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5/24/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Numbers 33     Psalm 78:1-37     Isaiah 25     1 John 3


Numbers 33

Recounting Israel’s Journey

Numbers 33:1 These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the LORD, and these are their stages according to their starting places. 3 They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments.

5 So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth. 6 And they set out from Succoth and camped at Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness. 7 And they set out from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which is east of Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol. 8 And they set out from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and they went a three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah. 9 And they set out from Marah and came to Elim; at Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. 10 And they set out from Elim and camped by the Red Sea. 11 And they set out from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin. 12 And they set out from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. 13 And they set out from Dophkah and camped at Alush. 14 And they set out from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. 15 And they set out from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai. 16 And they set out from the wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth-hattaavah. 17 And they set out from Kibroth-hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth. 18 And they set out from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah. 19 And they set out from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon-perez. 20 And they set out from Rimmon-perez and camped at Libnah. 21 And they set out from Libnah and camped at Rissah. 22 And they set out from Rissah and camped at Kehelathah. 23 And they set out from Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher. 24 And they set out from Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah. 25 And they set out from Haradah and camped at Makheloth. 26 And they set out from Makheloth and camped at Tahath. 27 And they set out from Tahath and camped at Terah. 28 And they set out from Terah and camped at Mithkah. 29 And they set out from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. 30 And they set out from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth. 31 And they set out from Moseroth and camped at Bene-jaakan. 32 And they set out from Bene-jaakan and camped at Hor-haggidgad. 33 And they set out from Hor-haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah. 34 And they set out from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah. 35 And they set out from Abronah and camped at Ezion-geber. 36 And they set out from Ezion-geber and camped in the wilderness of Zin (that is, Kadesh). 37 And they set out from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom.

38 And Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the LORD and died there, in the fortieth year after the people of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. 39 And Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor.

40 And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the people of Israel.

41 And they set out from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah. 42 And they set out from Zalmonah and camped at Punon. 43 And they set out from Punon and camped at Oboth. 44 And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the territory of Moab. 45 And they set out from Iyim and camped at Dibon-gad. 46 And they set out from Dibon-gad and camped at Almon-diblathaim. 47 And they set out from Almon-diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. 48 And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho; 49 they camped by the Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.

Drive Out the Inhabitants

50 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. 53 And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. 54 You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit. 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. 56 And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.”


Psalm 78:1-37

Tell the Coming Generation

Psalm 78:1 A Maskil Of Asaph.

1  Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2  I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3  things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4  We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

5  He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6  that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7  so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8  and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

9  The Ephraimites, armed with the bow,
turned back on the day of battle.
10  They did not keep God’s covenant,
but refused to walk according to his law.
11  They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them.
12  In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13  He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
14  In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all the night with a fiery light.
15  He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16  He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17  Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18  They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19  They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20  He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?”

21  Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22  because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
23  Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24  and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
25  Man ate of the bread of the angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
26  He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
and by his power he led out the south wind;
27  he rained meat on them like dust,
winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28  he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
all around their dwellings.
29  And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
30  But before they had satisfied their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
31  the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed the strongest of them
and laid low the young men of Israel.

32  In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33  So he made their days vanish like a breath,
and their years in terror.
34  When he killed them, they sought him;
they repented and sought God earnestly.
35  They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
36  But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37  Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.


Isaiah 25

God Will Swallow Up Death Forever

Isaiah 25:1

O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2  For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
3  Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4  For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
5  like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners;
as heat by the shade of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is put down.

6  On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7  And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8  He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
9  It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
10  For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain,
and Moab shall be trampled down in his place,
as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.
11  And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it
as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim,
but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.
12  And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down,
lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust.


1 John 3

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.   ( Satisfaction in the face of death is grounded in something far deeper than anything Earth can provide. It’s the satisfaction toward which the psalmist looked when he said to God, “In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” ( Psalm 17:15 ). The apostle John says, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” ( 1 John 3:2 ). Why do we let our hearts reside in a world of dissatisfaction when we have so much to enjoy? It’s because we are seeking our satisfaction in things that were never designed to produce it and, indeed, are incapable of doing so. )  The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances  3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Love One Another

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Numbers 33; Psalm 78:1-39; Isaiah 25; 1 John 3

By Don Carson 5/24/2018

     The opening few verses of Psalm 78 initially elicit a little puzzlement. Asaph invites his readers (and if this is sung, his hearers) to hear his teaching, to listen to the words of his mouth (78:1). Then he announces, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old” (78:2). Anticipation builds; it sounds as if we shall hear brand-new things that have been hidden before Asaph came on the scene. Then he further describes these “hidden things, things from of old: they are “what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us” (78:3). So, is he embarking on some new revelation, previously hidden, or is he simply reviewing the common heritage of the Israelites? And why add this point that at least part of his purpose is to disclose these things to the new generation that is coming along (78:4)?

     Three observations:

     First, the word rendered “parables” has a wide range of meaning. It can refer to narrative parables, wisdom sayings, aphorisms, and several other forms. Here, Asaph seems to mean no more than that he will say what he has to say in the poetic structures and wise comparisons that characterize this Psalm.

     Second, the content of this Psalm is both old — “what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us”– and new, “hidden things.” This Psalm is one of a group of “historical Psalms,” that is, Psalms that review some of the experiences of the people of God with their God. For most of its length its chief focus is the Exodus and the events that surrounded it, including the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the provision of manna, and so forth. The Psalm brings us down to the reign of David (which, incidentally, shows that Asaph himself lived in David’s day or later). Yet this Psalm is not a mere review of the bare facts of that history. The recital is designed to draw certain lessons from that history, lessons that might be missed if attention were not drawn to them. These lessons include the sorry patterns of rebellion, God’s self-restraint in his rising anger, his graciousness in saving them again and again, and more. These lessons are “hidden” in the bare text, but they are there, and Asaph brings them out.

     Third, Asaph understands (1) that deep knowledge of Scripture and of the ways of God means more than knowing facts, but also grasping the unfolding patterns to see what God is doing; (2) that at any time the covenant people of God are never more than one generation from extinction, so it is utterly vital to pass on this accumulating insight to the next generation.

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 54

The Lord Upholds My Life
54 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Maskil Of David, When The Ziphites Went And Told Saul, “Is Not David Hiding Among Us?”

1 O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah

4 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.

6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     6. Then in the collation of benefices (which was formerly conjoined with ordination, but is now altogether separate), how much better do they conduct themselves? But they have many reasons to give, for it is not bishops alone who confer the office of priests (and even in their case, where they are called Collators, they have not always the full right), but others have the presentation, while they only retain the honorary title of collations. To these are added nominations from schools, resignations, either simple or by way of exchange, commendatory rescripts, preventions, and the like. But they all conduct themselves in such a way that one cannot upbraid another. I maintain that, in the Papacy in the present day, scarcely one benefice in a hundred is conferred without simony, as the ancients have defined it (Calv. in Art. 8:21). I say not that all purchase for a certain sum; but show me one in twenty who does not attain to the priesthood by some sinister method. Some owe their promotion to kindred or affinity, others to the influence of their parents, while others procure favour by obsequiousness. In short, the end for which the offices are conferred is, that provision may be made not for churches, but for those who receive them. Accordingly, they call them benefices, by which name they sufficiently declare, that they look on them in no other light than as the largesses by which princes either court the favour or reward the services of their soldiers. I say nothing of the fact, that these rewards are conferred on barbers, cooks, grooms, and dross of that sort. At present, indeed, there are no cases in law courts which make a greater noise than those concerning sacerdotal offices, so that you may regard them as nothing else than game set before dogs to be hunted. Is it tolerable even to hear the name of pastors given to those who have forced their way into the possession of a church as into an enemy's country? who have evicted it by forensic brawls? who have bought it for a price? who have laboured for it by sordid sycophancy? who, while scarcely lisping boys, have obtained it like heritage from uncles and relatives? Sometimes even bastards obtain it from their fathers.

7. Was the licentiousness of the people, however corrupt and lawless, ever carried to such a height? But a more monstrous thing still is, that one man (I say not what kind of man, but certainly one who cannot govern himself) is appointed to the charge of five or six churches. In the courts of princes in the present day, you may see youths who are thrice abbots, twice bishops, once archbishops. Everywhere are Canons loaded with five, six, or seven cures, of not one of which they take the least charge, except to draw the income. I will not object that the word of God cries aloud against this: it has long ceased to have the least weight with them. I will not object that many councils denounce the severest punishment against this dishonest practice; these, too, when it suits them, they boldly contemn. But I say that it is monstrous wickedness, altogether opposed to God, to nature, and to ecclesiastical government, that one thief should lie brooding over several churches, that the name of pastor should be given to one who, even if he were willing, could not be present among his flock, and yet (such is their impudence) they cloak these abominations with the name of church, that they may exempt them from all blame. Nay, if you please, in these iniquities is contained that sacred succession to which, as they boast, it is owing that the Church does not perish.

8. Let us now see, as the second mark for estimating a legitimate pastor, how faithfully they discharge their office. Of the priests who are there elected, some are called monks, others seculars. The former herd was unknown to the early Church; even to hold such a place in the Church is so repugnant to the monastic profession, that in old times, when persons were elected out of monasteries to clerical offices, they ceased to be monks. And, accordingly, Gregory, though in his time there were many abuses, did not suffer the offices to be thus confounded (Gregor. Lib. 3 Ep. 11). For he insists that those who have been appointed abbots shall resign the clerical office, because no one can be properly at the same time a monk and a clerk, the one being an obstacle to the other. Now, were I to ask how he can well fulfil his office who is declared by the canons to be unfit, what answer, pray, will they give? They will quote those abortive decrees of Innocent and Boniface, by which monks are admitted to the honour and power of the priesthood, though they remain in their monasteries. But is it at all reasonable that any unlearned ass, as soon as he has seized upon the Roman See, may by one little word overturn all antiquity? But of this matter afterwards. Let it now suffice, that in the purer times of the Church it was regarded as a great absurdity for a monk to hold the office of priest. For Jerome declares that he does not the office of priest while he is living among monks, and ranks himself as one of the people to be governed by the priests. But to concede this to them, what duty do they perform? Some of the mendicants preach, while all the other monks chant or mutter masses in their cells; as if either our Saviour had wished, or the nature of the office permits, presbyters to be made for such a purpose. When Scripture plainly testifies that it is the duty of a presbyter to rule his own church (Acts 20:28), is it not impious profanation to transfer it to another purpose, nay, altogether to change the sacred institution of God? For when they are ordained, they are expressly forbidden to do what God enjoins on all presbyters. For this is their cant, Let a monk, contented with his cell, neither presume to administer the sacraments, nor hold any other public office. Let them deny, if they can, that it is open mockery of God when any one is appointed a presbyter in order to abstain from his proper and genuine office, and when he who has the name is not able to have the thing.

9. I come to the seculars, some of whom are (as they speak) beneficiaries; that is, have offices by which they are maintained, while others let out their services, day by day, to chant or say masses, and live in a manner on a stipend thus collected. Benefices either have a cure of souls, as bishoprics and parochial charges, or they are the stipends of delicate men, who gain a livelihood by chanting; as prebends, canonries, parsonships, deaneries, chaplainships, and the like; although, things being now turned upside down, the offices of abbot and prior are not only conferred on secular presbyters, but on boys also by privilege, that is, by common and usual custom. In regard to the mercenaries who seek their food from day to day, what else could they do than they actually do, in other words, prostitute themselves in an illiberal and disgraceful manner for gain, especially from the vast multitude of them with which the world now teems? Hence, as they dare not beg openly, or think that in this way they would gain little, they go about like hungry dogs, and by a kind of barking importunity extort from the unwilling what they may deposit in their hungry stomachs. Were I here to attempt to describe how disgraceful it is to the Church, that the honour and office of a presbyter should come to this, I should never have done. My readers, therefore, must not expect from me a discourse which can fully represent this flagitious indignity. I briefly say, that if it is the office of a presbyter (and this both the word of God prescribes (1 Cor. 4:1) and the ancient canons enjoin) to feed the Church, and administer the spiritual kingdom of Christ, all those priests who have no work or stipend, save in the traffic of masses, not only fail in their office, but have no lawful office to discharge. No place is given them to teach, they have no people to govern. In short, nothing is left them but an altar on which to sacrifice Christ; this is to sacrifice not to God but to demons, as we shall afterwards show (see chap.18 sec. 3, 9, 14).

10. I am not here touching on extraneous faults, [556] but only on the intestine evil which lies at the root of the very institution. I will add a sentence which will sound strange in their ears, but which, as it is true, it is right to express, that canons, deans, chaplains, provosts, and all who are maintained in idle offices of priesthood, are to be viewed in the same light. For what service can they perform to the Church? The preaching of the word, the care of discipline, and the administration of the Sacraments, they have shaken off as burdens too grievous to be borne. What then remains on which they can plume themselves as being true presbyters? Merely chanting and pompous ceremonies. But what is this to the point? If they allege custom, use, or the long prescription, I, on the contrary, appeal to the definition by which our Saviour has described true presbyters, and shown the qualities of those who are to be regarded as presbyters. But if they cannot endure the hard law of submitting to the rule of Christ, let them at least allow the cause to be decided by the authority of the primitive Church. Their condition will not be one whit improved when decided according to the ancient canons. Those who have degenerated into Canons ought to be presbyters, as they formerly were, to rule the Church in common with the bishop, and be, as it were, his colleagues in the pastoral office. What they call deaneries of the chapter have no concern with the true government of the Church, much less chaplainships and other similar worthless names. In what light then are they all to be regarded? Assuredly, both the word of Christ and the practice of the primitive Church exclude them from the honour of presbyters. They maintain, however, that they are presbyters; but we must unmask them, and we shall find that their whole profession is most alien from the office of presbyters, as that office is described to us by the apostles, and was discharged in the primitive Church. All such offices, therefore, by whatever titles they are distinguished, as they are novelties, and certainly not supported either by the institution of God or the ancient practice of the Church, ought to have no place in a description of that spiritual government which the Church received, and was consecrated by the mouth of the Lord himself. Or (if they would have me express it in ruder and coarser terms), since chaplains, canons, deans, provosts, and such like lazy-bellies, do not even, with one finger, touch a particle of the office, which is necessarily required in presbyters, they must not be permitted falsely to usurp the honour, and thereby violate the holy institution of Christ.

11. There still remain bishops and rectors of parishes; and I wish that they would contend for the maintenance of their office. I would willingly grant that they have a pious and excellent office if they would discharge it; but when they desert the churches committed to them, and throwing the care upon others, would still be considered pastors, they just act as if the office of pastor were to do nothing. If any usurer, who never stirs from the city, were to give himself out as a ploughman or vine-dresser; or a soldier, who has constantly been in the field or the camp, and has never seen books or the forum, to pass for a lawyer, who could tolerate the absurdity? Much more absurdly do those act who would be called and deemed lawful pastors of the Church, and are unwilling so to be. How few are those who in appearance even take the superintendence of their church? Many spend their lives in devouring the revenues of churches which they never visit even for the purpose of inspection. Some once a-year go themselves or send a steward, that nothing may be lost in the letting of them. When the corruption first crept in, those who wished to enjoy this kind of vacation pleaded privilege, but it is now a rare case for any one to reside in his church. They look upon them merely in the light of farms, over which they appoint their vicars as grieves or husbandmen. But it is repugnant to common sense to regard him as a shepherd who has never seen a sheep of his flock.

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



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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2009    A Man Created in God’s Image

     In 1998 a dear friend prompted me to get involved working with Dr. Tom Woodward and the C. S. Lewis Society. A few months later I found myself at dinner with Phillip E. Johnson, noted law professor at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial. During my time with Dr. Johnson I learned two very important things. First, if we as Christians are going to enter the debate on Darwinian evolution, we must first understand who and what we’re up against — we must know our opponents’ arguments better than they do. Second, I learned that our ultimate end is not simply to win the argument but to win our opponents to Christ, and that we must therefore be careful to win both the argument and win the man so that at the end of the debate our opponent has a place to land, a smooth runway, so to speak, where he can come down.

     We’re familiar with Peter’s charge: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” However, we too often forget the manner in which we are called to “make a defense” (an apologetic) for the hope within us. Peter continues, “yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

     This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and this month marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (with an Introduction by Charles W. Eliot). While it would certainly be easy for us to do an issue of Tabletalk that simply reiterated the glaring deficiencies of Darwin’s naturalism and evolutionary biology, we decided instead to follow the wisdom of Dr. Johnson. Thus, we have provided you with something that is hard to find anywhere, namely, a fair and honest biographical portrait of Charles Darwin and an overview of responses to Darwinian evolutionary theory from a Christian perspective, so that, at the end of the day, the church might be better equipped to give a defense of her hope with gentleness and respect, pointing all professed Darwinists to the undeniable Creator before whose face we live coram Deo.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison, died this day, May 24, 1879. He published the anti-slavery paper in Boston called "The Liberator," and founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Suffering hundreds of death threats for his politically incorrect stand for the value of all human life, William Lloyd Garrison wrote: "I desire to thank God, that He enables me to disregard 'the fear of man which bringeth a snare,' and to speak His truth… and… while life-blood warms my throbbing veins…to oppose… the brutalizing sway - till Afric's chains are burst, and freedom rules the rescued land."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Rick Adams

Every day people are straying away from the church
and going back to God.
Really.
--- Lenny Bruce
The Essential Lenny Bruce

Were there no God,
we would be in this glorious world
with grateful hearts
and no one to thank.
--- Christina Rossetti
The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)

The most important meeting we as leaders attend is that daily personal meeting with the Lord, before the day begins, when worship and meditation increase our faith as we receive the orders for the day.
--- Warren Wiersbe
On Being a Leader for God

The upright soul is constant in his profession, and does not change his behavior according to his companions. Oh that I might never, through shame or fear, disown him who has already acknowledged me!
--- George Swinnock
The Works of George Swinnock Complete in 5 Volumes (Nichols Edition)

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis


               Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Sixteenth Chapter / We Should Show Our Needs To Christ And Ask His Grace

     The Disciple

     O MOST kind, most loving Lord, Whom I now desire to receive with devotion, You know the weakness and the necessity which I suffer, in what great evils and vices I am involved, how often I am depressed, tempted, defiled, and troubled.

     To You I come for help, to You I pray for comfort and relief. I speak to Him Who knows all things, to Whom my whole inner life is manifest, and Who alone can perfectly comfort and help me.

     You know what good things I am most in need of and how poor I am in virtue. Behold I stand before You, poor and naked, asking Your grace and imploring Your mercy.

     Feed Your hungry beggar. Inflame my coldness with the fire of Your love. Enlighten my blindness with the brightness of Your presence. Turn all earthly things to bitterness for me, all grievance and adversity to patience, all lowly creation to contempt and oblivion. Raise my heart to You in heaven and suffer me not to wander on earth. From this moment to all eternity do You alone grow sweet to me, for You alone are my food and drink, my love and my joy, my sweetness and my total good.

     Let Your presence wholly inflame me, consume and transform me into Yourself, that I may become one spirit with You by the grace of inward union and by the melting power of Your ardent love.

     Suffer me not to go from You fasting and thirsty, but deal with me mercifully as You have so often and so wonderfully dealt with Your saints.

     What wonder if I were completely inflamed by You to die to myself, since You are the fire ever burning and never dying, a love purifying the heart and enlightening the understanding.

The Imitation Of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 5.

     Alexandra Reigns Nine Years, During Which Time The Pharisees Were The Real Rulers Of The Nation.

     1. Now Alexander left the kingdom to Alexandra his wife, and depended upon it that the Jews would now very readily submit to her, because she had been very averse to such cruelty as he had treated them with, and had opposed his violation of their laws, and had thereby got the good-will of the people. Nor was he mistaken as to his expectations; for this woman kept the dominion, by the opinion that the people had of her piety; for she chiefly studied the ancient customs of her country, and cast those men out of the government that offended against their holy laws. And as she had two sons by Alexander, she made Hyrcanus the elder high priest, on account of his age, as also, besides that, on account of his inactive temper, no way disposing him to disturb the public. But she retained the younger, Aristobulus, with her as a private person, by reason of the warmth of his temper.

     2. And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government. These are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately. low Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs: they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [men] at their pleasure; 4 and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, whilst the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra. She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs, and intent always upon gathering soldiers together; so that she increased the army the one half, and procured a great body of foreign troops, till her own nation became not only very powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates, while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her.

     3. Accordingly, they themselves slew Diogenes, a person of figure, and one that had been a friend to Alexander; and accused him as having assisted the king with his advice, for crucifying the eight hundred men [before mentioned.] They also prevailed with Alexandra to put to death the rest of those who had irritated him against them. Now she was so superstitious as to comply with their desires, and accordingly they slew whom they pleased themselves. But the principal of those that were in danger fled to Aristobulus, who persuaded his mother to spare the men on account of their dignity, but to expel them out of the city, unless she took them to be innocent; so they were suffered to go unpunished, and were dispersed all over the country. But when Alexandra sent out her army to Damascus, under pretense that Ptolemy was always oppressing that city, she got possession of it; nor did it make any considerable resistance. She also prevailed with Tigranes, king of Armenia, who lay with his troops about Ptolemais, and besieged Cleopatra, 5 by agreements and presents, to go away. Accordingly, Tigranes soon arose from the siege, by reason of those domestic tumults which happened upon Lucullus's expedition into Armenia.

     4. In the mean time, Alexandra fell sick, and Aristobulus, her younger son, took hold of this opportunity, with his domestics, of which he had a great many, who were all of them his friends, on account of the warmth of their youth, and got possession of all the fortresses. He also used the sums of money he found in them to get together a number of mercenary soldiers, and made himself king; and besides this, upon Hyrcanus's complaint to his mother, she compassionated his case, and put Aristobulus's wife and sons under restraint in Antonia, which was a fortress that joined to the north part of the temple. It was, as I have already said, of old called the Citadel; but afterwards got the name of Antonia, when Antony was [lord of the East], just as the other cities, Sebaste and Agrippias, had their names changed, and these given them from Sebastus and Agrippa. But Alexandra died before she could punish Aristobulus for his disinheriting his brother, after she had reigned nine years.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 17:19-20
     by D.H. Stern

19     Those who love quarreling love giving offense;
those who make their gates tall are courting disaster.

20     A crooked-hearted person will find nothing good,
and the perverse of speech will end in calamity.


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

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The delight of despair

     And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. --- Rev. 1:17.

     It may be that like the apostle John you know Jesus Christ intimately, when suddenly He appears with no familiar characteristic at all, and the only thing you can do is to fall at His feet as dead. There are times when God cannot reveal Himself in any other way than in His majesty, and it is the awfulness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair; if you are ever to be raised up, it must be by the hand of God.

     “He laid His right hand upon me.” In the midst of the awfulness, a touch comes, and you know it is the right hand of Jesus Christ. The right hand not of restraint nor of correction nor of chastisement, but the right hand of the Everlasting Father. Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it is ineffable peace and comfort, the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms,” full of sustaining and comfort and strength. When once His touch comes, nothing at all can cast you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, and to say—“Fear not.” His tenderness is ineffably sweet. Do I know Him like that?

     Watch some of the things that strike despair. There is despair in which there is no delight, no horizon, no hope of anything brighter; but the delight of despair comes when I know that “in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” I delight to know that there is that in me which must fall prostrate before God when He manifests Himself, and if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible.


My Utmost for His Highest

A Line From St David's
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               A Line From St David's

I am sending you this letter,
Something for neo-Edwardians
Of a test-tube age to grow glum about
In their conditioned libraries.
As I came here by way of Plwmp,
There were hawkweeds in the hedges;
Nature had invested all her gold
In the industry of the soil.
There were larks, too, like a fresh chorus
Of dew, and I thought, remembering Dewi
The water-drinker, the way back
Is not so far as the way forward.
Here the cathedral's bubble of stone
Is still unpricked by the mind's needle,
And the wall lettuce in the crevices
Is as green now as when Giraldus
Altered the colourof his thought
By drinking from the Welsh fountain....

I ramble; what I wanted to say
Was that the day has a blue lining
Partly of sky, partly of sea;
That the old currents are in the grass,
Thought rust has becalmed the plough.
Somewhere a man sharpens a scythe;
A child watches him from the brink
Of his own speech, and this is of more
Importance than all the visitors keeping
A spry saint asleep in his tomb.
The Bread Of Truth

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Zevaḥim 96b

     D’RASH

     The story is told of a man who offered a rabbi ten thousand dollars to make him a kohen. "You cannot buy that," the rabbi responds. The man returns later, offering the rabbi one hundred thousands dollars. "I'm sure that you very much want to become a kohen," answers the rabbi, "but it's not something I can sell to you." A week later, the same man returns. "Look, rabbi, it'll put me in hock forever, but I'll give you a million dollars to make me a kohen." The rabbi is dumbfounded. "Okay, if it will make you happy, I'll make you a kohen. But tell me: Why is it so important?" "Well, rabbi, my father was a kohen, and his father, and his father before him!"

     Of course, the humor here is from the fact that one becomes a kohen automatically. The priesthood in the Bible is through lineage. One needs no qualification other than a father who is a kohen. Until recently in Jewish history, and still today in some quarters, yiḥus—lineage or family background—was extremely important. Marriages were arranged based on one's lineage. A poor young man who was descended from a distinguished sage was a great catch, for he had yiḥus.

     In our egalitarian world, we might dispute the validity of this hierarchy and genealogy, claiming that it creates a caste system. Yet, throughout much of Jewish history, some hierarchy has always been accepted. The biblical ideal based on lineage (kohen, levi, Israelite) was eventually replaced by one founded on knowledge (scholar, student, ignoramus). The latter half of this Mishnah presages the development from a lineage-centered hierarchy to a meritocracy based on scholarship.

     Today, we might wish to expand on the Mishnah's words. Jewish leadership must be based on Jewish knowledge. Unfortunately, many of us, the descendants of knowledgeable Jews, often rest on our ancestors' laurels. How often have we heard it said, "My grandfather was a rabbi in Europe"? Yet how sad it is when the speaker is so far removed from Jewish life, learning, and observance. That one's grandfather sat and studied all day is interesting. That one's grandchildren become committed, educated Jews is crucial.

     We now know that it is not lineage, but learning, that is the key to the continuity of Jewish life in the future. If we remain unschooled in Judaism, then even if we have good yiḥus, we are easily surpassed both in honor and communal prestige by a learned person with no background, and even by one with impaired background like a mamzer. This is a strong motivation to check not only our lineage, where we came from, but also our Jewish learning, where we are going.

     REST STOP

     From there they set out and encamped beyond the Arnon.… And from there to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, "Assemble the people that I may give them water." (Numbers 21:13, 16)

     Words of Torah are compared to water … as it says: "Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water" [Isaiah 55:1].… And just as with water, a great man is not ashamed to say to a child: "Bring me a drink of water," so too with Torah—a great man is not embarrassed to say to a child: "Teach me a chapter, or a verse, or a word, or even a letter." (Song of Songs Rabbah 1,3)

     Once upon a time, there lived a man, who during his whole life studied nothing but the treatise of Hagigah. When the man died and was about to be buried, a woman dressed in white came up to the corpse and stood in front of it. When the people saw her, they asked her who she was and what was her name. And she replied: "I am Hagigah and I am praying for this man in the other world, for he studied nothing but the treatise Hagigah all his life, and therefore he deserves that I should plead for him in the other world." In the same way, all other good deeds which a man performs in this life plead for him in the world to come. Ma'Aseh Book: Book of Jewish Tales and Legends Vol. II , translated by Moses Gaster. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981, p. 648)

     SEDER KODASHIM / Introduction to Seder Kodashim

     The fifth section of the Mishnah is Kodashim, or "Holy Things." Its eleven tractates cover the sacrifices that were offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. Interestingly, by the time of the editing of the Mishnah, the Temple had been destroyed for over a century. Nevertheless, the Rabbis of Babylonia saw fit to create a Gemara for nine of these tractates. Perhaps they felt that the Temple would some day be rebuilt, and it was thus critical to lay out the proper procedures for the time when the sacrifices would be reinstituted. Or it is possible that they felt that in the absence of the ability to offer the sacrifices, the best that could be done by Jews was to remember the sacrifices and discuss their details.

     The nobleman has taken us [by the hand], and his scent lingers on the hand.

     Text / Rav Yitzḥak son of Rav Yehudah used to come regularly before Rami bar Ḥama. He left him and went to Rav Sheshet. One day, he [Rami bar Ḥama] met him [Rav Yitzḥak]. He said to him: "The nobleman has taken us [by the hand], and his scent lingers on the hand. Because you went to Rav Sheshet, do you think you will become like Rav Sheshet?" He [Rav Yitzḥak] said to him: "It was not for that reason! When I asked a question of the Master, you answered me from logic. If I came across a Mishnah, it refuted it. But with Rav Sheshet, if I asked a question of him, he answered me with a Mishnah, so that even if I came across a Mishnah that refuted it, it was only one Mishnah against another Mishnah."

     Context / Rav Sheshet especially disparaged those schools which taught students to come up with forced conclusions that were based on hair-splitting logic known as pilpul. In one particular case, Rav Sheshet decided an issue (as was his custom) according to what was taught by "tradition" in a Mishnah. Rav Amram came to offer another interpretation based on forced logic. Rav Sheshet said to him: "You must come from the study house of Pumbeditha, where they pull an elephant through the eye of a needle!"

     The Rabbis of the Talmud understood that there were two major sources for their teachings. The first was tradition, which included (1) verses from the Bible, (2) rabbinic lessons found in the Mishnah or baraitot, or (3) precedent. The second source was reason or logic. Tradition was considered by the above text to be a stronger authority than reason.

     Rav Yitzḥak had been a student of Rami bar Ḥama; he left his study house and went to stay with Rav Sheshet. Rami bar Ḥama was offended that his pupil had left him for another teacher. Rami accused Rav Yitzḥak of being attracted to Rav Sheshet because of his fame and reputation. He sarcastically tells his former student: You think that when the great man touches you, his scent will linger on your hand. By being with Rav Sheshet, you think you will become like Rav Sheshet. (The word in the folk-saying, translated as "nobleman," alkafta or arkafta, is the title of a high Persian dignitary.)

     Rav Yitzḥak replies that it was not Rav Sheshet's fame, but his teaching methodology, that was so attractive. Rav Sheshet insisted on finding the traditional sources for his teachings. Rami, on the other hand, favored logic. Rav Yitzḥak explains that in a conflict between one teaching based on tradition and another teaching based on logic, the former takes precedence. Thus, the methodology of Rav Sheshet is superior to that of Rami. Rav Yitzḥak adds that where traditions, such as two sections of the Mishnah, conflict, it is acceptable to maintain one teaching over the other since they are both of equal authority. Either way, Rav Sheshet's methodology, based on tradition rather than logic, proves to be superior.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Personal Messages from the Psalms
     Teacher's Commentary

     The Book of Psalms has long been recognized as a guidebook for prayer. As we read the Psalms, there are a number of very personal messages about prayer that come through with clarity and beauty.

     It's all right to be human. The Bible tells us that in Creation God viewed man, the culmination of His creative work, and affirmed that work as "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Man, the Bible says, was made in God's image, and we are taught to value our humanity. As people we do bear a certain likeness to the Lord.

     Sometimes, aware that sin has entered the race and warped mankind out of the intended pattern, Christians have come to view their humanity with shame and guilt rather than pride. A person who tends to locate the identity of mankind in our character as sinners, rather than in our nature as those who bear God's image, is likely to repress human feelings and emotions. Struggling for "control," such people may be uncomfortable with strong emotions and may attempt to hold them down or to deny them.

     The Bible really does teach us to affirm our value and worth as human beings. Psalm 8 speaks in wonder that God should have created man "a little lower than the heavenly beings" and "crowned him with glory and honor." Hebrews 2:10 echoes the thought that we are never to let slip the awareness that God's intention in Christ is to bring "many sons to glory." Christ calls Himself our brother; He was "made like His brethren in all things" (Hebrews 2:17). Far from being ashamed of his humanity, the Christian is free to rejoice in who he is, knowing that in Creation and in redemption God has affirmed our worth.

     Such teaching passages might help us grasp this affirmation about man intellectually. But we are gripped by it when we read the Psalms! For here we see our own inner experiences openly shared without shame or hesitation, and we discover that God values man's inner life enough to record this dynamic record of it in His own Word.

     When we read the Psalms and see in them our own emotions and struggles, we find a great release. It is all right to be human. It is all right to be ourselves. We need not fear what is within us or repress the feeling side of life.

     There's a way out. One reason why emotions frighten us is that many people do not know how to express or release them. In our culture, the recognition and expression of feelings is not encouraged—especially of negative feelings. Feelings are feared. To feel anger well up within and to sense that we're on the verge of losing control is a frightening thing.

     For Christians there is the added pressure of the notion that it's wrong to feel anger or sense tension. "If only I were a good Christian," we're liable to tell ourselves. "If only I were really trusting the Lord." So we feel guilt over the emotions that well up, and then, all too often, we try to deny this very important aspect of personhood.

     Reading the Psalms carefully, however, we note that they often trace a process in which the writer begins with strong and almost uncontrollable feelings. We see how he struggles with them, and we see how he brings his feelings to God or relates them to what he knows of the Lord and His ways. In reading Psalms, you and I can learn how to handle our emotions creatively, and how to relate feelings to faith.

     Psalm 73 is a good example of this "working through" process. It begins with the writer confessing that he has become envious of the wicked—certainly not an unusual experience when we face difficulties and then see everything going well for the person who cares nothing about God!

     The psalmist shares:

   I envied the arrogant
   when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
   They have no struggles;
   their bodies are healthy and strong.
   They are free from the burdens
   common to man;
   they are not plagued by human ills.
   Therefore pride is their necklace;
   they clothe themselves with violence.…
   They say, "How can God know?
   Does the Most High have knowledge?"
   This is what the wicked are like
     —always carefree,
   they increase in wealth.
   Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
   in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
   All day long I have been plagued;
   I have been punished every Morning.
      --- Psalm 73:3–6, 11–14.

     How hard it seemed! What good was it to be good? Frustration, envy, self-pity—all had gripped Asaph, the Levite who wrote this psalm, and who now faced rather than repressed his inner state.

     The passage goes on to explain how the writer handled these feelings. First of all, he tried to think the problem through, but "it was oppressive to me" (Psalm 73:16). He went to God with his problem, to pray at His sanctuary. There God gave him an answer. Asaph's thoughts were directed to the end toward which the sinner's life leads.

   Surely You place them on slippery places;
   You cast them down to ruin.
   How suddenly they are destroyed,
   completely swept away by terrors!
   As a dream when one awakes,
   so when You arise, O Lord,
   You will despise them as fantasies.
     --- Psalm 73:18–20.

     The easy life of the scoffers had led them to forget God, and their success had not permitted them to sense their need of Him. The very wealth and ease which Asaph had envied were "slippery" places that Asaph's trials helped him to avoid!

     This new perspective changed Asaph's feelings. His past feelings were "senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You" (Psalm 73:22). His emotional reactions in this case had not corresponded with reality. Yet, when God showed Asaph reality, his emotions changed.

   Yet I am always with You;
   You hold me by my right hand.
   You guide me with Your counsel,
   and afterward
   You will take me into glory.
   Whom have I in heaven but You?
   And being with You,
   I desire nothing on earth.
   My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever.
   --- Psalm 73:23–26.

     Real life always holds such struggles for us. There is nothing wrong with them. The emotions we feel then are not bad; they are part of being a human being. The glory of the believer's privilege is that, because he knows God, his emotions can be brought into fullest harmony with reality. You and I can face all of our feelings—and find freedom to be ourselves with the Lord. What a privilege to be ourselves with God, and to experience His gentle transformation!

     We can be honest with God. This is a third great message of Psalms. Just as we need not repress our feelings, we need not try to hide our feelings from God. He loves us and accepts us as we are—yet always so creatively that we are free to grow toward all that we want to become.

     How freeing to realize that God's love is unconditional. He is concerned about every aspect of our lives, inviting us to share all that we are with Him, that in return He might share Himself with us and bring us to health and wholeness.

     Psalms, then, speaks directly to our inner lives. The patterns of relationship we find there guide you and me in our prayer lives.

     Like the poetry of other peoples, Hebrew poetry is not designed so much to communicate information as to share the inner life and feelings of its writers.

     This characteristic of the Psalms is very important to us, and is a dynamic aspect of divine revelation. Through the Psalms we are able to see the men and women of Scripture as real people, gripped by the feelings that move us. We are also able to sense a relationship with God that is deeply personal and real. Every dimension of the human personality is touched when faith establishes that personal relationship. God meets us as whole persons—He touches our feelings, our emotions, our joys and sorrows, our despair and depression. Faith in God is not just an intellectual kind of thing; it is a relationship which engages everything that we are. Thus, in the Psalms we have a picture of the relationship to which God is calling us today—a relationship in which we have freedom to be ourselves, and to share ourselves freely with the Lord and with other believers.


The Teacher's Commentary

Wings
     Amazing Grace

     Wings ... Remember what Jesus said to Jerusalem? I like the following:

     Often our finest and most effective songs are sung during the midnight experiences of life. It is easy to sing when all is well. But to sing when all is dark requires the indwelling presence of Christ. Luther Bridgers, a Methodist pastor and evangelist from Georgia, is believed to have written both words and music for this joyful hymn in 1910, following the death of his wife and three sons in a fire at the home of his wife's parents while he was away conducting revival meetings in Kentucky.

     There's within my heart a melody—Jesus whispers sweet and low,
     "Fear not, I am with thee—peace, be still," in all of life's ebb and flow.

     All my life was wrecked by sin and strife. Discord filled my heart with pain;
     Jesus swept across the broken strings, stirred the slumb'ring chords again.

     Feasting on the riches of His grace, resting 'neath His shelt'ring wing,
     always looking on His smiling face—That is why I shout and sing.

     Tho sometimes He leads thru waters deep, trials fall across the way,
     tho sometimes the path seem rough and steep, see His feet-prints all the way.

     Soon He's coming back to welcome me far beyond the starry sky;
     I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown; I shall reign with Him on high.


Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Jews’ Participation in Cultural and Intellectual Life
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     One can go further. Jews had access even to cultural life in the upper echelons of Hellenistic society. Jewish authors were well versed in most, perhaps all, forms of Hellenic writings. Those conversant with the conventions included epic poets like Theodotus and Philo, tragic dramatists like Ezekiel, writers of history like Demetrius and Eupolemus, philosophers like Aristobulus, composers of novellas and historical fiction like the authors of the Letter of Aristeas, 3 Maccabees, and Joseph and Aseneth, and those who engaged in cosmology and mythography like Pseudo-Eupolemus, and the authors of the Sibylline Oracles. The capacity to produce such works demonstrates that the writers could partake of higher education and engage deeply with Hellenic cultural traditions. They were themselves an integral part of the intelligentsia. Most of the names known to us come from Alexandria. But, as we have seen, gymnasium education was available to Jews elsewhere and doubtless spawned writers whose reputations do not survive.

     Jewish writers clearly showed a wide familiarity with the genres, forms, and styles of Greek literature. They wrote in Greek and they adapted Greek literary modes. But they employed those conventions to their own ends. Jewish intellectuals may have embraced Hellenic canons of literature, but they had no interest in recounting the tale of Troy, the labors of Herakles, the house of Atreus, or the Greco-Persian wars, let alone the myths of the Olympian gods. Their heroes were Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. They appropriated Hellenism to the goals of rewriting biblical narratives, recasting the traditions of their forefathers, reinvigorating their ancient legends, and shaping the distinctive identity of Jews within the larger world of Hellenic culture. The challenge for the Jews was not how to surmount barriers, cross boundaries, or assimilate to an alien society. In a world where Hellenic culture held an ascendant position, they strove to present Judaic traditions and express their own self-definition through the media of the Greeks—and even to make those media their own.

     A particularly striking example can illuminate the point. Tragic drama is perhaps the quintessential Greek medium. This did not render it off limits to the Jews. The Alexandrian writer Ezekiel, working within the tradition of classical tragedy, produced a play, the Exagōgē, based on the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Ezekiel hewed closely to the narrative line contained in the book of Exodus, while employing the conventions of the Greek theater. But he inserted some creativity of his own. This included a remarkable scene in which Moses recounts a dream vision of God sitting on a throne, summoning Moses to him, handing over his diadem and scepter, and departing. The dramatist here not only exalts the grandeur of Moses but reconceives Moses’ relationship with God. The celestial realm appears as analogous to royal governance on earth. Moses’ ascension to the throne and acquisition of kingly emblems signal his appointment as YHWH’s surrogate in governing the affairs of men. This had clear resonance to the contemporaries of Ezekiel. Moses’ role as executor of God’s will on earth, with absolute authority, reflected royal rule in the Hellenistic realms. The author thus reinvents the position of Moses on the model of Hellenistic kingship while making him the precursor of Hellenistic kingship itself. Moses as supreme judge would expound the Law for all nations. The Israelite hero becomes a beacon for humankind, a representative of the divinity, described in phraseology that struck responsive chords among Ezekiel’s Hellenic or Hellenized compatriots. The tragic poet had effectively commandeered a preeminent Greek genre and deployed it as a source of esteem for his Jewish readership.

     Another celebrated composition illustrates both the intersection of Jew and Gentile in the Diaspora and the emphasis on the special qualities of the Jews. The Letter of Aristeas was drafted by a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria, probably in the second century B.C.E. It purports to recount the events that led to the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. That undertaking came about in Alexandria around the middle of the third century, an episode of the highest importance for Diaspora Jewry. The need for a Greek Bible itself holds critical significance. It indicates that many Jews dwelling in the scattered communities of the Mediterranean had lost their mastery of Hebrew but nonetheless clung to the centerpiece of their tradition. If they were to read the Bible, it would have to be in Greek. The initial rendering or renderings eventually congealed into what became known as the Septuagint. For the vast majority of Jews living in the Greco-Roman period, it was the Bible.

     The Letter of Aristeas ascribes the translation’s origin to the initiative of the court of Ptolemy II, ruler of Egypt in the mid-third century. As the narrative has it, the impetus came from the chief librarian in Alexandria, who persuaded King Ptolemy to authorize the addition of “the laws of the Jews,” evidently the Pentateuch, to the shelves of the great library. This required translation, for the available Hebrew texts were carelessly and improperly drawn up. Ptolemy composed a letter to the high priest in Jerusalem, requesting translators. The high priest graciously complied and selected seventy-two Jewish scholars, six from each tribe, experts in both languages, to do the job. The Jewish sages reached Alexandria, where they were warmly welcomed, Ptolemy himself paying homage to the sacred scrolls that they had conveyed from Jerusalem. Indeed, he went beyond that to organize a seven-day banquet (serving kosher food!), during which the king put a different question to each of his seventy-two guests, largely concerning the appropriate means of governing wisely, and found reason to praise every one of them for his sagacity. The translators then repaired to the island of Pharos, where they went to work, periodically comparing drafts, agreed upon a common version, and completed their task in precisely seventy-two days. The priests and leaders of the Jewish community in Alexandria pronounced it a definitive version, not a line of it to be altered. Ptolemy joined them in admiration, paid reverence to the new Bible, and lavished gifts upon the Jewish scholars.

     Such is the gist of the tale. None can doubt that it issued from the pen of a Jewish author cloaked in the garb of a learned official at the court of Ptolemy II. The particulars, of course, are largely, if not entirely, fictitious. But the author’s creation holds high significance. The Letter of Aristeas offers a showcase for the familiarity of Jewish intellectuals with diverse features and forms of Greek learning from ethnographic excursuses to textual exegesis and allegorical interpretation. The author is plainly steeped in Hellenic literature. On the face of it, this treatise would seem to be the most telling attestation of a cultural convergence between Judaism and Hellenism—at least as viewed from the Jewish side. The Hellenistic monarch promotes the project, and the Jewish scholars carry it out. The translators act at the behest of the king to enhance the pagan library, while the king pays deep homage to the sacred books of Israel. The pseudonymous narrator, Aristeas, even declares to Ptolemy that the Jews revere God, overseer and creator of all, who is worshipped by everyone, including the Greeks, except that they give him a different name, Zeus.

     Yet cross-cultural harmony and blending do not tell the whole story. Another dimension carries equal importance. The Letter of Aristeas, while fully conversant with Hellenic literary genres, adapted that knowledge to advertise the advantages of Jewish tradition. The distinctiveness of the Jews is never in question. The god to whom all bear witness, even though the Greeks may call him Zeus, is the Jewish god. The high priest happily sends Jewish scholars to Alexandria to render the Bible into Greek, but he reminds the Greeks of the superiority of the Jewish faith, ridiculing those who worship idols of wood and stone fashioned by themselves. He insists that Mosaic Law insulated the Hebrews from outside influences, erecting firm barriers to prevent the infiltration of tainted institutions. And the high priest observes that the Jews offer sacrifice to God to insure the peace and renown of the Ptolemaic kingdom—a neat reversal of the patron-client relationship.

     One can go further. The seven-day symposium may have been a fundamentally Hellenic practice, but the Jewish sages answered every query by the king with swift and pithy answers, adding a reference to God in each response, and earning the admiration not only of Ptolemy and his courtiers but of all the Greek philosophers in attendance, who acknowledged their inferiority to the sagacity of the guests. Ptolemy applauds and commends every answer by a Jew, no matter how commonplace and banal. The king hardly emerges as discerning or discriminating. The Letter of Aristeas, to be sure, portrays Ptolemy as a wise, gentle, and generous ruler, a man of deep cultivation and learning. But the author carries his portrait somewhat beyond the sober and the plausible. He makes Ptolemy deferential to a fault. The king bows no fewer than seven times to the Hebrew scrolls upon their arrival in Alexandria, even bursts into tears at the sight of them, and then proclaims that the date of their arrival would henceforth be celebrated as an annual festival. The author extends this form of caricature to the Greek philosophers as well, turning them into awestruck witnesses of the superiority of Jewish learning. In short, the Letter of Aristeas, that quintessential text of harmony and collaboration between Jew and Gentile in a Diaspora setting, simultaneously underscores the distinctive character—and the precedence—of Jewish values.

     The very idea of rendering the Hebrew Bible into Greek has profound significance for the Diaspora. The historicity of the tale in the Letter of Aristeas is a secondary issue. Ptolemy II may or may not have had a hand in its creation. His reputation for learning made him a logical figure to whom a later writer could ascribe such an initiative. The need of Jews abroad to comprehend the holy books and laws of their tradition in the language that was now their own played a greater role. And, more fundamentally, the work of translation represents a signal instance of Jewish pride and self-esteem. It signified that the Jews had a legitimate claim on a place in the prevailing culture of the Mediterranean. Their Scriptures did not belong to an isolated and marginal group. They contained the record and principles of a people whose roots went back to distant antiquity but who maintained their prestige and authority in a contemporary society—and in a contemporary language. That may be the clearest sign that the Jews perceived themselves as an integral part of the Hellenistic cultural world.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 24

     Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? --- 1 Corinthians 3:16.

     Christians are the temple of God; the Spirit of God dwells in them. (RS Thomas Preached Before the University of Oxford : [First Series, 1865]) The Day of Pentecost was not to be deemed a day apart; it was merely the first day of the Christian centuries. The tongues of fire might no longer be visible, but the gift that they symbolized would remain. The Spirit, being the Spirit of Christ, had made the life of Christ to be forever in Christendom nothing less than a reality of the present. Christians know themselves to be temples of the indwelling Presence. From the moral pressure of this conviction there is no escape except by a point-blank denial of it.

     We need motives, strong motives, one and all of us. We need them for purposes of action and for purposes of dogged resistance. We need them to counteract all that gives way and depresses from within and to oppose all that would crush our wills into culpable acquiescence from without. A few primal truths, to us clear, indisputable, cogent, again and again examined and proved and burnished like well-prized weapons—these are assuredly part of the inner furniture of every Christian. And among these none is better than that of the text—the motive that appeals to the sanctity, the responsibility, the powers, the capabilities implied in that inward presence of the eternal Spirit, which is the great gift of the new covenant. In moments of moral surprise, in moments of unusual depression, in moments of a felt sense of isolation that threatens to take the heart out of us, in moments of spasmodic daring, when ordinary sanctions have, as it seems, lost their hold on us, it is well to fall back on the reassuring, tranquilizing, invigorating resources of such an appeal, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Let us emblazon these words, if not on the walls of our churches, yet at least within the sanctuary of that inner temple where the All-Seeing notes our opportunities for acquiring a clear vision and a firm grasp of truth and, still more, the use that we really make of it.
--- H. P. Liddon


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

On This Day
     Storm Greater: Afraid!  May 24

     “Even when I am afraid,” said the psalmist, “I keep on trusting you” (Psalm 56:3). John Wesley had never been so frightened as on January 25, 1736. He was aboard a small sailing ship somewhere in the mid-Atlantic in midwinter, en route to Georgia as a missionary to the Indians, though as yet he himself had never been saved. A group of Moravian missionaries from Germany had booked passage on the same ship. The voyage was treacherous. Three storms had already battered the boat, and a fourth was brewing. Wesley scribbled in his journal, “Storm greater: afraid!” But the Moravians, showing no fear, persevered in their plans for a worship service. In the middle of their singing, a gigantic wave rose over the side of the vessel, splitting the mainsail, covering the ship, pouring water like Niagara between decks “as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.”

     The English passengers screamed as the ship lurched and pitched between towering waves. Wesley clung on for dear life. But the German missionaries didn’t miss a note. Wesley, awestruck by their composure, went to the leader and asked, “Weren’t you afraid?”

     “I thank God, no.”

     “Were not your women and children afraid?”

     “No,” replied the man. “Our women and children are not afraid.”

     John Wesley’s missionary labors in Georgia failed, and he returned to England saying, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but, oh, who shall convert me?” The Moravians, that’s who. Back in London, Wesley attended a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, May 24, 1738, and listened to someone reading from Luther’s preface to Romans. He later said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine.”

     Wesley became a famous evangelist and social reformer, with the world as his parish. But he himself was won to Christ by the power of a small group whose commitment to Christ was strong enough to keep them unflappable in a storm.

     Have pity, God Most High! My enemies chase me all day. Many of them are pursuing and attacking me, But even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you. I praise your promises! I trust you and am not afraid.
--- Psalm 56:1-4a.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 24

     “Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer.” --- Psalm 66:20.

     In looking back upon the character of our prayers, if we do it honestly, we shall be filled with wonder that God has ever answered them. There may be some who think their prayers worthy of acceptance—as the Pharisee did; but the true Christian, in a more enlightened retrospect, weeps over his prayers, and if he could retrace his steps he would desire to pray more earnestly. Remember, Christian, how cold thy prayers have been. When in thy closet thou shouldst have wrestled as Jacob did; but instead thereof, thy petitions have been faint and few—far removed from that humble, believing, persevering faith, which cries, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” Yet, wonderful to say, God has heard these cold prayers of thine, and not only heard, but answered them. Reflect also, how infrequent have been thy prayers, unless thou hast been in trouble, and then thou hast gone often to the mercy-seat: but when deliverance has come, where has been thy constant supplication? Yet, notwithstanding thou hast ceased to pray as once thou didst, God has not ceased to bless. When thou hast neglected the mercy-seat, God has not deserted it, but the bright light of the Shekinah has always been visible between the wings of the cherubim. Oh! it is marvellous that the Lord should regard those intermittent spasms of importunity which come and go with our necessities. What a God is he thus to hear the prayers of those who come to him when they have pressing wants, but neglect him when they have received a mercy; who approach him when they are forced to come, but who almost forget to address him when mercies are plentiful and sorrows are few. Let his gracious kindness in hearing such prayers touch our hearts, so that we may henceforth be found “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”


          Evening - May 24

     “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ.” --- Philippians 1:27.

     The word “conversation” does not merely mean our talk and converse with one another, but the whole course of our life and behaviour in the world. The Greek word signifies the actions and the privileges of citizenship: and thus we are commanded to let our actions, as citizens of the New Jerusalem, be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ. What sort of conversation is this? In the first place, the Gospel is very simple. So Christians should be simple and plain in their habits. There should be about our manner, our speech, our dress, our whole behaviour, that simplicity which is the very soul of beauty. The Gospel is pre-eminently true, it is gold without dross; and the Christian’s life will be lustreless and valueless without the jewel of truth. The Gospel is a very fearless Gospel, it boldly proclaims the truth, whether men like it or not: we must be equally faithful and unflinching. But the Gospel is also very gentle. Mark this spirit in its Founder: “a bruised reed he will not break.” Some professors are sharper than a thorn-hedge; such men are not like Jesus. Let us seek to win others by the gentleness of our words and acts. The Gospel is very loving. It is the message of the God of love to a lost and fallen race. Christ’s last command to his disciples was, “Love one another.” O for more real, hearty union and love to all the saints; for more tender compassion towards the souls of the worst and vilest of men! We must not forget that the Gospel of Christ is holy. It never excuses sin: it pardons it, but only through an atonement. If our life is to resemble the Gospel, we must shun, not merely the grosser vices, but everything that would hinder our perfect conformity to Christ. For his sake, for our own sakes, and for the sakes of others, we must strive day by day to let our conversation be more in accordance with his Gospel.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 24

          EVEN ME

     Elizabeth Codner, 1824–1919

     He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. (Psalm 72:6)

     The spiritual blessings of a Spirit-filled life are intended for every believer, not just for a favored few.

     The author of this hymn text was Elizabeth Codner, the wife of an Anglican clergyman. She was having her personal devotions one day when she became deeply impressed with a verse of Scripture, Ezekiel 34:26:

     I will cause the shower to come down in the season, there shall be showers of blessing.

     Mrs. Codner thought about the importance of water in the dry country of Palestine and related this to the necessity of the daily refreshment of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures in a believer’s life. When she was still contemplating this truth, a group of young people from the parish called on her and told the news of their recent trip to Ireland. They related that certain cities and areas of the Emerald Isle had experienced a spiritual awakening during the time of their visit. The young people were thrilled to have been witnesses of this event. As they were describing their experience, Mrs. Codner began to pray that these young men would not be content merely to have been spectators of the Holy Spirit’s ministry but would also desire a genuine outpouring of His power in their individual lives. With the words of Ezekiel 34:26 in mind, she challenged them with the remark, “While the Lord is pouring out such showers of blessing upon others, pray that some drops will fall on you.”

     The following Sunday Morning, Mrs. Codner stayed home from church because of illness, and with the impact of the young people’s experience still fresh in her mind, she penned these challenging words.

     Lord, I hear of show’rs of blessing Thou art scatt’ring full and free; show’rs the thirsty land refreshing—let some drops now fall on me.

     Love of God so pure and changeless, blood of Christ so rich and free, grace of God so strong and boundless: magnify them all in me.

     Pass me not! Thy lost one bringing, bind my heart, O Lord, to Thee; while the streams of life are springing, blessing others, O bless me.

     Refrain: Even me, even me, let Thy blessing fall on me.


     For Today: Psalm 72; Ezekiel 34:26–31; Luke 11:13; Romans 8:4.

     Recall and reflect on individuals whose lives have strongly evidenced the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. Ask God in faith to make this your portion as well. Pray as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. XXXIV. — BUT as you say — “what therefore shall we do? The Church is hidden, the Saints are unknown! What, and whom shall we believe? Or, as you most sharply dispute, who will certify us? How shall we search out the Spirit? If we look to erudition, all are rabbins! If we look to life, all are sinners! If we look to the Scripture, they each claim it as belonging to them! But however, our discussion is not so much concerning the Scripture (which is not itself sufficiently clear,) but concerning the sense of the Scripture. And though there are men of every order at hand, yet, as neither numbers, nor erudition, nor dignity, is of any service to the subject, much less can paucity, ignorance, and mean rank avail any thing.” —

     Well then! I suppose the matter must be left in doubt, and the point of dispute remain before the judge so that, we should seem to act with policy if we should go over to the sentiments of the Sceptics. Unless, indeed, we were to act as you wisely do, for you pretend that you are so much in doubt, that you professedly desire to seek and learn the truth; while, at the same time, you cleave to those who assert “Freewill,” until the truth be made glaringly manifest.

     But no! I here in reply to you observe, that you neither say all, nor nothing. For we shall not search out the Spirit by the arguments of erudition, of life, of talent, of multitude, of dignity, of ignorance, of inexperience, of paucity, or of meanness of rank. And yet, I do not approve of those, whose whole resource is in a boasting of the Spirit. For I had the last year, and have still, a sharp warfare with those fanatics who subject the Scriptures to the interpretation of their own boasted spirit. On the same account also, I have hitherto determinately set myself against the Pope, in whose kingdom, nothing is more common, or more generally received than this saying: — ‘that the Scriptures are obscure and ambiguous, and that the Spirit, as the Interpreter, should be sought from the apostolical see of Rome!’ than which, nothing could be said that was more destructive; for by means of this saying, a set of impious men have exalted themselves above the Scriptures themselves; and by the same, have done whatever pleased them; till at length, the Scriptures are absolutely trodden under foot, and we compelled to believe and teach nothing but the dreams of men that are mad. In a word, that saying is no human invention, but a poison poured forth into the world by a wonderful malice of the devil himself, the prince of all demons.

     We hold the case thus: — that the spirits are to be tried and proved by a twofold judgment. The one, internal; by which, through the Holy Spirit, or a peculiar gift of God, any one may illustrate, and to a certainty, judge of, and determine on, the doctrines and sentiments of all men, for himself and his own personal salvation concerning which it is said. (1 Cor. ii. 15.) “The spiritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no man.” This belongs to faith, and is necessary for every, even private, Christian. This, we have above called, ‘the internal clearness of the Holy Scripture.’ And it was this perhaps to which they alluded, who, in answer to you said, that all things must be determined by the judgment of the Spirit. But this judgment cannot profit another, nor are we speaking of this judgment in our present discussion; for no one, I think, doubts its reality.

     The other, then, is the external judgment; by which, we judge, to the greatest certainty, of the spirits and doctrines of all men; not for ourselves only, but for others also, and for their salvation. This judgment is peculiar to the public ministry of the Word and the external office, and especially belongs to teachers and preachers of the Word. Of this we make use, when we strengthen the weak in faith, and when we refute adversaries. This is what we before called, ‘the external clearness of the Holy Scripture.’ Hence we affirm that all spirits are to be proved in the face of the church, by the judgment of Scripture. For this ought, above all things, to be received, and most firmly settled among Christians: — that the Holy Scriptures are a spiritual light by far more clear than the sun itself, especially in those things which pertain unto salvation or necessity.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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