2 Chronicles 1
Solomon Worships at Gibeon2 Chronicles 1 1 Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.
2 Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers’ houses. 3 And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness, was there. 4 (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) 5 Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD. And Solomon and the assembly sought it out. 6 And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.
Solomon Prays for Wisdom7 In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” 8 And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 13 So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.
Solomon Given Wealth14 Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 15 And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 16 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders would buy them from Kue for a price. 17 They imported a chariot from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150. Likewise through them these were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
2 Chronicles 2
Preparing to Build the Temple2 Chronicles 2 1 Now Solomon purposed to build a temple for the name of the LORD, and a royal palace for himself. 2 And Solomon assigned 70,000 men to bear burdens and 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 to oversee them. 3 And Solomon sent word to Hiram the king of Tyre: “As you dealt with David my father and sent him cedar to build himself a house to dwell in, so deal with me. 4 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel. 5 The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? 7 So now send me a man skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to be with the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided. 8 Send me also cedar, cypress, and algum timber from Lebanon, for I know that your servants know how to cut timber in Lebanon. And my servants will be with your servants, 9 to prepare timber for me in abundance, for the house I am to build will be great and wonderful. 10 I will give for your servants, the woodsmen who cut timber, 20,000 cors of crushed wheat, 20,000 cors of barley, 20,000 baths of wine, and 20,000 baths of oil.”
11 Then Hiram the king of Tyre answered in a letter that he sent to Solomon, “Because the LORD loves his people, he has made you king over them.” 12 Hiram also said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the LORD and a royal palace for himself.
13 “Now I have sent a skilled man, who has understanding, Huram-abi, 14 the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father. 15 Now therefore the wheat and barley, oil and wine, of which my lord has spoken, let him send to his servants. 16 And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem.” 17 Then Solomon counted all the resident aliens who were in the land of Israel, after the census of them that David his father had taken, and there were found 153,600. 18 Seventy thousand of them he assigned to bear burdens, 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 as overseers to make the people work.
2 Chronicles 3
Solomon Builds the Temple2 Chronicles 3 1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 2 He began to build in the second month of the fourth year of his reign. 3 These are Solomon’s measurements for building the house of God: the length, in cubits of the old standard, was sixty cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. 4 The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and its height was 120 cubits. He overlaid it on the inside with pure gold. 5 The nave he lined with cypress and covered it with fine gold and made palms and chains on it. 6 He adorned the house with settings of precious stones. The gold was gold of Parvaim. 7 So he lined the house with gold—its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors—and he carved cherubim on the walls.
8 And he made the Most Holy Place. Its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits. He overlaid it with 600 talents of fine gold. 9 The weight of gold for the nails was fifty shekels. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold.
10 In the Most Holy Place he made two cherubim of wood and overlaid them with gold. 11 The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub; 12 and of this cherub, one wing, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also of five cubits, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. 13 The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits. The cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. 14 And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and he worked cherubim on it. 15 In front of the house he made two pillars thirty-five cubits high, with a capital of five cubits on the top of each. 16 He made chains like a necklace and put them on the tops of the pillars, and he made a hundred pomegranates and put them on the chains. 17 He set up the pillars in front of the temple, one on the south, the other on the north; that on the south he called Jachin, and that on the north Boaz.
2 Chronicles 4
The Temple’s Furnishings2 Chronicles 4 1 He made an altar of bronze, twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high. 2 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. 3 Under it were figures of gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. 4 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. 5 Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. 6 He also made ten basins in which to wash, and set five on the south side, and five on the north side. In these they were to rinse off what was used for the burnt offering, and the sea was for the priests to wash in.
7 And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed, and set them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. 8 He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. And he made a hundred basins of gold. 9 He made the court of the priests and the great court and doors for the court and overlaid their doors with bronze. 10 And he set the sea at the southeast corner of the house.
11 Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God: 12 the two pillars, the bowls, and the two capitals on the top of the pillars; and the two latticeworks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars; 13 and the 400 pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the pillars. 14 He made the stands also, and the basins on the stands, 15 and the one sea, and the twelve oxen underneath it. 16 The pots, the shovels, the forks, and all the equipment for these Huram-abi made of burnished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the LORD. 17 In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah. 18 Solomon made all these things in great quantities, for the weight of the bronze was not sought.
19 So Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of God: the golden altar, the tables for the bread of the Presence, 20 the lampstands and their lamps of pure gold to burn before the inner sanctuary, as prescribed; 21 the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of purest gold; 22 the snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and fire pans, of pure gold, and the sockets of the temple, for the inner doors to the Most Holy Place and for the doors of the nave of the temple were of gold.
2 Chronicles 52 Chronicles 5 1 Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.
The Ark Brought to the Temple2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. 3 And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. 4 And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. 5 And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. 6 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 7 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. 9 And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. 11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”
What I'm Reading
Why Is God So Hidden?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/21/2017
As a young atheist, I denied the existence of Godfor practical, experiential reasons. During my elementary school years, I found it difficult to understand why anyone would believe in God without visible evidence. I knew my parents, teachers and friends were real, because I could see them and I could see their impact on the world around me. God, however, seemed completely hidden. I often thought, “If God exists, why would He hide in this way? Why wouldn’t God just come right out and make it obvious to everyone He exists?” As I examined these questions many years later, I began to consider other factors and considerations, particularly related to the nature of “love”.
I held love and compassion in high regard, even as an unbeliever. These were values I embraced as essential to our survival as a species, and values I considered to be foundational to human “flourishing”(as many atheists commonly describe it). But love requires a certain kind of world, and if loving God does exist, it is reasonable that He would create a universe in which love is possible; a universe capable of supporting humans with the ability to love God and love one another. This kind of universe requires a number of pre-requisites, however, and these pre-requisites are best achieved when God is “hidden” in the way He often seems to be:
Love Requires Freedom
True love cannot be coerced. We love our children and we want them to love us. We cannot, however, force them to do so. When we give our kids direction and ask them to accept this direction as a reflection of their love for us, we must step away and give them the freedom to respond (or rebel) freely. If we are “ever-present”, their response will be coerced; they will behave in a particular way not because they love us, but because they know we are present (and they fear the consequence of rebellion). If God exists, it is reasonable that He would remain hidden (to some degree) to allow us the freedom to respond from a position of love, rather than fear.
Love Requires Faith
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.
Bonhoeffer Psychology & Christianity
By Justin Taylor 5/26/2009
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.
The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.
Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.
In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.
The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God's forgiveness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Psychiatry
By Brad Hambrick 10/18/2013
“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
There is an important familial back drop to this excerpt from Bonhoeffer (selections below from Wikipedia):
His father, Karl Bonhoeffer, was a distinguished neurologist. In 1912, he moved the family to Berlin to become a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Berlin and the director of the psychiatric clinic at Charite Hospital.
Nonetheless, the Bonhoeffer family seldom attended church services.
Expected to follow his father into psychiatry, Bonhoeffer surprised and dismayed his parents when he decided as a teenager to become a theologian and later a pastor. When his older brother told him not to waste his life in such a “poor, feeble, boring, petty, bourgeois institution as the church,” fourteen-year-old Dietrich replied, “If what you say is true, I shall reform it!”
What Bible Did Jesus Use?
By Dr. John Barnett 12/22/2014
If you were put on the spot and hundreds of eyes and ears were on you and you were asked to give THE reason why you know the Bible is true—what would you say? That question is best answered by remembering what Jesus said in the same situation.
At that huge gathering, called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confidently told all the thousands who heard Him speak—that Heaven and Earth would pass away before any word of His Bible failed. Wow, He sure knew He had a Bible He could trust. Jesus didn't fear that there were any historical, moral, theological, and scientific inaccuracies in His Bible. He had a copy of the Book anyone can Trust!
But as we read Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus summed it up as simply this, HE believed God's Word and so should we:
(Mt 5:17–20) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ESV
Have you ever looked down and wondered if you really held the same Bible Jesus had, the one God breathed out supernaturally by inspiration? And further, have you ever wondered if this one is okay, because it is a translation, and not the actual Hebrew or Greek words that God gave to those 40 plus men, who He used to write the Bible?
This is the Bible Jesus Used
The Septuagint was the first translation of the Hebrew Bible; and was made in the third century B.C. by Jewish scribes, who were direct descendents of those trained in Ezra's Great Synagogue of Jerusalem. They were complete experts in the text, being very well versed in Hebrew and Greek.
This translation became very popular among Jews in the first two centuries before Christ because many Jews in those days did not understand Hebrew. Their ancestors had left Israel centuries before, and generation after generation gradually lost the ability to read the Scriptures in Hebrew.
Many of the Jews in Jesus' day used the Septuagint as their Bible. Quite naturally, the early Christians also used the Septuagint in their meetings and for personal reading; and many of the New Testament apostles quoted it when they wrote the Gospels and Epistles in Greek. What is most fascinating is that the order of the books in the Septuagint is the same order in our Bibles today, and not like the Hebrew scrolls. So this means that:
Jesus Primarily Used a Translation
Jesus and the Apostles: studied, memorized, used, quoted, and read most often from the Bible of their day, the Septuagint. Since Matthew wrote primarily to convince the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed their promised Messiah, it follows as a matter of course that his Gospel is saturated with the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament in Matthew, He uses the Hebrew text only 10% of the time, but the Greek LXX translation—90% of the time!
Amazingly, Jesus and Paul used the LXX as their primary Bible. It was just like the Bible each of us holds in our hands, not the original Hebrew Old Testament, but a translation of the Hebrew into Greek. But it was based on exactly the same original and inspired words, and reads just like the Bible we hold in our hands today.
John shares his life with Bonnie his beloved wife, and their eight wonderful children. As a home educating family, John and Bonnie teach children and teens with enthusiasm and love. In the past 30 years of uninterrupted ministry, John has served congregations in Michigan, Georgia, Rhode Island, California and Oklahoma before coming to the precious saints at Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2008. He has served on the Faculty of theMaster’s College & Seminary. He was an Associate Pastor to Dr. John MacArthur at Grace Community Church for five years overseeing the Shepherding Ministries. During graduate school, John served as the Assistant Dean of Men at Bob Jones University for five years.
Called to the ministry as a young man—his passion remains prayer and the ministry of God’s Word. As a global Christian, and having ministered the Word in 40 nations around the world, John’s ministry is deeply touched by outreach and evangelism. Since 1978, in conjunction with Land of the Book Tours. John has led dozens of study tours, retreats, travels, and pilgrimages with over 1,500 participants, and taught on site in 21 countries and on five continents. His Tours filmed onsite are available to watch online.
As a Seminary Professor of Theology, Church History and the English Bible, John’s messages reflect the background of the Scripture from the ancient biblical world, the history of the church and the daily life in far corners of the planet. In 1998 a new ministry called Discover the Book Ministry was launched to provide electronic copies of Pastor John’s audio, video, and text studies free of charge to pastors, missionaries, and other believers. Since then, this ministry has grown to serve saints in all 50 states and over 145 lands around the world, as well as through daily radio on a growing number of radio stations in the USA, Europe and the Caribbean.
The Story We Share
By J.D. Bridges 12/01/2013
Ask anyone to describe the shape of a square, and you might expect a variety of explanations that yet have common talking points (for example, 90-degree corners with four equilateral sides). Get one of the defining features of a square wrong, and you’re no longer describing a square, regardless of culture, time, or place. Similarly, if a believer were to summarize the gospel, we might reasonably anticipate that each explanation would conform to a particular shape that transcends different communication styles, theological influences, and cultural idioms. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he provides a particular shape to the gospel of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3–4) by forming it around the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He goes on to provide credible eyewitness reports from various sources to validate his claims, including his own testimony (vv. 5–8).
One facet of the Christian life where we see the importance of the shape of the gospel unfold is in evangelism. As we share the gospel, it is paramount to clearly articulate the redemptive work of Jesus for our listeners. Yet oftentimes our audience has not had access to the biblical worldview and doesn’t understand the biblical plotline. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul rooted his explanation of the gospel in the larger context: “in accordance with the Scriptures” (v. 3). Not only did Paul want to provide a clear shape to the gospel, but he also wanted to demonstrate that the gospel was set firmly and securely within the framework of the story of God and the redemptive history of His people.
In order to grasp the context of the whole gospel, Paul demonstrates that a wide-angle view of the Scriptures is necessary. I witnessed this firsthand almost ten years ago when I traveled to New York City for the first time with the intent of sharing the gospel. Standing on a busy street corner in the Bronx, I was approached by a petite woman wearing dark-rimmed glasses. She startled me by giving my arm a small tug, and then she whispered something I didn’t hear. I leaned over and asked her to repeat her words. This time I heard her whisper: “Could you pray for me? I’m HIV-positive, and I don’t know if God loves me.”
In that moment, I believe God gave me great clarity in explaining the gospel to her as she listened closely. Yet she neither said, “I believe!” or “Thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, she began to ask me more questions about the Bible. As she contemplated each answer, it seemed to ignite a new series of questions. I could see her collecting, analyzing, and categorizing her thoughts as she struggled to make sense of the gospel and her suffering. For forty-five minutes we stood there on that cold street corner: two strangers conversing about the story of God. Hearing the gospel had confronted her worldview, and each answer I provided from the Scriptures seemed to distort her old worldview even more.
D.A. Carson writes, [The] gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s storyline. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that storyline… . But the point is simply this: the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ makes sense in the context of this storyline and in no other.
Regardless of our method of evangelism, we need to clearly present the gospel within the storyline of Scripture.
How did it all begin? What has gone wrong? Is there any hope? What will the future hold? These are basic worldview questions that every religion attempts to answer in some way. These are the questions behind the questions and comments we encounter throughout our day in conversation, social media, or from strangers sitting behind us at a restaurant. When bad news provokes someone to say, “How could a person do something like that?” or “What is it with him/her?” we would do well to recognize these are simply questions of “What has gone wrong?”
As we look to God’s Word to answer these questions, the major themes of the biblical worldview are revealed: creation, the fall, rescue (or redemption), and restoration (or re-creation). From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals that He is the author and main character of this story. It is this story that ultimately points us to Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Moreover, the biblical worldview not only provides the glorious backdrop for the gospel, but it also informs our heart for the lost.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is the story of God revealed by God that causes our hearts to burn within us (Luke 24:32). He must open our minds to understand it (Luke 24:45) and give us new hearts sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). As the Spirit ministers to us, we are reminded again and again of Christ’s work in our behalf found throughout the Bible. It is this story of redemption that continually grips our hearts and compels our mouths to speak to the lost. By grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, we share the gospel with others with the hope that their stories might be eternally united with His.
The End of the End
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/01/2013
When Alice found herself at a crossroads in Wonderland, she looked about for help. There in a tree nearby was a smile. Just a smile. Soon though, the full body of the Cheshire Cat appeared. Alice asked the cat which way she should go. The cat asked her where she was headed. Alice explained to him that she had no particular destination, and then the cat spoke words of wisdom — “Then it doesn’t matter.”
If we are going nowhere we cannot go wrong. You can only get lost if you have a destination. Which is why eschatology matters. Rightly understood, eschatology, the study of the last things, is the study of where we are headed.
Trouble is, more often than not, we find ourselves going down a dead-end road because we’ve gotten distracted by mileposts along the way. We end up arguing about where we are or where we almost are, and we utterly lose sight of the real end of the story.
The Bible speaks of a millennium. It does so in the midst of a profoundly difficult bit of inerrant literature — John’s Apocalypse, the book of Revelation. And all that the Bible teaches is understandable. God doesn’t waste His time or ours telling us about things we can’t possibly understand. So there is a sound view on the millennium that is biblical, knowable, and valuable. We should seek to affirm and grasp that view.
The millennium, however, is not the end, in either sense of the word. It is not the reason for all things; neither is it the last of all things. It should not, therefore, deeply divide and separate us.
Some views assert that we are in the midst of the millennium, that this language refers to the time between the ascension of Christ and His return. Some views affirm that the world will grow progressively worse, and then Jesus will return to rule for a thousand years. Still others affirm that the world will grow increasingly faithful to God’s Word, that we will enjoy a thousand-year golden age before Jesus returns. That’s rather a lot of differences between millennial views.
But do you notice what one thing each of these views shares? Whatever position one might take, in the end we all agree on one thing: Jesus wins. When history is complete, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When history is complete, all His enemies will have been made into His footstool. When history is complete, there will be no more tears, no more sickness, no more death. When history ends, that which we now are called to seek, the kingdom of God, will be consummated. What we seek will have been found in all its glory, in all its fullness.
There is, however, one more step before the end, one part of the story we are wont to miss out on. The real end, the true end, is not found in the final chapters of Revelation but in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 15. There we read, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (v. 24). The end is when the Son, after bringing all things under subjection, delivers the kingdom to His Father. Then the second Adam, having completed the calling given to the first Adam that the earth would be filled and subdued, will hand back to His Father the creation that had been put under our stewardship.
How can we miss that? How has our story left out this great climax? The Son returns the kingdom to the Father. We must come to grasp this, as it is precisely this glorious truth that animates our labors here and now. The kingdom that we seek first is this same kingdom that the Son returns to the Father. Our labors in the here and now, insofar as they reflect and flow out of our commitment to the reign of Christ, no matter what happens between now and the end, will survive. Our work matters into eternity. Or, as one wise theologian is apt to describe it, right now counts forever.
Our efforts, our labors in raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, in calling out the elect from the four corners of the earth, of taking God’s dust and molding and shaping it into widgets, this is not just pursuing the kingdom of God but manifesting it. It is neither what we do while we wait for the end, nor what we do to bring to pass our favorite millennial view. Rather it is what we do to move the story to the end of the end, the Son returning the kingdom to the Father.
And that, of course, is also the beginning of the beginning. From there we will enjoy in the true and eternal Mount Zion—in the New Jerusalem — the very presence of the living God. We will take in the beatific vision, beholding His glory. We know the end, both the purpose and the goal of the story — Jesus wins, to the glory of the Father. And by His grace, He takes us with Him. That’s our reason for living, and our hope in dying.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?
By Albert Mohler 12/01/2013
We are not living in a season of peace. Thinking Christians must surely be aware that a great moral and spiritual conflict is taking shape all around us, with multiple fronts of battle and issues of great importance at stake. The prophet Jeremiah repeatedly warned of those who would falsely declare peace when there is no peace. The Bible defines the Christian life in terms of spiritual battle, and believers in this generation face the fact that the very existence of truth is at stake in our current struggle.
The condition of warfare brings a unique set of moral challenges to the table, and the great moral and cultural battles of our times are no different. Even ancient thinkers knew this, and many of their maxims of warfare are still commonly cited. Among the most popular of these is a maxim that was known by many of the ancients — “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
That maxim has survived as a modern principle of foreign policy. It explains why states that have been at war against one another can, in a very short period of time, become allies against a common enemy. In World War II, the Soviet Union began as an ally of Nazi Germany. Yet, it ended the war as a key ally of the United States and Britain. How? It joined the effort against Hitler and became the instant “friend” of the Americans and the British. And yet, as that great war came to an end, the Soviets and their former allies entered a new phase of open hostility known as the Cold War.
Does this useful maxim of foreign policy serve Christians well as we think about our current struggles? That is not an uncomplicated question. On the one hand, some sense of unity against a common opponent is inevitable, and even indispensible. On the other hand, the idea that a common enemy produces a true unity is, as even history reveals, a false premise.
We must not underestimate what we are up against. We face titanic struggles on behalf of human life and human dignity against the culture of death and the great evils of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. We are in a great fight for the integrity of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. We face a cultural alliance determined to advance a sexual revolution that will unleash unmitigated chaos and bring great injury to individuals, families, and the society at large. We are fighting to defend gender as part of the goodness of God’s creation and to defend the very existence of an objective moral order.
Beyond all these challenges, we are engaged in a great battle to defend the existence of truth itself, to defend the reality and authority of God’s revelation in Scripture, and to defend all that the Bible teaches. A pervasive anti-supernaturalism seeks to deny any claim of God’s existence or our ability to know him. Naturalistic worldviews dominate in the academy, and the New Atheism sells books by the millions. Theological liberalism does its best to make peace with the enemies of the church, but faithful Christians have no way to escape the battles to which this generation of believers are called.
So, are the other enemies of our enemies our friends? Mormons, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and a host of others share many of our enemies in this respect. But, to what extent is there a unity among us?
At this point, very careful and honest thinking is required of us. At one level, we can join with anyone, regardless of worldview, to save people from a burning house. We would gladly help an atheist save a neighbor from danger, or even beautify the neighborhood. Those actions do not require a shared theological worldview.
At a second level, we certainly see all those who defend human life and human dignity, marriage and gender, and the integrity of the family as key allies in the current cultural struggle. We listen to each other, draw arguments from each other, and are thankful for each other’s support of our common concerns. We even recognize that there are elements common to our worldviews that explain our common convictions on these issues. And yet, our worldviews are really quite different.
With the Roman Catholic Church our common convictions are many, including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family. Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is supremely important — the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that supreme difference leads to other vital disagreements as well — over the nature and authority of the Bible, the nature of the ministry, the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and an entire range of issues central to the Christian faith.
Christians defined by the faith of the Reformers must never forget that nothing less than faithfulness to the gospel of Christ forced the Reformers to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Equal clarity and courage are required of us now.
In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
A Sound Principle
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/01/2014
Good exegesis will tell us that bad conclusions do not burst forth de novo from bad exegesis. It is valuable, important, even potent for us to have a good grasp of sound hermeneutical principles, to be on our guard against bad hermeneutical principles. We are easily led astray, and sound hermeneutics are like bread crumbs leading us back to the straight and narrow path.
We are, however, reading our Bible with rose-colored glasses if we think that all or even most of our interpretive failures stem from ignorance or misinformation. That is, we are guilty of the modernist conceit when we think that education is always the cure for what ails us. Paul, for instance, in Romans 1 is rather straightforward in highlighting our troubles in our natural state.
It isn’t what we don’t know. It isn’t what we do know that just ain’t so. The problem is what we do know and suppress because of our sin. We know there is a God. We know we fall short. We know we’re in trouble. And we know we don’t like how it feels, knowing we are in trouble. So, we go back to the beginning, and try to unknow that there is a God. The fount of bad theology is our wicked hearts — which is why we had better take our wicked hearts into account when we are about the business of hermeneutics.
Being all too familiar with my own wicked heart, I have over the past decade or so been on a mission. I have traveled the globe as well as the vast expanses of cyberspace spreading the word about what I have carefully named the R.C. Sproul Jr. Principle of Hermeneutics.
I have not only explained the principle, applied the principle, and enjoined the principle, but also, every time I bring it up, I have begged my audience to remember it and to pass it along to their friends. I am sincerely convinced that if we all master this principle, we will be more faithful to the Word, and more faithful to the One the Word calls the Word.
The principle is as simple as its author — whenever you are reading your Bible, and you come across someone doing something really, really stupid, do not say to yourself, “How can they be so stupid?” Instead say to yourself, “How am I stupid just like them?” (Now you know why I named the principle after myself—it’s all about stupid people.) We, like the people in the Bible, are much better at discerning the sins of others than we are at sniffing out our own. Other people’s sins are clear, immediate, obvious to us, while our own are fuzzy, distant, obscure.
When we see the ten spies expressing their fear that they will not be able to take the Promised Land — right after the God of heaven and earth had brought Pharaoh, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, to his knees, and just after this same God had led His people on dry ground across the Red Sea — we think, “I would have been faithful like Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who were ready to move forward.” Chances are, however, that we would have sinned just like the ten, that we would not have had the faith to believe the promises of God.
The reason for that is simple enough — there is nothing new under the sun. Saints and sinners in the Bible are just like saints and sinners in our day, including you and me. Their frailties and follies are our frailties and follies. So when we see them sin, and how they sin, that ought to clue us in to the ways that we are likely to sin.
The Bible describes itself as a mirror. We look at it, but we turn away and forget who and what we are. We are faithless. We are skeptical. We are stubborn. We, like that fool Peter before us, move through our lives time and again speaking that same oxymoronic phrase he spoke at Caesarea Philippi, when he insisted that Jesus must not go to Jerusalem to be handed over to the Gentiles, “No, Lord.” No I understand. Lord I understand. But these two words do not go together.
Do we not, however, speak the same? Our Lord tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. We read these words and bow our heads in prayer. We beseech Jesus as the King of kings, bringing our petitions before Him, acknowledging His lordship, and then pray, “Lord, please help me because I’m afraid about my job, or my bills. I’m worried about what I will eat, and what I will wear.” That is just another “No, Lord.” Our problem isn’t that we aren’t sufficiently educated but that we aren’t sufficiently sanctified.
Which means, in turn, that the solution is to repent and to believe. We must repent of our unbelief, and ask that our Lord would help our unbelief. We must learn the wisdom of the lilies of the field. We must learn to speak our amens to all that our Lord promises. This is the righteousness we are to seek. These ayes are the eyes of the kingdom.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 105Tell of All His Wondrous Works
37 Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD!
Into the World
By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2014
I’ve long been fascinated with those moments in Jesus’ life when the veil of His human flesh gave way to a vision of His refulgent glory as the Son of God. What must it have been like to be one of His disciples and to know Him as a man but then to see with clarity His deity in an encounter of dazzling light? The most spectacular of these encounters was His transfiguration, that moment when His transcendent radiance paralyzed Peter, James, and John with awe (Matt. 17:1–13). All they wanted at that moment was to bask in Jesus’ glory forever — and so that is what they asked for.
It has always struck me that Jesus said no to that request. Instead, Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with His disciples and went back into the world. Jesus’ going back into the world has served as a model for the church’s ministry until the present day. When Christ calls people into His kingdom, He doesn’t pull them out of the world forever. He sends them back out with the gospel.
Jesus did that with the Apostles just after His resurrection. He came to the upper room, where they were hiding in fear, and told them that they were to wait for the Spirit to be poured out. But at that point, there was to be no more waiting. Once the Spirit came, they were to go out into the world (Luke 24:36–49). And that is what they did. The Apostles entered the marketplace with the authority of Christ behind them, and they upset the world.
Paul is a model for engagement with the world. We are familiar with his confrontation with the philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens, but these philosophers knew where to find him because he was “in the marketplace every day,” reasoning with the people who were there (Acts 17:16–34). The marketplace in Athens was more than a mere shopping mall. It was the center of community life. It was the place where people gathered to play, shop, hear lawsuits, and attend events. It was a decidedly public location, the place where one could engage with the world. No one went to the marketplace to hide. Paul went there to find unbelievers and minister to them.
During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther preached that the church had to move out of the heavenly temple into the world. By this he meant that Christ has relevance not just for the community of believers but for the whole world as well. Jesus is not bound to the inner courts of the Christian community, and if we think that He is, then we are being disobedient or, perhaps, have no faith at all. His gospel is for all nations, and all of us are responsible to help fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples (Matt. 28:18–20).
Throughout church history, many have taught the idea of what we might call “salvation by separation,” believing that we achieve holiness by avoiding contact with sinners. This doctrine predates Christianity, however, having been invented by the Pharisees, who were scandalized by Jesus’ ministry to tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers. But if Christ’s holiness did not require withdrawing from the world, then neither does ours. He came to seek and to save the lost, and the lost are gathered in the world — in our Father’s world. To stay out of the public sphere, away from sinners, is never a permanent option for the Christian.
I say “permanent option” because generations of believers have seen wisdom in having new Christians withdraw from the world for a season — not into monastic isolation but for a time of concentrated growth with fellow believers. Upon reaching spiritual maturity, however, they must see the world as God’s theater of redemption, that place where He meets with sinners through the gospel witness of believers and calls His elect to faith. Martin Luther noted that it is the coward who flees from the real world permanently and hides his fear with piety.
The church is not a ghetto or a reservation. True, the world wants to put us there, to force us out of the world into the four walls of the church building, outside of which we are never to speak of sin or the salvation that comes only in Christ. However, we don’t have to let the world do that. I fear that all too often we blame the world for our failure to engage it when, in reality, we are more comfortable hiding from the world’s hostility. Our fallen culture will do whatever it can to hide our light under a bushel. We dare not invent our own bushels to help them in their goal. Christ has commissioned us to be light and salt in this world (Matt. 5:13–16). We have no option but to obey.
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
The Lord’s Day and Discipleship
By James Harvey 1/01/2014
If you ask a Christian how to grow as a disciple, you may hear a wide range of suggestions: personal Bible study, one-on-one discipleship, small-group discipleship, men’s and women’s groups, attending conferences, campus ministries, community Bible studies, and so on. Within the past two decades, the Internet has grown to offer an abundance of additional resources. Audio and video presentations of sermons, seminary courses, and entire worship services are at our fingertips. We can all be grateful to God for these resources. To the degree that faithful, doctrinally sound study of God’s Word is taking place, all these endeavors will bear spiritual fruit. We are able to share in the gifts and graces of the church universal like never before.
A word of caution is in order, however. While God’s providence affords us unprecedented access to the teaching of the church universal, God intends our discipleship as Christians to be expressed in the church particular. When Jesus told His disciples that baptism was integral to the Great Commission, He was establishing the priority of the local church and Lord’s Day ministry in discipleship. Baptism signifies entrance into the visible church, and the most fundamental activity of the visible church is worship on the Lord’s Day. If we are not committed to a particular church, we cannot receive ministry nor give ministry as the New Testament envisions.
Consider some of the unique discipleship blessings that we find in committing to worshiping on the Lord’s Day with the local church:
A Foretaste of Heaven
It is wonderful to stream your favorite teaching with a cup of coffee in the comfort of your own home. It is sweet to meet at a friend’s home and study the Bible together. But neither private listening nor small-group study give the foretaste of the world to come as corporate worship does.
The corporate worship of the church is a foretaste of the future glory that awaits us in Christ. We hear God’s Word read, sing His praises, confess our sins, receive His grace, join our hearts in prayer, receive the Lord’s Supper, and place ourselves under the proclamation of His Word. And we do this together. What is happening spiritually when we gather like this? “[We] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22). In this corporate worship, the church is like a mother, providing weekly shelter and refreshment from the wilderness of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and makes all things new. Without this weekly gathering, we shrivel and die in the wilderness.
A Context for Love
An abundance of solid food does not ensure that any of it will be digested and used for nourishment. We need commitment to the local church to grow spiritually.
The goal of Christian discipleship is love (Mark 12:29–31; 1 Cor. 13:1–13; 2 Peter 2:5–7). The local church is the place where we grow in love over the long haul. Being a faithful church member is difficult. The people are not all like you. But, you grow to accept one another in love. If you spend any time among the same group of people, they will eventually disappoint you in some ways, or perhaps positively harm you. But you grow to forgive one another in love.
If you leave a church because the people are not like you or because you have been wounded, you have cut short the discipleship process before it has begun. The only legitimate lure that Jesus says we have for the world is the love that we manifest in our corporate life as a church: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This visible expression of love is rooted in gathering on the Lord’s Day as one body.
A Place to Give and Receive
God puts us in a local body of believers to share in the gifts and graces of that body, and this sharing (communion) is essential to discipleship. The local church is your spiritual family; you share mutually in burdens and blessings with one another. The local pastor is your pastor-teacher. He is God’s gift to you, and God will use him uniquely in your life when you receive his ministry regularly with faith and prayer. The elders and deacons are your elders and deacons. They are God’s gift to you to care for your body and soul. All these gifts are from God. How dare we say to any, “I have no need of you”? (1 Cor. 12:21).
I don’t think many Christians actually intend to neglect Lord’s Day worship. It just happens as we let other things draw us away from God’s people and God’s worship on Sunday. Before we know it, we are missing half of the corporate services of worship, waning in our love for Christ, and feeling disconnected from the church.
Pastors can be reticent to speak about the Lord’s Day, fearing perceptions of legalism or self-aggrandizement. But we need to be reminded through teaching and the example of church officers of the importance of the Lord’s Day for Christian discipleship. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). The Lord’s Day is designed by God to bless us. It is foundational to our Christian discipleship.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Understanding Satan’s role (4)
(Sept 24) Bob Gass
‘Hand that man over to Satan.’
(1 Co 5:5) 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. ESV
Satan’s attack can be a wake-up call. Do you know that when you refuse to acknowledge your sin and repent of it, the wall of protection around you is breached and Satan is free to come in and attack you? Paul writes to the Corinthian church: ‘I have heard terrible things about some of you. In fact, you are behaving worse than the Gentiles. A man is even sleeping with his own stepmother. You are proud, when you ought to feel bad enough to chase away anyone who acts like that’ (vv. 1-2 CEV). Then Paul instructs the leaders of the church, ‘You must then hand that man over to Satan. His body will be destroyed, but his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns.’ Later the man repented of his sin and Paul said he should be restored to fellowship in the church. So, what Paul was saying, in essence, was: ‘Let him be driven to despair that he might be driven back into the arms of God.’ Again, Paul writes: ‘Some people have made a mess of their faith because they didn’t listen to their consciences. Two of them are Hymenaeus and Alexander. I have given these men over to the power of Satan, so they will learn not to oppose God’ (1 Timothy 1:19-20 CEV). Does God enjoy seeing us suffer? No more than a parent enjoys disciplining a child. But holy love makes tough choices. (Remember, discipline should result in mercy, not misery.) Some of us are awakened by a tap on the shoulder, while others need a two-by-four on the head. And whenever God needs a two-by-four, Satan gets the call.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“The power to tax is the power to destroy,” wrote John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who was born this day, September 24, 1755. No one had a greater impact on Constitutional Law in America, as he served on the bench 34 years and helped write over 1000 decisions. He fought in the Revolution under Washington, enduring the terrible winter at Valley Forge. The nation felt a profound loss at his death. The Liberty Bell cracked while tolling at his funeral. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity and did not often refer to it.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Blessed, yet not always happy. For by prayers we are set tasks sometimes which (at first, at least) may add to life’s burden. Our eyes being opened, we see problems to which before we were blind, and we hear calls that no more let us alone. And I have said that we are shown ourselves at times in a way to dishearten us, and take effective dogmatism out of us. We lose effect on those people who take others at their own emphatic valuation, who do not try the spirits, and who have acquired no skill to discern the Lord in the apostle. True searching prayer is incompatible with spiritual dullness or self-complacency. And, therefore, such stupidity is not a mere defect, but a vice. It grew upon us because we did not court the searching light, nor haunt the vicinity of the great white Throne. We are chargeable with it because of our neglect of what cures it. Faith is a quickening spirit, it has insight; and religious density betrays its absence, being often the victim of the sermon instead of the alumnus of the Gospel. It is not at all the effect of ignorance. Many ignorant people escape it by the exercise of themselves unto godliness; and they not only show wonderful spiritual acumen, but they turn it upon themselves; with a result, often, of great but vigilant humility, such axis apt to die out of an aggressive religion more eager to bring in a kingdom coming than to trust a Kingdom come. They are self-sufficient in a godly sort, and can even carry others, in a way which reveals the action of a power in them beyond all natural and unschooled force. We can feel in them the discipline of the Spirit. We can read much habitual prayer between their lines. They have risen far above religion. They are in the Spirit, and live in a long Lord’s day. We know that they are not trying to serve Christ with the mere lustiness of natural religion, nor expecting do do the Spirit’s work with the force of native temperament turned pious. There are, even amongst the religious, people of a shrewd density or numble dullness who judge heavenly things with an earthly mind. And, outside the religious, among those who are but interested in religion, there may be a certain gifted stupidity, a witty obtuseness; as among some writers who sans gene turn what they judge to be the spirit of the age upon the realities of Eternity, and believe that it dissolves them in spray. Whether we meet this type within the Church or without, we can mostly feel that it reveals the prayerless temper whatever the zeal or vivacity may be. Not to pray is not to discern—not to discern the things that really matter, and the powers that really rule. The mind may see acutely and clearly, but the personality perceives nothing subtle and mighty; and then it comforts and deludes itself by saying it is simple and not sophisticated; and it falls a victim to the Pharisaism of the plain man. The finer (and final) forces, being unfelt, are denied or decried. The eternal motives are misread, the spell of the Eternal disowned. The simplicity in due course becomes merely bald. And all because the natural powers are unschooled, unchastened, and unempowered by the energy of prayer; and yet they are turned, either, in one direction, to do Christian work, active but loveless, or, on the other, to discuss and renounce Christian truth. It is not always hard to tell among Christian men those whose thought is matured in prayer, whose theology there becomes a hymn, whose energy is disciplined there, whose work there becomes love poured out, as by many a Salvationist lass, and whose temper is there subdued to that illuminated humility in which a man truly finds his soul. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” The deeper we go into things the more do we enter a world where the mastery and the career is not to talent but to prayer.
In prayer we do not ask God to do things contrary to Nature. Rather here ascending Nature takes its true effect and arrives. For the God we invoke is the Lord and Destiny of the whole creation; and in our invocation of Him Nature ends on its own key-note. He created the world at the first with a final and constant reference to the new creation, whose native speech is prayer. The whole creation thus comes home and finds itself in our prayer; and when we ask from the God of the whole Creation we neither do not expect an arbitrary thing. We petition a God in whom all things are fundamentally working together for good to such a congenial cry. So far from crossing Nature, we give it tongue. We lift it to its divinest purpose, function, and glory. Nature excels itself in our prayer. The Creation takes its true effect in personality, which at once resists it, crowns it, and understands it; and personality takes true effect in God—in prayer. If there be a divine teleology in Nature at all, prayer is the telos. The world was made to worship God, for God’s glory. And this purpose is the world’s providence, the principle of creation. It is an end present all along the line and course of natural evolution; for we deal in prayer most closely with One to whom is no after nor before. We realize the simultaneity of Eternity.
When we are straitened in prayer we are yet not victims of Nature, we are yet free in the grace of God—as His own freedom was straitened in Christ’s incarnation, not to say His dereliction, to the finishing of His task. It is hard, it is often impossible, for us to tell whether our hour of constriction or our hour of expansion contributes more to the divine purpose and its career. Both go to make real prayer. They are the systole and diastole of the world’s heart. True prayer is the supreme function of the personality which is the world’s supreme product. It is personality with this function that God seeks above all to rear—it is neither particular moods of its experience, nor influential relations of it with the world. The praying personality has an eternal value for God as an end in itself. This is the divine fullness of life’s time and course, the one achievement that survives with more power in death than in life. The intercession of Christ in heaven is the continuity and consummation of His supreme work on earth. To share it is the meaning of praying in the Spirit. And it has more effect on history than civilization has. This is a hard saying, but a Christian can say no otherwise without in so far giving up his Christianity.
“There is a budding morrow in midnight.” And every juncture, every relation, and every pressure of life has in it a germ of possibility and promise for our growth in God and grace; which germ to rear is the work of constant and progressive prayer. (For as a soul has a history, prayer has its progress.) This germ we do not always see, nor can we tend it as if we did. It is often hidden up under the earthly relations, and may there be lost—our soul is lost. (It can be lost even through love.) But also is may from there be saved—and we escape from the fowler’s net. It’s growth is often visible only to the Saviour whom we keep near by prayer, whose search we invoke, and for whose action we make room in prayer. Our certainty of Him is girt round with much uncertainty, about His working, about the steps of His process. But in prayer we become more and more sure that He is sure, and knows all things to His end. All along Christ is being darkly formed within us as we pray; and our converse with God goes on rising to become an element of the intercourse of the Father and the Son, whom we overhear, as it were, at converse in us. Yet this does not insulate us from our kind; for other people are then no more alien to us, but near in a Lord who is to them what He is to us. Private prayer may thus become more really common prayer that public prayer is.
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.
The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.
In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my hear and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth.
The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.
The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community
Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you are alive, it isn’t.
--- Richard Bach
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Description Of Jerusalem.
1. The city of Jerusalem was fortified with three walls, on such parts as were not encompassed with unpassable valleys; for in such places it had but one wall. The city was built upon two hills, which are opposite to one another, and have a valley to divide them asunder; at which valley the corresponding rows of houses on both hills end. Of these hills, that which contains the upper city is much higher, and in length more direct. Accordingly, it was called the "Citadel," by king David; he was the father of that Solomon who built this temple at the first; but it is by us called the "Upper Market-place." But the other hill, which was called "Acra," and sustains the lower city, is of the shape of a moon when she is horned; over against this there was a third hill, but naturally lower than Acra, and parted formerly from the other by a broad valley. However, in those times when the Asamoneans reigned, they filled up that valley with earth, and had a mind to join the city to the temple. They then took off part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to be of less elevation than it was before, that the temple might be superior to it. Now the Valley of the Cheesemongers, as it was called, and was that which we told you before distinguished the hill of the upper city from that of the lower, extended as far as Siloam; for that is the name of a fountain which hath sweet water in it, and this in great plenty also. But on the outsides, these hills are surrounded by deep valleys, and by reason of the precipices to them belonging on both sides they are every where unpassable.
2. Now, of these three walls, the old one was hard to be taken, both by reason of the valleys, and of that hill on which it was built, and which was above them. But besides that great advantage, as to the place where they were situated, it was also built very strong; because David and Solomon, and the following kings, were very zealous about this work. Now that wall began on the north, at the tower called "Hippicus," and extended as far as the "Xistus," a place so called, and then, joining to the council-house, ended at the west cloister of the temple. But if we go the other way westward, it began at the same place, and extended through a place called "Bethso," to the gate of the Essens; and after that it went southward, having its bending above the fountain Siloam, where it also bends again towards the east at Solomon's pool, and reaches as far as a certain place which they called "Ophlas," where it was joined to the eastern cloister of the temple. The second wall took its beginning from that gate which they called "Gennath," which belonged to the first wall; it only encompassed the northern quarter of the city, and reached as far as the tower Antonia. The beginning of the third wall was at the tower Hippicus, whence it reached as far as the north quarter of the city, and the tower Psephinus, and then was so far extended till it came over against the monuments of Helena, which Helena was queen of Adiabene, the daughter of Izates; it then extended further to a great length, and passed by the sepulchral caverns of the kings, and bent again at the tower of the corner, at the monument which is called the "Monument of the Fuller," and joined to the old wall at the valley called the "Valley of Cedron." It was Agrippa who encompassed the parts added to the old city with this wall, which had been all naked before; for as the city grew more populous, it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northward of the temple, and joined that hill to the city, made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called "Bezetha," to be inhabited also. It lies over against the tower Antonia, but is divided from it by a deep valley, which was dug on purpose, and that in order to hinder the foundations of the tower of Antonia from joining to this hill, and thereby affording an opportunity for getting to it with ease, and hindering the security that arose from its superior elevation; for which reason also that depth of the ditch made the elevation of the towers more remarkable. This new-built part of the city was called "Bezetha," in our language, which, if interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called "the New City." Since, therefore, its inhabitants stood in need of a covering, the father of the present king, and of the same name with him, Agrippa, began that wall we spoke of; but he left off building it when he had only laid the foundations, out of the fear he was in of Claudius Caesar, lest he should suspect that so strong a wall was built in order to make some innovation in public affairs; for the city could no way have been taken if that wall had been finished in the manner it was begun; as its parts were connected together by stones twenty cubits long, and ten cubits broad, which could never have been either easily undermined by any iron tools, or shaken by any engines. The wall was, however, ten cubits wide, and it would probably have had a height greater than that, had not his zeal who began it been hindered from exerting itself. After this, it was erected with great diligence by the Jews, as high as twenty cubits, above which it had battlements of two cubits, and turrets of three cubits altitude, insomuch that the entire altitude extended as far as twenty-five cubits.
David Brown - Jews for Jesus
Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, is at once solemn and joyful. It is solemn because of the Awe of judgment. It is joyful because it represents the hope of the future redemption of Israel. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. It falls on the first day of the seventh month, according to the Hebrew calendar (see Leviticus 23:23). It could occur anywhere from the first to the last week of September on the Western calendar. (Sept. 11, in 1999) It ushers in the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The name "Rosh Hashanah" literally means "Beginning of the Year" You may wonder how this can be, since it is called the first day of the seventh month! The reason is that the Jewish calendar is built on two cycles-the religious calendar beginning in the Spring, and the civil calendar beginning in the Fall. In the Torah, the months are never named but only numbered, beginning with the month of Nisan in the early Spring, which is the first month according to the religious calendar.
Rosh Hashanah Customs
Among the many traditions of Rosh Hashanah are:
Dipping of bread into honey after kiddush and ha-Motzi, as a symbol of the hope that the new year will be sweet.
Dipping pieces of apple into honey, for the same reason.
Also, the apple is said to symbolize the Divine Presence.
Use of round loaf of bread instead of the usual braided hallah. Some say the round shape symbolizes a crown. Avoidance of nuts. This is because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "nut" is the same as the word for "sin."
Tashlikh ceremony, in which "sins" are ceremoniously tossed into a river and washed away, as penitential prayers are said.
The most obvious distinguishing feature of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn. The Biblical name for this holiday is in fact Zichron Teruah (Remembrance of the shofar blast), or Yom Teruah. (Day of the shofar blast). In some English Bibles it is called The Feast of Trumpets.
Over a thousand years ago, the great Jewish sage Saadia Gaon came up with ten reasons for sounding the Shofar:
1.The shofar is associated with the coronation of a King.
2.The shofar heralds the beginning of the penitential period.
3.The Torah was given amid blasts of a shofar
4.The prophets compare their message to blasts of shofar.
5.It is a reminder of the Conquering armies that destroyed the temple.
6.It is a reminder of the Substitutionary Sacrifice of the ram for Isaac.
7.It fills one with Awe-Amos 3:6.
8. It is associated with Judgment Day-Zephaniah. 1:14, 16.
9.It heralds the Messianic Age, Isaiah 27:13.
10. It heralds the Resurrection.
Unlike Passover, the Bible does not clearly identify Rosh Hashanah with a historical event, so we must look to tradition to discover its significance.
According to Talmudic tradition, the Ten Days of Awe which begin at Rosh Hashanah are the time in which God determines the fate of each human being. On Rosh Hashanah, the wholly righteous are supposedly inscribed in the Sefer ha-Hayyim, or Book of Life, while the wholly wicked are inscribed in the Book of Death. The fate of all others hangs in the balance until Yom Kippur. Consequently, it is a time for introspection, for taking stock of one's behavior over the past year and making amends for any wrongdoing.
The Book of Life in the Bible
In chapter 32 of the book of Exodus we find the first hint of the book of life. Moses has been on the mountain receiving the Torah while the people of Israel waited below. Seeing that Moses was taking a long time in returning, the people gave up waiting and made themselves a golden calf to worship, thus incurring the wrath of God. Moses asks to be "blotted out of the book" if God will not forgive the sins of the people. (See also Deut. 9:13).
There are a number of other references in the Tanakh which mention God blotting out or not blotting out someone from the Book. In Psalm 51:3/2, David asks to have his sins blotted out. Psalm 69:29/28 uses the exact phrase "Book of Life" See also 2 Kings 14:27, Psalm 9:5/6.
Rosh Hashanah in the Bible
The Torah does not use the term "Rosh Hashanah," but calls this holiday Yom Teruah, The Day of the Sounding of the Shofar. According to Leviticus 23:23-25, it was to be celebrated by blowing a shofar, or ram's horn, by resting from all work, and by calling a holy assembly, and presenting an offering. The offering is described in Numbers 29:2-6. In Nehemiah 8:2-9 we find Ezra reading the Torah to the assembled people of Israel on this date. Psalms 93-100 are also believed to have been composed for Rosh Hashanah.
Modern Observance and Jewish Tradition
In modern Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah, the principal themes are:
1.Repentance (Teshuvah in Hebrew-literally "turning back" to God).
2.Redemption-restoration of a severed relationship with God.
3.The coming of Messiah.
The Coming Messiah
The following quotes underscore the theme of the coming Messiah in Rosh Hashanah tradition: "The sounding of the shofar is related to the Messianic theme, and in one tradition, Rosh Hashanah is said to be the time of the ultimate redemption." - Philip Sigal
"The prayers . . . in many ways allude to God's enthronement, for the kingship of Heaven materializes with the advent of Messiah, who presides over the last judgment." - Philip Sigal The Brit Ha-Hadashah (New Testament) also associates the sound of the shofar with the coming of Messiah. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, a book of the Brit Ha-Hadashah, tells us:
"For the Lord himself (i.e., Yeshua ha-Mashiach) will come down from heaven, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call (Tekiat Shofar) of God, and the dead in the Messiah (i.e., those who believed in Yeshua and have died) will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. . . ."-I Thessalonians 4:16 - 17. (Believers refer to this coming event as the "Rapture," from the Latin word for "caught up.")
The description of Things to Come given in the Brit ha-Hadashah fits well with all the modern themes of Rosh Hashanah. In order to participate in the Rapture, one must 1) Repent: Turn away from sin and toward God. Then you will be personally 2) Redeemed. The soul will be redeemed immediately, and your body on that day when 3) The Messiah comes again and "we shall all be changed/ we shall be like him as he is!" (1 Corinthians 15:51, I John 3:2) and therefore ready for the (4) Judgment.(Revelation 20:11-15) before the world is 5) created anew (Revelation 21).
The Book of Life in the Brit ha-Hadashah
The Concept of the Book of Life is found in the New Covenant Scriptures as well. In Philippians 4:3, Paul mentions his faithful colaborers as being written in the book of Life. The book of Revelation, dedicated to the themes of judgment and the coming Messiah, contains several references to the "Book of Life."
Rev 3:5 - "he who overcomes" will not be blotted out.
Rev 13:8 -- All who are not written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb will worship the beast.
Rev 17:8 -- All who are not written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb will be astonished at the beast.
Rev 20:12 -- Judgment by the Book.
Rev 20:15 -- All who are not found in the book are thrown into the lake of fire.
Rev 21:27 -- Those who are in the Book will enter the New Jerusalem.
One very interesting ceremony of Rosh Hashanah is the custom of Tashlikh. In a Tashlikh service, worshippers go to a body of water such as a stream or an ocean, and toss the contents of their pockets into it while reciting passages such as Micah 7:19, ("You will hurl (Tashlikh) all their sins into the depths of the sea.") as a symbol of sin being swallowed up in forgiveness.
A New Covenant
This is not the only place in the Tanakh where God speaks of such total forgiveness for his people. Jeremiah 31:34 says: "For I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more." Only one verse before, God declares that one day he will make a New Covenant (Brit Hadashah) with Israel, and put his Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts: "See, a time is coming-declares the LORD-when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, so that I rejected them-declares the LORD."
What is this "New Covenant"? What is to be the basis of Atonement under it? The Torah teaches that atonement requires the shedding of blood, i.e. a sacrifice. (Leviticus 17:11). Yet, there is no more temple in which to make the sacrifice, so how can there be atonement? It is impossible to keep the Torah completely as long as there is no temple. The rabbis declared that prayers would take the place of the sacrifices, but is that really enough? If prayer is as good as sacrifice, why did God ever demand sacrifice in the first place? Would HaShem allow the temple-so central to his service-to be taken away for so long without putting an alternative plan in place? Hass ve'halilah! If God has allowed the temple to lie in ruins for so long, could it be that it is because he has provided another way?
Suppose someone you know to be reliable gives you directions to someplace and you suddenly find yourself at a dead end. You know the directions are good, so you back up to see if you missed a turn somewhere. Those directions are the Torah and the prophets. The dead end is the Hurban. The missed turn is the New Covenant-one that doesn't need a physical temple, because the ultimate sacrifice has already been made, making all other sacrifice obsolete. The Hebrew prophets predicted that a "Righteous Servant" would some day make such a sacrifice. (Isaiah 53:6, 8, 12)
"And the LORD visited upon him the guilt of us all."-Isaiah 53:6 (JPS).
"My righteous servant makes the many righteous, It is their punishment that he bears" -- Isaiah 53:11 (JPS).
"For he was cut off from the land of the living Through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment " -- Isaiah 53:8 (JPS).
"He bore the guilt of the many And made intercession for sinners." -- Isaiah 53:12 (JPS).
We believe that Yeshua is that Righteous Servant (what other candidates are there?), and that his Atonement is the basis of the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah. If the New Testament ("Testament" is simply another word for Covenant or Brit) is true, it proves that God has not abandoned Am Yisroel. We believe that God has come in person to rescue his people from their sins as a prerequisite to the final restoration of Israel to the Land, when HaShem Himself will rule over them as King. Marana Tha!*
*(Aramaic for "Our Lord, Come!")
This article was originally published in 1978.
by D.H. Stern
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 For you will heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head,
and ADONAI will reward you.
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
The “go” of preparation
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there thou rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. --- Matthew 5:23, 24.
It is easy to imagine that we shall get to a place where we are complete and ready, but preparation is not suddenly accomplished, it is a process steadily maintained. It is dangerous to get into a settled state of experience. It is preparation and preparation.
The sense of sacrifice appeals readily to a young Christian. Humanly speaking, the one thing that attracts to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic, and the scrutiny of Our Lord’s words suddenly brings this tide of enthusiasm to the test. “First be reconciled to thy brother.” The “go” of preparation is to let the word of God scrutinize. The sense of heroic sacrifice is not good enough. The thing the Holy Spirit is detecting in you is the disposition that will never work in His service. No one but God can detect that disposition in you. Have you anything to hide from God? If you have, then let God search you with His light. If there is sin, confess it, not admit it. Are you willing to obey your Lord and Master, whatever the humiliation to your right to yourself may be?
Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to have brought it to your mind, it is that thing He is detecting. You were looking for a great thing to give up. God is telling you of some tiny thing; but at the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: ‘I will not give up my right to myself’—the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Shrine at Cape Clear
She is more white than the sea's
Purest spray, and colder
To touch. She is nourished
By salt winds, and the prayers
Of the drowned break on her. She smiles
At the stone angels, who have turned
From the sea's truth to worship
The mystery of her dumb child.
The bay brings her the tribute
Of its silences. The ocean has left
An offering of the small flowers
Of its springs; but the men read,
Beyond the harbour on the horizon,
The fury of its obituaries.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
Judah existed as a separate kingdom from 931–586 b.c. Like Israel, Judah experienced national ups and downs. Spiritually Judah was blessed with several godly kings. But Judah was also ruled at times by apostates. Queen Athaliah (841–835 b.c.) attempted to bring Baal worship into Judah as Jezebel, her mother, had brought it into Israel. While Baal worship was never established in Judah, and the land knew great revivals under Kings Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joash, the people were never completely committed to the Lord.
Hezekiah, one of the most godly of Judah’s kings, guided this nation during the critical period when Israel was invaded and destroyed. Hezekiah instituted drastic reforms to correct the idolatry of his father Ahaz. Under the influence of two great prophets, Isaiah and Micah, he thoroughly cleansed the land.
Yet Hezekiah’s own son, Manasseh, who ruled for 55 years, was one of Judah’s most evil rulers.
Despite a later revival under Josiah (640–609 b.c.), religious and moral deterioration continued. Jeremiah and Ezekiel graphically describe the way of life of Judah’s people—a way of life that helps us see clearly why God’s judgment had to fall on Judah too.
As we look at highlights of Judah’s history, the kings who struggled to lead Judah back to God, and the prophets God sent to warn His own, we learn more of the love of God—and more of that godly way of life that can bring blessing even today to you and to me.
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 19:11–12 / If, however, a person who is the enemy of another lies in wait for him and sets upon him and strikes him a fatal blow and then flees to one of these towns, the elders of his town shall have him brought back from there and shall hand him over to the blood-avenger to be put to death.…
MIDRASH TEXT / Sifrei Shofetim 187 / If, however, a person who is the enemy of another lies in wait for him and sets upon him.… From here [we learn that] if he transgressed a minor commandment, he will surely transgress a major commandment. If he transgressed “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), in the end he will transgress “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge” (ibid.), and “You shall not hate your kinsfolk [in your heart]” (19:17), and “Let him live by your side” (25:35), until he [eventually] will commit murder. Therefore it was said, “If, however, a person who is the enemy of another lies in wait for him and sets upon him and strikes him a fatal blow.”
CONTEXT / In ancient Israel, before there was a court system, it was the obligation of a slain person’s relatives to exact “blood vengeance” on the killer. This was common practice in tribal societies and exists in some places until this very day. The Torah came to modify this form of “justice.” A distinction was to be made between murder—an intentional killing—and manslaughter—a death caused by an accident. In other cultures, the relatives were to track down and kill the person responsible for the death of their kinsfolk, regardless of the circumstances. On the other hand, the Torah, as seen in the verses above, introduced a new idea—that an accidental killer should not be put to death. Instead, he was to seek asylum in one of the special “cities of refuge” designated throughout the land. While the kin of the dead person still might want vengeance, they were forbidden to enter a city of refuge and harm anyone living there. But the Torah also had to deal with a potential abuse of the city of refuge: a premeditated murderer who sought asylum there. The Torah rules that such a person may be physically extricated from the refuge and put to death.
The Rabbis had a sense that there were superfluous words in verse 11. Why was it necessary, they questioned, to add the words “who is the enemy of another,” שׂנֵא לְרֵעֵהוּ/ soneh l’rei-ei-hu? It would have been more concise simply to state “If, however, a person lies in wait.…” While it is human nature to use extra words, the Rabbis believed that the Torah (which to them was divine in origin) used only those words that were absolutely required. Where there appeared to be a superfluous phrase, the Rabbis saw a hint of a message or lesson.
The two Hebrew words שׂנֵא/soneh (enemy) and לְרֵעֵהוּ/l’rei-ei-hu (of another [neighbor]) triggered an association with the same words in another context: וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ/v’ahavta l’rei-akha kamokha (Love your fellow [neighbor] as yourself) and לֹא תִשְׂנָא אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ/lo tisna et aḥikha bilvavekha (You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart) from the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus. There, in verses 17 and 18, we read laws that command us to get along with our fellows. While these are important, they nevertheless do not compare to weightier commandments of an ethical nature (the prohibition against committing murder) or those of a ritual character that are the very basis of the Jewish religion (the Sabbath).
It was natural for Jews to make a judgment that certain commandments were “major” and thus weightier or more important than others. Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) addressed this in his statement quoted in Pirkei Avot (2:1):
Be as careful with a minor commandment as [you would be] with a major one, for you do not know the reward of the commandments.
Along similar lines, our Midrash makes the point that if he transgressed a minor commandment (not to hate another person, or not to bear a grudge), he will surely be led to transgress a major commandment (by lying in ambush to murder another person). The moral is clear: Little things can lead to big ones very easily.
What is a מִצְוָה קָלָה/mitzvah kalah, a “minor commandment”? Some might say שַׁעַטְנֵז/sha’atnez: “You shall not wear cloth combining wool and linen” (Deuteronomy 22:11). Or סְפִירָה/sefirah: “And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the sabbath—you shall count off seven weeks” (Leviticus 23:15).
What, then, is a מִצְוָה חֲמוּרָה/mitzvah ḥamurah, a “major commandment”? All would agree on “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) and “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
How great is God—beyond our understanding!
--- Job 36:26.
Define God? (Preaching Through the Bible) We have called him Creator, Sovereign, Father; then Infinite Creator, Eternal Sovereign, Gracious Father, as if we could build up our word-bricks to heaven and surprise the unknown and the unknowable in his solitude and look on him face-to-face.
Our words! Words that come and go like unstable fashions. Words that die of age, that cannot be accepted unanimously even by two people in all their suggestions and relations. Into these words we have invited God, and because he cannot come into them but as a devouring fire, we have stood back in offense and unbelief.
God! God! God! Ever hidden, ever present, ever distant, ever near, making the knees knock in terror, filling all space yet leaving room for all his creatures; a terror, a hope—undefinable, unknowable, irresistible, immeasurable.
We have chosen the very worst word in our haste, and we have needlessly humbled ourselves in doing so. Instead of unknowable, invisible, and incomprehensible, say superknowable, supervisible, and supercomprehensible. Then the mystery is made luminous.
From the unknowable I turn away humiliated and discouraged; from the superknowable I return humbled yet inspired. The unknowable says, “Fool, why knock at granite as if it were a door that could be opened?” The superknowable says, “There is something larger than your intelligence; a secret, a force, a beginning, a God!” The difficulty is always in the lame word and not in the solemn truth. We make no progress in religion while we keep to our crippled feet, picking over such stones as unknown, unknowable, invisible, and incomprehensible, and we finish our toilsome journey exactly where we began it.
In its higher aspects and questionings [religion] is not a road to walk on, it is an open expanse of the heavens to fly in. Enthusiasm sees God. Love sees God. But we have built our prudent religion on the sand. On the sand! So we walk around it and measure it and break it up into propositions and placard it on church walls.
My soul, amid all unknowableness, hold fast to the faith that you can know God. You cannot know about him by intellectual art or theological craft. By love and pureness, know him.
--- Joseph Parker
Sometimes our plans don’t work out as hoped because God detours us, leading us elsewhere in his overruling providence. Thomas Coke, a sophisticated Oxford-educated Welshman, left his ministry in the Anglican Church in 1777 to become John Wesley’s chief assistant in the new and quickly growing Methodist movement. On September 24, 1785 he packed his books and bags and sailed out of England, down the channel, and into the Atlantic, leaving for Nova Scotia where he wanted to establish the missionaries who accompanied him. But the voyage was ill-fated and grew more perilous by the day, the ship being caught in mountainous waves and mast-splitting winds. The ship’s captain, determining that Coke and his missionaries were bringing misfortune on his ship like Jonah, considered throwing them overboard. He actually gathered some of Coke’s papers and tossed them into the ocean. The voyage took three months rather than the expected one, and instead of landing in Nova Scotia, the damaged ship ended up in the Caribbean, limping into St. John’s harbor on the island of Antigua on Christmas Day.
Coke knew that at least one Methodist lived somewhere on Antigua, a missionary named John Baxter. Hoping to find him, Coke and his three missionaries asked to be rowed ashore from their shattered ship in the predawn Morning. They started down the street in St. John’s and stopped the first person they found, a fellow swinging a lantern in his hand, to inquire of Baxter.
It was John Baxter himself. He was on his way to special Christmas Morning services he had planned for the island, and the sudden appearance of Coke and his missionaries out of the darkness—out of nowhere—seemed too good to be true. It took three services that day to accommodate the crowds. After it was over, Coke and his associates abandoned any idea of going to Nova Scotia. Instead, they planted the missionary team on Antigua and on neighboring islands; and by the time of Coke’s death in 1814 there were over 17,000 believers in the Methodist churches there.
I am the LORD, your holy God, Israel’s Creator and King.
I am the one who cut a path through the mighty ocean.
I invite the whole world to turn to me and be saved.
I alone am God! No others are real.
I have made a solemn promise, one that won’t be broken:
Everyone will bow down and worship me.
--- Isaiah 43:15,16;45:22,23.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 24
"For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him." --- Ezra 8:22.
A convoy on many accounts would have been desirable for the pilgrim band, but a holy shame-facedness would not allow Ezra to seek one. He feared lest the heathen king should think his professions of faith in God to be mere hypocrisy, or imagine that the God of Israel was not able to preserve his own worshippers. He could not bring his mind to lean on an arm of flesh in a matter so evidently of the Lord, and therefore the caravan set out with no visible protection, guarded by him who is the sword and shield of his people. It is to be feared that few believers feel this holy jealousy for God; even those who in a measure walk by faith, occasionally mar the lustre of their life by craving aid from man. It is a most blessed thing to have no props and no buttresses, but to stand upright on the Rock of Ages, upheld by the Lord alone. Would any believers seek state endowments for their Church, if they remembered that the Lord is dishonoured by their asking Caesar’s aid? as if the Lord could not supply the needs of his own cause! Should we run so hastily to friends and relations for assistance, if we remembered that the Lord is magnified by our implicit reliance upon his solitary arm? My soul, wait thou only upon God. “But,” says one, “are not means to be used?” Assuredly they are; but our fault seldom lies in their neglect: far more frequently it springs out of foolishly believing in them instead of believing in God. Few run too far in neglecting the creature’s arm; but very many sin greatly in making too much of it. Learn, dear reader, to glorify the Lord by leaving means untried, if by using them thou wouldst dishonour the name of the Lord.
Evening - September 24
“I sleep, but my heart waketh.” --- Song of Solomon 5:2.
Paradoxes abound in Christian experience, and here is one—the spouse was asleep, and yet she was awake. He only can read the believer’s riddle who has ploughed with the heifer of his experience. The two points in this Evening’s text are—a mournful sleepiness and a hopeful wakefulness. I sleep. Through sin that dwelleth in us we may become lax in holy duties, slothful in religious exercises, dull in spiritual joys, and altogether supine and careless. This is a shameful state for one in whom the quickening Spirit dwells; and it is dangerous to the highest degree. Even wise virgins sometimes slumber, but it is high time for all to shake off the bands of sloth. It is to be feared that many believers lose their strength as Samson lost his locks, while sleeping on the lap of carnal security. With a perishing world around us, to sleep is cruel; with eternity so near at hand, it is madness. Yet we are none of us so much awake as we should be; a few thunder-claps would do us all good, and it may be, unless we soon bestir ourselves, we shall have them in the form of war, or pestilence, or personal bereavements and losses. O that we may leave for ever the couch of fleshly ease, and go forth with flaming torches to meet the coming Bridegroom! My heart waketh. This is a happy sign. Life is not extinct, though sadly smothered. When our renewed heart struggles against our natural heaviness, we should be grateful to sovereign grace for keeping a little vitality within the body of this death. Jesus will hear our hearts, will help our hearts, will visit our hearts; for the voice of the wakeful heart is really the voice of our Beloved, saying, “Open to me.” Holy zeal will surely unbar the door.
“Oh lovely attitude! He stands
With melting heart and laden hands;
My soul forsakes her every sin;
And lets the heavenly stranger in.”
JESUS, I AM RESTING, RESTING
John Keble, 1792–1866
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
John Wesley, the flaming evangelist of the 18th century, once stated that Christians must “learn to live with a slack rein.” If that were true then, it is even more necessary in the hectic pace lived today. We all need times of relaxation, rest, and renewal. Even Christian workers can experience “burn-out” while engaged in worthwhile activities for God.
Resting in Jesus is an important development in our Christian maturity. It is something we must learn to practice daily regardless of life’s pressures and circumstances. It must be in the present tense, not a nostalgic memory from the past. Although this principle is easier stated than practiced, we must consciously learn to relax and enjoy God’s presence; to allow God to absorb our inward worries and conflicts; to allow Him to energize us with His love and power.
The author of this thoughtful text, Jean Sophia Pigott, was born and lived in Ireland. She wrote this text in 1876. The composer, James Mountain, was an English Baptist minister, writer, and musician. He is best remembered today for several of his surviving hymn tunes.
The story is told of Hudson Taylor, missionary statesman to China, in the terrible days of the Boxer uprising there. As one report followed another of mission stations being destroyed and missionaries massacred, Taylor remained quietly at his desk, singing softly these words that he loved so dearly:
Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart. Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul, for by Thy transforming power Thou hast made me whole.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art, and Thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart—Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its ev’ry need, compasseth me round with blessings. This is love indeed!
Ever lift Thy face upon me as I work and wait for Thee. Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth’s dark shadows flee. Brightness of my Father’s glory, sunshine of my Father’s face, keep me ever trusting, resting; fill me with Thy grace.
For Today: Isaiah 23:3, 4; 32:17; Matthew 11:28; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 4:9
Determine to spend some time each day in refreshment and renewal of your body, mind and spirit. Sing this musical truth as you go ---
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
2. But God accommodates himself in the Scripture to our weak capacity. God hath no more of a proper repentance, than he hath of a real body; though he, in accommodation to our weakness, ascribes to himself the members of our bodies to set out to our understanding the greatness of his perfections, we must not conclude him a body like us; so, because he is said to have anger and repentance, we must not conclude him to have passions like us. When we cannot fully comprehend him as he is, he clothes himself with our nature in his expressions that we may apprehend him as we are able, and by an inspection into ourselves, learn something of the nature of God; yet those human ways of speaking ought to be understood in a manner agreeable to the infinite excellency and majesty of God, and are only designed to mark out something in God which hath a resemblance with something in us; as we cannot speak to God as gods, but as men, so we cannot understand him speaking to us as a God, unless he condescend to speak to us like a man. God therefore frames his language to our dulness, not to his own state, and informs us by our own phrases, what he would have us learn of his nature, as nurses talk broken language to young children. In all such expressions, therefore, we must ascribe the perfection we conceive in them to God, and lay the imperfection at the door of the creature.
3. Therefore, repentance in God is only a change of his outward conduct, according to his infallible foresight and immutable will. He changes the way of his providential proceeding according to the carriage of the creature, without changing his will, which is the rule of his providence. When God speaks of his repenting “that he had made man” (Gen. 6:6), it is only his changing his conduct from a way of kindness to a way of severity, and is a word suited to our capacities to signify his detestation of sin, and his resolution to punish it, after man had made himself quite another thing, than God had made him; “it repents me,” that is, I am purposed to destroy the world, as he that repents of his work throws it away; as if a potter cast away the vessel he had framed, it were a testimony that he repented that ever he took pains about it, so the destruction of them seems to be a repentance in God that ever he made them; it is a change of events, not of counsels. Repentance in us is a grief for a former fact, and a changing of our course in it; grief is not in God, but his repentance is a willing a thing should not be as it was, which will was fixed from eternity; for God, foreseeing man would fall, and decreeing to permit it, he could not be said to repent in time of what he did not repent from eternity; and therefore, if there were no repentance in God from eternity, there could be none in time. But God is said to repent when he changes the disposition of affairs without himself; as men, when they repent, alter the course of their actions, so God alters things, extra sc, or without himself, but changes nothing of his own purpose within himself. It rather notes the action he is about to do, than anything in his own nature, or any change in his eternal purpose.
God’s repenting of his kindness is nothing but an inflicting of punishment, which the creature by the change of his carriage hath merited: as his repenting of the evil threatened is the withholding the punishment denounced, when the creature hath humbly submitted to his authority, and acknowledged his crime. Or else we may understand those expressions of joy, and grief, and repentance, to signify thus much, that the things declared to be the objects of joy, and grief, and repentance, are of that nature, that if God were capable of our passions, he would discover himself in such cases as we do; as when the prophets mention the joys and applaudings of heaven, earth, and the sea, they only signify that the things they speak of are so good, that if the heavens and the sea had natures capable of joy, they would express it upon that occasion in such a manner as we do; so would God have joy at the obedience of men, and grief at the unworthy carriage of men, and repent of his kindness when men abuse it, and repent of his punishment when men reform under his rod, were the majesty of his nature capable of such affections.
Prop. IV. The not fulfilling of some predictions in Scripture, which seem to imply a changeableness of the Divine will, do not argue any change in it. As when he reprieved Hezekiah from death, after a message sent by the prophet Isaiah, that he should die (2 Kings 20:1–5; Isa. 38:1–5), and when he made an arrest of that judgment he had threatened by Jonah against Nineveh (Jon. 3:4–10). There is not, indeed, the same reason of promises and threatenings altogether; for in promising, the obligation lies upon God, and the right to demand is in the party that performsthe condition of the promise: but in threatenings, the obligation lies upon the sinner, and God’s right to punish is declared thereby; so that through God doth not punish, his will is not changed, because his will was to declare the demerit of sin, and his right to punish upon the commission of it; though he may not punish according to the strict letter of the threatening the person sinning, but relax his own law for the honor of his attributes, and transfer the punishment from the offender to a person substituted in his room: this was the case in the first threatening against man, and the substituting a Surety in the place of the malefactor. But the answer to these cases is this, that where we find predictions in Scripture declared, and yet not executed, we must consider them, not as absolute but conditional, or as the civil law calls it, an interlocutory sentence. God declared what would follow by natural causes, or by the demerit of man, not what he would absolutely himself do: and in many of those predictions, though the condition be not expressed, yet it is to be understood; so the promises of God are to be understood, with the condition of perseverance in well doing; and threatenings, with a clause of revocation annexed to them, provided that men repent: and this God lays down as a general case, alway to be remembered as a rule for the interpreting his threatenings against a nation, and the same reason will hold in threatenings against a particular person. (Jer. 18:7–10) “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them;” and so when he speaks of planting a nation, if they do evil, he will repent of the good, &c. It is a universal rule by which all particular cases of this nature are to be tried; so that when man’s repentance arrives, God remains firm in his first will, always equal to himself; and it is not he that changes, but man. For since the interposition of the Mediator, with an eye to whom God governed the world after the fall, the right of punishing was taken off if men repented, and mercy was to flow out, if by a conversion men returned to their duty (Ezek. 18:20, 21). This, I say, is grounded upon God’s entertaining the Mediator; for the covenant of works discovered no such thing as repentance or pardon.
Now these general rules are to be the interpreters of particular cases: so that predictions of good are not to be counted absolute, if men return to evil; nor predictions of evil, if men be thereby reduced to a repentance of their crimes. So Nineveh shall be destroyed, that is, according to the general rule, unless the inhabitants repent, which they did; they manifested a belief of the threatening, and gave glory to God by giving credit to the prophet: and they had a notion of this rule God lays down in the other prophets; for they had an apprehension that, upon their humbling themselves, they might escape the threatened vengeance, and stop the shooting those arrows that were ready in the bow. Though Jonah proclaimed destruction without declaring any hopes of an arrest of judgment, yet their natural notion of God afforded some natural hopes of relief if they did their duty, and spurned not against the prophet’s message; and therefore, saith one, God did not always express this condition, because it was needless; his own rule revealed in Scripture was sufficient to some; and the natural notion all men had of God’s goodness upon their repentance, made it not absolutely necessary to declare it. And besides, saith he, it is bootless; the expressing it can do but little good; secure ones will repent never the sooner, but rather presume upon their hopes of God’s forbearance, and linger out their repentance till it be too late. And to work men to repentance, whom he hath purposed to spare, he threatens them with terrible judgments; which by how much the more terrible and peremptory they are, are likely to be more effectual for that end God in his purpose designs them; viz. to humble them under a sense of their demerit, and an acknowledgment of his righteous justice; and, therefore, though they be absolutely denounced, yet they are to be conditionally interpreted with a reservation of repentance. As for that answer which one gives, that by forty days was not meant forty natural days, but forty prophetical days, that is years, a day for a year; and that the city was destroyed forty years after by the Medes; the expression of God’s repenting upon their humiliation puts a bar to that interpretation; God repented, that is, he did not bring the punishment upon them according to those days the prophet had expressed; and, therefore, forty natural days are to be understood; and if it were meant forty years, and they were destroyed at the end of that term, how could God be said to repent, since according to that, the punishment threatened was, according to the time fixed, brought upon them? and the destruction of it forty years after will not be easily evinced, if Jonah lived in the time of Jeroboam, the second king of Israel, as he did (2 Kings 14:25); and Nineveh was destroyed in the time of Josiah, king of Judah. But the other answer is plain. God did not fulfil what he had threatened, because they reformed what they had committed: when the threatening was made, they were a fit object for justice; but when they repented, they were a fit object for a merciful respite. To threaten when sins are high, is a part of God’s justice; not to execute when sins are revoked by repentance, is a part of God’s goodness. And in the case of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1, 5), Isaiah comes with a message from God, that he should “set his house in order,” for he shall die; that is, the disease was mortal, and no outward applications could in their own nature resist the distemper: “Behold, I will add to thy days fifteen years; I will heal thee” (Isa. 38:1, 5). It seems to me to be one entire message, because the latter part of it was so suddenly after the other committed to Isaiah, to be delivered to Hezekiah; for he was not gone out of the king’s house, before he was ordered to return with the news of his health, by an extraordinary indulgence of God against the power of nature and force of the disease, “Behold, I will add to thy life;” noting it as an extraordinary thing; he was in the second court of the king’s house when this word came to him (2 Kings 20:4); the king’s house having three courts, so that he was not gone above half-way out of the palace. God might send this message of death, to prevent the pride Hezekiah might swell with for his deliverance from Sennacherib: as Paul had a messenger of Satan to buffet him to prevent his lifting up (2 Cor. 12:7); and this good man was subject to this sin, as we find afterwards in the case of the Babylonish ambassadors; and God delayed this other part of the message to humble him, and draw out his prayer: and as soon as ever he found Hezekiah in this temper, he sent Isaiah with a comfortable message of recovery; so that the will of God was to signify to him the mortality of his distemper, and afterwards to relieve him by a message of an extraordinary recovery.
Prop. V. God is not changed, when of loving to any creatures he becomes angry with them, or of angry he becomes appeased. The change in these cases is in the creature; according to the alteration in the creature, it stands in a various relation to God: an innocent creature is the object of his kindness, an offending creature is the object of his anger; there is a change in the dispensations of God, as there is a change in the creature making himself capable of such dispensations. God always acts according to the immutable nature of his holiness, and can no more change in his affections to good and evil, than he can in his essence. When the devils, now fallen, stood as glorious angels, they were the objects of God’s love, because holy; when they fell, they were the objects of God’s hatred, because impure; the same reason which made him love them while they were pure, made him hate them when they were criminal. The reason of his various dispensations to them was the same in both, as considered in God, his immutable holiness; but as respecting the creature, different; the nature of the creature was changed, but the Divine holy nature of God remained the same: “With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the froward, thou wilt show thyself froward” (Psalm 18:26): he is a refreshing light to those that obey him, and a consuming fire to those that resist him. Though the same angels were not always loved, yet the same reason that moved him to love them, moved him to hate them. It had argued a change in God if he had loved them alway, in whatsoever posture they were towards him; it could not be counted love, but a weakness and impotent fondness; the change is in the object, not in the affection of God; for the object loved before is not beloved now, because that which was the motive of love, is not now in it; so that the creature having a different state from what it had, falls under a different affection or dispensation. It had been a mutable affection in God to love that which was not worthy of love with the same love wherewith be loved that which had the greatest resemblance to himself; had God loved the fallen angels in that state and for that state, he had hated himself, because he had loved that which was contrary to himself and the image of his own holiness, which made them appear before, good in his sight. The will of God is unchangeably set to love righteousness and hate iniquity, and from this hatred to punish it; and if a righteous creature contracts the wrath of God, or a sinful creature hath the communications of God’s love, it must be by a change in themselves. Is the sun changed when it hardens one thing and softens another, according to the disposition of the several subjects? Or when the sun makes a flower more fragrant, and a dead carcass more noisome? There are divers effects, but the reason of that diversity is not in the sun, but in the subject; the sun is the same, and produceth those different effects by the same quality of heat; so if an unholy soul approach to God, God looks angrily upon him; if a holy soul come before him, the same immutable perfection in God draws out his kindness towards him: as some think, the sun would rather refresh than scorch us, if our bodies were of the same nature and substance with that luminary. As the will of God for creating the world was no new, but an eternal will, though it manifested itself in time, so the will of God for the punishment of sin, or the reconciliation of the sinner, was no new will: though his wrath in time break out in the effects of it upon sinners, and his love flows out in the effects of it upon penitents. Christ by his death reconciling God to man, did not alter the will of God, but did what was consonant to his eternal will; he came not to change his will, but to execute his will: “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). And the grace of God in Christ was not a new grace, but an old grace in a new appearance; “the grace of God hath appeared” (Tit. 1:11).
Prop. VI. A change of laws by God argues no change in God, when God abrogates some laws which he had settled in the church, and enacts others. I spake of this something the last day; I shall only add this: God commanded one thing to the Jews, when the church was in an infant state; and removed those laws, when the church came to some growth. The elements of the world were suited to the state of children (Gal. 4:3). A mother feeds not the infant with the same diet as she doth when it is grown up. Our Saviour acquainted not his disciples with some things at one time which he did at another, because they were not able to bear them: where was the change; in Christ’s will, or in their growth from a state of weakness to that of strength? A physician prescribes not the same thing to a person in health, as he doth to one conflicting with a distemper; nor the same thing in the beginning as he doth in the state or declination of the disease. The physician’s will and skill are the same, but the capacity and necessity of the patient for this or that medicine, or method of proceeding, are not the same. When God changed the ceremonial law, there was no change in the Divine will, but an execution of his will; for when God commanded the observance of the law he intended not the perpetuity of it; nay, in the prophets he declares the cessation of it; he decreed to command it, but he decreed to command it only for such a time; so that the abrogation of it was no less an execution of his decree, than the establishment of it for a season was; the commanding of it was pursuant to his decree for the appointing of it, and the nulling of it was pursuant to his decree of continuing it only for such a season; so that in all this there was no change in the will of God. The counsel of God stands sure; what changes soever there are in the world, are not in God or his will, but in the events of things, and the different relations of things to God: it is in the creature, not in the Creator. The sun alway remains of the same hue, and is not discolored in itself, because it shines green through a green glass, and blue through a blue glass; the different colors come from the glass, not from the sun; the change is alway in the disposition of the creature, and not in the nature of God or his will.