1 Chronicles 1 - 2
From Adam to Abraham1 Chronicles 1:1 Adam, Seth, Enosh; 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; 4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
5 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 6 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 7 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.
8 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 9 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush fathered Nimrod. He was the first on earth to be a mighty man.
11 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 12 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
13 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 14 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 15 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 16 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites.
17 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. And the sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech. 18 Arpachshad fathered Shelah, and Shelah fathered Eber. 19 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and his brother’s name was Joktan. 20 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
24 Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu; 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah; 27 Abram, that is, Abraham.
From Abraham to Jacob28 The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael. 32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. 33 The sons of Midian: Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the descendants of Keturah.
34 Abraham fathered Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel. 35 The sons of Esau: Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. 36 The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, Kenaz, and of Timna, Amalek. 37 The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.
38 The sons of Seir: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. 39 The sons of Lotan: Hori and Hemam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 40 The sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. The sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah. 41 The son of Anah: Dishon. The sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 42 The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. The sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran.
43 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel: Bela the son of Beor, the name of his city being Dinhabah. 44 Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. 45 Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. 46 Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, reigned in his place, the name of his city being Avith. 47 Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. 48 Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates reigned in his place. 49 Shaul died, and Baal-hanan, the son of Achbor, reigned in his place. 50 Baal-hanan died, and Hadad reigned in his place, the name of his city being Pai; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab. 51 And Hadad died.
The chiefs of Edom were: chiefs Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 52 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Magdiel, and Iram; these are the chiefs of Edom.
1 Chronicles 2
A Genealogy of David1 Chronicles 2:1 These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, 2 Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 3 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah; these three Bath-shua the Canaanite bore to him. Now Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death. 4 His daughter-in-law Tamar also bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.
5 The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. 6 The sons of Zerah: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara, five in all. 7 The son of Carmi: Achan, the troubler of Israel, who broke faith in the matter of the devoted thing; 8 and Ethan’s son was Azariah.
9 The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai. 10 Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah. 11 Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, 12 Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse. 13 Jesse fathered Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh. 16 And their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. The sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, Joab, and Asahel, three. 17 Abigail bore Amasa, and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.
18 Caleb the son of Hezron fathered children by his wife Azubah, and by Jerioth; and these were her sons: Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. 19 When Azubah died, Caleb married Ephrath, who bore him Hur. 20 Hur fathered Uri, and Uri fathered Bezalel.
21 Afterward Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir the father of Gilead, whom he married when he was sixty years old, and she bore him Segub. 22 And Segub fathered Jair, who had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead. 23 But Geshur and Aram took from them Havvoth-jair, Kenath, and its villages, sixty towns. All these were descendants of Machir, the father of Gilead. 24 After the death of Hezron, Caleb went in to Ephrathah, the wife of Hezron his father, and she bore him Ashhur, the father of Tekoa.
25 The sons of Jerahmeel, the firstborn of Hezron: Ram, his firstborn, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah. 26 Jerahmeel also had another wife, whose name was Atarah; she was the mother of Onam. 27 The sons of Ram, the firstborn of Jerahmeel: Maaz, Jamin, and Eker. 28 The sons of Onam: Shammai and Jada. The sons of Shammai: Nadab and Abishur. 29 The name of Abishur’s wife was Abihail, and she bore him Ahban and Molid. 30 The sons of Nadab: Seled and Appaim; and Seled died childless. 31 The son of Appaim: Ishi. The son of Ishi: Sheshan. The son of Sheshan: Ahlai. 32 The sons of Jada, Shammai’s brother: Jether and Jonathan; and Jether died childless. 33 The sons of Jonathan: Peleth and Zaza. These were the descendants of Jerahmeel. 34 Now Sheshan had no sons, only daughters, but Sheshan had an Egyptian slave whose name was Jarha. 35 So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to Jarha his slave, and she bore him Attai. 36 Attai fathered Nathan, and Nathan fathered Zabad. 37 Zabad fathered Ephlal, and Ephlal fathered Obed. 38 Obed fathered Jehu, and Jehu fathered Azariah. 39 Azariah fathered Helez, and Helez fathered Eleasah. 40 Eleasah fathered Sismai, and Sismai fathered Shallum. 41 Shallum fathered Jekamiah, and Jekamiah fathered Elishama.
42 The sons of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel: Mareshah his firstborn, who fathered Ziph. The son of Mareshah: Hebron. 43 The sons of Hebron: Korah, Tappuah, Rekem and Shema. 44 Shema fathered Raham, the father of Jorkeam; and Rekem fathered Shammai. 45 The son of Shammai: Maon; and Maon fathered Beth-zur. 46 Ephah also, Caleb’s concubine, bore Haran, Moza, and Gazez; and Haran fathered Gazez. 47 The sons of Jahdai: Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, Ephah, and Shaaph. 48 Maacah, Caleb’s concubine, bore Sheber and Tirhanah. 49 She also bore Shaaph the father of Madmannah, Sheva the father of Machbenah and the father of Gibea; and the daughter of Caleb was Achsah. 50 These were the descendants of Caleb.
The sons of Hur the firstborn of Ephrathah: Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim, 51 Salma, the father of Bethlehem, and Hareph the father of Beth-gader. 52 Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim had other sons: Haroeh, half of the Menuhoth. 53 And the clans of Kiriath-jearim: the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shumathites, and the Mishraites; from these came the Zorathites and the Eshtaolites. 54 The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth-beth-joab and half of the Manahathites, the Zorites. 55 The clans also of the scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, the Shimeathites and the Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.
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A World of Tomorrows
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2006
Like the March hare, I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. My column for this issue of Tabletalk was due yesterday. This morning I received from my friends at Ligonier a polite email reminding me of that truth. I’m embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed. I don’t believe, however, that I am sufficiently embarrassed, disappointed, and ashamed. I’m only mildly so, which is more a reflection of the culture in me than it is the grace in my friends at Tabletalk. That is, my relative peace about my tardiness isn’t because the email I received was so polite, but because we live in a world where work gets done tomorrow. All deadlines must be flexible, negotiable in our day, lest we have no deadlines at all.
There are two raging rivers, culturally speaking, that converge from the lazy river of mediocrity. First, we do not know the excellent. Goodness, truth, and beauty, as the great triad of virtues, are so much more demanding, not simply to create, but to even enjoy, than okay-ness, funny-ness and pretty-ness. Entering into that towering poem The Wasteland by T.S. Elliot requires of us a higher aesthetic than we have obtained. It requires a greater familiarity with that which was great in the past than we are willing to acquire. It requires training and work. To enter the more familiar wasteland of our culture all you need is a remote control. To put it another way, one of our great problems as we receive culture is that we are too easily satisfied, too easily entertained. We get mediocrity in large part because that is what we ask for. Ninety-eight percent of us in the past year consumed a “meal” at McDonalds, not because we were reaching higher, but because it would do.
The second great river at the source of mediocrity is one that precedes our particular culture. It is a problem, a weakness, a sin that has been with us since Adam first led Eve east of Eden. The problem is sloth. The medieval theologians, when compiling the list of what would come to be known as “The Seven Deadly Sins” included in their list things we might expect, like lust, or even gluttony. But sloth? Where did that come from? How did it make the list? The list had two fundamental criteria. First, the list would include those sins that are most apt to beset most of us. It is almost certainly a sin to smash your car up with a sledge hammer. Not many of us, however, fight desperately against that temptation. Lust, gluttony, and sloth, however, have wide appeal. The second criteria, however, is that these sins were believed to be root sins, sins that were apt to sprout still more sins. It may be that sloth is what gives rise, for instance, to theft.
That list, we must remember, was concocted during the Middle Ages. Things moved pretty slowly then. Surely the same warning wouldn’t apply to us. We live in America, home of the Puritan work ethic. We have cell phones and laptop computers so that we can carry our work around with us wherever we go. We put in long hours so that we might climb the corporate ladder. We burn the midnight oil and the candle at both ends. How can sloth get a toe-hold on us? Because there is a great chasm that separates feeling busy with being busy, and an even greater chasm between being busy and working hard.
We feel busy because we schedule too much stuff. If I can’t miss my weekly golf game, my monthly poker night, my five favorite television programs, the Braves game, and a little “me time” here or there, I will surely feel busy. The trouble is, I feel busy because work creeps into my insatiable demand for play time. But even if that doesn’t describe me, if I am busy checking for emails, looking up the stock indexes, going to meetings and writing things down in my daytimer, I still haven’t actually produced anything. Work means getting real things done that actually help people. And that is a far greater challenge than being busy.
It has been said that any given job can be done with two of three qualities. It can be done quickly and cheaply, but not well. It can be done quickly and well, but not cheaply. It can be done cheaply and well, but not quickly. We have, as a culture, chosen quickly and cheaply. And having chosen thus, we find ourselves diminished, for we find that we like it that way. We find that we are not merely willing to accept mediocrity, but that we crave it.
The Bible offers a different call. We are to do our work “as unto the Lord.” We should be known by the world around us as the most diligent of laborers and craftsmen. We ought also, however, be known as those with the most discriminating tastes. For we are to seek out those things that reflect the Lord, that show forth His glory. We are to surround ourselves with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). May our work and our play be suffused with excellence, that our Maker’s name might be praised.
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
By John Sartelle 9/1/2006
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
I have always been leery of vaccinations. The idea that bits of a serious disease are put into my body is disconcerting. The doctor may use medical terms like pathogen or antigen. He may say that it is only being scratched on the surface of the skin. The fact still remains that I am purposely being exposed by direct contact to bacteria or a virus from a dangerous disease. The medical explanation is that I am being exposed to weak or dead elements of the disease so that my body will build antibodies to combat the sickness. The vaccination makes me immune to the real disease.
That is what has happened with many Christians and churches. They have been vaccinated with dead or weak forms of Christianity. Thus, they have built up antibodies that combat the powerful, radical contagion of authentic Christianity. They are going through the motions of being Christian, but their lives show none of the severe symptoms of true Christianity.
Make no mistake, the real disease of Christ is a virulent, extreme, revolutionary strain that kills the old way we live and gives birth to a new life that is a carrier of the infection. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was not talking about trailing Him to a Sunday school class. When He said, “Follow Me,” He was saying, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Forgive the people who are driving the nails into your hands. If your eye leads you to sin, pluck it out. Love Me more than you love your children or parents. Rejoice even in suffering. Real strength lies in weakness, serving, fear, and forgiveness. Thieves and prostitutes are closer to the kingdom of God than the moralist. Don’t hide behind social propriety, confess your sin openly one to another. The morally pretentious must rely upon the grace of God just as much as a murderer.”
Following the gigantic Christ that made such statements is not easy. However, anything less is not following Him. If we abbreviate these drastic precepts, we no longer have authentic Christianity.
Many churches today are no more than inoculation clinics run by the world and Satan. People go there to receive weekly vaccinations, so they won’t come down with the real thing.
However, this extreme life called “Christian” not only flows from following Jesus, this life is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us.
May I ask you a logical question? If you are following Jesus and indwelled by the third person of the Trinity, how can your life not be radical? Paul said that the life anointed by the Holy Spirit would be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now immediately we recognize that many of those characteristics can be seen in the pagan. So how are love and joy different in the Christian than in the world? This love and joy are supernatural. This is love and joy taken to another level — a level that is alien to the world — a level that is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The same power that created the universe is empowering our hearts to love. The world has a right to ask us: “If the demands of Jesus are so extraordinary, and if you have God inside of you, how come you live such ordinary lives?”
Late in the nineteenth century, two men living in London went to a meeting of their geographical society to hear one of their members speak of his recent trip to China. During his report the man spoke of being in a village and inquiring if any Christians lived there. The leader told him there was one Christian living in a village about fifteen miles away. One of the two men leaned over to his friend and said, “Ah, there was only one Christian and he was fifteen miles away. But they knew exactly where he lived!” Does the world know where we live because of the radical nature of our lives?
When someone is sick with the real form of a powerful disease, we stay away from him. That person is very contagious, and we don’t want what he has. However, I have never stayed away from someone who has simply been vaccinated. That person is not contagious. Just so, the world will never be infected by those who have a vaccination of Christianity. They can live next to them for years without any fear of catching the virulent strain of the true Christ.
Perfection in sanctification is impossible this side of glory. However, continual growth in Christ is attainable. Failure will happen. That is certain. Peter and John failed too. However, failure is an opportunity for repentance, and authentic repentance is an essential part of sanctification for the sinner. Don’t give up. Remember this is the Gospel of grace. You are a work in progress.
Today, this week, once again read the Gospels. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Observe the way He lived. We cannot explain the lives of those first disciples apart from their association with Christ: “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Today, this week, go to the Father in prayer and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit. Pray and pray again to be filled. Those are dangerous steps to take. You may contract a “disease” from which you will never recover.
Some believe that had Adam not fallen into sin, he would have entered an even greater rest than the one enjoyed in Eden. While we cannot be sure of this, we do know that we will enjoy an even greater rest than Eden’s because sin makes us able to know God as the Redeemer. Praise God for the greater rest that is to come.
Rev. John P. Sartelle Sr. is senior minister of Christ Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Tenn.
By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2006
In my book The hunger for significance I explored the desire commonly found among us to find some basis for dignity, for value, for worth in our lives. I wrote at that time: “Modern man has an aching void. The emptiness we feel cannot be relieved by a new car, a better job, a bigger house. It can only be filled by understanding that each human life is significant. Our lives cannot be reduced to meaninglessness.”
The modern quest for significance and human dignity is often prompted by the overwhelming aura of despair that penetrates the cultural worldview in which we live. We are repeatedly told that we are cosmic accidents who have oozed fortuitously from the slime. Our origins are meaningless and our destiny is annihilation. Yet in the midst of those two poles of despair, the search for significance and dignity is one that is often attended by a sense of urgency.
In this issue of Tabletalk, we’re exploring the quest for excellence, which in many cases is inseparably related to our fundamental aspiration for significance. There can be different and at times conflicting motives for the search for excellence. That search can be based simply upon a desire to excel at something in which we are engaged. On the one hand, the motive for this kind of excelling can be one of competitive dominance. Historically, we’ve defined our humanness via the term Homo sapiens. Friedrich Nietzsche, the nihilistic philosopher of the nineteenth century argued that what most defines human existence is not our wisdom (sapiens), but our will to power, our will to conquer. The lust for power that drives tyrants and dictators is something that we characteristically see as evil, but Nietzsche regarded it as virtue. For him, the super-man (übermensch) is one who above all else is a conqueror. He is the one who allows his inherent will to power to go not only unchecked but to be fed lustfully by every means available. In the world in which we live, the will to power is often seen as a desire to climb the corporate ladder, to reach the peak of authority and power, so that we can dominate other people. In this regard, the competitive desire for domination by which we can exercise sovereignty over weaker people is a manifestation, not of inherent humanness, but of inherent human fallenness. It is a manifestation of the depths of corruption that lurks in the heart of each one of us.
On the other hand, a strong desire to excel may be motivated by an attempt to reach goals of achievement. The aspiration to significance that is inherent in every human being is, in and of itself, not a sinful appetite. The aspiration to significance is given to us, I believe, by our Creator. As His creatures, made in His image, we know that the dignity we possess is not intrinsic but extrinsic. That is, it is a dignity assigned to us by God. We have value and worth, because God declares us valuable. It is God who calls us to labor to the highest level of excellence and achievement of which we are capable. It is by His hand that we receive gifts to use in this world. The faithful exercise of those gifts is what should drive our desire to excel. In and of itself, aspiration to significance is not a bad thing, but, indeed, such worthy desires that beat in the human heart can run amuck. The aspiration to significance, if not checked by godly ethics, can easily transform itself into the Nietzschian will to power.
The legitimate motive for excellence is to seek achievement for the end to glorify God. That is the chief purpose for which we are created, to bear witness to His glory. One thing that does not bear witness to the glory of God is a human addiction to mediocrity, a smug satisfaction with the status quo. Rather, the Scriptures call us to seek a high calling — the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus. Such a high calling cannot be achieved when we wallow in sloth. Slothfulness and laziness are twin vices that are roundly and soundly condemned by sacred Scripture. The biggest reason we fail to achieve excellence is that we are unwilling to work to such an extent that excellence can be achieved. No one achieves excellence in any worthy enterprise without diligent and disciplined labor. The enemy of achievement in this sense is sloth. On the other hand, even with the most sanctified human heart, the quest for excellence will always be tainted with a corrupt sense of pride. If we were to achieve the highest goals possible in this world, to scale the heights of human achievement in unprecedented manners, we would still be at best, unprofitable servants who have no right to boast in anything but in the glory of God and the precious redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore seek to excel, let us push ourselves to the highest limits of endurance to achieve the highest possible level of excellence in all that we do, while at the same time watching ever vigilantly for the evil impulse of pride to vitiate any value to our labor. Let us work hard, let us excel to God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.
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
The Protestant Work Ethic
By Gene Edward Veith 9/1/2006
The Protestant work ethic promotes excellence. But what is the connection between Protestantism, work, and excellence? The pioneering sociologist Max Weber was the first to draw attention to the Protestant work ethic. In his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in 1904, Weber studied the phenomenal economic growth, social mobility, and cultural change that accompanied the Reformation. He went so far as to credit the Reformation for the rise of capitalism.
Usually, he said, religion is otherworldly. But the Reformation doctrine of vocation taught that religion is to be lived out in this world. Weber did not completely understand the doctrine of vocation. He had the idea that the early Protestants worked so hard so as to build up evidence for their salvation. But the early Protestants knew better than anyone that their salvation had nothing to do with their works or their work, trusting in the grace of God through Christ alone.
Weber also assumed the early Protestants were ascetics. While their hard work inevitably made them lots of money, he said, their moral scruples prevented them from spending it, at least on worldly pleasures. So instead, they saved their money, put it in banks, and invested it. That is, they transformed their money into capital, thus creating capitalism. There may be something to this, but modern research has shown that the early reformers — despite the stereotype of “Puritans” — were not particularly ascetic, a quality that better describes the medieval Catholics they were reacting against.
But Weber is right to see the transforming power of the doctrine of vocation. Medieval Catholicism taught that spiritual perfection is to be found in celibacy, poverty, and the monastic withdrawal from the world, where higher spiritual life is found. But the reformers emphasized the spiritual dimension of family life, productive labor, and cultural engagement. “Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” According to Luther, God calls each of us to various tasks and relationships. We have vocations in the family (marriage, parenthood), in the workplace (as master, servant, exercising our different talents in the way we make a living), and in the culture (as rulers, subjects, and citizens). We also have a vocation in the church (pastors, elders, organists, congregants), but the spiritual life is not to be lived out mainly in church and in church activities. Rather, when we come to church, we find the preaching of forgiveness for the sins we have committed in our vocations. Then, through Word and sacrament, our faith is strengthened. Our faith then bears fruit when we are sent back to our vocations in our families, our work, and our culture.
Luther stressed that vocation is not first about what we do. Rather, it is about what God does through us. God gives us this day our daily bread through the vocation of farmers, millers, bakers, and — we would add — the factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and the hands that prepared our meal. God creates and cares for new life by means of the vocations of mother and father, husband and wife. He protects us by means of police officers, judges, the military, and other Romans 13 vocations of those who “bear the sword.” God brings healing not primarily through miracles but through the vocation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the other medical vocations. God teaches through teachers, conveys His Word through preachers, gives the blessings of technology through engineers, and creates beauty through artists. God works through all the people who do things for us, day by day. And He also works through us, in whatever tasks, offices, and relationships He has called us to do.
The doctrine of vocation charges our everyday lives and our mundane activities with spiritual significance, and it is indeed a powerful motivator to perform them with excellence. But there is another dimension to vocation, one that is often left out. Yes, we fulfill our callings to the glory of God. But how, exactly, do we glorify God? That is to say, how does God command us to glorify Him?
The medieval Catholics also spoke much of glorifying God. The Jesuits had as their motto: “to the greater glory of God.” The Inquisition burned Protestants at the stake for God’s glory.
Luther stressed that our vocations are not works that we perform “for” God. The monastics talked that way, as if the Lord of the universe needed or was impressed by our actions. “God does not need our good works,” Luther said. “But our neighbor does.” The monks insisted they were saved by their good works, but Luther denied that their self-chosen mystical exercises, performed in isolation from other people, could even be called good works. “Who are you helping?” he asked. Good works are those that help our neighbor. They are performed primarily in our callings.
Our relationship to God is based wholly on His works, not our own; on His grace; on our redemption in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He, in turn, calls us to love and serve our neighbors. And yet, we learn from Christ that “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). So it turns out that when we love and serve our neighbor, we are serving Christ after all.
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.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
By David McKay 9/1/2006
When a pastor looks at his assembled congregation, what does he see? If he accepts a biblical covenant theology, he knows that he is not looking at a collection of randomly gathered individuals, or even families, but at a part of the covenant people of God. That perspective, when grasped by a congregation, ought to make a great impact on how these people view their life together.
Covenant theology reminds the people of God that they are to think covenantally rather than individualistically. Such a mindset is the very opposite of that which shapes much of current Western thinking. The church of Jesus Christ is a community of redeemed sinners bound to their Lord and to one another in the bond of love known as the covenant of grace. God gives Himself to them to be their God and takes them as His people (the covenant promise, which is spelled out, for example, in Lev. 26:12). Christians belong to their covenant Lord: “None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself…whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7–8). This also means that Christians are bound to one another and must think of themselves as part of a community. Paul expresses this truth using the language of the body in Ephesians 4:25: “We are members of one another.” We are therefore to take our covenant brothers and sisters into account in all aspects of our Christian living. The covenant community is no place for rugged individualists. We must constantly be asking, “How will this affect other believers?”
If we love our covenant brothers and sisters, we will seek what is best for them, especially their growth in grace. This can be done in a positive way by exhortation and mutual encouragement. The writer to the Hebrews, after speaking of the blessings of the new covenant that are provided by the blood of Jesus, has this stirring call for God’s people: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). The covenant community is the place where we are spurred on by fellow believers to make use of the means of grace, including the gatherings of the church for worship, which will shape us more in the likeness of the Mediator of the covenant. This is not something that happens automatically — we must consciously “consider” how to do it most effectively. A consistent example, a word of encouragement, an offer of help when a brother appears to be struggling — all these, and more, have their place. Here is a ministry in which every Christian can, and should, be engaged. Whilst elders have a special responsibility for the oversight of the community, there is opportunity for all to be involved.
A particularly important element in the life of the covenant community is the bearing of one another’s burdens. This is Paul’s command in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Our brothers and sisters are called by the Lord to bear all kinds of burdens (as are we ourselves), but they are not called to bear them alone. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells them, there is the ministry of those who are united to the same Savior in the bonds of the covenant. Indeed, this is often how the Spirit provides His help. When a brother or sister struggles with discouragement, failure, worry, bereavement, aging, sickness, the prospect of death, or any other problem, the burden is made heavier if others who could help stand idly by, showing no concern, apparently wrapped up in their own affairs. It can be costly to bear someone else’s burden — costly in time, costly in physical and emotional energy — and there is sadly no guarantee that the effort will be appreciated. If we take seriously our covenant solidarity, however, we will make the effort and take the risk. In our own times of trial, we also need to be willing to accept ministry. It is easier to be the strong one giving help than it is to admit weakness and accept help, yet that too is part of being members of the one body.
Sin is a reality in the covenant community. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In love, believers can hold each other accountable for their behavior, and so deal with sin before it grows and causes even greater problems. Sin can devastate fellowship, and thus it must not be ignored in the futile hope that it will just go away. Whilst elders have a particular responsibility to exercise loving discipline, if all believers were faithful in ministering to one another, far fewer issues would require attention in formal discipline. We must not forget that receiving discipline is part of our covenant responsibility, and never easy.
A covenant community that is functioning according to God’s pattern is a healthy environment for the raising of covenant children. As they grow up, they will be surrounded by examples of what it means to be a godly man or woman. We will not be afraid to have them copy what they see. Words of instruction will be supported by actions. Here the challenges and opportunities of covenant solidarity come to their sharpest focus.
David McKay | ??
By Don Carson 4/30/2018
Millions of Christians have sung the words as a chorus. Millions more have meditated on them in their own quiet reading of Scripture: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
It is a haunting image. One pictures the buck or the doe, descending through the forest’s perimeter in the half-light of dusk, to slake the thirst of a hot day in the cool waters of a crystal stream. When Christians have applied the image to themselves, they have conjured up a plethora of diverse personal circumstances: semi-mystical longings for a feeling of the transcendent, courageous God centeredness that flies in the face of cultural opposition, a lonely longing for a sense of God’s presence when the heavens seem as bronze, a placid contentment with our own religious experience, and more.
But whatever the possible applications of this haunting image, the situation of the deer—and of the psalmist, too, as we shall see—is full of enormous stress. The deer is not sidling up to the stream for the regular supply of refreshment; it is panting for water. The metrical psalter adds the words, “when heated by the chase”; but there is no hint of that here, and the application the psalmist makes would fit less well than another possibility. The psalmist is thinking of a deer panting for refreshing streams of water during a season of drought and famine (as in Joel 1:20). In the same way, he is hungry for the Lord, famished for the presence of God, and in particular hungry to be back in Jerusalem enjoying temple worship, “leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (42:4). Instead, he finds himself “downcast” (42:5) because he is way up the Jordan Valley, somewhere near the heights of Hermon, in the far north of the country.
Here the psalmist must contend with foes who taunt him, not least regarding his faith. They sneer all day long, “Where is your God?” (42:10). The only thing that will satisfy the psalmist is not, finally, Jerusalem and the temple, but God himself. Wherever he finds himself, the psalmist can still declare, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). So he encourages himself with these reflections: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:11).
Sing the chorus, repeat the ancient lines. And draw comfort when you are fighting the bleak bog of despair, and God seems far away.
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).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 4444 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.
9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
ALLEGED DIFFERENCES IN THEME AND SUBJECT MATTER (continued)
It should also be pointed out that the Babylon - centered chapters ( 40–48 ) do not appear without some advance preparation in the earlier part of Isaiah. As E. J. Young points out, chapters 1–39 constitute a “staircase, as it were, which gradually leads one from the Assyrian to the Chaldean period. The two belong together, since the former is the preparation for the latter, and the latter is the completion of the former.” That is to say, the atmosphere of Isaiah’s day was filled with the threat of exile. Samaria had already been carried away captive by the Assyrians in 722; Sennacherib made a supreme attempt to do the same to Jerusalem in 701. With deliberate purpose, Isaiah placed chapters 38 and 39 (even though they narrated earlier events from about 712 B.C.) after chapters 36 and 37, which narrate episodes occurring in 701. (Note Isa. 38:5–6, which quite clearly point forward to the future invasion of Sennacherib in 701.) This is because chapters 38 and 39 lead up to the reason for the coming Babylonian Exile: the pride of Hezekiah in displaying his wealth to the Babylonian envoys sent by Merodach-Baladan. Hence chapter 39 closes with an ominous prediction of the Chaldean captivity. But even in the prior chapters there are numerous intimations of the coming exile of the nation (cf. 3:24–26; 5:5–6; 6:11–13; 24:11–12; 27:13; 32:13–18 ). Only by the question - begging device of labeling all such references as later interpolations can one evade the impact of this considerable body of evidence that the eighth - century Isaiah foreknew that the Exile was coming. Furthermore, there is the testimony of 2 Chron. 36:23 and Ezra 1:2 that Cyrus’s decree of release for the Jewish exiles at Babylon included an affirmation that Yahweh had “charged” him to “build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” While it is conceivable that recently concocted prophecies were represented to Cyrus as being an authentic prediction from the eighth century, it is far more likely that he was impressed by a genuinely ancient oracle containing his name more than a century before he was born. It is most reasonable to assume that it was this circumstance which convinced him of the reality and power of the God of the Hebrews, and impelled him to take the extraordinary measure of authorizing a mass migration of Yahweh’s worshippers to their ancestral homeland. But at the same time it should be recognized that he also restored some other captive peoples to their native cities (ANET, p. 316), possibly to avoid appearing overly partial to the Jews alone.
Finally, it ought to be observed that a Babylonian standpoint does not really prevail as extensively through Isaiah II as advocates of the two Isaiah theory have maintained. Subsequent to chapter 48, clear allusions to the Exile and Restoration are hard to find. Many of the discourses address themselves to conditions known to have prevailed in Judah in the reign of Manasseh. J. A. Alexander appropriately points out: “How seldom, after all, the book mentions Babylon, the Exile, or the Restoration.… An exact enumeration of all such cases, made for the first time, might surprise one whose previous impressions had all been derived from the sweeping declarations of interpreters and critics.” In other words, the advocates of Deutero - Isaiah have attempted to find many allusions to the late sixth - century situation which are really susceptible to quite other interpretations. It is also a fact that the name of Babylon occurs with less frequency in chapters 40 – 66 than in 1 – 39. A statistical count shows that there are only four occurrences in the later section ( 43:14; 47:1; 48:14, 20 ), but in chapters 1 – 39 there are nine occurrences, or more than twice as many.
Internal evidence of the composition of Isaiah II in Palestine. A most important criterion for dating ancient documents is found in those references or allusions to contemporary events or surrounding conditions which it may happen to contain. The geographical setting which it presupposes, the kind of plants and animals which it mentions, the climatic conditions which it implies as prevailing in the author’s own environment—all these are important data for determining the place and time for the composition of any document whether ancient or modern. A careful examination of such allusions in Isa. 40 – 66 points unmistakably to the conclusion that it was composed in Palestine rather than in Babylon. We have already seen that Bernard Duhm, on a rationalistic basis, came to the same conclusion in 1892.
Isaiah 40 – 66 shows little knowledge of Babylonian geography, but great familiarity with that of Palestine. Thus the trees referred to are not found in Babylonia, but are native to Palestine, such as the cedar, cypress, and oak (cf 41:19, 44:14: “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak … he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it”). The writer’s geographical viewpoint is clearly Palestinian. Thus Yahweh is said to send off His decree to Babylon ( 43:14 ). Israel is called the seed of Abraham which the Lord has taken from “the ends of the earth” (apparently a reference to Babylonia) in 41:9 and 45:22. The same is true with the phrases “from the east” and “from a far country” as employed in 46:11, and “from thence” rather than “from hence” in 52:11 (“Depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing”) — an exhortation to the future exiles to leave Babylon as soon as the invitation has been given them by the coming deliverer, Cyrus.
The author assumes that the cities of Judah are still standing. Compare 40:9: “Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” This verse implies that Zion and the other cities of Judah are in actual existence at the time of writing, rather than being uninhabited sites in the wake of Chaldean devastation. The same is true of 62:6: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem.” Anti-supernaturalists cannot explain this away as an ideal anticipation of cities which are some day to be rebuilt. Such a defense would violate a cardinal maxim of their own, as expressed by Driver, “The prophet speaks always, in the first instance, to his own contemporaries; the message which he brings is intimately related to the circumstances of his own time.… The prophet never abandons his own historical position, but speaks from it.”
It is only to be expected that if the cities are still standing, the Israelites themselves are assumed to be dwelling in Palestine by the author of these prophecies. Thus in 58:6 we read: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” This would be very strange language to address to a people who were groaning under the bondage of the Chaldeans as a captive people. It is very evident that the Jews are still dwelling in their own land and are competent to hold their own law courts. Only thus would it be possible for corrupt judges to pervert the administration of the law to the disadvantage of the less privileged classes of society.
Evidence for the pre-exilic composition of Isaiah II. We have seen there is no good support for a Babylonian origin of Isaiah II. The internal evidence as it has been detailed above has shown how indefensible was this element in the theory of Deutero - Isaiah, as it was propounded by Doederlein, Eichhorn, and Rosenmueller. More recent scholars tend to regard Isaiah II as having been composed either in Palestine or in the region of Lebanon to the north. They nevertheless insist that chapters 40 – 66 were composed late, either in the exilic or post - exilic period. It remains to be shown that this theory also fails to account for the data of the internal evidence.
In the first place, many of the same evils which prevailed in the time of the eighth - century Isaiah are evidently still current in the generation of the author of Isaiah II. Note for example Isa. 57:7, “Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice.” Bloodshed and violence are denounced in 1:15: “Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood,” and they are still being denounced in 59:3, 7: “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.… Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood.” In both parts of the book, the prophet inveighs against the prevalent falsehood, injustice, and oppression which were practiced in Judah. Compare 10:12 “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless” with 59:4 – 9, where the indictment is very similar: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.”
Both in Isaiah I and II, a revolting hypocrisy characterizes the religious life of the nation. Compare 29:13: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” with 58:2, 4: “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.… Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” Moreover, in both sections of the book the Jews are assumed to be practicing their orgiastic rites in the sacred groves. (In 1:29: “They shall be ashamed of the oaks which they have desired”; and in 57:5: “Ye that inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every green tree,” ASV.)
Although the same types of sin are assumed to be prevalent by the author in both parts of Isaiah, it should be observed that there is a difference. In 40 – 66 the author refers to an extreme degeneracy and breakdown of morals which accords with no known period of Jewish history so closely as with the age of Manasseh, who “shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” ( 2 Kings 21:16 ). One has only to read 2 Kings 21 and Isa. 59 to see the close correspondence. Thus 59:10: “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.” So also verses 13 – 14: “In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”
A most decisive objection to a post-exilic date for the composition of Isaiah II is to be found in the numerous passages which refer to idolatry as a wide and prevalent evil in Israel. Isaiah 44:9 – 20 contains a long diatribe against the folly of making graven images for worship, as if this were a major problem in contemporary Judah. This passage cannot be dismissed as a mere challenge to contemporary pagan nations, for there are too many other passages which speak of idolatry being practiced by the author’s own countrymen at that time (cf. 57:4 – 5, “Against whom do ye sport yourselves?… Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?”).
Not only is ritual prostitution here referred to, but also the sacrificing of babies to Molech and Adrammelech, an infamous practice carried on during the reign of Manasseh in the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom ( 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6 ). And again, Isa. 57:7: “Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed; even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.” This is an obvious allusion to worship in the high places (bāmôt), a type of worship which flourished in the pre-exilic period, but never thereafter. Again, 65:2 – 4: “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people … a people that provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens, and burning incense upon bricks; that sit among the graves, and lodge in the secret places; that eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels” (ASV). In the very last chapter we find that idolatry is still being practiced. In 66:17: “They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst [or, one asherah], eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, they shall come to an end together, saith Jehovah” (ASV). Plainly these things represent vicious evils and degenerate pagan abominations which were going on at the time the prophet composed these words.
Let us carefully consider the implications of this prevalence of idolatry in Judah. The hilly or mountainous terrain referred to completely excludes the possibility of idolatrous worship being carried on in Babylonia, which was a flat, alluvial terrain. The types of worship alluded to are precisely those which are described as having been cultivated in the reign of Manasseh. So far as the post-exilic period is concerned, it is agreed by scholars of every persuasion that the returning Jews who resettled Judah from 536 to 450 brought back no idol worship with them. The terrible ordeal of the Babylonian captivity had brought about a complete rejection of graven images on the part of the Jewish remnant. This complete freedom from idolatry in post-exilic Judea is proved beyond all reasonable doubt by the writings of the admittedly post-exilic authors, notably the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and the historians Ezra and Nehemiah. Many and various were the evils which arose in the Second Commonwealth during the century which elapsed between Zerubbabel and Malachi, and these evils are clearly described and earnestly denounced both by Ezra and Nehemiah. The book of Malachi contains a list of sins into which his countrymen had fallen. Yet none of these suggests the slightest practice of idolatry. There was intermarriage with foreign women of idolatrous background; there was oppression of the poor by the rich; there was desecration of the Sabbath; there was a withholding of tithes — but none of these authors ever mentions the reappearance of idolatry in the land of Judah. There was also acceptance of blemished, defective animals for sacrifice, Mal. 1:12–14. The only possible conclusion to draw is that the worship of graven images there was unknown. Not until the age of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. was any real effort made to introduce it once more among the Israelite people. Therefore, in the light of this evidence, it is impossible to hold that Isaiah II was composed at any time after the exile, or indeed after the fall of Jerusalem.
Some Liberal scholars have felt compelled to make slight concessions in this direction and admit the possibility of late pre-exilic strands in Isaiah II. Thus Bentzen notes that “in like manner 63:7 – 65:25 may be connected with the events of 587 B.C.” W. H. Brownlee likewise comments: “It is not impossible that there are some pre-exilic prophecies among the oracles of Volume II. Note especially 56:9 – 57:13; 58:1–9 as of possible pre-exilic origin.” It can easily be seen how damaging to the theory of Isaiah II are such admissions as these. If such considerable passages on the basis of their contemporary allusions are to be dated prior to the fall of Jerusalem, the possibility arises that many other sections which do not happen to contain contemporary allusions may also have been of pre-exilic origin. In other words, if portions of these twenty-seven chapters demand a time of composition prior to the downfall of the Jewish monarchy, and there are no other passages which demand an exilic or post-exilic origin (except upon the basis of a philosophic a priori that all fulfilled predictions are vaticinia ex eventu), then the only reasonable deduction to draw is that the entire work was composed prior to 587 B.C. This means that the whole case for Deutero- or Trito - Isaiah falls to the ground, simply on the basis of the internal evidence of the text itself.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Lamentations 2:5 The Lord has become like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel;
he has swallowed up all its palaces;
he has laid in ruins its strongholds,
and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah
mourning and lamentation. ESV
The Lord was as an enemy. He was never really an enemy of His people. But He had declared, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). He chastens those whom He loves that they may be conformed to His holiness. But though He may use the rod there is always goodness behind it, directing every blow. It is in mercy that He afflicts. Faith recognizes this, and so can bow the head before Him and exclaim, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (1 Samuel 3:18); assured that “He doth not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). When the purpose of the chastening is accomplished, He will lift the rod and grant that governmental forgiveness in which He delights.
He chose this path for thee,
Though well He knew sharp thorns would tear thy feet,
Know how the brambles would obstruct the way,
Knew all the hidden dangers thou wouldst meet,
Knew how thy faith would falter day by day,
And still the whisper echoed, “Yes, I see
This path is best for thee.”
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2005 Grand Delusions
A couple of years ago I met the pastor of an “evangelical“ church in our area. As he told me about the church where he served, he became overwhelmingly excited when he explained that, as a matter of principle, his church did not discriminate against anyone. He went on to explain what steps he was taking to ensure that the members of the church were following the church’s nondiscriminatory principle. At that point in our conversation, I was in complete agreement with him, but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for what he said next. With great enthusiasm, he let me in on a little secret. Without informing the congregation or the other staff members of the church, he invited a practicing lesbian to greet Sunday morning worshipers and hand out service bulletins.
As far as he was concerned, inviting a homosexual to greet his congregation was the supreme example of nondiscrimination. And while it was his desire to help the church become more tolerant of the culture, the church, indeed, was seduced by the culture. For instead of teaching his congregation not to discriminate, he taught them not to discern.
In our culture, we are bombarded on every side. The cultural war is raging against the church, and at times it seems that we are losing. The homosexual army is marching down main street U. S. A., and instead of standing our ground and defending the church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many have allowed that army to break down the walls of the church and set up camp. Churches that once preached boldly the sacred Word of God now preach boldly the quaint meditations of their homosexual ministers. On another front, that same army is trying to convince us that we should be more open-minded about the definition of marriage between man and woman.
The sexual revolution of the twentieth century has not only affected what we are able to observe in the open, it has infected the hearts and minds of men throughout the world who have been seduced in the darkness of their dens by the voiceless images on their personal computers. It is a cultural wave of seduction that has swept the world and will continue to destroy everyone in its path unless the people of God take their stand and live coram Deo, before the face of God. For we can be sure that by God’s grace we will overcome the world, and for His glory we will transform the world as the Gospel of Christ is lived out in us.
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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)
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day
Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln's son Robert, introduced this Resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The Resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The Resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30, one month before the fast day was observed.
By the President of the United States of America.A Proclamation.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Abraham Lincoln Online
by Bill Federer
The size of the U.S. doubled this day, April 30, 1803, with the Louisiana Purchase. Nearly a million acres, at less than three cents an acre, it was the greatest land bargain in history. How did it happen? Napoleon Bonaparte needed money quickly for his military campaigns, therefore he sold all the land west of the Mississippi for just fifteen million dollars. Napoleon, who fought in Europe, Egypt and Russia, once stated: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires… upon force! But Jesus Christ founded His upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The soul can split the sky in two
and let the face of God shine through.
--- Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems: (American Poets Project 1)
Costly grace is the Gospel
which must be sought again and again and again,
the gift which must be asked for,
the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin,
and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
'Ye were bought at a price',
and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace
because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price
to pay for our life,
but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
--- Martin Luther King Jr.
Strength to Love
Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-First Chapter / When We Cannot Attain To The Highest, We Must practice The Humble Works
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, you cannot always continue in the more fervent desire of virtue, or remain in the higher stage of contemplation, but because of humanity’s sin you must sometimes descend to lower things and bear the burden of this corruptible life, albeit unwillingly and wearily. As long as you wear a mortal body you will suffer weariness and heaviness of heart. You ought, therefore, to bewail in the flesh the burden of the flesh which keeps you from giving yourself unceasingly to spiritual exercises and divine contemplation.
In such condition, it is well for you to apply yourself to humble, outward works and to refresh yourself in good deeds, to await with unshaken confidence My heavenly visitation, patiently to bear your exile and dryness of mind until you are again visited by Me and freed of all anxieties. For I will cause you to forget your labors and to enjoy inward quiet. I will spread before you the open fields of the Scriptures, so that with an open heart you may begin to advance in the way of My commandments. And you will say: the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed to us.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD
The words from which I speak, you will find in 1 Peter 1:5. The third, fourth and fifth verses are: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which . . . hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." The words of my text are: "Kept by the power of God through faith."
There we have two wonderful, blessed truths about the keeping by which a believer is kept unto salvation. One truth is, Kept by the power of God; and the other truth is, Kept through faith. We should look at the two sides--at God's side and His almighty power, offered to us to be our Keeper every moment of the day; and at the human side, we having nothing to do but in faith to let God do His keeping work. We are begotten again to an inheritance kept in Heaven for us; and we are kept here on earth by the power of God. We see there is a double keeping--the inheritance kept for me in Heaven, and I on earth kept for the inheritance there.
Now, as to the first part of this keeping, there is no doubt and no question. God keeps the inheritance in Heaven very wonderfully and perfectly, and it is waiting there safely. And the same God keeps me for the inheritance. That is what I want to understand.
You know it is very foolish of a father to take great trouble to have an inheritance for his children, and to keep it for them, if he does not keep them for it. What would you think of a man spending his whole time and making every sacrifice to amass money, and as he gets his tens of thousands, you ask him why it is that he sacrifices himself so, and his answer is: "I want to leave my children a large inheritance, and I am keeping it for them"--if you were then to hear that that man takes no trouble to educate his children, that he allows them to run upon the street wild, and to go on in paths of sin and ignorance and folly, what would you think of him? Would not you say: "Poor man! he is keeping an inheritance for his children, but he is not keeping or preparing his children for the inheritance"! And there are so many Christians who think: "My God is keeping the inheritance for me"; but they cannot believe: "My God is keeping me for that inheritance." The same power, the same love, the same God doing the double work.
by D.H. Stern
will be at home in the company of the wise.
32 He who spurns discipline detests himself,
but he who listens to correction grows in understanding.
33 The discipline of wisdom is fear of ADONAI,
so before being honored, a person must be humble.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
By Saint Augustine edited by E.B. Pusey
Book XICHAPTER I—BY CONFESSION HE DESIRES TO STIMULATE TOWARDS GOD HIS OWN LOVE AND THAT OF HIS READERS.
Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath said, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us, to become poor in spirit, and meek, and mourners, and hungering and athirst after righteousness, and merciful, and pure in heart, and peace-makers. See, I have told Thee many things, as I could and as I would, because Thou first wouldest that I should confess unto Thee, my Lord God. For Thou art good, for Thy mercy endureth for ever.
CHAPTER II—HE BEGS OF GOD THAT THROUGH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES HE MAY BE LED TO TRUTH.
But how shall I suffice with the tongue of my pen to utter all Thy exhortations, and all Thy terrors, and comforts, and guidances, whereby Thou broughtest me to preach Thy Word, and dispense Thy Sacrament to Thy people? And if I suffice to utter them in order, the drops of time are precious with me; and long have I burned to meditate in Thy law, and therein to confess to Thee my skill and unskilfulness, the daybreak of Thy enlightening, and the remnants of my darkness, until infirmity be swallowed up by strength. And I would not have aught besides steal away those hours which I find free from the necessities of refreshing my body and the powers of my mind, and of the service which we owe to men, or which though we owe not, we yet pay.
O Lord my god, give ear unto my prayer, and let Thy mercy hearken unto my desire: because it is anxious not for myself alone, but would serve brotherly charity; and Thou seest my heart, that so it is. I would sacrifice to Thee the service of my thought and tongue; do Thou give me, what I may offer Thee. For I am poor and needy, Thou rich to all that call upon Thee; Who, inaccessible to care, carest for us. Circumcise from all rashness and all lying both my inward and outward lips: let Thy Scriptures be my pure delights: let me not be deceived in them, nor deceive out of them. Lord, hearken and pity, O Lord my God, Light of the blind, and Strength of the weak; yea also Light of those that see, and Strength of the strong; hearken unto my soul, and hear it crying out of the depths. For if Thine ears be not with us in the depths also, whither shall we go? whither cry? The day is Thine, and the night is Thine; at Thy beck the moments flee by. Grant thereof a space for our meditations in the hidden things of Thy law, and close it not against us who knock. For not in vain wouldest Thou have the darksome secrets of so many pages written; nor are those forests without their harts which retire therein and range and walk; feed, lie down, and ruminate. Perfect me, O Lord, and reveal them unto me. Behold, Thy voice is my joy; Thy voice exceedeth the abundance of pleasures. Give what I love: for I do love; and this hast Thou given: forsake not Thy own gifts, nor despise Thy green herb that thirsteth. Let me confess unto Thee whatsoever I shall find in Thy books, and hear the voice of praise, and drink in Thee, and meditate on the wonderful things out of Thy law; even from the beginning, wherein Thou madest the heaven and the earth, unto the everlasting reigning of Thy holy city with Thee.
Lord, have mercy on me, and hear my desire. For it is not, I deem, of the earth, not of gold and silver, and precious stones, or gorgeous apparel, or honours and offices, or the pleasures of the flesh, or necessaries for the body and for this life of our pilgrimage: all which shall be added unto those that seek Thy kingdom and Thy righteousness. Behold, O Lord my God, wherein is my desire. The wicked have told me of delights, but not such as Thy law, O Lord. Behold, wherein is my desire. Behold, Father, behold, and see and approve; and be it pleasing in the sight of Thy mercy, that I may find grace before Thee, that the inward parts of Thy words be opened to me knocking. I beseech by our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, the Man of Thy right hand, the Son of man, whom Thou hast established for Thyself, as Thy Mediator and ours, through Whom Thou soughtest us, not seeking Thee, but soughtest us, that we might seek Thee,- Thy Word, through Whom Thou madest all things, and among them, me also;- Thy Only-Begotten, through Whom Thou calledst to adoption the believing people, and therein me also;- I beseech Thee by Him, who sitteth at Thy right hand, and intercedeth with Thee for us, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. These do I seek in Thy books. Of Him did Moses write; this saith Himself; this saith the Truth.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The spontaneity of love
Love suffereth long, and is kind … --- 1 Cor. 13:4–8.
Love is not premeditated, it is spontaneous, that is, it bursts up in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of mathematical certainty in Paul’s category of love. We cannot say—‘Now I am going to think no evil; I am going to believe all things.’ The characteristic of love is spontaneity. We do not settle statements of Jesus in front of us as a standard; but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without knowing it, and on looking back we are amazed at the disinterestedness of a particular emotion, which is the evidence that the spontaneity of real love was there. In everything to do with the life of God in us, its nature is only discerned when it is past.
The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally, it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, it comes naturally. In looking back we cannot tell why we did certain things, we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God manifests itself in this spontaneous way because the springs of love are in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.)
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And he dared them;
Dared them to grow old and bitter
As he. He kept his pen clean
By burying it in their fat
Flesh. He was ascetic and Wales
His diet. He lived off the harsh fare
Of her troubles, worn yet heady
At moments with the poets' wine.
A recluse, then; himself
His hermitage? Unhabited
He moved among us; would have led
To rebellion. Small as he was
He towered, the trigger of his mind
Cocked, ready to let fly with his scorn.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Many people think that youth is synonymous with energy and growth and is entirely positive, while age implies weakness and decay and is to be shunned or avoided. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar tells us not to be so quick in our judgements. Youth can bring with it immaturity and impatience; unbridled energy acting on momentary whims can lead to terrible and costly mistakes. On the other hand, age often has the benefit of wisdom that is born of experience and reflection.
There is another assumption that Rabbi Shimon is challenging: Building is always good, while tearing down must, by definition, always be bad. Architects and city-planners understand that too much building can create overcrowding. Building in the wrong place can leave people without access to shopping, work, or recreation. Shoddy building can be a major safety hazard. Building without concern for esthetics can have a major negative impact on how people see their environment and how they feel about themselves. Building more is not always better.
What is true of the physical realm is often true in the social sphere as well. Involvement with people and causes is a good thing, but many of us make the mistake of assuming that more is always better. There are many individuals who are so active in work or organizations that they are busy to the point of dysfunction. Spreading themselves too thin by their relationships, involvements, or obligations, they have no time left for the things that truly matter.
On the other hand, destruction can sometimes lead to unexpected, but very constructive, consequences. Destruction is often the first step in the process of change, renovation, and revitalization. Tearing down makes for breathing room and allows for new growth. Scientists have observed that a fire in a forest, while being very destructive, actually lays the foundation for more fertile soil and eventual rebirth of an ecosystem that is stronger and healthier than it was before. In the eighteenth century, medicine took a giant leap forward by suggesting that inoculating people with a disease could prevent a more severe case of that disease in the future. Imagine the initial response of most people to the suggestion that smallpox could be eliminated if you first gave a patient a mild dose of the plague. It must have seemed madness! Yet sometimes, what seems like destruction can actually lead to something very positive.
A good football coach knows that punting on fourth down is not always a sign of failure. It can be a part of a larger strategy to give the other team the ball with very poor field position. It is a way of building up an eventual score, even though at the moment it looks destructive to the goal of putting points on the board.
Rabbi Shimon would counsel us: Don't be so quick to judge things by who is doing them or by how they appear at first glance. What seems vibrant and constructive may not be. What seems destructive and old may actually lead to something good and lasting.
A sin done for the right reason is better than a mitzvah done for the wrong reason.
Text / Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: "A sin done for the right reason is better than a mitzvah done for the wrong reason." But did not Rav Yehudah say in the name of Rav: "A person should always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot even if they are done for the wrong reason, for by doing them even for the wrong reason he will eventually come to do them for the right reason"? Therefore, say: [A sin done for the right reason is] like a mitzvah done for the wrong reason, as it is written: "Most blessed of women be Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of women in tents [Judges 5:24]." Who are the women in tents? Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.
Context / He asked for water, she offered milk;
In a princely bowl she brought him curds.
Her [left] hand reached for the tent pin,
Her right hand for the workmen's hammer.
She struck Sisera, crushed his head,
Smashed and pierced his temple.
At her feet he sank, lay outstretched,
At her feet he sank, lay still;
Where he sank, there he lay—destroyed.
--- (Judges 5:25–27).
Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maid servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Look, the Lord has kept me from bearing. Consort with my maid; perhaps I shall have a son through her."
--- (Genesis 16:1–2).
When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister; and Rachel said to Jacob … "Here is my maid Bilhah. Consort with her, that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have children."
--- (Genesis 30:1, 3).
When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as concubine.
--- (Genesis 30:9).
The sin done for the right reason is Jael's killing of the Canaanite general, Sisera. After suffering a terrible defeat on the battlefield at the hands of the Israelites, Sisera fled and sought refuge with Jael. According to the biblical story, she offered him a place to hide, but after he fell asleep, she killed him, destroying an enemy of the Israelites and bringing about a period of peace and security. According to the Midrash, Jael not only gave him a place to sleep, she had sex with him in order to make him go to sleep, so that she could kill him.
The mitzvah done for the wrong reason was when each of the Matriarchs presented her husband with a handmaiden who was to become his concubine. Ostensibly, this was done because the matriarch was barren and wanted to make certain that her husband would have a child, so the family would increase and multiply. But according to the Rabbis, the Matriarchs had ulterior motives. They were really interested in engendering jealousy among their rivals. The gift was not about survival of the family; it was motivated by ego and selfishness.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Commentary / The Book of Judges begins with an overview and ends with a summary. The first chapters of this book provide a brief analysis of why Israel's great promise was never realized. The middle section (Judges 3:7–16:31) traces chronologically the history of the Judges and the conditions of their times. The final section summarizes and, through two case histories, vividly demonstrates the results of Israel's choice to abandon God's ways.
The key to understanding the decline recorded here is found in Judges 2:10: "Another generation [after Joshua] grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel." Israel's rest and blessing were dependent on obedience to God. But obedience in turn hinged on knowing the Lord—well.
The New Testament picks up this same theme. "Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me" (John 14:21). Obedience to God will result from relationship, and will depend on love. We do not coolly choose to obey in order to gain God's affection. It is only when we know that we are loved by God, and when we love Him in return, that love and trust awaken in us the capacity to obey.
The new generation, in drifting away from a personal relationship with God, inevitably lost the capacity to trust Him and to obey. Rest and blessing, contingent on living out the Law's lifestyle, were inevitably lost as well. These early chapters of Judges trace Israel's breakdown and record a revealing progression.
Incomplete obedience. Joshua had broken the ability of the Canaanites to organize resistance against Israel. Then the land had been divided among the tribes, and each tribe commanded to clear its own territory of enemies.
Archeological evidence combined with the biblical record indicates that Israel was successful in the hills of Palestine, but not in the low-lying areas. The power of the remaining peoples was concentrated in the lowlands, and the Canaanites had adopted chariot warfare. Unable to cope with these chariots of iron, the tribes involved failed to drive the inhabitants out (Judges 1:31, 34). Even more serious, when Israel was victorious they chose not to drive them out. "When Israel became strong," the author of Judges notes, "they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor, but never drove them out completely" (v. 28; see also vv. 30, 33, 35). The people of Israel valued slaves more than their covenant promise to the Lord!
God warned against this alarming tendency. Judges 2:1–4 tells of God's Angel speaking to all the people of Israel. He reminded them that the Lord had made a firm covenant with Israel and had kept His word in bringing them to the Promised Land. Then came the rebuke: "I said.… 'You shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed Me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out from before you; but they will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare unto you."
The Teacher's Commentary
Apostasy. The wisdom of God in demanding that the Canaanites be driven out was demonstrated in what happened then. Influenced by the nature and fertility gods of the surrounding peoples, which appealed to the materialistic and sensual in their nature, the Israelites "followed … various gods … and bowed themselves unto them … they forsook [the Lord], and served Baal and the Ashtareths" (Judges 2:12–13).
Intermarriage. A third aspect of Israel's departure from God is seen in intermarriage (Judges 3:5–6). In this they not only denied their identity as a distinct and peculiar people of God, but also were further motivated to serve pagan gods. The distinctive lifestyle defined in the Law, which was intended to reveal the moral character of God and to set Israel apart from all other peoples, was abandoned in favor of the immoral lifestyle of the peoples of the land.
Israel denied her heritage, her identity, and her God.
In these chapters the Book of Judges gives a chronological survey of events during the centuries of darkness which followed for Israel. God's Word had been abandoned and He Himself forsaken. The lesson that earlier generations had learned at Jericho and Ai forgotten, the people of Israel now had to be taught again and again and again. This time, instead of involving a single family (Achan's), the pattern of sin and subsequent judgment swept over the nation as a whole.
And there was a pattern. Seven repeated cycles of events are reported. The first scriptural account reports that Israel fell into sin. As a result of sin, God brought judgment through the nearby nations, and God's people were forced into servitude. When the pressure became unbearable, Israel turned from her sin and cried out to God for deliverance. God heard Israel's prayers and a charismatic leader emerged to lead Israel—first to victory over the enemy, and then morally and spiritually as a judge. During this leader's life the people typically knew quiet and freedom from oppression. But all too soon, they slipped back into the sinful ways of the pagans around them. With that fall into sin, the cycle began all over again.
To understand this Bible book it is important to see that with each cycle, Israel appears to have become worse. And each subsequent judge had less spiritual impact, until Samson found himself unable to bring rest to the people, even though he was the most powerful of them all!
The chronology. The length of time the Judges are said to have ruled adds up to 410 years. The actual period was probably about 335 years, since the time from Joshua's generation to the fourth year of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1) is itself about 410 years. The reason for the discrepancy between the actual and the apparent time span is that the ministry of the Judges overlapped to some extent (see Judges 3:30–4:1 and 10:7–9). The various oppressors were not the world powers of the day, but the neighbors Israel had failed to drive out. One judge might have been occupied with a people to the east, while another was occupied with the peoples to the west. Thus we can't tell from internal chronology alone just how long the Judges served.
The judges. Twelve names are generally associated with the ministry of the Judges. For most of them the calling was both military and civil. A judge emerged (was "raised up" by God, Judges 3:9, 15, etc.) in time of need, led Israel in throwing off an enemy yoke, and then usually continued as a supervisor of God's people. The judges, in most cases, were apparently successful in keeping their people from idolatry.
The Teacher's Commentary
of Israel’s Performance (3:1–6)
The New American Commentary
Because of the complex nature of this segment, scholars have developed elaborate, if speculative, reconstructions of the history / evolution of the text. In the process the relationship of this passage to the preceding is often missed. (So also Sweeney, “Davidic Polemics in the Book of Judges,” 522–24.) Structurally the text is dominated by two circumstantial clauses, vv. 1–3 and 5–6, which frame the purpose statement in v. 4. Because of the length and weight of the frame statements, the significance of v. 4 may be overlooked. Beginning with the waw-consecutive imperfect verb plus purpose infinitive construct (wayyihyû lĕnassôt … lādaʿat …, lit., “and they became tests … to know …”), this verse indicates that this paragraph is intended as an exposition of 2:23. The verse may at one point have followed immediately after 2:23, but it has been separated from that context and wrapped with two circumstantial clauses that transform and expand its significance. (3:4 is to 2:23 as fulfillment is to promise. Similar patterns are evident in 2:14a (Yahweh gave them over to plunderers; so they plundered them), 2:14b (He sold them to their enemies; so they could not stand), and 2:23 (He gave the nations rest; so he did not give them over to Joshua).)
Thematically this paragraph ties together a series of ends that have been raised in the preceding chapters: (1) the notion of testing (nāsâ, vv. 1, 4) picks up an element from 2:22); (2) with the exception of the Hivites, the list of Canaanite nations in v. 5 echoes nations named in chap. 1; (3) the reference to Israel “living among” (yāšab bĕqereb) the Canaanites (v. 5) recalls 1:32, 33; (4) the reference to “obeying” (šāmaʿ) the commands of Yahweh recall the accusations of 2:3b, 17); (5) the mention of the commandments of Yahweh (miṣwōt yhwh) in v. 4 links with 2:17b; (6) the reference to commandments given by Yahweh to the fathers (ʾābôt) in v. 4 recalls “the covenant which I commanded the fathers” in 2:20b, as well as the promise sworn to the fathers in 2:1, and the notice of the fathers’ fidelity in 2:22; (7) the charge of “serving their gods” in v. 6 offers an abbreviated version of 2:11–13. Despite these connections, however, the addition of new ideas and the structure of this paragraph have resulted in a distinctive literary piece.
Obviously the principal function of this paragraph is to elaborate on the test announced in 2:22. In describing the test and announcing Israel’s dismal failure the narrator explores the depth of Israelite depravity. The consequences of their failure to pursue the holy war have extended into the very homes and the faith of the people. In making this statement the narrator reiterates the justice of God in sending in enemy nations against the Israelites, and sets a backdrop for his gracious acts of deliverance from the enemies as described in succeeding chapters.
Judges, Ruth: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
The First Jewish Revolt
Revolution broke out in Judea in the early summer of 66 C.E. Some Jewish young men had parodied the greed and stinginess of the procurator Florus. In response, he marched to Jerusalem and demanded that the elders of the city hand over the youths for punishment. The local authorities refused to comply, and Florus let loose his soldiers upon the city. According to Josephus, he even crucified some Jewish equites (J.W. 2.294–308). Some members of the Jerusalem ruling elite attempted to defuse the situation, but this proved impossible. Florus made the situation more volatile by demanding a public display of submission and ordering the Jewish populace to greet the two cohorts he had sent to Jerusalem as reinforcement of the city garrison. However, the soldiers of these cohorts behaved so arrogantly toward the populace that more riots broke out, forcing Florus to withdraw to Caesarea. Meanwhile, Herod Agrippa II and his sister Berenice, who had heard about the disturbances in the city, tried to appeal for calm. Nonetheless, their efforts ultimately failed, and they were expelled from the city (J.W. 2.309–14, 334–35, 343–406). In May/June 66 C.E., some of the young priests, incited and led by the captain of the Temple, Eleazer ben Ananias, terminated the sacrifices offered daily at the Temple on behalf of the emperor. In essence, this served as an open proclamation of revolution and war.
Fighting broke out between various factions over both control of the city and the resumption of the daily sacrifices. This internecine fighting became even more violent when sicarii led by a certain Menahem ben Judah entered the city and joined with Eleazer. Eleazer’s father and uncle, who were the leaders of the faction trying to avoid war with Rome, were murdered by Menahem and his men, and the soldiers sent into the city by Agrippa II to restore order either joined the rebels or were driven out of the city. A small contingent of Roman auxiliaries, who found themselves trapped inside the city, tried to escape, but were killed by Eleazer’s men. The rebellion thus quickly became unavoidable and irrevocable.
Given this situation, Jews from all over Judea took the opportunity to rise up against their non-Jewish neighbors and vice versa. Seeing that the situation had gotten out of control, the governor of Syria, Cestius Gallus, collected a large army including the Twelfth Legion and some auxiliaries supplied by Agrippa and began marching south to Judea. Gallus reached Ptolemais in September and secured Galilee with little opposition. However, in October, his forces met Jewish resistance, which plundered his baggage train before he had even reached Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Gallus marched his army to Jerusalem and seized the northern suburbs, especially the district of Bezetha, with little difficulty. Despite this success, Gallus quickly determined that he could not take the city that year, so he ordered a retreat to the coast, but this withdrawal was completely disorderly, and the Jewish army took the opportunity to inflict heavy casualties on the retreating Roman forces.
At this point, the Jewish rebels now began to organize themselves as a revolutionary government. Joseph ben Gurion and Ananus ben Ananus became joint leaders of the provisional government, and they appointed generals to conduct the war. Josephus himself was selected to be the general of the forces in Galilee. In Rome, Nero dispatched Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who had distinguished himself in the invasion of Britain during the reign of Claudius. By June 67 C.E., Vespasian reached Galilee with his army, which had secured the region through brutal tactics. Josephus, who lacked proper troops and armaments, was reduced to protecting little more than small hilltop fortresses and was finally captured at the siege of Jotapata. He managed to ingratiate himself with Vespasian by hailing him as the next emperor of Rome. The other Jewish resistance fighter in the region, John of Gischala, attempted to continue the war against Vespasian, but he was forced to flee to Jerusalem in late summer 67.
Back in Jerusalem, the situation was becoming increasingly unstable. The population was dissatisfied with the provisional government because of its inability to hold Galilee. Dissatisfaction only increased in the spring of 68 when Vespasian began to march toward and encircle Jerusalem. Opposition to Ananus was bolstered partially by rural peasants, who had fled into the city because their homes and farms had been captured or threatened by the Roman army. In this hotbed of factionalism rose a new group of elite priests, who described themselves as Zealots because of their zeal for the Temple and its cult. These Zealots accused the provisional government of not prosecuting the war with enough enthusiasm. Such a charge may have been unfair, but it was strengthened by the reality that many original members of Ananus’ faction, including Josephus, had by this time defected to the Roman side. Regardless, the Zealots ultimately barricaded themselves within the Temple, where they were soon joined by John of Gischala and his men as well as a large force of Idumeans who had come to Jerusalem to defend the city. This new faction was able to overthrow the provisional government and execute Ananus and his closest supporters, including Josephus’ friend and patron Joshua ben Gamala. Now firmly in power, John and the Zealots began a bloody purge of their enemies within the city.
Meanwhile, back in Rome Nero committed suicide, and with his death ended Vespasian’s mandate as imperial legate. Because of this development, Vespasian suspended his campaign and waited to see what would happen. His campaign resumed in May/June of 69, and by the time that he was proclaimed emperor in July, his army had recovered the land previously conquered and just finished encircling Jerusalem again. For a second time, the Roman campaign against Jerusalem was suspended as Vespasian turned to securing control of the empire.
While the Romans were engaged in a civil war known as the “Year of the Four Emperors,” the Jews in Jerusalem were involved in their own civil war. In the year 68 some of the factional leaders, whom John and the Zealots had ousted from power, left the city and joined the army of Simon bar Gioras, a commander in the battle against Cestius Gallus who had been sidelined by Ananus’ government. With Ananus now dead, Simon entered the fray, again capturing Hebron in spring 69 and then camping outside of Jerusalem. With the help of the Idumeans, who had become disenchanted with the Zealots and John, Simon was able to seize control of all of Jerusalem except the Temple itself. John eventually split from the Zealots and occupied the outer precincts of the Temple, while the Zealots holed up in the inner Temple. This tripartite division of the city lasted until Vespasian’s son Titus and his army arrived before the walls of Jerusalem in March 70 and began to besiege the city. With the arrival of the Roman army, the three factions set aside their differences and began coordinating their defenses.
Titus could have tried to starve the city into submission, but the new Flavian regime needed a magnificent victory, and so he determined to take the city by force. By May 70, the Romans had captured the third wall. The Antonia fortress fell in June, and by August the Romans had captured and burned the Temple itself. As autumn began, the Roman army focused its attention on crushing any pockets of resistance that remained in the Upper City. It then turned its attention to the handful of Herodian fortresses occupied by Jewish resistance. The most famous of these, Masada, was not taken until 73/74, after its defenders committed mass suicide.
Judea was placed under the control of a praetorian legate, and a legion was permanently stationed in Jerusalem. Vespasian also established a veteran colony at Emmaus to keep the peace (J.W. 7.217). The Temple was not rebuilt, and its plundered riches were transported to Rome, where they played a central role in the Flavian triumph. Simon Bar Gioras, who had been captured in the siege, was also taken to Rome, forced to march in the triumph, and then ritually executed (J.W. 7.153–55). The Jewish political state ceased to exist. With the loss of the Temple, the people of Judea were forced to survive in radically different circumstances.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
You have been faithful with a few things; I will put youin charge of many things. Come and share yourmaster’s happiness!
--- Matthew 25:21.
It was very like our Lord to make fidelity the test of life. ( Highways of the Heart (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) Just as he took obscure and lowly people when he wanted to build a kingdom, so he took obscure and lowly virtues when he wanted to build character—not merely because they were obscure but because they were within the range of all, and his was to be a universal Gospel. There is nothing dazzling in fidelity. It has no power to arrest the eye or to get chronicled in newspapers.
It is like him, too, to recognize that fidelity demands courage. In [this] parable, one man was not faithful. He buried his talent. And when the reckoning was taken, that man said I was afraid. His infidelity was fear. There is a courage of the battlefield, which is often a splendid thing. There is a courage needed for every adventure, whether in Africa or on Everest. But perhaps the finest courage is the quiet and steady courage of fidelity. To do things when you don’t feel like doing them, to keep on keeping on, to get to duty through headache and through heartache. That is not a thing of the rare moment—it is carrying victory into the common day. And life is never victorious unless our common days are full of victories of which no one hears anything.
This was the courage of our Lord himself. Sometimes we forget how brave he was. We dwell on his tenderness, and in a world like this we can never dwell on his tenderness too much. But if we ignore his courage, we lose one of the appeals of Christ to youth, and to do that is pitiful. Did it take no courage to come down from heaven and become the tenant of a cottage? Did it take no courage to resist the Devil offering him the kingdoms of the world? To scorn delights and live laborious days, to take the long trail to Calvary, to set out for Jerusalem, where the cross was waiting and the crown of thorns—never was finer courage in the world. When we feel that we are missing things, when we are tempted to rebel at drudgery, we must remember him who took up his cross, daily, to the end.
Our Lord associates fidelity with joy: “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21 KJV). Only be faithful, and when the task is over and the Morning breaks on the farther shore, you will enter into the joy of your Lord.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Tempest April 30
During its first three centuries, the Church met persecution in sporadic intervals around the empire. But nothing compared with the tempest that befell it during the days of Roman emperor Diocletian. Diocletian, seizing power in a coup, appointed fellow-soldier Maximian as co-emperor and two other men as assistants, Constantius and Galerius. The four ruled the empire, east and west, conservatively and with a philosophy of “traditional values.”
“Traditional values” for ancient Rome excluded Christianity. Though Diocletian himself seemed tolerant at first of Christians (his wife and daughter were believers), Galerius was strongly anti-Christian. His military prowess and battlefield victories gave him increasing influence. Slowly and methodically he painted Christians as enemies. He pushed through a series of persecutions against Christians, beginning with the destruction of a church in Nicomedia on February 23, 303. In rapid fire, several edicts were issued against the Church, the last and worst being published on April 30, 304.
No one can describe the carnage. Christians were dismissed from their positions, their civil rights suspended. Church buildings were set afire. Copies of the Scriptures were burned in the marketplaces. Pastors and church leaders were caught and executed, many by lions in the coliseums. In Phrygia one whole community was wiped out. Other Christians were thrown into squalid prisons or sent to dreaded mines. All former persecutions were forgotten in the horror of this last and greatest storm.
But the empire gradually grew sick of the killing. Executioners were exhausted, and even the lions, it is said, grew tired of Christian flesh. Galerius, meanwhile, found he was dying of a disease commonly known as “being eaten with worms.” On April 30, 311, anniversary of the earlier edict, he issued another in which he suspended persecution against Christians if they would pray for his recovery. From a thousand prisons, mines, and labor camps, the scarred warriors of Christ streamed home.
Many of them no doubt prayed for Galerius, but he didn’t recover. Some five days after he signed the edict the worms finished their work.
Herod … sat down on his throne and made a speech. The people shouted, “You speak more like a god than a man!” At once an angel from the Lord struck him down because he took the honor that belonged to God. Later, Herod was eaten by worms and died. God’s message kept spreading.
--- Acts 12:21b-24.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 30
“And all the children of Israel murmured.”
--- Numbers 14:2.
There are murmurers amongst Christians now, as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when the rod falls, cry out against the afflictive dispensation. They ask, “Why am I thus afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?” A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmur against the dispensations of thy heavenly Father? Can he treat thee more hardly than thou deservest? Consider what a rebel thou wast once, but he has pardoned thee! Surely, if he in his wisdom sees fit now to chasten thee, thou shouldst not complain. After all, art thou smitten as hardly as thy sins deserve? Consider the corruption which is in thy breast, and then wilt thou wonder that there needs so much of the rod to fetch it out? Weigh thyself, and discern how much dross is mingled with thy gold; and dost thou think the fire too hot to purge away so much dross as thou hast? Does not that proud rebellious spirit of thine prove that thy heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Are not those murmuring words contrary to the holy submissive nature of God’s children? Is not the correction needed? But if thou wilt murmur against the chastening, take heed, for it will go hard with murmurers. God always chastises his children twice, if they do not bear the first stroke patiently. But know one thing—“He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” All his corrections are sent in love, to purify thee, and to draw thee nearer to himself. Surely it must help thee to bear the chastening with resignation if thou art able to recognize thy Father’s hand. For “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” “Murmur not as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer.”
Evening - April 30
“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God."
Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside his mind from us, has us always before his eyes; and this is precisely as we would have it, for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment beyond the observation of our heavenly Father. His thoughts are always tender, loving, wise, prudent, far-reaching, and they bring to us countless benefits: hence it is a choice delight to remember them. The Lord always did think upon his people: hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured; he always will think upon them: hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest. In all our wanderings the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us—we never roam beyond the Shepherd’s eye. In our sorrows he observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes him; in our toils he marks all our weariness, and writes in his book all the struggles of his faithful ones. These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the great God.
Dear reader, is this precious to you? then hold to it. Never be led astray by those philosophic fools who preach up an impersonal God, and talk of self-existent, self-governing matter. The Lord liveth and thinketh upon us, this is a truth far too precious for us to be lightly robbed of it. The notice of a nobleman is valued so highly that he who has it counts his fortune made; but what is it to be thought of by the King of kings! If the Lord thinketh upon us, all is well, and we may rejoice evermore.
Morning and Evening
ACCORDING TO THY GRACIOUS WORD
James Montgomery, 1771–1854
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
here would I touch and handle things unseen,
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon Thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
here drink with Thee the royal wine of heav’n.
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiv’n.
--- Horatius Bonar
In His sovereign wisdom our Lord knew that His followers through the centuries would need a continual reminder of the essential truths of their faith—the sacrificial death, the triumphant resurrection, and the victorious return of Christ. For His disciples, Christ shared the Last Supper and introduced the signs of the new covenant—His broken body and shed blood—symbolized by the bread and the cup. With this supper as the model, He then gave instructions that this feast of remembrance should occur regularly in our worship of Him until He comes. After that, it will culminate in heaven with the saints of the ages in the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7, 9). Not only should the communion service serve as a backward and forward reminder of what Christ has and will do for us, but it should also cause us to look within ourselves —“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).
“According to Thy Gracious Word” by James Montgomery recounts vividly the sacrificial atonement of Christ and the believer’s response to Christ’s command in Luke 22:19—“This do in remembrance of Me.”
According to Thy gracious word, in meek humility, this will I do, my dying Lord: I will remember Thee.
Thy body, broken for my sake, my bread from heav’n shall be; Thy testamental cup I take, and thus remember Thee.
When to the cross I turn mine eyes and rest on Calvary, O Lamb of God, my sacrifice, I must remember Thee—
Remember Thee and all Thy pains and all Thy love to me; yea, while a breath, a pulse remains will I remember Thee.
And when these failing lips grow dumb and mind and mem’ry flee, when you shalt in Thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me!
For Today: Matthew 26:26–29; 1 Corinthians 10:16–21; 11:23–28.
Reflect on this: Am I truly willing to take the backward, forward, and inward looks as I anticipate the next Communion Service? Use this musical reminder to help ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. X. — I COULD wish, indeed, that we were furnished with some better term for this discussion, than this commonly used term, necessity, which cannot rightly be used, either with reference to the human will, or the divine. It is of a signification too harsh and ill-suited for this subject, forcing upon the mind an idea of compulsion, and that which is altogether contrary to will; whereas, the subject which we are discussing, does not require such an idea: for Will, whether divine or human, does what it does, be it good or evil, not by any compulsion but by mere willingness or desire, as it were, totally free. The will of God, nevertheless, which rules over our mutable will, is immutable and infallible; as Boëtius sings, “Immovable Thyself, Thou movement giv’st to all.” And our own will, especially our corrupt will, cannot of itself do good; therefore, where the term fails to express the idea required, the understanding of the reader must make up the deficiency, knowing what is wished to be expressed — the immutable will of God, and the impotency of our depraved will; or, as some have expressed it, the necessity of immutability, though neither is that sufficiently grammatical, or sufficiently theological.
Upon this point, the Sophists have now laboured hard for many years, and being at last conquered, have been compelled to retreat. All things take place from the necessity of the consequence, (say they) but not from the necessity of the thing consequent. What nothingness this amounts to, I will not take the trouble to show. By the necessity of the consequence, (to give a general idea of it) they mean this — If God wills any thing, that same thing must, of necessity be done; but it is not necessary that the thing done should be necessary: for God alone is necessary; all other things cannot be so, if it is God that wills. Therefore, (say they) the action of God is necessary, where He wills, but the act itself is not necessary; that is, (they mean) it has not essential necessity. But what do they effect by this playing upon words? Only this, that the act itself is not necessary, that is, it has not essential necessity. This is no more than saying, the act is not God Himself. This, nevertheless, remains certain, that if the action of God is necessary, or if there is a necessity of the consequence, every thing takes place of necessity, how much soever the act be not necessary; that is, be not God Himself, or have not essential necessity. For, if I be not made of necessity, it is of little moment with me, whether my existence and being be mutable or not, if, nevertheless, I, that contingent and mutable being, who am not the necessary God, am made.
Wherefore, their ridiculous play upon words, that all things take place from the necessity of the consequence, but not from the necessity of the thing consequent, amounts to nothing more than this — all things take place of necessity, but all the things that do take place are not God Himself. But what need was there to tell us this? As though there were any fear of our asserting, that the things done were God Himself, or possessed divine or necessary nature. This asserted truth, therefore, stands and remains invincible — that all things take place according to the immutable will of God! which they call the necessity of the consequence. Nor is there here any obscurity or ambiguity. In Isaiah he saith, “My counsel shall stand, and My will shall be done.” (Isa. xlvi. 10.) And what schoolboy does not understand the meaning of these expressions, “Counsel,” “will,” “shall be done,” “shall stand?”
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
5 He Restores My Soul
During my own years as a keeper of sheep, perhaps some of the most poignant memories are wrapped around the commingled anxiety of keeping a count of my flock and repeatedly saving and restoring cast sheep. It is not easy to convey on paper the sense of this ever-present danger. Often I would go out early and merely cast my eye across the sky. If I saw the black-winged buzzards circling overhead in their long, slow spirals, anxiety would grip me. Leaving everything else, I would immediately go out into the rough, wild pastures and count the flock to make sure every one was well and fit and able to be on its feet.
This is part of the pageantry and drama depicted for us in the magnificent story of the ninety-nine sheep with one astray. There is the shepherd’s deep concern, his agonizing search, his longing to find the missing one, and his delight in restoring it not only to its feet but also to the flock as well as to himself.
Again and again I would spend hours searching for a single sheep that was missing. Then, more often than not, I would see it at a distance, down on its back, lying helpless. At once I would start to run toward it—hurrying as fast as I could—for every minute was critical.
Within me there was a mingled sense of fear and joy: fear that it might be too late; joy that it was found at all.
As soon as I reached the cast ewe, my first impulse was to pick it up. Tenderly I would roll the sheep over on its side. This would relieve the pressure of gases in the rumen. If she had been down for long, I would have to lift her onto her feet. Then, straddling the sheep with my legs, I would hold her erect, rubbing her limbs to restore the circulation to her legs. This often took quite a little time. When the sheep started to walk again, she often just stumbled, staggered, and collapsed in a heap once more.
All the time I worked on the cast sheep I would talk to it gently: “When are you going to learn to stand on your own feet?” “I’m so glad I found you in time—you rascal!”
Little by little the sheep would regain its equilibrium. It would start to walk steadily and surely. By and by it would dash away to rejoin the others, set free from its fears and frustrations, given another chance to live a little longer.
All of this pageantry is conveyed to my heart and mind when I repeat the simple statement, “He restores my soul!”
There is something intensely personal, intensely tender, intensely endearing, yet intensely fraught with danger in the picture. On the one hand there is the sheep so helpless, so utterly immobilized though otherwise strong, healthy, and flourishing; while on the other hand there is the attentive owner quick and ready to come to its rescue—ever patient and tender and helpful.
At this point it is important to point out that similarly in the Christian life there is an exciting and comforting parallel here.
Many people have the idea that when a child of God falls, when he is frustrated and helpless in a spiritual dilemma, God becomes disgusted, fed-up, and even furious with him.
This simply is not so.
One of the great revelations of the heart of God given to us by Christ is that of Himself as our Shepherd. He has the same identical sensations of anxiety, concern, and compassion for cast men and women as I had for cast sheep. This is precisely why He looked on people with such pathos and compassion. It explains His magnanimous dealing with down-and-out individuals for whom even human society had no use. It reveals why He wept over those who spurned His affection. It discloses the depth of His understanding of undone people to whom He came eagerly and quickly, ready to help, to save, to restore.
When I read the life story of Jesus Christ and examine carefully His conduct in coping with human need, I see Him again and again as the Good Shepherd picking up cast sheep. The tenderness, the love, the patience that He used to restore Peter’s soul after the terrible tragedy of his temptations is a classic picture of the Christ coming to restore one of His own.
And so He comes quietly, gently, reassuringly to me no matter when or where or how I may be cast down.
In Psalm 56:13 we are given an accurate commentary on this aspect of the Christian’s life in these words, “You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
We have to be realistic about the life of the child of God and face facts as they really are. Most of us, though we belong to Christ and desire to be under His control and endeavor to allow ourselves to be led by Him, do on some occasions find ourselves cast down.
We discover that often when we are most sure of ourselves we stumble and fall. Sometimes when we appear to be flourishing in our faith, we find ourselves in a situation of utter frustration and futility.
Paul in writing to the Christians at Corinth warned them of this danger. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Admittedly this may appear as one of the paradoxes and enigmas of our spiritual lives. When we examine it carefully, however, we will not find it too difficult to understand.
As with sheep, so with Christians, some basic principles and parallels apply that will help us to grasp the way in which a man or woman can be cast.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
1 Chronicles 1-6
m2-174 | 8-02-2017