2 Samuel 1
David Hears of Saul’s Death2 Samuel 1 1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 2 And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. 3 David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 4 And David said to him, “How did it go? Tell me.” And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.” 5 Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 6 And the young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. 7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 8 And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ 9 And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ 10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”
11 Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. 12 And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 13 And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.” 14 David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” 15 Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died. 16 And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’”
David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar. He said:
19 “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
20 Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
21 “You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor fields of offerings!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
22 “From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan turned not back,
and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
24 “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 “How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
“Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
27 “How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!”
2 Samuel 2
David Anointed King of Judah2 Samuel 2 1 After this David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.” 2 So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. 4 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
When they told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,” 5 David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the LORD, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. 6 Now may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. 7 Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
Ish-bosheth Made King of Israel8 But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, 9 and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. 10 Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. 11 And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
The Battle of Gibeon12 Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. 14 And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” 15 Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon. 17 And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.
18 And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle. 19 And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner. 20 Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is it you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” 21 Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.” But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. 22 And Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” 23 But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.
24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. And as the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. 25 And the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill. 26 Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” 27 And Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.” 28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore.
29 And Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole morning, they came to Mahanaim. 30 Joab returned from the pursuit of Abner. And when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing from David’s servants nineteen men besides Asahel. 31 But the servants of David had struck down of Benjamin 360 of Abner’s men. 32 And they took up Asahel and buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem. And Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at Hebron.
2 Samuel 3
Abner Joins David2 Samuel 3 1 There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.
2 And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; 3 and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; 4 and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
6 While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” 8 Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head of Judah? To this day I keep showing steadfast love to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David. And yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman. 9 God do so to Abner and more also, if I do not accomplish for David what the LORD has sworn to him, 10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.
12 And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.” 13 And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.
17 And Abner conferred with the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. 18 Now then bring it about, for the LORD has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke to Benjamin. And then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin thought good to do.
20 When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21 And Abner said to David, “I will arise and go and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.
22 Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.” 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? 25 You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.”
Joab Murders Abner26 When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. 27 And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.
David Mourns Abner31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier. 32 They buried Abner at Hebron. And the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 And the king lamented for Abner, saying,
“Should Abner die as a fool dies?
34 Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not fettered;
as one falls before the wicked
you have fallen.”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why New Testament Miracles Shouldn’t Disqualify the Gospels
By J. Warner Wallace 4/3/2017
Many critics point to the presence of the miraculous to make a case for late dating. Surely the miracles are works of fiction. If the gospel accounts were written early, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus would have exposed these miracles as fictitious, right? Much of this critical analysis comes from a literary discipline known as “form criticism.” Form critics attempt to classify portions of Scripture on the basis of their literary “type,” “pattern,” or “form.” Once these pieces are isolated within the larger narrative, form critics attempt to explain their origin. In the case of the Gospels, form critics have argued that the supernatural elements are different from those parts of the narrative that can be trusted as accurate history. They explain the “paradigms,” “sayings,” “miracle stories,” and “legends”46 as late additions inserted by local Christian communities to make a particular theological case or to present Jesus as something more than He was.
But, by now you probably recognize that the presupposition of naturalism (and the bias against supernaturalism) is once again the impetus behind this criticism. The form critics of history (a movement that was most popular in the mid-twentieth century) simply rejected the possibility that any description of a miracle could be factually true. It turns out that it was the miraculous “content” of these passages, rather than their common literary style or form, that caused critics to identify the verses they thought should be removed or handled with suspicion. In fact, they often selected passages that were very different from one another in terms of their stylistic forms. Sometimes they identified passages that did not fit neatly into one of their categories (or appeared to be a blend of more than one literary form), and they often disagreed with one another about the identity of particular types of literary forms and passages. They did agree on one thing, however: passages that contain miraculous events were not to be taken seriously as part of the original narrative.
These skeptics evaluate the gospel accounts with the assumption (based on the presence of the miraculous) that Christians must have written them in the second or third centuries, unafraid that their lies would be detected by those who lived in the first century. This proposal ignores, of course, all the evidence that supports an early dating for the New Testament documents. It also assumes that the gospel accounts are false until proven true. This is just the opposite approach we take with witness testimony when it is presented in court. We ought to presume that witnesses are telling us the truth until we discover otherwise, and the presence of the miraculous alone should not cause us to believe that the gospel eyewitnesses were lying.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Omnibenevolence of God
By Tim Stratton 4/2/2017
God is Omnibenevolent! Simply put, God is perfectly good and all-loving. Not only does the Bible make this clear (Psalm 100:5; Psalm 145:17; John 3:16), but logicians have also deductively concluded this apart from the Bible through the Moral Argument and the Ontological Argument.
Now, if God were simply omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing), but not perfectly good and all-loving, then we would have reason to be frightened. In fact, this is how Muslims view Allah. According to Islam, God is not all-loving, and whatever Allah does is simply called “good,” even if it is really hateful. As a result, Muslims have no assurance of salvation (unless they die in Jihad).
The Original Sin? | Some Christians fall into a similar trap and incorrectly think of God this way. Indeed, the church has been infected with a low view of God for ages. A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In the preface of this same book Tozer writes:
Tim is an adjunct professor at Nebraska Christian College and is in the process of ordination with the EFCA. He has spoken to numerous audiences around the country and loves to engage in one-on-one conversations with anyone doubting the truth of Christianity. He spends much of his time writing articles on his website, and interacting with our culture via several social media outlets. Tim is passionate about answering questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity. He is focused on reaching people both online and off line, both on Facebook and face-to-face.
Historian Josephus Mentions Jesus: How This Is A Genuine Source
By J.P. Holding 4/2/2017
The works of the first-century historian Josephus have been held in high regard by Christians throughout history. The early church, Schreckenberg writes, saw Josephus as “a kind of fifth gospel” and a “little Bible” [Feld.JosJes, 317], because his works “appeared to Christian theologians to be a commentary or a historic appendix to the New Testament.” (ibid., 319) The church’s love for Josephus “assured him an ongoing role in Western tradition.” [Maso.JosNT, 8]
Closer to modern times, households in France, Holland and England were known to present newborns with inscribed copies of Josephus, right along with the Bible. [Hada.FJos, 2] Thus it is that the particular references to Jesus have been held historically in the highest esteem – and perhaps, also why they have resulted in the most spilled ink.
This article will examine objections to the testimony of Josephus. The objections will be put in bold and answered thereafter.
James Patrick Holding holds a Masters in Library Science from Florida State University. He is a published author in Christian Research Journal, and his website (www.tektonics.org) is the largest apologetics site run by a single individual and contains over 1500 articles. His ministry is committed to providing scholarly answers to serious questions which are often posed on major and minor elements of the Christian faith. He is also a Certified Apologetics Instructor.
More on the Trinity and divine action
By Scott Swain
In previous entries in what is becoming an impromptu antiphonal blog series on the Trinity, Fred Sanders and I have focused on the nature and relevance of the doctrine of inseparable operations (see here, here, and here). To this point, we have considered ways in which the unity of God's being informs the unity of God's action towards his creatures in making, redeeming, and perfecting them for his glory. In the present post, I want to consider a couple of the ways in which his tripersonal manner of existing is inflected in his external works. As God is one and three, so God acts as one and three.
God's triune identity informs our understanding of God's triune actions in two areas, both which specify in different ways how the three persons relate to one another within the context of their indivisible activity toward creatures.
(1) The doctrine of appropriations helps us appreciate why the Scriptures characteristically appropriate (for example) the act of predestination to the Father (Eph 1.4-6; 1 Pet 1.1-2) even though each divine person is an agent of God's electing grace (John 6.70; 13.18; 1 Cor 2.7-11). The reason distinct divine actions are appropriated to distinct divine persons is not because God's actions toward his creatures are divided between the persons: the external works of the Trinity are undivided (opera Trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt). The reason is due to the ways in which the personal characteristics of the three manifest themselves in their common, indivisible action. Thus, as the Father is the principle of the Son and the Spirit (i.e., he eternally generates the Son and he eternally breathes forth the Spirit), his personal character shines forth in a special way in predestination, the principle act of the Trinity in salvation. Similarly, because the Son is eternally generated by the Father and because he eternally breathes forth the Spirit, the Son's personal character shines forth in a special way in the work of redemption, since the work of redemption flows from divine predestination and issues in the work of sanctification (Eph 1.3-14). Finally, because the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son as the bond of God's tripersonal perfection, his personal character shines forth in a special way in the work of sanctification, since the work of sanctification brings the acts of predestination and redemption to their divinely appointed goal (Eph 1.4; 5.27), making us a habitation for the triune God (John 14.16-17, 23).
Dr. Scott R. Swain is President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Swain has served on the RTS faculty since 2006, having previously taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
His main research interests include the doctrine of God, theological interpretation of Scripture, and modern Protestant theology, and he has published a number of books and essays on these topics. With Dr. Michael Allen, he serves as general editor of two series: Zondervan Academic’s New Studies in Dogmatics and T & T Clark’s International Theological Commentary.
Dr. Swain is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. He and his wife, Leigh, have four children. Dr. Swain blogs on a regular basis at Common Places.
The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018), coedited with Michael Allen.
Retrieving Eternal Generation
Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic
Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation
The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson's Trinitarian Theology (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology)
Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation
Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
12 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus, Part 4
By Kenneth Richard Samples 4/4/2017
Some people have had dramatic religious conversions. In fact, my three favorite Christian thinkers outside of the biblical authors—St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and C. S. Lewis—all experienced amazing life-changing conversions to Christianity. But there is one person whose conversion to the Christian faith changed the world forever. That individual said that his spiritual transformation was due to encountering the resurrected Jesus Christ.
So far in this series on evidences for the resurrection we have examined four confirmatory aspects to buttress the truth of Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection (see part 1, part 2, and part 3). In this article we’ll briefly explore how Christianity’s greatest convert adds one more powerful reason to affirm the resurrection.
5. The Greatest Religious Conversion Ever | Saul of Tarsus was a respected, first-century Hebrew scholar of the Torah (the Law), a member of the Jewish party of the Pharisees, and a Roman citizen (Acts 21:37–22:3). Fervent in his devotion to God and in his intent to protect ancient Judaism from what he perceived as false and heretical teaching, he became the central adversary of the primitive Christian church. Saul expressed his impassioned hostility toward Christians by having them arrested and inciting physical persecution and execution of believers, including Stephen (Acts 7:54–8:3; Galatians 1:13–14). Traveling on the road to Damascus to further persecute the church (ca. AD 31–33), Saul underwent an extraordinary life-changing experience. According to his claim, Saul saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1–30; 22:5–13). Following his dramatic conversion to the movement he once hated, he took on the Gentile name “Paul” and became the greatest advocate of the newfound Christian faith. After Jesus Christ himself, many scholars view the apostle Paul as the second most important figure in the history of Christianity. Paul went on to become the faith’s greatest missionary, theologian, and apologist as well as the inspired author of 13 New Testament books.
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As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason.
I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."
Books by Kenneth Richard Samples
God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
About Kenneth Richard Samples: I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author.
As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason.
I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."
Study: Only 4 Percent of Millennials Hold a “Biblical Worldview”
By Liberty McArtor 3/31/2017
Four percent of millennials hold a biblical worldview, according to a recent study.
The American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) published results of a survey earlier this month. The survey measured the core beliefs of millennials compared to older generations.
The study shows that millennials hold more liberal views of things like socialism and same-sex marriage than older generations. But there’s another big difference. Millennials are much less likely to become conservative in the future.
Liberty McArtor is a Staff Writer for The Stream. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College and previously worked in Washington, D.C. as a radio producer for WMAL’s weekend talk show and at First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas. Liberty resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with her husband and their beloved cat. Follow Liberty on Twitter @LibertyMcArtor.
A Silent Sermon
By Unknown Author & Unknown Date
Hebrews 10:25: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;
but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.
Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more.
Soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The Pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave, he slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 37He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
9. Let us now see what kind of righteousness belongs to those persons
whom we have placed in the fourth class. We admits that when God reconciles us to himself by the intervention of the righteousness of
Christ, and bestowing upon us the free pardon of sins regards us as righteous, his goodness is at the same time conjoined with mercy, so
that he dwells in us by means of his Holy Spirit, by whose agency the lusts of our flesh are every day more and more mortified while that we ourselves are sanctified; that is consecrated to the Lord for true purity of life, our hearts being trained to the obedience of the law. It thus becomes our leading desire to obey his will, and in all things advance his glory only. Still, however while we walk in the ways of the
Lord, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lest we should become
unduly elated, and forget ourselves, we have still remains of
imperfection which serve to keep us humble: "There is no man that
sinneth not," saith Scripture (1 Kings 8:46). What righteousness then
can men obtain by their works? First, I say, that the best thing which
can be produced by them is always tainted and corrupted by the impurity
of the flesh, and has, as it were, some mixture of dross in it. Let the
holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life
the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all
its parts; he will doubtless find in it something that savors of the
rottenness of the flesh, since our alacrity in well-doing is never what
it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness.
Although we see theft the stains by which the works of the righteous
are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they
are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God,
before which even the stars are not clean? We thus see, that even
saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is
not deserving of condemnation.
10. Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says (Ezek. 18:24). With this James agrees, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," (James 2:10). And since this mortal life is never entirely free from the taint of sin, whatever righteousness we could acquire would ever and anon be corrupted, overwhelmed, and destroyed, by subsequent sins, so that it could not stand the scrutiny of God, or be imputed to us for righteousness. In short, whenever we treat of the righteousness of works, we must look not to the legal work but to the command. Therefore, when righteousness is sought by the Law, it is in vain to produce one or two single works; we must show an uninterrupted obedience. God does not (as many foolishly imagine) impute that forgiveness of sins once for all, as righteousness; so that having obtained the pardon of our past life we may afterwards seek righteousness in the Law. This were only to mock and delude us by the entertainment of false hopes. For since perfection is altogether unattainable by us, so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us by the constant remission of sins. Wherefore the statement which we set out is always true, If we are estimated by our own worthiness, in every thing that we think or devise, with all our studies and endeavors we deserve death and destruction.
11. We must strongly insist on these two things: That no believer ever performed one work which, if tested by the strict judgment of God, could escape condemnation; and, moreover, that were this granted to be possible (though it is not), yet the act being vitiated and polluted by the sins of which it is certain that the author of it is guilty, it is deprived of its merit. This is the cardinal point of the present discussion. There is no controversy between us and the sounder Schoolmen as to the beginning of justification.  They admit that the sinner, freely delivered from condemnation, obtains justification, and that by forgiveness of sins; but under the term justification they comprehend the renovation by which the Spirit forms us anew to the obedience of the Law; and in describing the righteousness of the regenerate man, maintain that being once reconciled to God by means of Christ, he is afterwards deemed righteous by his good works, and is accepted in consideration of them. The Lord, on the contrary, declares, that he imputed Abraham's faith for righteousness (Rom. 4:3), not at the time when he was still a worshipper of idols, but after he had been many years distinguished for holiness. Abraham had long served God with a pure heart, and performed that obedience of the Law which a mortal man is able to perform: yet his righteousness still consisted in faith. Hence we infer, according to the reasoning of Paul, that it was not of works. In like manners when the prophet says, "The just shall live by his faith," (Hab. 2:4), he is not speaking of the wicked and profane, whom the Lord justifies by converting them to the faith: his discourse is directed to believers, and life is promised to them by faith. Paul also removes every doubt, when in confirmation of this sentiment he quotes the words of David, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered ," (Ps. 32:1). It is certain that David is not speaking of the ungodly but of believers such as he himself was, because he was giving utterance to the feelings of his own mind. Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death--viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but "by grace are ye saved," "not of works, lest any man should boast," (Eph. 2:8, 9).
12. The subterfuges by which the Schoolmen here endeavor to escape will not disentangle them. They say that good works are not of such intrinsic worth as to be sufficient to procure justification, but it is owing to accepting grace that they have this effect. Then because they are forced to confess that here the righteousness of works is always imperfect, they grant that so long as we are in this life we stand in need of the forgiveness of sin in order to supply the deficiency of works, but that the faults which are committed are compensated by works of supererogation. I answer, that the grace which they call accepting, is nothing else than the free goodness with which the Father embraces us in Christ when he clothes us with the innocence of Christ, and accepts it as ours, so that in consideration of it he regards us as holy, pure, and innocent. For the righteousness of Christ (as it alone is perfect, so it alone can stand the scrutiny of God) must be sisted for us, and as a surety represent us judicially. Provided with this righteousness, we constantly obtain the remission of sins through faith. Our imperfection and impurity, covered with this purity, are not imputed but are as it were buried, so as not to come under judgment until the hour arrive when the old man being destroyed, and plainly extinguished in us, the divine goodness shall receive us into beatific peace with the new Adam, there to await the day of the Lord, on which, being clothed with incorruptible bodies, we shall be translated to the glory of the heavenly kingdom.
13. If these things are so, it is certain that our works cannot in themselves make us agreeable and acceptable to God, and even cannot please God, except in so far as being covered with the righteousness of Christ we thereby please him and obtain forgiveness of sins. God has not promised life as the reward of certain works, but only declares, "which if a man do, he shall live in them," (Lev. 18:5), denouncing the well-known curse against all who do not continue in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them. In this way is completely refuted the fiction of a partial righteousness, the only righteousness acknowledged in heaven being the perfect observance of the Law. There is nothing more solid in their dogma of compensation by means of works of supererogation. For must they not always return to the proposition which has already been disproved--viz. that he who observes the Law in part is so far justified by works? This, which no man of sound judgment will concede to them, they are not ashamed to take for granted. The Lord having so often declared that he recognizes no justification by works unless they be works by which the Law is perfectly fulfilled,--how perverse is it, while we are devoid of such works, to endeavor to secure some ground of glorying to ourselves; that is not to yield it entirely to God, by boasting of some kind of fragments of works, and trying to supply the deficiency by other satisfactions? Satisfactions have already been so completely disposed of, that we ought never again even to dream of them. Here all I say is, that those who thus trifle with sin do not at all consider how execrable it is in the sight of God; if they did, they would assuredly understand, that all the righteousness of men collected into one heap would be inadequate to compensate for a single sin. For we see that by one sin man was so cast off and forsaken by God, that he at the same time lost all power of recovering salvation. He was, therefore, deprived of the power of giving satisfaction. Those who flatter themselves with this idea will never satisfy God, who cannot possibly accept or be pleased with anything that proceeds from his enemies. But all to whom he imputes sin are enemies, and, therefore, our sins must be covered and forgiven before the Lord has respect to any of our works. From this it follows, that the forgiveness of sins is gratuitous, and this forgiveness is wickedly insulted by those who introduce the idea of satisfaction. Let us, therefore, after the example of the Apostle, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ," (Phil. 3:13, 14).
14. How can boasting in works of supererogation agree with the command given to us: "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do?" (Luke 17:10). To say or speak in the presence of God is not to feign or lie, but to declare what we hold as certain. Our Lord, therefore, enjoins us sincerely to feel and consider with ourselves that we do not perform gratuitous duties, but pay him service which is due. And truly. For the obligations of service under which we lie are so numerous that we cannot discharge them though all our thoughts and members were devoted to the observance of the Law; and, therefore, when he says "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you," it is just as if he had said that all the righteousness of men would not amount to one of these things. Seeing, then, that every one is very far distant from that goal, how can we presume to boast of having accumulated more than is due? It cannot be objected that a person, though failing in some measure in what is necessary, may yet in intention go beyond what is necessary. For it must ever be held that in whatever pertains to the worship of God, or to charity, nothing can ever be thought of that is not comprehended under the Law. But if it is part of the Law, let us not boast of voluntary liberality in matters of necessary obligation.
15. On this subject, they ceaselessly allege the boast of Paul, that among the Corinthians he spontaneously renounced a right which, if he had otherwise chosen, he might have exercised (1 Cor. 9:15); thus not only paying what he owed them in duty, but gratuitously bestowing upon them more than duty required. They ought to have attended to the reason there expressed, that his object was to avoid giving offense to the weak. For wicked and deceitful workmen employed this pretence of kindness that they might procure favor to their pernicious dogmas, and excite hatred against the Gospel, so that it was necessary for Paul either to peril the doctrine of Christ, or to thwart their schemes. Now, if it is a matter of indifference to a Christian man whether or not he cause a scandal when it is in his power to avoid it, then I admit that the Apostle performed a work of supererogation to his Master; but if the thing which he did was justly required in a prudent minister of the Gospel, then I say he did what he was bound to do. In short, even when no such reason appears, yet the saying of Chrysostom is always true, that everything which we have is held on the same condition as the private property of slaves; it is always due to our Master. Christ does not disguise this in the parable, for he asks in regard to the master who, on return from his labour, requires his servant to gird himself and serve him, "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not," (Luke 17:9). But possibly the servant was more industrious than the master would have ventured to exact. Be it so: still he did nothing to which his condition as a servant did not bind him, because his utmost ability is his master's. I say nothing as to the kind of supererogations on which these men would plume themselves before God. They are frivolities which he never commanded, which he approves not, and will not accept when they come to give in their account. The only sense in which we admit works of supererogation is that expressed by the prophet, when he says, "Who has required this at your hand?" (Isaiah 1:12). But let them remember what is elsewhere said of them: "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" (Isaiah 55:2). It is, indeed, an easy matter for these indolent Rabbis to carry on such discussions sitting in their soft chairs under the shade, but when the Supreme Judge shall sit on his tribunal, all these blustering dogmas will behave to disappear.  This, this I say, was the true question: not what we can fable and talk in schools and corners, but what ground of defense we can produce at his judgment-seat.
16. In this matter the minds of men must be specially guarded against two pestiferous dogmas--viz. against putting any confidence in the righteousness of works, or ascribing any glory to them. From all such confidence the Scriptures uniformly dissuade us when they declare that our righteousness is offensive in the sight of God unless it derives a sweet odour from the purity of Christ: that it can have no other effect than to excite the divine vengeance unless sustained by his indulgent mercy. Accordingly, the only thing they leave to us is to deprecate our Judge with that confession of David: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no living be justified," (Psalm 143:2). And when Job says, "If I be wicked, woe unto me: and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head," (Job 10:15). Although he refers to that spotless righteousness of God, before which even angels are not clean, he however shows, that when brought to the bar of Gods all that mortals can do is to stand dumb. He does not merely mean that he chooses rather to give way spontaneously than to risk a contest with the divine severity, but that he was not conscious of possessing any righteousness that would not fall the very first moment it was brought into the presence of God. Confidence being banished, all glorying must necessarily cease. For who can attribute any merit of righteousness to works, which instead of giving confidence, only make us tremble in the presence of God? We must, therefore, come to what Isaiah invites us: "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory," (Isaiah 45:25); for it is most true, as he elsewhere says, that we are "the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified," (Isaiah 61:3). Our soul, therefore, will not be duly purified until it ceases to have any confidence, or feel any exultation in works. Foolish men are puffed up to this false and lying confidence by the erroneous idea that the cause of their salvation is in works.
17. But if we attend to the four kinds of causes which philosophers bring under our view in regard to effects, we shall find that not one of them is applicable to works as a cause of salvation. The efficient cause of our eternal salvation the Scripture uniformly proclaims to be the mercy and free love of the heavenly Father towards us; the material cause to be Christ, with the obedience by which he purchased righteousness for us; and what can the formal or instrumental cause be but faith? John includes the three in one sentence when he says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life," (John 3:16). The Apostle, moreover, declares that the final cause is the demonstration of the divine righteousness and the praise of his goodness. There also he distinctly mentions the other three causes; for he thus speaks to the Romans: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace," (Rom. 3:23, 24). You have here the head and primary source--God has embraced us with free mercy. The next words are, "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;" this is as it were the material cause by which righteousness is procured for us. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith." Faith is thus the instrumental cause by which righteousness is applied to us. He lastly subjoins the final cause when he says, "To declare at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." And to show by the way that this righteousness consists in reconciliation, he says that Christ was "set forth to be a propitiation." Thus also, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he tells us that we are received into the favor of God by mere mercy; that this is done by the intervention of Christ; that it is apprehended by faith; the end of all being that the glory of the divine goodness may be fully displayed. When we see that all the parts of our salvation thus exist without us, what ground can we have for glorying or confiding in our works? Neither as to the efficient nor the final cause can the most sworn enemies of divine grace raise any controversy with us unless they would abjure the whole of Scripture. In regard to the material or formal cause they make a gloss, as if they held that our works divide the merit with faith and the righteousness of Christ. But here also Scripture reclaims, simply affirming that Christ is both righteousness and life, and that the blessing of justification is possessed by faith alone.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 11 Principles Of Interpretation"This is a work which I find deficient; but it is to be done with wisdom, sobriety, and reverence, or not at all." Thus wrote Lord Bacon in treating of what he describes as "history of prophecy."
"The nature of such a work," he explains, "ought to be that every prophecy of the Scripture be sorted with the event fulfilling the same, throughout the ages of the world, both for the better confirmation of faith and for the better illumination of the Church touching those parts of prophecies which are yet unfulfilled: allowing, nevertheless, that latitude which is agreeable and familiar unto Divine prophecies; being of the nature of their Author with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height or ruiness of them may refer to some one age."
If the many writers who have since contributed to supply the want Lord Bacon noticed, had given due heed to these wise and weighty words, prophetic study might possibly have escaped the reproach which comes of its followers being divided into hostile camps. With the Christian the fulfillment of prophecy does not belong to the region of opinion, nor even of fact, merely; it is a matter of faith. We have a right, therefore, to expect that it shall be definite and clear. But though the principles and maxims of interpretation gained by the study of that part of prophecy which was accomplished within the era of Holy Writ are by no means to be thrown aside when we pass out into post-apostolic times, surely there is no presumption against our finding hidden in the history of these eighteen centuries a primary and partial fulfillment even of prophecies which will unquestionably receive a final and complete accomplishment in days to come.
Only let us not forget the "wisdom, sobriety, and reverence" which such an inquiry demands. In our day prophetic students have turned prophets, and with mingled folly and daring have sought to fix the very year of Christ's return to earth, – predictions which possibly our children's children will recall when another century shall have been added to the history of Christendom. If such vagaries brought discredit only on their authors, it were well. But though broached in direct opposition to Scripture, they have brought reproach on Scripture itself, and have given a stimulus to the jaunty skepticism of the day. We might have hoped that whatever else might be forgotten, the last words which the Lord Jesus spoke on earth would not be thus thrust aside:
"It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power." (Acts 1:7)
But what was denied to inspired apostles in days of pristine faith and power, the prophecy-mongers of these last days have dared to claim; and the result has been that the solemn and blessed hope of the Lord's return has been degraded to the level of the predictions of astrologers, to the confusion and grief of faithful hearts, and the amusement of the world.
Any man who, avoiding extravagant or fanciful views, both of history and of Scripture, points to events in the present or the past as the correlatives of a prophecy, deserves a calm and unprejudiced hearing from thoughtful men. But let him not forget that though the Scriptures he appeals to may thus receive "germinant accomplishment," "the height or fullness of them may refer" to an age still future. What is true of all Scripture is specially true of prophecy. It is ours to assign to it a meaning; but he who really believes it to be Divine, will hesitate to limit its meaning to the measure of his own apprehension of it.
The prophecies of Antichrist afford a signal and most apt illustration of this. Were it not for the prejudice created by extreme statements, prophetic students would probably agree that the great apostasy of Christendom displays in outline many of the main lineaments of the Man of Sin. There is, indeed, in our day a spurious liberality that would teach us to forego the indictment which history affords against the Church of Rome; but while no generous mind will refuse to own the moral worth of those who, in England at least, now guide the counsels of that Church, the real question at issue relates to the character, not of individuals, but of a system.
It is the part, therefore, not of intolerant bigotry, but of true wisdom, to search the records of the past – terrible records, truly – for the means of judging of that system. The inquiry which concerns us is not whether good men are found within the pale of Rome – as though all the moral excellence of earth could avail to cover the annals of her hideous guilt! Our true inquiry is whether she has suffered any real change in these enlightened days. Is the Church of Rome reformed? With what vehemence the answer would be shrieked from every altar within her pale! And if not, let but dark days come again, and some of the foulest scenes and blackest crimes in the history of Christendom may be re-enacted in Europe. "The true test of a man is not what he does, but what, with the principles he holds, he would do;" and if this be true of individuals, it is still more intensely true of communities. They do good service, therefore, who keep before the public mind the real character of Rome as the present day development of the apostasy.
But when these writers go on to assert that the predictions of the Antichrist have their full and final realization in the Papacy, their position becomes a positive danger to the truth. It is maintained at the cost of rejecting some of the most definite of the prophecies, and of putting a lax or fanciful interpretation upon those very Scriptures to which they appeal.
Indeed, the chief practical evil of this system of interpretation is that it creates and fosters a habit of reading the Scriptures in a loose and superficial manner. General impressions, derived from a cursory perusal of the prophecies, are seized upon and systematized, and upon this foundation a pretentious superstructure is built up. As already noticed, the Church of Rome displays the chief moral lineaments of the Man of Sin. Therefore it is an axiom of interpretation with this school that the ten-horned beast is the Papacy. But of the beast it is written that "power was given to him over all kindreds and tongues and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life." (Revelation 13:7-8) Are these commentators aware that one-half of Christendom is outside the pale of Rome, and in antagonism to the claims of the Papacy? Or do they suppose that all who belong to the Greek and Protestant Churches are enrolled in the book of life? By no means. But they would tell us the verse does not mean exactly what it says. 
 According to these interpreters, such a statement must be taken cum grano salis, as we term it; and the like remark applies to their rendering of every verse of Revelation 13.Again, the ten-horned beast is the Papacy; the second beast, the false prophet, is the Papal clergy; Babylon is Papal Rome. And yet when we turn to the vision of the judgment of Babylon, we find that it is by the agency of the beast that her doom is accomplished! "And the ten horns which thou sawest, and the beast, these shall hate the whore (Babylon), and shall make her desolate, and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire; for God hath put in their hearts to fulfill His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." "These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast."  The governments of Christendom, therefore, are to lend their power to the Roman Pontiff and priesthood in order to the destruction of Papal Rome!  Can absurdity be more transparent and complete?
 Revelation 17:16, 17, 13. In ver. 16 the best reading, as given in the Revised Version, is "and the beast," instead of "upon the beast."The question here at issue must not be prejudiced by misrepresentations, or shirked by turning away to collateral points of secondary moment. It is not whether great crises in the history of Christendom, such as the fall of Paganism, the rise of the Papacy and of the Moslem power, and the Protestant reformation of the sixteenth century, be within the, scope of the visions of St. John. This may readily be conceded. Neither is it whether the fact that the chronology of some of these events is marked by cycles of years composed of the precise multiples; of seventy specified in the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, be not a further proof that all forms; part of one great plan. Every fresh discovery of the kind ought to be welcomed by all lovers of the truth. Instead of weakening confidence in the accuracy and definiteness of the prophecies, it ought to strengthen the faith which looks for their absolute and literal fulfillment. The question is not whether the history of Christendom was within the view of the Divine Author of the prophecies, but whether those prophecies have been fulfilled; not whether those Scriptures have the scope and meaning which historical interpreters assign to them, but whether their scope and meaning be exhausted and satisfied by the events to which they appeal as the fulfillment of them. It is unnecessary, therefore, to enter here upon an elaborate review of the historical system of interpretation, for if it fails when tested at some one vital point, it breaks down altogether.
 Mr. Elliott's romance on this subject is disposed of by the events of recent years, which have made Rome the peaceful capital of Italy. Of the beast and false prophet it is written, "These both were cast alive into a lake of fire" (Revelation 19:20). It may be pleasing to Protestant zeal to suppose the Roman hierarchy and priesthood are "reserved" for such a fate.
Does the Apocalypse, then, belong to the sphere of prophecy accomplished? Or, to reduce the controversy to a still narrower issue, have the visions of the seals and trumpets and vials been fulfilled? No one will dispute the fairness of this mode of stating the question, and the fairest possible method of dealing with it will be to set forth some one of the leading visions, and then quote fully and verbatim what the historical interpreters put forward as the meaning of it.
The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
10/1/2007 Church Growth and the Sovereignty of God
It seems that every time I meet a pastor from another church, he asks me the common, unsolicited, ecclesiastical question of the twenty-first-century: “How big is your church?” Most pastors are usually a bit confounded when I respond: “I don’t know.” It’s only when I am pressed for an answer that I provide him with the number of families in our congregation. But if I am in a good mood I may simply explain that our church consists of people of every color and language and is as big as the world-wide church of Christ. It is my hope that in some, small way I might help other pastors obtain a better perspective on the size, growth, and health of the church, locally and globally.
Just this past week I had the opportunity to assist in a Lord’s Day service at Saint Andrew’s Church in Mzuzu, Malawi, in the southern part of Africa. At the beginning of the service nearly 200 were present, but before the two-hour service had concluded, more than 2,000 Malawian worshipers filled the sanctuary. Many walking from miles away in the dense, early morning fog, they dressed in their finest clothes and carried their tattered Bibles — if they were fortunate enough to own a Bible. I could not help but smile throughout the entire service except for a moment when I was brought to tears as they sang the classic hymn of the former slave trader John Newton: “Amazing Grace.”
At the end of the first verse, when the congregation sang the familiar stanza that I have sang more than a thousand times — “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see”— it was at that exact moment I remembered that our sovereign God has already settled the entire matter of church growth. God will seek and save those who are lost by the very means He has appointed in His inspired Word. He is the sovereign Lord of all creation, and He certainly does not need to rely upon the cleverly-devised, cultic tactics and trendy, “seeker–sensitive” techniques of Madison Avenue to woo those who are blind to His Gospel. In fact, when such carefully-contrived tactics are used, the blind are usually led by the blind who lead them not to the God of the Bible but to the god of some romantic biography in which that god will do anything he must to win the affections of those he has helplessly lost. May it never be. Rather, may God continue to use the clear, unvarnished preaching of His Word by His people to seek and save the lost so that they may see His glory and live coram Deo, before His face forevermore.
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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
Born in a slave hut this day, April 5th, 1856, was Booker T. Washington. In dire poverty after the Civil War, he moved to Virginia to work in a salt furnace and coal mine. He founded the Tuskegee Institute, recruiting George Washington Carver as a professor. At his death, the school boasted of 1,500 students, a faculty of 200 teaching 38 trades. The first African American to have his image on a U.S. coin and postage stamp, Booker T. Washington declared regarding social work: “I have always had the greatest respect for…The Salvation Army, especially because… it draws no color line in religion.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
None but God can satisfy the longing of the immortal soul; as the heart was made for Him, He only can fill it.
--- Richard Trench
"I Am": An Illustrational Art of His Name
Know that the love of thyself doth hurt thee more than any thing in the world.
--- Thomas A Kempis
John Woolman's Journal
Despair is the damp of hell, as joy is the serenity of heaven.
--- John Donne
No Man Is an Island/John Donne (Inspirational S.)
The imago Dei is not something that a person possesses as an inert ontological essence, but it is manifested in the quality of interaction and relationship with others.
--- Mark McMinn
Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling: An Integrative Paradigm
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
1772. Embarks at Chester, with Samuel Emlen, in a Ship bound for London -- Exercise of Mind respecting the Hardships of the Sailors -- Considerations on the Dangers of training Youth to a Seafaring Life -- Thoughts during a Storm at Sea -- Arrival in London.
HAVING been some time under a religious concern to prepare for crossing the seas, in order to visit Friends in the northern parts of England, and more particularly in Yorkshire, after consideration I thought it expedient to inform Friends of it at our Monthly Meeting at Burlington, who, having unity with me therein, gave me a certificate. I afterwards communicated the same to our Quarterly Meeting, and they likewise certified their concurrence. Some time after, at the General Spring Meeting of ministers and elders, I thought it my duty to acquaint them with the religious exercise which attended my mind; and they likewise signified their unity therewith by a certificate, dated the 24th of third month, 1772, directed to Friends in Great Britain.
In the fourth month following I thought the time was come for me to make some inquiry for a suitable conveyance; and as my concern was principally towards the northern parts of England, it seemed most proper to go in a vessel bound to Liverpool or Whitehaven. While I was at Philadelphia deliberating on this subject I was informed that my beloved friend Samuel Emlen, junior, intended to go to London, and had taken a passage for himself in the cabin of the ship called the Mary and Elizabeth, of which James Sparks was master, and John Head, of the city of Philadelphia, one of the owners; and feeling a draught in my mind towards the steerage of the same ship, I went first and opened to Samuel the feeling I had concerning it.
My beloved friend wept when I spake to him, and appeared glad that I had thoughts of going in the vessel with him, though my prospect was toward the steerage: and he offering to go with me, we went on board, first into the cabin, -- a commodious room, -- and then into the steerage, where we sat down on a chest, the sailors being busy about us. The owner of the ship also came and sat down with us. My mind was turned towards Christ, the Heavenly Counsellor, and feeling at this time my own will subjected, my heart was contrite before him. A motion was made by the owner to go and sit in the cabin, as a place more retired; but I felt easy to leave the ship, and making no agreement as to a passage in her, told the owner if I took a passage in the ship I believed it would be in the steerage; but did not say much as to my exercise in that case.
After I went to my lodgings, and the case was a little known in town, a Friend laid before me the great inconvenience attending a passage in the steerage, which for a time appeared very discouraging to me.
I soon after went to bed, and my mind was under a deep exercise before the Lord, whose helping hand was manifested to me as I slept that night, and his love strengthened my heart. In the morning I went with two Friends on board the vessel again, and after a short time spent therein, I went with Samuel Emlen to the house of the owner, to whom, in the hearing of Samuel only, I opened my exercise in relation to a scruple I felt with regard to a passage in the cabin, in substance as follows:- "That on the outside of that part of the ship where the cabin was I observed sundry sorts of carved work and imagery; that in the cabin I observed some superfluity of workmanship of several sorts; and that according to the ways of men's reckoning, the sum of money to be paid for a passage in that apartment has some relation to the expense of furnishing it to please the minds of such as give way to a conformity to this world; and that in this, as in other cases, the moneys received from the passengers are calculated to defray the cost of these superfluities, as well as the other expenses of their passage. I therefore felt a scruple with regard to paying my money to be applied to such purposes."
As my mind was now opened, I told the owner that I had, at several times, in my travels, seen great oppressions on this continent, at which my heart had been much affected and brought into a feeling of the state of the sufferers; and having many times been engaged in the fear and love of God to labor with those under whom the oppressed have been borne down and afflicted, I have often perceived that with a view to get riches and to provide estates for children, that they may live conformably to the customs and honors of this world, many are entangled in the spirit of oppression, and the exercise of my soul had been such that I could not find peace in joining in anything which I saw was against that wisdom which is pure.
After this I agreed for a passage in the steerage; and hearing that Joseph White had desired to see me, I went to his house, and the next day home, where I tarried two nights. Early the next morning I parted with my family under a sense of the humbling hand of God upon me, and, going to Philadelphia, had an opportunity with several of my beloved friends, who appeared to be concerned for me on account of the unpleasant situation of that part of the vessel in which I was likely to lodge. In these opportunities my mind, through the mercies of the Lord, was kept low in an inward waiting for his help; and Friends having expressed their desire that I might have a more convenient place than the steerage, did not urge it, but appeared disposed to leave me to the Lord.
Having stayed two nights at Philadelphia, I went the next day to Derby Monthly Meeting, where through the strength of Divine love my heart was enlarged towards the youth there present, under which I was helped to labor in some tenderness of spirit. I lodged at William Horn's and afterwards went to Chester, where I met with Samuel Emlen, and we went on board 1st of fifth month, 1772. As I sat alone on the deck I felt a satisfactory evidence that my proceedings were not in my own will, but under the power of the cross of Christ.
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twenty-Seventh Chapter / Self-Love Is The Greatest Hindrance To The Highest Good
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, you should give all for all, and in no way belong to yourself. You must know that self-love is more harmful to you than anything else in the world. In proportion to the love and affection you have for a thing, it will cling to you more or less. If your love is pure, simple, and well ordered, you will not be a slave to anything. Do not covet what you may not have. Do not possess anything that can hinder you or rob you of freedom.
It is strange that you do not commit yourself to Me with your whole heart, together with all that you can desire or possess. Why are you consumed with foolish sorrow? Why are you wearied with unnecessary care? Be resigned to My will and you will suffer no loss.
If you seek this or that, if you wish to be in this place or that place, to have more ease and pleasure, you will never rest or be free from care, for some defect is found in everything and everywhere someone will vex you. To obtain and multiply earthly goods, then, will not help you, but to despise them and root them out of your heart will aid. This, understand, is true not only of money and wealth, but also of ambition for honor and desire for empty praise, all of which will pass away with this world.
The place matters little if the spirit of fervor is not there; nor will peace be lasting if it is sought from the outside; if your heart has no true foundation, that is, if you are not founded in Me, you may change, but you will not better yourself. For when occasion arises and is accepted, you will find that from which you fled and worse.
A PRAYER FOR CLEANSING THE HEART AND OBTAINING HEAVENLY WISDOM
Strengthen me by the grace of Your holy spirit, O God. Give me the power to be strengthened inwardly and to empty my heart of all vain care and anxiety, so that I may not be drawn away by many desires, whether for precious things or mean ones. Let me look upon everything as passing, and upon myself as soon to pass away with them, because there is nothing lasting under the sun, where all is vanity and affliction of spirit. How wise is he who thinks thus!
Give me, Lord, heavenly wisdom to learn above all else to seek and find You, to enjoy and love You more than anything, and to consider other things as they are, as Your wisdom has ordered them. Grant me prudence to avoid the flatterer and to bear patiently with him who disagrees with me. For it is great wisdom not to be moved by the sound of words, nor to give ear to the wicked, flattering siren. Then, I shall walk safely in the way I have begun.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
Was it not the same with Peter? He was on the housetop, fasting and praying, and little did he think of the vision and the command to go to Caesarea. He was ignorant of what his work might be.
It is in hearts entirely surrendered to the Lord Jesus, in hearts separating themselves from the world, and even from ordinary religious exercises, and giving themselves up in intense prayer to look to their Lord--it is in such hearts that the heavenly will of God will be made manifest.
You know that word fasting occurs a second time (in the third verse): "They fasted and prayed." When you pray, you love to go into your closet, according to the command of Jesus, and shut the door. You shut out business and company and pleasure and anything that can distract, and you want to be alone with God. But in one way even the material world follows you there. You must eat. These men wanted to shut themselves out from the influences of the material and the visible, and they fasted. What they ate was simply enough to supply the wants of nature, and in the intensity of their souls they thought to give expression to their letting go of everything on earth in their fasting before God. Oh, may God give us that intensity of desire, that separation from everything, because we want to wait upon God, that the Holy Spirit may reveal to us God's blessed will.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
and no stranger can share its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
This conversation also we overheard.
‘That is quite, quite out of the question,’ said a female Ghost to one of the bright Women, ‘I should not dream of staying if I’m expected to meet Robert. I am ready to forgive him, of course. But anything more is quite impossible. How he comes to be here … but that is your affair.’
‘But if you have forgiven him,’ said the other, ‘surely—.’
‘I forgive him as a Christian,’ said the Ghost. ‘But there are some things one can never forget.’
‘But I don’t understand …’ began the She-Spirit.
‘Exactly,’ said the Ghost with a little laugh. ‘You never did. You always thought Robert could do no wrong. I know. Please don’t interrupt for one moment. You haven’t the faintest conception of what I went through with your dear Robert. The ingratitude! It was I who made a man of him! Sacrificed my whole life to him! And what was my reward? Absolute, utter selfishness. No, but listen. He was pottering along on about six hundred a year when I married him. And mark my words, Hilda, he’d have been in that position to the day of his death if it hadn’t been for me. It was I who had to drive him every step of the way. He hadn’t a spark of ambition. It was like trying to lift a sack of coal. I had to positively nag him to take on that extra work in the other department, though it was really the beginning of everything for him. The laziness of men! He said, if you please, he couldn’t work more than thirteen hours a day! As if I weren’t working far longer. For my day’s work wasn’t over when his was. I had to keep him going all evening, if you understand what I mean. If he’d had his way he’d have just sat in an armchair and sulked when dinner was over. It was I who had to draw him out of himself and brighten him up and make conversation. With no help from him, of course. Sometimes he didn’t even listen. As I said to him, I should have thought good manners, if nothing else … he seemed to have forgotten that I was a lady even if I had married him, and all the time I was working my fingers to the bone for him: and without the slightest appreciation. I used to spend simply hours arranging flowers to make that poky little house nice, and instead of thanking me, what do you think he said? He said he wished I wouldn’t fill up the writing desk with them when he wanted to use it: and there was a perfectly frightful fuss one evening because I’d spilled one of the vases over some papers of his. If was all nonsense really, because they weren’t anything to do with his work. He had some silly idea of writing a book in those days … as if he could. I cured him of that in the end.
‘No, Hilda, you must listen to me. The trouble I went to, entertaining! Robert’s idea was that he’d just slink off by himself every now and then to see what he called his old friends … and leave me to amuse myself! But I knew from the first that those friends were doing him no good. “No, Robert,” said I, “your friends are now mine. It is my duty to have them here, however tired I am and however little we can afford it.” You’d have thought that would have been enough. But they did come for a bit. That is where I had to use a certain amount of tact. A woman who has her wits about her can always drop in a word here and there. I wanted Robert to see them against a different background. They weren’t quite at their ease, somehow, in my drawing-room: not at their best. I couldn’t help laughing sometimes. Of course Robert was uncomfortable while the treatment was going on, but it was all for his own good in the end. None of that set were friends of his any longer by the end of the first year.
‘And then, he got the new job. A great step up. But what do you think? Instead of realising that we now had a chance to spread out a bit, all he said was “Well now, for God’s sake let’s have some peace.” That nearly finished me. I nearly gave him up altogether: but I knew my duty. I have always done my duty. You can’t believe the work I had getting him to agree to a bigger house, and then finding a house. I wouldn’t have grudged it one scrap if only he’d taken it in the right spirit—if only he’d seen the fun of it all. If he’d been a different sort of man it would have been fun meeting him on the doorstep as he came back from the office and saying, “Come along, Bobs, no time for dinner to-night. I’ve just heard of a house near Watford and I’ve got the keys and we can get there and back by one o’clock.” But with him! It was perfect misery, Hilda. For by this time your wonderful Robert was turning into the sort of man who cares about nothing but food.
‘Well, I got him into the new house at last. Yes, I know. It was a little more than we could really afford at the moment, but all sorts of things were opening out before him. And, of course, I began to entertain properly. No more of his sort of friends, thank you. I was doing it all for his sake. Every useful friend he ever made was due to me. Naturally, I had to dress well. They ought to have been the happiest years of both our lives. If they weren’t, he had no one but himself to thank. Oh, he was a maddening man, simply maddening! He just set himself to get old and silent and grumpy. Just sank into himself. He could have looked years younger if he’d taken the trouble. He needn’t have walked with a stoop—I’m sure I warned him about that often enough. He was the most miserable host. Whenever we gave a party everything rested on my shoulders: Robert was simply a wet blanket. As I said to him (and if I said it once, I said it a hundred times) he hadn’t always been like that. There had been a time when he took an interest in all sorts of things and had been quite ready to make friends. “What on earth is coming over you?” I used to say. But now he just didn’t answer at all. He would sit staring at me with his great big eyes (I came to hate a man with dark eyes) and—I know it now—just hating me. That was my reward. After all I’d done. Sheer wicked, senseless hatred: at the very moment when he was a richer man that he’d ever dreamed of being! As I used to say to him, “Robert, you’re simply letting yourself go to seed.” The younger men who came to the house—it wasn’t my fault if they liked me better than my old bear of a husband—used to laugh at him.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
His agony and our fellowship
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, … tarry ye here, and watch with Me. --- Matthew 26:36, 38.
We can never fathom the agony in Gethsemane, but at least we need not misunderstand it. It is the agony of God and Man in one, face to face with sin. We know nothing about Gethsemane in personal experience. Gethsemane and Calvary stand for something unique; they are the gateway into Life for us.
It was not the death on the cross that Jesus feared in Gethsemane; He stated most emphatically that He came on purpose to die. In Gethsemane He feared lest He might not get through as Son of Man. He would get through as Son of God—Satan could not touch Him there; but Satan’s onslaught was that He would get through as an isolated Figure only; and that would mean that He could be no Saviour. Read the record of the agony in the light of the temptation: “Then the devil leaveth Him for a season.” In Gethsemane Satan came back and was again overthrown. Satan’s final onslaught against Our Lord as son of Man is in Gethsemane.
The agony in Gethsemane is the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Saviour of the world. The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God. His agony is the basis of the simplicity of our salvation. The Cross of Christ is a triumph for the son of Man. It was not only a sign that Our Lord had triumphed, but that He had triumphed to save the human race. Every human being can get through into the presence of God now because of what the Son of Man went through.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
To all light things
I compared her; to
a snowflake, a feather.
I remember she rested
at the dance on my
arm, as a bird
on its nest lest
eggs break, lest
she lean too heavily
on our love. Snow
are blown away;
I have let
her ashes down
in me like an anchor.
Collected Later Poems: 1988-2000
In 1973, the Vice President of the United States resigned his position after pleading nolo contendre to charges of financial impropriety. The President of the United States, Richard Nixon, selected Congressman Gerald R. Ford to fill the vacant post. Ford was a popular leader in Congress, but was never known for his brilliance or eloquence. After taking the oath of office, the new vice-president humbly described himself: “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.” Less than a year later, with the resignation of Nixon, Ford became the thirty-eighth president of the United States. One commentator, recalling Ford’s modest self-description, yet impressed by the basic decency of the man, said: “A Ford may be just what our nation needs at this difficult moment.”
We live at a time when it is fashionable to “take apart” our leaders and show their every flaw and shortcoming. We lament “how the mighty have fallen” and pine for the good old days of strong, moral, wise leaders. We sigh and wonder why our generation could not be blessed with the likes of a Roosevelt, a Lincoln, a Jefferson, or a Washington.
To be fair, we have to remember that history can be very fickle in its judgements. Lincoln in his own day was vilified and mocked by the media as well as by many in the population. Today, he is considered our greatest president, and his personal status approaches that of a saint. Later revelations about Kennedy as a womanizer and Jefferson as a slaveholder served to tarnish the once pristine reputations of these two leaders.
Yet even when we are justified in belittling our current crop of leaders, we would do well to remember that “Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation.” Even someone as inadequate and as flawed as Jephthah was nevertheless the vehicle for leading the Israelites to victory over their enemies. Looking at the chaos that afflicts so many nations on other continents, we need to remember that even a mediocre leader is superior to a tyrant or the absence of any effective leadership.
Jephthah is a reminder that our leaders may be sent by God, but they do not come from heaven; they rise up out of the people. They are, in the truest sense, a reflection of who we are. We often blame our leaders for failing us. Perhaps we need to keep in mind that a people get the leaders they deserve. Occasionally we merit a Moses, Aaron, or Samuel; other times we get Jerubbaal, Bedan, or Jephthah. The Talmud teaches that even a Jephthah can serve an important function. If we are displeased with our leaders, we need to look inwardly for the answers why.
Blessing is found only in that which is hidden from the eye.
Text / Rabbi Yitzḥak said: “Blessing is found only in that which is hidden from the eye, as it says: ‘The Lord will ordain blessings for you upon your barns’ [Deuteronomy 28:8].” It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishmael: “Blessing is found only in that which the eye has no power over, as it says, ‘The Lord will ordain blessings for you upon your barns’ [Deuteronomy 28:8].” Our sages taught: “One who enters to measure his granary says: ‘May it be Your will, Lord our God, that you send blessing on the works of our hands.’ If he has started to measure he says: ‘Blessed is He who sends blessing to this pile.’ If he measured and then blessed, this is a vain prayer, since blessing is not found in something weighed, or something measured, or in something counted, but in that which is hidden from the eye.”
Context / The Lord will put to rout before you the enemies who attack you; they will march out against you by a single road, but flee from you by many roads. The Lord will ordain blessings for you upon your barns and upon all your undertakings: He will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. (Deuteronomy 28:7–9)
This section deals with the need for rain and the appropriate prayers that ask for rain, specifically when they are to be said. To an ancient agricultural society, rain was essential. Plentiful rain meant a bountiful harvest, a sign of God’s blessing. This is where our Gemara comes in.
Rabbi Yitzḥak’s explanation of the verse from Deuteronomy, based on the teaching of the school of Rabbi Yishmael, takes the quotation a bit out of context. In Deuteronomy, God promises blessings for those who obey and curses for those who disobey. Rabbi Yitzḥak reads the verse in its narrowest sense, not that God will grant various blessings to those who follow the right way, but that God will bless you “in your barn.” Why there, wonders Rabbi Yitzḥak, and not somewhere else? He understands the word ba-asamekha, “in your barns,” literally, that God’s blessings will be found in the barn, somewhere enclosed and not clearly visible to the outside.
This narrow reading is a common homiletical approach. Rabbi Yitzḥak’s purpose is not to be faithful to the meaning of the Deuteronomic chapter but, rather, to teach a practical lesson based on the verse. It is possible, as well, that Rabbi Yitzḥak is making a pun. The Hebrew words for “hidden” and “your barns”—samui and asamekha—sound alike. Perhaps he is making a word play based on the similar sounds: What is truly worthwhile in asamekha, your barns, is samui, hidden.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
God’s promises are sure (Deut. 1:6–8). It’s striking to note the way that the Lord talks about His promises in this passage. He speaks of them not as that which He will do, but as something He has already done.
“Go in and take possession of the land,” the Lord told Israel. “See, I have given [italics mine] you this land.”
What a striking statement. God’s promises are so sure that God can speak of what He intends as already complete.
We can apply this in our own lives. When we find God’s promises in the Bible, we can claim them with confidence. They do not simply express what God will do for us: they are so sure, they express what He has already accomplished.
Be fearless and fair (Deut. 1:9–18). When the burden of leadership was too great for Moses to carry alone, he appointed “wise and respected men” (Deut. 1:15) in the community to share his ministry. These leaders, with authority over as few as 10 and as many as thousands, were responsible to “hear disputes” and to “judge fairly.”
Moses laid down basic principles which apply in any leadership role. “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God” (Deut, 1:17).
Leaders are not to be influenced by fear of what others will think, or by the position held by any woman or man. Each person is to be valued alike; each is to be heard. God’s will is to be the ultimate consideration in how the leader leads and what he does, for God is the ultimate Judge.
Face reality (Deut. 1:19–25). Here Moses explained something of his motives for sending spies into the Promised Land. His original impulse had been to simply point to the land, and command the people to “charge!”
“See,” Moses said, “the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged” (Deut. 1:21).
But the people wanted to send spies ahead, “to bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”
Moses did not stop to inquire of God what he should do. He simply liked the people’s idea, and acted on it.
Was Moses wrong? Not necessarily. It’s never wrong to find out as much as we can ahead of time about decisions we need to make. As long as when we do we are not overcome by the problems we foresee. After all, God is the ultimate reality, so whatever the difficulties that seem to lie ahead as we follow God’s leading we need not be afraid or discouraged.
In fact, these two warnings uttered by Moses (“do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”), are warnings for us today. It is not facing realities in our lives that gives us problems. It’s how we react to what we see. Because God truly is with us, and we live by His promises to us, we can remain confident and calm. We can enter our own promised lands, unfrightened by difficulties and undiscouraged by setbacks.
Fear is an enemy of faith (Deut. 1:26–46). The people of Israel had been terrified when the spies reported how strong the peoples of Canaan were militarily. Their fear led them to even doubt God: “The Lord hates us,” they cried (Deut. 1:27).
Moses simply called on the people to remember all that God had done for them, and to let thoughts of His faithfulness bring back their confidence. Moses’ words to Israel are wonderful words for us too.
“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place” (Deut. 1:29–31).
The problem with Israel was that despite all the evidence of God’s care, they still would not trust in Him (Deut. 1:32). Their rebellion was a direct result of a fear that flared up into a terror so great that they could no longer see God as He truly is.
This passage speaks to you and me too. When fears come—and they will—we are to look away from what causes us terror to remember who God is, and what wonderful things He has done for us. The memory of God’s work in our lives is to quiet our fears, and restore our trust.
The Teacher's Commentary
IV. MEDITATION AND ACTION INTEGRAL PARTS OF HEALTHFUL LIFE. “Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount.” The body may be wrecked by surfeit, as well as by hunger. Knowledge is not entirely ours, until it is reduced to practice. Heavenly wisdom is essentially practical. All light is designed for service. The doctrines of religion are raw materials, which are to be put into the warp and woof of our daily life. Is “the Lamb the light of the heavenly place”? The saints “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” Meditation qualifies for action; action demands new meditation. These are the two wings, without both of which the eagle cannot rise. “Come ye into the desert;” “Go and preach;”— these are the twin behests of Christ.
VI. GOD’S PROVISION IS ALWAYS MORE AMPLE THAN MAN’S DESIRE. God’s plan for Israel’s territory extended from Mount Lebanon to the Euphrates; but Israel never rose to the full height of God’s design. “Ask what I shall give thee” is still the message from heaven to every man. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” “We have not because we ask not.” There is abundance of sea-room in God’s plan for the largest human endeavour; and every day the voice of the Great Proprietor reminds us, “There is yet very much land to be possessed.” “All things are yours.”—D.
Vers. 9–18.—The blessing of good government. I. A WISE MAN DISAVOWS ABSOLUTE MONARCHY. Legislation, the most difficult department of government, had been furnished for Israel by the Supreme Mind of the universe; yet Moses found the task of administration too much for a single arm. The aim of every ruler ought to be, not personal power, but universal service—the greatest good of the greatest number. No wise man will expose himself to the tremendous temptation of personal aggrandisement. Beside, it is a boon to others to exercise the faculties of discrimination and judgment.
VIII. GOOD MEN GREATLY DESIRE THEIR COUNTRY’S GOOD. Patriotism is a goodly virtue, though not the noblest. To fence ourselves round with selfish interests is despicable. We envy not that man’s narrow soul who has no sympathy nor energy for his nation’s weal. The best Christian will take some interest in everything—in municipal matters, international treaties, literature, science, commerce, art. In the broadest sense, he is a citizen of the world. He lives to bless others. This is Christlike.—D.
Deut 2:1–23 (specially ver. 7).—God’s knowledge of our pilgrimage. Moses here reviews the career of Israel during the wanderings, with reference to their treatment of the nations through whose territory they required to pass on their way. They, though the favoured people of Jehovah, were not allowed to transgress the common laws of righteousness, by levying any demands on the nations through whose country they passed, nor to “distress” in any way those peoples whom the Lord had not delivered into their hands. They were to labour for their own sustenance, and to purchase, at a fair rate, meat or drink. And so far as this precept was concerned, they seem to have been (notwithstanding their waywardness in other respects) loyal to the Lord their God. These directions against transgressing the rules of right in national intercourse, were a most important part of the education of a people, where God was forming a commonwealth with this (then) unique feature, that its corner-stone was righteousness. (For an admirable survey of the fundamental principles of the Hebrew polity, home and foreign, see Wines’s ‘Commentaries on the Laws of Moses.’) And as Moses is now reviewing the stages in their experience when they passed through an alien’s land, he reminds them how faithful God had been to them; that they had had no need to depart from the Divine injunctions, for their good and gracious God had taken all their need into account. “He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness.” This clause contains a world of meaning in itself, and opens up a most fruitful theme for the Christian’s meditation and for pulpit exposition, viz. God’s knowledge of our pilgrimage in life.—
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration
When the Babylonian Empire collapsed and its conqueror, the Persian king Cyrus, issued his famous decree (538 B.C.E.) allowing the exiled Judeans to return to their homeland, the ancient writings took on an additional, and still more central, role. After all, not all the exiles took up Cyrus’ offer. Some had settled into life in Babylon, whatever its hardships, and were loath to make the long trek back to an uncertain future in their ancestral home. The returnees were thus a self-selected group. All of them had, in one way or another, resolved to go back to the place of an earlier existence. No doubt their motives varied, but this mode of restoration, of going back to what had been before, was common to all.
But how exactly could one know what had been before? The landscape itself was mute; one could not pick up a rock or interrogate a tree to find out. The past lived only in those same ancient writings, and to the extent that the returnees sought consciously to restore their land and themselves to a former way of being, their first point of reference was necessarily what those texts said or implied about how things had been before the Exile. Israel’s ancient writings thus acquired a potentially prescriptive quality. What they said about the past could easily be translated into a potential program for the future.
Of course, the returnees were not all of one mind. Some wished only to settle down to life as residents of an obedient province in the Persian Empire, while others clung to the hope that their nation would soon find the opportunity to shake off foreign rule and return to political independence, indeed, to regain the political and military preeminence that had existed in the days of David and Solomon. Descendants of the former power elites—members of prominent families and clans, not to speak of the royal dynasty and the hereditary priesthood—must have hoped that the old social order would be re-created. Others—visionaries, prophets, reformers of various allegiances—saw in the return from exile just the opposite prospect, an opportunity to reshuffle the social deck. But precisely because all were in this mode of restoration, they all sought to use accounts of the past to justify their own plans for the future.
One of the most striking illustrations of this mentality is the biblical book of Chronicles, composed, according to most scholars, relatively early in the postexilic period. Although much of this book simply repeats material narrated in the biblical books of Samuel and Kings, modern scholarship has revealed subtle changes introduced here and there by the author of Chronicles, changes that embodied his own definite program for the future. He believed, for example, that the Davidic monarchy should be restored, and he looked forward to a day when the inhabitants of Judah would join forces with their northern neighbors in Samaria to form a great, United Kingdom as in days of old. He also had his own ideas about the Temple, the priesthood, and the very nature of God. Yet he did not put these ideas forth in the form of a political manifesto or religious tract. Instead, he presented them as part of a history of preexilic times, in fact, a crafty rewriting of that history that would stress all that he believed in while suppressing everything else. Why did he do so? The apparent reason is that he, and the rest of his countrymen, looked to the past for guidance about what to do in their own time.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
--- Mark 16:4.
Why was the stone rolled away? ( Westminster Sermons: Volume 2 - At Fast and Festival )
Surely it was not rolled away that the risen Lord might come out? Of whatever nature was his resurrection body, the Lord Jesus was independent of doors and indifferent to walls. And yet the stone was rolled away! I think I know why. It was not rolled away that he might come out but that they might go in. It was not part of the fact, it was merely a part of the demonstration. It was not the means of his exit but the means of their entrance. This it is that makes the resurrection more than a piece of history; it makes it also a pledge. This lifts it above the level of mere news and makes it a promise, for God rolled away the stone not that his Son might rise but that we might know he had risen, that we might steal into the empty tomb and see only “the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).
What did the rolled-away stone reveal?
Let us follow the women into the tomb. It is a great hole, you see, hewn in a rock. What? Do you shrink a little because it is a tomb? Did you say it makes you feel eerie?
Not here! Not in the Savior’s tomb! It’s empty! There’s nothing to be seen, only the place where they laid him.
How calm and private that blessed sepulcher must have been after all the dreadful and shameful publicity of the Crucifixion. How quiet and still! How blessedly secluded. Jesus loved solitude, and he had no solitude between Gethsemane and the sepulcher. Working out the time is difficult, but it seems that eight hours after his arrest he was on the cross.
So as he hangs there—the noise, the dust, the pain, the thirst—and perhaps the incessant noise was not the least of his pangs; the crowds, the jeers, the curses, the sobbing women—and he hangs stark naked between earth and heaven.
“It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (John 19:30; Luke 23:46).
And then the sepulcher. Do you still think of a tomb as being cold and eerie? No! No! It is quiet and calm, and our crucified God rests for hours and hours on a cool bed of rock.
--- William E. Sangster.
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Norway’s Pious Preacher April 5
Lutheranism was born of Martin Luther’s mighty zeal in the 1500s, but a century later it had sunk into cold and weary formalism. In the 1600s God raised up other giants to rekindle the flames and extend the Reformation into a new phase.
P. J. Spener, burdened for his church, opened his home for prayer and Bible reading. That simple act sparked a spiritual renewal across Germany, since called Pietism. The Pietist movement swept over continental Europe, emphasizing inner spirituality, home meetings, mission involvement, hymn singing, and social work (particularly with orphans). Reaching into Scandinavia, Pietism touched 25-year-old Hans Nielsen Hague.
Hans had grown up in rural Norway, learning many crafts from his industrious parents. He was a skilled cabinetmaker, carpenter, blacksmith, and beekeeper. He had also known the words of Scripture and the songs of the hymnbook since infancy. On April 5, 1796, as he worked outdoors and sang the hymn “Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion,” he was abruptly caught up in a dramatic experience. His mind felt suddenly exalted and his heart overflowed with God’s Spirit. The love of Christ blazed in his soul. He sensed a deep hunger for Bible study and a compelling urge to proclaim the gospel.
Hans ran home and shared his experience with his family, then with his church. He then set out to tell others, traveling for eight years and 10,000 miles throughout Norway by foot, ski, and horse. He preached to crowds large and small, emphasizing repentance, conversion, and true revival. His message sparked renewal everywhere. Occasionally local pastors, fearing his zeal and popularity, opposed him, and he was arrested ten times. But most bishops and pastors eventually thanked God for his ministry.
Having finished his preaching tour, Hans applied himself to commerce and became the owner of paper mills, a salt factory, a trading company, and a fleet of ships. He used his position in the business world to spread his message there. He passed away at age 53, using his final breaths to exhort his wife, “Follow Jesus.” He is today called the “Father of Scandinavian Pietism.”
I felt the LORD’s power take control of me, and his Spirit carried me to a valley full of bones. He then told me to say: Dry bones, listen to what the LORD is saying to you, “I, the LORD God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. … Then you will know that I am the LORD.”
--- Ezekiel 37:1,4–6.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 5
"On him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus." --- Luke 23:26.
We see in Simon’s carrying the cross a picture of the work of the Church throughout all generations; she is the cross-bearer after Jesus. Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.
But let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross which we carry. When you are molested for your piety; when your religion brings the trial of cruel mockings upon you, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ’s cross; and how delightful is it to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus!
You carry the cross after him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of his blood-red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ’Tis his cross, and he goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow him.
Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.
And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Evening - April 5
"Before honour is humility."Proverbs 15:33.
Humiliation of soul always brings a positive blessing with it. If we empty our hearts of self God will fill them with his love. He who desires close communion with Christ should remember the word of the Lord, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Stoop if you would climb to heaven. Do we not say of Jesus, “He descended that he might ascend?” so must you. You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards; for the sweetest fellowship with heaven is to be had by humble souls, and by them alone. God will deny no blessing to a thoroughly humbled spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” with all its riches and treasures. The whole exchequer of God shall be made over by deed of gift to the soul which is humble enough to be able to receive it without growing proud because of it. God blesses us all up to the full measure and extremity of what it is safe for him to do. If you do not get a blessing, it is because it is not safe for you to have one. If our heavenly Father were to let your unhumbled spirit win a victory in his holy war, you would pilfer the crown for yourself, and meeting with a fresh enemy you would fall a victim; so that you are kept low for your own safety. When a man is sincerely humble, and never ventures to touch so much as a grain of the praise, there is scarcely any limit to what God will do for him. Humility makes us ready to be blessed by the God of all grace, and fits us to deal efficiently with our fellow men. True humility is a flower which will adorn any garden. This is a sauce with which you may season every dish of life, and you will find an improvement in every case. Whether it be prayer or praise, whether it be work or suffering, the genuine salt of humility cannot be used in excess.
Morning and Evening
I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THEE
Frances R. Havergal, 1836–1879
And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)
A vivid painting of Christ, wearing His crown of thorns as He stands before Pilate and the mob, is displayed in the art museum of Dusseldorf, Germany. Under the painting by Sternberg are the words, “This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?” When Frances Havergal viewed the painting during a visit to Germany, she was deeply moved. As she gazed at it in tears, she scribbled down the lines of this hymn text on a scrap of paper. After returning to her home in England, she felt the poetry was so poor that she tossed the lines into a stove. The scorched scrap of paper amazingly floated out of the flames and landed on the floor, where it was found by Frances’ father, Rev. William Havergal, an Anglican minister, a noted poet, and a church musician. He encouraged her to preserve the poem by composing the first melody for it. The present tune was composed for this text by the noted American gospel songwriter, Philip P. Bliss, and was first published in 1873.
When Christ cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” victory over sin was won. All that is required of each of us is to personally appropriate that finished work. To show our gratefulness, however, our response should be, “Thank you, Lord, for giving your life for me. Now I want to live for You and serve You till the end of my days.” This was the reaction of Miss Havergal, known as the “consecration poet,” whose entire life was characterized by simple faith and spiritual saintliness. In spite of frail health, she lived an active life until her death at the age of 43. She wrote many beautifully phrased hymn texts, including “Take My Life and Let It Be” and “Like a River Glorious.”
I gave My life for thee; My precious blood I shed that thou might’st ransomed be
and quickened form the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee—what hast thou giv’n for Me?
I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
of bitt’rest agony to rescue thee from hell;
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee—what hast thou borne for Me?
And I have brought to thee, down from My home above, salvation full and free,
my pardon and My love; I bring,
I bring rich gifts to thee—what hast thou brought to Me?
For Today: Psalm 116:12-14; John 19:30; Romans 12:1, 2; Galatians 2:20.
Allow your soul to respond in a new and fresh dedication to God as you reflect on all that Christ has done for you. Allow these musical questions to motivate your thinking ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Chapter 08 1 Peter 5:10, 11 – Part 2
“But the God of all grace, who bath called us.” In the last chapter (utilizing Goodwin's analysis) it was pointed out that this most blessed title has respect to what God is in Himself, what He is in His eternal purpose, and what He is in His actings toward His people. Here, in the words just quoted, we see the three things joined together in a reference to God's effectual call, whereby He brings a soul out of nature's darkness into His own marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). This special inward call of the Holy Spirit, which immediately and infallibly produces repentance and faith in its object, thus furnishes the first evident or outward proof that the new believer receives that God is in truth to him “the God of all grace.” Though that was not the first outgoing of God's heart to him, nevertheless, it is the proof that His love had been set upon him from all eternity. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (Rom. 8:30). God has “from the beginning chosen you [His people] to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13, 14, brackets mine). In due time He brings about their salvation by the invincible operations of the Spirit, who capacitates and causes them to believe the Gospel. They believe through grace (Acts 18:27), for faith is the gift of Divine grace (Eph. 2:8), and it is given them because they belong to “the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). They belong to that favored election because the God of all grace has, from eternity past, singled them out to be the everlasting monuments of His grace.
Regeneration Is the Fruit of Election, Not Its Cause
That it was the grace that was in the heart of God that moved Him to call us is clear from 2 Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Regeneration (or effectual calling) is the consequence, and not the cause, of Divine predestination. God resolved to love us with an unchangeable love, and that love designed that we should be partakers of His eternal glory. His good will toward us moves Him so infallibly to carry out all the resolutions of His free grace toward us that nothing can thwart it, though in the exercise of His grace He always acts in a way that is consistent with His other perfections. None magnified the grace of God more than Goodwin; yet when asked, “Does the Divine prerogative of grace mean that God saves men, continue they what they will?” he answered,
“God forbid. We deny such a sovereignty so understood, as if it saved any man without rule, much less against rule. The very verse which speaks of God as ‘the God of all grace’ in relation to our salvation adds ‘who hath called us,’ and our calling is a holy one (2 Tim. 1:9). Though the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, yet it is added, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity’ (2 Tim. 2:19), or he cannot be saved.”
It helps us to gain a better understanding of this Divine title, “the God of all grace,” if we compare it with another found in 2 Corinthians 1:3: “the God of all comfort.” The main distinction between the two lies in the latter being more restricted to the dispensing aspect of God's grace, as the words that follow show: “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 1:4). As “the God of all comfort,” He is not only the Bestower of all real consolation and the Sustainer under all trials, but also the Giver of all temporal comforts or mercies. For whatever natural refreshment or benefit we derive from His creatures is due alone to His blessing them to us. In like manner, He is the God of all grace: seeking grace, quickening grace, pardoning grace, cleansing grace, providing grace, recovering grace, preserving grace, glorifying grace — grace of every kind, and of full measure. Yet though the expression “the God of all comfort” serves to illustrate the title we are here considering, nevertheless, it falls short of it. For God's dispensations of grace are more extensive than those of His comfort. In certain cases God gives grace where He does not give comfort. For instance, His illuminating grace brings with it the pangs of conviction of sin, which sometimes last a lengthy season before any relief is granted. Also, under His chastening rod, sustaining grace is vouchsafed where comfort is withheld.
God Dispenses All Manner of Grace Precisely According to Need
Not only is there every conceivable kind of grace available for us in God, but He often gives it forth precisely at the hour of our need; for then does His freely bestowed favor obtain the best opportunity in which to show itself. We are freely invited to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may “find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), or as Solomon expressed it, that the Lord God might maintain the cause of His people Israel “at all times, as the matter shall require” (1 Kings 8:59). Such is our gracious God, ministering to us at all times as well as in all matters. The Apostle Paul declares (speaking to believers), “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man [that is, but such as is ordinary to fallen human nature, for the sin against the Holy Spirit is only committed by such as have an uncommon affinity with Satan and his evil designs to thwart the gracious reign of Christ]: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13, brackets mine). The Lord Christ declared, “All manner of sin and blasphemy [with the exception just mentioned above] shall be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:31, brackets mine). For the God of all grace works repentance for and forgives all sorts of sins, those committed after conversion as well as those before — as the cases of David and Peter show. Says He, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). Full cause has each of us to say feelingly from experience, “the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant” (1 Tim. 1:14).
The Infallible Proof of His Abundant Grace Toward Us Who Are His
“But the God of all grace, who halt called us unto his eternal glory.” Here is the greatest and grandest proof that He is indeed the God of all grace to His people. No more convincing and blessed evidence is needed to make manifest the good will that he bears them. The abundant grace that is in His heart toward them and the beneficent design He has for them are made clearly evident herein. They are “the called [ones] according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:18, brackets mine), namely, that “eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). The effectual call that brings forth from death to life is the first open breaking forth of God's electing grace, and it is the foundation of all the actings of His grace toward them afterwards. It is then that He commences that “good work” of His in them that He ultimately shall complete in “the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). By it they are called to a life of holiness here and to a life of glory hereafter. In the clause “who hath called us unto his eternal glory,” we are informed that those of us who were once “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) but now by God's grace are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) shall also be sharers of God's own eternal glory. Though God's effectual call does not bring them into the actual possession of it at once, yet it fully qualifies and fits them to partake of His glory forever. Thus the Apostle Paul tells the Colossians that he is “giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).
But let us look beyond the most delightful of the streams of grace to their common Fountain. It is the infinite grace that is in the nature of God that engages itself to make good His beneficent purpose and that continually supplies those streams. It is to be well noted that when God uttered that great charter of grace, “[I] will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,” He prefaced it with these words: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee” (Ex. 33:19, brackets mine). All of that grace and mercy that is in Jehovah Himself, and that is to be made known to His people, was to engage the attention of Moses before his mind turned to consider the sum of His decrees or purposing grace. The veritable ocean of goodness that is in God is engaged in promoting the good of His people. It was that goodness that He caused to pass before His servant's eyes. Moses was heartened by beholding such an illimitable wealth of benevolence, so much so that he was fully assured that the God of all grace would indeed be gracious to those whom He had chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. It is that essential grace rooted in the very being of God that is to be the first object of faith; and the more our faith is directed toward the same the more our souls will be upheld in the hour of trial, persuaded that such a One cannot fail us.
The Argument on Which Peter Bases His Petition
Fourthly, let us consider the plea upon which the Apostle Peter bases his request: “who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This clause is undoubtedly brought in to magnify God and to exemplify His wondrous grace. Yet considered separately, in relation to the prayer as a whole, it is the plea made by the apostle in support of the petition that follows. He was making request that God would perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle His saints. It was tantamount to arguing, “Since Thou hast already done the greater, grant them the lesser; seeing that they are to be sharers of Thine eternal glory in Christ, give them what they need while they remain in this world that is passing away.” If our hearts were more engaged with who it is that has called us, and to what He has appointed us, not only would our mouths be opened wider but we should be more confident of their being filled with God's praises. It is none other than Jehovah, who sits resplendent on His throne surrounded by the adoring celestial hosts, who will shortly say to each of us, “Come unto Me and feast thyself on My perfections.” Think you that He will withhold anything that is truly for your good? If He has called me to heaven, is there anything needful on earth that He will deny me?
A most powerful and prevalent plea this is! First, it is as though the apostle were saying, “Have Thou respect unto the works of Thy hand. Thou hast indeed called them out of darkness into light, but they are still fearfully ignorant. It is Thy gracious pleasure that they should spend eternity in Thine immediate presence on high, but they are here in the wilderness and are compassed with infirmities. Then, in view of both the one and the other, carry on all those other workings of grace toward and in them that are needful in order to bring them to glory.” What God has already done for us should not only be a ground of confident expectation of what He shall yet do (2 Cor. 1:10), but it should be used by us as an argument when making our requests to God. “Since Thou hast regenerated me, make me now to grow in grace. Since Thou hast put into my heart a hatred of sin and a hunger after righteousness, intensify the same. Since Thou hast made me a branch of the Vine, make me a very fruitful one. Since Thou hast united me to Thy dear Son, enable me to show forth His praises, to honor Him in my daily life, and thus to commend Him to those who know Him not.” But I am somewhat anticipating the next division.
Our Calling and Justification a Cause for Great Praise and Expectation
In that one work of calling, God has shown Himself to be the God of all grace to you, and that should greatly strengthen and confirm your faith in Him. “Whom he cabled, them he also justified” (Rom. 8:30). Justification consists of two things: (1) God's forgiving us and pronouncing us to be “not guilty,” just as though we had never sinned; and (2) God's pronouncing us to be righteous,” just as though we had obeyed all His commandments to perfection. To estimate the plenitude of His grace in forgiveness you must calculate the number and heinousness of your sins. They were more than the hairs of your head; for you were “born like a wild ass's colt” (Job 11:12), and from the first dawnings of reason every imagination of the thoughts of your heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). As for their criminality, most of your sins were committed against the voice of conscience, and they consisted of privileges despised and mercies abused. Nevertheless, His Word declares that He has “forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). How that should melt your heart and move you to adore “the God of all grace.” How it should make you fully persuaded that He will continue dealing with you not according to your deserts but according to His own goodness and benignity. True, He has not yet rid you of indwelling corruption, but that affords further occasion for Him to display His longsuffering grace toward you.
But wonderful as is such a favor, yet the forgiveness of sins is only half of the legal side of our salvation, and the negative and inferior part of it at that. Though everything recorded against me on the debit side has been blotted out, still there stands not a single item to my credit on the other side. From the hour of my birth to the moment of my conversion not one good deed has been registered to my account, for none of my actions proceeded from a pure principle, not being performed for God's glory. Issuing from a filthy fountain, the streams of my best works were polluted (Isa. 64:6). How then could God justify me, or declare me to have met the required standard? That standard is a perfect and perpetual conformity to the Divine Law, for nothing less secures its reward. Here again the wondrous riches of Divine grace appear. God has not only blotted out all my iniquities but has credited to my account a full and flawless righteousness, having imputed to me the perfect obedience of His incarnate Son. “For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made [that is, legally constituted] righteous” (Rom. 5:17, 19 brackets mine). When God effectually cabled you, He clothed you “with the robe of [Christ's] righteousness” (Isa. 61:10, brackets mine), and that investiture conveyed to you an inalienable right to the inheritance (Rom. 8:17).
Glorification Was, from the Beginning, God's Ultimate Goal for Us
“Who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” When God regenerates a soul He gives him faith. By exercising faith in Christ, that which disqualified him for eternal glory (namely, his pollution, guilt, and love of sinning) is removed, and a sure title to heaven is bestowed. God's effectual call is both our qualification for, and a down payment on, eternal glory. Our glorification was the grand end that God had in view from the beginning, and all that He does for us and works in us here are but means and prerequisites to that end. Next to His own glory therein, our glorification is God's supreme design in electing and calling us. “God hath from the beginning chosen you. to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13, 14). “Moreover whom he did predestinate. them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Each of these texts sets forth the fact that Christ's believing people are to inherit the heavenly kingdom and eternal glory of the triune God. Nothing less than that was what the God of all grace set His heart upon as the portion of His dear children. Hence, when our election is first made manifest by His effectual call, God is so intent upon this glory that He immediately gives us a title to it.
Thomas Goodwin gave a striking illustration of what we have just said from God's dealings with David. While David was but a mere shepherd boy, God sent Samuel to anoint him king in the open view of his father and brethren (1 Sam. 16:13). By that solemn act God invested him with a visible and irrevocable right to the kingdom of Judah and Israel. His actual possession thereof God delayed for many years. Nevertheless, his Divine title thereto was bestowed at His anointing, and God engaged Himself to make it good, swearing not to repent of it. Then God suffered Saul (a figure of Satan), who marshaled all the military forces of his kingdom and most of his subjects, to do his worst. This He did in order to demonstrate that no counsel of His can be thwarted. Though for a season David was exposed like a partridge on the mountains and had to flee from place to place, nevertheless, he was miraculously preserved by God and ultimately brought to the throne. So at regeneration God anoints us with His Spirit, sets us apart, and gives us a title to everlasting glory. And though afterwards He lets loose fierce enemies upon us, leaving us to the hardest of wrestlings and fightings with them, yet His mighty hand is over us, succoring and strengthening us and restoring us when we are temporarily overcome and taken captive.
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
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Kindness 2 Samuel 2:4-6
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2 Samuel 1-2
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2 Samuel 3
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