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     1 Chronicles  3-5


1 Chronicles 3

Descendants of David

1 Chronicles 3 1 These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second, Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite, 2 the third, Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith; 3 the fifth, Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah; 4 six were born to him in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years and six months. And he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 5 These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel; 6 then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, 7 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 8 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. 9 All these were David’s sons, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar was their sister.

10 The son of Solomon was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, 11 Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, 12 Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, 13 Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, 14 Amon his son, Josiah his son. 15 The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 16 The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son; 17 and the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son, 18 Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah; 19 and the sons of Pedaiah: Zerubbabel and Shimei; and the sons of Zerubbabel: Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20 and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five. 21 The sons of Hananiah: Pelatiah and Jeshaiah, his son Rephaiah, his son Arnan, his son Obadiah, his son Shecaniah. 22 The son of Shecaniah: Shemaiah. And the sons of Shemaiah: Hattush, Igal, Bariah, Neariah, and Shaphat, six. 23 The sons of Neariah: Elioenai, Hizkiah, and Azrikam, three. 24 The sons of Elioenai: Hodaviah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanan, Delaiah, and Anani, seven.


1 Chronicles 4

Descendants of Judah

1 Chronicles 4 1 The sons of Judah: Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal. 2 Reaiah the son of Shobal fathered Jahath, and Jahath fathered Ahumai and Lahad. These were the clans of the Zorathites. 3 These were the sons of Etam: Jezreel, Ishma, and Idbash; and the name of their sister was Hazzelelponi, 4 and Penuel fathered Gedor, and Ezer fathered Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem. 5 Ashhur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah; 6 Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. These were the sons of Naarah. 7 The sons of Helah: Zereth, Izhar, and Ethnan. 8 Koz fathered Anub, Zobebah, and the clans of Aharhel, the son of Harum. 9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. 11 Chelub, the brother of Shuhah, fathered Mehir, who fathered Eshton. 12 Eshton fathered Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah, the father of Ir-nahash. These are the men of Recah. 13 The sons of Kenaz: Othniel and Seraiah; and the sons of Othniel: Hathath and Meonothai. 14 Meonothai fathered Ophrah; and Seraiah fathered Joab, the father of Ge-harashim, so-called because they were craftsmen. 15 The sons of Caleb the son of Jephunneh: Iru, Elah, and Naam; and the son of Elah: Kenaz. 16 The sons of Jehallelel: Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel. 17 The sons of Ezrah: Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. These are the sons of Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered married; and she conceived and bore Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah, the father of Eshtemoa. 18 And his Judahite wife bore Jered the father of Gedor, Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. 19 The sons of the wife of Hodiah, the sister of Naham, were the fathers of Keilah the Garmite and Eshtemoa the Maacathite. 20 The sons of Shimon: Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon. The sons of Ishi: Zoheth and Ben-zoheth. 21 The sons of Shelah the son of Judah: Er the father of Lecah, Laadah the father of Mareshah, and the clans of the house of linen workers at Beth-ashbea; 22 and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who ruled in Moab and returned to Lehem (now the records are ancient). 23 These were the potters who were inhabitants of Netaim and Gederah. They lived there in the king’s service.

Descendants of Simeon

24 The sons of Simeon: Nemuel, Jamin, Jarib, Zerah, Shaul; 25 Shallum was his son, Mibsam his son, Mishma his son. 26 The sons of Mishma: Hammuel his son, Zaccur his son, Shimei his son. 27 Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their clan multiply like the men of Judah. 28 They lived in Beersheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, 29 Bilhah, Ezem, Tolad, 30 Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, 31 Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susim, Beth-biri, and Shaaraim. These were their cities until David reigned. 32 And their villages were Etam, Ain, Rimmon, Tochen, and Ashan, five cities, 33 along with all their villages that were around these cities as far as Baal. These were their settlements, and they kept a genealogical record.

34 Meshobab, Jamlech, Joshah the son of Amaziah, 35 Joel, Jehu the son of Joshibiah, son of Seraiah, son of Asiel, 36 Elioenai, Jaakobah, Jeshohaiah, Asaiah, Adiel, Jesimiel, Benaiah, 37 Ziza the son of Shiphi, son of Allon, son of Jedaiah, son of Shimri, son of Shemaiah— 38 these mentioned by name were princes in their clans, and their fathers’ houses increased greatly. 39 They journeyed to the entrance of Gedor, to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks, 40 where they found rich, good pasture, and the land was very broad, quiet, and peaceful, for the former inhabitants there belonged to Ham. 41 These, registered by name, came in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and destroyed their tents and the Meunites who were found there, and marked them for destruction to this day, and settled in their place, because there was pasture there for their flocks. 42 And some of them, five hundred men of the Simeonites, went to Mount Seir, having as their leaders Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi. 43 And they defeated the remnant of the Amalekites who had escaped, and they have lived there to this day.


1 Chronicles 5

Descendants of Reuben

1 Chronicles 5 1 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son; 2 though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph), 3 the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 4 The sons of Joel: Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son, 5 Micah his son, Reaiah his son, Baal his son, 6 Beerah his son, whom Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria carried away into exile; he was a chief of the Reubenites. 7 And his kinsmen by their clans, when the genealogy of their generations was recorded: the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah, 8 and Bela the son of Azaz, son of Shema, son of Joel, who lived in Aroer, as far as Nebo and Baal-meon. 9 He also lived to the east as far as the entrance of the desert this side of the Euphrates, because their livestock had multiplied in the land of Gilead. 10 And in the days of Saul they waged war against the Hagrites, who fell into their hand. And they lived in their tents throughout all the region east of Gilead.

Descendants of Gad

11 The sons of Gad lived over against them in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah: 12 Joel the chief, Shapham the second, Janai, and Shaphat in Bashan. 13 And their kinsmen according to their fathers’ houses: Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jacan, Zia and Eber, seven. 14 These were the sons of Abihail the son of Huri, son of Jaroah, son of Gilead, son of Michael, son of Jeshishai, son of Jahdo, son of Buz. 15 Ahi the son of Abdiel, son of Guni, was chief in their fathers’ houses, 16 and they lived in Gilead, in Bashan and in its towns, and in all the pasturelands of Sharon to their limits. 17 All of these were recorded in genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.

18 The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. 19 They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. 20 And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him. 21 They carried off their livestock: 50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 men alive. 22 For many fell, because the war was of God. And they lived in their place until the exile.

The Half-Tribe of Manasseh

23 The members of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land. They were very numerous from Bashan to Baal-hermon, Senir, and Mount Hermon. 24 These were the heads of their fathers’ houses: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel, mighty warriors, famous men, heads of their fathers’ houses. 25 But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.

The Reformation Study Bible




What I'm Reading

Are You Chasing Happiness or Holiness?

By Tony Reinke 8/7/2017

     Such a question actually reveals a common mistake of pitting holiness and happiness against each other. “God is more interested in you being holy than happy,” so the line goes.

     Some of my favorite theologians fall prey to this subtle dichotomy. And this includes one of the best thinkers I love (David Wells). In charity, and in much gratitude for everything I have learned from his writings, I’ll post a few paragraphs from his 2014 book where this tension arises, and I’ll make a friendly amendment later.

     In attempting to criticize the therapeutic definition of the faith in so many pulpits, he writes:

     In this psychological world, the God of love is a God of love precisely and only because he offers us inward balm. Empty, distracted, meandering, and dissatisfied, we come to him for help. Fill us, we ask, with a sense of completeness! Fill our emptiness! Give us a sense of direction amid the mass of competing ways and voices in the modern world! Fill the aching emptiness within!

     This is how many in the church today, especially in the evangelical church, are thinking. It is how they are praying. They are yearning for something more real within themselves than what they currently have. This is true of adults and of teenagers as well. Yes, we say earnestly, hopefully, maybe even a little wistfully, be to us the God of love!

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     Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.

Tony Reinke Books:

The Trinity in the Destruction of Sodom (Or, the Weirdest Argument for Consubstantiality of the Son)

By Derek Rishmawy 9/4/2017

     Reading the Church Fathers on Scripture can be illuminating, surprising, and sometimes weird. This is part of what’s so fun about reading them. They come to the text of Scripture from a different time and place, with slightly different questions, exegetical instincts, and theological approaches, which present a question and a challenge to our own. I was reminded of this when diving into a little of Cyril of Alexandria’s work on the Gospel of John.

     The Patriarch Cyril is best-known for his polemic against Nestorius and the central role he played in Christological controversies which leading up to the Council of Chalcedon (at which point Cyril was dead). Many will have read his little work On the Unity of Christ, which is what I have. I was not aware, though, that his commentary on the Gospel of John was translated until recently (Brandon Crowe quotes it in his excellent book The Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels). On a whim I looked it up and found online for free because, well, Cyril of Alexandria. Anyways, I started poking around and stumbled on one of the oddest bits of trinitarian reasoning I’ve read in one of the Fathers.

     It comes in his comments on John 1:1, “and the Word was with God”, in his chapter arguing that the Son is consubstantial with the Father and therefore God in his own person. The trouble he’s dealing with specifically is the oddity of thinking of the Son as properly God but somehow also being “with God”, alongside him. Cyril proceeds to explain how this is so by commenting on various relevant Scriptures you might expect him to. For example, see this entirely unsurprising bit on John 14:

     Consubstantial is the Son with the Father and the Father with the Son, wherefore They arrive at an unchangeable Likeness, so that the Father is seen in the Son, the Son in the Father, and Each flashes forth in the Other, even as the Saviour Himself says, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, and again, I in the Father and the Father in Me. But even though He be in the Father, and have again the Father in Him, Himself full well, as has been already said, perfectly exact unto the Form of Him Who begat Him, and depicting again in Himself without any shortcome, the Father whence He is:—-not therefore will He be deprived of His separate existence, nor will the Father lose His own special Being; but neither will the surpassing Likeness and Resemblance work any confusion of Persons, so that the Father Who begat and the Son Who is Begotten of Him should be considered as one in number. But sameness of Nature will be confessed of Both, yet the Individual Existence of Each will surely follow, so that both the Father should be conceived of as indeed Father, and the Son as Son. For thus, the Holy Ghost being numbered with them and counted as God, the Holy and Adorable Trinity will have Its Proper Fullness.

     Alright, so far so classic Trinitarian. It doesn’t get more basic than Jesus’ discourses in the Gospel of John.

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Derek Rishmawy | Orange, CA | I’m a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School attempting to study Systematic Theology. Adopted by the Triune God. Husband of McKenna. Former college pastor. Beyond that, I am an admitted cliche: books, beer, beard, and a blog that takes too much of my time. I'm a regular contributor to sites like The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, The Local Church, Mere Orthodoxy, and Christianity Today. I also co-host a podcast called Mere Fidelity.

Three Scripture passages to help you fight porn

By Robert D. Jones

(Ge 39:9–10) 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.   ESV

     Contract an STI? Risk an unwanted pregnancy? Jeopardize my seminary status or my marriage or my church ministry? Disappoint my mentors? While these are legitimate concerns, nothing is higher than Joseph’s answer: “ … and sin against God?”

(1 Th 4:5) 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;   ESV

     Jones: Sexual sin for Paul is functional atheism, living like a pagan who does acknowledge God’s presence, fear God’s judgment, or love him for sending his Son to die for me.

(2 Co 5:14–15) 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.   ESV

     Jones: There must be a conscious belief in God’s constant presence with you. No one would view porn if Jesus were standing next to him, so to view porn one must either ignore or marginalize the Lord’s presence or devalue pleasing him.

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     Robert D. Jones | Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling | Prior to coming to Southern, Jones served for 19 years as a pastor in West Virginia and then 12 years as a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem and Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts, along with seven mini-books (Angry at God?, Forgiveness, Bad Memories, Restoring Your Broken Marriage, Single Parenting, Freedom from Resentment, and When Trouble Shows Up). Jones is a certified counselor, fellow, and speaker with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors; a certified Christian conciliator, adjunct instructor, and church reconciliation trainer with the Institute for Christian Conciliation (a division of Peacemaker Ministries); a founding member of the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition; and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Mothering in a World of Better Moms

By Stacy Reaoch 9/13/2017

     It was Mother’s Day. My sweet husband and children took me out for lunch after church. Then they gave me a blank slate. We could do (or I could do) whatever I wanted. This particular Mother’s Day, I was feeling especially exhausted. The children’s packed spring schedules, along with having an intense month of ministry commitments, left me drained.

     What did I really want to do? Go home and take a 2-hour nap. But the feelings of mom-guilt attacked me. Any good mother would choose to spend the afternoon with her children, not sleeping in the other room. We went for a family walk after lunch and I confided my dilemma to my husband. He graciously encouraged me to go home and take a nap, free from guilt!

     Mommy Guilt | But why is that so hard to do?

     I know I’m far from being alone in the battle with mommy guilt. That same day a friend of mine with a child with special needs told me of her similar dilemma. She also wanted to just go home and sleep, but it was Mother’s Day. So she would push through the exhaustion to do something fun with her kids. Never mind if she could hardly keep her eyes open while she did it.

     A while back I noticed a post from a young mom on social media, pouring out her feelings of despair over not being a good enough mom. She sent a plea out into the cyber abyss sharing how she always felt like she wasn’t giving her kids enough — enough time, energy, fun experiences, and more. My heart went out to her. I could identify with the feelings she honestly expressed. She was searching for validation in her mothering skills. And as the responses rolled in, she was affirmed in what a good mother she actually was.

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     Stacy Reaoch is a pastor’s wife and mother of four. She is passionate about studying the Bible and helping women apply God’s life-changing truths to their daily lives. Stacy and her husband, Ben, serve Three Rivers Grace Church in Pittsburgh, PA. Her first book will be released this fall. You can find more of her writing on Facebook.

Plunge Your Mind into the Ocean of God’s Sovereignty

By John Piper 12/1/2015

     Sometimes we need to plunge our minds into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. We need to feel the weight of it, like deep and heavy water pressing in against every pore, the deeper we go. A billion rivers of providence pour into this ocean. And God himself gathers up all his countless deeds — from eternity to eternity — and pours them into the currents of his infallible revelation. He speaks, and explains, and promises, and makes his awesome, sovereign providence the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.

     Sometimes we need to be reminded by God himself that there are no limits to his rule. We need to hear from him that he is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. We need his own reminder that he is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. We need his assurance that he reigns over ISIS, terrorism, Syria, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of America — every nation, every people, every language, every tribe, every chief, president, king, premier, prime minister, politician, great or small.

     Sometimes we need to hear specific statements from God himself about his own authority. We need God’s own words. It is the very words of God that have unusual power to settle our nerves, and make us stable, wise, and courageous.

     On the one hand hearing the voice of God is like a frightened child who hears the voice downstairs, and realizes that daddy’s home. Whatever those other sounds were, it’s okay. Daddy’s home.

     On the other hand it feels like the seasoned troops, dug in at the front line of battle, and about to be overrun by the enemy. But then they get word that a thousand impenetrable tanks are rushing to their aid. They are only one mile away. You will be saved and the enemy will not stand.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books  |  Go to Books Page

Paul - Conversion Experience

By James S. Stewart

     "We cannot really speak of God," says Eckhardt; "when we would speak of Him we do but stammer." "We are like young children learning to speak," exclaims Luther, "and can use only half words and quarter words." So Paul felt, whenever he tried to set down in words the great decisive experience of his life. All the resources of language could not communicate it. Strive as he might to express it, the inmost secret remained inexpressible. Once he falls back on the word "unspeakable," "God's unspeakable gift," and the adjective there was no mere vague hyperbole, as often in our modern usage: it was the literal conclusion to which the failure of all attempts to capture in words the glory of the fact had driven him. The thing could not be spoken; and the apostle, like the poet, was always conscious of

     "Thoughts hardly to be pack'd
     Into a narrow act,
     Fancies that broke through language and escaped."

     Secretum meum mihi, as the mystics love to say.

     But Paul has one description of his conversion which does suggest something of the splendour of the new life into which that experience ushered him. Writing to the Corinthians, he declares:" God who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' has shone within my heart."

     In other words, something had happened comparable only to the great Fiat Lux of creation's dawn. That the sublime passage in the Genesis prologue was actually in the apostle's mind seems beyond doubt. "The earth was without form and void" —had not his own soul known that chaos? "And darkness was upon the face of the deep" —was not that a very picture of his experience before Christ came? "But the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters"—and looking back, Paul could see how true it was that from his very birth Providence had set him apart, and that, through all his blindness and rebellion, the Spirit of God had been brooding over him and guiding his destiny. "And God said, 'Let there be light': and there was light." To me, says Paul in effect, it was just like that—sheer miracle, a word proceeding out of the mouth of God, a creative act of omnipotence. To me, it was the birth of light and order and purpose and beauty, the ending of chaos and ancient night. And to me, as at that first creation, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. God who said, "Let there be light," has shone within my heart; He has scorched me with His splendour, and remade me by His strength; and I now walk for ever in a marvellous light—the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

     This conversion experience was far and away the most vital and formative influence of Paul's life. Compared with this, everything else—his Jewish ancestry, his Rabbinic training, his Hellenistic contacts, every factor of heredity and environment—was completely secondary. To see the decisive event aright, however, and to understand the consequences that flowed from it, we must approach it along the line of the religious experience of his pre-Christian days. And here at once we meet the striking fact that for years before the call came the dominating note of Paul's inner life had been one of utter failure and frustration and defeat.

     We have seen above how zealously and wholeheartedly Paul had embraced the religion of his fathers. Judaism never had a better champion. No one could rival him in enthusiasm for the spiritual heritage of his people. He plunged eagerly into the life to which law and tradition seemed beckoning him. He flung himself into the observance of their commands with unmatched ardour. But that boundless enthusiasm of the young devotee was doomed to receive a check. He found that the more keenly he pursued his ideal, the Jurthex it receded. The righteousness on which his heart was set stood afar off, mocking his endeavour. Feelings of doubt and disillusionment began to creep in. Was he perhaps on the wrong track after all? Had he accepted a challenge that was beyond his strength? He was missing the mark, and he knew it, and he was unhappy. But it was an unhappiness of the kind which, as Carlyle knew and proclaimed, springs from a man's greatness. It was the disillusionment which is one of the surest proofs that the human clay has the divine fire mingled with it. Already into the secret mind of the Pharisee the thought was stealing, which later the Christian apostle was to shout from the housetops, that the religion of Mount Sinai, "Jerusalem which now is," was a yoke of bitter bondage: already the first faint yearnings for release had entered the man's soul, the first dim far-off vision of the "Jerusalem which is above," which "is free, the mother of us all."

     (2 Co 4:6) For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. NRSV

     (Ge 1:2–3) the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. NRSV

     (Ga 1:14) I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. NRSV

     (Ga 4:24–26) Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. NRSV

A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion

Going Outside the Camp

By James Coffield 2/01/2013

     It began as a friendly family game of Monopoly. I informed my son that he had landed on Park Place. His mind stuck on the words and started to spin: “Park Place, Park Place…” Over and over he repeated the words. I should have remembered — hard consonants at the beginnings of words often get stuck in his mind — and an obsessive - compulsive mind is one of the symptoms of autism. I’m not sure at what moment his mood changed, but his anger turned from himself to me — after all, I was the one who had said the phrase that was now bombarding his brain. He called me rude and other names. The game was over. In those moments, it is difficult for me to know what to do. They remind me that the fall did not just corrupt our bodies but our minds as well. When did my son cross the line into sin — or did he? I can’t discipline or teach the obsessiveness away. Yet, he is responsible for how he responds during these moments. How should a parent react? I became frustrated and simply wished we had not even played the game. It would have been easier to avoid the situation by not engaging my son.

     The church finds itself in the same sort of dilemma when dealing with those suffering from mental illness. Although they have spiritual roots as well, mental illnesses are collections of behaviors that are caused, at least partially, by the mind and the complex chemical reactions in the nervous system. Dealing with the illness can become messy, so we often want to discount the idea altogether and attempt to “re-teach” or discipline away the behaviors of those who suffer with these afflictions. A problem exists. During a twelve-month period, according to a National Institute of Mental Health study, slightly more than one-quarter of the U.S. adult population meets the criteria for a diagnosis of one or more mental disorders. About 6 percent of the population in any twelve-month period suffers from “seriously debilitating mental disorders.”

     ACKNOWLEDGE

     We can debate the terminology, but we must acknowledge the legitimacy of mental illness. Some find it much more palatable for these issues to be either strictly medical or spiritual; however, on this side of heaven, there may not be a scalpel sharp enough to separate spiritual/psychological reasons for behavior from medical/physiological reasons for behavior. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our bodies respond to our minds and vice versa.

     ENGAGE

     To engage is to address the topic of mental illness publicly. Twenty-five percent of all individuals will have a depressive episode during their lifetime — this should be addressed during teaching and church programs. It is sometimes easier to come into the church and admit a crime than to carry the stigma of chronic depression, schizophrenia, or another mental disorder. In surveys, the church has about the same rate of use of psychotropic medications as the general population. We are not addressing here the possible overuse of prescription drugs or the tendency to too quickly label and diagnose individuals, which are important issues. The point is that we do not have the option to ignore and not engage those who suffer from mental illness.

     HUMBLE CURIOSITY

     We have all “sinned against sinners.” The church is often quick to reach out and serve those suffering from physical sickness, as it should. This is true even if some of our sickness is caused by our own behavior. Poor health habits, lack of exercise, and obesity are all lifestyle issues that contribute to our health. The church does not discriminate and say, “You were overweight for the last fifteen years, so we will not visit you in the hospital during your heart surgery.” As believers, we are often curious about the factors that may have contributed to the illness, but we are called to be humble and kind. We need humble curiosity when dealing with those afflicted with mental illness.

     Becoming aware of your own “mental health” is an important part of the process of humble curiosity. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives (Updated, Expanded by Peter Scazzero and Warren Bird suggests that just like a team takes on the personality of its coach, a church develops some traits of its shepherd. The emotional health of the pastor and leaders of the church will impact the congregation. Are you chronically sad or tired? Are you becoming stuck in patterns of behavior that surprise you? Humble curiosity begins with ourselves.

     GRACE AND SUPPORT

     Lastly, the church must be a place of hope and refuge for these individuals, not a place of shame and stigma. These individuals tend to feel alone and unwanted. Let our churches become places that offer hope. Often individuals indicate that church is a place where they hide their addictions and struggles, yet it must become a place of repentance and growth. Disorders should not be celebrated, yet people suffering from mental illness can and should be encouraged, accepted, challenged, and loved within the body of Christ.

     I think I may try another game of Monopoly tonight with my son even if it gets me in trouble.

Click here to go to source

     Dr. James Coffield serves as an associate professor of counseling and the clinical director of the master’s degree program in counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O My Soul
103 Of David.

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.

ESV Study Bible

Suffering and the Glory of God

By R.C. Sproul 2/01/2013

     I once visited with a woman who was dying from uterine cancer. She was greatly distressed, but not only from her physical ailment. She explained to me that she had had an abortion when she was a young woman, and she was convinced that her disease was a direct consequence of that. In short, she believed cancer was the judgment of God on her.

     The usual pastoral response to such an agonizing question from someone in the throes of death is to say the affliction is not a judgment of God for sin. But I had to be honest, so I told her that I did not know. Perhaps it was God’s judgment, but perhaps it was not. I cannot fathom the secret counsel of God or read the invisible hand of His providence, so I did not know why she was suffering. I did know, however, that whatever the reason for it, there was an answer for her guilt. We talked about the mercy of Christ and of the cross, and she died in faith.

     The question that woman raised is asked every day by people who are suffering affliction. It is addressed in one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament. In John 9, we read: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (vv. 1–3).

     Why did Jesus’ disciples suppose that the root cause of this man’s blindness was his sin or his parents’ sin? They certainly had some basis for this assumption, for  the Scriptures, from the account of the fall onward, make it clear that the reason suffering, disease, and death exist in this world is sin.  The disciples were correct that somehow sin was involved in this man’s affliction. Also, there are examples in the Bible of God causing affliction because of specific sins. In ancient Israel, God afflicted Moses’ sister, Miriam, with leprosy because she questioned Moses’ role as God’s spokesman (Num. 12:1–10). Likewise, God took the life of the child born to Bathsheba as a result of David’s sin (2 Sam. 12:14–18). The child was punished, not because of anything the child did, but as a direct result of God’s judgment on David.

     However, the disciples made the mistake of particularizing the general relationship between sin and suffering. They assumed there was a direct correspondence between the blind man’s sin and his affliction. Had they not read the book of Job, which deals with a man who was innocent and yet was severely afflicted by God? The disciples erred in reducing the options to two when there was another alternative. They posed their question to Jesus in an either/or fashion, committing the logical fallacy of the false dilemma, assuming that the sin of the man or the sin of the man’s parents was the cause of his blindness.

     The disciples also seem to have assumed that anyone who has an affliction suffers in direct proportion to the sin that has been committed. Again, the book of Job dashes that conclusion, for the degree of suffering Job was called to bear was astronomical compared with the suffering and afflictions of others far more guilty than he was.

     We must never jump to the conclusion that a particular incidence of suffering is a direct response or in direct correspondence to a person’s particular sin. The story of the man born blind makes this point.

     Our Lord answered the disciples’ question by correcting their false assumption that the man’s blindness was a direct consequence of his or his parents’ sin. He assured them that the man was born blind not because God was punishing the man or the man’s parents. There was another reason. And because there was another reason in this case, there might always be another reason for the afflictions God calls us to endure.

     Jesus answered His disciples by saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). What did He mean? Simply put, Jesus said that the man was born blind so that Jesus might heal him at the appointed time, as a testimony to Jesus’ power and divinity. Our Lord displayed His identity as the Savior and the Son of God in this healing.

     When we suffer, we must trust that God knows what He is doing, and that He works in and through the pain and afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification. It is hard to endure lengthy suffering, but the difficulty is greatly alleviated when we hear our Lord explaining the mystery in the case of the man born blind, whom God called to many years of pain for Jesus’ glory.

Click here to go to source

Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books  |  Go to Books Page

Why Follow Jesus?

By Jonathan Dodson 3/01/2013

     In today’s culture, we are more pragmatic than reflective. Obsessed with knowing what works and how it works, we strive to repeat the formula. We are less concerned with why things work. Discipleship is no exception. Many have traded in the why for the how, motivation for the best practice. This is disconcerting. The reason for this is that practice can take us only so far. When hardship hits, practice needs motivation to continue.

     What motivates you to follow Jesus? If this question isn’t one you continually ponder and answer, you will walk away from Jesus rather than after Him.

     The Pragmatic Disciple

     Given our culture’s pragmatic bent, the modern discipleship mantra is “make disciples who make disciples.” This mantra is pragmatic and reproductive. Is pragmatic reproduction Jesus’ chief concern? When He came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, did He give an inspiring message and then move to three action points on how to make disciples? Certainly, He did model, instruct, and send (Luke 9–10). The kingdom of God is embedded with reproductive DNA (reflected in some of Jesus’ agricultural parables). But the kingdom of God is also slow and deep. It stretches across arduous lifespans and into the depths of the human heart. The reign of Christ penetrates our DNA, continually motivating us.

     Instead of focusing His training on the how, Jesus relentlessly got to the why. This is why so many of His sayings are unnerving. As a master teacher, He provoked reflection, not just action:

     As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57–58)

     Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (vv. 62–63)

     Jesus forces us to reflect on our motives for following Him. If we live for comfort and ease, we won’t give up our beds, money, and entertainment to follow Him. If idyllic community is what motivates our decisions, we won’t give up close friends and family members. Jesus is clear. If we want to be His disciples, we must be motivated by something greater than comfort and community. His kingdom must motivate us, and the kingdom comes with a cost.

     True disciples will consider and embrace the cost over and over again. They will endure because, in finding the kingdom, they have found a King worthy of their sacrifice. Searching for the why of their existence, they discover a pearl of great price. Disciples motivated by pragmatism alone may consider the cost and embrace the cause of making disciples who make disciples, but when push comes to shove, they will walk away from Jesus, not after Him. We need more than the hows of fulfilling the Great Commission to get us through the adversity of seeking first the kingdom of God.

     The Jesus Disciple

     When Jesus gave His mountaintop commission, He loaded it with kingdom motivation. The main directive to make disciples is preceded by the image of a risen, radiant king, rippling with power and authority, in heaven and on earth (Dan. 7:9–14; Matt. 28:17). He is strong enough to depose nations and glorious enough to summon their worship. We are sent under this aegis. We are not sent in the authority of our own experience but in the authority of His lordship. Our story isn’t sufficient to “make a disciple,” but His story is. Why do we go? To baptize into His name, not ours. Making disciples of all nations is no personal cause; it is the redemptive agenda of God Himself. Our motivation, then, arises from being submerged in the grace of God, not from having others align with our way of doing things.

     How do we continue to make disciples when wading neck deep in sin? We have to remember that the success of our mission requires not only the authority of the King but also the mercy of the Messiah. He is the Disciple who succeeds where we fail, in perfect obedience to God. We extend mercy from His mercies that are new every day.

     But what if the mission field is too hard? Behold, He is with us always, even to the end of the age. We depend not only on the past obedience of the Faithful Disciple, but also on the present presence of the risen Lord. We make disciples in the authority of Jesus, submerged in the grace of Jesus, enduring in the mercy of Jesus, with the forever promise of the presence of King Jesus. Disciples need to recover a singular motivation to endure all the cost—the infinite sufficiency and splendor of our Lord.

     Why do we follow Jesus? Because of who He is. If we have Jesus, we have more than enough to make disciples.

Click here to go to source

     Rev. Jonathan K. Dodson is pastor of Austin City Life, a church in Austin, Texas. He is author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and Unbelievable Gospel: Sharing a Gospel Worth Believing.

  • A Third Way
  • Janel Curry Interview
  • Graduate Charge

#1 Jim Belcher |
Gordon College


 

#2 Michael Lindsay |
Gordon College


 

#3 Ivy George |
Gordon College


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     (Sept 14)    Bob Gass

(Ps 128:3) 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. ESV

     The psalmist writes: ‘Blessed are all who fear [respect, honour and obey] the LORD, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit [rewards] of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD’ (vv. 1-4 NIV 1984 Edition). In a favourable climate, grapevines need no coaxing to grow. They’ll produce grapes in abundance, from which comes wine. And wine in the Bible speaks of joy and celebration. It’s the same in your home. As a husband, God holds you responsible for creating a climate in which your wife and family can experience ‘blessings and prosperity’. That means you must spend enough time at home to create and maintain an ideal temperature. When you’re seldom present you can’t do that, because your absence just frustrates your wife and diminishes her sense of worth and self-confidence. When she has to take second place to your career, your sports activities, and your friends - not to mention your television watching - you’ll never build a great relationship with her. To know what your wife’s needs are, you must spend quality time with her. If you want to discover her true potential and know just how wonderful a person she is, create the right climate in your home. One woman joked, ‘I never knew what real happiness was until I married my husband - now it’s too late!’ That doesn’t have to be your story. You can create a climate in which you both thrive and enjoy life.

Is 23-25
Eph 1

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     He was the only US President to also serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was appointed by President McKinley as the first governor of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and by President Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of War. The largest President, weighing over 300 lbs, a bathtub was installed for him in the White House, big enough to hold four men. His name was William Howard Taft, and he was born this day September 15, 1857. President Taft stated: “A God-fearing nation, like ours, owes it to its inborn… sense of moral duty to testify… devout gratitude to the All-Giver for… countless benefits.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Through a woman we were sent to destruction;
through a woman salvation was restored to us.
Mankind is divided into two sorts:
such as live according to man,
and such as live according to God.
These we call the ‘two cities,’
the one predestined to reign eternally with God,
and the other condemned to perpetual torment with Satan.
--- Saint Augustine of Hippo Bishop


Of all the blessings bestowed on man, the greatest lies in the fact that God's face is forever hidden from him.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer


The spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who,
nearly two thousand years ago,
taught mankind the lesson it has never learned,
but has never quite forgotten--
that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be…
side by side with the greatest.
--- Judge Learned Hand

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     9. But now sedition and civil war prevailed, not only over Judea, but in Italy also; for now Galba was slain in the midst of the Roman market-place; then was Otho made emperor, and fought against Vitellius, who set up for emperor also; for the legions in Germany had chosen him. But when he gave battle to Valens and Cecinna, who were Vitellius's generals, at Betriacum, in Gaul, Otho gained the advantage on the first day, but on the second day Vitellius's soldiers had the victory; and after much slaughter Otho slew himself, when he had heard of this defeat at Brixia, and after he had managed the public affairs three months and two days. 18 Otho's army also came over to Vitellius's generals, and he came himself down to Rome with his army. But in the mean time Vespasian removed from Cesarea, on the fifth day of the month Desius, [Sivan,] and marched against those places of Judea which were not yet overthrown. So he went up to the mountainous country, and took those two toparchies that were called the Gophnitick and Acrabattene toparchies. After which he took Bethel and Ephraim, two small cities; and when he had put garrisons into them, he rode as far as Jerusalem, in which march he took many prisoners, and many captives; but Cerealis, one of his commanders, took a body of horsemen and footmen, and laid waste that part of Idumea which was called the Upper Idumea, and attacked Caphethra, which pretended to be a small city, and took it at the first onset, and burnt it down. He also attacked Caphatabira, and laid siege to it, for it had a very strong wall; and when he expected to spend a long time in that siege, those that were within opened their gates on the sudden, and came to beg pardon, and surrendered themselves up to him. When Cerealis had conquered them, he went to Hebron, another very ancient city. I have told you already that this city is situated in a mountainous country not far off Jerusalem; and when he had broken into the city by force, what multitude and young men were left therein he slew, and burnt down the city; so that as now all the places were taken, excepting Herodlum, and Masada, and Machaerus, which were in the possession of the robbers, so Jerusalem was what the Romans at present aimed at.

     10. And now, as soon as Simon had set his wife free, and recovered her from the zealots, he returned back to the remainders of Idumea, and driving the nation all before him from all quarters, he compelled a great number of them to retire to Jerusalem; he followed them himself also to the city, and encompassed the wall all round again; and when he lighted upon any laborers that were coming thither out of the country, he slew them. Now this Simon, who was without the wall, was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves, as were the zealots who were within it more heavy upon them than both of the other; and during this time did the mischievous contrivances and courage [of John] corrupt the body of the Galileans; for these Galileans had advanced this John, and made him very potent, who made them suitable requital from the authority he had obtained by their means; for he permitted them to do all things that any of them desired to do, while their inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for the murdering of the men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them. They also devoured what spoils they had taken, together with their blood, and indulged themselves in feminine wantonness, without any disturbance, till they were satiated therewith; while they decked their hair, and put on women's garments, and were besmeared over with ointments; and that they might appear very comely, they had paints under their eyes, and imitated not only the ornaments, but also the lusts of women, and were guilty of such intolerable uncleanness, that they invented unlawful pleasures of that sort. And thus did they roll themselves up and down the city, as in a brothel-house, and defiled it entirely with their impure actions; nay, while their faces looked like the faces of women, they killed with their right hands; and when their gait was effeminate, they presently attacked men, and became warriors, and drew their swords from under their finely dyed cloaks, and ran every body through whom they alighted upon. However, Simon waited for such as ran away from John, and was the more bloody of the two; and he who had escaped the tyrant within the wall was destroyed by the other that lay before the gates, so that all attempts of flying and deserting to the Romans were cut off, as to those that had a mind so to do.

     11. Yet did the army that was under John raise a sedition against him, and all the Idumeans separated themselves from the tyrant, and attempted to destroy him, and this out of their envy at his power, and hatred of his cruelty; so they got together, and slew many of the zealots, and drove the rest before them into that royal palace that was built by Grapte, who was a relation of Izates, the king of Adiabene; the Idumeans fell in with them, and drove the zealots out thence into the temple, and betook themselves to plunder John's effects; for both he himself was in that palace, and therein had he laid up the spoils he had acquired by his tyranny. In the mean time, the multitude of those zealots that were dispersed over the city ran together to the temple unto those that fled thither, and John prepared to bring them down against the people and the Idumeans, who were not so much afraid of being attacked by them [because they were themselves better soldiers than they] as at their madness, lest they should privately sally out of the temple and get among them, and not only destroy them, but set the city on fire also. So they assembled themselves together, and the high priests with them, and took counsel after what manner they should avoid their assault. Now it was God who turned their opinions to the worst advice, and thence they devised such a remedy to get themselves free as was worse than the disease itself. Accordingly, in order to overthrow John, they determined to admit Simon, and earnestly to desire the introduction of a second tyrant into the city; which resolution they brought to perfection, and sent Matthias, the high priest, to beseech this Simon to come in to them, of whom they had so often been afraid. Those also that had fled from the zealots in Jerusalem joined in this request to him, out of the desire they had of preserving their houses and their effects. Accordingly he, in an arrogant manner, granted them his lordly protection, and came into the city, in order to deliver it from the zealots. The people also made joyful acclamations to him, as their savior and their preserver; but when he was come in, with his army, he took care to secure his own authority, and looked upon those that had invited him in to be no less his enemies than those against whom the invitation was intended.

     12. And thus did Simon get possession of Jerusalem, in the third year of the war, in the month Xanthicus [Nisan]; whereupon John, with his multitude of zealots, as being both prohibited from coming out of the temple, and having lost their power in the city, [for Simon and his party had plundered them of what they had,] were in despair of deliverance. Simon also made an assault upon the temple, with the assistance of the people, while the others stood upon the cloisters and the battlements, and defended themselves from their assaults. However, a considerable number of Simon's party fell, and many were carried off wounded; for the zealots threw their darts easily from a superior place, and seldom failed of hitting their enemies; but having the advantage of situation, and having withal erected four very large towers aforehand, that their darts might come from higher places, one at the north-east corner of the court, one above the Xystus, the third at another corner over against the lower city, and the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests stood of course, and gave a signal beforehand, with a trumpet 19 at the beginning of every seventh day, in the Evening twilight, as also at the Evening when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to leave off work, and when they were to go to work again. These men also set their engines to cast darts and stones withal, upon those towers, with their archers and slingers. And now Simon made his assault upon the temple more faintly, by reason that the greatest part of his men grew weary of that work; yet did he not leave off his opposition, because his army was superior to the others, although the darts which were thrown by the engines were carried a great way, and slew many of those that fought for him.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:26-27
     by D.H. Stern

26     Giving an honest answer
     is like giving a kiss.

27     Prepare your outside work,
     and get things ready for yourself on the land;
     after that, build your house.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                Imagination v. inspiration

     The simplicity that is in Christ. --- 2 Cor. 11:3.

     Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25.).

     The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God’s will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
Souillac: Le Sacrifice d'Abraham
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Souillac: Le Sacrifice d'Abraham

And he grasps him by the hair
  With innocent savagery.
  And the son's face is calm;
  There is trust there.
And the beasts look on.

This is what art could do,
  Interpreting faith
  With serene chisel.
  The resistant stone
  Is quiet as our breath,
  And is accepted.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Numbers 25:10–15


     Whoever tarnishes himself also tarnishes his family with him.

     BIBLE TEXT /
Numbers 25:10–15 / The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me, so that I did not wipe out the Israelite people in My passion. Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship. It shall be for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time, because he took impassioned action for his God, thus making expiation for the Israelites.’ ”

     The name of the Israelite who was killed, the one who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Salu, chiefiain of a Simeonite ancestral house. The name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur; he was the tribal head of an ancestral house of Midian.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Numbers Rabbah 21, 3 / The name of the Israelite who was killed, the one who was killed with the Midianite woman. Just as the Holy One, praised is He, attends to the praise of the righteous, to publicize it [their deeds] in the world, so too He attends to the condemnation of the wicked, to publicize it in the world. He publicized [the deeds of] Phinehas for praise and Zimri for condemnation. Concerning them it says, “The name of the righteous is invoked in blessing, but the fame of the wicked rots” (
Proverbs 10:7).

     Chieftain of a Simeonite ancestral house. Whoever tarnishes himself also tarnishes his family with him. Zimri son of Salu. The text is astonished at this! “He who breaches a stone fence will be bitten by a snake” (
Ecclesiastes 10:8). His ancestor was originally zealous against immorality, “Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons … took …” (Genesis 34:25). This one [Zimri] breached the fence that his ancestor had made.

     CONTEXT

     In
Numbers 25, we are told that “while Israel [the people] was staying at Shittim, the people profaned themselves by whoring [or: began to commit harlotry] with the Moabite women, who invited the people to sacrifice to their god.” This angered God greatly. But it also angered Phinehas, and when he saw an Israelite man bringing a Midianite woman to his tent, Phinehas followed them there and killed both of them. Phinehas’s action checked the plague that had started against the Israelites, apparently provoked by God’s anger at their sin. The Bible text, above, picks up the story at this point.

     The name of the Israelite who was killed by Phinehas, the one who was killed with the Midianite woman.… The Rabbis wonder: Why are the names of the Israelite man and the Midianite woman specified? Why not just say, “Phinehas killed the sinning couple and assuaged God’s anger, stopping the plague against the Israelites”? The answer that the Rabbis give is that the Holy One, praised is He, attends to the praise of the righteous by specifically mentioning the name of the hero, Phinehas. So too He, God, attends to the condemnation of the wicked, to publicize it in the world. This is why the biblical text indicates not only the sin, but also the sinners, Zimri and Cozbi. God is an “equal opportunity publicizer”: He publicized Phinehas for praise and Zimri for condemnation. A verse from Proverbs seems to speak directly to this situation: “The name of the righteous is invoked in blessing, but the fame of the wicked rots.”

     This answers the question why the names of Phinehas, Zimri, and Cozbi are mentioned in the text. But why are their ancestries also given? In each of the three cases, the person’s name, lineage, and ancestral house—as in “Zimri son of Salu, chieftain of a Simeonite ancestral house”—is mentioned. This lead the Rabbis to assert that whoever tarnishes himself also tarnishes his family with him. Why else mention the ancestry, unless there was an impact on the family? We are told that Zimri son of Salu was from the tribe of Simeon. Looking back at the history of Simeon, the Rabbis remembered the rape of Dinah (
Genesis 34). In this story, Shechem forces himself on Dinah, and her brothers Simeon and Levi avenge the deed by slaying all the males of Shechem’s city. The text is astonished at this, apparently at the change for the worse that has happened to the Simeonite line. In the days of Jacob, they were outraged at a sexual indiscretion; in the days of Moses, they are the perpetrators of a sexual impropriety. The Rabbis quote a verse from Ecclesiastes to prove that one who breaks boundaries will himself be punished. “He who breaches a stone fence, Zimri, who engaged in immorality, will be bitten by a snake,” that is, executed in a harsh manner for his sin. Just as Simeon used a sword to kill Shechem, Phinehas used a spear to kill Zimri.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 14

     “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
---
Zechariah 13:7

     Was the sword drawn against the Shepherd, and he left alone to receive the mortal strokes of it? (Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)) How should all adore both the justice and mercy of God so illustriously displayed in this! Here is the triumph of divine justice—and the highest triumph that it ever had—to single forth the chief Shepherd, the man that is God’s equal, and sheathe its sword in his breast for satisfaction. No wonder it is drawn and brandished with such a triumph: Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd! For in this blood shed by it is more glory than if the blood of all the men and women in the world had been shed.

     And the mercy and goodness of God is no less shown in giving the sword a commission against his equal, rather than against us. Why did he not rather say, Awake, O sword, against the people who are my enemies; shed the blood of those who have sinned against me? Blessed be God, that the dreadful sword was not drawn and brandished against our souls, that God did not set it to our breasts, that he did not make it fat with our flesh and bathe it in our blood—that his friend was abused so that his enemies might be spared. O what manner of love was this! Blessed be God therefore for Jesus Christ, who received the fatal stroke himself and has now so sheathed that sword in its scabbard that it will never be drawn any more against any that believe in him.

     Were the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was beaten? Learn from this that the best of us do not know our own strength till we come to the trial. Little did these holy men imagine such a cowardly spirit had been in them till temptation put it to the proof. Let this therefore be a caution forever to the people of God. You resolve never to forsake Christ, you do well, but so did these and yet were scattered from him. You can never take a just measure of your own strength till temptation has tried it. It is said that God led the people so many years in the wilderness to prove them and to know them—that is, to make them know—what was in their hearts. Little did they think such unbelief, murmuring, discontent, and a spirit bent to backsliding had been in them, until their straits in the wilderness gave them the sad experience of these things.
--- John Flavel

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Golden Mouthed  September 14

     For 15 centuries, this day in church history has belonged to John Chrysostom, who died on September 14, 407 at age 60. His powerful RS Thomas gave him the reputation as the greatest orator in Christian history. Indeed, the name Chrysostom means “Golden Mouthed.”

     John was born in Antioch, Syria. His father, a high-ranking Roman officer, died shortly after John’s birth. His mother Anthusa devoted herself to raising John in the nurture of the Lord. She placed him in the finest schools; and under the well-known orator Libanius, John mastered the art of rhetoric.

     John became a lawyer, well known for powerful speaking. His legal studies led him to reexamine Christianity’s beliefs, and he became so impressed with Scripture that he resigned the law, was baptized, and wanted to join a monastery. When his mother persuaded him to remain home and comfort her in her old age, John turned his home into a personal monastery, eating simply, making few purchases, and spending much time in study.

     After his mother’s death, Chrysostom studied and worked quietly as a monk for six years, followed by two more Elijah-like years in a hermit’s cave. Then he began preaching. His messages were practical, powerful, and sprinkled with humor. He effectively led his listeners through the Bible in exegetical fashion. His oratory was so powerful that his audiences frequently burst into spontaneous applause, a practice he disliked.

     In 398 John was elected patriarch of Constantinople, but when John’s plainspoken messages riled priests and politicians there, he was banished to a remote spot on the Black Sea. “The doctrine of Christ did not begin with me,” he told saddened parishioners, “and it shall not die with me.” His forced departure caused a riot in Constantinople, and on the night of the riot, a powerful earthquake shook the city. The public officials immediately sent for him and he returned in triumph. But John’s blunt, biblical RS Thomas continued to rankle the authorities, and he was again deposed and entered a period of ministry through letters and epistles before dying on this date in the year 407, his last words being, “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

     Ezekiel, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They are just like their ancestors who rebelled against me and refused to stop. They are stubborn and hardheaded. But I, the LORD God, have chosen you to tell them what I say. Those rebels may not even listen, but at least they will know that a prophet has come to them.
--- Ezekiel 2:3-5.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 14

     "There were also with him other little ships." --- Mark 4:36.

     Jesus was the Lord High Admiral of the sea that night, and his presence preserved the whole convoy. It is well to sail with Jesus, even though it be in a little ship. When we sail in Christ’s company, we may not make sure of fair weather, for great storms may toss the vessel which carries the Lord himself, and we must not expect to find the sea less boisterous around our little boat. If we go with Jesus we must be content to fare as he fares; and when the waves are rough to him, they will be rough to us. It is by tempest and tossing that we shall come to land, as he did before us.

     When the storm swept over Galilee’s dark lake all faces gathered blackness, and all hearts dreaded shipwreck. When all creature help was useless, the slumbering Saviour arose, and with a word, transformed the riot of the tempest into the deep quiet of a calm; then were the little vessels at rest as well as that which carried the Lord. Jesus is the star of the sea; and though there be sorrow upon the sea, when Jesus is on it there is joy too. May our hearts make Jesus their anchor, their rudder, their lighthouse, their life-boat, and their harbour. His Church is the Admiral’s flagship, let us attend her movements, and cheer her officers with our presence. He himself is the great attraction; let us follow ever in his wake, mark his signals, steer by his chart, and never fear while he is within hail. Not one ship in the convoy shall suffer wreck; the great Commodore will steer every barque in safety to the desired haven. By faith we will slip our cable for another day’s cruise, and sail forth with Jesus into a sea of tribulation. Winds and waves will not spare us, but they all obey him; and, therefore, whatever squalls may occur without, faith shall feel a blessed calm within. He is ever in the centre of the weather-beaten company: let us rejoice in him. His vessel has reached the haven, and so shall ours.


          Evening - September 14

     “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” --- Psalm 32:5.

     David’s grief for sin was bitter. Its effects were visible upon his outward frame: “his bones waxed old”; “his moisture was turned into the drought of summer.” No remedy could he find, until he made a full confession before the throne of the heavenly grace. He tells us that for a time he kept silence, and his heart became more and more filled with grief: like a mountain tarn whose outlet is blocked up, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He fashioned excuses; he endeavoured to divert his thoughts, but it was all to no purpose; like a festering sore his anguish gathered, and as he would not use the lancet of confession, his spirit was full of torment, and knew no rest. At last it came to this, that he must return unto his God in humble penitence, or die outright; so he hastened to the mercy-seat, and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the all-seeing One, acknowledging all the evil of his ways in language such as you read in the fifty-first and other penitential Psalms. Having done this, a work so simple and yet so difficult to pride, he received at once the token of divine forgiveness; the bones which had been broken were made to rejoice, and he came forth from his closet to sing the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven. See the value of a grace-wrought confession of sin! It is to be prized above all price, for in every case where there is a genuine, gracious confession, mercy is freely given, not because the repentance and confession deserve mercy, but for Christ’s sake. Blessed be God, there is always healing for the broken heart; the fountain is ever flowing to cleanse us from our sins. Truly, O Lord, thou art a God “ready to pardon!” Therefore will we acknowledge our iniquities.

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
Amazing Grace
     September 14

          OUR GREAT SAVIOR

     J. Wilbur Chapman, 1859–1918

     Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. --- Titus 2:13, 14

     To the artist, Christ is the one altogether lovely.
     To the builder, He is the sure foundation.
     To the doctor, He is the great physician.
     To the geologist, He is the Rock of Ages.
     To the sinner, He is the Lamb of God who cleanses and forgives sin.
     To the Christian, Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, our great Savior.

     --- Unknown

     Through the centuries, artists and poets who have been impressed with Christ have tried valiantly to present His portrait both with brush and pen. Yet even the noblest efforts of these dedicated men and women seem feeble and inadequate.

     Evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman has provided a worthy text extolling various attributes of Christ as they relate to our personal lives: “Friend of sinners,” “Lover of my soul,” “Strength in weakness,” “My victory, help in sorrow, comfort, guide, keeper, pilot.” Finally, after reviewing everything that Christ means to a believer, we can do no better than to respond with Chapman’s refrain: “Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend!”

     “Our Great Savior” first appeared in its present form in the hymnal Alexander’s Gospel Songs, No. 2, published in 1910.

     Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul. Friends may fail me, foes assail me; He, my Savior, makes me whole.
     Jesus! what a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him; tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my strength, my vict’ry wins.
     Jesus! what a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, even when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul.
     Jesus! what a guide and Keeper! While the tempest still is high, storms about me, night o’er-takes me, He, my Pilot, hears my cry.
     Jesus! I do now receive Him; more than all in Him I find; He hath granted me forgiveness; I am His, and He is mine.
     Chorus: Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.


     For Today: Luke 7:34; Romans 3:24, 25; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:18; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 5:9

     Give Christ the praise of your heart for all that He really means in life—in your vocation, pursuits, personal relationships … Use this musical expression to carry your praise ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE V - ON THE ETERNITY OF GOD

     III. Eternity is only proper to God, and not communicable. It is as great a madness to ascribe eternity to the creature, as to deprive the Lord of the creature of eternity. It is so proper to God, that when the apostle would prove the deity of Christ, he proves it by his immutability and eternity, as well as his creating power: “Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” (Heb. 1:10–12) The argument had not strength, if eternity belonged essentially to any but God; and therefore he is said only to have “immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16): all other things receive their being from him, and can be deprived of their being by him: all things depend on him; he of none all other things are like clothes, which would consume if God preserved them not.

     Immortality is appropriated to God, i. e. a n independent immortality. Angels and souls have an immortality, but by donation from God, not by their own essence; dependent upon their Creator, not necessary in their own nature: God might have annihilated them after he had created them; so that their duration cannot properly be called an eternity, it being extrinsical to them, and dependent upon the will of their Creator, by whom they may be extinguished; it is not an absolute and necessary, but a precarious immortality. Whatsoever is not God, is temporary; whatsoever is eternal, is God. It is a contradiction to say a creature can be eternal; as nothing eternal is created, so nothing created is eternal. What is distinct from the nature of God cannot be eternal, eternity being the essence of God. Every creature, in the notion of a creature, speaks a dependence on some cause, and therefore cannot be eternal. As it is repugnant to the nature of God not to be eternal, so it is repugnant to the nature of a creature to be eternal; for then a creature would be equal to the Creator, and the Creator, or the Cause, would not be before the creature, or effect. It would be all one to admit many gods, as many eternals; and all one to say, God can be created, as to say a creature can be unereated, which is to be eternal.

     1. Creation is a producing something from nothing. What was once nothing, cannot therefore be eternal; not being was eternal; therefore its being could not be eternal, for it should be then before it was, and would be something when it was nothing. It is the nature of a creature to be nothing before it was created; what was nothing before it was, cannot be equal with God in an eternity of duration.

     2. There is no creature but is mutable, therefore not eternal. As it had a change from nothing to something, so it may be changed from being to not being. If the creature were not mutable, it would be most perfect, and so would not be a creature, but God; for God only is most perfect. It is as much the essence of a creature to be mutable, as it is the essence of God to be immutable. Mutability and eternity are utterly inconsistent.

     3. No creature is infinite, therefore not eternal: to be infinite in duration is all one as to be infinite in essence. It is as reasonable to conceive a creature immense, filling all places at once, as eternal, extended to all ages; because neither can be without infiniteness, which is the property of the Deity. A creature may as well be without bounds of place, as limitations of time.

     4. No effect of an intellectual free agent can be equal in duration to its cause. The productions of natural agents are as ancient often as themselves; the sun produceth a beam as old in time as itself; but who ever heard of a piece of wise workmanship as old as the wise artificer? God produced a creature, not necessarily and naturally, as the sun doth a beam, but freely, as an intelligent agent. The sun was not necessary; it might be or not be, according to the pleasure of God. A free act of the will is necessary to precede in order of time, as the cause of such effects as are purely voluntary. Those causes that act as soon as they exist act naturally, necessarily, not freely, and cannot cease from acting. But suppose a creature might have existed by the will of God from eternity; yet, as some think, it could not be said absolutely, and in its own nature to be eternal, because eternity was not of the essence of it. The creature could not be its own duration; for though it were from eternity, it might not have been from eternity, because its existence depended upon the free will of God, who might have chose whether he would have created it or no. God only is eternal; “the first and the last, the beginning and the end;” who, as he subsisted before any creature had a being, so he will eternally subsist if all creatures were reduced to nothing.

     IV. Use 1. Information. If God be of an eternal duration, then “Christ is God.” Eternity is the property of God, but it is ascribed to Christ: “He is before all things” (Col. 1:17), i. e. all created things; he is therefore no creature, and if no creature, eternal. “All things were created by him,” both in heaven and in earth, angels, as well as men, whether they be thrones or dominions (ver. 16). If all things were his creatures, then he is no creature; if he were, all things were not created by him, or he must create himself. He hath no difference of time; for he is “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever:” the same, with the name of God, “I Am,” which signifies his eternity. He is no more to-day than he was yesterday, nor will be any other to-morrow than he is to-day; and therefore Melchizedec, whose descent, birth, and death, father and mother, beginning and end of days, are not upon record, was a type of the existence of Christ without difference of time; “Having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3). The suppression of his birth and death was intended by the Holy Ghost as a type of the excellency of Christ’s person in regard of his eternity, and the duration of his charge in regard of his priesthood. As there was an appearance of an eternity in the suppression of the race of Melchisedec, so there is a true eternity in the Son of God. How could the eternity of the Son of God be expressed by any resemblance so well, as by such a suppression of the beginning and end of this great person, different from the custom of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament, who often records the generations and ends of holy men; and why might not this, which was a kind of a shadow of eternity, be a representation of the true eternity of Christ, as well as the restoration of Isaac to his father without death, is said to be a figure of the resurrection of Christ after a real death? Melchisedec is only mentioned once (without any record of his extraction) in his appearance to Abraham after his victory, as if he came from heaven only for that action, and instantly disappeared again, as if he had been an eternal person. And Christ himself hints his own eternity: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:28). He goes to the Father as he came from the Father; he goes to the Father “for everlasting,” so he came from the Father “from everlasting;” there is the same duration in coming forth from the Father, as in returning to the Father. But more plainly: he speaks of a glory that he “had with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5), when there was no creature in being. This is an actual glory, and not only in decree; for a decreed glory believers had, and why may not every one of them say the same words, “Father, glorify me with that glory which I had with thee before the world was,” if it were only a glory in decree? Nay, it maybe said of every man, he was before the world was, because he was so in decree. Christ speaks of something peculiar to him, a glory in actual possession before the world was: “Glorify me, embrace, honor me as thy Son, whereas I have now been, in the eyes of the world, handled disgracefully as a servant.” If it were only in decree, why is not the like expression used of others in Scripture as well as of Christ? Why did he not use the same words for his disciples that were then with him, who had a glory in decree? His eternity is also mentioned in the Old Testament: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old” (Prov. 8:22). If he were the work of God, he existed before himself, if he existed before all the works of God. It is so not properly meant of the essential wisdom of God, since the discourse runs in the name of a person; and several passages there are which belong not so much to the essential wisdom of God, as ver. 13: “The evil way and the froward mouth do I hate,” which belongs rather to the holiness of God, than to the essential wisdom of God; besides, it is distinguished from Jehovah, as possessed by, him, “and rejoicing before him.” Y et plainer: “Out of thee,” i. e. Bethlehem, “shall he come forth to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” מימי עולם “from the ways of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). There are two goings forth of Christ described, one from Bethlehem, in the days of his incarnation, and another from eternity. The Holy Ghost adds, after his prediction of his incarnation, his going out from everlasting, that none should doubt of his deity. If this going out from everlasting were only in the purpose of God, it might be said of David, and of every creature; and in Isa. 9:6 he is particularly called the “everlasting,” or “eternal Father;” not the Father in the Trinity, but a Father to us; yet “eternal,” the “Father of eternity.” As he is the “mighty God,” so he is “the everlasting Father.” Can such a title be ascribed to any whose being depends upon the will of another, and may be dashed out at the pleasure of a superior? As the eternity of God is the ground of all religion, so the eternity of Christ is the ground of the Christian religion. Could our sins be perfectly expiated had he not an eternal divinity to answer for the offences committed against an eternal God? Temporary sufferings had been of little validity, without an infiniteness and eternity in his person to add weight to his passion.

     2. If God be eternal, he knows all things as present. All things are present to him in his eternity; for this is the notion of eternity, to be without succession. If eternity be one indivisible point, and is not diffused into preceding and succeeding parts, then that which is known in it or by it is perceived without any succession, for knowledge is as the substance of the person knowing; if that hath various actions and distinct from itself, then it understands things in differences of time as time presents them to view. But, since God’s being depends not upon the revolutions of time, so neither does his knowledge; it exceeds all motions of years and days, comprehends infinite spaces of past and future. God considers all things in his eternity in one simple knowledge, as if they were now acted before him: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world;” 􀀀π 􀀀 α􀀀􀀀ν, οàς seculo, “from eternity” (Acts 15:18). God’s knowledge is co-eternal with him; if he knows that in time which he did not not know from eternity, he would not be eternally perfect, since knowledge is the perfection of an intelligent nature.

     3. How bold and foolish is it for a mortal creature to censure the counsels and actions of an eternal God, or be too curious in his inquisitions! It is by the consideration of the unsearchable number of the years of God that Elihu checks too bold inquiries: “who hath enjoined him his way, or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity? Behold, God is great, and we know him not; neither can the number of his years be searched out.” Eternity sets God above our inquiries and censures. Infants of a day old are not able to understand the acts of wise and gray heads: shall we, that are of so short a being and understanding as yesterday, presume to measure the motions of eternity by our scanty intellects? We that cannot foresee an unexpected accident which falls in to blast a well-laid design, and run a ship many leagues back from the intended harbor; we cannot understand the reason of things we see done in time, the motions of the sea, the generation of rain, the nature of light, the sympathies and antipathies of the creatures; and shall we dare to censure the actions of an eternal God, so infinitely beyond our reach? The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm, that hath breathed but a few minutes in the world. Since eternity cannot be comprehended in time, it is not to be judged by a creature of time: “Let us remember to magnify his works which we behold,” because he is eternal, which is the exhortation of Elihu, backed by this doctrine of God’s eternity (Job 36:24), and not accuse any work of him who is the “Ancient of Days,” or presume to direct him of whose eternity we come infinitely short. Whenever, therefore, any unworthy notion of the counsels and works of God is suggested to us by Satan, or our own corrupt hearts, let us look backward to God’s eternal and our own short duration, and silence ourselves with the same question wherewith God put a stop to the reasoning of Job—“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4), and reprove ourselves for our curiosity, since we are of so short a standing, and were nothing when the eternal God laid the first stone of the world.

     4. What a folly and boldness is there in sin, since an eternal God is offended thereby! All sin is aggravated by God’s eternity. The blackness of the heathen idolatry was in changing the glory of the incorruptible God (Rom. 1:23); erecting resemblances of him contrary to his immortal nature; as if the eternal God, whose life is as unlimited as eternity, were like those creatures whose beings are measured by the short ell of time, which are of a corruptible nature, and daily passing on to corruption; they could not really deprive God of his glory and immortality, but they did in estimation. There is in the nature of every sin a tendency to reduce God to a not being. He that thinks unworthily of God, or acts unworthily towards him, doth (as much as in him lies) sully and destroy these two perfections of his, immutability and eternity. It is a carriage, as if he were as contemptible as a creature that were but of yesterday, and shall not remain in being to-morrow. He that would put an end to God’s glory by darkening it, would put an end to God’s life by destroying it. He that should love a beast with as great an affection as he loves a man, contemns a rational nature; and he that loves a perishing thing with the same affection he should love an everlasting God, contemns his eternity; he debaseth the duration of God below that of the world. The low valuation of God speaks him in his esteem no better than withering grass, or a gourd, which lasts for a night; and the creature which possesses his affection, to be a good that lasts forever. How foolish, then, is every sin that tends to destroy a being that cannot destroy or desert himself; a Being, without whose eternity the sinner himself could not have had the capacity of a being to affront him! How base is that which would not let the works of God remain in their established posture! How much more base is not enduring the fountain and glory of all beings, that would not only put an end to the beauty of the world, but the eternity of God!

     5. How dreadful is it to lie under the stroke of an eternal God! His eternity is as great a terror to him that hates him, as it is a comfort to him that loves him; because he is the “living God, an everlasting king, the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation” (Jer. 10:10). Though God be least in their thoughts, and is made light of in the world, yet the thoughts of God’s eternity, when he comes to judge the world, shall make the slighters of him tremble. That the Judge and punisher lives forever, is the greatest grievance to a soul in misery, and adds an inconceivable weight to it, above what the infiniteness of God’s executive power could do without that duration. His eternity makes the punishment more dreadful than his power; his power makes it sharp, but his eternity renders it perpetual; ever to endure, is the sting at the end of every lash. And how sad is it to think that God lays his eternity to pawn for the punishment of obstinate sinners, and engageth it by an oath, that he will “whet his glittering sword,” that his “hand shall take hold of judgment,” that he will “render vengeance to his enemies, and a reward to them that hate him;” a reward proportioned to the greatness of their offences, and the glory of an eternal God! “I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever;” (Deut. 32:40, 41): i. e., as surely as I live forever, I will whet my glittering sword. As none can convey good with a perpetuity, so none can convey evil with such a lastingness as God. It is a great loss to lose a ship richly fraught in the bottom of the sea, never to be cast upon the shore; but how much greater is it to lose eternally a sovereign God, which we were capable of eternally enjoying, and undergo an evil as durable as that God we slighted, and were in a possibility of avoiding! The miseries of men after this life are not eased, but sharpened, by the life and eternity of God.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. CLV. — ADD to this that example, Rom. x. 24, taken out of Isaiah, “I was found of them that sought Me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not for Me.” He speaks this with reference to the Gentiles: — that it was given unto them to hear and know Christ, when before, they could not even think of Him, much less seek Him, or prepare themselves for Him by the power of “Free-will.” From this example it is sufficiently evident, that grace comes so free, that no thought concerning it, or attempt or desire after it, precedes. So also Paul — when he was Saul, what did he do by that exalted power of “Free-will?” Certainly, in respect of reason, he intended that which was best and most meritoriously good. But by what endeavours did he come unto grace? He did not only not seek after it, but received it even when he was furiously maddened against it!

     On the other hand, he saith of the Jews “The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained unto the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained unto the law of righteousness” (Rom. ix. 30-31). What has any advocate for “Free-will” to mutter against this? The Gentiles when filled with ungodliness and every vice, receive righteousness freely from a mercy-shewing God: while the Jews, who follow after righteousness with all their devoted effort and endeavour, are frustrated. Is this not plainly saying, that the endeavour of “Free-will” is all in vain, even when it strives to do the best; and that “Freewill,” of itself, can only fall back and grow worse and worse?

     Nor can any one say, that the Jews did not follow after righteousness with all the power of “Free-will.” For Paul himself bears this testimony of them, “That they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge,” (Rom. x. 2). Therefore, nothing which is attributed to “Free-will” was wanting to the Jews; and yet, it attained unto nothing, nay unto the contrary of that after which they strove. Whereas, there was nothing in the Gentiles which is attributed to “Free-will,” and they attained unto the righteousness of God. And what is this but a most manifest example from each nation, and a most clear testimony of Paul, proving that grace is given freely to the most undeserving and unworthy, and is not attained unto by any devoted efforts, endeavours, or works, either small or great, of any men, be they the best and most meritorious, or even of those who have sought and followed after righteousness with all the ardour of zeal?

      Sect. CLVI. — NOW let us come to JOHN, who is also a most copious and powerful subverter of “Free-will.”

     He, at the very first outset, attributes to “Free-will” such blindness, that it cannot even see the light of the truth: so far is it from possibility, that it should endeavour after it. He speaks thus, “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John i. 5). And directly afterwards, “He was in the world, and the world knew Him not; He came unto His own, and His own knew Him not.” (Verses 10-11).

     What do you imagine he means by “world?” Will you attempt to separate any man from being included in this term, but him who is born again of the Holy Spirit? The term “world” is very particularly used by this apostle; by which he means, the whole race of men. Whatever, therefore, he says of the “world,” is to be understood of the whole race of men. And hence, whatever he says of the “world,” is to be understood also of “Free-will,” as that which is most excellent in man. According to this apostle, then, the “world” does not know the light of truth; the “world” hates Christ and His; the “world” neither knows nor sees the Holy Spirit; the whole “world” is settled in enmity; all that is in the “world,” is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” “Love not the world.” “Ye (saith He) are not of the world.” “The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil.”

     All these and many other like passages are proclamations of what “Free-will’ is — ‘the principal part’ of the world, ruling the empire of Satan! For John also himself speaks of the world by antithesis; making the “world” to be, every thing in the world which is not translated into the kingdom of the Spirit. So also Christ saith to the apostles, “I have chosen you out of the world, and ordained you,” &c, (John xv. 16). If therefore, there were any in the world, who, by the powers of “Free-will, “endeavoured so as to attain unto good, (which would be the case if “Free-will” could do any thing) John certainly ought, in reverence for these persons, to have softened down the term, lest, by a word of such general application, he should involve them in all those evils of which he condemns the world. But as he does not this, it is evident that he makes “Free-will” guilty of all that is laid to the charge of the world: because, whatever the world does, it does by the power of “Free-will”: that is, by its will and by its reason, which are its most exalted faculties. — He then goes on,

     “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on His Name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John i. 12-13).

     Having finished this distinctive division, he rejects from the kingdom of Christ, all that is “of blood,” “of the will of the flesh,” and “of the will of man.” By “blood,” I believe, he means the Jews; that is, those who wished to be the children of the kingdom, because they were the children of Abraham and of the Fathers; and hence, gloried in their “blood.” By “the will of the flesh,” I understand the devoted efforts of the people, which they exercised in the law and in works: for “flesh” here signifies the carnal without the Spirit, who had indeed a will, and an endeavour, but who, because the Spirit was not in them, were carnal. By “the will of man,” I understand the devoted efforts of all generally, that is, of the nations, or of any men whatever, whether exercised in the law, or without the law. So that the sense is — they become the sons of God, neither by the birth of the flesh, nor by a devoted observance of the law, nor by any devoted human effort whatever, but by a Divine birth only.

     If therefore, they be neither born of the flesh, nor brought up by the law, nor prepared by any human discipline, but are born again of God, it is manifest, that “Free-will” here profits nothing. For I understand “man,” to signify here, according to the Hebrew manner of speech, any man, or all men; even as “flesh,” is understood to signify, by antithesis, the people without the Spirit: and “the will of man,” I understand to signify the greatest power in men, that is, that ‘principal part,’ “Free-will.”

     But be it so, that we do not dwell thus upon the signification of the words, singly; yet, the sum and substance of the meaning is most clear; — that John, by this distinctive division, rejects every thing that is not of Divine generation; since he says, that men are made the sons of God none otherwise than by being born of God; which takes place, according to his own interpretation — by believing on His name! In this rejection therefore, “the will of man,” or “Free-will,” as it is not of divine generation, nor faith, is necessarily included. But if “Free-will” avail any thing, “the will of man” ought not to be rejected by John, nor ought men to be drawn away from it, and sent to faith and to the new birth only; lest that of Isaiah should be pronounced, against him, “Woe unto you that call good evil.” Whereas now, since he rejects alike all “blood,” “the will of the flesh,” and “the will of man,” it is evident, that “the will of man” avails nothing more towards making men the sons of God, than “blood” does, or the carnal birth. And no one doubts whether or not the carnal birth makes men the sons of God; for as Paul saith, “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God;” (Rom. ix. 8), which he proves by the examples of Ishmael and Esau.

     Sect. CLVII. — THE same John, introduces the Baptist speaking thus of Christ, “And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” (John i. 16).

     He says, that grace is received by us out of the fullness of Christ — but for what merit or devoted effort? “For grace,” saith He; that is, of Christ; as Paul also saith, “The grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (Rom. v. 15). — Where is now the endeavour of “Free-will” by which grace is obtained! John and Paul here saith, that grace is not only not received for any devoted effort of our own, but even for the grace of another, or the merit of another, that is “of one Man Jesus Christ.” Therefore, it is either false, that we receive our grace for the grace of another, or else it is evident, that “Free-will” is nothing at all; for both cannot consist — that the grace of God, is both so cheap, that it may be obtained in common and every where by the ‘little endeavour’ of any man; and at the same time so dear, that it is given unto us only in and through the grace of one Man, and He so great!

     And I would also, that the advocates for “Free-will” be admonished in this place, that when they assert “Free-will,” they are deniers of Christ. For if I obtain grace by my own endeavours, what need have I of the grace of Christ for the receiving of my grace? Or, what do I want when I have gotten the grace of God? For the Diatribe has said, and all the Sophists say, that we obtain grace, and are prepared for the reception of it, by our own endeavours; not however according to ‘worthiness,’ but according to ‘congruity.’ This is plainly denying Christ: for whose grace, the Baptist here testifies, that we receive grace. For as to that fetch about ‘worthiness’and ‘congruity,’ I have refuted that already, and proved it to be a mere play upon empty words, while the ‘merit of worthiness’ is really intended; and that, to a more impious length than ever the Pelagians themselves went, as I have already shewn. And hence, the ungodly Sophists, together with the Diatribe, have more awfully denied the Lord Christ who bought us, than ever the Pelagians, or any heretics have denied Him. So far is it from possibility, that grace should allow of any particle or power of “Free-will!”

     But however, that the advocates for “Free-will” deny Christ, is proved, not by this Scripture only, but by their own very way of life. For by their “Free-will,” they have made Christ to be unto them no longer a sweet Mediator, but a dreaded Judge, whom they strive to please by the intercessions of the Virgin Mother, and of the Saints; and also, by variously invented works, by rites, ordinances, and vows; by all which, they aim at appeasing Christ, in order that He might give them grace. But they do not believe, that He intercedes before God and obtains grace for them by His blood and grace; as it is here said, “for grace.” And as they believe, so it is unto them! For Christ is in truth, an inexorable judge to them, and justly so; for they leave Him, who is a Mediator and most merciful Saviour, and account His blood and grace of less value than the devoted efforts and endeavours of their “Free-will!”

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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