Jesus Is Lord of the SabbathLuke 6 1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
A Man with a Withered Hand6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
The Twelve Apostles12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Jesus Ministers to a Great Multitude17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
The Beatitudes20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Jesus Pronounces Woes24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Love Your Enemies27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judging Others37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
A Tree and Its Fruit43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Build Your House on the Rock46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s ServantLuke 7 1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Messengers from John the Baptist18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
“ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
A Sinful Woman Forgiven36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
What I'm Reading
Reconciliation (Rom 5:1)
By John R.W. Stott from The Cross of Christ
The first thing that has to be said about the biblical gospel of reconciliation, however, is that it begins with reconciliation to God, and continues with a reconciled community in Christ. Reconciliation is not a term the Bible uses to describe ‘coming to terms with oneself’, although it does insist that it is only through losing ourselves in love for God and neighbour that we truly find ourselves.
Reconciliation with God, then, is the beginning. This is the meaning of ‘atonement’. It alludes to the event through which God and human beings, previously alienated from one another, are made ‘at one’ again. The word occurs only once in the New Testament’s Authorized (King James) Version, namely in the statement that through Christ ‘we have now received the atonement’ (Rom. 5:11), that is to say, ‘the reconciliation’. It is significant that in Romans 5:9–11, which is one of the four great passages on reconciliation in the New Testament, to be reconciled and to be justified are parallels. ‘Since we have now been justified by his blood’ is balanced by ‘if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son’. The two states, though both effected by the cross, are not identical, however. Justification is our legal standing before our Judge in the court; reconciliation is our personal relationship with our Father in the home. Indeed, the latter is the sequel and fruit of the former. It is only when we have been justified by faith that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), which is reconciliation.
Two other New Testament terms confirm this emphasis that reconciliation means peace with God, namely ‘adoption’ and ‘access’. With regard to the former, it was Jesus himself who always addressed God intimately as ‘Abba, Father’, who gave us permission to do the same, approaching him as ‘our Father in heaven’. The apostles enlarged on it. John, who attributes our being children of God to our being born of God, expresses his sense of wonder that the Father should have loved us enough to call us, and indeed make us, his children. (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–10) Paul, on the other hand, traces our status as God’s children rather to our adoption than to our new birth, and emphasizes the privileges we have in being sons instead of slaves, and therefore God’s heirs as well. (E.g. Rom. 8:14–17; Gal. 3:26–29; 4:1–7.)
Paul on Salvation
By Dallas Willard from Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
The substance of Paul’s teachings about salvation is drained off when we fail to take literally his words about our union and identification with Christ. Without this his writings can be handily subjected to elaborate plans of salvation or made into a “Roman road” of doctrinal assents, by which we supposedly gain God’s approval merely for believing what every demon believes to be true about Jesus and his work. James S. Stewart’s profound book A Man in Christ deals with this tendency in interpreting Paul and forcefully corrects it:
Beyond the reproduction in the believer’s spiritual life of his Lord’s death and burial lies the glorious fact of union with Christ in His resurrection. “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Everything that Paul associates with salvation—joy, and peace, and power, and progress, and moral victory—is gathered up in the one word he uses so constantly, “life.” Only those who through Christ have entered into a vital relationship to God are really “alive.” . . . But what Paul now saw with piercing clearness was that this life into possession of which souls entered by conversion was nothing else than the life of Christ Himself. He shared His very being with them. [James S. Stewart A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)]
Stewart points out how Paul speaks of “Christ who is your life” (Col 3:4) and of “the life of Jesus” being “made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). He points to Paul’s contrast of the law of sin and death with “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). And he emphasizes that “this life which flows from Christ into man is something totally different from anything experienced on the merely natural plane. It is different, not only in degree, but also in kind. It is kainoteˉs zoˉeˉs (Romans 6:4), a new quality of life, a supernatural quality.” This is what Paul means when he says that if one is in Christ, one is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
It is this identity between the additional life of the regenerate, or restarted, individual and the person and life of Christ himself that turns believers into “a colony of heaven” (as Moffatt translates Phil 3:20) and enables them to fulfill their call to be the light of the world, showing the world what it is really like to be alive.
Dallas Willard Books:
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
How God is in Business
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ
The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus
Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus&8217;s Essential Teachings on Discipleship
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence)
Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks
The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation
Knowing Christ Today
Getting Love Right
Archaeology Silences Bible Critics
By Christians In Pakistan 7/28/2015
For many years, the critics of the Old Testament continued to argue that Moses invented the stories found in Genesis. The critics contended that the ancient people of the Old Testament times were too primitive to record documents with precise details.
In doing so, these critics basically claimed that there was no verification that the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts ever really existed.
The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970′s confirmed that the Biblical records concerning the Patriarchs are spot on. It was during the excavations in northern Syria that the excavating found a large library inside a royal archive room. This library had tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC.
The excavating team discovered almost 15,000 ancient tablets and fragments which when joined together accounted for about 2,500 tablets. Amazingly, these tablets confirmed that personal and location titles in the Biblical Patriarchal accounts are authentic. These tablets are known as the Ebla Tablets.
For a long period of time, the critics of the Old Testament used to argue that the name ‘Canaan’ was used wrongly in the early chapters of the Bible. They claimed the name Canaan was never used at that specific time in history. They further accused that the name was inserted in the Old Testament afterwards, while the earliest books of The Holy Bible were not written in the times that are described.
Christians in Pakistan http://www.christiansinpakistan.com
Toward Christian Spirituality
By N.T. Wright from Simply Christian
According to Christian belief, God’s own Spirit offers the answer to the four questions with which this book began—questions about our yearnings for beauty, relationship, spirituality, and justice. We take them in reverse order.
God has promised that, through his Spirit, he will remake the creation so that it becomes what it is straining and yearning to be. All the beauty of the present world will be enhanced, ennobled, set free from that which at present corrupts and defaces it. Then there will appear that greater beauty for which the beauty we already know is simply an advance signpost.
God offers us, by the Spirit, a fresh kind of relationship with himself—and, at the same time, a fresh kind of relationship with our neighbors and with the whole of creation. The renewal of human lives by the Spirit provides the energy through which damaged and fractured human relationships can be mended and healed.
God offers us, through the Spirit, the gift of being at last what we know in our bones we were meant to be: creatures that live in both dimensions of his created order. The quest for spirituality now appears as a search for that coming together of heaven and earth which, deeply challenging though of course it is, is genuinely on offer to those who believe.
Finally, God wants to anticipate now, by the Spirit, a world set right, a world in which the good and joyful gift of justice has flooded creation. The work of the Spirit in the lives of individuals in the present time is designed to be another advance sign, a down payment and guarantee, as it were, of that eventual setting-right of all things. We are “justified” in the present (I’ll say more about that later) in order to bring God’s justice to the world, against the day when—still by the operation of the Spirit—the earth is filled with the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Within this remarkable picture, two things stand out about characteristically Christian spirituality.
First, Christian spirituality combines a sense of the awe and majesty of God with a sense of his intimate presence. This is hard to describe but easy to experience. As Jesus addressed God by the Aramaic family word Abba, Father, so Christians are encouraged to do the same: to come to know God in the way in which, in the best sort of family, the child knows the parent. From time to time I have met Christians who look puzzled at this, and say that they have no idea what all that stuff is about. I have to say that being a Christian without having at least something of that intimate knowledge of the God who is at the same time majestic, awesome, and holy sounds like a contradiction in terms. I freely grant that there may be conditions under which, because of wounds in the personality, or some special calling of God, or some other reason, people may genuinely believe in the gospel of Jesus, strive to live by the Spirit, and yet have no sense of God’s intimate presence. There is, after all, such a thing as the “dark night of the soul,” reported by some who have probed the mysteries of prayer further than most of us. But Jesus declares that the Holy Spirit will not be denied to those who ask (Luke 11:13). One of the characteristic signs of the Spirit’s work is precisely that sense of the intimate presence of God.
Second, Christian spirituality normally involves a measure of suffering. One of the times when Jesus is recorded as having used the Abba-prayer was when, in Gethsemane, he asked his Father if there was another way, if he really had to go through the horrible fate that lay in store for him. The answer was yes, he did. But if Jesus prayed like that, we can be sure that we will often have to as well. Both Paul and John lay great stress on this. Those who follow Jesus are called to live by the rules of the new world rather than the old one, and the old one won’t like it. Although the life of heaven is designed to bring healing to the life of earth, the powers that presently run this earth have carved it up to their own advantage, and they resent any suggestion of a different way. That is why the powers—whether they are in politics or the media, in the professions or the business world—bitterly resent any suggestion from Christian leaders as to how things ought to be, even while sneering at the church for not “speaking out” on issues of the day.
Suffering may, then, take the form of actual persecution. Even in the liberal modern Western world—perhaps precisely in that world!—people can suffer discrimination because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. How much more so, in places where the worldview of those in power is explicitly stated to be opposed to the Christian faith in all its forms, as in some (not all) Muslim countries today. But suffering comes in many other forms, too: illness, depression, bereavement, moral dilemmas, poverty, tragedy, accidents, and death. Nobody reading the New Testament or any of the other Christian literature from the first two or three centuries could have accused the early Christians of painting too rosy a picture of what life would be like for those who follow Jesus. But the point is this: it is precisely when we are suffering that we can most confidently expect the Spirit to be with us. We don’t seek, or court, suffering or martyrdom. But if and when it comes, in whatever guise, we know that, as Paul says toward the end of his great Spirit-chapter, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright. Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[N.T. Wright Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 22 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. "To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar. A Psalm of David." This ode of singular excellence was committed to the most excellent of the temple songsters; the chief among ten thousand is worthy to be extolled by the chief Musician; no meaner singer must have charge of such a strain; we must see to it that we call up our best abilities when Jesus is the theme of praise. The words Aijeleth Shahar are enigmatical, and their meaning is uncertain; some refer them to a musical instrument used upon mournful occasions, but the majority adhere to the translation of our margin, "Concerning the kind of the morning." This last interpretation is the subject of much enquiry and conjecture. Calmet believed that the Psalm was addressed to the music master who presided over the band called the "Morning Hind," and Adam Clarke thinks this to be the most likely of all the conjectural interpretations, although he himself inclines to the belief that no interpretation should be attempted, and believes that it is a merely arbitrary and unmeaning title, such as Orientals have always been in the habit of appending to their songs. Our Lord Jesus is so often compared to a hind, and his cruel huntings are so pathetically described in this most affecting Psalm, that we cannot but believe that the title indicates the Lord Jesus under a well-known poetical metaphor; at any rate, Jesus is the Hind of the morning concerning whom David here sings.
SUBJECT. This is beyond all others THE PSALM OF THE CROSS. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been. It begins with, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and ends, according to some, in the original with "It is finished." For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this psalm, "there is none like it." It is the photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David. Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.
DIVISION. From the commencement to the twenty-first verse is a most pitiful cry for help, and from verse 21 to 31 is a most precious foretaste of deliverance. The first division may be subdivided at the tenth verse, from verse 1 to 10 being an appeal based upon covenant relationship; and from verse 10 to 21 being an equally earnest plea derived from the imminence of his peril.
Verse 1. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. The Jews mocked, but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Having ears to hear let us hear, and having eyes to see let us see! Let us gaze with holy wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that midday-midnight. First, our Lord's faith beams forth and deserves our reverent imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God with both hands and cries twice, "My God, my God!" The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the power of God to sustain him, for the title used —"El"—signifies strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the all-sufficient support and succour of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would fain know why he is left, he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us! "Why hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? "Hast:" it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:" I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken:" if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? "Me:" thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God. "Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound; "Pour'd forth like water is my frame; "None that approach his throne shall find
"Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" The Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven? What strong crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer! This was good cause to make him "roar." Yet there was reason for all this which those who rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.
Verse 2. "O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not." For our prayers to appear to be unheard is no new trial, Jesus felt it before us, and it is observable that he still held fast his believing hold on God, and cried still, "My God." On the other hand his faith did not render him less importunate, for amid the hurry and horror of that dismal day he ceased not his cry, even as in Gethsemane he had agonized all through the gloomy night. Our Lord continued to pray even though no comfortable answer came, and in this he set us an example of obedience to his own words, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." No daylight is too glaring, and no midnight too dark to pray in; and no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading.
Verse 3. "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." However ill things may look, there is no ill in thee, O God! We are very apt to think and speak hardly of God when we are under his afflicting hand, but not so the obedient Son. He knows too well his Father's goodness to let outward circumstances libel his character. There in no unrighteousness with the God of Jacob, he deserves no censure; let him do what he will, he is to be praised, and to reign enthroned amid the songs of his chosen people. If prayer be unanswered it is not because God is unfaithful, but for some other good and weighty reason. If we cannot perceive any ground for the delay, we must leave the riddle unsolved, but we must not fly in God's face in order to invent an answer. While the holiness of God is in the highest degree acknowledged and adored, the afflicted speaker in this verse seems to marvel how the holy God could forsake him, and be silent to his cries. The argument is, thou art holy, Oh! why is it that thou dost disregard thy holy One in his hour of sharpest anguish? We may not question the holiness of God, but we may argue from it, and use it as a plea in our petitions.
Verse 4. "Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them." This is the rule of life with all the chosen family. Three times over is it mentioned, they trusted, and trusted, and trusted, and never left off trusting, for it was their very life; and they fared well too, for thou didst deliver them. Out of all their straits, difficulties, and miseries faith brought them by calling their God to the rescue; but in the case of our Lord it appeared as if faith would bring no assistance from heaven, he alone of all the trusting ones was to remain without deliverance. The experience of other saints may be a great consolation to us when in deep waters if faith can be sure that their deliverance will be ours; but when we feel ourselves sinking, it is poor comfort to know that others are swimming. Our Lord here pleads the past dealings of God with his people as a reason why he should not be left alone; here again he is an example to us in the skilful use of the weapon of all prayer. The use of the plural pronoun "our" shows how one with his people Jesus was even on the cross. We say, "Our Father which art in heaven," and he calls those "our fathers" through whom we came into the world, although he was without father as to the flesh.
Verse 5. "They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded." As if he had said, "How is it that I am now left without succour in my overwhelming griefs, while all others have been helped? We may remind the Lord of his former lovingkindnesses to his people, and beseech him to be still the same. This is true wrestling; let us learn the art. Observe, that ancient saints cried and trusted, and that in trouble we must do the same; and the invariable result was that they were not ashamed of their hope, for deliverance came in due time; this same happy portion shall be ours. The prayer of faith can do the deed when nothing else can. Let us wonder when we see Jesus using the same pleas as ourselves, and immersed in griefs far deeper than our own.
Verse 6. "But I am a worm, and no man." This verse is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men. What a contrast between "I AM" and "I am a worm"! yet such a double nature was found in the person of our Lord Jesus when bleeding upon the tree. He felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him. He selects the weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any might except strength to suffer. This was a true likeness of himself when his body and soul had become a mass of misery—the very essence of agony—in the dying pangs of crucifixion. Man by nature is but a worm; but our Lord puts himself even beneath man, on account of the scorn that was heaped upon him and the weakness which he felt, and therefore he adds, "and no man." The privileges and blessings which belonged to the fathers he could not obtain while deserted by God, and common acts of humanity were not allowed him, for he was rejected of men; he was outlawed from the society of earth, and shut out from the smile of heaven. How utterly did the Saviour empty himself of all glory, and become of no reputation for our sakes! "A reproach of men" —their common butt and jest; a byword and a proverb unto them: the sport of the rabble, and the scorn of the rulers. Oh the caustic power of reproach, to those who endure it with patience, yet smart under it most painfully! "And despised of the people." The vox populi was against him. The very people who would once have crowned him then contemned him, and they who were benefited by his cures sneered at him in his woes. Sin is worthy of all reproach and contempt, and for this reason Jesus, the Sinbearer, was given up to be thus unworthily and shamefully entreated.
Verse 7. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn." Read the evangelistic narrative of the ridicule endured by the Crucified One, and then consider, in the light of this expression, how it grieved him. The iron entered into his soul. Mockery has for its distinctive description "cruel mockings;" those endured by our Lord were of the most cruel kind. The scornful ridicule of our Lord was universal; all sorts of men were unanimous in the derisive laughter, and vied with each other in insulting him. Priests and people, Jews and Gentiles, soldiers and civilians, all united in the general scoff, and that at the time when he was prostrate in weakness and ready to die. Which shall we wonder at the most, the cruelty of man or the love of the bleeding Saviour? How can we ever complain of ridicule after this?
"They shoot out the lip, they shake the head." These were gestures of contempt. Pouting, grinning, shaking of the head, thrusting out of the tongue, and other modes of derision were endured by our patient Lord; men made faces at him before whom angels vail their faces and adore. The basest signs of disgrace which disdain could devise were maliciously cast at him. They punned upon his prayers, they made matter for laughter of his sufferings, and set him utterly at nought. Herbert sings of our Lord as saying,—
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?"
Verse 9. "But thou art he that took me out of the womb." Kindly providence attends with the surgery of tenderness at every human birth; but the Son of Man, who was marvelously begotten of the Holy Ghost, was in an especial manner watched over by the Lord when brought forth by Mary. The destitute state of Joseph and Mary, far away from friends and home, led them to see the cherishing hand of God in the safe delivery of the mother, and the happy birth of the child; that Child now fighting the great battle of his life, uses the mercy of his nativity as an argument with God. Faith finds weapons everywhere. He who wills to believe shall never lack reasons for believing. "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts." Was our Lord so early a believer? Was he one of those babes and sucklings out of whose mouths strength is ordained? So it would seem; and if so, what a plea for help! Early piety gives peculiar comfort in our after trials, for surely he who loved us when we were children is too faithful to cast us off in our riper years. Some give the text the sense of "gave me cause to trust, by keeping me safely," and assuredly there was a special providence which preserved our Lord's infant days from the fury of Herod, the dangers of travelling, and the ills of poverty.
Verse 10. "I was cast upon thee from the womb." Into the Almighty arms he was first received, as into those of a loving parent. This is a sweet thought. God begins his care over us from the earliest hour. We are dandled upon the knee of mercy, and cherished in the lap of goodness; our cradle is canopied by divine love, and our first totterings are guided by his care. "Thou art my God from my mother's belly." The Psalm begins with "My God, my God," and here, not only is the claim repeated, but its early date is urged. Oh noble perseverance of faith, thus to continue pleading with holy ingenuity of argument! Our birth was our weakest and most perilous period of existence; if we were then secured by Omnipotent tenderness, surely we have no cause to suspect that divine goodness will fail us now. He who was our God when we left our mother, will be with us till we return to mother earth, and will keep us from perishing in the belly of hell.
Verses 11-21. The crucified Son of David continues to pour out his complaint and prayer. We need much grace that while reading we may have fellowship with his sufferings. May the blessed Spirit conduct us into a most clear and affecting sight of our Redeemer's woes.
Verse 11. "Be not far from me." This is the petition for which he has been using such varied and powerful pleas. His great woe was that God had forsaken him, his great prayer is that he would be near him. A lively sense of the divine presence is a mighty stay to the heart in times of distress. "For trouble is near; for there is none to help." There are two "fors," as though faith gave a double knock at mercy's gate; that is a powerful prayer which is full of holy reasons and thoughtful arguments. The nearness of trouble is a weighty motive for divine help; this moves our heavenly Father's heart, and brings down his helping hand. It is his glory to be our very present help in trouble. Our Substitute had trouble in his inmost heart, for he said, "the waters have come in, even unto my soul;" well might he cry, "be not far from me." The absence of all other helpers is another telling plea. In our Lord's case none either could or would help him, it was needful that he should tread the winepress alone; yet was it a sore aggravation to find that all his disciples had forsaken him, and lover and friend were put far from him. There is an awfulness about absolute friendlessness which is crushing to the human mind, for man was not made to be alone, and is like a dismembered limb when he has to endure heart-loneliness.
Verse 12. "Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round." The mighty ones in the crowd are here marked by the tearful eye of their victim. The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed around the innocent One, and longed to gore him to death with their cruelties. Conceive of the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed, naked man, cast into the midst of a herd of infuriated wild bulls. They were brutal as bulls, many, and strong, and the Rejected One was all alone, and bound naked to the tree. His position throws great force into the earnest entreaty, "Be not far from me."
Verse 13. "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion." Like hungry cannibals they opened their blasphemous mouths as if they were about to swallow the man whom they abhorred. They could not vomit forth their anger fast enough through the ordinary aperture of their mouths, and therefore set the doors of their lips wide open like those who gape. Like roaring lions they howled out their fury, and longed to tear the Saviour in pieces, as wild beasts raven over their prey. Our Lord's faith must have passed through a most severe conflict while he found himself abandoned to the tender mercies of the wicked, but he came off victorious by prayer; the very dangers to which he was exposed being used to add prevalence to his entreaties.
Verse 14. Turning from his enemies, our Lord describes his own personal condition in language which should bring the tears into every loving eye. "I am poured out like water." He was utterly spent, like water poured upon the earth; his heart failed him, and had no more firmness in it than running water, and his whole being was made a sacrifice, like a libation poured out before the Lord. He had long been a fountain of tears; in Gethsemane his heart welled over in sweat, and on the cross he gushed forth with blood; he poured out his strength and spirit, so that he was reduced to the most feeble and exhausted state. "All my bones are out of joint," as if distended upon a rack. Is it not most probable that the fastenings of the hands and feet, and the jar occasioned by fixing the cross in the earth, may have dislocated the bones of the Crucified One? If this is not intended, we must refer the expression to that extreme weakness which would occasion relaxation of the muscles and a general sense of parting asunder throughout the whole system. "My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." Excessive debility and intense pain made his inmost life to feel like wax melted in the heat. The Greek liturgy uses the expression, "thine unknown sufferings," and well it may. The fire of Almighty wrath would have consumed our souls for ever in hell; it was no light work to bear as a substitute the heat of an anger so justly terrible. Dr. Gill wisely observes, "if the heart of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, melted at it, what heart can endure, or hands be strong, when God deals with them in his wrath?"
Verse 15. "My strength is dried up like a potsherd." Most complete debility is here portrayed; Jesus likens himself to a broken piece of earthenware, or an earthen pot, baked in the fire till the last particle of moisture is driven out of the clay. No doubt a high degree of feverish burning afflicted the body of our Lord. All his strength was dried up in the tremendous flames of avenging justice, even as the paschal lamb was roasted in the fire. "My tongue cleaveth to my jaws;" thirst and fever fastened his tongue to his jaws. Dryness and a horrible clamminess tormented his mouth, so that he could scarcely speak. "Thou hast brought me into the dust of death;" so tormented in every single part as to feel dissolved into separate atoms, and each atom full of misery; the full price of our redemption was paid, and no part of the Surety's body or soul escaped its share of agony. The words may set forth Jesus as having wrestled with Death until he rolled into the dust with his antagonist. Behold the humiliation of the Son of God! The Lord of Glory stoops to the dust of death. Amid the mouldering relics of mortality Jesus condescends to lodge!
Bishop Mant's version of the two preceding verses is forcible and accurate:—
My bones asunder start;
As wax that feels the searching flame,
Within me melts my heart.
My wither'd sinews shrink unstrung
Like potsherd dried and dead:
Cleaves to my jaws my burning tongue
The dust of death my bed."
Verse 17. So emaciated was Jesus by his fastings and sufferings that he says, "I may tell all my bones." He could count and recount them. The posture of the body on the cross, Bishop Horne thinks, would so distend the flesh and skin as to make the bones visible, so that they might be numbered. The zeal of his Father's house had eaten him up; like a good soldier he had endured hardness. Oh that we cared less for the body's enjoyment and ease and more for our Father's business! It were better to count the bones of an emaciated body than to bring leanness into our souls.
"They look and stare upon me." Unholy eyes gazed insultingly upon the Saviours's nakedness, and shocked the sacred delicacy of his holy soul. The sight of the agonizing body ought to have ensured sympathy from the throng, but it only increased their savage mirth, as they gloated their cruel eyes upon his miseries. Let us blush for human nature, and mourn in sympathy with our Redeemer's shame. The first Adam made us all naked, and therefore the second Adam became naked that he might clothe our naked souls.
Verse 18. "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." The garments of the executed were the perquisites of the executioners in most cases, but it was not often that they cast lots at the division of the spoil; this incident shows how clearly David in vision saw the day of Christ, and how surely the Man of Nazareth is he of whom the prophets spake: "these things, therefore, the soldiers did." He who gave his blood to cleanse us gave his garments to clothe us. As Ness says, "this precious Lamb of God gave up his golden fleece for us." How every incident of Jesus' griefs is here stored up in the treasury of inspiration, and embalmed in the amber of sacred song; we must learn hence to be very mindful of all that concerns our Beloved, and to think much more of everything which has a connection with him. It may be noted that the habit of gambling is of all others the most hardening, for men could practise it even at the cross-foot while besprinkled with the blood of the Crucified. No Christian will endure the rattle of the dice when he thinks of this.
Verse 19. "But be thou not far from me, O Lord." Invincible faith returns to the charge, and uses the same means, viz., importunate prayer. He repeats the petition so piteously offered before. He wants nothing but his God, even in his lowest state. He does not ask for the most comfortable or nearest presence of God, he will be content if he is not far from him; humble requests speed at the throne. "O my strength, haste thee to help me." Hard cases need timely aid: when necessity justifies it we may be urgent with God as to time, and cry, "make haste;" but we must not do this out of willfulness. Mark how in the last degree of personal weakness he calls the Lord "my strength;" after this fashion the believer can sing, "when I am weak, then am I strong."
Verse 20. "Deliver my soul from the sword." By the sword is probably meant entire destruction, which as a man he dreaded; or perhaps he sought deliverance from the enemies around him, who were like a sharp and deadly sword to him. The Lord had said, "Awake, O sword," and now from the terror of that sword the Shepherd would fain be delivered as soon as justice should see fit. "My darling from the power of the dog." Meaning his soul, his life, which is most dear to every man. The original is, "my only one," and therefore is our soul dear, because it is our only soul. Would that all men made their souls their darlings, but many treat them as if they were not worth so much as the mire of the streets. The dog may mean Satan, that infernal Cerberus, that cursed and cursing cur; or else the whole company of Christ's foes, who though many in number were as unanimous as if there were but one, and with one consent sought to rend him in pieces. If Jesus cried for help against the dog of hell, much more may we. Cave canem, beware of the dog, for his power is great, and only God can deliver us from him. When he fawns upon us, we must not put ourselves in his power; and when he howls at us, we may remember that God holds him with a chain.
Verse 21. "Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." Having experienced deliverance in the past from great enemies, who were strong as the unicorns, the Redeemer utters his last cry for rescue from death, which is fierce and mighty as the lion. This prayer was heard, and the gloom of the cross departed. Thus faith, though sorely beaten, and even cast beneath the feet of her enemy, ultimately wins the victory. It was so in our Head, it shall be so in all the members. We have overcome the unicorn, we shall conquer the lion, and from both lion and unicorn we shall take the crown.
Verses 22-31. The transition is very marked; from a horrible tempest all is changed into calm. The darkness of Calvary at length passed away from the face of nature, and from the soul of the Redeemer, and beholding the light of his triumph and its future results the Saviour smiled. We have followed him through the gloom, let us attend him in the returning light. It will be well still to regard the words as a part of our Lord's soliloquy upon the cross, uttered in his mind during the last few moments before his death.
Verse 22. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." The delights of Jesus are always with his church, and hence his thoughts, after much distraction, return at the first moment of relief to their usual channel; he forms fresh designs for the benefit of his beloved ones. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Among his first resurrection words were these, "Go to my brethren." In the verse before us, Jesus anticipates happiness in having communication with his people; he purposes to be their teacher and minister, and fixes his mind upon the subject of his discourse. The name, i.e., the character and conduct of God are by Jesus Christ's gospel proclaimed to all the holy brotherhood; they behold the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him, and rejoice greatly to see all the infinite perfections manifested in one who is bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. What a precious subject is the name of our God! It is the only one worthy of the only Begotten, whose meat and drink it was to do the Father's will. We may learn from this resolution of our Lord, that one of the most excellent methods of showing our thankfulness for deliverances is to tell to our brethren what the Lord has done for us. We mention our sorrows readily enough; why are we so slow in declaring our deliverances? "In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee." Not in a little household gathering merely does our Lord resolve to proclaim his Father's love, but in the great assemblies of his saints, and in the general assembly and church of the first-born. This the Lord Jesus is always doing by his representatives, who are the heralds of salvation, and labour to praise God. In the great universal church Jesus is the One authoritative teacher, and all others, so far as they are worthy to be called teachers, are nothing but echoes of his voice. Jesus, in this second sentence, reveals his object in declaring the divine name, it is that God may be praised; the church continually magnifies Jehovah for manifesting himself in the person of Jesus, and Jesus himself leads the song, and is both precentor and preacher in his church. Delightful are the seasons when Jesus communes with our hearts concerning divine truth; joyful praise is the sure result.
Verse 23. "Ye that fear the Lord praise him." The reader must imagine the Saviour as addressing the congregation of the saints. He exhorts the faithful to unite with him in thanksgiving. The description of "fearing the Lord" is very frequent and very instructive; it is the beginning of wisdom, and is an essential sign of grace. "I am a Hebrew and I fear God" was Jonah's confession of faith. Humble awe of God is so necessary a preparation for praising him that none are fit to sing to his honour but such as reverence his word; but this fear is consistent with the highest joy, and is not to be confounded with legal bondage, which is a fear which perfect love casteth out. Holy fear should always keep the key of the singing pew. Where Jesus leads the tune none but holy lips may dare to sing. "All ye the seed of Jacob glorify him." The genius of the gospel is praise. Jew and Gentile saved by sovereign grace should be eager in the blessed work of magnifying the God of our salvation. All saints should unite in the song; no tongue may be silent, no heart may be cold. Christ calls us to glorify God, and can we refuse? "And fear him, all ye the seed of Israel." The spiritual Israel all do this, and we hope the day will come when Israel after the flesh will be brought to the same mind. The more we praise God the more reverently shall we fear him, and the deeper our reverence the sweeter our songs. So much does Jesus value praise that we have it here under his dying hand and seal that all the saints must glorify the Lord.
Verse 24. "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted." Here is good matter and motive for praise. The experience of our covenant Head and Representative should encourage all of us to bless the God of grace. Never was man so afflicted as our Saviour in body and soul from friends and foes, by heaven and hell, in life and death; he was the foremost in the ranks of the afflicted, but all those afflictions were sent in love, and not because his Father despised and abhorred him. 'Tis true that justice demanded that Christ should bear the burden which as a substitute he undertook to carry, but Jehovah always loved him, and in love laid that load upon him with a view to his ultimate glory and to the accomplishment of the dearest wish of his heart. Under all his woes our Lord was honourable in the Father's sight, the matchless jewel of Jehovah's heart. "Neither hath he hid his face from him." That is to say, the hiding was but temporary, and was soon removed; it was not final and eternal. "But when he cried unto him, he heard." Jesus was heard in that he feared. He cried in extremis and de profundis, and was speedily answered; he therefore bids his people join him in singing a Gloria in excelsis.
Every child of God should seek refreshment for his faith in this testimony of the Man of Sorrows. What Jesus here witnesses is as true to-day as when it was first written. It shall never be said that any man's affliction or poverty prevented his being an accepted suppliant at Jehovah's throne of grace. The meanest applicant is welcome at mercy's door:—
A God unfaithful or unkind."
Verse 26. "The meek shall eat and be satisfied." Mark how the dying Lover of our souls solaces himself with the result of his death. The spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction of their hearts, they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they are filled with royal dainties. The thought of the joy of his people gave comfort to our expiring Lord. Note the characters who partake of the benefit of his passion; "the meek," the humble and lowly. Lord, make us so. Note also the certainty that gospel provisions shall not be wasted, "they shall eat;" and the sure result of such eating, "and be satisfied." "They shall praise the Lord that seek him." For a while they may keep a fast, but their thanksgiving days must and shall come. "Your heart shall live for ever." Your spirits shall not fail through trial, you shall not die of grief, immortal joys shall be your portion. Thus Jesus speaks even from the cross to the troubled seeker. If his dying words are so assuring, what consolation may we not find in the truth that he ever liveth to make intercession for us! They who eat at Jesus' table receive the fulfilment of the promise, "Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live for ever."
Verse 27. In reading this verse one is struck with the Messiah's missionary spirit. It is evidently his grand consolation that Jehovah will be known throughout all places of his dominion. "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord." Out from the inner circle of the present church the blessing is to spread in growing power until the remotest parts of the earth shall be ashamed of their idols, mindful of the true God, penitent for their offences, and unanimously earnest for reconciliation with Jehovah. Then shall false worship cease, "and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee," O thou only living and true God. This hope which was the reward of Jesus is a stimulus to those who fight his battles.
It is well to mark the order of conversion as here set forth; they shall "remember"—this is reflection, like the prodigal who came unto himself; "and turn unto Jehovah"—this is repentance, like Manasseh who left his idols and "worship"—this is holy service, as Paul adored the Christ whom once he abhorred.
Verse 28. "For the kingdom is the Lord's." As an obedient Son the dying Redeemer rejoiced to know that his Father's interests would prosper through his pains. "The Lord reigneth" was his song as it is ours. He who by his own power reigns supreme in the domains of creation and providence, has set up a kingdom of grace, and by the conquering power of the cross that kingdom will grow until all people shall own its sway and proclaim that "he is the governor among the nations." Amid the tumults and disasters of the present the Lord reigneth; but in the halcyon days of peace the rich fruit of his dominion will be apparent to every eye. Great Shepherd, let thy glorious kingdom come.
Verse 29. "All they that be fat upon earth," the rich and great are not shut out. Grace now finds the most of its jewels among the poor, but in the latter days the mighty of the earth "shall eat," shall taste of redeeming grace and dying love, and shall "worship" with all their hearts the God who deals so bountifully with us in Christ Jesus. Those who are spiritually fat with inward prosperity shall be filled with the marrow of communion, and shall worship the Lord with peculiar fervour. In the covenant of grace Jesus has provided good cheer for our high estate, and he has taken equal care to console us in our humiliation, for the next sentence is, "all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him." There is relief and comfort in bowing before God when our case is at its worst; even amid the dust of death prayer kindles the lamp of hope.
While all who come to God by Jesus Christ are thus blessed, whether they be rich or poor, none of those who despise him may hope for a blessing. "None can keep alive his own soul." This is the stern counterpart of the gospel message of "look and live." There is no salvation out of Christ. We must hold life, and have life as Christ's gift, or we shall die eternally. This is very solid evangelical doctrine, and should be proclaimed in every corner of the earth, that like a great hammer it may break in pieces all self-confidence.
Verse 30. "A seed shall serve him." Posterity shall perpetuate the worship of the Most High. The kingdom of truth on earth shall never fail. As one generation is called to its rest, another will arise in its stead. We need have no fear for the true apostolic succession; that is safe enough. "It shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." He will reckon the ages by the succession of the saints, and set his accounts according to the families of the faithful. Generations of sinners come not into the genealogy of the skies. God's family register is not for strangers, but for the children only.
Verse 31. "They shall come." Sovereign grace shall bring out from among men the bloodbought ones. Nothing shall thwart the divine purpose. The chosen shall come to life, to faith, to pardon, to heaven. In this the dying Saviour finds a sacred satisfaction. Toiling servant of God, be glad at the thought that the eternal purpose of God shall suffer neither let nor hindrance. "And shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born." None of the people who shall be brought to God by the irresistible attractions of the cross shall be dumb, they shall be able to tell forth the righteousness of the Lord, so that future generations shall know the truth. Fathers shall teach their sons, who shall hand it down to their children; the burden of the story always being "that he hath done this," or, that "It is finished." Salvation's glorious work is done, there is peace on earth, and glory in the highest. "It is finished," these were the expiring words of the Lord Jesus, as they are the last words of this Psalm. May we by living faith be enabled to see our salvation finished by the death of Jesus!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are Lectures To My Students; The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set), a devotional commentary on the Psalms; All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).
"Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
"Pour'd forth like water is my frame;
"None that approach his throne shall find
Where did the universe come from? A person of faith would probably answer that the universe was created out of nothing, as stated in the first verse of the Torah. Such an answer was long considered a scientific impossibility, because it contradicted the law of the conservation of matter and energy. According to this law of science, which was established in the middle of the nineteenth century, matter and energy can be changed from one form to another, but something cannot come from nothing. Therefore, scientists viewed the universe as eternal, thus neatly avoiding questions regarding its origin. The Torah assertion that the universe was created, presumably from nothing, became an area of conflict between Torah and science. That is how matters stood for many years.
This situation has now completely changed. The twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented explosion of scientific knowledge, which was nowhere more dramatic than in cosmology, the discipline that deals with the origin and development of the universe. Astronomers had been studying the heavenly bodies for thousands of years, but their studies dealt exclusively with charting the paths of the stars, planets, and comets, and determining their composition, spectrum, and other properties. The origin of the heavenly bodies remained a complete mystery.
Important advances in cosmology during the past few decades have, for the first time, permitted scientists to construct a coherent history of the origin of the universe.
Today, an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the “big bang” theory of cosmology.1 There are four major pieces of evidence: (1) the discovery in 1965 of the remnant of the initial ball of light, (2) the hydrogen-to-helium ratio in the universe, (3) the Hubble expansion of the galaxies, and (4) the perfect black-body spectrum of the microwave background radiation measured by the COBE space satellite in 1990.
Only the big bang theory can account for all these observations, and therefore this theory is now accepted by all mainstream cosmologists.
- 1. See N. Aviezer, 1990, In the Beginning (Ktav Publishing House: New York).
- 2. P. A. M. Dirac, 1972, Commentarii, vol. 2, no. 11, p. 15.
- 3. A. H. Guth, May 1984, Scientific American, p. 102.
- 4. S. W. Hawking, 1973, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (Cambridge University Press), p. 364
- 5. J. Silk, 1989, The Big Bang (W. H. Freeman: New York), p. xi.
- 6. B. Greene, 1999, The Elegant Universe (Jonathan Cape: London), pp. 345-346.
- 7. J. A. Wheeler, 1998, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (W. W. Norton: New York), p. 350.
- 8. Greene, pp. 347, 350.
- 9. J. B. Soloveitchik, Spring 1965, Tradition, pp. 5-67.
- 10. See the adaptation of the 1965 Soloveitchik essay (especially p. 8) by A. R. Besdin, 1989, Man of Faith in the Modern World (Ktav: New York), pp. 36-37.
- 11. S. J. Gould, 1989, Wonderful Life (W. W. Norton: New York), p. 14.
- 12. D. M. Raup, 1991, Extinctions: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (Oxford University Press).
- 13. N. Eldredge, 1985, Time Frames (Simon and Schuster: New York), p. 87.
- 14. N. Eldredge and I. Tattersall, 1982, The Myths of Human Evolution (Columbia University Press: New York), p. 154.
- 15. G. Gale, December 1981, “Anthropic Principle,” Scientific American, pp. 114-122.
- 16. S. Mitton, editor-in-chief, 1987, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy (Jonathan Cape: London), p. 125.
“God Is Not Needed to Explain the Fine-Tuning of the Universe”
By J. Warner Wallace 10/24/2016
In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Christians sometimes point to the appearance of fine-tuning in the universe as proof that God exists. But you don’t need God to explain this fine-tuning.” How would you respond to such a statement? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:
“I’ve worked cases where the killer actually ‘fine-tuned’ the scenario to make it possible for the murder to take place. I investigated one case, for example, where the suspect restored gas service to his home, closed the doors and windows in an unusual way, and even stacked clothing up against a bedroom door to make sure the victim died in her bedroom as the result of asphyxiation. The suspect controlled the circumstances on many levels and layers to make sure the death took place; he ‘fine-tuned’ the house and its property from the external yard, to the house, to the room itself. When you see this kind of multi-level tampering, the most reasonable inference is the existence of a tamperer. Either that, or it’s just an unreasonably coincidental set of circumstances.
The universe is so incredibly fine-tuned, and even atheists admit there is an appearance of fine-tuning. At the foundational level, the constants of the universe; all the forces in the atom, including the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, in addition to the forces of electromagnetism and gravity (along with many more universal constants) are incredibly fine-tuned to assure the existence of our universe and the appearance of biological life. At a regional level, our galaxy possesses a particular shape, size, mass, density, and location that allows life to emerge. Our solar system is also fine-tuned for the existence of life. Our sun’s location in the galaxy, it’s size, mass and nature are perfectly life-permitting. Finally, at what I call the ‘locational’ level, Earth is also finely tuned with a particular atmosphere, terrestrial crust, size, tilt, distance from the sun and existence of a moon that allows life to emerge.
Given all these levels of apparent fine-tuning, it’s reasonable to ask the question: how do we explain these layers of tampering, while at the same time, rejecting the existence of a tamperer? There are only a few ways to do this. First, you might ask: is this fine-tuning the result of chance? When you investigate at the improbability of this explanation, especially when we recognize the multi-layered nature of the fine-tuning, it’s unreasonable to explain what we see as a matter of chance. Another way to explain the appearance of fine-tuning is to argue that it’s inevitable based on the existence of the ‘natural laws’ than govern the universe. But this second explanation is rejected even by atheist astrophysicists. Many of these scientists claim our universe could possess entirely different universal constants (although an alternate universe of this nature would be unable to support the existence of life like ours). Finally, multiverse theories are growing in their popularity as an explanation for the fine-tuning in our universe. If there’s an infinite number of universes in a multiverse system, one like ours could exist simply on the basis of probability. But multiverse theories are incredibly controversial, even among atheist scientists, because the evidence for a multiverse is not commonly recognized and multiverse theories necessitate the existence of every kind of possible universe, including parallel universes (and even universes in which God exists – a notion unacceptable to atheist thinkers).
There’s a better explanation for the multi-layered fine-tuning we see in our universe; it’s the existence of a cosmic fine-tuner. The universe displays the fingerprints of its Creator.”
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
What Are The Two Most Important Christian Virtues Today?
By Sean McDowell 10/31/2016
What would you say are the most important virtues for Christians to cultivate today? Believe it or not, but this is a question I have been wrestling with for some time. This post is not meant to downplay any Christian virtue, or to claim that some are not needed. Christians are certainly called to be like Christ and to exemplify all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-21). Rather, my goal is to ask what virtues are most critical today in light of our current cultural milieu.
I would welcome your thoughts and critique, but here is my conclusion (in advance): In light of our secular culture that increasingly considers classic Christian beliefs extreme, irrelevant, and sometimes even dangerous, the most pressing virtues for Christians to cultivate are courage and kindness.
The Case for Courage | Courage has arguably been cheapened in our culture. We think it’s courageous to speak out on a particular subject on Facebook. We think it’s courageous to tweet our support for a candidate or social cause. While these things are fine in themselves, and sometimes even helpful, Christians need to embrace a much more radical kind of courage—the kind of courage we see in Jesus, the apostles, and many other leaders throughout church history.
Consider the apostles of Jesus. They were threatened, imprisoned, jailed and even threatened with their lives. And yet on behalf of the apostles, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The apostles feared the judgment of God more than they feared the opinions of men. In fact, as I demonstrate in The Fate of the Apostles, they so deeply believed in the resurrection that they valued faithfulness to God above their own comfort. They were willing to sacrifice everything, including their own lives, rather than compromise their convictions.
While faithfulness to Jesus doesn’t presently cost Christians their lives in the West, the temperature is being turned up. And the cost is getting greater. If this story is correct, pastors may even be imprisoned for preaching biblical truth within the church.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Approaching The Existence Of God
By Chab123 (Eric Chabot) 10/24/2016
How do we know God exists? In the past when I was asked this question I used to automatically jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I ask the person “How should we approach the existence of God?” or “ What method should we use?” Now, I know that when you ask a Christian, Jewish person, Muslim, or Mormon how they know what they believe is true, they might just say, “I have faith.” This should cause us to stop and ask if that is an adequate answer. It probably won’t go very far in a skeptical and pluralistic culture. So in this post I want to discuss some of the various ways we can approach the existence of God. I am well aware that there are other methods as well.
#1: The Revelatory Approach | The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Thus, people are dead, blinded, and bound to sin.
Christianity stresses that the God of the Bible is capable of giving a revelation to mankind through a specific medium. One of the most important themes of the Bible is this- since God is free and personal, he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and his actions include already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things that are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.
The mediums God uses in the Bible are General Revelation (The Created Order/Conscience; Rom. 1&2); Special Revelation: Jesus (John 3:16; 14:9; Colossians 2:9; Heb. 1:1-2), The Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); Miracles, Prophecy, Theophanies, Missionaries/Messengers, and other means as well.Chab123 (Eric Chabot): Southern Evangelical Seminary, M.A. Religious Studies, 2010, Cross Examined, Apologetics Instructors Academy, Graduate, 2008, Memberships: The Evangelical Philosophical Society
Motivating God’s people to understand the need for outreach and apologetic training, contemporary issues in the culture, the need for Christians to engage the university, confronting the current intellectual crisis in the local congregation, philosophy of religion, epistemology, the resurrection, Christian origins, the relationship between early Christology and Jewish monotheism, the relationship between the Tanakh (acronym that is formed from the first three parts of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings) and the New Testament, the relationship between Israel and the church, Christian theism and other worldviews, apologetic systems, historical method, the genre of the New Testament, the relationship between science and theology, and biblical hermeneutics.
Ministry Experience: Campus outreach minister since 2004.
Founder and Director of Ratio Christi, an apologetics ministry at the The Ohio State University. Website: http://ratiochristi.org/. We have had several well known speakers to the campus such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Michael Licona, Michael Brown, Paul Nelson and others. We have also done students debates on the campus.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet
119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563The inquisitor was so enraged at the replies made by the prisoner, that he struck him on the face, used many abusive speeches, and attempted to stab him, which he had certainly done had he not been prevented by the Jesuits; and from this time he never again visited the prisoner.
The next day the two Jesuits returned, and putting on a very grave, supercilious air, the superior asked him what resolution he had taken. To which Mr. Lithgow replied that he was already resolved, unless he could show substantial reasons to make him alter his opinion. The superior, after a pedantic display of their seven sacraments, the intercession of saints, transubstantiation, etc., boasted greatly of their Church, her antiquity, universality, and uniformity; all of which Mr. Lithgow denied: "For (said he) the profession of the faith I hold hath been ever since the first days of the apostles, and Christ had ever his own Church (however obscure) in the greatest time of your darkness."
The Jesuits, finding their arguments had not the desired effect, that torments could not shake his constancy, nor even the fear of the cruel sentence he had reason to expect would be pronounced and executed on him, after severe menaces, left him. On the eighth day after, being the last of their Inquisition, when sentence is pronounced, they returned again, but quite altered both in their words and behavior after repeating much of the same kind of arguments as before, they with seeming tears in their eyes, pretended they were sorry from their heart he must be obliged to undergo a terrible death, but above all, for the loss of his most precious soul; and falling on their knees, cried out, "Convert, convert, O dear brother, for our blessed Lady's sake convert!" To which he answered, "I fear neither death nor fire, being prepared for both."
The first effects Mr. Lithgow felt of the determination of this bloody tribunal was, a sentence to receive that night eleven different tortures, and if he did not die in the execution of them, (which might be reasonably expected from the maimed and disjointed condition he was in) he was, after Easter holy-days, to be carried to Grenada, and there burnt to ashes. The first part of this sentence was executed with great barbarity that night; and it pleased God to give him strength both of body and mind, to stand fast to the truth, and to survive the horrid punishments inflicted on him.
After these barbarians had glutted themselves for the present, with exercising on the unhappy prisoner the most distinguished cruelties, they again put irons on, and conveyed him to his former dungeon. The next morning he received some little comfort from the Turkish slave before mentioned, who secretly brought him, in his shirt sleeve, some raisins and figs, which he licked up in the best manner his strength would permit with his tongue. It was to this slave Mr. Lithgow attributed his surviving so long in such a wretched situation; for he found means to convey some of these fruits to him twice every week. It is very extraordinary, and worthy of note, that this poor slave, bred up from his infancy, according to the maxims of his prophet and parents, in the greatest detestation of Christians, should be so affected at the miserable situation of Mr. Lithgow that he fell ill, and continued so for upwards of forty days. During this period Mr. Lithgow was attended by a negro woman, a slave, who found means to furnish him with refreshments still more amply than the Turk, being conversant in the house and family. She brought him every day some victuals, and with it some wine in a bottle.
The time was now so far elapsed, and the horrid situation so truly loathsome, that Mr. Lithgow waited with anxious expectation for the day, which, by putting an end to his life, would also end his torments. But his melancholy expectations were, by the interposition of Providence, happily rendered abortive, and his deliverance obtained from the following circumstances.
It happened that a Spanish gentleman of quality came from Grenada to Malaga, who being invited to an entertainment by the governor, informed him of what had befallen Mr. Lithgow from the time of his being apprehended as a spy, and described the various sufferings he had endured. He likewise told him that after it was known the prisoner was innocent, it gave him great concern. That on this account he would gladly have released him, restored his money and papers, and made some atonement for the injuries he had received, but that, upon an inspection into his writings, several were found of a very blasphemous nature, highly reflecting on their religion, that on his refusing to abjure these heretical opinions, he was turned over to the Inquisition, by whom he was finally condemned.
While the governor was relating this tragical tale, a Flemish youth (servant to the Spanish gentleman) who waited at the table, was struck with amazement and pity at the sufferings of the stranger described. On his return to his master's lodgings he began to revolve in his mind what he had heard, which made such an impression on him that he could not rest in his bed. In the short slumbers he had, his imagination pointed to him the person described, on the rack, and burning in the fire. In this anxiety he passed the night; and when the morning came, without disclosing his intentions to any person whatever, he went into the town, and inquired for an English factor. He was directed to the house of a Mr. Wild, to whom he related the whole of what he had heard pass the preceding evening, between his master and the governor, but could not tell Mr. Lithgow's name. Mr. Wild, however, conjectured it was he, by the servant's remembering the circumstance of his being a traveller, and his having had some acquaintance with him.
On the departure of the Flemish servant, Mr. Wild immeidately sent for the other English factors, to whom he related all the paritculars relative to their unfortunate countryman. After a short consultation it was agreed that an information of the whole affair should be sent, by express, to Sir Walter Aston, the English ambassador to the king of Spain, then at Madrid. This was accordingly done, and the ambassador having presented a memorial to the king and council of Spain, obtained an order for Mr. Lithgow's enlargement, and his delivery to the English factor. This order was directed to the governor of Malaga; and was received with great dislike and surprise by the whole assembly of the bloody Inquisition.
Mr. Lithgow was released from his confinement on the eve of Easter Sunday, when he was carried from his dungeon on the back of the slave who had attended him, to the house of one Mr. Bosbich, where all proper comforts were given him. It fortunately happened that there was at this time a squadron of English ships in the road, commanded by Sir Richard Hawkins, who being informed of the past sufferings and present situation of Mr. Lithgow, came the next day ashore, with a proper guard, and received him from the merchants. He was instantly carried in blankets on board the Vanguard, and three days after was removed to another ship, by direction of the general Sir Robert Mansel, who ordered that he should have proper care taken of him. The factor presented him with clothes, and all necessary provisions, besides which they gave him two hundred reals in silver; and Sir Richard Hawkins sent him two double pistoles.
Before his departure from the Spanish coast, Sir Richard Hawkins demanded the delivery of his papers, money, books, etc., but could not obtain any satisfactory answer on that head.
We cannot help making a pause here to reflect how manifestly Providence interfered in behalf of this poor man, when he was just on the brink of destruction; for by his sentence, from which there was no appeal, he would have been taken, in a few days, to Grenada, and burnt to ashes; and that a poor ordinary servant, who had not the least knowledge of him, nor was any ways interested in his preservation, should risk the displeasure of his master, and hazard his own life, to disclose a thing of so momentous and perilous a nature, to a strange gentleman, on whose secrecy depended his own existence. By such secondary means does Providence frequently interfere in behalf of the virtuous and oppressed; of which this is a most distinguished example.
After lying twelve days in the road, the ship weighed anchor, and in about two months arrived safe at Deptford. The next morning, Mr. Lithgow was carried on a feather bed to Theobalds, in Hertfordshire, where at that time was the king and royal family. His majesty happened to be that day engaged in hunting, but on his return in the evening, Mr. Lithgow was presented to him, and related the particulars of his sufferings, and his happy delivery. The king was so affected at the narrative, that he expressed the deepest concern, and gave orders that he should be sent to Bath, and his wants properly supplied from his royal munificence. By these means, under God, after some time, Mr. Lithgow was restored from the most wretched spectacle, to a great share of health and strength; but he lost the use of his left arm and several of the smaller bones were so crushed and broken, as to be ever after rendered useless.
Notwithstanding that every effort was used, Mr. Lithgow could never obtain any part of his money or effects, although his majesty and the ministers of state interested themselves in his behalf. Gondamore, the Spanish ambassador, indeed, promised that all his effects should be restored, with the addition of 1000 Pounds English money, as some atonement for the tortures he had undergone, which last was to be paid him by the governor of Malaga. These engagements, however, were but mere promises; and although the king was a kind of guarantee for the well performance of them, the cunning Spaniard found means to elude the same. He had, indeed, too great a share of influence in the English council during the time of that pacific reign, when England suffered herself to be bullied into slavish compliance by most of the states and kings in Europe.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Raising Of The Young Man Of Nain—The Meeting Of Life And Death Luke 7:11-17
THAT early spring - tide in Galilee was surely the truest realisation of the picture in the Song of Solomon, when earth clad herself in garments of beauty, and the air was melodious with songs of new life. It seemed as if each day marked a widening circle of deepest sympathy and largest power on the part of Jesus; as if each day also brought fresh surprise, new gladness; opened hitherto un-thought-of possibilities, and pointed Israel far beyond the horizon of their narrow expectancy. Yesterday it was the sorrow of the heathen Centurion which woke an echo in the heart of the Supreme Commander of life and death; faith called out, owned, and placed on the high platform of Israel’s worthies. Today it is the same sorrow of a Jewish mother, which touches the heart of the Son of Mary, and appeals to where denial is unthinkable. In that Presence grief and death cannot continue. As the defilement of a heathen house could not attach to Him, Whose contact changed the Gentile stranger into a true Israelite, so could the touch of death not render unclean Him, Whose Presence vanquished and changed it into life. Jesus could not enter Nain, and its people pass Him to carry one dead to the burying.
For our present purpose it matters little, whether it was the very ‘day after’ the healing of the Centurion’s servant, or ‘shortly afterwards,’ that Jesus left Capernaum for Nain. Probably it was the morrow of that miracle, and the fact that ‘much people,’ or rather ‘a great multitude,’ followed Him, seems confirmatory of it. The way was long — as we reckon, more than twenty-five miles; but, even if it was all taken on foot, there could be no difficulty in reaching Nain ere the evening, when so often funerals took place. Various roads lead to, and from Nain; that which stretches to the Lake of Galilee and up to Capernaum is quite distinctly marked. It is difficult to understand, how most of those who have visited the spot could imagine the place, where Christ met the funeral procession, to have been the rock - hewn tombs to the west of Nain and towards Nazareth. For, from Capernaum the Lord would not have come that way, but approach it from the north - east by Endor. Hence there can be little doubt, that Canon Tristram correctly identifies the now unfenced burying - ground, about ten minutes’ walk to the east of Nain, as that whither, on that spring afternoon, they were carrying the widow’s son. On the path leading to it the Lord of Life for the first time burst open the gates of death.
It is all desolate now. A few houses of mud and stone with low doorways, scattered among heaps of stones and traces of walls, is all that remains of what even these ruins show to have been once a city, with walls and gates. The rich gardens are no more, the fruit trees cut down, ‘and there is a painful sense of desolation’ about the place, as if the breath of judgment had swept over it. And yet even so we can understand its ancient name of Nain, ‘the pleasant,’ which the Rabbis regarded as fulfilling that part of the promise to Issachar: ‘he saw the land that it was pleasant.’ From the elevation on which the city stood we look northwards, across the wide plain, to wooded Tabor, and in the far distance to snow - capped Hermon. On the left (in the west) rise the hills beyond which Nazareth lies embosomed; to the right is Endor; southwards Shunem, and beyond it the Plain of Jezreel. By this path, from Endor, comes Jesus with His disciples and the great following multitude. Here, near by the city gate, on the road that leads eastwards to the old burying - ground, has this procession of the ‘great multitude,’ which accompanied the Prince of Life met that other ‘great multitude’ that followed the dead to his burying. Which of the two shall give way to the other? We know what ancient Jewish usage would have demanded. For, of all the duties enjoined, none more strictly enforced by every consideration of humanity and piety, even by the example of God Himself, than that of comforting the mourners and showing respect to the dead by accompanying him to the burying. The popular idea, that the spirit of the dead hovered about the unburied remains, must have given intensity to such feelings.
Putting aside later superstitions, so little has changed in the Jewish rites and observances about the dead, that from Talmudic and even earlier sources, we can form a vivid conception of what had taken place in Nain. The watchful anxiety; the vain use of such means as were known, or within reach of the widow; the deepening care, the passionate longing of the mother to retain her one treasure, her sole earthly hope and stay; then the gradual fading out of the light, the farewell, the terrible burst of sorrow: all these would be common features in any such picture. But here we have, besides, the Jewish thoughts of death and after death; knowledge just sufficient to make afraid, but not to give firm consolation, which would make even the most pious Rabbi uncertain of his future; and then the desolate thoughts connected in the Jewish mind with childlessness. We can realise it all: how Jewish ingenuity and wisdom would resort to remedies real or magical; how the neighbours would come in with reverent step, feeling as if the very Shekhinah were unseen at the head of the pallet in that humble home; how they would whisper swings about submission, which, when realisation of God’s love is wanting, seem only to stir the heart to rebellion against absolute power; and how they would resort to the prayers of those who were deemed pious in Nain.
But all was in vain. And now the well-known blast of the horn has carried tidings, that once more the Angel of Death has done his dire behest. In passionate grief the mother has rent her upper garment. The last sad offices have been rendered to the dead. The body has been laid on the ground; hair and nails have been cut, and the body washed, anointed, and wrapped in the best the widow could procure; for, the ordinance which directed that the dead should be buried in ‘wrappings’ (Takhrikhin), or, as they significantly called it, the ‘provision for the journey’ (Zevadatha), of the most inexpensive linen, is of later date than our period. It is impossible to say, whether the later practice already prevailed, of covering the body with metal, glass, or salt, and laying it either upon earth or salt.
And now the mother was left Oneneth (moaning, lamenting)—a term which distinguished the mourning before from that after burial. She would sit on the floor, neither eat meat, nor drink wine. What scanty meal she would take, must be without prayer, in the house of a neighbour, or in another room, or at least with her back to the dead. Pious friends would render neighbourly offices, or busy themselves about the near funeral. If it was deemed duty for the poorest Jew, on the death of his wife, to provide at least two flutes and one mourning woman, we may feel sure that the widowed mother had not neglected what, however incongruous or difficult to procure, might be regarded as the last tokens of affection. In all likelihood the custom obtained even then, though in modified form, to have funeral orations at the grave. For, even if charity provided for an unknown wayfarer the simplest funeral, mourning - women would be hired to chaunt in weird strains the lament: ‘Alas, the lion! alas, the hero!’ or similar words, while great Rabbis were wont to bespeak for themselves ‘a warm funeral oration’ (Hesped, or Hespeda). For, from the funeral oration a man’s fate in the other world might be inferred;e and, indeed, ‘the honour of a sage was in his funeral oration.’ And in this sense the Talmud answers the question, whether a funeral oration is intended to honour the survivors or the dead.
But in all this painful pageantry there was nothing for the heart of the widow, bereft of her only child. We can follow in spirit the mournful procession, as it started from the desolate home. As it issued, chairs and couches were reversed, and laid low. Outside, the funeral orator, if such was employed; preceded the bier, proclaiming the good deeds of the dead. Immediately before the dead came the women, this being peculiar to Galilee, the Midrash giving this reason of it, that woman had introduced death into the world. The body was not, as afterwards in preference, carried in an ordinary coffin of wood (Aron), if possible, cedarwood — on one occasion, at least, made with holes beneath; but laid on a bier, or in an open coffin (Mittah). In former times a distinction had been made in these biers between rich and poor. The former were carried on the so - called Dargash — as it were, in state — while the poor were conveyed in a receptacle made of wickerwork (Kelibha or Kelikhah), having sometimes at the foot what was termed ‘a horn,’ to which the body was made fast. But this distinction between rich and poor was abolished by Rabbinic ordinance, and both alike, if carried on a bier, were laid in that made of wickerwork. Commonly, though not in later practice, the face of the dead body was uncovered. The body lay with its face turned up, and its hands folded on the breast. We may add, that when a person had died unmarried or childless, it was customary to put into the coffin something distinctive of them, such as pen and ink, or a key. Over the coffins of bride or bridegroom a baldachino was carried. Sometimes the coffin was garlanded with myrtle. In exceptional cases we read of the use of incense, and even of a kind of libation.fbr
We cannot, then, be mistaken in supposing that the body of the widow’s son was laid on the ‘bed’ (Mittah), or in the ‘willow basket,’ already described (Kelibha, from Kelubh). Nor can we doubt that the ends or handles were borne by friends and neighbours, different parties of bearers, all of them unshod, at frequent intervals relieving each other, so that as many as possible might share in the good work. During these pauses there was loud lamentation; but this custom was not observed in the burial of women. Behind the bier walked the relatives, friends, and then the sympathising ‘multitude.’ For it was deemed like mocking one’s Creator not to follow the dead to his last resting - place, and to all such want of reverence Prov. 17:5 was applied. If one were absolutely prevented from joining the procession, although for its sake all work, even study, should be interrupted, reverence should at least be shown by rising up before the dead. And so they would go on to what the Hebrews beautifully designated as the ‘house of assembly’ or ‘meeting,’ the ‘hostelry,’ the ‘place of rest,’ or ‘of freedom,’ the ‘field of weepers,’ the ‘house of eternity,’ or ‘of life.’
We can now transport ourselves into that scene. Up from the city close by came this ‘great multitude’ that followed the dead, with lamentations, wild chaunts of mourning women, accompanied by flutes and the melancholy tinkle of cymbals, perhaps by trumpets, amidst expressions of general sympathy. Along the road from Endor streamed the great multitude which followed the ‘Prince of Life.’ Here they met: Life and Death. The connecting link between them was the deep sorrow of the widowed mother. He recognised her as she went before the bier, leading him to the grave whom she had brought into life. He recognised her, but she recognised Him not, had not even seen Him. She was still weeping; even after He had hastened a step or two in advance of His followers, quite close to her, she did not heed Him, and was still weeping. But, ‘beholding her,’ the Lord ‘had compassion on her.’ Those bitter, silent tears which blinded her eyes were strongest language of despair and utmost need, which never in vain appeals to His heart, Who has borne our sorrows. We remember, by way of contrast, the common formula used at funerals in Palestine, ‘Weep with him, all ye who are bitter of heart!’ It was not so that Jesus spoke to those around, nor to her, but characteristically: ‘Be not weeping.’ And what He said, that He wrought. He touched the bier — perhaps the very wicker basket in which the dead youth lay. He dreaded not the greatest of all defilements, —that of contact with the dead, which Rabbinism, in its elaboration of the letter of the Law, had surrounded with endless terrors. His was other separation than of the Pharisees: not that of submission to ordinances, but of conquest of what made them necessary.
And as He touched the bier, they who bore it stood still. They could not have anticipated what would follow. But the awe of the coming wonder — as it were, the shadow of the opening gates of life, had fallen on them. One word of sovereign command, ‘and he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.’ Not of that world of which he had had brief glimpse. For, as one who suddenly passes from dream - vision to waking, in the abruptness of the transition, loses what he had seen, so he, who from that dazzling brightness was hurried back to the dim light to which his vision had been accustomed. It must have seemed to him, as if he woke from long sleep. Where was he now? who those around him? what this strange assemblage? and Who He, Whose Light and Life seemed to fall upon him?
And still was Jesus the link between the mother and the son, who had again found each other. And so, in the truest sense, ‘He gave him to his mother.’ Can any one doubt that mother and son henceforth owned, loved, and trusted Him as the true Messiah? If there was no moral motive for this miracle, outside Christ’s sympathy with intense suffering and the bereavement of death, was there no moral result as the outcome of it? If mother and son had not called upon Him before the miracle, would they not henceforth and for ever call upon Him? And if there was, so to speak, inward necessity, that Life Incarnate should conquer death — symbolic and typic necessity of it also — was not everything here congruous to the central fact in this history? The simplicity and absence of all extravagant details; the Divine calmness and majesty on the part of the Christ, so different from the manner in which legend would have coloured the scene, even from the intense agitation which characterised the conduct of an Elijah, an Elisha, or a Peter, in somewhat similar circumstances; and, lastly, the beauteous harmony where all is in accord, from the first touch of compassion till when, forgetful of the by - standers, heedless of ‘effect,’ He gives the son back to his mother — are not all these worthy of the event. and evidential of the truth of the narrative?
But, after all, may we regard this history as real — and, if so, what are its lessons? On one point, at least, all serious critics are now agreed. It is impossible to ascribe it to exaggeration, or to explain it on natural grounds. The only alternative is to regard it either as true, or as designedly false. Be it, moreover, remembered, that not only one Gospel, but all, relate some story of raising the dead — whether that of this youth, of Jairus’ daughter, or of Lazarus. They also all relate the Resurrection of the Christ, which really underlies those other miracles. But if this history of the raising of the young man is false, what motive can be suggested for its invention, for motive there must have been for it? Assuredly, it was no part of Jewish expectancy concerning the Messiah, that He would perform such a miracle. And negative criticism has admitted, that the differences between this history and the raising of the dead by Elijah or Elisha are so numerous and great, that these narratives cannot be regarded as suggesting that of the raising of the young man of Nain. We ask again: Whence, then, this history, if it was not true? It is an ingenious historical suggestion — rather an admission by negative criticism — that so insignificant, and otherwise unknown, a place as Nain would not have been fixed upon as the site of this miracle, if some great event had not occurred there which made lasting impression on the mind of the Church. What was that event, and does not the reading of this record carry conviction of its truth? Legends have not been so written. Once more, the miracle is described as having taken place, not in the seclusion of a chamber, nor before a few interested witnesses, but in sight of the great multitude which had followed Jesus, and of that other great multitude which came from Cana. In this twofold great multitude was there none, from whom the enemies of Christianity could have wrung contradiction, if the narrative was false? Still further, the history is told with such circumstantiality of details, as to be inconsistent with the theory of a later invention. Lastly, no one will question, that belief in the reality of such ‘raising from the dead’ was a primal article in the faith of the primitive Church, for which — as a fact, not a possibility — all were ready to offer up their lives. Nor should we forget that, in one of the earliest apologies addressed to the Roman Emperor, Quadratus appealed to the fact, that, of those who had been healed or raised from the dead by Christ, some were still alive, and all were well known. On the other hand, the only real ground for rejecting this narrative is disbelief in the Miraculous, including, of course, rejection of the Christ as the Miracle of Miracles. But is it not vicious reasoning in a circle, as well as begging the question, to reject the Miraculous because we discredit the Miraculous? and does not such rejection involve much more of the incredible than faith itself?
And so, with all Christendom, we gladly take it, in simplicity of faith, as a true record by true men — all the more, that they who told it knew it to be so incredible, as not only to provoke scorn, but to expose them to the charge of cunningly devising fables. But they who believe, see in this history, how the Divine Conqueror, in His accidental meeting with Death, with mighty arm rolled back the tide, and how through the portals of heaven which lie opened stole in upon our world the first beam of the new day: Yet another — in some sense lower, in another, practically higher — lesson do we learn. For, this meeting of the two processions outside the gate of Nain was accidental, yet not in the conventional sense. Neither the arrival of Jesus at that place and time, nor that of the funeral procession from Nain, nor their meeting, was either designed or else miraculous. Both happened in the natural course of natural events, but their concurrence (συγκυρία) was designed, and directly God - caused. In this God - caused, designed concurrence of events, in themselves ordinary and natural, lies the mystery of special Providences, which, to whomsoever they happen, he may and should regard them as miracles and answer to prayer. And this principle extends much farther: to the prayer for, and provision of, daily bread, nay, to mostly all things, so that, to those who have ears to hear, all things around speak in parables of the Kingdom of Heaven.
But on those who saw this miracle at Nain fell the fear of the felt Divine Presence, and over their souls swept the hymn of Divine praise: fear, because a great Prophet was risen up among them; praise, because God had visited His people. And further and wider spread the wave — over Judæa, and beyond it, until it washed, and broke in faint murmur against the prison - walls, within which the Baptist awaited his martyrdom. Was He then the ‘Coming One?’ and, if so, why did, or how could, those walls keep His messenger within grasp of the tyrant?
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Forgiveness and inner healing
(Oct 26) Bob Gass
‘Who forgives all your iniquities’
(Ps 103:3) who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, ESV
The psalmist wrote, ‘Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.’ Notice which comes first: the consciousness that all your sins are forgiven precedes the healing of all your diseases. Note also the words ‘all your iniquities’. Some of us are comfortable with receiving partial forgiveness, but we refuse to allow God’s forgiveness to touch some dark areas we can’t let go of, and that we refuse to forgive ourselves for. Whatever those mistakes may be, allow God to forgive all your sins, and receive healing for all your diseases. Let the past go. Let the mistakes go. Allow yourself to be free, and learn to forgive yourself by receiving with an open heart God’s total and complete forgiveness. Stop hurting yourself, because Jesus was hurt for all your sins. Stop beating yourself up, because Jesus took all your beatings at the cross. Stop punishing yourself, because Jesus has received all the punishment due on your behalf. It’s time to stop asking yourself if you’ve done enough to earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance. They are undeserved - they cannot be achieved by struggle and self-effort; they can only be received by faith. If you gave someone you loved a birthday gift and they insisted on paying for it, how would you feel? Hurt? Upset? That’s how God feels when you try to ‘earn’ His forgiveness, healing, and righteousness. The more you let the waterfall of God’s grace and forgiveness wash over you every day, the more you’ll receive His health for your body and His soundness for your mind.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this day October 26, 1774, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts reorganized their defense with one-third of their regiments being “Minutemen.” They were known as such because they would be ready to fight at a minute’s notice. They charged the Minutemen: “You… are placed by Providence in the post of honor, because it is the post of danger…. The eyes not only of North America and the whole British Empire, but of all Europe, are upon you. Let us be, therefore, altogether solicitous that no disorderly behavior, nothing unbecoming our characters as Americans, as citizens and Christians, be justly chargeable to us.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
II. The whole nature, indeed, is the will of God, and the whole of grace is striving with nature. It is our nature to have certain passions. That is God’s will. But it is our calling of God to resist them as much as to gratify them. There are there as God’s will to be resisted as much as indulged. The redemption from the natural man includes the resistance to it, and the release of the soul from what God Himself appointed as its lower stages—never as its dwelling place, and never its tomb. So far prayer is on the lines of evolution.
Obedience is the chief end. But obedience is not mere submission, mere resignation. It is not always acquiescence, even in prayer. We obey God as much when we urge our suit, and make a real petition of it, as when we accept His decision; as much when we try to change His will as when we bow to it. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. There is a very fine passage in Dante, Parad. xx. 94 (Longfellow):
Regnum coelorum suffereth violence
From fervent love, and from that living hope
That overcometh the divine volition.
Not in the way that man o’ercometh man;
We conquer it because it will be conquered,
And, conquered, conquers by benignity.
It is His will—His will of grace—that prayer should prevail with Him and extract blessings. And how we love the grace that so concedes them! The answer to prayer is not the complaisance of a playful power lightly yielding to the playful egoism of His favorites. “Our antagonist is our helper.” To struggle with Him is one way of doing His will. To resist is one way of saying, “Thy will be done.” It was God’s will that Christ should deprecate the death God required. It pleased God as much as His submission to death. But could it have been pleasing to Him that Christ should pray so, if no prayer could ever possibly change God’s will? Could Christ have prayed so in that belief? Would faith ever inspire us to pray if the God of our faith must be unmoved by prayers? The prayer that goes to an inflexible God, however good He is, is prayer that rises more from human need than from God’s own revelation, or from Christian faith (where Christian prayer should rise). It is His will, then, that we should pray against what seems His will, and what, for the lower stage of our growth, is His will. And all this without any unreality whatever.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Nothing is more generally known
than our duties which belong to Christianity;
how amazing is it,
nothing is less practiced?
--- George Whitefield
A man who was completely innocent,
offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others,
including his enemies,
and became the ransom of the world.
It was a perfect act.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
There are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of About Three Years. From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus To The Sedition At Cyrene
How The Entire City Of Jerusalem Was Demolished, Excepting Three Towers; And How Titus Commended His Soldiers In A Speech Made To Them, And Distributed Rewards To Them And Then Dismissed Many Of Them.
1. Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, [for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done,] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
2. But Caesar resolved to leave there, as a guard, the tenth legion, with certain troops of horsemen, and companies of footmen. So, having entirely completed this war, he was desirous to commend his whole army, on account of the great exploits they had performed, and to bestow proper rewards on such as had signalized themselves therein. He had therefore a great tribunal made for him in the midst of the place where he had formerly encamped, and stood upon it with his principal commanders about him, and spake so as to be heard by the whole army in the manner following: That he returned them abundance of thanks for their good-will which they had showed to him: he commended them for that ready obedience they had exhibited in this whole war, which obedience had appeared in the many and great dangers which they had courageously undergone; as also for that courage they had shown, and had thereby augmented of themselves their country's power, and had made it evident to all men, that neither the multitude of their enemies, nor the strength of their places, nor the largeness of their cities, nor the rash boldness and brutish rage of their antagonists, were sufficient at any time to get clear of the Roman valor, although some of them may have fortune in many respects on their side. He said further, that it was but reasonable for them to put an end to this war, now it had lasted so long, for that they had nothing better to wish for when they entered into it; and that this happened more favorably for them, and more for their glory, that all the Romans had willingly accepted of those for their governors, and the curators of their dominions, whom they had chosen for them, and had sent into their own country for that purpose, which still continued under the management of those whom they had pitched on, and were thankful to them for pitching upon them. That accordingly, although he did both admire and tenderly regard them all, because he knew that every one of them had gone as cheerfully about their work as their abilities and opportunities would give them leave; yet, he said, that he would immediately bestow rewards and dignities on those that had fought the most bravely, and with greater force, and had signalized their conduct in the most glorious manner, and had made his army more famous by their noble exploits; and that no one who had been willing to take more pains than another should miss of a just retribution for the same; for that he had been exceeding careful about this matter, and that the more, because he had much rather reward the virtues of his fellow soldiers than punish such as had offended.
3. Hereupon Titus ordered those whose business it was to read the list of all that had performed great exploits in this war, whom he called to him by their names, and commended them before the company, and rejoiced in them in the same manner as a man would have rejoiced in his own exploits. He also put on their heads crowns of gold, and golden ornaments about their necks, and gave them long spears of gold, and ensigns that were made of silver, and removed every one of them to a higher rank; and besides this, he plentifully distributed among them, out of the spoils, and the other prey they had taken, silver, and gold, and garments. So when they had all these honors bestowed on them, according to his own appointment made to every one, and he had wished all sorts of happiness to the whole army, he came down, among the great acclamations which were made to him, and then betook himself to offer thank-offerings [to the gods], and at once sacrificed a vast number of oxen, that stood ready at the altars, and distributed them among the army to feast on. And when he had staid three days among the principal commanders, and so long feasted with them, he sent away the rest of his army to the several places where they would be every one best situated; but permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard at Jerusalem, and did not send them away beyond Euphrates, where they had been before. And as he remembered that the twelfth legion had given way to the Jews, under Cestius their general, he expelled them out of all Syria, for they had lain formerly at Raphanea, and sent them away to a place called Meletine, near Euphrates, which is in the limits of Armenia and Cappadocia; he also thought fit that two of the legions should stay with him till he should go to Egypt. He then went down with his army to that Cesarea which lay by the sea-side, and there laid up the rest of his spoils in great quantities, and gave order that the captives should be kept there; for the winter season hindered him then from sailing into Italy.
by D.H. Stern
and he who is attentive to his master will be honored.
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
What is a missionary?
As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.
--- John 20:21.
A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ as He was sent by God. The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in work for God is behind, not before. The tendency to-day is to put the inspiration ahead, to sweep everything in front of us and bring it all out to our conception of success. In the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, the Lord Jesus. The ideal is to be true to Him, to carry out His enterprises.
Personal attachment to the Lord Jesus and His point of view is the one thing that must not be overlooked. In missionary enterprise the great danger is that God’s call is effaced by the needs of the people until human sympathy absolutely overwhelms the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, the conditions so perplexing, that every power of mind falters and fails. We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ—“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”
When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say—‘What wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted!’ The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God’s wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Your move I would have
said, but he was not
playing; my game a dilemma
that was without horns.
As though one can sit at table
with God ! His mind shines
on the black and the white
squares. We stake our all
on the capture of the one
queen, as though to hold life
to ransom. He, if he plays, plays
unconcernedly among the pawns.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Just as one accepts the evidence of two witnesses in a court, even though such witnesses may in fact be lying, so too does the law demand that one accept a person as a prophet on the basis of miracles. Although one is never absolutely certain whether witnesses are telling the truth, a judge is required to accept their testimony because this is the accepted legal procedure. Similarly the community must listen to a prophet even though there are rational grounds for suspecting miracles to be the works of clever sleight of hand.
Consequently a prophet cannot abrogate the laws of the Torah, since it is the authority of this legal system that makes miracles acceptable evidence for assuming the role of prophet. (This only applies to the political function of the prophet and not to prophecy which is related to individual perfection.) (The Lonely Man of Faith) Whereas such prophets require the legal validation of the Torah, Moses’ authority has been established not by the rules of a legal system but by the participation of the community in the theophany at Sinai. This experience yields an absolute certainty in Mosaic authority and must not be questioned by a prophet lest the grounds for his authority be undermined.
What is important, for our purposes, is that the prophet’s authority takes place within a context limiting that which he can legitimately demand. A further restriction on prophetic authority emerges with the relationship of prophecy and the elaboration of Halakhah:
And know, that prophecy is not effective in the study and interpretation of the Torah and the inferring of laws by the thirteen hermeneutic principles; rather what Joshua and Pinḥas do in matters of study and argument is [the same as] what Ravina and Rav Ashi do.
The appeal to prophetic authority in the elaboration and clarification of the laws of Torah is inadmissible despite the fact that the prophet, in calling upon revelation to decide an argument, is attempting to interpret the system, not to abrogate it nor to question Mosaic authority. In matters of legal argumentation and decision-making, the prophet is like any man who uses arguments to defend his position.
One of Maimonides’ reasons for excluding prophecy from halakhic argumentation involves a theory of halakhic reasoning which cannot permit the intrusion of appeals to prophetic authority:
And so, if a Prophet claims that God told him that the judgment [pesak] in any given commandment is such and that the argument of so-and-so is correct, behold that Prophet is killed; for he is a false prophet as we have explained, for there is no revelation of Torah after the first messenger [Moses] and there is no addition and no diminution, “It is not in the heavens” (Deut. 30:12). And God did not assign us to Prophets but he assigned us to wise men, masters of argument. He did not say, “And you shall appear before the Prophet”; rather He said, “And [you shall] appear before the levitical priests, or the magistrate …” (Deut. 17:9). And the Sages have dealt at great length with this issue and it is correct.
Besides appealing to the paradigm-text which excludes legislative prophecy after Moses, “It is not in heaven,” Maimonides presents what he believes to be the implication of the text, “And you shall appear before the levitical priests or the magistrate.…” The addition of this text, and the obvious distinction between “prophet” and “priests or magistrate” (masters of Halakhah), defines a fundamental difference between appeals to the authority of prophecy and to halakhic argumentation. The disparate logics of these two modes of discourse are, we believe, the basis of this Maimonidean concept. Maimonides is claiming that prophecy is excluded from halakhic procedures of argument and decision-making due to the epistemological status of halakhic reasoning. To substantiate and clarify this interpretation, we shall examine how Maimonides uses the text-category, “And [you shall] appear before the levitical priests, or the magistrate …,” in another section of his introduction.
Maimonides distinguishes between laws that stem directly from Sinai and laws that result from the application of halakhic rules of reasoning. The former is subdivided into a) laws that, although known independently of biblical interpretation, can be supported in some way by exegesis or hermeneutic reasoning (perush mekubal mi-Moshe), and b) laws which cannot be supported by either of these (halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai). The common characteristic of these two types of laws is that they appeal to the authority of God and thus, with regard to them, no disagreement is possible. Any law which appears to have come from Sinai is accepted as normative; one must only prove that the chain of transmission was never broken and that the transmitters were trustworthy. The presence of disagreement in laws based on Sinai can only be due to an uncertainty to the chain of tradition. It makes no sense to argue against a law which one accepts as having emanated from God Himself. Thus disagreement is logically excluded, as long as one trusts the claims of tradition.
Maimonides asserts that there has never been any disagreement regarding the laws for which the authority of Sinai is claimed. However another body of law exists which does allow for disagreement; there is no claim for its emanation from Sinai. It does issue from the application of talmudic rules of hermeneutics which serve as principles by which men can analyze texts and infer laws. Maimonides writes that after the death of Moses, Joshua and his generation developed laws on the basis of halakhic reasoning in areas where there was no Mosaic legislation. Maimonides writes:
And with regard to the issues which they learned [by rules of hermeneutics] there are matters in which there was no disagreement but there was unanimity [Ijma], and some cases where there was disagreement between two views, one person arguing with an argument [Qiyas] which appeared strongest to him and another with an argument [Qiyas] which appeared strongest to him. For in the ways of argumentative reasoning such occurrences will result, and when such a disagreement occurs we follow the majority, as Scripture says, “After the many to follow” (Ex. 23:2).
In this area of Halakhah, disagreement is possible due to the inherent nature of laws which emerge from legal reasoning. Law based on reasoning is not defended by appealing to authority, but to the compelling force of argument. Such laws appeal to human understanding and not to loyalty to authority. Disagreement within this body of law does not imply a lack of loyalty to authority; the logic of the appeal of such laws points to the reasonableness of the argument, not to the status of the person who promulgated the law.
Majority rule is a procedure for resolving disagreement when a verdict is necessary, e.g., when social order requires uniform modes of behavior. It is not a procedure for ascertaining truth, since the rejected position has not been shown to be false. Even when the Talmud declares the law to be as one of the disputants, the rejected opinion is still mentioned in the Talmud. The Halakhah permits a judge to disagree with the decision of the highest court as long as he does not encourage deviant practice which would undermine social stability:
If the Elder is the outstanding member of a court and he dissents from a decision by the Supreme Court, persists in communicating his opinion to others, but does not give it in the form of a practical ruling, he is not liable, for it is said, “and the man that does presumptuously” (Deut. 17:12), that is, not who says presumptuously but who instructs others to act upon his opinion or acts upon it himself.
Maimonides in his Commentary to the Mishnah claims, however, that this distinction between disagreeing and rendering a decision does not apply to fundamental principles of Judaism or norms grounded in the authority of Sinai. To question a norm based on Sinai or a fundamental belief is to question that which is not subject to disagreement. However, in matters of law based on the thirteen hermeneutic principles, disagreement by the judge does not imply disloyalty to the authority of tradition, but is instead a legitimate response to laws which allow for reasoned disagreement.
The failure to discriminate between the logic of different types of laws led many people to attribute legal disagreements in the Talmud to the lack of attentiveness of students to their teachers. Ibn Daud, in his Book of Tradition, writes:
Now should anyone infected with heresy attempt to mislead you, saying: “It is because the Rabbis differed on a number of issues that I doubt their words,” you should retort bluntly and inform him that he is a “rebel against the decision of the Court”; and that our Rabbis, of blessed memory, never differed with respect to a commandment in principle, but only with respect to its details; for they had heard the principle from their teachers, but had not inquired as to its details, since they had not waited upon their masters sufficiently.
Maimonides would disagree with this method of protecting the rabbinic tradition from the attack of Karaites. To Maimonides disagreement is not the result of a lack of attentiveness to details, a lack which in principle could have been avoided, but is the natural outcome of developing a law based on reasoning:
But the opinion of one who thought that also the laws wherein there is disagreement are received from Moses, and that disagreement took place due to an error in receiving the tradition [kabbalah] or due to forgetfulness, i.e., that one [disputant] is correct in his tradition and the second errs in his tradition, or he forgot or he did not hear from his teacher all that he should have; and he [who holds this opinion] offers as evidence for this what they said, “When the disciples [of Shammai and Hillel] who had insufficiently studied, increased in number, disputes multiplied in Israel and the Torah became as two Torot” (T.B. Sanhedrin 88b). Behold this, as God knows, is a despicable and very strange position, and it is an incorrect matter and not compatible to principles. And he [who holds this position] suspects people from whom we received the Torah and all this is idle. What brought them to this deficient view is the limitation of their knowledge of the words of the Sages in the Talmud, since they found the category “laws received from Moses” [perush mekubal mi-Moshe] and it is correct according to the principles discussed earlier, but they did not distinguish between received principles and new matters that were learned by ways of analysis.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
--- 1 Corinthians 2:8.
The Pharisees’ other error proved the more tragic. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life They stood for the old ways and the accepted forms of things, and they were simply inhospitable to new light, incredulous that there was any more to find. Their fathers had been given amazing spiritual experiences, and they not only remembered them with gratitude and founded on them, as was fitting, but took it for granted that the way God acted then must be the way he would act now. They forgot that God was alive in their day too. They had no expectation of any further news bursting in to them from God. When rumors of that reached them, at once and without examination they discredited them as impossible and unauthentic. Boldly they laid it down that their poor, passing conceptions were a perfect reflection of God’s thoughts. Their theories were not simply theories but the eternal facts, which must not be altered. Moses said this! Moses did that! they said, and for them that was final. And when Jesus stood forth and said, “No doubt he did, but I now tell you something wholly different and vastly better,” they clapped horrified hands over their outraged ears and would not listen. They resolved that this appalling person must be hustled out of the way. For if these notions of his spread abroad, why, plainly, there is an end of religion!
[Christ] looked with compassion at these dull, angry souls, shut into their corner of a world, mistaking their dim, smoky rushlights for God’s sun. The prophets grow quite fierce over that habit of either looking back wistfully to the days when God really was God and things really happened, whereas now our lot is cast; or else assuming that what they have is all that they can have.
But Christ is very gentle. No one, he says, prefers new wine to old, and to be satisfied with the familiar is all but universal. He did not think it strange that many did not take to him at once, and he was content to wait. Nonetheless, he urges us to keep our minds open and our hearts expectant—on the lookout for God. Not to do so, he indicates, is a moral failure that may have tragic consequences. For it was no hideous and ugly sin but just a narrowness of mind, an unwillingness to credit or even consider what was new and unaccustomed, a dislike of being jostled out of their settled lines of thought—that set up Christ’s cross on Calvary!
--- Arthur John Gossip
A Charming Man
Thomas More was hard to dislike. “I am entirely devoted to this man,” wrote Italian scholar Niccolo Sagundino. “I often relax in his delightful company as one might lodge in some beautiful place. I never see him without his sending me away better informed and more attached to him. You could not imagine, I assure you, a more agreeable, charming, and amusing man. His wonderful elegance as a writer, his choice of words and well-rounded sentences are universally admired, but no more so than his keen mind, set off by fairness, humor, wit, and courtesy.”
Dean Swift thought More the greatest man of virtue “this kingdom ever produced.” Erasmus agreed. He described More as cheerful, having quick humor and ready smile, being a faithful husband, a persuasive orator, a man alert. “In short,” said Erasmus, “what did Nature ever create milder, sweeter, and happier than the genius of Thomas More.”
These merits propelled More to the highest office in England on October 26, 1529, when he was named Lord Chancellor under King Henry VIII. But it proved his undoing, for More was a deeply religious man. He gave liberally to the needy, sang in the choir of his parish church in Chelsea, led in family prayer each night, and built a small chapel by his house for personal prayer and Bible study. Here he occasionally engaged in self-flagellation with a whip of knotted cords in the medieval manner. He was devoted to his church. He forcibly opposed Protestants. He was a man of principle.
Henry VIII didn’t like men of principle, and he was incensed when his Lord Chancellor refused to obtain from the pope the desired divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was further enraged when More refused to recognize him as head of the Church of England. Henry imprisoned him in the Tower of London and tried him for treason. On July 7, 1535, Thomas More mounted the scaffold and told the hushed crowd that he died being the “king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Then he read Psalm 51 and laid his head carefully on the block.
I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born. But you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom. Wash me with hyssop until I am clean and whiter than snow.
--- Psalm 51:5-7.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 26
“Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” --- Haggai 1:9.
Churlish souls stint their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations, and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that they are thus impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is the sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. Our God has a method in providence by which he can succeed our endeavours beyond our expectation, or can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of his hand he can steer our vessel in a profitable channel, or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy. It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the liberal and leaves the miserly to find out that withholding tendeth to poverty. In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have been always the most happy, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the liberal giver rise to wealth of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous churl descend to poverty by the very parsimony by which he thought to rise. Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums, and so it frequently is with the Lord; he gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed the Lord makes the little much by the contentment which the sanctified heart feels in a portion of which the tithe has been dedicated to the Lord. Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, yet in the long run selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It needs faith to act towards our God with an open hand, but surely he deserves it of us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to his goodness.
Evening - October 26
“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” --- Ecclesiastes 1:7.
Everything sublunary is on the move, time knows nothing of rest. The solid earth is a rolling ball, and the great sun himself a star obediently fulfilling its course around some greater luminary. Tides move the sea, winds stir the airy ocean, friction wears the rock: change and death rule everywhere. The sea is not a miser’s storehouse for a wealth of waters, for as by one force the waters flow into it, by another they are lifted from it. Men are born but to die: everything is hurry, worry, and vexation of spirit. Friend of the unchanging Jesus, what a joy it is to reflect upon thy changeless heritage; thy sea of bliss which will be for ever full, since God himself shall pour eternal rivers of pleasure into it. We seek an abiding city beyond the skies, and we shall not be disappointed. The passage before us may well teach us gratitude. Father Ocean is a great receiver, but he is a generous distributor. What the rivers bring him he returns to the earth in the form of clouds and rain. That man is out of joint with the universe who takes all but makes no return. To give to others is but sowing seed for ourselves. He who is so good a steward as to be willing to use his substance for his Lord, shall be entrusted with more. Friend of Jesus, art thou rendering to him according to the benefit received? Much has been given thee, what is thy fruit? Hast thou done all? Canst thou not do more? To be selfish is to be wicked. Suppose the ocean gave up none of its watery treasure, it would bring ruin upon our race. God forbid that any of us should follow the ungenerous and destructive policy of living unto ourselves. Jesus pleased not himself. All fulness dwells in him, but of his fulness have all we received. O for Jesus’ spirit, that henceforth we may live not unto ourselves!
O FOR A FAITH THAT WILL NOT SHRINK
William H. Bathurst, 1796–1877
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:5, 6)
When the world seems at its worst, Christians must be at their best.
Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.
--- St. Augustine
Discouragement can easily cause our faith to shrink, and we may even at times consider quitting our service for God. Perhaps we have all experienced these sentiments:
I’ve taught a class for many years; borne many burdens, toiled through tears— But folks don’t notice me a bit, I’m so discouraged, I’ll just quit.
One of the chief characteristics of spiritual maturity is the ability to persevere—even in the face of adversity. God often permits difficulties to come into our lives simply to allow our faith in Him to become stronger. A faith that is never tested and strengthened soon becomes a shrinking one. But if our faith is real, it will stand every test and prove to be an overcoming faith.
This hymn text, which is an exposition of Luke 17:5, is from William Bathurst’s Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use. The song was originally titled “The Power of Faith.” The first three stanzas describe a victorious faith amidst some of the most difficult circumstances in life. The final stanza affirms the believer’s desire to have such trust that even now life becomes a foretaste of heaven itself.
William Hiley Bathurst was an Anglican minister who wrote more than 200 hymn texts. The composer of the music, William H. Havergal, the father of Frances Ridley Havergal, was also prominent in the Church of England, as a minister and writer of many hymns.
O for a faith that will not shrink tho pressed by many a foe, that will not tremble on the brink of any earthly woe.
That will not murmur nor complain beneath the chast’ning rod, but in the hour of grief or pain will lean upon its God.
-A faith that shines more bright and clear when tempests rage without, that, when in danger, knows no fear, in darkness feels no doubt.
Lord, give me such a faith as this, and then, whate’er may come, I’ll taste e’en now the hallowed bliss of an eternal home.
For Today: Romans 1:17; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:7
Ponder this question—Could I stand to lose everything and still have an implicit faith in God and know with certainty that He is in absolute control? Carry this musical resolve ---
[1.] Now this condition of enjoying the fruits of redemption could not be a bare knowledge; for that is but only an act of the
understanding, and doth not in itself include the act of the will, and so would have united only one faculty to him, not the whole soul:
but faith is an act both of the understanding and will too; and principally of the will, which doth presuppose an act of the
understanding for there cannot be a persuasion in the will, without a proposition from the understanding. The understanding must be
convinced of the truth and goodness of a thing, before the will can be persuaded to make any motion towards it; and, therefore, all the
promises, invitations, and proffers, are suited to the understanding and will; to the understanding in regard of knowledge, to the will in
regard of appetite; to the understanding as true, to the will as good; to the understanding as practical, and influencing the will.
[2.] Nor could it be an entire obedience. That, as was said before, would have made the creature have some matter of boasting, and this was not suitable to the condition he was sunk into by the fall. Besides, man’s nature being corrupted, was rendered incapable to obey, and unable to have one thought of a due obedience (2 Cor. 3:5). When man turned from God, and upon that was turned out of paradise, his return was impossible by any strength of his own; his nature was as much corrupted as his re-entrance into paradise was prohibited. That covenant, whereby he stood in the garden, required a perfection of action and intention in the observance of all the commands of God: but his fall had cracked his ability to recover happiness by the terms and condition of an entire obedience; yet man being a person governable by a law, and capable of happiness by a covenant, if God would restore him, and enter into a covenant with him, we must suppose it to have some condition, as all covenants have. That condition could not be works, because man’s nature was polluted. Indeed, bad God reduced man’s body to the dust, and his soul to nothing, and framed another man, he might have governed him by a covenant of works: but that had not been the same man that had revolted, and upon his revolt was stained and disabled. But suppose God had, by any transcendent grace, wholly purified him from the stain of his former transgression, and restored to him the strength and ability he had lost, might he not as easily have rebelled again? And so the condition would never have been accomplished, the covenant never have been performed, and happiness never have been enjoyed. There must be some other condition then in the covenant God would make for man’s security. Now faith is the most proper for receiving the promise of pardon of sin belief of those promises is the first natural reflection that a malefactor can make upon a pardon offered him, and acceptance of it is the first consequent from that belief. Hence is faith entitled a persuasion of, and embracing the promises (Heb. 11:13, and a receiving the atonement (Rom. 5:11). Thus the wisdom of’ God is apparent in annexing such a condition to the covenant, whereby man is restored, as answers the end of God for his glory, the state, conscience, and necessity of man, and had the greatest congruity to his recovery.
9. This wisdom of God is manifest in the manner of the publishing and propagating this doctrine of redemption.
(1.) In the gradual discoveries of it. Flashing a great light in the face of a sudden is amazing; should the sun glare in our eye in all its brightness on a sudden, after we have been in a thick darkness, it would blind us, instead of comforting us: so great a work as this must have several digestions. God first reveals of what seed the Redeeming Person should be, “the Seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15); then of what nation (Gen. 26:4); then of what tribe (Gen. 49:12),—of the tribe of Judah; then of what family,—the family of David; then what works he was to do, what sufferings to undergo. The first predictions of our Saviour were obscure. Adam could not well see the redemption in the promise for the punishment of death which succeeded in the threatening; the promise exercised his faith, and the obscurity and bodily death, his humility. The promise made to Abraham was clearer than the revelations made before, yet he could not tell how to reconcile his redemption with his exile. God supported his faith by the promise, and exercised his humility by making him a pilgrim, and keeping him in a perpetual dependence upon him in all his motions. The declarations to Moses are brighter than those to Abraham: the delineations of Christ by David, in the Psalms, more illustrious than the former: and all those exceeded by the revelations made to the prophet Isaiah, and the other prophets, according as the age did approach wherein the Redeemer was to enter into his office. God wrapped up this gospel in a multitude of types and ceremonies fitted to the infant state of the church (Gal. 4:8). An infant state is usually affected with sensible things; yet all those ceremonies were fitted to that great end of the gospel, which he would bring forth in time to the world. And the wisdom of God in them would be amazing, if we could understand the analogy between every ceremony in the law and the thing signified by it: as it cannot but affect a diligent reader to observe that little account of them we have by the apostle Paul, sprinkled in his epistles, and more largely in that to the Hebrews. As the political laws of the Jews flowed from the depth of the moral law, so their ceremonial did from the depth of evangelical counsels, and all of them had a special relation to the honor of God, and the debasing the creature. Though God formed the mass and matter of the world at the first creation at once, yet his wisdom took six days time for the disposing and adorning it. The more illustrious truths of God are not to be comprehended on a sudden by the weakness of men. Christ did not declare all truths to his disciples in the time of his life, because the were not able at that resent to bear them (John 16:12): “Ye cannot bear them now;” some were reserved for his resurrection, others for the coming of the Spirit, and the full discovery of all kept back for another world. This doctrine God figured out in the law, oracled by the prophets, and unveiled by Christ and his apostles.
(2.) The wisdom of God appeared in using all proper means to render the belief of it easy.
[1.] The most minute things that were to be transacted were predicted in the ancient foregoing age, long before the coming of the Redeemer. The vinegar and gall offered to him upon the cross, the parting his garments, the not breaking of his bones, the piercing of his hands and feet, the betraying of him, the slighting of hire by the multitude, all were exactly painted and represented in variety of figures. There was light enough to good men not to mistake him, and yet not so plain as to hinder bad men from being serviceable to the counsels of God in the crucifying of him when he came.
[2.] The translation of the Old Testament from the private language of the Jews, into the most public language of the world; that translation which we call Septuagint, from Hebrew into Greek, some years before the coming of Christ, that tongue being most diffused at that time, by reason of the Macedonian empire, raised by Alexander, and the university of Athens, to which other nations resorted for learning and education. This was a preparation for the sons of Japhet to “dwell in the tents of Shem.” By this was the entertainment of the gospel facilitated; when they compared the prophesies of the Old Testament with the declarations of the New, and found things so long predicted before they were transacted in the public view.
[3.] By ordering concurrent testimonies, as to matter of fact, that the matter of fact was not deniable. That there was such a person as Christ, that his miracles were stupendous, that his doctrine did not incline to sedition, that he affected not worldly applause, that he did suffer at Jerusalem, was acknowledged by all; not a man among the greatest enemies of Christians was found that denied the matter of fact. And this great truth, that Christ is the Messiah and Redeemer, hath been with universal consent owned by all the professors of Christianity throughout the world: whatever bickerlngs there have been among them about some particular doctrines, they all centred in that truth of Christ’s being the Redeemer. The first publication of this doctrine was sealed by a thousand miracles, and so illustrious, that he was an utter stranger to the world that was ignorant of them.
[4.] In keeping up some principles and opinions in the world to facilitate the belief of this, or render men inexcusable for rejecting of it. The incarnation of the son of God could not be so strange to the world, if we consider the general belief of the appearances of their gods among them; that the Epicureans and others, that denied any such appearances, were counted atheists. And Pythagoras was esteemed to be one, not of the inferior genii and lunar demons, but one of the higher gods, who appeared in a human body, for the curing and rectifying mortal life; and himself tells Abaris, the Scythian, that he was άνθρωπόμορφος, that he “took the flesh of man,” that men might not be astonished at him, and in a fright fly from his instructions. It was not therefore accounted an irrational thing among them, that God should be incarnate: but, indeed, the great stumbling-block was a crucified God. But had they known the holy and righteous nature of God, the malice of sin, the universal corruption of human nature, the first threatening, and the necessity of vindicating the honor of the law, and clearing the justice of God, the notion of his crucifixion would not have appeared so incredible, since they believed the possibility of an incarnation.
Another principle was that universal one of sacrifices for expiation, and rendering God propitious to man, and was practised among all nations. I remember not any wherein this custom did not prevail; for it did even among those people where the Jews, as being no trading nation, had not any commerce; and also in America, found out in these latter ages. It was not a law of nature; no man can find any such thing written in his own heart, but a tradition from Adam. Now that among the loss of so many other doctrines that were handed down from Adam to his immediate posterity, as, in particular, that of the “Seed of the woman,” which one would think a necessary appendix to that of sacrificing, this latter should be preserved as a fragment of an ancient tradition, seems to be an act of Divine wisdom, to prepare men for the entertainment of the doctrine of the great Sacrifice for the expiation of the sin of the world. And as the apostle forms his argument from the Jewish sacrifices, in the epistle to the Hebrews, for the convincing them of the end of the death of Christ, so did the ancient fathers make use of this practice of the heathen to convince them of the same doctrine.
[5.] The wisdom of God appeared in the time and circumstances of the first solemn publication of the gospel by the apostles at Jerusalem. The relation you may read in Acts 2:1–12. The Spirit was given to the apostles on the day of Pentecost; a time wherein there were multitudes of Jews from all nations, not only near, but remote, that heard the great things of God spoken in the several languages of those nations where their habitations were fixed, and that by twelve illiterate men, that two or three hours before knew no language but that of their native country. It was the custom of the Jews, that dwelt among other nations, at a distance from Jerusalem, to assemble together at Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost: and God pitched upon this season, that there might be witnesses of this miracle in many parts of the world: there were some of every nation under heaven (ver 5); that is, of that known part of the world, so saith the text. Fourteen several nations are mentioned; and proselytes as well as Jews by birth. They are called“devout men,” men of conscience, whose testimony would carry weight with it among their neighbors at their return, because of their reputation by their religious carriage. Again, this was not heard and seen by some of them at one time, and some at another, by some one hour, by others the next suecessively, but altogether, in a solemn assembly, that the testimony of so many witnesses at a time, might be more valid, and the truth of the doctrine appear more illustrious and undeniable. And it must needs be astonishing to them, to hear that person magnified in so miraculous a manner, who had so lately been condemned by their countrymen as a malefactor. Wisdom consists in the timing of things. And in this circumstance doth the wisdom of God appear, in furnishing the apostles with the Spirit at such a time, and bringing forth such a miracle, as the gift of tongues, on a sudden, that every nation might hear in their own language the wonder of redemption, and as witnesses at their returns into their own countries, report it to others; that the credit they had, in their several places, might facilitate the belief and entertainment of the gospel, when the apostles, or others, should arrive to those several charges and dioceses appointed for them to preach the gospel in. Had this miracle been wrought in the presence only of the inhabitants of Judea, that understood only their own language, or one or two of the neighboring tongues, it had been counted by them rather a madness than a miracle. Or had they understood all the tongues which they spoke, the news of it had spread no further than the limits of their own habitations, and had been confined within the narrow bounds of the land of Judea. But now it is carried to several remote nations, where any of those auditors then assembled had their residence. As God chose the time of the Passover for the death of Christ, that there might be the greatest number of the inhabitants of the country, as witnesses of the matter of fact, the innocence and sufferings of Christ, so he chose the time of Pentecost for the first publishing the value and end of this blood to the world. Thus the evangelical law was given in a confluence of people from all parts and nations, because it was a covenant with all nations: and the variety of languages spoken by a company of poor Galileans, bred up at the lake of Tiberias, and in poor corners of Canaan, without the instructions of men for so great a skill, might well evidence to the hearers, that God that brought the confusion of languages first at Babel, did only work that cure of them, and combine all together at Jerusalem.
(3.) The wisdom of God is seen in the instruments he employed in the publishing the gospel. He did not employ philosophers, but fishermen; used not acquired arts, but infused wisdom and courage. This treasure was put into, and preserved in earthen vessels, that the wisdom, as well as the power of God, might be magnified. The weaker the means are which attain the end, the greater is the skill of the conductor of them. Wise princes choose men of most credit, interest, wisdom, and ability, to be ministers of their affairs, and ambassadors to others. But what were these that God chose for so great a work, as the publishing a new doctrine to the world? What was their quality but mean, what was their authority without interest? What was their ability, without eminent parts for so great a work, but what Divine grace in a special manner endowed them with? Nay, what was their disposition to it? as dull and unwieldy.
Witness the frequent rebukes for their slow-heartedness, from their Master, when he conversed in the flesh with them. And one of the greatest of them, so fond of the Jewish ceremonies and Pharisaical principles, wherein he had been more than ordinarily principled, that he hated the Christian religion to extirpation, and the professors of it to death; by those ways which were out of the road of human wisdom, and would be accounted the greatest absurdity to be practised by men that have a repute for discretion, did God advance his wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25): “The foolishness of God is wiser than man.” By this means it was indisputably evidenced to unbiassed minds, that the doctrine was divine. It could not rationally be imagined, that instruments destitute of all human advantages, should be able to vanquish the world, confound Judaism, overturn heathenism, chase away the devils, strip them of their temples, alienate the minds of men from their several religions, which had been rooted in them by education, and established by a long succession. It could not, I say, reasonably be imagined to be without a supernatural assistance, an heavenly and efficacious working: whereas, had God taken a course agreeable to the prudence of man, and used those that had been furnished with learning, tipped with eloquence, and armed with human authority, the doctrines would have been thought to have been of a human invention, and to be some subtle contrivance for some unworthy and ambitious end: the nothingness and weakness of the instruments manifest them to be conducted by a Divine power, and declare the doctrine itself to be from heaven. When we see such feeble instruments proclaiming a doctrine repugnant to flesh and blood, sounding forth a crucified Christ to be believed in, and trusted on, and declaiming against the religion and worship under which the Roman empire had long flourished; exhorting them to the contempt of the world, preparation for afflictions, denying themselves, and their own honors, by the hopes of an unseen reward, things so repugnant to flesh and blood; and these instruments concurring in the same story, with an admirable harmony in all parts, and sealing this doctrine with their blood; can we upon all this, ascribe this doctrine to a human contrivance, or fix any lower author of it than the wisdom of heaven? It is the wisdom of God that carries on his own designs in methods most suitable to his own greatness, and different from the customs and modes of men, that less of humanity, and more of divinity might appear.
(4.) The wisdom of God appears in the ways and manner, as well as in the instruments of its propagation, by ways seemingly contrary. Y ou know how God had sent the Jews into captivity in Babylon, and though he struck off their chains, and restored them to their country, yet many of them had no mind to leave a country wherein they had been born and bred. The distance from the place of the original of their ancestors, and their affection to the country wherein they were born, might have occasioned their embracing the idolatrous worship of the place. Afterwards the persecutions of Antiochus scattered many of the Jews for their security into other nations; yet a great part, and perhaps the greatest, preserved their religion, and by that were obliged to come every year to Jerusalem to offer, and so were present at the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and were witnesses of the miraculous effects of it. Had they not been dispersed by persecution, had they not resided in several countries, and been acquainted with their languages, the gospel had not so easily been diffused into several countries of the world. The first persecutions also raised against the church, propagated the gospel; the scattering of the disciples enflamed their courage, and dispersed the doctrine (Acts 8:3), according to the prophecy of Daniel (12:4): “Many should run to and fro, and knowledge should be increased.” The flights and hurryings of men should enlarge the territories of the gospel. There was not a tribunal, but the primitive Christians were cited to; not a horrible punishment, but was inflicted apon them. Treated they were, as the dregs and offals of mankind, as the common enemies of the world; yet the flames of the martyrs brightened the doctrine, and the captivity of its professors made way for the throne of its empire. The imprisonment of the ark was the downfall of Dagon. Religion grew stronger by sufferings, and Christianity taller by injuries. What can this be ascribed to, but the conduct of a wisdom superior to that of men and devils, defeating the methods of human and hellish policy; thereby making the “wisdom of this world foolishness with God” (1 Cor. 3:19)?
The Existence and Attributes of God