2 Chronicles 6
Solomon Blesses the People2 Chronicles 6 1 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 2 But I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” 3 Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 4 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 5 ‘Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel; 6 but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.’ 7 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 8 But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 9 Nevertheless, it is not you who shall build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 10 Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 11 And there I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with the people of Israel.”
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. 13 Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the court, and he stood on it. Then he knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven, 14 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 15 who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 16 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk in my law as you have walked before me.’ 17 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David.
18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
22 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 23 then hear from heaven and act and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.
24 “If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers.
26 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 27 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.
28 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 29 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, 30 then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, 31 that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. 32 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, 33 hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.
34 “If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 35 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.
36 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, 37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 38 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you. 40 Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place.
41 “And now arise, O LORD God, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation,
and let your saints rejoice in your goodness.
42 O LORD God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one!
Remember your steadfast love for David your servant.”
2 Chronicles 7
Fire from Heaven2 Chronicles 7 1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The Dedication of the Temple4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. 5 King Solomon offered as a sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. 6 The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.
7 And Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat.
8 At that time Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly, from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of Egypt. 9 And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for they had kept the dedication of the altar seven days and the feast seven days. 10 On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the LORD had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.
If My People Pray11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’
19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”
2 Chronicles 8
Solomon’s Accomplishments2 Chronicles 8 1 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of the LORD and his own house, 2 Solomon rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given to him, and settled the people of Israel in them.
3 And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it. 4 He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath. 5 He also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars, 6 and Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had and all the cities for his chariots and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 7 All the people who were left of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of Israel, 8 from their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel had not destroyed—these Solomon drafted as forced labor, and so they are to this day. 9 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves for his work; they were soldiers, and his officers, the commanders of his chariots, and his horsemen. 10 And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.
11 Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”
12 Then Solomon offered up burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD that he had built before the vestibule, 13 as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. 14 According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded. 15 And they did not turn aside from what the king had commanded the priests and Levites concerning any matter and concerning the treasuries.
16 Thus was accomplished all the work of Solomon from the day the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was completed. 17 Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. 18 And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon.
What I'm Reading
The Historical Reality of Adam
By Guy Waters 1/01/2014
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” So begins the New England Primer, which taught generations of early Americans to read. In introducing our forefathers to the letter A, the primer was also administering a generous dose of biblical theology. As Paul puts it crisply in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Through Adam, sin and death entered into the world. By Christ, sin and death were conquered. Adam forfeited life by his disobedience. Christ achieved life by His obedience. These simple, basic truths, Paul tells the Corinthians, are the very structure and content of the gospel.
In the modern world, skeptics have long questioned or denied the historicity of Adam. Neo-orthodox theologians added their voices to this chorus in the last century. More recently, and under the pressure of evolutionary theory, some prominent evangelical voices have as well. One prominent evangelical Old Testament scholar has argued that “it is not necessary that Adam be a historical individual for [Genesis 1–2] to be without error in what it intends to teach.”
Another well-known evangelical Old Testament scholar denies that “a literal Adam [was] the first man and cause of sin and death.” Even so, he continues, we may retain “three core elements of the gospel,” namely, “the universal and self-evident problem of death; the universal and self-evident problem of sin; the historical event of the death and resurrection of Christ.”
It may help to pause and review what the issues in this particular debate are and what they are not. The issues do not concern the age of the earth and of the universe. Neither do they concern how we are to understand the days of Genesis 1. Reformed evangelicals have disagreed on these issues for generations, all the while affirming their common belief that Adam was a historical person.
We may frame the issue in the form of two related questions. First, does the Bible require us to believe that Adam was a historical person? Second, would anything be lost in the gospel if we were to deny Adam’s historicity?
In answer to the first question, yes, the Bible requires us to believe that Adam was a historical person. Some of the clearest testimony about Adam comes from the New Testament. When explaining Genesis 2, Jesus clearly speaks of the first man and the first woman in historical terms, and of the institution of marriage in historical terms (Matt. 19:4–6). The Apostle Paul, in referring to Genesis 2, speaks of Adam and Eve in terms equally historical (1 Tim. 2:12–14).
In 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, Paul places Adam and Jesus in parallel relationship. Paul calls Jesus the “Second Adam” — there is none between Adam and Jesus (1 Cor. 15:47). He also calls Jesus the “Last Adam” — there is none after Jesus (v. 45).
This relationship requires Adam to be a historical person. Paul compares Adam and Christ in terms of what each man did. Paul speaks of Adam’s one trespass in eating the forbidden fruit, and of Christ’s obedience unto death and resurrection unto life. For the comparison to hold, Adam’s actions must be as fully historical as Christ’s actions are historical, and Adam must be as historical a person as Christ was and remains.
So then, the Bible requires us to believe that Adam was a historical person. Now, taking up our second question, what are we to make of the argument that nothing in the gospel would be lost if we were to deny Adam’s historicity? May we uphold universal sin and death while discounting the way in which the Scripture says sin and death entered the world? The answer is no. The Bible does not give us that option. It clearly teaches that sin entered the world through the one action of one historical man, Adam (Rom. 5:12). If we reject the Bible’s account of a historical point of entry for sin into human existence, then, as Richard Gaffin has rightly observed, sin is no longer a matter of “human fallenness.” It is a matter of “human givenness.” It is just the way that human beings are.
This understanding of our plight upends the gospel. Absent a historical fall, the Bible’s account of redemption through the Second and Last Adam, Jesus Christ, makes no sense at all. How can it at all be meaningful to say with the Bible that God, in His sovereign and infinite mercy, has recovered and restored what was lost in the fall? To deny the historicity of Adam is no trivial matter. It has radical implications for the way in which we look at human nature, evil, and redemption.
The second lesson of the New England Primer, teaching the letter B, is “Thy life to mend / this Book [the Bible] attend.” Having clarified our human problem in biblical terms with its lesson on the letter A, the primer then articulates the solution in equally biblical terms with its lesson on the letter B. Wise counsel indeed. And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
Guy Waters Books:
- How Jesus Runs the Church
- By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification
- The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis
- Justification And The New Perspectives On Paul: A Review And Response
- Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church
- The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament 2.Reihe)
- What Is the Bible? (Basics of the Faith)
Exegesis has Consequences
By Anthony Carter 1/01/2014
Ideas have consequences. Since the dawn of Western philosophy, we have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly of this axiom. From the influence of John Locke upon the founders of America, to the disastrous results of the influence of Karl Marx in Communist Russia and Friedrich Nietzsche in Hitler’s Germany, it can hardly be argued that ideas don’t have consequences. Yet, not only do ideas have consequences, but so too does exegesis.
The danger of erroneous interpretation of Scripture is not new in our day. The Apostle Paul instructed a young Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). There is a right way and a wrong way to handle the Word of God. Unfortunately, our era continues to be littered with those who may find themselves ashamed because they have mishandled the Word of Truth.
Take, for example, Mark 16:17–18:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly poisons, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Although the authenticity of this passage is debated, some have taken these words and used them to justify the practice of literally handling deadly snakes in the midst of the congregation as a demonstration of faithfulness. Tragically, many have died from snake bites as a result. Exegesis has consequences.
Consider another well-known text of Scripture that when mishandled and misapplied has led to tragic results as well:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14–15)
The encouragement to call for the elders to pray for the sick has led some to misunderstand James as prohibiting the use of doctors or medicinal practices. Unfortunately, I have known families who have needlessly lost loved ones to sickness and diseases that were easily curable if only they had enlisted the help of a physician or used proven medical practices. Alas, erroneously interpreting and wrongly applying this text led them to believe that to call for such help would be disobedient to God. Again, exegesis has consequences.
While misinterpreting Scripture can unnecessarily prolong sickness and even result in physical death, the greatest danger is in what it can do to the soul. Through wrongful exegesis, people can and have been led to eternal death.
A few years ago, a popular charismatic pastor in the Midwest determined that God had given him the revelation that the Bible teaches that Jesus died to redeem every human being, without exception. This pastor began teaching universalism, a heresy that asserts that not one person will ever be lost in eternity, whether they repent in this life or not. Armed with this idea, he went to the Scriptures and began re-interpreting, re-exegeting, and reapplying many of the texts he had previously taught. For example, 1 Timothy 4:9–10 says, “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” From this passage, the pastor suggested that God’s plan is to save every human being, and not just those who believe in Him.
In an interview, when asked about those who willfully sin, reject Christ, and die unrepentant, the pastor turned to Philippians 2:10–11: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Through misinterpretation and misapplication, this pastor suggested that Paul teaches that everyone will recognize and accept Jesus either before they die or after. He stated, “Even in the afterlife some will get the revelation of Jesus and be inspired by the Holy Spirit to confess His lordship.”
Needless to say, the consequences for this interpretation and application are staggering. Not only is the preaching of the gospel made of no effect, but the suffering which the Apostles and the church have endured for preaching the gospel was in vain (Gal. 3:4). There is no more dangerous and deleterious an idea than the idea that men and women do not need to hear the gospel, repent of sin, and believe upon Christ in order to be saved. Exegesis has consequences. Some exegesis has eternally disastrous consequences.
However, just as bad exegesis has eternally condemning consequences, faithful exegesis has eternally rewarding consequences. Second Timothy 2:15 encourages us that those who rightly handle the Word of Truth do not need to be ashamed before God. They will not shrink back when presenting their labors to God.
Therefore, if we are faithful, then we, like Paul, seek to handle God’s Word not deceitfully but with integrity and open accountability before God and all those who hear (2 Cor. 4:2). We must not be peddlers or corrupters of God’s Word (2 Cor. 2:17). Rather, we preach Christ and faith in Him. We must remember that our exegesis has consequences.
Anthony Carter Books:
- 1 Black and Reformed: Seeing God's Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience
- 2 Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
- 3 Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
- 4 On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience
- 5 Blood Work
- 6 What is the Gospel?: Life's Most Important Question
- 7 The Holiness of God: An Attribute First Among Equals
- 8 Fighting Sexual Temptation: An Attack of the Heart
- 9 Wolves Among the Sheep: Be Aware of False Prophets
The Spirit’s Internal Witness
By R.C. Sproul 2/01/2014
Nearly forty years ago, I was a part of a group known as the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Concerned about the impact of liberal higher criticism, we gathered to define what it means that the Bible does not teach any error and to articulate a defensible position on the trustworthiness of God’s Word that Christians could use to combat misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the church’s historic position on the Bible. The council developed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which deals with many issues related to the inspiration and truthfulness of Scripture. Article XVII of this statement asserts, in part, that “the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.”
By this article we wanted to make it clear that the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book. He is involved not only in the inspiration of Scripture, but is also a witness to Scripture’s truthfulness. This is what we call the “internal testimony” of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit provides a testimony that takes place inside of us — He bears witness to our spirits that the Bible is the Word of God. Just as the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), He assures us of the sacred truth of His Word.
Despite its importance, the internal testimony of the Spirit is subject to misunderstanding. One of these misunderstandings relates to how we defend the truthfulness of the Bible. Do we need to provide an apologetic — a defense — for sacred Scripture that relies on evidence from archaeology and history, on demonstrating the Bible’s internal consistency, and on logical argumentation? Some misconstrue the doctrine of the internal testimony to mean that the presentation of evidence to the veracity of the Bible is unnecessary and even counterproductive. All we need to do is rest on the fact that the Holy Spirit tells us that the Bible is God’s Word both in direct biblical statements and in His internal work of confirming Scripture’s truthfulness.
Those who hold this position usually want to stress that the authority of God’s Word depends on God Himself and believe that subjecting His Word to empirical testing is to make the Bible’s truthfulness dependent on our own authority to evaluate its truth claims. At one level, this concern is laudable. Scripture’s authority depends on its being the revelation of God, above whom there is no higher authority. But when we are talking about proof for the veracity of Scripture, we are not talking about the authority of God’s Word but about how we know which of the books that claim to be the Word of God are actually from Him. Here, subjective experience cannot be our only court of appeal. We need some sort of objective testimony to determine whether the Bible, Qur’an, or Bhagavad Gita is the Word of God because they all claim to be the Word of God.
This is where what John Calvin called the indicia come into play. The indicia—indicators — are testable, analyzable, falsifiable, or verifiable aspects of proof. They include such things as archaeological evidence, Scripture’s conformity to what we know about history from other sources, its internal consistency, its majesty and beauty, and so forth. These things give us objective confidence that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Both Calvin and the Westminster Confession of Faith tell us that these indicators are enough in themselves to convince people that Scripture alone is the Word of God.
However, these authorities both recognize the difference between proof and persuasion, and it is really the work of persuasion that we are discussing when we look at the internal testimony of the Spirit. Human beings are adept at rejecting objective evidence when it does not confirm their prejudice, no matter how clear or compelling the evidence may be. Some people will not be persuaded by all the proof in the world because they are not truly open to the evidence.
My experience as an apologist and minister has shown me that the real reason most people reject Christianity is not for lack of evidence. The proof from external sources regarding the truth of the biblical account is too overwhelming. No, the real issue is a moral one. The person not reconciled to God in Christ and living in disobedience does not want Scripture’s claim that God has a full and final claim on his life to be true. He wants to get rid of the book as fast as he can.
This is where the internal witness of the Spirit comes in. Only those whom God the Holy Spirit has regenerated will submit to Scripture as His inerrant and infallible Word. The Holy Spirit does not give us a new argument for the truth of the Bible, but He confirms in our hearts the truth of Scripture as it is displayed in both the internal marks of Scripture (harmony and majesty of its contents) and the external marks of Scripture (historical accuracy). Objective proofs for the Bible are many and compelling, but they cannot force people to believe against their wills. Sinners are only persuaded to receive the Bible as God’s Word as the Holy Spirit changes their hearts and assures them that they can trust and rely on what Scripture says.
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
Delighting in the Trinity
By Michael Reeves 2/01/2014
“It is not to be expected that we should love God supremely if we have not known him to be more desirable than all other things.” So wrote the great hymn writer Isaac Watts. And of course, he was quite right, for we always love what seems most attractive to us. Whether it be God, money, sex, or fame, we live for and love what captures our hearts.
But what kind of God could outstrip the attractions of all other things? Could any unitary, single-person god do so? Hardly, or at least not for long. Single-person gods must, by definition, have spent eternity in absolute solitude. Before creation, having no other persons with whom they could commune, they must have been entirely alone.
Love for others, then, cannot go very deep in them if they can go for eternity without it. And so, not being essentially loving, such gods are inevitably less than lovely. They may demand our worship, but they cannot win our hearts. They must be served with gritted teeth.
How wonderfully different it is with the triune God. In John 17:24, Jesus speaks of how the Father loved Him even before the creation of the world. That is the triune, living God: a Father, whose very being has eternally been about loving His Son, pouring out the Spirit of love and life on Him. Here is a God who is love, who is so full of life and blessing that for eternity He has been overflowing with it. As the Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes put it: “Such a goodness is in God as is in a fountain, or in the breast that loves to ease itself of milk.” Here in the triune God, in other words, is an infinitely satisfying God, one who is the very fountainhead of all goodness, truth, and beauty.
That means that with the triune God there is great good news. For here is no mean and grasping God, but a Lord of grace and mercy — one, in fact, who offers a salvation sweeter than any non-triune God could ever imagine.
Just imagine for a moment a single-person god. Having been alone for eternity, would it want fellowship with us? It seems most unlikely. Would it even know what fellowship was? Almost certainly not. Such a god might allow us to live under its rule and protection, but little more. Think of the uncertain hope of the Muslim or the Jehovah’s Witness: they may finally attain paradise, but even there they will have no real fellowship with their god. Their god would not want it.
But if God is a Father, whose very life has been about loving and delighting in His precious Son, then you begin to see a God who would have far more intimate and marvelous aims, aims to draw us into His life and joy, to embrace us with the very love He has for His dear Son.
Indeed, this God does not offer some kind of “he loves me, he loves me not” relationship whereby I have to try to keep myself in His favor by behaving impeccably. No, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) — and so with the security to enjoy His love forever.
The eternally beloved Son comes to us to share with us the very love that the Father has always lavished on Him. He comes to share with us and bring us into the life that is His, that we might be brought before the Most High, not just as forgiven sinners, but as dearly beloved children who share by the Spirit the Son’s own “Abba!” cry.
In other words, the God who is infinitely more beautiful than all the gods of human religion offers an infinitely more beautiful salvation. Here is a God who can win back wandering hearts by the mere opening of eyes to who He is, who can give the deepest hope and comfort to the stumbling saint.
The Trinity, then, is not some awkward add-on to God, the optional extra nobody should want. No, God is beautiful, desirable, and life-giving precisely because He is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Only here can be found the God who is love and who shares with us His very own life and joy. Only here can be found the God whom it is eternal life to know.
John Calvin once wrote that if we try to think about God without thinking about the Father, Son, and Spirit, then “only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God.” Quite so, and that means that if we content ourselves with speaking of God vaguely or abstractly, without the Father, Son, and Spirit, we will never know the life, beauty, and comfort of knowing the true God.
Here and here alone is the God for whom our hearts were made, the God who can win our hearts away from the desires that enslave us, the God who is endlessly, unsurpassably satisfying.
- 1 Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith
- 2 The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation
- 3 Why the Reformation Still Matters
- 4 Rejoicing in Christ
- 5 The Reformation: What You Need to Know and Why (Lausanne Library)
- 6 Enjoy Your Prayer Life
- 7 The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son and Spirit
- 8 Freedom Movement
- 9 Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives
- 10 Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life)
- 11 The Breeze of the Centuries: Introducing Great Theologians - From the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas
- 12 Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves (2012-08-18)
- 13 On Giants' Shoulders: Introducing Great Theologians - from Luther to Barth
- 14 Introducing Major Theologians: From the Apostolic Fathers to the Twentieth Century
- 15 Christ Our Life
- 16 The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves (2009-06-19)
Discipling Every Age
By Brad Waller 2/01/2014
For the first time in the history of our country, four generations are living and working together. There are the Traditionalists (born 1925–1945), the Baby Boomers (1946–1964), Generation X (1965–1980), and the next demographic explosion, the Millennials (1981–1999). Each of these generations has been uniquely influenced by the world in which they were raised.
The Traditionalists lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. Baby Boomers were introduced to the television during their birth years. Generation X was influenced by the arrival of twenty-four-hour cable news, where they witnessed the harsh effects of life in a fallen world at all hours of the day and night. The Millennials are growing up in a “virtual world” of social media, online classes, and technologies that seem to update by the hour.
With such generational diversity and all the challenges that come with reaching each demographic, how can the church effectively disciple each of these groups in a way that honors Christ?
Our tendency is to want and shape ministries that address each demographic differently. But the human condition is the same no matter when we were born. The wages of sin do not vary according to age.
Therefore, whatever may be the particular challenges of presenting the gospel to each generation, they are overshadowed by the factors held in common with every generation.
Donald Gray Barnhouse said:
Man is the same today that he has always been. He is a rebel against God. He may, in some generations, hide his rebellion a little more carefully than at other times, but there is no change in his heart. The men who built the city against God back in the days of Babylon had the same hatred as that which possessed the men who nailed the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross.
So the task of the church is the same, regardless of age or generational differences, and that task was given to the Apostles by Our Lord Jesus:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:19–20)
Discipleship is the process whereby we seek to teach others the Word of God. Notice that the Great Commission is not only to teach people God’s commands, but to teach them to “observe” or “obey” all that He commanded. There is a world of difference between teaching someone everything the Lord commanded and teaching them to obey everything He commanded. One is through words, the other through a way of life. Teaching someone to obey God’s commands requires intentionality in the context of relationship throughout the span of a lifetime.
Even though the word discipleship is never used in the Bible, Jesus embodied discipleship in all He said and did when He came and dwelt among us. He was, literally, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). As we study how Jesus interacted with others in this fallen world, we learn what discipleship looks like.
The disciples were taught to obey God’s Word by what they heard Jesus teach, but just as important, by what they saw Jesus do. The Master Discipler never instructed His disciples to do anything He had not done first. The one who told His disciples to “go” (Matt. 28:19) was the one who went from His Father “into the world” (John 16:28). The one who said “the first shall be last” (Matt. 20:16) was the very one who washed the feet of His disciples (Luke 13:1–17). And the one who through Paul told them to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3) was the one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).
Our call to discipleship is a call to follow our Lord’s example before others. As we seek to live obediently by God’s grace, we teach others. Even our struggles demonstrate to those around us that truly it is by grace alone through faith alone that we are saved.
Our sojourn in this fallen world is from cradle to grave. The lessons we learn at every stage are the very lessons we pass on to others (2 Tim. 2:2). Therefore, children need parents who seek to embody the gospel in their homes daily through loving relationships and family devotions. Teenagers need parents and older church members to share how they have experienced the great doctrines of the Bible. College students who have come from broken homes must learn from spiritually mature men and women how to be godly husbands and wives, fathers, and mothers. Young families look to every church member to fulfill their baptismal vow of assisting in the Christian nurture of their child by teaching Sunday school and working in the nursery. Discipleship is for all stages of life.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we endeavor to effectively disciple every age with the unchanging Word of God.
What Are You Worried About?
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/01/2014
We are inveterate plea-bargainers. We are adept at the art of the deal. Romans 1 tells us that in our fallen condition, we all deny the God we know exists. We know we stand guilty before Him, but we suppress that truth in unrighteousness. But, we do not want to be utterly and completely selfish, absolutely unrestrained. So we submit to sundry creatures, gods of our own making. We are willing to have, for instance, “god-to-me” in our lives, if it will keep the living God at bay. We are willing to admit some level of guilt — “nobody’s perfect” — in order to avoid entering into the fullness of our wretchedness. And we are willing to fear some minor inconveniences, if it will keep terror away.
When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, He treated His audience as though they were believers. He told those who had gathered that they were the light of the world and the salt that preserves the world. Unbelievers, however, do not go unaddressed. In calling on believers to set aside their petty fears and to embrace a single-minded passion for the kingdom of God, in chastening those assembled for worrying about what they will eat and what they will wear, He says, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things” (Matt. 6:32).
This worrying, too, is plea-bargaining. It is an attempt to squelch one dreadful fear by replacing it with a merely annoying fear. It is a great win to be able to sigh in relief after honestly assessing, “What’s the worst that could happen?” If I don’t have enough to eat, that could be bad, from a certain perspective. If I have nothing to wear, that too could be bad, from a certain perspective. Either of these deprivations could, at worst, lead to my death, through starvation or exposure. That, it seems in our day, is at the root of our fears. We live in a culture where death is looked upon as an option to be delayed. Exercise, diets, surgeries, cosmetics, and Photoshop are the tools of our trade by which we avert our eyes from the truth that we are dying.
We have not, however, reached the end of our bargaining. We prefer worrying about what we will eat or wear to worrying about dying. But we prefer to worry about dying rather than worry about hell. Dying, after all, happens only once, and then it is over. Hell, on the other hand, is forever. I would argue that far more terrifying than the pain of hell is its duration. A great deal of pain for even a relatively brief time is less than a pain that lasts forever. What unbelievers ought to be worrying about is not he who can kill the body, but He who can kill both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).
This, in turn, ought to tell us for what we should be most grateful. This great fear is no longer on the table for those who trust in the finished work of Christ alone. What are we doing spending our time worrying about the plea-bargained fears of the Gentiles when we are free of their ultimate fear? Why should we worry about what we will eat when we feast on the body and blood of our Lord? Why should we worry about what we will wear when we are clothed in His righteousness?
Hell should not, however, fall off our radar even though we need no longer fear it. First, we are called to constant thanks and gratitude that we will never experience hell. We are called to remember that on the cross Christ descended into hell for us, that He received the full wrath and fury of the Father due to us for our sins. But second, hell did not disappear. Why are we worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear while there are people out there who will end up in hell unless they repent, but are instead worrying only about what they will eat or what they will wear? It is bad enough that they who want to deny that hell exists worry about petty things. How much worse is it that we who affirm the reality of hell worry about petty things?
When we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are not merely seeking to get in before the gates close. It is not merely our own entrance that we seek as we seek the kingdom. Rather, we are about the business of seeing the glory of the reign of Christ over all things made known all across the globe. Which means we seek the kingdom as we seek to be used of the King to bring in the elect from the four corners of the world. We seek the kingdom when we proclaim the good news to a lost and dying world. We seek the kingdom when the Spirit uses us to snatch brands not just from the fire, but from the fire that never dies.
We are none of us conscious enough of hell. Were we so, we would be marked by both gratitude and urgency, gratitude for our own rescue, urgently laboring for the rescue of others. Hell is real, and hell is forever.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Joe Carter 2/01/2014
Abraham Lincoln was fond of asking, “If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” “Five,” his audience would invariably answer. “No,” he’d politely respond, “the correct answer is four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.”
Like Lincoln’s associates, many of our fellow citizens — including many Christians — appear to fall for the notion that changing a definition causes a change in essence. A prime example is the attempt to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. Simply calling such relationships “gay marriages,” many believe, will actually make them marriages. Such reasoning, however, is as flawed as thinking that changing tail to leg changes the function of the appendage.
Consider the change that must occur in our tail/leg example. A dog’s tail cannot perform the same functions as its leg. He can’t use his tail to run or swim or scratch an itch. In order to use the term for both parts, we must discard all qualities that make a tail different from a leg. The new meaning of leg will require that we exclude any difference of form (for example, we can no longer say that a paw can be found at the end of a leg) or function (for example, legs are not necessarily used for standing). In other words, by redefining the term tail we have not made it equivalent in form or function to a leg; we’ve merely stripped the term leg of its previous meaning and made it as generic a term as appendage.
The same is true with the attempts to redefine marriage. Because marriage requires the specific form of a union of man and woman (Gen. 2:24), applying the term to same-sex unions alters the very concept of what a marriage is for and what functions it takes.
For example, a significant percentage of people in same-sex sexual partnerships do not view monogamy or sexual exclusivity as part of the meaning of marriage. They may still use the term monogamy, but they have redefined that term too, in a way that means “monogamish,” that is, relationships in which they are emotionally intimate with only one partner yet remain free to engage in sexual infidelities or group sexual activity. Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions does not make it more inclusive, but rather more exclusive, since it requires excluding all the functions that were previously believed to be essential to the institution of marriage (for example, sexual fidelity).
Some Christians, recognizing the change that occurs because of the redefinition of marriage, argue that we need a two-track system: marriage as defined by the state and marriage as defined by the church. The problem with this view is that it also misunderstands the nature of marriage. Neither the state nor the church has the authority to change the essential nature of marriage, since the institution was neither created by nor belongs to either the church or the state. As Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote in a previous issue of Tabletalk (June 2013):
Marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.
Because the three institutions of church, state, and marriage have interdependent yet independent existence, they can decide whether to recognize each other’s legitimacy, but they cannot delineate each other’s boundaries. In this way, the relationship is similar to nation-states. The U.S. government, for example, can decide to “recognize” the state of Israel, but it cannot redefine the country in a way that contracts its border to exclude the Gaza Strip. The U.S. either recognizes Israel as it defines itself or it rejects its legitimacy altogether.
Some Christians may even concede that while the state doesn’t truly have the authority to redefine marriage, we should go along with the legal fiction for the sake of the gospel witness. Although such Christians may have the best of intentions, they are actually subverting the very gospel they want to protect.
In acceding to laws that redefine marriage, they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do: they are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Ps. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). As Christians, we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse it, we too become suppressors of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).
What is needed is for the church to have the courage to speak the truth of the gospel: we cannot love our neighbor and tolerate unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the “go along to get along” mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?
Preaching the Wrath of God
By Steven Lawson 2/01/2014
The Genevan Reformer John Calvin said, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns.
The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners.
Like trumpeters on the castle wall warning of coming disaster, preachers must proclaim the full counsel of God. Those who stand in pulpits must preach the whole body of truth in the Scriptures, which includes both sovereign wrath and supreme love. They cannot pick and choose what they want to preach. Addressing the wrath of God is never optional for a faithful preacher—it is a divine mandate.
Tragically, preaching that deals with God’s impending judgment is absent from many contemporary pulpits. Preachers have become apologetic regarding the wrath of God, if not altogether silent. In order to magnify the love of God, many argue, the preacher must downplay His wrath. But to omit God’s wrath is to obscure His amazing love. Strangely enough, it is merciless to withhold the declaration of divine vengeance.
Why is preaching divine wrath so necessary? First, the holy character of God demands it. An essential part of God’s moral perfection is His hatred of sin. A.W. Pink asserts, “The wrath of God is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin.” God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) who “feels indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11) toward the wicked. God has “hated wickedness” (45:7) and is angered toward all that is contrary to His perfect character. He will, therefore, “destroy” (5:6) sinners in the Day of Judgment.
Every preacher must declare the wrath of God or marginalize His holiness, love, and righteousness. Because God is holy, He is separated from all sin and utterly opposed to every sinner. Because God is love, He delights in purity and must, of necessity, hate all that is unholy. Because God is righteous, He must punish the sin that violates His holiness.
Second, the ministry of the prophets demands it. The prophets of old frequently proclaimed that their hearers, because of their continual wickedness, were storing up for themselves the wrath of God (Jer. 4:4). In the Old Testament, more than twenty words are used to describe the wrath of God, and these words are used in their various forms a total of 580 times. Time and again, the prophets spoke with vivid imagery to describe God’s wrath unleashed upon wickedness. The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, spoke of “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). From Moses to the forerunner of Christ, there was a continual strain of warning to the impenitent of the divine fury that awaits.
Third, the preaching of Christ demands it. Ironically, Jesus had more to say about divine wrath than anyone else in the Bible. Our Lord spoke about God’s wrath more than He spoke of God’s love. Jesus warned about “fiery hell” (Matt. 5:22) and eternal “destruction” (7:13) where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). Simply put, Jesus was a hellfire and damnation preacher. Men in pulpits would do well to follow the example of Christ in their preaching.
Fourth, the glory of the cross demands it. Christ suffered the wrath of God for all who would call upon Him. If there is no divine wrath, there is no need for the cross, much less for the salvation of lost souls. From what would sinners need to be saved? It is only when we recognize the reality of God’s wrath against those deserving of judgment that we find the cross to be such glorious news. Too many pulpiteers today boast in having a cross-centered ministry but rarely, if ever, preach divine wrath. This is a violation of the cross itself.
Fifth, the teaching of the Apostles demands it. Those directly commissioned by Christ were mandated to proclaim all that He commanded (Matt. 28:20). This necessitates proclaiming God’s righteous indignation toward sinners. The Apostle Paul warns unbelievers of the “God who inflicts wrath” (Rom. 3:5) and declares that only Jesus can “deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Peter writes about “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:7). Jude addresses the “punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). John describes “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Clearly, the New Testament writers recognized the necessity of preaching God’s wrath.
Preachers must not shrink away from proclaiming the righteous anger of God toward hell-deserving sinners. God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). That day is looming on the horizon. Like the prophets and Apostles, and even Christ Himself, we too must warn unbelievers of this coming dreadful day and compel them to flee to Christ, who alone is mighty to save.
Steven Lawson | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 106Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
106:1 Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3 Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5 that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
For the Glory of God
By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2014
At the church I co-pastor, Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, we are deliberate about making sure that both our church members and visitors understand the doctrinal basis of our fellowship. As a small way of helping to further that end, we note in our church bulletin every Sunday morning that “we affirm the solas of the Protestant Reformation.”
By way of reminder, the five solas are five points that summarize the biblical theology recovered and proclaimed during the Protestant Reformation. As we note in our bulletin, these five solas are:
Sola Scriptura: The Bible is the sole written divine revelation and alone can bind the conscience of the believer absolutely.Each sola is important, but the first four really exist to preserve the last one, namely, the glory of God. By sola Scriptura, we declare the glory of God’s authority by noting that only His inspired Word can command us absolutely. Sola fide, solus Christus, and sola gratia all exalt God’s glory in salvation. God and God alone—through His Son, Jesus Christ—saves His people from sin and death.
Sola Fide: Justification is by faith alone. The merit of Christ, imputed to us by faith, is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are remitted, and imputed to Christ.
Solus Christus: Christ is the only mediator through whose work we are redeemed.
Sola Gratia: Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us.
Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone belongs the glory.
We need the glory of God to be reinforced because it is the hardest truth of all for people to accept. The refusal to glorify God in an appropriate and proper way is basic to our corrupt state. As Paul says in his penetrating description of human fallenness in Romans 1: “They did not honor him as God” (v. 21).
So often when we talk about God, we describe Him in such a way that He isn’t recognizable as the God of the Bible. I’ve said more than once that if our god is not sovereign, our god is not God. But I must go further. If we don’t acknowledge the sovereignty of God, if we don’t acknowledge the justice of God, if we don’t acknowledge the omniscience of God, the immutability of God, then whatever god it is we are acknowledging, it is not God. We’re not glorifying God as God, we’re glorifying something less than God as if it were God, and to glorify something other than God or something less than God as if it were God is the very essence of idolatry.
Idolatry is our most basic sin, and in it an exchange is made: God reveals His truth about Himself, and we trade in that truth and walk out with the lie. We exchange the glory of God for the glory of the creature. This can be done in a crass way of worshiping something that we craft with our own hands such as a statue or an icon. But there is also a more sophisticated, intellectual sort of idolatry—the reconstruction of our doctrine of God in such a way as to strip Him of those attributes with which we are uncomfortable. All of us have a propensity to reconstruct a god who is not holy, who is not wrathful, who is not just, who is not sovereign. We find it easy to take the attributes of God we like and reject the ones we don’t. When we do that, we are as guilty of idolatry as a person who is worshiping a graven image.
Every day in America, we hear one of the great pernicious lies about God, namely, that we all worship the same god. We are told that whatever we call him or it—Allah or Yahweh or Tao or Buddha—it doesn’t matter. We all worship the same thing. To that I reply, “No, we don’t.” The scary part about religion in general is that it underscores man’s guilt before God, but then goes on to create ineffective solutions to this guilt. The impetus for creating alternatives to the religion that God reveals in nature and in Scripture is idolatry. But even if we boldly confess this truth, we must be on guard against idolatry even within the Christian community. Because we are fallen creatures, we can be religious and be idolaters at the same time. All of us can remake God in our own image, downplaying or ignoring those aspects of His character we do not like. If we do that, we are withholding the glory that belongs to God alone.
The whole goal of our salvation is to bring us to a place where we worship God and we honor Him as God. The great danger is that we make ourselves the center of concern, and we steal the glory of God. In all that we do, the driving passion of the Christian must always be Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory. And the only way for this passion to be realized is to honor God as God, to understand Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word and not according to the mere opinions of fallen creatures.
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
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Understanding Satan’s role (5)
(Sept 25) Bob Gass
‘Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you.’
(Lk 22:31) 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, ESV
Luke writes: ‘Jesus said, “Simon, listen to me! Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you, as a farmer does when he separates wheat from the husks. But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to me, help the others”’ (vv. 31-32 CEV). Satan’s attack proves you have an important part to play in the plan of God. That’s why he’s trying so hard to defeat you. The truth is, the intensity and duration of his attack is an indication of your value to God and the level of blessing that God has planned for you on the other side of the attack. So, if you belong to Christ, view the attack as a sign of respect. And remember Who is in control. Satan needed God’s permission to attack Job. Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:18 NIV 2011 Edition). And this is proof. The purpose of this test is to provide you with a testimony to God’s goodness. Jesus was allowing Peter to experience a trial so that he could encourage his brothers. Perhaps God is doing the same with you. He knows that the church, and the world, need living testimonies of His power. So, your difficulty may be preparing you to be a voice of encouragement to others who are struggling. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20 NASB). Since God loves you and is in control of your life, good things will come from the difficulties you are going through right now.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thus began the Ten Amendments, or Bill of Rights, which were approved this day, September 25, 1789. They were passed because the Constitution did not limit the powers of the Federal Government enough. Indeed, sixteen of the fifty-five delegates refused to sign the Constitution. Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams even tried to prevent it from being ratified, as the abuses of King George’s concentrated power were still fresh. Only with the promise that ten limitations would be placed on this new Government did the States finally ratify the Constitution.American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
And so also with the universe itself as we rise in Christ to prayer. Joined with its Redeemer, we are integrated into its universality. We are made members of its vast whole. We are not detained and cramped in a sectional world. We are not planted in the presence of an outside, alien universe, nor in the midst of a distraught, unreconciled universe, which speaks like a crowd, in many fragments and many voices, and drags us from one relation with it to another, with a Lo, here is Christ, or there. But it is a universe wholly vocal to us, really a universe, and vocal as a whole, one congenial and friendly, as it comes to us in its Christ and ours. It was waiting for us—for such a manifestation of the Son of God as prayer is. This world is not now a desert haunted by demons. And it is more than a vestibule to another; it is its prelude in the drama of all things. We know it in another knowledge now than its own. Nature can never be understood by natural knowledge. We know it as science never can—as a whole, and as reality. We know it as we are known of God—altogether, and not in pieces. Having nothing, and praying for everything, we possess all things. The faith that energizes in Christian prayer sets us at the centre of that whole of which Nature is the overture part. The steps of thought and its processes of law fade away. They do not cease to act, but they retire from notice. We grasp the mobile organization of things deep at its constant and trusty heart. We receive the earnest of our salvation—Christ in us.
There, where one centre reconciles all things,
The world’s profound heart beats.
We are planted there. And all the mediation of process becomes immediate in its eternal ground. As we are going there we feel already there. “They were willing to receive Him into the boat, and straightway the boat was at the land whither they were going.” We grasp that eternal life to which all things work, which gives all the waxing organization its being and meaning—for a real organism only grows because it already is. That is the mark of a real life. And soul and person is the greatest organism of all. We apprehend our soul as it is apprehended of God and in God, the timeless God—with all its evolution, past or future, converted into a divine present. We are already all that we are to be. We possess our souls in the prayer which is real communion with God. We enter by faith upon that which to sight and history is but a far future reversion. When He comes to our prayer He brings with Him all that He purposes to make us. We are already the “brave creature” He means us to be. More than our desire is fulfilled—our soul is. In such hour or visitation we realize our soul or person at no one stage of it, but in its fullness, and in the context of its whole and final place in history, the world, and eternity. A phase which has no meaning in itself, yet carries, like the humble mother of a great genius, an eternal meaning in it. And we can seize that meaning in prayer; we can pierce to what we are at our true course and true destiny, i.e. what we are to God’s grace. Laws and injunctions such as “Love your neighbour,” even “Love your enemy,” then become life principles, and they are law pressures no more. The yoke is easy. Where all is forgiven to seventy times seven there is no friction and no grief any more. We taste love and joy. All the pressure of life then goes to form the crystals of faith. It is God making up His jewels.
When we are in God’s presence by prayer we are right, our will is morally right, we are doing His will. However unsure we may be about other acts and efforts to serve Him we know we are right in this. If we ask truly but ask amiss, it is not a sin, and He will in due course set us right in that respect. We are sure that prayer is according to His will, and that we are just where we ought to be. And that is a great matter for the rightness of our thought, and of the aims and desires proposed by out thoughts. It means much both as to their form and their passion. If we realize that prayer is the acme of our right relation to God, if we are sure that we are never so right with Him in anything we do as in prayer, then prayer must have the greatest effect and value for our life, both in its purpose and its fashion, in its spirit and its tenor. What puts us right morally, right with a Holy God (as prayer does), must have a great shaping power on every part and every juncture of life. And, of course, especially upon the spirit and tenor of our prayer itself, upon the form and complexion of our petition.
The effect of our awful World War I will be very different on the prayerful and the prayerless. It will be a sifting judgment. It will turn to prayer those who did not pray, and increase the prayer of those who did. But some, whose belief in God grew up only in fair weather and not at the Cross, it will make more sceptical and prayerless than ever, and it will present them with a world more confused and more destitute of a God than before; which can only lead to renewed outbreaks of the same kind as soon as the nations regain strength. The prayerless spirit saps a people’s moral strength because it blunts their thought and conviction of the Holy. It must be so if prayer is such a moral blessing and such a shaping power, if it pass, by its nature, from the vague volume and passion of devotion to formed petition and effort. Prayerlessness is an injustice and a damage to our own soul, and therefore to its history, both in what we do and what we think. The root of all deadly heresy is prayerlessness. Prayer finds our clue in a world otherwise without form and void. And it draws a magic circle round us over which the evil spirits may not pass. “Prayer,” says Vinet, “is like the air of certain ocean isles, which is so pure that there vermin cannot live. We should surround ourselves with this atmosphere, as the diver shuts himself into his bell ere he descends into the deep.”
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Kingdom praying and its efficacy
is entirely a matter of the innermost heart's
being totally open and honest before God.
It is a matter of what we are saying with our whole being,
moving with resolute intent and clarity of mind
into the flow of God's action.
--- Dallas Willard The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
When you betray somebody else, you also betray yourself.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
If God can gain glory for Himself from the unjustified murder of His Son, can we not trust Him to somehow glorify Himself in and through the things we struggle with on a daily basis?
--- Charles Stanley How to Handle Adversity
Thanks to Meir Yona
3. Now the towers that were upon it were twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in height; they were square and solid, as was the wall itself, wherein the niceness of the joints, and the beauty of the stones, were no way inferior to those of the holy house itself. Above this solid altitude of the towers, which was twenty cubits, there were rooms of great magnificence, and over them upper rooms, and cisterns to receive rain-water. They were many in number, and the steps by which you ascended up to them were every one broad: of these towers then the third wall had ninety, and the spaces between them were each two hundred cubits; but in the middle wall were forty towers, and the old wall was parted into sixty, while the whole compass of the city was thirty-three furlongs. Now the third wall was all of it wonderful; yet was the tower Psephinus elevated above it at the north-west corner, and there Titus pitched his own tent; for being seventy cubits high it both afforded a prospect of Arabia at sun-rising, as well as it did of the utmost limits of the Hebrew possessions at the sea westward. Moreover, it was an octagon, and over against it was the tower Hipplicus, and hard by two others were erected by king Herod, in the old wall. These were for largeness, beauty, and strength beyond all that were in the habitable earth; for besides the magnanimity of his nature, and his magnificence towards the city on other occasions, he built these after such an extraordinary manner, to gratify his own private affections, and dedicated these towers to the memory of those three persons who had been the dearest to him, and from whom he named them. They were his brother, his friend, and his wife. This wife he had slain, out of his love [and jealousy], as we have already related; the other two he lost in war, as they were courageously fighting. Hippicus, so named from his friend, was square; its length and breadth were each twenty-five cubits, and its height thirty, and it had no vacuity in it. Over this solid building, which was composed of great stones united together, there was a reservoir twenty cubits deep, over which there was a house of two stories, whose height was twenty-five cubits, and divided into several parts; over which were battlements of two cubits, and turrets all round of three cubits high, insomuch that the entire height added together amounted to fourscore cubits. The second tower, which he named from his brother Phasaelus, had its breadth and its height equal, each of them forty cubits; over which was its solid height of forty cubits; over which a cloister went round about, whose height was ten cubits, and it was covered from enemies by breast-works and bulwarks. There was also built over that cloister another tower, parted into magnificent rooms, and a place for bathing; so that this tower wanted nothing that might make it appear to be a royal palace. It was also adorned with battlements and turrets, more than was the foregoing, and the entire altitude was about ninety cubits; the appearance of it resembled the tower of Pharus, which exhibited a fire to such as sailed to Alexandria, but was much larger than it in compass. This was now converted to a house, wherein Simon exercised his tyrannical authority. The third tower was Mariamne, for that was his queen's name; it was solid as high as twenty cubits; its breadth and its length were twenty cubits, and were equal to each other; its upper buildings were more magnificent, and had greater variety, than the other towers had; for the king thought it most proper for him to adorn that which was denominated from his wife, better than those denominated from men, as those were built stronger than this that bore his wife's name. The entire height of this tower was fifty cubits.
4. Now as these towers were so very tall, they appeared much taller by the place on which they stood; for that very old wall wherein they were was built on a high hill, and was itself a kind of elevation that was still thirty cubits taller; over which were the towers situated, and thereby were made much higher to appearance. The largeness also of the stones was wonderful; for they were not made of common small stones, nor of such large ones only as men could carry, but they were of white marble, cut out of the rock; each stone was twenty cubits in length, and ten in breadth, and five in depth. They were so exactly united to one another, that each tower looked like one entire rock of stone, so growing naturally, and afterward cut by the hand of the artificers into their present shape and corners; so little, or not at all, did their joints or connexion appear low as these towers were themselves on the north side of the wall, the king had a palace inwardly thereto adjoined, which exceeds all my ability to describe it; for it was so very curious as to want no cost nor skill in its construction, but was entirely walled about to the height of thirty cubits, and was adorned with towers at equal distances, and with large bed-chambers, that would contain beds for a hundred guests a-piece, in which the variety of the stones is not to be expressed; for a large quantity of those that were rare of that kind was collected together. Their roofs were also wonderful, both for the length of the beams, and the splendor of their ornaments. The number of the rooms was also very great, and the variety of the figures that were about them was prodigious; their furniture was complete, and the greatest part of the vessels that were put in them was of silver and gold. There were besides many porticoes, one beyond another, round about, and in each of those porticoes curious pillars; yet were all the courts that were exposed to the air every where green. There were, moreover, several groves of trees, and long walks through them, with deep canals, and cisterns, that in several parts were filled with brazen statues, through which the water ran out. There were withal many dove-courts 11 of tame pigeons about the canals. But indeed it is not possible to give a complete description of these palaces; and the very remembrance of them is a torment to one, as putting one in mind what vastly rich buildings that fire which was kindled by the robbers hath consumed; for these were not burnt by the Romans, but by these internal plotters, as we have already related, in the beginning of their rebellion. That fire began at the tower of Antonia, and went on to the palaces, and consumed the upper parts of the three towers themselves.
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 a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
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 relationship
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. --- Matthew 5:41.
The summing up of Our Lord’s teaching is that the relationship which He demands is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. Jesus Christ demands that there be not the slightest trace of resentment even suppressed in the head of a disciple when he meets with tyranny and injustice. No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left—‘I am here for God to send me where He will.’ Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be.
The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own. Jesus Christ is the only One Who can fulfil the Sermon on the Mount.
If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally; as long as we have the dead-set purpose of being disciples we may be sure we are not. “I have chosen you.” That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we never can trace where His work begins. Our Lord’s making of a disciple is supernatural. He does not build on any natural capacity at all. God does not ask us to do the things that are easy to us naturally; He only asks us to do the things we are perfectly fitted to do by His grace, and the cross will come along that line always.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
A simple man
He liked the crease on the water
His cast made, but had no pity
For the broken backbone
Of water or fish.
One of his pleasures, thirsty,
Was to ask a drink
At the hot farms;
Leaving with a casual thank you,
As though they owed it him.
I could have told of the living water
That springs pure.
He would have smiled then,
Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
There are many experiences that cause us pain. But one of the most painful of all must be the unfaithfulness of a marriage partner.
For Hosea, who married “an adulterous wife,” that pain was not just something occasioned by a single fall. Hosea’s wife Gomer practiced unfaithfulness as a lifestyle. Ultimately she left the prophet and their three children, to live with a series of other men. Yet Hosea continued to care for her.
While Hosea could have validly divorced his wife under the Law, this was something he simply could not do. Despite the anguish he felt, Hosea continued to love Gomer.
This was admittedly unusual. Hosea had been called by God to demonstrate both the Lord’s personal pain and His utter faithfulness. Hosea did demonstrate God’s character and His commitment by his continuing faithfulness to his prostitute wife.
Surely God must have given Hosea the grace to live through this agonizing experience!
We don’t know how many years Hosea lived this way—rejected, feeling agonizing pain, but continuing to love.
The Rabbis are not saying that if you steal a paper clip from work today, then some day you’ll end up on death row as a convicted murderer. Look closer at the examples that the Rabbis pick of transgressing a “minor commandment,” the offenses that will lead to more major sins. They aren’t mere victimless crimes. It’s not simply that if you steal a paper clip today, then you’ll steal a ream of paper tomorrow, a computer next month and—sooner or later—you’ll end up embezzling major funds from your employer.
Each of the examples of a “minor commandment” is about interpersonal relations: “Love your fellow as yourself,” “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge,” “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart,” “Let him live by your side.” In each case, someone gets hurt.
We start out being insensitive, and we see that it doesn’t hurt—us!—to be a bit cold and callous. Soon, it doesn’t hurt to be very cold and callous. We begin to move from emotional injury to physical harm. We start by calling him “Fatso” or telling everyone “She’s a JAP” Then we move on—from poking fun at them to actually poking them. We’re no longer just trash-talking; we’re now comfortable with trashing their property.
A dictator referred to certain people as “rats” or “animals,” and sooner or later, his followers said to themselves: “Hey, it’s OK to ‘exterminate’ a pest. We’re not killing human beings; they’re vermin.” Throughout history, despots who have attempted to dehumanize their enemies by calling them animals have merely dehumanized themselves and their followers.
This teaching is a good reminder that we don’t have to start out “lying in ambush to murder another person” in order to end up there. A minor loss of sensitivity can lead, over time, to a major transgression on our part.
The word קָלָה/kalah actually means “light” or “easy”; the word חֲמוּרַה/ḥamurah means “hard” or “difficult.” So the issue may not be minor versus major commandments; it may really be about a mitzvah that is easy, as opposed to a mitzvah that’s very difficult. Or to re-translate the maxim: “If he transgressed an easy commandment, in the end he will transgress a difficult one.” The Rabbis are thus asking us: If you can’t manage to do the simple ones, how are you ever going to do the hard ones?
Let’s take an example: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:13). “What constitutes ‘honor’? Feeding them, dressing them, helping them to come and go” (Talmud, Kiddushin 31b).
An Easy Mitzvah
“Joe, did you call your mother today?”
“Well, what are you waiting for? It’s getting late.”
“I know what time it is.”
“So what’s the problem? Give her a call.”
“I wish you’d get off my case, already. I know how to use the
“Apparently, you don’t! You haven’t spoken to your mother
“Listen, she’s a pain in the neck. She’ll ask me what I had
for lunch, like I’m twelve years old. Then she’ll complain
that this hurts her, and that hurts her. And then she’ll tell
me in great detail about her gastrointestinal problems. I
don’t want to hear about it! And then she’ll ask me again
what I had for lunch. She drives me crazy!”
“Don’t talk about her that way! She’s your mother, and she’s
entitled to her aches and pains. The least that you can do
is give her a call and listen to her. A measly little phone
call. Five minutes. Is that so much to ask? I bet when you
were a kid you drove her nuts; she didn’t stop talking to
you for a week. Come on, honey, pick up the phone and
give your mother a call. How hard can it be?”
A Difficult Mitzvah
Jeff came to spend a couple of days with his infirm dad, while his sister took a well-deserved day off from her role as caretaker. Father and son watched a ball game together, and then Jeff took his dad, in a wheelchair, for a “spin around the block.” Later, Jeff prepared dinner; he got a little choked up when he had to cut up his father’s food and help him eat. At bedtime, Jeff assisted his father out of his clothes and into his pajamas. But the worst experience came in the middle of the night. Jeff was awakened to hear his name being called. He rushed into his father’s room. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” “It’s OK, Dad, I’m here.” But his father was very slow in getting out of bed. Before Jeff could maneuver him to the commode, his father had “an accident.” As Jeff changed the pajamas, mopped the floor, and gave his dad a sponge bath, the father cried in shame and the son cried out of pity.
If we don’t do the easy ones, how will we ever do the hard ones?
How great is God—beyond our understanding!
--- Job 36:26.
Invisible! (Preaching Through the Bible) The invisibleness of God is not a scientific discovery; it is a biblical revelation: “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). This is the difficulty of all life, and the higher the life the higher the difficulty. No one can see oneself and live! You can see your incarnation, but your very self—the pulse that makes you human—you have never seen, you can never see!
Anatomy says it has never found the soul and adds, “Therefore there is no soul.” The reasoning overleaps itself and takes away its own life. Has anatomy found genius? Or has anatomy laid its finger on imagination and held it up, saying, “Look, the mighty wizard”?
Anatomize the dead poet and the dead ass, and you will find as much genius in one as in the other; therefore there is no genius! Who that valued his or her life would set foot on such a bridge as the rickety “therefore”? But some people will venture on any bridge that leads away from God—because they do not like to retain God in their hearts (Rom. 1:28). It is not because of intellectual superiority but because of moral distaste, an invincible aversion.
Yes, God is unknown and unknowable. But that does not make him unusable and unprofitable. If scientists avow that they have not developed a theory of magnetism, do they therefore ignore it or decline to inquire into its uses? Do they write its name with a big M and run away from it, shaken and whitened by fear? Indeed they are not such fools. They actually use what they do not understand.
Bring their example to bear on the religious life. I do not scientifically know God. The term does not come within the analysis that is available to me. God is great, and I know him not; yet the term has its practical uses in life, and into those broad and obvious uses all people may inquire. What part does the God of the Bible play in the life of the person who accepts him? Any creed that does not come down easily into the daily life to purify and direct it is imperfect and useless.
--- Joseph Parker
Pope Clement VII, son of Giuliano de’ Medici, was among the most unfortunate occupants of the Vatican. He was tall, slender, and moderately handsome, though wearing a “permanently sour” expression. He was upright and intelligent, but unprepared for the hornet’s nest of the papacy. When faced with hard decisions, he vacillated. The Venetian ambassador wrote, “The pope is 48 years old and is a sensible man but slow in decision, which explains his irresolution in action.”
Clement, finding his treasury bankrupt, was chagrined that no Italian banker trusted him. The citizens of Rome didn’t like him either. And Clement agonized over his failure to stem Luther’s Reformation and to promote reform within his own church. At the same time he was caught between the conflicting aims of the kings of France and Spain. His attempts to steer a middle course invited the sack of Rome in 1527. As Clement watched helplessly from a tower, his city was plundered, raped, butchered, and burned.
He was caught once again between two kings—Henry VIII of England and Charles V of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor. King Henry, frustrated he had no male heir wanted an annulment from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement had the prerogative to set aside the marriage. But he was under the thumb of Charles—Catherine’s nephew. To grant the annulment invited disaster, including the alienation of the Holy Roman Empire from Catholicism. To refuse invited the fury of Henry VIII and the probable loss of England.
Clement tried to steer a middle course, hemming and hawing, at his wit’s end, worrying that whatever happened, “the church cannot escape utter ruin.” He made catastrophic errors. King Henry seized his nation’s monasteries, split with the Vatican, and established the Reformation in England by the Act of Supremacy.
On September 25, 1534, having barely survived his previous misfortunes, he met a final one—a miserable death, reportedly from gobbling down a bowl of poisonous mushrooms.
Moaning and groaning are my food and drink,
and my worst fears have all come true.
I have no peace or rest—
only troubles and worries.
--- Job 3:24-26.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 25
“Just, and the justifier of him which believeth.” --- Romans 3:26.
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of his people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God is just; we feel that it must be so, and this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change his nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer—having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that his people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Not God, for he hath justified; not Christ, for he hath died, “yea rather hath risen again.” My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, he is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what he has done, and in what he is now doing for me. On the lion of justice the fair maid of hope rides like a queen.
Evening - September 25
“Who of God is made unto us wisdom.” --- 1 Corinthians 1:30.
Man’s intellect seeks after rest, and by nature seeks it apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Men of education are apt, even when converted, to look upon the simplicities of the cross of Christ with an eye too little reverent and loving. They are snared in the old net in which the Grecians were taken, and have a hankering to mix philosophy with revelation. The temptation with a man of refined thought and high education is to depart from the simple truth of Christ crucified, and to invent, as the term is, a more intellectual doctrine. This led the early Christian churches into Gnosticism, and bewitched them with all sorts of heresies. This is the root of Neology, and the other fine things which in days gone by were so fashionable in Germany, and are now so ensnaring to certain classes of divines. Whoever you are, good reader, and whatever your education may be, if you be the Lord’s, be assured you will find no rest in philosophizing divinity. You may receive this dogma of one great thinker, or that dream of another profound reasoner, but what the chaff is to the wheat, that will these be to the pure word of God. All that reason, when best guided, can find out is but the A B C of truth, and even that lacks certainty, while in Christ Jesus there is treasured up all the fulness of wisdom and knowledge. All attempts on the part of Christians to be content with systems such as Unitarian and Broad-church thinkers would approve of, must fail; true heirs of heaven must come back to the grandly simple reality which makes the ploughboy’s eye flash with joy, and gladens the pious pauper’s heart—“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus satisfies the most elevated intellect when he is believingly received, but apart from him the mind of the regenerate discovers no rest. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments.”
FADE, FADE, EACH EARTHLY JOY
Jane C. Bonar, 1821–1884
Love the Lord, all His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud He pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:23, 24)
Each of us was created for the purpose of enjoying the fellowship of Almighty God. Our souls were made for eternity, not for this brief earthly pilgrimage alone. The Christian life should be lived each day as though we were already enjoying the blessings of heaven. We deprive ourselves of one of life’s greatest treasures when we lose this perspective and become bogged down with the trivialities of earthly living.
An intimate fellowship with our Lord should produce at least three basic differences in our living:
• More humility—a greater realization of our finiteness and the need for dependence upon God.
• More happiness—a realization that this life has purpose and dignity as we represent God. And then a promised eternity in heaven with our Lord.
• More holiness—a greater desire to be a worthy representative for God and to live a life of absolute purity.
The author of this lovely devotional hymn text, Jane C. Bonar, was the wife of Dr. Horatius Bonar, generally regarded as the greatest of evangelical Scottish preachers and hymn writers. Jane, too, was a very gifted writer and Christian leader. For more than 40 years the Bonars shared life’s sorrows and joys together in a rich ministry for God. These devotional thoughts are still the sentiments of every spiritually mature follower of Christ:
Fade, fade, each earthly joy—Jesus is mine; break, ev’ry tender tie—Jesus is mine. Dark is the wilderness; earth has no resting place; Jesus alone can bless—Jesus is mine.
Tempt not my soul away—Jesus is mine; here would I ever stay—Jesus is mine. Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day, pass from my heart away—Jesus is mine.
Farewell, ye dreams of night—Jesus is mine; lost in this dawning bright—Jesus is mine. All that my soul has tried left but a dismal void; Jesus has satisfied—Jesus is mine.
Farewell, mortality—Jesus is mine; welcome, eternity—Jesus is mine, welcome, O loved and blest, welcome, sweet scenes of rest; welcome, my Savior’s breast—Jesus is mine.
For Today: Psalm 16:8, 11; 37:4, 23; 40:8; Proverbs 11:20; Colossians 3:2
Allow the awareness of God’s presence to produce in your life more HUMILITY, HAPPINESS, and HOLINESS as you seek to represent Him.
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
V. Use 1. For information.
1. If God be unchangeable in his nature, and immutability be a property of God, then Christ hath a Divine nature. This in the Psalm is applied to Christ in the Hebrews (Heb. 1:11), where he joins the citation out of this Psalm with that out of Psalm 45:6, 7, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows; and thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,” &c. As the first must necessarily be meant of Christ the Mediator, and therein he is distinguished from God, as one anointed by him; so the other must be meant of Christ, whereby he is made one with God in regard of the creation and dissolution of the world, in regard of eternity and immutability. Both the testimonies are linked together by the copulative and, “and thou, Lord;” declaring thereby that they are both to be understood of the same person, the Son of God. The design of the chapter is to prove Christ to be God; and such things are spoken of him as could not belong to any creature; no, not to the most excellent of the angels. The same person that is said to be anointed above his fellows, and is said to lay the foundation of the earth and heavens, is said to be the same; that is, the same in himself; the prerogative of sameness belongs to that person as well as creation of heaven and earth. The Socinians say it is spoken of God, and that God shall destroy the heavens by Christ; if so, Christ is not a mere creature, not created when he was incarnate; for the same person that shall change the world did create the world; if God shall change the world by him, God also created the world by him; he was then before the world was; for how could God create the world by one that was not; that was not in being till after the creation of the world.
2 The heavens shall be changed, but the person who is to change the heavens is said to be the same, or unchangeable in the creation as well as the dissolution of the world. This sameness refers to the whole sentence. The Psalm wherein the text is, and whence this in the Hebrews is cited, is properly meant of Christ, and redemption by him, and the completing of it at the last day, and not of the Babylonish captivity; that captivity was not so deplorable as the state of the Psalmist describes; Daniel and his companions flourished in that captivity; it could not reasonably be said of them, that their days were consumed like smoke, their hearts withered like grass; that they forgot to “eat their bread” (ver. 3, ver. 4). Besides, he complains of “shortness of life” (ver. 11); but none had any more reason to complain of that in the time of the captivity, than before and after it, than at any other time: their deliverance would contribute nothing to the natural length of their lives. Besides, when Sion should be built, the heathen should “fear the name of the Lord” (that is, worship God), and “all the kings of the earth his glory” (ver. 15). The rearing the second temple after the deliverance, did not proselyte the nations; nor did the kings of the earth worship the glory of God; nor did God appear in such glory at the erecting the second temple.
The second temple was less glorious than the first, for it wanted some of the ornaments which were the glory of the first; but it is said of this state, that when the Lord should build up Sion, he should “appear in his glory” (ver. 16); his proper glory, and extraordinary glory. Now that God who shall appear in glory, and build up Sion, is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world; he builds up the church, he causes the nations to fear the Lord, and the kings of the earth his glory; he broke down the partition wall, and opened a door for the entrance of the Gentiles; he struck the chains from off the prisoners, and loosed those that were appointed to death by the curse of the law (ver. 20): and to this person is ascribed the creation of the world; and he is pronounced to remain the same in the midst of an infinite number of changes in inferior things. And it is likely the Psalmist considers not only the beginning of redemption, but the completing of it at the second coming of Christ; for he complains of those evils which shall be removed by his second coming, viz., the shortness of life, persecutions and reproaches wherewith the church is aficted in this world; and comforts not himself with those attributes which are directly opposed to sin, as the mercy of God, the covenant of God, but with those that are opposed to mortality and calamities, as the unchangeableness and eternity of God; and from thence infers a perpetual establishment of believers. “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee” (ver. 28): so that the Psalm itself seems to aim in the whole discourse at Christ, and asserts his divinity, which the apostle, as an interpreter, doth fully evidence; applying it to him, and manifesting his deity by his immutability as well as eternity. While all other things lose their forms, and pass through multitudes of variations, he constantly remains the same, and shall be the same, when all the empires of the world shall slide away, and a period be put to the present motions of the creation: and as there was no change made in his being by the creation of things, so neither shall there be by the final alteration of things; he shall see them finish, as he saw them rise up into being, and be the same after their reign, as he was before their original; he is the first and the last (Rev. 1:17).
2. Here is ground and encouragement for worship. An atheist will make another use of this; if God be immutable, why should we worship him, why should we pray to him? good will come if he wills it; evil cannot be averted by all our supplications, if he hath ordained it to fall upon us. But certainly since unchangeableness is knowing, and willing goodness is a perfection, an adoration and admiration is due to God, upon the account of this excellence. If he be God, he is to be reverenced, and the more highly reverenced, because he cannot but be God. Again, what comfort could it be to pray to a God, that like the chameleon changed colors every day, every moment? What encouragement could there be to lift up our eyes to one that were of one mind this day and of another mind tomorrow? Who would put up a petition to an earthly prince that were so mutable, as to grant a petition one day and deny it another, and change his own act? But if a prince promise this or that thing upon such or such a condition, and you know his promise to be as unchangeable as the laws of the Medes and Persians, would any man reason thus? because it is unchangeable we will not seek to him, we will not perform the condition, upon which the fruit of the proclamation is to be enjoyed. Who would not count such an inference ridiculous? What blessings hath not God promised upon the condition of seeking him? Were he of an unrighteous nature, or changeable in his mind, this would be a bar to our seeking him, and frustrate our hopes; but since it is otherwise, is not this excellency of his nature the highest encouragement, to ask of him the blessings he hath promised, and a beam from heaven to fire our zeal in asking? If you sire things against his will, which he hath declared he will not grant, prayer then would be an act of disobedience and injury to him, as well as an act of folly in itself; his unchangeableness then might stifle such desires: but if we ask according to his will, and according to our reasonable wants, what ground have we to make such a ridiculous argument? He hath willed everything that may be for our good, if we perform the condition he hath required; and hath put it upon record, that we may know it and regulate our desires and supplications according to it. If we will not seek him, his immutability cannot be a bar, but our own folly is the cause; and by our neglect we despoil him of this perfection as to us, and either imply that he is not sincere, and means not as he speaks; or that he is as changeable as the wind, sometimes this thing, sometimes that, and not at all to be confided in. If we ask according to his revealed will, the unchangeableness of his nature will assure us of the grant; and what a presumption would it be in a creature dependent upon his sovereign, to ask that which he knows he bass declared his will against; since there is no good we can want, but he hath promised to give, upon our sincere and ardent desire for it? God hath decreed to give this or that to man, but conditionally, and by the means of inquiring after him, and asking for it: “Ask, and you shall receive” (Ezek. 36:37; Matt. 7:7): as much as to say, You shall not receive unless you ask.
When the highest promises are made, God expects they should be put in suit; our Saviour joins the promise and the petition together; the promise to encourage the petition, and the petition to enjoy the promise: he doth not say perhaps it shall be given, but it shall, that is, it certainly shall; your heavenly Father is unchangeably willing to give you those things. We must depend upon his immutability for the thing, and submit to his wisdom for the time. Prayer is an acknowledgment of our dependence upon God; which dependence could have no firm foundation without unchangeableness. Prayer doth not desire any change in God, but is offered to God that he would confer those things which he hath immutably willed to communicate; but he willed them not without prayer as the means of bestowing them. The light of the sun is ordered for our comfort, for the discovery of visible things, for the ripening the fruits of the earth; but withal it is required that we use our faculty of seeing, that we employ our industry in sowing and planting, and expose our fruits to the view of the sun, that they may receive the influence of it. If a man shuts his eyes, and complains that the sun is changed into darkness, it would be ridiculous; the sun is not changed, but we alter ourselves; nor is God changed in not giving us the blessings he hath promised, because he hath promised in the way of a due address to him, and opening our souls to receive his influence, and to this, his immutability is the greatest encouragement.
3. This shows how contrary man is to God in regard of his inconstancy. What an infinite distance is there between the immutable God, and mutable man, and how should we bewail this flittingness in our nature! There is a mutability in us as creatures, and a creature cannot but be mutable by nature, otherwise it were not a creature but God. The establishment of any creature is from grace and gift; naturally we tend to nothing, as we come from nothing. This creature-rnutability is not our sin, yet it should cause us to lie down under a sense of our own nothingness, in the presence of the Creator. The angels as creatures, though not corrupt, cover their faces before him: and the arguments God uses to humble Job, though a fallen creature, are not from his corruption: for I do not remember that he taxed him with that; but from the greatness of his majesty and excellency of his nature declared in his works (Job 38–41.); and, therefore, men that have no sense of God and humility before him, forget that they are creatures as well as corrupt ones. How great is the distance between God and us, in regard of our inconstancy in good, which is not natural to us by creation: for the mind and affections were regular, and by the great artificer were pointed to God as the object of knowledge and love. We have the same faculties of understanding, will, and affection, as Adam had in innocence; but not with the same light, the same bias, and the same ballast. Man, by his fall, wounded his head and heart; the wound in his head made him unstable in the truth, and that in his heart unsteadfast in his affections: he changed himself from the image of God to that of the devil, from innocence to corruption, and from an ability to be steadfast to a perpetual inconstancy; “his silver became dross, and his wine was mixed with water” (Isa. 1:22). He changed,
(1.) To inconstancy in truth, opposed to the immutability of knowledge in God. How are our minds floating between ignorance and knowledge! Truth in us is like those ephemera, creatures of a day’s continuance,—springs up in the morning, and expires at night. How soon doth that fly away from us which we have had, not only some weak flashes of, but which we have learned and have had some relish of! The devil stood not in the truth (John 8:44), and therefore manages his engines to make us as unstable as himself: our minds reel, and corrupt reasonings oversway us; like sponges we suck up water, and a light compression makes us spout it out again. Truths are not engraven upon our hearts, but writ as in dust, defaced by the next puff of wind, “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14); like a ship without a pilot and sails, at the courtesy of the next storm, or like clouds that are tenants to the wind and sun, moved by the wind and melted by the sun. The Galatians were no sooner called into the grace of God, but they were removed from it (Gal. 1:6); some have been reported to have menstruam fidem, kept an opinion for a month; and many are like him that believed the soul’s immortality no longer than he had Plato’s book of that subject in his hand: one likens such to children; they play with truths as children do with babies, one while embrace them, and a little after throw them into the dirt. How soon do we forget what the truth is delivered to us, and what it represented us to be (James 1:23, 24). Is it not a thing to be bewailed, that man should be such a weathercock, turned about with every breath of wind, and shifting aspects as the wind shifts points?
(2.) Inconstancy in will, and affections opposed to the immutability of will in God. We waver between God and Baal; and while we are not only resolving, but upon motion a little way, look back with a hankering after Sodom; sometimes lifted up with heavenly intentions, and presently cast down with earthly cares, like a ship that by an advancing wave seems to aspire to heaven, and the next fall of the waves makes it sink down to the depths. We change purposes oftener than fashions, and our resolutions are like letters in water, whereof no mark remains; we will be as John to-day to love Christ, and as Judas to-morrow to betray hhn, and, by an unworthy levity, pass into the camp of the enemies of God; resolved to be as holy as angels in the morning, when the evening beholds us as impure as devils. How often do we hate what before we loved, and shun what before we longed for! and our resolutions are like vessels of crystal, which break at the first knock, are dashed in pieces by the next temptation. Saul resolved not to persecute David any more, but you soon find him upon his old game. Pharaoh more than once promised, and probably resolved, to let Israel go, but at the end of the storm his purposes vanish (Exod. 8:27, 32).
When an affliction pincheth men, they intend to change their course, and the next news of ease changes their intentions; like a bow not fully bent in their inclinations, they cannot reach the mark, but live many years between resolutions of obedience and affections to rebellion (Psalm 78:17): and what promises men make to God are often the fruit of their passion, their fear, not of their will. The Israelites were startled at the terrors wherewith the law was delivered, and promised obedience (Exod. 20:19), but a month after forgot them, and make a golden calf, and in the sight of Sinai call for, and dance before, their gods (Exod. 32.); ncver people more unconstant. Peter, who vowed an allegiance to his Master, and a courage to stick to him, forswears him almost with the same breath. Those that cry out with a zeal, “The Lord he is God,” shortly after return to the service of their idols (1 Kings 18:39). That which seems to be our pleasure this day, is our vexation to-morrow; a fear of a judgment puts us into a religious pang, and a love to our lusts reduceth us to a rebellious inclination; as soon as the danger is over, the saint is forgotten: salvation and damnation present themselves to us, touch us, and engender some weak wishes, which are dissolved by the next allurements of a carnal interest. No hold can be taken of our promises, no credit is to be given to our resolutions.
(3.) Inconstancy in practice. How much beginning in the Spirit, and ending in the flesh; one day in the sanctuary, another in the stews; clear in the morning as the sun, and clouded before noon; in heaven by an excellency of gifts, in hell by a course of profaneness; like a flower, which some mention, that changes its color three times a day, one art white, then purple, then yellow! The spirit lusts against the flesh, and the flesh quickly triumphs over the spirit. In a good man how often is there a spiritual lethargy; though he doth not openly defame God, yet he doth not always glorify him; he doth not forsake the truth, but he doth not always make the attainment of it, and settlement in it his business. This levity discovers itself in religious duty, “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom. 7:21). Never more present, than when we have a mind to do good, and never more present than when we have a mind to do the best and greatest good. How hard is it to make our thoughts and affections keep their stand! place them upon a good object, and they will be frisking from it, as a bird from one bough, one fruit, to another: we vary postures according to the various objects we meet with. The course of the world is a very airy thing, suited to the uncertain notions of that “prince of the power of the air,” which works in it (Eph. 2:2). This ought to be bewailed by us. Though we may stand fast in the truth, though we may spin ou r resolutions into a firm web, though the spirit may triumph over the flesh in our practice, yet we ought to bewail it, because inconstancy is our nature, and what fixedness we have in good is from grace. What we find practised by most men is natural to all; “as face answers to face in a glass, so doth heart to heart” (Prov. 27:19); a face in the glass is not more like a natural face, whose image it is, than one man’s heart is naturally like another.
1st. It is natural to those out of the church. Nebuchadnezzar is so affected with Daniel’s prophetic spirit, that he would have none accounted the true God, but the “God of Daniel” (Dan. 2:47). How soon doth this notion slip from him, and an image must be set up for all to worship, upon pain of a most cruel, painful death! Daniel’s God is quite forgotten. The miraculous deliverance of the three children, for not worshipping his image, makes him settle a decree to secure the honor of God from the reproach of his subjects (Dan. 3:29); yet, a little while after, you have him strutting in his palace, as if there were no God but himself.
2d. It is natural to those in the Church. The Israelites were the only church God had in the world, and a notable example of inconsistancy. After the miracles of Egypt, they murmured against God, when they saw Pharaoh marching with an army at their heels. They desired food, and soon nauseated the manna they were before fond of. When they came into Canaan, they sometimes worshipped God, and sometimes idols, not only the idols of one nation, but of all their neighbors. In which regard God calls this, his heritage; “a speckled bird” (Jer. 12:9); a peacock, saith Hierom, inconstant, made up of varieties of idolatrous colors and ceremonies. This levity of spirit is the root of all mischief; it scatters our thoughts in the service of God; it is the cause of all revolts and apostasies from him; it makes us unfit to receive the communications of God whatsoever we hear is like words writ in sand, ruffled out by the next gale; whatsoever is put into us is like precious liquor in a palsy hand, soon spilt: it breeds distrust of God when we have an uncertain judgment of him, we are not like to confide in him; an uncertain judgment will be followed with a distrustful heart. In fine, where it is prevalent, it is a certain sign of ungodliness. To be driven with the wind like chaff, and to be ungodly, is all one in the judgment of the Holy Ghost (Psalm 1:4); the ungodly are “like the chaff which the wind drives away,” which signifies not their destruction, but their disposition, for their destruction is inferred from it (ver. 5), “therefore the ungodly shall not stand in judgment.” How contrary is this to the unchangeable God, who is alway the same, and would have us the same, in our religious promises and resolutions for good!