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Numbers 8     Psalm 44     Song Of Songs 6     Hebrews 6


Numbers 8

The Seven Lamps (Ex 25.31—40)

Numbers 8:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” 3 And Aaron did so: he set up its lamps in front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses. 4 And this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was hammered work; according to the pattern that the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.

     Midrash Rabbah, Numbers XV, 2. … This is the reason why it says, WHEN THOU LIGHTEST THE LAMPS. Thus we have explained the text, ’The Lord was pleased for His righteousness sake’. Moreover, if you will be careful to light the lamps before Me I shall cause a great light to shine upon you in the Messianic era. Accordingly it says, Arise, shine, for thy light is come … And nations shall walk at thy light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising (Isa. 60:1-22). Huckel, T. (1998). The Rabbinic Messiah (Nu 8:2). Philadelphia: Hananeel House.

Cleansing of the Levites

5 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. 7 Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. 8 Then let them take a bull from the herd and its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another bull from the herd for a sin offering. 9 And you shall bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. 10 When you bring the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, 11 and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the LORD. 12 Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and you shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD to make atonement for the Levites. 13 And you shall set the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and shall offer them as a wave offering to the LORD.

14 “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. 15 And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. 16 For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. 17 For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, 18 and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”

20 Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the people of Israel to the Levites. According to all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, the people of Israel did to them. 21 And the Levites purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes, and Aaron offered them as a wave offering before the LORD, and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 And after that the Levites went in to do their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.

     The main body of this chapter (vv. 5–22) describes a ceremony in which Moses was to cleanse the Levites and “offer them for a wave offering.” God had accepted the Levites as a substitute for all the firstborn of Israel. Since the Levites were to serve as a shield for the people, it was necessary that atonement be made first for them. In this way the people could be saved from the anger of God (which might be expressed by a plague or some other calamity) caused by an improper worship action.

     Special points.—The “wave offering” was a special contribution. In it, the symbolism was that of waving the sacrifice toward the altar and then away from the altar. It symbolized the fact that the people gave the offering to God and then received it back again. It is difficult to know exactly how this was done with reference to the Levites. They obviously could not be waved back and forth physically but, no doubt, in some way the symbolism was fulfilled in spirit if not literally.
Paschall, F. H., & Hobbs, H. H. (1972). The teacher's Bible commentary: A concise, thorough interpretation of the entire Bible designed especially for Sunday School teachers (98). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Retirement of the Levites

23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”


Psalm 44

Come to Our Help

Psalm 44:1 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

1  O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2  you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3  for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

4  You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5  Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6  For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7  But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8  In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

9  But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10  You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11  You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12  You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13  You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14  You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15  All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16  at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

17  All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18  Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19  yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20  If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21  would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22  Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

23  Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24  Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25  For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26  Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!


Song Of Songs 6

OTHERS

Song Of Songs 6 Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
that we may seek him with you?

Together in the Garden of Love

SHE

2  My beloved has gone down to his garden
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
3  I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.

Solomon and His Bride Delight in Each Other

HE

4  You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,
lovely as Jerusalem,
awesome as an army with banners.
5  Turn away your eyes from me,
for they overwhelm me—
Your hair is like a flock of goats
leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
6  Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
that have come up from the washing;
all of them bear twins;
not one among them has lost its young.
7  Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
behind your veil.
8  There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
and virgins without number.
9  My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
the only one of her mother,
pure to her who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.

10  “Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
awesome as an army with banners?”

SHE

11  I went down to the nut orchard
to look at the blossoms of the valley,
to see whether the vines had budded,
whether the pomegranates were in bloom.
12  Before I was aware, my desire set me
among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince.

OTHERS

13  Return, return, O Shulammite,
return, return, that we may look upon you.

HE

Why should you look upon the Shulammite,
as upon a dance before two armies?


Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. 9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The Reformation Study Bible


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One Covenant Under God

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/1/2006

     We are a litigious people. We not only like to sue one another, we like to avoid being sued, and having to sue. That is, we hire lawyers not only to write up contracts, but to help enforce contracts. Handshakes and verbal agreements have gone the way of the nickel cup of coffee. (And be careful with that coffee now. It just might be hot, and you wouldn’t want anyone to sue.) As a culture we can barely even agree to disagree.

     On the other hand, we are likewise a licentious people. We want our pleasures, and we want them now, and nothing, we seem to believe, ought to stand in our way. We have our rights, and by rights, we will have them. Contracts, the saying goes, are made to be broken.

     It is a strange marriage in a given culture. The great English novelist, Anthony Burgess, in his great work, A Clockwork Orange, speculated that cultures are doomed to alternate between two extremes of the pendulum. Sometimes a culture embraces a Pelagian view of man, what Burgess called the “Pel phase.” Here man is seen as basically good, and all restraints are inherently bad. This romantic notion, however, soon loses its romance, as sinful men without restraint begin to, well, sin. Their sin grows bolder and bolder until the culture reacts, and enters into the “Aug phase,” named for Augustine. Here man is looked at as fundamentally sinful, and restraints are all the rage. The state, in seeking to restrain sin, soon enters into sin, becoming ever more oppressive itself. Soon enough the people tire of a heavy handed state, and the pendulum swings back the other way.

     His analysis, a case could be made, reflects similar thinking on the issue of the Trinity. Some cultures tend more toward the one, and exhibit a uniformitarianism, often manifested as totalitarianism. Other cultures tend toward the three, (or the many) and, as T.S. Elliot put it, the center cannot hold. Culture simply disintegrates in a fog of variety. The solution here is, of course, the Trinity, where the one and the many come together in peace. But what of the shift from a permissive culture to a repressive one and back again? The answer here is covenant.

     Just as the Trinity brings together the one and the many, so covenant binds together (or marries, if you will) the legal and the familial. Covenant does not merely reduce down to contract, for such misses the inherent grace therein. God did not create Adam and Eve as tabula rasa (blank slates), placing them in a neutral realm and then waiting to see which way they would go. Instead, He blessed them with life and a garden. He put them in a paradise they did not earn, and He walked with them in the cool of the evening. This relationship, however, wasn’t some sort of anything-goes, if-it-feels-good-it-must-be-good relationship. Yes, God loved them. Yes, He blessed them. But He established that love and the boundaries by which it might be protected by making covenant. It is in this context, in the context of a loving father in relationship with His children, that God first establishes covenant with man.

     Covenants, rightly understood, then, are not merely contracts, the legal forms of legal relationships. Neither are they formless sentimental feelings that bring people together as long as those feelings last. Instead, they are both. In covenant we have real obligation. Real promises are made, and real sanctions handed down when those promises are broken. But underlying all of that is grace, love, and relationship.

     This is why Paul speaks of our heavenly Father this way, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). God did not wink at our sin because He loved us. Instead, because He loved us, He punished our sin in His Son on the cross. He wanted to justify us because He loves us. He did it justly by punishing His only begotten Son.

     Grasping covenant is not only necessary for understanding the Word of God, but it is our only hope, culturally speaking, to escape the pendulum of which Burgess wrote. It was in fact our understanding of covenant that birthed the freest nation the world has ever known. It is no accident that the British, during the time of the Revolutionary War, referred to it as “the Presbyterian war.” We are a nation founded on the principle of covenant, beginning even before the Revolution with the Mayflower Compact.

     A nation built upon covenant is a nation that recognizes the sinfulness of man, and so wishes not only to restrain the sinful impulses of the individual but also to restrain the sinfulness of men who have power in the state. As Lord Acton observed: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” To restrain the state we need checks and balances. We need covenant keepers in office. And we will have these things only when we in the church learn to keep covenant among ourselves. We will have faithful politicians when we are faithful to our Shepherd. The nation will be free again when God’s people are once again subject to their High King, and when God’s people rejoice in their Great Husband, even Jesus our Lord.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

The New Covenant Meal

By Terry Johnson 11/1/2006

     One of the great insights of the Reformation was the recovery of the biblical concept of “covenant.” This recovery was fueled by the “new learning” of the Renaissance humanism, the return ad fontes, “to the sources,” of theology in the original texts of the New and Old Testaments and in the writings of the church fathers. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Muslim Turks brought a flood of Greek and Hebrew scholars with their manuscripts into Western Europe. For the first time in a thousand years in the West the Bible was being studied in the original languages, and in particular, the Old Testament was being given close attention. The expression, “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched,” is well known and refers to his publication in 1516 of the first critical edition of the Greek New Testament, barely a year before the posting of the 95 Theses. Less well known is the fact that Luther was one of a handful of tri-linguists (Greek, Hebrew, Latin) on the whole continent of Europe. No longer would the church’s theologians be content to study the Bible in the Latin of the Vulgate.

     The biblical covenants were given careful study by Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, and Bullinger, often in relation to sacramental theology. What they came to understand was that the Lord’s Supper is a supper, that is, a covenantal meal. It should not be understood as a sacrifice offered upon an altar by a priest, but a supper offered upon a table by a pastor. The Lord’s Supper is the Christian Passover in which, as with many covenantal meals before it, the agreement between the two participating parties is ratified or confirmed (Ex. 12:24; see also Gen. 14:17–20; 18:1–13; 27; Prov. 9:1–6). Jesus announced, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25; see Matt. 26:28). By participating in the meal, the covenant with Christ is ratified and confirmed, the Reformers argued. God confirms His promise to redeem those who come to Him through the cross of Christ. Communicants in turn promise to be faithful servants of the Christ whom they trust.

     The practical implications of a covenantal understanding of the Eucharist were soon obvious: the communion service was to look like a meal. The language of sacrifice, as well as gestures and furnishings that implied sacrifice, were removed from the service: “Let us, therefore, repudiate everything that smacks of sacrifice,” Luther wrote in 1523 in his Formula Missae.

     The pastoral implications were enormous as well. The communion table became the point at which commitment to Christ was either refused or ratified, and the people came to understand that if they were to do business with God it would be at the table. If you were a non-believer, Christ was beckoning you to His table. The Supper was a poignant reminder that one was outside of God’s covenant family and thus not a recipient of His saving provisions. If you were a baptized but non-communing child of the church, confirmation would take place at the table. The table for you was a reminder that though a covenant child, you had unfinished business with God. If you were a back-sliding Christian, rededication would take place at the table. The fenced table, excluding the unrepentant, was like a divine cannon-shot over the bow, warning you to get right with God. If you were a faithful believer, reaffirmation of the covenant with Christ would take place at the table. The table for you was a blessed spiritual meal, a reminder of the gifts of grace, and communion with the risen Christ Himself. The table was the Reformed altar-call. At the table, one was to deal with Christ, for there He was present, there He was most clearly seen, and there He issued His invitation to “take, eat,” “take, drink,” and enjoy His benefits.

     The implications for koinonia soon became clear as well. By baptism one was initiated into the covenant. By participation in the Lord’s Supper one identified oneself as a member of the covenant community, in fellowship with Christ, and in fellowship with those in fellowship with Christ. Thus the apostle Paul writes: “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16–17 NASB). The unity of the church, mutual accountability, the mutual responsibility, the mutual caring and “sharing” (koinonia) are all implications of participation in one bread, one cup, and one table of the covenantal meal.

     We have perhaps made too little of the practical importance of the table. Perhaps this is especially true of first communion. I wonder if more ought to be made of this crucial step in a young person’s life of ratifying the covenant with Christ. I am not sure of what shape making more of first communion would take. But I do think we need to think and pray about what that might mean. Regularly observed, properly understood, and covenantally interpreted, the Lord’s Supper becomes the focal point of both one’s relationship with Christ, and one’s relationship with fellow believers.

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     Rev. Terry L. Johnson, per Amazon, Terry Johnson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He studied history at the University of Southern California, and also studied at Trinity College, Bristol, England, and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, before earning his D.Min in 2008 from Erskine Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and was assistant minister in Coral Gables, Florida, before moving to Savannah in 1987 to the Independent Presbyterian Church. He and his wife, Emily, have five children.

Terry Johnson Books:

The Covenant of Works

By R.C. Sproul 10/1/2006

     Covenant theology is important for many reasons. Though covenant theology has been around for millennia, it finds its more refined and systematic formulation in the Protestant Reformation. Its importance, however, has been heightened in our day because of its relationship to a theology that is relatively new. In the late nineteenth century, the theology called “dispensationalism” emerged as a new approach to understanding the Bible. The old Scofield Reference Bible defined dispensationalism in terms of seven distinct dispensations or time periods within sacred Scripture. Each dispensation was defined as “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (p. 5, Scofield Reference Bible). Scofield distinguished seven dispensations including that of innocence, conscience, civil government, promise, law, grace, and the kingdom period. Over against this diversified view of redemptive history, covenant theology seeks to present a clear picture of the unity of redemption, which unity is seen in the continuity of the covenants that God has given throughout history and how they are fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.

     Beyond the ongoing discussion between traditional dispensationalists and Reformed theology with respect to the basic structure of biblical revelation, there has arisen in our day an even greater crisis with respect to our understanding of redemption. This crisis focuses on the place of imputation in our understanding of the doctrine of justification. Just as the doctrine of imputation was the pivotal issue in the sixteenth-century debate between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic understanding of justification, so now the issue of imputation has risen its head again even among professing evangelicals who repudiate the Reformation understanding of imputation. At the heart of this question of justification and imputation is the rejection of what is called the covenant of works. Historic covenantal theology makes an important distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works refers to the covenant that God made with Adam and Eve in their pristine purity before the fall, in which God promised them blessedness contingent upon their obedience to His command. After the fall, the fact that God continued to promise redemption to creatures who had violated the covenant of works, that ongoing promise of redemption is defined as the covenant of grace.

     Technically, from one perspective, all covenants that God makes with creatures are gracious in the sense that He is not obligated to make any promises to His creatures. But the distinction between the covenant of works and grace is getting at something that is of vital importance, as it has to do with the Gospel. The covenant of grace indicates God’s promise to save us even when we fail to keep the obligations imposed in creation. This is seen most importantly in the work of Jesus as the new Adam. Again and again the New Testament makes the distinction and contrast between the failure and calamities wrought upon humanity through the disobedience of the original Adam and the benefits that flow through the work of the obedience of Jesus, who is the new Adam. Though there is a clear distinction between the new Adam and the old Adam, the point of continuity between them is that both were called to submit to perfect obedience to God.

     When we understand Christ’s work of redemption in the New Testament, we focus our attention largely on two aspects of it. On the one hand, we look at the atonement. It’s clear from the New Testament teachings that in the atonement Jesus bears the sins of His people and is punished for them in our place. That is, the atonement is vicarious and substitutionary. In this sense, on the cross, Christ took upon Himself the negative sanctions of the old covenant. That is, He bore in His body the punishment due to those who violated not only the law of Moses, but also the law that was imposed in paradise. He took upon Himself the curse that is deserved by all who disobey the law of God. This, Reformed theology describes in terms of “the passive obedience of Jesus.” It points to His willingness to submit to His reception of the curse of God in our stead.

     Beyond the negative fulfillment of the covenant of works, in taking the punishment due those who disobey it, Jesus offers the positive dimension that is vital to our redemption. He wins the blessing of the covenant of works on all of the progeny of Adam who put their trust in Jesus. Where Adam was the covenant breaker, Jesus is the covenant keeper. Where Adam failed to gain the blessedness of the tree of life, Christ wins that blessedness by His obedience, which blessedness He provides for those who put their trust in Him. In this work of fulfilling the covenant for us in our stead, theology speaks of the “active obedience” of Christ. That is, Christ’s redeeming work includes not only His death, but His life. His life of perfect obedience becomes the sole ground of our justification. It is His perfect righteousness, gained via His perfect obedience, that is imputed to all who put their trust in Him. Therefore, Christ’s work of active obedience is absolutely essential to the justification of anyone. Without Christ’s active obedience to the covenant of works, there is no reason for imputation, there is no ground for justification. If we take away the covenant of works, we take away the active obedience of Jesus. If we take away the active obedience of Jesus, we take away the imputation of His righteousness to us. If we take away the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, we take away justification by faith alone. If we take away justification by faith alone, we take away the Gospel, and we are left in our sins. We are left as the miserable sons of Adam, who can only look forward to feeling the full measure of God’s curse upon us for our own disobedience. It is the obedience of Christ that is the ground of our salvation, both in His passive obedience on the cross and His active obedience in His life. All of this is inseparably related to the biblical understanding of Jesus as the new Adam (Rom. 5:12–20), who succeeded where the original Adam failed, who prevailed where the original Adam lost. There is nothing less than our salvation at stake in this issue.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Covenant and Culture

By Gene Edward Veith 10/1/2006

     The word covenant is a theological term. But it is also a cultural term. It has to do with God’s primal design for how human beings, fallen though we be, can live together and form a society. Social philosophers and political theorists talk about the “social compact” or the “social contract.” The concept in its different nuances was developed by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, though it goes back to the ancient Greeks. It states that governments and, indeed, cultures entail a tacit but binding agreement between parties: I will obey your laws if you protect my rights. I will surrender some of my freedom for the good of the group, if the group will take care of my needs that I cannot provide by myself.

     Now the social contract theory ignores the sense in which authority — including the foundation of human institutions such as the family and the state — derives not from arbitrary human trade-offs but from God (Rom. 13). People do not usually sign a contract when they join a family, a tribe, or a nation. Rather, except in the case of adoption or legal immigration, they are born into that institution. They are under its laws and customs whether or not they consent to them.

     Societies are “given,” not drawn up like a rental agreement. But they do — by God’s design and His created order — entail mutual commitments, agreements, and promises. That is, they involve covenants.

     The family, anthropologists agree, is the foundation of every culture. And family, as invented by God, has to do with covenants.

     Marriage is a covenant, in which a man and a woman promise to live together in faithfulness. Sexual relations are authorized within and by authority of the marriage covenant and nowhere else. (People who have sex with someone they are not married to have no authority to do so. They are presuming to act without a covenant.)

     Sexual relations are designed to engender new life. Parenthood is also entering into a covenant. Parents have the responsibility to care for their children and to form them into responsible adults. This is true of both married and unmarried parents, Christians and non-Christians, though Christian parents have the additional covenantal obligation to their children to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

     And children have the covenantal responsibility to honor and obey their parents and to care for them when the time comes (Eph. 6:1–3; 1 Tim. 5:8).

     The every-day workings of the economy — working, buying, selling — entail covenants. You agree to go to work, whereupon your boss agrees to pay you. In return for your labor, you receive a piece of paper with writing on it: your paycheck, which you can cash at the bank for more pieces of paper. That paper has no intrinsic value in itself, but it can be exchanged for tangible goods and services because of a covenant.

     Adam Smith, the great theoretician of capitalism, wrote much about “the invisible hand” of market forces in a free economy. But all of that unregulated economic activity, he said, depends on a moral foundation. He might have said a covenantal foundation.

     A free economy cannot work unless all parties honor their contracts. That is, unless they keep their covenants. Companies have to trust that customers will pay them for their goods, and those customers have to trust that the company will deliver the product and that it is what it was claimed to be. Both parties have to trust their bankers.

     I once had a conversation with a citizen of the former Soviet Union who decried the difficulty of establishing a functioning free economy after the fall of communism. He said that the communists had wrecked the society’s moral infrastructure. As a result, ex-Soviets often lacked respect for private property and the promise-keeping habit entailed in honoring contracts. And without them, he said, economic growth is impossible.

     Government and law, policies and customs, contracts and hand-shake deals — they all have to do with covenants. Every time you sign your name to a document — a check, a mortgage agreement, a video rental slip — you are making a covenant. When you make a promise, give your word, or say that you will do something and follow through, you are making a covenant.

     We also break our covenants. Husbands and wives neglect each other, break their wedding vows, and sometimes just get divorced. Parents fail to spend enough time with their children, letting them grow up un-nurtured and ignored. Children rebel against their parents. Employers misuse their workers, and workers cheat their employers of an honest day’s work. They both sometimes manipulate and cheat their customers. Stealing, lying, and other ways of hurting our neighbors instead of loving them as ourselves are violations of the social covenant that we have with them. Covenant-breaking, whether against God or against our neighbor, is sin.

     Good thing that God does not break His covenant. He not only keeps His part of the bargain, in Christ He keeps our part of the bargain too. He is the restorer of broken covenants.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

This Is My Body

By Gene Edward Veith 11/1/2006

     As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

     I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity.

     At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, that great debate over the Lord’s Supper between Luther and Zwingli, Dr. Martin took a piece of chalk and wrote on a table: “This is my body.” In answer to Zwingli’s long philosophical discourse, Luther whipped off the tablecloth and pointed to those words. For Luther, the conviction that the bread and wine of Holy Communion are the body and blood of Christ was a matter of trusting God’s Word. Since the Bible says, “This is my body,” he would not countenance any arguments designed to prove “this is not my body.” As at Augsburg, so at Marburg, Luther was saying, “Here I stand” on the Word of God.

     Lutherans are puzzled at the resistance from so many other Christians at their conviction that the Lord’s Supper involves “the real presence of Christ.” Calvin had no problem affirming Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper, but he did not understand this in terms of corporeal presence. Luther, who always encouraged Christians to look outside of themselves rather than within themselves to know God, believed in Christ’s objective presence through the objective Word of God that consecrates the elements. Another sticking point was whether an unbeliever receives the corporeal body of Christ. Calvin would say no. Luther, citing 1 Corinthians 11:27–30, would say yes.

     By the way, in this ecumenical forum, let it be known that Lutherans, according to their official statements of faith, reject “consubstantiation.” We do not believe that the body and the bread, the blood and the wine, constitute a new and unique substance. We reject all such philosophical attempts to parse this miracle, insisting that we must simply accept the biblical language without interpretation, that the bread and wine are still bread and wine and also the body and blood of Jesus.

     But, for Luther, the Lord’s Supper is not just about the real presence of Christ. “The main thing in the Sacrament,” Luther teaches in The Small Catechism, are the words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Specifically, the words “for you.”

     Whereas Rome taught that the rite of Holy Communion was a good work, man’s offering of Christ up to God, the Reformation reversed that. The Lord’s Supper is about Christ offering Himself — His body broken on the cross and the blood that He shed for the forgiveness of sins — to us. That is, the Lord’s Supper embodies the Gospel.

     Many Christians look for signs and miracles. But there is no more miraculous sign than what happens during Holy Communion. Many Christians look for a religious experience, but there is no experience as vivid as tasting. Evangelicals talk about receiving Christ, something that happened way back at their conversion. But in the Lord’s Supper, as we are brought back to the Gospel again and again, we can continue to receive Christ.

     Contemporary Christianity tends to be all internalized — a matter of my feelings, my inner life, and my personal opinions. People look inward for their salvation, with some health-and-wealth preachers urging the members of their congregation to “have faith in yourself.” But the Reformers — Calvin as well as Luther — stressed how salvation is extra nos, outside ourselves, accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

     Contemporary Christians tend to be all spiritual. They often scorn the physical realm, even as they indulge their sinful flesh, reasoning like Gnostics that what they do with their bodies does not affect their spirits. They often construe God as a being primarily inside their heads, and they treat Jesus like some imaginary friend. The Reformers rejected such Gnosticism.

     Recovering the Lord’s Supper can remind all Christians that their faith is grounded in objectivity, in a God who created matter and became incarnate in history, in a Christ who redeemed us by giving His body — not just His “spirit” — in a bloody sacrifice.

     What we do in our bodies and in our physical, mundane lives does matter, both for sin and for grace. When we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper, Christ nourishes us both spiritually and physically, uniting us with His body on the cross and the body that is His church. When we drink the wine, Christ’s cleansing blood courses through our veins, such is the thoroughness and the intimacy of our salvation.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Numbers 8; Psalm 44; Song of Songs 6; Hebrews 6

By Don Carson 5/1/2018

     Before they began their duties for the first time, the Levites were set apart by a ritual God himself established to “make them ceremonially clean” (Num. 8:5-14). The details need not concern us here. What we shall reflect on is the theological reasoning God gives for ordering things this way.

     Part of it we have heard before: this is by way of review. God himself has “taken them as my own” (8:16), i.e., he has selected the Levites “from among the other Israelites” (8:6) to be peculiarly his, “in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman” (8:16). The rationale is reviewed: this stems from the Exodus, from the first Passover, when the firstborn of the Egyptians were struck down but not the firstborn sons of Israel (8:17-18).

     But now a new element is introduced. God has “taken” the Levites to be peculiarly his, and, having “taken” them, he has also “given” them as “gifts” to Aaron and his sons, the chief priests, “to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary” (8:19). So God has “taken” them and then “given” them to his people.

     Formally, of course, God has “given” them to Aaron and his sons, but since the work the Levites do is for the benefit of all Israel, there is a sense in which God has given the Levites to the entire nation. The pattern is spelled out again ten chapters later (Num. 18:5-7). God says to Aaron, “I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you” (18:6).

     The closest New Testament parallel is found in Ephesians 4. By his death and resurrection, Christ Jesus “led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). The words are ostensibly quoted from Psalm 68:18, where the Hebrew text says that God received gifts from men. But it has been argued, rightly, that Psalm 68 assumes such themes as those in Numbers 8 and 18, and that in any case Paul is melding together both Numbers and Psalm 68 to make a point. Under the new covenant, Christ Jesus by his triumph has captured us, and to each one of us (Eph. 4:7) he has apportioned grace and then poured us back on the church as his “gifts to men.”

     That is how we are to think of ourselves. We are Christ’s captives, captured from the race of rebellious image-bearers and now poured out as God’s “gifts to men.” That invests all our service with unimaginable dignity.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 44

44 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 22.

THIS DOCTRINE CONFIRMED BY PROOFS FROM SCRIPTURE.

The divisions of this chapter are,--I. A confirmation of the orthodox doctrine in opposition to two classes of individuals. This confirmation founded on a careful exposition of our Savior's words, and passages in the writings of Paul, sec. 1-7. II. A refutation of some objections taken from ancient writers, Thomas Aquinas, and more modern writers, sec. 8-10. III. Of reprobation, which is founded entirely on the righteous will of God, sec. 11.

Sections.

1. Some imagine that God elects or reprobates according to a foreknowledge of merit. Others make it a charge against God that he elects some and passes by others. Both refuted, 1. By invincible arguments; 2. By the testimony of Augustine.

2. Who are elected, when, in whom, to what, for what reason.

3. The reason is the good pleasure of God, which so reigns in election that no works, either past or future, are taken into consideration. This proved by notable declarations of one Savior and passages of Paul.

4. Proved by a striking discussion in the Epistle to the Romans. Its scope and method explained. The advocates of foreknowledge refuted by the Apostle, when he maintains that election is special and wholly of grace.

5. Evasion refuted. A summary and analysis of the Apostle's discussion.

6. An exception, with three answers to it. The efficacy of gratuitous election extends only to believers, who are said to be elected according to foreknowledge. This foreknowledge or prescience is not speculative but active.

7. This proved from the words of Christ. Conclusion of the answer, and solution of the objection with regard to Judas.

8. An objection taken from the ancient fathers. Answer from Augustine, from Ambrose, as quoted by Augustine, and an invincible argument by an Apostle. Summary of this argument.

9. Objection from Thomas Aquinas. Answer.

10. Objection of more modern writers. Answers. Passages in which there is a semblance of contradiction reconciled. Why many called and few chosen. An objection founded on mutual consent between the word and faith. Solution confirmed by the words of Paul, Augustine, and Bernard. A clear declaration by our Savior.

11. The view to be taken of reprobation. It is founded on the righteous will of God.

1. Many controvert all the positions which we have laid down, especially the gratuitous election of believers, which, however, cannot be overthrown. For they commonly imagine that God distinguishes between men according to the merits which he foresees that each individual is to have, giving the adoption of sons to those whom he foreknows will not be unworthy of his grace, and dooming those to destruction whose dispositions he perceives will be prone to mischief and wickedness. Thus by interposing foreknowledge as a veil, they not only obscure election, but pretend to give it a different origin. Nor is this the commonly received opinion of the vulgar merely, for it has in all ages had great supporters (see sec. 8). This I candidly confess, lest any one should expect greatly to prejudice our cause by opposing it with their names. The truth of God is here too certain to be shaken, too clear to be overborne by human authority. Others who are neither versed in Scripture, nor entitled to any weight, assail sound doctrine with a petulance and improbity which it is impossible to tolerate. [496] Because God of his mere good pleasure electing some passes by others, they raise a plea against him. But if the fact is certain, what can they gain by quarreling with God? We teach nothing but what experience proves to be true--viz. that God has always been at liberty to bestow his grace on whom he would. Not to ask in what respect the posterity of Abraham excelled others if it be not in a worth, the cause of which has no existence out of God, let them tell why men are better than oxen or asses. God might have made them dogs when he formed them in his own image. Will they allow the lower animals to expostulate with God, as if the inferiority of their condition were unjust? It is certainly not more equitable that men should enjoy the privilege which they have not acquired by any merit, than that he should variously distribute favors as seems to him meet. If they pass to the case of individuals where inequality is more offensive to them, they ought at least, in regard to the example of our Savior, to be restrained by feelings of awe from talking so confidently of this sublime mystery. He is conceived a mortal man of the seed of David; what, I would ask them, are the virtues by which he deserved to become in the very womb, the head of angels the only begotten Son of God, the image and glory of the Father, the light, righteousness, and salvation of the world? It is wisely observed by Augustine, [497] that in the very head of the Church we have a bright mirror of free election, lest it should give any trouble to us the members--viz. that he did not become the Son of God by living righteously, but was freely presented with this great honor, that he might afterwards make others partakers of his gifts. Should any one here ask, why others are not what he was, or why we are all at so great a distance from him, why we are all corrupt while he is purity, he would not only betray his madness, but his effrontery also. But if they are bent on depriving God of the free right of electing and reprobating, let them at the same time take away what has been given to Christ. It will now be proper to attend to what Scripture declares concerning each. When Paul declares that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), he certainly shows that no regard is had to our own worth; for it is just as if he had said, Since in the whole seed of Adam our heavenly Father found nothing worthy of his election, he turned his eye upon his own Anointed, that he might select as members of his body those whom he was to assume into the fellowship of life. Let believers, then, give full effect to this reason--viz. that we were in Christ adopted unto the heavenly inheritance, because in ourselves we were incapable of such excellence. This he elsewhere observes in another passage, in which he exhorts the Colossians to give thanks that they had been made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints (Col. 1:12). If election precedes that divine grace by which we are made fit to obtain immortal life, what can God find in us to induce him to elect us? What I mean is still more clearly explained in another passage: God, says he, "has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Eph. 1:4, 5). Here he opposes the good pleasure of God to our merits of every description.

Holiness of life springs from election, and is the object of it2. That the proof may be more complete, it is of importance to attend to the separate clauses of that passage. When they are connected together they leave no doubt. From giving them the name of elect, it is clear that he is addressing believers, as indeed he shortly after declares. It is, therefore, a complete perversion of the name to confine it to the age in which the gospel was published. By saying they were elected before the foundation of the world, he takes away all reference to worth. For what ground of distinction was there between persons who as yet existed not, and persons who were afterwards like them to exist in Adam? But if they were elected in Christ, it follows not only that each was elected on some extrinsic ground, but that some were placed on a different footing from others, since we see that all are not members of Christ. In the additional statement that they were elected that they might be holy, the apostle openly refutes the error of those who deduce election from prescience, since he declares that whatever virtue appears in men is the result of election. Then, if a higher cause is asked, Paul answers that God so predestined, and predestined according to the good pleasure of his will. By these words, he overturns all the grounds of election which men imagine to exist in themselves. For he shows that whatever favors God bestows in reference to the spiritual life flow from this one fountain, because God chose whom he would, and before they were born had the grace which he designed to bestow upon them set apart for their use.

3. Wherever this good pleasure of God reigns, no good works are taken into account. The Apostle, indeed, does not follow out the antithesis, but it is to be understood, as he himself explains it in another passage, "Who has called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (2 Tim. 1:9). We have already shown that the additional words, "that we might be holy," remove every doubt. If you say that he foresaw they would be holy, and therefore elected them, you invert the order of Paul. You may, therefore, safely infer, If he elected us that we might be holy, he did not elect us because he foresaw that we would be holy. The two things are evidently inconsistent--viz. that the pious owe it to election that they are holy, and yet attain to election by means of works. There is no force in the cavil to which they are ever recurring, that the Lord does not bestow election in recompense of preceding, but bestows it in consideration of future merits. For when it is said that believers were elected that they might be holy, it is at the same time intimated that the holiness which was to be in them has its origin in election. And how can it be consistently said, that things derived from election are the cause of election? The very thing which the Apostle had said, he seems afterwards to confirm by adding, "According to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself," (Eph. 1:9); for the expression that God "purposed in himself," is the same as if it had been said, that in forming his decree he considered nothing external to himself; and, accordingly, it is immediately subjoined, that the whole object contemplated in our election is, that "we should be to the praise of his glory." Assuredly divine grace would not deserve all the praise of election, were not election gratuitous; and it would not be gratuitous did God in electing any individual pay regard to his future works. Hence, what Christ said to his disciples is found to be universally applicable to all believers, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15:16). Here he not only excludes past merits, but declares that they had nothing in themselves for which they could be chosen except in so far as his mercy anticipated. And how are we to understand the words of Paul, "Who has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (Rom. 11:35). His meaning obviously is, that men are altogether indebted to the preventing goodness of God, there being nothing in them, either past or future, to conciliate his favor.

4. In the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 9:6), in which he again treats this subject more reconditely and at greater length, he declares that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel;" for though all were blessed in respect of hereditary rights yet all did not equally obtain the succession. The whole discussion was occasioned by the pride and vain-glorying of the Jews, who, by claiming the name of the Church for themselves, would have made the faith of the Gospel dependent on their pleasure; just as in the present day the Papists would fain under this pretext substitute themselves in place of God. Paul, while he concedes that in respect of the covenant they were the holy offspring of Abraham, yet contends that the greater part of them were strangers to it, and that not only because they were degenerate, and so had become bastards instead of sons, but because the principal point to be considered was the special election of God, by which alone his adoption was ratified. If the piety of some established them in the hope of salvation, and the revolt of others was the sole cause of their being rejected, it would have been foolish and absurd in Paul to carry his readers back to a secret election. But if the will of God (no cause of which external to him either appears or is to be looked for) distinguishes some from others, so that all the sons of Israel are not true Israelites, it is vain for any one to seek the origin of his condition in himself. He afterwards prosecutes the subject at greater length, by contrasting the cases of Jacob and Esau. Both being sons of Abraham, both having been at the same time in the womb of their mother, there was something very strange in the change by which the honor of the birthright was transferred to Jacob, and yet Paul declares that the change was an attestation to the election of the one and the reprobation of the other.

The question considered is the origin and cause of election. The advocates of foreknowledge insist that it is to be found in the virtues and vices of men. For they take the short and easy method of asserting, that God showed in the person of Jacob, that he elects those who are worthy of his grace; and in the person of Esau, that he rejects those whom he foresees to be unworthy. Such is their confident assertion; but what does Paul say? "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, [Rebecca,] The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," (Rom. 9:11-13). If foreknowledge had anything to do with this distinction of the brothers, the mention of time would have been out of place. Granting that Jacob was elected for a worth to be obtained by future virtues, to what end did Paul say that he was not yet born? Nor would there have been any occasion for adding, that as yet he had done no good, because the answer was always ready, that nothing is hid from God, and that therefore the piety of Jacob was present before him. If works procure favor, a value ought to have been put upon them before Jacob was born, just as if he had been of full age. But in explaining the difficulty, the Apostle goes on to show, that the adoption of Jacob proceeded not on works but on the calling of God. In works he makes no mention of past or future, but distinctly opposes them to the calling of God, intimating, that when place is given to the one the other is overthrown; as if he had said, The only thing to be considered is what pleased God, not what men furnished of themselves. Lastly, it is certain that all the causes which men are wont to devise as external to the secret counsel of God, are excluded by the use of the terms purpose and election.

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



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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     7/1/2005    Dust to Dust

     In this world, we face matters of life and death every day. The morning after Terry Schiavo died, I was informed that someone I knew attempted to commit suicide. The next day in Rome, Pope John Paul II died. The morning after, I was asked by a dear man in our congregation to participate in his memorial service upon his death, and the next evening, my friend who attempted to commit suicide died.      When I was sixteen years old, my father, a World War II veteran, died of cancer. As a young man, the reality of death weighed heavily upon my heart, and the hard reality of life motivated me to know and love my heavenly Father. As a pastor, I am confronted with the realities of life and death on a regular basis, and I am constantly reminded that it is the Lord who gives life and takes it away. Although we came from the dust of the earth, we are creatures made in the image of God. For that reason we possess the dignity of the divine. Consequently, twenty-first century Christians must recognize that the sanctity of life is not first and foremost a topic on our political platform; rather, the sanctity of life is the essential criterion for life itself — life that was carefully formed by our eternal Creator and Sustainer. We affirm the sanctity of life not because we possess some sort of inherent holiness, but because we were created in the image of a holy God.      During the Renaissance, humanism became the prevailing religion influencing culture and art to the extent that even the church in Rome became persuaded of its man-centered philosophy. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel in Rome. Although a magnificent artistic accomplishment, it is indeed a humanistic depiction of the creation of man from the perspective of finite man in which the transcendent God is reaching out to touch the finger of Adam.      In Genesis 2:7, we read, “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ….” In this beautiful account of the creation of man, God is not far off, seated in the clouds as imagined by Michelangelo. Rather, as a potter, who gently shapes a precious vase, the LORD God omnipotent is depicted as the Creator who carefully forms His creation, breathing into man’s nostrils His very own breath. Indeed, it is before the very face of God we were created, and it is before His face we live for His glory, coram Deo.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Unbelievable! This day, May 1st, in the year 305 AD, the most powerful man in the world, Emperor Diocletian, stepped down from ruling the Roman Empire. Just two years prior he began the most systematic persecution of Christians, intending to exterminate them once and for all. He forbade worship, burned books, arrested clergy, and demanded that everyone sacrifice to pagan deities or be killed. From Europe to Northern Africa, countless believers became martyrs to the faith. Suddenly Diocletian was struck with a painful disease. He abdicated his throne and took up farming in Yugoslavia.

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


God is not a cosmic bellboy
for whom we can press a button
to get things done.
--- Harry Emerson Fosdick
On Being a Real Person

Let none hear you idly saying, “There is nothing I can do,”
While the souls of men are dying, and the Master calls for you.
Take the task He gives you gladly. Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calleth, “Here am I, send me, send me!”
--- Unknown
The Reformed Presbyterian And Covenanter, Volume 24...

When the world smiles upon us, and we have got a warm nest, how do we prophesy of rest and peace in those acquisitions, thinking with good Baruch, great things for ourselves, but Providence by a particular or general calamity overturns our plans (Jer. 45:4,5), and all this to turn our hearts from the creature to God.
--- John Flavel
Arthur W. Pink's Eternal Punishment & Eternal Security

What lies between us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. --- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifty-Second Chapter / A Man Ought Not To Consider Himself Worthy Of Consolation, But Rather Deserving Of Chastisement

     The Disciple

     LORD, I am not worthy of Your consolation or of any spiritual visitation. Therefore, You treat me justly when You leave me poor and desolate. For though I could shed a sea of tears, yet I should not be worthy of Your consolation. Hence, I deserve only to be scourged and punished because I have offended You often and grievously, and have sinned greatly in many things. In all justice, therefore, I am not worthy of any consolation.

     But You, O gracious and merciful God, Who do not will that Your works should perish, deign to console Your servant beyond all his merit and above human measure, to show the riches of Your goodness toward the vessels of mercy. For Your consolations are not like the words of men.

     What have I done, Lord, that You should confer on me any heavenly comfort? I remember that I have done nothing good, but that I have always been prone to sin and slow to amend. That is true. I cannot deny it. If I said otherwise You would stand against me, and there would be no one to defend me. What have I deserved for my sins except hell and everlasting fire?

     In truth, I confess that I am deserving of all scorn and contempt. Neither is it fitting that I should be remembered among Your devoted servants. And although it is hard for me to hear this, yet for truth’s sake I will allege my sins against myself, so that I may more easily deserve to beg Your mercy. What shall I say, guilty as I am and full of all confusion? My tongue can say nothing but this alone: “I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned; have mercy on me and pardon me. Suffer me a little that I may pour out my grief, before I go to that dark land that is covered with the shadow of death.”

     What do you especially demand of a guilty and wretched sinner, except that he be contrite and humble himself for his sins? In true sorrow and humility of heart hope of forgiveness is born, the troubled conscience is reconciled, grace is found, man is preserved from the wrath to come, and God and the penitent meet with a holy kiss.

     To You, O Lord, humble sorrow for sins is an acceptable sacrifice, a sacrifice far sweeter than the perfume of incense. This is also the pleasing ointment which You would have poured upon Your sacred feet, for a contrite and humble heart You have never despised. Here is a place of refuge from the force of the enemy’s anger. Here is amended and washed away whatever defilement has been contracted elsewhere.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Now, I want to speak about a work God does upon us--keeping us for the inheritance. I have already said that we have two very simple truths: the one the divine side--we are kept by the power of God; the other, the human side--we are kept through faith.

     Kept by the Power of God

     Look at the divine side: Christians are kept by the power of God.

     Keeping Includes All

     Think, first of all, that this keeping is all-inclusive.

     What is kept? You are kept. How much of you? The whole being. Does God keep one part of you and not another? No. Some people have an idea that this is a sort of vague, general keeping, and that God will keep them in such a way that when they die they will get to Heaven. But they do not apply that word kept to everything in their being and nature. And yet that is what God wants.

     Here I have a watch. Suppose that this watch had been borrowed from a friend, and he said to me:

     "When you go to Europe, I will let you take it with you, but mind you keep it safely and bring it back."

     And suppose I damaged the watch, and had the hands broken, and the face defaced, and some of the wheels and springs spoiled, and took it back in that condition, and handed it to my friend; he would say:

     "Ah, but I gave you that watch on condition that you would keep it."

     "Have I not kept it? There is the watch."

     "But I did not want you to keep it in that general way, so that you should bring me back only the shell of the watch, or the remains. I expected you to keep every part of it."

     And so God does not want to keep us in this general way, so that at the last, somehow or other, we shall be saved as by fire, and just get into Heaven. But the keeping power and the love of God applies to every particular of our being.

     There are some people who think God will keep them in spiritual things, but not in temporal things. This latter, they say, lies outside of His line. Now, God sends you to work in the world, but He did not say: "I must now leave you to go and earn your own money, and to get your livelihood for yourself." He knows you are not able to keep yourself.

     But God says: "My child, there is no work you are to do, and no business in which you are engaged, and not a cent which you are to spend, but I, your Father, will take that up into my keeping." God not only cares for the spiritual, but for the temporal also. The greater part of the life of many people must be spent, sometimes eight or nine or ten hours a day, amid the temptations and distractions of business; but God will care for you there. The keeping of God includes all.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:1-2
     by D.H. Stern

1     A person is responsible to prepare his heart,
but how the tongue speaks is from ADONAI.

2     All a man’s ways are pure in his own view,
but ADONAI weighs the spirit.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Insight not emotion

     I have to lead my life in faith, without seeing Him. ---
2 Cor. 5:7. (Moffatt.)

     For a time we are conscious of God’s attentions, then, when God begins to use us in His enterprises, we take on a pathetic look and talk of the trials and the difficulties, and all the time God is trying to make us do our duty as obscure people. None of us would be obscure spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our duty when God has shut up heaven? Some of us always want to be illuminated saints with golden haloes and the flush of inspiration, and to have the saints of God dealing with us all the time. A gilt-edged saint is no good, he is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and altogether unlike God. We are here as men and women, not as half-fledged angels, to do the work of the world, and to do it with an infinitely greater power to stand the turmoil because we have been born from above.

     If we try to re-introduce the rare moments of inspiration, it is a sign that it is not God we want. We are making a fetish of the moments when God did come and speak, and insisting that He must do it again; whereas what God wants us to do is to walk by faith. How many of us have laid ourselves by, as it were, and said—‘I cannot do any more until God appears to me.’ He never will, and without any inspiration, without any sudden touch of God, we will have to get up. Then comes the surprise—‘Why, He was there all the time, and I never knew it!’ Never live for the rare moments, they are surprises. God will give us touches of inspiration when He sees we are not in danger of being led away by them. We must never make our moments of inspiration our standard; our standard is our duty.


My Utmost for His Highest

Farm Child
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

Farm Child

Look at this village boy, his head is stuffed
  With all the nests he knows,
  his pockets with
  flowers,
  Snail-shells and bits of glass,
  the fruit of hours
  Spent in the fields by thorn
  and thistle tuft.
  Look at his eyes,
  see the harebell hiding there;
  Mark how the sun has freckled his smooth face
  Like a finch's egg under that bush of hair
  That dares the wind, and in the mixen now
  Notice his poise;
  from such unconscious grace
  Earth breeds and beckons to the stubborn
  plough.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Rich
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

Rich

I am a millionaire.
  My bedroom is full of gold
  light, of the sun's jewellery.
  What shall I do with this wealth?
  Buy happiness, buy gladness,
  the wisdom that grows with the giving
  of thanks? I will convert
  a child's holding to the estate
  of a man, investing the interest
  in the child mind. Beyond this
  room are the arid sluices
  through which cash pours and the heart
  desiccates, watching it pass.
  Men draw their curtains against
  beauty. Ah, let me, when night
  comes, offer the moon
  unhindered entry through trust's
  windows so I may dream
  silver, but awake to gold.


Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Sotah 8b

     D’RASH

     What is more important: What we do, or why we do it? Rav Yehudah takes the standard Jewish view: actions are what count the most. It is better to do the right thing, even if it is for the wrong reason. The boss is in the hospital. We don't really like him all that much, and if we had our choice, we would rather not go to see him. If we do pay him a visit, it would only be as a way to get on his good side and "score points": Thinking of asking him for a raise, we were hoping that this little visit might make him think more favorably of us. Rav Yehudah would say: "Go see him; it's a mitzvah to visit the sick. Deeds are more important than intentions. Better to live in a world filled with people doing good deeds even if for all the wrong reasons."

     Rav Naḥman takes a very different approach: "It's the thought that counts. Don't judge people by what they accomplish; judge them by what they intend." Imagine a mother who comes home from work and finds her kitchen a shambles. The sink is filled with running water cascading onto the floor. Dishes are broken. Sugar is spilled everywhere. The refrigerator is left wide open. The mother is furious at her children, whose footprints she can see in the mess. Just as she is about to yell and scream at them, they surprise her with the birthday cake they have made for her, from scratch. Even though the kitchen—and the cake—are disasters, she now considers this one of the most precious gifts she has ever received.

     The examples Rav Naḥman brings are rather startling, as they deal with sexual ethics. They remind us of the proverb found in the Midrash: "She sells her body for apples, and then gives them away to the sick" (Leviticus Rabbah 3, 1). It is quite daring of the Rabbis to question—and condemn—the motives of Sarah, Rachel, and Leah, and at the same time to praise Jael for her seduction of Sisera.

     Ultimately, both Rav Naḥman and Rav Yehudah teach us to try to do the right thing for the right reason, to combine good deeds with good intentions. Knowing human nature, they were willing to settle for only half. We struggle throughout our lives to achieve the ideal and to add the other half.

     By the measure that a person measures, so is he measured.

     Text / Mishnah (1:7): By the measure that a person measures, so is he measured. She dressed herself up to sin, the Holy One dressed her down. She exposed herself to sin, the Holy One exposed her. She started to sin with the thigh, and afterwards the belly; therefore, the thigh suffers first and the belly afterwards. And the rest of the body does not escape punishment.

     Gemara: Rav Yosef said: "Even though the measure is abolished, 'by the measure' is not abolished."

     Context / The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: If any man's wife has gone astray and broken faith with him in that a man has had carnal relations with her unbeknown to her husband, and she keeps secret the fact that she has defiled herself without being forced, and there is no witness against her—but a fit of jealousy comes over him and he is wrought up about the wife who has defiled herself; or if a fit of jealousy comes over one and he is wrought up about his wife although she has not defiled herself—the man shall bring the wife to the priest.… The priest shall bring her forward and have her stand before the Lord.… After he has made the woman stand before the Lord, the priest shall bare the woman's head and place upon her hands the meal offering of remembrance, which is a meal offering of jealousy. And in the priest's hands shall be the water of bitterness that induces the spell. The priest shall adjure the woman, saying to her, "If no man has lain with you, if you have not gone astray in defilement while married to your husband, be immune to harm from this water of bitterness that induces the spell. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and have defiled yourself, if a man other than your husband has had carnal relations with you"—here the priest shall administer the curse of adjuration to the woman, as the priest goes on to say to the woman—"may the Lord make you a curse and an imprecation among your people, as the Lord causes your thigh to sag and your belly to distend.…" (Numbers 5:11–16, 18–21)

     The Mishnah here is expanding on the case of the "straying wife," the woman suspected of adultery, as the Torah delineates the law in Numbers 5:11–31. In fact, the name for this entire tractate of Talmud is Sotah, "[the woman] who has gone astray," the technical name for the woman who is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband. The Torah describes the ritual to which she had to submit. The woman is brought to the kohen, where she drinks "water of bitterness," whereupon the kohen recites a formula: "If you have been faithful to your husband, may nothing happen to you because of these waters; if you have not been faithful, may the Lord curse you with sickness." It is possible that the effect of the ritual is for a woman guilty of adultery to suffer a self-induced illness. The specific nature of this illness is not known, though some scholars believe "thigh" to be a euphemism for genitals. Thus, this curse would impair her reproductive abilities, a severe curse in biblical times and even today.

     The principle of "measure for measure" in the text assumes a symmetry between the sin and the punishment: The woman sinned by trying to look beautiful for her paramour; she is punished by being made to look ugly in the eyes of the onlookers: Her hair is shaven; she is dressed in ugly clothes; and her jewelry is removed. And just as she exposed herself to attract the man, God exposes her by having her disgrace made public, in the eyes of all onlookers. Since her sin was with her sexual organs, her punishment (in the words of the curse) should be on these very same reproductive organs.

     In the Gemara, Rav Yosef explains that even though we no longer punish according to the actual measure, since capital punishment had been abolished by the time of the Gemara, "by the measure," apparently a reference to divine retribution, has not been abolished. Though we cannot be strict in meting out punishment, we can rest assured that justice will, in the end, prevail.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Confrontation / Matthew 21-23
     Teacher's Commentary

     Jesus was welcomed by the Jerusalem crowds; hailed as the Messiah on what Christians call "Palm Sunday." Jesus' enemies were aroused by this event, and renewed their attacks. Jesus silenced them—and in turn boldly condemned their wickedness and hypocrisy.

     In these chapters we find many of Jesus' most familiar parables. And we find the clearest exposition in the Bible of legalistic pathways which falsely promise spiritual growth. Religious people are all too prone to walk these promising paths, which actually lead to spiritual emptiness and to judgment.

     Praise. The joyful response of the people to Jesus that first Palm Sunday is a beautiful illustration of praise. Several Hebrew words and concepts enrich our grasp of this richest of words in the vocabulary of worship. Halal means "to acclaim," "to glory in," and expresses deep satisfaction in exalting God's wonderful acts and qualities. Yadah suggests acknowledging God's works and character, often with thanksgiving. Zamar means to "sing praise" or "make music," while sabah expresses praise or commendation. What delight we can have in responding to God and His works with growing love and praise.

     Woe. In both Testaments this is an exclamation of grief or denunciation. How tragic. For those who love and praise Jesus there is joy. But for the rest, as Jesus' words in Matthew 23 reveal, there is only woe.

     Commentary / We have a tendency today to see gentleness as weakness.

     This tendency probably explains, at least partially, why people of all times tend to draw back from Jesus' picture of leadership as servanthood. "But," they object, "we want leaders who are strong. We want leaders with authority!"

     The fact of the matter is that only in Christ's kind of servanthood do we find true spiritual strength. Gentleness is not weakness. Compassion is becoming to the King.

     So it is not Mr. Milquetoast that Jesus sets before us as our example, but Himself. In these next chapters of Matthew, which portray Jesus in direct conflict with His enemies, we see our Lord speak out boldly in His full authority as King. In dealing with little ones the Leader is gentle. In facing foes, He is bold.

     The Triumphal Entry: Matthew 21:1–17

     It was the Passover week, a few brief days before the Crucifixion. Coming to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples to bring a donkey and colt to Him for a long-prophesied entry into Jerusalem. Isaiah and Zechariah had both spoken of it:

     Your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Matthew 21:5

     Without pomp, humble and on a humble beast of burden, the King would come.

     On this day the crowds that soon would turn against Jesus swelled with enthusiasm for Him. "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they shouted. "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Matthew 21:9)

     Christ moved purposefully to the temple. There He went into the court, which was to be reserved for prayer, and found merchants.

     The Old Testament ruled that only unblemished animals might be offered in sacrifice. The priests set up a very lucrative trade in "approved" lambs and pigeons. Animals brought from the country for sacrifice might easily be disapproved by priestly inspectors, and worshipers forced to buy from the temple merchants. What had been set aside for prayer had become a "den of robbers"
(Matthew 21:13).

     As Jesus stood in the cleansed temple yard, the blind and the lame came to Him and He healed them. With even greater enthusiasm, the crowds proclaimed "Hosanna to the Son of David!" The chief priests and the scribes saw all these wonderful things which Jesus did and "they were indignant" (Matthew 21:15). Hardened as ever, the leaders were totally unwilling to acknowledge Jesus as their King.


The Teacher's Commentary

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     The Jewish Diaspora from Pompey to 70 C.E.

     The late-Hellenistic and early Roman periods saw a tremendous expansion of the Jewish Diaspora. By the first century C.E., large and prosperous Jewish communities existed all over the Mediterranean from Syrian Antioch to Asia Minor from Greece to Alexandria in Egypt. There was some settlement in Italy and in Rome, but there is no evidence for Jews in the Western Mediterranean until the Late Roman period. Although there were some Jews living in the countryside, in general during the Roman period, the Diaspora was an urban phenomenon. In cities such as Alexandria, Jews lived in self-regulating communities, which were isolated either by law or by custom.

     The heart of any Diaspora community was the synagogue, and each Jewish community had at least one, although larger communities had several. These synagogues evolved into more than just meeting places. Especially after the destruction of the Temple in 70, they became the main location for religious expression and communal interaction. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible composed in Alexandria, was the most standard version of Scripture in the Diaspora. Indeed, for Jews such as Philo, the Septuagint had divine authority.

     In terms of religious practice, there was a certain amount of regional variation among Diaspora communities. Nevertheless, according to the often-negative comments by non-Jewish authors, the religious practices of Diaspora Jews were quite similar to those in Judea. Diaspora Jews practiced circumcision, kept kosher, and observed the Sabbath. During the reign of Herod the Great, an embassy of Ionian Jews appealed to the king to intercede with Marcus Agrippa on their behalf. One of their complaints was that their Gentile neighbors were dragging them into court on Shabbat and their other holy days (Ant. 16.27). Such an incident attests to the importance of Sabbath observance for Diaspora Jews. The Diaspora also supported the Temple in Jerusalem by paying the half-shekel tax incumbent upon all Jewish men. In the Ionian Jews’ petition to Herod, another of their complaints was that the money they had raised to be sent to Jerusalem was being unlawfully seized by the non-Jewish government (Ant. 16.28). Further evidence of this practice appears in a speech by Cicero in 59 B.C.E. in which he defended the proconsul of Asia, Lucius Valerius Flaccus (Cicero, Pro Flacco 28.66–69).

     In general, Diaspora Jews seem to have coexisted peacefully with their non-Jewish neighbors. The massacres and violence perpetrated by both sides in the wake of the First Revolt probably reflect local conflicts and disputes that had originated years before and about whose causes and origins we can only speculate. Roman officials usually protected Jewish rights and interests, and a number of edicts and letters that appear in Josephus’ narratives show Roman leaders such as Caesar, Antony, Augustus, and Agrippa upholding Jewish rights and condoning their religious, political, and social distinctiveness (Ant. 14.186–267, 306–23; 16.166–73). Violations did occur, but in most cases the Roman government quickly remedied the situation. When Marcus Agrippa heard about the offenses against the rights of the Jews of Ionia, he immediately ruled in their favor (Ant. 16.58–61). When the Jews of Asia and Cyrenaica again experienced discrimination and the confiscation of the money they had raised for the Temple tax, they complained directly to Augustus, who ruled in their favor (Ant. 16.160–65). Although these incidents testify to periodic tension between Jews and non-Jews, in general Diaspora Jews were tolerated by their pagan neighbors.

     The Diaspora community about which we know the most is Alexandria. The Jewish community of this city had thrived under the later Ptolemies because of direct royal patronage. During this period, the Jews enjoyed a civil status almost equal to that of their Greek neighbors. However, the situation changed with the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty. When Augustus took control of the country, he demoted them to a status equivalent to that of the native Egyptians because it was consistent with his policy of entrusting the government and political power to the Greeks of the Eastern Mediterranean. Such relegation was extremely irksome to many Alexandrian Jews, who felt themselves to be fully immersed within the wider Greco-Roman culture, despite maintaining their distinct Jewish identity. The history of Alexandrian Jewry during the Roman period is marked by a consistent drive to remove the ignominious burden of the laographia (poll tax) and achieve isopoliteia (political autonomy).

     The troubles of the Alexandrian Jews reached a dangerous level in 38 C.E., when the newly appointed King Herod Agrippa I visited Alexandria on his way to Judea. His presence in the city stirred up an unruly mob of non-Jews, who publicly insulted him by parading a local madman into the arena and using him to parody Agrippa. Then the mob started calling for graven images to be placed within the synagogues of the city. As a result, the mob attacked and desecrated the synagogues and eventually started attacking the Jews themselves, shutting them off into one section of the city and causing hundreds of casualties. Homes were ransacked and businesses were destroyed (Philo, In Flaccum 25–85, 95–96). In his Embassy to Gaius, Philo again describes the anti-Jewish riots of 38, but in this text he blames the violence on Emperor Gaius and the anti-Jewish Alexandrians rather than on the Alexandrians and Flaccus.

     Once peace had been restored to the city, both sides sent embassies to Gaius in order to exonerate themselves of blame for the riots and to seek an imperial edict codifying the position of the Jews within the city. According to Philo, the emperor was stirred against the Jews by a small group of Alexandrian advisors, especially a certain Helicon. Ultimately, neither embassy achieved its goal of receiving an official answer from Gaius. At the time of his murder, the issue was still open. Claudius finally settled the matter when he ordered both sides to behave but telling the Jews that they lived in a city not their own, and warning them not to aim for more than what they had (CPJ 153; the edict of Claudius, as reported by Josephus in Ant. 19.280–91 is much more positive toward the Jews than the papyrus, and is of doubtful authenticity).

     Roman Jews also experienced mixed relations with their non-Jewish neighbors. The Jewish community in the city of Rome was composed mostly of the descendants of slaves brought to the capital after Pompey’s conquest in 63 B.C.E. and that of Gaius Sosius in 37. This community had expanded during the early Principate, and under Augustus many of these slaves received their freedom. Despite their new liberty, these Jews largely remained within the lower classes of the city, living across the Tiber in Trastevere. Yet even in the face of the usual toleration granted by the government, the Jews of Rome periodically experienced official persecution, such as their expulsion under Tiberius (Tacitus, Annales 11.85; Suetonius, Tiberius 36; Josephus, Ant. 18.65–84) and later under Claudius (Acts 18:2; Suetonius, Claudius 25; Dio 60.6). During both expulsions, it is unlikely that many Jews actually went farther than Rome’s suburbs. Even if they did, the Jewish community quickly returned. By the end of the Roman period, as evidenced by the catacombs in Rome, a large Jewish population inhabited the city.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

RE: The Anointing at Bethany
     Richard S. Adams

     This story has been heard so often it is frequently taken for granted. This incident took place during the season of Passover. We should be the same seven days a week, but most of us are more sensitive toward the things of God, or at least we act that way, on the Sabbath. Surely during Passover some were even more aware of the things that stir God's heart, like the poor. It is the same today, there are always those who pretend, but have no real witness in their life practice.

     Both groups of people were represented here. Many of those who accused her of waste were probably convicted of their short sightedness when they saw Jesus on the cross and remembered His words.

     The woman accused of being wasteful is a sharp contrast to Judas. Judas clearly wasted his life and his opportunities to be a disciple. The woman saw herself for what and who she was, but more importantly, she saw Jesus for Who He was. She reminds me of Isaiah who saw the Lord and immediately confessed being a man of unclean lips.

     This woman made a supreme sacrifice of worship while Judas was unable to even be obedient. The Old Testament has guilt/sin offerings and free will offerings. If one touches God's heart more, which is it?

     Remember the Seraphs in Isaiah 6? Each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. Can we say that four wings were for worship and two wings were for service?

     We are not called to be Seraphs or angels. Our goal is to live in worship of God all the time. If God is with us always than are we not always in God's presence? If we are always in God's presence than we should always be in an attitude of worship. If this permeated our every second of life I believe we would be a lot closer to where God intends us to be.

     Anointing the heads of important guests at this time was common, but considering the woman's probable economic status, (I've read this perfume was worth a year of a common laborer's wages) this was a wonderful testimony to her love for the Lord. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross do you suppose each agonizing breath was filled with the fragrance of her love?

     

Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary since 2009.

Articles

Take Heart
     May 1

     There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. --- Luke 15:10.

     Our text teaches us the sympathy of the two worlds. ( Classic Sermons/Angels (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) Imagine not that you are cut off from heaven! Do not think that there is a great gulf between you and the Father, across which his mercy cannot come and over which your prayers and faith can never leap. Believe that there is a bridge across that chasm, a road along which feet may travel. This world is not separated, for all creation is one body. The same great heart that beats in heaven beats on earth. The love of the eternal Father that cheers the celestial makes glad the terrestrial, too. Rest assured that though the celestial is one and the terrestrial is another, yet they are only another in appearance; they are the same. You are no stranger in a strange land—a houseless Joseph in the land of Egypt, shut out from his father and his [brothers], who still remain in the happy paradise of Canaan. No, your Father loves you still. There is a connection between you and him.

     When a tear is wept by you, don’t think that your Father does not see it. Your sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; your whisper can incline his ear to you; your prayer can stay his hands; your faith can move his arm. Do not think that God sits on high in eternal slumber, taking no account of you. Engraved on the Father’s hand your name remains, and on his heart. He thought of you before the worlds were made. Before the channels of the sea were scooped or the mountains lifted their heads in the clouds, he thought of you. He thinks about you still. You move in him. In him you live and have your being.

     Remember again that you are not only linked to the Godhead, but there is another in heaven with whom you have a strange yet near connection. In the center of the throne sits One who is your brother, allied to you by blood. The Son of God—eternal, equal with his Father—became the son of Mary. He was—is—bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Oh, poor, disconsolate mourner, Christ remembers you every hour. Your sighs are his sighs; your groans are his groans; your prayers are his prayers.

     You live in him, and he lives in you, and because he lives you will also live.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     John Brown Finds a Wife  May 1

     The mid-1680s is remembered as the Killing Time in Scotland. Royal regiments martyred Scottish Presbyterians at will. Despite the danger, Presbyterian John Brown fell in love with Isabell Weir. He proposed to her, but warned that he would one day seal his testimony with blood. Isabell replied, “If it be so, I will be your comfort. The Lord has promised me grace.” They were married in a secret glen by the outlawed minister, Alexander Peden. “These witnesses of your vows,” said Peden, beginning the illegal ceremony, “have come at risk of their lives to hear God’s word and his ordinance of marriage.” The vows were spoken, then Peden drew Isabell aside, saying, “You have got a good husband. Keep linen for a winding-sheet beside you; for in a day when you least expect it, thy master shall be taken.”

     The Brown home soon included two children. It was happy, filled with prayer and godly conversation. Fugitive preachers were hidden and cared for there. But on May 1, 1685 John rose at dawn, singing Psalm 27, to find the house surrounded by soldiers. The family filed onto the lawn. The commander, Claverhouse, shouted to John, “Go to your prayers; you shall immediately die.” Kneeling, John prayed earnestly for his wife, pregnant again, and for his children. Then he rose, embraced Isabell, and said, “The day is come of which I told you when I first proposed to you.”

     “Indeed, John. If it must be so, I can willingly part with you.”

     “This is all I desire,” replied John. “I have no more to do but to die.” He kissed his children, then Claverhouse ordered his men to shoot. The soldiers hesitated. Snatching a pistol, Claverhouse placed it to John’s head and blew out his brains. “What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?” he snarled. Isabell, fixing Claverhouse in her gaze, told him she had never been so proud of him. Claverhouse mounted his horse and sped away, troops in tow. Isabell tied John’s head in a napkin and sat on the ground weeping with her children until friends arrived to comfort them.

  Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid;
  War may break out, but I will trust you.
  I ask only one thing, LORD:
  Let me live in your house every day of my life
  To see how wonderful you are
  And to pray in your temple.
  Psalm 27:3,4.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 1

     “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers.”
--- Song of Solomon 5:13.

     Lo, the flowery month is come! March winds and April showers have done their work, and the earth is all bedecked with beauty. Come my soul, put on thine holiday attire and go forth to gather garlands of heavenly thoughts. Thou knowest whither to betake thyself, for to thee “the beds of spices” are well known, and thou hast so often smelt the perfume of “the sweet flowers,” that thou wilt go at once to thy well-beloved and find all loveliness, all joy in him. That cheek once so rudely smitten with a rod, oft bedewed with tears of sympathy and then defiled with spittle—that cheek as it smiles with mercy is as fragrant aromatic to my heart. Thou didst not hide thy face from shame and spitting, O Lord Jesus, and therefore I will find my dearest delight in praising thee. Those cheeks were furrowed by the plough of grief, and crimsoned with red lines of blood from thy thorn-crowned temples; such marks of love unbounded cannot but charm my soul far more than “pillars of perfume.” If I may not see the whole of his face I would behold his cheeks, for the least glimpse of him is exceedingly refreshing to my spiritual sense and yields a variety of delights. In Jesus I find not only fragrance, but a bed of spices; not one flower, but all manner of sweet flowers. He is to me my rose and my lily, my heart’s- ease and my cluster of camphire. When he is with me it is May all the year round, and my soul goes forth to wash her happy face in the morning-dew of his grace, and to solace herself with the singing of the birds of his promises. Precious Lord Jesus, let me in very deed know the blessedness which dwells in abiding, unbroken fellowship with thee. I am a poor worthless one, whose cheek thou hast deigned to kiss! O let me kiss thee in return with the kisses of my lips.


          Evening - May 1

     “I am the rose of Sharon.”
Song of Solomon 2:1.

     Whatever there may be of beauty in the material world, Jesus Christ possesses all that in the spiritual world in a tenfold degree. Amongst flowers the rose is deemed the sweetest, but Jesus is infinitely more beautiful in the garden of the soul than the rose can be in the gardens of earth. He takes the first place as the fairest among ten thousand. He is the sun, and all others are the stars; the heavens and the day are dark in comparison with him, for the King in his beauty transcends all. “I am the rose of Sharon.” This was the best and rarest of roses. Jesus is not “the rose” alone, he is “the rose of Sharon,” just as he calls his righteousness “gold,” and then adds, “the gold of Ophir”—the best of the best. He is positively lovely, and superlatively the loveliest. There is variety in his charms. The rose is delightful to the eye, and its scent is pleasant and refreshing; so each of the senses of the soul, whether it be the taste or feeling, the hearing, the sight, or the spiritual smell, finds appropriate gratification in Jesus. Even the recollection of his love is sweet. Take the rose of Sharon, and pull it leaf from leaf, and lay by the leaves in the jar of memory, and you shall find each leaf fragrant long afterwards, filling the house with perfume. Christ satisfies the highest taste of the most educated spirit to the very full. The greatest amateur in perfumes is quite satisfied with the rose: and when the soul has arrived at her highest pitch of true taste, she shall still be content with Christ, nay, she shall be the better able to appreciate him.

     Heaven itself possesses nothing which excels the rose of Sharon. What emblem can fully set forth his beauty? Human speech and earth-born things fail to tell of him. Earth’s choicest charms commingled, feebly picture his abounding preciousness. Blessed rose, bloom in my heart for ever!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 1

          THE SPACIOUS FIRMAMENT

     Joseph Addison, 1672–1719

     The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)

     The month of May is generally regarded as the most beautiful month of the year. March winds and April showers have done their work, and now the earth is attired in all of its God-given beauty. Of all people, Christians should be the most appreciative of God’s created world. Although we may never be able to understand fully and explain adequately all of the scientific details about creation, we can say with certainty, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” (Apostles’ Creed); and with the writer of Hebrews, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command” (Hebrews 11:3). The wonder of God’s spacious firmament should cause a flow of endless praise to our great Creator.

     The Bible teaches that man is without excuse for not knowing God. The Creator has revealed Himself at least partially in nature (Romans 1:19–21) as well as internally in the human conscience (Romans 1:32; 2:14, 15). The full revelation of God, however, is only realized in the person and work of Jesus Christ—“the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

     “The Spacious Firmament” was written by Joseph Addison—one of England’s outstanding writers. These verses were part of a larger essay titled “An Essay on the Proper Means of Strengthening and Confirming Faith in the Mind of Man.” Addison prefaced his work with the words: “The Supreme Being has made the best arguments for His own existence in the formation of the heavens and earth.” Addison’s poem first appeared in The Spectator newspaper in 1712.

     The spacious firmament on high, with all the blue, ethereal sky, and spangled heavens, a shining frame, their great Original proclaim: Th’ unwearied sun, from day to day, does his Creator’s pow’r display; and publishes to ev’ry land the work of an almighty hand.

     What though in solemn silence, all move round this dark terrestrial ball? What though no real voice nor sound amid their radiant orbs be found? In reason’s ear they all rejoice, and utter forth a glorious voice, forever singing as they shine, “The hand that made us is divine.”


     For Today: Genesis 1:1–19; Psalm 19:1–6; Isaiah 40:26; Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:1–4.

     Reflect again on the Genesis account of creation. Reaffirm your faith and confidence in God as the creator of this vast firmament. Determine to be more aware and appreciative of the many splendors of nature that we often take for granted. Consider this musical truth as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. XI. — BUT why should these things be abstruse to us Christians, so that it should be considered irreligious, curious, and vain, to discuss and know them, when heathen poets, and the very commonalty, have them in their mouths in the most frequent use? How often does Virgil alone make mention of Fate? “All things stand fixed by law immutable.” Again, “Fixed is the day of every man.” Again, “If the Fates summon you.” And again, “If thou shalt break the binding chain of Fate.” All this poet aims at, is to show, that in the destruction of Troy, and in raising the Roman empire, Fate did more than all the devoted efforts of men. In a word, he makes even their immortal gods subject to Fate. To this, even Jupiter and Juno must, of necessity, yield. Hence they made the three Parcae immutable, implacable, and irrevocable in decree.

     Those men of wisdom knew that which the event itself, with experience, proves; that no man’s own counsels ever succeeded but that the event happened to all contrary to what they thought. Virgil’s Hector says, “Could Troy have stood by human arm, it should have stood by mine.” Hence that common saying was on every one’s tongue, “God’s will be done.” Again, “If God will, we will do it.” Again, “Such was the will of God.” “Such was the will of those above.” “Such was your will,” says Virgil. Whence we may see, that the knowledge of predestination and of the prescience of God, was no less left in the world than the notion of the divinity itself. And those who wished to appear wise, went in their disputations so far, that, their hearts being darkened, they became fools,” (Rom. i. 21-22,) and denied, or pretended not to know, those things which their poets, and the commonalty, and even their own consciences, held to be universally known, most certain, and most true.


The Bondage of the Will  or  Christian Classics Ethereal Library



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