Hezekiah’s Reign over Judah ( 2 Chr 29.1—2; 31.1)2 Kings 18:1 18 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). 5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. 8 He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.
9 In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it, 10 and at the end of three years he took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11 The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12 because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. They neither listened nor obeyed.
Hezekiah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 29:1 Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.
Hezekiah Cleanses the Temple3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east 5 and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. 6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. 7 They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9 For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
12 Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah; 13 and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. 15 They gathered their brothers and consecrated themselves and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD. 16 The priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it and carried it out to the brook Kidron. 17 They began to consecrate on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. Then for eight days they consecrated the house of the LORD, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. 18 Then they went in to Hezekiah the king and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the showbread and all its utensils. 19 All the utensils that King Ahaz discarded in his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and consecrated, and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.”
Hezekiah Restores Temple Worship20 Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21 And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. 22 So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar. 23 Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them, 24 and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. For the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.
25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the LORD through his prophets. 26 The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 29 When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. 30 And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.
31 Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to the LORD. Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. 32 The number of the burnt offerings that the assembly brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD. 33 And the consecrated offerings were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. 34 But the priests were too few and could not flay all the burnt offerings, so until other priests had consecrated themselves, their brothers the Levites helped them, until the work was finished—for the Levites were more upright in heart than the priests in consecrating themselves. 35 Besides the great number of burnt offerings, there was the fat of the peace offerings, and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the LORD was restored. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.
Passover Celebrated2 Chronicles 30:1 Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. 2 For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— 3 for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— 4 and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. 5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. 6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”
10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. 11 However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.
13 And many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very great assembly. 14 They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away and threw into the brook Kidron. 15 And they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, so that they consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. 16 They took their accustomed posts according to the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests threw the blood that they received from the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the LORD. 18 For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. 22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers.
23 Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. 24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for offerings, and the princes gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And the priests consecrated themselves in great numbers. 25 The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.
Hezekiah Organizes the Priests2 Chronicles 31:1 Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah and broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and broke down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, and in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the people of Israel returned to their cities, every man to his possession.
2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise. 3 The contribution of the king from his own possessions was for the burnt offerings: the burnt offerings of morning and evening, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the appointed feasts, as it is written in the Law of the LORD. 4 And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the LORD. 5 As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. 6 And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps. 7 In the third month they began to pile up the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and his people Israel. 9 And Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites about the heaps. 10 Azariah the chief priest, who was of the house of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the LORD, we have eaten and had enough and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed his people, so that we have this large amount left.”
11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD, and they prepared them. 12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second, 13 while Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath, and Benaiah were overseers assisting Conaniah and Shimei his brother, by the appointment of Hezekiah the king and Azariah the chief officer of the house of God. 14 And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the east gate, was over the freewill offerings to God, to apportion the contribution reserved for the LORD and the most holy offerings. 15 Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah were faithfully assisting him in the cities of the priests, to distribute the portions to their brothers, old and young alike, by divisions, 16 except those enrolled by genealogy, males from three years old and upward—all who entered the house of the LORD as the duty of each day required—for their service according to their offices, by their divisions. 17 The enrollment of the priests was according to their fathers’ houses; that of the Levites from twenty years old and upward was according to their offices, by their divisions. 18 They were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole assembly, for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. 19 And for the sons of Aaron, the priests, who were in the fields of common land belonging to their cities, there were men in the several cities who were designated by name to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to everyone among the Levites who was enrolled.
20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. 21 And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.
Sennacherib Invades Judah2 Chronicles 32:1 After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. 2 And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, 3 he planned with his officers and his mighty men to stop the water of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. 4 A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the brook that flowed through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” 5 He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. 6 And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Zion, the City of Our God
48 A Song. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.
Psalm 48:1 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3 Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress.
4 For behold, the kings assembled;
they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
6 Trembling took hold of them there,
anguish as of a woman in labor.
7 By the east wind you shattered
the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the LORD of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God will establish forever. Selah
9 We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10 As your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!
12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us 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
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Bonhoeffer Psychology & Christianity
By Justin Taylor 5/26/2009
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ISBN-13: 978-0060608521
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!”
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.”
by P.T. Forsyth, (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.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
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.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
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
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.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of RS Thomas
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.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
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.
The Teacher's Commentary
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).
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
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
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
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.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
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.”
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
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 ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Sunday, September 24, 2017 | After Pentecost
Proper 20, Sunday
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 93, 96
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 34
Old Testament 2 Kings 4:8–37
New Testament Acts 9:10–31
Gospel Luke 3:7–18
Index of Readings
Psalm 93, 96
1 The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
2 your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
more majestic than the waves of the sea,
majestic on high is the LORD!
5 Your decrees are very sure;
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, forevermore.
1 O sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship the LORD in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the LORD; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
9 O fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD rescues them from them all.
20 He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
2 Kings 4:8–37
8 One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. 9 She said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
11 One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 He said to him, “Say to her, Since you have taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?” She answered, “I live among my own people.” 14 He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. 16 He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”
17 The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.
18 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” 27 When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”
32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.
23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
26 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” 15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church