2 Samuel 4-7
2 Samuel 42 Samuel 4:1 When Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab, sons of Rimmon a man of Benjamin from Beeroth (for Beeroth also is counted part of Benjamin; 3 the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there to this day).
4 Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
5 Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth as he was taking his noonday rest. 6 And they came into the midst of the house as if to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. 7 When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and put him to death and beheaded him. They took his head and went by the way of the Arabah all night, 8 and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” 9 But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10 when one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?” 12 And David commanded his young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
2 Samuel 52 Samuel 5:1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’ ” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off” — thinking, “David cannot come in here.”
The Jebusites relied upon the unusual natural advantages of their citadel, which stood upon Mount Zion, a mountain shut in by deep valleys on three different sides; so that in their haughty self-security they imagined that they did not even need to employ healthy and powerful warriors to resist the attack made by David, but that the blind and lame would suffice. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 2:579.7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” 9 And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.
11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. 12 And David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. 14 And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.
17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 21 And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.
22 And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the LORD has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 25 And David did as the LORD commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.
2 Samuel 62 Samuel 6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. 3 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, 4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.
5 And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 6 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. 9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 10 So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 11 And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.
12 And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 13 And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
16 As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart. 17 And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 18 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.
20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD — and I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
2 Samuel 72 Samuel 7:1 Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! 20 And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! 21 Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. 22 Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 24 And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God. 25 And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. 26 And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 27 For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 29 Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”
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Best Question to Ask When Starting a Conversation About God
By J. Warner Wallace 4/4/2017
Ever found yourself looking for a way to initiate a conversation about God, but not sure exactly how to start? I’ve been in similar situations with people I don’t know (i.e. on airplanes, while waiting for a seat in a restaurant, or while watching a soccer game), and I’ve tried a number of approaches. I continue to return to one simple, effective question, however, to start the most important of all conversations. I’ve come to believe this is the most essential evangelistic question we can ask: “What do you think happens when we die?”
This question can take a variety of forms (like, “Do you believe in life after death?” or, “What do you think about the afterlife?”), and it invariably leads to deeper conversations about the meaning of life, the existence of God and plight of humans. James Boccardo has done an excellent service to the Kingdom by writing about this approach extensively in a book called Unsilenced. I met James several years ago while speaking at a conference in North Carolina and I highly recommend his book. He provides a strategy for using this question and considers a number of possible objections you might hear from people with whom you are sharing. In my own experience with this simple approach, I’ve learned the value of, “What do you think happens after we die?”
It’s Diagnostic | This one question will immediately help you understand the worldview of the person with whom you are talking. It’s helpful to know where people are coming from, and every worldview has a distinctive answer to this question. When you ask it, you’ll almost immediately diagnose the worldview you are about to engage, without having to ask any overt questions about God’s existence.
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.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The Tell El-Amarna Correspondence
In 1887 an accidental discovery led to the unearthing of an entire file of ancient diplomatic correspondence at the site of the ancient Akhetaton (Tell el-Amarna), the newly built capital of King Amenhotep IV (Akhnaton). These letters were written on clay tablets in Babylonian cuneiform, which was the accepted language for international correspondence during the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty. A preliminary examination of the contents of these tablets convinced C. R. Conder that they represented a Canaanite version of the sequence of events connected with the conquest of Canaan by the armies of Joshua. In 1890 he brought this correspondence to the attention of the public in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, in an article entitled “Monumental Notice of Hebrew Victories.” In the same year, H. Zimmern categorically affirmed that in the Amarna correspondence we have nothing less than a contemporary record of the Hebrew invasion of Canaan (in the Zeitschrift des deutschen Palastinavereins). These early investigators pointed out the frequent occurrence of the name “Habiru” in the communications from King ’Abdi-Hepa of Jerusalem, who reported to the pharaoh with the greatest alarm that these invaders were carrying everything before them. Further study of the tablets convinced H. Winckler that marauding armies associated with the cuneiforn characters SA.GAZ were to be equated with the Habiru. Very frequent references to these SA.GAZ people are to be found in the communications of Canaanite princelings all the way up to Sidon in Phoenicia.
Later discoveries at Mari and Nuzi, as well as at Babylon, revealed the fact that Habiru figured in the history of the Mesopotamian valley as early as the beginning of the second millennium B.C. They are referred to in the Sumerian inscriptions of Rim-Sin of Larsa and in Akkadian texts from Hammurabi’s Babylon and Zimri-Lim’s Mari, as well as of Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin of the Elamite dynasty. Often the name is preceded by the determinative meaning “warrior.” Hittite and Old Babylonian texts indicate that contingents of the SA.GAZ received regular rations from the state, manned royal garrisons, and worshiped gods who were invoked in state treaties. The Hittite texts from Boghazkoi furnish evidence that the Habiru and the SA.GAZ are the one and the same people, for each form of the name appears in parallel columns of bilingual texts, and the gods of the SA.GAZ are there referred to as the gods of the Habiri. In the Mari correspondence they appear as mercenary troops in the employ of leaders like Yapah-Adad (cf. ANET, p. 483).
It is not certain how the characters SA.GAZ were pronounced, whether as Habiru or by some such term as Habbatu (“plunderer, robber”) as is given in the ancient dictionaries. Many scholars have conjectured that SA.GAZ represented an appellative or descriptive term rather than the name of any particular tribe or people; whereas Habiru referred to a definite ethnic group. Others, however, have rejected an ethnic significance even for Habiru because of the great diversity in types of names which are attributed to individuals listed as Habiri. Many of those from Old Babylonian sources and those at Nuzi are Akkadian Semitic names, but those from Alalakh are mostly non-Semitic.
In the light of the foregoing evidence, it may reasonably be questioned whether the Habiru were a definite, homogeneous face, or whether the name was attached to migratory groups of people who possessed no real property and were not attached to the soil like the general populace of the land in which they happened to reside. Thus they may have been a group somewhat akin to the gypsies of modern times whose racial background is shrouded in mystery, but whose common characteristic is that they never settle down in one place, preferring to wander from region to region as they may find a living. This at least is the theory advanced by Moshe Greenberg in his monograph entitled, “the Hab/piru” (New Haven, Conn.: American Oriental Society, 1955). He thus would account for their appearance as mercenaries in the employ of foreign governments or as dependents who hired themselves out as serfs or slaves. Apparently the etymology for the name Habiru points to the basic significance of “one who passes over” or “one who passes through (the land),” coming from the verb ˓ābar (“to pass through”).
It is open to question, however, whether the term Habiru necessarily connoted inferior social status. Meredith Kline points out that in some cases, as at Alalakh, the Habiri are found at the head of city administration as government officials, or else as chariot-owning maryannu (the highest of the warrior castes). Peace treaties were made with them, which would hardly have been effected with a mere dependent or servile populace. Kline personally regards the Habiri as a more or less homogeneous ethnic stock of warrior tribes, who sold their services as mercenaries, and in some cases (like the Goths of the late Roman empire) settled down to become landowners and officials. In some instances, as at Alalakh, they became so culturally integrated with the people among whom they lived that they even adopted the non-Semitic personal names prevalent in that locality. He feels that they were largely allied with the Huffian or Mitannian governments, and thus respected by them, even though they were feared and shunned in many non-Hurrian regions. Kline does not believe that they can successfully be linked with the Israelite Hebrews either ethnically, religiously, or culturally. But this conclusion hardly does justice to the data of the Amarna Letters.
Discoveries at Ugarit make it evident that Habiru were the same people referred to as the ’Apiru in Egyptian records. A text published by Virolleaud contains a list of towns subject to provide corvee labor for the king of Ugarit; and this bilingual text shows on the Akkadian side, “Aleppo of the SA.GAZ” (Hal-bi lu-mes SAG-GAZ), and on the Ugaritic side, reads: “Aleppo of the ’Apirim” (Hlb ’prm). Apparently it was possible by dialectic modification to pronounce the middle b of Habiru or ’Abiru as a p, for so it appeared in Ugaritic and also in Egyptian. Hence the Habiru were “people from the other side,” or “migrants,” and this term may have been applied to those of diverse national origin. It is only in the Hebrew records that we find the name in the form ˓ibrɩ̂ (Hebrew) used to refer to a single racial stock, namely the descendants of Abraham, “the Hebrew.” Thus Abraham may have been called “the Habiru” by the Canaanites because of his mode of life and because he was a foreigner; but then his descendants retained this designation in honor of their ancestor and transmuted it into an ethnic term. Such an interpretation of the name Habiru and its apparent equivalent, SA.GAZ, leaves room for the possibility that some non-Israelite peoples were involved in the convulsive movements of Joshua’s time, and participated in the invasions of the northerly regions at least.
Moshe Greenberg and many of his predecessors have rejected this identification of the Habiru (SA.GAZ) with the Israelite invasion, both because of the diversity of names appearing in some of the Mesopotamian records, and also because of the reported activity of the SA.GAZ in Syria and Phoenicia. The objection is based on the ground that there is no allusion to any such northerly military operations in the Hebrew records. In answer to this it ought to be pointed out that there is nothing in Joshua to discourage the belief that the northernmost tribes, such as Asher and Naphtali, who settled right next to the Phoenician territory, may have conducted expeditions against Tyre, Sidon, and even Byblos (from which city most of the Phoenician correspondence is derived). Joshua does not pretend to list all the military operations into which the individual tribes entered after the major united campaigns had come to a close. This, then, is hardly a decisive objection to the identification of Habiru with Hebrews. Other objections raised by Greenberg include the consideration that according to the Amarna correspondence it was possible for individuals or even a whole town to become Habiri by deserting the Egyptian side.
For example, in the letter numbered 185 in the Mercer edition (J. A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna Tafeln [Leipzig: Hinrich, 1908–15], hereafter EA, 111:44), Rib-Addi declares that the inhabitants of Lachish have “become Habiri.” Even an Egyptian such as Amanhatbi (Amenhotep) of Tushulti could escape reprisal for his misdeeds by fleeing to the SA.GAZ (EA 95:63). But it should be pointed out that these terms of expression do not necessarily signify the attainment of full citizenship, so to speak, in the ranks of the Habiri, but may simply be a way of indicating a change of allegiance or the formation of a new alliance. Joshua records how the Gibeonite or Hivite league effected a treaty of peace with the conquering Israelites, although of course they did it by stratagem. There can be little doubt that other Canaanite communities made terms with the irresistible invaders in order to avoid total destruction. The Canaanite principalities which maintained the conflict against Israel were of course bitterly resentful of those who had gone over to their side, and they may well have referred to this maneuver as “becoming a Habiru.”
Greenberg also makes the observation that the SA.GAZ seem to have operated in relatively small, unrelated groups here and there throughout the land of Canaan, and thus do not present in any sense the same picture as the narrative in the book of Joshua, where we have great bodies of troops from all twelve tribes operating under a single command. But there are two things to be said about this observation. In the first place, the letters may have come from widely separate periods of time (for virtually none of them contain any dates) ranging all the way from 1400 B.C. to the latter part of the reign of Akhnaton. Those references to Habiru activity which seem to imply the operation of smaller bodies of troops may have been written in the latter period after the main campaigns had been completed. Second, it should be observed that some of the letters give the very distinct impression that Habiri have come into the land in great force and are subjugating large tracts of land at a time.
7 Unbiased Facts about Jesus’ Death
By Timothy W. Massaro 4/5/2017
Before asking whether Christianity is true, whether the resurrection happened—or even could— it is helpful to clear away the hype and rhetoric and look at the unbiased facts concerning the death of Jesus. Today, even liberal scholars agree about some very basic data. Moving on in the debate requires coming to an agreement concerning these seven things:
1. Jesus was a real person. | Before discussing the death of Jesus, we should recognize that most scholars agree Jesus was a real person who lived and died in first century Palestine. This fact is even held by hostile sources outside the Christian sources.
2. Jesus was condemned to die by the Romans. | According to multiple sources, Jesus was condemned to die for specific reasons. He attempted to lead Israel away from God through miraculous deeds. His enemies attributed his works to the devil as acts of sorcery. He was then condemned to die for blasphemy for claiming to be God. Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate by the Jewish religious leaders in Palestine. (Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth [New York: Bloch, 1989], 18–46; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin Tractate, 43a; Shabbat 11.15; b. Shabbat 104b; Toledot Yeshu).
The Story of Reality: An Interview with Gregory Koukl
By Jonathan Petersen 3/1/2017
Is biblical Christianity more than merely another private religious view? Is it more than a personal relationship with God or a source of moral teaching? Consider Christianity to be reality itself.
Bible Gateway interviewed Gregory Koukl (@gregkoukl) about his book, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything in Between (Zondervan, 2017).
Why is your book titled The Story of Reality? | Gregory Koukl: First, I wanted to offer a kind of primer on Christianity’s basics—the essential elements—but I didn’t want to write a theological textbook. Rather, I wanted to show how the important pieces fit together in a fascinating drama—a story, of sorts. I also wanted the reader to enjoy the journey, so I adopted a storytelling “voice” for the narrative. I wanted anyone who picked up the book to feel I was talking directly with them; that I was personally walking them through the account of how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.
21. Is faith in God an excuse to avoid thinking deeply?
A skeptic asks, “If God created everything, then who created God?”
And Christians answer, “God, by definition, is ‘an Uncreated Creator.’ By His nature, He is infinite. So the answer to the question is within the question, in the very definition of the Being you’re asking about.”
An atheist retorts, “But if the universe requires someone to create it, why does God not? Sounds like special pleading.”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
18. When the saints repeatedly confirm and console themselves with the
remembrance of their innocence and integrity, and sometimes even
abstain not from proclaiming them, it is done in two ways: either
because by comparing their good cause with the bad cause of the
ungodly, they thence feel secure of victory, not so much from
commendation of their own righteousness, as from the just and merited
condemnation of their adversaries; or because, reviewing themselves
before God, even without any comparison with others the purity of their
conscience gives them some comfort and security. The former reason will
afterwards be considered (chap. 17, sec. 14, and chap. 20, sec. 10);
let us now briefly show, in regard to the latter, how it accords with
what we have above said, that we can have no confidence in works before
the bar of God, that we cannot glory in any opinion of their worth. The
accordance lies here, that when the point considered is the
constitution and foundation of salvation, believers, without paying any
respect to works, direct their eyes to the goodness of God alone. Nor
do they turn to it only in the first instance, as to the commencement
of blessedness, but rest in it as the completion. Conscience being thus
founded, built up, and established is farther established by the
consideration of works, inasmuch as they are proofs of God dwelling and
reigning in us. Since, then, this confidence in works has no place
unless you have previously fixed your whole confidence on the mercy of
God, it should not seem contrary to that on which it depends.
Wherefore, when we exclude confidence in works, we merely mean, that
the Christian mind must not turn back to the merit of works as an aid
to salvation, but must dwell entirely on the free promise of
justification. But we forbid no believer to confirm and support this
faith by the signs of the divine favor towards him. For if when we call
to mind the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they are like rays of
the divine countenance, by which we are enabled to behold the highest
light of his goodness; much more is this the case with the gift of good
works, which shows that we have received the Spirit of adoption.
19. When believers therefore feel their faith strengthened by a consciousness of integrity, and entertain sentiments of exultation, it is just because the fruits of their calling convince them that the Lord has admitted them to a place among his children. Accordingly, when Solomon says, "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence," (Prov. 14:26), and when the saints sometimes beseech the Lord to hear them, because they walked before his face in simplicity and integrity (Gen. 24:10; 2 Kings 20:3), these expressions apply not to laying the foundation of a firm conscience, but are of force only when taken a posteriori.  For there is no where such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh. But as the fruits of regeneration furnish them with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter of so much moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for his assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of the promise. Should they begin to estimate it by their good works, nothing will be weaker or more uncertain; works, when estimated by themselves, no less proving the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than his good-will by their incipient purity. In short, while proclaiming the mercies of the Lord, they never lose sight of his free favor, with all its "breadth and length, and depth and height," testified by Paul (Eph. 3:18); as if he had said, Whithersoever the believer turns, however loftily he climbs, however far and wide his thoughts extend, he must not go farther than the love of Christ, but must be wholly occupied in meditating upon it, as including in itself all dimensions. Accordingly, he declares that it "passeth knowledge," that "to know the love of Christ" is to "be filled with all the fulness of God," (Eph. 3:19). In another passage, where he glories that believers are victorious in every contest, he adds the reason, "through him that loved us," (Rom. 8:37).
20. We now see that believers have no such confidence in works as to attribute any merit to them (since they regard them only as divine gifts, in which they recognize his goodness, and signs of calling, in which they discern their election); nor such confidence as to derogate in any respect from the free righteousness of Christ; since on this it depends, and without this cannot subsist. The same thing is briefly but elegantly expressed by Augustine when he says, "I do not say to the Lord, Despise not the works of my hands; I have sought the Lord with my hands, and have not been deceived. But I commend not the works of my hands, for I fear that when thou examinest them thou wilt find more faults than merits. This only I say, this asks this desire, Despise not the works of thy hands. See in me thy work, not mine. If thou sees mine, thou condemnest; if thou sees thine own, thou crownest. Whatever good works I have are of thee," (August. in Ps. 137). He gives two reasons for not venturing to boast of his works before God: first, that if he has any good works, he does not see in them any thing of his own; and, secondly, that these works are overwhelmed by a multitude of sins. Whence it is, that the conscience derives from them more fear and alarm than security. Therefore, the only way in which he desires God to look at any work which he may have done aright is, that he may therein see the grace of his calling, and perfect the work which he has begun.
21. Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said--viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness. In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes. But how so? In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows. For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows. But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God; "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life," (Rom. 6:23). Why, as he contrasts life with death, does he not also contrast righteousness with sin? Why, when setting down sin as the cause of death, does he not also set down righteousness as the cause of life? The antithesis which would otherwise be complete is somewhat marred by this variation; but the Apostle employed the comparison to express the fact, that death is due to the deserts of men, but that life was treasured up solely in the mercy of God. In short, by these expressions, the order rather than the cause is noted.  The Lord adding grace to grace, takes occasion from a former to add a subsequent, so that he may omit no means of enriching his servants. Still, in following out his liberality, he would have us always look to free election as its source and beginning. For although he loves the gifts which he daily bestows upon us, inasmuch as they proceed from that fountain, still our duty is to hold fast by that gratuitous acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to connect the gifts of the Spirit, which he afterwards bestows, with their primary cause, as in no degree to detract from it.
 Jer. 17:9; Gen. 7:21; Ps. 94:11; 36:2; 14:2, 3; Gen. 6:3; Gal. 5:19
 Latin, "in incredulis." French, "en la vie des infideles et idolatres;"--in the life of infidels and idolaters.
 Latin, "omnes Fabricios, Scipiones, Catones." French, "tous ceux qui ont esté prisez entre les Pagans;"--all those who have been prized among the Heathen.
 See August. Lib. de Poenit., and Gregory, whose words are quoted, Sent. Lib. 3 Quæst. 7.
 The following sentence is added in the French:--"Il est bien vray que le poure monde a esté seduit jusques la, de penser que l'homme se preparast de soy-mesme pour estre justifié de Dieu: et que ce blaspheme a regné communement tant en predications qu'aux escoles; comme encore aujourdhui il est soustenue de ceux qui veulent maintenir toutes les abominations de la Papauté."--It is very true that the poor world has been seduced hitherto, to think that man could of himself perpare to be justified by God, and that this blasphemy has commonly reigned both in sermons and schools, as it is still in the present day asserted by those who would maintain all the abominations of the Papacy.
 French, "Tout ce qu'ils auront determiné ne profitera gueres, ains s'evanouisra comme fumee;"--All their decisions will scarcely avail them, but will vanish like the smoke.
 Latin, "a posteriori;" French, "comme enseigne de la vocation de Dieu;"--as a sign of the calling of God.
 French, "Brief, en toutes ces facons de parler, ou il est fait mention de bonnes oeuvres, il n'est pas question de la cause pourquoy Dieu fait bien aux siens, mais seulement de l'ordre qu'il y tient;"--In short, in all those forms of expression in which mention is made of good works, there is no question as to the cause why God does good to his people, but only to the order which he observes in it.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By Matt Schmucker 3/1/2009
Matt, I don’t understand how you and Steve can be a part of the same church given what you each believe and practice.” This came from a young woman with whom my wife and I had been sharing the gospel.
“I don’t understand,” I replied.
She said, “Steve lives with his girlfriend, which seems inconsistent with what you tell me a Christian should believe and do.”
I was speechless. I didn’t know the young woman knew Steve, nor did I know Steve lived with his girlfriend. Since I did not know Steve that well myself, I went to our pastor, who did. What was the pastor’s response to my suggestion that we should investigate and, if Steve was unrepentant, to discipline? “If we kick him out, how will he hear the gospel?” (Side note: The pastor, too, was later found to be in sexual sin.)
Church member Steve’s unrepentant sin — since it remained unchallenged — hurt our church’s evangelism. Not only that, it harmed weaker sheep in the church. And it brought shame on the name of Christ.
God gave a remedy for such situations in passages like Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 — what the church has always called “church discipline” or “excommunication.”
What is church discipline? In the narrowest sense, it is the act of excluding someone who professes to be a Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper for serious unrepentant sin — sin they refuse to let go of.
More broadly, church discipline is the act of excluding an individual who carelessly brings disrepute onto the gospel and shows no commitment to doing otherwise. Discipline helps the church to reflect God’s glorious character faithfully. It helps the church to remain holy.
Why should we even care, let alone practice church discipline? Let me give you five reasons:
God’s glory. God’s people should reflect God. Under both the old and new covenants (Mal. 3:18; 1 Cor. 5:11), the people of God are called to be a distinct community. They are to image the one, true, living God, not bow down to lifeless idols. This distinctiveness brings glory to God, because God is distinct, that is, holy.
The unrepentant sinner. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, the apostle Paul calls the church to “deliver this man to Satan…so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Put the sinner out, so that he might come back in — back into the fold, back into the redeeming hands of the Savior. Church discipline is fundamentally a loving act that holds out the hope of Christ for the unrepentant sinner.
The young believer. In every church there are young believers who are trying to untangle their minds from the world and re-orient themselves around God’s truth. These young lambs are particularly vulnerable when unrepentant sin goes unaddressed. Church discipline helps these young ones better understand what it means to be in but not of the world.
The steadfast Christian. Christians are warned in 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Church discipline, rightly practiced, should sober every believer, including the mature. When discipline is carefully, lovingly practiced in my own church, the elders often find themselves inundated with a rush of invitations for lunch — sheep asking for accountability. The act of discipline acts as a wake-up call. The mature heed such a warning.
The neighbors. Every church has watching neighbors. When church members live like the world, they send a clear message to those neighbors: nothing different here! The Christian church is to be the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15), an attraction to unbelieving neighbors. Discipline keeps the church “smelling” good!
Many years ago, after my church had suffered through another brief, failed pastorate, I left our church building after one meeting and headed toward the corner grocery store. On the way, I found myself walking behind two locally well-known homosexual men and was just close enough to hear them mocking my church over its recent troubles.
Do you see how sin brings disrepute on the name of Christ and His people? The world looked on us and mocked. Sin in the church, left unaddressed, hurts our evangelism, leaves the proud unchecked, confuses young believers, hardens the unrepentant, and, worst of all, brings shame on the name of Christ.
God, in His providence, brought a new spirit into our church nearly two decades ago with a clear gospel, biblical faithfulness, godly leadership, right understanding of membership, and the practice of church discipline. We were finally living in the church and before the world the way we believe God called us to live. How do I know?
A few years back, a long-time neighbor of our church stopped a friend and me outside of our church building. The neighbor said, “There’s something different about your church.”
My friend said something sheepish like: “Well, we’ve been trying to clean up the grounds and building.”
The neighbor replied, “No, I’m not talking about the property. I’m talking about the people. There’s something different here now.”
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!
Matt Schmucker is executive director of 9Marks and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 37He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
By James Orr 1907
NOTE D.—P. 182 | THE GENEALOGY OF ZADOK
ON the genealogy of Zadok see 1 Chron. 6:8, 53; 24:3; 27:17. Wellhausen denies to Zadok, however, an Aaronic, not to say Levitical descent (Hist. of Israel, pp. 126–43). His counter-theory is that Zadok was no Aaronite, but that, after the setting aside of the house of Eli, there came in a new hereditary priesthood at Jerusalem — “at first parvenus and afterwards the most legitimate of the legitimate,” and that the derivation of Zadok from Aaron in 1 Chronicles is a fiction aiming at the legitimising of the newcomers. This construction Delitzsch characterises as “a manufacture of history (Geschichtsmacherei) which builds houses on deceitful fancies” (Luthardt’s Zeitschrift, 1880, p. 284). Cf. Kittel, Hist. of Hebs. i. p. 124; ii. p. 182; Van Hoonacker, Sacerdoce Lévitique, pp. 166 ff.
NOTE E.—P. 184 | DAVID’S SONS AS PRIESTS
THE meaning of the term “priest” in the three passages cited is obscure. Delitzsch says: “Only crass self-deception can understand it of sacrificing priests, who have been mentioned just before” (Luthardt’s Zeitschrift, 1880, p. 63). The common view that “priest” is used here in some secondary or honorary sense of royal officials (Ewald, Delitzsch, Klostermann, Baudissin, Movers, etc.; R.V. marg.), is supported by the parallel passage, 1 Chron. 18:17, which need not be set down to the motive of recognising none but Aaronic priests, but must represent a general way of understanding the expression, and by the LXX. Dr. Driver, however, positively rejects such explanation (Notes on Samuel, pp. 219–20, 293–4; so the Wellhausen school generally); and there are certainly difficulties in proving this exceptional use. It is a case in which, as Van Hoonacker argues, there is some ground (at least as regards David’s sons) for suspecting the text. Inspection will show that the four passages, 2 Sam. 8:16–18; 20:23–26; 1 Kings 4:2–6; 1 Chron. 18:15–17, are closely related: represent, in fact, the same list, with some changes of names under Solomon. But it is also evident that there is some confusion and corruption in the copying. The order is not always the same: “Ahimelech the son of Abiathar” in 2 Sam. 8:17 (and 1 Chron. ) stands for “Abiathar the son of Ahimelech”; and ver. 18, in which the words “David’s sons” occur, is in other respects admittedly corrupt (it reads, “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites”). There is nothing about “David’s sons” in the corresponding passage in chap. 20, but instead, “And Ira also the Jairite was priest unto David” (cf. “Zabud the son of Nathan was priest” in 1 Kings 4:5 ). In the transpositions of the text, words or names may have dropped out or got changed, or “David’s sons” may be a corruption of other words altogether. This, of course, cannot be proved either.
NOTES TO CHAPTER VII | NOTE A.—P. 200 | THE SELF-CONFIDENCE OF CRITICS
DELITESCH speaks somewhere of “the omnipotence which resides in the ink of a German scholar”; and nothing strikes one more in the recent literature of criticism than the unbounded confidence with which the most disputable statements are made. Our pages are full of illustrations. The peremptoriness of Wellhausen is proverbial. E.g., the Levitical cities are “demonstrably a metamorphosis of the old bamoth (high places)” (Hist. of Israel, p. 37). “ ‘House of God’ is never anything but the house of an image” (p. 130). The trick of style is one easily learned, and has infected not a little of our own critical writing. It is not clear, however, why this peremptory tone should be affected in cases where the critics manifestly disagree among themselves. We may take one example from so useful a book as Ryle’s Canon of the Old Testament. The author begins with the general statement: “Analysis of the Pentateuch has shown conclusively that numerous collections of Israelite laws were made at different times,” etc. (p. 22). After mention of the Decalogue and Book of the Covenant: “Another ancient, and very distinct collection of laws is incorporated in the section which has been called by scholars ‘The Law of Holiness’ ( Lev. 17–26 ).… It is a fact, which no scholars have ventured to dispute, that these chapters contain extensive excerpts from a collection of laws whose general character must have closely resembled the Book of the Covenant, differing only from it in subject - matter so far as it is occupied more generally with ceremonial than with civil regulations” (pp. 25–6). “ Ezekiel shows unmistakable signs of acquaintance with a collection of Priestly Laws that we can certainly identify” (p. 72). We agree (see pp. 308 ff.); but leading critical scholars do energetically dispute both these propositions. The “Law of Holiness” is not by them generally put before Ezekiel. Dr. G. B. Gray, e.g., says, on his side, as confidently: “ Lev. 19:2 belongs to a code (known as the ‘Law of Holiness’) drawn up in the early part of the sixth century B.C.” (Divine Discipline of Israel, p. 41). Further: “Modern Criticism has probably shown incontrovertibly [if incontrovertibly, why probably?] that the period of the final literary codification of the Priestly Laws can hardly be placed before the era of the exile. It teaches, however, no less emphatically that the Priestly Laws themselves have been gradually developed from previously existing collections of regulations affecting ritual and worship” (p. 27; italics in last case author’s). If this be so, then Kuenen and Wellhausen must be excluded from “modern criticism,” for both “emphatically” deny that any written collections of Priestly Laws existed before the exile, and affirm the contrary. E.g., “as we have seen, no ritual legislation yet existed in Ezekiel’s time,” etc. (Kuenen, Rel. of Israel, ii. p. 231; cf. Wellhausen, Hist. of Israel, p. 480). Besides, as shown in Chap. IX., if this is allowed, the “incontrovertibly” disappears, for the one grand reason for putting the laws in the exile is that they were new.
NOTE B.—P. 206 | CORNILL’S DECOMPOSITION OF J
THE following indicates the process by which Cornill reached the conclusion that the unity of the J document must be given up: — “The first incentives proceeded from the Biblical primitive history; in this both Schrader and Wellhausen marked contradictions which made it impossible to maintain the literary unity. Gen. 4:16b stands in sharp contrast with the immediately preceding vers. 11–16a, since in these the ceasing of that which in chap. 3:17 is a curse for all mankind, is threatened as a punishment to Cain; the unquestionably parallel passages, chaps. 4:7 and 3:16, 4:15 and 4:24, do not give the impression of a free reproduction by the same writer, but rather of imitation; the same author cannot have written chap. 4:26 who already in chap. 4:1 permitted himself to use without hesitation the name Jahve; chap. 11:1–9 is irreconcilable with chap. 9:19, where that appears as a self-evident natural process which in the other passage is apprehended as the result of a special punitive interposition of Jahve; the Noah of chap. 9:20–27, the father of the three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Canaan, i.e., the racial ancestor of three specific peoples, is not the Noah of chap. 9:18–19, who, through the three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, is the ancestor of the whole of mankind after the flood. And this brings us to the weightiest and most deep-going distinction in the primitive history; we have in it still clear traces of a tradition which knows nothing of the flood, which derives the three groups of the whole of humanity from the sons of Lamech, chap. 4:20–22, which traces back all “Nephilim,” still existing in historical times, Num. 13:33, to the marriages of the sons of God with the daughters of men. Since all the passages cited are undoubtedly Jahvistic, while no trace is found of E, which appears, rather, to have had no primitive history, there remains no alternative but to surrender the homogeneity of J” (Einleitung, p. 52).The Problem of the Old Testament
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 11 Principles Of InterpretationThe opening of the sixth seal is thus recorded by St. John:" And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17)
The following is Mr. Elliott's commentary upon the vision:
"When we consider," he declares, "the terrors of these Christ-blaspheming kings of the Roman earth, thus routed with their partisans before the Christian host, and miserably flying and perishing, there was surely that in the event which, according to the usual construction of such Scripture figures, might well be deemed to answer to the symbols of the profigurative vision before us: in which vision kings and generals, freemen and slaves, appeared flying to and seeking the caves of the rocks to hide them: to hide them from the face of Him that sat on the throne of power, even from the wrath of the Lamb.
"Thus under the first shocks of this great earthquake had the Roman earth been agitated, and the enemies of the Christians destroyed or driven into flight and consternation. Thus, in the political heavens, had the sun of pagan supremacy been darkened, the moon become eclipsed and blood-red, and of the stars not a few been shaken violently to the ground. But the prophecy had not as yet received its entire fulfillment. The stars of the pagan heaven had not all fallen, nor had the heaven itself been altogether rolled up like a scroll and vanished away. On Constantine's first triumph, and after the first terrors of the opposing emperors and their hosts, though their imperial edict gave to Christianity its full rights and freedom, yet it allowed to the heathen worship a free toleration also. But very soon there followed measures of marked preference in the imperial appointments to the Christians and their faith. And at length, as Constantine advanced in life, in spite of the indignation and resentment of the pagans, he issued edicts for the suppression of their sacrifices, the destruction of their temples, and the toleration of no other form of public worship but the Christian. His successors on the throne followed up the same object by attaching penalties of the severest character to the public profession of paganism. And the result was that, before the century, had ended, its stars had all fallen to the ground, its very heaven, or political and religious system, vanished, and on the earth the old pagan institutions, laws, rites, and worship been all but annihilated." 
 Horae Apoc., vol. 1., pp. 219, 220."A more notable instance of inadequate interpretation cannot be imagined."  What wonder if men scoff at the awful warnings of coming wrath, when they are told that THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH  is past, and that it amounted to nothing more than the rout of the pagan armies before the hosts of Constantine, – an event which has been paralleled a thousand times in the history of the world? 
 "Another such landmark is found, I believe, in the interpretation of the sixth seal: if it be not indeed already laid down in what has just been said. We all know what that imagery means in the rest of Scripture. Any system which requires it to belong to another period than the close approach of the great day of the Lord, stands thereby self-condemned. I may illustrate this by reference to Mr. Elliott's continuous historical system, which requires that it should mean the downfall of paganism under Constantine. A more notable instance of inadequate interpretation cannot be imagined. "Closely connected with this last is another fixed point in interpretation. As the seven seals, so the seven trumpets and the seven vials run on to the time close upon the end. At the termination of each series, the note is unmistakably given that such is the case. Of the seals we have already spoken. As to the trumpets, it may suffice to refer to ch. 10:7; 11:18; as to the vials, to their very designation tas eschatas, and to the gegonen of ch. 16:17. Any system which does not recognize this common ending of the three, seems to me to stand thereby convicted of error." – ALFORD, Gr. Test., 4., Part 2., ch. 8., §§ 5, 21, 22.For, let the point at issue be clearly kept in view. If the reign of Constantine or some other era in the history of Christendom were appealed to as affording an intermediate fulfillment of the vision, it might pass as a feeble but harmless exposition; but these expositors daringly assert that the prophecy has no other scope or meaning.  They are bound to prove that the vision of the sixth seal has been fulfilled; else it is obvious that all which follows it claims fulfillment likewise. If, therefore, their system failed at this point alone, its failure would be absolute and complete; but in fact the instance quoted is no more than a fair example of the manner in which they fritter away the meaning of the words they profess to explain.
 ha hamera ha megala tas orgas autou (Revelation 6:17).
 If such statements were put forward in wantonness, and not in folly, they would suggest a reference to the solemn words, "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy –" (Revelation 22:19).
 When the historical interpreters approach the Second Advent, they lose the courage of their opinions, and earnestly contend for literalness, though if their scheme be genuine, the predicted return of Christ may surely have its fulfillment in the present revival of religion and the concurrent spread of Christianity.We are now, they tell us, in the era of the Vials. At this very hour the wrath of God is being poured out upon the earth.  Surely men may well exclaim, – comparing the present with the past, and judging this age to be more favored, more desirable to live in than any age which has preceded it, – Is this all the wrath of God amounts to! The vials are the seven last plagues, "for in them is filled up the wrath of God," and we are told that the sixth is even at this moment being fulfilled in the disruption of the Turkish Empire! Can any man be so lost in the dreamland of his own lucubrations as to imagine that the collapse of the Turkish power is a Divine judgment on an unrepentant world!  Such it may appear to be to the clique of Pachas, who, ghoul-like, fatten on the misery around them; but untold millions would hail it as a blessing to suffering humanity, and ask with wonder, If this be a crowning token of the wrath of God, how are simple souls to distinguish between the proofs of His favor and of His direst anger!
 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them is filled up the wrath of God…And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues…And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever…And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth" (Revelation 15:1, 6, 7; 16:1).If the event were cited as a primary fulfillment, within this day of grace, of a prophecy which strictly belongs to the coming day of wrath, it would merit respectful attention; but to appeal to the dismemberment of Turkey as the full realization of the vision, is the merest trifling with the solemn language of Scripture, and an outrage on common sense.
 The Austrian Pester Lloyd of 21st Nov., 1879, in commenting on the British line of policy with regard to Turkish affairs, charged Lord Beaconsfield's government with "confounding Mohammedanism with the Turks, the latter having been always regarded as the scum of Mohammedanism by all Mohammedan nations who were conscious of their own strength." Prophetic students appear to be thoroughly possessed by this error.
But there are principles involved in this system of interpretation far deeper and more momentous than any which appear upon the surface. It is in direct antagonism with the great foundation truth of Christianity.
St. Luke narrates (Luke 4:19-20) how, after the temptation, the Lord "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee," and entering the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath day, as His custom was, He stood up to read. There was handed Him the book of Isaiah's prophecy, and all eyes being fastened on Him, He opened it and read these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
"And the day of vengeance of our God" are the words which followed, without a break, upon the open page before Him; but, the record adds, "He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down." In an age to come, when the prophecy shall have its ultimate fulfillment, the day of vengeance shall mingle with blessing to His people.  But the burden of His ministry on earth was only peace.  And it is the burden of the gospel still. God's attitude toward men is grace. "GRACE REIGNS." It is not that there is grace for the penitent or the elect, but that grace is the principle on which Christ now sits upon the throne of God. "Upon His head are many crowns, but His pierced hand now holds the only scepter," for the Father has given Him the kingdom; all power is His in heaven and on earth. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son;" (John 5:22; Compare 3:17; 12:47) but His mission to earth was not to judge, but only to save. And He who is thus the only Judge is now exalted to be a Savior, and the throne on which He sits is a throne of grace. Grace is reigning, through righteousness, unto eternal life. (Romans 5:21) "The light of this glorious gospel now shines unhindered upon earth. Blind eyes may shut it out, but they cannot quench or lessen it. Impenitent hearts may heap up wrath against the day of wrath, but they cannot darken this day of mercy or mar the glory of the reign of grace." 
 Compare Isaiah 63:4: "For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."It will be in "the day of wrath" that the "seven last plagues," wherein is "filled up the wrath of God," shall run their course; and it is merely trifling with solemn and awful truths to talk of their being now fulfilled. Whatever intermediate fulfillment the vision may be now receiving, the full and final realization of it belongs to a future time.
 "He came and preached peace" (Ephesians 2:17).
 The Gospel and its Ministry, p. 136. True it is that the great principles of God's moral government of the world remain unchanged, and sin is thus ever working out its own punishment. But this must not be confounded with immediate Divine action in judgment. "The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment, to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9). Or, according to Romans 2:5, "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath."
And these pages are not designed to deal with the primary and historical fulfillment of the prophecies, or, as Lord Bacon terms it, their "springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages." My subject is exclusively the absolute and final fulfillment of the visions in that "one age" to which, in their "height and fullness," they belong.
The Scripture itself affords many striking instances of such intermediate or primary fulfillment; and in these the main outlines of the prophecy are realized, but not the details. The prediction of Elijah's advent is an instance.  In the plainest terms the Lord declared the Baptist's ministry to be within the scope of that prophecy. In terms as clear He announced that it would be fulfilled in days to come, by the reappearance upon earth of the greatest of the prophets. (Matthew 11:14; 17:11-12) St. Peter's words at Pentecost afford another illustration. Joel's prophecy shall yet be realized to the letter, but yet the baptism of the Holy Ghost was referred to it by the inspired Apostle. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21.)
 "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi. 4:5).To speak of the fulfillment of these prophecies as already past, is to use language at once unscriptural and false. Far more unwarrantable still is the assertion of finality, so confidently made, of the prophecies relating to the apostasy. There is not a single prophecy, of which the fulfillment is recorded in Scripture, that was not realized with absolute accuracy, and in every detail; and it is wholly unjustifiable to assume that a new system of fulfillment was inaugurated after the sacred canon closed.
Two thousand years ago who would have ventured to believe that the prophecies of Messiah would receive a literal accomplishment! "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." (Isaiah 7:14)
"Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Zechariah 9:9)
"They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver;" "And I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." (Zechariah 11:12-13; Compare Matthew 27:5, 7)
"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:18 Compare John 19:23-24.)
"They pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:16)
"They gave me vinegar to drink." (Psalm 69:21)
"He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was He stricken." (Isaiah 53:8)
To the prophets themselves, even, the meaning of such words was a mystery. (1 Peter 1:10-12) For the most part, doubtless, men regarded them as no more than poetry or legend. And yet these prophecies of the advent and death of Christ received their fulfillment in every jot and tittle of them. Literalness of fulfillment may therefore be accepted as an axiom to guide us in the study of prophecy.
The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Judgment and Mercy
By John de Witt 2/1/2009
When I began to consider what I should say in these pages, I found myself pulled in two directions. My first impulse was to lament the spiritual decay that people of my generation have observed at close range and to urge the next generation to carry on the struggle against it with unremitting faithfulness and courage. Upon reflection, however, it seemed right to me that we should also thank God for the amazing works of grace that are being accomplished at the present time, even under a clouded sky and in adverse circumstances. Perhaps I can manage the feat of moving in both directions at the same time.
Almost fifty years have elapsed since I was ordained to the gospel ministry. When I was a theological student and then a young pastor, many of us were impatient with much that we observed in the churches, but we also believed that we were on the verge of an awakening. We expected that such a movement of the Holy Spirit would sweep away the debris of liberal theology, restore the faltering church to the faith of the Scriptures, and bring about untold numbers of conversions. That our hopes have largely remained unfulfilled hardly requires evidence.
During the 1960s I gained a new perspective, while living for some years in the Netherlands and in England where the Christian witness had already deteriorated to an extent unthinkable at the time on this side of the Atlantic. I found that many Europeans tended to look upon the American churches with envy and disdain: envy because religious life in the United States was still so apparently vibrant; disdain because in their view we had not yet come to terms with the realities of modern life and thought. Since then the position in the United States has changed radically, and the very decline to which in our arrogance we thought ourselves immune is now apparent at every turn.
No simple explanation can be given for what has been taking place, and it is essential to maintain a historical perspective. In biblical times and across the centuries there have been other periods of similar barrenness that God has mercifully interrupted with reformation and revival. Those wise in their own eyes, past and present, have regularly belittled the “credulity” of Christians and declared the gospel to be unworthy of serious consideration, but the desert sands of infidelity are littered with the whitened bones of foolish people who said to themselves and to others, “There is no God.”
It should also be considered whether we may be living under a divine judgment, a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Is such an act of God the reason for the pervasive decay in many of the denominations whose testimony was once firm but who have lapsed into doctrinal, theological, and moral confusion? Is the widespread ineffectiveness even among churches that have continued to be formally orthodox a sign of God’s displeasure? Surely I am not alone in describing much of what passes for Christian faith as superficial and hereditary, lacking in knowledge, faith, and fervor.
I do not write, however, as one with his back against a wall. The present disarray is no cause for disillusionment or despair. On the contrary, if we have eyes to see them, there are many reasons for gratitude and hope. I mention only a few.
We must be thankful for the availability of Christian books and periodicals. I remember as though it were yesterday when the first slender volumes published by the Banner of Truth Trust appeared on the shelves of our seminary bookshop in 1958. No one could then have predicted what would happen subsequently, but those little books proved to be a harbinger of the literary torrent that followed from publishers in many parts of the world. The writings of the Reformers, the puritans, and their successors have been reissued in numbers without historical precedent. Moreover, others are building on that foundation and giving us books that explore the teachings of Scripture and apply them to our own situation.
We can be thankful for earnest, faithful preachers of the gospel. While historic Christian churches in Europe, Canada, and the United States have collapsed, the gospel is being preached with power in our own land and over vast reaches in other parts of the world. The very fact that ecclesiastical ties are being stretched and even broken is itself an indication of authentic life. Lines of division have been drawn by courageous leaders who have chosen the path of obedience to God over denominational loyalty. Ours is a time of vigorous growth in Africa, Asia, and South America, a fact of which we should never lose sight.
We are right to be thankful for strong, sturdy congregations in which the lamp of the gospel is burning brightly. There are many that have not substituted “feelings” for truth; that elevate faithfulness to God and His Word above all other considerations; that continue to honor the Lord’s Day; that joyfully worship in accordance with biblical principles; and in which people — the elect — are being brought to Christ in saving faith.
Above all, we must be thankful that the universe, the world, and the church are in the hands of a sovereign God whose purposes are indefectible, whose plan is every day being carried out, who will unfailingly bring to Himself every one for whom our Savior died, and who must in the end receive all praise and glory.
Dr. John R. de Witt, after having served various pulpits since 1959, is now retired and living in Columbia, S.C. He also served as associate editor of The Banner of Truth magazine and translated Herman Ridderbos’ Paul: An Outline of His Theology.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble. ESV
How marked is the difference between the way of the wicked and the path of the just! That of the latter leads ever onward and upward to that city which is enlightened by the glory of God, and from whose gates streams that glory which shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. Death is but the entrance of the saint into the presence of the Lord and the beginning of a richer, fuller life, far better than anything known on earth. But how terrible the contrast when we consider the way of the lawless! Bent on enjoying the present moment, seeking ever some new thrill, they cast all caution to the winds and run in the path of iniquity.
Proverbs has been called “The Young Man’s Book.” It abounds in wholesome instruction, which if implicitly followed will ensure a life of happiness and rectitude. It was not written to show the way of salvation, nor does it deal with prophecy or great spiritual doctrines. It is as truly applicable for this age of grace as for that of law, which preceded it.
Child of My love, fear not the unknown morrow,
Dread not the new demand life makes of thee;
Thy ignorance doth hold no cause for sorrow
Since what thou knowest not is known to Me.
Thou canst not see today the hidden meaning
Of My command, but thou the light shall gain;
Walk on in faith, upon My promise leaning,
And as thou goest all shall be made plain.
One step thou seest — then go forward boldly,
One step is far enough for faith to see;
Take that, and thy next duty shall be told thee,
For step by step thy Lord is leading thee.
--- F. J. Exley
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/1/2007 Staging a Reformation
Having served R.C. Sproul during the past several years, I have enjoyed the great privilege of answering to many of his humorous nicknames by which he addresses me. Over the past few years he has adopted one in particular that has seemed to catch on with many in our congregation - “Parson Parsons.” While I certainly appreciate the appropriate nature of the nickname as it pertains to my calling as a pastor, or “parson,” it has little to do with the ancestral derivation of my name, a fact that Dr. Sproul is well aware of; still, I have grown somewhat fond of it over the years. Nevertheless, the surname “Parsons” simply conveys that I am a son of Parr and not necessarily from a line of church parsons. Parr is an English name, and whether it’s for better or worse, my ancestry is entirely British. I am a son of Featherstone, Babcock, Oliver, and Parr - probably of the same ancestral lineage as Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal (1483–1517) who was the father of Henry VIII’s sixth, and last, wife, Catherine Parr (1512–1548).
Catherine was born just five years before her father’s death, which, incidentally, occurred only days after Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses, igniting the flame that would eventually reach England. And considering Catherine’s impressive ability to outmaneuver Henry’s beloved employment of ecclesiastical annulment and Dr. Joseph Guillotine’s infamous mistress, Catherine should rightly be heralded as the last of Henry’s queen consorts on the soap-opera stage of the English Reformation. For it was a soap opera indeed, enshrouded by a cloud of reformers, romanists, and rogues. And although Henry VIII was certainly no church parson, he appointed himself “the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.”
Henry’s self-performed, deformed, and uninformed reformation was a reformation from the top down. Yet, there is some consolation. By His sovereign hand, the only supreme Lord God Almighty brought His sacred Word to His people, and He set the entire British empire aflame with a small spark in Wittenberg, which, in turn, led to a human bonfire in Oxford in 1555 when the condemned Latimer turned his flame-singed face toward Ridley and said, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
click here for article source
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Today, April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany. Within the next two years, America enlisted four million soldiers and spent 35 billion dollars, resulting in an Allied victory. In a National Day of Prayer Proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson stated: “In view of the entrance of our nation into the vast and awful war which now afflicts the greater part of the world… [I] set apart… a day upon which our people should… offer concerted prayer to Almighty God for His divine aid in the success of our arms.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.
--- Robert Moffat
What's Wrong With The World
The bird on the branch, the lily in the meadow, the stag in the forest, the fish in the sea, and countless joyful people sing: God is love! But under all these sopranos, as it were a sustained bass part, sounds the de profundis of the sacrificed: God is love.
--- Søren Kierkegaard
The Word of God and the Word of Man (Harper Torchbooks: The Cloister Library)
Grace, like water, always flows downward, to the lowest place. I know no one who embodies this principle better than John Newton . . .
--- Philip Yancey
Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim
We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.
--- Sam Keen
Mondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before Us
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Seventh of fifth month. -- We have had rough weather mostly since I came on board, and the passengers, James Reynolds, John Till Adams, Sarah Logan and her hired maid, and John Bispham, all sea-sick at times; from which sickness, through the tender mercies of my Heavenly Father, I have been preserved, my afflictions now being of another kind. There appeared an openness in the minds of the master of the ship and in the cabin passengers towards me. We are often together on the deck, and sometimes in the cabin. My mind, through the merciful help of the Lord, hath been preserved in a good degree watchful and quiet, for which I have great cause to be thankful.
As my lodging in the steerage, now near a week, hath afforded me sundry opportunities of seeing, hearing, and feeling with respect to the life and spirit of many poor sailors, an exercise of soul hath attended me in regard to placing our children and youth where they may be likely to be exampled and instructed in the pure fear of the Lord.
Being much among the seamen I have, from a motion of love, taken sundry opportunities with one of them at a time, and have in free conversation labored to turn their minds toward the fear of the Lord. This day we had a meeting in the cabin, where my heart was contrite under a feeling of Divine love.
I believe a communication with different parts of the world by sea is at times consistent with the will of our Heavenly Father, and to educate some youth in the practice of sailing, I believe may be right; but how lamentable is the present corruption of the world! How impure are the channels through which trade is conducted! How great is the danger to which poor lads are exposed when placed on shipboard to learn the art of sailing! Five lads training up for the seas were on board this ship. Two of them were brought up in our Society, and the other, by name James Naylor, is a member, to whose father James Naylor, mentioned in Sewel's history, appears to have been uncle. I often feel a tenderness of heart towards these poor lads, and at times look at them as though they were my children according to the flesh.
O that all may take heed and beware of covetousness! O that all may learn of Christ, who was meek and lowly of heart. Then in faithfully following him he will teach us to be content with food and raiment without respect to the customs or honors of this world. Men thus redeemed will feel a tender concern for their fellow-creatures, and a desire that those in the lowest stations may be assisted and encouraged, and where owners of ships attain to the perfect law of liberty and are doers of the Word, these will be blessed in their deeds.
A ship at sea commonly sails all night, and the seamen take their watches four hours at a time. Rising to work in the night, it is not commonly pleasant in any case, but in dark rainy nights it is very disagreeable, even though each man were furnished with all conveniences. If, after having been on deck several hours in the night, they come down into the steerage soaking wet, and are so closely stowed that proper convenience for change of garments is not easily come at, but for want of proper room their wet garments are thrown in heaps, and sometimes, through much crowding, are trodden under foot in going to their lodgings and getting out of them, and it is difficult at times for each to find his own. Here are trials for the poor sailors.
Now, as I have been with them in my lodge, my heart hath often yearned for them, and tender desires have been raised in me that all owners and masters of vessels may dwell in the love of God and therein act uprightly, and by seeking less for gain and looking carefully to their ways they may earnestly labor to remove all cause of provocation from the poor seamen, so that they may neither fret nor use excess of strong drink; for, indeed, the poor creatures, in the wet and cold, seem to apply at times to strong drink to supply the want of other convenience. Great reformation is wanting in the world, and the necessity of it among those who do business on great waters hath at this time been abundantly opened before me.
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twenty-Eighth Chapter / Strength Against Slander
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, do not take it to heart if some people think badly of you and say unpleasant things about you. You ought to think worse things of yourself and to believe that no one is weaker than yourself. Moreover, if you walk in the spirit you will pay little heed to fleeting words. It is no small prudence to remain silent in evil times, to turn inwardly to Me, and not to be disturbed by human opinions. Do not let your peace depend on the words of men. Their thinking well or badly of you does not make you different from what you are. Where are true peace and glory? Are they not in Me? He who neither cares to please men nor fears to displease them will enjoy great peace, for all unrest and distraction of the senses arise out of disorderly love and vain fear.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
The fourth thought--What is now the will of God as the Holy Spirit reveals it? It is contained in one phrase: Separation unto the Holy Spirit. That is the keynote of the message from Heaven.
"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. The work is mine, and I care for it, and I have chosen these men and called them, and I want you who represent the Church of Christ upon earth to set them apart unto me."
Look at this heavenly message in its twofold aspect. The men were to be set apart to the Holy Spirit, and the Church was to do this separating work. The Holy Spirit could trust these men to do it in a right spirit. There they were abiding in fellowship with the heavenly, and the Holy Spirit could say to them, "Do the work of separating these men." And these were the men the Holy Spirit had prepared, and He could say of them, "Let them be separated unto me."
Here we come to the very root, to the very life of the need of Christian workers. The question is: What is needed that the power of God should rest upon us more mightily, that the blessing of God should be poured out more abundantly among those poor, wretched people and perishing sinners among whom we labor? And the answer from Heaven is:
"I want men separated unto the Holy Spirit."
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but at its end are the ways of death.
13 Even in laughter the heart can be sad,
and joy may end in sorrow.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘I did my duty to the very end. I forced him to take exercise—that was really my chief reason for keeping a great Dane. I kept on giving parties. I took him for the most wonderful holidays. I saw that he didn’t drink too much. Even, when things became desperate, I encouraged him to take up his writing again. It couldn’t do any harm by then. How could I help it if he did have a nervous breakdown in the end? My conscience is clear. I’ve done my duty by him, if ever a woman has. So you see why it would be impossible to …
‘And yet … I don’t know. I believe I have changed my mind. I’ll make them a fair offer, Hilda. I will not meet him, if it means just meeting him and no more. But if I’m given a free hand I’ll take charge of him again. I will take up my burden once more. But I must have a free hand. With all the time one would have here, I believe I could still make something of him. Somewhere quiet to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a good plan? He’s not fit to be on his own. Put me in charge of him. He wants firm handling. I know him better than you do. What’s that? No, give him to me, do you hear? Don’t consult him: just give him to me. I’m his wife, aren’t I? I was only beginning. There’s lots, lots, lots of things I still want to do with him. No, listen, Hilda. Please, please! I’m so miserable. I must have someone to—to do things to. It’s simply frightful down there. No one minds about me at all. I can’t alter them. It’s dreadful to see them all sitting about and not be able to do anything with them. Give him back to me. Why should he have everything his own way? It’s not good for him. It isn’t right, it’s not fair. I want Robert. What right have you to keep him from me? I hate you. How can I pay him out if you won’t let me have him?’
‘And yet … I don’t know. I believe I have changed my mind. I’ll make them a fair offer, Hilda. I will not meet him, if it means just meeting him and no more. But if I’m given a free hand I’ll take charge of him again. I will take up my burden once more. But I must have a free hand. With all the time one would have here, I believe I could still make something of him. Somewhere quiet to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a good plan? He’s not fit to be on his own. Put me in charge of him. He wants firm handling. I know him better than you do. What’s that? No, give him to me, do you hear? Don’t consult him: just give him to me. I’m his wife, aren’t I? I was only beginning. There’s lots, lots, lots of things I still want to do with him. No, listen, Hilda. Please, please! I’m so miserable. I must have someone to—to do things to. It’s simply frightful down there. No one minds about me at all. I can’t alter them. It’s dreadful to see them all sitting about and not be able to do anything with them. Give him back to me. Why should he have everything his own way? It’s not good for him. It isn’t right, it’s not fair. I want Robert. What right have you to keep him from me? I hate you. How can I pay him out if you won’t let me have him?’
The Ghost which had towered up like a dying candle-flame snapped suddenly. A sour, dry smell lingered in the air for a moment and then there was no Ghost to be seen.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The collision of God and sin
Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. --- 1 Peter 2:24.
The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.
The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross. Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin. The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.
The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.
The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Ap Huw's Testament
There are four verses to put down
For the four people in my life,
Father, mother, wife
And the one child. Let me begin
With her of the immaculate brow
My wife; she loves me. I know how.
My mother gave me the breast's milk
Generously, but grew mean after,
Envying me my detached laughter.
My father was a passionate man,
Wrecked after leaving the sea
In her love's shallows. He grieves in me.
What shall I say of my boy,
Tall, fair? He is young yet;
Keep his feet free of the world's net.
A parent is videotaping her daughter’s activities. She thinks: “I am so blessed to have such a wonderful child! By capturing her on film, I am recording how intelligent, beautiful, and cute she is. I have a permanent record of my blessings.” Perhaps, but Rabbi Yitzḥak would doubt it, for he has a different definition of blessing. Only that which we cannot see with the eye—or the videocamera—is our blessing. There is no real way to count, enumerate, or reckon our blessings.
Imagine that this same parent suddenly sees something in her child that overwhelms her, so much so that she puts down the camera while her jaw drops open in awe and she utters: “Wow! That’s unbelievable!” This moment, to Rabbi Yitzḥak, is when she really finds blessing. Rabbi Yitzḥak holds that we cannot catalog and record blessings; we can only experience them as sudden bursts of realization and awe. Thus, we feel blessed not when we are videotaping the child, but when we are suddenly so overwhelmed by what we see in that child.
Rabbi Yitzḥak’s notion presages the thinking of Abraham Joshua Heschel who spoke of “wonder” and “radical amazement.” Dr. Heschel posited that religious doubt ends where wonder and amazement begin. We are amazed at “the unexpectedness of being,” that we and the world and everything in it exist at all! Despite our ability to rationalize and despite our deep knowledge, there comes a point where intellect ends and experience begins. This is when we truly feel blessed. Most of us learn through our minds. We are intelligent, thinking, savvy human beings, as our Jewish tradition wants us to be. Nonetheless, our blessings are seen not with our minds—or our eyes, our intellects or videocameras—but with our hearts.
When we think that the blessings we have can be counted and catalogued, we are often missing the mark. Our blessings are not so neatly packaged and enumerated. We have to train ourselves to see the wonder and beauty in the world, to experience life rather than record it. When we think that we know how many blessings we have, we are—in the eyes of Rabbi Yitzḥak—often deceiving ourselves. The greatest sources of blessing are hidden from our eyes, in serendipitous moments of radical amazement.
We do not overburden the community.
Text / In the time of Rabbi Yehudah Nesiah there was trouble. He enacted thirteen fasts but was not answered. He thought of enacting more. Rabbi Ammi said to him: “Has it not been taught that we do not overburden the community?” Rabbi Abba son of Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said: “What Rabbi Ammi did, he did for himself.” This is what Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: “This was taught only for rain, but for other disasters, they continue fasting until they are answered from Heaven!” It has been taught in support of this: “When they said three and seven, this was only for rain, but for other disasters, they continue fasting until they are answered.” But this contradicts Rabbi Ammi! Rabbi Ammi could say to you: “We do not enact more than thirteen fasts on the community, because we do not overburden the community, this according to Rabbi.” Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says: “This is not the reason, rather that the time of rain has passed.”
Context / The best known fast days are Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av (the ninth of Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem). However, there are other fast days commemorating disastrous events in Jewish history. In addition, there seem to have been many other fast days, both personal and communal, in early talmudic times. This trend led the Rabbis to try to limit the number of fasts. Shmuel goes so far as to say: “Whoever fasts is called a sinner” (Ta’anit 11a). While Shmuel’s statement is an exaggeration of sorts, it does reflect the rabbinic tendency to restrict fasting.
The Tractate Ta’anit, from which this text is taken, teaches about fast days and the prayers associated with them. The Mishnah just prior to this section of Gemara teaches us that if, during a time of drought, individual fasting and petition were not effective, then the community would impose a fast upon itself. A community fast was more severe and restrictive, and thus seen as potentially more effective than a personal one, though a community fast was still only a sunrise to sunset fast (as opposed to Yom Kippur which is sunset to sunset).
The “three” and “seven” of the Gemara (“When they said three and seven …”) refers to the number of days of fasting. Three and seven, plus the original three, would bring the community to the maximum of thirteen (nonconsecutive) days of fasting. In the case of the last seven days, shops would be closed as well. If no rain fell as a result of this period of self-deprivation, then other measures were instituted, including restricting construction, planting, and weddings. Any additional fasting would not only be ineffective—for thirteen fast days had gone unanswered—but would also be a burden on the community.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
But looking back on those wilderness years Moses said, “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These 40 years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (v. 7). Later Moses would add, “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these 40 years” (8:4).
There is no question that the years in the wilderness were harsh and painful. They were years of discipline, marked by daily deaths of those who had rebelled against God.
How stunning to realize that God “watched over [their] journey” and that in all those 40 years “the Lord [their] God [had] been with [them].”
God doesn’t abandon us even when He is angry with us and forced to discipline. Even in the darkest of times there is evidence of His continuing love.
The evidence in Israel was in the smaller things. Their feet did not swell. Their clothing, which could not have been replaced in the desert’s hot, empty lands, did not wear out. It was in such little things, as well as in the manna God supplied daily and in the presence of the cloudy-fiery pillar over the tabernacle, that God showed His presence and His love.
Remembering victories (Deut. 2:14–3:20). In this review of history Moses honestly examined Israel’s failures and time of discipline. But there are more verses given to the recall of victories than to defeats. It was in the victories that the clearest evidence of God’s love and presence are found.
He is present at all times. But how we enjoy Him when the good days come!
Moses’ sin (Deut. 3:21–29). In most of this passage Moses speaks of “you,” setting himself apart from the people that he led.
But Moses too had failed. The incident is reported in Numbers 20. The company came to a waterless area, and again murmured and quarreled with Moses. God told Moses to gather the people, and to speak to a great rock there, and “it [would] pour out its water.”
But Moses instead shouted out, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses struck the rock with his staff, twice.
The waters came. But God rebuked Moses. “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Num. 20:12).
Many have debated the cause of God’s displeasure. Some suggest that the explanation is found in the fact that the rock was a type of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). Moses had struck a rock once before (cf. Ex. 17). This seems to them to represent Christ being stricken on the cross for our sins. To strike the rock twice violated the type, for Jesus’ one sacrifice was sufficient. On the basis of that one sacrifice, healing waters flow whenever we call on Him in faith.
Others see the cause of God’s anger with Moses in his words, “We bring you water.” Moses here seems to take the credit for the miracle for himself and Aaron, and not give the credit to God.
Whatever the explanation, God was angered. Moses had been told to speak, and Moses disobeyed. He struck it rather than spoke to it.
A person who expects to lead others to trust God enough to obey Him must himself trust enough to obey—completely.
Deuteronomy 3 tells us how much the punishment hurt Moses. He pleaded with God. “O Sovereign Lord, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand.… Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan” (3:24–25). Moses yearned to see all that God would do for His people.
But it was not to be.
Moses was allowed to climb a height across the Jordan River and look out on the land. But God told him, “You are not going to cross this Jordan.”
Moses finally accepted what must be. And he had one of his greatest fears relieved. God would appoint another leader who would lead the people across the river, and cause them to inherit the land (v. 28).
How good to know that you and I are not the only ones who can carry out what God intends for His people, or even for our own families. God is able to work with us as long as we trust Him. But even if we are set aside, as Moses was, God’s work will not be hindered or destroyed.
Continue to obey (Deut. 4:1–14). As Moses concluded his review of the past, he looked ahead to the future. The men and women who heard Moses speaking that day were those who “held fast to the Lord [their] God.” They were alive; the generation that turned its hold on God loose and surrendered to fear had rebelled, and their bodies all lay in the wilderness.
Moses was about to teach again the laws and decrees of God. If the new generation would follow the laws and decrees, they would continue to be blessed with success.
The passage points out two purposes which God had in giving Israel His Law. First, obedience would bring the people blessing. But second, an obedient Israel was intended to be a witness to the world.
If Israel observed the laws of God carefully, Moses declared, “This will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (4:6–8)
As long as Israel did not let God’s Law slip from their hearts, but obeyed it, they would be a beacon to a lost humanity. In Israel God intended to display His beauty to the entire world.
But Israel would never respond fully to God. There might be flashing moments of greatness—in this second Exodus generation, in David and his kingdom—but history records a great darkness as the people of God again and again turned away from God’s Word.
Their witness was not only lost, but their misunderstanding of the meaning of God’s call and His Law became so great that Paul was forced to say, as had the earlier prophets, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24; cf. also Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:22).
The Teacher's Commentary
Ver. Deut 5:6.— “I am the Lord thy God,” etc. This little word thy, in this connection, gives us the basis on which the Law was set. Of the event called “the giving of the Law,” we feel the thrill even now. That Law has in it four features, corresponding to one or other of the aspects in which the people to whom it was first given may be regarded. They were (1) members of the great human family, moral, responsible beings, amenable to the government of God. They were (2) a Church in the wilderness, with their own institutions, which embodied the worship appropriate to the religion enjoined upon them. They were (3) a people rescued from bondage, about to have a commonwealth of their own, for which sundry civil and political regulations had to be provided. They were (4) a nation which for years was to be in a wandering state, yet destined in the long run to find a home in Palestine. Adapted to them in this last-named aspect, they had sanitary laws; for them in the third aspect there were civil and political laws; for them in the second aspect there were religious institutions; and for them in the first aspect there was the great moral law. The set of rules having reference to health would be binding only so far as the laws of climate and modes of life necessitated their continued observance. The civil law would be but temporary so far as it received its complexion from the idolatrous surroundings of the people. The ceremonial law would pass away in form, but the underlying principles of it are permanent. The moral law is unchanging as man’s nature, and enduring as his relation to God. It is given in the ten commandments, of which the first enjoins supreme love to the Divine Being: the second, recognition of the spirituality of the Divine nature: the third, reverence for the Divine Name: the fourth, care for Divine worship: the fifth inculcates religion in the home: the sixth, the religion of the temper: the seventh, the religion of the body: the eighth, the religion of the hand: the ninth, the religion of the tongue: the tenth, the religion of the heart. But antecedently to the Law in any of its aspects, there is a question of deep interest and importance, viz. From whom came it? The reasons for obedience to it come very largely out of the answer to be given to that question. Now, the words in ch. 5:6, which precede the Law itself, are not merely a preface to it, they are at once the basis of it and the reason for obedience to it. And these words should be opened up clearly in every case where the Decalogue is about to be expounded. The Law is not set on law, but on grace! For observe—
I. HERE IS A SPECIAL VIEW OF GOD PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE TO DRAW FORTH THEIR ATTENTION AND WIN THEIR ALLEGIANCE. “Thy God.” The Hebrews were never expected to believe in, obey, or love an absolutely unrelated Being. THERE IS NO SUCH BEING! God is related to all the creatures he has made. Hence our knowledge of him is not unreal, because it is relative; but real, because in knowing God’s relations to us, we, so far, know him as he is. God was Israel’s Redeemer. He had redeemed them that they might be his. He would have the entire life of his redeemed ones spent in covenant relationship with him. Hence he sets his own Law on the basis of those relations. And so it is now. We are not expected to love a Being whose relations to us are doubtful or obscure, or whose mind and will towards us are unknown. We love because he first loved us.
II. THE VARIED ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH ARE SET UPON A LIKE BASIS, AND HAVE IN IT THEIR REASON AND POWER. The following suggestions may be developed largely with great advantage. 1. The conception of law is materially changed when we know that it comes from One who loves us infinitely, and cares for us with a tender care. This gives sweetness to the command. We are “under law to Christ.” 2. “The Lord thy God;” that gives the worship of God its charm. 3. This is the truth which is objectively disclosed by the Incarnation. 4. It is the truth which the Holy Ghost graves on the hearts of the saints (Rom. 8:15). 5. This truth shows us that real religion is love responding to love (1 John 4:19). 6. It gives a manifest ground for trust. We know whom we have believed. 7. It gives a charm to every precept. 8. It gives meaning to every trial (ch. 8:5). 9. It is in the light of this truth that prayer becomes possible, and is seen to be reasonable. 10. This gives a solemn aspect to our responsibility (Ps. 81:10; Amos 4:12; Heb. 4:13). 11. The fuller understanding of the words, “My God,” will be the result of ripeness in grace (Zech. 13:9; Isa. 41:10–20). 12. This is pre-eminently the truth which gives its certainty and its glow to the hope of future glory (Mark 12:26; Heb. 11:16; Rev. 21:3, 7).
III. SEEING THE WIDE BEARING AND VAST IMPORTANCE OF THE TRUTH IN THE TEXT, WHAT SHOULD BE WITH US ITS PRACTICAL OUTCOME? 1. Seeing the fearful havoc agnosticism would make, if it should ever come to govern human thinking,9 let us show men: (1) That a God out of relation to us does not exist. (2) That the one God is related to us as Creator, etc. (3) That his varied relations are explicitly revealed, specially through the Son and through the Holy Ghost. (4) That these relations are to be apprehended by our moral and spiritual nature, and not by the intellect alone. It should never make us stagger that, after getting to the very outer rim of natural knowledge, men should look out on an awful blank, and call it “the great unknown.” It shows us only that they cannot find God in that way—not that there is no way of finding God, still less that God cannot find us or make his communications intelligible to us. Do not let us suffer men to think that God cannot be found because no one can find him out to perfection! He is our God. 2. Since God is our God, let us cultivate fellowship with him. It is for this purpose he hath revealed himself, that we may come to him (1 John 1:1–3; Heb. 10:19–22). 3. Let us seek to realize the blessedness of a known and happy relationship to God, enjoyed through Christ, by the Spirit, in a life of penitence, faith, devotion, and love (Isa. 61:10; 1 Chron. 12:18; Ps. 68:28; 46:1; 18:29; 146:5). 4. Let faith in the love of our God fill up our duties with glorious meaning, and make the discharge of them a delight (ch. 6:5; 28:58; Lev. 25:38; 11:45; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 3:13; Micah 6:8; Rom. 12:1). 5. Let the fact that God is our God create, confirm, and perpetuate our assurance of immortal blessedness. See the wonderful words in Matt. 22:31, 32; Heb. 11:16. As if God would be ashamed to be called our God, if he did not mean to do something worthy of the name! Wondrous grace! How perfect the reconciliation effected by Christ, to bring together the holy God and sinful men in blest accord and union for ever!
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration
Of all the writings that made up Israel’s Scripture, it was probably the laws of the Pentateuch that played the most important role in restored Judea. These laws covered all manner of different things: civil and criminal law, Temple procedure, ethical behavior, ritual purity and impurity, proper diet, and so forth. Nowadays, a country’s laws do not play a very active part in most people’s lives—certainly not in their religious lives. Someone who breaks the law may have to pay a fine or even go to prison, but this in itself has no particular spiritual dimension. Likewise, someone who upholds the law may be proud to be a good citizen, but nothing more. In restored Judea, by contrast, the laws of the Pentateuch were held to come from God, and this automatically gave them a wholly new significance. To break a law ordained by God was not merely to commit a crime; it was to commit a sin. Likewise, observing the laws and doing what they said was not merely good citizenship but a form of divine service, a way of actively seeking to do God’s will. This view of things may have existed in preexilic times, but it became particularly prominent after the return from exile.
Perhaps it was the very course of recent events that made Second Temple Jews so concerned with biblical law. Many of them must have asked themselves why their homeland had been conquered by the Babylonians, and why the Babylonian Empire had in turn collapsed shortly thereafter. Some, no doubt, gave to these questions a purely practical answer: the Babylonian army was simply stronger than that of little Judah, so it won; similarly, once the Medes and the Persians had combined forces, they easily overcame the Babylonians and took over their whole empire. But the Bible contains a different, more theological explanation: God allowed His people to be conquered as a punishment for their failure to keep His laws, the great covenant He had concluded with their ancestors. “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD” (2 Kings 24:3). By the same token, lest anyone think it was by any merit of the Babylonians that Judah had been overcome, He subsequently dispatched the Persian army to reduce them to ruin. So now, returned to their ancient homeland, the Judeans (or at least some of them) set out to draw the obvious theological conclusion and avoid repeating their ancestors’ mistake. This time they would scrupulously obey all of God’s commandments; this time, everyone would be an expert in the application of divine law, so that there would be no mistakes (Jer. 31:31–34).
There was probably another, more practical side to the importance attributed to these ancient laws. The Bible reports that the Persian administration actually adopted them as part of the Israelite legal system to be instituted in their new colony. The Persian king Artaxerxes I is thus reported to have written a letter to Ezra, a Jewish priest and sage who took over as a leader of the reestablished community:
“And you, Ezra, according to the God-given wisdom you possess, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province [of Judah] who know the laws of your God; and you shall teach those who do not know them. All who will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on them.” (Ezra 7:25–26)
It may always be, of course, that one or another element in the Bible is the result of exaggeration or wishful thinking on the part of the biblical historian, but skepticism in this case is probably unwarranted. Other, extrabiblical sources have shown the Persians to have generally been enlightened rulers who sought to accommodate their subject peoples by, among other things, maintaining the local legal system; it would simply have been good sense to adopt such an approach with the Judeans as well.
Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
---2 Corinthians 8:9.
Note how clearly these opening words point to the magnificent riches of Jesus Christ: “though he was rich.” ( Classic Sermons on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) If we could take the sum total of all the wealth people have ever known and multiply it a thousandfold, all this would be a mere bagatelle compared with the depth of the riches over which our Lord, as the eternal God, held sway. He was rich in the resources of the entire universe, rich in the exercise of all power in heaven and in earth, in the control of constellations; rich in the directing of the tides, in the shaping of human affairs into history. He was rich in the adoration of the heavenly legions; rich in the glory and purity of his divine sinlessness; rich in truth, in wisdom, and in justice. But—praise his name!—he was rich in love, in mercy, in grace toward a corroding and decaying world that had spurned the guidance of God. So rich that, unfathomable as it may be, he showed compassion for human souls by the magnificence of the sacrifice of which our text speaks: “yet for your sakes he became poor.”
We have made the cross the greatest of all human symbols. Yet how little we sometimes comprehend of the love of him who so impoverished himself and died on the accursed tree!
And what a death it was! No matter under what circumstances the Grim Reaper may come, there is always anguish when our loved ones are called home by God. But how more intense was our Savior’s crucifixion!—one of the most excruciating tortures ever known.
On the cross, deserted by God and by humanity, is one who in his tortured body bears the crushing weight of all the sins that have ever been committed throughout history. Here, in the poverty of Christ, is the greatest spectacle of love that the human race has ever seen or ever will see. Here, with his divine arms outstretched as though he would embrace sinful humanity in its totality, is God’s answer to the plea for the forgiveness of sins, for the power to counteract evil, for the ability to rise up over death. Here, in the abysmal poverty of Christ, is the magnificence of grace—pure, saving, sanctifying grace.
No one is excluded from this all-embracing “for your sakes.” Here are the riches of Christ’s invitation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
--- Walter A. Maier
The Flying Scotsman April 6
Eric Liddell was a missionary kid born in China. At age seven his parents enrolled him in a boarding school in Britain, and he spent most of his childhood separated from them. But school officials encouraged him to devote himself to sports, and young Eric soon developed an athlete’s physique. He also began flexing his spiritual muscles, rising early each day to meet the Lord in prayer and Bible study.
When Eric entered the university he broke one record after another in sporting events. His sister wrote their parents in China, saying, “Every week he brings home prizes. We’ve nowhere to put them all.” As his fame grew an innovative Scottish evangelist named D. P. Thomson eyed him as an intriguing prospect for the ministry. He invited Eric to share his testimony with a group of men in Armadale, and on April 6, 1923 Liddell made his debut in public evangelism. By the time he arrived at the Paris Olympics that summer, Eric was known worldwide as a powerful athlete and as an outspoken Christian who, despite refusing to race on Sundays, could win the gold.
But fame didn’t stop him from following his parents to China. He arrived there as a missionary in 1925. When the Japanese invaded in 1937, he remained; and in 1943 he found himself interned in a camp outside Peking. Conditions were horrible. Eric ministered day-by-day, praying with the sick, coaching the children, witnessing to the lost. At times, though, his head throbbed. He began visibly weakening. On February 21, 1945, he died. An autopsy revealed a massive brain tumor.
A camp survivor was asked the reason for Liddell’s influence at the camp. She replied that every morning at 6 A.M. he would rise and light the peanut-oil lantern on the little dormitory table just enough to illumine his Bible and notebook. There he would silently meet God at the start of each new day. It was the Flying Scotsman’s lifelong habit, she said, and the secret of his power.
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. … I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven.
--- Philippians 3:12-14a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 6
"Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp." --- Hebrews 13:13.
Jesus, bearing his cross, went forth to suffer without the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be singular, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master. Christ was “not of the world:” his life and his testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world. Never was such overflowing affection for men as you find in him; but still he was separate from sinners. In like manner Christ’s people must “go forth unto him.” They must take their position “without the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to tread the straight and narrow path. They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and his truth next, and Christ and his truth beyond all the world. Jesus would have his people “go forth without the camp” for their own sanctification. You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world. The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may cost you many pangs, and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all. No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ: Jesus reveals himself so graciously, and gives such sweet refreshment, that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest. The highway of holiness is the highway of communion. It is thus we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “without the camp.” The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation. A moment’s shame will be well recompensed by eternal honour; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are “for ever with the Lord.”
Evening - April 6
"In the name of the Lord I will destroy them."Psalm 118:12.
Our Lord Jesus, by his death, did not purchase a right to a part of us only, but to the entire man. He contemplated in his passion the sanctification of us wholly, spirit, soul, and body; that in this triple kingdom he himself might reign supreme without a rival. It is the business of the newborn nature which God has given to the regenerate to assert the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ. My soul, so far as thou art a child of God, thou must conquer all the rest of thyself which yet remains unblest; thou must subdue all thy powers and passions to the silver sceptre of Jesus’ gracious reign, and thou must never be satisfied till he who is King by purchase becomes also King by gracious coronation, and reigns in thee supreme. Seeing, then, that sin has no right to any part of us, we go about a good and lawful warfare when we seek, in the name of God, to drive it out. O my body, thou art a member of Christ: shall I tolerate thy subjection to the prince of darkness? O my soul, Christ has suffered for thy sins, and redeemed thee with his most precious blood: shall I suffer thy memory to become a storehouse of evil, or thy passions to be firebrands of iniquity? Shall I surrender my judgment to be perverted by error, or my will to be led in fetters of iniquity? No, my soul, thou art Christ’s, and sin hath no right to thee.
Be courageous concerning this, O Christian! be not dispirited, as though your spiritual enemies could never be destroyed. You are able to overcome them—not in your own strength—the weakest of them would be too much for you in that; but you can and shall overcome them through the blood of the Lamb. Do not ask, “How shall I dispossess them, for they are greater and mightier than I?” but go to the strong for strength, wait humbly upon God, and the mighty God of Jacob will surely come to the rescue, and you shall sing of victory through his grace.
NEAR THE CROSS
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19, 20)
The cross was a superb triumph over Satan, death, and hell. Never was Christ more a king than when He shouted from the cross—“It is finished.” Out of the hideous suffering of Calvary He has carved His victory and His kingdom. The victory of the cross assures us that we no longer need to be kept separate from God—either in this life or for eternity. Even now we can enter into His presence “with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And the best is yet to come—“the golden strand just beyond the river.”
As God’s people, we should live daily with a sensitive awareness of Christ’s cross. We should review its scenes of suffering as well as revel in its triumph. “Near the Cross,” this simply stated hymn by Fanny Crosby, has been widely used by God to teach people this truth since its first publication in 1869.
As she did with many of her 8,000 hymn texts, Fanny Crosby wrote this poem to fit an existing tune that had been composed by William H. Doane. Although she worked with a number of other gospel musicians, William Doane was Fanny Crosby’s principal collaborator. Doane was a very successful business man in Cincinnati, as well as a composer and publisher of numerous gospel songs. He was a very wealthy man when he died and he left much of his fortune to philanthropic causes, including the construction of the Doane Memorial Music Building at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
Jesus, keep me near the cross—there a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the Bright and Morning Star sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; help me walk from day to day with its shadows o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever, till I reach the golden strand just beyond the river. Chorus: In the cross, in the cross be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest, beyond the river.
For Today: John 6:47-51; 19:17, 18; Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:13.
Determine that especially during this Lenten season you are going to review and revel more often in the cross of Christ and all that it means. Sing this musical prayer to help you remember ---
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Nothing Transitory About the Glory to Which We Are Called
God has not called us to an evanescent but to an eternal glory, giving us title to it at the new birth. At that time a spiritual life was communicated to the soul, a life that is indestructible, incorruptible, and therefore everlasting. Moreover, we then received “the spirit of glory” (1 Peter 4:14) as “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14). Further, the image of Christ is being progressively wrought in our hearts during this life, which the Apostle Paul calls being “changed. from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Not only are we thereby made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12), but we are then given an eternal right of glory. For by regeneration or effectual calling God begets us to the inheritance (1 Peter 1:3, 4); a title thereto is given us at that moment that holds good forever. That title is ours both by the covenant stipulation of God and by the testamentary bequest of the Mediator (Heb. 9:15). “If children, then heirs; heirs of God,” says Paul (Rom. 8:17). Thomas Goodwin sums it up this way:
“Put these three things together: first, that that glory we are called unto is in itself eternal; second, that that person who is called hath a degree of that glory begun in him that shall never die or perish; third, that he hath a right unto the eternity of it, and that from the time of his calling, and the argument is complete.”
That “eternal glory” is “the exceeding riches of his grace” that He will lavish upon His people in the endless ages to come (Eph. 2:4-7), and as those verses tell us, even now we—legally and federally—“sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
(Eph 2:4–7) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ESV
“Who hath called us unto his eternal glory.” God has not only called us into a state of grace—“this grace wherein we stand”—but to a state of glory, eternal glory, His eternal glory, so that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). These two things are inseparably connected: “the LORD will give grace and glory” (Ps. 84:11). Although we are the persons to be glorified by it, it is His glory that is put upon us. Obviously so, for we are wholly poor, empty creatures whom God will fill with the riches of His glory. Truly it is “the God of all grace” who does this for us. Neither creation nor providence, nor even His dealings with the elect in this life, fully displays the abundance of His grace. Only in heaven will its utmost height be seen and enjoyed. It is there that the ultimate manifestation of God's glory will be made, namely, the very honor and ineffable splendor with which Deity invests Himself. Not only shall we behold that glory forever, but it is to be communicated to us. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). The glory of God will so completely fill and irradiate our souls that it will break forth from our bodies. Then will the eternal purpose of God be fully accomplished. Then will all our fondest hopes be perfectly realized. Then will God be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
Eternal Glory Is Ours by Our Union with Christ
“Who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” The last part of this clause would perhaps better be translated “in Christ Jesus,” signifying that our being called to bask in the eternal glory of God is by virtue of our union with Christ Jesus. The glory pertains to Him who is our Head, and it is communicated to us only because we are His members. Christ is the first and grand Proprietor of it, and He shares it with those whom the Father gave to Him (John 17:5, 22, 24). Christ Jesus is the Center of all the eternal counsels of God, which “he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). All the promises of God “in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20, brackets mine). God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We are heirs of God because we are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As all the Divine purposes of grace were formed in Christ, so they are effectually performed and established by Him. For Zecharias, while blessing God for having “raised up an horn of salvation,” added, “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:68-72). We are “preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). Since God has “called [us] unto the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor. 1:9, brackets mine), that is, to be partakers (in due proportion) of all that He is partaker of Himself, Christ our Joint-heir and Representative has entered into possession of that glorious inheritance and in our names is keeping it for us (Heb. 6:20).
All Our Hope Is Bound Up in Christ Alone
Does it seem too good to be true that “the God of all grace” is your God? Are there times when you doubt whether He has personally called you? Does it surpass your faith, Christian reader, that God has actually cabled you to His eternal glory? Then let me leave this closing thought with you. All this is by and in Christ Jesus! His grace is stored up in Christ (John 1:14-18), the effectual call comes by Christ (Rom. 1:6), and the eternal glory is reached through Him. Was not His blood sufficient to purchase everlasting blessings for hell-deserving sinners? Then book not at your unworthiness, but at the infinite worthiness and merits of Him who is the Friend of publicans and sinners. Whether our faith takes it in or not, infallibly certain it is this prayer of His will be answered: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). That beholding will not be a transient one, such as the apostles enjoyed on the mount of transfiguration, but for evermore. As it has often been pointed out, when the queen of Sheba contrasted her brief visit to Solomon's court with the privilege of those who resided there, she exclaimed, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee” (1 Kings 10:8). Such will be our blissful lot throughout the endless ages.
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
According to Moody Publishers "W. Phillip Keller was born in East Africa and always loved the wildlife and the outdoors. Having spent many years in agriculture research, land management and ranch development in British Columbia, he later pursued careers in conservation, wildlife photography, and journalism. His experiences as a shepherd equipped him with the insights that are the basis for A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.
His other titles include A Layman Looks at the Lord's Prayer, Splendor from the Sea, Lessons from a Sheep Dog, As a Tree Grows: Reflections on Growing in the Image of Christ, What Is the Father Like?: A Devotional Look at How God Cares for His Children, His Way to Pray: A Devotional Study of Prayer, Wonder O' the Wind: A Common Man's Quest for God, Joshua: Might Warrior and Man of Faith, Rabboni ... which is to say Master and A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit."
My Pastor, Brett Meador, recommended this book. I started reading it and could not put it down. It is a very small book. Still, I have divided it into 60 small chunks, hoping my family, friends and others will read a section each day and think about what they read. In other words, treat it as a Devotional. Each day's reading should take but a minute or two.
My hope and prayer is that it will arouse such interest in God's care that the reader will want more. That is the goal of lean-into-God, to start people with a daily taste of God's love hoping it will create an appetite for much more.
Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! ESV
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
R.C. Sproul | Ligonier
(Nov. 30, 2010)
(Feb. 17, 2011)
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
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