The Plot to Kill JesusMatthew 26 1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Jesus Anointed at Bethany6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Judas to Betray Jesus14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The Passover with the Disciples17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Institution of the Lord’s Supper26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Peter Denies Jesus69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
What I'm Reading
The Practice of Sinning
By Jay Bauman 4/01/2015
It was early in the morning on New Year’s Day in 2006, in Rio de Janeiro, and I was having trouble sleeping. The noise of the New Year festivities had kept me awake. So I decided to take a walk along the beach. As the sun rose over the beach, I noticed a white rose, cut and in perfect condition, lying right along the shore. I had recently gotten engaged and so finding this rose seemed quite timely. I decided I would take that rose back to my fiancée’s house, thinking, “For sure, she will love it.”
As I continued to walk, I found another rose. I thought to myself … “How strange; another rose in pristine condition.” I picked it up and went along my way. Over the course of the next mile or so, I found a few more roses, enough for a bouquet. I had no idea where these roses had come from, or why they were in such perfect condition. Nonetheless, I felt that they needed to be used. So I made a bouquet out of them, and later that day, presented them to my fiancée. I was certain she would love this beautiful bouquet.
The first question my fiancée asked was, “Where did you get these roses?” For a moment, I was tempted to not tell the truth, but I shared the story. After all, it was a unique story. She began to laugh, and threw the whole bouquet in the trash. I was surprised.
“You don’t understand,” she said. “All of these roses were offered up to the spirits. They are part of Macumba, a spiritist religion here in Brazil. They do this every New Year’s Eve. What you are giving me is something that was a sacrifice for the demons.” My heart sank. I was so certain that she was going to love the bouquet. After all, it was a beautiful bouquet. Did the origin of the roses or what they had been used for really make that much of a difference?
I like to think of these roses, this bouquet, as our righteousness.
We are called to be righteous. In 1 John 3:7, we are told, “Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” Righteousness is a testimony of the Christian life of God’s Spirit living in us. We have a righteous standing before God because of Jesus, and His Spirit in us produces righteousness as a part of the process of sanctification.
Yet, oftentimes we are like the macumbista spiritists, and we attempt to offer up a sacrifice of righteousness to God. A sacrifice of our own effort. We do this, believing that our works will enable us to be righteous enough to gain favor in the sight of God.
The challenge is this: the Scriptures teach that righteousness that originates from humanity is as filthy rags before the Father. All of it. And so while a bouquet of righteousness may give evidence of the Christian life, our works will never be good enough to cause us to be declared righteous in the sight of a perfect God. They will never be a sufficient sacrifice.
That’s why confession is so important to the Christian life. Because our propensity to sin, even “in our righteousness,” is so great, our need for confession is even greater.
The challenge for the Christian is that we need to not only confess our sin, but also confess our righteousness before God. This is because so often our sense of righteousness is not rooted in Christ, but in pride. In 1 John 3:4, we read, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Pride is among the most obvious, daily habit of sin seen in our lives. It’s where we say, “I don’t need you God, I’ve got this on my own. I am not under your law.” Sin is lawlessness.
With such great daily sin, daily confession is necessary. It is by our daily confession that we demonstrate to the world that we abide in Jesus. In 1 John 3:6, we are reminded that “no one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” This is a wonderful truth and a terrible warning at the same time. To abide in Jesus means that we have a new Master. Not only are we free from the need to practice sin, but He has given us His Spirit to overcome it.
We know that obedience is not optional in the Christian life. Confession is not optional, either. Martin Luther once said, “All of life is repentance.” All of life. In essence, all of life is confession and turning from sin.
The life of repentance is a life of confession. This leads to joy, hope, and peace. To avoid the “practice of sinning” we read in 1 John, we must increasingly engage in confession and repentance. This can only be done by reflecting on the gospel.
The “practice of sinning” is not overcome by relentlessly focusing on the act of our sins; it is overcome by consistent, daily reflection on the gospel. When we reflect on the gospel and the beauty of Jesus, it becomes easier to confess our sins and to confess any righteousness that is not rooted in Christ. It is in this way that the “practice of sinning” can be overcome. A relentless focus on Jesus. As a result, any bouquet of righteousness we have in our lives is no longer rubbish. Why is that? Because Jesus is the bouquet; He is the offering. And when Jesus is the bouquet, the Father will never reject it. All sin is, and has been, overcome.
The Prayer and the Cry (Luther on Psalm 102)
By Fred Sanders 8/14/2017
The first line of Psalm 102 asks God the same thing twice: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.”
Or does it? Martin Luther, commenting on the psalm, takes the two requests as really distinct from each other: on the one hand there’s a prayer, and on the other hand there’s a cry. On this reading, the Psalmist asks God to hear his prayer, and also to let his cry ascend.
What’s the difference between a prayer and a cry? Luther explains it in term of intellect and feeling: “The intellect makes the prayer, but the feeling makes the cry.” The feeling is the impulse of desire: vague, unstructured, nonthematic. But the prayer is formed, directed, and instructed: it shows the feeling “what it should desire, and how and whence.”
He then plays this distinction out in Paul’s terms, “praying with the spirit, and praying with the understanding” (1 Cor 14). Prayer with the spirit, Luther says, is “strictly speaking, not a prayer but a cry.” On the other hand,
to pray with the mind, that is, with meaning, is to have the meaning of the words which one reads or speaks. And according to this form the cry and desire is shaped, according to which prudence and thought forms every act of the will.
Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series).
Fred Sanders Books:
- 1 Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics
- 2 The Triune God
- 3 The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
- 4 Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Intermediate Christology
- 5 The Voice of God in the Text of Scripture: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics
- 6 Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics
- 7 Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love
- 8 Theology and California: Theological Refractions on California's Culture
- 9 Embracing the Trinity: Life with God in the Gospel
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2015
There are any number of ways to capture the glory of Eden. Because it is a garden paradise, we can focus on its bucolic nature. Bereft of thorns and thistles, fruitful and beautiful, it is the ideal location, designed for man and for glory. We can zero in on the peace that reigned there, the absence of death and illness, lions lying down with lambs. We can wonder at the glory of the rivers, the gold, and the precious stones. The crescendo of God’s description, however, isn’t at any of these points. Instead, Genesis 2, just before the serpent is introduced in Genesis 3:1, ends with this paean to the blessed glory of the garden: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (v. 25).
Naked and unashamed. It is all too easy for us to miss the significance of this. Given our cultural obsession with youth and our obscene fixation with changing, arbitrary standards of physical beauty, we might think that Moses is highlighting here the physical perfection of our first parents, as if Moses is saying, “Not only is the setting glorious and the stage perfect, but the actors are so smoking hot they were perfectly comfortable in their birthday suits.” Eden is a glorious place, but that’s not why.
The truth is that Moses is getting at something far more significant than physical perfection. The reason Adam and Eve were able to be naked and unashamed is because of their moral perfection. They were unashamed precisely because they had nothing to be ashamed of. Their bodies were perfect. But their wills, their emotions, their thoughts, their desires, all of these — indeed, all that they were — was unaffected at this point by sin.
They were the polar opposite of what we are in our state of total depravity. Total depravity affirms that all that we are has been affected by Adam and Eve’s first sin, that the whole of our being is corrupt, that we are unable even to embrace the saving work of Christ for us in ourselves. We cannot incline ourselves toward the good. But here, in the garden, the whole of their beings was uncorrupted. There was no shadow upon their moral standing, no blemish on their record, not so much as an inclination against the good to struggle against and be sorrowful for.
Think of what this must have meant for their relationships. It is true that a lack of sin is good for our relationships, as it means we won’t sin against each other. Adam and Eve had no need to fear being sinned against. But how much more potent is it when we know we won’t and haven’t sinned against others? How much more open, how much more honest can we be when there is nothing to be ashamed of? In like manner, while God was gracious and condescending to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, though Adam and Eve were mere creatures and He is the Creator, because they knew no sin they could talk with Him, unashamed.
Moses, I would argue, gives us this picture not merely so we might be conscious of all that we have lost. Rather he is also telling us something important about what we will regain. Eden is not only a picture of our past but is a picture of our future. It is where we are going. When Jesus calls us to seek first the kingdom of God, He is reminding us where our treasure is. He is directing our gaze away from the blessings of earthly beauty, of earthly fruitfulness, even of earthly peace. He is directing our gaze toward heavenly beauty, spiritual fruit, and peace with the living God. When Jesus calls us to seek the righteousness of God, He is reminding us that because we are now in ourselves sinners, naked and unashamed isn’t what we should be shooting for. Rather our goal is covered and unashamed. We, like our parents in the garden, can move through our days without shame. Not because we have no sin like them, but because we have no sin in Him.
Our standing in Christ, however, is not our ultimate end. We will not enter into the fullness of His kingdom on our own. We need the righteousness of Christ to cover us. But the promise of God is not just that we will be justified, not just that we will be sanctified, but that we will be glorified. We enter into the kingdom dressed in His righteousness, but then our sanctification will be complete. We will be made what we once were, whole and perfect. And we will be in eternity naked and unashamed. In the new heavens and the new earth, in that great garden city whose builder and maker is God, not only will sin be banished, but so will shame.
Eden is our source. And Eden is our destiny. Naked and unashamed, in the garden, we entered this world. And naked and unashamed we will enter the world to come. The gospel of Jesus Christ expels from the garden not us, but the guilt, the stain, and the shame of our sin. Seek then His kingdom and give thanks.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Helping the Impossible
By Mez McConnell 4/01/2015
Listen to Paul speaking in Ephesians 2:14–16 to a church that is dividing on ethnic and social lines: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
We attend churches where all sorts of barriers probably still exist, whether it’s between black and white or rich and poor. Judgmentalism is the metaphorical doorkeeper that keeps the undesirables and the “impossibles” from entering through the doors of our closely guarded churches.
Answer the following questions honestly when it comes to the word impossible:
A homeless man drunk on a bench in a city center, shouting and swearing at the world. Your next pastor?
A neighborhood tough guy, all tattoos and attitude, hanging out on street corners, smoking weed. Your next youth pastor?
A teenage mom dragging her screaming infant around the supermarket. Babysitting your children?
A man with a sign begging for money next to a cash machine. Sent to seminary by your church elders?
A child growing up in a home where both parents are drug users. A deacon in your church?
If we’re honest, aren’t these the kind of people the word hopeless was invented to describe? Aren’t people like this the “impossible” ones in our mind’s eye when we think of them and the average member in our church? All too often, we judge them (even if it’s only in our mind’s eye) and find them wanting. After all, what hopes and prospects do these people seriously have?
If we’ve answered honestly, then we’ve done two things with this list of people. We’ve categorized those with whom we’re angry and others for whom we feel sympathy and perhaps some guilt. At worse, we reject some of them out of hand. At best we despair over others. What can we do, after all? It’s not our fault, and it’s not our problem. That’s the way of it for the “poor, the marginalized, and the rejected.” Otherwise, they wouldn’t fall into those categories would they?
Shame on us.
I live and work in a scheme (the Scottish term for a public housing complex). I work with people in desperate situations. Many have been abused. Some are abusers. Some are violent drug users. Some have grown up in the foster care system. Some are angry. Some are depressed. Some are desperate. Some are quite happy. None of them qualifies as hopeless or impossible on my list. My list of impossibles probably looks quite different from yours:
A seminary graduate with a master’s degree in theology. Can he make it in the schemes?
Somebody who wears slacks and a blazer. Will he make it in the projects?
A well-dressed young man with good manners. Will he make it in a prison ministry?
A well-heeled woman who wears expensive perfume and too much makeup. Will she make it in a home for recovering prostitutes?
A guy who drives a nice car and grew up with both parents. Can he identify with boys at the local reform school?
In my worst moments, these are the ones I think of as hopeless and impossible. In my world, they are “the poor, the marginalized, and the rejected.” I am tempted to think that these people are never going to amount to anything in a ministry like mine. They’re failures before they start, and they don’t even know it; they may as well give up now.
Shame on me.
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil. 2:1–4)
The light of these verses needs to shine in the dark recesses of our hearts. If we want to make an impression on the watching world, then we need to start tearing down the barriers of our own judgmental hearts and start truly coming to grips with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to reorient our thinking as Christian leaders on all sides of the ethnic and socioeconomic divide. Whether we live in a mansion or a tin shack, we need to reach out to God and ask Him to clean up the impossible sin and judgmentalism of our own lives. All of us, without exception, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). So any thought and discussion on this should be done with an attitude of mutual repentance — regardless of ethnicity, social standing, and employment history.
The Growth of Wheat among the Tares
By George Grant 5/01/2015
Just as Jesus promised, the gospel has gone forth to the uttermost, the church is growing exponentially, and the hope of all the earth is now actually being made manifest to the ends of the earth. In the most difficult places, the Spirit of the living God is at work in ways we could never have thought or imagined.
In a world where smothering fundamentalist ideologies of both the scientific materialists and Jihadi terrorists have cast a pall on the theater of human aspiration, believers are spreading the good news of abounding grace in unprecedented outposts.
Even the most cursory reading of history reminds us that it has always been so: the message of Jesus thrives in what appears to us to be the most adverse conditions, in the most uncertain times, and in the most unlikely places. Indeed, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” ( See Foxe's Book of Martyrs which started Oct. 2 )
Neither the blunt cudgel of secularism in the West or the sharpened scimitar of Islamism in the East have a chance.
Against all odds, in the sprawling refugee camps of northern Iraq, where Yezidis, Christians, and Kakais have fled from the frightful ISIS invasion, Kurdish evangelical churches and Christian schools are being planted. Though the CIA has failed to infiltrate the rare earth mining operations of rural North Korea, the Chinese house churches have succeeded. In closed countries such as Myanmar, Yemen, Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, and Somalia, the fierce persecution of Christians has hardly put a damper on the thriving underground church.
These are the good old days.
Jesus explained to His disciples that this is the way the gospel always advances in the world — side by side with every woe and every cause for pessimism is evidence for joy and everlasting hope. He said:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt. 13:24–30)
Explaining this parable, Jesus said:
The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (vv. 37–43)
Essentially, what Jesus was saying was that as history moves along, the basic principles of wickedness and righteousness are worked out more and more consistently. Evil matures and becomes ever more evil, ever more distinctive. Likewise, godliness matures and becomes ever more godly, ever more distinctive.
The growth of the tares will evidence itself in horrid debauchery and unimaginable abomination. Over time, as men become more and more self-consciously tare-like, more and more self-consciously of the spirit of antichrist, the curse becomes more and more evident. They persist in their rebellion even to the end, gnawing their tongues, and calling for the rocks to fall on them (Rev. 6:16). So, as history moves along, evil becomes ever more consistently evil. The tares mature.
But, thanks be to God, just as the tares continue to mature, so does the wheat. The church of Jesus becomes more and more potent as a conduit of grace. Covenantal faithfulness is worked out more and more consistently. The truth of the gospel actually becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on. The steadfast reality of the good news becomes more and more of a contrast with the vain fantasy of the philosophies of the world. The promise of the Great Commission is more widely realized as history unfolds.
Now, more than ever, we ought to be praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” because now, more than ever, He is answering in the most unlikely outposts of kingdom fruitfulness in the global
Dr. George Grant is pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, Tenn., president of King’s Meadow Study Center, and founder of New College Franklin.George Grant Books | Go to Books Page
By Rebecca VanDoodewaard 5/01/2015
One spring, I transplanted a hydrangea. It was a last-minute decision, and the attempt involved my digging a hole in one dirt patch, then extracting the plant from another dirt patch in the fifteen minutes I had until my husband came home for dinner. One of my mistakes was trying to take the entire root system with the plant; the root ball was so large that it fell apart as I dragged it across the lawn, endangering the bush’s life. In trying to take everything, I learned that it’s safer for the plant and for the gardener to take less. To transplant a big bush, you have to cut off some of the roots in order to get the plant to the new location intact. Deracinating—losing roots—is part of moving.
When people move, our roots also have to be cut. We need to let go of places, things, and even relationships with people in order to get to our new location in one piece. This is painful. We call this transplanting pain “homesickness.” Missing “home” and family are common causes, but a host of other things can contribute: customs, food, language, climate, and so on, can all aggravate the feeling of being displaced.
If you, like so many around this world, have been uprooted from your home and community, you may be facing temptations to discouragement, self-pity, or frustration as you are forced to let go of the known and put out roots into the unknown. Here are some biblical truths that can help homesick hearts.
Though we may be taken aback by a move, God is not. He planned this for us. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that He “govern[s] all his creatures, and all their actions” (Q&A 16). That means that God not only led you to this new place, but He also cares for and directs you here. “If you have faith in Christ,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “you will not resent the fact that life is a pilgrimage, but will rather rejoice that it is so, because you will know that the pilgrimage is but a part of your exodus … from Egypt into Canaan.”
For me, one of the hard things about moving is not idealizing the “old place.” This was especially difficult when we moved from the Scottish Highlands to a small town in the American Midwest. There, the only castle was White Castle. The only topography was a ditch. What an awful move, I thought.
But meditating on Christ’s incarnation gave my move perspective. Of all the people who have ever moved, Christ went from the greater to the unspeakably lesser, with no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). “Thrones for a manger didst surrender, Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor,” the hymn says. Christ willingly made that move for our salvation; He can help us be faithful in our little relocations.
Prayer is essential. Pray with thanks that the Lord has brought you to this place, and acknowledge His leading and providential care for you. Pour out your anxieties and griefs to Him—He has been tempted in every way as you have, and He remembers your frame. He knows that you are dust. Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Pray that you would be fruitful where you are, and ask God to bless you in your new location.
The church is a big part of God’s answer for our struggles. Find a local, bible-believing, and gospel-preaching church to join, and do it quickly—before you move, ideally. The church is the body of Christ, and if you are not connected to it, you will suffer. You need the preached Word, the ministry of the sacraments, and the fellowship of other believers to feed your soul. Without them, you will shrivel up, even with private Scripture reading and prayer during the week. Neglecting the local church will also likely turn you in on yourself. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you are homesick and do not really know anyone else. Being plugged in to a congregation puts your situation into perspective as you see other believers fight cancer, suffer in a hard marriage, and walk through their unique trials.
My hydrangea survived, rescued by my husband. The plant went from sticking up in an awkward spot to settling in beside the front door. But we had not uprooted it for nothing. It experienced growth and produced beauty in its new location.
For the Christian, moving can be more than boxes, sweat, and tears. If we are in the Word, prayer, and healthy fellowship, then moving can be a time of spiritual growth. Instead of being torn apart by the experience, we can have hearts that become more tender toward the God who relocated us. God only transplants His people so that they can grow deeper in Him and bear more fruit. The habits and principles we have discussed are vital to ordinary Christian life; how much more when we have been uprooted and need a regrounding in Scripture’s precious truths?
Rebecca VanDoodewaard Books:
3 Ways You Can Pray for Revival
By Clint Humfrey 8/29/2017
The biblical concept of revival has fallen on hard times. These days we associate it with glossy posters covered by royal purple font and bejeweled preachers and singers advertising a world-shaking event on Friday night. Doors open at 7.
But the biblical picture of revival is mapped out in the most unlikely of places and the most unlikely of people. In the book of Acts chapter 8 Luke records that the lesser-known preacher Philip went north to Samaria, a place infamous for being irreligious and compromised. Just recall how it was a big deal that Jesus would even talk to the Samaritan woman or the irony of the ‘good’ Samaritan in the parable.
In this unlikely place with an unlikely preacher, something simple happened. Philip preached the Word of God. Then the people paid attention to the Word of God.
When masses of people stop paying attention to their phones and start paying attention to God’s Word, you know something powerful is happening. In Samaria, the people were ‘of one accord’ in paying attention to the Word. That means that they had unity around the Scriptures. No more competing special interests. No more Left or Right. No more dog eat dog. Instead unity around God’s Word.
And Luke says that “there was much joy in the city” as a result.
Imagine the change to Quebec City or Toronto or Victoria ( or Portland ) if there was a massive movement of joy in those cities as people are fixated on the preaching of God’s Word. Imagine Vancouver or Edmonton or Montreal filled with a sense of unity among the citizens as there was a rush towards Sunday sermons and mid-week bible studies.
So what can we do? We can start by praying. Here are three things that we can start praying right away.
First, Can You Pray That God Would Cause Your Church to Pay Attention to His Word in a New Way?
Pray that people would be hungry to be tethered to the text of the Word, being excited about stimulating logic of truth in the Scriptures. Pray that our churches would be filled with young and old in Gore-Tex or flannel, married or single, who read the Word and heed the Word and speak the Word to each other with joyful speech and sincere love. So pray that God would cause your church to pay attention to his Word in a new way.
And pray God would start with you.
Second, Can You Pray That Your Church Would Be United around the Word with Joy in a New Way?
Ask God to change your church to become a supernatural community that is welded together by the Word. What if your church had more in common than being in the same stage of life, or liking the same decibel setting of the worship team, or being the church for creatives, or old money or hipsters or seniors? When diverse people devote themselves to the Scriptures, in order to know Christ and make him known, then there is a supernatural joy in that church. Can you pray that your church would be united around the Word with joy in a new way?
And pray God would start with you?
Third, Can You Pray That Many People, Like Those Demon Oppressed, Distracted Samaritans, Would Come to Pay Attention to This Word for the First Time in a Dramatic Way, Starting with Someone You Know.
Samaria was driven to distraction with the occult. Simon the Sorcerer was the celeb ghost whisperer . And the whole city was fixated on him. But that changed when Christ was preached there.
The Gospel of Jesus is the message of his death to pay for sin, and his ultimate ‘right’ life credited to sinner who relies on him a force-field of protection from the Day when, as Johnny Cash put it, The Man Comes Around.
When masses of people turn from their slavery to self and look to Jesus, that can be a sign of true, biblical revival.
Can you pray that such a turning — what the bible calls ‘repenting’ would happen in the life of someone you know?
And pray that it would start with you.
Revival is a special season when God does intensely the things he does regularly. He saves sinners all the time. When many pay attention to God in a new way at the same time, that is a revival.
Pray for revival. If God could do it in Samaria, he could do it in your city too.
Born in Alberta, Clint grew up on the family farm and competed in rodeo. He is blessed to be married to Christel. Together they raise three cowboys, Hunter, Knox and Winston.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 111Great Are the LORD’s Works
111 Praise the LORD.
111:1 Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
Chapter 3 | Persecution of the Christians by the Goths and Vandals.Many Scythian Goths having embraced Christianity about the time of Constantine the Great, the light of the Gospel spread itself considerably in Scythia, though the two kings who ruled that country, and the majority of the people continued pagans. Fritegern, king of the West Goths, was an ally to the Romans, but Athanarich, king of the East Goths, was at war with them. The Christians, in the dominions of the former, lived unmolested, but the latter, having been defeated by the Romans, wreaked his vengeance on his Christian subjects, commencing his pagan injunctions in the year 370.
In religion the Goths were Arians, and called themselves Christians; therefore they destroyed all the statues and temples of the heathen gods, but did no harm to the orthodox Christian churches. Alaric had all the qualities of a great general. To the wild bravery of the Gothic barbarian he added the courage and skill of the Roman soldier. He led his forces across the Alps into Italy, and although driven back for the time, returned afterward with an irresistible force.
The Last Roman "Triumph"After this fortunate victory over the Goths a "triumph," as it was called, was celebrated at Rome. For hundreds of years successful generals had been awarded this great honor on their return from a victorious campaign. Upon such occasions the city was given up for days to the marching of troops laden with spoils, and who dragged after them prisoners of war, among whom were often captive kings and conquered generals. This was to be the last Roman triumph, for it celebrated the last Roman victory. Although it had been won by Stilicho, the general, it was the boy emperor, Honorius, who took the credit, entering Rome in the car of victory, and driving to the Capitol amid the shouts of the populace. Afterward, as was customary on such occasions, there were bloody combats in the Colosseum, where gladiators, armed with swords and spears, fought as furiously as if they were on the field of battle.
The first part of the bloody entertainment was finished; the bodies of the dead were dragged off with hooks, and the reddened sand covered with a fresh, clean layer. After this had been done the gates in the wall of the arena were thrown open, and a number of tall, well-formed men in the prime of youth and strength came forward. Some carried swords, others three-pronged spears and nets. They marched once around the walls, and stopping before the emperor, held up their weapons at arm's length, and with one voice sounded out their greeting, Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant! "Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!"
The combats now began again; the glatiators with nets tried to entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly stabbed their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a glatiator had wounded his adversary, and had him lying helpless at his feet, he looked up at the eager faces of the spectators, and cried out, Hoc habet! "He has it!" and awaited the pleasure of the audience to kill or spare.
If the spectators held out their hands toward him, with thumbs upward, the defeated man was taken away, to recover if possible from his wounds. But if the fatal signal of "thumbs down" was given, the conquered was to be slain; and if he showed any reluctance to present his neck for the death blow, there was a scornful shout from the galleries, Recipe ferrum! "Receive the steel!" Privileged persons among the audience would even descend into the arena, to better witness the death agonies of some unusually brave victim, before his corpse was dragged out at the death gate.
The show went on; many had been slain, and the people, madly excited by the desperate bravery of those who continued to fight, shouted their applause. But suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and then boldly leaped down into the arena. He was seen to be a man of rough but imposing presence, bareheaded and with sun-browned face. Without hesitating an instant he advanced upon two gladiators engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and laying his hand upon one of them sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood, and then, turning toward the thousands of angry faces ranged around him, called upon them in a solemn, deep-toned voice which resounded through the deep inclosure. These were his words: "Do not requite God's mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!"
Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: "This is no place for preaching!--the old customs of Rome must be observed!--On, gladiators!" Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them apart, and trying in vain to be heard. "Sedition! sedition! down with him!" was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference of an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to death. Stones, or whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down upon him from the furious people, and thus he perished, in the midst of the arena.
His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus-no more. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.
Persecutions from About the Middle of the Fifth, to the Conclusion of the Seventh CenturyProterius was made a priest by Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, who was well acquainted with his virtues, before he appointed him to preach. On the death of Cyril, the see of Alexandria was filled by Discorus, an inveterate enemy to the memory and family of his predecessor. Being condemned by the council of Chalcedon for having embraced the errors of Eutyches, he was deposed, and Proterius chosen to fill the vacant see, who was approved of by the emperor. This occasioned a dangerous insurrection, for the city of Alexandria was divided into two factions; the one to espouse the cause of the old, and the other of the new prelate. In one of the commotions, the Eutychians determined to wreak their vengeance on Proterius, who fled to the church for sanctuary: but on Good Friday, A.D. 457, a large body of them rushed into the church, and barbarously murdered the prelate; after which they dragged the body through the streets, insulted it, cut it to pieces, burnt it, and scattered the ashes in the air.
Hermenigildus, a Gothic prince, was the eldest son of Leovigildus, a king of the Goths, in Spain. This prince, who was originally an Arian, became a convert to the orthodox faith, by means of his wife Ingonda. When the king heard that his son had changed his religious sentiments, he stripped him of the command at Seville, where he was governor, and threatened to put him to death unless he renounced the faith he had newly embraced. The prince, in order to prevent the execution of his father's menaces, began to put himself into a posture of defence; and many of the orthodox persuasion in Spain declared for him. The king, exasperated at this act of rebellion, began to punish all the orthodox Christians who could be seized by his troops, and thus a very severe persecution commenced: he likewise marched against his son at the head of a very powerful army. The prince took refuge in Seville, from which he fled, and was at length besieged and taken at Asieta. Loaded with chains, he was sent to Seville, and at the feast of Easter refusing to receive the Eucharist from an Arian bishop, the enraged king ordered his guards to cut the prince to pieces, which they punctually performed, April 13, A.D. 586.
Martin, bishop of Rome, was born at Todi, in Italy. He was naturally inclined to virtue, and his parents bestowed on him an admirable education. He opposed the heretics called Monothelites, who were patronized by the emperor Heraclius. Martin was condemned at Constantinople, where he was exposed in the most public places to the ridicule of the people, divested of all episcopal marks of distinction, and treated with the greatest scorn and severity. After lying some months in prison, Martin was sent to an island at some distance, and there cut to pieces, A.D. 655.
John, bishop of Bergamo, in Lombardy, was a learned man, and a good Christian. He did his utmost endeavors to clear the Church from the errors of Arianism, and joining in this holy work with John, bishop of Milan, he was very successful against the heretics, on which account he was assassinated on July 11, A.D. 683.
Killien was born in Ireland, and received from his parents a pious and Christian education. He obtained the Roman pontiff's license to preach to the pagans in Franconia, in Germany. At Wurtzburg he converted Gozbert, the governor, whose example was followed by the greater part of the people in two years after. Persuading Gozbert that his marriage with his brother's widow was sinful, the latter had him beheaded, A.D. 689.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
An appetite for God’s Word
(Oct 13) Bob Gass
‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’
(Heb 4:12) 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ESV
As you read the Bible, God will give you strength and guidance for your life that you simply can’t get any other way. Eliphaz said to Job the patriarch: ‘He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole’ (Job 5:18 NKJV). That’s what God does to you as you read the Scriptures. ‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’ Others see what we do, but when we get alone with God and open the Scriptures, He reveals to us what we are. He brings to the surface long-standing and unresolved issues, and helps us to deal with them. He confronts us over our stubborn habits and shows us how to conquer them. He pinpoints our selfish and unloving attitudes, giving us a chance to repent and change our ways. The old Quakers had a saying: ‘Sin will keep you from your Bible, and your Bible will keep you from sin.’ You say, ‘But when I get up in the morning, I’m so busy that I don’t have time to read the Bible.’ Then read it when you come home at night! You say, ‘By the time I get home from work at night, I’m exhausted and can’t concentrate on anything!’ You must rearrange your priorities. If you spend hours watching television, surely you can spend some time each day reading your Bible. The truth is that we make time for the things that we want, that we value, and that we enjoy. So, ask God to give you a greater appetite for His Word. Then read your Bible, and watch your appetite for it grow!
1 Tim 3
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Margaret Thatcher was born this day, October 13, 1925. She was the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. While traveling through New York City in 1996, Margaret Thatcher stated: “Today, people are trying democracy. But they look at it as a philosophy or political pattern, without understanding its roots. I’m afraid democracy’s fundamental religious roots are weakening. There are some countries, fortunately, kept alive by faithful people. But even they are tending to weaken. In the British system, children are taught Christianity. They are taught a faith in school. It is a compulsory subject.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Is it not because they have never really had personal religion? That is, they have never really prayed with all their heart; only, at most, with all their fervour, certainly not with strength and mind. They have neer “spread out” their whole soul and situation to a god who knows. They have never opened the petals of their soul in the warm sympathy of His knowledge. They have not become particular enough in their prayer, faithful with themselves, or relevant to their complete situation. They do not face themselves, only what happens to them. They pray with their heart and not with their conscience. They pity themselves, perhaps they spare themselves, they shrink from hurting themselves more than misfortune hurts them. They say, “If you knew all you could not help pitying me.” They do not say, “God knows all, and how can He spare me?” For themselves, or for their fellows, it is the prayer of pity, not of repentance. We need the prayer of self-judgment more than the prayer of fine insight.
We are not humble in God’s sight, partly because in our prayer there is a point at which we cease to pray, where we do not turn everything out into God’s light. It is because there is a chamber or two in our souls where we do not enter in and take God with us. We hurry Him by the door as we take Him along the corridors of our life to see our tidy places or our public rooms. We ask from our prayers too exclusively comfort, strength, enjoyment, or tenderness and graciousness, and not often enough humiliation and its fine strength. We want beautiful prayers, touching prayers, simple prayers, thoughtful prayers; prayers with a quaver or a tear in them, or prayers with delicacy and dignity in them. But searching prayer, humbling prayer, which is the prayer of the conscience, and not merely of the heart or taste; prayer which is bent on reality, and to win the new joy goes through new misery if need by—are such prayers as welcome and common as they should be? Too much of our prayer is apt to leave us with the self-complacency of the sympathetically incorrigible, of the benevolent and irremediable, of the breezy octogenarian, all of whose yesterdays look backward with a cheery and exasperating smile.
It is an art—this great and creative prayer—this intimate conversation with God. “Magna ars est conversari cum Deo,” says Thomas a Kempis. It has to be learned. In social life we learn that conversation is not mere talk. There is an art in it, if we are not to have a table of gabblers. How much more is it so in the conversation of heaven! We must learn that art by practice, and by keeping the best society in that kind. Associate much with the great masters in this kind; especially with the Bible; and chiefly with Christ. Cultivate His Holy Spirit. He is the grand master of God’s art and mystery in communing with man. And there is no other teacher, at least, of man’s art of communion with God.
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
The terrible thing about terrorism
is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it.
Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others,
the light within them dies.
--- Terry Waite
We can never escape God’s lovely essence.
--- Sonnett Branche
The only possible effect one can have on the world is through unpopular ideas.
--- Vivienne Westwood
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Titus Gave Orders To Demolish The Tower Of Antonia And Then Persuaded Josephus To Exhort The Jews Again [To A Surrender].
1. And now Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia, and make him a ready passage for his army to come up; while he himself had Josephus brought to him, [for he had been informed that on that very day, which was the seventeenth day 5of Panemus, [Tamuz,] the sacrifice called "the Daily Sacrifice" had failed, and had not been offered to God, for want of men to offer it, and that the people were grievously troubled at it,] and commanded him to say the same things to John that he had said before, that if he had any malicious inclination for fighting, he might come out with as many of his men as he pleased, in order to fight, without the danger of destroying either his city or temple; but that he desired he would not defile the temple, nor thereby offend against God. That he might, if he pleased, offer the sacrifices which were now discontinued by any of the Jews whom he should pitch upon. Upon this Josephus stood in such a place where he might be heard, not by John only, but by many more, and then declared to them what Caesar had given him in charge, and this in the Hebrew language. 6 So he earnestly prayed them to spare their own city, and to prevent that fire which was just ready to seize upon the temple, and to offer their usual sacrifices to God therein. At these words of his a great sadness and silence were observed among the people. But the tyrant himself cast many reproaches upon Josephus, with imprecations besides; and at last added this withal, that he did never fear the taking of the city, because it was God's own city. In answer to which Josephus said thus with a loud voice: "To be sure thou hast kept this city wonderfully pure for God's sake; the temple also continues entirely unpolluted! Nor hast thou been guilty of any impiety against him for whose assistance thou hopest! He still receives his accustomed sacrifices! Vile wretch that thou art! if any one should deprive thee of thy daily food, thou wouldst esteem him to be an enemy to thee; but thou hopest to have that God for thy supporter in this war whom thou hast deprived of his everlasting worship; and thou imputest those sins to the Romans, who to this very time take care to have our laws observed, and almost compel these sacrifices to be still offered to God, which have by thy means been intermitted! Who is there that can avoid groans and lamentations at the amazing change that is made in this city? since very foreigners and enemies do now correct that impiety which thou hast occasioned; while thou, who art a Jew, and wast educated in our laws, art become a greater enemy to them than the others. But still, John, it is never dishonorable to repent, and amend what hath been done amiss, even at the last extremity. Thou hast an instance before thee in Jechoniah, 7 the king of the Jews, if thou hast a mind to save the city, who, when the king of Babylon made war against him, did of his own accord go out of this city before it was taken, and did undergo a voluntary captivity with his family, that the sanctuary might not be delivered up to the enemy, and that he might not see the house of God set on fire; on which account he is celebrated among all the Jews, in their sacred memorials, and his memory is become immortal, and will be conveyed fresh down to our posterity through all ages. This, John, is an excellent example in such a time of danger, and I dare venture to promise that the Romans shall still forgive thee. And take notice that I, who make this exhortation to thee, am one of thine own nation; I, who am a Jew, do make this promise to thee. And it will become thee to consider who I am that give thee this counsel, and whence I am derived; for while I am alive I shall never be in such slavery, as to forego my own kindred, or forget the laws of our forefathers. Thou hast indignation at me again, and makest a clamor at me, and reproachest me; indeed I cannot deny but I am worthy of worse treatment than all this amounts to, because, in opposition to fate, I make this kind invitation to thee, and endeavor to force deliverance upon those whom God hath condemned. And who is there that does not know what the writings of the ancient prophets contain in them,—and particularly that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city? For they foretold that this city should be then taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen. And are not both the city and the entire temple now full of the dead bodies of your countrymen? It is God, therefore, it is God himself who is bringing on this fire, to purge that city and temple by means of the Romans, 8 and is going to pluck up this city, which is full of your pollutions."
2. As Josephus spoke these words, with groans and tears in his eyes, his voice was intercepted by sobs. However, the Romans could not but pity the affliction he was under, and wonder at his conduct. But for John, and those that were with him, they were but the more exasperated against the Romans on this account, and were desirous to get Josephus also into their power: yet did that discourse influence a great many of the better sort; and truly some of them were so afraid of the guards set by the seditious, that they tarried where they were, but still were satisfied that both they and the city were doomed to destruction. Some also there were who, watching a proper opportunity when they might quietly get away, fled to the Romans, of whom were the high priests Joseph and Jesus, and of the sons of high priests three, whose father was Ishmael, who was beheaded in Cyrene, and four sons of Matthias, as also one son of the other Matthias, who ran away after his father's death, 9 and whose father was slain by Simon the son of Gioras, with three of his sons, as I have already related; many also of the other nobility went over to the Romans, together with the high priests. Now Caesar not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but, knowing they would not willingly live after the customs of other nations, he sent them to Gophna, and desired them to remain there for the present, and told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again; so they cheerfully retired to that small city which was allotted them, without fear of any danger. But as they did not appear, the seditious gave out again that these deserters were slain by the Romans, which was done in order to deter the rest from running away, by fear of the like treatment. This trick of theirs succeeded now for a while, as did the like trick before; for the rest were hereby deterred from deserting, by fear of the like treatment.
3. However, when Titus had recalled those men from Gophna, he gave orders that they should go round the wall, together with Josephus, and show themselves to the people; upon which a great many fled to the Romans. These men also got in a great number together, and stood before the Romans, and besought the seditious, with groans and tears in their eyes, in the first place to receive the Romans entirely into the city, and save that their own place of residence again; but that, if they would not agree to such a proposal, they would at least depart out of the temple, and save the holy house for their own use; for that the Romans would not venture to set the sanctuary on fire but under the most pressing necessity. Yet did the seditious still more and more contradict them; and while they cast loud and bitter reproaches upon these deserters, they also set their engines for throwing of darts, and javelins, and stones upon the sacred gates of the temple, at due distances from one another, insomuch that all the space round about within the temple might be compared to a burying-ground, so great was the number of the dead bodies therein; as might the holy house itself be compared to a citadel. Accordingly, these men rushed upon these holy places in their armor, that were otherwise unapproachable, and that while their hands were yet warm with the blood of their own people which they had shed; nay, they proceeded to such great transgressions, that the very same indignation which Jews would naturally have against Romans, had they been guilty of such abuses against them, the Romans now had against Jews, for their impiety in regard to their own religious customs. Nay, indeed, there were none of the Roman soldiers who did not look with a sacred horror upon the holy house, and adored it, and wished that the robbers would repent before their miseries became incurable.
by D.H. Stern
but a fool’s provocation outweighs them both.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
and personal enlargement
Moses went unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens. --- Exodus 2:11.
Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After the first strike for God and for the right, God allowed Moses to be driven into blank discouragement, He sent him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared and told Moses to go and bring forth His people, and Moses said—‘Who am I, that I should go?’ In the beginning Moses realized that he was the man to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in the individual aspect, but he was not the man for the work until he had learned communion with God.
We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and we start to do the thing; then comes something equivalent to the forty years in the wilderness, as if God had ignored the whole thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged God comes back and revives the call, and we get the quaver in and say—‘Oh, who am I!’ We have to learn the first great stride of God—“I AM THAT I AM hath sent thee.” We have to learn that our individual effort for God is an impertinence; our individuality is to be rendered incandescent by a personal relationship to God (see Matthew 3:11. We fix on the individual aspect of things; we have the vision—‘This is what God wants me to do’; but we have not got into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a big personal enlargement ahead.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
It is another country.
There is no speech there such
as we know; even the colours
When the residents use their eyes,
it is not shapes they see but the distance
between them. if they go,
it is not in a traveller's
usual direction, but sideways and
out through the mirror of a refracted
timescale. If you met them early,
you would recognize them by an absence
of shadow. Your problems
are in their past; those they are about to solve
are what you are incapable
of conceiving. In experiments
in outbreeding, under the growing microscope
of the mind, they are isolating
the human virus and burning it
up in the fierceness of their detachment.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The tradition, in its desire not only to legislate for community but also to guide individuals, was concerned with not exposing the road of spiritual excellence to those unprepared to understand or to appreciate the sublime teachings of Ma’aseh Bereshit and Ma’aseh Merkavah. The symbolic language of Aggadah enables the individual to cultivate his individual capacity for excellence within a community defined by a comprehensive, all-inclusive law.
The emphasis upon individual excellence and the spiritual well-being of community are two characteristics of the supposedly incompatible world views of philosophy and Judaism. Maimonides resolves this apparent conflict between philosophy and Halakhah by showing that the Talmud, through Halakhah and Aggadah, embraced both the individual and community.
It is mistaken to impute to Maimonides the introduction of Hellenistic teachings into Judaism when he maintains that not all men can be placed at the same level of spiritual excellence. Any superficial reading of the Bible or the Talmud would show that not every member of the community was on the same level as the prophets or the talmudists. Husik is mistaken in his claim that the Bible is exclusively a guidebook for action. (Husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy, p. 300.) We are not told in the Bible that the difference between prophet and community is based solely on degrees of practice. Maimonides did not invent the idea of the rarity of excellence. He only offered us a way of understanding it.
After explaining why aggadic language is symbolic, Maimonides proceeds, in his introduction, to show the reader how to interpret an aggadic statement which is opposed to reason. If his concern had been solely epistemological, i.e., to show that Aggadah does not violate the conclusions of science and metaphysics, he should have selected an aggadic statement which appears to contradict reason’s understanding of nature and then proceeded to interpret and to reveal that statement’s compatibility with reason. There are many bizarre factual claims in Aggadah which could serve this purpose. The Aggadah which he chose to explain, however, is a model from which to evaluate the supposed incompatibility of the spiritual outlooks of Athens and Jerusalem. This Aggadah is neither a factual nor a metaphysical claim. It is, instead, a succinct statement of a world view which would destroy any attempts to construct a unity of philosophy and halakhic Judaism: “God only has in His world the four cubits of the Halakhah” (T.B. Berakhot 8a).
To what does Maimonides appeal to convince his reader that this statement must not be accepted at face value, but requires a symbolic interpretation in order to reveal its hidden meaning? In dealing with a statement which presents a world view, Maimonides is unable to declare the literal meaning as false through an appeal to factual affairs or to some violation of demonstrable principles. Instead, he counters the literal sense of this statement by appealing to human models present in the tradition which would invalidate the purported way of life suggested by this Aggadah.
If Halakhah is the only way to God, which is the obvious meaning of the aggadic statement, how can one explain the relationship of men to God prior to the giving of the law? Maimonides, in an incredulous manner, asks whether one can seriously entertain the possibility that in the time of Shem and Ever and those living prior to the existence of Halakhah no one was able to approach God. The Torah does not begin with Sinai, but portrays men relating to God prior to the revelation of the law. Only by understanding a way to God, independent of the revelation of the Torah, can we make sense of these human models. Maimonides presents the method of the philosophers to elucidate the nature of this spiritual way.
The philosophic method develops from a teleological understanding of the world of nature. After discovering that the final cause of sublunar beings is primarily related to the service of man, the philosopher proceeds to analyze the purpose of man. To discover the human end, one must first reveal the essence of man. From among all human activities, the philosopher isolates that activity which is unique to man. Having done this he can then understand how true humanity can be achieved. Since rational activity distinguishes man from all other animals, and since the discipline of metaphysics deals with the most sublime object of thought, the philosopher concludes that man’s purpose can only be realized in reflection on God. Intellectual disciplines have significance because they lead a person from knowledge of nature to metaphysics and, ultimately, to knowledge of the most perfect Being—God. This final step consummates man’s quest to realize his absolute purpose.
The search for this end entails a way of life as well as a development in theoretical knowledge. It is self-evident, to Maimonides, that one cannot live an animal existence of exaggerated gratification of the senses while seeking at the same time to perfect one’s intellect. Philosophers know that knowledge of God requires that man achieve moral excellence. The ideal of reason—the single-minded pursuit of knowing God—gives rise to an ethic which attempts to limit one’s involvement with bodily needs to the extent necessary for intellectual fulfillment.
At this point Maimonides could have legitimated the way of the philosophers in the eyes of his halakhic reader by inventing some claim which attributed the philosophers’ understanding of man’s purpose to the influence of the prophets. The identification of Aggadah with philosophic teachings would have been acceptable to pious students of the Talmud if Maimonides had claimed that the philosophers were influenced by the prophets. Maimonides, however, makes a definite point of stating that
… this matter was not made known through the Prophets alone, but also the wise men of the ancient nations, even though they never saw the Prophets nor heard their words, already knew that man is not whole unless he includes [within himself] knowledge and practice.
The way to God resulting from human reasoning does not require the authentication of the prophets. If philosophy alone can lead to a pursuit of God, why then is Torah needed? This question is not raised, but we shall deal with the way Maimonides might address himself to such a problem. What is crucial at this point is that the halakhic reader gain an appreciation of the importance of philosophy not only as a cognitive discipline, but as an important road to God.
Before examining Maimonides’ interpretation of the aggadic statement, “God only has in His world the four cubits of the Halakhah,” let us evaluate what Maimonides has established so far. He has shown that philosophic knowledge enables one to discover criteria for interpreting both the form and content of Aggadah. Maimonides does not elaborate upon the methods and teachings of philosophy in his legal works. This training must be initiated by the student through independent study. The teachings of Aggadah, which aim at the development of the individual’s spiritual capacities, cannot be taught in works which attempt to clarify and to codify the normative tradition of Judaism. What Maimonides does in his legal works is to goad his halakhic reader toward the path of Aggadah by revealing to the reader how deeply he, Maimonides, values aggadic knowledge.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself in his Commentary to the Mishnah, Maimonides stresses the importance of his aggadic explanations. One does not need the complicated exegesis of Strauss to determine Maimonides’ view regarding the primacy of his aggadic explanations in comparison to his legal commentary:
And also we shall discuss something of this matter in tractate Avot, and we shall show you some indication of the agreement of the teachings of the greatest philosophers with the teachings of the Rabbis in all matters. And it is not appropriate in this place to discuss this issue. Rather my way at all times [is that] in all places where there is an allusion to matters of belief, I explain something, for it is more worthy to me to explain one of the principles than anything else.
Maimonides does not hide his supreme evaluation of Aggadah. His holding back of a full explication of Aggadah in his legal works is based upon his love for the community and his profound awareness that there are stages of intellectual and spiritual growth which the student must undergo by himself before fully comprehending the path of spiritual excellence. A responsible guide in Aggadah waits to hear from his student before he teaches. The student’s capacity and level of appropriation will determine what the teacher imparts.
Maimonides has a model for this approach in the talmudic tradition:
And the Sages, peace to them, would hide from each other secrets of Torah. They related that one of the Sages happened to meet with people who were learned in the Account of Creation [Ma’aseh Bereshit] where as he knew the Account of the Chariot [Ma’aseh Merkavah]. He said to them, “Teach me the Account of Creation and I will teach you the Account of the Chariot.” They complied with him. After they taught him the Account of Creation he refused to teach them the Account of the Chariot. And he did not do this, Heaven forbid, out of jealousy nor because he wished to be greater than they, for these qualities are disgraceful even for the lowliest of men and all the more so for great men. Rather, he did this because he saw himself worthy of learning what they had and he did not find them worthy of learning what he had.
Maimonides’ method in the introduction of Commentary to the Mishnah is to point to the unified way of Judaism and philosophy. In The Commentary to the Mishnah Maimonides states that such a unity exists, and he locates within the tradition those human models whose example provides a basis for integrating the claims of Athens and Jerusalem.
In his introduction, Maimonides’ model of pre-Mosaic man and his analysis of the philosophers’ way may not be sufficient evidence to convince a halakhic reader of the importance of philosophic knowledge for his relationship to God. Such a reader might acknowledge the necessity of theoretical knowledge of nature and metaphysics prior to the availability of Torah law. However, both Maimonides and his reader live after Sinai. Halakhic Jews claiming to possess a clear statement of God’s will expressed in a comprehensive normative system, are not compelled to decipher the secrets of nature in order to know God. After all, is not Maimonides writing a commentary to the Mishnah—a legal text to which Jews can turn to discover the necessary elaboration and clarification of divine commandments? After Sinai, the primacy of practice cannot be overlooked by any religious Jewish writer who addresses a halakhic audience. His points of departure and return must be located within Halakhah. Consequently, for a traditional Jew to accept the importance of theoretical knowledge for his service to God, he must be convinced that it also affects practice.
Maimonides, aware of the problem, proceeded to offer evidence that would point to the primacy of Aggadah after Sinai. He turned to the talmudic tradition for human models which suggested different approaches to halakhic observance. If one could show that the Talmud was cognizant of varying levels of halakhic practice, proof then will be established for showing how knowledge of Aggadah is, in fact, responsible for the different levels of halakhic practice.
Maimonides presents three different models of action. The first model, which the prophets and the philosophers reject, is the person who imagines he can separate the perfection of his intellect from the way he conducts his daily life. The hedonistic intellectual is valued neither by the prophets nor by the genuine philosophers.
The second model is the person who fears God, acts with moderation, and conditions himself to practice the moral virtues. His only limitation is that he is not learned. From the context of Maimonides’ previous discussion, as well as from the explicit statement in his commentary to Avot, we must understand this lack of knowledge to refer to knowledge of the sciences of nature and of metaphysics. Maimonides claims that this lack of theoretical knowledge affects the nature of practice:
And so if a man is God-fearing, abstemious, keeps afar from the pleasures other than for the maintenance of the body, behaves in all natural matters in the way of moderation, and possesses all the good virtues, but has no knowledge, he too lacks perfection, although he is more perfect than the first because these actions of his are not the result of true knowledge and understanding [of what is most fundamental]. And, therefore, the Sages said, “A rude man [bur] is not one that fears sin—nor is a man that knows not Torah [am ha-areẓ] a ḥasid” (T.B. Avot 2:6).
And he who says of an am ha-areẓ that he is a ḥasid is but denying the teachings of the Sages who have made it absolutely clear and he is denying also reason. And thus you will find the commandment everywhere in the Torah, “Study them,” and afterward “to observe them.” Learning precedes practice, for through learning one comes to practice and practice does not bring about learning, and this is what they said, peace to them, “that learning [talmud] brings about practice” (T.B. Kedushin 40b).40
Here, Maimonides does not simply identify the am ha-areẓ by his lack of theoretical virtue. Theoretical and practical virtues are not two distinct and independent properties. Maimonides claims that the imperfection in the practice of the am ha-areẓ can be explained by his lack of theoretical knowledge of God. Just as insufficient knowledge of one’s legal tradition is detrimental to action, so too is one’s ignorance of the philosophic disciplines which provide an understanding of God. Maimonides fortifies these claims by referring to the talmudic statement which places learning before practice. Although the surface meaning of the talmudic statement would suggest that the knowledge referred to is that touching directly on practice, i.e., the study of commandments, the deeper meaning of talmud includes both Halakhah and Aggadah. Both the am ha-areẓ and the ḥasid agree that their tradition maintains the importance of knowledge for practice. They differ, however, in their understanding of which body of knowledge has this effect.
For now, it is sufficient to stress that by identifying the ḥasid of the Talmud with the halakhic Jew who knows philosophy, Maimonides indicated that he did not abandon the centrality of the normative tradition by insisting on the primacy of Aggadah.
It is not only with regard to the interaction of theoretical reflection and behavior that Maimonides seeks precedent models in the Talmud. He must also show how the ideal of individual excellence can emerge in a tradition that is heavily concerned with community. The Torah covenant was between a total community and its God. The community—as a whole—was addressed by God and challenged to become a holy people. How, then, can one maintain that Judaism subscribes to a conception of excellence which depends on individual intellectual capacities? The ideal of intellectual perfection isolates singular, gifted individuals and would thus appear to be incompatible with a tradition in which community is central. The philosopher discovers God as an outgrowth of independent reasoning. The burden of a covenant-community is not part of his consciousness. How, then, can a Jew make sense of Maimonides’ characterization of the hasid?
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” --- Luke 1:46–47.
Is there any true praise without joy? Spurgeon's Sermons on Old Testament Women, Vol. 1 Isn’t praise the twin to joy? And do not joy and praise always dwell together? Rejoice, then, beloved, in your Savior—in him above everything else. Never let any earthly thing or any person stand higher in your joy than Jesus Christ. Rejoice in him as most surely yours, for, dear believer, Christ is yours. If you are resting in him, he belongs to you, so rejoice in your own Savior, for all of Christ is yours—not half a Savior; not one of his wounds for you and one for me, but all his wounds for you and all for me; not his thoughtful head for you and his loving heart for me, but his head and his heart all for you and all for me—he is my Savior from his feet that were pierced by the nails to his head that was crowned with thorns.
If the fact that Christ is ours involves the bearing of the cross, we are glad to bear it. It may involve suffering and shame and a thousand temptations and trials; if it is so, each true believer can say with Mary, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior”—in what he is, in what he is to me, in what he is to all his children, in what he is to poor sinners, in what he is to God, in what he will be when he comes again, and in what he will be throughout eternity. Do as much as you can of all good things, but still there must be times for quiet meditation, times for reading, times for praying, and times for praising. There is no waste about such times; they are among the best-spent hours that we ever have. You and I, beloved, are the living to praise God. This is the culmination, the very apex of the pyramid of existence, pointing straight up to heaven—that we praise God with all our hearts and souls.
Prayer and praise are two of the sure signs of a true-born heir of heaven. If you never praise God, my friend, you can never go to heaven. Until the Lord has taken out of you the praise of other things and the love of other things and given you the grace to love him and praise him, you cannot enter his glory. Begin now to praise that God who freely forgives the greatest sin and who is willing to cleanse the very worst sinner, for he has given Christ to die, the just for the unjust, that he may bring them to God. Oh, begin to glorify him and rejoice in him now, and you will never want to leave off doing so, world without end.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Medieval crusaders returning from Palestine and Constantinople brought with them a treasure trove of “relics”—sacred objects from the Holy Land. All Europe was astir, bishop vying with bishop, church competing with church, to acquire and display various holy items. Cathedrals became virtual museums, and these relics were soon objects of veneration and pilgrimage.
In various churches, worshipers could view barbs from the crown of thorns, splinters from the cross of Christ, or the finger that Thomas thrust into Jesus’ side. The church of Halberstadt acquired the sponge and reed of Golgotha. A church in St. Omer claimed the lance that pierced the Savior’s side. The cathedral of Amiens enshrined the head of John the Baptist in a silver cup. Three different churches in France boasted a complete corpse of Mary Magdalene. In various other European churches, one could view Noah’s beard, Jacob’s rock, Moses’ rod, or the stone of Christ’s sepulcher. Elsewhere his robe, his chalice (the Holy Grail), or shavings from his beard thrilled wide-eyed pilgrims.
Even the Lord’s foreskin, his naval cord, and milk from Mary’s breasts were reportedly discovered and displayed. The basilica of St. Peter in Rome enshrined the bodies of Peter and Paul, making it the ultimate goal of Christian pilgrimage.
It isn’t surprising, then, that England was beside itself on October 13, 1247, when some of “Christ’s blood” arrived in London. The Crusaders vouched for its authenticity, and it bore the seals of the patriarch of Jerusalem and the archbishops of the Holy Land. King Henry III fasted and prayed through the night of October 12; then as Morning broke he marched through London’s streets, accompanying the priests in full regalia. He held aloft the vase containing the holy liquid. The procession moved from St. Paul’s to Westminster, then the Bishop of Norwich preached a great sermon regarding the relic in the vase.
But he would have done better to have ignored the relic and preached the reality, proclaiming nothing more nor less than the truth of Ephesians 1:7—Christ sacrificed his life’s blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven.
Christ sacrificed his life’s blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because God was so kind to us. God has great wisdom and understanding, and by what Christ has done, God has shown us his own mysterious ways.
--- Ephesians 1:7-9.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 13
“Godly sorrow worketh repentance.” --- 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters, but penitence never shows itself in sinners except divine grace works it in them. If thou hast one particle of real hatred for sin, God must have given it thee, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
True repentance has a distinct reference to the Saviour. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.
True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally—as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it—shun it in everything—not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each Morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against him.
Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.
Evening - October 13
“Love is strong as death.” --- Song of Solomon 8:6.
Whose love can this be which is as mighty as the conqueror of monarchs, the destroyer of the human race? Would it not sound like satire if it were applied to my poor, weak, and scarcely living love to Jesus my Lord? I do love him, and perhaps by his grace, I could even die for him, but as for my love in itself, it can scarcely endure a scoffing jest, much less a cruel death. Surely it is my Beloved’s love which is here spoken of—the love of Jesus, the matchless lover of souls. His love was indeed stronger than the most terrible death, for it endured the trial of the cross triumphantly. It was a lingering death, but love survived the torment; a shameful death, but love despised the shame; a penal death, but love bore our iniquities; a forsaken, lonely death, from which the eternal Father hid his face, but love endured the curse, and gloried over all. Never such love, never such death. It was a desperate duel, but love bore the palm. What then, my heart? Hast thou no emotions excited within thee at the contemplation of such heavenly affection? Yes, my Lord, I long, I pant to feel thy love flaming like a furnace within me. Come thou thyself and excite the ardour of my spirit.
“For every drop of crimson blood
Thus shed to make me live,
O wherefore, wherefore have not I
A thousand lives to give?”
Why should I despair of loving Jesus with a love as strong as death? He deserves it: I desire it. The martyrs felt such love, and they were but flesh and blood, then why not I? They mourned their weakness, and yet out of weakness were made strong. Grace gave them all their unflinching constancy—there is the same grace for me. Jesus, lover of my soul, shed abroad such love, even thy love in my heart, this Evening.
ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834–1924
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV)
The Christian life is often compared in Scripture to a warfare—the struggle of sin against righteousness and of the flesh versus the spirit. Each follower of Christ is called to be a “good” soldier. This involves motivation, training, discipline, good equipment, and endurance.
This hymn text reminds us that the church universal, the “called out” body of believers from every age, race, and culture, is to be an aggressive, unified body. It must always be moving forward in its mission. We cannot allow ourselves to become stagnant and contented with the status quo.
The author of this text, Sabine Baring-Gould, a Church of England minister, has left this account regarding the writing of this hymn:
It was written in a very simple fashion, without thought of publication. Whitmonday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing while marching from one village to the other, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was the result. It was written in great haste, likely in less than 15 minutes.
Yet these words that were written hurriedly for marching children became the text for a hymn that God ordained to inspire lives around the world, challenging Christians with their responsibility to be aggressive in advancing His cause both individually and with other members of the “Church of God.”
Onward, Christian soldiers marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see His banner go!
Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we—One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng; blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King—This thru countless ages men and angels sing.
Refrain: Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before!
For Today: 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10–18; 1 Timothy 6:11, 12
Consider how the outreach ministry of your local church could be advanced more effectively in the community. Sing this musical truth to help as you reflect on this concern ---
This generous soul, that before was not afraid to discover himself in the midst of Egypt for his countrymen, answers sneakingly to
God, and would veil his carnal fear with a pretence of insufficiency and humility; “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” (Exod.
3:11) He could not well allege an inability to go to Pharaoh, since he had had an education in the Egyptian learning, which rendered
him capable to appear at court. God at last uncaseth him, and shews it all to be a dissimulation, and whatsoever was the pretence,
fear lay at the bottom. He was afraid of his life upon his appearance before Pharaoh, from whose face he had fled upon the slaying the
Egyptians; which God intimates to him (Exod. 4:19), “Go, and return into Egypt, for all the men are dead which sought thy life.”
What doth this carriage speak, but as if God’s eye were not upon our inward parts, as though we could lock him out of our hearts, that
cannot be shut out from any creek of the hearts of men and angels?
Use II. is of comfort. It is a ground of great comfort under the present dispensation wherein we are; we have heard the doctrinal part, and God hath given us the experimental part of it in his special providence this day, upon the stage of the world. And, blessed be God; that he hath given us a ground of comfort, without going out of our ordinary course to fetch it, whereby it seems to be peculiarly of God’s ordering for us.
1. It is a comfort in all the clandestine contrivances of men against the church. His eyes pierce as far as the depths of hell. Not one of his church’s adversaries lies in a mist; all are as plain as the stars which he numbers: “Mine adversaries are all before thee” (Psalm 69:19), more exactly known to thee than I can recount them. It is a prophecy of Christ, wherein Christ is brought in speaking to God of his own and the church’s enemies: he comforts himself with this, that God hath his eye upon every particular person among his adversaries: he knows where they repose themselves, when they go out to consult, and when they come in with their resolves. He discerns all the rage that spirits their hearts, in what corner it lurks, how it acts; all the disorders, motions of it, and every object of that rage; he cannot be deceived by the closest and subtlest person. Thus God speaks concerning Sennacherib and his host against Jerusalem (Isa. 37:28, 29). After he had spoke of the forming of his church, and the weakness of it, he adds, “But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back,” &c. He knows all the methods of the counsels, the stages they had laid, the manner of the execution of their designs, all the ways whither they turned themselves, and would use them no better than men do devouring fish and untamed beasts, with a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the mouth. Those statesmen (in Isa. 29:15) thought their contrivances too deep for God to fathom, and too close for God to frustrate; “they seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay,” of no more force and understanding than a potter’s vessel, which understands not its own form wrought by the artificer, nor the use it is put to by the buyer and possessor; or shall be esteemed as a potter’s vessel, that can be as easily flung back into the mass from whence it was taken, as preserved in the figure it is now endued with. No secret designer is shrouded from God’s sight, or can be sheltered from God’s arm; he understands the venom of their hearts better than we can feel it, and discovers their inward fury more plainly than we can see the sting or teeth of a viper when they are opened for mischief; and to what purpose doth God know and see them, but in order to deliver his people from them in his own due time? “I know their sorrow, and am come down to deliver them.” (Exod. 3:7, 8). The walls of Jerusalem are continually before him; he knows, therefore, all that would undermine and demolish them; none can hurt Zion by any ignorance or inadvertency in God. It is observable, that our Saviour, assuming to himself a different title in every epistle to the seven churches, Both particularly ascribe to himself this of knowledge and wrath in that to Thyatira, an emblem or description of the Romish state (Rev. 2:18): “And unto the angel of the church of Thyatira write, These things, saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass.” His eyes, like a flame of fire, are of a piercing nature, insinuating themselves into all the pores and parts of the body they encounter with, and his feet like brass, to crush them with, is explained (ver. 23), “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am he which searches the reins and the heart, and I will give to every one of you according to your works.” He knows every design of the Romish party, designed by that church of Thyatira. Jezebel, there, signifies a whorish church; such a church as shall act as Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, who was not only a worshipper of idols, but propagated idolatry in Israel, slew the prophets, persecuted Elijah, murdered Naboth, the name whereof signifies prophecy, seized upon his possession. And if it be said that (ver. 19) this church was commended for her works, faith, patience, it is true Rome did at first strongly profess Christianity, and maintained the interest of it, but afterwards fell into the practice of Jezebel, and committed spiritual adultery: and is she to be owned for a wife, that now plays the harlot, because she was honest and modest at her first marriage? And though she shall be destroyed, yet not speedily (ver. 22); “I will cast her into a bed,” seems to intimate the destruction of Jezebel, not to be at once and speedily, but in a lingering way, and by degrees, as sickness consumes a body.
2. This perfection of God fits him to be a special object of trust. If he were forgetful, what comfort could we have in any promise? How could we depend upon him, if he were ignorant of our state? His compassion to pity us, his readiness to relieve us, his power to protect and assist us, would be insignificant, without his omniscience to inform his goodness, and direct the arm of his power. This perfection is, as it were, God’s office of intelligence: as you go to your memorandum - book to know what you are to do, so doth God to his omniscience; this perfection is God’s eye, to acquaint him with the necessities of his church, and directs all his other attributes in their exercise for and about his people. You may depend upon his mercy that hath promised, and upon his truth to inform; upon his sufficiency to supply you, and his goodness to receive you, and his righteousness to reward you; because he hath an infinite understanding to know you and your wants, you and your services. And without this knowledge of his, no comfort could be drawn from any other perfection; none of them could be a sure nail to hang our hopes and confidence upon. This is that the church alway celebrated (Psalm 105:7): “He hath remembered his covenant forever, and the word which he hath commanded to a thousand generations;” and (ver. 42), “He remembered his holy promise;” “And he remembered for them his covenant” (Psalm 106:45). He remembers and understands his covenant, therefore his promise to perform it, and therefore our wants to supply them.
3. And the rather, because God knows the persons of all his own. He hath in his infinite understanding, the exact number of all the individual persons that belong to him (2 Tim. 2:19): “The Lord knows them that are his.” He knows all things, because he hath created them; and he knows his people because he hath not only made them, but also chose them; he could no more choose he knew not what, than he could create he knew not what; and he knows them under a double title; of creation as creatures, in the common mass of creation; as new creatures by a particular act of separation. He cannot be ignorant of them in time, whom he foreknew from eternity; his knowledge in time is the same he had from eternity; he foreknew them that he intended to give the grace of faith unto; and he knows them after they believe, because he knows his own act, in bestowing grace upon them, and his own mark and seal wherewith he hath stamped them. No doubt but he that “calls the stars of heaven by their names” (Psalm 147:4), knows the number of those living stars that sparkle in the firmament of his church. He cannot be ignorant of their persons, when he numbers the hairs of their heads, and hath registered their names in the book of life. As he only had an infinite mercy to make the choice, so he only hath an infinite understanding to comprehend their persons. We only know the elect of God by a moral assurance in the judgment of charity, when the conversation of men is according to the doctrine of God. We have not an infallible knowledge of them, we may be often mistaken; Judas, a devil, may be judged by man for a saint, till he be stripped of his disguise. God only hath an infallible knowledge of them, he knows his own records, and the counterparts in the hearts of his people; none can counterfeit his seal, nor can any rase it out. When the church is either scattered like dust by persecution, or overgrown with superstition and idolatry, that there is scarce any grain of true religion appearing, as in the time of Elijah, who complained that he was left alone, as if the church had been rooted out of that corner of the world (1 Kings 19:14, 18); yet God knew that he had a number fed in a cave, and had reserved seven thousand men that had preserved the purity of his worship, and not bowed their knee to Baal. Christ knew his sheep, as well as he is known of them; yea, better than they can know him (John 10:14). History acquaints us, that Cyrus had so vast a memory, that he knew the name of every particular soldier in his army, which consisted of divers nations; shall it be too hard for an infinite understanding to know every one of that host that march under his banners? may he not as well know them, as know the number, qualities, influences, of those stars which lie concealed from our eye, as well as those that are visible to our sense? Yes, he knows them, as a general to employ them, as a shepherd to preserve them; he knows them in the world to guard them, and he knows them when they are out of the world to gather them, and cull out their bodies, though wrapped up in a cloud of the putrified carcases of the wicked. As he knew them from all eternity to elect them, so he knows them in time to clothe their persons with righteousness, to protect their persons in calamity, according to his good pleasure, and at last to raise and reward them according to his promise.
4. We may take comfort from hence, that our sincerity cannot be unknown to an infinite understanding. Not a way of the righteous is concealed from him, and, therefore, “they shall stand in judgment before him” (Psalm 1:6): “The Lord knows the way of the righteous;” he knows them to observe them, and he knows them to reward them. How comfortable is it to appeal to this attribute of God for our integrity, with Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:3)! “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart.” Christ himself is brought in in this prophetical Psalm, drawing out the comfort of this attribute (Psalm 40:9): “I have not restrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest;” meaning his faithfulness in declaring the righteousness of God. Job follows the same steps, “Also now behold, my record is in heaven, and my witness is on high” (Job 16:19); my innocence hath the testimony of men, but my greatest support is in the records of God. Also now, or, besides the testimony of my own heart, I have another witness in heaven, that knows the heart, and can only judge of the principles of my actions, and clear me from the scorns of my friends and the accusations of men, with a justification of my innocence; he repeats it twice, to take the greater comfort in it. God knows that we do that in the simplicity of our hearts, which may be judged by men to be done for unworthy and sordid ends: he knows not only the outward action, but the inward affection, and praises that which men often dispraise, and writes down that with an Euge! “Well done, good and faithful servant,” which men daub with their severest censures (Rom. 2:29). How refreshing is it to consider, that God never mistakes the appearance for reality, nor is led by the judgment of man! He sits in heaven, and laughs at their follies and censures. If God had no sounder and no more piercing a judgment than man, woe be to the sincerest souls that are often judged hypocrites by some. What a happiness is it for integrity to have a judge of infinite understanding, who will one day wipe off the dirt of worldly reproaches! Again, God knows the least dram of grace and righteousness in the hearts of his people, though but as a smoking flax, or the least bruise of a saving conviction (Matt. 12:20), and knows it so as to cherish it; he knows that work he hath begun, and never hath his eye off from it to abandon it.
5. The consideration of this excellent perfection in God may comfort us in our secret prayers, sighs, and works. If God were not of infinite understanding to pierce into the heart, what comfort hath a poor creature that hath a scantiness of expressions but a heart in a flame? If God did not understand the heart, faith and prayer, which are eternal works, would be in vain. How could he give that mercy our hearts plead for if he were ignorant of our inward affections? Hypocrites might scale heaven by lofty expressions, and a sincere soul come short of the happiness he is prepared for, for want of flourishing gifts. Prayer is an eternal work; words are but the garment of prayer; meditation is the body, and affection the soul and life of prayer; “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation” (Psalm 5:1). Prayer is a rational act; an act of the mind. not the act of a parrot: prayer is an act of the heart, though the speaking prayer is the work of the tongue; now God gives ear to the words, but he considers the meditation of the frame of the heart. Consideration is a more exact notice than hearing; the act only of the ear. Were not God of an infinite understanding, and omniscient, he might take fine clothes, a heap of garments, for the man himself, and be put off by glittering words, without a spiritual frame.
What matter of rejoicing is it that we call not upon a deaf and ignorant idol, but on one that listens to our secret petitions, to give them a dispatch, that knows our desires afar off, and from the infiniteness of his mercy, joined with his omniscience, stands ready to give us a return? Hath he not a book of remembrance for them that fear him, and for their sighs and ejaculations to him, as well as their discourses of him, (Mal. 3:16); and not only what prayers they utter, but what gracious and holy thoughts they have of him that thought upon his name? Though millions of supplications be put up at the same time, yet they have all a distinct file (as I may say) in an infinite understanding, which perceives and comprehends them all. As he observes millions of sins committed at the same time, by a vast number of persons, to record them in order to punishment, so he distinctly discerns an infinite number of cries, at the same moment, to register them in order to an answer. A sigh cannot escape an infinite understanding, though crowded among a mighty multitude of cries from others, or covered with many unwelcome distractions in ourselves, no more than a believing touch from the woman that had the bloody issue could be concealed from Christ, and be undiscerned from the press of the thronging multitudes: our groans are as audible and intelligible to him as our words, and he knows what is the mind of his own Spirit, though expressed in no plainer language than sobs and heavings (Rom. 8:27). Thus David cheers up himself under the neglects of his friends (Psalm 38:9); “Lord, my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee.” Not a groan of a panting spirit shall be lost, till God hath lost his knowledge; not a petition forgotten while God hath a record, nor a tear dried while God hath a bottle to reserve it in (Psalm 6:8 ). ( Is 6:8 a misprint? Lots of misprints in this ebook. I think he means Psalm 56:8. ) Our secret works are also known and observed by him; not only our outward labor, but our inward love in it (Heb. 6:10). If, with Isaac, we go privately into the field to meditate, or secretly “cast our bread upon the waters,” he keeps his eye upon us to reward us, and returns the fruit into our own bosoms (Matt. 6:4, 6); yea, though it be but a cup of cold water, from an inward spring of love, given to a disciple, “He sees your works, and your labor, and faith, and patience” in working them (Rev. 2:2); all the marks of your industry, and strength of your intentions, and will be as exact at last, in order to a due praise, as to open sins, in order to a just recompense (1 Cor. 4:5).
6. The consideration of this excellent attribute affords comfort in the afictions of good men. He knows their pressures, as well as hears their cries (Exod. 3:7). His knowledge comes not by information from us; but his compassionate listening to our cries springs from his own inspection into our sorrows; he is affected with them, before we make any discovery of them; he is not ignorant of the best season, when they may be usefully inflicted, and when they may be profitaby removed. The tribulation and poverty of his church is not unknown to him (Rev. 2:8, 9); “I know thy works and tribulation,” &c. He knows their works, and what tribulation they meet with for him; he sees their extremities, when they are toiling against the wind and tide of the world (Mark 6:48); yea, the natural exigencies of the multitude are not neglected by him; he discerns to take care of them. Our Saviour considered the three days’ fasting of his followers, and miraculously provides a dish for them in the wilderness. No good man is ever out of God’s mind, and therefore never out of his compassionate care: his eye pierceth into their dungeons, and pities their miseries. Joseph may forget his brethren, and the disciples not know Christ, when he walks upon the midnight waves and turbulent sea, but a lion’s den cannot obscure a Daniel from his sight, nor the depths of the whale’s belly bury Jonah from the Divine understanding: he discerns Peter in his chains, and Stephen under the stones of martyrdom; he knows Lazarus under his tattered rags, and Abel wallowing in his blood; his eye and knowledge goes along with his people, when they are transplanted into foreign countries, and sold for slaves into the islands of the Grecian, “for he will raise them out of the place” (Joel 3:6, 7). He would defeat the hopes of the persecutors, and applaud the patience of his people. He knows his people in the tabernacle of life, and in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). He knows all penal evils, because he commissions and directs them. He knows the instruments, because they are his sword (Psalm 17:13); and he knows his gracious sufferer because he hath his mark. He discerns Job in his anguish, and the devil in his malice. By the direction of this attribute he orders calamities, and rescues from them. “Thou hast seen it, for thou beholdest mischief and spite” (Psalm 10:14). That is the comfort of the psalmist, and the comfbrt of every believer, and the ground of committing themselves to God under all the injustice of men.
7. It is a comfort in all our infirmities. As he knows our sins to charge them, so he knows the weakness of our nature to pity us. As his infinite understanding may scare us, because he knows our transgressions, so it may relieve us, because he knows our natural mutability in our first creation, “he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). ’Tis the reason of the precedent verses why he removes our transgression from us, why he is so backward in punishing, so patient in waiting, so forward in pitying; Why? He doth not only remember our sins, but remember our frame of forming; what brittle, though clear glasses we were by creation, how easy to be cracked! He remembers our impotent and weak condition by corruption; what a sink we have of vain imaginations that remain in us after regeneration; he doth not only consider that we were made according to his image, and therefore able to stand, but that we were made of dust and weak matter, and had a sensitive soul, like that of beasts, as well as an intellectual nature, like that of angels, and therefore liable to follow the dictates of it, without exact care and watchfulness. If he remembered only the first, there would be no issue but indignation; but the consideration of the latter moves his compassion. How miserable should we be for want of this perfection in the Divine nature, whereby God remembers and reflects upon his past act in our first frame, and the mindfulness of our condition excites the motion of his bowels to us! Had he lost the knowledge how he first framed us, did he not still remember the mutability of our nature, as we were formed and stamped in his mint, how much more wretched would our condition be than it is! If his remembrance of our original be one ground of his pity, the sense of his omniscience should be a ground of our comfort in the stirring of our infirmities: he remembers we were but dust when he made us, and yet remembers we are but dust while he preserves and forbears us.
8. It is some comfort in the fears of some lurking corruption in our hearts. We know by this whither to address ourselves for the search and discovery of it: perhaps some blessings we want are retarded; some calamities we understand not the particular cause of, are inflicted; some petitions we have put up, hang too long for an answer; and the chariot wheels of Divine goodness move slow, and are long in coming. Let us beg the aid of this attribute to open to us the remoras, to discover what base affection there is that retards the mercies we want, or attracts the affliction we feel, or bars the door against the return of our supplications. What our dim sight cannot discover, the clear eye of God can make visible to us (Job 10:2): “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me.” As in want of pardon, we particularly plead his mercy, and in our desires for the performance of his promise, we argue with him from his faithfulness, so in the fear of any insincerity or hidden corruption we should implore his omniscience: for as God is a God in covenant, our God, our God in the whole of his nature, so the perfections of his nature are employed in their several stations, as assistances of his creatures. This was David’s practice and comfort, after that large meditation, on the omniscience and omnipresence of God, he turns his thoughts of it into petitions for the employment of it in the concerns of his soul, and begs a mercy suitable to the glory of this perfection (Psalm 139:23): “Search me, O God, and try my heart, try me, and know my thoughts;” dive to the bottom (ver. 24), “and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” His desire is not barely that God should know him, for it would be senseless to beg of God that he should have mercy, or faithfulness, or power, or knowledge in his nature; but he desires the exercise of this attribute, in the discovery of himself to himself, in order to his sight of any wicked way, and humiliation for it, and reformation of it, in order to his conduct to everlasting life. As we may appeal to this perfection to judge us when the sincerity of our actions is censured by others, so we may implore it to search us when our sincerity is questioned by ourselves, that our minds may be enlightened by a beam from his knowledge, and the little thieves may be pulled out of their dens in our hearts by the hand of his power. In particular, it is our comfort that we can, and our necessity that we must address particularly to this, when we engage solemnly in a work of self-examination; that we may have a clearer eye to direct us than our own, that we may not mistake brass for gold, or counterfeit graces for true; that nothing that is filthy and fit to be cast out, may escape our sight, and preserve its station. And we need not question the laying at the door of this neglect (viz. not calling in this attribute to our aid, whose proper office it is, as I may so say, to search and inquire) all the mistakes, ill success, and fruitlessness of our endeavors in self- examination, because we would engage in it in the pitiful strength of our own dimness, and not in the light of God’s countenance, and the assistance of his eye, which can discern what we cannot see, and discover that to us which we cannot manifest to ourselves. It is a comfort to a learner of an art to have a skilful eye to overlook his work, and inform him of the defects. Beg the help of the eye of God in all your searches and self-examinations.
9. The consideration of this attribute is comfortable in our assurances of, and reflections upon, the pardon of sin, or seeking of it. As God punishes men for sin according to his knowledge of them, which is greater than the knowledge their own consciences have of them, so he pardons according to his knowledge: he pardons not only according to our knowledge, but according to his own; he is greater than any man’s heart, to condemn for that which a man is at present ignorant of; and greater than our hearts, to pardon that which is not at present visible to us; he knows that which the most watchful conscience cannot take a survey of: if God had not an infinite understanding of us, how could we have a perfect and full pardon from him? It would not stand with his honor to pardon he knew not what. He knows what crimes we have to be pardoned, when we know not all of them ourselves, that stand in need of a gracious remission; his omniscience beholds every sin to charge it upon our Saviour. If he knows our sins that are black, he knows every mite of Christ’s righteousness which is pure, and the utmost extent of his merits, as well as the demerit of our iniquities. As he knows the filth of our sin, he also knows the covering of our Saviour: he knows the value of the Redeemer’s sufferings, and exactly understands every plea in the intercession of our Advoeate. Though God knows our sins oculo indice, yet he doth not see them oculo judice, with a judicial eye: his omniscience stirs not up his justice to revenge, but his mercy to pity. His infinite understanding of what Christ hath done, directs him to disarm his justice, and sound an alarm to his bowels. As he understands better than we what we have committed, so he understands better than we what our Saviour hath merited; and his eye directs his hand in the blotting out guilt, and applying the remedy.
The Existence and Attributes of God