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2 Kings  20 - 22

2 Kings 20

Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery

2 Kings 20:1     In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, 6 and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” 7 And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”

8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD on the third day?” 9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.

Hezekiah and the Babylonian Envoys

12 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. 14 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” 15 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: 17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 18 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

20 The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 21 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son reigned in his place.

2 Kings 21

Manasseh Reigns in Judah

2 Kings 21:1     Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the LORD said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

Manasseh’s Idolatry Denounced

10 And the LORD said by his servants the prophets, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12 therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.”

16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh and all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 18 And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned in his place.

Amon Reigns in Judah

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. 21 He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them. 22 He abandoned the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. 23 And the servants of Amon conspired against him and put the king to death in his house. 24 But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place. 25 Now the rest of the acts of Amon that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 26 And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son reigned in his place.

2 Kings 22

Josiah Reigns in Judah

2 Kings 22:1     Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah  Jedidiah, “beloved of the LORD [Yahweh].” God told Nathan the prophet to give Solomon, David’s second son by Bathsheba, this name soon after his birth (2 Sm 12:24–25).  Tyndale Bible Dictionary   the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

Josiah Repairs the Temple

3 In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying, 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people. 5 And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house 6 (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. 7 But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law

8 And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15 And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 18 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king.

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Paul: A Servant of Jesus Christ

By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2006

     When I look back over forty years of teaching, I sometimes think I must be the most inarticulate writer and speaker in the history of the world. I wonder about that when I read interpretations of my teaching from the pens of other people, particularly from those who are hostile to what I declare. Frequently the distortions are so great that I cannot recognize my own position in the criticism. It may be helpful in trying to interpret mine or any other teacher’s declarations by looking at their geographical backgrounds. I grew up in the city of Pittsburgh, in a blue-collar environment, yet in a white-collar home, and so one can see that the perspective I have on life will differ from those people who grew up in southern California or Alabama. Nevertheless, to interpret my teachings simply on the basis of my Pittsburgh background would be utter nonsense. My perspective is not identical to every person who ever grew up in Pittsburgh. In like manner, one could examine my educational background and look at the viewpoints of my main mentors. As a student of G.C. Berkouwer in the Netherlands, one can certainly see dimensions of influence on my thought from that theologian. But to identify my general approach in theology to Berkouwer’s would be to distort my own views. It would even be incorrect to identify my theology totally with that of my main mentor, the late John H. Gerstner. The reason for this is that I have had many mentors in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, and also, through my own studies of the Bible and of church history, I have developed some positions that one cannot find in these other people. Still, it may be valuable from time to time to examine the background and education of theologians to get a deeper understanding of their teachings. Such investigation indeed may be beneficial while at the same time perilous.

     I mentioned my own experience simply to call attention to a much greater issue, one that far transcends how people interpret or misinterpret me, namely, how we go about seeking a correct understanding of the biblical writers in general and for the benefit of this issue of Tabletalk, the teaching of the apostle Paul in particular. In the New Testament, Paul himself indicates in one of his defenses that he was from Tarsus, which he describes as no mean city. Tarsus was a city that was cosmopolitan in antiquity, and, as a melting pot, it became a place where the exchange of many diverse ideas commonly took place. That Paul was exposed to views that arose beyond the borders of his own home town is something we can take virtually for granted. Paul goes on to cite his background as a student at the feet of the renowned rabbi Gamaliel. It is without doubt that Paul’s thinking was shaped to some degree by his great mentor Gamaliel. We know that Paul was immersed academically in the content of the Old Testament as well as in the writings of the rabbinic scholars of his day. But to interpret Paul solely on the grounds of the teachings of the rabbinic scholars of antiquity would be to negate critical factors of influence in the development of Paul’s thought.

     In our day, two very significant movements have occurred in biblical scholarship that have brought with it deleterious effects on biblical doctrine. The first such development is what is called “atomistic” exegesis or interpretation. This approach to the Scriptures sees the individual books and individual passages of those books, the “atom bits of teaching,” as ideas that must be interpreted only in their immediate contexts and not in the context of the whole scope of Scripture, or even of the whole scope of a particular writer’s expressions. For example, one scholar may say he will interpret Paul’s teaching of justification as set forth in Ephesians without any consideration of what Paul said of the doctrine in Galatians or in Romans. Each passage is treated as an atom of insight, and whether that atom coheres with bits of teaching found elsewhere in the author’s writing or in the whole of Scripture is irrelevant. The Reformation rule of interpreting the Bible — that the Bible is its own interpreter and that we are not to set one portion of Scripture against another — is thrown to the winds in this approach. Indeed, even among professing evangelicals, to insist on coherency in the Word of God is to offend them. They have bought into the notion of relativism, that even the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, can at times be contradictory and incoherent, because coherency and consistency are virtues that theologians impose upon our doctrine of God and are not to be found in the Scriptures themselves. This approach to biblical interpretation and to the doctrine of God is utterly fatal.

     But beyond the epidemic influence of atomistic exegesis is the current vogue of interpreting New Testament writers in terms of rabbinic Judaism, particularly with respect to Paul. Since Paul himself was an expert in rabbinic thought, the conclusion is reached (by a gratuitous leap) that all Paul’s teaching can be made clear by looking at the background of rabbinic teaching that formed Paul’s perspective. Indeed, even the so-called “new perspective” on Paul involves an attempt to reconstruct the old perspective that Paul himself brought to the doctrines of the New Testament, which perspective was basically shaped by rabbinic views.

     This approach to Pauline interpretation involves two crucial errors. The first is that it assumes no room for the supreme influence on Paul of his right theological expressions, namely, the superintendence of the Holy Ghost, while the apostle, acting as an agent of revelation, set forth his doctrine. Equally important is the ignoring of the radical transformation that occurred to Paul by his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul himself claims Jesus as the supreme influence in shaping his thought, not Gamaliel or the rabbinic scholars of antiquity. We notice that when Paul writes his letters, he does not identify himself by saying, “Paul, a bond servant or slave of Gamaliel.” No, he says, “Paul, a bond slave of Jesus Christ.” It is the teaching of Christ, who revealed His perspective and His own mind to Paul, that stands as the supreme foundation for Pauline theology. To ignore that is to assume no real conversion, no real changing of Paul’s mind, no real transformation of Paul’s thinking. To gain insight into Paul, it may help to study his background, but when we look at that background as a control for Paul’s expression, we fall into the trap of the worst kind of deconstruction.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

What’s Our Problem?

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/1/2006

     There is a great divide between the city of God and the city of man. The competing armies of the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, however, have this much in common — we’re all sinners. The defining quality of the gap may in fact be found in how we look at sin. If we were to poll those outside the kingdom of God on the question of evil, most of them would begin thinking through their pet answers to this common question: why do bad things happen to good people? That is, for the world, the problem of “evil” is more about the problem of human suffering. “Evil” is defined in their minds by things like Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, or what we sometimes call “acts of God.”

     Were the same polling to come before God’s people, we would see that we are hearing a different question. What puzzles us isn’t hurricanes and famines. We don’t wonder why bad things happen to good people because fundamental to our confession is this truth, that the only time a bad thing ever happened to a good person was when He volunteered for it. To us, the “problem of evil” isn’t destructive acts of God, but the primordial destructive act of man. The question is, how did good people do bad? How did Adam and Eve, created righteous and upright, come to rebel against their Maker? Once we have established that they have, there not only are no more good people, but there are no more bad things. Where there is pain, we who have been redeemed look to our faults. Those outside the camp point their fingers at God.

     This explains perhaps why we tend to do better at weathering the storms. When sorrows like sea billows roll we may feel pain, but our universe isn’t turned upside down. We haven’t suddenly found ourselves inexplicably suffering at the cruel hand of the fates. Instead, we are at peace, for we know the promise of our God, that all things work together for God for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. We know that for us, in short, that not only are there no good people, but there are no bad things. And we know that for them, even the bad things redound to the glory of our God.

     When Katrina hit our shores, however, there was still room for debate, even within the kingdom. Given the well known, flamboyant sins for which New Orleans is known, some of us wanted to declare Katrina the clear judgment of God. Were it not for those casinos, were it not for the French Quarter, were it not for the parading of sexual perversion, these good folks reasoned, God would have spared the city. Other professing Christians took a different tack. The hurricane, some suggested, was the work of the devil, or his evil henchman, blind chance.

     Whichever view we hold, however, we are still taking the world’s view. That is, in both cases, whether looking at the sins of the people of New Orleans, or looking at the hurricane itself, we overlook that which the event calls us to look to, our own sins. God may have been judging “those people.” He may also have been judging us. Were we wise we would not, like the mariners of Tarshish, react to judgment by looking for someone to blame, but would, like Jonah, confess, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12).

     The problem of evil, in short, is the problem of us. And the answer to the problem is the answer to every problem: repent and believe the Gospel. We who have done so, if we have learned anything, must have learned that we must continue to do so all the days of our lives. Martin Luther was right when he affirmed this as the first of his 95 theses: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” We repent all our lives because repentance is life. But we do not stop there. We are to believe. We are to believe not only that if we confess our sins that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, but that He will indeed cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8–9). This is His promise. And it has the power to overcome all the evil in the world. The bottom line, then, is this. While every calamity that comes our way does indeed come from the hand of God (see Isa. 45:7), the problem of evil is our problem. And Jesus is the solution. As we trust in Him to rescue us from the wrath to come, so we trust in Him that what we experience in the here and now isn’t wrath at all. He merely wishes our dross to remove and our gold to refine. There too we find the answer to our evil. Suffering and hardship exist for His glory. Just like sin. He will be glorified in the judgment of the wicked, as well as the cleansing of the other wicked — we who have been called according to His purpose.

(Is 45:7) 7  I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

The Problem of Pain

By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2006

     The problem of evil has been defined as the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. For centuries people have wrestled with the conundrum, how a good and loving God could allow evil and pain to be so prevalent in His creation. The philosophical problems have generated an abundance of reflection and discussion, some of which will be reiterated in this issue, but in the final analysis, the problem is one that quickly moves from the abstract level into the realm of human experience. The philosophical bumps into the existential.

     Historically, evil has been defined in terms of privation (privatio) and negation (negatio), especially in the works of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The point of such definitions is to define evil in terms of a lack of, or negation of, the good. We define sin, for example, as any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God. Sin is characteristically defined in negative terms. We speak of sin as disobedience, lawlessness, immorality, unethical behavior, and the like. So that, above and beyond the problem of evil always stands the standard of good by which evil is determined to be evil. In this regard, evil is parasitic. It depends upon a host outside of itself for its very definition. Nothing can be said to be evil without the prior standard of the good. Nevertheless, as much as we speak of evil as a privation or negation of the good, we can’t escape the power of its reality.

     At the time of the Reformation, the magisterial Reformers embraced the definition of evil they inherited from the earlier church fathers in terms of privatio, of privation and negation. They modified it with one critical word. Privatio began to be described as privatio actuosa (an actual, or real, privation). The point of this distinction was to call attention to the reality of evil. If we think of evil and pain simply in terms of negation and privation, and seek to avoid the actuality of it, we can easily slip into the absurd error of considering evil an illusion.

     Whatever else evil is, it is not illusory. We experience the pangs of its impact, not only in an individual sense, but in a cosmic sense. The whole creation groans, we are told by Scripture, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. The judgment of God upon the human race was a judgment that extended to all things over which Adam and Eve had dominion, including the whole earth. The curse is spread far beyond the house of Adam into every crevice of God’s creation. The reality of this curse puts a weighty burden and uncomfortable cloak upon all of life. It is indeed a cloak of pain.

     Many years ago I had a dear Christian friend who was in the hospital going through a rigorous series of chemotherapy treatments. The chemotherapy at that time provoked a violent nausea in her. When I spoke to her about her experience, I asked her how her faith was standing up in the midst of this trial. She replied, “R.C., it is hard to be a Christian with your head in the toilet.” This graphic response to my question made a lasting impression on me. Faith is difficult when our physical bodies are writhing in pain. And yet, it is at this point perhaps more than any other that the Christian flees to the Word of God for comfort. It is for this reason that foundational to the Christian faith is the affirmation that God is sovereign over evil and over all pain. It will not do to dismiss the problem of pain to the realm of Satan. Satan can do nothing except under the sovereign authority of God. He cannot throw a single fiery dart our way without the sovereign will of our heavenly Father.

     There is no portion of Scripture that more dramatically communicates this point than the entire Old Testament book of Job. The book of Job tells of a man who is pushed to the absolute limit of endurance with the problem of pain. God allows Job to be an unprotected target for the malice of Satan. Everything dear to Job is stripped from him, including his family, his worldly goods, and his own physical health. Yet, at the end of the day, in the midst of his misery, while his home is atop a dunghill, Job cries out: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). It is easy to quote this utterance from Job in a glib and smug manner. But we must go beyond the glib and penetrate to the very heart of this man in the midst of his misery. He was not putting on a spiritual act or trying to sound pious in the midst of his pain. Rather, he exhibited an astonishing level of abiding trust in his Creator. The ultimate expression of that trust came in his words, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:5). Job prefigures the Christian life, a life that is lived not on Fifth Avenue, the venue of the Easter parade, but on the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows that ends at the foot of the cross. The Christian life is a life that embraces the sacrament of baptism, which signifies, among other things, that we are baptized into the death, humiliation, and the afflictions of Jesus Christ. We are warned in Scripture that if we are not willing to embrace those afflictions, then we will not participate in Jesus’ exaltation. The Christian faith baptizes a person not only into pain, but also into the resurrection of Christ. Whatever pain we experience in this world may be acute, but it is always temporary. In every moment that we experience the anguish of suffering, there beats in our hearts the hope of heaven — that evil and pain are temporary and are under the judgment of God, the same God who gave a promise to His people that there will be a time when pain will be no more. The privatio and the negatio will be trumped by the presence of Christ.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

A New Paul?

By Gene Edward Veith 7/1/2006

     Liberals have been attempting to separate Paul from Jesus at least from the time of the nineteenth-century agnostic Matthew Arnold to today’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. “Paul is the true founder of Christianity,” they say, not seeing this as a good thing. According to this view, Jesus preached a simple message of love. Then Paul came along to distort Jesus’ beautiful teachings into an oppressive institutional religion. Never mind that, by their own higher critical scholarship, Paul’s writings are the earliest documents of the New Testament, that they pre-date the Gospels of the life of Christ. Never mind that it is Paul who emphasizes what one would think open-minded liberals would especially appreciate; namely, grace, forgiveness, freedom from moralism, the diversity of the church, and social equality.

     No, liberals cannot forgive Paul for teaching that wives should submit to their husbands, that women should not exercise authority over men, that citizens should submit to the governing authorities, and that fornication and homosexuality are wrong. (Liberal theologians try to dismiss Paul’s teachings about sexual morality by saying that this is “just the culture of the time,” even though the Greco-Roman culture that Paul addressed was notorious for both fornication and homosexuality.)

     Evangelicals, on the other hand, like Paul. But they too can miss what he is saying by divorcing him, his teaching, and his terminology from Jesus Christ.

     This is compounded by contemporary Bible scholarship, which likes to look for “the theology of Paul,” “the theology of Luke,” and the theology of other Bible writers as if they represent different schools of thought rather than constituting various facets of the inerrant, unified Word of God. But since Scripture interprets Scripture, the writings of Paul explain the life and the work of Christ. And the life and the work of Christ explain Paul’s writings. Theological terms such as “faith,” “grace,” “conversion,” “good works,” “law,” “justification,” and the like can be taken out of context and given many different referents.

     The word “faith” must have an object. Positive-thinking evangelists preach the need to have “faith in yourself.” For Paul, “faith” — and “justification by faith” — has to do with trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

     Strictly speaking, Christ saves us. We are not saved by our conversion; rather, our conversion marks when we first knew Christ’s salvation. We are not saved by grace, in the sense of being zapped and remade by God’s power, apart from Christ; rather, grace makes it possible for us to believe in the Christ who saves us.

     Salvation, said the Reformers, is extra nos, outside ourselves. It is not to be found by scrutinizing our experiences, our virtues, or our inner lives. Rather, we are to look outside of ourselves to Jesus. It wasn’t Paul but John the Baptist who said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And long before that, it was not Paul but Isaiah who said, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

     It would take a strange new perspective on John the Baptist to construe from those words that the Lamb of God just takes away our violations of the ceremonial law of Moses. What Christ takes away is “sin.” Not for a particular community but for “the world.” As for a new perspective on Isaiah, the prophet distinctly refers to this Suffering Servant being “smitten by God” for our “transgressions,” “iniquities,” “griefs,” “sorrows,” when we have “gone astray” and “turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53).

     Salvation does demand good works — Christ’s good works, which, in God’s mysterious imputation, are credited to us. When God looks upon those who are in Christ (by grace, through faith), He sees not our sins, but rather Christ’s good works — all of His acts of love, His miracles, His moral perfection so profoundly set forth in the Gospels — in which we are clothed.

     Our sins do have to be punished and paid for. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,” says Peter in 2:24 of his first epistle (unless one can devise a new perspective on Peter). On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all of the punishment and paid all of the penalty our sins deserve.

     We do live a new life. Christ rose from the dead, and we share in His resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). And if we are in Christ, how can we not do good works in love and service to our neighbors (1 John 3)?

     Salvation does entail being brought into a new corporate community, the church. But the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).

     The redeemed are “in Christ” (Rom. 8), connected to Him by grace. This happens when the Holy Spirit, working through the means of Word and sacrament, creates faith in Christ.

     This is “justification,” not only in Paul but in all of Scripture. The new Paul is pretty much like the old Paul, a pious Pharisee pre-occupied with policing the purity of the group — until Christ gave him a new perspective.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Be Imitators of Me

By John Nunes 7/1/2006

     We need better leaders! That’s a perception these days — that what’s needed most in churches is upgrading the quality of its leadership. Too often, this is defined secularly, in terms of vision implementation, strategic planning, and management models. Whether or not this so-called lack of leadership is the primary problem, there are biblical models of mentoring. These godly lifestyle patterns for transferring effectively the faith will prove helpful to leaders in strengthening their local churches.

     The writings of Saint Paul especially demonstrate how the informal networks of mentoring work, most often toward a missional aim. Paul’s co-worker, co-writer, and co-citizen was Silas, who, like Paul, was a Jewish citizen of Rome. Silas used his passport, his passion, and his personal relationship with Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the world. Dr. Jerry Kosberg, a coach and counselor to mentors, defines a mentor as “somebody who has moved a little further down the road than you have.” Mentors often possess maps to get around the distracting traps presented alluringly by the Devil, the world, and our own inevitable corruption. For example, Paul dares to offer his own experience as a text of instruction: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things” (Phil. 4:9).

     Both the learners and teachers acquire new vitality from these relationships of refreshment (Rom. 15:33). Paul and Silas accomplished more together than they could have individually, going “through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41). Embracing Timothy as a son, Paul sent him as a church-strengthener to Corinth, to remind that wayward community that though “you have countless guides,” he, Paul, was like a father, not only to Timothy, but to all the faithful. Again, modeling is a central function of this family-like framework. Paul blatantly exhorts: “I urge you then, ‘be imitators of me’” (See 1 Cor. 4:14–17). It should not go unnoticed that Timothy’s Spirit-inspired combination of mature faith and relative youth serves to reverse our expectation that older people are always mentors to younger people. Youthfulness, in itself, is not to be looked at derisively, but steady, stalwart believers of any age of can be signs of God’s grace (1 Tim. 4:12).

     Mentors can unfortunately become tormentors when they misappropriate and misapply their God-granted authority. “Exhort and rebuke with all authority” says Paul (Titus 2:15). Authority is a gift. Rebuking comes like a scalpel with care, not like a sledgehammer with careless judgmentalism. Authority is to be exercised for building up, not tearing down, for edifying, not destroying (2 Cor. 10:8). Mentors provide: support through hard times, navigation through bewildering times, hope through despairing times, and joy through perilous times. In order to provide positive feedback for those who are fed-up, mentors must be well-fed on the grace of Christ that comes through God’s Word and sacrament.

     That’s the focus: the resurrected and living Christ. Mentors center on Jesus’ sacrificial love, shown in the crucifixion, that in everything this Christ “might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it like this in his rich volume Life Together: “Self-centered love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ.” Jesus Christ mentors the mentoring relationship as the hidden middle-man, visible only to the eye of faith. The best mentors embody mystery. They are seen through. Since God’s hand of providence upholds godly leaders, protégés may, at times, scratch their heads in delighted confusion: Is this Christ or is it my mentor? Paul talks about this imitative function in such double terms. By following penultimately his team of missionaries, the church became “imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thess. 1:6). Pointing to the Savior is the overriding purpose of mentoring — there is one mediator, one Mentor, between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). When Christ is displaced, whenever human personality becomes sinfully uplifted by an inward curvature of the ego, difficulties will always creep in (Rom. 2:8–9).

     Developing a biblically grounded mentoring relationship is worth the sweat and investment. In my own ministry, I have sensed that engaging protégés — usually no more than three at a time, and almost always younger men — returns me to an ancient pattern. The apostolic age was largely pre-literate. As such, it resonates with our postmodern, post-literate culture, especially in urban areas. Oral tradition, storytelling, and enacted spiritual practices shaped the burgeoning early church. They can shape us too as Christianity is handed down person-to-person, preserving catechetical continuity in living relationships. This mentoring method might tax our creativity, stretch our patience, and demand careful timing, but we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9).

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     Rev. Dr. John A. Nunes currently serves as the ninth president of Concordia College-New York. He served for two years as the Emil and Elfriede Jochum Chair at Valparaiso University before assuming the Concordia presidency on July 1, 2016.

     Nunes, an ordained LCMS minister, was President and Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore, from 2007 to 2013. LWR is an international, non-profit organization working to end poverty and injustice worldwide.

     Prior to joining LWR, Nunes taught theology at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill., and served as a management consultant, urban parish pastor and community organizer in Dallas and Detroit.

     He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia College (now Concordia University), Ann Arbor, Mich.; a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada; and both Master of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He also has received honorary doctorates from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, and Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis.

Psalm 39

By Don Carson 4/28/2018

     Self-discipline is normally a good thing. Indeed, Christians believe that God has given them “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). But certain forms of self-discipline are ignoble, even dangerous.

     For example, the Stoics in the days of the apostle Paul thought that it was the part of wisdom to live in harmony with the way things are in the world, and that this entailed living apart from the “passions,” in perfect accord with reason. Motivated by high moral principles, they prided themselves in living above the emotions, above deep personal commitments that could bring suffering. At one level, such “stoicism” is admirable. But it is a long way from the personal commitments that the Gospel mandates, complete with the vulnerability and suffering that are a part of this fallen order. In fact, that is the problem with the Stoic worldview: its view of the world and what is wrong with it is so far removed from what the Bible says that it defines what is good in ways that owe more to a certain kind of pantheism than to anything else. So from a Christian perspective, even if there is something admirable to Stoic self-discipline, it can never be judged genuinely good. Some self-discipline merely puffs people up with the pride of resolution.

     Another kind of questionable self-discipline occurs in the opening verses of Psalm 39. David has resolved not to speak. It is not entirely clear whether his self-disciplined resolution not to say anything, especially in the presence of the wicked (39:1), is motivated by fear that otherwise he is in danger of joining them, or more likely out of fear that if he speaks he will let slip something that might be dangerous in this company, or simply out of some misplaced conviction that it is enough to keep silent and not lend them support. Clearly, however, it was a moral resolve, in some ways commendable — and wholly inadequate. For as he kept silent, he did not even say anything good (39:2). One way or another he was trying to beat sin by disciplined silence.

     David learned a better way. He speaks — but in his speech he addresses God (29:4ff.). He is aware of life’s fleeting passage, and concludes that, in the end, we have nothing to look for except to put our hope in the Lord (39:7). God alone can save us from our transgressions and enable us to escape the snares of opponents (39:8). Resolute silence in the face of the mystery of providence is no way forward (39:9); it is a false self-discipline, an ugly defiance rather than a cheerful submission to God’s “discipline” (39:11).

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 44

44 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.

44:1 1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

ESV Study Bible

By Gleason Archer Jr.

Critical Theories of the Composition of Isaiah

     With the growth of deism in the western world during the late eighteenth century, it was only natural that men of antisupernatural convictions would take exception to those extensive portions of  Isaiah which exhibit a foreknowledge of future events. If the book was to be treated as of merely human origin, it was an unavoidable necessity to explain these apparently successful predictions as having been written after the fulfillment had taken place, or at least when it was about to occur. We may distinguish four stages in the history of  Isaianic criticism.

     1. Johann C. Doederlein (1745–1792), professor of theology at Jena, was the first scholar to publish (in 1789) a systematic argument for a sixth-century date for the composition of  Isaiah 40–66. He reasoned that since an eighth - century  Isaiah could not have foreseen the fall of Jerusalem (in 587) and the seventy years of captivity, he could never have penned the words of comfort to exiled Judah which appear in chapter  40 onward. Furthermore, from the rationalistic standpoint it was obviously impossible for anyone back in 700 B.C. to foresee the rise of Cyrus the Great, who captured Babylon in 539 and gave permission to the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. But not only was his work foreseen, Cyrus was even referred to by name in two texts:  Isaiah 44:28 and  45:1. Obviously, therefore, the author of these prophecies must have been some unknown Jew living in Babylon sometime between the first rise of Cyrus as an international figure (around 550 B.C.) and the fall of Babylon to his expanding empire. This spurious author living in Babylon around 540 came to be known to the critics as “Deutero -  Isaiah.”

     These arguments proved so persuasive that the other Old Testament scholars like Professor Eichhorn embraced the same view and expressed their agreement. In 1819, Heinrich E W. Gesenius (1786–1842) published a commentary, Jesaja, Zweiter Theil. A professor of theology at Halle and an eminent Hebrew lexicographer of rationalistic convictions, he made out a very able argument for the unity of the authorship of the last twenty-seven chapters of  Isaiah and refuted the attacks of those who had already attempted to separate even Deutero -  Isaiah into several different sources, arguing that all the main themes throughout these chapters were treated from a unified standpoint and employed language exhibiting striking affinities in vocabulary and style from chapter  40 to  66. He insisted that they all came from the pen of a single author who lived sometime around 540 B.C.

     2. Inasmuch as conservative scholars had objected to the exilic date assigned to  Isaiah II on the ground that even in  Isaiah I impressive evidences could be found of a foreknowledge of the future importance of Babylon in Israel’s history, it became necessary to take a second look at the first thirty-nine chapters of  Isaiah. Ernst E. K. Rosenmueller (1768–1835), professor of Arabic at Leipzig, took the next logical step in elaborating the implications of Doederlein’s position. If an eighth-century author could not have written the passages in  40 – 66 which betray a foreknowledge of Babylon’s significance, then those extensive sections in  Isaiah I (such as chaps.  13 and  14 ) which show a similar foreknowledge must likewise be denied to the historical  Isaiah and assigned to the unknown exilic prophet. The removal of such Babylonian sections logically led to the questioning of  Isaianic authorship of other passages too, even those in which divine prediction was not a factor. In the process of time, the genuinely eighth - century portions of  Isaiah came to be whittled down to a few hundred verses.

     3. In the course of this debate it became increasingly apparent that numerous passages in so - called Deutero -  Isaiah could hardly be reconciled with a theory of composition in Babylonia. The references to geography, flora, and fauna found in Deutero -  Isaiah were far more appropriate to an author living in Syria or Palestine. Arguing from this evidence, Professor Bernard Duhm (1847–1928) of Gottingen came out with a theory of three  Isaiahs, none of whom lived in Babylonia. According to his analysis, chapters  40 – 55 (Deutero -  Isaiah ) were written about 540 B.C., somewhere in the region of Lebanon, whether in Phoenicia or Syria was not clear. Chapters  56 – 66 (Trito -  Isaiah ) were composed in Jerusalem in the time of  Ezra, around 450 B.C. Duhm went on to show, however, that in all three  Isaiahs there were insertions from still later periods in Judah’s history, all the way down to the first century B.C., when the final redaction was worked out. It was this school of criticism which George Adam Smith adhered to, for the most part, in his homiletical commentary on  Isaiah in The Expositor’s Bible. It hardly needs to be pointed out that with the discovery of a second-century B.C. Hebrew manuscript of the complete  Isaiah (discovered in the First Qumran cave in 1948) Duhm’s theory of first - century insertions becomes impossible to maintain.

     Perhaps it should be added that this divisive criticism did not go unanswered, even in Germany, during the nineteenth century. Among the more notable scholars who upheld the  Isaianic authorship of all sixty - six chapters were the following: (a) Carl Paul Caspari (1814–1892), a convert from Judaism who became a professor at the University of Christiania in Norway. He was a pupil of Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (in Berlin); (b) Moritz Drechsler, likewise a pupil of Hengstenberg, who published a commentary on  Isa. 1–27, but died before completing the rest of his work; (c) Heinrich A. Hahn (1821–1861), who published and supplemented Drechsler’s work as far as  Isaiah 39; (d) Franz Delitzsch (1813–1889), who ably maintained the genuineness of  Isaiah’s prophecies through all the editions of his celebrated commentary on  Isaiah until the final one (when he finally made room for an exilic Deutero -  Isaiah ); (e) Rudolf E. Stier (1800–1862) was another able exponent of the Conservative position. In England, the same position was maintained by Ebenezer Henderson, who taught at the Ministerial College, 1830–1850. In America, Joseph Addison Alexander of Princeton Seminary published a very able commentary in two volumes in which he thoroughly refuted the divisive theories of liberal German scholarship.

     4. In the twentieth century, the tendency of liberal scholarship has been to lower the date of the non -  Isaianic portions of  Isaiah rather than to multiply the number of  Isaiahs. Thus, Charles Cutler Torrey of Yale argued for a single author for  Isa. 34–66 (except  36 – 39 ), which were composed by a writer who lived in Palestine, quite probably in Jerusalem itself, near the end of the fifth century. This author, according to Torrey, did not address the exiles at all, but the people to whom he spoke were in his own land of Palestine. The mention of Cyrus and the references to Babylon and Chaldea are all mere interpolations which occurred only in five passages and may therefore be disregarded.

     Some more recent scholars, such as W. H. Brownlee, are coming to the view that the entire  Isaianic corpus of sixty-six chapters betrays such strong evidences of unity as to suggest an orderly and systematic arrangement by one or more adherents of a so - called  Isaianic School. According to this position, a circle of disciples treasured a recollection of the eighth-century prophet’s utterances and then gradually added to them with each successive generation until finally an able practitioner of this school, living possibly in the third century, reworked the entire body of material into a well-ordered literary masterpiece.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

April 28
Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.   ESV

     The new covenant is the covenant of grace. The legal covenant demanded of man what the unrenewed person could not give — perfect righteousness — implicit obedience to the holy law of God as a ground of blessing. It is epitomized in the words, “Which if a man does, he shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). But it contained the solemn warning, “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 27:26). Because all were disobedient, all found it to be a ministration of death and condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). If it could have given life to dead sinners, it would then have produced righteousness, as Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21. But God used the law to show men their need of His grace because of their own utter sinfulness and their helpless condition. This grace is revealed in the new covenant.

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 17:20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

Galatians 3:21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

As debtors to mercy alone,
Of heavenly mercy we sing;
Nor fear to draw near to the throne,
Our person and off’rings to bring:
The wrath of a sin-hating God
With us can have nothing to do;
The Saviour’s obedience and blood

Hide all our transgressions from view.
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet:
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below nor above,
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever our souls from His love.
--- Toplady

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     47. These three petitions, in which we specially commend ourselves and all that we have to God, clearly show what we formerly observed (sec. 38, 39), that the prayers of Christians should be public, and have respect to the public edification of the Church and the advancement of believers in spiritual communion. For no one requests that anything should be given to him as an individual, but we all ask in common for daily bread and the forgiveness of sins, not to be led into temptation, but delivered from evil. Moreover, there is subjoined the reason for our great boldness in asking and confidence of obtaining (sec. 11, 36). Although this does not exist in the Latin copies, yet as it accords so well with the whole, we cannot think of omitting it. The words are, THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER. Here is the calm and firm assurance of our faith. For were our prayers to be commended to God by our own worth, who would venture even to whisper before him? Now, however wretched we may be, however unworthy, however devoid of commendation, we shall never want a reason for prayer, nor a ground of confidence, since the kingdom, power, and glory, can never be wrested from our Father. The last word is AMEN, by which is expressed the eagerness of our desire to obtain the things which we ask, while our hope is confirmed, that all things have already been obtained and will assuredly be granted to us, seeing they have been promised by God, who cannot deceive. This accords with the form of expression to which we have already adverted: "Grant, O Lord, for thy name's sake, not on account of us or of our righteousness." By this the saints not only express the end of their prayers, but confess that they are unworthy of obtaining did not God find the cause in himself and were not their confidence founded entirely on his nature.

48. All things that we ought, indeed all that we are able, to ask of God, are contained in this formula, and as it were rule, of prayer delivered by Christ, our divine Master, whom the Father has appointed to be our teacher, and to whom alone he would have us to listen (Mt. 17:5). For he ever was the eternal wisdom of the Father, and being made man, was manifested as the Wonderful, the Counsellor (Isa. 11:2). Accordingly, this prayer is complete in all its parts, so complete, that whatever is extraneous and foreign to it, whatever cannot be referred to it, is impious and unworthy of the approbation of God. For he has here summarily prescribed what is worthy of him, what is acceptable to him, and what is necessary for us; in short, whatever he is pleased to grant. Those, therefore, who presume to go further and ask something more from God, first seek to add of their own to the wisdom of God (this it is insane blasphemy to do); secondly, refusing to confine themselves within the will of God, and despising it, they wander as their cupidity directs; lastly, they will never obtain anything, seeing they pray without faith. For there cannot be a doubt that all such prayers are made without faith, because at variance with the word of God, on which if faith do not always lean it cannot possibly stand. Those who, disregarding the Master's rule, indulge their own wishes, not only have not the word of God, but as much as in them lies oppose it. Hence Tertullian (De Fuga in Persequutione) has not less truly than elegantly termed it Lawful Prayer, tacitly intimating that all other prayers are lawless and illicit.

49. By this, however, we would not have it understood that we are so restricted to this form of prayer as to make it unlawful to change a word or syllable of it. For in Scripture we meet with many prayers differing greatly from it in word, yet written by the same Spirit, and capable of being used by us with the greatest advantage. Many prayers also are continually suggested to believers by the same Spirit, though in expression they bear no great resemblance to it. All we mean to say is, that no man should wish, expect, or ask anything which is not summarily comprehended in this prayer. Though the words may be very different, there must be no difference in the sense. In this way, all prayers, both those which are contained in the Scripture, and those which come forth from pious breasts, must be referred to it, certainly none can ever equal it, far less surpass it in perfection. It omits nothing which we can conceive in praise of God, nothing which we can imagine advantageous to man, and the whole is so exact that all hope of improving it may well be renounced. In short, let us remember that we have here the doctrine of heavenly wisdom. God has taught what he willed; he willed what was necessary.

50. But although it has been said above (sec. 7, 27, &c.), that we ought always to raise our minds upwards towards God, and pray without ceasing, yet such is our weakness, which requires to be supported, such our torpor, which requires to be stimulated, that it is requisite for us to appoint special hours for this exercise, hours which are not to pass away without prayer, and during which the whole affections of our minds are to be completely occupied; namely, when we rise in the morning, before we commence our daily work, when we sit down to food, when by the blessing of God we have taken it, and when we retire to rest. This, however, must not be a superstitious observance of hours, by which, as it were, performing a task to God, we think we are discharged as to other hours; it should rather be considered as a discipline by which our weakness is exercised, and ever and anon stimulated. In particular, it must be our anxious care, whenever we are ourselves pressed, or see others pressed by any strait, instantly to have recourse to him not only with quickened pace, but with quickened minds; and again, we must not in any prosperity of ourselves or others omit to testify our recognition of his hand by praise and thanksgiving. Lastly, we must in all our prayers carefully avoid wishing to confine God to certain circumstances, or prescribe to him the time, place, or mode of action. In like manner, we are taught by this prayer not to fix any law or impose any condition upon him, but leave it entirely to him to adopt whatever course of procedure seems to him best, in respect of method, time, and place. For before we offer up any petition for ourselves, we ask that his will may be done, and by so doing place our will in subordination to his, just as if we had laid a curb upon it, that, instead of presuming to give law to God, it may regard him as the ruler and disposer of all its wishes.

51. If, with minds thus framed to obedience, we allow ourselves to be governed by the laws of Divine Providence, we shall easily learn to persevere in prayer, and suspending our own desires wait patiently for the Lord, certain, however little the appearance of it may be, that he is always present with us, and will in his own time show how very far he was from turning a deaf ear to prayers, though to the eyes of men they may seem to be disregarded. This will be a very present consolation, if at any time God does not grant an immediate answer to our prayers, preventing us from fainting or giving way to despondency, as those are wont to do who, in invoking God, are so borne away by their own fervor, that unless he yield on their first importunity and give present help, they immediately imagine that he is angry and offended with them and abandoning all hope of success cease from prayer. On the contrary, deferring our hope with well tempered equanimity, let us insist with that perseverance which is so strongly recommended to us in Scripture. We may often see in The Psalms how David and other believers, after they are almost weary of praying, and seem to have been beating the air by addressing a God who would not hear, yet cease not to pray because due authority is not given to the word of God, unless the faith placed in it is superior to all events. Again, let us not tempt God, and by wearying him with our importunity provoke his anger against us. Many have a practice of formally bargaining with God on certain conditions, and, as if he were the servant of their lust, binding him to certain stipulations; with which if he do not immediately comply, they are indignant and fretful, murmur, complain, and make a noise. Thus offended, he often in his anger grants to such persons what in mercy he kindly denies to others. Of this we have a proof in the children of Israel, for whom it had been better not to have been heard by the Lord, than to swallow his indignation with their flesh (Num. 11:18, 33).

52. But if our sense is not able till after long expectation to perceive what the result of prayer is, or experience any benefit from it, still our faith will assure us of that which cannot be perceived by sense--viz. that we have obtained what was fit for us, the Lord having so often and so surely engaged to take an interest in all our troubles from the moment they have been deposited in his bosom. In this way we shall possess abundance in poverty, and comfort in affliction. For though all things fail, God will never abandon us, and he cannot frustrate the expectation and patience of his people. He alone will suffice for all, since in himself he comprehends all good, and will at last reveal it to us on the day of judgment, when his kingdom shall be plainly manifested. We may add, that although God complies with our request, he does not always give an answer in the very terms of our prayers but while apparently holding us in suspense, yet in an unknown way, shows that our prayers have not been in vain. This is the meaning of the words of John, "If we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him," (1 John 5:15). It might seem that there is here a great superfluity of words, but the declaration is most useful, namely, that God, even when he does not comply with our requests, yet listens and is favourable to our prayers, so that our hope founded on his word is never disappointed. But believers have always need of being supported by this patience, as they could not stand long if they did not lean upon it. For the trials by which the Lord proves and exercises us are severe, nay, he often drives us to extremes, and when driven allows us long to stick fast in the mire before he gives us any taste of his sweetness. As Hannah says, "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up," (1 Sam. 2:6). What could they here do but become dispirited and rush on despair, were they not, when afflicted, desolate, and half dead, comforted with the thought that they are regarded by God, and that there will be an end to their present evils. But however secure their hopes may stand, they in the meantime cease not to pray, since prayer unaccompanied by perseverance leads to no result.


[463] French, "Dont il sembleroit que ce fust chose superflue de le soliciter par prieres; veu que nous avons accoustumé de soliciter ceux qui ne pensent à nostre affaire, et qui sont endormis."--Whence it would seem that it was a superflous matter to solicit him by prayer; seeing we are accustomed to solicit those who think not of our business, and who are slumbering.

[464] French, "Pourtant ce qui est escrit en la prophetie qu'on attribue à Baruch, combien que l'autheur soit incertain, est tres sainctement dit;"--However, what is written in the prophecy which is attributed to Baruch, though the author is uncertain, is very holily said.

[465] French, "il recognoissent le chastiement qu'ils ont merité;"--they acknowledge the punishment which they have deserved.

[466] The French adds, "Ils voudront qu'on leur oste le mal de teste et des reins, et seront contens qu'on ne touche point a la fievre;"--They would wish to get quit of the pain in the head and the loins, and would be contented to leave the fever untouched.

[467] Jer. 2:13; Prov. 18:10; Joel 2:32; Is. 65:24; Ps. 91:15; 145:18.

[468] Latin, "prosternere preces" French, "mettent bas leurs prieres;"--lay low their prayers.

[469] Jer. 42:9; Dan. 9:18; Jer. 42:2; 2 Kings 19:4; Ps. 144:2.

[470] The French adds, "dequel il n'eust pas autrement esté asseuré;"--of which he would not otherwise have felt assured

[471] Latin, "Desine a me." French, "Retire-toy;"--Withdraw from me.

[472] French, "Confusion que nous avons, ou devons avoir en nousmesmes;"--confusion which we have, or ought to have, in ourselves.

[473] Heb. 9:11, 24; Rom. 15:30; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; 1 Cor. 12:25; 1 Tim. 2:5; Eph. 4:3.

[474] Erasmus, though stumbling and walking blindfold in clear light, ventures to write thus in a letter to Sadolet, 1530: "Primum, constat nullum esse locum in divinis voluminibus, qui permittat invocare divcs, nisi fortasse detorquere huc placte, quod dives in Evangelica parabola implorat opem Abrahæ. Quanquam autem in re tanta novare quicquam præter auctoritatem Scripturæ, merito, periculosum videri possit, tamen invocationem divorum nusquam improbo," c.--First, it is clear that there is no passage in the Sacred Volume which permits the invoction of saints, unless we are pleased to wrest to this purpose what is said in the parable as to the rich man imploring the help of Abraham. But though in so weighty a matter it may justly seem dangerous to introduce anything without the authority of Scripture, I by no means condemn the invocation of saints.

[475] Latin, "Pastores;"--French, "ceux qui se disent prelats, curés ou precheurs;"--those who call themselves prelates, curates, or preachers.

[476] French, "Mais encore qu'ils taschent de laver leur mains d'un si vilain sacrilege, conleur qu'il ne se commet point en leurs serviteurs pour les aider? mesmes o? ils supplient la vierge Maire de commander a son fils qu'il leur ottroye leur requestes?"--But although they endeavour to was their hands of the vile sacrilege, inasmuch as it is not committed in their masses or vespers, under what pretext will they defend those blasphemies which they repeat with full throat, in which they pray St Eloy or St Medard to look from heaven upon their servants and assist them; even supplicate the Virgin Mary to command her Son to grant their requests?

[477] The French adds, "et quasi en une fourmiliere de saincts;"--and as it were a swarm of saints.

[478] "C'est chose trop notoire de quel bourbieu de quelle racaille ils tirent leur saincts."--It is too notorious out of what mire or rubbish they draw their saints.

[479] French, "Cette longueur de priere a aujord'hui sa vogue en la Papauté, et procede de cette mesme source; c'est que les uns barbotant force Ave Maria, et reiterant cent fois un chapelet, perdent une partie du temps; les autres, comme les chanoines et caphars, en abayant le parchemin jour et nuiet, et barbotant leur breviare vendent leur coquilles au peuple."--This long prayer is at present in vogue among the Papists, over their beads a hundred times, lose part of their time; others, as the canons and monks, grumbling over their parchment night and day, and muttering their breviary, sell their cockleshells to the people.

[480] Calvin translates, "Te expectat Deus, laus in Sion;"--God, the praise in Sion waiteth for thee.

[481] See Book 1, chap 11 sec 7, 13, on the subject of images in churches. Also Book 4, chap. 4 sec. 8, and chap 5 sec 18, as to the ornaments of churches.

[482] This clause of the sentence is omitted in the French.

[483] The French adds, "o? on en avoit tousjours usé;"--where it had always been used.

[484] The whole of this quotation is omitted in the French.

[485] French, "Mais il adjouste d'autre part, que quand il souvenoit du fruict et de l'edification qu'il avoit recue en oyant chanter à l'Eglise il enclinoit plus à l'autre partie, c'est, approuver le chant"--but he adds on the other hand, that when he called to mind the fruit and edification which he had received from hearing singing in the church, he inclined more to the other side; that is, to approve singing.

[486] French, "Qui est-ce donc qui se pourra assez esmerveiller d'une audace tant tent et brayent de langue estrange et inconnue, en laquelle le plus souvent ils n'entendent pas eux mesmes une syllabe, et ne veulent que les autres y entendent?"--Who then can sufficiently admire the unbridled audacity which the Papists have had, and still have, who contrary to the prohibition of the Apostle, chant and bray in a foreign and unknown tongue, in which, for the most part, they do not understand one syllable, and which they have no wish that others uncerstand?

[487] August. in Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap. 116. Chrysost. in an imperfect work. See end of sec. 53.

[488] "Dont il est facile de juger que ce qui est adjousté en S. Matthieu, et qu'aucuns ent pris pour une septieme requeste, n'est qu'un explication de la sixieme, et se doit a icelle rapporter;"--Whence it is easy to perceive that what is added in St Matthew, and which some have taken for a seventh petition, is only an explanation of the sixth, and ought to be referred to it.

[489] French, "Quelque mauvaistié qu'ayons eië, ou quelque imperfection ou poureté qui soit en nous;"--whatever wickedness we may have done, or whatever imperfection or poverty there may be in us.

[490] French, "Telles disciples qu'ils voudront;"--such disciples as they will.

[491] The French adds, "que Dieu nous a donnee et faite;"--which God has given and performed to us.

[492] James 1:2, 14; Mt. 4:1, 3; 1 Thess. 3:5; 2 Cor. 6:7, 8.

[493] Ps. 26:2; Gen. 22:1; Deut. 8:2; 13:3; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Pet. 11:9; 1 Pet. 5:8. For the sense in which God is said to lead us into temptation, see the end of this section.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • 13 1st Century Message
    Sardis Letter
  • 14 1st Cent ...
    Philadelphia Letter
  • 15 1st Cent ...
    Laodicea Letter

#1 G. Campbell Morgan


#2 G. Campbell Morgan


#3 G. Campbell Morgan


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     4/1/2005    In Word and Deed

     We have all heard the saying: “Practice what you preach.” Early in my ministerial training, I became convinced of the importance of the truth that Christians, particularly preachers, should practice what they preach. After several years of working to ensure that I was practicing what I was preaching, I was confronted by a wise, old pastor who challenged me. He said that if I, as a minister, only practiced what I preached, then I could never faithfully serve the Lord in ministry. He explained that a minister is called to live a holy life before God and man, and that if I am to serve the Lord faithfully, I must first be concerned with preaching what I practice, not practicing what I preach. He said that my life must conform to the life of Christ so that I am not disqualified in calling the people of God to conform their lives to Christ.

     Not very often do we find people who preach what they practice. Throughout the history of mankind we find only one man who consistently preached what he practiced, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we are able to find great sins in the lives of many in history who have served the Lord, we see how the Lord has established certain men and women to serve as examples to His people. At the beginning of the twentieth century we observe such an example.

     Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921) was a staunch defender of the faith. First and foremost, he was a servant of the Lord who was called to teach the Word of God. In his tenure at Princeton Theological Seminary as the Charles Hodge Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, Warfield continued in the great tradition that had been established by his predecessor Charles Hodge. For many years he served as the editor of what became known as the Princeton Theological Review. By writing on the inspiration and authority of Scripture, he boldly took a stand against the theological liberalism of his day. He labored to help those in ministerial training understand what it means to be a faithful preacher of the Word of God, and for nearly four decades he cared for his invalid wife day and night, tending to her every need and setting aside time to read to her every day.

     In all these things, Warfield defended the faith in word and deed; in his ministry, he proclaimed the Gospel, and in his life, he manifested its power. He stood firm in his confession and sacrificially gave of himself, living coram Deo, before the face of God.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Leading the charge at the Battle of Trenton, a musket ball struck his shoulder, hitting an artery. He recovered and continued to fight for General Washington, becoming friends with French officer Lafayette. After the Revolution, he studied law under Thomas Jefferson, was elected Senator, Governor of Virginia, and Secretary of State. He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and set the Monroe Doctrine. Who was he? James Monroe, 5th U.S. President, born this day, April 28, 1758. Monroe stated: "It is our duty to unite in grateful acknowledgments to that Omnipotent Being… in unceasing prayer that He will endow us with virtue."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Maybe the atheist cannot find God
for the same reason
a thief cannot find a policeman.
--- Author Unknown
Of Atheism

If God had wanted to be a big secret,
He would not have created
babbling brooks and whispering pines.
--- Robert Brault

Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.
--- Henry Ward Beecher
1: Evolution and Religion (Cambridge Library Collection - Science and Religion)

He who loses money loses much; he who loses a friend loses much more; he who loses faith loses all.
--- Eleanor Roosevelt
Walking by Faith While Living in Pain

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-Ninth Chapter / The Desire Of Eternal Life; The Great Rewards Promised To Those Who Struggle


     MY CHILD, when you feel the desire for everlasting happiness poured out upon you from above, and when you long to depart out of the tabernacle of the body that you may contemplate My glory without threat of change, open wide your heart and receive this holy inspiration with all eagerness. Give deepest thanks to the heavenly Goodness which deals with you so understandingly, visits you so mercifully, stirs you so fervently, and sustains you so powerfully lest under your own weight you sink down to earthly things. For you obtain this not by your own thought or effort, but simply by the condescension of heavenly grace and divine regard. And the purpose of it is that you may advance in virtue and in greater humility, that you may prepare yourself for future trials, that you may strive to cling to Me with all the affection of your heart, and may serve Me with a fervent will.

     My child, often, when the fire is burning the flame does not ascend without smoke. Likewise, the desires of some burn toward heavenly things, and yet they are not free from temptations of carnal affection. Therefore, it is not altogether for the pure honor of God that they act when they petition Him so earnestly. Such, too, is often your desire which you profess to be so strong. For that which is alloyed with self-interest is not pure and perfect.

     Ask, therefore, not for what is pleasing and convenient to yourself, but for what is acceptable to Me and is for My honor, because if you judge rightly, you ought to prefer and follow My will, not your own desire or whatever things you wish.

     I know your longings and I have heard your frequent sighs. Already you wish to be in the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. Already you desire the delights of the eternal home, the heavenly land that is full of joy. But that hour is not yet come. There remains yet another hour, a time of war, of labor, and of trial. You long to be filled with the highest good, but you cannot attain it now. I am that sovereign Good. Await Me, until the kingdom of God shall come.

     You must still be tried on earth, and exercised in many things. Consolation will sometimes be given you, but the complete fullness of it is not granted. Take courage, therefore, and be strong both to do and to suffer what is contrary to nature.

     You must put on the new man. You must be changed into another man. You must often do the things you do not wish to do and forego those you do wish. What pleases others will succeed; what pleases you will not. The words of others will be heard; what you say will be accounted as nothing. Others will ask and receive; you will ask and not receive. Others will gain great fame among men; about you nothing will be said. To others the doing of this or that will be entrusted; you will be judged useless. At all this nature will sometimes be sad, and it will be a great thing if you bear this sadness in silence. For in these and many similar ways the faithful servant of the Lord is wont to be tried, to see how far he can deny himself and break himself in all things.

     There is scarcely anything in which you so need to die to self as in seeing and suffering things that are against your will, especially when things that are commanded seem inconvenient or useless. Then, because you are under authority, and dare not resist the higher power, it seems hard to submit to the will of another and give up your own opinion entirely.

     But consider, my child, the fruit of these labors, how soon they will end and how greatly they will be rewarded, and you will not be saddened by them, but your patience will receive the strongest consolation. For instead of the little will that you now readily give up, you shall always have your will in heaven. There, indeed, you shall find all that you could desire. There you shall have possession of every good without fear of losing it. There shall your will be forever one with Mine. It shall desire nothing outside of Me and nothing for itself. There no one shall oppose you, no one shall complain of you, no one hinder you, and nothing stand in your way. All that you desire will be present there, replenishing your affection and satisfying it to the full. There I shall render you glory for the reproach you have suffered here; for your sorrow I shall give you a garment of praise, and for the lowest place a seat of power forever. There the fruit of glory will appear, the labor of penance rejoice, and humble subjection be gloriously crowned.

     Bow humbly, therefore, under the will of all, and do not heed who said this or commanded that. But let it be your special care when something is commanded, or even hinted at, whether by a superior or an inferior or an equal, that you take it in good part and try honestly to perform it. Let one person seek one thing and another something else. Let one glory in this, another in that, and both be praised a thousand times over. But as for you, rejoice neither in one or the other, but only in contempt of yourself and in My pleasure and honor. Let this be your wish: That whether in life or in death God may be glorified in you.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Yielding to the Holy Spirit

     I come now to my last thought, the question: What is the way to restoration?

     Beloved friend, the answer is simple and easy. If that train has been shunted off, there is nothing for it but to come back to the point at which it was led away. The Galatians had no other way in returning but to come back to where they had gone wrong, to come back from all religious effort in their own strength, and from seeking anything by their own work, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit. There is no other way for us as individuals.

     Is there any brother or sister whose heart is conscious: "Alas! my life knows but little of the power of the Holy Spirit"? I come to you with God's message that you can have no conception of what your life would be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is too high and too blessed and too wonderful, but I bring you the message that just as truly as the everlasting Son of God came to this world and wrought His wonderful works, that just as truly as on Calvary He died and wrought out your redemption by His precious blood, so, just as truly, can the Holy Spirit come into your heart that with His divine power He may sanctify you and enable you to do God's blessed will, and fill your heart with joy and with strength. But, alas! we have forgotten, we have grieved, we have dishonored the Holy Spirit, and He has not been able to do His work. But I bring you the message: The Father in Heaven loves to fill His children with His Holy Spirit. God longs to give each one individually, separately, the power of the Holy Spirit for daily life. The command comes to us individually, unitedly. God wants us as His children to arise and place our sins before Him, and to call upon Him for mercy. Oh, are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye perfecting in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit? Let us bow in shame, and confess before God how our fleshly religion, our self-effort, and self-confidence, have been the cause of every failure.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:26-27
     by D.H. Stern

26     ADONAI detests plans to do evil,
but kind words are pure.

27     The greedy for gain brings trouble to his home,
but he who hates bribes will live.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                What you will get

     Thy life will I give thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest. ---
Jeremiah 45:5.

     This is the unshakable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him—‘I will give thee thy life.’ What more does a man want than his life? It is the essential thing. ‘Thy life for a prey’ means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life, nothing can harm it. So many of us are caught up in the shows of things, not in the way of property and possessions, but of blessings. All these have to go; but there is something grander that never can go—
the life that is “hid with Christ in God.”

     Are you prepared to let God take you into union with Himself, and pay no more attention to what you call the ‘great things’? Are you prepared to abandon entirely and let go? The test of abandonment is in refusing to say—‘Well, what about this?’ Beware of suppositions. Immediately you allow—‘What about this?’ it means you have not abandoned, you do not really trust God. Immediately you do abandon, you think no more about what God is going to do. Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you abandon entirely to God, He says at once, “Thy life will I give thee for a prey.” The reason people are tired of life is because God has not given them anything, they have not got their life as a prey. The way to get out of that state is to abandon to God. When you do get through to abandonment to God, you will be the most surprised and delighted creature on earth; God has got you absolutely and has given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience or a refusal to be simple enough.

My Utmost for His Highest

The Dark Well
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

The Dark Well

  They see you as they see you,
  A poor farmer with no name,
  Ploughing cloudward, sowing the wind
  With squalls of gulls at the day's end.
  To me you are Prytherch, the man
  Who more than all directed my slow
  Charity where there was need.
  There are two hungers, hunger for bread
  And hunger of the uncouth soul
  For the light's grace. I have seen both,
  And chosen for an indulgent world's
  Ear the story of one whose hands
  Have bruised themselves on the locked doors
  Of life; whose heart, fuller than mine
  Of gulped tears, is the dark well
  From which to draw, drop after drop,
  The terrible poetry of his kind.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Teaching His Disciples / Mark 8:31-10:52

     The key to this section of Mark is the repeated note that Jesus "began to teach" and "was teaching" His disciples. Also, five of the six times in Mark that Jesus' disciples call him "Teacher" are found in Mark 9 and 10.

     What was happening before the events reported in these chapters? Wasn't Jesus teaching then?

     Jesus did teach as He traveled from village to village, healing and casting out demons. But it was the crowds that He was teaching. Often that teaching was in parables.
Mark does not report this teaching in detail. But what he does tell us suggests that Jesus' teaching was both about Himself and about life in His kingdom.

     In this section there is a significant shift. The ones Jesus taught were the disciples. While He began to teach them about His coming death and resurrection, the focus of His teaching is not how to live in Israel's expected kingdom, but on how to live as His disciples now.

     The great value for us in these chapters of
Mark is to be found in the fact that, as believers, we too are called to be Christ's disciples. How good to learn more of how to live for Him.

     Disciple. The Greek word means "pupil" or "learner." In its most intense sense discipleship suggests a total commitment to stay close to and to obey the person chosen as one's teacher.

     In each of the synoptic Gospels (
Matthew, Mark, and
) one question Jesus asked His disciples marks a turning point. That question is, "Who do people say I am?" (Mark 8:27: see also Matthew 16:13; Luke 9:18)

     The disciples reported what the people were saying, people who had seen Jesus' miracles, listened to His teaching, been restored by His healing power, and eaten of the bread and fishes He had multiplied. Everywhere people were convinced that Jesus was among the greatest of the prophets, and might even be one of the ancients restored to life!

     And then the synoptic Gospel writers each tell us that Jesus asked His disciples,
"But who do you say that I am?"

     Peter answered for them all.

     "You are the Christ."

     What is so significant about this incident is that three Gospels tell us that from this point there was a shift in Jesus' ministry. Only then did Jesus begin to teach His disciples about His coming death. In fact, from this point on Jesus focused His ministry more and more on instructing the Twelve.

     Why? Because these men acknowledged Jesus for who He is: the Christ, the Son of God. The compliments of the crowds who linked Jesus with the greatest of Old Testament saints fell far short, for they failed to acknowledge Him for who He is. Those compliments in fact constituted a rejection of Jesus, a damning with faint praise.

     There is no way that people who will not believe in Jesus can really profit from His instruction. Without the personal relationship with God which is established by faith, what a person does is completely irrelevant. It is only as we believe and obey that Jesus can fill our lives with newness. It is only faith and obedience that can transform.

     And so Jesus now turned to instruct the little core of men who did believe, as you and I believe, how to live as disciples and so to please our God.

     Life Through Death: Mark 8:31–9:13

     Jesus' coming death (Mark 8:31–33).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree. As soon as Peter expressed the disciples' conviction that Jesus truly is the Christ, Jesus began to "teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the Law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again."

     This blunt, clear teaching upset the disciples. They didn't want Jesus to die. Peter even took Jesus aside and began to "rebuke" Him!

     Christ spoke sharply.
"Out of My sight, Satan," Jesus said. And He added, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

     This last phrase is especially important. What seems right and reasonable to human beings is often totally out of harmony with God's ways. We must learn to trust the wisdom of God, even when it seems to go against all that seems wise or best to us.

     Choosing "death" (Mark 8:34–38). Jesus immediately applied what He had said to discipleship. God had determined Jesus' own death on the cross. Through that death will come new life for Jesus (He will
"after three days rise again") and also new life for those who believe in Jesus. But God had also determined that the way for disciples to experience that new life was through a self-denial like Jesus' own!

     He told the Twelve that if they were to
"come after Me," they must also deny self, take up their cross, and follow Jesus.

     The disciple's cross is the choice of God's will for the individual, even as Jesus' cross was God's will for Him. Self-denial is a rejection of human wisdom and desires that may conflict with God's will. And "following" Jesus is staying close to Him, living in intimate daily relationship, by adopting His own commitment to please God.

     What hinges on this kind of discipleship? Jesus said that the person who rejected discipleship and held on to his (old) life will lose it, while the person who loses his (old) life will save it.

     While this may seem complicated, the point is simple and vital. A person who rejects discipleship will never know what he or she might have become if his or her life had been turned over to Jesus. Only if we commit ourselves fully to Him, and make the disciples' daily choice of obedience, can we discover the new life relationship which Jesus makes possible for us!

The Teacher's Commentary

Joshua 23:1-16
     Pulpit Commentary

     Ver. 1–16.—The last words of the aged servant of God. The influence gained by a long and successful life is immense. It was so in Joshua’s case, for it outlasted his life, and continued as long as any of his former colleagues and companions in arms were alive. It was only when a fresh generation arose who knew him not, save by the report of the younger men, such as Othniel, that Israel declined from the true path. Joshua’s last charge, therefore, is full of interest and profit.

     I. HOW A LONG LIFE OF USEFULNESS MAY BEST BE CLOSED. When Joshua felt his life drawing to an end, he assembled those who had been partakers of his toils, reminded them of the great things God had done during his leadership, and warned them of the danger of departing from the course which had been marked by such signal and uninterrupted success. So may those who, by God’s grace, have been the means of improvement or usefulness to others, parents to their children, pastors to their flocks, men who have won for themselves a moral influence in the religious or even the social, philosophical, or political world, when they feel their powers failing, assemble those who have worked with them, review the past, and draw a moral from it for the future. The last words of any one we deeply respect have a weight with us which no others have, and live within us when those who uttered them have long since passed away. This is even the case with the last words our Lord and Master spoke before His crucifixion, though in His case they were not His last, for not only did He rise from the dead, but He hath since spoken to us by His Spirit. Yet His dying command concerning the bread and wine has touched the heart more than any other; and His last speech in
John 17 has always had a peculiar interest for Christians. Perhaps His followers have too much shrunk, from Christian modesty, from the most powerful means of influence they have. Forms of belief vary. The religious earnestness of our age is replaced by a different form of religious earnestness in another. The new wine has to be put into new bottles. Thus exhortations to maintain a particular form of doctrine or organisation may fail of their effect, or when (as is very often the case) they do not fail, they may be undesirable. But exhortations to love, joy, peace, zeal, energy, self-restraint, indifference to the world, may derive a vast additional force when they are the farewell words of one whose life has been a life-long struggle to practise them.

     II. WE MUST OBEY THE WHOLE LAW. We are not to pick and choose either in doctrines or precepts. There is an eclecticism now, as there was in the apostle’s day, which rejects particular doctrines or precepts of Christianity as “unsuitable to the times.” We are of course to distinguish between doctrines and development of doctrines, the last being, perhaps, the product of a particular age, and unsuitable or impossible for philosophic or scientific reasons in another. So again, the form of a precept (e.g., those touching almsgiving) must be altered from time to time, as Christian principles are transforming society by permeating it. But the spirit of a precept is for ever binding. And, we may observe, excess is as bad as defect. It was said of the law, that men should “add nought to it,” as well as “diminish ought from it;” and we know what Christ thought of those who “taught for doctrines the commandments of men.” Yet there has been in all ages a spiritual Pharisaism which has turned aside to the right, as there has been a Sadduceeism which has turned to the left. Every age has had its teachers who added to the essentials of religion as well as those who would explain them away. And the tendency has been to magnify these positive precepts of particular religious parties, until it has been held more criminal to disobey them than to offend against the first principles of the Christian religion. For their sake the fundamental law of love has been laid aside, and transgression against a law Christ never imposed has been visited with a bitterness and a fury which He has expressly forbidden. Whether excess or defect have been more fatal to the cause of Christianity is a point which must be left undecided. But that grievous evils to the cause of religion in general and the souls of individuals have arisen from the practice among Christians of insisting upon what Christ has never enjoined cannot be denied. Let it be our case, then, to observe the whole law of Christ, neither to turn to the right nor to the left, but to keep all, and no more than all, that He has commanded. For “His commandments are not grievous.” His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.” There is the more reason, therefore, why we should keep it to the very letter.

     III. WE ARE EXPRESSLY EXHORTED TO AVOID COMPLIANCE WITH THE WORLD. This is a more difficult precept now than ever. Once there was a broad line of demarcation between the religious and the worldly man. Now Christianity has so far externally leavened society that the conflict has been forced inward. Decency and propriety of behaviour is everywhere enforced where education has penetrated. Cursing and swearing are banished at least from general society, and open profaneness is seldom met with. Yet the conflict must be continued, and continued within. St. Paul’s advice in
1 Cor. 5:10 must be kept. A Christian must go into society and mix with the people he finds there, though he must not choose them for his intimates. But he must be more on the watch than ever to detect the tone of his associates when it jars with the gospel precepts. Still, as ever, there are false standards of right and wrong set up, false doctrines of honour and morality inculcated, principles laid down which Christ would have abhorred, conduct tolerated which He would have emphatically condemned. The worship of rank and fashion and wealth; the polite depreciation of all enthusiasm; the utter failure to recognise the glory of self-sacrifice, except it be for tangible rewards, such as glory among men; the absence of all reverence; the veiled (or it may be unveiled) selfishness of a life of indolence and ease, the cynical indifference to the welfare of even the existence of others, except so far as it contributes to the pleasures of our own—these are habits of mind utterly repugnant to the spirit of Christ. They must not be tolerated, they must be steadily and openly resisted by the Christian. And yet, so insidious are they, that they frequently creep into the souls of those who imagine themselves to be uncorrupted soldiers of the Cross. They have made mention of the names “of these gods of the nations around them,” have “served” them and “bowed down” to them without knowing it, though they could have known it, had they been on the watch. And then they become “snares and traps,” “scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes”—the causes, that is, of manifold cares and troubles and annoyances which to the Christian are unknown. And if unrepented of, they poison the Christian life at its source, till the once believer “perishes from off the good land which the Lord his God has given him.”

     IV. THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE. “Neither shall ye make marriages with them,” says the sacred writer; and the precept has been continually repeated. It is surprising how little the New Testament says on this important point of the selection of a partner for life. It would seem as though Christ and His apostles thought it so obvious that it were superfluous to speak of it. “Only in the Lord” (
1 Cor. 7:39) is the only precept given on this important point, unless 2 Cor. 6:14 be held indirectly to include it. But the Old Testament, which is, equally with the New, a guide of life, is full of such cautions, from Isaac, Esau, and Jacob downwards. Moses perpetually warns the children of Israel against contracting such alliances with the idolatrous Canaanites. Ahab is a standing warning of their danger, and the taint invaded the kingdom of Judah through the weakness of the otherwise pious Jehoshaphat, and ended in the ferocious treachery of Athaliah. What Nehemiah thought of it in the reviving fortunes of Israel after the captivity may be read in his own words (ch. 13.). There is no difficulty, therefore, in gathering from Scripture a condemnation of marriage between those who are not of one mind on the most essential point of all, that of religion. The Roman Catholic Church has forbidden mixed marriages, and wisely. It were well if Churches of the Reformed faith were as outspoken in their condemnation of them. Yet unwise as are unions between those who differ in religious views, they are far worse when contracted between Christians and unbelievers, between those who are “conformed to this world” and those who hope to be “transformed by the renewing of their mind” into the image of Jesus Christ. There can be but one result to such unions. They must ever be “snares and traps,” “scourges in the side and thorns in the eyes” of those who contract them, even though the end be not the destruction from out of the “good land which God has given.” Those whom “God hath joined together” ought not to be “put asunder” by a discordance of opinions on all the main duties and objects of life. No temptations of beauty, of wealth or prospects, or even of personal preference, can outweigh the misery and danger of a condition like this, especially when it is considered that the results are not confined to those who are parties to such marriages, but that those whom God has sent into the world to be heirs of eternity will be considered by one, perhaps eventually by both their parents, as the creatures of a world that is passing away. The words “only in the Lord,” though spoken but once, and then incidentally, ought nevertheless to be well pondered. They constitute the only ground upon which a Christian can enter into the most sacred and enduring of human ties; the only one that can ensure a blessing; the only one possible to those who are pledged to order all their actions by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Nedarim 39b–40a


     Many contemporary sex experts posit that fantasy is a healthy part of a couple's sex life. Fantasizing is seen as a normal, even expected, behavior. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, in Dr. Ruth's Guide for Married Lovers, writes that "for good sexual functioning this ability to make images, fantasies, is as important as having genitals or being alive." This seems to be the modern wisdom.

     The Talmud takes a slightly different approach. On one level, Rabbi is offering a preventive measure against adultery. If a man does not think about other women, then he will not be tempted to have relations with another woman. Thus, we might say that improper thoughts can lead to inappropriate and forbidden actions.

     Yet, the case that Rabbi and Ravina deal with is not one of adultery. The man in this Gemara is married to two women; therefore, thoughts about his other wife are permitted. Nonetheless, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi discourages such thoughts during intercourse with the first wife. To Rabbi and Ravina and their colleagues, pleasure is an important part of married life. The Rabbis went so far as to prescribe how often a wife could demand sexual relations with her husband. Yet, the bottom line for the Rabbis is not pleasure but holiness. We may even speculate that Rabbi and Ravina would add that a man who finds physical satisfaction with one woman while thinking of another woman will really not find the experience as fully pleasing as possible, for sexual pleasure is more than physical proximity and sensual satisfaction, even more than "something in the mind."

     This Gemara directly contradicts the teachings of many modern sex therapists that fantasy about someone other than your spouse is healthy. The bottom line for much of American society is pleasure, whatever the price or action. The Rabbis of the Talmud disagree (at least to this kind of fantasy). Instead of the American ideal of "safe sex," the Rabbis affirm "sacred sex," for without the focus of holiness, sex is, in the eyes of the Talmud, an incomplete experience.

     Anyone who does not visit the sick is like one who spills blood.

     Text / Rav Ḥelbo took sick. Rav Kahana went and announced: "Rav Ḥelbo is sick!" No one came. He said to them: "Wasn't there an incident with a student of Rabbi Akiva who was sick and the Sages did not come to visit him; Rabbi Akiva went to visit him and because they swept and cleaned up before him, he got well? He [the student] said to him [Rabbi Akiva]: 'You have given me life!' Rabbi Akiva went out and explained: 'Anyone who does not visit the sick is like one who spills blood.' " When Rav Dimi came, he said: "Whoever visits the sick causes him to live, and whoever does not visit the sick causes him to die!" What is the cause? Shall we say that anyone who visits the sick begs mercy that he live, and anyone who does not visit the sick begs mercy that he die? Do you really think "that he die"??!! Rather: Anyone who does not visit the sick does not beg for mercy that he should either live or die!

     Context / The Gemara's phrase "they swept" is kib'du, a word from the same root as the Hebrew term kavod, or honor. Why do both words come from one root? What connection is there between cleaning and honoring? Perhaps an answer can be found from another use of the same root elsewhere in the Talmud. In Pesaḥim 7a, the Gemara says, in commenting on money found in a public place: "The streets of Jerusalem used to be swept every day." Thus, money found on the streets could not have been there long. When we speak of Jerusalem, the holy city, the connection between honor and sweeping becomes clearer. Because Jerusalem had a special status, the city was kept extra clean, even to the point of sweeping its streets each and every day. Similarly, we honor Shabbat by cleaning ourselves and our homes. A great scholar like Rabbi Akiva would deserve similar respect, and accordingly, the room was swept before his arrival.

     This section explains the importance in rabbinic Judaism of visiting the sick with an incident that occurred to the famous Rabbi Akiva. Despite the fact that Rav Ḥelbo was one of the regular students at the study house, no action was taken by his fellow students when his illness was announced there. To show how wrong this is, Rav Kahana reminds them of a time when Akiva personally visited one of his own students, after which the student soon recovered. The Talmud's explanation for the recovery is that because the room was cleaned up to honor Rabbi Akiva, the sick student benefited from this honor and was healed.

     Rabbi Akiva then offers a pronouncement: Not visiting the sick is tantamount to causing their death! Rav Dimi, visiting Babylonia from Palestine, brings a similar statement with him from the Sages of Israel: Visiting the sick makes them live, and not visiting them contributes to their dying. It is not clear what the causative factor is. That is, what about a visit makes a person better? We would likely answer that the concern of others is what makes the patient feel better. The Rabbis, however, assume that it is the prayer that accompanies a visit. If that is so, the Rabbis ask, might we then assume that one who neglects to visit the sick is praying that a person should die? No, they answer, one who does not visit does not pray for the person or against him; he simply does not include the person in his prayers at all.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Messiah Concepts at the time of Jesus
     Martin Hengel

     … an originally unmessianic Jesus, never existed—not even in the later rabbinic period when the rabbinate had rigidified, and certainly not before AD 70, when Judaism was significantly more pluralistic. There were always different, in part variable, Messiah pictures with numerous descriptions and attributes, frequently supplementing one another; often these do not rest on titles so much as express functions. We ought, therefore, no longer to speak of a 'Messiah dogmatic' or 'Messiah idea', but of Messiah conceptions, or even better, of messianic Haggada.

     Our knowledge here has been greatly increased by the Qumran texts, of which some important texts have been just published, a wider availability of the Pseudepigrapha, and the messianic Haggada of the rabbinic sources, including the targums. … even in the rabbinic era Judaism had no unified, predominantly political, Messiah picture, but rather that the views here were, in part, extremely diverse.

     Already the editors of The Beginnings of Christianity had made reference to this situation: The more concrete traits with which homiletical midrash or popular imagination clothed this vague expectation were varied and inconstant, drawn miscellaneously from prophecy and poetry, from the visions, from the circumstances of the times. (F.J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, Acts (IVP New Testament Commentary Series) (1920), p. 356.)

     Drawing on our broader basis of sources, O. Cullmann could point out with even greater emphasis:

     Just at the time of Jesus there were in Judaism many varied conceptions of the coming Mediator of the end time, some of which differed radically from one another. We must not forget that at this time Judaism had by no means a single fixed concept of the Messiah. We are accustomed to think of the Jewish Messiah as if he were an unambiguous, clearly defined figure. In general it is true that the Jews expected a saviour with certain nationalistic and Jewish characteristics. But this common form could not hold the most widely varying content. (rev. ed., trans, by S. G. Guthrie and C. A. M. Hall Christology of the New Testament , p. 111.)

     Over against this F. Hahn, in his creditable book, Christologische Hoheitstitel, sketches too unified a Messiah picture which he only accomplishes by thoroughly separating the—relatively narrow—Son of Man tradition of Dan. 7:13 from the Messiah tradition. This, however, is impossible since already in the (Ethiopic) Similitudes of Enoch the 'Son of Man' figure (who moreover bears other names such as 'The Chosen' and 'The Righteous One') is twice described as God's 'Anointed' (48:10; 52:4). In 4 Ezra 13:1, 12, as well, the ipse homo rising from the sea and flying with the clouds is identical with the Messiah. In particular, some rabbinic texts since the early Tannaim understand Dan. 7:13 to refer to the Messiah. Also, in the third and fifth of the Sybilline Oracles the saviour coming from Heaven is none other than the Messiah. We must presuppose this identification already for the time of Jesus.

     Against Hahn's assumption 'that the messianic expectation of Old Testament prophecy survived', it must be emphasized that the messianic Old Testament texts as interpreted in ancient Judaism were already extraordinarily variable, such that 'variability' shows itself not only at given, but also at numerous other, 'points', a variability that continued into the rabbinic period. Ferdinand Hahn The Titles of Jesus in Christology: Their History in Early Christianity (Library of Theological Translations) , pp. 156–8. Nor can I agree that 'the messianology of the old style remained for a very long time uninfluenced by apocalyptic expectation' (158), although it is unclear to me what is meant here by 'old style'. In fact, Palestinian Judaism was very deeply influenced by 'apocalyptic-messianic expectations' (as is seen by the great influence of the book of Daniel in Qumran and among the Pharisees—including Josephus) which became its undoing. All post-exilic prophecy is strongly characterized by 'apocalyptic'.) In addition, the contrast between an earthly, political, 'Messiah' and a 'heavenly, transcendent', Son of Man is questionable, for the 'Son of Man' coming from Heaven in Dan. 7 is also victorious against the godless 'world powers', and functions in an even greater capacity than the Messiah in Psalms of Solomon 17 as judge. He is hidden with God—but so are human figures such as Enoch, Elijah and Moses (the Rabbis name others)—indeed, 1 Enoch 71 identifies him with Enoch. On the other hand, the Messiah cannot attain his God-given rule without God's help: slaying the army of nations gathered against Jerusalem 'with the rod of his mouth and the breath of his lips' (Isa. 11:4; cf. 4 Ezra 13:10), is no less a miracle than flying along with the clouds. To the extent that it remained uninfluenced by philosophy (such as that of Philo), Jewish eschatology knows no genuine 'transcendence', one might also say, no clear distinction between 'immanence' and 'transcendence'. The earthly and heavenly world formed one continuum, were bound together and continually influenced one another.

     In Testament of Judah 24 we find, in the Jewish original form, a non-warlike Messiah from Judah with a strongly ethical orientation. Alongside this, Testament of Levi 18 speaks of the messianic high priest as saviour. The circumstances of place and time of the Messiah's appearance, of his complete or relative concealment before his public ministry, the different forms of his legitimation through God himself, through a prophet like Elijah, or coram publico, and his coming in humility or glory, remain astonishingly variable in the later rabbinic messianic Haggada. Even the preexistent Messiah, hidden by God, or the suffering and dying Messiah, are not absent.

     The frequently repeated thesis that there is no reference whatever to a pre-Christian suffering Messiah appears questionable in light of the messianic features of the LXX translation (the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 2nd century BCE in Alexandria. It was begun by the 3rd century BCE and completed before 132 BCE. It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek from the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE).) of Isa. 52:13–53:12, and a disputed Aramaic text from Cave 4 (influenced by Isa. 53) concerning an eschatological, suffering and atoning, 'revelator'. In fact, we have only rather few pre-Christian messianic texts, which nonetheless already show an astonishing variety. Qumran has significantly increased these. We now know of the two Anointed figures—the pre-eminent priestly, and the Davidic—who were expected. We also know something of 'messianic exegesis' from the Testimonies, Florilegia, and certain pesharim. To this may be added the eschatological role of Michael (familiar from Dan. 12:1f.), for example, in the War Scroll, and the enigmatic Melchizedek fragment, which portrays God's plenipotentiary as heavenly saviour. With such a widely arrayed background, which continues in the rabbinic texts despite the consolidations following AD 70 and 135, it may be presumed that the messianic spectrum was even much broader. A case in point are Josephus's references to radical eschatological groups, and the messianic ambitions of individuals, although he passes over in silence all messianic statements because of their political sensitivity. There can be no question here of a systematic configuration of the Messiah Haggada, to say nothing of a Messiah dogmatic'.

Studies in Early Christology (Academic Paperback)

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     Herod Agrippa I

     In the midst of Petronius’ delaying tactics, Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great and ultimately his successor as King of Judea, also took up the Judean cause. He had been educated in Rome alongside the imperial family, in particular the future emperor Claudius (Ant. 18.143, 165). With the rise of Gaius to the throne, Agrippa finally achieved prominence. He had become close friends with Gaius, and his friendship was rewarded with the tetrarchy of his recently deceased uncle Herod Philip (J.W. 2.181; Ant. 18.237). After the banishment of Antipas in 39 C.E. Caligula enlarged Agrippa’s kingdom by annexing Galilee and Perea (Ant. 18.252).

     Agrippa arrived in Italy in the midst of the statue crisis. Through either a letter (Legatio 261–334) or a banquet (Ant. 18.289–301), Agrippa successfully persuaded Gaius to forgo his plans for the statue, at least temporarily. However, both Philo and Josephus describe Gaius reneging on his promise not to place the statue in the Temple, and only the emperor’s assassination saved the Jews from open conflict with Rome (Legatio 337–38; J.W. 2.202–3; Ant. 18.302–9). This incident only increased tensions between Rome and Judea.

     Shortly before the assassination of Gaius, Agrippa returned to Rome, and after the emperor’s murder, Agrippa was a crucial advisor to his successor, Claudius, and helped to secure his accession as emperor (J.W. 2.204–13; Ant. 18.236–67). As a reward for his services, Claudius appointed Agrippa king over the territory once ruled by his grandfather. Claudius also appointed Agrippa’s brother Herod as ruler of Chalcis in Lebanon (J.W. 2.215–17; Ant. 18.274–77).

     Herod Agrippa returned to Judea and governed it for the next three years (41–44 C.E.). He sought to further enhance the prestige of Judea. To this end, he initiated a building program around the Levant that, while not equaling his grandfather’s, still enabled him to enhance his status and that of his kingdom. Among other projects, he built a theater in Berytus and a new city wall in Jerusalem across the northern edge of the city that enclosed the suburb of Bezetha. This wall, however, was not completed during Agrippa’s reign because the governor of Syria, Vibius Marsus, was suspicious of Agrippa’s intentions and persuaded Claudius to prohibit its completion. Jewish rebels hastily completed this wall after the outbreak of revolt in 66 C.E.

     As part of this campaign to aggrandize his position within the Eastern Mediterranean, Herod Agrippa called together a meeting of the region’s rulers at Tiberias, including the kings of Commagene, Emesa, Armenia Minor, and Pontus, as well as his brother, the ruler of Chalcis. Although Marsus feared that Agrippa was planning a revolution at this meeting, this is extremely unlikely. More likely, Agrippa was seeking to establish himself as the preeminent client king of the Eastern Mediterranean. His efforts, therefore, were directed more toward his neighbors than toward Claudius.

     During Passover in 44 C.E., Agrippa traveled to Caesarea to attend the games being held there in honor of Claudius. According to Josephus, in the midst of the festival, Agrippa fell ill with violent pains and died five days later (Ant. 19.343–52; Acts 12). At the time of his death, Agrippa’s heir and namesake, Herod Agrippa II, was approximately seventeen. Because of the age and inexperience of the younger Agrippa, Claudius returned Judea to the rule of a Roman procurator (J.W. 2.220; Ant. 18.362–63).

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 28

     For Thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great. --- Psalm 25:11. KJV

     The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins as for the least because his mercy is infinite. (Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) The infinite is as much above the great as it is above the small. If one of the least sins is not beyond the mercy of God, so neither are the greatest—
or ten thousand of them.

     The satisfaction of Christ is as sufficient for the removal of the greatest guilt as the least: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). All the sins of those who truly go to God for mercy are satisfied, for God is true who tells us so. If they are satisfied, surely it is not incredible that God should be ready to pardon them. It was a sufficient testimony of God’s abhorrence of sin that he poured out his wrath on his own dear Son when he took the guilt of it on himself.

     God may, through Christ, pardon the greatest sinner without any prejudice to the honor of his majesty. Let the contempt be ever so great, yet if so honorable a person as Christ undertakes to be a Mediator for the offender and suffers so much for that offender, it fully repairs the injury done to the Majesty of heaven and earth. The sufferings of Christ fully satisfy justice. The justice of God as the supreme Governor and Judge of the world requires the punishment of sin. The supreme Judge must judge the world according to a rule of justice. God does not show mercy as a judge but as a sovereign; therefore his exercise of mercy as a sovereign and his justice as a judge must be made consistent with one another. This is done by the sufferings of Christ, in which sin is punished fully and justice answered.
--- Jonathan Edwards

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     The Bounty Bible  April 28

     The English ship Bounty, commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh, journeyed to the South Pacific in 1787 to collect plants of the breadfruit tree. Sailors signed on gladly, considering the voyage a trip to paradise. Having no second-in-command, Captain Bligh appointed his young friend Fletcher Christian to the post. The Bounty stayed in Tahiti six months, and the sailors, led by happy-go-lucky Fletcher Christian, enjoyed paradise to the full. When time came for departure, some of the men wanted to stay behind with their island girls. Three men, trying to desert, were flogged. The mood on ship darkened, and on April 28, 1789 Fletcher Christian staged the most famous mutiny in history. Bligh and his supporters were set adrift in an overloaded lifeboat (which they miraculously navigated 3,700 miles to Timor).

     The mutineers aboard the Bounty began quarreling about what to do next. Christian returned to Tahiti where he left some of the mutineers, kidnapped some women, took some slaves, and traveled 1,000 miles to uninhabited Pitcairn Island. There the little group quickly unraveled. They distilled whiskey from a native plant. Drunkenness and fighting marked their colony. Disease and murder eventually took the lives of all the men except for one, Alexander Smith, who found himself the only man on the island, surrounded by an assortment of women and children.

     Then an amazing change occurred. Smith found the Bounty’s neglected Bible. As he read it, he took its message to heart, then began instructing the little community. He taught the colonists the Scriptures and helped them obey its instructions. The message of Christ so transformed their lives that 20 years later, in 1808, when the Topaz landed on the island, it found a happy society of Christians, living in prosperity and peace, free from crime, disease, murder—and mutiny. Later, the Bible fell into the hands of a visiting whaler who brought it to America. In 1950 it was returned to the island. It now resides on display in the church in Pitcairn as a monument to its transforming message.

     People of Israel, what does the LORD your God want from you? The LORD wants you to respect and follow him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul, and to obey his laws and teachings that I am giving you today. Do this, and all will go well for you.
--- Deuteronomy 10:12,13.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 28

     “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.”
--- Psalm 119:49.

     Whatever your especial need may be, you may readily find some promise in the Bible suited to it. Are you faint and feeble because your way is rough and you are weary? Here is the promise—“He giveth power to the faint.” When you read such a promise, take it back to the great Promiser, and ask him to fulfil his own word. Are you seeking after Christ, and thirsting for closer communion with him? This promise shines like a star upon you—“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Take that promise to the throne continually; do not plead anything else, but go to God over and over again with this—“Lord, thou hast said it, do as thou hast said.” Are you distressed because of sin, and burdened with the heavy load of your iniquities? Listen to these words—“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will no more remember thy sins.” You have no merit of your own to plead why he should pardon you, but plead his written engagements and he will perform them. Are you afraid lest you should not be able to hold on to the end, lest, after having thought yourself a child of God, you should prove a castaway? If that is your state, take this word of grace to the throne and plead it: “The mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed, but the covenant of my love shall not depart from thee.” If you have lost the sweet sense of the Saviour’s presence, and are seeking him with a sorrowful heart, remember the promises: “Return unto me, and I will return unto you;” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.” Banquet your faith upon God’s own word, and whatever your fears or wants, repair to the Bank of Faith with your Father’s note of hand, saying, “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.”

          Evening - April 28

     “All the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted."
Ezekiel 3:7.

     Are there no exceptions? No, not one. Even the favoured race are thus described. Are the best so bad?—then what must the worst be? Come, my heart, consider how far thou hast a share in this universal accusation, and while considering, be ready to take shame unto thyself wherein thou mayst have been guilty. The first charge is impudence, or hardness of forehead, a want of holy shame, an unhallowed boldness in evil. Before my conversion, I could sin and feel no compunction, hear of my guilt and yet remain unhumbled, and even confess my iniquity and manifest no inward humiliation on account of it. For a sinner to go to God’s house and pretend to pray to him and praise him argues a brazen-facedness of the worst kind! Alas! since the day of my new birth I have doubted my Lord to his face, murmured unblushingly in his presence, worshipped before him in a slovenly manner, and sinned without bewailing myself concerning it.

     If my forehead were not as an adamant, harder than flint, I should have far more holy fear, and a far deeper contrition of spirit. Woe is me, I am one of the impudent house of Israel. The second charge is hardheartedness, and I must not venture to plead innocent here. Once I had nothing but a heart of stone, and although through grace I now have a new and fleshy heart, much of my former obduracy remains. I am not affected by the death of Jesus as I ought to be; neither am I moved by the ruin of my fellow men, the wickedness of the times, the chastisement of my heavenly Father, and my own failures, as I should be. O that my heart would melt at the recital of my Saviour’s sufferings and death. Would to God I were rid of this nether millstone within me, this hateful body of death. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the disease is not incurable, the Saviour’s precious blood is the universal solvent, and me, even me, it will effectually soften, till my heart melts as wax before the fire.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 28

          WERE YOU THERE?

     Spiritual  It was the third hour when they crucified Him. (Mark 15:25)

     Folk songs are generally described as songs of which the origins have been lost but which express the heartfelt traditions and experiences of a particular culture or people. Therefore, they become greatly cherished by each succeeding generation.

     The Negro spirituals represent some of the finest of American folk music. These songs are usually a blending of an African heritage, harsh remembrances from former slavery experiences, and a very personal interpretation of biblical stories and truths. They especially employ biblical accounts that give hope for a better life—such as the prospects of heaven. They symbolize so well the attitudes, hopes and religious feeling of the black race in America.

     To better understand a Negro spiritual, one must feel even as a black singer does that he or she is actually present and very much involved in the event itself. The event being sung—in this case the story of Christ’s suffering, death, and ultimate resurrection—becomes a very intensely emotional experience. It is told with much feeling and freedom of spirit, generally without any instrumental accompaniment.

     The lesson for each of us to learn from a Negro spiritual like this is that truths such as the redemptive work of Christ must have much more than just our mental assent. The biblical account must become a very personal conviction in our lives, and our very souls should be gripped by its emotional power.

     Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
     Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
     Were you there when they pierced Him in the side?
     Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
     Were you there when God raised Him from the dead?
     Sometimes I feel like shouting glory, glory, glory!
     When I think how God raised Him from the dead!

     For Today: Isaiah 53:4–12; Matthew 20:28; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5, 6.

     Imagine yourself standing at the foot of the cross when Christ was tortured and crucified. Then place yourself outside the empty tomb when the angelic announcement “He is not here …” was given. Try to relive the emotional feelings that would have been yours. Allow this song to minister to you as you go through the day ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. VIII. — ANOTHER part of the sum of Christianity is, to know, whether God foreknows any thing by contingency, or whether we do all things from necessity. This part also you make to be irreligious, curious, and vain, as all the wicked do: the devils , and the damned also, make it detestable and execrable. And you shew your wisdom in keeping yourself clear from such questions, wherever you can do it. But however, you are but a very poor rhetorician and theologian, if you pretend to speak of “Free-will” without these essential parts of it. I will therefore act as a whetstone, and though no rhetorician myself, will tell a famed rhetorician what he ought to do — If, then, Quintilian, purposing to write on Oratory, should say, “In my judgment, all that superfluous nonsense about invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, pronunciation, need not be mentioned; it is enough to know, that Oratory, is the art of speaking well” — would you not laugh at such a writer? But you act exactly like this: for pretending to write on “Free-will,” you first throw aside, and cast away, the grand substance and all the parts of the subject on which you undertake to write. Whereas, it is impossible that you should know what “Free-will” is, unless you know what the human will does, and what God does or foreknows.

     Do not your rhetoricians teach, that he who undertakes to speak upon any subject, ought first to show, whether the thing exist; and then, what it is, what its parts are, what is contrary to it, connected with it, and like unto it, &c.? But you rob that miserable subject in itself, “Free will,” of all these things: and define no one question concerning it, except this first, viz., whether it exist: and even this with such arguments as we shall presently see: and so worthless a book on “Free-will” I never saw, excepting the elegance of the language. The Sophists, in reality, at least argue upon this point better than you, though those of them who have attempted the subject of “Free-will,” are no rhetoricians; for they define all the questions connected with it: whether it exists, what it does, and how it stands with reference to, &c.: although they do not effect what they attempt. In this book, therefore, I will push you, and the Sophists together, until you shall define to me the power of “Free-will,” and what it can do: and I hope I shall so push you, (Christ willing) as to make you heartily repent that you ever published your Diatribe.

The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
     W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)

          4 He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

     Now, strange as it may appear on the surface, the deep wells of God from which we may drink are not always necessarily the delightful experiences we may imagine them to be.

     I recall so clearly standing under the blazing equatorial sun of Africa and watching the native herds being led to their owner’s water wells. Some of these were enormous, hand-hewn caverns cut from the sandstone formation along the sandy rivers. They were like great rooms chiseled out of the rocks with ramps running down to the water trough at the bottom. The herds and flocks were led down into these deep cisterns where cool, clear, clean water awaited them.

     But down in the well, stripped naked, was the owner bailing water to satisfy the flock. It was hard, heavy, hot work. Perspiration poured off the body of the bailer, whose skin glistened under the strain and heat of his labor.

     As I stood there watching the animals quench their thirst at the still waters, I was again immensely impressed by the fact that everything hinged and depended upon the diligence of the owner, the shepherd. Only through his energy, his efforts, his sweat, his strength could the sheep be satisfied.

     In the Christian life exactly the same applies. Many of the places we may be led into will appear to us as dark, deep, dangerous, and somewhat disagreeable. But it simply must be remembered that He is there with us in it. He is very much at work in the situation. It is His energy, effort, and strength expended on my behalf that even in this deep, dark place is bound to produce a benefit for me.

     It is there that I will discover He only can really satisfy me. It is He who makes sense and purpose and meaning come out of situations that otherwise would be but a mockery to me. Suddenly life starts to have significance. I discover I am the object of His special care and attention. Dignity and direction come into the events of my life, and I see them sorting themselves out into a definite pattern of usefulness. All of this is refreshing, stimulating, invigorating. My thirst for reality in life is assuaged, and I discover that I have found that satisfaction in my Master.

     Of course there is always a percentage of perverse people who will refuse to allow God to lead them. They insist on running their own lives and following the dictates of their own wills. They insist they can be masters of their own destinies even if, ultimately, such destinies are destructive. They don’t want to be directed by the Spirit of God — they don’t want to be led by Him —  they want to walk in their own ways  and drink from any old source that they fancy might satisfy their whims.

"The Bible says in the book of Judges that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. We're not talking about people who chose to do wrong here. They chose to do right the Bible says; but they chose for themselves what was right. These are sincere people who said, “I want to do right, but I will decide what's right.” Proverbs 21:2, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” Nothing is hid from the eyes of the Lord (Hebrews 4:13). God sees our very thoughts and pondereth our heart (Psalms 139:1-7). --- David J. Stewart"
Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.   ESV

     They remind me very much of a bunch of sheep I watched one day that were being led down to a magnificent mountain stream. The snow-fed waters were flowing pure and clear and crystal clean between lovely banks of trees. But on the way several stubborn ewes and their lambs stopped, instead, to drink from small, dirty, muddy pools beside the trail. The water was filthy and polluted not only with the churned up mud from the passing sheep but even with the manure and urine of previous flocks that had passed that way. Still these stubborn sheep were quite sure it was the best drink obtainable.

     The water itself was filthy and unfit for them. Much more, it was obviously contaminated with nematodes and liver fluke eggs that would eventually riddle them with internal parasites and diseases of destructive impact.

     People often try this pursuit or that with the casual comment, “So what? I can’t see that it’s going to do any harm!” Little do they appreciate that often there is a delayed reaction and that considerable time may elapse before the full impact of their misjudgment strikes home. Then suddenly they are in deep trouble and wonder why.

     To offset these dangers and guard against them, God invites us to allow ourselves to be led and guided by His own gracious Spirit. Much of the emphasis and teaching of the Pauline Epistles in the New Testament is that the child of God should not end up in difficulty. Galatians 5 and Romans 8 bring this out very clearly.

     Jesus’ own teaching to His twelve disciples just before His death, given to us in John 14 through 17, points out that the gracious Holy Spirit was to be given to lead us into truth. He would come as a guide and counselor. Always He would lead us into the ways of Christ. He would make us see that the life in Christ was the only truly satisfying life. We would discover the delight of having our souls satisfied with His presence. It would be He who would become to us very meat and drink—that at His resurrection, overcoming life was imparted to me by His Spirit each day I would be refreshed and satisfied.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

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     Jon Courson (2013)

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