaders of the recent emerging church movement boasts that he has not mentioned the word “sin” in the last ten years of his preaching. He wants to make sure that his people will not feel crushed by guilt or by a loss of their self-esteem. When the acute awareness of guilt is removed from the conscience, there is no sense of the burden of sin. There is no sense of being under the crushing weight of the law of God that bears down upon our souls relentlessly.

     However, if we turn our attention to the insights of Bunyan set forth in the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, we see a story that focuses on the groaning pressure of a man who is weighed down to the depths of his soul with a burden of which he is unable to rid himself. It is like the apostle Paul’s description in Romans 7 of the body of death that crushes the spirit. In the very first paragraph on the first page of Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations., Bunyan pens these lines:

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’”
     When preachers announce from their pulpits that God loves people unconditionally, there is hardly any reason for the hearer to feel any burden or cry out with any lament, saying, “What shall I do?” If indeed God loves us unconditionally and requires nothing of us, then obviously there is no need for us to do anything. But if God has judged us according to the righteousness of His perfect Law and has called the whole world before His tribunal to announce that we are all guilty, that none of us is righteous, that none of us seeks after God, that there is no fear of God before our eyes, that we are in the meantime, before the appointed day of judgment, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, then anybody in his right mind (and even those in their wrong mind) would have enough sense to cry out the same lamentation, “What shall I do?” The story of Christian is the story of a man who is burdened by the weight of sin. His conscience was smitten by the Law, but where the Law is eliminated in the church, no one needs to fear divine judgment. Without the Law there is no knowledge of sin, and without a knowledge of sin, there is no sense of burden. The pilgrim knew the Law, he knew his sin, and he realized he had a burden on his back that he could not, with all of his effort and his greatest strivings, ever remove. His redemption must come from outside of himself. He needed a righteousness not his own. He needed to exchange that weighty sack of sin on his back for an alien righteousness acceptable in the sight of God. For the pilgrim there was only one place to find that righteousness, at the foot of the cross. The crucial moment in Christian’s life is when he comes to the cross. We read the description: “He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and little below in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble, and so continued to do so until it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.”

     Shortly thereafter, Christian sang his song of deliverance: “Thus far did I come laden with my sin, nor could aught ease the grief that I was in, till I came hither. What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss? Must here the burden fall from off my back? Must here the strings that bound it to me, crack? Blessed cross! Blessed sepulchre! Blessed rather be the Man that there was put to shame for me.”

     This is the description of how salvation comes. It comes as a result of the atoning work of Christ and the exchange of our sin from our backs to His, as well as the cloak of His righteousness being transferred from His account to ours. Anything that eliminates this double exchange, this double imputation of sin and righteousness, falls short of the biblical Gospel. It’s time once more for the Christian community to follow the The Pilgrim's Progress.

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

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The God of Space and Time

By R.C. Sproul 2/2006

     We are all by nature Pelagians. Like the heretical monk Pelagius, we like to think in our hearts, even should our lips profess otherwise, that we are basically good. Defeating this temptation is one of the great blessings that comes from embracing that biblical system of thought known as Reformed theology. Now we understand not only that we are in ourselves only evil, but that God is sovereign over all things.

     However, this shift in our thinking, in itself another gift from God, doesn’t send the devil scurrying for cover. Embracing Reformed theology doesn’t make one immune to sin. Indeed, when we embrace sound, biblical thinking with respect to God’s sovereignty, we find ourselves walking a peculiar tightrope. On the one hand, it is rather a short, but dangerous step from, “God ordained whatsoever comes to pass” to “I know why God did this.” I once read a sermon from a Puritan that was a classic example of this error. It seems that the parson came into the meeting house one day and found there in the corner the tattered remains of the Book of Common Prayer, the very symbol of the Romish tendencies the Puritans wanted to purify out of the church. It seems a mouse had gotten to the book, and he chewed it to pieces. The pastor, rightly, expounded at great length on how God’s sovereignty descends down to such details. God, from all eternity, determined that that mouse would find that book on that day, and that the mouse would tear it to shreds. So far so good. Then the pastor went on to explain that God brought this to pass to show us how evil the Book of Common Prayer is. Had I been there that Sunday I would have loved to ask the pastor: “Isn’t it possible, pastor, that God had this happen so we might learn that even the mice are sensible enough to feed upon the wisdom in the Book of Common Prayer?” We need, when trying to interpret history, to remember the wisdom of Calvin who said, “When the Almighty has determined to close his holy lips, I will desist from inquiry.”

     There is, however, an equal and opposite temptation. We rightly affirm that God not only controls all things, but that He planned whatsoever comes to pass from before the beginning of time. God’s celestial plan, down to the color of my socks, was down in stone before God even said, “Let there be light.” Again, so far so good. The error is when we take one small step from affirming that it’s all decided to affirming, at least in our hearts, if not in our lips, that God doesn’t act in history. Too many Reformed people are practical deists. We rightly believe that God is the ultimate cause of all things, and then wrongly believe that He is the proximate cause of no things. God did indeed write the grand screenplay that is history. But He likewise wrote a rather large role therein for Himself.

     The history books of the Bible, thankfully, practice exactly the right balance here. God is not passively watching, while man determines the future, as the Pelagians would have us believe. Neither is He providing easy-to-read captions beneath each of His actions so that we might know what it means. And neither still is He passively watching because He did the hard work of setting up the dominoes long ago. God is actively bringing to pass that which He planned from the beginning. Sometimes He tells us how, and sometimes He doesn’t.

     As I write, the gulf coast region of the country is reeling from what insurance adjusters wisely call “an act of God.” Hurricane Katrina has hit our shores in fury. When the destruction is that dramatic, it is easy to see the hand of God. And when what He hit is a collection of gambling casinos and strip clubs, it’s hard not to play the Puritan pastor. That strip of playground that runs from Biloxi to New Orleans wouldn’t be confused by anyone with the Bible belt. The same God who sent fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah is the God who sent Katrina. What He hasn’t sent, however, is an authoritative message telling us why He has done so. Katrina wasn’t just another domino. Neither was she a random collision of ions and precipitates. She was sent by God. He is acting in our history. His motive most certainly could have been to smite the immoral. Or His motive might instead have been to give His people an opportunity to give water in His name. His motives could have been both, or a thousand other mysterious ways. We just don’t know.

     What we know is this. God has three great goals as He acts in history. There are three certainties that have been planned from the beginning. First, He will gather a bride for His Son. There are precious few acts of God in space and time more precious than when He gives life to the living dead, when His Spirit quickens those chosen before all time. Second, He will destroy all His enemies. Psalm 110 tells us that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father until all His enemies are made a footstool. We serve a God of vengeance and destruction, to the praise of His name. He destroyed the Canaanites, and He still destroys His enemies. And third (of this we can be sure), He is about the business of purifying His bride. He acts in history so that history can reach its end, the marriage feast of the Lamb, when we will appear, without blot or blemish, and we, because we will see Him as He is, will be like Him.

Sit at My Right Hand

1  The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2  The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3  Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4  The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5  The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6  He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7  He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

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

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Real Prayer of Jabez

By Steven J. Lawson 2/2006

     Riding a tidal wave of surging popularity, few Christian books have burst onto the publishing scene and been as widely received as The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Breakthrough Series). In only its sixth year of circulation, this brief, ninety-three-page book has sold a staggering ten million copies, pushing its way to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. In its wake, a virtual Prayer of Jabez sub-culture has emerged, complete with journals, backpacks, jewelry, vanilla-scented candles, and myriads of assorted marketing paraphernalia. Unfortunately, many well-meaning evangelicals have been swept up in this trendy phenomenon.

     Prefacing this work, author Bruce Wilkinson writes, “I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief — only one sentence with four parts…but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.… In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” But is the prayer of Jabez really the single greatest key to a spiritual life that is pleasing to God? Is Wilkinson’s teaching true to the full counsel of God? Hardly.

     Those with doctrinal moorings and spiritual discernment know that this simplistic approach to the Christian life is an inadequate means by which to view God, true spirituality, and prayer. True, certain features of the book can be cited positively, such as its much-needed emphasis upon prayer. But The Prayer of Jabez, quite frankly, suffers from a deficient theology. The book is seriously plagued by the following things:

     First, an inadequate view of prayer, trivializing its truly profound nature; second, a misguided focus upon prosperity, overtly emphasizing miracles and financial blessings; third, a defective doctrine of providence that fails to see God sovereignly and actively involved in all of life. Polemics aside, however, it will do us well to revisit the prayer of Jabez — not the book, but the biblical text — and discover what this prayer actually teaches.

     Tucked away in a long genealogical record (1 Chron. 4), Jabez emerges from relative obscurity as one who “was more honorable than his brothers” (v. 9). A spiritually strong man, he was highly esteemed in his day, more virtuous and upstanding than others. His extraordinary piety is well documented in that a city was named after him, a place where “the families of scribes” gathered (1 Chron. 2:55). Moreover, his name, Jabez, means, “He will cause pain,” a perpetual reminder of the agony he caused during delivery. Yet, despite such a difficult entrance into this world, there was a divinely scripted plan for his life, sovereignly orchestrated for God’s glory and his good.

     With complete dependence upon God in prayer, Jabez “called upon…God (Elohim)” (1 Chron. 4:10a), the divine name meaning the Supreme One, Mighty Ruler, and Sovereign Lord (Gen. 1:1). By appealing to this name, he acknowledged that God providentially reigns over all the works of His hands (Ps. 103:19). Moreover, He is the God “of Israel,” closely related to His chosen ones (Amos 3:2). To Jabez, God is both infinite and intimate, both accessible and able to answer his prayers.

     In petitioning God, Jabez prayed, “Oh that you would bless me” (v. 10b). That is, he asked God to extend His undeserved favor toward him. Specifically, Jabez asked, “Enlarge my border” (v. 10c), thereby requesting that God would expand his territory by defeating his enemies, the Canaanites, expelling them from the adjacent territory. In the days of Moses and Joshua, God had promised that He would give the Promised Land to Israel. Accordingly, Jabez prayed for this increase in land.

     Is it right to ask God for material things? Of course it is. Jesus Himself taught His disciples to pray for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3). God desires us to petition Him for all good things needed to fulfill His will, even for physical provisions (James 4:2). But, ultimately, God is sovereign and will answer prayer as He wills, not as man wills. To be sure, the motive of every prayer must be for the glory of God, not the greed of man. As lowly servants before our exalted King, we should make certain that our prayers are always humble requests, never haughty demands.

     Furthermore, Jabez prayed “that your hand might be with me” (v. 10d), a petition that the invisible hand of Providence would empower him in this heroic endeavor. The truth is, God’s work must always be done in God’s power, or it will surely fail (Zech. 4:6). Moreover, Jabez requested “that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain” (v. 10e). In this, he asked for God’s supernatural protection to be upon him throughout this conflict. To be sure, all God’s servants are exposed to constant danger and desperately need divine protection from Satan’s relentless assaults.

     With unwavering faith, Jabez placed this entire matter in the hands of God — and there are no more reliable, or more capable, and no more powerful hands than those of our sovereign God. What was the result of such a humble prayer? Simply this, that God “granted what he asked” (v. 10f). Not because Jabez used the right formula in prayer. Nor because he somehow manipulated God. For God is not a genie to be conjured out of a bottle and used for one’s own personal ends. Rather, God sovereignly chose to be glorified through Jabez in answering his petition. The prayer of Jabez is not a mindless mantra that God always answers, chanted for self-advancement. Instead, it teaches us to seek God faithfully. When He alone is magnified, we will be truly blessed indeed.

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     Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.

     Steven Lawson  |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 34

Taste and See That the LORD Is Good
34 Of David, When He Changed His Behavior Before Abimelech, So That He Drove Him Out, And He Went Away.

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

ESV Study Bible

Judges 19

By Don Carson 1/1/2018

     By the time we reach Judges 19, the law of the jungle has triumphed in the fledging nation of Israel.

     The Levite introduced to us at this point takes on a concubine. (Levites were supposed to marry only virgins; see Lev. 21:7, 13-15.) She sleeps around and moves out, returning to her father’s home. In due course the Levite wants her back, so he travels to Bethlehem and finds her. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Preferring not to stop in one of the Canaanite towns, they press on to Gibeah, a Benjamite settlement. A local homeowner warns the Levite and his concubine not to stay in the town square overnight — it is far too dangerous. And he takes them in.

     During the night, a mob of lusty hooligans want the homeowner to send out the Levite so they can sodomize him. That is stunning. In the first place, by the social standards of the ancient Near East, it was unthinkable not to show hospitality — and they want to gang rape a visitor. And as the account progresses, it is very clear that they will happily rape males or females — they don’t really care.

     But perhaps the ugliest moment in the narrative occurs when the homeowner, remembering the rules of hospitality and doubtless frightened for himself as well, offers them his daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The account is crisp and brief, but it does not take much imagination to conjure up their terror — two women not defended by their men but abandoned and betrayed by them and offered to a howling mob insists that even that isn’t enough, so the Levite shoves his concubine out the door, alone. So began her last night on earth in a small town belonging to the people of God.

     The morning dawns to find the Levite ordering this woman to get up; it’s time to go. Only then does he discover she is dead. He hauls her corpse back home, cuts her up into twelve pieces, and sends one piece to each part of Israel, saying, in effect: When does the violence stop? At what point do we put our collective foot down and reverse these horrible trends?

     “In those days Israel had no king” (Judg. 19:1).

     Yet what about his own profound complicity and cowardice? The sheer horror of the dismembered body parts was bound to stir up a reaction, but by this time it could not be the righteous reaction of biblically thoughtful and restrained people. Only the naive could imagine that the outcome would be anything other than a descent into a maelstrom of evil and violence.

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

     Don Carson Books |  Go to Books Page

Judges 20

By Don Carson 8/6/2018

     One might have expected that only the guilty would be hunted down and executed (Judg. 20). But the Levite is stirring up the nation (without, of course, disclosing his own disgraceful behavior). So far as our records go, Gibeah does not offer to hand over the offenders. If they had, that would have been the end of the matter. Nor do the tribal leaders of Benjamin offer to intervene and ensure that justice is done. Instead, they close ranks and offer to take on all comers, doubtless expecting that the rest of the nation will be unwilling to pay too high a price to capture a few rapists at a time when the entire nation has slid into violence.

     For their part, the rest of the tribes foam at the mouth but act stupidly. Instead of embarking on a massed assault, initially they decide to send the troops of only one tribe at a time. When we are told that the Israelites inquired of God which tribe should go first, probably this means that they went through the Urim and Thummim procedure with a priest of the sanctuary. The Israelites lose twenty-two thousand men the first day (Judg. 20:21), and eighteen thousand the next (Judg. 20:25).

     Finally the Lord does truly promise that he will give Gibeah and the Benjamites into the hands of the rest of the Israelites (Judg. 20:28). The third day, the Israelites set up an ambush, and at last they are victorious. Vast numbers of Benjamites die.

     That is the sort of thing that happens when the rule of law dissolves, when people start acting out of tribal loyalty and not principle, when vengeance overtakes justice, when superstitious vendettas displace courts, when brothers no longer share a common heritage of worship and values, when government is by fear and not by the consent, it can ignite a Bosnia, it can start a world war. It is the stuff of dictators and warlords, the lubricant of gangs and violence.

     The sad reality is that every culture is capable of this. The ancient Israelites sink into this quagmire not because they are worse than all others, but because they are typical of all others. A society that no longer hangs together, whether on the ground of religion, shared worldview, or at least agreed and respected procedurals, is heading for violence and anarchy, which, sooner or later, becomes the best possible breeding ground for the ordered response of tyrants — power authorized by sword and gun.

     That is how secular historians see it. We see all this, too, and discern behind the blood and evil the just hand of God, who intones, “So far will you go, and no further.”

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

     Don Carson Books |  Go to Books Page

Judges 21

By Don Carson 8/7/2018

     The last wretched step in the violence precipitated by the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine now plays out (Judg. 21). In a fury of vengeance, the Israelites have swept through the tribal territory of Benjamin, annihilating men, women, children, and cattle (Judg. 20:48). The only Benjamites left are 600 armed men who have holed up in a stronghold at Rimmon (Judg. 20:47). But now the rest of the nation is entertaining second thoughts. As part of their sanctions against Benjamin, they had vowed not to give any of their daughters to a Benjamine. If they keep their vow, Benjamites will die off: only male Benjamites are left.

     Their solution is as nauseating, cruel, and barbaric as anything they have done. They discover that one large town in Israel, Jabesh Gilead, never responded to the initial call to arm. Partly as punishment, partly as a way of finding Israelite women, the Israelite forces destroy Jabesh Gilead, killing all the men and all the women who are not virgins (Judg. 21:10-14). This tactic provides 400 wives for the 600 surviving Benjamites. The ruse for finding a further 200 is scarcely less evil.

     The remaining 200 Benjamites are given sanction to kidnap suitable women at a festival time in Shiloh, their fathers and brothers being warned off (Judg. 20:20-23). So the tribe of Benjamin, greatly reduced in numbers, survives. One can scarcely imagine the multiplied levels of bitterness, grief, fear, resentment, loneliness, retaliation, furious rage, and billowing bereavement that attended these “solutions.”

     By now it is clear that the Israelites face two kinds of problems in the book of Judges. The presenting problem, as often as not, is enslavement or repression from one or other of the Canaanite tribes that share much of the land or that live not far away. When the people cry to him, God repeatedly raises up a hero to rescue them. But the other problem is far deeper. It is the rebellion itself, the chronic and persistent abandonment of the God who rescued them from Egypt and who entered into a solemn covenant with them. This issues not only in more cycles of oppression from without, but in spiraling decadence and disorientation within.

     For the fifth and final time, the writer of Judges offers his analysis. “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit” (Judg. 21:25). How this nation needs a king — to order it, stabilize it, defend it, maintain justice, lead it, pull it together. But will he be a king who solves the problems, or whose dynasty becomes part of the problem? Thus a new chapter in Israel’s history opens. A new, royal institution soon becomes no less problematic — until he comes who is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

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

     Don Carson Books |  Go to Books Page

By Gleason Archer Jr.

The Covenant and the Decalogue

     In  Ex. 19:3–8 the covenant with Abraham and his seed ( Gen. 12, 15, 17 ) was renewed with his descendants, now that they had become a great nation. At the foot of the holy mountain, Israel permanently committed itself to be of the Lord’s people, and a holy (set-apart-for-Him) people, whose national goal — unlike the self-seeking of all other nations — was to be sincere and to give complete obedience to His will, walking in fellowship with Him, and making Him the object of their highest loyalty and love. “All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do” (v.  8 ). Anything less than this would have amounted to a purposeful withholding of complete obedience. It certainly was not intended (as some have supposed) to be a choice in favor of self-justification by performance of the deeds of the law. Grace reigned supreme in this Sinaitic covenant just as truly as it did in the Abrahamic. The whole body of the law which was revealed to Moses and his people from this point on was a testament of grace, although mediated through a different economy from that of the Gospel (in which the Antitype superseded all the Old Testament types which had pointed toward Him). Hence the apostles apply exactly the same affirmation of royal priesthood to New Testament Christians as to Old Testament Israel ( 1 Peter 2:9 is an adaptation of  Ex. 19:5–6 ). It was only the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the law — as a system of merit-earning and self-justification — which is rejected in  Romans 3 and  Galatians 3 (and related passages).

     As for the Decalogue ( Ex. 20:1–17 ), the whole basis of its sanctions is stated to be God’s act of redemption by grace (“I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of … bondage”). The most solemn warnings against disobedience (the product of unbelief and rejection of God) are coupled with the most lavish promises of grace (“and showing lovingkindness unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments,” ASV). While the distinctive element of love (for no heathen ever professed to love his god with his whole heart) is made more explicit in  Deuteronomy than in the other books of the Torah, it is nevertheless an underlying presupposition in them all: the love of God for the believer and the believer’s love for God. Yet the emphasis is constantly laid upon a holy life as the necessary and inevitable product of a true and living faith, even though a holy life has per se no saving virtue.

     In regard to the wording of the first commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”), it has often been alleged by the Wellhausen school that this dictum insists only on an exclusive worship of Jehovah (monolatry) rather than an outright affirmation of monotheism. There is, according to this interpretation, no denial of the existence of other gods; it is simply that Israel is to be exclusively loyal to its own national god. But this construction of the words is quite unwarranted; there would hardly be any other way of expressing the thought that Israel is to worship the one true God alone, and not to serve any other deities of their own devising (though, of course, such deities could exist only in their imagination). It is a sufficient refutation of this monolatrous interpretation to point to the analogy of  Ps. 96:4–5: “For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods” — surely an affirmation of monolatry according to Wellhausian interpretation; but the author goes on to affirm pure monotheism: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, (elɩ̂lɩ̂m—“things of nought”); but Jehovah made the heavens” (ASV). This passage alone (and others could be cited) demonstrates conclusively that the mention of “gods” in the plural implied no admission of the actual existence of heathen gods in the first commandment.

     There are certain variations between the form of the Ten Commandments in  Ex. 20 and that given in  Deut. 5. In  Deut. 5:15 an additional motivation is given for hallowing the Sabbath (kindness to one’s bondslaves, even as the Lord had compassion on captive Israel), and the wife is mentioned before the house rather than after it, in the tenth commandment. Since  Deut. 5 occurs in the midst of a hortatory discourse addressed by Moses to the people, whereas  Ex. 20 purports to be a record of the direct address of God to Israel, it is fair to conclude that the latter represents the accurate and original wording. In  Deut. 5 the preacher inserts an explanatory interpolation (likewise under divine inspiration) which enforces the sanction of the fourth commandment more urgently upon the conscience of the people. Note that the variation of order between “wife” and “house” destroys the basis for the artificial distinction drawn by the Roman church between not coveting the neighbor’s property (ninth commandment) and the neighbor’s wife (tenth commandment). The fact that the order is immaterial — whether “house - wife” or “wife - house” — shows that all of  Ex. 20:17 was intended as a single commandment. (The consequence, of course, is that the Romanist attempt to combine the first commandment with the second must fail, since that would result in only nine commandments.)

The Spiritual Significance of the Tabernacle

     A considerable portion of  Exodus (chaps.  25–28, 30, 35–40 ) is devoted to the design of the tabernacle and of the various articles of furniture which it was to contain. Each of these articles possessed a typical meaning which had a bearing upon the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Proceeding from the outermost parts to the inner sanctum, we find the following significant features: (1) The outer hangings of the court (ḥāṣēr) enclosed a perimeter measuring fifty by one hundred cubits. This court was designed to separate Israel as a holy possession of God and keep it distinct from the Gentiles. This same principle was rigorously observed in the later temples, both that of Solomon and that of Herod (in which was found a Greek inscription threatening the death penalty to any Gentile who should venture beyond the barrier into the inner court). (2) The tabernacle itself was a large tent (ʾōhel) measuring ten by thirty cubits (the cubit being a little over a foot and a half) and curtained off into two sections, the holy place and the holy of holies. (3) In the court outside of the tabernacle and situated in front of its curtain door (māsāḵ) or “outer veil” were placed the “great” altar or altar of burnt offering (mizbaḥ ōlâh) covered with bronze, on which all the offerings were presented, both the blood sacrifices (zebāḥɩ̂m) and the grain offering (minḥâ), which is rendered “meat-offering” in the KJV but consisted of everything except meat (in the modern sense of flesh). (4) Between the brazen altar and the entrance curtain stood the laver (kiyyôr), a large wash basin made of bronze, in which priests had to wash their hands and their feet before entering the holy place. This probably typified the cleansing power of Christ’s blood as represented and sealed to believers by baptism.

     The tabernacle consisted of two compartments. (5) The holy place (qōdesh), measuring twenty by ten cubits, contained three sacred objects. (6) On the north or right side, was the table of “shewbread” (shûlḥām weleḥem pānɩ̂m—table and bread of the Presence) on which were laid out twelve fresh loaves of fine flour every Sabbath. It undoubtedly typified Christ as the bread of life, and symbolized Israel also (the twelve tribes) as the people of God presented before him as a living sacrifice. (7) On the south or left side, stood the lampstand or “candlestick” (menôrah) with its seven oil lamps, typifying Christ as the light of the world, who by His Holy Spirit performs the perfect work of God (symbolized by the number seven), enabling His people to shine forth a light of testimony to the world (cf.  Zech. 4 ). (8) On the west was located the small golden altar, the altar of incense (mizbaḥ miqṭār), used only for the offering of incense in front of the inner curtain (pārōḵet) which separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies. This golden altar probably typified the effectual prayer of Christ the Intercessor, and symbolized also the prayers of the saints (cf.  Rev. 8:3 ). (9) The inner curtain (pārōḵet) typified the veil of Christ’s flesh (cf.  Heb. 10:20 ) which had to be rent (as it was at the hour Christ died,  Matt. 27:51 ) if the barrier was to be removed which separated God from His people.

     (10) Within the holy of holies (qōdesh qoḏāšɩ̂m), measuring ten by ten cubits, there was only (11) the ark of the covenant (˓arōn habberɩ̄t), consisting of a chest 2.5 by 1.5 cubits, covered by a lid of solid gold wrought into the shape of two cherubim facing each other with outstretched wings and looking downward at the surface of the lid. (12) This lid was called the “propitiatory” (kappōret, from kippēr, to propitiate or to atone), rendered by the KJV as “mercy seat,” and upon it the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement, thus typifying Christ’s atonement ( Heb. 9:12 ) in the very presence of God. The ark thus represented the presence of God in the midst of His people; it was His footstool as He sat “enthralled between the cherubim” ( Ex. 25:22; Ps. 80:1 ). Placed in front of the ark were the golden pot of manna and the rod of Aaron which had blossomed ( Ex. 16:33; Num. 17:10 ). Apparently they were at a later time placed inside it ( Heb. 9:4 ). But certainly the ark contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, symbolizing the gracious covenant and the law. These were the only objects left within the ark by the time of Samuel ( 1 Sam. 6:19 ), or at least by the time of Solomon ( 1 Kings 8:9 ).

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Coming Prince

By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918

Chapter 5 The Angel's Message

     "Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. [1] Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment [2] to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and his end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant [3] with many for one week: and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolator." ( from Daniel 9:24-27 )

[1] "The expression does not in a single case apply to any person." — TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 98. "These words are applied to the Nazarene, although this expression is never applied to a person throughout the Bible, but invariably denotes part of the temple, the holy of holies" — DR. HERMAN ADLER, Sermons (Trubner, 1869).

[2] "From the issuing of the decree." — TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 96.

[3] Not the covenant (as in A. V.: see margin). This word is rendered covenant when Divine things are in question, and league when, as here, an ordinary treaty is intended (C. f. ex. gr., Joshua 9:6, 7, 11, 15, 16).
     SUCH was the message entrusted to the angel in response to the prophet's prayer for mercies upon Judah and Jerusalem.

     To whom shall appeal be made for an interpretation of the utterance? Not to the Jew, surely, for though himself the subject of the prophecy, and of all men the most deeply interested in its meaning, he is bound, in rejecting Christianity, to falsify not only history, but his own Scriptures. Nor yet to the theologian who has prophetic theories to vindicate, and who on discovering, perhaps, some era of seven times seventy in Israel's history, concludes that he has solved the problem, ignoring the fact that the strange history of that wonderful people is marked through all its course by chronological cycles of seventy and multiples of seventy.  But any man of unprejudiced mind who will read the words with no commentary save that afforded by Scripture itself and the history of the time, will readily admit that on certain leading points their meaning is unequivocal and clear.

  • 1. It was thus revealed that the full meed of blessing promised to the Jews should be deferred till the close of a period of time, described as "seventy sevens," after which Daniel's city and people [4] are to be established in blessing of the fullest kind.

  • [4] If the words of verses 24 and 25 do not themselves carry conviction that Judah and Jerusalem are the subjects of the prophecy, the reader has but to compare them with the preceding verses, especially 2, 7, 12, 16, 18, and 19.
  • 2. Another period composed of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks is specified with equal certainty.
  • 3. This second era dates from the issuing of an edict to rebuild Jerusalem, — not the temple, but the city; for, to remove all doubt, "the street and wall" [5] are emphatically mentioned; and a definite event, described as the cutting off of Messiah, marks the close of it.

  • [5] Literally the "trench" or "scarped rampart." — TRECELLES, DanieI, p. 90.
  • 4. The beginning of the week required (in addition to the sixty-nine) to complete the seventy, is to be signalized by the making of a covenant or treaty by a personage described as "the Prince that shall come," or "the coming Prince," which covenant he will violate in the middle of the week by the suppression of the Jews' religion. [6]

  • [6] The personage referred to in verse 27 is not the Messiah, but the second prince named in verse 26. The theory which has gained currency, that the Lord made a seven years' compact with the Jews at the beginning of His ministry, would deserve a prominent place in a cyclopaedia of the vagaries of religious thought. We know of the old covenant, which has been abrogated, and of the new covenant, which is everlasting; but the extraordinary idea of a seven years' covenant between God and men has not a shadow of foundation in the letter of Scripture, and is utterly opposed to its spirit.
  • 5. And therefore the complete era of seventy weeks, and the lesser period of sixty-nine weeks, date from the same epoch. [7] The first question, therefore, which arises is whether history records any event which unmistakably marks the beginning of the era.

[7] "The whole period of seventy weeks is divided into three successive periods, — seven, sixty-two, one, and the last week is subdivided into two halves. It is self-evident that since these parts, seven, sixty-two, one, are equal to the whole, viz., seventy, it was intended that they should be." — PUSEY, Daniel, p. 170.
     Certain writers, both Christian and Jewish, have assumed that the seventy weeks began in the first year of Darius, the date of the prophecy itself; and thus falling into hopeless error at the very threshold of the inquiry, all their conclusions are necessarily erroneous. The words of the angel are unequivocal: "From the issuing of the decree to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks." That Jerusalem was in fact rebuilt as a fortified city, is absolutely certain and undoubted; and the only question in the matter is whether history records the edict for its restoration.

     When we turn to the book of Ezra, three several decrees of Persian kings claim notice. The opening verses speak of that strange edict by which Cyrus authorized the building of the temple. But here "the house of the Lord God of Israel" is specified with such an exclusive definiteness that it can in no way satisfy the words of Daniel. Indeed the date of that decree affords conclusive proof that it was not the beginning of the seventy weeks. Seventy years was the appointed duration of the servitude to Babylon. (Jeremiah 27:6-17; 28:10; 29:10) But another judgment of seventy years'"desolations" was decreed in Zedekiah's reign, [8] because of continued disobedience and rebellion. As an interval of seventeen years elapsed between the date of the servitude and the epoch of the "desolations," so by seventeen years the second period overlapped the first. The servitude ended with the decree of Cyrus. The desolations continued till the second year of Darius Hystaspes. [9] And it was the era of the desolations, and not of the servitude which Daniel had in view. [10]

[8] It was foretold in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i. e., the year after the servitude began (Jeremiah 25:1, 11).

[9] Scripture thus distinguishes three different eras, all in part concurrent, which have come to be spoken of as "the captivity." First, the servitude; second, Jehoiachin's captivity; and third, the desolations. "The servitude" began in the third year of Jehoiakim, i. e., B. C. 606, or before 1st Nisan (April) B. C. 605, and was brought to a close by the decree of Cyrus seventy years later. "The captivity" began in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Scriptural era of his reign, i. e., in B. C. 598; and the desolations began in his seventeenth year, B. C. 589, and ended in the second year of Darius Hystaspes — again a period of seventy years. See App. 1. upon the chronological questions here involved.

[10] Daniel 9:2 is explicit on this point: "I, Daniel, understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem."
     The decree of Cyrus was the Divine fulfillment of the promise made to the captivity in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, and in accordance with that promise the fullest liberty was granted to the exiles to return to Palestine. But till the era of the desolations had run its course, not one stone was to be set upon another on Mount Moriah. And this explains the seemingly inexplicable fact that the firman to build the temple, granted to eager agents by Cyrus in the zenith of his power, remained in abeyance till his death; for a few refractory Samaritans were allowed to thwart the execution of this the most solemn edict ever issued by an Eastern despot, an edict in respect of which a Divine sanction seemed to confirm the unalterable will of a Medo-Persian king. [11]

[11] "The law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (Daniel 6:12). Canon Rawlinson assumes that the temple was fifteen or sixteen years in building, before the work was stopped by the decree of the Artaxerxes mentioned in Ezra 4. (Five Great Mon., vol. 4, p. 398.) But this is entirely opposed to Scripture. The foundation of the temple was laid in the second year of Cyrus (Ezra 3:8-11), but no progress was made till the second year of Darius, when the foundation was again laid, for not a stone of the house had yet been placed (Haggai 2, 10, 15, 18). The building, once begun, was completed within five years (Ezra 6:15). It must be borne in mind that the altar was set up, and sacrifice was renewed immediately after the return of the exiles (Ezra 3:3, 6).
     When the years of the desolations were expired, a Divine command was promulgated for the building of the sanctuary, and in obedience to that command, without waiting for permission from the capital, the Jews returned to the work in which they had so long been hindered. (Ezra 5:1, 2, 5) The wave of political excitement which had carried Darius to the throne of Persia, was swelled by religious fervor against the Magian idolatry. [12] The moment therefore was auspicious for the Israelites, whose worship of Jehovah commanded the sympathy of the Zoroastrian faith; and when the tidings reached the palace of their seemingly seditious action at Jerusalem, Darius made search among the Babylonian archives of Cyrus, and finding the decree of his predecessor, he issued on his own behalf a firman to give effect to it. (Ezra 6)

The Coming Prince

  and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

March 25

Job 33:12  “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man.
13  Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’?

     Though God’s ways with His people are often perplexing and baffling to human reason, we may be assured that He will justify Himself at last. If we never understand the reasons for many of His dealings with us here on earth, all will be clear when we stand eventually in His presence in the full blaze of resurrection glory. Till then faith can afford to wait, knowing that infinite wisdom cannot err, and that all the sufferings of this present life will be repaid abundantly with eternal bliss. This was Job’s confidence even when his distress was so deep that he seemed to be overwhelmed in a sea of trouble and false accusation.

I know not why His hand is laid
In chastening on my life,
Nor why it is my little world
Is filled so full of strife.
I know not why, when faith looks up
And seeks for rest from pain,
That o’er my sky fresh clouds arise
And drench my path with rain.
I know not why my prayer so long
By Him has been denied;
Nor why, while others’ ships sail on,
Mine should in port abide.
But I do know that God is love,
That He my burden shares,
And though I may not understand,
I know, for me, He cares.
--- Grace Troy

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

By James Orr 1907


Hebrew prophecy will be acknowledged by most to be a perfectly unique phenomenon in the history of religions. Whatever the etymology of the name (Nabi), the prophet himself stands clearly out as one who is conscious of receiving a message directly from Jehovah, which he is commissioned to impart to men. In its beginnings prophecy goes as far back as revelation, but the founder of the prophetic order in the stricter sense is Samuel. We may pass over the development of prophecy in the intervening period — over even the great figures of Elijah and Elisha, who are, however, acting rather than teaching prophets, — and come at once to the full bloom of prophecy in the age of the writing prophets. Here, plainly, the nature of prophecy can be studied to best advantage.

It is not denied that genuine prophecy presupposed in the person exercising the prophetic function a special natural endowment, or that it was psychologically conditioned. Its natural basis was a species of genius, which we are still not slow to recognise in those who possess it, enabling them to see deep into the heart of things, where others only behold the surface, and to speak the word necessary for guidance, where others grope and stumble (cf.  Ps. 74:9 ). While, however, this gift of “geniality,” of insight, of divining intuition, belongs to the prophetic endowment, it is far from constituting the whole of it. The genuine prophet is conscious of being laid hold of by the Spirit of God as other men are not; of receiving a message from Jehovah which he knows is not the product of his own thoughts, but recognises as God’s word coming to him; which is imparted to him with perfect clearness and overpowering certainty; and which brings with it the call and constraint to deliver it to those for whom it is meant. The claim of the prophets to speak the word of God was sustained by the godliness of their character, by the self-attesting power of their message, as a word instinct with spirit and life, and fitted to the time and need for which it was spoken, by its coherence with previous revelation, and, finally, by the sure fulfilment of their word, so far as it was predictive. This brings us to the special topic we are to consider — the predictive element in prophecy.


It was certainly an error of the older apologetic to place the essence of prophecy, as was often done, in prediction. The prophet was in the first instance a man speaking to his own time. His message was called forth by, and had its adaptation to, some real and urgent need of his own age: it was the word of God to that people, time, and occasion. It needs, therefore, in order to be properly understood, to be put in its historical setting, and interpreted through that. It must be put to the account of modern criticism that it has done much to foster this better way of regarding prophecy, and has in consequence greatly vivified the study of the prophetic writings, and promoted a better understanding of their meaning.

On the other hand, the modern view, in its desire to assimilate prophecy as much as possible to the utterances of natural human genius, does palpable violence to scriptural teaching in denying, or making light of, this element of prediction. Not, indeed, that, up to a certain point, prediction is altogether denied. The prophets, it is allowed, had a peculiar — some would perhaps concede supernatural — insight into the character of God and the laws of His moral government, and, in the strength of their assurance of the divine righteousness, did not hesitate to draw what seemed to them the necessary deductions, announcing chastisement and ruin as the result of national transgression, and proclaiming the certainty of the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom. And, beyond question, they did this. But it is just as certain, if we are to do justice to the full nature of Biblical prophecy, that we must recognise a great deal more. The prophets do more than simply give forecasts of the general course of God’s providence which, as deductions of their own mind, might easily be, and it is contended very frequently were, mistaken. How much more they did give can only be seen by looking at the prophecies themselves.

It was, in truth, in a sense inevitable that prediction should enter into such prophecy as we have in Scripture. The prophet spoke, indeed, to his own time, but his message had of necessity an aspect of warning and promise for the future. It contained a declaration of what God would do in the event of disobedience or obedience. Its cogency depended on such announcements as it gave being reliable. Prophecy was occupied, moreover, not simply with the immediate temporal consequences of the nation’s conduct. Its supreme interest was in the kingdom of God, and its eye was ever directed to the ultimate triumph of that kingdom. Whatever promises it gave, or hopes it held out, had all reference to that ultimate consummation. It could not, therefore, in the nature of the case, ignore the future. It had statements to make regarding it, growing out of the peculiar exigencies of the time, which would have had little worth had they been simply forecasts of the prophet’s own mind. Their whole value depended on their having on them the seal of true divine revelation. This is the simple and complete answer to those who meet the contention that Biblical prophecy contains prediction by saying that such a view puts prophecy on a level with “soothsaying.” This is in no wise the case. Prediction is never introduced as a mere wonder, or on its own account, but always in connection with, and with a direct bearing upon, the kingdom of God. Soothsaying, on the contrary, has no moral root, and subserves no wider moral purpose; but is the result of a mere curious prying into the future, and involves the use of superstitious, and generally irrational means, to attain that end. Its chief value is the testimony it bears to the inextinguishable craving of men’s hearts for some kind of revelation of God and the future.

     The Problem of the Old Testament

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     4. There is no surer or quicker way of accomplishing this than by despising the present life and aspiring to celestial immortality. For hence two rules arise: First, "it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;" "and they that use this world, as not abusing it," (1 Cor. 7:29, 31). Secondly, we must learn to be no less placid and patient in enduring penury, than moderate in enjoying abundance. He who makes it his rule to use this world as if he used it not, not only cuts off all gluttony in regard to meat and drink, and all effeminacy, ambition, pride, excessive shows and austerity, in regard to his table, his house, and his clothes, but removes every care and affection which might withdraw or hinder him from aspiring to the heavenly life, and cultivating the interest of his soul. [401] It was well said by Cato: Luxury causes great care, and produces great carelessness as to virtue; and it is an old proverb,--Those who are much occupied with the care of the body, usually give little care to the soul. Therefore while the liberty of the Christian in external matters is not to be tied down to a strict rule, it is, however, subject to this law--he must indulge as little as possible; on the other hand, it must be his constant aims not only to curb luxury, but to cut off all show of superfluous abundance, and carefully beware of converting a help into an hinderance.

5. Another rule is, that those in narrow and slender circumstances should learn to bear their wants patiently, that they may not become immoderately desirous of things, the moderate use of which implies no small progress in the school of Christ. For in addition to the many other vices which accompany a longing for earthly good, he who is impatient under poverty almost always betrays the contrary disease in abundance. By this I mean, that he who is ashamed of a sordid garment will be vain-glorious of a splendid one; he who not contented with a slender, feels annoyed at the want of a more luxurious supper, will intemperately abuse his luxury if he obtains it; he who has a difficulty, and is dissatisfied in submitting to a private and humble condition, will be unable to refrain from pride if he attain to honour. Let it be the aim of all who have any unfeigned desire for piety to learn, after the example of the Apostle, "both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need," (Phil. 4:12). Scripture, moreover, has a third rule for modifying the use of earthly blessings. We have already adverted to it when considering the offices of charity. For it declares that they have all been given us by the kindness of God, and appointed for our use under the condition of being regarded as trusts, of which we must one day give account. We must, therefore, administer them as if we constantly heard the words sounding in our ears, "Give an account of your stewardship." At the same time, let us remember by whom the account is to be taken--viz. by him who, while he so highly commends abstinence, sobriety, frugality, and moderation, abominates luxury, pride, ostentation, and vanity; who approves of no administration but that which is combined with charity, who with his own lips has already condemned all those pleasures which withdraw the heart from chastity and purity, or darken the intellect.

6. The last thing to be observed is, that the Lord enjoins every one of us, in all the actions of life, to have respect to our own calling. He knows the boiling restlessness of the human mind, the fickleness with which it is borne hither and thither, its eagerness to hold opposites at one time in its grasp, its ambition. Therefore, lest all things should be thrown into confusion by our folly and rashness, he has assigned distinct duties to each in the different modes of life. And that no one may presume to overstep his proper limits, he has distinguished the different modes of life by the name of callings. Every man's mode of life, therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord, that he may not be always driven about at random. So necessary is this distinction, that all our actions are thereby estimated in his sight, and often in a very different way from that in which human reason or philosophy would estimate them. There is no more illustrious deed even among philosophers than to free one's country from tyranny, and yet the private individual who stabs the tyrant is openly condemned by the voice of the heavenly Judge. But I am unwilling to dwell on particular examples; it is enough to know that in every thing the call of the Lord is the foundation and beginning of right action. He who does not act with reference to it will never, in the discharge of duty, keep the right path. He will sometimes be able, perhaps, to give the semblance of something laudable, but whatever it may be in the sight of man, it will be rejected before the throne of God; and besides, there will be no harmony in the different parts of his life. Hence, he only who directs his life to this end will have it properly framed; because free from the impulse of rashness, he will not attempt more than his calling justifies, knowing that it is unlawful to overleap the prescribed bounds. He who is obscure will not decline to cultivate a private life, that he may not desert the post at which God has placed him. Again, in all our cares, toils, annoyances, and other burdens, it will be no small alleviation to know that all these are under the superintendence of God. The magistrate will more willingly perform his office, and the father of a family confine himself to his proper sphere. Every one in his particular mode of life will, without repining, suffer its inconveniences, cares, uneasiness, and anxiety, persuaded that God has laid on the burden. This, too, will afford admirable consolation, that in following your proper calling, no work will be so mean and sordid as not to have a splendour and value in the eye of God.


[400] See Chrysost. ad Heb. 11. As to Cratetes the Theban, see Plutarch, Lib. de Vitand. ære alien. and Philostratus in Vita Apollonii.

[401] French, "Parer notre ame de ses vrais ornemens;"--deck our soul with its true ornaments.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Jesus Predicts
    the Future
  • The Miraculous Birth
    of Jesus
  • Christ's Kingdom
    and Church

#1 Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing


#2 Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing


#3 Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

The Corona Virus
     03-25-2020    Rick Adams

     Our mornings are nearly always the same. I am up an hour or so before Lily. It is dark outside, but I have my lamp, my coffee and the stillness. It is a peaceful time, not that when Lily gets up things are hectic. I greet her with "God's mercies are new every day and God is our portion." Then we exchange "I love you" with a hug and she settles down with her coffee and her Bible.

     Before she starts reading, she usually tells me if she had a dream or what came to her mind in that first wake up time when she is praying and pondering. This morning she told me she has lived in 30 houses and eight states. She was thinking about her life. Aren't a lot of us doing that in these uncertain times?

     All times are uncertain. We just think things are normal, but right now the world knows normal is gone. From now on we will live with the knowledge things can change drastically, very quickly, and not just in some distant land, but right here too. We've always known that, in a kind of distant way, sort of the way America knew we live in a dangerous world, until the Trade Towers came down and so many innocents were swept into eternity ... along with our naivety.

     Lily remembers the house her family moved to when she was three. We have a picture of her and her brothers. Her parents moved over night and when she got up in the morning, she thought she was in heaven because of all the flowers. I think it remarkable she thought she was in heaven at age three.

     When she said thirty houses, I thought of the Rechabites. They were a nomadic people that God used as an example to Israel in Jeremiah 35. The father of the clan, Jehonadab, (Judges 1:16) ordered his family not to buy land, plant seed or drink wine. He ordered them to always be nomadic. To quickly sum up the story, they followed their father's strict instructions for generations, but God's people, Israel, would not follow God's instructions. So God used them as an example to Israel. Their reward? God said they will always have a man to stand before God.

     I have been praying God will give us a home of our own since 2005 when we had to sell our home. At seventy-one I have to wonder if as it says in Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28, and Isaiah 44:3, I'm just an old man dreaming dreams. I do believe we are experiencing the birth pains of the last days.

     Whether these are the last days or not, Lily and I just want to be faithful. Maybe we are like the nomadic lifestyle of the Rechabites. 1 Chronicles 29:15 says we are strangers, sojourners and our days on the earth are like a shadow. As long as God is our portion, it is enough.

03-18-2021     Things were bad last year, but now, evil prevails. All the News outlets have become agenda driven commentaries. People are deceived and people deceive. We're supposed to wear masks, supposedly to protect us from a pandemic that kills less people than the flu. In truth, it is to further the dehumanizing process. We are being set up for socialism. Most people know our last election was a farce. Democracy is dead without a whimper. Now we wait for the inevitable. Darkness is coming. Maranatha.

03-25-2021     It is interesting to come across this each year. I wish I had kept a journal. When I was in seminary everyone was encouraged to keep a journal. Looking back I see how really important that is. Our morning routines have not changed. Lily used to read through the Bible three or four times in a year, now she reads through the Bible twice a year, if that. She reads longer, but slower. The Bible gets better and better as we begin to understand more and more. As our understanding grows our appreciation for God's love and mercy grows.


     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of thirteen, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox Evangelical Seminary 1/2009 to 7/2018.

coram Deo
     10/2006    Our Covenant God

     From time to time we receive a letter from a reader who would like us to use words that are more familiar. And although we generally try to define theological and biblical terms that may be unfamiliar to our readers, we do expect readers of Tabletalk to pick up their dictionaries occasionally. In an age when the average adult reads at a seventh-grade level, we want to raise the bar a little and challenge people to study words and their meanings, especially when it comes to the words of sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, there are certain words that are not found in Webster’s dictionary. And even if the Lord God Almighty were to have a dictionary, there would be certain words we wouldn’t find in it. For instance, we would not find the word oops in God’s dictionary, nor would we find the words probably or maybe.

     When it comes to the language of God’s covenants with His people, He never uses such words. Rather, on every historic occasion when the Lord forms a covenant, He uses two simple words, “I will.” They are words of promise, words of hope, and words of eternal significance. Having nothing, or no one, greater by which He can swear an oath, God swears by His own being (Gen.15). His promises alone are faithful and true, just as He alone is faithful and true. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In His covenants with His people, He makes it clear that He shall be our God and we shall be His people.

     There is a common saying I have heard among Christians: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” It sounds nice, but when it comes to God’s Word and His covenants, there is only one correct way of conveying the vital truths of God’s words to man: “God said it, that settles it.” It has nothing to do with whether or not we believe it. We are indeed agents and objects of God’s covenants, but we do not dictate to God the stipulations of His covenants with us. Just as Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith, so our Lord is the Author and Finisher of His covenants with us.

     Covenant theology is not some system of doctrine ordained by God to meet our every want and desire. Rather, it is the biblical system of redemption ordained by God to grant us what we need most, God Himself. In covenant theology we understand how God has set us free in Christ to live coram Deo, before His face. Thus the primary question for all Christians is not whether they believe in the covenant theology of Scripture, but whether they believe in the God of the covenants.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, March 25, 1835, Andrew Jackson wrote in a letter: “I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent Constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us (and you know Charity is the real basis of all true religion)… judge the tree by its fruit. All who profess Christianity believe in a Saviour, and that by and through Him we must be saved.” Andrew Jackson concluded: “We ought, therefore, to consider all good Christians whose walks correspond with their professions, be they Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
--- H.L. Mencken
H.L. Mencken on Religion

Prayer is thinking deeply about something in the presence of God.
--- Wayne Cordeiro
Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion

I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.
--- Wendell Berry
The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

Acquaint yourself with your own ignorance.
--- Isaac Watts
The Improvement of the Mind (Classic Reprint)

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/25
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Twentieth of ninth month. -- The committee appointed by the Yearly Meeting to visit the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings gave an account in writing of their proceedings in that service. They signified that in the course of the visit they had been apprehensive that some persons holding offices in government inconsistent with our principles, and others who kept slaves, remaining active members in our meetings for discipline, had been one means of weakness prevailing in some places. After this report was read, an exercise revived in my mind which had attended me for several years, and inward cries to the Lord were raised in me that the fear of man might not prevent me from doing what be required of me, and, standing up, I spoke in substance as follows: "I have felt a tenderness in my mind towards persons in two circumstances mentioned in that report; namely, towards such active members as keep slaves and such as hold offices in civil government; and I have desired that Friends, in all their conduct, may be kindly affectioned one towards another. Many Friends who keep slaves are under some exercise on that account; and at times think about trying them with freedom, but find many things in their way. The way of living and the annual expenses of some of them are such that it seems impracticable for them to set their slaves free without changing their own way of life. It has been my lot to be often abroad; and I have observed in some places, at Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, and at some houses where travelling Friends and their horses are often entertained, that the yearly expense of individuals therein is very considerable. And Friends in some places crowding much on persons in these circumstances for entertainment hath rested as a burden on my mind for some years past. I now express it in the fear of the Lord, greatly desiring that Friends here present may duly consider it."

     In the fall of this year, having hired a man to work, I perceived in conversation with him that he had been a soldier in the late war on this continent; and he informed me in the evening, in a narrative of his captivity among the Indians, that he saw two of his fellow-captives tortured to death in a very cruel manner. This relation affected me with sadness, under which I went to bed; and the next morning, soon after I awoke, a fresh and living sense of Divine love overspread my mind, in which I had a renewed prospect of the nature of that wisdom from above which leads to a right use of all gifts, both spiritual and temporal, and gives content therein. Under a feeling thereof, I wrote as follows:-

     "Hath He who gave me a being attended with many wants unknown to brute creatures given me a capacity superior to theirs, and shown me that a moderate application to business is suitable to my present condition; and that this, attended with his blessing, may supply all my outward wants while they remain within the bounds he hath fixed, and while no imaginary wants proceeding from an evil spirit have any place in me? Attend then, O my soul! to this pure wisdom as thy sure conductor through the manifold dangers of this world.

     In the fall of this year, having hired a man to work, I perceived in conversation with him that he had been a soldier in the late war on this continent; and he informed me in the evening, in a narrative of his captivity among the Indians, that he saw two of his fellow-captives tortured to death in a very cruel manner. This relation affected me with sadness, under which I went to bed; and the next morning, soon after I awoke, a fresh and living sense of Divine love overspread my mind, in which I had a renewed prospect of the nature of that wisdom from above which leads to a right use of all gifts, both spiritual and temporal, and gives content therein. Under a feeling thereof, I wrote as follows:-

     "Hath He who gave me a being attended with many wants unknown to brute creatures given me a capacity superior to theirs, and shown me that a moderate application to business is suitable to my present condition; and that this, attended with his blessing, may supply all my outward wants while they remain within the bounds he hath fixed, and while no imaginary wants proceeding from an evil spirit have any place in me? Attend then, O my soul! to this pure wisdom as thy sure conductor through the manifold dangers of this world.

     "Doth pride lead to vanity? Doth vanity form imaginary wants? Do these wants prompt men to exert their power in requiring more from others than they would be willing to perform themselves, were the same required of them? Do these proceedings beget hard thoughts? Do hard thoughts, when ripe, become malice? Does malice, when ripe, become revengeful, and in the end inflict terrible pains on our fellow-creatures and spread desolations in the world?

     "Do mankind, walking in uprightness, delight in each other's happiness? And do those who are capable of this attainment, by giving way to an evil spirit, employ their skill and strength to afflict and destroy one another? Remember then, O my soul! the quietude of those in whom Christ governs, and in all thy proceedings feel after it.

     "Doth he condescend to bless thee with his presence? To move and influence thee to action? To dwell and to walk in thee? Remember then thy station as being sacred to God. Accept of the strength freely offered to thee, and take heed that no weakness in conforming to unwise, expensive, and hard-hearted customs, gendering to discord and strife, be given way to. Doth he claim my body as his temple, and graciously require that I may be sacred to him? O that I may prize this favor, and that my whole life may be conformable to this character! Remember, O my soul! that the Prince of Peace is thy Lord; that he communicates his unmixed wisdom to his family, that they, living in perfect simplicity, may give no just cause of offence to any creature, but that they may walk as He walked!"

John Woolman's Journal

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

     "THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE"      I want to look at the fact of a life filled with the Holy Spirit more from the practical side, and to show how this life will show itself in our daily walk and conduct.

     Under the Old Testament you know the Holy Spirit often came upon men as a divine Spirit of revelation to reveal the mysteries of God, or for power to do the work of God. But He did not then dwell in them. Now, many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work, but know very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit, animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character. It is a gift of a holy mind and spiritual disposition, and what we need above everything else, is to say:

     "I must have the Holy Spirit sanctifying my whole inner life if I am really to live for God's glory."

     You might say that when Christ promised the Spirit to the disciples, He did so that they might have power to be witnesses. True, but then they received the Holy Spirit in such heavenly power and reality that He took possession of their whole being at once and so fitted them as holy men for doing the work with power as they had to do it. Christ spoke of power to the disciples, but it was the Spirit filling their whole being that worked the power.

     I wish now to dwell upon the passage found in Gal. 5:22:

     "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

     We read that "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and my desire is to speak on love as a fruit of the Spirit with a twofold object. One is that this word may be a searchlight in our hearts, and give us a test by which to try all our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and all our experience of the holy life. Let us try ourselves by this word. Has this been our daily habit, to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Has it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit the more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit we should make this the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit of love.

     Oh, if this were true in the Church of Christ how different her state would be! May God help us to get hold of this simple, heavenly truth that the fruit of the Spirit is a love which appears in the life, and that just as the Holy Spirit gets real possession of the life, the heart will be filled with real, divine, universal love.

     One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time of their great religious wars, when Holland stood out so nobly against Spain, one of their mottoes was: "Unity gives strength." It is only when God's people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see--it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God. Remember that if a vessel that ought to be one whole is cracked into many pieces, it cannot be filled. You can take a potsherd, one part of a vessel, and dip out a little water into that, but if you want the vessel full, the vessel must be whole. That is literally true of Christ's Church, and if there is one thing we must pray for still, it is this: Lord, melt us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit; let the Holy Spirit, who at Pentecost made them all of one heart and one soul, do His blessed work among us. Praise God, we can love each other in a divine love, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Give yourselves up to love, and the Holy Spirit will come; receive the Spirit, and He will teach you to love more.

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

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:11-12
     by D.H. Stern

11     Wealth gotten by worthless means dwindles away,
but he who amasses it by hard work will increase it.

12     Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Consumer Religion
     by Dr. David Wells

     It is not difficult to see, for example, that in popular evangelical journals as well as in much sermonic fare, the older ideas that happiness is properly a by-product of moral behavior rather than the object of pursuit itself and that the self is found only when it is lost are no longer much in favor. The connections between morality and happiness have become quite tenuous, it would seem, because personality is generally assumed to have little to do with human nature. Certainly in America, but sometimes it would seem also in American evangelicalism, it is not good character that we value as much as good feelings. To the extent to which this is true of evangelicalism, it is a remarkable development. Is not the self movement evidence of our collective unhappiness and insecurity? It is only the hungry, after all, who are always thinking of food; those who are not deprived occupy themselves with other thoughts. It is only the unhappy who are constantly preoccupied with happiness, only those crippled by a sense of their own insubstantial self who expend their lives in its pursuit. Why, then, are many turning to these symbols of our cultural failure and fear for the materials with which to redefine evangelical faith?

     The answer, it would seem, is that this adaptation of evangelical faith has been highly successful, and its costs are apparently not selfevident. As it happens, the reshaping of the American character has coincided exactly with the reshaping of evangelical faith that has been going on for more than a century, speeded up by the revivals that coursed through the land from one end of the nineteenth century to the other and that shifted the theological axis from a predominantly Calvinistic orientation to a typically Arminian orientation. If Americans now envy the inner experience of others, evangelicals have their own inner experience to offer — indeed, to market — so what may be justified on religious grounds is rewarded not for its religious faithfulness but for its cultural appeal.

     The attraction of evangelical faith, then, has been very intimately tied up with this reshaping of the American character. Evangelicals have always insisted that Christ is a person who can and should be known personally; he is not simply an item on a creed to which assent should be given. But from this point they have drawn conclusions that become increasingly injurious. They have proceeded to seek assurance of faith not in terms of the objective truthfulness of the biblical teaching but in terms of the efficacy of its subjective experience. Testimonies have become indispensable items in the evangelistic fare. Testifying to having experienced Christ personally is peculiarly seductive in the modern context, because it opens up to view an inner experience that responds to the hunger of the "other-directed" individual but often sacrifices its objective truth value in doing so. The question it poses to the outsider is not whether Christ is objectively real but simply whether the experience is appealing, whether it seems to have worked, whether having it will bring one inside the group and give one connections to others.

     In any genuine knowledge of God, there is an experience of his grace and power, informed by the written Scriptures, mediated by the Holy Spirit, and based upon the work of Christ on the Cross. What is not so clear from the New Testament is that this experience should itself become the source of our knowledge of God or that it should be used to commend that knowledge to others. To be sure, there was plenty of witnessing that went on in the early Church, but it is anything but clear that this should be understood as the use of personal autobiography to persuade others that they should commit themselves to Christ. New Testament witness was witness to the objective truth of Christian faith, truth that had been experienced; our witness today is witness to our own faith, and in affirming its validity we may become less interested in its truthfulness that in the fact that it seems to work. Evangelical hymnody today is changing direction to reflect this experience-centered focus.

     This adaptation has enabled evangelicalism to orient itself to our consumer culture and the habits of mind that go with it. The televangelists, whether deliberately or simply intuitively, have exploited this to their considerable advantage. Their type of ministry, in which serious thought has been supplanted by slickly packaged experience, is easy on the mind. Sustaining orthodoxy and framing Christian belief in doctrinal terms requires habits of reflection and judgment that are simply out of place in our culture and increasingly are disappearing from evangelicalism as well. Bryan Wilson charges that these virtues have been replaced in these ministries by assumptions that are far more at home in the modern world. Today we "demand instant access to authentic reality," he says, and these ministries do indeed offer instant and painless access, the authenticity of which is "guaranteed by subjective feeling, reinforced by group-engendered emotions"; the televangelists capitalize on the widespread perception that "reality is to be felt rather than cognitively realized." Feeling is rapid, but learning is slow. Credit cards allow us to have without having to wait; the message of the televangelists has been that we can likewise have divine results without having to wait — indeed, without even having to think.

     There can be no question that this type of consumer religion opens itself up to accommodating the bizarre. In every other aspect of the commercial world the bizarre proves salable because it either fascinates or amuses us. Ours is a generation that craves amusement. Phoenix First Assembly might serve as an illustration of how one church among many has incorporated this aspect into its appeal. Situated on seventy-two sunny acres in Phoenix, Arizona, the church has the look of a country club. It currently boasts an attendance of around ten thousand each Sunday, up from only two hundred in 1979. It is a megachurch, an expanding church. A reporter who visited it described the minister's plans to build a replica of Jerusalem nearby, "with camels and everything," as well as an amphitheater with "prayer gardens and caves." It is a church of drama. The preacher punctuates his sermons with eye-catching and heart-stopping antics such as his personal flight to heaven on invisible wires, and his use of a chain saw to topple a tree in order to give punch to a point, and his incorporation of "a rented elephant, kangaroo and zebra" in a Christmas service. Other churches have gone to similar lengths, featuring skydivers dropping in during a sermon, bodybuilders breaking boards at the pulpit, and prayer groups outfitting themselves in combat fatigues.

     Aside from the commercial appeal, however, the growth in this type of evangelical faith in America is in part also to be explained by the powerful undercurrents of self-absorption that course through the modern psyche. Many charismatics have made the experience of God rather than the truth of God foundational. The self therefore becomes pivotal. This, in turn, links with the deep subterranean sense of progress that is inescapable in America, as the proponents of this movement tout it as the most recent cresting of the Spirit. Here is the cutting edge of progress in what God is now doing. This by itself is a validation of all that takes place within this movement and within its churches. In America, it has always been hard to quarrel with success; it is even more futile when there are those who are convinced that the success has been divinely produced. Yet, if one understands modernity, it is not difficult to imagine that much of what is vaunted as the Spirit's work may have causes that are rather more natural. Nor is it difficult to understand that where a religion is busy accommodating itself to culture there will be a period of success before the disillusionment sets in. In the end, those who promote the sort of Christianity that accommodates the culture always have to answer the question as to what they are offering in Christ that cannot be had from purely secular sources.

     In another age, Robert Schuller's ministry, for example, might well have been viewed not as Christian ministry at all, but as comedy. Would it not be possible to view him as providing a biting parody of American self-absorption? Sin, he says with a cherubic smile, is not what shatters our relationship to God; the true culprit is the jaundiced eye that we have turned on ourselves. The problem is that we do not esteem ourselves enough. In the Crystal Cathedral, therefore, let the word sin be banished, whether in song, Scripture, or prayer. There is never any confession there. Then again, Christ was not drawing a profound moral compass in the Sermon on the Mount; he was just giving us a set of "be (happy) attitudes." The word was, don't worry, be happy. And God is not so mean as to judge; he is actually very amiable and benign. Comedy this devastating would be too risky for most to attempt. But Schuller is no comic. He earnestly wants us to believe all of this, and many do. When he makes these pronouncements, he attracts a large and devoted Christian following. What is the appeal?

     The answer, it would seem, is that Schuller is adroitly, if unconsciously, riding the stream of modernity. By Yankelovich's estimate, 80 percent of the nation is now engaged in the search for new rules premised on the search for and discovery of the self. Schuller is offering in easily digestible bites the therapeutic model of life through which the healing of the bruised self is found. He is by no means alone in this; he is simply the most shameless.

     In 1983, James Hunter published the results of his analysis of the eight most prolific evangelical presses. He found that 87.8 percent of the titles published dealt with subjects related to the self, its discovery and nurture and the resolution of its problems and tensions. The remaining 12.2 percent of the titles published had to carry the rest of the cargo. To be sure, these figures can yield only tentative conclusions. We might draw firmer conclusions if we knew how many copies of each title were sold. And of course it would better yet if we could somehow determine how many of the purchased books were actually read. And it would be best of all if we could know why the books were purchased and what effects they had on the readers. Nevertheless, Hunter's finding is quite in line with Yankelovich's estimate, and it does support the conclusion that a turn has occurred within evangelicalism characterized by "an incessant preoccupation with the hitherto 'undiscovered' complexities of one's individual subjectivity." Moreover, this would seem to be not merely a passing fad but, rather, evidence of a deep transformation. In a study of the coming evangelical generation published in 1987, Hunter found "an accentuation of subjectivity and the virtual veneration of the self, exhibited in deliberate efforts to achieve self-understanding, selfimprovement, and self-fulfillment." A survey of evangelical college students revealed that 62 percent believed that realizing one's potential as a human being is as important as looking out for the interests of others, and 87 percent said that they were working hard at self-improvement.

     Indeed, The Serendipity Bible for Groups (the second largest selling Bible version in 1989) owns this as the foundation of the whole enterprise. Speaking of the theological assumptions beneath the entire series of studies, Lyman Coleman begins with the affirmation that "you are created in the image of God and endowed with unlimited potential" and indicates that the main point of studying the Bible is to elicit this potential. He tells us that only five to ten percent of our human potential is actually used; the rest lies buried beneath "a pile of fears, failures, painful childhood memories, broken dreams, mistakes and guilt feelings." It is in the encounter group in which the Bible is used as an instrument to explore inner feelings that this potential can be found and the stream of negativity stopped. Discovering our own "unlimited potential" is what Christianity is all about.

     Descartes argued "I think, therefore I am," and people after Freud translated that into the modern vernacular by saying, "I feel, therefore I am a self"; modern evangelicals of the relational type seem to have added their own quirk to it by saying that "I feel religiously, therefore I am a self." The search for the religious self then becomes a search for religious good feelings. But the problem with making good feelings the end for which one is searching is, as Henry Fairlie argues, that it is possible to feel good about oneself, even religiously, "in states of total vacuity, euphoria, intoxication, and self-indulgence, and it is even possible when we are doing wrong and know what we are doing."

     This kind of self-fascination is by no means an excrescence of an otherwise robust sector of religious life. It is at the very center of evangelicalism. For further evidence that this is so, we can turn again to Leadership magazine, a journal dedicated to providing resources for evangelical pastors. As we noted earlier, an analysis of its contents during the 1980s shows that this highly successful journal appeared to believe that the most fruitful sources from which to draw for Christian ministry were popularized versions of psychology and business management; indeed, these are the only sources from which it has drawn. Of all the essays that appeared between 1980 and 1988, less than 1 percent made even a remote reference to Scripture or any theological idea, despite the fact that a number of the topics dealt with are themselves treated in the Bible. As the journal turns away from the Bible to what it apparently assumes are more fruitful sources of knowledge, it is redefining Christian ministry and the pastor who accepts its point of view. In the study, the evangelical pastor is now the C.E.O.; in the pulpit, the pastor is a psychologist whose task it is to engineer good relations and warm feelings.

No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘But who are “They”? This might be run by someone different?’

     ‘Entirely new management, eh? Don’t you believe it! It’s never a new management. You’ll always find the same old Ring. I know all about dear, kind Mummie coming up to your bedroom and getting all she wants to know out of you: but you always found she and Father were the same firm really. Didn’t we find that both sides in all the wars were run by the same Armament Firms? or the same Firm, which is behind the Jews and the Vatican and the Dictators and the Democracies and all the rest of it. All this stuff up here is run by the same people as the Town. They’re just laughing at us.’

     ‘I thought they were at war?’

     ‘Of course you did. That’s the official version. But who’s ever seen any signs of it? Oh, I know that’s how they talk. But if there’s a real war why don’t they do anything? Don’t you see that if the official version were true these chaps up here would attack and sweep the Town out of existence? They’ve got the strength. If they wanted to rescue us they could do it. But obviously the last thing they want is to end their so-called “war”. The whole game depends on keeping it going.’

     This account of the matter struck me as uncomfortably plausible. I said nothing.

     ‘Anyway,’ said the Ghost, ‘who wants to be rescued? What the hell would there be to do here?’

     ‘Or there?’ said I.

     ‘Quite,’ said the Ghost. ‘They’ve got you either way.’

     ‘What would you like to do if you had your choice?’ I asked.

     ‘There you go!’ said the Ghost with a certain triumph. ‘Asking me to make a plan. It’s up to the Management to find something that doesn’t bore us, isn’t it? It’s their job. Why should we do it for them? That’s just where all the parsons and moralists have got the thing upside down. They keep on asking us to alter ourselves. But if the people who run the show are so clever and so powerful, why don’t they find something to suit their public? All this poppycock about growing harder so that the grass doesn’t hurt our feet, now! There’s an example. What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like bad eggs in time?’

     ‘Well, I’ll be getting along,’ said the Ghost after a short silence. ‘You coming my way?’

     ‘There doesn’t seem to be much point in going anywhere on your showing,’ I replied. A great depression had come over me. ‘And at least it’s not raining here.’

     ‘Not at the moment,’ said the Hard-Bitten Ghost. ‘But I never saw one of those bright mornings that didn’t turn to rain later on. And, by gum, when it does rain here! Ah, you hadn’t thought of that? It hadn’t occurred to you that with the sort of water they have here every raindrop will make a hole in you, like a machine-gun bullet. That’s their little joke, you see. First of all tantalise you with ground you can’t walk on and water you can’t drink and then drill you full of holes. But they won’t catch me that way.’

     A few minutes later he moved off.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The most delicate mission on earth

The friend of the Bridegroom. --- John 3:29.

     Goodness and purity ought never to attract attention to themselves, they ought simply to be magnets to draw to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing towards Him, it is not holiness of the right order, but an influence that will awaken inordinate affection and lead souls away into side-eddies. A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him; he will leave the impression—‘What a fine character that man is!’—that is not being a true friend of the Bridegroom; I am increasing all the time, He is not.

     In order to maintain this friendship and loyalty to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful of our moral and vital relationship to Him than of any other thing, even of obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey, the only thing to do is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, to see that nothing interferes with that. Only occasionally do we have to obey. When a crisis arises we have to find out what God’s will is, but the greater part of the life is not conscious obedience but the maintenance of this relationship—the friend of the Bridegroom. Christian work may be a means of evading the soul’s concentration on Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, we become amateur providences and may work against Him whilst we use His weapons.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


Nineteen years now
  Under the same roof
  Eating our bread,
  Using the same air;
  Sighing, if one sighs,
  Meeting the other's
  Words with a look
  That thaws suspicion.

  Nineteen years now
  Sharing life's table,
  And not to be first
  To call the meal long
  We balance it thoughtfully
  On the tip of the tongue,
  Careful to maintain
  The strict palate.

  Nineteen years now
  Keeping simple house,
  Opening the door
  To friend and stranger;
  Opening the womb
  Softly to let enter
  The one child
  With his huge hunger.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     The Lost Rest: Hebrews 3:7–11 (cont)

     Hebrews 4 goes on to apply this incident directly to you and me. “Today if you hear His voice,” the Scripture warns, “do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). Because distrust kept Israel from obeying God, the people were unable to enter the Promised Land. They never knew rest from their wanderings in desolate wilderness. And they died there.

     But how does this apply to us? The Bible says “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). There remains the promise of experiencing life and meeting its challenges with peace in our hearts, and confidence that God’s good will is being worked out in every circumstance. We can miss the experience of peace if we follow the Israelites’ “example of disobedience.”

     All this helps us see more clearly the nature of Christian responsibility. We are to listen for God’s voice today. And when the Holy Spirit makes us aware of God’s will, we are to trust God completely—and express that trust in obedience.

     Like Joshua and Caleb, we are to see our enemies clearly, but are also to have such a clear vision of the Lord that we remember we are well able to overcome them. With this kind of confidence in God, we will obey Him, and find the peace and joy that only obedience can provide.

     This responsibility of the believer remains the same across the centuries. It is the same, under Law or under grace. Redemption’s story is one—a story replayed at different times on different stages, but with unifying themes. Redemption brings men and women to God, frees and cleanses them, and provides a choice.

     Wilderness—or Promised Land?

     Disobedience—or obedience to God’s voice?

     Unbelief—or a complete and childlike trust in the God who has broken our chains and who promises to enrich our forgiveness with an experience of His rest?

     Will we find that rest? The choice, and the responsibility, is ours and ours alone.

The Teacher's Commentary
Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Pesaḥim 64a–b


     Often, we complain that people who help others do so for the wrong reasons. They act out of self-interest, for publicity, or to be like their neighbors. A man donates $10 million to a hospital less because of a concern for health care and more because he wants to see a new building named after him. A couple spends the afternoon working as volunteers in a local soup kitchen not because they care about feeding the poor or ending hunger, but simply because they have nothing to do one afternoon a week. The charity work fills up their empty time. A high school student works as a “candy striper” in the local hospital not out of any interest in healing the sick or relieving those in pain, but simply because it will look good on her college résumé. Rav Yehudah is reminding us not to be so critical of such people. At least they’re doing something good—albeit for empty, silly, or selfish reasons. Perhaps next time, their motivation will be purer. At least now, the deed is in place. They can then move on to raise the level of the act, to make it “higher than the heavens.”

     A woman joins a health club not for the exercise benefits, but because it is the “in” place to go, where the trend-setters are seen. The last thing on her mind is her own physical fitness and health benefits. However, because she is at a place where people are involved with regular exercise, she begins to participate more and more in aerobic activities. While she initially came “to see and be seen,” and she still enjoys the company of the trend-setters, she now is benefitting greatly from and enjoying the physical fitness, even if this originally was an incidental reason for her being there.

     Jewish tradition has taken a similar approach to the giving of the Law at Sinai. The Israelites are highly praised not only for accepting the Torah, but also for how they accepted it. “And they said: ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will faithfully do.’ (Exodus 24:7)” “We will faithfully do” is actually two Hebrew verbs: na’aseh, “we will do,” and v’nishmah, “we will listen.” Together, the meaning is “we will faithfully do,” but the Rabbis saw in these verbs a lesson. The Israelites first agreed to do and to practice. Only later would they listen and find out the rationales. Even if they obeyed without knowing why, even if they observed for reasons that would later prove illogical or inexact, the Israelites were first doing. The Rabbis saw a great value in their response.

     There are few things that we do in our lives for pure reasons. At work or at play, at home or even in the synagogue, much of what we do has some ulterior motive. Rav Yehudah, in the name of Rav, informs us that this is natural. He is reminding us that positive motivations often follow positive actions. We should do these good things, even if for the wrong reasons, because this will train us to do them for the right reasons.

     We do not rely on a miracle.

     Text / Mishnah (5:5): The Passover offering is slaughtered by three groups, as it says: “And all the assembled congregation of the Israelites shall slaughter it” [Exodus 12:6]—“assembled,” “congregation” and “Israelites.” When the first group entered, the courtyard was filled, and the doors of the courtyard were closed, and they blew a long note, short notes, and a long note.
     Gemara: “When the first group entered.” It has been said: Abaye said: “We have learned: ‘They [the doors] are closed.’ ” Rava said: “We have learned: ‘We close them.’ ” What’s the difference? Here is the difference: Relying on a miracle. Abaye said: “We have learned: ‘They are closed,’ and whoever got in is in, and we rely on a miracle.” But Rava said: “ ‘We close them,’ and we do not rely on a miracle.”

     Context / The discussion about the sacrificial system of the Temple may seem foreign to us, more like a philosophical argument than a relevant matter of practical Jewish law. In fact, the rules and regulations of the Temple period were no longer relevant to Abaye and Rava, living two to three hundred years after the destruction of the second Temple! Why, then, the concern with how the doors were closed?
     First, the Rabbis prayed for and hoped for the rebuilding of the Temple. Their discussions could have practical implications as preparation for the time when the sacrifices would be restored “as in olden days.”
     In addition, this discussion, like many arguments of the Talmud, is a theoretical one, a practice in reading and interpretation of text. The Rabbis found intellectual challenge in arguing their points back and forth. Furthermore, as we have seen, every disagreement even about a theoretical issue like the closing of the doors reflects differing world views. The Rabbis teach their general attitudes towards important questions from such specific discussions.

     The Pesaḥ sacrifice that was originally offered as the Israelites left Egypt was later transferred to the Temple ritual. This Mishnah and Gemara are discussing the order for the sacrifice. According to the Mishnah, those offering the sacrifice are divided into three groups, based on the verse from Exodus. To the rabbinic mind, the Hebrew verse seems redundant, and any of the three words—kahal (assemblage/assembled), eidah (congregation), or Yisrael (Israelites)—would have sufficed. According to this reading of the verse, the redundancy is there to prove that three shifts should participate in the sacrifice of the paschal offering, one after the other, while the shofar is sounded.

     The disagreement between Abaye and Rava starts with a minute point of Hebrew grammar in the Mishnah’s wording. The Mishnah uses a phrase which, because of the nature of Hebrew, is unclear in its intent. The words na’alu daltot haazarah, “the doors of the courtyard are closed,” is as ambiguous in the Hebrew as in the English translation. How do the doors of the courtyard get closed, especially when there will be so many pilgrims in the Temple court on the Pesaḥ holiday? The Hebrew verb, na’alu, supports two possible readings. Abaye understands it as nina’lu, a passive verb meaning “they are closed.” From this inactive verb, Abaye learns that we ourselves do not push the doors shut but let whoever wants to enter the courtyard do so, even if this may be too many people. We rely on a miracle, that is, divine intervention, to insure that the courtyard will not be overcrowded at this time. Rava, however, has a different reading of the Mishnah. He says that the word is to be understood as no’alin, an active verb, implying “we close.” It is our responsibility to close the gates to the Temple courtyard so that only a certain number of people enter. We do not expect divine intervention, nor do we wait for a miracle.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Sixteenth Chapter / True Comfort Is To Be Sought In God Alone

          The Disciple

     WHATEVER I can desire or imagine for my own comfort I look for not here but hereafter. For if I alone should have all the world’s comforts and could enjoy all its delights, it is certain that they could not long endure. Therefore, my soul, you cannot enjoy full consolation or perfect delight except in God, the Consoler of the poor and the Helper of the humble. Wait a little, my soul, wait for the divine promise and you will have an abundance of all good things in heaven. If you desire these present things too much, you will lose those which are everlasting and heavenly. Use temporal things but desire eternal things. You cannot be satisfied with any temporal goods because you were not created to enjoy them.

     Even if you possessed all created things you could not be happy and blessed; for in God, Who created all these things, your whole blessedness and happiness consists—not indeed such happiness as is seen and praised by lovers of the world, but such as that for which the good and faithful servants of Christ wait, and of which the spiritual and pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometime have a foretaste.

     Vain and brief is all human consolation. But that which is received inwardly from the Truth is blessed and true. The devout man carries his Consoler, Jesus, everywhere with him, and he says to Him: “Be with me, Lord Jesus, in every place and at all times. Let this be my consolation, to be willing to forego all human comforting. And if Your consolation be wanting to me, let Your will and just trial of me be my greatest comfort. For You will not always be angry, nor will You threaten forever.”

The Imitation Of Christ

Links with Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua
     JPS Torah commentary

     In the twelfth century, the commentator Bekhor Shor noted that a number of wilderness narratives in Exodus and Numbers duplicate each other, in particular, the incidents of the water from the rock (20:2–13; Exod. 17:1–7) and the manna and the quail (11:4–9, 31–34; Exod. 16:1–15). Evidently, it is the duplication of the quail incident that led Bekhor Shor to this conclusion. For he asks: “If Moses saw that the quail arrived in sufficient quantities the first time, how could he on the second occasion doubt: ‘Could enough flocks and herds be slaughtered to suffice them?’ (11:22).” He finds additional evidence in Deuteronomy 33:8b: “Whom you tested at Massah/Challenged at the waters of Meribah.” Since a poetic line consists of parallel clauses, Massah and Meribah, the sites for the rock incidents in Exodus and Numbers (Exod. 17:7; Num. 20:13) must be identical. Moreover, their names are interchanged in Psalms 78:15–31 and 95:8–9.

     Of course, these duplicate accounts differ in some details. But their main difference lies in one fact that holds the key to their duplication: Only
Numbers records that God punished Israel (Lev. R. 1:10). (Cf. G. E. Mendenhall, “Covenant,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 719b; J. A. Wilcoxen, “Some Anthropocentric Aspects of Israel’s Sacred History,” JR 48 (1968): 333–350.) Indeed, this distinction holds true for the other wilderness narratives as well. In Exodus, God does not punish Israel for its murmuring; in Numbers, He does so consistently. There can be only one explanation for this state of affairs. The Exodus incidents are pre-Sinai; those of Numbers are post-Sinai. Before Israel accepted the covenant it was not responsible for its violation; indeed, it could claim ignorance of its stipulations. However, all the incidents of Numbers take place after Israel has left Sinai—where it swore allegiance to the covenant and was warned of the divine sanctions for its infringement. Thus it can be postulated that for a number of wilderness narratives two traditions were reported, the one involving punishment, and the other, not. The redactor, then, with Mount Sinai as his great divide, dutifully recorded both, as either pre- or post-Sinai.

     This distinction is nowhere better illustrated than in the initial stage of the wilderness march as recorded in each book. Both the
Exodus and Numbers phases of the trek begin with a three-day march (Exod. 15:22; Num. 10:33). In Exodus, however, Israel’s complaint goes unpunished—indeed, even unreprimanded—whereas in Numbers, Israel is severely dealt with (Exod. 15:22–26; Num. 11:1–3). Sinai, then, is the watershed in Israel’s wilderness experience. Indeed, it is the pivot as well as the summit for the Torah books as a whole.

     A more significant structural link between
Exodus and Numbers lies in the itinerary formula “departed from X and encamped at Y.” Frank Cross (F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973).) has noticed that in Exodus and Numbers there are exactly twelve such formulas that correspond to the itinerary list of Numbers 33. Six take Israel from Egypt to Rephidim, the station before Sinai (Exod. 12:37; 13:20; 14:1–2; 15:22; 16:1; 17:1), and six, from Sinai to the steppes of Moab (Exod. 19:2; Num. 10:12; 20:1; 20:22; 21:10–11; 22:1). Thus Exodus and Numbers, at least in their wilderness narratives, reveal the same redactional hand.

     Recensional activity involving
Exodus and Numbers is also evident in regard to the census recorded in both books, taken only several months apart and yielding identical results (Exod. 30:12–16; 38:26; Num. 1:46). The likelihood is that the same census is intended. Exodus probably provides the more authentic setting. With the Tabernacle under construction at Sinai, a census was taken to determine the military deployment of the camp and the guarding of the Tabernacle by the Levites. Subsequently, this account would have been moved to Numbers and joined with other material that described Israel’s preparations for the march from Sinai (Num. 1:1–10:10); only the prescription to pay the half-shekel ransom remained in its original place in Exodus.

     Finally, it is also important to see how
Numbers fits into the grand design of the Hexateuch. the five books of the Torah plus the Book of Joshua, which cover the entire history of early Israel from the time their forefather Abraham entered the promised land until they returned to it under Joshua.

     The accompanying diagram (courtesy of Newing) takes the form of a grand introversion, ABCDEFG X G′F′E′D′C′B′A′, a pattern that, as will be shown, is the dominant structure of the individual pericopes of
Numbers. The following points should be noted. As in all introverted structures, the center (X) is crucial. Once again it is Sinai. Not only is it the watershed of the wilderness narratives (Exodus-Numbers); it is the great divide of the Hexateuch. Sinai marks the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom. After Sinai, Israel repeats the failures and promises that had preceded it, repairing the former and fulfilling the latter. Also to be noted are the key concepts, terms, and phrases that mark the symmetrical sections: the “bones of Joseph” (Gen. 49:25; Josh. 24:32; AA′); “put off your shoes … holy” (Exod. 3:5; Josh. 5:15; BB′); circumcision (Exod. 4:25; Josh. 5:2–9; BB′); pesaḥ (Exod. 12:1–28; Josh. 5:10–12; BB′); crossing the sea/Jordan (Exod. 14:9–15:21; Josh. 3:4; CC′); the three days, manna, quail, rock narratives (Exod. 16–17; Num. 11, 20; DD′); theophany in fire (Exod. 19:18; Lev. 9:24; EE′); encroaching upon Sinai/Tabernacle incurs death (Exod. 19:13; Num. 1:51; EE′); architectural detail of the Tabernacle (Exod. 25–31; Exod. 35–40; FF′); Sabbath law precedes Tabernacle construction (Exod. 31:12–17; Exod. 35:1–3; FF′); broken and renewed covenant (Exod. 32; Exod. 34:10–28; GG′); and the unparalleled theophany to Moses (33:17–34:9; X). Finally, the two large wedges on either side of Sinai (which balance the structure) are subsequent additions to the corpus: the primeval history (Gen. 1–11) and Deuteronomy.

The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers (English and Hebrew Edition)

Take Heart
     March 25

     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.

     Look on dying Jesus, see how his care and love to his people flamed out when the time of his departure was at hand. ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) As we remember our relations every day and lay up prayers for them in the time of our health, so it becomes us to imitate Christ in our earnestness with God for them when we die. Though we die, our prayers do not die with us; they outlive us, and those we leave behind may reap the benefit of them when we are turned to dust.

     I must profess that I have a high value for this mercy and bless the Lord who gave me a tender father who often poured out his soul to God for me. This stock of prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord I esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. It is no small mercy to have thousands of prayers lying before the Lord, filed up in heaven for us. Surely our love should not grow cold when our breath does. Oh, that we would remember this duty in our lives and, if God give opportunity, fully discharge it when we die, considering, as Christ did, we will be no more in this world, but they are, in the midst of a defiled world—it is the last office of love that we will ever do for them.

     Here we may see what high esteem and value Christ has of believers; this was the treasure that he could not quit, he could not die till he had secured it in a safe hand. “I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.”

     Surely believers are dear to Jesus Christ—and good reason, for he has paid dear for them. Let his last farewell speak for him, how he prized them. What is much on our hearts when we die is dear to us indeed. How dear should Jesus Christ be to us! Were we first and last upon his heart? Did he mind us, did he pray for us, did he so wrestle with God about us when the sorrows of death surrounded him? How much are we committed not only to love him and esteem him while we live, but to be in pangs of love for him when we feel the pangs of death upon us! The very last whisper of our departing souls should be this, Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.
--- John Flavel

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

On This Day   March 25
     Black Easter

     Nearly 1,000 missionary personnel under the China Inland Mission were trapped in China when the Communists took over in the 1940s. CIM ordered a total evacuation in January, 1951, but was it too late? Communists are not averse to killing.

     Arthur and Wilda Mathews applied for exit visas on January 3. Their living conditions had deteriorated to a bare kitchen where, in the corner, Wilda had converted a footlocker into a prayer nook. Days passed with no action on their requests. Meanwhile citizens were executed every day, and from her kitchen Wilda could hear the shots. The strain grew unbearable. “The imagination is what jumps around into all sorts of places it ought to keep out of,” Arthur wrote to his parents.

     He was told at last that his wife and child could leave if he would secretly work for the Communists. Arthur refused. Day after day he was summoned and grilled. Day after day he said good-bye to Wilda, wondering if he would ever see her again. Finally Arthur bluntly told the authorities, “I am not a Judas. If you expect me or anyone else in the China Inland Mission to do that kind of thing, you had better not try because we cannot do it.”

     Wilda was utterly overcome by fear and doubt. Sunday, March 21, 1951 was, as she called it later, Black Easter. Wilda sneaked into an Easter church service, but when she opened her mouth to sing “He Lives!” no words came out. Returning home, she fell at the trunk and her trembling fingers found 2 Chronicles 20.17: You won’t even have to fight. Just take your position and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don’t be afraid.… Wilda clamped onto that verse, and two weeks later she wrote, “The conflict has been terrible, but peace and quiet reign now.”

     It was two years before she exited the country, and even longer for Arthur who became the last CIM missionary to leave China. But miraculously, all of them got out without a single one being martyred. It was the greatest exodus in missionary history.

     You won’t even have to fight. Just take your positions and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don’t be afraid. Just do as you’re told. And as you march out tomorrow, the LORD will be there with you. Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground and everyone worshiped the LORD.
--- 2 Chronicles 20:17,18.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 25

     “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” --- Luke 22:48.

     “The kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Let me be on my guard when the world puts on a loving face, for it will, if possible, betray me as it did my Master, with a kiss. Whenever a man is about to stab religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it. Let me beware of the sleek-faced hypocrisy which is armour-bearer to heresy and infidelity. Knowing the deceivableness of unrighteousness, let me be wise as a serpent to detect and avoid the designs of the enemy. The young man, void of understanding, was led astray by the kiss of the strange woman: may my soul be so graciously instructed all this day, that “the much fair speech” of the world may have no effect upon me. Holy Spirit, let me not, a poor frail son of man, be betrayed with a kiss!

     But what if I should be guilty of the same accursed sin as Judas, that son of perdition? I have been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; I am a member of his visible Church; I sit at the communion table: all these are so many kisses of my lips. Am I sincere in them? If not, I am a base traitor. Do I live in the world as carelessly as others do, and yet make a profession of being a follower of Jesus? Then I must expose religion to ridicule, and lead men to speak evil of the holy name by which I am called. Surely if I act thus inconsistently I am a Judas, and it were better for me that I had never been born. Dare I hope that I am clear in this matter? Then, O Lord, keep me so. O Lord, make me sincere and true. Preserve me from every false way. Never let me betray my Saviour. I do love thee, Jesus, and though I often grieve thee, yet I would desire to abide faithful even unto death. O God, forbid that I should be a high-soaring professor, and then fall at last into the lake of fire, because I betrayed my Master with a kiss.

          Evening - March 25

     "The Son of man."John 3:13.

     How constantly our Master used the title, the “Son of man!” If he had chosen, he might always have spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Prince of Peace; but behold the lowliness of Jesus! He prefers to call himself the Son of man. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. There is here, however, a far sweeter thought. Jesus loved manhood so much, that he delighted to honour it; and since it is a high honour, and indeed, the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus is the Son of man, he is wont to display this name, that he may as it were hang royal stars upon the breast of manhood, and show forth the love of God to Abraham’s seed. Son of man—whenever he said that word, he shed a halo round the head of Adam’s children. Yet there is perhaps a more precious thought still. Jesus Christ called himself the Son of man to express his oneness and sympathy with his people. He thus reminds us that he is the one whom we may approach without fear. As a man, we may take to him all our griefs and troubles, for he knows them by experience; in that he himself hath suffered as the “Son of man,” he is able to succour and comfort us. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! inasmuch as thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that thou art a brother and a near kinsman, it is to us a dear token of thy grace, thy humility, thy love.

     “Oh see how Jesus trusts himself
     Unto our childish love,
     As though by his free ways with us
     Our earnestness to prove!

     His sacred name a common word
     On earth he loves to hear;
     There is no majesty in him
     Which love may not come near.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 25

          WHEN HE COMETH

     William O. Cushing, 1823–1902

     When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
(Colossians 3:4)

     The scriptural promise of Christ’s second coming is always a thrilling truth for believers to ponder. Beyond that, the thought of the Savior creating a jeweled crown from little children who love Him is a fascinating pictorial concept. William Orcutt Cushing conceived the idea for his “Jewel Song” text from the promise in Malachi 3:17: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” Pastor Cushing wrote the text for the children in his own Sunday school in 1856.

     Several years later, William Cushing suffered a period of deep despair in his life. After the death of his wife, he developed a creeping paralysis and the loss of his speech at the age of 47. He was forced to retire from the ministry after 27 years as an active and successful pastor in Disciples of Christ churches. When he pleaded, “Lord, give me something to do for Thee,” God answered, giving him the gift of writing appealing hymn texts. He worked with such talented musicians as Ira Sankey and George Root to produce more than 300 gospel hymns during his remaining years. Such hymns as “Hiding in Thee,” “Under His Wings,” and “There’ll Be No Dark Valley” are just a few of his texts that have since contributed much to the lives of Christians everywhere.

     William Cushing’s picturesque words in today’s hymn, “They shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown,” could also be used to describe his own qualities of character. He was known by his many friends to be a noble, sweet, deeply spiritual Christian. Loved by all, Cushing continued to inspire and encourage others despite his handicap until the end of his life at the age of 79.

     When He cometh, when he cometh to make up His jewels, all His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
     He will gather, He will gather the gems for His kingdom, all the pure ones, all the bright ones, His loved and His own.
     Little children, little children who love their Redeemer, are the jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
     Chorus: Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning, they shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown.

     For Today: Zechariah 9:16; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:27, 29, 30, 31, 36, 42, 44; Acts 1:11; Titus 2:12, 13.

     Strive to live in the expectancy that Christ could return today. Carry this little children’s hymn with you. Share the truth of this song with your family as you have opportunity.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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

          A Prayer for Restoration to Spiritual Vigor

     “Make you perfect in every good work.” The original Greek word here rendered make perfect is katartizō, which James Strong defines as to complete thoroughly, that is, to repair (literally or figuratively), to adjust (see no. 2675 in the Greek Dictionary of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Contrast this with the word teleioō used in Hebrews 2:10; 10:1, 14; 11:40, which according to Strong means to complete, (literally) to accomplish, or (figuratively) to consummate in character (see no. 5048 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary). The word in our text, katartizō, is used to describe the activity engaged in by James and John, the sons of Zebedee, when Christ called them: they were “mending their nets” (Matt. 4:2 1). In Galatians 6:1, the Apostle Paul employs this word by way of exhortation: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;. . . “ It was, therefore, most appropriate that this term be applied to the case of the Hebrew Christians, who after believing the Gospel had met with such bitter and protracted opposition from the Jews at large that they had wavered and were in real need of being warned against apostasy (Heb. 4:1; 6:11, 12; 10:23, etc.). As stated at the beginning of our exposition, this prayer gathers up not only the whole of the doctrinal instruction but also the exhortations of the previous chapters. The Hebrews had faltered and failed (Heb. 12:12), and the apostle here prays for their restoration. The lexicons (such as Liddell and Scott, p. 910) tell us that katartizō, here translated make perfect, literally has reference to the resetting of a dislocated bone. And is it not often so with the Christian? A sad fall breaks his communion with God, and none but the hand of the Divine Physician can repair the damage wrought. Thus this prayer is suited to all of us: that God would rectify every faculty of our beings to do His will and right us for His service each time we need it.

     Mark how comprehensive this prayer is: “Make you perfect in every good work.” It includes, as Gouge pointed out, “all the fruits of holiness Godwards and of righteousness manwards.” No reservation is allowed us by the extensive rule that God has set before us: we are required to love Him with our whole being, to be sanctified in our whole spirit and soul and body, and to grow up into Christ in all things (Deut. 6:5; Luke 10:27; Eph. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:23). Nothing less than perfection in “every good work” is the standard at which we must aim. Absolute perfection is not attainable in this life, but the perfection of sincerity is demanded of us — honest endeavor, genuine effort to please God. The mortification of our lusts, submission to God under trials, and the performance of impartial and universal obedience are ever our bounden duty. Of ourselves we are quite incapable of discharging our duties, and therefore we must pray continually for supplies of grace to enable us to perform them. Not only are we dependent upon God for the beginning of every good work, but also for the continuance and progress of the same. Let us emulate Paul, who said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect;. . . Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

          Divinely Revealed Knowledge Requires Obedience

     “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” May He who has already fully acquainted you with His mind now effectually incline you to the performing of it, even a continuance of solicitous attention to your duties as redeemed people to the end. It is not enough that we know His will; we must do it (Luke 6:46; John 13:17), and the more we do it, the better we shall understand it (John 7:17) and prove the excellency of the same (Rom. 12:2). That will of God that we are to exercise ourselves to perform is not God’s secret will but His revealed or perceptive will, namely, those laws and statutes to which God requires our full obedience (Deut. 29:29). God’s revealed will is to be the sole rule of our actions. There are many things done by professing Christians that, though admired by them and applauded by their fellows, are nothing but “will worship” and a following of the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:20-23). The Jews added their own traditions to the Divine Law, instituting fasts and feasts of their own invention. The deluded Papists, with their bodily austerities, idolatrous devotions, and impoverishing payments, are guilty of the same thing. Nor are some Protestants, with their self-devised deprivations and superstitious exercises, clear of this Romish evil.

     “Working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight.” These words confirm what was just said above: only that is acceptable to God which conforms to the rule He has given us. The words “in his sight” show that our every action comes under His immediate notice and is weighed by Him. By comparing other Scriptures, we find that only those works are wellpleasing to Him that He has enjoined us to perform and that are performed in His fear (Heb. 12:28). He will accept only those that proceed from love (2 Cor. 5:14), and that are done with an eye singly set upon glorifying Him (1 Cor. 10:31). Our constant aim and diligent endeavor must be nothing short of this: “That ye [we] might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work. . . “ (Col. 1:10, brackets mine). Nevertheless, we must receive Divine enablement in order to do this. What a blow to self-sufficiency and self-glory is this little phrase, “working in you”! Even after regeneration we are wholly dependent upon God. Notwithstanding the life, light, and liberty we have received from Him, we have no strength of our own to do what He requires. Each has to acknowledge, “for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18).

          Herein Lies a Pride-Withering Truth

     Herein, indeed, is a humbling truth, yet a fact it is that Christians are, in themselves, incapable of discharging their duty. Though the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts and a principle of holiness (or new nature) communicated to them, yet they are unable to perform the good they ardently desire to do. Not only are they still very ignorant of many of the requirements of God’s revealed will, but indwelling sin ever opposes and seeks to incline their hearts in a contrary direction. Thus it is imperative that they daily seek from God fresh supplies of grace. Though assured that God shall surely complete His good work in us (Phil. 1:6), that does not render needless our crying to Him “that performeth all things for me [us]” (Ps. 57:2, brackets mine). Nor does the privilege of prayer release us from the obligation of obedience. Rather, in prayer we are to beg Him to quicken us to the performance of those duties He requires. The blessing of access to God is not designed to discharge us from the regular and diligent use of all the means God has appointed for our practical sanctification, but is meant to provide for our seeking of the Divine blessing on our use of all the means of grace. Our duty is this: to ask God to work in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13); to avoid quenching His Spirit by slothfulness and disobedience, especially after we have prayed for His sweet influences (1 Thess. 5:19); and to use the grace He has already given us.

     “Working in you that which is wellpleasing. . . through Jesus Christ.” There is a double reference here: (1) to God’s working in us; and (2) to His acceptance of our works. It is by virtue of the Savior’s mediation that God works; there is no communication of grace to us from the God of peace but by and through our Redeemer. All that God does for us is for Christ’s sake. Every gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in us is the fruit of Christ’s meritorious work, for He has procured the Spirit for us (Eph. 1:13, 14; Titus 3:5, 6) and presently is sending the Spirit to us (John 15:26). Every spiritual blessing bestowed upon us is in consequence of Christ’s intercession for us. Christ is not only our life (Col. 3:4) and our righteousness (Jer. 23:6), but also our strength (Isa. 45:24). “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). The members of His mystical Body are completely dependent upon their Head (Eph. 4:15, 16). Our bearing fruit comes by means of having fellowship with Christ, by our abiding in Him (John 15:5). It is most important that we have a clear apprehension upon this truth, if the Lord Jesus is to have that place in our thoughts and affections which is His due. The wisdom of God has so contrived things that each Person of the Godhead is exalted in the esteem of His people: the Father as the Fountain of grace, the Son in His mediatorial office as the Channel through which all grace flows to us, and the Holy Spirit as the actual Bestower of it.

          Christ’s Infinite Merits, the Basis of God’s Acceptance of Our Works and Prayers

     But these words “through Jesus Christ” have also a more immediate connection with the phrase “that which is wellpleasing in His sight.” Even though our works are good and are wrought in us by God, they are yet imperfect since they are marred by the instruments by which they are done — just as the purest light is dimmed by the cloudy or dusty lamp shade through which it shines. Yet though our works be defective, they are acceptable to God when done in the name of His Son. Our best performances are faulty and fall short of the excellence that the requirements of God’s holiness demand, but their defects are covered by the merits of Christ. Our prayers, too, are acceptable to God only because our great High Priest adds to them “much incense” and then offers them on the golden altar before the throne (Rev. 8:3). Our spiritual sacrifices are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). God can be “glorified through Jesus Christ” alone (1 Peter 4:11). We owe, then, to the Mediator not only the pardon of our sins and the sanctification of our persons, but also God’s acceptance of our imperfect worship and service. As Spurgeon aptly said in his comments on this phrase, “What nothings and nobodies we are! Our goodness is none of ours.”

          A Doxology

     “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The glory of God was what the apostle eyed. And how are we to glorify Him? We are to glorify Him by an obedient walk, by doing His will, by performing those things that are wellpleasing in His sight, and by adoring Him. The construction of the whole sentence permits us to regard this ascription of praise as being offered to either the “God of peace,” to whom the prayer is addressed, or to “that great shepherd of the sheep,” who is the nearest antecedent to the pronoun. Since the grammar allows for it and the Analogy of Faith instructs us to include both Father and Son in our worship, then let glory be ascribed to both. Let God be praised because He is now “the God of peace,” because He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, because He is faithful to His engagements in the everlasting covenant, because all supplies of grace are from Him, and because He accepts our poor obedience “through Jesus Christ.” Equally let us adore the Mediator: because He is “our Lord Jesus,” who loved us and gave Himself for us; because He is “that great shepherd of the sheep”—caring for and ministering to His flock; because He ratified the covenant with His precious blood; and because it is by His merits and intercession that our persons and services are rendered “wellpleasing” to the Most High. “Amen.” So be it! Let the praises of a redeeming and propitious God ring throughout eternity!

     Tomorrow starts Chapter 4

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

Judges 19-21
     Jon Courson (2001)

Judges 19-20
Jon Courson

click here

Judges 21
Jon Courson

click here

Jon Courson

Judges 19-21
     JD Farag

Judges 19
J.D. Farag

Judges 20:1-25
J.D. Farag

Judges 20:26-21:25
J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

Judges 19-21
     Skip Heitzig

Judges 19-21
Skip Heitzig

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

Judges 19-21
     Paul LeBoutillier

Judges 19-21
Worse than Sodom and Gomorrah
Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Judges 19-21
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Judges 21:25
Misguided Man
s2-124 | 6-26-2016

Judges 19-21
m2-121 | 6-29-2016

     ==============================      ==============================

Judges 19-20
Gary Hamrick

Judges 20-21
Gary Hamrick

Hath God Said?
John MacArthur | Ligonier

Crucifixion, Resurrection
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Baptism, Temptation
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Arrest and Trial
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Answering His Critics
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Middle East Peace 1 2018
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Middle East Peace 2 2018
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

Answering His Critics
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

His Parables
Ed Hinson | TheKingIsComing

PPOV Episode 203
Days of Noah - Part 2
03-25-2022 | Andy Woods