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Numbers 11     Psalm 48     Isaiah 1     Hebrews 9


Numbers 11

The People Complain

Numbers 11:1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.    The scholastic resources I referred to regarding Taberah all said the same thing. It was a place in the wilderness where the Israelites were quickly punished for complaining. The Legends of the Jews: Moses in the Wilderness was much more interesting. "The sad predicament of Moses on this occasion is partly traceable to the fact that he had to face alone the murmurs and complaints of the people without the accustomed assistance of the seventy elders. Since the exodus from Egypt the seventy elders of the people had always been at his side, but these had recently been killed by the fire from heaven at Taberah, so that he now stood all alone. This death overtook the elders because like Nadab and Abihu they had not shown sufficient reverence in ascending Mount Sinai on the day of the revelation, when, in view of the Divine vision, they conducted themselves in an unseemly manner. Like Nadab and Abihu the elders would have received instantaneous punishment for their offense, had not God been unwilling to spoil the joyful day of the revelation by their death. But they had to pay the penalty nevertheless: Nadab and Abihu, by being burned at the consecration of the Tabernacle, and the elders similarly, at Taberah."   Legends of the Jews: Complete Set (Volumes 1-7) I sometimes find what the Rabbis had to say as interesting.

4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it. 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

Elders Appointed to Aid Moses

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. I found the following in Tan. B. IV, 61; Tan. Behaʿaloteka 16; 15.25. God said to him: “I gave thee sufficient understanding and wisdom to guide My children alone, that thou mightest be distinguished by this honor. Thou, however, wishest to share this guidance with others. Go, then, and expect no help from Me, ‘but I will take of the spirit that is upon thee and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.’ ” 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?” ’ ” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.

     Is it wrong to use Jewish sources for Bible study? Not sure. I got the following from Tan. B. IV, 58; Tan. Behaʿaloteka 13; BaR 15.20; Targum Yerushalmi Num. 11:16; Sifre N., 92; Sifre Z., 200. Moses was now supposed to choose his new 70 leaders openly so the people could watch. He chose men who had been leaders before while they were in Egypt. When they were in Egypt if the people did not meet their job quota the leaders were beaten. So these leaders were chosen from among those who had not only been willing to sacrifice themselves for others, but probably endured beatings because of the people. These were the ones found worthy of having the Holy Spirit come upon them. Do you think this kind of criteria would change political leaders, business leaders, church leadership today?

26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Quail and a Plague

31 Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.


Psalm 48

Zion, the City of Our God

Psalm 48 A Song. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

1  Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3  Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress.

4  For behold, the kings assembled;
they came on together.
5  As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
6  Trembling took hold of them there,
anguish as of a woman in labor.
7  By the east wind you shattered
the ships of Tarshish.
8  As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the LORD of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God will establish forever. Selah

9  We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10  As your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11  Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!

12  Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13  consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14  that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.


Isaiah 1

Isaiah 1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

The Wickedness of Judah

2  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the LORD has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3  The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”

4  Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the LORD,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.

5  Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6  From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.

7  Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8  And the daughter of Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a lodge in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.

9  If the LORD of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.

10  Hear the word of the LORD,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11  “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

12  “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13  Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14  Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15  When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17  learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19  If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20  but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Unfaithful City

21  How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
22  Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
23  Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.

24  Therefore the Lord declares,
the LORD of hosts,
the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
and avenge myself on my foes.
25  I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
26  And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”

27  Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28  But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
29  For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.
30  For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.
31  And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.




Hebrews 9

The Earthly Holy Place

Hebrews 9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Train Up a Child

By Gene Edward Veith 2/1/2007

     Many years ago, someone pointed out that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, making it ideal for a month-long Bible reading project. So I read one chapter a day for a month, and the experience was so rewarding I kept doing it, month after month for about a year, repeating the same verses as I was going through different issues in my life, to the point that at least some of them started to sink in.

     Though some of the Proverbs went over my head, others were startlingly illuminating. “The mercy of the wicked is cruel” (12:10). Exactly! As we see in the whole continuing history of godless ideologies that win traction by promising compassion, empathy, and niceness, but end with varying combinations of gulags, tyranny, terrorism, and AIDS.

     “He who is estranged seeks pretexts to break out against all sound judgment” (18:1 rsv). Exactly! That is why the most persuasive arguing - including Christian apologetics - often fails to change people’s minds. And why sin is the beginning of unbelief, as the sinner, wanting to justify himself, then comes up with all kinds of reasons why Christianity must not be true. (Other translations render the verse along the lines of the esv: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” The same notion is there, that a prior alienation gives rise to “breaking out” against truth, and that unbelief has its roots in the will.)

     I kept finding a wealth of advice both practical and profound, telling me how to resolve conflicts and get along with people. I learned that I am to plan, make decisions, and take action, but that God, nevertheless, is the one who leads, determines, and establishes the outcome. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (16:9). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (19:21). I learned that my own mind, apart from God’s Word, will lead me astray. Even if my idea seems to make so much sense. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (14:12). And even if I am convinced that I am really a good person, that I am virtuous, that I reside on the moral high ground, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (16:2).

     Not only the individual verses but the structure of the book of Proverbs conveys wisdom. Its purpose, according to the first chapter, among other things, is to give “knowledge and discretion to the youth” (v. 4). Though the wise too will “hear and increase in learning,” many of the proverbs take the form and context of the teaching that goes on within a family.

     “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (1:8). And, indeed, it is all here, showing that not much has changed after all in the temptations and problems that teenagers face. Whether in the twenty-first century or the time of Solomon, “youth” must be taught to resist peer pressure (“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent,” 1:10) and extra-marital sex (“Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman?” 5:20). As are other traps such as drunkenness (20:1; 23:29-30; 31:4-7) and laziness (15:19; 19:24; 24:30-34), each of these temptations and the consequences of succumbing to them are explicated in vivid detail. As are the contrary rewards of faithfulness, such as the fruits of industry (13:4), the proper use of wine (31:6-7), true friendship (17:17), and the blessings of marriage, including sexual satisfaction (5:15-19).

     All of these flow not from external restrictions or legalistic rules but from a living faith in the Lord: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (3:5-6).

     Parents are to form their children - morally, spiritually, and in the pragmatic ways of how to function in everyday life. The book of Proverbs both teaches and models how this should be done, how to “train up a child in the way he should go” (22:6). This is what families are for. Culture, whose foundation is the family, is supposed to help.

     Anthropologists tell us that the artifacts of a culture - its songs, stories, and works of art - help to convey the values of that culture to the next generations. Adults “enculturate” children. And those children, when they grow up, “enculturate” their children. If they do not, the culture will die out.

     Conscientious parents trying to fight today’s trends must now deal with the phenomenon known as the “toxic parent,” one who does not try to “train up a child in the way he should go” but instead wants to be considered “cool” and so indulges the child, to the point of enabling his experimentation with sex, alcohol, and drugs. (Something to keep in mind when your teenager assures you that a parent will be chaperoning the party. Is this a Proverbs-type parent or a “toxic parent”?)

     Today’s pop culture is unlike any other in history, in being driven by children rather than by adults. Us aging baby-boomers still tend to listen to the music that we listened to as children. Our styles and fashions and entertainment - and even, increasingly, what we do in church - are determined by what young people like. No wonder they have all become, literally, juvenile. In today’s topsy-turvy and increasingly infantile culture, Proverbs not only helps children become adults; it also helps adults become adults.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Preparing For Death | Hebrews 9:27

By Alistair Begg

     Joseph’s words to this baker must have really stung him. Imagine knowing you have three days to live. If the baker had known what his dream was going to mean, we can presume he wouldn’t have asked for the interpretation. He would rather have lived those three days in ignorance.

(Genesis 40:18–19) 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”  ESV

     Lawson says of Pharaoh’s baker that he died three days before his time. Thoughts of the fatal moment and of the birds feeding on his carcass must have taken possession of his soul, whether he was sleeping or awake.
     

The Certainty of Death and Judgment

     Joseph told the baker the hard truth. You say, “Well, fortunately, we don’t have to say that to anybody today.” That’s right; we aren’t given specific prophecies of people’s death to deliver to them.

     But we do have an important message to deliver about death and what follows it. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We need to say that Jesus taught more about hell than He ever taught about heaven.

     We need to help people understand that they cannot have a heaven without a hell, that it is intellectually implausible to have the one without the other, and that they must prepare for the day when they will stand before God and face eternal judgment.

     Do you suppose Pharaoh’s baker used his final three days of his life to make preparation for his death? Perhaps he seized the chance to go back to Joseph and say, “Joseph, I’m scared to death. I don’t know what it is about you, but you seem to know the true God.”

     Did he say, “Joseph, can you help me deal with this?” Or did he while away his final three days, doing nothing about his soul? We don’t know, but we can say this: If the baker failed to make use of the time that was given him, it was his own fault.

     My mother died suddenly during the routine of a very normal evening, in a very normal house, with a very normal family, as a very normal forty-seven-year-old woman. In the goodness of God she was prepared for that unanticipated moment.

     Are you prepared to die? If you don’t know the answer to that question, put this book down now and settle the issue with God. Don’t miss this lesson from the dungeon. Pharaoh’s baker and people on death row aren’t the only people living with a death sentence. Death is an appointment we all must keep.

     Let me tell you, the baker got a deal. He had seventy-two hours to prepare. We have no such guarantee. That is why the Bible says, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

     When it comes to preparing for death, I think of the two thieves crucified with Jesus.

     Both were in immediate proximity to Christ. Both were aware of the injustice being done to Him. Both were aware of the justice being meted out to them. Both knew they were not going to leave those crosses alive.

     And yet one thief cursed Jesus while the other shouted over at the first one, “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40). Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). Jesus gave him the great promise, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). I call that making preparation for death.


     Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.

Dr. Alistair Begg Books:

He Gave Us Songs

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2007

     He was at least an insightful man, if not a wise man, who first said, “I care not who writes a nation’s laws, as long as I write the nation’s songs.” He understood that what shapes our lives is rather more potent than that which merely hedges our lives. We are at least obtuse men, if not foolish men, when we labor so hard to seize the engines of political power for the sake of the kingdom. It is a good thing that we aspire to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. His reign indeed covers all things political. But it is a bad thing that we would rather see His lordship confessed in a courtroom than in a song.

     While we rightly affirm that man is soul and body (not as we too often think, souls in bodies), we would be wrong to pass over the remaining distinction between mind and heart. We are two things, the material and the immaterial, and that which is immaterial is at least two things, what we think, and what we feel. A man of integrity has mind and heart in harmony. Few of us are there, however. Excitement, more often than not, is a function of the heart more than the mind. As we consider law, usually our minds are more engaged than our hearts. It is a rare bird indeed whose nerves begin to twitter when they hear, “In re: Carleton versus the state of Nevada…” or “Whereas the charter of the town of Mendota gives license to all who live therein to….” Music, on the other hand, has charms.

     Music has the unique ability to bring together heart and mind, to both teach and inspire at the same time. Music, more than abstract arguments, more than abstract law, shapes souls. We are what we sing. Which is why He who is wisdom wisely gave us songs.

     One of the weaknesses of the loss of psalm singing in the church is that we have lost sight of the power of psalms as song. We know that the book of Psalms are God’s Word. We know that they contain wisdom. We may even read and study them in an attempt to internalize the wisdom they contain. They become fodder for sermons, proof texts for sundry theological positions. But that’s not the way God intended us to be shaped by the Psalms. He wrote them so that we would sing them. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that this is all we might sing. Sadly, however, too many of us who conclude we may sing songs that are not Psalms don’t take the trouble to sing the Psalms. We seem to think our only choices are Psalms only, or no Psalms at all.) Singing the Psalms moves their wisdom from our brains into our hearts. And our hearts are the font of our actions, our lives.

     It seems even the world is beginning to figure this out. A recent study (apparently sponsored by the Institute for the Incredibly Obvious) demonstrated that the more teenagers are exposed to sexually explicit media, whether it be television, video games, movies, or music, the more likely they were to engage in sexual behavior at an earlier age. The world has not yet passed laws requiring teenagers to be sexually active. While we’re busy creating political action committees to keep condoms out of “our” schools, while we push for “abstinence training” in “our” schools, “our” iPods are telling us (and forgive the anachronism) that we feel like making love, that what we need is sexual healing. The iPods win every time.

     If we who serve Christ sing His songs, the songs of wisdom, and the world outside the church sings songs of folly, what we would expect is different worlds. We should expect our lives to be marked by wisdom, by fidelity, by godliness. What we find, again according to sundry studies, is that evangelicals, both unmarried young people and married adults, are roughly as likely to be fornicators or adulterers as their unbelieving counterparts. The reason is likely this, we don’t listen to the music of wisdom, but instead listen to the music of the world. Our ears are as plugged into folly as the ears of our neighbors.

     James Adams, in his fine book War Psalms of the Prince of Peace, affirms that the Psalms, however a rich source they might be on the life of David, exist first to tell us the story of Jesus. The Psalms cover the gamut of human experience. You will find there triumph and defeat, confidence and uncertainty, joy and despair. It is because these songs tell us the story of Jesus, however, that they are songs of wisdom. As these songs indwell us, as they shape not just our thinking but our feeling, we will become more like Jesus, who is the very personification of wisdom. As these songs proceed from our lips, we not only speak wisdom, but speak Jesus, showing forth His glory. We ought to be distinct from the world around us. We are called to be a set-apart people. Perhaps by His grace we might become distinct, if we would sing an old song to the Lord, if we would sing the Lord’s songs to the Lord. If we would sing wisdom, perhaps Wisdom might bless us.

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     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

The Song of Solomon

By Harry Reeder 2/1/2007

     I confess the Song of Solomon has always intimidated me as a preacher. Its vivid and excitable statements of marital sexual intimacy and the penchant of commentators to interpret it allegorically have combined to make me cautious. Even the ancients recommended that a young man not read the Song of Songs until he was either married or age 30. Yet, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16).

     The Song of Songs is presented as a dramatic narrative that includes Solomon’s bride, the never-named Shulammite, secondly Solomon, thirdly, the daughters of Jerusalem, and fourthly, the brothers of the Shulammite. It could be the Shulammite is Naamah the Ammonite, Solomon’s first wife; the mother of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21) who was born one year before Solomon became king, which probably occurred around age 20. Thus she would be his first love. It’s possible that Solomon met her through one of his father’s mighty men, Zelek the Ammonite who might have lived in the rural Ammonite town of Shulah. Now, how can a pastor use this “profitable” book? Let me recommend five ways.

     First, this book celebrates marital, sexual intimacy enjoyed as God’s good gift. It elevates erotic love with dynamics of care and tenderness, associated with the depths of transparency, intensity, and delight between husband and wife. When read, one quickly recognizes the God-designed, benevolent, and powerful instrument of sexual intimacy within marriage. This explains Hebrews 13:4, which declares the marriage bed is to be held sacred and honored by all.

     Second, it extends and promotes intimacy within marriage by affirming recreational and ministerial sexual intimacy and not only procreational sexuality. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes the husband and wife are to give themselves to each other with this ministry mindset. They do not come together to take from the other but to give - the sexual relationship is not hierarchal but reciprocal. The husband/wife relationship and the gift of sexuality is not for personal gratification but for the joy of giving gratification knowing that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In other words, giving actually heightens one’s experience, and taking diminishes one’s experience.

     Third, the Song of Songs is countercultural. It powerfully presents sexuality to be enjoyed within a relationship that is defined by God. It is covenantal, monogamous, and heterosexual. Any other definition of marriage will destroy a society.

     Fourth, it attacks today’s resurgence of neo-paganism, which declares the spiritual as good and the physical as evil. When God made man - male and female - and the marriage covenant, He declared that both the spiritual and physical are “good.” The fall brought death to both. Therefore, redemption renews both. We are not only born again spiritually, we are renewed so that our bodies become “temples of the Holy Spirit” anticipating the new body, the new heavens and new earth. This includes God’s good gift of sexual intimacy within marriage as renewed and by grace properly enjoyed. Any other use of sexuality is idolatry and is destructive.

     Finally, while one must refrain from allegorizing the text in its entirety in order to promote spiritual meaning, it is valid to see how Christ is being presented. Ephesians 5, while defining the marriage relationship between man and woman, also declares that the marriage covenant is a proper way to understand the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. In 1859 the great Presbyterian preacher James Henley Thornwell had the opportunity to announce the wedding of his daughter, Nancy. In the weeks leading up to this event, the hundreds traveling would end up at a funeral, not a wedding as she took ill from cholera typhoid and began a rapid demise. Thornwell, overcome, came to his daughter’s bedside in her waning moments and said, “Oh my dear daughter, such tragedy!” She replied, “Father, do not weep. I know my Savior.” He said, “But this was to be your wedding, your whole life now before you.” She, the youth, yet with greater maturity said, “Father, but I now go to a greater Groom that I am prepared to meet.” Nancy Witherspoon Thornwell was laid to rest in a wedding gown, and the tombstone reads: “As a bride prepared for her Groom.”

     The Song of Solomon obviously has much pastoral use in the issues of marriage and biblical sexuality. Yet, its glorious and ultimate use is to point the people of God as the bride of Christ to our glorious, majestic, and intimate relationship with the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our gown is spotless, our relationship pure by His blood, righteousness, and promised presence. With Him there are more than ten thousand joys.

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     Harry L. Reeder III earned an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and a DMin from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

The Book of Job

By R. C. Sproul 2/1/2007

     In the arena of biblical studies, there are five books that are generally included under the heading of “wisdom literature” or “the poetic books of the Old Testament.” They are the books of Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job. Of these five books, one stands out in bold relief, manifesting significant differences from the other four. That is the book of Job. The wisdom that is found in the book of Job is not communicated in the form of proverb. Rather, the book of Job deals with questions of wisdom in the context of a narrative dealing with Job’s profound anguish and excruciating pain. The setting for this narrative is in patriarchal times. Questions have arisen as to the authorial intent of this book, whether it was meant to be historical narrative of a real individual or whether its basic structure is that of a drama with a prologue, including an opening scene in heaven, involving discourse between God and Satan, and moving climactically to the epilogue, in which the profound losses of Job during his trials are replenished.

     In any case, at the heart of the message of the book of Job is the wisdom with respect to answering the question as to how God is involved in the problem of human suffering. In every generation protests arise saying that if God is good, then there should be no pain, no suffering or death in this world. Along with this protest against bad things happening to good people, have also been attempts to create a calculus of pain, by which it is assumed that an individual’s threshold of suffering is in direct proportion to the degree of their guilt or the sin they have committed. A quick response to this is found in the ninth chapter of John, where Jesus responds to the disciples’ question regarding the source of the suffering of the man born blind.

     In the book of Job, the character is described as a righteous man, indeed the most righteous man to be found on the earth, but one whom Satan claims is righteous only to receive blessings from the hand of God. God has put a hedge around him and has blessed him beyond all mortals, and as a result the Devil accuses Job of serving God only because of the generous payoff he receives from his Maker. The challenge comes from the evil one for God to remove the hedge of protection and see whether Job will then begin to curse God. As the story unfolds, Job’s suffering goes in rapid progression from bad to worse. His suffering is so intense that he finds himself sitting on a dung heap, cursing the day he was born, and crying out in relentless pain. His suffering is so great that even his wife counsels him to curse God, that he might die and be relieved of his agony. What unfolds further in the story is the counsel given to Job from Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Their testimony shows how hollow and shallow is their loyalty to Job, and how presumptive they are in assuming that Job’s untold misery must be grounded in a radical degeneracy in Job’s character.

     Job’s counsel reaches a higher level with some deep insights by Elihu. Elihu gives several speeches that carry with them many elements of biblical wisdom, but the final wisdom to be found in this great book comes not from Job’s friends or from Elihu, but from God Himself. When Job demands an answer from God, God responds with this rebuke, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:1–3). What ensues from this rebuke is the most intense interrogation of a human ever brought to bear by the Creator. It almost seems at first glance as if God is bullying Job, in as much as He says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (v. 4). God raises question after question in this manner. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleides? Or loose the belt of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” (vv. 31–32). Obviously, the answers to these rhetorical questions that come in machine gun rapidity is always, “No, no, no.” God hammers away at the inferiority and subordination of Job in His interrogation. God continues with question after question about Job’s ability to do things that Job cannot do but that God clearly can do.

     In chapter 40, God says to Job finally, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (v. 2). Now, Job’s response is not one of defiant demand for answers to his misery. Rather he says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (vv. 4–5). And again God picks up the interrogation and goes even more deeply in the rapid fire interrogation that shows the overwhelming contrast between the power of God, who is known in Job as El Shaddai, and the contrasting impotence of Job. Finally, Job confesses that such things were too wonderful. He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6).

     What is noteworthy in this drama, is that God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.

     The answer to that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job.

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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:

Numbers 11; Psalm 48; Isaiah 1; Hebrews 9

By Don Carson 5/4/2018

     One of the ways God talks about the future is . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.

     Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.

     One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.

     So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).

     As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 45

Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
45 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah; A Love Song.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     5. Now, should some Manes or Coelestinus [502] come forward to arraign Divine Providence (see sec. 8), I say with Paul, that no account of it can be given, because by its magnitude it far surpasses our understanding. Is there any thing strange or absurd in this? Would we have the power of God so limited as to be unable to do more than our mind can comprehend? I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice. (See August. Ep. 106). But when justice clearly appears, why should we raise any question of injustice? Let us not, therefore, be ashamed to stop their mouths after the example of Paul. Whenever they presume to carp, let us begin to repeat: Who are ye, miserable men, that bring an accusation against God, and bring it because he does not adapt the greatness of his works to your meagre capacity? As if every thing must be perverse that is hidden from the flesh. The immensity of the divine judgments is known to you by clear experience. You know that they are called "a great deep" (Ps. 36:6). Now, look at the narrowness of your own minds and say whether it can comprehend the decrees of God. Why then should you, by infatuated inquisitiveness, plunge yourselves into an abyss which reason itself tells you will prove your destruction? Why are you not deterred, in some degree at least, by what the Book of Job, as well as the Prophetical books declare concerning the incomprehensible wisdom and dreadful power of God? If your mind is troubled, decline not to embrace the counsel of Augustine, "You a man expect an answer from me: I also am a man. Wherefore, let us both listen to him who says, O man, who art thou?' Believing ignorance is better than presumptuous knowledge. Seek merits; you will find nought but punishment. O the height! Peter denies, a thief believes. O the height! Do you ask the reason? I will tremble at the height. Reason you, I will wonder; dispute you, I will believe. I see the height; I cannot sound the depth. Paul found rest, because he found wonder. He calls the judgments of God unsearchable;' and have you come to search them? He says that his ways are past finding out,' and do you seek to find them out?" (August. de Verb. Apost. Serm. 20). We shall gain nothing by proceeding farther. For neither will the Lord satisfy the petulance of these men, nor does he need any other defense than that which he used by his Spirit, who spoke by the mouth of Paul. We unlearn the art of speaking well when we cease to speak with God.

6. Impiety starts another objection, which, however, seeks not so much to criminate God as to excuse the sinner; though he who is condemned by God as a sinner cannot ultimately be acquitted without impugning the judge. This, then is the scoffing language which profane tongues employ. Why should God blame men for things the necessity of which he has imposed by his own predestination? What could they do? Could they struggle with his decrees? It were in vain for them to do it, since they could not possibly succeed. It is not just, therefore, to punish them for things the principal cause of which is in the predestination of God. Here I will abstain from a defense to which ecclesiastical writers usually recur, that there is nothing in the prescience of God to prevent him from regarding; man as a sinner, since the evils which he foresees are man's, not his. This would not stop the caviler, who would still insist that God might, if he had pleased, have prevented the evils which he foresaw, and not having done so, must with determinate counsel have created man for the very purpose of so acting on the earth. But if by the providence of God man was created on the condition of afterwards doing whatever he does, then that which he cannot escape, and which he is constrained by the will of God to do, cannot be charged upon him as a crime. Let us, therefore, see what is the proper method of solving the difficulty. First, all must admit what Solomon says, "The Lord has made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil," (Prov. 16:4). Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. If any one alleges that no necessity is laid upon them by the providence of God, but rather that they are created by him in that condition, because he foresaw their future depravity, he says something, but does not say enough. Ancient writers, indeed, occasionally employ this solution, though with some degree of hesitation. The Schoolmen, again, rest in it as if it could not be gainsaid. I, for my part, am willing to admit, that mere prescience lays no necessity on the creatures; though some do not assent to this, but hold that it is itself the cause of things. But Valla, though otherwise not greatly skilled in sacred matters, seems to me to have taken a shrewder and more acute view, when he shows that the dispute is superfluous since life and death are acts of the divine will rather than of prescience. If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience, while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.

7. They deny that it is ever said in distinct terms, God decreed that Adam should perish by his revolt. [503] As if the same God, who is declared in Scripture to do whatsoever he pleases, could have made the noblest of his creatures without any special purpose. They say that, in accordance with free-will, he was to be the architect of his own fortune, that God had decreed nothing but to treat him according to his desert. If this frigid fiction is received, where will be the omnipotence of God, by which, according to his secret counsel on which every thing depends, he rules over all? But whether they will allow it or not, predestination is manifest in Adam's posterity. It was not owing to nature that they all lost salvation by the fault of one parent. Why should they refuse to admit with regard to one man that which against their will they admit with regard to the whole human race? Why should they in caviling lose their labour? Scripture proclaims that all were, in the person of one, made liable to eternal death. As this cannot be ascribed to nature, it is plain that it is owing to the wonderful counsel of God. It is very absurd in these worthy defenders of the justice of God to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. Should any one here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be directed against predestination. Nor ought it to seem absurd when I say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it. For as it belongs to his wisdom to foreknow all future events, so it belongs to his power to rule and govern them by his hand. This question, like others, is skillfully explained by Augustine: "Let us confess with the greatest benefit, what we believe with the greatest truth, that the God and Lord of all things who made all things very good, both foreknow that evil was to arise out of good, and knew that it belonged to his most omnipotent goodness to bring good out of evil, rather than not permit evil to be, and so ordained the life of angels and men as to show in it, first, what free-will could do; and, secondly, what the benefit of his grace and his righteous judgment could do," (August. Enchir. ad Laurent).

8. Here they recur to the distinction between will and permission, the object being to prove that the wicked perish only by the permission, but not by the will of God. But why do we say that he permits, but just because he wills? Nor, indeed, is there any probability in the thing itself--viz. that man brought death upon himself merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God; as if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the chief of his creatures to be. I will not hesitate, therefore, simply to confess with Augustine that the will of God is necessity, and that every thing is necessary which he has willed; just as those things will certainly happen which he has foreseen (August. de Gen. ad Lit., Lib. 6, cap. 15). Now, if in excuse of themselves and the ungodly, either the Pelagians, or Manichees, or Anabaptists, or Epicureans (for it is with these four sects we have to discuss this matter), should object the necessity by which they are constrained, in consequence of the divine predestination, they do nothing that is relevant to the cause. For if predestination is nothing else than a dispensation of divine justice, secret indeed, but unblamable, because it is certain that those predestinated to that condition were not unworthy of it, it is equally certain, that the destruction consequent upon predestination is also most just. Moreover, though their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed. When you hear the glory of God mentioned, understand that his justice is included. For that which deserves praise must be just. Man therefore falls, divine providence so ordaining, but he falls by his own fault. The Lord had a little before declared that all the things which he had made were very good (Gen. 1:31). Whence then the depravity of man, which made him revolt from God? Lest it should be supposed that it was from his creation, God had expressly approved what proceeded from himself Therefore man's own wickedness corrupted the pure nature which he had received from God, and his ruin brought with it the destruction of all his posterity. Wherefore, let us in the corruption of human nature contemplate the evident cause of condemnation (a cause which comes more closely home to us), rather than inquire into a cause hidden and almost incomprehensible in the predestination of God. Nor let us decline to submit our judgment to the boundless wisdom of God, so far as to confess its insufficiency to comprehend many of his secrets. Ignorance of things which we are not able, or which it is not lawful to know, is learning, while the desire to know them is a species of madness.

9. Someone, perhaps, will say, that I have not yet stated enough to refute this blasphemous excuse. I confess that it is impossible to prevent impiety from murmuring and objecting; but I think I have said enough not only to remove the ground, but also the pretext for throwing blame upon God. The reprobate would excuse their sins by alleging that they are unable to escape the necessity of sinning, especially because a necessity of this nature is laid upon them by the ordination of God. We deny that they can thus be validly excused, since the ordination of God, by which they complain that they are doomed to destruction, is consistent with equity,--an equity, indeed, unknown to us, but most certain. Hence we conclude, that every evil which they bear is inflicted by the most just judgment of God. Next we have shown that they act preposterously when, in seeking the origin of their condemnation, they turn their view to the hidden recesses of the divine counsel, and wink at the corruption of nature, which is the true source. They cannot impute this corruption to God, because he bears testimony to the goodness of his creation. For though, by the eternal providence of God, man was formed for the calamity under which he lies, he took the matter of it from himself, not from God, since the only cause of his destruction was his degenerating from the purity of his creation into a state of vice and impurity.

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



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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2005    Sects of Seduction

     From time to time I get a knock on the door from two exuberant representatives of one of the local cult chapters. Although such visits have become less frequent in recent years, it is generally my practice to step outside for a nice little chat. The friendly couple always seem overjoyed at the fact that I am willing to take the time to talk with them, and usually, during our formal introductions, I am thinking to myself: “They have no idea what they’re in for.” After listening intently to their presentation and their questions, I begin to reply with concise, reasoned questions that always seem to be a factor in their change in demeanor. Within minutes, the exuberant facade that radiated from their smiling faces turns into a fortress of defense.

     The last couple who visited me told me plainly they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, to which I responded, “So am I.” They soon discovered, however, that my definition of being a witness of Jehovah was quite different to theirs. After I spent some time explaining the necessity of the deity of Christ for fallen man’s salvation, I asked them one simple question: “If Jesus were to walk up and greet you, what would you do?” To this question they had absolutely no programmed response. “According to your beliefs,” I said, “if Jesus were to come and greet us here and now it would be entirely appropriate for you to shake His hand and say, ‘It is so nice to meet you, my friend.’ But, if He were to come and greet me, the only appropriate thing for me to do would be to fall at His feet and worship Him as my Lord and my God.” After I said this, I observed something I never had before. The younger of the two men began to cry. Then, within seconds a van pulled up and they were whisked away.

     When I recall that experience, I still pray for that young man. For just as every member of every cult is enticed by those who have disguised themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14), that young man had been seduced to follow and serve as a witness not of the one and only eternal, triune Jehovah but, instead, of the prince of darkness whose minions have deceived multitudes throughout the world. For this reason, the cults of the world cannot rightly be called “sects of Christianity.” On the contrary, they are sects of Satan himself, for they have manufactured another gospel, and they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And, indeed, without repentance, it is before His face they will suffer His judgment.

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Selling one million copies a year for over one hundred years, McGuffey's Readers were the mainstay of pubic education in America. Millions of school children read them, making them some of the most influential textbooks of all time. They were written by William McGuffey, who died this day, May 4, 1873. He was a professor at the University of Virginia, president of Ohio University, and formed one of nation's first teachers' associations. A lesson in McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader stated: "How powerless conscience would become without the belief of a God."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

People see God everyday,
they just don't recognize him.
--- Pearl Bailey
Between You and Me

How tired God must be of guilt and loneliness,
for that is all we ever bring to Him.
--- Mignon McLaughlin
The Complete Neurotic's Notebook

Faith is the assurance that the thing which God has said in His word is true, and that God will act according to what He has said in his word... Faith is not a matter of impressions, nor of probabilities, nor of appearances.
--- George Mueller
The Complete Neurotic's Notebook

For humility and holiness are twins in the astonishing birth of obedience in the heart of men. So God draws unworthy us, in loving tenderness, up into fellowship with His glorious self.
--- Thomas Kelly
A Testament of Devotion
... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifty-Fifth Chapter / The Corruption Of Nature And The Efficacy Of Divine Grace

     The Disciple

     O LORD, my God, Who created me to Your own image and likeness, grant me this grace which You have shown to be so great and necessary for salvation, that I may overcome my very evil nature that is drawing me to sin and perdition. For I feel in my flesh the law of sin contradicting the law of my mind and leading me captive to serve sensuality in many things. I cannot resist the passions thereof unless Your most holy grace warmly infused into my heart assist me.

     There is need of Your grace, and of great grace, in order to overcome a nature prone to evil from youth. For through the first man, Adam, nature is fallen and weakened by sin, and the punishment of that stain has fallen upon all mankind. Thus nature itself, which You created good and right, is considered a symbol of vice and the weakness of corrupted nature, because when left to itself it tends toward evil and to baser things. The little strength remaining in it is like a spark hidden in ashes. That strength is natural reason which, surrounded by thick darkness, still has the power of judging good and evil, of seeing the difference between true and false, though it is not able to fulfill all that it approves and does not enjoy the full light of truth or soundness of affection.

     Hence it is, my God, that according to the inward man I delight in Your law, knowing that Your command is good, just, and holy, and that it proves the necessity of shunning all evil and sin. But in the flesh I keep the law of sin, obeying sensuality rather than reason. Hence, also, it is that the will to good is present in me, but how to accomplish it I know not. Hence, too, I often propose many good things, but because the grace to help my weakness is lacking, I recoil and give up at the slightest resistance. Thus it is that I know the way of perfection and see clearly enough how I ought to act, but because I am pressed down by the weight of my own corruption I do not rise to more perfect things.

     How extremely necessary to me, O Lord, Your grace is to begin any good deed, to carry it on and bring it to completion! For without grace I can do nothing, but with its strength I can do all things in You. O Grace truly heavenly, without which our merits are nothing and no gifts of nature are to be esteemed!

     Before You, O Lord, no arts or riches, no beauty or strength, no wit or intelligence avail without grace. For the gifts of nature are common to good and bad alike, but the peculiar gift of Your elect is grace or love, and those who are signed with it are held worthy of everlasting life. So excellent is this grace that without it no gift of prophecy or of miracles, no meditation be it ever so exalted, can be considered anything. Not even faith or hope or other virtues are acceptable to You without charity and grace.

     O most blessed grace, which makes the poor in spirit rich in virtues, which renders him who is rich in many good things humble of heart, come, descend upon me, fill me quickly with your consolation lest my soul faint with weariness and dryness of mind.

     Let me find grace in Your sight, I beg, Lord, for Your grace is enough for me, even though I obtain none of the things which nature desires. If I am tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils while Your grace is with me. This is my strength. This will give me counsel and help. This is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. This is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler in anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nourisher of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?

     Let Your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Keeping Is Continuous

     Another thought. This keeping is not only all-inclusive and omnipotent, but also continuous and unbroken.

     People sometimes say: "For a week or a month God has kept me very wonderfully: I have lived in the light of His countenance, and I cannot say what joy I have not had in fellowship with Him. He has blessed me in my work for others. He has given me souls, and at times I felt as if I were carried heavenward on eagle wings. But it did not continue. It was too good; it could not last." And some say: "It was necessary that I should fall to keep me humble." And others say: "I know it was my own fault; but somehow you cannot always live up in the heights."

     Oh, beloved, why is it? Can there be any reason why the keeping of God should not be continuous and unbroken? Just think. All life is in unbroken continuity. If my life were stopped for half an hour I would be dead, and my life gone. Life is a continuous thing, and the life of God is the life of His Church, and the life of God is His almighty power working in us. And God comes to us as the Almighty One, and without any condition He offers to be my Keeper, and His keeping means that day by day, moment by moment, God is going to keep us.

     If I were to ask you the question: "Do you think God is able to keep you one day from actual transgression?" you would answer: "I not only know He is able to do it, but I think He has done it. There have been days in which He has kept my heart in His holy presence, when, though I have always had a sinful nature within me, He has kept me from conscious, actual transgression."

     Now, if He can do that for an hour or a day, why not for two days? Oh! let us make God's omnipotence as revealed in His Word the measure of our expectations. Has God not said in His Word: "I, the Lord, do keep it, and will water it every moment" (Isa. 27:3)? What can that mean? Does "every moment" mean every moment? Did God promise of that vineyard or red wine that every moment He would water it so that the heat of the sun and the scorching wind might never dry it up? Yes. In South Africa they sometimes make a graft, and above it they tie a bottle of water, so that now and then there shall be a drop to saturate what they have put about it. And so the moisture is kept there unceasingly until the graft has had time to stroke, and resist the heat of the sun.

     Will our God, in His tenderhearted love toward us, not keep us every moment when He has promised to do so? Oh! if we once got hold of the thought: Our whole spiritual life is to be God's doing--"It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13)--when once we get faith to expect that from God, God will do all for us.

     The keeping is to be continuous. Every Morning God will meet you as you wake. It is not a question: If I forgot to wake in the Morning with the thought of Him, what will come of it? If you trust your waking to God, God will meet you in the Morning as you wake with His divine sunshine and love, and He will give you the consciousness that through the day you have got God to take charge of you continuously with His almighty power. And God will meet you the next day and every day; and never mind if in the practice of fellowship there comes failure sometimes. If you maintain your position and say: "Lord, I am going to expect Thee to do Thy utmost, and I am going to trust Thee day by day to keep me absolutely," your faith will grow stronger and stronger, and you will know the keeping power of God in unbrokenness.


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 16:7-9
     by D.H. Stern

7     When a man’s ways please ADONAI,
he makes even the man’s enemies be at peace with him.

8     Better a little with righteousness
than a huge income with injustice.


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

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Vicarious intercession

     Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. --- Hebrews 10:19.

     Beware of imagining that intercession means bringing our personal sympathies into the presence of God and demanding that He does what we ask. Our approach to God is due entirely to the vicarious identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”

     Spiritual stubbornness is the most effectual hindrance to intercession, because it is based on sympathy with that in ourselves and in others that we do not think needs atoning for. We have the notion that there are certain right and virtuous things in us which do not need to be based on the Atonement, and just in the domain of ‘stodge’ that is produced by this idea we cannot intercede. We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests in others, we get petulant with God; we are always ready with our own ideas, and intercession becomes the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means the radical alteration of all our sympathies. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.

     Am I stubborn or substituted? Petted or perfect in my relationship to God? Sulky or spiritual? Determined to have my own way or determined to be identified with Him?


My Utmost for His Highest

The Cure
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

The Cure

But what to do? Doctors in verse
Being scarce now, most poets
Are their own patients, compelled to treat
Themselves first, their complaint being
Peculiar always. Consider, you,
Whose rough hands manipulate
The fine bones of a sick culture,
What areas of that infirm body
Depend solely on a poet's cure.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Kiddushin 32a–b

     D’RASH

     Every day, we hear stories of people who volunteer and who do great good in the world. These accounts are inspiring, and the Rabbis would have only praise for those people who act, care, and help, though not required to. Our text does not take away anything from these men and women. Volunteers are, indeed, praiseworthy. This Gemara, however, sings the praises of people who have to act, those who simply do what is expected of them, day in and day out. Their actions are not glorious or newsworthy, but they are commendable and praiseworthy.

     Each and every day, people go to work and earn an honest living, supporting their families and paying their taxes. They do so, in part, because it is expected and required of them. There is little distinction in their actions—other than the fact that they are doing precisely what they should be doing, day in and day out.

     Every day, most parents impart positive values to their children through hard work and honest living, often holding down more than one job. These are people for whom making ends meet may be a struggle, but for whom cheating and fraud would be unthinkable ways of making a living. The newspapers will carry stories both of the mother who stole to feed her drug habit but not her children, and of the father who refused to work to support his family. The everyday heroism of honest, hard-working folk does not make the news, but it is worthy of praise.

     A single mother rears her children without benefit of spouse, teaching her youngsters love and pride. When parents have no time or interest in religion, a grandparent may be the one who brings the child to synagogue and helps keep tradition alive. A widow or widower manages to remain involved and active despite the fact that it's a "paired-off" world; widows and widowers overcome sorrow and loneliness, creating new, active lives for themselves. Parents take a firm stand against dishonesty in schoolwork, even though it means bucking the trend and swimming upstream. A family gives charity generously, though money is tight and so many of their peers are selfish.

     There are these and hundreds of other examples of simple people who live honest, genuine yet ordinary lives. Rabbi Ḥanina speaks to everyday responsibilities and mundane living, not to the generals of our society but to the foot soldiers. We should not relegate them to mediocrity or dismiss them as unimportant, even though they will not get their names into "Who's Who" or receive a medal for their actions. These people are the salt of the earth, and their strength and endurance makes them true heroes of life today.

     The rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is given up.

     Text / Rav Yitzḥak bar Shelah said in the name of Rav Matneh, who said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: "The father who gave up his honor, his honor is given up. The rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is not given up." But Rav Yosef said: "Even the rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is given up, as it says: 'The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day' [Exodus 13:21]." Rava said: "Is this [the same case as] that? There, with the Holy One, blessed be He, the world is His, and the Torah is His; He can give it up. Here, is the Torah his?" Rava came back and said: "Yes, the Torah is his, as it is written: 'In his Torah he studies day and night' [Psalms 1:2, author's translation]."

     Context / A person must be very careful about the honor and the reverence due his father and mother. What is reverence?… Not to sit in their special place, not to contradict their words … not to call them by their names.… What is honor? To give them food and drink, to dress them, to help them come and go. (Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 250:1, 2, 4)

     Context / A person is obligated to respect and honor his rabbi even more than his father. It is forbidden for a student to call his rabbi by his name.… He should not greet his rabbi, nor return his greeting the way he would with anyone else, but must do so with respect and reverence.… It is forbidden to walk next to him; he should rather distance himself somewhat behind him. He should not sit in his presence until he tells him to sit. He should not sit in his [teacher's] place, nor contradict his words. (Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 252:1, 15, 16)

     Jewish tradition demands that a child, as well as a student, must show respect and reverence to a parent and a teacher. Our section raises the question as to whether that parent and teacher (or rabbi) may dispense with the formalities that tradition requires. The first conclusion is that a parent may do so. The Gemara goes on to bring in a disagreement between Rav Yitzḥak bar Shela and Rav Yosef: The former holds that a rabbi is different; the formal relationship between master and disciple must always be maintained. The latter believes that a rabbi, like a parent, is able to relax the rigid rules of behavior expected of his student. Rav Yosef brings proof for this point of view from a verse in Exodus that describes God acting as a guide for the Israelites as they wandered through the desert for forty years. At night, God became a pillar of fire; in the daylight, God was a pillar of cloud. Foregoing greatness, God became a mere pillar in order to help and guide the Israelites. If God could forgo honor to help a student, then certainly a rabbi of flesh-and-blood could do the same.

     Rava questions whether this analogy is really apt: God can forgo honor, because the honor was God's to do with as God pleased. But is the honor due a rabbi really the rabbi's to do with as he pleases? Rava is at first inclined to believe that the honor accorded to a rabbi is given to him because of mastery of the Torah, and the Torah belongs to God! Hence, the rabbi has no right to dispense with something that is not truly his own. Later, apparently, Rava rethinks this opinion and changes his mind, basing himself upon an interpretation of a verse. Psalm 1 refers to a righteous man (a rabbi): "The teaching of the Lord is his delight, and in his Torah he studies day and night." The first half of verse 2 refers to the "teaching of the Lord," "torat Adonai." But the second half speaks ambiguously of torato, which can be translated as "his teaching" or "His teaching." Rava chooses to interpret the word torato as referring to the teaching of the righteous. Therefore, since the Torah does belong to the rabbi, he can choose to forgo the honor ordinarily due him.


Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Let Us Not Grow Weary
     The Bible knowledge commentary

     But Christians may become discouraged with spiritual sowing because the harvest is often long in coming. In the face of this reality the apostle charged the Galatians not to become weary or give up because the harvest is sure. (Paul included himself as he no doubt contemplated his sometimes frustrating labors on behalf of the Galatian Christians.) The reaping will come at God's proper time, which may be only in part in this life and in full in the life to come at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty [New Testament Edition]

Heroes and Heroines - Judges 3:7–16:31
     Teacher's Commentary

     The Book of Judges spans a period of several hundred years. During this time the people of Israel consistently turned away from God, seduced by the religions of the peoples they had been commanded to drive out of Canaan.

     The "judges" of this era were charismatic leaders, who typically led one or several tribes to military victory over oppressing peoples. They then served as civil and religious leaders, and during their lives the people they judged typically remained faithful to the Lord.

     Biographical Study. There is great value in looking at the lives of Bible men and women. What do we look for? We observe their experiences: How do these mirror our own experiences? What errors did they make we can avoid? What positive choices can we imitate? We look at their character: What traits do we want to see developed in our own lives? How did that person grow and mature? We look at their relationship with God: What lessons can we learn? How did their faith find expression? What difficulties helped develop their trust in God? How was love for the Lord displayed? By their example, we learn and grow.

     The judges of ancient Israel have captured the imaginations of children in Israel and the Christian era. But there is much here for adults, as we lead biographical studies of these men and women of faith.

     In studying this section of Judges we're guided by a principle of biblical interpretation we can call "selection and emphasis." All the events that God chose to have recorded in Scripture are there for a reason. But the story of some events is given more emphasis than others. This rightly draws our attention to those reports that the Bible emphasizes.

     For instance, we can look at the number of verses given in this Bible book to the story of each judge.

             
  Othniel   3:7–11   5 verses  
  Ehud   3:12–30   19 verses  
  Shamgar   3:31   1 verse  
  Deborah/Barak   4:1–5:31 5   5 verses  
  Gideon   6:1–8:35   100 verses  
  Tola   10:1–2   2 verses  
  Jair   10:3–5   3 verses  
  Jephthah   10:6–12:7   80 verses  
  Ibzan   12:8–10   3 verses  
  Elon   12:11–12   2 verses  
  Abdon   12:13–15   3 verses  
  Samson   13:1–16:31   96 verses  
             


     In terms of the impact of the judges on the men and women of their own times, each may have been equally significant. But in terms of the message for us in the life of these judges, it is clear that Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson are more important to us. So in this unit we'll examine the message in each of their lives, and how to convey that message to children and to adults.

     Deborah/Barak: Judges 4–5

     Ancient civilizations were patriarchal in structure. In such societies, the role of men was emphasized. In many cultures women were viewed as nothing more than property, and were not permitted even to inherit the possessions of their husbands, much less given authority.

     Israel too was patriarchal, but women were not oppressed there as in other lands. Women are even among the Old Testament prophets, who were called by God to be His spokeswomen.

     Deborah was one of these special women, who even before the military victory over the Cannanites was "judging" Israel from Ramah.

     The term "judging" is important if we are to understand this woman's importance. A judge was more than a person who settled disputes (which Deborah did: see Judges 4:5). A judge in Israel exercised all the functions of a governor: he or she held executive and legislative authority, and often military authority as well. We can sense Deborah's authority as she "sends for" Barak, and he comes. It is only when Barak arrives that Deborah speaks in her role as prophetess, and tells him,"The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you."

     The Lord's command. This area of Palestine had been oppressed for 20 years by a powerful Canaanite king. His power rested in military strength: the Canaanites had 900 chariots of iron.

     These military chariots often had sharp blades attached to the hubs of their wheels: foot soldiers were devastated by the charge of these heavy vehicles, their whirring knives flashing.

     God promised through Deborah to give Barak and just 10,000 Israelites a victory over the larger, better equipped Canaanite force.

     Barak was willing to obey only if Deborah promised to go too. "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go" (Judges 4:8).

     Clearly Deborah had won not only the respect of the leading men of her day, but also was held in awe by them. No one who observes Barak's response to Deborah could ever believe that women were, because of their sex alone, second-class citizens in Israel. This woman was a leader; a leader on whom men like Barak had learned to depend.

     Deborah's secret. While we have to believe that Deborah was an exceptional person in her own right, there was more to her leadership than her special talents. We can be sure she was wise and fair: the readiness of Israelites to trek to where Deborah held court so she could settle their disputes tells us that (Judges 4:5). But what really made Deborah special, and won her the respect of the men of Israel, was her closeness to the Lord.

     God spoke to this woman.

     And God spoke through her.

     She was one of those few spokesmen that God selected to communicate His will to His Old Testament people: Deborah was a prophetess (Judges 4:4). It was Deborah's special relationship with God that was recognized by all the people, and that won her their respect.

     And it was Deborah's closeness to God that led Barak to call for her to go with him.

     Barak was willing to fight. But he wanted to be sure of God's presence. In this particular historical situation, it was Deborah who represented to Barak the very presence of God.

     The victory. Deborah did go with Barak, and he led his forces to a stunning military victory. But even there Barak was directed and encouraged by Deborah (Judges 4:14).

     As if to underline the role of Deborah, a woman, and to protect her place, neither Barak nor his men killed the Canaanite leader, Sisera. He was killed by another woman, Jael, who drove a tent peg into his temple when he fell into an exhausted sleep! Women played the leading parts in this familiar story from the days when Judges ruled.


The Teacher's Commentary

The Bar Kokhba Revolt
     The Jewish Diaspora from Pompey to 70 C.E.

     After suppressing the Jews of Mesopotamia, Lusius Quietus was elected consul, and Trajan then appointed him governor of Judea. There are no specific details concerning any war in Judea related to the Diaspora uprisings of 115–117, and none of the Greek or Latin sources refers to fighting in Judea during this period. Rabbinic sources (Seder ʿOlam Rabbah 30; m. Soṭah 9:14) do mention a “War of Kitos” that occurred fifty-two years after Vespasian’s war and sixteen years before the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Like these two wars, the “War of Kitos” saw the passage of sumptuary laws by the rabbis and a prohibition of teaching Greek. Nevertheless, the rabbinic sources are ambiguous at best. Rabbinic tradition preserves an account of two martyrs, Julianus and Pappus, who supposedly died under Trajan, but these deaths could have taken place anywhere (m. Soṭah 9:14; Megillat Taʿanit 2:9).

     However, war and rebellion soon came to Judea, led by a charismatic leader, Shimon ben Kosiba. Later rabbinic sources claim that Ben Kosiba received the support of Rabbi Aqiba, who renamed the revolutionary leader Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for “Son of the Star”) in reference to the prophecy in Num. 24:17 (“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”). Bar Kokhba does not make any messianic claim in his letters, but on his coins he is called “prince (naśiʾ) of Israel,” a title that had a long history of messianic associations.

     The immediate causes of the war are unclear because we lack a detailed narrative of its course. It is likely that economic distress, hatred of the Romans, and anger over the destruction of the Temple played major roles in inciting Jews to rebel. Further, land confiscations probably exacerbated economic hardship, and religious factors also seem to have been influential. According to the Historia Augusta, the revolt began because Hadrian issued an edict prohibiting circumcision (14.2). The ban was part of a wider, empire-wide prohibition on mutilation, including castration, but Hadrian must have known how the Jews would respond. Dio suggests that the emperor also had decided to turn Jerusalem into a new pagan city, Aelia Capitolina (Dio 69.12.1–2), and perhaps this prohibition was connected to that larger plan.

     The rebellion’s territorial extent is also unclear, but most evidence suggests a concentration in the part of Judea closest to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The Jews seem to have had some success in the beginning, but it is not clear if the Jewish rebels ever managed to seize Jerusalem. The rebel letters found in the desert refer to Herodion and not Jerusalem as the insurgent headquarters, and their last stronghold was Bethar, not Jerusalem.

     The Romans responded seriously to this new threat, and Hadrian sent Gaius Julius Severus from Britain to take over command of Judea in 134 C.E. Dedicatory inscriptions indicate that legions from all over the empire were sent to Judea, but otherwise there is no indication of troop size or makeup. The paucity of evidence from Greco-Roman authors suggests hesitancy on the part of the imperial government to mention a brutal suppression of rebellion, which did not fit well with Hadrian’s image of benevolent patronage of the provinces.

     According to Dio, the Romans killed more than 500,000 Jews and destroyed 50 towns and 785 villages in the suppression of the revolt. He also claims that they enslaved many of the survivors (Dio 69.14.3). Although these numbers likely are inflated, the bones discovered in the Judean Desert caves testify to Roman thoroughness and ruthlessness. Rabbinic sources state that many sages were martyred, including Rabbi Aqiba, and a period of strict persecution followed in which Jews could not practice many facets of their religion, including studying Torah, observing the Sabbath, and circumcising their sons. Indeed, Jews did not receive permission to circumcise their sons until after Hadrian’s death. Perhaps the most long-lasting and devastating result of the war, however, was the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem (now called Aelia Capitolina) and its territory (Justin, Apology 1.6). Hadrianic coins celebrated the new city with a Greek figure representing it, and a temple dedicated to Hadrian was constructed atop the Temple Mount itself. Thus, what began as an attempt to liberate the Jews of Judea ultimately led to their death and to the enslavement and expulsion of Jews from their Holy City. With the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a major period of Jewish history comes to an end.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 4

     There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. --- Luke 15:10.

     Beloved, the angels sing over sinners who repent because they know what the poor sinners have escaped. ( Classic Sermons/Angels (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) You and I can never imagine all the depths of hell. Shut out from us by a black veil of darkness, we cannot tell the horrors of that dismal dungeon of lost souls. But the angels know better than you or I could guess.

     They know it. Not that they have felt it, but they remember that day when Satan and his angels rebelled against God. They know what hell is for they have looked within its jaws and have seen their own brothers fast enclosed within them. Therefore, when they see a sinner saved, they rejoice because there is one more soul escaped out of the mouth of the lion.

     There is yet a better reason. The angels know what the joys of heaven are, and, therefore, they rejoice over one sinner that repents. We talk about pearly gates, golden streets, white robes, harps of gold, crowns of amaranth, and all that, but if an angel could speak to us of heaven, he would smile and say, “All these fine things are but child’s talk. God has given you an alphabet in which you may learn the first rough letters of what heaven is. But what it is you do not know.” You may talk, think, guess, and dream, but you can never measure the infinite heaven that God has provided for his children. Thus, when they see a soul saved and a sinner repenting, they clap their hands. They know that all those blessed mansions are yours, since all these sweet places of everlasting happiness are the exclusive inheritance of every sinner who repents.

     You remember the occasion when the Lord met with you. Ah! little did you think what a commotion there was in heaven. If all the rulers of earth had marched in pageant through the streets with all their robes and jewelry and crowns and all their regalia, yet an angel would only have stopped to smile at those poor tawdry things. But over you—the vilest of the vile, the poorest of the poor, the most obscure and unknown—over you angelic wings were hovering, and concerning you it was said on earth and sung in heaven, “Hallelujah, for a child is born to God today.”
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     Weak Lungs  May 4

     Sickness proved a blessing for W. Robertson Nicoll, for it determined his career and ministry. He was born in 1851 with weak lungs. His mother, brother, and sister died from tuberculosis. He was raised by his father, Pastor Harry Nicoll, whose church numbered 100 souls—but whose library numbered 17,000 books.

     Inheriting his dad’s love for literature, Robertson began a weekly column for the Aberdeen Journal. He started pastoring, but doctors told him his lungs were too weak for preaching. He contracted typhoid and pleurisy, resigned his church, and retreated to his books. Here Robertson found his calling.

     He was already editing a magazine called The Expositor, and in 1886 he began The British Weekly. It became a leading Christian journal in Britain. He then started The Bookman, and two years later The Woman at Home appeared in magazine stalls. While editing his four periodicals, Robertson began publishing books (he read two books a day throughout his life). The Expositor’s Bible, a series of 50 volumes, was released between 1888 and 1905. Then The Expositor’s Greek New Testament appeared. Robertson persuaded Alexander Maclaren to issue his expositions; then he found and developed other writers. In all, Robertson edited hundreds of titles and wrote 40 books of his own. He became the most prolific and respected Christian journalist in the English-speaking world.

     In 1909, while being knighted, he said, “I never contemplated a literary career. I had expected to go on as a minister, doing literary work in leisure times, but my fate was sealed for me.” His illness forced him to do much of his work propped in bed amid the clutter of newspapers, books, pipes, and cigarette ashes. His cats purred nearby, and he always kept a fire burning, claiming that fresh air was the devil’s invention. His library contained 25,000 volumes, including 5,000 biographies. “I have read every biography I could lay my hands on,” he said, “and not one has failed to teach me something.”

     Sir W. Robertson Nicoll died on May 4, 1923. Among his last words were, “I believe everything I have written about immortality!”

     “Rain and snow fall from the sky. But they don’t return without watering the earth That produces seeds to plant and grain to eat. That’s how it is with my words. They don’t return to me without doing everything I send them to do.”
--- Isaiah 55:10,11.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 4

     “Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods.”
Jeremiah 16:20.

     One great besetting sin of ancient Israel was idolatry, and the spiritual Israel are vexed with a tendency to the same folly. Remphan’s star shines no longer, and the women weep no more for Tammuz, but Mammon still intrudes his golden calf, and the shrines of pride are not forsaken. Self in various forms struggles to subdue the chosen ones under its dominion, and the flesh sets up its altars wherever it can find space for them. Favourite children are often the cause of much sin in believers; the Lord is grieved when he sees us doting upon them above measure; they will live to be as great a curse to us as Absalom was to David, or they will be taken from us to leave our homes desolate. If Christians desire to grow thorns to stuff their sleepless pillows, let them dote on their dear ones.

     It is truly said that “they are no gods,” for the objects of our foolish love are very doubtful blessings, the solace which they yield us now is dangerous, and the help which they can give us in the hour of trouble is little indeed. Why, then, are we so bewitched with vanities? We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone, and yet worship a god of gold. Where is the vast superiority between a god of flesh and one of wood? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case, only that in ours the crime is more aggravated because we have more light, and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity, but the true God he has never known; we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God and turn unto idols. May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity!

     “The dearest idol I have known,
     Whate’er that idol be;
     Help me to tear it from thy throne,
     And worship only thee.”



          Evening - May 4

     “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.”
1 Peter 1:23.

     Peter most earnestly exhorted the scattered saints to love each other “with a pure heart fervently” and he wisely fetched his argument, not from the law, from nature, or from philosophy, but from that high and divine nature which God hath implanted in his people. Just as some judicious tutor of princes might labour to beget and foster in them a kingly spirit and dignified behaviour, finding arguments in their position and descent, so, looking upon God’s people as heirs of glory, princes of the blood royal, descendants of the King of kings, earth’s truest and oldest aristocracy, Peter saith to them, “See that ye love one another, because of your noble birth, being born of incorruptible seed; because of your pedigree, being descended from God, the Creator of all things; and because of your immortal destiny, for you shall never pass away, though the glory of the flesh shall fade, and even its existence shall cease.” It would be well if, in the spirit of humility, we recognized the true dignity of our regenerated nature, and lived up to it. What is a Christian? If you compare him with a king, he adds priestly sanctity to royal dignity. The king’s royalty often lieth only in his crown, but with a Christian it is infused into his inmost nature. He is as much above his fellows through his new birth, as a man is above the beast that perisheth. Surely he ought to carry himself, in all his dealings, as one who is not of the multitude, but chosen out of the world, distinguished by sovereign grace, written among “the peculiar people” and who therefore cannot grovel in the dust as others, nor live after the manner of the world’s citizens. Let the dignity of your nature, and the brightness of your prospects, O believers in Christ, constrain you to cleave unto holiness, and to avoid the very appearance of evil.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 4

          JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE THEE

     Henry van Dyke, 1852–1933

     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy … against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)

     While gazing at the magnificent Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, Henry van Dyke described in “Joyful, Joyful,” the many aspects of life that should bring us joy. He insisted that his text, written in 1911, be sung to the music of “Hymn of Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This combination of words and great music makes “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” one of the most joyous expressions of any hymn in the English language.

     One of the forceful ideas expressed by van Dyke is that God’s gracious love for us should create a greater “brother love” for our fellow man. With God’s help we can become victorious over strife and be “lifted to the joy divine” as we daily show more love to others.

     Henry van Dyke was a distinguished Presbyterian minister who served as a moderator of his denomination for a time and as a Navy Chaplain in World War I. Later he was the ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg under President Wilson. He also served a number of years as a professor of literature at Princeton University. High honors came to him for his many devotional writings. Yet this one inspiring hymn is the reason Henry van Dyke is best remembered today:

     Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, hail Thee as the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away; giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
     All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heav’n reflect Thy ways; stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise; field and forest, vale and mountain, bloss’ming meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
     Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, well-spring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest! Thou the Father, Christ our Brother—All who live in love are Thine: Teach us how to love each other; lift us to the joy divine.
     Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the Morning stars began; father-love is reigning o’er us; brother-love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife; joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life.


     For Today: Job 38:7; Psalm 98; Habakkuk 3:17–19; 1 Peter 3:8, 9.

     Would it be possible for you to offer your praise to God for His matchless love in some creative way—original poetry, music, painting …?

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


     Sect. XIV. — UNDER your third head, you attempt to make us some of those very modest and quiet Epicureans. With a different kind of advice indeed, but no better than that, with which the two forementioned particulars are brought forward: — “Some things (you say) are of that nature, that, although they are true in themselves, and might be known, yet it would not be prudent to prostitute them to the ears of every one.” —

     Here again, according to your custom, you mingle and confound every thing, to bring the sacred things down to a level with the profane, without making any distinction whatever: again falling into the contempt of, and doing an injury to God. As I have said before, those things which are either found in the sacred Writings, or may be proved by them, are not only plain, but wholesome; and therefore may be, nay, ought to be, spread abroad, learnt, and known. So that your saying, that they ought not to be prostituted to the ears of every one, is false: if, that is, you speak of those things which are in the Scripture: but if you speak of any other things, they are nothing to me, and nothing to the purpose: you lose time and paper in saying any thing about them.

     Moreover, you know that I agree not with the Sophists in any thing: you may therefore spare me, and not bring me in at all as connected with their abuse of the truth. You had, in this book of yours, to speak against me. I know where the Sophists are wrong, nor do I want you for my instructor, and they have been sufficiently inveighed against by me: this, therefore, I wish to be observed once for all, whenever you shall bring me in with the Sophists, and disparage my side of the subject by their madness. For you do me an injury; and that you know very well.


The Bondage of the Will  or  Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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