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5/25/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
Numbers 34     Psalm 78:38-72     Isaiah 26     1 John 4

Numbers 34

Boundaries of the Land

Numbers 34:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel, and say to them, When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its borders), 3 your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin alongside Edom, and your southern border shall run from the end of the Salt Sea on the east. 4 And your border shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and cross to Zin, and its limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea. Then it shall go on to Hazar-addar, and pass along to Azmon. 5 And the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and its limit shall be at the sea.

6 “For the western border, you shall have the Great Sea and its coast. This shall be your western border.

7 “This shall be your northern border: from the Great Sea you shall draw a line to Mount Hor. 8 From Mount Hor you shall draw a line to Lebo-hamath, and the limit of the border shall be at Zedad. 9 Then the border shall extend to Ziphron, and its limit shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your northern border.

10 “You shall draw a line for your eastern border from Hazar-enan to Shepham. 11 And the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain. And the border shall go down and reach to the shoulder of the Sea of Chinnereth on the east. 12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its limit shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land as defined by its borders all around.”

13 Moses commanded the people of Israel, saying, “This is the land that you shall inherit by lot, which the LORD has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe. 14 For the tribe of the people of Reuben by fathers’ houses and the tribe of the people of Gad by their fathers’ houses have received their inheritance, and also the half-tribe of Manasseh. 15 The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, toward the sunrise.”

List of Tribal Chiefs

16 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “These are the names of the men who shall divide the land to you for inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun. 18 You shall take one chief from every tribe to divide the land for inheritance. 19 These are the names of the men: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 20 Of the tribe of the people of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud. 21 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon. 22 Of the tribe of the people of Dan a chief, Bukki the son of Jogli. 23 Of the people of Joseph: of the tribe of the people of Manasseh a chief, Hanniel the son of Ephod. 24 And of the tribe of the people of Ephraim a chief, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan. 25 Of the tribe of the people of Zebulun a chief, Elizaphan the son of Parnach. 26 Of the tribe of the people of Issachar a chief, Paltiel the son of Azzan. 27 And of the tribe of the people of Asher a chief, Ahihud the son of Shelomi. 28 Of the tribe of the people of Naphtali a chief, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.” 29 These are the men whom the LORD commanded to divide the inheritance for the people of Israel in the land of Canaan.

Psalm 78:38-72

Tell the Coming Generation

Psalm 78:38-72 A Maskil Of Asaph.

38  Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39  He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
40  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!
41  They tested God again and again
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42  They did not remember his power
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43  when he performed his signs in Egypt
and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44  He turned their rivers to blood,
so that they could not drink of their streams.
45  He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them,
and frogs, which destroyed them.
46  He gave their crops to the destroying locust
and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47  He destroyed their vines with hail
and their sycamores with frost.
48  He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
49  He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels.
50  He made a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives over to the plague.
51  He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52  Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53  He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54  And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55  He drove out nations before them;
he apportioned them for a possession
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

56  Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
and did not keep his testimonies,
57  but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58  For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
59  When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel.
60  He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
61  and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe.
62  He gave his people over to the sword
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
63  Fire devoured their young men,
and their young women had no marriage song.
64  Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation.
65  Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66  And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.

67  He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68  but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69  He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70  He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71  from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
72  With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.

Isaiah 26

You Keep Him in Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

1  “We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2  Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
3  You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4  Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
5  For he has humbled
the inhabitants of the height,
the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
6  The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.”

7  The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
8  In the path of your judgments,
O LORD, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9  My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10  If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
11  O LORD, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
12  O LORD, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
13  O LORD our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
14  They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.
15  But you have increased the nation, O LORD,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.

16  O LORD, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
17  Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O LORD;
18  we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19  Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

20  Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
21  For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

1 John 4

Test the Spirits

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Numbers 34; Psalm 78:40-72; Isaiah 26; 1 John 4

By Don Carson 5/25/2018

     “How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78:40-41). Thus Asaph pauses in the course of his recital to summarize one of his main points in this Psalm. In fact, one could outline some of the dramatic points Asaph makes as follows:

     (1) The repeated rebellion of the people of God is presented not merely as disobedience, but as putting God to the test. That is one of the elements in rebellion that is so gross, so odious. A heavy dose of “in your face” marks this rebellion, an ugly pattern of unbelief that implicitly charges God with powerlessness, with cruelty, with selfishness, with thoughtlessness, with foolishness. Chronic and repeated unbelief “with attitude” always has this element of putting God to the test. What will God do about it? Small wonder that the apostle Paul identifies the same pattern in the conduct of the people during the wilderness years and warns Christians in his day, “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Cor. 10:9-11).

     (2) Although the first part of the chapter notes God’s wrath replying to the pattern of the people’s rebellion, it also insists that time after time God “restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath”(78:38). But the pattern now becomes grimmer. Eventually the idolatry was so gross that God “was very angry; he rejected Israel completely” (78:59). The context shows that what Asaph had in mind is the judgment of God on the people when he permitted the ark of the Lord to be captured by the Philistines: “He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy” (78:61; cf. 1 Sam. 4:5-11), with the entailment that the people faced terrible destruction at the hand of their enemies.

     (3) The closing verses (78:65-72) focus on the gracious choice of Judah and of David as God’s answer to the wretched years of the wilderness, of the judges, of the reign of Saul. “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (78:72). Living this side of the Incarnation, Christians are especially grateful for David’s line.

     (4) Christians know how the storyline of Psalm 78 develops. David’s dynasty descends into corruption; God’s wrath is greater yet, and the Exile ensues. But worse wrath, and more glorious love, were yet to be displayed in the cross.

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 55

Cast Your Burden on the LORD
55 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Maskil Of David.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
8 I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     12. It appears that in the time of Gregory some of the seeds of this corruption existed, the rulers of churches having begun to be more negligent in teaching; for he thus bitterly complains: "The world is full of priests, and yet labourers in the harvest are rare, for we indeed undertake the office of the priesthood, but we perform not the work of the office" (Gregor. Hom. 17). Again, "As they have no bowels of love, they would be thought lords, but do not at all acknowledge themselves to be fathers. They change a post of humility into the elevation of ascendancy." Again, "But we, O pastors! what are we doing, we who obtain the hire but are not labourers? We have fallen off to extraneous business; we undertake one thing, we perform another; we leave the ministry of the word, and, to our punishment, as I see, are called bishops, holding the honour of the name, not the power." Since he uses such bitterness of expression against those who were only less diligent or sedulous in their office, what, pray, would he have said if he had seen that very few bishops, if any at all, and scarcely one in a hundred of the other clergy, mounted the pulpit once in their whole lifetime? For to such a degree of infatuation have men come, that it is thought beneath the episcopal dignity to preach a sermon to the people. In the time of Bernard things had become still worse. Accordingly, we see how bitterly he inveighs against the whole order, and yet there is reason to believe that matters were then in a much better state than now.

13. Whoever will duly examine and weigh the whole form of ecclesiastical government as now existing in the Papacy, will find that there is no kind of spoliation in which robbers act more licentiously, without law or measure. Certainly all things are so unlike, nay, so opposed to the institution of Christ, have so degenerated from the ancient customs and practices of the Church, are so repugnant to nature and reason, that a greater injury cannot be done to Christ than to use his name in defending this disorderly rule. We (say they) are the pillars of the Church, the priests of religion, the vicegerents of Christ, the heads of the faithful, because the apostolic authority has come to us by succession. As if they were speaking to stocks, they perpetually plume themselves on these absurdities. Whenever they make such boasts, I, in my turn, will ask, What have they in common with the apostles? We are not now treating of some hereditary honour which can come to men while they are asleep, but of the office of preaching, which they so greatly shun. In like manner, when we maintain that their kingdom is the tyranny of Antichrist, they immediately object that their venerable hierarchy has often been extolled by great and holy men, as if the holy fathers, when they commended the ecclesiastical hierarchy or spiritual government handed down to them by the apostles, ever dreamed of that shapeless and dreary chaos where bishoprics are held for the most part by ignorant asses, who do not even know the first and ordinary rudiments of the faith, or occasionally by boys who have just left their nurse; or if any are more learned (this, however, is a rare case), they regard the episcopal office as nothing else than a title of magnificence and splendour; where the rectors of churches no more think of feeding the flock than a cobbler does of ploughing, where all things are so confounded by a confusion worse than that of Babel, that no genuine trace of paternal government is any longer to be seen.

14. But if we descend to conduct, where is that light of the world which Christ requires, where the salt of the earth, where that sanctity which might operate as a perpetual censorship? In the present day, there is no order of men more notorious for luxury, effeminacy, delicacy, and all kinds of licentiousness; in no order are more apt or skilful teachers of imposture, fraud, treachery, and perfidy; nowhere is there more skill or audacity in mischief, to say nothing of ostentation, pride, rapacity, and cruelty. In bearing these the world is so disgusted, that there is no fear lest I seem to exaggerate. One thing I say, which even they themselves will not be able to deny: Among bishops there is scarcely an individual, and among the parochial clergy not one in a hundred, who, if sentence were passed on his conduct according to the ancient canons, would not deserve to be excommunicated, or at least deposed from his office. I seem to say what is almost incredible, so completely has that ancient discipline which enjoined strict censure of the morals of the clergy become obsolete; but such the fact really is. Let those who serve under the banner and auspices of the Romish See now go and boast of their sacerdotal order. It is certain that that which they have is neither from Christ, nor his apostles, nor the fathers, nor the early Church.

15. Let the deacons now come forward and show their most sacred distribution of ecclesiastical goods (see chap. 19 sec. 32). Although their deacons are not at all elected for that purpose, for the only injunction which they lay upon them is to minister at the altar, to read the Gospel, or chant and perform I know not what frivolous acts. Nothing is said of alms, nothing of the care of the poor, nothing at all of the function which they formerly performed. I am speaking of the institution itself; for if we look to what they do, theirs, in fact, is no office, but only a step to the priesthood. In one thing, those who hold the place of deacons in the mass exhibit an empty image of antiquity, for they receive the offerings previous to consecration. Now, the ancient practice was, that before the communion of the Supper the faithful mutually kissed each other, and offered alms at the altar; thus declaring their love, first by symbol, and afterwards by an act of beneficence. The deacon, who was steward of the poor, received what was given that he might distribute it. Now, of these alms no more comes to the poor than if they were cast into the sea. They, therefore, delude the Church by that lying deaconship. Assuredly in this they have nothing resembling the apostolical institution or the ancient practice. The very distribution of goods they have transferred elsewhere, and have so settled it that nothing can be imagined more disorderly. For as robbers, after murdering their victims, divide the plunder, so these men, after extinguishing the light of God's word, as if they had murdered the Church, have imagined that whatever had been dedicated to pious uses was set down for prey and plunder. Accordingly, they have made a division, each seizing for himself as much as he could.

16. All those ancient methods which we have explained are not only disturbed but altogether disguised and expunged. The chief part of the plunder has gone to bishops and city presbyters, who, having thus enriched themselves, have been converted into canons. That the partition was a mere scramble is apparent from this, that even to this day they are litigating as to the proportions. Be this as it may, the decision has provided that out of all the goods of the Church not one penny shall go to the poor, to whom at least the half belonged. The canons expressly assign a fourth part to them, while the other fourth they destine to the bishops, that they may expend it in hospitality and other offices of kindness. I say nothing as to what the clergy ought to do with their portion, or the use to which they ought to apply it, for it has been clearly shown that what is set apart for churches, buildings, and other expenditure, ought in necessity to be given to the poor. If they had one spark of the fear of God in their heart, could they, I ask, bear the consciousness that all their food and clothing is the produce of theft, nay, of sacrilege? But as they are little moved by the judgment of God, they should at least reflect that those whom they would persuade that the orders of their Church are so beautiful and well arranged as they are wont to boast, are men endued with sense and reason. Let them briefly answer whether the diaconate is a licence to rob and steal. If they deny this, they will be forced to confess that no diaconate remains among them, since the whole administration of their ecclesiastical resources has been openly converted into sacrilegious depredation.

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

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2009    Pardoned and Glorified

     If you’ve read Victor Hugo’s classic work Les Miserables, or if you’ve seen the stage production or film, you’ll recall the scene wherein the bitter criminal Jean Valjean has been released from prison and finds safe harbor at a bishop’s home. Instead of returning the bishop’s kindness, Valjean steals his silver, strikes him, and flees in the night. After Valjean is caught by the arresting officer, who represents the law, he brings Valjean before the bruised bishop to press charges. The bishop, representing God, affirms not only that he knows Valjean but alleges he gave Valjean the silver and asks Valjean why he didn’t take the candlesticks as well. Though Valjean is clearly guilty, the authorities release him upon hearing the bishop’s trusted declaration. The bishop then utters the unforgettable words: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” Valjean was a new man whose life had been purchased at the cost of another.

     Though Hugo’s classic is not without its theological and sociopolitical problems, this scene beautifully depicts a guilty man who was declared just and thereupon set free to a life of mercy for all the miserable ones whose paths he crossed. Valjean’s soul was redeemed and given to God for a future life of selfless service. The bishop’s gracious act of redemption in the past helped pave the way for Valjean’s future life of good works. Whereas Hugo’s heroic figure is overwhelmingly deficient, Scripture takes us to an entirely different level as God reveals that all who trust Christ are already redeemed while we await the resurrection yet to come. Though we would kill Christ in God’s sovereign plan, He came to us as God incarnate, dwelling among us to live for us and die for us that we might live in Him and die to self unto life abundant and eternal. If we trust the One who was bruised for us, then we have already died in Him, and we are already redeemed for eternity, which is not yet a reality to us in real space and time but is nonetheless a reality to God. For those He has declared just He has also glorified (Rom. 8:28–30). As He justified us, it is as if God has already glorified us that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever coram Deo. He sees the end from the beginning, and in His immutable decree all future events are comprehended and certain.

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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)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     "The shot heard around the world " was a line in the famous poem "The Concord Hymn," recounting the Revolutionary War battle between the Minutemen and the British troops by a bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. It was written by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was born this day, May 25, 1803. Being friends with such notable writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, Emerson composed some of the best poems in American literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: "America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race."

American Minute

The Covenant
     In Our Lord's Blood

     Jesus was teaching about the purpose of his death. According to Paul and Matthew, Jesus’ words about the cup referred not only to his ‘blood’ but to the ‘new covenant’ associated with his blood, and Matthew adds further that his blood was to be shed ‘for the forgiveness of sins’. Here is the truly fantastic assertion that through the shedding of Jesus’ blood in death God was taking the initiative to establish a new pact or ‘covenant’ with his people, one of the greatest promises of which would be the forgiveness of sinners. What did he mean?
     Many centuries previously God had entered into a covenant with Abraham, promising to bless him with a good land and an abundant posterity. God renewed this covenant at Mount Sinai, after rescuing Israel (Abraham’s descendants) from Egypt. He pledged himself to be their God and to make them his people. Moreover, this covenant was ratified with the blood of sacrifice: ‘Moses...took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”’ Exod. 24:8. See also the covenant references in Isa. 42:6; 49:8; Zech. 9:11 and Heb. 9: 18–20 Hundreds of years passed, in which the people forsook God, broke his covenant and provoked his judgment, until one day in the seventh century bc the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying:

  ‘The time is coming,’ declares the Lord,
  ‘when I will make a new covenant
  with the house of Israel
  and with the house of Judah.
  It will not be like the covenant
  I made with their forefathers
  when I took them by the hand
  to lead them out of Egypt,
  because they broke my covenant,
  though I was a husband to them,’
  declares the Lord.
  ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
  after that time,’ declares the Lord.
  ‘I will put my law in their minds
  and write it on their hearts.
  I will be their God,
  and they will be my people.
  No longer will a man teach his neighbour,
  or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”
  because they will all know me,
  from the least of them to the greatest,’
  declares the Lord.
  ‘For I will forgive their wickedness
  and will remember their sins no more.’
  (Jer. 31:31–34)

     More than six more centuries passed, years of patient waiting and growing expectancy, until one evening in an upper room in Jerusalem a Galilean peasant, carpenter by trade and preacher by vocation, dared to say in effect:

‘this new covenant, prophesied in Jeremiah, is about to be established; the forgiveness of sins promised as one of its distinctive blessings is about to become available; and the sacrifice to seal this covenant and procure this forgiveness will be the shedding of my blood in death.’

     Is it possible to exaggerate the staggering nature of this claim? Here is Jesus’ view of his death. It is the divinely appointed sacrifice by which the new covenant with its promise of forgiveness will be ratified. He is going to die in order to bring his people into a new covenant relationship with God.

The Cross of Christ

The Lord's Supper

     Here then are the lessons of the upper room about the death of Christ. First, it was central to his own thinking about himself and his mission, and he desired it to be central to ours. Secondly, it took place in order to establish the new covenant and procure its promised forgiveness. Thirdly, it needs to be appropriated individually if its benefits (the covenant and the forgiveness) are to be enjoyed. The Lord’s Supper which Jesus instituted was not meant to be a slightly sentimental ‘forget-me-not’, but rather a service rich in spiritual significance.
     What makes the events of the upper room and the significance of the Lord’s Supper yet more impressive is that they belong to the context of the Passover. That Jesus thought of his death in terms of an Old Testament sacrifice we have already seen. But which sacrifice did he have in mind? Not only, it seems, the Mount Sinai sacrifice of Exodus 24, by which the covenant was decisively renewed, but also the Passover sacrifice of Exodus 12, which became an annual commemoration of God’s liberation of Israel and covenant with them.
     According to the Synoptic evangelists, the last supper was the Passover meal which followed the sacrificing of the Passover lambs. This is clear because the disciples asked Jesus where they should make preparations to ‘eat the Passover’, and Jesus himself referred to the meal as ‘this Passover’. Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:15 According to John, however, the Passover meal would not be eaten until the Friday evening, which meant that Jesus was dying on the cross at the very time that the Passover lambs were being killed. John 18:28. Cf. John 19:36 and Exod. 12:46 In his important book Eucharistic Words of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias elaborated the three main attempts which have been made to harmonize these two chronologies. The best seems to be to declare both correct, each having been followed by a different group. Either the Pharisees and Sadducees were using alternative calendars, which differed from each other by a day, or there were so many pilgrims in Jerusalem for the festival (perhaps as many as 100,000) that the Galileans killed their lambs on the Thursday and ate them that evening, while the Judeans observed the celebration one day later.
     However the two chronologies are to be reconciled, the Passover context further enforces the three lessons that we have already considered. The central importance which Jesus attached to his death is underlined by the fact that he was actually giving instructions for the annual celebration of the Passover to be replaced by his own supper. For he spoke words of explanation over the bread and wine (‘This is my body...this is my blood...’), just as the head of an Aramaic Jewish household did over the Passover food (‘This is the bread of affliction which our fathers had to eat as they came out of Egypt’. Cf. Exod. 12:26–27; 13:8; Deut. 16:3 Thus ‘Jesus modelled his sayings upon the ritual of interpreting the Passover’.
     This further clarifies Jesus’ understanding of the purpose of his death. He ‘presupposes’, wrote Jeremias, ‘a slaying that has separated flesh and blood. In other words, Jesus spoke of himself as a sacrifice’. Indeed, he was ‘most probably speaking of himself as the paschal lamb’, so that the meaning of his last parable was: ‘I go to death as the true Passover sacrifice’. The implications of this are far-reaching. For in the original Passover in Egypt each paschal lamb died instead of the family’s first-born son, and the first-born was spared only if a lamb was slain in his place. Not only had the lamb to be slain, but also its blood had to be sprinkled on the front door and its flesh eaten in a fellowship meal. Thus the Passover ritual taught the third lesson too, that it was necessary for the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death to be personally appropriated.

The Cross of Christ

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Life is God's novel.
Let him write it.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer

You are not obliged
to put on Evening clothes to meet God.
--- Austin O'Malley
Thoughts Of A Recluse (1898)

Thoreau’s existential stance closely follows from this position:

I love to live … I believe something, and there is nothing else but that. I know that I am – I know that another is who knows more than I who takes interest in me, whose creature and yet whose kindred, in one sense, am I. I know that the enterprise is worthy – I know that things work well. I have heard no bad news.

As for positions — as for combinations and details — what are they? In clear weather when we look into the heavens, what do we see, but the sky and the sun?

When you travel to the celestial city, carry no letter of introduction.

When you knock ask to see God – none of his servants.

In what concerns you much do not think that you have companions – know that you are alone in the world.
--- Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau and the Moral Agency of Knowing

The way to cover our sin is to uncover it by confession. The way for God to spare us is not to spare ourselves.
--- Richard Sibbes
The complete works of Richard Sibbes ... (Volume 6)

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

               Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Seventeenth Chapter / The Burning Love And Strong Desire To Receive Christ

     The Disciple

     WITH greatest devotion and ardent love, with all affection and fervor of heart I wish to receive You, O Lord, as many saints and devout persons, most pleasing to You in their holiness of life and most fervent in devotion, desired You in Holy Communion.

     O my God, everlasting love, my final good, my happiness unending, I long to receive You with as strong a desire and as worthy a reverence as any of the saints ever had or could have felt, and though I am not worthy to have all these sentiments of devotion, still I offer You the full affection of my heart as if I alone had all those most pleasing and ardent desires.

     Yet, whatever a God-fearing mind can conceive and desire, I offer in its entirety to You with the greatest reverence and inward affection. I wish to keep nothing for self but to offer to You, willingly and most freely, myself and all that is mine.

     O Lord God, my Creator and my Redeemer, I long to receive You this day with such reverence, praise, and honor, with such gratitude, worthiness and love, with such faith, hope, and purity as that with which Your most holy Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary, longed for and received You when she humbly and devoutly answered the angel who announced to her the mystery of the Incarnation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (
Luke 1:38)

     Likewise as Your blessed precursor, the most excellent of saints, John the Baptist, gladdened by Your presence, exulted in the Holy Ghost while yet enclosed in the womb of his mother, and afterward seeing Jesus walking among men, humbled himself and with devout love declared: “The friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice,” (
John 3:29) even so I long to be inflamed with great and holy desires and to give myself to You with all my heart.

     Therefore I offer and present to You the gladness of all devout hearts, their ardent affection, their mental raptures, their supernatural illuminations and heavenly visions together with all the virtues and praises which have been or shall be celebrated by all creatures in heaven and on earth, for myself and all commended to my prayers, that You may be worthily praised and glorified forever.

     Accept, O Lord my God, my promises and desires of giving You infinite praise and boundless benediction, which in the vastness of Your ineffable greatness are justly due You. This I render and desire to render every day and every moment of time, and in my loving prayers I invite and entreat all celestial spirits and all the faithful to join me in giving You praise and thanks.

     Let all people, races, and tongues praise You and with the greatest joy and most ardent devotion magnify Your sweet and holy name. And let all who reverently and devoutly celebrate this most great Sacrament and receive it in the fullness of faith, find kindness and mercy in You and humbly pray for me, a sinner. And when they have received the longed-for devotion and blissful union, and, well consoled and wonderfully refreshed, have retired from Your holy, Your celestial table, may they deign to remember my poor soul.

The Imitation Of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 6.

     When Hyrcanus Who Was Alexander's Heir, Receded From His Claim To The Crown Aristobulus Is Made King; And Afterward The Same Hyrcanus By The Means Of Antipater, Is Brought Back

     By Abetas. At Last Pompey Is Made The Arbitrator Of The Dispute Between The Brothers.

     1. Now Hyrcanus was heir to the kingdom, and to him did his mother commit it before she died; but Aristobulus was superior to him in power and magnanimity; and when there was a battle between them, to decide the dispute about the kingdom, near Jericho, the greatest part deserted Hyrcanus, and went over to Aristobulus; but Hyrcanus, with those of his party who staid with him, fled to Antonia, and got into his power the hostages that might be for his preservation [which were Aristobulus's wife, with her children]; but they came to an agreement before things should come to extremities, that Aristobulus should be king, and Hyrcanus should resign that up, but retain all the rest of his dignities, as being the king's brother. Hereupon they were reconciled to each other in the temple, and embraced one another in a very kind manner, while the people stood round about them; they also changed their houses, while Aristobulus went to the royal palace, and Hyrcanus retired to the house of Aristobulus.

     2. Now those other people which were at variance with Aristobulus were afraid upon his unexpected obtaining the government; and especially this concerned Antipater 6 whom Aristobulus hated of old. He was by birth an Idumean, and one of the principal of that nation, on account of his ancestors and riches, and other authority to him belonging: he also persuaded Hyrcanus to fly to Aretas, the king of Arabia, and to lay claim to the kingdom; as also he persuaded Aretas to receive Hyrcanus, and to bring him back to his kingdom: he also cast great reproaches upon Aristobulus, as to his morals, and gave great commendations to Hyrcanus, and exhorted Aretas to receive him, and told him how becoming a filing it would be for him, who ruled so great a kingdom, to afford his assistance to such as are injured; alleging that Hyrcanus was treated unjustly, by being deprived of that dominion which belonged to him by the prerogative of his birth. And when he had predisposed them both to do what he would have them, he took Hyrcanus by night, and ran away from the city, and, continuing his flight with great swiftness, he escaped to the place called Petra, which is the royal seat of the king of Arabia, where he put Hyrcanus into Aretas's hand; and by discoursing much with him, and gaining upon him with many presents, he prevailed with him to give him an army that might restore him to his kingdom. This army consisted of fifty thousand footmen and horsemen, against which Aristobulus was not able to make resistance, but was deserted in his first onset, and was driven to Jerusalem; he also had been taken at first by force, if Scaurus, the Roman general, had not come and seasonably interposed himself, and raised the siege. This Scaurus was sent into Syria from Armenia by Pompey the Great, when he fought against Tigranes; so Scaurus came to Damascus, which had been lately taken by Metellus and Lollius, and caused them to leave the place; and, upon his hearing how the affairs of Judea stood, he made haste thither as to a certain booty.

     3. As soon, therefore, as he was come into the country, there came ambassadors from both the brothers, each of them desiring his assistance; but Aristobulus's three hundred talents had more weight with him than the justice of the cause; which sum, when Scaurus had received, he sent a herald to Hyrcanus and the Arabians, and threatened them with the resentment of the Romans and of Pompey, unless they would raise the siege. So Aretas was terrified, and retired out of Judea to Philadelphia, as did Scaurus return to Damascus again; nor was Aristobulus satisfied with escaping [out of his brother's hands,] but gathered all his forces together, and pursued his enemies, and fought them at a place called Papyron, and slew about six thousand of them, and, together with them Antipater's brother Phalion.

     4. When Hyrcanus and Antipater were thus deprived of their hopes from the Arabians, they transferred the same to their adversaries; and because Pompey had passed through Syria, and was come to Damascus, they fled to him for assistance; and, without any bribes, they made the same equitable pleas that they had used to Aretas, and besought him to hate the violent behavior of Aristobulus, and to bestow the kingdom on him to whom it justly belonged, both on account of his good character and on account of his superiority in age. However, neither was Aristobulus wanting to himself in this case, as relying on the bribes that Scaurus had received: he was also there himself, and adorned himself after a manner the most agreeable to royalty that he was able. But he soon thought it beneath him to come in such a servile manner, and could not endure to serve his own ends in a way so much more abject than he was used to; so he departed from Diospolis.

     5. At this his behavior Pompey had great indignation; Hyrcanus also and his friends made great intercessions to Pompey; so he took not only his Roman forces, but many of his Syrian auxiliaries, and marched against Aristobulus. But when he had passed by Pella and Scythopolis, and was come to Corea, where you enter into the country of Judea, when you go up to it through the Mediterranean parts, he heard that Aristobulus was fled to Alexandrium, which is a strong hold fortified with the utmost magnificence, and situated upon a high mountain; and he sent to him, and commanded him to come down. Now his inclination was to try his fortune in a battle, since he was called in such an imperious manner, rather than to comply with that call. However, he saw the multitude were in great fear, and his friends exhorted him to consider what the power of the Romans was, and how it was irresistible; so he complied with their advice, and came down to Pompey; and when he had made a long apology for himself, and for the justness of his cause in taking the government, he returned to the fortress. And when his brother invited him again [to plead his cause], he came down and spake about the justice of it, and then went away without any hinderance from Pompey; so he was between hope and fear. And when he came down, it was to prevail with Pompey to allow him the government entirely; and when he went up to the citadel, it was that he might not appear to debase himself too low. However, Pompey commanded him to give up his fortified places, and forced him to write to every one of their governors to yield them up; they having had this charge given them, to obey no letters but what were of his own hand-writing. Accordingly he did what he was ordered to do; but had still an indignation at what was done, and retired to Jerusalem, and prepared to fight with Pompey.

     6. But Pompey did not give him time to make any preparations [for a siege], but followed him at his heels; he was also obliged to make haste in his attempt, by the death of Mithridates, of which he was informed about Jericho. Now here is the most fruitful country of Judea, which bears a vast number of palm trees 7 besides the balsam tree, whose sprouts they cut with sharp stones, and at the incisions they gather the juice, which drops down like tears. So Pompey pitched his camp in that place one night, and then hasted away the next Morning to Jerusalem; but Aristobulus was so affrighted at his approach, that he came and met him by way of supplication. He also promised him money, and that he would deliver up both himself and the city into his disposal, and thereby mitigated the anger of Pompey. Yet did not he perform any of the conditions he had agreed to; for Aristobulus's party would not so much as admit Gabinius into the city, who was sent to receive the money that he had promised.

          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 17:21-23
     by D.H. Stern

21     He who fathers a fool does so to his sorrow,
and the father of a boor has no joy.

22     A happy heart is good medicine,
but low spirits sap one’s strength.

23     From under a cloak a bad man takes a bribe
to pervert the course of justice.

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 test of self-interest

     If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
--- Genesis 13:9.

     As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these things are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the right and proper thing to consider if you were not living a life of faith; but if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and leave God to choose for you. This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.

     Whenever right is made the guidance in the life, it will blunt the spiritual insight. The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. It would seem the wisest thing in the world for Abraham to choose, it was his right, and the people around would consider him a fool for not choosing. Many of us do not go on spiritually because we prefer to choose what is right instead of relying on God to choose for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eye on God. “Walk before Me.”

My Utmost for His Highest

Walter Llywarch
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

               Walter Llywarch

I am, as you know, Walter Llywarch,
Born in Wales of approved parents,
Well goitred, round in the bum,
Sure prey of the slow virus
Bred in quarries of grey rain.

Born in autumn at the right time
For hearing stories from the cracked lips
Of old folk dreaming of summer,
I piled them on to the bare hearth
Of my own fancy to make a blaze
To warm myself, but achieved only
The smoke’s acid that brings the smart
Of false tears into the eyes.

Months of fog, months of drizzle;
Thought wrapped in the grey cocoon
Of race, of place, awaiting the sun’s
Coming, but when the sun came,
Touching the hills with a hot hand,
Wings were spread only to fly
Round and round in a cramped cage
Or beat in vain at the sky’s window.

School in the week, on Sunday chapel:
Tales of a land fairer than this
Were not so tall, for others had proved it
Without the grave’s passport, they sent
The fruit home for ourselves to taste.

Walter Llywarch—the words were a name
On a lost letter that never came
For one who waited in the long queue
Of life that wound through a Welsh valley.
I took instead, as others had done
Before, a wife from the back pews
In chapel, rather to share the rain
Of winter Evenings, than to intrude
On her pale body; and yet we lay
For warmth together and laughed to hear
Each new child’s cry of despair.

Selected Poems, 1946-68

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Menaḥot 83b, 85a


     While walking down the street, we see someone who looks very familiar. It's not a friend or an acquaintance, we realize, but a famous celebrity, perhaps an athlete or a politician or a movie star. We find ourselves drawn to him, following his every motion, unable to walk away. He seems larger than life, somehow very special and unique. We long to establish a connection with him in some way. We would love to talk to him, but we cannot imagine what we would say. We might even be hesitant to just say hello, fearing that we would be disturbing this great person, afraid that we will come off looking silly or acting like a pest. Many of us, if we have the presence of mind, and a pen and a piece of paper handy, might ask for an autograph. If we are lucky enough to get it, we would cherish that bit of barely legible scrawl as one of our most prized possessions.

     Why is this so? Perhaps it is because we live in a huge, complex world, and so often we feel small and insignificant. In addition, so much of life is mundane and ordinary. It is quite natural for us to dream of a different reality where we are important and each moment is exciting. Popular culture exploits our boredom and unhappiness, transferring our fantasies to certain individuals who we assume must live charmed lives. In our desire for wealth, power, and excitement, we buy into the myths of the "rich and famous." Little do we realize that the actual lives of these people are, for the most part, not too different from our own. But it is one thing to dream, from time to time, about living a life of glamour. It is quite another thing to let these occasional dreams become obsessions and for us to live vicariously through the lives of others.

     Rami bar Ḥama was responding to what he feared had become an obsession in one of his students. He reminds us that we can shake hands with a great person, but all that sticks is their scent. In a moment, even that is gone. Nothing of a lasting value comes from "hanging around" or worshiping celebrities. Rami would teach us that greatness is achieved by doing great things. Merely being in the company of the great is no substitute. We are challenged not to feed off someone else's accomplishments but to strive to be great ourselves.

     You're bringing straw to Afarayim.

     Text / Mishnah (8:1): All of the [meal] offerings of the community or of the individual are brought from the land [of Israel] or from outside the land, from the new or from the old, with the exception of the Omer and the Two Loaves, which must be brought from the new and from the land. All the offerings must be from the choicest. What constitutes "the choicest?" Mikhmas and Zanoaḥ are first for fine flour. Second, behind them, is Afarayim in the valley. All lands were kosher [for this], but they used to bring it from here.

     Text / Gemara: "All the offerings must be from the choicest." Yoḥna and Mamra said to Moses: "You're bringing straw to Afarayim!" He said to them: "It is just as people say: 'To the place of vegetables—bring vegetables.' "

     Context / Beginning on the second day of Pesaḥ, a sheaf [Omer] of newly harvested grain was offered each day for seven weeks: "When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest." (Leviticus 23:10)

     Context / The two loaves were brought on the festival of Shavuot: "Then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of a measure of choice flour." (Leviticus 23:16–17)

     The Mishnah begins a discussion of what kind of flour was appropriate for the Minḥah meal-offerings. These offerings were made of flour and oil and cooked in various ways. They were brought in addition to the animal sacrifices or, on occasion, by themselves. With two exceptions, the flour could be either from new or old produce. The exceptions were the Omer and the Two Loaves.

     The Mishnah then defines "choicest"; only this quality was acceptable for the meal-offerings. We are told that the towns of Mikhmas and Zanoaḥ had the reputation for producing the best flour in Israel; the next best flour was to be found in Afarayim.

     The Gemara adds a piece of folklore associated with the town of Afarayim. This town apparently was well known for its abundant supply of straw. When Moses first came to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go, he brought with him an arsenal of signs and wonders that were supposed to convince the Egyptians of God's power. For example, Moses would change his staff into a serpent; he could make his hand turn white with leprosy; and he could turn the waters of the Nile blood-red. Two of the Egyptian magicians, Yoḥna and Mamra (also referred to in other sources as Jannes and Jambres) came to meet him and ridiculed him. "Egypt is famous for its magicians who can perform many wonders. Your coming here with your tricks is like bringing straw to Afarayim!" Moses answers them with a folk saying: "If you want to sell vegetables, go to the place where people look to buy them—in the vegetable market!" In other words: I can play your game—doing magic—and beat you at it!

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jesus and the Passover

     This seems like a good time to reflect on Jesus observing the Passover. In Seminary I was taught the more something is mentioned in Scripture the more important it is. Our Lord's observance of the Passover is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. More people than ever are emphasizing that Jesus was a Jew. It is important not to forget that. Jesus observed Jewish practices. The New Testament does not include everything in the Passover, but it does include much. Last year I wrote, "You might consider reading Mat 26:1-5, 17-30, Mark 14:1-2, 12-26, Luke 22:1-2, 7-20 and John 13:1-30 all in one sitting." That is one of the reasons why I changed to this Bible Reading Schedule.

     This night was the fulfillment of Jewish children's, "What is special about this night." The text tells us that Jesus made preparations in advance. Those who wanted him dead were not ignorant of the Scriptures. Did they understand the connection between Jesus and the Passover and what this might symbolize to the people? Is that one of the reasons they did not want him killed on the Passover? Jesus often said, "
The Scriptures must be fulfilled."

     God makes sure the Word is not spoken in vain. Why do you think this is? Is it for our benefit? God continually speaks to our hearts in ways our minds cannot grasp. Our western way of thinking linearly has its drawbacks. As Dr. Del Tackett asked, "What do you do with stuff outside of the box?"

     Lily and I have been married for almost thirty years. At least a couple of times every year she asks me why I love her. Sometimes I write her poems, sometimes I try, but fail to adequately explain it. These mental gymnastics just aren't successful.

     So I try to just to show her, to look for every day little things I can do to demonstrate my love. Is it any different with God? Job just could not get his mind around God's ways. God finally asked Job just who Job thought he was to even try.

     We cannot understand the ways of God, but we can put ourselves in a position to be aware of God's presence ... by pondering God's goodness, beauty, by being still, reading our Bibles and being more deliberate, more conscious, more intentional about our environment, what we think, say and do and especially the people around us.

     I do not believe any Christian discipline, any works righteousness program can earn salvation, but, when I met Lily I knew where she worked and the only way to meet her was for me to go there. We must become more aware of the why's of our choices. God is talking to us, but we have to listen and Passover says much.

     Next in this Passover, with regards to Jewish observance, is the matter of the sanctification of the Passover. If you read Luke 22:14-18 you will see that Jesus says a blessing over the Passover and then they drink the first cup. (Kiddush)

     According to Jewish practice, next comes the washing of the hands. (Urchatz) Go to John 13:1-11. What is most interesting, but not surprising when we think of the nature of Jesus, is that He reverses the roles. No servant or the woman of the house comes in to wash their hands. Instead Jesus takes a towel and water and washes their feet.

     In Mat 26:20-25 and Mark 14:17-21 the text talks about the betrayal of Jesus. This is the ceremony of Carpas, or the dipping. Most likely He dipped parsley into a bowl of salt water.

     In John 13:21-30 we see what is called Coreich or the making of a sandwich. Everyone would take two pieces of matzah and make a sandwich of bitter herbs (horseradish) and charoseth. According to the Passover Seder Jesus would then have said, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God! King of the universe, who has sanctified us with your grace, and commanded us to eat bitter herbs." Then they would eat the sandwich, dipping it into the bowl of salt water first.

     In Mat 26:26, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19 is the Yachatz. This is very important. I remember being at a Jewish Passover with a Jewish friend and at this part of the Seder he was visibly touched when I talked about Jesus and how Jesus said, "This is my body." The middle loaf was broken. This is called the afikomen. At the Passover I went to, after supper, the master of the house, took the broken part of the middle matzah, which he had hidden under a pillow for the afikomen, and gave each of us a piece of it.


Psalm 35
     Vol. 19: Word Biblical Commentary

     Form/Structure/Setting - Psalm 35 is commonly described as an individual lament or a prayer; both descriptions are appropriate in general terms, though neither do justice to the particular language of the psalm and its military overtones. Attempts to relate the psalm to the situation of an accused man facing trial are also unsatisfactory, ... ; some of the language does indeed have legal overtones (cf. Asensio, Est Bib 31 [1972] 5–16), but it requires interpretation in a context larger than that of the law courts. Eaton is almost certainly correct in interpreting the psalm as a royal psalm to be interpreted in an international context (Kingship and the Psalms, 41–42).

     The psalm may be divided into three sections. (1) In the first section, the psalmist (identified as the king) prays for God's assistance in battle (vv
1–3), declares the eventual downfall of the enemy (vv 4–8), and anticipates the praise that will emerge from victory (vv 9–10). (2) There follows a lamentlike passage (vv 11–16), describing the king's enemies, which moves to a prayer for rescue (v 17), followed by further anticipation of praise after deliverance (v 18). (3) The last major section begins with a prayer directed against enemies (vv 19–26); the assurance that the prayer would be answered is expressed both in the anticipated worship of the people as a whole (v 27) and of the psalmist individually (v 28).

     The external situation which must be envisaged is one that is both military and legal; almost certainly, the king faces the threat of war from foreign enemies, who in turn are using as an excuse for war certain purported violations of a treaty agreement. It is the background of an international treaty, between the king (representing Israel) and a foreign power, which provides the appropriate framework within which both the military and the legal language may be interpreted. The details giving rise to the international treaty context are elaborated in the Comment (below).

     Though the evidence is not firm, it is reasonable to suppose that the psalm would have been utilized within the temple, perhaps in a liturgical setting, either as a consequence of the grave military threat, or else prior to the king's departure for battle to meet his adversary. If the latter were the case, then there are clearly general parallels between
Ps 35 and Ps 20. The congregational setting of the ritual is indicated by the reference to the "great congregation" (v 18), to the "quiet ones" (v 20;), and by the substance of v 27, which may be interpreted as a congregational response of praise (though it is anticipated, rather than actual, in the ritual).

Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 19: Psalms 1-50

The 3rd Cup
     RickAdams7 comment

     In Mat 26:27-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:20 they take the third cup. We know it was the third cup, or the third filling of the cup, because the author of Luke said the cup after supper. This is the cup of redemption and represents the redemption that came because of the shedding of the blood of the lambs in Egypt. For those who call upon the name of Jesus, it is the symbol of our redemption which comes as a result of the willing sacrifice of Jesus.

     Mat 26:30 and Mark 14:26 now mention the Hallel. They sang the Psalms from 115-118. I find Psalm 118 especially appropriate.

Psalm 118

               A Song of Victory

1     O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

2     Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
3     Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
4     Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

5     Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
6     With the LORD on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
7     The LORD is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8     It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in mortals.
9     It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in princes.

10     All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11     They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12     They surrounded me like bees;
they blazeda like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13     I was pushed hard,b so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
14     The LORD is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

15     There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
17     I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18     The LORD has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

19     Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.

20     This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21     I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22     The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23     This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24     This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25     Save us, we beseech you, O LORD!
O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

26     Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27     The LORD is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

28     You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.

29     O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Then they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Maintaining Jewish Identity
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     Jewish comfort and familiarity with the Hellenistic world in no way entailed abandonment or compromise of their distinctive identity. Terms like “assimilation” and “accommodation” deliver misleading impressions that are best avoided, suggesting that the Jews needed to transform themselves in order to fit into an alien environment. On the contrary, they unabashedly called attention to their own characteristic features.

     The issue of endogamy, for instance, recurs in Second Temple literature. The book of Tobit, among other things, exhorts those dwelling in the Diaspora to adhere to the teachings of their fathers, to hold their coreligionists to the highest ideals, and to reinforce the solidarity of the clan. The work enjoins Jews in the lands of the Gentiles to maintain their special identity through strict endogamy, a theme that runs throughout the tale, thus assuring survival of the tribe. The author of Tobit may indeed take the point too far, deliberately so, with a touch of irony. He has almost every character in the narrative, even husbands and wives, greet one another as brother and sister, with numbing repetition. This is endogamy with a vengeance, perhaps a parody of the practice—but also testimony to the practice. The author himself is evidently not partial to clannishness. He has Tobit’s deathbed speech offer a broader vision in which Jerusalem will eventually encompass Jew and Gentile alike, attracting all the nations of the world to its light.

     The matter of endogamy surfaces prominently also in the Jewish novella, Joseph and Aseneth, a grandiose elaboration on the brief scriptural notice of Joseph’s marriage to the daughter of an Egyptian priest. The romantic story underscores in no uncertain terms Joseph’s unbending resistance to marriage outside the clan, relenting only when Aseneth abandons all her heresies, smashes her idols, and seeks forgiveness through abject prayers to the god of Joseph. The author here too, by exaggerating Joseph’s priggishness and Aseneth’s debasement, may suggest the disadvantages of taking endogamy to extremes. But the importance of the practice as highlighting Jewish particularity is plain.

     Jews seem quite uninhibited in displaying in the Diaspora traits peculiar to their ancestral traditions. One need only think of those practices remarked upon most often by Greek and Roman authors: observance of the Sabbath, dietary laws, and circumcision. The institution of the Sabbath frequently drew comment, generally amused comment. Pagan writers found it quite incomprehensible that Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath—thus causing Jerusalem to fall on three different occasions. And even if the prohibition did not cause disaster, it seemed a colossal waste of time: why did Jews waste one-seventh of their lives in idleness? Comparable mirth directed itself against the abstention from eating pork. Even Emperor Augustus, in reference to the notorious intrigues and murders that took place in the household of Herod, famously observed that “it’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” That quip implies that the Jewish dietary restriction was well known among the Romans. Satirists indeed had a field day with it. Petronius, author of the Satyricon, concluded that, if Jews don’t touch pork, they must worship a pig-god. And Juvenal characterized Judea as a place where a long-standing indulgence permits pigs to reach a ripe old age. As for circumcision, it provided much grist for the jokesters’ mill. Philo reports that circumcision called forth considerable ridicule from non-Jews. Among the instances of this was Juvenal’s claim that Jews are so exclusive that they would not even give directions in the street to anyone who was not circumcised. None of this amounts, as has often been thought, to “anti-Semitism.” It represents mockery rather than animosity. But it demonstrates that Diaspora Jews had no qualms (and no fears) about practicing their conventional customs, thereby denoting their differences from Gentiles.

     In fact, what struck pagan writers most was not Jewish assimilation but Jewish separateness. That emerges in Juvenal’s quip noted above. It recurs also in a comment by his contemporary, the historian Tacitus, who claimed that Jews took up circumcision precisely in order to express their distinctiveness from all other people. The impression of Jewish separatism appears, in fact, as early as the first extant Greek writer to take note of the Jews, Hecataeus of Abdera, a historian of the late fourth century B.C.E. Hecataeus, in an account generally favorable to Jews, indicates that they tended to keep to themselves and shun the company of others.

     The uncommon character of their customs both provided bonds among Diaspora Jews everywhere and announced their differences from other peoples. The surviving evidence underscores this again and again. The collection of an annual tax to be sent to the Temple from Jewish communities throughout the Mediterranean exemplifies it. So does the regular celebration of festivals that mark major milestones in the history of the nation. The Jews of Egypt kept the Passover at least as early as the fifth century, as the Aramaic papyri from Elephantine attest. Scattered testimony reveals observance of Shavuot, Sukkot, and Yom Kippur in Jewish communities outside Palestine, conspicuous links to ancient tradition. Later feasts have strong Diaspora connections. The Purim festival began in the Persian period, according to the book of Esther, and was celebrated annually by the Jews of Persia. A comparable anniversary occurred in Alexandria to celebrate a Jewish triumph, according to the narrative of 3 Maccabees. And the Jews of Jerusalem invited their compatriots in Egypt to commemorate the purification of the Temple in their own Diaspora location.

     As noted earlier, the structures in which Jews of the Diaspora met often carried the designation of proseuchai or prayer houses. That term applies regularly to Jewish meeting places in Egypt but also in the Bosporan region, in Delos, in Halicarnassus, and doubtless in other communities where the evidence fails us. The implication seems clear enough: such gatherings included prayers, acts of worship of some sort that gave voice to the particular Jewish relationship with the divinity. Such places of assemblage, whether called proseuchē or synagōgē, served also as a site for collective Torah study and for other instructional activity that reinforced the continued commitment to Jewish tradition.

     Philo, the learned Alexandrian Jew, places particular emphasis upon this aspect of synagogue activity, noting that the laws were read out to weekly meetings on the Sabbath. Priests or elders, according to Philo, took responsibility for reading and commenting on the sacred laws, even keeping the congregation at it for hours, and providing them with great impetus toward piety. In Philo’s portrayal, perhaps somewhat shaped by his own philosophic proclivities, congregants sit in their synagogues, read their sacred books, and discuss at length the particulars of their ancestral philosophy. He reckons the synagogue as a Jewish replica of a philosophical academy. The presentation may be slightly skewed but surely not far off the mark.

     The book of Acts portrays Paul repeatedly entering Jewish synagogues in various cities of the Diaspora, in Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus, and arguing with Jews about the meaning of the Scriptures. Close attention to holy writ obviously remained central to Jewish activity outside Palestine—and to Jewish self-perception. The vitality of the Torah was undiminished. The stimulus for translation into Greek suffices to establish that. And, as Philo reports, the completion of the project receives annual celebration on the island of Pharos, where the translators allegedly worked, a strong signal of Jewish pride in the heritage that marked them out from others.

     The tenacious adherence to signature principles occurred perhaps most obviously in the Jewish insistence upon rejecting idolatry. The affirmation did not consist, strictly speaking, in pitting monotheism against polytheism. Jewish intellectuals recognized that Greek philosophic thinking often expressed itself in terms of a supreme deity or a single divine principle. What Jews resisted unequivocally was the worship of deities in the form of images. Such practice they reckoned as profaning the spiritual essence of God. The stance, of course, derives from the biblical commandment against graven images, and the struggle against idolaters fills the pages of the Torah and the Deuteronomistic history. The principle retained its power in the Second Temple. As we have seen, even the Letter of Aristeas, a prime document for accord between the Jewish and Hellenic worlds, draws the line firmly at idolatry, denouncing in harshest terms those who fashion their own gods in wood or stone and thus fundamentally misconceive the nature of divinity. Aseneth’s acceptance of Joseph’s god could come only when she pulverized every idol in the household. And the assault on idolatry gains voice also in the Sibylline Oracles, composed by Jews who emphasized the failings and offenses of Gentiles. The incorporeal character of God represented an unshakable principle. Jewish aniconism was conspicuous and widely acknowledged by non-Jews. Some found it peculiar and puzzling, even akin to atheism. Others admired it. The Roman historian Tacitus held up the Jewish practice as a worthy contrast with animal worship indulged in by Egyptians and with emperor worship, which Tacitus deplored. Indeed the most learned of Romans, the great scholar Varro, in the late first century B.C.E., praised the imageless conception of the deity, likening it to ancient Roman custom as genuine piety before the Romans began to set up images and adulterate their creed. But whether questioning or admiring, pagan references to Jewish aniconism make clear that perseverance in this principle that set Jews apart from their neighbors received widespread notice. They erected no façade of assimilation.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 25

     Why do you stand here looking into the sky? --- Acts 1:11.

     The angels’ address is a rebuke to idle speculation in regions beyond the reach of human knowledge. ( Sermons Preached in St. Paul's Cathedral ) It is a warning against substituting that which is visionary for that which is real in religion.

     [But] aren’t we told that our citizenship is in heaven? Aren’t we commanded to store up treasure in heaven? In what sense then can we be required to avert our gaze from heaven and to fix our eyes on the earth?

     The circumstances of the apostles will supply us with a first answer. What was a fault in them will be a fault in us also. They were eager to know the exact time—the day and the hour—when their King would come and claim his kingdom. He had told them again and again that this knowledge was hidden from them. It was hidden even from the angels of heaven. And still, the last words that they address to their risen Lord ignore the warning; still the last answer that they receive from his lips is a rebuke for desiring to fathom the unfathomable. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set.”

     The subject has exercised a strong fascination over Christians in all ages. Again and again people have predicted the time of the Second Advent. Again and again their predictions have been falsified.

     And the wrong done by this lawless speculation is not trifling. It impairs that attitude of patient waiting that is enjoined on the church. It substitutes a spasmodic, feverish watchfulness for the calm and continuous expectation that suits the children of God. It is chargeable with still more fatal consequences than these. It has bred disappointment, and from disappointment has sprung skepticism and from skepticism, mockery and unbelief. It has given occasion to the enemies of Christ to blaspheme. And the guilt lies in no small degree with the speculation of believers. Strange that it should have been so; strange that people should not perceive how each such prediction falsified is a confirmation of the Master’s saying, “No one knows about that day or hour.”

     Spend no more time on speculations; they only absorb energy and paralyze action. Stand no more gazing up into heaven, but return from the mount of ascension to your everyday life. There, continue in prayer and supplication; there await in confidence that outpouring of the Spirit; there live and bear witness to Christ.
--- J. B. Lightfoot

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

On This Day
     The Eccentric Preacher  May 25

     Charles Spurgeon once wrote a little book entitled Eccentric Preachers. He described 11 peculiar ministers, his concluding example being Billy Bray of Cornwall, England. Billy, an alcoholic miner, found the Lord at age 29. “In an instant the Lord made me so happy I cannot express what I felt,” said Billy. “I shouted for joy. Everything looked new to me; the people, the fields, the cattle, the trees. I was like a man in a new world. … ” Billy joined the Methodists and set out immediately to win others. His bursting, driving energy made some people call him a madman.

     “But they meant ‘glad man’!” said Billy.

     He took Cornwall by storm. On meeting strangers, Billy would inquire about their souls; and he would shout “Glory!” whenever hearing of anyone being saved. Sometimes he would pick people up and spin them around the room. “I can’t help praising God,” he said. “As I go along the street I lift one foot and it seems to say ‘Glory!’ and I lift the other, and it seems to say, ‘Amen!’ And they keep on like that all the time I’m walking.”

     From age 29 to his death at 73, he danced and leaped and shouted his way through each day. He preached and built chapels and took orphans into his home. He fasted Saturday afternoon till Sunday night each week. When pressed to eat, he would say, “On Sunday I get my breakfast and dinner from the King’s table, two good meals too.”

     When his wife died, Billy jumped around the room in excitement, shouting, “Bless the Lord! My dear Joey is gone up with the bright ones! Glory! Glory! Glory!” And when his doctor told him he, too, was dying, he shouted, “Glory! Glory to God! I shall soon be in heaven.” Then lowering his voice, he added, “When I get up there, shall I give them your compliments doctor, and tell them you will be coming, too?”

     His dying word as he fell asleep on May 25, 1868 was “Glory!”

     “It does not seem so very horrible after all,” commented Spurgeon, “that a man should be eccentric.”

     Shout praises to the LORD!
     With all that I am, I will shout his praises.
     I will sing
     And praise the LORD God for as long as I live.
     --- Psalm 146:1,2.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 25

     “Forsake me not, O Lord.” --- Psalm 38:21.

     Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation, but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy, in which we can do without his constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation, we alike need the prayer, “Forsake me not, O Lord.” “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” A little child, while learning to walk, always needs the nurse’s aid. The ship left by the pilot drifts at once from her course. We cannot do without continued aid from above; let it then be your prayer to-day, “Forsake me not. Father, forsake not thy child, lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Great Husbandman, forsake not thy plant, lest it wither and die. ‘Forsake me not, O Lord,’ now; and forsake me not at any moment of my life. Forsake me not in my joys, lest they absorb my heart. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against thee. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest faith degenerate into presumption. Forsake me not, for without thee I am weak, but with thee I am strong. Forsake me not, for my path is dangerous, and full of snares, and I cannot do without thy guidance. The hen forsakes not her brood, do thou then evermore cover me with thy feathers, and permit me under thy wings to find my refuge. ‘Be not far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near, for there is none to help.’ ‘Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!’ ”

     “O ever in our cleansed breast,
     Bid thine Eternal Spirit rest;
     And make our secret soul to be
     A temple pure and worthy thee.”

          Evening - May 25

     “And they rose up the same hour, and returned Jerusalem … and they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them.” --- Luke 24:33,35.

     When the two disciples had reached Emmaus, and were refreshing themselves at the Evening meal, the mysterious stranger who had so enchanted them upon the road, took bread and brake it, made himself known to them, and then vanished out of their sight. They had constrained him to abide with them, because the day was far spent; but now, although it was much later, their love was a lamp to their feet, yea, wings also; they forgot the darkness, their weariness was all gone, and forthwith they journeyed back the threescore furlongs to tell the gladsome news of a risen Lord, who had appeared to them by the way. They reached the Christians in Jerusalem, and were received by a burst of joyful news before they could tell their own tale. These early Christians were all on fire to speak of Christ’s resurrection, and to proclaim what they knew of the Lord; they made common property of their experiences. This Evening let their example impress us deeply. We too must bear our witness concerning Jesus. John’s account of the sepulchre needed to be supplemented by Peter; and Mary could speak of something further still; combined, we have a full testimony from which nothing can be spared. We have each of us peculiar gifts and special manifestations; but the one object God has in view is the perfecting of the whole body of Christ. We must, therefore, bring our spiritual possessions and lay them at the apostle’s feet, and make distribution unto all of what God has given to us. Keep back no part of the precious truth, but speak what you know, and testify what you have seen. Let not the toil or darkness, or possible unbelief of your friends, weigh one moment in the scale. Up, and be marching to the place of duty, and there tell what great things God has shown to your soul.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 25


     Elizabeth R. Charles, 1828–1896

     I will praise Your name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word. (Psalm 138:2)

     Saints and angels join in praising Thee, the Father, Spirit, Son ---
     Evermore their voices raising to the Eternal Three in One.
--- J. Montgomery

     The Sunday after Pentecost Sunday is the time when the Christian church has especially recognized the doctrine of the Trinity, the existence of the triune Godhead. This doctrine has been called one of the mystic truths of Scripture because of the difficulty in fathoming and explaining it. Yet it cannot be denied that the Bible does teach that while God is one, He exists in three coequal-equal Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Scripture ascribes each member with such attributes as eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and creator of the universe. Although the word trinity is not used, there are several passages in which all three Persons are expressly mentioned together: The great commission (Matthew 28:19), and the apostolic blessing (2 Corinthians 13:13).

     The best of human analogies for explaining the trinity, such as ice, water, and steam being three distinct forms of the same element, always falls short. In the final analysis, we must accept this truth by faith and offer our worship and praise to each member of the Godhead.

     This hymn text by Elizabeth Charles, one of England’s gifted women of her day—author, poet, translator of German texts, musician and painter—is one of our finest Godhead hymns. The hymn does not present any complicated arguments. It simply directs a child-like praise to each member of the trinity for His loving care and concern for us. This we can understand.

     Praise ye the Father for His loving kindness; tenderly cares He for His erring children; praise Him, ye angels, praise Him in the heavens, praise ye Jehovah!

     Praise ye the Savior—great is His compassion; graciously cares He for His chosen people; young men and maidens, ye old men and children, praise ye the Savior!

     Praise ye the Spirit, Comforter of Israel, sent of the Father and the Son to bless us; praise ye the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—Praise ye the Triune God!

     For Today: Psalm 139:7; Romans 8:9; 16:26; 1 John 5:7, 8; Jude 20; Revelation 1:4, 5.

     Though it is difficult to do, try explaining the meaning of the Trinity to some close Christian friend or member of your family. Offer this expression of praise throughout the day ---

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. XXXV. — BUT, since we have been persuaded to the contrary of this, by that pestilent saying of the Sophists, ‘the Scriptures are obscure and ambiguous;’ we are compelled, first of all, to prove that first grand principle of ours, by which all other things are to be proved: which, among the Sophists, is considered absurd and impossible to be done.

     First then, Moses saith, (Deut. xvii. 8.) that, ‘if there arise a matter too hard in judgment, men are to go to the place which God shall choose for His name, and there to consult the priests, who are to judge of it according to the law of the Lord.’

     He saith, “according to the law of the Lord” — but how will they judge thus, if the law of the Lord be not externally most clear, so as to satisfy them concerning it? Otherwise, it would have been sufficient, if he had said, according to their own spirit. Nay, it is so in every government of the people, the causes of all are adjusted according to laws. But how could they be adjusted, if the laws were not most certain, and absolutely, very lights to the people? But if the laws were ambiguous and uncertain, there would not only be no causes settled, but no certain consistency of manners. Since, therefore, laws are enacted that manners may be regulated according to a certain form, and questions in causes settled, it is necessary that that, which is to be the rule and standard for men in their dealings with each other, as the law is, should of all things be the most certain and most clear. And if that light and certainty in laws, in profane administrations where temporal things only are concerned, are necessary, and have been, by the goodness of God, freely granted to the whole world; how shall He not have given to Christians, that is to His own Elect, laws and rules of much greater light and certainty, according to which they might adjust and settle both themselves and all their causes? And that more especially, since He wills that all temporal things should, by His, be despised. And “if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven,” how much more shall He clothe us? (Matt. vi. 30) — But, let us proceed, and drown that pestilent saying of the Sophists, in Scriptures.

     Psalm xix. 8, saith, “The commandment of the Lord is clear (or pure), enlightening the eyes.” And surely, that which enlightens the eyes, cannot be obscure or ambiguous!

     Again, Psalm cxix. 130, “The door of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” Here, it is ascribed unto the words of God, that they are a door, and something open, which is quite plain to all and enlightens even the simple.

     Isaiah viii. 20, sends all questions “to the law and to the testimony;” and threatens that if we do not this, the light of the east shall be denied us.

     In Malachi, ii. 7, commands, ‘that they should seek the law from the mouth of the priest, as being the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.’ But a most excellent messenger indeed of the Lord of Hosts he must be, who should bring forth those things, which were both so ambiguous to himself and so obscure to the people, that neither he should know what he himself said, nor they what they heard!

     And what, throughout the Old Testament, in the 119th Psalm especially, is more frequently said in praise of the Scripture, than that, it is itself a most certain and most clear light? For Ps. cxix. 105, celebrates its clearness thus: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths.” He does not say only — thy Spirit is a lamp unto my feet; though he ascribes unto Him also His office, saying, “Thy good Spirit shall lead me into the land of uprightness.” (Ps. cxliii. 10.) Thus the Scripture is called a “way” and a “path:” that is from its most perfect certainty.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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