1 Chronicles 15
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem1 Chronicles 15 1 David built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the LORD had chosen them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister to him forever. 3 And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it. 4 And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites: 5 of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, with 120 of his brothers; 6 of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, with 220 of his brothers; 7 of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, with 130 of his brothers; 8 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, with 200 of his brothers; 9 of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, with 80 of his brothers; 10 of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, with 112 of his brothers. 11 Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, 12 and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. 13 Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.
16 David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brothers Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari, their brothers, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their brothers of the second order, Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. 19 The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth; 21 but Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. 23 Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah were to be gatekeepers for the ark.
25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing. 26 And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.
29 And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating, and she despised him in her heart.
1 Chronicles 16
The Ark Placed in a Tent1 Chronicles 16 1 And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD 3 and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.
4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.
David’s Song of Thanks
8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
11 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
17 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”
19 When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
20 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
21 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
22 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
30 tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
“Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and deliver us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!”
Worship Before the Ark37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required, 38 and also Obed-edom and his sixty-eight brothers, while Obed-edom, the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. 39 And he left Zadok the priest and his brothers the priests before the tabernacle of the LORD in the high place that was at Gibeon 40 to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, to do all that is written in the Law of the LORD that he commanded Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever. 42 Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.
43 Then all the people departed each to his house, and David went home to bless his household.
1 Chronicles 17
The LORD’s Covenant with David1 Chronicles 17 1 Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” 2 And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”
3 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. 6 In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ 7 Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, 8 and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’ ” 15 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
David’s Prayer16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 17 And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O LORD God! 18 And what more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. 19 For your servant’s sake, O LORD, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. 20 There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 And you made your people Israel to be your people forever, and you, O LORD, became their God. 23 And now, O LORD, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken, 24 and your name will be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 25 For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. 26 And now, O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you, for it is you, O LORD, who have blessed, and it is blessed forever.”
What I'm Reading
Is The Bible Relevant Today?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/11/2017
I have a drawer in my desk that’s filled with manuals and instruction guides. Every time I purchase a new device (whether it’s an electric garden tool or a smart phone), I store the original instruction manual in this drawer. I occasionally return to these guides when I have a problem or need an answer. But, about once a year, I sift through these documents and throw many of them away. The discarded manuals are still true and skillfully written, but they’re now irrelevant; I’ve mastered the devices they describe, and I’m able to overcome any problem I may encounter on my own. But, while my collection of instruction manuals shrinks every year, my collection of Bibles and related study materials increases. Why? Because the Bible continues to answer life’s most important questions. It solves the most pressing problem we face as humans; a problem we simply can’t resolve on our own.
My experience as a cold-case homicide detective is partially to blame for my growing Biblical library. The instruction manuals in my desk drawer would never have become part of my collection if they didn’t correctly describe the devices they claimed to support. Their accuracy is the key to their relevancy. When I first investigated the claims of the New Testament accounts, I knew their relevancy would be similarly dependent upon the degree to which they were true. I was thirty-five years old and a seasoned detective when I first began to evaluate the reliability of the Gospels using the same skill set I applied to my criminal investigations. Were the accounts written early enough to have been produced by eyewitnesses? Could they be corroborated by additional early witnesses, external archaeological or internal linguistic evidence? Were the accounts corrupted or changed over time? Did the authors possess a bias that would motivate them to lie? I investigated these attributes of the gospels and became convinced they were telling me the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. But their reliability and truthfulness were only part of the story. The gospels also accurately described something I observed in murderers.
I’ve arrested my fair share of cold-case killers, and most of them were law-abiding, upstanding citizens by the time I met them, many years after they brutally killed their victims. The more I spoke with these murderers, the more I realized they were just like… me. And you. And everyone else on the planet. Some had become fire captains, some teachers, some businessmen. They were good parents, reliable family members, and trustworthy employees. But they were all protecting a dark secret from their past; striving daily to convince a watching world they were good people, even though they had done something unspeakable. None of these killers committed more than one murder, and none would likely commit another. But each bore the burden of knowing who they really were, despite appearances.
As I investigated each cold-case homicide, I came to realize these murderers weren’t unlike the rest of us. If you think you’re incapable of committing such a crime, you’ve likely underestimated the possible scenarios you might face, and overestimated how you might respond. Even if you don’t think you’re capable of such atrocities, I bet there’s still some secret you don’t want others to discover; we’re all moral law-breakers of one kind or another. The penal code in my state describes crimes that are as old as human history. In fact, many of our statutes still reflect the Biblical language of the Old Testament. Some things change, but our fallen, base desires grudgingly remain. We are moral outlaws to one degree or another.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Reading Is Believing
By Mark Bauerlein 10/2017
I’ve been tracking youth reading habits and test scores for a long time, but I’ve never asked this question: What becomes of a faith that places a book at the center of worship if the rising generation doesn’t read? I don’t mean illiteracy. The problem is what reading researchers call a-literacy—being able to read but not wanting to.
This is not an exaggeration. The 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts found that only half of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds read a book in leisure hours in the preceding twelve months. The same lack of interest shows up in the annual CIRP Freshman Survey, a large questionnaire administered to undergraduates a short time into their college career. Recently, it tallied one-third of college freshmen racking up zero (!) hours of “reading for pleasure” during an average week in the previous year. Another one-quarter of them did less than one hour—at most, seven or eight minutes a day. And these are four-year college students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, not vocational and two-year college students.
When they do read, they don’t do it very well. Currently, just a bit more than one-third (37 percent) of twelfth-graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reach “proficiency” in reading, while SAT reading results in 2015 were the lowest in more than forty years. On last year’s ACT exam, fully 56 percent of test-takers fell short of “college readiness” in reading, which means that they had only a 50 percent chance of earning a B in a basic civics class.
Before I came to First Things in the summer of 2014, these results meant the same thing to me that they did to other concerned observers. They are an economic and civic calamity. In writing about them, I cited a 2004 College Board report that stated that “remedying deficiencies in writing may cost American firms as much as $3.1 billion annually” (good writing skills are correlated with strong reading habits), along with a National Association of Manufacturers survey that had more than one-quarter of manufacturers (29 percent) place “inadequate reading/writing/communication skills” among “the most serious skill deficiencies in your current employees” (take a look at the daunting manuals and catalogs in a car repair shop).
As for civics, I collected statements like Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column on the decay of reading among the political class, subtitled “What ails American democracy? Too much information and too little thought.” The “young of politics and journalism . . . have received most of what they know about political history through screens,” she remarked. It seems that “they have seen the movie and not read the book. They have heard the sound bite but not read the speech.”
- 1 The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don 't Trust Anyone Under 30)
- 2 The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking
- 3 The State of the American Mind: 16 Leading Critics on the New Anti-Intellectualism
- 4 Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (Critical Authors and Issues)
- 5 Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education
The Power of the Broken Body
By Michael Beates 8/01/2013
Mention the word church and a vast array of images enter the mind. A steepled building housing a congregation; a movement of God across the centuries and the world; “one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic”; “visible and invisible”; “militant and triumphant”; “local and universal.”
More images come from the Scriptures verbatim. The bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the branches connected to the life-giving vine of Christ. But a most provocative and instructive biblical image is “the body of Christ.” We are tempted, especially in the West, to view this body as successful, full of well-ordered, well-dressed, well-mannered people. But the Scriptures describe the church as a broken and weak body that, by God’s grace, confounds the world by also being a hopeful body.
THE CHURCH AS A BROKEN AND WEAK BODY
God hardly ever does things the way we might expect. In fact, God takes conventional wisdom and practices and turns them on their head. The whole nature of His redemptive work is “upside down.” Instead of using people of power and integrity or beauty and influence, God uses unknown people (Ruth), cowardly people (Gideon), deeply sinful people (David), and culturally insignificant people (the twelve disciples) to achieve His purposes. Why? So that He alone will receive the glory and the credit for what happens when He works through such surprising human vessels.
For people to understand the power of God working through His people, we must understand two things: first, brokenness forces us to see God as the ultimate and only reliable source of power; and second, God often breaks the very people He intends to use for His glory. Our culture focuses on outward appearance, beauty, physical and social power, self-sufficiency, and self-achievement. But our cultural pursuit of these is idolatry. We have made little gods of ourselves.
But Paul tells us that “God chose what is foolish… weak… low… despised… things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:27–31). In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul declared that his ministry was not from his own strength but from God’s. God says to Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7–10). For Paul to boast in weakness seems absolutely insane to our modern sensibilities. To admit weakness is to admit defeat. But in God’s world, to admit weakness and defeat is necessary to accepting Him as the source of real power, purpose, and hope.
It is humbling to admit that we do not measure up, that we are not sufficient, that we are broken people. But the body of Christ must grasp this counter-intuitive truth in order to find and dwell in God’s power. We must have the courage to look at each other on Sunday, welldressed, well-spoken, appearing to “have it all together,” and say, “We know better. We are broken people, desperately needing the power of God to come in our weakness.” This is where our friends who live with disability remind us by their presence who we really are.
THE CHURCH AS A HOPEFUL BODY
Hope recognizes that God works through weakness. Therefore, ministry to the broken, disabled, and suffering is not an obligation, but a privilege.
Paul unfolds this in 1 Corinthians 12:7–10. The body has some weaker and less presentable members. But in God’s providence, just as in our physical body, these members are “indispensable” in the body of Christ. What the world labels liabilities — those whose lives display weakness, brokenness, and neediness — God calls absolutely necessary for His church. Our culture seems to avoid and even reject those who are different due to their brokenness. God says to embrace and bring them close.
No one “makes it” alone. We are, in fact, interdependent upon God and one another. Disability helps us see that we are all broken and all part of the same body, needing to give and receive from one another. People with disabilities have much to contribute to the body of Christ — and when they are not present in our churches, the body is incomplete, lacking essential elements. Paul says that if one member suffers, then all members suffer (1 Cor. 12:26). As we identify with those who are more outwardly broken, as we embrace the metaphor of an interdependent body, we begin to see how we can “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). As we suffer and receive comfort from God and His people, we are also able to “comfort one another” with the same comfort we have received (2 Cor. 1:3–7).
The way people react to brokenness reveals their assumptions about the nature of the world. Many assume the world is the way it should be and that suffering is an anomaly to be avoided at all cost. But the broken and hopeful church says with conviction that the world is not as it should be. In fact, all creation has suffered the effects of sin and the fall, and groans for redemption and renewal. Because we admit that the world is broken, we believe with sure hope that there will be a re-making, a redress of injustice and brokenness.
Brokenness creates a longing in God’s children for all the brokenness and weakness to be changed and made right. And in this “making right” God will receive glory and worship.
Love by Submission
By Phil Johnson 8/01/2013
Ephesians 5:21 poses a conundrum: Paul commends Spirit-filled Christians for “submitting to one another.” Isolate the verse from its context, and it almost sounds as if the Apostle teaches a kind of mutual, universal submission, without regard to any structured leadership, hierarchy, or chain of command—as if he means to declare all authority void.
But in the very next verse, Paul expressly commands wives to be subject to their husbands (v. 22). Half a chapter later, he commands children to obey their parents (6:1) and slaves to obey their masters (6:5). Those injunctions aren’t followed by calls for reciprocal submission. Instead, husbands are commanded to love their wives, fathers are forbidden to provoke their children, and masters are urged to treat their slaves with Christlike generosity, goodwill, and respect. In other words, Ephesians 5:21 introduces a long passage that is all about how people under authority should respond to those in authority and vice versa. The Apostle Paul, plainly, was no egalitarian.
The true meaning of the text, as always, is seen by looking at the context. The theme of this extended section of the epistle is love: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us” (v. 2).
The dominant chord that ties all the practical admonitions of Ephesians 4–5 together is the self-sacrificial nature of authentic, Christlike love. The theme is introduced in 3:17, where Paul prays that the Ephesians would be “rooted and grounded in love.” From there through the end of chapter 5, the word love appears nine times. Every time Paul riffs on a related theme, he returns to the tonic note for resolution: “Walk in love.”
Specifically, he portrays love as service and sacrifice. He starts by highlighting virtues like “humility and gentleness, with patience [and forbearance]” (4:2). He calls the church to pursue unity and live in harmony (vv. 3–6). He reminds the church of God’s love embodied in Christ and challenges her to use the many gifts Christ has given her “so that [the body] builds itself up in love” (vv. 7–16). He then gives Christians a series of admonitions about practical holiness and gracious speech, culminating in this: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (v. 32).
Chapter 5 turns to the subjects of sexual purity, chaste speech, and holy wisdom (vv. 3–17). Love remains the theme, but this subsection debunks several expressions of counterfeit love: fornication, covetousness, and any brand of carnal camaraderie where bawdy conversation is the main glue binding the brotherhood together.
The apex of the entire section is the famous command to be filled with the Spirit. Paul names three specific traits that epitomize the Spirit-filled life. All of them are practical expressions of love: 1) joyful praise; 2) constant thanksgiving; and 3) deferential humility.
There is Ephesians 5:21 in context. Clearly, Paul has no agenda to eliminate authority or headship in the home, church, or any other realm of human relationships. He is simply telling the Ephesians how to imitate Christ’s love.
Human love is on display at its best and brightest in the humiliation of Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,” then further sacrificed His own interests “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8). His voluntary submission did not diminish (much less void) the truth that He is Lord of all. Indeed, it eternally and unshakably established His authority. It is the very ground on which “God has highly exalted him” (vv. 9–11).
Moreover, Scripture everywhere teaches us to have the same mind: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (v. 3). “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). “Be subject to … every fellow worker and laborer” (1 Cor. 16:16). “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
In Jesus’ own words: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15). Scripture does indeed call every believer to have a servant’s heart and a humble self-image.
Ephesians 5:21 is simply an echo of that principle. It compels us to prefer one another in honor and service. It is not a call for a domestic or ecclesiastical egalitarianism that renders the very idea of headship and submission null and void. If Paul had wanted to make such a statement, Ephesians 5–6 would have been the place to say so plainly. Instead he says the opposite, recognizing the divinely ordained place of headship and submission in marriage and across the spectrum of human relationships.
Are Christians in positions of authority exempt from the command to value others more highly than self? By no means. Christ Himself addressed that question: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25–28).
Here’s a simple guideline: When there is an opportunity to render service or give honor, the godly person will defer to others. Those who would lead should act as servants.
But when an issue involving authority arises, we all must submit to those whom God has placed over us. That’s what true, Christlike love demands.
Phil has a bachelor's degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute (class of 1975) and was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group. Phil and his wife, Darlene, have three adult sons, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, and Jonathan.
A Pilgrim People
By R.C. Sproul 8/01/2013
There is just something about being at home, isn’t there? I am reminded of this every time I travel. As I write this column, it has been only a few weeks since we returned from a Ligonier study cruise in the Caribbean. We had a wonderful time of study and fellowship with Ligonier’s friends and supporters, many of whom are likely reading this column right now. Despite my enjoyment of the trip, however, I was happy to return home. I feel the same way every time I travel. I love my homeland and am happy to come back to the United States even after a blessed journey.
Even though I am glad to come back to America, I must admit that when I come home to my country, I long to be elsewhere. At the end of the day, the United States is but an inn, a place to rest on the way to my true home — the city of heaven. As a Christian, I realize that I will never be truly home until I am with my Savior in heaven. The old spiritual puts it well: “This world is not my home … I’m just a passin’ through.”
God’s people have always been what we would call a “pilgrim people.” The constitution of the old covenant church in the exodus gave the ancient Israelites the names pilgrims and sojourners. Living a semi-nomadic existence in the desert, they had no permanent place to call their own. Even their place of worship was a tent — the tabernacle — that had to be taken down when the Lord called Israel to move and put back up when they established a new camp. Later, John’s description of the incarnation picks up this theme. The Word of God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) translates with the English term dwelt a Greek term with the same root that means “tent” or “tabernacle.” Christ literally “pitched His tent” or “tabernacled” among us.
Because of this, Christ is the ultimate Pilgrim revealed to us in Scripture. He became the supreme Sojourner in the incarnation, leaving His home in heaven in our behalf. He came to this world to journey along with the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on their way to their heavenly home.
Hebrews 11:13 puts it this way: The old covenant saints, having seen the promises from afar, “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Moses, Abraham, and the others went forth from their earthly homes in faith, seeking for that heavenly home that the Lord promised them. They desired “a better country, a heavenly one,” and so “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (v. 16).
Though the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 focuses on old covenant believers, the pilgrimage of God’s people did not end once they settled in Canaan, first conquered Jerusalem, or even when they returned to the Promised Land after the exile. The Christian church is a pilgrim people. The Apostle Peter is clear: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11; KJV). We still await the holy city and heavenly Jerusalem. That is the home we were made for. “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
On this side of heaven, the Lord gives us a glimpse of our heavenly home in many ways, especially when we gather for corporate worship. I’ve experienced this in my home church, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, where every Lord’s Day we gather and cross the threshold from the secular to the sacred. But I’ve also seen it when I have worshipped in foreign lands.
About twenty years ago, I traveled through Eastern Europe to preach and teach in several lands that had been closed to Christian missionaries during Communist rule, which had ceased just a few years earlier. At one church in Transylvania, I had the opportunity to preach one Sunday morning, and when I looked out over the congregation, I saw many elderly women, whose faces were etched with wrinkles born from years of toiling the land with primitive tools. Though they were dressed head to toe in black—black skirts, black blouses, and black babushkas—there was nonetheless a serenity about them. They looked almost angelic. These women were listening intently to my sermon, and sometimes I even saw a tear roll down one of their cheeks.
Standing there, I heard my preaching translated into their native Romanian language, and I marveled at what was happening. I felt a real kinship with them, a bond forged from nothing of this world. We had nothing in common. We spoke different languages, came from different cultures, followed different customs, and otherwise had nothing to tie us together. But we did have the blessed tie that binds—a shared love for God’s Word. We were all citizens of heaven, passing through this world in different geographies but with a profound union that resulted from our common union with Christ. I and those peasant women were both pilgrims on our way to the heavenly country.
God gives us many blessings in this world and in our earthly homes. Nevertheless, “this world is not [our] home … “[we’re] just a passin’ through.”
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
Good News and Good Deeds
By Elyse Fitzpatrick 8/01/2013
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). In other words, we are to carefully ponder or study how we might encourage or stimulate each other to love God and our neighbor, in fulfillment of the two great commands that Jesus gives in Matthew 22:37–40. Authentic love for God and neighbor is not a mere warming of our affections, however, but as the writer of Hebrews assumes, always manifests itself in good deeds.
Of course, this command to encourage others applies in all of our relationships, but for those of us who are married, perhaps it applies most particularly to our spouses. In other words, part of my vocation as a wife, is to spend time carefully thinking how I might encourage my husband, Phil, to love God and his neighbors and to do them good. How might I do that? What would it mean for me to give a careful consideration to the ways I might inspire Phil to a love that eventuated in good deeds? Should I make a list of good things that Phil might do and give it to him every morning along with his cup of coffee? “Here’s your Love and Good Deed List for the day, Dear: Go next door and offer to mow our neighbor’s lawn.” Knowing Phil, he might respond back with “Make dinner for the lady across the street.” But is this list-making what the writer of Hebrews has in mind when he calls us to stir up one another to love and good works?
Although this kind of thing might be helpful for some people, I doubt that writing a list of “errands for others” would eventuate in the kind of “faith-working- through-love” motivation that transforms our good deeds from worthless to valuable (Gal. 5:6). Why not? Because only deeds that are performed solely out of love for God qualify as being truly good. Mowing our neighbor’s lawn might actually have nothing to do with Phil’s love for God and neighbor. It might be a way to win my favor, avoid my criticism, become more popular on our street, or reassure his heart that God is smiling at him. No, his good deed needs to be performed out of a true, selfless love for God and neighbor — not out of self-love, self-protection, competition, or reputation-building.
Where would this kind of love come from? First John 4:19 tells us that “we love because he first loved us.” Our work-producing love for God is engendered first by considering how we’ve been loved, and the broader context of Hebrews 10:24 is a wonderful place to start in considering how much we have been loved—since it is filled with such good news.
What might I do to encourage Phil to love God? I might remind him of Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” or perhaps 10:17, “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.”
As I soak my soul in the truth that I’ve been “perfected for all time” in Christ and that the Lord has forgotten all my “sins and lawless deeds,” my own heart will burst into flame and that warmth will inevitably be communicated to Phil. “We’ve been so loved. We’ve been completely forgiven. We’re perfect in His sight.” These are the words that will fill Phil’s heart with love for God and neighbor. Then, as we are fully at rest and satisfied in His love and forgiveness, we will be freed to look outward, away from ourselves, away from our merit-earning or score-keeping, knowing that all things have already been given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 3:21). It will be then that our hearts will be prepared to see what our neighbors need and that we will be willing to seek to meet those needs out of the abundance that God has so lavishly poured on our unworthy souls.
Jesus’ perfect example of “love and good deeds” flowed out of a heart that habitually responded, “I have come to do your will” (Heb. 10:5–9). What was that will that He continually said yes to? It was nothing less than His once-for-all offering of His body and blood for our holiness (v. 10).
Do we have any heartwarming good news for our spouses? Yes, of course. But it isn’t merely the good news of Christ’s example in willingly laying down His life for our sake. The good news is so much greater than His example. It is that Phil, whether he mows the neighbor’s lawn or not, has the righteous record of Christ right now—a righteousness that Jesus earned over three decades of always loving God and His neighbor, of always saying yes to His will. In all those hidden years in Nazareth, in all His time of public ministry, He was fulfilling the law of love for us, in our place. And because of the resurrection, Phil and I can be assured that we stand completely justified before our Heavenly Father (Rom. 4:25). We have good news. We have Christ’s record of obedience imputed to us by faith alone: just as if we had never sinned, just as if we had always obeyed. It is when we live in the light of these marvelous truths that our hearts will burst into flame, and we will be stimulated to love our neighbors and serve them with good deeds.
Elyse Fitzpatrick Books:
- 1 Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
- 2 Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life
- 3 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, Revised and Updated
- 4 Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith and Confidence
- 5 Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation
- 6 Comforts from the Cross (Redesign): Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 7 Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits
- 8 Counsel from the Cross (Redesign): Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ
- 9 You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship With Your Adult Children
- 10 Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice
- 11 Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
- 12 Helper by Design: God's Perfect Plan for Women in Marriage
- 13 Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ
- 14 A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God's Comfort in Life's Storms
- 15 Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 16 Women Counseling Women: Biblical Answers to Life's Difficult Problems
- 17 Will Medicine Stop the Pain?: Finding God's Healing for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Troubling Emotions
- 18 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone
- 19 When Good Kids Make Bad Choices: Help and Hope for Hurting Parents
- 20 Ídolos del Corazón: Aprendiendo a anhelar solo a Dios (Spanish Edition)
- 21 Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics
- 22 Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face
- 23 Uncommon Vessels: A Program for Developing Godly Eating Habits
- 24 The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife
- 25 Mujeres Aconsejando Mujeres
- 26 Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional
- 27 The Empty Nest: Finding Hope in Your Changing Job Description
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 104O LORD My God, You Are Very Great
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.
24 O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
Trust and Obey
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 8/01/2013
The KISS principle — Keep It Simple, Stupid — is itself a rather simple principle. It argues that when we find ourselves entangled in complex and complicated arguments, chances are we have already left the proper playing field. While, for instance, the gospel is a glory that can be studied and expounded upon for a lifetime of lifetimes, we nevertheless confess that something has gone wrong if we cannot rejoice in our salvation simply by confessing, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus said that the man who prayed that way went home justified (Luke 18:14).
The same is true after our souls are saved. Our forgiveness, our justification, our adoption all flow out of a glorious but simple truth that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Our sanctification, however, our calling to grow in grace and wisdom, to put to death the old man, to become more like Jesus — this is simple too. There is no great and deep secret — we are called to trust and obey.
This not only describes our sanctification, but as the old hymn points out, this describes the only way to be happy in Jesus. That is, the key to having a good life is profoundly simple. Now there have been many who complained about the bestselling book ISBN-13: 978-1455532285 by Joel Osteen that it was way too simple, that it lacked substance or heft, that it was the spiritual equivalent of a spool of cotton candy. I haven’t read the book, but I suspect my concern would be just the opposite. I’m not opposed to having a good life. I wish it for my children, for my friends, even for everyone who reads this article. So I am not opposed to advice on how to have a good life. I am opposed to bad advice.
The key to living a good life is abundantly simple. According to our Maker, what we must do if we want things to go well for us in the land He has given us, is to honor our fathers and mothers. This is the first command with a promise (Eph. 6:2–3). The promise is that it will go well for us in the land.
The world tells us that the key to a good life is a good education. Do well in school and you will get into a competitive college. Do well there and you will get into a competitive graduate school. Do well there and you will get a good, high-paying job. Then you will be able to afford a house in a neighborhood with good schools so that your children can do just what you did, and your grandchildren after them. I call this hell’s hamster wheel.
God’s plan is so much more plain, so much more simple. Which is likely why we don’t believe it. We are offended by simplicity. In our pride, we like to believe that anything worth having must be terribly difficult to get, and terribly difficult to figure out how to get. We would rather go it alone and have it go poorly for us in the land than embrace the simple truth that we just need to honor those God has placed in authority over us.
Or is that the real rub? Is our objection not the simplicity of the rule, but the rule itself? That is, do we object to God’s promise that it will go well for us in the land if we submit to those in authority over us because we don’t want to submit to those in authority over us?
The devil, before his fall, lived a rather spectacular life. He threw it all away because he didn’t want to be ruled. Adam and Eve lived in a literal paradise, the land God had given them. All they had to do to stay there forever was submit to their Father. They threw it all away. And we are their children. Is this not the very essence of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount? What does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness but to pursue obedience to our heavenly Father with a single minded passion? Does He not tell us to set aside our worries about all those things we think will give us a good life and to give ourselves to seeking His righteousness? The simple question is, do we trust our Father? Do we believe that His law is a burden to submit to, or a map to joy?
Of course there are selfish husbands. There are sinful parents. There are faithless elders. There are corrupt civil leaders. All of these, however, existed when our giving, sinless, faithful, pure Father promised us it would go well for us if we would submit to those in authority over us. He not only knows best, but He controls all things. He, after all, has the whole world in His hands.
There is no need to toss and turn all night wondering what you should do differently to make a better life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. Submit to those in authority over you: “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and you may live long in the land’” (Eph. 6:1–3). Keep it simple, and be wise. It will go well for you.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Anchor of Theology
By Janet Mefferd 9/01/2013
“Why aren’t Christian women interested in theology?” I often hear that question (usually from men), and I’m never sure how to answer. That’s likely because I can’t relate to the premise that Christian women aren’t interested in theology — the study of God.
This wasn’t always true of me. If I’d heard that question when I was a college student, I probably would have answered, “Theology is for pastors. The most important thing is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
I had a lot to learn.
At the time, my thinking about Christianity was influenced heavily by my interest in contemporary Christian music. And one of my favorite songs was the Twila Paris tune, “Do I Trust You?” Twila had written the song to express her grief after her friend and fellow Christian singer, Keith Green, was killed in a plane crash. The song really resonated with me. I’d lost my best friend to leukemia just a few years before, so I knew exactly how Twila felt as she poured out her honest grief to the Lord: “Shaken down to the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now they don’t mean much to me.”
Yes, I thought. There are times when the last thing you need is theology.
Eventually, my Twila Paris cassette ended up in a shoebox somewhere. And while I still loved Christian music, the Lord was turning me in a new direction.
It started with a providential turn when I came across Dr. James Montgomery Boice’s book ISBN-13: 978-1596381599 in a public library. When I opened that book and read Dr. Boice’s deep, biblical exegesis of the Christmas story, I immediately thought: “He knows the same Jesus I do — but I’ve never read anyone who knew so much about Him.”
I was naïvely stunned that anything about Jesus could be new to me. I’d been in church all my life. I became a Christian as a child. I went to Sunday School and Bible study. But after I read Dr. Boice’s book, I suddenly realized how little I really knew about the Lord and His Word. I was starving for truth, and I wanted more of it.
I bought every book by Dr. Boice that I could find, and I also started filling my book shelves with titles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Dr. John MacArthur, and others. I learned about the nature and character of God, the redemptive work of Jesus, sanctification. I was eating it up. I would read a Christian book, then my Bible, back and forth.
Without fully realizing it, I had come to love theology.
What’s more, I was beginning to understand what John Calvin meant when he said in his ISBN-13: 978-1598561685 ( free to read on this web site ) that “nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” This is what studying theology was helping me to grasp. I was realizing the depths of my sin and God’s amazing grace to me in Christ. And as I grew in my knowledge about God, I was drawing closer to Him, as He lovingly and patiently sanctified me.
A short time later, my Twila Paris tape resurfaced. As I popped the cassette back into the tape player, I was anxious to hear my old favorite song, “Do I Trust You?” And soon, I heard the familiar lyric: “Shaken down to the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now they don’t mean much to me.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Did she just sing, “Doctrine and theology …don’t mean much to me”?
I love your music, Twila, I thought. But I don’t agree! When grief shakes me “down to the cavity in my soul,” theology now means everything to me.
I may not “feel” the presence of God when I grieve, but because I know that He is sovereign, that He cares for me, and that He is close to the brokenhearted, I can endure whatever situation He has ordained for me. It’s precisely because of the emotional ups and downs of life that the Christian must be rooted in theology — in the objective truth about God in His Word.
This is true for every Christian to understand, but perhaps especially for women. Though many women do love theology, others discount it in favor of mere subjective experience with God. Yet we ignore theology to our peril. As C.S. Lewis noted, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones — bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.”
What’s more, women need to remember the spiritual benefit of glorifying God with our minds. Studying theology helps us to understand and love the great God who saved us. It enables us to think properly about God, and it anchors our emotions in truth as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
That’s why if we love the Lord, then we should love learning about Him. Theology should mean much to us.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Free from people’s approval
(Sept 19) Bob Gass
(1 Th 2:4) 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. ESV
There’s a world of difference between performing for people’s approval, and being free to minister to their needs because you know you already have God’s approval. Striving for approval is like any other drug; you can never get enough of it. And like all drug addicts you go crazy when it’s withheld. It places you at the mercy of other people’s opinions, and as a result you live on an emotional roller coaster. That’s not how God wants you to live! Paul was free to speak the truth in love: to confront people or to be gentle with them. When someone told Paul they didn’t like him, he didn’t lose sleep over it because his security and self-worth weren’t built on their acceptance. ‘We speak as those approved by God’ (v. 4 NIV 2011 Edition). Paul didn’t go around comparing himself with others, demonstrating his superiority by trying to be top dog or the one who’s always in charge. Knowing he already had God’s approval set him free from such anxiety and meant he could enjoy the life God called him to. When we’re immature, we worry about what others think of us. But as we become more mature, we realise that most of the time they aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re too busy thinking about themselves - or worrying about what we think of them! Knowing you have God’s approval gives you the strength to deal with criticism and conflict because you’re secure in your identity. And your identity is this: you’re redeemed, called, and approved by God.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Like the Roman leader Cincinnatus, who twice led the Roman Republic to victory in battle and then resigned and returned to farming, George Washington led America to victory over the British, then served two terms as President, only to resign and return to manage his farm at Mount Vernon. The world stood in awe as Washington delivered his Farewell Address on this day, September 19, 1796. He stated: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Practical theology / PREFACE
For the sake of completeness, Chapters V and VI are reprinted from another little book1 of which they make a part, and I have to thank Messrs. Hodder Stoughton for ready leave to do so.
Parts have also appeared in the London Quarterly Review, and I gladly acknowledge the complaisance of its Editor.
Dedication: TO MRS. WATERHOUSE / Lomberdale Hall, in the High Peak
There is, high among the hills, a garden with a walk—a terraced walk. The moors lie round it, and the heights face it; and below the village drowses; while far, far afield, the world agonizes in a solemn tragedy of righteousness (where you, too, have your sepulchres)—a tragedy not quite divorced from the war in heaven, nor all unworthy of the glorious cusp of sky that roofs the riot of the hills.
The walk begins with a conservatory of flowers and it ends in an old Gothic arch—rising, as it were, from beauty natural and frail to beauty spiritual and eternal. And it curves and twines between rocky plants, as if to suggest how arduous the passage from the natural to the spiritual is. And it has, half-way, a little hermitage on it, like a wayside chapel, of old carved and inscribed stones. And the music and the pictures! Close by, the mowers whir upon the lawn, and the thrust flutes in the birch hedge; beyond, in the gash of the valley, the stream purrs up through the steep woods; still farther, the limestone rocks rise fantastic, like castles in the air; and, over all, the lark still soars and sings in the sun (as he does even in Flanders), and makes melody in his heart to the Lord.
That terrace was made with a purpose and a welcome at will. And it is good to pace the Italian paving, to tread the fragrance from the alyssum in the seams, to brood upon the horizons of the far, long wolds, with their thread of road rising and vanishing into busy Craven, and all the time to think greatly of God and kindly of men—faithfully of the past, lovingly of the present, and hopefully of the future.
So in our soul let us make a cornice road for God to come when He will, and walk upon our high places. And a little lodge and shelter let us have on it, of sacred stones, a shrine of ancient writ and churchly memories. Let us make an eyrie there of large vision and humane, a retreat of rest and refitting for a dreadful world. May He show us, up there apart, transfigured things in a noble light. May He prepare us for the sorrows of the valley by a glorious peace, and for the action of life by a fellowship gracious, warm, and noble (as even earthly friendships may be). So may we face all the harsh realisms of Time in the reality, power, and kindness of the Eternal, whose Mercy is as His Majesty forever.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The men who followed Him were unique in their generation.
They turned the world upside down because their hearts
had been turned right side up.
The world has never been the same.
--- Billy Graham
Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Only a very bad theologian would confuse the certainty that follows revelation with the truths that are revealed. They are entirely different things.
--- Denis Diderot
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace, and went out with zeal against Simon. This Simon had his supply of provisions from the city, in opposition to the seditious. When, therefore, John was assaulted on both sides, he made his men turn about, throwing his darts upon those citizens that came up against him, from the cloisters he had in his possession, while he opposed those that attacked him from the temple by his engines of war. And if at any time he was freed from those that were above him, which happened frequently, from their being drunk and tired, he sallied out with a great number upon Simon and his party; and this he did always in such parts of the city as he could come at, till he set on fire those houses that were full of corn, and of all other provisions. 4 The same thing was done by Simon, when, upon the other's retreat, he attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose, done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides of it; and that almost all that corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of the famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure.
5. And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear; nor had they any opportunity of taking counsel, and of changing their conduct; nor were there any hopes of coming to an agreement with their enemies; nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent. The noise also of those that were fighting was incessant, both by day and by night; but the lamentations of those that mourned exceeded the other; nor was there ever any occasion for them to leave off their lamentations, because their calamities came perpetually one upon another, although the deep consternation they were in prevented their outward wailing; but being constrained by their fear to conceal their inward passions, they were inwardly tormented, without daring to open their lips in groans. Nor was any regard paid to those that were still alive, by their relations; nor was there any care taken of burial for those that were dead; the occasion of both which was this, that every one despaired of himself; for those that were not among the seditious had no great desires of any thing, as expecting for certain that they should very soon be destroyed; but for the seditious themselves, they fought against each other, while they trod upon the dead bodies as they lay heaped one upon another, and taking up a mad rage from those dead bodies that were under their feet, became the fiercer thereupon. They, moreover, were still inventing somewhat or other that was pernicious against themselves; and when they had resolved upon any thing, they executed it without mercy, and omitted no method of torment or of barbarity. Nay, John abused the sacred materials, 5 and employed them in the construction of his engines of war; for the people and the priests had formerly determined to support the temple, and raise the holy house twenty cubits higher; for king Agrippa had at a very great expense, and with very great pains, brought thither such materials as were proper for that purpose, being pieces of timber very well worth seeing, both for their straightness and their largeness; but the war coming on, and interrupting the work, John had them cut, and prepared for the building him towers, he finding them long enough to oppose from them those his adversaries that thought him from the temple that was above him. He also had them brought and erected behind the inner court over against the west end of the cloisters, where alone he could erect them; whereas the other sides of that court had so many steps as would not let them come nigh enough the cloisters.
6. Thus did John hope to be too hard for his enemies by these engines constructed by his impiety; but God himself demonstrated that his pains would prove of no use to him, by bringing the Romans upon him, before he had reared any of his towers; for Titus, when he had gotten together part of his forces about him, and had ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, marched out of Cesarea. He had with him those three legions that had accompanied his father when he laid Judea waste, together with that twelfth legion which had been formerly beaten with Cestius; which legion, as it was otherwise remarkable for its valor, so did it march on now with greater alacrity to avenge themselves on the Jews, as remembering what they had formerly suffered from them. Of these legions he ordered the fifth to meet him, by going through Emmaus, and the tenth to go up by Jericho; he also moved himself, together with the rest; besides whom, marched those auxiliaries that came from the kings, being now more in number than before, together with a considerable number that came to his assistance from Syria. Those also that had been selected out of these four legions, and sent with Mucianus to Italy, had their places filled up out of these soldiers that came out of Egypt with Titus; who were two thousand men, chosen out of the armies at Alexandria. There followed him also three thousand drawn from those that guarded the river Euphrates; as also there came Tiberius Alexander, who was a friend of his, most valuable, both for his good-will to him, and for his prudence. He had formerly been governor of Alexandria, but was now thought worthy to be general of the army [under Titus]. The reason of this was, that he had been the first who encouraged Vespasian very lately to accept this his new dominion, and joined himself to him with great fidelity, when things were uncertain, and fortune had not yet declared for him. He also followed Titus as a counselor, very useful to him in this war, both by his age and skill in such affairs.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
Creed Of The ‘King's Book’
I beleve in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Iesu Christe, his only sonne our Lorde; whiche was conceived by the Holy Goste, borne of the Virgine Mary, suffred under Ponce Pylate, was crucified, dead, buried, and descended into hell; and the third day he rose agen from deth; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thens he shall come to judge the quicke and the deade. I beleve in the Holy Goste; the holy Catholike Churche; the communyon of sayntes; the forgyveness of synnes, the resurrection of the body; and the lyfe everlastynge. Amen.Swete, H. B. (1899). The Apostles' Creed: Its Relation to Primitive Christianity
by D.H. Stern
and a gentle tongue can break bones.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Do you continue to go with Jesus?
Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. --- Luke 22:28.
It is true that Jesus Christ is with us in our temptations, but are we going with Him in His temptations? Many of us cease to go with Jesus from the moment we have an experience of what He can do. Watch when God shifts your circumstances, and see whether you are going with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh and the devil. We wear His badge, but are we going with Him? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” The temptations of Jesus continued throughout His earthly life, and they will continue throughout the life of the Son of God in us. Are we going with Jesus in the life we are living now?
We have the idea that we ought to shield ourselves from some of the things God brings round us. Never! God engineers circumstances, and whatever they may be like we have to see that we face them while abiding continually with Him in His temptations. They are His temptations, not temptations to us, but temptations to the life of the Son of God in us. The honour of Jesus Christ is at stake in your bodily life. Are you remaining loyal to the Son of God in the things which beset His life in you?
Do you continue to go with Jesus? The way lies through Gethsemane, through the city gate, outside the camp; the way lies alone, and the way lies until there is no trace of a footstep left, only the voice, “Follow Me.”
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Visit (Pieta)
She was small;
Composed in her way
Like music. She sat
In the chair I had not
Offered, smiling at my left
Shoulder. I waited on
For the sentences her smile
That the tongue
Is a whip needed no
Proving. And yet her eye
Fondled me. It was clear
What anger brought her
To my door would not unleash
The coils. Instead she began
Rehearsing for her
Departure. As though ashamed
Of a long stay, she rose,
Touched the tips of my cold
Hand with hers and turned
To the closed door. I remember
Not opening it.
Our Midrash says, “The servant of a king is a king: Stick to the captain and they will bow down to you.” In other words, if you stay among the great and powerful, some of their prestige will rub off on you; others will treat you with deference and honor.
But in the Talmud, Zevaḥim 96b, it says, “The nobleman has taken us [by the hand], and his scent lingers on the hand.” That is to say, the only benefit that accrues to you in seeking the company of the great and powerful is the lingering scent of their perfume; it will be gone in a moment’s time and then you will be left with nothing.
How is this contradiction to be explained? Are we to understand that these are opposing teachings? And if that is the case, how are we supposed to know to whom we should listen? Or is it possible that these two sections can be reconciled and are not in opposition? Let us suggest a possible reading; whether it reflects historic truth, we cannot say. But it shows a way of understanding Rabbinic texts and deriving meaningful lessons from them.
Note that the Midrash Sifrei was composed in Israel at a time when the Romans were occupying the land and ruling over a people not their own. They were very much interested in maintaining order and keeping the lid on a potentially explosive situation. Like other occupying powers in history, the Romans probably set Jews up in positions of authority to be their middlemen, to be on the front line in dealing with the masses. The Romans had to make it worthwhile for the Jews to take on those roles. Anyone willing to pledge loyalty and to cooperate with Rome was rewarded with a modicum of power and privilege. The common people thus saw that there were real rewards for playing along.
The Talmud selection from Zevaḥim, in contrast, was composed in Babylonia, where there was a very different political reality. The Jews were not in the majority there, as they were in Israel, and they were not living on their “own” soil. The Persian authorities were not foreign occupiers. They did not have to look for ways to win over the Jews. They had the power, and probably had little or no fear of the Jews. Coming close to the “nobleman” (alkafta, the title of a high Persian dignitary) brought only the illusion of power; it didn’t bring with it any real or lasting advantages.
One lesson that we learn is that no one rule or piece of advice operates in every circumstance. The Midrash and the Talmud present two different approaches to politics and power, each anchored in its own separate reality. Teachings do not come in a vacuum; it is our task to search for the context so that we know if and when those teachings might apply to us.
We live in a world inundated with publicity. When a rock star has a platinum record, a member of her staff will distribute a press release. This not only acknowledges the achievement; it also attempts to capitalize on it, thereby selling even more records on the heels of success. A business mogul who successfully acquires a new holding for his company will publicize his accomplishment widely, thus assuring not only a good name for himself but also the possibility of further acquisitions.
This is the way of our modern times. “Run it up the flagpole” is as well known a platitude as we have. Yet, the story of the Euphrates says something else: It [the Euphrates] said to them, “My deeds testify about me.” The personified river states that it doesn’t need to run anything up the flagpole, or through its press agent, or on its website. The river’s accomplishments, its “track record,” are its own best publicity.
We may be surprised to learn that the wisdom of the Rabbis, put into the “mouth” of the river Euphrates, has been proven by contemporary studies on publicity. What is the best way of advertising a product? Is it through television, radio, or newspaper? A combination of these?
What the pros found should not surprise us: The best source of publicity is word of mouth. A movie will receive a greater boost in sales from people telling their friends how great the film was than through any other form of advertising. An inferior product will meet certain doom on the shelves of America’s marketplaces when one person relates to another, who informs a third, who lets the word out to a fourth, that this item is of shoddy design, inferior quality, questionable use—or all of these.
And what’s true of movies and widgets is also true about people. Media hype and press agents can be helpful, but ultimately it is our deeds that testify most about us. In the end, PR does matter—if that PR is not Public Relations but Performance Record.
For the transgression of my people he was stricken.
--- Isaiah 53:8.
The benefit of Christ’s sufferings depends almost entirely on people coming to a true knowledge of themselves. ( The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther Based on the Kaiser Chronological: Edition, With References to the Erlangen and Walch Editions, Vol. 11 (Classic Reprint) ) Where people do not come to this point, the sufferings of Christ have no benefit to them. For the characteristic, natural work of Christ’s sufferings is that they make all people equal and alike, so that as Christ was horribly martyred, we must also be martyred in our consciences by our sins. This does not take place by means of words but by means of deep thoughts and a profound realization of our sins.
Take an illustration: If an evildoer were judged because he or she had murdered the child of a monarch, and someone convinced you that you had enabled the wicked person to do the act—then you would be in the greatest straits, especially if your conscience also revolted against you. Much more anxious than this you should be when you consider Christ’s sufferings. For you are truly the one who strangled and crucified the Son of God through your sins.
Whoever perceive themselves to be so hard that they are not terror stricken by Christ’s sufferings and led to a knowledge of him, they should fear and tremble. For it cannot be otherwise; you must become like the picture and sufferings of Christ, whether in life or in hell. You must at the time of death, if not sooner, fall into terror, tremble, quake, and experience all Christ suffered on the cross. It is truly terrible to attend to this on your deathbed; therefore you should pray God to soften your heart and permit you fruitfully to meditate on Christ’s suffering. For it is impossible for us profoundly to meditate on the sufferings of Christ of ourselves unless God sink them into our hearts. But first you are to seek and long for the grace of God, that you may accomplish it through God’s grace and not through your own power. Some people never treat the sufferings of Christ aright, for they never call on God for that purpose but devise out of their own ability their own way and treat those sufferings entirely in a human and an unfruitful manner.
Such a meditation changes a person’s character, and almost as in baptism he or she is born anew. Then Christ’s suffering accomplishes its true and noble work; it slays the old Adam, banishes all lust, pleasure, and security that one may obtain from God’s creatures, just like Christ was forsaken by all, even by God.
--- Martin Luther
Glory, Laud, and Honor September 19
As the 700s rolled into the 800s, the greatest man in the world was Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor. Having gained control of most of Western Europe, he set himself to reform the legal, judicial, and military systems of his empire. He established schools and promoted Christianity; and in his capital, scholars and saints gathered from across Europe.
Among them was Theodulf. He was about 50 years old in 800, and he possessed an established reputation as churchman, poet, and scholar. Charlemagne made him bishop of Orleans in Spain, and Theodulf traveled widely, taking part in the great events of the empire. Upon the death of Alcuin, Charlemagne’s “Secretary of Education,” Theodulf advanced to that position. Unfortunately, Theodulf’s fortunes died when Charlemagne did. Accused by the new emperor of treason, he was imprisoned. He maintained his innocence and was pardoned in 818; but he died shortly afterward and was buried on September 19, 821.
Theodulf worked vigorously to provide the clergy with a good education. Among his books is Directions to the Priests of the Diocese, in which he issued maxims such as these:
• No woman is allowed to live in the house with a priest.
• Priests must not get drunk or frequent taverns.
• Priests must teach everyone the Lord’s Prayer and the
Apostle’s Creed. (See below)
• Daily, honest confession of sins to God ensures pardon.
• True charity consists in the union of good deeds with a
Theodulf of Orleans is best remembered, however, for his beautiful hymn Gloria, Laus et Honor, which has been sung every Palm Sunday for over 1,000 years in churches around the world: All glory, laud, and honor / To Thee, Redeemer, King, / To whom the lips of children / Make sweet hosannas ring: / Thou art the King of Israel, / Thou David’s royal Son, / Who in the Lord’s name comest, / The King and blessed one!
Many people spread clothes in the road, while others put down branches which they had cut from trees. Some people walked ahead of Jesus and others followed behind. They were all shouting, “Hooray for the Son of David! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hooray for God in heaven above!”
--- Matthew 21:8,9.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 19
"The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." --- Galatians 5:1.
This “liberty” makes us free to heaven’s charter—the Bible. Here is a choice passage, believer, “When thou passest through the rivers, I will be with thee.” You are free to that. Here is another: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee”; you are free to that. You are a welcome guest at the table of the promises. Scripture is a never-failing treasury filled with boundless stores of grace. It is the bank of heaven; you may draw from it as much as you please, without let or hindrance. Come in faith and you are welcome to all covenant blessings. There is not a promise in the Word which shall be withheld. In the depths of tribulations let this freedom comfort you; amidst waves of distress let it cheer you; when sorrows surround thee let it be thy solace. This is thy Father’s love-token; thou art free to it at all times. Thou art also free to the throne of grace. It is the believer’s privilege to have access at all times to his heavenly Father. Whatever our desires, our difficulties, our wants, we are at liberty to spread all before him. It matters not how much we may have sinned, we may ask and expect pardon. It signifies nothing how poor we are, we may plead his promise that he will provide all things needful. We have permission to approach his throne at all times—in midnight’s darkest hour, or in noontide’s most burning heat. Exercise thy right, O believer, and live up to thy privilege. Thou art free to all that is treasured up in Christ—wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It matters not what thy need is, for there is fulness of supply in Christ, and it is there for thee. O what a “freedom” is thine! freedom from condemnation, freedom to the promises, freedom to the throne of grace, and at last freedom to enter heaven!
Evening - September 19
“For this child I prayed.” --- 1 Samuel 1:27.
Devout souls delight to look upon those mercies which they have obtained in answer to supplication, for they can see God’s especial love in them. When we can name our blessings Samuel, that is, “asked of God,” they will be as dear to us as her child was to Hannah. Peninnah had many children, but they came as common blessings unsought in prayer: Hannah’s one heaven-given child was dearer far, because he was the fruit of earnest pleadings. How sweet was that water to Samson which he found at “the well of him that prayed!” Quassia cups turn all waters bitter, but the cup of prayer puts a sweetness into the draughts it brings. Did we pray for the conversion of our children? How doubly sweet, when they are saved, to see in them our own petitions fulfilled! Better to rejoice over them as the fruit of our pleadings than as the fruit of our bodies. Have we sought of the Lord some choice spiritual gift? When it comes to us it will be wrapped up in the gold cloth of God’s faithfulness and truth, and so be doubly precious. Have we petitioned for success in the Lord’s work? How joyful is the prosperity which comes flying upon the wings of prayer! It is always best to get blessings into our house in the legitimate way, by the door of prayer; then they are blessings indeed, and not temptations. Even when prayer speeds not, the blessings grow all the richer for the delay; the child Jesus was all the more lovely in the eyes of Mary when she found him after having sought him sorrowing. That which we win by prayer we should dedicate to God, as Hannah dedicated Samuel. The gift came from heaven, let it go to heaven. Prayer brought it, gratitude sang over it, let devotion consecrate it. Here will be a special occasion for saying, “Of thine own have I given unto thee.” Reader, is prayer your element or your weariness? Which?
ASK YE WHAT GREAT THING I KNOW
Johann C. Schwedler, 1672–1730
Translated by Benjamin H. Kennedy, 1804–1889
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
A question that many struggle with today is “What is the real purpose of living?” Or, “What is the ultimate reality or joy in life?” The testimony of the author of the book of Ecclesiastes would no doubt echo the frustrations of many in contemporary society—“All is vanity, empty and meaningless.”
The author of this hymn text, Johann Schwedler, a prominent German minister and hymn writer of his era, discovered quite a different answer for his life—“Jesus Christ, the Crucified”—the consoler, reviver, healer, and final rewarder. For the apostle Paul, all of life also revolved around a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—“For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:2l).
C. S. Lewis has written: “Either Jesus Christ was what He claimed or He was a liar and we should repudiate Him. Or if He was not what He claimed to be and not a liar, He was a madman, and we should treat Him as such. Or He was what He claimed to be and we should fall at His feet and worship Him.”
With doubting Thomas, the apostle Paul, and devout followers of Christ through the centuries, may our purpose in life be expressed in a devoted, daily relationship with our Lord. May we speak out with clarity and conviction: “My Lord and God—my highest joy!”
Ask ye what great thing I know that delights and stirs me so? What the high reward I win? Whose the name I glory in? Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
Who defeats my fiercest foes? Who consoles my saddest woes? Who revives my fainting heart, healing all its hidden smart? Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
Who is life in life to me? Who the death of death will be? Who will place me on His right, with the countless hosts of light? Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
This is that great thing I know—This delights and stirs me so: Faith in Him who died to save, Him who triumphed o’er the grave, Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
For Today: Acts 2:36; Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Philippians 3:13, 14; 1 Peter 3:15
Be prepared to speak out if someone should ask about your real purpose in life. Carry this hymn as a help ---
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
(2.) If God were changeable in his knowledge, it would make him unfit to be an object of trust to any rational creature. His revelations would want the due ground for entertainment, if his understanding were changeable; for that might be revealed as truth now which might prove false hereafter, and that as false now which hereafter might prove true; and so God would be an unfit object of obedience in regard of his precepts, and an unfit object of confidence in regard of his promises. For if he be changeable in knowledge he is defective in knowledge, and might promise that now which he would know afterwards was unfit to be promised, and, therefore, unfit to be performed. It would make him an incompetent object of dread, in regard of his threatenings; for he might threaten that now which he might know hereafter were not fit or just to be inflicted. A changeable mind and understanding cannot make a due and right judgment of things to be done, and things to be avoided; no wise man would judge it reasonable to trust a weak and flitting person. God must needs be unchangeable in his knowledge; but, as the schoolmen say, that, as the sun always shines, so God always knows; as the sun never ceaseth to shine, so God never ceaseth to know. Nothing can be hid from the vast compass of his understanding, no more than anything can shelter itself without the verge of his power. This farther appears in that, 1st. God knows by his own essence. He doth not know, as we do, by habits, qualities, species, whereby we may be mistaken at one time and rectified at another. He hath not an understanding distinct from his essence as we have, but being the most simple Being, his understanding is his essence; and as from the infiniteness of his essence we conclude the infiniteness of his understanding, so from the unchangeableness of his essence, we may justly conclude the unchangeableness of his knowledge. Since, therefore, God is without all composition, and his understanding is not distinct from his essence, what he knows, he knows by his essence, and there can then be no more mutability in his knowledge than there can be in his essence; and if there were any in that, he could not be God, because he would have the property of a creature. If his understanding then be his essence, his knowledge is as necessary, as unchangeable as his essence. As his essence eminently contains all perfections in itself, so his understanding comprehends all things past, present, and future, in itself. If his understanding and his essence were not one and the same, he were not simple, but compounded: if compounded, he would consist of parts; if he consisted of parts, he would not be an independent Being, and so would not be God.
2d. God knows all things by one intuitive act. As there is no succession in his being, so that he is one thing now and another thing hereafter; so there is no succession in his knowledge. He knows things that are successive, before their existence and succession, by one single act of intuition; by one cast of his eye all things future are present to him in regard of his eternity and omnipresence; so that though there is a change and variation in the things known, yet his knowledge of them and their several changes in nature is invariable and unalterable. As imagine a creature that could see with his eye at one glance the whole compass of the heavens, by sending out beams from his eye without receiving any species from them, he would see the whole heavens uniformly, this part now in the east, then in the west, without any change in his eye, for he sees every part and every motion together; and though that great body varies and whirls about, and is in continual agitation, his eye remains steadfast, suffers no change, beholds all their motions at once and by one glance. God knows all things from eternity, and, therefore, perpetually knows them; the reason is because the Divine knowledge is infinite, and therefore, comprehends all knowable truths at once. An eternal knowledge comprehends in itself all time, and beholds past and present in the same manner, and, therefore, his knowledge is immutable: by one simple knowledge he considers the infinite spaces of past and future.
3d. God’s knowledge and will is the cause of all things and their successions. There can be no pretence of any changeableness of knowledge in God; but in this case, before things come to pass, he knows that they will come to pass; after they are come to pass, he knows that they are past; and slide away. This would be something if the succession of things were the cause of the Divine knowledge, as it is of our knowledge; but on the contrary, the Divine knowledge and will is the cause of the succession of them: God doth not know creatures because they are; but they are because he knows them: “All his works were known to him from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). All his works were not known to him, if the events of all those works were not also known to him; if they were not known to him, how should he make them? he could not do anything ignorantly. He made them then after he knew them, and did not know them after he made them. His knowledge of them made a change in them; their existence made no change in his knowledge. He knew them when they were to be created, in the same manner that he knew them after they were created; before they were brought into act, as well as after they were brought into act; before they were made, they were, and were not; they were in the knowledge of God, when they were not in their own nature; God did not receive his knowledge from their existence, but his knowledge and will acted upon them to bring them into being.
4th. Therefore the distinction of past and future makes no change in the knowledge of God. When a thing is past, God hath no more distinct knowledge of it after it is past, than he had when it was to come; all things were all in their circumstances of past, present, and to come; seen by his understanding, as they were determined by his will. Besides, to know a day to be past or future, is only to know the state of that day in itself, and to know its relation to that which follows, and that which went before. This day wherein we are, if we consider it in the state wherein it was yesterday, it was to come, it was future; but if we consider it in that state wherein it will be to-morrow, we understand it as past. This in man cannot be said to be a different knowledge of the thing itself, but only of the circumstance attending a thing, and the different relation of it. As I see the sun this day, I know it was up yesterday, I know it will be up to- morrow; my knowledge of the sun is the same; if there be any change, it is in the sun, not in my knowledge; only I apply my knowledge to such particular circumstances. How much more must the knowledge of those things in God be unchangeable, who knows all those states, conditions, and circumstances, most perfectly from eternity; wherein there is no succession, no past or future, and therefore will know them forever! He always beholds the same thing; he sees, indeed, succession in things, and he sees a thing to be past which before was future. As from eternity he saw Adam as existing in such a time; in the first time he saw that he would be, in the following time he saw that he had been; but this he knew from eternity; this he knew in the same manner; though there was a variation in Adam, yet there was no variation in God’s knowledge of him, in all his states; though Adam was not present to himself, yet in all his states he was present to God’s eternity.
5th. Consider, that the knowledge of God, in regard of the manner of it, as well as the objects, is incomprehensible to a finite creature. So that though we cannot arrive to a full understanding of the manner of God’s knowledge, yet we must conceive so of it, as to remove all imperfection from him in it. And since it is an imperfection to be changeable, we must remove that from God; the knowledge of God about things past, present and future, must be inconceivably above ours: “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:6). There is no number of it; it can no more be calculated or drawn into an account by us, than infinite spaces, which have no bounds and limits, can be measured by us. We can no more arrive, even in heaven, to a comprehensive understanding of the manner of his knowledge, than of the infinite glory of his essence; we may as well comprehend one as the other. This we must conclude, that God being not a body, doth not see one thing with eyes, and another thing with mind, as we do; but being a spirit, he sees and knows only with mind, and his mind is himself, and is as unchangeable as himself; and therefore as he is not now another thing than what he was, so he knows not anything now in another manner than as he knew it from eternity; he sees all things in the glass of his own essence; as, therefore, the glass doth not vary, so neither doth his vision.
3. God is unchangeable in regard of his will and purpose. A change in his purpose is, when a man determines to do that now which before he determined not to do, or to do the contrary; when a man hates that thing which he loved, or begins to love that which he before hated; when the will is changed, a man begins to will that which he willed not before, and ceaseth to will that which he willed before. But whatsoever God hath decreed, is immutable; whatsoever God hath promised, shall be accomplished: “The word that goes forth of his mouth shall not return to him void, but it shall accomplish that which he pleaseth” (Isa. 55:11); whatsoever “he purposeth, he will do” (Isa. 46:11; Num. 23:19); his decrees are therefore called “mountains of brass” (Zech. 6:1): brass, as having substance and solidity; mountains, as being immovable, not only by any creature, but by himself; because they stand upon the basis of infallible wisdom, and are supported by uncontrollable power. From this immutability of his will, published to man, there could be no release from the severity of the law, without satisfaction made by the death of a Mediator, since it was the unalterable will of God, that death should be the wages of sin; and from this immutable will it was, that the length of time, from the first promise of the Redeemer to his mission, and the daily provocations of men, altered not his purpose for the accomplishment of it in the fulness of that time he had resolved upon; nor did the wickedness of former ages hinder the addition of several promises as buttresses to the first. To make this out, consider,
(1.) The will of God is the same with his essence. If God had a will distinct from his essence, he would not be the most simple Being. God hath not a faculty of will distinct from himself; as his understanding is nothing else but Deus intelligens, God understanding; so his will is nothing else but Deus volens, God willing; being, therefore, the essence of God; though it is considered, according to our weakness, as a faculty, it is as his understanding and wisdom, eternal and immutable; and can no more be changed than his essence. The immutability of the Divine counsel depends upon that of his essence; he is the Lord Jehovah, therefore he is true to his word (Mal.3:6; Isa. 43:13): “Yea, before the day I am he, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” He is the same, immutable in his essence, therefore irresistible in his power.
(2.) There is a concurrence of God’s will and understanding in everything. As his knowledge is eternal, so is his purpose. Things created had not been known to be, had not God resolved them to be the act of his will; the existence of anything supposeth an act of his will. Again, as God knows all things by one simple vision of his understanding, so he wills all things by one act of volition; therefore the purpose of God in the Seripture is not expressed by counsels in the plural number, but counsel; showing that all the purposes of God are not various, but as one will, branching itself out into many acts towards the creature; but all knit in one root, all links of one chain. Whatsoever is eternal is immutable; as his knowledge is eternal, and therefore immutable, so is his will; he wills or nills nothing to be in time, but what he willed and nilled from eternity; if he willed in time that to be that he willed not from eternity, then he would know that in time which he knew not from eternity; for God knows nothing future, but as his will orders it to be future, and in time to be brought into being.
(3.) There can be no reason for any change in the will of God. When men change in their minds, it must be for want of foresight; because they could not foresee all the rubs and bars which might suddenly offer themselves; which if they had foreseen, they would not have taken such measures: hence men often will that which they afterwards wish they had not willed when they come to understand it clearer, and see that to be injurious to them which they thought to be good for them; or else the change proceeds from a natural instability without any just cause, and an easiness to be drawn into that which is unrighteous; or else it proceeds from a want of power, when men take new counsels, because they are invincibly hindered from executing the old. But none of those can be in God.
1st. It cannot be for want of foresight. What can be wanting to an infinite understanding? How can any unknown event defeat his purpose, since nothing happens in the world but what he wills to effect, or wills to permit; and therefore all future events are present with him? Besides, it doth not consist with God’s wisdom to resolve anything, but upon the highest reason; and what is the highest and infinite reason, cannot but be unalterable in itself; for there can be no reason and wisdom higher than the highest. All God’s purposes are not bare acts of will, but acts of counsel. “He works all things according to the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11): and he doth not say so much that his will, as that “his counsel shall stand” (Isa. 46:10). It stands, because it is counsel; and the immutability of a promise is called the “immutability of his counsel” (Heb. 6:1?), as being introduced and settled by the most perfect wisdom, and therefore to be carried on to a full and complete execution; his purpose, then, cannot be changed for want of foresight; for this would be a charge of weakness.
2d. Nor can it proceed from a natural instability of his will, or an easiness to be drawn to that which is unrighteous. If his will should not adhere to his counsel, it is because it is not fit to be followed, or because it will not follow it; if not fit to be followed, it is a reflection upon his wisdom; if it be established, and he will not follow it, there is a contrariety in God, as there is in a fallen creature, will against wisdom. That cannot be in God which he hates in a creature, viz. the disorder of faculties, and being out of their due place. The righteousness of God is like a “great mountain” (Psalm 36:6). The rectitude of his nature is as immovable in itself, as all the mountains in the world are by the strength of man. “He is not as a man, that he should repent or lie” (Num. 23:19); who often changes, out of a perversity of will, as well as want of wisdom to foresee, or want of ability to perform. His eternal purpose must either be righteous or unrighteous; if righteous and holy, he would become unholy by the change; if not righteous nor holy, then he was unrighteous before the change; which way soever it falls, it would reflect upon the righteousness of God, which is a blasphemous imagination. If God did change his purpose, it must be either for the better,—then the counsel of God was bad before; or for the worse, —then he was not wise and good before.
3d. Nor can it be for want of strength. Who hath power to control him? Not all the combined devices and endeavors of men can make the counsel of God to totter (Prov. 19:21): “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand;” that, and that only shall stand. Man hath a power to devise and imagine, but no power to effect and execute of himself. God wants no more power to effect what he will, than he wants understanding to know what is fit. Well, then, since God wanted not wisdom to frame his decrees, nor holiness to regulate them, nor power to effect them, what should make him change them? since there can be no reason superior to his, no event unforeseen by him, no holiness comparable to his, no unrighteousness found in him, no power equal to his, to put a rub in his way.
4th. Though the will of God be immutable, yet it is not to be understood so, as that the things themselves so willed are immutable. Nor will the immutability of the things willed by him, follow upon the unchangeableness of his will in willing them; though God be firm in willing them, yet he doth not will that they should alway be. God did not perpetually will the doing those things which he once decreed to be done; he decreed that Christ should suffer, but he did not decree that Christ should alway suffer; so he willed the Mosaical rites for a time, but he did not will that they should alway continue; he willed that they should endure only for a time; and when the time came for their ceasing, God had been mutable if he had not put an end to them, because his will had fixed such a period. So that the changing of those things which he had once appointed to be practised, is so far from charging God with changeableness, that God would be mutable if he did not take them away; since he decreed as well their abolition at such a time, as their continuance till such a time; so that the removal of them was pursuant to his unchangeable will and decree. If God had decreed that such laws should alway continue, and afterwards changed that decree, and resolved the abrogation of them, then indeed God had been mutable; he had rescinded one decree by another; he had then seen an error in his first resolve, and there must be some weakness in the reason and wisdom whereon it was grounded. But it was not so here; for the change of those laws is so far from slurring God with any mutability, that the very, change of them is no other than the issue of his eternal decree; for from eternity he purposed in himself to change this or that dispensation, though he did decree to bring such a dispensation into the world. The decree itself was eternal and immutable, but the thing decreed was temporary and mutable. As a decree from eternity doth not make the thing decreed to be eternal, so neither doth the immutability of the decree render the thing so decreed to be immutable: as for example, God decreed from all eternity to create the world; the eternity of this decree did not make the world to be in being and actually created from eternity; so God decreed immutably that the world so created should continue for such a time; the decree is immutable if the world perish at that time, and would not be immutable if the world did endure beyond that time that God hath fixed for the duration of it: as when a prince orders a man’s remaining in prison for so many days; if he be prevailed with to give him a delivery before those days, or to continue him in custody for the same crime after those days, his order is changed; but if he orders the delivery of him just at that time, till which he had before decreed that he should continue in prison, the purpose and order of the prince remains firm, and the change in the state of the prisoner is the fruit of that firm and fixed resolution: so that we must distinguish between the person decreeing, the decree itself, and the thing decreed. The person decreeing, viz., God, is in himself immutable, and the decree is immutable; but the thing decreed may be mutable; and if it were not changed according to the first purpose, it would argue the decree itself to be changed; for while a man wills that this may be done now, and another thing done afterwards, the same will remains; and though there be a change in the effects, there is no change in the will.
5th. The immutability of God’s will doth not infringe the liberty of it. The liberty of God’s will consists with the necessity of continuing his purpose. God is necessarily good, immutably good; yet he is freely so, and would not be otherwise than what he is. God was free in his first purpose; and purposing this or that by an infallible and unerring wisdom, it would be a weakness to change the purpose. But, indeed, the liberty of God’s will doth not seem so much to consist in an indifferericy to this or that, as in an independency on anything without himself: his will was free, because it did not depend upon the objects about which his will was conversant. To be immutably good is no point of imperfection, but the height of perfection.