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Numbers 20     Psalm 58-59     Isaiah 9:8-10:4     James 3


Numbers 20

The Death of Miriam

Numbers 20:1 And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.

The Waters of Meribah

2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.  Tell the rock, not strike the rock! Remember  1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

Moses Strikes the Rock

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy.

Edom Refuses Passage

14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. 16 And when we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” 18 But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” 19 And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” 20 But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.

The Death of Aaron

22 And they journeyed from Kadesh, and the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. 23 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, 24 “Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. 26 And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” 27 Moses did as the LORD commanded. And they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.


Psalm 58

God Who Judges the Earth

Psalm 58 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David.

1  Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2  No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.

3  The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4  They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5  so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

6  O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
7  Let them vanish like water that runs away;
when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
8  Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
9  Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

10  The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11  Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth.”


Psalm 59

Deliver Me from My Enemies

Psalm 59 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When Saul Sent Men To Watch His House In Order To Kill Him.

1  Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
2  deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

3  For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4  for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5  You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

6  Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
7  There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips—
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

8  But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
9  O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10  My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11  Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
12  For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13  consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth. Selah

14  Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
15  They wander about for food
and growl if they do not get their fill.

16  But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17  O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.


Isaiah 9:8

Judgment on Arrogance and Oppression

Isaiah 9 8  The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
and it will fall on Israel;
9  and all the people will know,
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10  “The bricks have fallen,
but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
but we will put cedars in their place.”
11  But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
and stirs up his enemies.
12  The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

13  The people did not turn to him who struck them,
nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.
14  So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day—
15  the elder and honored man is the head,
and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
16  for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
17  Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;
for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
and every mouth speaks folly.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

18  For wickedness burns like a fire;
it consumes briers and thorns;
it kindles the thickets of the forest,
and they roll upward in a column of smoke.
19  Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts
the land is scorched,
and the people are like fuel for the fire;
no one spares another.
20  They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,
and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;
each devours the flesh of his own arm,
21  Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;
together they are against Judah.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.


Isaiah 10:1-4

For to Us a Child Is Born

Isaiah 10 1  Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2  to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
3  What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
4  Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.


James 3

Taming the Tongue

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Wisdom from Above

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Our Father

By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2007

     The next time you attend a prayer meeting, pay close attention to the manner in which individuals address God. Invariably, the form of address will be something like this, “Our dear heavenly Father,” “Father,” “Father God,” or some other form of reference to God as Father. Not everyone customarily addresses God in the first instance in prayer by using the title “Father.” However, the use of the term Father in addressing God in prayer is overwhelmingly found as the preference among people who pray. What is the significance of this? It would seem that the instructions of our Lord in giving the model prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer,” is emulated by our propensity for addressing God as Father. Since Jesus said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father,’” that form of address has become the virtual standard form of Christian prayer. Because this form of prayer is used so frequently, we often take for granted its astonishing significance.

     The German scholar Joachim Jeremias has argued that in almost every prayer that Jesus utters in the New Testament, He addresses God as Father. Jeremias notes that this represents a radical departure from Jewish custom and tradition. Though Jewish people were given a lengthy number of appropriate titles for God in personal prayer, significantly absent from the approved list was the title “Father.” To be sure, the Jews would use the term “Father” indirectly by addressing God as the Father of people, but never by way of a direct address, in which the person praying addressed God in personal terms as “Father.” Jeremias also notes that the serious reaction against Jesus by His contemporaries indicated that they heard in His addressing God as Father a blasphemous utterance by which Jesus was presuming, by this term of address, a certain equality that He enjoyed with the Father. Jeremias goes on to argue that there is no record of any Jew addressing God directly as Father until the tenth century a.d. in Italy, with the notable exception of Jesus. Though Jeremias’ findings have been challenged in some quarters, it remains a matter of record that Jesus’ use of the term “Father” in personal prayer is an extraordinary use.

     Since the science of comparative religion reached its zenith in the nineteenth century and liberal theologians sought to reduce the core essence of all religion to the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, it has followed from such liberal assumptions that to consider God as Father would be a most basic assumption in any religion. However, when we look again at the way in which the term functions in the New Testament and in the teaching of the apostles, we see that there is no doctrine of universal fatherhood of God in the Bible, except for His role as the creator of all men. Rather, the fatherhood of God has as its primary reference a filial (father/son) relationship that is restricted.

     In the first and most important case, God has only one child, His only-begotten Son, the monogenēs, which restricts this filial relationship to Christ. We do not have the natural right to call God “Father.” That right is bestowed upon us only through God’s gracious work of adoption. This is an extraordinary privilege, that those who are in Christ now have the right to address God in such a personal, intimate, filial term as “Father.” Therefore, we ought never to take for granted this unspeakable privilege bestowed upon us by God’s grace. We note in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus instructs us that now when we pray, we are to refer to God as “Our Father.” Again the “ourness” of this relationship is grounded in the unique ministry of Jesus by which, through adoption, He is our elder brother and He gives to us those privileges that by nature belong only to Him. Now, by adopting us, He says that we may regard God, not only as His Father, but as our Father.

     The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is found in the words, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” The opening address, “Our Father, who art in Heaven,” is simply that, an address. From that address, Jesus instructs His disciples to offer certain petitions in prayer. The first and chief of those petitions is that we pray that the name of God will be hallowed. This is also extraordinary in that as the prayer continues, we ask that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven and that His kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. Both of these desires can only be met when and if the God of the kingdom of heaven and of earth is treated with supreme reverence, honor, and adoration. When we fail to observe the third commandment, when we fail to honor God as God, and use His name as a curse word, or in a flippant, careless manner, we fail to fulfill this first petition. Perhaps nothing is more commonplace in our culture than the expression that comes from people’s lips on many occasions, when they say simply, “Oh, my God.” This careless reference to God indicates how far removed our culture is from fulfilling the petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It should be a priority for the church and for every individual Christian to make sure that the way in which we speak of God is a way that communicates respect, awe, adoration, and reverence. How we use the name of God reveals more clearly than any creed we ever confess our deepest attitudes towards the God of the sacred name.

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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:

The Devil in the Details

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2007

     The Christian is engaged in a three-front war. The Bible, replete with martial language, bears this out. The great evil trinity against which we fight is the world, the flesh, and the Devil. In our day we have made friends with the world, and we have reduced our flesh down to a few psychological crossed wires. We have lost sight of these two battlefields precisely because we have lost sight of the third. In other words, we miss that we are at war with the world and our flesh because the Devil has defeated us in battle — we have forgotten that he exists.

     C.S. Lewis, in the preface to his great work The Screwtape Letters, posits this nugget of wisdom: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” As wise as Lewis and this particular quote may be, I do have a quibble. No doubt the Devil is able to accomplish a great deal of mischief among those who see him as some sort of evil god, those with a morbid interest in him and his minions. That said, I would suggest that he is able to cause far greater damage among those who give him no thought at all. That is to say, both the materialist and the magician are bad, but the materialist is worse.

     We have much the same problem within the Christian subculture, and for much the same reasons. On one side of the spectrum are the extreme wing of the charismatic movement. These folks claim to see a demon behind every bush. They don’t catch colds; they are under attack by the sniffle demon. They don’t have wandering eyes, but are at war with the lust demon. Often those in this camp are looking for demons behind every bush, because they can prove quite useful for excusing our sin — as Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it.”

     This is not the danger we face in Reformed circles. We are on the other side of the spectrum. Unlike the materialist, we do indeed believe in the demonic realm. The Bible, after all, talks about such things. But we tend to believe that demons exited the human stage at the same time that miracles ceased. Demons exist, we are willing to confess, but they have been sitting on the celestial sidelines since the apostolic age. What drives this, I’m afraid, is less a careful exegetical study of the matter, and more an embracing of the modernist worldview. We look down our noses at our brothers who pay attention to the spiritual realm not because we find such to be unbiblical, but because we find it unsophisticated. We think Martin Luther’s habit of shouting at the Devil, of throwing his ink well at him, is a sign that Martin was on the psychological brink, when perhaps we ought instead to conclude that he exhibited here the same wisdom that led him to declare, “Here I stand!” It may be that Luther mined the truth that our God is a mighty fortress from the same source where he discerned that this world is with devils filled, namely, the Bible.

     That we rarely give the Devil a thought, let alone his due, ought to confirm for us this important spiritual reality — that the Devil is sitting on our shoulder, whispering folly into our ears. He is active not only in the dark corners of Africa, but in the dark corners of our hearts and minds. If we would seek first the kingdom of God, we will have to come to grips with the reality that he is trying to stop us.

     His forces, we ought also to remember, are not only arrayed in the political and cultural battlefields. He does not have his hand in the Democratic National Committee only, nor does he work his magic only in Hollywood. He is also about the business of growing in us his diabolical fruit. He is at work when we are filled with envy, malice, fear, selfishness. He is waging war when he encourages us to spend our energies not pursuing the kingdom, but pursuing personal peace and affluence. He is practicing his dark magic when he encourages us to defend not the honor of Christ, but our own reputation and dignity. He is at work in the details of our lives, how we speak to our children, how we listen to our spouse. And sadly, he is winning great victories.

     The war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is not the exact same thing as the culture war. They intersect, but they are not one. Instead, the war between the seed and the serpent is the same thing as our war with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. May God give us the grace to win great victories in the little battles we fight each day. May He grant us the eyes to see the epoch-changing battles in our very ordinary lives.

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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

Angels and Demons Go Pop Culture

By Gene Edward Veith 7/1/2007



     “I believe there are angels among us,” sang the pop-country group Alabama to the accompaniment of a children’s choir. And most Americans agree. According to a 2005 Fox News poll, 79 percent of Americans believe in angels. This belief is apparently on the rise, up from 72 percent a decade earlier.

     Albert Winseman, the religion and values editor with the Gallup pollsters, has noted the paradox that as secularism in America increases belief in “entities from the beyond” is also increasing.

     The new popularity of angels not only crosses religious lines, it crosses religious and non-religious lines. New Age devotees are doing a lot with angels. So are the growing number of people who say, “I am not religious, but I am very spiritual.” Some scholars are directly linking the new angelology to the new dichotomy between “religion,” understood as adherence to a traditional body of belief and practice, to “spirituality,” understood as a privately-devised personal mysticism.

     The angels people believe in, however, are not necessarily the cherubim and the seraphim of the Bible, the messengers of God and hosts of His army, which sometimes appear in dazzling, light-filled humanoid form and sometimes as incomprehensible beings with multiple eyes and wheels within wheels. In the Alabama song, the angel is “a kind old man” who brings home a lost boy. Many of today’s angel sightings involve someone who helped a stranded motorist change a tire.

     Some say angels are people, either dead or, as in someone who helps others, living. Others do believe angels are supernatural beings who, however, are like people, travelling around doing good, like Della Reese in the hit TV show Touched by an Angel. For others, angels are the equivalent of the “spirit guides” in animistic religions, your own personal deity who leads you on life’s pathway.

     If angels in the popular mind are becoming more personal, the opposite seems to be happening with demons. Just over two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) believe in the devil. But, according to Barna poll, well over half (59 percent) believe that Satan is not a living person but is only a symbol of evil.

     Interestingly, teenagers have a different view. In a poll taken just a year ago, George Barna found that 89 percent of teenagers believe in angels, which is significantly more than their parents’ generation. Moreover, well over half (58 percent) believe that “Satan is a real spiritual being and the enemy of God.”

     Their specific beliefs about such things remain vague and uncertain. But their beliefs are not just abstract theorizing. According to Barna, seven million teenagers (35 percent) claim to actually have encountered an angel, a demon, or some other supernatural being.

     The angelic and the demonic in pop culture are, for the most part, curiously disassociated. Angels and demons tend not to appear in the same works. And neither tend to be related to God. A movie may reference Satan, but not God. Angels and devils may be presented using the traditional iconography of the church, with no mention of Christianity. In the movies and video games, people fight demons, but they are not delivered from them.

     The angelology of today’s culture has the hallmarks of a domesticated religiosity. Spiritual beings “are there for us.” Nice ones exist; mean ones do not. Unlike God, angels are on our level. They take care of us, but they are “non-judgmental.” This new “spirituality,” unlike traditional “religion,” makes no demands, has no moral restrictions, and helps us feel good about ourselves. We get the good parts of religion — a sense of meaning, mystical experience, and life after death — without what Flannery O’Connor called “the sweat and stink of the cross.”

     As for the demons, they are enshrined for their entertainment value. For some reason, people in our culture like to be scared. Demons are not, however, scary enough to keep people away from them. And when devils are seen as only symbols of evil, they can be explained away and perhaps given another kind of attraction.

     This sometimes manifests itself in a strange inversion. In Phillip Pullman’s series of fantasy novels His Dark Materials, which are very popular among teenagers, Satan is the good guy and God is the villain. This is an old Gnostic conceit, popularized among critics who misread Paradise Lost (Dover Thrift Editions), and it is also prevalent in atheist propaganda, in which Satan is hailed as a hero of freedom, pleasure, and passion against the killjoy who created the universe and enforces all of those moral rules.

     These anti-Christian inversions are popular among juvenile rebels of all ages. The irony is that they miss the mark of what Christianity even is, since they fail to address and are apparently not even aware of the most salient teachings of that religion: the incarnation, the redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

     Today’s cultural cosmology is filled with sentimental angels and cynical demons, both of whom are assumed to exist on their own without the Lord of Hosts. This, of course, is how the real Satan wants it. His angels — whether in the guise of occult monsters, cute babies with wings, or angels of light bringing new revelations — seem to have free reign. And yet, one little Word can fell them.

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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:

Cultural Evangelism, Seventh-Century Style

By Gene Edward Veith 8/1/2007



     Christians today often talk about evangelizing the culture, transforming the culture, and finding ways to communicate with people of another culture. What that looks like can be seen in seventh-century English literature. J.R.R. Tolkien was as great a literary scholar as he was a writer of heroic fantasy. In his article “Beowulf: The Monster and the Critics,” Tolkien described the worldview of Germanic paganism as held by the early Angles and Saxons who seized Britain from the Celts.

     Whereas the Greek religion with its philandering gods had little moral content, he said, the Germanic religion featured a strong moral dualism. The gods were locked in a cosmic conflict with the giants. Odin, Thor, Freya, and the others stood for natural and social order, while the giants strove for chaos. Mortals take sides in this conflict, with their constructive actions supporting the gods and their destructive actions supporting the giants. This conflict will continue until the end of time, when, after a climactic battle, the gods will lose. The giants will be victorious, the forces of chaos and destruction will be victorious, and, in this so-called “Twilight of the Gods,” the universe will end in ice and darkness.

     Such a finale sounds surprising. A religion in which not only the world but the gods themselves come to a bad end seems odd. We are used to the good guys winning. Everybody is supposed to live happily ever after.

     But the assumption of cosmic optimism is itself part of the cultural influence of Christianity. The pagan religions of the West never had the concept of a happy ending. There was no “heaven.” The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that when people died, everyone went to Hades. The ancient Germans believed that everyone went to “hel” (as it was then spelled).

     Some of the dead are hideously tortured; others spend their days fighting, their wounds healed for the next day; others just roam in a shadowy, grim existence. The pagans held an essentially tragic view of life.

     For the Germanic religions, the hero was someone who fought on the gods’ side, even though he knew that in doing so he was doomed. Of course, Viking and Saxon warriors treasured victory, but the highest form of heroism was courage in the face of inevitable defeat. In everyday life, people could demonstrate heroism if they stood up for what was right, though they often suffered for it.

     When Christianity came to these people, there was a reason its message of salvation was called “good news.” So we can have eternal joy after we die? We have access to a heaven?

     One concept the Greeks had some trouble with but the Germans understood was that the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, won that access by suffering and dying. Missionaries tell us that many pagans have problems getting their minds around this. “Your God died? Our god is a great warrior.” But to the ancient Germans being evangelized, this message resonated with what they already knew, while transcending their old assumptions. They knew that gods suffered and died. They understood the cross. But the good news, which came as a total surprise, was that this God rose again.

     Beowulf is a folk epic, with roots deep into the oral tradition of the Germanic culture. But in the written composition that we have, which is traced to the seventh century — writing itself being a legacy from the church, which introduced Scriptures, schools, and literacy into oral cultures — we have a substantially Christianized tale.

     Beowulf battles monsters, but they are removed from folklore and given biblical connections. Grendel is described as a descendant of Cain, the first murderer. Thus, the monster becomes a personification and a symbol of sin. Furthermore, the Beowulf poet says that Cain is also the progenitor of the giants.

     The Beowulf poet knows that his hero lived in the pre-Christian era. There are references to the old religion, which was said to worship demons. But the old gods are never so much as named.

     The poem also undermines important pagan cultural values. Those tribal societies embraced the code of revenge. In Beowulf, revenge motivates the monsters, with the death of Grendel stirring up the kinship obligations of an even stronger monster, Grendel’s mother. And throughout the poem, for the humans, revenge vendettas are criticized, shown as bringing down the kingdom, which even the monsters could not do.

     And though seventh-century English Christianity was hardly pacifist, Beowulf has a startling innovation for an epic poem about a super-human warrior. The hero Beowulf is never depicted killing another human being. He just kills monsters. He is still a hero by ancient Germanic standards, since he faces certain doom with courage, fighting the dragon when he is eighty years old, knowing that he will die. But he is a Christian hero, sacrificing his own life for his people.

     Christianity did not destroy the existing culture, but, as we see in Beowulf, it affirmed what was good in the culture. More than that, Christianity reformed the culture, striking against its moral failings, thus making it stronger.

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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:

We Wrestle Not with Flesh and Blood

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 8/1/2007

     It was the coldest day of the winter as I trudged through the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the young man, nicely dressed, approach the young lady as she was headed to her car. I silently thanked God that he had chosen her and not me, and before my prayer was through, I was approached by the second young man, “Sir, can I share with you the good news of Jesus Christ?” As I opened my car door I replied, “No, what you need to do is repent.” “Repent for believing in Jesus?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, “if He’s not God.” “Are you a Christian then?” he asked.

     As I drove away I said a prayer for the young man, that God would be pleased to grant him new life, that He would give this blind fool eyes to see. I also prayed that God would tie the young man’s tongue, lest anyone fall prey to his folly.

     The Bible gives us two perspectives by which we ought to see men like this. On the one hand, we are enjoined to compassion. Such once were we, walking by the flesh. There but for the grace of God go we. Men like this are in chains, enslaved.

     If we would but look to their master, however, we would begin to understand the second perspective we are called to. It is because we are still susceptible to the swaying power of this slave master that we don’t see him enslaving men like this. That is, we tend to divide the world into three kinds of people. There are the Christians, who have the truth. There are adherents of other religions that are false. And then there are those who love the Devil, who are wicked. There are, however, only two kinds of people in this world, the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman. Those who do not serve our king serve the serpent, no matter how respectable they might look. Those well-dressed, young men in the Wal-Mart parking lot are not merely pitiable, misguided fools. They are likewise preying lions, looking for sheep to devour.

     This may be hard to swallow, precisely because Latter-Day Saint missionaries are so clean cut. After all, these folks put those family friendly ads on television. They vote pro-life. They look just like us. On the other hand, we may find this believable because, at least so far, Christians still talk about this group as a cult. Our antennae are all a-quiver when we run into these proclaimers of their bad news.

     Do we see the serpent at the end of the chain, that the Devil is still the puppet master, when we confront adherents to one of the “great world religions?” I’m afraid we have a more collegial view. We may have our squabbles, but like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, we also have things in common. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam stand, dignified, far above the riff-raff of modern day cults and sundry manifestations of New Age goofiness.

     The truth is that both Judaism and Islam, and for that matter, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the like, have far more in common with the Church of Latter-Day Saints than they have in common with the Christian faith. First, they are all false. They are all lies. Second, they are all lies because they are of their father. When we look back in history to the seventh century, and we see there the birth of Islam, we would do well to recognize the nature of that event. This is not an occasion where a man, in a dispassionate pursuit of truth, fell into some error, and accidentally created a religion that is false. This is neither merely the occasion where a man determined to create a new religion in order to garner political power as an excuse to go on a bloody rampage.

     Though our political leaders would have us think so, Islam is not a nice, clean, respectable religion. Our memory is still too fresh to get us to swallow that. It is dirty, however, not because it is bloody. To give the Devil his due, at least in Islam we have a religion that has the courage of its convictions.

     Islam, fourteen hundred years after it first began, if it is not there already, is coming to a neighborhood near you. Whether those who practice this faith are rabble-rousing militants, or gentle and middle class members of the local PTA, whether they demand respect at the end of a sword, or demand respect by acting respectable, Christians must not lose sight of who is behind it all. We are at war, not with terror, not with mankind, but with the Devil. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:12–13).

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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

Numb. 20; Psalms 58-59; Isa. 9:8-10:4; James 3

By Don Carson 5/11/2018

     There are few passages in the Pentateuch which on first reading are more discouraging than the outcome of Numbers 20:1-13.

     Yet the account carries some subtle complexities. It begins with more of the usual griping. The need of the people is real: they are thirsty (20:2). But instead of humbly seeking the Lord in joyous confidence that he would provide for his own people, they quarrel with Moses and charge him with the usual: they were better off in slavery, their current life in the desert is unbearable, and so forth.

     Moses and Aaron seek the Lord’s face. The glory of God appears to them (20:6). God specifically says, “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (20:8). But Moses has had it. He assembles the crowd and cries, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (20:10) — which rhetorical question, at its face value, is more than a little pretentious. Then he strikes the rock twice, and water gushes out. But the Lord tells Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (20:12).

Three observations:

     (1) God does not say, “Because you did not obey me enough . . . ” but “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy . . .” There was, of course, formal disobedience: God said to speak, and Moses struck the rock. But God perceives that the problem is deeper yet. The people have worn Moses down, and Moses responds in kind. His response is not only the striking of the rock, it is the answer of a man who under pressure has become bitter and pretentious (which is certainly not to say that any of us would have done any better!). What has evaporated is transparent trust in God: God is not being honored as holy.

     (2) Read the Pentateuch as a whole: the final point is that Moses does not enter the land. Read the first seven books of the Old Testament: one cannot fail to see that the old covenant had not transformed the people. Canonically, that is an important lesson: the Law was never adequate to save and transform.

     (3) In light of 1 Corinthians 10:4, which shows Christ to be the antitype of the rock, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the reason God had insisted the rock be struck in Exodus 17:1-7, and forbids it here, is that he perceives a wonderful opportunity to make a symbol-laden point: the ultimate Rock, from whom life-giving streams flow, is struck once, and no more.

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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).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 48

Zion, the City of Our God
48 A Song. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

9 We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10 As your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!
12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     5. But let us proceed to a full exposition of this view. Paul says that our Saviour "ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:10-13). We see that God, who might perfect his people in a moment, chooses not to bring them to manhood in any other way than by the education of the Church. We see the mode of doing it expressed; the preaching of celestial doctrine is committed to pastors. We see that all without exception are brought into the same order, that they may with meek and docile spirit allow themselves to be governed by teachers appointed for this purpose. Isaiah had long before given this as the characteristic of the kingdom of Christ, "My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever" (Isa. 59:21). Hence it follows, that all who reject the spiritual food of the soul divinely offered to them by the hands of the Church, deserve to perish of hunger and famine. God inspires us with faith, but it is by the instrumentality of his gospel, as Paul reminds us, "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). God reserves to himself the power of maintaining it, but it is by the preaching of the gospel, as Paul also declares, that he brings it forth and unfolds it. With this view, it pleased him in ancient times that sacred meetings should be held in the sanctuary, that consent in faith might be nourished by doctrine proceeding from the lips of the priest. Those magnificent titles, as when the temple is called God's rest, his sanctuary, his habitation, and when he is said to dwell between the cherubims (Ps 32:13, 14; 80:1), are used for no other purpose than to procure respect, love, reverence, and dignity to the ministry of heavenly doctrine, to which otherwise the appearance of an insignificant human being might be in no slight degree derogatory. Therefore, to teach us that the treasure offered to us in earthen vessels is of inestimable value (2 Cor. 4:7), God himself appears and, as the author of this ordinance, requires his presence to be recognised in his own institution. Accordingly, after forbidding his people to give heed to familiar spirits, wizards, and other superstitions (Lev. 19:30, 31), he adds, that he will give what ought to be sufficient for all--namely, that he will never leave them without prophets. For, as he did not commit his ancient people to angels, but raised up teachers on the earth to perform a truly angelical office, so he is pleased to instruct us in the present day by human means. But as anciently he did not confine himself to the law merely, but added priests as interpreters, from whose lips the people might inquire after his true meaning, so in the present day he would not only have us to be attentive to reading, but has appointed masters to give us their assistance. In this there is a twofold advantage. For, on the one hand, he by an admirable test proves our obedience when we listen to his ministers just as we would to himself; while, on the other hand, he consults our weakness in being pleased to address us after the manner of men by means of interpreters, that he may thus allure us to himself, instead of driving us away by his thunder. How well this familiar mode of teaching is suited to us all the godly are aware, from the dread with which the divine majesty justly inspires them.

Those who think that the authority of the doctrine is impaired by the insignificance of the men who are called to teach, betray their ingratitude; for among the many noble endowments with which God has adorned the human race, one of the most remarkable is, that he deigns to consecrate the mouths and tongues of men to his service, making his own voice to be heard in them. Wherefore, let us not on our part decline obediently to embrace the doctrine of salvation, delivered by his command and mouth; because, although the power of God is not confined to external means, he has, however, confined us to his ordinary method of teaching, which method, when fanatics refuse to observe, they entangle themselves in many fatal snares. Pride, or fastidiousness, or emulation, induces many to persuade themselves that they can profit sufficiently by reading and meditating in private, and thus to despise public meetings, and deem preaching superfluous. But since as much as in them lies they loose or burst the sacred bond of unity, none of them escapes the just punishment of this impious divorce, but become fascinated with pestiferous errors, and the foulest delusions. Wherefore, in order that the pure simplicity of the faith may flourish among us, let us not decline to use this exercise of piety, which God by his institution of it has shown to be necessary, and which he so highly recommends. None, even among the most petulant of men, would venture to say, that we are to shut our ears against God, but in all ages prophets and pious teachers have had a difficult contest to maintain with the ungodly, whose perverseness cannot submit to the yoke of being taught by the lips and ministry of men. This is just the same as if they were to destroy the impress of God as exhibited to us in doctrine. For no other reason were believers anciently enjoined to seek the face of God in the sanctuary (Ps. 105:4) (an injunction so often repeated in the Law), than because the doctrine of the Law, and the exhortations of the prophets, were to them a living image of God. Thus Paul declares, that in his preaching the glory of God shone in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). The more detestable are the apostates who delight in producing schisms in churches, just as if they wished to drive the sheep from the fold, and throw them into the jaws of wolves. Let us hold, agreeably to the passage we quoted from Paul, that the Church can only be edified by external preaching, and that there is no other bond by which the saints can be kept together than by uniting with one consent to observe the order which God has appointed in his Church for learning and making progress. For this end, especially, as I have observed, believers were anciently enjoined under the Law to flock together to the sanctuary; for when Moses speaks of the habitation of God, he at the same time calls it the place of the name of God, the place where he will record his name (Exod. 20:24); thus plainly teaching that no use could be made of it without the doctrine of godliness. And there can be no doubt that, for the same reason, David complains with great bitterness of soul, that by the tyrannical cruelty of his enemies he was prevented from entering the tabernacle (Ps. 84). To many the complaint seems childish, as if no great loss were sustained, not much pleasure lost, by exclusion from the temple, provided other amusements were enjoyed. David, however, laments this one deprivation, as filling him with anxiety and sadness, tormenting, and almost destroying him. This he does because there is nothing on which believers set a higher value than on this aid, by which God gradually raises his people to heaven. For it is to be observed, that he always exhibited himself to the holy patriarchs in the mirror of his doctrine in such a way as to make their knowledge spiritual. Whence the temple is not only styled his face, but also, for the purpose of removing all superstition, is termed his footstool (Ps. 132:7; 99:5). Herein is the unity of the faith happily realised, when all, from the highest to the lowest, aspire to the head. All the temples which the Gentiles built to God with a different intention were a mere profanation of his worship,--a profanation into which the Jews also fell, though not with equal grossness. With this Stephen upbraids them in the words of Isaiah when he says, "Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the Prophet, Heaven is my throne," &c. (Acts 7:48). For God only consecrates temples to their legitimate use by his word. And when we rashly attempt anything without his order, immediately setting out from a bad principle, we introduce adventitious fictions, by which evil is propagated without measure. It was inconsiderate in Xerxes when, by the advice of the magians, he burnt or pulled down all the temples of Greece, because he thought it absurd that God, to whom all things ought to be free and open, should be enclosed by walls and roofs, as if it were not in the power of God in a manner to descend to us, that he may be near to us, and yet neither change his place nor affect us by earthly means, but rather, by a kind of vehicles, raise us aloft to his own heavenly glory, which, with its immensity, fills all things, and in height is above the heavens.

6. Moreover, as at this time there is a great dispute as to the efficacy of the ministry, some extravagantly overrating its dignity, and others erroneously maintaining, that what is peculiar to the Spirit of God is transferred to mortal man, when we suppose that ministers and teachers penetrate to the mind and heart, so as to correct the blindness of the one, and the hardness of the other; it is necessary to place this controversy on its proper footing. The arguments on both sides will be disposed of without trouble, by distinctly attending to the passages in which God, the author of preaching, connects his Spirit with it, and then promises a beneficial result; or, on the other hand, to the passages in which God, separating himself from external means, claims for himself alone both the commencement and the whole course of faith. The office of the second Elias was, as Malachi declares, to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6). Christ declares that he sent the Apostles to produce fruit from his labours (John 15:16). What this fruit is Peter briefly defines, when he says that we are begotten again of incorruptible seed (1 Pet. 1:23). Hence Paul glories, that by means of the Gospel he had begotten the Corinthians, who were the seals of his apostleship (1 Cor. 4:15); moreover, that his was not a ministry of the letter, which only sounded in the ear, but that the effectual agency of the Spirit was given to him, in order that his doctrine might not be in vain (1 Cor. 9:2; 2 Cor. 3:6). In this sense he elsewhere declares that his Gospel was not in word, but in power (1 Thess. 1:5). He also affirms that the Galatians received the Spirit by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2). In short, in several passages he not only makes himself a fellow-worker with God, but attributes to himself the province of bestowing salvation (1 Cor. 3:9). All these things he certainly never uttered with the view of attributing to himself one iota apart from God, as he elsewhere briefly explains. "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). Again, in another place, "He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:8). And that he allows no more to ministers is obvious from other passages. "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (1 Cor. 3:7). Again, "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). And it is indeed necessary to keep these sentences in view, since God, in ascribing to himself the illumination of the mind and renewal of the heart, reminds us that it is sacrilege for man to claim any part of either to himself. Still every one who listens with docility to the ministers whom God appoints, will know by the beneficial result, that for good reason God is pleased with this method of teaching, and for good reason has laid believers under this modest yoke.

7. The judgment which ought to be formed concerning the visible Church which comes under our observation, must, I think, be sufficiently clear from what has been said. I have observed that the Scriptures speak of the Church in two ways. Sometimes when they speak of the Church they mean the Church as it really is before God--the Church into which none are admitted but those who by the gift of adoption are sons of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit true members of Christ. In this case it not only comprehends the saints who dwell on the earth, but all the elect who have existed from the beginning of the world. Often, too, by the name of Church is designated the whole body of mankind scattered throughout the world, who profess to worship one God and Christ, who by baptism are initiated into the faith; by partaking of the Lord's Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, agree in holding the word of the Lord, and observe the ministry which Christ has appointed for the preaching of it. In this Church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance: of ambitious, avaricious, envious, evil-speaking men, some also of impurer lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because their guilt cannot be legally established, or because due strictness of discipline is not always observed. Hence, as it is necessary to believe the invisible Church, [519] which is manifest to the eye of God only, so we are also enjoined to regard this Church which is so called with reference to man, and to cultivate its communion.

8. Accordingly, inasmuch as it was of importance to us to recognise it, the Lord has distinguished it by certain marks, and as it were symbols. It is, indeed, the special prerogative of God to know those who are his, as Paul declares in the passage already quoted (2 Tim. 2:19). And doubtless it has been so provided as a check on human rashness, the experience of every day reminding us how far his secret judgments surpass our apprehension. For even those who seemed most abandoned, and who had been completely despaired of, are by his goodness recalled to life, while those who seemed most stable often fall. Hence, as Augustine says, "In regard to the secret predestination of God, there are very many sheep without, and very many wolves within" (August. Hom. in Joan. 45). For he knows, and has his mark on those who know neither him nor themselves. Of those again who openly bear his badge, his eyes alone see who of them are unfeignedly holy, and will persevere even to the end, which alone is the completion of salvation. On the other hand, foreseeing that it was in some degree expedient for us to know who are to be regarded by us as his sons, he has in this matter accommodated himself to our capacity. But as here full certainty was not necessary, he has in its place substituted the judgment of charity, by which we acknowledge all as members of the Church who by confession of faith, regularity of conduct, and participation in the sacraments, unite with us in acknowledging the same God and Christ. [520] The knowledge of his body, inasmuch as he knew it to be more necessary for our salvation, he has made known to us by surer marks.

9. Hence the form of the Church appears and stands forth conspicuous to our view. Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt. 18:20). But that we may have a clear summary of this subject, we must proceed by the following steps:--The Church universal is the multitude collected out of all nations, who, though dispersed and far distant from each other, agree in one truth of divine doctrine, and are bound together by the tie of a common religion. In this way it comprehends single churches, which exist in different towns and villages, according to the wants of human society, so that each of them justly obtains the name and authority of the Church; and also comprehends single individuals, who by a religious profession are accounted to belong to such churches, although they are in fact aliens from the Church, but have not been cut off by a public decision. There is, however, a slight difference in the mode of judging of individuals and of churches. For it may happen in practice that those whom we deem not altogether worthy of the fellowship of believers, we yet ought to treat as brethren, and regard as believers, on account of the common consent of the Church in tolerating and bearing with them in the body of Christ. Such persons we do not approve by our suffrage as members of the Church, but we leave them the place which they hold among the people of God, until they are legitimately deprived of it. With regard to the general body we must feel differently; if they have the ministry of the word, and honour the administration of the sacraments, they are undoubtedly entitled to be ranked with the Church, because it is certain that these things are not without a beneficial result. Thus we both maintain the Church universal in its unity, which malignant minds have always been eager to dissever, and deny not due authority to lawful assemblies distributed as circumstances require. [521]

10. We have said that the symbols by which the Church is discerned are the preaching of the word and the observance of the sacraments, for these cannot anywhere exist without producing fruit and prospering by the blessing of God. I say not that wherever the word is preached fruit immediately appears; but that in every place where it is received, and has a fixed abode, it uniformly displays its efficacy. Be this as it may, when the preaching of the gospel is reverently heard, and the sacraments are not neglected, there for the time the face of the Church appears without deception or ambiguity and no man may with impunity spurn her authority, or reject her admonitions, or resist her counsels, or make sport of her censures, far less revolt from her, and violate her unity (see Chap. 2 sec. 1, 10, and Chap. 8 sec. 12). For such is the value which the Lord sets on the communion of his Church, that all who contumaciously alienate themselves from any Christian society, in which the true ministry of his word and sacraments is maintained, he regards as deserters of religion. So highly does he recommend her authority, that when it is violated he considers that his own authority is impaired. For there is no small weight in the designation given to her, "the house of God," "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). By these words Paul intimates, that to prevent the truth from perishing in the world. the Church is its faithful guardian, because God has been pleased to preserve the pure preaching of his word by her instrumentality, and to exhibit himself to us as a parent while he feeds us with spiritual nourishment, and provides whatever is conducive to our salvation. Moreover, no mean praise is conferred on the Church when she is said to have been chosen and set apart by Christ as his spouse, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27), as "his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Whence it follows, that revolt from the Church is denial of God and Christ. Wherefore there is the more necessity to beware of a dissent so iniquitous; for seeing by it we aim as far as in us lies at the destruction of God's truth, we deserve to be crushed by the full thunder of his anger. No crime can be imagined more atrocious than that of sacrilegiously and perfidiously violating the sacred marriage which the only begotten Son of God has condescended to contract with us.

11. Wherefore let these marks be carefully impressed upon our minds, and let us estimate them as in the sight of the Lord. There is nothing on which Satan is more intent than to destroy and efface one or both of them--at one time to delete and abolish these marks, and thereby destroy the true and genuine distinction of the Church; at another, to bring them into contempt, and so hurry us into open revolt from the Church. To his wiles it was owing that for several ages the pure preaching of the word disappeared, and now, with the same dishonest aim, he labours to overthrow the ministry, which, however, Christ has so ordered in his Church, that if it is removed the whole edifice must fall. How perilous, then, nay, how fatal the temptation, when we even entertain a thought of separating ourselves from that assembly in which are beheld the signs and badges which the Lord has deemed sufficient to characterise his Church! We see how great caution should be employed in both respects. That we may not be imposed upon by the name of Church, every congregation which claims the name must be brought to that test as to a Lydian stone. If it holds the order instituted by the Lord in word and sacraments there will be no deception; we may safely pay it the honour due to a church: on the other hand, if it exhibit itself without word and sacraments, we must in this case be no less careful to avoid the imposture than we were to shun pride and presumption in the other.

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


  • R.C. Sproul
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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2008    Higher Criticism

     About ten years ago I had the opportunity to study under the late Dr. Harold O. J. Brown (1933–2007) at the Evangelical Preacher’s Seminary in Wittenberg, Germany. Dr. Brown was known by his students for his oral examinations, wherein he generously and humorously interrogated us on a variety of doctrinal questions that we were expected to answer on the spot. During one of his oral examinations I recall one of my fellow students speaking somewhat flippantly about the Bible. Without hesitation, looking intently at the student, Dr. Brown said, “The Bible is not just some book. It is the Word of God. You would do well to regard it as such.”

     To this day Dr. Brown’s words are ingrained in my mind. The Bible is not a cleverly contrived collection of fanciful tales of mythical gods and prophets, sorcerers and goblins, hobbits and elves. It is not a Judeo-Christian anthology of sixty-six ancient books that were deemed politically and ecclesiastically correct by influential Christians of the early church who coveted worldly acceptance and prestige. On the contrary, the Bible is the book of the Lord God Almighty. It is the authoritative, inerrant, and infallible Word of God, and, as Jesus taught us in His prayer to the Father: His “Word is truth.” It doesn’t merely contain truth or speak about truth; it is truth — it defines truth (John 17:17). We must, therefore, regard it as such.

     Nevertheless, contrary to the popular saying, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” it is inconsequential whether or not we believe it. Our believing the Bible to be true, our regarding it as the Word of God, has no bearing on its veracity. It stands alone as the veritable Word of God, never returning void, always going forth to accomplish precisely what the Lord intends. The Word of God is never to be the object of our scrutiny. Rather, the Word of God is that by which the Holy Spirit scrutinizes us. By His Word, the Lord employs His own version of higher criticism as He inspects our lives, interrogates our proud hearts, and reveals our sins. His Word alone is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16), literally “exhaled” by God Almighty so that we might inhale it, allowing it to dwell within our hearts richly. In this way, we will know it, love it, proclaim it, and breathe it as we speak His Word back to Him in prayer and as we bow before Him coram Deo, before His face and for His glory.

     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

     The son of a rabbi, born this day, May 11, 1888, he was four-years old when he immigrated from Russia to New York. Falling in love with America, he served in the U.S. infantry during World War I and wrote some of the country's most popular songs, including: "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "White Christmas" and "God Bless America," the royalties from which he gave to the Boy Scouts. Who was he? Irving Berlin, who in 1945, received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Eisenhower. "God Bless America, Land that I Love, Stand Beside Her, and Guide Her, Through the Night, with the Light From Above."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

A beggar who begs for bread
will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity.
And God allows such a plea as this,
for he is moved to mercy toward us by nothing in us
but the misery of our case.
He does not pity sinners because they are worthy
but because they need his pity.
--- Jonathan Edwards
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1 (With a Memoir By Sereno E. Dwight)

I simply haven't the nerve to imagine a being,
a force,
a cause which keeps the planets revolving in their orbits,
and then suddenly stops
in order to give me a bicycle with three speeds.
--- Quentin Crisp
Resident Alien

Be still and cool in your own mind and spirit from your own thoughts, and then you will feel the principle of God to turn your mind to the Lord God, from whom life comes; whereby you may receive his strength and power to allay all blusterings, storms, and tempests.
--- George Fox, 1624-1691
A collection of the several books and writings, given forth by that faithful servant of God and His people, George Fox, the younger (1665)

No man or woman can be strong, gentle, pure, and good, without the world being better for it and without someone being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks Year Book: Selections from the Writings of the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Third Chapter / It Is Profitable To Receive Communion Often

     The Disciple

     BEHOLD, I come to You, Lord, that I may prosper by Your gift and be delighted at Your holy banquet which You, O God, in Your sweetness have prepared for Your poor. Behold, all that I can or ought to desire is in You. You are my salvation and my redemption, my hope and strength, my honor and glory.

     Gladden, then, this day the soul of Your servant because I have raised my heart to You, O Lord Jesus. I long to receive You now, devoutly and reverently. I desire to bring You into my house that, with Zacheus, I may merit Your blessing and be numbered among the children of Abraham.

     My soul longs for Your Body; my heart desires to be united with You. Give me Yourself—it is enough; for without You there is no consolation. Without You I cannot exist, without Your visitation I cannot live. I must often come to You, therefore, and receive the strength of my salvation lest, deprived of this heavenly food, I grow weak on the way. Once, most merciful Jesus, while preaching to the people and healing their many ills, You said: “I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”49 Deal with me likewise, You Who have left Yourself in this Sacrament for the consolation of the faithful. You are sweet refreshment to the soul, and he who eats You worthily will be a sharer in, and an heir to, eternal glory.

     It is indeed necessary for me, who fall and sin so often, who so quickly become lax and weak, to renew, cleanse, and inflame myself through frequent prayer, confession, and the holy reception of Your Body, lest perhaps by abstaining too long, I fall away from my holy purpose. For from the days of his youth the senses of man are prone to evil, and unless divine aid strengthens him, he quickly falls deeper. But Holy Communion removes him from evil and confirms him in good.

     If I am so often careless and lax when I celebrate or communicate, what would happen if I did not receive this remedy and seek so great a help? Although I am neither fit nor properly disposed to celebrate every day, yet I will do my best at proper times to receive the divine Mysteries and share in this great grace. This, indeed, is the one chief consolation of the faithful soul when separated from You by mortality, that often mindful of her God, she receives her Beloved with devout recollection.

     Oh, wonderful condescension of Your affection toward us, that You, the Lord God, Creator and Giver of life to all, should see fit to come to a poor soul and to appease her hunger with all Your divinity and humanity! O happy mind and blessed soul which deserves to receive You, her Lord God, and in receiving You, is filled with spiritual joy! How great a Master she entertains, what a beloved guest she receives, how sweet a companion she welcomes, how true a friend she gains, how beautiful and noble is the spouse she embraces, beloved and desired above all things that can be loved and desired! Let heaven and earth and all their treasures stand silent before Your face, most sweetly Beloved, for whatever glory and beauty they have is of Your condescending bounty, and they cannot approach the beauty of Your name, Whose wisdom is untold.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     Deep Restfulness

     But second, the life of the branch is not only a life of entire dependence, but of deep restfulness.

     That little branch, if it could think, and if it could feel, and if it could speak--that branch away in Hampton Court vine, or on some of the million vines that we have in South Africa, in our sunny land--if we could have a little branch here today to talk to us, and if we could say: "Come, branch of the vine, I want to learn from you how I can be a true branch of the living Vine," what would it answer? The little branch would whisper:

     "Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great many wonderful things. I know you have much strength and wisdom given to you but I have one lesson for you. With all your hurry and effort in Christ's work you never prosper. The first thing you need is to come and rest in your Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out of that vine I have spent years and years, and all I have done is just to rest in the vine. When the time of spring came I had no anxious thought or care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give the bud and leaf. And when the time of summer came I had no care, and in the great heat I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me fresh. And in the time of harvest, when the owner came to pluck the grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes not good, the owner never blamed the branch, the blame was always on the vine. And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the living Vine, just rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility."

     You say: "Won't that make me slothful?"

     I tell you it will not. No one who learns to rest upon the living Christ can become slothful, for the closer your contact with Christ the more of the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you. But, oh, begin to work in the midst of your entire dependence by adding to that deep restfulness. A man sometimes tries and tries to be dependent upon Christ, but he worries himself about this absolute dependence; he tries and he cannot get it. But let him sink down into entire restfulness every day.

     In Thy strong hand I lay me down.
     So shall the work be done;
     For who can work so wondrously
     As the Almighty One?

     Worker, take your place every day at the feet of Jesus, in the blessed peace and rest that come from the knowledge --

     I have no care, my cares are His!
     I have no fear, He cares for all my fears.

     Come, children of God, and understand that it is the Lord Jesus who wants to work through you. You complain of the lack of fervent love. It will come from Jesus. He will give the divine love in your heart with which you can love people. That is the meaning of the assurance: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5); and of that other word: "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14). Christ can give you a fountain of love, so that you cannot help loving the most wretched and the most ungrateful, or those who have wearied you hitherto. Rest in Christ, who can give wisdom and strength, and you do not know how that restfulness will often prove to be the very best part of your message. You plead with people and you argue, and they get the idea: "There is a man arguing and striving with me." They only feel: "Here are two men dealing with each other." But if you will let the deep rest of God come over you, the rest in Christ Jesus, the peace and rest and holiness of Heaven, that restfulness will bring a blessing to the heart, even more than the words you speak.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:25-26
     by D.H. Stern

25     There can be a way which seems right to a person,
but at its end are the ways of death.

26     A working man’s appetite acts on his behalf,
because his hunger presses him on.


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

                You won’t reach it on tiptoe

     Add to your brotherliness … love. --- 2 Peter 1:7.

     Love is indefinite to most of us, we do not know what we mean when we talk about love. Love is the sovereign preference of one person for another, and spiritually Jesus demands that that preference be for Himself (cf. Luke 14:26). When the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ is easily first; then we must practise the working out of these things mentioned by Peter.

     The first thing God does is to knock pretence and the pious pose right out of me. The Holy Spirit reveals that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. ‘Now,’ He says to me, ‘show the same love to others’—“Love as I have loved you.” ‘I will bring any number of people about you whom you cannot respect, and you must exhibit My love to them as I have exhibited it to you.’ You won’t reach it on tiptoe. Some of us have tried to, but we were soon tired.

     “The Lord suffereth long …” Let me look within and see His dealings with me. The knowledge that God has loved me to the uttermost, to the end of all my sin and meanness and selfishness and wrong, will send me forth into the world to love in the same way. God’s love to me is inexhaustible, and I must love others from the bedrock of God’s love to me. Growth in grace stops the moment I get huffed. I get huffed because I have a peculiar person to live with. Just think how disagreeable I have been to God! Am I prepared to be so identified with the Lord Jesus that His life and His sweetness are being poured out all the time? Neither natural love nor Divine love will remain unless it is cultivated. Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained by discipline.


My Utmost for His Highest

Acting
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


          Acting

Being unwise enough to have married her
I never knew when she was not acting.
"I love you," she would say; I heard the audiences
Sigh. "I hate you"; I could never be sure
They were still there. She was lovely. I
Was only the looking-glass she made up in.
I husbanded the rippling meadow
Of her body. Their eyes grazed nightly upon it.

Alone now, on the brittle platform
Of herself she is playing her last rôle.
It is perfect. Never in all her career
Was she so good. And yet the curtain
Has fallen. My charmer, come out from behind
It to take the applause. Look, I am clapping too.

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Bava Kamma 92b–93a

     D’RASH

     A middle-age woman decides to spend much of her day with her mother. She feels guilty for having ignored Mom of late and for not having spent more time with her. As she has been focusing more of her attention on her children and her career, her own mother has become less a part of her everyday life. The woman finally decides to right the wrong by spending a day with her mother, but the day turns out to be most difficult. It's been a while since the two spent so much time with each other, and even though there is a great deal of love, there is also tension. The relationship has changed, and their day together is less rewarding than expected.

     As this woman returns home, she finds her children needy and clingy and her husband resentful and jealous that Grandma received so much attention today. "When is the last time we spent an entire day together?" he complains, noting that the babysitter arrived late and one of the children got sick while his wife was away. Before they can talk about the family situation, the phone rings. It's the woman's boss at work, calling with an office crisis that only she can handle. With children screaming and husband pouting, she works furiously to solve the emergency at hand, knowing full well that she will be faced with a family crisis when she hangs up.

     The feeling of being "bald from both sides" is typical of people in the "sandwich generation," trying to cope with both parents and children, juggling career and family, obligations to and love for parents and responsibility to and love for children. Such people are like the husband in Rabbi Yitzḥak's story, beleaguered from two sides by different generations and differing needs. It is often difficult—if not downright impossible—to please everyone and not to end the day feeling guilty for having hurt both sides.

     How can we learn to cope with such a situation? First, Rabbi Yitzḥak Nappaḥa admits that some situations are "no-win." His students will never be fully satisfied if he teaches only legend or only law. In such a predicament, this admission is an important first step.

     Rabbi Yitzḥak, in his genius, finds a verse that satisfies both sides, if not perfectly, then at least adequately. Perhaps those of us in the sandwich generation can emulate his genius. Next time, the woman in the incident above might bring the whole family together for part of the day, so that everyone receives a bit of Grandma's attention and no one at home feels resentful and cheated of Mom's love.

     It is clear, however, that not every conflict can be solved so cleverly. What if Rabbi Yitzḥak Nappaḥa had not been so creative? What if he could not think of that one verse? At one point or another in life, each of us will find ourselves in a Catch-22. If we are blessed with a flash of genius, we may create an escape. If not, we have to admit to one side or another (and to ourselves as well) that we cannot fully satisfy everyone. One day, we may have to say: "Kids, today Grandma needs me, and even though I love you and I want to spend time with you, I can't do it right now." At another time, we might want to say, "Mom, I wish that I could go with you tomorrow, but I really have to spend the day with the children. They see precious little of me as is, and I promised them long ago that we would share tomorrow."

     Sometimes, the situation may truly be no-win. The best we can hope for is to cut our loses. At such times, it may be helpful to remind each party of the story told by Rabbi Yitzḥak: Neither wife wanted her husband to be bald. Each woman pulled out only part of the husband's hair, with the result that he became totally bald. Acknowledging a no-win situation may help us move on and put this crisis in perspective.

     When we were young, [we were treated] like grown-ups; now that we are elderly, [we are treated] like children.

     Text / Rava said to Rabbah bar Mari: "What is the source of what they say: 'If you lift up the burden, I will lift it, and if not, I won't lift it'?" He said to him: "As it is written: 'But Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, I will go; if not, I will not go" ' [Judges 4:8]."

     Rava said to Rabbah bar Mari: "What is the source of what they say: 'When we were young, [we were treated] like grown-ups; now that we are elderly, [we are treated] like children.'?" He said to him: "First it is written: 'The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light' [Exodus 13:21], but afterwards it is written: 'I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way.' [Exodus 23:20]."

     Context / Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time.… She summoned Barak son of Abinoam, of Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "The Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded: Go, march up to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun. And I will draw Sisera, Jabin's army commander, with his chariots and his troops, toward you up to the Wadi Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hands." But Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, I will go; if not, I will not go." "Very well, I will go with you," she answered. "However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman." (Judges 4:4, 6–9)

     These two short sections of Gemara are from a longer series of queries from Rava to Rabbah bar Mari on the origin of various aphorisms. In each case, Rava asks for a biblical verse for the derivation of a popular saying. Every time, Rabbah provides Rava with a scriptural illustration of the maxim.

     In the first inquiry above, Rava asks for the biblical basis of the adage "If you lift up the burden, I will lift it, and if not, I won't lift it." Apparently, this was a popular maxim and was taken to refer not only to physical burdens but also to military endeavors and business ventures as well. Rabbah cites a verse from Judges in which the Israelite general Barak tries to convince Deborah to fight Sisera and the enemy forces. If two are willing to carry the burden—in this case, the battle against the enemy—it can be done. If only one is willing to bear the burden, it is impossibly heavy.

     In the second question, Rava asks for the origin of the phrase "When we were young, [we were treated] like grownups; now that we are elderly, [we are treated] like children." Rabbah explains its origin in two verses that the Torah uses to describe God's protection of the Israelites as they left Egypt. When they were a young people and needed God's close attention and protection, God (apparently complimenting them) treated them as if they were older and more mature, sending only a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. However, later in the story, when they presumably needed less help and guidance, a more protective angel was nonetheless sent to guard them on the way.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Israel's Last Judge 1 Samuel 1-8
     Teacher's Commentary

     Samuel, Israel's last, greatest judge, was also a prophet (1 Samuel 3:20) and a priest (1 Samuel 9:12–13). In his old age he served as God's adviser to Israel's first king, Saul. Samuel anointed Israel's greatest king, David.

     Together the two Books of Samuel cover the history of Israel from the last quarter of the 12th century B.C. to the first quarter of the 10th. They explain Israel's transition from loosely associated tribes led by local judges to a unified nation led by kings.

     The Book of 1 Samuel can be outlined as the story of two men, though the biblical focus soon shifts from the flawed Saul to his more godly successor.

     First and 2 Samuel are rich sources of familiar stories. But even more important, they are a source of many lessons that can be directly applied to the lives of children, youth, and adults.

     Samuel's Early Life: 1 Samuel 1–3

     The right to be bitter (1 Samuel 1:1–20). Like many of us, Hannah was sure that she had the right to be bitter.

     Life hadn't been fair to her. And every day, painful irritants reminded Hannah of her complaint.

     Hannah was one of two wives of a man named Elkanah. The other wife, Peninnah, had children. But Hannah had none.

     In ancient Israel, children were more than important: they were symbols of fulfillment. In Hannah's case her childlessness was a double burden. "Her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her" (1 Samuel:1:6).

     Year after year when Elkanah took his family to Shiloh to worship at the tabernacle there, Hannah met her family and friends—still childless. There her constant pain peaked, and she could hardly bear her fate. We can understand why Hannah felt bitter. She was denied something she wanted desperately.

     Hannah's childlessness had at least two tragic effects. First, it colored her whole outlook on life. The Bible says that she was bitter. She wept often, and would not eat. She was "downhearted." And in her prayer to God, Hannah spoke of her condition as "misery." How tragic when we are so burdened that we're unable to experience the simple joys that enrich our lives.

     Hannah's depression was so great that she could not even recognize evidences of the grace of God. Hannah had no child. But she had a husband who loved her and who was sympathetic. We can sense Elkanah's love in his words encouraging Hannah to eat: "Don't I mean more to you than 10 sons?" So often when we feel bitter and downcast we too are unable to sense, in the good gifts God has given us, evidences of His love and grace.

     Hannah's perspective was so totally colored by her personal tragedy that she could not sense the beauty, the good, or grace with which God infuses every believer's life.

     Finally, in her bitterness, Hannah took two vital steps. First, she took her bitterness to God. And second, in prayer she began to reorder priorities. Hannah made a commitment to dedicate the son she prayed for to the Lord. She no longer wanted a child just for herself. She began to look beyond her own needs, and to envision the good that meeting her need might do for others.

     Hannah's prayer was a desperate one, so heartfelt that her lips moved, even though she was praying in her heart (1 Samuel 1:13). The high priest at the time, Eli, thought she was drunk and rebuked her. When she explained that she was praying out her anguish and grief, Eli blessed her and Hannah went away with a strange assurance. We read that she ate, and "her face was no longer downcast" (1 Samuel 1:18). That prayer of Hannah's was answered: she conceived and bore a child whom she named Samuel. A child who would grow up to become one of the most significant of all Bible characters.

     Praise for answered prayer (1 Samuel 1:21–2:10). When Samuel was weaned, which according to custom would have been about age three, he was taken to Shiloh and presented to Eli. Hannah told how she prayed for this child, and now he was given to the Lord for lifetime service.

     It must have been painful for Hannah to leave Samuel. But Hannah's prayer, recorded in chapter 2, is a prayer of pure joy.

     Perhaps even more significant, it is a prayer that shows a deep awareness of who God is. Hannah acknowledged God as holy (1 Samuel 2:2), as One who knows and weighs human deeds (1 Samuel 2:3). Hannah saw Him as the One who satisfies the needy (1 Samuel 2:5), who is Master of life and death, of poverty and wealth (1 Samuel 2:6). Her sense of the power and glory of God is summed up beautifully in these verses:

     For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's; upon them He has set the world. He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. --- 1 Samuel 2:8–10

     What a tremendous reorientation! The same Hannah who was so bitter and downcast that she could not even sense God's grace now saw the Lord clearly. In fact, she was able to praise God in a situation which some might expect would throw her back into despair—the loss of the very child she had prayed for!

     What was so different? Hannah now was able to look beyond herself and her own needs. She could sense God's love now, and trust Him. And she could sense the future that God had for this first child she loved so deeply. Because Hannah truly had given her son to the Lord, she trusted God to care for him and to give him a fulfilling life.

     The story of Hannah and Elkanah concludes with a single paragraph. Each year the two returned to the tabernacle to worship, bringing Samuel new clothes. But they did not come alone. God had opened Hannah's womb, and she bore three additional sons and two daughters.

     What a wonderful reminder. It is impossible for us to out give God.

     As for Samuel, the boy ministered before the Lord and was cared for by Eli the priest.

     Eli's family failures (1 Samuel 2:12–36). While Eli himself was a dedicated and righteous man, his sons "had no regard for the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:12). This passage catalogs their sins as both ritual and moral. Ritually they violated regulations in the Law concerning the sacrifices that signified God's acceptance of sinners. In this they treated the Lord's offering with contempt, a very great sin in God's sight. Morally they were just as corrupt, quick to commit adultery, and ready to use violence as were the people that, as priests, they were called to serve.

     While Eli rebuked his sons, they paid no attention. And Eli did no more than rebuke them. He did not even strip them of their priesthood, the least he might have done. As a result God sent a prophet to announce His judgment. The prophet outlined a series of tragic events that would take place "because you scorn My sacrifice and offering" and "honor your sons more than Me" (1 Samuel 2:29). No one in Eli's family line would grow old: his descendants would die in the prime of life. In the place of Eli and his line God would raise up "a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in My heart and mind" (1 Samuel 2:35).

     Ultimately that faithful Priest is Jesus, who fulfills in Himself all that the Old Testament priesthood merely signified. In the immediate context Samuel, whose primary role was as a judge and prophet, did serve as a priest. And in the course of history the high priestly role was shifted from Eli's family line to another branch of Aaron's family (cf. 1 Kings 2:27, 35).

     Samuel's call (1 Sam. 3:1–21). One of the most familiar of all children's stories is told in this chapter. Samuel heard a voice that he mistook as Eli's. Each time he ran to the old priest, he was told to go back to bed. Finally Eli realized that God was speaking to Samuel, and told Samuel that if the voice called again, he was to say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."

     Usually children are not told Samuel's message. For that message is a dark one. God told Samuel that the judgment of which He had warned Eli was coming soon. This was in fact a prediction of the future: a prediction which when announced by Samuel and fulfilled, marked him as a prophet, one who would speak God's message to His people. The passage observes that God continued to reveal Himself to Samuel, and that as Samuel grew up He "let none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Samuel 3:19). This phrase simply means that everything that Samuel foretold came true. As a result, Samuel was recognized as a prophet of God.


The Teacher's Commentary

History
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     An important component of the Hebrew Scriptures is the set of histories that trace the great events of Israel’s sacred and not so sacred past (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1–2 Samuel, 1–2 Kings, 1–2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah). Writing in this vein continued in early Judaism. The most prominent example is 1 Maccabees. It is likely that the work was written in Hebrew. It presents a historical review of the period from Alexander the Great to the death of the Hasmonean Simon (from the late fourth century to 134 B.C.E.), but it covers the first centuries of this period in a few sentences and concentrates its attention on the approximately thirty years from about 175 to 134. The author is an advocate of the Hasmonean family, beginning with Mattathias, who sounded the call to revolt against the policies of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and continuing with his sons Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, who led the nation in its struggle for the right to practice their traditional religion and to freedom from foreign rule. At first they led forces that were opposed to the suppression of ancestral religious practices and to the desecration of the Temple. After regaining the Temple Mount from Seleucid and renegade Jewish control, they purified the Temple and inaugurated the festival of Hanukkah to commemorate the event (it lasts eight days, beginning on 9/25). After Judas died in battle, leadership of the Hasmonean forces fell to Jonathan, who, in 152 B.C.E., was appointed the high priest. He held the office until his capture and death in 142, when his brother Simon assumed the leadership and the high priesthood. Simon was killed in 134, and the book ends with a notice about the reign of his son John Hyrcanus I. Despite its strong pro-Hasmonean bias, the book is a profoundly important history for the period covered. The author quotes official documents and offers a careful chronology of events. The book was written no later than 104 B.C.E. (the death of John Hyrcanus); it was translated into Greek and became a part of the Greek Bible (it is in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles today but is considered apocryphal by Protestants and Jews).

     The other major histories of the period that are extant are Josephus’ War and Antiquities, although, as indicated above, they were not written in Judea. War is primarily an account of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 C.E.) with a long prologue beginning just before Hasmonean times. Antiquities begins with the scriptural stories (from the beginning of Genesis) and follows them to the end (Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah material) before continuing with events until Josephus’ own time. His coverage of large parts of the post-Hebrew Bible period is sketchy because of inadequate source material, but he offers extensive accounts from the Hasmonean period to the mid-first century C.E. and is often the only source of information about these times.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 11

     Let him who walks in the dark,… trust in the name of the LORD. --- Isaiah 50:10.

     Why should we trust God at such times? (Twelve RS Thomas for the troubled and tried (Charles H. Spurgeon Library) ) If you do not trust him now, you will have cause to suspect whether you ever did trust him at all. When your children were about you, and you were healthy, honored, and prospering, you said, “I have faith in God.” Was it faith if it departs from you now that your children are buried and your home is desolate and you yourself are sick and old and poor? Was it faith in God at all? Was it only a cheerfulness that arose out of your surroundings? Fair-weather faith is a poor imitation of the real grace. I entreat you to be stalwart, for if you cannot do so, your strength is small, and your faith is questionable.

     Do remember one thing more, that you and I, in times of darkness, may well trust in God, that he will not fail us, for our blessed Lord and Master was not spared the blackest midnight that ever fell on human mind, and he was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Do you expect that you will be treated better than the Head of the house?

     What will come of it if we do trust in God in the dark?

     In the first place, such a faith will glorify God. The cherubim and seraphim glorify God with their endless songs, but not more than a poor downcast soul can do when in its distress it casts itself on God alone.

     It is true that very likely through this darkness of yours you will be humbled. Walking in darkness and seeing no light, you will form a very low idea of yourself, and this will be a superior blessing.

     If you can trust God in your trial, you will prove and enjoy the power of prayer. The person who has never needed to pray cannot tell whether there is anything in prayer or not.

     If in your darkness you will go to God and trust him, you will become an established Christian. Faith will make your nights the fruitful mothers of brighter days.

     And let me close by saying that by and by we will come out into greater light than we have as yet hoped for.

     Therefore be of good cheer, O you people of God who walk in darkness, for you will have a full reward.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     The New Rome  May 11

     Early Christianity developed several centers of gravity. The first was Rome, home of Catholic Christianity (and from it, Protestantism). Another came to be Constantinople, source of the Eastern or Orthodox branches of the church.

     Constantinople was born in 324 when Emperor Constantine, believing the future lay in the East rather than the West, decided to move his capital from Rome to Byzantium, a site on the eastern flank of Europe, astride the Bosporus. He led his aides, engineers, and priests on a march around its harbor and hills, tracing the boundaries of his envisioned capital. He imported thousands of workers and artisans to build its walls, buildings, palaces, squares, streets, and porticoes. He placed sculptures in the parks and fountains in the forums. Before long there was a fabulous hippodrome, a prized university, five imperial palaces, nine palaces for dignitaries, 4,388 mansions, 322 streets, 1,000 shops, 100 places of amusement, splendid baths, magnificent churches, and a swelling population. It was a city that shimmered in the sunshine.

     The New Rome was dedicated as capital of the Eastern Empire on May 11, 330. Paganism was officially ended, Christianity was embraced, and the bishop (or patriarch) of Constantinople rivaled the bishop of Rome. Here the world’s most beautiful church was built—the Church of Holy Wisdom, St. Sophia.

     For 1,000 years, Constantinople preserved the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire). Christianity moved along parallel tracks, Catholic and Orthodox. The pope and the patriarch rivaled each other, then rejected each other. The greatest division in Christianity was not the Reformation in 1517, splitting Catholics from Protestants, but the Great Schism in 1054, splitting apart the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. From Constantinople came great Eastern Orthodox families of the church, such as the Russian and Greek Orthodox traditions.

     In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. The Church of St. Sophia was converted to a mosque, then to a museum. Constantinople is now called Istanbul, and Turkey, once the bastion of Christianity, is the largest “unreached” nation on earth.

     All of you nations, come praise the LORD! Let everyone praise him. His love for us is wonderful; His faithfulness never ends. Shout praises to the LORD!
--- Psalm 117:1,2.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 11

     “I am with you alway.”
Matthew 28:20.

     It is well there is One who is ever the same, and who is ever with us. It is well there is one stable rock amidst the billows of the sea of life. O my soul, set not thine affections upon rusting, moth-eaten, decaying treasures, but set thine heart upon him who abides for ever faithful to thee. Build not thine house upon the moving quicksands of a deceitful world, but found thy hopes upon this rock, which, amid descending rain and roaring floods, shall stand immovably secure. My soul, I charge thee, lay up thy treasure in the only secure cabinet; store thy jewels where thou canst never lose them. Put thine all in Christ; set all thine affections on his person, all thy hope in his merit, all thy trust in his efficacious blood, all thy joy in his presence, and so thou mayest laugh at loss, and defy destruction. Remember that all the flowers in the world’s garden fade by turns, and the day cometh when nothing will be left but the black, cold earth. Death’s black extinguisher must soon put out thy candle. Oh! how sweet to have sunlight when the candle is gone! The dark flood must soon roll between thee and all thou hast; then wed thine heart to him who will never leave thee; trust thyself with him who will go with thee through the black and surging current of death’s stream, and who will land thee safely on the celestial shore, and make thee sit with him in heavenly places for ever. Go, sorrowing son of affliction, tell thy secrets to the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother. Trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him, even “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” “Lo, I am with you alway,” is enough for my soul to live upon, let who will forsake me.


          Evening - May 11

     “Only be thou strong and very courageous.”
Joshua 1:7.

     Our God’s tender love for his servants makes him concerned for the state of their inward feelings. He desires them to be of good courage. Some esteem it a small thing for a believer to be vexed with doubts and fears, but God thinks not so. From this text it is plain that our Master would not have us entangled with fears. He would have us without carefulness, without doubt, without cowardice. Our Master does not think so lightly of our unbelief as we do. When we are desponding we are subject to a grievous malady, not to be trifled with, but to be carried at once to the beloved Physician. Our Lord loveth not to see our countenance sad. It was a law of Ahasuerus that no one should come into the king’s court dressed in mourning: this is not the law of the King of kings, for we may come mourning as we are; but still he would have us put off the spirit of heaviness, and put on the garment of praise, for there is much reason to rejoice. The Christian man ought to be of a courageous spirit, in order that he may glorify the Lord by enduring trials in an heroic manner. If he be fearful and fainthearted, it will dishonour his God. Besides, what a bad example it is. This disease of doubtfulness and discouragement is an epidemic which soon spreads amongst the Lord’s flock. One downcast believer makes twenty souls sad. Moreover, unless your courage is kept up Satan will be too much for you. Let your spirit be joyful in God your Saviour, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength, and no fiend of hell shall make headway against you: but cowardice throws down the banner. Moreover, labour is light to a man of cheerful spirit; and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing in his God, believing with all his heart, has success guaranteed. He who sows in hope shall reap in joy; therefore, dear reader, “be thou strong, and very courageous.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 11

          CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS

     Matthew Bridges, 1800–1894 and Godfrey Thring, 1823–1903

     His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns … He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. (Revelation 19:12, 13)

     Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity and the exaltation of humanity.
--- Phillips Brooks

     The One who bore the crown of thorns while on the cross is now crowned with “many crowns” as the reigning monarch of heaven. Each crown in this hymn text exalts Christ for some specific aspect of His person or ministry: Stanza one for His eternal Kingship; stanza two for His love demonstrated in redemptive suffering; stanza three for His victorious resurrection and ascension; stanza four as a member of the Triune Godhead ever worthy of worship and praise.

     This worshipful text is the combined effort of two distinguished Anglican clergymen, each of whom desired to write a hymn of exaltation to our suffering but now victorious Lord. Matthew Bridges’ version first appeared in 1851 with six stanzas. Twenty-three years later Godfrey Thring wrote six additional stanzas, which appeared in his collection Hymns and Sacred Lyrics. The hymn’s present form includes stanzas one, two, and four by Bridges and the third verse by Thring. The tune, “Diademata” (the Greek word for crowns), was composed especially for this text by George Elvey, a noted organist at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, where British royalty often attend.

     Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne: Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns all music but its own! Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee, and hail Him as thy matchless King thru all eternity.

     Crown Him the Lord of love: Behold His hands and side—rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified; no angel in the sky can fully bear that sight, but downward bends his wond’ring eye at mysteries so bright.

     Crown Him the Lord of life: Who triumphed o’er the grave, who rose victorious to the strife for those He came to save; His glories now we sing, who died and rose on high, who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die.
     Crown Him the Lord of heav’n: One with the Father known; One with the Spirit thru Him giv’n from yonder glorious throne. To Thee be endless praise, for Thou for us hast died; be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days adored and magnified.

     For Today: Romans 14:9; Hebrews 2:7–10; Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:11–14; 19:1.

     Let your soul rejoice in the truth that you are related to the One “who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die.” Worship and praise Him even now with these musical lines ---

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. XXI. — NOR is this part of your advice, or your remedy, to any purpose, where you say — “It is lawful to speak the truth but it is not expedient, either before every one, or at all times, or in every manner.” And ridiculously enough, you adduce Paul, where he says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” — (1 Cor. vi. 12.)

     But Paul does not there speak of teaching doctrine or the truth; as you would confound his words, and twist them which way you please. On the contrary, he will have the truth spoken every where, at all times, and in every manner. So that he even rejoices that Christ is preached even through envy and strife. Nay, he declares in plain words, that he rejoices, let Christ be preached in any way. (Phil. i. 15-18.).

     Paul is speaking of facts, and the use of doctrine: that is, of those, who, seeking their own, had no consideration of the hurt and offence given to the weak. Truth and doctrine, are to be preached always, openly, and firmly, and are never to be dissembled or concealed; for there is no offence in them; they are the staff of uprightness. — And who gave you the power, or committed to you, the right, of confining the Christian doctrine to persons, places, times, and causes, when Christ wills it to be proclaimed, and to reign freely, throughout the world? For Paul saith, “the Word of God is not bound,” (2 Tim. ii. 9,) but Erasmus bounds the word. Nor did God give us the word that it should be had with respect of places, persons, or times: for Christ saith, “Go ye out into the whole world,”: He does not say, as Erasmus does, — go to this place and not to that. Again, “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark xvi. 15.) He does not say — preach it to some and not to others. In a word, you enjoin, in the administration of the word of God, a respect of persons, a respect of places, a respect of customs, and a respect of times: whereas, the one and especial part of the glory of the word consists in this, — that, as Paul saith, there is, with it, no respect of persons; and that God is no respecter of persons. You see therefore, again, how rashly you run against the Word of God, as though you preferred far before it, your own counsel and cogitations.

     Hence, if we should demand of you that you would determine for us, the times in which, the persons to whom, and the manner in which, the truth is to be spoken, when would you come to an end? The world would sooner compute the termination of time and its own end, than you would settle upon any one certain rule. In the meantime, where would remain the duty of teaching? Where that of teaching the soul? And how could you, who know nothing of the nature of persons, times, and manner, determine upon any rule at all? And even if you should know them perfectly, yet you could not know the hearts of men. Unless, with you, the manner, the time, and the person be this: — teaching the truth so, that the Pope be not indignant, Caesar be not enraged, and that many be not offended and made worse! But what kind of counsel this is, you have seen above. — I have thus rhetorically figured away in these vain words, lest you should appear to have said nothing at all.

     How much better is it for us wretched men to ascribe unto God, who knoweth the hearts of all men, the glory of determining the manner in which, the persons to whom, and the times in which the truth is to be spoken. For He knows what is to be spoken to each, and when, and how it is to be spoken. He then, determines that His Gospel which is necessary unto all, should be confined to no place, no time; but that it should be preached unto all, at all times and in all places. And I have already proved, that those things which are handed down to us in the Scriptures, are such, that they are quite plain and wholesome, and of necessity to be proclaimed abroad; even as you yourself determined in your Paraclesis was right to be done; and that, with much more wisdom than you advise now. But let those who would not that souls should be redeemed, such as the Pope and his adherents — let it be left to them to bind the Word of God, and hinder men from life and the kingdom of heaven, that they might neither enter in themselves nor suffer others to enter: — to whose fury you, Erasmus, by this advice of yours, are perniciously subservient.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


OT Studies I Lecture 01

Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary





Where to Stand When All Is Shaking

John Piper | Desiring God






Ask R.C. Sproul Live

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The Truth Divides

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Post-Christian Christianity

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OT Studies I Lecture 02

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The Transforming Power of the Gospel

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The Necessity of the Atonement

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The End & Purpose of the World

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No Compromise, No Surrender

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OT Studies I Lecture 03

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OT Studies I Lecture 04

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OT Studies I Lecture 05

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OT Studies I Lecture 06

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OT Studies I Lecture 07

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OT Studies I Lecture 08

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OT Studies I Lecture 09

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