1 Samuel 28-31
1 Samuel 28
Saul and the Medium of En-dor1 Samuel 28:1 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” 2 David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”
3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. 4 The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.
15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”
20 Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. 21 And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. 22 Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.” 23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, urged him, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.
1 Samuel 29
The Philistines Reject David1 Samuel 29:1 Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. 2 As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, 3 the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” 4 But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5 Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
1 Samuel 30
David’s Wives Are Captured1 Samuel 30:1 Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire 2 and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. 3 And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. 5 David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” 9 So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
11 They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, 12 and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. 14 We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.” 15 And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.”
David Defeats the Amalekites16 And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. 20 David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” 23 But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. 24 Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” 25 And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
26 When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD.” 27 It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, 28 in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, 29 in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, 30 in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, 31 in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed.
1 Samuel 31
The Death of Saul1 Samuel 31:1 Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
1 Samuel 28:18
Found this at Hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Q & A
If we want to understand the text, we have to read the text as it was written in the context of what it says, and not superimpose our own later theological concepts upon it.
In Hebrew, there is no "heaven", there is only ha'shamayim, which is "the skies" (it is a dual plural).
Nor is there any "Hell". "Hell" is a word from Norse cosmology that means the underworld, a place of dishonor. To the Norse, we live in Midgard: Middle Earth. The valorous dead go to Asgard - the overworld of the gods and live in the hall of valor there - Valhallah - while the dishonored dead descend to Hel, below Midgard, where they dwell in a degree of shame. That's where we get the word "Hell", and the concept of "Hell" as a place for the damned. But the Hebrew does not contain this concept. Rather, the Hebrew is Sheol, which is simply the place to which the spirits (not souls) of the dead depart.
Also, while we see things in terms of a "soul" that detaches from the body, again, that is not what the Hebrew Bible says. In Hebrew, "breath" and "spirit" are one word and one and the same thing. It is the breath that comes from God and animates life, and the breath that departs at death (for Sheol). The word we translate as "soul" in Hebrew is really literally the word "breather". A living body is a breather - a soul. When it dies, the breath/spirit is withdrawn and the body falls back to the dust of the earth whence it comes. The spirit proceeds to Sheol.
Now then, in the older Hebrew Scripture, there is no sense of the punishment of souls in Sheol. Hebrew tradition contained it, but it wasn't written into Scripture until hinted at in the late books of the Old Testament (which are not in the Protestant Bible), and not fully revealed until Christ. It is Christ who divides Sheol (translated into Greek as "Hades" and, unfortunately, into English as "Hell") into Gehenna - a parched prison of fire and torment, where spirits go "until the last penny is paid" - and Paradise, where he promised the "good thief" dying alongside him he would be that day. Apparently the "Jewish section" of Paradise is where Abraham is, as the good dead such as Lazarus went to Abraham's bosom.
Now, if one examines the Jewish traditions for clarity, one discovers that Gehenna is purgatorial in nature. Jewish tradition is that spirits of sinners descend to Gehenna where they are purged in fire, and then most of them eventually pass to Gan Eden, which is the Hebrew for Paradise. In other words, if we're going to insist on incorporating Western linguistic structures into our translations, "Hell" is Sheol, "Heaven" is Paradise or Gan Eden, and Gehenna is "Purgatory". That fits the Jewish belief.
But, again, in the Old Testament, the dead never go up into the sky, they go into Sheol.
And actually, if one reads carefully, the dead do not go into Heaven in the New Testament either, at least not permanently. Revelation is the clearest about this.
Read carefully what happens: as the world ends, everybody is resurrected bodly - brought forth out of Hades ("Hell") to stand before the judgment seat. The City of God comes DOWN out of the sky ("Heaven") to earth and replaces the old Jerusalem and old earth that has passed away. Those who pass judgment then walk through the gates of the City of God, which is not "up there" but actually right down here on the earth, to live with with.
Those who are rejected are thrown into the Lake of Fire, to die again: the second death. But note that Hades/Hell/Sheol has itself been thrown into the Lake of Fire, and death also...which means that the second death is IT - burnt up, gone for good, done.
There is a long tradition of saying that one burns forever in the Lake of Fire, but the text does not actually SAY that. What it says is that the lake burns forever (just as the fires of Gehenna never were quenched and worm never ceased). What it does NOT say is that those thrown into that everlasting lake of fire continue to "live" in a spiritual sense. It says, rather, that they die.
The more natural read of that is that they are completely destroyed and gone for good, not that they linger, dead but alive. However, the Christian tradition is that they just burn there, dead but somehow alive also, in death, forever and ever.
That is a very long held and ancient belief. But it's not actually what the Scripture SAYS. It's an interpretation of the second death, and an elision of the everlasting nature of the fire with the thought that the life, too, in the fire is everlasting.
So, when Saul consulted the Witch of Endor, he was breaking the commandment of YHWH against seeking to communicate with the dead by way of a medium. He did successfully communicate with the dead, specifically with the spirit of Samuel, from Sheol. Samuel was not pleased with Saul, and gave him dire words of doom.
Saul died the next day, laden with sins, and then, following Jewish eschatology, descended to Gehenna. How long he stayed in Gehenna, and whether he crossed over into Gan Eden ever, or will pass judgment at the end of the world, Scripture does not say. We can only speculate, and who are we to dare to do so?
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1 Samuel 28:18 (Life After Death)
Found this at Hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Q & A (Discussion Continues)
The Hebrew Bible indicates in several places that there is conscious existence after death. For example, when the Biblical text indicates that "tomorrow you [King Saul] and your sons shall be with me," there is implied existence after death in this passage. That is, Samuel stated that Saul "had disturbed" him (1 Sam 28:15) and thus Samuel appears to have been in conscious existence, but resting.
One "Tosefta-Targum to the Prophets" connects 1 Sam 28:19 to Daniel 12:2, which makes explicit mention of "eternal life." Kaufman (2005) quotes from Kasher (1996) in his original work of the Targumic Toseftot to the Prophets (Sources for the Study of Jewish Culture Volume II), Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies. That is, the following Tosefta to the Jerusalem Talmud --written in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic-- provides the parallel reading for 1 Sam 28:19:
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life....
In other words, both texts above point to conscious existence after death, and in the case of Saul, his existence (as well as his sons) was to be with Samuel on the very same same day. Please note the following passage in this regard:
1 Sam 15:34-35 (NASB)
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 34 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (Emphasis added)
From this point in Chapter 15 onward, there is no mention in the text of the prophet Samuel and King Saul ever meeting again except for the very day of his death. (The very night with the witch of Endor was the same day that Saul died.) In other words, the references above suggests conscious existence after death, since the text of First Samuel conveys that Samuel made actual visual contact with King Saul. That is, King Saul also had seen Samuel "coming up from the ground," which was the place that Saul and his sons would soon join Samuel upon their deaths that very day.
In the Hebrew Bible there is no explicit expectation that anyone had ever gone "up" to heaven after death (the exceptions are Enoch and Elijah, but they never appear as dying in the Hebrew Bible); on the contrary, the righteous had the explicit expectation of descending down into Sheol. For example, Jacob (Gen 37:35), Job (Job 14:13) and Hezekiah (Is 38:9-11) mention their expectation of going down into the earth after their death, which included something more than their body buried in the ground. For example, the passage in Jonah 2:5-7 provides us an explicit reference and description of Sheol. That is, Jonah mentioned his descent into Sheol notwithstanding that his corpse remained in the belly of the great fish in the sea. In other words, Jonah had died in the belly of the great fish and his soul had descended to the "roots of the mountains," which is an allusion to the underworld of Sheol (since there were no roots of any mountains in the belly of the great fish). In other words, Jonah had descended into the "belly" of the earth, which was Sheol. He was of course resuscitated by the Lord, which had an apparent effect on his message and ministry to Nineveh at that time.
In addition to the comparisons as noted between 1 Sam 28:19 and Daniel 12:2 (discussed above), there are two more references in the Hebrew Bible that suggest conscious existence and resurrection after death.
Job 19:26-27 (NASB)
26 “Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
27 Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!
Isaiah 26:19 (NASB)
19 Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.
In summary, the Hebrew Bible indicates that people have conscious existence after death, which includes eventual resurrection. The condition of that existence (rest or otherwise) will relate to ones hope and trust in the Lord.
Kaufman, Stephen, ed. (2005). The Late Jewish Literary Aramaic Additions to the Targum of the Prophets from the files of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project (CAL). Cincinatti: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, vid. 1 Sam 28:19.
The rabbi's explain "in my abode" -- Because Saul felt shame for having slain the priests of Nob, he was forgiven this sin and could enter Heaven with Samuel provided he would enter battle and sacrifice his life to God (under the assumption that death is a punishment that atones for murder that the sinner regrets). Per Rashi, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka the Redak), and Metzudath David, citing Babl. Talmud Berachot 12b. See also Ritva (a.k.a. R Yom Tov ben Avraham al-Asevilli, 1248-1330 Spain) commentary on the Talmud's discussion.
Quick note on Necromancy. The rabbis, e.g. Rav Saadiah Gaon, considered the woman who called Samuel from the dead a fraud, and a surprised one when God actually caused the soul of Samuel to appear. Others say Saul had a combination hallucination and prophecy. See Judaica Book's Book of Samuel 1 at 234-236.
The author of this comment is not identified.
Free From God
By Timothy Fox 2/11/2016
I recall an online conversation I had with a skeptic about spiritual things. To gain some clarification, I asked if he was an atheist or agnostic. His response? “I’m free!” Now, although this in no way answers the question, it does illustrate what people think about religion. It’s some form of mental slavery that you must liberate yourself from. Then you can be free to live your life however you wish. And freedom is a very important thing!
But whenever we talk about freedom, we need to ask two questions: 1) Free fromwhat? and 2) Free to do what? Thinking of the American Revolution, our founders wanted to be 1) free from England’s rule and 2) free to govern themselves. So our enlightened skeptic friend claimed he was free, meaning, I suppose, that he was 1) free from God/religion/dogma/whatever and 2) free to do whatever he wanted. It’s a powerful statement, if you assume that religion is nothing more than a form of slavery. But is it?
The divine ball and chain | I’ve heard many of the New Atheists compare God to a divine tyrant. And I’ve heard many people refer to their spouses as the “ball and chain,” again using the prisoner/slave metaphor. So let me adopt this analogy for myself.
Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. He and his wife, Diane, have a two-year-old son and a baby girl on the way.
Fox loves to teach the basics, breaking down the big ideas for the average layperson. But he’s mainly here for comedic relief, to keep this place from getting boring and to make sure the other guys don’t take themselves too seriously. He also blogs at apologers.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox.
My 16-Year-Old Doesn't Believe
By Jonathan McKee 4/2/2017
I’m not sure if it’s because more American young people actually don’t believe, or if it’s simply because our culture applauds this mindset, but I’m hearing the question more and more from today’s parents. It comes in many forms.
“What do I do when my 16-year-old doesn’t want to go to church anymore?”
“My 17-year-old claims he’s an atheist. How do I respond to that?”
Parenting has never been easy, but somehow it seems a little more difficult to raise kids in the truth when they are drowning in lies. And this job only becomes more difficult when “truth” is slowly being overtaken by “post-truth” thinking.
So how is Mom or Dad to respond when their 16-year-old announces, “Why do you make me go to church—I don’t even believe in this stuff!”
I’m choosing age 16 specifically because I think the answer to this question is much different than if the kid was 13, or even 18. A 13-year-old still needs lots of guidance and has about five years left under the care of his or her parents. Parents of young tweens and teens need to provide plenty of boundaries in equal supply to their bonding with that child.
And an 18-year-old could join the Marines or move in with friends… tomorrow! So all these parents might have left is bonding.
Jonathan McKee, creator of TheSource4Parents.com, helps thousands of parents understand the rapidly changing world of youth culture while providing practical parenting tips and helps along the way. In addition to his parenting workshops, Jonathan is a popular conference speaker and the author of numerous books about connecting with teenagers.
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including If I Had a Parenting Do-Over: 7 Vital Changes I'd Make, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices!; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket: 101 Real-World Tips for Teenaged Guys; and youth ministry books like Ministry by Teenagers: Developing Leaders from Within; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation (Youth Specialties (Paperback)); and the The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience andspeaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
God’s Goodness and Difficult Old Testament Passages
By Michael Austin 4/13/2015
Old Testament passages dealing with slavery, the status of women, and the destruction of peoples such as the Canaanites and Amalekites have seemed morally problematic to both Christians and non-Christians. These passages, among others, are difficult because they portray God as seemingly condoning and even commanding actions that are, at least on the face of it, immoral. They are thought to be inconsistent or at least in tension with the claim that God is omnibenevolent and morally perfect. A variety of responses have been given with respect to such morally problematic passages. One response, the Concessionary Morality Response (CMR), includes the claim that portions of biblical morality are concessionary insofar as they (i) fall short of God’s ideal morality for human beings; and (ii) are instances of God making allowances for the hardness of human hearts and its consequences in human cultures. My purpose in this essay is to consider the plausibility of the Concessionary Morality Response as a biblical and philosophical component of a defense of God’s perfect moral character.
First, however, consider something which C.S. Lewis once said about the doctrine of hell. In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis says that “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” I find myself in a similar position with respect to some of the passages at issue in this essay. I would prefer that they not be in the Bible, because as Alvin Plantinga observes, these passages “can constitute a perplexity” for followers of Christ. Moreover, if I came across such passages within the sacred writings of another religion, this would at least initially be a reason for me to reject the claims of that religion. Nevertheless, these passages are present in the Scriptures, and as morally and intellectually responsible followers of Christ we need to deal with them as best we can.
I will set aside several other explanations that have been given for how we are to deal with these perplexing passages. Perhaps some of the following possibilities described by Plantinga are correct:
I’m a philosopher, author, and speaker. I’m interested in our quest for life. We want happiness, contentment, a life with meaning and purpose, but we don’t know how to get it. Or if we do know, we often struggle to experience such a life. I think the key to such a life is character. What matters most is not what happens to us. What matters most is who we are, and who we are becoming.
I think that for the follower of Jesus, we have a role to play in developing our character, but we do so in dependence on and in union with Christ. For those of a different faith, or no faith at all, I hope that the content on this site will be of interest and useful to you, serving as an inside look at what thoughtful and deep Christianity might look like in our contemporary culture.
I address these issues in practical ways on my blog, Cultivating Character in Christ. You can find information about my books, subscribe to my blog, or check out some of the topics I speak about for a variety of audiences.
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 10 Fulfillment Of The ProphecyThe full significance of the words which follow in the Gospel of St. Luke is concealed by a slight interpolation in the text. As the shouts broke forth from His disciples, "Hosanna to the Son of David! blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord!" He looked off toward the Holy City and exclaimed, "If thou also hadst known, even on this day, the things which belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes!"  The time of Jerusalem's visitation had come, and she knew it not. Long ere then the nation had rejected Him, but this was the predestined day when their choice must be irrevocable, – the day so distinctly signalized in Scripture as the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold thy King cometh unto thee!" (Zechariah 9:9) Of all the days of the ministry of Christ on earth, no other will satisfy so well the angel's words, unto Messiah the Prince."
 ei egnos kai su kai ge en ta hamera tauta ta pros eipanan sou k. t. l. (Luke 19:42). The received text inserts sou after hamera, but the best MSS. (Alex. Vat. Sin., etc.) agree in omitting it. kai sou, "thou also, as well as these my disciples." kai ge et quidem – "even" (Alford, Gr. Test. in loco). The Revised Version reads, "If thou hadst known in this day," etc.And the date of it can be ascertained. In accordance with the Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem upon the 8th Nisan, "six days before the Passover."  But as the 14th, on which the Paschal Supper was eaten, fell that year upon a Thursday, the 8th was the preceding Friday. He must have spent the Sabbath, therefore, at Bethany; and on the evening of the 9th, after the Sabbath had ended, the Supper took place in Martha's house. Upon the following day, the 10th Nisan, He entered Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels. 
 "When the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, ' i. e., Nisan (Josephus, Wars, 6. 5, 3). "And the Jews' Passover was nigh at hand, and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem, before the Passover, to purify themselves…Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany" (John 11:55; 12:1).The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of "Messiah the Prince," – between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173, 880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel's prophecy. 
 Lewin, Fasti Sacri, p. 230.
 The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (the edict to rebuild Jerusalem) was 14th March, B. C. 445. The 10th Nisan in Passion Week (Christ's entry into Jerusalem) was 6th April, A. D. 32. The intervening period was 476 years and 24 days (the days being reckoned inclusively, as required by the language of the prophecy, and in accordance with the Jewish practice).Much there is in Holy Writ which unbelief may value and revere, while utterly refusing to accept it as Divine; but prophecy admits of no half-faith. The prediction of the "seventy weeks" was either a gross and impious imposture, or else it was in the fullest and strictest sense God-breathed.  It may be that in days to come, when Judah's great home-bringing shall restore to Jerusalem the rightful owners of its soil, the Jews themselves shall yet rake up from deep beneath its ruins the records of the great king's decree and of the Nazarene's rejection, and they for whom the prophecy was given will thus be confronted with proofs of its fulfillment. It is so interesting to read this which was written before the Alfred Dreyfus scandal which led to the efforts of Theodor Herzl and eventually to May 14, 1948. Meanwhile what judgment shall be passed on it by fair and thoughtful men? To believe that the facts and figures here detailed amount to nothing more than happy coincidences involves a greater exercise of faith than that of the Christian who accepts the book of Daniel as Divine. There is a point beyond which unbelief is impossible, and the mind in refusing truth must needs take refuge in a misbelief which is sheer credulity.
But 476 x 365= 173, 740 days
Add (14 March to 6th April, both inclusive) 24 days
Add for leap years 116 days
Equals a total of 173,880 days
And 69 weeks of prophetic years of 360 days (or 69 x 7 x 360) 173, 880 days.
It may be well to offer here two explanatory remarks. First; in reckoning years from B. C. to A. D., one year must always be omitted; for it is obvious, ex. gr., that from B. C. 1 to A. D. I was not two years, but one year. B. C. 1 ought to be described as B. C. 0, and it is so reckoned by astronomers, who would describe the historical date B. C. 445, as 444. And secondly, the Julian year is 11m. 10 46s., or about the 129th part of a day, longer than 'the mean solar year. The Julian calendar, therefore, contains three leap years too many in four centuries, an error which had amounted to eleven days in A. D. 17527 when our English calendar was corrected by declaring the 3rd September to be the 14th September, and by introducing the Gregorian reform which reckons three secular years out of four as common years; ex. gr., 1700, 1800 and 1900 are common years, and 2000 is a leap year. "Old Christmas day" is still marked in our calendars, and observed in some localities, on the 6th January; and to this day the calendar remains uncorrected in Russia. (See Appendix 4, p. 306 note 8.)
 theopneustos (2 Timothy 3:16).The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 36How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love
36 To The Choirmaster. Of David, The Servant Of The Lord.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Evidence for the Composition of Deuteronomy Prior to the Conquest
In the earlier chapters of Deuteronomy particularly, there are numerous appeals to the hearers to recall past episodes and conditions which are within the memory of those who are being addressed. The memory of the Egyptian bondage is especially vivid. Six times the phrase occurs, “the house of bondage”; five times we read, “Remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt”; five times the formula appears, “through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm.” This last phrase, by the way, occurs also in Ex. 6:1 (a J-E passage) and in Ex. 6:6 (a P passage), and is analogous to an expression which often occurs in Old Egyptian texts describing scenes of battle.
Any theory of the origin of Deuteronomy must take account of the fact that the land of Canaan to the west of the Jordan is always viewed from the outside so far as the author’s standpoint is concerned. Whether from the southern border or from the east and the Moabite highlands, the viewpoint is always that of a newcomer contemplating invasion, never that of an inhabitant who already dwells within its borders. Border cities such as Eshcol ( 1:24 ) and Gaza ( 2:23 ) are named, rather than such central locations as Hebron; and when the limits of the land of promise are indicated, they are described by such terms as “the mount of the Amorites” and “Lebanon” ( 1:7 ), not by the later terminology “from Dan to Beersheba,” which would have been used after the Danite migration.
So far as the legislation is concerned, we have already observed a certain substratum of fundamental law which the Mosaic provisions contained in common with the Hammurabic Code, yet the contrasts between the two are even more significant than the similarities. For example, the Babylonian code makes a sharp class distinction between the free man (awēlum) and the semifree (mushkēnum), as well as the slave (wardum). In Deuteronomy there is virtually no class distinction, and social conditions correspond to those of a far more rural and agricultural community than was the case in Babylon (or in Israel of David’s era). More significant still, Mosaic legislation had a deeply religious tone. The statutes of judgment were said to be those of Yahweh their God, and the Israelites were to observe them with all their heart and soul. Of the 346 verses which make up Deut. 12–26, more than half are moral and religious in character, while 93 of them are taken up with specific commands related to the approaching settlement in the land. It should be noted that the exhortations, warnings, and promises of blessing which are so characteristic of Deuteronomy are completely lacking in the Babylonian code. Note also that in the text of Hammurabi we find a strictly impersonal style such as would be usual for a sophisticated legal system pertaining to a more urbanized society. In Deuteronomy, however, we seem to be listening to an old and honored leader speaking to the people whom he has personally guided through many years, and reminding them of the experiences they have shared together.
We know enough about the Babylonia of Hammurabi’s period to recognize that these were in fact the conditions when those laws were promulgated after centuries of monarchic rule. In the later years of the Hebrew monarchy, the conditions in Palestine must have approximated those in Babylon, for by that time trade and industry were well developed and class distinctions were strongly marked. Trades and crafts were regulated on a commercial basis, with money fines specified to indemnify property owners who suffered injury or loss. In Deuteronomy, however, we find no laws providing compensation for loss caused by careless builders or for injury to health due to incompetent physicians. This legislation is suited rather to a simple, agricultural people deeply interested in their cattle; food and raiment are the chief concerns.
Lastly we revert once more to the incompatibility of Josiah’s time with the type of legislation found in Deuteronomy regarding the preservation of Israel’s faith. Deut. 13:1–18 and 17:2–5 decree the death penalty for apostasy or for inciting others to forsake the nation’s covenant with Yahweh. It is hard to conceive of such laws being planned or revived during the time of Manasseh (Josiah’s grandfather). There is no actual mention of them in connection with Josiah’s reform. Even Driver is forced to the conclusion that “the time when they could have been enforced had long passed away; they had consequently only an ideal value” ( Deuteronomy, in ICC, p. xxxii). But, as H. M. Wiener has pointed out, idealists may perhaps propose a lofty standard on a general basis, but they scarcely go so far as to lay down a specific procedure for handling the violations of the ideal. Yet in both these passages, a very definite procedure is prescribed, and that in chapter 13 particularly presupposes primitive conditions. The lawgiver here evidently relies upon the cooperation of the nation as a whole to carry out the sanction of this law, even if it entails civil warfare. Deut. 12:2–4 enjoins the destruction of all the Canaanite shrines “on every high hill and under every green tree,” with all of their “pillars” and “asherim.” Apparently the author regarded this destruction as both practical and possible in his time. He insisted that the land must be cleared of these idolatrous symbols before acceptable worship could be offered to Yahweh. Such an attitude would be quite inconceivable in the seventh century B.C., or indeed in earlier centuries subsequent to the time of Solomon, when idolatrous cults had penetrated to every level of Israelite society. Even the record of the book of Judges, pertaining to a time prior to the establishment of the monarchy, implies the existence of these Deuteronomic provisions. Thus the action of Gideon ( Judg. 6:25–32 ) in destroying the altar and precinct of Baal suggests that he knew of some such injunction, and his father’s defense of this deed implies that he supposed his son was doing the right thing.
Despite the efforts of Kennett and Hoelscher to find an appropriate historical setting in the post-exilic period of Ezra and Nehemiah, it is far easier to harmonize the historical and social conditions presupposed by Deuteronomy with what must have been the case in the time of the original conquest rather than in the period of the restoration. In Ezra’s time, the Canaanites and Amorites were an all but forgotten memory, and the new Jewish commonwealth was threatened by such foreigners as the Ammonites, Philistines, and various other peoples who had little if any ethnic relationship to the original inhabitants of Canaan. Moreover, the confident tone of the author of Deuteronomy, who looks forward to irresistible conquest of the entire territory from Dan to Beersheba, is incapable of reconciliation with the discouraging and limited circumstances which confronted the tiny Persian province of Judea after the return from Babylon. In Deuteronomy we discover an attitude of glowing optimism which finds expression in the series of blessings appropriate to a people of the Lord about to settle in a new land in which no opposition can stand before them. It is a land which has been well cultivated and productive of fruits, and able to support its inhabitants on a most generous scale. This can scarcely be reconciled with the stripped and devastated land bereft of inhabitants, bare of fortifications, denuded of vineyards and fruit orchards, which confronted the returning immigrants from Babylon. Here again, then, the test of internal evidence points quite unmistakably to the time of the conquest, around 1400 B.C., rather than to any of the dates suggested by modern criticism.
Before taking our leave of Deuteronomy, a final comment should be made concerning the remarkable predictions embodied in chapter 28, beginning with verse 49. The Documentarians have interpreted these to refer to the invasions of Assyrian and Chaldean oppressors, and hence have insisted that that passage itself could not have been composed until the time of Josiah or the Exile. But a closer examination of the details reveals the inadequacy of this explanation, even from a rationalistic standpoint. It is quite clear in the light of subsequent history that only the Roman invasions of A.D. 70 and A.D. 135 satisfy the terms of this prophecy. Consider the following factors: (1) The invaders are to come “from the end of the earth” (v. 49 ) — far more appropriate to Rome than to Babylon. (2) Their language will be utterly alien to Hebrew — far truer of Latin than of Babylonian, a kindred Semitic tongue (v. 49 ). (3) The Jews are to be scattered among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other (v. 64 ) — which did not take place at the Chaldean conquest by any manner of means. (4) There is no suggestion whatever that there will be a return to Palestine by a remnant — as there was within a few decades of Nebuchadnezzar’s death. (5) The captive Jews are to be conveyed to Egypt in huge numbers by ship, and prove to be a glut on the slave market — a development which never took place in connection with the Chaldean conquest, but which was literally fulfilled after Jerusalem fell to the legions of Titus in A.D. 70. (Josephus indicates that 97,000 prisoners were taken at the fall of Jerusalem, and many of them ended up in the Egyptian mines.)” The conclusion is irresistible that this prediction could only have come by supernatural revelation, and that its fulfillment took place centuries later than the Wellhausian date for the latest stratum of the Pentateuch.
RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCESOBSERVANCE SIGNIFICANCE (or purpose) SCRIPTURE
Saboth (sabbaṯ šabbātôn)
Day of rest in celebration of God’s completed work of creation
Ex. 20:8–11, Ex. 31:12–17, Lev. 23:11–12
Rest for the land agriculturally; Renunciation of debts
Ex. 23:10–11, Lev. 25:2–7
Year of Jubilee (šanaṯ yôbēl)
Rest for the land; Reversion of poverty
Lev. 25:8–16, Lev. 27:16–25
New Moon (rʾōs ḥôdeš)
Monthy offering for atonement
Num. 10:10, Num. 28:1–15
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Psalm 107:8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Psalm 107:15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Psalm 107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Psalm 107:31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man! ESV
Four times in Psalm 107 we have these same words, calling for praise and thanksgiving. Elsewhere we read, “Praise from the upright is beautiful” (Psalm 33:1), and again we are told, “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” (Psalm 50:23). Praise is the spontaneous outcome of a grateful heart that has experienced the saving grace of God and recognizes His providential dealings and Fatherly care day by day. It is strange indeed that we should need to be urged to praise. But we are so prone to be forgetful of the source of our mercies and to rejoice in the gifts (which we so readily take for granted) rather than in the Giver Himself, who is worthy of our constant adoration. How often we pray for blessings and forget to give thanks when our cries are heard!
Psalm 33:1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Psalm 50:23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!” ESV
Our Father, we give thanks to Thee
That Thou hast given to us food
And shelter, hast supplied our needs
And brought our hearts to joyous mood.
Yet we do thank Thee more, that if
These temporal things should fail, and we
Be hungry, naked, desolate,
We still could place our trust in Thee;
And know that though the darkness come,
The dawning is not far away,
And Thou whose mercy cannot cease
Will bring to us the light of day.
--- Clara Aiken Speor
By James Orr 1907
NOTES TO CHAPTER V | NOTE A.—P. 128 | EARLY IDEAS OF GOD
MAN’S earliest ideas of God were not, as is commonly assumed, his poorest. There is really no proof that man’s religious history began with fetishism, ghost-worship, totemism, or any of the other superstitions with which “primitive religion” is usually identified. Fetishism is admitted by the best anthropologists to be a “degeneration” of religion, and an abundance of anthropological testimony could be adduced against the sufficiency of each of the other theories in turn. No savage tribes are found who do not seem to have higher ideas of God along with their superstitions (cf. A. Lang’s Making of Religion). Man does not creep up from fetishism, through polytheism, to monotheism, but polytheism represents rather the refraction of an original undifferentiated sense, or consciousness, or perception, of the divine (cf. Rom. 1:19–23 ).
Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
In historical religions, accordingly, the general law, enunciated by Principal Fairbairn, holds good: “the younger the polytheism, the fewer its gods” (Studies in Phil, of Rel. p. 22). In the oldest religions, without exception, along with the polytheism, we find a monotheistic background.
The oldest texts in Egypt express a monotheistic belief (cf. Renouf, Rel. of Egypt, pp. 90–91; Budge, Egyptian Religion, chap. i.).
The Babylonian religion, it is coming to be generally admitted, had a monotheistic strain (cf. Winckler, above, p. 409). The discovery of the Code of Hammurabi (cf. above, p. 410) has strengthened that belief. “The position of Ilu as supreme God, at least in the ideas of Hammurabi,” writes C. H. W. Johns, “is certain, despite recent dicta that there is no trace of a supreme El in Babylonia” (Expos. Times, March 1903, p. 258).
Zoroastrianism was formally dualistic, but in the elevation of its idea of Ahura-Mazda it approached, if it did not actually attain, a form of practical monotheism (cf. Expos. Times, Jan. 1905, pp. 185 ff.).
Vedism had few gods, while later Hinduism has an incalculable number. Behind the Vedic polytheism there stands the name for God common to all branches of the Aryan family (Deva = Zeus = Deus), and the proper name of one God (Dyaus Pitar = Zeus Pater).
China from the oldest times knew and reverenced Shang-ti, the Supreme God, or Tien, Heaven (cf. Legge, Religions of China).
The monotheistic strain in Greece and Rome was never lost, and comes out in the early simpler forms of belief and worship, in the mysteries, in the dramatists and sages, in later Stoical and Platonic teaching.
Behind the Arabian idolatry of Mohammed’s time was the conception of Allah (cf. Hommel, Anc. Heb. Trad. p. 292; cf. pp. 82, 88).
The idea that the conception of one God was too lofty for the Israelites to have attained it, even through revelation, must therefore be abandoned as untenable. In Hommel’s words: “It becomes clearer every day that the Semites — and more particularly the Western Semites — had from the beginning a much purer conception of the Deity than was possessed by any of the other races of antiquity, such as the Sumerians or Aryans” (Ibid. pp. 292, 308–10).
NOTE B.—P. 129 | ANTIQUITY OF THE NAME JEHOVAH
THE following are a few indications of opinions of critics as to a pre-Mosaic use of the name Jehovah (Yahweh).
Kuenen says: “Moses can hardly be supposed to have invented the name ‘Yahweh’; in all probability it was already in use, among however limited a circle” (Rel. of Israel, i. pp. 279–80).
Wellhausen says: “Jehovah is to be regarded as having been originally a family or tribal god (?), either of the family to which Moses belonged, or of the tribe of Joseph” (Hist. of Israel, p. 433).
Schultz says: “It is in itself more likely that such a name was not invented, but simply found by Moses” (O.T. Theol. ii. p. 137).
Driver says: “The total absence of proper names compounded with Yahweh in the patriarchal period makes it probable that, though not absolutely new in Moses’ time, it was still current previously only in a limited circle, — possibly, as has been suggested, in the family of Moses” (Genesis, p. xix; cf. pp. xlvii and xlix, and references).
Many now trace the name back as far as Babylonia. Cf. Driver, p. xlix, and see above, p. 409. The one thing not proved is that it ever denoted in Israel a merely tribal god.
NOTE C.—P. 139 | PROFESSOR W. R. SMITH’S THEORY OF SACRIFICE
THIS ingenious scholar develops his theory of the totem - origin of sacrifice in his Religion of the Semites (cf. especially pp. 247, 257, 262–4, 266–7, 269, 271, 277). The theory resembles some others in connecting the sacrifice with the idea of food for the gods (pp. 207, 218), but it works from a different basis, and gives the act of sacrifice a different interpretation. (1) The god, in this theory, is conceived of as an animal, from whom the clan derives its descent (p. 425). (2) The primitive mind, it is assumed, does not distinguish accurately between gods, men, and animals. The god, the members of the clan, and the animals of the sacred species, are all viewed as of one blood or stock, or as embraced in the bond of kinship (p. 269). (3) The form in which kinship is declared, and the bond of fellowship sealed, is a feast (pp. 247, 257). (4) The peculiarity of the religious feast, however, is that in it an animal is sacrificed (p. 262). As Dr. Smith says: “A religious banquet implies a victim … the slaughter of a victim must have been in early times the only thing that brought the clan together for a sacred meal” (p. 262). Conversely: “Every slaughter was a clan sacrifice, i.e., a domestic animal was not slain except to procure the material for a public meal of kinsmen” (p. 263). (5) The last point is, that the fact that the slaughter of such an animal was sanctioned for a religious feast implies that it was a sacred, or totem, animal, and itself belonged to the circle of kinship.
It is difficult to criticise a theory which rests so much on hypothetical construction, and seems opposed to all the real evidence we possess as to the Semitic ideas of the gods, and their relation to their worshippers. It will need much stronger evidence to convince us that the Semite peoples generally passed through a totem stage, and that the God of Israel was originally a totem-deity, of animal form, whose blood the tribes of Israel were supposed to share. It is anything but proved that the early Semites knew nothing, as this theory asserts, of domestic, but only of clan life; that they knew nothing of individual and domestic sacrifices (Abel, Noah, Abraham); that gods, animals, and men, were at first all held to be of common kinship; that “unclean animals” were totem animals, i.e., those whose life was sacred, with many more assumptions.
But, to keep to the one point of sacrifice, it is pertinent to ask — Where is the proof that the animals sacrificed had this character of totems? (1) They were not “unclean” animals; on the contrary, only “clean” animals were permitted. (2) The victims were not confined to one class or species of animals, as on the totem - theory seems necessary. Sheep, goats, calves, bulls, pigeons, were all used as sacrifice; but plainly all could not be totems. Besides, how came many distinct tribes to have one totem? (3) Why should the totem - animal, of all creatures, be sacrificed? Ought not the principle of kinship to have protected it? How should the god, or clansmen, be supposed to find satisfaction in feeding on the flesh of one of their own stock? The closer the bond of kinship is drawn, the greater becomes the difficulty. (4) As explaining sacrifice in Israel, the theory takes no account of those ideas on which the ritual of sacrifice rests in this religion, which are as unique as everything else about it. It gives no help to the explaining of the expiatory or propitiatory aspect of the Jewish sacrifices, in which the peculiar virtue of these sacrifices was believed to consist. The theory seems to us to be baseless in itself, and to break down whenever tests from evidence can be applied to it.
By Ryan Nicholson
Valet From Heaven
In the spring of 2018, I was in dire need of a car. I was driving around in a 21-year-old car that barely got me from point A to point B. Often times, point B was the mechanic shop. One day, a coworker drove his new car to work. It was a nice little Honda Civic. He asked if I knew anyone who would want to buy his 2009 Ford Escape. I mentioned I would be interested and jokingly added, “will you take $5 for it?” as I pulled out the only money I had in my wallet. “I’ll take $1,000 for it and you can make four payments on it” he said. I was blown away. I couldn’t refuse, so we made the deal. Four years later, I had upgraded to a much nicer car, and it was clear God had blessed me.
The next couple years I learned to trust in God. His ways are always better than mine, and I began to seek Him and give Him every area of my life. I began to find favor at the job where I was once feeling neglected, overwhelmed, and overlooked. My life was turning around for the good. I was moved to a new district, and our numbers began to soar. It was all God and I knew it.
Storms will come in life, and come they did. Fast forward to the spring of 2021. My wife said she needed to talk to me and began to walk to the back bedroom. I knew this couldn’t be good. She told me she had discovered a lump in her breast and it was growing larger. We immediately scheduled an appointment to have it checked out, and the battle of the mind had begun.
The next few weeks involved sleepless nights, anxiety, and a feeling of being overwhelmed. I did the only thing I knew how to and turned to the Lord in prayer. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I spent each morning reflecting on God’s word to renew my mind daily, to turn my thoughts to things of good report, and make a decision I was not going to believe in what wasn’t true. We still didn’t have any results, and focusing on uncertainty was not from God.
We are made of three parts; body, mind, and spirit. My spirit was being tested as I had to put all my faith in trust in God. My mind was under constant attack of “what if” as I battled anxiety like I’ve never experienced.
Leading into Easter weekend, work had amped up. We had visitors coming to tour our market, I was running on little to no sleep due to anxious, sleepless nights, I was not eating or drinking properly.
The day of the tour started off like every morning. I listened to God’s word while getting ready for work, prayed for a strong, sound mind, and for peace to know God was in control.
The tour was moved up an hour and a half and I left the house in a frenzy to ensure the final details were getting done. As I hurried about the day, not stopping to eat or drink, I was in constant prayer to fight back the negative thoughts that were looming in the horizon of my mind. I did my best to focus on what was in front of me.
The tour went off without a hitch and was met with accolades and appreciation. The already tested spirit, partnered with a worn-out mind, had just met an exhausted body. I left the office that day feeling completely drained of everything. I was weak.
I was just getting in the car to go home, when my mom called to inform me of my brother’s health condition. He had been struggling with health issues over the past year and his diagnosis was changing constantly. I merged on to the freeway as she talked and began to feel myself slipping out of consciousness. I was already in the fast lane and knew I had to get over to the shoulder.
I wish I could tell you more of what happened, but I don’t remember. The next thing I knew, I was parked on the shoulder and a truck driver was waking me up asking if I was ok. I didn’t know why I was on the shoulder or how I got there. I had hit the back of a semi-trailer, and the driver was waking me up.
My mom was still on the phone and could tell you more than I can. Apparently, I told her I was about to blackout and she told me to get to the shoulder. Again, I don’t remember any of it. She said I went silent followed by a crash and more silence. Next thing she heard was the truck driver waking me up.
I tell this story not for pity but to show how awesome God is. How did I get from the fast lane to the shoulder and no one was hurt? Sure, my car was damaged but I was unscathed. The back of the semi-trailer was a little dinged up, but the driver was not hurt. I think back to 2 Corinthians 12:9. My body, mind, and spirit had reached its limit. God looked down on me that day. The very car He gifted to me a few years earlier needed a driver. God’s strength never fades, and that day, Jesus truly took the wheel. When I was at my physical, spiritual, and mental weakest, God scooped down His mighty hand and said, I’ll take it from here. God all mighty parked my car that day. I know it was Him, because there was no one else in the car.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
9/1/2007 | Integrity, Coram Deo
What will people say about me after I die?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? It is a question that has haunted me for years, and it is one of the most captivating questions anyone can ask himself. In truth, it would do us good to ask ourselves such questions with some frequency: “What will I contribute to the world, the church, and the kingdom of God before I die?” Such questions, the hard questions concerning death, are in fact the very questions of life. In asking ourselves questions about the reality of our lives in the eyes of the analytical world, we may in turn provide ourselves with answers that change the way we live, both before the eyes of men openly and before the eyes of God privately.
Throughout history, men, both great and small, have shaped the world around them, and wherever I travel, I am always on the lookout for the burial places of great men. The graves of history’s victors and villains fascinate me to no end. And whether they were penned by friends or by foes, the epitaphs on gravestones reveal the sentiments of those who knew the departed, leaving the legacy of their opinions engraved in stone for generations to come.
A few days ago I was in England and made a brief visit to London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, wherein is found the epitaph: “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.” Truly, a magnificent legacy to which the world is able to bear witness as scores of visitors ponder the epitaph of a mere man whose character is enshrined in accordance with the opinions of mere men. And while such opinions should not be disregarded, they are only opinions, opinions of men who cannot feel the hearts of others and who certainly cannot see the actions of others at all times and in all places.
It is only the Lord who knows us for who we truly are, and just as we cannot hide from His presence, neither can we fool Him by closing our eyes and pretending He’s not there. For just as David prayed, “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face forever” (Ps. 41:12 nkjv) so we must earnestly seek to be men and women of integrity, not merely before the face of men but before the face of God, coram Deo. For what matters is not simply how men regard us after we die, but how God regards us in this life and the next.
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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)
by Bill Federer
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated this day, April 4th, 1968. He had been pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and rose to national prominence through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964, Congress set aside his birthday as a National Holiday in 1986. He said: “I have a dream…where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers….I have a dream that one day…. the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Grace will not suffer a vacuum, any more than nature.
--- Johann Albrecht Bengel
New Testament word studies, Set of Two Volumes. (Kregel reprint library)
It is difficult to rebuke well; that is, at a right time, in a right spirit, and in a right manner.
--- John Henry Newman
The Gospel Of St. Mark, Illustrated From Ancient And Modern Authors...
One of the first things which a physician says to his patient is, ~Let me see your tongue.~ A spiritual advisor might often do the same.
--- Nehemiah Adams
The Gospel Of St. Mark, Illustrated From Ancient And Modern Authors...
A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."
--- Stephen Crane
Best Remembered Poems
... from here, there and everywhere
Leviticus Rabbah 9:7
For example, in the second century A.D., Rabbi Menahem of Galilee taught that “In the World to Come all sacrifices will be annulled, but the thanksgiving sacrifice will never be annulled” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:7). This is a remarkable vision. We have a Jewish rabbi, not long after the time of Jesus, foreseeing a future age in which all of the many sacrifices described in the Torah would cease, and just one would remain: the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (see Leviticus 7). That’s what Rabbi Menahem expected; what did Jesus expect?).
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
University of Virginia Libray 1994
In the course of a few weeks it pleased the Lord to visit me with a pleurisy; and after I had lain a few days and felt the disorder very grievous, I was thoughtful how it might end. I had of late, through various exercises, been much weaned from the pleasant things of this life; and I now thought if it were the Lord's will to put an end to my labors and graciously to receive me into the arms of his mercy, death would be acceptable to me; but if it were his will further to refine me under affliction, and to make me in any degree useful in his church, I desired not to die. I may with thankfulness say that in this case I felt resignedness wrought in me and had no inclination to send for a doctor, believing, if it were the Lord's will through outward means to raise me up, some sympathizing Friends would be sent to minister to me; which accordingly was the case. But though I was carefully attended, yet the disorder was at times so heavy that I had no expectation of recovery. One night in particular my bodily distress was great; my feet grew cold, and the cold increased up my legs towards my body; at that time I had no inclination to ask my nurse to apply anything warm to my feet, expecting my end was near. After I had lain near ten hours in this condition, I closed my eyes, thinking whether I might now be delivered out of the body; but in these awful moments my mind was livingly opened to behold the church; and strong engagements were begotten in me for the everlasting well-being of my fellow-creatures. I felt in the spring of pure love that I might remain some time longer in the body, to fill up according to my measure that which remains of the afflictions of Christ, and to labor for the good of the church; after which I requested my nurse to apply warmth to my feet, and I revived. The next night, feeling a weighty exercise of spirit and having a solid friend sitting up with me, I requested him to write what I said, which he did as follows: --
"Fourth day of the first month, 1770, about five in the morning. -- I have seen in the Light of the Lord that the day is approaching when the man that is most wise in human policy shall be the greatest fool; and the arm that is mighty to support injustice shall be broken to pieces; the enemies of righteousness shall make a terrible rattle, and shall mightily torment one another; for He that is omnipotent is rising up to judgment, and will plead the cause of the oppressed; and He commanded me to open the vision."
Near a week after this, feeling my mind livingly opened, I sent for a neighbor, who, at my request, wrote as follows: --
"The place of prayer is a precious habitation; for I now saw that the prayers of the saints were precious incense; and a trumpet was given to me that I might sound forth this language; that the children might hear it and be invited together to this precious habitation, where the prayers of the saints, as sweet incense, arise before the throne of God and the Lamb. I saw this habitation to be safe, -- to be inwardly quiet when there were great stirrings and commotions in the world.
"Prayer, at this day, in pure resignation, is a precious place: the trumpet is sounded; the call goes forth to the church that she gather to the place of pure inward prayer; and her habitation is safe."
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twenty-Sixth Chapter / The Excellence Of A Free Mind, Gained Through Prayer Rather Than By Study
IT IS the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, and to pass through many cares as though he had none; not as an indolent man does, but having by the certain prerogative of a free mind no disorderly affection for any created being.
Keep me, I beg You, most merciful God, from the cares of this life, lest I be too much entangled in them. Keep me from many necessities of the body, lest I be ensnared by pleasure. Keep me from all darkness of mind, lest I be broken by troubles and overcome. I do not ask deliverance from those things which worldly vanity desires so eagerly, but from those miseries which, by the common curse of humankind, oppress the soul of Your servant in punishment and keep him from entering into the liberty of spirit as often as he would.
My God, Sweetness beyond words, make bitter all the carnal comfort that draws me from love of the eternal and lures me to its evil self by the sight of some delightful good in the present. Let it not overcome me, my God. Let not flesh and blood conquer me. Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness. Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, and constancy to persevere. Give me the soothing unction of Your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world, and in place of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Your name.
Behold, eating, drinking, clothing, and other necessities that sustain the body are burdensome to the fervent soul. Grant me the grace to use such comforts temperately and not to become entangled in too great a desire for them. It is not lawful to cast them aside completely, for nature must be sustained, but Your holy law forbids us to demand superfluous things and things that are simply for pleasure, else the flesh would rebel against the spirit. In these matters, I beg, let Your hand guide and direct me, so that I may not overstep the law in any way.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
How often we ask: How can a person know the will of God? And people want, when they are in perplexity, to pray very earnestly that God should answer them at once. But God can only reveal His will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.
That brings me to the third thought--Note the disposition to which the Spirit reveals God's will.
What do we read here? There were a number of men ministering to the Lord and fasting, and the Holy Spirit came and spoke to them. Some people understand this passage very much as they would in reference to a missionary committee of our day. We see there is an open field, and we have had our missions in other fields, and we are going to get on to that field. We have virtually settled that, and we pray about it. But the position was a very different one in those former days. I doubt whether any of them thought of Europe, for later on even Paul himself tried to go back into Asia, till the night vision called him by the will of God. Look at those men. God had done wonders. He had extended the Church to Antioch, and He had given rich and large blessing. Now, here were these men ministering to the Lord, serving Him with prayer and fasting. What a deep conviction they have--"It must all come direct from Heaven. We are in fellowship with the risen Lord; we must have a close union with Him, and somehow He will let us know what He wants."
And there they were, empty, ignorant, helpless, glad and joyful, but deeply humbled.
"O Lord," they seem to say, "we are Thy servants, and in fasting and prayer we wait upon Thee. What is Thy will for us?"
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
for you won’t hear a sensible word from him.
8 The wisdom of the cautious makes him know where he is going,
but the folly of fools misleads them.
9 Guilt offerings make a mockery of fools;
but among the upright there is good will.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘Well, come,’ said the Spirit: and for a few paces he supported the hobbling shadow forward to the East.
‘Of course,’ said the Ghost, as if speaking to itself, ‘there’ll always be interesting people to meet …’
‘Everyone will be interesting.’
‘Oh—ah—yes, to be sure. I was thinking of people in our own line. Shall I meet Claude? Or Cézanne? Or—.’
‘Sooner or later—if they’re here.’
‘But don’t you know?’
‘Well, of course not. I’ve only been here a few years. All the chances are against my having run across them … there are a good many of us, you know.’
‘But surely in the case of distinguished people, you’d hear?’
‘But they aren’t distinguished—no more than anyone else. Don’t you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone: like light and mirrors. But the light’s the thing.’
‘Do you mean there are no famous men?’
‘They are all famous. They are all known, remembered, recognised by the only Mind that can give a perfect judgement.’
‘Oh, of course, in that sense …’ said the Ghost.
‘Don’t stop,’ said the Spirit, making to lead him still forward.
‘One must be content with one’s reputation among posterity, then,’ said the Ghost.
‘My friend,’ said the Spirit. ‘Don’t you know?’
‘That you and I are already completely forgotten on the Earth?’
‘Eh? What’s that?’ exclaimed the Ghost, disengaging its arm. ‘Do you mean those damned Neo-Regionalists have won after all?’
‘Lord love you, yes!’ said the Spirit, once more shaking and shining with laughter. ‘You couldn’t get five pounds for any picture of mine or even of yours in Europe or America to-day. We’re dead out of fashion.’
‘I must be off at once,’ said the Ghost. ‘Let me go! Damn it all, one has one’s duty to the future of Art. I must go back to my friends. I must write an article. There must be a manifesto. We must start a periodical. We must have publicity. Let me go. This is beyond a joke!’
And without listening to the Spirit’s reply, the spectre vanished.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Those borders of distrust
Behold, the hour cometh, … that ye shall be scattered.
--- John 16:32.
Jesus is not rebuking the disciples, their faith was real, but it was disturbed; it was not at work in actual things. The disciples were scattered to their own interests, alive to interests that never were in Jesus Christ. After we have been perfectly related to God in sanctification, our faith has to be worked out in actualities. We shall be scattered, not into work, but into inner desolations and made to know what internal death to God’s blessings means. Are we prepared for this? It is not that we choose it, but that God engineers our circumstances so that we are brought there. Until we have been through that experience, our faith is bolstered up by feelings and by blessings. When once we get there, no matter where God places us or what the inner desolations are, we can praise God that all is well. That is faith being worked out in actualities.
“… and shall leave Me alone.” Have we left Jesus alone by the scattering of His providence? Because we do not see God in our circumstances? Darkness comes by the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to let God do as He likes with us—prepared to be separated from conscious blessings? Until Jesus Christ is Lord, we all have ends of our own to serve; our faith is real, but it is not permanent yet. God is never in a hurry; if we wait, we shall see that God is pointing out that we have not been interested in Himself, but only in His blessings. The sense of God’s blessing is elemental.
“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Spiritual grit is what we need.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
All my life
I was face to face
with her, at meal-times,
by the fire, even
in the ultimate intimacies
of the bed. You could have asked,
then, for information
about her? There was a room
apart she kept herself in,
teasing me by leading me
to its glass door, only
to confront me with
my reflection. I learned from her
even so. Walking her shore
I found things cast up
from her depths that spoke
to me of another order,
worshipper as I was
of untamed nature. She fetched
her treasures from art's
storehouse: pieces of old
lace, delicate as frost;
china from a forgotten
period; a purse more valuable
than anything it could contain.
Coming in from the fields
with my offering of flowers
I found her garden
had forestalled me in providing
civilities for my desk.
' Tell me about life'
I would say, 'you who were
its messenger in the delivery
of our child'. Her eyes had a
fine shame, remembering her privacy
being invaded from further off than
she expected. 'Do you think
death is the end?' frivolously
I would ask her. I recall
now the swiftness of its arrival
wrenching her lip down, and how
the upper remained firm,
reticent as the bud that is
the precursor of the flower.
Collected Later Poems: 1988-2000
The Apologetics Study Bible
Many channelers and trance mediums cite this passage as evidence that communication with the dead is possible. Even if such an argument could be made, biblical law strictly forbids contacting spiritualist mediums (see Lv 19:31; 20:27; Dt 18:10–12; Is 8:19). Despite these injunctions, King Saul asked the medium of Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel, the dead prophet. Whether she actually succeeded or not is debatable. Saul's actions were costly: "Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the Lord because he did not keep the LORD's word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Ch 10:13–14).
28:6 Why didn't the Lord answer Saul's plea for help? The Bible teaches that people who consistently reject God's leadership in their lives, and refuse to follow the guidance He has already provided, should not expect Him to deliver them from trouble resulting from their poor choices (Jb 27:9; 35:12; Pr 1:23–28; Is 1:15; Jr 11:11; 14:12; Ezk 8:18; Mc 3:4; Zch 7:13; Jms 4:3). Saul had consistently disobeyed God (1 Sm 13:13–14; 15:11–23), even going so far as to kill the Lord's priests (22:17–19). He had created vast problems for himself and his nation. The Lord was not going to promise the king supernatural deliverance from those problems, even though Saul earnestly sought His help. Instead, God would use the Philistines as the instrument of judgment against Saul.
28:6 This passage says that Saul inquired of the Lord, while 1 Ch 10:14 says he did not. The contradiction is apparent only in English translations. In this verse Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "inquired of") the Lord to provide guidance, but the Lord did not answer him. In 1 Ch 10:13–14 Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "consulted") a medium for guidance but did not "seek" (Hb darash; "inquire of") the Lord. The point is that Saul died because he committed a capital offense in consulting a medium (see Lv 20:27) rather than seeking to obey God.
28:8–22 Did the medium of Endor really conjure up the dead prophet Samuel? Though scholars disagree on this question, the Bible suggests that she did. The law of Moses sternly forbids consultation of mediums (Lv 20:27; Dt 18:10–12) but never says that communicating with dead people is impossible. Saul was seemingly able to speak with a figure that not only accurately repeated key themes from Samuel's previous private conversations with Saul, but also correctly predicted the deaths of Saul and his sons. This suggests that the king was indeed speaking with Samuel.
What Is the Occult? by Leonard G. Goss
The English word "occult" comes from the Latin "occultus," which means things that are hidden, esoteric, concealed, or mysterious. For occult practitioners, the occult represents interference with physical nature by using hidden knowledge (gnosis), such as non-conventional practices including reciting formulas, making gestures, mixing incompatible elements, performing healing spells, or performing secret ceremonies attempting to alter physical nature. What is the hidden knowledge? According to occultists, it is the force at the base of the universe, and it is obtained only through secret communication with that force. Is this hidden force God? Or the devil? Or the soul of the universe? That depends a good deal on what particular source their gnosis has tapped into, but one thing the force is not: It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For those dabbling in the occult, such activities are considered harmless and fascinating—a real source of spiritual knowledge. For Christians, however, the wide range of practices making up the occult is destructive and spirit-threatening. Christians view as deeply evil things like alchemy, astrology, casting runes, crystals and crystal balls, divination, dowsing, ESP, fortune-telling, horoscopes, the I Ching, levitation, Ouija boards, paganism, palm reading, the paranormal, pendulum divination, psychic phenomena, reading Tarot Cards, ritual abuse, satanism, seances, secret societies, sorcery, spiritualism, talking to dead spirits, Wicca (so-called White Witchcraft) and Witchcraft (Black Magic). The extent of occult involvement is universal. Spiritual warfare is all around us, and if Satan cannot keep us from knowing Christ he will try containing us by drawing us into deception. The Enemy is a deceiver, liar, tempter, and devourer of human souls.
Why the interest in the occult? First, many churches have "watered down" the Gospel of Christ, rejecting the church's central teaching of Christ's divinity and other essential truths. When this happens, a spiritual vacuum invites people to go to the occult to be satisfied, swinging the door to occultist practices wide open. Second, there is a certain mystery about the occult which appeals to our curiosity. Many, thinking the occult is harmless, go deeper and deeper until they can't get out without any bad effects. Third, we all want ultimate answers to life's basic questions, and the occult offers a sort of "reality" by providing these answers. Actually, occultist practices are a counterfeit of God's power, and as such they do reveal some amazing things—but these things are not the ultimate truth. Fourth, an increase in demonic activity is to be expected as a sign of the end times (see Mk 13:22; 1 Tm 4:1).
Often, there is deliberate faking in the lucrative field of the occult. There is money to be made. There is also inaccurate reporting. When some people find a theory fascinating, they often care less about the facts. In addition, there is self manipulation. When it suits their wishes, some believe anything they want. There is, however, true demonic deception. The Bible teaches that there is a deceptive, dangerous spirit world which distorts reality and ruins human lives. Despite outright fraud, all Christians need to know that the occult or paranormal is real. The Bible is clear it is real, as Saul discovered upon meeting the medium of Endor (1 Sm 28), and we must not dismiss it. If God is real, his chief adversary is also real.
First John 3:8 says, "The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil's works." Involvement in the occult is involvement in the devil's works, and as it can lead to very serious outcomes spiritually and psychologically, we must remember that the Bible denounces all occultic practices (see Dt 18:9–14; Ac 13:6–12). The road to the occult is broad and always destructive. The way of Christ is narrow but always leads to eternal life.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
The Apologetics Study Bible
1 Samuel 31:3–5 The Bible provides three complementary accounts of Saul's receiving mortal wounds leading to his death. According to verse 3, Saul was severely wounded by a Philistine arrow. Then, to avoid being sadistically executed by the vengeance-seeking Philistines (17:51; 18:27), Saul fell on his own sword (v. 4), receiving a second grave wound that in time would have killed him (2 Sm 1:9). His armor-bearer, seeing that the king was now dead, then fell upon his sword and perished, as well (1 Sm 31:5). Later, an Amalekite—probably on the battlefield to steal personal possessions from the corpses—tried to take credit for dealing Saul's final death blow (2 Sam 1:6–10); whether or not he was telling the truth, it was a foolish move on his part. Though this sequence of events as the Bible relates it is complicated, it is certainly plausible.
1 Samuel 31:4–5 Suicide involves the unauthorized taking of a human life, and as such violates the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13); God does not sanction it. The Apostle Paul prevented the Philippian jailer from taking his own life (Ac 16:27–28). But, as with all other sins (with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Mt 12:31), suicide is not a sin that automatically excludes a person from heaven.
The biblical narrative records examples of several individuals who took their own lives. In each case the circumstances of the suicide were inglorious and regrettable. Samson, tortured and humiliated by the Philistines, took his own life with theirs after a ruinous career of disregard for the Lord (Jdg 16:30). Ahithophel committed suicide after being publicly humiliated by having his advice rejected, and in order to avoid being executed for treason (2 Sm 17:23). Zimri, after murdering an Israelite king, ended his life to avoid being killed by his pursuers (1 Kg 16:18). Judas committed suicide after his betrayal of Jesus (Mt 27:5). Saul's attempted suicide was carried out to avoid the humiliation and torture the approaching Philistines would certainly have inflicted on him. There are no biblical examples of honorable suicide. An examination of the Bible's accounts of these lives and deaths suggest two primary scriptural observations about suicide: first, it is an option that some deeply troubled people will choose when facing desperate circumstances; and second, it is a pathetic and tragic end to a human life.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament
Saul and the Medium from Endor
28:2. David as personal bodyguard. As he was in Saul’s service (22:14), David now is appointed as the head of the personal bodyguard of King Achish. This puts him in a difficult situation, since it almost assures that he will have to participate in the battle against Saul.
28:3. mediums and spiritists. For more information on divination as a whole, see the comments on Deuteronomy 18. The practitioners of spiritism and sorcery are condemned because of their association with Canaanite religion and because their “art” attempted to circumvent Yahweh by seeking knowledge and power from spirits. They represented a form of “popular religion.” In this case the banned individuals participated in a form of divination employing ritual pits from which ancestral spirits could be raised to speak to the living about the future.
28:3. banning them. Saul’s decision to ban mediums and spiritists from his realm would ordinarily be praised because of their close association with Canaanite worship practices. They functioned as conjurers of ancestral spirits who could speak of the future. Superstitions and the aura of the occult power made these individuals feared and often undesirable. Almost a millennium earlier King Gudea of Lagash had also banned mediums from his realm, so it is not an act connected solely to monotheism. In this instance Saul’s ban is paralleled with the death of Samuel to demonstrate that he had no means at his disposal, whether legitimate or illegitimate, to divine God’s will.
28:4. location of Philistine and Israelite camps. The eastern end of the Valley of Jezreel is about ten miles wide from north to south. The north end is blocked off by Mount Tabor, while the south end is blocked off by Mount Gilboa. The ten-mile stretch between the two is broken into two passes by the smaller Hill of Moreh. The town of Shunem where the Philistines make camp is on the southwest side of the Hill of Moreh just across the Harod Valley (the southern pass from the Valley of Jezreel to the city of Beth Shan) from Saul’s camp at Mount Gilboa. The two camps are about five miles apart. Endor is located in the middle of the northern pass (between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Tabor), about six or seven miles north of the Israelite camp (about a two-hour trek). Saul would have proceeded around the eastern side of the Hill of Moreh and thus have avoided the Philistine camp. Note that Endor (Khirbet Safsafeh) is technically in the tribal territory of Manasseh, outside of the territory controlled by Saul (Josh 17:11). The fact that the battle takes place so far north of Philistia suggests that they were trying to cut the Galilee region off from Saul’s kingdom. Saul’s position takes advantage of the mountainous terrain and would favor his lightly armed forces.
28:6. means Saul used to seek information. Saul is rightly concerned about the upcoming battle with the massed forces of the five Philistine city-states. He first employs the usual divination methods to consult God and see if the Divine Warrior would give him a victory. These methods included incubation rituals in which the inquirer sleeps within a sanctuary or near a sacred object in order to receive a dream from a god (see comment on 3:3), the use of Urim to cast lots (see comment on Ex 28:30) and the visions of prophets (see Saul’s previous association with prophets in 1 Sam 10:10–11). None of these inquiries was answered, and it is made clear that Saul is abandoned by God.
28:7. specialist Saul wanted to use. Since he had no other recourse to seek God’s will about the coming battle, Saul broke his own law banning mediums and made a secret visit to the medium of Endor. She has established a reputation as one who could successfully consult ghosts and ancestral spirits. This specialist from Endor used a ritual pit to conjure up the spirits of the dead. Although the process is listed in Deuteronomy 18:10–11 as one of the “detestable acts” associated with Canaanite religion, the actual use of a pit is not mentioned in the Old Testament outside of the Endor episode. As in Hittite magic, the practitioner here is an “old woman.” The pits were believed to be magical portals through which spirits could pass between the realms of the living and the dead. The practitioner was one who had special knowledge of the location of such a pit and who was familiar with the procedures necessary to summon the dead. There is no indication in these rituals that the practitioner was possessed by the spirit or that the spirit spoke through her, and so she was not a medium in the modern sense.
28:8–11. procedures for calling up spirits. Examples from Greek (Homer’s Odyssey), Mesopotamian and, especially, Hittite literature provide the details: (1) done at night, (2) after the spot is divined a pit is dug with a special tool, (3) a food offering (bread, oil, honey) or the blood of a sacrificial animal is placed in the pit to attract spirits, (4) an invocation ritual, including the spirit’s name, is chanted, and (5) the pit is covered to prevent spirits from escaping after the ritual is concluded. Both practitioner and client had roles to play in the procedure. The spirits who emerged were in human form and generally were able to communicate directly with the client. In Mesopotamian necromancy incantations, only the practitioner could see the spirit. This was accomplished through ritual ointments smeared on the face.
28:14. prophetic mantle. Since clothing is often a status marker in the ancient world (see Joseph’s various changes of clothing in Genesis 37, 39–41), it may be expected that prophets were distinguished by a particular garment. The spirit of Samuel is recognized by his robe (see Elijah’s mantle in 1 Kings 19:19 and 2 Kings 2:8, 13–14).
28:8–20. beliefs about afterlife. The spirits of the dead were believed to descend to the underworld known as Sheol. This was a nebulous region of continued existence, but it is not distinguished as a place of reward or punishment.
28:8–11. consulting dead in ancient Near East. Because of a well-developed ancestor cult that pervaded much of the ancient Near East (perhaps reflected in the emphasis on the role of the male heir to care for the father’s shrine in Ugaritic documents), the dead were considered to have some power to affect the living. It was believed that if libations were poured out on behalf of dead ancestors, their spirits would offer protection and help to those still living. In Babylon the disembodied spirit (utukki) or the ghost (etemmu) could become very dangerous if not cared for and often were the objects of incantations. Proper care for the dead would begin with proper burial and would continue with ongoing gifts and honor of the memory and name of the deceased. The firstborn was responsible for maintaining this ancestor worship and therefore inherited the family gods (often images of deceased ancestors). Such care would have been based on a belief, as seen in Saul’s consultation of the medium of Endor, that the spirits of the dead could communicate and had information on the future that could be of use to the living. These spirits were consulted through the efforts of priests, mediums and necromancers. This could be a dangerous practice since some spirits were considered demons and could cause great harm. While it is difficult to totally reconstruct Israelite beliefs about deceased ancestors and the afterlife, it seems possible that prior to the exile there existed a cult of the dead or ancestral worship. This is suggested by archaeological remains: (1) utensils, bowls and implements for eating and drinking found in Iron Age tombs in Israel, (2) references to deposits of food and drink offerings for the dead (see Deut 26:14; Ps 106:28) and (3) the importance placed on family tombs (see the ancestral tomb for Abraham and his descendants at Hebron) and mourning rituals performed at these tombs (see Is 57:7–8; Jer 16:5–7). The local and family ancestral cults were condemned by the prophets and the law.
28:24. meal prepared for Saul. There are elements of hospitality customs in the offering of a meal to Saul by the woman of Endor. Like Abraham, she provides a costly meal by slaughtering a calf and making bread (see Gen 18:6–7). It is unlikely that the woman owned more than this one animal, and so she is truly doing Saul great honor. Saul’s reluctance to accept her invitation may be tied to her profession or her association with other gods. It may also be a sign of his depression over Samuel’s words of doom. His eventual acceptance follows the pattern of indecisiveness and contradictory behavior so often found in his career. There is also a sense of resignation in eating a “last meal.”
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament
Rosh Hashanah 25a–b
A wedding ceremony can take less than thirty minutes, the reception lasts a few hours. But people sense that this moment is so important, and so wonderful, that they want it to last as long as possible. Traditional Judaism, in its reluctance to let the wedding day slip away too quickly, “adds from the ordinary onto the sacred.” There is the aufruf, when the groom (and nowadays, sometimes the bride) is called to the Torah and the couple are given the community’s blessing, often on the Shabbat before the wedding. The day of the marriage begins with the tenaim, the signing of a formal engagement contract by the two families, accompanied by the breaking of a plate. Then there is the ḥusan’s tish, “the groom’s table,” where the men gather to sing, study, and celebrate with their friends. As part of the Bedeken, or veiling ceremony, the women attend the bride with songs of joy and praise, and then lead her in dance to the wedding canopy. Following the reception, the husband and wife traditionally remain in the community for the week. Each night, they attend another dinner in their honor, sponsored by different friends or family members. At the conclusion of these meals, a special prayer, the Sheva Berakhot, “the seven blessings,” is added to the routine grace after meals. In secular wedding culture, the bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, and cocktail hours serve a similar function before the wedding, while the post-wedding breakfasts and “after-parties” all have the same intention of making this wonderful celebration last a little bit longer.
There are two kinds of moments in life: The ordinary and the special. The former far outnumber the latter. But it is the latter, those unique, sacred events and times that give meaning and joy to our lives. The challenge we face is how to savor them when they do come. The Rabbis tried to protect these moments and to prolong them. By starting Shabbat before sunset and ending it only after the stars had come out, two things were accomplished: A “fence” was erected around the day, that made sure ordinary weekday work, like lighting candles, was not done, by accident or by neglect, during the actual sacred time. And another hour was added on to the seventh day. One additional hour on top of the regular twenty-four may not amount to all that much. Yet, the Rabbis were teaching us to cherish each of our special moments, to hold on to them while we have them, and to let them last, even if for only a little while longer. It is one of the great secrets of life—to add from the ordinary on to the sacred.
Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation.
Text / Our Rabbis taught: “Why were the names of the elders not mentioned explicitly? So that people would not say: ‘Is so-and-so like Moses and Aaron? Is so-and-so like Nadav and Abihu? Is so-and-so like Eldad and Medad?’ It says ‘Samuel said to the people: “The Lord, … He who appointed Moses and Aaron” [1 Sam. 12:6]’ and it says ‘And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel’ [1 Sam. 12:11]. Jerubbaal is Gideon. Why is he called Jerubbaal? Because he fought with Baal. Bedan is Samson. Why is he called Bedan? Because he came from Dan. Jephthah is Jephthah.
It says: ‘Moses and Aaron among His priests, Samuel, among those who call on His name’ [Psalms 99:6]. The text has equated three of the most important men of the world, to tell you that Jerubbaal in his generation is like Moses in his generation; Bedan in his generation is like Aaron in his generation; Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation—to teach you that even the least important man in the world, once he has been appointed a leader of the community is considered as among the greatest of the great.”
Context / Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, and bow low from afar.” (Exodus 24:1)
[Moses] gathered seventy of the people’s elders and stationed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him; He drew upon the spirit that was on him and put it upon the seventy elders. And when the spirit rested upon them, they spoke in ecstasy, but did not continue. Two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in the camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the tent—and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. (Numbers 11:24–26)
The Gemara brings together three verses (two from the book of Samuel, one from Psalms) that mention Israelite leaders. First, the lesser-known names are identified. Jerubbaal is Gideon (Judges 6–8); Bedan is Samson (Judges 14–16). Together with Jephthah (Judges 11–12), they were three of the shoftim or judges who led the Israelites in the period between Joshua and King Saul. Each is known, among other things, for his weaknesses: Gideon lacked courage and required constant assurance from God. Samson showed bad judgement in the choice of women he pursued. Jephthah ended up sacrificing his own daughter as a consequence of a rash vow he made to God.
Then, the Gemara notes the incongruity of mentioning these three inferior leaders together with three of the greatest ones: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. (Samuel was the prophet and judge who led Israel and anointed Saul and David as kings.) Rabbinic methodology is interesting: All three verses contain the name of Samuel. The Rabbis deduce that all the names mentioned in the three verses are somehow similar or equal. Indeed, the verses explicitly state that God appointed or sent the leaders, and thus whether great or mediocre, they have the authority of God behind them.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Book of Deuteronomy is one of the most significant in the Old Testament. Jesus often quoted Deuteronomy. When tempted by Satan in His own wilderness (Matt. 4), Jesus quoted this great book three times!
“Deutero-nomy” means “second law.” But the book is far more than a restatement of the Law given at Sinai. This book is also a commentary on the Law’s deeper meanings. As we study Deuteronomy we sense the deep love that underlies God’s gift of Law—and the love for God that is necessary if any person is to be obedient to Him.
|I.||Moses’ First Sermon||Deut. 1:1–4:43|
|II.||Moses’ Second Sermon||Deut. 4:44–28:68|
|III.||Moses’ Third Sermon||Deut. 29:1–30:20|
|IV.||Moses’ Last Days||Deut. 31:1–34:12|
“You”. In this first sermon Moses reviewed what God had done for Israel. But in looking back on what happened to the first, now-dead generation, Moses talked of what God did for “you” and of how “you” responded to God. In the Old Testament there is a strong sense of corporate responsibility for the acts not only of the present community but also of past generations. God’s mighty acts of deliverance were performed not just for the Exodus generation, but for “you” the living. In the same way, the living are to identify with and to learn from the sins and failures of past generations.
The Book of Deuteronomy is both important and fascinating. It’s a book that puts new stress on personal relationship with God. Here the phrase “Yahweh our God” (The LORD our God) is not only introduced, it is repeated. The Law is not some rigid set of impersonal rules. It is a vital expression of the love relationship that flows from God to His people, and is expressed by the people in obedient response.
This book does have many passages that are parallel to teaching already given in Exodus. For instance:
|Ex. 21:1–11||matches||Deut. 15:12–18|
|Ex. 21:12–14||matches||Deut. 19:1–13|
|Ex. 22:21–24||matches||Deut. 24:17–22|
|Ex. 22:29||matches||Deut. 15:19–23|
|Ex. 23:2–8||matches||Deut. 16:18–20|
|Ex. 23:10–13||matches||Deut. 15:1–11|
|Ex. 23:14–17||matches||Deut. 16:1–17|
|Ex. 23:19a||matches||Deut. 26:2–10|
Still, some 50 percent of the content of Deuteronomy is new. And what is repeated is often expanded by exhortations or by explanation of the deeper meaning of the duplicated laws.
Many have pointed out that Deuteronomy has great historical significance. It is written in a well-known contemporary form. It has the structure of a national constitution: a treaty between a ruler and his subjects.
This form is important because of the message it contained for Israel. God’s redeemed people had a faith relationship with the Lord. Now God established the fact that in this relationship He is the Ruler, they the subjects. He is ready to bind Himself by solemn treaty to fulfill His obligations as their Ruler. But they must also bind themselves by the same treaty to fulfill their obligations as His subjects.
In essence, this kind of treaty spelled out the obligations of Ruler and ruled, and set the pattern for a harmonious relationship between the two.
The well-known form of this treaty, followed in the structure of Deuteronomy, included:
Historical Prologue Reviewing the relationship
which the Ruler has with His subjects.
Specifying the general principles
that are to guide behavior.
Expanding on certain rules
that are to be followed.
Calling for ratification by the subjects themselves.
Explaining the benefits
the Ruler provides for good subjects.
Explaining the punishments due subjects
who violate treaty stipulations.
Summarizing the treaty.
How is this form seen in Deuteronomy ? Here are the passages that fit this treaty format.
|Basic Stipulations:||Deut. 5:1–11:32.|
|Detailed Stipulations:||Deut. 12:1–26:19.|
|Document Clause:||Deut. 27:1–26.|
So the very form of Deuteronomy held an important message for Israel. This nation had as its ruler not some human tyrant, but God Himself! There was no need for a human king in Israel, for God Himself was King. There was no need for a human military leader, for God Himself would lead, protect, and bless.
If only Israel would live according to the covenant regulations God gave, the Lord was committed to do His people good.
Moses’ first sermon then was particularly fitting. In it, Moses revealed what God had done for “us,” His special people. And in that review of the relationship between God and His people, there are many lessons for you and me, and for those whom we are called to teach!
Vers. 1–5.—The Word of God full of hidden treasure. We cannot get very far in these preliminary verses ere we are struck with a phrase which is a most suggestive one, and should not be lightly passed over, viz. “On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law,” literally, to dig it, i.e. to go deeply into it, and to turn up again its contents, so that, to all the advantage of a generation of culture, the people might see that there was more meaning, and also more glory in the Law of God than they were able to discern in the first years of their national existence. Observe—
I. THERE IS A MINE OF WEALTH IN THE LAW OF GOD. This is the case, even if we thereby intend the Mosaic Law alone. Its theology, its ethics, its directory of religious faith and worship, its civil and political code for the Hebrew commonwealth, are all so pure and elevated, that no account can be given of how any man at that age of the world could have propounded such a system, save that he was taught of God (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21). If, moreover, we would see how the devout Hebrews estimated the Law, let us turn to Ps. 19.; 103:7, et seq. Our Saviour honoured the Law, and maintained it in all its integrity (cf. Matt. 5:17, 18). He removed the glosses by which it had in his time become disfigured, but he never depreciated it. We are by no means to confound “the Law” with the abstract idea of “law.” See how sharply the Apostle Paul distinguishes between these two in Rom. 3., especially in ver. 21, “But now there has been manifested a righteousness of God apart from law, being witnessed by THE Law and the prophets.” The Law given by Moses is based on the gospel (cf. Gal. 3). If, however, to all that Moses gave, we add all “the grace and the truth” which came in by Jesus Christ, how unsearchably vast is the wealth stored up for us in the “Word of everlasting Truth!”
II. THE EFFORT OF DIGGING INTO THIS MINE WILL BE WELL REPAID. How much difference there is between a man who knows only what men say about the Book, and one who knows the Book for himself! (Here is my great sadness. So many Christians can tell you what their pastor says, but they do not read the Word for themselves. They do not let the Holy Spirit talk to them. Instead, they wait upon their pastor.) The one may be easily beguiled into the belief that it is so out of date that it is scarcely worth while to study it at all. The other will find it so far ahead of the actual attainments of the wisest and best of men, that he will pity those who dismiss it with but a glance from afar. The continuous, careful, thorough student of the Law of Moses, will be ever discovering a richness in it which will at once astonish and enrapture him. Its harmony with, its historical preparation for, the gospel, will be continually disclosing to him new proofs of its Divine original, that will be worth more to him than any merely “external evidence.” And when the whole Word of God is made the constant study of one whose heart is open to the truth and loyal to God, such a one will find fuller and richer meaning in single words, such as göel, “grace,” “righteousness,” etc., when these words are put to their highest use in Divine revelation, than in whole tomes of merely human lore!
III. THE WORD SHOULD BE DUG INTO, THAT WE MAY APPROPRIATE ITS CONTENTS, BY ENLIGHTENED REASON AND LOWLY FAITH. These treasures are for the use of all, not merely to gratity them with the consciousness of ever making new discoveries, but to make them richer in the accumulating stores of holy thought. And if we, in the right spirit, explore these sacred pages, we shall ourselves become richer in knowledge, in gladness, in hope. If we cultivate a willingness to do God’s will, and seek to know the truth for the purpose of doing the right, we shall find that much that is “hidden from the wise and prudent” is, by means of the Book, “revealed unto babes.”
IV. THE MORE WE THUS DIG INTO THE BOOK OF THE LAW, THE MORE EXHAUSTLESS IT WILL SEEM. No one is there, who lovingly and prayerfully studies it, who will not come to say, with a feeling that becomes intenser year by year, “There remaineth very much land to be possessed.” “High as the heaven is above the earth, so are” God’s “ways higher than” our “ways, and” God’s “thoughts than” our “thoughts”!
V. THE ACCUMULATING STORES OF HOLY THOUGHT SHOULD BE TRANSMUTED BY US INTO THE WEALTH OF HOLY LIFE. It is not for nought that our God has so enriched this world with thoughts from heaven. It is not merely that the intellect may be furnished or the taste for research gratified. Oh no; it is for our life. Heaven has poured forth its wealth upon earth, that earth may send up its love and loyalty to heaven. Precious are the riches of truth. The riches of holiness are more precious still. God gives us the first that we may yield him the second. God would win Israel’s love by unveiling his own. So now, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How great will be our guilt, how severe our condemnation, if we let such priceless disclosures remain unnoticed and unused! It were better for us not to have known the way of righteousness than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto us. May we, through the Spirit, so use the truth of God as to find our joy and salvation in the God of the truth!
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Rise of the Bible
The idea of a specific set of writings called the Bible did not exist before the end of the Second Temple period. Before that, there existed a somewhat inchoate group of books considered sacred by one or more of the various religious communities that flourished during this period. The heart of Scripture, all communities agreed, was the Torah or Pentateuch, that is, the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books were attributed to the authorship of Moses, and from an early time their laws in particular were looked to for guidance in matters of daily life. Along with them were other works—historical writings covering the period from the death of Moses to later times; prophetic books and visions associated with various figures from the past; psalms, hymns, and similar works, many attributed to King David; wise sayings and other wisdom writings, some attributed to King Solomon; and so forth. Some of these texts were actually composed within the Second Temple period, but many went back far earlier, to the time before the Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C.E. For example, most modern scholars agree that large parts of our biblical books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah go back to the eighth century B.C.E.; to a still earlier period belong a number of other texts—for example, some of the songs and psalms found in the Bible, along with a portion of the historical and legendary material later included in different books.
If these texts had thus been preserved for hundreds of years before the start of the Second Temple period, they must have played some active role in the lives of those who preserved them. After all, the parchment or papyrus on which texts were generally written begins to disintegrate after a century or so; recopying books was a tedious, and expensive, process. If these writings were nonetheless saved and recopied, it seems likely that, far back into the biblical period, people were using them for some purpose. Ancient laws were no doubt written down to preserve their exact wording, so that they might be explicated and applied to real-life cases; if p 123 psalms and hymns were similarly recorded, it was probably because they were an actual part of the liturgy in use at one or another ancient sanctuary; tales of past heroes and their doings were written down to be read in court or at festive occasions; and so forth.
Nevertheless, it is only some time after the return from the Babylonian Exile at the end of the sixth century B.C.E. that we begin to find frequent reference to the Scripture (principally the Pentateuch) and its interpretation. This is truly the time when these ancient texts begin to move to center stage in Judaism. Several factors combined to make Scripture so important.
One of these is a rather universal phenomenon. Scripture may have come to play a particularly important role in Judaism, but in many religions and civilizations (some of them quite unrelated to Judaism), writings from the ancient past also play a special role—the Vedas in Hinduism, the Zoroastrian Avesta, the writings of Confucius, and so forth. What is behind this phenomenon? With regard to premodern societies, our own view of knowledge as a dynamic, ever-expanding thing is rather inappropriate. In such societies people generally conceived of knowledge as an altogether static, unchanging thing, and they therefore tended to attach great significance to the wisdom found in writings from the ancient past. Indeed, as the chronological distance between such writings and themselves increased, so too did the esteem in which these ancient pronouncements were held. After all, what the ancients knew, or what had been revealed to them, was timeless truth, part of that great, static corpus of knowledge; it could never be displaced by later insights (nor would anyone want it to be).
Israel’s ancient writings had no doubt long enjoyed a similar cachet. But added to this were several more specific things that heightened the role of Scripture in the early postexilic period. The first was the fact of the Babylonian Exile itself. Though it lasted scarcely more than half a century, it profoundly disrupted things for the exiled Jews. Institutions like the royal court, the Jerusalem Temple, and other formerly crucial centers were no more; soon, the traditions and ways of thought associated with them began to fade. Instead, the exiles’ heads were now filled with foreign institutions, a foreign language, and a way of thinking that hardly bothered to take account of the tiny nation from which they had come. Under such circumstances, Israel’s ancient writings offered an island of refuge. Here, the royal court and the Jerusalem Temple still lived in their full glory; here the God of Israel still reigned supreme, and His people and their history occupied center stage; and here was the exiles’ old language, the Judean idiom, written down in the classical cadences of its greatest prophets and sages. It seems altogether likely that, during those years in Babylon, such writings as had accompanied the Judeans into exile only grew in importance—if not for all, then at least for some significant segment of the population. And once the exile was over, these same ancient texts continued in this role: they were the history of the nation and its pride, a national literature and more than that, a statement about the ongoing importance of the remnants of that kingdom, for its God, and for the world.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
--- Mark 16:4.
Make no effort to hide the fact. ( Westminster Sermons: Volume 2 - At Fast and Festival ) Death is the great enigma of life. Humanly speaking, it is an insoluble mystery; it is the one secret of the universe that is kept, the silence that is never broken. Death is one of the rare things that can be predicted of all people, the common end to a path of glory or to a road of shame. To the weary and despairing it may come as a friend; the cynical and disillusioned may meet it with indifference; to the healthy and happy it may appear as a foe. But as friend or foe or cold companion, it comes to all. All our plans for the future are made subject to its approval. There is no earthly tie too sacred for death to loosen. It reduces the exalted and the lowly to the common denominator of dust.
Moreover, the mystery is as old as humanity. From the dimmest beginnings of history, we find people pondering the problem of the beyond. In the upward movement of the human race, we find people nursing their hopes on a variety of dreams and passing in turn from belief in a dim spirit life to the shadowy existence called Sheol and finally to the vision of a life fuller and grander than this. But it was still a mystery. These dreams were dreams, interesting speculations, but nothing more. Death was still “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (Hamlet). This was the great stone that blocked the path of human aspiration. What certainty was there of the continuity of life? What modest individual could find in himself or in herself anything worthy to endure for all eternity? Of what abiding worth was love—even our highest—if it ended in the passionless calm of death?
Then came the first Easter day and—the stone was rolled away! That stone! Mark says it was very large. And now it is rolled away, for one traveler returned. Death is an abysmal cavern no more, but a tunnel with a golden light at the farther end. It is no more a blind alley but a thoroughfare, no more a cul-de-sac but a highway. The mystery is a mystery no more.
“And,” says Paul, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).
--- William E. Sangster.
Another Brilliant Bishop April 4
Isidore was born about 560 in Seville, Spain, into a noble Christian family. He was the youngest child and was personally educated by his much-older brother, Leander, the close friend of Pope Gregory the Great. Though severe in his methods, Leander managed to furnish his little brother with both a brilliant mind and a tender heart.
When Isidore became pastor in Seville he concerned himself with establishing schools for the young, converting false teachers to orthodoxy, and evangelizing Jews. He established seminaries in every Spanish diocese for training young ministers.
But he did more. He compiled history’s first encyclopedia, the Etymologiae. It became the most used textbook of the Middle Ages, containing entries on medicine, arithmetic, grammar, history, science, and theology. Isidore also developed a dictionary of synonyms, a book on astronomy, a summary of world history, a set of biographies of illustrious men, books on biblical characters, and many books of sermons and theological studies. He became known as the greatest teacher in Spain.
The highlight of his career came late in his 37-year ministry. He presided over the great Spanish church council of Toledo which opened on December 5, 633. At this council, it was determined that baptismal candidates should be plunged into water only once, not three times. The council also approved the singing of hymns, not just the words of Scripture. And it forbade the compulsory conversion of Jews.
Two years later when he sensed he was dying, Isidore began distributing his goods to the poor. Four days before his death he asked two friends to carry him to the church of St. Vincent the Martyr. Once there he had one of them cover him with sackcloth and the other put ashes on his head. The old scholar then raised his hands to heaven and prayed loudly, confessing his sins and pleading for grace. A crowd assembled, and Isidore requested their prayers and forgave his debtors. He preached to the people about love, then distributed his remaining possessions. Returning home, he took to his bed and died peacefully on Thursday, April 4, 636.
When God divided out the wind and the water, And when he decided the path for rain and lightning, He also determined the truth and defined wisdom. God told us, “Wisdom means that you respect me, the Lord, And turn from sin.”
--- Job 28:25-28.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 4
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." --- 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Mourning Christian! why weepest thou? Art thou mourning over thine own corruptions? Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in him; thou art in God’s sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our Righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man—thou hast the righteousness of God. O thou who art mourning by reason of inbred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins can condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned also to know that sin is not thine—it was laid upon Christ’s head. Thy standing is not in thyself—it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy Lord; thou art as much accepted of God to-day, with all thy sinfulness, as thou wilt be when thou standest before his throne, free from all corruption. O, I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art “complete in him.” With thy Saviour’s garment on, thou art holy as the Holy one. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Christian, let thy heart rejoice, for thou art “accepted in the beloved”—what hast thou to fear? Let thy face ever wear a smile; live near thy Master; live in the suburbs of the Celestial City; for soon, when thy time has come, thou shalt rise up where thy Jesus sits, and reign at his right hand; and all this because the divine Lord “was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Evening - April 4
"Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."Isaiah 2:3.
It is exceedingly beneficial to our souls to mount above this present evil world to something nobler and better. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are apt to choke everything good within us, and we grow fretful, desponding, perhaps proud and carnal. It is well for us to cut down these thorns and briers, for heavenly seed sown among them is not likely to yield a harvest; and where shall we find a better sickle with which to cut them down than communion with God and the things of the kingdom? In the valleys of Switzerland many of the inhabitants are deformed, and all wear a sickly appearance, for the atmosphere is charged with miasma, and is close and stagnant; but up yonder, on the mountain, you find a hardy race, who breathe the clear fresh air as it blows from the virgin snows of the Alpine summits. It would be well if the dwellers in the valley could frequently leave their abodes among the marshes and the fever mists, and inhale the bracing element upon the hills. It is to such an exploit of climbing that I invite you this evening. May the Spirit of God assist us to leave the mists of fear and the fevers of anxiety, and all the ills which gather in this valley of earth, and to ascend the mountains of anticipated joy and blessedness. May God the Holy Spirit cut the cords that keep us here below, and assist us to mount! We sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. May God now grant us grace, if we cannot escape from the chain as to our flesh, yet to do so as to our spirits; and leaving the body, like a servant, at the foot of the hill, may our soul, like Abraham, attain the top of the mountain, there to indulge in communion with the Most High.
WOUNDED FOR ME
W. G. Ovens, 1870–1945 (verse 1)
Gladys W. Roberts, 1888–? (verses 2-5)
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.
(1 Peter 2:21)
Death by crucifixion was one of the worst forms of dying. No Roman citizen was ever crucified; this horrible death was reserved only for Rome’s enemies. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture and suffering. It was made of sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted among the sinews so that every time the lash came down upon a body, these pieces of bone inflicted fearful lacerations and literally tore off chunks of flesh from the person’s bones. This is what Christ endured in accomplishing our redemption. But the physical suffering was not the worst. Rather, the weight of human sin and the separation from God the Father because of His wrath against sin were the real causes of the Savior’s death.
But simply knowing about Christ’s suffering and death is not enough. We must personally appropriate this to our own lives. We must say, “It was for me!” We must allow the Holy Spirit to do in us subjectively all that Christ has done for us objectively. Then, after we have experienced this redemptive work in our own lives, we must humbly, lovingly, and thoughtfully “follow in His steps” and seek to restore others.
The five stanzas of this thoughtful hymn cover the whole story of redemption, from the Savior’s suffering to His second coming. When this hymn is sung, then, all of the verses must be used; none can be deleted. Start softly and slowly and gradually build to a thrilling climax—“O how I praise Him—He’s coming for me!”
Wounded for me, wounded for me, there on the cross He was wounded for me; gone my transgressions, and now I am free, all because Jesus was wounded for me.
Dying for me, dying for me, there on the cross He was dying for me; now in His death my redemption I see, all because Jesus was dying for me.
Risen for me, risen for me, up from the grave He has risen for me; now evermore from death’s sting I am free, all because Jesus has risen for me.
Living for me, living for me, up in the skies He is living for me; daily He’s pleading and praying for me, all because Jesus is living for me.
Coming for me, coming for me, one day to earth He is coming for me; then with what joy His dear face I shall see; O how I praise Him—He’s coming for me!
For Today: Psalm 65:3; 103:12; Isaiah 53; Ephesians 2:5.
Let your soul rejoice as you review the complete redemption Christ has provided for you. Sing this hymn as you go realizing that He was ---
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
That He Is “the God of All Grace” Is Uniquely a Gospel Truth
Thirdly, let us contemplate its Object: “The God of all grace.” Nature does not reveal Him as such, for man has to work hard and earn what he obtains from her. The workings of Providence do not, for there is a stern aspect as well as a benign one to them; and, as a whole, they rather exemplify the truth that we reap as we sow. Still less does the Law, as such, exhibit God in this character, for its reward is a matter of debt and not of grace. It is only in the Gospel that He is clearly made manifest as “the God of all grace.” Our valuation of Him as such is exactly proportioned by our devaluation of ourselves, for grace is the gratuitous favor of God to the undeserving and ill-deserving. Therefore we cannot truly appreciate it until we are made sensible of our utter unworthiness and vileness. He might well be the God of inflexible justice and unsparing wrath to rebels against His government. Such indeed He is to all who are outside of Christ, and will continue so for all eternity. But the glorious Gospel discovers to hell-deserving sinners the amazing grace of God to pardon, and to cleanse the foulest who repent and believe. Grace devised the plan of redemption; grace executed it; and grace applies it and makes it effectual. Peter previously made mention of “the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10), for nothing less will avail for those who are guilty of “manifold transgressions” and “mighty sins” (Amos 5:12). The grace of God is manifold not only numerically but in kind, in the rich variety of its manifestations. Every blessing we enjoy is to be ascribed to grace. But the appellation “the God of all grace” is even more comprehensive; yea, it is incomprehensible to all finite intelligences. This title, as we have seen, is set over against what is said of the devil in verse 8, where he is portrayed in all his terribleness: as our adversary for malice; likened to a lion for strength; to a roaring lion for dread; described as walking about for unwearied diligence, “seeking whom he may devour” unless God prevent. How blessed and consolatory is the contrast: “But God” — the Almighty, the Self-sufficient and All-sufficient One — “the God of all grace.” How comforting is the singling out of this attribute when we have to do with Satan in temptation! If the God of all grace be for us, who can be against us? When Paul was so severely tried by the messenger (angel) of Satan who was sent to buffet him, and he thrice prayed for its removal, God assured him of His relief: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9).
The God of All Grace: A Great Encouragement to Prayer
Though mention is made frequently in the Scriptures of the grace of God and of His being gracious, yet nowhere but in this verse do we find him denominated “the God of all grace.” There is a special emphasis here that claims our best attention: not simply is He “the God of grace,” but “the God of all grace.” As Goodwin showed, He is “the God of all grace” (1) essentially in His own character, (2) in His eternal purpose concerning His people, and (3) in His actual dealings with them. God's people personally receive constant proof that He is indeed so; and those of them whose thoughts are formed by His Word know that the benefits with which He daily loads them are the out-workings of His everlasting design of grace toward them. But they need to go still farther back, or raise their eyes yet higher, and perceive that all the riches of grace He ordained, and of which they are made the recipients, are from and in His very nature. “The grace in His nature is the fountain or spring; the grace of His purposes is the wellhead, and the grace in His dispensations the streams,” says Goodwin. It was the grace of His nature that caused Him to form “thoughts of peace” toward His people (Jer. 29:11), as it is the grace in His heart that moves Him to fulfil the same. In other words, the grace of His very nature, what He is in Himself, is such that it guarantees the making good of all His benevolent designs.
As He is the Almighty, self-sufficient and omnipotent, with whom all things are possible, so He is also an all-gracious God in Himself—lacking no perfection to make Him infinitely benign. There is therefore a sea of grace in God to feed all the streams of His purposes and dispensations that are to issue therefrom. Here then is our grand consolation: all the grace there is in His nature, which makes Him to be the “God of all grace” to His children, renders certain not only that He will manifest Himself as such to them, but guarantees the supply of their every need and ensures the lavishing of the exceeding riches of His grace upon them in the ages to come (Eph. 2:7). Look then beyond those streams of grace of which you are now the partaker to the God-man, Jesus the Anointed One, who is “full of grace” (John 1:14), and ask for continual and larger supplies from Him. The straitness is in ourselves and not in Him, for in God there is a boundless and limitless supply. I beg you (as I urge myself) to remember that when you come to the mercyseat (to make known your requests) you are about to petition “the God of all grace.” In Him there is an infinite ocean to draw upon, and He bids you come to Him, saying, “open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps. 8 1:10). Not in vain has He declared, “According to your faith be it unto you.”
Only by Faith Can We Enjoy the God of All Grace
The Giver is greater than all His gifts, yet there must be a personal and appropriating faith in order for any of us to enjoy Him. Only thus can we particularize what is general. God is the God of all grace to all saints, but faith has to be individually directed toward God by me if I am to know and delight in Him for what He actually is. We have an example of this in Psalm 59, where David declared, “The God of my mercy shall prevent [or “anticipate”] me” (v. 10 brackets mine). There we find him appropriating God to himself personally. Observe, first, how David lays hold of the essential mercy of God, that mercy which is embedded in His very nature. He exults again in verse 17: “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy”.) The God of all grace is my Strength. He is my God, and therefore the God of my mercy. I lay claim to Him as such; all the mercy there is in Him is mine. Since He is my God, then all that is in Him is mine. It was, after all, the mercy and grace that are in Him that moved Him to set His love upon me and to enter into covenant with me, saying, “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev. 2 1:7). Says Goodwin:
“You [have] heard [it said], God is the God of all grace to the brotherhood; I tell thee, if any soul had all the needs that all the brotherhood have, if nothing would serve his turn, but all the grace of God that He hath for the whole, yea, in the whole of Himself, He would lay it out for thee...Poor soul, thou usest to say, this or that is my sin, and it is so; a grievous sin perhaps, and I am prone to it. And again, this is my misery; but withal, I beseech thee to consider, that God is the God of thy mercy, and that all the mercy in God, upon occasion, and for a need, is thine, and all upon as good a title as that sin is thine; for the free donation of God, and of His will, is as good a title as the inheritance of sin in thee.”
Thus we see that God's mercy shall be employed on our behalf in our hour of need as though each of us were His only child. Just as surely as we had inherited the guilt and miseries of Adam's transgressions have we, who are in Christ, title to all of God's grace and mercy.
Furthermore, observe that David lays hold of the purposing mercy of God. Each individual saint has appointed and allotted to him that which he may call “my mercy.” God has set apart in His decree a portion so abundant that it can never be exhausted either by your sins or your needs. “The God of all mercy shall prevent me.” From all eternity He has anticipated and made full provision in advance for all my needs, just as a wise father has a medicine chest prepared with remedies for the ailments of his children. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). What an amazing condescension it is that God should make this a characteristic of Himself, that He becomes the God of the mercy of every particular child of His!
Finally, let us lay hold of His dispensing mercy, that which is actually bestowed upon us moment by moment. Here, too, has the believer every occasion to say “The God of my mercy,” for every blessing enjoyed by me proceeds from His hand. This is no empty title of His, for the fact that David's use of it is recorded for us in Holy Writ ensures that He will make it good. When I use it in true faith and childlike dependence upon Him, He binds Himself to take care of my interests in every way. Not only is He my God personally, but also of my needs.
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