2 Chronicles 35
Josiah Keeps the Passover2 Chronicles 35 1 Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem. And they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2 He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the LORD. 3 And he said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the LORD, “Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. You need not carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the LORD your God and his people Israel. 4 Prepare yourselves according to your fathers’ houses by your divisions, as prescribed in the writing of David king of Israel and the document of Solomon his son. 5 And stand in the Holy Place according to the groupings of the fathers’ houses of your brothers the lay people, and according to the division of the Levites by fathers’ household. 6 And slaughter the Passover lamb, and consecrate yourselves, and prepare for your brothers, to do according to the word of the LORD by Moses.”
7 Then Josiah contributed to the lay people, as Passover offerings for all who were present, lambs and young goats from the flock to the number of 30,000, and 3,000 bulls; these were from the king’s possessions. 8 And his officials contributed willingly to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the chief officers of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover offerings 2,600 Passover lambs and 300 bulls. 9 Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethanel his brothers, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, the chiefs of the Levites, gave to the Levites for the Passover offerings 5,000 lambs and young goats and 500 bulls.
10 When the service had been prepared for, the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their divisions according to the king’s command. 11 And they slaughtered the Passover lamb, and the priests threw the blood that they received from them while the Levites flayed the sacrifices. 12 And they set aside the burnt offerings that they might distribute them according to the groupings of the fathers’ houses of the lay people, to offer to the LORD, as it is written in the Book of Moses. And so they did with the bulls. 13 And they roasted the Passover lamb with fire according to the rule; and they boiled the holy offerings in pots, in cauldrons, and in pans, and carried them quickly to all the lay people. 14 And afterward they prepared for themselves and for the priests, because the priests, the sons of Aaron, were offering the burnt offerings and the fat parts until night; so the Levites prepared for themselves and for the priests, the sons of Aaron. 15 The singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their place according to the command of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the gatekeepers were at each gate. They did not need to depart from their service, for their brothers the Levites prepared for them.
16 So all the service of the LORD was prepared that day, to keep the Passover and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the LORD, according to the command of King Josiah. 17 And the people of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. 18 No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept.
Josiah Killed in Battle20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. 21 But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 25 Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah; and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a rule in Israel; behold, they are written in the Laments. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his good deeds according to what is written in the Law of the LORD, 27 and his acts, first and last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
2 Chronicles 36
Judah’s Decline2 Chronicles 36 1 The people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah and made him king in his father’s place in Jerusalem. 2 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. 3 Then the king of Egypt deposed him in Jerusalem and laid on the land a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 4 And the king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But Neco took Jehoahaz his brother and carried him to Egypt.
5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. 6 Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also carried part of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon and put them in his palace in Babylon. 8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and the abominations that he did, and what was found against him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place.
9 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 10 In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with the precious vessels of the house of the LORD, and made his brother Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem. 11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel. 14 All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the LORD that he had made holy in Jerusalem.
15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.
Jerusalem Captured and Burned17 Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand. 18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
The Proclamation of Cyrus22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’ ”
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The Key to C.S. Lewis
By Dr. Gene Edward Veith 1/1/2008
C.S. Lewis was not only a Christian apologist and lay theologian. He was also an unusually imaginative and creative novelist. And in his day job at Oxford and then Cambridge he was an astonishingly perceptive and influential literary scholar.
At a time when the modernist literary establishment was obsessed with depressingly bleak realistic fiction, Lewis sent readers’ imaginations soaring in his Chronicles of Narnia. While the modernists were looking down their noses at popular genre fiction, Lewis was writing the provocative science fiction of his Space Trilogy.
In his apologetic and theological writing, Lewis was surprising both non-believers and emotional pietists in applying lucid, logical thinking to argue that Christianity is actually true. In his fiction, though, Lewis opposed the dull rationalism of his age to provoke in his readers feelings of wonder, mystery, and longing.
In his literary scholarship, Lewis taught modern readers, inhibited by the blinders of their own narrow little time, how to respond to allegory (The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (Canto Classics)), how to understand Milton (Preface to Paradise Lost), how to appreciate ancient cosmology (The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto Classics)), and how to read for pleasure (An Experiment in Criticism (Canto Classics)).
In his breath-takingly comprehensive volume in The Oxford History of English Literature, with the daunting title English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama), Lewis not only discusses apparently every work written in that century, he develops the notion that there are two styles of poetry: the golden and the drab. Golden verse employs beautiful language to evoke the transcendent. Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton are golden. Drab verse employs colloquial, unadorned language to evoke the cynical and down-to-earth. Donne and most poets currently in vogue are drab. In other writings, Lewis defends Shelley (the atheist) for his golden verse, while critiquing John Donne and T.S. Eliot (his fellow Anglican Christians) for their drabness.
The point here is that Lewis was a complex thinker with a wide-ranging sensibility. He was both logical and wildly imaginative, conservative and a non-conformist, a devout Christian whose faith was never stodgy or limiting, but stimulating and liberating. And I think I have found the key to understanding Lewis in all of his complexities and in all of his different kinds of writing.
Not long after he became a Christian, Lewis wrote about his conversion in an odd book entitled The Pilgrim's Regress. An allegory, like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress (Complete with an Introduction by Charles S. Baldwin), it depicts an everyman named John who reflects Lewis’ own spiritual journey. He leaves his childhood home, Puritania, rebelling against its rules and restrictions, just as Lewis left behind his protestant upbringing in Northern Ireland. Just as young Lewis did, John falls in with characters like Mr. Sensible and Mr. Humanist and faces the temptations of the spirit of the age (Freudianism, Marxism), as well as moral temptations (the Brown Girls, symbolizing lust, and the Clevers, symbolizing worldliness). All along, John has glimpses of a far-away island, which fills him with transcendent longing, just as Lewis describes in his memoir Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.
Eventually, through the mysterious leading of the “Man” (Christ), John comes to accept the Landlord (God) and is received by Mother Kirk (the church). But he still must travel a narrow path, avoiding both the the arid rocks on the North (symbolizing rationalism) and the fetid swamps on the South (symbolizing emotionalism). Eventually, he arrives at where he began, the faith of his childhood at Puritania, which he now recognizes was not about rules and restrictions at all, but grace and faith. He then, like Bunyan, crosses the waters into the everlasting life beyond.
Pilgrim’s Regress is an odd book for many people, but it has always been one of my favorites. Its deft portrayals of different philosophies and worldviews are insightful and illuminating. More than that, the book is an evocative fantasy — giants, dragons, and adventure — of the sort that Lewis later would develop so thoroughly in The Chronicles of Narnia. And everything that Lewis would write is summed up in the book’s subtitle: “An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism.”
The phrase seems strange. The words do not seem to go together. Are not reason and romanticism opposites? The Enlightenment’s Age of Reason was countered, at least for a while, with Romanticism’s Age of Emotion. And did not both movements oppose Christianity? And yet, it is true that all three need to be defended, since they are all three under attack. Today, even more than in Lewis’ time, our culture rejects not only reason but objective truth altogether. Romantic idealism has been replaced with cynicism and nihilism. True, both rationalism and romanticism, by themselves, lead to falsehoods and dead ends. But there is a legitimate use of reason and of emotion. And Christianity is the only world view big enough to account for them both.
Christianity offers not only a world view but a sensibility, a way to think and to feel. Lewis addresses both the head and the heart. He is an apologist for reason, romanticism, and — what holds them together — Christianity.
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Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
Marketing the Church
By Michael Horton 1/1/2008
It has often been observed that Sunday morning between 11 a.m. and noon is the most segregated hour in America. While there are some hopeful signs that race may not play as great a role in defining the body of Christ in the future, covenant families are increasingly broken up according to the demographic niches that have been created and enforced by a culture of marketing.
Jesus and Paul spoke of the kingdom of God as “the age to come” breaking in on us even now, in these last days of “the present age.” Christ had accomplished our redemption, and the Spirit was poured out. This is the big news! The world trains us, however, to think in terms of its own headlines, regardless of how the passing fashions come and go. Daily exposed to the relentless bombardment of advertising that would define us and our children, we enter the Lord’s Day as the “today” of salvation into which God creates His own cast for the real drama of the ages. On this day, the Lord of the covenant publicly placards Christ before us. It’s a campaign that is not manipulative, nor is it one that leaves us with one more “make-over”; it’s nothing less than the crucifixion of the self and its resurrection in Christ unto new life.
That’s why the current fascination with church-planting and home missions based on niche demographics (that is, dividing the market up into age, race, gender, socio-economic strata, politics, etc.) is such a problem. The church becomes a collection of consumers or tourists rather than a communion of saints and pilgrims. However, it’s not our choices, but God’s, that create this new society.
The older denominational divisions are tragic enough, but at least many of these were due to different interpretations of biblical teaching. Today, in the same denomination, even in the same local church, there are new divisions that are not only tolerated but encouraged by the leadership. Where the only division that we find in Scripture is “in Adam” or “in Christ,” our churches are increasingly divided by consumer loyalties — which means that they can no longer be united by the public ministry of Word and sacrament. This means that where the whole church learned God’s Word together, it is possible for the different segments to meet only in passing on their way to their specially-formatted events. Where the older men and women used to teach the younger (as Paul enjoined Timothy), now the likelihood of the youth learning the catechism of their parents and grandparents is diminished.
Evangelical pollster George Barna, in fact, has introduced an even newer demographic: the “Revolutionaries,” the “millions of believers” who “have moved beyond the established church and chosen to be the church instead” (Revolution, Tyndale House, back cover). According to Barna, these millions of “believers” are opting out of organized churches altogether — a trend that he celebrates. Intimate worship, says Barna, does “not require a ‘worship service,’” just a personal commitment to the Bible, prayer, and discipleship (Barna, p. 22).
Where the common worship prescribed in Acts 2 focuses on God’s work of giving gifts to His people, creating a body for His Son, centering on the means of grace (preaching and sacrament), Barna says that the main thing in the Christian life is what we do as individuals for God. “What matters is not whom you associate with (that is, a local church), but who you are,” says Barna (p. 29). “Scripture teaches us that devoting your life to loving God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul is what honors Him. Being part of a local church may facilitate that. Or it might not” (p. 37).
What is called for in these, as in any other time, is a church that is a genuine covenantal community defined by the Gospel, rather than a service-provider defined by laws of the market. For this, we need nothing less than a new creation, where the only demographic that matters is “in Christ.” In Christ we embrace both, in a communion of saints. We are not baptized into a sect of secular sociology and marketing, so shouldn’t our hearing and fellowship be governed by our being in Christ? When the Word creates community, the result is a church and not a lobby, special interest group, or market niche.
Here and there even now the triune God is creating a place of grace out of the abstract space that is defined by sin, futility, and death. In the public confession of sin and absolution, in the prayers, singing, and hearing of the Word, at the font and table, we not only recall that the most decisive niche is “in Christ,” we actually become located there, together with everyone else who may not share our life experiences, cultural preferences, or political views. In a covenantal perspective, where “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39), there can be no niche markets. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps. 90:1; see also Pss. 100:5; 102:12). Under the sun — that is, from the perspective of this fading age, “A generation goes, and a generation comes,” and “all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:4), but in the Son, each generation of the covenant community belongs to the Lord, transcending itself by participation in the catholic body of Christ, whose “kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34).
Dr. Michael S. Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.
Michael Horton Books | Go to Books Page
When Wright Is Wrong
By Keith Mathison 1/1/2008
If you are a reader of contemporary theological works and you have not already encountered the name “N.T. Wright,” you will. Wright is the Anglican Bishop of Durham, and he is one of the most prolific biblical scholars of our day. I first encountered Wright’s name years ago while doing research on the topic of eschatology. His work on the Gospels provided a number of insights that assisted me in my own work. His magisterial book on the doctrine of resurrection will likely be the standard work on the subject for decades to come. Since my reading of Wright at the time was limited primarily to what he was saying in regard to specific Gospel texts related to eschatological issues, I would never have guessed how controversial he would soon become.
The questions raised in connection with Wright’s work on the Gospels were not unusual for that branch of biblical research. Wright, however, has not limited himself to study of the Gospels, but has also written extensively on Paul. Unlike his work on the Gospels, his study of Paul has caused great controversy. But why? What could Wright have possibly said that would create such a furor? To put it very simply, Wright argues that the church has misunderstood the doctrine of justification for centuries. Justification, he argues, does not deal with how one becomes a Christian. Instead it is a declaration that one is already a Christian. Also, according to Wright, justification does not involve the imputation of Christ’s righteousness because such an idea is nonsensical. Furthermore, our future justification is based on our whole life, or as Wright says, on the basis of our “works.” This future verdict, based on works, is received in the present by faith. The reason for the controversy, then, should be evident.
A number of brief critiques of Wright’s doctrine have been written over the last several years in journal articles, book chapters, and denominational study reports, but to my knowledge there has not, until now, been a comprehensive book-length response to Wright’s teaching on the subject of justification. John Piper’s The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright fills this void in the literature.
The need for such a book is evident because the subject matter is so important and because Wright is a very popular author who has gained a hearing among evangelicals. Piper makes it clear from the beginning that he is not writing in order to score points. In fact, he includes a brief section on the manner in which controversy should be conducted by Christians. Piper himself practices what he preaches throughout the book, never letting emotion cloud his judgment. This does not mean that Piper comes across as detached. On the contrary, his passion for the truth is evident on every page, but he does not allow his passion to reduce his arguments to a shouting match.
In eleven chapters, Piper methodically examines every aspect of Wright’s doctrine of justification, carefully demonstrating where Wright has gone astray. In chapter 1, he looks at some of the problematic methodological presuppositions underlying Wright’s exegesis. He then moves on to an examination of Wright’s “law-court” metaphor, showing where Wright has misunderstood the meaning of the concepts of “justification” and “righteousness.” Wright, according to Piper, has confused that which righteousness does with that which righteousness is, and this has skewed his entire doctrine.
In chapters 5 and 6, Piper critiques Wright’s explanation of the relationship between justification and the Gospel, and in chapter 7, he looks at one of the most serious problems with Wright’s doctrine, namely, his assertion that the basis of our final justification is our own works. Wright claims that he is saying essentially the same thing the Reformers said, only in different words. In chapter 8, Piper shows the speciousness of this claim.
In chapters 9 and 10, Piper turns to an examination of Wright’s understanding of Paul’s opponents. These chapters are a brief critique of what has come to be known as the “New Perspective on Paul.” In contrast to Wright and others who claim that the Judaism of Paul’s opponents was a religion of grace, Piper demonstrates that Paul was confronting a deep-seated legalism. In his final chapter, Piper summarizes the content of his book Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?, setting forth the biblical case for the doctrine of imputation.
Wright has written in one place, “I frequently tell my students that quite a high proportion of what I say is probably wrong, or at least flawed or skewed in some way which I do not at the moment realize. The only problem is that I do not know which bits are wrong; if I did I might do something about it.” In this book, Piper has done Wright a great favor by showing him at least one of the wrong “bits.”
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
The More Things Change
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2008
It was a wise man who first noted that there is nothing new under the sun. Sadly, Solomon seemed to sigh his way through this observation, wistfully longing for something new. We, if we were wise, would rejoice in this truth. That there is nothing new under the sun, while it won’t probably be found in any of the great classic works on biblical interpretation, is a critically important principle of sound biblical interpretation.
Evangelical modernists here struggle with competing allegiances. As evangelicals we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We reject the liberal view that suggests that the Bible is man’s word about God. We reject the neo-liberal view that affirms that the Bible contains, somewhere in there, the Word of God. No, we affirm with boldness that it is all the Word of God and therefore all true in all that it teaches. That’s all good.
As modernists, however, we somehow think that the world we live in is completely different from the world into which God spoke His Word. God spoke truth, but He spoke it to a primitive people who lacked our sophistication, our understanding, our wisdom. When we come, then, to the words of the prophets, we experience a profound disconnect. We think that because we don’t worship in the temple, with the blood of goats and bulls, that we have escaped the problem of idolatry. We believe that because we feel poor rather than rich, that we have escaped the problem of greed. We conclude that because we lift our arms and sway along with the praise band that we have escaped the problem of hearts far from God. These problems, the ones addressed by the prophets, are not for us.
This approach is, of course, far older than the modern era. It has been taught to us from the beginning by the anti-prophet, the Serpent. When he approached Eve in the garden his goal was simple enough — he wanted to be certain that Eve would not believe the word from God. There is nothing new under the sun. And so still the Serpent seeks to seduce the church, the second Eve, the bride of the second Adam, not to believe the Word of God. If he can persuade us that the Bible, however true it might be, does not speak to us, we are left trying to figure out what to do on our own. We lean on our own understanding. If our circumstances are so different from their circumstances, then while God may have been speaking to our spiritual fathers, He isn’t speaking to us.
It may well be that the reason there is nothing new under the sun is simply this: that in whatever era, in whatever circumstance, we will find sinful people. In order to understand how the ancient prophets apply to us, all we need to do is realize our part in the story — we’re the sinners. When the prophet begins to speak and you find yourself wondering how it is relevant to you, remember that simple principle — we are the sinners.
Having discovered our role in the story, what are we called to do? John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the old covenant prophets proclaimed the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand. In our circumstance the kingdom of God has come. That shift, however, does not change our calling. Our response to the coming of the kingdom is fitting. Because we are the sinners, we do what sinners are called to do, we repent.
If we read through the writings of the prophets we get something of a glimpse of the scope of the kingdom of God. The prophets warned against false worship. They thundered against political abuses. They chastened the people of God for their worldliness. In like manner, it is important that we recognize the scope of the kingdom of God. That which we seek first, the kingdom of God, includes political and economic issues. It encompasses our labors and the arts. The kingdom of God is profoundly concerned that we think rightly about every issue. The kingdom of God is that place where Jesus reigns, especially where that reign is recognized and honored.
That said, however, we would in turn be wise to remember the first calling of those who would first seek the kingdom of God. To be outward- looking citizens and soldiers of the kingdom of God, to be about the business of making known the glory of the reign of Christ, to be fulfilling our own prophetic role to the watching world, we begin by repenting. Before we come up with a strategy to take back Washington, before we set about on a course to scale the ivy walls of Ivy League universities, before we seize the engines of entertainment in Hollywood, we have something far more important to do, something far more powerful to do, something far more world-changing to do. We must heed the call of the prophets, get on our knees and cry out to He who reigns over all things, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
The more things change, the more they stay the same. God’s people were sinners then, and God’s people are sinners now. The joy in the unchanging nature of reality is this: then and now, those who confess their sins, He is faithful and just to forgive their sins. These same He promises to cleanse of all their unrighteousness. This is how the kingdom comes. God calls us to repent. God blesses us with repentance. God forgives our sins. God gives us life abundant. God calls us to be His prophets, to call the world to repent. And He moves from faith to faith, from victory to victory, until all His enemies are made a footstool.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Altar of Cynicism
By John Sartelle 2/1/2008
People lose their souls to many gods. There are the popular gods like money, sex, and power. But there is one unusual god to which men lose their souls, and maybe that god has seduced more people than any of the more famous or obvious gods that live in our hearts.
Cynicism is the god of the thinking person. Cynicism at first sight is not attractive, and thus, it does not seem seductive or powerful.
It was the god with whom Solomon battled from the beginning of Ecclesiastes to the end. Oh, he spoke of living for money, sex, and power, but what did he conclude? He concluded that they were void of meaning. They were carafes that looked like they were filled with wine, but they contained only colored water. Solomon surveyed all the gods. In fact, he was intimate with each of them. But the one that came the nearest to owning his soul was cynicism. He looked at everything — his money, his power, his work, his brilliance, even his relationships with his wives and friends. He concluded that all of these were useless. There was nothing or no one who delivered what they seemed to promise. These gods that he had loved with all his might went back on their word; they double-crossed his soul. Thus: “Vanity of vanities…all is vanity” (Eccl. 12:8). The Hebrew word translated vanity means empty, transitory, unsatisfactory. His gods were empty and could not satisfy. They could not be trusted.
Last year I read a very powerful book in which the protagonist had everything (money, power, prestige, family, sex), but he “woke up” to discover how empty his life was. So he set out to find a reality that could be trusted. Along the way his wife, parents, and friends all proved unfaithful and untrustworthy. In the end, he sailed out of the harbor into the ocean alone on his boat with no direction. He had lost his soul to cynicism. Every god, every man, every woman, every institution he trusted let him down. But then he, too, had proved to be unfaithful and untrustworthy, because like all of us he had lied, he had failed to deliver when others trusted him. He, himself, had not been faithful. In the end he became cynical. He kept saying, “To hell with it, to hell with it all.”
This is where cynicism takes hold: with our realization that nothing or no one can be totally trusted, and we can’t even point the finger of accusation at others because we ourselves cannot be trusted. We must number ourselves among the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Cynicism is the temple to which we finally come after stopovers at the houses of all the other gods. It is the temple at the end of “temple row.”
At the last, Solomon was saved from his cynicism. Ecclesiastes did not end like the book I read. Solomon did not sail out of the harbor into an endless ocean of emptiness. He did not end his story with the words, “To hell with it, to hell with it all.” He came to the sanctuary of a changeless God — a God who made incredible promises of grace and then kept His word. He came to a God who forgave unfaithful and untrustworthy people. He came to a God who said, “I will be faithful to my covenant with you. I will be faithful even though you have not been faithful to Me.”
Don’t expect more from your deities than they are able to deliver. Money will fail you, pleasure will fail you, power will fail you; friends, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children will fail you. Solomon was right about that. And when they do, many of us are devastated. In our bitterness and resentment we go to the temple of cynicism. But there is a gospel for cynics. There is a gospel that says to us, “Of course, all of these will fail you. Of course, they are unfaithful and untrustworthy, and so are you.” So, in the words of Solomon, let’s hear “the conclusion of the matter.”
Don’t give up; there is one more temple. It is the temple that welcomes the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Above the door are words of grace: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isa. 55:1–2).
The cynic comes to this temple and finally finds One who will not betray him and who will never fail him. This God has declared that the sun and moon will fall from the sky before His word and promises can be broken. He went to the extreme of sacrificing His own Son to keep His promise, to be faithful to His oath of justice. He has never lied. He has never broken His word. Here is One who is trustworthy. And surprisingly, He has invited the unfaithful and untrustworthy to come and live with Him. The way His creation treated Him, we would expect Him to be cynical. Yet, He speaks grace to the very people who failed Him. Former cynics no longer go about every day saying, “Vanity of vanities…everything is vanity.” They are singing a new song, one about an amazing grace that saves wretches.
And now a very strange thing has happened. These former cynics now give the grace they received to those who have been unfaithful and untrustworthy to them.
Rev. John P. Sartelle Sr. is senior minister of Christ Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Tenn.
By Don Carson 5/20/2018
Few Psalms have provided greater succor to the people who are troubled by the frequent, transparent prosperity of the wicked than Psalm 73.
Asaph begins with a provocative pair of lines: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Does the parallelism hint that the people of Israel are the pure in heart? Scarcely; that accords neither with history nor with this Psalm. The second line, then, must be a restriction on the first. Should those who are not pure in heart be equated with the wicked so richly described in this Psalm? Well, perhaps, but what is striking is that the next lines depict not the evil of the wicked but the sin of Asaph’s own heart. His own heart was not pure as he contemplated “the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). He envied them. Apparently this envy ate at him until he was in danger of losing his entire moral and religious balance: his “feet had almost slipped” (73:2).
What attracted Asaph to the wicked was the way so many of them seem to be the very picture of serenity, good health, and happiness (73:4-12). Even their arrogance has its attractions: it seems to place them above others. Their wealth and power make them popular. At their worst, they ignore God with apparent total immunity from fear. They seem “always carefree, they increase in wealth” (73:12).
So perhaps righteousness doesn’t pay: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). Asaph could not quite bring himself to this step: he recognized that it would have meant a terrible betrayal of “your children” (73:15) — apparently the people of God to whom Asaph felt loyalty and for whom, as a leader, he sensed a burden of responsibility. But all his reflections were “oppressive” to him (73:16), until three profound realizations dawned on him.
First, on the long haul the wicked will be swept away. As Asaph entered the sanctuary, he reflected on the “final destiny” (73:17-19, 27) of those he had begun to envy, and he envied them no more.
Second, Asaph himself, in concert with all who truly know God and walk in submission to him, possesses so much more than the wicked — both in this life and in the life to come. “I am always with you,” Asaph exults; “you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (73:23-24).
Third, Asaph now sees his bitterness for the ugly sin it is (73:21-22), and resolves instead to draw near to God and to make known all God’s deeds (73:28).
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 | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 51Create In Me A Clean Heart
51 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, When Nathan The Prophet Went To Him, After He Had Gone In To Bathsheba.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF THE STATE OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, AND THE MODE OF GOVERNMENT IN USE BEFORE THE PAPACY.
The divisions of this chapter are,--I. The mode of government in the primitive Church, sec 1-10. II. The formal ordination of Bishops and Ministers in the primitive Church, sec. 10-15.
1. The method of government in the primitive Church. Not in every respect conformable to the rule of the word of God. Three distinct orders of Ministers.
2. First, the Bishop, for the sake of preserving order, presided over the Presbyters or Pastors. The office of Bishop. Presbyter and Bishop the same. The institution of this order ancient.
3. The office of Bishop and Presbyters. Strictly preserved in the primitive Church.
4. Of Archbishops and Patriarchs. Very seldom used. For what end instituted. Hierarchy an improper name, and not used in Scripture.
5. Deacons, the second order of Ministers in the primitive Church. Their proper office. The Bishop their inspector. Subdeacons, their assistants. Archdeacons, their presidents. The reading of the Gospel, an adventitious office conferred in honour on the Deacons.
6. Mode in which the goods of the Church were anciently dispensed. 1. The support of the poor. 2. Due provision for the ministers of the Church.
7. The administration at first free and voluntary. The revenues of the Church afterwards classed under four heads.
8. A third part of the revenues devoted to the fabric of churches. To this, however, when necessary, the claim of the poor was preferred. Sayings, testimonies, and examples to this effect, from Cyril, Acatius, Jerome, Exuperius, Ambrose.
9. The Clerici, among whom were the Doorkeepers and Acolytes, were the names given to exercises used as a kind of training for tyros.
10. Second part of the chapter, treating of the calling of Ministers. Some error introduced in course of time in respect to celibacy from excessive strictness. In regard to the ordination of Ministers, full regard not always paid to the consent of the people. Why the people less anxious to maintain their right. Ordinations took place at stated times.
11. In the ordination of Bishops the liberty of the people maintained.
12. Certain limits afterwards introduced to restrain the inconsiderate licence of the multitude.
13. This mode of election long prevailed. Testimony of Gregory. Nothing repugnant to this in the decretals of Gratian.
14. The form of ordination in the ancient Church.
15. This form gradually changed.
1. Hitherto we have discoursed of the order of church government as delivered to us in the pure word of God, and of ministerial offices as instituted by Christ (chap. 1 sec. 5, 6; chap. 3). Now that the whole subject may be more clearly and familiarly explained, and also better fixed in our minds, it will be useful to attend to the form of the early church, as this will give us a kind of visible representation of the divine institution. For although the bishops of those times published many canons, in which they seemed to express more than is expressed by the sacred volume, yet they were so cautious in framing all their economy on the word of God, the only standard, that it is easy to see that they scarcely in any respect departed from it. Even if something may be wanting in these enactments, still, as they were sincerely desirous to preserve the divine institution, and have not strayed far from it, it will be of great benefit here briefly to explain what their observance was. As we have stated that three classes of ministers are set before us in Scripture, so the early Church distributed all its ministers into three orders. For from the order of presbyters, part were selected as pastors and teachers, while to the remainder was committed the censure of manners and discipline. To the deacons belonged the care of the poor and the dispensing of alms. Readers and Acolytes were not the names of certain offices; but those whom they called clergy, they accustomed from their youth to serve the Church by certain exercises, that they might the better understand for what they were destined, and afterwards come better prepared for their duty, as I will shortly show at greater length. Accordingly, Jerome, in setting forth five orders in the Church, enumerates Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Believers, Catechumens: to the other Clergy and Monks he gives no proper place  (Hieron. in Jes. c. 9).
2. All, therefore, to whom the office of teaching was committed, they called presbyters, and in each city these presbyters selected one of their number to whom they gave the special title of bishop, lest, as usually happens, from equality dissension should arise. The bishop, however, was not so superior in honour and dignity as to have dominion over his colleagues, but as it belongs to a president in an assembly to bring matters before them, collect their opinions, take precedence of others in consulting, advising, exhorting, guide the whole procedure by his authority, and execute what is decreed by common consent, a bishop held the same office in a meeting of presbyters. And the ancients themselves confess that this practice was introduced by human arrangement, according to the exigency of the times. Thus Jerome, on the Epistle to Titus, cap. 1, says, "A bishop is the same as a presbyter. And before dissensions were introduced into religion by the instigation of the devil, and it was said among the people, I am of Paul, and I of Cephas, churches were governed by a common council of presbyters. Afterwards, that the seeds of dissension might be plucked up, the whole charge was devolved upon mendatory rescripts, preventions, and the like. But they all conduct one. Therefore, as presbyters know that by the custom of the Church they are subject to him who presides, so let bishops know that they are greater than presbyters more by custom than in consequence of our Lord's appointment, and ought to rule the Church for the common good." In another place he shows how ancient the custom was (Hieron. Epist. ad Evang.). For he says that at Alexandria, from Mark the Evangelist, as far down as Heraclas and Dionysius, presbyters always placed one, selected from themselves, in a higher rank, and gave him the name of bishop. Each city, therefore, had a college of presbyters, consisting of pastors and teachers. For they all performed to the people that office of teaching, exhorting, and correcting, which Paul enjoins on bishops (Tit. 1:9); and that they might leave a seed behind them, they made it their business to train the younger men who had devoted themselves to the sacred warfare. To each city was assigned a certain district which took presbyters from it, and was considered as it were incorporated into that church. Each presbyter, as I have said, merely to preserve order and peace, was under one bishop, who, though he excelled others in dignity, was subject to the meeting of the brethren. But if the district which was under his bishopric was too large for him to be able to discharge all the duties of bishop, presbyters were distributed over it in certain places to act as his substitutes in minor matters. These were called Chorepiscopi (rural bishops), because they represented the bishops throughout the province.
3. But, in regard to the office of which we now treat, the bishop as well as the presbyters behoved to employ themselves in the administration of word and sacraments. For, at Alexandria only (as Arius had there troubled the Church), it was enacted, that no presbyter should deliver an address to the people, as Socrates says, Tripartit. Hist. Lib. 9. Jerome does not conceal his dissatisfaction with the enactment (Hieron. Epist. ad Evagr.). It certainly would have been deemed monstrous for one to give himself out as a bishop, and yet not show himself a true bishop by his conduct. Such, then, was the strictness of those times, that all ministers were obliged to fulfil the office as the Lord requires of them. Nor do I refer to the practice of one age only, since not even in the time of Gregory, when the Church had almost fallen (certainly had greatly degenerated from ancient purity), would any bishop have been tolerated who abstained from preaching. In some part of his twenty-fourth Epistle he says, "The priest dies when no sound is heard from him: for he calls forth the wrath of the unseen Judge against him if he walks without the sound of preaching." Elsewhere he says, "When Paul testifies that he is pure from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26), by his words, we, who are called priests, are charged, are arraigned, are shown to be guilty, since to those sins which we have of our own we add the deaths of other men, for we commit murder as often as lukewarm and silent we see them daily going to destruction" (Gregor. Hom. in Ezek. 11:26 ). He calls himself and others silent when less assiduous in their work than they ought to be. Since he does not spare even those who did their duty partially, what think you would he do in the case of those who entirely neglected it? For a long time, therefore, it was regarded in the Church as the first duty of a bishop to feed the people by the word of God, or to edify the Church, in public and private, with sound doctrine.
4. As to the fact, that each province had an archbishop among the bishops (see chap. 7 sec. 15), and, moreover, that, in the Council of Nice, patriarchs were appointed to be superior to archbishops, in order and dignity, this was designed for the preservation of discipline, although, in treating of the subject here, it ought not to be omitted, that the practice was very rare. The chief reason for which these orders were instituted was, that if anything occurred in any church which could not well be explicated by a few, it might be referred to a provincial synod. If the magnitude or difficulty of the case demanded a larger discussion, patriarchs were employed along with synods,  and from them there was no appeal except to a General Council. To the government thus constituted some gave the name of Hierarchy--a name, in my opinion, improper, certainly one not used by Scripture. For the Holy Spirit designed to provide that no one should dream of primacy or domination in regard to the government of the Church. But if, disregarding the term, we look to the thing, we shall find that the ancient bishops had no wish to frame a form of church government different from that which God has prescribed in his word.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2009 Good Old Calvinism
John Calvin was a churchman for all ages. He was a reformer par excellence. He was a godly pastor who equipped his people for ministry. He was a humble revolutionary. He was a loyal husband, father, and friend. But above all Calvin was a man whose mind was humbled and whose heart was mastered by the Lord God Almighty. His life’s prayer—“I offer my heart to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely”—was an unwavering declaration of surrender to the Lord, whom he sought to love with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
While many Christians throughout the world may be familiar with some of Calvin’s doctrines, most are unfamiliar with the man who was so devoted to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word (Acts 6:4). Given all that the Lord accomplished in him and through him, his legacy to us is one of biblical, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical integrity. As such, we would do well to heed the words of Calvin’s friend Theodore Beza, who wrote, “Since it has pleased God that Calvin should continue to speak to us through his writings, which are so scholarly and full of godliness, it is up to future generations to go on listening to him until the end of the world, so that they might see our God as he truly is and live and reign with him for all eternity.”
Calvin’s greatness was not in his service to himself but in his surrender to God, as B. B. Warfield recognized: “Here we have the secret of Calvin’s greatness and the source of his strength unveiled to us. No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction.” This is Calvin’s greatness—his constant surrender to God.
For those of us who desire not simply to wear the five-pointed badge of Calvinism, but who desire to clothe ourselves with the fullness of the old Calvinism, let us follow Calvin’s example as we fall to our knees in constant surrender to God, living each day before the face of God, enjoying and glorifying God forever. This was Calvin’s chief desire for himself, for his congregation, and for us. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion he wrote, “As the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads.”
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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)
by Bill Federer
This day, May 20, 1927, at 7:52 am, one of the greatest feats in aviation began, as Charles Lindbergh departed Roosevelt Field in New York, in his silver monoplane named "The Spirit of St. Louis." Thirty-three and a half hours later he landed in France, completing the first solo flight across the Atlantic. At twenty-five years old, he was decorated by the president of France, the King of England, and President Calvin Coolidge. At the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, stated: "It was not the outer granduer of the Roman but the inner simplicity of the Christian that lived through the ages."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God is an unutterable sigh,
planted in the depths of the soul.
--- Jean Paul Richter
Selections From The Works Of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (1898)
All are but parts
of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is,
and God the soul.
--- Alexander Pope
An Essay on Man
Perhaps history is a thing that would stop happening
if God held His breath,
or could be imagined as turning away to think of something else.
--- Herbert Butterfield
Christianity and History
Humility does no more require that a wise man think his knowledge equal with a fool’s, or ignorant man’s, than that a sound man take himself to be sick. When a wise man values the useful knowledge which God has given him above all the glory and vanities of the world, which are indeed of lower worth, this is not pride, but a due estimation of things.
--- Richard Baxter
The practical works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, with a life of the author, and a critical examination of his writings Volume 3
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Twelfth Chapter / The Communicant Should Prepare Himself For Christ With Great Care
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
I AM the Lover of purity, the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart and there is the place of My rest.
Prepare for Me a large room furnished and I with My disciples will keep the Pasch with you.
If you wish that I come to you and remain with you, purge out the old leaven and make clean the dwelling of your heart. Shut out the whole world with all the din of its vices. Sit as the sparrow lonely on the housetop, and think on your transgressions in bitterness of soul.
Everyone who loves prepares the best and most beautiful home for his beloved, because the love of the one receiving his lover is recognized thereby.
But understand that you cannot by any merit of your own make this preparation well enough, though you spend a year in doing it and think of nothing else. It is only by My goodness and grace that you are allowed to approach My table, as though a beggar were invited to dinner by a rich man and he had nothing to offer in return for the gift but to humble himself and give thanks.
Do what you can and do that carefully. Receive the Body of the Lord, your beloved God Who deigns to come to you, not out of habit or necessity, but with fear, with reverence, and with love.
I am He that called you. I ordered it done. I will supply what you lack. Come and receive Me.
When I grant the grace of devotion, give thanks to God, not because you are worthy but because I have had mercy upon you. If you have it not and feel rather dry instead, continue in prayer, sigh and knock, and do not give up until you receive some crumb of saving grace.
You have need of Me. I do not need you. You do not come to sanctify Me but I come to sanctify you and make you better. You come to be sanctified and united with Me, to receive new grace and to be aroused anew to amend. Do not neglect this grace, but prepare your heart with all care, and bring into it your Beloved.
Not only should you prepare devoutly before Communion, but you should also carefully keep yourself in devotion after receiving the Sacrament. The careful custody of yourself afterward is no less necessary than the devout preparation before, for a careful afterwatch is the best preparation for obtaining greater grace. If a person lets his mind wander to external comforts, he becomes quite indisposed.
Beware of much talking. Remain in seclusion and enjoy your God, for you have Him Whom all the world cannot take from you.
I am He to Whom you should give yourself entirely, that from now on you may live, not in yourself, but in Me, with all cares cast away.
The Imitation Of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning The Successors Of Judas, Who Were Jonathan And Simon, And John Hyrcanus.
1. When Jonathan, who was Judas's brother, succeeded him, he behaved himself with great circumspection in other respects, with relation to his own people; and he corroborated his authority by preserving his friendship with the Romans. He also made a league with Antiochus the son. Yet was not all this sufficient for his security; for the tyrant Trypho, who was guardian to Antiochus's son, laid a plot against him; and besides that, endeavored to take off his friends, and caught Jonathan by a wile, as he was going to Ptolemais to Antiochus, with a few persons in his company, and put him in bonds, and then made an expedition against the Jews; but when he was afterward driven away by Simon, who was Jonathan's brother, and was enraged at his defeat, he put Jonathan to death.
2. However, Simon managed the public affairs after a courageous manner, and took Gazara, and Joppa, and Jamnia, which were cities in his neighborhood. He also got the garrison under, and demolished the citadel. He was afterward an auxiliary to Antiochus, against Trypho, whom he besieged in Dora, before he went on his expedition against the Medes; yet could not he make the king ashamed of his ambition, though he had assisted him in killing Trypho; for it was not long ere Antiochus sent Cendebeus his general with an army to lay waste Judea, and to subdue Simon; yet he, though he was now in years, conducted the war as if he were a much younger man. He also sent his sons with a band of strong men against Antiochus, while he took part of the army himself with him, and fell upon him from another quarter. He also laid a great many men in ambush in many places of the mountains, and was superior in all his attacks upon them; and when he had been conqueror after so glorious a manner, he was made high priest, and also freed the Jews from the dominion of the Macedonians, after one hundred and seventy years of the empire [of Seleucus].
3. This Simon also had a plot laid against him, and was slain at a feast by his son-in-law Ptolemy, who put his wife and two sons into prison, and sent some persons to kill John, who was also called Hyrcanus. 2 But when the young man was informed of their coming beforehand, he made haste to get to the city, as having a very great confidence in the people there, both on account of the memory of the glorious actions of his father, and of the hatred they could not but bear to the injustice of Ptolemy. Ptolemy also made an attempt to get into the city by another gate; but was repelled by the people, who had just then admitted of Hyrcanus; so he retired presently to one of the fortresses that were about Jericho, which was called Dagon. Now when Hyrcanus had received the high priesthood, which his father had held before, and had offered sacrifice to God, he made great haste to attack Ptolemy, that he might afford relief to his mother and brethren.
4. So he laid siege to the fortress, and was superior to Ptolemy in other respects, but was overcome by him as to the just affection [he had for his relations]; for when Ptolemy was distressed, he brought forth his mother, and his brethren, and set them upon the wall, and beat them with rods in every body's sight, and threatened, that unless he would go away immediately, he would throw them down headlong; at which sight Hyrcanus's commiseration and concern were too hard for his anger. But his mother was not dismayed, neither at the stripes she received, nor at the death with which she was threatened; but stretched out her hands, and prayed her son not to be moved with the injuries that she suffered to spare the wretch; since it was to her better to die by the means of Ptolemy, than to live ever so long, provided he might be punished for the injuries he done to their family. Now John's case was this: When he considered the courage of his mother, and heard her entreaty, he set about his attacks; but when he saw her beaten, and torn to pieces with the stripes, he grew feeble, and was entirely overcome by his affections. And as the siege was delayed by this means, the year of rest came on, upon which the Jews rest every seventh year as they do on every seventh day. On this year, therefore, Ptolemy was freed from being besieged, and slew the brethren of John, with their mother, and fled to Zeno, who was also called Cotylas, who was tyrant of Philadelphia.
5. And now Antiochus was so angry at what he had suffered from Simon, that he made an expedition into Judea, and sat down before Jerusalem and besieged Hyrcanus; but Hyrcanus opened the sepulcher of David, who was the richest of all kings, and took thence about three thousand talents in money, and induced Antiochus, by the promise of three thousand talents, to raise the siege. Moreover, he was the first of the Jews that had money enough, and began to hire foreign auxiliaries also.
6. However, at another time, when Antiochus was gone upon an expedition against the Medes, and so gave Hyrcanus an opportunity of being revenged upon him, he immediately made an attack upon the cities of Syria, as thinking, what proved to be the case with them, that he should find them empty of good troops. So he took Medaba and Samea, with the towns in their neighborhood, as also Shechem, and Gerizzim; and besides these, [he subdued] the nation of the Cutheans, who dwelt round about that temple which was built in imitation of the temple at Jerusalem; he also took a great many other cities of Idumea, with Adoreon and Marissa. 7. He also proceeded as far as Samaria, where is now the city Sebaste, which was built by Herod the king, and encompassed it all round with a wall, and set his sons, Aristobulus and Antigonus, over the siege; who pushed it on so hard, that a famine so far prevailed within the city, that they were forced to eat what never was esteemed food. They also invited Antiochus, who was called Cyzicenus, to come to their assistance; whereupon he got ready, and complied with their invitation, but was beaten by Aristobulus and Antigonus; and indeed he was pursued as far as Scythopolis by these brethren, and fled away from them. So they returned back to Samaria, and shut the multitude again within the wall; and when they had taken the city, they demolished it, and made slaves of its inhabitants. And as they had still great success in their undertakings, they did not suffer their zeal to cool, but marched with an army as far as Scythopolis, and made an incursion upon it, and laid waste all the country that lay within Mount Carmel.
8. But then these successes of John and of his sons made them be envied, and occasioned a sedition in the country; and many there were who got together, and would not be at rest till they brake out into open war, in which war they were beaten. So John lived the rest of his life very happily, and administered the government after a most extraordinary manner, and this for thirty-three entire years together. He died, leaving five sons behind him. He was certainly a very happy man, and afforded no occasion to have any complaint made of fortune on his account. He it was who alone had three of the most desirable things in the world,—the government of his nation, and the high priesthood, and the gift of prophecy. For the Deity conversed with him, and he was not ignorant of anything that was to come afterward; insomuch that he foresaw and foretold that his two eldest sons would not continue masters of the government; and it will highly deserve our narration to describe their catastrophe, and how far inferior these men were to their father in felicity.
by D.H. Stern
11 An evil person seeks only rebellion,
but a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Rather meet a bear robbed of its cubs
than encounter a fool in his folly.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The realm of the real
In your patience possess ye your souls. --- Luke 21:19.
When a man is born again, there is not the same robustness in his thinking or reasoning for a time as formerly. We have to make an expression of the new life, to form the mind of Christ. “Acquire your soul with patience.” Many of us prefer to stay at the threshold of the Christian life instead of going on to construct a soul in accordance with the new life God has put within. We fail because we are ignorant of the way we are made, we put things down to the devil instead of our own undisciplined natures. Think what we can be when we are roused!
There are certain things we must not pray about—moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral: It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition; never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Men who have hardly uncurled
from their posture in the
womb. Naked. Heads bowed, not
in prayer, but in contemplation
of the earth they came from,
that suckled them on the brown
milk that builds bone not brain.
Who called them forth to walk
in the green light, their thoughts
on darkness? Their women,
who are not Madonnas, have babes
at the breast with the wise,
time-ridden faces of the Christ
child in a painting by a Florentine
master. The warriors prepare poison
with love’s care for the Sebastians
of their arrows. They have no
God, but follow the contradictions
of a ritual that says
life must die that life
may go on. They wear flowers in their hair.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
In certain religions, a person can be excommunicated—expelled from the fellowship of the church—because of committing a serious sin or breach of canon law. In Judaism, by contrast, there is virtually nothing a Jew can do that would result is his or her being cast out of the religion. "Even though he sinned, he is still 'Israel.' " Should a Jew become an apostate, denounce Judaism and convert to another faith, he or she is still considered a Jew in many respects. While there were categories of excommunication once practiced by the Jewish community (such as ḥerem and niddui), they were used merely as a means of social pressure to get an individual to change behavior. Others cannot take away our Jewishness; we ourselves are unable to renounce it. Criminals and heretics still remain Jews, no matter what they have done.
Why is this so? True love does not come with conditions or with strings attached. While respect and admiration have to be earned, love is freely given. When a child does something wrong, it may be difficult for a parent to like the youngster at that moment, but a father's or mother's love is never withdrawn. The same is true of divine love for God's children. God may be angry with us and may even chastise us for doing wrong. But God never disowns us. We have to earn the titles of "mensch," a decent human being, or "tzaddik," a righteous person, but no matter what we do, the title "Israel" is always ours. A priest can be defrocked; a lawyer can be disbarred, a soldier can be dishonorably discharged. But a Jew can never be denied the honor of the name "Israel."
That special honor entails special responsibility. We have to think twice before we do wrong, because our actions will always reflect on the rest of our people. Like Achan, what we do can adversely affect other Jews. The concept that "Even though he sinned, he is still 'Israel' " also implies that there is always the possibility of return and reconciliation. No matter what we may have done, we can always redeem ourselves and "come home" again. We always carry within us the "holiness" (to use Rashi's term) of the name Israel. We can always reach within us and draw on that holiness, and in doing so, make ourselves worthy of the honor that the name carries.
Audacity even towards Heaven is effective.
Text / ["The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian, versed in divination, set out. They came to Balaam and gave him Balak's message. He said to them, 'Spend the night here, and I shall reply to you as the Lord may instruct me.'] So the Moabite dignitaries stayed with Balaam"
[Numbers 22:7–8]. Where had the elders of Midian gone to? Once he had said to them, "Spend the night here, and I shall reply to you," they said to themselves: "Is there a father who hates his son?" Rav Naḥman said: "Audacity even towards Heaven is effective." In the beginning it is written: "Do not go with them" [Numbers 22:12], but in the end it is written: "Go with them" [Numbers 22:20].
Context / There are other cases in the Bible of people who exhibit audacity towards Heaven with the same good intentions as Abraham and Moses but which inexplicably do not result in the same happy ending. The most striking example is in 2 Samuel 6, the story of King David moving the Ark of God. David has chosen Jerusalem as his capital city, and the Ark of God must be brought there.
Context / They loaded the Ark of God onto a new cart and conveyed it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, and Abinadab's sons, Uzzah and Ahio, guided the new cart. They conveyed it from Abinadab's house on the hill, [Uzzah walking] alongside the Ark of God and Ahio walking in front of the Ark. Meanwhile, David and all the House of Israel danced before the Lord to [the sound of] all kinds of cypress wood [instruments], with lyres, harps, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out for the Ark of God and grasped it, for the oxen had stumbled. The Lord was incensed at Uzzah. And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.
(2 Sam. 6:3–7)
Context / To our minds, Uzzah acted justly, trying to stop the cart with the Ark on it from tipping over. Yet, Uzzah's actions are strangely seen as an affront to the Lord. What appears as obedience is taken as overstepping. Uzzah pays with his life. Sometimes, ḥutzpah towards Heaven does not work and can even result in the most extreme consequences.
In the eleventh chapter of Sanhedrin, there is a lengthy interpretation of the story of Balak and Balaam, found in Numbers 22–24. In the biblical account, Balak, king of Moab, wants to hire Balaam, a famous prophet, to curse the Israelites. Balaam tries to refuse, but Balak won't take no for an answer. King Balak sends emissaries to convince Balaam. These are "the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian." Thus, the opening question of the Gemara focuses on the difference between the beginning of verse 7, where both "the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian" are mentioned, and the end of verse 8, where only "the Moabite dignitaries" are cited. What happened to the Midianite elders? The answer is that once Balaam asked them to await God's reply, the Midianite elders knew that their cause was in vain: The father (the Father in Heaven) always loves his child (the children of Israel) and will display this love by preventing Balaam from harming the Israelites. Thus, there was no need to waste the night in anticipation, waiting for a negative reply from God.
With Balak's dignitaries spending the night under Balaam's roof, Balaam awaits God's instruction. God tells Balaam: "Do not go with them. You must not curse that people, for they are blessed." What should Balaam do? We would expect Balaam to send the emissaries on their way, for God has already made the answer known. Yet this is not what Balaam does. He tells the elders: "So you, too, stay here overnight, and let me find out what else the Lord may say to me." This is what the Talmud calls "audacity even towards Heaven," that is, flagrantly ignoring God's specific command not to go with the elders. Once God had said no, and Balaam tried to obtain a different answer, he has exhibited "audacity towards Heaven."
Despite the fact that it is impudence towards God, it works! God allows Balaam to go with Balak's messengers. The word translated as "audacity" is, of course, ḥutzpah, one of the Hebrew words that is best known to the Western world. One cannot hold God hostage, but one may, at times, challenge God and win. The guidelines of this ḥutzpah toward Heaven are not clear. In the story of Sodom
(Genesis 18), Abraham argues with God, lowering the number of righteous required to save the city from fifty to ten. This is certainly audacious, since "the outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave"
(Genesis 18:20)! In the aftermath of the Golden Calf, Moses puts his own life on the line. He tells God either to forgive the sin of the people, or "erase me from the record which You have written" (Exodus 32:32), that is, take my life away. This would seem to be ḥutzpah towards Heaven, yet it is audacity that works, for God backs down from destroying the entire Israelite nation.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Psalms have a wonderful capacity to capture the reality of our human experience. Dr. Samuel Schultz notes in The Old Testament Speaks: A Complete Survey of Old Testament History, 5th Edition
(Harper and Row) that "they express the common experience of the human race. Composed by numerous authors, the various Psalms express the emotions, personal feelings, attitudes, gratitude, and interests of the average individual. Universally, people have identified their lot in life with that of the psalmists."
In every experience of our own, no matter how deep the pain or how great the frustration or how exhilarating the joy, we can find Psalms which echo our inmost being; Psalms which God uses to bring comfort or to confirm release.
The Psalms were written over an extended period of time, most probably coming between 1000 and 400 B.C. They were written by different authors, and at several times new groups of Psalms were added to the collection. Seventy-three of the Psalms were written by David. Forty-nine are anonymous.
The Psalms were used in public worship in Israel, as well as for private devotions. They show us how intimate and free our relationship with God can be, as we share every thought and feeling with Him.
Selah. This word appears 71 times in the Psalms. The word means "to lift up" and most believe it is a musical sign, perhaps of a pause.
Commentary / The era of David brought not only political but also literary revival. Many of the Psalms recorded in Scripture come from David's own pen, and many others were written during his reign.
The 150 Psalms are organized into five books, which represent four later collections added to the first worship book. Book I (Psalms 1–41) is Davidic, compiled prior to his death. Book II (Psalms 42–72) was most likely added in the era of Solomon. Books III and IV (Psalms 73–89; 90–106) were probably collected during the Exile, and Book V (Psalms 107–150) in the time of Ezra. This last book is the most liturgical.
The various books of Psalms, then, are not organized by content but by the time they were added to the official worship collection. It is likely that many if not most of the Psalms were used before the official compilations were made.
The structure of the books is just one of several things we need to understand before we look into this wonderful Bible book.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
The focus on the consequences of the Temple’s destruction, however, overlooks a fact of immense significance: the Jewish Diaspora had a long history prior to Rome’s crushing of Jerusalem. Indeed, the notion of removal from the homeland is lodged deeply in the mythology of the nation. The curse of Cain, condemned to perpetual wandering over the earth, symbolizes it. So do the years of enslavement and oppression in Egypt prior to the exodus, followed by years of meandering in the wilderness. And that was just the beginning. The record of Jewish experience included the “Babylonian captivity” in the sixth century B.C.E., ostensibly a serious dislocation from the homeland. The story may contain exaggeration and embellishment but does not deliver pure fiction. And, whatever the historicity of the “Return” from that displacement, the Diaspora was already a fact, not to be reversed. Jews dwelled in Egypt in the sixth century, as papyri from a Jewish military colony at Elephantine reveal. And an archive of documents from Babylon attests to Jews in a variety of trades and professions even after their supposed restoration to Judah.
The pace quickened, however, and the scattering multiplied from the late fourth century B.C.E. The conquests of Alexander the Great sent Greeks into the Near East in substantial numbers. The collapse of the Persian Empire prompted a wave of migration and relocation. New communities sprang up, old ones were repopulated or expanded. Mobility increased, and a host of settlements beckoned to the restless and the adventurous. As Greeks found the prospects abroad enticing, so also did the Jews. A burgeoning Jewish Diaspora, it appears, followed in the wake of the Greek Diaspora.
Precise numbers elude us. But they were clearly substantial. By the late second century B.C.E., the author of 1 Maccabees could claim that Jews had found their way not only to Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian plateau, but to the cities and principalities of Asia Minor, to the islands of the Aegean, to Greece itself, to Crete, Cyprus, and Cyrene. We know further of Jewish communities in Italy, including large settlements in Rome and Ostia. The Greek geographer Strabo, writing at the end of the first century B.C.E. (and he had no axe to grind on the subject), remarked that there was hardly a place in the world that did not possess members of this tribe and feel their weight. And all of this occurred well before the demolition of the Temple. Even without explicit figures we may be confident that Jews abroad far outnumbered those dwelling in Palestine—and had done so for many generations.
The fact needs to be underscored. Diaspora life in the Second Temple period was no aberration, not a marginal, exceptional, temporary, or fleeting part of Jewish experience. In important ways it constituted the most characteristic ingredient of that experience. The Temple stood in Jerusalem. Yet the vast majority of Jews dwelled elsewhere. The physical and emotional world of the Jews cannot be grasped without placing the Diaspora under scrutiny.
What motivated the mass migration? Some of it, to be sure, was involuntary and unwelcome. Many of those who found themselves abroad had come as captives, prisoners of war, and slaves. Conflicts between the Egyptian and Syrian kingdoms in the third century B.C.E. caused periodic dislocation. Internal upheavals in Palestine in the following century created some political refugees and forced settlements. Roman intervention in the Near East temporarily accelerated the process. Pompey’s victories in Judea in 63 B.C.E., followed by battles on Palestinian soil over the next three decades, brought an unspecified number of Jews to Italy as human booty, the victims of conquest.
Compulsory displacement, however, cannot have accounted for more than a fraction of the Diaspora. A host of reasons could motivate Jews to migrate voluntarily. Overpopulation in Palestine may have been a factor for some, indebtedness for others. But more than hardship was involved here. The new and expanded communities that sprang up in consequence of Alexander’s acquisitions served as magnets for migration. In a mobile society, a range of options presented themselves. Large numbers of Jews found employment as mercenaries, military colonists, or enlisted men in the regular forces of Hellenic cities or kingdoms. Others seized opportunities in business, commerce, or agriculture. All lands were open to them.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?” --- Ruth 3:1.
There were three tragic contingencies in which the legal redeemer and avenger was bound to interpose. (The Book of Ruth (A Devotional Commentary) ) [The third is] The Forfeited Life. The avenger of blood is the goel who, in virtue of his kinship, becomes an avenger of wrongs.
Even in him who was “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29), we may find the avenging function of the Hebrew goel. Christ came to destroy as well as to redeem, to destroy that he might redeem. He, of whom the Hebrew avenger of blood was a type, pursued that great enemy of our souls. To avenge the world for all that it had suffered at the hands of evil, to redeem it from enslavement, he disarmed the powers of evil.
One feature of the goel comes out markedly, whatever [his] function—whether redeeming an alienated inheritance, restoring liberty to a captive, or hunting down a homicide. He is one of the nearest kin. Kinship with the redeemed, in short, is an unvarying law and condition of redemption. And this law holds of the divine Goel. No stranger could interpose for us, only one who is our nearest Kinsman. Hence the Son of God became the Son of Man.
In thus speaking of the redemption wrought by our divine Kinsman, it must not be supposed that we are playing with mere figures of speech. Under this image, we have presented to us the truths that have most profoundly entered our spiritual experience. No Hebrew who had been compelled to part with the fields he inherited from his fathers suffered a loss comparable with ours, when, by sin, we had lost the righteousness in which we were originally placed by the Father of our spirits. No Hebrew selling himself for a slave ever endured a bondage half so bitter and shameful as that into which we fell when, sold under sin, we sank into bondage to our own lusts. No deliverance wrought by a Hebrew goel is worthy to be compared to that by which Christ made it possible for us to possess a righteousness more stable and more perfect than that which we had cast away.
With a fervor and a triumph infinitely transcending that of Naomi, we may exclaim, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left us without a Kinsman-Redeemer.”
--- Samuel Cox
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Tortured May 20
God’s grace arrives just as we need it, appropriate for every challenge. Even if we’re lonely? Even if we’re ill? Yes. Even if we’re tortured? Even then.
Michael Sattler, born in Germany around 1490, became a Benedictine monk. As he studied Paul’s letters, he grew dissatisfied, left the monastery, married, and became a Lutheran. Sometime later he became convinced of believer’s baptism and became an Anabaptist of growing renown whose ministry attracted both converts and enemies.
Sattler, his wife, and a handful of associates were arrested in the mid-1520s and imprisoned in the tower of Binsdorf, where he wrote a letter to his flock: The brethren have doubtless informed you that some of us are in prison. Numerous accusations were preferred against us by our adversaries; at one time they threatened us with the gallows; at another with fire and sword. In this extremity, I surrendered myself entirely to the Lord’s will, and prepared myself, together with all brethren and wife, to die for his testimony’s sake.
On May 20, 1527 his torture, a prelude to execution, began at city center where his tongue was sliced. Chunks of flesh were torn from his body with red-hot tongs, and he was forged to a cart. On the way to the stake execution the tongs were applied five times again. Still able to speak, the unshakable Sattler prayed for his persecutors. After being bound to a ladder with ropes and pushed into the fire, he admonished the people, the judges, and the mayor to repent and be converted. “Almighty, eternal God,” he prayed, “Thou art the way and the truth: because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with thy help to this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.” As soon as the ropes on his wrists were burned, Sattler raised the two forefingers of his hand giving the promised signal to his brothers that a martyr’s death was bearable. Then the assembled crowd heard coming from his seared lips, “Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”
Sattler’s wife was executed by drowning eight days later.
Others were made fun of and beaten with whips, and some were chained in jail. Still others were stoned to death or sawed in two or killed with swords. Some had nothing but sheep skins or goat skins to wear. They were poor, mistreated, and tortured. The world did not deserve these good people.
--- Hebrews 11:36-38.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 20
“Marvellous lovingkindness.” --- Psalm 17:7.
When we give our hearts with our alms, we give well, but we must often plead to a failure in this respect. Not so our Master and our Lord. His favours are always performed with the love of his heart. He does not send to us the cold meat and the broken pieces from the table of his luxury, but he dips our morsel in his own dish, and seasons our provisions with the spices of his fragrant affections. When he puts the golden tokens of his grace into our palms, he accompanies the gift with such a warm pressure of our hand, that the manner of his giving is as precious as the boon itself. He will come into our houses upon his errands of kindness, and he will not act as some austere visitors do in the poor man’s cottage, but he sits by our side, not despising our poverty, nor blaming our weakness. Beloved, with what smiles does he speak! What golden sentences drop from his gracious lips! What embraces of affection does he bestow upon us! If he had but given us farthings, the way of his giving would have gilded them; but as it is, the costly alms are set in a golden basket by his pleasant carriage. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of his charity, for there is a bleeding heart stamped upon the face of all his benefactions. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Not one hint that we are burdensome to him; not one cold look for his poor pensioners; but he rejoices in his mercy, and presses us to his bosom while he is pouring out his life for us. There is a fragrance in his spikenard which nothing but his heart could produce; there is a sweetness in his honey-comb which could not be in it unless the very essence of his soul’s affection had been mingled with it. Oh! the rare communion which such singular heartiness effecteth! May we continually taste and know the blessedness of it!
Evening - May 20
“I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” --- Hosea 11:4.
Our heavenly Father often draws us with the cords of love; but ah! how backward we are to run towards him! How slowly do we respond to his gentle impulses! He draws us to exercise a more simple faith in him; but we have not yet attained to Abraham’s confidence; we do not leave our worldly cares with God, but, like Martha, we cumber ourselves with much serving. Our meagre faith brings leanness into our souls; we do not open our mouths wide, though God has promised to fill them. Does he not this Evening draw us to trust him? Can we not hear him say, “Come, my child, and trust me. The veil is rent; enter into my presence, and approach boldly to the throne of my grace. I am worthy of thy fullest confidence, cast thy cares on me. Shake thyself from the dust of thy cares, and put on thy beautiful garments of joy.” But, alas! though called with tones of love to the blessed exercise of this comforting grace, we will not come. At another time he draws us to closer communion with himself. We have been sitting on the doorstep of God’s house, and he bids us advance into the banqueting hall and sup with him, but we decline the honour. There are secret rooms not yet opened to us; Jesus invites us to enter them, but we hold back. Shame on our cold hearts! We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be his servants, much less to be his brides, and yet he hath exalted us to be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, married to him by a glorious marriage-covenant. Herein is love! But it is love which takes no denial. If we obey not the gentle drawings of his love, he will send affliction to drive us into closer intimacy with himself. Have us nearer he will. What foolish children we are to refuse those bands of love, and so bring upon our backs that scourge of small cords, which Jesus knows how to use!
Morning and Evening
HOLY GHOST, WITH LIGHT DIVINE
Andrew Reed, 1787–1862
That the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me. --- Hudson Taylor
One of the marks of spiritual maturity in any believer’s life is the growing conviction of the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power for daily living. How natural it often seems to attempt to live our lives and even minister for God in our own wisdom and strength. How tragic it is when churches and religious organizations institutionalize themselves with dogma or legalistic rules and practices and gradually replace the invigorating ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of their people. It is said that religious movements often follow a predictable course: A Spirit-filled leader, an efficient machine, a dead monument.
“Holy Ghost, With Light Divine” has been for many years one of the church’s important teaching hymns regarding the Holy Spirit’s ministry. The first stanza tells us that we need a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s presence in order to have clear directions for our lives. Then we are reminded that we need the Holy Spirit’s ministry in order to live lives of purity and power (verse two). We also need the work of the Holy Spirit to balance the emotional sorrows of life with “joy divine” (verse three). Finally, we need the all-prevailing control by the Holy Spirit if our lives are to be totally committed and conformed to God (verse four).
This fine text, written by Anglican minister Andrew Reed, first appeared in a publication by its author in 1817.
Holy Ghost, with light divine, shine upon this heart of mine; chase the shades of night away; turn my darkness into day.
Holy Ghost, with pow’r divine, cleanse this guilty heart of mine; long hath sin without control held dominion o’er my soul.
Holy Ghost, with joy divine, cheer this saddened heart of mine; bid my many woes depart; heal my wounded, bleeding heart.
Holy Spirit, all divine, dwell within this heart of mine; cast down ev’ry idol-throne; reign supreme and reign alone.
For Today: Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9–11; Ephesians 5:8, 9, 18.
Try to engage in a conversation some respected Christian friend whose life clearly reflects Spirit control. Seek to learn more about this truth in a personal, first-hand manner. Sing this prayer as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXX. — BUT I will easily prove to you the contrary of all this: — that such holy men as you boast of, whenever they approach God, either to pray or to do, approach Him, utterly forgetful of their own “Free-will” and despairing of themselves, crying unto Him for pure grace only, feeling at the same time that they deserve everything that is the contrary. In this state was Augustine often; and in the same state was Bernard, when, at the point of death, he said, “I have lost my time, because I have lived wrong.” I do not see, here, that there was any power spoken of which could apply itself unto Grace, but that all power was condemned as being only averse; although those same saints, at the time when they disputed concerning “Free-will,” spoke otherwise. And the same I see has happened unto all, that, when they are engaged in words and disputations, they are one thing; but another, when they come to experience and practice. In the former, they speak differently from what they felt before; in the latter, they feel differently from what they spoke before. But men, good as well as bad, are to be judged of, more from what they feel, than from what they say.
But we will indulge you still further. We will not require miracles, the Spirit, and sanctity. We return to the doctrine itself. We only require this of you: — that you would at least explain to us, what work, what word, what thought, that power of “Free-will” can move, attempt, or perform, in order to apply itself unto grace. For it is not enough to say, there is! there is! there is a certain power of “Free-will!” For what is more easily said than this? Nor does such a way of proceeding become men the most learned, and the most holy, who have been approved by so many ages, but must be called baby-like (as we say in a German proverb.) It must be defined, what that power is, what it can do, in what it is passive, and what takes place. To give you an example (for I shall press you most homely) this is what is required: — Whether that power must pray, or fast, or labour, or chastise the body, or give alms; or what other work of this kind it must do, or attempt. For if it be a power it must do some kind of work. But here you are more dumb than Seriphian frogs and fishes. And how should you give the definition, when, according to your own testimony, you are at an uncertainty about the power itself, at difference among each other, and inconsistent with yourselves? And what must become of the definition, when the thing to be defined has no consistency in itself?
But be it so, that since the time of Plato, you are at length agreed among yourselves concerning the power itself; and that its work may be defined to be praying, or fasting, or something of the same kind, which perhaps, still lies undiscovered in the ideas of Plato. Who shall certify us that such is truth, that it pleases God, and that we are doing right, in safety? Especially when you yourselves assert that there is a human cause which has not the testimony of the Spirit, because of its having been handled by philosophers, and having existed in the world before Christ came, and before the Spirit was sent down from heaven. It is most certain, then, that this doctrine was not sent down from heaven with the Spirit, but sprung from the earth long before: and therefore, there is need of weighty testimony, whereby it may be confirmed to be true and sure.
We will grant, therefore, that we are private individuals and few, and you public characters and many; we ignorant, and you the most learned: we stupid, and you the most acute: we creatures of yesterday, and you older than Deucalion; we never received, and you approved by so many ages; in a word, we sinners, carnal, and dolts, and you awe-striking to the very devils for your sanctity, spirit, and miracles. — Yet allow us the right at least of Turks and Jews, to ask of you that reason for your doctrine, which your favourite Peter has commanded you to give. We ask it of you in the most modest way: that is, we do not require it to be proved by sanctity, by the Spirit, and by miracles, (which however, we could do in our own right, seeing that you yourselves require that of others): nay, we even indulge you so far, as not to require you to produce any example of a work, a word, or a thought, in confirmation of your doctrine but only to explain to us the doctrine itself, and merely to tell us plainly, what you would have to be understood by it, and what the form of it is. If you will not, or cannot do this, then let us at least attempt to set forth an example of it ourselves. For you are as bad as the Pope himself, and his followers, who say, “You are to do as we say, but not to do, as we do.” In the same manner you say, that that power requires a work to be done: and so, we shall be set on to work, while you remain at your ease. But will you not grant us this, that the more you are in numbers, the longer you are in standing, the greater you are, the farther you are on all accounts superior to us, the more disgraceful it is to you, that we, who in every respect are as nothing in your eyes, should desire to learn and practice your doctrine, and that you should not be able to prove it, either by any miracle, or by the killing of a louse, or by any the least motion of the Spirit, or by any the least work of sanctity, nor even to bring forth any example of it, either in work or word? And further, (a thing unheard of before) that you should not be able to tell us plainly of what form the doctrine is, and how it is to be understood? — O excellent teachers of “Free-will!” What are you, now, but “Sound only!” Who now, Erasmus, are they who “boast of the Spirit but shew it not forth?” Who “say only, and then wish men to believe them?” Are not your friends they, who are thus extolled to the skies, and who can say nothing, and yet, boast of, and exact such great things?
We entreat, therefore, you and yours, my friend Erasmus, that you will allow us to stand aloof and tremble with fear, alarmed at the peril of our conscience; or, at least, to wave our assenting to a doctrine, which, as you yourself see, even though you should succeed to the utmost, and all your arguments should be proved and established, is nothing but an empty term, and a sounding of these syllables — ‘There is a power of “Free-will!”’ — There is a power of “Free-will!” — Moreover, it still remains an uncertainty among your own friends themselves, whether it be a term even, or not: for they differ from each other, and are inconsistent with themselves. It is most iniquitous, therefore, nay, the greatest of miseries, that our consciences, which Christ has redeemed by His blood, should be tormented by the ghost of one term, and that, a term which has no certainty in it. And yet, if we should not suffer ourselves to be thus tormented, we should be held as guilty of unheard-of pride, for disregarding so many fathers of so many ages, who have asserted “Free-will.” Whereas, the truth is, as you see from what has been said, they never defined any thing what ever concerning “Free-will”: but the doctrine of “Free-will” is erected under the covering, and upon the basis of their name: of which, nevertheless, they can shew no form, and for which, they can fix no term: and thus they delude the world with a term, that is a lie!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
10 “You Anoint My Head with Oil . . .”
As one meditates on this magnificent poem it is helpful to keep in mind that the poet is recounting the salient events of the full year in a sheep’s life. He takes us with him from the home ranch where every need is so carefully supplied by the owner, out into the green pastures, along the still waters, up through the mountain valleys to the high tablelands of summer.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
For in the terminology of the sheepman, “summertime is fly time.” By this, reference is made to the hordes of insects that emerge with the advent of warm weather. Only those people who have kept livestock or studied wildlife habits are aware of the serious problems for animals presented by insects in the summer.
Just to name just a few parasites that trouble stock and make their lives a misery, there are warble flies, bot flies, heel flies, nose (nasal) flies, deer flies, black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other minute, winged parasites that proliferate at this time of year. Their attacks on animals can readily turn the golden summer months into a time of torture for sheep and drive them almost to distraction.
Sheep are especially troubled by the nose fly, or nasal fly as it is sometimes called. These little flies buzz about the sheep’s head, attempting to deposit their eggs on the damp mucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. If they are successful, the eggs will hatch in a few days to form small, slender, worm-like larvae. They work their way up the nasal passages into the sheep’s head; they burrow into the flesh and there set up an intense irritation accompanied by severe inflammation.
For relief from this agonizing annoyance, sheep will deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or brush. They will rub them in the soil and thrash around against woody growth. In extreme cases of intense infestation, a sheep may even kill itself in a frenzied endeavor to gain respite from the aggravation. Often advanced stages of infection from these flies will lead to blindness.
Because of all this, when the nose flies hover around the flock, some of the sheep become frantic with fear and panic in their attempt to escape their tormentors. They will stamp their feet erratically and race from place to place in the pasture trying desperately to elude the flies. Some may run so much they will drop from sheer exhaustion. Others may toss their heads up and down for hours.
They will hide in any bush or woodland that offers shelter. On some occasions they may refuse to graze in the open at all.
All this excitement and distraction has a devastating effect on the entire flock.
Ewes and lambs rapidly lose condition and begin to drop in weight. The ewes will go off milking, and their lambs will stop growing gainfully. Some sheep will be injured in their headlong rushes of panic; others may be blinded and some even killed outright.
Only the strictest attention to the behavior of the sheep by the shepherd can forestall the difficulties of “fly time.” At the very first sign of flies among the flock, he will apply an antidote to their heads. I always preferred to use a homemade remedy composed of linseed oil, sulfur, and tar, which was smeared over the sheep’s nose and head as a protection against nose flies.
What an incredible transformation this would make among the sheep. Once the oil had been applied to the sheep’s head, there was an immediate change in behavior. Gone was the aggravation, gone the frenzy, gone the irritability and the restlessness. Instead, the sheep would start to feed quietly again, then soon lie down in peaceful contentment.
This, to me, is the exact picture of irritations in my own life. How easy it is for there to be a fly in the ointment of even my most lofty spiritual experience! So often it is the small, petty annoyances that ruin my repose. It is the niggling distractions that become burning issues that can well-nigh drive me round the bend or up the wall. At times some tiny, tantalizing thing torments me to the point where I feel I am just beating my brains out.
And so my behavior as a child of God degenerates to a most disgraceful sort of frustrated tirade.
Just as with the sheep, there must be continuous and renewed application of oil to forestall the “flies” in my life; there must be a continuous anointing of God’s gracious Spirit to counteract the ever-present aggravations of personality conflicts. Only one application of oil, sulfur, and tar was not enough for the entire summer. It was a process that had to be repeated. The fresh application was the effective antidote.
There are those who contend that in the Christian life one need only have a single, initial anointing of God’s Spirit. Yet the frustrations of daily dilemmas demonstrate that one must have Him come continuously to the troubled mind and heart to counteract the attacks of one’s tormentors.
This is a practical and intimate matter between myself and my Master. In Luke 11:13 Christ Himself, our Shepherd, urges us to ask for the Holy Spirit to be given to us by the Father.
Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ESV
It is both a logical and legitimate desire for us to have the daily anointing of God’s gracious Spirit upon our minds. God alone can form in us the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit alone can give to us the attitudes of Christ. He alone makes it possible for us to react to aggravations and annoyances with quietness and calmness.
When people or circumstances or events beyond our control tend to “bug” us, it is possible to be content and serene when these “outside” forces are counteracted by the presence of God’s Spirit. In Romans 8:1–2, we are told plainly that it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that makes us free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1–2 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ESV
It is this daily anointing of God’s gracious Spirit upon my mind, which produces in my life such personality traits as joy, contentment, love, patience, gentleness, and peace. What a contrast this is to the tempers, frustration, and irritableness that mar the daily conduct of so many of God’s children.
What I do in any given situation is to expose it to my Master, my Owner, Christ Jesus, and say simply, “O Lord, I can’t cope with these petty, annoying, peevish problems. Please apply the oil of Your Spirit to my mind. Both at the conscious and subconscious levels of my thought-life enable me to act and react just as You would.” And He will. It will surprise you how promptly He complies with such a request made in deadly earnest.
But summertime for the sheep is more than just fly time. It is also “scab time.” Scab is an irritating and highly contagious disease common among sheep the world over. Caused by a minute, microscopic parasite that proliferates in warm weather, “scab” spreads throughout a flock by direct contact between infected and noninfected animals.
Sheep love to rub heads in an affectionate and friendly manner. Scab is most commonly found around the head. When two sheep rub together, the infection spreads readily from one to the other.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.