The King Honors MordecaiEsther 6 1 On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. 2 And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” 4 And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5 And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” 6 So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” 7 And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. 9 And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” 10 Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” 11 So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”
12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. 13 And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.”
Esther Reveals Haman’s Plot14 While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared.
Esther 7Esther 7 1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” 6 And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
Haman Is Hanged7 And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. 8 And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” 10 And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.
Esther Saves the JewsEsther 8 1 On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
3 Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4 When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, 5 Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6 For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” 7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. 8 But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”
9 The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. 10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, 11 saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, 12 on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13 A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. 14 So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.
15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.
The Jews Destroy Their EnemiesEsther 9 1 Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. 2 The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. 3 All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. 5 The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. 6 In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, 7 and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha 8 and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha 9 and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder.
11 That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. 12 And the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” 13 And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” 14 So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. 15 The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they laid no hands on the plunder.
16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. 17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.
The Feast of Purim Inaugurated20 And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, 22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
23 So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. 25 But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, 27 the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, 28 that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.
29 Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. 30 Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, 31 that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. 32 The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.
The Greatness of MordecaiEsther 10 1 King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. 2 And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.
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The Great Exchange
By Keith A. Mathison 5/1/2008
It should come as little surprise to learn that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ has come under renewed criticism in recent decades. The Reformers dealt with such criticisms and attacks from the Socinians. Our more recent forefathers in the faith dealt with such criticisms and attacks from rationalists and liberals. Today we hear such criticisms and attacks from a wide variety of sources. We are surrounded by so much anti-Christian rhetoric, however, that it is hardly a shock to hear the doctrine of substitutionary atonement referred to derisively as “cosmic child abuse” by a popular contemporary Christian author. Such comments reflect a widespread discontent with the traditional doctrine. If we are not troubled by such attacks, we should be, for the atonement is at the heart of Christ’s redemptive work and thus key to a proper understanding of the Gospel.
Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach, all associated with Oak Hill Theological College in London, have done the church a great service by restating and defending the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Their book, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, stands in the tradition of great works on the subject by men such as A.A. Hodge and Leon Morris. It is, however, distinctive in several ways. It seeks to present in one volume a detailed study of the relevant biblical texts, a study of the important theological issues, and a survey of the teaching of the church over the course of the centuries. This is no simple task, but the authors largely succeed. The book is also distinctive in that it successfully steers a course between introductory level works and those of a more technical nature. The fact that it is deliberately aiming to steer such a course means that the discussions in the book are not exhaustive. But it also means that any interested reader should be able to follow the arguments with little difficulty.
The authors provide a summary definition of penal substitution at the very beginning of their book: “The doctrine of penal substitution states that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin.” The remainder of the book is devoted to explaining, clarifying, and defending this doctrine. The authors argue “that penal substitution is clearly taught in Scripture, that it has a central place in Christian theology, that a neglect of the doctrine will have serious pastoral consequences, that it has an impeccable pedigree in the history of the Christian church, and that all of the objections raised against it can be comprehensively answered.”
In Part One, the authors make the case for the doctrine of penal substitution. They begin with a detailed study of the most important biblical texts relevant to the subject. They then look at the whole of Christian theology and seek to demonstrate that the doctrine of penal substitution has a central place. A final chapter surveys the teaching of great theologians throughout church history in order to demonstrate that the doctrine of penal substitution is not a novelty.
In Part Two, the authors present every conceivable objection raised by critics and proceed to answer them one by one. They categorize the objections under several helpful headings: Penal Substitution and the Bible; Penal Substitution and Culture; Penal Substitution and Violence; Penal Substitution and Justice; Penal Substitution and our Understanding of God; and Penal Substitution and the Christian Life. The authors conclude with a brief word for pastors encouraging them to preach this doctrine faithfully.
As helpful as the book is, it is no surprise that it comes with ten full pages of endorsements by prominent evangelical scholars from around the world. I add my voice to those who would enthusiastically recommend this book. If you are a believer, saved from the wrath of God, you are so only because of the atoning work of Christ. If you are a Christian, destined for eternal life, you are so only because Jesus died in your place bearing the penalty due to you. He was wounded for our transgressions, and He was crushed for our iniquities. It is by His stripes that we are healed. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement, then, is not another doctrinal football intended to be kicked around on the playground of ivory tower academics. It is a truly amazing and awe-inspiring thing to contemplate. Were we to grasp more fully everything that Jesus did for each of us on the cross, our prayer, our worship, our entire lives would be transformed forever.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Pride & Humility
By Robert S. Rayburn 5/1/2008
Pride is the idolatry of the self. It is the nature of pride as competition with God — the displacing of God by the self at the center — that has led many Christian thinkers through the ages to regard pride (superbia) as the mother sin and the essential element in all sin. It is strongly suggested in the Bible that pride was Satan’s primary sin (1 Tim. 3:6), and from that pride in his case came every manner of hostility to God and man: evil desire, hatred, cruelty, and deceit. In the same way, man’s fall resulted from his being persuaded by Satan that he might throw off his creaturely limitations and be “like God” (Gen. 3:5). From that pride has come all the rest of the evil that men think, say, and do, much — if not all — of which is motivated by the desire of men and women either to serve themselves or to protect their place at the center of their existence. Whether lust, greed, anger, or indifference toward others, it is not hard to see such sins as the expression of self-worship. A person does not necessarily deny that God is immeasurably greater than himself, but admissions of that type are no match for raging self-admiration in the heart.
The worst sin of pride consists in its breathtaking dishonesty: constructing a view of oneself in defiance of the facts. Pride, as Aquinas put it, is an offense against right reason. Or as Mother Teresa once said, “I am always very glad that my slanderers should tell a trifling lie about me rather than the whole terrible truth.” It is the testimony of the Christian ages that the holiest men and women are invariably the most keenly aware of the humiliation they would suffer if others ever discovered the enormity of their moral failure.
Samuel Rutherford was only speaking for a great company of Christians when he wrote, “despair might almost be excused, if everyone in this land saw my inner side.” And William Law said that he would rather be hanged and his body thrown in a swamp than that anyone should be allowed to look into his heart! It is man’s most monumental effrontery to imagine that a selfish, petty collection of unworthy desires such as himself belongs in the center, even of his own life. The insidious nature of pride is such that men and women rarely appreciate how proud they are, and the index of pride’s power over the heart is that even the purest motions of the Christian soul are deeply affected by it. Indeed, it is possible to be proud of one’s confessions of sin and unworthiness or secretly to congratulate oneself on one’s “brokenness.” As anyone knows who has struggled against it, one of pride’s most sinister effects is its dulling our sense of appreciation for the kindness and mercy of God.
A Christian, of course, would never say that he deserved salvation, perhaps never think it; but the difficulty every Christian has in being and remaining genuinely amazed and heart-broken at God’s grace to him or her is evidence enough of the pride that still fills the heart. We think so well of ourselves; it is very hard to think that God should not as well.
It is the power and prevalence of pride as the principle sin of the human heart that explains the concentration on self-denial and humility in the Bible’s teaching on the Christian life, what Charles Simeon called “growing downwards.” It is not too much to say, as Augustine did (Letters, 118), that humility is the first, the second, and the third part of godliness. If, he said, humility did not precede, accompany, and follow every action we perform, it would not be a good work. Paul said that it is in living for God and others rather than for ourselves — the Bible’s simplest definition of humility — that we are most like Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:3–4). If someone so worthy of the worship of all nevertheless devoted Himself to the life of others, how much more ought we sinners saved by grace cheerfully live the life of a servant? And our lives cannot be a fit response to God’s grace if we do not live in heart and behavior as those who know very well that we have nothing that we did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7).
But to put pride to death is lifelong work of the most difficult kind. We get no help from our culture. Pride is a topic of little interest to modern psychology or the self-help industry, and self-congratulation has become an accepted art form in the era of the “touchdown dance.” Nowadays, low self-esteem is likely to be thought a far more serious problem than pride. But the godly have always known that true goodness requires the killing of their pride, and they learned soon enough that there was no gentle way to go about it. It had to be hacked to death. One good man after another has instructed himself in these or similar words: “Talk not about myself”; “Desire to be unknown”; and “Lord, Deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself.”
Once Francis of Assisi became a celebrated figure and the object of constant adulation, he is said to have assigned to a fellow monk the task of reminding him of his failures and of how little he deserved the praise he was receiving. There are other reasons to confess our sins to one another constantly, but the mortification of our pride is chief among them. Hard work; but the selflessness of the truly humble is one of the most beautiful things in the world and one of the greatest honors we can pay to our Savior.
At Least I’m Honest
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 5/1/2008
Every culture and subculture has its own taboos. Not all of them are the same, however. Given that we are all human, how can we explain the divergence of cultural standards? Why is it that one culture will find adultery to be a mere peccadillo, while another will consider it the unforgivable sin? Why was it that in polite society in Victorian England one did not call the leg of a table the leg of the table, for fear of offending delicate sensibilities, while on the other hand, there were more brothels in London than there were churches? The answer may get at the grave sins of our own broader culture.
Certainly a culture committed to ethical relativism, the notion that there is no objective right and wrong, will hang its moral hat on its stunted view of the command of Jesus that we judge not, lest we be judged. (Cheerily skipping over the too embarrassing reality that they are judging the judgers, and thus judging themselves.) Accusing someone of wrongdoing is just about as bad as it can get in the world — not to mention the evangelical world. Not far behind that grand taboo, however, stands this one. We can commit this sin or that. We can manifest this grave character flaw or that. But to really earn your way into the rogue’s gallery, you must commit this heinous sin — hypocrisy.
Jesus, of course, had some harsh words for hypocrites, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt. 23:25). Hypocrisy is a real sin, something to be ashamed of, something to repent for. It’s shameful to its core. But there is something to be said for it. In fact, Francois de La Rouchefoucauld said this about it, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” The hypocrite, while caught up in whatever sin he is caught up in, plus being caught up in hypocrisy, has this going for him: he is able to recognize virtue and desires to be perceived as virtuous, even while lacking virtue. We hypocrites cover our sins because, while we certainly commit them, we recognize them as sins. While it is far better to be good than to look good, in either case we confess, however feebly, the reality of the good.
This, I believe, is the driving force behind this cultural taboo. We postmoderns hate hypocrisy not because we have such an abiding commitment to honesty, but for the same reason we judge so harshly those who judge, because we are dishonest enough to pretend there is no such thing as virtue. Those who hide their vice by masquerading it as virtue commit the one cardinal sin — affirming the reality of sin. They break the social contract by confessing a higher standard.
Hypocrisy, then, to the broader culture isn’t just the one deadly sin, but avoiding hypocrisy is also the means of atonement for sin. This is why we hear people argue, “Well, I may be selfish and egotistical, but at least I’m honest about it.” Or, stranger still, we have philanderers who suggest, “Well, I may not have kept my marriage vows, but at least I’m honest about it.” This proud confession of sin is a diabolical perversion of true repentance. We “acknowledge” our sin in that we admit to doing what we did. But we dismiss the sin because in admitting it we make it no longer a sin. Imagine if the serpent were to confess, “Well, sure I rebelled against the maker of heaven and earth, and sought to topple Him from His throne. But hey, at least I’m honest about it.”
If we were honest about our sins, we would not only admit to committing them, but we would recognize them for what they are, each and every one of them rebellion against the maker of heaven and earth, each and every one of them an attempt to topple Him from His throne. If we were honest about our sins, we would not cover them up, but cover our eyes, because to look at them is simply too painful. If we were honest about our sins, we would admit that what we are usually doing when “admitting” our sins is copping a plea. Maybe, we rationalize in the quiet of our hearts, if I admit to this, they won’t see these other sins. If we were honest about our sins, we would admit that all our games fail us, that all our sins follow us.
To understand the broader culture we have to grasp this reality. The world is not happily pursuing their vices without a care in the world. They are instead pursuing their vices under the cloud of an ever present knowledge of who they are. The defining quality of every culture not built around the Gospel is the haunting of sin. Which is why the solution for every culture, just as it is for every member of that culture, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not “honest” away our sins. He did not relativize our sins. Instead, He paid for them. He bore the wrath and fury of His Father that was due for our sins. He knows them more intimately than we ever will. And yet, glory be to the Father, they have been washed away in His blood.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul 5/1/2008
“The sinfulness of sin” sounds like a vacuous redundancy that adds no information to the subject under discussion. However, the necessity of speaking of the sinfulness of sin has been thrust upon us by a culture and even a church that has diminished the significance of sin itself. Sin is communicated in our day in terms of making mistakes or of making poor choices. When I take an examination or a spelling test, if I make a mistake, I miss a particular word. It is one thing to make a mistake. It is another to look at my neighbor’s paper and copy his answers in order to make a good grade. In this case, my mistake has risen to the level of a moral transgression. Though sin may be involved in making mistakes as a result of slothfulness in preparation, nevertheless, the act of cheating takes the exercise to a more serious level. Calling sin “making poor choices” is true, but it is also a euphemism that can discount the severity of the action. The decision to sin is indeed a poor one, but once again, it is more than a mistake. It is an act of moral transgression.
In my book The Truth of the Cross I spend an entire chapter discussing this notion of the sinfulness of sin. I begin that chapter by using the anecdote of my utter incredulity when I received a recent edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Though I was happy to receive this free issue, I was puzzled as to why anyone would send it to me. As I leafed through the pages of quotations that included statements from Immanuel Kant, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and others, to my complete astonishment I came upon a quotation from me. That I was quoted in such a learned collection definitely surprised me. I was puzzled by what I could have said that merited inclusion in such an anthology, and the answer was found in a simple statement attributed to me: “Sin is cosmic treason.” What I meant by that statement was that even the slightest sin that a creature commits against his Creator does violence to the Creator’s holiness, His glory, and His righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an act of rebellion against the sovereign God who reigns and rules over us and as such is an act of treason against the cosmic King.
Cosmic treason is one way to characterize the notion of sin, but when we look at the ways in which the Scriptures describe sin, we see three that stand out in importance. First, sin is a debt; second, it is an expression of enmity; third, it is depicted as a crime. In the first instance, we who are sinners are described by Scripture as debtors who cannot pay their debts. In this sense, we are talking not about financial indebtedness but a moral indebtedness. God has the sovereign right to impose obligations upon His creatures. When we fail to keep these obligations, we are debtors to our Lord. This debt represents a failure to keep a moral obligation.
The second way in which sin is described biblically is as an expression of enmity. In this regard, sin is not restricted merely to an external action that transgresses a divine law. Rather, it represents an internal motive, a motive that is driven by an inherent hostility toward the God of the universe. It is rarely discussed in the church or in the world that the biblical description of human fallenness includes an indictment that we are by nature enemies of God. In our enmity toward Him, we do not want to have Him even in our thinking, and this attitude is one of hostility toward the very fact that God commands us to obey His will. It is because of this concept of enmity that the New Testament so often describes our redemption in terms of reconciliation. One of the necessary conditions for reconciliation is that there must be some previous enmity between at least two parties. This enmity is what is presupposed by the redeeming work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who overcomes this dimension of enmity.
The third way in which the Bible speaks of sin is in terms of transgression of law. The The Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs answers the fourteenth question, “What is sin?” by the response, “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God.” Here we see sin described both in terms of passive and active disobedience. We speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. When we fail to do what God requires, we see this lack of conformity to His will. But not only are we guilty of failing to do what God requires, we also actively do what God prohibits. Thus, sin is a transgression against the law of God.
When people violate the laws of men in a serious way, we speak of their actions not merely as misdemeanors but, in the final analysis, as crimes. In the same regard, our actions of rebellion and transgression of the law of God are not seen by Him as mere misdemeanors; rather, they are felonious. They are criminal in their impact. If we take the reality of sin seriously in our lives, we see that we commit crimes against a holy God and against His kingdom. Our crimes are not virtues; they are vices, and any transgression of a holy God is vicious by definition. It is not until we understand who God is that we gain any real understanding of the seriousness of our sin. Because we live in the midst of sinful people where the standards of human behavior are set by the patterns of the culture around us, we are not moved by the seriousness of our transgressions. We are indeed at ease in Zion. But when God’s character is made clear to us and we are able to measure our actions not in relative terms with respect to other humans but in absolute terms with respect to God, His character, and His law, then we begin to be awakened to the egregious character of our rebellion.
Not until we take God seriously will we ever take sin seriously. But if we acknowledge the righteous character of God, then we, like the saints of old, will cover our mouths with our hands and repent in dust and ashes before Him.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
To the Young Pastor
By Ron Gleason 5/1/2008
Being a pastor has been the most humbling, challenging, fulfilling, and wonderful calling of my life. It was in the pastoral ministry that I learned — and still am learning — that true success is not measured by the size of your salary or your level of notoriety. It is measured by the faithfulness you exhibit in serving Christ and His church. I wouldn’t trade being a pastor for anything, and I’ve learned that scholarship’s best place is in the pulpit. Because the pastorate is not a temporary address or a “jumping off place” where a man waits for bigger and more glorious personal opportunities, a pastor learns to be God’s servant and his own man. As pastors, it is our job to do the Lord’s bidding where He calls us, according to His purposes, and for as long as He requires our services there. In general, here is what I’ve learned thus far:
Preach expository sermons from both the Old and New Testaments. The preacher’s foremost task is to preach the Gospel. Many voices in Christianity today tempt us to forget this. They encourage us to do what will attract the unsaved. Nevertheless, the pastor is primarily called to proclaim the riches of Christ through the preaching of the Word and the clear exposition of Scripture. In this manner, he both equips the saints and prepares them to present the true, pure Gospel to the lost. Expository preaching has three decided advantages for any pastor: First, it takes the congregation through a book of the Bible so that they are able to observe and understand the various covenantal themes contained in it. Second, this type of “series” preaching protects the congregation from the pastor’s “hobby horses.” Therefore, rather than preaching on a number of his favorite topics, he is bound by the text to preach and teach the variety of doctrines found in the Word of God. Moreover, in the history of preaching it has been this expository approach that has proven to be the most spiritually beneficial to God’s covenant communities. Third, this will solve the problem for the younger pastor of choosing a text every week. Being guided by the text and your exegesis, you know what you’re preaching on next week.
A faithful pastor takes worship seriously. For Christians, how we worship God is a key consideration. To worship God rightly means to worship Him scripturally. The pastor and his congregation must pay careful attention to what God requires in His Word. If God’s people are to worship Him in spirit and in truth — and they are — then we must look to Scripture both to form and inform our worship style. By using the ordinary means of grace God has given us, worship gives the opportunity to preach the Word, sing the Word, pray the Word, and read the Word. True worship is Christ-centered and Word-centered.
Manage your time to the glory of God. This is a crucial, essential component of the pastor’s life and calling. Far too many pastors waste precious time performing ever-nebulous “networking.” Time, once spent, cannot be regained. Therefore, how we use our time matters greatly. Since we are accountable to God, pastors should have an exemplary work ethic. Among other tasks, the pastor must make time for theological study and keeping his use of Greek and Hebrew, he must be fully conversant with the contents of Scripture, taking the requisite time for sermon preparation and delivery, and setting aside time for prayer and reading the Bible devotionally for himself and for his own instruction and edification.
The pastor must also lead his own home well. This requires a disciplined life. He pays attention to his marriage and the spiritual instruction of his entire family. He is a good friend and neighbor. He builds solid relationships with his session and deacons, and other church members who serve in various other leadership positions.
Maintain office hours and be approachable. There are fewer things that put me off more than an aloof and unapproachable pastor. One way to remain approachable for your congregation is to keep office hours. Most churches provide adequate studies for their pastors. Make good use of your study and be available by phone, for personal visits, or a spontaneous “hello.” My study door is almost always open and I enjoy people sticking their head in and saying hello.
Each person is a little bit different in this area. My day off is Friday. My wife and I have a “date day” for breakfast outside at the beach, and we take a long walk every Friday morning simply to be together. This means I get in early on Monday morning and I have a written schedule of what I’ll be doing every day. Thursday is sermon-making day and no one gets through to me except my family, my elders, or a bona fide emergency. No interruptions on Thursday!
Visit the flock. Pastors and their fellow elders need to visit the congregation, and congregants should expect their spiritual leaders to visit them and inquire about their spiritual well-being, including their Bible reading, prayer life, family devotions, and catechism memorization, only to mention the most important and obvious things. Home visitation reaps rich spiritual rewards. It is a time of personal accountability, equipping, and teaching that is so often missing in today’s churches. Grieving members, members in the hospital, and the elderly members need pastoral visits and should not be neglected.
Dr. Ron Gleason is senior minister of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, California, and is the founder of Renewed Life Ministries.
By Don Carson 5/31/2018
The structure of the book of Deuteronomy has many detailed parallels with ancient covenants or treaties that regional powers made with their vassal states. One of the components of such treaties was a kind of historical prolegomenon — a brief and selective recapitulation of the historical circumstances that had brought both parties to this point. That is the kind of thing one finds in Deuteronomy 1–3. As the covenant people of God make their second approach to the Promised Land, forty years after the Exodus itself (Deut. 1:3) and with an entire generation gone, Moses urgently impresses upon the assembly the nature of the covenant, the greatness of the rescue that was now their heritage, the sorry history of rebellion, and above all the sheer majesty and glory of the God with whom they are linked in this spectacularly generous covenantal relationship.
The three chapters of selective history prepare the way for Deuteronomy 4. Here the historical survey is largely over; now the primary lessons from that history are driven home. Always review and remember what God has done. God does not owe you this amazing salvation. Far from it: “Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength” (Deut. 4:37). But there are entailments. “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other” (Deut. 4:35). “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other” (Deut. 4:39). “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4:23-24). In other words, they are to serve God; but he alone is God. Every generation of believers must reckon with this truth, or face God’s wrath.
Of the many lessons that spring from this historical recital, one relatively minor point — painful to Moses and important for us — quietly emerges. Moses repeatedly reminds the people that he himself will not be permitted to enter the land. He is referring to the time he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20; see also the meditation for May 9). But now he points out, truthfully, that his sin and punishment took place, he says, “because of you” (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-27; Deut. 4:21-22). Of course, Moses was responsible for his own action. But he would not have been tempted had the people been godly. Their persistent unbelief and whining wore him down.
Meditate on a New Testament articulation of this principle: Hebrews 13:17.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 57Let Your Glory Be over All the Earth
57 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When He Fled From Saul, In The Cave.
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
4 My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
7. Next come admonitions or censures. These the Roman Bishops anciently
employed towards others, and in their turn received. Irenæus sharply
rebuked Victor for rashly troubling the Church with a pernicious
schism, for a matter of no moment. He submitted without objecting. Holy
bishops were then wont to use the freedom as brethren, of admonishing
and rebuking the Roman Prelate when he happened to err. He in his turn,
when the case required, reminded others of their duty, and reprimanded
them for their faults. For Cyprian, when he exhorts Stephen to admonish
the bishops of France, does not found on his larger power, but on the
common right which priests have in regard to each other (Cyprian. Lib.
3 Ep. 13). I ask if Stephen had then presided over France, would not
Cyprian have said, "Check them, for they are yours"? but his language
is very different. "The brotherly fellowship which binds us together
requires that we should mutually admonish each other" (Cyprian. ad
Pomp. Cont. Epist. Steph.) And we see also with what severity of
expression, a man otherwise of a mild temper, inveighs against Stephen
himself, when he thinks him chargeable with insolence. Therefore, it
does not yet appear in this respect that the Roman Bishop possessed any
jurisdiction over those who did not belong to his province.
8. In regard to calling of councils, it was the duty of every Metropolitan to assemble a provincial synod at stated times. Here the Roman Bishop had no jurisdiction, while the Emperor alone could summon a general council. Had any of the bishops attempted this, not only would those out of the province not have obeyed the call, but a tumult would instantly have arisen. Therefore the Emperor gave intimation to all alike to attend. Socrates, indeed, relates that Julius expostulated with the Eastern bishops for not having called him to the Council of Antioch, seeing it was forbidden by the canons that anything should be decided without the knowledge of the Roman Bishop (Tripart. Hist. Lib. 4). But who does not perceive that this is to be understood of those decrees which bind the whole Church? At the same time, it is not strange if, in deference both to the antiquity and largeness of the city, and the dignity of the see, no universal decree concerning religion should be made in the absence of the Bishop of Rome, provided he did not refuse to be present. But what has this to do with the dominion of the whole Church? For we deny not that he was one of the principal bishops, though we are unwilling to admit what the Romanists now contend for--viz. that he had power over all.
9. The fourth remaining species of power is that of hearing appeals. It is evident that the supreme power belongs to him to whose tribunal appeals are made. Many had repeatedly appealed to the Roman Pontiff. He also had endeavoured to bring causes under his cognisance, but he had always been derided whenever he went beyond his own boundaries. I say nothing of the East and of Greece, but it is certain, that the bishops of France stoutly resisted when he seemed to assume authority over them. In Africa, the subject was long disputed, for in the Council of Milevita, at which Augustine was present, when those who carried appeals beyond seas were excommunicated, the Roman Pontiff attempted to obtain an alteration of the decree, and sent legates to show that the privilege of hearing appeals was given him by the Council of Nice. The legates produced acts of the council drawn from the armoury of their church. The African bishops resisted, and maintained, that credit was not to be given to the Bishop of Rome in his own cause; accordingly, they said that they would send to Constantinople, and other cities of Greece, where less suspicious copies might be had. It was found that nothing like what the Romanists had pretended was contained in the acts, and thus the decree which abrogated the supreme jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff was confirmed. In this matter was manifested the egregious effrontery of the Roman Pontiff. For when he had fraudulently substituted the Council of Sardis for that of Nice, he was disgracefully detected in a palpable falsehood; but still greater and more impudent was the iniquity of those who added a fictitious letter to the Council, in which some Bishop of Carthage condemns the arrogance of Aurelius his predecessor, in promising to withdraw himself from obedience to the Apostolic See, and making a surrender of himself and his church, suppliantly prays for pardon. These are the noble records of antiquity on which the majesty of the Roman See is founded, while, under the pretext of antiquity, they deal in falsehoods so puerile, that even a blind man might feel them. "Aurelius (says he), elated by diabolical audacity and contumacy, was rebellious against Christ and St Peter, and, accordingly, deserved to be anathematised." What does Augustine say? and what the many Fathers who were present at the Council of Milevita? But what need is there to give a lengthened refutation of that absurd writing, which not even Romanists, if they have any modesty left them, can look at without a deep feeling of shame? Thus Gratian, whether through malice or ignorance, I know not, after quoting the decree, That those are to be deprived of communion who carry appeals beyond seas, subjoins the exception, Unless, perhaps, they have appealed to the Roman See (Grat. 2, Quæst. 4, cap. Placuit.). What can you make of creatures like these, who are so devoid of common sense that they set down as an exception from the law the very thing on account of which, as everybody sees, the law was made? For the Council, in condemning transmarine appeals, simply prohibits an appeal to Rome. Yet this worthy expounder excepts Rome from the common law.
10. But (to end the question at once) the kind of jurisdiction which belonged to the Roman Bishop one narrative will make manifest. Donatus of Casa Nigra had accused Cecilianus the Bishop of Carthage. Cecilianus was condemned without a hearing: for, having ascertained that the bishops had entered into a conspiracy against him, he refused to appear. The case was brought before the Emperor Constantine. who, wishing the matter to be ended by an ecclesiastical decision; gave the cognisance of it to Melciades, the Roman Bishop, appointing as his colleagues some bishops from Italy, France, and Spain. If it formed part of the ordinary jurisdiction of the Roman See to hear appeals in ecclesiastical causes, why did he allow others to be conjoined with him at the Emperor's discretion? nay, why does he undertake to decide more from the command of the Emperor than his own office? But let us hear what afterwards happened (see August. Ep. 162, et alibi). Cecilianus prevails. Donatus of Casa Nigra is thrown in his calumnious action and appeals. Constantine devolves the decision of the appeal on the Bishop of Arles, who sits as judge, to give sentence after the Roman Pontiff.  If the Roman See has supreme power not subject to appeal, why does Melciades allow himself to be so greatly insulted as to have the Bishop of Arles preferred to him? And who is the Emperor that does this? Constantine, who they boast not only made it his constant study, but employed all the resources of the empire to enlarge the dignity of that see. We see, therefore, how far in every way the Roman Pontiff was from that supreme dominion, which he asserts to have been given him by Christ over all churches, and which he falsely alleges that he possessed in all ages, with the consent of the whole world.
11. I know how many epistles there are, how many rescripts and edicts in which there is nothing which the pontiffs do not ascribe and confidently arrogate to themselves. But all men of the least intellect and learning know, that the greater part of them are in themselves so absurd, that it is easy at the first sight to detect the forge from which they have come. Does any man of sense and soberness think that Anacletus is the author of that famous interpretation which is given in Gratian, under the name of Anacletus--viz. that Cephas is head? (Dist. 22, cap. Sacrosancta.) Numerous follies of the same kind which Gratian has heaped together without judgment, the Romanists of the present day employ against us in defence of their see. The smoke, by which, in the former days of ignorance, they imposed upon the ignorant, they would still vend in the present light. I am unwilling to take much trouble in refuting things which, by their extreme absurdity, plainly refute themselves. I admit the existence of genuine epistles by ancient Pontiffs, in which they pronounce magnificent eulogiums on the extent of their see. Such are some of the epistles of Leo. For as he possessed learning and eloquence, so he was excessively desirous of glory and dominion; but the true question is, whether or not, when he thus extolled himself, the churches gave credit to his testimony? It appears that many were offended with his ambition, and also resisted his cupidity. He in one place appoints the Bishop of Thessalonica his vicar throughout Greece and other neighbouring regions (Leo, Ep. 85), and elsewhere gives the same office to the Bishop of Arles or some other throughout France (Ep. 83). In like manner, he appointed Hormisdas, Bishop of Hispala, his vicar throughout Spain, but he uniformly makes this reservation, that in giving such commissions, the ancient privileges of the Metropolitans were to remain safe and entire. These appointments, therefore, were made on the condition, that no bishop should be impeded in his ordinary jurisdiction, no Metropolitan in taking cognisance of appeals, no provincial council in constituting churches. But what else was this than to decline all jurisdiction, and to interpose for the purpose of settling discord only, in so far as the law and nature of ecclesiastical communion admit?
12. In the time of Gregory, that ancient rule was greatly changed. For when the empire was convulsed and torn, when France and Spain were suffering from the many disasters which they ever and anon received, when Illyricum was laid waste, Italy harassed, and Africa almost destroyed by uninterrupted calamities, in order that, during these civil convulsions, the integrity of the faith might remain, or at least not entirely perish, the bishops in all quarters attached themselves more to the Roman Pontiff. In this way, not only the dignity, but also the power of the see, exceedingly increased, although I attach no great importance to the means by which this was accomplished. It is certain, that it was then greater than in former ages. And yet it was very different from the unbridled dominion of one ruling others as he pleased. Still the reverence paid to the Roman See was such, that by its authority it could guide and repress those whom their own colleagues were unable to keep to their duty; for Gregory is careful ever and anon to testify that he was not less faithful in preserving the rights of others, than in insisting that his own should be preserved. "I do not," says he, "under the stimulus of ambition, derogate from any man's right, but desire to honour my brethren in all things" (Gregor. Lib. 2 Ep. 68). There is no sentence in his writings in which he boasts more proudly of the extent of his primacy than the following: "I know not what bishop is not subject to the Roman See, when he is discovered in a fault" (Leo. Lib. 2, Epist. 68). However, he immediately adds, "Where faults do not call for interference, all are equal according to the rule of humility." He claims for himself the right of correcting those who have sinned; if all do their duty, he puts himself on a footing of equality. He, indeed, claimed this right, and those who chose assented to it, while those who were not pleased with it were at liberty to object with impunity; and it is known that the greater part did so. We may add, that he is then speaking of the primate of Byzantium, who, when condemned by a provincial synod, repudiated the whole judgment. His colleagues had informed the Emperor of his contumacy, and the Emperor had given the cognisance of the matter to Gregory. We see, therefore, that he does not interfere in any way with the ordinary jurisdiction, and that, in acting as a subsidiary to others, he acts entirely by the Emperor's command.
13. At this time, therefore, the whole power of the Roman Bishop consisted in opposing stubborn and ungovernable spirits, where some extraordinary remedy was required, and this in order to assist other bishops, not to interfere with them. Therefore, he assumes no more power over others than he elsewhere gives others over himself, when he confesses that he is ready to be corrected by all, amended by all (Lib. 2 Ep. 37). So, in another place, though he orders the Bishop of Aquileia to come to Rome to plead his cause in a controversy as to doctrine which had arisen between himself and others, he thus orders not of his own authority, but in obedience to the Emperor's command. Nor does he declare that he himself will be sole judge, but promises to call a synod, by which the whole business may be determined. But although the moderation was still such, that the power of the Roman See had certain limits which it was not permitted to overstep, and the Roman Bishop himself was not more above than under others, it appears how much Gregory was dissatisfied with this state of matters. For he ever and anon complains, that he, under the colour of the episcopate, was brought back to the world, and was more involved in earthly cares than when living as a laic; that he, in that honourable office, was oppressed by the tumult of secular affairs. Elsewhere he says, "So many burdensome occupations depress me, that my mind cannot at all rise to things above. I am shaken by the many billows of causes, and after they are quieted, am afflicted by the tempests of a tumultuous life, so that I may truly say I am come into the depths of the sea, and the flood has overwhelmed me." From this I infer what he would have said if he had fallen on the present times. If he did not fulfil, he at least did the duty of a pastor. He declined the administration of civil power, and acknowledged himself subject, like others, to the Emperor. He did not interfere with the management of other churches, unless forced by necessity. And yet he thinks himself in a labyrinth, because he cannot devote himself entirely to the duty of a bishop.
14. At that time, as has already been said, the Bishop of Constantinople was disputing with the Bishop of Rome for the primacy. For after the seat of empire was fixed at Constantinople, the majesty of the empire seemed to demand that that church should have the next place of honour to that of Rome. And certainly, at the outset, nothing had tended more to give the primacy to Rome, than that it was then the capital of the empire. In Gratian, (Dist. 80), there is a rescript under the name of Pope Lucinus, to the effect that the only way in which the cities where Metropolitans and Primates ought to preside were distinguished, was by means of the civil government which had previously existed. There is a similar rescript under the name of Pope Clement, in which he says, that patriarchs were appointed in those cities which had previously had the first flamens. Although this is absurd, it was borrowed from what was true. For it is certain, that in order to make as little change as possible, provinces were distributed according to the state of matters then existing, and Primates and Metropolitans were placed in those cities which surpassed others in honours and power. Accordingly, it was decreed in the Council of Turin, that the cities of every province which were first in the civil government should be the first sees of bishops. But if it should happen that the honour of civil government was transferred from one city to another, then the right of the metropolis should be at the same time transferred thither. But Innocent, the Roman Pontiff, seeing that the ancient dignity of the city had been decaying ever since the seat of empire had been transferred to Constantinople, and fearing for his see, enacted a contrary law, in which he denies the necessity of changing metropolitan churches as imperial metropolitan cities were changed. But the authority of a synod is justly to be preferred to the opinion of one individual, and Innocent himself should be suspected in his own cause. However this be, he by his caveat shows the original rule to have been, that Metropolitans should be distributed according to the order of the empire.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2010 We’re One, but We’re Not the Same
If it’s new, it’s likely not true, and if it’s true, it’s likely not new, or so the saying goes. Generally speaking, when someone uses the word new to describe something old, I’m not only not impressed but usually a bit puzzled and often a bit concerned. Although the phrase the “New Calvinism” has been around for centuries in one form or another, the recently popularized use of the phrase is largely attributable to Time magazine’s March 12, 2009, cover story “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” Number three on their list? The New Calvinism. In God’s providence, Time’s journalistic efforts helped to shine an even bigger spotlight on a global movement many of us have been aware of for quite some time.
In his 2006 Christianity Today cover story and subsequent book Young, Restless, and Reformed, journalist Collin Hansen provided us with a helpful glimpse of various ministries and men that have been influential in this Calvinistic resurgence among a new generation of believers. Hansen surveyed some of the men whose confessionally and historically Calvinistic and Reformed ministries are foundational to this Calvinistic resurgence, but he also reported that many associated with the New Calvinism are committed Baptists who would of course have differences with us old Calvinists as well as with John Calvin himself. Nevertheless, while differences do indeed exist among us (which no one pretends otherwise), there is most certainly a common doctrinal bond that unites us in our respective Protestant confessional traditions—a fundamental agreement on the sovereign character and work of God.
Calvinists, new and old, and all “Calvinists” before Calvin, have stood with one voice as we have answered age-old questions pertaining to God, man, the gospel, and salvation. From the Augsburg Confession of the Lutherans (1530) to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglicans (1563) to the Canons of Dort (1619) to the First London Baptist Confession (1644) to the Westminster Standards (1646) to the Second London Baptist Confession (1689), we have been united in the essential matters of the faith and have historically worked carefully to apply the ancient maxim: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Although in applying such a principle we certainly don’t want to make light of the real differences between old and new Calvinists, we do want to make sure we are all taking the same position as we worship our one sovereign God, coram Deo, as Calvin—and as Christ—would have it.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
At a Memorial Day event, May 31, 1923, Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, gave a message entitled "The Destiny of America," saying: "Settlers came here from mixed motives, some for… adventure, some for trade and refuge, but… generally defined…. They were intent upon establishing a Christian commonwealth in accordance to the principle of self-government…. It has been said that God sifted the nations that He might send choice grain into the wilderness."
President Coolidge concluded: "Who can fail to see in it the hand of destiny? Who can doubt that it has been guided by a Divine Providence?"the hand of destiny? Who can doubt that it has been guided by a Divine Providence?"
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Don't look for God where He is needed most;
if you didn't bring Him there, He isn't there.
--- Mignon McLaughlin
The second neurotic's notebook
God waits to win back his own flowers
as gifts from man's hands.
--- Rabindranath Tagore
For you that are parents, or to whom the education of children is comitted, I beseech you mind the duty which lies on you. … For to what purpose do we desire them before we have them, rejoice in them when we have them, value them so highly, sympathize with them so tenderly, grieve for their death so excessively, if in the meantime no care be taken what shall become of them to eternity? … If you neglect to instruct them in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No, no, if you will not teach them to pray, he will teach them to curse, swear and lie. If ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring up.
--- John Flavel
I may not understand, Lord, but one day I shall see
Thy loving hand was taking pains to fashion me like Thee.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
Spirituality and Law
The Shema has much to tell us about the tension between spirituality and law that lies at the very heart of the Jewish religious enterprise. By “spirituality” I mean the intention we bring to our religious acts, the focusing of our mind and thoughts on the transcendent, the entire range of mindfulness—whether simple awareness of what we are doing, in contrast to rote performance, or elaborate mystical meditations—that spells a groping for the Source of all existence and the Giver of Torah. By “law” I refer to the Halakha, the corpus of Jewish law that has its origin in the Oral Law beginning with Sinai and that was eventually written down in the Mishnah and Gemara—i.e., the Talmud—and codified by later rabbinic authorities.
The contrast between the two—spirituality and law—is almost self-evident. Spirituality is subjective; the very fact of its inwardness implies a certain degree of anarchy; it is unfettered and self-directed, impulsive and spontaneous. In contrast, law is objective; it requires discipline, structure, obedience, order. Yet both are necessary. Spirituality alone begets antinomianism and chaos; law alone is artificial and insensitive. Without the body of the law, spirituality is a ghost. Without the sweep of the soaring soul, the corpus of the law tends to become a corpse. But how can two such opposites coexist within one personality without producing unwelcome schizoid consequences?
Such criticism has a long history. Early Christianity—and later varieties as well, down to our own day—denounced Judaism, as it was being taught and codified and expanded by the great Pharisee teachers, as legalistic and heartless; hence their use of “Pharisee” and “Pharisaic” as terms of opprobrium. In reaction, some defenders of traditional Judaism, exaggerating a valid point to the level of distortion, have focused on Halakha as the totality of Judaism, thus reinforcing the Christian caricature of Judaism.
But such a simplistic dualism misses the point. The life of the spirit need not be chaotic and undisciplined; the life of law, similarly, need not exclude the pulsing heart and soaring soul of the religious individual. In Judaism, spirituality is not antinomian, that is, the opposite of law and a structured approach to our duty under God. Halakha, a “way of life,” does not preclude the participation of the heart and a deepening of inwardness. In Judaism, each side—spirit and law—shows understanding for the other; we are not asked to choose one over the other, but to practice a proper balance that respects and reconciles the demands of each.
About a millennium ago, R. Baḥya Ibn Pakuda, dayyan (religious judge) and philosopher of Saragossa, Spain, undertook in his Duties of the Heart to restore the balance between spirit (“duties of the heart”) and law (“duties of the limbs”). At the end of the eighteenth century, a similar but far more controversial effort was undertaken by hasidic masters, such as R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, who were unsparing and acerbic in criticizing their contemporary rabbinic leaders for overemphasizing study and the performance of the commandments, to the exclusion of spiritual participation. And then, as often happens, the pendulum swung to the other extreme; the Hasidim overemphasized spirituality, especially in the sense of ecstasy, at the expense of halakhic correctness. Such excess occasioned reactions from the anti-hasidic rabbinic authorities until a delicate balance was established that did not violate the sensibilities of either group.
To appreciate fully how Judaism has accommodated both spirituality and law within its practice, we can find no better illustration than the teachings pertaining to the proper manner of reading the Shema. Here spirituality defers to law; Halakha dictates such things as the time for the Reading, its language and audibility, and the posture of the reader. In turn, the law not only accommodates but requires spiritual intention, i.e., kavvanah or meditation, and defines its minimal expression, leaving it up to the spiritual capacity of the reader as to the content and strength of such intention.
Halakha defines at least two levels of kavvanah. The most basic is that of the simple awareness that one intends thereby to fulfill a divine commandment. The other is all the rest—the content of the commandment, its religious significance, its spiritual affirmations and commitments, etc. It is this second segment, the meditations recommended, that constitute the element of “spirituality.” This is not the spirituality of the “New Age” adherents. The spirituality that emerges from the dialectic between the yearning Jewish soul, questing for holiness, and the discipline and restraint of the Halakha is far different from the amorphous personal enthusiasm and hedonistic religiosity that characterizes so many of the contemporary manifestations of “spirituality.” An exposition of the Shema therefore may serve as a paradigm of both the significance of spirituality and the interdependence of spirituality and law in Judaism.
It is in keeping with this goal that this work is written. It is not intended as an historical description of the Reading of the Shema, nor does it in any way presume to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject. In order not to burden the reader with more halakhic material than is necessary for the smooth flow of the text, and yet to accommodate readers more eager for the halakhic dimensions of the Shema, we devote a special appendix to a halakhic analysis of the Shema—its structure and the kavvanah that is minimally required. The Book is eclectic in the variety of the sources chosen for presentation and evaluation, drawing on the varied resources of Judaism—Halakha, Kabbalah, Midrash, Hasidism, the classics of Jewish thought and Jewish philosophy, poetry—as well as modern science and contemporary thought. But despite the variety of references, I hope it will prove coherent in support of its central theses, namely, that the Reading of the Shema exemplifies the daily infusion of spirituality in the life of the observant Jew; that it serves as a paradigm of the creative encounter of spirituality and law in Judaism; and that understanding the Shema in and of itself will make its recitation more meaningful to those who read it as well as to those who stand outside the tradition but wish to understand its central role in Jewish life and thought.
The Shema articulates the first and most fundamental principle, monotheism, that differentiates Judaism from the pagan world—both ancient and modern. Paradoxically, it is regarded as so self-evident that it is only mentioned once in the Torah—in the Shema. So central is this commandment to recite the Shema that R. Judah the Prince, redactor of the Mishnah, chose the Shema as the opening halakha of the entire Talmud. We may therefore conclude that this is the primary halakha and the most fundamental principle of Jewish faith.
The Midrash relates:
“Hear (Shema) O Israel” (Deut. 6:4). Why did [Moses] use the word Shema? The Rabbis said: To what may this be compared?—to a king who betrothed a lady with two precious gems. She lost one of them. Said the king to her: You lost one of them, now take good care of the other. So did the Holy One betroth Israel [with two gems]—“We will do (naaseh) and we will obey (nishma; literally, ‘and we will hear’)” (Exod. 24:7). They lost one [gem, the naaseh, “we will do”] when they made the Golden Calf. Hence, Moses said to them: Now take good care to observe the nishma [“we will obey” or “hear”]. Thus: Hear (Shema) O Israel. (Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:11)
This midrash is more than a charming homily; it teaches a truly significant idea, namely, that a person’s conduct over his lifetime is bound to be defective and wanting. “For there is not a just man on earth that does good and sins not”
(Eccles. 7:20). Imperfection is the inescapable lot of humanity; we often do good, but we can never consistently and thoroughly avoid evil. But for two brief periods of the day we do have the opportunity to make up in nishma what we so egregiously lack in naaseh—that is, in our recitation of the first verse of the Shema and in our kavvanah, i.e., the focusing of our attention and intellect on what it is we are saying.
As we shall see, the Halakha never compromised on this principle—as it did, for example, with regard to prayer (by which is meant, technically, the “Eighteen Benedictions,” or Amidah). There, it first restricted the strict and uncompromising need for kavvanah to the first blessing, having despaired of the worshiper’s ability to focus his thoughts on what he is reciting during the entire course of the prayer, and eventually abandoned even that minimal requirement because “nowadays” we do not have the capacity for sustained attention for even one short paragraph. This tolerance for the attention deficit of contemporary man was not permitted to affect the law of the Shema; here the Halakha demanded, even after the fact, the need for kavvanah in reciting the first verse of the Shema. Indeed, there could not be any compromise in the case of the Shema because of the very nature of the halakhic understanding of the Shema, which insisted upon the integrity of the spiritual dimension of the act. Here is a prime instance where law rises to the defense of spirituality.
We will now turn to our study of the Shema. In the next few chapters, we will discuss in depth the first verse of the Shema, the most significant and triumphant proclamation of Jewish monotheism, focusing especially on the kavvanah that ideally ought to inform the meditation of the reader. Afterward, we take up the rest of the first paragraph of the Shema word by word. It is my hope that these pages will help the reader attain a better appreciation of the elegance of Judaism in achieving a synthesis of law and spirituality, in which neither is compromised and both are enhanced, and in discovering in the six verses of the Shema the secret of its hold over the Jewish religious imagination as well as serving as the source of so much of its creative thinking.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. However, he found it impossible to escape envy in such his prosperity; for the glory of these young men affected even Hyrcanus himself already privately, though he said nothing of it to any body; but what he principally was grieved at was the great actions of Herod, and that so many messengers came one before another, and informed him of the great reputation he got in all his undertakings. There were also many people in the royal palace itself who inflamed his envy at him; those, I mean, who were obstructed in their designs by the prudence either of the young men, or of Antipater. These men said, that by committing the public affairs to the management of Antipater and of his sons, he sat down with nothing but the bare name of a king, without any of its authority; and they asked him how long he would so far mistake himself, as to breed up kings against his own interest; for that they did not now conceal their government of affairs any longer, but were plainly lords of the nation, and had thrust him out of his authority; that this was the case when Herod slew so many men without his giving him any command to do it, either by word of mouth, or by his letter, and this in contradiction to the law of the Jews; who therefore, in case he be not a king, but a private man, still ought to come to his trial, and answer it to him, and to the laws of his country, which do not permit any one to be killed till he hath been condemned in judgment.
7. Now Hyrcanus was, by degrees, inflamed with these discourses, and at length could bear no longer, but he summoned Herod to take his trial. Accordingly, by his father's advice, and as soon as the affairs of Galilee would give him leave, he came up to [Jerusalem], when he had first placed garrisons in Galilee; however, he came with a sufficient body of soldiers, so many indeed that he might not appear to have with him an army able to overthrow Hyrcanus's government, nor yet so few as to expose him to the insults of those that envied him. However, Sextus Caesar was in fear for the young man, lest he should be taken by his enemies, and brought to punishment; so he sent some to denounce expressly to Hyrcanus that he should acquit Herod of the capital charge against him; who acquitted him accordingly, as being otherwise inclined also so to do, for he loved Herod.
8. But Herod, supposing that he had escaped punishment without the consent of the king, retired to Sextus, to Damascus, and got every thing ready, in order not to obey him if he should summon him again; whereupon those that were evil-disposed irritated Hyrcanus, and told him that Herod was gone away in anger, and was prepared to make war upon him; and as the king believed what they said, he knew not what to do, since he saw his antagonist was stronger than he was himself. And now, since Herod was made general of Coelesyria and Samaria by Sextus Caesar, he was formidable, not only from the good-will which the nation bore him, but by the power he himself had; insomuch that Hyrcanus fell into the utmost degree of terror, and expected he would presently march against him with his army.
9. Nor was he mistaken in the conjecture he made; for Herod got his army together, out of the anger he bare him for his threatening him with the accusation in a public court, and led it to Jerusalem, in order to throw Hyrcanus down from his kingdom; and this he had soon done, unless his father and brother had gone out together and broken the force of his fury, and this by exhorting him to carry his revenge no further than to threatening and affrighting, but to spare the king, under whom he had been advanced to such a degree of power; and that he ought not to be so much provoked at his being tried, as to forget to be thankful that he was acquitted; nor so long to think upon what was of a melancholy nature, as to be ungrateful for his deliverance; and if we ought to reckon that God is the arbitrator of success in war, an unjust cause is of more disadvantage than an army can be of advantage; and that therefore he ought not to be entirely confident of success in a case where he is to fight against his king, his supporter, and one that had often been his benefactor, and that had never been severe to him, any otherwise than as he had hearkened to evil counselors, and this no further than by bringing a shadow of injustice upon him. So Herod was prevailed upon by these arguments, and supposed that what he had already done was sufficient for his future hopes, and that he had enough shown his power to the nation.
10. In the mean time, there was a disturbance among the Romans about Apamia, and a civil war occasioned by the treacherous slaughter of Sextus Caesar, by Cecilius Bassus, which he perpetrated out of his good-will to Pompey; he also took the authority over his forces; but as the rest of Caesar's commanders attacked Bassus with their whole army, in order to punish him for the murder of Caesar, Antipater also sent them assistance by his sons, both on account of him that was murdered, and on account of that Caesar who was still alive, both of which were their friends; and as this war grew to be of a considerable length, Marcus came out of Italy as successor to Sextus.
by D.H. Stern
yes, his mouth calls out for a beating.
7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin;
his words are a trap for him.
8 A slanderer’s words are tasty morsels;
they slide right down into the belly.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Put God First in Trust. Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, … for He knew what was in man. --- John 2:24–25.
Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man ever can be—absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.
Jn 2:24–25 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. NRSV
Put God’s Needs First. Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.
--- Hebrews 10:9.
A man’s obedience is to what he sees to be a need; Our Lord’s obedience was to the will of His Father. The cry
today is—‘We must get some work to do; the heathen are dying without God; we must go and tell them of Him.’ We have to see first of all that God’s needs in us personally are being met. “Tarry ye until.…” The purpose of this College is to get us rightly related to the needs of God. When God’s needs in us have been met, then He will open the way for us to realize His needs elsewhere.
Put God’s Trust First. And whoso receiveth one such little child in My name, receiveth Me. Matthew 18:5.
God’s trust is that He gives me Himself as a babe. God expects my personal life to be a ‘Bethlehem.’ Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transfigured by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be manifested in my mortal flesh.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Ah. Iago, my friend,
whom the ignorant people thought
The last of your kind,
since all the wealth you brought
From the age of gold
was the yellow dust on your shoes,
Spilled by the meadow flowers,
if you should choose
To wrest your barns
from the wind and the weather's claws,
And break the hold of the moss on roof and gable;
If you can till your fields and stand to see
The world go by, a foolish tapestry
Srawled by the times,
and lead your mares to stable,
And dream your dream, and after the earth's laws
Order your life and faith, then you shall be
The first man of the new community.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
Keritot 11b, 12a
A woman walks out of her house early in the Morning, on her way to work. She's thinking about all the things she has to do and wonders if this will be a good day or a bad one. Suddenly her eye catches a shiny spot by the curb; something is gleaming in the sunlight. She goes over to examine it and finds a penny. She smiles as she stoops down to get it, saying to herself, "Find a penny, pick it up, all the day, you'll have good luck!" The day, by the way, turns out to be an incredible one for the young woman: She finishes a major project she has been working on; the boss compliments her on her work; and at lunch she literally bumps into a handsome young man who asks her to the movies on Saturday night.
Two weeks later, as she leaves her home once again in the Morning, a black cat ominously darts across her path. Her eyes widen in horror, and deep down she wishes she could just go back home and crawl into bed. She knows that bad things will happen today. A few hours later, at work, she slips down the steps and, trying to brace herself, fractures her wrist.
Are there really such things as omens? Rav Ammi seems to believe that "omens are significant," that they can indeed be indicators of what the future holds. He also adds that we should not use these tests. It's not that they are not true; we should avoid them precisely because they do contain the truth. He is worried that if we get a "bad sign," it would weigh so heavily on us that we might bring the bad things upon ourselves.
The Rabbis believe very strongly in free will. They reject the notion that life is all predetermined. They teach that the individual has the power, to a great extent, to determine his or her own future. Yet they also understood human nature well enough to know that most prophecies are self-fulfilling. If we believe good things will happen, very often they do. If we expect bad to come, more often than not, it will. Perception is reality: The way we look at something is the way it is. We eat sweet foods on the first day of the New Year not because we are trying to manipulate fate; by doing so we adjust our own attitudes, beginning the new year on a positive, upbeat note. Sometimes, that is enough to make all the difference.
Some people seem to go through life with a black cloud hanging over their heads. Are these people really unlucky? Or is it possible that some people believe they are unlucky, and subconsciously go through life living out their self-image? On the other hand, people with cancer who focus on positive thoughts and deeply believe they will get well seem to do so at a higher rate than those who give up and believe they are doomed. Athletes who focus on images of success are often much more successful than those who worry about failure.
Omens can be significant, not so much in telling us what will be, but in helping us to focus on what might be.
A man is believed about himself more than a hundred men.
Text / Mishnah (3:1): If two say "He ate," and he says "I did not eat," Rabbi Meir makes him liable. Rabbi Meir said: "If two can bring him to death, which is harsh, can't two bring him to a sacrifice, which is mild?" They said to him: "If he wants, he can say: 'I did it on purpose'!"
Text / Gemara: It was asked of them: What is the Rabbis' reasoning? Is it because a man is believed about himself more than a hundred men?
Context / The Tractate Keritot deals with the thirty-six sins for which one receives karet, a punishment mentioned in the Bible for certain deliberate sins like eating leaven on Pesaḥ or eating prohibited fat of otherwise kosher animals. Karet means "cutting off," and it is often assumed that the punishment is a divine one, God's "cutting off" the sinner from the Israelite nation. Some interpret this to mean dying before one's time. This Mishnah is teaching not about a deliberate offense but, rather, where one inadvertently committed one of the thirty-six sins and is required to bring a sin offering.
The question here is one of a sin offering that would have to be brought if someone inadvertently committed a certain transgression, for example, if he accidentally ate forbidden fat and only later realized it. But what if two witnesses say, "We saw you eating forbidden fat. We know that you would never eat forbidden fat intentionally, but we want you to know that you accidentally ate it and now must bring a sin offering"?
To this, the person answers, "I did not eat. I appreciate your concern, but I know that I did not eat any forbidden fat." What should a person do in such a case? And what should the Rabbis assume about such a person?
There are two viewpoints. Rabbi Meir believes that, in this instance, one is liable for a sacrifice. After all, two witnesses could testify against him that he committed murder, and even if he protested "I did not do it," he would be guilty of a capital crime nonetheless! How much more so should we believe two witnesses who testify against him in the case of an accidental, non-capital sin.
However, the Rabbis disagree. The accused man is putting himself at a disadvantage by saying that he did not eat. The accused can quickly end the discussion by simply admitting: "Yes, I did it—and on purpose!" In this case, the punishment would be shifted from an earthly one (a sin offering for accidental transgression of eating) to a punishment in the hands of Heaven (karet for an intentional sin). Since this man did not offer this excuse, and did not shift the punishment, we assume that he is telling the truth and that he did not eat any forbidden fat. Furthermore, as the Gemara explains, one possible reason we can add to the Rabbis' argument is that people know themselves best. Individuals would know if they ate forbidden fat, and one who claims not to have eaten any is believed.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Teacher's Commentary
Overview / Historical roots are a vital element in our faith. We believe that God has acted in this world of space and time. The events that the Bible records are not myth or fantasy. They are in the fullest sense of the word, history.
One way in which the nature of Scripture as history is affirmed in our Bible is through genealogy. The Hebrew people kept careful records of their lineages. They traced that lineage not just to the tribes that sprang from Israel, but beyond that to Noah and even to Adam himself.
Most of the genealogies in the Old Testament are not complete. That is, they name important people in the family line, but do not name people in every generation. This generation-skipping characteristic of Hebrew genealogies was ignored by Bishop Usher, who by counting up the years of life ascribed to individuals in biblical genealogies, calculated that Creation took place in 4004 B.C.
What the genealogies do teach us, however, is that we must take the Bible seriously as history. The Bible is the story of real people. It is the record of God's actual interventions in time and space. It reports what has actually happened—reports that we are intended to take as fact, and to trust as an accurate record as well as to trust as God's revelation of truth to man.
Commentary / The writer of 1 Chronicles is careful to provide detailed genealogical data. Much of the information in these chapters is drawn from other Old Testament passages. Why are these genealogies here?
The Books of Chronicles were written much later than the parallel Books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. They were in fact written during the Babylonian Captivity, after Judah had been destroyed and her people carried away captives. While the Books of Chronicles cover the same material as that covered in 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings, Chronicles treats that material from a different viewpoint. While 1 and 2 Samuel set out to show the establishment of the Old Testament kingdom, 1 and 2 Chronicles set out to review the entire sacred history, from Adam to the day of the writer. With such a massive subject, selectivity is the key. So the chronicler moves quickly over the earlier historical ages, using the genealogies to summarize what God has done from Creation to the Kingdom Age. He then focuses on David's line and on temple worship. In Chronicles, Israel's evil kings are mentioned only when they come in contact with Judah. Even the writer's discussion of the Davidic line focuses on the good kings.
The Chronicles, then, are essentially a theological overview of kingdom history. They were written after the Exile, when Israel had fallen into such sin that the people were expelled from the Promised Land. The glory of David was remembered, but had long faded. Here the divine commentary recalls that glory, but not as a lost dream. Everything here is seen as evidence that God fulfills His commitment to His people, and will yet fulfill the promise of an everlasting kingdom.
The Genealogies: 1 Chronicles 1–10 / The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1–10 are included for several reasons. First, they are a simplified, almost shorthand way of reviewing the history of God's works, and of His special commitment to the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Second, the genealogies provide evidence that the present generation has a valid claim to the divine promises. And third, they bring the reader through history up to the period on which the writer intends to focus: the era of the kingdom and the age of the temple.
The genealogies, then, with their emphasis on David's line, bring us to the theme that the writer will now emphasize: the kingdom, as the great divide in the history of God's unveiling of His purposes through Israel, the people of God.
Captivity for Judah / 25:1–26 - 36:15–21 / Overlap of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles / The Review of History / What images and memories would the repetition of these genealogies, so boring to many of us moderns, have cast for the Hebrew reader? They would, essentially, have reviewed all of sacred history. Let's trace that history as it happened, and as it is reflected in the names of men long dead, but men who were vital in the unfolding of God's revelation of Himself and of His plan.
Creation. Genesis 1 and 2 provide the context. We come to understand this universe we live in and our place in it. The Bible tells us that God created the material universe from nothing; all that exists must be understood in the personal framework that God Himself provides. The universe is not an impersonal "thing," but rather the planned expression of God's might and power and personality.
Genesis also explains man as being the focus and pinnacle of Creation—a creature made in the image of God and thereby vested both with significance and a derived glory. Man cannot be understood unless he is seen as irrevocably related to the eternal, though temporarily occupying space and time. Because man is made in God's image, each individual is of vital importance to God and special to Him.
So these earliest chapters of Scripture, represented by Adam in the genealogies, introduce us to ourselves and to our identity. They explain why each of us stands in need of a vital relationship with God. Without such a relationship to the God whose image we bear, each of us is incomplete. God made us for Himself, and we are restless and ill at ease apart from Him.
Sin. Adam in the genealogies also represents sin. The biblical account moves beyond the initial Creation and, in Genesis 3, shares the story of Adam's fall. This report accounts for the alienation and loneliness we each feel, as well as for the tugging power of sin to which we are each subject. In Adam, mankind chose to attempt life apart from God. Adam traded trust in his Creator for the empty privilege of choosing to do wrong. Ever since then, societies and individuals have shown the agonizing warping of sin-sick personalities.
When Adam sinned, something vital in each person died. Death, not life, became the experience of all men.
Sin's expression in Adam's family. The genealogies are silent concerning Cain and Abel, and the writer goes directly to Seth. But the silence is a painful one, for all remember the unnamed sons.
Chapters 4 and 5 of Genesis examine the impact of sin in Adam's own family. We see one son murder his brother and go on to establish a civilization in which harming others becomes a way of life.
Already in history events had begun to demonstrate the reality and the awfulness of sin. Satan had denied to Eve that sin led to death. Now man began to drink deeply of all that death really means—the dissolution of the personality, and the return of the body to dust.
God acted to cover Adam and Eve's sin. God had already introduced the idea of sacrifice. But since Adam had chosen sin, the ultimate meaning of this pathway would now become known. Adam had refused to trust; now God would demonstrate across the centuries and millenniums of human history how utterly true His words and warnings are.
Israel remembered the old stories of the God who spoke to their forefathers and who made great promises. But under the harsh reality of their immediate circumstances, the past they recalled and the future they dreamed of must have seemed tragically unreal.
Over generations of slavery, the people of Israel were humbled and crushed. They discovered through their suffering that there was no inherent strength in themselves that could win them freedom. Release could only come through the intervention of God.
Deliverance. God did intervene. Exodus tells us how God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh, Egypt's ruler. God's first demands that Pharaoh let His people go were refused. This brought a series of terrible judgments on the Egyptian people. Finally God struck down the oldest son in each Egyptian family. In terror, the Egyptians thrust Israel out of their country.
The redemption of Israel from Egypt by God's direct and personal intervention is a symbol of all redemption. What man cannot do to free himself from sin's slavery, God can do.
The redemption from Egypt also reaffirmed to Israel the faithfulness of God. God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and acted to keep His promises.
In order that Israel might always remember their need for God's intervention, the Passover feast was instituted. This annual time of remembering deliverance was designed to remind Israel that God is the source of their freedom.
In a series of continuing miracles, including the opening of the Red Sea for Israel and its closing to destroy a pursuing Egyptian army, God demonstrated His firm intention to free His people forever from the slavery under which they had suffered.
The Law. The name of Moses is forever linked with Law. Israel's redemption from Egypt freed God's people from external tyranny. But events soon demonstrated that this people was in bondage to an inner tyranny that was even more destructive. Sin sinks its roots deep into the personalities of even redeemed men and women. Once out of Egypt, God's people murmured and complained. They forgot His commitment to them, and they began to doubt and resist Moses at every turn.
God guided His people to Sinai. There God gave Israel a Law to set standards that revealed the Lord's own character, and showed them the way He expected His people to live. As told in Exodus 19—24, at Sinai God gave His people the Mosaic Law. This Law not only established moral standards, but also defined the distinctive lifestyle which God was to hold His people to, both for their benefit and as a testimony.
But, again, the Law provided an external standard. It did not change Israel within. The continuing story of the redeemed generation shows their inability to trust God, and the subsequent disobedience. Commanded to enter the Promised Land, Israel refused. The people were condemned to 38 years of wandering in the wilderness, until the generation that had known God's deliverance from Egypt died. Because of unbelief they were unable to enter into the promised rest.
The new generation. The men and women who had seen God's mighty acts in Egypt, but had refused to trust Him, died. Their children now stood poised on the edge of the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy, we hear Moses restate the Law and sketch again the lifestyle of trust to which God called His people. In Joshua we see the new generation respond to God and follow their new leader to victory.
The Promised Land was taken in a series of swift military moves, with God making His presence known on the side of His people at Jericho and in other actions.
With opposition of the people of the land rendered ineffective, the people of God settled into their promised rest.
Sin reappears again. Even though Israel moved into an ideal environment, in a social system designed by God to bless His people, the ancient specter of sin again appeared. The generations that followed drifted away from God and were marked by growing disobedience. Over the decades, the lifestyle of Israel deteriorated. God judged sin with the removal of His protection, and Israel's enemies gained ascendancy over the 12 tribes. Yet, when Israel turned to God, He sent deliverers or "judges" to free the people from their enemies and lead them back to His ways.
The more than 330 years that the Judges ruled were days of repeated ups and downs for Israel. But the trend of history was downward. The days of the Judges were dark days, days during which sin's dreadful dominion was demonstrated even under the divinely ordained system of government, the theocracy, which was potentially the best man has ever known.
The kingdom. Finally Israel demanded a new system of government. Israel's first king, Saul, demonstrated once again that the root of the sin problem is in man, not in society. But then God gave Israel a godly king, David. David led Israel to a foreshadowing of that glory which God told His people to expect.
It is here that the 1 Chronicles' genealogies end. "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the Word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Chron. 10:13–14).
The Lesson / For the Israelite, a review of the genealogies was a review of sacred history itself. There were so many memories, captured there by familiar names.
The review of history was also a reminder to the Israelite of his heritage. As a descendant of Abraham, he was one of that special line chosen to be the focus of God's working in the world.
But for us, as we look back over Old Testament history as it is reflected in these names, there is another lesson as well. Our journey through Bible history reminds us that no changes in external conditions brought men to the condition of blessedness and dominion that God intends for man. Yet, human beings still struggle to find release and fulfillment without God, denying God's judgment that it is sin that has brought death, and that death still holds man and society in its unbreakable grip.
Looking ahead, in future studies we'll trace God's continuing revelation of His own solution to each individual's—and society's—need. We'll see in the continuing flow of history even more evidence that nothing apart from God's personal action in Christ can offer meaningful hope.
There is a personal message in this flow of history. The death we see expressed in history and in society grips you and me as well as others. You and I must turn from our own efforts and reject all the tempting solutions the world offers. We must seek God's intervention in our own lives. As the New Testament phrases God's message to the individual, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked" (Eph. 2:1–2, NASB).
The passage, Ephesians 2, goes on to explain. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ" (vv. 4–5, NASB).
In the person of Jesus Christ, promised in the Old Testament and revealed in the New, God has acted to bring you and me the possibility of life, and to call us from the experience of sin's death to a new and abundant life in Jesus.
If we have heard the message of Bible history, our eyes have been turned away from ourselves and our own efforts to God. If we have heard the message of Bible history, we have recognized the reality of death, spiritual and physical. If we have heard the message of Bible history, we can begin to realize that our one and only hope is in God, our Creator and the Saviour of us all.
The Teacher's Commentary
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Another possible indication that the Torah was considered authoritative Scripture before the middle of the Second Temple period is the translation of those texts into the vernacular languages. The Iliad and the Odyssey, despite their central cultural importance when the Romans took over the Greek culture, were apparently never translated into Latin in antiquity. A summary of the Iliad is attributed to Baebius Italicus in Nero’s time, but it is a brief (only 1,070 hexameters) pedestrian version of the majestic original. By contrast with the Homeric poems, which were not translated, the Torah was translated in subsequent centuries into languages that the people could understand. The texts were important not only for the educated and cultured, and spoke not only of the past; they were central to the ongoing life of the whole community and had to be applicable to the future situations that the people might encounter. So the Scriptures were translated into Aramaic and Greek, the respective languages of the Persian Empire and the Jewish community in Babylon, and of the Hellenistic Empire and the Jewish community in Alexandria.
The Babylonian destruction and exile caused many fractures in Israel’s life, including that of language. Aramaic was the imperial language of the Persian Empire, and Greek the language that the successors of Alexander attempted to impose upon their conquered territories. Though there was resistance to Greek culture, an increasing number of Jews became Aramaic or Greek speakers, creating a need for translations. Because the texts were important for community identity and had to be applicable to the future situations and foreign surroundings in which the Jewish people would find themselves in the Diaspora, the Scriptures were translated into languages that the people could understand.
There is no early evidence, but it seems likely that by the third century B.C.E. the Jewish community in Babylon had begun to translate the Torah and possibly also prophetic books into Aramaic. We do not know whether these were complete, written translations or oral, functional explanations of the Hebrew. The latter scene is mirrored in Neh. 8:8, narrated probably in the fourth century: accompanying a public reading from the Hebrew scroll, the Levites translated it and gave the sense, so that the people could understand. The earliest extant manuscripts are a Targum of Leviticus (4QtgLev) from the late second or early first century B.C.E. and two of Job (4QtgJob, 11QtgJob) from the middle of the first century C.E. Apart from these Qumran texts, the witness of the Targums for text-critical purposes is reduced, however, irrespective of the date when complete Targums of the Torah and other books were finally written down, since all preserved Targum texts have subsequently been revised to agree with an early form of the Masoretic Text (MT). It is difficult to have confidence that any specific readings provide premishnaic evidence.
Unlike the nebulous situation regarding early Aramaic translations, the probability is strong that the Jewish community in Alexandria had translated the Torah into Greek during the third century B.C.E. The legendary Letter of Aristeas elaborately narrates such an early translation, though it is generally believed to have been written in support of a version making claims for hegemony about a century later. Nevertheless, plausible examples of quotations in the late third and the second century B.C.E. as well as manuscript evidence make a third-century date for the translation close to certain. Demetrius the Chronographer already in the late third century quotes the Greek Genesis, and Eupolemus in the mid-second century uses the Greek Chronicles, which probably means that the more important Prophets had already been translated as well. Moreover, in the last third of the second century Ben Sira’s grandson translated his grandfather’s work and only casually mentions the translation of the Torah and the Prophets and other books, which suggests that those translations were not recent but had become widely known. Finally, the discovery of second-century manuscripts of Greek Pentateuchal books both in Egypt and in Palestine (already showing noticeable development) makes a third-century translation probable. Again, this unprecedented fact of translation may be a strong indicator that the Torah had become regarded as authoritative Scripture.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
When you pray, say: “Father.” --- Luke 11:2.
This new name, Father, Christ places at the very commencement of the model prayer. (THE MODEL PRAYER A Series of Expositions on "The Lord's Prayer" ) This name is to be the very basis of our prayer. The psalmist asked himself this question one day: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” Who has the right to worship God and pray to him? And he proceeds to answer the question. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” But the psalmist’s answer is one of blank despair. For who is there whose hands are clean? Who is there whose heart is pure? When we look on ourselves what do we see but sin! SIN! SIN! If we have to wait till our hands are clean and our hearts pure, we will never, never ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in his holy place. What right have I, sinful being, to pray? What warrant have I for coming boldly to the throne of grace? I have no right but that which this name gives. I have no warrant except that which the name Father supplies. That is my right—not that I have clean hands or a pure heart, but that I am a child, and he, the almighty God, is my Father. Lord of the universe? Yes. Maker of the worlds? Yes. King of Kings? Yes. But my Father. Let us preface every prayer with that blessed word. It is our claim on God.
This name is ours to use; the love implied in it is ours to enjoy. Not one of us need go through life alone; not one of us need be orphaned and poor; not one of us need carry a troubled, anxious heart. For Christ has taught us to see love on the throne and to call to the almighty and everlasting God, who faints not, neither is weary, “Our Father in heaven.”
---J. D. Jones
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Half-Crazy Cruden May 31
Christians of many generations have located verses of Scripture by pulling their Cruden’s Concordance off its shelf. Spurgeon wrote in the flyleaf of his, “For ten years this has been at my left hand when the Word of God has been at my right.”
Here’s the rest of the story: Alexander Cruden was born in Scotland on May 31, 1699. His father, a strict Puritan, forbade games on the Lord’s Day, and Alexander entertained himself by tracing words through the Bible. He enrolled in college at 13, graduated at 19, and fell in love. The girl’s father forbade him in the house, and when the girl became pregnant, she was sent away. Alexander, his nerves broken, entered an asylum.
In 1726 he was hired to read books for Lord Derby of Sussex. Alexander began reading the way he always did—spelling out each word letter by letter. He was quickly fired, but he refused to leave the grounds. For months, he followed Lord Derby around, creating one scene after another. He eventually moved to London and began working on his Concordance. It was published in 1737 and became an immediate success.
Alexander fell in love again, was rejected again, and went to such extremes to attract the woman’s affection that he was seized, taken to a private asylum, and chained to a bed for ten weeks. He finally managed to escape by cutting off the bed leg, then began traveling around calling himself “Alexander the Corrector,” trying to reform morals. One Evening, wanting to stop a man from swearing, he hit him over the head with a shovel. A riot ensued, and Alexander endured a third stay in an asylum. Being released, he fell in love again, was rejected again, and badgered the king to appoint him “Alexander the Corrector.”
People thought him crazy—but they loved his Concordance. Alexander spent his final days giving out tracts and studying the Bible. One Morning in 1770, a servant found him on his knees, his head on the open Bible, dead. “This half-crazy Cruden,” said Spurgeon, “did better service to the church than half the D.D.’s and L.L.D.’s of all time.”
If we seem out of our minds, it is between God and us. But if we are in our right minds, it is for your good. We are ruled by Christ’s love for us. We are certain that if one person died for everyone else, than all of us have died. And Christ did die for all of us.
--- 2 Corinthians 5:13-15a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 31
“The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron.” --- 2 Samuel 15:23.
David passed that gloomy brook when flying with his mourning company from his traitor son. The man after God’s own heart was not exempt from trouble, nay, his life was full of it. He was both the Lord’s Anointed, and the Lord’s Afflicted. Why then should we expect to escape? At sorrow’s gates the noblest of our race have waited with ashes on their heads, wherefore then should we complain as though some strange thing had happened unto us?
The KING of kings himself was not favoured with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the filthy ditch of Kidron, through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed. God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod. It is a great joy to believe that Jesus has been tempted in all points like as we are. What is our Kidron this Morning? Is it a faithless friend, a sad bereavement, a slanderous reproach, a dark foreboding? The King has passed over all these. Is it bodily pain, poverty, persecution, or contempt? Over each of these Kidrons the King has gone before us. “In all our afflictions he was afflicted.” The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and for ever, for he who is the Head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar. All the citizens of Zion must be free of the Honourable Company of Mourners, of which the Prince Immanuel is Head and Captain.
Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city, and David’s Lord arose victorious from the grave; let us then be of good courage, for we also shall win the day. We shall yet with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation, though now for a season we have to pass by the noxious streams of sin and sorrow. Courage, soldiers of the Cross, the King himself triumphed after going over Kidron, and so shall you.
Evening - May 31
“Who healeth all thy diseases.” --- Psalm 103:3.
Humbling as is the statement, yet the fact is certain, that we are all more or less suffering under the disease of sin. What a comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! Let us think of him awhile to-night. His cures are very speedy—there is life in a look at him; his cures are radical—he strikes at the centre of the disease; and hence, his cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that his patients should be merely patched up for a season, he makes new men of them: a new heart also does he give them, and a right spirit does he put with them. He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some speciality. Although they may know a little about almost all our pains and ills, there is usually one disease which they have studied above all others; but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and never yet did he meet with an out-of-the-way case that was difficult to him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but he has known exactly with one glance of his eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor; and the medicine he gives is the only true catholicon, healing in every instance. Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart which Jesus cannot bind up. “His blood cleanseth from all sin.” We have but to think of the myriads who have been delivered from all sorts of diseases through the power and virtue of his touch, and we shall joyfully put ourselves in his hands. We trust him, and sin dies; we love him, and grace lives; we wait for him and grace is strengthened; we see him as he is, and grace is perfected forever.
Morning and Evening
MY COUNTRY, ’TIS OF THEE
Samuel Francis Smith, 1808–1895
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)
Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.
--- William Penn
Moved deeply by the desire to create a national hymn that would allow the American people to offer praise to God for our wonderful land, a 24 year-old theological student penned these lines on a scrap of paper in less than 30 minutes in 1832. Yet even today many consider “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” their favorite patriotic hymn and call it our “unofficial national anthem.”
The easily singable words of the song are matched with a popular international melody used by many nations, including England, where it accompanies “God Save the King/Queen.” The emotionally powerful ideas that Smith expressed had an immediate response. The hymn soon became a national favorite. The stirring tributes to our fatherland in the first three stanzas lead to a worshipful climax of gratefulness to God and a prayer for His continued guidance.
Following his graduation from Harvard and the Andover Theological Seminary, Samuel Smith became an outstanding minister in several Baptist churches in the East. He composed 150 hymns during his 87 years and helped compile the leading Baptist hymnal of his day. He was also editor of a missionary magazine through which he exerted a strong influence in promoting the cause of missions. Later he became the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union and spent considerable time visiting various foreign fields. Samuel Smith was truly a distinctive representative of both his country and his God.
My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from ev’ry mountain side let freedom ring!
My native country, thee, land of the noble free, thy name I love: I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills; my heart with rapture thrills like that above.
Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song: Let mortal tongues awake; let all that breathe partake; let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
Our father’s God, to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing: Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light; protect us by Thy might, great God, our King!
For Today: Psalm 33; Matthew 22:21; Acts 10:35; Romans 13:1–7.
Spend time thinking of the many wonderful positive aspects of our great land and give praise to God for all of His past blessings. Pray for His continued guidance and protection in future days. Carry this musical message as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XLI. — AND, first of all, let us begin regularly with your definition: according to which, you define “Free-will” thus, — “Moreover I consider Free-will in this light: that it is a power in the human will, by which, a man may apply himself to those things which lead unto eternal salvation, or turn away from the same.” —
With a great deal of policy indeed, you have here stated a mere naked definition, without declaring any part of it, (as all others do); because, perhaps, you feared more shipwrecks than one. I therefore am compelled to state the several parts myself. The thing defined itself, if it be closely examined, has a much wider extent than the definition of it: and such a definition, the Sophists would call faulty: that is, when the definition does not fully embrace the thing defined. For I have shown before, that “Free-will” cannot be applied to any one but to God only. You may, perhaps, rightly assign to man some kind of will, but to assign unto him “Free-will” in divine things, is going too far. For the term “Free-will,” in the judgment of the ears of all, means, that which can, and does do God-ward, whatever it pleases, restrainable by no law and no command. But you cannot call him Free, who is a servant acting under the power of the Lord. How much less, then, can we rightly call men or angels free, who so live under the all-overruling command of God, (to say nothing of sin and death,) that they cannot consist one moment by their own power.
Here then, at the outset, the definition of the term, and the definition of the thing termed, militate against each other: because the term signifies one thing, and the thing termed is, by experience, found to be another. It would indeed be more properly termed “Vertible-will,” or “Mutable-will.” For in this way Augustine, and after him the Sophists, diminished the glory and force of the term, free; adding thereby this detriment, that they assign vertibility to “Free-will.” And it becomes us thus to speak, lest, by inflated and lofty terms of empty sound, we should deceive the hearts of men. And, as Augustine also thinks, we ought to speak according to a certain rule, in sober and proper words; for in teaching, simplicity and propriety of argumentation is required, and not highflown figures of rhetorical persuasion.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
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New T Studies I Lecture 14
New T Studies I Lecture 15
New T Studies I Lecture 16
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
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