Jeremiah 4 - 6
Jeremiah 4:1 “If you return, O Israel,
declares the Lord,
to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
and do not waver,
2 and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’
in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
and in him shall they glory.”
“Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”
Disaster from the North
5 Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say,
“Blow the trumpet through the land;
cry aloud and say,
‘Assemble, and let us go
into the fortified cities!’
6 Raise a standard toward Zion,
flee for safety, stay not,
for I bring disaster from the north,
and great destruction.
7 A lion has gone up from his thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
8 For this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned back from us.”
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, 12 a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.”
13 Behold, he comes up like clouds;
his chariots like the whirlwind;
his horses are swifter than eagles—
woe to us, for we are ruined!
14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil,
that you may be saved.
How long shall your wicked thoughts
lodge within you?
15 For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims trouble from Mount Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations that he is coming;
announce to Jerusalem,
“Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
17 Like keepers of a field are they against her all around,
because she has rebelled against me,
declares the Lord.
18 Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
Anguish over Judah's Desolation
19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
20 Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
21 How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 “For my people are foolish;
they know me not;
they are stupid children;
they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.”
23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
27 For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28 “For this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above be dark;
for I have spoken; I have purposed;
I have not relented, nor will I turn back.”
29 At the noise of horseman and archer
every city takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
all the cities are forsaken,
and no man dwells in them.
30 And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life.
31 For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one giving birth to her first child,
the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.”
Jerusalem Refused to Repent
Jeremiah 5:1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.
2 Though they say, “As the Lord lives,”
yet they swear falsely.
3 O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
4 Then I said, “These are only the poor;
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.
5 I will go to the great
and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke;
they had burst the bonds.
6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall strike them down;
a wolf from the desert shall devastate them.
A leopard is watching their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces,
because their transgressions are many,
their apostasies are great.
7 “How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
8 They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor's wife.
9 Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
10 “Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end;
strip away her branches,
for they are not the Lord's.
11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly treacherous to me,
declares the Lord.
12 They have spoken falsely of the Lord
and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
nor shall we see sword or famine.
13 The prophets will become wind;
the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!’”
The Lord Proclaims Judgment
14 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
“Because you have spoken this word,
behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire,
and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.
15 Behold, I am bringing against you
a nation from afar, O house of Israel,
declares the Lord.
It is an enduring nation;
it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
nor can you understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open tomb;
they are all mighty warriors.
17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
your fortified cities in which you trust
they shall beat down with the sword.”
20 Declare this in the house of Jacob;
proclaim it in Judah:
21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes, but see not,
who have ears, but hear not.
22 Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail;
though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say in their hearts,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
the weeks appointed for the harvest.’
25 Your iniquities have turned these away,
and your sins have kept good from you.
26 For wicked men are found among my people;
they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.
They set a trap;
they catch men.
27 Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
28 they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
29 Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?”
30 An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
31 the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
Impending Disaster for Jerusalem
Jeremiah 6:1 Flee for safety, O people of Benjamin,
from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem,
for disaster looms out of the north,
and great destruction.
2 The lovely and delicately bred I will destroy,
the daughter of Zion.
3 Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her;
they shall pitch their tents around her;
they shall pasture, each in his place.
4 “Prepare war against her;
arise, and let us attack at noon!
Woe to us, for the day declines,
for the shadows of evening lengthen!
5 Arise, and let us attack by night
and destroy her palaces!”
6 For thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Cut down her trees;
cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished;
there is nothing but oppression within her.
7 As a well keeps its water fresh,
so she keeps fresh her evil;
violence and destruction are heard within her;
sickness and wounds are ever before me.
8 Be warned, O Jerusalem,
lest I turn from you in disgust,
lest I make you a desolation,
an uninhabited land.”
9 Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“They shall glean thoroughly as a vine
the remnant of Israel;
like a grape gatherer pass your hand again
over its branches.”
10 To whom shall I speak and give warning,
that they may hear?
Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,
they cannot listen;
behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it.
11 Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged.
12 Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the LORD.
13 “For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the LORD.
16 Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
17 I set watchmen over you, saying,
‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
18 Therefore hear, O nations,
and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
19 Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
and as for my law, they have rejected it.
20 What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.
21 Therefore thus says the LORD:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people
stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together,
neighbor and friend shall perish.’ ”
22 Thus says the LORD:
“Behold, a people is coming from the north country,
a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
23 They lay hold on bow and javelin;
they are cruel and have no mercy;
the sound of them is like the roaring sea;
they ride on horses,
set in array as a man for battle,
against you, O daughter of Zion!”
24 We have heard the report of it;
our hands fall helpless;
anguish has taken hold of us,
pain as of a woman in labor.
25 Go not out into the field,
nor walk on the road,
for the enemy has a sword;
terror is on every side.
26 O daughter of my people, put on sackcloth,
and roll in ashes;
make mourning as for an only son,
most bitter lamentation,
for suddenly the destroyer
will come upon us.
27 “I have made you a tester of metals among my people,
that you may know and test their ways.
28 They are all stubbornly rebellious,
going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron;
all of them act corruptly.
29 The bellows blow fiercely;
the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
for the wicked are not removed.
30 Rejected silver they are called,
for the LORD has rejected them.”
What I'm Reading
God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5)
By John R.W. Stott from The Cross Of Christ
Paul must have shocked his Roman readers when he wrote that ‘God...justifies the wicked’ (Rom. 4:5). How could God conceivably do such a thing? It was outrageous that the Divine Judge should practise what – in the very same Greek words – he had forbidden human judges to do. Besides, how could the Righteous One declare the unrighteous righteous? The very thought was preposterous.
In order to summarize Paul’s defence of the divine justification of sinners, I will select four of his key phrases, which relate successively to justification’s source, ground, means and effects. First, the source of our justification is indicated in the expression justified by his grace (Rom. 3:24), that is, by his utterly undeserved favour. Since it is certain that ‘there is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Rom. 3:10), it is equally certain that no-one can declare himself to be righteous in God’s sight. (Ps. 143:2. Cf. Pss. 51:4; 130:3; Job 25:4.) Self-justification is a sheer impossibility (Rom. 3:20). Therefore, ‘it is God who justifies’ (Rom. 8:33); only he can. And he does it ‘freely’ (Rom. 3:24, dōrean, ‘as a free gift, gratis’), not because of any works of ours, but because of his own grace. In Tom Wright’s neat epigram, ‘no sin, no need for justification: no grace, no possibility of it’. (From his essay ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism’, in Great Acquittal, p.16.)
Grace is one thing, however; justice is another. And justification has to do with justice. To say that we are ‘justified by his grace’ tells us the source of our justification, but says nothing about a righteous basis of it, without which God would contradict his own justice. So another key expression of Paul’s, which introduces us to the ground of our justification, is justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). Justification is not a synonym for amnesty, which strictly is pardon without principle, a forgiveness which overlooks – even forgets (amnēstia is ‘forgetfulness’) – wrongdoing and declines to bring it to justice. No, justification is an act of justice, of gracious justice. Its synonym is ‘the righteousness of God’ (Rom. 1:17; 3:21), which might for the moment be explained as his ‘righteous way of righteoussing the unrighteous’. Dr J. I. Packer defines it as ‘God’s gracious work of bestowing upon guilty sinners a justified justification, acquitting them in the court of heaven without prejudice to his justice as their Judge’. (From his article ‘Justification’ in New Bible Dictionary, p.647.) When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking. That is why Paul is able to bring together in a single sentence the concepts of justification, redemption and propitiation (Rom. 3:24–25). The reasons why we are ‘justified freely by God’s grace’ are that Christ Jesus paid the ransom-price and that God presented him as a propitiatory sacrifice. In other words, we are ‘justified by his blood’. There could be no justification without atonement.
Thirdly, the means of our justification is indicated in Paul’s favourite expression justified by faith. (E.g. Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9.) Grace and faith belong indissolubly to one another, since faith’s only function is to receive what grace freely offers. We are not, therefore, justified ‘by’ our faith, as we are justified ‘by’ God’s grace and ‘by’ Christ’s blood. God’s grace is the source and Christ’s blood the ground of our justification; faith is only the means by which we are united to Christ. As Richard Hooker put it with his usual precision: ‘God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for his worthiness who is believed.’ (From Hooker’s ‘Definition of Justification’, being Chapter xxxiii of his Ecclesiastical Polity, which began to be published in 1593.)
Further, if faith is only the means, it is also the only means. Although the word ‘only’ does not occur in the Greek of Romans 3:28, it was a right instinct of Luther’s, as we have seen, and indeed a correct translation, to render Paul’s expression ‘we maintain that a man is justified by faith only, apart from observing the law’. The point of his writing ‘by faith apart from works of law’ was to exclude law-works altogether, leaving faith as the sole means of justification. And Paul has already given his reason in the previous verse, namely to exclude boasting. For unless all human works, merits, co-operation and contributions are ruthlessly excluded, and Christ’s sin-bearing death is seen in its solitary glory as the only ground of our justification, boasting cannot be excluded. Cranmer saw this clearly: ‘This saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being unable to deserve our justification at God’s hands,...and thereby wholly for to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and his most precious bloodshedding....And this form of speaking we use in the humbling of ourselves to God, and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it.’ (From Cranmer’s ‘Sermon on Salvation’ in the First Book of Homilies, pp.25 and 29.)
Fourthly, what are the effects of our justification? I think we can deduce them from another, and sometimes neglected, Pauline expression, namely that we are justified in Christ. (Gal. 2:17. Cf. Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6.) To say that we are justified ‘through Christ’ points to his historical death; to say that we are justified ‘in Christ’ points to the personal relationship with him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings. The first is membership of the Messianic community of Jesus. If we are in Christ and therefore justified, we are also the children of God and the true (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Further, no racial, social or sexual barrier can come between us. This is the theme of Galatians 3:26–29. Tom Wright is surely correct in his emphasis that ‘justification is not an individualist’s charter, but God’s declaration that we belong to the covenant community’. (Tom Wright, ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis’ from Great Acquittal, p.36.) Secondly, this new community, to create which Christ gave himself on the cross, is to be ‘eager to do what is good’, and its members are to devote themselves to good works. (Titus 2:14; 3:8.) So there is no ultimate conflict between Paul and James. They may have been using the verb ‘justify’ in different senses. They were certainly writing against different heresies, Paul against the self-righteous legalism of the Judaizers and James against the dead orthodoxy of the intellectualizers. Yet both teach that an authentic faith works, Paul stressing the faith that issues in works, and James the works that issue from faith. (E.g. Gal. 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:3; Jas 2:14–26.)
The Politics of Solomon’s Dream
By Alastair Roberts 7/24/2017
(1 Ki 3:5–14)5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”
Our passage finds the young King Solomon, David’s son, having successfully navigated the precarious early days of his reign, secured his right as the heir of the dynasty against pretenders and threats to his throne, and established a strategic alliance with Pharaoh by marrying his daughter. Now that the ship of the kingdom is finally on an even keel, Solomon’s task of ruling Israel can truly begin. Solomon asks for wisdom, more specifically for “discernment of good and evil” … (3:9), using a phrase similar to that found in Gen. 2–3 to describe the tree in the garden … a tree that gives wisdom. Solomon’s request can thus be described as a request for access to the tree forbidden to Adam. Like Adam, Solomon goes into “deep sleep” in order to receive a bride, but Solomon awakes in the company of Lady Wisdom. As in 1 Kgs. 2, Solomon is a new and improved Adam.
Within the story of the early life of Solomon, there are various details that recall the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden. Solomon constructs the temple, a building replete with garden symbolism—pomegranates, lilies, cedars, olive wood, and streams of water moving out—and containing images of guarding cherubim, as God appointed in the Garden of Eden. This new construction is associated with a time of peace and rest after the wars and struggles of King David’s reign.
As king, Solomon is like a restored Adam, established by God to reign in a kingdom of peace. Peter Leithart remarks:
As 1 Kings 3 recalls the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it also alerts us to a movement beyond the order of Genesis. In Genesis 2 and 3, that tree—the tree associated with wisdom and authoritative rule in the wider world—was forbidden to Adam and Eve, yet the wisdom and authority its fruit once promised is here given by God to Solomon.
Solomon asks for wisdom, more specifically for “discernment of good and evil” … (3:9), using a phrase similar to that found in Gen. 2–3 to describe the tree in the garden … a tree that gives wisdom. Solomon’s request can thus be described as a request for access to the tree forbidden to Adam. Like Adam, Solomon goes into “deep sleep” in order to receive a bride, but Solomon awakes in the company of Lady Wisdom. As in 1 Kgs. 2, Solomon is a new and improved Adam.
Why Believing in Miracles is Not Illogical
By Lenny Esposito 1/24/2017
When Christians believe in miracles, are they being irrational? A recent Pew Research article entitled "Why America's 'nones' left religion behind" held this interesting quote:
About half of current religious "nones" who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention "science" as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said "I'm a scientist now, and I don't believe in miracles." Others reference "common sense," "logic" or a "lack of evidence" – or simply say they do not believe in God.1
There's a whole lot in that paragraph to unpack. However, the claim that faith is somehow against logic caught my eye. Just how would Christianity be illogical? One claim made by atheists is that believing in miracle accounts like those presented in the Bible is itself illogical.
The charge that believing in miracles is illogical as a long history, and most will point to David Hume's famous essay "On Miracles" in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. There, he makes this charge:
A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle.2
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
By John Walvoord
Prophecy Of IsraelIn The Times Of The Gentiles In Daniel | Daniel’s Second Vision: Persia and Greece
Daniel 8:1–4. The second vision of Daniel in the third year of Belshazzar, which can be dated approximately 550 BC, also preceded the final destruction of Babylon in 539 BC. The prophecy in this vision, however, has to do with the second and third kingdoms implied in the image of Daniel 2 as the upper part of the body and the arms of silver and the lower part of the body and thighs of brass. Little detail is given in either Daniel 2 or Daniel 7 about the second and third kingdoms, though their presence is recognized.
Daniel here recorded a vision that gave in detail how the second and third kingdoms would come on the scene.
Daniel described his vision as occurring while he was in Susa (biblical Shushan) in the province of Elam, a Persian capital about two hundred miles from Babylon. Daniel was not involved in the kingdom reign of Belshazzar, and why he was in Susa was not explained. Later, after the Medo-Persians had conquered Babylon, Xerxes built a great palace in this city, which was the scene of the book of Esther and where Nehemiah served as King Artaxerxes’s cup bearer ( Neh. 1:11 ).
In his vision Daniel saw himself alongside the Ulai Canal. The Ulai River flowed from 150 miles north of Shushan to the Tigris River to the south. The location of the vision is important only for implying the background of the vision dealing with Medo-Persia and Greece.
As Daniel described the vision, he wrote, “There before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great” ( Dan. 8:3–4 ).
Later in the vision Daniel identified the ram: “The two-horned ram which you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia” (v. 20 ).
The ram clearly corresponded to the empire of the Medes and the Persians because having two horns represented Media and Persia, and the longer horn represented the greater power of Persia. They were able to destroy everything that was before them going to the west, north, and south (v. 4 ). This included the conquest of Babylon as well as other countries to the west of Persia. The Persian power historically reached its biblically significant triumph when Babylon was conquered in October 539 BC. Until Alexander the Great came on the scene two hundred years later, Persian power was predominant. Though Daniel was alive and observed the fulfillment of prophecies surrounding the destruction of Babylon and the coming of the Medes and the Persians in his lifetime, he did not live long enough to see the outcome of Persian rule as this prophecy revealed.
Daniel 8:5–8. As Daniel was watching the ram conquering all before it, he wrote, “Suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power. The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven” (vv. 5–8 ).
Daniel later declared, “The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king” (v. 21 ).
As Daniel plainly stated, the goat represented Greece, a country that was small and insignificant when Daniel lived but was destined to rule the Middle East in the time of Alexander the Great. Instead of two horns, which would be normal for a goat, only one large horn was placed between the eyes of the goat who was declared to be “the first king” (v. 21 ).
The whole vision concerning Greece was most appropriate to describe the conquest of Alexander the Great, who with rapid marches of his army conquered the whole Middle East and went as far as India. No conqueror preceding Alexander ever covered more territory so quickly. Accordingly, the fact that the goat was pictured as not touching the ground but flying through the air would correspond to Alexander’s rapid conquest. This was implied also in Daniel 7, where the third empire, Greece, was compared to a leopard, a very swift animal that in Daniel’s vision was described as having four wings, implying great speed ( 7:2 ).
The prediction that the large horn, representing Alexander the Great, would be broken off at the peak of his power was literally fulfilled in Alexander’s death in Babylon as he and his armies had returned from a conquest of India to celebrate. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC at thirty-three years of age, a man who could conquer the world but could not conquer himself.
After Alexander’s death, his conquests were divided among four generals as indicated by the four horns. Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus ruled Thrace, Bithynia, and most of Asia Minor; Seleucus ruled Syria and the near east of Syria, including Babylon; Ptolemy ruled Egypt and probably Palestine and Arabia Petrea . Though another leader under Alexander, Antigonus, attempted to gain power, he was easily defeated. It was another testimony to the accuracy of Daniel’s prophetic vision that the conquests of Alexander the Great were divided into four sections, not three or five. The accuracy was so clear that liberal scholars want to consider this account to have been written after the fact by one who assumed the name of Daniel but who actually was not the sixth-century BC character described in the Bible.
Daniel 8:9–12. As Daniel continued to observe the vision, he saw a little horn come up in addition to the four prominent horns (v. 8), and this little horn “grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land” (v. 9 ). The prophecies are very accurate as to direction. The ram, the Medo-Persian Empire, went largely to the west and not to the east in keeping with what the Medo-Persian Empire did. The goat instead, coming from Greece in the west, attacked the Middle East from the west (v. 5), in keeping with the conquests of Alexander the Great that were always east of Greece. But the little horn mentioned here manifested his power to the south and to the east and toward the “Beautiful Land,” referring to the Holy Land.
There is an obvious distinction between the little horn that is mentioned here and the little horn of Daniel 7:8. The little horn of Daniel 7 came out of the fourth empire and in its final stage, which when properly interpreted still refers to the future. By contrast, the little horn of Daniel 8 came out of the third kingdom, the goat, and refers to prophecy that has already been fulfilled.
Daniel reported further on the vision: “It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground” ( 8:10–12 ).
The difficulty in understanding this portion of Scripture has given rise to a number of theories of interpretation. As mentioned earlier in the introduction of Daniel, liberal scholars hold that the book of Daniel was a forgery written in the second century, because they believe that prophecy of the future is impossible. This conclusion is contradicted by the finding of the Qumran scrolls in which a complete copy of Daniel was found. Even liberal scholars on the basis of their own presuppositions have difficulty in harmonizing this archaeological find with the idea that a pseudo-Daniel wrote the book of Daniel in the second century when what was presented as prophecy was already history. Conservative scholars reject this, of course, and accept the inspiration and authority of the book of Daniel as it was held for many years throughout the Old Testament period and for hundreds of years in the Christian era.
A second interpretation holds that Daniel’s prophecy has already been fulfilled in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, a ruler of Syria (175–164 BC). In general, conservative interpreters, whether premillennial or amillennial, agree on this interpretation.
A third view is that this prophecy was fulfilled historically in the second century BC, but typically represented the future world ruler of the great tribulation before the second coming. This is supported by the reference to the “time of the end” (vv. 17, 19 ).
The best approach is to accept this as primarily fulfilled prophecy, as Antiochus Epiphanes met the requirements set down in this prophecy, though this may typically picture the time of the end.
According to history, Antiochus Epiphanes set himself up as God, thus disregarding “the starry host” (v. 10 ) or the powers of heaven. He set himself up as the “Prince of the host” (v. 11 ) in the sense of making himself great. Antiochus took away and stopped the daily sacrifices offered by the Jews in the temple and desecrated their sanctuary (v. 13 ), turning it into a pagan temple. He fulfilled the requirements of throwing truth to the ground (v. 12 ). History has recorded that by taking the name Epiphanes, which means “glorious one,” Antiochus assumed that he was God, much as the little horn of Daniel 7 will do in the future great tribulation. His role is similar to the future role of the coming world dictator.
Daniel 8:13–14. Daniel reported hearing two described as “holy” ones (v. 13 ), apparently angels, discussing how long it would take for this vision to be fulfilled (v. 13 ), defined as “the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot” (v. 13 ).
Daniel was told by the angel, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated” (v. 14 ).
If there were some agreement that the earlier verses refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, verse 14 adds additional revelation that has caused a number of differing points of view.
Many of the details referred to in the preceding verses were recorded in the historical book of 1 Maccabees, which describes the desecration of the temple, the persecution of the Jewish people, and the so - called Maccabean revolt of the Jews. Antiochus Epiphanes killed thousands of Jews in an attempt to stamp out the Jewish religion, but it was all to no avail.
However, the statement that it would take 2,300 evenings and mornings before the sanctuary could be reconsecrated has caused many different opinions because it is not entirely clear what it means. Seventh-Day Adventists understand 2,300 days to refer to 2,300 years, and on the basis of this expected culmination of the second coming in the year 1884. History, of course, has demonstrated that this was not the proper answer. Others have taken it that the 2,300 days, including evening and morning sacrifices, were actually 1,150 days, that is, 2,300 evenings and mornings. This view is difficult to harmonize with the history of the period.
Probably the best interpretation goes back to the fact that in the year 171 BC, Onias III, who was the reigning high priest, was assassinated and another line of priests assumed power. This was the beginning of the desecration, but the temple itself was not desecrated until December 25, 167 BC, when the sacrifices were forcibly stopped, a Greek altar was placed in the temple, and a Greek statue representing a pagan god was erected.
If the period from 171 BC to 164 BC, the year Antiochus died, is considered that period, the total of 2,455 days would be reduced to 2,300 days if the parts of the first and last years were subtracted. This would account for the 2,300 days as a round number. The history of the case does not provide enough detail to determine exactly how the fulfillment was accomplished. Taking everything into consideration, it is best to consider the 2,300 days as fulfilled at that time in the second century BC and not subject to prophetic fulfillment in the future.
Daniel 8:15–22. Daniel, as he was watching the vision, recorded that the one who stood beside him was “like a man,” but probably was an angel (v. 15 ). Daniel also heard a man’s voice instructing Gabriel, an angel, to give Daniel the interpretation of the dream (v. 16 ). This was the first mention of the angel Gabriel in Scripture. He is also mentioned in 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26. While angels were given numerous titles in apocryphal literature, the Bible names only one other angel, Michael ( Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7 ). When Gabriel came to him, Daniel fell prostrate before this holy angel ( Dan. 8:17 ).
Daniel was addressed as “son of man” and instructed to “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end” (v. 17 ). The encounter with the angel caused Daniel to go into “a deep sleep,” but Gabriel raised him to his feet (v. 18 ).
Gabriel then confirmed the interpretation of the ram and the goat and the details of the vision. He stated, “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power” (vv. 19–21 ). As Gabriel’s interpretation has been confirmed by history, it is comparatively easy to find a consensus of conservative interpreters relating this passage as referring to Medo-Persia and Greece.
Daniel 8:23–26. This portion has been the subject of endless discussion and difference of opinion following several interpretations: (1) the idea that this has already been completely fulfilled in history by Antiochus Epiphanes; (2) that this represents a period entirely future, referring to the final world ruler; (3) that it is a prophecy concerning Antiochus Epiphanes, but that in some sense it has a double fulfillment because of the similarity between him and the end-time world ruler.
Daniel described the wicked king of this prophecy as “a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue” (v. 23 ). He stated that “he will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed at whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power” (vv. 24–25 ).
The description given here of this wicked ruler is very similar to what history and the Bible record concerning Antiochus Epiphanes. He did have great power over the Holy Land and Syria and for a time had power in Egypt until he had to withdraw because of Roman pressure. He devastated the Hebrew worship and desecrated the temple. He killed thousands of Jews who attempted to continue their worship in opposition to him. He considered himself above others; in fact, he claimed to be God, indicated by his title “Epiphanes,” which means “glorious one.” He obviously opposed Christ as “the Prince of princes” (v. 25 ). Antiochus died of natural causes in 164 BC while on a military campaign, indicating that “he will be destroyed, but not by human power” (v. 25 ). Daniel had been instructed in verse 17 that “the vision concerns the time of the end.” He was further instructed that the vision was true, “but [to] seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future” (v. 26 ).
This passage, though fulfilled by Antiochus, is also typical of the description of the future role of the coming Antichrist, the Man of Sin, the dictator of the whole world during the last three and a half years before the second coming. Some believe that this also has prophetic overtones and anticipates the climax of the ages. While the controversy cannot be completely settled, it can be understood that this prophecy is certainly an illustration in history of what would take place in prophecy of the yet - future great tribulation. Like Antiochus, the final world ruler will claim to be God, will persecute Jews, will stop Jewish sacrifices, and will be an evil character.
Daniel 8:27. Daniel, who had been brought through tremendous emotional strain in the course of receiving this vision, wrote, “I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding” (v. 27 ). What was prophecy for Daniel in the sixth century BC here can be construed as being literally fulfilled. But even though they approximate so nearly the character, the stopping of sacrifices, and other qualities of the final world ruler, many feel that this is a shadow of things yet to be fulfilled.
God’s Righteous JudgmentIf human beings have sinned (which they have), and if they are responsible for their sins (which they are), then they are guilty before God. Guilt is the logical deduction from the premises of sin and responsibility. We have done wrong, by our own fault, and are therefore liable to bear the just penalty of our wrongdoing.
This is the argument of the early chapters of the letter to the Romans. Paul divides the human race into three major sections, and shows how each knows something of its moral duty, but has deliberately suppressed its knowledge in order to pursue its own sinful course. As John put it, ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Nothing is more serious than this deliberate rejection of the light of truth and goodness. Paul begins with decadent Roman society. Its people have known God’s power and glory from the creation, and his holiness from their conscience, but they have refused to live up to their knowledge. Instead, they have turned from worship to idolatry. So God has given them over to immorality and other forms of anti-social behaviour (Rom. 1:18–32).
The second section of humanity that Paul addresses is the self-righteous world, whose knowledge of God’s law may be either in the Scriptures (Jews) or in their hearts (Gentiles). In either case they do not live up to their knowledge (2:1–16). The third section is the specifically Jewish world, whose members pride themselves on the knowledge they have and on the moral instruction they give to others. Yet the very law they teach they also disobey. This being so, their privileged status as God’s covenant people will not render them immune to his judgment (2:17 – 3:8).
The Cross of Christ
Hamartia | SinThe New Testament uses five main Greek words for sin, which together portray its various aspects, both passive and active. The commonest is hamartia, which depicts sin as a missing of the target, the failure to attain a goal. Adikia is ‘unrighteousness’ or ‘iniquity’, and ponēria is evil of a vicious or degenerate kind. Both these terms seem to speak of an inward corruption or perversion of character. The more active words are parabasis (with which we may associate the similar paraptōma), a ‘trespass’ or ‘transgression’, the stepping over a known boundary, and anomia, ‘lawlessness’, the disregard or violation of a known law. In each case an objective criterion is implied, either a standard we fail to reach or a line we deliberately cross.
It is assumed throughout Scripture that this criterion or ideal has been established by God. It is, in fact, his moral law, which expresses his righteous character. It is not the law of his own being only, however; it is also the law of ours, since he has made us in his image and in so doing has written the requirements of his law in our hearts (Rom. 2:15). There is, thus, a vital correspondence between God’s law and ourselves, and to commit sin is to commit ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4), offending against our own highest welfare as well as against the authority and love of God.
The emphasis of Scripture, however, is on the godless self-centredness of sin. Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment’, not just by failing to love God with all our being, but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a bid for independence. Worse still, we have dared to proclaim our self-dependence, our autonomy, which is to claim the position occupied by God alone. Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him. It has been described in terms of ‘getting rid of the Lord God’ in order to put ourselves in his place in a haughty spirit of ‘God-almightiness’. Emil Brunner sums it up well: ‘Sin is defiance, arrogance, the desire to be equal with God,...the assertion of human independence over against God,...the constitution of the autonomous reason, morality and culture.’ It is appropriate that he entitled the book from which this quotation is taken Man in Revolt.
Once we have seen that every sin we commit is an expression (in differing degrees of self-consciousness) of this spirit of revolt against God, we shall be able to accept David’s confession: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Ps. 51:4). In committing adultery with Bathsheba, and in arranging to have her husband Uriah killed in battle, David had committed extremely serious offences against them and against the nation. Yet it was God’s laws which he had broken and thereby ultimately against God that he had chiefly offended.
The Cross of Christ
The Politics of Premature Rule—Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
By Alastair Roberts 2/27/2017
(Ge 2:15–17) 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” NRSV
(Ge 3:1–7) 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
It might be argued that the story of the Fall has become a victim of its own success. As it is such a prominent landmark in the scriptural narrative on account of its paradigmatic features or theological significance, many of the actual lineaments of the account lie under-examined, neglected beneath those dimensions of it that most answer to the specific concerns of its Christian readers.
Furthermore, in attending to the theologically definitive entrance of Sin and Death into the world, we may fail to appreciate the manner in which the man and woman’s sin in Eden is the event that initiates a series of escalating ingresses of these forces into God’s good creation. In the ugly litany of Cain’s slaying of Abel, the polygamous Lamech’s vengeance, the sin of the sons of God, and the saturation of the entire world and the consciousness of humankind with evil prior to the Flood, we see the dark blot of Sin steadily spreading out, until it envelops all.
Even beyond the opening chapters of Genesis, the tragic events of the Garden of Eden reverberate in numerous later scriptural accounts, as Sin’s entropic grip upon the world tightens. In events such as Noah’s drunkenness in his vineyard, Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf, or in the sins of Solomon’s reign, Sin’s relentless hold is rediscovered at those very moments where hope most tantalizes.
Our lection introduces the narrative with the charge given to the adam, when he was first placed within the garden. This charge particularizes the more general blessing given in 1:28, commissioning the adam to exercise dominion in and establish the fruitfulness of the garden in particular, presumably before venturing out into the lands beyond the garden mentioned in the preceding verses. The narrative implies that the garden is to serve as an archetypal model for his task of the cultivation of the earth more generally (cf. 2:5); as the adam learns to serve and keep the divinely ordered realm of the garden, he will gain the necessary wisdom and skills to bring God’s beautiful and good order to bear upon the wider creation.
God repeats the permission of 1:29 at this juncture, albeit with reference to the trees of the garden in particular, and with one explicit exception: the adam must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in its midst on pain of death (permission to eat of the tree of life is implicitly granted). The gravity of the divine sanction attached to the prohibition suggests the sacred status of the tree and its fruit.
Paul, A Jew
By James S. Stewart
It is clear, to begin with, that all through his life— after his conversion to Christianity, no less than before it— the fact that he had been born a Jew filled Paul with an intense sense of gratitude to God. Despised among the nations the Jews might be; but it never occurred to the apostle, not even when confronting the most cultured and critical Greek audiences, to make any secret of his origin. Jewish lineage, he felt, was not a thing to be apologetic about: on the contrary, it was a unique cause for thanksgiving. He would not indeed boast about it, for when a man has really seen Christ and caught His Spirit (as Paul once said himself) "boasting is excluded," and all that attitude of pride is finished: one thing only is left for him to glory in, the cross by which he has been saved. Still he does tell the Corinthians that if his apostolic authority and his right to speak were questioned, and if it were permissible in answer to forget the Christian spirit just for a moment and "have his little boast as well as others" (so Dr. Moffatt translates it, rightly conserving the playful turn of the apostle's thought), he could soon produce satisfactory credentials. "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I." Similarly, he writes to the Philippians that if he chose to rely on outward privilege (meaning, of course, that he does not so choose—but if he did) he could outvie even the Judaizing teachers themselves: "I was circumcised on the eighth day after birth; I belonged to the race of Israel, to the tribe of Benjamin; I was the Hebrew son of Hebrew parents, a Pharisee as regards the Law, in point of ardour a persecutor of the Church, immaculate by the standard of legal righteousness." According to St. Luke's narrative in the Book of Acts, the apostle's defence before Agrippa opened with the plea, "My manner of life from my youth . . . know all the Jews . . . that in the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." The same note is heard again in the letter to the Galatians: "I outstripped many of my own age in my zeal for the traditions of my fathers." Damascus brought many great discoveries in its train, and many new convictions came to Paul as direct corollaries of the revolutionizing experience through which he then passed: one of the greatest was the discovery of a human brotherhood in which the old lines of Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, bond and free, had been obliterated, and the old barriers had for ever vanished. Yet right to the end there remained clearly stamped upon his mind the thought of God's surpassing goodness to the chosen people ; and it baffled and bewildered and hurt him more than he could tell that Israel, "entrusted with the oracles of God," starting with an initial advantage so huge and so decisive, should have stood back watching others, who had no such privilege, pressing forward into a fullness of life and a glory of service that she herself refused to enter. Why should this have happened? he wonders. Why this startling disloyalty to the God whose blessing of Israel had been so unstinted, so royally extravagant? Facing the tragic problem, Paul heaps up the splendours his nation had inherited, the unique privileges which ought surely to have made Judaism the first to recognize and hail its Lord : "they are Israelites, theirs is the Sonship, the Glory, the covenants, the Divine legislation, the Worship, and the promises; the patriarchs are theirs, and theirs too (so far as natural descent goes) is the Christ." All this is the Jew's prerogative, his mandate straight from God, in which Paul claims a share. "I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham." But how much his birth and lineage meant to him may be gathered best of all from the way in which, even in his people's stubbornness and blindness and downright apostasy, he clings to them with the yearning and fervour of his soul, refusing, like God with Ephraim, to let them go. "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Hearing these words, white-hot with love and wild with all regret, words surely as moving as anything in the literature of the world, we seem to watch the centuries falling away, and Paul the born Jew takes his stand with that other great priestly and vicarious soul, the lonely Jew who stood before God on Sinai in the morning of Israel's days, and cried "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." The great, human, god-like cry, wrung from Paul's heart in Romans, is the real index of what his ancestral faith stood for in his experience. To be "a Hebrew of the Hebrews "—that was a priceless and enduring privilege. Even to Paul the Christian, it was a gift of God.
(Ro 3:27) Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. NRSV
(Ga 6:14) May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. NRSV
(2 Co 11:16) I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. NRSV
(2 Co 11:22) Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. NRSV
(Php 3:5–6) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. NRSV
(Ac 26:4) “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. NRSV
(Ga 1:14) I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. NRSV
(Ro 3:2) Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. NRSV
(Ro 9:4) They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; NRSV
(Ro 11:1) I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. NRSV
(Ro 9:3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. NRSV
(Ex 32:30–34) On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.” NRSV
5 Ways to Make It through a Difficult Season
By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016
Institutions, like the weather, have different seasons. There are springtime harvests, summer droughts, autumn wanings, and winter freezes. They have “a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Eccl. 3:3–4). Sometimes God calls us to be part of an institution when it’s passing through a season of extraordinary difficulty, decline, or dysfunction. This could be a family with young kids trying to make ends meet with both parents working; or a church growing so rapidly that its infrastructure can’t keep up with its numbers, leaving everyone overworked and stretched thin; or a work environment in which a dysfunctional transition is causing anger, suspicion, and mistrust among employees; or a business rapidly downsizing because of the economy.
It’s difficult to overstate how hard it can be to stay positive when we’re put in a negative or stressful environment. In such an atmosphere, unhappiness and even distrust can tend to spread exponentially; they gain the force of momentum. As C. S. Lewis observed in The Horse and His Boy, “When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.” It might seem like a simple statement, but I think it’s both true and profound. All other factors being equal, betterment tends to beget betterment; decline tends to produce decline.
What do we do when we’re in a negative season or environment? How do we keep from getting sucked into the stress and dysfunction? How do we stop the momentum of decline—in relationships, effectiveness, size, and so on? How do we retain the fruits of the Spirit when their opposites swirl all around us?
Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 88I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
88 A Song. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah. To The Choirmaster: According To Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil Of Heman The Ezrahite.
1 O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 12:26)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 13John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ESV
Preferment in the kingdom of Christ depends not on self-seeking, nor is it achieved by worldly methods. He who would be honored of God in the day when His Son will be acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords must be willing to follow Him in His lowly path of unrequited service for the blessing of a needy world. Following Jesus is not following Him into His heavenly home. It is following Him out of His Heaven, down into a world of sin and wretchedness, taking the path of humbleness and readiness to be rejected by men. In this way we portray the spirit of Christ to those who do not know Him. It is only in this way that we can represent our Master, the ultimate Servant, correctly. And in order to do this we must first yield ourselves to Him. We cannot live a Christian life until we have a Christian life to live. There is a Life by which we live. And there is a life we are called upon to live. We obtain life only by faith in Him who gave Himself a ransom for all We reveal that life as we yield ourselves to Him as Lord.
Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for resting at His feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He oft-times counts a service most complete.
And yet He does love service, where ‘tis given
By grateful love that clothes itself in deed;
But work that’s done beneath the scourge of duty,
Be sure He gives to such but little heed.
Then seek to please Him, whatsoe’er He bids thee,
Whether to do, to suffer, or lie still;
‘Twill matter little by what path He led us,
If in it all we sought to do His will.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2016 Ministering to Addicts
As a pastor, I often find myself counseling people with addictions. Having served in local church settings for more than twenty years, I find ministering to addicts and their families to be one of the more difficult, complicated, and sad things I do. Every week, I preach the Word of God to people who have never been addicts and may never become addicts, to former addicts, to addicts themselves, and to future addicts. There are some addicts who know they are addicts, some who are seeking help for their addiction, and some who either do not know they are addicts or do not want to admit it. Some people think they will never become addicts because they do not have an “addictive personality.” Others think they will never become addicts because their parents were not addicts. And some fear becoming addicts because they think they have an addictive personality or because so many in their family history were addicts. Whatever the case, all of us have been somehow affected by addicts and addictions.
Statistics reveal that the prevalence of addictions is growing rapidly around the world, even among children who are becoming unknowingly addicted to behavioral and psychotropic medications. We are most familiar with addictions to illegal substances, medicines, gambling, and pornography. Yet we are less familiar with addictions involving sex, screens (video games, TV, smartphones, and so on), and self-injury. In addition, there are numerous people who struggle with addictions that many of us mistakenly deem as “harmless,” such as overeating, shopping, exercise, work, social media, and Internet addictions. Whether public or private, big or little, outward or inward, addictions are real and are ultimately matters of the heart in the lives of image bearers of God.
All addictions have consequences and must be taken seriously. We should not underestimate the significance of addictions in our lives or in the lives of others. What’s more, we should not make addictions insignificant things and simply ridicule and threaten addicts, leaving them to themselves and abandoning them in their addictions. If we ignore an addiction, the consequences can be devastating. We must be compassionate and courageous as we come alongside one another. We must pray, confess, confront, admit, intervene, befriend, and love. As the family of God, we must not give up on those who struggle with addictions as we depend on the transforming and renewing work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world.
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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
New Jersey is being invaded by Martians! This was the script of a 1938 radio drama based on the novel War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells, who died this day, August 13, 1946. Wells’ novel inspired a boy named Robert Goddard that space flight was possible and he grew up to be the father of modern rocketry. H.G. Wells also wrote the best sellers The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The First Men in the Moon. Though a skeptic, in his Outlines of History, H.G. Wells described the U.S. Constitution, saying: “Its spirit is indubitably Christian.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Pride is the deification of self
--- Oswald Chambers
If thou desire the love of God and man,
be humble, for the proud heart,
as it loves none but itself,
is beloved of none but itself.
Humility enforces where neither virtue,
nor strength, nor reason can prevail.
--- Francis Quarles
Not merely in the words you say,
Not merely in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you …
And see Christ the Lord instead.
You cannot in the last resort, measure and explain: you can only wonder and adore.
--- James S. Stewart
A Man in Christ
... from here, there and everywhere
A Psychologist Wants To Know
( The Cross of Christ )
Perhaps it is a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the gravity of sin which has led to its omission from the vocabulary of many of our contemporaries. One acute observer of the human condition, who has noticed the disappearance of the word, is the American psychiatrist Karl Menninger. He has written about it in his book, Whatever Became of Sin? Describing the malaise of western society, its general mood of gloom and doom, he adds that ‘one misses any mention of “sin”’. ‘It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but is now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean’, he asks, ‘that no sin is involved in all our troubles...? Has no-one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?’. Enquiring into the causes of sin’s disappearance, Dr Menninger notes first that ‘many former sins have become crimes’, so that responsibility for dealing with them has passed from church to state, from priest to policeman, while others have dissipated into sicknesses, or at least into symptoms of sickness, so that in their case punishment has been replaced by treatment. A third convenient device called ‘collective irresponsibility’ has enabled us to transfer the blame for some of our deviant behaviour from ourselves as individuals to society as a whole or to one of its many groupings.
Dr Menninger goes on to plead not only for the reinstatement of the word ‘sin’ in our vocabulary, but also for a recognition of the reality which the word expresses. Sin cannot be dismissed as merely a cultural taboo or social blunder. It must be taken seriously. He takes preachers to task for soft-pedalling it, and adds: ‘The clergyman cannot minimize sin and maintain his proper role in our culture’. For sin is ‘an implicitly aggressive quality – a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion....Sin has a willful, defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defied or offended or hurt’. To ignore this would be dishonest. To confess it would enable us to do something about it. Moreover, the reinstatement of sin would lead inevitably to ‘the revival or reassertion of personal responsibility’. In fact the ‘usefulness’ of reviving sin is that responsibility would be revived with it.
Borrowed from Ravi Zacharias
Recapture the Wonder
Somewhere in the 1980s, I picked up this quote. I do not know who gave it to me or who the author is. But whoever penned it had profound insight:
In the 1950s kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term–the generation gap.
In the 1960s, kids lost their authority. It was a decade of protest–church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.
In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion... It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.
In the 1980s, kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority, and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.
To bring it up to date, I have added two more paragraphs:
In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.
In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.
Now go back and look at the list and see the progression. If the word innocence can be replaced by the word wonder, then you see how the slide into despair began. Wonder has a direct bearing on hopelessness and evil. The loss of wonder sets the stage for evil, until truth itself dies at the altar of a desecrated imagination.
Thanks to Meir Yona
Vespasian, When He Had Taken The City Gadaea Marches To Jotapata. After A Long Siege The City Is Betrayed By A Deserter, And Taken By Vespasian.
1. So Vespasian marched to the city Gadara, and took it upon the first onset, because he found it destitute of any considerable number of men grown up and fit for war. He came then into it, and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever; and this was done out of the hatred they bore the nation, and because of the iniquity they had been guilty of in the affair of Cestius. He also set fire not only to the city itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it; some of them were quite destitute of inhabitants, and out of some of them he carried the inhabitants as slaves into captivity.
2. As to Josephus, his retiring to that city which he chose as the most fit for his security, put it into great fear; for the people of Tiberias did not imagine that he would have run away, unless he had entirely despaired of the success of the war. And indeed, as to that point, they were not mistaken about his opinion; for he saw whither the affairs of the Jews would tend at last, and was sensible that they had but one way of escaping, and that was by repentance. However, although he expected that the Romans would forgive him, yet did he choose to die many times over, rather than to betray his country, and to dishonor that supreme command of the army which had been intrusted with him, or to live happily under those against whom he was sent to fight. He determined, therefore, to give an exact account of affairs to the principal men at Jerusalem by a letter, that he might not, by too much aggrandizing the power of the enemy, make them too timorous; nor, by relating that their power beneath the truth, might encourage them to stand out when they were perhaps disposed to repentance. He also sent them word, that if they thought of coming to terms, they must suddenly write him an answer; or if they resolved upon war, they must send him an army sufficient to fight the Romans. Accordingly, he wrote these things, and sent messengers immediately to carry his letter to Jerusalem.
3. Now Vespasian was very desirous of demolishing Jotapata, for he had gotten intelligence that the greatest part of the enemy had retired thither, and that it was, on other accounts, a place of great security to them. Accordingly, he sent both foot-men and horsemen to level the road, which was mountainous and rocky, not without difficulty to be traveled over by footmen, but absolutely impracticable for horsemen. Now these workmen accomplished what they were about in four days' time, and opened a broad way for the army. On the fifth day, which was the twenty-first of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] Josephus prevented him, and came from Tiberias, and went into Jotapata, and raised the drooping spirits of the Jews. And a certain deserter told this good news to Vespasian, that Josephus had removed himself thither, which made him make haste to the city, as supposing that with taking that he should take all Judea, in case he could but withal get Josephus under his power. So he took this news to be of the vastest advantage to him, and believed it to be brought about by the providence of God, that he who appeared to be the most prudent man of all their enemies, had, of his own accord, shut himself up in a place of sure custody. Accordingly, he sent Placidus with a thousand horsemen, and Ebutius a decurion, a person that was of eminency both in council and in action, to encompass the city round, that Josephus might not escape away privately.
4. Vespasian also, the very next day, took his whole army and followed them, and by marching till late in the Evening, arrived then at Jotapata; and bringing his army to the northern side of the city, he pitched his camp on a certain small hill which was seven furlongs from the city, and still greatly endeavored to be well seen by the enemy, to put them into a consternation; which was indeed so terrible to the Jews immediately, that no one of them durst go out beyond the wall. Yet did the Romans put off the attack at that time, because they had marched all the day, although they placed a double row of battalions round the city, with a third row beyond them round the whole, which consisted of cavalry, in order to stop up every way for an exit; which thing making the Jews despair of escaping, excited them to act more boldly; for nothing makes men fight so desperately in war as necessity.
5. Now when the next day an assault was made by the Romans, the Jews at first staid out of the walls and opposed them, and met them, as having formed themselves a camp before the city walls. But when Vespasian had set against them the archers and slingers, and the whole multitude that could throw to a great distance, he permitted them to go to work, while he himself, with the footmen, got upon an acclivity, whence the city might easily be taken. Josephus was then in fear for the city, and leaped out, and all the Jewish multitude with him; these fell together upon the Romans in great numbers, and drove them away from the wall, and performed a great many glorious and bold actions. Yet did they suffer as much as they made the enemy suffer; for as despair of deliverance encouraged the Jews, so did a sense of shame equally encourage the Romans. These last had skill as well as strength; the other had only courage, which armed them, and made them fight furiously. And when the fight had lasted all day, it was put an end to by the coming on of the night. They had wounded a great many of the Romans, and killed of them thirteen men; of the Jews' side seventeen were slain, and six hundred wounded.
by D.H. Stern
guaranteeing loans made to others;
27 for if you don’t have the wherewithal to pay,
they will take your bed away from underneath you.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
Wild horses shall not drag from me the wonderful secret that suggested my theme. Suffice it to say that it had to do with the naming of a baby. And the naming of a baby is really one of the most momentous events upon which the sentinel stars look down. There is more in it than a cursory observer would suppose. Tennyson recognized this when his first son was born, the son who was destined to become the biographer of his distinguished sire and the Governor-General of our Australian Commonwealth. Whilst revelling in the proud ecstasies of early fatherhood, he sought the companionship of his intimate friend, Henry Hallam, the historian. They were strolling together one day in a beautiful English churchyard.
'What name do you mean to give him?' asked Hallam.
'Well, we thought of calling him Hallam,' replied the poet.
'Oh! had you not better call him Alfred, after yourself?' suggested the historian.
'Aye!' replied the naïve bard, 'but what if he should turn out to be a fool?'
Ah, there's the rub. It turned out all right, as it happened. The boy was no fool, as the world very well knows; but if you examine the story under a microscope you will discover that it is encrusted with a golden wealth of philosophy. For the point is that the baby's name sets before the baby a certain standard of achievement. The baby's name commits the baby to something. Names, even in the ordinary life of the home and the street, are infinitely more than mere tags attached to us for purposes of convenience and identification.
In describing the striking experiences through which he passed on being made a freeman, Booker T. Washington, the slave who carved his way to statesmanship, tells us that his greatest difficulty lay in regard to a name. Slaves have no names; no authentic genealogy; no family history; no ancestral traditions. They have, therefore, nothing to live up to. Mr. Booker Washington himself invented his own name. 'More than once,' he says 'I tried to picture myself in the position of a boy or man with an honoured and distinguished ancestry. As it is, I have no idea who my grandmother was. The very fact that the white boy is conscious that, if he fails, he will disgrace the whole family record is of tremendous value in helping him to resist temptations. And the fact that the individual has behind him a proud family history serves as a stimulus to help him to overcome obstacles when striving for success.' Every student of biography knows how frequently men have been restrained from doing evil, or inspired to lofty achievement, by the honour in which a cherished memory has compelled them to hold the names they are allowed to bear. Every schoolboy knows the story of the Grecian coward whose name was Alexander. His cowardice seemed the more contemptible because of his distinguished name; and his commander, Alexander the Great, ordered him either to change his name or to prove himself brave.
I notice that the American people have lately been rudely awakened to a recognition of the fact that a nation that can boast of a splendid galaxy of illustrious names stands involved, not only in a great and priceless heritage, but also in a weighty national responsibility. Three citizens of the United States, bearing three of the most distinguished names in American history, have recently figured with painful prominence before the criminal courts of that country. 'It is not rarely,' as a leading American journal remarks, 'that a man who has acquired credit and reputation ruins his own good name by some act of fraud or passion. It is much rarer that the case appears of one who soils the good name of a distinguished father. But it is without parallel that three names, borne by men the most famous in our annals, should all have been so foully soiled by their sons.' And the pitiable element in the case is not relieved by the circumstance that these unhappy men have clearly inherited, with their fathers' names, something of their fathers' genius. The fact is that American soil has proved singularly congenial to the growth of greatness. The length of America's scroll of fame is altogether out of proportion to the brevity of her history. The stirring epochs of her short career have developed a phenomenal wealth of leaders in all the arts and crafts of national life. In statesmanship, in arms, in letters, and in inventive science, she can produce a record of which many nations, very much older, might be pardonably proud. And she therefore displays a perfectly natural and honourable solicitude when she looks with serious concern on the untoward happenings that have recently smudged some of those fair names which she so justly regards as the shining hoard and cherished legacy which have been bequeathed to her by a singularly eventful past.
'Names!' exclaims Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh. 'Could I unfold the influence of names, I were a second greater Trismegistus!' Names occupy a place in literature peculiarly their own. From Homer downwards, all great writers have recognized their magical value. The most superficial readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey must have noticed how liberally every page is sprinkled with capital letters. The name of a god or of a hero blazes like an oriflamme in almost every line. And Macaulay, in accounting for the peculiar charm of Milton, says that none of his poems are more generally known or more frequently repeated than those that are little more than muster-rolls of names. 'They are not always more appropriate,' he says, 'or more melodious than other names. But they are charmed names. Every one of them is the first link in a long chain of associated ideas. Like the dwelling-place of our infancy revisited in manhood, like the song of our country heard in a strange land, these names produce upon us an effect wholly independent of their intrinsic value. One transports us back to a remote period of history. Another places us among the novel scenes and manners of a distant region. A third evokes all the dear, classical recollections of childhood—the schoolroom, the dog-eared Virgil, the holiday, and the prize. A fourth brings before us the splendid phantoms of chivalrous romance—the trophied lists, the embroidered housings, the quaint devices, the haunted forests, the enchanted gardens, the achievements of enamoured knights, and the smiles of rescued princesses.'
To tell the whole truth, I rather suspect that Macaulay appreciated this subtle art so highly in Milton because he himself had mastered the trick so thoroughly. He knew what magic slumbered in that wondrous wand. His own dexterity in conjuring with heroic names is at least as marvellous as Milton's. In his Victorian Age in Literature, Mr. G. K. Chesterton says that Macaulay felt and used names like trumpets. 'The reader's greatest joy is in the writer's own joy,' he says, 'when he can let his last phrase fall like a hammer on some resounding names, such as Hildebrand or Charlemagne, the eagles of Rome or the pillars of Hercules. As with Sir Walter Scott, some of the best things in his prose and poetry are the surnames that he did not make. That is exactly where Macaulay is great. He is almost Homeric. The whole triumph turns upon mere names.' We have all wondered at the uncanny ingenuity that Bunyan and Dickens displayed in the manufacture of names to suit their droll and striking characters; but we are compelled to confess that Homer and Milton and Macaulay reveal a still higher phase of genius, for they succeed in marshalling with rhythmic and dramatic effect the actual names that living men have borne, and in weaving those names into glorious pageants of extraordinary impressiveness and splendour.
It is very odd, the way in which history and prophecy meet and mingle in the naming of the baby. A friend of mine has just named his child after John Wesley. He has clearly done so in the fond hope that the august virtues of the great Methodist may be duplicated and revived in a generation that is coming. It is an ingenious device for transferring the moral excellences of the remote past to the dim and distant regions of an unborn future. The phenomenon sometimes becomes positively pathetic. I remember reading, in the stirring annals of the Melanesian Mission, of a native boy whom Bishop John Selwyn had in training at Norfolk Island. He had been brought from one of the most barbarous of the South Sea peoples, and did not promise particularly well. One day Bishop Selwyn had occasion to rebuke him for his stubborn and refractory behaviour. The boy instantly flew into a passion and struck the Bishop a cruel blow in the face. It was an unheard-of incident, and all who saw it stood aghast. The Bishop said nothing, but turned and walked quietly away. The conduct of the lad continued to be most recalcitrant, and he was at last returned to his own island as incorrigible. There he soon relapsed into all the debasements of a savage and cannibal people. Many years afterwards a missionary on that island was summoned post-haste to visit a sick man. It proved to be Dr. Selwyn's old student. He was dying, and desired Christian baptism. The missionary asked him by what name he would like to be known. 'Call me John Selwyn,' the dying man replied, 'because he taught me what Christ was like that day when I struck him.'
We have a wonderful way of associating certain qualities with certain names. The name becomes fragrant, not as the rose is fragrant, but as the clay is fragrant that has long lain with the rose. I see that two European newspapers have recently taken a vote as to the most popular name for a boy and the most popular name for a girl. And in the result the names of John and Mary hopelessly outdistanced all competitors. But why? There is nothing in the name of John or in that of Mary to account for such general attachment. Some names, like Lily, or Rose, or Violet, suggest beautiful images, and are loved on that account. But the name of John and the name of Mary suggest nothing but the memory of certain wearers. How, then, are we to account for it? The riddle is easily read. Long, long ago, on a green hill far away, there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. And, when Mary left that awful and tragic scene, she left it, as Jesus Himself desired that she should leave it, leaning on the arm of John. And because those two were first in the human love of Jesus, their names have occupied a place of special fondness in the hearts of all men ever since. Like the fly held in the amber, the memory of great and sterling qualities is encased and perpetuated in the very names we bear.
I like to dwell on that memorable scene that took place at the burial of Longfellow. A notable company gathered at the poet's funeral; and, among them, Emerson came up from Concord. His brilliant and majestic powers were in ruins. He stood for a long, long time looking down into the quiet, dead face of Longfellow, but said nothing. At last he turned sadly away, and, as he did so, he remarked to those who stood reverently by, 'The gentleman we are burying to-day was a sweet and beautiful soul, but I forget his name!' Yes, that is the beauty of it all. The name perpetuates and celebrates the memory of the goodness; but the memory of the goodness lingers after the memory of the name is lost. I shall enjoy the fragrance of the roses over my lattice when I can no longer recall the names by which they are distinguished.
Mrs. Booth used to love to tell a beautiful story of a man whose saintly life left its permanent and gracious impress upon her own. He seemed to grow in grace and charm and in all nobleness with every day he lived. At the last he could speak of nothing but the glories of his Saviour, and his face was radiant with awe and affection whenever he mentioned that holy name. It chanced that, as he was dying, a document was discovered that imperatively required his signature. He held the pen for one brief moment, wrote, and fell back upon the pillows, dead. And on the paper he had written, not his own name, but the Name that is above every name. Within sight of the things within the veil, that seemed to be the only name that mattered.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Quench not the Spirit
Quench not the spirit. --- 1 Thess. 5:19.
The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr, so gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it. The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them.
Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say—‘Once, so many years ago, I was saved.’ If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God. If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note. Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light. Whenever the Spirit checks, call a halt and get the thing right, or you will go on grieving Him without knowing it.
Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
As life improved, their poems
Grew sadder and sadder. Was there oil
For the machine? It was
The vinegar in the poet's cup.
The tins marched to the music
Of the conveyer belt. A billion
Mouths opened. Production,
Production, the wheels
Whistled. Among the forests
Of metal the one human
Sound was the lament of
The poets for the deciduous language.
I want to avoid words like “penal” for two reasons: (1) for some it’s nothing but a red flag that (2) sets off caricatures of what retribution means. Frankly, Sharon Baker’s book is laced up with caricatures of what retribution and justice and substitutionary atonement must mean. There’s no reason to go there, then, with the word penal.
So, let’s talk Roman 3:26: why does Paul say God must be both just and the justifier? This isn’t Anselm; this is Paul — 1st Century; a Jew; a Christian; this isn’t medieval punitive justice nor the medieval justice system. It’s 1st Century. For Paul God can’t forgive willy-nilly; justice is involved to be justifier.
The two fundamental means of forgiveness in the Bible are (1) the OT sacrificial system, and I’m thinking here esp of Yom Kippur, and (2) the cross of Christ. God forgives us by means of these events and I think it could be said God doesn’t forgive apart from those two means. So, something is done in order to establish the ground of forgiveness.
Put differently, God evidently thinks something must be done in order for forgiveness to occur, and however you read those two events, it comes down to Christ paying the debt of death on our behalf, instead of us. I think of Paul’s statement that he became sin who knew no sin. Clearly there is some kind of transference of sin/debt/guilt onto Christ so that we need not bear the load/debt. The moment you acknowledge that Christ took upon himself due us you’ve got the justice system at work, even if you make it entirely covenantal and relational. (That’s not the issue here, unless it gets to be exaggerated judicial system.)
I believe all forgiveness is the result of God’s forgiveness and we don’t forgive out of the goodness of our own hearts. As God has forgiven so we forgive by extending that forgiveness.
So, I would say Jesus’ words “forgive them” are rooted in Jesus’ belief in how forgiveness occurs. Furthermore, those folks won’t experience reconciliation with God apart from repentance and faith, both of which are connected to God being just in justifying.
Comment by Scot McKnight — October 4, 2010 @ 1:09 pm on his web blog
The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 20:20–21 / With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold. Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.
MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Yitro 11 / In every place … that I reveal Myself to you—the Temple. From this it has been taught: The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.”
The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there. From this they said, “Whenever ten people enter the synagogue, the Divine Presence is with them, as it says, ‘God stands in the divine assembly …’ ” [Psalm 82:1]. And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even three who render judgement? As it says, “… among the divine beings He pronounces judgement” [ibid.].
And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even two? As it says, “In this vein have those who revere the Lord been talking to one another” [Malachi 3:16].
And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.”
CONTEXT / Our passage from Exodus indicates that sacrifices could be offered in any number of places as long as there were no idols there and the offerings were brought in accordance with the proper procedures. Indeed, sacrifices during the forty years in the wilderness were brought to the portable Tabernacle; after the Israelites entered the land of Israel, sacrifices were offered in many sites. The Book of Deuteronomy introduces laws centralizing the cult: All offerings had to be brought to the one “place,” which God would choose. The Rabbis understood this to be the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, even though the Torah had originally said “every place,” it actually was to be “the only place,” the Temple.
The Actual Name [of God] is forbidden to be uttered outside [of the Temple]. This refers to the Tetragrammaton, the four letters that comprise the divine name (spelled yod-heh-vav-heh in Hebrew). To this very day, we never pronounce these letters or say the explicit name of God. Instead, we say Adonai (meaning “My Lord”). However, the four-letter name of God was, on occasion, pronounced inside the Temple (most notably on the Day of Atonement by the Kohen Gadol).
Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, “If you come to My House, I will come to your house. But if you do not come to My House, I will not come to your house.” If people come to worship at the Temple, the only place where God’s name is actually pronounced aloud, they can be assured that God will be there with them. Where God’s (actual) name is, God (actually) is. One can imagine that praying to an “invisible God”—one who could not be represented by a figure made of silver or gold—might have led to doubts among the people (“Is God really here? Does God really hear our prayers?). The Midrash responds with its strong answer: God is here (in the Temple in Jerusalem). If you come to the Temple, you will find God’s presence.
These doubts were heightened with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. How was a Jew to enter God’s presence in the absence of the place where God had previously “resided?” Rabbinic Judaism attempted to deal with this monumental loss. The interpretation that follows shows that the average Jew could find God outside of the Temple in Jerusalem. “The place my heart loves, my feet lead me there.” On the one hand, this can be understood as the words of God: Any place where Jews gather to worship, I will be there. On the other hand, it can also be applied to those who love God and who make it their business, despite distance or hardship, to attend a holy place of worship.
Two additional biblical verses (from Psalm 82 and the prophet Malachi) are brought to prove that God’s presence is to be found even in small groups: ten (a minyan); three (a beit-din, or court); and two (study-partners). The Rabbis then ask, And from where [do we know that the Divine Presence is with] even one, that God’s presence resides with an individual? As it says, “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” Note how the Rabbis believe that God can be both everywhere and in a specific place: “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you.” “If you come to My House, I will come to your house.” The omnipresent God can be found even by an individual who calls to God.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
--- Matthew 6:19.
“Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: he bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” (Ps. 39:6). (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) What is more mad, more unhappy? All day long you are harassed by labor, all night agitated by fear. That your coffer may be filled with money, your soul is in a fever of anxiety.
You bustle about in vain. Suppose that all your undertakings succeed. You bustle about, not fruitlessly indeed—still in vain. You are heaping up treasure and do not know for whom you gather it. For yourself?—you, who must die so soon? For your children?—those who must die so soon? It is a great futility—ones who must soon die lay up for those who must soon die also.
Let us then give ear to Jesus Christ: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What more do you wait for?
The voice of prediction is, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt. 24:35). The voice of warning is, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” If then you believe God in his prediction, if you do not despise his warning, let what he says be done. You will not lose what you have given away but will follow what you have only sent ahead of you. What you have on earth—with anxiety—you shall possess in heaven free from care. Transport your goods, then. I am giving you counsel for keeping, not for losing. “You will have,” says he, “treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21), that I may bring you to your treasure.
If what we have must be transported, let us transfer it to that place from where we cannot lose it. What are the poor to whom we give but our carriers, by whom we convey our goods from earth to heaven? Give then—you are only giving to your carriers. “How,” say you, “do they carry it to heaven? For I see that they make an end of it by eating.” No doubt they carry it not by keeping it but by making it their food. Have you forgotten? “Whatever,” says Christ, “you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He has received it who gave you something to give. He has received it who, in the end, will give his own self to you.
Augustine of Hippo
Maximus August 13
Maximus Confessor was born in Constantinople about 580. His family belonged to the old Byzantine aristocracy, and Maximus was afforded a good education. He proved an able leader and became Imperial Secretary under Emperor Heraclius. But he resigned. Driven by spiritual passion, he entered a monastery and eventually became the abbot. His theological and literary skills blossomed. The Greek church was inundated with his writings, and men as brilliant as John Scotus Erigena in the West and John of Damascus in the East drew wisdom from his pen.
In the course of time, Maximus led the fight against a heresy called Monothelitism—the teaching that Christ had a divine, but no human, will. This became the fight of his life. For many years, Maximus in the East and Pope Martinus I in the Western church held the line for orthodoxy—that Christ has two natures (human and divine), and two wills (not separated or mixed but in harmony).
The emperor, unimpressed, advanced Monothelitism. Pope Martinus was deposed, imprisoned with common criminals, exposed to cold and hunger, and finally banished to a cavern on the Black Sea where he died in 655. Maximus was treated even worse. Though now a feeble 73-year-old man, he was seized, dragged across the empire, placed on trial in Constantinople, and banished to a remote spot where he suffered greatly from cold and hunger. After several months, a commission was sent to interview him, headed by Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea, a Monothelitist. Maximus so eloquently defended the two natures of Christ that Theodosius left a converted man.
Another delegation was sent, and the emperor offered Maximus great rewards to convert to Monothelitism, and great suffering if he refused. He refused and was beaten, spat on, robbed of his possessions, imprisoned for six years, then flogged. His tongue and right hand were whacked off. He was displayed at a pillory in each of the 12 quarters of the city, then imprisoned for the rest of his life—which proved only a few weeks. He died August 13, 662 at age 82. But his sufferings paved the way for the triumph of his doctrine.
The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.
--- John 1:14.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 13
“The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted.” --- Psalm 104:16.
Lebanon’s cedars are emblematic of the Christian, in that they owe their planting entirely to the Lord. This is quite true of every child of God. He is not man-planted, nor self-planted, but God-planted. The mysterious hand of the divine Spirit dropped the living seed into a heart which he had himself prepared for its reception. Every true heir of heaven owns the great Husbandman as his planter. Moreover, the cedars of Lebanon are not dependent upon man for their watering; they stand on the lofty rock, unmoistened by human irrigation; and yet our heavenly Father supplieth them. Thus it is with the Christian who has learned to live by faith. He is independent of man, even in temporal things; for his continued maintenance he looks to the Lord his God, and to him alone. The dew of heaven is his portion, and the God of heaven is his fountain. Again, the cedars of Lebanon are not protected by any mortal power. They owe nothing to man for their preservation from stormy wind and tempest. They are God’s trees, kept and preserved by him, and by him alone. It is precisely the same with the Christian. He is not a hot-house plant, sheltered from temptation; he stands in the most exposed position; he has no shelter, no protection, except this, that the broad wings of the eternal God always cover the cedars which he himself has planted. Like cedars, believers are full of sap, having vitality enough to be ever green, even amid winter’s snows. Lastly, the flourishing and majestic condition of the cedar is to the praise of God only. The Lord, even the Lord alone hath been everything unto the cedars, and, therefore David very sweetly puts it in one of the Psalms, “Praise ye the Lord, fruitful trees and all cedars.” In the believer there is nothing that can magnify man; he is planted, nourished, and protected by the Lord’s own hand, and to him let all the glory be ascribed.
Evening - August 13
“And I will remember my covenant.” --- Genesis 9:15.
Mark the form of the promise. God does not say, “And when ye shall look upon the bow, and ye shall remember my covenant, then I will not destroy the earth,” but it is gloriously put, not upon our memory, which is fickle and frail, but upon God’s memory, which is infinite and immutable. “The bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant.” Oh! it is not my remembering God, it is God’s remembering me which is the ground of my safety; it is not my laying hold of his covenant, but his covenant’s laying hold on me. Glory be to God! the whole of the bulwarks of salvation are secured by divine power, and even the minor towers, which we may imagine might have been left to man, are guarded by almighty strength. Even the remembrance of the covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget, but our Lord cannot forget the saints whom he has graven on the palms of his hands. It is with us as with Israel in Egypt; the blood was upon the lintel and the two side-posts, but the Lord did not say, “When you see the blood I will pass over you,” but “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God’s looking to Jesus which secures my salvation and that of all his elect, since it is impossible for our God to look at Christ, our bleeding Surety, and then to be angry with us for sins already punished in him. No, it is not left with us even to be saved by remembering the covenant. There is no linsey-wolsey here—not a single thread of the creature mars the fabric. It is not of man, neither by man, but of the Lord alone. We should remember the covenant, and we shall do it, through divine grace; but the hinge of our safety does not hang there—it is God’s remembering us, not our remembering him; and hence the covenant is an everlasting covenant.
JESUS, I MY CROSS HAVE TAKEN
Henry F. Lyte, 1793–1847
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Every believer has a cross of some kind that Christ expects him to carry cheerfully each day as a demonstration of his discipleship. Life is a matter of choices. If we have made a decision to follow Christ, there must be purposeful self-denial in our lives or we have not really learned the meaning of true discipleship. Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. Bearing the cross involves a willingness to look beyond our own affairs and to share the load of others in order that they too may have a personal relationship with the Savior.
Henry Lyte spent the last 23 years of his life ministering to an Anglican parish of humble fishermen in Devonshire, England. In spite of his cross of frail health, Lyte worked tirelessly to build up a Sunday school of more than 800 children, and he contributed to a great spiritual and moral change in the hardened community around him. Also during these years, he had a number of books of poetry published as well as 80 hymn texts.
In everything he attempted amidst numerous difficulties, Henry Lyte demonstrated that he truly denied himself, took up his cross, and faithfully followed and served his Lord.
Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee; destitute, despised, forsaken—Thou from hence my all shalt be. Perish ev’ry fond ambition—all I’ve sought and hoped and known! Yet how rich is my condition—God and heav’n are still my own!
Let the world despise and leave me; they have left my Savior too; human hearts and looks deceive me—Thou art not, like man, untrue. And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, foes may hate, and friends may shun me—Show Thy face, and all is bright!
Haste thee, on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer; Heav’n’s eternal days before thee—God’s own hand shall guide thee there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission; swift shall pass thy pilgrim days; hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise!
For Today: 2 Kings 18:1–7; Matthew 10:38; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23, 62; 1 Peter 2:21
Purpose in your heart to deny yourself, cheerfully enduring whatever your cross may be, and then serve God by serving someone else. Begin by reflecting seriously on the words of this hymn ---
By Blaise Pascal
6/19/1623 - 8/19/1662
When I see the blind and wretched state of man, when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost and with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair.
I see other people around me, made like myself. I ask them if they are any better informed than I, and they say they are not. Then these lost and wretched creatures look around and find some attractive objects to which they become addicted and attached. For my part I have never been able to form such attachments, and considering how very likely it is that there exists something besides what I can see, I have tried to find out whether God has left any traces of himself.
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
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.
PRACTICAL atheism is natural to man in his depraved state, and very frequent in the hearts and lives of men.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. He regards him as little as if he had no being. He said in his heart, not with his tongue, nor in his head: he never firmly thought it, nor openly asserted it. Shame put a bar to the first, and natural reason to the second; yet, perhaps, he had sometimes some doubts whether there were a God or no. He wished there were not any, and sometimes hoped there were none at all. He could not raze out the notion of a Deity in his mind, but he neglected the fixing the sense of God in his heart, and made it too much his business to deface and blot out those characters of God in his soul, which had been left under the ruins of original nature. Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads. Their reasons may defend the notion of a Deity, while their hearts are empty of affection to the Deity. Job’s children may curse God in their hearts, though not with their lips.
There is no God. Most understand it of a denial of the providence of God, as I have said in opening the former doctrine. He denies some essential attribute of God, or the exercise of that attribute in the world. He that denies any essential attribute, may be said to deny the being of God. Whosoever denies angels or men to have reason and will, denies the human and angelical nature, because understanding and will are essential to both those natures; there could neither be angel nor man without them. No nature can subsist without the perfections essential to that nature, nor God be conceived of without his. The apostle tells us (Eph. 2:12), that the Gentiles were “without God in the world.” So, in some sense, all unbelievers may be termed atheists; for rejecting the Mediator appointed by God, they reject that God who appointed him. But this is beyond the intended scope, natural atheism being the only subject; yet this is deducible from it. That the title of θεοιd oth not only belong to those who deny the existence of God, or to those who contemn all sense of a Deity, and would root the conscience and reverence of God out of their souls; but it belongs also to those who give not that worship to God which is due to him, who worship many gods, or who worship one God in a false and superstitious manner, when they have not right conceptions of God, nor intend an adoration of him according to the excellency of his nature. All those that are unconcerned for any particular religion fall under this character: though they own a God in general, yet are willing to acknowledge any God that shall be coined by the powers under whom they live. The Gentiles were without God in the world; without the true notion of God, not without a God of their own framing. This general or practical atheism is natural to men.
1. Not natural by created, but by corrupted nature. It is against nature, as nature came out of the hand of God; but universally natural, as nature hath been sophisticated and infected by the serpent’s breath. Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason. God is not denied, naturâ, sed vitiis.
2. It is universally natural: “The wicked are estranged from the womb (Psalm 58:3). They go astray as soon as they be born: their poison is like the poison of a serpent.” The wicked, (and who by his birth hath a better title?) they go astray from the dictates of God and the rule of their creation as soon as ever they be born. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent, which is radically the same in all of the same species. It is seminally and fundamentally in all men, though there may be a stronger restraint by a divine hand upon some men than upon others. This principle runs through the whole stream of nature. The natural bent of every man’s heart is distant from God. When we attempt anything pleasing to God, it is like the climbing up a hill, against nature; when anything is displeasing to him, it is like a current running down the channel in its natural course; when we attempt anything that is an acknowledgment of the holiness of God, we are fain to rush, with arms in our hands, through a multitude of natural passions, and fight the way through the oppositions of our own sensitive appetite. How softly do we naturally sink down into that which sets us at a greater distance from God! There is no active, potent, efficacious sense of a God by nature. “The heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). The heart, in the singular number, as if there were but one common heart beat in all mankind, and bent, as with one pulse, with a joint consent and force to wickedness, without a sense of the authority of God in the earth, as if one heart acted every man in the world. The great apostle cites the text to verify the charge he brought against all mankind. In his interpretation, the Jews, who owned one God, and were dignified with special privileges, as well as the Gentiles that maintained many gods, are within the compass of this character. The apostle leaves out the first part of the text, “The fool hath said in his heart,” but takes in the latter part, and the verses following. He charges all, because all, every man of them, was under sin—“There is none that seeks God;” and, ver. 19, he adds, “What the law saith, it speaks to those that are under the law,” that none should imagine he included only the Gentiles, and exempted the Jews from this description. The leprosy of atheism had infected the whole mass of human nature. No man, among Jews or Gentiles, did naturally seek God; and, therefore, all were void of any spark of the practical sense of the Deity. The effects of this atheism are not in all externally of an equal size; yet, in the fundamentals and radicals of it, there is not a hair’s difference between the best and the worst men that ever traversed the world. The distinction is laid either in common grace, bounding and suppressing it; or in special grace, killing and crucifying it. It is in every one either triumphant or militant, reigning or deposed. No man is any more born with sensible acknowledgments of God, than he is born with a clear knowledge of the nature of all the stars in the heavens, or plants upon the earth. None seeks after God. None seek God as his rule, as his end, as his happiness, which is a debt the creature naturally owes to God. He desires no communion with God; he places his happiness in anything inferior to God; he prefers everything before him, glorifies everything above him; be hath no delight to know him; he regards not those paths which lead to him; he loves his own filth better than God’s holiness; his actions are tinctured and dyed with self, and are void of that respect which is due from him to God.
The noblest faculty of man, his understanding, wherein the remaining lineaments of the image of God are visible; the highest operation of that faculty, which is wisdom, is, in the judgment of the Spirit of God, devilish, whilst it is earthly and sensual; and the wisdom of the best man is no better by nature; a legion of impure spirits possess it; devilish, as the devil, who, though he believe there is a God, yet acts as if there were none, and wishes he had no superior to prescribe him a law, and inflict that punishment upon him which his crimes have merited. Hence the poison of man by nature is said to be like the poison of a serpent, alluding to that serpentine temptation which first infected mankind, and changed the nature of man into the likeness of that of the devil; so that, notwithstanding the harmony of the world, that presents men not only with the notice of the being of a God, but darts into their minds some remarks of his power and eternity; yet the thoughts and reasonings of man are so corrupt, as may well be called diabolical, and as contrary to the perfection of God, and the original law of their nature, as the actings of the devil are; for since every natural man is a child of the devil, and is acted by the diabolical spirit, he must needs have that nature which his father hath, and the infusion of that venom which the spirit that acts him is possessed with, though the full discovery of it may be restrained by various circumstances (Eph. 2:2). To conclude: though no man, or at least very few, arrive to a round and positive conclusion in their hearts that there is no God, yet there is no man that naturally hath in his heart any reverence of God. In general, before I come to a particular proof, take some propositions.
Prop. I. Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words; and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart, but a course of actions is as little guilty of lying as interest is, according to our common saying. All outward impieties are the branches of an atheism at the root of our nature, as all pestilential sores are expressions of the contagion in the blood; sin is therefore frequently called ungodliness in our English dialect. Men’s practices are the best indexes of their principles: the current of a man’s life is the counterpart of the frame of his heart. Who can deny an error in the spring or wheels, when he perceives an error in the hand of the dial? Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so much is visible in the life? The taste of the water discovers what mineral it is strained through. A practical denial of God is worse than a verbal, because deeds have usually more of deliberation than words; words may be the fruit of a passion, but a set of evil actions are the fruit and evidence of a predominant evil principle in the heart. All slighting words of a prince do not argue an habitual treason; but a succession of overt treasonable attempts signify a settled treasonable disposition in the mind. Those, therefore, are more deservedly termed atheists, who acknowledge a God, and walk as if there were none, than those (if there can be any such) that deny a God, and walk as if there were one. A sense of God in the heart would burst out in the life; where there is no reverence of God in the life, it is easily concluded there is less in the heart. What doth not influence a man when it hath the addition of the eyes, and censures of outward spectators, and the care of a reputation (so much the god of the world) to strengthen it and restrain the action, must certainly have less power over the heart when it is single, without any other concurrence. The flames breaking out of a house discover the fire to be much stronger and fiercer within. The apostle judgeth those of the circumcision, who gave heed to Jewish fables, to be deniers of God, though he doth not tax them with any notorious profaneness: (Tit. 1:16), “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” He gives them epithets contrary to what they arrogated to themselves. They boasted themselves to be holy; the apostle calls them abominable: they bragged that they fulfilled the law, and observed the traditions of their fathers; the apostle calls them disobedient, or unpersuadable: they boasted that they only had the rule of righteousness, and a sound judgment concerning it; the apostle said they had a reprobate sense, and unfit for any good work; and judges against all their vain-glorious brags, that they had not a reverence of God in their hearts; there was more of the denial of God in their works than there was acknowledgment of God in their words. Those that have neither God in their thoughts, nor in their tongues, nor in their works, cannot properly be said to acknowledge him. Where the honor of God is not practically owned in the lives of men, the being of God is not sensibly acknowledged in the hearts of men. The principle must be of the same kind with the actions; if the actions be atheistical, the principle of them can be no better.
Prop. II. All sin is founded in a secret atheism. Atheism is the spirit of every sin;—all the floods of impieties in the world break in at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join hand in hand against the interest of God. Though lusts and pleasures be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him. All the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret repinings, self-applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength, &c., envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and would not have a God superior to me. The variety of sins against the first and second table, the neglects of God, and violences against man, are derived from this in the text; first, “The fool hath said in his heart,” and then follows a legion of devils. As all virtuous actions spring from an acknowledgment of God, so all vicious actions rise from a lurking denial of him: all licentiousness goes glib down where there is no sense of God. Abraham judged himself not secure from murder, nor his wife from defilement in Gerar, if there were no fear of God there. He that makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the honor, and, consequently, none to the being of God. “By the fear of God men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6); by the non-regarding of God men rush into evil. Pharaoh oppressed Israel because he “knew not the Lord.” If he did not deny the being of a Deity, yet he had such an unworthy notion of God as was inconsistent with the nature of a Deity; he, a poor creature, thought himself a mate for the Creator. In sins of omission we own not God, in neglecting to perform what he enjoins; in sins of commission we set up some lust in the place of God, and pay to that the homage which is due to our Maker. In both we disown him; in the one by not doing what he commands, in the other by doing what he forbids. We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws; we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face; we disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our actions than that law he hath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone; and his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him. Every sin invades the rights of God, and strips him of one or other of his perfections. It is such a vilifying of God as if he were not God; as if he were not the supreme Creator and Benefactor of the world; as if we had not our being from him; as if the air we breathed in, the food we lived by, were our own by right of supremacy, not of donation. For a subject to slight his sovereign, is to slight his royalty; or a servant his master, is to deny his superiority.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXVI. — BUT as to the Diatribe disputing thus — “Although sin abound by the law, and where sin has abounded, grace much more abound; yet it does not therefore follow, that man, doing by God’s help what is pleasing to Him, cannot by works morally good, prepare himself for the favour of God.” —
Wonderful! Surely the Diatribe does not speak this out of its own head, but has taken it out of some paper or other, sent or received from another quarter, and inserted it in its book! For it certainly can neither see nor hear the meaning of these words! If sin abound by the law, how is it possible that a man can prepare himself by moral works, for the favour of God? How can works avail any thing, when the law avails nothing? Or, what else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins? — But of this elsewhere. But what does it mean when it says, that man, assisted by the help of God, can prepare himself by moral works? Are we here disputing concerning the divine assistance, or concerning “Free-will”? For what is not possible through the divine assistance? But the fact is, as I said before, the Diatribe cares nothing for the cause it has taken up, and therefore it snores and yawns forth such words as these.
But however, it adduces Cornelius the centurion, Acts x. 31, as an example: observing — ‘that his prayers and alms pleased God before he was baptized, and before he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.’
I have read Luke upon the Acts too, and yet I never perceived from one single syllable, that the works of Cornelius were morally good without the Holy Spirit, as the Diatribe dreams. But on the contrary, I find that he was “a just man and one that feared God:” for thus Luke calls him. But to call a man without the Holy Spirit, “a just man and one that feared God,” is the same thing as calling Baal, Christ!
Moreover, the whole context shews, that Cornelius was “clean” before God, even upon the testimony of the vision which was sent down from heaven to Peter, and which reproved him. Are then the righteousness and faith of Cornelius set forth by Luke in such words and attending circumstances, and do the Diatribe and its Sophists remain blind with open eyes, or see the contrary, in a light of words and an evidence of circumstances so clear? Such is their want of diligence in reading and contemplating the Scriptures: and yet, they must brand them with the assertion that they are ‘obscure and ambiguous.’ But grant it, that he was not as yet baptized, nor had as yet heard the word concerning Christ risen from the dead: — does it therefore follow, that He was without the Holy Spirit? According to this, you will say that John the Baptist and his parents, the mother of Christ, and Simeon, were without the Holy Spirit! — But let us take leave of such thick darkness!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Don Sunukjian | Biola University
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Jeremiah 3 and 4
A Horrible Thing
Jeremiah 5 and 6