Isaiah 18 - 22
An Oracle Concerning Cush
Isaiah 18:1 Ah, land of whirring wings
that is beyond the rivers of Cush,
2 which sends ambassadors by the sea,
in vessels of papyrus on the waters!
Go, you swift messengers,
to a nation tall and smooth,
to a people feared near and far,
a nation mighty and conquering,
whose land the rivers divide.
3 All you inhabitants of the world,
you who dwell on the earth,
when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!
When a trumpet is blown, hear!
4 For thus the LORD said to me:
“I will quietly look from my dwelling
like clear heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
5 For before the harvest, when the blossom is over,
and the flower becomes a ripening grape,
he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks,
and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
6 They shall all of them be left
to the birds of prey of the mountains
and to the beasts of the earth.
And the birds of prey will summer on them,
and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.
7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts
from a people tall and smooth,
from a people feared near and far,
a nation mighty and conquering,
whose land the rivers divide,
An Oracle Concerning Egypt
Isaiah 19:1 An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2 And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, each against another
and each against his neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;
3 and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,
and I will confound their counsel;
and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,
and the mediums and the necromancers;
4 and I will give over the Egyptians
into the hand of a hard master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
5 And the waters of the sea will be dried up,
and the river will be dry and parched,
6 and its canals will become foul,
and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up,
reeds and rushes will rot away.
7 There will be bare places by the Nile,
on the brink of the Nile,
and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,
will be driven away, and will be no more.
8 The fishermen will mourn and lament,
all who cast a hook in the Nile;
and they will languish
who spread nets on the water.
9 The workers in combed flax will be in despair,
and the weavers of white cotton.
10 Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,
and all who work for pay will be grieved.
11 The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;
the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am a son of the wise,
a son of ancient kings”?
12 Where then are your wise men?
Let them tell you
that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.
13 The princes of Zoan have become fools,
and the princes of Memphis are deluded;
those who are the cornerstones of her tribes
have made Egypt stagger.
14 The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,
and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,
as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
15 And there will be nothing for Egypt
that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.
Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them. 17 And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.
18 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.
19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. 21 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. 22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.
23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”
A Sign Against Egypt and CushIsaiah 20:1 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it— 2 at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
3 Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt. 5 Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. 6 And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’ ”
Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon
Isaiah 21:1 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.
2 A stern vision is told to me;
the traitor betrays,
and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, O Elam;
lay siege, O Media;
all the sighing she has caused
I bring to an end.
3 Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;
pangs have seized me,
like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;
I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
4 My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;
the twilight I longed for
has been turned for me into trembling.
5 They prepare the table,
they spread the rugs,
they eat, they drink.
Arise, O princes;
oil the shield!
6 For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
7 When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
8 Then he who saw cried out:
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
9 And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!”
And he answered,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
and all the carved images of her gods
he has shattered to the ground.”
10 O my threshed and winnowed one,
what I have heard from the LORD of hosts,
the God of Israel, I announce to you.
11 The oracle concerning Dumah.
One is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what time of the night?
Watchman, what time of the night?”
12 The watchman says:
“Morning comes, and also the night.
If you will inquire, inquire;
come back again.”
13 The oracle concerning Arabia.
In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,
O caravans of Dedanites.
14 To the thirsty bring water;
meet the fugitive with bread,
O inhabitants of the land of Tema.
15 For they have fled from the swords,
from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow,
and from the press of battle.
An Oracle Concerning Jerusalem
Isaiah 22 1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.
What do you mean that you have gone up,
all of you, to the housetops,
2 you who are full of shoutings,
tumultuous city, exultant town?
Your slain are not slain with the sword
or dead in battle.
3 All your leaders have fled together;
without the bow they were captured.
All of you who were found were captured,
though they had fled far away.
4 Therefore I said:
“Look away from me;
let me weep bitter tears;
do not labor to comfort me
concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
5 For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day
of tumult and trampling and confusion
in the valley of vision,
a battering down of walls
and a shouting to the mountains.
6 And Elam bore the quiver
with chariots and horsemen,
and Kir uncovered the shield.
7 Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.
8 He has taken away the covering of Judah.
Verse 8. - The covering of Judah was that which hid their weakness either from themselves or from the enemy - probably the former. God drew this aside, and they suddenly saw their danger, and began to think how they could best defend themselves. Arms were the first things needed. The armor of the house of the forest. "The house of the forest" was probably that portion of the palace of Solomon which he had called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2-5). This was, it would seem, used as an armor (1 Kings 10:17; 1 Kings 14:27; Isaiah 39:2). The Pulpit Commentary (Set of 23 Volumes)In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, 10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
12 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
13 and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
14 The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
says the Lord GOD of hosts.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The End of Soap Oprah
By Carl R. Trueman 3/1/2011
The passing of the Oprah Winfrey Show is surely worthy of being described with that most overworked of clichés, as “the end of an era.” Except, of course, it is not the end of an era so much as the morphing of Ms. Winfrey’s career into a new form. It is hard to imagine that the public has seen the last of her, and the values and culture that her show represented are here for the foreseeable future.
I well remember one of my sisters raving about how “Oprah says this, Oprah says that!” in the late nineteen-eighties, which I expect was about the time her show was starting to enjoy international success. At the time, I assumed it was just another bland American show, designed to showcase beautiful people with vast wealth and minimal personality. In fact, of course, the program proved to be far more than that. It was not simply the chat-show equivalent of a soap opera, designed to fill a few idle moments that the viewing public might have in an afternoon; it became a powerful force within wider society.
Take, for example, the idea of Oprah’s Book Club. To give credit where credit is due, many of the books chosen for the club are good reads. I confess that, when something I want to read turns out to be an “Oprah Choice,” I try either to find a copy in the store without the dreaded “O” logo on the front or I order online — like most snobs, I like to think I am not a snob, but things like this rather blow my cover. Yet the fact remains: many of the Oprah choices are good reads, and no one can deny that, whatever the motivation, encouraging people to read is on the whole a good and virtuous thing. The marketing power may be somewhat worrying — she can, literally, make almost any book into an overnight bestseller — but, as I said, credit where credit is due.
Of course, some of the books chosen give very deep insights into the overall view of the world promoted by Oprah. Take, for example, the case of James Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces, which was chosen by Oprah for her book club in 2005. It became a runaway bestseller, at one point selling 176,000 copies in a single week. The problem, of course, was that the book was not what it was supposed to be. It presented itself as Frey’s autobiographical account of addiction, imprisonment, and an all-around misspent youth. The book turned out to be a pack of lies. Outed by The Smoking Gun website, Frey appeared on Oprah’s show in 2007 to confess his sins. Prior to that, however, there was a most instructive television moment: Frey appeared on Larry King Live to deny the accusations made by The Smoking Gun and, during the interview, Ms. Winfrey herself called the show in order to defend Frey. During her intervention, she told viewers that she had been impressed with the book, not because every jot and tittle of its claims were true, but because it had a key underlying message of redemption.
Nevertheless, as public outcry grew, and suspicions mounted that Frey’s motivation in passing off fiction as fact was probably motivated more by a desire to become famous and make money than offer his readers an inspiring account of fall and redemption, Oprah changed her tune and forced him to do public penance in that most modern of confessionals, her chat show. But the “poker tell” had occurred with Larry King — for Oprah, it is the emotional impact that counts; truth in the traditional sense is subordinate to truth in an aesthetic sense. Taste is tops.
Whether Oprah is a cause, a symptom, or something of both, there is no doubt that she is a sign of the times and of the wider culture. The gospel of redemption through therapeutic public self-disclosure is her stock in trade. Frey’s book was initially attractive to her because it articulated one man’s search for his true identity and, as she herself initially claimed in her defense of him, the historical accuracy of his account was not the point at issue. The truth, if you like, is not “out there,” but within each person. That is the constant message of her shows, and it accounts for the vast number of times phrases such as “be true to yourself” and “I just know in my heart that this is true” or their equivalents occur on her show.
Oprah’s show may be gone, but the soap opera plotline that she exemplified and promoted will live on in our society. The tragedy, of course, is that redemption of the Frey variety is exactly what it is — ultimately little more than wishful thinking. Redemption does not come from the public disclosure of a self that exists only in the imagination but from the self-disclosure of God who enters into history. That may not be tasteful by the exacting standards of the Oprah Winfrey set; but it is truthful.
Carl R. Trueman Books:
- 1 Grace Alone---Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)
- 2 Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History
- 3 The Creedal Imperative
- 4 From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
- 5 The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
- 6 Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom
- 7 Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone
- 8 Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative
- 9 The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism
- 10 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 11 Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism
- 12 Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ
- 13 Luther's Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556
- 14 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 15 John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Great Theologians)
- 16 Histories and Fallacies by Carl R. Trueman (2011-01-21)
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2011
The church of the twenty-first century faces many crises. One of the most serious is the crisis of preaching. Widely diverse philosophies of preaching vie for acceptance among contemporary clergy. Some see the sermon as a fireside chat; others, as a stimulus for psychological health; still others, as a commentary on contemporary politics. But some still view the exposition of sacred Scripture as a necessary ingredient to the office of preaching. In light of these views, it is always helpful to go to the New Testament to seek or glean the method and message found in the biblical record of apostolic preaching.
In the first instance, we must distinguish between two types of preaching. The first has been called kerygma; the second, didache. This distinction refers to the difference between proclamation (kerygma) and teaching or instruction (didache). It seems that the strategy of the apostolic church was to win converts by means of the proclamation of the gospel. Once people responded to that gospel, they were baptized and received into the visible church. They then underwent a regular, systematic exposure to the teaching of the apostles, through regular preaching (homilies) and in particular groups of catechetical instruction. In the initial outreach to the Gentile community, the apostles did not go into great detail about Old Testament redemptive history. That knowledge was assumed among Jewish audiences, but it was not held among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, even to the Jewish audiences, the central emphasis of the evangelistic preaching was on the announcement that the Messiah had come and ushered in God’s kingdom.
If we take time to examine the sermons of the apostles that are recorded in the book of Acts, we see a somewhat common and familiar structure to them. In this analysis, we can discern the apostolic kerygma, the basic proclamation of the gospel. Here the focus in the preaching was on the person and work of Jesus. The gospel itself was called the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is about Him; it involves the proclamation and declaration of what He accomplished in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection. After the details of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God were preached, the apostles called the people to be converted to Christ—to repent of their sins and receive Christ by faith.
When we seek to extrapolate from these examples how the apostolic church did evangelism, we must ask: What is appropriate for the transfer of apostolic principles of preaching to the contemporary church? Some churches believe that a person is required to preach the gospel or to communicate the kerygma in every sermon preached. This view sees the emphasis in Sunday morning preaching as one of evangelism, of proclaiming the gospel. Many preachers today, however, say they are preaching the gospel on a regular basis when in some cases they have never preached the gospel at all, because what they call the gospel is not the message of the person and work of Christ and how His accomplished work and its benefits can be appropriated to the individual by faith. Rather, the gospel of Christ is exchanged for therapeutic promises of a purposeful life or having personal fulfillment by coming to Jesus. In messages such as these, the focus is on us rather than on Him.
On the other hand, in looking at the pattern of worship in the early church, we see that the weekly assembly of the saints involved a coming together for worship, fellowship, prayer, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and devotion to the teaching of the apostles. If we were there, we would see that the apostolic preaching covered the whole of redemptive history and the sum of divine revelation, not being restricted simply to the evangelistic kerygma.
So, again, the kerygma is the essential proclamation of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule of Jesus Christ, as well as a call to conversion and repentance. It is this kerygma that the New Testament indicates is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). There can be no acceptable substitute for it. When the church loses her kerygma, she loses her identity.
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
Meeting Jesus at an Old Testament Feast
By Dr. John R. Sittema 4/1/2011
The default sin of the human heart is to put ourselves first. “It really is all about me!” was once a funny t-shirt slogan; it has now become a way of life. Unless preachers and Bible teachers are careful, the way we handle Scripture can actually feed this beast. We rush to application, consumed by the question, “How is this relevant to me?”
But the Bible is theocentric, not anthropocentric. It is more concerned to trace God’s ways — His character, purposes, and His cosmic redemptive plan (“For God so loved the cosmos”) — than it is to give modern believers character-building resource material (“be courageous like Daniel; lead like Nehemiah; with the faith of Abraham”).
We must start by remembering the overarching plot of Scripture. The Bible is remarkable: sixty-six books, dozens of human authors, fifteen hundred years in the making, various types of literature. But its grand diversity is held together by a golden thread, a single plot in three movements — creation, fall, redemption — that is unveiled in its first few pages. This plot establishes the crucial backstory to the coming of Jesus Christ. A backstory introduces characters, establishes relationships, and defines key terms. In this case, the Old Testament introduces Jesus, defines His work as Messiah, and establishes the theological framework for understanding God’s redemption.
A brief glance at two Old Testament festivals is illustrative. The first is Passover, the familiar feast that anchored the exodus. Some of its features (the angel of death, blood on doorposts, a meal eaten in haste) are well known parts of the story. Others are not. What matters is that all are shadows of the coming Christ.
Jesus ministered in a Jewish context, keeping the Passover with His disciples. But He took pains to show that the customs were more than context; they defined Him.
The Torah required selected lambs to be put on public display for four days (Ex. 12:3–6) to verify that they were without blemish. Jesus, following the triumphal entry, presented Himself in the temple for that exact period, for that very purpose. He submitted to testing by the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and scribes (Mark 12:13), tried before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, He proved spotless.
“This is my body” and “this cup is a new covenant in my blood” are Lord’s Supper keystones, but they were spoken during the Passover Seder. The meal — and the true exodus — are found in Jesus.
Passover was both a family and a communal feast. The lamb chosen “for the nation” was staked out in the temple courtyard on Passover at 9 a.m, and slaughtered publicly at 3 p.m. So was Jesus — nailed to the cross at 9 a.m., He died at 3 p.m., just as the four-footed beast died in a liturgy that concluded, “It is finished!”
Why are such details important? Because the point of Jesus’ death — contra pop theology’s selfish twist — is not merely how much physical pain He endured for me. It is, rather, what God accomplished by His death. The answer is found in Passover imagery. The Passover story (Ex. 12:2) began with strange words: “This month shall be for you…the first month of the year.” With Passover, God reset Israel’s calendar. Her old life as slaves was ending, a new life as sons beginning. Jesus’ death announced the same, but on a grander scale. Paul declares, “We have been united with him in a death like his” (Rom. 6:5). But he also exults, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Death with a capital “D” — not only personal physical death, but sin’s devastating reign over the first Adam’s world (Rom. 5:12–21) — was defeated in the cross of Christ.
If death’s reign was defeated in the cross, where dawns the new? It bursts forth in Jesus’ resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast’s Old Testament roots were agricultural: early sheaves were brought to the tabernacle to share God’s bounty with the poor and aliens. But the feast always tilted Israel forward, rehearsing the day when all of life would be “very good” again as it once had been.
Paul uses festal language to explain this (1 Cor. 15:20). As Jesus’ death conquered death, so, too — as the second Adam — His resurrection dawned a new creation, a kingdom of grace (Rom. 5:21). Christ is the “firstfruits” of this new world. Raised with Him, we, too, who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (8:23), are the firstfruits of the new creation (James 1:18).
Thus the Old Testament Feast of Firstfruits is the ground of a vigorous and practical New Testament eschatology (view of the age to come).
These are only two brief examples; there are many more feasts, countless temple practices, and narrative stories that serve to rehearse the redemption that would come in Jesus. A gospel shaped by the rich Old Testament backstory is evangelistically more compelling, for it honors the cohesive unity of Scripture. And such a gospel produces disciples with a healthier self-image: they resist the default sin of putting themselves first and learn to deny themselves and follow Him.
By John Piper 4/1/2011
In marriage, anger rivals lust as a killer. My guess is that anger is a worse enemy than lust. It also destroys other kinds of camaraderie. Some people have more anger than they think, because it has disguises. When willpower hinders rage, anger smolders beneath the surface, and the teeth of the soul grind with frustration. It can come out in tears that look more like hurt. But the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back.
It may come out as silence because we have resolved not to fight. It may show up in picky criticism and relentless correction. It may strike out at people who have nothing to do with its origin. It will often feel warranted by the wrongness of the cause. After all, Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5), and Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).
However, good anger among fallen people is rare. That’s why James says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). And Paul says, “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Tim. 2:8), and, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).
Therefore, one of the greatest battles of life is the battle to “put away anger,” not just control its expressions. To help you fight this battle, here are nine biblical weapons.
First, ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but then how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Second, ponder how much you have been forgiven and how much mercy you have been shown. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32)
Third, ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3–5).
Fourth, think about how you do not want to give place to the Devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26–27).
Fifth, ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry — some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov. 3:7–8)
Sixth, confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, as well as to the offender, if possible. This is a great healing act: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Seventh, let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7).
Eighth, remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).
Ninth, remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting his cause to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
May we kill our anger, and fight for joy and love each day.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Young Women, Idolatry & the Powerful Gospel
By Elyse Fitzpatrick 4/1/2011
We are all inveterate worshipers — it’s just something we do without thinking about it. Worshiping is part of our nature because God created us to worship Him, and, by doing so, we bring both Him and ourselves deep pleasure (Pss. 16:11; 149:4). The world is full of worshipers, and some of them actually worship God. But the truth is that most of us worship idols.
It’s easy to identify idols that exist outside of us — like statues of Buddha, fast cars, or beautiful houses. Pinpointing the idols that reside within is a little trickier, however. These idols of our hearts are the desires, ideals, or expectations that we worship, serve, and long for. James 1 tells us that these desires motivate us to sin. In James 4, we learn that our desires are the cause of the conflicts in our lives. Our idolatrous desires entice us to sin in order to obtain what we think we must have in order to be happy. Young and old, male and female alike, we’re all driven by our deep desires, our idols.
Because women have been created with a specific call to relationship — to be their husbands’ helpers (Gen. 2:18) — it is very easy for them to idolize and live for relationships with men, to look to men as the source of their identity and purpose. Many young women, in particular, are tempted to see themselves as having worth only if they are in a relationship with a man. This propensity toward idolizing men is easily seen in family life. How many conflicts have been occasioned by parents’ restricting of contact between their daughter and a guy she thinks she just can’t live without? Frequently, what girls wear, who they hang around with, and what forms of media they embrace are intrinsically tied to getting or keeping the attention and approval of boys. Protestations of Christian allegiance aside, popularity with certain guys is often our daughters’ functional god.
Of course, the gospel provides a young woman with the ultimate antidote to the worship of any human’s acceptance and approval. The antidote is the worship of the One she was created to worship, Jesus Christ. He, the God-man, can become her identity as she hears Him call her to come and worship Him and find her life in Him rather than in any other man (Col. 3:4). He welcomes and assures her that, although she is an idolater, she is also loved and welcomed by the only Man whose opinion really matters. She doesn’t need to attach herself to anyone other than Him, for in Him she has everything she needs (Phil. 4:19). He is her Bridegroom. She is clothed in His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). She is complete in Him (Col. 2:10).
Young women, like the rest of us, were created to worship. The sirensong of the world entices them to believe that outward beauty, popularity, and the right boy will satisfy, but it never does — no matter how she pursues these gods, not even if she marries Mr. Right. Like us, she will never be satisfied with worshiping and serving the creation because there is a Creator who has already claimed His place as Husband. He not only deserves our worship, He’s the only One grand enough to captivate our hearts and turn our futile idolatry, our chasing after the wind, into joyful worship. Our young women need to be dazzled by the beauty of their Redeemer King. They need to hear His story, His beauty, His love, His excellencies over and over again so that the images they are tempted to worship will pale in comparison.
Daughters may begin to learn how to identify idols in their own lives as parents and leaders transparently admit and confess their own struggle with idolatry. When a dad confesses that he longs for a promotion at work more than he should (and is angry when he gets passed over again) or when mom admits that she’s addicted to over-exercise so that she can approve of her appearance, a daughter will feel at liberty to admit her slavery to the boys’ opinions. A young woman who knows that she’s not alone in this struggle for singlehearted devotion will more freely admit her own idolatry and will listen more closely when her parents speak out of hearts drenched in humility. And, of course, parents can also help their daughters by praying that the Holy Spirit would make Jesus more beautiful than anyone else.
How long has it been since your daughter’s heart was soaked in the gospel truth of this great One who gave His life for her that she might be free to worship Him and rest in His welcoming love? The antidote to idolatrous worship isn’t found in rules prohibiting idolatry. Rules don’t dazzle and captivate. They can’t generate worship. They’re not powerful enough to transform. What is? The glory of the Lord as seen in the face of Jesus Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18; see also 4:6).
- 1 Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
- 2 Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life
- 3 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, Revised and Updated
- 4 Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith and Confidence
- 5 Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation
- 6 Comforts from the Cross (Redesign): Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 7 Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits
- 8 Counsel from the Cross (Redesign): Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ
- 9 You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship With Your Adult Children
- 10 Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice
- 11 Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
- 12 Helper by Design: God's Perfect Plan for Women in Marriage
- 13 Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ
- 14 A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God's Comfort in Life's Storms
- 15 Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 16 Women Counseling Women: Biblical Answers to Life's Difficult Problems
- 17 Will Medicine Stop the Pain?: Finding God's Healing for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Troubling Emotions
- 18 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone
- 19 When Good Kids Make Bad Choices: Help and Hope for Hurting Parents
- 20 Ídolos del Corazón: Aprendiendo a anhelar solo a Dios (Spanish Edition)
- 21 Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics
- 22 Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face
- 23 Uncommon Vessels: A Program for Developing Godly Eating Habits
- 24 The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife
- 25 Mujeres Aconsejando Mujeres
- 26 Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional
- 27 The Empty Nest: Finding Hope in Your Changing Job Description
Man in the Middle
By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 2/23/2017
David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, knows the feeling of exhaustion. His wife, Lanese, gave birth to their three boys in three years. While he was president at Union University, one student shot another, and an EF4 tornado tore through while half of the students were on campus.
But the most emotionally exhausting day in his life came on January 24, 1992.
“It was one of the happiest days and one of the saddest days of our lives jammed together,” he said.
For Dockery, January 24 started early. His commute to downtown Nashville normally took about 20 minutes. Although he was an assistant professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, he was on loan to the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board (precursor to LifeWay Christian Resources) in order to serve as the general editor for the New American Commentary series.
But that Friday the drive was three hours, and took him up Interstate 65 back home to the SBTS campus in Louisville.
That he was employed at the seminary at all was a minor miracle, the result of a growing conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which included pressure to hire faculty who affirmed biblical inerrancy at SBC institutions.
January 24 would mark a sharp turning point, both in his life and also in the theological direction of the SBC’s oldest seminary.
Dawn of the Conservative ResurgenceAfter World War II, the SBC shifted from a theological focus to a programmatic focus, Dockery wrote. Southern Baptists filled their Sunday schools in the 1950s, but many leaders drifted away from biblical orthodoxy.
As in many other post-war denominations, SBC seminary faculty in the 1960s attempted to fit the Bible and science together in a way that meant “personal religion can be held by intelligent people,” according to progressive pastor Cecil Sherman. Intelligent people believed science, which appeared to be on Darwin’s side, so biblical accounts that seemed too hard to believe—a six-day creation, a worldwide flood, a fish swallowing a man, or a virgin giving birth—ended up on the chopping block, SBTS dean Gregory Wills wrote in 2010.
The progressive trend continued into the ’70s and ’80s, when “SBTS wanted very badly to be seen as a peer to the divinity schools at Duke, Yale, and Princeton,” Dockery said. “Academically, Southern was always out in front among the SBC seminaries. But in terms of relating to the people in the pew, the seminary was often out of touch.”
Appalled by theological confusion across the SBC, Southern Baptists in the pulpits and pews began to pressure the seminaries, eventually compelling the presidents to promise to hire staff who believed in the inerrancy of the Bible.
“SBTS faculty started doing research to see if they could find a conservative Southern Baptist who understood Baptist life, who affirmed biblical inerrancy, and who would work constructively with them as a faculty member,” Dockery said. They found one teaching at a small college in Dallas and serving as the editor of its theological journal.
“I went as the county fair blue-ribbon conservative, and taught New Testament and theology,” he said with a grin.
Dockery remembers sitting with the faculty during convocation at the start of his second year.
“[President Roy Honeycutt’s] address was on Galatians 4, on the story of Sarah and Hagar and the importance of Christian freedom,” Dockery recalled. “Then he said, ‘The Hagarites, they’re bound to the law — you know, people like these inerrantists who can’t understand the freedom of the Word of God.’
“Every faculty member turned and looked at me. Every one of them,” he said. “I thought, I am an alien in a foreign land.”
(Later, a colleague broke the tension with a sign on his door: “Hagarites live here.”)
Dockery taught at the school for two years before taking a leave of absence to work on the conservative New American Commentary in Nashville. While he was there, a dean position at SBTS opened up.
The job was an influential one — hiring faculty, deciding on academic programs, and helping shape the vision for the school. Under pressure from the board to find a conservative, the administration chose Dockery.
But the faculty — almost entirely made up of moderates or progressives — were scheduled to vote on January 24, and no one was sure what they’d do.
Afternoon VoteAfter lunch on January 24, wearing his standard-fare dark suit, Dockery stood before about 70 faculty members, microphone in hand, and answered questions.
They asked him about theology and church polity. They asked about his leadership style and understanding of shared governance. They asked about accreditation issues. They asked how he would represent the faculty to the administrators, how he would represent the faculty to the board, how he would represent the seminary externally.
It lasted two and a half hours.
“I was prepared for that,” Dockery said. “The Lord was with me that day.”
Afterward, Dockery was stashed in a nearby office while the faculty took just 20 minutes to approve him with a 95 percent majority.
“It was the biggest day of my life professionally at that point,” Dockery said. Elated, he called his wife to let her know he was on his way. All was well; she couldn’t wait to see him.
He set off on the three-hour drive home.
Worst NewsWhen Dockery walked into his rented home in northern Nashville, he immediately knew something was wrong. His three active boys, ages 10, 11, and 12, were in the living room with his wife, Lanese. Everyone was crying.
“They had just received a phone call from Birmingham,” Dockery said. Both he and Lanese had grown up there, in the middle of race riots and Bull Connor and Martin Luther King Jr.’s jailhouse stay.
“PawPaw’s been shot,” the boys told him.
Lanese’s parents, William and Polly Huckeba, lived in the Bush Hills neighborhood of Birmingham, sticking around when their neighbors left in a flurry of white flight. While Dockery was on the road, Lanese’s father, a retired steel worker, had deposited his retirement check in the bank and stopped home to pick up his wife on the way to visit friends. As he stepped out of the car in his driveway, a man approached.
“He took the money, shot him multiple times in the chest, and ran,” Dockery said. Lanese’s mom saw the whole thing from her window.
Huckeba was declared dead at the hospital at 5:03 p.m.
His killer has never been caught.
Civil RightsDockery’s father-in-law was one of 148 people murdered in Birmingham in 1992, the deadliest year the city had seen since the early 1930s. It would prove to be the peak; homicides haven’t been that high since.
It was also a “hotbed of skinhead activity” that year, with at least one public demonstration by both white supremacist skinheads and Klansmen, according to The New York Times.
“My in-laws lived on the western side of Birmingham, which had been the most racially charged part of the racially charged history of Birmingham,” Dockery said.
When Dockery was 10 years old and sitting in his own Baptist church, white supremacists less than four miles away planted 15 sticks of dynamite under the steps of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church.
“I came home, and four little girls the same age I was went to church and didn’t come home,” he said. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”
It was the same year Martin Luther King Jr. led a nonviolent campaign of business boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins, and protest walks in the segregated city. Dockery remembers Bull Connor turning water hoses on protesters, King writing his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
“I grew up in that world,” he said. “I don’t know why, perhaps because I believed the song I had been taught as a child that ‘Jesus loved the little children of the world, red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,’ but I did see things differently from many others around me during those days.”
Dockery credits the grace of God and a mother who stressed the importance of showing God’s love to all people. Though he “didn’t have everything worked out in life,” he did know that he wanted to be “on the other side of racism.”
Dockery was in 7th grade when Brown v. Board of Education and Alabama’s school choice act finally took effect in his school through a handful of African-American students. “They were very brave,” he said.
More came each year, but not enough according to the courts. By his senior year of high school, a federal judge issued an order to speed things up in his western suburb of Fairfield. Instead of one black and one predominately white high school, one would now hold all freshmen and sophomores, the other juniors and seniors.
In response, the white freshmen and sophomores, who were supposed to head to the previously all-black building, “went to private school,” Dockery said. More of the white upperclassmen stayed, comfortable in their building and their recognized success in music, academics, and sports. Soon the city would change dramatically with white flight; today around 92 percent of the city is African American, with about one-quarter of the population living below the poverty line. (Watch how one church is bringing hope there.) click here
In that key transiton year, Dockery served as the vice president of the student body. The school year was “entirely disrupted” by the change, and “when we got to the end of that year, all but a handful of white students decided to boycott the graduation.”
He was one of the few who stayed. And since the student body president wasn’t there, that left Dockery with the graduation speech.
What he said was typical — “you know, thank the principal, thank the teachers, thank the parents, thank one another” — but the moment earned Dockery his photo on the front page of the Birmingham newspaper the next day. It was his first public effort toward racial reconciliation.
Civil Rights at ChurchDockery knew the judge who ordered his high school to speed up integration in 1969. Seven years earlier, H. H. Grooms had ordered the University of Alabama to accept three black students, prompting Governor George Wallace to block them in the doorway. (Dockery would enroll there in the fall of 1970, and as a student worker for the athletic department, would occasionally be asked to room with the black athletes on road trips when it was unpopular to do so.)
Grooms also attended Dockery’s church. Or rather, he used to.
The summer after graduation, Dockery’s Southern Baptist church of about 1,000 watched as an African-American woman named Winifred Bryant and her 11-year-old daughter, Twila, walked down the aisle and asked to join the congregation. Championed by pastor Herbert Gilmore, the move was a bold one, not only for a white church in Birmingham, but also for the SBC, which split from the northern Baptists in 1845 over the ability of slave-owners to become missionaries. (The SBC was in favor; the northern Baptists weren’t.)
The debate over Bryant—and Gilmore—raged hot all summer, including an attempt to declare the pulpit vacant while Gilmore was at a Baptist World Alliance meeting, rumors that Gilmore was a communist, and a 2:30 a.m. vote that kept Gilmore in his job by just four votes.
Finally, on a Sunday morning in September, the congregation voted 240 to 217 to keep the church all white; it immediately split when about 250 members walked out. (Gilmore was one. Grooms, an outspoken supporter of Gilmore, was likely another.)
But even then, the issue wasn’t simple. Political, racial, and theological issues all swirled together in ways that continue to befuddle the denomination today.
Theological LiberalismAt the same time First Baptist was wrestling with whether to admit black members, they were also wrestling with the theological liberalism in the SBC.
“The church was severely divided about Dr. Gilmore before the black persons ever came forward for membership,” First Baptist stated in 1971, about four months after the split. “The division involved his . . . liberal and humanistic preaching which de-emphasized the Bible and his failure to promote evangelism,” among other things.
Some, including Dockery’s parents, charged Gilmore with not believing in the biblical accounts of creation or the flood, the virgin birth of Christ, or the infallibility of the Bible.
If true, he probably learned those views in seminary—Gilmore was a graduate of SBTS in the 1960s.
From Progressive to ConservativeJust a year after Dockery’s appointment to dean in 1992, SBTS president Honeycutt stepped down. Some of the faculty immediately offered up Dockery as a replacement.
But Dockery knew that if he lost, he’d have to leave the seminary, and he loved his job. So instead he promised to “cheer and help make this thing work for whoever is elected.”
He then recommended Albert Mohler, who still leads SBTS and is credited with turning it in a conservative direction. Mohler and Dockery set to work immediately, hiring five conservative faculty members before Dockery took over the presidency at Union University in 1996.
The pressure to turn the seminaries was “Baptist congregationalism at its best,” Dockery said. “Now SBTS is made up of people who are committed to the truthfulness of God’s Word.”
The SBC and its seminaries are also making slow, halting progress toward racial reconciliation. One of the first to champion the denomination’s first black president — Fred Luter, who was elected in 2012 — was Dockery.
Back to BirminghamOn January 24, Dockery sat with his family in the living room as they cried over PawPaw’s death and prayed together. Then they got moving. Less than two hours later, they were packed and in the car, heading south on Dockery’s third three-hour drive of the day.
They pulled into Birmingham around midnight, finally putting an end to one of the worst and best days of Dockery’s life.
He spoke at the graveside service a few days later, then dedicated his book Seeking the Kingdom to Huckeba.
The tragic events of his family’s life in Birmingham helped Dockery see the urgent need for progress in race relations. After becoming dean, Dockery named the first two African-American faculty members in the School of Theology at SBTS. And during his two decades of presidency at Union, he hired more minority faculty, established a center for racial reconciliation, and saw the minority student enrollment rise from 9 percent to 20 percent.
Dockery was the first white person to give the keynote address at the annual West Tennessee NAACP meeting (where he received their racial reconciliation award); chaired an SBC summit on how seminaries can equip non-Anglo students; and is now working with faculty and staff to call Trinity to a renewed commitment to racial reconciliation.
“My life at almost every chapter has played out attempts to be an agent of reconciliation,” Dockery told SBC Life in 2013. Two books—his co-authored ISBN-13: 978-0979983108 and essays gathered to honor him in Convictional Civility — underline that theme.
“By God’s providence, I was in the right place at the right time for a lot of things,” he said. “God put me in the right place. That’s the only way I can understand it. Click here to go to source
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer for The Gospel Coalition and contributing editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 80Restore Us, O God
80 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, A Psalm.
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!
19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
By John Walvoord
Jerusalem’s Many Sins
Ezekiel 22:1–31. In almost every possible way Jerusalem and its inhabitants have sinned against God. They had been guilty of shedding blood (vv. 1–4 ). Their objects of worship had been idols (v. 4 ). Because of their many sins they had become “an object of scorn to the nations and a laughing stock to all the countries” (v. 4 ).
Their princes had shed blood, treated father and mother contemptuously, and “oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and widow” (v. 7 ).
They had been guilty of despising the Sabbath and despising holy things (v. 8 ). They had been guilty of slander, worshipping at idolaters’ shrines, and committing lewd acts (v. 9 ). They had been guilty of many sexual sins (vv. 10–11 ). They had accepted bribes and charged usury and excessive interest and made unjust gains by extortion (v. 12 ). As a result of their many sins, God predicted that they would be dispersed among the nations (v. 15 ).
God compared the house of Israel to dross, the material left over after the refining of copper, tin, iron, and lead. He declared, “They are but the dross of silver” (v. 18 ). God predicted that He would gather them into Jerusalem just as men gather metals and put them in a furnace to melt them (vv. 19–20 ). “As silver is melted in a furnace, you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the LORD have poured out my wrath upon you” (v. 22 ).
Their drought had been declared a day of wrath because their rulers behaved wickedly like roaring lions. They had stolen treasures and precious things and made many widows (v. 25 ). The priests also violated the Law and profaned sacred things (v. 26 ). They did not distinguish between clean and unclean and did not keep the Sabbath (v. 26 ). Her officials were described as if they were wolves that kill people (v. 27 ). Her prophets were accused of whitewashing their deeds (v. 28 ). Extortion and robbery and oppression characterized the people of the land (v. 29 ). When God looked for a man to stand in the gap to prevent Israel from being destroyed, He could find none (vv. 30–31 ).
The Word of God clearly described these sins as absolutely forbidden in the Law (cf. Lev. 18:7–20; 20:10–21; Deut. 22:22–24, 30; 27:22 ). There were few sins that Israel had not committed. Jerusalem was judged in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
The Two Sinful Sisters
Ezekiel 23:1–49. Ezekiel was given a special revelation concerning two women. Described as daughters of the same mother, they became prostitutes. The older was named Oholah and her sister Oholibah (vv. 1–4 ). Oholah represented Samaria and Oholibah represented Jerusalem.
Oholah was described as a prostitute who sought Assyrian lovers. Her prostitution had begun in Egypt (vv. 5–8 ). Eventually the Assyrians stripped her and killed her with the sword (vv. 9–10 ).
Oholibah, representing Jerusalem, was even worse. She not only had Assyrian lovers but also sought lovers from Babylon (vv. 14–21 ).
The Lord predicted that the Chaldeans, whom she sought, would come against Jerusalem and destroy her (vv. 22–24 ). They would mutilate her noses and ears, take away her sons and daughters (v. 25 ), strip her of her fine clothes, and take her jewelry (v. 26 ). In judging her, God would “put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution you began in Egypt” (v. 27 ). God predicted that He would turn her over to her enemies (vv. 28–31 ).
In poetic form God declared that Oholibah would “drink your sister’s cup, a cup large and deep” (v. 32 ). They would bear the consequences of their sins (v. 35 ). God’s judgment would put an end to her many flagrant sins and would demonstrate that God is sovereign (vv. 48–49 ). These judgments were fulfilled in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
The Sign of the Cooking Pot
Ezekiel 24:1–27. Ezekiel was commanded to record the date, because on that date the king of Babylon would begin the siege of Jerusalem (vv. 1–2 ). This date was in the ninth year of King Jehoiachin. The tenth month and the tenth day may be computed as January 15, 588 BC. This significant date was mentioned elsewhere in Scriptures ( 2 Kings 25:1; Jer. 39:1; 52:4 ). The city was not immediately conquered and was not destroyed until 586 BC.
Ezekiel was told to enact another parable. He was instructed to put on a cooking pot and add meat and the best pieces. He was to put wood under it and bring the water to a boil ( Ezek. 24:3–5 ).
In the verses that follow, the city of Jerusalem was compared to the pot. What was in her would be emptied (vv. 9–10 ). Ezekiel was then instructed to put the empty pot on the fire until its impurities were melted (v. 11 ). But the fire did not remove the deposit (v. 12 ). God declared that this deposit was a picture of the Israelites’ lewdness (v. 13 ). Though God attempted to clean away the impurity, it would not be cleansed until His wrath had been expressed (v. 13 ). God declared that He would not show pity and they would be judged according to their sins (v. 14 ).
In support of this sign, God told Ezekiel that his wife would die. He was not to lament or do the various things that were normally associated with mourning for the dead (vv. 15–17 ). In keeping with this prediction, his wife died that evening.
When Ezekiel did not follow the usual customs of mourning, he declared to Israel the message from God that He was about to desecrate her sanctuary. Her sons and daughters would be killed, and when this happened, she too would not mourn. Ezekiel was a sign to Israel of what was going to happen (v. 24 ).
Ezekiel was told that when this event took place and Jerusalem was destroyed, he would receive the news and at that time God would speak to him ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
Prophecy Of Judgments On The Nations In Ezekiel | The Prophecy Against Ammon
Ezekiel 25:1–7. This section begins the prediction of coming judgment on the Gentiles. In keeping with previous prophecy against Ammon, this further word was recorded here. Ezekiel was told to prophesy against Ammon (vv. 1–2 ). Because Ammon rejoiced when Israel’s temple was destroyed and the people of Israel were taken captive, God would give them also “to the people of the East as a possession” (v. 4 ). The reference to “the people of the East” apparently refers to nomadic tribes who lived east of Ammon. Some think this refers to Nebuchadnezzar and his army (cf. 21:31 ). The destruction of this ancient people led to their disappearance from history. (For earlier prophecies concerning Ammon, see Jeremiah 9:25–26; 25:21; 49:1–6; Ezekiel 21:28–32. )
The Prophecy against Moab
Ezekiel 25:8–11. The Moabites were a traditional enemy of Israel, beginning when they opposed Moses leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land ( Num. 22–24 ). In the time of the judges, Eglon, king of Moab, oppressed Israel. They also figured in the opposition to Saul, but David later conquered the Moabites, and they continued under Israel’s power until Solomon’s death. Moab had also attacked Judah during the reign of Jehoshaphat. God predicted judgment on Moab because of their contempt for Israel. Like the Ammonites, they would be conquered by “the people of the East as a possession” (v. 10 ). This was fulfilled by the Babylonians who attacked Moab.
The Prophecy against Edom
Ezekiel 25:12–14. Israel’s conflict with the Edomites goes back to the time of the exodus when they opposed the path of the children of Israel. Saul fought them ( 1 Sam. 14:47 ), and David made them subject to his reign ( 2 Sam. 8:13–14 ). After gaining freedom from Israel, however, the Edomites became subject to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Egypt (605 BC). Their sin was that they took vengeance on the house of Judah. They will be punished for their opposition to God and to Israel. Edom was mentioned as subject to God’s judgment in other Scriptures ( Isa. 11:14; 63:1; Jer. 9:26; 49:7–22; Joel 3:19; Mal. 1:4–5 ). This was probably fulfilled by the Babylonians’ attack.
The Prophecy against Philistia
Ezekiel 25:15–17. Israel’s conflict with the Philistines also had a long history, and here God pronounced judgment on Philistia. From the time of the exodus, the Philistines opposed Israel and attempted to control their territory in the time of the judges. David finally conquered them, and they remained under Israel’s control until the death of Solomon. The contest between Philistia and the divided kingdom was finally settled when Babylon established control over her. Because Philistia had acted in malice against Israel, God judged her for her attempt to destroy Israel, and especially Judah. Like many other ancient nations, Philistia disappeared in the period before Christ and became merged with other people.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Luke 24:46-47)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 1Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. ESV
Christ in His humiliation confined His ministry almost entirely to the people of Israel. Now in resurrection, all national restrictions are clone away with and His gospel is to go forth among all nations, for God desires to have all men come to repentance and to the acknowledgment of the truth, that they might be saved. Everywhere the gospel of the risen Savior is to be proclaimed. To stop at the cross is to preach but a half gospel. It is the truth of the resurrection that completes it. “If Christ is not risen,…you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). The resurrection is the proof that His work has been accepted, and so God can now offer a full and complete salvation to ail who trust in Him. To profess Christianity while denying the physical resurrection of the founder is to be self-deceived. There can be no salvation apart from the raising up of the Son of God from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. ESV
They knew that their Redeemer lived,
His friends of long ago.
They saw Him die and mourned for Him
In hopelessness and woe;
And then they saw Him, touched His hand,
Heard His familiar voice;
And they in wonder and in awe,
Believing, did rejoice.
We know that our Redeemer lives,
Though hidden from our view;
For in His life we have found life,
Life full and rich and new;
Our hearts have felt His touch, our ears
Have heard His blessed voice;
We have the witness in our hearts;
Believing, we rejoice.
--- M. B. Smith
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
9/1/2015 Study Bibles: Soli Deo Gloria
I was preaching at a church in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2007. The church met in an old warehouse, and although the congregation was rather large, it was quite poor. After my sermon, I met with several pastors from around Bogotá who gathered to discuss gospel ministry in Colombia. The pastors were interested in knowing more about Reformed theology and how they could begin to teach it in their churches.
At one point in our discussion, one of the pastors took his Bible and placed it on the table in front of me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a copy of ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size in Spanish. I told this pastor how delighted I was to see that he was using Dr. John MacArthur’s study Bible. He told me that it was through Dr. MacArthur’s ministry that he came to learn about Dr. R.C. Sproul’s ministry and Reformed theology. I will never forget what he told me next. He said the study Bible was the only good resource he had to help him prepare his sermons. He went on to explain how he shared that one copy of the study Bible with three other pastors in Bogotá. Each pastor would use it for three months at a time as he prepared his sermons for the upcoming year. They could not afford commentaries, and the study Bible was the best thing they could find for study notes and cross-references.
My heart sunk upon hearing that each pastor did not have his own study Bible. I left our discussion that day burdened for my fellow pastors and more committed than ever to get good study Bibles into the hands of pastors around the world. I also left our discussion giving thanks to God for the usefulness, affordability, and accessibility of study Bibles. Upon my return to the States, Dr. Sproul, Chris Larson (president of Ligonier Ministries), and I discussed our need to get the Reformation Study Bible translated into Spanish and other major world languages as soon as we could afford to do so. From that discussion, we began to set in motion the plans for a thoroughly revised edition of the Reformation Study Bible so that we might, in turn, begin to translate the study Bible into other languages as we strive to help fulfill the Great Commission in making disciples of all nations. And I am grateful to God that some of the ministries represented in this issue of Tabletalk have been helping to lead the way in translating their study Bibles and getting them into the hands of people around the world to the end that God would be glorified as His people dig deep into His Word and thereby come to love and glorify Him more and more. That is our ultimate aim—to get God’s people not only to read God’s Word but to study God’s Word, love God’s Word, obey God’s Word, apply God’s Word, hide God’s Word in their hearts, and teach God’s Word to their families, their neighbors, and the nations. That is why we publish study Bibles—to help fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, for His glory, not our own.
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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
“There she blows!” was the cry as the lookout sighted Moby Dick. Captain Ahab, with his chief mate Starbuck, sailed the oceans of the world to capture this great white whale. But as fate would have it, when the harpoon struck, the rope flew out so fast it entangled Captain Ahab, pulling him under. This American classic was written by Herman Mehlville, who was born this day, August 1, 1819. In the opening chapters Mehlville warned: “With this sin of disobedience… Jonah flouts at God… He thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
And what we’ve tried to do is cover the earth with the Gospel of a man
we don’t really know.
We have implemented all kinds of ridiculous,
that try to get people to know a Jesus that we can’t really even describe.
And we have become like some kind of glorified salesmen
that if we properly (sell the) product we are trying to push,
then maybe you would be willing to give down your life,
lay down your life for somebody that we said is incredible
instead of just allowing you to experience it for yourself.
--- Damon Thompson
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
--- Wendell Berry
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays
Life with Christ is an endless hope; without Him a hopeless end.
Original sin distorts us. Actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us.
--- Rosaria Butterfield (interview)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Cestius Sends Ambassadors To Nero. The People Of Damascus Slay Those Jews That Lived With Them. The People Of Jerusalem After They Had [Left Off] Pursuing Cestius, Return To The City And Get Things Ready For Its Defense And Make A Great Many Generals For Their Armies And Particularly Josephus The Writer Of These Books. Some Account Of His Administration.
1. After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink; Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren, together with Philip, the son of Jacimus, who was the commander of king Agrippa's forces, ran away from the city, and went to Cestius. But then how Antipas, who had been besieged with them in the king's palace, but would not fly away with them, was afterward slain by the seditious, we shall relate hereafter. However, Cestius sent Saul and his friends, at their own desire, to Achaia, to Nero, to inform him of the great distress they were in, and to lay the blame of their kindling the war upon Florus, as hoping to alleviate his own danger, by provoking his indignation against Florus.
2. In the mean time, the people of Damascus, when they were informed of the destruction of the Romans, set about the slaughter of those Jews that were among them; and as they had them already cooped up together in the place of public exercises, which they had done out of the suspicion they had of them, they thought they should meet with no difficulty in the attempt; yet did they distrust their own wives, which were almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion; on which account it was that their greatest concern was, how they might conceal these things from them; so they came upon the Jews, and cut their throats, as being in a narrow place, in number ten thousand, and all of them unarmed, and this in one hour's time, without any body to disturb them.
3. But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, 31 and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar's money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.
4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, 32 who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.
5. So every one of the other commanders administered the affairs of his portion with that alacrity and prudence they were masters of; but as to Josephus, when he came into Galilee, his first care was to gain the good-will of the people of that country, as sensible that he should thereby have in general good success, although he should fail in other points. And being conscious to himself that if he communicated part of his power to the great men, he should make them his fast friends; and that he should gain the same favor from the multitude, if he executed his commands by persons of their own country, and with whom they were well acquainted; he chose out seventy of the most prudent men, and those elders in age, and appointed them to be rulers of all Galilee, as he chose seven judges in every city to hear the lesser quarrels; for as to the greater causes, and those wherein life and death were concerned, he enjoined they should be brought to him and the seventy 33 elders.
6. Josephus also, when he had settled these rules for determining causes by the law, with regard to the people's dealings one with another, betook himself to make provisions for their safety against external violence; and as he knew the Romans would fall upon Galilee, he built walls in proper places about Jotapata, and Bersabee, and Selamis; and besides these, about Caphareccho, and Japha, and Sigo, and what they call Mount Tabor, and Taricheae, and Tiberias. Moreover, he built walls about the caves near the lake of Gennesar, which places lay in the Lower Galilee; the same he did to the places of Upper Galilee, as well as to the rock called the Rock of the Achabari, and to Seph, and Jamnith, and Meroth; and in Gaulonitis he fortified Seleucia, and Sogane, and Gamala; but as to those of Sepphoris, they were the only people to whom he gave leave to build their own walls, and this because he perceived they were rich and wealthy, and ready to go to war, without standing in need of any injunctions for that purpose. The case was the same with Gischala, which had a wall built about it by John the son of Levi himself, but with the consent of Josephus; but for the building of the rest of the fortresses, he labored together with all the other builders, and was present to give all the necessary orders for that purpose. He also got together an army out of Galilee, of more than a hundred thousand young men, all of which he armed with the old weapons which he had collected together and prepared for them.
7. And when he had considered that the Roman power became invincible, chiefly by their readiness in obeying orders, and the constant exercise of their arms, he despaired of teaching these his men the use of their arms, which was to be obtained by experience; but observing that their readiness in obeying orders was owing to the multitude of their officers, he made his partitions in his army more after the Roman manner, and appointed a great many subalterns. He also distributed the soldiers into various classes, whom he put under captains of tens, and captains of hundreds, and then under captains of thousands; and besides these, he had commanders of larger bodies of men. He also taught them to give the signals one to another, and to call and recall the soldiers by the trumpets, how to expand the wings of an army, and make them wheel about; and when one wing hath had success, to turn again and assist those that were hard set, and to join in the defense of what had most suffered. He also continually instructed them in what concerned the courage of the soul, and the hardiness of the body; and, above all, he exercised them for war, by declaring to them distinctly the good order of the Romans, and that they were to fight with men who, both by the strength of their bodies and courage of their souls, had conquered in a manner the whole habitable earth. He told them that he should make trial of the good order they would observe in war, even before it came to any battle, in case they would abstain from the crimes they used to indulge themselves in, such as theft, and robbery, and rapine, and from defrauding their own countrymen, and never to esteem the harm done to those that were so near of kin to them to be any advantage to themselves; for that wars are then managed the best when the warriors preserve a good conscience; but that such as are ill men in private life will not only have those for enemies which attack them, but God himself also for their antagonist.
8. And thus did he continue to admonish them. Now he chose for the war such an army as was sufficient, i.e. sixty thousand footmen, and two hundred and fifty horsemen; 34 and besides these, on which he put the greatest trust, there were about four thousand five hundred mercenaries; he had also six hundred men as guards of his body. Now the cities easily maintained the rest of his army, excepting the mercenaries, for every one of the cities enumerated above sent out half their men to the army, and retained the other half at home, in order to get provisions for them; insomuch that the one part went to the war, and the other part to their work, and so those that sent out their corn were paid for it by those that were in arms, by that security which they enjoyed from them.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and the rod of his angry outburst will fail.
by Miles Van Pelt 10-14-2014
Another troubling episode recorded in the book of Judges appears in 11:29-40, when the judge Jephthah makes a vow that many have argued cost him the life of his daughter and only child — a human sacrifice. How could Jesus, in good conscience, proclaim that such a narrative testifies to him (John 5:39; Luke 24:44), or how could Paul understand this text as the gospel promised beforehand (Romans 1:2)? Did Jephthah really kill his daughter in order to fulfill a foolish vow made in the heat of battle? For many, the answer to this question is a troubling “yes.” But there is another option.
It is also possible that Jephthah never intended to sacrificially kill anyone or anything that came out of his house after he had returned from battle. Rather, this vow may be symbolic of a full or complete offering to the LORD as an expression of thanks for his grace in delivering Israel from their oppressors. Let’s consider the evidence together.
Six Reasons to Reconsider the Human Sacrifice Interpretation
1. The New Testament evaluation of the judges presented in the book of Judges is positive. Consider Hebrews 11:32–34: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah of David and Samuel and the prophets — who by faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” Notice how the author of the book of Hebrews lists Jephthah with the likes of David, Samuel, and the prophets. Additionally, these men served “by faith” and “executed justice,” not innocent young girls. Could the author of Hebrews rightly include Jephthah in this list if his last act as Judge included the illegal and horrific slaying of his own daughter?
2. In addition to the New Testament, the book of Judges itself affirms the calling and work of these men. For example, in Judges 2:16–19, it is recorded that the LORD raised up these men to save Israel, not to kill them. Additionally, the text is clear that the LORD was with the judges in their work. So to impugn the work of the judge is to impugn the work of the LORD through that judge. I am not saying that the judges were sinless, perfect people. With regard to their callings, however, they were faithful by God’s grace through the power of his Spirit. Additionally, it is important to observe that when God’s appointed leaders do fall into sin, the Bible is always ready to point it out. Moses struck the rock twice and so was banned from entering the promised land (Num. 20). David committed adultery and murder and received public, prophetic condemnation (2 Sam. 11–12). Even Paul rebuked Peter over the issue of eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2). There is no such condemnation recorded for Jephthah.
3. In Judges 11:29, it is recorded that the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and then in the next verse (11:30), Jephthah makes his infamous vow. Contextually speaking, therefore, this vow is the result of coming under the influence of the Spirit, not something in opposition to the work of the Spirit. This is a common pattern in the book of Judges. For example, in Judges 6:34, the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and then two verses later (6:36) he proposed the sign of the fleece. Additionally, with Samson, when the Spirit of the LORD rushed on him he killed a lion (14:6) and defeated the Philistines (14:9; 15:14, 19).
4. With Jephthah's vow, we must understand that he did not expect some type of animal or household pet to burst forth from the house upon his return. We know this to be true for a couple of reasons. First, in 11:31, the verb “to meet” is always used for people, never for a person encountering an animal. Second, in the ancient world, when men returned from battle, women would customarily come forth in procession in order to participate in celebratory dancing (cf. Ex. 15:20; Jud. 5:28; 1 Sam. 18:6). Give the cultural context in which these events transpired, Jephthah likely assumed that a woman would come out from the house to meet him, perhaps a servant girl or, even better, his mother-in-law, but certainly not an animal. A better translation for 11:31 would include “whoever comes out,” not “whatever comes out.”
5. With Jephthah’s vow in 11:31, we read that this offering would belong to the LORD, and that it would be offered up as a “[whole] burnt offering.” This particular offering is not used symbolically in any other part of the Old Testament. However, offerings in general, both in the Old and New Testaments, may be used symbolically in order to characterize something offered to the LORD by way of sacrificial giving. For example, in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons (the Levites) were symbolically offered to the LORD as a wave offering (something completely consumed with fire), a gesture of complete and total dedication to the LORD’s service. In Psalm 51:17, a broken and contrite heart is the sacrifice that the LORD desires. And in Romans 12:1, Paul admonished believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to the LORD, an act of spiritual worship. Thus it is clearly possible, and more likely probable, that Jephthah, under the Spirit’s guidance, was using the language of sacrifice symbolically in this context, symbolic of complete and total dedication to the LORD.
6. The willing fulfillment of this vow by Jephthah’s daughter (11:36) appears to contradict the literal interpretation of a child sacrifice. Not only were such sacrifices clearly forbidden and abominated in Scripture (Deut. 12:31; 18:9–12; cf. 2 Kings 3:27; 23:10; Is. 57:5), but the concern of the text is never death, but always virginity. In 11:37, Jephthah’s daughter requests a two-month leave in order to lament her virginity. Then, in 11:38, the text records that while with her friends, she wept over the fact of her virginity. Then again, in 11:39, it is recorded that Jephthah fulfilled his vow to the LORD, and the text clearly describes how this vow was fulfilled — “that is, she did not know a man.” It appears, therefore, that Jephthah’s vow consisted of offering a member of his house to the full-time service of the LORD, and thus not to the normal duties of a household, such a marriage and having children. Service of this type in not unknown in the Old Testament (Ex. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22; cf. 1 Sam. 1:11, 22–28).
This is certainly a difficult text to interpret, and both options deserve careful consideration. But consider the book of Judges as a whole. It begins with the faithfulness of Joshua’s generation and the tribe of Judah, but terminates with the tribe of Benjamin becoming Canaanite, as wicked as Sodom (cf. Gen. 13 with Jud. 19-20). As the book develops, God’s people decay into greater and greater wickedness (Jud. 2:19), but the LORD was merciful and continued to send judges in order to deliver his people. The greater the wickedness of the people, the greater the LORD’s salvation through each judge.
By the end, Gideon must forsake his family, Jephthah must offer up his only child (cf. Gen. 22:2), and Samson must die in order for God’s people to experience salvation from sin and oppression. Does this not sound like the gospel promised beforehand, a sure testimony to the person and work of Jesus? He left his family, the only begotten child of God. He died to finish the work of the judges that he had sent in ages past that we might keenly fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Miles Van Pelt is Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He has published extensively in the area of Hebrew and Aramaic language instruction, including serving as co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew. He also serves on the pastoral staff at Grace Reformed Church in Madison, Mississippi.
by Frank W. Boreham
It was a sunny autumn afternoon. The leaves were rustling about my feet, and the first nip of winter was in the air. It was Saturday, and I was out for a stroll. Suddenly a crowd attracted my attention, and, impelled by that curiosity which such a concourse invariably excites, I drew near to see whether it meant a fire or a fight. It was neither. As I approached I caught sight of young fellows moving in and out among the people, wearing light many-coloured garments, and I guessed that a race was about to be run. Almost as soon as I arrived, the men were called up, arranged in a long line, and preparations made for the start. At a signal two or three of them sprang out from the line and bounded with an easy stride along the load. A few seconds later, three or four more followed; then others; until at last only one was left; and, after a brief period of further waiting, he also left the line and set out in pursuit. It was a handicap, I was told, and this man had started from scratch. It was to be a long race, and it would be some time before any of the runners could be expected back again. The crowd, therefore, dispersed for the time being, breaking up into knots and groups, each of which strolled off to while away the waiting time as its own taste suggested. I turned into a lane that led up into the bush on the hillside, and, from that sheltered and sunny eminence, watched for the first sign of the returning runners.
Sitting there with nothing to do, it flashed upon me that the scene I had just witnessed was a reflection, as in a mirror, of all human experience and endeavour. Most men are heavily handicapped; it is no good blinking the fact. Ask a man to undertake some office or assume some responsibility in connexion with the church, and he will silence you at once with a narration of the difficulties that stand in his way. Ask a man to act on some board or committee for the management of some charitable or philanthropic enterprise, and he will explain to you that he has not a minute to spare. Ask a man to subscribe to some most necessary or deserving object, and he will tell you of the incessant demands to which he is subjected. Now it is no good putting all this down to cant. We have no right to assume that these are merely the lame excuses of men who, in their secret souls, do not desire to assist us. We must not hastily hurl at them the curse that fell upon Meroz because it came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty. All that they say is perfectly true. The difficulties that debar the first of these men from undertaking the work to which you are calling him are both real and formidable; the second man has every moment of his time fully occupied; the third man, because he is known to be generous, is badgered to death with collecting-lists from the first thing in the morning till the last thing at night. We must not judge these men too harshly. In the uncharitableness of our hearts we imagine that they have given us excuses which are not reasons. The fact is that they have done exactly the reverse; they have given us reasons which are not excuses. We are on safer ground when we recognize frankly that it is very difficult for many men to devote much time, much energy, and much money to the kingdom of God. Many men are heavily handicapped.
'Isn't that one of the runners just coming in sight now?' a friend asked, pointing along the road. I fancied that he was right, so we rose and strolled down to the spot from which the race had started. We must have been mistaken, for when we emerged from the lane there was no sign of the competitors, I was not sorry, however, that we had returned prematurely; for I noticed the handicapper strolling idly about, and got into conversation with him.
'There seems to me to be very little sense in a race of this kind,' I suggested to him. 'If those men win who started first, the honour is very small in view of the start they received; whilst if the man who started last fails to win, he feels it to be no disgrace, and comforts himself with the reflection that he was too heavily handicapped. Is that not so?'
'Oh, no,' replied the handicapper, politely concealing his pity for my simplicity; 'it works out just the other way. It isn't fair, don't you see, to keep those chaps that got away first always running in a class by themselves. It does not call out the best that is in them. But to-day it does them good to feel that they are being matched against some of the finest runners in the State, and they will strain every effort to try to beat the champions. And it does a man like Brown, who started from scratch, no harm to see those fellows all getting ahead of him at the start. He knows very well that he can beat any man in the country on level terms, and in such races he will only put forth just as much effort as is needed to get ahead of his opponent. But there is nothing to show that he could not do much better still if only his opponent were more formidable. In a race like this, however, he knows that anything may happen. His usual rivals have all got a start of him; if he is to defend his good name, he must beat all his previous records and bring his utmost power into play. And so every man in the race is put on his mettle. We consider the handicap a very useful race indeed!'
'Perhaps so,' I said, feeling that I was beaten, but feebly attempting to cover my retreat; 'but how do you compute the exact starts and handicaps which the different men are to take?'
'Ah,' he said, 'now you've touched the vital question.' I was gratified at his recognition of the good order of my retirement. 'You see,' he went on, 'we have to look up the men's previous performances and work out the differences in their records with mathematical exactness. But there is something more than that. We have to know the men. You can't adjust the handicaps by rule of three. Anybody who has seen Jones run must have noticed that he's a bit downhearted. He has been beaten every time, and he goes into a race now expecting to be beaten, and is therefore beaten before he starts. He needs encouragement, and we have to consider that fact in arranging his handicap. Then there's Smith. He's too cocksure. He has never had any difficulty in beating men of his own class. He needs putting on his mettle. So we increase his handicap accordingly. It takes a lot of working out, and a lot of thinking about, I tell you. But here they come!'
There was no mistake this time. A batch of runners came into sight all at once, the officials took their places, and the crowd clustered excitedly round. As we waited, the remarks to which I had just listened took powerful hold upon my mind. The handicaps of life may have been more carefully calculated and more beneficently designed than we have sometimes been inclined to suppose.
It was a fine finish. As the first batch of men drew nearer I was pleased to notice that Brown, the fellow in light blue, who had started last, was among them. Gradually he drew out from the rest, and, with a magnificent spurt, asserted his superiority and won the race. A few minutes later I took the tram citywards. Just as it was starting, Brown also entered the car. I could not resist the opportunity of congratulating him.
'It must have taken the heart out of you,' I said, 'to see all the other fellows getting away in front of you, and to find yourself left to the last?'
'Oh, no,' he replied, with a laugh, 'it's a bit of an honour, isn't it, to see that they think me so much better than everybody else that they fancy I have a sporting chance under such conditions? And, besides, it spurs a fellow to do his best. When you are accustomed to winning races, it doesn't feel nice to be beaten, even in a handicap, and to avoid being beaten you've got to go for all you're worth.'
I shook hands and left him. But I felt that he had given me something else to think about.
'It's a bit of an honour!' he had said. 'And, besides, it spurs a fellow to do his best!'
The next time a man tells me that he cannot help me because he is so heavily handicapped, what a tale I shall have to tell him!
My Saturday afternoon experience has convinced me that, in the Church, we have tragically misinterpreted the significance of handicaps.
'I am very heavily handicapped,' we say in the Church, 'therefore I must not attempt this thing!'
'I am very heavily handicapped,' they say out there at their sports, 'therefore I must put all my strength into it!'
And who can doubt that the philosophy of the Churchmen is false, or that the philosophy of the sportsmen is sound? There is a great saying of Bacon's that every handicapped man should learn by heart. 'Whosoever,' he says, 'hath anything fixed in his person that doth induce contempt hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn.' Is that why so many of the world's greatest benefactors were men who bore in their bodies the marks of physical affliction—blindness, deafness, disease, and the like? They felt that they were heavily handicapped, and that their handicap called them to make a supreme effort 'to rescue and deliver themselves from scorn.'
When speaking of the difficulty which a black boy experiences in America in competing with his white rivals, Booker Washington tells us that his own pathetic and desperate struggle taught him that 'success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.' There is a good deal in that. I was once present at a meeting of a certain Borough Council, at which an engineer had to report on a certain proposal which the municipal authorities were discussing. The engineer contented himself with remarking that there were serious difficulties in the way of the execution of the plan. Whereupon the Mayor turned upon the unfortunate engineer and remarked, 'We pay you your salary, Mr. Engineer, not to tell us that difficulties exist, but to show us how to surmount them!' I thought it rather a severe rebuke at the time, but very often since, when I have been tempted to allow my handicaps to divert me from my duty, I have been glad that I heard the poor engineer censured.
I was once deeply and permanently impressed by a chairman's speech at a meeting in Exeter Hall. That noble old auditorium was crowded from floor to ceiling for the annual missionary demonstration of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The chair was occupied by Mr. W. E. Knight, of Newark. In the course of a most earnest plea for missionary enthusiasm, Mr. Knight suddenly became personal. 'I was born in a missionary atmosphere,' he said. 'I have lived in it ever since; I hope I shall die in it. Over forty years ago my heart was touched with the story of the world's needs; when I heard such men as Gervase Smith, Dr. Punshon, Richard Roberts, G. T. Perks, and others, I said, "Lord, here am I, send me." I came up to London forty-one years ago as a candidate for the Methodist ministry. I offered myself, but the Church did not see fit to accept my offer. I remember well coming up to the college at Westminster and being told of the decision of the committee by that sainted man, William Jackson. I went to the little room in which I had slept with a broken heart. I despised myself. I was rejected of men, and I felt that I was forsaken of God.' Now here is a man heavily handicapped; but let him finish his story. 'In that moment of darkness,' Mr. Knight continued, 'the deepest darkness of my life, there came to me a voice which has influenced my life from then till now. It said. "If you cannot go yourself, send some one else." I was a poor boy then; I knew that I could not pay for anybody else to go. But time rolled on. I prospered in business. And to-night I shall lay on the altar a sum which I wish the committee to invest, and the interest on that sum will support a missionary in Africa, not during my lifetime only, but as long as capital is capable of earning interest. And, ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that this is a red-letter day in my life!'
Of course it was! It was the day on which he had turned his handicap to that account for which all handicaps were intended.
'My handicap was an honour and a spur!' said the champion in the tramcar.
'My handicap was an honour and a spur!' said the chairman at Exeter Hall.
Both the champion and the chairman did by means of their handicaps what they could never have done without those handicaps. There can be no doubt about it; handicaps were designed, not as the pitiful excuses of the indolent, but as the magnificent inspirations of the brave.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Something more about his ways
He comes where He commands us to leave.
When Jesus had made an end of commanding His disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. --- Matthew 11:1.
If when God said ‘Go,’ you stayed, because you were so concerned about your people at home, you robbed them of the teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach; as long as you would not obey, you were in the way. Watch where you begin to debate and to put what you call duty in competition with your Lord’s commands. ‘I know God told me to go, but then my duty was here’; that means you do not believe that Jesus means what he says.
He teaches where He instructs us not to.
“Master, … let us make three tabernacles.”
Are we playing the spiritual amateur providence in other lives? Are we so noisy in our instruction of others that God cannot get anywhere near them? We have to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert. God wants to instruct us in regard to His Son, He wants to turn our times of prayer into mounts of transfiguration, and we will not let Him. When we are certain of the way God is going to work, He will never work in that way any more.
He works where He sends us to wait.
“Tarry ye … until …”" Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.
These are phases of His ways we rarely recognize.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Oh, I know it: the long story,
The ecstasies, the mutilations;
Crazed, pitiable creatures
Imagining themselves a Napoleon,
A Jesus; letting their hair grow,
Shaving it off; gorging themselves
On a dream; kindling
A new truth, withering by it.
While patiently this poor farmer
Purged himself in his strong sweat,
Ploughing under the tall boughs
Of the tree of the knowledge of
Good and evil, watching its fruit
Ripen, abstaining from it.
Say to a good worker: “Well done!”
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 13:17–18 / Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 20, 10 / Thus it is written, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength’ ” (Psalm 66:3). Rabbi Yoḥanan in the name of Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Yosé ha-G’lili says, “Say to a good worker: ‘Well done!’ ” Those who were to be crucified crucified those who were to crucify them; those who were to be killed killed those who were to kill them. Haman plotted to hang Mordecai, and they hung him and his sons. Pharaoh said, “Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile …”
(Exodus 1:22), and he was thrown into the sea, as it says, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea” (Exodus 15:4). Thus, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds.’ ”
CONTEXT / Someone reading the account of the Exodus from Egypt might question God’s decision to lead the Israelites into the desert. Wouldn’t the shorter, more direct route into Israel have been preferable to the trek through the wilderness? True, God was concerned that the shorter way might have led the Israelites into conflict with the Egyptian troops. But they still faced that superior enemy and overcame them at the Sea of Reeds. What was gained by leading the people on the longer, more circuitous way?
What was gained, of course, was the miracle at the Sea of Reeds and the ultimate settling of the score with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. What seemed at first like poor planning turned out to be a brilliant strategy. The Israelites—and every subsequent reader of their story—learned critical lessons about God’s awesome might and about God’s attribute of justice.
The Midrash begins with a quote from the Psalms calling on us to praise God’s power: “How awesome are your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength.” This is a doubly appropriate verse because three lines later we read:
He turned the sea into dry land;
they crossed the river on foot;
we therefore rejoice in Him. (Psalm 66:6)
Though this connection to the Sea of Reeds is not quoted in our Midrash, the Rabbis were clearly aware of the appropriateness of this verse. They expected the reader either to know it or to look it up and discover it for him or herself. Just as we are surprised to stumble upon the Sea of Reeds in our Psalm, so too the Israelites were surprised to stumble upon the Sea of Reeds in their desert journey. The reader’s experience should mirror that of the Israelites.
The Psalmist chose elegant language in teaching us how to praise God. Rabbi Yoḥanan, quoting Rabbi Elazar, chooses a more common, earthy way to shower praise: “Say to a good worker: ‘Well done!’ ” The Hebrew phrase translated as “Well done!” is יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/yishar ko-ḥa-kha, which literally means “May your strength be firm (or straight).” To this day, these words are the traditional salutation offered to a person who has had an Aliyah (the honor of being called to the Torah in the synagogue service).
This section of Midrash ends with a thought about divine justice. Those who were to be crucified crucified those who were to crucify them; those who were to be killed killed those who were to kill them. Our enemies, we are reminded, got what they deserved. The punishment neatly fits the crime. Haman, the villain of the Purim story in the Scroll of Esther, wanted to have Mordecai hanged. In the end, that was the very fate he met. Similarly, Pharaoh began his persecution of the Israelites by ordering that their baby boys be thrown into the waters of the Nile and drowned. He and his people were punished by being thrown into the waters of the Sea of Reeds, where they were drowned. We sometimes find ourselves second-guessing God’s justice when we see bad things occurring in our world. The Midrash tries to assure us: In the end, everything will work out for the best.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
This delight in prayer is a delight in the precepts and promises of God, which are the ground and rules of prayer. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) First, David delights in God’s testimonies and then calls on him with his whole heart. A gracious heart must first delight in precepts and promises before it can turn them into prayers, for prayer is nothing else but presenting God with his own promise, desiring that which he has promised to us. No one was more cheerful in prayer than David, because no one was more rejoicing in the statutes of God. God’s statutes were David’s songs (Ps. 119:54). And the divine Word was sweeter to him than honey. If our hearts do not leap at divine promises, we are likely to have drowsy souls in desiring them. If our eyes are not on the delicacies God sets before us, our desires cannot be strong for him. If we have no delight in the rich legacies of God, how can we sue for them? If we do not delight in the covenant of grace, we will not delight in prayers for grace. The hopes of reward made Moses valiant in suffering, and the joy set before Christ made him so cheerful in enduring the shame (Heb. 12:1–2).
A delight in prayer itself. A Christian’s heart is—in secret—transported into heaven. There is a delight in coming near God and warming the soul by the fire of his love.
The angels are cheerful in the act of praise; their work is their glory. Holy souls so delight in this duty that if there were no command, no promise, they would be stepping into God’s courts. They do not think it a good day that passes without some communion with God. David would have taken up his lodgings in the courts of God and regards it as the only blessedness (Ps. 65:4). And so great a delight he had in being in God’s presence that he envies the birds the happiness of building their nests near God’s tabernacle. There is a delight in the holiness of prayer; natural men or women under some troubles may delight in God’s comforting and easing presence—but not in his sanctifying presence. They may delight to pray to God as a storehouse to supply their wants—but not as a refiner’s fire to purge away thir dross. Prayer, as praise, is a melody to God in the heart (Eph. 5:19). And the soul loves to be fingering the instrument and touching the strings.
--- Stephen Charnock
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Protestant Passover August 1
We can’t blame churchmen in England for agonizing every time a new monarch was crowned, for the religious persuasion of the kings determined who would be burned. Anxiety continued even in the days of Isaac Watts and his fellow pastor, Thomas Bradbury. During their day, Queen Anne and the parliament passed the “Schism Bill,” to take effect August 1, 1714. Many predicted it would reestablish Catholicism in England “with mighty gust,” and that Baptists and other Dissenters would again be racked and burned. A terrible storm gathered, and even the stalwart Bradbury grew anxious.
In the early hours of August 1, Bishop Burnet was passing through Smithfield in London where martyrs of previous eras had died. Seeing Bradbury there, he asked, “Why are you so buried in thought, Mr. Bradbury?”
“I have been wondering, bishop,” replied Bradbury, “whether I shall have the resolution of that noble army of martyrs whose ashes are deposited in this place. Similar times of persecution are at hand, and I shall be called to suffer.”
“Then you have not heard the news! The queen is seriously ill. I am on my way to obtain the latest particulars. I will dispatch a messenger with the earliest intelligence of her death. If you are in the pulpit when he arrives he will drop a handkerchief from the gallery.”
Later that Morning Bradbury ascended his pulpit, and in the middle of his sermon a handkerchief fluttered from the gallery. For weeks he had lived in suspense. Now the news descended with the handkerchief: Anne is dead; the Schism bill, lost; the danger, past. His blood surged, but he continued his sermon without pause. Only in his concluding prayer did he reveal to his stunned congregation that God had “delivered these kingdoms from evil counsels.” He prayed for “His Majesty, King George,” then quoted Psalm 89.
For years, Dissenters regarded August 1, 1714 as a day of deliverance, the “Protestant Passover.” And the commemoration continues every time we sing the anthem Watts wrote on that occasion: O God Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come.
Our LORD, I will sing of your love forever.
Everyone yet to be born
Will hear me praise your faithfulness.
I will tell them,
“God’s love can always be trusted,
And his faithfulness lasts as long as the heavens.”
--- Psalm 89:1,2.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
PSALM 14:1.—The fool hath said in his heart There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
THIS psalm is a description of the deplorable corruption by nature of every son of Adam, since the withering of that common root. Some restrain it to the Gentiles, as a wilderness full of briers and thorns, as not concerning the Jews, the garden of God, planted by his grace, and watered by the dew of heaven. But the apostle, the best interpreter, rectifies this in extending it by name to Jews, as well as Gentiles, (Rom. 6:9.) “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin,” and (ver. 10–12) cites part of this psalm and other passages of scripture for the further evidence of it, concluding by Jews and Gentiles, every person in the world naturally in this state of corruption.
The psalmist first declares the corruption of the faculties of the soul, The fool hath said in his heart; secondly, the streams issuing from thence, they are corrupt, &c.: the first in atheistical principles, the other in unworthy practice; and lays all the evil, tyranny, lust, and persecutions by men, (as if the world were only for their sake) upon the neglects of God, and the atheism cherished in their hearts. The fool, a term in scripture signifying a wicked man, used also by the heathen philosophers to signify a vicious person, גבל as coming from נבל signifies the extinction of life in men, animals, and plants; so the word נבל is taken, a plant that hath lost all that juice that made it lovely and useful. So a fool is one that hath lost his wisdom, and right notion of God and divine things which were communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties as of grace in those faculties, not one that wants reason, but abuses his reason. In Scripture the word signifies foolish.
Said in his heart; that is, he thinks, or he doubts, or he wishes. The thoughts of the heart are in the nature of words to God, though not to men. It is used in the like case of the atheistical person, (Ps. 10:11, 13) “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten; he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.” He doth not form a syllogism, as Calvin speaks, that there is no God: he dares not openly publish it, Not so today. The fool proclaims his atheism and the foolish are the majority. though he dares secretly think it. He cannot raze out the thoughts of a Deity, though he endeavors to blot those characters of God in his soul. He hath some doubts whether there be a God or no: he wishes there were not any, and sometimes hopes there is none at all. He could not so ascertain himself by convincing arguments to produce to the world, but he tampered with his own heart to bring it to that persuasion, and smothered in himself those notices of a Deity; which is so plain against the light of nature, that such a man may well be called a fool for it.
There is no God ולטנאשׁ לית non potestas Domini, Chaldae. It is not Jehovah, which name signifies the essence of God, as the prime and supreme being; but Eloahia, ( In other words, atheism can be either the denial or doubting of God's bare existence (absolute and sceptical atheism respectfully, as Charnock categorizes them), but also includes the denial or drastic revision of God's essence - the classic seventeenth-century meaning of the term. Charnock justifies this point exegetically from his understanding of the Hebrew text of Psalm 14:1 which uses the Hebrew form he transliterates as Eloahia, and Latinises as potestas Dei, 'power of God'. The fool is not so much involved in denying the bare existence of God as in the denial of God's power and jurisdiction, a denial which inevitably has profound practical implications. In fact what Charnock is really going to deal with in this treatise is not atheism as understood in the modern world, but practical atheism: the rejection of God's character as demonstrated in licentious living. This, of course, allows Charnock to broaden the application of the verse, and thus the 'foolishness' of its subject to include the usual suspects: Arminians and Socinians. Though not mentioned explicitly, there is no doubt that it is them he has in mind. Reason, Faith and History: Philosophical Essays for Paul Helm ) which name signifies the providence of God, God as a rector and judge. Not that he denies the existence of a Supreme Being, that created the world, but his regarding the creatures, his government of the world, and consequently his reward of the righteous or punishments of the wicked.
There is a threefold denial of God, 1. Quoad existentiam; this is absolute atheism. 2. Quoad Providentiam, or his inspection into, or care of the things of the world, bounding him in the heavens. 3. Quoad naturam, in regard of one or other of the perfections due to his nature.
Of the denial of the providence of God most understand this, not excluding the absolute atheist, as Diagoras is reported to be, nor the skeptical atheist, as Protagoras, who doubted whether there were a God. Those that deny the providence of God, do in effect deny the being of God; for they strip him of that wisdom, goodness, tenderness, mercy, justice, righteousness, which are the glory of the Deity. And that principle, of a greedy desire to be uncontrolled in their lusts, which induceth men to a denial of Providence, that thereby they might stifle those seeds of fear which infect and embitter their sinful pleasures, may as well lead them to deny that there is any such being as a God. That at one blow, their fears may be dashed all in pieces and dissolved by the removal of the foundation: as men who desire liberty to commit works of darkness, would not have the lights in the house dimmed, but extinguished. What men say against Providence, because they would have no check in their lusts, they may say in their hearts against the existence of God upon the same account; little difference between the dissenting from the one and disowning the other.
They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. He speaks of the atheist in the singular, “the fool;” of the corruption issuing in the life in the plural; intimating that though some few may choke in their hearts the sentiments of God and his providence, and positively deny them, yet there is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of a God, but a denial or doubting of some of the rights of his nature. When men deny the God of purity, they must needs be polluted in soul and body, and in their actions.
When the sense of religion is shaken off, all kinds of wickedness is eagerly rushed into, whereby they become as loathsome to God as putrefied carcases are to men. Not one or two evil actions is the product of such a principle, but the whole scene of a man’s life is corrupted and becomes execrable. Think of today and remember Charnock lived 1628 – 1680.
No man is exempted from some spice of atheism by the depravation of his nature, which the psalmist intimates, “there is none that doeth good:” though there are indelible convictions of the being of a God, that they cannot absolutely deny it; yet there are some atheistical bubblings in the hearts of men, which evidence themselves in their actions. As the apostle, (Tit. 1:16,) “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” Evil works are a dust stirred up by an atheistical breath. He that habituates himself in some sordid can scarcely be said seriously and firmly to believe that there is a God in being; and the apostle doth not say that they know God, but they profess to know him: true knowledge and profession of knowledge are distinct. It intimates also to us, the unreasonableness of atheism in the consequence, when men shut their eyes against the beams of so clear a sun, God revengeth himself upon them for their impiety, by leaving them to their own wills, lets them fall into the deepest sink and dregs of iniquity; and since they doubt of him in their hearts, suffers them above others to deny him in their works, this the apostle discourseth at large. The text then is a description of man’s corruption.
1. Of his mind. The fool hath said in his heart. No better title than that of a fool is afforded to the atheist.
2. Of the other faculties, 1. In sins of commission, expressed by the loathsomeness (corrupt, abominable),
2. In sins of omission (there is none that doeth good) he lays down the corruption of the mind as the cause, the corruption of the other faculties as the effect.
I. It is a great folly to deny or doubt of the existence or being of God: or, an atheist is a great fool.
II. . Practical atheism is natural to man in his corrupt state. It is against nature as constituted by God, but natural, as nature is depraved by man: the absolute disowning of the being of a God is not natural to men, but the contrary is natural; but an inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, is natural to man as corrupt.
III. A secret atheism, or a partial atheism, is the spring of all the wicked practices in the world: the disorders of the life spring from the ill dispositions of the heart.
For the first, every atheist is a grand fool. If he were not a fool, he would not imagine a thing so contrary to the stream of the universal reason of the world, contrary to the rational dictates of his own soul, and contrary to the testimony of every creature, and link in the chain of creation: if he were not a fool, he would not strip himself of humanity, and degrade himself lower than the most despicable brute. It is a folly; for though God be so inaccessible that we cannot know him perfectly, yet he is so much in the light, that we cannot be totally ignorant of him; as he cannot be comprehended in his essence, he cannot be unknown in his existence; it is as easy by reason to understand that he is, as it is difficult to know what he is. The demonstrations reason furnisheth us with for the existence of God, will be evidences of the atheist’s folly. One would think there were little need of spending time in evidencing this truth, since in the principle of it, it seems to be so universally owned, and at the first, proposal and demand, gains the assent of most men.
But, 1. Doth not the growth of atheism among us render this necessary? may it not justly be suspected, that the swarms of atheists are more numerous in our times, than history records to have been in any age, when men will not only say it in their hearts, but publish it with their lips, and boast that they have shaken off those shackles which bind other men’s consciences? Doth not the bare-faced debauchery of men evidence such a settled sentiment, or at least a careless belief of the truth, which lies at the root, and sprouts up in such venomous branches in the world? Can men’s hearts be free from that principle wherewith their practices are so openly depraved? It is true, the light of nature shines too vigorously for the power of man totally to put it out; yet loathsome actions impair and weaken the actual thoughts and considerations of a Deity, and are like mists that darken the light of the sun, though they cannot extinguish it: their consciences, as a candlestick, must hold it, though their unrighteousness obscure it, (Rom. 1:18.) “Who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The engraved characters of the law of nature remain, though they daub them with their muddy lusts to make them illegible: so that since the inconsideration of a Deity is the cause of all the wickedness and extravagances of men; and as Austin saith, the proposition is always true, the fool hath said in his heart, &c. and more evidently true in this age than any, it will not be unnecessary to discourse of the demonstrations of this first principle. The apostles spent little time in urging this truth; it was taken for granted all over the world, and they were generally devout in the worship of those idols they thought to be gods: that age run from one God to many, and our age is running from one God to none at all.
2. The existence of God is the foundation of all religion. The whole building totters if the foundation be out of course: if we have not deliberate and right notions of it, we shall perform no worship, no service, yield no affection to him. If there be not a God, it is impossible there can be one, for eternity is essential to the notion of a God; so all religion would be vain, and unreasonable to pay homage to that which is not in being, nor can ever be. We must first believe that he is, and that he is what he declares himself to be, before we can seek him, adore him, and devote our affections to him. We cannot pay God a due and regular homage, unless we understand him in his perfections, what he is; and we can pay him no homage at all, unless we believe that he is.
3. It is fit we should know why we believe, that our belief of a God may appear to be upon undeniable evidence, and that we may give a better reason for his existence, than that we have heard our parents and teachers tell us so, and our acquaintance think so. It is as much as to say there is no God, when we know not why we believe there is, and would not consider the arguments for his existence.
4. It is necessary to depress that secret atheism which is in the heart of every man by nature. Though every visible object which offers itself to our sense, presents a deity to our minds, and exhorts us to subscribe to the truth of it; yet there is a root of atheism springing up sometimes in wavering thoughts and foolish imaginations, inordinate actions, and secret wishes. Certain it is, that every man that doth not love God, denies God; now can he that disaffects him, and hath a slavish fear of him, wish his existence, and say to his own heart with any cheerfulness, there is a God, and make it his chief care to persuade himself of it? he would persuade himself there is no God, and stifle the seeds of it in his reason and conscience, that he might have the greatest liberty to entertain the allurements of the flesh. It is necessary to excite men to daily and actual considerations of God and his nature, which would be a bar to much of that wickedness which overflows in the lives of men.
5. Nor is it unuseful to those who effectually believe and love him; for those who have had a converse with God, and felt his powerful influences in the secrets of their hearts, to take a prospect of those satisfactory accounts which reason gives of that God they adore and love; to see every creature justify them in their owning of him, and affections to him: indeed the evidences of a God striking upon the conscience of those who resolve to cleave to sin as their chiefest darling, will dash their pleasures with unwelcome mixtures.
The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 1
“Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn.” --- Ruth 2:2.
Downcast and troubled Christian, come and glean to-day in the broad field of promise. Here are abundance of precious promises, which exactly meet thy wants. Take this one: “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” Doth not that suit thy case? A reed, helpless, insignificant, and weak, a bruised reed, out of which no music can come; weaker than weakness itself; a reed, and that reed bruised, yet, he will not break thee; but on the contrary, will restore and strengthen thee. Thou art like the smoking flax: no light, no warmth, can come from thee; but he will not quench thee; he will blow with his sweet breath of mercy till he fans thee to a flame. Wouldst thou glean another ear? “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What soft words! Thy heart is tender, and the Master knows it, and therefore he speaketh so gently to thee. Wilt thou not obey him, and come to him even now? Take another ear of corn: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” How canst thou fear with such a wonderful assurance as this? Thou mayest gather ten thousand such golden ears as these! “I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions.” Or this, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Or this, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” Our Master’s field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy.
Evening - August 1
“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.” --- Psalm 65:11.
All the year round, every hour of every day, God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we wake his mercy waits upon us. The sun may leave us a legacy of darkness, but our God never ceases to shine upon his children with beams of love. Like a river, his lovingkindness is always flowing, with a fulness inexhaustible as his own nature. Like the atmosphere which constantly surrounds the earth, and is always ready to support the life of man, the benevolence of God surrounds all his creatures; in it, as in their element, they live, and move, and have their being. Yet as the sun on summer days gladdens us with beams more warm and bright than at other times, and as rivers are at certain seasons swollen by the rain, and as the atmosphere itself is sometimes fraught with more fresh, more bracing, or more balmy influences than heretofore, so is it with the mercy of God; it hath its golden hours; its days of overflow, when the Lord magnifieth his grace before the sons of men. Amongst the blessings of the nether springs, the joyous days of harvest are a special season of excessive favour. It is the glory of autumn that the ripe gifts of providence are then abundantly bestowed; it is the mellow season of realization, whereas all before was but hope and expectation. Great is the joy of harvest. Happy are the reapers who fill their arms with the liberality of heaven. The Psalmist tells us that the harvest is the crowning of the year. Surely these crowning mercies call for crowning thanksgiving! Let us render it by the inward emotions of gratitude. Let our hearts be warmed; let our spirits remember, meditate, and think upon this goodness of the Lord. Then let us praise him with our lips, and laud and magnify his name from whose bounty all this goodness flows. Let us glorify God by yielding our gifts to his cause. A practical proof of our gratitude is a special thank-offering to the Lord of the harvest.
Morning and Evening
I AM THINE, O LORD
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:22)
Each new day requires a fresh renewal of our dedication to the Lord. The strongest of Christians can be drawn away by the pressures of daily living. And we are vulnerable to the lusts of the flesh and the eyes as well as the subtle temptations that constitute the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The warning of Scripture is clear: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). God must always have His rightful place on the throne of the heart. Nothing in life—not job, not recreation, not even family—should have the top priority of our daily concerns. Anything that replaces the Lordship of Christ can become idolatrous and cause us to be susceptible to a spiritual disaster. We must each day say, “I am Thine, O Lord.”
Fanny Crosby wrote this consecration hymn while visiting in the home of the composer of the music, William H. Doane, in Cincinnati. The family’s conversation that night centered around the blessedness of enjoying the nearness of God. Suddenly in a moment of inspiration, Fanny started giving the words of the hymn—line by line, verse by verse, and then the chorus. Soon after Doane supplied the music, and another of the more than 8,000 Fanny Crosby hymns was born. Since that day in 1875, these moving lines have ministered to and challenged countless numbers of God’s people to keep their lives dedicated to their Lord:
I am Thine, O Lord—I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me; but I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the pow’r of grace divine; let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine.
O the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend, when I kneel in pray’r and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend.
There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea; there are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee.
Chorus: Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died; draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.
For Today: Psalm 16:11; 73:28; Romans 12:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 7:22–24; Hebrews 12:28
Begin this new day, with all of its unknown pressures and temptations, with this musical prayer upon your lips ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CIV. — THE next passage which the Diatribe takes up is that of Isaiah xlv. 9, “Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, what makest Thou?” And that of Jeremiah xviii. 6, “Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in Mine hand.” Here the Diatribe says again — “these passages are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in the places of the prophets from which they are taken; because, in the prophets they speak of temporal affliction, but Paul uses them, with reference to eternal election and reprobation.” — So that, here again, temerity or ignorance in Paul, is insinuated.
But before we see how the Diatribe proves, that neither of these passages excludes “Free-will,” I will make this remark: — that Paul does not appear to have taken this passage out of the Scriptures, nor does the Diatribe prove that he has. For Paul usually mentions the name of his author, or declares that he has taken a certain part from the Scriptures; whereas, here, he does neither. It is most probable, therefore, that Paul uses this general similitude according to his spirit in support of his own cause, as others have used it in support of theirs. It is in the same way that he uses this similitude. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump’” which, 1 Cor. v. 6, he uses to represent corrupt morals: and applies it in another place (Gal. v. 9) to those who corrupt the Word of God: so Christ also speaks of the “leaven of Herod” and “of the Pharisees.” (Mark viii. 15; Matt. xvi. 6).
Supposing, therefore, that the prophets use this similitude, when speaking more particularly of temporal punishment; (upon which I shall not now dwell, lest I should be too much occupied about irrelevant questions, and kept away from the subject point,) yet Paul uses it, in his spirit, against “Free-will.” And as to saying that the liberty of the will is not destroyed by our being as clay in the hand of an afflicting God, I know not what it means, nor why the Diatribe contends for such a point: for, without doubt, afflictions come upon us from God against our will, and impose upon us the necessity of bearing them, whether we will or no: nor is it in our power to avert them: though we are exhorted to bear them with a willing mind.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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