Jeremiah 7 - 9
Evil in the LandJeremiah 7:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. 3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? 20 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”
21 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
29 “ ‘Cut off your hair and cast it away;
raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the LORD has rejected and forsaken
the generation of his wrath.’
The Valley of Slaughter30 “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. 33 And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. 34 And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.
Jeremiah 8:1 “At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. 2 And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts.
Sin and Treachery
4 “You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
5 Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
6 I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
7 Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the LORD.
8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
and the law of the LORD is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
has made it into a lie.
9 The wise men shall be put to shame;
they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
so what wisdom is in them?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to others
and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
11 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
12 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 the fallen;
when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the LORD.
13 When I would gather them, declares the LORD,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them.”
14 Why do we sit still?
Gather together; let us go into the fortified cities
and perish there,
for the LORD our God has doomed us to perish
and has given us poisoned water to drink,
because we have sinned against the LORD.
15 We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
16 “The snorting of their horses is heard from Dan;
at the sound of the neighing of their stallions
the whole land quakes.
They come and devour the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
17 For behold, I am sending among you serpents,
adders that cannot be charmed,
and they shall bite you,”
declares the LORD.
Jeremiah Grieves for His People
18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
Jeremiah 9:1 Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
2 Oh that I had in the desert
a travelers’ lodging place,
that I might leave my people
and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
a company of treacherous men.
3 They bend their tongue like a bow;
falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, declares the LORD.
4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity.
6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
7 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Behold, I will refine them and test them,
for what else can I do, because of my people?
8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceitfully;
with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor,
but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
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 “I will take up weeping and wailing for the mountains,
and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness,
because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
and the lowing of cattle is not heard;
both the birds of the air and the beasts
have fled and are gone.
11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
a lair of jackals,
and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation,
17 Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
18 let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
19 For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’ ”
20 Hear, O women, the word of the LORD,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
21 For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
22 Speak: “Thus declares the LORD,
‘The dead bodies of men shall fall
like dung upon the open field,
like sheaves after the reaper,
and none shall gather them.’ ”
25 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
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What I'm Reading
One or Two?
By Peter Jones 1/01/2012
An ideology is taking over the West that is both very spiritual and self-consciously anti-Christian. It intends, ever so subtly, without ever saying so explicitly, to grind the gospel into the dustbin of history. The 1960s was an incredibly formative decade. In 1962, Mircea Eliade, the world expert on comparative religions, observed: “Western thought [he meant Christendom] can no longer maintain itself in this splendid isolation from a confrontation with the ‘unknown,’ the ‘outsiders.’” As if on cue, the “Fab Four” met the Maharishi and introduced the “wisdom of the East” to popular Western culture. In the same decade, the “Death of God” theology arose, which turned out not to be the final triumph of secular humanism over the God of the Bible but instead the arrival of “the new polytheism” in the rebirth of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A’Changin,” and we heard for the first time of the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” an age of pagan utopian spirituality. This was the age when many became aware of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism through the discovery of ancient Gnostic texts and the psychological theories of the modern, very spiritual Gnostic Carl Jung, who called Christian orthodoxy “systematic blindness.” Jung followed the ancient Gnostic god Abraxas, half man, half beast, as a deity higher than both the Christian God and the Devil. His secular biographer recently stated that Jung, like the Roman Emperor Julian in the fourth century AD, succeeded in turning the Western world back to paganism.
The results of this pagan invasion of the West are stunning. In August 2009, Newsweek announced that “we are all Hindus now,” meaning that the Western “Christian” soul has been profoundly and definitively altered by Eastern spiritual one-ism, the seductive message of which is bound up in the Hindu word advaita, meaning “not two.” Here is the massive clash of two fundamentally opposed worldviews. Whereas Scripture affirms two-ism (the Creator/creature distinction and all the distinctions God creates in the cosmos He made), Hindu one-ism categorically affirms that things are “not two” but “one.” In a cosmos without a Creator, all distinctions collapse and man is god.
The conversion of the West has had practical effects. California is now mandating, in the name of oneist fairness, that gay history must be taught in all the schools, including grade school. The effect on Christian teachers will be devastating. If they leave, we hand over public education to the pagans. The same is happening in the military chaplaincy, just the way it happened in the fourth century under Julian the Apostate, who turned the empire back to Isis worship and purged Christians from the imperial administration.
Pagan territory is new for us. The theological binary (two-ism) is being ineluctably undermined by the rejection of the normative male/female binary. In a Swedish, tax-funded preschool, teachers can no longer use the pronouns him or her and must address the children as “friends.” “Homophobic,” gender-specific children’s stories such as “Thumbelina” or “Cinderella” are forbidden. A Toronto couple is raising their baby, Storm, without telling anyone the child’s gender.
While only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population claims a same-sex orientation (see the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2011), this minuscule tail wags the massive dog of Western culture because the agenda of homosexual oneness fits the “new ideology” of advaita — “not two.”
The one-ism of secular environmentalism is capturing the mind of the rising generation, raised in grade school through college on the notion of “sustainability” that worships Mother Earth and flattens the difference between creatures made in God’s image and those that are not.
What will happen to gospel witness when Western culture is “purified” of its literary canon and its Christian ethical past? The church must still speak and live out all issues of fundamental truth, whatever the cost — not to save America but to save souls from eternal doom. Without a clear understanding of the biblical worldview of two-ism — especially without the unambiguous embodiment of gender distinctions — as part of the image of God, we lose the essence of who we are as human beings, and the gospel loses its clarity.
It is time for people everywhere to hear that the good news concerns the amazing grace of reconciliation with God, the great Other, who, while transcendently different from us, redeems sinful creatures like us and restores to us personal fellowship with Him through the atoning death of His Son.
- 1 The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity's Greatest Threat
- 2 The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age
- 3 One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference
- 4 Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference?
- 5 Cracking Da Vinci's Code: You've Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts
- 6 Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America
- 7 The God of Sex
- 8 On Global Wizardry: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and a Christian Response
- 9 Pagans in the Pews
- 10 Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus
- 11 Capturing the Pagan Mind: Paul's Blueprint for Thinking and Living in the New Global Culture
Eyes to See
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/01/2012
It was my habit — my sophomoric habit — to proudly argue from my ignorance that we ought always to consider last things last. That is, recognizing the great difficulty in grasping the meaning of the end times and the final book of God’s Word, I thought discretion the better part of valor, and I suggested formerly that we can wait to figure out what the end means until after we have mastered all the other important stuff, like the stuff I was interested in and with which I felt reasonably competent.
I was awakened from my eschatological slumbers, however, not by finally finding a crystal clear exposition of the issues but by simply seeing the title of the book. If God revealed truths about Jesus to John, and John, by the power of the Spirit, is revealing those same truths to the church, it is not humility but arrogance that suggests, “Let’s set this aside for another time.” Jesus is revealed in the book of Revelation. His kingdom is revealed in the book of Revelation. And that is something we are called to see, even as we are called to seek.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples that they were called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How, though, would they know when they had found it? What would their eyes see when they beheld it?
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was the One, Jesus sent back this message: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5). Are we to look for signs and wonders in order to recognize the kingdom?
In another instance, the disciples sought to keep children away from Jesus. They reasoned that He was far too busy for such a distraction. Jesus, however, had a surprising response: “They were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13–14). Should we, then, be looking for the kingdom where we find children? Do we recognize its borders by the youth of its citizens?
In a third instance, after Jesus had been crucified, after He had been raised from the dead, and just as He was about to ascend to His throne, the disciples asked whether the kingdom would now come. Jesus replied that they would not be told the day and the hour, but that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth after the Spirit came in power. Should we, then, look for the kingdom where tongues of fire descend or where the gospel has discipled the nations?
The gospel did, even in the first century, go forth as Jesus predicted in Acts 1. Many were brought into the kingdom. When the Christian faith arrived at Thessalonica, the angry crowd described our missionaries as “men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). From humble beginnings, we see in the book of Acts the gospel changing the world. Is that, then, where we find the kingdom — where believers have unbelievers shaking in their boots?
It was not long after Jesus’ ascension, however, that a counteroffensive was launched on two competing fronts. First, the Jewish authorities kicked the faithful out of the temple and out of the synagogues. Second, the Roman Empire turned on Christians, persecuting them fiercely and putting them to death. It was in this context that John wrote what he saw. He showed the people of God the better country for which they longed. He showed them the kingdom they were seeking. Revelation reveals Jesus not in His humility, not in His tender care of the broken, not in the agony of His passion, and not in the joy of His resurrection. What the book of Revelation reveals is Jesus as our King, the Jesus who reigns. This is what is revealed — the King ruling over His kingdom.
Because we are soft, we think we are likewise being “persecuted.” Hollywood makes fun of us. Academia mocks us. And Washington turns a deaf ear to our concerns. We tear our clothes, throw dust in the air, and weep bitterly because we cannot see the kingdom, because we are weak and despised.
The same Spirit, however, who revealed the truth to John is revealing the same truth to us. He is giving us eyes to see. Our Lord reigns. He reigns in heaven, and from there goes forth into battle with principalities and powers. He reigns also, however, on earth — not just in our hearts and not just in our churches. No, Jesus reigns wher’er the sun doth its successive journeys run. All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto Him. Wherever there is a there, there you will find the kingdom of God. Last things first — Jesus is Lord.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Pursuit of Holiness: An Interview with Jerry Bridges
By Jerry Bridges 1/01/2012
Tabletalk: What do you see as the greatest need in the church today?
Jerry Bridges: There are so many needs in the church today that it is difficult to single out one as the greatest. However, if I had to pick one, I would say the most fundamental need is an ever-growing awareness of the holiness of God. I don’t say this because that is the main emphasis of Ligonier Ministries but because I believe it is true.
The emphasis of my own ministry has been the believer’s personal pursuit of holiness. But years ago I came to realize the gospel has to be the foundation and motivation for the pursuit of holiness. Believers need the gospel to remind them that our standing with God is not based on our own obedience but on the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ. Otherwise, the pursuit of holiness can be performance driven: that is, “If I’m good, God will bless me.”
How, then, can we get Christians to embrace the gospel every day? I believe Isaiah 6:1–8 gives us a paradigm for addressing this need. Isaiah sees God in His holiness, that is, His supreme majesty and infinite moral purity. In the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah is completely undone by an acute awareness of his own sinfulness. This is what we need in our churches today. Because we tend to define sin in terms of the more flagrant sins of society, we don’t see ourselves as practicing sinners.
It is only after Isaiah has been totally devastated by the realization of his own sinfulness that he is in the right position to hear the gospel proclaimed to him by the seraphim: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).
What happens next? Isaiah hears God say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Immediately he responds, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). What causes such an immediate and spontaneous response? It is gratitude for the forgiveness of his sins as he hears the gospel from the seraphim. Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). It is because the vast majority of Christians do not realize how much they have been forgiven that there is so much lethargy in the church today.
There is an inevitable sequence in the account of Isaiah’s vision. It is God (in His holiness), guilt, gospel, and gratitude. It is deep, heartfelt gratitude for the work of Christ as proclaimed in the gospel that motivates us to pursue holiness. But it all begins with an ever-increasing realization of the holiness of God. That is why I see it as the greatest need in the church today.
TT: What is the mission of the Navigators and how have you participated in this ministry over the years?
JB: Our mission statement is “To advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost.” The phrase “into the nations” expresses our conviction that God has called The Navigators to be a missionary-sending organization. We now have ministries in just over one hundred nations and about four thousand staff from more than thirty countries.
The phrase, “spiritual generations of laborers” expresses our emphasis on training disciples to establish and equip others, thus continuing the process of producing “spiritual generations.”
I became a staff trainee in 1955. I thought that after a couple of years of training I would go overseas as a missionary. Instead, I was asked to become part of the headquarters administrative team. At one point, I wrestled with this because I wanted to have a part in the Great Commission. Then I realized it takes many people fulfilling many roles to accomplish our God-given task. I sensed that my part in the Great Commission was to provide administrative support for those who were engaged in more obvious ministry. So I served in administration for almost forty years.
For the last seventeen years I have been a Bible teacher both inside The Navigators and among a larger audience outside of The Navigators. I have also written about a dozen books, though my writing actually began when I was still serving in administration.
TT: You have written numerous books on the topics of grace and holiness. Why did you write on these topics, and how do you hope God will use these books in the lives of His people?
JB: From my earliest contact with The Navigators, I sensed the need to apply the Scriptures specifically and intentionally to my life. But I struggled with the question, “What is my part and what is God’s part?” Finally, the Lord enabled me to see from the Scriptures the principle I call “dependent responsibility.” We are responsible to respond to the moral commands of Scripture, but we are absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable us.
I started to teach this principle of “dependent responsibility.” Then I was challenged by a friend to try writing. My first book, The Pursuit of Holiness, became a best-seller. But I soon realized that a pursuit of holiness that is not founded on grace and the gospel can lead to a performance mentality and even to discouragement. That’s when I began to emphasize grace and the gospel as foundational to the pursuit of holiness.
It is my desire that as a result of reading my books, people will seek to pursue holiness out of gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ. There is no doubt that it is our duty to pursue holiness. But I want believers to desire to do out of gratitude what is our duty to do. I want to see the “ought to” mentality replaced with a “want to” attitude.
TT: What led you to write the book Respectable Sins?
JB: I observed for some years a growing tendency among conservative evangelicals to focus on the more flagrant sins of society but to overlook our own sins of pride, selfishness, gossip, and the like. Again, it goes back to this: “He who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). Because of our self-righteousness, due to focusing on the major sins of society, we do not see our own desperate need of living by the gospel every day.
TT: Can and should we measure the progress of our sanctification? If so, why and how?
JB: Not numerically in the sense that I am 10 percent more generous now than I was last year. But we should be able to say, “I have improved in certain areas of my life. I do see progress in putting to death persistent sin patterns and in growing in the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit.” We are commanded to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13). We are commanded to put on a Christ-like character (Col. 3:14). That being true, we should seek to measure, in a general sense, the progress of our sanctification. However, it is also true that the more we grow in spiritual maturity, the more we see our need to grow. So we should always, to use Paul’s expression, be pressing on to become more like Christ.
TT: How important is fellowship with other Christians to our spiritual health?
JB: The biblical word for our English word fellowship is koinōnia, which has a much richer and deeper meaning than the concept of fellowship as mere social activities. Koinōnia has the connotation of sharing together a common life in Christ and of expressing that common life in encouraging and admonishing one another. The expression “two are better than one” in Ecclesiastes 4:9 and the several “one-another” passages in the New Testament, such as Hebrews 2:13 and 10:24–25, emphasize the importance of true, biblical fellowship.
TT: Aside from the Bible, do you have a favorite Christian classic? What is it about this book you admire?
JB: My all-time favorite Christian book is Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement by nineteenth-century Scottish theologian George Smeaton. It has two strengths. First, it is thorough in the sense that Smeaton treats every passage on the atonement from Acts through Revelation. But for me, the real strength of the book and that which makes it my favorite is his continual emphasis on the believer’s union with Christ, both representatively and organically. But it is his emphasis on the representative nature of our union with Christ (that Christ both lived a perfect life and died on the cross in our place) that gets me so excited.
Jerry Bridges Books | Go to Books Page
The Things of God
By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2012
It is one thing for a student to disagree with his teacher. But it is another thing entirely for a student to rebuke his teacher for his teaching. Yet, that is precisely what the Apostle Peter did. He had the gall to confront the incarnate Word of God, the One who embodies all truth, and rebuke Him for what He was teaching (Mark 8:32).
To make matters worse, the Greek word translated as “rebuke” is used biblically in connection with the condemnation of demons. When Jesus silenced demons, He did it by rebuking them, judging them worthy of condemnation (Matt. 17:18; Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35; 9:42). It is clear that Peter’s protest was not mild; he stood up to Jesus with the full measure of hostility. The Apostle who had said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and who had heard Jesus say, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah” (Matt. 16:16–17a), presumed to correct and admonish his Master.
What was the nature of Peter’s rebuke? He said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (v. 22b). Peter was saying that all the things Jesus had predicted (His betrayal and execution) most certainly would not happen to Him. Why? Because Peter was prepared to prevent them from happening — or so he thought.
Jesus’ response was equally sharp. Mark tells us: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (8:33). Here again is the Greek word that the gospel writers use to describe how Jesus spoke to demons. Now Mark uses it to describe what Jesus said to Peter, and Jesus’ words drive home the severity of this correction, for the Lord called His disciple “Satan.”
Why did Jesus equate Peter with the Devil? I believe it was because Peter presented the same temptation the Devil brought to Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. In his record of Jesus’ final temptation, Matthew writes,
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve.’” (4:8–10)
Satan asked Jesus to bow down to him. “Nobody will see it,” he suggested. “If you’ll do it, I will give you all of the kingdoms of this world. You won’t have to go through the Via Dolorosa (“the way of grief”). There will be no cross; there will be no cup of wrath; there will be no suffering.” The promise of this temptation was the acquisition of a throne without the experience of pain and suffering.
Our Lord withstood that temptation just as He withstood all of Satan’s offers. But Luke tells us that Satan “departed from him until an opportune time” (4:13b). There is foreboding there, the hint that Satan wasn’t finished with his temptation.
Who could have foreseen that the “opportune time” would follow on the heels of the highest confession of faith among the disciples? Who could have foreseen that Satan would speak through the spokesman of the disciples, the man who had said, “You are the Christ”? But Jesus recognized the work of Satan right away.
Jesus told Peter: “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Peter was not looking at the Messiah from God’s point of view but was thinking of the Messiah as a political leader who would deliver the Jews from Roman subjugation. For Peter, it was inconceivable that the Messiah should suffer — even though the Old Testament said He would.
Jesus showed Peter that there are two ways of looking at things — God’s way and man’s way. This is the divide between godliness and godlessness. The godly person is deeply concerned about the things of God, but the godless person has no concern for the things of God. Instead, he is preoccupied with this world.
We need to evaluate ourselves on these criteria from time to time. We need to ask ourselves: “Where is my heart? What is my chief concern? Am I preoccupied with the things of this world, or does my heart beat for the things of God? Am I seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Or is there some other priority, some ambition, some goal to which all of my energy is devoted?”
We especially need to ask ourselves these questions if we find that Jesus’ teaching offends us and prompts us to question or even rebuke Him. May we never be so foolhardy.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
A Catechism on the Heart
By Sinclair Ferguson 1/01/2012
Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God. O for a heart to praise my God!
Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn:
A heart from sin set free.
But behind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.
What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:
Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).
Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.
Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.
Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”
Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”
Q.6. What four things does God counsel me to do so that my heart may be kept for Him?
A. First, I must guard my heart as if everything depended on it. This means that I should keep my heart like a sanctuary for the presence of the Lord Jesus and allow nothing and no one else to enter.
Second, I must keep my heart healthy by proper diet, growing strong on a regular diet of God’s Word — reading it for myself, meditating on its truth, but especially being fed on it in the preaching of the Word. I also will remember that my heart has eyes as well as ears. The Spirit shows me baptism as a sign that I bear God’s triune name, while the Lord’s Supper stimulates heart love for the Lord Jesus.
Third, I must take regular spiritual exercise, since my heart will be strengthened by worship when my whole being is given over to God in expressions of love for and trust in Him.
Fourth, I must give myself to prayer in which my heart holds on to the promises of God, rests in His will, and asks for His sustaining grace — and do this not only on my own but with others so that we may encourage one another to maintain a heart for God.
This — and much else — requires development, elaboration, and exposition. But it can be summed up in a single biblical sentence. Listen to your Father’s appeal: “My son, give Me your heart.”
O for a heart to praise my God!
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2009
It is a rather tedious and tiresome thing to pull the legs out from under our national confession. Our country’s creed is not just internally inconsistent, nor is it just incomprehensible, it is both these things. That is, it does not start out with the fundamental premise, build a string of thirty or so syllogisms and come to a conclusion that contradicts the premise. You start with A, blink, and non-A is staring you right in the face. Our national creed is this: There is no such thing as true and false. The refutation is this: Is it true or false that there’s no such thing as true or false? It’s over already. As I already noted, this devastating critique is by this point both tedious and tiresome. Potent and compelling, yes, but still boring as soggy graham crackers.
That this creed hasn’t a leg to stand on doesn’t keep it from being the very pillar of our society. Not a stable pillar, of course, but, then, we are no longer living in a very stable society. The more interesting question is this: How did an idea so utterly foolish come to be the very foundation of our culture? Why would a people, especially a people so given to intellectual pride, embrace such obvious folly? Because we’re foolish enough to believe that such will allow us to escape the call of God on our lives. Because while we profess ourselves to be wise, God gives us over to the foolishness of our own thinking (Rom. 1:22).
(Ro 1:22) 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, ESV
Relativism is not driven by honest epistemological skepticism. That is, its impetus isn’t the result of uncertainty about truth. It is driven instead by ethical perversion. It exists not in the end so that we can escape truth per se, but that we might escape a particular truth — that we are sinners in rebellion against God. We deny that there is truth, so that we can deny that there is a truth to which we must give an answer. It is an attempt to escape from authority.
As is so often the case, the folly that infects the world soon infects the church. According to George Barna, fifty-four percent of those who profess to be evangelicals also agree that there is no objective true and false. That evangelicals believe this is as absurd as the notion that there is no objective true and false. Evangelicals, by definition, are those who affirm the objective truth of the evangel (the gospel). But this is not the only way relativism assaults the church. It infects our understanding of the Bible itself. We come to the Word of God not to find out what God says but to find out what it says “to me.” We open our Bibles not to find “thus saith the Lord” but to find grist for our own mills, to affirm “thus is what it means to me.”
Those of us in the Reformed camp, while hopefully not falling for this folly, have at least failed to fight it well. To be sure we have our share of worldview gurus who are willing and able to refute this nonsense. Such we ought to be doing. But we spend most of our time manning the barricades against assaults on the sovereignty of God. Charismatics speak of the Holy Spirit. Dispensationalists write about the end times. The Reformed talk about God’s sovereign power.
Of course it is good and wise to speak about the Holy Spirit, as long as we are speaking biblically. It is right and proper to write about the end times, as long as we are writing biblically. It is sound and fitting to talk about God’s sovereign power, as long as we are talking biblically. What we tend to skip lightly over, however, is God’s sovereign authority. That when He speaks the winds and the waves obey manifests not just His power but His rule. He is God Almighty, there is no other. When He speaks, He need not persuade us of what He says. He need not overpower us either. Instead, because He is the Creator and we but creatures, when He speaks we must ever and always reply, “Amen.”
While it is certainly true that the modern, or should I say postmodern church suffers from acute worldliness, that we stumble because we follow the world, the broader reality is that the world follows us. That is, we do not fail to submit to God’s Word because they out there are relativists. Instead, they are relativists, not submitting to God, because we first do not submit to Him. If we want to live in a world where authority is recognized and honored, we need to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people that bow before God’s Word. The world will continue to collapse until the church learns, within her own walls, to be more faithful.
Jesus said as much when He, with all authority, commanded us all to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Our first calling is to get our own house in order, to become sons and daughters who honor our Father. When that happens, and only then, all these things will be added unto us. All that we worry about, or even all that we hope for — including a better, sounder, safer, broader culture — will then come to pass. First, however, we must get first things first. Our sound refutations of foolish worldviews will get us nowhere until we submit to all that He has said. Submission is our mission. Let God be true and every man a liar.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
America Has Received a Reprieve
By Paul A Carter 11/9/2016
Yesterday’s presidential election result surprised most of us. Conservatives like myself held out little hope that we could avoid another four to eight years of rule by progressives. The last eight years have seen a tremendous amount of change, most of it for the worse. America has become more divided and lawless, led into this predicament by a president who had promised to help unite us. He had campaigned for hope and change, yet left many of us hoping for a change.
Over 40 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that abortion should be legal. Just last year, another Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals should be allowed to marry one another. Make no mistake – God is angry with the people of America because of these and other sins.
Judgment Coming? | Seeing the moral decay of America not only continue but pick up speed, many thoughtful Christians had concluded that God was in the process of withdrawing his Spirit from America in judgment. Many were even wondering whether the end times were approaching. Perhaps these things are indeed taking place but many Christians have been praying that God would forgive this nation’s sins and heal our land, as the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14,
(2 Ch 7:14) 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ESV
I believe that God has answered us by stirring up His people to pray, take action, and vote. In this manner, Hillary Clinton was kept from again taking up residence in the White House with her husband, Bill. Those of us who recall Bill’s years as president think first of his sexual misconduct and impeachment, not of anything positive that he may have accomplished. In the years following Bill’s exit from the presidency, he and Hillary have become ever more lawless and corrupt. It is astonishing to me that Hillary was even allowed to run for office, given her blatant disregard for the law.
A Reprieve | Signing the ConstitutionI believe that the defeat of Hillary Clinton is evidence that we have been granted a temporary reprieve from God’s judgment. We have been rescued from continuing rule by those who care nothing for God, the law, or the Constitution. Let’s first thank God for His mercy, then turn to the task of praying for Donald Trump, as well as all of our country’s newly-elected leadership. We have been given a reprieve – let’s use it well and do all that we can to turn this country around.
Paul A. Carter is, first and foremost, a follower of Christ. A husband and father, Paul cares deeply about his family. He, along with his wife Sandra, started the Norman, Oklahoma chapter of Reasons to Believe in 2014, which he serves as the chapter president. Paul is a career software developer but has recently transitioned into an analysis role. His interests include the relationship between science and the Christian faith, cosmology, astronomy, reading, and playing the flugelhorn. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent anyone else, including Reasons to Believe.
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.
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 13:10-11)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 14John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” ESV
The washing of the disciples’ feet by the Lord was more than a lesson in humility, though it was that. It was a wondrous picture of what He has been doing for His own ever since He went back to Heaven. It was written of Him, “He will guard the feet of His saints” (1 Samuel 2:9). His present service is just that. He is keeping our feet clean by “the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26), while we are exposed to the defiling things of this world. We have been bathed once for all by the washing of regeneration. We need daily to be cleansed as to our ways that we may enjoy fellowship with Him who has redeemed us to Himself. As the girded Servant He undertakes to do this for us. Let us not seek to thwart Him by saying, as Peter did in his ignorance “You shall never wash my feet!”
1 Samuel 2:9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.
Ephesians 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, ESV
Girded with the golden girdle,
Shining as the mighty sun,
Still His pierced hands will finish
All His work of love begun.
On the night of His betrayal,
In the glory of the throne,
Still with faithful patience washing
All defilement from His own.
By John Walvoord
Introduction to the Prophecy of the Seventy Sevens
Daniel the prophet was not only revealing the tremendous prophecies concerning the times of the Gentiles, embracing the four great empires, beginning with Babylon and ending with Rome, and the final destruction of Gentile power by the second coming, but he also received in his third vision in the next chapter a detailed chronology of Israel’s future, culminating in the second coming of Christ. Because of the revelation given through Daniel, both concerning the times of the Gentiles and the program of God for Israel, the prophecies of Daniel are the key to understanding the major prophecies of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.
In Daniel 9, three important segments are presented: (1) the approaching fulfillment of Israel’s return to the land (vv. 1–2 ); (2) the remarkable prayer of Daniel in view of the approaching fulfillment of prophecy (vv. 3–19 ); (3) the important prophecy concerning the seventy sevens of Israel’s future, culminating in the second coming.
The events of this chapter followed the earlier two visions of Daniel in 553 BC and 550 BC, and the downfall of the Babylonian Empire in Daniel 5 (539 BC). Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den ( 6:1–24 ) was not clearly before or after the vision of Daniel 9, as the vision was not dated.
The great prophecies given to Nebuchadnezzar as well as to Daniel and the fulfillment of the downfall of Babylon must have given Daniel a great sense of the sovereignty of God and the certainty of prophecy being literally fulfilled. It was with this background that Daniel reported his discovery of the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the seventy years of Israel’s captivity.
Daniel’s Prayer for Restoration of Jerusalem
Daniel 9:1–2. Daniel recorded that the early events of Daniel 9 occurred “in the first year of Darius son of Xerxes” (v. 1 ), which was probably the year 539–538 BC. Daniel for the first time comprehended the prophecies of Jeremiah the prophet concerning the seventy years of Israel’s captivity. It may be that he had not read the prophecy or it had not come into his possession before this event.
According to the book of Jeremiah, these prophecies were written before the downfall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, at least fifty-seven years before the events of this chapter. Jeremiah himself had been carried off to Egypt against his will and apparently died there and was buried in a strange land ( Jer. 43:4–13 ). How the prophecies of Jeremiah, probably taken with him to Egypt, found their way to Babylon and into the hands of Daniel remains unknown. Because of Daniel’s high position in the government of the Medes and the Persians, it would be natural to refer this manuscript to him when it reached Babylon.
Upon reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel concluded that the time was about to come when Israel could go back and claim their ancient city Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 25:11–12, Jeremiah had written, “‘This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will make it desolate forever.’”
As the captivity of Israel began in 605, seventy prophetic years of 360 days each would bring it approximately to the time of the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. Actually, the Medo-Persians did not destroy Babylon. In fact, it went on for many hundreds of years and never became desolate until modern time. For this reason some believe that Babylon will be rebuilt in the end time and destroyed at the time of the second coming ( Isa. 13:1–22; Rev. 18:1–24 ). Though the fall of Babylon occurred in 539 BC, the complete destruction of Babylon as described in this passage has not been fulfilled in history.
Daniel also read Jeremiah 29:10–14: “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’” The reason that Daniel was excited at this prophecy was that approximately sixty-seven years had already passed since Jerusalem fell in 605 BC. As Daniel believed in the literal fulfillment of prophecy based on his own experience, the prophecy was a tremendous revelation to him.
In the events of Daniel 6 when Daniel was cast into the lions’ den, Scripture reveals Daniel’s practice to pray three times a day with his window open toward Jerusalem. Ever since he was led away to Babylon as a teenager, he had been praying that Jerusalem might be restored and the people might return. There would be no message more welcomed or more stimulating to Daniel than the assurance from the Word of God that after seventy years they would be able to return. It was noteworthy that Daniel took the prophecy literally. He knew that God would do exactly what Jeremiah had prophesied. This led to the remarkable prayer that follows.
Some interpreters point out that there is a difference between the seventy years of captivity and the seventy years of Israel’s desolation. In Jeremiah 29:10, reference is made to the period of the captivities that began in 605 BC and ended in approximately 538 BC. This is what prompted Daniel to pray and to ask God to fulfill this prophecy.
In Jeremiah 25:12, Jeremiah is considering the desolations of Babylon. The fact is the desolations of Babylon did not take place after 539 BC and may still be projected to the future end of the Inter-advent Age.
Likewise, the desolation of Jerusalem did not begin until 586 BC when Jerusalem was destroyed, and it extended seventy years. It ended at approximately 516 or 515 BC. Accordingly, some conclude that because the seventy-year captivity ended in 538 BC, Ezra was authorized to go back to Jerusalem. The actual rebuilding of Jerusalem was delayed, including the rebuilding of the temple, until approximately 515 BC in order to allow Jerusalem to lie desolate for seventy years from the date of its destruction in 586 BC. In view of the fact that the desolations of Jerusalem are somewhat different from the captivity of Jerusalem in date and circumstance, this distinction may serve to explain the sequence in events in fulfillment. Though the major deportation of captives from Jerusalem to Babylon took place in 597 BC, Daniel was probably in the first contingent that was taken soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 605 BC. Accordingly, Daniel would date the time of the conclusion of the seventy years of the captivity to be fulfilled approximately seventy years after he himself was carried away as a captive.
In trying to reconstruct the prophecy and fulfillment, it should be borne in mind that a prophetic year is 360 days, not 365, and accordingly, the years were somewhat shorter than in the modern calendar. Though the seventy years were literal, it is obvious that the Bible does not attempt to prove that it was to the exact day or even to the exact year, but that it was approximately in round numbers seventy years, not an indefinite period of time.
Scholars attempting to reconstruct the chronology of this period must also bear in mind that the capture of Babylon was in October 539 BC when Darius was appointed as ruler. However, Cyrus, the king of Persia, issued his decree permitting captives to return to Jerusalem in the first full year of his reign over Babylon, which did not begin until March 538 BC, as fractions of years were not counted. Accordingly, the return of the captives would be from 538 BC to 537 BC. The discovery of Jeremiah’s prophecies, however, moved Daniel to offer one of the more remarkable prayers of the Bible.
Daniel 9:3–16. Daniel’s prayer is a model for those seeking to move God in prayer. Daniel first of all prepared himself spiritually through fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (v. 3 ). While this was not necessary, Daniel did everything he possibly could to put himself in a favorable spiritual position for prayer.
As he prayed, he reminded God of His greatness and the fact that He keeps His covenants, especially for those whom He loves (v. 4 ). Daniel did not dodge the fact, however, that the captivity was caused by the sins of Israel. In his prayer he declared, “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land” (vv. 5–6 ).
Though Daniel himself was never identified with any sinful act in the book of Daniel, it is significant that Daniel identified himself with his people. Though he did not participate in their rebellion against God, he recognized that he was a part of the nation, and the nation as a whole was punished by God. Daniel was saying that their captivity was justified as a righteous judgment from a righteous God.
Daniel went on to point out that God is righteous, which brings out all the more the awfulness of sin. He declared, “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame — the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you” (vv. 7–11 ).
In this model prayer, Daniel not only emphasized the necessity for spiritual preparation but also made an honest confession of the sins of which we may be guilty personally or corporately.
Daniel pointed out how the very judgments brought on the people of Israel were a fulfillment of prophecy: “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us a great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him” (vv. 11–14).
In confessing his sins and the sins of the people of Israel, Daniel laid the proper groundwork for confidence that God would still accomplish His prophecy. Just as there was prophecy of Israel’s judgment, so there was prophecy of Israel’s restoration, and his prayer here turned to this aspect of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Daniel 9:17–19. Daniel then offered his petition that God would hear and answer prayer and fulfill the prophecy He had made (v. 17 ). It is noteworthy that in this prayer Daniel petitioned for God to answer prayer for that which concerns Himself — that His sanctuary is lying desolate. Accordingly, Daniel was pleading that God would glorify Himself by fulfilling His prophecy: “Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name” (vv. 18–19 ).
Daniel’s prayer in many ways is a remarkable model for all prayer. Daniel first of all made personal spiritual preparation; then he confessed the sins of the people of Israel. Daniel pointed out how God was righteous in fulfilling the prophecies of judgment; and the result was that Jerusalem and the temple lay in ruins and the people were in captivity. On the basis of this, however, Daniel then presented his petition, arguing in the same way as he stated that prophecy was fulfilled in their judgment. So he then presented to God the need of fulfilling the prophecy of mercy and doing that which was necessary to return His people to Jerusalem and to bring about the rebuilding of the temple and the city. Daniel pleaded with God on the basis of His mercy — the fact that He is a forgiving God — and prayed that God would not delay the answer further after these many years of the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple.
As revealed so often in both prophecy and fulfillment, God not only dealt with Israel in judgment of their sins in fulfillment of prophecy, but He also desired to restore them in fulfillment of prophecy. And the restoration of the people to the land this time was in keeping with the prophecy given through Jeremiah. During the time of Daniel’s prayer, the verses that follow reveal that the angel Gabriel was sent at the beginning of Daniel’s prayer.
Undoubtedly, the prayer of Daniel actually was much longer than what was recorded in the book of Daniel, and what was revealed was a condensation, as was often the case in Scripture. It seems evident that the prayer ended close to the time of the evening sacrifice, though actually no sacrifices had been offered since the temple was destroyed in 586 BC.
Daniel 9:20–23. Daniel summarized these prophetic facts in these words: “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill — while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice” (vv. 20–21 ). In referring to his previous contact with Gabriel, Daniel was referring to the contact he had with Gabriel the angel more than eleven years earlier ( 8:15 ). In Scripture Gabriel was frequently related to important messages from God delivered to His people ( Luke 1:19, 26 ).
Upon arrival and contact with Daniel, Gabriel informed him, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision” ( Dan. 9:22–23 ).
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
9/1/2016 Our Family Forever
In the church, many people assume that men enter pastoral ministry simply out of a desire to be pastors. But such an assumption is far from the truth. God makes men pastors. He calls us, gifts us, equips us, and sustains us. We enter pastoral ministry not necessarily because we want to but because we must. It is not as if we are incapable of doing other things for a living, but rather that we are incapable of doing anything else that will allow us to obey God and find the God-ordained fulfillment that comes from serving Him with the particular calling and gifts He has bestowed on us. Left to ourselves and our own selfish desires, we would run from God’s call upon our lives. However, we answer God’s call because we cannot help it. For just as God by His sovereign grace makes us all the sheep of Jesus Christ, He makes some of us undershepherds of Jesus Christ, our Chief Shepherd, the one and only head of the church.
Although not every Christian is called to be a pastor, every Christian is called to serve the Lord and His church with the gifts He has given them. The church is not a business organization where the pastor is the paid visionary, entertainer, program director, and CEO. On the contrary, the church is a living organism wherein each and every communing member of the church serves the church with his or her gifts. One of the jobs that pastors perform is helping to shepherd and disciple God’s people so that we might all serve one another, our families, our communities, and our neighbors as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. At Saint Andrew’s Chapel, one of the questions we ask professing Christians when they take their vows to become members of our church is, “Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?” In taking that vow, members are agreeing not only to support our congregation and missional outreach financially but to support the congregation with their gifts and service, being faithful stewards of their God-given time, talents, and treasures. Furthermore, in vowing to support the church, members are not only vowing to support our congregation alone, but to support the one, holy, catholic (universal), and Apostolic church of Jesus Christ.
As pastors, one of the driving passions of our hearts is to see the church, the family of God, love one another. That each and every member of the church, both young and old, from every culture, race, and socioeconomic background, would serve one another with their spiritual gifts. That God’s people would treat the church like their home, not like a hotel. That we would all see the church as our family, with whom, by the grace of God, we will love, worship, and enjoy our triune God now and forever.
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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
Over 3,000 American troops were killed or wounded when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. 20,000 died on the infamous Bataan Death March, when Japanese forced starving prisoners to march through jungles. 100,000 died retaking Okinawa and other islands. Though devastating, President Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic Bomb prevented an estimated one million casualties and Emperor Hirohito surrendered Japan on this day, August 14, 1945. Father Cummings, a chaplain who was captured and died in the Philippines, told his men: “There are no atheists in the foxholes.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The moment your Christianity
is the moment
it actually becomes Christianity.
--- Damon Thompson
Patience and Diligence,
like faith, remove mountains.
--- William Penn
My will is not my own till Thou has made it Thine; if it would reach the monarch’s throne it must its crown resign. It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife, till on Thy bosom it has leant and found in Thee its life.
--- George Matheson
I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
--- Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality ... from here, there and everywhere
Gibbon, E. (2004). The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. (H. H. Milman, Ed.
I was listening to Ravi Zacharias, ‘His Work Will Always Cause You To Win’ and he mentioned how The Roman Gladiator Games came to an end. It sounded familiar, but I wanted to research it.
I learned the Gladiator games in Rome ended January 1st, A.D. 404 because the Emperor Honorius was upset by the murder of Telemachus. Telemachus tried to stop the bloody combat and the crowd stoned him.
In these games of Honorius, the inhuman combats of gladiators polluted, for the last time, the amphitheater of Rome. The first Christian emperor may claim the honor of the first edict which condemned the art and amusement of shedding human blood;3665 but this benevolent law expressed the wishes of the prince, without reforming an inveterate abuse, which degraded a civilized nation below the condition of savage cannibals. Several hundred, perhaps several thousand, victims were annually slaughtered in the great cities of the empire; and the month of December, more peculiarly devoted to the combats of gladiators, still exhibited to the eyes of the Roman people a grateful spectacle of blood and cruelty. Amidst the general joy of the victory of Pollentia, a Christian poet exhorted the emperor to extirpate, by his authority, the horrid custom which had so long resisted the voice of humanity and religion. The pathetic representations of Prudentius were less effectual than the generous boldness of Telemachus, and Asiatic monk, whose death was more useful to mankind than his life. The Romans were provoked by the interruption of their pleasures; and the rash monk, who had descended into the arena to separate the gladiators, was overwhelmed under a shower of stones. But the madness of the people soon subsided; they respected the memory of Telemachus, who had deserved the honors of martyrdom; and they submitted, without a murmur, to the laws of Honorius, which abolished forever the human sacrifices of the amphitheater.
Thanks to Meir Yona
6. On the next day the Jews made another attack upon the Romans, and went out of the walls and fought a much more desperate battle with them than before. For they were now become more courageous than formerly, and that on account of the unexpected good opposition they had made the day before, as they found the Romans also to fight more desperately; for a sense of shame inflamed these into a passion, as esteeming their failure of a sudden victory to be a kind of defeat. Thus did the Romans try to make an impression upon the Jews till the fifth day continually, while the people of Jotapata made sallies out, and fought at the walls most desperately; nor were the Jews affrighted at the strength of the enemy, nor were the Romans discouraged at the difficulties they met with in taking the city.
7. Now Jotapata is almost all of it built on a precipice, having on all the other sides of it every way valleys immensely deep and steep, insomuch that those who would look down would have their sight fail them before it reaches to the bottom. It is only to be come at on the north side, where the utmost part of the city is built on the mountain, as it ends obliquely at a plain. This mountain Josephus had encompassed with a wall when he fortified the city, that its top might not be capable of being seized upon by the enemies. The city is covered all round with other mountains, and can no way be seen till a man comes just upon it. And this was the strong situation of Jotapata.
8. Vespasian, therefore, in order to try how he might overcome the natural strength of the place, as well as the bold defense of the Jews, made a resolution to prosecute the siege with vigor. To that end he called the commanders that were under him to a council of war, and consulted with them which way the assault might be managed to the best advantage. And when the resolution was there taken to raise a bank against that part of the wall which was practicable, he sent his whole army abroad to get the materials together. So when they had cut down all the trees on the mountains that adjoined to the city, and had gotten together a vast heap of stones, besides the wood they had cut down, some of them brought hurdles, in order to avoid the effects of the darts that were shot from above them. These hurdles they spread over their banks, under cover whereof they formed their bank, and so were little or nothing hurt by the darts that were thrown upon them from the wall, while others pulled the neighboring hillocks to pieces, and perpetually brought earth to them; so that while they were busy three sorts of ways, nobody was idle. However, the Jews cast great stones from the walls upon the hurdles which protected the men, with all sorts of darts also; and the noise of what could not reach them was yet so terrible, that it was some impediment to the workmen.
9. Vespasian then set the engines for throwing stones and darts round about the city. The number of the engines was in all a hundred and sixty, and bid them fall to work, and dislodge those that were upon the wall. At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only not come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines; for the multitude of the Arabian archers, as well also as all those that threw darts and slung stones, fell to work at the same time with the engines. Yet did not the others lie still, when they could not throw at the Romans from a higher place; for they then made sallies out of the city, like private robbers, by parties, and pulled away the hurdles that covered the workmen, and killed them when they were thus naked; and when those workmen gave way, these cast away the earth that composed the bank, and burnt the wooden parts of it, together with the hurdles, till at length Vespasian perceived that the intervals there were between the works were of disadvantage to him; for those spaces of ground afforded the Jews a place for assaulting the Romans. So he united the hurdles, and at the same time joined one part of the army to the other, which prevented the private excursions of the Jews.
10. And when the bank was now raised, and brought nearer than ever to the battlements that belonged to the walls, Josephus thought it would be entirely wrong in him if he could make no contrivances in opposition to theirs, and that might be for the city's preservation; so he got together his workmen, and ordered them to build the wall higher; and while they said that this was impossible to be done while so many darts were thrown at them, he invented this sort of cover for them: He bid them fix piles, and expand before them the raw hides of oxen newly killed, that these hides by yielding and hollowing themselves when the stones were thrown at them might receive them, for that the other darts would slide off them, and the fire that was thrown would be quenched by the moisture that was in them. And these he set before the workmen, and under them these workmen went on with their works in safety, and raised the wall higher, and that both by day and by night, till it was twenty cubits high. He also built a good number of towers upon the wall, and fitted it to strong battlements. This greatly discouraged the Romans, who in their own opinions were already gotten within the walls, while they were now at once astonished at Josephus's contrivance, and at the fortitude of the citizens that were in the city.
11. And now Vespasian was plainly irritated at the great subtlety of this stratagem, and at the boldness of the citizens of Jotapata; for taking heart again upon the building of this wall, they made fresh sallies upon the Romans, and had every day conflicts with them by parties, together with all such contrivances, as robbers make use of, and with the plundering of all that came to hand, as also with the setting fire to all the other works; and this till Vespasian made his army leave off fighting them, and resolved to lie round the city, and to starve them into a surrender, as supposing that either they would be forced to petition him for mercy by want of provisions, or if they should have the courage to hold out till the last, they should perish by famine: and he concluded he should conquer them the more easily in fighting, if he gave them an interval, and then fell upon them when they were weakened by famine; but still he gave orders that they should guard against their coming out of the city.
by D.H. Stern
28 Don’t move the ancient boundary stone
set up by your ancestors.
by Frank W. Boreham
I love a margin. There is something delicious, luxurious, glorious in the spacious field of creamy paper bounded by the black letterpress on the one side and the gilt edges on the other. Could anything be more abominable than a book that is printed to the uttermost extremities of every page? It is an outrage, I aver, on human nature. Indeed, it is an outrage upon Nature herself, for Nature loves her margins even more than I do. She goes in for margins on a truly stupendous scale. She wants a bird, so a dozen are hatched. She knows perfectly well that eleven out of the twelve are merely margin. She will throw them to the cats, and the foxes, and the weasels, and the snakes, and only keep the best of the batch. She wants a tree, so she plants a hundred. She knows that ninety and nine are margin, to be browsed down by cattle, but she means to make sure of her one. 'The roe of a cod,' Grant Alien tells me, 'contains nearly ten million eggs; but, if each of those eggs produced a young fish which arrived at maturity, the whole sea would immediately become a solid mass of closely packed cod-fish.' But Nature has no intention of turning her bright blue ocean into a gigantic box of sardines; she is simply providing herself with a margin. Linnaeus says that a fly may multiply itself ten thousandfold in a fortnight. If this increase continued during the three summer months, he says, one fly at the beginning of summer would produce one hundred millions of millions of millions before the three months were over, and the air would be black with the horror. The probability, however, is that there are never one hundred millions of millions of millions of flies in the whole world. Nature is not arranging for a repetition of the plague of Egypt; she is simply gratifying her appetite for a margin. As Tennyson sings in 'In Memoriam,'
of fifty seeds She often brings but one to bear.
So I suppose I learned my love of margins from her. At any rate, if anybody thinks me extravagant, they must quarrel with her and not with me.
I fancy there's a good deal in it. It is the margin that makes all the difference. If the work that absolutely must be done occupies every waking moment of my time, I am a slave; but if it leaves a margin of a single hour, I am in clover. If my receipts will only just balance my expenditure, I am living a mere hand-to-mouth existence; but if they leave me a margin, I jingle the odd coins in my pocket with the pride of a prince. Mr. Micawber's philosophy comes back to us. 'Annual income—twenty pounds; annual expenditure—nineteen nineteen six; result—happiness. Annual income—twenty pounds; annual expenditure—twenty pounds ought and six; result—misery.' I believe that one of the supreme aims of a man's life should be to secure a margin. Nature does it, and we must copy her. A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin. I hate books whose pages are so crowded that you cannot handle them without putting your thumbs on the type. And, in exactly the same way, there are very few things more repelling than the feeling that a man has no time for you. It may be a most excellent book; but if it has no margin, I shall never grow fond of it. He may be a most excellent man; but if he lacks leisure, restfulness, poise, I shall never be able to love him.
It is difficult to account for it; but the fact most certainly is that the most winsome people in the world are the people who make you feel that they are never in a hurry. The man whom you trust most readily is the man with a little time to spare, or who makes you think that he has. When my life gets tangled and twisted, and I want a minister to help me, I shall be too timid to approach the man who is always in a fluster. I feel instinctively that he is far too busy for poor me. He tears through life like a superannuated whirlwind. If I meet him on the street, his coat tails are always flying out behind him; his eyes wear a hunted look; and a sense of feverish haste is stamped upon his countenance. He reminds me of poor John Gilpin, for it is always neck or nothing with him. He seems to be everlastingly consulting his watch, and is always muttering something about his next engagement. He gets through an amazing number of odd jobs in the course of a day, and his diary will be a wonder to posterity. But he would be much better off in the long run if he cultivated a margin. He makes people feel at present that he is too busy for them. A poor woman, who is in great trouble about her son, heard him preach last Sunday, and felt that she would give anything to have a quiet talk with him about her sorrow, and kneel with him as he commended both her and her wayward boy to the Throne of the heavenly grace. But she dreads to be caught in the whirl of his week-a-day flurry, and stays away, her grief eating her heart out the while. A shrinking young girl is in perplexity about her love affairs, and she feels sure, from some things he said in his sermon a few weeks ago, that he could help her. But she remembers that in his study he keeps a motto to remind her that his time is precious. If the words 'Beware of the dog!' were painted on his study door, they could not be more terrifying. She fears that, before she has half unfolded the tender tale that she scarcely likes to tell, his hand will be upon the doorknob. The tendency of the time is indisputably towards flurry—the flurry of business or the flurry of pleasure. I feel very sorry for these busy folk. Their energy is prodigious. But, for all that, they are losing life's best. Surely William Cowper had a secret in his soul when he told us that, in his mad career, John Gilpin lost the wine!
'And now, as he went bowing down,
His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
Were shattered at a blow
Down ran the wine into the road,
Most piteous to be seen,
Which made his horses' flanks to smoke
As they had basted been.
It is very easy to go too fast. In his Forest, Mr. Stewart White gives us some lessons in bushmanship. 'As long as you restrain yourself,' he says, 'to a certain leisurely plodding, you get along without extraordinary effort; but even a slight increase of speed drags fiercely at your feet. One good step is worth six stumbling steps; go only fast enough to assure that good one. An expert woods-walker is never in a hurry.' I was chatting the other day with the captain of a great steamship. The vessel is capable of steaming at the rate of seventeen knots an hour; but I noticed from the log that she never exceeds fifteen. I asked the reason. 'It is too expensive!' the captain answered. And then he told me the difference in the consumption of coal between steaming at fifteen and steaming at seventeen knots an hour. It was astounding. I recognized at once his wisdom in keeping the margin. When I next meet my busy brother, I shall tell him the story—if he can spare the time to listen. For, apart from the expense to himself of driving the engines at that high pressure, and apart from the loss of the wine, I feel sure that the folk who most need him love the ministry of a man with a margin. Even as I write, there rush back upon my mind the memories of the great doctors and eminent lawyers whose biographies I have read. How careful these busy men were to convey a certain impression of leisureliness! It will never do for a doctor to burst in upon his poor feverish patient, and throw everything into commotion. And see how composedly the lawyer listens to his client's tale! Wise men these; and I must not be too proud to learn from them.
Great souls have ever been leisurely souls. I have no right to allow the rush and throb and tear of life to rob me of my restfulness. I must keep a quiet heart. I must be jealous of my margins. I must find time to climb the hills, to scour the valleys, to explore the bush, to row on the river, to stroll along the sands, to poke among the rocks, and to fish in the stream. I must cultivate the friendship of the fields and the ferns and the flowers. I must lie back in my easy chair, with my feet on the fender, and laugh with my friends. And pity me, men and angels, if I am too busy to romp with the children and to tell them a tale if they want it! There are many things in a man's life that he can give up, just as there are many things in a book that can be skipped, but the last thing to go must be the margin.
Now, rising from my desk for a moment, just to stretch my legs a little, I glance out of my study window at the busy world outside. I see men making bargains, reading newspapers, and talking politics. And really, when you come to analyse the thing, this matter of the margin touches that bustling world at every point. To begin with, the essential difference between life here in Australia and life in the old world is mainly a difference in the breadth of the margin. Here life is not so hemmed in and cramped up as it must of necessity be there. Then, too, the whole tendency of modern legislation is in the direction of widening the margin. Everything tends to increase the leisure of the people. Early closing has come into its own. Shopkeepers put up their shutters quite early in the evening; the hours of the labourer have been considerably curtailed; and in other ways the leisure of the people has been greatly increased. Now in this broadening of life's margin there lie both tremendous possibilities and tremendous perils. The idleness of an entire community during a considerable proportion of its waking hours may become a huge national asset or a serious menace to the general wellbeing. People are too apt to suppose that character is determined by the main business of life. It is a fallacy. It is, as I have said, the margin that really matters. There is a section of time that remains to a man after the main business of life has been dealt with. It is the use to which that margin is put that reveals the true propensities of the individual and that, in the long run, determines the destiny of the nation.
Here, for example, are two bricklayers. They walk down the street side by side on their way to their work. From the time that the hour strikes for them to commence operations until the time comes to lay aside their trowels for the day, they are pretty much alike. The one may be a philosopher and the other a scoundrel; but these traits will have small opportunity of betraying themselves as they chip away at the bricks in their hands, and ply their busy tasks. The intellectual proclivities of the one, and the vicious propensities of the other, will be held in the severest restraint as they labour side by side. The inexorable laws of industrial competition will keep their work up to a certain standard of excellence. But the moment that the tools are thrown aside the character of each man stands revealed. He is his own master. He is like a hound unleashed, and will now follow his bent without let or hindrance. And the more the State restricts the hours of toil, and multiplies the hours of leisure, the more does it increase the possibilities of good in the one case and the perils of evil-doing in the other. It is during that lengthened leisure that the one will apply himself to self-improvement, and, by developing himself, will increase the value of his citizenship to the State; and it is during that prolonged immunity from restraint that the other will compass his own deterioration and exert his influence for the general impoverishment.
Precisely the same law holds good in relation to the expenditure of money. The way in which a people spends its money represents the most crucial test of national character. If a man spends his money wisely, he is a wise man; if he spends his money foolishly, he is a foolish man. But it is not along the main line of expenditure that the revelation is made. The principal items of expenditure are inevitable, and beyond the control of the individual, whoever or whatever he may be. A man must eat and wear clothes, whether he be a burglar or a bishop. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, and the milkman will call at every door; and you cannot argue as to the morals of a man from the fact that he eats bread, that he is fond of beef, or that he takes sugar with his porridge. There are certain main lines of expenditure along which each man, whatever his characteristics and idiosyncrasies, is resistlessly driven. But after he has submitted to this stern compulsion, and has paid his butcher, his baker, his grocer, and his milkman, then comes the test. What about the margin? Is there a margin? For upon the margin everything depends. We will suppose that, after paying for the things that he eats and the things that he wears, he still jingles in his pocket a dozen coins, with which he may do exactly as he likes. Now it is in the expenditure of that margin of money—as, in the other case, it was in the expenditure of that margin of leisure—that the real man will reveal himself. It is the use to which he puts that margin that declares his true character and determines the contribution that he, as an individual citizen, will make to the national weal or woe.
Now, if this broadening margin means anything at all, it means that the responsibilities of the Church are increasing. For the Church is essentially the Mistress of the Margin. Concerning the expenditure of the hours occupied with labour, and concerning the money spent in the actual requisites of life, the statesman may have something to say. Legislation may deal with the hours of labour and the rate of wages. It may even influence the precise amount of the butcher's or the baker's bills. But when it comes to the hours that follow toil, and to the cash that remains after the principal accounts have been paid, the legislator finds himself in difficulties. He has come to the end of his tether. He cannot direct the people as to how to spend their spare cash. And, as we have seen, it is just this spare time and spare cash that determine everything. It is the dominating and deciding factor in the whole situation. It is manifest, therefore, that, important as are the functions of statesmanship, the really fundamental factors of individual conduct and of national life elude the most searching enactments of the most vigilant legislators. As the hours of labour shorten, and the margin of spare cash increases, the authority of the egislator becomes less and less; and the need for some force that shall shape the moral tone of the people becomes greater and greater. If the Church cannot supply that force, and become the Mistress of the Margin, the outlook is by no means reassuring. On one phase of this matter of the margin the Church holds a wonderful secret. She knows that there are people who, through no fault of their own, are marginless. They have neither a moment nor a penny to spare. Sickness, trouble, and the war of the world have been too much for them. They are right up against the wall; and they know it. But the matter does not end there. I remember once entering a dingy little dwelling in the slums of London. In the squalid room a cripple girl sat sewing, and as she sewed she sang:
My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full—He has riches untold.
I'm the child of a King! the child of a King!
With Jesus my Saviour, I'm the child of a King!
What did this mean but that she had discovered that her cramped and narrow life had a spacious white margin after all? In a recent speech at Glasgow, Mr. Lloyd George told a fine story of a quaint old Welsh preacher who was conducting the funeral service of a poor old fellow, a member of his church, who, through no fault of his own, had had a very bad time of it. They could hardly find a space in the churchyard for his tomb. At last they got enough to make a brickless grave amidst towering monuments that pressed upon it, and the old minister, standing above it, said, 'Well, Davie, vach, you have had a narrow time right through life, and you have a very narrow place in death; but never you mind, old friend, I can see a day dawning for you when you will rise out of your narrow bed, and find plenty of room at the last. Ah!' he cried in a burst of natural eloquence, 'I can see it coming! I can see the day of the resurrection! I can see the dawn of immortality! There will be room, room, room, even for the poor! The light of that morning already gilds the hilltops!' What did he mean, that old Welsh minister, as he shaded his eyes with his hands and looked towards the East? He was pointing away from life's black and crowded letterpress to the white and spacious margin—the margin with the gilt edge—that was all.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.
--- Hebrews 12:5.
It is very easy to quench the Spirit; we do it by despising the chastening of the Lord, by fainting when we are rebuked by Him. If we have only a shallow experience of sanctification, we mistake the shadow for the reality, and when the Spirit of God begins to check, we say—‘Oh, that must be the devil.’
Never quench the Spirit, and do not despise Him when He says to you—‘Don’t be blind on this point any more; you are not where you thought you were. Up to the present, I have not been able to reveal it to you, but I reveal it now.’ When the Lord chastens you like that, let Him have His way. Let Him relate you rightly to God.
“Nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” We get into sulks with God and say—‘Oh well, I can’t help it; I did pray and things did not turn out right, and I am going to give it all up.’ Think what would happen if we talked like this in any other domain of life!
Am I prepared to let God grip me by His power and do a work in me that is worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me; sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me, and He has to get me into the attitude of mind and spirit where at any cost I will let Him sanctify me wholly.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And the cobbled water
Of the stream with the trout's indelible
Shadows that winter
Has not erased -- I walk it
Again under a clean
Sky with the fish, speckled like thrushes,
Silently singing among the weed's
I bring the heart
Not the mind to the interpretation
Of their music, letting the stream
Comb me, feeling it fresh
In my veins, revisiting the sources
That are as near now
As on the Morning I set out from them.
It’s a dreary day at the cemetery. As the rabbi leaves graveside, she sees an old woman standing alone at a nearby monument. The lady looks tired and drained. “It’s cold out,” the rabbi tells her.
And she answers her, “It’s not so cold for me. I’m used to it.”
“This must be hard for you,” the rabbi says.
“Who said it would be easy?” she replies, “We were married for over fifty years.”
The rabbi notices her tears. “That’s a long time. It must be emotional coming here to visit.”
“It’s emotional, but I want to be here. It’s where I belong. Today is my late husband’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death.”
“Where are you from?” queries the rabbi.
“That’s not around the corner,” the rabbi tells her, adding, “It must be an effort for you to get here.”
“I don’t drive, so I have to take a subway and a train, and then a bus. It takes me over two hours each way.”
“That’s incredible,” responds the rabbi, “you must have been very devoted to each other.”
With this, the old woman looks up at the rabbi. “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But you look like a nice woman, so I’ll tell you. It’s a long, difficult trip. I come here three times every year—once for our wedding anniversary, once for his birthday, and once for his yahrzeit. We shared everything for over fifty years. Over fifty years! I’m eighty now. My feet ache. It’s cold out. And I have to take a bus, and then a train, and then a subway just to get home and soak my aching feet. But it’s my late husband’s yahrzeit, and he’ll always have a special place in my heart, and so I’m here. That’s the long and the short of it.”
A tear wells up in the rabbi’s eye. She has been married far fewer years, and her feet don’t ache yet. But she feels this woman’s pain, as well as her love, inside. “I’ll drive you to the train station,” she tells her. “But take your time. Take your time.”
We demonstrate that something is important to us by finding a way to make it happen. Even when our bodies are tired and our minds are strained, we have to make sure that our feet carry us there. How else can we show that we care so much?
ANOTHER D’RASH / Think of the human body as a ship: The captain is situated somewhere in the brain. He’s plotted out a course on his navigational charts, and he’s ready to cast off and set sail. He sends a message down to the boiler room (the feet): “I want you to head in this direction, at such-and-such a speed.” And the feet respond “Aye aye, captain!” and they do their duty and follow their orders.
But where we end up in life, and how we get there, isn’t always so logical.
“Hey, everybody,” the father calls out to his family. “Get in the car.”
“Where we goin’, Dad?”
“For a ride,” the father answers.
“Where to, Honey?” the wife asks.
“I don’t know—it’s such a gorgeous day; it’s a shame to stay cooped up here in the house. I’ll put my foot on the gas, and we’ll just go. Let’s be explorers and see what’s out there! If it looks interesting to the right, we’ll go to the right! If we come across something inviting, we’ll pull over and investigate. Come on! Let’s make this a ‘magical mystery tour’!”
Later, when they tell their friends of the incredible place they went to, the family will say “You won’t believe it, but we were out for a drive and we literally stumbled upon it …” or “Our feet just sort of tripped over this terrific spot.…”
But at other times, how we end up at our destination is a lot more complex.
“Dr. Freud, you’ve got to help me!”
“Vat zeems to be ze problem, Mr. Bailey?”
“More than anything else in the world, I want to get out of this crummy little town. But every time I make plans, something comes up and I get stuck here. I can’t understand it! It’s driving me crazy! I’m ready to jump off a bridge!”
“Calm down, George. Vat keeps coming up?”
“I was ready to go to Europe, and my father had a stroke. I was all set to go off to college, when Mr. Potter tried to take over the Building and Loan. I was ready to turn things over to my brother, when he got married and got a great offer for a job in research. And then, just as Mary and I were about to go off on our honeymoon, there was a run on the bank, and I had to stay. Can you believe what bad luck I have? Every time I try to leave Bedford Falls, something happens.”
Dr. Freud stroked his goatee and shook his head. “Mr. Bailey, we zychoanalysts believe zat zere are no accidents or coincidences. You could have chozen to leave on any of zose occasions. But you decided to ztay. Yes, zere is a part of you zat vonders vat it vould be like to go someplace else. But deep down, you really vant to ztay. Your zubconscious vill not permit you to leave, because your home is here. Your destiny is here. Vhere your feet take you is the place you vanted to be—vhether your head admits it or not.”
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
--- Matthew 6:19.
At the end of the world, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to judge, he will gather all nations before him. (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) To those on his right he will say, “Come,… take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). But to those on the left, “Depart from me… into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41).
Why so great a reward or so great a punishment? Why will the first receive the kingdom? “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat” (v. 35). Why will the others depart into eternal fire? “For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat” (v. 42). Those who receive the kingdom gave as good and faithful Christians. Had they not done so, this barrenness would surely not have accorded with their good lives. Maybe they were chaste, not drunkards, and kept themselves from evil works. Yet if they had not added good works, they would have remained barren. For they would have kept, “Turn from evil,” but they would not have kept, “and do good”
(Ps. 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11).
Give away your earthly bread and knock for the heavenly! How will the Lord give to you who do not give to those in need? [Others] are in need before you, and you are in need before Another. Do then to others as you would have done to you. Though he is the Lord and doesn’t need our goods, yet that we might do something for him, he has submitted to be hungry in his poor.
John said to those who came to him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7–8). The crowd asked him, “What should we do then?” (v. 10). That is, what are these fruits that you exhort us to bring forth? He said, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (v. 11). What other meaning then can it have when he said, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (v. 9), but the same that they on the left will hear, “Depart from me.… For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.” It is only a small matter to depart from sins, if you neglect to cure what is past. If then you will be heard when you pray for pardon of your sins, forgive, and it will be forgiven you; give, and it will be given you.
--- Augustine of Hippo
And to Die Is Gain August 14
On a sizzling summer’s day in 1925, 17-year-old Bill Wallace sat in a garage working on a dismantled Ford, but his thoughts were on the future. Putting down his wrench, he reached for his New Testament and scrawled a decision on its grease-stained flyleaf. He would become a medical missionary.
Ten years later he arrived at Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, South China. War was brewing between the warlords of Kwangsi Province and the government of Chiang Kai-shek, and many missionaries had fled. Wallace remained at the hospital, performing surgery, making rounds, and sharing Christ.
He survived the dangers only to face a greater one. It was Japan, intent on a conquest of the Chinese mainland. Still Wallace stayed, treating the wounded and performing surgery amid exploding bombs and flying bullets. Not until 1940 did he return to America on furlough. When time came to return, his friends questioned him; but he said, “When I was trying to decide what I should do with my life, I became convinced God wanted me to be a medical missionary. That decision took me to China. And that, along with the fact that I was extremely happy there, will take me back.” He returned on August 14, 1942, and began dispensing medical and spiritual help during World War II.
Then an even greater threat emerged—the Communist takeover of China. Still Wallace stayed, performing duties with a hero’s valor. Finally, during predawn of December 19, 1950, Communist solders came to arrest the “best surgeon in China” on trumped-up espionage charges. He was placed in a small cell where he preached to passersby from a tiny window. Brutal interrogations followed, and Wallace, wearing down, stuck verses of Scripture on the walls of his cell. When he died from the ordeal, the Communists tried to say he had hanged himself; but his body showed no signs of suicide. He was buried in a cheap wooden coffin in a bamboo-shaded cemetery. The inscription on his grave simply said: For to Me to Live Is Christ.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 14
“Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work.” --- Psalm 92:4.
Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.” Christian, if thou art thus saved, whilst thou art glad, be grateful and loving. Cling to that cross which took thy sin away; serve thou him who served thee. “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Let not your zeal evaporate in some little ebullition of song. Show your love in expressive tokens. Love the brethren of him who loved you. If there be a Mephibosheth anywhere who is lame or halt, help him for Jonathan’s sake. If there be a poor tried believer, weep with him, and bear his cross for the sake of him who wept for thee and carried thy sins. Since thou art thus forgiven freely for Christ’s sake, go and tell to others the joyful news of pardoning mercy. Be not contented with this unspeakable blessing for thyself alone, but publish abroad the story of the cross. Holy gladness and holy boldness will make you a good preacher, and all the world will be a pulpit for you to preach in. Cheerful holiness is the most forcible of RS Thomas, but the Lord must give it you. Seek it this Morning before you go into the world. When it is the Lord’s work in which we rejoice, we need not be afraid of being too glad.
Evening - August 14
“I know their sorrows.” --- Exodus 3:7.
The child is cheered as he sings, “This my father knows”; and shall not we be comforted as we discern that our dear Friend and tender soul-husband knows all about us?
1. He is the Physician, and if he knows all, there is no need that the patient should know. Hush, thou silly, fluttering heart, prying, peeping, and suspecting! What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter, and meanwhile Jesus, the beloved Physician, knows thy soul in adversities. Why need the patient analyze all the medicine, or estimate all the symptoms? This is the Physician’s work, not mine; it is my business to trust, and his to prescribe. If he shall write his prescription in uncouth characters which I cannot read, I will not be uneasy on that account, but rely upon his unfailing skill to make all plain in the result, however mysterious in the working.
2. He is the Master, and his knowledge is to serve us instead of our own; we are to obey, not to judge: “The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” Shall the architect explain his plans to every hodman on the works? If he knows his own intent, is it not enough? The vessel on the wheel cannot guess to what pattern it shall be conformed, but if the potter understands his art, what matters the ignorance of the clay? My Lord must not be cross-questioned any more by one so ignorant as I am.
3. He is the Head. All understanding centres there. What judgment has the arm? What comprehension has the foot? All the power to know lies in the head. Why should the member have a brain of its own when the head fulfils for it every intellectual office? Here, then, must the believer rest his comfort in sickness, not that he himself can see the end, but that Jesus knows all. Sweet Lord, be thou for ever eye, and soul, and head for us, and let us be content to know only what thou choosest to reveal.
TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY
William D. Longstaff, 1822 -1894
But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
(1 Peter 1:15, 16)
The valuable guidelines given in this hymn for living a holy life are just as pertinent for believers today as they were when William Longstaff wrote them more than a century ago. God still requires a holy lifestyle for His people. We sometimes confuse holiness with piety, which can be merely a hypocritical goodness that masks inner deceit or impurity. A truly holy or Christ-like life reveals the virtues mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5, 6: Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. We are surrounded today by so much sham and insincerity that we are often unconsciously affected by such influences. To maintain the quality of life that God demands, we must determine to take time to develop a life that is genuinely and consistently holy in every area.
William Longstaff, though financially independent (son of a wealthy English ship owner), was a humble and devout Christian layman and a close friend and supporter of the Moody-Sankey evangelistic team that stirred England with great revival campaigns during the late 19th century. After hearing a sermon on 1 Peter 1:16—“Be ye holy, for I am holy”—with reference to the book of Leviticus from which it was originally taken, young William began to make the achievement of holiness his life’s goal. Although this was his only hymn, these words have since been an invaluable influence for sincere believers everywhere who truly desire to live a genuine Christian life:
Take time to be holy. Speak oft with thy Lord; abide in Him always and feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children. Help those who are weak, forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy. The world rushes on; spend much time in secret with Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy. Let Him be thy guide, and run not before Him, whatever betide. In joy or in sorrow still follow thy Lord, and, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy. Be calm in thy soul—Each thought and each motive beneath His control. Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
For Today: Leviticus 20:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:23, 24; 1 Timothy 1:8; Hebrews 12:14
Reflect on all of the various suggestions for holy living listed in this hymn text. Sing these truths as you go realizing you need to ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
Prop. III. Sin implies that God is unworthy of a being. Every sin is a kind of cursing God in the heart; an aim at the destruction of the being of God; not actually, but virtually; not in the intention of every sinner, but in the nature of every sin. That affection which excites a man to break His law, would excite him to annihilate his being if it were in his power. A man in every sin aims to set up his own will as his rule, and his own glory as the end of his actions against the will and glory of God; and could a sinner attain his end, God would be destroyed. God cannot outlive his will and his glory; God cannot have another rule but his own will, nor another end but his own honor. Sin is called a turning the back upon God, a kicking against him, as if he were a slighter person than the meanest beggar. What greater contempt can be shown to the meanest, vilest person, than to turn the back, lift up the heel, and thrust away with indignation? all which actions, though they signify that such a one hath a being, yet they testify also that he is unworthy of a being, that he is an unuseful being in the world, and that it were well the world were rid of him. All sin against knowledge is called a reproach of God. Reproach is a vilifying a man as unworthy to be admitted into company. We naturally judge God unfit to be conversed with. God is the term turned from by a sinner; sin is the term turned to, which implies a greater excellency in the nature of sin than in the nature of God; and as we naturally judge it more worthy to have a being in our affections, so consequently more worthy to have a being in the world, than that infinite nature from whom we derive our beings and our all, and upon whom, with a kind of disdain, we turn our backs. Whosoever thinks the notion of a Deity unfit to be cherished in his mind by warm meditation, implies that he cares not whether he hath a being in the world or no. Now though the light of a Deity shines so clearly in man, and the stings of conscience are so smart, that he cannot absolutely deny the being of a God, yet most men endeavor to smother this knowledge, and make the notion of a God a sapless and useless thing (Rom. 1:28): “They like not to retain God in their knowledge.” It is said, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16); that is, from the worship of God. Our refusing or abhorring the presence of a man implies a carelessness whether he continue in the world or no; it is a using him as if he had no being, or as if we were not concerned in it. Hence all men in Adam, under the emblem of the prodigal, are said to go into a far country; not in respect of place, because of God’s omnipresence, but in respect of acknowledgment and affection: they mind and love anything but God. And the descriptions of the nations of the world, lying in the ruins of Adam’s fall, and the dregs of that revolt, is that they know not God. They forget God, as if there were no such being above them; and, indeed, he that doth the works of the devil, owns the devil to be more worthy of observance, and, consequently, of a being, than God, whose nature he forgets, and whose presence he abhors.
Prop. IV. Every sin in its own nature would render God a foolish and impure being. Many transgressors esteem their acts, which are contrary to the law of God, both wise and good: if so, the law against which they are committed, must be both foolish and impure. What a reflection is there, then, upon the Lawgiver! The moral law is not properly a mere act of God’s will considered in itself, or a tyrannical edict, like those of whom it may well be said, stat pro ratione voluntas: but it commands those things which are good in their own nature, and prohibits those things which are in their own nature evil; and therefore is an act of his wisdom and righteousness; the result of his wise counsel, and an extract of his pure nature; as all the laws of just lawgivers, are not only the acts of their will, but of a will governed by reason and justice, and for the good of the public, whereof they are conservators. If the moral commands of God were only acts of his will, and had not an intrinsic necessity, reason and goodness, God might have commanded the quite contrary, and made a contrary law, whereby that which we now call vice, might have been canonized for virtue: He might then have forbid any worship of him, love to him, fear of his name: He might then have commanded murders, thefts, adulteries. In the first he would have untied the link of duty from the creature, and dissolved the obligations of creatures to him, which is impossible to be conceived; for from the relation of a creature to God, obligations to God, and duties upon those obligations, do necessarily result. It had been against the rule of goodness and justice to have commanded the creature not to, love him, and fear and obey him: this had been a command against righteousness, goodness, and intrinsic obligations to gratitude. And should murder, adulteries, rapines have been commanded instead of the contrary, God would have destroyed his own creation; he would have acted against the rule of goodness and order; he had been an unjust tyrannical governor of the world: public society would have been cracked in pieces, and the world become a shambles, a brothel-house, a place below the common sentiments of a mere man. All sin, therefore, being against the law of God, the wisdom and holy rectitude of God’s nature is denied in every act of disobedience. And what is the consequence of this, but that God is both foolish and unrighteous in commanding that, which was neither an act of wisdom, as a governor, nor an act of goodness, as a benefactor to his creature? As was said before, presumptuous sins are called reproaches of God (Num. 15:30): “The soul that doth aught presumptuously reproacheth the Lord.” Reproaches of men are either for natural, moral, or intellectual defects. All reproaches of God must imply a charge, either of unrighteousness or ignorance: if of unrighteousness, it is a denial of his holiness; if of ignorance, it is a blemishing his wisdom. If God’s laws were not wise and holy, God would not enjoin them: and if they are so, we deny infinite wisdom and holiness in God by not complying with them. As when a man believes not God when he promises, he makes him a liar (1 John 5:10); so he that obeys not a wise and holy God commanding, makes him guilty either of folly or unrighteousness. Now, suppose you knew an absolute atheist who denied the being of a God, yet had a life free from any notorious spot or defilement; would you in reason count him so bad as the other that owns a God in being, yet lays, by his course of action, such a black imputation of folly and impurnty upon the God he professeth to own—an imputation which renders any man a most despicable creature?
Prop. V. Sin in its own nature endeavors to render God the most miserable being. It is nothing but an opposition to the will of God the will of no creature is so much contradicted as the will of God is by devils and men; and there is nothing under the heavens that the affections of human nature stand more point blank against, than against God. There is a slight of him in all the faculties of man; our souls are as unwilling to know him, as our wills are averse to follow him (Rom. 8:7): “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, nor can be subject.” It is true, God’s will cannot be hindered of its effect, for then God would not be supremely blessed, but unhappy and miserable: all misery ariseth from a want of that which a nature would have, and ought to have besides, if anything could frustrate God’s will, it would be superior to him: God would not be omnipotent, and so would lose the perfection of the Deity, and consequently the Deity itself; for that which did wholly defeat God’s will, would be more powerful than he.
But sin is a contradiction to the will of God’s revelation, to the will of his precept: and therein doth naturally tend to a superiority over God, and would usurp his omnipotence, and deprive him of his blessedness. For if God had not an infinite power to turn the designs of it to his own glory, but the will of sin could prevail, God would be totally deprived of his blessedness. Doth not sin endeavor to subject God to the extravagant and contrary wills of men, and make him more a slave than any creature can be? For the will of no creature, not the meanest and most despicable creature, is so much crossed, as the will of God is by sin (Isa. 43:24): “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins:” thou hast endeavored to make a mere slave of me by sin. Sin endeavors to subject the blessed God to the humor and lust of every person in the world.
Prop. VI. Men sometimes in some circumstances do wish the not being of God. This some think to be the meaning of the text, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” that is, he wishes there were no God. Many tamper with their own hearts to bring them to a persuasion that there is no God: and when they cannot do that, they conjure up wishes that there were none. Men naturally have some conscience of sin, and some notices of justice (Rom. 1:32): “They know the judgment of God,” and they know the demerit of sin; “they know the judgment of God, and that they which do such things are worthy of death.” What is the consequent of this but fear of punishment; and what is the issue of that fear, but a wishing the Judge either unwilling or unable to vindicate the honor of his violated law? When God is the object of such a wish, it is a virtual undeifying of him: not to be able to punish, is to be impotent; not to be willing to punish, is to be unjust: imperfections inconsistent with the Deity. God cannot be supposed without an infinite power to act, and an infinite righteousness as the rule of acting. Fear of God is natural to all men; not a fear of offending him, but a fear of being punished by him: the wishing the extinction of God has its degree in men, according to the degree of their fears of his just vengeance: and though such a wish be not in its meridian but in the damned in hell, yet it hath its starts and motions in affrighted and awakened consciences on the earth: under this rank of wishers, that there were no God, or that God were destroyed, do fall.
1. Terrified consciences, that are Magor-missabib ( fear on every side, ( Jeremiah 20:3 ), a symbolical name given to the priest Pashur, expressive of the fate announced by the prophet as about to come upon him. Pashur was to be carried to Babylon, and there die. ) , see nothing but matter of fear round about. As they have lived without the bounds of the law, they are afraid to fall under the stroke of his justice: fear wishes the destruction of that which it apprehends hurtful: it considers him as a God to whom vengeance belongs, as the Judge of all the earth. The less hopes such an one hath of his pardon, the more joy he would have to hear that his judge should be stripped of his life: he would entertain with delight any reasons that might support him in the conceit that there were no God: in his present state such a doctrine would be his security from an account: he would as much rejoice if there were no God to inflame an hell for him, as any guilty malefactor would if there were no judge to order a gibbet for him. Shame may bridle men’s words, but the heart will be casting about for some arguments this way, to secure itself: such as are at any time in Spira’s case, would be willing to cease to be creatures, that God might cease to be Judge. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no Elohim, no Judge;” fancying God without any exercise of his judicial authority. And there is not any wicked man under anguish of spirit, but, were it within the reach of his power, would take away the life of God, and rid himself of his fears by destroying his Avenger.
2. Debauched persons are not without such wishes sometimes: an obstinate servant wishes his master’s death, from whom he expects correction for his debaucheries. As man stands in his corrupt nature, it is impossible but one time or other most debauched persons at least have some kind of velleities, or imperfect wishes. It is as natural to men to abhor those things which are unsuitable and troublesome, as it is to please themselves in things agreeable to their minds and humors; and since man is so deeply in love with sin, as to count it the most estimable good, he cannot but wish the abolition of that law which checks it, and, consequently, the change of the Lawgiver which enacted it; and in wishing a change in the holy nature of God, he wishes a destruction of God, who could not be God if he ceased to be immutably holy. They do as certainly wish that God had not a holy will to command them, as despairing souls wish that God had not a righteous will to punish them, and to wish conscience extinct for the molestations they receive from it, is to wish the power conscience represents out of the world also. Since the state of sinners is a state of distance from God, and the language of sinners to God is, “Depart from us;” they desire as little the continuance of his being, as they desire the knowledge of his ways; the same reason which moves them to desire God’s distance from them, would move them to desire God’s not being: since the greatest distance would be most agreeable to them, the destruction of God must be so too; because there is no greater distance from us, than in not being. Men would rather have God not to be, than themselves under control, that sensuality might range at pleasure; he is like a “heifer sliding from the yoke” (Hosea 4:16). The cursing of God in the heart, feared by Job of his children, intimates a wishing God despoiled of his authority, that their pleasure might not be damped by his law. Besides, is there any natural man that sins against actuated knowledge, but either this or wishes that God might not see him, that God might not know his actions? And is not this to wish the destruction of God, who could not be God unless he were immense and omniscient?
3. Under this rank fall those who perform external duties only out of a principle of slavish fear. Many men perform those duties that the law enjoins, with the same sentiments that slaves perform their drudgery; and are constrained in their duties by no other considerations but those of the whip and the cudgel. Since, therefore, they do it with reluctancy, and secretly murmur while they seem to obey, they would be willing that both the command were recalled, and the master that commands them were in another world. The spirit of adoption makes men act towards God as a father, a spirit of bondage only eyes him as a judge. Those that look upon their superiors as tyrannical, will not be much concerned in their welfare; and would be more glad to have their nails pared, than be under perpetual fear of them. Many men regard not the Infinite Goodness in the service of him, but consider him as cruel, tyrannical, injurious to their liberty. Adam’s posterity are not free from the sentiments of their common father, till they are regenerate. You know what conceit was the hammer whereby the hellish Jael struck the nail into our first parents, which conveyed death, together with the same imagination to all their posterity (Gen. 3:5): “God knows that in the day you eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Alas, poor souls! God knew what he did when he forbade you that fruit; he was jealous you should be too happy; it was cruelty in him to deprive you of a food so pleasant and delicious. The apprehension of the severity of God’s commands riseth up no less in desires that there were no God over us, than Adam’s apprehension of envy in God for the restraint of one tree, moved him to attempt to be equal with God: fear is as powerful to produce the one in his posterity, as pride was to produce the other in the common root. When we apprehend a thing hurtful to us, we desire so much evil to it, as may render it incapable of doing us the hurt we fear. As we wish the preservation of what we love or hope for, so we are naturally apt to wish the not being of that whence we fear some hurt or trouble. We must not understand this as if any man did formally wish the destruction of God, as God. God in himself is an infinite mirror of goodness and ravishing loveliness; he is infinitely good, and so universally good, and nothing but good; and is therefore so agreeable to a creature, as a creature, that it is impossible that the creature, while it bears itself to God as a creature, should be guilty of this, but thirst after him and cherish every motion to him. As no man wishes the destruction of any creature, as a creature, but as it may conduce to something which he counts may be beneficial to himself; so no man doth, nor perhaps can wish the cessation of the being of God, as God; for then he must wish his own being to cease also; but as he considers him clothed with some perfections, which he apprehends as injurious to him, as his holiness in forbidding sin, his justice in punishing sin; and God being judged in those perfections, contrary to what the revolted creature thinks convenient and good for himself, he may wish God stripped of those perfections, that thereby he may be free from all fear of trouble and grief from him in his fallen state. In wishing God deprived of those, he wishes God deprived of his being; because God cannot retain his deity without a love of righteousness, and hatred of iniquity; and he could not testify his love to the one, or his loathing of the other, without encouraging goodness, and witnessing his anger against iniquity. Let us now appeal to ourselves, and examine our own consciences. Did we never please ourselves sometimes in the thoughts, how happz we should be, how free in our vain pleasures, if there were no God? Have we not desired to be our own lords, without control, subject to no law but our own, and be guided by no will but that of the flesh? Did we never rage against God under his afflicting hand? Did we never wish God stripped of his holy will to command, and his righteous will to punish?
Thus much for the general. For the proof of this, many considerations will bring in evidence; most may be reduced to these two generals: Man would set himself up, first, as his own rule; secondly, as his own end and happiness.
I. Man would set himself up as his own rule instead of God. This will be evidenced in this method.
1. Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him.
2. He owns any other rule rather than that of God’s prescribing.
3. These he doth in order to the setting himself up as his own rule.
4. He makes himself not only his own rule, but he would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator.
First, Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him. It is all one to deny his royalty, and to deny his being. When we disown his authority, we disown his Godhead. It is the right of God to be the sovereign of his creatures, and it must be a very loose and trivial assent that such men have to God’s superiority over them, (and consequently to the excellency of his being, upon which that authority is founded) who are scarce at ease in themselves, but when they are invading his rights, breaking his bands, casting away his cords, and contradicting his will: Every man naturally is a son of Belial, would be without a yoke, and leap over God’s enclosures; and in breaking out against his sovereignty, we disown his being, as God, for to be God and sovereign are inseparable; he could not be God, if he were not supreme; nor could he be a Creator without being a Lawgiver. To be God and yet inferior to another, is a contradiction. To make rational creatures without prescribing them a law, is to make them without holiness, wisdom and goodness.
1. There is in man naturally an unwillingness to have any acquaintance with the rule God sets him (Psalm 14:2): “None that did understand and seek God.” The refusing instruction and casting his Word behind the back is a part of atheism. We are heavy in hearing the instructions either of law or gospel, and slow in the apprehension of what we hear. The people that God had hedged in from the wilderness of the world for his own garden, were foolish and did not know God; were sottish and had no understanding of him. The law of God is accounted a strange thing; a thing of a different climate, and a far country from the heart of man; wherewith the mind of man had no natural acquaintance, and had no desire to have any; or they regarded it as a sordid thing: what God accounts great and valuable, they account mean and despicable. Men may show a civility to a stranger, but scarce contract an intimacy: there can be no amicable agreement between the holy will of God and the heart of a depraved creature: one is holy, the other unholy; one is universally good, the other stark naught. The purity of the Divine rule renders it nauseous to the impurity of a carnal heart. Water and fire may as well friendly kiss each other and live together without quarrelling and hissing, as the holy will of God and the unregenerate heart of a fallen creature.
The nauseating a holy rule is an evidence of atheism in the heart, as the nauseating wholesome food is of putrefied phlegm in the stomach. It is found more or less in every Christian, in the remainders, though not in a full empire. As there is a law in his mind whereby he delights in the law of God, so there is a law in his members whereby he wars against the law of God (Rom. 7:22, 23, 25).
How predominant is this loathing of the law of God, when corrupt nature is in its full strength, without any principle to control it!
There is in the mind of such a one a darkness, whereby it is ignorant of it, and in the will a depravedness, whereby it is repugnant to it. If man were naturally willing and able to have an intimate acquaintance with, and delight in the law of God, it had not been such a signal favor for God to promise to “write the law in the heart.” A man may sooner engrave the chronicle of a whole nation, or all the records of God in the Scripture upon the hardest marble with his bare finger, than write one syllable of the law of God in a spiritual manner upon his heart. For,
(1.) Men are negligent in using the means for the knowledge of God’s will. All natural men are fools, who know not how to use the price God puts into their hands; they put not a due estimate upon opportunities and means of grace, and account that law folly which is the birth of an infinite and holy wisdom. The knowledge of God which they may glean from creatures, and is more pleasant to the natural gust of men, is not improved to the glory of God, if we will believe the indictment the apostle brings against the Gentiles. And most of those that have dived into the depths of nature, have been more studious of the qualities of the creatures, than of the excellency of the nature, or the discovery of the mind of God in them; who regard only the rising and motions of the star, but follow not with the wise men, its conduct to the King of the Jews. How often do we see men filled with an eager thirst for all other kind of knowledge, that cannot acquiesce in a twilight discovery, but are inquisitive into the causes and reasons of effects, yet are contented with a weak and languishing knowledge of God and his law, and are easily tired with the proposals of them! He now that nauseates the means whereby he may come to know and obey God, has no intention to make the law of God his rule. There is no man that intends seriously an end, but he intends means in order to that end: as when a man intends the preservation or recovery of his health, he will intend means in order to those ends, otherwise he cannot be said to intend his health; so he that is not diligent in using means to know the mind of God, has no sound intention to make the will and law of God his rule. Is not the inquiry after the will of God made a work by the bye, and fain to lacquey after other concerns of an inferior nature, if it hath any place at all in the soul? which is a despising the being of God.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXVII. — THE fourth passage is that of Isaiah in the same chapter. “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, the flower of grass is fallen: because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it.” (Isa. xl. 6-7). —
This Scripture appears to my friend Diatribe, to be treated with violence, by being dragged in as applicable to the causes of grace, and “Free-will.” Why so, I pray? ‘Because, (it says), Jerome understands “spirit” to signify indignation, and “flesh” to signify the infirm condition of man, which cannot stand against God.’ Here again the trifling vanities of Jerome are cast in my teeth instead of Isaiah. And I find I have more to do in fighting against that wearisomeness, with which the Diatribe with so much diligence (to use no harsher term) wears me out, than I have in fighting against the Diatribe itself. But I have given my opinion upon the sentiment of Jerome already.
Let me beg permission of the Diatribe to compare this gentleman with himself. He says ‘that “flesh,” signifies the infirm condition of man; and “spirit,” the divine indignation.’
Has then the divine indignation nothing else to “wither” but that miserable infirm condition of man, which it ought rather to raise up?
This, however, is more excellent still. ‘The “flower of grass,” is the glory which arises from the prosperity of corporal things.’
The Jews gloried in their temple, their circumcision, and their sacrifices, and the Greeks in their wisdom. Therefore, the “flower of grass,” is the glory of the flesh, the righteousness of works, and the wisdom of the world. — How then are righteousness and wisdom called by the Diatribe, ‘corporal things?’ And after all, what have these to do with Isaiah, who interprets his own meaning in his own words, saying, “Surely the people is grass?” He does not say; Surely the infirm condition of man is grass, but “the people;” and affirms it with an asseveration. And what is the people? Is it the infirm condition of man only? But whether Jerome, by ‘the infirm condition of man’ means the whole creation together, or the miserable lot and state of man only, I am sure I know not. Be it, however, which it may, he certainly makes the divine indignation to gain a glorious renown and a noble spoil, from withering a miserable creation or a race of wretched men, and not rather, from scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their seat, and sending, the rich empty away: as Mary sings! (Luke i. 51-53).
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. Gary Yates | Biblical eLearning
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Glory In The Lord
s2-322 | 11-14-2020
m2-327 | 11-18-2020