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9/06/2018     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     Ezra  8 - 10


Ezra 8

Genealogy of Those Who Returned with Ezra

Ezra 8 1 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: 2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. 3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. 4 Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. 5 Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. 6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. 7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. 8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. 9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. 10 Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. 11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. 12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. 13 Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. 14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.

Ezra Sends for Levites

15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, 17 and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. 18 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; 19 also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; 20 besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.

Fasting and Prayer for Protection

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

Priests to Guard Offerings

24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. 28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the LORD.” 30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.

31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. 33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.

35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.


Ezra 9

Ezra Prays About Intermarriage

Ezra 9 1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, 6 saying:

“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”


Ezra 10

The People Confess Their Sin

Ezra 10 1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.

6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. 7 And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.

9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.

16 Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter; 17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.

Those Guilty of Intermarriage

18 Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers. 19 They pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. 20 Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. 21 Of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22 Of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah. 23 Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri. 25 And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. 26 Of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. 27 Of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. 28 Of the sons of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29 Of the sons of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. 30 Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. 31 Of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33 Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34 Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu. 38 Of the sons of Binnui: Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. 44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Stop Using the Term “Fetus”

By J. Warner Wallace 3/29/2017

     Several years ago, I tweeted an article in LifeNews entitled “Three Terms Pro-Lifers Should Avoid That De-Humanize Unborn Babies.” The author, Kelsey Hazzard, made an excellent point about our use of words when arguing for the pro-life position. Hazzard argued that the terms, “first days/weeks/months of life”, “rapist’s child”, and “expectant parent/going to be a parent” have a subtle but powerful impact on the strength of our arguments. It’s an interesting read and it highlights the rhetorical power of words in this debate. As I read the article it reminded me of one of my own concerns related to the language in the pro-life dialogue. I have been trying to eliminate the term, “fetus” from my vocabulary for many of the same reasons that Hazzard suggested we eliminate the three aforementioned terms. I think the word “fetus” is a dehumanizing expression that allows people to objectify the unborn.

     There are two problems with the word. First, the word “fetus” sounds more scientific than conversational; it is more academic than personal. It’s like the difference between “metacarpal appendage” and “hand”. I can accurately say that I held my wife’s metacarpal appendage last night on the way home from dinner, but most people will have difficulty seeing this as an act of affection. My language has abstracted her hand and the nature of my actions. If I want to accurately (and emotively) communicate my actions to folks without a scientific background, I need to pick words that are rooted in our common experience rather than scientific concepts. Secondly, the word “fetus” can be applied to any number of non-human species. Skunks also have fetuses. When we use the term “fetus” to describe the unborn, we are likely to associate it with other forms of life that are simply not human. Our language inadvertently moves the target from human life to other forms of life that we may not consider as precious.

     I think we need to return “humanity” to the terms we use when describing the unborn. We need to use a term that identifies the unborn as a precious human being and connects it to the continuing life of this human being over time, both in the womb during pregnancy and out of the womb after birth. So rather than use the term “fetus” when describing the unborn, I am determined to use the word “fetal human”. This expression seems to meet the criteria satisfied by the word “fetus”, while properly identifying the unborn as the same human who will eventually enter into other stages of human development. I have been a fetal human, an infant human, a prepubescent human, and a mature human. As a human being, I have experienced all of these stages of development. The term “fetal human” allow me to capture the distinct nature of my humanity and apply it to every level of my development. I may have been progressing between one stage of development to the next over the past fifty-two years, but I’ve always been a human. The term “fetal human” recognizes this reality.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Are Those Who Have Never Heard of Christ Going to Hell?

By R.C. Sproul 7/12/2017

     That’s one of the most emotionally laden questions that a Christian can ever be asked. Nothing is more terrifying or more awful to contemplate than that any human being would go to hell. On the surface, when we ask a question like that, what’s lurking there is, “How could God ever possibly send some person to hell who never even had the opportunity to hear of the Savior? It just doesn’t seem right.”

     I would say the most important section of Scripture to study with respect to that question is the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The point of the book of Romans is to declare the Good News—the marvelous story of redemption that God has provided for humanity in Christ, the riches and the glory of God’s grace, the extent to which God has gone to redeem us. But when Paul introduces the gospel, he begins in the first chapter by declaring that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven and this manifestation of God’s anger is directed against a human race that has become ungodly and unrighteous. So the reason for God’s anger is anger against evil. God’s not angry with innocent people; He’s angry with guilty people. The specific point for which they are charged with evil is in the rejection of God’s self-disclosure.

     Paul labors the point that from the very first day of creation and through the creation, God has plainly manifested His eternal power and being and character to every human being on this planet. In other words, every human being knows that there is a God and that He is accountable to God. Yet every human being disobeys God. Why does Paul start his exposition of the gospel at that point? What he’s trying to do, and what he develops in the book of Romans, is this: Christ is sent into a world that is already on the way to hell. Christ is sent into the world that is lost, that is guilty of rejecting the Father whom they do know.

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Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. 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, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."

     R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page

Living Under Authority

By R.C. Sproul 7/21/2017

     As I read the scriptures, particularly the New Testament, there is a theme that recurs again and again regarding the Christian’s willingness to be in submission to various types of authority. Given the rebellious spirit of our age, that frightens me. It’s all too easy for us to get caught up in an attitude that will bring us into open defiance of the authority of God.

     Let’s turn our attention to 1 Peter 2:11–16: | Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

     Peter is speaking to people who were subjected to brutal, fierce, and violent persecution—the kind of activity that can incite within us the worst possible responses, including anger, resentment, and hatred. But Peter pleads with those people who were the victims of the hatred of their culture to behave in an honorable manner before the watching world. Paul gives a similar plea time and time again that we’re to try to live at peace with all men as much as possible.

     The “therefore” of verse 13 introduces a key manifestation of living honorably before the watching world. We’re to submit ourselves to the ordinances of man. Why? I find the answer startling and fascinating. The Apostle’s admonition is that we’re to submit for the Lord’s sake. But how is obedience to human ordinances done for the Lord’s sake? How does my obedience to my professors, my boss, or the government in any way benefit Christ?

     To understand this, we have to understand the deeper problem that all of Scripture is dealing with—the problem of sin. At the most fundamental level, sin is an act of rebellion and disobedience to a higher law and Lawgiver. The biggest problem with the world is lawlessness. The reason people are violated, killed, and maimed in battle, the reason there are murders, robberies, and so forth is that we’re lawless. We disobey, first of all, the law of God. The root problem in all of creation is disobedience to law, defiance of authority. And the ultimate authority of the universe is God Himself.

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Amazon says, "Dr. R.C. Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He is also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. He can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and around the world. 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, including The Holiness of God, Faith Alone, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also serves as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible."

     R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page

Must I Wait for My Parents to Approve of My Future Spouse?

By John Piper 7/27/2016

     A podcast listener named Gloria from Nigeria went to our online homepage and wrote us this follow-up email on weddings. “Pastor John, thank you for your episode on a simple wedding (episode 875). I would like to know if parental consent and involvement is necessary in a marriage when both parties are up to thirty years old. Also, is it wrong to not adhere to western wedding traditions, such as a white dress, church ceremony, walking down the aisle, etc.? Can we not just get our marriage license from the registry and ask our pastor to bless us, instead of having a ceremony in the church?”

     I hear three questions:
   What about permission of parents?
   Do you need to follow western traditions?
   Isn’t legal registration and pastoral blessing enough without any kind of Christian church ceremony?

     So, let me just take these one at a time and give you a few suggestions, a few pointers for each one.

     First, what about parental blessing? I think this is the most important one, and I have five suggestions.

     1) One of the most basic biblical commands is “Honor your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2). That is a broader, deeper command than the particular command to obey them (verse 1). Therefore, I would encourage a couple to pray and work and wait for their parents’ blessing. How long they should wait will be determined by some of the other factors that I am going to mention in just a minute, but it is worth waiting for even if you should wait a long time. But probably not forever. And we should communicate to our parents that we long for their blessing. Many parents will come your way and bless you if they sense, if you show, that you are not defiant, but eager for their blessing. That is number one.

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     John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

     John Piper Books | Go to Books Page

The Reformation and the Men Behind It

By Steven J. Lawson 9/4/2017

     The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.” The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

     Under the guiding hand of God, the world scene had been uniquely prepared for the Reformation. The church was greatly in need of reform. Spiritual darkness personified the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible was a closed book. Spiritual ignorance ruled the minds of the people. The gospel was perverted. Church tradition trumped divine truth. Personal holiness was abandoned. The rotten stench of manmade traditions covered pope and priest. The corruption of ungodliness contaminated both dogma and practice.

     On the other hand, a new day was dawning. Feudal states were giving way to nation-states. Exploration was expanding. Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. Trade routes were opening. A middle class was rising. Opportunities for learning were increasing. Knowledge was multiplying. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (1454) had vastly improved the dissemination of ideas. Under all of these influences, the Renaissance was at high noon. Moreover, a further alteration in the world scene was soon to be ushered in by the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, bringing great changes especially in the church of Jesus Christ.

     In light of such dramatic upheaval, certain questions beg to be asked: What factors led to the Protestant Reformation? Where was the Reformation born? How did this powerful movement come about? Where did it spread? Who were the key leaders who stoked its flames? What biblical truths were unleashed on the world at this time? To begin to answer these questions, we must focus in on those giants of the faith who led the Reformation.

     The Magisterial Reformers | At the beginning of the sixteenth century, God began to raise up a series of strong-willed figures known to history as the Reformers. There had been earlier reformers in the church, but those who came to prominence in this period were the best educated, most godly, and most faithful reform leaders the church had ever seen. These men were steeped in Scripture and marked by audacious courage in the face of opposition. They were emboldened by deep convictions as to the truth and a love for Christ’s church that drove them to attempt to bring it back to its timeless standard. In the simplest terms, they longed to see God’s people worship Him according to Scripture. These men were shining lights in a dark day.

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     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.      Steven J. Lawson Books | Go to Books Page

Augustine On The Two Natures Of Christ In His Sacrifices

By Steven Wedgeworth 4/5/2017

     From time to time, the Protestant Reformers, especially the Calvinists, found it necessary to clearly distinguish the ways in which the two natures of Christ operate in His work of redemption, even explaining which aspects of the work were properly carried out by Christ’s divine nature, which were carried out by His human, and which involved some simultaneous working of both. Modern readers, typically faint of heart when it comes to such systematic precision, are alarmed by this. But it was not a new way of doing theology at the time of the Reformation. Indeed, some of the most frightening distinctions are present in the 4th century. To show this, we will take an example from St. Augustine.

     Augustine lived prior to the Council of Chalcedon, but he was able to anticipate much of its formulation. In one passage from the City of God, he offers what could rightly be called a Chalcedonian reading of Christ’s sacrifice, and in doing so, he also anticipates the rigor of the Protestant Reformers who would come so many centuries later:

     "And hence that true Mediator, in so far as, by assuming the form of a servant, He became the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, though in the form of God He received sacrifice together with the Father, with whom He is one God, yet in the form of a servant He chose rather to be than to receive a sacrifice, that not even by this instance any one might have occasion to suppose that sacrifice should be rendered to any creature.  Thus He is both the Priest who offers and the Sacrifice offered.  And He designed that there should be a daily sign of this in the sacrifice of the Church, which, being His body, learns to offer herself through Him.  Of this true Sacrifice the ancient sacrifices of the saints were the various and numerous signs; and it was thus variously figured, just as one thing is signified by a variety of words, that there may be less weariness when we speak of it much.  To this supreme and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have given place. (City of God (Penguin Classics))"

     Augustine clearly explains both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ and how they were at work in His sacrifice of redemption. A few observations are in order:

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     Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons.  For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

     He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over ten years they have helped to launch over 250 churches in 48 cities. More recently, Dr. Keller’s books, including the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages.

     Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.

     Dr. Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.


     Tim Keller Books | Go to Books Page

The Most Subtle Form of Pride

By Greg Morse 9/4/2017

     For years I’ve struggled with a sinking sense of inadequacy.

     This usually plays out in a disposition of deference: Why would I speak up when others could? Why should I teach a class when others are more capable? Why would I take that position when others are more worthy of it? Whether speaking, acting, or receiving, I let others go first. The self-designated (six-foot-six) runt among the litter.

     I never challenged this because I considered it a blemish of humility. If pride is the preoccupation with oneself: a life of self-insertion and mirror-gazing, then the opposite must be humility. But as I avoided different opportunities due to a sense of inferiority, the debilitating sense of my own smallness only grew.

     If, like me, you’ve lived under a dark cloud of inadequacy; if the parasite of self-pity drains your energy to go where God calls; if anxiety over your littleness anchors you from stepping out in faith; I encourage you to join me in repentance.

     Small in Your Own Eyes | He hid among the baggage.

Click here to go to source

     Greg Morse is a content strategist for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

The Monumental Problem Hashtag Activism And Covert Racism

By Greg Morse 8/28/2017

     We all wish we could have been there. To sit on Rosa’s bus. To listen to Martin’s dream. To rally with Churchill against the Third Reich. To go to war with the women’s suffrage movement.

     We imagine our voices, however small, being engulfed in the sweet harmony of the generations that sang, “Let Freedom Ring!” Our immaculate selves (the ones that we can imagine being in those eras) are so unflinching, so outspoken, so courageous. They are men and women of conviction who have no choice but to be set ablaze by the sparks of oppression and injustice.

     In our imaginings, public opinion wouldn’t stop us, busy lives and daily concerns play no factor — our chief concern is, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

     Yet, we do not live in those days, we are bound to our own. We do not face their horrors, we face ours. We are not there, we are here.

     With the advent of social media, it is easier than ever to scold the dead for personal gain. Few things are simpler than to opportunistically spit on the graves of others to shine our own social standing.

Click here to go to source

     Greg Morse is a content strategist for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 98

Make a Joyful Noise to the LORD
98 A Psalm

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

ESV Study Bible

  • Yeshua: Light to the Nations
  • Storytelling
  • Christian-Jewish Relations

#1 Rabbi Rich Nichol  
Gordon College


 

#2 Kay Bannon   
Gordon College


 

#3 Rabbi A. James Rudin   
Gordon College


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Born this day, September 6, 1757, he inherited a fortune when his parents died. He joined the French Military and, at age 16, became a captain. At 19, he purchased a ship and sailed to America to fight in the Revolution. Washington appointed him a major general. His name was Marquis de Lafayette. He led forces to several victories and persuaded France to send aid. Nearly fifty years later, Lafayette was guest at a ceremony at Bunker Hill, along with 200 Revolutionary Veterans. Daniel Webster spoke: “God… has allowed you to behold… the reward of your patriotic toils; and He has allowed to us… in the name of liberty to thank you!”

American Minute
The Bread Of Life
     John R.W. Stott

     If we are right in saying that in the upper room Jesus was giving an advance dramatization of his death, it is important to observe what form the drama took. It did not consist of one actor on the stage, with a dozen in the audience. No, it involved them as well as him, so that they took part in it as well as he. True, he took, blessed and broke the bread, but then he explained its significance as he gave it to them to eat. Again he took and blessed the cup, but then he explained its meaning as he gave it to them to drink. Thus they were not just spectators of this drama of the cross; they were participants in it. They can hardly have failed to get the message. Just as it was not enough for the bread to be broken and the wine to be poured out, but they had to eat and drink, so it was not enough for him to die, but they had to appropriate the benefits of his death personally. The eating and drinking were, and still are, a vivid acted parable of receiving Christ as our crucified Saviour and of feeding on him in our hearts by faith. Jesus had already taught this in his great discourse on the Living Bread which followed his feeding of the five thousand:
     ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’. (John 6:53–55)
     His words on that occasion and his actions in the upper room both bear witness to the same reality. For him to give his body and blood in death was one thing; for us to make the blessings of his death our own is another. Yet many have not learnt this distinction. I can still remember what a revelation it was to me as a young man to be told that any action on my part was necessary. I used to imagine that because Christ had died, the world had been automatically put right. When someone explained to me that Christ had died for me, I responded rather haughtily ‘everybody knows that’, as if the fact itself or my knowledge of the fact had brought me salvation. But God does not impose his gifts on us willy-nilly; we have to receive them by faith. Of both the divine gift and the human reception the Lord’s Supper remains the perpetual outward sign. It is intended to be ‘a participation in the body and blood of Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:16).

The Cross of Christ
Christ’s sacrifice and ours
     John R.W. Stott

     Although the Christian life is a continuous festival, the Lord’s Supper is the particular Christian equivalent to the Passover. It is therefore central to the church’s life of celebration. It was instituted by Jesus at Passover-time, indeed during the Passover meal itself, and he deliberately replaced the ceremonial recitation ‘This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate’ with ‘This is my body given for you. ... This is my blood shed for you . ..’. The bread and wine of the Christian festival oblige us to look back to the cross of Christ, and to recall with gratitude what he suffered and accomplished there.
     Protestant churches have traditionally referred to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as either ‘sacraments of the gospel’ (because they dramatize the central truths of the good news) or ‘sacraments of grace’ (because they set forth visibly God’s gracious saving initiative). Both expressions are correct. The primary movement which the gospel sacraments embody is from God to man, not man to God. The application of water in baptism represents either cleansing from sin and the outpouring of the Spirit (if it is administered by affusion) or sharing Christ’s death and resurrection (if by immersion) or both. We do not baptize ourselves. We submit to baptism, and the action done to us symbolizes the saving work of Christ. In the Lord’s Supper, similarly, the essential drama consists of the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread, and the taking, blessing, pouring and giving of wine. We do not (or should not) administer the elements to ourselves. They are given to us; we receive them. And as we eat the bread and drink the wine physically, so spiritually by faith we feed on Christ crucified in our hearts. Thus, in both sacraments we are more or less passive, recipients not donors, beneficiaries not benefactors.
     At the same time, baptism is recognized as an appropriate occasion for the confession of faith, and the Lord’s Supper for the offering of thanksgiving. Hence the increasingly popular use of ‘Eucharist’ (eucharistia, ‘thanksgiving’) as a name for the Lord’s Supper. And since ‘sacrifice’ is another word for ‘offer’, it is not surprising that the term ‘eucharistic sacrifice’ came to be invented. But is it legitimate? What does it imply?
     To begin with, we should all be able to agree on five ways in which what we do at the Lord’s Supper is related to the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross. First, we remember his sacrifice: ‘do this in remembrance of me’, he said (1 Cor. 11:24–25). Indeed, the prescribed actions with the bread and wine make the remembrance vivid and dramatic. Secondly, we partake of its benefits. The purpose of the service goes beyond ‘commemoration’ to ‘communion’ (koinōnia): ‘Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?’ (1 Cor. 10:16). For this reason the Eucharist is rightly called the ‘Holy Communion’ (since through it we may share in Christ) and the ‘Lord’s Supper’ (since through it we may feed, even feast, on Christ). Thirdly, we proclaim his sacrifice: ‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26). Although his death took place centuries ago, the proclamation of it continues today. Yet the Supper is a temporary provision. It looks forward to the Lord’s coming as well as back to the Lord’s death. It is not only a feast upon Christ crucified but a foretaste of his heavenly banquet. It thus spans the whole period between his two comings. Fourthly, we attribute our unity to his sacrifice. For we never partake of the Lord’s Supper alone, in the privacy of our own room. No, we ‘come together’ (1 Cor. 11:20) in order to celebrate. And we recognize that it is our common share in the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice which has united us: ‘Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf’ (1 Cor. 10:17). Fifthly, we give thanks for his sacrifice, and in token of our thanksgiving offer ourselves, our souls and bodies as ‘living sacrifices’ to his service (Rom. 12:1).
     So then, whenever we share in the Lord’s Supper, his sacrifice on the cross is remembered, partaken of, proclaimed, acknowledged as the ground of our unity, and responded to in grateful worship. The question which remains, however, is whether there is any closer relationship still between the sacrifice Christ offered on the cross and the sacrifice of thanksgiving we offer in the Eucharist, between his ‘dying’ sacrifice and our ‘living’ sacrifices. It is this which has divided Christendom since the sixteenth century, and is a topic of anxious ecumenical debate today. We cannot talk about the church as a ‘community of celebration’, without delving more deeply into the nature of the eucharistic celebration.
     Already in the immediate post-apostolic period the early church Fathers began to use sacrificial language in relation to the Lord’s Supper. They saw in it a fulfilment of Malachi 1:11. ‘ “In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.’8 But the unconsecrated bread and wine as ‘pure offerings’ were symbols of the creation, for which the people gave thanks. The ancient authors also regarded the people’s prayers and praises, and alms for the poor, as an offering to God. It was not until Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the middle of the third century, that the Lord’s Supper itself was called a true sacrifice, in which the passion of the Lord was offered to God by priests, whose sacrificial role was said to parallel that of the Old Testament priests. From this beginning the eucharistic doctrine of medieval Catholicism eventually developed, namely that the Christian priest offered Christ, really present under the forms of bread and wine, as a propitiatory sacrifice to God for the sins of the living and the dead. And it was against this that the Reformers vigorously protested.
     Although Luther and Calvin diverged from one another in their eucharistic teaching, all the Reformers were united in rejecting the sacrifice of the mass, and were concerned to make a clear distinction between the cross and the sacrament, between Christ’s sacrifice offered for us and our sacrifices offered through him. Cranmer expressed the differences with lucidity:
          One kind of sacrifice there is, which is called a propitiatory or merciful sacrifice, that is to say, such a sacrifice as pacifieth God’s wrath and indignation, and obtaineth mercy and forgiveness for all our sins....And although in the Old Testament there were certain sacrifices called by that name, yet in very deed there is but one such sacrifice whereby our sins be pardoned, and God’s mercy and favour obtained, which is the death of the Son of God, our Lord Jesu Christ; nor never was any other sacrifice propitiatory at any time, nor never shall be. This is the honour and glory of this our High Priest, wherein he admitteth neither partner nor successor... Another kind of sacrifice there is, which doth not reconcile us to God, but is made of (sc. by) them that be reconciled by Christ, to testify our duties unto God, and to show ourselves thankful unto him. And therefore they be called sacrifices of laud, praise and thanksgiving. The first kind of sacrifice Christ offered to God for us; the second kind we ourselves offer to God by (sc. through) Christ. (Cranmer On the Lord’s Supper)
     Once this vital distinction had been made, Cranmer was determined to be consistent in its application. The ordained minister could still be called a ‘priest’, because this English word is simply a contraction of the word ‘presbyter’ (elder), but every reference to an ‘altar’ was eliminated from the Book of Common Prayer and replaced by ‘table’, ‘holy table’, ‘Lord’s table’ or ‘Communion table’. For Cranmer saw clearly that the Communion service is a supper served by a minister from a table, not a sacrifice offered by a priest on an altar. The shape of his final Communion Service exhibits the same determination, for the thankful self-offering of the people was taken out of the Prayer of Consecration (where it was in his first Communion Service, replacing the offering of Christ himself in the medieval mass) and judiciously placed after the reception of the bread and wine as a ‘Prayer of Oblation’. In this way, beyond any possibility of misunderstanding, the people’s sacrifice was seen to be their offering of praise in responsive gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, whose benefits they had again received by faith.
     Scripture undergirds Cranmer’s doctrine, both in safeguarding the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice and in defining our sacrifices as expressing our thanksgiving, not securing God’s favour. The unique finality of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is indicated by the adverb hapax or ephapax (meaning ‘once for all’), which is applied to it five times in the letter to the Hebrews. For example, ‘Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.’ Again, ‘now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’. (Heb. 7:27; 9:26. Cf. Heb. 9:12, 28; 10:10; and also Rom. 6:10 and 1 Pet. 3:18) That is why, unlike the Old Testament priests who stood to perform their temple duties, repeatedly offering the same sacrifices, Jesus Christ, having made ‘one sacrifice for sins for ever’, sat down at God’s right hand, resting from his finished work (Heb. 10:11–12).
     Although his work of atonement has been accomplished, he still has a continuing heavenly ministry, however. This is not to ‘offer’ his sacrifice to God, since the offering was made once for all on the cross; nor to ‘present’ it to the Father, pleading that it may be accepted, since its acceptance was publicly demonstrated by the resurrection; but rather to ‘intercede’ for sinners on the basis of it, as our advocate. It is in this that his ‘permanent priesthood’ consists, for intercession was as much a priestly ministry as sacrifice: ‘he always lives to intercede’ for us. (Heb. 7:23–25; 1 John 2:1–2)
     The uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice does not mean, then, that we have no sacrifices to offer, but only that their nature and purpose are different. They are not material but spiritual, and their object is not propitiatory but eucharistic, the expression of a responsive gratitude. This is the second biblical undergirding of Cranmer’s position. The New Testament describes the church as a priestly community, both a ‘holy priesthood’ and a ‘royal priesthood’, in which all God’s people share equally as ‘priests’. (Heb. 7:23–25; 1 John 2:1–2) This is the famous ‘priesthood of all believers’, on which the Reformers laid great stress. In consequence of this universal priesthood, the word ‘priest’ (hiereus) is never in the New Testament applied to the ordained minister, since he shares in offering what the people offer, but has no distinctive offering to make which differs from theirs.
     What spiritual sacrifices, then, do the people of God as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer to him? Eight are mentioned in Scripture. First, we are to present our bodies to him for his service, as ‘living sacrifices’. This sounds like a material offering, but it is termed our ‘spiritual worship’ (Rom. 12:1), presumably because it pleases God only if it expresses the worship of the heart. Secondly, we offer God our praise, worship and thanksgiving, ‘the fruit of lips that confess his name’. (Heb. 13:15. Cf. Pss. 50:14, 23; 69:30–31; 116:17) Our third sacrifice is prayer, which is said to ascend to God like fragrant incense, and our fourth ‘a broken and contrite heart’, which God accepts and never despises. (Rev. 5:8; 8:3–4; cf. Mal. 1:11; Ps. 51:17; cf. Hos. 14:1–2) Fifthly, faith is called a ‘sacrifice and service’. So too, sixthly, are our gifts and good deeds, for ‘with such sacrifices God is pleased’. (Phil. 2:17; 4:18; Heb. 13:16; cf. Acts 10:4) The seventh sacrifice is our life poured out like a drink offering in God’s service, even unto death, while the eighth is the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a ‘priestly duty’ because he is able to present his converts as ‘an offering acceptable to God’. (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; Rom. 15:16.)
     These eight are all, in Daniel Waterland’s words, ‘true and evangelical sacrifices’, because they belong to the gospel not the law, and are thankful responses to God’s grace in Christ. (A review of the doctrine of the eucharist, as laid down in scripture and antiquity. By Daniel Waterland, ... The second edition corrected.) They are spiritual and ‘intrinsic’ too, being ‘either good thoughts, good words or good ways, all of them issues of the heart’. (A review of the doctrine of the eucharist, as laid down in scripture and antiquity. By Daniel Waterland, ... The second edition corrected.) And, he continued, the Eucharist may be termed a ‘sacrifice’ only because it is an occasion both for remembering Christ’s sacrifice and for making a responsive, comprehensive offering of ours.

The Cross of Christ
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give,
and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.
It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements
compared with what we owe to the help of others.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letters and Papers from Prison

How idle it is to call certain things God-sends!
as if there was anything else in the world.
--- Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare
Guesses At The Truth By Two Brothers (1867)

Love is counting someone else’s needs and interests
as more important than your own needs or interests or comfort.
--- Timothy Keller

If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us…
--- John Bunyan

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER V.

     The Cruelty Of The Idumeans When They Were Gotten Into The Temple During The Storm; And Of The Zealots. Concerning The Slaughter Of Ananus, And Jesus, And Zacharias; And How The Idumeans Retired Home.

     1. This advice pleased the Idumeans, and they ascended through the city to the temple. The zealots were also in great expectation of their coming, and earnestly waited for them. When therefore these were entering, they also came boldly out of the inner temple, and mixing themselves among the Idumeans, they attacked the guards; and some of those that were upon the watch, but were fallen asleep, they killed as they were asleep; but as those that were now awakened made a cry, the whole multitude arose, and in the amazement they were in caught hold of their arms immediately, and betook themselves to their own defense; and so long as they thought they were only the zealots who attacked them, they went on boldly, as hoping to overpower them by their numbers; but when they saw others pressing in upon them also, they perceived the Idumeans were got in; and the greatest part of them laid aside their arms, together with their courage, and betook themselves to lamentations. But some few of the younger sort covered themselves with their armor, and valiantly received the Idumeans, and for a while protected the multitude of old men. Others, indeed, gave a signal to those that were in the city of the calamities they were in; but when these were also made sensible that the Idumeans were come in, none of them durst come to their assistance, only they returned the terrible echo of wailing, and lamented their misfortunes. A great howling of the women was excited also, and every one of the guards were in danger of being killed. The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare any body; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them, and acted in the same manner as to those that supplicated for their lives, and to those that fought them, insomuch that they ran through those with their swords who desired them to remember the relation there was between them, and begged of them to have regard to their common temple. Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain. Thus the greater part were driven together by force, as there was now no place of retirement, and the murderers were upon them; and, having no other way, threw themselves down headlong into the city; whereby, in my opinion, they underwent a more miserable destruction than that which they avoided, because that was a voluntary one. And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there.

     2. But the rage of the Idumeans was not satiated by these slaughters; but they now betook themselves to the city, and plundered every house, and slew every one they met; and for the other multitude, they esteemed it needless to go on with killing them, but they sought for the high priests, and the generality went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun. I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city. He was on other accounts also a venerable, and a very just man; and besides the grandeur of that nobility, and dignity, and honor of which he was possessed, he had been a lover of a kind of parity, even with regard to the meanest of the people; he was a prodigious lover of liberty, and an admirer of a democracy in government; and did ever prefer the public welfare before his own advantage, and preferred peace above all things; for he was thoroughly sensible that the Romans were not to be conquered. He also foresaw that of necessity a war would follow, and that unless the Jews made up matters with them very dexterously, they would be destroyed; to say all in a word, if Ananus had survived, they had certainly compounded matters; for he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war. And the Jews had then put abundance of delays in the way of the Romans, if they had had such a general as he was. Jesus was also joined with him; and although he was inferior to him upon the comparison, he was superior to the rest; and I cannot but think that it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge his sanctuary by fire, that he cut off these their great defenders and well-wishers, while those that a little before had worn the sacred garments, and had presided over the public worship; and had been esteemed venerable by those that dwelt on the whole habitable earth when they came into our city, were cast out naked, and seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts. And I cannot but imagine that virtue itself groaned at these men's case, and lamented that she was here so terribly conquered by wickedness. And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus.

     3. Now after these were slain, the zealots and the multitude of the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats; and for the ordinary sort, they were destroyed in what place soever they caught them. But for the noblemen and the youth, they first caught them and bound them, and shut them up in prison, and put off their slaughter, in hopes that some of them would turn over to their party; but not one of them would comply with their desires, but all of them preferred death before being enrolled among such wicked wretches as acted against their own country. But this refusal of theirs brought upon them terrible torments; for they were so scourged and tortured, that their bodies were not able to sustain their torments, till at length, and with difficulty, they had the favor to be slain. Those whom they caught in the day time were slain in the night, and then their bodies were carried out and thrown away, that there might be room for other prisoners; and the terror that was upon the people was so great, that no one had courage enough either to weep openly for the dead man that was related to him, or to bury him; but those that were shut up in their own houses could only shed tears in secret, and durst not even groan without great caution, lest any of their enemies should hear them; for if they did, those that mourned for others soon underwent the same death with those whom they mourned for. Only in the night time they would take up a little dust, and throw it upon their bodies; and even some that were the most ready to expose themselves to danger would do it in the day time: and there were twelve thousand of the better sort who perished in this manner.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:9
     by D.H. Stern

9     The evil plans of the foolish are sin,
     and people detest a scorner.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Celebrating God—Through the Breaking of Bread
     From Simply Christian - N.T. Wright

     Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass—it almost sounds like a child’s rhyme (“tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor”). And the first thing to be said is: the name doesn’t matter. No, really it doesn’t. There was a time when huge theological, cultural, and political battles hung on how you interpreted what was said and done at the bread-breaking service (to give it a neutral name), and which label you put on it. That time has virtually disappeared. Without everyone realizing it, there has been considerable convergence among most Christian churches over the last few decades as to what they think is happening at this central service, what it means, and how we can best profit from it. There are still, of course, residual problems. I hope this part of the chapter will begin to dispel some of them.

     Three opening remarks. First, we break bread and drink wine together, telling the story of Jesus and his death, because Jesus knew that this set of actions would explain the meaning of his death in a way that nothing else—no theories, no clever ideas—could ever do. After all, when Jesus died for our sins it wasn’t so he could fill our minds with true ideas, however important they may be, but so he could do something, namely, rescue us from evil and death.

     Second, it isn’t a piece of sympathetic magic, as suspicious Protestants have often worried it might be. This action, like the symbolic actions performed by the ancient prophets, becomes one of the points at which heaven and earth coincide. Paul says that “as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). He doesn’t mean that it’s a good opportunity for a sermon. Like a handshake or a kiss, doing it says it.

     Third, therefore, nor is the bread-breaking a mere occasion for remembering something that happened a long time ago, as suspicious Catholics sometimes suppose Protestants believe. When we break the bread and drink the wine, we find ourselves joining the disciples in the Upper Room. We are united with Jesus himself as he prays in Gethsemane and stands before Caiaphas and Pilate. We become one with him as he hangs on the cross and rises from the tomb. Past and present come together. Events from long ago are fused with the meal we are sharing here and now.

     But it isn’t only the past that comes forward into the present. If the bread-breaking is one of the key moments when the thin partition between heaven and earth becomes transparent, it is also one of the key moments when God’s future comes rushing into the present. Like the children of Israel still in the wilderness, tasting food which the spies had brought back from their secret trip to the Promised Land, in the bread-breaking we are tasting God’s new creation—the new creation whose prototype and origin is Jesus himself.

     That is one of the reasons why he said “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” We don’t need elaborate metaphysical theories with long Latin names to get the point. Jesus—the real Jesus, the living Jesus, the Jesus who dwells in heaven and rules over earth as well, the Jesus who has brought God’s future into the present—wants not just to influence us, but to rescue us; not just to inform us, but to heal us; not just to give us something to think about, but to feed us, and to feed us with himself. That’s what this meal is all about.

     Perhaps the biggest problem that Christians in Protestant churches have faced about this meal is the idea that it is a “good work,” which people “do” in order to earn God’s favor. Some Protestants still feel that way about anything that is “done” in church; though unless we are to sit absolutely still and say nothing at all, we are bound to “do” something in our worship together. Even choosing to be silent, as in a Quaker meeting, is a choice to do something—namely, to come together and be silent. Of course, there is a danger that fussy ritual will forget what it’s there for and become an end in itself. Think back to the wineglass and the plastic cup: there are some churches where (so to speak) the wineglasses are the best that money can buy, but nobody bothers anymore about the quality of the wine. Equally, there are some that are so proud of having gotten rid of the fancy wineglasses and gone in for plastic cups that they, too, are concentrating on the outward form rather than the real meaning.

     That danger, you see, is not confined to “high-church” ritual. It is not only present when people insist on crossing themselves at exactly the right moment and in exactly the right manner; it is just as present when people insist on raising their arms in the air during worship, or indeed when they insist on not crossing themselves, raising their arms, or doing any other action. I have on occasion been wryly amused when a church has abandoned its robed choir and organist because they seemed too “professional,” and have then employed half a dozen people to spend the whole service twiddling knobs and pushing sliders to control the sound, the lights, and the overhead projector. Anything that needs to be done during worship can become a ritual performed for its own sake. Likewise, anything that needs to be done during worship can be done as an act of pure gratitude, a glad response to free grace.

     Having said that, we can now see what might be meant by speaking, as some Christian traditions have done, of the bread-breaking service as a “sacrifice.” This has been controversial for a long time, and two mistakes have often been made in the debate. First, people sometimes supposed that the point of a sacrifice, in the Old Testament, was for the worshipper to “do” something to earn God’s favor. Not so. That rests on a misunderstanding of the Jewish Law itself, in which the sacrifices were required by God, and were offered in thanksgiving, not as an attempt to bribe or placate God but as a way of responding to his love. We can’t, of course, know what was in the hearts of all ancient Jews as they worshipped. But the system certainly wasn’t designed as a way of twisting God’s arm, but as a way of responding to his love.

     Second, there has been endless confusion over the relationship between the bread-breaking service and the sacrifice offered by Jesus on the cross. Catholics have usually said that they were one and the same, to which Protestants have replied that the Catholic interpretation looks like an attempt to repeat something which was done once and once only, and can never be done again. Protestants have usually said that the bread-breaking service is a different sacrifice to the one offered by Jesus—they see it as a “sacrifice of praise” offered by the worshippers—to which Catholics have responded that the Protestant interpretation looks like an attempt to add something to the already complete offering of Jesus, which (they say) becomes “sacramentally” present in the bread and the wine.

     I believe that we can move beyond these sterile disputes by putting our discussion of worship within our larger picture of heaven and earth, of God’s future and our present, and of the way in which those two pairs come together in Jesus and the Spirit. Within the biblical worldview (which has not so much been disproved as ignored in much modern thought), heaven and earth overlap, and do so at certain specific times and places, Jesus and the Spirit being the key markers. In the same way, at certain places and moments God’s future and God’s past (that is, events like Jesus’s death and resurrection) arrive in the present—rather as though you were to sit down to a meal and discover your great-great-grandparents, and also your great-great-grandchildren, turning up to join you. That’s how God’s time works. That’s why Christian worship is what it is.

     This, I believe, sets the right framework for all our thinking about worship, and all discussion of the church’s sacramental life. The rest is footnotes, temperament, tradition, and—let’s face it—individual likes and dislikes (which is what I call them when they’re mine) and irrational prejudices (which is what I call them when they’re yours). And at that point the two great commands in the Law (loving God, loving our neighbor) ought to remind us what to do. As Christians we should expect to have demands made on our charity and our patience. Let’s not keep robbing ourselves and our churches of the full enjoyment of the central act of Christian worship by making this meal an occasion of strife.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                Diffusiveness of life

     Rivers of living water. --- John 7:38.

     A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of His fulness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth. We have nothing to do with the outflow—“This is the work of God that ye believe.…” God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is.

     A river is victoriously persistent, it overcomes all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, then it comes to an obstacle and for a while it is baulked, but it soon makes a pathway round the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, and presently emerge again broader and grander than ever. You can see God using some lives, but into your life an obstacle has come and you do not seem to be of any use. Keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you round the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never get your eyes on the obstacle or on the difficulty. The obstacle is a matter of indifference to the river which will flow steadily through you if you remember to keep right at the Source. Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion, or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.

     Think of the healing and far-flung rivers nursing themselves in our souls! God has been opening up marvellous truths to our minds, and every point He has opened up is an indication of the wider power of the river He will flow through us. If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has nourished in you mighty torrents of blessing for others.

My Utmost for His Highest
Genealogy (Tares)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Genealogy (Tares)

I was the dweller in the long cave
  Of darkness, lining it with the forms
  Of bulls. My hands matured early,

But turned to violence: I was the man
  Watching later at the grim ford,
  Armed with resentment; the quick stream

Remembers at sunset the raw crime.
  The deed pursued me; I was the king
  At the church keyhole, who saw death

Loping towards me. From that same hour
  I fought for right, with the proud chiefs
  Setting my name to the broad treaties.

I marched to Bosworth with the Welsh lords
  To victory, but regretted after
  The white house at the wood's heart.

I was the stranger in the new town,
  Whose purse of tears was soon spent;
  I filled it with a soldier coin

At the dark sources. I stand now
  In the hard light of the brief day
  Without roots, but with many branches.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Numbers 18:19–20


     It was to my benefit that my cow broke its leg.

     BIBLE TEXT /
Numbers 18:19–20 / All the sacred gifts that the Israelites set aside for the Lord I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you, as a due for all time. It shall be an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for you and for your offspring as well. And the Lord said to Aaron: You shall, however, have no territorial share among them or own any portion in their midst; I am your portion and your share among the Israelites.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Sifrei Koraḥ 119 / I am your portion and your share. Twenty-four priestly gifts were presented to the Kohanim—twelve in the Temple and twelve throughout the borders. What were the twelve in the Temple? The Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering, the Sacrifice of Well-being of the Congregation, the skin of the Burnt Offering, the remnants of the log of oil of the leper, and the remnants of the omer, the two loaves of bread, the Bread of Display, the remnants of the Meal Offering, the Heave Offering from the Thank Offering, the Leave Offering of the breast, thigh, and leg, and the Ram of the Nazirite.

     And what are the twelve that are throughout the borders? The Terumah, and the Terumah of the Ma’aser, and the Ḥallah, and the First Fruits, and the First shearing of the sheep, and the gifts, the Redemption of the First-Born Son, and the first born pure animal, and the firstling of the donkey, and the devoted fields, and the field of possession, and the [restitution for] robbery of a convert.

     These are the twenty-four gifts of the priesthood given to the Kohanim, aside from those things that have the obligation of Terumah. Aaron had great joy on the day on which a covenant was made with him concerning the gifts. Rabbi Yishmael says, “A popular proverb says, ‘It was to my benefit that my cow broke its leg.’ It was to Aaron’s benefit that Korah came and spoke against the priesthood to oppose him. A parable: To what is this similar? To a human king who gave a field as a gift to a member of his household, but didn’t sign, seal, or record it. Someone came and spoke out against him concerning the field. The king said, ‘Let anyone who wants to speak out against you concerning the field come! I will sign, seal and record it!’ So too, Korah came and spoke out against him [Aaron] concerning the priesthood. God said to him, ‘Let anyone who wants speak out against you concerning the priesthood; I will sign, seal and record it.’ For this reason, this section was uttered next to that of Korah.”

     CONTEXT / The weekly Torah portion called Koraḥ comprises chapters 16, 17, and 18 of the Book of
Numbers. The first two chapters recount the story of Korah, a Levite who led an ill-fated rebellion against his cousins, Moses and Aaron. Korah complained, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy.… Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). According to Rabbinic interpretation, Korah was upset that his cousins were to receive a greater share of priestly gifts than he was. Korah’s rebellion came to naught as he and his followers were swallowed up by the earth, and “they went down alive into Sheol” (16:33).

     The third and final chapter of this weekly Torah reading concerns the many offerings that the Kohanim, (priests) were entitled to. Twenty-four priestly gifts were presented to the Kohanim—twelve in the Temple and twelve throughout the borders. Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe, or Kohanim, was to receive no land; it was to serve in the Temple and be supported from the many offerings that people brought. This is the meaning of the verse “I am your portion and your share.”

     From the first group, those gifts given in the Temple, the priest could eat of the Sin Offering (
Leviticus 6:19); the Guilt Offering (7:6); and of the community’s Well-being Offering (23:20). The Kohen could keep the skin of the Burnt Offering (7:8) and the leftover oil from the purification ritual for a leper (14:18). He was given the first sheaf of the new harvest, called omer (23:15–16); the two loaves that comprised the Elevation (Heave) Offering (23:17), as well as the Bread of Display—twelve loaves brought each week (24:5–9); the Meal Offering (6:9); and the unleavened cakes that accompanied the Thanksgiving Offering (7:12–14). In addition, he received the breast and right thigh of the animal brought for the Sacrifice of Well-being (7:34) and the shoulder of the ram brought on behalf of the Nazirite (Numbers 6:19).

     From the second group, those gifts given outside the Temple, the priest got the terumah, the first portion of oil, wine, and grain of the harvest (
Numbers 18:12); one-tenth of the Levites’ share of the tithe (18:25–26); the ḥallah, the first yield from the baking of the bread (15:17–21); the first fruits of the land (18:13); the first portion of shorn wool from the sheep (Deuteronomy 18:4); and the shoulder, cheeks, and stomach of the sacrifices (18:3). Also, he received the money given to redeem the first-born sons, and the first-born of clean animals (ibid.) and the sheep given to redeem the firstling of an ass (Exodus 34:20). Finally, he received those things set aside as ḥerem, dedicated to God (Numbers 18:14); the field dedicated to the sanctuary but not redeemed before the Jubilee year (Leviticus 27:21); and the ram of expiation brought by someone who had tried to rob a convert (Numbers 5:8).

     Rabbi Yishmael quotes a proverb: “It was to my benefit that my cow broke its leg.” This seems strange: Who would see the breaking of the leg of one’s cow as something good? Who would be happy about adversity or misfortune? Perhaps the point is that such a cow would have a disfiguring mark that would set it apart and make it distinct. No one else could steal it and claim it as their own, and it could not be offered as a sacrifice because of its blemish. The misfortune worked to the owner’s advantage. So too with Aaron and the priests. The adversity they went through in being attacked by Korah resulted in a positive outcome. Korah accused them of stealing from the people and taking what belonged to God. Immediately following the Korah story, in
chapter 18 of the Book of Numbers, God explicitly lists all the gifts that rightfully go to the Kohanim. No one again would be able to step forward and challenge the priests about what was rightly due them. It is for this very reason, we are told, that the listing of the gifts appropriately belongs in this weekly Torah portion, immediately after the story of Korah’s challenge.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 6

     In my Father’s house are many rooms. --- John 14:2.

     There are sufficient and suitable accommodations for all sorts of persons: for persons of all nations and all conditions and circumstances, for those who have been great sinners as well as for moral livers; for weak saints and babes in Christ as well as for those who are stronger and more grown in grace. (Selected RS Thomas of Jonathan Edwards ) There is in heaven enough for the happiness of everyone, an accommodation for everyone who will hearken to the calls of the Gospel.

     The disciples were very different from Christ: he was the Shepherd and they the sheep; he was the glorious, holy Son of God, they were poor, sinful, corrupt people. But Christ encourages them that there will be room in heaven for them, for there were many rooms there. As in a king’s palace there is not only a room of state built for the king himself and for his eldest son and heir, but there are many rooms, for all his children, attendants, and servants.

     When God made heaven in the beginning of the world, he intended it for an everlasting dwelling for a vast and innumerable multitude. When heaven was made, it was intended and prepared for all those particular persons whom God had from eternity designed to save. And that is a very great and innumerable multitude. Heaven was built so as most conveniently to accommodate all this multitude, as a house that is built for a great family is built large and with many rooms in it; as a palace that is built for a great king is built very large with a great many apartments; as a house of public worship that is built for a great congregation is built very large with many seats in it.

     Here is encouragement for sinners who are concerned for the salvation of their souls, such as are afraid that they will never be admitted to any dwelling there and are aware that they are until now in a sad state because they are out of Christ and so have no right to any inheritance in heaven but are in danger of going to hell and having their eternal dwelling fixed there. You may be encouraged by what has been said to earnestly seek heaven, for there is room enough there. Let your case be what it will, there is suitable provision there for you, and if you come to Christ, he’ll see to it that you will be well accommodated in heaven.
--- Jonathan Edwards

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Whipped with Roses  September 6

     Visitors to Boston Commons with its graceful swan boats might be surprised to learn what once happened there to Obadiah Holmes. In 1651 Holmes was arrested for preaching Baptist doctrine in nearby Lynn. Friends tried to pay his fine, but Holmes refused. On September 6, 1651 he was taken to Boston Commons, stripped to the waist, and tied to a whipping post. He later wrote: As the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people, Though my flesh should fail, yet God would not fail. So it pleased the Lord to come in and fill my heart and tongue; and with an audible voice I broke forth praying unto the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge. In truth, as the strokes fell upon me, I had such a manifestation of God’s presence as the like thereof I never had nor felt, nor can with fleshy tongue express; and the outward pain was so removed from me, that indeed I am not able to declare it to you. It was so easy to me that I could well bear it, yea and in a manner felt it not although it was grievous, the man striking with all his strength (spitting on his hands three times as many affirmed) with a three corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes. When he loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart and cheerfulness in my countenance, I told the magistrates, “You have struck me with roses.”

     If so, they were covered with thorns. The whipping was so severe that blood ran down Holmes’s body until his shoes overflowed. A friend reported: “Holmes was whipt thirty stripes in such an unmerciful manner that in many days, if not some weeks, he could take no rest, but lay on knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed.”

     But the suffering wasn’t wasted. The trial and whipping of Obadiah Holmes occasioned the conversion of Henry Dunster, president of Harvard, to the Baptists, and led to the organization of Boston’s first Baptist church.

     We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.
--- Romans 5:3b-5.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 6

     "In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." --- Philippians 2:15.

     We use lights to make manifest. A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the Gospel. His conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and whom he serves; and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions. Lights are intended for guidance. We are to help those around us who are in the dark. We are to hold forth to them the Word of life. We are to point sinners to the Saviour, and the weary to a divine resting-place. Men sometimes read their Bibles, and fail to understand them; we should be ready, like Philip, to instruct the inquirer in the meaning of God’s Word, the way of salvation, and the life of godliness. Lights are also used for warning. On our rocks and shoals a light-house is sure to be erected. Christian men should know that there are many false lights shown everywhere in the world, and therefore the right light is needed. The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world. Lights also have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. A Christian ought to be a comforter, with kind words on his lips, and sympathy in his heart; he should carry sunshine wherever he goes, and diffuse happiness around him.

     Gracious Spirit dwell with me;
     I myself would gracious be,
     And with words that help and heal
     Would thy life in mine reveal,
     And with actions bold and meek
     Would for Christ my Saviour speak.


          Evening - September 6

     “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
--- Galatians 5:18.

     He who looks at his own character and position from a legal point of view, will not only despair when he comes to the end of his reckoning, but if he be a wise man he will despair at the beginning; for if we are to be judged on the footing of the law, there shall no flesh living be justified. How blessed to know that we dwell in the domains of grace and not of law! When thinking of my state before God the question is not, “Am I perfect in myself before the law?” but, “Am I perfect in Christ Jesus?” That is a very different matter. We need not enquire, “Am I without sin naturally?” but, “Have I been washed in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness?” It is not “Am I in myself well pleasing to God?” but it is “Am I accepted in the Beloved?” The Christian views his evidences from the top of Sinai, and grows alarmed concerning his salvation; it were better far if he read his title by the light of Calvary. “Why,” saith he, “my faith has unbelief in it, it is not able to save me.” Suppose he had considered the object of his faith instead of his faith, then he would have said, “There is no failure in him, and therefore I am safe.” He sighs over his hope: “Ah! my hope is marred and dimmed by an anxious carefulness about present things; how can I be accepted?” Had he regarded the ground of his hope, he would have seen that the promise of God standeth sure, and that whatever our doubts may be, the oath and promise never fail. Ah! believer, it is safer always for you to be led of the Spirit into Gospel liberty than to wear legal fetters. Judge yourself at what Christ is rather than at what you are. Satan will try to mar your peace by reminding you of your sinfulness and imperfections: you can only meet his accusations by faithfully adhering to the Gospel and refusing to wear the yoke of bondage.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 6

          BRETHREN, WE HAVE MET TO WORSHIP

     George Atkins, 19th century

     Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 1 Chronicles 16:31

     The apostle Paul’s favorite name for fellow believers was “brethren.” He used this term at least 60 times throughout his various epistles. Paul’s concept of the local church was a worshiping family—the family of God. Of course, we need to worship God daily in our individual devotional lives. But every believer also needs the enriching experience of worshiping and serving God with other family members on a weekly basis. Only a church of faithful worshiping members is adequately prepared to do its work and fulfill its witness in the world.

     Our worship of God, both personally and corporately, should share with the young prophet these five elements depicted in Isaiah 6:

•     Recognition: “I saw the Lord …” (v. 1)
•     Praise: “Holy, Holy, Holy …” (v. 3)
•     Confession: “Woe is me …” (v. 5)
•     Assurance of Pardon: “This has touched your lips … forgiven” (v. 7)
•     Dedication: “Here am I …” (v. 8)

     This interesting hymn has been a favorite, especially in the South, since it first appeared in 1825. Nothing is known of George Atkins, the author of the text.

     Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God.
     Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
     All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.
     Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

     Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumb’ring on the brink of woe.
     Death is coming, hell is moving—Can you bear to let them go?
     See our fathers and our mothers and our children sinking down.
     Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

     Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him.
     Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
     Tell them all about the Savior—Tell them that He will be found.
     Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

     Let us love our God supremely. Let us love each other too.
     Let us love and pray for sinners till our God makes all things new.
     Then He’ll call us home to heaven; at His table we’ll sit down;
     Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

     For Today: Isaiah 6:l–9; Psalm 96:4, 9; 107:32; John 4:24; Hebrews 10:25

     Make a list of the various activities that you think would improve your church worship service. Share these ideas with your pastor and other concerned leaders. Reflect on the purpose of group worship as you sing this hymn ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Pray for Jerusalem
      Psalm 122:6

          “May those who love you be secure.”

     NOTE: This prayer may be prayed in one hour, or it may be prayed section by section over a longer period of time. Although it is patterned after Daniel 9, it is my personal prayer. It comes from deep within my heart, because I believe the rapture of the church may be imminent. When that moment comes, and every born again believer is caught up to be with Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit who indwells them and presently restrains evil, Israel will be more alone in the family of nations than she ever has been since her rebirth in 1948. And I wonder…is it at that moment that God will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication? Is it at that moment that they will look on the One they have pierced, and recognize Him as their Messiah?[1] I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am utterly convinced it’s time to pray for Jerusalem.

     Our Father in Heaven. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are the Eternal I AM. The One who is age to age the same. There is no shadow of turning with You. You are fully present in every generation—past, present, and future. You are the All-Mighty. Your power has not been deleted or depleted over the millennia of human history. We know that You so loved the world that You gave us Heaven’s treasure when You sent Your only Son to die, so that anyone and everyone who places their faith in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Yet we also know that Your great heart of love still longs to pour out Your blessing on the City and the people that You have uniquely chosen as Your own. Jerusalem. The House of Israel. The Jews.

     In this present worldwide climate of unbridled evil, we are desperate! Nations are unraveling. Wars are raging. There are rumors of more wars breaking out. Kingdom is rising against kingdom. Our spirits feel the turmoil and agitation that surely is a reflection of the warfare being waged in the invisible realms. We need You! For everything! But our hearts are now burdened for the Epicenter of the world. For Jerusalem and all that she represents at this critical, strategic last hour.

     So we humbly turn to You now. For one hour we turn away from our responsibilities and routines, our busyness and our business, our own problems and pressures. We turn away from focusing on our own nation and the needs of the church. We turn away from any self-reliance or self-interests, and we look to You. We run to You. We join together with one heart and one voice to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. You alone are the One who makes us to dwell in safety. You alone are the One who makes us secure. You alone are God. And You alone are our God. We turn to You, deeply aware we do not deserve in ourselves to address You, yet boldly confident of access into Your most holy presence through the blood of Your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so…

     We pray with confidence, because You are the God of Creation, Lord of the Universe. Elohim. The Strong One. You alone are The LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You.[2] We sing Your praises, for You are highly exalted. No one is higher than You. You are our strength and our song. Again and again, You have been the salvation of Your people: from bondage in Egypt, from Pharoh’s pursuing army, from Midianites and Amorites and Edomites and Moabites and Canaanites and Perizzites and Philistines; from captivity in Babylon, from the four corners of the earth, from the Nazi death camps, and now from Hamas and Hezbollah and ISIS and the Taliban and Al Queda and the Muslim Brotherhood and Boko Haram, You alone are able to shatter Israel’s enemies.

     Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power. And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up again You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff.

     Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.

     You will reign forever and ever. We long for the day when our faith becomes sight and the whole world is filled with the glory of who You are. Our highest joy will be to see You face to face; to gather around Your throne with multitudes from every tribe, language, people, and nation that you have purchased with the blood of Your own Son, and worship You.[3]

     We pray with compulsion for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the whole House of Israel. Your people and the city that bear Your name are surrounded by a vast multitude of hostile, evil men seeking to kill and destroy. Men who behead those who refuse to embrace their evil dogma, who bury alive those who refuse to submit to their will, who crucify those who are identified with Your Son. Your people are under the incessant barrage of enemy missiles and mortars that are destroying farms and families, communities and children. While one ceasefire after another promises peace, peace there is no peace. Are You not the God who rules over all the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.

     We are compelled to pray for Your people because they are facing their enemies without the strength, wisdom, peace, comfort, security and hope that You reserve for those who are indwelt by Your Spirit through faith in Your Son, Jesus. They have no deep, blessed assurance that their sins are forgiven, that eternal life is theirs, and that a heavenly Home is waiting to welcome them.

     We are compelled to pray because…

     •     You have promised that You will give Your people a new heart and put a new spirit within them; that You will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
     •     You have promised that in the very last days, You will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.
     •     You have promised that You will open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and they would look on You, the One they have pierced.
     •     You have promised that all of Israel, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, will mourn for their sin of rebellion and rejection of their Messiah.
     •     You have promised that on that day of national mourning and repentance, all of Israel will be saved. That the deliverer will come from Zion; that You will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
     •     You have promised that You will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and You will cleanse them.
     •     You have promised that they will be Your people, and You will be their God.
     •     You have promised that You will make an everlasting covenant of peace with them.
     •     You have promised that one day, and we believe soon, You will set aside 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel who have been redeemed and on whose foreheads You write Your name, to be proclaimers of the Gospel to the whole world.

     O Abba Father! We do not ask for what we want or what we hope. We are asking You to do what You have said! You are a great covenant-keeping God. You do not mock Your children. You keep Your word. We are therefore compelled at this moment when faced with problems that have no human solution to pray and hold You to Your promises.[4]

     We pray with a contrite spirit. We are ashamed and embarrassed to lift up our faces to You, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.[5] So now, our God, what shall we say?

          We have sinned and done wrong.
          We have been wicked and have rebelled.
          We have turned away from Your commands and Your Word.[6]
          We have not listened to Your servants the prophets…like Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah…who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and to all Your people.
          We have not obeyed or kept the laws You have given us.
          We have rationalized and explained away the evidence of Your greatness that we see in Creation around us.
          We have suppressed the truth that we were created by You and for You, and have exchanged it for the lie that we are masters of our own fate.
          We do not glorify You as God, nor give thanks to You, but live our lives as though we have no accountability to You.[7]
          We have looked to our own strength for salvation and have forgotten Your mighty acts of deliverance in the past. As though the God of Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah no longer exists. Or if You do, You no longer involve Yourself in the affairs of Your people.
          We confess that our faith in You and Your strength is weak, as though what we face today is beyond Your ability to overcome. Or beneath Your interest to intervene.
          We confess to pride and arrogance that have determined we must face our enemies in our own strength. That this present darkness will pass without Your intervention.
          We confess to religious intolerance that condemns those who are not like us.
          We confess to religious indifference that gives lip service to You, but lacks sincere faith so that our lives are lived and our decisions are made as practical atheists—as though You do not exist.
          You are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against You. But this day we are covered with shame.

     We pray with clarity. We ask, great Creator God, that You give sight to those born spiritually blind. Open the eyes of Your people to see You for who You truly are. Don’t let their sight be dimmed or distorted by centuries of religiosity and rejection of the Truth. Open their eyes to Jesus as their Messiah. Then show up in great power, giving Your people supernatural strength to withhold vengeance, to execute justice, to remember mercy, to walk humbly as they acknowledge that victory will be won not by their might nor by their own power, but by Your Spirit.[8] Yet we do ask You for victory over the enemy…

     We pray for the enemies who are coming against Jerusalem to be convicted of their sin, for them to repent and turn from it and ask You for forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. But if they do not, we ask that this day, You defeat and destroy them.

     We ask that You strip Jerusalem’s enemies of peace and cooperation among themselves, so that they are divided and turn on each other.

     We ask that their evil plans would be exposed or fall back on their own heads.

     We ask that the face of every man, woman or child that they have slaughtered, beheaded, buried, or crucified be indelibly imprinted on their mind’s eye, filling them with turmoil and robbing them of clear thinking.[9]

     We ask that for every man, woman or child who is martyred for their faith in You, ten others would rise up to take their place, so that the persecution would fan revival fires throughout the Muslim world. Please, dear Jesus, keep showing up in dreams and visions and in any form You choose in order to change hearts and minds, melting generations of prejudice and hatred with Your love and peace.

     We ask that the fear of the One, True, Living God would fall on Israel’s neighbors…and on Israel.[10]

     We ask that the ancient prince of the Persian kingdom and every other demonic force coming against Your City be bound and rendered powerless in the face of the hosts of Heaven.[11]

     We ask that the Iron Dome would be 100% effective, and that You would continue to anoint Israel’s engineers and physicists with ability to design systems that would provide a protective shield for The Beautiful Land.

     We ask for supernatural wisdom for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Cabinet, his counselors, and all government officials, so that they make decisions in line with Your perfect will. Draw the Prime Minister into Your Word; and when he opens and reads it, speak to him through it.

     We ask that You turn the heart of The Honorable Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, toward You; that he would acknowledge his need of You and issue a city-wide call to prayer.

     We ask that You comfort the mothers, fathers, and children living in the farming communities near the Gaza border. Give them an overwhelming sense of Your presence and love for each of them. As they turn to You, give them peace…and a good night’s sleep.

     We ask that You woo Your people to Yourself. Draw them to put their trust in You, so that You are their refuge and their fortress. Save them. Cover them. Be with them in trouble. Command Your angels to guard them and keep them in all their ways.[12]

     You are a great prayer-hearing, prayer-answering, covenant-keeping, miracle-working God. Hear our prayer! Listen to Your children as we pray for the peace of the city on which You have placed Your name. Rise up, great Lion of Judah, and defend Your people. Deliver Jerusalem from her enemies so that all the nations of the earth may know that You alone are God. Answer us! For the glory of Your great name!

     We will pray until our prayers are confirmed, because we believe in You. We believe that Jerusalem’s God is God. We believe You are as strong today on her behalf as You were in the beginning, and always have been, and always will be. We believe that since the first day we set our minds to gain understanding and to humble ourselves before our God, our words have been heard.[13] We believe that we have asked according to Your will, in the name of Your dear Son, and for His glory alone. Therefore we expect to receive answers.[14]

     Now we await Your confirmation. We have prayed for the peace of Jerusalem. We don’t know what else to do. But our eyes are fixed expectantly on You.[15]

     For the Glory of Yeshua / Jesus Christ. AMEN

[1] Zechariah 12:10
[2] Nehemiah 9:6
[3] Based on the Song of Moses, Exodus 15
[4] The promises above were taken from Ezekiel 36:26; Zechariah 12:10-12; Romans 11:26-27; Ezekiel 37:23; Ezekiel 37:26, Revelation 7:1-4, 14:1-5
[5] Paraphrased from Ezra 9, Daniel 9, and Romans 1
[6] Israel has the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Tel Aviv is marketed as the gay capital of the Middle East. Alcohol consumption among Israeli children is surging to the extent that Prime Minister Netanyahu has called it “an epidemic.”
[7] Paraphrased from Romans 1; 42% of Israelis are secular.
[8] Zechariah 4:6
[9] Romans 2:9
[10] 2 Chronicles 20:29
[11] Daniel 10:12-13
[12] Psalm 91
[13] Daniel 10:12
[14] John 14:13-14
[15] 2 Chronicles 20:12

Anne Graham Lotz

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP

     9. Spiritual worship is to be performed with holiness. God is a holy Spirit; a likeness to God must attend the worshipping of God as he is; holiness is always in season; “It becomes his house forever” (Psalm 91:5). We can never serve the living God till we “have consciences purged from dead works” (Heb. 11:14). Dead works in our consciences are unsuitable to God, an eternal living Spirit. The more mortified the heart, the more quickened the service.  Notbing can please an infinite purity but that which is pure;  since God is in his glory, in his ordinances, we must not be in our filthiness. The holiness of his Spirit doth sparkle in his ordinances; the holiness of our spirits ought also to sparkle in our observance of them. The holiness of God is most celebrated in the worship of angels; spiritual worship ought to be like angelical; that cannot be with souls totally impure. As there must be perfect holiness to make a worship perfectly spiritual; so there must be some degree of holiness to make it in any measure spiritual. God would have all the utensils of the sanctuary employed about his service to be holy; the inwards of the sacrifice were to be rinsed thrice. The crop and feathers of sacrificed doves were to be hung eastward towards the entrance of the temple, at a distance from the holy of holies, where the presence of God was most eminent (Lev. 1:16). When Aaron was to go into the holy of holies, he was to “sanctify himself” in an extraordinary manner (Lev. 16:4). The priests were to be bare-footed in the temple, in the exercise of their office; shoes alway were to be put off upon holy ground: “Look to thy foot when thou goest to the house of God,” saith the wise man (Eccles. 5:1). Strip the affections, the feet of the soul, of all the dirt contracted; discard all earthly and base thoughts from the heart. A beast was not to touch the Mount Sinai, without losing his life; nor can we come near the throne with brutish affections, without losing the life and fruit of the worship. An unholy soul degrades himself from a spirit to a brute, and the worship from spiritual to brutish. If any unmortified sin be found in the life, as it was in the comers to the temple, it taints and pollutes the worship (Isa. 1:15).

     All worship is an acknowledgment of the excellency of God as he is holy; hence it is called, a “sanctifying God’s name” (Jer. 7:9, 10); how can any person sanctify God’s name that hath not a holy resemblance to his nature? If he be not holy as he is holy, he cannot worship him according to his excellency in spirit and in truth; no worship is spiritual wherein we have not a communion with God. But what intercourse can there be between a holy God, and an impure creature; between light and darkness? We have no fellowship with him in any service, unless “we walk in the light,” in service and out of service, as he is light (1 John 1:7). The heathen thought not their sacrifices agreeable to God without washing their hands; whereby they signified the preparation of their hearts, before they made the oblation: clean hands without a pure heart, signify nothing; the frame of our hearts must answer the purity of the outward symbols (Psalm 26:6): “I will wash my ands in innocence, so will I compass thine altar, O Lord;” he would observe the appointed ceremonies, but not without “cleansing his heart as well as his hands.” Vain man is apt to rest upon outward acts and rites of worship; but this must alway be practised; the words are in the present tense, “I wash,” “I compass.” Purity in worship ought to be our continual care. If we would perform a spiritual service, wherein we would have communion with God, it must be in holiness; if we would walk with Christ, it must be in “white” (Rev. 3:4), alluding to the white garments the priests put on, when they went to perform their service; as without this we cannot see God in heaven, so neither can we see the beauty of God in his own ordinances.

     10. Spiritual worship is performed with spiritual ends, with raised aims at the glory of God. No duty can be spiritual that hath a carnal aim; where God is the sole object, he ought to be the principal end; in all our actions he is to be our end, as he is the principle of our being; much more in religious acts, as he is the object of our worship. The worship of God in Scripture is expressed by the “seeking of him” (Heb. 11:6); him, not ourselves; all is to be referred to God. As we are “not to live to ourselves, that being the sign of a carnal state, so we are not to worship for ourselves” (Rom. 14:7, 8). As all actions are denominated good from their end, as well as their object, so upon the same account they are denominated spiritual. The end spiritualizeth our natural actions, much more our religious; then are our faculties devoted to him when they centre in him. If the intention be evil, there is nothing but darkness in the whole service (Luke 11:34). The first institution of the Sabhath, the solemn day for worship, was to contemplate the glory of God in his stupendous works of creation, and render him a homage for them (Rev. 4:11): “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive honor, glory, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” No worship can be returned without a glorifying of God; and we cannot actually glorify him, without direct aims at the promoting his honor. As we have immediately to do with God, so we are immediately to mind the praise of God. As we are not to content ourselves with habitual grace, but be rich in the exercise of it in worship, so we are not to acquiesce in the habitual aims at the glory of God, without the actual overflowings of our hearts in those aims. It is natural for man to worship God for self; self-righteousness is the rooted aim of man in his worship since his revolt from God, and being sensible it is not to be found in his natural actions, he seeks for it in his moral and religious. By the first pride we flung God off from being our sovereign, and from being our end, since a pharisaical spirit struts it in nature, not only to do things to be seen of men, but to be admired by God (Isa. 58:3). “Wherefore have we fasted and thou takest no knowledge?” This is to have God worship them, instead of being worshipped by them. Cain’s carriage after his sacrifice testified some base end in his worship; he came not to God as a subject to a sovereign, but as if he had been the sovereign, and God the subject; and when his design is not answered, and his desire not gratified, he proves more a rebel to God, and a murderer of his brother. Such base scents will rise up in our worship from the body of death which cleaves to us, and mix themselves with our services, as weeds with the fish in the net. David, therefore, after his people had offered willingly to the temple, begs of God that their “hearts might be prepared to him” (1 Chron. 29:18); that their hearts might stand right to God, without any squinting to self-ends.  Some present themselves to God, as poor men offer a present to a great person not to honor him, but to gain for themselves a reward richer than their gift. I remember so many television preachers promising a great reward if you will just send in your money. We are so evil.  “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance?” &c. (Mal. 3:14).

     Some worship him, intending thereby to make him amends for the wrong they have done him; wipe off their scores, and satisfy their debts; as though a spiritual wrong could be recompensed with a bodily service, and an infinite Spirit be outwitted and appeased by a carnal flatter.  Self is the spirit of carnality;  to pretend a homage to God, and intend only the advantage of self, is rather to mock him than worship him.  When we believe that we ought to be satisfied, rather than God glorified, we set God below ourselves,  imagine that he should submit his own honor to our advantage; we make ourselves more glorious than God, as though we were not made for him, but he hath a being only for us; this is to have a very low esteem of the majesty of God. Whatsoever any man aims at in worship above the glory of God, that he forms as an idol to himself instead of God, and sets up a golden image, God counts not this as a worship. The offerings made in the wilderness for forty years together, God esteemed as not offered to him (Amos 5:25): “Have you offered to me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?” They did it not to God, but to themselves; for their own security, and the attainment of the possession of the promised land. A spiritual worshipper performs not worship for some hopes of carnal advantage; he uses ordinances as means to bring God and his soul together, to be more fitted to honor God in the world, in his particular place; when he hath been inflamed and humble in any address or duty, he gives God the glory; his heart suits the doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, ascribes the kingdom, power, and glory to God alone, and if any viper of pride starts out upon him, he endeavors presently to shake it off. That which was the first end of our framing, ought to be the chief end of our acting towards God; but when men have the same ends in worship as brutes, the satisfaction of a sensitive part, the service is no more than brutish. The acting for a sensitive end is unworthy the majesty of God to whom we address, and unbecoming a rational creature. The acting for a sensitive end is not a rational, much less can it be a spiritual service; though the act may be good in itself, yet not good in the agent, because he wants a due end. We are, then, spiritual, when we have the same end in our redeemed services, as God had in his redeeming love, viz., his own glory.

     11. Spiritual service is offered to God in the name of Christ. Those are only “spiritual sacrifices, that are offered up to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5); that are the fruits of the sanctification of the Spirit, and offered in the mediation of the Son: as the altar sanctifies the gift, so doth Christ spiritualize our services for God’s acceptation; as the fire upon the altar separated the airy and finer parts of the sacrifice from the terrene and earthly; this is the golden altar upon which the prayers of the saints are offered up “before the throne” (Rev. 8:3).  As all that we have from God streams through his blood,  so all that we give to God ascends by virtue of his merits. All the blessings God gave to the Israelites came out of Sion, that is, from the gospel hid under the law; all the duties we present to God are to presented in Sion, in an evangelical manner; all our worship must be bottomed on Christ. God hath intended that we should “honor the Son, as we honor the Father;” as we honor the Father by offering our service only to him, so we are to honor the Son by offering it only in his name; in him alone God is well pleased, because in him alone he finds our services spiritual and worthy of acceptation; we must therefore take fast hold of him with our spirits, and the faster we hold him, the more spiritual is our worship. To do anything in the name of Christ, is not to believe the worship shall be accepted for itself, but to have our eye fixed upon Christ for the acceptance of it, and not to rest upon the work done, as carnal people are apt to do. The creatures present their acknowledgments to God by man; and man can only present his by Christ. It was utterly unlawful after the building of the temple, to sacrifice anywhere else; the temple being a type of Christ, it is utterly unlawful for us to present our services in any other name than his. This is the way to be spiritual. If we consider God out of Christ, we can have no other notions but those of horror and bondage. We behold him a Spirit, but environed with justice and wrath for sinners; but the consideration of him in Christ, veils his justice, draws forth his mercy, represents him more a father than a judge. In Christ the aspect of justice is changed, and by that the temper of the creature; so that in and by this Mediator, we “can have a spiritual boldness, and access to God with confidence” (Eph. 3:12), whereby the spirit is kept from benumbness and distraction, and our souls quickened and refined. The thoughts kept upon Christ in a duty of worship quickly elevates the soul, and spiritualizeth the whole service. Sin makes our services black, and the blood of Christ makes both our persons and services white.

     To conclude this head. God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach to him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with the deepest humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge his excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to his glory, by having the highest aims in his worship; he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


      Sect. CXLI. — BUT perhaps some one may, here sophistically observe — though the will be gone out of the way, and the reason be ignorant, as to the perfection of the act, yet the will can make some attempt, and the reason can attain to some knowledge by its own powers; seeing that, we can attempt many things which we cannot perfect; and we are here speaking, of the existence of a power, not of the perfection of the act. —

     I answer: The words of the Prophet comprehend both the act and the power. For his saying, man seeks not God, is the same as if he had said, man cannot seek God: which you may collect from this. — If there were a power or ability in man to will good, it could not be, but that, as the motion of the Divine Omnipotence could not suffer it to remain actionless, or to keep holiday, (as I before observed) it must be moved forth into act in some men, at least, in some one man or other, and must be made manifest so as to afford an example. But this is not the case. For God looks down from heaven, and does not see even one who seeks after Him, or attempts it. Wherefore it follows, that that power is nowhere to be found, which attempts, or wills to attempt, to seek after Him; and that all men “are gone out of the way.”

     Moreover if Paul be not understood to speak at the same time of impotency, his disputation will amount to nothing. For Paul’s whole design is, to make grace necessary unto all men. Whereas, if they could make some sort of beginning themselves, grace would not be necessary. But now, since they cannot make that beginning, grace is necessary. Hence you see that “Free-will” is by this passage utterly abolished, and nothing meritorious or good whatever left in man: seeing that, he is declared to be unrighteous, ignorant of God, a contemner of God, averse to God, and unprofitable in the sight of God. And the words of the prophet are sufficiently forcible both in their own place, and in Paul who adduces them.

     Nor is it an inconsiderable assertion, when man is said to be ignorant of, and to despise God: for these are the fountain springs of all iniquities, the sink of all sins, and the hell of all evils. What evil is there not, where there are ignorance and contempt of God? In a word, the whole kingdom of Satan in men, could not be defined in fewer or more expressive words than by saying — they are ignorant of and despise God! For there is unbelief, there is disobedience, there is sacrilege, there is blasphemy against God, there is cruelty and a want of mercy towards our neighbour, there is the love of self in all the things of God and man! — Here you have a description of the glory and power of “Free-will!”

      Sect. CXLII. — PAUL however proceeds; and testifies, that he now expressly speaks with reference to all men, and to those more especially who are the greatest and most exalted: saying, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” (Rom. iii. 19-20).

     How, I pray you, shall every mouth be stopped, if there be still a power remaining by which we can do something? For one might then say to God — That which is here in the world is not altogether nothing. There is that here which you cannot damn: even that, to which you yourself gave the power of doing something. The mouth of this at least will not be stopped, for it cannot be obnoxious to you. — For if there be any sound power in “Free-will”, and it be able to do something, to say that the whole world is obnoxious to, or guilty before God, is false; for that power, whose mouth is not to be stopped, cannot be an inconsiderable thing, or a something in one small part of the world only, but a thing most conspicuous, and most general throughout the whole world. Or, if its mouth be to be stopped, then it must be obnoxious to, and guilty before God, together with the whole world. But how can it rightly be called guilty, if it be not unrighteous and ungodly; that is, meriting punishment and vengeance?

     Let your friends, I pray you, find out, by what ‘convenient interpretation’ that power of man is to be cleared from this charge of guilt, by which the whole world is declared guilty before God; or by what contrivance it is to be excepted from being comprehended in the expression “all the world.” These words — “They are all gone out of the way, there is none righteous, no not one,” are mighty thunderclaps and riving thunder-bolts; they are in reality that hammer breaking the rock in pieces mentioned by Jeremiah; by which, is broken in pieces every thing that is, not in one man only, nor in some men, nor in a part of men, but in the whole world, no one man being excepted: so that the whole world ought, at those words, to tremble, to fear, and to flee away. For what words more awful or fearful could be uttered than these — The whole world is guilty; all the sons of men are turned out of the way, and become unprofitable; there is no one that fears God; there is no one that is not unrighteous; there is no one that understandeth; there is no one that seeketh after God!

     Nevertheless, such ever has been, and still is, the hardness and insensible obstinacy of our hearts, that we never should of ourselves hear or feel the force of these thunder-claps or thunder-bolts, but should, even while they were sounding in our ears, exalt and establish “Free-will” with all its powers in defiance of them, and thus in reality fulfil that of Malachi i. 4, “They build, but I will throw down!”

     With the same power of words also is this said — “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” — “By the deeds of the law” is a forcible expression; as is also this, “The whole world;” and this, “All the children of men.” For it is to be observed, that Paul abstains from the mention of persons, and mentions their ways only: that is, that he might comprehend all persons, and whatever in them is most excellent. Whereas, if he had said the commonalty of the Jews, or the Pharisees, or certain of the ungodly, are not justified, he might have seemed to leave some excepted, who, from the power of “Free-will” in them, and by a certain aid from the law, were not altogether unprofitable. But now, when he condemns the works of the law themselves, and makes them unrighteous in the sight of God, it becomes manifest, that he condemns all who were mighty in a devoted observance of the law and of works. And none devotedly observed the law and works but the best and most excellent among them, nor did they thus observe them but with their best and most exalted faculties; that is, their reason and their will.

     If therefore, those, who exercised themselves in the observance of the law and of works with all the devoted striving and endeavouring both of reason and of will, that is, with all the power of “Free-will,” and who were assisted by the law as a divine aid, and were instructed out of it, and roused to exertion by it; if, I say, these are condemned of impiety because they are not justified, and are declared to be flesh in the sight of God, what then will there be left in the whole race of mankind which is not flesh, and which is not ungodly? For all are condemned alike who are of the works of the law: and whether they exercise themselves in the law with the utmost devotion, or moderate devotion, or with no devotion at all, it matters nothing. None of them could do any thing but work the works of the law, and the works of the law do not justify: and if they do not justify, they prove their workmen to be ungodly, and leave them so: and if they be ungodly, they are guilty, and merit the wrath of God! These things are so clear, that no one can open his mouth against them.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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