2 Samuel 8 - 12
2 Samuel 8
David’s Victories2 Samuel 8:1 After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the Philistines.
2 And he defeated Moab and he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground. Two lines he measured to be put to death, and one full line to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute.
3 David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the river Euphrates. 4 And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots. 5 And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. 6 Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went. 7 And David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 And from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took very much bronze.
9 When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, 10 Toi sent his son Joram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him, for Hadadezer had often been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze. 11 These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued, 12 from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
13 And David made a name for himself when he returned from striking down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 14 Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.
David’s Officials15 So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people. 16 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder, 17 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Seraiah was secretary, 18 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and David’s sons were priests.
2 Samuel 9
David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth2 Samuel 9:1 And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” 3 And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 4 The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6 And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” 7 And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”
9 Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.
2 Samuel 10
David Defeats Ammon and Syria2 Samuel 10:1 After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. 2 And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the Ammonites. 3 But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. 5 When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
6 When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob, 12,000 men. 7 And when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men. 8 And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the gate, and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah were by themselves in the open country.
9 When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. 10 The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. 11 And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. 12 Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” 13 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. 14 And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from fighting against the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.
15 But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together. 16 And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17 And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Syrians arrayed themselves against David and fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. 19 And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore.
2 Samuel 11
David and Bathsheba2 Samuel 11:1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16 And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. 18 Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. 19 And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, 20 then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”
22 So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. 27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
2 Samuel 12
Nathan Rebukes David2 Samuel 12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house.
David’s Child DiesAnd the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
Solomon’s Birth24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
Rabbah Is Captured26 Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city. 27 And Joab sent messengers to David and said, “I have fought against Rabbah; moreover, I have taken the city of waters. 28 Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called by my name.” 29 So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah and fought against it and took it. 30 And he took the crown of their king from his head. The weight of it was a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone, and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. 31 And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and iron axes and made them toil at the brick kilns. And thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
By James Orr 1907
NOTE C.—P. 206 | THE VIEW OF J AND E AS “SCHOOLS”
WE append a few utterances of recent writers on this subject: —
Budde says: “J and E are throughout not to me persons, but extensive schools of writers, running their course alongside of each other” ( Judges, p. xiv).
Gunkel says: “J and E are not individual writers, nor yet redactors of old single documents, but rather schools of narrators” ( Genesis, p. lviii).
Dr. Cheyne says: “The Yahwists were, in fact, perhaps a school of writers” (Founders of Criticism, p. 30).
Dr. Driver says that P “seems, as a whole, to have been the work of a school of writers rather than of an individual” ( Genesis, p. xvi), and no doubt would apply the same to J and E.
Kautzsch says: “A close examination of its (J’s) contents showed long ago that here also we have to do with various strata, and therefore with the work of a Jahwistic school” (Lit. of O.T., p. 37; similarly of E, p. 45).
McFadyen says: “More properly they (J and E) were the work of a school, and represent a literary and religious activity that ranges over a considerable period.… The priestly document … is, like the prophetic documents, not the work of a single author, but of a school, and represents a movement” (Messages of the Proph. and Priestly Historians, pp. 22, 224).
The Oxford Hexateuch, i. p. x, tabular Contents, says: “J represents a school rather than a single author.”
NOTES TO CHAPTER VIII | NOTE A.—P. 252 | THE BREAKING UP OF DEUTERONOMY
AN example is furnished in a recent work, The Book of the Covenant in Moab: A Critical Inquiry into the Original Form of Deuteronomy, by John Cullen, M.A., D.Sc. (1903), which, however, the author admits “differs radically from that which has come to be regarded almost as a tradition of criticism.” We cannot see, however, that his theory differs much in principle from some of the other modern attempts. He splits up the book into a greater number of parts than the more cautious critics have done, and seeks to assign to each its place in the total composition. The original appearance of the book he holds, with the critics, to have been in the reign of Josiah. He makes the book begin with chap. 29:1–4. He leaves out chaps. 1–4:9, and transfers chap. 5:2 to a position introductory to chap. 4:10 ff. This original Deuteronomy extended (with omissions) to chap. 11:28, but had as its conclusion chap. 28:1–45 (omitting vers. 2–9 ); chap. 30:11–20: Ex. 24:4–8 (!), and Deut. 32:45, 46. The Decalogue in chap. 5. is excised as unsuitable to the context, and is relegated to a “Decalogue Edition,” which appeared some time before the exile. The Decalogue in Ex. 20 is still later. Successive developments follow through the addition of “Law Code,” a “First Combined Edition,” a “Second or Decalogue Edition,” a “Third or Minatory Edition,” an “Exilic Redaction,” “Post-Exilic Additions,” and a “P Redaction.” If the able author is seriously persuaded that any book under heaven was ever made by such a process, we feel, with all respect, that there is hardly any common ground for argument.
Oettli is a comparatively conservative writer, who defends the unity of the main body of Deuteronomy, but even he is badly bitten when he comes to the closing chapters. The following is his analysis of chaps. 27–34. ( Deut. p. 12 ):—
27:1–3, Dt.; 4, R; 5–7a, JE; 7b, 8, R; 9–13, Dt.; 14–26, R; 28:1–68, Dt. (with reserve as to enlargements); 28:68–30:20, Dt. (with redactional changes and transpositions); 31:1–13, Dt.; 14, 15, JE; 16–22, introduction to Moses’ Song out of JE; 23, JE; 24–29, Dt.; 30, R; 32:1–44, from JE; 45–47, Dt.; 48–52, P; 33. from JE; 34:1 P, Dt. JE; 2–4, JE; 5?, 6, Dt.; 7, P, JE; 8, 9, P; 10–12 Dt.
There are elements of truth in this analysis, but it is assuredly greatly overdone.
NOTE B.—P. 253 | DEUTERONOMIC AND PRIESTLY STYLES
IN a note to the first edition of his O. T. in J. C. (p. 433), Professor W. R. Smith cites as “a good example of the fundamental difference in legal style between the Levitical law and the Deuteronomic Code,” the laws about the cities of refuge in Num. 35 and Deut. 19. The case is worth considering as “a good example” also of the tendency to overdrive argument. Allowance in any case must be made for the difference between a careful original statement of a law, and a later general rehearsal of its substance in the rounded style of free, popular discourse. But what are the specific differences? “In Deuteronomy the word ‘refuge’ does not occur, and the cities are always described by a periphrasis.” But the Deuteronomist simply says: “Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land (chap. 19:2 ); “thou shalt separate three cities for thee” (ver. 7 ); “then shalt thou add three cities more for thee” (ver. 9 ); and there is no periphrasis. The phrase “that every manslayer may flee thither” (ver. 3 ), “the manslayer which shall flee thither” (ver. 4 ), is derived verbally from Num. 35:11, 15. “In Numbers the phrase for ‘accidentally’ is bish’gaga, in Deut. bib’li da‘at.” Admitted, but the words convey the same idea, and are only used twice altogether — in Num. 35:11, 15 and in Deut. 4:42, 19:4. “The judges in the one are ‘the congregation,’ in the other ‘the elders of his city.’ ” But Deuteronomy says nothing about “judges,” and “the elders,” who are once referred to in chap. 19:12, plainly act in the name of the congregation. “The verb for hate is different.” Rather, “the verb for hate” does not occur at all in Num. 35, but the noun derived from it does (ver. 20 ), and is translated “hatred,” while in vers. 21, 22, a different term, translated “enmity,” is employed, which expresses nearly the same sense. Had these words appeared, one in Numbers, the other in Deuteronomy, instead of standing in consecutive verses of one chapter, they would doubtless have been quoted as further evidence of diversity. So “one account says again and again ‘to kill any person,’ the other ‘to kill his neighbour’ ” — a difference surely not incompatible with identity even of authorship. “Neighbour” is found repeatedly, alternating with another word, in Lev. 19. (vers. 13, 16, 18; 20:10 — P), and “to kill a person” occurs in Deut. 27:25. (Cf. the Heb. idiom in the law itself, Deut. 19:6, 11. ) “The detailed description of the difference between murder and accidental homicide is entirely different in language and detail.” But in Deuteronomy there is no “detailed description” of the kind referred to. There is in Num. 35:16–24; but Deuteronomy confines itself to one simple illustration from concrete life, admirably adapted, it will be admitted, to the speaker’s popular purpose (chap. 19:5 ). The statement in Deuteronomy, it is evident, presupposes the earlier law, and is incomplete without it, occupying only about a dozen verses, as compared with over twenty in Numbers, while even of the dozen, three are occupied with a new provision for the number of the cities being ultimately raised to nine (vers. 8–10 ). When, further, Dr. Smith points out that “ Num. 35:11–34 contains 19 nouns and verbs which occur also in Deut. 19:2–13, and 45 which do not occur in the parallel passage; while the law, as given in Deuteronomy, has 50 such words not in the law of Numbers,” he applies a numerical test which, considering the different character of the two passages, is quite misleading. We have before us the text of Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill, and his speeches made in introducing it to the House of Commons; but what havoc a similar enumeration would make of his title to the authorship of the Bill! It is not contended that Moses with his own pen necessarily wrote out all these laws, any more than that Mr. Gladstone drafted his own Bill.
We have not, in these remarks, taken any notice of Josh. 20:3–6, where the language of Num. 35 and of Deut. 19 is blended. The Deuteronomic expressions are lacking in the LXX (Vat.), and it is possible they may be a later gloss.
NOTE C.—P. 258 | DEUTERONOMY AS FRAUS PIA
ONE of Reuss’s propositions, endorsed by Wellhausen, is: “ Deuteronomy is the book which the priests pretended to have found in the temple in the time of Josiah” (Wellhausen, Hist. of Israel, p. 4).
Kuenen says: “It is certain that an author of the seventh century B.C. — following in the footsteps of others, e.g., of the writer of the Book of the Covenant — has made Moses himself proclaim that which, in his opinion, it was expedient to the real interests of the Mosaic party to announce and introduce.… Men used to perpetrate such fictions as these without any qualms of conscience.… If Hilkiah found the book in the temple, it was put there by the adherents of the Mosaic tendency. Or else Hilkiah himself was of their number, and in that case he pretended that he had found the book of the law.… It is true, this deception is more unjustifiable still than the introduction of Moses as speaking. But we must reflect here also that the ideas of those times were not the same as ours, but considerably less strict” (Rel. of Israel, ii. pp. 18–19). We fancy that the ideas of the author of Deuteronomy and of Jeremiah will compare favourably in “strictness” with those of the writer of the above section.
Cornill says: “We must recognise the fact that we have here a pseudograph, and that this was known to the persons interested.… The excuse for them must be that they saw no other means of carrying through their work, planned in the spirit of Moses and for the honour of Jahve” (Einleitung, pp. 37–8).
Colenso, as seen above (p. 258), thinks Jeremiah may have been the falsarius. “It is obvious,” he says, “that very few beside the writer may have been privy to the scheme, — perhaps only the priest Hilkiah, and possibly Huldah, and one or two others” (Pent. Pop. edit. p. 198).
Dr. Cheyne, after toying with, and half-adopting this hypothesis in his Jeremiah, in “Men of the Bible” series (pp. 76 ff.: “What he — Hilkiah — practised, however, was not deceit, not delusion, but rather illusion” p. 77), goes wholly over to it in his Founders of Criticism (pp. 267 ff.). “How is it that Hilkiah, Shaphan, and Huldah display such imperturbability? The easiest supposition is that these three persons (to whom we must add Ahikam, Achbor, and Asaiah) had agreed together, unknown to the king, on their course of action” (p. 267). “I quite enter into the dislike of reverent Bible - readers for the theory of ‘pious fraud.’ I think that dislike an exaggerated one. No student of Oriental life and history could be surprised at a pious fraud originating among priests. But I do not adopt that theory to account for 2 Kings 22.” [this is simple casuistry] (p. 271). Hilkiah’s conduct in imposing the book on Josiah is justified. “Such conduct as that of Hilkiah is, I maintain, worthy of an inspired teacher and statesman in that age and under those circumstances. It is also not without a distant resemblance to the course of Divine Providence, so far as this can be scanned by our weak faculties. Indeed, if we reject the theory of ‘needful illusion’ we are thrown upon a sea of perplexity. Was there no book [Dr. Cheyne’s own] on Jeremiah bringing home the need of this theory to the Christian conscience, to which Dr. Driver could have referred?” (p. 272). Our ideas in these days are “more strict”!
NOTE D.—P. 260 | OBLIVION OF CHARLEMAGNE’S CODE
DR. CHEYNE refers in his Jeremiah (p. 76), in illustration of 2 Kings 22, to an instance of successful forgery in the history of England given in Maine’s Ancient Law (p. 82). Dr. Green, on the other hand, cites from Sir James Stephen an apposite case of the loss of knowledge of a whole Code — that of Charlemagne. “When the barbarism of the domestic government,” says this authority, “had thus succeeded the barbarism of the government of the State, one of the most remarkable results of that political change was the disappearance of the laws and institutions by which Charlemagne had endeavoured to elevate and civilise his subjects. Before the close of the century in which he died the whole body of his laws had fallen into utter disuse throughout the whole extent of his Gallic dominions. They who have studied the charters, laws, and chronicles of the later Carlovingian princes most diligently are unanimous in declaring that they indicate either an absolute ignorance, or an entire forgetfulness of the legislation of Charlemagne” (Lects. on Hist. of France, p. 94; Green, Higher Criticism, p. 156).The Problem of the Old Testament
In Season and Out of Season
By Douglas Wilson 4/1/1999
Y2K has not always been on everyone’s lips, but it will be. For years, those who had taken the responsibility of warning others were pretty lonely. Now that we have little time left, we have mounting awareness—and mounting consternation.
In the midst of this, many pastors are wondering about their duty to their people. A few pastors have attempted an extreme solution, trying (sometimes successfully) to get their people to run for the tall grass. Sadly, many others have remained relatively complacent, and probably will remain so until the secular media give them reason to be respectably concerned, followed soon after by the panic of the unprepared. But increasingly, many pastors want to know how to be biblically responsible right where they are. And even though this is America, we have no constitutional right to easy answers.
When the center of a culture gives way, as it has in ours, we must learn to look past the obvious. For example, modern Americans tend to think that if God were to show His displeasure, it would be only through plagues, earthquakes, military disasters, or whatever. Or at least we think we know this. If asked about it, we would perhaps mutter something about biblical judgments and the four horsemen.
But another, lesser-known biblical judgment should be kept in mind. God says that He can make the heart of a people so fearful that they flee from a windblown leaf (Lev. 26:36). They run though no one pursues (Lev. 26:37). They are filled with suspense and dread (Deut. 28:66), and terror reigns within their homes (Deut. 32:25). Because of the turmoil, confusion, madness, and a despairing heart are common (Deut. 28:20, 28, 65). All these are indications that God’s hand is upon a people, and not for blessing.
Now it is crucial that we distinguish between scriptural injunctions not to panic (Phil. 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7) and the humanistic soothing that says we should not worry because nothing is wrong. Actually, plenty is wrong, but the teaching of the Bible here is that the chaos of panic is not a response to chastisement but is part of the chastisement itself. For the believer it is wrong to give way to fear, because a sovereign God is controlling all the details for His own glorious purposes.
In light of this, what should a pastor do to prepare his people? The rule of thumb is that our duties do not change with the seasons; we should begin doing all those things we should have been doing anyway. In what follows, we should hope that we find nothing drastically new.
First, the pastor must be well-informed; he should not be provincial in his reading. Too many pastors get caught up in the day-to-day administration of their churches, focused only on getting through the next Lord’s Day. But the duty of pastors in times of disorientation is to preach the Word in season and out of season. In order to do this, the pastor has to have some awareness of the nature of the disorientation. But in his political and cultural reading, he must remember that theology always comes out our fingertips. Social calamities, therefore, must not be understood as “random bad things”—our God is a God who keeps covenant, and this necessarily includes covenant blessings and curses. And this cannot be understood apart from a diligent study of Scripture and church history, up to the present. How many pastors are like the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32)?
Second, a man’s preaching does not have to be “relevant” to be relevant. When current events appear with great frequency in the pulpit, along with multiple clippings from the major news magazines, something is seriously wrong. A pastor has a duty to have the pulse of the culture in which he preaches, but when he preaches, he ascends the pulpit in order to preach the Word. But what aspects of the Word? Which topics? Which books of the Bible? In times of social distress, the most appropriate thing a pastor could do would be to cease being a “whispering Calvinist.” If there is disaster, did not the Lord do it (Amos 3:6)? In times of cultural disintegration, the best gift the people can receive is that of scriptural understanding. But if God is not completely in control, such understanding is impossible. And such understanding does not happen unless … how will they hear without a preacher? In the face of a looming Y2K crisis, the pulpit should not be filled with the looming Y2K crisis, but rather with the majesty, glory, sovereignty, goodness, severity, and mercy of almighty God.
In times of complacency, pastors too often are tempted to avoid anything that might excite “controversy.” But this is to heal the wounds of the people lightly, saying “Peace, peace” when there isn’t any. Samuel Johnson once commented that being hanged in a fortnight has a good side—it concentrates the mind wonderfully. In the same way, a social crisis like Y2K may have the salutary benefit of getting many pastors to discharge their office.
Lastly, through God’s grace, a pastor should labor to establish covenant community within the congregation. In too many modern churches, the parishoners have the same ties to one another that fellow shoppers at Sears do, which is to say, next to none. But a church should be a place where trust, knowledge, and commitment are all cultivated. The church at Jerusalem in the first century had been told that the city would be leveled. In the face of this disaster, the records show that they truly loved one another (Acts 4:33–34).
Let us hope God grants us the same gift, and that great grace will be upon us all.
Douglas Wilson (theologian)
One Day More?
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/1999
I’ve never been a great science student. My interest in science is a byproduct of my interest in philosophy. I’ve noticed that the two often intersect, however unintentionally. Newton, with his fixed laws of motion, fueled, much to his chagrin, a deistic worldview. Darwin, who turned all the world into a living and changing organism, gave rise to social Darwinism and the dialectical view of history (which results clashed mightily in the eastern front of World War 11). Einstein came along with relativity, and, surprise, the culture is swimming in relativism.
Newton, however, has not quite left us. You’ll remember his law of inertia, that objects at rest tend to remain at rest and objects in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Without this concept, science is impossible. If some apples fall and some apples float, for no reason, we just can’t be sure of anything.
But the concept of inertia has, at least in the West, infected our view of history. Perhaps aided by some degree of stability in our recent past, we have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that tomorrow will be much like today. If a worldwide depression, two world wars, and genocide around the globe haven’t wiped the smiles off our faces, we are still Enlightenment optimists. Tomorrow will be like today, we seem to think, except better.
But what if it is not? We live in an age when unstable atoms wait to be unleashed by unstable rulers and terrorists, when deadly viruses abound, both in nature and in the laboratories of madmen. We teeter on the edge of economic collapse as the wind rustles about our economic house of credit cards. And then there is that nasty bug everyone is talking about, the millennium bug. Oh, and don’t forget the all-powerful, jealous God, who must not be too pleased with us.
Tomorrow may be another step up the mountain, or we may step off a cliff. History is in the hands not of potentates and scientists, but of God. It is not just Christians who live coram Deo—we all do. He is watching us, but not from a distance. Like the sparrows, we are not to worry. But like the ant, we are to prepare for tomorrow, whatever His providence may bring.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
More Than an Exit
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2000
Death has been on my mind of late. As I write, it is just days after Ligonier Ministries lost a friend and board member, Robert Fraley, in the plane crash that took golfer Payne Stewart. And in the last three months, my wife, Denise, and I have lost two children to miscarriage. But resurrection is likewise on my mind. A few days ago, I received the best news I’ve heard in a long time. A dear friend who had ceased to be a friend, who had been judged as outside the kingdom, who had been excommunicated by her session, has repented. I feel like Mary and Martha must have felt when their beloved brother exited the grave.
Death ought to do that to us, to move our minds to think on the future. Yes, there is a time for mourning, but not as the pagans who have no hope. Death without a view to the coming resurrection is, in a word, deadly. But death in our context, remembering and looking to resurrection, is gain. There is also a time for dancing.
Our problem is that we miss both. We find ourselves caught up in the bustle of the world, that frenzied pursuit of distraction that helps us forget that the grave awaits. Rather than rejoice, we’d just prefer not to think about it.
This simply evidences our unbelief. I’ve instructed my wife as to the nature of my wake — I want it to be a party. I’ve been coram Deo. I’ve tasted the presence of God. I’ve knelt at the Lord’s Table and quaked in His presence. And I want more. My appetite for life leads me to an appetite for death. And when my King calls me from the battle, I’ll be ready to go. It’s not just that the sting is gone. It’s not just that the grave holds no victory. Jesus didn’t come to secure a mere tie with the forces of darkness. He routed them, so much so that their greatest weapon, death, becomes our great reward.
Paul’s struggle between the twin goods of serving Him on this earth and going to our — that is, His — reward is not some bizarre manifestation of super - godliness. Instead, we are called to cultivate the same attitude. We are to long to go home, to return to that country wherein we have our citizenship. If we don’t have that longing, I fear we might be just a little too much at home in this world we’re just passing through. But as one wise girl once told us, there’s no place like home.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Last Enemy
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2000
“HALT! WHO GOES THERE?”
Such might be the words of a sentry who confronts a mysterious stranger in the darkness. The sentry must discern the identity of the trespasser to determine whether he is a friend or foe. Armed to protect his territory, the vigilant guard wants to avoid two evils: 1) the entrance into the compound of an enemy bent on destruction and 2) the mistaken shooting of an ally stumbling about in the dark.
There is an intruder in our garden — the one called death. Our task is to determine whether his grin is the fiendish mask of a mortal enemy or the benign smile of a friend come to rescue us from this vale of tears. Should we greet him with strident protests or with open arms?
The Bible describes death as an enemy. It is not the only enemy of the Christian, but it is described as the “last enemy.” In 1 Corinthians, Paul affirms that Christ will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet, and the last of those enemies will be death (15:25–26). It should be a great comfort to the believer to know that the one in whom he places his trust is Christus Victor. We see this clearly in Hebrews, where the author describes Jesus as our archegos, or the “supreme champion” of His people.
The champion motif is central not only to Hebrews but to the entire Bible. We think of the famous episode of the match between David and Goliath. The Israelites and Philistines had agreed that the outcome of their war would be determined not by a full confrontation of the armies but by a contest between champions who would represent each side. Goliath, the gigantic champion of the Philistines, struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish soldiers because he appeared invincible. No one volunteered to go up against him until the shepherd boy, David, stepped forward to assume the task. His conquest of Goliath was astonishing, but it pales into insignificance when placed alongside the victory of David’s greater Son, who was also David’s Lord and David’s champion. As David went up against the power of Goliath, Jesus went up against the power of Satan himself.
Notice the link between Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 and that found in Hebrews 2.
1 Corinthians 15:26–28 says, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
Now note Hebrews 2:8ff: “For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
Both 1 Corinthians and Hebrews harken back to Psalm 8, in which the “son of man” fulfills the destiny of the Second Adam and receives from the Father dominion over creation. This placing of all things in or under subjection to Christ has both a present and a future dimension. In His ascension, Christ was invested as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is already at the right hand of the Father and reigns over all creation. But the whole of creation is not yet in willing submission or subjection to Him. In short, Christ has rebellious subjects. Satan himself is still in rebellion.
The connection between Satan and death is important: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14–15).
Here it is declared that the devil had the power of death until that power was wrenched away from him by Christ. We must remember that any power or authority Satan ever has is a delegated authority, as the ultimate authority over death and everything else is God. But Satan’s delegated authority over death is taken from him by Christ. The irony is that Christ’s victory over the devil and the power of death is accomplished by means of death. In His death, Jesus is victorious over death. Death cannot hold Him.
Yet there is still a future dimension to this victory, for Paul says that the last enemy that will be destroyed is death. He writes this years after the Cross. Thus, even though Christ dealt a mortal blow to Satan and death in His own death, there still remained a victory to be won.
Something glorious and decisive did take place on the cross with respect to death. The sting of death was removed by the captain of our salvation. Paul writes: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57).
Here is our “Champion Christology.” God gives to us a victory that we have not achieved for ourselves. It is won for us by another. Victory over Goliath is not worthy to be compared to victory over death.
So is death now our friend? Or is it still our foe? For believers, death is a friend insofar as it ushers us into the immediate presence of Christ. But insofar as it is still coupled with much suffering, it remains the last enemy that must be totally vanquished. However, our problem with death is not with death itself but with the process that leads up to it. It is dying that is still feared by Christians. What Christian would be afraid of death if we could just shut our eyes and wake up in heaven? We know that the other side of death is glory and that death is but the portal or threshold to that glory.
Paul knew the glory of death, as evidenced by his anguish and ambivalence regarding his possible departure from this life. He wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:21–24).
Paul here makes a comparison between life and death. It is not a contrast between the good and the bad. Neither is it a comparison between the good and the better. It is a comparison between the good and the far better.
Because of Christ’s conquest of death, we are called “hyper-conquerors” by Paul: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). “All these things” include life and death, and everything in between. Dominion over the curse of death is sealed for those who are beloved of Christ.
In this same passage, Paul answers his own question about what shall separate us from the love of Christ: nothing can do that, not even death. Those of us who are approaching that deadly day have nothing to fear but God Himself.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THE BOASTED MERIT OF WORKS SUBVERSIVE BOTH OF THE GLORY OF GOD, IN BESTOWING RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND OF THE CERTAINTY OF SALVATION.
The divisions of this chapter are,--I. To the doctrine of free justification is opposed the question, Whether or not works merit favor with God, sec. 1. This question answered, sec. 2 and 3. II. An exposition of certain passages of Scripture produced in support of the erroneous doctrine of merit, sec. 4 and 5. III. Sophisms of Semipelagian Schoolmen refuted, sec. 6 and 7. IV. Conclusion, proving the sufficiency of the orthodox doctrine, sec. 8.
1. After a brief recapitulation, the question, Whether or not good works merit favor with God, considered.
2. First answer, fixing the meaning of the term Merit. This term improperly applied to works, but used in a good sense, as by Augustine, Chrysostom, Bernard.
3. A second answer to the question. First by a negative, then by a concession. In the rewarding of works what to be attributed to God, and what to man. Why good works please God, and are advantageous to those who do them. The ingratitude of seeking righteousness by works. This shown by a double similitude.
4. First objection taken from Ecclesiasticus. Second objection from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Two answers to both objections. A weak distinction refuted.
5. A third and most complete answer, calling us back to Christ as the only foundation of salvation. How Christ is our righteousness. Whence it is manifest that we have all things in Christ and he nothing in us.
6. We must abhor the sophistry which destroys the merit of Christ, in order to establish that of man. This impiety refuted by clear passages of Scripture.
7. Errors, of the younger Sophists extracted from Lombard. Refuted by Augustine. Also by Scripture.
8. Conclusion, showing that the foundation which has been laid is sufficient for doctrine, exhortation, and comfort. Summery of the orthodox doctrine of Justification.
1. The principal point in this subject has been now explained: as justifications if dependent upon works, cannot possibly stand in the sight of God, it must depend solely on the mercy of God and communion with Christ, and therefore on faith alone. But let us carefully attend to the point on which the whole subject hinges, lest we get entangled in the common delusion, not only of the vulgar, but of the learned. For the moment the question is raised as to the justification by faith or works, they run off to those passages which seem to ascribe some merit to works in the sight of God, just as if justification by works were proved whenever it is proved that works have any value with God. Above we have clearly shown that justification by works consists only in a perfect and absolute fulfillment of the law, and that, therefore, no man is justified by works unless he has reached the summit of perfection, and cannot be convicted of even the smallest transgression. But there is another and a separate question, Though works by no means suffice to justify, do they not merit favor with God?
2. First, I must premise with regard to the term Merit, that he, whoever he was, that first applied it to human works, viewed in reference to the divine tribunal, consulted very ill for the purity of the faith. I willingly abstain from disputes about words, but I could wish that Christian writers had always observed this soberness--that when there was no occasion for it, they had never thought of using terms foreign to the Scriptures--terms which might produce much offense, but very little fruit. I ask, what need was there to introduce the word Merit, when the value of works might have been fully expressed by another term, and without offense? The quantity of offense contained in it the world shows to its great loss. It is certain that, being a high sounding term, it can only obscure the grace of God, and inspire men with pernicious pride. I admit it was used by ancient ecclesiastical writers, and I wish they had not by the abuse of one term furnished posterity with matter of heresy, although in some passages they themselves show that they had no wish to injure the truth. For Augustine says, "Let human merits, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ," (August. de Prædest. Sanct). Again, "The saints ascribe nothing to their merits; every thing will they ascribe solely to thy mercy, O God," (August. in Psal. 139). Again, "And when a man sees that whatever good he has he has not of himself, but of his God, he sees that every thing in him which is praised is not of his own merits, but of the divine mercy," (August. in Psal. 88). You see how he denies man the power of acting aright, and thus lays merit prostrate. Chrysostom says, "If any works of ours follow the free calling of God, they are return and debt; but the gifts of God are grace, and beneficence, and great liberality." But to say nothing more of the name, let us attend to the thing. I formerly quoted a passage from Bernard: "As it is sufficient for merit not to presume on merit, so to be without merit is sufficient for condemnation," (Bernard in Cantic. Serm. 98). He immediately adds an explanation which softens the harshness of the expression, when he says, "Hence be careful to have merits; when you have them, know that they were given; hope for fruit from the divine mercy, and you have escaped all the perils of poverty, ingratitude, and presumption. Happy the Church which neither wants merit without presumption, nor presumption without merit." A little before he had abundantly shown that he used the words in a sound sense, saying, "Why is the Church anxious about merits? God has furnished her with a firmer and surer ground of boasting. God cannot deny himself; he will do what he has promised. Thus there is no reason for asking by what merits may we hope for blessings; especially when you hear, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake,' (Ezek. 36:22). It suffices for merit to know that merits suffice not."
3. What all our works can merit Scripture shows when it declares that they cannot stand the view of God, because they are full of impurity; it next shows what the perfect observance of the law (if it can any where be found) will merit when it enjoins, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do," (Luke 17:10); because we make no free-offering to God, but only perform due service by which no favor is deserved. And yet those good works which the Lord has bestowed upon us he counts ours also, and declares, that they are not only acceptable to him, but that he will recompense them. It is ours in return to be animated by this great promise, and to keep up our courage, that we may not weary in well-doing, but feel duly grateful for the great kindness of God. There cannot be a doubt, that every thing in our works which deserves praise is owing to divine grace, and that there is not a particle of it which we can properly ascribe to ourselves. If we truly and seriously acknowledge this, not only confidence, but every idea of merit vanishes. I say we do not, like the Sophists share the praise of works between God and man, but we keep it entire and unimpaired for the Lord. All we assign to man is that, by his impurity he pollutes and contaminates the very works which were good. The most perfect thing which proceeds from man is always polluted by some stain. Should the Lord, therefore, bring to judgment the best of human works, he would indeed behold his own righteousness in them; but he would also behold man's dishonor and disgrace. Thus good works please God, and are not without fruit to their authors, since, by way of recompense, they obtain more ample blessings from God, not because they so deserve, but because the divine benignity is pleased of itself to set this value upon them. Such, however is our malignity, that not contented with this liberality on the part of God, which bestows rewards on works that do not at all deserve them, we with profane ambition maintain that that which is entirely due to the divine munificence is paid to the merit of works. Here I appeal to every man's common sense. If one who by another's liberality possesses the usufruct of a field, rear up a claim to the property of it, does he not by his ingratitude deserve to lose the possession formerly granted? In like manner, if a slave, who has been manumitted, conceals his humble condition of freedman, and gives out that he was free-born, does he not deserve to be reduced to his original slavery? A benefit can only be legitimately enjoyed when we neither arrogate more to our selves than has been given, nor defraud the author of it of his due praise; nay, rather when we so conduct ourselves as to make it appear that the benefit conferred still in a manner resides with him who conferred it. But if this is the moderation to be observed towards men, let every one reflect and consider for himself what is due to God.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 37He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The Tell El-Amarna Correspondence (cont)
One noteworthy example of the latter type is EA No. 286 from Abdi-Heba: “As truly as the king, my lord, lives, when the commissioners go forth I will say, ‘Lost are the lands of the king! Do you not hearken unto me? All the governors are lost; the king, my lord, does not have a [single] governor [left]!’ Let the king turn his attention to the archers, and let the king, my lord, send out troops of archers, [for] the king has no lands [left]! The Habiru plunder all the lands of the king. If there are archers [here] in this year, the lands of the king, my lord, will remain [intact], but if there are no archers [here] the lands of the king, my lord, will be lost!” Again in EA No. 288 he pleads, “Let the king care for his land. The land of the king will be lost. All of it will be taken from me; there is hostility to me. As for the lands of Sheeri (Seir] and even to Gintikirmal [i.e., Mount Carmel] there is no peace to all the regions, but to me there is hostility.” This obviously refers to the second phase of Joshua’s campaign, when he was subduing the central portion of Palestine (although, of course, he never took over Jerusalem itself as a permanent Hebrew possession).
Many excellent scholars who have thoroughly gone over the evidence feel certain that the Habiri of the Amarna correspondence are to be identified with the Hebrews of Joshua’s army. Edward Meyer in Geschichte des Altertums (1928) states: “The substantial identity of the Hebrews or Israelites with that part of the Habiri of the Amarna tablets who were invading Palestine in Amarna times is … beyond doubt.” As evidence he pointed to the fact that those cities whose governors maintained correspondence with Egypt according to the Amarna archives were Megiddo, Ashkelon, Acco, Gezer, and Jerusalem, precisely those cities which the Israelites were late in capturing.4 On the other hand, as F. Bohl pointed out in Kanaanaer und Hebraer (1911, p. 93), those cities which had already fallen to the Israelite advance or had joined ranks with Joshua’s forces are represented by no communications at all—cities like Jericho, Beersheba, Bethel, Gibeon, and Hebron. In connection with the solemnization of the national covenant with Jehovah at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim near Shechem (cf. Josh. 8:30–35), it is highly significant that Abdi-Hepa of Jerusalem accused that city-state of defecting to the Habiru cause (EA 289): “Or shall we do like Labayu, who gave the land of Shechem to the Habiru?” If there was some informal understanding between Joshua and the Shechemites, there would have been no difficulty about holding this religious assembly near that powerful city.
The objection has also been made that there are few names appearing in the Amarna letters which are also discoverable in the text of Joshua. With the partial exception of Japhia (Yāpɩ̄˓), king of Lachish,5 none of the royal names seems to correspond. p 294 Ingenious attempts have been made to correlate Abdi-Heba (Abdu-Heba) with Adonizedek6 but these involve major improbabilities. On the other hand, this lack of correspondence is not to be wondered at in view of the unsettled nature of the times, when local dynasts were apt to be dethroned or assassinated in swift succession. Most of the royal names given in Joshua pertain to the earliest phases of the conquest, and it may simply be that most of the Amarna letters come from a later period. In this connection it might be mentioned that one letter, EA 256, from Mut-Ba’lu of Megiddo, suggests to the Egyptian regent Yanhamu that he is on intimate enough terms with Benenima (also read as Benilima) and Yashuya to ask them the whereabouts of the prince of Pella, who has absconded to parts unknown. The question arises whether “Benenima” is equivalent to Benjamin and “Yashuya” to Joshua. Possibly the remark is ironical and rhetorical in nature and is meant to imply that the Israelite invaders have something to do with the disappearance of Ayab of Pella. Without further knowledge of circumstances, it is impossible to decide this question one way or the other.
At this point, a word should be said about the six known occurrences of the name ’Apiru (or, according to J. A. Wilson, ’Eperu) in the records of the Egyptian empire between 1300 and 1150. In three cases the ’Apiru appear as unskilled workmen in the quarries; once as temple property (in a list of temple serfs at Hieropolis in the reign of Rameses III) and once as workers at a stable. Wilson comes to the conclusion that the term was applied to foreigners in Egyptian service who occupied the status of slaves or serfs.7 In one remaining reference, however, they are mentioned as foreign mercenary p 295 troops. Hence we are to understand Apiru in the broader nonethnic sense of Habiru, just as in the cuneiform records which antedate the Amarna correspondence.
The earliest reference is found in the tomb of Puyemre in the reign of Thutmose III. Next comes the tomb of Antef, in that same reign; then it appears in a list of booty recorded in the Memphis Stela of Amenhotep II (ANET, p. 247), written at the conclusion of his second Asiatic campaign (which contains an item of 3,600 ’Apiru carried off as captives). Next, Seti I in the smaller Beth-shean Stela (cf. ANET, p. 255) records an encounter with the ’Apiru of Mount Yarumtu (i.e., Jarmuth). A Nineteenth-Dynasty story of the capture of Joppa in the reign of Thutmose III refers to the ’Apiru as potential horse stealers (ANET, p. 22). Among the offerings dedicated to the temple of Amon at Heliopolis by Rameses III is a group of slaves referred to as ’Apiru (ANET, p. 261). Rameses IV mentions 800 ’Apiru of the bowmen of ’Antiu—in this case apparently mercenaries.
From a survey of the Egyptian references, it will be easily seen that no deductions may be drawn in favor of either the early date or the late date for the Exodus. The ’Apiru of the time of Thutmose III may well have been the Israelites; those mentioned by Rameses II, Rameses III, and Rameses IV may have been Hebrews who did not join the Exodus, or who were perhaps taken captive by Egyptian raiders during the time of the Judges. As for the ’Apiru whom Amenhotep II encountered in central Palestine, they could hardly have been the Israelites themselves (who were at that time still confined to the wilderness of Sinai), but wandering freebooters who were called by the term Habiru, used in its larger and more general sense.
In conclusion we may state that while there are many problems and individual details which have yet to be cleared up, there is a sufficient agreement between the data of the Amarna correspondence and the account in the book of Joshua to establish a close connection between the two.
We Shall Be Changed
By Michael Beates 4/1/2001
I am a forty-something adult. I have arrived at that place in life where I am losing weight in my legs while my midsection seems to gain every bit of that lost weight and more. I upgraded (or downgraded) to bifocal glasses a year or two ago. I seem to be just as sore when I get up in the morning as when I went to bed the night before. That adolescent sense of immortality is fading. And I know the worst is yet to come, for as I watch my body slump into middle-agedness, I see my parents and other dearly beloved friends in much more precarious physical shape than I.
Shame on me! I am slipping into the nearly ubiquitous American and evangelical belief that this body, despite all I strive to do, will someday wilt away and I will be released as a spirit into everlasting life with the Lord. How slow we are to believe all that has been written in the Scriptures. How easily we lapse into the nearly heretical gnostic view that our bodies are bad and our souls good, our bodies are dying forever and our souls living forever.
Remember that God made us in His image, body and soul. Furthermore, Jesus Christ came in the flesh, rose bodily from the dead, and ascended bodily to the throne of heaven, where He reigns — in His immortal body. From the Resurrection accounts in the gospels, it is clear that His resurrected immortal body retained significant identification with His earthly body. Such a transformation awaits us, as well. As Paul said, “We also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body …” (Phil. 3:20b–21a). All these truths tell us that the body is a good thing.
Our minds are too often too small, our imaginations and dreams too narrow, too confined by our experience of this world. Consider the metaphor Jesus used (Mark 4:26ff; John 12:23ff) and which Paul developed (1 Cor. 15:35ff): The body is like a seed that must die in order to produce a new (yet not completely new) and different (yet not wholly other) life.
I remember the first time I grew sunflowers. We put a relatively small seed in the ground, and in days a plant sprouted that quickly passed me in height and produced a huge, heavy, beautiful flower. As we think of our resurrection bodies, the comparison of the sunflower seed to the sunflower is still a woefully inadequate image. But it is a start.
A seed is a mere shell holding the potential of so much more life when it dies, and the Scriptures seem to say our earthly tents compare to our heavenly bodies in this way. Our bodies are shells containing our souls. When we die, as with seeds, the shells fall away, somehow, however minutely, contributing to the growth of the new life. What was a sunflower essentially in a small seed is still a sunflower as a 7-foot-tall plant. There is real, physical continuity, but oh, what a change!
However, our glorification will not simply mean going from a size 12 to a size 2 heavenly body, or from being a 98-pound weakling to a brawny, buffed bruiser. Such dreams short-change the prospect of our heavenly bodies. Rather, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:40–45 that the change will mean going from perishable and corruptible to imperishable and incorruptible. It will mean going from dishonor to glory, from weakness and brokenness to strength and power, from temporal to eternal, from natural to spiritual.
I believe that if we could ever begin, however little, to grasp the prospect of our eternal, embodied existence with Christ and His people … my, how such a hope would free us to live in a new vital fashion in these temporary seeds we call bodies!
First, we would respect the dignity of our bodies as imaging God. This would impact our treatment of all people, especially those deemed by the world to be broken or not worth fixing or treating. Complex ethical decisions become surprisingly simple when one begins with the premise that every human being bears God’s image and is valuable simply in his or her being, not for what the person may be able to do later in life.
Second, grasping the truth about our bodies should propel us to think more, and more often, about heaven. The Puritans thought about heaven, and we should learn from them. Jonathan Edwards said this in his diary (May 1, 1723): “Lord, grant that from thence I may fix [my thoughts, affections, desires, and expectations] upon the heavenly state; where there is fullness of joy; where reigns heavenly, sweet, calm, and delightful love without alloy; where there are continually the dearest expressions of their love, where there is the enjoyment of the persons loved, without ever parting: where those persons who appear so lovely in this world, will be inexpressibly more lovely, and full of love to us. How sweetly will the mutual lovers join together to sing the praises of God and the Lamb.”
Now we ache, we weep from the brokenness and pain we experience. But the Christian hope is of a new body —imperishable and incorruptible; a new heart—given over fully to the love of God and His Christ; and a new mind—knowing as we are known, satisfied in our knowledge of Him. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Dr. Michael S. Beates, a former associate editor of Tabletalk, has taught at Reformed Theological Seminary, Florida Southern, and Belhaven College.
A Matter of Death and Life
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2001
We live in strange times. It used to be said that the only two things we could be certain of were death and taxes. You still can be pretty sure of taxes, but death recently has become rather more cloudy. With the advent of assorted technological wonders in the field of medicine, we can watch as a patient’s heart continues to beat even while his brain shows no activity. With the advent of widespread organ transplants, we are all the more eager to say that the recipient is dead in one sense, even while we keep him or her “alive” in another for as long as we can. Add to this the strange reports we read from those who claim to have “died” and “returned.” They say they were dead enough to be embraced by the light, but nevertheless they walk among us.
Death has become for us more like dusk than that dark night. There are, however, limits to this lack of clarity. While dusk seeks to evade the question (is it night or is it day?), we know that midnight is night and noon is day. And while the comatose, brainwaveless, but still-breathing patient may confuse us, we know that the nurses who tend to the patient are alive and the bodies that have been in cold storage for days down in the morgue are dead. That the bridge across the chasm is shrouded in fog doesn’t change the reality that there are two distinct mountains.
It’s important for us to understand this truth so that we are not drawn into the beard fallacy (in which one argues that the removal of one, then another, then another whisker will provide no definitive moment of change from beard to non-beard). It’s important because central to our faith is this conviction: Jesus died. We are not affirming that the brain-wave monitor went blank for a while. We’re not arguing that the Roman medical authorities broke their own rules and continued administering CPR for more than a half-hour. Jesus was all the way dead, midnight dead.
God ordained that the Messiah should hang from a tree before anyone had heard of crucifixion. We now know what crucifixion does to a person, the slow suffocation that makes the nails seem like child’s play. God ordained that Jesus would be pierced on His side. We see the water and the blood flowing out, a sign of a burst heart, both literally and figuratively. And then, three days in the ground. That is the one that has always puzzled me. God didn’t need three days to put Jesus back together again, any more than He needed six days to make the universe and all that is in it. It doesn’t take three days for God to muster the strength for such a miracle. But it might take three days to prove that the Resurrection was a miracle, to make us see that this death was not just dusk, but midnight dark.
Paul tells us, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17). If there is no Resurrection, our faith is vanity. And if there is no death, there can be no Resurrection. The death and resurrection of Christ are inescapably bound together. You cannot have one without the other, and you have no Christianity without both. Our faith is a historical faith, grounded not in our own efforts, not in the mystical powers of an object-less faith, but in historical events. We have peace with God because of what we believe about events that happened on a particular hill and in a particular tomb outside Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
We affirm first, contra the ancient docetists and their modern heirs, that Jesus was born a man. To die, one first must be alive. Jesus was no ghost, no phantom who only appeared as a man. Second, we affirm that this Jesus not only lived in complete obedience to the law of God, but that He did so in history and in full view of His enemies, who could lay no charge against Him. Next, we affirm that this Jesus wrought miracles in particular places and for particular people. The water was truly water, and it became truly wine. Jesus even brought life from death, most dramatically in the life of Lazarus, dead four days, decomposing, and not merely flatlined for a moment. Then He who had the power of life in Himself died, laying down His life for the sheep. He did not swoon. He did not fall into a coma. He died. There was only darkness.
He did not, however, stay dead. Three days later, this same Jesus (having a glorified body, one that was in one sense continuous with His old body, but in another sense very different) threw off the bonds of death and emerged as the first fruit of the new creation. It was not that “hope” was raised, as too many unbelieving liberal wolves will proclaim on Resurrection Sunday. It was not some sort of spirit body, as gnostics both ancient and modern have claimed. As Thomas discovered, it was an altogether human body—once dead, but now alive.
These historical truths also have soteriological meaning. The life He lived He lived vicariously for His elect. He obeyed so that we might have His righteousness. And He died for our sins, taking upon Himself the wrath of the Father for us. He was raised in vindication to prove His own innocence, to begin the new creation, and to ascend on high to put everything under His feet. When that work is complete, this same Jesus, with this same glorified body, will return to consummate His kingdom. The soteriological meaning not only does not undo the historical reality, but requires the historical reality in order to have meaning. This is the light of Resurrection Morning, a light so brilliant as to be unmistakable.
A Jesus who did not die, a Jesus who was not raised, is a Jesus who cannot save. Such is a Jesus who is foreign to the inerrant Word of God. To negotiate with these truths is to negotiate with our own souls, with our own eternity. And that is neither right nor safe. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Here we stand. We can do no other.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Resurrection and Justification
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2001
How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? To answer this question, we must first explore the use and meaning of the term justification in the New Testament. Confusion about this has provoked some of the fiercest controversies in the history of the church. The Protestant Reformation itself was fought over the issue of justification. In all its complications, the unreconciled and unreconcilable difference in the debate came down to the question of whether our justification before God is grounded in the infusion of Christ’s righteousness into us, by which we become inherently righteous, or in the imputation, or reckoning, of Christ’s righteousness to us while we are still sinners. The difference between these views makes all the difference in our understanding of the Gospel and of how we are saved.
One of the problems that led to confusion was the meaning of the word justification. Our English word justification is derived from the Latin justificare. The literal meaning of the Latin is “to make righteous.” The Latin fathers of church history worked with the Latin text instead of the Greek text and were clearly influenced by it. By contrast, the Greek word for justification, dikaiosune, carries the meaning of “to count, reckon, or declare righteous.”
But this variance between the Latin and the Greek is not enough to explain the debates over justification. Within the Greek text itself, there seem to be some problems. For example, Paul declares in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then James, in his epistle, writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (2:21) and “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24).
On the surface, it appears that we have a clear contradiction between Paul and James. The problem is exacerbated when we realize that both use the same Greek word for justification and both use Abraham to prove their arguments.
This problem can be resolved when we see that the verb “to justify” and its noun form, “justification,” have shades of meaning in Greek. One of the meanings of the verb is “to vindicate” or “to demonstrate.”
Jesus once said, “ ‘Wisdom is justified by all her children’ ” (Luke 7:35). He did not mean that wisdom has its sins remitted or is counted righteous by God by having children, but that a wise decision may be vindicated by its consequences.
James and Paul were addressing different questions. James was answering the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2:14). He understood that anyone can profess to have faith, but true faith is demonstrated as authentic by its consequent works. The claim of faith is vindicated (justified) by works. Paul has Abraham justified in the theological sense in Genesis 15 before he does any works. James points to the vindication or demonstration of Abraham’s faith in obedience in Genesis 22.
The Resurrection involves justification in both senses of the Greek term. First, the Resurrection justifies Christ Himself. Of course, He is not justified in the sense of having His sins remitted, because He had no sins, or in the sense of being declared righteous while still a sinner, or in the Latin sense of being “made righteous.” Rather, the Resurrection serves as the vindication or demonstration of the truth of His claims about Himself.
In his encounter with the philosophers at Athens, Paul declared: “ ‘Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’ ” (Acts 17:30–31).
Here Paul points to the Resurrection as an act by which the Father universally vindicates the authenticity of His Son. In this sense, Christ is justified before the whole world by His resurrection.
However, the New Testament also links Christ’s resurrection to our justification. Paul writes, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24–25).
It is clear that in His atoning death Christ suffered on our behalf, or for us. Likewise, His resurrection is seen not only as a vindication of or surety of Himself, but as a surety of our justification. Here justification does not refer to our vindication, but to the evidence that the atonement He made was accepted by the Father. By vindicating Christ in His resurrection, the Father declared His acceptance of Jesus’ work on our behalf. Our justification in this theological sense rests on the imputed righteousness of Christ, so the reality of that transaction is linked to Christ’s resurrection. Had Christ not been raised, we would have a mediator whose redeeming work in our behalf was not acceptable to God.
However, Christ is risen indeed!
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 12 Fullness Of The GentilesThe main stream of prophecy runs in the channel of Hebrew history. This indeed is true of all revelation. Eleven chapters of the Bible suffice to cover the two thousand years before the call of Abraham, and the rest of the old Testament relates to the Abrahamic race. If for a while the light of revelation rested on Babylon or Susa, it was because Jerusalem was desolate, and Judah was in exile. For a time the Gentile has now gained the foremost place in blessing upon earth; but this is entirely anomalous, and the normal order of God's dealings with men is again to be restored. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written." 
 Romans 11:25-26. The coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles must not be confounded with the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). The one refers to spiritual blessing, the other to earthly power. Jerusalem is not to be the capital of a free nation, independent of Gentile power, until the true Son of David comes to claim the scepter.The Scriptures teem with promises and prophecies in favor of that nation, not a tithe of which have yet been realized. And while the impassioned poetry in which so many of the old prophecies are couched is made a pretext for treating them as hyperbolical descriptions of the blessings of the Gospel, no such plea can be urged respecting the Epistle to the Romans. Writing to Gentiles, the Apostle of the Gentiles there reasons the matter out in presence of the facts of the Gentile dispensation. The natural branches of the race of Israel have been broken off from the olive tree of earthly privilege and blessing, and, "contrary to nature," the wild olive branches of Gentile blood have been substituted for them. But in spite of the warning of the Apostle, we Gentiles have become "wise in our own conceits," forgetting that the olive tree whose "root and fatness" we partake of, is essentially Hebrew, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
The minds of most men are in bondage to the commonplace facts of their experience. The prophecies of a restored Israel seem to many as incredible as predictions of the present triumphs of electricity and steam would have appeared to our ancestors a century ago. While affecting independence in judging thus, the mind is only giving proof of its own impotence or ignorance. Moreover, the position which the Jews have held for eighteen centuries is a phenomenon which itself disposes of every seeming presumption against the fulfillment of these prophecies.
It is not a question of how a false religion like that of Mahomet can maintain an unbroken front in presence of a true faith; the problem is very different. Not only in a former age, but in the early days of the present dispensation, the Jews enjoyed a preference in blessing, which practically amounted almost to a monopoly of Divine favor. In its infancy the Christian Church was essentially Jewish. The Jews within its pale were reckoned by thousands, the Gentiles by tens. And yet that same people afterwards became, and for eighteen centuries have continued to be, more dead to the influence of the Gospel than any other class of people upon earth. How can "this mystery," as the Apostle terms it, be accounted for, save as Scripture explains it, namely, that the era of special grace to Israel closed with the period historically within the Acts of the Apostles, and that since that crisis of their history "blindness in part is happened" to them?
But this very word, the truth of which is so clearly proved by public facts, goes on to declare that this judicial hardening is to continue only "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in;" and the inspired Apostle adds, "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant unto them." 
 Romans 11:25-26. Not every Israelite, but Israel as a nation (Alford, Gr. Test., in loco).But, it may with reason be demanded, does not this imply merely that Israel shall be brought within the blessings of the Gospel, not that the Jews shall be blessed on a principle which is entirely inconsistent with the Gospel? Christianity, as a system, assumes the fact that in a former age the Jews enjoyed a peculiar place in blessing: "Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy." (Romans 15:8-9)
But the Jews have lost their vantage-ground through sin, and they now stand upon the common level of ruined humanity. The Cross has broken down "the middle wall" which separated them from Gentiles. It has leveled all distinctions. As to guilt "there is no difference, for all have sinned;" as to mercy "there is no difference, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call on Him." How then, if there be no difference, can God give blessing on a principle which implies that there is a difference? In a word, the fulfillment of the promises to Judah is absolutely inconsistent with the distinctive truths of the present dispensation.
This question is one of immense importance, and claims the most earnest consideration. Nor is it enough to urge that the eleventh chapter of Romans itself supposes that in this age the Gentile has an advantage, though not a priority, and, therefore, Israel may enjoy the like privilege hereafter. It is part of the same revelation, that although grace stoops to the Gentile just where he is, it does not confirm him in his position as a Gentile, but lifts him out of it and denationalizes him; for in the Church of this dispensation "there is neither Jew nor Gentile."  Judah's promises, on the contrary, imply that blessing will reach the Jew as a Jew, not only recognizing his national position, but confirming him therein.
 Galatians 3:28. Contrast these with the Lord's words in John 4:22, "Salvation is of the Jews."The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that before God can act thus, the special proclamation of grace in the present dispensation must have ceased, and a new principle of dealing with mankind must have been inaugurated.
But here the difficulties only seem to multiply and grow. For, it may be asked, does not the dispensation run its course until the return of Christ to earth? How then can Jews be found at His coming in a place of blessing nationally, akin to that which they held in a bygone age? All will admit that Scripture seems to teach that such will be the case.  The question still remains whether this be really intended. Does Scripture speak of any crisis in relation to the earth, to intervene before "the day when the Son of man shall be revealed "?
 In proof of this, appeal may be made to these very prophecies of Daniel; and later prophecies testify to it still more plainly, notably the book of Zechariah.No one who diligently seeks the answer to this inquiry can fail to be impressed by the fact that at first sight some confusion seems to mark the statements of Scripture with respect to it. Certain passages testify that Christ will return to earth, and stand once more on that same Olivet on which His feet last rested ere He ascended to His Father; (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11-12) and others tell us as plainly that He will come, not to earth, but to the air above us, and call His people up to meet Him and be with Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) These Scriptures again most clearly prove that it is His believing people who shall be "caught up," (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52) leaving the world to run its course to its destined doom; while other Scriptures as unequivocally teach that it is not His people but the wicked who are to be weeded out, leaving the righteous "to shine forth in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:40-43) And the confusion apparently increases when we notice that Holy Writ seems sometimes to represent the righteous who are to be thus blessed as Jews, sometimes as Christians of a dispensation in which the Jew is cast off by God.
These difficulties admit of only one solution, a solution as satisfactory as it is simple; namely, that what we term the second advent of Christ is not a single event, but includes several distinct manifestations. At the first of these He will call up to Himself the righteous dead, together with His own people then living upon earth. With this event this special "day of grace" will cease, and God will again revert to "the covenants" and "the promises," and that people to whom the covenants and promises belong (Romans 9:4) will once more become the center of Divine action toward mankind.
Everything that God has promised is within the range of the believer's hope;  but this is its near horizon. All things wait on its accomplishment. Before the return of Christ to earth, many a page of prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, but not a line of Scripture bars the realization of this the Church's special hope of His coming to take His people to Himself. Here, then, is the great crisis which will put a term to the reign of grace, and usher in the destined woes of earth's fiercest trial – "the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
 "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13). Long ages of time and events innumerable must intervene before the realization of this hope, and yet the believer is looking for it.To object that a truth of this magnitude would have been stated with more dogmatic clearness is to forget the distinction between doctrinal teaching and prophetic utterance. The truth of the second advent belongs to prophecy, and the statements of Scripture respecting it are marked by precisely the same characteristics as marked the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah. 
 For an admirable treatise on these characteristics of prophecy, see Hengstenberg's Christology, Christology of the Old Testament: And a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, Vol. 1."The sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow" were foretold in such a way that a superficial reader of the old Scriptures would have failed to discover that there were to be two advents of Messiah. And even the careful student, if unversed in the general scheme of prophecy, might have supposed that the two advents, though morally distinct, should be intimately connected in time. So is it with the future. Some regard the second advent as a single event; by others its true character is recognized, but they fail to mark the interval which must separate its first from its final stage. An intelligent apprehension of the truth respecting it is essential to the right understanding of unfulfilled prophecy.
But having thus clearly fixed these principal landmarks to guide us in the study, we cannot too strongly deprecate the attempt to fill up the interval with greater precision than Scripture warrants. There are definite events to be fulfilled, but no one may dogmatize respecting the time or manner of their fulfillment. No Christian who estimates aright the appalling weight of suffering and sin which each day that passes adds to the awful sum of this world's sorrow and guilt, can fail to long that the end may indeed be near; but let him not forget the great principle that "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation," (2 Peter 3:15) nor yet the language of the Psalm, "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4) There is much in Scripture which seems to justify the hope that the consummation will not be long delayed; but, on the other hand, there is not a little to suggest the thought that before these final scenes shall be enacted, civilization will have returned to its old home in the east, and, perchance, a restored Babylon shall have become the center of human progress and of apostate religion. 
 Isaiah 13 appears to connect the final fall of Babylon with the great day that is coming (comp. Vers. 1, 9, 10, 19.); and in Jeremiah 1 the same event is connected with the future restoration and union of the two houses of Israel (ver. 20). I make the suggestion, however, merely as a caveat against the idea that we have certainly reached the last days of the dispensation. If the history of Christendom should run on for another thousand years, the delay would not discredit the truth of a single statement in Holy Writ.To maintain that long ages have yet to run their course would be as unwarrantable as are the predictions so confidently made that all things shall be fulfilled within the current century. Here is what so many folks just can't seem to get a hold of. It is only in so far as prophecy is within the seventy weeks; of Daniel that it comes within the range of chronology at all, and Daniel's vision primarily relates to Judah and Jerusalem. 
 No one of Daniel's visions, indeed, has a wider scope. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel treat of Israel (or the ten tribes); but Daniel deals only with Judah.The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
The Continual Burnt Offering (Proverbs 8:22-23, 29-31)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Proverbs 8:22 The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way,
Before his works of old.
23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning,
Or ever the earth was.
29 When he gave to the sea his decree,
That the waters should not pass his commandment:
When he appointed the foundations of the earth:
30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him:
And I was daily his delight,
Rejoicing always before him;
31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth;
And my delights were with the sons of men. ESV
It is easy to see in Wisdom, as personified in Proverbs 8, our blessed Lord Jesus, the eternal Wisdom. He was one with the Father from all eternity, and participated with Him in the creation of the universe. How precious to read that His “delight was with the sons of men.” He foresaw all that they would be guilty of, yet loved them still. It is a mystery far too great for our poor minds to take in. but it tells of a love that is infinite and eternal.
Colossians 3:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Ere God had built the mountains,
Or rinsed the fruitful hills;
Before He filled the fountains
That feed the running rills;
In Thee, from everlasting,
The wonderful I Am
Found pleasure never wasting,
And Wisdom is Thy name.
And couldst Thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw Thee,
slighted And nailed Thee to a tree?
And mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder
Says, “Sinner, I am thine!”
--- William Cowper
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12/1/2007 Two Kingdoms
What is the kingdom of God? It’s a simple question, yet if I were to ask that same question to a hundred theologians I would likely get a hundred different answers. The kingdom of God is not some sort of ancient or obsolete doctrine that no one has ever heard of. Rather, it is something we hear about all the time as a fundamental component of Jesus’ teaching and a primary theme throughout sacred Scripture. Although few would admit it, when most Christians think about the kingdom of God, their minds are strained to conceive of anything beyond some ethereal notion of mustard seeds, lost coins, different soils, and undefined future bliss.
However, when it comes right down to it, the kingdom of God should be more simple to define than just about any other theological term. It’s quite plain really: God reigns. Or, to say it another way: The kingdom of God is the omnipotent rule and sovereign reign of Almighty God over all things, the inauguration of which came with the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus and the fullness of which is yet to come.
Nevertheless, while it is important to have a good, biblical answer to the question, what is the kingdom of God? it is just as important to have an honest answer to the question, whose kingdom do you serve? These are the questions that are at the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount: Are you the king of your own kingdom? Are you the self-appointed potentate of your own, private little empire? You may answer with a hearty no, but does your life demonstrate that you are a servant of God or a servant of self? We all certainly want to be part of the kingdom, but most Christians want to serve the kingdom on their own terms.
As divinely appointed citizens of the kingdom of God we are foreigners in the kingdom of this world. We are real characters in the real story of redemptive history in real space and real time who have been summoned to follow the King of kings as servants, saints, and soldiers - coram Deo, before His face, in life and in death. Augustine understood this well: “We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The “Greatest Show on Earth” was a gigantic success, owned by American showman P.T. Barnum, who died this day, April 7, 1891. His biggest draw, selling 20 million tickets, was General Tom Thumb, a man only 25 inches tall. They were received by President Lincoln and even gave a command performance before Queen Victoria. The circus not being open Sundays, Barnum let his “Great Roman Hippodrome” in New York be used by D.L. Moody for major evangelistic campaigns. P.T. Barnum stated: “Most persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing too little, than by believing too much.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society
Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering but in being weary of joy.
--- Gilbert Keith G. K. Chesterton
The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 2 : The Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, St Thomas Aquinas
We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it is not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person...... the one who accepts the call of God in Christ Jesus.
--- Oswald Chambers
The Oswald Chambers Devotional Reader: 52 Weekly Themes
Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
Crime and Punishment: Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation (Vintage Classics)
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Eighth of fifth month. -- This morning the clouds gathered, the wind blew strong from the southeast, and before noon so increased that sailing appeared dangerous. The seamen then bound up some of their sails and took down others, and the storm increasing they put the dead-lights, so called, into the cabin windows and lighted a lamp as at night. The wind now blew vehemently, and the sea wrought to that degree that an awful seriousness prevailed in the cabin, in which I spent, I believe, about seventeen hours, for the cabin passengers had given me frequent invitations, and I thought the poor wet toiling seamen had need of all the room in the crowded steerage. They now ceased from sailing and put the vessel in the posture called lying to.
My mind during this tempest, through the gracious assistance of the Lord, was preserved in a good degree of resignation; and at times I expressed a few words in his love to my shipmates in regard to the all-sufficiency of Him who formed the great deep, and whose care is so extensive that a sparrow falls not without his notice; and thus in a tender frame of mind I spoke to them of the necessity of our yielding in true obedience to the instructions of our Heavenly Father, who sometimes through adversities intendeth our refinement.
About eleven at night I went out on the deck. The sea wrought exceedingly, and the high, foaming waves round about had in some sort the appearance of fire, but did not give much if any light. The sailor at the helm said he lately saw a corposant at the head of the mast. I observed that the master of the ship ordered the carpenter to keep on the deck; and, though he said little, I apprehended his care was that the carpenter with his axe might be in readiness in case of any emergency. Soon after this the vehemency of the wind abated, and before morning they again put the ship under sail.
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twenty-Ninth Chapter / How We Must Call Upon And Bless The Lord When Trouble Presses
BLESSED be Your name forever, O Lord, Who have willed that this temptation and trouble come upon me. I cannot escape it, yet I must fly to You that You may help me and turn it to my good. Now I am troubled, Lord, and my heart is not at rest, for I am greatly afflicted by this present suffering.
Beloved Father, what shall I say? I am straitened in harsh ways. Save me from this hour to which, however, I am come that You may be glorified when I am deeply humbled and freed by You. May it please You, then, to deliver me, Lord, for what can I, poor wretch that I am, do or where can I go without You? Give me patience, Lord, even now. Help me, my God, and I will not be afraid however much I may be distressed.
But here, in the midst of these troubles, what shall I say? Your will be done, Lord. I have richly deserved to be troubled and distressed. But I must bear it. Would that I could do so patiently, until the storm passes and calm returns! Yet Your almighty hand can take this temptation from me, or lighten its attack so that I do not altogether sink beneath it, as You, my God, my Mercy, have very often done for me before. And the more difficult my plight, the easier for You is this change of the right hand of the Most High.
Practical religion. The Christian life
What does that imply? You know that there are two spirits on earth. Christ said, when He spoke about the Holy Spirit: "The world cannot receive him" (John 14:17). Paul said: "We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). That is the great want in every worker--the spirit of the world going out, and the Spirit of God coming in to take possession of the inner life and of the whole being.
I am sure there are workers who often cry to God for the Holy Spirit to come upon them as a Spirit of power for their work, and when they feel that measure of power, and get blessing, they thank God for it. But God wants something more and something higher. God wants us to seek for the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of power in our own heart and life, to conquer self and cast out sin, and to work the blessed and beautiful image of Jesus into us.
There is a difference between the power of the Spirit as a gift, and the power of the Spirit for the grace of a holy life. A man may often have a measure of the power of the Spirit, but if there is not a large measure of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace and holiness, the defect will be manifest in his work. He may be made the means of conversion, but he never will help people on to a higher standard of spiritual life, and when he passes away, a great deal of his work may pass away too. But a man who is separated unto the Holy Spirit is a man who is given up to say:
Father, let the Holy Spirit have full dominion over me, in my home, in my temper, in every word of my tongue, in every thought of my heart, in every feeling toward my fellow men; let the Holy Spirit have entire possession."
Is that what has been the longing and the covenant of your heart with your God--to be a man or a woman separated and given up unto the Holy Spirit? I pray you listen to the voice of Heaven. "Separate me," said the Holy Spirit. Yes, separated unto the Holy Spirit. May God grant that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search us, and if we discover that we have not come out from the world entirely, if God reveals to us that the self-life, self-will, self-exaltation are there, let us humble ourselves before Him.
Man, woman, brother, sister, you are a worker separated unto the Holy Spirit. Is that true? Has that been your longing desire? Has that been your surrender? Has that been what you have expected through faith in the power of our risen and almighty Lord Jesus? If not, here is the call of faith, and here is the key of blessing--separated unto the Holy Spirit. God write the word in our hearts!
I said the Holy Spirit spoke to that church as a church capable of doing that work. The Holy Spirit trusted them. God grant that our churches, our missionary societies, and our workers' unions, that all our directors and councils and committees may be men and women who are fit for the work of separating workers unto the Holy Spirit. We can ask God for that too.
by D.H. Stern
but a good person gets satisfaction from himself.
15 One who doesn’t think believes every word,
but the cautious understands his steps.
One of the most painful meetings we witnessed was between a woman’s Ghost and a Bright Spirit who had apparently been her brother. They must have met only a moment before we ran across them, for the Ghost was just saying in a tone of unconcealed disappointment, ‘Oh … Reginald! It’s you, is it?’
‘Yes, dear,’ said the Spirit. ‘I know you expected someone else. Can you … I hope you can be a little glad to see even me; for the present.’
‘I did think Michael would have come,’ said the Ghost; and then, almost fiercely, ‘He is here, of course?’
‘He’s there—far up in the mountains.’
‘Why hasn’t he come to meet me? Didn’t he know?’
‘My dear (don’t worry, it will all come right presently) it wouldn’t have done. Not yet. He wouldn’t be able to see or hear you as you are at present. You’d be totally invisible to Michael. But we’ll soon build you up.’
‘I should have thought if you can see me, my own son could!’
‘It doesn’t always happen like that. You see, I have specialised in this sort of work.’
‘Oh, it’s work, is it?’ snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, ‘Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?’
‘There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.’
‘How?’ said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.
‘I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,’ said the Spirit. ‘But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want Someone Else besides Michael. I don’t say “more than Michael”, not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.’
‘Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment … and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.’
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Why are we not told plainly?
He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. --- Mark 9:9.
Say nothing until the Son of man is risen in you—until the life of the risen Christ so dominates you that you understand what the historic Christ taught. When you get to the right state on the inside, the word which Jesus has spoken is so plain that you are amazed you did not see it before. You could not understand it before, you were not in the place in disposition where it could be borne.
Our Lord does not hide these things; they are unbearable until we get into a fit condition of spiritual life. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” There must be communion with His risen life before a particular word can be borne by us. Do we know anything about the impartation of the risen life of Jesus? The evidence that we do is that His word is becoming interpretable to us. God cannot reveal anything to us if we have not His Spirit. An obstinate outlook will effectually hinder God from revealing anything to us. If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it. This obtuse stage will end immediately His resurrection life has its way with us.
“Tell no man …”—so many do tell what they saw on the mount of transfiguration. They have had the vision and they testify to it, but the life does not tally with it, the Son of man is not yet risen in them. I wonder when He is going to be formed in you and in me?
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Death Of A Poet
Laid now on his smooth bed
For the last time, watching dully
Through heavy eyelids the day's colour
Widow the sky, what can he say
Worthy of record, the books all open,
Pens ready, the faces, sad,
Waiting gravely for the tired lips
To move once -- what can he say?
His tongue wrestles to force one word
Past the thick phlegm; no speech, no phrases
For the day's news, just the one word ‘sorry';
Sorry for the lies, for the long failure
In the poet's war; that he preferred
The easier rhythms of the heart
To the mind's scansion; that now he dies
Intestate, having nothing to leave
But a few songs, cold as stones
In the thin hands that asked for bread.
There are at least two different ways of looking at natural disasters. Some people may see them as the direct result of God’s decree, but most people today would likely have a different view of God’s control over nature, not seeing natural disasters as the specific work of the Creator. Such people, in a drought, would seed the clouds, dam the rivers, and desalinate ocean water. They would not call for a day of national fasting and prayer for rain.
Nonetheless, the principle annunciated by Rabbi Ammi, that we do not overburden the community, does apply to our lives today, regardless of our theology of God and nature. In the synagogue, this ideal is seen in the way Torah scrolls are used. Rolling the Sefer Torah, the Torah scroll, to the correct place can take quite a bit of time. Doing so while the congregation sits and waits for the reading is considered a burden on the community. Thus, the Sefer Torah is rolled to the correct place for that day’s reading before the congregation arrives. Similarly, we often use two or even three Torah scrolls on special occasions so that the congregation does not have to wait while one Torah scroll is rolled from one reading to another.
The principle that we should not overburden the community is also relevant in secular life. In Congress, the entire bill being voted on is supposed to be formally read. However, after the first few sentences, some member of Congress will usually make a motion that since everyone agrees on the bill as it was printed and distributed, the formal reading can be dispensed with. The members of Congress assent so that their precious time not be wasted.
Just as we do not want to be overburdened by others, we must be careful not to cause the overburdening of others. In our jobs and in organizational work, we may create unnecessary paperwork and endless bureaucracy. Does the form really have to be filled out in triplicate? Would one sign, posted at the entrance, save overburdening workers with countless memoranda? With a little more trust in those who work under us, we could eliminate a large percentage of the countless repetitive exercises and drills that we require.
There are times when even we overextend ourselves, causing or exacerbating our own burdens. With every good intention, we sign up for several different committees, even though we cannot possibly do the work involved, and do it well. Rather than being seen as helpful volunteers and good workers, we become “dead weight” or “the albatross.” As we try to establish, or to expand, our businesses and families, we may take on too many debts and burdens. In the end, these serve to thwart our very efforts and bring us less security, rather than more. The Rabbis’ injunction not to overburden the community is a reminder to be sensitive to the needs both of others and of ourselves, for the burdens we carry can often be eased.
Text / Rav Ada bar Ahava said: “A person who committed a sin and then confesses it, but who does not stop sinning, to what can he be compared? To a person who holds a reptile in his hand, for even if he were to immerse in all the waters in the world, the immersion would not be effective. If he lets go, once he immerses in forty seahs, the immersion is immediately effective, as it says: ‘[He who covers up his faults will not succeed;] he who confesses and gives them up will find mercy’ [Proverbs 28:13]. And it says, ‘Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in heaven’ [Lamentations 3:41].”
Context / A mikveh, literally “collection” of waters, is either a natural pool or an artificially constructed one built in a prescribed way and holding at least forty seahs of naturally accumulated water. (One interpretation calculates forty seahs as the equivalent of 151 gallons.) Following the immersion, the person was again ritually pure. A mikveh is still used today in the Jewish community by those converting to Judaism, by brides prior to their weddings, by Jewish women following their monthly menstrual cycle, and by many as a way of achieving spiritual purification.
The Tractate Ta’anit deals with fasts that were undertaken by entire Jewish communities as a response to severe droughts. Many Jews believed that God was punishing the people for their sins by withholding the rains. During such a crisis, fasting, prayer, and acts of charity were considered the best ways to plead with God to relent and send rain.
In our section, the Rabbis ponder the question of what constitutes true repentance. Rav Ada bar Ahava believes that while confessing one’s sins is an important first step in the process of repentance, it cannot be the only step. One must also stop committing the sin. Rashi, in his commentary to the Gemara, explains that the sin in question here is theft. Thus, merely admitting that one had stolen something would not be a sufficient act of repentance. The thief must also return the stolen item to its rightful owner.
The Talmud drives this point home by reference to a graphic analogy connected to the ritual of immersion. A person had to be in a state of ritual purity in order to enter the Temple and participate in the sacrificial cult. One became ritually impure by contracting the skin disease known as tzara’at, through discharge from the sexual organs, through contact with the carcass of certain animals (such as reptiles, listed in Leviticus 11) or contact with a dead body. Someone who was impure had to go to the mikveh and immerse in water.
The Rabbis then considered the theoretical case of a person who immersed in the mikveh while still holding a reptile. They concluded that until the reptile was released, all the water in the world would not make the immersion in the mikveh effective. Similarly, until a person stopped the sinful behavior, the act of confessing was, by itself, meaningless.
Two verses from the Bible are brought to reinforce the dual aspect of true repentance. In the first one, from Proverbs, the Rabbis note that a person will find mercy (in other words, receive God’s forgiveness) by both “confessing” sins and “giving them up,” giving back the stolen property. Both acts—admitting one’s errors and then changing one’s ways—are required for repentance to be complete. In the second verse, the Rabbis interpret “lifting our hearts to God” as referring to prayer and confession; the “lifting of our hands,” a more physical activity, is understood to mean that we have given back anything our hands may have stolen from others.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Luke emphasized the humanity of Jesus. It is only appropriate that many of the teachings of Jesus which Luke recorded show us how to live a human life in union with God.
This portion of Luke contains some of the best-known stories about Jesus’ life. Here find the story of the Good Samaritan, the conflict between the sisters Mary and Martha, and the Lord’s Prayer. As you show how each of them is linked with Christian spirituality, you will be communicating a vital message to the members of your class or group.
Here your group members can learn to recognize the false trails down which some believers are led, and to recognize spiritual reality from spiritual illusion.
Spirituality. In the New Testament the adjective “spiritual” (pneumatikos) is contrasted with “soulish” (psychikos). The word “spiritual” is used to describe gifts, the law, the resurrection body, understanding, and the believing community, as well as a person. Thus a “spiritual” person or thing belongs to the realm of the Spirit. A spiritual person is, in essence, one who is not only indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but who also lives in obedience to the Spirit’s promptings.
Christians have historically been uncertain about the nature of the truly “spiritual” life. Is it a life without sin? A life of prayer, or fasting? A life of withdrawal? In these paragraphs of Luke we begin to understand more of what spirituality is not—and how to live our lives in union with our God.
Commentary / When I was 19, after two years of college, I joined the Navy. At Great Lakes Naval Training Station, I sat in a barber chair and became a “skinhead,” was issued my uniforms, and was introduced to Navy life.
There I received the traditional misdirection given newcomers in any special group. Left-handed wrenches and lost firing lines, and toothbrushes to scrub cracks in the barracks floor, were just some of the things I was told to fetch. And, because at first I really didn’t know what was expected in this strange new life, I was often confused enough to follow false trails. It was all so new. And I wanted to do the right thing.
In many ways it’s the same for us as Christians. To become a believer is to launch out toward a unique destiny: to become more and more like God the Father as the new life He has planted in us grows and matures. We are to learn to think and feel and be like Him.
This godly way of life we’re to learn is distinctly different from the ways we have known. It’s far more than mere morality; it’s transformation. So it is easy to become confused about the road to personal spiritual renewal. It’s easy to wander away from God’s pathway, onto sidetracks that look promising but are really only dead ends.
Luke 10 shows how Jesus began to train His followers in discipleship. He began to show them how to live a new life. His words and actions drew contrasts between the way men of the world live and the way His followers are to live. All that is reported in this section of Luke reveals both the straight and narrow path of discipleship, and the dangerous detours and illusions that keep us from our new life’s goal.
What are the false trails down which Christians wander? Perhaps members of your group have been disappointed because they have wandered down one or more of them, and missed true spirituality.
Vers. 1–12.—An evil to be shunned, and a virtue to be cultivated. Jesus had been partaking of the light forenoon meal with a Pharisee. In this Pharisee’s house he proclaimed war to the death with the bigots who had been dogging his steps. A small fire may kindle much wood. For some reason unknown to us, he had omitted the washing of hands before sitting down to meat. Instantly the whole company turned on him with scowl and sneer and shrug. And the action of the Truth incarnate, in reply to this, was the utterance of the six “woes”—scathing thunderbolts—which St. Luke has recorded between vers. 42 and 52 of the previous chapter. His utterance was the signal for something like a riot (vers. 53, 54). Ah! thou Son of Mary, thou Meekest and Lowliest, the column has turned. Hitherto thy progress has been, not without contradiction of sinners, but for the most part one of sweet poetries—unbounded the wonder and generous the admiration of the people.Thine enemies have been kept back; they have been held in restraint by the lightning which has flashed from thee. But now thou must enter on a new phase of thy ministry; henceforth the issues towards which thou hast been looking will be hastened.
“Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see the approaching sacrifice.”
“In the mean time,” whilst the dinner with its tumultuous conversation is proceeding, the crowd has so accumulated that “many thousands are gathered together.” They are so eager to hear the Prophet that some persons are trodden down. To this seething mass Christ comes forth, his heart stirred by the controversy, vehement and provocative, which single-handed he had sustained. Most natural, in view of the circumstances related, is the discourse which follows, addressed immediately to his followers, but reaching the ear of “the many thousands.” 1. First, there is the word as to “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (vers. 1–3). Hypocrisy was the evil which permeated and vitiated their action. What is meant by hypocrisy? The hypocrite is “the man who has to play a part, to maintain a reputation, to keep up a respectable position, to act consistently with the maxims of the party to which he is allied, or the profession to which he belongs.” As thus interpreted, is not the “beware!” of the afternoon long ago, a “beware!” for this day as well? “Pharisee” and “Sadducee” are words which no longer distinguish classes; but when the classes which they once designated are studied, it is found that, for what was most characteristic of each, there are correspondents among us. Let it not be supposed that the Pharisee was nothing else than a sanctimonious charlatan, a mere pretentious formalist. He was the representative of the more earnest religious spirit. The Sadducee was generally a wealthy man, one belonging to the ruling order. Content with easy and low standards, the worldly or rationalistic Jews belonged to the party comprehended by the name. The Pharisee disowned such a conception of religion. He would not have any fellowship with such latitudinarianism. To him the Law was the Law of God, and he was bent on keeping it to its minutest point. In over-zeal he even added, to the observances enjoined, observances which might be inferred or which had been added by rabbins. The traditions of the elders were, in his view, a supplement to the Law and the prophets. “It is needless,” as has well been observed, “to show that there was something in Pharisaism worthy of admiration, for this is implied in the charge brought against the Pharisees of our Lord’s time. They were accused of being hypocrites, of not being what they pretended to be; in which it is implied that, if they had really been what they seemed, they would have deserved the praise they claimed. And doubtless there were some whose goodness was more than outside show, both in the first original of the sect, and in those later times when Pharisaic culture prepared the soil on which the seeds of the gospel most readily flourished; for to this sect belonged the majority of the first converts, and the many thousands who believed are all described as ‘zealous for the Law.’ ”103 Any one playing the hypocrite will prefer the Pharisee type. The scanty clothing of the Sadducee will not suit; the fitting dress is the long robe and the well-phylacteried garment of the Pharisee. The devil’s homage to truth, which hypocrisy has been declared to be, is more becomingly rendered in such a garb. A part-actor! Ah! we need to be reminded that this is a character still to be found in the religious world. Bunyan introduces us to persons who are not mere fictions—My Lord Turn-about, my Lord Fair-speech, Mr. Smoothman, Facing-both-ways, the parson Mr. Two-tongues; the points in which all agree being “that they never strive against wind and tide, and that they are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers.” A part-actor! Almost unconsciously, we play a part which marks an excess of what we have ourselves verified—a part beyond, if not covering, the very thought of the soul. “Beware of the leaven!” Milton describes hypocrisy as “the only evil that walks invisible except to God alone.” To be real, not to be a Mr. Facing-both-ways, is one of the great lessons of the life of Christ. In any diagnosis of human nature, we must remember the mixture to be found in character. Few persons intend, deliberately and systematically, to lie to God and man. The Pharisees whom our Lord condemned were not—at least we may in charity so suppose—intentionally false. If they prayed to be seen of men, we need not imagine that they secretly mocked at and disbelieved in the duty of prayer. The leaven was the endeavour to maintain a reputation with which they were credited; so much had this endeavour gained on them, that they were far more anxious about it than about their possession of truth in the inward parts. And thus they became part-actors. Now, so with regard to ourselves and our fellow-men. A person is observed doing, in some directions or at some times, what is inconsistent with his conduct at other times or in other directions. And worldly minded people, always eager to scent blemishes, cry out, “Hypocrite!” This is a harsh, and may be a wrong, judgment. A lapse from the standard aimed at does not evidence insincerity. Nay, those who observe most closely the facts of life, can often trace what seems a twofoldness of self. The Apostle Paul in a most striking passage (Rom. 7) has described the struggle in his own heart, the contending laws, the spiritual and the carnal, the oppositions and thwartings of the sin that dwelt in him—oppositions so fierce that it seemed as if he were sold under sin. “O wretched man that I am!” he cries. His hope, his triumph, is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Looking up to Jesus Christ, he saw his right and higher self; looking down on the evil ever present with him, on the body of death in which he appeared to be enslaved, he saw the lower and the wrong self. “I myself with the mind serve the Law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” The one feature in this portrait is the determination of the will. That was God’s; the deflections from it were the signs of an alien force from which he wished to be free. So long as this feature is predominant, the sanctification may be imperfect, but the life is true. What constitutes hypocrisy is appearing to be what one is not, concealing the want of piety in the heart under the cloke of piety in the action; such a study of outward effect that the conduct gradually becomes a tissue of dishonesties. This posing to be something and this anxiety about the pose rather than the truth, constitute the leaven of hypocrisy. “Be no part-actor,” says Christ (vers. 2, 3); “be no whisperer in darkness, be no mutterer in the ear in inner chambers. Be not one thing in secret, and another thing in public. Keep clear of pretences of all sorts. Remember, concealment cannot avail. Walls have ears. The universe has its libraries on which all that is whispered is written. And there is an Eternal Truth to whom ‘all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.’ ” 2. Next, there is the word as to courage. Is it not the word which we might expect from him who had defied the most compact order in the land? Listen to the Christian’s “Fear not,” and the Christian’s “Fear.” “Fear not man, having power only over the body” (ver. 4). Have the courage of your convictions. Trust in God and do the right. Fear God (ver. 5). Fear not to speak the truth; fear to tell the lie. “Yea, I say unto you, fear the Eternal Righteousness.” The lesson is enforced by three considerations. (1) The value to God of every true and honest life (vers. 6, 7). Not one sparrow is forgotten, not one of the tiniest and least valued of God’s creatures is outside his care. Every hair on your head is numbered. You are dear to God. He is waiting for you to work with him. The life of each of you is of value to him. Fear not. (2) The danger of trifling with conviction (vers. 8–10). Do not refuse, for some fear of man, to give effect to it. You may possibly, says the Lord, quench the Holy Spirit. This was the sin of the Pharisees. This is the unpardonable sin. A word against Jesus may be spoken “ignorantly in unbelief;”and the Redeemer says, “Father, forgive; for they know not what they do.” But to shut the eye to the light, to refuse to see light as light, to sophisticate the voice of God’s Spirit speaking through reason and conscience, this is to destroy the possibility of spiritual health. Christ says to the disciples, “To confess me before men, no matter what the consequences to yourselves, is to deliver your souls, is to realize the confession in heaven; to deny me is to lose the fellowship of the holy angels, is to approach the confines of the sin which shall not be forgiven.” (3) The support assured for all testimony to him (vers. 11, 12). God is ever on the side of the true. Christ bids those who confess him dismiss anxiety when brought to “synagogues, magistrates, and powers.” They are never alone. Moses, the stammering, had his Aaron with him when he went in unto Pharaoh. A Mightier than Aaron is with the most timid and stammering of the confessors of the kingdom of God. “The Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”
Vers. 13–31. — Worldliness. To the earnest teacher nothing can be more irritating than a half-attentive attitude or a remark which indicates preoccupation of mind with other and inferior things. Think of Christ, towards the close of a day of controversy with the Pharisees, and in the midst of solemn speech as to the duty of a true man, invited on a sudden to decide in a family quarrel, to settle a dispute about some money or some acres of soil. We know nothing about the person who appealed to him (ver. 13) — “one out of the multitude.” But it is evident that, while the discourse proceeded, he had been engrossed with the consideration of his own rights and interests; like many who may be in the multitude thronging around Jesus, but are secretly busied with their own concerns—earth-grubs, intent only on getting all they can get from others for themselves. The abrupt reply (ver. 14) shows the displeasure of the Lord. It is a reply of reproof; it is a reply of instruction also. God has a great variety of spheres and ministries for men, and the Son of God will not contravene his Father’s ordering. The judge, the measurer, the arbiter as to property, is a Divine calling. Those who are entrusted with it are God’s servants. The State is no less sacred than the Church. Let each realize its own place, and each respect the other—the State looking to the Church as the expounder of the eternal principles, the Church looking to the State as charged with government and the settlement of the issues between man and man. “My kingdom,” says the Christ, “is not of this world.” The incident gives a new direction to the teaching of Jesus. It is a disclosure of the mind against which he must warn his followers. And then follows one of the most solemn and beautiful of expositions— that in which the Lord conveys his great lesson as to worldliness. Observe (1) the more public instruction between vers. 15 and 21; and (2) the more private instruction, specially addressed to the disciples, between vers. 21 and 32. The more public is the admonition concerning covetousness; the more private is the admonition concerning carefulness. The two types of the one spirit—worldliness.
JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration
For all such reasons, Scripture came to be a major focus of attention in the Second Temple period. But Scripture needed to be interpreted in order to be understood. So it was that a new figure emerged in Judean society, the biblical interpreter, and he would soon become a central force in postexilic society.
One of our first glimpses of this new figure at work is found in the biblical account of Ezra’s public reading of the Torah to the assembled returnees in Jerusalem:
When the seventh month came—the people of Israel being settled in their towns—all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the Law. The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose.… And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. So they read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Neh. 7:73b–8:8)
A few things stand out in this account. It is not at Ezra’s initiative, but that of the people, that this great public reading is said to have taken place. Apparently, “all the people” knew that this great book of law (presumably our Pentateuch) existed, but they were still somewhat fuzzy about its contents. So they willingly stood for hours, “from early morning until midday,” in order to hear its words firsthand. It is remarkable that this assembly included “both men and women and all who could hear with understanding,” that is, children above a certain age: the Torah’s words were, according to this passage, not reserved for some elite, or even for the adult males of the population, but were intended for the whole people to learn and apply. But—most significantly for our subject—this public reading is accompanied by a public explanation of the text. The Levites “helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places”; thus, “they read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation.”
Why should Scripture have needed interpreters? No doubt the need began with very down-to-earth matters. After all, every language changes over time, and by the Second Temple period some of the words and expressions used in preexilic texts were no longer understood. Even such basic concepts as get, take, need, want, time, and much were expressed with new terms by the end of the biblical period; the old words had either shifted their meaning or dropped out of the language entirely. Under such circumstances, some sort of interpreter would be necessary to make the meaning of the ancient text comprehensible. The same was true with regard to other things—names of places that no longer existed or historical figures or events long forgotten or social institutions that had ceased to be.
In addition to such relatively mundane matters, however, interpreters ultimately came to address far broader and more consequential questions. As already discussed, the returning exiles had looked to texts from the ancient past in order to fashion their own present, and this way of approaching Scripture as prescriptive for the present went on long after the return from exile was an established fact; interpreters continued to look to these ancient writings for a message relevant to their own day. But at first glance, at least, much of Scripture must have seemed quite irrelevant. It talked about figures from the distant past: what importance could their stories have to a later day other than preserving some nostalgic memory of people and events long gone? Why should anyone care about laws forbidding things that no one did any more anyway, indeed, things that no one even understood anymore? Part of the interpreter’s task was thus to make the past relevant to the present—to find some practical lesson in ancient history, or to reinterpret an ancient law in such a way as to have it apply to present-day situations, sometimes at the price of completely distorting the text’s original meaning. It appears that interpreters only gradually assumed these functions, but as time went on, they became more daring in the way they went about things while, at the same time, settling into a more important and solid niche in Judean society.
In the case of Ezra’s reading, we have no way of knowing what sort of interpretation was involved. Was it a matter of explaining an odd word or phrase here or there? Or were the interpreters (as one ancient Jewish tradition has it) actually translating the whole text word-for-word, presumably into Aramaic, then the lingua franca of the Near East? Or did they go beyond even this, explaining how this or that biblical law was to be applied—what was involved in “doing no work” on the Sabbath, for example?
A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
--- Proverbs 18:14.
This world is not the Garden of Eden, and you cannot make it to be so. ( Twelve Sermons for the Troubled and Tried ) It is like that garden in this respect, that the serpent is in it, and the trail of the serpent is over everything here.
[Thus,] everyone will have to bear a weakness of some sort or other. To bear that weakness is not difficult when the spirit is sound and strong. The spirit that will best bear weakness is, first of all, a gracious spirit worked in us by the Spirit of God. If you want to bear your trouble without complaining, if you want to sustain your burden without fainting, you must have the life of God within you, you must be born again, you must be in living union with him who is the Strong One and who, by the life that he implants within you, can give you from his own strength. I do not believe that anything but that which is divine will stand the wear and tear of this world’s temptations and of this world’s trials and troubles.
Further, I think that a sound spirit that can sustain weakness will be a spirit cleansed in the precious blood of Christ. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all” (Hamlet), and it is only when conscience is pacified by the application of the sprinkled blood that we are able to sustain our weaknesses. Haven’t you sometimes felt that if you had to spend the rest of your life in a dungeon and to lie there, as John Bunyan would have said, till the moss grew on your eyelids, yet, as long as you were sure that you were cleansed from sin by the precious blood of Christ, you could bear it all? Take sin away and give me a spirit washed in the fountain filled with blood, and I can patiently go through anything and everything, the Lord being my Helper.
Next, a [sound] spirit exercises itself daily to a growing confidence in God. The spirit that is to sustain weakness is not a spirit of doubt and fear and mistrust. There is no power about such a spirit as that; it is like a body without bone or sinew or muscle. Strength lies in believing. Someone who can trust can work; someone who can trust can suffer.
I must also add my belief that no spirit can so well endure sickness, loss, trial, sorrow, as a perfectly consecrated spirit. The person who lives only for God’s glory looks to see not how to comfort herself or himself but how to most successfully fight the Master’s battles.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Ordeal by Fire April 7
How could the crowd that cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday have crucified him on Friday? How can public opinion turn so quickly? That’s what Jerome Savonarola asked on April 7, 1498. He lived in Florence during the height of the Italian Renaissance. His flashing dark eyes and blazing sermons electrified the city. Throngs waited for hours for cathedral doors to open, and thousands clung to his every word. “I preach the regeneration of the church,” he thundered, “taking the Scriptures as my sole guide.”
Eventually Savonarola became city-manager and made Florence a republic. He initiated tax reforms, aided the poor, cleaned up the courts, and changed the city to a virtual monastery. He inspired the populace to build bonfires for burning pornographic books and gambling equipment. Having reformed Florence, he rebuked the clergy, denouncing papal corruptions. When Pope Alexander VI excommunicated him, he demanded the pope’s dismissal.
A Franciscan proposed an “ordeal by fire” to settle the matter. In this medieval custom a man was forced to walk between walls of fire, and his survival or death was deemed to indicate God’s favor or disfavor. Savonarola’s close friend Fra Domenico agreed to walk through the fire, and the ordeal was set for April 7. Great preparations were made as the news spread across Italy. Two rows of wood, laid out for 60 feet, were soaked with oil. The two feet between them was just wide enough for a man to pass. The excitement was tremendous, and people began to arrive the night before. Windows and roofs adjoining the square overflowed with people. The ordeal was set for 11 A.M.
But the hour came and went. The impatience of the crowds increased as Savonarola delayed sending Domenico out. A storm rose and fell. Evening came, and the crowd rioted when the ordeal was called off. Savonarola’s power was gone. He was arrested, tortured, and shortly afterward executed on the same public square where the ordeal was to have occurred. The crowd who honored him as a prophet and appointed him a statesman made him in the end a martyr.
These unfaithful prophets claim that I have given them a dream. … Their dreams and my truth are as different as straw and wheat. But when prophets speak for me, they must say only what I have told them. My words are like a powerful fire; they are a hammer that shatters rocks.
--- Jeremiah 23:25a,28,29.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - April 7
"O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?" --- Psalm 4:2.
An instructive writer has made a mournful list of the honours which the blinded people of Israel awarded to their long expected King.
1. They gave him a procession of honour, in which Roman legionaries, Jewish priests, men and women, took a part, he himself bearing his cross. This is the triumph which the world awards to him who comes to overthrow man’s direst foes. Derisive shouts are his only acclamations, and cruel taunts his only paeans of praise.
2. They presented him with the wine of honour. Instead of a golden cup of generous wine they offered him the criminal’s stupefying death-draught, which he refused because he would preserve an uninjured taste wherewith to taste of death; and afterwards when he cried, “I thirst,” they gave him vinegar mixed with gall, thrust to his mouth upon a sponge. Oh! wretched, detestable inhospitality to the King’s Son.
3. He was provided with a guard of honour, who showed their esteem of him by gambling over his garments, which they had seized as their booty. Such was the body-guard of the adored of heaven; a quaternion of brutal gamblers.
4. A throne of honour was found for him upon the bloody tree; no easier place of rest would rebel men yield to their liege Lord. The cross was, in fact, the full expression of the world’s feeling towards him; “There,” they seemed to say, “thou Son of God, this is the manner in which God himself should be treated, could we reach him.”
5. The title of honour was nominally “King of the Jews,” but that the blinded nation distinctly repudiated, and really called him “King of thieves,” by preferring Barabbas, and by placing Jesus in the place of highest shame between two thieves. His glory was thus in all things turned into shame by the sons of men, but it shall yet gladden the eyes of saints and angels, world without end.
Evening - April 7
"Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness."Psalm 51:14.
In this SOLEMN CONFESSION, it is pleasing to observe that David plainly names his sin. He does not call it manslaughter, nor speak of it as an imprudence by which an unfortunate accident occurred to a worthy man, but he calls it by its true name, bloodguiltiness. He did not actually kill the husband of Bathsheba; but still it was planned in David’s heart that Uriah should be slain, and he was before the Lord his murderer. Learn in confession to be honest with God. Do not give fair names to foul sins; call them what you will, they will smell no sweeter. What God sees them to be, that do you labour to feel them to be; and with all openness of heart acknowledge their real character. Observe, that David was evidently oppressed with the heinousness of his sin. It is easy to use words, but it is difficult to feel their meaning. The fifty-first Psalm is the photograph of a contrite spirit. Let us seek after the like brokenness of heart; for however excellent our words may be, if our heart is not conscious of the hell-deservingness of sin, we cannot expect to find forgiveness.
Our text has in it AN EARNEST PRAYER—it is addressed to the God of salvation. It is his prerogative to forgive; it is his very name and office to save those who seek his face. Better still, the text calls him the God of my salvation. Yes, blessed be his name, while I am yet going to him through Jesus’ blood, I can rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The psalmist ends with A COMMENDABLE VOW: if God will deliver him he will sing—nay, more, he will “sing aloud.” Who can sing in any other style of such a mercy as this! But note the subject of the song—“THY RIGHTEOUSNESS.” We must sing of the finished work of a precious Saviour; and he who knows most of forgiving love will sing the loudest.
Avis B. Christiansen, 1895–1985
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left. (Luke 23:33)
A Hill with Three Crosses---
One cross where a thief died IN SIN
One cross where a thief died TO SIN
A center cross where a Redeemer died FOR SIN
It is thought that the day we call “Good Friday” originated from the term “God’s Friday”—the day that Christ was led to the hill of Golgotha and crucified, assuring an eternal reconciliation for lost man. The Roman cross, intended to be an instrument of cruel death, instead became an instrument of new life and hope for the human race. God loved and valued each of us so highly that He was willing to pay the greatest price imaginable for our salvation.
The composer of this hymn, Harry Dixon Loes, was a popular music teacher at the Moody Bible Institute from 1939 until his death in 1965. One day while listening to a sermon on the subject of Christ’s atonement entitled “Blessed Redeemer,” Mr. Loes was inspired to compose this tune. He then sent the melody with the suggested title to Mrs. Christiansen, a friend for many years, asking her to write the text. The completed hymn first appeared in the hymnal Songs of Redemption in 1920.
Mrs. Avis Christiansen is to be ranked as one of the important gospel hymn writers of the 20th century. She has written hundreds of gospel hymn texts as well as several volumes of published poems. Throughout her long lifetime of 90 years, Mrs. Christiansen collaborated with many well-known gospel musicians to contribute several other choice hymns to our hymnals, including “Blessed Calvary” and “I Know I’ll See Jesus Some Day.”
Up Calv’ry’s mountain, one dreadful morn,
walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;
facing for sinners death on the cross,
that He might save them from endless loss.
“Father, forgive them!” thus did He pray,
e’en while His life-blood flowed fast away;
praying for sinners while in such woe—
no one but Jesus ever loved so.
O how I love Him, Savior and Friend!
How can my praises ever find end!
Thru years unnumbered on heaven’s shore,
my tongue shall praise Him forevermore.
Chorus: Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer!
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree,
wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading—
blind and unheeding—dying for me!
For Today: Matthew 27:39–43; John 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Colossians 2:13–20.
Since Christ has paid the price of our redemption in full, all we have to do is believe, receive, rejoice and represent Him. Reflect on this musical truth ---
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Chapter 09 1 Peter 5:10, 11 – Part 3
Having considered in the two previous chapters the supplicant, setting, Object, and plea of this prayer, let us now contemplate, fifthly, its petition: “the God of all grace make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The proper force of the Greek grammar would make the petition read like this: “the God of all grace Himself make you perfect: Himself stablish you, Himself strengthen you, Himself settle you.” There is far more contained in these words than appears on their surface. The fullness of their meaning can be discovered only by a patient searching of the Scriptures, thereby ascertaining how the several terms are used in other passages. I regard the words “Himself make you perfect” as the principal thing requested. The three words that follow are in part an amplification and in part an explanation of the process by which the desired end is reached, though each of the four words requires to be considered separately. Ancient expositors, who went into things much more deeply and thoroughly than many of our modern expositors do, raised the question as to whether this prayer receives its fulfillment in the present life or in the life to come. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of their arguments, I have concluded — taking into view the remarkable scope of the Greek word katartizō (no. 2675 in Strong and Thayer), here rendered make perfect — that this petition is granted in a twofold answer: here and hereafter. I shall therefore take in both in my comments.
Two Relevant Significations
Katartizō signifies to make perfect (1) by adjusting or articulating so as to produce a flawless object; or (2) by restoring an object that has become imperfect. That you may be enabled to form your own judgment, I shall set before you the passages in which the Greek word is variously translated elsewhere. In each passage quoted the word or words placed in italics is the English rendering of the Greek word translated make perfect in our text. When the Savior says, “a body hast thou prepared me [or “thou hast fitted me,” margin]” (Heb. 10:5, brackets mine), we are to understand, as Goodwin said, that “that body was formed or articulated by the Holy Spirit, with the human soul, in all its parts, in one instant of its union with the Son of God,” and that it was immaculately holy, impeccable, and without spot or blemish. Katartizō is used again to express the finishing and perfect consummation of God's work of the first creation: “the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Heb. 11:3,). That is to say, they were so completed that nothing more was needed for their perfection; for as Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
But this same Greek word has a very different sense in other passages. In Matthew 4:21 it is found in the phrase “mending their nets,” in which it denotes the repairing of what had been damaged. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1,). In this text it signifies a restoring such as of a limb that is out of joint. No doubt this was one of the significations that the Apostle Peter had in mind when he wrote this prayer, for those for whom he prayed had been disjointed or scattered by persecutions (1 Peter 1:1, 6, 7). Paul also had this shade of meaning before him when he exhorted the divided Corinthians to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10,). Again, the word is sometimes used to express the supply of a deficiency, as it does in 1 Thessalonians 3:10: “that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith”. The word lacking implies a deficiency. Once more, the word occurs in Hebrews 13:2 1: “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight.” Here the apostle prays that the saints might advance to further degrees of faith and holiness in this life.
Our Being Made Perfect Has to Do with the Process of Sanctification
It will thus appear, from its usage in other passages, that the Greek word rendered make perfect in 1 Peter 5:10 may yield a significance something like this: “The God of all grace Himself make you perfect in all these successive degrees of grace that are necessary in order for you to reach spiritual maturity.” This significance does not necessarily imply any personal fault or failure in those prayed for, just as a child is not to be blamed for not having yet reached the full stature of an adult or not having attained to the knowledge that comes with mature manhood. It is with this principle in mind that God has promised to bring to perfection the good work He has begun in the souls of His people (Phil. 1:6). A Christian may walk up to the measure of grace received from above without any willful divergence in his course, and still be imperfect. This was the case with the Apostle Paul, one of the most favored of God's children, who confessed, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Phil. 3:12). There have been, and are, some privileged souls who never left their first love, who have followed on swiftly in pursuing the knowledge of the Lord, and who (as to the general tenor of their lives) have carried themselves according to the light received. Yet even these have needed further additions of wisdom and holiness to make them more fruitful branches of the Vine and to move them ever in the direction of a consummation of holiness in heaven.
An example of this appears in the case of the Thessalonian saints. Not only had they experienced a remarkable conversion (1 Thess. 1:9), but they conducted themselves in the most God-honoring and exemplary manner so that the apostle gave thanks to God always for them on account of their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 2, 3). Not only were their inward graces healthy and vigorous, but in their outward conduct they were made “ensamples [patterns] to all that believe” (v. 7,). Nevertheless, Paul was most anxious to visit them again, that he might perfect that which was lacking in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10). He longed that they might be blessed with further supplies of knowledge and grace that would promote a closer walking with God and a greater resistance to and overcoming of temptations. To that faith which rests on Christ for pardon and acceptance with God, which He bestows at conversion, there is also a conscious faith that lays hold of our acceptance with God. Paul refers to this as the “full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2). With this blessed assurance God gives us the rich experience of “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) and the making of our calling and election sure, so that an abundant entrance into His kingdom is begun in this life (2 Peter 1:10, 11). Yet this perfecting also applies to the recovery and restoration of lapsed Christians, as is evident from Peter's own case.
Peter Prays for the Establishing or Confirming of Their Faith
But suppose that God should thus mend and restore those overtaken in a fault, yet might they not fall again? Yes indeed, and evidently Peter had such a contingency in view. Thus he adds the word “stablish.” Peter longed that they should be so confirmed in their faith that they would not fall away. For the fickle and vacillating it was a request that they should be no more tossed to and fro, but fixed in their beliefs. For the discouraged that, having put their hands to the plow, they should not look back because of the difficulties of the way. For those who were walking closely with the Lord, that they might be established in holiness before God (1 Thess. 3:13); for the most spiritual are daily in need of supporting grace. The Greek word (stērizō no. 4741 in Strong and Thayer) in a general way signifies to make firm or confirm. It occurs in Christ's words in Luke 16:26, “there is a great gulf fixed”. It is found again in connection with Christ and is translated, “he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51,). It is the word directed by the Lord to Peter himself: “and when thou art converted, strengthen [or “fix firmly”] thy brethren” (Luke 22:32, brackets mine). Our Lord was commissioning Peter in advance to reestablish those of his fellow disciples who also would yield to the temptation to deny their Master. Likewise, Paul desired to establish and comfort concerning their faith the Thessalonian saints, and that in relation to temptation or trial (1 Thess. 3: 1-5).
Peter Prays that God Will Impart Moral Strength to Them
But though we may be so confirmed by the grace of God that we cannot totally and finally fall away, yet we are weak and may be laboring under great infirmities. Therefore the apostle adds to his petition the word “strengthen.” This Greek verb (sthenoō, no. 4599 in Strong and Thayer) is not used elsewhere in the New Testament, but from its position here between “stablish” and “settle” it appears to have the force of invigorating against weakness and corruptions. I am reminded of the prayer that Paul offered on behalf of the Ephesians, that they would be “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). Paul employs a negative noun (asthenēs, no. 772 in Strong and Thayer), formed from the same root, in Romans 5:6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”. In our unregenerate state we were entirely devoid of ability and enablement to do those things that are pleasing to God. Not only is the state of spiritual impotency of an unregenerate soul called being “without strength,”but the state of the body when dead is expressed by a noun (astheneia, no. 769) derived from asthenēs (no. 772). “It is sown in weakness,”that is, it is lifeless, utterly devoid of any vigor. But, by contrast, “it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43); that is, it is to be endued and furnished with all the abilities of rational creatures, even such as the angels have (Luke 20:36) who “excel in strength” (Ps. 103:20). Thus, this request for the strengthening of the saints is to be understood as supplies of grace that will energize weak hands and feeble knees and enable them to overcome every opposing force.
Peter Prays that They May Be Settled In Faith, Love, and Hope
Though we be confirmed so that we shall never be lost, and though we be strengthened to bear up against trials, yet we may become shaky and uncertain. Therefore Peter adds the word “settle” to his petition. He is concerned that they be unremitting in their faith in Christ, love toward God, and hope of eternal glory. The Greek verb (themelioō, no. 2311) is rendered founded in Matthew 7:2 5, lay the foundation of in Hebrews 1:10, and grounded in Ephesians 3:17. In our text it appears to be used as the opposite of waverings of spirit and doubtings of heart. Peter is saying something like this: I pray that you may be able confidently to say, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12), and that you turn not from the path of duty because of the opposition you encounter. No matter how good the tree, if it be not settled in the earth, but moved from place to place, it will bear little or no fruit. How many might trace the unfruitfulness of their lives to the unsettled state of their hearts and judgments! David could say, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed,” and therefore he added, “I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). This, too, is a blessing that God alone can impart. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you,” says Paul (Rom. 16:25). Yet, as Deuteronomy 28:9 and 2 Chronicles 20:20 show, we must use the appointed means.
“Himself make you perfect: stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The ultimate object seems to be mentioned first, and then the steps by which it is to be reached. But whether regarded in conjunction or singly, they all have to do with our practical sanctification. The piling up of these emphatic terms indicates the difficulty of the Christian's task and his urgent need of constant supplies of Divine grace. The saint's warfare is one of no common difficulty, and his needs are deep and many; but he has to do with “the God of all grace”! Therefore, it is both our privilege and duty to draw upon Him by importunate supplication (2 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 4:16). God has provided grace answerable to our every need, yet it flows through the means He has appointed. God will “perfect: stablish, strengthen, settle” us in response to fervent prayer, by the instrumentality of His Word, by His blessing to us the various ministries of His servants, and by sanctifying to us the discipline of His providences. He who has given His people a sure hope will also give everything necessary to the realization of the thing hoped for (2 Peter 1:3); but it is uniquely our part to seek the desired and necessary blessing by prayer (Ezek. 36:37).
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
To a great extent the Bible is a collection of books written by men of humble origin, who penned under the guidance of God’s Spirit. Much of its terminology and teaching is couched in rural language, dealing with outdoor subjects and natural phenomena. The audience to whom these writings were originally addressed were, for the most part, simple, nomadic folk familiar with nature and the outdoor life of the countryside about them.
Today this is not the case. Many who either read or study the Scriptures in this twenty-first century come from an urban, man-made environment. City people, especially, are often unfamiliar with such subjects as livestock, crops, land, fruit, or wildlife. They miss much of the truth taught in God’s Word because they are not familiar with such things as sheep, wheat, soil, or grapes.
Yet divine revelation is irrevocably bound up with the basic subjects of the natural world. Our Lord Himself, when He was amongst us, continually used natural phenomena to explain supernatural truth in His parables. It is a sound, indisputable method, both scientifically and spiritually valid.
All this is understandable and meaningful when we recognize the fact that God is author and originator of both the natural and supernatural (spiritual). The same basic laws, principles, and procedures function in these two contiguous realms.
Therefore, it follows that to understand one is to grasp the parallel principle in the other.
It must be stated here that it is through this type of scriptural interpretation that my own understanding of the Bible has become meaningful. It explains in part, too, why truths that I shared with various audiences have been long remembered by them with great clarity.
Accordingly, I make no apologies for presenting this collection of “shepherd insights” into the well-known and loved—but often misunderstood—twenty-third Psalm.
This book has been developed against a rather unique background, which has perhaps given me a deeper appreciation than most men of what David had in mind when he wrote his beautiful poem. First of all, I grew up and lived in East Africa, surrounded by simple native herders whose customs closely resembled those of their counterparts in the Middle East. So I am intimately acquainted with the romance, the pathos, the picturesque life of an Eastern shepherd. Secondly, as a young man, I actually made my own livelihood for about eight years as a sheep owner and sheep rancher. Consequently, I write as one who has had firsthand experience with every phase of sheep management. Later, as the lay pastor of a community church, I shared the truths of this psalm, as a shepherd, with my “flock,” every Sunday for several months.
It is, therefore, out of the variety of these firsthand experiences with sheep that the following chapters have emerged. To my knowledge this is the first time that a down-to-earth, hard-handed sheepman has ever written at length about the Shepherd’s Psalm.
There is one difficulty that arises when writing a book based on a familiar portion of the Scriptures. One disillusions or disenchants the reader with some of his former notions about the psalm. Like much spiritual teaching, the twenty-third Psalm has had a certain amount of sentimental imagery wrapped around it with no sound basis in actual life. Some ideas advanced about it have, in fact, been almost ludicrous.
I would ask, then, that the reader approach the pages that follow with an open mind and an unbiased spirit. If he does, fresh truth and exciting glimpses of God’s care and concern for him will flood over his being. Then he will be brought into a bold, new appreciation of the endless effort put forth by our Savior for His sheep. Out of this there will then emerge a growing admiration and affection for the Great Shepherd of his soul.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Jon Courson (2002)
Jon Courson (2013)