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5/13/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Numbers 22     Psalm 62-63     Isaiah 11-12     James 5


Numbers 22

Balak Summons Balaam

Numbers 22:1 Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. 2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. 4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. 8 And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’ ” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

15 Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’ ” 18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. 19 So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.” 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

Balaam’s Donkey and the Angel

22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” 35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” 39 Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him.

41 And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people.


Psalm 62

My Soul Waits for God Alone

Psalm 62 To The Choirmaster: According To Jeduthun. A Psalm Of David.

1  For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4  They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah

5  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6  He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7  On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8  Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

9  Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
10  Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11  Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12  and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.

     Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LXXVIII, 12.… One of the common people said to R. Hoshaya; If I tell you a good thing, will you repeat it in public in my name? What is it? asked he. All the gifts which the Patriarch Jacob made to Esau, replied he, the heathens will return them to the Messiah in the Messianic era. What is the proof? The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall return tribute (Ps. LXXII, 10): it does not say, shall bring, but shall return. By thy life! he exclaimed, thou hast said a good thing, and I will teach it in thy name. Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia: Hananeel House, 1998), Ps 62:9.


Psalm 63

My Soul Thirsts for You

Psalm 63 A Psalm Of David, When He Was In The Wilderness Of Judah.

1  O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3  Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4  So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

5  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6  when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7  for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8  My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9  But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10  they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11  But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.


Isaiah 11

The Righteous Reign of the Branch

Isaiah 11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2  And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3  And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4  but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5  Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

6  The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7  The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9  They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

12  He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
13  The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
14  But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,
and together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
15  And the LORD will utterly destroy
the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching breath,
and strike it into seven channels,
and he will lead people across in sandals.
16  And there will be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that remains of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.


Isaiah 12

The LORD Is My Strength and My Song

Isaiah 12 1  You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

2  “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.

5  “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6  Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”


James 5

Warning to the Rich

James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Patience in Suffering

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

You Can Defeat Distraction

By David Mathis 5/11/2017

     By all accounts, we seem to be the most distracted civilization in the history of the world. We are increasingly fragmented in our attention and relentlessly pulled away from many of the basics that make us human.

     The trouble is especially pressing for Christians. We believe that the inner person is more important than the outer, and that where we focus our minds and hearts today counts forever. The very essence of what we believe to be true about the world hangs on where we direct our attention.

     In such a day, it is of growing importance that we acknowledge we really can direct our attention. We are not defenseless in our chaotic surroundings. We are not animals. Our minds are on a leash we hold. You really can control your thoughts.

     The Holy Spirit is in the ministry of producing in us self-control. As Martin Luther so memorably said, you may not be able to keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.

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David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Silence Is the Enemy of Love Plea from a Christian Jew

By John Piper 5/10/2017

     I came to Avi Synder’s new book, Jews Don't Need Jesus. . .and other Misconceptions: Reflections of a Jewish Believer, with a deep desire to say something fresh about this important topic. Now that I have read it, that desire burns even more.

     Before I knew this book was being published, I had said to the content team at Desiring God, “I want us to do more for the cause of Jewish evangelism.” I had been stirred again with this burden. And now all the more.

     Only a Jewish person with a deep love for his people could have written this book. I say that not only because of the personal empathy that abounds in its pages, but also because only a Jewish person could see so clearly the objections raised against sharing the message of Jesus Christ. This means that the book is emotionally and intellectually tuned in to the post-Holocaust, pluralistic world — especially in the West.

     Eighteen Objections Answered | “The God who saved us through our faith in Jesus is the God who deepens Jewish identity through that same faith.” Tweet Share on Facebook Avi Snyder has experienced at least eighteen objections to Jewish and Gentile efforts to win Jewish people to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. I say “experienced,” rather than merely “heard,” because he speaks from inside real relationships, where these objections are deeply felt. He writes insightful, biblical, personal answers to each objection.

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Who is John Piper?    Click here

      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books:

Cognitive biases don’t explain religion, after all

By Connor Wood 5/11/2017

     If you’re familiar with the cognitive science of religion, then you’ve probably heard the term “hyperactive agency detection device,” or HADD. The HADD is one of today’s most popular explanations for why people believe in God or gods. It proposes that the human brain is equipped with a hair-trigger mechanism that perceives personhood – that is, intentions and purposes – everywhere in the world. This mechanism is why you see faces in campfire flames or jump when you hear a twig crack in the woods. According to the HADD hypothesis, these perceptions are the reason for human beliefs in gods and spirits – and, hence, the cognitive foundation for religiosity itself. But religiosity is a often lot more than seeing faces in clouds or campfires. It’s also ritualstextsmoral codescommunity, and funny hats. So, really, how much of religion boils down to cognitive biases for detecting agency? According to new research from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the answer might be “not much.”

     These two countries are uniquely excellent case studies for why some people become religious and others don’t. For decades after World War I, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were united as one country, called – truly, an inspired leap of human imagination – Czechoslovakia. Today, the two countries are close neighbors and E.U. members with a great deal of shared history, but with one crucial difference: the Slovakian population is highly religious and churchgoing, while the Czech Republic is one of the world’s most atheistic countries. This unique situation offers a stellar opportunity to test hypotheses in the cognitive science of religion about why people become religious, since so many other important demographic variables are naturally controlled for.

     If, you know, someone wanted to do that.

     Fortunately, somebody did. Scooping everybody else in the cognitive science of religion, psychologist Aiyana Willard and economist Lubomír Cingl recently decided to take advantage of the cultural and historical similarity of the Czech Republic and Slovakia to test which theories best explained why the former was so much more secular than the latter. They gathered data through an online marketing platform, eventually surveying more than 1,000 residents in each of the two countries, or more than 2,000 total. (That’s a lot of people, especially considering that many psychology studies use only around 60 participants, or 30 each in a two-condition design.)*

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Connor Wood

The Making of a Modern Pharisee

By Marshall Segal 5/10/2017

     We are all born legalists, but we are made into Pharisees.

     Spurgeon once preached, “Beloved, the legalist [in us] is a great deal older than the Christian. If I were a legalist today, I should be some fifteen or sixteen years older than I am as a Christian; for we are all born legalists.”

     We are all born believing we can earn and deserve heaven. We are born resisting the idea of grace, mostly because of the awful things grace says about us. John Piper defines legalism as “the conviction that law-keeping is the ground for our acceptance with God — a failure to be amazed at grace.”

     Pharisees are legalists, but not the newborn kind. They have all the same fears about grace, but they have coated their insecurities with accumulated knowledge, morality, and religion. Pharisees are legalists who are puffed up (1 Corinthians 8:1). They look educated, clean, and alive, all while dying inside. The seeds of sin and death keep growing and spreading underneath the confident appearances and practices, always harder and harder to cover up.

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Marshall Segal is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye have a son and live in Minneapolis.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 49

Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
49 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Ssons Of Korah.

10 For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
12 Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah

ESV Study Bible

Numbers 22; Psalms 62-63; Isaiah 11-12; James 5

By Don Carson 5/13/2018

     Recently I Was Phoned By a man who told me he wanted to put me on a retainer as his private theologian. Then, when he phoned or wrote again, I would try to answer his questions.

     I did not bother asking what figure he had in mind. Nor do I want to question his motives: he may well have meant to help me or even honor me, or simply to pay his way. But knowing how easily my own motives can be corrupted, I told him that I could not possibly enter into that sort of arrangement with him. Preachers should not see themselves as being paid for what they do. Rather, they are supported by the people of God so that they are free to serve. If he wrote or called and asked questions, I would happily do my best to answer, using the criteria I use for whether or not I answer the countless numbers of questions I receive each year.

     Numbers 22 begins the account of Balaam. His checkered life teaches us much, but the lesson that stands out in this first chapter is how dangerous it is for a preacher, or a prophet, to sacrifice independence on the altar of material prosperity. Sooner or later a love of money will corrupt ministry.

     That Balaam was a prophet of God shows that there were still people around who retained some genuine knowledge of the one true God. The call of Abraham and the rise of the Israelite nation do not mean that there were no others who knew the one sovereign Creator: witness Melchizedek (Gen. 14). Moreover, Balaam clearly enjoyed some powerful prophetic gift: on occasion he spoke genuine oracles from God. He knew enough about this mysterious gift to grasp that it could not be turned on and off, and that if he was transmitting a genuine oracle he himself could not control its content. He could speak only what God gave him to say.

     But that did not stop him from lusting after Balak’s offer of money. Balak saw Balaam as some sort of semi-magical character akin to a voodoo practitioner, someone to come and put a curse on the hated Israelites. God unambiguously forbids Balaam to go with Balak, for he has blessed the people Balak wants cursed. Balaam nags God; God relents and lets Balaam go, but only on condition that he does only what God tells him (22:20). At the same time, God stands against Balaam in judgment, for his going is driven by a greedy heart. Only the miraculous incident with the donkey instills sufficient fear in him that he will indeed guard his tongue (22:32-38).

     Never stoop to become a peddler of the Word of God.

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

Don Carson Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     20. Their moroseness and pride proceed even to greater lengths. Refusing to acknowledge any church that is not pure from the minutest blemish, they take offence at sound teachers for exhorting believers to make progress, and so teaching them to groan during their whole lives under the burden of sin, and flee for pardon. For they preten [530] that in this way believers are led away from perfection. I admit that we are not to labour feebly or coldly in urging perfection, far less to desist from urging it; but I hold that it is a device of the devil to fill our minds with a confident belief of it while we are still in our course. Accordingly, in the Creed forgiveness of sins is appropriately subjoined to belief as to the Church, because none obtain forgiveness but those who are citizens, and of the household of the Church, as we read in the Prophet (Is. 33:24). The first place, therefore, should be given to the building of the heavenly Jerusalem, in which God afterwards is pleased to wipe away the iniquity of all who betake themselves to it. I say, however, that the Church must first be built; not that there can be any church without forgiveness of sins, but because the Lord has not promised his mercy save in the communion of saints. Therefore, our first entrance into the Church and the kingdom of God is by forgiveness of sins, without which we have no covenant nor union with God. For thus he speaks by the Prophet, "In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle, out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies" (Hos. 2:18, 19). We see in what way the Lord reconciles us to himself by his mercy. So in another passage, where he foretells that the people whom he had scattered in anger will again be gathered together, "I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me" (Jer. 33:8). Wherefore, our initiation into the fellowship of the Church is, by the symbol of ablution, to teach us that we have no admission into the family of God, unless by his goodness our impurities are previously washed away.

21. Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them. Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and therefore they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ's merits, and the sanctification of the Spirit.

22. To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; [531] but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers. This Paul teaches, when he says that the embassy of reconciliation has been committed to the ministers of the Church, that they may ever and anon in the name of Christ exhort the people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore, in the communion of saints our sins are constantly forgiven by the ministry of the Church, when presbyters or bishops, to whom the office has been committed, confirm pious consciences, in the hope of pardon and forgiveness by the promises of the gospel, and that as well in public as in private, as the case requires. For there are many who, from their infirmity, stand in need of special pacification, and Paul declares that he testified of the grace of Christ not only in the public assembly, but from house to house, reminding each individually of the doctrine of salvation (Acts 20:20, 21). Three things are here to be observed. First, Whatever be the holiness which the children of God possess, it is always under the condition, that so long as they dwell in a mortal body, they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place.

23. But since those frantic spirits of whom I have spoken attempt to rob the Church of this the only anchor of salvation, consciences must be more firmly strengthened against this pestilential opinion. The Novatians, in ancient times, agitated the Churches with this dogma, but in our day, not unlike the Novatians are some of the Anabaptists, who have fallen into the same delirious dreams. For they pretend that in baptism, the people of God are regenerated to a pure and angelical life, which is not polluted by any carnal defilements. But if a man sin after baptism, they leave him nothing except the inexorable judgment of God. In short, to the sinner who has lapsed after receiving grace they give no hope of pardon, because they admit no other forgiveness of sins save that by which we are first regenerated. But although no falsehood is more clearly refuted by Scripture, yet as these men find means of imposition (as Novatus also of old had very many followers), let us briefly show how much they rave, to the destruction both of themselves and others. In the first place, since by the command of our Lord the saints daily repeat this prayer, "Forgive us our debts" (Mt. 6:12), they confess that they are debtors. Nor do they ask in vain; for the Lord has only enjoined them to ask what he will give. Nay, while he has declared that the whole prayer will be heard by his Father, he has sealed this absolution with a peculiar promise. What more do we wish? The Lord requires of his saints confession of sins during their whole lives, and that without ceasing, and promises pardon. How presumptuous, then, to exempt them from sin, or when they have stumbled, to exclude them altogether from grace? Then whom does he enjoin us to pardon seventy and seven times? Is it not our brethren? (Mt. 18:22) And why has he so enjoined but that we may imitate his clemency? He therefore pardons not once or twice only, but as often as, under a sense of our faults, we feel alarmed, and sighing call upon him.

24. And to begin almost with the very first commencement of the Church: the Patriarchs had been circumcised, admitted to a participation in the covenant, and doubtless instructed by their father's care in righteousness and integrity, when they conspired to commit fratricide. The crime was one which the most abandoned robbers would have abominated. [532] At length, softened by the remonstrances of Judah, they sold him; this also was intolerable cruelty. Simeon and Levi took a nefarious revenge on the sons of Sychem, one, too, condemned by the judgment of their father. Reuben, with execrable lust, defiled his father's bed. Judah, when seeking to commit whoredom, sinned against the law of nature with his daughter-in-law. But so far are they from being expunged from the chosen people, that they are rather raised to be its heads. What, moreover, of David? when on the throne of righteousness, with what iniquity did he make way for blind lust, by the shedding of innocent blood? He had already been regenerated, and, as one of the regenerated, received distinguished approbation from the Lord. But he perpetrated a crime at which even the Gentiles would have been horrified, and yet obtained pardon. And not to dwell on special examples, all the promises of divine mercy extant in the Law and the Prophets are so many proofs that the Lord is ready to forgive the offences of his people. For why does Moses promise a future period, when the people who had fallen into rebellion should return to the Lord? "Then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee" (Deut. 30:3).

25. But I am unwilling to begin an enumeration which never could be finished. The prophetical books are filled with similar promises, offering mercy to a people covered with innumerable transgressions. What crime is more heinous than rebellion? It is styled divorce between God and the Church, and yet, by his goodness, it is surmounted. They say, "If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again unto me, saith the Lord." "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever" (Jer. 3:1, 12). And surely he could not have a different feeling who declares, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth;" "Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (Ezek. 18:23, 32). Accordingly, when Solomon dedicated the temple, one of the uses for which it was destined was, that prayers offered up for the pardon of sins might there be heard. "If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive unto the land of the enemy, far or near; yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies which led them away captive, and pray unto thee towards their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling-place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee" (1 Kings 8:46-50). Nor in vain in the Law did God ordain a daily sacrifice for sins. Had he not foreseen that his people were constantly to labour under the disease of sin, he never would have appointed these remedies.

26. Did the advent of Christ, by which the fulness of grace was displayed, deprive believers of this privilege of supplicating for the pardon of their sins? If they offended against the Lord, were they not to obtain any mercy? What were it but to say that Christ came not for the salvation, but for the destruction of his people, if the divine indulgence in pardoning sin, which was constantly provided for the saints under the Old Testament, is now declared to have been taken away? But if we give credit to the Scriptures, when distinctly proclaiming that in Christ alone the grace and loving-kindness of the Lord have fully appeared, the riches of his mercy been poured out, reconciliation between God and man accomplished (Tit. 2:11; 3:4; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10), let us not doubt that the clemency of our heavenly Father, instead of being cut off or curtailed, is in much greater exuberance. Nor are proofs of this wanting. Peter, who had heard our Saviour declare that he who did not confess his name before men would be denied before the angels of God, denied him thrice in one night, and not without execration; yet he is not denied pardon (Mark 8:38). Those who lived disorderly among the Thessalonians, though chastised, are still invited to repentance (2 Thess. 3:6). Not even is Simon Magus thrown into despair. He is rather told to hope, since Peter invites him to have recourse to prayer (Acts 8:22).

27. What shall we say to the fact, that occasionally whole churches have been implicated in the grossest sins, and yet Paul, instead of giving them over to destruction, rather mercifully extricated them? The defection of the Galatians was no trivial fault; the Corinthians were still less excusable, the iniquities prevailing among them being more numerous and not less heinous, yet neither are excluded from the mercy of the Lord. Nay, the very persons who had sinned above others in uncleanness and fornication are expressly invited to repentance. The covenant of the Lord remains, and ever will remain, inviolable, that covenant which he solemnly ratified with Christ the true Solomon, and his members, in these words: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him" (Ps. 89:30-33). In short, by the very arrangement of the Creed, we are reminded that forgiveness of sins always resides in the Church of Christ, for after the Church is as it were constituted, forgiveness of sins is subjoined.

28. Some persons who have somewhat more discernment, seeing that the dogma of Novatus is so clearly refuted in Scripture, do not make every fault unpardonable, but that voluntary transgression of the Law into which a man falls knowingly and willingly. Those who speak thus allow pardon to those sins only that have been committed through ignorance. But since the Lord has in the Law ordered some sacrifices to be offered in expiation of the voluntary sins of believers, and others to redeem sins of ignorance (Lev. 4), how perverse is it to concede no expiation to a voluntary sin? I hold nothing to be more plain, than that the one sacrifice of Christ avails to remit the voluntary sins of believers, the Lord having attested this by carnal sacrifices as emblems. Then how is David, who was so well instructed in the Law, to be excused by ignorance? Did David, who was daily punishing it in others, not know how heinous a crime murder and adultery was? Did the patriarchs deem fratricide a lawful act? Had the Corinthians made so little proficiency as to imagine that God was pleased with lasciviousness, impurity, whoredom, hatred, and strife? Was Peter, after being so carefully warned, ignorant how heinous it was to forswear his Master? Therefore, let us not by our malice shut the door against the divine mercy, when so benignly manifested.

29. I am not unaware, that by the sins which are daily forgiven to believers, ancient writers have understood the lighter errors which creep in through the infirmity of the flesh, while they thought that the formal repentance which was then exacted for more heinous crimes was no more to be repeated than Baptism. This opinion is not to be viewed as if they wished to plunge those into despair who had fallen from their first repentance, or to extenuate those errors as if they were of no account before God. For they knew that the saints often stumble through unbelief, that superfluous oaths occasionally escape them, that they sometimes boil with anger, nay, break out into open invectives, and labour, besides, under other evils, which are in no slight degree offensive to the Lord; but they so called them to distinguish them from public crimes, which came under the cognisance of the Church, and produced much scandal. [533] The great difficulty they had in pardoning those who had done something that called for ecclesiastical animadversion, was not because they thought it difficult to obtain pardon from the Lord, but by this severity they wished to deter others from rushing precipitately into crimes, which, by their demerit, would alienate them from the communion of the Church. Still the word of the Lord, which here ought to be our only rule, certainly prescribes greater moderation, since it teaches that the rigour of discipline must not be stretched so far as to overwhelm with grief the individual for whose benefit it should specially be designed (2 Cor. 2:7), as we have above discoursed at greater length.

__________________________________________________________________

[517] 103 D103 Here Calvin provides a basis for the concept, "the invisible Church." The term "invisible" refers to the fact that a knowledge of those who are truly members of Christ's body is known to God alone and cannot with certainty be ascertained by men (except for themselves, through their effectual calling). (see also section 7)

[518] 104 D104 Here Calvin employs the term, "the visible Church." (He also calls it "the external Church" in the first sentence of section 3). The expression, "visible Church" refers to the Church as it is seen by the eyes of fallible men. From this standpoint, since only the Lord "knows them that are His," it is possible to have (and sometimes discover) deceived persons and hypocrites in the church--those who are not truly members of Christ's body. This mixed state of affairs forms part of the warrant for Church discipline. (see also section 7)

[519] 105 D105 In this section (7), Calvin specifically distinguishes between the invisible and the visible Church (note first line for term "visible"). The invisible Church is the Church as it really is before God; the visible Church is the Church as it appears to man.

[520] 106 D106 Here Calvin enumerates the criteria by which we are to judge who are to be acknowledged as members of the visible Church. The presence of these criteria does not, of course, give us full certainty as to who are members of Christ's body, the invisible church (such certainty rests with God alone); but the absence of them leaves us with no bases upon which to judge who are to be regarded as members of the visible Church.

[521] 107 D107 Here Calvin distinguishes between the Church universal (the visible church throughout the world), and local churches and individuals (the visible Church manifested in particular places).

[522] French, "Pour donner exemple, s'il advenoit qu'une Eglise tint que les ames etant separées des corps fussent transferés au ciel incontinent: une autre, sans oser determiner du lieu pens't semplement qu'elles vivent en Dieu: et que telle diversité fut sans contention et sans opiniatreté pourquoy se diviseroient elles d'ensemble?"--To give an example, should one church happen to hold that the soul when separated from the body is forthwith transported to heaven, and should another, without venturing to determine the place, simply think that it lives in God, and should such diversity be without contention and obstinacy, why should they be divided?

[523] French, "La doctrine principale de nostre salut;"--the fundamental doctrine of our salvation.

[524] French, "Et aussi que demeurant en icelle nous ne troublions point la police ni la discipline;"--and also that, remaining in it, we disturb not its order and discipline.

[525] French. "Comme s'ils eussent ete quelques anges de Paradis;"--as if they had bean some angels of Paradise.

[526] l Cor. 1:11; 3:3; 5:l; 6:7; 9:l; 15:12.

[527] French, "Toutesfois Sainct Paul recognoissoit entre eux quelque Eglise;"--yet St Paul recognised some church among them.

[528] See Calvin, Lib. de Coena Domini; item, Instructio adv. Anabapt.

[529] 108 D108 Calvin here asserts that, in all ages, there has been a Church, and that this Church will continue until the final consummation of all things. This emphasis, of course, does not agree with the view that God dealt with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, but now deals with the Church; nor does it comport with the view that Old Testament believers cannot be said to have been in the Church, since the Church began at Pentecost. Calvin views believers of all ages and dispensations as members of Christ's Church.

[530] Latin, "Jactant."--French, "Ces grands correcteurs leur reprochent;"--those great reformers upbraid them.

[531] French, "Ce n'a pas eté seulement afin qu'ils deliassent ceux qui si convertiroient alla foy Christienne, et qu'ils fissent cela pour une fois."--It was not only that they might loose those who should be converted to the Christian faith, and that they should do so once for all

[532] Gen. 37:18, 28; 34:25; 35:22; 38:16; 2 Sam 11:4, 15; xii 13.

[533] French, "Ils usoient de cette maniere de parler afin de mettre difference autre les fautes privees, et les crimes publiques qui emportoient grands scandales en l'Eglise."--They used this manner of speech, in order to make a difference between private faults and the public crimes which brought great scandals into the Church.

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



  • ... with All Your Mind
  • Clothed in Righteousness
  • Defending the Faith

#1 R.C. Sproul   Ligonier

 

#2 R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

 

#3 R.C. Sproul | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2008    Paradise Now and Then

     The movie Paradise Now is the 2005 Golden Globe winner for best foreign-language film. Although I have not yet seen the film, I have been intrigued by the film’s title since it’s release. The story follows two Palestinian childhood friends who were recruits for Islamic suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, Israel. The story focuses on what would be their last days together. The film’s title appropriately points out one of the more conspicuous mantras of Muslims whose appetite for paradise is manifested by means of destruction. They want paradise now, and some will do everything in their power to help usher in Mohammed’s promised paradise on earth. For the Muslim, paradise comes at the expense of the death of many, for the Christian it comes at the expense of the death of one (Rom. 5:15).

     Jesus promised paradise to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), and He has promised paradise to us (Rev. 2:7). Just as the thief recognized his destitute condition, so we cannot enter paradise until we first recognize that we cannot enter it by our own power. Our problem is twofold: First, because we have such a low estimation of how destitute we are, we have too high an estimation of our own strength in attaining paradise. Second, because we have such a high regard for this life, we have a low expectation of paradise; thus, we do not long for the promised paradise as we should. John Calvin said it this way: “Whatever glory we must subtract from the sinful love of life, we may add to the desire of a better world…. It should be the purpose of believers, then, when they estimate this mortal life, that they understand that, as it is, it is nothing but misery. For only then will they try diligently and with increasing cheerfulness and readiness to meditate on the future eternal life.”

     Christ has inaugurated His ministry of regaining paradise, and He will continue in that ministry at the right hand of the Father until He returns and establishes the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21). Our paradise now is the spiritual reality that we are already glorified and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:20), and our paradise to come is physical reality wherein the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes as we worship Him coram Deo.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The first settlers to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World landed in Jamestown, Virginia, this day, May 13, 1607. Many of the one hundred colonists sent out by the London Company died of hunger, malaria, exposure or were killed by Indians. When their minister died, they wrote: "In memory of the Reverend Robert Hunt… During his life our factions were ofte healed, and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his… death. We all received from him… Holy Communion… as a pledge of reconciliation."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

If you don't know what's meant by God,
watch a forsythia branch
or a lettuce leaf sprout.
--- Martin H. Fischer
1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom

God: a disease we imagine we are cured of
because no one dies of it nowadays.
--- E.M. Cioran, 1973
The Trouble with Being Born

It does not take great men to do great things; it only takes consecrated men.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893 : Memories of his Life, with Extracts from His Letters and Note-Books

All that I have seen teaches me to trust the creator in all that I have not seen.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     The Fifth Chapter / The Dignity Of The Sacrament And Of The Priesthood

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     HAD you the purity of an angel and the sanctity of St. John the Baptist, you would not be worthy to receive or administer this Sacrament. It is not because of any human meriting that a man consecrates and administers the Sacrament of Christ, and receives the Bread of Angels for his food. Great is the Mystery and great the dignity of priests to whom is given that which has not been granted the angels. For priests alone, rightly ordained in the Church, have power to celebrate Mass and consecrate the Body of Christ.

     The priest, indeed, is the minister of God, using the word of God according to His command and appointment. God, moreover, is there—the chief Author and invisible Worker to Whom all is subject as He wills, to Whom all are obedient as He commands.

     In this most excellent Sacrament, therefore, you ought to believe in God rather than in your own senses or in any visible sign, and thus, with fear and reverence draw near to such a work as this. Look to yourself and see whose ministry has been given you through the imposition of the bishop’s hands.

     Behold, you have been made a priest, consecrated to celebrate Mass! See to it now that you offer sacrifice to God faithfully and devoutly at proper times, and that you conduct yourself blamelessly. You have not made your burden lighter. Instead, you are now bound by stricter discipline and held to more perfect sanctity.

     A priest ought to be adorned with all virtues and show the example of a good life to others. His way lies not among the vulgar and common habits of men but with the angels in heaven and the perfect men on earth. A priest clad in the sacred vestments acts in Christ’s place, that he may pray to God both for himself and for all people in a suppliant and humble manner. He has before and behind him the sign of the Lord’s cross that he may always remember the Passion of Christ. It is before him, on the chasuble, that he may look closely upon the footsteps of Christ and try to follow them fervently. It is behind him—he is signed with it—that he may gladly suffer for God any adversities inflicted by others.

     He wears the cross before him that he may mourn his own sins, behind him, that in pity he may mourn the sins of others, and know that he is appointed to stand between God and the sinner, never to become weary of prayer and the holy offering until it is granted him to obtain grace and mercy.

     When the priest celebrates Mass, he honors God, gladdens the angels, strengthens the Church, helps the living, brings rest to the departed, and wins for himself a share in all good things.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine, and what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that. Do not expect Christ to give a bit of strength here, and a bit of blessing yonder, and a bit of help over there. As the vine does its work in giving its own peculiar sap to the branch, so expect Christ to give His own Holy Spirit into your heart, and then you will bear much fruit. And if you have only begun to bear fruit, and are listening to the word of Christ in the parable, "more fruit," "much fruit," remember that in order that you should bear more fruit you just require more of Jesus in your life and heart.

     We ministers of the Gospel, how we are in danger of getting into a condition of work, work, work! And we pray over it, but the freshness and buoyancy and joy of the heavenly life are not always present. Let us seek to understand that the life of the branch is a life of much fruit, because it is a life rooted in Christ, the living, heavenly Vine.

     Close Communion

     And fourth, the life of the branch is a life of close communion.

     Let us again ask: What has the branch to do? You know that precious, inexhaustible word that Christ used: Abide. Your life is to be an abiding life. And how is the abiding to be? It is to be just like the branch in the vine, abiding every minute of the day. There are the branches, in close communion, in unbroken communion, with the vine, from January to December. And cannot I live every day--it is to me an almost terrible thing that we should ask the question--cannot I live in abiding communion with the heavenly Vine?

     You say: "But I am so much occupied with other things."

     You may have ten hours' hard work daily, during which your brain has to be occupied with temporal things; God orders it so. But the abiding work is the work of the heart, not of the brain, the work of the heart clinging to and resting in Jesus, a work in which the Holy Spirit links us to Christ Jesus. Oh, do believe that deeper down than the brain, deep down in the inner life, you can abide in Christ, so that every moment you are free the consciousness will come:

     "Blessed Jesus, I am still in Thee."

     If you will learn for a time to put aside other work and to get into this abiding contact with the heavenly Vine, you will find that fruit will come.

     What is the application to our life of this abiding communion? What does it mean?

     It means close fellowship with Christ in secret prayer. I am sure there are Christians who do long for the higher life, and who sometimes have got a great blessing, and have at times found a great inflow of heavenly joy and a great outflow of heavenly gladness; and yet after a time it has passed away. They have not understood that close personal actual communion with Christ is an absolute necessity for daily life. Take time to be alone with Christ. Nothing in Heaven or earth can free you from the necessity for that, if you are to be happy and holy Christians.

     Oh! how many Christians look upon it as a burden and a tax, and a duty, and a difficulty to be often alone with God! That is the great hindrance to our Christian life everywhere. We need more quiet fellowship with God, and I tell you in the name of the heavenly Vine that you cannot be healthy branches, branches into which the heavenly sap can flow, unless you take plenty of time for communion with God. If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and to give Him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with Him. Let every heart say: "O, Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose." And He will gladly give it to you.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:29-30
     by D.H. Stern

29     A violent man lures his neighbor astray
and leads him into evil ways.

30     One who winks knowingly is planning deceit;
one who pinches his lips together has already done wrong.


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

                The habit of a good conscience

     A conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. ---
Acts 24:16.

     God’s commands are given to the life of His Son in us, consequently to the human nature in which His Son has been formed, His commands are difficult, but immediately we obey they become divinely easy.

     Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest that I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do. It is the eye of the soul which looks out either towards God or towards what it regards as the highest, and therefore conscience records differently in different people. If I am in the habit of steadily facing myself with God, my conscience will always introduce God’s perfect law and indicate what I should do. The point is, will I obey? I have to make an effort to keep my conscience so sensitive that I walk without offence. I should be living in such perfect sympathy with God’s Son, that in every circumstance the spirit of my mind is renewed, and I ‘make out’ at once “what is that good, and acceptable and perfect, will of God.”

     God always educates us down to the scruple. Is my ear so keen to hear the tiniest whisper of the Spirit that I know what I should do? “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.” He does not come with a voice like thunder; His voice is so gentle that it is easy to ignore it. The one thing that keeps the conscience sensitive to Him is the continual habit of being open to God on the inside. When there is any debate, quit. ‘Why shouldn’t I do this?’ You are on the wrong track. There is no debate possible when conscience speaks. At your peril, you allow one thing to obscure your inner communion with God. Drop it, whatever it is, and see that you keep your inner vision clear.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Because
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


          Because

I praise you because I envy your ability to
  See these things -- the blind hands
  Of the aged combing sunlight
  For pity; the starved fox and
  The obese pet; the way the world
  Digests itself, and a thin flame
  Scours. The youth enters
  The brothel, the girl enters
  The nunnery, and a bell tolls.
  Viruses invade the blood.
  On the smudged empires the dust
  Lies, and in the libraries
  Of the poets. The flowers wither
  On love's grave. This is what
  Life is, and on it your eye sets
  Tearless, and the dark
  Is dear to you as the light.

Pieta

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Bava Batra 9a

     D’RASH

     On a practical level, "Should a vessel that was used for holy be used for everyday?" has been interpreted to refer to any object that is used for sacred purposes. Our Jewish tradition considers it improper to use this sacred object afterwards for secular or mundane purposes. Thus, the bag used to hold a tallit or a pair of tefillin in it, while only cloth and of no true ritual value (as opposed to the tallit and tefillin themselves, which do have religious significance) would nonetheless not be used afterwards for a secular purpose. Once the object attains a degree of sanctity, by holding tallit or tefillin, it retains that holiness.

     Of course, we can apply the rule that a vessel used for holy should not be used for everyday on a metaphoric level as well. We accord the president of the United States a certain degree of honor and deference even after having left office. For example, a former chief executive of the country is still referred to as "Mr. President," as a sign of respect. Similarly, on an organizational level, a president or committee chairperson is given a degree of honor that should follow them throughout life. We may at times forget this, causing hard feelings, since one grows accustomed to the honor and glory that goes with a public office. A person who retires should receive the same honor that was given during tenure, if not more. A retired professor or rabbi is given the title "emeritus" as a symbol of this honor.

     Even in an area as commonplace as baseball, we do not entirely "throw out" the old players just because they no longer throw out batters. Most teams have an annual "Old Timers Day," where those who used to be great are accorded the status and homage that once was theirs. Many hold on to the tassel that once adorned their graduation mortarboard not only as a reminder but also as a symbol: This tassel was used for a special day and is a reminder of that time. It should not be discarded or used for a routine purpose but should be saved, retaining some of its special status.

     We live in a very informal world. The sacred is indeed rare. Yet those objects—and especially those people—who achieve a degree of honor and sanctity should not lose their status, because a vessel that was used for holy should not be used for everyday.

     One who causes others to do is greater than one who does.

     Text / Rabbi Elazar said: "One who causes others to do is greater than one who does, as it says: 'For the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, calm and confidence forever' [Isaiah 32:17]. If he is deserving, 'It is to share your bread with the hungry' [Isaiah 58:7], if he is not deserving, 'and to take the wretched poor into your home' [ibid.]." Rava said to the people of Maḥoza: "I beg of you: Act towards one another so that you will have good relations with the government." Rabbi Elazar also said: "When the Temple stood, a man weighed out his shekel and atoned. Now that the Temple no longer stands, if they do acts of charity, good; but if not, the nations of the world come and take them forcibly. Even so, it is seen as charity, as it says: 'Prosperity as your officials' [Isaiah 60:17]."

     Context / For the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, calm and confidence forever. Then my people shall dwell in peaceful homes, In secure dwellings,
In untroubled places of rest. --- (Isaiah 32:17–18).

  Context / Is such the fast I desire,
  A day for men to starve their bodies?
  Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
  And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
  Do you call that a fast,
  A day when the Lord is favorable?
  No, this is the fast I desire:
  To unlock fetters of wickedness,
  And untie the cords of the yoke
  To let the oppressed go free;
  To break off every yoke.
  It is to share your bread with the hungry,
  And to take the wretched poor into your home;
  When you see the naked, to clothe him,
  And not to ignore your own kin. --- (Isaiah 58:5–7)
  Whereas you have been forsaken,
  Rejected, with none passing through,
  I will make you a pride everlasting,
  A joy for age after age.
  You shall suck the milk of the nations,
  Suckle at royal breasts.
  And you shall know
  That I the Lord am your Savior,
  I, the Mighty One of Jacob, am your Redeemer.
  Instead of copper I will bring gold,
  Instead of iron I will bring silver;

  Instead of wood, copper;
  And instead of stone, iron.
  And I will appoint Well-being as your government,
  Prosperity as your officials. --- (Isaiah 60:15–17)

     Rabbi Elazar's idea is fairly straightforward: There are people who themselves do good, and there are people who cause others to do good. The former are praiseworthy, but the latter are much more exemplary. However, much of the proof for Rabbi Elazar's axiom is through a Midrash based on Hebrew words in the biblical text. Rabbi Elazar's axiom speaks of "the one who causes others to do." This long English phrase is actually only one word in Hebrew, ha-measeh, an intensive verb. One who "causes others to do" is greater than one who simple does. Rabbi Elazar connects his idea with the verse from Isaiah 32 using a word play. In Isaiah, "the work of righteousness" is, in Hebrew, ma'aseh tzedakah. Rabbi Elazar associates the two words with the same Hebrew root, measeh, meaning "the doer" and ma'aseh, meaning "the work," since they have the same Hebrew letters, though with different vowels.

     The verse from Isaiah is then introduced to show that if you are fortunate enough to have money and if you do good to others, then "it is to share your bread with the hungry." If you do not help others voluntarily and out of conviction, then you will have to "take the wretched poor into your home." The "wretched poor" may refer either to the needy themselves or to the government's tax collectors who will come and take your money from you.

     Rava reinforces this idea by asking the residents of Maḥoza, a town on the Tigris River in Babylonia, to help themselves out, for if they do not, the government will step in and will take care of their needy for them. Rabbi Elazar is quoted again to reiterate the point. When the Temple stood, people could give directly to the kohanim. This was measeh, an intensive and thoughtful act of giving. Rabbi Elazar offers two forms of consolation. First, to those who cannot give directly to the Temple, he teaches that their voluntary contributions to the poor are still considered positive acts of charity. And he offers comfort even to those whom the government forces to give and help others: Their helping is still considered tzedakah, translated as both charity and prosperity, as Isaiah says: "Tzedakah/Prosperity as your officials." Even the government's forcibly taking your money and distributing it to the poor is considered an act of tzedakah.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Luke 19:41–24:53 / The Price
     Teacher's Commentary

     Luke has marshaled his evidence and argued his case. He has demonstrated the right of the Man Jesus to our allegiance as Son of God. And he has carefully shown how those who choose to believe must make another choice as well: the choice of commitment to be disciples. Luke has shown us how to be disciples, and the many benefits of discipleship.

     Finally, Luke is about to look at price. No, not the cost of discipleship, but at two other terrible costs. First there is the cost of rejecting Jesus. Luke wants us to understand the nature, motive, and the futility of a rejection which will cost human beings everything (Luke 19:42–21:4).

     Second, there is the cost to Jesus of the new life He came to bring you and me. In the final chapters of his Gospel Luke told the story of the Cross. What Luke emphasized is the fact that Jesus remained in full control as event followed event, leading directly to His death. We need to grasp the fact that while rejecting Jesus will cost us everything, our salvation cost Jesus everything (Luke 22–23).

     But the story does not end with the price. It ends, in Luke's report of the third day, with the prize! (Luke 24) Resurrection. Resurrection for Jesus. And resurrection for you and me!

     Why do people reject Jesus? Why do believers hold back, and refuse to commit themselves to Him as Lord? As we probe these next chapters of Luke, we begin to better understand the tragedy.

     Whatever the motive an individual may have, the decision to reject Jesus is a terrible tragedy. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and the destruction that would inevitably come to the city (Luke 19:41–47). But those tears were no sign of weakness. Immediately Jesus entered the temple, and there expelled again those who defiled God's house. Jesus cared, and pitied the sinner. But Jesus, the Judge of all the earth, is also committed to do right.

     The cost of rejection is judgment, and destruction is sure.

     Rejection: Luke 19:41–20:44 / The nature of rejection (Luke 19:47–20:8). In the temple, day after day, Jesus confronted the chief priests, the scribes (experts in the Law), and the other rulers of His nation (Luke 19:47). These were men who claimed divine authority to govern and to rule. So they challenged Jesus' authority. "By what right do You act?" (See Luke 20:1–2.)

     Jesus responded with a question about John the Baptist. Was he from God, or was his ministry merely human? Those who claimed such authority were silenced. They feared the people, and finally said, "We don't know" (Luke 20:7).

     What a picture! Men who pretended to speak with divine authority, forced by fear of the people they led to deny their own claim. With grand contempt, Jesus turned from them. "Then I will not answer your question" (Luke 20:8).

     What had happened here? The authority of Jesus (who had clearly demonstrated His power through miracles and had openly claimed to be the Son of God) was being challenged. It is this very thing, the questioning of God's authority and the attempt to set up our own authorities (each of which is ultimately forced to make the chief priest's disclaimer) that is at the root of rejection.

     When we own Christ as Lord, when we willingly subject ourselves to His will, we have found the only possible antidote to rejection. We can admit no other authority than God, and must respond to rather than question His Word.

     Rejection's motive (Luke 20:9–18). But why should people try to set up their own authorities rather than submit to God? The Parable of the Tenant Farmers explains. They killed the heir to the vineyard, thinking, "Then it will be ours." The motive for rejecting Christ is the desire to play, and be our own, God.

     Lucifer became Satan when he rejected the authority of God and determined to raise his own throne above the throne of God (Isaiah 14:13). Sin in us constantly throbs out the same message: I, not God, must control.

     Yet how empty such usurped authority is. We may claim it by rejecting God's authority over us, but when we try to reach any of our life goals, we will be forced to admit, just as the chief priests were, "I can't." How empty it is to insist on our own way, and then discover that apart from Jesus Christ's enablement we can do nothing!

     And how dangerous it is to challenge God's authority. Portraying Himself as the Cornerstone, Jesus warned, "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust" (Luke 20:18, NASB).

     Humanity may rush to challenge God. But such men will be broken or utterly crushed. Whatever they may claim in their rebellion, Jesus is still Lord and God.

     The futility of rejection (Luke 20:19–44). It's fully human to believe that somehow we are still able to make it on our own, that we really are strong enough even to challenge God's authority.

     Men from two groups that opposed Jesus came to challenge Him. Each relied on his group's strengths. And in each case, the strength proved a weakness.

     The chief priests and scribes (Luke 20:19–26) prided themselves on their ability to adapt to changing political and social conditions. They had survived various foreign occupations; now they prospered under Roman occupation as well. Their watchword was compromise. These men had noted Christ's unwillingness to compromise. And so they felt that their strength (their "flexibility") might be used to trap this Man of principle.

     Now, the people of Judea were totally antagonistic to Roman rule, and particularly resented the taxes they paid to these Gentile oppressors. If Jesus spoke against taxes, the leaders could report Him to the government and be sure of quick action. If Jesus spoke for taxes, He would surely lose influence with the people. So when these men raised the question of paying taxes they were sure they could not lose!

     It did not go as they expected. Jesus asked for a coin (He didn't even have one in His own purse!). He looked at it, asked whose features were stamped on the coin, and told them bluntly, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

     Jesus had not compromised.

     Instead He had shown His questioners that their supposed strength was really their weakness. In their willingness to be "flexible" they had surrendered what was rightfully God's—their total dedication—in exchange for Caesar's gift of their position, and for monetary gain.

     The Sadducees tried next. These "liberals" prided themselves on their freedom from dead literalism. So they challenged Jesus, who had shown such respect for the Scriptures, to show up His "unenlightened" position. They asked Him about resurrection—something they themselves did not believe in.

     Jesus responded, arguing from the tense of verb (God is rather than God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) that these men are alive, and not dead.

     Then, when Jesus asked them a question in return (vv. 41–44), these men hurried away. Jesus could answer His challengers, but they could not answer Him.

     How we need to realize that, whatever the strength we rely on spiritually, it will be our weakness too. Are we intelligent? Do we rely on our intelligence to guide us through life, rather than seeking God's guidance and direction? This is rejection of God—and our strength when exalted above God will surely be our downfall.

     Are we naturally warm and loving? Do we rely on our capacity to love, rather than on asking God to shed His love through our lives? Then we can be sure that our natural emotional responsiveness to people will betray us. We will love unwisely, sentimentally, and make choices that will harm both us and others.

     You see, we human beings are not really strong in anything! Only as we submit totally to God's authority; only as we surrender as disciples to His control, can we become the new people we should be.

     Rejection, then, is at heart questioning God's authority, motivated by a desire to have what should be His—control of our own lives.

     And this rejection, this claim of our right to control, is utterly futile. It is futile, for apart from Christ even our strengths become weaknesses, and life proves over and over again that apart from Him we can do nothing.

     Now, Jesus Christ must have control over our lives. We must give Him control or, in that area in which we demand the right to run our own lives, we will not be disciples.

     And we will not be transformed.


The Teacher's Commentary

Wisdom Literature
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     A major sapiential work, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, was written in Hebrew (more than half of which has been recovered) at some time in the early second century B.C.E. The lengthy book (51 chapters) stands in the tradition of Proverbs, offering wise teachings on a range of practical issues. It marks an additional step in the sapiential tradition by teaching that the place where wisdom is to be found is in the Law of Moses (see also Bar. 3:9–4:4) and that the essence of wise behavior is to fear God. Ben Sira also differs from earlier wisdom literature by surveying Israel’s history and the divine guidance in it. The Hebrew work was rendered into Greek by the author’s grandson, whose preface explains the situation, purpose, and time of the translation.

     A second example of a wisdom text is 4QInstruction, a work represented in several copies among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q415–418, 423; 1Q26). It offers prudent instructions to a younger person on familiar topics, but it also has characteristics which distinguish it from its predecessors in the wisdom tradition. One expression that appears a number of times is “the secret of what is/will be”—apparently meaning the secret teaching about the true character of the creation and of history. The work also incorporates eschatological teachings into a wisdom work.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 13

     He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas. --- Psalm 78:15.

     Whenever the Almighty satisfies his creatures, he gives them drink as abundant as the seas. (Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) ) Think of the Bible—an ancient book and yet intensely modern and practical. Think of the ages that have gone since it was written; think of the life we [now] live and of the stress and strain unknown in the quiet East; to me it is wonderful that the Bible should be of any use at all now and not have moved into the quiet of libraries to be the joy of the unworldly scholar.

     But one thing is certain—the Bible meets the need of modern life. As a practical guide there is no book to touch it. There is not a problem you are called to face and not a duty you are called to do, there is not a cross you are compelled to carry and not a burden you are forced to bear but your strength for it all will be as the strength of ten—if you make a daily companion of your Bible.

     The Bible never offers a drink from shallow waters. There, you do not find a set of petty maxims, but the everlasting love of God; you do not find any shallow views of sin, but a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And that is the secret of the Bible’s permanence—when our little systems have ceased to be, for sin and sorrow and life and death and duty, it gives us drink “as abundant as the seas.”

     Think of Jesus in relation to his words. If ever words were as water to a thirsty world, surely it was the words that Jesus spoke. How simple they were and yet how deep! How tender and full of love and yet how searching! There are those whose lives so contradict their words that when you know the people you cannot listen to them. And there are those who are so much less than their own words that when you come to know them you are disappointed. But what people felt about Jesus Christ was this, that when all was uttered, the half was never told, for at the back of all his words there was himself, deeper unfathomably than his deepest speech. That is why the words of Christ will live even when heaven and earth have passed away. You can exhaust the cup or drain the goblet, but you cannot exhaust the spring fed from the deeps. And just because the words of Jesus Christ spring from the depths of that divine humanity, they will save and strengthen the obedient heart to the last recorded syllable of time.
--- George H. Morrison


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

On This Day
     The Boy Preacher  May 13

     Fifteen-year-old David Marks, eyes blurred with tears, left home with a dollar in his pocket to preach the Gospel. The “boy preacher” soon created a stir in the American northeast, and he kept going for the next 25 years. He rode one horse 19,000 miles, preached to thousands, organized churches throughout New England, published books, wrote articles, taught school, and worked diligently in opposition to slavery and in support of foreign missions. Then he died from sheer exhaustion at age 40.

     Just before sunset on May 13, 1828, Marks rode into the little town of Ancaster, Ontario, announcing he would preach in seven minutes in the park. A small crowd gathered, and he asked if anyone had a text he would like to hear preached. A man mockingly said, “Nothing!”

     Marks immediately began preaching on “nothing.” God created the world from “nothing,” he said. God gave us laws in which there is “nothing” unjust. But, Marks continued, we have broken God’s law and there is “nothing” in us to justify us. There will be “nothing” to comfort sinners in death or hell. But, while Christians have “nothing” of their own in which to boast, we have Christ. And in him, we have “nothing” to cause us grief, “nothing” to disturb our peace, and “nothing” to fear in eternity.

     Finishing his sermon, Marks mounted his horse and traveled to the next village. But some time later he returned to Ancaster. This time a larger group assembled, and the meeting house was opened to him. David preached “something” to them. He said there is “something” above all things. There is “something” in man designed to live forever, but there is also “something” in us that makes us unhappy. There is “something” about the Gospel that reverses our unhappiness, “something” that gives us hope. There is “something” that will disturb the impenitent in death, but “something” resides in Christians that the world can’t understand, and “something” in eternity to give us everlasting joy.

     All that from an uneducated young circuit rider, his mind filled with Scripture and his heart full of Christ, who had “something” to say—and “nothing” to fear.

     I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love. … Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!
--- Romans 8:38,39.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 13

     “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the Morning.”
Psalm 30:5.

     Christian! If thou art in a night of trial, think of the morrow; cheer up thy heart with the thought of the coming of thy Lord. Be patient, for

     “Lo! He comes with clouds descending.”

     Be patient! The Husbandman waits until he reaps his harvest. Be patient; for you know who has said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” If you are never so wretched now, remember

     “A few more rolling suns, at most,
     Will land thee on fair Canaan’s coast.”


     Thy head may be crowned with thorny troubles now, but it shall wear a starry crown ere long; thy hand may be filled with cares—it shall sweep the strings of the harp of heaven soon. Thy garments may be soiled with dust now; they shall be white by-and-by. Wait a little longer. Ah! how despicable our troubles and trials will seem when we look back upon them! Looking at them here in the prospect, they seem immense; but when we get to heaven we shall then

     “With transporting joys recount,
     The labours of our feet.”


     Our trials will then seem light and momentary afflictions. Let us go on boldly; if the night be never so dark, the Morning cometh, which is more than they can say who are shut up in the darkness of hell. Do you know what it is thus to live on the future—to live on expectation—to antedate heaven? Happy believer, to have so sure, so comforting a hope. It may be all dark now, but it will soon be light; it may be all trial now, but it will soon be all happiness. What matters it though “weeping may endure for a night,” when “joy cometh in the Morning?”


          Evening - May 13

     “Thou art my portion, O Lord.”
Psalm 119:57.

     Look at thy possessions, O believer, and compare thy portion with the lot of thy fellowmen. Some of them have their portion in the field; they are rich, and their harvests yield them a golden increase; but what are harvests compared with thy God, who is the God of harvests? What are bursting granaries compared with him, who is the Husbandman, and feeds thee with the bread of heaven? Some have their portion in the city; their wealth is abundant, and flows to them in constant streams, until they become a very reservoir of gold; but what is gold compared with thy God? Thou couldst not live on it; thy spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Put it on a troubled conscience, and could it allay its pangs? Apply it to a desponding heart, and see if it could stay a solitary groan, or give one grief the less? But thou hast God, and in him thou hast more than gold or riches ever could buy. Some have their portion in that which most men love—applause and fame; but ask thyself, is not thy God more to thee than that? What if a myriad clarions should be loud in thine applause, would this prepare thee to pass the Jordan, or cheer thee in prospect of judgment? No, there are griefs in life which wealth cannot alleviate; and there is the deep need of a dying hour, for which no riches can provide. But when thou hast God for thy portion, thou hast more than all else put together. In him every want is met, whether in life or in death. With God for thy portion thou art rich indeed, for he will supply thy need, comfort thy heart, assuage thy grief, guide thy steps, be with thee in the dark valley, and then take thee home, to enjoy him as thy portion for ever. “I have enough,” said Esau; this is the best thing a worldly man can say, but Jacob replies, “I have all things,” which is a note too high for carnal minds.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 13

          HAIL, THOU ONCE DESPISED JESUS!

     John Bakewell, 1721–1819

     He [God] raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20, 21)

     The author of this worshipful and strongly doctrinal hymn text presents a vivid contrast between the shame and suffering of Christ’s earthly life and the greatness of His eternal glorification. We must never forget that the infant Jesus has moved on to take His place as the reigning Lord. Often at Christmas we become very sentimental about His lowly birth, or at Easter saddened as we recall His suffering and death. Sometimes our emphasis upon Christ’s earthly ministry causes us to lose sight of His eternal deity. The Bible reminds us that “because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24, 25).

     John Bakewell was a zealous lay evangelist who was associated with the Wesleyan movement during the mid 1700’s. Something of the character of this man is indicated by the tribute on his tombstone in a grave site located in the same area where John Wesley is buried in London, England:

     Sacred to the memory of John Bakewell, who departed this life March 18, 1819, age 98. He adorned the doctrine of God, our Savior, and preached His glorious Gospel about 70 years. “The memory of the just is blessed.”

     -----

     Hail, Thou once despised Jesus! Hail, Thou Galilean King! Thou didst suffer to release us; Thou didst free salvation bring. Hail, Thou agonizing Savior, bearer of our sin and shame! By Thy merits we find favor; life is given through Thy name.
     Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory, there forever to abide; all the heavenly hosts adore Thee, seated at Thy Father’s side: There for sinners Thou art pleading; there Thou dost our place prepare, ever for us interceding till in glory we appear.
     Worship, honor pow’r and blessing Thou art worthy to receive; loudest praises, without ceasing, meet it is for us to give. Help, ye bright angelic spirits, bring your sweetest, noblest lays; help to sing our Savior’s merits; help to chant Immanuel’s praise!


     For Today: Isaiah 53:3–6; Luke 24:26; Ephesians 1:18–22; Revelation 5:6–14.

     Lift your heart to the One who was slain but now liveth again—our Savior evermore. And because of His unchanging priesthood, He is ever accessible to us through prayer. Worship Him 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. XXIII. — IN the last part of your Preface, where you deter us from this kind of doctrine, you think your victory is almost gained.

     “What (you say) can be more useless than that this paradox should be proclaimed openly to the world — that whatever is done by us, is not done by Free-will, but from mere necessity. And that of Augustine also — that God works in us both good and evil: that He rewards His good works in us, and punishes His evil works in us.” (You are mightily copious here in giving, or rather, in expostulating concerning a reason.) “What a flood-gate of iniquity (you say) would these things, publicly proclaimed, open unto men! What bad man would amend his life! Who would believe that he was loved of God! Who would war against his flesh!”

     I wonder, that in so great vehemency, and contending zeal, you did not remember our main subject, and say — where then would be found “Free-will.”

     My friend, Erasmus! here, again, I also say, if you consider that these paradoxes are the inventions of men, why do you contend against them? Why are you so enraged? Against whom do you rail? Is there any man in the world, at this day, who has inveighed more vehemently against the doctrines of men, than Luther! This admonition of yours, therefore, is nothing to me! But if you believe that those paradoxes are the words of God, where is your countenance, where is your shame, where is, I will not say your modesty, but that fear of, and that reverence which is due to the true God, when you say, that nothing is more useless to be proclaimed than that Word of God! What! shall your Creator, come to learn of you His creature, what is useful, and what not useful to be preached? What! did that foolish and unwise God, know not what is necessary to be taught, until you His instructor prescribed to Him the measure, according to which He should be wise, and according to which He should command? What! did He not know before you told Him, that that which you infer would be the consequence of this His paradox? If, therefore, God willed that such things should be spoken of and proclaimed abroad, without regarding what would follow, — who art thou that forbiddest it?

     The apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, discourses on these same things, not “in a corner,” but in public and before the whole world, and that with a freely open mouth, nay in the harshest terms, saying, “whom He will He hardeneth.” (Rom. ix. 18.) And again, “God, willing to shew forth His wrath,” &c. (Rom ix. 22.) What is more severe, that is to the flesh, than that word of Christ “Many are called but few chosen?” (Matt. xxii. 14.) And again, “I know whom I have chosen?” (John xiii. 18.) According to your judgment then, all these things are such, that nothing can be more uselessly spoken; because that by these things, impious men may fall into desperation, hatred, and blasphemy.

     Here then, I see, you suppose that the truth and the utility of the Scripture are to be weighed and judged of according to the opinion of men, nay, of men the most impious; so that, what pleases them or seems bearable, should be deemed true, divine, and wholesome: and what has the contrary effect upon them, should at once be deemed useless, false, and pernicious. What else do you mean by all this, than that the words of God should depend on, stand on, and fall by, the will and authority of men? Whereas the Scripture, on the contrary saith, that all things stand and fall by the will and authority of God: and in a word, that “all the earth keeps silence before the face of the Lord.” (Hab. ii. 20.) He who could talk as you do, must imagine that the living God is nothing but a kind of trifling and inconsiderate pettifogger declaiming on a certain rostrum, whose words you may if you be disposed, interpret, understand, and refute as you please, because He merely spoke as He saw a set of impious men to be moved and affected.

     Here you plainly discover how much your advice above, — ‘that the majesty of the judgments of God should be reverenced,’ — was from your heart! There, when we were speaking of the doctrines of the Scripture only, where there was no need of reverencing things abstruse and hidden, because there were no such doctrines, you awed us, in the most religious terms, with the darkness of the Corycian cavern, lest we should rush forward with too much curiosity; so that, by the awe, you well nigh frightened us from reading the Scriptures altogether; (to the reading of which Christ and His apostles urge and persuade us, as well as you do yourself elsewhere.) But here, where we are come not to the doctrines of the Scripture, nor to the Corycian cavern only, but to the very, and greatly to be reverenced secrets of the divine Majesty, viz., why He works thus? — here, as they say, you burst open all bars and rush in; all but, openly blaspheming! What indignation against God do you not discover, because you cannot see His reason why, and His design in this His counsel! Why do you not here frame, as an excuse, obscurity and ambiguity? Why do you not restrain yourself, and deter others from prying into these things which God wills should be hidden from us, and which He has not delivered to us in the Scriptures? It is here the hand is to be laid upon the mouth, it is here we are to reverence what lies hidden, to adore the secret counsels of the divine Majesty, and to exclaim with Paul, “Who art thou, O man, that contendest with God?” (Rom. ix. 20.)


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


Balaam's Blunders

Numbers 22-25
s2-084 8-02-2015 | Brett Meador





Numbers 22-25

m2-082 8-05-2015 | Brett Meador






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Inerrancy, Evangelism and

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New God, New Gospel

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Galatians 4:19

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Mere Christianity