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Leviticus 2-3     John 21     Proverbs 18     Colossians 1


Leviticus 2

Laws for Grain Offerings

Leviticus 2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

4 “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. 5 And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. 6 You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. 7 And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. 8 And you shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the LORD, and when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. 9 And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 10 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

11 “No grain offering that you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the LORD. 12 As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the LORD, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma. 13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

14 “If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits fresh ears, roasted with fire, crushed new grain. 15 And you shall put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 And the priest shall burn as its memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil with all of its frankincense; it is a food offering to the LORD.


Leviticus 3

Laws for Peace Offerings

Leviticus 3:1 “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. 2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. 3 And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

6 “If his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD is an animal from the flock, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. 7 If he offers a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD, 8 lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it in front of the tent of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 9 Then from the sacrifice of the peace offering he shall offer as a food offering to the LORD its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 10 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 11 And the priest shall burn it on the altar as a food offering to the LORD. 12 “If his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD 13 and lay his hand on its head and kill it in front of the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 14 Then he shall offer from it, as his offering for a food offering to the LORD, the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 15 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 16 And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD’s. 17 It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”


John 21

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

John 21:1  After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Apostle

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


Proverbs 18

Proverbs 18:1

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
2  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
3  When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.
4  The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
5  It is not good to be partial to the wicked
or to deprive the righteous of justice.
6  A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
7  A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
8  The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
9  Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.
10  The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
11  A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
12  Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
13  If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
14  A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15  An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16  A man’s gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.
17  The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
18  The lot puts an end to quarrels
and decides between powerful contenders.
19  A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20  From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
21  Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
22  He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the LORD.
23  The poor use entreaties,
but the rich answer roughly.
24  A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.


     Paul addresses the false teaching at Colosse. Phrygia, the region in south central Asia Minor where Colosse was located, is an area with a peculiar religious history. In ancient times, the region had given birth to the worship of the goddess Cybele, whose cult (renewed during the Roman era) was characterized by ritual cleansing in the blood of a bull, ecstatic states, prophetic rapture, and inspired dancing. In the latter half of the second century A.D., Phrygia became the center of a distorted version of Christianity known as Montanism, a teaching that prized ecstatic and apocalyptic prophecy, freedom from the responsibilities of daily life, and rigorous fasts and penances for ritual purity.
     Within a few years of the inception of Christianity among these Phrygians, Epaphras and Paul found that an appetite had emerged for something more than the crucified and risen Christ. It is notoriously difficult to reconstruct the false teaching to which Paul was responding because the letter is less a critique of error than a positive statement of the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ. However, certain features of the false teaching do surface.
     It claimed to be a “philosophy” (2:8), a term that often in the Hellenistic age referred not to rational inquiry, but to occult speculations and practices based on a body of tradition.
     The teaching appears to have been largely Jewish, as evidenced by the value placed on legal ordinances, food regulations, Sabbath and New Moon observance, and other prescriptions of the Jewish calendar (2:16). Though circumcision is mentioned, it was not necessarily seen as one of the legal requirements (2:11).
     The role of angelic spirits was also an important element in this teaching. Three key factors point to this. There is stress on Christ’s superiority to and victory over “dominions” and “powers” (1:16; 2:10, 15).
     The phrase “basic principles of the world” (2:8, 20; cf. Gal. 4:3) also points to angelic beings. An old and popular line of interpretation views Paul arguing against the “basic principle” that life with God comes through works-righteousness. However, the letter’s implied competition between Christ and spirit-beings suggests a more transcendent and sinister background. The Greek word translated “basic principles” was used in this time period to refer to gods of stars and planets, and even to the physical elements (earth, wind, fire, and water) that were thought to control the destiny of men and women. The Phrygian god Cybele and her lover Attis were transformed at some time by popular pagan piety into astral and cosmic powers.
     Along this line, even some Jewish thinking merged the angels with astral powers who protect the planets. Moreover, intertestamental Jewish literature envisioned Israel caught between two kingdoms, one good and one evil, that both claimed allegiance. The victory of the good and the overthrow of the evil power was understood to be promised if Israel repented, obeyed fully, and kept the Sabbath perfectly. The Colossians appear to have come under the influence of a combination of Jewish and pagan piety presenting itself as a philosophical system and encouraging submission to these occult astral or cosmic powers.
     The role of angels in the Colossian error is evident in the phrase “worship of angels” (2:18). Early Christians knew that there were angels who had been agents at creation and in the giving of the law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). The false teaching in Colosse had confused the limited and legitimate role of angels as “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14), with the larger role attributed to angels in some parts of Judaism, not to mention the astral powers of the Gentiles. As a means of overcoming fear of these astral or cosmic powers, and under the guise of revelations which so-called “philosophers” received in ecstatic states, the Colossians were being urged to become ascetics and to worship angels.
  ESV Reformation Study Bible

Colossians 1

Greeting

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God’s Provision

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Trusting His Word

By Mike Malone 4/1/1995

     Every parent knows that children have a way of exposing the real issues of life in an innocent yet unsympathetic manner. “Where did God come from? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die?” are questions which raise ultimate philosophical concerns. The most important of questions, however, is “How do you know?” Answers may be offered to all sorts of questions, but this most basic one begs to be asked when any of those answers is offered.

     Imagine that you have just awakened from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a concrete bunker with a dozen other people. You all are suffering from amnesia. You don’t know where you have come from, who you are, what you should do, or how you might travel to some other place. It is clear that you are headed somewhere because each person possesses various provisions, food, clothing, medicines, etc.

     As others awaken, you begin to engage them in conversation. “Who are you? How did we get here? What shall we do? When?” Each person in the room will offer observations. Each will offer opinions, suggestions, solutions, and preferences. Each person will, sooner or later, develop convictions about the situation and what, if anything, should be done.

     In a sense, this is our plight. We are gathered on this planet and faced with questions demanding answers. A cafeteria of responses is available. But the critical question is, Who shall we believe and why? Shall I believe my New Age neighbor? Shall I believe my Lutheran cousin? Shall I believe my carefree work associate? Where shall I go to find the truth?

     Think back to the people in the bunker. Christianity claims that a road map has been provided in order that we might find our way from where we are to where we want to be (and we do want to be somewhere else, we realize).

     But it is more than a road map. It tells us that we were made for something greater than life in a concrete bunker. It offers explanations of the world in which we find ourselves, the One who created it, and His great desire that we might know Him. It describes us and explores the inner workings of our minds and hearts, revealing what is true but not altogether pleasant about us. It points us to a goal, an end, which is purported to satisfy the deepest longings of our aching hearts. And it tells us that, while the road is long and arduous, we may expect to experience great personal joy, comradery, and beauty along the way.

     While the Bible is much more than this, it is not less. And it may be trusted to “deliver the goods.” How do we know that?

     The question of the reliability and authority of the Scriptures revolves around the person central in them, Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is not a book which simply fell out of the sky or was discovered on the side of a mountain with a peculiar pair of spectacles enabling its discoverer to read it. The Bible is the record of the mighty acts of God in human history, acts which prepare for and lead to the appearing, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The claim of the Bible is that these are matters of history. They may be examined. They should be expected to withstand the scrutiny of any who would bother to investigate them.

     When people argue for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures they will, rightly, refer to the majesty of its themes, the fundamental unity of its message, its power to influence the lives of men and women, and the remarkable way in which it has been preserved over centuries of use. But in the end the issue is Jesus Christ. At bottom, confidence in the Bible is a matter of loyalty to Him. Until one has come to terms with Jesus Christ, other issues are merely academic.

     True, we must trust the Bible at some level if we are to come to terms with Jesus of Nazareth. Given this book’s claims and given what it offers us, the only responsible thing is to investigate whether or not we ought to trust it. And that may be done by examining what it and history have said about its central character, Jesus Christ.

     In a conversation with a friend of my mother, I had the temerity to suggest that anyone who was not a Christian was one of two things: ignorant or irresponsible. That still seems to me wholly true. Life is much too short and filled with too many important questions to fail to take seriously this remarkable thing which has occurred on the stage of human history. It matters infinitely what one thinks about Jesus. Be neither ignorant nor irresponsible.

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     Mike Malone, could not find bio

The History of the Reformation

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1995

     “A cesspool of heresies.” This was the judgment rendered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 26, 1521, shortly after Luther took a stand at the Diet of Worms.

     Earlier, in the bull Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X described Luther as a wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ and as a stiff-necked, notorious, damned heretic. On May 4, 1521, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and whisked off to Wartburg castle, where he was kept secretly hidden, disguised as a knight. There Luther immediately undertook the task of translating the Bible into the vernacular.

     Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The socalled “material” cause was the debate over sola fide (“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Church tradition was regarded with respect by the Reformers but not as a normative source of revelation. The “protest” of Protestantism went far beyond the issue of justification by faith alone, challenging many dogmas that emerged in Rome, especially during the Middle Ages.

     In a short time, the Reformation swept through Germany but did not stop there. Aided by the translation of the Bible in other nations, the reform spread to the Huguenots in France, to Scotland, England, Switzerland, Hungary, and Holland. Ulrich Zwingli led the Reformation movement in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and John Calvin among the French Protestants.

     In 1534 Calvin delivered a speech calling the church to return to the pure Gospel of the New Testament. His speech was burned, and Calvin fled Paris to Geneva. Disguised as a vinedresser, he escaped the city in a basket. During the next year, some two dozen Protestants were burned alive in France. This provoked Calvin to write his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was addressed to the King of France. His thought contained in the Institutes developed into the dominant theology for the international expansion of the Reformation.

     The first edition of the Institutes was completed in 1536, the same year Calvin was persuaded by Farel to come to Switzerland to build Geneva into a model city of Reformation. In 1538 Farel and Calvin were forced to leave Geneva. He lived and ministered in Strasbourg for three years until he was recalled to Geneva in 1541.

     Calvin’s theology stressed the sovereignty of God in all of life. His chief passion was the reform of worship to a level of purity that would give no hint to or support of the human penchant for idolatry. Geneva attracted leaders from all over Europe who came there to observe the model and be instructed by Calvin himself.

     During this period turbulence spread to England when King Henry VIII resisted the authority of Rome. In 1534 Henry became the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church. He undertook the persecution of evangelicals, which escalated under “Bloody Mary,” causing many to flee to Geneva for refuge.

     The persecutions were suspended under “Good Queen Bess,” Elizabeth I, whose stance provoked a papal bull against her in 1570. The Reformation spread rapidly to Scotland, largely under the leadership of John Knox, who served 19 months as a galley slave before he went to England and then to Geneva. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament rejected papal authority. In 1561 the Scottish Reformed “Kirk” was reorganized.

     One interesting footnote to this is that the first man John Knox ordained into the ministry of the church was an obscure clergyman by the name of Robert Charles Sproul, of whom I am a direct descendant.

     In the early 17th century, the Reformation spread to the new world with the arrival of the Pilgrims and colonies of Puritans who brought Reformed theology and the Geneva Bible with them.

     Reformation theology dominated Protestant evangelicalism for decades but became diluted later under influences of Pietism and Finneyism.

     By the end of the 20th century, Reformation theology declined dramatically in the Western world, being assaulted by 19th-century liberal theology on the one hand, and the influence of Arminian theology on the other. This was especially true in America.

     In the present scene of American evangelicalism, Reformation theology is a minority report. The dominant strands of theology that reign in current evangelical circles are dispensationalism and neo-Pentecostal charismatic thought. The phenomenal spread and growth of dispensational theology in America is a fascinating chapter in church history. Having its roots in British Plymouth Brethren suppositions, dispensationalism spread rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fueled by the Bible School movement, prophecy conferences, and the preaching of men like D. L. Moody, dispensationalism gathered enormous popular support.

     The American version of dispensationalism got a great boost by the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. The Scofield Bible, with its study notes, served as a popular tool for the spread of dispensational theology. This theology was forged by men who had their roots predominately in Reformation thought. The themes of classical Reformed theology were modified significantly by this movement.

     The New Geneva Study Bible is the first distinctively Reformed study Bible in English to appear since the Geneva Bible in the 16th century. It seeks to recover the theology of the Reformation and provide a guide for the laity to understand its historically, doctrinally, and biblically rich system. Its importance to American Christianity is enormous. It is my hope that it will help guide English-speaking evangelicals back to their Reformation roots. More importantly, it is designed to call evangelicals back to the Bible itself and to their historic confessions of biblical theology.

     Beyond the borders of America, the New Geneva Study Bible may be used to expand the light of the Reformation to lands where the original Reformation never reached, especially to Russia and Eastern Europe.

     In our day we have seen a revival of interest in the Bible and a renewed commitment to the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. But the Reformation was more than a doctrine about the Bible. It was sparked by a deep and serious study of the Bible. It is not enough to extol the virtue of Scripture—we must hear the teaching of Scripture afresh. It is only by a serious and earnest recovery of biblical truth that we will be able to avoid falling into a new cesspool of heresy.

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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:

Songs from Exile

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1997

     In exile the people of Israel faced the question: “How do you sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land?” The question is similar to that faced by contemporary American Christians. Ours is a spiritual exile as we confront a culture and government increasingly hostile to Christianity.

     We look to Nehemiah for clues to guide our own pilgrimage in difficult times. Nehemiah was grief-stricken by the news of the condition of Jerusalem. The walls were broken down and its gates burned with fire. His first emotion over the sad loss of his heritage was grief. It was not bitterness or anger. Nehemiah wept and mourned as Jesus would later weep over the same city.

     In his grief, Nehemiah moved to the next step, prayer and fasting. His prayer was first of all a prayer of adoration for the majestic awe of God and for His faithfulness to His people: “O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments.”

     Even in exile, Nehemiah praised God for His covenant faithfulness. Then the focus of his prayer turned to repentance, pleading with God to forgive the sins of his own people, acknowledging that they had brought exile upon themselves.

     Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to the king. He served in a pagan government as a believer in God. His vocation was that of a servant. He was humble and respectful to the king, but proper fear of his king did not stop him from acting to save his people. He prayed to God and made a request of the king, asking for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild it. He also asked for letters that he might present to lesser governors for safe conduct and even a grant for building materials.

     Not all the pagan governors were sanguine toward Nehemiah and his plans. Indeed, some were fiercely resistant to them. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel (2:10). But there is nothing unusual about this as it is a common pagan reaction to the mission of the church in any age.

     When Nehemiah set about the task of rebuilding his enemies laughed at him and despised him. Nehemiah, though, did not let his critics determine his agenda. He was polite but firm in his response to them.

     When Nehemiah’s pagan enemies received word that he had rebuilt the walls (but the doors were not yet hung on the gates), they invited him to meet with them in a special “audience.” Nehemiah had no time for this sort of thing, knowing the plans of the enemy were evil. He replied to Sanballat and his cronies, “Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Sanballat then sent an open letter accusing Nehemiah of a seditious attempt to become a king and other false charges. Nehemiah sent back a message denying the allegations, noting that the charges were but a thinly veiled form of intimidation.

     Nehemiah’s temptation would have been to allow Sanballat and his pagan cohorts to alter the plans and engage in a joint-venture of compromise in the mission. That would have eased the burden on his own people, won him both the applause of the Jews and of the pagans. But Nehemiah cared nothing for the applause of men and was totally unwilling to compromise the mission he had undertaken for God.

     Instead of worrying about accommodating the pagans, Nehemiah focused on the reforms needed among his own people. It was one thing to rebuild the city; it was quite another to rebuild the people. The paganism Nehemiah feared was not the paganism of the pagans; it was the paganism of his own people. It was not paganism outside the camp that threatened Israel so much as the paganism within the camp.

     The key strategy of Nehemiah may be seen in the closing verses of his book: “And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me … Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan” (13:28–30).

     Nehemiah is not unique in redemptive history. The people of God in every era are called upon to relate to pagans around them. As the New Testament commands, Nehemiah honored the king and prayed for him. He was diligent to give civil obedience where possible without compromising the commands of God. He sought, as the Apostle Paul did, to live at peace with all men.

     But neither Nehemiah nor Paul was able to live at peace with all men. There are always pagans like Sanballat or Demetrius of Ephesus who seek the destruction of the work of God. Neither Paul nor Nehemiah responded to such pagans with hatred. But neither did they enter into unholy alliances with them.

     Nor did Nehemiah lead a monastic retreat into the wilderness. Jerusalem was not a monastery, but a city designed to be set on a hill. The task of rebuilding the Holy City was not one of world-withdrawal. Nehemiah understood that the home base of our mission is still the church. The staging zone for the divine operation must be sound if the mission to the world is to be effective.

     Our readiness to perform our task becomes critical when we realize the world also has a mission to capture and assimilate the church. And if the church becomes an echo of the world, the mission of the world is accomplished.

     When the church is paganized there is no need for walls or gates in the city of God. Then the church doesn’t need to worry about singing the Lord’s song—it can sing the songs of the pagan culture because there is no longer a strange and foreign land.

     But the people of God are always pilgrims. We are always living in exile if we are living in the kingdom of God. We may respectfully serve the magistrates of this world. We may seek their sanction for the building of our cities and churches—but we cannot expect them to build them for us. It is our task to build the city of God. It is supremely costly and extraordinarily dangerous. He who will work to build the kingdom of God must be on guard against arrows that are directed at his face—but perhaps even more on guard for the arrows directed at his back.

     Nehemiah’s work provoked hostile reactions from some of the pagans. But the real threat was grounded in the fears of God’s people. When a leader like Nehemiah, Paul, or Jesus Himself provokes a hostile reaction from enemies, the people are prone to turn on them as they bear the fallout from such attacks. Remember, it was the people who feared the wrath of Rome who turned their wrath on Jesus.

     True leaders of the Christian faith, however, love believers and pagans alike and risk the hostility of both to build the kingdom of God.

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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:

A Rose Is a Rose

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1998

     A rose is a rose is a rose. This dictum reinforces the adage that a rose by any other name is still a rose. The idea is that the essence of the rose is not conditioned by what name is attached to it. It is its res, not its nomina, that determines what it is. In different languages, the same flower is known by different names, but it is still the same flower.

     When we apply this idea to theology things get a bit more complicated. Indeed the rose adage has been transferred indiscriminately to religion in order to create a theological concept. The concept is: “God by any other name is still God.” Now certainly, it is true that the immutable essence of God is not changed by the alteration of His name. In English, we may say “God,” in German “Gott,” in Greek “Theos,” yet all these names or words are used to point to the same Deity.

     Beyond this, however, things get murky. It is a quantum leap to go from saying that God by any other name is still God, to saying that all the great religions in the world believe in the same Being though they call Him different names.

     This irrational leap is prodded by the popular analogy of the mountain. This analogy notes that their are many roads up the mountain. Some progress on a more direct route, while others wind about on more circuitous roads, but sooner or later they all arrive at the same place, at the top of the mountain.

     So, it is argued, there are many roads that lead to God. They may be different routes but they all end up in the same place—with God Himself. That is, the differing roads indicate no difference in the God who is found. God’s being, then, becomes the lowest (or highest) common denominator of all religions.

     The road analogy is buttressed by the democratic truism that all religions are equal under the law. The fallacy in this axiom is thinking that just because all religions enjoy equal tolerance under the civil law, they therefore are all equally valid. That might be true if there were no God, but then it would be better to say that with respect to their ultimate affirmation they are all equally invalid.

     To argue that all religions ultimately believe in the same God is the quintessential nonsense statement. Even a cursory examination of the content of different religions reveals this. The nature of the Canaanite deity Baal differs sharply from the nature of the biblical God. They are not remotely the same. This sharp distinction is also seen when comparing the God of Israel with the gods and goddesses of Roman, Greek, or Norse mythology.

     The problem becomes even more complex when we consider that sometimes different religions use the same name for God while their views of the nature of God differ radically. Consider, for example, the religion of Mormonism. It claims to embrace the Bible (as well as the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine of Covenants) and professes belief in the God of the Bible as well as the biblical Christ. Mormons call themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yet historic Christianity does not accept the Mormon religion as a branch or denomination of Christianity. Why? Because the Mormon view of the nature of God and of Christ differs sharply at essential points of faith. For example, Mormonism categorically rejects the full deity of Christ. Christ is said to be pre-existent, but not eternal. He is highly exalted—indeed revered—but He remains a creature, not Creator, in Mormon theology.

     What about Islam? Islam is one of the largest religions in the world. In the city of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock is displayed as one of the most beautiful sacred shrines on the planet. Islam claims to embrace the God of the Old Testament. It holds the biblical patriarchs in high esteem and even accords a certain respect to Jesus as a great prophet, but He pales in significance to Mohammed, who is the supreme prophet in the credo: “Allah is God and Mohammed is His Prophet.”

     This forces the question, “Is Allah the same God as Yahweh, only under a different name?” Or we could pose the question in a different way: “Is Allah the God of the Bible?”

     The answer to these questions depends first of all on the answer to the question: “Is the God of Christianity the God in the Old Testament, that is, Yahweh?” If the Being who is called “God” in the New Testament is the God called “Yahweh” in the Old Testament, then, manifestly, the God of Islam is not the God of the Bible. As Yahweh continues to reveal Himself through the ministry of Christ and the apostles, it is clear Yahweh is very different from Allah. We cannot legitimately harmonize the theology of Christianity with the theology of Islam. They differ sharply at essential points.

     The most obvious difference is with respect to the Trinity. Christians confess the triune nature of God. The language “nature” here may be confusing inasmuch as the Christian doctrine of God affirms that God is one in essence (or nature) and three in person. This means that the distinction of persons in the Godhead is not a distinction of essence, which would leave us with three gods. For precision, we must walk the razor’s edge and say that the distinctions of persons in the Godhead is an essential distinction, yet not a distinction of essence. God is one in being (or essence), but it is important to note the personal distinctions of God, because the Bible goes to great lengths to do so.

     Here is a crucial difference between the Muslim understanding of God and the Christian concept: The term “god” does not refer to the same being in each religion because Allah is clearly not triune. For Islam, there is no second person of the Trinity who becomes incarnate and effects our salvation and no third person of the Trinity who applies that redemption to us. So we are left with radically different views of God via the person and work of Christ and the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

     There are two other vital differences between Christianity and Islam. Islam has no Cross and no resurrection, articles of the faith that are of the essence of Christianity and of ultimate importance to the plan of the God of the Bible. Mohammed made no atonement for our sins when he died. And when he died, he stayed dead.

     There are other crucial differences we could explore of how God is understood in orthodox Christianity and how He is understood in orthodox Islam. It is enough for now to say that Allah and Yahweh are not the same. One is the living God; the other is an idol.

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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:

Equipped for Jihad

By Carl Ellis 4/1/1998

     When sharing my faith with a Muslim, I’ve found it helpful to evaluate why he is devoted to Islam. Three considerations are important.

     First, he could be moved by the standards of Islam—the doctrine, theology or teaching. Most Christians seem to assume that the “standards” alone are the reason a person embraces any belief system. In my experience, the other two considerations have greater weight.

     Second, he could be devoted to Islam because of his situation—a need for cultural identity, feelings of alienation, etc. The Muslim community projects itself as a brotherhood with affirmation and solidarity.

     Third, he could practice Islam because of his own motivations and goals—e.g., the desire for godliness. Often, a person realizes that he has been alienated from God and consequently seeks to achieve God’s favor. Perhaps he wants to purge himself of false values such as materialism or self-centeredness. Therefore, he might see Islam, with its disciplined, rigorous approach to life as the means to satisfy his desire for righteousness.

     Instead of simply confronting a Muslim, pitting my doctrine against his, I seek to draw him out through conversation. I’ve met many Muslims whose personal goals and motivations were essentially biblical. In such cases, I’ve learned to be sympathetic and supportive. As a result, I’ve seen barriers come down. Only after establishing such camaraderie will a discussion concerning the means of achieving their goals become meaningful. This is when the Gospel really becomes “good news.”

     I find American converts to Islam particularly interesting. Often, they were raised in the church and have devout Christian mothers who pray for them constantly. While they have a rational Islamic veneer, they tend to have an intuitive Christian outlook. If we learn to relate to such Muslim converts wisely on a rational basis, God’s Word will resonate with that intuitive core. Often this will affect an American Muslim convert in more ways than he is willing to admit.

     The Islamic community is roughly equivalent to the Jewish community in the first century. Our approach to Muslims, therefore, must be similar to the apostle Paul’s approach to his Jewish brothers. In acknowledging that non-believing Jews “have a zeal of God but not based on knowledge” (Rom. 10:2), Paul is saying, “Though they outwardly have the right goals and motivations, they have adopted the wrong means for achieving those goals and satisfying those motivations.”

     I have talked to dozens of Muslims who have, in the final analysis, admitted they can do nothing to earn God’s favor—their only hope of salvation is in God alone. Is not this the basis of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

     God promises His Word will not return void (Isa. 55:11). If we simply plant the seed and water it, God will “give the increase.” We often find ourselves oriented toward instant salvations and instant decisions. However, it doesn’t work that way with Muslims. It takes time, patience, and most of all, love. Meanwhile, God is faithful.

     If you sense God’s calling to minister to Muslims, here are some practical suggestions:

     Be yourself

     Try to understand Islamic doctrine from the perspective of Islam. Study the history of Islam’s development, especially in America.

     Be a good listener. Don’t evaluate a Muslim only on the basis of his doctrine. Examine the other factors which fire his devotion to Islam.

     When his motivations and goals are biblical, affirm them. When they are not, lovingly challenge them. Try to use words according to his definitions, not yours.

     When dealing with a Muslim’s doctrine, do not use the occasion to show how much you know about his faith. Instead, deal with him on the basis of what he expresses to you about his beliefs. You’ll find he cannot be consistent with the doctrines he holds.

     It’s always important to draw him out by asking questions in the genuine spirit of wanting to be informed. Give him a chance to express himself, and make sure he knows you understand what he’s saying. Ask him, “Is this what you mean?” Then try to summarize his point.

     Do not be bowled over by his arguments. Stand firm, with poise and confidence. If you are familiar with his theology, you can tell when he begins to feel the pinch.

     Usually, he will begin to repeat himself or make up his theology on the spot. Don’t take advantage of his vulnerability by lording it over him. Rather, seek to communicate subtly but clearly that you are aware of his tenuous position. The very fact that you do not pulverize him will communicate more about the validity of the Christian faith than if you had devastated him with your rational arguments.

     Do not use a King James Bible. According to the teachings of some Muslim sects, King James himself translated this version and corrupted it.

     Never use a Bible in which you have made any marks. To a Muslim, this indicates a disrespect for the Word of God.

     Avoid all pictures of God, Jesus or any biblical characters. This looks like idolatry to a Muslim.

     Never use the word “Trinity.” Because of the Muslim’s teaching, this word often connotes the worship of three gods and will bog you down with issues of polytheism. From Scripture, we know that God’s oneness of being is never diminished by His tri-personhood. There are many ways to express the Trinity concept, for example “Godhead.”

     In dealing with Muslims, remove all offenses you can—except the Cross.

     Most of all, never forget the power of love. For against love, there is no defense, Islamic or otherwise.

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     Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr.

Leviticus 2-3; John 21; Proverbs 18; Colossians 1

By Don Carson 3/31/2018

     After the remarkable exchange that reinstates Peter, Jesus quietly tells him that this discipleship will someday cost him his life: “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). If the prediction itself has some ambiguity, by the time John records it here all ambiguities had disappeared: “Jesus said that to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (21:19). Tradition has it, probably rightly, that Peter was martyred in Rome, about the same time that Paul was executed, both under the Emperor Nero, in the first half of the 60’s.

     Peter observes “the disciple whom Jesus loved” — none other than John the evangelist — following them as he and Jesus stroll along the beach (20:20). The designation “the disciple whom Jesus loved” should not be taken to mean that Jesus played a nasty game of arbitrary favorites. Small indications suggest that many people who followed Jesus felt specially loved by him. Thus when Lazarus lay seriously ill, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (11:3). Even after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus’ followers have delighted in his love, his personal love for them. Thus Paul needs only to mention Jesus and the cross, and he may burst into spontaneous praise with an additional subordinate clause: “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

     In this case, however, there is still something of the old Peter left. Doubtless he was glad to be reinstated, to be charged with feeding Jesus’ lambs and sheep (John 21:15-17). On the other hand, the prospect of an ignominious death was less appealing. So when Peter sees John, he asks, “Lord, what about him?” (21:21).

     We are in no position to criticize Peter. Most of us are constantly comparing service records. Green is a not uncommon color among ministers of the Gospel. Someone else has it a little easier, so we can explain away his or her superior fruitfulness. Their kids turn out better, their church is a little more prosperous, their evangelism more effective. Alternatively, we achieve a certain amount of “success” and find ourselves looking over our shoulders at those coming behind, making snide remarks about those who will soon displace us. But after all, they’ve had more advantages than we, haven’t they?

     It is all so pathetic, so self-focused, so sinful. Jesus tells Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (21:22). The diversity of gifts and graces is enormous; the only Master we must please is Jesus.

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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:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 35

Great Is the LORD
35 OF DAVID.

17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.

19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     4. Thus, indeed, it is. Aroused consciences, when they have to do with God, feel this to be the only asylum in which they can breathe safely. For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their brightness on the appearance of the sun, what think we will be the case with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God? For the scrutiny will be most strict, penetrating to the most hidden thoughts of the heart. As Paul says, it "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart," (1 Cor. 4:5); will compel the reluctant and dissembling conscience to bring forward everything, even things which have now escaped our memory. The devil, aware of all the iniquities which he has induced us to perpetrate, will appear as accuser; the external show of good works, the only thing now considered, will then be of no avail; the only thing demanded will be the true intent of the will. Hence hypocrisy, not only that by which a man, though consciously guilty before God, affects to make an ostentatious display before man, but that by which each imposes upon himself before God (so prone are we to soothe and flatter ourselves), will fall confounded, how much soever it may now swell with pride and presumption. Those who do not turn their thoughts to this scene may be able for the moment calmly and complacently to rear up a righteousness for themselves; but this the judgment of God will immediately overthrow, just as great wealth amassed in a dream vanishes the moment we awake. Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what deemed glory is ignominy.

5. Let us not decline to descend from this contemplation of the divine perfection, to look into ourselves without flattery or blind self-love. It is not strange that we are so deluded in this matter, seeing none of us can avoid that pestilential self-indulgence, which, as Scripture proclaims, is naturally inherent in all: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes," says Solomon (Prov. 21:2). And again, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes," (Prov. 16:2). What then? does this hallucination excuse him? No, indeed, as Solomon immediately adds, "The Lord weigheth the spirits;" that is, while man flatters himself by wearing an external mask of righteousness, the Lord weighs the hidden impurity of the heart in his balance. Seeing, therefore, that nothing is gained by such flattery, let us not voluntarily delude ourselves to our own destruction. To examine ourselves properly, our conscience must be called to the judgment-seat of God. His light is necessary to disclose the secret recesses of wickedness which otherwise lie too deeply hid. Then only shall we clearly perceive what the value of our works is; that man, so far from being just before God, is but rottenness and a worm, abominable and vain, drinking in "iniquity like water." For "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," (Job 14:5). Then we shall experience the truth of what Job said of himself: "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse," (Job 9:20). Nor does the complaint which the prophet made concerning Israel apply to one age only. It is true of every age, that "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," (Isaiah 53:6). Indeed, he there comprehends all to whom the gift of redemption was to come. And the strictness of the examination ought to be continued until it have completely alarmed us, and in that way prepared us for receiving the grace of Christ. For he is deceived who thinks himself capable of enjoying it, until he have laid aside all loftiness of mind. There is a well-known declaration, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble," (1 Pet. 5:5).

6. But what means is there of humbling us if we do not make way for the mercy of God by our utter indigence and destitution? For I call it not humility, so long as we think there is any good remaining in us. Those who have joined together the two things, to think humbly of ourselves before God and yet hold our own righteousness in some estimation, have hitherto taught a pernicious hypocrisy. For if we confess to God contrary to what we feel, we wickedly lie to him; but we cannot feel as we ought without seeing that every thing like a ground of boasting is completely crushed. Therefore, when you hear from the prophets "thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks" (Ps. 18:27), consider, first, that there is no access to salvation unless all pride is laid aside and true humility embraced; secondly, that that humility is not a kind of moderation by which you yield to God some article of your right (thus men are called humble in regard to each other when they neither conduct themselves haughtily nor insult over other, though they may still entertain some consciousness of their own excellence), but that it is the unfeigned submission of a mind overwhelmed by a serious conviction of its want and misery. Such is the description every where given by the word of God. When in Zephaniah the Lord speaks thus, "I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord," (Zeph. 3:11, 12), does he not plainly show who are the humble--viz. those who lie afflicted by a knowledge of their poverty? On the contrary, he describes the proud as rejoicing (exultantes), such being the mode in which men usually express their delight in prosperity. To the humble, whom he designs to save, he leaves nothing but hope in the Lord. Thus, also, in Isaiah, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word," (Isaiah 66:2). again, "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones," (Isaiah 57:15). By the term contrition which you so often hear, understand a wounded heart, which, humbling the individual to the earth, allows him not to rise. With such contrition must your heart be wounded, if you would, according to the declaration of God, be exalted with the humble. If this is not your case, you shall be humbled by the mighty hand of God to your shame and disgrace.

7. Our divine Master, not confining himself to words, has by a parable set before us, as in a picture, a representation of true humility. He brings forward a publican, who standing afar off, and not daring to lift up his eyes to heaven, smites upon his breast, laments aloud, and exclaims, " God be merciful to me a sinner," (Luke 18:13). Let us not suppose that he gives the signs of a fictitious modesty when he dares not come near or lift up his eyes to heaven, but, smiting upon his breast, confesses himself a sinner; let us know that these are the evidences of his internal feeling. With him our Lord contrasts the Pharisee, who thanks God "I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." In this public confession he admits that the righteousness which he possesses is the gift of God; but because of his confidence that he is righteous, he departs from the presence of God unaccepted and abominated. The publican acknowledging his iniquity is justified. Hence we may see how highly our humility is valued by the Lord: our breast cannot receive his mercy until deprived completely of all opinion of its own worth. When such an opinion is entertained, the door of mercy is shut. That there might be no doubt on this matter, the mission on which Christ was sent into the world by his Father was "to preach good tidings to the meek," "to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," (Isa. 61:1-3). In fulfillment of that mission, the only persons whom he invites to share in his beneficence are the "weary and heavy laden." In another passage he says, " I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance," (Mt. 11:28; 9:13).

8. Therefore if we would make way for the call of Christ, we must put far from us all arrogance and confidence. The former is produced by a foolish persuasion of self-righteousness, when a man thinks that he has something in himself which deservedly recommends him to God; the latter may exist without any confidence in works. [420] For many sinners, intoxicated with the pleasures of vice, think not of the judgment of God. Lying stupefied, as it were, by a kind of lethargy, they aspire not to the offered mercy. It is not less necessary to shake off torpor of this description than every kind of confidence in ourselves, in order that we may haste to Christ unencumbered, and while hungry and empty be filled with his blessings. Never shall we have sufficient confidence in him unless utterly distrustful of ourselves; never shall we take courage in him until we first despond of ourselves; never shall we have full consolation in him until we cease to have any in ourselves. When we have entirely discarded all self-confidence, and trust solely in the certainty of his goodness, we are fit to apprehend and obtain the grace of God. "When," (as Augustine says), "forgetting our own merits, we embrace the gifts of Christ, because if he should seek for merits in us we should not obtain his gifts," (August. de Verb. Apost. 8). With this Bernard admirably accords, comparing the proud who presume in the least on their merits, to unfaithful servants, who wickedly take the merit of a favor merely passing through them, just as if a wall were to boast of producing the ray which it receives through the window (Bernard, Serm. 13, in Cant). Not to dwell longer here, let us lay down this short but sure and general rule, That he is prepared to reap the fruits of the divine mercy who has thoroughly emptied himself, I say not of righteousness (he has none), but of a vain and blustering show of righteousness; for to whatever extent any man rests in himself, to the same extent he impedes the beneficence of God.

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[420] French, "Par arrogance j'enten l'orgueil qui s'engendre d'une fole persuasion de justice, quand l'homme pense avoir quelque chose, dont il merite d'estre agreable à Dieu; par presomption j'enten une nonchalance charnelle, qui peut estre sans aucune fiance des oeuvres;"--by arrogance I mean the pride which is engendered by a foolish persuasion of righteousness, when man thinks he has something for which he deserves to be agreeable to God. By presumption I understand a carnal indifference, which may exist without any confidence in works.

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

The Biblical Mind

By Dr. David Wells  ( No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? )

     ... What I have in view as singularly important if we are to begin the recovery of theology in the Church — its sine qua non — is not a particular belief. Nor is it initially any particular method for displaying these biblical materials around certain themes. It is something far more basic than that. It is our capacity to wrench ourselves free from the subjective preoccupation of our modernized culture (the same sort of liberation that converted pagans had to find in the early centuries of Christian life) and to occupy ourselves instead with the objective interests of the biblical. Without such a transformation, particular ways of thinking, or the methods by which they proceed, either fall to the ground and die for want of some receptive soil or they are reduced to being little more than illustrations of our own inner life. I intend, therefore, to sketch out in only the briefest, most elementary way what it is that we have in Scripture — and this only with an eye to seeing what kind of mental habits need to be cultivated if we are to enter into it and make its truth our own.

     It goes without saying that the Bible has a narrative with a beginning and an end, a narrative that unfolds within history, the meaning of which God himself supplies. ( God who acts: Biblical theology as recital (Studies in Biblical theology) ) Yet even a description so sparse and basic as this features a number of important elements: (1) the biblical narrative works itself out in history; (2) the meaning of the narrative resides in its events and yet must be supplied by God; and (3) the meaning of the biblical narrative cannot be fully known until it is completed, which is to say that eschatology is indispensable to its meaning. Each of these points has been vigorously disputed, and beneath each lies a nest of controverted issues and problems. It is not possible for me to follow the many lines of discussion they have provoked; I simply want to trace the implications of each out a bit.

     Unlike Israel's pagan neighbors, the biblical authors did not view history as terrifying, and unlike modernized Americans, they did not view it as worthless. To the contrary, they viewed it as the very arena of redemption. Their identity as a people rested on three great events in their past that revealed the intent of God for them: the call of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. ( The Acts of God: A Study of the Basis of Typology in the Old Testament ) These events also provided the framework within which Paul made his justification for believing that Christ was God's final, culminating act in redemptive history (Acts 13:16-48).

     It is clear that these events were viewed in this way throughout the Testaments. With reference to the first of them, we can begin by noting, for example, that God identifies himself as the God of "Abraham" or "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Gen. 26:24; Exod. 3:6, 15-16; 4:5), thus linking the disclosure of his character and purposes to the history that was inaugurated with the patriarchs. Nor was this linkage a matter of merely passing importance; it was a matter of enduring truth. In his debate with the Sadducees, Jesus pointed to this relationship as evidence of the reality of resurrection. Resurrection was presupposed by the fact that God spoke of himself as still being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37).

     God's act of delivering his people at the Exodus was another event lodged forever in Jewish consciousness that exhibited the nature of God's saving purpose in the world. Repeatedly, after this time, the Hebrews are described as those who came up "out of Egypt" (Exod. 3:11; 13:9, 16; Num. 11:20; 22:11; 32:11; Deut. 16:6; Josh. 2:10; 5:6; Judg. 2:1; 1 Sam. 15:6; 1 Chron. 17:21; Hos. 11:1; cf. Matt. 2:15), and it was God's intent in confronting Pharaoh prior to the Exodus to reveal to him his purposes and power (Exod. 7:17; 8:16; 9:14). Only in their darkest moments did those who had been delivered forget to whom they belonged, sometimes even ascribing their freedom to the work of the pagan gods (Exod. 32:4; cf.Judg. 2:1-5; 6:8-10; 10:10-16; Ps. 78:11; Neh. 9:17). Indeed, it would be impossible to understand the later prophetic ministries of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Malachi had the Exodus not occurred, because each saw it as the moment when the nation was born and the time when it had to assume the moral and spiritual responsibilities of being a delivered people. Each of their ministries might be summed up as calling the people of God to be Exodus people. We have here, then, not only the calling into being of Israel as God's people but also the disclosure of God's character and power in the very warp and woof of history. The Exodus was no religious symbol, no product of the religious imagination, and God's deliverance of his people was objectively wrought and not at all dependent for its realization on internal discernment.

     It goes without saying that each of the acts of God, while being indisputably historical, also had to have its meaning divinely revealed. No doubt, from an Egyptian point of view, the Exodus, to take one example, was an awesome display of power — power that was not simply natural but also supernatural. The waters through which the Israelites passed had religious significance to the Egyptians, as did the frogs that had plagued the land, and hence the release of the Israelites had no small religious significance. Their God had asserted himself against the gods of the Egyptians. The Egyptians could not know, however, what meaning God attached to this most important of Old Testament events, nor how its significance would be played out prophetically in the life of his people, nor how it prefigured an even greater deliverance to come, nor how it was an exhibition of his greatness, grace, and mercy. That was something only God himself could reveal, and he revealed it over time to the prophets and then later to some of the New Testament authors. What lodged in Israel's mind was both the historical event and its meaning, which had been divinely given. And so when we come to the Psalms, for example, the Exodus inspires praise (Pss. 66; 106; 135), offers comfort in distress (77), teaches about the need for trust (78), gives encouragement to prayer (80), warns about disobedience (81), inspires thanksgiving (105; 136), and is the ground for awe (114). No Egyptian who witnessed the emancipation of the Jews would have stumbled upon such meanings naturally, no matter how sagacious that person was. The saving purposes of God are entirely hidden from all human scrutiny until he chooses to make them known as he did in this event through the Scripture.

     It was Barth's desire to protect this truth, especially from the mischief that Liberal biblical scholarship had visited upon it, that led him to disengage God's saving history from the warp and woof of the events in which it was given. This did indeed secure these events from the intrusion of Liberal scholarship, but at some considerable cost, for in the end this robs truth of its objective grounding by removing the defining connections with the history in which it was given. More recently, Wolfhart Pannenberg has attempted to correct this imbalance by asserting the opposite extreme. He contends that God's revelation in history is "open to anyone with eyes to see" and that it can be read with the same "natural knowledge" with which all history is read. He is right enough in asserting that the events of God's salvation history are indeed as discernible as any other events, but he is wrong in asserting that their meaning relative to the unfolding of God's purposes is evident in the events themselves. On that point, Barth was correct: the meaning must be given by God himself.

     So it was that the Israelites were called to remember the stream of divine activity by which God called, shaped, owned, and protected his people. Each generation, "your children and to their children after them," was to be taught what God had done (Deut. 4:9; cf. Deut. 3:24; 1 Sam. 12:7; Ps. 103:7; 105:27; 145:4, 6, 12). Each generation was to be taught the meaning of the feasts, the memorials, and the law which drew out the moral significance of God's redemptive work. They were repeatedly counseled to know this history (e.g., Deut. 5:15; 7:18; 15:3; 25:17-19), because it was in this history that they would learn about the God who called them (Ps. 9:11; 66:5; 74:12; 77:11-12; 86:10; 96:3; 103:6; 105:1; 106:2). It was this history out of which the first creeds were distilled (Deut. 6:20-24; 26:5-9; Josh. 24:2-13), and it was never, therefore, simply a bare rendering of the facts. It was a rendering of their meaning, and it was in the conjunction of event and meaning that Israel's theology was forged, a theology that was to be laid to heart.

     The Exodus was followed in time by the establishment of the monarchy. This was not a novel idea even within Israel, for shortly after the establishment in Palestine, Gideon was asked to rule over the tribes because of the threat posed by the Midianites (Judg. 8:22), and later, under threat from the Ammonites. Jephthah asked for such a position if he were to assume responsibility for defense. Indeed, the book of Judges ends by offering as an explanation for the persistent social chaos the fact that "in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judg. 21:25). The Hebrews were to learn from bitter experience that kings provided no panaceas. And yet, when they viewed David as God taught them to view him (2 Sam. 15:1-37), they saw a king who came close to the ideal, despite his evident and serious sins. His dynasty, based on the covenant into which he had entered (Ps. 132:11-18). lasted as long as the southern kingdom and provided the historical framework through which God extended his rule beyond Israel's borders — in the end, into the far reaches of the world through Christ, who was seen as sitting upon David's throne. It was thus that the history upon which God's people built their understanding, the meaning of which was given to them by God himself, was projected into the future. Even yet, the full meaning of this history lies beyond the present moment.

     Jesus began his ministry by announcing the arrival of this kingdom of God (Mark 1:15), yet it is clear that his understanding opens a new chapter in the history of this idea. Language about God's kingdom is scarce in the Apocrypha, in rabbinic literature, and even in the Dead Sea scrolls, but Jesus used the language in his discourses frequently. And in his teaching it takes on fresh meaning. No longer does it signify a geographical identity; rather, it signifies God's rule. The transition was made from place to people, and with that transition a new missionary mandate was given to the new people of God.

     This is why, in Gospel references to the establishment of the kingdom, the initiative is always seen to lie with God: this is no ordinary political realm to be carved out by guile or force of arms. The kingdom is God's to give away. It is his, and in his gift of it. his majesty, grace, and glory are manifested (Luke 12:31; 23:51; Matt. 6:10). It is ours not to create but simply to accept by faith and with gratitude (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32). God builds it; we can never destroy it (Matt. 25:34; Luke 10:11). We can seek it, ask for it, and enter it, but it is his to give, for he has made it.

     By the time we reach the Gospels, the reign of God narrows from its broader reaches in the Old Testament, where it is typically described as extending to the whole of creation. In the Gospels, God's kingdom has two foci — salvation and judgment. And the fact that it is Jesus who inaugurates it, thus doing the work that only God can do (God alone saves and judges), is an implicit argument for his divinity that should not be underestimated. It is by God alone that we can be saved from sin, death, and the devil; it is by God alone that we are judged. And the Gospels indicate that Christ undertakes both of these activities by way of establishing his kingdom. He saves and he judges. The first theme, salvation, is more commonly associated with his incarnation, and the second theme, judgment, with his return. It is thus that the promise to David is finally realized, thus that his greater Son comes to sit upon his throne forever. And so, as the gospel of his grace is spread, we immediately find Luke reporting that Cretans and Arabs spoke of "the wonders of God" (Acts 2:11).

     In the Old Testament, Israel, by the acts and Word of God, was wrenched free of the pagan habit of thinking of life as endless cyclical repetition rather than movement toward a specific destination. Israel was taught to understand itself as having been caught up in the redemptive and revelational purposes of God, purposes that kept bursting through the seams of its collective national life in unexpected and sometimes unmanageable ways. While, from one angle, God regularized the life of his people, from another he regularly disconcerted them, for a number of his promises could be fulfilled only in a context larger than that of the nation to which he made them. Israel was always called to expand its perspective, to look beyond itself and its present to a future in which Christ would mount David's throne and enact a new Exodus, this time from sin and judgment. The New Testament epistles amply work out the ways in which Christ brought to its final realization the promises made long ago to Abraham.

     The Jews had traditionally divided time into two ages — the age before the coming of Messiah, in which sin and death reigned, and the age that would follow his coming, when these scourges would cease. The early Christians were led to see that something far more complex was afoot, and it is one of the genuine gains of New Testament scholarship in the twentieth century that we have built this into the way we understand the apostolic mind at work. ( The Old Testament and the Christian Faith ) Especially in the letters of Paul, but evident throughout the other epistles as well, there appears the understanding that these two ages are running concurrently with each other, the "age to come" now inaugurated and penetrating this "present age." The domain of the Messiah, Christ's kingdom, is thus not an earthly realm, for the beginning of his rule has already begun, but its completion is yet to come. Only with its completion, at the return of Christ, will the biblical promises made to God's people be fully realized. The culmination of Israel's life in the Old Testament is not an earthly future, therefore, but an eternal future — something that is already suggested by the later prophets, who saw the coming of a new Exodus from bondage not to the Egyptians but to sin, death, and the devil.

     We have, then, a salvation history, an interpreted narrative of God's acts and redemptive purposes that is as unique as the God in whom it is centered. It was unique in the ancient world, as we have seen, and it is unique in ours. It begins with three main events — the call of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, and the establishment of David's throne. These events form the most important parts of the public framework within which God and his work are understood in the Old Testament; in the New Testament, the incarnation, death, resurrection, and return of Christ bring each of these events to final fruition. It is in Christ that we become Abraham's children, in Christ that we become God's children, in Christ that we become God's subjects. It is because of Christ that Abraham's children become as numerous as the stars above and these children are finally able to enter the Promised Land, which is now cleansed forever of all sin, suffering, and tears, and in which God's rule is so established that it will never again be contested.

     The resurrection of Christ, in which this redemptive history from the Old Testament is completed and declared, also challenged every other ancient religious worldview. For, as Pannenberg notes, after the resurrection, the prevailing Greek habit of looking for "religion - in general" was directly challenged by the particularity of the truth claims about Christ." The early Christians did not preach their experience of Christ; that would have been to promote a form of religion like any other form of religion. Rather, they preached the Christ of that experience. They preached not what was internally interesting but what was externally true. God had raised him from the dead, and this was a matter of history, not simply of internal perception. The bells that rang in celebration of God's conquest over sin, death, and the devil also summoned every competing religious view into judgment. This event invalidated every pretension to absoluteness in the ancient world — as it does in the modern world.

     The fact that God's truth was transmitted through events external to the individual meant that it was objective, and the fact that it was objective meant, further, that his truth was actual. It was truth for the open market, truth for the nation, truth for other nations. The content of this truth could not be privatized, reduced within private consciousness. Those who were trained by biblical revelation could not follow the path of the pagans, who established faith on their experience of nature and their intuitions regarding human nature. Their faith was grounded solely in the objective and public nature of God's Word. They stood alone among these ancient cultures, their faith distinctive and unique.

     Furthermore, inasmuch as the meaning of God's redemptive acts was not discovered by human insight and sagacity but was rather given by God himself, that revelation was authoritative. The Church through the ages has always assumed and respected the authority of Scripture. It was never questioned until the modern period, and it has only become a problem because some have suggested that God did not interpret — perhaps could not interpret — the meaning of his acts or that the record of the acts themselves is awry. Both of these assertions, however, are typically made not on historical grounds but on philosophical grounds. It is not the narrative of God's acts that makes it hard for us to believe in the authority of their meaning; it is the modern world.

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



  • Alistair Begg
  • John MacArthur
  • John MacArthur

#1 Refuge in the King | Ligonier

 

#2 Who Is Jesus | Ligonier

 

#3 Simultaneously Righteous and a Sinner | Ligonier

 


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2007    Accepted in the Beloved

     My father was a veteran of World War II, the son of a small-town country preacher, school teacher, and sheriff, the son-in-law of the automobile manufacturer Preston Tucker, a fellow college graduate of Sam Walton, the leader of one of the first grass-roots movements to campaign for Ronald Reagan for president, and a father who grieved for many years over the loss of his first son who died at eighteen years of age. My father was a great man, but he never seemed to overcome the grief he experienced. I never understood the grief my father experienced over the loss of his first son until I was faced with a similar loss. The grief I experienced began with news that came early on a Sunday evening in September — my father had died. I was sixteen years old.

     I didn’t know how to grieve. I couldn’t even bring myself to cry over his death until years later when I cried out to God asking Him why he had to take my father away from me. It wasn’t until I entered my twenties and began to learn what manhood is all about when I realized how much I needed my father. It was then, while in college, that I began to deal with the grief that had set in several years before. It was then that I understood the truth of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians when he wrote that we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The way we grieve is different because the hope we possess is different. Our hope is not in ourselves. We would fail just as our first father failed, sinning against his Father, bringing grief and shame not only to himself but to the entire human race. For in Adam we all sinned, and in Adam we all died (Rom. 5:12). As a result, we suffer with grief every day of our lives — grief over the loss of others, over the sin of others, and over the sin within us.

     However, our grief cannot even begin to be compared to the grief of the one who knew no sin. The Man of Sorrows became acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3) so that He might bear our grief and carry away our sorrows (v. 4). All this was done so that we might know our heavenly Father who loved us and gave His only-begotten Son, laying on Him the iniquity of us all, so that we might live eternally coram Deo, before His face, loving Him and enjoying Him forever. The first man sinned and grieved only for himself, but the second Man knew no sin yet grieved for us so that we would not grieve forever.

     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

     Queen Ka’ahumanu served as regent-prime minister of Hawaii after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha. Together with her son, King Kamehameha II, they ended all idolatry and human sacrifice on the islands. On this date, March 31, 1820, the first missionaries, led by Hiram Bingham, arrived in Hawaii on the ship, Thaddeus. The Queen received Christ and helped spread the Gospel throughout the islands. Just prior to her death, Queen Ka’ahumanu was presented with the newly completed version of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language. Her last words were: “I am going where the mansions are ready.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.
--- Soren Kierkegaard   The Essential Kierkegaard

An entire nation shook under the power of one man’s [MLK’s] dream! Now if one dream can do that for our nation, imagine what a dream can do for the Church.
--- Wayne Cordeiro   Doing Church as a Team: The Miracle of Teamwork and How It Transforms Churches

The church is not a dormitory for sleepers, it is an institution for workers; it is not a rest camp, it is a front line trench.
--- Billy Sunday   Billy Sunday, Home Run to Heaven (Sowers)


Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
--- David Hume   A Treatise of Human Nature

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 3/31
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Fifth of fifth month, 1768. -- I left home under the humbling hand of the Lord, with a certificate to visit some meetings in Maryland, and to proceed without a horse seemed clearest to me. I was at the Quarterly Meetings at Philadelphia and Concord, whence I proceeded to Chester River, and, crossing the bay, was at the Yearly Meeting at West River; I then returned to Chester River, and, taking a few meetings in my way, proceeded home. It was a journey of much inward waiting, and as my eye was to the Lord, way was several times opened to my humbling admiration when things appeared very difficult. On my return I felt a very comfortable relief of mind, having through Divine help labored in much plainness, both with Friends selected and in the more public meetings, so that I trust the pure witness in many minds was reached.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-Second Chapter / Remember The Innumerable Gifts Of God

          The Disciple

     OPEN my heart, O Lord, to Your law and teach me to walk in the way of Your commandments. Let me understand Your will. Let me remember Your blessings—all of them and each single one of them—with great reverence and care so that henceforth I may return worthy thanks for them. I know that I am unable to give due thanks for even the least of Your gifts. I am unworthy of the benefits You have given me, and when I consider Your generosity my spirit faints away before its greatness. All that we have of soul and body, whatever we possess interiorly or exteriorly, by nature or by grace, are Your gifts and they proclaim Your goodness and mercy from which we have received all good things.

     If one receives more and another less, yet all are Yours and without You nothing can be received. He who receives greater things cannot glory in his own merit or consider himself above others or behave insolently toward those who receive less. He who attributes less to himself and is the more humble and devout in returning thanks is indeed the greater and the better, while he who considers himself lower than all men and judges himself to be the least worthy, is the more fit to receive the greater blessing.

     He, on the other hand, who has received fewer gifts should not be sad or impatient or envious of the richer man. Instead he should turn his mind to You and offer You the greatest praise because You give so bountifully, so freely and willingly, without regard to persons. All things come from You; therefore, You are to be praised in all things. You know what is good for each of us; and why one should receive less and another more is not for us to judge, but for You Who have marked every man’s merits.

     Therefore, O Lord God, I consider it a great blessing not to have many things which human judgment holds praiseworthy and glorious, for one who realizes his own poverty and vileness should not be sad or downcast at it, but rather consoled and happy because You, O God, have chosen the poor, the humble, and the despised in this world to be Your friends and servants. The truth of this is witnessed by Your Apostles, whom You made princes over all the world. Yet they lived in this world without complaining, so humble and simple, so free from malice and deceit, that they were happy even to suffer reproach for Your name and to embrace with great affection that which the world abhors.

     A man who loves You and recognizes Your benefits, therefore, should be gladdened by nothing so much as by Your will, by the good pleasure of Your eternal decree. With this he should be so contented and consoled that he would wish to be the least as others wish to be the greatest; that he would be as peaceful and satisfied in the last place as in the first, and as willing to be despised, unknown and forgotten, as to be honored by others and to have more fame than they. He should prefer Your will and the love of Your honor to all else, and it should comfort him more than all the benefits which have been, or will be, given him.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Christian Work Requires Love

     "The fruit of the Spirit is love." I ask once again, Why is it so? And the answer comes: That is the only power in which Christians really can do their work.

     Yes, it is that we need. We want not only love that is to bind us to each other, but we want a divine love in our work for the lost around us. Oh, do we not often undertake a great deal of work, just as men undertake work of philanthropy, from a natural spirit of compassion for our fellow-men? Do we not often undertake Christian work because our minister or friend calls us to it? And do we not often perform Christian work with a certain zeal but without having had a baptism of love?

     People often ask: "What is the baptism of fire?"

     I have answered more than once: I know no fire like the fire of God, the fire of everlasting love that consumed the sacrifice on Calvary. The baptism of love is what the Church needs, and to get that we must begin at once to get down upon our faces before God in confession, and plead:

     "Lord, let love from Heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my life to pray and live as one who has given himself up for the everlasting love to dwell in and fill him."

     Ah, yes, if the love of God were in our hearts, what a difference it would make! There are hundreds of believers who say:

     "I work for Christ, and I feel I could work much harder, but I have not the gift. I do not know how or where to begin. I do not know what I can do."

     Brother, sister, ask God to baptize you with the Spirit of love, and love will find its way. Love is a fire that will burn through every difficulty. You may be a shy, hesitating man, who cannot speak well, but love can burn through everything. God fill us with love! We need it for our work.

     You have read many a touching story of love expressed, and you have said, How beautiful! I heard one not long ago. A lady had been asked to speak at a Rescue Home where there were a number of poor women. As she arrived there and got to the window with the matron, she saw outside a wretched object sitting, and asked:

     "Who is that?"

     The matron answered: "She has been into the house thirty or forty times, and she has always gone away again. Nothing can be done with her, she is so low and hard."

     But the lady said: "She must come in."

     The matron then said: "We have been waiting for you, and the company is assembled, and you have only an hour for the address."

     The lady replied: "No, this is of more importance"; and she went outside where the woman was sitting and said:

     "My sister, what is the matter?"

     "I am not your sister," was the reply.

     Then the lady laid her hand on her, and said: "Yes, I am your sister, and I love you"; and so she spoke until the heart of the poor woman was touched.

     The conversation lasted some time, and the company were waiting patiently. Ultimately the lady brought the woman into the room. There was the poor wretched, degraded creature, full of shame. She would not sit on a chair, but sat down on a stool beside the speaker's seat, and she let her lean against her, with her arms around the poor woman's neck, while she spoke to the assembled people. And that love touched the woman's heart; she had found one who really loved her, and that love gave access to the love of Jesus.

     Praise God! there is love upon earth in the hearts of God's children; but oh, that there were more!

     O God, baptize our ministers with a tender love, and our missionaries, and our Bible-readers, and our workers, and our young men's and young women's associations. Oh, that God would begin with us now, and baptize us with heavenly love!


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:23-25
     by D.H. Stern

23     The fields of the poor may yield much food,
but some are swept away because of injustice.

24     He who fails to use a stick hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

25     The righteous person eats his fill,
but the belly of the wicked is empty.


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

          9

     ‘But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?’

     ‘Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.’

     At this moment we were suddenly interrupted by the thin voice of a Ghost talking at an enormous speed. Looking behind us we saw the creature. It was addressing one of the Solid People and was doing so too busily to notice us. Every now and then the Solid Spirit tried to get in a word but without success. The Ghost’s talk was like this:

     ‘Oh, my dear, I’ve had such a dreadful time, I don’t know how I ever got here at all, I was coming with Elinor Stone and we’d arranged the whole thing and we were to meet at the corner of Sink Street; I made it perfectly plain because I knew what she was like and if I told her once I told her a hundred times I would not meet her outside that dreadful Marjoribanks woman’s house, not after the way she’d treated me … that was one of the most dreadful things that happened to me; I’ve been dying to tell you because I felt sure you’d tell me I acted rightly; no, wait a moment, dear, till I’ve told you—I tried living with her when I first came and it was all fixed up, she was to do the cooking and I was to look after the house and I did think I was going to be comfortable after all I’d been through but she turned out to be so changed, absolutely selfish, and not a particle of sympathy for anyone but herself—and as I once said to her, “I do think I’m entitled to a little consideration because you at least lived out your time, but I oughtn’t to have been here for years and years yet”—oh but of course I’m forgetting you don’t know—I was murdered, simply murdered, dear, that man should never have operated, I ought to be alive today and they simply starved me in that dreadful nursing home and no one ever came near me and …’

     The shrill monotonous whine died away as the speaker, still accompanied by the bright patience at her side, moved out of hearing.

     ‘What troubles ye, son?’ asked my Teacher.

     ‘I am troubled, Sir,’ said I, ‘because that unhappy creature doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of soul that ought to be even in danger of damnation. She isn’t wicked: she’s only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling, and feels that a little kindness, and rest, and change would due her all right.’

     ‘That is what she once was. That is maybe what she still is. If so, she certainly will be cured. But the whole question is whether she is now a grumbler.’

     ‘I should have thought there was no doubt about that!’

     ‘Aye, but ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman—even the least trace of one—still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.’

     ‘But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Heedfulness v. hypocrisy in ourselves

     If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. ---
1 John 5:16.

     If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we shall become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn our discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of into intercession on their behalf. The revelation is made to us not through the acuteness of our minds, but by the direct penetration of the Spirit of God, and if we are not heedful of the source of the revelation, we shall become criticizing centres and forget that God says—“… he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.” Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.

     One of the subtlest burdens God ever puts on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning other souls. He reveals things in order that we may take the burden of these souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them, and as we intercede on His line, God says He will give us “life for them that sin not unto death.” It is not that we bring God into touch with our minds, but that we rouse ourselves until God is able to convey His mind to us about the one for whom we intercede.

     Is Jesus Christ seeing of the travail of His soul in us? He cannot unless we are so identified with Himself that we are roused up to get His view about the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ will be abundantly satisfied with us as intercessors.


My Utmost for His Highest

Sarn Rhiw
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Sarn Rhiw

So we know
she must have said something
to him - What language,
life? Ah, what language?

Thousands of years later
I inhabit a house
whose stone is the language
of its builders. Here

by the sea they said little.
But their message to the future
was: Build well. In the fire
of an evening I catch faces

staring at me. In April,
when light quickens and clouds
thin, boneless presences
flit through my room.

Will they inherit me
one day? What certainties
have I to hand on
like the punctuality

with which, at the moon's
rising, the bay breaks
into a smile, as though meaning
were not the difficulty at all?

Thomas, R. S.

Philo
     of Alexandria

     XXXVII. (177) No one, therefore, of all the objects of human anxiety or of human labour, is of any importance or value; but every such thing is a mere shadow or breath, disappearing before it can get any firm footing; for it comes and then again it departs, like the ebbing tide. For the sea, in its ebb and flow, is at one time borne forwards with great violence, and roaring, and noise, and overflowing its bounds makes a lake of what has previously been dry land; and, at another time, it recedes and makes a large portion of what has been sea, dry land. (178) In the same manner, at times, prosperity overflows a mighty and populous nation, but afterwards turns the impetuosity of its stream in the opposite direction, and does not leave even the slightest drop, so as to suffer no trace whatever to remain of its former richness. (179) But it is not everybody who receives the complete and full meaning of these events, but only those receive it who are accustomed always to proceed in accordance with true and solid reason and limitation; for we find the same men saying both these things, “All the affairs of the created world are absolutely nothing;” and, “We will go by thy mountain.” (180) For it is impossible for one who is not in the habit of using high and mountainous roads to repudiate all mortal affairs, and to turn aside and change his paths for what is immortal.

     Therefore the earthly Edom thinks it right to blockade the heavenly and royal road of virtue, and the divine reason blockades his road, and that of all who follow his opinions; (181) among whom we must enroll Balaam, for he also is a child of the earth, and not a shoot of heaven, and a proof of this is, that he, being influenced by omens and false prophecies, not even when the eye of his soul, which had been closed, recovered its sight, and “saw the angel of God standing against him in the way;” (
Num 22:31) not even then did he turn back and desist from doing wrong, but giving way to a mighty torrent of folly, he was washed away and swallowed up by it.

     (182) For then the diseases of the soul are truly not only difficult of cure, but even utterly incurable, when, though conviction is present to us (and this is the word of God, coming as his angel and as our guide, and removing the obstacles before our feet, so that we may travel without stumbling along the level road), we nevertheless prefer our own indiscreet opinions, to the explanations and injunctions which he is accustomed to address to us for our admonition, and for the chastening and regulating of our whole life. (183) On this account he who is not persuaded by, and who shows no respect to, conviction, when it thus opposes him, will, in his turn, incur destruction with the wounded, (
Num 31:8) whom the passions have wounded and overthrown; and his calamity will be a most sufficient lesson for all those who are not utterly impure, to endeavour to keep the judge, that is within them, favourable to them, and he will be so if they do not reverse what has been rightly decided by him.

The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Sukkah 25a–b

     D’RASH

     Most of us have received mailings from organizations that ask us for money to support a worthy cause. Sometimes, the request is fairly straightforward and the cause seems worthy (even if these examples are fictitious):

     Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise! Support the Museum for Jewish Self-Respect, a new center for the education for non-Jews and the re-establishment of positive feelings among Jews.

     At times, the cause seems worthy but we may wonder about the need for another organization and an additional acronym:

     Jews Delegitimize Other Jews. The fragmentation of the Jewish community cannot continue unabated. We must put an end to the tension between one Jew and another. Join MAFTIR, the Movement Against Fragmented Tendencies In Religion.

     And then, there are groups that seem to be part of the very problem they are fighting:

     Too Many Jewish Organizations & Not Enough Money! Are you sick and tired of a new organization for every cause? Then it’s time for you to support GAINOJG (Yiddish for “enough”): The Group Against the Increasing Number Of Jewish Groups.

     While these examples are either apocryphal or humorous, the phenomenon is actual and serious.

     Often, these requests come from organizations that seem worthy and that promise to accomplish much for the community. Often, there is a need for such groups. At times, though, they are repetitive of other institutions, duplicating what already has a structure and what similar organizations have done.

     Perhaps most disturbing is that established groups that have been working within the community for years go wanting for funds. More than one institution has had to close its doors because of lack of financial support. This is not to say that every established group serves a worthy purpose or that each new association is unnecessary and repetitive. It is a reminder, though, of our limited resources.

     Some say “Money is tight.” It is likely that, except for some brief periods in history, money has always been tight. The Gemara, in positing that “the Torah worries about Israel’s money,” is reminding us that Judaism cares about our scarce resources. We have to use them wisely. Had God required the Israelites to use gold fire pans throughout the year, they would have. Yet God—and the Rabbis who interpreted God’s laws—were concerned that Israel not spend too much of its funds on gold pans, leaving less for other worthy causes. If the Torah worries about Israel’s money, then the implication is that we, too, must worry about money, seeing to it that our limited resources are spent wisely.

     (Rest Stop) They set out from Marah and came to Elim. There were twelve springs in Elim and seventy palm trees, so they encamped there. (
Numbers 33:9)

     Words of Torah are compared to water … as it says: “Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water” [
Isaiah 55:1].… Just as water purifies a person of uncleanliness, as it says: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean” [Ezekiel 36:25], so too, Torah cleanses the impure from impurity, as it says: “The words of the Lord are pure words” [Psalms 12:7]. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1, 3)

     There is a story of a learned man who came to visit a rebbe. The scholar was no longer a young man—he was close to thirty—but he had never before visited a rebbe.

     “What have you done all your life?” the master asked him.
     “I have gone through the whole of the Talmud three times,” answered the learned man.
     “Yes, but how much of the Talmud has gone through you?” the rebbe inquired.)
The Earth Is the Lord's: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint)

     A Further Introduction to Seder Moed

     SEDER MOED, CONTINUED

     The tractates of a seder, or Order, are arranged according to their size. Thus, the tractates, or masekhtot, of Moed do not follow the Jewish calendar and the order of the year, as we might expect. Rather, the tractate with the largest number of chapters of Mishnah is first. Hence, the tractate Shabbat, with twenty-four chapters of Mishnah, is the first masekhet of Moed, followed by Eruvin and Pesaḥim, with ten chapters each, and Yoma with eight. We have divided our study of Seder Moed into two because of its eighty-eight total chapters and therefore large number of entries in this book. This allowed for the preceding Rest Stop in Seder Moed. The entries from the remaining seven tractates of Moed follow.

     One who is doing one mitzvah is freed from doing another mitzvah.

     Text / Mishnah (2:4): Those who are sent to do a mitzvah are exempt from the Sukkah.
Gemara: Where are these words from? As our Rabbis have taught: “[Recite them] when you stay at home” [
Deuteronomy 6:7]. This excludes one who is doing a mitzvah.… Does the principle “One who is doing one mitzvah is freed from doing another mitzvah” come from here? It comes from there, as it has been taught: “But there were some men who were unclean by reason of a corpse” [Numbers 9:6]. Who were those men? Those who carried the coffin of Joseph, according to Rabbi Yosé ha-G’lili. Rabbi Akiva says: “They were Mishael and Elzaphan who were busy with [the bodies of] Nadav and Avihu.”

     Context / You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God. (
Leviticus 23:42–43)

     Moses instructed the Israelites to offer the passover sacrifice; and they offered the passover sacrifice in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai. Just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so the Israelites did. But there were some men who were unclean by reason of a corpse and could not offer the passover sacrifice on that day. Appearing that same day before Moses and Aaron, those men said to them, “Unclean though we be by reason of a corpse, why must we be debarred from presenting the Lord’s offering at its set time with the rest of the Israelites?” (
Numbers 9:4–7)

     The Mishnah begins by telling us that someone engaged in a mitzvah (such as going to free hostages held in captivity) during the festival of Sukkot is exempt from the commandment of building and dwelling in a Sukkah. The Gemara looks for the basis of this exemption in the Torah. Two possibilities are offered. First, the words of the Sh’ma (
Deuteronomy 6:4–9) are to be recited “when you stay at home.” That implies that if a person was away from home engaged in another mitzvah, then he is exempt from this mitzvah. The second prooftext comes from the story of the men who wanted to celebrate Pesaḥ by offering the sacrifice, but were unable to because they had been in physical contact with a dead body. Sacrifices could be offered only by those who were ritually clean; contact with a corpse rendered a person ritually unclean. The Rabbis assume that because these men were engaged in a mitzvah (burying the dead), they therefore are exempt from the performance of another mitzvah (offering the Passover sacrifice at the proper time).

     It is interesting to note that the Torah itself does not state explicitly which body the men were dealing with. Trying to identify the anonymous individuals mentioned, and thus turning an ambiguous situation into a specific one, is a common rabbinic way of reading the Bible. Rabbi Yosé believes the men were those carrying the body of Joseph from Egypt on its way to burial in Israel. Rabbi Akiva identifies them as Mishael and Elzaphan, cousins of Aaron, who are called upon to remove the bodies of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu after their sudden death in the sanctuary (
Leviticus 10:4).

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Teacher's Commentary
     Expectation: Numbers 26–36

     The old generation was gone now, the last of them carried away in the plague of Baal Peor. Some 600,000 men are numbered: the new generation matched in number the numbers of their fathers, who by now had fallen in the wilderness (26:64–65).

     With the old generation gone, a new spirit infused Israel. In fellowship with God, sure of divine protection, and confident that they would choose what was right, the new generation looked forward to victory with optimism and hope.

     This is shown strikingly in
Numbers 27. Before a single battle had been fought in Palestine, five women approached Moses. Their father had died in the wilderness, and they had no brothers. They felt it would be unfair for their family to have no possession in the land, even though no son was alive to inherit.

     What a striking faith! They never doubted the ultimate victory of Israel. They looked beyond the warfare to the time when the land would be divided among God’s people, and believed so confidently that they treated inheritance as a present possession.

     God’s protected people had a right to this kind of confidence.

     We too can look forward with complete assurance to victories that will surely be ours.

     The census (
Num. 26). All the first generation was now dead, their bodies scattered in the wilderness Israel had wandered for 38 years (vv. 64–65). The census established the number of Israel’s fighting men at 601,730 (not counting the 23,000 Levites who were set aside to serve the Lord).

     The census was important. On the journey, if the deaths were averaged across the years, there would have been some 200 funerals a day! The new census established the fact that there was no loss of strength. The new generation numbered within a few thousand of the generation that had left Egypt!

     How faithful God is, even in the years that we must wait for Him to act.

     Zelophehad’s daughters (
Num. 27). The five daughters of Zelophehad not only demonstrated faith, but they helped to establish the rights of women in Israel. The command that “if a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter” (v. 8), is not reflected in the law codes of other peoples of that era.

     Offerings (
Num. 28–29). The offerings to be made on Israel’s special feast and festival days are reviewed.

     Vows (
Num. 30). In both Testaments a “vow” is a pledge or a promise that is made to God, never to other persons. Vows were, as in this chapter, expressions of special devotion or commitment, and were usually voluntary.

     There was a limitation placed on women, whose vow could be overruled by a husband or father. This is because in the Old Testament era the men were legally responsible for their wives and their children.

     One special vow described in
Numbers 6 is that of the Nazirite, which was a vow of separation.

     The Old Testament views faithfulness in keeping vows as an indication of the piety and faithfulness of God’s people (cf.
Pss. 50:14; 56:12; 76:11; Isa. 19:21; Jer. 44:25; Jonah 2:9; Nahum 1:15).

     Transjordan tribes (
Num. 32). Two of the Israelite tribes, who had very large herds and flocks, noted that the lands east of the Jordan were suitable for livestock. So they requested permission to settle in those lands, which had been taken in battle.

     Permission was granted on the condition that the men fit for war go with their brothers to battle for the Promised Land, which lay beyond the Jordan River.

     What faith the men of these tribes exhibited! They were willing to build cities for their families and flocks, and then leave them unprotected as they traveled across the river to fight! God would take care of their families while they were away. They would do their duties, and trust Him.

     Cities of refuge (
Num. 35). This chapter establishes a very important feature in Israel’s legal justice system. To sense their significance, we need to understand how criminal justice was to be handled under Old Testament Law. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words gives this summary:

     The Mosaic Law established a system in which responsibility to deal with criminal matters was distributed throughout the society. Each community was to have its own panel of elders who would serve as judges in civil and criminal matters. The Old Testament emphatically enjoins the judges to show no partiality and to accept no bribes (
Deut. 16:18–20). Rules of evidence were established for serious cases (17:1–7; 19:15) and a “supreme court” of priests was established to inquire of the Lord in cases “too difficult” for the judges. Later, when the monarchy was established, the king became the chief judicial officer. In biblical times, all governing functions were considered to be located in the king as the head of the nation. But the king, like the lower courts, was to be subject to God. The law itself established the standards according to which the ruler must judge.

     How were criminal matters dealt with? The Old Testament justice system, unlike our own, did not rely heavily on imprisonment to punish criminals. The Old Testament does report a number of cases of imprisonment—many of them under foreign jurisdiction (
Gen. 39:20–22; 40:3, 5, 14; 42:16, 19; Jdg. 16:21, 25; 2 Kings 17:4; 25:27, 29; Jer. 52:11, 31, 33; Ezek. 19:9) and some under rulers in Israel and Judah (1 Kings 22:27; 2 Chron. 16:10; 18:26). Confinement could involve simply restriction to one’s residence or city (1 Kings 2:36), but in other instances it seems to have been in a room or pit in some official’s residence (Jer. 20:2; 32:2; 37:4, 15, 18; 38:6).

     The Old Testament justice system relied more on restitution than on imprisonment. A person who was responsible for another’s loss was to reimburse the value of the property destroyed (
Ex. 22:1–15). Property that was stolen or obtained illegally had to be returned, and a penalty of one to four times its value was added. Murder and accidental homicide were special cases with a distinct code to govern how they were to be judged.

     Other penalties were prescribed for various personal injury and civil violations, including provisions for covering a person’s loss of income if an injury prevented work.

     With many such guiding principles provided in the Mosaic Law, local judging elders were to call on witnesses within the community to establish the facts of a case and to supervise payment of the appropriate restitution or penalty.

     The Old Testament justice system relied heavily on the existence of a community in which individuals were responsive to God and to His laws. History shows that, with few exceptions, God’s kind of justice was not administered during the Old Testament era.

     The
Numbers chapter dealing with homicide and establishing the cities of refuge must be understood in the context of the total system found in Old Testament Law.

     The family “avenger of the blood” in this chapter is neither a vigilante nor an ancient Hatfield setting out to rid the world of a McCoy. Justice in Israel was a community responsibility, and there was no police force. Thus the one with primary responsibility to execute a murderer was the one in the community most affected by that crime: a member of the murdered person’s family. Should such a person kill a murderer, he did not murder him but rather served as the executioner appointed by the Law to purify the holy community.

     At the same time, this passage makes a distinction between intentional, hostile killing, which is murder, and what we would call accidental homicide. The cities of refuge were established for the protection of a person who killed another accidentally. These were cities scattered throughout the land where such a person could flee an overzealous relative whose motives might involve a desire for revenge, even if the death was an accident.

     The elders of the home city of the killer were to hear the arguments of the accused and the avenger, and to “judge between” the one accused of murder and the “avenger of blood” according to rules established in this chapter. If the accused was judged to have killed accidentally, “the assembly must protect” him, and see him safely to one of the cities of refuge where he would live in safety until the high priest died, and he could return home. By then the anger of the avenger might have died, and the accidental killer would receive the full protection of law. Should he then be attacked by a family avenger, the avenger himself is to be put to death.


The Teacher's Commentary

With Respect To The Head Of The Household
     Pulpit Commentary

     Let us take the relation of the father and daughter, similar things being true, mutatis mutandis, with respect to the husband and wife. 1. This command honoured parental authority. God had laid a solemn injunction on children to honour father and mother, and we see here how careful he was to honour the parental relation himself. He puts everything in the shape of a vow, everything which the daughter was otherwise free to choose, under the father’s control. He requires no reason to be given; the simple veto is enough, if only it be uttered at the appointed time. The father had a responsibility which the daughter had not, and it was fitting that God should give the father all possible help in meeting that responsibility. 2. This command required much watchfulness on the part of the father. To act rightly here demanded the whole compass of paternal duty. The father was not allowed to say that his daughter’s vow was no business of his. He himself might not be a vowing sort of person, and therefore under no temptation to neglect a vow he was not likely to make. But even if indifferent to vows himself, he was bound to be interested in his daughter’s welfare, and do his best to keep her from future difficulties. Her limited life hid many difficulties from her eyes. It was not for a father to expose himself in later days to reproach from the lips of his own daughter. It was not for him to run the risk of hearing her say, “Why did not your larger knowledge and experience shelter me from difficulties which my inexperience could not possibly anticipate?” 3. This command required much consideration on the part of the father. He must not let the vow pass without notice, and when he noticed it must be with proper consideration. While it was within his right to stop the vow, he might in stopping it be doing a very unfatherly thing, a thing very hurtful to the religious life of his daughter. As God had honoured him and undertaken to help him in his fatherly relation, he must honour that relation himself. That relation from which God expects so much must be prepared to yield much in the way of care and consideration. The father may think too much of his own wishes, too little of his daughter’s needs, and too little of the will of God. The vow of the daughter might be a rightful, helpful, and exemplary one, a vow of the Nazarite indeed (ch. 6:2). It was not enough, therefore, for the father to fall back on the mere assertion of authority. It is a serious thing to offend one of the little ones—a serious thing for any one to do; but how unspeakably serious when the hand which casts down the stumbling-block is that of a father! 4. This command required, in order to be fully complied with, sympathy with the voluntary spirit in religion. A father who felt that the services of religion consisted chiefly in exact external conformity with certain rules for worship and conduct would be very likely to stop his daughter’s vow as mere whimsicality. But religion must go beyond obedience to verbal commands; it must aim at something more than can be put into even the most exact and expressive of them. Commands are nothing more than finger-posts; and the joys of hope and preparation during the journey are directed towards something lying beyond the last of the finger-posts. The father who would act rightly by all possible wishes of his children must be one who comprehends that experience of John: “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He must be one who feels that love can never be satisfied with mere beaten tracks and conventional grooves. He must be such a one as appreciates the act of the woman who poured the precious ointment on the head of Jesus. If he be a man of the Judas spirit, grudging what he reckons waste, he is sure to go wrong. He will check his children when he ought to encourage them, and encourage when he ought to check. If God opens their eyes he will do his best to close them again, so that the blind father may go on leading the blind children, till at last both fall into the pit.

     II. WHAT THIS COMMAND IMPLIED WITH RESPECT TO THE DAUGHTER AND THE WIFE. 1. Their right to make a vow was itself secured. The command did not say that daughter and wife were to make no vow at all. They were as free to make a vow as any man in all Israel; and if it had not been for more important considerations connected with the household, they would also have been free to keep the vow. God would have us to understand that inferior and mutilated duties or privileges are no necessary consequence of a subordinate position. 2. A gentle and patient submission was recommended on the part of the daughter and the wife. The right to propose the vow being secured to every woman, it was no fault of hers, and would be counted no blame, if the father or husband cancelled it The Nazarite vow might be thwarted in the very freshness of it, but the spirit of zeal which produced it needed not to grow languid. We cannot be hindered in the attainment of any good, save by our own negligence. God will meet us amid all restraints which untoward circumstances may impose upon us. The claims rising out of natural relations and the present needs of human society are imperative while they last, and must be respected. But they will not last for ever. “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage”
---
Matt. 22:30.—Y.

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Take Heart
     March 31

     You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.

     There is enough affliction in the world to try the Christian. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) Nor is there any of us who will not have trial, bereavement, and woe. God designs that there the Christian principle will triumph, fully equal to all the pains that we may endure. He varies those afflictions to bring us fully and fairly out. Now he takes away our health, to see how we will bear protracted disease. Now he removes our property, to see how we will bear the loss of an idol. Now he cuts down the child of our hopes and tries whether we will be still and know that he is God. Now he opens before our view our own death, to try whether we have confidence enough in him to commit our departing spirits to his unseen hand. In all these scenes, it is designed that our piety should shine forth, bright and burning.

     God has placed us in a world exceptionally adapted to call forth the principles of the Christian—a world where, if those principles are not called forth, it is full proof that they do not exist.

     Christians, you hold in your hands that gospel which will send peace around the globe—that gospel of God that can enlighten all nations, alleviate every sorrow, comfort every mourner, and change the outlook of every kingdom and tribe. Nor can you be inactive or undecided. Every time this great question is presented to you, in whatever form, it calls on you to act. Every plan of benevolence that is submitted to you affords an opportunity to test your character and will actually develop that character.

     It was precisely this state of things that called forth the ardor of Paul. More, it was the view of the guilt and woes of suffering people that moved the Son of God with compassion and led to the self-denial of his ministry and the agonies of the garden and the cross.

     I need not add that if human woes and dangers found their way to God’s own Son, it is not to be wondered at that they should find their way also to all his followers. Can any be Christians whose hearts do not respond in this to the feelings of the Lord Jesus? If I have read the oracles of religion aright, they cannot.
--- Albert Barnes


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

On This Day
     My Heart’s Desire  March 31

     The apostle Paul loved his people, the Jews, enough to have wished himself cursed and cut off from Christ for their sake. “My greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel,” he said, “to be saved.” But not everyone shared his concern. Roman forces soon afterward destroyed Jerusalem, and many of the beleaguered survivors fled to Europe as refugees. Eventually Spain became a great center of Jewish learning, arts, science, and finance. Maimonides, the “second Moses,” helped establish in Spain a Golden Age of Jewish life. But during the 14th and 15th centuries, sentiment again turned against the Jews.

     The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 established a state church with little sympathy for Jews. Isabella wielded great power. She was active in government, strict in morality, and devout in formal religion. Vowing to rid her land of unbelievers, Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition. Heretics and Jews were rounded up, interrogated, and tortured without mercy.

     When the Inquisition failed to forcibly convert Jews, Ferdinand and Isabella determined to expel them, and on March 31, 1492, the royal couple signed an edict giving Jews three months to leave Spain. One hundred fifty thousand Jews, stripped of homes and possessions, left the land that had been their home for nearly 1,500 years. The last Jew reportedly left Spain on August 2, the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples, the saddest day in Jewish history. Ironically, the very next day, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to discover the New World.

     Not everything done in the name of Christianity is Christian. Genuine believers resort to prayer and preaching and love, not persecution, to fulfill the Great Commission. And genuine believers harbor a deep love for the Jewish people, remembering that Jesus Christ himself was Jewish. Like Paul, our heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites is that they might be saved.

     I am a follower of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a witness to my conscience.… I would gladly be placed under God’s curse and be separated from Christ for the good of my own people. They are the descendants of Israel.
--- Romans 9:1,3,4a.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 31

     "With his stripes we are healed." --- Isaiah 53:5.

     Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of his flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over his poor stricken body.

     Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon him without tears, as he stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of his own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which his stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.

     “See how the patient Jesus stands,
     Insulted in his lowest case!
     Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,
     And spit in their Creator’s face.

     With thorns his temples gor’d and gash’d
     Send streams of blood from every part;
     His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.
     But sharper scourges tear his heart.”


     We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of his bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost him so dear.


          Evening - March 31

     "And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night."2 Samuel 21:10.

     If the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we weary of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? Away, ye birds of evil wing! Leave ye the sacrifice alone! She bore the heats of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Behold how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah thus endure, and shall we start at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts, with courage unusual in her sex, and will not we be ready to encounter every foe for Jesus’ sake? These her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched: what ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless, our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect his honour our occupation, to abide by his cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have affrighted Rizpah, especially by night, but in our Lord, at whose cross-foot we are sitting, there is nothing revolting, but everything attractive. Never was living beauty so enchanting as a dying Saviour. Jesus, we will watch with thee yet awhile, and do thou graciously unveil thyself to us; then shall we not sit beneath sackcloth, but in a royal pavilion.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 31

          TELL ME THE STORIES OF JESUS

     William H. Parker, 1845–1929

     He explained to them what was said in all of the Scriptures concerning Himself.
(Luke 24:27)


     Children love to hear stories. It is critically important that we build upon this natural response and fill their minds with truths about Christ that will give them a solid foundation upon which to build their lives. Although Sunday schools are important, parental influence and instruction in the home are foundations of Christian education. The stories of Jesus—His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His promised return to take us to heaven—for the child of God of any age are always fresh, exciting, and spiritually refreshing. They never grow old.

     Telling the stories of Jesus must also be the mission of our Sunday schools. Portrayals of the person and work of Christ must always be the core of every Christian education curriculum along with appropriate songs that enhance the teaching of the Scriptures. Although such emphases as character school, arts and crafts, and game times have their place in the church program, nothing ever equals the importance of providing our youth with sound, relevant biblical instruction.

     William H. Parker was an English Baptist layman greatly interested in the work of Sunday schools. He wrote this text in 1885 after returning from teaching his Sunday school class and reflecting upon the oft-repeated request of the children, “Teacher, tell us another story.” This text pictures so vividly the important events of our Lord’s life from Galilee to Calvary.

     Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here: Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
     First let me hear how the children stood round His knee; and I shall fancy His blessing resting on me: Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace, all in the lovelight of Jesus’ face.
     Into the city I’d follow the children’s band, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; one of His heralds, yes, I would sing loudest hosannas! Jesus is King.
     Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain. Show me the cross where my Savior for me was slain. Sad ones or bright ones, so that they be stories of Jesus, tell them to me.


     For Today: Deuteronomy 6:7; Isaiah 40:30, 31; Matthew 20:28; Mark 8:31.

     Consider creative ways that biblical truths can be communicated to children—visual aids, dramatizations, musical records—both at home and in Sunday school. Seriously reflect as a parent (or a grandparent) whether you are doing everything possible to further your children’s spiritual training.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          Chapter 06 1 Peter 1:3-5 – Part 3

     “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Let us begin this chapter by continuing our consideration of the acknowledgment of the prayer. It is to be recalled that this Epistle is addressed to those who are strangers, scattered abroad (v. 1). Most appropriate, then, is this reference to the Divine begetting of God's elect, for it is by the Holy Spirit's gracious begetting that the elect are constituted strangers or sojourners (that is, temporary residents of this world), both in heart and in conduct. The Lord Jesus was a stranger here (Ps. 69:8), for He was the Son of God from heaven; and so, too, are His people, for they have His Spirit within them. How that understanding enhances this miracle of grace! Divine begetting is not merely a doctrine, but the actual communication to the soul of the very life of God (John 1:13). Formerly the Christian was both in and of the world, but now his “conversation [citizenship—A.S.V.] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20, brackets mine). “I am a stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19) is henceforth his confession. To the soul renewed by God this world becomes a barren wilderness. For his heritage, his home, is on high, and therefore he now views the things of time and sense in a very different light.

          The Great Interests of the Regenerate Soul Are Alien to this World

     The chief interests of a truly born-again soul lie not in this mundane sphere. His affections will be set upon things above; and in proportion as they are so, his heart is detached from this world. Their strangerhood is an essential mark that distinguishes the saints from the ungodly. They who heartily embrace the promises of God are suitably affected by them (Heb. 11:13). One of the certain effects of Divine grace in the soul is to separate its possessor, both in spirit and in practice, from the world. His delight in heavenly things manifests itself in his being weaned from the things of earth, just as the woman at the well left her bucket behind when she had obtained from Christ the living water (John 4:28). Such a spirit constitutes him an alien among the worshipers of mammon. He is morally a foreigner in a strange land, surrounded by those who know him not (1 John 3:1), because they know not his Father. Nor do they understand his joys or sorrows, not appreciating the principles and motives that actuate him; for their pursuits and pleasures are radically different from his. Nay, he finds himself in the midst of enemies who hate him (John 15:19), and there are none with whom he can have communion save the very few who “have obtained like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1).

     But though there be nothing in this wilderness of a world for the Christian, he has been “begotten. . . again unto a living hope.” Previously he viewed death with horror, but now he perceives that it will provide a blessed release from all sin and sorrow and open the door into Paradise. The principle of grace received at the new birth not only inclines its possessor to love God and to act in faith upon His Word, but it also disposes him to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18), inclining his aspirations away from the present toward his glorious future. Thomas Manton aptly declares, “The new nature was made for another world: it came from thence, and it carrieth the soul thither.” Hope is an assured expectation of future good. While faith is in exercise, a vista of unclouded bliss is set before the heart, and hope enters into the enjoyment of the same. It is a living hope exercised within a dying environment, and it both supports and invigorates all of us who believe. While in healthy activity, hope not only sustains amid the trials of this life but lifts us above them. Oh, for hearts to be more engaged in joyous anticipations of the future! For such hopeful hearts will quicken us to duty and stimulate us to perseverance. In proportion to the intelligence and strength of our hope will we be delivered from the fear of death.

          Union with Christ in His Resurrection, the Cause of Our Regeneration

     A further word must now be said upon the relationship that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead bears to the Father's begetting of us to this living hope. Christ's God-honoring work and triumphant emergence from the grave was the legal basis not only of the justification of His people, but of their regeneration also. Mystically, by virtue of their union with Christ in the mind and purpose of God, they were delivered from their death at the hands of the Law when their Surety arose from the dead. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together. . .” (Eph. 2:4-6). Those words refer to the corporate union of the Church with her Head and her judicial participation in His victory, and not to an individual experience. Nevertheless, since all the elect rose federally when their Representative arose, they must in due time be regenerated; since they have been made alive legally, they must in due course be quickened spiritually. Had not Christ risen, none had been quickened (1 Cor. 15:17); but because He lives, they shall live also.

          Jesus lives, and so shall I.
          Death! thy sting is gone forever!
          He who deigned for me to die,
          Lives, the bands of death to sever.
          He [hath raised] me from the dust:
          Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

     The life that is in the Head must be communicated to the members of His body.

     The resurrection of Christ is the virtual cause of our regeneration. The Holy Spirit would not have been given unless Christ had conquered the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) and gone to the Father: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us:. . . that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13, 14). Regeneration issues as truly from the virtue of Christ's resurrection as does our justification, which is the result of that saving faith in Christ that can only issue from a Spirit-renewed heart. He purchased for His people the blessed Spirit to raise them up to grace and glory. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:5, 6). God the Father has shed the Holy Spirit upon us in regenerating power because of the merits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and in response to His mediation on our behalf. The Holy Spirit is here to testify of Christ to God's elect, to raise up faith in them toward Him in order that they “may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:12, 13). Our spiritual deliverance from the grave of sin's guilt, power, and pollution is as much owing to the efficacy of Christ's triumph over death as will be our physical vivification at His return. He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), the very life of Christ being imparted to them when they are begotten again.

          The Power that Raised Christ Physically Raises Sinners Spiritually

     The resurrection of Christ is also the dynamic prototype of our regeneration. The same power put forth in raising Christ's body is employed in the recovering of our souls from spiritual death (Eph. 1:19, 20; 2:1). The Lord Jesus is designated “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5) because His emerging from the grave was not only the pledge but the likeness of both the regeneration of the spirits of His people and the raising of their bodies in the last day. The similitude is obvious. Begetting is the beginning of a new life. When Christ was born into this world it was “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Though untouched by the taint of original sin (Luke 1:35) and undefiled by the pollution of actual transgressions, He was clothed with infirmity because of imputed iniquity. But when He rose from Joseph's tomb in power and glory, it was in a body fitted for heaven. Likewise, at regeneration, we receive a nature that makes us meet for heaven. As God's raising of Christ testified to His being pacified by His sacrifice (Heb. 13:20), so by begetting us again He assures us of our personal interest therein. As Christ's resurrection was the grand proof of His Divine Sonship (Rom. 1:4), so the new birth is the first open manifestation of our adoption. As Christ's resurrection was the first step into His glory and exaltation, so regeneration is the first stage of our entrance into all spiritual privileges.


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


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Albert Mohler | Ligonier






Calvin and the Christian Life

Ligon Duncan | Ligonier





Train Up Your Children

R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier






The Legacy of John Calvin

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Postmodernism and Philosophy

Ravi Zacharias | Ligonier






Postmodernism and Society

Albert Mohler | Ligonier





Postmodernism and Christianity

R.C. Sproul Jr. | R.C. Sproul






The Problem of Evil

John MacArthur | Ligonier





The Existence of God

Ravi Zacharias | Ligonier






The Authority of Scripture

Albert Mohler | Ligonier





The Holy Spirit and Apologetics

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The Resurrection of Christ

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier





The Foolishness of Preaching

Steven Lawson | Ligonier






Evangelizing Your Children

R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier





Good News in a Fallen World

Joni Eareckson-Tada | Ligonier






The Saving Power of God

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