2 Chronicles 18
Jehoshaphat Allies with Ahab2 Chronicles 18 1 Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab. 2 After some years he went down to Ahab in Samaria. And Ahab killed an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and for the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. 3 Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” He answered him, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.” 4 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.” 5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.” 6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” 7 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 8 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.” 9 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes. And they were sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 10 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’ ” 11 And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph. The LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”
12 And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” 13 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak.” 14 And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?” And he answered, “Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand.” 15 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” 16 And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’ ” 17 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 18 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. 19 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 22 Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The LORD has declared disaster concerning you.”
23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “Which way did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?” 24 And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.” 25 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, 26 and say, ‘Thus says the king, Put this fellow in prison and feed him with meager rations of bread and water until I return in peace.’ ” 27 And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”
The Defeat and Death of Ahab28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 29 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” And the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. 30 Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of his chariots, “Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel.” 31 As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him. 32 For as soon as the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 33 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” 34 And the battle continued that day, and the king of Israel was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians until evening. Then at sunset he died.
2 Chronicles 19
Jehoshaphat’s Reforms2 Chronicles 19 1 Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. 2 But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. 3 Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.”
4 Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 5 He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, 6 and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. 7 Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
8 Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. 9 And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: 10 whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before the LORD and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers. Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt. 11 And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters, and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the LORD be with the upright!”
2 Chronicles 20
Jehoshaphat’s Prayer2 Chronicles 20 1 After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, 6 and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,
“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The LORD Delivers Judah24 When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. 27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28 They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. 29 And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
31 Thus Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 32 He walked in the way of Asa his father and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. 33 The high places, however, were not taken away; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their fathers.
34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Jehu the son of Hanani, which are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.
The End of Jehoshaphat’s Reign35 After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. 36 He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. 37 Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.
What I'm Reading
The Self-Evident Nature of Objective Moral Truths
By J. Warner Wallace 5/31/2017
I occasionally encounter someone who rejects the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths. For many people, all moral truth is merely perspectival; a matter of flexible, cultural convention. Yet there appear to be a number of moral absolutes that transcend culture and history. These objective truths beckon us to seek justification when we attempt to circumvent their prescriptions. “Did you steal the hammer from that man?” “Yes, dad, but he was going to hit me with it!” We intuitively know that it’s never acceptable to steal “for the fun of it”. This action requires proper justification before any of us would find it tolerable or morally appropriate. Still, some folks are unconvinced that such a transcendent Law exists at all.
I’ve talked to people who refuse to accept some of the transcendent moral principles I’ve proposed. In one recent conversation, a female graduate student said she could imagine a culture that might accept (as virtuous) the moral principles I typically offer as transcendent moral taboos:
It’s never OK to steal “for the fun of it”
It’s never OK to lie “for the fun of it”
It’s never OK to kill “for the fun of it”
When people seek to reject the transcendent nature of these claims, I take the following approach. First, I ask them for an historical example. While there are many cultures that have justified their actions with rationalizations we might reject as insufficient, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a culture that used “for the fun of it” as a justification. Secondly, it’s sometimes important to “super-size” an issue to illustrate the point. That’s why I occasionally ask the question, “Is it ever OK to torture babies for fun?” If it isn’t, we’ve just identified a transcendent moral principle we can agree on. You’d be surprised, however, to discover how many people will still reject this “extreme” moral truth claim. The aforementioned graduate student told me, “Well, I would never so such a thing and I would never say it was OK, but I don’t think there’s necessarily an objective truth about it.” Really? I asked her, “So, are you saying there’s a scenario in which it might be appropriate to torture a baby for fun?” She still hesitated. “So, you’re saying that there could be a scenario in which it is morally acceptable to torture babies merely for the fun of it? Do you see how that sounds?”
When people still refuse to affirm something as self-evident as, “It’s never OK to torture babies for fun,” it’s time to offer them an additional piece of advice: “Get some help!” When your intuitive ability to recognize self-evident truth is inoperative, it’s time to get some counseling. Or, at least, start asking what it is that is causing you to hesitate in the first place. As this graduate student became more and more uncomfortable with her position, she began to recognize the weight of the moral truth she was trying to deny. She intuitively understood the need for proper justification because she felt the gravity of the transcendent claim. If there are such transcendent truths, I think we owe it to ourselves to attribute them to a proper and foundationally reasonable source.
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.
Of First Importance: The Priority of the Cross and the Empty Tomb
By Albert Mohler 4/14/2017
The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority.
The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case:
(1 Co 15:1–11) 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ESV
Paul points directly to the events of the cross and resurrection of Christ. He is not concerned with just any gospel, but with the only gospel that saves. This is “the gospel I preached to you,” Paul reminds the Corinthians. The same Paul who so forcefully warned the Galatians against accepting any false gospel reminds the church at Corinth that the very “gospel I preached to you” is the gospel “by which you are being saved.” Their stewardship of the gospel is underlined in Paul’s words, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”
Paul’s statement of priority is a vital corrective for our confused times. Without hesitation, Paul writes with urgency about the truths that are “as of first importance.” All revealed truth is vital, invaluable, life-changing truth to which every disciple of Christ is fully accountable. But certain truths are of highest importance, and that is the language Paul uses without qualification.
And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation.
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
Why Didn’t God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?
By Frank Turek 9/18/2017
How does a man facing his own premature death exude an uplifting combination of grace, love and truth? My friend Nabeel Qureshi, who has done that for more than a year, died at age 34 on Saturday. In case you don’t know, Nabeel was a former devout Muslim who became a powerful defender of Christianity after a seven-year process of evaluating the evidence for Christianity with his friend David Wood. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity is an international best seller. He also wrote No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity and Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward and Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus : A Former Muslim Shares the Evidence that Led Him from Islam to Christianity (Study Guide) and Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity.
Since being diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer last year, Nabeel has shared his thoughts, concerns and prayers through 43 video blogs on his YouTube channel. His last video, recorded from his hospital bed just seven days before his death, is a request for us to use his work and example to love others to the truth.
As you will see in his videos, Nabeel exhibited the love of Christ to the end. He never wavered in his confidence that God could heal him, but recognized that He might not. Nabeel understood that we live in a fallen world, and that God doesn’t promise any of us a long, trouble free life. In fact, Jesus promised more of the opposite. He said that we “will have trouble in this world, but take heart, I’ve overcome the world.”
Nevertheless, while it seems insensitive to ask this while we grieve, people are wondering why didn’t God heal Nabeel. After all, he was a brilliant and charismatic young man taken away from his wife Michelle and daughter Ayah, and the rest of us, far too early. Nabeel had so much more to give to his family and the Kingdom of God that his death seems senseless.
So why didn’t God heal Nabeel?
Does the OT Predict Jesus’ Resurrection?
By Carey Bryant 9/27/2017
Part of Paul’s Gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 is the phrase “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Have you ever wondered what Scriptures Paul had in mind?
When it comes to Jesus’ death, many rightly think of OT passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. But when you look for OT references about Jesus’ resurrection, they are much more scarce and obscure. The first two passages that we will look at are debated among theologians as to whether or not they speak of Jesus’ resurrection, but the next three are much clearer. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Two Debatable Passages | On the Third Day | “After two days he will Revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before Him” (Hosea 6:2).
Here Hosea is praying that God would restore Israel as a nation. The phrases “after two days” and “on the third day” simply denote a short period of time. For many Christians, the phrase “on the third day he will raise us up” seems to be a near perfect parallel to Jesus’ resurrection.
But many commentators seemed to be divided on this. Some think this refers to Jesus’ resurrection while others take this as dealing solely with Israel. The original context of the passage doesn’t seem to be Messianic, but the biggest problem I have is that no one references this passage in the NT. If Hosea was speaking about the Resurrection, I would think that the NT writers would be quoting this passage all over the place!
I am a follower of Christ and I seek to live out God’s Word as revealed to us in the Bible. God has given me a passion to study His Word and this blog is an outcome of this passion.
What is intellectual doubt?
By Travis Dickinson
More than one way to doubt | There are a variety of ways to doubt. The two most talk about forms of doubt are emotional doubt and intellectual doubt.
We can sometimes have every intellectual reason in the world to believe something is true, and yet we doubt. This form of doubt, and we’ve all faced it to greater or lesser degree, is emotional doubt (or sometimes called psychological doubt). An extreme example of this form of doubting is one who has a phobia of flying. The person may know everything there is to know about flight safety, and know (intellectually) that flying on an airplane is, by almost every metric, safer than, say, driving in a car, and yet the person will dramatically doubt the reasonableness of getting on the plane.
When it comes to Christian faith, we can sometimes be in a very good position intellectually in believing the truths of Christianity, and yet there is a kind of emotional inability to take the plunge.
This is a real battle. It’s a battle that, as a philosopher, I’m frankly not well equipped to engage (I wouldn’t suggest me for marriage counseling either!). I would however recommend that you read Gary Habermas on this issue. He has two books on emotional doubt and he’s graciously published these on his website here and here.
Making this distinction is not to say that there are no intellectual considerations when it comes to emotional doubt. It is also not to say that there are no emotions involved when we doubt intellectually. Like most things, it gets messy. But I’m primarily focused on (and much better equipped to think about) intellectual doubt.
I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.
No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.
I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.
I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 106Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.
28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.
Asking, Seeking, Knocking
By Eric Alexander 5/01/2014
There must be few pastors who have not repeated the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:7, with a wistfulness equal to his: “You were running well. Who hindered you?” The Apostolic finger had touched upon the timeless tragedy of a life that showed early spiritual promise yet was blighted by a lack of perseverance. It is, of course, the same sad story as Jesus told in the parable of the sower, when He describes the one who “hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while” (Matt. 13:20).
Perseverance is a word applied in the Bible in two ways. First is the ultimate perseverance that depends on God’s preserving us, His people, which is the ground of our assurance of eternal glory. The Westminster Confession of Faith devotes a whole chapter to this subject, assuring us that true believers “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end” (17.1). This depends on God’s election of a people for Himself.
But there is also a use of perseverance to describe a quality in the believer, an example of which is in Ephesians 6:18: “Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” That is a quality of Christian character, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. This latter use of the word is most frequently applied to perseverance in the face of opposition or trials, or to perseverance in prayer. It is the second application that will be our theme here.
There is no doubt that Jesus is focusing on the subject of perseverance in prayer toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:7–11. Literally translated, it would read, “Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and it will be opened to you” (v. 7). All three verbs are present imperatives, and it is likely that they are much more than just a repetition of the same idea. Rather, I think the three commands “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” are a progressive intensification. Repeatedly asking requires perseverance, and still more so does continuous seeking. Persistent knocking suggests an intense desire for entry.
It is interesting that Luke in his gospel places at this point in Jesus’ teaching the parable of the persistent friend who comes to the door at midnight and refuses to be put off in his request for bread. “Because of his persistence” is Jesus’ explanation of why the man obtains a response. But look more closely at each of Jesus’ key words in this paragraph: they are “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” (Luke 11:5–13).
Asking is the most common idea in supplicating before God’s throne. It is the language of one who is bereft of what he most needs, but knows who can supply his need. In this case, it is the language of the child who has a need that his Father can satisfy.
In the explanatory verse at Matthew 7:9, Jesus draws a parallel with the experience of an earthly father-son relationship: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” The father delights to give good gifts to his son — not just any gifts, but good gifts. The son is exercising filial faith in asking, and the father is exhibiting grace in giving.
Grace and faith are key elements in prayer. In the case of our heavenly Father’s gifts, there is a perfection about the giving that takes us into a new realm. The Father’s gifts are perfect; that is why we should be so eager to come to Him.
If you wonder why God needs us to ask before He gives, there are two things to remember: one is that He daily gives us good things we have not even thought about, much less asked for; the other is that in Psalm 2, we have a remarkable excerpt of a conversation between God the Father and God the Son regarding how the Son will have the nations for His inheritance and the ends of the earth for His possession, and the Father says, “Ask of me, and I will give you” (Ps. 2:8). If the only begotten Son is told to ask, the children of God adopted by grace into His family should not be surprised that they must ask also.
Seeking reveals something more of God’s character to us. I am not entirely sure why it should be so, but there is no doubt that God responds to those who seek Him (remembering, of course, that no one can truly seek God unless God draws him).
We need to listen to the emphasis on this in the Bible. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (see also 2 Chron. 7:14 and Isa. 55:6).
Knocking is another intensification of the idea of asking and seeking. I think the thought behind this word is seriousness. The man in Jesus’ story who came to his friend at midnight displayed his seriousness in persistent knocking. God responds to seriousness. Superficial devotees and spiritual jesters will not engage His heart and mind.
So, when you pray, be a suppliant, be a seeker, and be serious. True prayer demands all three.
The Goodness of Gender
By Susan Hunt 6/01/2014
The jarring “It is not good for the man to be alone” was not an “oops” moment in the creation story. Adam’s aloneness was underscored as he named the animals. There was no creature that corresponded to him, who glorified and enjoyed God with him, who communicated with him. Then, God gave him a helper who was equal but different, and their perfect complementarity reflected the glory of the ontological (pertaining to being or essence) equality and functional diversity of the three-in-one God. It was very good.
God gave man and woman the cultural mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion by extending the beauty and wonder of Eden into all the world. They were created for something bigger than themselves, but they believed Satan’s lies and lost it all. Then God gave the gospel promise that the woman’s offspring would crush the enemy, and Adam responded by naming his wife Eve, which means life-giver, pointing to the One who would give His life for and to His people.
He named her — naming is an act of headship. After the gospel promise, the headship that was entrusted to Adam at creation remained. Once again, Adam and Eve illustrated the relational nature of the Trinity — authority and submission between equals. We are redeemed for something bigger than ourselves.
Aloneness was not good in Eden, and the same is true in the church. A genderless church is as unthinkable as a genderless Eden as we seek to obey the gospel mandate to multiply by making disciples. Titus 2 makes this commission gender - specific when older women are told to disciple younger women to be life-givers in every relationship and situation.
Jesus’ inclusion of women in His ministry is instructive. As He went to villages proclaiming the kingdom of God, the disciples were with Him “and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities…who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:2).There is no indication that the women competed with or complained about the men. When women are healed by His wounds (1 Peter 2:24) and the life of Christ fills them, they become life-givers rather than life-takers in their place of ministry. Wow!
At the cross, “there were also many women there…who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him” (Matt. 27:55). These women did not turn away from the cosmic horror happening before their eyes as the full force of the Father’s wrath fell upon the Son. The Savior they followed did not allow one drop of that wrath to fall on them.
Their gratitude was expressed by an act of loving service. They ministered to the body of Jesus. They brought spices to anoint His body. As they walked to the tomb they asked, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3). There was an obstacle too big for them to move, but they still went because their hearts were aflame with love for the One who first loved them. Through no effort of their own, “they saw that the stone had been rolled back” (v. 4). They were the first to hear the good news, “He has risen!” Then Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!…Do not be afraid; go and tell” (Matt. 28:9-10).
As a pastor’s wife for fifty years, I have faced many obstacles in loving and serving Christ’s church, usually stones in my own heart — doubt, fear, pride, resentment, anger — and sometimes hard people or rocky situations. But I have learned that when I keep praying and serving, God’s Spirit softens my heart, sometimes stones are removed, and I see the glorious grace of the risen Christ in unexpected people and places.
Women’s ministry in the church is about anointing the body of Christ, because we love Him, because He first loved us.
The enemy has not changed his strategy: “Did God really say you cannot hold an ordained office in the church?” Satan puts a negative spin on God’s abundant provision of every tree in the Garden except one. Eating what He forbids does not make us equal with God; it makes us less than a reflection of His glory. The governance of the church is to reflect the created order, which reflects the Creator. Trusting and obeying God’s plan is not just radical, it is impossible apart from His transforming grace. His children are the only ones who can display His very good creation design and obey His gospel commission to multiply and extend His kingdom. We daily smash up against the world’s hostility to gender distinctiveness, but may we, by the power that is at work within us, celebrate, guard and protect this treasure and give it to the next generation.
I asked our eight-year-old and eleven-year-old granddaughters, “Who is better—boys or girls?” There was immediate consensus: “Girls!” We had a Titus 2 sit-down. Ask them now and they will tell you, “Boys are better at being boys, girls are better at being girls, we are equal but different, and it is very good because God said so.”
Being Sought First, the Kingdom of God
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/01/2014
Our faith is, more often than not, more both/and than either/or. Man’s responsibility or God’s sovereignty? Yes. Mourning or dancing? Yes. Living or dying? Yes. Our temptation in light of this is always to push for one side or the other. When we affirm man’s responsibility, some hear a denial of God’s sovereignty and vice versa. When we see someone mourning, we insist that they dance and vice versa. We ought to dance, even as we ought to mourn. And if we do it right, we find ourselves mourning while we dance and dancing while we mourn.
In like manner, we are called by Jesus Himself to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is not, contra too many to name, an embracing of legalism. This is not Jesus speaking during some bootstrap phase of His ministry that would later fade into a kinder, gentler message of unconditional acceptance. He is unequivocally calling us to pursue Him and to pursue obedience to Him. He leaves no wiggle room. And so we must. We are called to a single-minded passion that pursues obedience to the King, that hungers for entrance into the kingdom. We are called to lay aside every hindrance, to scale the walls, to take the kingdom by storm. We are called to run the race that is set before us — and to not grow weary in doing good.
However, as we run this race, one of the great challenges is the folly of concluding that we have arrived. As we grow in grace and wisdom, as we live our lives among the brethren, as we put off the old man, we find we’re not what we used to be. And we relax, thinking too highly of ourselves.
To protect this newfound pride, we may in turn establish ourselves as gatekeepers in the kingdom. To be sure, we are called to be discerning. We, especially the elders of the church, have a duty to make judgments about others. How often, however, do we slide into the practice of private excommunication? Do we not look at the sins of others, secretly judge their secret motives, then secretly convict them? Do we not conclude, “If they were real Christians, they would believe, act, and speak like me”?
When we fall to this kind of temptation, we discover that we have entered into a faux kingdom and crowned ourselves the faux king. We do not enter the real kingdom by pursuing it and our righteousness. We enter the real kingdom by being pursued by it, and by receiving His righteousness.
The broad, ecumenical bromide that affirms that all roads lead up the same mountain to the same god is wrong on multiple fronts. It is not enough to note that all those paths outside the Christian one actually proceed downhill, all the way into the very pit of hell. We must also recognize that what sets our path apart is that we do not climb up, but that He comes down. The kingdom of God is not that place where successful, world-class climbers reach the summit. Pastors are not Sherpas leading the way. Jesus is not standing on the peak waiting to congratulate us and gift us with a medal.
No. The kingdom of God is not something we ascend to. Nor did Jesus merely come to us to egg us on, to coach and encourage us. We were dead. We were in a bottomless crevasse, frozen in our sin. He made us alive. He gave us new hearts. He dressed us in the warmth of His righteousness. He carried us to eternity. And He did all of this precisely because, while we were yet sinners, He identified with us. Us — with our envious hearts, with our darkened minds, with our grubby hands — He identified with. Jesus stands with us as the devil gleefully spits out his accusations. “This,” he says, “this unfaithful bride, this bespotted and besmirched wretch, this duplicitous whore, this is Yours?” And Satan’s sinister grin becomes a mask of horror as Jesus, tenderly holding our filthy hand, answers, “Yes, she is My beloved.” What a wonder that it is in agreeing with the accusations of the devil that we enter in.
When we distance ourselves from those beside whom He stands, do we not of necessity distance ourselves from Him? When we turn up our nose at those for whom He gave up His life, do we not turn up our nose at Him and His work on the cross? When we believe we have arrived, do we not confess that we got there ourselves?
Were it our calling to run from sinners, we would have no place to go, for our own sin follows us wherever we go. Instead, however, we are called to stand, and to repent, with the repentant. We are to bind up the brokenhearted, to give the balm of Christ to those mourning their sin. Jesus came to heal the sick, not praise the well. I am a leper. But that’s OK, for the kingdom of God is a leper colony. Each of us, however, bows before Him as He places His scarred hands on our heads and pronounces blessing upon us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Purposes of God
By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2014
“Why?” This simple question is loaded with assumptions about what philosophers call “teleology.” Teleology, which comes from the Greek word for “goal” or “end” (telos), is the study of purpose. The “why” questions are purpose questions. We seek the reasons things happen as they do. Why does the rain fall? Why does the earth turn on its axis? Why did you say that?
When we raise the question of purpose, we are concerned with ends, aims, and goals. All these terms suggest intent. They assume meaning rather than meaninglessness. Despite the best attempts of nihilist philosophers to deny that anything has ultimate meaning and significance, the perennial question “Why?” shows that they haven’t been successful. In fact, even the cynic’s glib retort of “Why not?” is a thinly veiled commitment to purpose. To explain why we’re not doing something is to give a reason or purpose for not doing it. Purpose remains in the background. Human beings are creatures committed to purpose. We do things for a reason — with some kind of goal in mind.
Still, there is complexity in this quest for purpose. We distinguish between proximate and remote purposes, the proximate being what is close at hand and the remote referring to the distant and ultimate purpose. To use a sports analogy, the proximate goal for the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is to make a first down. Making a touchdown is the more remote goal. A goal that is even further off for the team is to win the game. Finally, the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl.
The most famous Old Testament illustration of the relation between remote and proximate purposes is found in the story of Joseph. At the story’s end, Joseph’s brothers express their fear that he will take revenge on them for all that they had done to him. Joseph’s response shows us a remarkable concurrence at work between proximate and remote purposes. He said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Here, the proximate and the remote seemed to be mutually exclusive. The divine intention was the exact opposite of the human intention. Joseph’s brothers had one goal; God had a different one. The astounding reality here is that the proximate purpose served the remote purpose. This did not absolve the brothers of culpability. Their intent and actions were evil. Yet God deemed it good to let the brothers have their way with Joseph — to a limited extent — that He might achieve His ultimate purpose.
We all experience what seem to be tragic accidents. Some years ago, one of the pastors of Saint Andrew’s Chapel cut his hand severely while working in a cabinet shop. He did not mean to slice his hand; he intended to cut the wood for the cabinet he was working on. Proximately speaking, he had an accident. He asked, “Why did God permit my hand to get cut up?”
The question looks for a final purpose to the accident. It assumes what we know to be true, namely, that God could have prevented the accident. If we deny this, we deny the God who is. If He could not have prevented it, He would not be omnipotent — He would not be God. Moreover, our question “Why?” assumes another truth: that the question has an answer. We know God had a purpose for the accident.
For questions like these, we may not get a full answer in this life. We may never know on this side of glory all of the reasons why a tragedy occurs. Nevertheless, there is an answer to this most important question: “Is God’s purpose in allowing this accident to happen a good one?”
If we know anything about God, we already know the answer to the question. The Lord’s purposes and intentions are always altogether good. There is no hint of arbitrariness or wicked intent in the will of God. The pleasure of His will is always the good pleasure of His will. His pleasure is always good; His will is always good; His intentions are always good.
Paul’s incredible promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28) is a statement of teleology. Here, Paul addresses the remote rather than the proximate. Note that he doesn’t say all things are good but that they work together for good — for a final and ultimate goal. The Apostle insists that the proximate must always be seen in light of the remote.
The difficulty we face is that we do not yet possess the full light of the remote. On this side of heaven, we see through a glass darkly. Yet, we are not utterly devoid of light. We know enough about God to know He has a good purpose for all things even when that good purpose eludes us.
God’s good purpose shows us that the appearance of vanity and futility in this world is just that — mere appearance. To trust in God’s good purpose is the essence of godly faith. Thus, no Christian can be an ultimate pessimist. The wickedness and tragedy we daily endure can lead to a proximate pessimism, but not an ultimate one. I am pessimistic about human government and the innate good will of men. I am fully optimistic about divine government and the intrinsic good will of God.
We do not live in a world of chance or chaos. It began with a purpose, it is sustained with a purpose, and it has an ultimate purpose. This is my Father’s world, and His rule is purposeful, not capricious and arbitrary. Purposelessness is a manifest impossibility.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Be passionate, proactive, and persistent
(Sept 28) Bob Gass
'Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.’
(Jas 1:22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ESV
When Nehemiah first saw the ruins of Jerusalem, he wept. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. In the face of overwhelming odds and relentless opposition, he rebuilt the walls in just fifty-two days. How? Because it was his vision and his passion! Question: Are you afraid to say, ‘Lord, I’ll do anything You want me to do,’ in case He sends you somewhere you don’t want to go, or asks you to do something you don’t feel ready or qualified to do? You’ve got it wrong! The Bible says God’s will is ‘good, and acceptable, and perfect’ (Romans 12:2 KJV). Now, while God’s will is ‘good’, it’s not necessarily easy. But He will give you a passion for it. When Jeremiah tried to stop speaking about the Lord, he said God’s Word became ‘like a burning fire shut up in my bones’ (Jeremiah 20:9 NASB). A God-given vision sets your heart on fire. You begin to see things you never saw before and get excited about them. You may have failed in the past, but God can take your chapters of failure and write a story of success. But it won’t happen if you’re just sitting on the side-lines. The Bible says, ‘Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.’ You’ll get a passion for God’s will once you start doing it! And when it happens, you will say, ‘This is what I was made for.’ When you have a compelling reason for doing something, and you know God is watching and smiling on you, it makes all the difference in the world. So, the word for you today is: be passionate, proactive, and persistent!
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
He developed the vaccines for rabies and anthrax.. He revolutionized the medical field by establishing the germ theory of disease, laying the foundation for the control of tuberculosis, cholera, diphtheria, and tetanus. He was appointed dean of the faculty of sciences at Lille University in France. He developed the process of “Pasteurization ” of milk. His name: Louis Pasteur, and he died this day, September 28, 1895. Louis Pasteur stated: “Science brings man nearer to God… There is something in the depths of our souls which tells us that the world may be more than a mere combination of events.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Those who feel prayer stifled by the organization of law do not consider that law itself, if we take a long enough sweep, keeps passing us on to prayer. Law rises from Nature, through history, to heaven. It is integrated historically, i.e. by Christ’s cross and the Church’s history, with the organization of love. But that is the organization of Eternity in God, and it involves the interaction of all souls in a communion of ascending prayer. Prayer is the native movement of the spiritual life that receives its meaning and its soul only in Eternity, that works in the style and scale of Eternity, owns its principles, and speaks its speech. It is the will’s congenial surrender to that Redemption and Reconciliation between loving wills which is God’s Eternity acting in time. We beseech God because He first besought us.
So not to pray on principle means that thought has got the better of the will. The question is whether thought includes will or will thought; and thought wins if prayer is suppressed. Thought and not personality is then in command of the universe. If will is but a function of the idea, then prayer is but a symptom, it is not a power. It belongs to the phenomenology of the Infinite, it is not among its controls.
Prayer is doing God’s will. It is letting Him pray in us. We look for answer because His fullness is completely equal to His own prayers. Father and Son are perfectly adequate to each other. That is the Holy Spirit and self-sufficiency of the Godhead.
If God’s will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven, prayer begins with adoration. Of course, it is thanks and petition; but before we give even our prayer we must first receive. The Answerer provides the very prayer. What we do here rests on what God has done. What we offer is drawn from us by what He offers. Our self-oblation stands on His; and the spirit of prayer flows from the gift of the Holy Ghost, the great Intercessor. Hence praise and adoration of His work in itself comes before even our thanksgiving for blessings to us. At the height of prayer, if not at its beginning, we are preoccupied with the great and glorious thing God has done for His own holy name in Redemption, apart from its immediate and particular blessing to us. We are blind for the time to ourselves. We cover our faces with our wings and cry “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; the fullness of the earth is His glory.” Our full hearts glorify. We magnify His name. His perfections take precedence of our occasions. We pray for victory in the present was, for instance, and for deliverance from all war, for the sake of God’s kingdom—in a spirit of adoration for the deliverance there that is not destroyed, or foiled, even by a devilry like this. If the kingdom of God not only got over the murder of Christ, but made it its great lever, there is nothing that it cannot get over, and nothing it cannot turn to eternal blessing and to the glory of the holy name. But to the perspective of this faith, and to its vision of values so alien to human standards, we can rise only in prayer.
But it would be unreal prayer which was adoration only, with no reference to special boons or human needs. That would be as if God recognized no life but His own—which is very undivine egoism, and its collective form is the religion of mere nationalism. In true prayer we do two things. We go out of ourselves, being lost in wonder, love and praise; but also, and in the same act, we go in upon ourselves. We stir up all that is within us to bless and hallow God’s name. We examine ourselves keenly in that patient light, and we find ourselves even when our sin finds us out. Our nothingness is not burned and branded into us as if we had above only the starry irony of heaven. Our heart comes again. Our will is braced and purified. We not only recall our needs, but we discover new ones, of a more and more intimate and spiritual kind. The more spiritual we grow, the more we rise out of the subconscious or the unconscious. We never realize ourselves as we do when we forget ourselves after this godly sort in prayer. Prayer is not falling back upon the abyss below the soul; even as the secret of the Incarnation is sought in vain in that non-moral zone. Prayer is not what might be called the increased drone or boom of an unspeakable Om. But we rise in it to more conscious and positive relation with God the Holy—the God not abysmal but revealed, in whose revelation the thoughts of many hearts are revealed also, and whose fullness makes need almost as fast as it satisfies it.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Some stand on tiptoe
trying to reach God to talk to him –
you try too hard, friend –
drop to your knees and listen to him,
he’ll hear you better that way.
--- Ever Garrison
He who kneels before God
can stand before anyone.
--- Author Unknown
Forgiveness is based on the atoning work of the Cross, and not on anything we do. God’s forgiveness does not depend on our confession, nor does His fellowship. Confession is a means for releasing us from the tension and bondage of a guilty conscience.
--- Charles Stanley
The Gift of Forgiveness
Evangelical agencies with ready funding may have too little depth and vision to cope with the current conflict. God's kingdom is built not on perpetual motion, one-liners, and flashbulbs but on Christ.
--- Carl F.H. Henry
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning The Tyrants Simon And John. How Also As Titus Was Going Round The Wall Of This City Nicanor Was Wounded By A Dart; Which Accident Provoked Titus To Press On The Siege.
1. Now the warlike men that were in the city, and the multitude of the seditious that were with Simon, were ten thousand, besides the Idumeans. Those ten thousand had fifty commanders, over whom this Simon was supreme. The Idumeans that paid him homage were five thousand, and had eight commanders, among whom those of greatest fame were Jacob the son of Sosas, and Simon the son of Cathlas. Jotre, who had seized upon the temple, had six thousand armed men under twenty commanders; the zealots also that had come over to him, and left off their opposition, were two thousand four hundred, and had the same commander that they had formerly, Eleazar, together with Simon the son of Arinus. Now, while these factions fought one against another, the people were their prey on both sides, as we have said already; and that part of the people who would not join with them in their wicked practices were plundered by both factions. Simon held the upper city, and the great wall as far as Cedron, and as much of the old wall as bent from Siloam to the east, and which went down to the palace of Monobazus, who was king of the Adiabeni, beyond Euphrates; he also held that fountain, and the Acra, which was no other than the lower city; he also held all that reached to the palace of queen Helena, the mother of Monobazus. But John held the temple, and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way, as also Ophla, and the valley called "the Valley of Cedron;" and when the parts that were interposed between their possessions were burnt by them, they left a space wherein they might fight with each other; for this internal sedition did not cease even when the Romans were encamped near their very wall. But although they had grown wiser at the first onset the Romans made upon them, this lasted but a while; for they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out, and did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do; for they never suffered any thing that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men's actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it did it a greater kindness for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans; as to which matter let every one determine by the actions on both sides.
2. Now when affairs within the city were in this posture, Titus went round the city on the outside with some chosen horsemen, and looked about for a proper place where he might make an impression upon the walls; but as he was in doubt where he could possibly make an attack on any side, [for the place was no way accessible where the valleys were, and on the other side the first wall appeared too strong to be shaken by the engines,] he thereupon thought it best to make his assault upon the monument of John the high priest; for there it was that the first fortification was lower, and the second was not joined to it, the builders neglecting to build strong where the new city was not much inhabited; here also was an easy passage to the third wall, through which he thought to take the upper city, and, through the tower of Antonia, the temple itself But at this time, as he was going round about the city, one of his friends, whose name was Nicanor, was wounded with a dart on his left shoulder, as he approached, together with Josephus, too near the wall, and attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall, about terms of peace; for he was a person known by them. On this account it was that Caesar, as soon as he knew their vehemence, that they would not hear even such as approached them to persuade them to what tended to their own preservation, was provoked to press on the siege. He also at the same time gave his soldiers leave to set the suburbs on fire, and ordered that they should bring timber together, and raise banks against the city; and when he had parted his army into three parts, in order to set about those works, he placed those that shot darts and the archers in the midst of the banks that were then raising; before whom he placed those engines that threw javelins, and darts, and stones, that he might prevent the enemy from sallying out upon their works, and might hinder those that were upon the wall from being able to obstruct them. So the trees were now cut down immediately, and the suburbs left naked. But now while the timber was carrying to raise the banks, and the whole army was earnestly engaged in their works, the Jews were not, however, quiet; and it happened that the people of Jerusalem, who had been hitherto plundered and murdered, were now of good courage, and supposed they should have a breathing time, while the others were very busy in opposing their enemies without the city, and that they should now be avenged on those that had been the authors of their miseries, in case the Romans did but get the victory.
by D.H. Stern
is a righteous person who gives way before the wicked.
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 unconditional identification
One thing thou lackest.… come, take up the cross, and follow Me. --- Mark 10:21.)
The rich young ruler had the master passion to be perfect. When he saw Jesus Christ, he wanted to be like Him. Our Lord never puts personal holiness to the fore when He calls a disciple; He puts absolute annihilation of my right to myself and identification with Himself—a relationship with Himself in which there is no other relationship. Luke 14:26 has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification, but with unconditional identification with Jesus Christ. Very few of us know the absolute “go” of abandonment to Jesus.
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him.” The look of Jesus will mean a heart broken for ever from allegiance to any other person or thing. Has Jesus ever looked at you? The look of Jesus transforms and transfixes. Where you are ‘soft’ with God is where the Lord has looked at you. If you are hard and vindictive, insistent on your own way, certain that the other person is more likely to be in the wrong than you are, it is an indication that there are whole tracts of your nature that have never been transformed by His gaze.
“One thing thou lackest …” The only ‘good thing’ from Jesus Christ’s point of view is union with Himself and nothing in between.
“Sell whatsoever thou hast …” I must reduce myself until I am a mere conscious man, I must fundamentally renounce possessions of all kinds, not to save my soul, (only one thing saves a man—absolute reliance upon Jesus Christ) but in order to follow Jesus. “Come, and follow Me.” And the road is the way He went.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The priest picks his way
Through the parish. Eyes watch him
From windows, from the farms;
Hearts wanting him to come near.
The flesh rejects him.
Women, pouring from the black kettle,
Stir up the whirling tea-grounds
Of their thoughts; offer him a dark
Filling in their smiling sandwich.
Priests have a long way to go.
The people wait for them to come
To them over the broken glass
Of their vows, making them pay
With their sweat's coinage for their correction.
He goes up a green lane
Through growing birches; lambs cushion
His vision. He comes slowly down
In the dark, feeling the cross warp
In his hands; hanging on it his thoughts icicles.
'Crippled soul', do you say? looking at him
From the mind's height; 'limping through life
On his prayers. There are other people
In the world, sitting at a table
Contented, though the broken body
And the shed blood are not on the menu'.
'Let it be so', I say. 'Amen and amen'..
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
We have now come to a series of divine declarations, or oracles, concerning surrounding nations. The great world powers of Isaiah’s day (and coming powers like that of Babylon) who have set themselves against God will be themselves set aside as God’s judgment brings them low. Only the righteous kingdom of the Messiah will remain.
God raised up these nations to be instruments of judgment against His people (5:26–30; 7:18–20). Now Isaiah identified these powers and exposed their sin. They had arrogantly gone beyond God’s boundaries in punishing Israel. Even Babylon, which would fulfill the course begun by Assyria, would be unable to stand. All worldly powers directed against God and His purposes will be cut off.
Those who deny the possibility of prophetic foreknowledge argue that the name Babylon was substituted for Assyria by some later scribe. Those who believe the prophet was inspired by God realize that Babylon would consummate the scattering of God’s people initiated by Assyria.
Two elements of this prophecy (13:1–14:23) have drawn much attention. Many have seen in the destruction of the boastful king (14:12–21) a portrait of Satan’s fall from heaven (Luke 10:18). Of one thing we can be sure. Every arrogant power, whether in Satan, in kings, or in you and me, that exalts itself against God … falls under sure judgment.
Another element deserving comment is the picture of a deserted Babylon:
She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there. But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses.… Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Isaiah 13:20–22.
Today there is only an empty wilderness where Babylon once stood. The Lord is a great Judge, and His judgment is sure.
About Egypt (Isa. 19). God’s judgment is not only sure, it is purposive. After judgment, God brings restoration and healing.
In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt.… The Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord.… They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them. Isaiah 19:19, 21–22.
However stern the judgment of God seems, however terrible the vision of God as Judge, beyond the darkened clouds the sun of blessing still shines.
Happy is one who dies this kind of death!
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 32:48–52 / That very day the Lord spoke to Moses: Ascend these heights of Abarim to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab facing Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving the Israelites as their holding. You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin; for you both broke faith with Me among the Israelite people, at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to uphold My sanctity among the Israelite people. You shall view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.
MIDRASH TEXT / Sifrei Ha’azinu 339 / As your brother Aaron died. The death that he longed for. How did Moses long to die as Aaron [died]? When the Holy One, praised is He, told him, “Take Aaron and his son Eleazar … strip Aaron of his vestments” (Numbers 20:25, 26). These are the priestly vestments that he dressed Eleazar in, and so [he did with] the second one [vestment] and the third one. He [God] told him [Aaron], “Enter the cave,” and he entered. “Get up on the bier,” and he got up. “Stretch out your hands,” and he stretched them out. “Stretch out your legs,” and he stretched them out. “Close your mouth,” and he closed it. “Shut your eyes,” and he shut them. At that very moment, Moses said, “Happy is one who dies this kind of death!” Thus it says, “As your brother Aaron died,” the death that he longed for.
CONTEXT / In the Deuteronomy text, God tells Moses to die “as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor.” The Rabbis seem puzzled by the Hebrew word כַּאֲשֶׁר/ka’asher, “as.” They interpret it to mean not “You too will die, just as Aaron died, as all people eventually die” but rather “You will die as Aaron died, in just the same way, in the manner that Aaron died.” The Rabbis also may have made a wordplay: כַּאֲשֶׁר/ka’asher may have triggered an association with the Hebrew word, אַשְׁרֵי/ashrei, “happy.” The Rabbis saw Aaron’s death as happy—peaceful and serene, one that anyone would long for:
Moses did as the Lord had commanded. They ascended Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. Moses stripped Aaron of his vestments and put them on his [Aaron’s] son Eleazar, and Aaron died there on the summit of the mountain. (Numbers 20:27–28).
Thus, the Rabbis say that “as your brother Aaron died” means the death that he, Moses, longed for. The Rabbis wonder: How did Moses long to die as Aaron [died]? That is, where would Moses have an experience with death that would be a model to him? It was when the Holy One, praised is He, told him, Moses, “Take Aaron and his son Eleazar.… Strip Aaron of his vestments.” These are the clothes that Aaron wore when officiating as Kohen, or priest. Moses himself, as leader of the people and God’s appointed representative, was to take his own brother to the top of the mountain, where Aaron would die. Moses stripped Aaron of the second one [vestment] and put it on Eleazar and the third one. He, God, told him, Aaron, “Enter the cave,” and he entered. The Rabbis assume that Aaron was buried in a cave upon the mountain. This explanation helps solve a problem in the biblical text. At the beginning of the section, we are told that “they ascended Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community” (20:27). But then, even though the events take place in plain sight, the Israelite community has no idea that Aaron has died, for the next verse tells us that “when Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, the whole community knew that Aaron had breathed his last” (20:28–29). How is it that they know only when Moses and Eleazar came down? The Rabbis solve this inconsistency by interpretation: A burial cave on top of the mountain obscured their view.
“Get up on the bier,” and he, Aaron, got up and prepared himself for the way in which he would lie there in death. “Stretch out your hands,” and he stretched them out. “Stretch out your legs,” and he stretched them out. “Close your mouth,” and he closed it. “Shut your eyes,” and he shut them. Moses saw a very peaceful and calm death, as Aaron went through the various steps to prepare for his own demise. At that very moment, Moses said, “Happy is one who dies this kind of death!” Thus it says, “As your brother Aaron died,” the death that he longed for. God, in an act of kindness, allowed Moses to die the same kind of death that his older brother had.
So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.
--- Genesis 22:14.
“The LORD Will Provide.” (Gen. 22:7), and Abraham, steadying his voice, said, “God himself will provide the lamb” (Expositions of Holy Scripture Volume 1) Provide what? The lamb for the burnt offering that he has commanded. We see in the fact that God provided the ram that became the appointed sacrifice, through which Isaac’s life was preserved, a dim revelation of the great truth that the only sacrifice that God accepts for the world’s sin is the sacrifice that he himself has provided.
This is the meaning of all the sacrificial worship—God himself will provide a Lamb. The world had built altars, and Israel, by divine appointment, had its altar too. All these express the lack that none of them can satisfy. They show that humanity needed a sacrifice, and that sacrifice God has provided. He asked from Abraham less than he gives to us. Abraham’s devotion was sealed and certified because he did not withhold his son from God. And God’s love is sealed because he has not withheld his only-begotten Son from us.
So this name that came from Abraham’s grateful and wondering lips holds true in all regions of our wants. On the lowest level, the outward supply of outward needs; on a higher, the means of discharging hard duties and a path through sharp trials; and, on the highest of all, the spotless sacrifice that alone avails for the world’s sins—these are the things that God provides.
If we wish to have our outward needs supplied, our outward weaknesses strengthened, power and energy sufficient for duty, wisdom for perplexity, a share in the sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world, we receive them all on the condition that we are found in the place where all God’s provision is treasured. If someone chooses to sit outside the baker’s shop, that person may starve on its threshold. And if we will not ascend to the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place by simple faith, God’s amplest provision is nothing to us, and we are empty in the midst of affluence.
Get near to God if you would partake of what he has prepared. If you would drink from his fullness, live in fellowship with him by simple love and often meditate on him,. And be sure of this, that however within his house the stores are heaped and the treasury full, you will have neither part nor lot in the matter unless you are children of the house.
--- Alexander Maclaren
We know of good King Wenceslas primarily because he happened to look out his window “on the feast of Stephen, while the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”
Actually, we aren’t even certain of that.
Wenceslas was born in Bohemia, in modern Czechoslovakia, in the early 900s. His father, the Czech ruler, Duke Ratislav, gave him a good education supervised by his grandmother, Ludmilla. Ludmilla, a devout woman, did a good job.
He became a king. When his father died, Wenceslas, seeing his mother mishandle affairs of state, stepped in and seized the reins of government. But he took control on his terms. From the beginning, King Wenceslas was a different sort of king. He sought good relations with surrounding nations, particularly with Germany. He took steps to reform the judicial system, reducing the number of death sentences and the arbitrary power of judges. He reportedly encouraged the building of churches. Most of all, he showed heartfelt concern for the poor of the realm. He cut firewood for orphans and widows, it is said, often carrying the provisions on his own shoulders through the snow—thus inspiring J. M. Neale’s Christmas carol.
Wenceslas’s brief reign ended suddenly. His brother Boleslav, pagan and rebellious, invited him to a banquet, then murdered him the next Morning, September 28, 929, as he left for church. There is no direct evidence, apart from his virtuous reputation, that Wenceslas was a genuine Christian, for he left behind no written testimony. Much of our information about him comes from legend. But his people venerated him as a martyr, and today he is the patron saint of Czechoslovakia.
Therefore, Christian men be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.
Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil.
--- James 1:27.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 28
“The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.” --- Psalm 33:13.
Perhaps no figure of speech represents God in a more gracious light than when he is spoken of as stooping from his throne, and coming down from heaven to attend to the wants and to behold the woes of mankind. We love him, who, when Sodom and Gomorrah were full of iniquity, would not destroy those cities until he had made a personal visitation of them. We cannot help pouring out our heart in affection for our Lord who inclines his ear from the highest glory, and puts it to the lip of the dying sinner, whose failing heart longs after reconciliation. How can we but love him when we know that he numbers the very hairs of our heads, marks our path, and orders our ways? Specially is this great truth brought near to our heart, when we recollect how attentive he is, not merely to the temporal interests of his creatures, but to their spiritual concerns. Though leagues of distance lie between the finite creature and the infinite Creator, yet there are links uniting both. When a tear is wept by thee, think not that God doth not behold; for, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Thy sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; thy whisper can incline his ear unto thee; thy prayer can stay his hand; thy faith can move his arm. Think not that God sits on high taking no account of thee. Remember that however poor and needy thou art, yet the Lord thinketh upon thee. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.
Oh! then repeat the truth that never tires;
No God is like the God my soul desires;
He at whose voice heaven trembles, even he,
Great as he is, knows how to stoop to me.
Evening - September 28
“Go again seven times.” --- 1 Kings 18:43.
Success is certain when the Lord has promised it. Although you may have pleaded month after month without evidence of answer, it is not possible that the Lord should be deaf when his people are earnest in a matter which concerns his glory. The prophet on the top of Carmel continued to wrestle with God, and never for a moment gave way to a fear that he should be non-suited in Jehovah’s courts. Six times the servant returned, but on each occasion no word was spoken but “Go again.” We must not dream of unbelief, but hold to our faith even to seventy times seven. Faith sends expectant hope to look from Carmel’s brow, and if nothing is beheld, she sends again and again. So far from being crushed by repeated disappointment, faith is animated to plead more fervently with her God. She is humbled, but not abashed: her groans are deeper, and her sighings more vehement, but she never relaxes her hold or stays her hand. It would be more agreeable to flesh and blood to have a speedy answer, but believing souls have learned to be submissive, and to find it good to wait for as well as upon the Lord. Delayed answers often set the heart searching itself, and so lead to contrition and spiritual reformation: deadly blows are thus struck at our corruption, and the chambers of imagery are cleansed. The great danger is lest men should faint, and miss the blessing. Reader, do not fall into that sin, but continue in prayer and watching. At last the little cloud was seen, the sure forerunner of torrents of rain, and even so with you, the token for good shall surely be given, and you shall rise as a prevailing prince to enjoy the mercy you have sought. Elijah was a man of like passions with us: his power with God did not lie in his own merits. If his believing prayer availed so much, why not yours? Plead the precious blood with unceasing importunity, and it shall be with you according to your desire.
O WORD OF GOD INCARNATE
William W. How, 1823–1897
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)
Everyone has a basic premise for his life’s convictions. The Christian begins with Jesus Christ, who came to earth to reveal God to man. The Christian also believes in the absolute historicity of Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures, the only authentic record of our Lord’s life and works. For God’s people, then, the Bible is the most important book in life. Though written by forty different writers from Moses to John over a period of 1600 years, there is a perfect harmony throughout all 66 books. This is proof that the book is truly “God-breathed” and that the real author was the Holy Spirit.
The writer of this hymn text, William W. How, was a bishop of the Anglican church in London, England. He was known as an outstanding hymnist, the composer of sixty excellent hymns of which 25 are still in use.
In the first stanza of this hymn, Bishop How affirms that the Bible is God’s Truth revealed and is a light from one age to another. In the second stanza, he states that Christ has entrusted His Holy Word to the Church so that it might be revealed as a light to all the world. Then he describes the Bible in picturesque language in stanza three and closes the hymn with a prayer that the Church may always continue to bear God’s revealed truth to all people everywhere.
O Word of God Incarnate, O Wisdom from on high, O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky: We praise Thee for the radiance that from the hallowed page, a lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.
The Church from her dear Master, received the gift divine, and still that light she lifteth o’er all the earth to shine. It is the sacred casket, where gems of truth are stored; it is the heav’n-drawn picture of Thee, the living Word.
It floateth like a banner before God’s host unfurled; it shineth like a beacon above the dark’ning world. It is the chart and compass that o’er life’s surging sea, ’mid mists and rocks and quick sands, still guides, O Christ, to Thee.
O make Thy Church, dear Savior, a lamp of purest gold, to bear before the nations Thy true light as of old. O teach Thy wandering pilgrims by this their path to trace, till, clouds and darkness ended, they see Thee face to face.
For Today: Psalm 60:4; 119:l05, 130, 160 Mark 13:31; John 1:1, 2
Breathe a prayer of thanks to God for the Bible—our guide for this life and our road map for heaven. Reflect on this musical truth as you go ---
DISCOURSE VII - ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
JEREMIAH 23:24. — Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him! saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.
THE occasion of this discourse begins ver. 16, where God admonisheth the people, not to hearken to the words of the false prophets which spake a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They made the people vain by their insinuations of peace, when God had proclaimed war and calamity; and uttered the dreams of their fancies, and not the visions of the Lord; and so turned the people from the expectation of the evil day which God had threatened (ver. 17): “They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace: and they say unto every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” And they invalidate the prophecies of those whom God had sent, ver. 18: “Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?” Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord? Are they acquainted with the secrets of God more than we? Who have the word of the Lord, if we have not? Or, it may be a continuation of God’s admonition: believe not those prophets; for who of them have been acquainted with the secrets of God? or by what means should they learn his counsel? No; assure yourselves “a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind; it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked” (ver. 19). A whirlwind shall come from Babylon; it is just at the door, and shall not be blown over; it shall fall with a witness upon the wicked people and the deceiving prophets, and sweep them together into captivity. For (ver. 20), “The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart.” My fury shall not be a childish fury, that quickly languisheth, but shall accomplish whatsoever I threaten; and burn so hot, as not to be cool, till I have satisfied my vengeance; “in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (ver. 20), when the storm shall beat upon you, you shall then know that the calamities shall answer the words you have heard. When the conqueror shall waste your grounds, demolish your houses, and manacle your hands, then shall you consider it, and have the wishes of fools, that you had had your eyes in your heads before; you shall then know the falseness of your guides, and the truth of my prophets, and discern who stood in the counsel of the Lord, and subscribe to the messages I have sent you.
(Je 23:16–25) 16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
19 Behold, the storm of the LORD!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intents of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.
21 “I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.
18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
Some refer it to time. Do you imagine me a God new framed like your idols, beginning a little time ago, and not existing before the foundation of the world; yea, from eternity? a God afar off, further than your acutest understandings can reach? I am of a longer standing, and you ought to know my majesty. But it rather refers to place than tine. Do you think I do not behold everything in the earth, as well as in heaven? Am I locked up within the walls of my palace, and cannot peep out to behold the things done in the world? or that am I so linked to pleasure in the place of my glory, as earthly kings are in their courts, that I have no mind or leisure to take notice of the carriages of men upon earth?
God doth not say, He was afar off, but only gives an account of the inward thoughts of their minds, or at least of the language expressed by their actions. The interrogation carries in it a strong affirmation, and assures us more of God’s care, and the folly of men in not considering it. “Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places?” (Heb.) In hiddenesses, in the deepest cells. What I are you besotted by your base lusts, that you think me a God careless, ignorant, blind, that I can see nothing, but as a purblind man, what is very near my eye? Are you so out of your wits, that you imagine you can deceive me? Hello world that denies God's existence. Do not all your behaviors speak such a sentiment to lie secret in your heart, though not formed into a full conception, yet testified by your actions? No, you are much mistaken; it is impossible but that I should see and know all things, since I am present with all things, and am not at a greater distance from the things on earth than from the things in heaven; for I fill all that vast fabric which is divided into those two parts of heaven and earth; and he that hath such an infinite essence, cannot lie distant, cannot be ignorant; nothing can be far from his eyes, since everything is so near to his essence. So that it is an elegant expression of the omniscience of God, and a strong argument for it. He asserts, first, the universality of his knowledge; but lest they should mistake, and confine his presence only to heaven, he adds, That he “fills heaven and earth.” I do not see things so, as if I were in one place, and the things seen in another, as it is with man; but whatsoever I see, I see not without myself, because every corner of heaven and earth is filled by me. He that fills all, must needs see and know all. And indeed, men that question the knowledge of God, would be more convinced by the doctrine of his immediate presence with them. And this seems to be the design and manner of arguing in this place. Nothing is remote from my knowledge, because nothing is distant from my presence.
I fill heaven and earth: he doth not say, “I am in heaven and earth,” but I fill heaven and earth; i. e. say some, with my knowledge, others, with my authority or my power. But,
1. The word filling cannot properly be referred to the act of understanding and will. A presence by knowledge is to be granted, but to say such a presence fills a place is an improper speech: knowledge is not enough to constitute a presence. A man at London knows there is such a city as Paris, and knows many things in it; can he be concluded, therefore, to be present in Paris, or fill any place there, or be present with the things he knows there? If I know anything to be distant from me, how can it be present with me? For by knowing it to be distant, I know it not to be present. Besides, filling heaven and earth is distinguished here from knowing or seeing: his presence is rendered as an argument to prove his knowledge. Now a proposition, and the proof of that roposition, are distinct, and not the same. It cannot be imagine that God should prove idem per idem, as we say; for what would be the import of the speech then? I know all things, I see all things, because I know and see all things. The Holy Ghost here accommodates himself to the capacity of men; because we know that a man sees and knows that which is done, where he is corporally present; so he proves that God knows all things that are done in the most secret caverns of the heart, because he is everywhere in heaven and earth, as light is everywhere in the air, and air everywhere in the world. Hence the schools use the term repletive for the presence of God.
2. Nor by filling of heaven and earth is meant his authority and power. It would be improperly said of a king, that in regard of the government of his kingdom, is everywhere by his authority, that he fills all the cities and countries of his dominions. “I, do not I fill?” That “I” notes the essence of God, as distinguished according to our capacity, from the perfections pertaining to his essence, and is in reason better referred to the substance of God, than to those things we conceive as attributes in him. Besides, were it meant only of his authority or power, the argument would not run well. I see all things, because my authority and power fills heaven and earth. Power doth not always rightly infer knowledge, no, not in a rational agent. Many things in a kingdom are done by the authority of the king, that never arrive to the knowledge of the king. Many things in us are done. by the power of our souls, which yet we have not a distinct knowledge of in our understandings. There are many motions in sleep, by the virtue of the soul informing the body, that we have not so much as a simple knowledge of in our minds. Knowledge is not rightly inferred from power, or power from knowledge. By filling heaven and earth is meant, therefore, a filling it with his essence. No place can be imagined that is deprived of the presence of God; and therefore when the Scripture anywhere speaks of the presence of God, it joins heaven and earth together. He so fills them, that there is no place without him. We do not say a vessel is full so long as there is any space to contain more. Not a part of heaven, nor a part of earth, but the whole heaven, the whole earth, at one and the same time. If he were only in one part of heaven, or one part of earth; nay, if there were any part of heaven, or any part of earth void of him, he could not be said to fill them. “I fill heaven and earth,” not a part of me fills one place, and another part of me fills another, but I, God, fill heaven and earth; I am whole God filling the heaven, and whole God, filling the earth. I fill heaven, and yet fill earth; I fill earth, and yet fill heaven, and fill heaven and earth at one and the same time. “God fills his own works,” a heathen philosopher saith.
I. Here is then a description of God’s presence. 1. By power, “Am I not a God afar off?” a God in the extension of his arm. 2. By knowledge, “Shall I not see them?” 3. By essence; as an undeniable ground for inferring the two former: “I fill heaven and earth.” Doctrine. God is essentially everywhere present in heaven and earth. If God be, he must be somewhere; that which is nowhere, is nothing. Since God is, he is in the world; not in one part of it; for then he were circumscribed by it: if in the world, and only there, though it be a great space, he were also limited. Some therefore said, “God was everywhere, and nowhere.” Nowhere, i. e. not bounded by any place, nor receiving from any place anything for his preservation or sustainment. He is everywhere, because no creature, either body or spirit, can exclude the presence of his essence; for he is not only near, but in everything (Acts 17:28) “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” Not absent from anything, but so present with them, that they live and move in him, and move more in God, than in the air or earth wherein they are; nearer to us than our flesh to our bones, than the air to our breath; he cannot be far from them that live, and have every motion in him. The apostle doth not say, By him, but in him, to show the inwardness of his presence. As eternity is the perfection whereby he hath neither beginning nor end, immutability is the perfection whereby he hath neither increase nor diminution, so immensity or omnipresence is that whereby he hath neither bounds nor limitation. As he is in all time, yet so as to be above time; so is he in all places, yet so as to be above limitation by any place. It was a good expression of a heathen to illustrate this, “That God is a sphere or circle, whose centre is everywhere, and circumference nowhere.” His meaning was, that the essence of God was indivisible; i. e. could not be divided. It cannot be said, here and there the lines of it terminate; it is like a line drawn out in infinite spaces, that no point can be conceived where its length and breadth ends. The sea is a vast mass of waters; yet to that it is said, “Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further.” But it cannot be said of God’s essence, hitherto it reaches, and no further; here it is, and there it is not. It is plain, that God is thus immense, because he is infinite; we have reason and Scripture to assent to it, though we cannot conceive it. We know that God is eternal, though eternity is too great to be measured by the short line of a created understanding. We cannot conceive the vastness and glory of the heavens, much less that which is so great, as to fill heaven and earth, yea (1 Kings 8:27), “not to be contained in the heaven of Heavens.” Things are said to be present, or in a place,
1. Circumscriptive, as circumscribed. This belongs to things that have quantity, as bodies that are encompassed by that place wherein they are; and a body fills but one particular space wherein it is, and the space is commensurate to every part of it, and every member hath a distinct place. The hand is not in the same particular space that the foot or head is.
2. Definitive, which belongs to angels and spirits, which are said to be in a point, yet so as that they cannot be said to be in another at the same time.
3. Repletive, filling all places. This belongs only to God: as he is not measured by time, so he is not limited by place. A body or spirit, because finite, fills but one space; God, because infinite, fills all, yet so as not to be contained in them, as wine and water is in a vessel. He is from the height of the heavens to the bottom of the deeps, in every point of the world, and in the whole circle of it, yet not limited by it, but beyond it. Now this hath been acknowledged by the wisest in the world. Some indeed had other notions of God. The more ignorant sort of the Jews confined him to the temple. And God intimates, that they had such a thought when he asserts his presence in heaven and earth, in opposition to the temple they built as his house, and the place of his rest. And the idolaters among them, thought their gods might be at a distance from them, which Elias intimates in the scoff he puts upon them (1 Kings 18:17), “Cry aloud, for he is a god,” meaning Baal; “either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey;” and they followed his advice, and cried louder (ver. 28), whereby it is evident, they looked not on it as a mock, but as a truth. And the Syrians called the God of Israel the God of the hills, as though his presence were fixed there, and not in the valleys (1 Kings 10:23); and their own gods in the valleys, and not in the mountains; they fancied every god to have a particular dominion and presence in one place and not in another, and bounded the territories of their gods as they did those of their princes. And some thought him tied to and shut up in their temples and groves wherein they worshipped him. Some of them thought God to be confined to heaven, and therefore sacrificed upon the highest mountains, that the steam might ascend nearer heaven, and their praises be heard better in those places which were nearest to the habitation of God. But the wiser Jews acknowledged it, and therefore called God place, whereby they denoted his immensity; he was not contained in any place; every part of the world subsists by Him: he was a place to himself, greater than anything made by Him. And the wiser heathens acknowledged it also. One calls God a mind passing through the universal nature of things; another, that He was an infinite and immense air; another, that it is as natural to think God is everywhere, as to think that God is: hence they called God the soul of the world; that as the soul is in every part of the body to quicken it, so is God in every part of the world to support it. And there are some resemblances of this in the world, though no creature can fully resemble God in any one perfection; for then it would not be a creature, but God. But air and light are some resemblances of it: air is in all the spaces of the world, in the pores of all bodies, in the bowels of the earth, and extends itself from the lowest earth to the highest regions; and the heavens themselves are probably nothing else but a refined kind of air; and light diffuseth itself through the whole air, and every part of it is truly light, as every part of the air is truly air; and though they seem to be mingled together, yet they are distinct things, and not of the same essence; so is the essence of God in the whole world, not by diffusion as air or light, not mixed with any creature, but remaining distinct from the essence of any created being. Now, when this hath been owned by men instructed only in the school of nature, it is a greater shame to any acquainted with the Scripture to deny. For the understanding of this, there shall be some propositions premised in general.
Prop. I. This is negatively to be understood. Our knowledge of God is most by withdrawing from him, or denying to him in our conceptions any weaknesses or imperfections in the creature. As the infiniteness of God is a denial of limitation of being, so immensity or omnipresence is a denial of limitation of place: and when we say, God is totus in every place, we must understand it thus; that he is not everywhere by parts, as bodies are, as air and light are; He is everywhere, i. e. his nature hath no bounds; he is not tied to any place, as the creature is, who, when he is present in one place, is absent from another. As no place can be without God, so no place can compass and contain him.