Nebuchadnezzar Praises GodDaniel 4 1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel Interprets the Second Dream19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
Nebuchadnezzar Restored34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
The Handwriting on the WallDaniel 5 1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. 10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
Daniel Interprets the Handwriting13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Daniel and the Lions’ DenDaniel 6 1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” 6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
for he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
What I'm Reading
The Christian Difference Is the Foundation of Our Christian Duty
By J. Warner Wallace 8/28/2017
Christianity is distinct in the nature of its claims and the value it places on reason, intelligence, and evidence. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. Hinduism is based on the revelations of the ancient sages as revealed in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Confucianism is established from the wisdom statements of Confucius. In all these examples, the statements of these religious leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts rather than on claims about a particular historical event.
Although Christianity makes its own ideological and philosophical claims, these proposals are intrinsically connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone believe what Jesus said rather than what Buddha, the Hindu sages, or Confucius said? The authority of Jesus is grounded in more than the strength of an idea; it’s established by the verifiability of an event. When Jesus rose from the dead, He established His authority as God, and His Resurrection provides us with an important Christian distinctive. The Resurrection can be examined for its reliability, and the evidential verifiability of Christianity separates it from every other religious system.
Let me offer an analogy to make the point clearer.
If I told you I had a private vision from God yesterday in which He revealed a number of important truths He wanted me to share with you, how could you ever verify (or falsify) my claim? Personal visions and pietistic wisdom statements are difficult to validate evidentially. You have to either accept my story or reject it, but in either case, you’ll have to do so without the ability to investigate my claims evidentially. You can’t, after all, get into my head to see if I am lying about this very personal “revelation.” What if, on the other hand, I told you I had been visited by God physically? God came to me in the form of a man and, in the presence of my friends, had lunch with me in my backyard. While He was here, He helped me dig a trench for my irrigation line and even put some finishing touches on a treehouse for my kids. Can you see how this kind of public claim is categorically different from private claims about visions and divine wisdom? The public claims are about historical events that occurred (or didn’t occur) in my backyard in front of witnesses. As such, they can be investigated forensically and historically. My friends could be interviewed. The irrigation trench could be examined for attributes of “Divine Digging.” The treehouse could be examined for evidence of a “Heavenly Helper.” My claim about a divine public visitation could be examined evidentially and verified in a way private revelatory claims cannot.
This short article was excerpted from Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. For more information about this third book in my Christian Case Making trilogy, please visit www.ForensicFaithBook.com.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong
By Gavin Ortlund 10/7/2015
The doctrine of hell is the most difficult aspect of the Christian faith for many people. It is for me. I feel acutely the unremitting sadness of this doctrine. But to be a Christian is—at the very least—to confess Christ the Son of God, and to confess Christ the Son of God is—at the very least—to submit to his teaching. And this includes his teaching on hell (which was quite copious and colorful).
Saint Anselm once said we should give thanks for whatever of the Christian faith we can understand with our minds; but when we come to something we don’t understand, we should “bow our heads in reverent submission.” That seems like godly and wise advice to me. We simply don’t have the option to pick and choose from what the Bible teaches: we are called to submit to its authority over us.
The traditional doctrine of hell is currently undergoing significant challenges from both within and without the church. Many question the reality of hell outright, while many others opt toward annihiliationism—the belief that the damned won’t suffer eternally but will instead have their consciousness extinguished at some point. In 1997 J. I. Packer wrote a brief article in Reformation and Revival magazine reviewing the debate over annihilationism among evangelicals. In his historical summary, he defines annihilationism as follows:
What is at issue? The question is essentially exegetical, though with theological and pastoral implications. It boils down to whether, when Jesus said that those banished at the final judgment will “go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46), he envisaged a state of penal pain that is endless, or an ending of conscious existence that is irrevocable: that is (for this is how the question is put), a punishment that is eternal in its length or in its effect.
Packer then describes some current variations within annihilationism in light of its 19th-century origins, and offers two pastoral caveats:
Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and writer, currently working as a research fellow at the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.
The Uncomfortable Subject Jesus Addressed More than Anyone Else
By Leslie Schmucker 5/11/2017
Some months ago, R. C. Sproul was asked which doctrine he struggles with most. He replied: “Hell.”
It’s comforting to know a theological giant like Sproul still wrestles with something I’ve struggled with my whole Christian life.
The doctrine of hell is uncomfortable for most of us. However, our understanding of hell shapes our view of the gospel, God’s holiness, and our depravity. If we don’t accept the reality of hell, we won’t rightly understand the glory of the gospel.
Reality of Hell | A friend once challenged me to show her where Jesus talks about hell in the Gospels. Even a cursory read-through shows Jesus talked about it plenty. In fact, Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible. In Luke 16, he describes a great chasm over which “none may cross from there to us.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of a time when people will be separated into two groups, one entering into his presence, the other banished to “eternal fire.”
Jesus doesn’t only reference hell, he describes it in great detail. He says it is a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31). He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), comparing it to “Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28), which was a trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and maggots abounded. Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven, and describes it more vividly. There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned against the absolute reality of hell.
What Is the Doctrine of Divine Election?
By Steven J. Lawson 6/28/2017
The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to our understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election.
In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence.
The Bible makes this point repeatedly. In the act of Creation, God made precisely what He wanted to create in the way He wanted to create it (cf. Gen. 1:31). And ever since Creation, He has sovereignly prescribed or permitted everything in human history, in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan that He previously had designed (cf. Isa. 25:1; 46:10; 55:11; Rom. 9:17; Eph. 3:8–11).
In the Old Testament, He chose a nation for Himself. Out of all the nations in the world, He selected Israel (Deut. 7:6; 14:2; Pss. 105:43; 135:4). He chose the Israelites not because they were better or more desirable than any other people, but simply because He decided to choose them. In the words of Richard Wolf, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” It might not have rhymed as well, but the same would have been true of any other people God might have selected. God chooses whomever He chooses for reasons that are wholly His.
The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God’s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called “‘My Chosen One’” (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are referred to as “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). And New Testament believers are called “God’s chosen ones” (Col. 3:12; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Rev. 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or “elect” (Eph. 1:4).
- 1 The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 2 The Kind of Preaching God Blesses
- 3 The Daring Mission of William Tyndale (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 4 The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 5 The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 6 Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms 76-150
- 7 The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 8 Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms
- 9 Famine in the Land
- 10 The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 11 The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 12 Pillars of Grace
- 13 Made in Our Image: The Fallacy of the User-Friendly God
- 14 Foundations of Grace
- 15 The Attributes of God Study Guide
- 16 Pillars of Grace (A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume Two)
- 17 When All Hell Breaks Loose: You May Be Doing Something Right : Surprising Insights from the Life of Job
- 18 The Legacy: Ten Core Values Every Father Must Leave His Child
- 19 In It to Win It: Pursuing Victory in the One Race that Really Counts
- 20 As Firmes Resoluções de Jonathan Edwards (Portuguese Edition)
- 21 Faith Under Fire: Standing Strong When Satan Attacks
- 22 Absolutely Sure: Settle the Question of Eternal Life
- 23 Men Who Win: Pursuing the Ultimate Prize
- 24 Final Call
- 25 Heaven Help Us!: Truths About Eternity That Will Help You Live Today Insights from the Book of Rev Elation (Christian living)
Worship in Your Waiting
By Kristin Tabb 6/11/2017
Our daughter, like many sons and daughters, loves Christmas. One December, when she was three, she asked us if Christmas was here yet . . . every. single. day. “Just wait,” my husband and I would say. “It’s coming.”
To her delight, we assembled and lit our Christmas tree early in the month. She went to bed eagerly that night. The next morning she ran downstairs, full of expectation and hope. The tree was dark and empty. Her face crumpled, and she turned to me with a wail, “I have waited and waited and Christmas is not coming!” I smiled, but she had my full sympathy. I have waited many a day, sometimes with hope, and sometimes not.
Waiting for What We’ll Be | All of us spend most of our lives waiting, whether for “big” things like a job, a spouse, a baby, or healing, or something that feels “smaller,” like summer vacation or for little ones to grow to maturity. Waiting can be good, and hard, and it isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Often when we’ve received something big that we’ve waited for expectantly, we assume happiness will follow, and our desires will be permanently satisfied. Instead, we quickly find ourselves waiting for something else — and sometimes several things at once.
Waiting is a standard part of life in a finite world. Regardless of whether our waiting feels easy or hard at the moment, how we wait is shaping the people we are becoming. Worship is essential to that wait because a Godward perspective helps us to persevere with patience and hope. Endurance, Paul tells us, “produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:4–5).
Worshipful Waiting | If we long for the endurance that produces character and leads us to hope, we must be fueled by Godward worship. Psalm 27 illustrates this principle in action so beautifully. Though the psalm opens with the confident question, “Whom shall I fear?” we find that the psalmist actually has much to fear, as he waits in a seemingly endless season for deliverance. He faces evildoers, adversaries, and foes (Psalm 27:2), an army encamped against him in a rising battle (Psalm 27:3), and enemies all around him (Psalm 27:6).
How Long Have You Been Waiting? The Gift of Unanswered Prayer
By Ann Swindell 7/12/2017
I have been praying the same prayer for healing for more than twenty years.
If you’ve been praying for one particular thing over months or years or decades, then you know how exhausting and difficult it can feel to keep returning to God with the same petition.
I was just a child when I developed trichotillomania — a hair-pulling condition — and while it’s not a life-threatening condition, it has been life-altering for me. Imagine not being able to stop pulling out your own hair, even though you hate how it makes you look — and feel. That’s been my daily experience for more than half of my life.
I’ve been asking God to do what no doctor, therapy, or medication can: heal me. I have tried various therapies and supplements, and I continue to seek to walk in healing, but there’s no clear “cure” for trichotillomania. I know that if I’m going to be healed, I will need a gift of grace from God himself. And while I wholeheartedly believe in God’s ability to heal me, I also know that he hasn’t healed me over these last two decades. Not yet.
Therefore, I wait.
Ann Swindell is an author and speaker who teaches Christ-centered writing courses at WritingwithGrace.com(registration is open now!). Her newest book is Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want.
Living Under Authority
By R.C. Sproul 6/21/2017
As I read the scriptures, particularly the New Testament, there is a theme that recurs again and again regarding the Christian’s willingness to be in submission to various types of authority. Given the rebellious spirit of our age, that frightens me. It’s all too easy for us to get caught up in an attitude that will bring us into open defiance of the authority of God.
Let’s turn our attention to 1 Peter 2:11–16:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Peter is speaking to people who were subjected to brutal, fierce, and violent persecution—the kind of activity that can incite within us the worst possible responses, including anger, resentment, and hatred. But Peter pleads with those people who were the victims of the hatred of their culture to behave in an honorable manner before the watching world. Paul gives a similar plea time and time again that we’re to try to live at peace with all men as much as possible.
The “therefore” of verse 13 introduces a key manifestation of living honorably before the watching world. We’re to submit ourselves to the ordinances of man. Why? I find the answer startling and fascinating. The Apostle’s admonition is that we’re to submit for the Lord’s sake. But how is obedience to human ordinances done for the Lord’s sake? How does my obedience to my professors, my boss, or the government in any way benefit Christ?
To understand this, we have to understand the deeper problem that all of Scripture is dealing with—the problem of sin. At the most fundamental level, sin is an act of rebellion and disobedience to a higher law and Lawgiver. The biggest problem with the world is lawlessness. The reason people are violated, killed, and maimed in battle, the reason there are murders, robberies, and so forth is that we’re lawless. We disobey, first of all, the law of God. The root problem in all of creation is disobedience to law, defiance of authority. And the ultimate authority of the universe is God Himself.
Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."R.C. Sproul Books:
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 96Worship in the Splendor of Holiness
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
The Puritans on Prayer
By Colin Rowley 6/01/2012
Psalm 66:18 states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” In our present day, how often do we hear the truth that God does not hear the prayers of the unrighteous? In my personal voyage, I have very rarely, if ever, read a book or heard a sermon addressing this characteristic of prayer. Unfortunately, the evangelical church has become subject to the seeker-sensitive tactics that have drastic effects on the communication of the truths of God’s Word. A perfect example of this is a recent book on prayer that was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 35 weeks in 2001 and has sold more than 8 million copies. Most of us have seen this book, maybe even read it, but it fails to deliver the entire counsel of God.
It is truly unfortunate that the Christian culture has digressed so much in comparison to what it was even a few hundred years ago during the Puritan era. It is probable that the Puritans, as defined by the late Dr. John H. Gerstner, were some of the godliest men in the history of the church since the apostles. Their spiritual wisdom and application are rarely found in today’s pulpits, but thanks to Soli Deo Gloria Publications and other publishers, their sermons and other writings are still in print and available for our edification.
I do not think I would be off base in stating that prayer is difficult for all of us. I am constantly struggling to be diligent and consistent in my own prayer life. But in God’s glorious providence, I picked up a book recently that helped me rediscover the importance and the duty we have in having ceaseless communion with our heavenly Father.
The Puritans on Prayer is a compilation of sermons put together by three of the leading preachers of the Puritan era: John Preston, Nathaniel Vincent, and Samuel Lee. Within this single volume are found a plethora of Biblical insights, helping to define godly prayer, explain the purposes behind it, and apply Biblical wisdom to our prayer lives so as to make it edifying to our spirits and ultimately acceptable to the Lord. Truthfully, I have never seen so much helpful insight in one book.
This book is unique in that it communicates the character of true godly prayer as gleaned from the Scriptures. Preston, for instance, reminds us that prayer is our duty before God and declares, “He will have it done for His honor’s sake.” In everything we do, including prayer, our motivation should be the glory of God alone.
But how often are our times of prayer interrupted, delayed, or even cancelled for the sake of other “priorities”? Scripture warns us of this, stating, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). In fear of falling into snares of the flesh and the devil, Vincent prescribes various medications, including “watching as a necessary ingredient.” In fact, Jesus advises us to be cautious even to the extent of entering into a closet and locking the door behind us to pray to the Father, who is in secret (Matt. 6:6). It is within these preliminary duties that God begins to enter into communion with us, and, according to Samuel Lee, “smell a sweet savor in the fragrant perfumes and odors of His intercession.”
I do not count it coincidence that Soli Deo Gloria Publications is devoted to the reprinting of the Puritans, whose ultimate concern was giving God the glory alone. Thanks be to God for leading Soli Deo Gloria to compile such volumes for the benefit of the entire kingdom of God.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
The British invaded Washington, D.C. The Capitol was burned. President James and Dolly Madison fled the White House. On this day, September 1, 1814, President Madison wrote: “The enemy by a sudden incursion has succeeded in invading the capitol of the nation… During their possession… though for a single day only, they wantonly destroyed the public edifices…. An occasion which appeals so forcibly to the … patriotic devotion of the American people, none will forget… Independence… is now to be maintained… with the strength and resources which… Heaven has blessed.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Life is a journey, not a home;
a road, not a city of habitation;
and the enjoyments and blessings we have
are but little inns on the roadside of life,
where we may be refreshed for a moment,
that we may with new strength press on to the end -
to the rest that remaineth for the people of God.
--- Horatius Bonar
I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.
--- author disputed http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Stephen_Grellet
Self is the great antichrist and anti-God in the world, that sets up itself above all else.
--- Stephen Charnock
One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we've developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.
--- Malcolm Muggeridge
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. Now the people were come to that degree of meanness and fear, and these robbers to that degree of madness, that these last took upon them to appoint high priests. 4 So when they had disannulled the succession, according to those families out of which the high priests used to be made, they ordained certain unknown and ignoble persons for that office, that they might have their assistance in their wicked undertakings; for such as obtained this highest of all honors, without any desert, were forced to comply with those that bestowed it on them. They also set the principal men at variance one with another, by several sorts of contrivances and tricks, and gained the opportunity of doing what they pleased, by the mutual quarrels of those who might have obstructed their measures; till at length, when they were satiated with the unjust actions they had done towards men, they transferred their contumelious behavior to God himself, and came into the sanctuary with polluted feet.
7. And now the multitude were going to rise against them already; for Ananus, the ancientest of the high priests, persuaded them to it. He was a very prudent man, and had perhaps saved the city if he could but have escaped the hands of those that plotted against him. These men made the temple of God a strong hold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny. They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family. The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot; but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.
8. Hereupon they sent for one of the pontifical tribes, which is called Eniachim, 5and cast lots which of it should be the high priest. By fortune the lot so fell as to demonstrate their iniquity after the plainest manner, for it fell upon one whose name was Phannias, the son of Samuel, of the village Aphtha. He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he! yet did they hail this man, without his own consent, out of the country, as if they were acting a play upon the stage, and adorned him with a counterfeit tree; they also put upon him the sacred garments, and upon every occasion instructed him what he was to do. This horrid piece of wickedness was sport and pastime with them, but occasioned the other priests, who at a distance saw their law made a jest of, to shed tears, and sorely lament the dissolution of such a sacred dignity.
9. And now the people could no longer bear the insolence of this procedure, but did all together run zealously, in order to overthrow that tyranny; and indeed they were Gorion the son of Josephus, and Symeon the son of Gamaliel, 6 who encouraged them, by going up and down when they were assembled together in crowds, and as they saw them alone, to bear no longer, but to inflict punishment upon these pests and plagues of their freedom, and to purge the temple of these bloody polluters of it. The best esteemed also of the high priests, Jesus the son of Gamalas, and Ananus the son of Ananus when they were at their assemblies, bitterly reproached the people for their sloth, and excited them against the zealots; for that was the name they went by, as if they were zealous in good undertakings, and were not rather zealous in the worst actions, and extravagant in them beyond the example of others.
10. And now, when the multitude were gotten together to an assembly, and every one was in indignation at these men's seizing upon the sanctuary, at their rapine and murders, but had not yet begun their attacks upon them, [the reason of which was this, that they imagined it to be a difficult thing to suppress these zealots, as indeed the case was,] Ananus stood in the midst of them, and casting his eyes frequently at the temple, and having a flood of tears in his eyes, he said, "Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places, that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains; yet do I, who am clothed with the vestments of the high priesthood, and am called by that most venerable name [of high priest], still live, and am but too fond of living, and cannot endure to undergo a death which would be the glory of my old age; and if I were the only person concerned, and as it were in a desert, I would give up my life, and that alone for God's sake; for to what purpose is it to live among a people insensible of their calamities, and where there is no notion remaining of any remedy for the miseries that are upon them? for when you are seized upon, you bear it! and when you are beaten, you are silent! and when the people are murdered, nobody dare so much as send out a groan openly! O bitter tyranny that we are under! But why do I complain of the tyrants? Was it not you, and your sufferance of them, that have nourished them? Was it not you that overlooked those that first of all got together, for they were then but a few, and by your silence made them grow to be many; and by conniving at them when they took arms, in effect armed them against yourselves? You ought to have then prevented their first attempts, when they fell a reproaching your relations; but by neglecting that care in time, you have encouraged these wretches to plunder men. When houses were pillaged, nobody said a word, which was the occasion why they carried off the owners of those houses; and when they were drawn through the midst of the city, nobody came to their assistance. They then proceeded to put those whom you have betrayed into their hands into bonds. I do not say how many and of what characters those men were whom they thus served; but certainly they were such as were accused by none, and condemned by none; and since nobody succored them when they were put into bonds, the consequence was, that you saw the same persons slain. We have seen this also; so that still the best of the herd of brute animals, as it were, have been still led to be sacrificed, when yet nobody said one word, or moved his right hand for their preservation. Will you bear, therefore, will you bear to see your sanctuary trampled on? and will you lay steps for these profane wretches, upon which they may mount to higher degrees of insolence? Will not you pluck them down from their exaltation? for even by this time they had proceeded to higher enormities, if they had been able to overthrow any thing greater than the sanctuary. They have seized upon the strongest place of the whole city; you may call it the temple, if you please, though it be like a citadel or fortress. Now, while you have tyranny in so great a degree walled in, and see your enemies over your heads, to what purpose is it to take counsel? and what have you to support your minds withal? Perhaps you wait for the Romans, that they may protect our holy places: are our matters then brought to that pass? and are we come to that degree of misery, that our enemies themselves are expected to pity us? O wretched creatures! will not you rise up and turn upon those that strike you? which you may observe in wild beasts themselves, that they will avenge themselves on those that strike them. Will you not call to mind, every one of you, the calamities you yourselves have suffered? nor lay before your eyes what afflictions you yourselves have undergone? and will not such things sharpen your souls to revenge? Is therefore that most honorable and most natural of our passions utterly lost, I mean the desire of liberty? Truly we are in love with slavery, and in love with those that lord it over us, as if we had received that principle of subjection from our ancestors; yet did they undergo many and great wars for the sake of liberty, nor were they so far overcome by the power of the Egyptians, or the Medes, but that still they did what they thought fit, notwithstanding their commands to the contrary. And what occasion is there now for a war with the Romans? [I meddle not with determining whether it be an advantageous and profitable war or not.] What pretense is there for it? Is it not that we may enjoy our liberty? Besides, shall we not bear the lords of the habitable earth to be lords over us, and yet bear tyrants of our own country? Although I must say that submission to foreigners may be borne, because fortune hath already doomed us to it, while submission to wicked people of our own nation is too unmanly, and brought upon us by our own consent. However, since I have had occasion to mention the Romans, I will not conceal a thing that, as I am speaking, comes into my mind, and affects me considerably; it is this, that though we should be taken by them, [God forbid the event should be so!] yet can we undergo nothing that will be harder to be borne than what these men have already brought upon us. How then can we avoid shedding of tears, when we see the Roman donations in our temple, while we withal see those of our own nation taking our spoils, and plundering our glorious metropolis, and slaughtering our men, from which enormities those Romans themselves would have abstained? to see those Romans never going beyond the bounds allotted to profane persons, nor venturing to break in upon any of our sacred customs; nay, having a horror on their minds when they view at a distance those sacred walls; while some that have been born in this very country, and brought up in our customs, and called Jews, do walk about in the midst of the holy places, at the very time when their hands are still warm with the slaughter of their own countrymen. Besides, can any one be afraid of a war abroad, and that with such as will have comparatively much greater moderation than our own people have? For truly, if we may suit our words to the things they represent, it is probable one may hereafter find the Romans to be the supporters of our laws, and those within ourselves the subverters of them. And now I am persuaded that every one of you here comes satisfied before I speak that these overthrowers of our liberties deserve to be destroyed, and that nobody can so much as devise a punishment that they have not deserved by what they have done, and that you are all provoked against them by those their wicked actions, whence you have suffered so greatly. But perhaps many of you are affrighted at the multitude of those zealots, and at their audaciousness, as well as at the advantage they have over us in their being higher in place than we are; for these circumstances, as they have been occasioned by your negligence, so will they become still greater by being still longer neglected; for their multitude is every day augmented, by every ill man's running away to those that are like to themselves, and their audaciousness is therefore inflamed, because they meet with no obstruction to their designs. And for their higher place, they will make use of it for engines also, if we give them time to do so; but be assured of this, that if we go up to fight them, they will be made tamer by their own consciences, and what advantages they have in the height of their situation they will lose by the opposition of their reason; perhaps also God himself, who hath been affronted by them, will make what they throw at us return against themselves, and these impious wretches will be killed by their own darts: let us but make our appearance before them, and they will come to nothing. However, it is a right thing, if there should be any danger in the attempt, to die before these holy gates, and to spend our very lives, if not for the sake of our children and wives, yet for God's sake, and for the sake of his sanctuary. I will assist you both with my counsel and with my hand; nor shall any sagacity of ours be wanting for your support; nor shall you see that I will be sparing of my body neither."
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
and don’t desire to be with them.
2 For their minds are occupied with violence,
and their lips speak of making trouble.
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
Destiny of holiness
Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. --- 1 Peter 1:16 (R.V.).
Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is. The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. Nowadays we have far too many affinities, we are dissipated with them; right, good, noble affinities which will yet have their fulfilment, but in the meantime God has to atrophy them. The one thing that matters is whether a man will accept the God Who will make him holy. At all costs a man must be rightly related to God.
Do I believe I need to be holy? Do I believe God can come into me and make me holy? If by your preaching you convince me that I am unholy, I resent your preaching. The preaching of the Gospel awakens an intense resentment because it must reveal that I am unholy; but it also awakens an intense craving. God has one destined end for mankind, viz., holiness. His one aim is the production of saints. God is not an eternal blessing-machine for men; He did not come to save men out of pity: He came to save men because He had created them to be holy. The Atonement means that God can put me back into perfect union with Himself, without a shadow between, through the Death of Jesus Christ.
Never tolerate through sympathy with yourself or with others any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means unsullied walking with the feet, unsullied talking with the tongue, unsullied thinking with the mind—every detail of the life under the scrutiny of God. Holiness is not only what God gives me, but what I manifest that God has given me.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
His first ship; his last poem;
And between them what turbulent acres
Of sea or land with always the flesh ebbing
In slow waves over the salt bones.
But don't be too hard; so to have written
Even in smoke on such fierce skies,
Or to have brought one poem safely to harbour
From such horizons is not now to be scorned.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
So wrote Robert Frost. He also wrote, in the same poem: (Mending Wall)
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out.
The laissez-faire attitude toward a neighbor, as projected by the protagonist in Frost’s poem, is antithetical to the Jewish value of community. Good fences do not make good neighbors, not only because community is a value, but also because (as the protagonist later acknowledges) we don’t necessarily know what we’re walling in, or out.
In the case of the environment, we cannot build fences from our neighbors. What others do ultimately affects us, just as our own actions have a strong impact on those near us. If a local factory pollutes the air, there is no way that we will remain immune from its effects. If I pour antifreeze down the drain, my pollution will have an impact on the entire community. What each of us does affects the other. There is no wall, dam, or barrier that will perfectly protect us from harm.
The Rabbis understood this as they wrote this Midrash:
When the Holy One, praised is He, created the first human, He took him around to all the trees in the Garden of Eden, saying to him: “Look at how beautiful and splendid my creations are! All that I created—I created for you. Pay attention that you not ruin and destroy My world, for if you ruin it, there will be no one after you to repair it.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)
All human beings live on one planet, in one large community. We cannot close our eyes to the offenses of our neighbors, nor can we hope that our misdeeds will not harm others. We are all guarantors one for the other.
The line “All Israel are guarantors one for the other” has been invoked many times to emphasize the unity and solidarity of the Jewish people. In a pinch, we are there for one another, But what exactly does this adage require of us?
The Hebrew word עֲרֵבִים/areivim, “guarantors,” signifies a financial obligation. When the poor lack food, clothing, or shelter, we have to give tzedakah and provide those things for them. When an orphan girl is ready to get married, the community must step forward and do the mitzvah of hakhnasat kallah and provide a dowry for the bride. When Jews are taken hostage and are being held for ransom, other Jews collect money for pidyon shevuyyim, the redeeming of the captives.
In addition to the financial responsibility, the phrase also implies a moral obligation. As the Midrash teaches, one person’s sins could cause many others to stumble. Consequently, each member of the community has a stake in what every other member does.
Several times during Yom Kippur, we recite the prayer Al Ḥet. It is a catalogue of sins, listed in alphabetical order. Each line begins with the formula, “For the sin that we have committed by …” and ends with a specific transgression. Most people read through the list and probably think “I didn’t do this one” or “I’m not guilty of that one.” But the instructions are not “Check those that apply.” Instead, every person is supposed to recite all the sins. Why is this so? Two reasons are offered. First, we don’t pray for ourselves alone. Virtually every Jewish prayer is written in the plural; if we didn’t commit this particular sin, or that one, then some other Jew did. And when we ask God to forgive us, it is not only for our individual sins; it is for all the collective sins of the Jewish people. As we say in the Al Ḥet prayer, “for the sins that we have committed.…”
But there is a second reason. We are all responsible for each other. If a family member sinned, we are partially responsible. If a friend or neighbor did wrong, then some of the blame rests with us. It is our sin too, because we did not stop them. In Leviticus 19:17 we read the following: “Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.” This verse is interpreted by the Rabbis to mean that we cannot just sit back and watch as other people do wrong. We have a responsibility to prevent them from doing wrong, even if it takes a hundred warnings, even if they curse us, even if they strike us. In Jewish law, it is not “Every man for himself.” Rather, each of us is obligated to look out for the other—not only financially, but morally as well.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. --- Psalm 119:18.
True wonder is never dispelled by what we know.
(The Afterglow Of God:
Sunday Evenings In A Glasgow Pulpit (1912) )
That alone is genuine wonder—the wonder not of ignorance but of knowledge, the wonder that does not vanish when we know but grows and deepens with everything we know. It was the wonder of the apostle Paul. It was the wonder in the heart of Jesus. And it is the wonder we will feel forever in the perfected knowledge of eternity.
It is not knowledge, then, that is the foe of wonder; it is something far more commonplace than that. The blight that wilts our faculty of wonder is the familiarity that begets contempt. Someone has said that if all the stars were to cease shining for a hundred years and then were suddenly to flash on again, there is not an eye on earth but would be lifted heavenward and not a heart but would break forth in praise to God. But the stars were there when we were little children, and they will be shining in the heavens tonight. And to us the spectacle is so familiar that we have lost the wonder of it all. Live forty years in such a world as this and a certain blindness falls on the eyes. And therefore the need that when the Evening falls, the Morning breaks, and the summer comes again, we should pray as the psalmist prayed so long ago, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see.”
May I say in passing that all great experiences tend to recreate the sense of wonder? Sickness, sorrow, death, conversion have a way of bringing new wonder into everything. And I suggest that in the will of God, which is as merciful as it is wise, that recreating of the sense of wonder may be one purpose of many an hour of discipline.
--- George H. Morrison
The Pagan Pontiff September 1
The history of the church tells lessons good and bad. Its heroes include the noblest saints who ever lived, but its rosters also record scoundrels who have blackened its name. For example …
In 1460 29-year-old Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia of Spain fumed as he opened the letter from the reigning pope. Pius II was upset over news of another wild Borgia party. “None of the allurements of love was lacking,” the pope complained. He condemned Borgia’s orgies, warning him of “disgrace” and “contempt.”
But Borgia, ever more unrestrained, advanced in office until he purchased the papacy itself in 1492. He called himself Pope Alexander VI. His sinful exploits increased with age, and he always kept a stable of women.
But Pope Alexander was upstaged by his illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia Borgia. What we know of Lucrezia is sketchy but vivid. She was charming, shrewd, and bewitching. Her long, golden hair crowned her angelic face and reached almost to her feet. She inherited her father’s lustiness as a teenager.
Her brother Caesar had become a cardinal who mixed church work with immorality and murder. And another Borgia brother, Juan, was equally immoral.
In the 1490s Rome gossiped that Lucrezia was sleeping with her father and both her brothers—incest upon incest and that the brothers were violently jealous. On the Morning of June 15, 1497, Juan’s corpse was found in the Tiber, bearing nine dagger wounds. Caesar was suspected, though nothing was proven.
Lucrezia became pregnant. The Vatican sought to hide her condition, but word filtered out. The child was named Giovanni. But who was his father? On September 1, 1501 Pope Alexander VI issued two extraordinary edicts. The first, which was made public, identified Giovanni as Caesar’s child. But the second, hidden in church vaults, identified Giovanni as the pope’s own son, making Pope Alexander both the child’s father and his grandfather.
A young monk named Martin Luther was watching.
I have heard terrible things about some of you. In fact, you are behaving worse than the Gentiles. A man is even sleeping with his own stepmother. Don’t you know how a little yeast can spread through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast!
--- 1 Corinthians 5:1,6,7a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 1
“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” --- Psalm 73:24.
The Psalmist felt his need of divine guidance. He had just been discovering the foolishness of his own heart, and lest he should be constantly led astray by it, he resolved that God’s counsel should henceforth guide him. A sense of our own folly is a great step towards being wise, when it leads us to rely on the wisdom of the Lord. The blind man leans on his friend’s arm and reaches home in safety, and so would we give ourselves up implicitly to divine guidance, nothing doubting; assured that though we cannot see, it is always safe to trust the all-seeing God. “Thou shalt,” is a blessed expression of confidence. He was sure that the Lord would not decline the condescending task. There is a word for thee, O believer; rest thou in it. Be assured that thy God will be thy counsellor and friend; he shall guide thee; he will direct all thy ways. In his written Word thou hast this assurance in part fulfilled, for holy Scripture is his counsel to thee. Happy are we to have God’s Word always to guide us! What were the mariner without his compass? And what were the Christian without the Bible? This is the unerring chart, the map in which every shoal is described, and all the channels from the quicksands of destruction to the haven of salvation mapped and marked by one who knows all the way. Blessed be thou, O God, that we may trust thee to guide us now, and guide us even to the end! After this guidance through life, the Psalmist anticipates a divine reception at last—“and afterward receive me to glory.” What a thought for thee, believer! God himself will receive thee to glory—thee! Wandering, erring, straying, yet he will bring thee safe at last to glory! This is thy portion; live on it this day, and if perplexities should surround thee, go in the strength of this text straight to the throne.
Evening - September 1
“Trust in him at all times.”
--- Psalm 62:8.
Faith is as much the rule of temporal as of spiritual life; we ought to have faith in God for our earthly affairs as well as for our heavenly business. It is only as we learn to trust in God for the supply of all our daily need that we shall live above the world. We are not to be idle, that would show we did not trust in God, who worketh hitherto, but in the devil, who is the father of idleness. We are not to be imprudent or rash; that were to trust chance, and not the living God, who is a God of economy and order. Acting in all prudence and uprightness, we are to rely simply and entirely upon the Lord at all times.
Let me commend to you a life of trust in God in temporal things. Trusting in God, you will not be compelled to mourn because you have used sinful means to grow rich. Serve God with integrity, and if you achieve no success, at least no sin will lie upon your conscience. Trusting God, you will not be guilty of self-contradiction. He who trusts in craft, sails this way to-day, and that way the next, like a vessel tossed about by the fickle wind; but he that trusteth in the Lord is like a vessel propelled by steam, she cuts through the waves, defies the wind, and makes one bright silvery straightforward track to her destined haven. Be you a man with living principles within; never bow to the varying customs of worldly wisdom. Walk in your path of integrity with steadfast steps, and show that you are invincibly strong in the strength which confidence in God alone can confer. Thus you will be delivered from anxious care, you will not be troubled with evil tidings, your heart will be fixed, trusting in the Lord. How pleasant to float along the stream of providence! There is no more blessed way of living than a life of dependence upon a covenant-keeping God. We have no care, for he careth for us; we have no troubles, because we cast our burdens upon the Lord.
THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION
Samuel J. Stone, 1839–1900
… Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Ephesians 5:23)
During an especially heated period of theological controversy in England in 1866 when liberalism threatened to destroy the great cardinal doctrines of the Anglican church, this hymn was written by Pastor Samuel Stone. He was a strong supporter of the conservative faith and refused to compromise in any way the critical attacks on doctrinal orthodoxy.
It was Stone’s desire to write a hymn that would reaffirm the Lordship of Christ as the foundation of the church. To combat the skeptical liberal scholarship, Samuel Stone wrote twelve hymn texts based on the Apostles’ Creed. This particular text refers to the ninth article: “The Holy Catholic (Universal) Church, the communion of saints: He is the Head of this body.”
Described as the poor man’s pastor, Samuel Stone demonstrated his firm belief in the church as the instrument of Christ for meeting the needs of people. He spent much time ministering to the poor and underprivileged people in London’s East End. It was said that “he created a beautiful place of worship for the humble folk and made it a center of light in dark places.”
This is what the local church was meant to be—a spiritual hospital for hurting humanity, never an exclusive private club for self-righteous Christians. Called out from the world by God for Himself, the church consists of people who meet regularly for worship, inspiration, instruction, and fellowship. After that, Christ our Head sends His own back into the world to represent Him and to model His love for all mankind.
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is His new creation by water and the Word: from heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won: O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.
For Today: Matthew 16:15–18; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:18
Give thanks to God for your local church as well as for fellow-believers of the church universal everywhere. Affirm your conviction in Christ as the head of the church as you carry this musical truth ---
DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
JOHN 4:24. —God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. HAVING thus despatched the first proposition, “God is a Spirit,” it will not be amiss to handle the inference our Saviour makes from that proposition, which is the second observation propounded.
Doct. That the worship due from us to God ought to be spiritual, and spiritually performed. Spirit and truth are understood variously. We are to worship God,
1. Not by legal ceremonies. The evangelical administration being called spirit, in opposition to the legal ordinances as carnal; and truth in opposition to them as typical. As the whole Judaical service is called flesh, so the whole evangelical service is called spirit; or spirit may be opposed to the worship at Jerusalem, as it was carnal; truth, to the worship on the Mount Gerizim, because it was false. They had not the true object of worship, nor the true medium of worship as those at Jerusalem had. Their worship should cease, because it was false; and the Jewish worship should cease, because it was carnal. There is no need of a candle when the sun spreads his beams in the air; no need of those ceremonies when the Sun of righteousness appeared; they only served for candles to instruct and direct men till the time of his coming. The shadows are chased away by displaying the substance, so that they can be of no more use in the worship of God, since the end for which they were instituted is expired; and that discovered to us in the gospel, which the Jews sought for in vain among the baggage and stuff’ of their ceremonies.
2. With a spiritual and sincere frame. In spirit, i. e. with spirit; with the inward operations of all the faculties of our souls, and the cream and flower of them; and the reason is, because there ought to be a worship suitable to the nature of God; and as the worship was to be spiritual, so the exercise of that worship ought to be in a spiritual manner. It shall be a worship “in truth,” because the true God shall be adored without those vain imaginations and fantastic resemblances of him, which were common among the blind Gentiles, and contrary to the glorious nature of God, and unworthy ingredients in religious services. It shall be a worship “in spirit,” without those carnal rites the degenerate Jews rested on; such a posture of soul which is the life and ornament of every service God looks for at your hands. There must be some proportion between the object adored, and the manner in which we adore it; it must not be a mere corporeal worship, because God is not a body; but it must rise from the centre of our soul, because God is a Spirit. If he were a body, a bodily worship might suit him, images might be fit to represent him; but being a Spirit, our bodily services enter us not into communion with him. Being a spirit, we must banish from our minds all carnal imaginations of him, and separate from our wills all cold and dissembled affections to him. We must not only have a loud voice, but an elevated soul; not only a bended knee, but a broken heart; not only a supplicating tone, but a groaning spirit; not only a ready ear for the word, but a receiving heart; and this shall be of greater value with him, than the most costly outward services offered at Gerizim or Jerusalem. Our Saviour certainly meant not by worshipping in spirit, only the matter of the evangelical service, as oppose to the legal administration, without the manner wherein it was to be performed. It is true, God always sought a worship in spirit; he expected the heart of the worshipper should join with his instituted rights of adoration in every exercise of them; but he expects such a carriage more under the gospel administration, because of the clearer discoveries of his nature made in it, and the greater assistances conveyed by it. I shall, therefore, 1. Lay down some general propositions. 2. Show what this spiritual worship is. 3. Why we must offer to God a spiritual service. 4. The use.
1. Some general propositions. Prop. I. The right exercise of worship is founded upon, and riseth from, the spirituality of God. The first ground of the worship we render to God, is the infinite excellency of his nature, which is not only one attribute, but results from all; for God, as God, is the object of worship; and the notion of God consists not in thinking him wise, good, just, but all those infinitely beyond any conception; and hence it follows that God is an object infinitely to be loved and honored. His goodness is sometimes spoken of in Scripture as a motive of our homage (Psalm 130:4): “There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared.” Fear, in the Scripture dialect, signifies the “whole worship of God” (Acts 10:35): but in every nation, “he that fears him” is accepted of him. If God should act towards men according to the rigors of his justice due to them for the least of their crimes, there could be no exercise of any affection but that of despair, which could not engender a worship of God, which ought to be joined with love, not with hatred. The beneficence and patience of God, and his readiness to pardon men, is the reason of the honor they return to him; and this is so evident a motive, that generally the idolatrous world ranked those creatures in the number of their gods, which they perceived useful and beneficial to mankind, as the sun and moon, the Egyptians the ox, &c. And the more beneficial anything appeared to mankind, the higher station men gave it in the rank of their deities, and bestowed a more peculiar and solemn worship upon it. Men worshipped God to procure and continue his favor, which would not have been acted by them, had they not conceived it a pleasing thing to him to be merciful and gracious. Sometimes his justice is proposed to us as a motive of worship (Heb. 12:28, 29): “Serve God with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire;” which includes his holiness, whereby he doth hate sin, as well as his wrath, whereby he doth punish it. Who but a mad and totally brutish person, or one that was resolved to make war against heaven, could behold the effects of God’s anger in the world, consider him in his justice as a “consuming fire,” and despise him, and rather be drawn out by that consideration to biasphemy and despair, than to seek all ways to appease him? Now though the infinite power of God, his unspeakable wisdom, his incomprehensible goodness, the holiness of his nature, the vigilance of his evidence, the bounty of his hand, signify to man that he should love and honor him, and are the motives of worship; yet the spirituality of his nature is the rule of worship, and directs us to render our duty to him with all the powers of our soul. As his goodness beams out upon us, worship is due in justice to him; and as he is the most excellent nature, veneration is due to him in the highest manner with the choicest affections. So that indeed the spirituality of God comes chiefly into consideration in matter of worship: all his perfections are grounded upon this: he could not be infinite, immutable, omniscient, if he were a corporeal being; we cannot give him a worship unless we judge him worth, excellent, and deserving a worship at our hands; and we cannot judge him worthy of a worship, unless we have some apprehensions and admirations of his infinite virtues; and we cannot apprehend and admire those perfections, but as we see them as causes shining in their effects. When we see, therefore, the frame of the world to be the work of his power, the order of the world to be the fruit of his wisdom, and the usefulness of the world to be the product of his goodness, we find the motives and reasons of worship; and weighing that this power wisdom, goodness, infinitely transcend any corporeal nature, we find a rule of worship, that it ought to be offered by us in a manner suitable to such a nature as is infinitely above any bodily being. His being a Spirit declares what he is; his other perfections declare what kind of Spirit he is. All God’s perfections suppose him a Spirit; all centre in this; his wisdom doth not suppose him merciful, or his mercy suppose him omniscient; there may be distinct notions of those, but all suppose him to be of a spiritual nature. How cold and frozen will our devotions be, if we consider not his omniscience, whereby he discerns our hearts! How carnal will our services be, if we consider him not as a pure Spirit! In our offers to, and transactions with men, we deal not with them as mere animals, but as rational creatures; and we debase their natures if we treat them otherwise; and if we have not raised apprehensions of God’s spiritual nature in our treating with him, but allow him only such frames as we think fit enough for men, we debase his spirituality to the littleness of our own being. We must, therefore, possess our souls with this; we shall else render him no better than a fleshly service. We do not much concern ourselves in those things of which we are either utterly ignorant, or have but slight apprehensions of. That is the first proposition; — The right exercise of worship is grounded upon the spirituality of God.
Prop. II. This spiritual worship of God is manifest by the light of nature, to be due to him. In reference to this, consider,
1. The outward means or matter of that worship which would be acceptable to God, was not known by the light of nature. The law for a worship, and for a spiritual worship by the faculties of our souls was natural, and part of the law of creation; though the determination of the particular acts, whereby God would have this homage testified, was of positive institution, and depended not upon the law of creation. Though Adam in innocence knew God was to be worshipped, yet by nature he did not know by what outward acts he was to pay this respect, or at what time he was more solemnly to be exercised in it than at another: this depended upon the directions God, as the sovereign Governor and Lawgiver, should prescribe. You therefore find the positive institutions of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and the determination of the time of worship (Gen. 2:3, 17). Had there been any such notion in Adam naturally, as strong as that other, that a worship was due to God, there would have been found some relics of these modes universally consented to by mankind, as well as of the other. But though all nations have by an universal consent concurred in the acknowledgment of the being of God, and his right to adoration, and the obligation of the creature to it; and that there ought to be some public rule and polity in matters of religion (for no nation hath been in the world without a worship, and without external acts and certain ceremonies to signify that worship); yet their modes and rites have been as various as their climates, unless in that common notion of sacrifices, not descending to them by nature, but tradition from Adam; and the various ways of worship have been more provoking. than pleasing. Every nation suited the kind of worship to their particular ends and polities they designed to rule by. How God was to be worshipped is more difficult to be discerned by nature with its eyes out than with its eyes clear. The pillars upon which the worship of God stands cannot be discerned without revelation, no more than blind Samson could tell where the pillars of the Philistines’ theatre stood, without one to conduct him. What Adam could not see with his sound eyes, we cannot with our dim eyes; he must be told from heaven what worship was fit for the God of heaven. It is not by nature that we can have such a full prospect of God as may content and quiet us; this is the noble effect of Divine revelation; He only knows himself, and can only make himself known to us. It could not be supposed that an infinite God should have no perfections but what were visible in the works of his hands; and that these perfections should not be infinitely greater, than as they were sensible in their present effects: this had been to apprehend God a limited Being; meaner than he is. Now it is impossible to honor God as we ought, unless we know him as he is; and we could not know him as he is, without divine revelation from himself; for none but God can acquaint us with his own nature: and therefore the nations void of this conduct, heaped up modes of worahip from their own imaginations, unworthy of the majesty of God, and below the nature of man. A rational man would scarce have owned such for signs of honor, as the Scripture mentions in the services of Baal and Dagon; much less an infinitely wise and glorious God. And when God had signified his mind to his own people, how unwilling were they to rest satisfied with God’s determination, but would be warping to their own inventions, and make gods, and ways of worship to themselves! as in the matter of the golden calf, as was lately spoken of.
2. Though the outward manner of worship acceptable to God could not be known without revelation, and those revelations might be various; yet the inward manner of worship with our spirits was manifest by nature: and not only manifest by nature to Adam in innocence, but after his fall, and the scales he had brought upon his understanding by that fall. When God gave him his positive institutions before the fall, or whatsoever additions God should have made, had he persisted in that state; or, when he appointed him, after his fall, to testify his acknowledgment of him by sacrifices, there needed no command to him to make those acknowledgments by those outward ways prescribed to him, with the intention and prime affection of his spirit: this nature would instruct him in without revelation; for he could not possibly have any semblance of reason to think that the offering of beasts, or the presenting the first fruits of the increase of the ground, as an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over him and his bounty to him, was sufficient, without devoting to him that part wherein the image of his Creator did consist: he could not but discern, by a reflection upon his own being, that he was made for God as well as by God: for it is a natural principle of which the apostle speaks (Rom. 11:36), “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things,” &c.: that the whole whereof he did consist was due to God; and that his body, the dreggy and dusty part of his nature, was not fit to be brought alone before God, without that nobler principle, which he had, by creation, linked with it. Nothing in the whole law of nature, as it is informed of religion, was clearer, next to the being of a God, than this manner of worshipping God with the mind and spirit. And as the Gentiles never sunk so low into the mud of idolatry, as to think the images they worshiped were really their gods, but the representations, or habitations of their gods; so they never deserted this principle in the notion of it, that God was to be honored with the best they were, and the best they had: as they never denied the being of a God in the notion, though they did in the practice, so they never rejected this principle in notion, though they did, and now most men do, in the inward observation of it: it was a maxim among them that God was mens animus, mind and spirit, and therefore was to be honored with the mind and spirit: that religion did not consist in the ceremonies of the body, but the work of the soul; whence the speech of one of them: “Sacrifice to the gods, not so much clothed with purple garments as a pure heart:” and of another: “God regards not the multitude of the sacrifices, but the disposition of the sacrificer.” It is not fit we should deny God the cream and the flower, and give him the flotten part and the stalks. And with what reverence and intention of mind they thought their worship was to be performed, is evident by the priests crying out often, Hoc age, Mind this, let your spirits be intent upon it. This could not but result, (1.) From the knowledge of ourselves. It is a natural principle, “God hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:1, 2). Man knows himself to be a rational creature; as a creature he was to serve his Creator, and as a rational creature with the best part of that rational nature he derived from him. By the same act of reason that he knows himself to be a creature, he knows himself to have a Creator; that this Creator is more excellent than himself, and that an honor is due from him to the Creator for framing of him; and, therefore, this honor was to be offered to him by the most excellent part which was framed by him. Man cannot consider himself as a thinking, understanding, being, but he must know that he must give God the honor of his thoughts, and worship him with those faculties whereby he thinks, wills, and acts. He must know his faculties were given him to act, and to act for the glory of that God who gave him his soul, and the faculties of it; and he could not in reason think they must be only active in his own service, and the service of the creature, and idle and unprofitable in the service of his Creator. With the same powers of our soul, whereby we contemplate God, we must also worship God; we cannot think of him but with our minds, nor love him but with our will; and we cannot worship him without the acts of thinking and loving, and therefore cannot worship him without the exercise of our inward faculties: how is it possible then for any man that knows his own nature, to think that extended hands, bended knees, and lifted up eyes, were sufficient acts of worship, without a quickened and active spirit?
(2.) From the knowledge of God. As there was a knowledge of God by nature, so the same nature did dictate to man, that God was to be glorified as God; the apostle implies the inference in the charge he brings against them for neglecting it. “We should speak of God as he is,” said one; and the same reason would inform them that they were to act towards God as he is. The excellency of the object required a worship according to the dignity of his nature, which could not be answered but by the most serious inward affection, as well as outward decency; and a want of this cannot but be judged to be unbecoming the majesty of the Creator of the world, and the excellency of religion. No nation, no person, did ever assert, that the vilest part of man was enough for the most excellent Being, as God is; that a bodily service could be a sufficient acknowledgment for the greatness of God, or a sufficient return for the bounty of God. Man could not but know that he was to act in religion conformably to the object of religion, and to the excellency of his own soul: the notion of a God was sufficient to fill the mind of man with admiration and reverence, and the first conclusion from it would be to honor God, and that he have all the affection placed on him that so infinite and spiritual a Being did deserve: the progress then would be, that this excellent Being was to be honored with the motions of the understanding and will, with the purest and most spiritual powers in the nature of man, because he was a spiritual being, and had nothing of matter mingled with him. Such a brutish imagination, to suppose that blood and fumes, beasts and incense, could please a Deity, without a spiritual frame, cannot be supposed to befall any but those that had lost their reason in the rubbish of sense. Mere rational nature could never conclude that so excellent a Spirit would be put off with a mere animal service; an attendance of matter and body without spirit, when they themselves, of an inferior nature, would be loth to sit down contented with an outside service from those that belong to them; so that this instruction of our Saviour, that God is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, is conformable to the sentiments of nature, and drawn from the most undeniable principles of it. The excellency of God’s nature, and the excellent constitution of human faculties, concur naturally to support this persuasion; this was as natural to be known by men, as the necessity of justice and temperance for the support of human societies and bodies. It is to be feared, that if there be not among us such brutish apprehensions, there are such brutish dealings with God, in our services, against the light of nature; when we place all our worship of God in outward attendances and drooping countenances, with unbelieving frames and formal devotions; when prayer is muttered over in private, slightly, as a parrot learns lessons by rote, not understanding what it speaks, or to what end it speaks it; not glorifying God in thought and spirit, with understanding and will.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXXV. — PAUL, writing to the Romans, thus enters upon his argument, against Free-will, and for the grace of God. “The wrath of God (saith he) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom. i. 18) —
Dost thou hear this general sentence “against all men,” — that they are all under the wrath of God? And what is this but declaring, that they all merit wrath and punishment? For he assigns the cause of the wrath against them — they do nothing but that which merits wrath; because they are all ungodly and unrighteous, and hold the truth in unrighteousness. Where is now the power of “Freewill” which can endeavour any thing good? Paul makes it to merit the wrath of God, and pronounces it ungodly and unrighteous. That, therefore, which merits wrath and is ungodly, only endeavours and avails against grace, not for grace.
But some one will here laugh at the yawning inconsiderateness of Luther, for not looking fully into the intention of Paul. Some one will say, that Paul does not here speak of all men, nor of all their doings; but of those only who are ungodly and unrighteous, and who, as the words themselves describe them, “hold the truth in unrighteousness;” but that, it does not hence follow, that all men are the same.
Here I observe, that in this passage of Paul, the words “against all ungodliness of men” are of the same import, as if you should say, — against the ungodliness of all men. For Paul, in almost all these instances, uses a Hebraism: so that, the sense is, — all men are ungodly and unrighteous, and hold the truth in unrighteousness; and therefore, all merit wrath. Hence, in the Greek, there is no relative which might be rendered ‘of those who,’ but an article, causing the sense to run thus, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, holding the truth in unrighteousness.” So that this may be taken as an epithet, as it were, applicable to all men as “holding the truth in unrighteousness:” even as it is an epithet where it is said, “Our Father which art in heaven:” which might in other words be expressed thus: Our heavenly Father, or Our Father in heaven. For it is so expressed to distinguish those who believe and fear God.
But these things might appear frivolous and vain, did not the very train of Paul’s argument require them to be so understood, and prove them to be true. For he had said just before, “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. i. 16). These words are surely neither obscure or ambiguous, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek:” that is, the Gospel of the power of God is necessary unto all men, that, believing in it, they might be saved from the wrath of God revealed. Does he not then, I pray you, who declares, that the Jews who excelled in righteousness, in the law of God, and in the power of “Free-will,” are, without difference, destitute and in need of the power of God, by which they might be saved, and who makes that power necessary unto them, consider that they are all under wrath? What men then will you pretend to say are not under the wrath of God, when you are thus compelled to believe, that the most excellent men in the world, the Jews and Greeks, were so?
And further, whom among those Jews and Greeks themselves will you except, when Paul subjects all of them, included in the same word, without difference, to the same sentence? And are we to suppose that there were no men, out of these two most exalted nations, who ‘aspired to what was meritoriously good?’ Were there none among them who thus aspired with all the powers of their “Free-will?” Yet Paul makes no distinction on this account, he includes them all under wrath, and declares them all to be ungodly and unrighteous. And are we not to believe that all the other Apostles each one according to the work he had to do, included all other nations under this wrath, in the same way of declaration?
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library