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Numbers 35     Psalm 79     Isaiah 27     1 John 5

Numbers 35

Cities for the Levites

Numbers 35:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities. 3 The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts. 4 The pasturelands of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around. 5 And you shall measure, outside the city, on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, the city being in the middle. This shall belong to them as pastureland for their cities.

6 “The cities that you give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit the manslayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities. 7 All the cities that you give to the Levites shall be forty-eight, with their pasturelands. 8 And as for the cities that you shall give from the possession of the people of Israel, from the larger tribes you shall take many, and from the smaller tribes you shall take few; each, in proportion to the inheritance that it inherits, shall give of its cities to the Levites.”

Cities of Refuge

9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. 12 The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. 13 And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.

16 “But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 17 And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 18 Or if he struck him down with a wooden tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21 or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules. 25 And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood. 28 For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession. 29 And these things shall be for a statute and rule for you throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

30 “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

Psalm 79

How Long, O LORD?

Psalm 79 A Psalm Of Asaph.

1  O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2  They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
3  They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4  We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.

5  How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
6  Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call upon your name!
7  For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.

8  Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9  Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
10  Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!

11  Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12  Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13  But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Isaiah 27

The Redemption of Israel

Isaiah 27:1 In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.

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 5

Overcoming the World

1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

That You May Know

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

“The Gospels Have Been Altered”

By J. Warner Wallace 12/9/2016

     In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone made the following claim: “I can’t believe what the Gospels say because they were altered over the years.” How would you respond to such an objection? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

     “I understand the objection, because that was one of my first doubts as a skeptic. I held two suspicions as a committed atheist (I didn’t examine the Gospels until I was in my thirties). First, I didn’t think the Gospels were written early in history, because they contained so many miraculous stories. I was a committed philosophical naturalist and I rejected miracles. So, I figured the Gospels must have been written late in history, after all the people who knew the truth about Jesus were already dead and gone. Secondly, even if the Gospels were written early, I suspected the supernatural elements were inserted later. I believed the earliest versions of the Gospel accounts were probably much less supernatural. Maybe, in the first versions of the story, Jesus was a simple guy who was a good teacher, but not a miracle worker. He didn’t walk on water and didn’t rise from the dead; all those elements, in my opinion, were inserted later.

     But there’s a process we employ in criminal investigations that we can use here to investigate the possibility of tampering in the Gospels. In my criminal cases, we must demonstrate to the jury that the evidence we’re presenting at trial wasn’t altered after we collected it from the crime scene. We must assemble what is known as the ‘Chain of Custody.’ Let me give you an example. Let’s say we present a bullet casing to the jury during a homicide trial and highlight the existence of an extractor pin mark on the casing. We tell the jury this pin mark identifies the casing as having come from the defendant’s handgun. But how can the jury be sure the pin mark was on the casing when officers originally recovered it at the crime scene? Isn’t it possible that an unsavory officer altered the casing after the fact by secretly etching the mark on the casing to fool the jury? The ‘Chain of Custody’ will help us determine if the casing was altered.

     We begin by asking a few simple questions: Did someone take a photograph of (or write a detailed report describing) the casing at the crime scene? Who collected it? To whom did the officer give the casing? Who was the next officer (or criminalist) in the ‘Chain of Custody’? Who booked it into the Property Room? Who handled it while it was there? Who collected the casing from the Property Room and delivered it to the Crime Lab? Who picked it up from the Crime Lab and brought it to the courtroom? Did these involved parties document the existence of the pin mark along the way? If we have repeated images or reports describing the casing, we’ll be able to determine if it was altered over time.

Click here to go to source

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Why History Matters To The Christian Faith

By Jonathan Morrow

     Did the events recorded in the pages of Scripture really happen in history? And does it matter? The short answer is…Yes and Yes! BTW the longer answer is still yes and yes…but this is a blog, not a book

     3 Reasons Why History Matters To Faith | (1) Biblical faith is not blind faith. Reason and evidence play an important role in the life of faith. God created us as rational beings with the capacity to weigh evidence and draw conclusions about what we are experiencing. We are called to give reasons for faith (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).

     I for one am so encouraged that when John the Baptist struggled with doubt and sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he truly was the long awaited Messiah that Jesus didn’t respond with an austere warning to just have more faith.

     No, Jesus reminded John to pay attention to what he had heard and what he had seen–that will give you confidence of my true identity (cf. Matthew 11:2-5). Mere belief for the sake of belief is not true Christianity.

     (2) The Central claim of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead. If you asked the Apostle Paul, he would agree that faith and history go together. If Jesus “has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). As Nancy Pearcey observes:      

“Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning. Its core claim is that the living God has acted in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”
     (3) Jesus of Nazareth believed the events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a the Old Testament) actually happened. If Jesus really rose from the dead (and there is powerful historical evidence that he did) then what did he think about the Old Testament?

     Did he think Moses, David, and Noah were real? Yes (cf. Mark 12:26), yes (cf. Matthew 12:3) and yes (Matthew 24:37). Paul, who had seen the risen Jesus, even cites examples from the days of Moses to teach us, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11).

     So, yes these things happened. And yes it matters to our faith.

     If God has spoken and acted in the past–and this has been reliably preserved for us – then we can trust that he will act in the future as well.

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     Jonathan Morrow: I am the author of several books including Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey and Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority .

     I’ve also contributed articles to the bestselling Apologetics Study Bible for Students and A New Kind of Apologist.

     My passion is helping a new generation of Christ-follower’s understand what they believe, why they believe it, and why it matters.

The true heartbreak of reading the Bible

By Rebecca McLaughlin 1/1/2018

     Have you ever had your heart broken? I have. I could tell you what happened. But instead I’m going to tell you what didn’t happen. No one called an ambulance. No one checked my blood pressure. No one attempted CPR.

     Is it true that my heart was broken, when my blood was still pumping? Is the pain of a broken heart with no medical implications any less than the pain of a cardiac arrest? If you’ve ever been brokenhearted, you’ll know the answers. You’ll also know that true and literal are not interchangeable concepts.

     Our lives are littered with metaphors. We bust our gut working. We love with our whole hearts. We literally die of embarrassment. Recent research in communication studies has verified what poets have known for millennia: we humans find metaphors more memorable, more persuasive and more moving than literal statements. Our brains and our hearts are wired for word-pictures that liken one thing or experience to another. They ignite our imagination and help us feel close to the writer or speaker, drawn together by the shared experience that makes the metaphor work. Like a private joke or a common language, metaphors build relationship. It’s why lovers write poetry.

     Somehow, we forget this when it comes to the Bible.  In a 2014 Gallup survey, pastors were asked which of the following statements most accurately reflected their view of the Bible.

  • The Bible is the actual word of God as is to be taken literally, word for word” (28%)

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally” (47%)

  • The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.” (21%)

     Instinctively, we expect that these statements categorize pastors in descending order of how seriously they take the Bible.  But if you pick up a Bible and read the words of Jesus, you’ll realize that to “take the Bible literally, word for word” is often to miss the point.  When Jesus says “I am the good shepherd”, are we to think he’s advertising his skills at herding sheep?  When Jesus says “I am the true vine,” we know he’s not claiming to be a plant.  And when Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan, who cared for a man left robbed and assaulted on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, we know he’s not reporting on a crime scene.

     In fact, there are multiple episodes in the gospels when people misunderstand Jesus because they take him literally. In John’s gospel, Jesus breaks race and gender barriers to ask a Samaritan woman for a drink and then tells her that he can give her living water. She takes him literally and misses his point. Next, the Jewish leader Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, and Jesus says he must be born again. “How can I do that?” asks Nicodemus, "Can I get back into my mother’s womb at my age?” Then Jesus invades the temple, clears the money changers out, and challenges his shocked audience, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days!” "It’s taken 47 years to build this temple,” they respond, “How can you raise it up again in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body - the true temple, where God met with his people and the real sacrifice was made.

     So does this mean the Bible is not intended to be taken literally? Not at all. As with any conversation, some parts are intended literally and others are not. Usually, it isn’t too hard to tell. For example, the New Testament writers take great trouble to emphasize that Jesus was literally raised from the dead - bones, flesh, and wounds. Attending to the powerful metaphors that circulate throughout the scriptures doesn’t for a moment reduce the radical claims that the Bible makes: claims of miracles, everlasting truth, and life-and-death decisions we must make.

     But there are times when texts are ambiguous and people who take the Bible seriously disagree: Is this statement literal or metaphorical? Is that story history, or parable? As with any conversation, we must attend to context and nuance, and sometimes we won’t get it right. But there is also an important sense in which Biblical metaphors are not like ours.

Click here to go to source

     Rebecca serves as Vice President of Content, managing presenter relationships and content development for all Veritas initiatives. Rebecca was born and educated in the U.K. She holds undergraduate and doctorate degrees in English Literature from Cambridge University and a first class degree in theology from Oak Hill Theological College in London. Rebecca is a public speaking enthusiast. She has addressed audiences ranging from professors to prisoners, with material ranging from stand-up comedy to ethical debate. She also coaches professors and other experts in their content development and public speaking skills. Rebecca's passion in life is helping people rediscover the Christian faith as an intellectual movement. She is married to Bryan, a native of Oklahoma, whom she met in Cambridge, UK. They now live in Cambridge, MA, with their daughters, Miranda and Eliza.

Genetic Code Complexity Just Tripled

By 4/21/2017

     A codon is a triplet of three nucleotides in DNA. Genes are read in these triplet codons, each one standing for an amino acid or a “punctuation” mark as the gene gets translated (61 of the 64 possible triplets actually code for amino acids; the others work as “start” and “stop” codons). This much we’ve known since the 1960s. Now, however, two scientists from the University of Utah want to complicate matters further.

     An article at Phys.org explains:

     The so-called central dogma of molecular biology states the process for turning genetic information into proteins that cells can use. “DNA makes RNA,” the dogma says, “and RNA makes protein.” Each protein is made of a series of amino acids, and each amino acid is coded for by sets of “triplets,” which are sets of three informational DNA units, in the genetic code.

     University of Utah biologists now suggest that connecting amino acids to make proteins in ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, may in fact be influenced by sets of three triplets – a “triplet of triplets” that provide crucial context for the ribosome.

Click here to go to source

     I do not like it when I don't know who wrote the article.

I thought this was a really interesting article and at the end of it my take away is For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Co 13:12)

Atheism is the Burger King of Worldviews

By Roger Browning 12/7/2016

     I once read an article about a 1,000-pound man who died in such a way that the walls of his house had to be knocked out and his body removed with a forklift. The obesity isn’t what struck me. Nor was it what was found in his bedroom—fast-food. The room was riddled with McDonald’s and Burger King wrappers among other things like bags of chips and snack food. No. All those things seemed, at least in my mind, to be obvious contributors to the severe obesity. What surprised me was the cause of death—malnutrition.

     I remember thinking, how is this man malnourished? Certainly, he had all the nourishment he needed; it must be all the other garbage surrounding the nourishment behind the untimely demise. Alas, that just wasn’t the case. As it turns out, just because something provides energy, fills the belly, and gives the illusion of provision, none of those must be true simply because it comes packaged in a box labeled ‘food’.

     Burger King has done well to combat the processed meat age of the late 1970’s/1980’s. In fact, their market takeover of the fast-food industry was in no small part due to the appeal to “Have it your way” advertising which, “aimed to contrast Burger King’s flexibility with McDonald’s famous rigidity.”[i] What’s interesting about this strategy, nothing became ‘heathier’ only more smoke and mirrors; pay no attention to the nutrition, have it your way.

     This thought came screaming to me, front of mind, as I read this snippet on atheist.org: | “However, if schools allow Bibles or any other religious literature to be distributed, they are required to allow the distribution of all religious or outside materials, including atheist literature.”

     I can’t even count the number of times I’ve debated and reasoned with atheists who adamantly and passionately insists that atheism in not a religion. It’s not a religion, unless, of course, it appears to have benefits. The more and more I looked at atheism the more and more I see a handful of options made to order.

     “Today I’ll have my morality include…stealing is wrong with a side of a problem of evil.”

     It’s inconsistent. On the surface, these look and feel like solid arguments, worthy of building a worldview upon. But they are filled with contradiction. Tell me, atheist, when you chose that stealing should be immoral for you, did you also choose for me or, am I free to steal from you? I promise to do it under the cover of darkness so as to not be caught. Is that wrong? By what standard? Tell me, atheist, how is evil a problem if morality is subjective?

     “Today I’d like I didn’t choose to be an atheist and a small cup of there is no evidence for God.”

     More inconsistencies! Every argument, every appeal, every aspect of atheism is a superficial argument. It’s covered in a wrapper labeled “worldview” but inside is emptiness, un-thoughtful, meaninglessness. Tell me, atheist, what do you make of the trees and the rocks and the seas? Do you have evidence of them erupting from the depths of nothingness or did you formulate an opinion based on what you know and choose the one you wanted, the one that felt right to you? Tell me, atheist, are you so whimsical that your worldview is mere happenstance? Does your worldview have such control that it chooses you and you have no choice in the matter at all? Tell me, atheist, what evidence to you have for a godless universe? Tell me, again, how you appeal to science—the study of order, repeatability, and structure—to draw the conclusion of evolution—random, non-repeated, mutations. Your worldview is hypocrisy.

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     Could not find profile on Roger Browning except he writes for A Clear Lens and is willing to engage with people who mostly insult.

1 Samuel 28:18

Found this at Hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Q & A

     If we want to understand the text, we have to read the text as it was written in the context of what it says, and not superimpose our own later theological concepts upon it.

     In Hebrew, there is no "heaven", there is only ha'shamayim, which is "the skies" (it is a dual plural).

     Nor is there any "Hell". "Hell" is a word from Norse cosmology that means the underworld, a place of dishonor. To the Norse, we live in Midgard: Middle Earth. The valorous dead go to Asgard - the overworld of the gods and live in the hall of valor there - Valhallah - while the dishonored dead descend to Hel, below Midgard, where they dwell in a degree of shame. That's where we get the word "Hell", and the concept of "Hell" as a place for the damned. But the Hebrew does not contain this concept. Rather, the Hebrew is Sheol, which is simply the place to which the spirits (not souls) of the dead depart.

     Also, while we see things in terms of a "soul" that detaches from the body, again, that is not what the Hebrew Bible says. In Hebrew, "breath" and "spirit" are one word and one and the same thing. It is the breath that comes from God and animates life, and the breath that departs at death (for Sheol). The word we translate as "soul" in Hebrew is really literally the word "breather". A living body is a breather - a soul. When it dies, the breath/spirit is withdrawn and the body falls back to the dust of the earth whence it comes. The spirit proceeds to Sheol.

     Now then, in the older Hebrew Scripture, there is no sense of the punishment of souls in Sheol. Hebrew tradition contained it, but it wasn't written into Scripture until hinted at in the late books of the Old Testament (which are not in the Protestant Bible), and not fully revealed until Christ. It is Christ who divides Sheol (translated into Greek as "Hades" and, unfortunately, into English as "Hell") into Gehenna - a parched prison of fire and torment, where spirits go "until the last penny is paid" - and Paradise, where he promised the "good thief" dying alongside him he would be that day. Apparently the "Jewish section" of Paradise is where Abraham is, as the good dead such as Lazarus went to Abraham's bosom.

     Now, if one examines the Jewish traditions for clarity, one discovers that Gehenna is purgatorial in nature. Jewish tradition is that spirits of sinners descend to Gehenna where they are purged in fire, and then most of them eventually pass to Gan Eden, which is the Hebrew for Paradise. In other words, if we're going to insist on incorporating Western linguistic structures into our translations, "Hell" is Sheol, "Heaven" is Paradise or Gan Eden, and Gehenna is "Purgatory". That fits the Jewish belief.

     But, again, in the Old Testament, the dead never go up into the sky, they go into Sheol.

     And actually, if one reads carefully, the dead do not go into Heaven in the New Testament either, at least not permanently. Revelation is the clearest about this.

     Read carefully what happens: as the world ends, everybody is resurrected bodly - brought forth out of Hades ("Hell") to stand before the judgment seat. The City of God comes DOWN out of the sky ("Heaven") to earth and replaces the old Jerusalem and old earth that has passed away. Those who pass judgment then walk through the gates of the City of God, which is not "up there" but actually right down here on the earth, to live with with.

     Those who are rejected are thrown into the Lake of Fire, to die again: the second death. But note that Hades/Hell/Sheol has itself been thrown into the Lake of Fire, and death also...which means that the second death is IT - burnt up, gone for good, done.

     There is a long tradition of saying that one burns forever in the Lake of Fire, but the text does not actually SAY that. What it says is that the lake burns forever (just as the fires of Gehenna never were quenched and worm never ceased). What it does NOT say is that those thrown into that everlasting lake of fire continue to "live" in a spiritual sense. It says, rather, that they die.

     The more natural read of that is that they are completely destroyed and gone for good, not that they linger, dead but alive. However, the Christian tradition is that they just burn there, dead but somehow alive also, in death, forever and ever.

     That is a very long held and ancient belief. But it's not actually what the Scripture SAYS. It's an interpretation of the second death, and an elision of the everlasting nature of the fire with the thought that the life, too, in the fire is everlasting.

     So, when Saul consulted the Witch of Endor, he was breaking the commandment of YHWH against seeking to communicate with the dead by way of a medium. He did successfully communicate with the dead, specifically with the spirit of Samuel, from Sheol. Samuel was not pleased with Saul, and gave him dire words of doom.

     Saul died the next day, laden with sins, and then, following Jewish eschatology, descended to Gehenna. How long he stayed in Gehenna, and whether he crossed over into Gan Eden ever, or will pass judgment at the end of the world, Scripture does not say. We can only speculate, and who are we to dare to do so?

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1 Samuel 28:18 (Life After Death)

Found this at Hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Q & A (Discussion Continues)

     The Hebrew Bible indicates in several places that there is conscious existence after death. For example, when the Biblical text indicates that "tomorrow you [King Saul] and your sons shall be with me," there is implied existence after death in this passage. That is, Samuel stated that Saul "had disturbed" him (1 Sam 28:15) and thus Samuel appears to have been in conscious existence, but resting.

     One "Tosefta-Targum to the Prophets" connects 1 Sam 28:19 to Daniel 12:2, which makes explicit mention of "eternal life." Kaufman (2005) quotes from Kasher (1996) in his original work of the Targumic Toseftot to the Prophets (Sources for the Study of Jewish Culture Volume II), Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies. That is, the following Tosefta to the Jerusalem Talmud --written in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic-- provides the parallel reading for 1 Sam 28:19:

     Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life....

     In other words, both texts above point to conscious existence after death, and in the case of Saul, his existence (as well as his sons) was to be with Samuel on the very same same day. Please note the following passage in this regard:

     1 Sam 15:34-35 (NASB)
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 34 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (Emphasis added)

     From this point in Chapter 15 onward, there is no mention in the text of the prophet Samuel and King Saul ever meeting again except for the very day of his death. (The very night with the witch of Endor was the same day that Saul died.) In other words, the references above suggests conscious existence after death, since the text of First Samuel conveys that Samuel made actual visual contact with King Saul. That is, King Saul also had seen Samuel "coming up from the ground," which was the place that Saul and his sons would soon join Samuel upon their deaths that very day.

     In the Hebrew Bible there is no explicit expectation that anyone had ever gone "up" to heaven after death (the exceptions are Enoch and Elijah, but they never appear as dying in the Hebrew Bible); on the contrary, the righteous had the explicit expectation of descending down into Sheol. For example, Jacob (Gen 37:35), Job (Job 14:13) and Hezekiah (Is 38:9-11) mention their expectation of going down into the earth after their death, which included something more than their body buried in the ground. For example, the passage in Jonah 2:5-7 provides us an explicit reference and description of Sheol. That is, Jonah mentioned his descent into Sheol notwithstanding that his corpse remained in the belly of the great fish in the sea. In other words, Jonah had died in the belly of the great fish and his soul had descended to the "roots of the mountains," which is an allusion to the underworld of Sheol (since there were no roots of any mountains in the belly of the great fish). In other words, Jonah had descended into the "belly" of the earth, which was Sheol. He was of course resuscitated by the Lord, which had an apparent effect on his message and ministry to Nineveh at that time.

     In addition to the comparisons as noted between 1 Sam 28:19 and Daniel 12:2 (discussed above), there are two more references in the Hebrew Bible that suggest conscious existence and resurrection after death.

   Job 19:26-27 (NASB)
   26 “Even after my skin is destroyed,
   Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
   27 Whom I myself shall behold,
   And whom my eyes will see and not another.
   My heart faints within me!

   Isaiah 26:19 (NASB)
   19 Your dead will live;
   Their corpses will rise.
   You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
   For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
   And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

     In summary, the Hebrew Bible indicates that people have conscious existence after death, which includes eventual resurrection. The condition of that existence (rest or otherwise) will relate to ones hope and trust in the Lord.

     Kaufman, Stephen, ed. (2005). The Late Jewish Literary Aramaic Additions to the Targum of the Prophets from the files of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project (CAL). Cincinatti: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, vid. 1 Sam 28:19.

     The rabbi's explain "in my abode" -- Because Saul felt shame for having slain the priests of Nob, he was forgiven this sin and could enter Heaven with Samuel provided he would enter battle and sacrifice his life to God (under the assumption that death is a punishment that atones for murder that the sinner regrets). Per Rashi, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka the Redak), and Metzudath David, citing Babl. Talmud Berachot 12b. See also Ritva (a.k.a. R Yom Tov ben Avraham al-Asevilli, 1248-1330 Spain) commentary on the Talmud's discussion.

     Quick note on Necromancy. The rabbis, e.g. Rav Saadiah Gaon, considered the woman who called Samuel from the dead a fraud, and a surprised one when God actually caused the soul of Samuel to appear. Others say Saul had a combination hallucination and prophecy. See Judaica Book's Book of Samuel 1 at 234-236.

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Numbers 35; Psalm 79; Isaiah 27; 1 John 5

By Don Carson 5/26/2018

     When plans were being laid to parcel out the Promised Land to the twelve tribes, Levi was excluded. The Levites were told that God was their inheritance: they would not receive tribal territory, but would be supported by the tithes collected from the rest of the Israelites (Num. 18:20-26). Even so, they needed somewhere to live. So God ordained that each tribe would set aside some towns for the Levites, along with the surrounding pasturelands for their livestock (Num. 35:1-5). Since the Levites were to teach the people the law of God, in addition to their tabernacle duties, these land arrangements had the added advantage of scattering the Levites among the people where they could do the most good. Moreover, their scattered lands were never to pass out of Levitical hands (Lev. 25:32-34).

     The other peculiar land arrangement established in this chapter is the designation of six “cities of refuge” (35:6-34). These were to be drawn from the forty -eight towns allotted to the Levites, three on one side of the Jordan, and three on the other. A person who killed another, whether intentionally or accidentally, could flee to one of those cities and be preserved against the wrath of family avengers. At a time when blood feuds were not unknown, this had the effect of cooling the atmosphere until the official justice system could establish the guilt or innocence of the killer. If found guilty on compelling evidence (35:30), the murderer was to be executed. One recalls the principle laid down in Genesis 9:6: those who murder human beings, who are made in the image of God, have done something so vile that the ultimate sanction is mandated. The logic is not one of deterrence, but of values (cf. Num. 35:31-33).

     On the other hand, if the killing was accidental and the killer therefore innocent of murder, he cannot simply be discharged and sent home, but must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest (35:25-28). Only at that point could the killer return to his ancestral property and resume a normal life. Waiting for the high priest to die could be a matter of days or of decades. If the time was substantial, it might serve to cool down the avengers from the victim’s family. But no such rationale is provided in the text.

     Probably two reasons account for this stipulation that the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. (1) His death marked the end of an era, the beginning of another. (2) More importantly, it may be his death symbolized that someone had to die to pay for the death of one of God’s image-bearers. Christians know where that reasoning leads.

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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.

9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     17. But here they use a very fair gloss, for they say that the dignity of the Church is not unbecomingly maintained by this magnificence. And certain of their sect are so impudent as to dare openly to boast that thus only are fulfilled the prophecies, in which the ancient prophets describe the splendour of Christ's kingdom, where the sacerdotal order is exhibited in royal attire, that it was not without cause that God made the following promises to his Church: "All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him" (Ps. 72:11). "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Sion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city" (Isa. 52:1). "All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee" (Isa. 60:6, 7). I fear I should seem childish were I to dwell long in refuting this dishonesty. I am unwilling, therefore, to use words unnecessarily; I ask, however, were any Jew to misapply these passages, what answer would they give? They would rebuke his stupidity in making a carnal and worldly application of things spiritually said of Christ's spiritual kingdom. For we know that under the image of earthly objects the prophets have delineated to us the heavenly glory which ought to shine in the Church. For in those blessings with these words literally express, the Church never less abounded than under the apostles; and yet all admit that the power of Christ's kingdom was then most flourishing. What, then, is the meaning of the above passages? That everything which is precious, sublime, and illustrious, ought to be made subject to the Lord. As to its being said expressly of kings, that they will submit to Christ, that they will throw their diadems at his feet, that they will dedicate their resources to the Church, when was this more truly and fully manifested than when Theodosius, having thrown aside the purple and left the insignia of empire, like one of the people humbled himself before God and the Church in solemn repentance? than when he and other like pious princes made it their study and their care to preserve pure doctrine in the Church, to cherish and protect sound teachers? But that priests did not then luxuriate in superfluous wealth is sufficiently declared by this one sentence of the Council of Aquileia, over which Ambrose presided, "Poverty in the priests of the Lord is glorious." It is certain that the bishops then had some means by which they might have rendered the glory of the Church conspicuous, if they had deemed them the true ornaments of the Church. But knowing that nothing was more adverse to the duty of pastors than to plume themselves on the delicacies of the table, on splendid clothes, numerous attendants, and magnificent places, they cultivated and followed the humility and modesty, nay, the very poverty, which Christ has consecrated among his servants.

18. But not to be tedious, let us again briefly sum up and show how far that distribution, or rather squandering, of ecclesiastical goods which now exists differs from the true diaconate, which both the word of God recommends and the ancient Church observed (Book 1 chap. 11. sec. 7, 13; Book 3 chap. 20 sec. 30; supra, chap. 4 sec. 8). I say, that what is employed on the adorning of churches is improperly laid out, if not accompanied with that moderation which the very nature of sacred things prescribes, and which the apostles and other holy fathers prescribed, both by precept and example. But is anything like this seen in churches in the present day? Whatever accords, I do not say with that ancient frugality, but with decent mediocrity, is rejected. Nought pleases but what savours of luxury and the corruption of the times. Meanwhile, so far are they from taking due care of living temples, that they would allow thousands of the poor to perish sooner than break down the smallest cup or platter to relieve their necessity. That I may not decide too severely at my own hand, I would only ask the pious reader to consider what Exuperius, the Bishop of Thoulouse, whom we have mentioned, what Acatius, or Ambrose, or any one like minded, if they were to rise from the dead, would say? Certainly, while the necessities of the poor are so great, they would not approve of their funds being carried away from them as superfluous; not to mention that, even were there no poor, the uses to which they are applied are noxious in many respects and useful in none. But I appeal not to men. These goods have been dedicated to Christ, and ought to be distributed at his pleasure. In vain, however, will they make that to be expenditure for Christ which they have squandered contrary to his commands, though, to confess the truth, the ordinary revenue of the Church is not much curtailed by these expenses. No bishoprics are so opulent, no abbacies so productive, in short, no benefices so numerous and ample, as to suffice for the gluttony of priests. But while they would spare themselves, they induce the people by superstition to employ what ought to have been distributed to the poor in building temples, erecting statues, buying plate, and providing costly garments. Thus the daily alms are swallowed up in this abyss.

19. Of the revenue which they derive from lands and property, what else can I say than what I have already said, and is manifest before the eyes of all? We see with what kind of fidelity the greatest portion is administered by those who are called bishops and abbots. What madness is it to seek ecclesiastical order here? Is it becoming in those whose life ought to have been a singular example of frugality, modesty, continence, and humility, to rival princes in the number of their attendants, the splendour of their dwellings, the delicacies of dressing and feasting? Can anything be more contrary to the duty of those whom the eternal and inviolable edict of God forbids to long for filthy lucre, and orders to be contented with simple food, not only to lay hands on villages and castles, but also invade the largest provinces, and even seize on empire itself? If they despise the word of God, what answer will they give to the ancient canons of councils, which decree that the bishop shall have a little dwelling not far from the church, a frugal table and furniture? (Conc. Carth. cap. 14, 15). What answer will they give to the declaration of the Council of Aquileia, in which poverty in the priests of the Lord is pronounced glorious? For, the injunction which Jerome gives to Nepotian, to make the poor and strangers acquainted with his table, and have Christ with them as a guest, they would, perhaps, repudiate as too austere. What he immediately adds it would shame them to acknowledge--viz. that the glory of a bishop is to provide for the sustenance of the poor, that the disgrace of all priests is to study their own riches. This they cannot admit without covering themselves with disgrace. But it is unnecessary here to press them so hard, since all we wished was to demonstrate that the legitimate order of deacons has long ago been abolished, and that they can no longer plume themselves on this order in commendation of their Church. This, I think, has been completely established.


[555] "C'est un acte semblable, que quand ceux qu'on doit promouvoir se presentent à l'autel, on demande par trois fois en Latin, s'il ést digne; et quelcun qui ne l'a jamais vue, ou quelque valet de chambre que n'entend point Latin, repond en Latin qu'il est digne: tout ainsi qu'un personnage joueroit son rolle en une farce."--In like manner, when those whom they are to promote present themselves at the altar, they ask, three times in Latin, if he is worthy; and some one who has never seen him, or some valet who does not understand Latin, replies, in Latin, that he is worthy: just as a person would play his part in a farce.

[556] French. "Ies vices des personnes:"--the faults of individuals.


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

  • Q and A
  • Life After Death? Q&A
  • Life After Death? Q&A

#1 Horton, MacArthur, Sproul | Ligonier


#2 Horton, MacArthur, Sproul | Ligonier


#3 Horton, MacArthur, Sproul | Ligonier


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     1/1/2010    Uncontrollable Anxiety

     In the middle of writing my column this month I deleted what I wrote and have started over because I just received word from one of my closest friends that his wife, pregnant with their long-awaited second child, might be experiencing a miscarriage. My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow not knowing what the future holds for them. As I write, my friend and his wife are on their way to the doctor’s office. Having experienced the miscarriage of our first child years ago, my wife and I can empathize with our friends. Those who have experienced the loss of a child not-yet-born know the fear and anxiety I’m speaking of. Words fail us as we try to express the pain of such loss. As a man, a friend, a pastor, I have few words of wisdom for him as he seeks to comfort his wife and as they both seek comfort from our sovereign Lord.

     As believers, we don’t question God’s sovereignty — quite the opposite. We don’t worry because we have forgotten the most basic tenet of theology, namely, that God is God — sovereign. We worry knowing full well He is sovereign, yet in our self-absorbed kingdoms we often forget that it is an eternally gracious sovereignty toward those reconciled to Him through Christ.

     As we live before the face of God each day with real reasons for real anxiety, we can rest assured that His sovereignty (not ours)- — His control (not ours) — His faithfulness (not ours) — is our only real hope in this sad world. For that which He creates He sustains, that which He authors He perfects, and that which He begins He completes. And whether we are comfortably numb to our anxieties or fully aware of them, it is neither our acceptance, control, nor rationalization of them that will free us from our self-created, self-controlled, self-contained prisons of anxiety. We will only be free when we become as dependent on God as the birds of the air that our heavenly Father feeds and whose songs lift our eyes heavenward when we hear them sing, “Son of Adam, don’t worry for tomorrow, cast all your cares on Him, for if He cares for me, how much more does He care for you?”

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, May 26, 1907, a movie legend was born named Marion Michael Morrison, better known as John Wayne. He played football at USC and held some behind-the-scenes jobs at Fox Studios, before being discovered by director John Ford, who cast "The Duke" in many epic western and war films. Exemplifying courage, respect and patriotism, John Wayne stated in the album America: Why I love her: "If we want to keep these freedoms, we may have to fight again. God forbid, but if we do, let's always fight to win… Face the flag, son… and thank God it's still there."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Your mind works very simply:
you are either trying to find out
what are God's laws in order to follow them;
or you are trying to outsmart Him.
--- Martin H. Fischer
Finding God's Will: Seek Him, Know Him, Take the Next Step

Those who believe that they believe in God,
but without passion in their hearts,
without anguish in mind,
without uncertainty,
without doubt,
without an element of despair even in their consolation,
believe in the God idea,
not God himself.
--- Miguel de Unamuno
Tragic Sense Of Life

For some people, life may be monotonous and meaningless; but it doesn’t have to be. For the Christian believer, life is an open door, not a closed circle; there are daily experiences of new blessings from the Lord. True, we can’t explain everything; but life is not built on explanations: it’s built on promises—and we have plenty of promises in God’s Word!
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
Be Satisfied (Ecclesiastes): Looking for the Answer to the Meaning of Life (The BE Series Commentary)

True religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul; or in the apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us. Briefly, I do not know how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a divine life. --- Henry Scougal
The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal: Containing the Life of God in the Soul of Man; with Nine Other Discourses On Important Subjects. to Which Is Added a ... at the Author'S Funeral, by George Gairden

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

               Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Eighteenth Chapter / Man Should Not Scrutinize This Sacrament In Curiosity, But Humbly Imitate Christ And Submit Reason To Holy Faith


     BEWARE of curious and vain examination of this most profound Sacrament, if you do not wish to be plunged into the depths of doubt. He who scrutinizes its majesty too closely will be overwhelmed by its glory.

     God can do more than man can understand. A pious and humble search for truth He will allow, a search that is ever ready to learn and that seeks to walk in the reasonable doctrine of the fathers.

     Blest is the simplicity that leaves the difficult way of dispute and goes forward on the level, firm path of God’s commandments. Many have lost devotion because they wished to search into things beyond them.

     Faith is required of you, and a sincere life, not a lofty intellect nor a delving into the mysteries of God. If you neither know nor understand things beneath you, how can you comprehend what is above you? Submit yourself to God and humble reason to faith, and the light of understanding will be given you so far as it is good and necessary for you. Some are gravely tempted concerning faith and the Sacrament but this disturbance is not laid to them but to the enemy.

     Be not disturbed, dispute not in your mind, answer not the doubts sent by the devil, but believe the words of God, believe His saints and prophets and the evil enemy will flee from you. It is often very profitable for the servant of God to suffer such things. For Satan does not tempt unbelievers and sinners whom he already holds securely, but in many ways he does tempt and trouble the faithful servant.

     Go forward, then, with sincere and unflinching faith, and with humble reverence approach this Sacrament. Whatever you cannot understand commit to the security of the all-powerful God, Who does not deceive you. The man, however, who trusts in himself is deceived. God walks with sincere men, reveals Himself to humble men, enlightens the understanding of pure minds, and hides His grace from the curious and the proud.

     Human reason is weak and can be deceived. True faith, however, cannot be deceived. All reason and natural science ought to come after faith, not go before it, nor oppose it. For in this most holy and supremely excellent Sacrament, faith and love take precedence and work in a hidden manner.

     God, eternal, incomprehensible, and infinitely powerful, does great and inscrutable things in heaven and on earth, and there is no searching into His marvelous works. If all the works of God were such that human reason could easily grasp them, they would not be called wonderful or beyond the power of words to tell.

The Imitation Of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 7.

     How Pompey Had The City Of Jerusalem Delivered Up To Him But Took The Temple By Force. How He Went Into The Holy Of Holies; As Also What Were His Other Exploits In Judea.

     1. At this treatment Pompey was very angry, and took Aristobulus into custody. And when he was come to the city, he looked about where he might make his attack; for he saw the walls were so firm, that it would be hard to overcome them; and that the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch that if the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the enemy to retire to.

     2. Now as he was long in deliberating about this matter, a sedition arose among the people within the city; Aristobulus's party being willing to fight, and to set their king at liberty, while the party of Hyrcanus were for opening the gates to Pompey; and the dread people were in occasioned these last to be a very numerous party, when they looked upon the excellent order the Roman soldiers were in. So Aristobulus's party was worsted, and retired into the temple, and cut off the communication between the temple and the city, by breaking down the bridge that joined them together, and prepared to make an opposition to the utmost; but as the others had received the Romans into the city, and had delivered up the palace to him, Pompey sent Piso, one of his great officers, into that palace with an army, who distributed a garrison about the city, because he could not persuade any one of those that had fled to the temple to come to terms of accommodation; he then disposed all things that were round about them so as might favor their attacks, as having Hyrcanus's party very ready to afford them both counsel and assistance.

     3. But Pompey himself filled up the ditch that was oil the north side of the temple, and the entire valley also, the army itself being obliged to carry the materials for that purpose. And indeed it was a hard thing to fill up that valley, by reason of its immense depth, especially as the Jews used all the means possible to repel them from their superior situation; nor had the Romans succeeded in their endeavors, had not Pompey taken notice of the seventh days, on which the Jews abstain from all sorts of work on a religious account, and raised his bank, but restrained his soldiers from fighting on those days; for the Jews only acted defensively on sabbath days. But as soon as Pompey had filled up the valley, he erected high towers upon the bank, and brought those engines which they had fetched from Tyre near to the wall, and tried to batter it down; and the slingers of stones beat off those that stood above them, and drove them away; but the towers on this side of the city made very great resistance, and were indeed extraordinary both for largeness and magnificence.

     4. Now here it was that, upon the many hardships which the Romans underwent, Pompey could not but admire not only at the other instances of the Jews' fortitude, but especially that they did not at all intermit their religious services, even when they were encompassed with darts on all sides; for, as if the city were in full peace, their daily sacrifices and purifications, and every branch of their religious worship, was still performed to God with the utmost exactness. Nor indeed when the temple was actually taken, and they were every day slain about the altar, did they leave off the instances of their Divine worship that were appointed by their law; for it was in the third month of the siege before the Romans could even with great difficulty overthrow one of the towers, and get into the temple. Now he that first of all ventured to get over the wall, was Faustus Cornelius the son of Sylla; and next after him were two centurions, Furius and Fabius; and every one of these was followed by a cohort of his own, who encompassed the Jews on all sides, and slew them, some of them as they were running for shelter to the temple, and others as they, for a while, fought in their own defense.

     5. And now did many of the priests, even when they saw their enemies assailing them with swords in their hands, without any disturbance, go on with their Divine worship, and were slain while they were offering their drink-offerings, and burning their incense, as preferring the duties about their worship to God before their own preservation. The greatest part of them were slain by their own countrymen, of the adverse faction, and an innumerable multitude threw themselves down precipices; nay, some there were who were so distracted among the insuperable difficulties they were under, that they set fire to the buildings that were near to the wall, and were burnt together with them. Now of the Jews were slain twelve thousand; but of the Romans very few were slain, but a greater number was wounded.

     6. But there was nothing that affected the nation so much, in the calamities they were then under, as that their holy place, which had been hitherto seen by none, should be laid open to strangers; for Pompey, and those that were about him, went into the temple itself 8 whither it was not lawful for any to enter but the high priest, and saw what was reposited therein, the candlestick with its lamps, and the table, and the pouring vessels, and the censers, all made entirely of gold, as also a great quantity of spices heaped together, with two thousand talents of sacred money. Yet did not he touch that money, nor any thing else that was there reposited; but he commanded the ministers about the temple, the very next day after he had taken it, to cleanse it, and to perform their accustomed sacrifices. Moreover, he made Hyrcanus high priest, as one that not only in other respects had showed great alacrity, on his side, during the siege, but as he had been the means of hindering the multitude that was in the country from fighting for Aristobulus, which they were otherwise very ready to have done; by which means he acted the part of a good general, and reconciled the people to him more by benevolence than by terror. Now, among the Captives, Aristobulus's father-in-law was taken, who was also his uncle: so those that were the most guilty he punished with decollatlon; but rewarded Faustus, and those with him that had fought so bravely, with glorious presents, and laid a tribute upon the country, and upon Jerusalem itself.

     7. He also took away from the nation all those cities that they had formerly taken, and that belonged to Celesyria, and made them subject to him that was at that time appointed to be the Roman president there; and reduced Judea within its proper bounds. He also rebuilt Gadara, 9 that had been demolished by the Jews, in order to gratify one Demetrius, who was of Gadara, and was one of his own freed-men. He also made other cities free from their dominion, that lay in the midst of the country, such, I mean, as they had not demolished before that time; Hippos, and Scythopolis, as also Pella, and Samaria, and Marissa; and besides these Ashdod, and Jamnia, and Arethusa; and in like manner dealt he with the maritime cities, Gaza, and Joppa, and Dora, and that which was anciently called Strato's Tower, but was afterward rebuilt with the most magnificent edifices, and had its name changed to Cesarea, by king Herod. All which he restored to their own citizens, and put them under the province of Syria; which province, together with Judea, and the countries as far as Egypt and Euphrates, he committed to Scaurus as their governor, and gave him two legions to support him; while he made all the haste he could himself to go through Cilicia, in his way to Rome, having Aristobulus and his children along with him as his captives. They were two daughters and two sons; the one of which sons, Alexander, ran away as he was going; but the younger, Antigonus, with his sisters, were carried to Rome.

          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 17:24-25
     by D.H. Stern

24     The discerning person
focuses on wisdom there before him,
but a fool’s eyes
wander to the ends of the earth.
25     A son who is a fool
means anger for his father
and bitterness for the mother
who gave him birth.

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

                Think as Jesus taught

     Pray without ceasing. --- 1 Thess. 5:17.

     We think rightly or wrongly about prayer according to the conception we have in our minds of prayer. If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we are not conscious of it, but it is always going on. We are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect joint with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life. Beware of anything that stops ejaculatory prayer. “Pray without ceasing,” keep the childlike habit of ejaculatory prayer in your heart to God all the time.

     Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer; He had the boundless certainty that prayer is always answered. Have we by the Spirit the unspeakable certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when God does not seem to have answered prayer? “Every one that asketh receiveth.” We say—‘But …, but …’ God answers prayer in the best way, not sometimes, but every time, although the immediate manifestation of the answer in the domain in which we want it may not always follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?

     The danger with us is that we want to water down the things that Jesus says and make them mean something in accordance with common sense; if it were only common sense, it was not worth while for him to say it. The things Jesus says about prayer are supernatural revelations.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


The fall of a great house?
I smile - bitterly?
Anyhow but proudly.
Two people cast up
on life's shore:
can't you see the emptiness
of their pockets,
and their small hearts
ready to burst with
love? Say 'feeling'
and the explosion
   not loud.
They come to
in a lodging, make love
in a rented bed.
And I am not present
   as yet.
Could it be said, then,
I am on my way, a nonentity
with a destination?
What do they do
waiting for me? They invent
My name. I am born
To a concept, answering
To it with reluctance. I am
wheeled through ignorance
to a knowledge that is not
Nothing they have they own;
the borrowed furnishings of their minds
frays. I study to become a rat
that will desert
the foundering vessel
of their pride; but home
is a long time sinking. All
my life I must swim
out of the suction of its vortex.

Selected Poems, 1946-68

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


   Why must I write so?
   I'm Welsh, see:
   A real Cymro,
   Peat in my veins.
   I was born late;
   She claimed me,
   Brought me up nice,
   No hardship;
   Only the one loss,
   I can't speak my own.
   All those good words;
   And I outside them,
   Picking up alms
   From blonde strangers.
   I don't like their talk,
   Their split vowels;
   Names that are ghosts
   From a green era.
   I want my own
   Speech, to be made
   Free of its terms.
   I want the right word
   For the gut's trouble,
   When I see this land
   With its farms empty
   Of folk, and the stone
   Manuscripts blurring
   In wind and rain.
   I want the town even,
   The open door
   Framing a slut,
   So she can speak Welsh
   And bear children
   To accuse the womb
   That bore me.

The Bread Of Truth

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Hullin 9b–10a


     A young woman, in her senior year of college, wants to apply to law school. But her friends and advisors are telling her she is making a big mistake: "There is a glut of lawyers in America now; we have more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world! The field is just too crowded. You'll never find a decent position. Look for some other line of work. You'll be doing yourself a real favor."

     The woman is determined. "I love the idea of becoming a lawyer. I love the logic of it, and the challenge of it. And I believe that through the law, I can really make a difference—either in government and public service, or in representing people who otherwise don't have a voice in our society. And I think I'm bright enough, and motivated enough to make a place for myself. If you are good at what you do, there will always be room for you."

     When the Egyptian magicians told Moses that he was bringing straw to Afarayim, they were basically telling him: "There's already too many people here who do what you want to do. There's no more room for you. You won't succeed. Find something else to occupy your time. Here you will just be another small fish in a big pond. Go away!!" But Moses refused to take "No!" for an answer. He was not afraid of the competition, not afraid of being put to the test. He believed in himself and in what he was able to accomplish. His response to "You're bringing straw to Afarayim" (which is similar to the expression "You're carrying coals to Newcastle") was "You bring vegetables to where the vegetables are." Yes, in the produce market, there will be scores of other merchants all selling the same product. Yet, it is the market where people go to when they want to buy their vegetables. We prove ourselves by showing that what we have to offer is just as good as or better than what the next person is selling.

     Moses was not afraid to be put to the test. The signs and wonders that he brought to Egypt were more powerful than anything the magicians there could do. His self-confidence and courage were liberating—both for the Israelites and for us, who learn from him not to be scared away by a challenge or competition.

     Concerns about danger are more severe than ritual prohibitions.

     Text / Come and hear: If a person left a jar uncovered and came back and found it covered, it is impure, for I would say that an impure man entered and covered it up. If a person left it covered and came back and found it uncovered—if a weasel was able to drink out of it (or, according to Rabban Gamliel, a snake) or if dew fell into it over night, it is invalid.

     Text / Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "What is the reason? Because it is the way of reptiles to uncover; it is not their way to cover." (You could say that this reason applies when he left it uncovered; but if he found it just as he had left it, it is neither impure, nor invalid.) But if there is any doubt about water that was left uncovered, it is forbidden. We learn from this that concerns about danger are more severe than ritual prohibitions.

     Context / The Bible speaks about ritual impurity, which is imparted to a person who has been in contact with the dead. Someone who was ritually impure was unable to participate in the Temple sacrificial service until undergoing ritual purification. In the rite, the ashes of a "Red Heifer" were mixed with water: "Some of the ashes from the fire of cleansing shall be taken for the unclean person, and fresh water shall be added to them in a vessel. A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave. The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day, thus cleansing him by the seventh day." (
Numbers 19:17–19)

     The Talmud is discussing what happens if there is suspicion that the water to be mixed with the ashes of the Red Heifer for the purification ritual may have been tampered with in some way. In the first case, a jar of the water was left uncovered and open, but it was later found closed, the lid having been put on it. It is clear that an animal could not have done this; it could have been done only by a person. If that person was himself ritually impure, he will have rendered the water ritually impure as well. The water may then not be used in the purification ritual. Since we do not know who did this or their status, we have to assume that it might have been done by someone ritually impure, and therefore we may not use the water.

     In the second case, a jar previously left covered is now found with the lid off. If there is a possibility that a weasel or a snake knocked off the lid and drank from the water, or if dew might have fallen into the open jar, we consider the water pasul, invalid for use in the ritual. (Invalid is different from tameh, impure. While invalid is considered ritually impure, it cannot convey ritual impurity to something else, like something tameh can.) In general, animals drinking from a jar would not render the water impure because they suck up the liquid. Weasels are different; they lap the water and therefore their saliva will drip back into the jar. Rabban Gamliel includes snakes because they spew back what they drink. Any other liquid, including dew, that comes into the jar will render the standing water as ritually invalid.

     Since in this case there are three possibilities of how the lid came off (a pure person took it off, an impure person took it off, or a reptile knocked it loose) and, in two of these three, the water remains pure, the Rabbis decided to "follow the majority" (two possibilities that it is pure as against one possibility that it is impure) and declared that the water was pure. In the third case, the jar is found exactly as it was left. Consequently, it is neither impure nor invalid.

     The Gemara concludes by adding that in a situation where we suspect that the water may have been tampered with or has been poisoned (for example by a venomous insect or animal), the water is considered asur, forbidden, a category much more restrictive than either tameh, impure or pasul, invalid.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Twisted Scripture - 1 Samuel 28:5–20
     The Apologetics Study Bible

     Many channelers and trance mediums cite this passage as evidence that communication with the dead is possible. Even if such an argument could be made, biblical law strictly forbids contacting spiritualist mediums (see Lv 19:31; 20:27; Dt 18:10–12; Is 8:19). Despite these injunctions, King Saul asked the medium of Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel, the dead prophet. Whether she actually succeeded or not is debatable. Saul's actions were costly: "Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the Lord because he did not keep the LORD's word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Ch 10:13–14).

     28:6 Why didn't the Lord answer Saul's plea for help? The Bible teaches that people who consistently reject God's leadership in their lives, and refuse to follow the guidance He has already provided, should not expect Him to deliver them from trouble resulting from their poor choices (Jb 27:9; 35:12; Pr 1:23–28; Is 1:15; Jr 11:11; 14:12; Ezk 8:18; Mc 3:4; Zch 7:13; Jms 4:3). Saul had consistently disobeyed God (1 Sm 13:13–14; 15:11–23), even going so far as to kill the Lord's priests (22:17–19). He had created vast problems for himself and his nation. The Lord was not going to promise the king supernatural deliverance from those problems, even though Saul earnestly sought His help. Instead, God would use the Philistines as the instrument of judgment against Saul.

     28:6 This passage says that Saul inquired of the Lord, while 1 Ch 10:14 says he did not. The contradiction is apparent only in English translations. In this verse Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "inquired of") the Lord to provide guidance, but the Lord did not answer him. In 1 Ch 10:13–14 Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "consulted") a medium for guidance but did not "seek" (Hb darash; "inquire of") the Lord. The point is that Saul died because he committed a capital offense in consulting a medium (see Lv 20:27) rather than seeking to obey God.

     28:8–22 Did the medium of Endor really conjure up the dead prophet Samuel? Though scholars disagree on this question, the Bible suggests that she did. The law of Moses sternly forbids consultation of mediums (Lv 20:27; Dt 18:10–12) but never says that communicating with dead people is impossible. Saul was seemingly able to speak with a figure that not only accurately repeated key themes from Samuel's previous private conversations with Saul, but also correctly predicted the deaths of Saul and his sons. This suggests that the king was indeed speaking with Samuel.

     What Is the Occult? by Leonard G. Goss

     The English word "occult" comes from the Latin "occultus," which means things that are hidden, esoteric, concealed, or mysterious. For occult practitioners, the occult represents interference with physical nature by using hidden knowledge (gnosis), such as non-conventional practices including reciting formulas, making gestures, mixing incompatible elements, performing healing spells, or performing secret ceremonies attempting to alter physical nature. What is the hidden knowledge? According to occultists, it is the force at the base of the universe, and it is obtained only through secret communication with that force. Is this hidden force God? Or the devil? Or the soul of the universe? That depends a good deal on what particular source their gnosis has tapped into, but one thing the force is not: It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

     For those dabbling in the occult, such activities are considered harmless and fascinating—a real source of spiritual knowledge. For Christians, however, the wide range of practices making up the occult is destructive and spirit-threatening. Christians view as deeply evil things like alchemy, astrology, casting runes, crystals and crystal balls, divination, dowsing, ESP, fortune-telling, horoscopes, the I Ching, levitation, Ouija boards, paganism, palm reading, the paranormal, pendulum divination, psychic phenomena, reading Tarot Cards, ritual abuse, satanism, seances, secret societies, sorcery, spiritualism, talking to dead spirits, Wicca (so-called White Witchcraft) and Witchcraft (Black Magic). The extent of occult involvement is universal. Spiritual warfare is all around us, and if Satan cannot keep us from knowing Christ he will try containing us by drawing us into deception. The Enemy is a deceiver, liar, tempter, and devourer of human souls.

     Why the interest in the occult? First, many churches have "watered down" the Gospel of Christ, rejecting the church's central teaching of Christ's divinity and other essential truths. When this happens, a spiritual vacuum invites people to go to the occult to be satisfied, swinging the door to occultist practices wide open. Second, there is a certain mystery about the occult which appeals to our curiosity. Many, thinking the occult is harmless, go deeper and deeper until they can't get out without any bad effects. Third, we all want ultimate answers to life's basic questions, and the occult offers a sort of "reality" by providing these answers. Actually, occultist practices are a counterfeit of God's power, and as such they do reveal some amazing things—but these things are not the ultimate truth. Fourth, an increase in demonic activity is to be expected as a sign of the end times (see Mk 13:22; 1 Tm 4:1).

     Often, there is deliberate faking in the lucrative field of the occult. There is money to be made. There is also inaccurate reporting. When some people find a theory fascinating, they often care less about the facts. In addition, there is self manipulation. When it suits their wishes, some believe anything they want. There is, however, true demonic deception. The Bible teaches that there is a deceptive, dangerous spirit world which distorts reality and ruins human lives. Despite outright fraud, all Christians need to know that the occult or paranormal is real. The Bible is clear it is real, as Saul discovered upon meeting the medium of Endor (1 Sm 28), and we must not dismiss it. If God is real, his chief adversary is also real.

     First John 3:8 says, "The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil's works." Involvement in the occult is involvement in the devil's works, and as it can lead to very serious outcomes spiritually and psychologically, we must remember that the Bible denounces all occultic practices (see Dt 18:9–14; Ac 13:6–12). The road to the occult is broad and always destructive. The way of Christ is narrow but always leads to eternal life.

The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe

     The Apologetics Study Bible

     1 Samuel 31:3–5 The Bible provides three complementary accounts of Saul's receiving mortal wounds leading to his death. According to verse 3, Saul was severely wounded by a Philistine arrow. Then, to avoid being sadistically executed by the vengeance-seeking Philistines (17:51; 18:27), Saul fell on his own sword (v. 4), receiving a second grave wound that in time would have killed him (2 Sm 1:9). His armor-bearer, seeing that the king was now dead, then fell upon his sword and perished, as well (1 Sm 31:5). Later, an Amalekite—probably on the battlefield to steal personal possessions from the corpses—tried to take credit for dealing Saul's final death blow (2 Sam 1:6–10); whether or not he was telling the truth, it was a foolish move on his part. Though this sequence of events as the Bible relates it is complicated, it is certainly plausible.

     1 Samuel 31:4–5 Suicide involves the unauthorized taking of a human life, and as such violates the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13); God does not sanction it. The Apostle Paul prevented the Philippian jailer from taking his own life (Ac 16:27–28). But, as with all other sins (with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Mt 12:31), suicide is not a sin that automatically excludes a person from heaven.

     The biblical narrative records examples of several individuals who took their own lives. In each case the circumstances of the suicide were inglorious and regrettable. Samson, tortured and humiliated by the Philistines, took his own life with theirs after a ruinous career of disregard for the Lord (Jdg 16:30). Ahithophel committed suicide after being publicly humiliated by having his advice rejected, and in order to avoid being executed for treason (2 Sm 17:23). Zimri, after murdering an Israelite king, ended his life to avoid being killed by his pursuers (1 Kg 16:18). Judas committed suicide after his betrayal of Jesus (Mt 27:5). Saul's attempted suicide was carried out to avoid the humiliation and torture the approaching Philistines would certainly have inflicted on him. There are no biblical examples of honorable suicide. An examination of the Bible's accounts of these lives and deaths suggest two primary scriptural observations about suicide: first, it is an option that some deeply troubled people will choose when facing desperate circumstances; and second, it is a pathetic and tragic end to a human life.

The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe

     The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament

     Saul and the Medium from Endor

     28:2. David as personal bodyguard. As he was in Saul’s service (22:14), David now is appointed as the head of the personal bodyguard of King Achish. This puts him in a difficult situation, since it almost assures that he will have to participate in the battle against Saul.

     28:3. mediums and spiritists. For more information on divination as a whole, see the comments on Deuteronomy 18. The practitioners of spiritism and sorcery are condemned because of their association with Canaanite religion and because their “art” attempted to circumvent Yahweh by seeking knowledge and power from spirits. They represented a form of “popular religion.” In this case the banned individuals participated in a form of divination employing ritual pits from which ancestral spirits could be raised to speak to the living about the future.

     28:3. banning them. Saul’s decision to ban mediums and spiritists from his realm would ordinarily be praised because of their close association with Canaanite worship practices. They functioned as conjurers of ancestral spirits who could speak of the future. Superstitions and the aura of the occult power made these individuals feared and often undesirable. Almost a millennium earlier King Gudea of Lagash had also banned mediums from his realm, so it is not an act connected solely to monotheism. In this instance Saul’s ban is paralleled with the death of Samuel to demonstrate that he had no means at his disposal, whether legitimate or illegitimate, to divine God’s will.

     28:4. location of Philistine and Israelite camps. The eastern end of the Valley of Jezreel is about ten miles wide from north to south. The north end is blocked off by Mount Tabor, while the south end is blocked off by Mount Gilboa. The ten-mile stretch between the two is broken into two passes by the smaller Hill of Moreh. The town of Shunem where the Philistines make camp is on the southwest side of the Hill of Moreh just across the Harod Valley (the southern pass from the Valley of Jezreel to the city of Beth Shan) from Saul’s camp at Mount Gilboa. The two camps are about five miles apart. Endor is located in the middle of the northern pass (between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Tabor), about six or seven miles north of the Israelite camp (about a two-hour trek). Saul would have proceeded around the eastern side of the Hill of Moreh and thus have avoided the Philistine camp. Note that Endor (Khirbet Safsafeh) is technically in the tribal territory of Manasseh, outside of the territory controlled by Saul (Josh 17:11). The fact that the battle takes place so far north of Philistia suggests that they were trying to cut the Galilee region off from Saul’s kingdom. Saul’s position takes advantage of the mountainous terrain and would favor his lightly armed forces.

     28:6. means Saul used to seek information. Saul is rightly concerned about the upcoming battle with the massed forces of the five Philistine city-states. He first employs the usual divination methods to consult God and see if the Divine Warrior would give him a victory. These methods included incubation rituals in which the inquirer sleeps within a sanctuary or near a sacred object in order to receive a dream from a god (see comment on 3:3), the use of Urim to cast lots (see comment on Ex 28:30) and the visions of prophets (see Saul’s previous association with prophets in 1 Sam 10:10–11). None of these inquiries was answered, and it is made clear that Saul is abandoned by God.

     28:7. specialist Saul wanted to use. Since he had no other recourse to seek God’s will about the coming battle, Saul broke his own law banning mediums and made a secret visit to the medium of Endor. She has established a reputation as one who could successfully consult ghosts and ancestral spirits. This specialist from Endor used a ritual pit to conjure up the spirits of the dead. Although the process is listed in Deuteronomy 18:10–11 as one of the “detestable acts” associated with Canaanite religion, the actual use of a pit is not mentioned in the Old Testament outside of the Endor episode. As in Hittite magic, the practitioner here is an “old woman.” The pits were believed to be magical portals through which spirits could pass between the realms of the living and the dead. The practitioner was one who had special knowledge of the location of such a pit and who was familiar with the procedures necessary to summon the dead. There is no indication in these rituals that the practitioner was possessed by the spirit or that the spirit spoke through her, and so she was not a medium in the modern sense.

     28:8–11. procedures for calling up spirits. Examples from Greek (Homer’s Odyssey), Mesopotamian and, especially, Hittite literature provide the details: (1) done at night, (2) after the spot is divined a pit is dug with a special tool, (3) a food offering (bread, oil, honey) or the blood of a sacrificial animal is placed in the pit to attract spirits, (4) an invocation ritual, including the spirit’s name, is chanted, and (5) the pit is covered to prevent spirits from escaping after the ritual is concluded. Both practitioner and client had roles to play in the procedure. The spirits who emerged were in human form and generally were able to communicate directly with the client. In Mesopotamian necromancy incantations, only the practitioner could see the spirit. This was accomplished through ritual ointments smeared on the face.

     28:14. prophetic mantle. Since clothing is often a status marker in the ancient world (see Joseph’s various changes of clothing in Genesis 37, 39–41), it may be expected that prophets were distinguished by a particular garment. The spirit of Samuel is recognized by his robe (see Elijah’s mantle in 1 Kings 19:19 and 2 Kings 2:8, 13–14).

     28:8–20. beliefs about afterlife. The spirits of the dead were believed to descend to the underworld known as Sheol. This was a nebulous region of continued existence, but it is not distinguished as a place of reward or punishment.

     28:8–11. consulting dead in ancient Near East. Because of a well-developed ancestor cult that pervaded much of the ancient Near East (perhaps reflected in the emphasis on the role of the male heir to care for the father’s shrine in Ugaritic documents), the dead were considered to have some power to affect the living. It was believed that if libations were poured out on behalf of dead ancestors, their spirits would offer protection and help to those still living. In Babylon the disembodied spirit (utukki) or the ghost (etemmu) could become very dangerous if not cared for and often were the objects of incantations. Proper care for the dead would begin with proper burial and would continue with ongoing gifts and honor of the memory and name of the deceased. The firstborn was responsible for maintaining this ancestor worship and therefore inherited the family gods (often images of deceased ancestors). Such care would have been based on a belief, as seen in Saul’s consultation of the medium of Endor, that the spirits of the dead could communicate and had information on the future that could be of use to the living. These spirits were consulted through the efforts of priests, mediums and necromancers. This could be a dangerous practice since some spirits were considered demons and could cause great harm. While it is difficult to totally reconstruct Israelite beliefs about deceased ancestors and the afterlife, it seems possible that prior to the exile there existed a cult of the dead or ancestral worship. This is suggested by archaeological remains: (1) utensils, bowls and implements for eating and drinking found in Iron Age tombs in Israel, (2) references to deposits of food and drink offerings for the dead (see Deut 26:14; Ps 106:28) and (3) the importance placed on family tombs (see the ancestral tomb for Abraham and his descendants at Hebron) and mourning rituals performed at these tombs (see Is 57:7–8; Jer 16:5–7). The local and family ancestral cults were condemned by the prophets and the law.

     28:24. meal prepared for Saul. There are elements of hospitality customs in the offering of a meal to Saul by the woman of Endor. Like Abraham, she provides a costly meal by slaughtering a calf and making bread (see Gen 18:6–7). It is unlikely that the woman owned more than this one animal, and so she is truly doing Saul great honor. Saul’s reluctance to accept her invitation may be tied to her profession or her association with other gods. It may also be a sign of his depression over Samuel’s words of doom. His eventual acceptance follows the pattern of indecisiveness and contradictory behavior so often found in his career. There is also a sense of resignation in eating a “last meal.”

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament

Gentile Attraction to Judaism
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     The insistence on distinctiveness, however, did not entail a closed society. Indeed the accessibility of Judaism to the outsider, a striking feature often overlooked, merits attention. A considerable number of non-Jews found Judaism enticing. We can no longer recover the reasons, and they doubtless varied from place to pace, and person to person. Some may have been attracted by its great longevity, by the ethical precepts, by the rigorous adherence to the Law, by the discipline demanded in its practices, by the social bonding of the synagogues, by the celebration of its festivals, or by the reputation not only for Eastern wisdom but for skills in both the practical and the occult sciences. We can only speculate on the motives. But the fact of Gentiles entering into Jewish society in some fashion is incontrovertible. This did not require conversion—nor necessarily an abandonment of previous identity and associations. It might take the form of imitating the Jewish way of life up to a point, like observing the Sabbath, or adopting certain codes of behavior, or taking part in synagogue activities, or providing material support for the Jewish community. The Jews did not turn such people away.

     We hear of several non-Jews who held Judaism in high esteem and showed genuine interest in it. The Gospel of Luke mentions a Roman centurion at Capernaum as one who loved Jews and had built them a synagogue. According to Philo, the Roman prefect of Syria had gained familiarity with Jewish philosophy and piety. Josephus indicates in several contexts the attraction of eminent women to Judaism, including even the wife of the emperor Nero. Gentile reverence for Jewish laws and mores appears with some frequency in Josephus’ works.

     Indeed, if Josephus is to be believed, pagans everywhere included observers of the Sabbath, people who adopted Jewish dietary practices, or those who attempted to imitate the Jews in their internal concord, their philanthropy, their skill in the crafts, and their adherence to the Law even under duress. Philo makes a similar claim, asserting that almost all people, especially those who place a premium upon virtue, pay homage to Jewish laws. The Jewish authors, to be sure, are hardly unbiased witnesses. But their statements, however exaggerated and embroidered, do not arise out of the void.

     Non-Jewish sources supply corroboration. The Roman satirist Juvenal, writing in the early second century C.E., refers in sardonic fashion to the appeal that Jewish practices have in Rome. He alludes to fathers who revere the Sabbath and follow Jewish dietary restrictions. Their sons then go further: they worship a deity of the sky, draw no distinction between consuming swine’s flesh and cannibalism, and even engage in circumcision. A very different text, the Christian book of Revelation, composed about the same time, denounces those who falsely claim to be Jews but are not so. This may refer to Gentiles who have adopted Jewish behavior and institutions—without becoming Jews.

     Such persons seem even to have a name. “God-fearers” serves as the conventional designation (even if not technical terminology) for Gentiles seriously drawn to an association with Judaism or the Jewish community. The Acts of the Apostles contain several references to “those who fear God” or “those who revere God,” denoting Gentiles who were closely and sympathetically involved with the Jewish community and who lived in accord with at least some of its precepts. The terminology has a parallel in Josephus, who attributes the wealth of the Temple to contributions both from Jews and from “those who worship God” all over the world. Closely comparable phrases appear in inscriptions of somewhat later periods from a wide variety of regions ranging from Italy to the Black Sea. Gentiles in substantial numbers participated in some fashion (doubtless in diverse fashions) in Jewish synagogues and communities—and they were clearly welcomed.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 26

     When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. --- John 21:9.

     Christ once more stands among the common things of life—the fire, the fish, the bread; a group of tired, hungry fishers—all common men. (The World's Great RS Thomas, Volume 10 Drummond to Jowett, and General Index ) And he is there to affirm that in his resurrection he had not broken his bond with humankind but strengthened it—wherever common life goes on there is Jesus still.

     “Early in the Morning, Jesus stood on the shore.” Jesus speaks, and it is not of the mysteries of God, the secrets of the grave, but of nets and fishing—the simple concerns of simple people engaged in humble tasks.

     We have forgotten the dignity of common life. We have not learned even the alphabet of Christ’s Gospel unless we have come to see that the only true indignity in human life is sin, malevolence, and small-heartedness and that all life is dignified where there are love, purity, and piety in it.

     We boast that a single human soul is of more value than all the splendors of matter, but our actions treat the boast as mere rhetoric. There is nothing so cheap as men and women—[ask] the lords of commerce. But Christ acted as though the boast were true. He deliberately inwove his life into all that is commonest in life. Where childhood is, there is Bethlehem; where sorrow is, there is Gethsemane; where death is, there is Calvary; where the laborer is, there is the poor man of Nazareth; where the beggar is, there is he who had no place to lay his head. The true dignity of life is this, that Christ is in all people, defaced, half-obliterated, but there, and the church that forgets this has neither impulse nor mandate for Christ’s work among them. The moment Christ is shut up in a church he becomes the priest’s Christ, the thinker’s Christ, the devotee’s Christ, but he ceases to be the people’s Christ.

     Lift up your eyes and see this risen Christ, a fisher on the shore, busy preparing a meal for hungry people. Unlock your church doors, let Christ go out among the common people; no, go yourselves, for it is here that he would have you be. Wherever there is toil, there is the Christ who toiled, and there you should be, with the kind glance, the warm hand-grasp, and the warmth of human kinship.
--- William Dawson

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

On This Day
     A Quiet Life  May 26

     Some lives crackle with adventure—great answers to prayers, narrow escapes, dramatic conversions, broad travel. But Christians with quieter lives often cast longer shadows. The life of Venerable Bede was so uneventful that little can be said about him. Yet few have left such a record of scholarship and faithfulness.

     Bede was born about 672 in north England. At seven, probably orphaned, he went to live at a nearby monastery. The boy took to books, studying Scripture, biography, literature, music, and history. He pored over manuscripts—the church fathers, the Vulgate, the classics. He learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. By age 30, he was adding to early literature with books of his own. “I always took delight,” he said, “in learning, teaching, and writing.” He became the greatest scholar of his era, the father of English history and theology. His Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation is meticulously accurate, setting a standard for historians.

     Spring of 735 found Bede laboring on his crowning work, translating the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon. On May 25, he told his assistant, “Go on quickly, I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away.” By early Morning, May 26, 735, only one chapter remained, and Bede said, “Take your pen and write fast.” He told a friend, “I have some little articles of value in my chest—pepper, napkins, and incense: Quickly bring the priests to me that I may distribute among them the gifts God has bestowed on me.” He spoke to each priest, and they wept. “I have lived long,” he said. “I desire to die and be with Christ.”

     Bede spent the day joyfully, and near Evening his helper said that only one sentence remained to be translated. “Write quickly,” Bede replied with satisfaction. The work finished, Bede sat on the floor of his small room and began singing, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” and, finishing the hymn, passed quietly into the presence of the Lord.

     If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. I don’t know what to choose. I could keep on living and doing something useful. It is a hard choice to make. I want to die and be with Christ, because that would be much better. But I know that all of you still need me.
--- Philippians 1:21-24.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 26

     “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” --- Psalm 55:22.

     Care, even though exercised upon legitimate objects, if carried to excess, has in it the nature of sin. The precept to avoid anxious care is earnestly inculcated by our Saviour, again and again; it is reiterated by the apostles; and it is one which cannot be neglected without involving transgression: for the very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting ourselves into his place to do for him that which he has undertaken to do for us. We attempt to think of that which we fancy he will forget; we labour to take upon ourselves our weary burden, as if he were unable or unwilling to take it for us. Now this disobedience to his plain precept, this unbelief in his Word, this presumption in intruding upon his province, is all sinful. Yet more than this, anxious care often leads to acts of sin. He who cannot calmly leave his affairs in God’s hand, but will carry his own burden, is very likely to be tempted to use wrong means to help himself. This sin leads to a forsaking of God as our counsellor, and resorting instead to human wisdom. This is going to the “broken cistern” instead of to the “fountain;” a sin which was laid against Israel of old. Anxiety makes us doubt God’s lovingkindness, and thus our love to him grows cold; we feel mistrust, and thus grieve the Spirit of God, so that our prayers become hindered, our consistent example marred, and our life one of self-seeking. Thus want of confidence in God leads us to wander far from him; but if through simple faith in his promise, we cast each burden as it comes upon him, and are “careful for nothing” because he undertakes to care for us, it will keep us close to him, and strengthen us against much temptation. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”

          Evening - May 26

     “Continue in the faith.” --- Acts 14:22.

     Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, “Excelsior.” He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more. Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. “It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare.” Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest. He will endeavour to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, “Curse God, and die.” Or he will attack your steadfastness: “What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.” Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: “Why do you hold to these denominational creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times.” Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 26


     Source unknown, c. 1757

     Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:9, 10)

     In his book The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life , A. W. Tozer left these choice words regarding the Trinity:

     The doctrine of the Trinity … is truth for the heart. The fact that it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could have imagined it.

     The doctrine of the Trinity has been controversial since the earliest days of Christianity. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea affirmed its belief in the Triune Godhead. During the 16th century Reformation period, it was again denied by the Socinians. And still today many liberal theologians and groups are blatant in their denial. They often speak of God, the Father of all, Jesus, the mere man, and the divine influence of the Spirit of God. This form of blasphemy relegates each member of the Godhead to a role far less than that ascribed in the Bible.

     This familiar Trinity hymn is also one of our most popular “opening hymns” for a Sunday Morning worship service. It appeared anonymously in England in about 1757 to commemorate Trinity Sunday. It has been attributed by some to Charles Wesley since it first appeared in a pamphlet published by John Wesley.

     This is a hymn that must always be sung with all four stanzas. To omit any of the first three would be to slight one of the members of the Godhead. The fourth stanza is a grand affirmation of the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One yet Three and ever worthy of our love and adoration.

     Come, Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing; help us to praise: Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious, come and reign over us, Ancient of Days.

     Come, Thou Incarnate Word, gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend: Come and Thy people bless, and give Thy word success—Spirit of holiness, in us descend.

     Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour: Thou who almighty art, now rule in ev’ry heart, and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of pow’r.

     To the great One in Three eternal praises be, hence evermore: His sov’reign majesty, may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore.

     For Today: Psalm 47; 103:19; John 8:54; 10:31-33; Acts 5:3, 4.

     Reflect again on the importance of having a proper perspective regarding the Godhead. What are the dangers of giving less than full and equal recognition of deity to each member of the Trinity? Carry this musical truth with you ---

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. XXXVI. NOW let us come to the New Testament. Paul saith, (Rom. i. 2,) that the Gospel was promised “by the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” And, (Rom. iii. 21,) that the righteousness of faith was testified “by the law and the Prophets.” But what testimony is that, if it be obscure? Paul, however, throughout all his epistles makes the Gospel, the word of light, the Gospel of clearness; and he professedly and most copiously sets it forth as being so, 2 Cor. iii. and iv.; where he treats most gloriously concerning the clearness both of Moses and of Christ.

     Peter also saith, (2 Pet. i. 19,) “And we certainly have more surely the word of prophecy; unto which, ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place.” Here Peter makes the Word of God a clear lamp, and all other things darkness: whereas, we make obscurity and darkness of the Word.

     Christ also often calls Himself, the “light of the world;” (John viii. 12. ix. 5,) and John the Baptist, a “burning and a shining light,” (John v. 35.) Certainly, not on account of the holiness of his life, but on account of the word which he ministered. In the same manner Paul calls the Philippians shining “lights of the world.” (Phil. ii. 15), because (says he,) ye “hold forth the word of life.” (16.) For life without the word is uncertain and obscure.

     And what is the design of the apostles in proving their preaching by the Scriptures? Is it that they may obscure their own darkness by still greater darkness? What was the intention of Christ, in teaching the Jews to “search the Scriptures” (John v. 39,) as testifying of Him? Was it that He might render them doubtful concerning faith in Him? What was their intention, who having heard Paul, searched the Scriptures night and day, “to see if these things were so?” (Acts xvii. 11.) Do not all these things prove that the Apostles, as well as Christ Himself, appealed to the Scriptures as the most clear testimonies of the truth of their discourses? With what face then do we make them ‘obscure?’

     Are these words of the Scripture, I pray you, obscure or ambiguous: “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. i. 1). “The Word was made flesh.” (John i. 14,) and all those other words which the whole world receives as articles of faith? Whence then, did they receive them? Was it not from the Scriptures? And what do those who at this day preach? Do they not expound and declare the Scriptures? But if the Scripture which they declare, be obscure, who shall certify us that their declaration is to be depended on? Shall it be certified by another new declaration? But who shall make that declaration? — And so we may go on ad infinitum.

     In a word, if the Scripture be obscure or ambiguous, what need was there for its being sent down from heaven? Are we not obscure and ambiguous enough in ourselves, without an increase of it by obscurity, ambiguity, and darkness being sent down unto us from heaven? And if this be the case, what will become of that of the apostle, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction?” (2 Tim. iii. 16.) Nay, Paul, thou art altogether useless, and all those things which thou ascribest unto the Scripture, are to be sought for out of the fathers approved by a long course of ages, and from the Roman see! Wherefore, thy sentiment must be revoked, where thou writest to Titus, (chap. i. 9) ‘that a bishop ought to be powerful in doctrine, to exhort and to convince the gainsayers, and to stop the mouths of vain talkers, and deceivers of minds.’ For how shall he be powerful, when thou leavest him the Scriptures in obscurity — that is, as arms of tow and feeble straws, instead of a sword? And Christ must also, of necessity, revoke His word where He falsely promises us, saying, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist,” (Luke xxi. 15.) For how shall they not resist when we fight against them with obscurities and uncertainties? And why do you also, Erasmus, prescribe to us a form of Christianity, if the Scriptures be obscure to you!

     But I fear I must already be burdensome, even to the insensible, by dwelling so long and spending so much strength upon a point so fully clear; but it was necessary, that that impudent and blasphemous saying, ‘the Scriptures are obscure,’ should thus be drowned. And you, too, my friend Erasmus, know very well what you are saying, when you deny that the Scripture is clear, for you at the same time drop into my ear this assertion: ‘it of necessity follows therefore, that all your saints whom you adduce, are much less clear.’ And truly it would be so. For who shall certify us concerning their light, if you make the Scriptures obscure? Therefore they who deny the all-clearness and all-plainness of the Scriptures, leave us nothing else but darkness.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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