2 Chronicles 13
Abijah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 13 1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.
Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Abijah went out to battle, having an army of valiant men of war, 400,000 chosen men. And Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with 800,000 chosen mighty warriors. 4 Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! 5 Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? 6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord, 7 and certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them.
8 “And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. 9 Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are not gods. 10 But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. We have priests ministering to the LORD who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. 11 They offer to the LORD every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him. 12 Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”
13 Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come upon them from behind. Thus his troops were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. 14 And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand. 17 Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men. 18 Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers. 19 And Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages. 20 Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died. 21 But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22 The rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.
2 Chronicles 14
Asa Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 14 1 Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land had rest for ten years. 2 And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3 He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim 4 and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5 He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 6 He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. 7 And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered. 8 And Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and 280,000 men from Benjamin that carried shields and drew bows. All these were mighty men of valor.
9 Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. 10 And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11 And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” 12 So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil. 14 And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. 15 And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 15
Asa’s Religious Reforms2 Chronicles 15 1 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, 4 but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. 7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
8 As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD. 9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him. 10 They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 They sacrificed to the LORD on that day from the spoil that they had brought 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep. 12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, 13 but that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. 14 They swore an oath to the LORD with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around.
16 Even Maacah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. 18 And he brought into the house of God the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. 19 And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.
2 Chronicles 16
Asa’s Last Years2 Chronicles 16 1 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
11 The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in the tomb that he had cut for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art, and they made a very great fire in his honor.
2 Chronicles 17
Jehoshaphat Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 17 1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. 2 He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. 3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. 5 Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; 8 and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.
10 And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver for tribute, and the Arabians also brought him 7,700 rams and 7,700 goats. 12 And Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built in Judah fortresses and store cities, 13 and he had large supplies in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem. 14 This was the muster of them by fathers’ houses: Of Judah, the commanders of thousands: Adnah the commander, with 300,000 mighty men of valor; 15 and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with 280,000; 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the LORD, with 200,000 mighty men of valor. 17 Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty man of valor, with 200,000 men armed with bow and shield; 18 and next to him Jehozabad with 180,000 armed for war. 19 These were in the service of the king, besides those whom the king had placed in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.
What I'm Reading
Four Truths About the Universe You Can Share with Your Kids to Demonstrate the Existence of God
By J. Warner Wallace 9/25/2017
If you’ve raised your children to believe Christianity is true, you probably want them to continue to believe it’s true, especially through their critical university years. There are good reasons to be concerned for young Christians once they leave our care. Statistically, most will walk away from the Church (and their belief in God) during their college years. What can we, as parents, do to address this growing problem? How can we help them know that God exists?
As a cold-case detective, parent, and prior youth pastor, I have a suggestion: master the case for God’s existence and start sharing it with your kids at an early age. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, or maybe not. If your kids asked you to defend the existence of God right now, what would say? What evidences would you provide? Are you ready to make the case for what you believe, even as the world around us often makes the case against God’s existence? Don’t panic, you don’t have to be a theologian, philosopher or scientist to defend the truth. All you need to be is interested.
It’s not hard to be interested when the spiritual fate of our kids is hanging in the balance. Make a commitment to investigate the case for God’s existence so you can communicate it to your kids. The Apostle Paul was correct when he said that God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). We’ve written God’s Crime Scene for Kids to help you and your children investigate everything “that has been made.” Along the way, you’ll discover four truths that will help your kids demonstrate the existence of God:
Our Universe Requires a Divine “First Cause | Scientists have determined that our universe is not infinitely old. In fact, they now believe that everything in the universe, all space, time and matter, had a beginning in the distant past. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. What could account for the beginning of the universe?
One thing is certain: whatever caused the cosmos must be something other than space, time or matter (since these didn’t exist prior to the beginning of the universe). That means we’re looking for something non-spatial, non-temporal, non-material, and incredibly powerful. Sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it?
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Performing Abortion is “God’s Work?” The Real Story of Christianity and Abortion
By Albert Mohler 5/15/2017
To the utter consternation of the abortion rights movement, the issue simply will not go away. Decades after they thought they had put the matter to rest with the Roe v. Wade decision, America’s conscience is more troubled than ever, and near panic appears regularly to break out among abortion activists. Such a panic is now underway, and the defenders of abortion are trotting out some of their most dishonest arguments. One of the worst is the claim that Christians have only quite recently become concerned about the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.
In fact, one of America’s most infamous abortion doctors, Dr. Willie Parker of Mississippi, has made such a claim in his new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. Parker, who refers to himself as a Christian, writes: “If you take anti-abortion rhetoric at face value, without knowing much about the Bible, you might assume that the antis have Scripture on their side. That’s how dominant and pervasive their righteous rhetoric has become. But they do not. The Bible does not contain the word ‘abortion’ anywhere in it.”
This is the same argument we so often confront on sexuality issues. We are told that Jesus never said anything against same-sex marriage. The disingenuous nature of this argument is fully apparent when we look to a text like Matthew 19:3-6. Jesus makes abundantly clear that God’s intention “from the beginning” is that humanity, made male and female, should united in marriage and “the two shall become one flesh.” As Jesus continued, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” That should settle the matter.
Similarly, Dr. Parker claims that the Bible does not even mention abortion as a word, which is quite true but irrelevant. The Bible consistently reveals life as God’s gift and mandates the protection of human life, made in God’s image, at every stage of life and development.
As you might expect, Dr. Parker would not change his argument even if the Bible did condemn abortion by name. Why do I say this? Dr. Parker’s words speak better for themselves: “As an inspired document, the Bible is full of guidance for me about justice and love. But as a historical document, the Bible is a ruthless, unsparing record of the historic misogyny of the early Jewish and Christian people.” Later in his book he attributes the pro-life position to preoccupation with regulating sexual behavior and “a rigid reading of Scripture that invites no questioning or interpretive consideration.” It is only by undermining the Bible’s authority that he can make his pro-abortion argument.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
The Meaning of Justified Ends
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2014
What are we supposed to do? Though teleology may be the most neglected of all branches of philosophy, it cannot long be ignored in our daily lives. We need to know what we are for, what the goal is. And in a harried world, it is all the more understandable that we would seek out one, clear bottom line. We want news we can use. What we can use the most is an explanation of what our calling is. We are aimless, directionless when we don’t know where we are headed. This may explain why God’s Word is so rich in bottom lines, in quick, understandable summaries of our calling. The One who made us is well equipped to tell us what we are for.
We could start at the beginning. In the garden God gave our first parents what theologians call “the dominion mandate.” He called on them to fill the earth and subdue it, to rule over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and every creeping thing that creeps upon the ground. Lest we should think this calling fell away when our parents fell, we should remember that it was reiterated to Noah and his family when they left the ark.
Moses, of course, gave us the great commandment, that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. That sounds like a bottom-line kind of command, especially when we consider that Jesus tells us that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these (Matt. 22:40). The prophet Micah gave us what might be called an “executive summary” of what the believer is called to do. The Micah mandate says we must do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
One could in turn argue that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, finally settled things when He commanded us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Or, alternately, we could look to the Great Commission.
What, though, do we do now? We started out looking for direction. The Bible was quick to give it, but which of these telē, or purposes, is highest? Which of all these bottom lines is the bedrock bottom line? Or, are we left free to pick and choose? Perhaps God calls some of us to be dominion mandate guys and others Great Commission guys. Maybe some of us were once Micah-mandate guys, but we have transitioned into seek-first-the-kingdom guys.
My spiritual forbears, the Westminster Divines, came up with a rather odd solution to this surfeit of purposes—they added one more. Man’s chief end, they tell us, is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. As counterintuitive as this solution might seem, to add one more to an already too long list, it actually highlights the solution. We don’t have competing sets of direction, contrary maps. We have instead a variety of ways to say the same thing.
Jesus is the second Adam. That glorious reality certainly encompasses the equally glorious reality that just as in Adam all fell, so all those in Christ are made alive. But there is more to this connection. The first Adam, in falling, did not merely fall but failed. That is, because he ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he not only failed to obey God, but he failed to exercise dominion. Noah likewise failed, as did Moses after him. Even Micah failed.
Jesus, however, never fails. Though His test was alone in a wilderness, He faced and defeated the temptations of the devil. At Calvary, His heel was bruised, but with His first step out of the tomb He crushed the head of the serpent. At His ascension, as He proclaimed, all authority in heaven and on earth had been given unto Him. Now He is about the business of bringing all things under submission so that at the last day He will hand the kingdom back to His Father. For He must reign until all His enemies are under His feet.
It is out of this gospel confidence that we are called as a helper suitable to Jesus, the second Adam. The church is His bride, the new Eve. Our labors are to help Him fill the earth and subdue it, to lead His own in loving the Lord our God with all our being and in loving our neighbor as ourselves; in doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God; in seeking first His kingdom; and in fulfilling the Great Commission. All this we labor toward as we make His name known, His reign visible across the globe, until the earth will be filled with His knowledge as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). We go forth with peace and certainty as we go therefore and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded us. For lo, He is with us always, even unto the end of the age. This is the end of our beginning, and the beginning of our end.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Not a Sales Pitch
By Joe Carter 5/01/2014
As I was sitting alone in the cafeteria one afternoon, far from home, overwhelmed and lonely on a campus of twenty thousand coeds, an older student walked up, smiled, and asked if he could join me. He took a seat as I prepared to engage him in what I expected would be a heady discussion of politics, philosophy, or science. Thrilled to have the company, I was mentally preparing for anything he threw at me.
Glancing up from his plate of spaghetti, the first thing he said was, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
Stunned, I was completely at a loss for a response. “Um, yeah, actually I have,” I finally managed in reply.
“Oh,” he said. “OK, that’s good.” He wore a look of minor defeat. He had chosen the wrong table; he had hoped to share the gospel with a non-Christian. We chatted politely while I finished my burger. He ate quickly and excused himself. I never saw him again after that day.
I’m sure he sincerely wanted to serve God by witnessing in that cafeteria. Sharing the gospel is good, but the way he asked about my salvation sounded more like a sales pitch than a serious inquiry. The least my fellow student could have done was ask my name and show interest in me as a person before asking me what was actually a very valid question.
For many years afterward, I would think of that day whenever I heard the word evangelism. The term derives from the Greek word evangel: good news. How odd, then, that so much evangelism appears to be about selling Jesus and hoping that you can convince the non- Christian to “buy into” salvation.
Good news doesn’t have to be sold. Bad news has to be sold, but not good news. Growing up, I was taught that above all I needed to close the deal when it came to evangelism. I was taught to get the non-Christian to say the “sinner’s prayer” or “walk the aisle” as soon as possible, by whatever means possible, because tomorrow he may die. That is, I had to make the sale now.
When I began to seriously read the gospels, though, I noticed something strange. People constantly flocked to Jesus despite the fact that he never passed out a single tract. He would walk up to people, say “follow me,” and the next thing you know they’re giving up their lives to follow Him around the countryside. He wasn’t a traveling salesman.
Christians are called to share the gospel with others and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit for His work in their lives, while at the same time never treating the gospel like a sales pitch. Some Christians — particularly new ones enthused by their budding faith — are eager and willing to share the gospel. Others have a more difficult time, and many don’t do it at all. Yet I suspect the average Christian’s hesitancy to share their faith has little to do with timidity or lack of courage. Many believers won’t hesitate to explain why they support a particular politician or cause, even unpopular ones. Why, then, do they become tongue-tied when the topic turns to why they align themselves with the Creator of the universe?
I suspect much of the fault lies with our misunderstanding of faith. In our age, the term has become almost synonymous with an irrational — or at least non-rational — acceptance of beliefs for which we lack evidence. Rather than claiming that we possess both innate and experiential knowledge (that is, what philosophers call a “justified true belief”) about God, we imply that we have a wishy-washy trust that something is out there — though we can’t prove it. When we Christians posit such a weak-kneed picture of God, it’s no wonder that nonbelievers don’t feel the need to take us seriously.
But our faith isn’t fideism. It isn’t blind. The good news isn’t an invitation to make an irrational decision but the story of a person who lived, died, and yet lives still. We are not sharing news about an idea but about a being who is fully God and fully man. While nonbelievers may not have experiential knowledge of this person, they are made in the image of God, and so they have a certain capacity to recognize Him. That is the common religious foundation we share with them.
Our evangelistic mission, therefore, is simply to share with others the good news that they too can know what we know. In my experience at the cafeteria, it wasn’t that the student’s question was wrong; rather, his means were wrong. He treated the gospel like a sales pitch.
God might use prayer cards or gospel tracts to bring the lost to salvation. He might use young men looking to win the souls of people they don’t bother to get to know to bring about redemption. But I suspect Jesus would prefer we introduce Him as a person rather than attempt to sell Him as a novelty. I think He’d rather we recognize His good news needs only to be shared, and that it never needs to be sold.
The Comfort of Jesus’ Prayers
By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2014
As an ordained minister, I’ve had experience going to the Scriptures with a number of people in order to help them see what God has to say about many different subjects. Over the years, one of the most common questions that I’ve been asked has to do with the meaning of Christ’s work for the security of the believer’s salvation. The New Testament gives us many categories for understanding that those who are truly saved will persevere. There is the category of justification, which tells us that we have received the imputation of Christ’s righteousness through faith in Him alone and that we are at peace with God — not a cease-fire that can be broken at the slightest provocation, but an everlasting peace wherein the Lord never takes up arms against us again (Rom. 5:1). There is also the category of sanctification, which says God always finishes the work of salvation that He starts: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
In the Philippians passage, we typically understand that it is God, by the Holy Spirit, who is working out our salvation in us, bringing us into conformity to Christ. That, of course, is true, but we should not miss that Jesus is at work as well. Our greatest consolation regarding our perseverance comes from what the New Testament reveals about the present work of Christ. We often speak of the “finished work of Christ,” which is simply shorthand to indicate the completion of Christ’s atonement — the finalization of His purchase of redemption for us, His taking upon Himself the curse of God. However, Christ’s work of salvation did not end there. He had more to do after the cross. He was raised for our justification, and then He ascended into heaven, where He is seated at God’s right hand, where He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, governing creation and ruling His church (Acts 2:33; Rom. 4:23–25; 1 Cor. 15:25).
That is not all. One of the chief emphases of the New Testament in terms of His present work for His people is His intercession. Christ’s priestly work did not end on the cross. Every day, in the presence of the Father, Christ intercedes for His people. If, as James says, the fervent prayer of a righteous person “has great power as it is working” (James 5:16), how much more do Jesus’ prayers avail for His people?
One of the most important sources of comfort with respect to the intercession of Christ in behalf of the believer is found in Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer, which itself was a profound prayer of intercession. Remarkably, even we are mentioned in this great prayer of intercession. We read in John 17:1–9:
(Jn 17:1–9) When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. ESV
Look again at verse .: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” That’s the crux of the matter. Jesus is praying for all those who belong to God, not for everyone on the planet. The Father has chosen a people for Himself — and the same people belong to Christ as well. None of them is lost except the son of destruction — Judas — who being a son of destruction, was never God’s child to begin with. Those for whom Jesus prays are the people whom God has chosen, and none of them is lost (vv. 10–19). This includes not only the disciples in the Upper Room who witnessed Jesus’ prayer but also those of us who believe in Him today. I said that we are mentioned in Jesus’ prayer, and here we are: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (v. 20). We came to believe through the words of the Apostles, and so Jesus prays for us. This is Christ’s prayer. We persevere because we are preserved by our High Priest’s intercession.
If we take great comfort in the intercessory prayer of a friend or of a pastor, how much more comfort can we experience from the full assurance that Jesus is praying for us? We know that Jesus’ prayers never fail. He knows the mind of God perfectly. He knows what to pray for so that we persevere to the end. Moreover, Jesus says the Father will give us whatever we ask for in His name (15:16). If this is so, certainly the Father will not fail to give His own beloved Son what He asks for, and He asks for us to persevere.
The greatest illustration of the efficacy of Jesus’ prayer is Peter. Like Judas, Peter had a great fall. Unlike Judas, Peter was restored and persevered in faith. Both of them denied Jesus, but only Peter repented. Why? Luke 22:31–32 gives the answer. Satan asked to capture Peter permanently, but Jesus prayed for him, and that ensured that he would repent. Jesus did not pray for Judas, but He prayed for Peter, and so Peter persevered in faith and repentance. That is great assurance for us all. Those for whom Jesus prays remain in faith over the long haul. If we believe in Christ, He is praying for us every day.
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
Everything Old Is New
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 5/01/2014
We are, I believe, dispensationalists by nature. That is, dispensationalism has so dominated the evangelical church over the past one hundred years, boldly and faithfully standing on the inerrancy of the Word of God when so many turned their backs, that it has become the dominant wing of the evangelical church. Bible colleges and study Bibles strategically spread its message and, in turn, its eschatology (doctrine of the last things). Its tendency to emphasize the power of Satan in the last days has meshed well with an increasingly secularized West. It has become the water we swim in.
Dispensational doctrine tends to emphasize the differences between the old covenant and the new. The temptation among those who take a more covenantal approach to the question is to de-emphasize the differences. My dispensational friends are wont to drive a wedge between the Old and New Testaments. My covenantal friends are wont to tear out the pages that separate them. Make the first mistake and you denigrate the work of God prior to the advent of Christ and reduce your Bible by more than half. Make the second mistake and you denigrate the greatness of the work of Christ.
The solution, of course, is to agree with all the Bible, which affirms both that God was at work well before the announcement to Zechariah (Luke 1:5–25), and that John the Baptist, along with Jesus, came with a radical message. The difference: the kingdom of God was at hand. John the Forerunner certainly knew that things had changed. For centuries up to that point, baptism was a ritual by which those who were not Abraham’s descendents were numbered among the people of God. Now, however, John was proclaiming that even the Jews must be baptized. Why? Because the kingdom was at hand. The ax was being laid to the root of the tree. The winnowing fork was in hand.
Jesus, in turn, preached the same. The first account we have of Jesus preaching recounts how He read this promise of a new age to come: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). Reading the promise wasn’t the great watershed, however, but what He said afterward: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
Under the old covenant, people came to have peace with God in the same way we have peace with God. That is, they trusted in the work of Christ that from their vantage point was still to come. They, not knowing exactly how God would bring it to pass, cried out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” In our context, it is the same faith in the same object. We have peace with God by trusting in the once-for-all finished work of Christ. It is, of course, a great and glorious change in the new covenant that this event has come to pass in space and time. It is likewise a great thing that under the new covenant, we have so much more understanding and revelation of the means by which God redeems us. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it must have been to live in a world of types and shadows. This means we must give thanks for living in light of light.
There is, of course, yet another great change: the giving of the Spirit in power to all those who have been blessed to believe. That power, and its purpose, however, relates deeply to the great change. With the fall of man in the garden, what God had designed was swept into chaos and decay. The perfect world, which just days before God Himself had declared “good,” and the stewards over the creation were now corrupted. Sin opened a Pandora’s box of entropy—physical, spiritual, and cosmological. Every instance of God’s giving grace in the old covenant—the covering of Adam and Eve, the deliverance of Noah and family, the calling of Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, the rescuing of His people from the boot of Pharaoh, the judges, the godly kings—was given in a context of fits and starts, each designed to fall short and to point to what was to come.
The kingdom we now seek is His kingdom, which shall have no end. We need have no fear that our King has feet of clay. We need not despair that His strong right arm will come up short of the task. When Jesus walked out of His tomb as the firstborn of the new creation, that downward spiral came to an end. His resurrection did not merely signal a counterattack. It was not just the establishment of a beachhead. It was not just a crucial success in a war whose outcome is unsure. It was victory.
To be sure, we have much yet to mop up. He is still bringing all things under subjection. But in principle, we are of good cheer, for He has already overcome the world. Seek this kingdom—because it has come. Seek this kingdom—because it is covering the world as the water covers the sea. He is risen. That changes everything.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
What Is the New Covenant Church?
By John Tweeddale 5/01/2014
A churchless Christian is an oxymoron. As John Calvin famously said, echoing the church father Cyprian, “For those to whom God is Father the church may also be Mother.” While the notion of “mother church” may jolt some readers, a moment’s reflection will demonstrate the biblical rationale behind it. Under the new covenant established by Christ, the church is critical for the Christian life; without it, exhortations to worship, discipleship, missions, and fellowship would be meaningless. Indeed, an individual would be hard pressed to accommodate the gaggle of “one another” passages that populate the pages of the New Testament apart from participation in a local church.
Most importantly, the church is central to the work of Christ. The great mystery of the gospel is that the Son of God left His Father in heaven in order to take for Himself an unworthy bride here on earth. He shed His blood for her. The church is not on the margin of God’s plan of redemption but at the center of it.
Given the importance of the church to the Christian life and the work of Christ, we need to think carefully about the question of who comprises the church. One helpful answer is found in the Westminster Larger Catechism, which states, “The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children” (Q&A 62). At least three aspects of this definition deserve our consideration.
First, the visible church is the outward manifestation of God’s people on earth. The Westminster Divines (pastors and theologians) make a helpful distinction between the visible church as we see it and the invisible church as God sees it. These are not fundamentally two different churches, but one church seen from two vantage points. The visible church is known by those who claim the name of the triune God in baptism, who call themselves Christians by profession of faith, who sit under the preaching of God’s Word, who gather around the Lord’s Supper, who receive pastoral oversight from godly elders, who engage together in the grand work of the Great Commission, and so on.
The invisible church, however, is not defined by those who simply profess faith in Christ but by those who actually possess it: those who have been elected, regenerated, justified, adopted, sanctified, and ultimately glorified in Christ. Not everyone who joins the ranks of the visible church belongs to the invisible church. The principle reflects Paul’s assertion that not all Israel is true Israel.This side of heaven, the visible church will always consist of wheat and tares.
Second, the visible church is a universal society. In the New Testament, the most common word for church (Greek ekklesia) is never used to refer to a physical place, like the tabernacle or temple. Rather, the emphasis is on a company of people whom God has called out of the world and into a covenant relationship with Himself.
The church is not like other social, professional, or even religious societies. It is not owned by any college, corporation, or commune, nor does it take its marching orders from any tribe or tradition. Ultimately, the church is not yours, theirs, or mine, but Christ’s. The church, therefore, is not a building made with brick and mortar, but a charter comprising a people from every tongue, tribe, and nation — a worldwide society of sinners who “profess the true religion” of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Eph. 4:4–6).
Finally, the visible church comprises believers and their children. While few, if any, would object to the visible church consisting of believers, some may hesitate to include children. However, throughout the Bible, children have always been an integral part of the covenant community.
Think of the development of Scripture’s plotline along the coordinates of God’s covenant of grace with His people. At each juncture, there is a clear emphasis on their children: Adam’s seed, Noah’s family, Abraham’s descendants, Israel’s offspring, and David’s dynasty. At no point were covenant children excluded. But that was the old covenant, you might say. What about the new covenant? Hasn’t the pattern of including children changed with the inauguration of Christ’s church? The short answer: no.
Jesus adamantly declared that little ones were not to be hindered from the kingdom of God. At Pentecost, Peter continued a practice that stretches back to Abraham of applying the sign of the covenant to believers, their children, and anyone else who joins the covenant community. Likewise, Paul, who describes children in households with at least one believing parent as federally holy (1 Cor. 7:14), deliberately directs instruction to children in the churches of Ephesus and Colossae. To suggest that children have been excluded from the new covenant church is not only a misreading of the biblical narrative but, even worse, is to take away a privilege that was granted to them under the old covenant.
The Westminster divines offer a compelling definition of “church” based upon cogent biblical evidence: the visible church in the new covenant, whether universal or local, is a society of God’s people, consisting of those who profess faith in Christ and their children.
Encourage Leaders with Faithful Graciousness
By Jared Wilson 5/01/2014
It is hard to pin down what is difficult about pastoral ministry for people unfamiliar with it. Many laypeople see their pastor once or twice a week during Lord’s Day worship or a church activity. A few may see him more frequently if they are involved in volunteer ministry or are being discipled or counseled personally by the pastor. So while we sometimes joke about the congregation that thinks their pastor works only one day a week — and even then, he’s just talking — the stereotype of the pastor who “gets no respect” is regrettably a very real thing.
And this is difficult to talk about for pastors. It is difficult to explain to their own congregations how pastoral ministry can be so difficult. It can be and often is a great joy. But it is difficult in ways that are hard to express because doing so runs the risk of appearing as complaining, shaming, or nagging. The pastor may find it not difficult at all to exhort his congregation in submission to God, faithfulness in service, and joy in discipleship. But exhort them to submit to himself and his fellow elders? In faith? With joy? Well, that’s something else entirely. Out of all the biblical texts the Christian may hope his pastor neglects to teach, Hebrews 13:17 may sit near the top of the list:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
We may assume, based on all of the Bible’s instructions on such matters, that the author of Hebrews is not instructing Christians to submit to sin. This caveat is embedded in all the New Testament’s words on our submission to each other. So let us set aside immediately the “but” we want to bring up about immoral or abusive leaders. Set aside as well the image of the perfect pastor custom-tailored to your way of thinking, quite easy indeed to submit to. Think instead of the imperfect, unpolished, ordinary pastor. Think of your pastor. Think of your leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says to obey them and submit to them.
When we think of submission, we often think in terms of ruling and overruling, of conflict and wielded authority. I want to encourage you to think of obedience and submission differently in this context. Certainly, it does mean that when sin is evident, when you are in need of confession and repentance, you ought to obey your leaders’ rebuke and submit to their biblical discipline. But assuming such a circumstance is not the case, think of obedience and submission this way: encouraging your leaders with faithful graciousness.
Faithful graciousness means consistently and diligently choosing to glorify Christ with your words and deeds rather than satisfying your own wants and needs. Faithful graciousness is a way of Christian living that contributes to the overall peace and harmony of a church body. It means not nitpicking. It means not complaining about personal preferences. Faithful graciousness is intentionally and quietly minding one’s own business, having a productive presence rather than a critical spirit (1 Thess. 4:11). Faithful graciousness works toward being low-maintenance, not working at any of those puny-hearted and petty things that cause pastors to groan (1 Tim. 5:13).
Certainly, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But what we really want is grace. The way to align with God’s will is through the humble encouragement of your pastor by faithful graciousness. The benefits are mutual.
Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that our leaders will have to give an account. Do we want them to have to bring to the Lord in prayer our selfish neediness, our unwilling submission, constant criticisms, and questions? Or do we want them to go to the Lord in great thanksgiving out of the joy of being our leaders? I want those in authority over me to be able to say, “Oh, Lord, thank you for the gift of Jared! What a great joy it is to lead him,” rather than “Oh, Lord, help me with this guy. He’s so difficult.”
In the short term, disregarding commands like Hebrews 13:17 is a great way to gets lots of attention and, perhaps, even lots of satisfaction. In the long run, however, it is spiritually dangerous. Giving your leaders cause for groaning is “no advantage to you.” In the end, obediently submitting to our leaders by living lives of faithful graciousness in the church is a commitment of faith in God because He has placed these leaders in your church. By submitting to God-appointed authorities, we submit to God. No, the pastor isn’t perfect. No, he doesn’t always get things right. Yes, he too is a sinner — just like you. But when we know this and submit anyway, we give God glory and our pastor grace. This is good for us. We may not be immediately interested in our leaders’ joy, but if we are interested in our own spiritual advantage, we will repent of our selfishness and seek our leaders’ joy.
Let it be a great joy to our pastors to have us as their sheep. Let us give them great cause to “boast of us” in Paul’s godly way (2 Cor. 8:24; 1 Thess. 2:19). Your leaders probably won’t tell you to do this. They will fear that it will seem self-seeking or self-pitying. And this is all the more reason why you should obey and submit to them, encouraging them tremendously with your commitment to faithful graciousness.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 106Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
A prayer for peace
(Sept 27) Bob Gass
‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.’
(Is 26:3) You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. ESV
Here is a prayer for peace: ‘Lord, Your Word says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Your Word says, “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 NIV 2011 Edition). Your Word says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV 2011 Edition). Your Word says, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV 2011 Edition). Today I need this peace which transcends understanding to settle my nerves and calm my mind. Instead of thinking about my fears and worries, help me to focus on Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your healing power, Your overflowing resources, and Your forgiving heart. Take up residence within me and fill me with Your peace. Show me what’s robbing me of it. I really want to know, Father, so I can be specific in what I need to confess, what I need to commit to, and what I need to change. I open myself to You now. Teach me the secret of lasting peace. I thank You now for whatever it will take to help me receive the peace You have so generously offered to me. Your Word says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 NIV 2011 Edition). Today I want to be ruled by Your peace instead of my fears and worries. So, I give all my concerns to You, trusting You to work them out for my good and Your glory. In Jesus’ Name I pray: Amen.’
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Crying “no taxation without representation,” he instigated the Stamp Act riots and the Boston Tea Party. After the “Boston Massacre,” he spread Revolutionary sentiment throughout the Colonies with his Committees of Correspondence. He called for a Continental Congress and signed the Declaration. Known as “The Father of the American Revolution,” Samuel Adams was born this day, September 27, 1722. Samuel Adams wrote: “He is the truest friend to… liberty… who… will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power… who is not a… virtuous man… If we would… enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
CHAPTER II / The Naturalness of Prayer
We touch the last reality directly in prayer. And we do this not by thought’s natural research, yet by a quest not less laborious. Prayer is the atmosphere of revelation, in the strict and central sense of that word. It is the climate in which God’s manifestation bursts open into inspiration. All the mediation of Nature and of things sinks here to the rear, and we are left with God in Christ as His own Mediator and His own Revealer. He is directly with us and in us. We transcend there two thousand years as if they were but one day. By His Spirit and His Spirit’s creative miracle God becomes Himself our new nature, which is yet our own, our destined Nature; for we were made with His image for our “doom of greatness.” It is no mere case of education or evolution drawing out our best. Prayer has a creative action in its answer. It does more than present us with our true, deep, latent selves. It lays hold on God, and God is not simply our magnified self. Our other self is, in prayer, our Creator still creating. Our Maker it is that is our Husband. He is Another. We feel, the more we are united with Him in true prayer, the deep, close difference, the intimate otherness in true love. Otherwise prayer becomes mere dreaming; it is spiritual extemporizing and not converse. The division runs not simply between us and Nature, but it parts us within our spiritual self, where union is most close. It is a spiritual distinction, like the distinction of Father and Son in heaven. But Nature itself, our natural selves, are involved in it; because Nature for the Christian is implicated in Redemption. It “arrives.” It is read in a new script. The soul’s conflict is found in a prelude in it. This may disturb our pagan joy. It may quench the consolations of Nature. The ancient world could take refuge in Nature as we cannot. It could escape there from conscience in a way impossible to us, because for us body runs up into soul, and Nature has become organic with spirit, an arena and even (in human nature) an experience of God’s will. It groans to come to itself in the sons of God. Redemption is cosmic. We do not evade God’s judgment there; and we put questions about His equity there which did not trouble the Greek. It we take the wings of the Morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth, God still besets us behind and before. We still feel the collision of past and future, of conduct and conscience. If we try to escape from His presence there, we fail; the winds are His messengers, the fires His ministers, wars and convulsions instruments of His purpose. He is always confronting us, judging us, saving us in a spiritual world, which Nature does not stifle, but only makes it more universal and impressive than our personal strife. In Nature our vis-a-vis is still the same power we meet as God in our soul.
The voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all His promises.
Our own natural instincts turn our scourges, but also our blessings, according as they mock God or serve Him. So Nature becomes our chaperone for Christ, our tutor whose duty is daily to deliver us at Christ’s door. It opens out into a Christ whose place and action are not historic only, but also cosmic. The cosmic place of Christ in the later epistles is not apostolic fantasy, extravagant speculation, nor groundless theosophy. It is the ripeness of practical faith, faith which by action comes to itself and to its own.
Especially is this pointed where faith has its most pointed action as prayer. If cosmic Nature runs up into man, man rises up into prayer; which thus fulfils Nature, brings its inner truth to pass, and crowns its bias to spirit. Prayer is seen to be the opening secret of creation, its destiny, that to which it all travails. It is the burthen of evolution. The earnest expectation of the creation waits, and all its onward thrust works, for the manifestation of the sons of God. Nature comes to itself in prayer. Prayer realizes and brings to a head the truth of Nature, which groans being burdened with the passion of its deliverance, its relief in prayer. “Magna ars est conversari cum Deo.” “The art of prayer is Nature gone to heaven.” We become in prayer Nature’s true artists (if we may so say), the vehicles of its finest and inmost passion. And we are also its true priests, the organs of its inner commerce with God, where the Spirit immanent in the world meets the Spirit transcendent in obedient worship. The sum of things for ever speaking is heard in heaven to pray without ceasing. It is speaking not only to us but in us to God. Soliloquy here is dialogue. In our prayer God returns from His projection in Nature to speak with Himself. When we speak to God it is really the God who lives in us speaking through us to Himself. His Spirit returns to Him who gave it; and returns not void, but bearing our souls with Him. The dialogue of grace is really the monologue of the divine nature in self-communing love. In prayer, therefore, we do true and final justice to the world. We give Nature to itself. We make it say what it was charged to say. We make it find in thought and word its own soul. It comes to itself not in man but in the praying man, the man of Christian prayer. The Christian man at prayer is the secretary of Creation’s praise. So prayer is the answer to Nature’s quest, as God is the answer to prayer. It is the very nature of nature; which is thus miraculous or nothing at its core.
Here the friction vanishes, therefore, between prayer and natural law. Nature and all its plexus of law is not static, but dynamic. It is not interplay, but evolution. It has not only to move, but to arrive. Its great motive power is not a mere instinct, but a destiny. Its system is not a machine, but a procession. It is dramatic. It has a close. Its ruling power is not what it rises from, but what it moves to. Its impulse is its goal immanent. All its laws are overruled by the comprehensive law of its destination. It tends to prayer. The laws of Nature are not like iron. If they are fixed they are only fixed as the composition is fixed at H20 of the river which is so fluid and moving that I can use it at any time to bear me to its sea. They are fixed only in so far as makes reliable, and not fatal, to man’s spirit. Their nature is constant, but their function is not stiff. What is fixed in the river is the constancy of its fluidity. “Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide.” The greatest law of Nature is thus its bias to God, its nisus to return to His rest. This comes to light chiefly in man’s gravitation to Him, when His prodigal comes home to Him. The forwardest creation comes to itself in our passion for God and in our finding of Him in prayer. In prayer, therefore, we do not ask God to do things contrary to Nature, though our request may seem contrary to sections of it which we take for the whole. We ask Him to fulfil Nature’s own prayer.
The atmosphere of prayer seems at first to be the direct contrary of all that goes with such words as practical or scientific. But what do we mean by practical at last but that which contributes to the end for which the world and mankind were made? The whole of history, as the practical life of the race, is working out the growth, the emancipation of the soul, the enrichment and fortifying of the human spirit. It is doing on the large scale what every active life is doing on the small—it is growing soul. There is no reality at last except soul, except personality. This alone has eternal meaning, power, and value, since this alone develops or hampers the eternal reality, the will of God. The universe has its being and its truth for a personality, but for one at last which transcends individual limits. To begin with the natural plane, our egoism constructs there a little world with a definite teleology converging on self, one which would subdue everybody and everything to the tributary to our common sensible self. On a more spiritual (yet not on the divine) plane the race does the like with its colossal ego. It views and treats the universe as contributory to itself, to the corporate personality of the race. Nature is here for man, man perhaps for the superman. We are not here for the glory of God, but God is here for the aid and glory of man. But either way all things are there to work together for personality, and to run up into a free soul. Man’s practical success is then what makes for the enhancement of this ego, small or great. But, on the Christian plane, man himself, as part of a creation, has a meaning and an end; but it is in God; he does not return on himself. God is his nisus and drift. God works in him; he is not just trying to get his own head out. But God is Love. All the higher science of Nature which is the milieu and the machinery that give the soul its bent to love, and turn it out its true self in love. All the practice and science of the world is there, therefore, to reveal and realize love and love’s communion. It is all a stage, a scenery, a plot, for a denounement where beings mingle, and each is enriched by all and all by each. It all goes to the music of that love which binds all things together in the cosmic dance, and which makes each stage of each thing prophetic of its destined fullness only in a world so bound. So science itself is practical if prayer end and round all. It is the theory of a cosmic movement with prayer for its active end. And it is an ethical science at last, it is a theology, if the Christian end is the real end of the whole world. All knowledge serves love and love’s communion. For Christian faith a universe is a universe of souls, an organism of persons, which is the expression of an Eternal Will of love. This love is the real presence which gives meaning, and movement, and permanence to a fleeting world of sense. And it is by prayer that we come into close and conscious union with this universe and power of love, this living reality of things. Prayer (however miraculous) is, therefore, the most natural things in the world. It is the effectuation of all Nature, which comes home to roost there, and settles to its rest. It is the last word of all science, giving it contact with a reality which, as science alone, it cannot reach. And it is also the most practical things in all man’s action and history, as doing most to bring to pass the spiritual object for which all men and all things exist and strive.
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
It is folly to sacrifice truth
for the sake of outward union.
--- John A. Broadus
Racism is man's gravest threat to man -
the maximum hatred for a minimum reason.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel
What do they know-all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world - about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.
--- William Temple
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. When any persons entered into the temple, its floor received them. This part of the temple therefore was in height sixty cubits, and its length the same; whereas its breadth was but twenty cubits: but still that sixty cubits in length was divided again, and the first part of it was cut off at forty cubits, and had in it three things that were very wonderful and famous among all mankind, the candlestick, the table [of shew-bread], and the altar of incense. Now the seven lamps signified the seven planets; for so many there were springing out of the candlestick. Now the twelve loaves that were upon the table signified the circle of the zodiac and the year; but the altar of incense, by its thirteen kinds of sweet-smelling spices with which the sea replenished it, signified that God is the possessor of all things that are both in the uninhabitable and habitable parts of the earth, and that they are all to be dedicated to his use. But the inmost part of the temple of all was of twenty cubits. This was also separated from the outer part by a veil. In this there was nothing at all. It was inaccessible and inviolable, and not to be seen by any; and was called the Holy of Holies. Now, about the sides of the lower part of the temple, there were little houses, with passages out of one into another; there were a great many of them, and they were of three stories high; there were also entrances on each side into them from the gate of the temple. But the superior part of the temple had no such little houses any further, because the temple was there narrower, and forty cubits higher, and of a smaller body than the lower parts of it. Thus we collect that the whole height, including the sixty cubits from the floor, amounted to a hundred cubits.
6. Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were coming to it at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white. On its top it had spikes with sharp points, to prevent any pollution of it by birds sitting upon it. Of its stones, some of them were forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth. Before this temple stood the altar, fifteen cubits high, and equal both in length and breadth; each of which dimensions was fifty cubits. The figure it was built in was a square, and it had corners like horns; and the passage up to it was by an insensible acclivity. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at any time. There was also a wall of partition, about a cubit in height, made of fine stones, and so as to be grateful to the sight; this encompassed the holy house and the altar, and kept the people that were on the outside off from the priests. Moreover, those that had the gonorrhea and the leprosy were excluded out of the city entirely; women also, when their courses were upon them, were shut out of the temple; nor when they were free from that impurity, were they allowed to go beyond the limit before-mentioned; men also, that were not thoroughly pure, were prohibited to come into the inner [court of the] temple; nay, the priests themselves that were not pure were prohibited to come into it also.
7. Now all those of the stock of the priests that could not minister by reason of some defect in their bodies, came within the partition, together with those that had no such imperfection, and had their share with them by reason of their stock, but still made use of none except their own private garments; for nobody but he that officiated had on his sacred garments; but then those priests that were without any blemish upon them went up to the altar clothed in fine linen. They abstained chiefly from wine, out of this fear, lest otherwise they should transgress some rules of their ministration. The high priest did also go up with them; not always indeed, but on the seventh days and new moons, and if any festivals belonging to our nation, which we celebrate every year, happened. When he officiated, he had on a pair of breeches that reached beneath his privy parts to his thighs, and had on an inner garment of linen, together with a blue garment, round, without seam, with fringe work, and reaching to the feet. There were also golden bells that hung upon the fringes, and pomegranates intermixed among them. The bells signified thunder, and the pomegranates lightning. But that girdle that tied the garment to the breast was embroidered with five rows of various colors, of gold, and purple, and scarlet, as also of fine linen and blue, with which colors we told you before the veils of the temple were embroidered also. The like embroidery was upon the ephod; but the quantity of gold therein was greater. Its figure was that of a stomacher for the breast. There were upon it two golden buttons like small shields, which buttoned the ephod to the garment; in these buttons were enclosed two very large and very excellent sardonyxes, having the names of the tribes of that nation engraved upon them: on the other part there hung twelve stones, three in a row one way, and four in the other; a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; a carbuncle, a jasper, and a sapphire; an agate, an amethyst, and a ligure; an onyx, a beryl, and a chrysolite; upon every one of which was again engraved one of the forementioned names of the tribes. A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribbon, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name [of God]: it consists of four vowels. However, the high priest did not wear these garments at other times, but a more plain habit; he only did it when he went into the most sacred part of the temple, which he did but once in a year, on that day when our custom is for all of us to keep a fast to God. And thus much concerning the city and the temple; but for the customs and laws hereto relating, we shall speak more accurately another time; for there remain a great many things thereto relating which have not been here touched upon.
8. Now as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the temple; of that on the west, and that on the north; it was erected upon a rock of fifty cubits in height, and was on a great precipice; it was the work of king Herod, wherein he demonstrated his natural magnanimity. In the first place, the rock itself was covered over with smooth pieces of stone, from its foundation, both for ornament, and that any one who would either try to get up or to go down it might not be able to hold his feet upon it. Next to this, and before you come to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall three cubits high; but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia itself was built upon, to the height of forty cubits. The inward parts had the largeness and form of a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps; insomuch that, by having all conveniences that cities wanted, it might seem to be composed of several cities, but by its magnificence it seemed a palace. And as the entire structure resembled that of a tower, it contained also four other distinct towers at its four corners; whereof the others were but fifty cubits high; whereas that which lay upon the southeast corner was seventy cubits high, that from thence the whole temple might be viewed; but on the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard [for there always lay in this tower a Roman legion] went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations; for the temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the temple; and in that tower were the guards of those three 14. There was also a peculiar fortress belonging to the upper city, which was Herod's palace; but for the hill Bezetha, it was divided from the tower Antonia, as we have already told you; and as that hill on which the tower of Antonia stood was the highest of these three, so did it adjoin to the new city, and was the only place that hindered the sight of the temple on the north. And this shall suffice at present to have spoken about the city and the walls about it, because I have proposed to myself to make a more accurate description of it elsewhere.
by D.H. Stern
is good news from a distant land.
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 renunciation
Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.
--- Luke 9:57.
Our Lord’s attitude to this man is one of severe discouragement because He knew what was in man. We would have said—‘Fancy losing the opportunity of winning that man!’ ‘Fancy bringing about a north wind that froze him and turned him away discouraged!’ Never apologize for your Lord. The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to hurt or offend. Jesus Christ has no tenderness whatever toward anything that is ultimately going to ruin a man in the service of God. Our Lord’s answers are based not on caprice, but on a knowledge of what is in man. If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you may be sure that there is something He wants to hurt to death.
v. 58. These words knock the heart out of serving Jesus Christ because it is pleasing to me. The rigour of rejection leaves nothing but my Lord, and myself, and a forlorn hope. ‘Let the hundredfold come or go, your lodestar must be your relationship to Me, and I have nowhere to lay My head.’
v. 59. This man did not want to disappoint Jesus, nor to hurt his father. We put sensitive loyalty to relatives in place of loyalty to Jesus Christ and Jesus has to take the last place. In a conflict of loyalty, obey Jesus Christ at all costs.
v. 61. The one who says—‘Yes, Lord, but …’ is the one who is fiercely ready, but never goes. This man had one or two reservations. The exacting call of Jesus Christ has no margin of good-byes, because good-bye, as it is often used, is pagan, not Christian. When once the call of God comes, begin to go and never stop going.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
It was warm
Inside, but there was
Pain there. I came out
Into the cold wind
Of April. There were birds
In the brambles' old,
Jagged iron, with one striking
Its small song. To the west,
Rising from the grey
Water, leaning one
On another were the town's
Houses. Who first began
That refuse: time's waste
Growing at the edge
Of the clean sea? Some sailor,
Fetching up on the
Shingle before wind
Or current, made it his
Harbour, hung up his clothes
In the sunlight; found women
To breed from--those sick men
His descendants. Every day
Regularly the tide
Visits them with its salt
Comfort; their wounds are shrill
In the rigging of the
With clenched thoughts,
That not even the sky's
Daffodil could persuade
To open, I turned back
To the nurses in their tugging
At him, as he drifted
Away on the current
Of his breath, further and further,
Out of hail of our love.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
The first ruler of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam I, had set up a false worship system that counterfeited the sacrifices, the priesthood, the worship center, and the annual worship festivals established in God’s Law.
I understand what Paul said about new moons and festivals, but do you ever think how Christianity has set up counter practices to those established by God in the Old Testament?
A little homework will reveal that Catholicism claims replacing Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown with Sunday worship is the seal of its power. Consider that.
Christmas and other holidays have replaced the original Jewish feasts and festivals. Ultimately God says to walk uprightly and do justice. We are to love the Lord with all our heart and our neighbor as our self.
The Old Testament practices did not have the power to save, but we do well to remember that neither do Christian practices have the power to save.
All that we do for show, for others as well as our selves (Bible on the coffee table or dash board of the car, church attendance, tithing, etc.), have no substance whatsoever in God's economy. God judges the heart, the motivation, the intention behind what we do.
Each ruler of Israel continued this evil, and some actively promoted idolatry. The kings also promoted a materialistic life. Thus Hosea was right when he charged Israel’s rulers, saying, “All their leaders are rebellious” (9:15.)
In the days of Hosea Israel was a prosperous nation. Her aggressive ruler, Jeroboam II, multiplied his country’s territory and defeated her enemies. Control of trade routes brought unexpected wealth. Yet the political life of Israel was marked by murders, intrigues, and many other evils. The wealthy oppressed the poor, and those in authority accepted their bribes. In every significant way, Israel was a land whose people had proven completely unfaithful to the Lord.
Now the prophet moved from his own experience with Gomer to show the parallels that existed in the Lord’s relationship with Israel.
Sins denounced (Hosea 4–8). Among the violations of God’s laws that called out for judgment were cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery (4:1–2). The people even practiced ritual prostitution in conjunction with their adultery (vv. 4–14). The arrogance of this people was so great that they could never find God (5:1–7). Surely a terrible time of wrath would come (vv. 8–12).
Hosea contrasted Israel’s words and her verbal repentance with her actions. It was what she did rather than what she said that demonstrated the nature of her heart attitude. And what marked Israel’s lifestyle? Deceit and thievery (7:1–2), and royal drunkenness and intrigue
(vv. 3–8). To such a people “repent” was an empty word, and whatever this people said they simply had not returned to God (vv. 9–16).
As a result, judgment would come like a tornado and tear up God’s people (8:1–14.
Is this story of Moses and Joshua simply an adult fairy tale, in which an imaginative storyteller tries to fill in the blanks of a rather sparse biblical account? Or is there something here much deeper and more profound that goes beyond the death of Moses?
In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, medical director of the Family Service and Mental Health Center of South Cook County, Illinois, published her classic work On Death and Dying (Scribner Classics) . The book had a tremendous impact on doctors and nurses, therapists and clergy, as well as on patients and their families. It helped people to understand that terminal illness is a process and that patients go through different stages from the time of diagnosis until death. Recognizing the various stages can assist all involved to better help the dying person. Not every patient goes through each one of these steps, and not necessarily in the specific order. But these stages form the paradigm that shows us the way.
The first stage is denial, the refusal to believe the diagnosis. Then comes anger, usually toward God or the doctors, or both. This is followed by bargaining, where the patient tries to make a deal with God for a second chance. The fourth stage is depression, when a sense of great sadness and loss takes over. The final stage is acceptance.
When we read our Midrash in light of Dr. Kübler-Ross’s paradigm, we are amazed to find that Moses himself goes through each of these five stages. Just prior to our text, the Midrash tells us the following: “When Moses knew that he was to die that day, what did he do?… He wrote thirteen Torah scrolls, twelve for the twelve tribes, and one for the Ark.… Moses said, ‘Since I am busy with Torah, which is life, the sun will set and the decree will be canceled.’ ” A classic example of denial, as Moses thinks, “If I am involved in a sacred task, then nothing will harm me.”
In our Midrash, we see an angry Moses who yells (at God?) that jealousy is even more disturbing than death. The bargaining process takes place at the beginning of our text above: “I’ll relinquish my position of leadership if You only will let me live.”
Depression seems implicit in Moses’ having to walk on the left of Joshua, the traditional inferior position of a student, and when he is shut out from the presence of God. The final stage, acceptance, is clearly stated: “When he accepted that he would die.…”
Most interesting is the fact that Dr. Kübler-Ross posits that throughout the process of dying, hope is often to be found. Hope—a belief in a better future, or of healing, or of peace. This is precisely how our Midrash ends—with Moses being reassured about his place in the people’s future.
No, our Midrash is not a fairy tale for adults. Almost two thousand years ago, the Rabbis presaged some of the most brilliant and significant psychological insights of the twentieth century, helping people even then to make sense not only of life, but also of death.
Our existence is finite.… So whether or not we live with images of continuity—of immortality—we also have to live with a sense of transience, aware that no matter how passionately we love whatever we love, we don’t have the power to make either it, or us, stay.
So writes Judith Viorst in her work Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow . At one time or another, in fact, at many moments of life, each of us is destined to experience loss. It may be loss of life or of love, of possessions or of innocence. None of us is exempt.
Early in his life, Moses faced loss when he left Pharaoh’s court, where he was nurtured, in order to reestablish bonds with his ancestral people. Yet, it was only in facing his own death that Moses truly understood the nature of loss. In seeing what Joshua had gained and how Joshua lived, Moses understood that there are more difficult, and more powerful, feelings than loss. Jealousy, anger, detachment, these hurt much more than the prospect of death. Why else would Moses pray for a hundred deaths?
By then, Moses knew that mourning is not only about death. We also mourn for ended relationships, for opportunities lost, for ideas that died on the drawing board. We, like Moses, can pray to God for “not one bit of envy”:
• “Let my youth die and, with it, my childish notions of the
world. And let me not be jealous of those who still have
the zeal of youth and the naïveté of their younger years.”
• “Let me accept the fact that certain friendships will pass
with the passage of time. Let me relish those times we
shared together and not resent the years we had simply
because they are over.”
• “Let me mourn the end of my child’s needy years, and let
me accept the fact that my children no longer need me
the way they once did. And let me rejoice in their
independence, as well as in my own, for that is how it’s
meant to be.”
• “Let me lament—but not for too long!—for the concept
that was brilliant, that would have gotten me the Nobel
Prize and wealth beyond description, the concept that I
had but I never followed up on, the idea that was mine but
which someone else brought to fruition. And let this not
stifle me from thinking and imagining in the future.”
• “Let me experience a hundred deaths of opportunity, of
ideas, of relationships without feeling envy, anger, or
So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.
--- Genesis 22:14.
As Abraham and Isaac traveled up the hill, the son bearing the wood and the father the knife, the boy said, “Where is the lamb?” (Gen. 22:7), and Abraham, steadying his voice, said, “God himself will provide the lamb” (Expositions of Holy Scripture Volume 1) When the wonderful outcome of the trial was plain before him and he looked back on it, the one thought that rose to his mind was of how, beyond his meaning, his words had been true. So he named that place by a name that spoke nothing of his trial but everything of God’s provision.
It is true that we may cast all our anxiety about all outward things on him in the assurance that he who feeds the ravens will feed us and that if lilies can blossom into beauty without care, we will be held by our Father of more value than these. But there is a deeper meaning to the provision spoken of here. What was it that God provided for Abraham? What is it that God provides for us? A way to discharge duties that seem impossible for us and which, the nearer we come to them, look the more dreadful and seem the more impossible.
And yet, when the heart has yielded itself in obedience and we are ready to do the thing that is enjoined, there opens up before us a possibility provided by God, and strength comes equal to our day. Some unexpected gift is put into our hands that enables us to do the thing of which nature said, “My heart will break before I can do it,” and in regard to which even Grace doubted whether it was possible for us to carry it through. If our hearts are set in obedience, the farther we go on the path of obedience, the easier the command will appear, and to try to do it is to ensure that God will help us to do it.
This is the main provision that God makes, and it is the highest provision that he can make, for there is nothing in this life that we need so much as to do the will our Father in heaven. All outward needs are poor compared with that. The one thing worth living for, the one thing that in being secured we are blessed, and being missed we are miserable, is compliance in heart with the commandment of our Father and the compliance wrought out in life. So, of all gifts that he bestows on us and of all the abundant provision out of his rich storehouses, is not this the best, that we are made ready for any required service?
--- Alexander Maclaren
Staring in the Mirror
When King Louis XIV waltzed into his ornate chapel to worship and be worshiped, he often heard Jacques Benigne Bossuet, one of the most eloquent French Catholics. Bossuet, born in Dijon on September 27, 1627, had discovered the Bible, opened it to Isaiah and was gripped. Running to his father, he read him chapter after chapter. In time, Bossuet learned the Bible almost by heart.
Bossuet also gained a reputation as an orator, keeping fellow students in rapt attention during addresses. Eventually he was appointed court preacher at Versailles. His RS Thomas were “unexcelled upon earth.” It was said, “Bossuet is the most powerful, the most truly eloquent speaker that our language has ever known.”
He was also blunt. In some RS Thomas, he addressed the king by name; and on one occasion he earnestly implored Louis to abandon his adulteries and return to his wife. Unfortunately, Bossuet’s eloquence did little good. The nobility sat listening to him, dressed in powdered wigs, high-heeled shoes, and gaudy costumes. They wept during Bossuet’s messages, but left unchanged. Here, for example, is an excerpt from one of his RS Thomas that should have made an impact. As it was, the nobility listened and cried and nodded and went their way as before:
The honour of the world makes us attribute to ourselves all that we do, and ends by setting us upon pedestals like little gods. Well, proud and self-complacent soul, thus deified by the honour of the world, see how the eternal, the living God abases Himself in order to confound you! Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility! Man falsely attributes to himself what belongs to God; and God, in order to teach him to humble himself, takes what belongs to man. This is the remedy for insolence! This alone can confound the honour of the world—that Hill of Calvary, that Cross of Shame, Jesus Christ the Incarnate God, our Pattern, our Master, our King.
Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave.
--- James 1:22-24.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 27
“Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord!” --- Deuteronomy 33:29.
He who affirms that Christianity makes men miserable, is himself an utter stranger to it. It were strange indeed, if it made us wretched, for see to what a position it exalts us! It makes us sons of God. Suppose you that God will give all the happiness to his enemies, and reserve all the mourning for his own family? Shall his foes have mirth and joy, and shall his home-born children inherit sorrow and wretchedness? Shall the sinner, who has no part in Christ, call himself rich in happiness, and shall we go mourning as if we were penniless beggars? No, we will rejoice in the Lord always, and glory in our inheritance, for we “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The rod of chastisement must rest upon us in our measure, but it worketh for us the comfortable fruits of righteousness; and therefore by the aid of the divine Comforter, we, the “people saved of the Lord,” will joy in the God of our salvation. We are married unto Christ; and shall our great Bridegroom permit his spouse to linger in constant grief? Our hearts are knit unto him: we are his members, and though for awhile we may suffer as our Head once suffered, yet we are even now blessed with heavenly blessings in him. We have the earnest of our inheritance in the comforts of the Spirit, which are neither few nor small. Inheritors of joy for ever, we have foretastes of our portion. There are streaks of the light of joy to herald our eternal sunrising. Our riches are beyond the sea; our city with firm foundations lies on the other side the river; gleams of glory from the spirit-world cheer our hearts, and urge us onward. Truly is it said of us, “Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?”
Evening - September 27
“My Beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” --- Song of Solomon 5:4.
Knocking was not enough, for my heart was too full of sleep, too cold and ungrateful to arise and open the door, but the touch of his effectual grace has made my soul bestir itself. Oh, the longsuffering of my Beloved, to tarry when he found himself shut out, and me asleep upon the bed of sloth! Oh, the greatness of his patience, to knock and knock again, and to add his voice to his knockings, beseeching me to open to him! How could I have refused him! Base heart, blush and be confounded! But what greatest kindness of all is this, that he becomes his own porter and unbars the door himself. Thrice blessed is the hand which condescends to lift the latch and turn the key. Now I see that nothing but my Lord’s own power can save such a naughty mass of wickedness as I am; ordinances fail, even the Gospel has no effect upon me, till his hand is stretched out. Now, also, I perceive that his hand is good where all else is unsuccessful, he can open when nothing else will. Blessed be his name, I feel his gracious presence even now. Well may my bowels move for him, when I think of all that he has suffered for me, and of my ungenerous return. I have allowed my affections to wander. I have set up rivals. I have grieved him. Sweetest and dearest of all beloveds, I have treated thee as an unfaithful wife treats her husband. Oh, my cruel sins, my cruel self. What can I do? Tears are a poor show of my repentance, my whole heart boils with indignation at myself. Wretch that I am, to treat my Lord, my All in All, my exceeding great joy, as though he were a stranger. Jesus, thou forgivest freely, but this is not enough, prevent my unfaithfulness in the future. Kiss away these tears, and then purge my heart and bind it with sevenfold cords to thyself, never to wander more.
THE SANDS OF TIME ARE SINKING
Anne Ross Cousin, 1824–1906
And I—in righteousness I will see Your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing Your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
What beautiful pictures of Christ and our relationship to Him as His bride are portrayed for us in this lovely hymn text which was inspired by the dying words of a 17th century Scottish preacher. The colorful imagery enhances the truths of these very thoughtful lines.
“And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s Land” were the final triumphant words spoken by Samuel Rutherford, a forceful evangelical preacher who suffered much persecution in Scotland for his support of the non-conformist movement. His open opposition to the state church resulted in banishment from his pulpit and home. When his courageous loyalty to Christ continued throughout his life, Rutherford was eventually charged with high treason, which could mean being beheaded. Already on his death bed, however, he sent, back this message: “I behoove to answer my first summons, and ere your day for me arrive, I will be where few kings and great folks come.”
Two hundred years after the death of Rutherford in 1661, his victorious life, writings, and final words so impressed Anne Ross Cousin that she was moved to write this remarkable text. Mrs. Cousin describes vividly the glories of heaven. Her wonderful closing proclamation that “the Lamb is all the glory” is a fitting climax to the hymn’s vibrant exaltation of Christ and His eternal abode.
The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks; the summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes. Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but day-spring is at hand, and glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love! The streams on earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above: There to an ocean fulness His mercy doth expand, and glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
O I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved’s mine! He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.” I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand, not e’en where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
The Bride eyes not her garment but her dear Bridegroom’s face; I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace, not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand: The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.
For Today: John 17:3; Romans 13:14; Ephesians 3:14–21; Hebrews 12:2
Learn to say—“My goal is Christ Himself, not joy, nor peace, not even heaven—but Himself, my Lord.” Even now, as we anticipate the joy of “Immanuel’s land” and the sight of our Savior’s face, let us look away from ourselves and the cares of life and focus on the author and finisher of our faith.
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
2. This doctrine will teach us patience under such providences as declare his unchangeable will. The rectitude of our wills consists in conformity to the Divine, as discovered in his words, and manifested in his providence, which are the effluxes of his immutable will. The time of trial is appointed by his immutable will (Dan. 11:35); it is not in the power of the sufferer’s will to shorten it, nor in the power of the enemies’ will to lengthen it. Whatsoever doth happen hath been decreed by God (Eccles. 6:10), “That which hath been is named already;” therefore to murmur or be discontented is to contend with God, who is mightier than we, to maintain his own purposes. God doth act all things conveniently for that immutable end intended by himself, and according to the reason of his own will, in the true point of time most proper for it and for us, not too soon or too slow, because he is unchangeable in knowledge and wisdom. God doth not act anything barely by an immutable will, but by an immutable wisdom, and an unchangeable rule of goodness; and, therefore, we should not only acquiesce in what he works, but have a complacency in it; and by having our wills thus knitting themselves with the immutable will of God, we attain some degree of likeness to him in his own unchangeableness. When, therefore, God hath manifested his will in opening his decree to the world by his work of providence, we must cease all disputes against it, and, with Aaron hold our peace, though the affliction be very smart (Rev. 10:3). “All flesh must be silent before God” (Zech. 2:13); for whatsoever is his counsel shall stand, and cannot be recalled. All struggling against it is like a brittle glass contending with a rock; for “if he cut off and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?” (Job 11:10.) Nothing can help us, if he hath determined to afflict us, as nothing can hurt us, if he hath determined to secure us. The more clearly God hath evidenced this or that to be his will, the more sinful is our struggling against it. Pharaoh’s sin was the greater in keeping Israel, by how much the more God’s miracles had been demonstrations of his settled will to deliver them. Let nothing snatch our hearts to a contradiction to him, but let us fear and give glory to him, when the hour of judgment which he hath appointed is come (Rev. 14:7); that is, comply with the unchangeable will of his precept, the more he declares the immutable will of his providence. We must not think God must disgrace his nature and change his proceedings for us; better the creature should suffer, than God be impaired in any of his perfections. If God changed his purpose he would change his nature. Patience is the way to perform the immutable will of God, and a means to attain a gracious immutability for ourselves by receiving the promise (Heb. 10:36), “Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
3. This doctrine will teach us to imitate God in this perfection, by striving to be immovable in goodness. God never goes back from himself; he finds nothing better than himself for which he should change; and can we find anything better than God, to allure our hearts to a change from him? The sun never declines from the ecliptic line, nor should we from the paths of holiness. A steadfast obedience is encouraged by an unchangeable God to reward it (1 Cor. 15:58): “Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord.” Unsteadfastness is the note of a hypocrite (Psalm 78:37): steadfastness in that which is good is the mark of a saint; it is the character of a righteous person to “keep the truth” (Isa. 26:2). And it is as positively said that “he that abides not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God” (2 John 9); but he that doth, “hath both the Father and the Son.” So much of uncertainty, so much of nature, so much of firmness in duty, so much of grace. We can never honor God unless we finish his work; as Christ did not glorify God but in finishing the work God gave him to do (John 17:4). The nearer the world comes to an end, the more is God’s immutability seen in his promises and predictions, and the more must our unchangeableness be seen in our obedience (Heb. 10:23, 25): “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” The christian Jews were to be the more tenacious of their faith, the nearer they saw the day approaching, the day of Jerusalem’s destruction prophesied of by Daniel (Dan. 9:26), which accomplishment must be a great argument to establish the christian Jews in the profession of Christ to be the Messiah, because the destruction of the city was not to be before the cutting off the Messiah. Let us be, therefore, constant in our profession and service of God, and not suffer ourselves to be driven from him by the ill usage, or flattered from him by the caresses of the world.
(1.) It is reasonable. If God be unchangeable in doing us good, it is reason we should be unchangeable in doing him service. If he assure us that he is our God, our “I Am,” he would also that we should be his people; his we are. If he declare himself constant in his promises, he expects we should be so in our obedience. As a spouse, we should be unchangeably faithful to him as a Husband; as subjects, have an unchangeable allegiance to him as our Prince. He would not have us faithful to him for an hour or a day, but “to the death” (Rev. 2:10); and it is reason we should be his, and if we be his children, imitate him in his constancy of his holy purposes.
(2.) It is our glory and interest. To be a reed shaken with every wind is no commendation among men, and it is less a ground of praise with God. It was Job’s glory that he held fast his integrity (Job 1:22): “In all this Job sinned not;” in all this,—which whole cities and kingdoms would have thought ground enough of high exclamations against God, and also against the temptation of his wife,— he retained his integrity (Job 2:9): “Dost thou still retain thy integrity?” The devil, who by God’s permission stripped him of his goods and health, yet could not strip him of his grace. As a traveller, when the wind and snow beats in his face, wraps his cloak more closely about him to preserve that and himself. Better we had never made profession, than afterwards to abandon it; such a withering profession serves for no other use than to aggravate the crime, if any of us fly like a coward, or revolt like a traitor; what profit will it be to a soldier, if he hath withstood many assaults, and turn his back at last? If we would have God crown us with an immutable glory, we must crown our beginnings with a happy perseverance (Rev. 2:10): “Be faithful to the death, and I will give thee a crown of life;” not as though this were the cause to merit it, but a necessary condition to possess it: constancy in good is accompanied with an immutability of glory.
(3.) By an unchangeable disposition to good, we should begin the happiness of heaven upon earth. This is the perfection of blessed spirits, those that are nearest to God as angels and glorified souls, they are immutable; not, indeed, by nature, but by grace; yet not only by a necessity of grace, but a liberty of will: grace will not let them change; and that grace doth animate their wills that they would not change; an immutable God fills their understandings and affections, and gives satisfaction to their desires. The saints when they were below, tried other things, and found them deficient; but now they are so fully satisfied with the beatific vision, that if Satan should have an entrance among the angels and sons of God, it is not likely he should have any influence upon them; he could not present to their understandings anything that could either at the first glance, or upon a deliberate view, be preferable to what they enjoy and are fixed in. Well, then, let us be immovable in the knowledge and love of God. It is the delight of God to see his creatures resemble him in what they are able. Let not our affections to him be as Jonah’s gourd, growing up in one night and withering the next. Let us not only fight a good fight, but do so till we have finished our course, and imitate God in an unchangeableness of holy purposes; and to that purpose, examine ourselves daily what fixedness we have arrived unto; and to prevent any temptation to a revolt, let us often possess our minds with thoughts of the immutability of God’s nature and will, which, like fire under water, will keep a good matter boiling up in us, and make it both retain and increase its heat.
(4.) Let this doctrine teach us to have recourse to God, and aim at a near conjunction with him. When our spirits begin to flag, and a cold aguish temper is drawing upon us, let us go to him who can only fix our hearts, and furnish us with a ballast to render them steadfast. As he is only immutable in his nature, so he is the only principle of immutability, as well as being in the creature. Without his grace, we shall be as changeable in our appearances as the chameleon, and in our turnings as the wind. When Peter trusted in himself, he changed to the worse; it was his Master’s recourse to God for him that preserved in him a reducing principle, which changed him again for the better, and fixed him in it (Luke 22:32). It will be our interest to be in conjunction with him, that moves not about with the heavens, nor is turned by the force of nature, nor changed by the accidents in the world; but sits in the heavens, moving all things by his powerful arm, according to his infinite skill. While we have him for our God, we have his immutability as well as any other perfection of his nature for our advantage; the nearer we come to him, the more stability we shall have in ourselves; the further from him, the more liable to change. The line that is nearest to the place where it is first fixed, is least subject to motion; the further it is stretched from it, the weaker it is, and more liable to be shaken. Let us also affect those things which are nearest to him in this perfection; the righteousness of Christ that shall never wear out, and the graces of the Spirit that shall never burn out; by this means, what God is infinitely by nature, we shall come to be finitely immutable by grace, as much as the capacity of a creature can contain.