Atonement for Unsolved MurdersDeuteronomy 21 1 “If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. 3 And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the LORD, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. 8 Accept atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.
Marrying Female Captives10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
Inheritance Rights of the Firstborn15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, 16 then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, 17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
A Rebellious Son18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
A Man Hanged on a Tree Is Cursed22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Various LawsDeuteronomy 22 1 “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.
5 “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
6 “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. 7 You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.
8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.
12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.
Laws Concerning Sexual Immorality13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness.
Those Excluded from the AssemblyDeuteronomy 23:1 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.
2 “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. 6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.
7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. 8 Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the LORD.
Uncleanness in the Camp9 “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.
10 “If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, 11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.
12 “You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. 13 And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. 14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.
Miscellaneous Laws15 “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.
17 “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. 20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 21 “If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.
24 “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. 25 If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
... the Church Will Continue to Compromise
By J. Warner Wallace 2/28/2017
Have you noticed the slow but growing compromise within the Church? It’s harder and harder to get two Christians to agree on anything related to sexuality, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone or even the historicity of Adam. We are a divided family, even though we share the same canonical foundation and have over two thousand years of family wisdom to guide us. I predict it will get worse. I think the Church will embrace the truth claims of the culture at an ever increasing rate because we’ve failed to make young Christians our priority. Let me explain.
It’s pretty obvious that young people are leaving the church, especially during the college years. It’s also true, however, that some will eventually return to church as older adults. When you examine why young people leave and compare it to why they return you’ll start to understand the reason the church is struggling to maintain its classic, orthodox teachings.
When surveyed about the reasons they stepped away from Christianity, most young Christians say they no longer believe it is factually true. In their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton asked an open-ended question of young people who said they were no longer Christians: “Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?” Smith and Denton did not provide a series of multiple choice answers; they simply allowed the respondents to answer freely. The majority said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt:
“It didn’t make any sense anymore.”
“Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.”
“I think scientifically and there is no real proof.”
“Too many questions that can’t be answered.”
Young people are walking away, in large part, because they don’t think Christianity is true. The vast majority will never return to the faith. According to a 2007 Lifeway Research Study, only 35% of church dropouts will eventually return to church (by the age of 30). My question is simply this: Why do these few returnees come back at all? Not much has been done by researchers to answer this question, but the same Lifeway study provided the following data:
51% of returnees said they were influenced by the encouragement of either family or friends
34% simply felt a desire to return
28% felt that God was calling them to return to the church
24% had children and felt it was time for them to start attending
20% got married and wanted to attend with their spouse
See the problem here? Most people leave Christianity because they no longer believe it is true; most come back because something about church “works” for them. It doesn’t have to be true, but it’s a great place to get married, find community, and raise your family. Like my dad (a lifelong atheist) has always believed: The Church is a useful delusion.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
A Big, Dangerous Universe is NOT Evidence Against God
By Lenny Esposito 3/3/2017
The recent discovery of the seven planets orbiting the TRAPPIST star has a lot of folks talking. As I wrote last week, even though they're labeled as "earth-like" and reside in what astronomers call the habitable zone, the idea that life could exist on them is remote in the extreme. The fact that our planet is so uniquely situated in just the right spot with just the right conditions around just the right kind of star provides strong evidence for design, like finding a cabin in the middle of an unpopulated forest.
Of course, others won't admit that our world shows marks of design. Some even offer the uniqueness of the earth as evidence against its design. I had one such interaction on Facebook where a gentleman names Simeon responded to my article by saying, "The rarity of habitable planets in the universe is actually evidence for a universe not designed for human habitation." After some interaction, he went on to claim "An all-powerful deity would not need to create an entire universe to support a single planet. He could have just made a single flat Earth with a dome over it, like some of the ancients believed." He finally summarized his position by writing "I think you are demonstrably wrong that the entire universe, as is, is required to support a single life-bearing planet. There is no way for planets around a distant star to have any bearing on Earth's habitability."
What Does it Take to Make a Biosphere? | I don't know if Simeon holds is a theist or not; we never discussed that issue. However, I've met many atheists who argue along similar lines, holding the vastness of space as evidence against a universe created to sustain human life. Couldn't God create any old kind of universe he wanted? Why would he need to make the universe so big just for one "pale blue dot" as Carl Sagan put it?
I don't know if Simeon holds is a theist or not; we never discussed that issue. However, I've met many atheists who argue along similar lines, holding the vastness of space as evidence against a universe created to sustain human life. Couldn't God create any old kind of universe he wanted? Why would he need to make the universe so big just for one "pale blue dot" as Carl Sagan put it?
I think there's hubris in assuming that God can just create some kind of terrarium that holds the Earth but doesn't impact our biology and our experience. I remember being particularly intrigued at an extensive experiment to try and create a self-supporting environment that mimics the earth's in the 1980s. A group of scientists and investors built a large, airtight facility in the Arizona desert called Biosphere 2. Within it, they created a wetlands area, a desert, a rainforest, a savannah, and an "ocean" and then populated it with plants, insects, and animals. The goal was to create a mini-self-sustaining environment where people could live. If it worked here, it may have been possible to build a similar structure on another planet, making human habitation possible.
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
12 things Darwinian can’t answer
By Teri Dugan 3/4/2017
Over the last several posts we have put together a pretty good cumulative case against Darwinian evolution as a means for the origin of life. We looked at who Charles Darwin was and some of the false assumptions he made concerning adaptation within species. Even though all of the icons of evolution have been debunked, and there is significant doubt in the scientific community as well, evolution is still taught in public schools as the only answer to the question of the origin of life.
I believe that there is a much stronger case for intelligent design as the means for the origin and sustenance of life which can answer these 12 questions evolution cannot:
For Darwinian Evolution to continue to be taught as fact in reference to origins Darwinists, and the public school textbooks, need to address the following problems:
1) The origin of first life. Why is there something rather than nothing at all—where did it all come from originally?
2) Life does not consist merely of chemicals. If this were true mixing the chemicals of life would produce life—What is the missing ingredient?
3) There are no known natural laws that produce specified complexity. There is information in the cell that codes for the performance of specific functions—where does this information come from?
4) There are many human functions and actions that are immaterial. In modern science the search for the cause of origin does not allow for anything immaterial or supernatural, it is built upon a philosophy or presupposition that there is no God. How can you address the immaterial nature of life?
Teri Dugan is a graduate of Biola University’s M.A. in Apologetics Program. She also holds an M.A. in Education from California State University, Long Beach and currently teaches Biology, Anatomy and Physiology at Lynwood High School in California. Teri has also coached the Girls’ Varsity Tennis and Softball teams at Lynwood and now sponsors the Christian On Campus Ministry Club. She teaches evening Christian Apologetics classes at her home Church, Sea Coast Grace in Cypress, California and is available for speaking or teaching engagements at other venues.
Teri’s own personal story includes an early lifetime of skepticism and agnosticism reinforced through years of secular science education and the cultural philosophy of relativism. Her journey to faith and trust in Jesus culminated in an open and honest request to God for the truth. The immediate response from God was amazing and soon she was lead to read books by C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel who themselves had been on similar skeptical journeys. Teri found herself giving up a lifestyle of self-indulgence and relativism to pursue the Word of God and explore for herself whether or not Christianity was true. What she has found is presented in these blog posts (and classes) as evidence of success in her journey to truth. Although admittedly, as all of us are, she is still under construction by the work of the Holy Spirit with completion to be seen on the day she enters Heaven!
Less Time For Naturalist Magic
By Wintery Knight 3/4/2017
Whenever you discuss origins with naturalists, it’s very important to get them to explain how the first living organism emerged without any help from an intelligent agent. The origin of life is an information problem. A certain minimal amount of biological information for minimum life function has to be thrown together by chance. No evolutionary mechanisms have the potential to work until replication is already in place.
Evolution News reports on a new study that makes the window for naturalistic forces to create the first self-replicating organism even smaller.
A paper in Nature reports the discovery of fossil microbes possibly older, even much older, than any found previously. The lead author is biogeochemist Matthew Dodd, a PhD student at University College London. If the paper is right, these Canadian fossils could be 3.77 billion years old, or even as old as — hold onto your hat, in case you’re wearing one — 4.28 billion years.
Although it is not known when or where life on Earth began, some of the earliest habitable environments may have been submarine-hydrothermal vents. Here we describe putative fossilized microorganisms that are at least 3,770 million and possibly 4,280 million years old in ferruginous sedimentary rocks, interpreted as seafloor-hydrothermal vent-related precipitates, from the Nuvvuagittuq belt in Quebec, Canada. These structures occur as micrometre-scale haematite tubes and filaments with morphologies and mineral assemblages similar to those of filamentous microorganisms from modern hydrothermal vent precipitates and analogous microfossils in younger rocks. The Nuvvuagittuq rocks contain isotopically light carbon in carbonate and carbonaceous material, which occurs as graphitic inclusions in diagenetic carbonate rosettes, apatite blades intergrown among carbonate rosettes and magnetite–haematite granules, and is associated with carbonate in direct contact with the putative microfossils.
This new paper is interesting to compare with a paper from last year, Nutman et al., “Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures,” also in Nature, which found microbial structures that are a bit younger.
But the “microbial structures” from Nutman et al. 2016 are different from these new “microfossils” presented by Dodd et al. 2017. In Nutman et al., they only found stromatolite-type structures rather than actual microfossils. Some stromatolite experts were a bit skeptical that what they found were really stromatolites.
But the new paper by Dodd and his colleagues, “Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates,” seems to offer potential bacteria-like microfossils. They are tiny black carbonaceous spheres and “hematite tubes” which the authors think are biogenically created. We’ve seen more convincing ancient microfossils, but these aren’t bad.
RE: Wintery Knight: For now, I prefer to keep anonymous, although I may add additional details to this page later.
My political views are a mixture of conservative and libertarian. I believe in free market capitalism and liberty, and especially in religious liberty. I favor a strong defense abroad, “peace through strength”, as Reagan would have it.
Theologically, I am a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian. I favor the old-earth (14 billion-year universe) perspective, and I am a firm supporter of intelligent design. Socially, I am pro-life, pro-chastity, pro-abstinence and pro-traditional-marriage.
You can read my story in more detail here.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 27The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
27 Of David.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
The LORD Is My Strength and My Shield
The Middlebury Mob
By Jenna Lifhits 3/4/2017
The violent mob protest that greeted Charles Murray's appearance at Middlebury College on March 2 grew out of several days of agitation.
About a week before the conservative author and political scientist was due to speak at the private college in Middlebury, Vermont, faculty members circulated an email that described him as a "white nationalist." The college newspaper published a dozen open letters, opinion columns, and editorials both for and against his appearance, including one in protest penned by professors.
"This is not an issue of freedom of speech," read a letter signed by 450 alumni. The letter cited a profile from the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center, which opponents of the lecture repeatedly referred to in the run-up to the event: "The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Dr. Murray a 'white nationalist' who 'us[es] racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by … genetic inferiority.' Why has such a person been granted a platform at Middlebury?"
Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, had been invited by student members of the AEI club to speak about his 2012 book, Coming Apart. The AEI club is a student group that meets weekly to discuss politics, philosophy, and economics and has brought conservative viewpoints to campus for debate and discussion. Murray has seen his fair share of protests over the years—particularly in response to his controversial 1994 work The Bell Curve, co-authored with the late Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein.
But the events that ensued were not routine college campus protests. A week's worth of letters, editorials, frustrated Facebook posts, and meetings culminated in an hours-long violent cacophony that left a professor in a neck brace and hundreds of students, eager to listen and debate Murray and his scholarship, disillusioned and uninformed.
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
Jenna Lifhits is a 2015 graduate of Middlebury College, where she helped start the AEI club.
Supreme Court Could Hear Case on Religion and Abortion in California
By Grace Carr 10/30/2017
A challenge to a California law which mandates pregnancy crisis centers provide its clients with abortion and contraceptive information may soon head to the Supreme Court.
The Reproductive Fact Act, AB 775, requires faith-based pregnancy centers — which exist to offer women alternate options to abortion and educate them on the multiple paths they can take regarding pregnancy — to tell their patients that the state will pay for both abortions and contraception as well as what kind of professional medical staff work at the clinic, according to the Huffington Post.
The National Institute For Family And Life Advocates challenged and appealed the law, arguing that forcing religious pregnancy centers to provide such information which goes against their interests is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.
The issue is whether “the state of California can compel nonprofit, faith-based, pro-life licensed medical facilities, against their religious convictions and identity, to advertise a government program that provides free or low-cost abortions,” wrote American Center for Law and Justice attorney, Jay Alan Sekulow according to the LA Times.
The challenge comes after the California Legislature ruled in 2015 that the state’s pregnancy centers sometimes provide “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women from making fully informed decisions,” the Times reported. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected the claim that the mandatory abortion information violated the First Amendment, saying that providing information about abortion was simply informing patients of the health services available to them.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
6. But before proceeding farther, it will be proper to give a clearer
exposition of the definition which we have adopted. There are three
things, then, principally to be considered in it. First, in the
conversion of the life to God, we require a transformation not only in
external works, but in the soul itself, which is able only after it has
put off its old habits to bring forth fruits conformable to its
renovation. The prophet, intending to express this, enjoins those whom
he calls to repentance to make them "a new heart and a new spirit,"
(Ezek. 18:31). Hence Moses, on several occasions, when he would show
how the Israelites were to repent and turn to the Lord, tells them that
it must be done with the whole heart, and the whole soul (a mode of
expression of frequent recurrence in the prophets), and by terming it
the circumcision of the heart, points to the internal affections. But
there is no passage better fitted to teach us the genuine nature of
repentance than the following: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith
the Lord, return unto me." "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not
among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the
foreskins of your heart," (Jer. 4:1-4). See how he declares to them
that it will be of no avail to commence the study of righteousness
unless impiety shall first have been eradicated from their inmost
heart. And to malice the deeper impression, he reminds them that they
have to do with God, and can gain nothing by deceit, because he hates a
double heart. For this reason Isaiah derides the preposterous attempts
of hypocrites, who zealously aimed at an external repentance by the
observance of ceremonies, but in the meanwhile cared not "to loose the
bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the
oppressed go free," (Isaiah 58:6). In these words he admirably shows
wherein the acts of unfeigned repentance consist.
7. The second part of our definition is, that repentance proceeds from a sincere fear of God. Before the mind of the sinner can be inclined to repentance, he must be aroused by the thought of divine judgment; but when once the thought that God will one day ascend his tribunal to take an account of all words and actions has taken possession of his mind, it will not allow him to rest, or have one moment's peace, but will perpetually urge him to adopt a different plan of life, that he may be able to stand securely at that judgment-seat. Hence the Scripture, when exhorting to repentance, often introduces the subject of judgment, as in Jeremiah, "Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings," (Jer. 4:4). Paul, in his discourse to the Athenians says, "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness," (Acts 17:30, 31). The same thing is repeated in several other passages. Sometimes God is declared to be a judge, from the punishments already inflicted, thus leading sinners to reflect that worse awaits them if they do not quickly repent. There is an example of this in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy. As repentance begins with dread and hatred of sin, the Apostle sets down godly sorrow as one of its causes (2 Cor. 7:10). By godly sorrow he means when we not only tremble at the punishment, but hate and abhor the sin, because we know it is displeasing to God. It is not strange that this should be, for unless we are stung to the quick, the sluggishness of our carnal nature cannot be corrected; nay, no degree of pungency would suffice for our stupor and sloth, did not God lift the rod and strike deeper. There is, moreover, a rebellious spirit which must be broken as with hammers. The stern threatening which God employs are extorted from him by our depraved dispositions. For while we are asleep it were in vain to allure us by soothing measures. Passages to this effect are everywhere to be met with, and I need not quote them. But there is another reason why the fear of God lies at the root of repentance--viz. that though the life of man were possessed of all kinds of virtue, still if they do not bear reference to God, how much soever they may be lauded in the world, they are mere abomination in heaven, inasmuch as it is the principal part of righteousness to render to God that service and honor of which he is impiously defrauded, whenever it is not our express purpose to submit to his authority.
8. We must now explain the third part of the definition, and show what is meant when we say that repentance consists of two parts--viz. the mortification of the flesh, and the quickening of the Spirit. The prophets, in accommodation to a carnal people, express this in simple and homely terms, but clearly, when they say, "Depart from evil, and do good," (Ps. 34:14). "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed," &c. (Isaiah 1:16, 17). In dissuading us from wickedness they demand the entire destruction of the flesh, which is full of perverseness and malice. It is a most difficult and arduous achievement to renounce ourselves, and lay aside our natural disposition. For the flesh must not be thought to be destroyed unless every thing that we have of our own is abolished. But seeing that all the desires of the flesh are enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), the first step to the obedience of his law is the renouncement of our own nature. Renovation is afterwards manifested by the fruits produced by it--viz. justice, judgment, and mercy. Since it were not sufficient duly to perform such acts, were not the mind and heart previously endued with sentiments of justice, judgment, and mercy this is done when the Holy Spirit, instilling his holiness into our souls, so inspired them with new thoughts and affections, that they may justly be regarded as new. And, indeed, as we are naturally averse to God, unless self-denial precede, we shall never tend to that which is right. Hence we are so often enjoined to put off the old man, to renounce the world and the flesh, to forsake our lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Moreover, the very name mortification reminds us how difficult it is to forget our former nature, because we hence infer that we cannot be trained to the fear of God, and learn the first principles of piety, unless we are violently smitten with the sword of the Spirit and annihilated, as if God were declaring, that to be ranked among his sons there must be a destruction of our ordinary nature.
9. Both of these we obtain by union with Christ. For if we have true fellowship in his death, our old man is crucified by his power, and the body of sin becomes dead, so that the corruption of our original nature is never again in full vigor (Rom. 6:5, 6). If we are partakers in his resurrection, we are raised up by means of it to newness of life, which conforms us to the righteousness of God. In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration,  the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam. So the Apostle teaches when he says, "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." Again, "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds" and "put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Again, "Put ye on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him."  Accordingly through the blessing of Christ we are renewed by that regeneration into the righteousness of God from which we had fallen through Adam, the Lord being pleased in this manner to restore the integrity of all whom he appoints to the inheritance of life. This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that death is the only termination to this warfare. The greater is the effrontery of an impure raver and apostate, named Staphylus, who pretends that I confound the condition of the present life with the celestial glory, when, after Paul, I make the image of God to consist in righteousness and true holiness; as if in every definition it were not necessary to take the thing defined in its integrity and perfection. It is not denied that there is room for improvement; but what I maintain is, that the nearer any one approaches in resemblance to God, the more does the image of God appear in him. That believers may attain to it, God assigns repentance as the goal towards which they must keep running during the whole course of their lives.
10. By regeneration the children of God are delivered from the bondage of sin, but not as if they had already obtained full possession of freedom, and no longer felt any annoyance from the flesh. Materials for an unremitting contest remain, that they may be exercised, and not only exercised, but may better understand their weakness. All writers of sound judgment agree in this, that, in the regenerate man, there is still a spring of evil which is perpetually sending forth desires that allure and stimulate him to sin. They also acknowledge that the saints are still so liable to the disease of concupiscence, that, though opposing it, they cannot avoid being ever and anon prompted and incited to lust, avarice, ambition, or other vices. It is unnecessary to spend much time in investigating the sentiments of ancient writers. Augustine alone may suffice, as he has collected all their opinions with great care and fidelity.  Any reader who is desirous to know the sense of antiquity may obtain it from him. There is this difference apparently between him and us, that while he admits that believers, so long as they are in the body, are so liable to concupiscence that they cannot but feel it, he does not venture to give this disease the name of sin. He is contented with giving it the name of infirmity, and says, that it only becomes sin when either external act or consent is added to conception or apprehension; that is, when the will yields to the first desire. We again regard it as sin whenever man is influenced in any degree by any desire contrary to the law of God; nay, we maintain that the very gravity which begets in us such desires is sin. Accordingly, we hold that there is always sin in the saints until they are freed from their mortal frame, because depraved concupiscence resides in their flesh, and is at variance with rectitude. Augustine himself dose not always refrain from using the name of sin, as when he says, "Paul gives the name of sin to that carnal concupiscence from which all sins arise. This in regard to the saints loses its dominion in this world, and is destroyed in heaven." In these words he admits that believers, in so far as they are liable to carnal concupiscence, are chargeable with sin.
11. When it is said that God purifies his Church, so as to be "holy and without blemish," (Eph. 5:26, 27), that he promises this cleansing by means of baptism, and performs it in his elect, I understand that reference is made to the guilt rather than to the matter of sin. In regenerating his people God indeed accomplishes this much for them; he destroys the dominion of sin,  by supplying the agency of the Spirit, which enables them to come off victorious from the contest. Sin, however, though it ceases to reign, ceases not to dwell in them. Accordingly, though we say that the old man is crucified, and the law of sin is abolished in the children of God (Rom. 6:6), the remains of sin survive, not to have dominion, but to humble them under a consciousness of their infirmity. We admit that these remains, just as if they had no existence, are not imputed, but we, at the same time, contend that it is owing to the mercy of God that the saints are not charged with the guilt which would otherwise make them sinners before God. It will not be difficult for us to confirm this view, seeing we can support it by clear passages of Scripture. How can we express our view more plainly than Paul does in Rom. 7:6? We have elsewhere shown and Augustine by solid reasons proves, that Paul is there speaking in the person of a regenerated man. I say nothing as to his use of the words evil and sin. However those who object to our view may quibble on these words, can any man deny that aversion to the law of God is an evil, and that hindrance to righteousness is sin? In short, who will not admit that there is guilt where there is spiritual misery? But all these things Paul affirms of this disease. Again, the law furnishes us with a clear demonstration by which the whole question may be quickly disposed of. We are enjoined to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. Since all the faculties of our soul ought thus to be engrossed with the love of God, it is certain that the commandment is not fulfilled by those who receive the smallest desire into their heart, or admit into their minds any thought whatever which may lead them away from the love of God to vanity. What then? Is it not through the faculties of mind that we are assailed with sudden motions, that we perceive sensual, or form conceptions of mental objects? Since these faculties give admission to vain and wicked thoughts, do they not show that to that extent they are devoid of the love of God? He, then, who admits not that all the desires of the flesh are sins, and that that disease of concupiscence, which they call a stimulus, is a fountain of sin, must of necessity deny that the transgression of the law is sin.
12. If any one thinks it absurd thus to condemn all the desires by which man is naturally affected, seeing they have been implanted by God the author of nature, we answer, that we by no means condemn those appetites which God so implanted in the mind of man at his first creation, that they cannot be eradicated without destroying human nature itself, but only the violent lawless movements which war with the order of God. But as, in consequence of the corruption of nature, all our faculties are so vitiated and corrupted, that a perpetual disorder and excess is apparent in all our actions, and as the appetites cannot be separated from this excess, we maintain that therefore they are vicious; or, to give the substance in fewer words, we hold that all human desires are evil, and we charge them with sin not in as far as they are natural, but because they are inordinate, and inordinate because nothing pure and upright can proceed from a corrupt and polluted nature. Nor does Augustine depart from this doctrine in reality so much as in appearance. From an excessive dread of the invidious charge with which the Pelagians assailed him, he sometimes refrains from using the term sin in this sense; but when he says (ad Bonif). that the law of sin remaining in the saints, the guilt only is taken away, he shows clearly enough that his view is not very different from ours.
13. We will produce some other passages to make it more apparent what his sentiments were. In his second book against Julian, he says, "This law of sin is both remitted in spiritual regeneration and remains in the mortal flesh; remitted, because the guilt is forgiven in the sacrament by which believers are regenerated, and yet remains, inasmuch as it produces desires against which believers fight." Again, "Therefore the law of sin (which was in the members of this great Apostle also) is forgiven in baptism, not ended." Again, "The law of sin, the guilt of which, though remaining, is forgiven in baptism, Ambrose called iniquity, for it is iniquitous for the flesh to lust against the Spirit." Again, "Sin is dead in the guilt by which it bound us; and until it is cured by the perfection of burial, though dead it rebels." In the fifth book he says still more plainly, "As blindness of heart is the sin by which God is not believed; and the punishment of sin, by which a proud heart is justly punished; and the cause of sin, when through the error of a blinded heart any evil is committed: so the lust of the flesh, against which the good Spirit wars, is also sin, because disobedient to the authority of the mind; and the punishment of sin, because the recompense rendered for disobedience; and the cause of sin, consenting by revolt or springing up through contamination." He here without ambiguity calls it sin, because the Pelagian heresy being now refuted, and the sound doctrine confirmed, he was less afraid of calumny. Thus, also, in his forty-first Homily on John, where he speaks his own sentiments without controversy, he says, "If with the flesh you serve the law of sin, do what the Apostle himself says, Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof,' (Rom. 6:12). He does not say, Let it not be, but Let it not reign. As long as you live there must be sin in your members; but at least let its dominion be destroyed; do not what it orders." Those who maintain that concupiscence is not sin, are wont to found on the passage of James, "Then, when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin," (James 1:15). But this is easily refuted: for unless we understand him as speaking only of wicked works or actual sins, even a wicked inclination will not be accounted sin. But from his calling crimes and wicked deeds the fruits of lust, and also giving them the name of sins, it does not follow that the lust itself is not an evil, and in the sight of God deserving of condemnation.
14. Some Anabaptists in the present age mistake some indescribable sort of frenzied excess for the regeneration of the Spirit, holding that the children of God are restored to a state of innocence, and, therefore, need give themselves no anxiety about curbing the lust of the flesh; that they have the Spirit for their guide, and under his agency never err.  It would be incredible that the human mind could proceed to such insanity, did they not openly and exultingly give utterance to their dogma. It is indeed monstrous, and yet it is just, that those who have resolved to turn the word of God into a lie, should thus be punished for their blasphemous audacity. Is it indeed true, that all distinction between base and honorable, just and unjust, good and evil, virtue and vice, is abolished? The distinction, they say, is from the curse of the old Adam, and from this we are exempted by Christ. There will be no difference, then, between whoredom and chastity, sincerity and craft, truth and falsehood, justice and robbery. Away with vain fear! (they say), the Spirit will not bid you do any thing that is wrong, provided you sincerely and boldly leave yourself to his agency. Who is not amazed at such monstrous doctrines? And yet this philosophy is popular with those who, blinded by insane lusts, have thrown off common sense. But what kind of Christ, pray, do they fabricate? what kind of Spirit do they belch forth? We acknowledge one Christ, and his one Spirit, whom the prophets foretold and the Gospel proclaims as actually manifested, but we hear nothing of this kind respecting him. That Spirit is not the patron of murder, adultery, drunkenness, pride, contention, avarice, and fraud, but the author of love, chastity, sobriety, modesty, peace, moderation, and truth. He is not a Spirit of giddiness, rushing rashly and precipitately, without regard to right and wrong, but full of wisdom and understanding, by which he can duly distinguish between justice and injustice. He instigates not to lawless and unrestrained licentiousness, but, discriminating between lawful and unlawful, teaches temperance and moderation. But why dwell longer in refuting that brutish frenzy? To Christians the Spirit of the Lord is not a turbulent phantom, which they themselves have produced by dreaming, or received ready-made by others; but they religiously seek the knowledge of him from Scripture, where two things are taught concerning him; first, that he is given to us for sanctification, that he may purge us from all iniquity and defilement, and bring us to the obedience of divine righteousness, an obedience which cannot exist unless the lusts to which these men would give loose reins are tamed and subdued; secondly that though purged by his sanctification, we are still beset by many vices and much weakness, so long as we are enclosed in the prison of the body. Thus it is, that placed at a great distance from perfection, we must always be endeavoring to make some progress, and daily struggling with the evil by which we are entangled. Hence, too, it follows, that, shaking off sloth and security, we must be intently vigilant, so as not to be taken unawares in the snares of our flesh; unless, indeed, we presume to think that we have made greater progress than the Apostle, who was buffeted by a messenger of Satan, in order that his strength might be perfected in weakness, and who gives in his own person a true, not a fictitious representation, of the strife between the Spirit and the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7, 9; Rom. 7:6).
15. The Apostle, in his description of repentance (2 Cor. 7:2), enumerates seven causes, effects, or parts belonging to it, and that on the best grounds. These are carefulness, excuse, indignation fear, desire, zeal, revenge. It should not excite surprise that I venture not to determine whether they ought to be regarded as causes or effects: both views may be maintained. They may also be called affections conjoined with repentance; but as Paul's meaning may be ascertained without entering into any of these questions, we shall be contented with a simple exposition. He says then that godly sorrow produces carefulness. He who is really dissatisfied with himself for sinning against his God, is, at the same time, stimulated to care and attention, that he may completely disentangle himself from the chains of the devil, and keep a better guard against his snares, so as not afterwards to lose the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or be overcome by security. Next comes excuse, which in this place means not defense, in which the sinner to escape the judgment of God either denies his fault or extenuates it, but apologizing, which trusts more to intercession than to the goodness of the cause; just as children not altogether abandoned, while they acknowledge and confess their errors, yet employ deprecation; and to make room for it, testify, by every means in their power, that they have by no means cast off the reverence which they owe to their parents; in short, endeavor by excuse not to prove themselves righteous and innocent, but only to obtain pardon. Next follows indignation, under which the sinner inwardly murmurs expostulates, and is offended with himself on recognizing his perverseness and ingratitude to God. By the term fear is meant that trepidation which takes possession of our minds whenever we consider both what we have deserved, and the fearful severity of the divine anger against sinners. Accordingly, the exceeding disquietude which we must necessarily feel, both trains us to humility and makes us more cautious for the future. But if the carefulness or anxiety which he first mentioned is the result of fear, the connection between the two becomes obvious. Desire seems to me to be used as equivalent to diligence in duty, and alacrity in doing service, to which the sense of our misdeeds ought to be a powerful stimulus. To this also pertains zeal, which immediately follows; for it signifies the ardor with which we are inflamed when such goads as these are applied to us. "What have I done? Into what abyss had I fallen had not the mercy of God prevented?" The last of all is revenge, for the stricter we are with ourselves, and the severer the censure we pass upon our sins, the more ground we have to hope for the divine favor and mercy. And certainly when the soul is overwhelmed with a dread of divine judgment, it cannot but act the part of an avenger in inflicting punishment upon itself. Pious men, doubtless, feel that there is punishment in the shame, confusion, groans, self-displeasure, and other feelings produced by a serious review of their sins. Let us remember, however, that moderation must be used, so that we may not be overwhelmed with sadness, there being nothing to which trembling consciences are more prone than to rush into despair. This, too, is one of Satan's artifices. Those whom he sees thus overwhelmed with fear he plunges deeper and deeper into the abyss of sorrow, that they may never again rise. It is true that the fear which ends in humility without relinquishing the hope of pardon cannot be in excess. And yet we must always beware, according to the apostolic injunction, of giving way to extreme dread, as this tends to make us shun God while he is calling us to himself by repentance. Wherefore, the advice of Bernard is good, "Grief for sins is necessary, but must not be perpetual. My advice is to turn back at times from sorrow and the anxious remembrance of your ways, and escape to the plain, to a calm review of the divine mercies. Let us mingle honey with wormwood, that the salubrious bitter may give health when we drink it tempered with a mixture of sweetness: while you think humbly of yourselves, think also of the goodness of the Lord," (Bernard in Cant. Serm. 11).
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Many were coming and going
By Lydia McGrew
The Gospel of Mark introduces the feeding of the five thousand by telling of Jesus’ attempt to get away from the crowds with his disciples after the twelve returned from a preaching mission.
(Mk 6:30–31) 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ESV
One might at first guess that the reference to many “coming and going” is merely another allusion to the fact that Jesus was often pressed and followed by crowds. And indeed, as the passage goes on, Mark does say that the crowds found a way to follow Jesus (vv 34– 35). But the phrase “many were coming and going” is slightly odd as a description of Jesus’ popularity alone and suggests that there was some other reason for a general bustle of crowds in their vicinity. But Mark gives no further explanation for the busyness surrounding them.
John does, though without any appearance of intending to explain anything at all. John introduces the feeding of the five thousand like this:
(Jn 6:1-4) After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. ESV
John notes that the crowd followed Jesus when he went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but he does not mention that there were “many coming and going” in the location from which Jesus came. What John does mention in passing is the time of year— namely, just before Passover.
Josephus (The Wars of the Jews) tells of an estimate of almost three million Jews in Jerusalem for Passover during the reign of Nero. Josephus also mentions difficulties caused by the Galileans’ habit of passing through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem for festivals (Antiquities of the Jews). The biblical texts themselves speak often of the practice of traveling to Jerusalem for the festivals. (See, among others, Luke 2.41, John 2.13, John 7.1– 8, Acts 2, Acts 20.16.) There is no doubt that Jews would have been on the roads in large numbers when the Passover was coming up.
There was a Roman road that ran over the top and along the western edge of the Sea of Galilee. (Map) Jesus was evidently on the western side of the Sea of Galilee (see Mark 6: 1-6) to begin with and took ship somewhere on that shore to try to get away from the crowds by going to a deserted area on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida (see Luke 9.10, Matt 14.13). The major population centers of Tiberias and Capernaum were both on the west of the Sea, with the road between them, and things would have been busy indeed in that vicinity just before the Passover.
But the correspondence here is so indirect that there can be no question that it is undesigned. Mark does not mention the Passover, and John does not mention the general bustle on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark, being earlier, could not have coordinated deliberately with John. John, so far from attempting to coordinate with Mark, actually leaves himself open to the charge of contradicting Mark, as discussed at the end of the previous chapter. It is implausible enough to begin with that the author of John would have planted a hyper-subtle correspondence between his own Gospel and Mark’s by stating that Passover was at hand, without bothering to repeat Mark’s comment about the crowds on the eastern side of the sea. But it passes beyond implausible to bizarre to suggest that he would make so clever a connection while at the same time leaving apparent discrepancies on other matters of detail between his own account and Mark’s. The author of John, imagined as a deceiver, cannot be both extremely subtle and clever and extremely bumbling at the same time! The fact is that John gives the strong impression of writing an independent account of the feeding of the five thousand, so much so that one might even suspect that he had not recently heard or read the account in Mark.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
The Green Grass
By Lydia McGrew
I mentioned in the previous chapter that there are quite a number of undesigned coincidences related to the feeding of the five thousand. Here is another, connected to the same verse in John concerning the time of year.
Three different Gospels mention the fact that there was grass in the place where the feeding of the five thousand took place (Mark 6.39, Matt 14.19, John 6.10), but only Mark emphasizes its color: “Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.” (Mark 6.39) Why does Mark specifically mention that the grass was green?
It will come as no surprise to a reader who has followed the previous coincidence that I turn at this point again to John 6.4—“( T) he Passover … was at hand.” Passover, of course, falls in the spring. The grass is not generally green in that region, but it is green in the spring after the winter rains, around the time of Passover. 4 There would have needed to be quite a lot of green grass to make Mark’s statement true, since he implies that more than 5,000 people sat down on it. At that time of year, but not at others, such a quantity of green grass would be possible. So here we have a perfect fit between John’s casual reference to the time of year and Mark’s specification of the detail of the green grass.
J. J. Blunt discusses several fascinating contrasts between the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand and notes, among other things, that the accounts of the former emphasize the grass whereas the accounts of the latter say instead that the people sat down on the ground. 5 His comment is applicable both to that point and to Mark’s reference specifically to the green grass:
It should seem … that the abundance of the grass was a feature of the scene of the miracle of the five thousand, which had impressed itself on the eye of the relator, as peculiar to it. It was a graphic trifle which had rendered the spectacle more vivid.
What one sees in undesigned coincidences, again and again, are points which “impressed themselves upon the eye” of the spectator and came thus into the accounts we now have.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
Herod And His Servants
By Lydia McGrew
When Herod heard of Jesus and his miracles, the Gospels report that he was rather disconcerted and even worried that John the Baptist might have returned from death. Herod had had John the Baptist executed and may have had a guilty conscience about it.
(Mt 14:1–2) 14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” ESV
Matthew’s account of Herod’s perplexity contains a unique detail— that Herod was musing about Jesus’ identity to his servants. In other respects, these verses resemble Mark 6.16, but that verse does not state that Herod was speaking to his servants. 7 Why does Matthew specify that Herod spoke about this to his servants? Even more to the point, how could Matthew know, in the usual course of events, what Herod was saying to his servants?
(Mk 6:16) 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” ESV
The answer is found in an otherwise unrelated passage in the Gospel of Luke.
(Lk 8:1–3) 8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. ESV
This passage is not in any way about Herod or about his comments concerning Jesus. Luke is merely listing those who accompanied Jesus at this point in his ministry. Among these he mentions Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager.
In other words, Luke says that a follower of Jesus (or at any rate the husband of a devout follower of Jesus) was found among the important servants of Herod’s household. It was therefore quite natural that information about Herod’s doings and about his reaction to the stories of Jesus should come back to the community of Jesus’ followers and make it into Matthew’s Gospel. If Herod knew that one of his servants was connected to Jesus through his wife, it would also make sense that he would be discussing this matter with his servants and giving his own superstitious conclusions about Jesus’ true identity.
The indirectness of this coincidence is particularly lovely. Only one part of the puzzle is found in each Gospel, and the connection cannot possibly be the result of design. It is beyond belief that Luke would have inserted this casual reference to Chuza in a list unconnected in any other way with Herod or with the beheading of John, in order to provide a convenient explanation for the detail about Herod’s servants mentioned only in Matthew. This coincidence provides clear evidence of the independence of Matthew and Luke and confirms them both.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)
By John Bunyan 1678
THE SIXTH STAGEWhen we were come to where the three fellows were hanged, he said that he doubted that that would be his end also. Only he seemed glad when he saw the cross and the sepulchre. There I confess he desired to stay a little to look; and he seemed for a while after to be a little cheery. When he came to the Hill Difficulty, he made no stick at that, nor did he much fear the lions: for you must know, that his troubles were not about such things as these; his fear was about his acceptance at last.
I got him in at the house Beautiful, I think, before he was willing. Also, when he was in, I brought him acquainted with the damsels of the place; but he was ashamed to make himself much in company. He desired much to be alone; yet he always loved good talk, and often would get behind the screen to hear it. He also loved much to see ancient things, and to be pondering them in his mind. He told me afterward, that he loved to be in those two houses from which he came last, to wit, at the gate, and that of the Interpreter, but that he durst not be so bold as to ask.
When we went also from the house Beautiful, down the hill, into the Valley of Humiliation, he went down as well as ever I saw a man in my life; for he cared not how mean he was, so he might be happy at last. Yea, I think there was a kind of sympathy betwixt that Valley and him; for I never saw him better in all his pilgrimage than he was in that Valley.
Here he would lie down, embrace the ground, and kiss the very flowers that grew in this valley.
Lam. 3:27–29 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope; ESV
He would now be up every morning by break of day, tracing and walking to and fro in the valley.
But when he was come to the entrance of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I thought I should have lost my man: not for that he had any inclination to go back; that he always abhorred; but he was ready to die for fear. Oh, the hobgoblins will have me! the hobgoblins will have me! cried he; and I could not beat him out of it. He made such a noise, and such an outcry here, that had they but heard him, it was enough to encourage them to come and fall upon us.
But this I took very great notice of, that this valley was as quiet when we went through it, as ever I knew it before or since. I suppose those enemies here had now a special check from our Lord, and a command not to meddle until Mr. Fearing had passed over it.
It would be too tedious to tell you of all; we will therefore only mention a passage or two more. When he was come to Vanity Fair, I thought he would have fought with all the men in the fair. I feared there we should have been both knocked on the head, so hot was he against their fooleries. Upon the Enchanted Ground he was very wakeful. But when he was come at the river where was no bridge, there again he was in a heavy case. Now, now, he said, he should be drowned forever, and so never see that face with comfort that he had come so many miles to behold.
And here also I took notice of what was very remarkable: the water of that river was lower at this time than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last, not much above wetshod. When he was going up to the gate, I began to take leave of him, and to wish him a good reception above. So he said, I shall, I shall. Then parted we asunder, and I saw him no more.
HON. Then it seems he was well at last?
GREAT. Yes, yes, I never had doubt about him. He was a man of a choice spirit, only he was always kept very low, and that made his life so burdensome to himself, and so troublesome to others.
Psa. 88 I Cry Out Day and Night Before You A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. ESV
1 O LORD, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. ESV
He was, above many, tender of sin: he was so afraid of doing injuries to others, that he often would deny himself of that which was lawful, because he would not offend.
Rom. 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. ESV
1 Cor. 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ESV
HON. But what should be the reason that such a good man should be all his days so much in the dark?
GREAT. There are two sorts of reasons for it. One is, the wise God will have it so: some must pipe, and some must weep.
Matt. 11:16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ESV
Now Mr. Fearing was one that played upon the bass. He and his fellows sound the sackbut, whose notes are more doleful than the notes of other music are: though indeed, some say, the bass is the ground of music. And for my part, I care not at all for that profession which begins not in heaviness of mind. The first string that the musician usually touches is the bass, when he intends to put all in tune. God also plays upon this string first, when he sets the soul in tune for himself. Only there was the imperfection of Mr. Fearing; he could play upon no other music but this till towards his latter end.
[I make bold to talk thus metaphorically for the ripening of the wits of young readers, and because, in the book of Revelation, the saved are compared to a company of musicians, that play upon their trumpets and harps, and sing their songs before the throne.
Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. ESV
Revelation 14:2-3 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. ESV
HON. He was a very zealous man, as one may see by the relation you have given of him. Difficulties, lions, or Vanity Fair, he feared not at all; it was only sin, death, and hell, that were to him a terror, because he had some doubts about his interest in that celestial country.
GREAT. You say right; those were the things that were his troublers; and they, as you have well observed, arose from the weakness of his mind thereabout, not from weakness of spirit as to the practical part of a pilgrim’s life. I dare believe that, as the proverb is, he could have bit a firebrand, had it stood in his way; but the things with which he was oppressed, no man ever yet could shake off with ease.
CHR. Then said Christiana, This relation of Mr. Fearing has done me good; I thought nobody had been like me. But I see there was some semblance betwixt this good man and me: only we differed in two things. His troubles were so great that they broke out; but mine I kept within. His also lay so hard upon him, they made him that he could not knock at the houses provided for entertainment; but my trouble was always such as made me knock the louder.
MER. If I might also speak my heart, I must say that something of him has also dwelt in me. For I have ever been more afraid of the lake, and the loss of a place in paradise, than I have been of the loss other things. O, thought I, may I have the happiness to have a habitation there! ’Tis enough, though I part with all the world to win it.
MATT. Then said Matthew, Fear was one thing that made me think that I was far from having that within me which accompanies salvation. But if it was so with such a good man as he, why may it not also go well with me?
JAMES. No fears no grace, said James. Though there is not always grace where there is the fear of hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where there is no fear of God.
GREAT. Well said, James; thou hast hit the mark. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; and to be sure, they that want the beginning have neither middle nor end. But we will here conclude our discourse of Mr. Fearing, after we have sent after him this farewell.
“Well, Master Fearing, thou didst fear
Thy God, and wast afraid
Of doing any thing, while here,
That would have thee betrayed.
And didst thou fear the lake and pit?
Would others do so too!
For, as for them that want thy wit,
They do themselves undo.”
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Secrets of self-control (7)
3/6/2018 Bob Gass
‘Let the Spirit direct your lives.’
(Ga 5:16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ESV
Depend on Christ’s power to help you. ‘Let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ The sequence in this Scripture is very important. ‘Let the Spirit direct your life’ – that’s the first part – ‘and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ Notice, it doesn’t say you won’t have those desires. Spirit-filled people still experience the desires of the flesh, it’s just that they won’t satisfy them. We usually get the sequence backwards. We say, ‘I’m not good enough to have God’s Spirit in my life. Once I get my act together, then I’m going to let the Holy Spirit control my life.’ God doesn’t say, ‘Get your act together and then I will help you.’ He says, ‘Let my Holy Spirit control you while you are still struggling with the problem. I will help you change.’ The sequence makes all the difference. You wouldn’t say, ‘I’m going to get well first, then I’m going to go see the doctor.’ That’s absurd! You need Christ in your life now! He has the power to help you change. You say, ‘But I enjoy doing what I do.’ That’s because there are ‘pleasures of sin for a season’ (Hebrews 11:25 KJV). None of us would sin if it immediately made us miserable. Don’t look for God to nullify the appeal of sin; ask Him for the power to overcome its appeal. ‘For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants’ (Philippians 2:13 TLB). You’ll receive the desire and the power to do what’s right.
UCB The Word For Today
'Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?,' says the Lord God, 'And not rather that he should turn from his way and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,' says the Lord God. 'So turn and live! Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways. For why will you die?"' (Ez. 18.23,32; 33.11).
Here God literally pleads with people to turn back from their self-destructive course of action and be saved. Thus, in a sense, the biblical God does not send any person to hell. His desire is that everyone be saved, and He seeks to draw all persons to Himself. If we make a free and well-informed decision to reject Christ's sacrifice for our sin, then God has no choice but to give us what we deserve. God will not send us to hell—but we shall send ourselves. Our eternal destiny thus lies in our own hands. It is a matter of our free choice where we shall spend eternity. The lost, therefore, are self-condemned; they separate themselves from God despite God's will and every effort to save them, and God grieves over their loss.
Click here to go to source
by Bill Federer
On March 6, 1776, General Washington issued the order from his headquarters at Cambridge: “the… Legislature [has set apart] a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation, ‘to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and… bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,’ all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay… reverence… to… the Lord of hosts for His mercies… and for those blessings which our… uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.” Within days, Washington, using the fifty captured cannons, forced the British to evacuate Boston.
Thomas R. Kelly
Thus the state of having a concern has a foreground and a background. In the foreground is the special task, uniquely illuminated, toward which we feel a special yearning and care. This is the concern as we usually talk about it or present it to the Monthly Meeting. But in the background is a second level, or layer, of universal concern for all the multitude of good things that need doing. Toward them all we feel kindly, but we are dismissed from active service in most of them. And we have an easy mind in the presence of desperately real needs which are not our direct responsibility. We cannot die on every cross, nor are we expected to.
Behind the foreground, behind the background, we may distinguish the Ultimate Background, which is the Eternal Concernedness of Love, anterior to its differentiation into the multitude of particulars of creation.
I wish I might emphasize how a life becomes simplified when dominated by faithfulness to a few concerns. Too many of us have too many irons in the fire. We get distracted by the intellectual claim to our interest in a thousand and one good things, and before we know it we are pulled and hauled breathlessly along by an over-burdened program of good committees and good undertakings. I am persuaded that this, fevered life of church workers is not wholesome. Undertakings get plastered on from the outside because we can't turn down a friend. Acceptance of service on a weighty committee should really depend upon an answering imperative within us, not merely upon a rational calculation of the factors involved. The concern-oriented life is ordered and organized from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and the height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and co-ordinated life-program of social responsibilities. And I am persuaded that concerns introduce that simplification, and along with it that intensification which we need in opposition to the hurried, superficial tendencies of our age.
We have tried to discover the grounds of the social responsibility and the social sensitivity of Friends. It is not in mere humanitarianism. It is not in mere pity. It is not in mere obedience to Bible commands. It is not in anything earthly. The social concern of Friends is grounded in an experience--an experience of the Love of God and of the impulse to savior-hood inherent in the fresh quickenings of that Life. Social concern is the dynamic Life of God at work in the world, made special and emphatic and unique, particularized in each individual or group who is sensitive and tender in the leading-strings of love. A concern is God-initiated, often surprising, always holy, for the Life of God is breaking through into the world. Its execution is in peace and power and astounding faith and joy, for in unhurried serenity the Eternal is at work in the midst of time, triumphantly bringing all things up unto Himself.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Rick Adams
In a controversy, the instant we feel anger,
we have already ceased striving for truth
and have begun striving for ourselves.
--- Abraham J. Heschel
God in Search of Man : A Philosophy of Judaism
There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.
--- Howard Thurman
A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life
Are we going to order our inner worlds, our hearts, so that they will radiate influence into the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer influences to shape us? This is a choice we have to make every day of our lives.
--- Gordon MacDonald
Ordering Your Private World
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
--- attributed to Albert Einstein
Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior, 13th Edition
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
At our Yearly Meeting this year, we had some weighty seasons, in which the power of truth was largely extended, to the strengthening of the honest-minded. As the epistles which were to be sent to the Yearly Meetings on this continent were read, I observed that in most of them, both this year and the last, it was recommended to Friends to labor against buying and keeping slaves, and in some of them the subject was closely treated upon. As this practice hath long been a heavy exercise to me, and I have often waded through mortifying labors on that account, and at times in some meetings have been almost alone therein, I was humbly bowed in thankfulness in observing the increasing concern in our religious society, and seeing how the Lord was raising up and qualifying servants for his work, not only in this respect, but for promoting the cause of truth in general.
This meeting continued near a week. For several days, in the fore part of it, my mind was drawn into a deep inward stillness, and being at times covered with the spirit of supplication, my heart was secretly poured out before the Lord. Near the conclusion of the meeting for business, way opened in the pure flowings of Divine love for me to express what lay upon me, which, as it then arose in my mind, was first to show how deep answers to deep in the hearts of the sincere and upright; though, in their different growths, they may not all have attained to the same clearness in some points relating to our testimony. And I was then led to mention the integrity and constancy of many martyrs who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus, and yet, in some points, they held doctrines distinguishable from some which we hold, that, in all ages, where people were faithful to the light and understanding which the Most High afforded them, they found acceptance with Him, and though there may be different ways of thinking amongst us in some particulars, yet, if we mutually keep to that spirit and power which crucifies to the world, which teaches us to be content with things really needful, and to avoid all superfluities, and give up our hearts to fear and serve the Lord, true unity may still be preserved amongst us; that if those who were at times under sufferings on account of some scruples of conscience kept low and humble, and in their conduct in life manifested a spirit of true charity, it would be more likely to reach the witness in others, and be of more service in the church, than if their sufferings were attended with a contrary spirit and conduct. In this exercise I was drawn into a sympathizing tenderness with the sheep of Christ, however distinguished one from another in this world, and the like disposition appeared to spread over others in the meeting. Great is the goodness of the Lord towards his poor creatures.
John Woolman's Journal
by Dr. David Wells
but he who hates correction is a boor.
... theology is a knowledge that belongs first and foremost to the people of God and that the proper and primary audience for theology is therefore the Church, not the learned guild. Whatever this guild might contribute to the life and construction of theology is to be gratefully received, but the university fraternity is not its primary auditor. I say this because theology is not simply a philosophical reflection about the nature of things but is rather the cogent articulation of the knowledge of God. Its substance is not drawn from mere human reflection, no matter how brilliant, but from the biblical Word by which it is nurtured and disciplined. And its purpose is not primarily to participate in the conversation of the learned but to nurture the people of God. That is its nature and that is its purpose. It is here in the Church that the circle of knowing — the kind of knowing that has Christ as its object and his service as its end — is to be found. It is here, then, that the audience for theology is to be found. And so it is the community of faith that the theologian addresses fundamentally, because it is only by faith that the knowledge of God is first arrived at and only by faith that it is sustained.
Without question, theology that is constructed in this way has a powerful intellectual relevance to society and a legitimate place in discussions of our public square. Nevertheless, because the locus of the work is in the Church, the locus of our contemporary failure will almost inevitably be seen to lie there too. If the learned guild stands apart from its primary audience, it will have at most only a secondary significance in the apportioning of blame for what has gone wrong. And the truth is that adjustments in the doing of theology, even adjustments of large methodological magnitude, are not going to repair the damage that has been done, because the problem is less intellectual than spiritual. The reason that theology is disappearing has little to do with the technical skills of the fine-tuners and much to do with the state of the Church. So it is not with the technicians that I begin but with the Church. It not with the professionals in the learned guild that I start but with the whole people of God. And it is not to methodology that I look for a recovery of this fallen art but to a reformation in the way that Christian people go about their business of being Christian in the midst of the extraordinary changes that modernity has wrought in our world.
.... There can be little doubt that if the capacity to think Christianly about this world is eroding in the churches, so too will the propriety of doing theology, both in the pulpit and in the academy. The propriety of this kind of knowledge will disintegrate as certainly as would the propriety of a novelist continuing to work when it was discovered that the culture in which he or she was living had gradually lost the ability to read.
... (Modern Thought) ... has done this by breaking down the central core so that there is nothing to which thought and life returns. It has eroded those ideas and convictions, that truth which, precisely because it arose in God and was mediated by him, stood as an unchanging sentinel amid changing circumstances. And it is this flight to the edges, this dispersion from the center, that has intruded on evangelical faith even as it has disordered the warp and woof of contemporary life. In the one it leaves a faith denuded of theology and in the other a life stripped of absolutes.
... And are we not consumed with what is changing in cultural and personal circumstance rather than with what is unchanging about life, the great universal truths about God, the world, and human nature? Have we not substituted the relative for the absolute, the Many for the One, diversity for unity, the human for the divine, our own private religious experience for truth that was once also public and universal in its scope?
By the way, this book was published 12/31/96.
No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
by D.H. Stern
but he who hates correction is a boor.
2 A good man obtains ADONAI’s favor,
but the schemer his condemnation.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Amid a crowd of paltry things
… in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses. --- 2 Cor. 6:4.
It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator—the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel.
Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh-and-blood actualities and work it out through the finger-tips. We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you. Continually get away from pettiness and paltriness of mind and thought out into the thirteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
But the financiers will ask
In that day: Is it not better
To leave broken bank balances
Behind than broken heads?
And Christ recognizing the
New warriors will feel breaching
His healed side their terrible
Pencil and the hemorrhage of its figures.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
The People: Leviticus 11–15
Priests and people in Israel were to make distinctions between clean and unclean in Israel (cf. Leviticus 11:47). The regulations that covered diet and certain ritual requirements are discussed in this context.
Some have gone to great lengths to invent “logical” reasons for some of the commands that God gave here. Even today, the proscription against pork has led to the imaginative notion that pork is “bad” meat. I recently talked with a person who argued that a pig’s digestive system is incomplete, and that consequently waste materials are stored in the body rather than eliminated as by other animals. Thus pork is supposed to be intrinsically dirty—and thus God is justified in telling the Jews not to eat pork.
It’s a little more difficult to find similar explanations for other dietary laws, such as, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
In fact, such explanations miss the point. To teach Peter that the Old Testament economy was passing and that Jew and Gentile were no longer to be viewed as distinct, different races, God caused a great sheet to be lowered from heaven full of “unclean” animals. And Peter was commanded to kill and eat! Peter, a pious Jew, objected. But then the word of God came: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:9–15).
The point is simply this. Some things are immoral and unclean in themselves for all persons at all times. Adultery, for instance, is never right. Such things are rooted in the very nature of man as God has created him, and reflect something of God’s own moral character and His righteousness. But many things that we read of here in Leviticus have no intrinsic rightness or wrongness. These things were “unclean” simply because God said they were to be so regarded by Israel.
Why did God create this whole set of unclean things? In answering, we do not need to give a logical excuse for each item, as some attempt with the dietary laws. Instead, we need to realize that God was acting to train and to discipline His people. He was working with them, to give them a sense of their own unique identity as His people: to help them realize constantly the privilege—and responsibility—of fellowship with Him.
I emjoy reading this Commentary, just as I am learning to enjoy the Gemara and the Talmud, that does not mean I agree with everything I read. I certainly hope everyone visiting my web site thinks and questions on their own.
There was a tremendous danger that this people would forget their God. Sinai demonstrated how quickly and easily they forgot! Now, however, the very pattern of daily life in Israel was so structured that it was almost impossible to forget God. Each meal served was a reminder. The specialness of the offerings served as a reminder. The presence of the priests, scattered throughout the other tribes in their cities and supported by yearly tithes, were reminders. The Sabbath was a weekly reminder and, as we will see in the next unit, a system of annual festivals also helped to keep God in focus.
Everything in the customs God gave to Israel was designed to constantly remind the people that they had a special relationship with God, and were called to walk in fellowship with Him.
Many of these customs in Israel are irrelevant to us today. Others have some deep typical significance, and speak of Christ. Still others reflect God’s own character and are rooted in righteousness. But all of them serve as unique reminders of how special it is to live in fellowship with God.
The Teacher's Commentary
We live in a disposable society. Everything from pens to soda bottles, from diapers to “plastic silverware” (an oxymoron of the modern age) is throw-away. We hold on to so little, especially after items have fulfilled their short-lived purposes. Objects that were once used over and over again are now used once and discarded, even if they have some use left to them. Things that we refilled or recycled (like the old-fashioned glass milk bottle) have been replaced by disposable counterparts.
These examples are quite obvious, yet there are dozens of others on a more subtle level. Decades ago, the standard rotary telephone was made to withstand years of use and abuse. It was rare that one had to be replaced. Many tell stories of growing up and using the same phone (and there was only one style) for thirty or forty years. Today, technology has given us telephones that outperform these early models in almost every way but one. These new phones come with speed dialing, automatic redial, and one-button memory of commonly used numbers. Today’s phones can be programmed to do a host of chores that were inconceivable a generation ago. Yet, the old black rotary phone excelled in one way: it seemed to last forever. Many of us consider ourselves lucky if our telephones outlast the warranty.
Today, we are used to throwing out so many things that break. Even if we follow the environmentalists’ rule of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, we find ourselves using more and more items that are made to be used for shorter periods of time and then discarded. Some call this “planned obsolescence.” Among the problems this lifestyle creates is a garbage glut.
If Rabbi Yehudah were alive today, he would probably tell us (perhaps by e-mail or fax) that we should not be so hasty in throwing old things out. Sometimes they still have a usefulness, even if it is not their original function. “The tablets and the broken tablets were placed in the Ark” means that what once had life and purpose can often be used to instruct us and inspire us.
Yet, Rabbi Yehudah is talking not only about objects, but also about experiences. We learn from our experiences—both good and bad—and we should not discard any of them. Despite the fact that Oscar Wilde quipped “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” our past errors can be helpful to us. Thomas Edison patented 1,093 inventions in his lifetime, describing his work as “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” He worked for over two years just on the incandescent light bulb, trying to find the ideal filament to conduct electricity. Edison knew that he would eventually find an element that would give off sufficient light when electricity flowed through it, but would not burn out in the process. Each of his failures led him to try a different substance. Without dogged persistence, including his countless failures, Edison would not have succeeded in discovering carbonized thread as the successful filament material.
In The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski, a professor at Duke University, describes how everyday useful items are often the result of decades and even centuries of development. Few, if any, of the gadgets of everyday life—from the fork and the straight pin to the zipper and the can opener—were invented in perfect form. Most, if not all, inventions come as improvements of earlier designs or failed models:
Clever people in the past, whom we today might call inventors, designers, or engineers, observed the failure of existing things to function as well as might be imagined. By focusing on the shortcomings of things, innovators altered these items to remove the imperfections, thus producing new, improved objects.
Few of us like to recall our mistakes, yet without them, we cannot develop as human beings. Unless we carry our “broken tablets,” the negative experiences, we cannot understand how to avoid repeating them and move on to positive experiences. If we do not keep a record of where we have failed, we will be unable to narrow down the likely circumstances for success. We would prefer not having others pointing out our faults and foibles, but we do need to carry our own personal record of failure—not as a depressing reminder of where we have fallen short, but as an inspiring chronicle of the roads to success.
Mishnah (2:1): If he was reading in the Torah and it was time to recite [the Sh’ma], if he had proper intention, he fulfilled his responsibility. Gemara: We learn from this: Mitzvot require proper intention. What if his intention was to read? To read? But he is reading! He is reading to correct.
The Kavvanah for putting on the tallit: I wrap myself in a tallit with fringes to fulfill the mitzvah of my Creator, as written in the Torah: “They shall put fringes on the corners of their garments in every generation.”
The Kavvanah for putting on tefillin: I put on tefillin to fulfill the mitzvah of my Creator, as written in the Torah: “Bind them as a sign upon your hand, and set them as a symbol above your eyes” [Deuteronomy 6:8]. The tefillin contain four passages from the Torah. They teach us the unity and uniqueness of God, recall the miracle of the Exodus, declare God’s dominion over all that is in the heavens and on earth, and affirm our duty to serve God with all our being. We place the tefillah [singular of tefillin] on the arm, pointed toward the heart, that we may recall God’s outstretched arm and be reminded to direct our impulses and desires to His service. We place the tefillah on the head to remind us to devote all of the power of our mind to the service of God, praised be He. (Translation, Siddur Sim Shalom)
A Jew is required to recite the Sh’ma (“Hear, O Israel …”; Deuteronomy 6:4–9) twice a day, based on the rabbinic reading of those verses, to “recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.” This recitation is a mitzvah, a religious obligation (plural: mitzvot). But is the requirement simply to mutter the words, or does the person have to think about what is being said? If one read the words without focusing on them, has the obligation been fulfilled? In other words, do mitzvot require proper intention?
The Mishnah deals with the situation where one is reading the words of the Sh’ma from a Torah scroll at the time when one should be reciting the Sh’ma. Does this perfunctory reading fulfill the responsibility to recite the Sh’ma? The Mishnah simply states that if the reader had proper intention (in Hebrew: “directed his heart,” i.e., was attentive; the heart is seen as the seat of thought) then the obligation has indeed been fulfilled.
The Gemara asks what exactly this man was doing when he was reading from a Torah scroll. Rashi assumes that the man was reading a Torah scroll without paying attention to the words, simply reciting word after word to detect mistakes in the Torah scroll. The Tosafot say that one who reads to correct always pays attention. How else can one correct mistakes in a Torah scroll? However, say the Tosafot, the man was not reading the words with proper pronunciation, but was reading them in such a way to check out the spelling and letters in the Torah scroll.
The question still remains: Is it enough simply to read the words of Sh’ma, or does one have to realize that one is fulfilling a religious responsibility? The Gemara never comes to a clear conclusion. Later Jewish law codifies a split decision: rabbinic enactments do not require intent, but laws from the Torah, like reciting the Sh’ma, do. (Even though the law of reading the Sh’ma twice daily is derived by rabbinic interpretation, the Rabbis considered it to be a law d’oraita, from the Torah.)
In some Jewish communities, the spirit of this law was incorporated into Kavvanot, prayers of intention that were often added to the worship service, for example, to announce that “Behold I am inviting my mouth to thank, praise, and extol my Creator.” While these prayers themselves eventually became rote, their purpose remained a noble one—to focus the attention and intention of the worshiper on the act.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Ninth Chapter / Wanting No Share In Comfort
IT IS not hard to spurn human consolation when we have the divine. It is, however, a very great thing indeed to be able to live without either divine or human comforting and for the honor of God willingly to endure this exile of heart, not to seek oneself in anything, and to think nothing of one’s own merit.
Does it matter much, if at the coming of grace, you are cheerful and devout? This is an hour desired by all, for he whom the grace of God sustains travels easily enough. What wonder if he feel no burden when borne up by the Almighty and led on by the Supreme Guide! For we are always glad to have something to comfort us, and only with difficulty does a man divest himself of self.
The holy martyr, Lawrence, with his priest, conquered the world because he despised everything in it that seemed pleasing to him, and for love of Christ patiently suffered the great high priest of God, Sixtus, whom he loved dearly, to be taken from him. Thus, by his love for the Creator he overcame the love of man, and chose instead of human consolation the good pleasure of God. So you, too, must learn to part with an intimate and much-needed friend for the love of God. Do not take it to heart when you are deserted by a friend, knowing that in the end we must all be parted from one another.
A man must fight long and bravely against himself before he learns to master himself fully and to direct all his affections toward God. When he trusts in himself, he easily takes to human consolation. The true lover of Christ, however, who sincerely pursues virtue, does not fall back upon consolations nor seek such pleasures of sense, but prefers severe trials and hard labors for the sake of Christ.
When, therefore, spiritual consolation is given by God, receive it gratefully, but understand that it is His gift and not your meriting. Do not exult, do not be overjoyed, do not be presumptuous, but be the humbler for the gift, more careful and wary in all your actions, for this hour will pass and temptation will come in its wake.
When consolation is taken away, do not at once despair but wait humbly and patiently for the heavenly visit, since God can restore to you more abundant solace.
This is neither new nor strange to one who knows God’s ways, for such change of fortune often visited the great saints and prophets of old. Thus there was one who, when grace was with him, declared: “In my prosperity I said: ‘I shall never be moved.’ ” But when grace was taken away, he adds what he experienced in himself: “Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled.” Meanwhile he does not despair; rather he prays more earnestly to the Lord, saying: “To Thee, O Lord, will I cry; and I will make supplication to my God.” At length, he receives the fruit of his prayer, and testifying that he was heard, says “The Lord hath heard, and hath had mercy on me: the Lord became my helper.” And how was he helped? “Thou hast turned,” he says, “my mourning into joy, and hast surrounded me with gladness.” (Psalm 30:7-12)
If this is the case with great saints, we who are weak and poor ought not to despair because we are fervent at times and at other times cold, for the spirit comes and goes according to His will. Of this the blessed Job declared: “Thou visitest him early in the morning, and Thou provest him suddenly.” (Job 7:18)
In what can I hope, then, or in whom ought I trust, save only in the great mercy of God and the hope of heavenly grace? For though I have with me good men, devout brethren, faithful friends, holy books, beautiful treatises, sweet songs and hymns, all these help and please but little when I am abandoned by grace and left to my poverty. At such times there is no better remedy than patience and resignation of self to the will of God.
I have never met a man so religious and devout that he has not experienced at some time a withdrawal of grace and felt a lessening of fervor. No saint was so sublimely rapt and enlightened as not to be tempted before and after. He, indeed, is not worthy of the sublime contemplation of God who has not been tried by some tribulation for the sake of God. For temptation is usually the sign preceding the consolation that is to follow, and heavenly consolation is promised to all those proved by temptation. “To him that overcometh,” says Christ, “I will give to eat of the Tree of Life.” (Revelation 2:7) Divine consolation, then, is given in order to make a man braver in enduring adversity, and temptation follows in order that he may not pride himself on the good he has done.
The devil does not sleep, nor is the flesh yet dead; therefore, you must never cease your preparation for battle, because on the right and on the left are enemies who never rest.
The Imitation Of Christ
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.
A father’s compassion tenderly lifts up those who fall. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) When your child falls down, as children are very apt to do, especially when they first begin to walk, don’t you pity them? Is there a nasty cut across the knee, and tears? The mother takes the child up in her arms, and she has some sponge and water to take the grit out of the wound, and she gives a kiss and makes it well. I know mothers have wondrous healing lips! And sometimes, when God’s servants do really fall, it is very lamentable, it is very sad, and it is well that they should cry. It were a pity that they should be willing to lie in the mire, but when they are up again and begin crying, and the wound bleeds—well, let them not keep away from God, for as a father has compassion on his fallen child, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
Have you come in here tonight with that cut knee of yours? I am sorry you have fallen, but I am glad that our blessed Master is willing to receive you still. Come and trust in him who is mighty to save, just as you did at first, and begin again tonight. Come along! Some of us have had to begin again many times. You do the same. If you are not a saint you are a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Put your trust in him, and you will find restoration, and maybe through that very fall you will learn to be more careful, and from now on you will walk more uprightly, to his honor and glory.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
March 6, 1475 is the birthdate of the creator of David, Moses, the Pieta, and the dome of St. Peter’s. Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in a small Italian town, nursed in a marble quarry, and raised in nearby Florence. He spent his leisure painting and drawing, and was chosen at age 13 for admittance to a new art school established by Lorenzo de’ Medici in the Medici Gardens. Between lessons, he listened to the mighty Savonarola preaching his fiery gospel nearby.
As a young man he gained rapid fame for his Pieta (Madonna holding her crucified son), then for carving David from an 18-foot piece of discarded marble. Pope Julius next put him on his back atop scaffolding, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was called a genius.
But behind Michelangelo’s genius resided a tragic figure. He didn’t get along with others and frequently burned with jealousy, foul moods, and disdain for others. He wore old clothes which he seldom changed, and he never bathed. Though rich, he lived as a miser. He ate whatever he found, sometimes only crumbs, and he slept in his raiment and boots. He hated small talk and preferred being alone. He disliked women. All his passion went into his work, and he had little need for friends, except for a servant who tended to him for 25 years and shared his bed.
Michelangelo’s bad temper caused one pope to remark, “He is such an alarming man, and there is no getting on with him.” At times the artist was depressed to the edge of insanity, and in his old age he became obsessed with the fear of hell.
But in advancing age his thoughts turned more and more to the Christ he had so frequently painted, and to the sermons he had heard from the martyred Savonarola. Near the end of his life, Michelangelo wrote that neither Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest / My soul, that turns to His great love on high, / Whose arms to clasp us on the cross are spread.
He died in his eighty-ninth year.
Only God gives inward peace.… Trust God, my friends, And always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety. We humans are only a breath; None of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less than a puff of air. --- Psalm 62:5-9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 6
“Ye must be born again.” --- John 3:7.
Regeneration is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation, and we should be very diligent to take heed that we really are “born again,” for there are many who fancy they are, who are not. Be assured that the name of a Christian is not the nature of a Christian; and that being born in a Christian land, and being recognized as professing the Christian religion is of no avail whatever, unless there be something more added to it—the being “born again,” is a matter so mysterious, that human words cannot describe it. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Nevertheless, it is a change which is known and felt: known by works of holiness, and felt by a gracious experience. This great work is supernatural. It is not an operation which a man performs for himself: a new principle is infused, which works in the heart, renews the soul, and affects the entire man. It is not a change of my name, but a renewal of my nature, so that I am not the man I used to be, but a new man in Christ Jesus. To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: man can do the one, God alone can do the other. If you have then, been “born again,” your acknowledgment will be, “O Lord Jesus, the everlasting Father, thou art my spiritual Parent; unless thy Spirit had breathed into me the breath of a new, holy, and spiritual life, I had been to this day ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ My heavenly life is wholly derived from thee, to thee I ascribe it. ‘My life is hid with Christ in God.’ It is no longer I who live, but Christ who liveth in me.” May the Lord enable us to be well assured on this vital point, for to be unregenerate is to be unsaved, unpardoned, without God, and without hope.
Evening - March 6
“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty.” --- Proverbs 18:12.
It is an old and common saying, that “coming events cast their shadows before them;” the wise man teaches us that a haughty heart is the prophetic prelude of evil. Pride is as safely the sign of destruction as the change of mercury in the weather-glass is the sign of rain; and far more infallibly so than that. When men have ridden the high horse, destruction has always overtaken them. Let David’s aching heart show that there is an eclipse of a man’s glory when he dotes upon his own greatness. 2 Sam. 24:10. See Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty builder of Babylon, creeping on the earth, devouring grass like oxen, until his nails had grown like bird’s claws, and his hair like eagle’s feathers. Dan. 4:33. Pride made the boaster a beast, as once before it made an angel a devil. God hates high looks, and never fails to bring them down. All the arrows of God are aimed at proud hearts. O Christian, is thine heart haughty this evening? For pride can get into the Christian’s heart as well as into the sinner’s; it can delude him into dreaming that he is “rich and increased in goods, and hath need of nothing.” Art thou glorying in thy graces or thy talents? Art thou proud of thyself, that thou hast had holy frames and sweet experiences? Mark thee, reader, there is a destruction coming to thee also. Thy flaunting poppies of self-conceit will be pulled up by the roots, thy mushroom graces will wither in the burning heat, and thy self-sufficiency shall become as straw for the dunghill. If we forget to live at the foot of the cross in deepest lowliness of spirit, God will not forget to make us smart under his rod. A destruction will come to thee, O unduly exalted believer, the destruction of thy joys and of thy comforts, though there can be no destruction of thy soul. Wherefore, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Morning and Evening
NO, NOT ONE!
Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856–1922
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends … (John 15:15)
He became poor that we might become rich (James 2:5).
He was born that we might be born again (John 1:14).
He became a servant that we might become sons (Galatians 4:6, 7).
He had no home that we might have a home in heaven (Matthew 8:20).
He was made sin that we might be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
He died that we might live (John 5:24, 25).
This is another of our favorite Sunday school songs that extols, in child-like language, our living Lord. It has a typical gospel song character in that it employs a repetitive phrase—“No, not one”—which allows people of all ages and backgrounds to join heartily together in the praise of Christ. Gospel songs such as this can teach even the youngest child the truth of the pre-eminence of our Lord and His nearness in every situation of our lives.
The author, Johnson Oatman, Jr., was an ordained Methodist minister, but he worked most of his life in the insurance business. He wrote numerous gospel hymn texts including “Higher Ground” and “Count Your Blessings.”
The composer, George C. Hugg, was an active lay musician-choir director in various churches in the Philadelphia area. He too was active in writing and publishing Sunday school songs during this time.
In times of stress and loneliness, these simple words with their easily sung tune, that many of us first sang in our earliest Sunday school classes, still minister to us today:
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one! no, not one! None else could heal all your soul’s diseases, no, not one! no, not one!
No friend like Him is so high and holy, no, not one! no, not one! And yet no friend is so meek and lowly, no, not one! no, not one!
There’s not an hour that He is not near us, no, not one! no, not one! No night so dark but His love can cheer us, no, not one! no, not one!
Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him? no, not one! no, not one! Or sinner find that He would not take him? no, not one! no, not one!
Was e’er a gift like the Savior given? no, not one! no, not one! Will He refuse us a home in heaven? no, not one! no, not one!
Refrain: Jesus knows all about our struggles; He will guide till the day is done. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one! no, not one!
For Today: Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 11:29; John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 3:20.
When a difficult situation arises, let the simple, child-like truth of this music minister to your need.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
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